Acceptance, Children, Choices, Community, Depression, Emotional Health, Faith, Gratitude, Grief, Letting Go, Parents, Prayer, Relationships, Spirituality, Thoughts From the Porch

The Journey…

The birds are uncharacteristically quiet this morning. There are few cars on the distant freeway and aside from the occasional angry squirrel chatter, a golden silence fills the day. I love mornings like this. The coffee goes down a tad smoother and tight muscles slowly unwind in the morning air. God has blessed me once again with another day on “the right side of the roots” as my friend Railroad Charlie would say.

I try to soak up moments like these. They’ve been few and far between the last four-and-a-half months. The farm has been a lifesaver but there’s been a constant cloud of grief since Jeremy died. I still have difficulty with the word “died”. It reminds me of the finality of the whole situation. I usually talk about his “passing” rather than his “dying” as if to hold on to the opaque hope that this has all been a bad dream. The word choices don’t change reality though. Death is part of life so call it what it is.

I’m glad I get to work the farm. Work provides focus, but I always second guess myself and wonder if it’s a way to avoid dealing with the loss. We have many terrific volunteers that come out regularly to help, but I leave it to Stacey, our Volunteer Coordinator, to deal with them and pass out work assignments. I put my head down and try to stay as faraway as possible. I pray they don’t consider it unfriendly. Other folks are simply overwhelming right now.

 The Kubler Ross Grief model names five stages of the grieving process – denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. I feel stuck in the depression stage these days. Honestly, the stages come and go daily – even acceptance – but depression is terrifying. Those who have suffered from depression know what I’m talking about.

I’m fortunate. I suffered from the chemical imbalance that causes depression. Medication worked for me. It wasn’t a quick fix. It took working with my doctor until I had the right dosage and medication to pull me out of the dark depths of depression. Now it seems to be taking over again – the irritability, the clouded thinking, the attention deficit, and sadness. This time it’s not something that can be fixed. I get that it’s situational – it’s not a quick fix, but a natural process – but that doesn’t make it any less frightening.

I’m blessed to have a circle of love and emotional support around me. I’m not confused – some people don’t have that. I have faith in a loving God who I know is carrying me through this. I don’t have to be afraid, but I am sometimes. I’m so grateful for the folks in my life, even if I tend to isolate lately. I’ve even been able to find gratitude in my world despite my loss. I know that one day I’ll look back and see the beautiful tapestry of life God is (and has always) woven for me.

I’m thankful I’ve been given the tools to work through this. I’m extremely grateful I haven’t had to make many amends for talking out the side of my neck. I’m grateful for the WordPress community – I’ve been able to begin reading (and comprehending!) again those of you I follow. Your writing has often done more for me than you know.

I’m finally able to begin writing thank you notes (without freezing up) to the many friends have been so kind and supportive to my family. Above all, I’ve been able to sit down and begin writing again. I may not do it well, but I’m able to have “Thoughts From the Porch” again.

Children, Community, Depression, Faith, Generations, Grace, Grandchildren, Grief, Honor, Letting Go, Love, Parents, Prayer, Relationships, Spiritual Deserts, Spirituality, Survivors, Thoughts From the Porch, Uncategorized

A Pain That Doesn’t Go Away…

Friday, May 29th, was the most difficult day of my life. I received a phone call around noon. It was my daughter-in-law. She said, “I’m so sorry Pops, but they found Jeremy (my youngest son) and”. She couldn’t finish. The sobbing swept the words away and I knew…

I had filed a “Missing Persons” report the day before. No one had heard or seen him since the previous Friday, and friends and family were concerned. Honestly, I had a picture in my mind of Jeremy popping in with that big grin of his and asking what all the fuss was about. Then he’d be mad about the fuss. He’d been known to disappear for a couple of days before. He’d get a wild hair and go camping without telling anyone. Everyone would be angry with him for not letting anyone know. His response was always, “Why is everyone all bent out of shape?” This time it was different…

We had a photo shoot at Opal’s Farm last year. That day is full of happy memories…

His apartment manager found him the following morning. I don’t feel up to answering questions or discussing his death right now. I can’t even begin to describe the depths of my sadness and grief. Every time I look into the faces of my grandchildren – Baillie, Izzabella, and Lucas – my heart breaks down even more. He loved his children so much.

Fortunately for me, there’s much to do when a loved one dies – funeral arrangements, legal stuff, and so forth – busy is good. It keeps the grief from becoming completely overwhelming.                                        

Parents are not supposed to bury their children. They shouldn’t have to tell their grandchildren that Daddy isn’t coming home. I never thought I’d have to deal with this. Their adult children are. That’s the way it’s designed to work.

Unfortunately, designs and plans fly out the window when they meet the real world. I know I am not the first to lose a child (grown or not), nor will I be the last. That’s reality, but it’s my child, my son, and my heart has been ripped has been ripped from my chest…

Jeremy, Baillie, and our friend Kristen…

In the coming days, or perhaps the coming weeks, I will write about this. That’s what writers do, right? I need to tell you about Jeremy – about his impish humor, his incredible artistry, and the bravado that hid the tender soul that he was. Unfortunately, I’m unable to do so right now. There’s no timetable for grief. I’ll know when I know…

Right now, there are no words to convey the sense of loss our family feels. The family funeral is today. The local art community is planning on a huge outdoor celebration of Jeremy’s life when more of the COVID-19 restrictions are lifted and it’s safer for everyone. Thank you to those who were close to Jeremy for helping the family through this.

We are so grateful for the outpouring of love and support so many have given. There will come a time for the thank you letters and emails. As it is, we can only put one foot in front of the other and wander through the dark days that are no longer filled by Jeremy’s smile.

Anxiety, Belief, Choices, Christian Mysticism, Christianity, Community, Courage, Depression, Doubt, Emotional Health, Faith, Finances, Gifts, God's Economics, Grace, Gratitude, Hope, Jesus, Letting Go, Opal's Farm, Peace, Persistence, Prayer, Quotes, Relationships, Revival, Self-Acceptance, Serenity, Simplicity, Spiritual Deserts, Spirituality, Thoughts From the Porch, Uncategorized, Worry

Running In the Dark

Thoughts From the Porch

It’s a beautiful late winter morning here in North Texas. After a few days of rain and cold the sun slowly warms the day as it rises higher in the sky. There’s much to be done today and I’d love to take time to pass on deep spiritual thoughts from the porch but truthfully, such thoughts are elusive over the last few days. I struggle to write, to put thoughts to paper, and a cloud hangs over me even on a bright, sunny morning. I get frustrated, I pray, and try to listen, but it feels like God has put me on hold while He’s busy attending to other things…

My wife likes to remind me that there are times when no amount of spiritual awareness will take our pain or fear. My friend Jim used to say that “in the meantime, it’s a mean time”. There are times when God seems silent and I need to act as if He’s not. It’s the old “fake it ‘til you make” thing. I’m thinking I might be going through one of those times.

I don’t hesitate to tell of God’s unfailing love and grace in my life. Hindsight tells me that God has always, one hundred percent of the time, taken care of me (even when I was far from Him doing my own, self-destructive thing). Unfortunately, the lens through which I look forward can be awfully opaque at times (we walk by faith, not by sight, right?). I speak the truth when I share about God’s provision and care, but I’m surprised at how quickly I forget that when life feels overwhelming.

Margaret and I are going through some difficult financial times right now. Almost two years ago, I made a commitment to the mission of Opal’s Farm and made it my full-time endeavor. We knew this would be difficult because we’re dependent on donations for my salary. Unfortunately, winter is a slow time for both the growing season and for contributions to our non-profit. Although Spring brings a wealth of opportunity for market sales and donations that doesn’t pay this month’s bills.

I mention this is not to whine about it – we took this on after prayerful consideration and eyes wide open – but to say that finances are one of the toughest areas in my life to turn over to God. Margaret is far better able to do that than I am. It may be because as a man, I sometimes feel I’m not doing my part to take care of my family. To Margaret’s credit, she’s my biggest cheerleader and reminds me I’m on the right path.

I begin to doubt I’m where God would have me be and think I should throw up and hands and go find something else. The little committee inside my head begins to tell me how foolish I am. Negative self-talk and doubt of God’s blessing fill my days. Honestly, I feel like a hypocrite at times. I’ll tell everyone of God’s faithfulness while my mind tells me I’m a fraud, that God isn’t really taking care of me.

That being said…

You might notice that the word feel is in italics. There’s a reason for that. You see, it took me years to learn to separate my feelings from my reality. That lesson may have come much easier for others, but it was a long, painful, and often frustrating journey for me. When I began to see what was going on around me for what it is rather than what it feels like it is, I began to understand that doubt was an essential part of my faith journey.

That may sound a bit oxymoronic – doubt and faith are mutually exclusive terms, right. Still, it’s possible to doubt and still be faithful. It’s a painful process to walk in faith through doubt and darkness. We can’t see in the darkness. St. John of the Cross, a 16th century Spanish mystic and Carmelite priest, called this “the dark night of the soul”.

The journey through the darkness leads us to shed all our preconceptions about God. We begin to let go of our ego, our perception of our self, and rest in “unknowing”: the unfathomable spirit of God. The journey can be long or short. For me, it’s often been a case of “two steps forward, three steps back”. In the darkness I find my union with the Father deeper each time. My petty worries and struggles seem a tad easier. Trust begins to return. I just keep walking…

St. John of the Cross

Sharing the journey, the struggles, the fear, and “the dark night of the soul” is frowned upon in many churches. We don’t like to talk about it. We write off what we fear or don’t understand so it won’t “wash off” on us. It’s dangerous to around a “doubter”.

Honest lament is frequently met by simple answers and platitudes. Things like “we’re praying for you” just have faith”, don’t doubt God’s promises” – that do little to illuminate the path.  

Some give up, retreating to the relative safety of sameness. Others throw up their hands, utter “what’s the use?” and leave behind the very community that God created for us. I don’t think that’s what Abba intended…

A Few Days Later…

I began writing this last Saturday. Yesterday was a great day at the farm – a special visit by Mailik Yakini from the Detroit Food Policy Council, getting to spend time with other local farmers, and getting a lot of planting done. The financial worries slipped away, replaced with feelings of fellowship and connectedness. At the end of the gathering, Ms. Opal pulled me aside. She whispered, “the Lord is so good, and He’s provided again. We received a check from a donor and there’s a check for you at the office.”

We’re able to pay all our bills for this month. One more time, like countless other times before, Abba has provided for all our needs. I used to beat myself up for doubting God. Today my doubts are merely one more opportunity to demonstrate God’s goodness and care. Hindsight reveals even my darkest periods, those which God felt so absent, have been the greatest blessings in my life.

What I thought was bad turned out good. What I thought was good wasn’t always so great (if you know what I mean). It reminds me that I don’t know what’s best for me, but Abba does.

We will encounter difficulties once again (especially financial ones) and I’ll begin to question God about His sense of timing. I’ll have some fear, but it seems to be a little less each time life shows up. God’s promises always hold true, even when my faith wavers so I’m just not going to worry about the process anymore. In the darkness I discovered a light that never goes out. I don’t always see it, but my vision is becoming clear with each step in the journey.