billandmardy


Hello Friends,

A few weeks ago a dear friend let me know that her 13 year-old daughter was discouraged. She had been faithfully praying for a family whose unborn baby had been diagnosed with serious problems. As she and others prayed, the baby’s health reports showed improvement. However, their friend’s baby died less than an hour after being born. This sad event happened around the same time of Patrick’s passing, so my friend’s young and tender-hearted daughter experienced two severe and confusing losses back-to-back.

When my friend told me of her girl’s discouragement, I asked her mom if we could possibly meet at a coffee shop after I dropped Joel off at school. We did, and our time together was unforgettable. The next day I felt compelled to follow up on our chat with a note, and today I thought her note might encourage someone else. With their blessing, I am posting below.

Thank you to each one for your continued prayers for us. They are bringing healing.

Love, Mardy

To My Lovely Little Sister in Christ,

How happy I was to meet with you yesterday. I am so proud of you for being willing to be instructed in the faith at a time when the enemy wants you to stumble in your pain.

I want to recap the things we talked about. If this note is too painful, you can save it for later. If you have already zoomed past it in your healing, just delete it, Sweet Girl. It is only here to remind you of things you already know to be true should you need them again.

When your mom told me you were discouraged, I remembered that many years ago I felt I was supposed to pray for someone to make a decision I was sure they were supposed to make. I was on my knees and even on my face calling out to the Lord to please, please send  grace and conviction, and to open this person’s eyes to make the right decision. After a few months of prayers, that person made the opposite decision, and said it was the right one. It wasn’t a morally sinful choice, but it seemed clear that to me it wasn’t God’s best. I was devastated, especially because I thought I was supposed to pray for opposite decision.

Have you ever fallen so hard that the wind was knocked out of you? I hope not.  That happened to me once, when I was your age, about 13. I was riding a horse and it took off at a run (while I was yelling, “Whooaah!”), and it turned hard to the left even though I was pulling the reins hard to the right. That horse flew under a low-hanging tree branch that hit me in the chin and knocked me out of the saddle to the ground. I couldn’t breathe for a few seconds, and I was terrified.  I lay flat on my back, listening to the horse gallop away, just looking at the sky thinking I might be dying (because I thought that “getting the wind knocked out of you” was just a saying and I didn’t know it was a real thing that could happen to you).

That was what I felt like when the person I had been praying for – the person I thought the Lord had been prompting me to pray for – made their decision. I felt like I had been faithfully pulling the reins in one direction while the horse ran away in the opposite direction. And their decision was that tree branch that knocked me out of my saddle.

For about six months it was hard for me to pray. I felt like I had been a long-distance marathon runner, and someone had just placed a barricade in my path and I had crashed into it and fallen. I limped to the side of the race, and just sat, watching other runners go by, the arms of my heart folded around myself to protect from further injury.

While I sat on the sidelines I battled thoughts like, “Maybe I can’t hear a prompting from the Lord after all?”

“I guess I was wrong.”

“If I thought the Lord was asking me to pray this way, and He wasn’t, what ‘voice’ am I listening to?”

“Is there something wrong with me?”

“Perhaps God doesn’t hear my prayers.”

“I don’t understand.”

“What happened to ‘Whatever you ask in prayer, if you believe, you will receive?’”

My prayer life dwindled, and I pouted.

Later that year I heard a friend describe how she imagined prayer to work. She said it was like pulling on a thick, beautiful golden cord that was let down from Heaven. And every time we pull on that cord through prayer, it tips a heavenly bucket of God’s grace on whatever target we have been praying for. I imagined little sparkles of heavenly grace floating from heaven and landing all around the person I had been praying for – grace after grace after grace. But, then my friend shared that people still have wills of their own, and they can sometimes choose to resist grace – even resist much grace being offered. I knew that was true because I had been stubborn and resisted grace that entire six months, and could feel that my heart had become a little hardened.

When I realized that the Lord really had prompted me to pull on that heavenly cord of prayer to pour grace out to that person, and I understood that He wouldn’t force them to receive it, I saw that I had not missed God’s direction after all. I had been obediently praying, even though He could see the future and He knew they would resist – but, He still asked me to pray for more and more grace.

I have thought since then, “What if I had prayed more often, asked for more grace, asked more people to pray with me?” I think sometimes those things really can make a difference. Jesus said that some things don’t happen except by prayer and fasting. But, we are not allowed to know what could have been. We can only make what we believe is the best decision for today.

That day I sort of woke up from my daze. I stood up, thinking about rejoining the race. But, I was wary. What if there were other barricades just around the turn? Bigger ones where I would pray for something and believe it to be God’s will, but not receive it? It hurt so much to fall that I didn’t want to fall again. I prayed this prayer to God that day, “Lord, I want to get up and run in this race of faith again. But, I need a promise from you that you will clear my path of barricades that will make me fall again. If you will promise me that, I can run again.”

Ca you guess what happened? I somehow knew He wasn’t going to say yes, and that there would be barricades in my path again, and that I was being called to run any way. So, I did. I started walking again, and eventually running. And last month I crashed into the worst barricade of my life, and it utterly broke my heart. But, the Personal Trainer has lovingly carried me out of the race for a little while, checked me into an ICU unit of His tender care, and holds me tight, giving me time to heal. And I think He feels and shares my pain.

You and I talked about your friend’s baby that you prayed to be well, but that she lived for less than an hour after being born. You said you were comforted in knowing she affected many lives in that one hour. I have seen some good things happen after Patrick’s death, in that people who normally don’t think about spiritual things are being drawn to Jesus. But, I am unable to justify our loss for such gain. The truth is that there are many people and many babies who die in third world countries who very few ever know about, and who break only the hearts of their loved ones or mommies. Some do not break hearts here at all. You and I have to believe that whether we can ever see a benefit from a tragedy or not, that God is both sovereign and loving, and that nothing escapes His sight, and it is enough for Heaven that they once lived. We choose to believe that God is worthy to be trusted when nothing makes sense and everything hurts. This is the God you are just now getting to know in this way, and you will love Him more every crisis you face. He is the God we do not have to understand or explain because we know Him, and believe He is worthy of trust.

We talked a little about the difference between praying for something that very much appears to be God’s will, and actually being given faith for it. When I was a young mommy, Mr. Freeman took the children to church one morning, and I was supposed to drive our second car. As I pulled the driver’s door shut, I accidentally slammed it on four of my fingers. It took about two seconds for my brain to begin registering the pain, but then it hit. Time stood still! I had to tell myself, “Self! Open – the – door – with – your – other – hand!” I did, and forced myself to look at my fingers. I was pretty sure one was broken. I decided to drive to the emergency room rather than church.

Then I held my hand up over my head and in much pain cried out, “Jesus! Oh, Jesus, please heal my hand!” And suddenly a heavenly warmth started at my fingertips and spread all the way down my hand, then down my arm all the way to my shoulder. It was so divine, like nothing I had ever felt before or since, that I laughed and said, “Oh, Lord, my other hand, too? All of me?” But, my left arm was just bathed in a warmth of heavenly love that lasted for a few hours. It had been instantly healed and I used it to drive to church. I was so excited that when I arrived at our Sunday School class I told our teacher what had happened, and I remember him looking at me like I had just told him I had balanced my checkbook, completely dismissive. I wasn’t called on to answer any questions that day. Big smile.

Again, one night I was sitting up in bed reading in my Bible about faith, and I noticed my foot had been itching all day like crazy. I finally pulled the covers down to see if I had a mosquito bite. I found a round red patch on my foot that looked infected. Mr. Freeman said, “Oh, that’s ringworm. It’s a fungus, and I’ll bet you got it from walking around barefoot so much in the yard.” (We had cats and dogs.) “What do I do?” I asked. “You’ll have to get meds in the morning,” he said. So, I went back to reading my Bible, and happened to be reading an account of Jesus telling someone, “Your faith has made you well.” And just then I thought, “Yikes! Isn’t Jesus more powerful than this little fungus?” So, I told Mr. Freeman, “I’m going to ask Jesus to heal the ringworm!” And he looked over at me like, well sort of like that Sunday School teacher did, but sweeter. But, I prayed anyway. I put my hand on my foot and I asked Jesus to take away the ringworm. The special part is – I knew that I knew that I knew it was going to be completely gone in the morning. And it was. That was a very small thing, but He is interested in small things and big things.

I also believe He has granted me a gift of faith that all my children will know Jesus and be saved. I don’t have faith for many other choices in their lives, but this I believe – they will all be known by Him on the last day.

That, I believe, is what faith is like. Sometimes God gives us supernatural faith to call out to Him, just like at salvation, but also for other things, and when we call out, He answers. But, other times, we call out to Him from our own love. And because He knows something that we don’t know and He can’t tell us yet, He cannot grant our cry.

I share these stories with you so that you can know as a maturing saint that –

There are times you will pray out of your own heart for that which looks like His will, and He won’t be able to grant it for reasons He can’t tell us (perhaps like the baby you prayed for).

There are times you will pray because you do sense He is prompting you, but the person you are praying for may still choose something else because people have their own wills and are allowed to choose to resist grace (like the friend I prayed for).

There are times you will cry out to Him unexpectedly, not knowing whether He will grant your prayer or not (like when my hand was in the car door) and He will miraculously grant it to you.

And there will be times when you do sense He wants to you pray for something, you sense He is giving you faith to do so, and He miraculously grants you your request (like my little ringworm miracle). Then we sense that faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not (yet) seen.

There are other reasons our prayers are sometimes not answered, but these are the ones I want to share with you today.

Even if He does not grant some of our requests, we are to keep praying. You won’t want to make my mistake and sit on the sidelines for months with the arms of your heart folded until you can understand. Your prayers now can be as simple as, “Lord, I don’t understand, and I am hurting, and I want to trust you completely. Will you show me how? I will wait on you.”

After getting to spend that little time with you yesterday, I think you may have been given a heart with an extra portion of compassion and mercy. If that is so, it means you will hurt more with those who hurt, like Jeremiah the prophet who hurt with Israel in their sin and punishment. You’ll want to ask Jesus to take the burden of the weight you feel for those you love. He does want you to feel it, and carry them in prayer, but He also wants you to roll the weight of that burden on to Him. In this way, some of the pain transfers from the hurting person to you, and then from you to Him. You are supposed to feel it and pray for them, but you are not called to carry it. Jesus wants to do that, and wants to bear it for you. But, you have experienced a part of His merciful heart in doing so, and you get to know that He hurts with us, too.

Another topic we touched on yesterday was that when God allows one of His children to enter into a fire, He makes grace available to them for it. But, to their friends who are not in the fire, who can only stand by and try to comfort, the fire looks too severe. Their hearts will be tempted with fear, questions, doubts or anger. I am in that terrible fire. And your friend whose baby died is in that fire. I can tell you that, even though neither of us wanted to go into those fires, that God’s grace has been made available to both of us. He really does comfort the broken heart and He really is close to those who are broken in spirit. He is providing Himself to me when I am in the fire, and He will provide for all His children who are called into one.

You’ll begin to run again in the race that has been set before you, and you’ll end up a marathon runner of faith, Sweet Girl. For a little while longer, though, it really is okay to just sit on the sidelines and let the Personal Trainer of your soul just sit with you and comfort you and heal your hurts. You may ask Him all the questions of your heart (you can journal them in that little journal if that helps you to write them out). He is not afraid of our questions, and it is good to get them out. Sometimes I don’t even know what I’m really thinking until I write it out. Then, when all your questions are written out, you can go to your Bible and go to prayer or go to your parents and say, “Now, which one of these thoughts is contradicting what I know to be true about God?” I have had plenty of those! They just feel like such reality at the time, but when I write them out, I see I have been doubting what I know to be true. It’s the same for everyone who knows Him. There is a battle to be won in the mind. These questions and thoughts are important places to go through and you can ask they while you wait and heal. You’ll know inside when it’s time to get up – the Lord, His Holy Spirit as your Trainer, will help you to know. He will gently lead you, and I know you will let Him. Perhaps you already have.

I want to thank you with all my heart for praying for me and for our family over the past few weeks. I’m confident that the Lord has allowed you to take a little bit of our pain, and your prayers have sustained us. It means so much.

With love and appreciation, Mrs. Freeman


February 4th – I can tell now from one week to the next that we are inching forward in the healing process, be it ever so slowly.  Because of prayer I see we have been saved from drowning in grief, and we are at least pointed in the right direction even if we don’t progress much.  I still cry every day, but I know that is normal and will be going on for a while.  I am okay with that, and am paddling hard to keep my boat close to the safe shore of home so I don’t get caught back up in the rapids of life too fast.  I just posted two updates I sent to friends in January.  Thank you for praying for us.

January 21 – Friends,

It’s been a busy week with a revolving door of dear friends who’ve been waiting patiently in line to give us their love. I must have received some level of filling or healing during that 4 day weekend alone because I didn’t feel completely empty when each one left, like that horrible shaky-in-my-soul feeling of last week that told me I was running out of soul-oil. Don’t you love my pictures?

I am running low this week, yes, but not empty. There is now something left at the end of each visit and at the end of each day to do the next thing and not feel like I want to crawl into a ball and disappear or cry.

This is not at all like my former life, but it is so much better than last week that it hardly compares. To keep my little analogy going (because it feels like the only way I can measure my health right now), I am still in ICU. I still cry every day over big things (Kohls called needing a death certificate, Verizon called about his phone), I cry over little things (tossing a ball to Chance I remembered how much he loved to do that), and I cry over nothing at all (for 2 hours Thursday morning, for no reason I could think of, no special memory, no special thought, I just cried nonstop).

But, I can tell that the pain meds in my drip must have gotten adjusted to a lower level because I am starting to ‘wake up’ a little more and take in my surroundings rather than being utterly consumed with my own pain and recovery. Yesterday it dawned on me that many of the faces filing past my bed have been suffering a deep and personal blow themselves. I have only been able to focus on my own grief, and when I see the pain in their eyes I have only felt it for me or our family. Yesterday some of their pain began to come into focus. I woke up to the fact that many of the people who are reaching out to console us have been biting their lip to keep from crying in their personal sorrow so they can be of some use to us. Now I notice them grieving in corners of the room, hit in the gut over their own loss of a friend, a Christian brother, a cousin, or for some of my friends – one of their own kids of their heart. And then they compose themselves, walk over to my bed, hold my hand and smile as though their only pain is for me. It’s like I’m waking up and seeing not just me, not just our family, but an entire body in pain. It’s like we have all been in one train wreck, and everyone is in various stages of shock or trauma. And I have nothing to console anyone else with. I can’t even console myself. I can only be consoled and trust that the Lord who is holding me so tight will somehow be as real and powerful and consoling to His entire body.

Last night Patrick’s cousins, both in their early twenties, came for dinner and spent the evening. I assume they come to console us, but they actually seem like they love spending time here. And the night before two of Joel’s friends came for dinner, and it was the same thing – they seem like they just love being here.  Their visits made me remember the times the children and I took our golden retrievers into nursing homes. They were always a huge hit. No one noticed anything else once Max or Sam entered the room. Each dog had star status. You could tell that each resident was waiting for them to make their way to their table so they could have a turn petting them.

And here I sit, checked into my little ICU unit, still wounded and totally focused on processing my own personal pain every single day, when the door opens and in prance a couple of golden retrievers. And I look up from my broken heart and think, “Oh, look, aren’t they cute? And, look, I think they want to be petted! Wow, I think they like me, and I think they like me petting them and giving them treats!” I honestly can’t tell if these kids get anything out of their visits with us, but while they wander about in my room, and let me feed and pet them, they contribute to my healing.

I know some of you will worry that we are overdoing with so many visitors, and I am trying to be conscious of that. I’m not anxious to return to my old lifestyle, and I like retreating to peace and solace when the house empties. But I cannot think of one encounter last week we would have cancelled, each one was a special reconnection on our road to recovery. We are planning to circle the wagons and get more rest this weekend. Joel will spend a fun weekend with James and Amy, while Bill and I get W-2’s printed and mailed (quite the ordeal), and complete one order for a client. The rest of the time should be ours with just quiet.

I’ve been awake since 4:00, so I think I’ll turn out the light and go back to sleep now.

I love you all and appreciate you all very much.

Mardy


January 19 – Another ramble, Friends…

Yesterday I had to stop at CVS on the way home from dropping Joel off at school, and as my turn came to check out, I looked up and saw a cute black kid at the register, about Patrick’s age, and without thinking, out of my mouth came, “How are you?”  He smiled. It wasn’t until he did that I realized I had been smiling at him.

He said, “Fine. Staying busy with work and school and church.” Something in me leapt, and I wanted to adopt him, take him home and feed him lasagna.

Then I heard myself say, “Good for you! Stay faithful and work hard. It will be worth it when you finish. And I know you’re making your momma proud.”

“Yes, ma’am, I am,” he grinned.

As I walked through the parking lot I was in awe of my God. It was my very first voluntary reintegration with the world around me, and it felt warm and rewarding. (I don’t want to sound too romantic here because I had to reconnect with the government later that afternoon by filing two sales tax reports for two companies, running payroll and balancing two checkbooks, and it was all as unpleasant and emotionally draining as ever – no, even more so.)

But, on the drive home, I could imagine there were angels huddled in a little heavenly committee meeting just outside my ICU door, comparing notes on heavenly clipboards, discussing me in hushed tones. Did I detect the words “transfer” and “regular room” and “near future?” Last week I told you all that I don’t want to leave ICU. I don’t want to go into a regular room, ever. I like being curled in a ball between Aslan’s paws, even if I spend much of the time crying. I imagine to myself that he has been crying with me. Today I thought, “Maybe, maybe I am getting stronger. Maybe soon I will be ready.” Just now it doesn’t seem so scary to think about leaving ICU one day, and taking baby steps back into the world again. We’ll see what tomorrow holds…


Friends, Bill and I just returned from a couple of days at the beach for his birthday. It was a very nice, very quiet, very sweet get away, and upon returning, I think I can see that we are inching our way, ever so slowly towards healing. Today I think I might have cried a little less, felt a smidgen more energy, and I think I may have even entertained a thought about reconnecting with the rest of our world some day.  Some day….

While we were away I looked through my emails for one of the notes I wrote to friends after that 4-day weekend of great, great grace. It is below.

I will never tire of thanking you all for praying for us. It is the means by which we are healing.

Love, Mardy

January 17th

Hello Friends,

It seems whoever has the most recent note in my inbox when I sit down to my keyboard has been the recipient of my processing that day. This is just my ramblings for the day.

I’m sitting here on that black couch in the living room where several of you have found me camped these past few weeks. It’s early and I’m enjoying the quiet darkness before dawn with my coffee, and, without exaggeration, the best blueberry muffin I have ever tasted. Janna, your girls must never make them for me again or I will return to my former weight. I ate 3 for dinner last night.   I am limiting myself to one this morning merely out of Christian duty. My conscience whispers that I have to share them with Bill and Joel. Hmmm, I just noticed the muffins are crying out in loud, delicious voices from the kitchen telling me I should hush my conscience with another muffin. I feel like I’m in a Veggie Tales movie.

Getting past the muffins, if that’s possible, one of the things that’s becoming discernible in this terrible valley is the difference between my soul and spirit. I’ve always pictured them smushed up together, intertwined in some invisible way that would get explained in some “Life on Earth – Here’s What You Missed” class after we get to heaven. I’m pretty sure my heavenly class schedule is already booked solid on this track.

But, when I came to that place of acceptance of both God’s love for my son and His sovereignty in his life, something inside of me clicked and settled. And I think it was that night that I began to sense a distinction between my soul and my spirit. I’ve been feeling like I am in a sort of ICU hooked up to tubes like feeding tubes keeping me alive, but I’ve only been able to sense that “something” outside of me (of course, the Holy Spirit) was going into “something” inside me.

I read those emails about God’s sovereignty and love on Thursday night (Day 10), and the next morning I gave our black lab, Chance, a bath. I didn’t think I could bring myself to do anything so laborious at first, but his stinkiness finally drove me to it. I’m no fan of giving this dog a bath even when I have physical and emotional strength. It’s a lot of bending over and scrubbing which is hard on my back, and a ton of coaxing him to stay in the tub. It also exasperates me that he experiences the same ritual every time – wet, lather, rinse – so he knows he’s not getting out of the tub until he’s rinsed, but he always spends the entire bath plotting what he thinks is an original and sneaky escape – sneaky glance right, sneaky glance left, never looking me in the eye, muscles flexed and ready to jump. The water is warm, the massaging of his coat must be pleasant, but I can tell that something in his doggie-belief system has been wired to tell him he is not supposed to have a bath. He’s not supposed to be in the tub.

It was while I was lathering him on Day 11 (and just now I wonder if I am going to be measuring the rest of my days in this way) that I had the tiniest sense of joy. It was so unexpected and so foreign after 11 days of sorrow. So, instead of just saying, “Good doggie. Stay. Yes, that’s a good Chance”, I just started half-singing, with love and enthusiasm, “Who is THE best doggie in the world? Is it Chance-Dog? Huh, is it you?? Yes, it is!! What a good, good puppy you are!” And his sneaky glances disappeared for a moment, and his long soggy tail started wagging. Immediately I thought, What is wrong with me? How could I have what feels like joy again? And why on earth would I feel it while washing this stinky dog? But, there it was, a very (very) tiny blurb of joy bubbling up and escaping in praise to the dog.

This may be elementary to others (and why heavenly guidance counselors are signing me up for a full load of future 101 classes even as I type), but it has just clicked for me that it was my spirit that experienced that blurb of joy and it has been my spirit that the Lord has been feeding.  It almost feels as though my spirit was not damaged, but has being strengthened moment by moment in this tragedy, while my soul (and every part of me that my soul entails) has been terribly damaged, is still bleeding, and in need of healing. It’s my soul that has spent almost all of its resources grieving, and it is my soul, that once this wound is closed, will bear a scar for the rest of my days here.

That makes more sense to me now.  By the end of last week I felt like a car so low on oil that I would break if I went one more inch. I see now it is all the stuff in my soul (perhaps my heart, mind, emotions, a big part of the “me” part of me) that has been damaged and is way low on oil. It is strange, because I can actually sense a distinction inside me now – my spirit, hooked up to those tubes of grace and being fed by God’s Spirit – and my soul, which feels extremely damaged, weak, bleeding, and still in need of time and guarding and care. And I have to assume because I still feel like I’m walking through water to get even small chores done (my second gear modes are just beginning to shift into gear again) that my soul must be using up some of the physical stores in my body for its healing.

It’s now past 9:00. Bill is up and between the muffin and the dog bath story we held hands and snuggled as he told me the favorite parts of his sailing trip this weekend – waking up to find ducks floating all around the boat, and the peaceful, quiet days on the river. When he told me how cold it was, all the romance drained from his story.

I don’t want to sound super spiritual to you all. I am so not. I’m a wanderer in a dark valley. One friend, who will remain unnamed, made me laugh out loud once when she pointed to her forehead and told a group of women that she was sure her spiritual name was really “Prone to Wander.” I laughed because she had taken my secret thoughts about myself right out of my head. My tendency is to wander away from the Shepherd. I have clicked on Netflix movies and sitcoms over the past few weeks to try to escape the reality of this dark valley for a few hours, even when my conscience told me not to. I will say, though, that, though I don’t condemn myself for trying to mentally escape, I can sense that the Lord patiently waits just outside my screen of escape to bring comfort in my reality. When I allow Him to, He does. When I don’t, He waits. I feel a little like Chance, feeling the comfort of my bath, knowing my master wants me to stay in the tub until he says it’s time to leave, but still sometimes looking sneakily to my right and left, plotting my escape – because my mind has been wired to believe I was never supposed to be in this tub in the first place.

Today starts a tough week for us. Bill and I are behind on many business tasks, some with time-sensitive deadlines, and my wonderful strong tower of a man has not been able to work for more than 2 hours straight on this pile of paperwork with me yet. I am hoping his 4 days on the river has recharged him a little more. I will be testing the waters with him this afternoon trying to filter the hottest items to the top first. Your prayers for us this week are appreciated.

And now it’s getting hard to type because two of my fingers are sticky with (yes, another) blueberry muffin and I need to clean the keyboard. 🙂 Where, oh where, can my good side hide them where my bad side won’t find them??

Now may the God of peace Himself (I have definitely been sensing Him as a God of peace generously turning up the drip on the peace pump to my spirit) sanctify you entirely (and, yes, I still recoil at the idea of being sanctified entirely because I don’t want to have to walk through this dark valley just to be sanctified. Part of me would rather just stay fleshly.) And may your spirit and soul and body be preserved complete, without blame (without blame, but not, I notice, without damage and wounding) at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. 1 Thess 5:23

My soul is weary with sorrow. Strengthen me according to your word. Ps 119:28

I love you all very much.

Mardy


Hello Friends. Bill has given this a thumbs-up, but he was not aware of the battles I was facing that day and is concerned readers may think I’m still in the state of empty I describe here. He wants me to add that this was my last note before my four-day weekend alone where I felt like I got to lie down in green pastures, be led by quiet waters and have my soul restored quite a little. That’s how David described his restoration, but to me it feels like I have been emotionally, mentally and spiritually dehydrated since a hole appeared in my heart on Day 1.  I have been sustained by grace each day, but that weekend I got a double dose of grace in my IV. I imagine if they had ICU units and IVs in David’s day he might have described it the same way, but his world was limited to shepherd-speak.

I have had some tough days since the day I penned this, but none yet where I felt as shaky and depleted as I did that day. God’s grace has been great and He is giving sweet insights through the tears. I just don’t feel right sharing the insights without the pain. Your prayers are helping all of us, every single day. Thank you so, so much. Most of this is from a note to friends.  Mardy

January 13th – Day 24. This is the first day that little things have made me angry, and I haven’t felt angry at little things in years. It’s been a day full of so many things to do and so many people to see. I drove Joel to school and then stopped to shop for a birthday gift for Kate. How incredibly thankful I felt to walk into a store, immediately see a kiosk of scarves, make a decision and be back to the car in 9 minutes. Stores feel big to me these days, so many choices, overwhelming decisions, too much walking. And strangers feel overwhelming – what if they intrude into my life by asking how I am today? Even talking to people I know and love today is difficult. I feel like a car very low on oil that wasn’t supposed to drive out of the shop this morning.

I finally got back to the safety of home, and remembered I wanted to help Bill get ready for that 4-day sailing trip with his brother. Bill needs this restoration time. His brother is his closest friend and the St. Johns his favorite haunt.  I boil eggs for their breakfasts, get coolers packed, find the rest of the groceries from his list and keep going – and going and going. Clank goes another rod in my soul. Everything just seems hard, hard, hard, and I feel so low on inner resources I want to drop. Where are the protein bars, why are there no spoons in the silver drawer, I need to get the thermos from the apartment (three blocks it seems to walk to the apartment and up that set of stairs, count them 1 through 16 up and 1 through 16 down), the kitchen trash is overflowing and I can’t smush another thing in so stop everything, resack and start over. Realize I forgot to ask Joel to do about five important things before he left for the weekend, but can’t do anything about them now, and why did I just drop another glass? Irritations rising and rising, and I am getting warning signs that something in me is about to break.  I did not know that weeks of grieving zapped mental, physical and emotional stores.

I had planned to help Bill get the boat swept and shining around noon, but I’m kept busy all day with the next thing and the next and the next.  A lovely family visits and brings us dinner, while Bill runs late in his preparation so he isn’t ready for my help until 4:30. By now I am completely spent. It’s cold outside, and I start feeling colder on the inside, which I think must be a stress-thing. Nothing in me wants to drag myself out to that freezing, untidy boat, climb up the ladder and start another job.

But I look over at Bill and feel only compassion for my guy who is grieving so deeply himself, and has been working so hard to get out the door with many painstaking projects for the past three days. If he knew I was suffering inside right now, he would never let me help, so I push through for his sake, remembering he has also been pushing through his pain to carry me many days.

I walk out to the boat (why is the back yard so far?), climb in, but the hand broom is nowhere to be found, so climb back out, walk back into the house (3 more blocks it feels, step, step, step, clank, clank, clank goes my soul), get another broom, walk back out to the boat, climb back in, trip over a gas tank thingy that’s been pulled into the walkway, start sweeping, find many little things from Bill’s projects that must be sorted and put in the exact right spots in the exact right tub and into the exact right cubby. Get out a tub, take off the lid, put in that thing, put away the tub because I think I have found the only one, keep cleaning and find another one, take out same tub or different tub, take off lid, put thing in, repeat.

It’s cold, so I’m wearing shoes rather than being my normal barefooted self, so I am taller and keep hitting my head on the cabin ceiling – ouch, I can’t believe I just did that again, ouch. I find another thingy for yet another tub in yet another cubby, ouch, hit my head again, trip, hit my shin again on the gas tank thingy, ouch, repeat. I am angry at the cubbies and the thingies I keep finding and the ceiling I keep hitting my head on. I can feel my breathing change to deep sighs as my stress level rises. I start to think about a hot jacuzzi with lots of bubbles, but realize there are more ends to tie up, more things to pack. I push on, not showing my anger, but feeling it rise while my soul sends more warning knocks to my brain, clankety, clanekety, clank.

When I finish the cabin, Bill carries the cooler next to the boat, opens it and notices that one of the tea jugs is leaking all over the food. I am now way angry at the tea jug, angry that I have to climb back into the boat to find paper towels, angry that I can’t tell which of the three jugs it is and must balance each one on a paper towel on the catamaran hull in the yard and wait for the guilty one to leak. I empty the cooler into the yard and notice leaves and woodchips are now stuck on the bottoms of each food item. I start wiping out the cooler, and without ever saying a word to Bill, throw each and every soggy towel into the yard as hard and as far and as angrily as I can as soon as I finish with it. I am on the verge of screaming.

And guess what thought pops into my head as I fling the last paper towel?

So, what did the slave mothers do?

Huh?

What did the slave mothers do?

I think about it, and the thought is humbling and overwhelming. What did slave mommies who lost their children do? How did they cope when their children were beaten or abused or put to work in the fields from sun up to sun down with no rest, no opportunity, no medicine, no doctor, no help? What did they do if they died?  Did those mother’s souls go clankety, clankety, clank when they went back to work in the fields hour after hour, day after day with no break? How did they cope when they felt low on oil, when they felt they had used up every single unit of their resources, but weren’t allowed to stop, even for one day to grieve their own child’s death? What did they do with their sorrow when they were given little or no compassion, when they didn’t have weeks of loving care to grieve their loss as I have been given? How did they do the next thing and the next? And how did they keep their faith in a sovereign and loving God in such an ongoing fire?

And not just the slave mothers, I think, but what about mommies today whose children die from violence in warring nations and hunger in third world countries? How, how, how do they cope without massive amounts of friends forming a tight wall of love around them, bringing hot meals each day, texting to say I love you and am praying for you, or actually have masses of people praying for them? If I feel irritation and anger because I can’t find a spoon in my kitchen 24 days after losing my son, what does a mommy feel the day after she buries her son and doesn’t know where drinking water is coming from tomorrow for her other children?

I shudder to think what condition my faith might be in if I were asked to trade places with them. I would need a grace I’ve not yet experienced.  I see now I am being sustained, propped up, by the prayers and care of many people. I imagine if you gathered all the mothers who have ever lost a child into one group, surely the kit-glove care and tender love and massive prayers I have received would be in the top 5% of all time. I live in a day of technology where thousands have been asked to pray for us and scores are serving us – and the call goes out with the touch of a button from my friends’ computers. It feels very much like I’ve been checked into a very special VIP ICU unit of God’s hospital with fiery angels standing at the door, a mass of loving friends tending to my needs, and the Great Physician close by who has been giving me time to just cry and heal and cry and heal.

I don’t know why I would be given such amazing care, but realizing it now makes me feel about 100 times better. I’m still cold, and I bump my head on the cabin ceiling a few more times getting the last of the items in (boating is a lot of work!), and I still feel utterly depleted. But, I’m no longer angry about tea jugs or cold boats or spoons I can’t find. I am humbled.  I’m not working in the fields right now or exposed to the elements or emptying someone else’s toilet or tempted to worry about food or water for tomorrow. I feel extremely grateful to be me, extremely grateful to be so tenderly cared for.

The boat is ready, and I am still cold on the inside and can’t help thinking about that hot, bubbly jacuzzi. Then I realize I should offer Bill something warm before he leaves instead of his plans to eat fast food. As I stare at the microwave watching our plates of a deliciously catered dinner turn round and round, knowing they’ll be piping hot in 90 seconds, I wonder how my faith would be holding up if I were serving wormy rice or stale bread as some grieving mothers must be doing tonight.

Bill has just called to say he arrived safely in Palatka, within five minutes of his brother. That is amazing timing. These two, who love water and wind and sails and each other, and do not mind the cold at all, will have a much-needed time together. Joel is happily spending these four days with a family who loves him like their own. And my house is finally, finally deliciously quiet. It feels like a sanctuary right now. I’m going to go start that hot bubbly bath, melt some grated parmesan and mozzarella onto a baguette, pour a (very small) glass of wine, light a few candles and sink into the tub. My anger I notice is still gone.  It’s been replaced by overwhelming gratefulness.


I have been journaling to a few friends and family members over the past few weeks, and am just beginning to feel like I can share some of those entries with a wider circle now. I’m placing them here so all the people who are praying for us can go to one place and know how their prayers are helping us. I thought about putting here only the good lessons I have been learning in this very dark valley, but think I am supposed to keep in the painful parts I’ve been experiencing, too.

If you signed up for this blog before December because you thought it would be fun to keep up with our adventures and my lessons, you’ll probably want to unsubscribe. My writings this year will most likely be a processing of my grief, and I know that can be very heavy for those not going through it. My feelings won’t be hurt in the least when folks unsub – I don’t even think I get a notice, so I wouldn’t even know.

The weekend of January 13th, Bill got to spend four days sailing with his brother, Joel spent four days with a family that ministered to him, and I got to spend four days completely and deliciously alone. It was the exact therapy that each of us needed, and I notice that my writings become more insightful from that weekend on. For now I am just posting my before-January 13th writings which are more raw. I will share some of my after Jan 13th writings soon.

If you have posted a comment or sent me a note, I have read it and cherish it. I just cannot reply to them all. Thank you with all my heart for continuing to pray for us. It is very clear to us that we are being sustained by your prayers.

Mardy

The LORD (really is) close to the brokenhearted and (really does) save those who are crushed in spirit. Ps 34:18

To a few dear friends that come to mind this morning who I know are grieving deeply with us and praying for us. There are so many others that should be in the header, but I am not thinking clearly yet – you are just the ones who come to mind at this moment.

Yesterday was very difficult for me, extremely painful, as we had to deal with some official things. I can’t even rank it as the second most difficult day or the fifth – I just fell sobbing onto the couch again into the arms of my precious, tender-hearted tower of strength husband, while Kate, Daniel and Joel also comforted me.

Kate then whisked me off to a full spa treatment. She had earlier told me we were only getting a pedicure, but when she saw how difficult it was for me, she changed it to a full spa day. There was a large coffee table book in the dressing room, and while we stood in our robes waiting for our room to open, I opened it and it “happened to” fall to the page on God’s great and gentle comfort in grieving and loss. I cried my way through each sentence and each verse, though the words were very hard to focus on.

I couldn’t keep tears from flowing during my facial, and it is very awkward to try to hide tears running into your ears while someone is massaging your face on a table. The therapist wiped away my tears over and over, and leaned close and whispered Scriptures of comfort to me. She was very black, just like the little black servers and hotel clerks in the Bahamas I fell in love with on the cruise and wanted to bring home with me (I kept telling each one she was soooo beautiful – because they were so strikingly beautiful – and that each was worthy to wait for a man of honor, and I think I drove my kids nuts (in a fun way) accosting each girl in this way). Yesterday, it was like one of those little black girls was there with me, speaking back to me words of strength, love and comfort. She had the thickest false eyelashes I have ever seen in real life, and tons of silver jewelry, things I wouldn’t be brave enough to even wear to a costume party, but she was to me the most beautiful girl in the world, besides my Kate.

I feel like my storehouse of emotional reserves has been depleted and is so low, even for touching, hugging, listening, talking. It is such a drastically different place to be in, and so not controllable. It’s like I can just look down into my soul and notice my resources are almost gone. I didn’t know that shock and grief and weeks of crying would use them up like this, but even thinking about cooking a meal is still way too much work. For three people! And I love to cook. It’s like the ‘love to cook’ was used up in the grief and would have to be replaced in the refilling of my emotional tanks for me to ever want to do that again. That makes me wonder, when one is spending tons of emotional reserves in any crises, like a divorce or death or huge financial loss, if loves of things can get spent up to survive and sometimes don’t get replaced?

I am wordy and weird today. This is what I do in my quiet alone time that I relish. I write and write and write and take bubble baths and read and sip tea and then I write. Or fold towels or weed the garden or load the dishwasher or try to work on office stuff, which we are way behind on but I won’t allow myself to panic over. I have no emotional reserves left for panic. And then when Joel and Bill are around, I love on them and try to serve them which is a huge therapy for me, but I’ve noticed uses up more energy stores than before. Offering to make Joel’s lunch for school yesterday my mind said, “OK, walk over to the fridge and find the mayo. Found. OK, now go to the pantry and find the bread. White and wheat and those flat things. He doesn’t like wheat. I don’t remember if he likes the flat things. He’s in the shower, I can’t ask him. Wait, I could walk all the way to shower and ask him through the door, but that seems like such a long walk. I can guess. Big decision. I should make a decision. I’ll go with the white. Does he like mustard or barbecue sauce. Oh, mustard – Patrick liked barbecue sauce (cry, cry, cry, wash hands, start over). What drawer to I keep the sandwich bags in again? Oh, yes, always been that one, what is wrong with me??”

Comparing now to the past ten years, while making a lunch I would have written three emails in my head, planned out my errands for the day, and made a mental note to call a friend who seemed discouraged. I wouldn’t even have remembered making the sandwich. When the children were all little, I (vaguely) remember using up all my stores, but that seems like 100 years and another life ago now. I am now only used to limitless emotional stores. I dip into them, then dip in again, then again. Wheee, isn’t this fun? Shift into 5th gear, round that corner on two wheels, screech to halt, pick up a few passengers and off again. I love life! Vrooom, vrooom. Next project, Lord? Oh, meet with that mom? Plan a surprise party for one of the kids? Sneak Bill on a date? Yippee! All while loading the dishwasher.

I feel as though I was designed to be a 5-speed sporty little Martha-coupe, created to tool about in 5th gear, happily doing God’s will, and who checks in for Mary-maintenance and restoration when needed. But, I have suffered a tragic accident, and now sit immobile in the shop. The Great Physician, it seems, has called on specialists from every corner of my world who I did not know were such experts in love and care and knowledge to come to the shop for me. Each one brings a special concoction, their own precious balm mixed with His Spirit and their love for us. Each promotes a little healing, a little soothing in my soul at His prompting. We can see that my engine runs still, but I have many repairs deep inside yet to undergo, and my forward gears still will not go. I did find in the past 2 days that I can run a vacuum, fold laundry, tool about in the garden, clean a toilet and mop a floor while crying, so first gear of my soul seems to be working. And I can sputter slowly to our children’s home, but I cannot dream of even going to the store yet, not even to pick up milk (which thankfully we have plenty of and plenty of people offering to do).

I imagine when I am thrust back into driving Joel back and forth to college next week that I will find that second gear will work again. But, it does not seem possible that 5th gear will ever work again in this life for me. I just don’t feel like I’ll ever be fixed enough to return to that much fun. But, I do feel like I’m in a microwave of healing and grace. I can just tell, that even though I have almost no emotional reserves, that I’m in a bubble of healing, being guarded, possibly by angels, though I’ve never seen any, of course. I just like to imagine there might be angels around because I feel like there is a wall of protection around me so thick in this ICU unit where fiery darts are quenched before they can even get near my mind or soul. I think there might be a battle going on just outside my room, but as long as I stay snugged in my room I am safe from harm, and can keep healing. So, here I stay, feeling a tiny bit more restored than yesterday, and like I may be a tiny, tiny bit more healed today. But, still those healing tears going on and on and on….


Dear Friends,

On December 20th, my husband and I received the double shock that our 19 year-old son Patrick had died, and that it was apparent he had taken his own life.

I will never be able to describe to anyone, ever, the slap of such a shock, the depths of such pain, or the dreadful questions that plague a parent’s heart following such a call. They are the worst. For five days my heart was crushed with the pain of my son’s pain, and stung by the question of how we could have missed it.

Five days later, on the 26th, our daughter, an ER RN, made a connection between a head injury her brother suffered the day before Thanksgiving and his death.   Patrick was in school at USF in Tampa, 2 hours from home.  His work schedule didn’t allow him to have Thanksgiving off, but he was able to get home for a few days before, so we had a ‘Thanksgiving Lasagna’ one night, a ‘Thanksgiving Stroganoff’ the next, celebrating early with his siblings so he could be with us.  He was happy, and told us he was doing well with his two part-time jobs and two classes at school.  He said he was finally getting a killer cardio workout because he had to run at top speed to retrieve cars as a parking valet all day.  He had the usual fun with his siblings, and as he was our biggest prankster, he hacked my FaceBook status (again) while he was here.  He told us he liked his church and his small group fellowship in Tampa, and was having a conflict with one person, but was working toward resolving it.  All seemed well and we looked forward to his return the week of Christmas.

He left for Tampa with kisses and hugs and promises of seeing him in 3 1/2 weeks.  Forty minutes later, he called saying he’d been in an accident on I-75.  Bill and Dan went to make sure he was okay. He’d lost control of his car in the rain, hit the guardrail several times at highway speed, swerved back into traffic and hit another car.  No one in the other car was injured, but Patrick hit his head on the steering wheel and driver’s door window.  Bill and Dan changed his tire, checked his car, and checked him for signs of concussion. Patrick called Kate to ask if she thought he might have a concussion. She told him it was possible, gave him a list of things to watch for, and told him he should check it out. I had told him that morning that there were plenty of funds in the HSA account for medical needs.  For whatever reason, our beautiful kid did not get checked out, or connect any of the dots when he began displaying erratic behavior.

From Kate: I’m not exactly sure why it took me almost a week to put the pieces together – probably because of shock – but I realized something I think would be helpful to many of Patrick’s friends and family who are struggling to make sense of this, trying to figure out why no one saw this coming.

I am currently working at a large research university where staff has been frequently and thoroughly educated on the findings of recent research on traumatic brain injuries. I’d like to share some of these findings with you:

When a person comes into the emergency department for a bump to the head, standard procedure is to perform a CT scan (if the physician is concerned) and then, if no bleed is found, discharge the patient home. However, new research is finding that healthcare professionals are missing a huge piece of the picture. We are just now discovering that while nothing is showing up on a CT scan, MRIs of recently bumped heads show abnormalities in the prefrontal cortex, the emotion/reasoning center of the brain.

When someone suffers a bump to the head (whether it results in concussion or not), there is between a 30-80% chance (the research is still new) that in the following 2-3 months they will experience the following symptoms: insomnia, difficulty concentrating, difficulty relating to people, depression, suicidal thoughts and lack of impulse control. Students’ grades drop, people break up with their significant others, lose jobs, etc. They have personality changes and these short-term symptoms wreak havoc on their lives. There is abundant information available by Googling head injury and depression.

On December 28th, Kate and Dan drove to Tampa to take care of final details for us, for which I will be indebted to them for the rest of my days. When they finished, they spoke with Patrick’s friends about Kate’s thoughts. Everyone’s reaction was the same.

Kate: As soon as I started reading the symptoms of brain injury, each friend expressed shock and said I was describing Patrick’s behavior since Thanksgiving exactly. He could only sleep 2-3 hours a night, he couldn’t concentrate on school, he became withdrawn and distant, he had developed a persistent headache. They said his personality in three weeks had suddenly negatively changed.

For me, this has been the missing puzzle piece. Everyone who knew Patrick – and many of us knew him very well – have said the same thing: Patrick wasn’t unhappy, he wasn’t depressed, and he certainly wasn’t suicidal.  He was suffering from post-concussive symptoms.

Patrick’s altered behavior was apparent to friends, but naturally no one made a connection to the accident.  One friend said he’d become erratic so quickly that he thought he might have started taking drugs.

For me, I feel like I was shot through the heart with the initial call, and then rolled into ICU, being sustained moment by moment by tubes of God’s grace, like a feeding tube or breathing tube keeping me alive.  All my heart could do was lay immobile and be taken care of by others who held me and tried to make sure I ate and drank. Learning of the TBI symptoms (traumatic brain injury) poured a Saline of truth over my broken heart and washed away questions that I think would have plagued my me until the day I die.  He had watched us rescue siblings when they experienced a few crises, and we felt confident he would also call us if he needed us. The thought that he would not was excruciating to both of us. The last thing Bill said to him before he moved was that his room would always be waiting.  To know he wasn’t hiding failures and pain from us all semester soothed some of my pain, but learning the symptoms of a TBI was also very painful and triggered the grieving process afresh in me.  I imagined all the stress and pain he must have faced running as a valet and keeping up his other job and school on so little sleep, pushing himself to do better, not realizing he was injured.

Patrick’s natural temperament was Melancholy, so he set high standards and took life seriously. We watched him over the previous year pull overnight shifts and still go to class the next day, or go to school when he was sick when we advised him to stay home. He was Mr. Darcy from Pride and Prejudice, his favorite character and the only movie that I know of he bought for himself.

And here the keyboard disappears into yet another blur of tears – our son left a note. I can’t share it with anyone outside our family. I don’t even know what’s appropriate or not appropriate these days, but I asked Kate and Bill to help me know, and they said I should share the gist of it.  He wrote that he was very sorry for the pain he knew this would cause all of us, that he loved us all very much, that he knew he was very loved, and had been given a loving family. But, he could not understand why he was so deeply sad inside all the time and could not go on.

He thought of others first in so many decisions, and to read he was concerned for us in his final thoughts is more than I can even process yet.

January 5th was my first venture out of this safe and loving cocoon of home.  I took Joel, 16, to get a hair cut, pick up some books, and I thought I would treat him to a trip to Wal-mart to spend a gift card he received at Christmas. I ended up bursting into tears when an employee was trying to help me, trying not to draw attention to myself while looking for a place to escape.  Looking back on it that night, it felt like I was trying to push an IV pole across a busy street still dressed in my hospital gown, while cars whisked past me honking and speeding.  My goal was to get my weak little self all the way across that street, and I did, but sat down and cried on the bench once I got there.  Not so good.

Later I read three notes from three different friends who didn’t know each other, but all said the same thing – that I must come to a place where I accept that God is completely sovereign, and that though this was never His design, He still saw it in advance, and was able to protect Patrick from the accident as well as the injury – but didn’t.  If anyone who could have protected him and changed the outcome, it was God.  But, He didn’t.  And yet He loved Patrick many times more than all of us put together.

Reconciling God’s love for my son with His sovereignty in allowing this outcome clicked something into place in my soul, like a bone that had been broken that just got set, or an alignment that allowed me to stop walking stooped over.  Something inside settled, and I could sense a new soothing, as though the Lord administered a spiritual pain med.  For the first five days my heart had been crushed with the pain of my son’s pain.  When I cried out to Jesus to take my crushing grief, He did.  Once we learned of his head injury symptoms, I was weighted again with my son’s pain and a barrage of what-ifs and whys (I had been protected in accidents and greater dangers, why hadn’t he?, What if we had thought to visit him between Thanksgiving and Christmas – we might have seen it?  Why this, why not that?).  I know that I must pass through these unanswerable questions as part of my healing process, but since allowing myself to accept both God’s sovereignty and love simultaneously, I’ve been at new level of peace.  I still cry many times a day, but I’ve been able to say each day, This is Patrick’s story with You, his God, and I will not demand that You tell me the whys of his story.  I will keep trusting You and wait for You or him to tell us when we see him again.

On December 24th, the day after his memorial service, but before we learned of the TBI, someone wrote to remind me of Isaiah 53, that Jesus bore my griefs and sorrows, and they encouraged me to cry out to Him to take my crushing sorrow.  It sounded like fiction, that it would be impossible to have the crushing, crushing weight of grief ever leave me.  I’d been hurting so deeply and dropping to a couch or the floor sobbing in fits since we heard.  After 3 hours of gut-wrenching sobbing before my family was awake, I reread my friend’s note, and called out to Jesus, that if it were true, if He really did take my crushing sorrow on the cross, would He please remove it?  Bill found me shortly after that prayer, surrounded by a mountain of tissues, still softly crying.  He held me tight, prayed for me, spoke words of truth to me, and asked me never to grieve that way alone again, that I must find him or wake him when I started to slide.  Since that day, Day Five, I’ve no longer been crushed with overwhelming grief.  We still have many tears – we both cry alone and cry in each other’s arms.  I cry with the kids, with friends who come by, and, last week on my first venture to a store I cried all the way down the aisle, through the parking lot and into the car.  But it is not the same crushing grief that gripped me for the first five days.  It didn’t return.

We don’t have enough words or even adequate words to express our gratefulness to all who have been praying for us. Friends dropped everything in their lives the week of Christmas and pulled together the most beautiful memorial service that ever was.  More friends stepped in to run our home, cook our meals, field calls and posts, and pray and cry with us.  We’ve been showered with flowers and gifts, people in high places set events into motion to assist us, and people we had never met reached out to us as with one heart. We’re still just learning of acts of service which were done for us.   If you have sent us an email or card, we’re still in the process of reading them all.  If you sent flowers or gifts, they’ve all been extremely beautiful.  A family member will be coming over in the coming weeks to help us acknowledge them all.

I tend to process my lessons and joys, and I see now my grief, through writing.  This note is a compilation of many notes penned over the past three weeks, some to myself, some to family, some to friends.  We know many outside our family are suffering over this tragedy.  We’ve talked about what is appropriate to share and how to communicate, and decided as a couple to publish this note here.  If you know anyone who has been suffering with us and you think this would help to comfort them, please share it.

Today, January 11th, I still feel like I am in the ICU unit of God’s hospital. Even though I can sense God’s grace sustaining me, I still have a gaping hole in my heart.  Each day I bleed a little less, “come to” a little more, and my wound closes a tiny bit.  Bill and I have been healing the slowest.  I think our hearts will eventually stop bleeding, but we will bear a Patrick-sized scar for the rest of our days here.  Our adult kids are each balancing normal stages of grief with ongoing commitments, facing ups and downs, good days and low days.  They have stayed close as they grew up, calling or texting each other regularly, but are staying even closer now. Bill and I are still learning of things they did to shield us during the first week.  They bore a very heavy load together with their spouses.  Joel remains a soft and Sanguine blessing, processing healthily I think, being a strength to me, and even playing a few tricks on me to make me laugh again. We are comforting one another daily, and to the degree of healing we are intended and able to one day reach while we yet live is our united hope and goal.

We know that grace is being administered to us through massive amounts of prayer and due to no strength of our own.  We know some of you will carry us in your prayers as the weeks turn into months and years. We are immensely thankful. I am particularly thankful to the God who sees everything in advance and loves our children more than we do.  And I am thankful to Jesus who actually, really and truly bore our griefs and sorrows on Calvary, and who actually, really and truly gives sustaining grace in the darkest valley.

The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit. Ps 34:18

Sustained by grace, Bill and Mardy for all our family


Hello Friends!

I’ve been chatting with a friend who’s been experiencing chronic pain for the past couple of years. It’s hard to know how to encourage her because other than breaking my toes on a fairly consistent basis as I dash about the house barefoot, I don’t have any pain.

But, I feel my friend’s pain in my heart, and thought I would share with you some of the things I shared with her today.

Many blessings, Mardy

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l be almost entirely arm-chair quarterbacking in this department, but here goes.  When we lived without air conditioning for 13 years, and our van was completely dead for 8 months, and we had no AC in the van for a couple of years, it was hard. I didn’t handle it as well as you’re handling your pain right now. Eventually though, I started counting my blessings – literally counting them each day, journaling them, forcing myself to keep them to the forefront of my mind. It didn’t change my circumstances and I still had to go through everything I was going through, but it helped so much.

Here’s my story. One day, when I was leaving a nursing home where the kids and I had just made a visit, I got into the van after loading everyone up. Florida in the summer is unbearably hot, and inside a van that has been parked in the sun for 2 hours is hot, hot, hot. And we had no AC at the time. Plus, the power steering had been broken for months. It was the end of a long day of running errands, and I still had a big meal to cook when we finally got home – in a hot, hot, hot kitchen.

I started to back out of the parking space, realizing I would have to do it in back-and-forth spurts w/no power steering, using all my weight to pull the steering wheel as far as I could in one direction, then inch the van backward, then use all of my weight in the other direction, then inch forward, then block traffic in the lot, and do it again.

I started to feel exasperated and the old why-me pity demon showed up, my old friend (my enemy really, but I had entertained him as a friend for so long…). And self-righteous thoughts popped up like “Why me? And when I am trying to lay my life down and do so much for others, and why can’t we ever get a break, etc.?”

Then I remembered a lady we had just visited who had been hit by a drunk driver and become a paraplegic at 29. She was now in her 60’s and had been in a nursing home all those years.  She had such a sweet, accepting, mature, loving attitude.  She had just reminded us to count our blessings each day.

So I turned – that moment – and said out loud to the kids, “Well, at least I have 2 arms to turn this van.” Thirty minutes later I was in a long grocery line w/tired kids waiting to get checked out, feeling impatient w/the people in front of me and the sloooow cashier, and self-pity tried to slither its way back to my side, so I said, “At least I have 2 legs to walk into this grocery store with!”

And on it went. That day was kind of a turning point for me that has helped me to face some pretty difficult trials. I have been grumpy and ungrateful plenty of times since, but it has been a slipping rather than a way of life.

I know that breaking my toes is not the same as the chronic pain you’re facing each day, but I keep breaking them! Twice last year, and the pain is bad. And then I am stuck with my foot elevated, having to be waited on, and watching things slip out of my control. Things like, “Why don’t my kids put the mayo back after they make lunch?” and, “Yikes, I can’t bear to look at the way they did this or that!” I lose control over my kitchen, my house, part of my life when I am incapacitated and forced to focus on my healing. I have to force myself, with MUCH effort, to focus on the blessings I do have, and not the way I want things done. It is not fun, and I have to keep choosing the relationship (w/God and people) over what I want. I think you may already be doing that, and I’m proud of you.

More recently, and not as dramatic, I woke up to find sugar ants on the kitchen counter after working so hard to get rid of them for weeks. I had just had success (I thought) when a certain child, who will remain nameless, put the sugar canister back in the old place (that I had said not to) and then spilled sugar again and didn’t clean it up. When I first saw the familiar trail creeping across my counter, I felt the same ol’, same ol’ feelings of discouragement, frustration, etc. – that strangling feeling of, “Not again!” But, I remembered that this negative feeling was going to lead me down a path that would end up with me in an emotional prison again. So, I looked up and said to God, “Sugar ants? This is the biggest trial I’m facing right now? Well, I’ll take ’em! Thank you that this is it, and bring ’em on!” (And then I killed them all with great pleasure!)

I hope this is a little encouraging to you, and wish I could be of more help. I will pray for you today. Love always, Mardy


You and I can not change or control the world around us, but we can change and control the world within us.  Warren Wiersbe 

Oh, how the world around me is changing!  Our youngest child, Joel, will be dual-enrolling at the local college in the fall.  That means that after 25 years of homeschooling seven children, I have almost finished this race.

Just parenting seven children (five born within 6 1/2 years) brought huge changes to my life, most importantly because I didn’t have the example of parental attention or love as a child.  As one can imagine, I had a lot of growing up to do myself, and those first few children felt the impact.  I’ll probably write more on that some day.

But, homeschooling? That was Bill’s idea.  I eventually got on board with it, and it brought so many more changes to my life than I could have ever expected – especially for a girl who dropped out of high school.  How insecure it feels to basically say to the state, “I can do a better job teaching my children than you can,” when you secretly wonder if you can.

So a couple of years ago, with this finish line almost in sight, I entertained the idea that it wouldn’t be long until I could rest of my laurels (or kick up my heels) when I completed this course.  Unlike some of my friends who love teaching (and love their children), I only love my children and do not like teaching.  More specifically, I don’t like switching hats from mommy to teacher to nurturer, back to mommy, then to teacher (then to prison guard – LOL), then back to mommy, then to teacher, nurturer, repeat.  I didn’t like it, but how it forced me into needed changes.   And that leads me to my next life-verse (my life-verses keep changing, too).

Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow – or next year – we will rest on our laurels or kick up our heels after finishing an iron-man of a homeschooling adventure.” Yet you do not know what your life will be like tomorrow.  You are just a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes away.  Instead, you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we will rest on our laurels or kick up our heels, and also do this or that.”  James 4-kind of…

Then two years ago, Bill took an early “retirement” – and promptly went into business for himself.   That meant that all the free time I would have gained not homeschooling has been spent (and much, much more) learning how to run a home office and understand QuickBooks.   At my age, no less.  That in itself has brought huge changes for a woman who loves writing words, not tracking pesky, unforgiving numbers.

And just to keep life changing, Bill’s dream to sail became a reality last weekend with his adoption of a 26′ sailboat.  Me?  On a sailboat?  Me, who loves to walk romantically along the beach as long as I don’t have to actually get into the ocean, is going to learn to sail?  On the ocean?  I expect many future posts about this new adventure, and have created a page for sailing (which Bill thinks is a very worthy endeavor!).

So, by grace, this mother who was raised in a highly dysfunctional, secular environment, had seven children who have turned out to be the most amazing people (each of whom she wants to be like in so many ways).  By grace, this girl who quit high school actually taught them to read, and watched them fly from there, each finishing well (one to go, but he is on his way).  By grace, this writer who will never (ever!) enjoy tracking debits and credits is now (somewhat clumsily, but eventually successfully) keeping the books for her husband’s companies.  And by grace, this woman who has never been fond of water is now going to learn to sail.  By grace.

My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.  2 Cor 12:9

And now for this blog.  I absolutely love to write.  It is therapeutic form of word-sculpture, and is very fun for me.  However, with all these changes, I hope I will be able to find – no, to make – the time for it.  (I have actually created this blog while away sailing/working with Bill and Joel for the week.)  We will see if I can keep it up when I jump back into real life in a few days.

And now, I must get ready to leave with Bill for a business meeting.  One of those changes I am still not used to….

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