Wednesday, August 6, 2014


Thank you from the bottom of my heart to every kind person who donated to Tommy Musser's memorial fund. Susanna and Joe are so grateful for your words of encouragement, and for your heartfelt generosity. Any additional amount donated above the funeral costs and headstone will go to The Pleven Project in Tommy's memory.

And having said that ... I have a very hard time posting pictures of happiness here today. It feels almost hurtful to do so, because life is just going on as usual for me, while my friend is grieving. I find myself a hundred times a day wondering how Susanna is coping, and worrying about her tender mama's heart... I have to deliberately turn my worry into prayer, because without that I am helpless and - I'm just being real - hopeless. 

Tommy's death isn't about me, and I don't want to try to make it about me... but I'm blogging from my heart here, and I trust that you know my heart if you've been reading here awhile. I have a hard time processing the deaths or tragedies or prolonged illnesses of friends and loved ones. I have a hard time not "carrying" my loved ones' grief. Does that make sense ? It's like I am afraid to enjoy life for awhile after something happens, as if my happiness or joy is somehow dishonoring the pain I know someone else is going through. I have a habit of living vicariously through others' pain, and I don't really know why that is. I can't just read about something difficult happening to someone else, without imagining what they are going through. 

This habit has not been a healthy one as far as my mental and emotional health goes. 

Years ago I went through an intense bout of depression. I've blogged about it before, and attempted to offer help for others who have maybe gone through similar things. I wish I could say that I know I will never ever have to go through anything that intense again, but life has a way of throwing us curve balls sometimes, doesn't it ? I can't guarantee what the future holds, but I do feel like God has given me some guardrails, if you will, for keeping me out of that pit of despair.  

Because I don't ever want to go back to that place of fear and anxiety, I am very very careful about making sure those guardrails are in place, as much as is in my power. I do know that lots of things are beyond my control - the world we live in is not a perfect place, and no matter how diligently I seek to protect myself and my family from the trials of life, they are going to come. 

But I also believe that God can give us grace and strength and wisdom in handling things. I am living proof that He can help us to be "overcomers", which is a fancy way of saying He helps us deal with life's crud. We won't ever live a life that is without pain- we're not in Heaven yet - but we can have joy in the midst of sorrow. I do believe that.

One of my favorite authors (who also happens to be a dear friend) says it this way :

"The secret to joy is to keep seeking God where we doubt He is."
~Ann Voskamp, One Thousand Gifts: A Dare to Live Fully Right Where You Are 

And for me, what that means on a daily (sometimes hourly) basis, is that I don't let the moments of joy that are happening right before me - escape me.

I've heard something said before, and when I just looked it up to find the source, I added a new book to my "purchase soon" list.

"Good and bad run on parallel tracks, and they usually arrive at the same time."
~Ron Dunn, When Heaven Is Silent : Trusting God When Life Hurts

Life can be filled with unspeakable pain. Whether that is our own pain and grief, or that of a friend or loved one, it is inescapable : there will be times when it seems Heaven is silent.

 If you are one of those who subscribes to the belief that everything happens for a reason, I just have to say : sometimes there are no good "reasons" for the really, really ugly things that happen in life. 

We live in a fallen world- this is not Heaven. We are imperfect, the world is imperfect, and we cannot always stuff life into a nicely wrapped package with a bow and declare that it was "meant to be." 

Some things in life are so horrific, I promise you -they were never ever ever meant to be. 

Life runs on parallel tracks of good and bad, and we cannot focus on either track if we are going to process things healthily. 

Choosing to ignore the fact that sometimes people go through things that make absolutely no sense this side of Heaven, turns us into pretty unsympathetic - and let's face it, shallow - people, doesn't it ? It's very easy to wrap up tragedy in a nice tidy cliche, until we're the ones going through it.

On the other hand, there are those who choose to go through life constantly reminding themselves - and perhaps everyone around them - that life is hard. We're all just one tragedy away from disaster, don't you know, and why even pretend to believe in God or any sort of order to anything? Because what good does faith do when we have no control over what happens to us anyway ? I know people who embrace this kind of worldview - I've been there myself - and I can't think of a more hopeless way to live.

We can't casually dismiss other's grief and suffering with trite sayings or cliches, but we also can't allow the fact that life has an ugly side to color our view of everything so heavily that all we see is gray.

I've had a hard time straddling those parallel tracks throughout my life, but I can tell you this : we can find balance when we keep our focus on Jesus. 

We can have empathy and compassion for those who are hurting, and we can experience joy and goodness even when we ourselves are the ones going through seasons of grief, when we bring it all before the throne of grace through prayer.

We can immerse ourselves in the thousand gifts that God showers us with every day .... we can choose to let the joy of those blessings penetrate the darkness that threatens to extinguish any hope. 

my sixteen year old, teaching Sunday School

Caleb- our junior chef

We can - I can - decide that some things in life are just too heavy for me to carry, and the only way I can move forward is by putting those things into the able hands of my Savior.

"Casting all your cares upon Him, for He careth for you."
1 Peter 5:7 

our granddaughter, Macie Blair

I've had to bring a lot to God this summer ... things I don't have the answers to, trials I'm personally going through, situations that are beyond my control. I'm a worrier by nature, but I'm learning to take that worry and turn it into prayer. It's a hard habit to break, but time and experience and the grace of God - they are all there keeping me from that pit of hopelessness I've been to in the past. I'm by no means perfect, but I do know this : in my weakness, His strength is made perfect. 

Are you worn down by things you're carrying that are too heavy to bear ? Do the unanswered questions in life have you drowning in despair, or even worse - closing your eyes and your heart to the joy that is right before you ?

I have a guardrail for you to put in place.

You have to choose to do this, because it's not going to come naturally, and you certainly can't do it alone.

"Come unto me, all you that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest."

~ Jesus.  Matthew 11:28

Take your hurting heart to Jesus, take your burdens and your sin and your sorrow and all of life's grief and bring it to the foot of the Cross. 

He can handle it all - HE is the guardrail for your soul.


Bethany Eicher said...

Excellent, excellent post. I needed many people need this! You said it very well.

mom of three said...

Thank you for this post. It may be your most important message ever. Your words bring great comfort and meet us all where we are at this moment, and invite us to partake in a trip to the Cross where we can let go and Let God. I am grateful for your kindness, insight, and unconditional love.
Gretchen Gear

Joy said...

Patti, I've been reading your blog for almost a year and thought I loved you from the get-go, but wow. I'm reading this, and I just love you so much! Thank you for saying this! All of it! This is exactly how I feel when tragedies happen, and then someone says something about our culture being too insensitive to tragedy. Maybe that's true in general, but SO NOT for me. It's like I almost get physically ill when tragedy strikes, even if it didn't happen to me personally. I lie awake feeling such strong pain for these people. And most of all, I start to feel paralyzed by fear that it will happen to me.
God has been showing me so much, especially this summer, and it's like you wrote what I've been learning. I pray for comfort for you and
Susannah (and her whole family) right now. But I also pray that you can feel God's hand lifting you up and bringing the light back in.

ellefinn said...

I love the photo of the sunset - the silhouette of the trees at the bottom. Even they are saying 'Praise the Lord!'

M Sandone said...

Wonderful post. Thank you.

Melissa said...

Thank you for this. I have SUCH a hard time still three years later not being angry over what happened to our youngest, it really makes me mad when people say "But he's so happy anyway..." "Or God must have wanted this..." I get stuck in that angry place, and the platitudes just infuriate me. No. I'm a christian and I cannot BELIEVE that the God I serve would do that to our son, or The Musser's son. ' Sometimes there isn't a reason. There just isn't. There is joy, but there is also heartbreak. They go hand in hand.

Amy said...

A respected friend in ministry challenged my idea that "all things happen for a reason" a few years back. I've been so frustrated with him ever since. Today I feel like God blessed me with another piece of that puzzle in this blogpost. My friend (unintentionally) left me feeling like the alternative was hopelessness- that God didn't have anything for me in the ugly moments. But I know He does. I don't need to understand them or find a way to move them from "ugly" to "beautiful"- I just need to leave them at His feet. I'm truly thankful for you & the wisdom you so often bring to the table. I'm certain your friend Susanna would say the same. Praying over her & those she loves today.

Erin said...

Again, you write what my soul has been yearning to be reminded of. Funny how I feel like I know you and can relate to you even though we are so different and have never met. Thank you for your words and for offering a window into your beautiful world to us out here in cyberspace.

Tucket said...

I have been reading your blog and have fallen in love with your family. Thank you for your Christ-Like example. Thank you for your thoughts on how to be happy a mist all of the turmoil in life. I know that we can not make it successfully through life with out prayer and leaving our burden's at our saviors feet. I have a friend who's life was changed forever when he learned about prayer. I wanted to share his story with you. Thank you again. And have a wonderful day.

Leah said...

Patti, I'm in tears here. You have no idea how much I needed to hear this right now. Such beautiful truth :) I have struggled alot these past few days but yet trying to be joyful in the midst of heartache. I have been to that point of darkness in my advocating for orphans & I'm trying not to go back there now despite another orphan I love being stuck possibly forever & losing her family. thank you so much

nicole said...

I completely understand what you meant by living someone else's pain vicariously. My brother lost his oldest son in a tragic pool accident this past November and I felt the same way. How can I let myself feel any happiness when they are so sad? What are they thinking right now? I bet they are remembering this or crying or . . . The best response they would get from people who were trying to comfort them was, "I don't know why this happened." Period. Like you said, we aren't in heaven yet and things don't make sense. Loved this post.

Deanna said...

I just love you. I have come back to read this post several times, and I love it more each time. Also- you take the most amazing pictures. Seriously. #bloggeroftheyear

Annabell said...

Abby You are a very beautiful young lady!!Don't let anyone tell you different!!