Valley Walking

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It’s truly amazing how the God of the entire universe cares about all the little details of my life. And even more, He orchestrates all these seemingly trivial things to teach me, comfort me, convict me and sing over me. Let me share how He’s using my daily life to help my valley walking.

I’ve been reading a children’s version of Pilgrim’s Progress to the boys at night. Noah is really into it. Jacob tries to listen. Levi…well, he does acrobats to try to survive the 15-20 minutes of Old English. This book is painting such a great picture of life as a follower of Christ, and it’s reminding me that I am a pilgrim here on earth (and in Kenya).

I’ve been reading Laura Story’s devotional book, What if Blessings Come Through Raindrops?, as my morning devotional. On a morning that I was really struggling with a specific unanswered prayer, one quote really caught my attention. C.S. Lewis says, “Prayer is request. The essence of request, as distinct from compulsion, is that it may or may not be granted. And if an infinitely wise being listens to the requests of finite and foolish creatures, of course He will sometimes grant and sometimes refuse them.” And that’s the way the God of the universe speaks to me most frequently. Although He has been using this method of communication with me for years and years, I’m still in awe of it. Over and over, He proves that He loves me and cares for me and every detail of my life.

I’ve completed a study on a small portion of David’s life called Anointed, Transformed, Redeemed. It was challenging and difficult at times. It took me way longer than 6 weeks to complete. It convicted me that I must keep moving forward. I must be intentional about seeking God, receiving blessings, looking for the blessings amidst the sorrow, and finding joy in the valley.

Therefore, I’ve started to memorize the book of I Peter. I conquered James, so I figured I’d just keep going. It’s incredibly helpful to have such focused Bible reading. I’m all for reading through the entire Bible, but I’ve loved the challenge and the meditation that memorizing a chapter of the Bible brings.

I’ve been listening to JJ Heller, Steven Curtis Chapman and Shane & Shane. I love their heart-felt songs about grief, suffering, and praising God. Sometimes I feel like they wrote the lyrics after spending time in my brain or heart. So many of their songs have fresh, new depth that I never recognized or related to before Hannah’s homegoing. It’s a blessing to have a vast and varied music library. (I guess that means I’m thankful for my husband’s music addiction!)

I’ve been reading Unglued, a book by Lysa TerKeurst, with some of the women on the compound. It’s an incredibly practical book that is speaking volumes to me. Although the book seems to focus on outbursts caused by anger, the Holy Spirit has been using it to convict me of another kind of ‘unglued.’ And this is where I find myself having the most difficulty right now.

Before ushering Hannah into heaven, I was a normal mom of 4 young kids. I’d have those over-tired, really-stressful days that I’d yell at my kids or snap at my husband or do something in public that brought dishonor to God. I became unglued and acted ugly. Now, though, I’m forever changed. Anger hasn’t been as big of an issue. Sure, I do act out in anger toward people on occasion, but it isn’t as frequent as before. Maybe it’s because my kids are entertained by friends all afternoon, the weather is almost always nice here, and my husband and househelpers make being a homeschooling, stay-at-home mom SO much easier and enjoyable. (I’m not claiming maturity here.) Maybe it’s because I’m so close to becoming unglued in a much different way.

I used to pride myself on being a strong, independent woman. That’s what American women are supposed to be, right? Well, ever since adulthood, the Holy Spirit started revealing the lies and self-righteousness and pride that is wrapped up in that kind of worldly thinking. So, over the past 10-15 years, God has been humbling me and transforming my view of myself. In the past, prior to Hannah’s illness, He typically taught me a little at a time. Well, the 24 hour whirlwind that resulted in good-byes to our princess wasn’t as gentle or as incremental as before. It was more like God took my (hard) heart and crushed it in a way that can never be fully fixed (at least not this side of heaven).

That’s where the unglued part comes in. Over the past almost 8 months, I have lived my life on the verge of being emotionally unglued. That’s new for me. I’m usually hard to make cry. I’m typically very realistic and level-headed and not driven by emotions. I’m not one of those girls who cries at movies, and I liked being ‘strong.’ Now, though, I can cry at the drop of a hat. If we had TV, I’m sure I could cry at any given commercial at any given time for no apparent reason. This makes me so uncomfortable.

Essentially, it makes me uneasy because it means I’m vulnerable. And who likes to be vulnerable? I mean, it’s fine when you’re in the company of close friends and family, but it’s quite different when it’s all the time. For example, while at Brackenhurst, this young family with a little blonde-headed little girl walked into the dining hall. They seemed to be there alone, so I really wanted to sit with them and chat. However, I resisted. Every time I caught a glance of that little girl, I thought of Hannah and I started to tear up. I didn’t want to start crying as I introduced myself and my family. I didn’t want to be reminded of what I lost. I didn’t want to make a fool of myself. I didn’t want to see what I was missing.

So that’s the hardest part of this phase of valley walking. It’s still an uphill climb. Most days are good, but the bad days are quite bad. As I’m learning how to live with this new and softer heart, my pride is being tested and stripped away. It’s a good thing. I know that God is making me more like Him, and I’m grateful for that…It’s doesn’t make it any easier or more enjoyable though.

Psalm 51:17 “My sacrifice, O God, is a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart you, God, will not despise.”

Isaiah 57:15 “For this is what the high and exalted One says—he who lives forever, whose name is holy:
‘I live in a high and holy place, but also with the one who is contrite and lowly in spirit, to revive the spirit of the lowly and to revive the heart of the contrite…'”

Praises and Prayer Requests: 

1. Praise God for good reading material!

2. Praise God for a blessed life, my children, my husband and extended family and family of believers.

3. Please pray for wisdom as we plan and try to prepare for November 14 (8 months since Hannah went to heaven), Thanksgiving, December 14 and Christmas. We want our boys to enjoy the holidays, and yet we want to grieve (and allow them to grieve) appropriately.

4. Pray for our mentor family as they serve in South Sudan over the next week.

5. Pray that Levi will stay in his bed all night. When we travel, he tends to wake up and crawl into bed with us. Now, that we’re back home, we’ll need to get him (and all of us) back to restful sleeps…that means, he needs to stay in his own bed! Pray for all of us to recover quickly. The week away was fun but exhausting for all of us. School starts in the morning! Let’s hope for an easy transition, with no melt downs.

6. Pray for my husband’s sanity. We came home to a house covered in rat poop. As I was writing this post, he was rat hunting. Aaron did spot the rodent, so we’re asking that the rat will meet the trap and that the trap will cause immediate death of Frank (yes, Aaron named the rat).

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7 responses »

  1. Stephanie, I am in awe of your faithfulness and strength and maturity. I too walk this valley of grief as I have lost my daughter and granddgt. on 3/22/12. I struggle daily and anger has overtaken my heart. I tried to contact you on your trip to Pa. but you were on your way back to Kenya so we did not officially meet. Thank you for your writings. God is using you in ways you cannot even imagine.

  2. Dear Stephanie,

    We are studying I Peter at Salem this fall too. AS if parenting and life as a missionary aren’t hard enough, God is now allowing this most difficult thing in your life to walk through. My heart cries for you every time I come across your card with your pictures on it which I keep in my Bible. I lost a child through miscarriage three years ago. I know that’s not the same as getting to know your little one. I have some other significant struggles in my life. Hold on to the joys your little boys bring. Write them down and remember them in the valleys. Those valleys won’t last forever

    I Peter 5:10 And after you have suffered a little while (for God, but a long while sometimes for us), the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, establish and strengthen you.

    God will give you the grace to get through this day, or hour or minute. This is how he is teaching is to trust him moment by moment. Isn’t it amazing how just when we think we are doing that, He again shows us how much more we need him? He will carry you and one day you will pass that on to others. In fact you already are by your honesty in your postings. We are all praying for you at Salem. God Bless!

  3. As I mentioned to a coworker last week..Never apologize for tears and especially for tears related to grief! I have them for you so let them flow. Anyone that has children and/or grand children share in your tears! You are an amazing young lady! Keep writing…always beautiful healing words.

  4. May “Frank” meet a quick demise and you all have restful sleep and regular routines will be established without delay in Jesus’ name! Amen

  5. As you said, it’s really hard to let yourself be vulnerable, especially when you think others are watching and you feel you need to be an example of faith. It’s hard to get past it, but grief has a way of making it impossible to avoid and brings with it an uncomfortable humility. We are 3 years in our grief and it has taken a long time to allow myself times when I come unglued. The Heavenly Father will always be there to help pick up the pieces and glue us back together. HUGS! Sherri
    http://thenewmans.blogspot.com/

  6. Steph, I’ve been praying for you guys since I first heard your story two or three days after Hannah went to be with Jesus. Your honesty and God-glorifying attitude have been such a blessing to me in so many ways. Three weeks ago I miscarried a very wanted second child and your blog posts have been a huge encouragement to me to open up with others and not try to carry the grief myself. Everything you wrote here about not being comfortable with vulnerability and always being the emotionally strong one so resonates with me. It’s frightening to suddenly find myself on the verge of tears multiple times a day and (God forbid) sometimes in public! But who am I to deny my brothers and sisters in Christ the opportunity to rejoice with those who rejoice and mourn with those who mourn?

    Your post and my own experience put me in mind of Ezekiel 36:26. “I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; I will take the heart of stone out of your flesh and give you a heart of flesh.” It’s a painful process but praise the Lord, He walks with us in all things.

    Praying for your sweet family.

  7. Hi there, my name is Jana, and I found your blog through the friend of a friend. I was wondering if you would let me ask you a few questions, as we are in process of support raising to work with AIM Air in Kenya/Sudan/Uganda. I have been blessed by reading your blog. Merry Christmas!

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