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Thursday, April 9, 2015

When Life Happens

I have been swirling words around in my brain for many days now, trying to figure out the right ones to say when I sat down to write this post. But I finally realized that the words don't have to be "right", they just have to be true. The truth is, life happens and sometimes it can really kick us in the pants.
 
My family is smack dab in the middle of a swift kick in the pants that we are still desperately trying to catch our breath from. One week ago today, my mama passed away. I've talked about her in varying degrees on the blog before - and probably said some pretty raw things about our relationship. Long story short, she was fighting an almost 3 year long battle with lung cancer and within the past year was diagnosed with leukemia also. Within a two week time frame, her health quickly declined and she found herself in the ICU facing double pneumonia. This is essentially a waiting game for stage 4 small cell lung cancer patients in her condition. So we waited. For a week and a half we watched her struggle and fight, and I do mean FIGHT, for every single breath that she was able to take. It's an excruciating  kind of pain to watch someone who gave you life literally fighting for their own. In the end, she lost her battle with cancer but she is finally at peace.
 
This has always been one of my favorite pictures of my mama.
This is from her baby shower, when she was a baby herself at 21 pregnant with me.
My mama was 51 years old. That doesn't seem near old enough for me to be 30 years old and only have one parent left. One of the worst parts for me has been watching my 3 younger brothers (25, 17 & 16 year olds) struggle with their emotions and for the younger ones to feel like it's just not fair. Really, it's not fair. I've felt the pain of life - a broken heart, the loss of a family member, the punch in the gut feeling when the rug is pulled out from under your feet. As someone who has overcome struggles before, I know that we are not promised a fair life. We are only promised that we do not have to face the struggles alone. “I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.” John 16:33
 
God's peace has been nothing short of miraculous for me during this difficult time. It's difficult to understand how I could even begin to feel the tiniest glimmer of hope while I was watching my mother die. It's unexplainable really. “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:6-7 I prayed day and night that God would give me peace and comfort my family. I asked others to pray for the same. And that's exactly what God did. He gave us the ability to comprehend the fact that she is no longer suffering. I like to think she is doing cartwheels in Heaven and enjoying every single breath!
 
That doesn't mean it doesn't feel sad or hard sometimes, but at the end of the day we have hope. Hope is EVERYTHING! As tumultuous of a relationship as my mom and I had at times, she was still the only mom I'll ever have. She was the one chosen to bring me into this world, and her impact on my life has a huge impact on my story. Tough days will come, when I am overcome with tears, emotions and grief. But hope will always linger. Hope is a gift and I am so thankful for it in these moments when it doesn't always come easy. “And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.” Romans 5:5
 
People have remarked to me lately about "how strong I am". I appreciate a good compliment just as much as the next girl, but I've got to be honest and say I'm really not strong. Right after I went through my broken engagement a few years ago, I remember all I wanted was to be seen as strong. The past three years have taught me A LOT about what being strong actually means. Being strong for me these days means not taking pride in my own strength, but admitting where I am weak and letting God fill in His strong. I don't know how I ever navigated this crazy life without Him leading me! The days can still feel hard, but I find when I lean on Him it becomes easier. The light at the end of the tunnel becomes visible. I know it's all part of a greater plan. “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” Matthew 11:28-30
 
I have learned in a very real way through this experience that even when circumstances are bad, God is still SO good. I have been scared of what the future holds for me now, and how I will be able to cope. But I rest assured that God has prepared my faith for those days. He has placed an amazing network of people around me who care for me and who I can be real with it when I need to be. He has held true on His promise to be right in the thick of things with me. I am beyond grateful for the 30 years I had with my mama! She taught me some really hard knock life lessons. I know that she is with my brothers and I until we take our last breaths here on this Earth. I trust that God still has big things planned for me here. He can use this broken old heart in ways that I would never be able to imagine possible. And the best part is, one day I will be right there with her in Heaven doing cartwheels and singing the praises of our faithful God.
 
*For those of you who are friends with me in real life, or on social media, thank you for the kind words and prayers for my family! We read so many of them together out loud and they helped us power through some pretty tough moments. They were much needed and very appreciated!
 
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20 comments:

P!nky said...

Oh sweet friend, I love you so much! Praying so hard for your and your family! <3

Law_Fal said...

Praying for you and your family Hun.

Kenya said...

Praying for you and the family. xoxo

Kerry @ Till Then Smile Often said...

I am so sorry for your loss. Praying for you and your family.

Amanda aka Manda said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Amanda aka Manda said...

Tears. Such a beautifully written, heartfelt post! Your mama is so proud of you, I know it, (especially since Boyz II Men's Mama is playing right now on my Pandora) and she'll always be with you!! Continuing to pray for you and your family! Love you SO much sweet friend!

Fran @ Sassy Southern Bride said...

Beautiful message, beautiful picture, and you are a beautiful person inside and out. Prayers for you friend.

Jen @ South in the City said...

Always thinking of you! Much love xoxo

Barbara Vines said...

When I opened this post, I did not expect this. I am thinking about you and your family.

This right here. So amazing. And so eloquent.

"Being strong for me these days means not taking pride in my own strength, but admitting where I am weak and letting God fill in His strong."

Micah said...

This is an amazing post. It's a great tribute to your mother as well as yourself. Be proud. Stay strong. Thinking of you.

Christina said...

Oh, Nikki, I am so sorry for your loss. You can tell by this blog post that you are definitely a strong woman. Use your strength to keep your family strong too. Your mother was stunning -- that picture really is beautiful. Sending you lots of love and hugs. xo

Samantha said...

Keeping you & your family in my prayers, pretty lady! So sorry for your loss!

Meagan Hofer said...

Nikki---there are no words. I'm praying for you and your family. I am SO sorry for your loss. Thinking of you in the days ahead and know that you are in His hands. xxoo

Tracy said...

You ARE strong - strong in your faith in our Lord and it's he who gives us our strength.

Your brothers are so lucky to have an amazing woman of faith like you as a sister - I'm praying for you and your family daily <3

(((((((((((((((((hugs))))))))))))))))))))))

Vicki said...

I am so sorry for your loss. My thoughts are with you and your family.

Stephen said...

That was a beautiful post, and it says the best things that one can say about such a terrible thing. I hope you're holding together OK and the days don't feel too bad. Hugs.

Nikki said...

I know I have said this before but I will say it again, I am so sorry for your loss. Praying for you and your brothers!

Janna Renee said...

I think you have gone through a lot that has made you stronger than you think, and you have found your way to God's peace in the process. I'm happy that your mom no longer has cancer in Heaven, and I hope your family finds peace. It's always too soon when they go. {{HUGS}}

Lins - Domesticated Working Woman said...

Thinking of you. xoxo

Kait said...

Sending you a big virtual hug, XOX