I could only imagine what motherhood was like so I planted a garden.
I dug into the earth with my shovel and pushed it as deep as I could with the help of my foot buried inside a steel-toed shoe. Mindfully in the moment, I heard the melodious crunching sound the shovel made as it sliced into the dirt hitting buried rocks and matured roots from past plantings. The sound exhumed memories of watching my dad dig up space for a garden in the backyard when I was a kid. I dug shovelful after shovelful of earth and flipped it upon itself and worked the soil into a place of new beginnings.
Backyard nesting and oh, that fresh dirt smell.
As I made my way down the aisles at the garden store, I found a large selection of Knockout Roses. I felt like I was peering into the hospital newborn nursery window as I looked at rows and rows of rose bushes. Each rose similar in species had a unique look. I reached down and gently pulled out the one from the group that resembled me and put it on my cart. As a new mom, I was sure to gather together the potting soil and nutrients my budding plant would need to flourish in the space I had prepared.
I dug out a space to fit the rootball and added weed-killing plant food to the hole. I talked to the new rose bush, attempting to ease its fear of change leaving the pot it was grown in and introduced it to my yard. I loosened its roots so it could feel its way into the new space and feel at home too. I filled new soil around the root and pressed it into the earth. Wearing a new mother’s glow, I knelt down next to the rose and said, “Welcome to my yard; welcome to my life! Enjoy your first refreshing drink of water from the garden hose.”
This was a process repeated five more times.
I observed mothers who put their all into raising their offspring. That selfless act was revealed in the maturity of their children at an early age. In a similar fashion, I put in a lot of time and energy into warding off weeds so they would not interfere with the growth of my roses.
My garden was spoiled.
I fertilized and watered and the sun was my daycare provider. Here they are a year later! Oh, how my babies have grown!!
I could only imagine what motherhood was like, so I planted a garden.
9 I will sing a new song to you, my God;
on the ten-stringed lyre I will make music to you,
10 to the One who gives victory to kings,
who delivers his servant David.
From the deadly sword 11 deliver me;
rescue me from the hands of foreigners
whose mouths are full of lies,
whose right hands are deceitful.
12 Then our sons in their youth
will be like well-nurtured plants,
and our daughters will be like pillars
carved to adorn a palace.
13 Our barns will be filled
with every kind of provision.
Our sheep will increase by thousands,
by tens of thousands in our fields;
14 our oxen will draw heavy loads.[a]
There will be no breaching of walls,
no going into captivity,
no cry of distress in our streets.
When I wrote my first Late Night Visitor post on April 10, 2019, I didn’t know it would become so important in my grief process and become a series of posts. If you are grieving, I hope each entry has helped you in your walk with grief as it has helped me to get it out of my head.
In that first entry, grief came to me in the middle of the night, standing next to a large suitcase and without a return ticket from where it came.
Recently grief, ignoring the shelter-in-place orders and social distancing regulations, has invited anxiety and panic into my home. They follow me around and have been known to hold my hands, whisper lies in my ear, and wake me out of a sound sleep. So annoying.
As they hold my hands, I am not able to clasp them together to make praying hands. I cannot lift them up to the heavens to give God praise and honor He rightly deserves.
The whispers in my ears I know are blatant lies, but they are said over and over and over especially when I am alone. And during this pandemic, I am alone a lot of the time; I started to believe this negative one-way conversation. As they whisper in my ear, they grip my throat in a way that it tightens and my breathing becomes shallow.
From my experience, anxiety and panic are nocturnal too. Their most active time is around 2:30 in the morning while I am sound asleep. They poke and prod at me. They continue the negative whispers in my ear and in the silence of the night, it rings louder. I lose about 1.5 hours of sleep because of their active lifestyle.
I alone do not have the strength it takes to fight these enemies. I am weak and powerless on my own when grief and its friends, anxiety, and panic, gang up on me. But even when my hands are constrained and my throat feels tight and my breathing is shallow, I can find it within me to whisper four syllables, “Jesus, help me” and I am no longer alone.
Listen to my cry, for I am in need; rescue me from those who pursue me, for they are too strong for me. Set me free from my prison, that I may praise your name.
Jesus brings His army of angels to fight these battles for me. They rush in and unbind my hands and they force the grip away from my throat.
The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still.”
I cannot see the spiritual war going on around me, but I know angels are present and God’s peace covers me like a blanket. Suddenly my hands are lifted high as my heart and mind recall what I know about my relationship with God…
I am a child of the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords. I have Jesus Christ living inside of me. My God has promised to meet every one of my needs and He is right here with me at this moment.
If you are bound by grief, anxiety, and panic, know that you too can cry out to Jesus for this same protection. You are not alone.
My aunt passed away yesterday on the most beautiful, blue-skied sunny day of May. There were no clouds in her way when her spirit met with Jesus and together they soared up to heaven to meet her husband, her baby boy, and all the family and friends who have gone before her. Her 93-year-old body has been vacated. She can breathe, walk, run, and move freely forever in the light of Christ.
The funeral will be small, holding to the group size restrictions during the pandemic. Not all of her immediate family will be in the same room to gather for the final blessings, but they will be near by. The grief felt at a funeral is temporarily snuffed out by a hug; however, there will be no touching and the face masks worn will double as tissue.
I grieve with my cousins, their spouses, and the grandchildren. From my own experience, I know the feeling of being an orphan and losing the matriarch of the family. It feels so unnatural to not be there to hug each cousin, kiss my aunt on the forehead and wish her godspeed.
my eyes grow weak with sorrow,
my soul and body with grief.
Living with grief takes a toll on one’s emotions, health, and spiritual life. There is a time to mourn just as there is a time to laugh; so I had an idea. I put grief and joy in the same room with me (with 6 feet separation and we are all wearing masks). Here is what happened.
Grief: “Hi Kristine, are you going to introduce me to your friend?”
Me: “Hi Grief. Yes, I am going to introduce you to my friend. Grief, this is Joy, Joy this is Grief.”
(Neither can they shake hands, nor can they see a smile on each other’s face, so they nod to each other.)
Joy: “Hello, Grief.
Grief: “Hello, Joy.”
Me: “Grief, Joy, I brought you two together because I need you to know that you both exist in my life. Grief, you and I were spending way too much time together and it was taking a toll on my concentration. I had some negative comments when you were at your peak, but not everyone knows how tight we have been and it just looked like I was not on my game. I was reading the Bible one day and I met Joy.
As the Bible states in Ecclesiastes 3:4 it is okay that both of you are in my life. The verse says, “a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance”. I don’t always want to be sad and I don’t always feel like laughing or dancing, but whatever emotion I want to feel, I need you two to respect, as well as, get out of the way of the other. I would like to send you away, Grief, but Jesus said that in this world we will have trouble, but He has overcome the world and that is why Joy needs to step in between us more often. I am hanging onto Jesus’s promises rather than settling in with sadness. Jesus overcoming this world is really good news for me because I cannot do this alone or with my own strength.”
Living with grief takes a toll on one’s emotions, health, and spiritual life. Let Jesus in with the joy He has in store for you and watch your emotions, health, and spiritual life be rejuvenated.
My drive to work is a leisurely 25 mph around 7 a.m. through an affluent residential neighborhood. Some houses along the route illumine against the dark winter morning sky. Families are waking at this hour and because they do not have window coverings, I am allowed a glimpse of their morning routine.
For example, I pass a house with a little child pushed up close to the table in a high chair sitting to the left of an adult at the head of the table. The adult is feeding the child, which to most of you reading this is no big deal. One of those, “been there, done that” moments in life. But I was never blessed with a child and this is a moment I can only imagine taking place in my kitchen.
Each morning, I eat breakfast alone.
I am not desperate enough for breakfast companionship to knock on the door of the family I spy on my way to work; that would just be creepy.
I recently started to watch YouTube videos by Max Lucado, who is a best-selling Christian author and pastor at Oak Hills Church in San Antonio, Texas. He has a series on prayer called, Your Best Ten Minutes. Your best ten minutes are about prayer. Even if I did not know how to pray, Max teaches this simple prayer: “God you are good. I need help; so do they. Thank you.” This prayer packs a punch. Each part of this prayer is a conversation starter with God. When this little prayer is barely a whisper, Jesus knocks on our heart, to be with us eagerly waiting to hear our praises to Him as well as share what hurts us and what hurts others. According to Max, “Prayer is the hand of faith on the doorknob of my heart”.
Revelation 3:20 NIV
“God you are good. I need help; so do they. Thank you.”
I never will eat breakfast alone again!!
My drive to work is a leisurely 25 mph around 7 a.m. through a residential neighborhood. Some houses along the route illumine against the dark winter morning sky. Families are waking at this hour and because they do not have window coverings, I am allowed a glimpse of their morning routine.
For example, I pass a house with a little child pushed up close to the table in a high chair sitting to the left of an adult at the head of the table. The adult is feeding the child, which to most of you reading this is no big deal. One of those, “been there, done that” moment in life. But to me, who was never blessed with a child, this is a moment I can only imagine taking place in my kitchen.
In the morning before work, I eat breakfast alone.
My house illumines the dark winter mornings as I eat breakfast. If there was a knock at my door so early in the day, I would be hesitant to open it.
But from this verse in a literal sense, I would have to open the door in case it was Jesus standing there. I would invite Him in and be awestruct that He was there How would I know it was Jesus, though? this day and age, I think I would be afraid of someone knocking at my door early in the morning. However, the light illumining in the dark winter sky had attracted someone to knock.
I do not have window coverings on the window in front of my sink, but my kitchen is in the back of my house. Let’s assume this is you in the morning going about your routine with your child and suddenly there is a knock at your door.
You are in your pajamas, or robe, and your hair is a mess from sleeping. You breathe in the palm of your hand to check just how bad your morning breath resonates. Are you going to open the door to see who is calling at such an early hour? You really cannot hide from the visitor because you have no window coverings.
What if Jesus was riding through your neighborhood and stopped at your house because He saw you eating breakfast through an undressed window?
Jesus knocks at your door.
I love life milestones whether they are mine or for someone else. I love to celebrate and honor the moment, the achievement, and the occasion. But this milestone coming up, I cannot decide if I want to celebrate that I made it through or cry because it has come upon me. The milestone I am talking about is the first anniversary of my mother’s passing.
Grief has hit heavy the last few weeks as I recall just a year ago caring for my mom during the last week of her life. One part of me knew she was too weak to fight the infection, yet another part of me rallied in her corner. None of us, meaning my siblings and I, really knew what to do, but I am confident our prayers granted us Holy intuition and the strength that only comes from God to get through caring for an elderly loved one. My mom was stubborn and as independent as she could be at 89-years old. She was older than what she weighed. She had all her faculties up until the end, but the infection screwed with her ability to communicate clearly; we did what we thought was best for her without her input.
The image that best describes how I have felt this past year, and still today, is that of my television when the cable is out. The words NO SIGNAL ricochet off the left side of the screen, bounces off the bottom hitting the right side of the screen, touching then on the top. The connection point on each of the sides of the screen are different, but it keeps ricocheting. No place to land. No connection. NO SIGNAL.
I was named the executor of the living trust my parents set up before my dad passed away. An honorable, yet difficult, appointing. I contacted the lawyer, bankers, and an accountant. I sent forms to the government, paid bills, and tallied up credits and debits to the account. Probably the hardest part was selling the family home where I grew up. Through all of this, I am sad that what once felt like a tight family bond has become a little cracked, but not beyond repair. We all grieve differently and I am thankful I can cling to some siblings not only for the strength I need, but also for the memories we all cherish.
Grief continues its weight on my heart. It interfers with my ability to concentrate and feel confident even with the simplest of tasks. It cloisters me and silences my screams for help. Grief is ugly, grief is inconvenient, and grief is stickier than fresh gum on the bottom of a shoe. I wish I could call 911 to get this intruder out of my life and file a PPO against him.
Oh, but I love milestones whether they are mine or for someone else. I cannot decide if I want to celebrate that I made it through or cry because the first anniversary of my mother’s death is near. I love and miss you mom; I will celebrate your life and your influence on mine.
I call on the Lord in my distress,
and he answers me.
Today we drove 5 hours, round trip, to celebrate the life of my brother-in-law. I did not know very many of the people there, but it was a nice turn out of family and friends who were touched by his life. Although drugs consumed a big part of his life, the bigger part was when he met Jesus on his own road to Demascus. He was on fire for the Lord and that makes my heart happy. Distance and finances had kept us from really getting to know each other, but I do recall one Easter brunch in a restaurant several years ago, I had the opportunity to sit next to him and we talked “God”. It was a refreshing conversation, especially on Easter, my favorite holiday of the year. We had a few telephone conversations after that brunch and we shared God stories. I love sharing God stories.
I recall when my niece, Jill, passed away a little over three years ago. My brother-in-law heard the news and called me while I was at the funeral home with hundreds of people paying their respects to her and my family. He shared the love of Jesus with me and comforted me with his prayers for peace. He shared Easter with me in December.
In the last leg of our journey home this evening, we passed the bus station. The dark evening sky and the lights inside the station made it so I could see the bench that my two sisters and I sat on as we waited for a bus to transport one of my sisters back home after the funeral for Jill. I remember how I did not want my sister to leave. The closeness of family is the only thing I can grasp onto at such times and sitting on the bench made me want to stop time and keep my sister here with me.
Death is a wake up call. We feel close to those we love; we cling to those we love that are still with us. But as time moves forward, we hit a snooze button and “forget” we had that closeness. Life moves on.
Even though we know we will all one day die, death is a shock. Recent posts on Facebook of death notices include the familiar comment, “remember to spend time with your loved ones as you never know when someone will be called home”. Why do we have to be reminded to spend time with those we love?
Funerals are the one occassion we stop what we are doing and pay our respects. Our pictures and stories become extra special as we recall the relationships that have suddenly ended. Distance doesn’t seem to matter when there is a death. Most funerals are held only when everyone can be there that needs to be there. We take the time to travel to be there. Whether it is a 5 hour round trip or a bus ride across a few states; we make the time because we know love. This love is what Jesus taught us.
Godspeed to the newly deceased. To be absent from the body means they are present with our Lord. Rest in peace dear brother-in-law, great is your reward.
16 For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.
I cannot remember where my mom told me to put it, because I do not remember it ever hanging around my neck on a string like I saw on other kids. I carried a backpack, so there could have been a pocket perfect for it. After all those years I am sure there was a place for my latchkey because I was a latchkey kid growing up.
I had to have been about 10-years-old when I got my first house key. My oldest sister moved out when she was barely 18 and my next older sister was married at 20. That left my two brothers and me to come home after school to a house void of adult supervision. We grabbed snacks and probably fought for the best seat in the living room just to watch Bugs Bunny, Gilligan’s Island and the Brady Bunch until my mom came home from work, followed by my dad about an hour later.
Having a house key in my possession was the most important piece of hardware in my pocket. I was (and still am) conscientious about knowing where my house key is since even in the summer break from school, my parents worked and the three of us had free reign in the neighborhood, but the last one out of the house had to lock up. Being the youngest one, my brothers were a bit more social than I was and I was known to be around the house more. Until that one day…
I recall seeing a friend from school ride by my house on her bike with her little siblings. I ran out the door to talk to her and she invited me to ride bikes with them. So in my excitement, I locked the door, grabbed my bike and wheeled off with them. I think the bike ride was a short jaunt around the block and then she had to ride with her family back home. We parted ways at the corner and I coasted down the hill and turned up my driveway to face angry looking brothers. They didn’t have their key and didn’t know where I was and they couldn’t get in the house. I reached for my key in my pocket and to my shock, it was not there. In my haste and excitement to ride bikes with a school friend I wouldn’t normally see until September when school began, I left my house key on the table. We tried to break into the bathroom window, but for some reason we couldn’t get in. As for my big brother, he lit in to me and made me cry. He commanded me to ride my bike to our sister’s apartment to see if she could let us in the house with her key.
I sobbed the whole way to my sister’s apartment. She didn’t live far, but for 10-year-old legs peddling down some very busy streets, it was scary. I had to pass a house with the biggest, meanest Dobermin Pinscher I had ever seen. Even though it was behind a chain-link fence, it had this deep growl and ferocious bark that made me cry even more. By the time I got to my sister’s front door to ring the bell, I was into the hard cry to where she could barely understand what I was saying. My sister let me in her apartment, gave me some lemonade and calmed me down enough to tell her what happened. She was able to stuff my little Huffy bike into her trunk, strapped my little baby niece in a car seat and drove me home. I don’t remember if my brothers were still hanging around the house by the time we drove in the driveway, but since that day, I have done my best to never be locked out again.
Since my mother passed away last year, each time I stuck my key into the lock to open the door, I felt like that 10-year-old girl again. Walking into a house without adult supervision but this time neither mom nor dad would be coming home after a hard days’ work. Being in a house that used to feel like home is like sitting in the skeleton framework of a whale in a museum. Cold, lonely and surreal.
It is with a heavy heart that I locked the door to the house for the last time. Thursday, I will sign off on the house and give the keys to a new owner. Afterward, I could drive to my sister’s house and ring her bell in the midst of a hard cry. She would let me in and understand the jumbled words this time because she understands the pain of selling the family home. It gives me some peace to know a new owner will breathe life into each room that we worked hard to empty.
Thank you God for the big white house with black shutters and the memories that were made there. Please bless the new owner and the lives that will make new memories.