billandmardy


One more note today, Friends. The Home Education Recognition Organization has begun a scholarship in Patrick’s memory. I have several times meant to put that information here, but could not bring myself to type the word memorial and my son’s name in the same post. I think I can do that today.

The board of directors of this organization is a very precious group of people, one of whom I happen to be married to.  They have received a number of donations thus far, but are holding them to finalize the creation of the scholarship, probably before summer, where it will appear on the website with the other scholarships. They have been graciously holding off on details to give us room to heal.

To make a donation, just indicate it is in memory of Patrick.

http://www.heroscholarship.org/?page_id=19

There, I did it.  And yes, I cried.  But, I did it.

Love, Mardy

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Hello Friends,

I think something good must have happened in me last weekend. Joel volunteered at a speech and debate tournament in Jacksonville, so I drove him there and then checked into a hotel for 2 ½ days while he served, and while Bill got in another refreshing sailing trip with his brother and aunt.

It didn’t feel like a very spiritual weekend to me, no huge insights or new thoughts, but it was extremely restful, quiet and peaceful at the hotel and I got a little writing in. Since returning though, I’ve had five good days in a row (which is a record), and that makes me think there was something in that aloneness that I needed.

The day after we returned home from the tournament and Bill from his sailing trip, Patrick’s best friend drove up for another visit. This is a young man that I have such great respect for and love (adore) with all my heart. I had already adopted him as one of my own, but now he means more to me than ever. The last time he came, a few weeks ago, I was still so fragile and vulnerable inside, and I could tell I was pushing myself to serve on the outside for his sake, and for the sake of the young people who were there with him. This visit, though, my heart was really more about him and the others who were here. Something in me said it was okay to thoroughly love and serve them, and to also thoroughly enjoy them, and there was joy in doing so. There was laughter around the table, laughter where I wasn’t holding back tears at the same time, sweet chats and fun teasing, a sweet evening.

That night was also my first regular meal to cook for our family, as we have been overrun with meals of love from the body of Christ for the past 8 weeks. I still don’t know where everything in my kitchen is, and my fridge and freezer are a sad mess, but I know I will eventually retake that ground. Those chores sit on a long waiting list that does not call out to me, but waits its turn.

Five good days in a row feels wonderful. Good days are days when my attention gravitates toward meeting a need or loving someone in my world, rather than nursing this wound. Good days are when I get a chance to feel the joy of serving someone else again. Good days still have tears in them, but they are not centered around mourning with the rest of life waiting outside for a chance to squeeze in because grief has filled up the entire room of my heart with itself and won’t let anything else in. Anything, that is, except a supernatural comfort which remains equal to each visit, and soothes it away before the end of each day. Good days let me think about someone else, let me miss people I haven’t seen, let me serve with joy, but still let grief in whenever it comes knocking. And on good days grief still shows up unexpectedly, in a reminder on my calendar of an upcoming vacation our son won’t be joining us on, upon catching the glimpse of a young man who has his figure and lanky gait, as I dash upstairs and instead of looking straight ahead happen to catch him smiling at me in his graduation picture. Even on good days, grief shows up softly or ferociously, when I’m alone or with a house full, and stays until an amazing and undeserved grace ushers it back out again. I never know when or how long or exactly what will trigger grief, and I know that is okay.  But it is becoming less demanding in its visits, less encroaching, is camping for shorter times, and still being ushered out with grace.  Now, it is being kept a little more at bay through a bit of serving.  Serving makes me feel almost like me again.  Almost…

Yesterday, Day 6, was one of those teary-all-day days, but today my heart is again comforted and soothed, and turning toward serving again. What relief.  I should mention that I haven’t felt anger at God, not even from the first phone call. I know that some might wonder if I am either in denial or sustained shock, and that anger will eventually come. I guess it might; I’ve  never walked this path before.  But I cannot imagine it doing so. We gave our children to the Lord when they were born, so I never felt that God took something that belonged to me. Patrick was His. I felt horrible, dreadful shock and unbelief, but have never passed through any feelings of anger. For the first few days, before we learned of his TBI symptoms, I camped in a big empty room in my heart and just sobbed. In the corners of my mind I could see doors off to the side, doors of anguishing regret that I wanted to go camp in front of and cry and see if they would open – “What did we miss, How could this happen, Where did we go wrong, What could we have done?”  But, it was all I could do to just sob and see those closed doors. I somehow knew I couldn’t force them open, and I didn’t ever feel like God owed me those answers. Part of me was terrified that one of them might creak open and when it did, I would be able to somehow connect the dots of this tragedy to being my fault, my oversight, my blindness. Even in that terrifying waiting period, before we knew of the symptoms, I felt a supernatural peace trying to descend on me, bracing me for the truth that this path, as tragic and horrifying as it was, was the path we were now on, and could not get off.  And that God was all-knowing, all powerful, all loving, and that I was very weak and without insight, and that I must not, must not demand answers from Him.

After we learned of the TBI symptoms, those doors of regret faded out of sight in my mind, and I then sat and cried in front of new doors – Whys and What-if’s. I cried and cried and cried in front of them, hoping one might open up with an answer and help me to understand some reason why my kid was not protected from that injury, or why we didn’t realize it, or what we could have done to have prevented the accident. But, I knew it would be fruitless to bang on those doors relentlessly or to rail against God or demand He reveal something to me. I knew I would no more get an answer to any of my questions than I would understand why Hugh Hefner or Hugo Chavez or murderers or rapists or child abusers live long lives, but my friend’s child who loved the Lord passionately dies of cancer and leaves young children behind. Or why our son was allowed to be in that accident in the first place. I did many things which were more dangerous – I smoked cigarettes and marijuana and hitchhiked and made foolish decisions – and I was protected. He was making better decisions than I had at the same age, and was not.

Last week an old friend gave me the book One Thousand Gifts. Reading Ann Voskamp’s writing is like tasting for the first time a very rich and delicious chocolate mousse. But, this mousse has been laced with medicine. You know that medicine is in there because it every few bites it stings in the swallow. But, you cannot put your fork down or resist another bite because the mousse is that good, and the medicine that helpful.  No mousse, no medicine.  Ann Voskamp writes that well. When she recounts her brother-in-law’s amazing acceptance of the death of yet another child, his second baby, she writes:

I had stumbled out their back steps, laid down on the grass. I had cried at the sky…And now…again with John, Tiffany, but now with their second-born son, Dietrich. He’s only five months old. He was born to hope and prayers – and the exact same terminal diagnosis as his brother, Austin.

John hands me a Kleenex, and I try to wipe away all this gut-wrenching pain. He tries, too, with words soft and steady, “We’re just blessed. Up until today Dietrich’s had no pain. We have good memories of a happy Christmas. That’s more than we had with Austin.”

All the tiles on the floor run fluid. My chest hurts…I shouldn’t, but I do. I look up. Into all his hardly tamed grief. I feel wild…In that moment I forget the rules of this Dutch family of reserved emotion. I grab him by the shoulders and I look straight into those eyes, brimming. And in this scratchy half whisper, these ragged words choke – wail. “If it were up to me…” and then the words pound, desperate and hard, “I’d write this story differently.”

I regret the words as soon as they leave me. They seem so un-Christian, so unaccepting – so No, God! I wish I could take them back, comb out their tangled madness, dress them in their calm Sunday best. But there they are, released and naked, raw and real, stripped of any theological cliché, my exposed, serrated howl to the throne room.

“You know…” John’s voice breaks into my memory…”I don’t know why all that happened…But, do I have to? Who knows? I don’t mention it often, but sometimes I think of that story in the Old Testament. Can’t remember what book, but you know – when God gave King Hezekiah fifteen more years of life? Because he prayed for it? But if Hezekiah had died when God first intended, Manasseh would never have been born. And what does the Bible say about Manasseh? Something to the effect that Manasseh had led the Israelites to do even more evil than all the heathen nations around Israel. Think of all the evil that would have been avoided if Hezekiah had died earlier, before Manasseh was born. I am not saying anything, either way, about anything….Just that maybe….maybe you don’t want to change the story, because you don’t know what a different ending holds.”

The words I choked out that dying, ending day echo. Pierce. There’s a reason I am not writing the story and God is. He knows how it all works out, where it all leads, what it all means. I don’t.

And I see. At least a bit more. When we find ourselves groping along, famished for more, we can choose. When we are despairing, we can choose to live as Israelites gathering manna. For forty long years, God’s people daily eat manna- a substance whose name literally means “What is it?” Hungry, they choose to gather up that which is baffling. They fill on that which has no meaning. More than 14,600 days they take their daily nourishment from that which they can’t comprehend. They find soul-filling in the inexplicable. They eat the mystery. And the mystery, that which made no sense, is “like wafers of honey on the lips.”

When I read John’s words, “…maybe you don’t want to change the story, because you don’t know what a different ending holds,” my heart cries, “Yes and amen.” This is what the Spirit comforts me with in those mournful moments and on those grieving days. Patrick’s story is not mine. His story was in God’s hands. And I do not, cannot, can never know what other endings might have been. I can only imagine. My imaginings have always been good endings, great endings, amazing endings as I am head over heels in love with these precious kids of ours. But, I do not know, and can never know. I do believe I’ve been a gift of faith to pray that all our children and grandchildren will know the Lord, will be known by Him on the last day. Of what their trials and tribulations might be on the way, of their joys and sorrows, I have no idea, and sense no inner guarantee. But, this one thing  I pray, this one thing press for – that our entire household, down to the last grandchild born before His coming, will be saved. And I believe, I know, I believe I know – we have one in Heaven with Him now. My first prayer has been answered.  And that, I believe, is all I am supposed to know.

I am healing. Healing slowly but healing well. And being allowed to add a little more action of serving this week has been very therapeutic for me. Serving others = Joy. I think, after last weekend, I am one small step closer to whatever healing I am supposed to come to.

I will never tire of thanking you all for your prayers because I know they are the reason for the grace that keeps showing up to soothe away the grief. I am so thankful, and it makes me wonder if we all prayed for one another the way our family has been prayed for what a different life, what a different church, what a different world we would see. Your prayers are powerful.


Hello Friends,

We are continuing in grace thanks to your prayers.

Below this mini-update is part of a note I wrote to a long-time friend who came with her family to console us on the first day. I think I can share it now.

As for how I’m doing, I think (I think) I am out of ICU now. I’m still crying every single day, but last Saturday I made 2 huge lasagnas (the best I’ve ever made), a huge pot of chili (I think it was my best ever, too), a pan of brownies, garlic bread and 3 gallons of tea for our niece’s 24th birthday party. We also had some of Bill’s family join us. And here’s the thing – I didn’t feel like my reserves were being depleted all day. I was able to do the next thing and the next, participate in conversations, listen to each one with real care, and love on them and serve them, almost like I used to. Almost. I did cry a little, but it wasn’t overwhelming crying. Last Saturday was a teary morning anyway (I don’t know why one day is more teary than the next, and I know that’s okay), so I was mopping floors and sweeping walks while crying as I prepped for the party. But, the crying I’m doing these days is such a gentle cry, like the letting out of a little pressure of grief each day, not that gut-wrenching sobbing that hurts so terribly. At the end of the day, I still had reserves for Bill and Joel, and I was ready to start each day last week without feeling completely exhausted. I think because I can now entertain folks in my (imaginary) hospital room and actually be more interested in their lives, their heartaches, their joys than my own heartbreak, it must mean I’ve gotten my transfer to a regular room. I still can’t go out to play – I can’t meet someone for coffee, I don’t want to head up my moms’ meetings yet, I can’t initiate anything. But, I am beginning to have a desire to meet other people’s needs again and love on them when they come, so I know that’s a good sign. I know I got out of ICU. And I know it is because of the prayers of friends.

With much love and appreciation,

Mardy

Hi Friend,

I will never forget you, your husband and your parents coming to our side the day we heard the news of Patrick. I think the Lord used your family, particularly your parents, to open my eyes to some important things, but I didn’t realize them until weeks later.

Remember when I told you my memory of watching your dad walk one of your sisters down the aisle about 25 years ago? When I saw the way he looked at her when he gave her way, I caught a glimpse of all the love I had never known as a child, and it made me feel so incredibly sad. I just sat there overwhelmed with pain, feeling like God’s step-child, and wishing I had been one of your dad’s girls. In your dad’s glance I felt the impact of my childhood, of being raised unhelped, untrained, unnoticed and neglected. I knew in that moment that your sister was never subjected to the sadness I had seen, and would not be subjected to the same mistakes I had already made in marriage and parenting, simply because of the start she had received in life.

I hadn’t remembered that wedding in years, but when I told you about that memory this past September, your response was to ask if that experience might have been a springboard for the ministry I have to young moms today. That perhaps those feelings of loneliness and neglect had made me acutely aware of how other young mothers might be feeling. The Lord really must have really been speaking through you because when you said that, I was able to immediately super impose an image of Jesus near me in that church pew, unsensed, unseen, completely unfelt by that young version of myself– but very much there. I imagined Him sitting just behind me, looking at my present self and at the same time at my future self, smiling sweetly, knowing I was going to be okay even though I never got to be one of your dad’s girls. That image changed my “reality”(that I was alone) to “truth” (that I was never alone), and since September, whenever I recall that wedding, I have been able to see the Lord very present, very close by me, and me totally oblivious to anything except my aloneness. That experience is important because it was the first time I have ever been able to see my very sad, very real past any differently than what it was.

Now fast forward to the day after we received the news of Patrick when another friend came to console us. I cried into her neck telling her that one thing that was stinging me so badly was that my precious son died alone. She pulled me back and looked into my eyes and said with conviction, “No, he didn’t. Jesus was with Him the whole time. Patrick was never, ever alone.” Immediately (and I mean immediately) I was able to superimpose the same sweet Jesus who I had just envisioned in my own lonely pain from 25 years before, very close beside my son in his pain. My “reality” (what the Tampa police had just told us) was changed to the “truth” (that he was never alone). My son may have believed he was alone, just as I believed I was alone, but in truth, he was never alone.

Fast forward again to Day 10 when friends wrote that I must accept both God’s sovereignty in Patrick’s life as well as His great love for him. Shortly after reading those emails I was able to also “see” Jesus with Patrick in the car accident, and then with him through all of the confusion and pain in the following days. Even though he could not sense Him close by, just as I could not see Him close by during that wedding, it became truth to me that just as He had been with me He was also with my son. The truth, “I will never leave you or forsake you” was super imposed over my reality.

Now to Day 23, the first day of that 4-day weekend alone where I received so much comfort from the Lord. Someone called that weekend saying they wanted to console me. It was someone from whom I truly wanted consolation and compassion, but it became quickly evident that they had only called to fill their need for details (why did he do it, exactly what happened, etc.). Their behavior was consistent with who they were and with our relationship, but their poking about my raw wound with the motive of having their needs met hit a very raw and painful nerve in my heart.

That night as my thoughts drifted from Patrick to this person, I started to complain in my heart and feel sorry for myself. The moment my thoughts went there, I sensed a gentle reproof from the Lord. I understood that I was already being supernaturally comforted in a way that no earthly person could. I was also receiving overwhelming compassion from the body of Christ which has spanned many denominations. The thought came, “What part of me is this comfort not enough for?” The truth was – no part. God’s grace has been shockingly and powerfully sufficient in this valley. I realized I was being foolish to expect comfort from someone who had never been able to provide it, while receiving overwhelming comfort from my heavenly Father who has not let go of me for one hour.

With that knowledge, I felt like I was supposed to, I don’t know, give myself permission to grow up into Christ a little more and let go of people who were not able to give what He was already abundantly providing. I read Ephesians 4 that night with new meaning.

While I was thinking about these things, I remembered Uncle Andrew from the Chronicles of Narnia. I can’t remember if you’ve read the Chronicles, but Uncle Andrew was an earthy man with no insight, no depth, no strong qualities – a little like the person from whom I was expecting compassion but not receiving it. I remembered Aslan’s tender, yet dismissive treatment of him. I’ll clip a part of the story below.

“Bring out that creature,” said Aslan. One of the Elephants lifted Uncle Andrew in its trunk and laid him at the Lion’s feet. He was too frightened to move.

“Please, Aslan,” said Polly, “could you say something to – to unfrighten him? And then could you say something to prevent him from ever coming back here again?”

“Do you think he wants to?” said Aslan.

“Well, Aslan,” said Polly, “he might send someone else. He’s so excited about the bar off the lamp-post growing into a lamp-post tree and he thinks -”

“He thinks great folly, child,” said Aslan. “This world is bursting with life for these few days because the song with which I called it into life still hangs in the air and rumbles in the ground. It will not be so for long. But I cannot tell that to this old sinner, and I cannot comfort him either; he has made himself unable to hear my voice. If I spoke to him, he would hear only growlings and roarings. Oh Adam’s sons, how cleverly you defend yourselves against all that might do you good! But I will give him the only gift he is still able to receive.”

He bowed his great head rather sadly, and breathed into the Magician’s terrified face. “Sleep,” he said. “Sleep and be separated for some few hours from all the torments you have devised for yourself.” Uncle Andrew immediately rolled over with closed eyes and began breathing peacefully.

When I remembered that story, I thought about the expectations I had placed on the person who hurt me each time they called about Patrick. I had wanted them, thought that I needed them to be less earthy, less simple, more compassionate. That night I was able to see that they were like Uncle Andrew, more like Uncle Andrew than I had wanted to admit. I saw that they might never be changed enough to experience – or give – true compassion. And it was okay. I was already receiving all the compassion I needed from the places the Lord had chosen to provide it.

One more lesson for me from the Chronicles. Whereas Uncle Andrew was never close enough to be able to hear or receive a rebuke, the children who walked closer to Aslan received gentle rebukes, gentle growls.

The great beast rolled over on his side so that Lucy fell, half sitting and half lying between his front paws. He bent forward and just touched her nose with his tongue. His warm breath came all round her. She gazed up into the large wise face.

“Welcome, child,” he said.

“Aslan,” said Lucy, “you’re bigger.”

“That is because you are older, little one,” answered he.

“Not because you are?”

“I am not. But every year you grow, you will find me bigger.”

For a time she was so happy that she did not want to speak. But Aslan spoke.

“Lucy,” he said, “we must not lie here for long. You have work in hand, and much time has been lost today.”

“Yes, wasn’t it a shame?” said Lucy. “I saw you all right. They wouldn’t believe me. They’re all so -”

From somewhere deep inside Aslan’s body there came the faintest suggestion of a growl.

“I’m sorry,” said Lucy, who understood some of his moods. “I didn’t mean to start slanging the others. But it wasn’t my fault anyway, was it?”

The Lion looked straight into her eyes.

“Oh, Aslan,” said Lucy. “You don’t mean it was? How could I – I couldn’t have left the others and come up to you alone, how could I? Don’t look at me like that . . . oh well, I suppose I could. Yes, and it wouldn’t have been alone, I know, not if I was with you. But what would have been the good?”

Aslan said nothing.

“You mean,” said Lucy rather faintly, “that it would have turned out all right – somehow? But how? Please, Aslan! Am I not to know?”

“To know what would have happened, child?” said Aslan. “No. Nobody is ever told that.”

“Oh dear,” said Lucy.

“But anyone can find out what will happen,” said Aslan. “If you go back to the others now, and wake them up; and tell them you have seen me again; and that you must all get up at once and follow me – what will happen? There is only one way of finding out.”

“Do you mean that is what you want me to do?” gasped Lucy.

“Yes, little one,” said Aslan.

“Will the others see you too?” asked Lucy.

“Certainly not at first,” said Aslan. “Later on, it depends.”

“But they won’t believe me!” said Lucy.

“It doesn’t matter,” said Aslan.

“Oh dear, oh dear,” said Lucy. “And I was so pleased at finding you again. And I thought you’d let me stay. And I thought you’d come roaring in and frighten all the enemies away – like last time. And now everything is going to be horrid.”

“It is hard for you, little one,” said Aslan. “But things never happen the same way twice. It has been hard for us all in Narnia before now.”

Lucy buried her head in his mane to hide from his face. But there must have been magic in his mane. She could feel lion-strength going into her.

Quite suddenly she sat up.

“I’m sorry, Aslan,” she said. “I’m ready now.”

“Now you are a lioness,” said Aslan.

That was when I remembered your beautiful parents who came to comfort us on Day One. I could feel the cool wash cloth your mother placed on my head, remembered her holding me for so long on the couch. I could see the pained expression and love on your dad’s face. Here was the couple that I had sat longing to adopt me 25 years before, comforting and holding us the way I would imagine loving parents would do.

As I relived their visit, I saw that as much as I had longed for it, their love didn’t come close to the comfort I’ve been receiving from the Lord. I saw that the love I longed for in your dad’s eyes was really there all along, sitting near me in that church, in that superimposed picture of Jesus.

I’ve always believed He would never leave us or forsake us, but for the past few weeks I have known it. I think that’s because so many people have been praying for me that my eyes have been opened to His presence. He has always been there, but I now feel Him beside me in this valley. He has been comforting me from inside and giving a great sense of peace – even though I’m still crying every day. I feel like I have been just sitting tight between Aslan’s paws, and can imagine that the great lion cries with me. I think I am just supposed to hide my head in his mane and cry a while longer, but I know it will be a long, long while before I am a lioness.

Love, Mardy


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

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