“But God!” A Lesson About Moving Forward After Loss

I spoke at the “Bakersfield Gives Thanks” event on November 4th and the Women’s Club of Bakersfield was full of people from different denominations and cultures.  I made new friends that night but it was a blessing to be reunited with old friends too.

In particular, I saw a mom whose children went to junior high and high school with my children.  Nneka and I have seen each other throughout the years at school functions at our son’s tennis events.  But this time when our eyes met, I had no words.  I was overcome with emotion.

You see this was the first time I’ve seen her since her 15 year old son Nedu went home to be with the Lord last summer.  My friend Nikki happened to capture the moment:


Typically when a friend loses a loved one, WE are the ones consoling, hugging, loving them through the grief.

However, that night I experienced and witnessed true healing.  Nneka was consoling me!!

I remember looking at her and reaching out my arms to her.

I had no words.  My ugly cry face in the photo above communicated how sorry I was for her loss of a son gone too soon.

She looked at me square in the eyes and exclaimed, “I know…I know….BUT GOD!”  As tears filled my eyes, she said, “a year ago I would never think I could be here today….BUT GOD!”  Tears could not stop flowing.  With every breath I took, Nneka kept encouraging me, even saying…”it’s going to be okay…BUT GOD!”

As I sit here typing, I’m filled with emotion again.

What I’m learning on my journey of recovery is our trial isn’t going to last forever.  The sting of hurt, in time, doesn’t affect us like it did on day one. Every story has a beginning, middle and an end.  

Think about the end.

The end is what you’ll be telling your children.  The end is what others who are wounded are most interested in.  The end is what brings glory to our Lord.

I heard this quote from William Vanderbloomen, “Will I be healed up? Or damaged goods?”

We cannot control our circumstances, but we can control our response to said circumstances when: 

  • Churches split.
  • Children reject parents.
  • Spouses betray.
  • Friends move away.
  • Life storms challenge our faith.
  • Relatives misunderstand.
  • We have to say goodbye to loved ones.

Some of us, like Joseph in the Old Testament, are victims of hardship and broken hearts.  In the end, Joseph was found “healed up.”

If you are indeed a victim, my advice is to resist the temptation to have a pity party and welcome sympathetic hugs and words of agreement to your situation.  The world welcomes an attitude of entitlement and culture teaches us to seek vengeance.  

Pray to have a response such as my friend Nneka.  Remember this earth is NOT our home and our response to devastating situations is an important testimony to those watching us live out our Christian walk.

Nnekas’ son, Nedu, left this earth at only 15 years old.  No parent should out live their child.  I know there were times when her weeping became unbearable and her heart literally ached…however her words, “But God!” reminded her and should remind us, God is in every circumstance of our lives.

Genesis 8:1
But God remembered Noah and all the wild animals and the livestock that were with him in the ark, and he sent a wind over the earth, and the waters receded.

Genesis 50:20
You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.

Psalm 73:26
My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.

Matthew 19:26
Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.

2 Timothy 2:9
for which I am suffering even to the point of being chained like a criminal. But God’s word is not chained.

That evening left me encouraged.  I too want to be found like Nneka in the middle of life storms. She is living and moving forward in her new normal only via the grace and promises from our Lord.  

Thank you Nneka for inspiring me, being a Godly example and reminding me of God’s undeniable healing power.

Need prayer? kidmin.kelli@gmail.com 


Confessions of a Mama Who Misses Her Son

 

imageimage

I just returned from dropping off my baby boy at the New Mexico Military Institute. Heavy sigh.

Our family was blessed as the United States Merchant Marine Academy sent Kiani as a sponsored “prep,” to NMMI.  He’ll attend 2 semesters to prepare him for the rigorous military life at a Service Academy.

Kiani is my youngest child and he was sooooo ready to take his education to the next level.  Our family has already experienced sending our oldest off to school. My daughter Ilyssa is a Master’s College graduate, has a full time job and lives at home with us and my middle child, Jordan.  Jordan is entering his junior year as a Music major at Cal State Bakersfield.  I realize I have 2 out of 3 of my children still with me. So why am I sad?  I know I still get to be a “mom” to a daughter and son.  I know, I know, I know!

Not gonna lie…. I miss my son, my heart sill hurts and is swollen with bittersweet sadness as Kiani starts the next chapter in his life.

Anyone who knows me well can say it doesn’t take much to make me happy.  I don’t require a lot of attention, I coach softball, love to watch sports, love ministry, and I consider myself a low-maintenance type of gal.  I also have the privilege of serving the  families of my church, celebrating and supporting them in their good times and in their bad.

So as I begin to navigate the feeling of loss that’s welling up inside of me, I thought it would be easier than this.  Grief is felt when a loved ones dies, but it also manifests itself when there’s separation or major change.  We grieve what “used to be,”  a type of loss.

My heart is swollen as my mind replays the videos of Kiani turning on ESPN, opening and closing our blinds, parking his car, playing basketball and turning off all the lights before going to bed.   In all honesty,  I’m disappointed in myself as thought I’ve had over a year to prepare myself for his departure .  I also disappointed myself in January 2013 when my daddy passed away.  I was blessed to lead him to the Lord in 1993, so I know I’ll see him again and thought with all that knowledge, his passing is something I’d handle well.  But I found myself weeping more than I thought I would and the profound void I felt was horribly overwhelming.  Triggers like white Cadillacs, Costco and NCIS still bring tears to my eyes. I’m surprised by my reaction as I come from a line of very strong women, I’m a child of divorce and my mom and dad were married 4 times…each.  Survival mode comes easy for me as a coping mechanism.

The Sunday before his funeral, I remember waking up and looking at the clock.  It was 8:00 am and I remember saying to myself,  “Oh good, I can catch the 9 a.m. service at the local church in my hometown.”  As I tried to shower and get ready, it was like a wave of grief was simply poured over the top of my head.  Bawling uncontrollably  I said out loud, “I know, I know, I know, I know!”  I was telling the Lord,  “I know he’s in heaven, I know I’ll see him again.  Why am I crying?” The next thing I knew, it was 12 noon and I had a pile of used up Kleenex next to me on the couch.  To this day, I don’t know where those 4 hours went.

I concluded, it didn’t matter how much I prepared for the day when my daddy would die.  It didn’t matter that I was a Kid’s Director and worked at a church.  It didn’t matter I knew for a fact my daddy was in heaven.  It didn’t matter that I’d already buried my mom when I was 28.  It didn’t matter that I’ve consoled many families and counseled them on loss.

My body HAD to grieve.  God’s design is that the loss was to be released somehow…to Him.

So at this stage of being a mom, it doesn’t matter that I’ve known over a year Kiani would go away to college.  I am sad.  I miss him and my body is designed to grieve, whether I act strong or not.  Just like Kiani and all of our children, I remind myself they are DESIGNED TO GROW.  This is what the Lord has planned.   This season will pass and the days will get easier, but for now heading into my new normal without my baby boy can only be done as I surrender it all to my Jesus.  It is only through the comfort of my Savior and the hope he has given us that Heaven is eternal, that enables me to endure.

Here’s how I’m letting the Lord care for my Mama Heart:

There are two things that are helping me currently cope with missing my son.

The first is a wonderful support group created on facebook recently for us moms with sons and daughters prepping at NMMI for the USMMA.  There are many Empty Nest themed blogs and articles on the internet. Here are some examples:

http://www.christianitytoday.com/biblestudies/articles/churchhomeleadership/celebratingemptynest.html?start=2

http://www.modernmom.com/c763efd0-3b35-11e3-be8a-bc764e04a41e.html

Maybe your blessed to be friends with other parents that are experiencing the empty nest syndrome just as you are, connect with them.

The second, but most important is God’s Word.

I love what Exodus 34:29  says, When Moses came down from Mount Sinai with the two tablets of the covenant law in his hands, he was not aware that his face was radiant because he had spoken with the Lord.

After spending forty days in the presence of the Lord, God’s word says Moses’ face actually glowed. According to Pastor Jon Courson, “Moses’ face reflected the glory he had experienced on the mountain.”

  • Spend time in the presence of Lord
  • Be still at His feet
  • Take time to pray
  • Worship
  • Spend time in the Word

When we do the above, refresh and re-energize, our gloom is replaced by a glow.

Moses spent time with the Lord and that is a simple example to me and to us all who are dealing with loss, grief, betrayal, sadness etc.  I want to be found a woman whose face glows. I pray that I can light up a room when I enter it and yet not know it, like Moses.

Isaiah 40:31  “Those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength.”

 

 

 

Why You Should Stay Ahead of Your Kids Regarding Technology.

 image

Yesterday and today was my first time being on a web tv talk/radio show promoting one of my seminars, “Help! I’m a Parent of a Tech Savvy Teen.”  Thanks for having me Bakersfield.com

When talking about this issue, I’m referring to parents of teens and younger children.

From the feedback I’ve received, I’ve seemed to strike a chord not only with the parents who are my age, but the 20 something’s as well! These young men and women are telling me they wish they’ve had some sort of boundaries as they grew up with the world at their fingertips. Crazy!

Here are my reasons why parents should be ahead of their kids on technology:

  • Being educated keeps you in the know of what your kids are into.
  • It gives you insight into the world of your son or daughter.
  • It helps teenagers feel understood if parents have a clue or can relate to current trends they navigate every day.
  • It takes away the fear that can paralyze parents who don’t know how to benefit from technology.

Let’s be clear that I’m not promoting that parents become experts and start writing code. Bottom line, technology is NOT going away. I just pray for parents with high school or college age kids become empowered and that they don’t become that parent that wakes up to a world they no longer know.  I get it.  Technology can make one feel inferior in a heart beat.  But our God is bigger than all of the fears satan sends our way.  Parents DO have the power.  Dedicate 10-15 minutes a day and resolve to learn something new about social media or how to download music…whatever…just take the time and learn their world.

There’s a difference between being “up in all their business” and being aware of what your kids are into.  Helicopter parents…land the aircraft please.    One  benefit I’ve found with all three of my older kids is being educated about technology opens up opportunities for conversation. Your kids can even help you set up your Instagram account and be a filter for you. There are unwritten social rules about posting too many pics within thirty minutes etc.  Believe me, they’ll let ya know when you’re close to a violation.

 

image

Here’s the link to my interview.  How’d I do?

https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=ER-IKZpRXmo

 

Need an Event to Connect With the Families at Your Church?

Do you remember when you received a prestigious award at school or at work?

Do you remember when you got your first bible?

I’m banking on the fact that most of us can remember our awards much easier than when we got our first bible. The contrast of those events is something Group Publishing helped me capture and share with parents that their kids journey with Christ should be celebrated just as much as a graduation, end of season soccer party or birthday.  It’s a milestone, a biblical milestone!

In December, I held our 2nd “First Things First Bible Celebration.”  Our 1st graders were given their first bible in front of the entire congregation  A few weeks prior, a parent/child orientation was held to teach the 1st graders the significance of having their very own copy of God’s Word. On Sunday Dec. 8th, families were brought up on to the stage and Pastor Mike prayed over the bible recipients and their families.  It sure did make our 1st graders feel special and most of all, they felt supported by their church family.

As a Kid’s Director, I have found myself praying for ways that I can get to know my families more intimately.  I must say the unexpected blessing that developed through sharing this milestone with my 1st grade families was a unique… connection.  That connection benefited me so surprisingly.  Not only did the families receive a blessing, but I totally grew closer to some of the families through this event.  The 2nd graders who got their bibles last year got to relive the moment as they watched the celebration this year.  One of the things I love about ministry is that we have the privilege to be a part of a child’s story.

I highly recommend the curriculum “Family Faith Celebrations” by Group Publishing which covers other biblical milestones such as baby dedications, baptisms, salvation and more.  The idea came from Pastor Brian Haynes book titled, “Shift.”  I just wanted to share a “win-win” ministry idea.  Check it out and if you decide to implement this at your church, let me know how it worked out for ya.

Here’s the link to “Family, Faith Celebrations” Set

http://store.grouppublishing.com/OA_HTML/ibeCCtpItmDspRte.jsp?item=3156785&section=23306

Here’s the link to “Shift” by Brian Haynes

http://www.amazon.com/Shift-Takes-Finally-Reach-Families/dp/0764438980

20140113-210047.jpg

20140113-210101.jpg

20140113-210118.jpg

Is it just me? Or are parents delaying putting their babies in the nursery?

image

I’ve seen a decline of newborns to 6 month olds in our nursery ministry in the past few years.  The trend I’ve observed is millennial parents are delaying putting their precious ones in the nursery.  I witness posts like this, “Susie’s survived her first day in the nursery,”  and Susie is almost 5 months old.  Or, on Instagram,  a pic is posted of Adam’s first day in the nursery and Adam is full on standing. #timeshavechanged   We have a nursery area and a toddler area in our building and as I walk through on Sunday mornings, our nursery area is always empty. Which led me to pause, realize and identify this trend.  I see our volunteers playing with the babies rather than holding them because the infants are no where to be found.  Why do I care?  Why does it matter?  Well, my heart goes out to the parents of these precious ones.  When I hear of a 5 month old’s first day in the nursery, I wonder,

  • How were the parent’s being fed for the past 5 months?

In all honesty, as I “keep it real,” it’s easier to worship and take in a message without holding a baby and worrying about it’s needs.  Being a new parent is a time one can truly benefit from worship and hearing the Word of God.  It’s a time to be refreshed and ministered to.

  • How can our Nursery be a safe place for families to feel comfortable leaving their children?

I had to reevaluate our nursery.  I added a “Nursery Coordinator” to add and show value to this age group.  I had to be honest with myself that I needed help.  I just wasn’t giving the nursery the attention it deserved.  Miss Anna has been a welcome addition as she keeps me up on the latest and greatest in the nursery scene.  She’s a proud “MiMi” to two toddler granddaughters. Most importantly, she ensures week after week that we have ample help and enlists & trains volunteers that love our babies as if they’re their own.  As I revisited our nursery system I realized we were missing a major safety net. Fingerprinting!  We will live scan all our nursery workers beginning in 2014. We already fingerprint those who serve in the 2’s to 6th grade age groups. (If our volunteers get live scanned while their child is in the nursery…it makes it easier, one less step, for them to become Sunday school teachers.  Haha!)

  • How can our Nursery communicate, “Come on in! We’ve been waiting for you?”

I updated the nursery with soft play furniture and replaced the 20 yr old rockers with safe, comfy, upholstered gliders. Our seasoned volunteers were especially pleased.  We also bought mini gliders for our toddlers so they can watch Veggie Tales in style.  In order to help keep our carpet clean, we provide booties for volunteers to put on their feet or over shoes.  We use Netflix now and we longer have to search for lost DVD’s.  Did you know that parents these days don’t use the microwave anymore to warm up bottles?  We provide a bottle warmer we bought at Target.  We put a mailing label sticker on diapers letting parents know who changed it and at what time.

There’s much more I could discuss and I will as I enjoy my blogging journey in the future.  For now, I’m curious about your nursery ministry.  Is it just me? Or are parents at your church waiting to put their babies in your nursery and if so, how are you adapting?