Your Child Matters

I know many who read this blog belong to closed online bereavement groups.

That’s a beautiful thing- a place where we can share our pain with others who understand it in a judgement-free zone.

child-and-mama-heart-together

We often post photos and our child(ren)’s story in the closed groups.

But today I want to take a moment to provide a public forum for anyone who wishes to take advantage of it.

Your child matters.

His or her story matters.

Your pain matters.

If you are so inclined, please “speak” your child(ren)’s name in the comments section. Tell us something about your child(ren), tell us what you miss about your child(ren), tell us what made your child(ren) a special light in this world.

(It is a PUBLIC forum so please don’t post anything you don’t want the world to know.)

child existed

 

 

Worn Slap Out

The best remedy for my heart on the days when grief rolls in like morning fog and refuses to burn off with sunshine is hard work.

If weather permits I go outside and move hay bales, pick up limbs, cut weeds or do anything that requires large muscles to accomplish the task.  The goal is exhaustion so I can sleep.

If the weather doesn’t cooperate, I’ll try to tackle jobs inside that I otherwise tend to ignore.  If you ever see me cleaning the bathroom or kitchen sink fixtures with a toothbrush, just leave me alone-I’m working something out.

So these past days leading up to Dominic’s birthday, that’s what I’ve done.

I sheared sheep, raked out a hay shed, moved hay, medicated horses, dogs and goats, picked up limbs brought down by rain and high winds, vacuumed, washed clothes, cleaned bathrooms and organized (sort of) my closet.

The ungrateful sheep and the silly cat kneading his paws while I’m bent over shearing her. 

photo (44)

Skinks are some of the happier surprises when moving hay.  Snakes and ants not so much.

 

The good thing about so many critters that eat grass is that I rarely cut it.

Now I’m worn slap out!

I think I’ll hit the sack.

fatigue is the best pillow

Repost: Memorial Day

Last year around this time, my eldest son received his captain’s bars and had just begun Officer Training School.

jm captain

This year, it’s even more real to me that one of my own children may be called upon to risk or give his life for the life and liberty of another.

And the number of mothers I know whose child has died in service or because of service related wounds or PTSD has grown ever larger.  

Memorial Day is not “just another holiday”.

It is a solemn occasion that merits our deepest reverence.

We must never forget:   Freedom isn’t free.

Read the rest here:  Memorial Day

Repost: Do They Have Birthdays in Heaven?

I wrote this last year and, to be honest, I don’t have anything new to say for this year’s birthday.  

Four birthdays after Dominic ran ahead to heaven and I’m no better at it than I was the first time.

I will never get used to waking to a sunrise that is supposed to mark another year of fellowship and enjoyment of my third child but instead is a reminder that the life that was Dominic is no more on this earth.

Some parents find wonderful ways to commemorate their child even in their absence.  I haven’t been able to do that consistently.

So today I will think about and remember and be thankful for the many things Dominic was and still is, but miss his smile, his laughter, his giant presence.

Happy Birthday Son-it would be 27.  

You should be here.

Read last year’s post here:  Do They Have Birthdays in Heaven?

Exposed

When you pass that accident on the side of the road or read about the mass shooting in the press, what do you think?

What do you say?

Do you breathe a sigh of relief that no one you loved or knew was part of such a tragic disaster?  Do you feel chosen, special, “above it all” because you follow Jesus?  Do you think that your faithful, Bible-focused life and worldview will protect you from random accidents or the sinful actions of others?

Do you say, “Thank You God, it wasn’t me (or mine)?”  Do you pray for the ones caught up in the death and destruction?  Pray that they knew Jesus?  Pray that their families will be able to bear the weight of grief and sorrow that is just this moment bearing down on them?

Or do you snap a photo with your phone and post on social media something like: “Awful wreck on the interstate.  So glad I was a little late this morning or it might have been me! God is good!”

Or worse:  “Awful wreck on the interstate.  Traffic backed up for miles.  UGH!

I walk in two worldsone where I am so very thankful for each life and family spared what I now know by experience, and one where I am brought to tears every time they aren’t.

I wish believers in Christ would choose words that are consistent with compassion-whether the person is spared or not.

Jesus is a man of tears.

He was moved by love and compassion in every human encounter (even with the Pharisees-He wished their eyes were opened).

I want my heart and my words to reflect that I know this Saviour full of love and mercy.

Spared or not, it’s no doing of mine.

To say otherwise reflects only arrogance and ignorance.

Just a moment, now, you who say, “We are going to such-and-such a city today or tomorrow. We shall stay there a year doing business and make a profit”! How do you know what will happen even tomorrow? What, after all, is your life? It is like a puff of smoke visible for a little while and then dissolving into thin air. Your remarks should be prefaced with, “If it is the Lord’s will, we shall be alive and will do so-and-so.” As it is, you get a certain pride in yourself in planning your future with such confidence. That sort of pride is all wrong. No doubt you agree with the above in theory. Well, remember that if a man knows what is right and fails to do it, his failure is a real sin.

James 4:14-17 PHILLIPS

True Truth

 

I will not get used to the fact that my son is beyond my reach.  I have come to a certain acceptance of it as fact, and acknowledgement of the truth that I cannot change that fact.

The pain hasn’t become less painful, only more familiar.  It doesn’t surprise me as often when it pricks my heart anew.

The world goes on.  I am a tiny speck in the greater scheme of things and my heartache hardly merits any pause in the machinery of the cosmos.

I have learned to put on the face I need for everyday tasks and to look the part of a functioning human being.  But just beneath the surface is a cauldron of emotion that can be exposed in a heartbeat.

I miss my son.

I miss the part of me that was reflected back from the mirror of Dominic.

I miss the family we used to be.

I miss the past when there could be a whole day of laughter without a single tear.

I miss the children I used to have-the ones who knew nothing about irrevocable loss and breathtaking heartache.

I know I’m indulging in selfish introspection and that I should be looking with faith-filled eyes to the glorious future God has promised through Christ.

But today I just can’t.

I won’t be guilted into trying to pretend that I don’t miss all this.

Because I do.

 

changed for life

Bad Mama?

I have a heart for ALL mamas-the ones who are just starting out all the way up to the ones who launched their fledglings and have an empty nest.

I especially have a heart for mamas who have had to say “good-bye” to one or more of their precious children-sending them on ahead to heaven.

I’ve never met one that didn’t wonder if she did enough, said enough, loved enough-WAS enough.

I have a love/hate relationship with social media.

On the one hand, it allows instant communication and easy sharing of special events among friends and family in ways we could only dream about when my kids were tiny. On the other hand, the perfect pictures and carefully curated lives posted for the world to see place great pressure on those of us who look around at our messy houses and messy lives.

Add to that the articles and memes passed around and you have a perfect combination to crush a mama’s spirit.

Are my children being kept safe?  Are they being kept too safe?  Are they in the right school, the right sport, the right music program? Should I feed them this or that?  Am I doing enough?

Am I enough?

Am I a bad mama?

Can I just tell you something struggling mama?  Can I give you a lifeboat in the ocean of doubt?

God chose you before the foundation of the world to be your child’s mama.  He knows everything about you-past. present and future-and He chose YOU to help shape this little life into the person He created your child to be.

Yes, you make mistakes.  

Yes, you are flawed.  

Yes, you will do some things well and some things not so well.

But that is no surprise to God.

Look closely at the families in the Old Testament-you don’t have to get past Genesis to find dysfunction all over the place.  But God isn’t limited by our limitations.  His plan isn’t thwarted by our inability to follow directions.  His purposes do not depend on perfect parenting.  

Hallelujah! AMEN!

So buckle up and hold on-do the best you can to guide your family down the road God lays before you.  You will make some bad decisions and need to do a few U-turns.

That’s OK.  Lean into the One Who made you and made your children.

God has it under control.  

no way to be a perfect mother child in arms

Please Be Patient With Me

Our local high schools hold graduation ceremonies this week.  Such an exciting time for so many families!

My Facebook newsfeed is flooded with senior pictures intermingled with baby photos and exclamations by mamas that they have absolutely NO IDEA where the time has gone.

I totally get it.

I graduated four from high school and college and a couple from graduate school.  And it’s true-all the while you are raising these children it seems like the days are long.

But one day you look up from the hard work of motherhood and realize the years were short.

Too short.

Thankfully for most parents graduation isn’t really an end.  It marks a transition and perhaps growing geographical distance, but the relationship will continue.

Your child may be harder to reach, but they are not utterly beyond your reach.

It may take more effort to arrange lunch or birthday parties or holiday gatherings, but they will still happen.

You might stand at the doorway of their empty room and wonder when they might come home for a visit and wake up under your roof again, but they WILL come home for a visit.

I’m not diminishing the very real sense of loss parents feel when the child they have nurtured begins a life apart.

Empty nest is a real thing.

It’s a hard thing.  It takes time to make necessary adjustments.

But some of us face something harder.

My child is utterly unreachable.  There are no phone calls, texts, Facebook messages or goofy Instagram updates on what he is doing while away from my sight.  He will never sit at my Thanksgiving table again or celebrate his birthday with a cake or special meal. No more presents under the Christmas tree.

And just like you who feel that time has been both fast and slow leading up to graduation-it seems that way to me, too.

Unbearably long since I heard his voice, saw his face and hugged his neck.  Yet also just yesterday since the full weight of his leaving landed hard on my heart. 

I understand how it feels to miss my child in a way I hope you never have to.  

please be patient with me

Count Your Blessings?

Count your blessings, name them one by one,
Count your blessings, see what God has done!
Count your blessings, name them one by one,
*Count your many blessings, see what God has done.
[*And it will surprise you what the Lord has done.]

COUNT YOUR BLESSINGS by Johnson Oatman, Jr.

I grew up singing this hymn.  It has a catchy tune and a good message-if the most trying thing you have had to endure is ordinary disappointment.

But if you’ve been devastated by the storms of life, hope dashed to bits on the rock of despair, heart shattered into a million pieces by loss-well then, the advice seems rather infantile and useless, however good-intentioned.

It is useless, if what I’m trying to do (or what someone else is trying to do for me) is pile up blessings on one side and losses on the other and make the scales balance or better yet-tip toward the blessing side.

Because there is NO way to balance losing my son with any earthly blessing.

I have my other children.  Yes, but I had them when I still had him.  I have my health (sort of).  Yes, but I had it when I still had him.  I have a home, freedom, food-yes, yes, yes.  But all that I had when I still had him.

So you see, I can’t make it balance out.  No one can.

But there is a kernel of truth in this hymn.  And it’s not in trying to pile up one side and weigh it against the other.

No.

The truth lies in two things:  First, when I learn to count blessings I change my heart’s focus from what I’ve lost (and cannot regain this side of heaven) to what I still have.  It helps me live forward instead of trying (without success) to live in the past.  It whispers hope and courage instead of shouting death and despair.

Second, counting blessings forces me to see God’s faithful love even in the midst of terrible loss.  It reminds me of Who He is, what He has done and what He continues to do.  It brings to mind and burns into my spirit the truth that God never fails, His Word is true and He will finish what He started.

The Psalmist begins many of his songs with something like this:  “Where are You God?”  “Why have You forgotten me, God?”  “When will you answer my plea, God?”

He lays out his case, his worries, his broken heart before the Lord, begging for mercy, for action, for some kind of observable help.

And then there’s a turn in the song, it’s like a switch is flipped in the Psalmist’s heart-he remembers…

He remembers Who God is, what He has done in the past, how His faithful love has sustained him and continues to sustain him.

Nothing has changed except the Psalmist started counting blessings.  The pile of blessings didn’t outweigh the pile of troubles but it bore testimony to God’s gracious goodness even in the midst of trouble.

That spoke hope and courage to the Psalmist’s heart.

And it speaks hope and courage to mine.

How long, O Eternal One? How long will You forget me? Forever?
    How long will You look the other way?

How long must I agonize,
    grieving Your absence in my heart every day?
How long will You let my enemies win?

Turn back; respond to me, O Eternal, my True God!
    Put the spark of life in my eyes, or I’m dead.
My enemies will boast they have beaten me;
    my foes will celebrate that I have stumbled.

But I trust in Your faithful love;
    my heart leaps at the thought of imminent deliverance by You.
I will sing to the Eternal,
    for He is always generous with me.

Psalm 13 VOICE

Prayer Requests and a Pounding Heart

It’s what we do when we get together at church-in Sunday School or Wednesday night Prayer Meeting-we take prayer requests.

It’s what we should do.

We are commanded to pray for one another.

pray for one another

I listen attentively, take notes, try to get the names spelled correctly-I’m the one who types the list for the weekly bulletin so I want to get it right.

Until...someone shares a request that sends my mind down a winding path of memory. My heart begins to beat the rapid tap-tap-tap warning of mounting anxiety.  Death has come to another family’s door or is stalking them around the corner.

Some parent will stand by the casket of the child they bore and wonder how in the world they outlived their offspring.  

And while I try to pray faithfully for all the requests shared, this one lodges in my throat and will not be ignored.

My heart is broken as theirs breaks.  I know only God can hold it together.

I breathe a prayer in:  “God grant them strength, grant them mercy, grant them grace.”

I breathe a prayer out:  “Jesus, Shepherd, carry them in Your arms.  Don’t let their faith fail.”

out of the depths i cry for you