Blog Introduction

This blog is the story of how my husband and I faced the illness and death of two of our children. Each blog post is essentially a chapter in the story, so in order to truly understand it, you are going to benefit by starting at the beginning.
I hope you find our story touching, and in some way find comfort and hope through it as you face your own storms in life.

Friday, May 18, 2012

The Retreat That Wasn't a Retreat, but the Final Victory

The next morning came and Sharon and I went over to the main meeting hall to get breakfast. I wasn't hungry.  Lack of sleep and the knowledge that this whole thing wasn't over yet, left me with no appetite. I managed some juice and choked down a bite or two of toast.

The meetings started again, and this time I was more exhausted than anxious. There were three separate breakout groups; one included a teaching followed by brief one-to-one prayer time, the second offered a time of meditation and reflection, and the third was a short teaching followed by communion. Each session was about 30 minutes long, and we would rotate through each group. Sharon and I started in the first one; the one which offered one-to-one prayer. 

The teaching was good. She spoke on freedom, inspiring us to think about the things we wanted to be free from. Vices, bitterness, anger, wounds, apathy; anything the person wanted to be free from. Then each individual was prayed with for their specific need. There were two leaders in the group, so they slowly went around the group, kneeling in front of each individual and asking them, "What do you want to be free from?"  It was very private and very quiet.  There was no revealing of "inner secrets" to the rest of the group; it was between the person, the prayer partner, and God.

Each of the leaders started at different points in our little circle of ladies, and they slowly worked their way toward Sharon and I. It became clear that we would be the last ones to receive prayer.  I knew I had to have an "answer" to the question of what I wanted to be free of, so I began to hash over what my "appropriate" answer would be.  Anger and grief; those would be my answers.  As the leaders got closer and closer to me, I could feel my anxiety levels climbing once again.  This thing was going to be confronted, and it never felt good; it felt more like panic, but I stayed put- my answer rehearsed and ready. My turn came.  I was sitting in my chair, hunched over, my head down, looking at the floor.  I really didn't want to make eye contact; avoidance was still in play. Dina knelt down in front of me, put her hands gently on my knees and looked up into my face. "What do you want to be free from?" she asked softly.  My rehearsed answer flew out the window, nowhere to be found.  Tears were already beginning to run down my cheeks, and as I slowly turned my grief-veiled face toward hers I said, "I wanted them. They were mine and I want them back. I miss them so much! I want them back!  They were mine. He gave them to me, and I want them!"  The floodgates of grief swung open and all of the pain and loss and brokenness began to gush out in wave after wave of tears and sobs. Dina firmly, yet gently said, "You can't have them back." It was a truth I knew, but hearing it somehow rang afresh in my mind and spirit.  I knew they couldn't come back, and honestly, I wouldn't want them to leave heaven to come back to this painful world. Even in death a mother still wants what is best for her children. I just wanted my own pain to stop. My empty arms had ached for them over 20 years; the depth of my grief stopping my life in its tracks for two decades. It was time to let go and start living again.

In the few minutes Dina prayed with me, I became a crumbled mess.  I could barely stand or walk as we were now directed to the next group. The Bible says we have been given a garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness. I know what a spirit of heaviness feels like; I wore it for over 20 years. On this day, at this retreat, everyone there could physically see what it looked like. Barely able to hold myself up, Sharon and Dina walked me to the next session where everyone was seated on the floor. That was a good thing.  I barely made it to the designated area before I simply crumpled to the floor, sobbing and crying and repeating over and over how I wanted my babies.  Sharon tried to offer comfort, and I was glad for her presence, but this was between me and God.  On this day, in His designated time, He took the scalpel to my abscessed heart and spirit, and drove it in deep to finally release all the festered, putrefied sorrow.  I sobbed and sobbed; my face a river of tears and mucus. For a half hour, the length of the session, I laid on the floor crying, my friend sitting next to me, maintaining a vigil of sorts.

When I was finally able to stop crying, I was desperate for water. Grieving is dehydrating! Someone found me a bottle of water, for which I felt greatly blessed.  The tap water there left something to be desired; it tasted like it had been pumped straight from the lake. With my thirst partially quenched, and still shaking and weak from my time on the floor, Sharon helped me walk to the last session. I was the picture of absolute grief; tear-streaked face, eyes red and swollen from the intensity of mourning, a downcast face, and the jagged breathing that comes when trying to recover from a long spell of convulsive crying. The undergirdment of my friend’s arm became necessary in the face of my complete inability to finish this walk alone.

Things continued to stir in my spirit as we sat through the last teaching and communion. I wasn't crying anymore, and while I could still feel things inwardly, it seemed the worst was over. I was relieved when lunch break arrived, although I still had no desire to eat.

I don’t really recall what the afternoon session was like.  Whether it was from lack of food, or sleep, or just pure exhaustion from the morning’s events, I don’t remember what was taught.  The only thing I recall was the time of prayer for those who wanted to receive joy from God.  A lot of spiritual work had been done in the lives of the women over the weekend, and when sadness and other burdens leave, something must take its place.  How much better than to fill that void with the joy of the Lord?  Many women went forward for this time of refreshing and infilling. Feeling a sense of obligation of sorts, I went forward as well. I sensed an undercurrent of cheering from the group as I walked up; they had witnessed my battle firsthand, and now they had become my advocates for happiness.  But as I went through the prayer line, instead of feeling joy, I felt as though it wasn’t for me; everyone else could have what God wanted to offer, but somehow I felt excluded.  I went down to the floor again, this time crying because of my perceived rejection of God Himself.  My earlier storm of tears had been for my children, this one was for my broken relationship with my Father.

I cried and cried again, releasing the venomous belief that my heavenly Father had rejected me, and that somehow I was unworthy of His blessings and love.  Tears flowed for a couple of hours, and then slowly ebbed. In silence my soul became peaceful and I began to rest; the battle was over.

The retreat had concluded and women were scattered around the campground packing up, hugging each other, and saying their good-byes before they left for their homes. Sharon and I quietly walked back to our cabin.  We were both amazed at the intensity of what had transpired over the two days we were there, neither one of us knowing quite what to say.  Something had obviously happened, but the fruit of it remained to be seen. The two hour trek back home felt long; both of us were exhausted, but happy that we had gone. We hugged good-bye, and then parted company.

Explaining to Rob what had happened was nearly impossible. It was one of those things you had to witness to even get a grasp on, but I made the best effort possible. I wasn’t even sure what had happened. As the days and weeks turned into months, and then years, it became obvious to me what had transpired that weekend.  The Bible says, “Oh, grave, where is your victory? Oh, death, where is your sting?”  The sting of death which had been planted in my heart some 20 years earlier, was removed from my life that weekend.  The build up of poisonous venom- the venom of death and rejection- had finally been defeated and removed. The trigger- the stinger- had been plucked out of my heart and mind, and in its place, the healing touch of Jesus had filled it with peace.  No more would my heart hurt in the way it had before when my kids were mentioned.  No more would I feel the anger and hurt toward God.  No more would memories and dreams haunt me, and no more would I be bound by fear.  I was finally free, and my cave of despair not simply abandoned, but destroyed by the power of God’s love for me.
We sometimes question the ways of God, and why people do what they do.  To us, their actions seem stupid or foolish, but God has a plan.  He knew the pressure it would take to break down my walls. He knew everything about my heart, my mind, and my beliefs about Him.  Yet He didn’t turn aside and consider me “unacceptable”. No, He orchestrated every step we took in order to bring me healing and wholeness. I am totally in love with the God who saw my need when I didn’t.  He is the God who took me halfway around the world  to see me restored to Him.

He is the true way to life.

* The following chapter will discuss things I learned through this whole experience.  I hope you will continue to read.  Lessons are for sharing. *

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