Gratitude and Grieving: The Truth Will Set You Free

How much energy do we spend dancing around the truth?  How many times do we gather with family or friends and cast our eyes downward so we can ignore the elephant in the room?  How many shackles would fall away if just one person stood up and said what everyone else was thinking but was afraid to whisper aloud?

As family gathers around the table for Thanksgiving, we all have those subjects no one will touch.  And often they are the very ones that need to be laid bare, talked about and shared.  They are what keep hearts apart even while bodies sit closer than any other time of year.

courage is turning toward hard truth not away

Now I’m no advocate of random outbursts intended to shock and raise a ruckus but I am a firm believer in speaking truth in love.

It’s hard.

In fact, next to carrying this burden of missing, it is the hardest thing I do.

And I am often unsuccessful.

I screw up my courage, practice my speech, lay out the strategy and then crumble, last minute, under dozens of potentially awful outcomes.

What if they get mad?  What if they think I’m crazy, or selfish, or wrong?

Or I DO share and it falls flat because the words I thought would communicate love are misunderstood or misdirected or misapplied.

So instead of helping, I hurt.

But the alternative is this:  we all remain imprisoned behind a wall where freedom is clearly visible on the other side.  We can smell it, almost taste it but not quite touch it.

truth and courage are not always comfortable brene brown

And that is not how I want to live. 

I want to claim the freedom that truth offers.

So this Thanksgiving I will try again:  truth in love. 

Lots and lots of love with truth sprinkled in.  Maybe the sugar in the pie will help. 

I’ll never know if I don’t give it a shot. 

laughter and truth telling

 

 

Why Self Talk Matters

What you tell yourself matters.

What you rehearse becomes what you believe.

What you believe becomes what you do.

When Dominic first ran ahead to Heaven, I was determined to hold onto truth with both hands.  I would not allow my mind to wander the winding path of “Why? or “What if?” or Where now?”

I was able to keep that up until the funeral.

Then the bottom fell out.

All the thoughts I had kept at bay crashed through my defenses like an invading army.  My mind was consumed by questions, doubts, horrible imagery and awful anxiety.

Slowly, slowly I recaptured the conquered territory.

I hung scribbled Bible verses and encouraging quotes all around the house.  I refused to read or listen to news stories recounting accidents.  I began the day with remembering Dom was gone, but also remembering I was still here and that my three living children, husband and parents needed me.

When my heart screamed, “Give up!  Give in!  It’s not worth it!”

My head answered, “No.  I will endure.  I will continue.  I will be the one to carry Dominic’s light into the world.”

If I speak doom, gloom and despair to myself then I will live darkness, defeat and disillusionment.

If I speak courage, calm and compassion to my heart then I will live with hope and reach for happiness.

Self-talk matters more than we know.

How I frame my experience-both my son’s death and my ongoing interaction with the living-determines if I will waste the days that remain or will work to make them count.

I have no control over the past, but I have a little over the future.

I can’t change what happened, but I can change my attitude.

Self-Talk-Poster-2-15-13

 

Learning To Trust God Again After Loss

I am sharing from the perspective of child loss but the things God is teaching me have much broader application. If you are struggling because you feel like God has let you down, please read on.  And please read the posts that follow this one.

God welcomes us to the divine dinner table to talk things out.

Join us.

If you’ve read the blog for very long, you’ve learned two things about me:  (1) I am up front and honest about my feelings, my doubts, my faith and my heart; and (2) I’m not afraid to explore topics that often make the church uncomfortable. 

So here I am again.

A few months ago I was asked to speak at a conference for bereaved parents and to take the topic of “Learning to Trust God Again After Loss”.  I agreed, thinking that since I had already written extensively about this very thing, organizing my previously published musings would be easy enough to gather into a presentation.

through this valley conference photo

But when I began trying to do that, I realized the bits and pieces needed an overarching narrative and theme to tie them together.  I knew that LISTENING is very different than READING where you can go back and access the information over and over to make sure you understand what’s being said.

And I was operating on thin margins.

The weeks I planned on using to prepare were overtaken by a family emergency.  So just two days before I was to leave home for Arkansas I was nearly paralyzed by panic-how in the world could I present a coherent message on such an important topic when I was having trouble stringing sentences together in everyday conversation?

But God…

Two words that are worth holding on to.  

He gave me the framework.  He gave me the words.  He gave me the examples and the courage and the strength.

flesh-and-heart-may-failSo for the next few days I’ll be sharing from my notes-putting into writing what I shared at the conference.  Here I have the luxury of time and editing.

If you were there, I hope these posts can remind your heart of truth. 

If you weren’t, I hope these posts can introduce your heart to truth.

It’s OK to doubt.  It’s OK to ask questions.  It’s OK to wonder if God sees you, hears you and cares about you.

That is part of the work we must do in grief.  

It cannot be ignored and it cannot be rushed. 

Come with me as we walk this Valley together, learning to trust our Shepherd again. 

shepherd 2

Out of the Depths I Cry

So many times I feel like this violet, clinging to a tiny foothold in a treacherous world-only enough strength for today, only enough bravery for today, only enough mental and emotional reserve for today.

But I know as surely as the sun rises, that tomorrow God will be present to give me what I need for THAT day too.

violet in crevice of rock

Out of the depths I cry to You, O LORD,
O LORD, hear my voice,
Let Your ears be attentive to my cry for mercy.
I wait for the LORD, my soul waits,
and in His word I put my hope. 
My soul waits for the LORD more than watchmen wait for the morning,
more than watchmen wait for the morning.

~Psalm 130-selected NIV

NOBODY Does it Alone

Even if you think you are the Lone Ranger-riding the hills and vanquishing enemies all by yourself, you aren’t.  Heck, HE wasn’t alone either (thus my confusion over his name).

Lone_ranger_silver_1965

Every single one of us has people in the background making life as we know it possible.

And when life as we know it takes a sudden left turn, all those “invisible” people become oh, so important.

It happened when Dominic ran ahead to heaven.  The eleven days between the knock on the door and his funeral were filled with friends, family and even strangers who came by, brought meals, cleaned my house, made phone calls, and did all the things I just. couldn’t. do.

These last weeks have been the hardest season since Dom left us.  When I got the phone call Mama was being life-flighted my heart dropped to the floor.  Having been there once before, I was not at all ready to revisit the awful pain of loss.

So I gathered what I needed, made a few phone calls of my own and my children and I raced down to be with her and my father.

Thankfully, the ending to THIS story, though hard, isn’t tragic.

After the first eleven days in hospital and only a few at home before a second hospital admission, Mama is back at home getting stronger.

mama and me at beauty shop

Things are different.  Changes are required. 

But she is smiling and beautiful.  Still with us. 

Hallelujah!

But in order for me to stay with my folks for 27 of the past 31 days I have had to call on and depend on the help of others.

For me to leave MY responsibilities at home, someone else had to pick them up.  Horses and goats and dogs and chickens don’t feed themselves.  The church deposit has to be made each week.

My husband has graciously accepted that our communication is limited and sporadic.  What used to be long phone calls every day turned into short bursts and quick texts that let him know I was OK and still breathing.

My youngest son, Julian, laid aside his own project of remodeling his first home to pick up all the things I normally do around the farm-no complaints and no questions asked.  He is patient with me when my tired brain can’t think of words while trying to give him yet another chore that needs done.

My daughter, Fiona, finishing a tough last semester in RN school, as well as working and putting in required clinical hours, has called to check on me and her grandmother, offered excellent medical tips and helped me ask for the things we need for Mama.  She shoots me funny memes and encouraging texts that provide laughs to boost my immune system and bolster my courage.

My eldest son, James Michael, has squeezed in a weekend visit to my parents’ house in between helping his AF base recover from Hurricane Irma and a hundred other responsibilities as the Public Health Officer for a large command.  He drove the tractor and helped bale hay.  He brought flowers for Mama and BBQ ribs and sweet tea for me. 

My friends at church have graciously given me space and taken up slack so that I didn’t have to worry about my duties as treasurer.  No pressure and no tacky comments-only love and understanding from folks who KNOW how important family is.

My very special friend, Laura, sent me back from my brief three day stint at home a couple weeks ago with helpful herbal tinctures to brace my body for stress and hard work.  And she always listens without trying to fix me.

Dominic’s example as a strong advocate gave me the backbone to stand and insist that Mama get the care she needed when in hospital and at home.  I could hear him say, “Don’t let them get by with that!” to my often trembling heart.

And many, many of my parents’ friends and our extended family have phoned, sent notes and stopped by to encourage my heart and theirs.

People keep saying, “You are doing a good thing for your parents”.

I appreciate that.  But I want them to know that I am not doing it alone.  It goes back in a long chain to those who choose to take up the slack I leave behind when I drive out my lane.

I would not be free to help if others didn’t choose to help ME be free.

So I want to give a loud and public shout out to each one that has done this hard and necessary work in the shadows.

You are amazing.

I love you.

heart stone

 

Through This Valley Conference for Bereaved Parents-Don’t Miss It!!

I admit I’m not much of a gatherer.

Oh, I love my Sunday School class and my church family.  I enjoy the occasional family reunion or wedding.  But, on the whole, I tend to stick to small groups instead of large crowds.

And that tendency has been amplified since Dominic ran ahead to heaven.

So I totally understand why a bereaved parent might be reluctant to come to a CONFERENCE full of STRANGERS.

But please listen to my heart, not just my words:  this is NOT your average gathering.

April Wendland (a bereaved mother herself) and a very special team of people have worked hard to put together a two-day event that will speak courage to broken hearts.

You won’t be surrounded by people who glance sideways when the tears roll.  You won’t feel out of place when the tears turn to sobs.

Because we’ve all been there-we are STILL there.

There is no substitute for hearing (perhaps for the first time), “Me too!  I feel that way too!”

me too sharing the path

If you have never had the blessing of sharing space with other hearts that know exactly how you feel, then please, please, please try to come!  

And it’s FREE!

Courage is going to flow through the building.  Love will overwhelm your heart.  Grace and mercy will spill forth like water from a fountain.

Come be encouraged, strengthened and filled with hope for this journey. ❤ ❤ ❤

Here’s the link:  Through This Valley Bereaved Parents’ Conference

Friday, October 6th-Saturday, October 7th

Legacy Church,  3540 Central Ave., Hot Springs, Arkansas

word of encouragement is the fuel for hope

 

 

Repost: I Will Not Be Moved

I’m not brave by nature.

If I have a choice, I will run every time.  But there are just some things worth fighting for.

My family is one of them.

I will not let the enemy have them.

I will not allow despair to overtake us, fear to bind us, hopelessness to sap our strength.

I will not let death win.

Read the rest here:  I Will Not Be Moved