Feelings

"Do not debunk feelings as such. Remember they are given to us as part of our humanity. Do not try to fortify yourself against emotions. Recognize them; name them, if that helps; and then lay them open before the Lord for His training of your responses. The discipline of emotions is the training of responses. Saint Francis de Sales put it this way: "We are not masters of our own feelings but we are by God's grace masters of our consent."
~ Elisabeth Elliot, Discipline: The Glad Surrender

As I spend time in the Word and devotionals each day, I am continually amazed by the timeliness of the topic - what I read so often speaks directly to the events of the day. Years ago, I started doing my reading in the evening instead of the morning, as I find it much more compatible with the schedule my children are on. I also am the sort that needs to process things at the end of the day, and reading Scripture helps me do this through the appropriate lens.

Last night I was missing my grandma intensely. It probably sounds odd to some, as she was 80 years old, and had lived a very full life. Yet she was so much a part of our daily life - even those who didn't live close as we did - that it has left a void now that she is gone. She was a great encourager, and had kind words to lift your spirits whenever you were struggling. She encouraged me in my faith, reassured me that I was much stronger than I thought I was, and always had compliments for my mothering.

Fern Therese Brisbois...even her name was unique and vigorous, don't you think? She was born on the White Earth Indian Reservation and grew up in abject poverty and rampant abuse. She married a witty suitor in high school and had her first daughter. Her husband fled and she moved to Milwaukee to be a lounge singer and waitress and send money home to her mother, who was caring for Shera in her absence. She met my grandfather in a lounge there, and he pursued her until she finally agreed to a date. They had a tumultuous and passionate relationship that included the birth of five children and numerous separations and reunions. Grandpa Frank died in his 50's of a massive heart attack, and his estate was not given to Grandma Fern or the children because they were separated at the time of his death. Grandma raised her six (soon seven by a short, difficult marriage) children on government aid and lived in poverty once again. However, her children fondly remember homemade meals of chili and fresh bread and other delicacies that would bring them running to the table with tag-along friends begging to stay for supper! My mother also sings a delightful little song she wrote to keep her hungry baby sister happy on long car trips home from Duluth, when the whole family had eaten one meager meal of "Henry Burgers" and were left with growling tummies.

Grandma was raised Catholic and was a faithful Catholic for most of her life. She prayed the rosary and went to church and confession regularly, and encouraged her children in the faith. In 1979, the year I was born, she was reading her Bible and came across I Timothy 2:5: "For there is one God, and one Mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus." She was dumbfounded, threw her rosary beads across the room, re-read the verse, and cried out to God for salvation by faith alone. She felt betrayed by the many priests who she had confessed to and by the Catholic church, for encouraging her to bring her prayer requests to Mary instead of straight to the Throne of God. She spoke to everyone, newborns to 80-year-olds, strangers and family, about the saving grace of Jesus and her vibrant relationship with him.

Grandma Fern worked as an Alcohol/Drug Addiction counselor once her children were grown, a job that she was still proud of in her old age. She also worked many menial jobs and was always inventing something to better life, although she never succeeded in "making it rich" on any of her inventions. She did hold a patent for the now-ubiquitous "baby shade" you see hanging in car windows. She suffered for the last twenty years of her life from an auto-immune disorder that destroyed her joints, her eyesight, and her general health and left her in debilitating pain and nearly immobile. Her children were awe struck, at her deathbed, thinking of her raising her arms above her head to praise Jesus for the first time in over 20 years.

Grandma's life is a litany of survival stories that isn't matched by any other life I've heard of:
  • Survived abuse as a child; hospitalized for STD's at age 7;
  • Left the reservation and took her children with her;
  • Persisted in a difficult marriage to the love of her life, Frank;
  • Remarried a man she did not love to provide for her children;
  • Continued inventing until she died;Hit by an egg truck and lost all her hair;
  • Survived hepatitis and hemorrhage during her 7 live childbirths;
  • Quite smoking overnight after smoking 2-3 packs a day for 30 years;
  • Continued working for years after she could hardly dress herself due to pain;
  • Went blind from steroid treatments and continued to praise & trust God even though she could no longer read His Book;
  • Helped raise several of her grandchildren and was a witness of God's grace to us all;
  • Continued to work on rehab, dreaming of independent living, until the day she went home to Jesus;
  • Trusted God even on her deathbed, choosing to put aside anxiety as she meditated on her favorite verses just an hour before she breathed her last (labored) breath.
Last night I was crying, deep racking sobs of regret, as I thought of those last few missed visits to Grandma in the nursing home. I could choose to rejoice, instead, at her arrival in heaven - and indeed, most days I am! But to ignore this feeling of regret, of grief, of loss, of searing, wrenching emptiness that Grandma left in my life, would be false and inhuman. I am human, I have lost. God has taken away what He gave. I am naming that feeling and laying it before God so that He can train my response. I miss my Grandma!

It will be worth it all when we see Jesus,
Life's trials will seem so small when we see Christ;
One glimpse of His dear face all sorrow will erase,
So bravely run the race till we see Christ.
~ When We See Christ, Esther Kerr Rusthoi, 1941

  • If we suffer with Christ, we will reign with Him;
  • If a grain of wheat dies, it produces fruit.
  • If we relinquish our mourning, God gives us a garment of praise;
  • If we bring our sins, He replaces them with a robe of righteousness.
  • Joy comes not in spite of, but because of, sorrow.
~II Timothy 2:12; John 12:24; Isaiah 61:3, 10; II Corinthians 6:10