Chasing Joy…

Joy…. I sure have been hearing this word a ton lately… Joy, Joy, Joy… Chase Joy, Find Joy, Enjoy… everywhere I go… Joy.

I have resolved myself to the fact that joy is a word that I don’t think applies to my life. I really don’t even know what joy is anymore. So….. I had to look and be sure….

The dictionary definition of joy is “the emotion evoked by WELL-BEING, SUCCESS, OR GOOD FORTUNE: to delight…a state of happiness or felicity…a source or cause of delight.”

Well… I don’t have those things. The closest I have to joy right now is my delight in brownies… I really love them. Oh! And, coffee… with Hazelnut creamer. I do delight in that! However, I could give you a much longer list of things that do not bring me one ounce of joy. I would still be here tomorrow listing all those things. We do NOT want that!

And, don’t you find it funny when the Lord wants you to hear Him…????? He puts whatever the message is on BLAST! Everywhere you go, there it is… Joy…. Every book I pick up, every commercial (all those Hallmark Christmas movie commercials talking about JOY). Y’all…. even my stickers for my Happy Planner that I love sticking on everything known to man have “Choose Joy” stickers all in them. I just started sticking them anyway! Maybe I need to stick it to my forehead… maybe that would be helpful to me. Then, the LAST straw…. the very last one… I was in a meeting for WORK the other day and do you know what they wanted to talk about????? I know you are thinking I am lying right now…. but, the good Lord knows it’s the truth… JOY… ENJOY… How to get JOY… Seriously, it’s true.

I chose to ignore all that… all of it…! Then, yesterday, would you not know that my kid was having a rough day. And, it was only 8am! She was feeling overwhelmed with school and she said that her school choice did not make her happy. She had no JOY whatsoever in doing it because she didn’t feel she had everything under control.

I was thinking to myself that this has to be a joke. No way that this could possibly be happening to me right now and at 8am…! Was I going to have to give her the JOY speech that I just heard the day before? Was I going to have to share the books I had been reading… the Hallmark commercials???? And, was I going to HAVE to share my secret joy of brownies???? (NOPE! She already knows that as she has the same love for brownies that I do!)

But, you will never guess what happened. I started spilling it about joy and everything I have been reading, hearing, seeing…. It was one of my FINEST pep talks. I was very proud of it! Then, I realized as I continuously kept talking (HA! that happens with me a lot) that I was actually talking to myself. No doubt she heard the beginning but as I got warmed up and just firing off the pep talk, I look over and she is making crazy looking faces in her phone on Snapchat… such is life with a teenage girl…

So, I went on about my way thinking about my pep talk. And, I realized…. I have to CHASE JOY. It is not going to just come and find me. I have to intentionally CHASE it every, single moment of every day. So, where do I find this Joy? I have racked up the losses but I have no idea where you look for joy.

I began to pray while driving to work. Praying about the way I have messed everything up. I had gone too far this time…. There wasn’t a way back. I wanted God to know my losses were too great… (as if He doesn’t already know my losses). I reminded him that I had lost a child, lost my Mom, my marriage ended, friendships of many years had been destroyed. Where is the joy in that? I couldn’t ask for joy. I shouldn’t even be praying right now. I am sure it is bouncing off the ceiling of my car… I had really messed things up this time. And, I had been trying to get it all together so I could come back to Him and set things right. Then, I remembered something I read the other night… from an author… Mandy Hale in her book “Beautiful Uncertainty”.

She was talking about a toxic, abusive relationship that she had been in at one time. And, that relationship drove her to her knees like never before. And, then she wrote this, and I found it profound:

“God met me there – right in the middle of my hopelessness, sinfulness, and powerlessness – and He turned my life around. He became real to me. He didn’t wait until I’d cleaned myself up to intervene. He didn’t reprimand me before he redeemed me. And He also didn’t hand me a road map before we started our journey together. He simply stepped in, took the controls, and started to rebuild my life one brick and one miracle at a time, always calling me to greater levels of trust and faith and boldness. Not because I had all the answers, but because I had finally surrendered to the One who did.”

Wow! Shout out to Mandy Hale. I highly recommend every one of her books for all the single ladies out there! She reminded me that I absolutely cannot clean myself up enough to be all righteous and good before God. It isn’t going to happen. He HAS to be the One to CLEAN me up. He picks me up, treats and cleans my wounds, dusts me off and gets me back on my feet again. There is NO other way.

Then, and only then, can we start chasing joy. Counting up the good instead of focusing on the bad. Being grateful, being the giver, that is what brings us true, down deep in the soul, joy.

I know two of the greatest chasers of joy…. My Mama and Chandler. They ran after joy. They loved hard. They were the givers. The ones who had gratitude. Thankful hearts. They didn’t sit and think about all the negatives. They ran toward the joy that deep down, we all crave and want.

What a great time of year to be thankful? Even in the small things. The beautiful, changing colors of the leaves, my dog, coffee, brownies, my girls… (as you can see this is my personal list…) But, most of all, I am thankful for the One who comes to where I am and cleans me up from my messes. My wounds He treats daily. Some of which, a lot of which are self inflicted. It allows me to get up even though I live with constant pain and grief. It allows me to chase the joy that I truly do want in my life. And, it allows me to find ways to be the giver. I am learning when you are the broken, that being the giver heals.

Much love,

Brandi

 

 

 

 

 

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Making Peace With What He Gives…

Once again, it has been a very long time since I have written down anything. I have been hiding and frankly, that’s the way I like it. Hiding. It’s what I do when things get tough. Hard. Too much to handle. But, I must admit, when I hide I am alone and I live in what seems like total darkness. Just existing. Going through the mundane tasks of everyday life without having to deal with anything that I do not want to.

I have been hiding really well since last November. Since, that awful, dreary morning when my Mama drew her last breath on this earth. And, I must add, the final breath that I missed. I knew it was near yet I missed it. Guilt raises high when I think of that moment. I was with her night and day for 13 days after we brought her home. And, I missed the last breath. Why? I was hiding. I didn’t want nor could I deal with that truth. She was leaving me and going Home. To the eternal home where so many people that I love live. One in particular, my son. It was too much. Feelings of grief, sadness, and the word I am still afraid to say… Jealousy. I was jealous of her going Home. I felt like she could do life way better without me than I could without her.

On that dreary November morning, I went into hiding. Completely shut down. Done. I clenched my fists tight and I would not allow anything to pry them open. So, here I set, on this dreary September morning almost a year later with clenched fists but I feel them loosening. Very little, but loosening slightly all the same. Why now?

I think it’s because the last month has been devastating for me. I have hid to the point that my grief is spilling over. You cannot run and shut down grief forever. It will come out. It has to. My grief started showing itself by feelings of being so overwhelmed. By sheer anxiety and nervousness to the point of being physically ill. Fear consumed me and the tears were pouring out like water hydrants bursting in the street. I could not stop them. I would try my best to talk myself out of the tears like I had since that November day.

I started gaining a little sense about two weeks into this. I knew I had to get this under control. All the while, God speaking straight to this hiding soul letting me know that I couldn’t hide forever. He whispered gently but stern nonetheless that I was not in control of this. I could NOT control this. I have a problem with trying to control everything. Even though, deep down, I know I cannot. I still move right along trying to control the emotions. I will choose what I will and will not grieve. Me. The girl who missed the last breath of the sweetest woman she knew.

I knew I had to do these things: Quiet time with God. Listening. Settling in, getting quiet and being still. Praying. Being intentional on allowing Him to grab these clenched hands that are bleeding from gripping them together so tightly. This all came with the high blood pressure on the holiday weekend of September. Three days at home. Checking the blood pressure. 158/106, 164/112, and on and on. It wasn’t going down. The hiding and the darkness were coming to an end and there was nothing I could do to stop it.

So, I got quiet. Still. Started listening. And, I started learning things that I hadn’t wanted to hear since that dreary day in November. The day I missed the last breath of the one who witnessed my first breath.

I read these words a friend sent me that Ann Voskamp penned. She said:

“Pieces of your broken heart mend when you make peace with what He gives.”

Seriously? This is the worst thing I have ever heard. Ever! I would never make peace with what He has given me, hands start clenching again, this time harder. But, these words were repeating in my head like the words to my favorite song. I heard them all the time. Then, on the deck, quiet one morning I read:

“Though He brings grief, he will show compassion, so great is His unfailing love. For, He does not willingly bring affliction or grief to anyone.” ~Lamentations 3: 32-33

Hmmm…. “Pieces of your broken heart mend when you make peace with what He gives.” “Though He brings grief, He WILL show compassion, so great is His unfailing love.”

I need compassion. I need someone to see these torn places that are gaping wounds all over me. “Pieces of my broken heart…” Those pieces are everywhere. “mend when I make peace with what He gives.” Peace. It eludes me. Hiding, darkness surrounds me.

Then, Isaiah introduces himself to me on the deck in my quiet time. I read:

“Why should I be beaten anymore? Why do I persist in rebellion? MY whole head is INJURED, MY whole heart AFFLICTED. From the soles of my feet to the top of my head there is NO SOUNDNESS, ONLY WOUNDS AND WELTS AND OPEN SORES, not CLEANSED or bandaged or SOOTHED with olive oil.” ~Isaiah 1:5-6 (emphasis mine)

I hurry to look up all these words in the Strong’s dictionary. I pause at injured. Strong’s Definition:

“malady, anxiety, calamity: disease Grief (is) sick(-ness)”

Grief is a sickness. I am sick. And, the “pieces of my broken heart mend when I make peace with what He gives.” I am wounded. “From the soles of my feet to the top of my head…” I sit in total silence on the deck. This is the deck that they took my Mama’s lifeless body out of our house to the car that carries coffins.

Am I going to unclench my fists? Am I going to ask the One and Only Great Physician to start cleaning, bandaging, putting his healing balm on these wounds, welts, and open sores? Am I going to “make peace with what He gives?”

Yes. I have to. There is no other choice. The pulse slows. The blood pressure decreases. The heart stills and quietens as I look at the steps that took my Mama away. My fists relax. I open the hands just barely that are bruised, bloody, and full of welts… And, I hold them up to God. Straight in the air. And, I say…. “Father, help me to make peace with what You give.”

See, in my own way, I have determined that to grieve my Mama would be diminishing, taking away my grief for my son. I cannot do that. My grief for him has to be at my forefront at all times. Otherwise, the guilt rises. I relive the pain. Shutting down the pain from the dreary September day and putting the hot, sunny June day back in my sights. I cannot do both. I will die. Then I remember:

“Though He brings grief, he will show compassion, so great is His unfailing love. For, He does not willingly bring affliction or grief to anyone.” ~Lamentations 3: 32-33

Compassion. Healing. Soothing. Cleansing. Soundness.

I open the clenched fists all the way. For today. And, I will pray for the days to come that I continue to leave them opened. Maybe, one day, I can even take the bandages off?

10,000 Reasons

I can look straight ahead from my parents kitchen table into their living room. When I look up, I see a Hospital bed. My sweet Mama is in that hospital bed struggling for every breath she takes. Cancer is ugly. It is scary. It is painful. Cancer has made me have to prepare to say goodbye to my Mama.

She is the one that gets me. She knows my moods before I do. She knows what to say, when to say it, and how to say it to me. How am I supposed to live on this earth without her? I have asked God that very question over and over again for the last 2 months. And, honestly, I haven’t stopped asking the same question about the loss of my son, Chandler.

We brought my Mama home on Friday, October 30th. I took a leave of absence from work to care for her. To say that being a caregiver is one of the hardest things I have ever had to do is an understatement. The needs are constant. Caregivers do not get to sleep. They live on coffee and caffeine and just to keep going the best they can. Caregivers go outside and sit on the porch to weep. Sobs from down deep. Weeping because of their Mama laying in a bed so sick and there is not one thing that you can do to take it away. You treat the symptoms the best you can but you can’t take it away. Caregivers cry because they are tired and when they are tired they feel like they are doing the worst job in history of caregiving. I have known those that have been caregivers but I never knew what kind of job this was physically and emotionally until I was in the position.

But, caregivers…. see, we wouldn’t have it any other way. We would do it over and over again even if we did feel like the biggest failures. Caregivers hold hands. They sing. They have full blown conversations at three o’clock in the morning because those conversations are things that need to be said. Important things. Secret things. Things that a caregiver will hold in her heart until she meets her Mama again.

Early this morning, I had to make a trip to the porch. At two o’clock, I stood on the deck with coffee with tears in my eyes. My Mama is struggling. We are at the end. I can tell you this but my heart still tries to reject it. Even though my head knows, my eyes see. My heart is having trouble accepting that my Mama will be gone soon. Out of nowhere, I started thinking of the words to Matt Redman’s song, 10,000 Reasons:

“And on that day when my strength is failing, the end draws near and my time has come. Still my soul will sing your praise unending, 10,000 years and then forevermore.”

10,000 years and then forevermore is a very long time. God spoke over my soul to remind me just as He has many, many times about Chandler that this is not my home. It wasn’t Chandler’s home, my Mama’s home and it’s not your home. Our home is with God and the place that He has prepared for us. We are just visitors here.

It’s so important that we get that. This is NOT our home. Death can come so quickly that you don’t even realize what happened. Chandler lost his life in one instant. My Mom was diagnosed with Cancer in August. She is laying here now struggling for air. We don’t have all this time to make it right. We could be gone in an instant.

We need to get our hearts right with the one true Living God. The One who sent His Son to die on a cross for us and forgive us our sins. His Son is the ONLY way we will make it to our true homes. Again, this is not our home.

It seems that grief has became an almost constant in my life in the last few years. Loss has been right at my door. Most of the time I do not feel like my heart can take anymore and that I am going to lay down and die of heartache. But, I keep waking up each morning and slowly realizing that God has plans for me. He isn’t done with me yet.

I made a promise to my Mama in one of our late night talks. A promise that I would continue blogging. A promise to keep on the path of healing with God. I promised that I would somehow use my losses to try and help others who are suffering the same kind of pain as myself. I will be happy if my ramblings help one person that is in the very same spot that I am right now.

For me this is risky. My heart is broken. I keep adding up my losses and I’m scared. I don’t really know how to live. I surely don’t know how to take risks. The pain is too much sometimes. But, I will trust God. I will keep pushing forward in the race that He has for me.

And, I just want to thank all of you who are praying for my Mama and our family right now. We feel every, single one of them and your prayers are carrying us through right now.

In keeping my promise, I have moved my blog over to an actual website. By doing this, it can handle the traffic better. However, it will not carry over my previous blogs. You can still see my archives and past blogs at http://www.branditrent3.wordpress.com.

Also, my new website is http://www.branditrent.com

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Love to all, Brandi