Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Caroline's First Thanksgiving

During this time of Thanksgiving, how could anyone in our shoes be thankful for a baby that doctors say will die?  Let me be the first to tell you why!

It goes without saying that life is precious.  According to the book of James from the Bible, "you do not know what your life will be like tomorrow. You are just a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes away" (4:14, NASB).  Life is so short.  We must make every second count!  Some of us live to be 92.  Others never know life outside of the womb.  Either way, in the realm of eternity (and not the temporal), our lives are but a blink of an eye.  And yet, God has a plan for us.  The prophet Jeremiah tells us the Lord says, "I know the plans I have for you...plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future" (29:11, NIV).

Caroline Grace's life will be very brief compared to the 28 years God has granted me thus far.  However, the impact she has had on my life is by far the most influential role that any human on this earth has ever played in my life.  Through this journey with anencephaly and Caroline, God has changed my heart in a huge way!

-God has softened my heart.  It's important for us to not hold any grudges.
Regardless of the pain someone has caused you or how many times you have been disappointed in someone's repeated behavior towards you, life is too short to hold grudges!  If a friend, sibling, or parent has caused you pain, forgive them.  They probably chose those hurtful words or actions because they are hurting over something else in their life.  And they are expressing their pain through words and actions that are attached to your name as a way to hide their real pain.  Instead of getting angry, consider their pain (whatever it may be and however great or small that it is) and show compassion for them.  Don't hold a grudge.  You're only causing yourself more pain!  Forgive.  And show them love.  Just like Jesus Christ has done for you and me. 

-I've learned to not take things for granted.  Good or bad. 
Caroline's condition is a good reminder that none of us will be around forever.  I may not live to see tomorrow.  But God has given me today.  And I thank Him that I woke up this morning!  Instead of getting frustrated with Emily for not having enough clean clothes, an empty drawer is a reminder of all the times that I DID have enough clean clothes!!!  And instead of getting upset and taking for granted that my Dad will not answer the phone when I call, I am simply thankful that I still have a Dad.  Life is full of choices.  God wants us to make the choice that brings joy to our lives and not grief!    

-I've learned the difference between Happiness and Joy.
Happiness is a fleeting emotion.  It is dependent upon external circumstances.  You can be happy one moment and sad the next.  However, JOY is a process.  It involves a deeper reality than happiness.  I can be Joyful and sad at the same time.  Joy is a condition of genuine well-being, marked by confidence, hope, and trust that extends well past our personal understanding.  I am not happy that Caroline has anencephaly.  But I am joyful that Caroline has anencephaly.  This is God's will for her life.  And I am fortunate enough to be a part of such a transformational experience.  I have an assurance that God is with us and will deliver us from this pain and sorrow that we are experiencing.  Through this joy, I have hope for a future filled with happiness!  Things happen for a reason.  Caroline Grace is loved regardless of her condition.  And because of her condition, I am a better man, husband, father, and friend.  She has given me the joy of having a ministry of reaching out to others who are hurting.  It is through my suffering and grace of God that I have grown stronger, more spiritual, and more passionate for helping others endure and persevere through their own suffering.  Life is not happy all of the time.  But it CAN be joyful all of the time. 
-I've learned that most people have great intentions and are sincerely sweet, even if they say things that we interpret as 'not so nice' during our times of grief.
The first time someone said something to me that wasn't exactly interpreted as "nice" about Caroline, my initial reaction was to blurt out something mean in response.  But God's grace helped me understand that they were well-intentioned and did not mean harm in any way.  (I still blog about my true emotions because blogging is therapeutic.  But I bridle my tongue in the moment)  Shock, grief, and uncomfortable circumstances create something inside our brain that causes us to say some pretty stupid stuff!!  I have to admit that I'm a victim of my "stupid brain" all the time!  

-I have learned that God's grace IS sufficient.  I've always THOUGHT that and heart that, but now I KNOW it is true.
Whether it's the need to get out of bed for work in the morning or getting through the next doctor's visit, God grants me whatever I need to successfully endure each moment.  Some moments turn out better than others, but what really matters is that God is with me through it all.  He has proven to me multiple times throughout each day that no matter how hard today is going to be, His love and grace is even more comforting than the discomfort that the pain causes.  So, I can go to bed each night reassured that God IS still in control and that He will continue to grant me the grace to go on for another day!

My Prayer
Dear Lord,
     Thank you, for giving us Caroline Grace.  Thank you for your Grace.  And thank you for using this journey for your glory in my life.  Please continue to bless me so that I can help others find something to smile about in times of grief!  Amen.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Now, that's Funny!

When was the last time that you had a belly-laugh?  You know, when you just let loose and laughed so hard that your belly hurt or maybe even jiggled? don't have to admit to the latter :-)  But a really good laugh is worth remembering! 

Laughter warms you throughout your body and soul.  You may have even laughed so hard that your laughter spurred on tears of joy.  And if you're like me, you have looked back at that belly-laughter and you have laughed some more because you found something so trivial to be so hilariously laughable!  It's great when you find yourself laughing about laughing!! 

Wikipedia says, "Laughter is anatomically caused by the epiglottis constricting the larynx.  The study of humor and laughter, and its psychological and physiological effects on the human body, is called gelotology."  Yeah...whatever that means!!

Proverbs 17:22a says, "A cheerful heart is good medicine."  Now, I can relate to that!!

During Emily's and my recent journey, God has had his fair share of laughter with me.  I can hear him saying, "Silly human.  Have you forgotten that I am God??  I am your Creator!  I gave you everything you have, including your countless blessings!"  As I have toiled, struggled, doubted, and lost sleep over Caroline's diagnosis, I have no doubt that God has looked upon me with laughter.  Not laughing at me because he is mocking me.  But laughing at me because he finds my efforts entertaining.  He knows my attempts are unnecessary because He is in control - not me!!  He has shared his undying love, support, and care for me.  He has told me, "Even to your old age and gray hairs I am He, I am He who will sustain you.  I have made you and I will carry you; I will sustain you and I will rescue you" ~Isaiah 46:4 (NIV). 

"The Lord is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer; my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield and the horn of my salvation.  He is my stronghold, my refuge and my Savior.....You are my lamp, O Lord; the Lord turns my darkness into light" ~2 Samuel 22:2; 22:29 (NIV). 

Yet I find a way, nearly everyday, to doubt the Scriptural truths He has provided for us.  His love is the same today as it was yesterday and will be tomorrow.  However, it is funny how we easily forget this and think that we are better off "fixing" things ourselves.  Haha!   Now, that's funny!  And I am so thankful that God has a tremendous sense of humor!!

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

My Cinderella

On my way to and from work, I listen to 95.1, Shine FM.  Without traffic, I can make it home in 28 minutes.  With radio commercials, DJs comments, etc, this is enough time to listen to 7 songs.  If I get stopped at an extra red light or traffic is a little heavier than usual, I might be lucky to hear an 8th song.  There must be thousands of songs in a radio station's playlist for each day.  However, in the last 3 days I have driven to work, I have heard the same song each time.

"Cinderella" (click to watch on YouTube) by Steven Curtis Chapman: 
"She spins and she sways
To whatever song plays
Without a care in the world
And I'm sitting here wearing
The weight of the world on my shoulders

It's been a long day
And there's still work to do
She's pulling at me
Saying "Dad, I need you

There's a ball at the castle
And I've been invited
And I need to practice my dancing
Oh, please, Daddy, please?"

So I will dance with Cinderella
While she is here in my arms
'Cause I know something the prince never knew
Oooooh, I will dance with Cinderella
I don't wanna miss even one song
'Cause all too soon the clock will strike midnight
And she'll be gone..."

It's funny to me to see how God forces us to deal with our emotions.  Friday was the first time that I heard this song since Caroline's diagnosis.  I turned off the radio.  I thought, "I hate this song!  I'll never be able to listen to it ever again."  I was immediately saddened by the reminder that I will not see her dance at the castle.  I will not ever feel her tug on my arm.  I will never hear her say, "Dad, I need you."

But after a few seconds of somber silence, I humbly prayed for God to give me the courage to face my giant.

After a little while longer, I woefully accepted the pain and bravely turned on the radio again.  Instead of listening to the song and thinking "I hate my life" or "Why did you do this to me God?,"  I was actually able to embrace Caroline's condition...again.  It's weird, because circumstances like this make me feel like I don't know who I am or what I truly feel.  Some days I am at peace with her diagnosis.  Other days, I feel myself trying to bargain with God about her condition.  Friday felt like a day at the market...until I embraced this song for its beauty.  Kind of like embracing Caroline's beauty.  This song will always be beautiful.  Because daughters will always be beautiful. 

Monday morning, I heard the song again.  It was as if God was telling me, "Hey, I'm not done with you.  You've still got to process some lingering emotions!  Oh, by the can dance with her...but you have to dance with Emily at the same time!!"  So, I listened to the whole song this time with a completely different perspective.

I gracefully acknowledged the beautiful lyrics and thought of dancing with my beautiful pregnant wife and Caroline together.  Such a sweet thought.  This made me smile and cry at the same time.

Then, I dreamed of little Caroline dancing in a little white dress with her Heavenly Father, twirling around and around, and hopping and skipping down streets of gold!!  And my heart swelled with pride as I envisioned my little girl spinning and swaying without a care in the world!

Then, today, I heard it once again.  And this time, I couldn't help but laugh at how God had changed my heart in 3 different occasions of listening to the same song.  Today, I was finally able to listen to this song and thank God at the same time for blessing me with such a special little girl.  I know this is difficult for most people to understand.  How could I possibly be thankful for Caroline's fatal diagnosis?  Please let me explain.

By giving us Caroline, God has blessed us with the opportunity to give a little girl a very special life, despite how short lived it may be.  She is loved so much by so many...even complete strangers!!  Once she passes away, God will actually be sparing Caroline from living in this imperfect world.  She will never feel any pain.  She will never be disappointed by anyone, including me as her dad.  Instead, she will almost immediately get to meet Jesus and know what a "perfect world" is like.  She will be in Heaven.  Furthermore, her little life has allowed us, already, the wonderful opportunity to share our journey with numerous others going through their own painful journeys.  Since her diagnosis, God has brought hundreds of people to Emily and me to share their pains, struggles, and questions about life.  And God has given us the words, grace, and strength to help them in their time of need.  I would have never imagined it, but helping others has actually helped me get through my most difficult days so far.

Caroline's condition is ugly.  But she is gorgeous!  She is my Cinderella.  I love you baby girl.  And so does your Heavenly Father!

Then I sang, "So I will dance with Cinderella
While she is here in my arms [ Emily's belly :-)]
'Cause I know something the prince never knew
Oooooh, I will dance with Cinderella
I don't wanna miss even one song
'Cause all too soon the clock will strike midnight
And she'll be gone..."

Saturday, November 12, 2011

100 messages for Emily...PLEASE!!

She is amazing.  And she needs to know that.  If you haven't told her lately, please go to her Facebook, blog (link is above left of this post), or e-mail her and leave a message (  I'm hoping to get at least 100 messages to her in the next two days.  That would be awesome!

She is a trooper.  Her attitude has been very positive.  And she makes me smile.  I think it's safe to say that she finally "popped."  There is no question about a baby bump anymore.  It's the cutest thing.  Haha.  One of our cats, Miriam, was laying on her belly last night.  Emily was just lying on the couch watching TV and Caroline starting kicking like crazy.  Apparently, Miriam did not like this!!  She got up and move to Emily's lap.  It was hilarious!  It was good to hear Emily laugh out loud. 

So, put another smile on her face and send her some love today too.  :-D

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

"You're not doing enough!"

Someone, with an authoritative role in my life, recently told me, "you're not handling this well.  You're not doing enough to process your anger and emotions.  You need to exercise more."

I was floored.  Downright shocked.  All I could do was look away and stare at the wall in anger.  The irony.  Did they just attack me??  "You're not doing enough."   Yup, that feels like an attack!  Here is someone I thought I could trust with my situation and they are attacking me (probably how Job felt when his friend, Eliphaz, began preaching at him in his time of extreme loss).

But their words also had some truth in them.  Not that I wanted to admit the hard truths at this point.  "I'm not handling this well." kidding, Sherlock!  Thanks Captain Obvious, may I have another of your pearls of wisdom?!  Accusing me of not doing enough and not handling this well does not help, in case they were wondering!   

So, I'm still trying to get this straight.  Within 24 hours of finding out my first child was going to be a girl, I also find out that I will not be able to keep her.  It has been 4 weeks of dealing with these emotions.  And we have 4 more months until Caroline Grace's delivery, which will be even more difficult to handle than what we are faced with now.  Every day is a reminder that we have to process these same emotions for months.  There is not finality...yet.  So, we can't process our emotions any faster because the REAL tragedy has not occurred.

I wake up everyday.  I haven't lost my faith.  (In fact, my faith has increased.)  I am still interacting at church.  I haven't missed work, except when excused or I took vacation time.  I'm not yelling at anyone.  I am engaged with friends.  I am sharing my emotions in my blog.  I'm talking to people in person and on the phone about our situation.  But someone thinks I'm not handling this well, because I'm still angry, frustrated, irritable, and occasionally have a bad day.

My first thought was, "I don't care who thinks I'm handling this well or not!"  Because I know that I am doing everything possible to endure this journey as well as I can.  In a way, I felt like I was arguing with myself.  I was definitely feeling the need to defend myself.  Before I could gather my thoughts, they launched another attack by telling me I should do more physical exercise.  A valid point, I thought.  But there's one problem.  I don't have the energy to do MORE.  I barely have enough energy to do LESS than usual.  So, I said, "I don't have the energy to exercise more than walking for half an hour."  They replied, "I'm not asking you to exercise.  I'm telling you to exercise."  And continued to tell me, "It's not normal to be angry in a situation like this."  This is when I lost it.  In my mind, I thought, "Excuse me?!?  Surely, I didn't hear them right!!" 

In case my sarcasm and bitter attitude has not made it perfectly is NOT recommended to accuse someone of not doing enough when they are grieving!

While grieving, there are 5 different steps someone typically experiences.
1. Denial
2. Anger
3. Bargaining
4. Depression
5.  Acceptance

The 5 stages of grief were championed and popularized by Mrs. Elizabeth Kübler-Ross.  She is truly a genius when it comes to emotional intelligence.  From wikipedia:    
"The Kübler-Ross model, commonly known as The Five Stages of Grief, was first introduced by Elisabeth Kübler-Ross in her 1969 book, On Death and Dying.[1]

Included in the book was a model, The Model of Coping with Dying, which she based on research and interviews with more than 500 dying patients.  It describes, in five discrete stages, a process by which people cope and deal with grief and tragedy, especially when diagnosed with a terminal illness or experience a catastrophic loss.  In addition to this, her book brought mainstream awareness to the sensitivity required for better treatment of individuals who are dealing with a fatal disease or illness.[2]"

Below is an article from Elisabeth Kübler-Ross and David Kessler.  If you or anyone you know has ever experienced a loss or tragedy, you will find it very easy to relate to these stages of grief. 
Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression and Acceptance by Elisabeth Kübler-Ross & David Kessler

"The stages have evolved since their introduction and they have been very misunderstood over the past three decades.  They were never meant to help tuck messy emotions into neat packages.  They are responses to loss that many people have, but there is not a typical response to loss as there is no typical loss. Our grief is as individual as our lives.
The five stages, denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance are a part of the framework that makes up our learning to live with the one we lost [or will be losing].  They are tools to help us frame and identify what we may be feeling.  But they are not stops on some linear timeline in grief.  Not everyone goes through all of them or in a prescribed order.  Our hope is that with these stages comes the knowledge of grief ’s terrain, making us better equipped to cope with life and loss."


"This first stage of grieving helps us to survive the loss.  In this stage, the world becomes meaningless and overwhelming.  Life makes no sense.  We are in a state of shock and denial.  We go numb.  We wonder how we can go on, if we can go on, why we should go on.  We try to find a way to simply get through each day.  Denial and shock help us to cope and make survival possible.  Denial helps us to pace our feelings of grief.  There is a grace in denial.  It is nature’s way of letting in only as much as we can handle.     As you accept the reality of the loss and start to ask yourself questions, you are unknowingly beginning the healing process.  You are becoming stronger, and the denial is beginning to fade.  But as you proceed, all the feelings you were denying begin to surface."


"Anger is a necessary stage of the healing process.  Be willing to feel your anger, even though it may seem endless.  The more you truly feel it, the more it will begin to dissipate and the more you will heal.  There are many other emotions under the anger and you will get to them in time, but anger is the emotion we are most used to managing.  The truth is that anger has no limits.  It can extend not only to your friends, the doctors, your family, yourself and your loved one who died [or will die], but also to God. You may ask, “Where is God in this?
     Underneath anger is pain, your pain.  It is natural to feel deserted and abandoned, but we live in a society that fears anger.  Anger is strength and it can be an anchor, giving temporary structure to the nothingness of loss.  At first grief feels like being lost at sea: no connection to anything.  Then you get angry at someone, maybe a person who didn’t attend the funeral, maybe a person who isn’t around, maybe a person who is different now that your loved one has died.  Suddenly you have a structure – - your anger toward them.  The anger becomes a bridge over the open sea, a connection from you to them.  It is something to hold onto; and a connection made from the strength of anger feels better than nothing. We usually know more about suppressing anger than feeling it.  The anger is just another indication of the intensity of your love."


"Before a loss, it seems like you will do anything if only your loved one would be spared.  “Please God, ” you bargain, “I will never be angry at my wife again if you’ll just let her live.”  After a loss, bargaining may take the form of a temporary truce.  “What if I devote the rest of my life to helping others. Then can I wake up and realize this has all been a bad dream?”
     We become lost in a maze of “If only…” or “What if…” statements.  We want life returned to what is was; we want our loved one restored.  We want to go back in time: find the tumor sooner, recognize the illness more quickly, stop the accident from happening…if only, if only, if only.  Guilt is often bargaining’s companion.  The “if onlys” cause us to find fault in ourselves and what we “think” we could have done differently.  We may even bargain with the pain.  We will do anything not to feel the pain of this loss.  We remain in the past, trying to negotiate our way out of the hurt.  People often think of the stages as lasting weeks or months. They forget that the stages are responses to feelings that can last for minutes or hours as we flip in and out of one and then another.  We do not enter and leave each individual stage in a linear fashion.  We may feel one, then another and back again to the first one."


"After bargaining, our attention moves squarely into the present.  Empty feelings present themselves, and grief enters our lives on a deeper level, deeper than we ever imagined.  This depressive stage feels as though it will last forever.  It’s important to understand that this depression is not a sign of mental illness.  It is the appropriate response to a great loss.  We withdraw from life, left in a fog of intense sadness, wondering, perhaps, if there is any point in going on alone?  Why go on at all?  Depression after a loss is too often seen as unnatural: a state to be fixed, something to snap out of.  The first question to ask yourself is whether or not the situation you’re in is actually depressing.  The loss of a loved one is a very depressing situation, and depression is a normal and appropriate response.  To not experience depression after a loved one dies would be unusual.  When a loss fully settles in your soul, the realization that your loved one didn’t get better this time and is not coming back is understandably depressing.  If grief is a process of healing, then depression is one of the many necessary steps along the way."


"Acceptance is often confused with the notion of being “all right” or “OK” with what has happened.  This is not the case.  Most people don’t ever feel OK or all right about the loss of a loved one.  This stage is about accepting the reality that our loved one is physically gone and recognizing that this new reality is the permanent reality.  We will never like this reality or make it OK, but eventually we accept it.  We learn to live with it.  It is the new norm with which we must learn to live.  We must try to live now in a world where our loved one is missing.  In resisting this new norm, at first many people want to maintain life as it was before a loved one died.  In time, through bits and pieces of acceptance, however, we see that we cannot maintain the past intact.  It has been forever changed and we must readjust.  We must learn to reorganize roles, re-assign them to others or take them on ourselves.
     Finding acceptance may be just having more good days than bad ones.  As we begin to live again and enjoy our life, we often feel that in doing so, we are betraying our loved one.  We can never replace what has been lost, but we can make new connections, new meaningful relationships, new inter-dependencies.  Instead of denying our feelings, we listen to our needs; we move, we change, we grow, we evolve.  We may start to reach out to others and become involved in their lives.  We invest in our friendships and in our relationship with ourselves.  We begin to live again, but we cannot do so until we have given grief its time."


Time.  My worst enemy.  
God.  My best friend.  
Two rivals.  One pain. 

Dear "someone,"
      Yes.  It IS normal to be angry right now.
And I will be angry for a while.  Probably depressed, too. 
You'll just have to deal with it.  
Welcome to my world.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Just one of those days.

One step forward.......and two steps back.

I have not blogged for a week, because I did not want to share how I truly feel.  But I have to be completely honest.  I have not spared any emotions throughout our journey up until now, so I have to come clean.  

Last Tuesday, Emily and I had a checkup with the specialist.  Caroline Grace now weighs 15 ounces!  Everything is growing as expected and she is a healthy baby with the exception of....

I am so excited that we are pregnant with our first child.  I am elated to be a dad!  Caroline is, and always be, our first child.  She is my baby girl.  And I love her so much, just as she is. 

Going to the doctor plays tug of war with my heart.  Beautiful vs. Ugly.  One side, seeing her move around, kick, toss, and turn is evidence that she is still alive and I rejoice!!  Seeing her is a beautiful sight!  God is definitely still in control!!  For this I am so thankful.  But, one the other side, and despite my best efforts, I cannot hide the fact that Caroline's anencephaly is ugly.  It hurts me to my core to see pictures of her through the sonogram.  It is a reminder to me that she needs a miracle to live or else she will die.  I keep praying and wishing and hoping that the next sonogram will show that she has a normal brain and skull.  But when we see the picture of her little head, I hang my head in shame.  I feel like I am less of a dad because of her deformity.

This past week, I had the unfortunate opportunity to update my Life Insurance policy with the Navy.  Part of this policy includes my family policy.  So, how do you explain to a clerk that you need life insurance for a child even though you don't have a child yet?  And, by the way, you need it as soon as soon as they are born!?  The policy, with necessary changes, still sits on my desk at work.  I have not had the energy to turn it in yet.  In a way, I do not ever want to turn it in.   

People want to help.  They ask me, "how can I help?"  The answer is prayer, words of encouragement, and distractions!  Distractions are great because they get me through each day.  I mean, there's not really anything else that can be done.  If you could fast forward time...but then, wait...don't do that either!  Because we want as much time with Caroline as possible.  More time gives a greater possibility for a miracle.  And more things we can do with her to make a memory.  

So, here I am.  Every time I make progress, I get knocked down.  But, by the grace of God, every time I get knocked down, I get back up again!  Somebody told me, "just take one day at a time."  Well, I can't even do that!  I have to take one STEP at a time.  Baby steps.

Which reminds me....without a miracle....I will never get to see Caroline take her first steps.  Or say "Dada."  Or celebrate her first birthday.  Or....  What do you say to people when they ask, "do you have any kids?"  What about a year from now??  If you have lost a spouse, you can explain your unfortunate circumstances with one word:  widower.  (I am not belittling this tragedy or detracting from the enormous grief it causes.  May God bless all of the widows and widowers.)  But if you lose a child, there is not a one word answer.  However, you don't want to explain the whole story to strangers either.  I hate lying.  But truthfully, I know telling a lie will be easier and less burdensome than explaining the whole story.  

This is not easy.

This is the hardest thing I have ever done. is just one of those days.     

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Just pawns in a Chess Game?

Chess is a strategist's game.  And it is not for the impatient.  It can be extremely boring.  However, it is a game that can be applied to our daily lives.

Not everyone knows the basics of chess, so allow me to explain.  I promise to make this as painless as possible...please bear with me.  CHESS 101:
1.  Respect the King and protect him.  If your opponent attacks your King, you must defend him.
2.  Use your other pieces (Queen, Bishops, Knights, Rooks, and pawns) to defend your own King.
3.  Use your other pieces (Queen, Bishops, Knights, Rooks, and pawns) to attack your opponent's King.
4.  Queens (omni-directional), Bishops (diagonal direction), and Rooks (horizontal direction) can move an unlimited amount of spaces each turn in their respective direction. 
5.  The Knight is special in that he move 3 spaces each turn in an L shape.
6.  The lowliest pieces in a Chess game are the pawns.  They are the least ornate pieces and can only move one space at a time. 

These rules will not make you the next Bobby Fisher.  But they will give you an understanding of what I'm about to say.

I feel very much like a pawn lately.  Very vulnerable.  Defenseless.  I can only take one step at a time.  Everyone else seems more capable and much more powerful than me.  Inept is a good word to describe my emotion.

Everything happens for a reason, though.  I recently bought a new Bible (on Sunday).  And began reading in Job, because I can relate to his story.  How appropriate!  Check this out...this is an article in the footnotes of the Job 1:13-19:

"Are people just pawns in God's chess game?
     It often seems that people are caught in events beyond their control, manipulated by God or Satan.  They may feel forced into situations they would not choose if they were given a chance.  While this seems unfair, there is another way - a higher way - to interpret the circumstances of life.  We can see them as God-given opportunities to cooperate with his purpose and plans and, by serving him, to fulfill something far more significant than our own schemes ever could.  We are MORE than pawns in a chess game.  We can honor Almighty God by the way we live and die.
     Still, many unanswered questions remain.  Only God knows why dozens of bystanders had to die in this unfolding drama [Job's tests from Satan in which all of his livestock, servants, children were slain] between Satan and God.  We struggle with the fact that ["good" people] have short, tragic lives while other who are wicked enjoy wealth and long life.  One thing we can affirm, however:  What seems unfair in this life will be made right in eternity.  Our problems will be resolved and many of our questions answered.
     God has permitted Satan certain freedoms.  He is called the prince of this world (John 14:30) and the ruler of the kingdom of the air (Ephesians 2:2).  Satan can sometimes use the forces of nature, sickness, plagues and wicked people.  Though God dealt a fatal blow to Satan through Jesus' death and resurrection, Satan continues to struggle against God, and will do so until the end (Romans 16:20). 
     There are two sides to the suffering of the righteoous:  the earthly and the heavenly.  The apostle Paul [of the New Testament] understood the tension of living in a corrupt world as one controlled by the Spirit.  He placed his trust in God and things eternal - God's justice, mercy and love - not in the temporary things of this world - success, wealth and fame.  Paul recognized that our struggle is not against flesh and blood (Ephesians 6:12) and took courage in knowing that our citizenship is in heaven (Philippians 3:20)."

I thought this article was pretty cool and strikingly well placed in front of me.  I thought, "heh!  I am MORE than just a pawn.  Sweet!!"  But I wasn't content with this alone.  I kept reading.

As I read Job 2-3, I thanked God that I was so much better off than Job as I do not have any physical sores, disfigurements, parasites, skin infections, hallucinations, or a fever.

I do have sharp pains and shortness of breath...but this is normal, I think.

I do, however, feel as Job did.  I question my existence.  I struggle with why God gave me life:  "Why did He decide to give Caroline a fatal condition?  Why can't I take it from her and thus give her life instead of me??  Why do I think like this?  Will people think I'm suicidal?  Oh, geez...what will my military supervisors think when they see that I'm thinking this way?  Great!  I'll have to see a shrink, now.  I'll probably lose my security clearance.  Everyone's going to think I'm weird and can't handle my job anymore.  This is definitely not what I need!" 

Then, I stumbled upon another editorial note in my new Bible (again...everything happens for a thankful I bought a new Bible!!).  The editor asks the questions, "Is no life better than a troubled life?  Was Job suicidal?"

Hmmm...thanks read my mind! 

He says, "In [Job's] misery, [he] might have thought [no life was better than a troubled life].  But the Bible's message throughout is that life - all life - is a gift from God.  Even in terrible suffering, God's glory can be revealed.  In the midst of Job's unspeakable losses and his physical pain, he said that he longed for death.  But he was not planning to take his own life.  He was in mourning and expressing his deep sorrow that made life seem unbearable." 

Awesome!  I'm safe!!  I'm normal!!  I'm just grieving the very realistic potential of losing my one and only baby girl.  JUST grieving.  That's all.

Initially, I did not ask, "why me, Lord?"  But, now....I can not tell you how many times I have begged the question, "what have I done to deserve this??"  There are plenty of people out there that deserve this more than mee.  I'm faithful to my wife.  I am faithful to my church.  I tith 10% of my pay every paycheck.  I read my Bible.  I pray.  I don't do drugs.  I'm a good guy.  I'm better than this!!  ....Right???

Then, the Lord said, "There is no difference, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God" - Romans 3:23 (NIV). 


So, apparently, I'm NOT special.  God loves me just as much as He loves everyone else.  And my sins are no greater, or lesser, than anyone else's.  I am not righteous.  I am undeserving of life.  And I am as just as deserving of going through this pain as anyone.

But suffering is not necessarily beneficial.  Dwelling on your suffering is definitely not beneficial.  Those who wallow in their suffering never gain any benefits or achieve a higher perspective.  But those who make a conscious decision to focus instead on what God can do THROUGH their suffering will be strengthened!!  Tap into God's resources.  Allow him to turn something negative into something positive and life-changing.

"Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand.  And we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God.  Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope.  And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us" - Romans 5:1-5 (NIV).

"In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness.  We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express!" -Romans 8:26 (NIV).   

We are not just pawns.  We are the King's children, heirs to His throne!!