Safe Friends

I hope you have one.  

That one person who knows your greatest joys and deepest pain and keeps it locked in her heart as if the secrets were her own.  

She is a gift from God to me, that friend.  

She’s the one I call when I’m wracked with sobs and the words won’t come.  She knows it’s me and just waits on the line until I can speak. She gets my jokes, knows my weaknesses, my strengths and helps me steer a better path on this hard road called “Life”.

She is a safe friend.

listening is a postive act

A safe friend listens.  

Just listens.  

She isn’t formulating an answer while I am talking, she isn’t rounding up cliches or Bible verses or platitudes meant to make her sound wise and shush my sharing.  She hears my heart even when my words might not make sense.

A safe friend sees.  

Really sees.  

She looks in my eyes and pays attention to my expression. She notices when my smile doesn’t match the tone of my words or the silent language of my hands.

She won’t let me by with a quick, “I’m fine!” meant to brush off the real need to spill my guts.

A safe friend stays.  

As long as it takes.

She doesn’t leave in the middle of a hard conversation.  Even if life gets in the way, she will come back and pick it up.  She checks in with me and doesn’t let time unwind the threads that bind us together.  If I don’t contact HER, she contacts ME.

 

 

A safe friend walks with me.  

No matter how steep the path, no matter how rocky the road. We might be hobbling along, broken together, but she keeps going and she keeps me going.

 

 

A safe friend encourages me to look to Jesus.

She admits that she doesn’t have all the answers.  She agrees that there are many things we will have to wait to understand.  But she reminds me that for this, we have Jesus.  We have a High Priest Who was tempted in every way yet was without sin.  We can enter boldly into the Holy of Holies because by His blood the veil is rent.

She doesn’t issue spiritual ultimatums that undermine, instead of strengthen, my faith in Christ.

friends pick us up

 

A safe friend doesn’t cut me out of her life when my life is a mess.  

Even if the mess is of my own making.  She helps me untangle the knot, own up to the sin, reach out to Christ and make amends.

 

A safe friend doesn’t just “happen”.

She allows the grace and mercy and love of Jesus to mold her heart so that He can use her.

Everyone NEEDS a safe friend.

Anyone willing can BE that friend.

kindness

 

More Grieving Hearts-What Grieving Parents Want You to Know

Two weeks.

Two families added to the roll call of those who have lost a child-suddenly, without warning.  

Two more sets of parents, grandparents, siblings, cousins plunged beneath the sea of sorrow.

And those are only the ones I know about-the ones whose lives touch my own.

Every day we are shoulder-to-shoulder with people carrying a load that threatens to undo them.  If you haven’t experienced child loss you probably think you can imagine how it feels.

I know I did.

But I was wrong.

THIS is what it feels like:  What Grieving Parents Want Others to Know

hands and coffee

I am NOT Crazy!

It was just over a year after Dominic’s accident and a friend forwarded an article about odd behaviors of those who were “stuck’ in grief.  Along with the forward was a little tag, “Reminds me of you.”

It hurt my feelings.

And it was inappropriate.

Because not only had I not participated in any of the listed behaviors (most of which anyone would deem odd and some that were actually harmful) but as far as I could tell, I was doing pretty good, considering.

Considering I went to bed one night with four children alive and well and woke in the wee hours of the next day to the news that one was dead.

No warning.  No good-byes.

Just gone.

In the months since that day I had gotten up each morning and taken care of necessary tasks.  I was not abusing alcohol, drugs or food.  I was still exercising when I could.

And I was engaged with my family -working with them to put the pieces of our shattered lives and hearts back together again.

Yes, I cried.  A lot.  No, I didn’t like to be around crowds.  I stayed at home much more than before. I struggled with anxiety when anything out of the ordinary happened.  I found small talk hard to follow and forgot things (still do). And I was not participating in many “extra” activities.

I slept with Dominic’s pillows every night-it was a way to touch what was left of him.

But I was functioning.

My friend’s reaction to the fact that I was “still” grieving after a year is not all that unusual.

I speak to bereaved parents who are often made to feel by others as if they should “be over” the death of their child.

They are told to “move on”.

Or, in faith circles, to “be happy he is in heaven”.

Most mental health professionals agree that child loss is probably the most difficult loss anyone has to bear.  

A simple Google search will turn up dozens of articles that support this understanding of a parent’s heartache and lifelong struggle to embrace the pain of losing a child.

Yet most people are unaware of this fact.

So I’m here to tell you-grieving mama, grieving dad-you are NOT crazy!  

You are not overreacting to one of the most awful things that can happen to someone.  Out of order death is devastating!

When asked about his son years after he had died,  Gregory Peck replied:

every day

As I’ve written in a previous post Am I Normal?

No one thinks it strange that the ADDITION of a child is a life-long adjustment.

So, why, why, why is it strange that the SUBTRACTION of a child would also require accommodation for the rest of a mother’s life?

I understand that if you haven’t walked this path, you can’t REALLY know what it’s like-even if you try.

I don’t want you to know this pain by experience.

It’s awful and unrelenting.

What I do want you to know is I am NOT crazy for missing my son.  I am NOT crazy for wishing I could turn back the clock.

I am NOT crazy because this devastating, paradigm shifting, unbelievably painful event still impacts my everyday life.

Please don’t treat me like I am.

The best help a friend can offer is a listening ear-no judgement-and a hug that says, “I love you. And I’m sorry.”

changed for life

 

A Theology of Suffering

Vicky is a mom who shares from her heart and the podcasts embedded in this post are so very helpful. They are the first talks I’ve heard from pastors that talk about suffering the way I have experienced it-hard, painful and with many unanswerable questions.

My Journey:

HabbakukMalcolm Duncan  is one of my favourite N. Ireland Bible teachers. I first heard him live at New Horizon in 2014, a few months after Leah had died. My concentration and attention span were limited but Malcolm’s preaching really held my attention.

Malcolm’s charge at New Horizon in 2014 was to preach each night from the Sermon on the Mount. On the Thursday night Malcolm announced that he felt that God wanted him to depart from what he was scheduled to speak on, in order to talk about suffering and grief in a message entitled His Presence in our pain. It was such a God moment. There were many friends and family there that night who were grieving deeply for Leah. Not to mention the many others in the 2,500 strong crowd who were grieving for loved ones or who were experiencing other kinds of suffering.

Malcolm…

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Grieving Together: Surviving Siblings

“Family means no one gets left behind or fogotten”~David Ogden Stiers

We are in this together, and part of my job as mom to the children still walking the earth with me  is to help them survive the loss of their brother.

I write about that here: Helping My Children Walk Through Grief

Monday Musings: Be Kind

I wrote and scheduled this post BEFORE the Nice terrorist attack and BEFORE the gunning down of police officers in Baton Rouge just yesterday morning.

But how very timely-as long as we divide the world into “us” and “them” we fuel hatred and acts of violence.  As long as we choose rhetoric rather than reason we encourage a mindset that believes only radical action will spur change.

As I wrote over a week ago, My Heart Hurts.  And I refuse to be part of the division that will only surely result in more death and destruction.

Instead I will choose to be radically kind.

This year has been filled with divisive politics, headlines and heartbreaking reminders of the many ways people can hurt one another.

I have my own opinions and positions on various issues and sometimes they are at odds with those of my friends or acquaintances.

But I am committed to speak, write and interact with everyone I meet in kindness-respecting our differences.

be kind2

Because we are all image-bearers of the One True God.

James said, With our tongues we praise our Lord and Father. Yet, with the same tongues we curse people, who were created in God’s likeness. Praise and curses come from the same mouth. My brothers and sisters, this should not happen!” (James 3:9-10 GW)

Jesus answered the question, “Who is my neighbor?” with a well-known parable that shocked His audience and challenged their preconceived ideas.

As soon as I ask, “Who is my neighbor?” I am trying to draw a circle around who I should and should not be obligated to treat with kindness and love.  

I’m not going to do that.

Henri Nouwen writes:

Kindness is a beautiful human attribute. When we say, “She is a kind person” or “He surely was kind to me,” we express a very warm feeling. In our competitive and often violent world, kindness is not the most frequent response. But when we encounter it we know that we are blessed. Is it possible to grow in kindness, to become a kind person? Yes, but it requires discipline. To be kind means to treat another person as your “kin,” your intimate relative. We say, “We are kin” or “He is next of kin.” To be kind is to reach out to someone as being of “kindred” spirit.

Here is the great challenge: All people, whatever their color, religion, or sex, belong to humankind and are called to be kind to one another, treating one another as brothers and sisters. There is hardly a day in our lives in which we are not called to this.

 I can purpose to listen even when I disagree.  

Long Days

I have plenty to do.  There is no lack of chores around this place-inside and outside always need attention.

I still cook.  I clean.  I bake cakes and can summer vegetables.

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I try to tackle craft projects and make the moments count.

But it is hard.

I used to be someone who made a list, stuck to it and worked my way through it like a battle plan.  First do THIS, then do THAT.  There were always more tasks than daylight.  And I never knew what kinds of unanticipated interruptions might alter my plans.

 

 

Now I still make a list before bed each night. It’s a habit I can’t seem to break.  But I know as I’m writing it that I won’t consult it when I wake up in the morning.

 

Not like I used to do.

I’m an organizer, a planner, a get-it-done, no-mountain-too-high kind of person

Or I was…

 

I never understood people who drifted through the day like there wasn’t somewhere to go, something to do.

Now I am one of them.

 

 

As a fellow bereaved mother said recently in a Facebook comment exchange, “I’m a shadow of my former self”.

And maybe that’s what makes these days so long-the robust person I once was, the active worker bee image that defined my character, the purpose-driven spirit that inhabited this body is gone.

What’s left is someone who looks like me, talks like me and moves like me but isn’t me at all.

Maybe burying Dominic has silenced the noise that drowned out the groaning of my perishable tent.  Maybe I had gotten used to thinking that THIS life was THE life I was created for.

These tents we now live in are like a heavy burden, and we groan. But we don’t do this just because we want to leave these bodies that will die. It is because we want to change them for bodies that will never die.

2 Corinthians 5:4 CEV

I don’t know how to reinvigorate this body. Only God can do that through His Spirit.

So I wait.

I keep trying.

And I remember that the Lord’s mercies are new every morning.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Wrecking Ball of Grace

In the aftermath of loss, relationships suffer.

Sometimes it’s because of harsh words exchanged in the heat of emotional moments.

Sometimes it’s due to disagreements about how to deal with ongoing issues.  Often, it’s because most people just don’t know what to say and don’t know what to do in the presence of great pain and suffering.

Days and weeks and months pass and one day we wake up and realize that a previously close relationship is now distant and strained.

I know that in my grief I have felt abandoned by people I felt sure would stand with me, would never leave me, would be my most stalwart encouragers.

And I know, too, that I have shut some people out.  Some were too chipper or too quick to offer platitudes and others just seemed intolerant of my ongoing pain and sorrow.

Walls have been erected.

My heart sectioned off and my world divided into “us” and “them”.

I’m sorry for that.  That’s not the way I want it to be.

Walls between people are built brick by brick.

A word spoken or not spoken.  A call,  text  or message misinterpreted or mistimed.

But they can be brought down with one blow.

wrecking ball

Grace is a wrecking ball that breaks through walls and stone cold hearts.

Grace given and grace received.  

A call, a text, an email or message that says, “I’m thinking of you.  I’m sorry I haven’t been in touch.”

Or a card sent the old fashioned way filled with love to assure a wounded heart that it is not abandoned or forgotten.

Image result for image letter

“”I’m sorry.”

“I miss you.”

“I love you.”

It may not be easy and it might take several attempts.

 

 

 

But in the end, who can refuse extended arms and an open heart?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Faith

Part of our homeschooling routine was Bible reading.

I’ll never forget the first time I came to Hebrews chapter 11, often referred to as the “Hall of Faith”.  

It begins:

Now faith means putting our full confidence in the things we hope for, it means being certain of things we cannot see. It was this kind of faith that won their reputation for the saints of old. And it is after all only by faith that our minds accept as fact that the whole scheme of time and space was created by God’s command—that the world which we can see has come into being through principles which are invisible.

Hebrews 11:1-3 PHILLIP

From there the writer lists those who followed God even when the path was dark, even when the promise was beyond sight and even when it cost them their lives.  

I cried.

I remember thinking that maybe one day the children looking at me around that table might face a crisis of faith and I prayed that they would always choose to believe.

I never dreamed that it would be ME that had to wake up each morning and make that choice over and over again.

I’m not talking about the single, life-changing commitment to receive forgiveness through Christ’s blood.

But rather obedience to keep following His lead and strength to walk in His footsteps day after day regardless of how I feel or what I can or cannot see.

The choice I have to make is whether or not to turn my heart toward His, to open my ears to His voice, and to bend my will to accept whatever storms He allows in my life.

Suffering is NOT a choice, but faith is.

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