“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 


I Know This Is God’s Plan, So Why Does My Heart Hurt?



On Mother’s Day, I said farewell to my daughter and son in love as they embark on a 2-3 year adventure in South Korea. Did you know Korea is 13 different time zones away from California? Did you know that South Korea is literally on the other side of the world?  And, Korea is 16 hours ahead of the Pacific time zone?  I never thought I would ever want to know those facts.

In the past two years I have suddenly become a proud military mama.  My youngest son is attending the United States Merchant Marine Academy and last December Ilyssa married Charlie, a 2014 West Point Grad.  Charlie is now proudly serving our country abroad after graduating from Army Aviation School at Fort Rucker Alabama this past March.  He is a Chinook helicopter pilot.  Whoo Hoo!


When they were dating and eventually engaged and then married, It was crystal clear to Ernie and I that Ilyssa and Charlie would not live in Central California and that they would be traveling where ever the Army sends them.  I knew, I knew, I knew.

Just like we know the following:

  • We know our children will graduate from high school and possibly move away to attend college.  
  • We know our kids will move out and start a family of their own someday.  
  • We know their room will be empty.  
  • We know there will be no more recitals or games to attend.  
  • We know we won’t be able to smell them.  
  • We know it’ll be quiet around the house.  
  • We know our simple weekly routines like grocery shopping or to Target will remind us of them.
  • And oh, we now know how grateful we are for today’s technology.

If we know all of that…WHY DOES IT STILL HURT WHEN WE SAY GOODBYE???  I thought I was prepared but my head knowledge wasn’t syncing with my heart knowledge.

Part of the problem is that I have said goodbyes in the past and I knew the hurt that was ahead of me.  I knew that sinking feeling of a swollen heart. I know the heaviness and huge lump that would once again take residence in my throat.  Ilyssa moved to The Master’s College in 2010, my daddy passed away in 2013 and Kiani has moved to New Mexico and moved to New York last summer.  

All throughout the day on Sunday, I caught myself praying and trying to pump myself up for the hug and kiss goodbye.  We did a little Mama / Daughter bonding and got pedicures.  I brought a 12 inch Smith’s Cookie to help celebrate the 3 birthdays that we would be physically missing.  




But as morning became the afternoon and afternoon became the evening our hugs got a bit longer.  My breaths became a bit deeper.  I wanted to shut down the ticking time clock that was the elephant in the room.  I even thought let’s just get this over with.  

I was mentally trying to prepare myself like a batter with an 0-2 count or when I have to make an awkward but necessary phone call.  “Deep breaths. It’ll be okay in few days.  This is God’s plan,” was the mantra in my mind.

I cried for the first hour and a half of our trip home.  Not gonna lie, I was a blubbering  idiot.  My son Jordan drove home and was so sweet, patting and holding my hand, attempting to console me.  I remember saying, “I know, they’ll be okay and this is the Lord’s plan.”

I felt guilty for crying.  I felt like I was doubting God.  But the Lord reminded me that I’m grieving.  I’m grieving a relationship.  I’m going to miss them.  Period.  And it’s okay.

I did the same thing when my daddy died.  I remembering vividly yelling out to Jesus, “Why am I crying???  I know he’s in heaven.  I know he’s in paradise!   Why am I crying??”

I’ve concluded that grief is a part of our life on this side of heaven.  There is no escaping it. I’ve realized that our bodies need to process the loss we feel.  It is not a sign of weakness.  It’s the way our bodies and how our hearts heal.

I fought it with the death of my daddy and to no avail.  Grief hit me again at La Guardia when leaving New York WITHOUT Kiani.  I remember walking to our gate when I realized he’ll never be moving back.  I distinctly remember telling Ernie, “He’s never going to live in Bakersfield again.” Heavy, heavy sigh.

What has helped me cope is recognizing that our children are designed to grow.  It isn’t God’s plan for them to forever be under our care.  It’s a time for us to focus more attention to our spouse.  He has perfect plans for our kids.  Who am I to stymie their growth?

 It’s been almost a week since Ilyssa and Charlie have moved to the other side of the world and the Lord has helped me through my sadness and sense of loss.  FaceTime has also helped too!  Ha ha! The Lord reminded me that the emotions I’m enduring are the instruments He uses to help me surrender to Him.  As a strong willed woman with type A characteristics, I have learned through the many “goodbyes” in my life how to trust in my Lord instead of myself.  

“My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.”   2 Corinthians 12:9

My need for peace has deepened the doorways for my need of intimacy with my Savior.   This is why Jesus left paradise to live on earth.  I have assurance that Christ is entirely good because the Lord has met my every need in every circumstance of my life.  Even saying goodbye to my children.  The Apostle Paul was telling the Corinthians here about a difficult situation he went through… 

“For we do not want you to be unaware, brothers, of the affliction we experienced in Asia. For we were so utterly burdened beyond our strength that we despaired of life itself.  Indeed, we felt that we had received the sentence of death. But that was to make us rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead. He delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us. On him we have set our hope that he will deliver us again. You also must help us by prayer, so that many will give thanks on our behalf for the blessing granted us through the prayers of many.  2 Corinthians 1:8-9 (ESV)

For all of my future empty nest friends that will eventually have to say “goodbye” to their lifelines of joy, and who are diligently documenting the “lasts” in their lives….lean into the pain with Jesus.  It’s normal to cry and feel sad.  This is not heaven yet.  Don’t try to be strong. Or as Queen Elsa sings, “Let it go!” and trust in Jesus.

“Jesus answered them, “Do you finally believe? In fact, you’re about to make a run for it—saving your own skins and abandoning me. But I’m not abandoned. The Father is with me. I’ve told you all this so that trusting me, you will be unshakable and assured, deeply at peace. In this godless world you will continue to experience difficulties. But take heart! I’ve conquered the world.”  John 16:33 (MSG)


I’ve looked up some articles and blogs that might help as you navigate your new normal.  The sadness will come upon you like waves of the ocean.  Stay and abide in our Savior’s presence.  I’ll be praying for all of us.



Highlights from USA Today:

  • Shift aside the terrifying thoughts.
  • Explore the ways that you intend to keep in touch with your children.
  • Understand what empty nest syndrome is, so that you can recognize the symptoms in your own situation.
  • Accept support.
  • Start looking to your own needs.
  • Rediscover the love of your life.


Grown & Flown.  Parenting Never Ends   http://grownandflown.com/category/high-school/

Celebrating the Empty Nest    http://www.christianitytoday.com/biblestudies/articles/churchhomeleadership/celebratingemptynest.html




Confessions of a Mama Who Misses Her Son



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:



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.”