Thanks In ALL Things

It’s been a tough couple of months – April & May always are. These are the two months when the absence of my prodigal son (and his little family) really hits the me hardest. Family is everything to me and my other 3 children.

My previous 2 posts mentioned my prodigal son’s birthday and the loss of my dear friend’s son. This was followed by an incredibly heart-wrenching “Celebration of life” service – loss of life is always hard but this day was doubly hard. Not only was the life lost such a tragedy, but my prodigal son attended the service with his partner and walked right past our family in the church foyer, refusing to speak to any of us… It felt a like another knife through my heart. This had a huge impact on me, an my other children – like a double whammy. My youngest son, Ben, followed his older brother, Daniel, up the carpark in the hopes of making him talk; Daniel drove off. Ben yelled after him and Daniel returned only to argue and curse. Ben, the “gentle giant” peacemaker, then did something he would never usually do; he gave his brother a stern talking to about the importance of family.

He spoke through tears, “Listen to me Daniel! I’ve lost one of my closest friends today and the one thing this past week has really impressed on me even more, is that life is far too short to be angry and hold unforgiveness. You and Angie need to get over yourselves, and realise that you have a family who love you and have forgiven you. Even though you both turned your backs on us, after we all did so much for you, we have forgiven you both for all the hurt and pain you’ve caused. Family is the most important thing in life.”

A seed planted, I hope & pray, as Daniel would not ever expect his younger, easy going, peacemaker brother Ben to speak so sternly to him.

Later that month (April 30), I celebrated my birthday with our usual tradition of a family dinner at a restaurant.  My birthday was followed by Mother’s Day (May 13) and my children took me out for “brunch” at a lovely cafe/restaurant. Both celebrations were missing Daniel, as they have for the last 4 years.

On May 22 my youngest daughter, Bec, celebrated her 20th birthday. Another family celebration, out to dinner, with big brother missing yet again.

Ben (20), Bec (20), Oscar (son-in-law) & Sarah (27)

On May 31, my grandson Matthew was 2 years old. As I have said in previous posts, I have only had this little man in my life for 5 short weeks and I have very few photos. We have missed both his birthdays, his dedication & Christmases. The image below was taken in March 2011 (age 9 months) in those 5 short weeks my son was back in our lives. He must have grown so much by now.

Matthew (9 months) – one of the few photos I have of him

It’s been difficult for all of us and we have all felt a variety of emotions. The child who once placed such a great importance on his family, has no regard for any of us… it has been a struggle in the last 2 1/2 months to regain focus on my Gratitude Journal. It’s been a struggle to be thankful in all things, but I know I must. I know how much gratitude has changed my life, my marriage and my outlook on the future.

So, even as my heart feels like it’s breaking irreparably, I continue to count the things I am grateful for:

141. Someone to love & hold me when brokenness overwhelms me.

142. The closeness of family.

143. Photo albums to look through with my children & memories to cherish.

144. Phone calls from adult children – just because.

145. The comfort of Romans 8:28

146. The promise of Jeremiah 29:11

147. Chai Latte dates with loved ones.

148. Turkish Delight

149. Blue skies & fluffy clouds on Winter days.

150. Drives to the waterfront.

151. Landscapes.

152. Seascapes.

153. Skyscapes.

154. Cityscapes.

I am grateful for this day!

Life’s Too Short…

Originally written on Tuesday April 17, 2012… HERE

This evening I was going to publish a few posts for my usual link ups but a phone call from my oldest daughter changed all that. She called to ask if I had heard about my dear friend Susie’s number 2 son, Patrick, who took his life earlier this morning. This young man was my youngest son Ben’s best mate through primary school, they were inseparable back then, graduated highschool together in 2008, and have remained friends since.

Far too young to leave this world; Patrick was only 20 years old!!

I have dedicated this sunset to Patrick…  It reminds me of Psalm 23.

This family has seen enough sadness in the last 12 months. Susie’s beautiful Mum was diagnosed with cancer last year (for the second time) and lost her battle on July 1st 2011. Not long after, Susie’s  marriage broke down after 22 years. Now, Susie will be burying her son. And on Mother’s Day, she will not only be without her Mum for the first time, but also her son.

These flowers are for my beautiful friend Susie… May she and her family know God’s peace, love, strength & comfort at this time.

I consider this family to be part of mine, and the loss is tremendous. An amazing young man with so much to give; involved in leadership in his church, inputting into the lives of others, impacting so many people (possibly without even knowing), gentle, loving, caring, gifted.

I can only be comforted by the fact that he is now reunited with his Creator & his beloved Grandma.

Rest in Peace, Patrick Francis Mundy. You will be forever loved & missed…

Counting more gratitudes…

131. People who come into our lives for just a short time, but who touch our hearts forever.

132. The privilege of knowing a young man of God who impacted so many lives, possibly without even knowing.

133. Not understanding why, but knowing this young man is now at peace.

134. Being able to love, comfort, encourage & pray for friends in their time of need (just as they did in our times of need).

135. The blessings of friendship & fellowship.

136. Friendships that stand the test of time.

137. The gift of memories of loved ones gone but not forgotten.

138. The gift & blessing of a life partner just over 2 years ago, to walk through trials with me, who has not walked away when my health declined more and who loves me more each day.

139. Discovering a new hobby (photography) to keep me occupied and take my mind off my physical pain.

140. Trips out on Michael’s days off to lose myself in nature.

LOST…

Originally written on Sunday April 8, 2012 here.

This last weekend (31st March) marked 12 months since I have seen my oldest son, Daniel. This has been the longest time period that he has cut our entire family off, in the 4+ years he has been with his partner. Wednesday (4th April) was also his 23rd birthday, the second birthday in a row that we have had no contact with him.

So, here is my birthday message to my son as I posted on Facebook (he didn’t see it though as he has blocked and deleted his entire family):

“Happy 23rd Birthday to my oldest son Dan Denehy. 23 years ago, in country Grafton NSW, I was blessed with my second child & my first son. A very sick baby developed into a strong, loving, caring young person with a wonderful sense of fun & a love for life; gifted academically, musically, artistically & as an athlete. Dan, I love you more than words & miss you more each day. xxoo”

It doesn’t get any easier as time goes by, it becomes increasingly difficult. It’s like grieving the loss of a loved one, even though they haven’t actually died.

Perhaps that’s why it gets harder as time passes not easier as it should… because it’s actually not a physical death, it’s the loss/death of a relationship, hopes & dreams with one of the people I love the most. It’s like walking in a never ending wilderness… never knowing if or when it will end.

It’s like living your life with part of it missing, and nothing can fill that empty space. It’s knowing he’s out there, somewhere, possibly living very close by. And knowing that his real heart loves & values his family, but the silence is because he “had to make a choice” between them and us…

So on this Easter Sunday, when I should be celebrating life as I always have, with all my family together, there’s an unshakable sadness deep in my heart and I am longing for life to be breathed into the relationship I’ve lost…

How We Develop Strength… and Gratitude on Mondays

I love inspirational and uplifting quotes. This particular one is true of my life and, I am sure, in many other’s lives. As I wrote in a previous post entitled Overcoming Obstacles, Heartbreaks and Adversity – Part 1, I did not allow the obstacles, heartbreak and adversity to define who I became, or to steal my joy. With God’s help I used my circumstances to become a stronger person, and I hope a better person. And I still do this every day.

I need to be reminded daily of the scripture I shared in my last post:

And He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. 10 Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ’s sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong. 2 Corinthians 12:9-10

It is through adversity that God can be honoured and praised. It is through the struggles of life that we can bear witness to His strength that carries us through. Our lives can be a testament to His strength, power and love. After all, I survived, didn’t I? Sure, I was battered and bruised and broken… but we need to be in a place like that for God to do His work in us and to show His greatness.

I am reminded of the poem “Footprints in the Sand”

I also need to be reminded daily, that it is Him who supplies my needs – love, joy, peace, hope, grace, rest, comfort, courage, strength and more. Daily, I need to look to Him, draw near to Him and rest in Him, for it is through Him that my strength will continue to develop. Our strength comes from Him, not from within ourselves.

I continue to count my blessings:

101.   Large hot mugs of Green Mint tea

102.   Day trips to beautiful beaches

103.   Waves crashing on rocks

104.   Sun, sand & the fresh sea air

105.   Red roses from my husband, just because

106.   The ability to find beauty in the ordinary

107.   Abundance of colour in our world

108.   Sweet treats

109.   Beautiful sunsets over mountains in the country

110.   Insects to photograph and marvel at the intricate details by the Creator

111.   Birds of the air

112.   Ducks on ponds

113.   Storm clouds bringing rain

114.   Spectacular sunsets after Summer storms

115.   Raindrops on roses

116.   A husband who can play piano every night & write songs

117.   Living in the “River City”

118.   Quality time with my husband

119.   Sunset reflections on lakes

120.   Resting on the grass by the lake

121.   Sunrays through clouds

122.   Waterlily reflections on the pond

123.   The beauty of flowers – all so different

124.   The wonder of capturing a bee in flight

125.   Cloudless blue skies after weeks of rain

126.   Peace restored to our home after months without it

127.   My oldest daughter’s graduation from Interior Design college & a surprise award for excellence in academic & design

128.   My youngest daughter starting a nursing degree at University & a new job

129.   My youngest step-daughter’s more relaxed, joyful & at peace

130.   My husband who says everyday, “I love coming home to you!”

How can I not be GRATEFUL for this life….?

Why worry? God is in control!

Gratitude… the 2012 Joy Dare

This year, those of us counting gratitude have been challenged by Ann Voskamp at A Holy Experience to continue counting our 1000 gifts (things we are grateful for) but the 2012 challenge is to count 3 gifts a day.

As my main photography blog is on Blogger at The Greatest of these is LOVE, I spend much of my blogging time there. This year I decided to embark on a photography challenge called “Project 366 Rewind” – a photo a day during 2012.  The main aim was to improve my photography, however I have also been photographing the things I love & those I am grateful for. I usually take numerous photos a day (some days 100 or more). So I realised today that I can easily combine the photography challenge with my Gratitude Journal.

Counting 3 a day is not as easy as it seems, even with Ann’s Joy Dare. I have found already this year that there are days when I am totally exhausted and worn down by ill health, the frustrations of raising teenagers again after my own  4 children are all grown, and other challenges that life throws my way. It is so easy to get bogged down in everyday life and to find myself slowly feeling overcome. But that is the whole purpose of gratitude – to change our focus, to find the gifts in the hard stuff, to learn to see in the fog, to be grateful for blessings and for lessons…

Wisdom comes from lessons & adversity, more than from blessings – I have learned in my 46 years of life and my 27 1/2 years of being a Mum. Perhaps it comes through the difficulties, trials & struggles because we, by nature, often rely on our own strength and God needs us to be worn down down before we sit up and listen.

And He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. 10 Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ’s sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong. 2 Corinthians 12:9-10

We need to be weak in order for Him to be our strength.

We need to be quiet in order to listen to Him.

We need to be grateful & rejoice in ALL things. ALL THINGS!

And this has been my biggest lesson in the last 6 months – Learning to be grateful not only in the good times, but also in sickness, in need, in adversity, in stress…

Still counting my blessings:

87. Safety from the flood waters – again

88. Phone calls from my Sarah just to see how I am

89. Breakfast in bed

90. His Word – truth, light, love

91. Wisdom from lessons & adversity

92. His voice in the quiet

93. His strength in our weakness

94. Finding gratitude in the hard stuff

95. The man I love – his humility and willingness to get it right

96. God’s patience as I walk, stumble, learn and grow

97. Finding calm in the storms

98. Grace abounding

99. “The Love Dare”

100. “Courageous” & “Fireproof” – the movies that changed our lives

 

The light at the end of the tunnel…

My youngest daughter, Bec (age 19), has been suffering from anorexia for close to 3 years now. She has had her severe lows; hospitalisation in Nov 2009 after losing an excessive amount of weight in a very short space of time, being sent home from interstate after becoming so ill that she was at risk of organ failure in her first year of  University in 2010 (following her life dream) , spiralling downhill a number of times in 2011 after extreme emotional trauma, and now being stuck, so entrenched in the ED (eating disorder) that she sees no way out – no light at the end of the tunnel.  Her weight has been up and down like a rollercoaster, but in that time, she has not been close to a “healthy weight”.  The Ed has robbed her of her dream (she is a very talented dancer), her freedom, her happiness, her self-worth, her self-respect and threatens to destroy her life. She cannot see her true beauty (inside & out), her true giftings, her true value, her true self… because the ED has convinced her that she is ugly, worthless, useless, fat…

She was always so active, involved in numerous sports at State & National level, highly intelligent gaining a “General Excellence Scholarship” (Academic, Sport & Arts) at a private girls school for her senior years, gifted in leadership holding a position her last year of Primary school & two positions (Worshp Captain & Dance Captain) in her final Year 12. She is beautiful inside and out, loving, thoughtful, caring, compassionate, and sensitive.

Just this weekend, a school friend jokingly posted on Facebook posted: “I am just not cut out for the anorexic lifestyle.” , to which another young woman & teacher in her 20’s replied “You are too gorgeous, intelligent and sensible for that nonsense.”

It saddened me to read this, the view of those who lack understanding & compassion, but my daughter’s reply made me so proud. In all her struggles and hurt from cruel comments, abuse and verbal attacks from strangers, “friends” & some family, she was able to reply with this:

“It’s a shame people don’t understand that anorexia isn’t a lifestyle, it’s a serious illness. I have suffered from it for close to three years now.”

I know that many of my generation and older have no understanding of the disease and think it’s simple to fix. There is a belief that  the person can “just get over it” or “just eat some food” and they will be well. Contrary to that beilief, Eating disorders are serious and fatal diseases, like cancer, diabetes and many others – there is no “quick fix”.  Anorexia is a mental illness (just like depression); it is the most fatal of all mental illnesses, the hardest to treat, and the more starved the brain becomes, the more entrenched the disease becomes and the longer it lasts. What sufferers and families need is for society to listen to the advocates & educators in the ED area; to gain knowledge, understanding and in doing so to gain compassion.

My daughter posted on her blog last night: “In terms of myself, I am trapped in a state of limbo; mentally in a place that continues to destroy me both inside and out. I feel powerless when it comes to the notion of regaining life and freedom, happiness and contentment. It is a dark alley way and although there is a light at the end of the journey, it appears so dim.

As a parent, it’s heartbreaking to watch my daughter waste away before my eyes, to see her intense fear of food – the one thing that once provided, energy,  health, strength and nourishment to her body & brain is now a subject of fear.  I never envisaged this life. In all the years she and her brothers suffered chronic asthma as children, and were hospitalised countless times fighting to breathe. I never imagined that I would find myself again, fighting alongside her, willing her to choose life, encouraging her to beat an insidious disease that threatens her life.

“Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

I find myself again, on my knees, as I have been so many times, as I was when she was younger, pleading with God to heal her, touch her, restore her – to bring back my beautiful daughter, to return the sister her siblings love. It is only God who can give her the strength & courage to fight, to conquer, to triumph over this. My responsibility is to love, support, encourage, guide and pray. And that I will do until she sees the light at the end of this tunnel grow brighter and brighter, and walks out into the light and freedom of life.

Pray with me, if you will. My daughter needs a miracle and the scriptures tell us:

“For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them.” Matthew 18:20

Still counting gifts I am grateful for:

77. New challenges in my photography

78. The increasing ability to see beauty in even the simplest things

79. Creativity I never knew I had

80. Books to broaden my knowledge

81. Weekends

82. My new computer

83. Doctors with the gift to diagnose & heal

84. My daughter’s cooking

85. Summer salads

86. Tomato plants, once thought dead, brought back to life by rain