My Wounded Heart

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The grief was still too near, a matter for tears and not yet for song.

                        ~J. R. R. Tolkien

      

You just sit and try to understand. But some things cannot be understood. Some paths are just too dark to see the other side, and once you have turned down the path there’s no going back. It’s dark and no one can take the journey for you. There is nothing but forward, though you do it with trembling and uncertainty. This journey is not of my choosing, but it is mine nonetheless.

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          After two weeks of dealing with the aftermath of September 11, our family returned home. I was to resume the threads of a normal life. But how could life ever be normal again? Outwardly, I performed all that was expected. Inwardly, I felt as though I was moving through a thick fog, dazed and confused. Within days of arriving home, we celebrated our youngest son’s birthday. I sat there looking on, knowing that I needed to cherish the moment, this first birthday of my last child, but really, I wasn’t even there. I felt nothing. I was numb. My son’s entire life has been his mother trying to come to terms with 9/11. Yet somehow, I walked through the days and months that followed. The school year continued, more birthdays came; then the holidays approached, and the weariness set in.

Life is hard. Just the breath we take in can become a burden. There were days when all I could do was focus on the next moment, for to look beyond that next moment was overwhelming. I would go through the day saying, “All I am going to do is unload the dishwasher. That is all I have to do. I will think of nothing but unloading the dishwasher.” Then I would swallow the tears and unload the dishwasher. Then I would say, “Now I am going to load the dishwasher. I will think of nothing but loading the dishwasher….” Moment to moment was all I could handle. I wanted to throw the covers over my head and stay in bed forever. But I had a baby who needed me, so I got up and faced each new day, each day where no dawn could reach me.

The terror of it all surrounds me. Though I would shake it off, it pursues me, violently storming against me. How can I outrun the wind? The more I leave off, the more it seeks me out. My soul is poured out in my distress. I am dissolved in a flood of tears, my vessel full of holes so that nothing is contained. “The days of affliction take hold of me.” (Job 30:15–16)

How can God understand my hurt? “Does He have eyes of flesh? Or does He see as man sees?” (Job 10:4) Even worse, if He grasps how I feel, how could He let this happen knowing full well how this would affect me? If God is Love, how can He allow Hate to strike His own?

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         “What strength do I have, that I should hope?” (Job 6:11a) My mind is like a house filled with archways. I have no doors that I can shut against the grief. My sorrow flows freely into all aspects of my life. I can never escape it. “I am not at ease, nor am I quiet; I have no rest, for trouble comes.” (Job 3:26)

And so the tears come as the loss overwhelms, like a wave that crashes into me and tosses me, threatening to drag me out to sea. Each new memory casts me back into the grief and loss. The emptiness consumes me, a fire that cannot be extinguished.

Yet Hope springs in the darkest hour. book cover 1

~ Susan

See what God has shown me through the tragic events of September 11 in my true and personal account: SILENT RESOLVE AND THE GOD WHO LET ME DOWN (a 9/11 story)

Excerpts taken from SILENT RESOLVE AND THE GOD WHO LET ME DOWN (a 9/11 story): Episode 2 – Awakened and Episode 3 – Tears

Forsaken

Imagine, if you will, that you are an Israelite in Jerusalem and the army of Assyria is encamped against your walls. All the nations around you whyhaveyouforsakenme_wide_t_nvhave fallen. Jerusalem is the last city standing, your city, Zion, which God had promised to protect.

Isaiah 49:14 speaks of the people’s reaction:

But Zion said, “The Lord has forsaken me, And my Lord has forgotten me.”

Forsaken by God. Most of us have felt that way at one time or another. Even Jesus experienced this emotion when upon the cross He cried, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Matthew 27:46)

I have felt forsaken. On September 11, 2001, my father was ripped from this world by terrorists. In that moment, I felt forsaken. All that I had believed in, trusted in, was stripped out from under me.

But hear what God spoke through Isaiah, the prophet:

“Can a woman forget her nursing child, And not have compassion on the son of her womb? Surely they may forget, Yet I will not forget you. See, I have inscribed you on the palms of My hands; Your walls are continually before Me.” (Isaiah 49: 15-16)

He has inscribed you on the palms of His hands…..

This is not just taking a pen and writing your name on His skin. You have been inscribed, that is, engraved. He has taken a blade and carved His palm, wounding His flesh so that forever He will bear the scars of your name upon His hands.

Not only does He know our name, but He bears our scars upon His flesh…forever.

I have journeyed down a dark and empty road: alone, abandoned, and forsaken. But I have found something along this desolate way: a beautiful truth. My foundation is sure…and I am not alone.

We all face trials. We have difficult times. God never promised us otherwise. In fact, He told us that in this world we will have tribulation (John 16:33). But He did not leave us to travel this world without aid.

Listen what the Lord proclaims:

“I, even I, am He who comforts you.” (Isaiah 51:12)

Now this next part is a little condemning to me…God says:

“Who are you that you should be afraid?”

I have been afraid. I am sure you have too. We live in a world full of terror. But who are we that we should be afraid when the Lord is our God? If we are afraid, we do not believe.

“Who are you that you should be afraid of a man who will die, And of the son of a man who will be made like grass? And you forget the Lord your Maker, Who stretched out the heavens and laid the foundations of the earth.” (Isaiah 51: 12-13)

We have a powerful God. So why do we fear?

What can man do to me? (Psalm 118:6)

“But I am the Lord your God, Who divided the sea whose waves roared— The Lord of hosts is His name. And I have put My words in your mouth; I have covered you with the shadow of My hand, That I may plant the heavens, Lay the foundations of the earth, And say to Zion, ‘You are My people.’” Isaiah 51:15-16)

We do not have a God who looks on from the outside as we struggle along the way. But we have a God who enters with us into the midst of the fire. He walks the troubled path with us, taking us through to the other side. He is our God and we are His people, engraved upon his hand: a perpetual covenant between the Lord and His chosen.

So as you travel the journey of this earthly life, remember: you are not forsaken.

~ Susan

Silent Resolve and the God Who Let Me Down (a 9/11 story)If you would like to learn more about Susan’s experience with September 11, 2001, read her book: SILENT RESOLVE AND THE GOD WHO LET ME DOWN (a 9/11 story). You can find it at Amazon, Barnes and Nobles, or your area retailers.

 

The Sitting Room with Kath Chiero

“I am wounded. I feel wounded. I try to go about my life as though everything is fine, like I’m OK. But I have been lacerated to my core and I carry the hurt with me always.”- Susan VanVolkenburgh speaking about the loss of her father in the attacks on 9/11. Hear her story and remember our loss on Sunday at 5:00 EST www.610wtvn.com

September 11

A Dreadful Day – For those of us who remember that September morning also recall the pain, sadness and hopelessness that clouded a nation. Thousands died and the victims’ families were forced to begin a journey that none of them wanted to take.

Susan Van VolkenburghKathy welcomes into The Sitting Room, Susan Van Volkenburgh, author of the book, “Silent Resolve and the God Who Let Me Down: (A 9/11 Story)” to recount her journey. On September 11, 2001 at 9:37 a.m., American Airlines Flight 77 plummeted into the Pentagon, taking the lives of 184 innocent people. One of them was Susan’s father, Stanley R. Hall. At that moment, everything changed for Susan. Everything she knew, everything she ever believed in, came crashing down. Her life began to unravel. This ten-year journey through the desert, through a land where God was silent, was a time of trial and of spiritual awakening. Could faith endure in the face of so great a loss, so large a betrayal? Transcending the events of September 11, this spiritual odyssey moves through the mire of grief and loss, to question the very motives and promises of God.

My Father Which Art in Heaven….

The wound runs deep, ripped open anew. As blood spills out of my ruptured heart, others look on in confusion from across the aisle. They do not understand. It has not always been so for me. But now it is my reality with each passing year. The light is so bright; the cheerful shoppers pass through the card filled aisle. I take a step closer to the brightly colored display. It holds no joy for me, just a reminder of what I have lost…

Every year it is the same. I have to select Father’s Day cards for other fathers in my family, but all I can do is think of the one missing, the one ripped from my life, killed by hate. Gall rises in my throat. I clench my teeth. My father’s words run through my mind, “Don’t let anyone or anything have dominion over you but God.” But tragedy changes you, shapes you into someone new.

I sit here looking at the blank page. The words come with difficulty. I desire to write a tribute for Father’s Day, but to be honest, it is a difficult time for me. My mind reels against me for it is too painful to walk down that path again. I have fought so hard to rise above the grief, to climb up that spiral of sorrow.

It begins with Memorial Day, that downward trek into grief. I struggle to rise, clinging to the sides of the spiral. I do not want to slide back down. The upward journey is too hard. But it is the way is has been since my father was taken on that terrible day, September 11, 2001.Bench at Pentagon

I fight against myself: want versus will. I am weary of thinking about my loss, yet I was so privileged to have had such a good father. And so I push back against the pain to share with you my father.

When I was in grade school, I had to write a small piece describing whom I thought was a great person in the world. I could have chosen anyone: a sports figure, a movie star, a person in history. Instead, I wrote, “My father, because he loves me and he is nice. I love my father. When I need help he helps me.”

Whenever I needed help with homework, I often ventured downstairs to my father’s office. He was always willing to stop his own work to come to my aid. Often I desired his assistance in achieving the solution to one particular math problem, but he would go into a long dissertation attempting to lead me to understand the reasoning behind the mathematical operation. I would grow impatient, wanting to get on with it so I could just finish my homework and move on to more interesting pursuits. Nonetheless, he would continue until I had a solid grasp of the concept.

When I had questions about the Bible or God, my father would never just come out and provide me with direct answers. He would put on that crooked smile of his, lean back in his chair, and point to his bookshelf.

“The answer can be found in one of these books.”

I would sigh, my shoulders slumping, wanting quick answers. Then I would search his library until I found what I needed to resolve my query.

Now, as I look back, I am so thankful for the instruction he gave me. I have spent my life seeking answers to questions, desiring to learn and understand. Research has become my passion. Really, I could spend all day researching any number of topics. I credit my father for this love of learning that I now possess. What I saw as a frustration when I was teenager, I cherish now as a gift. And so, I pass the teaching on to my children. I see the same frustration in their eyes, and I smile and thank God that I was blessed to have the father that I had.

stanley hallI remember when we lived in Westlake, California, waking up to the sun filtering through the window of my bedroom. My window was open, as it often was, filling the room with the wholesome morning air, the kind of air that takes you out of yourself. The sound of the pool filter humming met me as I rejoined the waking world. It was a warm, comforting sound. I would look out my window and see my father working on the filter or cleaning the pool. How safe I felt knowing my father was always there.

He was a safe harbor. There was something in my father that spoke of assurance and power. His very presence was overwhelming. His Being spoke of something great and important.

My father was a serious-minded person. He was a humble man. Never did I see him put on airs or become puffed up by his own brilliance. Yet, this humility did not engender in him a sense of passivity that allowed others to sway him when he knew he stood in the right. He possessed a quiet stubbornness, which my husband will tell you I inherited, that provided him with the staunchness to stand his ground. This stubbornness grew into a resolve to live his life with integrity, despite the pressures and trials of life.

With hard work and tenacity, he believed all situations could have a favorable outcome. Though often shy with people, his affable nature often overcame his feelings of bashfulness, his commanding presence covering up any evidence of his uneasiness. Favorably disposed, he was a man upon whom one could depend. Understated by design, my father maintained a firm composure under the most extreme circumstances. Though his attitude was one of restrained equanimity, he did not demonstrate a dull persona.

Predominately serious in nature, my father was not without humor. When he bought his first wash and wear suit, he did just that. He wore the suit, entered the shower (still arrayed), and proceeded to wash it with a bar of soap. My mother captured this event in a photograph that I have always enjoyed gazing upon with a giggle.graphic 4

When I was a child, my father would quietly sit at the kitchen table while we ate dinner. Then he would begin singing, “Daddy sang bass, Mama sang tenor,” using amusing voices—the bass part in his lowest bass, the tenor voice, his best female falsetto. We would all roar with laughter. We cherished these few glimpses, for he rarely showed his lighter side.

Often my father was seen making a trek across the lawn on his riding mower, waving to the neighbors. Or walking behind his snowblower, a monstrous machine in which he took great pride. Many a weekend, he would walk through the woods behind my parent’s house, tending the dogwood trees, which were highly favored in his sight. Among the trees, he labored to build a flagstone patio where he envisioned the family gathering to pick crabs. It was this patio that he worked on the weekend before September 11. With just a few stones left to place, he quit for the day, telling my mother that he would finish the job when he returned from his trip to California. He never had the chance to finish. My brother completed the task as a labor of love and remembrance. The patio stands as a symbol of my father’s life unfinished.

My father spent most of his time pursuing solitary endeavors. He kept his thoughts close. When it came to emotions, expressing himself verbally was difficult. He could not initiate a hug or form the words, “I love you.” As I became an adult, I decided I would hug him. At first, I found that I had difficulty initiating the hugs, but the more I pushed myself, the easier it became. Always, when he came to visit me while on business, he would linger at the door as though waiting for something. I would reach out and hug him, and then he would hug me back.

Sometimes, words are difficult. My father always said that actions speak louder than words. Though very busy with work, my father always took time to attend our music and sporting events. He was often in the role of assistant coach to our sport teams. His actions never failed to say I love you.

graphic 8 (2)He could never tell us outright that he was proud of us, but we could see it on his face. On my wedding day, as I slipped my arm through my father’s as he prepared to walk me down the aisle, I looked into his eyes and saw them well up with tears. I will never forget that expression. No words were necessary; his eyes said it all.

My sister told me of a conversation she and her husband had with my father on the Labor Day before September 11, 2001 regarding the end of time. My father had said the main point to remember is that the end will come, and we just need to be sure we are ready. How profound, for within a week’s time my father was taken. He often did not say much, but when he spoke, his words were thoughtful and wise.

We will probably never know why some people were saved and others were lost that day. Maybe it is not for us to know. What I do know is that God holds tomorrow, and there are no better hands to hold it than the Lord’s.

There is no question in my mind that on the morning of September 11 my dear father followed God and entered into his glory.

Many of us have been fortunate to have had an earthy father that gave us insight into the heart of God. I thank the Lord for a godly father, who stood for integrity, faith, honor, and love.

~Susan

Biography excerpts taken from SILENT RESOLVE AND THE GOD WHO LET ME DOWN (a 9/11 story).

To learn more about my experience with September 11, 2001, read my book: SILENT RESOLVE AND THE GOD WHO LET ME DOWN (a 9/11 story). You can find it at Amazon, Barnes and Nobles, or your area retailers.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hannah – Model of a Godly Mother

There have been many important people throughout time, great men and women who have changed the course of world events. Yet all of them have something in common; they had a mother.

It is mother that molds us in those early years, a time when the foundation of who we are is formed. Mother was the one who picked us up when we fell and brushed away our tears. And it was mother that made us eat right, do our homework, and yes, even disciplined us.

Mother – the very word brings comfort.

President Theodore Roosevelt once spoke, “When all is said, it is the mother, who does her part in rearing and training aright the boys and girls who are to be the men and women of the next generation….it is she who is of greater use to the community, and occupies, if she would only realize it, a more honorable as well as a more important position than any man in it…She is more important, by far, than the successful statesman, or businessman, or artist, or scientist.”

Mother – the most noble of all enterprises.

Many of us have heard the story of Hannah, the Prophet Samuel’s mother. She lived in a time when Israel had no king; everyone did what was right in his own eyes (Judges 17:6).

Up to this point, the Hebrew people were stuck in a period of cycles: they rebelled against God… began worshiping pagan deities…suffered the painful consequences of their actions…cried out to God for help…He sent them a judge to deliver them. For a while, the people returned to the Lord, that is until the judge died, then it was back to rebelling against God…and the cycle would start all over again.

This cycle repeated itself seven times.

The Israelites were a fractured group of ineffective tribal clans that could scarcely defend themselves against their enemies. Threats to their nation came from every corner of the land, but it was the Philistines they most dreaded.

Into this climate came Hannah. She was the wife of Elkanah, a Levite living in Ephraim. Now, Elkanah loved Hannah, but he had another wife, Peninnah.

Here was your classic love triangle.

Peninnah was blessed with an open womb. Every time she turned around, she had another child. But Hannah was barren.

In Hannah’s day, a woman’s sole purpose in life was to bear children, especially sons.

With her womb empty, Hannah’s heart broke.

Now every year, Elkanah went from his home and traveled on a pilgrimage to Shiloh in order to worship and sacrifice to the Lord of hosts.

– for he was devoted to God

God’s law required the Israelites to attend three annual festivals a year. The Tabernacle was at Shiloh, for the Temple in Jerusalem had not yet been built.

As was the custom, whenever Elkanah made an offering, he would give a portion to Peninnah and her children. But to Hannah, he would give a double portion, for he loved her.

Peninnah would take every opportunity to taunt Hannah, speaking hurtful words because her rival had no children.

It was a double wound – it was bad enough to be sad about not having children, but to be reminded constantly of her sorrow – that was just too much.

Well, the time came for Elkanah to journey to Shiloh. The law did not require the women to accompany the men in these religious pilgrimages, but Hannah was devoted to her husband and to God, so she went with him.

And of course, Peninnah went also.

While in Shiloh, the taunting of Peninnah came to a head. She was relentless in her ridicule. Hannah became so depressed that she wept and could not eat.

Sweet Elkanah, he loved Hannah so much. He could not bear to see her is such distress. He tried to comfort her with these words, “Hannah, why do you weep? Why do you not eat? And why is your heart grieved?

Am I not better to you than ten sons?”

Though Hannah loved her husband, his words did not relieve the sorrow she bore. So she arose and went to the Tabernacle to pray.

– You see, she took her burden to the Lord.

 

Be anxious for nothing, 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 minds through Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:6-7

 

She was not alone. Eli the priest was sitting on the seat by the doorpost of the Tabernacle of the Lord. And in the bitterness of her soul, she prayed to the Lord, weeping.

In the anguish of her soul, she prayed her way through it.

 

The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much. James 5:16

 

In Hannah is an example of fervent and prevailing prayer.

Then she made a vow and said, “O Lord of hosts, if You will indeed look on the affliction of Your maidservant and remember me, and not forget Your maidservant, but will give Your maidservant a male child, then I will give him to the Lord all the days of his life, and no razor shall come upon his head.”

– She asked a specific prayer – give me a male child. Not an anemic, broad prayer, but a specific prayer of her need.

– And she made a promise, she would not keep the child, but give him back to the Lord. Remember, Elkanah was a Levite. Levites were required to serve in the Tabernacle from age twenty-five to fifty. Hannah promised to give the child for a lifetime of service.

– As Hannah prayed for a child – a new era was about to begin. Sometimes the reasons for our trials are not evident. But we have to trust that God has a plan, and He is acting on that plan.

Now Eli, the priest kept his eye on Hannah.

As Hannah spoke, her lips moved, but no voice was heard, for she spoke in her heart. All the while, Eli watched. He began to form an opinion of this woman based on his preconceived idea of how one was to behave in the Tabernacle.

During this time, prayer was always spoken out loud.

So Eli said to her, “How long will you be drunk? Put your wine away from you!”

But Hannah answered and said, “No, my lord, I am a woman of sorrowful spirit. I have drunk neither wine nor intoxicating drink, but have poured out my soul before the Lord. Do not consider your maidservant a wicked woman, for out of the abundance of my complaint and grief I have spoken until now.”

Hannah poured out her soul. This was more than just saying a prayer. She emptied herself before the Lord until she was utterly spent. She gave it all to God, nothing was left which was not given.

Then Eli answered and said, “Go in peace, and the God of Israel grant your petition which you have asked of Him.”

And she said, “Let your maidservant find favor in your sight.” So then Hannah went her way and ate, and her face was no longer sad.

– Did you get that? She went, and ate, and she was no longer sad.

She left her burden before the Lord. She did not pick it up and take it with her. She left it there, though there was no actual evidence that her prayer had been answered.

– she experienced God’s peace

How often we carry away with us anxiety and grief

But she believed that God would take care of it.

 

Therefore I say to you, whatever things you ask when you pray, believe that you receive them, and you will have them. Mark 11:24

 

The Lord remembered Hannah. And she conceived and bore a son, and called his name Samuel, “Because I have asked for him from the Lord.”

-She remembered who gave her the child. He was a gift from God

Now it was time again for the trek to Shiloh, but Hannah refused to go, saying, “Not until the child is weaned; then I will take him, that he may appear before the Lord and remain there forever.”

Elkanah could have prohibited Hannah’s vow (Numbers 30:10-15), refusing to leave his son at the Tabernacle, but he didn’t. In this he showed his great love and esteem for his wife, Hannah.

Now when she had weaned Samuel, she took him up with her, with her sacrifice, and brought him to the house of the Lord in Shiloh.

And the child was young.

– Children were usually weaned by the age of two or three. What a heartache that must have been. Yet Hannah was faithful to her promise, and gave Samuel to the Lord’s service, just as she had vowed.

Then they slaughtered a bull, and brought the child to Eli. And she said, “O my lord! As your soul lives, my lord, I am the woman who stood by you here, praying to the Lord. For this child I prayed, and the Lord has granted me my petition which I asked of Him. Therefore I also have lent him to the Lord; as long as he lives he shall be lent to the Lord.”

Remember me? Hannah gives Eli her testimony – she exalts God and praises Him for His gracious act toward her.

So they worshiped the Lord there.

they worshiped. Not just Hannah, but Eli too. A humble response in grateful acknowledgement of the majesty of God.

Every year, Hannah would make Samuel a little robe and take it to him.

– I can just see Hannah working on this robe anticipating the time she would see her son again. Even when our children are no longer under our roof, our concern for them is not over.

Yet, that is not the end of the story, for gracious is our Lord, who gives in full measure, abundant and overflowing!

And as Samuel ministered before the Lord, the boy grew and became a king maker. Under his guidance, the nation returned to the worship of the One True God. The fractured tribes became a united nation of one people. Samuel became a great man of God.

And Hannah, she was not forgotten. Her womb was opened, and she was blessed with many children.

 

God is able to give us even more than what we ask. Eph. 3:20

 

What made Hannah a good mother?

– She was devoted to her husband.

Our relationship with our spouse has great influence on our children. This is one reason we are commanded to love the person we marry (Ephesians 5:28; Titus 2:4). We demonstrate our obedience to God when we love our mate. But not just the feeling of love, but love in action, love in deed, love in words.

 

My little children, let us not love in word or in tongue, but in deed and in truth. 1 John 3:18

 

Through our interaction with our spouse, we are teaching our children how to relate to one another.

 

-She was devoted to her God

When Hannah prayed, she did not pray for men to hear – remember, she prayed silently, only her lips moved, but no voice was heard. She knew that Elkanah, her husband, was not the source of children…

– God was the source

From the depths of her soul, Hannah spoke to God.

Both, Elkanah and Hannah had a deep faith in God. They genuinely believed and expressed their devotion to the Lord through their actions. Theirs was more than a feel good experience. They laid it all bare for all to see – they were completely in love and devoted to each other, and to God.

We are admonished to bring up our children in the way they should go. With this command, we are given a promise.

 

Train up a child in the way he should go, And when he is old he will not depart from it. Proverbs 22:6

 

Our children are often left without direction to find their way in a world that thinks they don’t need God.

Faith in God is not enough. If we want our children to believe in God and to live a life that is pleasing Him, we must model it to our kids.

The Lord redeemed a nation through one man.

– He can do it again

One individual has the power to shape a nation, or even change the world – and that persons owes a debt to their mother. Who knows – it may be your child.

Happy Mother’s Day,

~ Susan