grief

Treasure hidden in my darkness…

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photo credited to christopher martin

My last personally written post on this blog was June 25, 2013. My life was in a state of upheaval. I was grieving on a level I had no idea even existed. My family was safe. We were intact. But we were not OK. And I had a choice. Let go of everything and trust God, or keep trying to hold it all together and ultimately end up losing everything. Multitasking was not working. Neither was pretending everything was fine. I felt helpless…broken hearted…and I could not write one thing. Writing for me had always been like praying. It was my way of pouring my heart out to the Lord on paper, and of seeing for myself what was in there. And during this period of my life I had no words….and for the first time in my life, I did not want any. I could not connect with others, read the latest blog, or even read my own. Reading my own words sounded hollow to me, and made my heart ache even more. I did not want to visit or receive visitors. I went places begrudgingly and did not stay long. We were struggling with something that had taken place right up under our nose…in our home…we had no idea…and we were devastated!!! So, I could not even write a post saying goodbye for a time. I had no warning that I would awake and the lifetime of words that I had taken for granted would be gone. They just left. Exiting stage right. And what remained, standing center stage, spotlight on and nowhere to hide was my heartbeat. And for about seven months it was the only steady reminder that I was alive.

When I sat down today and opened my computer I had no idea if this day would be like any other…like so many others where the words had failed to come…failed to be given…or given and I failed to receive. I brought my hands up to type out something…anything…and this time…the words began to flow. My silence was broken! And not only my mind was screaming this but my heart seemed to be aware also!! I have sat here often over the past nine months. Looking at this computer with no words coursing through my fingertips. I have looked back over blog posts and comments. I have examined myself…my heart for many things, this blog included. I have reevaluated my love and committment to Christ and what He has created me to do. I have witnessed myself taking the easy way out on here and posting recipes and how-to posts instead of the State of Emergency Posts that scream from within. (Nothing is wrong with those posts. I love reading and learning from them. They are just not what he has given me to do.) I have come to realize that it took a state of emergency within my own family to open my eyes to how gracious God really is…and how fleeting time really is. I know I may not be making much sense, but I am simply typing as it comes and praying someone is blessed by this. 

I discovered something as my life began to balance out; My crisis was not about me. It was not about my family or my children. It was about Him. It was about you. You see, I was born with words as my gift. The ability to communicate using them…to convey feeling and stir emotions…to paint beautiful works of art that communicate the heart of, while simultaneously speaking to, the spirit and soul of women everywhere…that is my gift. I was hardwired with words within my heart that flowed from my soul. I have been writing since I was nine years old, and I have alway, and I mean alway, taken this gift for granted. I discovered that I have kept it buried much like the unwise steward did in Luke 19:20-26;

“But the third servant brought back only the original amount of money and said, ‘Master, I hid your money and kept it safe. I was afraid because you are a hard man to deal with, taking what isn’t yours and harvesting crops you didn’t plant.’ “‘You wicked servant!’ the king roared. ‘Your own words condemn you. If you knew that I’m a hard man who takes what isn’t mine and harvests crops I didn’t plant, why didn’t you deposit my money in the bank? At least I could have gotten some interest on it.’ “Then, turning to the others standing nearby, the king ordered, ‘Take the money from this servant, and give it to the one who has ten pounds.’ “‘But, master,’ they said, ‘he already has ten pounds!”  “‘Yes,’ the king replied, ‘and to those who use well what they are given, even more will be given. But from those who do nothing, even what little they have will be taken away.”

I rediscovered volumes and volumes, boxes and boxes of things I had written over the years. From poems to stories to study guides…it’s all there…BURIED! Is this making sense to you? It was because I was in a deep dark place in my life that the words dried up, and it was because the words dried up that I had to search for what I had already written, and it was because I searched for what was written and buried through the years that my soul and my spirit were revived upon finding them, and it was because my soul and my spirit were revived that I sat down today and the words that I had taken for granted,buried

photo credit to goodvibeblog.com
photo credit to goodvibeblog.com

and reused to share with the world…returned. But it began with a crisis!!! If God had not allowed it…if he had not allowed me to become stranded in a dark place…if he had not left me there at center stage with the heat of the spotlight on and no relief in sight and only the sound of my own heart beating to let me know that I was alive…If he had never allowed the words that have always been there for comfort in my mind and in my heart to dry up then I would have never searched for them…I would have never searched for Him! And I would not have found Him.

Can I ask you a question? What crisis do you find yourself in today? What pit of despair, what valley, what deep darkness are you experiencing right now? What have you hidden there, in that place??? What treasure has God given to you…what glory has he woven into your DNA…what is the fruit that he intended for your life to bear that you have buried deep within your soul where the only way that you could ever retrieve it is if the Lord allowed you to become stuck there with no way out other than it be revealed to Him???? Whatever your crisis, it is not to kill you. It is to make you more like Him. It is to show you the value the Lord placed on your life before you were even born. This crisis is designed to bring out the best of Him through you.

During the past nine months life has gone on. It seemed to come to a stop longer for me than it did for anyone else in our home. I know that our nightmare is one that has been faced by many throughout the years. We are not the only ones. But in those moments last Summer, I felt like we were. Like I was. Like they were. I want you to know that I am being deliberately vague with the details here. Even if I were to share them, I fear that the sharing of the details could cause some to miss the point that I want to convey. At the same time, deliberate vagueness has been known to lead others to speculate, gossip and/or spread lies. I hope that it leads not one of you to do any of the above. My prayer is that we would all learn to look at our crisis differently…that we would begin to see them for what they really are: The way to becoming more like him.

So no more hiding. No more taking the easy way out. In one of my darkest places I discovered a lifetime of buried gifts…buried words, and I plan to clean them off and put them to good use…lest the words be taken and given to someone else….

I pray someone found encouragement through these words. I will see you soon.

Selena

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Inspired by what I’m hearing from women from all over

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How do you pray

When at the end of each day

Your prayers from before

Have not come to pass?

~~~~~~~~

How do you believe

When all that you want to achieve

Is so hard that you don’t think

That your shrinking faith will last?

~~~~~~~~

How do you stand

Not realy knowing His plan

And the next step to take

Is an overwhelming mystery?

~~~~~~~~~

How do you stay strong

And no matter what, hold on

When the place He’s leading you to

You just cannot see?

~~~~~~~~~

I know why you cry

Hot tears streaming from your eyes

When the cry of your heart

You’re unsure if it passes the ceiling?

~~~~~~~

I know why you wait

Walking a path that is narrow and straight

Even when you don’t know

If He will ever draw near

~~~~~~~~

I know why you trust

Believing in Him! That’s an absolute must

Though the truth of His existence

To your heartbroken eye has not been revealed

~~~~~~~~~

I know why you groan

In your heart, deeply moan…

You know that He holds your future

And you are hidden in Him!

~~~~~~~~~

I just want you to know that you are not alone.  There are women who love God and love you and are committed to praying for you and with you, even when your heart hurts so badly that you can’t pray for yourself.  Even though i was not able to finish the ‘Submission’ conversation this week (my phenomenal sweetie wanted a little more of my time spent with him and less on the computer…I’ll write about that later :D), just know that I prayed for you, and I will continue to pray!   ❤ Selena

I’ve been gone for a little while…

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Between Monday June 11, and Monday August 25, my family experienced four funerals.  The first was the funeral of my much-loved Uncle Tommy. I was blessed growing up with not only my own father, but with many fathers in the form a my many uncles.  Expectations and accountability were high, and love and forgiveness were plentiful.  When my father passed 14 years ago of a massive heart attack at the age of 46, my uncles tightened the ring around us, and although they could never replace him in our hearts, they did their best to love us even more in his absence.  This initial loss of the Summer literally broke my heart, and the morning after his funeral Ukali and I were whisked off to the Buttes Resort in Arizona on a much needed, perfectly timed, all expense paid trip compliments of Vemma.  Upon our return, we had a week before my family reunion which, had been 17 years in the making, and was held in our hometown…and which also helped to heal all of our hearts a little.

The second funeral was for a dear friend.  Adriane was only 44 years old, and during the time period when Ukali was a Sr. Pastor, our families served in ministry together on multiple occasions.  It was devastating to see her leave behind her husband, daughter and son, yet I rejoiced at her home going service , knowing in my heart that she had arrived into the presence of the Lord, where she would be for eternity.

The third was the funeral for my sister in laws father.  She and I were best friends who grew up to marry brothers.  My grief was for her…for the loss of the relationship she did have, as well as for the one she would now never have. And as a daughter who had also buried her father when he still had his best years ahead of him, I shared her pain.

While all of these losses had great impact, none impacted me as much as the fourth and final loss of the Summer of 2012.  This one found my family at the  home going service of my husbands beloved grandmother, Vessie Ruth Tucker.  This was an amazing woman who had been an unbelievable example and blessing to me since the day I met her 19 years ago, and with her passing I realized again that the living, breathing model of a Titus 2  woman was passing away, and would eventually cease to exist at all, if those of us who had been impacted by…imprinted on…by them did not stand up in grace, and joyfully take their place.

Grandmother passed away on Sunday Morning, August 19.

The family viewing was on the evening of my oldest son’s 16th birthday, Friday, August 24th.

The funeral services were Saturday August 25th.

Isaiah’s surprise birthday cookout (I did not want the memories of his 16th birthday to be only of his great-grandmothers passing) was on Sunday, August 26th.

The burial was Monday morning, August 27.

The kids homeschool assessment was Wednesday, August 29th.

It is now Friday evening, August 31st, and I am writing this post…exhausted…but writing… You may be asking, ‘What’s so great about that?’. Well, potentially nothing….or potentially something.  You see, I spent my entire summer blocked….just BLOCKED!!! I could post things that others said, but I just wasn’t able to produce anything from my heart…so I didn’t.  I thought about writing at least 20 times a day, but what would I write about? I simply couldn’t connect with myself.  Even on Facebook…I was able to post or share things from other people or other pages, but I simply could not find it in my own heart…I had disconnected somewhere from…me.

It was a busy summer..busier than any I’ve had in a few years. And this summer I found comfort in the chaos of business.  I didn’t necessarily like it, but being busy was better than confronting grief…and so much of it seemingly heaped on top of itself.  But as much comfort as I found in business, I was beginning to find … focus?  The comfort began to alarmingly resemble chaos, and the chaos made me long for peace, and the peace reminded me of what I can only find in God’s presence, and God’s presence revived a necessary desire for his Word, and God’s Word reminded me of who I am, and being reminded of who I am reconnected me with Whose I am, and being reconnected with Whose I am, and grandmothers passing, coupled with knowing the peace, joy, love and compassion she exuded in life reminded me of what He created me to do…..which is to serve Him…by serving people…particularly in the Body of Christ…it is to follow in her footsteps, to model my life, my commitment to God, to my husband and my children after the example that she set…and to use the gifts He gave me to enrich the lives of other women through the mediums of teaching and writing.  All of this even helped me redefine the focus for this blog, as well as the Vemma Works blog…both of which were grossly neglected this Summer.

I am getting back, not to my old self, but somehow through this season of grief and loss, a lot has been found, and a better me is emerging.  I don’t know about you, but I can’t wait to to get to know this new me in the days ahead.  It’s been a looong time since I’ve written a post, and it feels good to be back.  I’ll talk to you soon!      ~Selena

Praying for them still…

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Just like the clouds have  a way of obliterating the Sunlight and casting a gray cast over our days, grief has a way of blocking our view of the Son’s light, and casting a dark cloud over our view of life.  No matter who is gone, parent, sibling, child, friend, after being impacted by grief, it takes a moment or two for our lives to come back into focus.  As the Brewer family prepares to bury their son, my heart aches for them.  This is just a reminder…a request if you will…to continue to keep the family of William Brewer III in prayer.  Whatever the circumstances of his passing, this young man leaves a huge whole where his laughter used to be. He was the only son…the only bother…and he will be missed.  While I have only interacted with the parents in passing over the years since high school, I know the love they had for their son. It’s the love I have for my own.  My heart grieves with and for them, and I will be praying for them in the days, weeks, months, and years to come.  I pray that they will find rest in the light of the Son of God and in the love that He has for them.

Cut By God!

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The next series of blogs will be reposts/rewrites of a Newletter Publication/Weekly Devotional that God blessed me to create a few years ago.  In addition to hearing from me, you will see updated/reprinted posts from my kids, as well as a friend or two.  It is our prayer that you are as blessed by reading these words today, as we were when they were written.

“I am the true grapevine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch of mine that doesn’t produce fruit,and he prunes the branches that do bear fruit so they will produce even more… When you produce much fruit, you are my true disciples. This brings great glory to my Father.” John 15:1-2.8

As a young believer I quickly developed an insatiable love for the Word of God. It seemed as if I had a new ‘favorite’ book of the Bible every other week. It wasn’t long after being acquainted with Christ that I realized  I didn’t have a ‘favorite’ book of the Bible, but that the Bible was my favorite book. Over the past 27 years different books of the Bible, or chapters, have ministered to me at different times, and in different situations. Some parts that ministered to me when I was twelve had a very different, but no less powerful, impact on me at 21, and then 31, and so on. Over the last several years John 15 has emerged as one of my favorite chapters, in one of my favorite books. Being a visual learner, I quickly fell in love with the works of art painted for me by these words found in this chapter. I could just see God as the Gardener, with eternal overalls on and  grungy shoes from walking in the garden to tend to continue the relationship He initiated when we were created.  I could see Jesus as the true grapevine, the One that all believers draw nourishment from as long as we stay connected… and I could see myself as one of the branches. I could envision the loving gardener gently taking care of the vine, and carefully removing all of those dead branches that had proved to be unfruitful, uncommitted, or just insincere, so that the branches that were fruitful could produce more. As I look back, how funny (I’m laughing to/at myself). This picture was being imagined by someone with no gardening experience whatsoever. Every plant I had owned either died, or was virtually independant and needed very little interaction from me. Prior to a couple of summers ago, I had never even attempted to grow anything from a seed, so the idea of tending a garden was, again, totally foreign to me. So I went on for some time loving John 15 without having an accurate understanding of what the true image looked like. How many of us would agree that life has a way of teaching us things that may have been difficult to fully appreciate had they remained just words on a page?

2006-2007 were difficult years.  My family experienced a lot of loss, and what we viewed at the time as humiliation.  Our home was foreclosed on, and one of our cars (the one I loved) was reposessed.  This was all experienced while my husband was the senior pastor of an inner city church, and when portions of the Body of Christ believed that loss like this was a sign that you did not really belong to God , or that He had forsaken you.  It was as if financial distress was contagious, and we watched the community that we had fellowshipped with for years become smaller and smaller. I found myself desperate to cross over into 2008 and I entered in thanking God for being the Gardener, and thanking Jesus for being the true vine, and thanking them both that I was a living branch, and not a dead one that would be cut off and thrown away like some others(if you caught a whiff of a prideful heart, you’ve got a great nose). In my pride-filled gratitude I had completely missed John 15:2; “he prunes the branches that do bear fruit so they will produce even more”. Oh, I read it, countless times…but I missed it. I just knew that I was God’s girl, one of his true disciples (after all, wasn’t my life producing fruit?), and as such I had no expectation of the pruning shears of the Gardener ever coming my way. Now, those same shears were expected to prune those around me… you know what I mean; those other people… So in my mind, pruning meant cutting around me. But in what seemed like one quick snip of the shears…He cut me!… And I thought I was going to die!

Within a few short moments my whole world had shifted, and I hurt all of the time. I couldn’t believe it…I had been cut by God. With my genuine love, but limited experience-based understanding of John 15, my heart sank. If he cut me, it must mean I was already dead…right. He only cut off dead branches…right? When you are stuck in pride in any area, self-’pity is only a couple of short steps away, and I had taken those steps quickly, after which I took a nose dive into self-pity’s first cousin and close friend…depression. Then I went to Jodie’s house. (I am definitely laughing out loud…this time at her!) You see, while going through one of the worst times in my life (I had gone from being ’His girl’ to a dead branch), some friends and I decided to plant a garden. Most of us really worked at our gardens. We watered them, and removed all things dead from around them. But Jodie didn’t do that. She watered hers (tomato plants) occasionally, but that’s all, and by the time I saw the garden it was completely overgrown and out of control. It was so overgrown that the plants were smothering themselves and making the possibility of sustained production unlikely. Live, healthy tomatoes had become tangled up and as a result, disconnected from the vine. The end result of being neglected by the gardener was the compromising of the entire crop. Healthy tomatoes were weakened. Young tomatoes never matured and quickly rotted, and from what had the potential of becoming a relatively large crop, more were lost than harvested. To attempt to save her crop of tomatoes (being the good friend that I was), I set out to detangle the mess of vine and secure them to her fence. As I worked tirelessly in the hot summer sun (her shame should return right about here when she reads this:) I realized that in order to save any of it I would have to begin to cut away at some of it. This meant the cutting off (to divide from with a sharp edged instrument, in this case scissors) of all the dead tomatoes, and the cutting away (removal of living parts of a branch or branches to improve shape or growth) of some of the live ones. The dead ones fell away easily. All I really had to do with them was touch them. They only appeared connected, but in truth had ceased to draw life from the True Vine a long time ago. No harm. No foul. But the live ones were another story… Once I decided which branches needed to be cut back, not off, It seemed that the branches themselves began to fight against me. The live branches wanted to remain intact. When I touched them, they didn’t fall away. I gently pulled at them with no success. I realized that if I continued to try to break them off, I could possibly damage other areas. So finally, I had to ask for a pair of scissors from Jodie’s kitchen, and I began to cut them. And that’s when it hit me! I would have to cut living branches! Not because they were dead, but because they were alive! The dead ones were obviously dead. They had lost their color, and just hung there on the vine like well done spaghetti. But the living ones were still standing strong and tall, not aware that they had been impacted by the dead branches. Their entire branch wasn’t weakened, but some of the branches on the branch were beginning to turn brown. And if left connected the dead branch would negatively impact the living. The whole purpose of the vine was to produce fruit, and if cutting away at the live branches would enable more fruit to be produced, then cut away I would have to do.

As I worked on her overgrown, untended garden my heart began to heal that day. God had so lovingly helped me to understand what was going on in my life. I was a branch, still connected to the vine, and he was the Gardener. And as the Gardener, He looked at my life and the fruit that was/was not being produced by it from a vantage point that I didn’t have. And knowing what’s best for me, and being able to see what things were beneficial and what things were not, He cut me. Not to kill me, or because he hated me, or because I had become some huge disappoint- ment……or because I had magnanimously failed him…but because He loves me, and my life is His to do whatever He sees fit to do in order to effectively use it to build His kingdom. So, from me, He cut away branches of pride, so that humility could flourish, and he cut away unforgiveness so that grace towards others could abound….He cut away my hard heart, so that I could feel everything… my pain as well as the pain of others. Oh,, and in case you didn’t know, being cut by God hurts…really bad! You see, it’s because we are alive when He does it…and we are so very aware of the sharpness of the blade used…it’s that double-edged sword (…you’re so funny…did you think God used hedge clippers or scissors? 🙂 . Our hearts desire is to please him, and He knows that, so we remain connected to the vine, cut back, but still connected. I may look a little bare at the moment…there may not be a lot of leaves to cover the branch, but just wait til’ this time next year…….I’ll produce so much more fruit, because He cut me.

If you’ve ever been cut by God, you know the pain, the depression that we sometimes find ourselves battling, and if you know that, then yu also know the heartache that comes with it.  But if you ask him ‘why?’,  do you, the branch, have any idea what He, the True Vine, will say? His answer; “When you produce much fruit, you are my true disciples. This brings great glory to my Father.” As branches connected to the True Vine, we are cut so that we can become true disciples. Isn’t that amazing!!! Your heart has been pruned so that your life produces much fruit. When this happens, the prayer of your heart may start out with “Oh Lord, just let this be over.” But through the process, as you feel the hands of the Gardener remaking you in the image of his dear Son, the cry of your heart soon becomes, “Lord, if this is what it takes for your fruit to be produced from my life, Cut Away, Lord………..Cut Away……..

Let’s go produce some fruit, and bring Him some great glory!

Joyfully Submitted to the pruning shears of The Gardner while remaining purposely connected to The Vine,

Selena

 

A Little Life Lost

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“I heard a loud shout from the throne, saying, “Look, God’s home is now among his people! He will live with them, and they will be his people. God himself will be with them.  He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain. All these things are gone forever.”And the one sitting on the throne said, “Look, I am making everything new!” And then he said to me, “Write this down, for what I tell you is trustworthy and true.”

Revelation 21:3-5

No matter how old we get or how much life we live, our hearts are never fully prepared for loss. Even if we know months or years in advance that it soon to come, our hearts are still devastated by the loss of a loved one. Some say that at least if you have an advance warning, you are better able to brace yourself and not be swept away by the torrential tidal wave that is grief.  But what if there is no warning…no alarms sound…just the explosion akin to a nuclear bomb that’s been placed in the center of your chest where your heart is…where your loves are held dear…and it only has one trigger…the irreversible loss of one of those loves…? Such is the case with a beautiful family who awoke this morning with their family intact, but close their eyes tonight with the newest addition to their beautiful family no longer with them…forever with the Lord.

As a woman, a mother of four, a follower of Jesus Christ, I struggled all day to wrap my mind around this.  My prayers were spoken out loud, silently within myself, as well as in the company of the prayers of others at varying times during the day…but sitting here, with the house finally quiet, my heart breaks for this mother who goes to bed with her arms empty, no longer able to hold and nurse the baby whose birth she just celebrated and praised God for.

I have lived long enough to understand a few things…one being that there are so many things I will never be able to understand…and losses like this are one of those things.

Please pray for this family, for the father, the mother, the siblings…Pray that they will allow The Comforter to comfort them in their darkest hour…Please pray that they will find rest and peace for their tormented souls in Him…and joy in their awareness that living lives committed to Christ will ensure that they see their baby boy again…

Brokenhearted While Joyfully Submitted,

Selena