However, we have had good things come from these painful experiences. Our families have continued to step up and help in any way imaginable. God has used our family, church family, and friends to help us feel His love when it doesn't feel that He is close or that He cares. This is one of those thoughts where we know that He never leaves our side and always has our best interests at heart; just hard to find comfort from this in the middle of circumstances that we would never have asked for. I have reconnected with a friend from long ago, made many new friends, and grown stronger in the friendships that have proven faithful and true. Through all of this, I have learned that so many people have gone through similar situations that we have faced. The funny thing is that we would never have known any of this had it not been for the fact that God put these people in our paths at exactly the right time to share their stories. This has enabled us to share our stories with them and to grow and learn from and with these friends who have gone through similar experiences.
A good friend of mine recommended The Language of Letting Go by: Melody Beattie. From this book I have learned much about the grieving process and how to deal with and move on with life. So, much of what follows is straight from her book (she says it better than I ever could). I will use quotations to set apart her words from my own. The grief process is...
1. Denial and isolation: For the longest time I prayed that God would change our circumstances and knew in my heart that this would always be something I prayed for. There was no way this was God's plan for our lives. Brad and I have always tried to do the right thing as far as our relationship with God and with each other goes. We have tried to live a life that was pleasing to God (obviously we fail at times) and that our actions would shine a light and be an encouragement to others. So surely, this is not what we were called to do and deal with. There was just no way! Isolation was also a huge part early on, and one we still struggle with, because no one else in our immediate circle knows exactly what we are going through. Many friends and family struggle with their own things and I am not slighting that pain in the least. I am simply saying that paralysis, in and of itself, is rare and so different from case to case that finding someone to relate to and empathize with you is not very common. We have, however, made friends who have helped us feel that we are not completely alone in this process.
2. Anger: There has been so much of this emotion that we feel we are experts at how to be angry. Why us? Why not other people who don't try to live a life that is pleasing to God? "Why didn't God do it differently? We have to go through our own angry stage to achieve acceptance. We won't stay angry forever. But we may need to get mad for a while as we search over what could have been, to finally accept what is. Anger comes before acceptance and peace. Ultimately, surrender and self-responsibility are the only concepts that can move us forward." After reading this part of Beattie's book I found the concept of self-responsibility and personal accountability as a strange way of moving forward. Obviously, this is not something that Brad and I chose so what is our responsibility in the matter? In doing my quiet time this morning the thought came to me that my responsibility in all of this is remaining true to my heart's tuggings reminding me to spend time daily with God. Many days that is the last thing I want to do because anger has been, and still is at times, prominent in my thoughts. However, "Faith is like a muscle. It must be exercised to grow strong. Repeated experiences of having to trust what we can't see and repeated experiences of learning to trust that things will work out are what make our faith muscles grow strong."
3. Bargaining: "In the bargaining stage we go back and forth between believing there is something we can do to change things and realizing there isn't." As for me, I thought that if we wanted something so badly and if I spent enough time in prayer and devotion that surely God would grant us these things. I was giving Him everything. However, when these things didn't turn out I immediately took it all back. Anger stage again. "We may get our hopes up again and again, only to have them dashed. We have turned ourselves inside and out to try to negotiate with God and reality." This lends itself to a roller coaster of emotions, which would be a mild way of describing us this past year.
4. Depression: "The process of adapting to change and loss takes energy. Grief is draining and exhausting. Some people need to 'cocoon for transformation'. Grief is heavy and can wear us down. We may feel more tired than usual. Our ability to function well in other areas of our life may be reduced temporarily." I can not count the number of days that we have wanted to stay in bed, watch mind-numbing TV, and not talk to anyone else. Some days this feels the only way of making it through another day.
5. Acceptance: "There is no substitute for accepting reality." I feel that we are working our way more towards acceptance in the nearly two years since Brad's injury. This is not to say that we don't backtrack often and find ourselves still questioning and being angry at God and our circumstances. We don't, though, spend as much time dwelling on the sadness and craziness that is our daily lives. Accepting what is is making everything we now have to do differently a little easier to move past.
"We should take responsibility for making ourselves feel good and enjoy life. We'll understand when it's time. We can also trust that the gift is precisely what we need. Then we decide that, although we would like our situation to be different, maybe our life is happening this way for a reason. Maybe there is a higher purpose and plan in play, one that's better that we could have orchestrated. We call this faith. We can trust that when things don't work out the way we want, God has something better planned. Today, we are right where we need to be. Our present circumstances are exactly as they need to be, for now. We can trust that something valuable is being worked out in us, even when things are difficult, even when we can't get our bearings. Insight and clarity do not come until we have mastered our lesson. I am going through what I need to go through to learn something that will prepare me for the joy and love I am seeking."
Brad and I are working hard on learning to accept that this is where we are called to be. If not, we would be somewhere else. This is extremely hard because this looks nothing like what we would have planned. Hopefully, we will one day be able to say that we are thankful for all of the pain (physically and emotionally) and heartbreak. We continue to pray for this continually and that God would use us in a mighty way. One of my personal prayers is that God would blow our mind with all that He has planned for us! One day...
|Our last minute trip to the beach this summer!|
|Celebrating a friend's wedding!|
|Our new favorite pictures of our babies!|
|How could you not love them?!!|
|Our favorite thing to take pictures of this summer!|
|Brad's most recent painting!|
|Out supporting baby Ryan!|