Beauty for Ashes

It crosses my mind sometimes.

And it’s a topic of conversation among bereaved mamas:

  • Why fight?
  • Why struggle on in this hard life without my beloved child?
  • Why keep on keeping on when I am so very tired?

There are lots of answers.

Some of us remain in the fight because we still have people depending on us-other children, aging parents, a spouse who is also grieving.

Others persevere because they want to honor their missing child’s memory and life and they do some big thing to commemorate him or her-fight for a cause, promote awareness, create a foundation.

Me-I hold onto the promise that in all this pain, all this sorrow, all this struggle-God is doing a work in me and through me for His glory.  

Before Dominic left us I knew only  a handful of bereaved mothers.

But each of these women had a sweet, gracious, patient, kindness that flowed out of them like water from a spring.

I saw one of them yesterday.

We hugged and exchanged knowing looks filled with deep love born from deep sorrow. She didn’t ask me about trivial things-because she knows there is really only one question that matters:

Am I continuing to lean on Jesus?

Is He enough?

Do I trust that God will redeem and restore?

Because in the end, the only thing that makes this struggle meaningful is the promise that one day, a never-ending, eternal day, God will bring beauty from the ashes of burying my child.

shofar jubilee

He will fulfill the promise of the everlasting Jubilee:

He wants me to help those in Zion who are filled with sorrow. I will put beautiful crowns on their heads in place of ashes. I will anoint them with olive oil to give them joy instead of sorrow. I will give them a spirit of praise in place of a spirit of sadness. They will be like oak trees that are strong and straight. The Lord himself will plant them in the land. That will show how glorious he is.

Isaiah 61:3 NIRV

 And I believe that God’s going to have show and tell.  He’s going to parade His persevering children to a wondering world at the end of the age.

Pottery

Maybe He’ll say something like, “See!  There’s My masterpiece!  There’s My love on display! The devil thought he had won, but he is wrong.  Eternally and undeniably wrong!”

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

I want to be pliable under the hand of the Potter-even though it hurts.

I’ll stay in the fire-even though it’s hot.

I’ll trust the One Who made and is making me.

Because the story God is writing for me and my family doesn’t end with ashes.

Image result for doesn't end in ashes

The Wilderness of Grief

I was fifty when Dominic died. I had lived long enough to experience first-hand, and through others, the impact of loss on life and love.

Studying for my psychology degree exposed me to the stages of grief and the typical, observed behavior and emotions that a person experiences when faced with the death of a loved one. So even in the midst of hearing the most terrible news of my life, I thought I knew a little about what to expect.

But there are secrets that no one tells you.

Feelings that lie in wait to ambush you.  Overwhelming changes alter the way you see, hear, experience the world and think.

Grief turns the landscape of your life into a wilderness that is suddenly unfamiliar and often threatening.  The landmarks you depended on for navigation from one day to the next are swept away in a flood and you stand, bewildered in the midst of this strange place wondering how you got here and what you must do to escape.

There is no escape.

I can’t take a shortcut through this altered world.  I can’t close my eyes, click my heels and say, “There’s no place like home” to be transported back to BEFORE THE ACCIDENT. 

It feels like I live in a place where many speak a foreign language of petty grievances, first world problems and longing for bigger, better things.  I struggle to remain connected but find that I just can’t relate anymore.

Talking on the phone for more than ten minutes makes me feel trapped and anxious even when I wish I could listen to the voice on the other end forever.

I used to be able to make myself at home in any group and start conversations with strangers in a grocery line.  Now I feel isolated and insulated and it is hard to reach out.

I take quiet delight in the moments when I see or hear my surviving children laugh, when there is a small shaft of light in the shadows that define our days.

I try to forge new paths in this scary place so that my feet won’t stumble and my heart won’t fail.  I can only lean harder on the One Who made me and trust that following Him will lead me home.

“The Lord God is my strength: and he will make my feet like the feet of harts: and he the conqueror will lead me upon my high places singing psalms.”

Habakkuk 3:19

Thankful But Broken

Thanksgiving has always been my favorite holiday.

My birthday sometimes falls on the day itself, and I have often been able to celebrate with extended family and friends-a full table of food and a full house of fellowship.

I love the colors of fall, the scents of cinnamon and pumpkin, the freedom from gift-giving pressures that lets me focus on the people in my life.

A few years ago, Ann Voskamp’s book, One Thousand Gifts, was published sparking a renewed interest in the Christian community to focus on thankfulness as a way to open our hearts to the goodness and faithfulness of God and to open our hands and lives to serve others from our bounty.

An invitation to trust and not be afraid.

Across social media, people began to post , “Today I am thankful for___________.” Instagram.  Facebook.  Twitter.  Good stuff, and good reminders.

And I am thankful.

Really.

I am thankful that my family has managed to survive the loss of Dominic without going crazy  or becoming bitter or running away. We continue to support, love and care for one another.

I am thankful for the few, special friends who have made it a priority to visit me, love me and give me a safe space to vent my grief.

I am thankful that I have food to eat, a place to live and clothes to wear.

I am thankful for my Bible, the one I got while carrying Dominic beneath my heart-the one filled with notes, prayers and underlined passages-because it reminds me that God is still God even when I can’t feel Him.

But I am broken.

Truly.

Losing a child, not being able to save the life your love created, not being there when he breathed his last, not holding his hand as he entered eternity-that is humbling.

My November and Thanksgiving will be quieter than in years past.

No daily posts.  No long lists.

I will lean in and listen hard for the whispered promises that one day heartache will end.

I will open my heart and hand to a hurting world.

I will trust and not be afraid.