The phone call

Mom and I are sitting at the kitchen table of our new home. I am four-years-old. I am eating a grilled cheese and ham sandwich. It is so yummy.

Mom always butters the bread before putting it in the oven, and the grease marks show up on the ever-present white paper plates we use for our lunches. After I eat, Mom sometimes gives me a little felt-tip marker and lets me draw designs in black ink on the plate around the grease marks. I hope she will let me do that today.

The yellow phone on the wall starts ringing. Mom stands up and answers it. I keep eating. It is the best sandwich ever. She does not talk for long and comes back to the table.

There are tears in her eyes.

“What’s wrong, Mom?” I ask. “Who was that?”

Mom looks at me. “It was bad news, son. Julie died.”

Julie lived in our old neighborhood and had been battling cancer since before we moved. Not long ago, one of her legs was amputated in an attempt to fight off the disease.

She was courageous through all the challenges she faced, always smiling. Always nice to me, the little neighbor boy up the street. She was 13-years-old. Until now, I have never personally known anyone who died.

“Will she go to Heaven, Mom?” By the time I was born, my family had stopped attending church for various reasons. However, Mom had taught me about God, Jesus, and Heaven very early on.

“Yes, she will. Remember, no one ever hurts there. She is not sick anymore.”

“Does she have both of her legs again now?” I ask.

“Yes, she does, and she is running again up in Heaven. She is happy.”

I look back at my sandwich, which I had been so joyfully eating only a moment before. Now, my whole world is different. Julie is gone.

“Mom, I was hungry before. But now I am not hungry anymore. Why?”

“It’s because you’re sad about Julie,” she says. She holds me in her arms, and I cry.

I never finish the best sandwich ever.

* * *

Though our families unfortunately lost touch soon thereafter, I still remember Julie some forty years later because of how kind she always was to me.

I do not recall her family’s name, but today, I pray for them.

flowers
Credit: JC

Heavenly Father,

Please bless the surviving family of my childhood friend, Julie. I am sure, Father, they still feel the void of her absence every day. May You continue to lift them up and remind them that she is with You. May You lead any of them who are not yet saved to You, and may You walk even closer with those already saved. May You always provide them with happy memories when their hearts feel sad.

In the blessed name of Jesus I pray.

Amen

* * *

In retrospect, I know now in her own moment of sadness, my Mom had to make difficult decisions as far as how to answer the questions of four-year-old me. She chose right.

Though it was very upsetting, two of the comforts I had about the death of Julie when I was a child were that she would feel better and that she would be in Heaven.

Indeed, I will get to see Julie again in the Perfect Place. That still brings me comfort.

Thank you for reading. May God bless you.

“But for you who revere my name, the sun of righteousness will rise with healing in its rays. And you will go out and frolic like well-fed calves.”
Malachi 4:2

Holding on to my Heaven

Have you ever loved someone so much that the very thought of her or him filled you with absolute joy? I mean sheer joy. The kind of love that fulfills the dreams of not only your heart, but your very soul? Your very best dreams, those secret dreams that you never thought could become reality. The kind of person that inspires you to strive to better yourself? You would give up your very life to protect her or him.

I am blessed to share a mutual love with such a person in my life. She loves me for me, unconditionally, and I feel the same for her. She means the world to me, and I cannot imagine a future without her. While I have conquered many fears in recent months since beginning my walk with Jesus, I still have a number of them that plague me.

The biggest fear I have is losing this person. Oh, I don’t mean due to an argument or a misunderstanding, as those kinds of situations would no doubt be temporary between us. I have complete confidence in the longevity of our relationship. No, my fear is losing her to the Perfect Place if she is called Home before me.

Oh, I try to reason through it. She belongs to Jesus, after all, not to me or anyone else. Heaven really is perfection, so I should be happy for her if she goes first.

While I would be happy for her, I would also be devastated for me. No, devastated is an understatement. I would be crushed. Destroyed. There would be nothing left of me. For she is my entire future. I was created to serve next to her, to hold her, and to love her.

I experience Heaven right here on the Earth when I am by her side. People seek true happiness all of their lives, and I have found mine in her. Were she to be ripped away from me, I know I would see her again, for we will have eternity together. Until then, however, this place would become my hell.

I am supposed to give her up to Jesus, to whom she already belongs anyway. She is not even mine to give, yet I hold on to her, I cling to her. Even a theoretical thought of losing her can bring me to tears.

fog
Credit: JC

“How do you know what your life will be like tomorrow? Your life is like the morning fog—it’s here a little while, then it’s gone.”
James 4:14

Life is fleeting. The days seem to pass faster and faster. We only have so many days, and I love most of all the ones I share with her. The thought of having endless tomorrows without her is unbearable. We are supposed to be together. Why do I waste any of the limited days we have here on anything besides her?

The raw truth is that this is a trust issue between me and God. I know in my heart that He created this love, that He literally designed us for one another, and that He brought us together. So, why can’t I trust Him to give us enough tomorrows? While it feels as if there can never be sufficient time with her, this is the same God that created eternity, after all. Nothing is beyond His power.

Why can’t I trust that He will guide me through the pain should she go first? For He would be all I have left, the only hope I would have to continue my journey if she were gone.

I dislike even typing about losing her. I don’t even want to post this, but I always write what comes to mind here. No filters.

Some may say I love her too much, that I need to redirect that love to Jesus. No, I can never believe I love her too much. God is love. He created our infinite love. It is impossible to love too much. I love her more every day. When she says, “I love you,” I am filled with absolute joy. I am giddy. I refuse to believe there is anything wrong with that, either.

Of course I love Jesus, and He loves me unconditionally. He has literally given up His life for me, for all of us. The fact that I do not fully trust Him, particularly with her, is my fault. It is something I am working on. Jesus also fills me with joy. My love for her does not take anything away from my love for Jesus or my personal relationship with Him.

As is so often the case, I offer no real answers today. This is but a presentation of my heart, for all I can do is put my loved one in His arms, and let Him take us from there.

Thank you for reading. May God bless you.

“Into your hands I commit my spirit; deliver me, Lord, my faithful God.”
Psalm 31:5

Searching for peace

Sometimes I wonder if I will ever be at peace with myself. I make steps forward and then take steps back. Jesus lifted my chains when I was saved, and then I betray his love by putting some of them back on.

I still fight my anxiety. Every day. Yesterday morning, I was forced to attend a large meeting of about 400 people. I did not have to speak or really do anything at said meeting except be there and at least appear to listen.

From the time I sat down, I was anxious. I arrived with only a minute to spare, so I had to sit between two people I did not know. I still do not know them, for I was not in a good place. I was not able to shine the light and speak with them as I should have.

I reached out to my Bible Study Partner (BSP) for comfort via text, and that helped immensely for a time. However, I eventually reached a point where I stopped texting because I did not want to appear disrespectful to one of the speakers. As the anxiety flowed through my veins again, an extremely dark thought entered my mind, the kind of thought that used to plague me before I was saved, but since then has only cropped up two or three times.

“I wish I was dead,” I thought. That’s right, I wanted to die rather than attend this meeting filled with so many people. This, of course, makes no sense. I recognized the darkness for what it was this time, and I prayed it away. This worked, but the anxiety remained. I should have kept praying and just ignored the meeting all together.

After 82 grueling minutes, the meeting finally ended. Though I knew I would not be able to exit the over-capacity parking lot anytime soon, I immediately fled to the safe zone of my car. I hid there for a time, trying to calm down. Unfortunately, I had less than ten minutes to do so because I had to drive to another (thankfully much smaller) meeting across town.

I drank some water and had a snack. The calm never came. I should have read some verses and prayed, but I did not. Instead, it was back on the road with me. Driving is one thing I have improved on when it comes to my anxiety, and even yesterday I am happy to report I did okay, despite my anxious state.

I remained off kilter for the next several hours. My BSP recognized this and read our daily devotional to me a little earlier than normal. Calm finally began to set in. His Word has that power. I already knew this, of course, yet I failed in the midst of a busy day to take even a minute or two to draw on this peace.

Will I ever find my peace? Yes, for I have already come a long way. Dark thoughts occasionally return, but I know how to fight them now. I have Jesus on my side. I am a child of God.

Thank you for reading. May God bless you.

“Now may the Lord of peace himself give you his peace at all times and in every situation. The Lord be with you all.”
2 Thessalonians 3:16

Trees
Credit: JC

Inside an anxious heart

I have experienced much change since writing my last post over two weeks ago. Yet, some of my more annoying aspects continue.

I suffer from anxiety, which can be a challenge not only for me, but for those around me as it can manifest in various ways. In public, it often means I start to shut down.

Though I rationally know it is probably not true, in the moment I feel as if everyone is looking at me and judging me. I am holding the line up. I don’t know what to do next. People are barking instructions at me, but I don’t understand. I begin to freeze up. I just want to crawl away and hide. Better yet, disappear. Forever.

Flee. That is my instinct. This is not always an option, though. I usually have to push through. I often try to avoid certain scenarios that I know feed my anxiety. I don’t arrive at the grocery store after 8 AM, for instance, as it is too crowded. People. Always in a hurry. And I am always in the way. Always.

Driving is another challenge. There was a time when I only drove my one route back and forth to work, and I avoided driving elsewhere as much as I could. I would let someone else drive. That was easier. Give in to the fear. I became dependent, though. I could only go somewhere out of the ordinary if I had someone to drive me. With the encouragement of my Bible Study Partner (BSP), I have started driving myself on different routes and to different places. It may sound silly, but these are actually accomplishments to someone that had essentially drove only on a few established routes for years and had no confidence to drive anywhere else.

One Way sign, pointing to Heaven
Credit: JC

I can still get worked up while driving, though. Again with the people. Always rushing. Always in a hurry. I dread right turns at stoplights, for instance, because if the light is red, I am very cautious before proceeding. But, if someone honks his horn at me in impatience, my mind goes blank. Everything goes white. I can’t see. I sometimes go ahead and pull into oncoming traffic such that the person behind me can be on his way. I wonder if he would care if he watched me get creamed and splattered across the intersection in front of him? I suspect not. He would probably drive on past, happy to be on his way to whatever important destination awaits him. He has to get that morning coffee, after all.

Anxiety often hits me at work. The nature of my job is such that I have to talk to and interact with people every day.

Some days are better than others. On bad days, my heart will start pounding: Thud. Thud. Thud.

“The candidate is here for you to interview.”

Thud. Thud. Thud.

She is over 15 minutes early. I am not ready. I try to explain this to the recruiter. But my words are inadequate. I can’t think.

Thud. Thud. Thud. Thud. Thud. Thud.

I try to take a few minutes. I need time to think. To prepare. Before I can even take a breath, though.

“Here is the candidate!”

Thud. Thud. Thud. Thud. Thud. Thud. Thud. Thud. Thud.

I can’t breathe. I’m not ready. I should have made this more clear, but it is too late. I can’t think. I don’t know what to do.

Thud. Thud. Thud. Thud. Thud. Thud. Thud. Thud. Thud. Thud. Thud. Thud.

Instead, I lash out. I am rude to the recruiter.

Now, I am not only suffering from anxiety, but I am being a jerk. This is not who I want to be. I am a child of God.

Thud. Thud. Thud. Thud. Thud. Thud. Thud. Thud. Thud. Thud. Thud. Thud. Thud. Thud. Thud.

Interview has to start. The rest of the interview panel is looking at me.

The knowing stares. The thoughts I think I see in their eyes.

He is losing it again.

What is wrong with him?

He can’t handle his position.

The one person who understands me steps in, covers for me. Things begin, despite me.

I breathe and try to calm down.

Thud. Thud. Thud. Thud. Thud. Thud. Thud. Thud. Thud.

I reach into my pocket and pull out a prayer stone that my BSP gave me for dealing with such situations. I hold it throughout the interview. I repeat over and over in my head, “Be still, and know that I am God” (Psalm 46:10).

Thud. Thud. Thud.

By the time it is my turn to question the candidate, I am at least functioning.

I still feel the eyes, though. The worried looks.

I make it through the experience, but at what cost?

After the interview, I retreat to my office and close the door. I need time alone or, ideally, with my BSP. I remain off-kilter and need to re-center. Read scripture. Pray.

Nope. No time for any of that. Within a minute, there is a knock at my door.

Thud. Thud. Thud. Thud. Thud. Thud. Thud. Thud. Thud.

It is the recruiter. This would be a great time to apologize. Or I should just ask her to come back later.

That’s not what I do, though. Instead, I lash out even more. If it seemed like I might have been a jerk before, this solidifies it.

The recruiter leaves, and I finally get a chance to be alone with God. Why did I let all of this happen? What is wrong with me?

I wish this post had answers. It does not. All I can say is that I remain a work in progress. Incidentally, I did later apologize to the recruiter, and I asked forgiveness from both her and God.

My BSP helps me tremendously with my anxiety, finding ways to comfort and calm me. Suggesting things to try in the moment. Always trying to help. I am sad to report that I even occasionally lash out at this caring individual. Yes, I am that much of a jerk.

All I can say is that I am trying. Some suggest taking life a day at a time, but sometimes, I have to take it more like a moment at a time. Just get through this moment, and then the next. Then the next.

Thank you for reading. May God bless you.