Grieving My Aunts Sudden Death, Right Before Giving Birth

I received a text message from my mother before I had gotten out of bed, “Call me when you’re up. It’s important.”

I immediately got out of bed, my heart beating faster. I knew something very bad had happened, because there is no way she should ever text me like that otherwise. I tried to prepare my still sleepy mind for terrible news. Somebody I love must be badly hurt, or dead. I just didn’t know who. Part of me did not want to know, but delaying the phone call would not change anything.

I went into the bathroom and quietly called her. There were no typical pleasantries. We both knew there was only one reason for this phone call. There was no way to sugar coat the news, “Aunt Cookie is dead”.

Then, silence on my end. My head swimming with the abrupt finality of those words. Injured, or sick leaves room for hope. Death is unforgiving, leaving no space for second chances.

How? When? What on earth happened?

Not so many details yet. She was at a friend’s house. She overdosed on her medications. No one knows if it was intentional, or accidental.

She was hospitalized recently for suicidal depression. She had battled depression her entire life, but she had lost over 100lbs in recent years and seemed to be doing better. Did she do it intentionally? Then again, she was known to occasionally abuse her medications. In an attempt to get relief from her mental stress, she would take too many benzos or opiates. That is an easy way to accidentally overdose, and given her age and health status, it would be even easier.

Either situation leaves us in sudden grief. A poor decision made in haste, clouded by depression. She is gone. There is no way to bring her back to us. My cousins, and second cousins have lost their mother and grandmother. My mother and aunts have lost their sister. I have lost my aunt.

And I am nearly 40 weeks pregnant.

How do I manage death and new life simultaneously? How does my family embrace, and celebrate a new addition; while saying goodbye to another loved one?

And then, the practical concerns that plague those coping with death. The Funeral. The wake. What if I go into labor at the same time as the funeral service? How could I possibly miss it? How could I ask my mother to help me, support me, watch my children during labor if she is supposed to be saying goodbye to her sister?

All of this is sitting inside of me, eating me up.

We describe deep sadness as our “heart breaking”, or “soul crushing”. It is a not just a figure of speech, it literally feels as if my heart is breaking and my soul is being crushed. There is a physical element to emotional pain that is undeniable, and it is with me all day today. I am carrying that heaviness, just as real as my toddler on my hip and heavy baby in my womb.

I didn’t have a way to prepare for this. Life is often interrupted by a series of uncontrollable events. We are really not in control of many things, despite pretending otherwise.

As a believer, this is a time for me to get grounded in the Word. To remember that He is in control, and knows all things. He is our comforter, our healer, and our refuge in times of need. I have to trust in Him, to continue to guide this pregnancy until birth. I have to trust him, even in the face of death and loss. I am reminded of my mortality as well. We are not promised tomorrow, so let’s make the best of today. And remember to tell our loved ones how much we value them in our lives, because you may not have another chance.

Shalom.

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Don’t Allow Stress to Steal Your JOY

Money on my mind lately. Career. School. Needs. Wants. Future. Housing. It’s a lot. I think money, or the lack of it, or the fear of the lack of it, is a worry on many minds. It hurts to spend many hours away from family, for little in return. Many people my age are trying to work in the “gig economy”, trying to maintain some freedom and do what they enjoy. With children, there is not always a choice about what to do but we keep striving for that perfect job or situation where we can be happy and provide for our family. But the stress, it can literally kill you! Stress has been shown to be WORSE than cigarettes. It lowers your immune system, taxes your heart. And for the spirit, it kills faith and turns your focus to the worldly needs we have. It steals JOY. It robs us of loving relationships, marriages fall under the stress and the blame game. So, I am making an effort to breath, keep going one foot in front of the other one, knowing that the right path leads to the right things if only I don’t step aside. Every night I pray with my children “give us this day, our daily bread”. Just for *that* day! I leave you with the words of the wisest one, the King of Kings; Matthew 6:25-34

25 “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? 26 Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? 27 Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life[a]?

28 “And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. 29 Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. 30 If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith? 31 So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32 For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. 33 But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. 34 Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.

Feast of Trumpets/Yom Teruah Introduction for Elementary Students

This is a simple introduction based on Messianic/Hebrew Roots beliefs to Yom Teruah/Feast of Trumpets. Please enjoy and use as you wish. Shalom.

 

Yom Teruah

What is it about?

Leviticus 23:24

“Say to the Israelites: ‘On the first day of the seventh month you are to have a day of sabbath rest, a sacred assembly commemorated with trumpet blasts.”

Numbers 29:1

“On the first day of the seventh month hold a sacred assembly and do no regular work. It is a day for you to sound the trumpets.”

Yom Teruah, or the Feast of Trumpets, is a special day set apart by Yahweh. The trumpet blast reminds us to focus on Yahweh and celebrate him as our Elohim (God) and Creator of the universe. We think about our sins, and confess them, knowing he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins through faith in Yahushua. We are also reminded that Yahushua is King and he will come back to earth with the sound of the last trumpet blast.

We can shout in praise and joy to the sound of the trumpet, knowing we will be with Messiah our King when he comes back. Yahweh has us celebrate this event now, even though it has not happened yet, because we can trust his Word to come true.

1 Thess 4:16-17

“For the Master (Yahushua) Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet of Elohim, and the dead in Messiah will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Master in the air, and so we shall always be with the Master.”

1 Cor 15:51-52

“Behold, I tell you a mystery; we will not all sleep, but we will all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet; for the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed.”

 

When is it?

The seventh month, called Tishri, in the Biblical calendar. Yom Teruah Begins a 10 day period of repentance (asking for forgiveness for our sins), also called the “days of awe”, which ends with the Holy Day Yom Kippur.

 

Vocabulary Words

Teshuva– Returning to Yahweh through repentance (sorry for our sins, seeking forgiveness, changing sinful behavior). To turn away from sin.

Shofar– Ancient ram’s horn used by Israelites in battle, and ritual (still used today).

10 Days of Awe– Ten day period between Yom Teruah and Yom Kippur, focused on prayer and teshuva.

Psalm Verses for Yom Teruah

Psalm 98:4-9

4 Shout to Yahweh, all the earth;

break out in praise and sing for joy!

5 Sing your praise to Yahweh with the harp,

with the harp and melodious song,

6 with trumpets and the sound of the ram’s horn.

Make a joyful symphony before Yahweh, the King!

Links for further study

https://hebrew4christians.com/Holidays/Fall_Holidays/Rosh_Hashannah/rosh_hashannah.html

http://www.eliyah.com/fallfeasts.html

Forgiveness

It is hard to add to her testimony of faith and healing. I urge everyone to read it and be spiritually strengthened, and also to help take practical action to fix our legal system that has allowed this injustice to occur.

Toddling Faith

This is the most difficult post I have written. August 16th  is the 7-year anniversary of my family’s death. Although I have shared about my loss and the tragic events that took place, I have been relatively private regarding the legal aspect of this journey. However, recent events have compelled me to speak up and try to raise public awareness regarding my family’s experience with the criminal justice system. Something is amiss and needs to be brought to light. “If you see something, say something”. We are regularly reminded that we should speak up when something does not seem right. I have learned that ignoring what we see and hear can lead to destruction.

I have four goals in sharing my story:

  1. I hope to raise community awareness that my brother is being recommended for outpatient treatment and may be gaining access to the public.
  2. I hope that…

View original post 1,653 more words

Kiwi Crate Review for Homeschooling

Hello! I decided to order the kiwi crate for my 7yr old daughter as a way to supplement her STEM education in a fun way. I like it so much I plan on adding my 6yr old to get a crate just for her, and a Koala crate for my 4yr old.

*I have NO association with this company, and I am getting nothing for this review. I am just a regular costumer*

So, the first crate came in the mail in July. I told my daughter she would getting mail, and showed her the commercials from the website. She was excited, and we tracked the package from California all the way to our home state of NJ which turned out to be fun in its own way. Getting the mail is part of the whole experience for my kids.

The first crate we received was the claw. (Which I accidentally deleted pictures of! Opps)

This month’s crate had two projects for a kaleidoscope.

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1.) The materials are very well made. For the price, I am pleased with the quality of materials being used and I expect the creations to last for a while.

2.) The directions are clear, include pictures, and are easy to follow. I helped my daughter with reading some of it because she isn’t a grade level reader, but she did the majority of the actual building.

3.) Each box comes with a magazine that goes over the STEM subject being explored. It includes activities, stories, and MANY other projects you can do at home with basic things you likely have on hand. It really is a lot for the price because you can use those projects for the rest of the month. The extras really drive home the STEM lesson in a fun way.

4.) The element of surprise! This goes along with the enjoyment the kids get from receiving their own mail, each time the contents are a surprise. My daughter loves opening the box and not knowing what she will be making or learning about. It helps to keep their interest.

5.) It makes it easy on parents! I put together my own homeschooling curriculum, which is a lot of work for the core subjects. I am happy to have something delivered to my doorstep, that includes everything we need. I don’t have to go out and purchase more materials, and I don’t have to put it together. I welcome easy, it’s rare!

Also, the first month I was able to get the box for 50% off just by signing up with my email and sharing a post about it on Facebook. It is worth the try, and I think it’s a great addition to homeschool.

https://www.kiwico.com/

Biblical Response to Cutting/Self-Injury

I gave myself a rare treat tonight; a nice hot bath. As a mother of 4 (and counting) taking a bath is an indulgance I don’t often get to enjoy. I was listening to an audio book of the gospel of John, when I noticed the marks all over my body.

First, I looked at my tattoos. I tend to not see my tattoos, really see them, because I have had them for so long since a young age. They kind of just look like my skin to me. But tonight I noticed them and thought about the journey I have been on, each one meant something to me at the time. I used to hide my tattoos with long sleeves and high collared shirts after becoming a Christian, but now I usually don’t hide them. It’s not something I can change, and it brings up conversations with people who might otherwise not have talked to me. Many of my tattoos represent a previous belief system.

Similar to a previous belief system, my scars represent a previous way of life and thinking as well. My eyes moved from my tattoos to the countless white scars covering my left forearm, all around it, every inch.

They used to be bright red, but have now faded into a pale white. They form ridges and valleys, layer upon layer upon layer; 10 years of self injury. I looked at the tiny white dots surrounding some of them, scars from the stitches I was given for the worst of them. I turned my arm over and recalled being 14 years old, 16 years old; I still remember the places and the objects I used. Burns and cuts alter my body forever.

My heart felt sorrowful. I felt compassion and sadness towards my former self. I was only 11 years old the first time I took something sharp and used it against myself for relief. I was 21 the last time I did it.

Now, I can’t fathom hurting myself intentionally. The very idea is horrifying, but this was far from the case when I was younger. The pain was so deep, so profound, and I lacked the ability to cope with it.

I began to think of the reasons why I once found it acceptable, even irresistible, to hurt myself; and then God gave me words against those reasons. Truth sets us free. I want to expose the twisted thinking behind my self-injury to the light of the gospel. I hope it helps those still struggling, and gives insight to those who have not.

1.) I self-injured because I preferred the physical pain over the emotional pain. I didn’t think I could handle the severity of my depression. I ran from the emotions that hurt me by deflecting it.

Psalm 147:3 “He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds”

Psalm 23:4 “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me…

He is with us in our pain. He does not leave us alone in it. Even in the valley of death, we can find his comfort and love with us. He may not remove the suffering or circumstance, but he never makes us walk it alone. We have his help!

2 Cor 1:3-4 “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ (Yeshua Messiah), the Father of compassion and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we may comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves received from God”

When we are comforted by God, we can then extend that comfort to those who find themselves in the same situations we once faced. I can talk to people who have endured mental illness and addiction and abuse, because I have been there. I have experienced his comfort in that, and help others with it now. This is part of how God uses what was meant as evil for good.

2.) I self-injured because I believed that I deserved to be hurt. I hated myself, and I punished myself.

John 3:16 “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life”

Romans 5:8 “But God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us”

Zeph 3:17 “The Lord your God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save; he will rejoice over you with gladness; he will quiet you by his love; he will exult over you with loud singing”

Romans 8: 37-39 “No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord (Yeshua Messiah)”

1 John 4:9 “In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him”

There are SO many bible verses about God’s love for us that I could not possibly list them all. We have been saved by grace, there is NO reason to punish yourself for real or imagined sins. We are called his children, do we want our children to hate or hurt themselves? Of course not! In fact it would grieve us terribly if they did, just as it grieves our Father in heaven when we do. Knowing and accepting and believing in His LOVE for us heals self-hate. How can we hate ourselves when we are made in His image and loved so very much by him?

3.) I felt at times like I was detached from reality, and hurting my body felt like a reminder of what was real

Phil 4:8 “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things”

The scriptures point us to the greater reality, beyond the things of this world. We are not merely flesh and blood, but also spirit. We can focus our mind on the things above, on what is true. That is the reality that I seek to remember now.

Finally, what can we tell people who believe but are hurting themselves? First of all, start with compassion and understanding. Gal 6:2 “Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you fulfill the law of Christ(Messiah)” 

Remind them of how loved they are. Remind them that they will never be forsaken. Remind them that they are forgiven. Remind them that our Savior himself is very familiar with pain, he can relate to those who are suffering because he suffered so much. Isaiah 53:3 “He was despised and rejected by mankind, a man of suffering, and familiar with pain…”

Explain that our body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, and we are not our own. Our body and our life is a gift from God to be cherished. Weep with those who weep, mourn with those who mourn. Do not let your brother or sister be in pain all alone. Come alongside them, and don’t minimize their pain.

Lastly, I want to remind Christians that mental illness is a serious thing. We are physical, emotional, and spiritual beings. Some people will take medication to help them on their path of healing, some will not. Too often well meaning believers encourage others to stop taking their medication, this can be a dangerous thing to do. The withdrawal process alone can cause serious psychological and physical issues. Please do not offer advice on these matters unless you are very knowledgeable on the subject, and only when the person themselves wants that help. There are varied ways to health and healing, taking medication does not mean one doesn’t have faith in God anymore than using a wheelchair means you don’t believe you can be healed.

I hope my experience can be helpful, and I am open to other suggestions from those of you are in recovery or helping people in recovery.

Shalom.