Monday, March 17, 2008

God's Grace

A few weeks ago, I had the opportunity to speak about some of my experiences with a wonderful group of women at a local bible study. Below are my notes from my talk with them.

It has been over four years since we lost our beautiful girls, Ellie and Kate. In losing them I found one of God’s greatest gifts . . . his gift of Grace. I didn’t recognize what His Grace was at first, but as with any gift, it had to be opened and received with a willing heart. [I don’t want to spend our time today talking about the details of the accident or the unbearable pain of losing my children – a lot of you are mothers so you have probably already imagined it in your mind – I am living your worst nightmare, and I know because it was mine, too.]

I don’t remember making the conscious decision, but somehow through the darkness and the pain, I decided to accept and unwrap His gift. He says, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." Therefore, I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me.

I would like to tell you how this journey I am on helps me understand these words are true – His grace is sufficient for us.

Shortly after our loss people would ask me questions I didn't know how to answer, “How are you able to function?” “Why do you think this happened?” “Are you mad at God”. And the toughest statement, “I would not be able to go on if it happened to me”.

I didn’t know what to do with this statement – was there something wrong with me because I was going on? I was getting dressed and going out into the world. I was having lunch and dinner with people, and occasionally I would even smile or laugh. It did not mean I was not in pain – that the ache I felt to hold my girls wasn’t real. Did it mean I did not love our girls as much as I should have – that being a mom wasn’t what I wanted – that on some level I felt I deserved what happened because of previous choices I made in my life.

As I tried to answer each one of these agonizing questions, one thought kept coming into my head “God is not a vengeful person – he doesn’t want to see me in this much pain, but while I’m here, while I'm wallowing around in this darkness, maybe I should sit still and listen. He could have something for me in this place. I was experiencing the “Amazing Grace” God offers to us if we are willing to accept it.

Could it be other people felt they couldn’t go on because this tragedy didn't happen to them – they didn’t need to receive the grace I’d been given. “Amazing Grace” was a hymn I sang to Ellie almost every night of her life. I didn't understand the full meaning of these words until I was in the midst of the unimaginable – losing my children. I was now a mother without a child to hold - I had to hold on to something. I chose God.

Over the years I've been writing letters to Ellie and Kate in a journal. I know it’s been a huge part of my healing process. I’d like to share an entry with you from about 6 months after the accident:

Dear Ellie and Kate,

People often ask me how it is I can go on. My first response is usually, “because my girls would want me to”, but I know in places I haven’t allowed myself to go yet it is something much bigger than that. Of course, I know I’m still in shock and people are praying for us - but is that enough to get me out of bed every day?

I feel so loved and protected. Maybe the love you two are sending me from Heaven is bigger than the love on this side - maybe when I lost you the love we felt for each other multiplied and is filling in those deep pockets of despair and hopelessness – maybe its God.

At the time of this entry, I didn’t truly understand the power of His Grace. I don’t claim to totally understand it now. My grief and loss do not define me, but they’re changing me. Change is definitely a process and there are times when I find myself back at square one – shaking my head – trying to understand why I can’t just “get it”. How can it be what I’ve gone through somehow isn’t enough to teach me all the lessons I need to know? I guess I'm a perpetual work in progress.

I was a person who needed to control all situations involving my children. I carefully orchestrated play dates so there were no tears, bumps or bruises. I rarely “allowed” anyone other than myself to drive them around and when they were in the car with someone else, I paced the house with worry. God knew what he was doing when he put me behind the wheel of our car that day.

I would imagine the worst-case scenario and convince myself I would be okay if something happened to them. It was a defense mechanism I created to protect myself, but now I know it was keeping me from living a full life with my girls. When you're so worried about something bad happening – it's hard to experience all the good around you.

Now I know I can worry all I want, and He probably expects me to, but I don’t need to. I have learned know matter the circumstances, He will come along side me and take over those burdens for me. I no longer try and control all our family’s situations. When my children are not with me I don’t pace and worry. I pray. Not always for their safe return, but for my ability to trust in Him. To allow my circumstances to gently remind me I’m not in control.

There are times when the pain of losing Ellie and Kate is so intense it takes my breath away. Times when my mind can’t comprehend or process the magnitude of what’s happened. Times when fear and anxiety have such a tight grip on me, I can’t seem to wiggle myself free. It is in these times I turn my face towards God. I soak in all the grace he has to offer me, because I know it sustains me. I know it is sufficient.


Amy said...

Thank you so much for sharing this. I began a relationship with another mom just weeks after she lost her son to cancer. God provided the same grace to her. It was amazing to watch.

Anonymous said...

I don't even know what to say. Your post brought me to tears. It is remarkable.

Smarty Pants Mama said...

You are blessed with a tremendous heart and mind. I belive that your angels will forever guide and protect you.

LunaMoonbeam said...

God bless you. Your daughters are waiting for you. That's my defense mechanism - I always tell myself, if anything happens to Baby, she'll be with the best Babysitter, and she'll be learning and growing without the trials that we would have had to navigate here. Your babies are happy, they miss you too, and I truly believe that.

Megan@SortaCrunchy said...

Oh, Alana. Thank you. Thank you for taking the time (and i know you have SO much to do right now) to share this with us. Thank you for blessing me with this insight. This line: Now I know I can worry all I want, and He probably expects me to, but I don’t need to. I have learned know matter the circumstances, He will come along side me and take over those burdens for me. I no longer try and control all our family’s situations. - this, I needed to hear so badly today. Thank you for once again being willing to share His Truth with us.

Richard Palarea said...

Alana - Juliette just forwarded me your latest post...I have to say that I'm beaming with pride for you in your walk with God and how He has revealed so much more of Himself to you over the years.

I see many with a faith and walk decades more than your own that still scratch their head at who God is. Although God is there in the good and the bad, He reveals Himself to those yearning to know Him more. That was you. That is you. We're blessed to know you and Bob and count your whole family as friends.

Rich Palarea

Alana said...

Wow. An amazing testimony and story of God's peace, grace, and sufficiency.

Leticia- Tech Savvy Mama said...

Wow. Just amazing.

Heather {Desperately Seeking Sanity} said...

Thank you.

I'm not sure what else to say. I'm one of those people who doesn't know what to say, so I say nothing or try to make someone laugh.

However, there is one thing that I know that I wouldn't say and that's "I don't know how you're functioning" because I KNOW that as many hardships and strife that comes our way in this world is for a reason, whether we know it or not, and that we're not supposed to shut down. We're supposed to keep going. This post describes that beautifully.

Thank you again for sharing your story and for participating... :D

Anonymous said...

Thank you for sharing and reminding me of the grace of God. It is bigger than anything...

Melissa said...

I know this couldn't have been easy, but I'm thankful you shared this today. Sometimes as parents it's hard to imagine that we can't protect our kids, even if we hold them in our very arms, from the world. Thank you for giving some perspective to parenthood, and for the courage to let us in on your heart.

Anonymous said...

That is a really hard thing to go through, I lost a good friend of mine in an accident last November, though I was a believer it was a difficult thing to go through. The reminder that God is all knowing, and in control is what got me through it. My friend and I have a daughter's the same age... and the thought of him not seeing her grow up was and still is a struggle.

The biggest struggle is that I don't know if he was saved or not. Reading your letter was very powerful, and I have to ask...Do you know for fact that you would go to heaven when you died. If so how....If your answer is by putting your trust in Christ and his work, then that is awesome. If.... and I hate asking this question, but the bible makes it very clear, that it's not by works,(Eph 2:8-9) For by Grace you have been saved through faith, not of yourselves; it is the GIFT of God, , not of works, lest anyone should boast."

The reason why I have to ask is that some of my friends that went through this, I really don't believe that God's Grace was even and is even in their thoughts...and I wish they could use this tragity to turn to Him, and Learn how someone can know they have eternal security(salvation).

Jessica Stock said...

Thank-you for this. (I'm here from Sorta Crunchy). I am amazed and humbled by this. This is what following Christ is really about. Thanks for sharing.