We'll make it through this together!

I didn't know if I was going to bring this up again or not.  In some ways, I want to go about my day as if it never happened.  I don't really like talking about it because then my mind goes to dark places.  And I get into an emotional funk.  (You'd think I would be comfortable with emotional funks by this point.  I've had so many of them.)  

But in some ways, I have to talk about it (and write about it) because that's how I process it, how I get support for what I'm going through, how I try to support others who are going through hard things too, how I try to turn it around for good in any way I can, and how I search for the silver linings.  

[This is the kind of thing that shows why I write the way I do.  I don't write about pain I know nothing about.  I write about the deep, overwhelming pain I do know, that I live with.  About anxiety and fear and despair and helplessness and hopelessness.  I am struggling through life like many people are.  (And if you're not now, just keep living.)  Things don't always go the way I want them to.  And the "faith journey" has only gotten messier and more chaotic over the years.  Much less polished, "proper," and predictable than I thought it should be, than it was supposed to be.  

And this is why I say that I'm done with "pat answers" and nice-sounding, easily-packaged, simple-to-apply Christian platitudes.  With the ideas of "should" and "supposed to be."  I don't just throw Bible verses at problems anymore and then expect everything to get all better.  I don't just slap a Bible verse on someone else's problems either, making them feel like there must be something wrong with them because they struggle.  Because they keep struggling.  Because they can't just "get it together."  

I wrestle deeply with God.  With faith.  With myself.  And I write about it honestly to help others who are wrestling too, who can't just fix their problems with a stiff upper lip, a pat answer, a brave Christian smile, and a Bible verse.  

And while I used to think being brutally honest with God and wrestling with Him and struggling with faith were improper to do, something to be ashamed of, I don't think so anymore.  I think He'd rather have us wrestle with Him even if means being brutally honest with Him, fighting with Him, doubting Him - as long as we're holding onto Him and staying near to Him - than have us be all quiet, polite, proper, and submissive while our hearts are breaking and we pull back from Him in pain, self-protection, hopelessness, and despair.  

I choose real, raw, and honest wrestling over nice-sounding platitudes and ineffective pat answers.  The painful problems are going to come no matter what, and I'd rather face them from the Lord's side than trying to stand on my own two, unstable feet.]

And so here it goes ...

It's been about a month since a close family member of mine (not my husband or children) has been arrested for the death of someone I knew, and it's been on my mind every day.

In fact, it's been on my mind every day for three years, since I "found out" about it but didn't have any real, solid proof.  (Many of my emotional/faith struggles written about these last three years are partially because of this situation.)  

Because of alarming comments a few people made to me over the years (coupled with my own very-limited, first-hand knowledge of things), I spent some time researching online a few years ago, trying to find out what happened to someone I used to know.   And that's when I found it - what I believed was the biggest piece of the puzzle, answering the question of what happened and who did it.

But I had no proof, no first-hand confession.  And the person who I believe did it was suicidal.  Repeatedly drinking themselves into the hospital, into comas.  Being found in random places, passed out and drunk.  Taking 4 ambulance rides one week, and more hospital visits a couple weeks later.  Having a blood alcohol level once of 375, and then of 400 not too much later.  Bleeding out both ends.  Vomiting toilet-bowls full of blood.  (It's not a pretty picture, people.  Don't drink to run from your problems.  It won't end well.)  Being found passed out in a hotel hallway, with a blood alcohol level of over 500, and with me needing to gather them up from the hospital and put them on a plane to fly them home.  And most recently, having a breath alcohol level that was at "coma/death" level, getting into a car accident, and then trying to flee the scene but passing out on the side of the road instead.  

How could I go forward with what I believe I learned about this person, what I think they did?  If I was wrong, I could destroy their reputation, their family, and their will to live.  (But if I was right, it would explain their suicidal drinking.)

And so for the past three years, I tucked this information into the back of my mind, waiting for them to either confess or for them to kill themselves with their drinking, and then I could risk being wrong by going forward with what I knew.

How do you turn your own mother in for something like this?  When all you have is hearsay and speculation?  

Oh, how hard it was to watch her destroy herself!  Wondering if this is what she's running from, what she's trying to kill herself over.  Not being able to say anything, but thinking that saying something would also be the best thing to do for her sake.  

This is the woman who raised me.  Who I've laughed with over the years.  Who's always been generous with gifts.  Who's always made extravagant holiday dinners, showering her guests with lots of good food.  Who I get my sense of humor and love of Elvis from.  Who's always wanted a close relationship with me - and with other people - but who's always kept everyone an arm's length away, out of fear and self-protection and low self-esteem.  Who was a victim herself - in her childhood and over the years - in so many ways.  A victim even of her own doing.  Whose good side I know.  Whose broken heart I love.

And so I waited and watched, praying for the day that she wouldn't wake up from a drunk coma, that she would slip into eternity to be with the Lord without having to face this, to be free from pain and guilt, even if it meant leaving us here to clean up her mess.

Oh, how I prayed for her death!

That seemed to be the most merciful way.

But that's not what happened.  

And after seeing how many times she should have died - especially the day I went to the hospital when she had the over-500 blood alcohol level (we found four empty bottles of Tito's Vodka in her hotel room where she stayed for a few days, I believe to deliberately drink herself to death, each one probably over a liter in size) and I saw her there in a flimsy hospital gown, unconscious, with her face all swollen full of vodka, with one eye closed while the other un-seeing, un-focused eye kept opening and closing on its own until she started to wake up just enough to make these guttural groaning sounds, writhing in the hospital bed in enormous physical and emotional pain but unable to talk - I knew that if she didn't die then, she wasn't ever going to die from her drinking.  

Because God wouldn't let her.  Not until she faced what she's done.

While I always thought I'd end up reporting my suspicions after she died from drinking (I could risk being wrong if she was dead), that's not how things played out.  

And so one day, out of the blue (but not really), a couple of cops showed up at my door, asking me what I knew about this situation.  And I was finally able to pour out all the things I held inside for three years.  I knew this meant turning on my own mother, but I had decided that when this stuff finally came out that I'd be honest, as honest as I could be, even if it meant speaking against my mom.  (And an important reminder:  In our country, it's innocent until proven guilty.)

I would be honest with the little bit of info that I know - for myself, for the Lord, for my brothers, for the person who died, and even for my mom's sake.  Once the truth was out, no good would come from hiding anything, from keeping anything back.  If my mom truly did this but was able to lie her way out of it, she would simply go back to drinking herself to death.  To running from it.  If she really did this, she needs to face up to it, to face justice for it.  That's the only way she can heal, to be forgiven.  That's the only way she can stand before the Lord with a cleaner heart.  To sleep at night without crushing guilt.  To get free from the chains that wrap around us when we live in lies, from the demons we invite into our hearts and lives through disobedience to the Lord.  

I'd rather have her in jail for the rest of her life with a cleaner soul, finding forgiveness, and being able to sleep at night with as much peace as possible, than to have her out in the world, running from the guilt, punishing herself, drinking herself into comas until she dies.

We can't run from the truth forever.  It needs to be faced, to be dealt with and admitted.  And it would be far better for us to deal with it here on earth ... before we find ourselves standing before the Lord face-to-face, having to deal with it in front of Him, having to give an answer for the things we've hidden and lied about over the years.  That's the only way.  

We may think we are fooling everyone else with our lies, but we aren't fooling the Lord or ourselves.  And regardless of what we think we're accomplishing with our lies, they just end up killing us slowly, destroying our relationships with the Lord, with others, with ourselves.  

But the truth ... well ... the truth sets us free.  In so many ways.

And so, hard as it may be, I am facing this situation (and advising my brothers to do the same thing) with one thing in mind: Be honest!

We cannot "protect" our mother.  We are not in control of how this goes, of the path it takes.  As I've told my brothers, "This is out of our hands.  And our only job right now is to be honest."  Whether the truth falls in her favor or against her is not for us to decide.  All we can do is tell the truth.  

And I would add one more thing ... "love her."  That's the other main focus of mine.  She's still my mother.  And my heart breaks for her.  And I still love her.  (Most of my brothers have stopped talking to her because of her drinking.  And I don't blame them.  I understand.)  I still love her and will support her in whatever way I can.  I have compassion on her, to a degree, because of the traumatic past she's had, the things that have made her who she is.  I hurt for her.

But right now, loving her means telling the truth, however it plays out.

[And making "tell the truth" my primary focus will help protect me from being jerked back and forth by the multitude of voices out there pulling me in different directions.  It really sucks, feeling like I'm in the middle of everyone - like how it was back when my mom and step-dad #2 were divorcing, and I was being pulled in all different directions by people.  Of course, you stay in it as long as necessary, when duty calls, doing your best in a really difficult situation.  That's just life, a part of being mature, faithful, and living with integrity.  Doing the hard things that need to be done.  But when your duty is done, at some point, you have to stop caring about other people's feelings, and you have to bow out, put up those boundaries, and refuse to be dragged back into it all.  Putting it all in the Lord's hands.

And in this current situation, if I put "protecting people's feelings" above "telling the truth" ... it's going to break me, pulling me apart with fear of hurting people and letting people down.  And honestly, no matter what I do or say, it's going to hurt someone and cause someone trouble.  That's just the way it is when you're in between a rock and a hard place.  But I strongly believe that God is on the side of truth, and so that's the side I want to be on.  That I need to be on, if I want to stay close to Him.  And it's not up to me if the truth is for her or against her.  It's just my job to stand on the side of truth, and let the chips fall where they may.  (And to be there for my brothers.  We need to stand together.)  God help me and my brothers, help her, and help everyone else involved in this investigation!  God help us all.]    

Unfortunately, as unfair as life is, we - her family and friends - are the ones who have to deal with the pain of all this.  Who have to pick up the broken pieces and try to put them back together again.  Who have to struggle with the memories.  With the "should haves" and "what ifs."  With the fear of wondering who knows about it, what they think of us, who we'll bump into today, who doesn't know about it but will ask us how we're doing and how my mom is doing (she knows A LOT of people).  With fear for our own families, of how this will affect our kids and their friendships and our friendships.  With fear of getting death threats and hate mail, as my brothers and a few friends of my mom have gotten through social media.

We are the ones who have to try to find the "new normal."  Who have to absorb this blow and carry on with life.  Who have to move forward with this horrible stain on our lives and reputations.  (People are accusing us of knowing what happened but covering it up, of being a part of it, which isn't true.  We were all lied to about what really happened.  And we are helping to bring this to justice, not covering anything up.  But once that accusation is out there to destroy your character and reputation, there's no fixing it or getting your good name back again.)  

We are the ones who have to find the balance between thinking/talking about this when necessary, talking about it when we don't want to, and pretending that it's not happening so that we can function normally.  Who have to keep our heads down as we walk through the stores.  Who are skipping our company Christmas dinner because we just don't want to be around people.  Who have to hide in our own homes right now while everything is still so fresh and raw and emotional.  

I'm not looking forward to what's coming up.  Whether she's lying or telling the truth, the damage has been done.  The broken pieces are everywhere.  Things will never be the same again.  And it's taking a lot for us to try to rebuild and to carry on.

But despite the many bad things in this situation, there's been some good to come out of.  My brothers and I have finally been able to talk in ways we never did before, to share our experiences and feelings honestly.  

I, for one, had made a conscious decision long ago to cut my brothers out of my life, to a degree, because of the horribly toxic divorce between my mom and their dad.  I had been pulled into the middle of it so often (being the oldest child) that I needed to have the strongest boundaries put up between me and them.  Between me and her.  And this meant cutting my brothers out of my life because they still lived at home and were dependent on her.  Opening the door to them would be opening the door to her.  And I couldn't be anywhere near that chaos.  (After the divorce, her and I had a pleasant relationship, as good as it could be.  But it's always been ... complicated.)

[Abandoning my brothers, leaving them alone in that dysfunction and chaos when they were still so young, has left me with guilt.  And it totally robbed us of the kind of relationship we could have had.  But I had my own young children to worry about.  At one point during their horrible divorce, when my mother called me repeatedly every 5 minutes, sobbing and frantic, I could barely function as a mother for my own kids.  The stress of being pulled into her toxic world was too much.  I was losing my mind to a nervous breakdown.  And I showed up at my husband's work in tears and begged him to take me and our kids to Iowa, to my grandparents, just to get away from her.  And that's what we did.  We ran home, and I had him unplug the phone and answering machine before I went inside so I wouldn't get her calls, and we grabbed a few things and jumped right in the car and drove hours away to Iowa.  And I could finally breathe again.  Unfortunately, that night, I did get a call that she was arrested for breaking a restraining order that my step-father had against her.  And that broke my heart, to picture her alone and scared in jail.  But at least I was hours away from it all.  And I have kinda lived that way ever since when it came to her.  Detached.  Distant.  Uninvolved.  For my own sanity and the sake of my family.]

Anyway, the good that has come out of this is that we are finally able to talk about some of the things we never talked about before.  (Not only with my brothers, but with other family members and with old friends of my mom who have sought me out to talk about all that's going on.)  I've always been so very guarded in what I said to everyone so that things wouldn't get back to her.  Always cautious about how she might take something or what trouble it might start or how it could be used against me.  (She's not a terrible person or anything.  She has a very good, generous, loving side.  It's just that she's a very broken, unstable person.  And for my own sanity, it's best to "not poke the bear."  To not say anything that might start anything.)

But now I can talk.  With my brothers and other relatives and even my mother's friends.  I can be more honest (yet still cautious) than I've ever been before.  And in this, we can encourage each other.  We can talk about the things in our pasts that made us who we are, getting support for the wounds that hurt us and our emotional development.  We understand each other now.  

And that's been good.  Hard, but good.

I know that we are all going through a lot of pain right now.  And anxiety.  Just trying to carry on with our days.  And so I pray for us all.  Because that's all I can really do.  To place us all in the Lord's hands in prayer, asking Him to guide us, care for us, protect us, keep us sane.  And I trust Him to work something good out of the bad, even if it's not how we wanted things to go.

"And we know that in all things, God works for the good of those who love him ..."  (Romans 8:28)  

[On top of this issue, one of my brothers lost his wife last year, and now he has 3 kids under 6 years old to raise himself.  Breaks my freakin' heart!  More so even than my mother's arrest.  But at least he lives nearby, and so I can be a part of their lives now, more so even than when their mother was alive.  But my heart still breaks every time I see them.  And in the process of this investigation, I just found out my ex-stepdad - the most "dad" I ever had - is in jail for drug trafficking.  And probably will be for a long time.  And that breaks my heart too.  I cared about him and loved him.  And it hurts to see how my mother broke him and what she turned him into.  Everyone around her, including herself, has been a victim of my mother's pain and brokenness.  The other day, I realized that we could almost make a photo "family tree" out of mugshots - my mother's father who was arrested for robbery and died in jail, my ex-step-dad, and now my mother.  Update: And I just found one for a brother of mine.  Wow!  It just keeps getting more and more "soap opera-ish"!]  

Life just doesn't go the way you think it should, does it?  

Maybe it would be best if we banished "should" from our thinking.  

[Like me thinking that my son "should" have gotten that job that he interviewed for yesterday, 12/17/19, the first one he's ever tried for.  The job that would have been such a good fit for him, something he needed right now.  In fact, it seemed like all the pieces were falling into place.  And we were both getting our hopes up, getting excited about this new potential adventure of his.  But then after the interview came the text: "I'm sorry, but we don't really have any openings for new employees right now."  Another heartbreak!  For me and for him.  I so thought he had it, too.]

But I don't really know how things "should" go anymore.  I have long ago learned that I don't know anything anymore.  Other than that God's got much bigger, stronger hands than I do!  

And I'm okay with that.  I don't need to know how to fix it.  I just need to stay close to the One who can.

[Lord, please bring my son a job that fits him and that would be good for him.  I think he could really use that encouragement right now.  But I don't even know what to think about anything anymore or how things "should" go.  And so I am trusting You to straighten our paths as we walk in faith.  I am trusting that You have good plans for him and his future, even if things don't go the way we think they "should."  

"For I know the plans I have for you," declares the Lord, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future."  (Jeremiah 29:11)

"Trust in the Lord with all of your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight."  (Proverbs 3:5-6)

I'm leaning on You, Lord.  Because I don't know a darn thing anymore, other than that You are trustworthy and much bigger, wiser, and more capable than I am.  And that's okay with me.  So I'm just going to do my best to rest in You right now and to let You handle the things I can't.  Take my anxiety, my shortcomings, and my uncertainties, and give me Your peace, wisdom, and contentment-in-the-midst-of-pain instead.  I need it!  I need You!  Amen]

[Update 12/18/19: This morning, I just sent my mom an email through a special online "jail mail" website.  The first contact I've had with her since her arrest over a month ago.  It was the weirdest thing, something I never thought I'd be doing: emailing my mom in prison.  50 cents for every email you send.  I sat and stared at the blank "page" for awhile, unsure of what to say after all that's happened.  How do you start a letter like that?  What do you say?  And then how strange to think, This will probably be how I communicate with her for the rest of her life.  So bizarre.  I'm not ready for this to be the way things are probably going to be from now on.  But ready or not, here it comes.

New Update: I want to go back to emails!  They just moved her to a new facility, and I can only mail real letters to her there.  No emails.  Emails were easier and cheaper.  You know, it's so strange to think I will probably not ever be able to contact her again the way normal families do.  No visits at our house.  No holiday get-togethers.  No emails.  No calls.  No texts.  But I guess there is a silver lining: I also won't have to worry about her calling me drunk ever again or worry if she's going to kill herself when no one's looking (not that it's not a possibility in prison) or worry about having to pick her up from a hospital somewhere where they took her after they found her passed out drunk in a hotel hallway.  While it's hard to think that our ability to contact each other will always be different, hindered, and most likely supervised, it is nice to know that I won't get any surprise drunk calls from her ever again.  Silver lining!]

[Note added 3/19/20, 5:30 a.m.:  I had a dream just now that woke me up.  I don't know why I want to write it down, but I do.  In my dream, I was driving, and I ran a red stoplight.  A minute later, a police vehicle pulled around from the other lane to get behind me, and so I knew they saw me run the light, and I waited for them to pull me over.  But they didn't.  They just followed me into a building.  When we were in the building, I tried to act nonchalant, to be unnoticed, but the woman cop asked me and some guy to pull up a chair by her and the man cop.  And they took our picture, acting like it was all casual and like they had no reason for pulling us aside.  But I figured, "This is it, now they'll give me a ticket."  They told the other guy they'd deal with him in a minute, and then they turned to me.  Then the woman very gently said, "We should have danced with you (there must have been some community dance in my dream that we were all at); we're sorry we didn't.  We should have danced with you."  

I knew then that they were talking about my mom, that they knew what happened and were trying to express their sympathy.  And in my dream, I could feel my eyes start to sting with tears (as I do now as I type this), and I put my head down and just started sobbing as they both reached out a hand to place on me in support.  And I just cried and cried.  

And as I did, I woke up in real life, my heart pounding, feeling like I was breathing too hard.  You know, I try so hard to make it through my day without thinking about it too much.  (In real life, she's waiting to go to trial and she's gonna fight the charges, which means my brothers and I will have to testify.)  And yet, I think about it everyday.  I try not to google the news stories about her (it's a big case around here), but some days I can't help it.  

Like I did yesterday.  It's not easy to see your mom in pictures wearing an orange jumpsuit, in handcuffs before a judge.  To see the hopeless expression on her face, knowing that you can't do anything to help her and that you have to testify "against" her, even while you still love her and care about her.  

I was telling a friend the other day that it's gotten harder as it's gone on, after the "excitement" of the initial months wore off.  And that in some ways, it would have been so much easier on us all if she had just died during one of her drinking binges, like I prayed for many times.  Not that I really wanted her dead, just that it would be so much easier to have closure and an ending.  Not this lingering thing.  But no, she didn't die.  (I believe God wouldn't let her die until she faced this.)  And now we are all going through this.  My brothers, my kids and husband, my extended family.  It's our cross to bear.  A job we don't want but have to do anyway.  There are times in life when we have to do what we have to do, even when we don't want to do it.  When it's time to Man Up, to put on our Big Kid Pants and do what needs to be done, no matter how we feel about it.  And I guess this is my time.  Anyway, I just wanted to write this down, for myself.  I don't know why.  Just because.]

Some links for help and encouragement
As much as I can, I try to encourage all those who are also hurting over this situation to draw near to the Lord, to seek Him out, to find their strength and wisdom in Him.  There is so much that seeks to drag us down in life.  But God is constantly throwing out life-preservers for us to grab onto, things that will help keep us afloat if we hold onto them.  If we hold onto Him.  

And that's what these links below are - life-preservers.  Little bits of hope in a dark, difficult world.  Little bits of "I understand, I know how it feels" to help others know that they are not alone in the pain.  That it's okay to struggle.  Little things to help us keep our heads above water when we feel like we're going under.  

And so, I dedicate this post to my brothers, my other family members, and my mom's old friends (my new friends).  To all of us as we set out to navigate these rough waters ahead.  To all of us who've gotten thrown into the deep end unexpectedly, kicking and screaming, and who now have to learn to swim so that we don't sink.  (Here is my favorite devotional from Our Daily Bread called Paddling Home, about a brave, faithful little mouse named Reepicheep.  This is how I view the journey of faith.)   

And I dedicate this to anyone else who feels so small and helpless in a big, messy life.  I know many people who are hurting for one reason or other right now.  With fears, uncertainties, relational problems, physical problems, financial problems, family problems, spiritual problems.  We are living in a world of hurt, surrounded by people who hurt, carrying our own wounds that hurt.

I know how it feels.  Many of us do.  If only we'd all spend some time sharing our pain with people, listening to them share their pain, carrying each other's burdens, even if we don't have answers and there's nothing we can do but be there for them, giving them a shoulder to cry on and loving arms to wrap around them.  If only we'd all be a little less polished and a little more vulnerably honest, maybe we'd all feel a little less alone in our pain.

These links contain some of the things that I've read and listened to over the past 3 years to keep me from going under all the way.  Some of the things I've learned along the way.  Sometimes, we need every bit of help we can get when things get dark and scary and bad.  And so I'm sharing all that I've gone through to help you all know you're not alone in the struggle, in the pain, in the confusion.  And to share with you what helped me keep going through it all.  

I think that's the best use of our painful pasts, to help others when they're in pain.  

After all, we can't change the pasts we've had or the scars we've gotten, but we can make something good out of them by using them to help others when they're hurting.

We're all in this together.  And we're going to make it through the pain and the messiness, leaning on each other.  

And this is what I think the Lord says to us too, even when life is messy and painful and even if He won't fix things the way we want them to be fixed:  "We'll make it through this together!"

My "When Anxiety Strikes" Playlist  (Right now, as I'm typing this, I am listening to The City Harmonic, to help with the anxiety and sadness I feel lately when I first wake up.)

Getting Through The "Broken" Times

Genuine Faith is Messy

Praying Scripture: For Peace When Afraid

Praying Scripture: When Anxiety Strikes

Praying Scripture: Resting in the Lord

Praying Scripture: For the Brokenhearted and Exhausted

Praying Scripture: When You Feel Like You're Failing

Using Scripture in Spiritual Battles

80+ Bible Verses For Spiritual Warfare.

Just Keep Falling (written before all this stuff going on now)

A Defining Moment (a direct result from dealing with all of this stuff, after my online discoveries and then seeing my mom constantly drink herself into the hospital, all of which came about 5 weeks after my first panic attack, which was unrelated to and before all of this.  So it was bad stuff piled on top of bad stuff.  The hardest summer I ever went through.  I'm actually surprised I made it through without giving up totally.  But by the grace of God, I'm still here today.)

Help for Anxiety, Depression, and Suicidal Thoughts


War Rooms, Praying Scripture, and Spiritual Warfare

26 Tips For Dealing With Depression/Anxiety

Fighting Back a Panic Attack

Tony Evans Sermons (Unfortunately, about 6 months before my mom was arrested, we left our church over theological differences.  And so now, we don't even have the support of our home church and church friends while we face this trial.  And so I have to go online for my "church" right now.  But thank God, Tony Evans has been just what I've needed.  For healing my soul from Calvinism's lies, for encouraging my heart during the painful trials, and for helping me cling to faith and the Lord.  And for the record, I do have one really great friend who's been with me through all of this.  And I couldn't have done it without her.  Thank you.  You know who you are.)

What Real Encouragement Looks Like Sometimes.  (Sometimes we don't need to try to "fix" it; we just need to be there with each other, to hurt with each other.  Sometimes, that's the best support we can give.)

Do You See Me Too, Lord?

I Will Love You ... Always!

Wrestling With God

Tony Evans Sermon: Freedom From Fear

Some Days It Feels Like It's All About To Fall Apart

The Spider (an old favorite)

And here's a blog I really like from someone else who's had a hard life but who is doing her best to cling to the Lord and praise Him anyway:  Our Healing Moments

And some of my favorite songs that I listen to when life is too hard and when I can't find the words to pray (because sometimes music can reach the places other things can't):

From my favorite Christian band, The City Harmonic:
Love, Heal Me  (The song I named one of my blogs after.)

Fell Apart  (One of the best opening lines ever! These City Harmonic songs became my prayers at a time when I was too broken to pray for myself.  And I kinda still am.  And so when I can't pray for myself, I pray for others and then I listen to songs like these for my own prayers for me.)

Oh, What Love  (Always makes me cry. Grace, forgiveness, mercy, healing, hope, purpose ... it's all wrapped up in that amazing love!)

Praise the Lord  (This really is the key to getting through the trials with your faith intact, even if it's a bit battered and bruised. I love the way that City Harmonic's lyrics touch the very heart of being human, that crossroad where painful heartache and faith meet. I really do listen to their music practically everyday. I honestly don't know how I would have got through 2016 without them. Such a God-send. Get their CDs. You won't be sorry!)

Brand New  (This heart - my heart - needs Him!)

Long Walk Home  (It's a long walk Home.  And you can’t rush it.  So just keep walking towards the Father.  Bit by bit.  Day by day.)

Here and There  (My favorite line ... "And if I'm barely hanging on ..."  I've been barely hanging on for years, crawling towards the Lord with every last bit of strength I have.)

Manifesto  (Love it! Love it! Love it!  The first song of theirs I ever heard.  And I fell in love with it.  With them!  Oh my goodness, just buy their albums already!  You won't be sorry!)

From Jeremy Riddle:
Sweetly Broken  (Absolutely amazing!  It touched my heart so deeply that it became a theme song for my life and the inspiration for my other blog, The 'Sweetly Broken' Journey.)

God Moves in a Mysterious Way  (Love this song. The author of the poem it's based on - William Cowper - knew pain, to the point of attempting (or just contemplating?) suicide several times, so I've read. I treasure words of faith written by people who knew deep pain and yet still managed to cling to the Lord, who held on through life's storms and the darkest nights, who have learned that our God is a good, loving Father even when life is not good and that He can be trusted even when we can't trust ourselves.)

From Crowder:
I AM   (He's always there holding onto us, calling us to hold onto Him.  One of my favorite scenes in this song is at the 2:34 minute mark, when one of the disciples is laying on the floor crying, reaching out to a battered Jesus who is lying near him.  Oh, how I've felt that way so many times these past years, especially now!  Life has repeatedly beaten me down, and I'm laying on the floor crying, doing the only thing I can do - reaching out for the Lord who is nearby during the painful trials, just hoping and praying that I can touch Him with just the tip of my finger to feel His presence and know He is there.  Reaching out for the Lord while you're in pain - sometimes that's all you can do.  And sometimes that has to be enough.)

Come As You Are  (You don't need to polish yourself up first, just come to Him as you are!)

From Tenth Avenue North:
Healing Begins  (One of the inspirations for this blog.)

By Your Side  (No matter where we are, He's always by our side.  No need to earn His love, grace, forgiveness, or help.  Just accept them!  It's already waiting for you.)

Hold My Heart  (This is totally my prayer!  What I've been feeling for a long time.)

Worn  (Can anyone else understand the feeling of being tired just from the effort it takes to "keep on breathing"?  He's there, reaching for you, waiting for you to reach out for Him.)

From other artists:
Lord, I Need You by Matt Maher (This one meant so much to me when we sang it at church while I was in a very dark time.)

Strong Enough by Matthew West  (I know I’m not strong enough.  But that's okay.  Because He is.)

Better Than a Hallelujah by Amy Grant (It's okay to pour your pain out to the Lord. You don't have to hide it from Him.)

Your Hands by JJ Heller (No matter how our world is shaking, we never leave His hands.)

In the Sky by Bob Carlisle  (It so helps to remember that life won't go on like this forever.  That day is coming soon when Jesus comes back to take us with Him.)

Stuck in a Moment by U2 (Obviously, this isn't an overtly Christian song, but I love it. And while I don't totally know what all the lyrics mean, I do know that it's about an imaginary fight between Bono and INXS's lead singer, Michael Hutchence, who committed suicide. Bono is arguing with Hutchence, trying to convince him that suicide is not the answer. While I never explicitly thought "I want to kill myself," I did get to the point - 2016 - where I thought, "So this is the point people get to when they kill themselves." And that's not a pleasant place to be. My heart breaks today for anyone who feels so hopeless and discouraged that they take their own lives. Remember that while the pain you're going through today might be enormous, it's just a moment in time ... and that moment will pass. God can always pull us out of whatever dark moment we are in, as long as we hang in there, seek help, and reach out and grab His hand.)

Man of God by Audio Adrenaline (A great reminder that we are all human. And God knows it and loves us anyway.)

What If I Stumble? by DC Talk (And guess what? We will all stumble. We will all fall. But that’s okay because God knows we are human.  Which is why He offers forgiveness.  Thank God that He's here to pick us up and put us back together again.)

Grace Like Rain by Todd Agnew (Grace is raining down on us all ... will you stand in the rain or hide from it?)

A Christmas version of Broken Hallelujah that I love: Christmas Hallelujah.  Makes me cry.  (Or try this version if that one gets deleted.)

Burn the Ships from For King and Country.  (Such a great song about not looking behind us.  About letting go of the past and walking bravely into the future.  No matter what we’re going through, that time will come.)

And I know this isn't a Christian song, but I love, LOVE, LOVE it:  The Last Goodbye.
[It makes me cry every time.  A good cry.  A sad cry.  A bittersweet cry.  And it's especially relevant now, as I think of all the things I've been through in life and all the people who are taking this journey with me right now, whether we want to or not.  I think many of us could say that the journey through life isn't what we expected.  That it's much harder than we thought it'd be.  And if we knew ahead of time how difficult and painful the journey was going to be, we might not sign up for it.

Maybe that's why we live life forward instead of backwards.  Because God knows that it would break us too much if we knew the pain waiting for us up ahead.  And so I guess that I can thank God that I don't know too much too early, as much as I wish I did sometimes.  I can be thankful that He takes time to shape me and to strengthen me through trials slowly over years, so that by the time I come to really bad parts of the journey, I have learned how to keep hanging on through the pain.

Although it has its really good parts, the journey is not what I thought nor hoped it would be.  It's not usually easy.  And the heartaches are many.  But I am thankful for those who walk this journey with me.  And whether it's been good or bad, I'll never be able to say that life wasn't full!

And one good thing that comes from the bad times is that I've learned to hold this life loosely, to be thankful that there is more out there than this, that there is Someone bigger than me who I can run to when I'm too broken and too weak and don't know what to do anymore.  And I don't know about you, but I'm looking forward to when the path turns toward Home.  I'm not afraid of "The Last Goodbye," of the day that this world ends and eternity begins.

Of course, I hope it doesn't happen for me in some premature death or something.  I hope it happens by Jesus coming back again.  I hope I'm still alive to see the day He returns for His own.  But once again, it's probably good that God doesn't let us know too much about the journey ahead.  That way, we learn to trust Him and cling to Him in the here-and-now, even with all of its messiness, instead of planning to trust Him later if and when things go our way.]

I hope and pray that there may be some bit of hope and encouragement in here for those of you who are hurting too.  You’re not alone.  And we’ll make it through this together!

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