Listen to God's voice at the foot of the crucifix." ~St. Gaspar del Bufaro~

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Clinging To The Cross

It's always hard to share difficult things in our lives.
But I've come to believe God gives us these difficult things so that we can share with others (in His time) to support one another through our journeys of faith.  For it is through our trials that we grow stronger and more capable of encouraging others to persevere through the pits and potholes in the road that we are sure to face.  It has taken me the better part of 17 years to find happiness and holiness through an unthinkable horror.  But it is through this nightmare that my life truly began, one season of Lent.  I can say that now with complete and utter confidence, like never before.  My hope in the Lord is unfailing.

It seemed appropriate to share this story here as Lent is where my story begins, clinging to the cross for dear life.

Good Friday, 1994, was the day of my own personal Passion.  By saying this, I don't mean to diminish the crucifixtion or the Passion of Our Lord in any way.  In my own human experience, it is the way  I felt on that fateful night.  In my own vulnerability, I am at a loss for other titles to describe being thrust to the foot of the cross...somewhere I never thought I'd be.
My husband and I had just moved to a new duty station after both of us returned safely from our military service in Saudi Arabia and Iraq during the 1990-91 Gulf War.
We were at the height of our happiness and joy as a married couple and new parents.  
My husband was celebrating his promotion to Army Captain and his graduation from Army Aviation Flight School.
[We had decided that I would leave the Army so that we could start our family.  I had just given birth to our son~a beautiful baby boy, nearly 6 months old.]
~Our precious baby with his Dad, only a few weeks old here~
We went out to dinner, that Good Friday, to meet my husband's staff and their spouses for the first time.
It was a delightful evening full of fun and laughter...We even danced for the first time in quite awhile!
And then the music stopped.
As we returned home, pulling into the driveway of our newly purchased suburban home (off base), we noticed dark shadows lurking around the sidewalk.  My husband no sooner set foot outside of the car and a gun was pointed at his chest; The robber in the night was demanding his wallet. We were being mugged!  Sudden panic set in as a struggle ensued between my Airborne Ranger husband and the unknown perpetrator.  I needed to get help but my purse was locked in the trunk with my keys.  I knew it would be too dangerous to try to get the baby out of the car seat, to safety, with men wielding guns.  Instead I locked our sweet baby in the car and ran to the neighbors to call 9-11.  Before I was half way there, the original robber came after me as another gun toting thug still threatened my husband.  Thankfully, the neighbors opened their door.  Ironically, Providentially, they were up reading the Bible on Good Friday.
Within seconds, the robbers were fleeing to their get-away car and shots rang out.
I rushed to the aid of my husband who lay "crucified" on our front lawn,
mortally wounded from a bullet to his precious head.
I can remember screaming in agony...I still hear the echo of my own voice in my mind.
Did The Lord hear my cry up there on the cross?
Did His Mother know that I shared her heart-wrenching anguish as I tried to stop the rushing blood from his wound?
  Like the scene from the movie where Mary mops the floor with towels after the scourging, I remember charitable neighbors bringing me white towels as I attempted to prevent my dear husband's head wound from flooding the universe.  In the darkness of night, the white towels were an ugly reminder of the random act of violence.
I couldn't wash my hands for days...To me, the blood stains were the last tangible remnants of my love that I could cling to.  Aside from our sweet baby, everything else had been ripped away.  My life was shattered.
{Thanks to the neighbors who called 9-11, our perpetrators were caught within minutes}
The "Why's" and the "What If's" pounded my every thought, a long with flashbacks from the horror.  I thought the mental torture and grief were sure to do me in.  If it weren't for my precious baby to live for, I would have surely climbed inside the coffin, longing to be whisked away with my love.  I didn't want to do the "til death do us part" that we professed in our wedding vows.  Damn those wedding vows! I didn't want to be anywhere but with him, my best friend, my love, my everything.
I raged upon learning that these guys were just out "looking for someone to rob", as if they had nothing else better to do on "Good Friday".  The questions pounded my mind: How could they attack innocent people for no reason?  Didn't they know we were soldiers who defended THEIR freedom and their very right to bear arms?  Don't they care? How many people did they attempt to harm?  [We also learned that there were a few other failed attempts before we became their ultimate victims] And then the IFs."If only" we had gotten home just a few minutes earlier or later, they would not have been there?  If only, If only, If only.
And then the ultimate question that tore me from my faith (for a time)..."How could God let evil win?"
I grew up believing that good always triumphed over evil.  If God let this happen to good, innocent, loving, serving people, He must not exist.  What have I done to deserve this?
My belief system was wracked.
The days, months, and years ahead were arduous and angry, to say the least.  I did not carry my cross gracefully.  I threw it down, I screamed at it to go away, I stomped on it, I shook my fist to heaven, I would have burned it, if I could.  I felt no relief.
I saw no co-relation that my husband died defending his family on Good Friday to that of Jesus dying for US on Good Friday.  
I saw no connection to the number 40.  Jesus went out into the desert for 40 days, like the period of 40 days in Lent and the 40 YEARS that all 3 robbers were sentenced with before they are ever eligible for parole.  
I failed to see the fortress of love that God was building up for me and the army of saints and angels He sent to preserve my hope, lest I fall to the evil one's temptation of despair.
I refused to move beyond my own self pity.
I saw nothing that I could relate to, no reason for this cross that I had been given.  
Little did I know that this cross would be the greatest gift I had ever been given, just like the ultimate gift He gives us...Death on the cross to save us from ourselves.  The darkness of the cross gave light to the resurrection and glory of heaven.

Seventeen years later, I am nothing without that cross.  

The miraculous part of my journey is not where I landed but where I am today, in spite of myself.   I am nothing but blessed by and through this cross.  Day in and day out, the joys and fruits that God provides are truly beyond my comprehension. I say "for the most part" because there are still times of anxiety when I fall weak and vulnerable.  This time of year brings unfailing hurt...The pain and sorrow flood back, like the rivers being filled with the melting snow from the mountains.  Though I am stronger now capable of  holding the water,  I am not invincible or immune to the reminders and sudden floods.  Despite all of this, joy remains rooted in my soul, deeper than any human weakness on the surface. I am ever mindful of the cross, in debt to the one true cross that beholds our Savior, who continues to deliver me from darkness.  

With the first week of Lent upon us, I am reflecting on this cross, gazing upon it intently.  Am I still learning all I can from the splinters I have bore?  Am I serving Our Lord to the best of my ability with the graces He provides? I am fasting, praying and almsgiving this year, dedicated to this journey.   As  Christians, our journeys are never easy.  None of us are spared.  But how do we handle our journeys and what do we do with them to bare fruit and love?  That's the ultimate question that I still ponder.

I would venture to say that Lent is the time of year that we are all especially connected to the part of us that suffers.  Are we ready to suffer even more?  To be honest, I shudder at the thought of it.  Haven't I done my part, I cry? But I know it is what's best for me.  

We as Christians know that our Lord is the refiner's fire.  He desires to refine us like silver and test us like gold. (Zech. 13:9) He desires us to be close to him on that cross so that we may bask in the light and the promise of eternal life that comes with the dawn of Easter.  But we must journey long and hard to get there...Like the old adage:  "No pain, no gain."  Lent is the beginning of another opportunity to journey closer to that cross, closer to pure love.  Though I am certainly not good at it, I'm picking mine up once again.  This time I am not clinging to the cross because I was unexpectedly thrown up against it, finding myself there begrudgingly.  This Lent it is my choice, knowing that my very life and love depend upon it. Clinging to the cross for dear life has new meaning now.  I am deeply in love with a Savior who I know, with certain, I cannot live without.  

"Listen to God's voice at the foot of the crucifix."
~St. Gaspar del Bufalo~


  1. Dear, dear Tiffany. I am at a loss for words after reading your story; your story of your cross. I am at a loss for words after reading about your walk through the valley of darkness. Thank you for sharing something so personal and painful. Your words only can teach and give hope for matter what their cross is. May you always allow God to shower the graces upon you that are needed to live each pain or joy.

    You have always been an inspiration to me, and sharing this? Can't you see the effect of how one's tragedy touches the countless lives of others? That effect can be so beautiful if we allow it. And you have allowed it.

  2. Praise God for His abundant mercy! Your story always brings me to my knees. May your humility in sharing your journey bring many others to embrace their own cross, all for His Glory.

    Please share my heartfelt thanks to your dear family (especially mer-man and your love) for allowing you to share your testimony with the entire blogging world. It is a beautiful Lenten almsgiving.

    Prayers and blessings!

    Pax Christi - lena and family

  3. Tiffany~I am speechless. This was gut-wrenching to read, I can't imagine having lived through it. You shared this horrendous story so beautifully, thank you. You are an amazing person. You will be in my prayers this Lenten season.

  4. Dear Tiffany,
    How much you bear!
    I am speechless and in tears.
    Thank you for the reminder of all I hold dear
    Blessings this Lent

  5. Speechless, in tears of sadness, because the beauty that lies within you now is because of the wisdom and faith in God that you have grown from such a horrible and heart wrenching experience. I truly believe that one day all of our sufferings that we bear here on earth, we will be able to relinquish complete happiness with our beloved Lord, Jesus Christ.

    I am reminded this season of Lent, that all of us as mothers, have our own personal crosses to bear, and it's how we carry it that makes us all the more stronger.

    Such a beautiful and pure heart you have Tiffany. I am all the more wiser, from learning of your experience and more humbled than ever. Thank you for sharing your powerful and painful story. May God bless your mind and give you eternal peace that your husband is watching over you and your beautiful son until you meet again. God bless

  6. Tiffany - I ached for you as I read your heart wrenching words.

    So sad and sorry for your senseless loss. So amazed at your faith and God who holds you.

  7. Wow. You are a powerful witness to the healing power of God. Thank you for sharing your story and your beautiful faith. It strengthens us all.

  8. Tiffany, thank you for sharing your intimate story of love and loss. What a witness you are to me, and all who read your words through tears. Blessings to you and your family this Lenten season.

  9. The pain, the anguish, the suffering, the anger, the trauma you must have felt while typing this. I cannot even imagine, yet I can picture your keyboard wet with tears. What a horrible thing for you to live through--something you would only imagine were fictional on the TV or movie screen. But no, real life horror for you to endure only to make you stronger and a radiantly beautiful woman who now evangelizes like no other.
    Thank you for sharing such a personal thing with all of us. Jesus is working through you to fill us with hope and confidence that HE is merciful.
    Peace and Love,

  10. my heart is pouring out to you Tiffany. What a cross you have borne for so long, and so admirably and humbly. And this inspires in me the desire to cling to MY cross with gladness. God does wish for us to cling joyously. You are doing so, and oh that i might learn from you to do so too. God bless. thank you for sharing your soul with us today, dear friend. It is truly a beautiful cross you carry.

  11. My heart if filled with gratitude for all of the kindness and love outpoured from all of you as I share my story. God Bless each of your families this Lenten Season. You will have a special place in my prayers!

  12. You have been nominated for the One Lovely Blog Award at
    Peace and Raw Health,

  13. wow. thats all i can say in this moment. wow. so glad i found you blog.

  14. Tiffany,
    I do not have any words after reading your post here. I'm speechless and can't imagine living through something like this. Your story is unimaginable yet at the same time what a beautiful witness you are that with God all things are possible, even living through a dark time like this.

    God bless you and thank you for sharing your story!

  15. Tiffany, I was offline over last Lent so I am just now reading this from a link in your Advent Book post. I'm so very sorry for your loss. You are an amazing inspiration to me. God bless you.

  16. WOW...God Bless you and your beautiful family. What a heartbreaking yet touching story. I am so sorry for your loss.


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