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Will God Come Through For Us?

I’ve really just been clinging to God lately. I’ve been really aware of my weaknesses. It’s an uncomfortable admission and an uncomfortable experience. We want to be strong. But we’re not.

Illness does a great job at making a person humble. I don’t know about you, but half the time I walk around thinking, “I’ve got this” about the stuff in my life. But I really don’t “got this.”ToniCharlesIsland (2)

What about attacks not to the body but to the mind? To the emotions? Grief is kin to illness. An assault on our person of a different type. We think “we got this,” but we really don’t. We are powerless to bring our loved one back. We are powerless to stop the hurt inside of us.

Sounds like a real downer, but I haven’t lived on this planet for several decades and not learned that from great adversity may come great rewards. In other words, good stuff can come from really hard stuff. All that hard stuff behind me? It’s taught me to be resilient. To press on. To believe that this too shall pass. And if I am willing, I will learn things that I can’t learn any other way. And in the midst of the trial? I find God.

Picture a woman in a terry cloth robe in a dimly lit room, her face wet with tears. She screams at the top of her lungs, grabs the Kleenex box and throws it like a football against the closet door.

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Wanting Mommy by Our Sick Bed

We’re all grown up but aren’t there days when we wish we had our mommies?

Our mommies held us when we were frightened, kissed our boo-boos and stood by our sick beds, wiping our brows of sweat.toni2017-2

We’re possibly most vulnerable when we’re sick. It’s one of the times we wish we had mom back. Even if she couldn’t fix us, somehow her mere presence made us better, even if just a little.

I’ve been sick a lot in recent weeks, and I’ve missed writing my blog a couple of times because of it. In fact, I’ve been sick a lot of my life, but too much this year. I finally decided my problems weren’t going away on their own. I took the list of symptoms to my primary care doctor Tuesday. I put seven freakin’ things on there!

I omitted one, the newest symptom, a pain in the left side of my abdomen. The doctor asked me to lay down. He felt of my hardened, bloated belly.

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Grief: It’s NOT a Shame

I’m accustomed to feeling all sorts of colliding emotions with grief – anger, depression and even regret, but shame was a new one on me. I didn’t even know what to call it when I experienced it.

Do you ever feel shame within the context of your loss? My dictionary defines shame as “a painful emotion caused by a strong sense of guilt, embarrassment, unworthiness, or disgrace.”

There’s room for shame in society. We should be ashamed for things that are against morality. Grief isn’t something to be ashamed about, and yet there it was, sitting on top of my chest.momspaintings.jpg

That afternoon, I had been at my parents’ unoccupied home with my husband. I’d been rambling about the house, trying to figure out what next to discard, give away or pack. I’m down to the wire on this one – after eight years, we’ve decided to sell the house. I gotta finish cleaning it out.

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The Profound Nature of Suffering

Sometimes I want to scream. Somewhere along the way, I decided that someday I’d be through with suffering, but I’m not. The tag I put on it is expired, and yet I’m still suffering.

I hesitate using the word suffering for my struggle. I’ve not been to war. I’ve not lost a leg, been burned in a fire or experienced the death of a child. My suffering isn’t going to kill me.ToniProfilePic

But sometimes I’ve despaired of life because of it. I’ve thought it might ruin me. It’s certainly changed my life. It changed the way I took care of my parents. And I hate that. Really hate that.

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Mountain Climbing: Releasing Parents’ Home Sparks Renewed Grief

I don’t want to tell you that I’m grieving again. Not that I ever really stopped, but after eight years without my Mom, it wasn’t intruding into my every hour or day in that heartbreaking way.

But lately, it has – in that heartbreaking way. In that way that hinders sleep. In that way that casts a pall over everything I do. I smile, but inside a part of me is crying.

I know what happened. I’m being called upon to let go of my parents’ home. I’ve known all along this is what I’d probably do. Sell. But the day was far away.Mountain

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Awestruck by Eclipse: A Spiritual Journey

I stared into the sky at the black hole ringed with white-hot fire. I’d never seen anything like this before in my life. It was unearthly. Alien. Tears flooded my eyes. Awe flooded my soul.

My mother taught me to gaze into the cosmos as a girl. She walked into the front yard, brought the binoculars to her eyes and found the craters on Luna. Then she handed the binoculars to me.

Mom never saw a total solar eclipse. I wish she’d been alive to see it with me Aug. 21. My husband and I traveled from Memphis, in the partial eclipse zone, to western Kentucky to see the sun go totally dark. We’d booked our hotel room 10 months in advance. I packed a bracelet of Mom’s. I’d wear it during the eclipse in honor of her.

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Photo by Rick Fienberg / TravelQuest International / Wilderness Travel

In the moments before the moon totally blacked out the sun, I was skeptical, building to upset. I’d heard it got dark enough to see stars, but it was daylight with more than 90 percent of the sun covered. An eerie pallor draped us, but I’d seen a partial eclipse before.

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Death Does Not End Relationship, Letter Reveals to Daughter

Loss can feel like a great abyss, like my parents are a trillion miles in space, on a planet I’ve never seen, in a place I can neither fly to nor telephone. But death doesn’t end a relationship.

Nor does it end a connection. No, it’s not the one I want. I want them here. In front of my face. But at least our bond isn’t completely severed.

I felt the connection again one July evening in 2013 when I was going through my parents’ things at their home. I found a letter. It had been mailed to them in the 1960s before I was born.

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My parents, probably during their courtship, in the 1950s.

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Cleaning Out a Deceased Loved One’s Home: Four Tips to Spark the Process

I didn’t expect to take eight years cleaning out my parents’ home. But here I am.

I also didn’t expect to feel walls of resistance erect inside of me, blocking my ability – or rather, my willingness – to throw away, give away or pack up their stuff. Propriety dictated I go over to their home and get the job done. I just wanted to sit with their things and cry.

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A set of teeth and molds my mother made in dental school. I discovered them during the cleaning out of my parents’ home.

Along the way, I noticed what nudged me to act when I’d get stuck holding on to their things. I’m not advocating we push ourselves past the point that our emotional journey takes us. In fact, I’d say take all the time you need and can reasonably acquire. I had the luxury of keeping my parents’ home, the house where I grew up, for almost as long as I wanted. I wasn’t paying a mortgage on it, it was close by, and my husband indulged me.

However, if you discover you need a nudge, try these strategies to get back on track.

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How Can We Feel Safe?

Do you feel safe? I don’t mean do you fear you’re in danger of being robbed or burgled or murdered. I mean do you feel like you are emotionally in a place of safety?

I admit I haven’t always felt safe. In fact, one of the most unsafe times in my life was after my father died in the summer of 2006. I wasn’t aware of it in exactly those terms at the time, but in the years that have followed, I’ve thought a lot about this human drive for safety.ToniPic

I think we all recognize the desire for physical safety. We lock our doors. We look twice to cross the street. But emotional safety is sort of nebulous. Undefined.

I find safety in relationships and in roles. I didn’t realize how glued I was to my parents and my identity as a daughter until I lost my dad, and then three years later, when I lost my mom. Over time, I’ve examined how magnetized I was to them, even though I was an independent woman. I bought my own home, alone, at age 29. Umm….it was 10 minutes from their house.

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Time Machine: Church Tour Reconnects Daughter to Father

Have you ever felt like a social misfit? The feeling was never greater for me than at the mega church I attended in junior high school. But I’d put that out of my mind until this past weekend.

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The youth assembly room as it looks today. It is in an unused part of the church site.

I dressed for comfort and convenience, not for style and statement. I wore my hair straight and tucked behind my ears, though big ‘80s ‘dos were in. I lived in a double-wide trailer across the state line in rural Mississippi, and I went to a public school, not a private one.

My peers at the Memphis church wore alligators over their hearts, braces on their teeth and pennies in their loafers. My parents couldn’t afford those things. So I never asked for them.

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