This is Personal, Raw, and Real. I Won’t Apologize

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I don’t even know how to begin what I am about to write. I guess the only thing I can do is just start and see where I end up. I woke up this morning, and something inside of me just broke open. I am shaking my head right now because life is just so nuts. Before I go any further, I just want to make one thing clear. I am not writing this for attention. I don’t need sympathy, and I don’t want pity. I am writing this post because, at the moment, it is the only way to get this out.

I am writing this post because I am a mother. I brought children into this world, and they are the greatest gift I have ever received. I might not remember what I ate yesterday, but I remember the smiles on the faces of every single one of my babies when they were born. My children are my heartbeat and the greatest gifts I have ever had.

I lost my firstborn child when he was 20. As the oldest of five children, he was the one who helped out when I needed more hands than the two I have. The kids and I were a surviving unit. As a mother of five kids on my own, I truly did not know how I was going to make it, but I did. Unfortunately, I had to give up my son. God took him. How that happened is still pretty much a mystery.

I’m going to get to my point here. I have another son and three daughters. We have all gone on with life, but we have all been hurting inside. The loss of a child or sibling is a severe pain to bear, especially after all we survived together. I still remember my younger son’s face the day of my firstborn’s funeral. He loved his brother so much. They were ten years apart, so my son’s brother was the only other male he could look up to in a house full of females. I will never forget the day my son’s big smile turned into tears. I am not sure what my heart was broken about more; losing a son or watching my other son hurt too much. All of my children have hurt, but I feel like my younger son hurt even more for some reason.

He accepted drugs in response to his pain. I’m sure his pain was numbed for the moment, but a drug and alcohol addiction that evolved out of control occurred. It is hard for a mother to watch her child harm his life, but I know no matter how much I have ever hurt, he has hurt more. His addiction landed him a prison sentence, which he has done most of.

He was placed in a state prison he should never have been in due to the risk of becoming ill with a disease that comes from the soil in that region. He has been very sick. I know he feels like he will never recover. He has fallen in his cell due to weakness, has had pneumonia, has hardly been able to be in sunlight, has been at risk of being hurt by others, and has been subjected to the trickery of those who cost him more prison time.

I want you to know this has all been a helpless feeling; to have a child, who is an adult, go through the things my son has endured. Yes, he has done a lot to himself, but he sure did not lack help in the addiction department. Addiction does not survive alone. It always has its accomplices. I am a minister and a believer of a higher power whom I call God. So, therefore, I have prayed as hard as any mother could possibly pray. My son remains sick, fearful, and not able to even deal with the addiction he went to prison for. People go to prison because of a crime they committed as discipline for that crime. They call it rehabilitation, but that does not happen, at least not from what I have seen. Regardless of what any individual has done, they do not go to prison to become sick with a disease they will never recover from. I have written to the President of the United States. I have written to the governor’s office of the state. I have written to the ombudsman of the prison system. I have written the state’s congressional representative, the state senator for that region, and those I thought might help. I have contacted an advocacy group on my son’s behalf and even the medical department of the prison he is in.

Nothing seems to help. So I keep on praying, sounding like I am alright, and moving on with life, telling myself that faith is going to have to be enough. I have isolated myself personally because of the painful part inside of me just can not take one more person hurting me. Yet life goes on. I tell myself I have to keep on going, and the rest has to be left up to God.

As I said, this morning, I broke. It’s not like I have not cried before because I have. I have cried loudly and out of pain, frustration, and anger. I want to tell you something. I absolutely HATE drugs and addictions. I have watched the people I love the most have their lives destroyed by drugs and alcohol. I don’t know the reasons why, but some can handle them, and some just can not. I think it is all a toss of the genetic wheel, maybe with a little human pain thrown in for good measure.

I dedicated my life to helping others, teaching others, showing what faith is, teaching lessons, and learning more so I can teach, counsel, and do more. We all have a purpose. Right now, at this very moment, I am the one who needs help. I need my son to receive the care he needs and the attention he needs to get out of that dingy prison cell and be helped into a life he can thrive in. I think right here; I might add that I have not been able to hug my son in 8 years. He has been locked up for most of those years, and the time before that, he was addicted. I left the state. My mother’s heart can’t take any more from anyone at any time.

It’s a helpless feeling, having to be strong, moving on in life, and have this painful heartache inside that says life will never be alright again. Grief does not end when we bury our loved ones. I already know that love can not be healed. Love is love. What we do is keep our loved ones close in our hearts, and we come to understand the heart and soul of a human being is where heaven is because that is where we hold our dearest loves of our lives.

It’s a helpless feeling to have a son, a grown man now, locked in a cage where no one will help him. It appears that all that happens in our prison systems is to put drug addicts away until they become hard just to survive. Addiction is a disease that is passed down through genetics, and it is one that is systematically reinforced by others who are addicted or sell drugs. It’s a vicious cycle.

Of course, I have blamed myself. I know deep inside it is beyond my control, but I still blame myself. It does not help that others have blamed me too. It’s sickening; all of it. Our country needs more addiction recovery programs. We need to stop condemning those who are addicted by locking them up and throwing away the key and start teaching them how to live with an illness they did not ask for and yet have to live with. We all live with it. Sometimes we die with it.

I smile, I laugh, I have good things that happen in life. I have moved forward, but a massive part of me feels stuck and broken. I know this is how every mother feels when their child has struggled with an illness they can not control. It controls them. It controls everyone it touches. Believe me; it’s hell.

Thank you for putting up with my long written broken vomit. Excuse me here, but there is no other way I can describe it. For those of you who have gone through the same, I am sorry. I wish you the best solution possible and for healing. For those of you who have received my letters and cries and yet have done nothing, I am sorry for you.

Today, just Jenine

A Lesson from the Cross We Don’t Always Think About

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Easter weekend always brings a sense of spring, good weather, celebration, family, and food. Alright, these days sometimes the weather is not all the greatest around. But Easter brings up thoughts of chocolate, hard boiled and dyed eggs, leg of lamb and family gatherings.

In the Christian church the focus is on Jesus, the cross, His sacrifice, His rising, and His love. In a time of celebration, the church has been lifting up Jesus every year for centuries for His acceptance of an experience that has gone down in history as one of the most profound acts of sacrificial love ever known to humankind.

I have been so contemplative recently, as I meditated on the cross and what Jesus endured that day on Calvary’s mountain. I let my mind wander to the scene in the garden when Jesus prayed, sweat and cried, with blood, and anguish. He knew He was going to be crucified. Did He want this? Who would? We know He did not in his words, “Father please take this cup from me.” Following those words were the bravest surrender that humankind has ever known. He said, “but if it be Your will Father…”

This whole scene brought me to the point of this message. Jesus was completely willing to move head on right into one of the most graphic death scenes one could ever imagine. His problem loomed before Him. His choices were completely His to make. He could have called upon the angels and He could have been saved from the fate that awaited Him. Instead, He chose to not side-step the issue, but to face it, embrace the lesson, the experience, and the outcome. With trust and faith, Jesus carried the cross He would soon die upon down a road that most would never have chosen to take. No one saved Him from this fate, not even Himself. Beaten down and torn from whipping and lashing, He still moved forward and faced what He had prayed to not have to do.

My point? As humans, it seems like most of us would do anything to avoid pain. Usually we turn to something that comforts us; a habit or diversion from the issue. We turn to food, money, shopping, drugs, alcohol, sex, and the list goes on. We like to do anything that will take the sting out of what we see ahead of us. Instead of facing it head on, we seek to dull our senses, take on the wound, and forsake the healing or “rising”. We forget that pain is a part of life. We forget the lesson from the cross that pain comes before the rising and there is no shortcut, and nothing that can dull our senses enough to change this truth.

How many of us can think back and know for sure had we faced our issues head on without trying to divert from the problem, we would have come through with healing to our hearts and the rising would have come afterward? The honest truth is the only way to our personal rising is to face every problem, every pain, and every situation, head on with dignity. Our words should be, “If it be Your will Father…”  The reality is without facing and walking through the painful part, there is no healing. We want to not “feel”. Since when did feeling become so hard? It’s not pleasant for sure, but the rewards are great.

I thought about the death of my own son. My mind went back in time to the days, nights, and lonely moments in my own garden of anguish. For me, there was no sudden healing, no escape, no shortcut. I did not deaden my pain with alcohol, drugs, food, or anything else. Honestly, there would be nothing that could help me or make me feel any better. There was no side stepping the pain. It just “was”, and sometimes still “is”. When others want to know how I survived the loss of my 20 year old son, my answer always has to be, “I faced it head on with God and God alone”. It was the only way I knew I could survive with some form of wholeness left in tact.

As I continued to meditate this week, I thought of Mary, the mother of Jesus. In days gone by, I wondered how she survived watching her son die. Now I know. She was right there, front and center. She faced the pain head on and when it was over, she privately processed the pain. There was no side stepping, and no numbing the feeling or senses. Only she could have been chosen for the part she played in the most dramatic death scene one could imagine. She survived afterward, and so did I. Was life the same? Of course not, it had dramatically changed forever.

The lesson is there, in the message of the cross. Facing our greatest fears and greatest pain with dignity, faith, and determination is the only way to heal from anything. There is no side stepping this truth. The outcome might not be known to us. We have to take the steps down the road, just as Jesus did toward Calvary. We have to carry our load, but ironically it’s the only way our load can ever be taken from us or off of us. The burden is lighter when we understand there is a reason. The task is endurable when we remember the pain always has to be endured before we rise. No exception. Its truth.

Loving you from here,

Dr. Rev Jenine Marie Howry

Are You Depressed About the Coming Holidays?

downloadWe are approaching that time of year where the festive commercials come on with the picture of families all together before tables filled with food, laughter, and smiles. We are also entering the Christmas zone when we all will face the bombarding of advertisements tempting us to buy certain gifts for family members and the latest greatest toys available to intrigue our children.

I remember those days when I was younger. The anticipation of food, gifts, tree lights, and new warm slippers. It all paints a pretty picture. Of course this year things are a bit different because a lot of us have been warned that to say “Merry Christmas” violates some human rights. I’m pretty sure that is not true, but for some reason that is what part of our country wants to present this year. I imagine the commercials will take on a new feel as “Happy Holidays” will take over. Unfortunately this will not change much about the holy celebrations that are about to take place. The very word “holiday” means “holy day”.

I want to get to my point before I get off on a tangent about the renaming of Christmas! As a look back upon our annual celebration of the birth of our Lord Jesus, there have been amazing times and those which were filled with grief and depression. For instance, the first Christmas after my son went to heaven was one I wish I could have avoided. For many, the upcoming holidays are just reminders of what we are missing instead of what we have. I would love to turn it around for you all and tell you to focus on what you are grateful for. While this is the best practice, I also know there are seasons when we are grateful but there are also circumstances when there can be deep sadness.

Not every elderly person has family around. Not every child looks forward to gifts with a gleam in their eyes. Some service men and women are far away from their loved ones and would give anything for just the gift of a hug this season. Being far from loved ones is  a hard thing to face. Along with the holy part of the holidays we turn our faces to God, the one who made us and keeps us through every day of every year. In the face of sadness, depression, loneliness, and separation, we are confronted with a love that comes from heaven that begs to heal us. There are some pains that all the alcohol, pills, well wishes, far away phone calls, and sparkling gifts will not heal or even appease.

Before I get you into a downer here, I have to say this is hard enough to write let alone know it will come across negative, but it is truth. Not everyone will have a “Happy New Year” celebration. For those who are hurting, its almost like a triple cocktail of unwanted reminders that something is just not right this season. If this is YOU, then my heart reaches for you. I’ve been there, I know that achy feeling deep inside that won’t stop nagging that something hurts beyond anyone’s control. If this is YOU, God’s heart also reaches for you. He understands the feelings of loss and the grief that comes from being alone, lost, angry, hurt, rejected, less than feeling blessed.

I am awake very early in the morning writing this, so I know that God is already concerned for you. His heart is with you and He wants to ease your distress with the comfort of His Holy Spirit. He is called “the comforter” and He completely understands. Remember that baby Jesus was born in a barn, was different than everyone around Him, was scorned by His own family members, was taunted by religious law leaders, was hated by those who feared what He might change, was misrepresented by those who thought He was here to start a revolution, was betrayed by one He dearly loved, was murdered by those who misunderstood Him. Still today, this world begs to push Him away; to keep Him even out of the celebration of His own birth. Maybe they can’t find his birth certificate. (Ok, that one was bad, lol).

If the upcoming holy days are already beginning to tax your heart, I want you to know you are not alone. Not only is Jesus with you, and all, but there are those who care about your difficult struggle during a time that should be a blessed celebration with those we love. Be assured that Jesus has been near you all year long and will remain through any of your days. He will never forsake you and He completely understands your pain and depressive moments.

If you are reading this and already know that you are one who will be needing someone to talk to, please know you have someone you can put a voice to. You can call my toll free number and please leave a message for a call back for a talk and prayer session if there is no immediate answer. I WILL get back to you. Depression and sadness should not have to happen during the holidays, but it is NORMAL when it does. We are human; all of us.

For talk/prayer call 800-421-1765. You don’t even have to wait for the holidays to come. You can start now if you need to. Life is HARD but it is so much harder when faced alone  feeling no one understands. I can tell you this though. It will be ok. Whatever it is you face might be hurtful, might cause depression, might feel lonely, but it will be ok. This too shall pass. I admire your strength, your tenacity, your ability to be resilient, and I honor your pain for whatever reason it might be haunting you.

Don’t forget to call. It WILL help. I love you to heaven and back! (Something I tell my children).

Pastor Jenine Marie Howry

800-421-1765