Jesus: Wonderful Counselor

Grief is confusing and scary. 

In a heartbeat I was transported from life-as-I-knew-it to a foreign landscape where I don’t speak the language, there are no sign posts and no way to get home.

Here is where God whispered the rock solid truth that He is near. That I am never beyond His reach, His care.  He brought to mind Scripture, and promises, and memories of past faithfulness–something familiar to cling to in the wilderness of grief.

The day Dominic died I wrote in my journal:

“The LORD gives and the LORD takes away.  Blessed be the Name of the LORD.  May my soul find rest in Thee alone.  May my eyes look only to Thy face.  May my heart’s peace be the Prince of Peace.  ‘Dominic’–belonging to God–You gave him to me and he is Yours again.  Marana Tha–Come quickly, Lord Jesus!”

When Jesus was preparing the disciples for His death, He knew that they would need a Counselor in their grief.  They would need a guide through the difficult and scary and confusing path they were about to walk. So He told them:

“But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit-the Father will send Him in My name-will teach you all things and remind you of everything I have told you.”  John 14:26 CSB

What a gift!  To have the Living God in me–my ever present Guide even on this most treacherous journey.

 

 

 

Jesus: The Alpha & Omega

I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End [the Eternal One].” Revelation 22:13 AMP

Jesus, the eternal Son of the eternal Father, bookends all history.

Even though there are things that surprise me, there is nothing that surprises Him.

When my son died, I wrote this to be included in the bulletin at his funeral:

“Dominic’s death was an accident from our perspective, but God knew from the moment He gave Dominic to us, that this would happen.  He was not surprised and He was and is in control.  Jesus was with my precious child when he took his first breath and when he took his last.  I don’t understand but I will trust.”

I still don’t understand, and I hurt,  but Jesus is eternal, ever present and ever faithful–and I will trust.

“Lord, I am so caught up in the here and now that I often lose sight of eternity.  Forgive me.  When things surprise me, help me rest in You–the Beginning and the End–to trust You–the Alpha and Omega.  Give me the grace to face each day with the settled assurance that whatever it may bring, You hold it in Your hand.”

Advent: A Season of Waiting

We spend a lot of time waiting.  Waiting to grow up.  Waiting to get married.  Waiting to have children.  Waiting for our children to grow up.  Always looking toward the next big thing.

Israel waited centuries for the Messiah.  Generation after generation was born, lived, and died without seeing the fulfillment of God’s promise.

I have always loved the tradition of lighting  a candle and reciting Scripture to build anticipation for celebrating the birth of Jesus.The ritual forces me to slow down in the rush of holiday preparation to ponder the coming of God’s great gift.

Celebrating Advent helps me recapture that desperate hope–Israel’s longing heart for her Savior.

Since Dominic went to heaven,  Advent is no longer just a seasonal celebration–it’s an attitude of my heart.

I received the blessing of Christ’s first coming-His payment-in-full of sin’s penalty and freedom from the curse of the law.  I know my eternity is secure.

But I live in this fallen world where death still intrudes to take the ones I love.

So now I’m waiting with greater desperation and hope for the complete redemption and restoration of the earth God created and the people for whom Jesus died.

Every time I light a candle to drive the dark from a room I remember the faithfulness of God and His promise that no matter how dark it gets, Light is coming.

 

The people who walked in darkness
    have seen a great light.
For those who lived in a land of deep shadows—
    light! sunbursts of light!
You repopulated the nation,
    you expanded its joy.
Oh, they’re so glad in your presence!
    Festival joy!
The joy of a great celebration,
    sharing rich gifts and warm greetings.

Isaiah 9:2-4 MSG

 

 

Buying Time?

It’s been awhile since I braved the crowds and participated in the shopping frenzy known as “Black Friday” looking for a great bargain or the perfect present.

In years past, my mother, my daughter and I would wake up before the sun, slip out into the cold morning, hit two or three stores for a special gift and then head to a breakfast buffet to recuperate.

breakfast-buffet

I can’t remember a single purchase, but I remember the laughter and conversation and comraderie.

Losing a child puts lots of things in perspective.

Like memories and time.

Time is the only thing in life that moves in one direction.  From birth to death in a straight line.

This season has most of us rushing from one place to another, squeezing in another activity, seeking just the right something to put under the Christmas tree.  We start the day after Thanksgiving and hurry into December, and suddenly the month is gone, the days have fled.

Ask any parent who has buried a child what they want most in the world and they will not hesitate–another heartbeat, another second, another opportunity to say, “I love you” or “I’m proud of you” or “Thank you”.

All the world’s wealth won’t buy even one extra minute–the ticking clock is no respecter of persons. 

think-you-have-time

I cannot buy time, I can only spend it.

We all trade this life for something–a unique transaction–no refunds, no exchanges.

It’s up to me to choose…what am I going to trade it for?

My life for love?  

Or stuff?

No contest.

If I speak with human eloquence and angelic ecstasy but don’t love, I’m nothing but the creaking of a rusty gate.

If I speak God’s Word with power, revealing all his mysteries and making everything plain as day, and if I have faith that says to a mountain, “Jump,” and it jumps, but I don’t love, I’m nothing.

Love never dies. I Corinthians 13:1-2, 8 MSG

 

love deeply2

 

 

 

Surviving Christmas

February, 1992 I came home from the hospital with our fourth baby and woke up the next morning to a house full of children ages infant to six.  I thought that would be the most stressful and challenging season of my life.

kids cartoon

I was wrong.

This season of grief has required more strength, more endurance and more faith than all the sleepless nights, harried days and craziness of homeschooling and nursing babies and changing diapers ever did.

But when I ventured outside the house with the children–two in the stroller and one on either side–it was apparent to all who saw me I had my hands full.

The hardship and daily struggle of living after burying a child is not nearly so easy for people to see.

No taletell outward sign of the heavy burden, the sleepless nights, the tiresome days spent carrying around the grief and sorrow and still trying to do the things that life requires.

And so there is much less help, much less encouragement, much less grace extended to ease the pain and struggle.

Bereaved parents are particularly challenged at this time of year, because in addition to regular responsibilities and commitments, we are expected to attend extra church services, holiday get togethers and generally be “merry and bright”.

But grief doesn’t take a holiday.  And we beat ourselves up because we want to maintain the Christmas spirit for our surviving children, other family members, and friends.

It is so very hard…

So I will observe traditions that bless my wounded heart and lay aside the ones that are too painful right now.  There may be a time (or maybe not) when I can take them up again. But it’s o.k. not to this year.

It is not a sin to do things differently or to do some things and not others.  

God knows that I am a frail and feeble creature and losing Dominic was a devastating blow.

At Christmas, we celebrate Jesus, His leaving the glory of Heaven to come-humble and naked-as a baby.

jesus-the-heart-of-christmas

Perhaps my grief and vulnerable heart are a more fitting tribute to Him than all the tinsel and bright lights and piled presents could ever be.

As a father has compassion for his children,
    so the Lord has compassion for those who fear him.

He certainly knows what we are made of.

 He bears in mind that we are dust.

Psalm 103:13-14 GW

Bringing The Sacrifice of Praise

Job said, “I came naked from my mother’s womb, and I shall have nothing when I die. The Lord gave me everything I had, and they were his to take away. Blessed be the name of the Lord.” (Job 1:21 TLB)

It’s so easy to be thankful when things are going my way–

So easy to trust God when my pantry is full and my family safe;

So easy to laugh when pain is something I read about and don’t carry in my heart.

But how can I give thanks and say that God is good when I buried a child? How can my spirit make peace with the truth that God gives AND GOD TAKES AWAY?

True thanksgiving can’t spring from the notion, “it could be worse”. Guilt can’t lead me into the throne room of praise.  I can’t drag my broken heart to the table and mumble a makeshift prayer to a God I don’t believe will hear me.

Real thanksgiving rests on the bedrock of truth that it is ALL a gift.

Every moment.  Every breath.  Everything.

Even pain.

So today I will sit at our table and trust, missing Dominic, but loving the ones still here.

My heart hurts and it is hard but I will bring a sacrifice of praise to the God who gives and the God who takes away.

 

 

Blessed Are Those Who Mourn?

What blessing is there in mourning?  What comfort in distress?  What good can come from pain and brokenness?

Good questions.

Honest questions.

Questions I have asked God. 

“Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.”~Jesus

The folks that followed Him up the hill were part of a nation that had waited centuries for deliverance from sin and persecution.  Jesus was surrounded by people powerless to change their circumstances. They were grieving, mourning, in distress.

So when He said, “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted” He was offering real hope to the brokenhearted. He was issuing an invitation…

When we  reach the end of our own strength in grief, God invites us into a fellowship of suffering that includes Jesus Christ.

Burying a child is a humbling experience.  It is teaching me that I am powerless and oh, so dependent on the grace and mercy of God.

My heart was broken open wide to receive the truth that fierce love makes me vulnerable to deep pain.

And the pain cleared the clutter and noise of the everyday to focus my mind’s attention and my heart’s affection on the eternal.

My life is swept clean of distraction and foolish things and filled with new understanding of what is important and lasting.

My pain has not disappeared.

But it is making room for the God of all comfort to fill it with hope:

That what I am feeling right now is not forever and forever is going to be glorious…

And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away. Revelation 21:4 KJV