Thoughts Matter

So much of this battle has been fought in my mind.

Really, even more than in my heart.

Because you can’t argue with sad or shock or missing or disappointment.

But you can absolutely argue with hopelessness (there is nothing to live for), apathy (there is nothing to do) and distrust (there is no one who can help me).

So I spend a lot of time filling my mind with truth and doing the best I can to empty it of lies.  Some days I’m more successful than others, but I battle on regardless.

dont let anyone rent space in your head toby mac

When hopelessness tries to take up residence I say:

Remember the word to Your servant upon which you have caused me to hope.

~Psalm 119:49

AND

Do you see what this means—all these pioneers who blazed the way, all these veterans cheering us on? It means we’d better get on with it. Strip down, start running—and never quit! No extra spiritual fat, no parasitic sins. Keep your eyes on Jesus, who both began and finished this race we’re in. Study how he did it. Because he never lost sight of where he was headed—that exhilarating finish in and with God—he could put up with anything along the way: Cross, shame, whatever. And now he’s there, in the place of honor, right alongside God. When you find yourselves flagging in your faith, go over that story again, item by item, that long litany of hostility he plowed through. That will shoot adrenaline into your souls!

~Hebrews 12:1-3 MSG

Apathy sits heavy on my chest and makes me want to give up and give in.  Why try if life is random and chaos is rampant? 

I push it off with:

28 We are confident that God is able to orchestrate everything to work toward something good and beautiful when we love Him and accept His invitation to live according to His plan. 29-30 From the distant past, His eternal love reached into the future. You see, He knew those who would be His one day, and He chose them beforehand to be conformed to the image of His Son so that Jesus would be the firstborn of a new family of believers, all brothers and sisters. As for those He chose beforehand, He called them to a different destiny so that they would experience what it means to be made right with God and share in His glory.

~Romans 8:28-30 VOICE

I remember that I still have work to do:  

“For we are His workmanship [His own master work, a work of art], created in Christ Jesus [reborn from above—spiritually transformed, renewed, ready to be used] for good works, which God prepared [for us] beforehand [taking paths which He set], so that we would walk in them [living the good life which He prearranged and made ready for us]. “

~Ephesians 2:10 AMP

The enemy of my soul whispers the same lie he told Eve in the garden, “God really doesn’t have your best interest at heart.  He’s holding out on you.  You can’t trust Him.”

I shout him down and declare:

all the promises of god are yes in christ

The God Who sent His only Son to save me will not let me go.  He will uphold me with His Righteous Right Hand.  Even in the flood of grief, the fire of trial and the darkness of despair, He is with me.  

carry you old age

I have verses and quotes and hymn choruses posted all over my house so that everywhere I turn, my eyes can land on encouragement.

I won’t win any awards with my decorating scheme, but I don’t care.

All of this will be dust one day. 

I’m building an eternal future that won’t rot, rust or decay.  

“3 Blessed is God, the Father of our Lord Jesus, the Anointed One! Because He has raised Jesus the Anointed from death, through His great mercy we have been reborn into a living hope— reborn for an eternal inheritance, held in reserve in heaven, that will never fade or fail. Through faith, God’s power is standing watch, protecting you for a salvation that you will see completely at the end of things.”

~ 1 Peter 1: 3-5 VOICE

Hallelujah!  Amen.

 

 

 

Messy Edits

Yesterday’s post was a mess for those of you who receive it through email.  

I’m sorry.

What had been a previous draft was tacked onto the bottom of what I wanted to send out so the whole thing was not really how I meant it to be.

But maybe it was how it should have been.

Because that’s where I find myself so often this side of child loss-all the careful editing of words and careful managing of appearances is impossible.   I just don’t have the resources or the energy.  So too often (for my own comfort and probably the comfort of others) the words just tumble out.

A fire hose instead of the gentle trickle I’d rather them be.

That’s why I rely on writing whenever possible.  It gives me a chance to start, stop and revisit what I want to say and how I want to say it.

But yesterday, well, you got the fire hose version.  

There was so much I wanted to say-I wanted to thank Brenda for the portrait and share how having a new picture was truly a balm for my soul-and also to express how I am still unbelievably sad that my son will never grow older.

I intended to blend the two into a seamless post but couldn’t do it so I left it alone for a few hours.  Grief brain kicked in, I forgot about the second bit and just hit “publish”.

So you got the messy version.  The version that lives inside my heart and mind most days.  It’s not pretty and there is a constant battle between hope and helplessness.

I work hard to hold onto hope.  

I keep fighting.  

But it’s messy.

those that wait in hope shall not be ashamed

The Fight For Joy is Not for the Unarmed

 

the fight for joy is not for the unarmed

This is very true.

I found that when I received the news of my son’s accident-it was Scripture I had hidden in my heart that helped me stand.

My Bible was available, but I could not open it. My heart was too broken to read.

But the Spirit brought to mind exactly what I needed from the storehouse of Scripture hidden in my heart.

I am still fighting for joy.  

I still have days when my Bible lies unopened beside me.  

And it is still those verses engraved on my heart that help me battle on.  

DCIM100MEDIA
DCIM100MEDIA

 

 

Head Above Water (Most of the Time)

Some days I go gangbusters-rip through my “To Do” list from top to bottom before lunchtime.

And some days I can barely get up out of the chair in the morning for a second cup of coffee.

It depends.

Most times I have no idea what throws me into a tailspin.

Oh, I’m prepared for the “circle the date on the calendar days” like Mother’s Day (coming up!), Dominic’s birthday, his heaven day and the holidays. But there are random, not-special-occasion-days that plunge my head under a grief wave that I did not see coming.

Maybe it’s the smell of cut grass through an open window or the sound of a motorcycle thrumming at the end of our lane or the sight of trees full of leaves (again-another season he isn’t here).  I really don’t know.

The drowning feeling may last five minutes or five hours.  All I can do is go with it and hope the wave spits me out sooner rather than later.

And they DO pass.

My heart is always tender, always aware of missing Dominic.  But it is better able to join in laughter and celebration than it was even six months ago.

I no longer feel as if I am drowning every moment of every day with only a gasp of air now and then.

Instead I feel like I’m swimming-tired and often out of-sight of shore-but managing most of the time to keep my head above water.

Grief waves come.  They will always come.  I have to endure the choking, sputtering, frightening, drowning feeling when they do.

But they are not the only thing I feel now.

And for that, I am very grateful.

be-thankful-for-today-change-in-one-moment

 

Repost: Remember: Why Good Friday Matters as Much as Resurrection Sunday

“On the one hand Death is the triumph of Satan, the punishment of the Fall, and the last enemy. Christ shed tears at the grave of Lazarus and sweated blood in Gethsemane: the Life of Lives that was in Him detested this penal obscenity not less than we do, but more.
On the other hand, only he who loses his life will save it. We are baptized into the death of Christ, and it is the remedy for the Fall. Death is, in fact, what some modern people call “ambivalent.” It is Satan’s great weapon and also God’s great weapon: it is holy and unholy; our supreme disgrace and our only hope; the thing Christ came to conquer and the means by which He conquered.”  C.S. Lewis,  Miracles

Bury a child and suddenly the death of Christ becomes oh, so personal. The image of Mary at the foot of the cross is too hard to bear.

Read the rest here:  Remember: Why Good Friday Matters as Much as Resurrection Sunday

Repost: Surrender

“Follow Me,”  Jesus said to the twelve.

“Follow Me,” Jesus said to me when I was just a child.

“Yes,” I replied-not knowing or counting the cost. 

If it was a single commitment without opportunity for turning back then it would be easy.

But it’s not.  

Read the rest here:  Surrender

David and Goliath

Today is 35 months-almost three years since I was awakened to the news no parent wants to hear.

And, yes, I still count the months.

Every 12th rolls around and reminds me that while Dominic’s leaving was an event on the calendar to others, it is an ongoing experience for me and my family.

I don’t say this for pity’s sake.

Pity is a poor substitute for what I really want:  I want my son back; my family whole; my world unshattered and unshaken; my biggest problem to be how to get all my grown children together at the same place at the same time for holidays.

I can’t have what I really want.

So I hold on to what I have-the Truth that every promise of God in Christ is “yes” and “amen”.  And the memories-I hold onto the memories.

I have the first Bible we ever gave Dominic.  

It endured rough use-the corners chewed on, the pages bent and the covers full of creases where they’ve been folded back and forth.

We chose it because it is one of those children’s Bibles with pictures inserted every so often-old fashioned images taken from paintings no longer guarded by copyright or trusts.

His very favorite page was the illustration of David and Goliath-his most treasured story and his most requested reading.

We even had a “David and Goliath” themed birthday party way before Pinterest.  

I made a life-sized version of Goliath and hung him on the wall so the boys could stand next to it for a photo.

I was recently reminded of these memories when a video made it’s rounds on Facebook (you can watch it here ).

It’s easy to focus on the fact that David’s stone slew the giant.  But what my heart holds onto are David’s words, “All those gathered here will know that it is not by sword or spear that the Lord saves; for the battle is the Lord’s, and he will give all of you into our hands.” (I Samuel 17:47)

not-to-us-but-for-your-glory-and-name

David had little confidence in his own strength. He wasn’t certain that his skill in slinging rocks was what guaranteed victory.  No.  He was absolutely convinced that Jehovah would not allow His Name to be sullied.  He rested in the fact of God’s faithful covenantal love.

He bet his life on it.

If you read the Old Testament you will find example after example of God’s people begging Him for mercy-not because they deserve it-but because it reflects the truth of Who He is.

Abraham leads Isaac up the mountain and tells his servant, “We will return”.

Why?

Because he trusted that God’s promises were true, that God could not and would not lie.

Moses begs God to give the Israelites another chance because if they perished, it would desecrate His Name.

Daniel asks God to remember His covenant, not for the sake of the people, but for the sake of His reputation.

On and on and on.

So in this Valley of the Shadow of Death, I don’t beg for mercy and grace because I think  I DESERVE it.

I beg for mercy and grace because the character of God guarantees it.

God will finish what He started-not for me but for His kingdom.

His faithful love endures forever not because I am worthy but because He has claimed me for His own.

He will not allow His Name to be defamed.

I bet my life on it.

 

 

Why Do We Turn Away?

The news goes out over Facebook, over phone lines, over prayer chains and everyone shows up.

Crowds in the kitchen, in the living room, spilling onto the lawn.

It’s what you do.

And it’s actually the easiest part.  Lots of people, lots of talking, lots of activity keep the atmosphere focused on the deceased and the family.  The conversation rarely dips to deeper waters or digs into harder ground:  “Where was God?”;  “Why him?”;  “Why do ‘bad’ things happen to ‘good’ people?”

But eventually the busyness and noise gives way to stillness and silence.

That’s when the harder part starts.

The long hours of nightime darkness that invite questions that demand answers.  The quiet hours of daylight that insist on playing a home movie of the years that went before. Forcing me to wrestle.  Tossing me in the ring of trying to reconcile this tragedy with my worldview.

And many people turn away from the spectacle.  

Even good, loving, Christ-following friends find it hard to stick around and watch.

Because it challenges their worldview too.  

It makes them wonder if what they have always believed about God is true.  It makes them fearful that if it could happen to my son and to me, it could happen to their child and to them.  Ir raises questions, they’d rather not answer.

And they don’t have to answer them-YET-because their lives haven’t been turned upside down and inside out.

So they run.

They stop calling, they stop coming and they keep their distance in public spaces.

It hurts.

A lot.

It’s human nature to avoid pain.  No one marches headlong into suffering. Empathy requres energy.  Compassion demands opening your heart to the hurt hiding inside someone else’s.

I understand, truly I do.  

If I could find a place where sorrow and longing couldn’t find me, I would stay there forever.  But I can’t.  I have to carry this load, I have to face the tough questions, I have to work hard to give my heart a chance.

It is so much easier when others come alongside.  I feel so much stronger when others choose to call courage to my broken heart.  I find great comfort in knowing that someone is willing to risk their own comfort to bear witness to my pain and struggle.

Please don’t lower your eyes and hide.  Raise them and help heal.

I know it’s hard and you don’t have to, but please don’t turn away.  

compassion is a choice

 

 

 

 

 

Light Years

Part of my Lenten observance includes reading the book of John.  

The words are not new to me, I’ve read them over and over-probably dozens of times in the past 30 years.  So I decided to use a different translation this time around in order to shake out some new insights and cause me to pay closer attention to what God might have for me right here, right now.

The very first reading did just that:

 Before time itself was measured, the Voice was speaking.

    The Voice was and is God.
This celestial Word remained ever present with the Creator;
    His speech shaped the entire cosmos.
Immersed in the practice of creating,
    all things that exist were birthed in Him.
His breath filled all things
    with a living, breathing light—
A light that thrives in the depths of darkness,
    blazes through murky bottoms.
It cannot and will not be quenched.

John 1: 1-5 VOICE

What struck me fresh was verse 5-“A light that THRIVES….BLAZES….It CANNOT and WILL NOT  be quenched.”

light shines edge of earth

So many times I think of light as barely fighting back darkness.  I carry my flashlight to check on the horses and its piercing beam burns through to give me limited visibility.  It FEELS like darkness wins and I push it back only a little.

But what this rendering of John 1:5 declares to my heart is this:  The light of Christ isn’t fighting the darkness, it thrives in the darkness.  It’s in the darkness that its power is revealed.

It’s the darkness that makes light undeniably present.

Darkness can and will be vanquished.

But the True Light will last forever.

I know very, very little about astronomy.  But I do know this:  Light generated eons ago is still traveling through space.  Light doesn’t end.  It goes on and on and on.

So even though this part of my life is dark, even though I may have trouble discerning the Light, the darkness hasn’t quenched it.

The Light is coming.

It’s no battle of equals.

The darkness doesn’t stand a chance.

sunrise brightest
Summer meadow park on sunset

Of Leaking Buckets and Grief

I first wrote about this a few months back when I was pondering the FACT that no matter how wonderful the moment, how beautiful the gift, how marvelous the fellowship of family or friends, I am simply unable to feel the same overflowing abundant joy I once experienced.

Since then, I’ve been thinking about the great heroes of Scripture and studying their stories in detail.

I may be wrong, but I haven’t found one whose life did not contain pain.

It appears that sorrow and suffering in this world is one of the chief tools God uses to help the hearts of His people long for the world for which we are made-the eternal city whose Builder is God:

It was by faith that Abraham obeyed the summons to go out to a place which he would eventually possess, and he set out in complete ignorance of his destination. It was faith that kept him journeying like a foreigner through the land of promise, with no more home than the tents which he shared with Isaac and Jacob, co-heirs with him of the promise. For Abraham’s eyes were looking forward to that city with solid foundations of which God himself is both architect and builder.

Hebrews 11: 8-10 PHILLIPS

Some point to  lack of abundant joy as proof of a weak faith.

I counter that obedience, in spite of the lack of abundant joy is proof of rock-solid faith.

Walking on in spite of my empty bucket means that I am trusting God to fill it even when I can’t see how.

Here’s the original post:  There’s a Hole in My Bucket