Grief Is Like A Box Of Chocolates

Forrest Gump’s mother  was certainly wise with her iconic life lesson

“Life is like a box of chocolates you never know what you are going to get”  

I have found that the grief process has been exactly like a box of chocolates. Contrary to everything I’ve been told and read (about grief and its many stages) mine is so uncategorized and random.  I never know what attribute of grief is going to pop up  or when.

My 52 year old wiser widow self knows better than to expect grief to fall into a box of categories landing on specific goal months. However I do find it ironic that I am almost 15 months into this gig and I can’t make neither head nor tails of where the emotions are supposed to land. I guess, like  many things in life,  you have no idea what to expect when you aren’t expectant.

For those of you who have children do you remember the books ‘What To Expect When You’re Expecting’ and ‘What To Expect The First Year’? In 1991 my husband and I  read every single page. We anticipated each change my body would make. If a symptom did not coincide on the month the book said it was to occur?  We became worried and secretly frantic. Our 24 year old minds were captivated with the mind blowing prospect that this little person was going to be growing and as if on command “performing” milestones in utero. The reality was each pregnancy is different and some things occurred on said months and some didn’t.

Likewise when our oldest daughter was born we devoured the pages of  


‘What To Expect The First Year’   
because,  well, we had no idea what to expect!  If our daughter didn’t achieve the milestones the book said she should on the exact  time, day and month? We were full of worry and angst.  Our 25 year old young first time parental selves thought every single thing must occur according to schedule.

I have never gone through ”Grief In A Box’ per se or grief  in the appropriate order that Elisabeth Kubler Ross & David Kessler write about in ‘Five Stages of Grief’.  This is the gold standard of grief for our country. But it doesn’t fit my grief. And that is okay.

I’ve never felt anger. And that might be because my husband had a terminal illness.  ALS afforded  us time to fulfill bucket lists, cross t’s, dot i’s, throw parties, say ‘i love you’s’. I’ve felt betrayal and anger at my circumstance surrounding my family but never angry at my husband or God.  I have felt anguishing deep pain, heartbroken, empty, lonely, unmotivated, hazed, distracted and unfulfilled but never angry. And all of these feelings do not come at once. They come at random times. They may hang on for months or be fleeting after several hours. And it is not depression. Undoubtedly depression is a very real component to grief. These feelings are grief.

The hardest part of grief for me are the ever changing emotions. After 15 months the daily non stop crying has ceased but new feelings are now at the forefront. Things I haven’t felt before or dealt with before. I have a new found sense of independence. Yet the awareness that I am now absolutely unequivocally alone is luminous in every aspect of my life. I often feel a  sense of disbelief. It is as if a light has just been turned on and illuminated the fact that Robin is truly gone. I found great comfort, just as recently as six months ago,  being surrounded by couple friends and their families. I now find it an agonizing reminder of what is no longer.

And through it all I know that it will eventually all be well. But it is not well with me  yet. It is hard. I often think how much easier it would be  if grief came in absolute stages and steps. Then we would all be able to check off each emotion:  “done”…next.  Until then? All we can do is trudge forward. Know that we will never  know from one hour to the next what we are going to get in this journey called grief. And that is okay for today.

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PURE JOY


One year ago your swanky wheelchair was delivered. I filmed as you took that machine for its first test drive.  PURE JOY as you attempted donuts at the end of the driveway. Laughter as you threw caution to the wind.  We had no idea you’d be gone just four months later.

Biblically the Hebraic meaning of the number 8 is ‘new beginnings’. Ironically in this 8th month, since your move to heaven, my life is projecting forth with almost too many new beginnings for my comfort.  My house is under contract (it ain’t a done deal till it’s closed), I’m in the process of packing up my home and 27 years of memories in just 8 weeks time,  finding a new home, still dealing with estate issues, my oldest daughter is preparing for a new job out of state and my youngest daughter is studying abroad as soon as her spring semester is over. Oh, and did I mention I haven’t done my taxes yet? This will be a life changing season of new beginnings. One of complete and total independence. It’s also a season of being completely alone for the first time in my adult life. A time of total dependence on the Lord.

You taught us all so much in the last eleven months of your life. As cliche as it sounds you captivated us with your seize the day mentality and your child like wonder. You led us spiritually to a deeper understanding of seeking the kingdom of God first.

You are loved and missed more than words could ever convey.  I’m excited to start this new chapter and simultaneously so very sad.  If your girls and I can do 1/8th of the job you did demonstrating complete trust, peace and joy in Jesus? Well, we will have done something magnificent. Happy 8th month Home Going, Robin Wooten!

“No, dear brothers, I am still not all I should be, but I am bringing all my energies to bear on this one this: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead”
-Philippians 3:13

Blown Fuse

It was a warm sunny spring afternoon in our little married student housing cinderblock apartment. You had just come in from class. I was hand drying dishes when the phone rang. I cradled the phone on my shoulder next to my ear while holding a glass still damp with dishwater in my free hand. The voice on the other end of the line said three words that were so terrifying I dropped the glass. It shattered everywhere. You came running into the kitchen. “What’s wrong? What is it?!” I hung up the phone in disbelief. No, actually, shock. “I’m pregnant”.

We were told we could never have children. In fact, just 9 weeks earlier I had a DNC at Duke. Unbeknownst to us I was evidently pregnant during the procedure. The fetus should have been aborted.  We stood in the kitchen looking at each other. I started to cry and you grinned from ear to ear.  “What are we going to do, RW?”  “Have a baby, Mama, have a baby .”  We were 24 years old.

You’ve been gone 7 1/2  months and my sensory receptors feel exactly like they did 20 some years ago when we found out I was pregnant with our oldest daughter. It can’t be real. But it is. It’s shocking to the system. Paralyzing.  “What do I do now?” “How do I do this?” All ridiculous reactions because I have been doing life without you for months now. Days are filled with activity and purpose. It’s the daily routines of our marriage that stop me cold in my tracks. Driving to supper club by myself I glance over to your empty seat and it takes my breath away.  It’s as if my mind and my heart have blown a fuse. I know you are not coming back. I know you aren’t going to be sitting at the dinner table or in the church pew.  I know this. But for whatever reason your absence is surreal in these moments.

Naomi, Job, Hannah, David, Mary, Martha & Jesus all experienced deep grief. I find comfort knowing Jesus wept over his friend. He loved Lazarus. He knew he was going to die.  Jesus knew he was going to resurrect Lazarus. Guess what? Jesus still grieved!

This reminds me that where there is deep love there is deep grief.  It doesn’t mean your faith is any less or that the testimony isn’t as valid. It doesn’t mean you are stuck and not moving forward. It simply means you loved deeply and now you are deeply grieved. And for today? That is okay.

“For your love & kindness are better to me than life itself!”-Psalm 63:3

I’m Coming Out

I’m coming out. Coming clean, if I may. Brutally honest. I’ve been struggling. Walking the tight rope between self pity and pride. That uncomfortable gray area somewhere between “help me!” and “what are you talking about? I’m fine!” I know that I’m not fine but I’m too prideful to risk pity.

My very best friends have no idea what my day to day life is like. I’m a master deflector. I’ve learned to brilliantly navigate through relationships. With the utmost love and genuine care I invest my time and ear listening to my friends trials and triumphs. I was a journalism major and I’m an accomplished interviewer. I’m not nearly as quick to let others uncover the real scoop about my life. And as of late this is by design.

And yet how can I write about my relationship with Christ if I can’t be truly honest? How can I have genuine, sincere, meaningful relationships if I don’t want to be exposed? Honest? And why is it that some topics transparency is acceptable and others show weakness or failure in the eyes of the world?

How about you? What difficulties are you hiding from the world? What pain do you go to great lengths to hide? Do you unload on your spouse and kids behind closed doors only to repaint your persona once you step outside of your four walls?

We live in a confusing time in history. As a human race we rally around the obscure only to crucify what we deem as weak. Broken. We base self worth on selfies, homes, cars, education, vacations, and our vain accolades to promote our children. We place the highest value on busyness, being seen, self promotion, and self enrichment. In other words, success is perfection that we must create, orchestrate, and perform in order to be of value or worth. Everything is a fight to win perfection.

We turn cancer patients into “survivors”. Those battling disease into “warriors”. Addicts are “recovering”. Marriages that fall apart into “battles”. We take every day human life experiences and rally behind them to make them socially acceptable by simply labeling them something to justify the “weakness” that person is walking through.

Does anyone find this crazy? Doesn’t the bible clearly tell us in 2 Corinthians 12:10 “For when I am weak, then I am strong”? God knew and God knows we all face weaknesses and that is a good thing!! It is in that weakness that we let Him take the burden from us. It is in that weakness that we have the opportunity to shine. The enemy has convinced the world that weakness is failure and can only be corrected by self help. And if we label it something then it’s socially acceptable to be the walking wounded. Otherwise we are just broken.

Today is World Scleroderma Day. Since scleroderma is part of my testimony I thought I would share with you what it’s like living with a chronic, incurable and ultimately terminal illness. It sucks. It’s watching your body become broken. It’s loosing independence. It’s living with disfigurement. It’s painful. It’s isolating. It’s sometimes terrifying. Its heartbreaking. It’s embarrassing. Often shameful. Exhausting. Expensive. I have absolutely no control. Zero.

And yet the disease has allowed me to see the bigger picture. The disease has let me personally know Jesus. The disease has let me see that pre- scleroderma I was infected too. I was diseased with self. Self everything. I do not believe that God makes bad things happen. But I do believe God brings to light who we really are when bad things do happen.

I’m broken. God knows, people, I am broken. And I’ve spent the last month screaming at my husband because of all I can’t do. I take pills to be able to swallow. I take pills to make my non existent digestive system function. I take injections for my joints. I take vitamins and probiotics to fight the never ending pool of bacterial overgrowth in my gut. I inhale things to get the fluid out of my lungs. I swallow more pills to keep flushing my kidneys. I get injections in my skull to fight the blinding headaches. I rub prescription creams all over the ulcers on my extremities. I only eat foods that won’t make me violently sick or choke. I inject myself with chemo drugs every Sunday hoping to achieve remission. I can’t stay awake during the day and I can’t sleep at night. I am a trapped in a body that I can not control.

In the worlds eye–and admittedly in my mind during quarterly melt downs–I’m a failure. But guess what? This ain’t forever.! And through all of this I still see Jesus. I see Him in the sunrise. I see Him in the sunset. I see Him in my garden. I see Him in the texts from friends. I hear Him in phone calls. I hear Him in my husbands voice as he whispers “I’d take it for you if I could”. I hear it in my grown children’s “I love you, Mama”. I feel Him in the sunshine. I feel Him in my dogs warm snuggles. I feel Him in music blaring from my car stereo.

Through weakness I have become strong. Strong enough to be dressed and ready for the world and most days with a smile on my face. Strong enough and smart enough to hunt down, diagnose, and research every new symptom that pops up. Strong enough to know when I’m not strong enough to push through. Strong enough to live outside of my circumstances by investing in relationships other than focusing solely on me. Smart enough to know that life isn’t a do over. Life is the the question “what are you going to do? Are you going to make a difference? Let Jesus shine? Or are you going to succumb to mediocrity?”

I am physically broken but in Him I am perfect. In Him I have a label… “I am His”.

“Never give up”-Luke 18:1

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Back To The Throne

Every evening before I go to sleep and every morning before I rise I ask God to show me what He would like me to share. To write. If I hear silence I don’t write. This week I have heard a lot. I’ve waited for Him to help me express it but the words just haven’t come. I can tell you that if the words aren’t His I won’t write it.

This week two topics have been placed heavy on my heart. The first is our time here on earth. The second is our children. I will be honest I am somewhat of a coward. I know exactly what He wants me to write and I haven’t done it. I will say time is short. Oh so very short. There is an urgency to bring all luke warm Believers back to the Throne. To become entrenched in falling in love with Him again. To be Awake. Ready. Actively seeking Him.

The second is praying for our children. Seems simple right? Well it is not. I have prayed for our children their whole lives. I know they are each His.  One of our children has a very strong walk with the Lord.  Another one of our children has the most miraculous testimony. But she doesn’t see that  yet. I know that she will come back to Him. My fear is that our time is limited. As a friend told me earlier this week “You can count on that promise! It is fact, God’s word tells us  if our kids have been trained up in the way that they  should go? They will come back. God is a man of His word. Period. (Proverbs 22:6)”.

I think in previous decades and generations our parents turned a blind eye when we were in college. They trusted our judgement. They knew we had been raised in the church. They knew we would be back when we married and had children. This generation is different. Much different. Traditional biblical values are no longer the thread of our national upbringing. Everything is immediate. Everything is about Me. This generation is not learning how to have a relationship. There are no social skills. I really believe that plays a huge part of the enemies plan to destroy our children. When your child is faced with immediate gratification monetarily, mentally, sexually, and morally why in the world would they want to take the time to read and learn the bible? To develop a relationship with Christ? When every child in this nation is pushed to be a winner? Or handed a trophy for making it to class? Why would they need a Savior? They’re being taught to be their own saviors.

The book of Joel, Timothy, Peter, John, Mathew, Luke, Revelation all tell us that we are living amongst the last generation. People, Christians specifically, do not want to hear this. I will tackle the scripture for this at a later date.

Back to our kids. We must be obedient, diligent, and deliberate in our prayers for our children and grandchildren. Here are some pretty great promises from our Savior.

1) Pray that they will come to know Christ at an early age. (Timothy 3:15)
2) Pray that they will recognize sin and have a hatred for it (Psalms 97:10)
3) Pray that they will be caught when guilty (Psalms 119:71)
4) Pray that they will be protected from evil in their emotional, spiritual and physical areas of their lives (John 17:15)
5) Pray that they will have a responsible attitude in all of their interpersonal relationships (Daniel 6:3)
6) Pray that they will respect those in authority over them (Romans 13:1)
7) Pray that they will desire the right kind of friends and be protected from the wrong friends (Proverbs1:10-11)
8) Pray that they will be kept from the wrong mate and saved for the right one (2 Cor. 6:14-17)
9) Pray that they will learn to submit totally to God & resist satan in all circumstances (James 4:7)
10) Pray that they will be willing to be sold out totally to Jesus Christ (Romans 12:1-2)

The most powerful tool that we have as parents is to pray for our kids. Pray for their hearts. Pray for their decisions. If need be? Pray for them to be broken of the chains of this generation.  It is in our depths of despair that we cry out  and turn back to God.  God hears us! He is not going to leave a single one of His children behind.

Time is short. Pray for the ones you love. Cry out to the heavens. Be prepared to witness miracles.

“He learned obedience through the things he suffered”-Hebrews 5:8

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Emptied Of Ourselves

Someone recently told me that they suffer from the fear of missing out. With a straight face. She was dead serious. She actually had a physician tell her that she is possibly suffering from this “disease”. I tried not to laugh. To humor myself I googled it. Get out! It’s a thing. A real life phobia.

Athazagoraphobia:  “noun. An irrational fear of being forgotten or replaced”.

Oh, Dear Lawd! I could feel it coming. My biblical tirade. I choked it down. “Wow! I’m so sorry” was all I could come up with. Their $40 co-pay went to someone who decided tacking on one more label to an already confused person was a good thing. I really wanted to call this Doctor and educate her. But then I realized it doesn’t matter.  Nothing I say is going to make a difference. She has to work it out for herself. Come to the epiphany on her own.

So let me tell you what doctor of biblical studies Elizabeth thinks (you know that’s sarcasm right?). We can not be full of the Holy Spirit until we are emptied of ourselves. If the Lord can’t get us to leave a situation, relationship, lifestyle on our own accord? He causes our circumstances to change. That falling away of self causes extreme loneliness. It causes depression. It causes deep grief for what once was. He’s stripping away. He’s taking away the hangups, hiccups, and pride. He’s undoing the chains and releasing us from bondage.

Sometimes those emotions are so frightening we seek medical help. I get that. Been there done that.  We fill our ears, get them tickled, with words that help explain our pain. The feelings are real. I don’t discount that. But the Lord wants us to come to Him for the answers. When you love someone such as a  child, spouse, best friend,  or parent what do you want to do? Spend time with them!  One on one time to share news, stories, thoughts, feelings about their life and yours. When God pulls us away from social situations we feel completely alone. Left out. Unloved. The reality? He is so in love with us He wants us all to Himself. He wants us to share our fears, sadness, loneliness, helplessness, heartache with Him. He wants that season of our lives all to Him. So that He can mend us. Heal us. Strengthen us. Love us. Build us up so that He can release us back into the world made brand new in His sight.

The process is excruciating. Sometimes paralyzing. But He has us in the palm of His hand. When we can shed our pride and our fear God is able to do amazing things in our lives. Mental illness is very real. There was a time in my life when I was so paralyzed with fear and depression that I didn’t want to participate in daily life. I understand it and I’m not making light of it. Psychologists couldn’t help. My husband couldn’t help. Someone invited me to a bible study. For five years the Lord sloughed off and made new what was once dull and broken. I remember sleeping with the bible on my face. I would read scripture before I went to sleep. I’d leave the open bible on my face. All the while praying for God to rearrange my brain. Change my thought process. Take away the pain of feeling left out, left behind, betrayed, not good enough, etc. etc..

There is no doubt that we can do ALL things through Christ who strengthens us (Philippians 4:13). God gives us that beautiful promise. But we have to want the help. His help. We have to trust that in that broken space and time He’s at work. In the silence He is there holding us up, retraining, regrouping, rearranging.  He’s closing doors to what once was. But if we can trust Him? Hang on? Cling to Him? What He has in store for us is better than anything we could have ever imagined for ourselves.

“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come:
The old has gone, the new is here!”-2 Corinthians 5:17

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Step Aside So He Can Step In

“Please don’t ask me how my kid is doing” I was thinking to myself after spotting one of my children’s former teachers in the grocery store.  Bless this Saints heart!  “How are you? The family?”   Easy enough. “Everyone is doing great and your crowd?” I replied.

One of my dear friends had a child who was figuring out life. It just so happened this particular young adult was taking a little bit longer to find stride. I remember her telling me how difficult it was to answer prying questions about this adult child. I thought, quite honestly, she was being overly sensitive and a tad ridiculous. How wrong I was. I get it! Totally get it.

It’s not that you are questioning your past abilities as a parent or that you are embarrassed. They are grown now. It’s a fine line between being overly informative and protective. It’s easy to brag on the successes of the child who has thrived. The child who is lost or struggling is a different story. You know it won’t make sense to others because you can’t make heads or tails of it yourself.

I’m trying to turn over a new leaf. Operative word is trying. I want to let go. It’s time to let go. I know this. My hopes and dreams? My husbands hopes and dreams? They are just that: ours. They are not necessarily what God has in the big picture.

I’ve spent weeks talking to God about what we did wrong or didn’t do wrong. Let’s be honest: what I did wrong. Silence. I was awoken in the middle of the night recently. I had a dream. In the dream God-I didn’t see Him or hear Him– I knew in the dream it was God. He clearly and precisely  stated  “Let go so that I may catch her“.

How many of us cling so tightly for control that we forget the freedom we found in Christ to begin with?  Why do we do that? When we trust Him enough with our own lives why can’t we entrust the lives of those we love to Him?

So this week I’m going to practice what Matthew preaches in chapter 6 verse 27: “Can all your worries add a single moment to your life?“.  I’m committed to praying.  I’m committed to trusting Him. Let’s be real, I may only make it until Monday night. But I’m going to try to step aside so He can step in.

So here’s to all of us with bruised or broken  hearts: the silent worriers, the control freaks, the grieving, and the depressed.  May we greet each other in public places not with the Spanish Acquisition but rather may we acknowledge one another with hugs, prayers, laughter, and kindness.  May we give it all to God so that we can get on with the business of living the life He has set before us. Amen.

“God is in the midst of her she shall not be moved”-Psalm 46:5

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