The Humbling Act of Being Thankful

I don’t want to leave this month without posting this.

It’s something I’ve been working on  for several weeks and something God has been teaching me for several years.

I’m still not all that good at it.

But when I am, it makes such a difference!

It’s popular to start the month of November with a call to thankfulness.

That’s a good thing.

We should spend more time thinking about our blessings and being thankful to the God Who provides them.

But often we don’t.

Because we like to think that what we have is the result of what we do or who we are.

That means we don’t owe anybody anything.

thank you is the best prayer sunset water

Thankfulness is an act of humility and submission because in that moment I must acknowledge I am the recipient of blessing at the hand of another.

That implies obligation.

And I don’t like feeling I owe someone something.

Imbalance is uncomfortable.

It should be.

Because it spurs me on to good deeds and loving relationship which keeps the cycle going. 

Thankfulness begets kindness which begets thankfulness which begets kindness.  

I want to live in THAT world. 

gratitude is the fairest blossom

 

All The Glory on the Ground

Fall doesn’t last long here in Alabama.  

We have summer right through September most years and even into October on occasion.

This year was even shorter-hot, hot, hot, hot, cold!

But no matter how long or short the temperate days I have two or three trees I look for when the cold nights work their magic and the leaves turn bright.

I know I have to drink in their beauty as much as possible because it won’t last for more than a week.  And that makes it all the more precious to me.

So I don’t rush by as I’m wont to other times of year.  I slow down as I round the curve and gasp again at translucent gold lit bright against a pale blue sky. 

yellow ginkgo tree

One, two, three passes and then one day they’re gone. 

A windy rain knocked every one to the earth.  

All the glory on the ground.  

And my heart notes once again that nothing in this life is forever.

Even the most beautiful and highly treasured things will fade and fall.

People too. 

So don’t rush by. 

Slow down and drink in the glory of family around the table, coffee with a friend, walks in your neighborhood, cuddles with the kids, hot chocolate around a campfire or the kitchen stove.  

Nothing in this life is forever.  

time with those you love

Fathers Grieve Too

I’ve gotten a similar comment from two different bereaved fathers in the past two days.

It goes something like this, “I’m offended by the implication (one was in a meme, another was a reader comment) that mothers grieve more than dads”.  

I appreciate the comments even though I disagreed with the interpretation these men gave to what was actually stated.

I responded by saying that since I am a mother-not a father-I write from my own perspective.  I don’t try to fit my shoes on anyone else’s feet.

I also said that if they chose to read any blog post I have written, I have never implied nor stated that a father’s grief is somehow less than a mother’s.  The only differentiation I make between my grief and anyone else’s is that child loss is qualitatively different than other kinds of loss.  

Losing your hamster just isn’t the same.

at least take away the hamster died

I don’t claim special status because I’m a mother grieving my child.  

But I will absolutely, positively admit that often dads get overlooked when people offer comfort and solace.  

Maybe it’s because fathers (as a group) tend to be more stoic, less demonstrative and quieter about the boatload of feelings grief brings.  Often men grieve privately, shed tears in secret and may not post anything on social media even when they are really struggling.

As all of us in the bereaved parent community know, most folks are trying hard to wait us out-hoping beyond hope that this period of active mourning will pass sooner rather than later.

So dads sometimes play right into that desire by staying silent.  

Let me just say this:  Fathers grieve too. 

Dads miss their children just as much as mothers.  My husband was overwhelmed by grief for months after Dominic left us.  It literally incapacitated him for a period of time.  So I know firsthand about a father’s grief.

If you’re a dad and feel marginalized, overlooked, forgotten or underrepresented in the bereaved parent community, may I ask you to do me a favor? 

Open up.  

Share your grief. 

Be a voice for bereaved dads everywhere.  

I, for one, want to hear what you have to say.  

bereaved fathers

NO Substitute For Rest

Some of us just don’t like sitting down.

That would be me.

I’ve always got the next thing to do written on a slip of paper somewhere and even if I can’t find that list, it’s hardwired into my brain.

Decades of guiding a busy household have worn ruts in my routine so that after my morning coffee I am compelled to get up and get going. 

melanie feet crocs and driveway step

Writing here has given me a little cushion since some mornings words pour out of me and I have to get them down before they escape my memory.  But even so, I might only extend my sitting time by an hour or so.

When the sun gets up good in the sky, that’s my cue to get up too.  Animals need feeding and even though there’s only me to feed at home I’m usually cooking for some event or someone else.

So I find it hard to rest-even when I need to and even when it is the difference between getting well and getting worse.

But this past week I’ve had to dial it back-a lot.  Some nasty cold took up residence in my chest and traveled to my ears.  It was the earache that sent me to the doctor even though the cough sounded like it was coming from my toes and just wouldn’t stop.

Thankfully a wise practitioner gave me the right mix of medicines and sent me home to let them work their magic.

I expected the antibiotics and steroid to kick in and kick that rotten bug right out.  But they didn’t.  In fact, although the earache dissipated by the next morning, I woke up feeling WORSE than when I had dragged myself to the clinic.

The prescription was clear:  Rest was what I needed. 

My family very sweetly kept reminding me of that when I forgot (at least once per hour!). But I stubbornly refused to rest as much or as often as I should have.

So it has taken longer than necessary for me to feel better.  

And once again I am learning the absolute necessity of REST to aid a body-or a heart-toward healing.  There is simply NO substitute for giving your body or emotions or spirit the space and time and leisure it needs to do the work that only it can do for itself.

When our schedules are piled high (even with good things!) and we don’t make a place for rest in our daily and weekly lives, we predispose (maybe guarantee?) ourselves toward crisis.  It might be a health crisis due to a weakened immune system or an emotional crisis because we just don’t have the energy or margin left to deal with people’s words or attitudes.

margin

For those of us already carrying the burden of child loss into this extra busy season, we have to find time to rest. 

We have to make space for solitude. 

We must declare some portion of our day or week a “drama free” zone.  

If we don’t, we’ll find ourselves exactly where we don’t want to be.  

Our bodies, minds and hearts will demand it-one way or the other.  

rest field

Hidden Manna

I’ve thought often of what good, if any, can come from child loss.  

I do not think for one minute that God “took” my son to teach me a lesson or to mold me in some way.  

But I do believe with my whole heart that God can USE this circumstance to conform me more closely to the image of Christ Jesus. 

Meanwhile, the moment we get tired in the waiting, God’s Spirit is right alongside helping us along. If we don’t know how or what to pray, it doesn’t matter. He does our praying in and for us, making prayer out of our wordless sighs, our aching groans. He knows us far better than we know ourselves, knows our pregnant condition, and keeps us present before God. That’s why we can be so sure that every detail in our lives of love for God is worked into something good.

 God knew what he was doing from the very beginning. He decided from the outset to shape the lives of those who love him along the same lines as the life of his Son. The Son stands first in the line of humanity he restored. We see the original and intended shape of our lives there in him. After God made that decision of what his children should be like, he followed it up by calling people by name. After he called them by name, he set them on a solid basis with himself. And then, after getting them established, he stayed with them to the end, gloriously completing what he had begun.

Romans 8: 26-30 MSG

I also cling firmly to the conviction that there are things I can learn, truths I can understand and depths of love and grace I can fathom that are not available to hearts who have not walked the road of sorrow and trod the path of grief.

There are things I know because I have been forced to travel the Valley of the Shadow of Death that those who are spared will never know.  

I truly believe this is some of the “hidden manna” Jesus promises to those who persevere under trial, who resist the lies and lure of the evil one and who persist in holding onto hope in spite of all evidence that screams, “Let go!”

Let everyone who can hear, listen to what the Spirit is saying to the churches: Everyone who is victorious shall eat of the hidden manna, the secret nourishment from heaven; and I will give to each a white stone, and on the stone will be engraved a new name that no one else knows except the one receiving it.

Revelation 2:17 TLB

My testimony is not flashy.  But it doesn’t have to be.

You won’t find me doing a victory lap around a defeated foe.  

Instead I cling tenaciously to the truth that God’s faithful love endures forever and that death is no longer the last word.

I swallow every bit of strength the Spirit offers me.  

Resurrection, redemption and resurrection are coming. 

And I wait, in hope, and with assurance that my story does not end in ashes.  

The resurrection of Jesus was a hidden event. Jesus didn’t rise from the grave to baffle his opponents, to make a victory statement, or to prove to those who crucified him that he was right after all. Jesus rose as a sign to those who had loved him and followed him that God’s divine love is stronger than death. To the women and men who had committed themselves to him, he revealed that his mission had been fulfilled. To those who shared in his ministry, he gave the sacred task to call all people into the new life with him.

The world didn’t take notice. Only those whom he called by name, with whom he broke bread, and to whom he spoke words of peace were aware of what happened. Still, it was this hidden event that freed humanity from the shackles of death.

~Henri Nouwen

 

 

Repost: Nothing “Normal” About It

Something you hear early on in this grief journey is that one day you will find a “new normal”.

I hate that phrase.

Because while I have certainly developed new routines, new ways of dealing with life, new methods for quelling the tears and the longing and the sorrow and the pain-it is NOT normal.

It will never be “normal” for my son to be missing.

Read the rest here:  Nothing “Normal” About It

At The Intersection of God’s Sovereignty and Free Will: Accidents and Miracles

I want to say up front that I am no theologian.  

I am, instead, a sincere follower of the Lord Jesus Christ who reads the Bible and tries hard to understand what it says and let it inform my worldview.  

I know I’ve written about this before but it comes up again and again in bereaved parent groups so I’m sharing MY perspective one more time.

Here’s the question: 

If God is sovereign (meaning all powerful) then why didn’t He save my child?  

Here’s my answer: 

God is sovereign.  There is no one more powerful in the universe.  He can and sometimes, does, interject directly in the affairs of men.  If He chose, we would be like automatons, simply doing precisely what He wanted us to do.

God has given man free will.  And that means that while there is a perfect plan and will of God for my life, for your life and for every life on this planet, I can choose not to follow it.  He will not force me into compliance.  I will often make foolish or sinful choices and may very well suffer the consequences.

The world is tainted by sin.  Our bodies are prone to sickness, disease, genetic abnormalities.  People make not only foolish choices but sinful ones-acting evilly against another person-causing harm and death.  Until the devil has been utterly cast out, we will continue to suffer in a world that is not at all as God originally intended it to be.

God has also set certain universal principles in place.  Gravity.  Physics.  Biology.  Each operates without His direct intervention according to the laws He created to give us a world that works in predictable fashion.  We have electricity in our homes because of these laws.  Internal combustion engines work a certain way, over and over and over.  When I get sick, my body temperature rises in an attempt to create a hostile environment for the invading bacteria or virus.  I depend on these laws every single day.  

In my son’s case, he made a foolish choice to drive too fast in a curve.  His motorcycle left the road (physics) and he could not maintain control nor stop it before he hit something.  His body could not sustain the blow (biology) and he died.

So many times people ascribe the word “miraculous” to someone who survives a nasty accident or is healed from disease.  It may be that God in His mercy DID miraculously deliver one person or another.  But it may be just as likely that the same laws of physics and biology (things we do not completely understand) which doomed my son, guaranteed their survival.  I cannot compare my life to theirs or my son’s accident to another.

COULD God have intervened?  Absolutely!  Did He?  No. 

But can I ask Him to step in and prevent these natural consequences when I would be very upset should He do it other times?

See, I want God to stop pain in MY life.  But (if I’m honest) I’d rather He allow it in the lives of others (those who molest children, for instance).  I want Him to reach down into this world He made and keep ME and MINE safe.

If He was reaching down all the time, this wouldn’t be the world I know, it would be a world where He was chess master and we were all pawns on the game board.  

The God I serve invites me to follow Him.  

He does not force me to make that choice.

It’s an uncomfortable mystery that I do not understand.  But I am satisfied that one day it won’t even matter.  

Because every question I have will melt away in the overwhelming joy of Heaven.  

trust god in the light