Who’s Holding on to Whom?

I have three surviving children.

And every time I don’t hear from one of them when I expect to or I can’t reach them on their cell phone I have to take a deep breath and speak truth to my heart.

God began to do a good work in you. And I am sure that he will keep on doing it until he has finished it. He will keep on until the day Jesus Christ comes again. Philippians 1:6 WE

 

I have to talk myself out of plunging headlong off the precipice of dark “What ifs” that is always at the edge of my concious thought.

 I have to remember that even when I am right there with them, I am not in control.

I am not the one who orders their days and determines their steps.

You see all things; You saw me growing, changing in my mother’s womb; Every detail of my life was already written in Your book; You established the length of my life before I ever tasted the sweetness of it. Psalm 139:16 VOICE

all my days written

Losing Dominic suddenly, unexpectedly and violently has shaken my faith. All the verses I recited and underlined and “claimed” now bear witness against my doubting heart.

So I remind myself that God had a plan, He has a plan and that He worked His plan through Dominic and is now working it through me.

“Now when David had served God’s purpose in his own generation, he fell asleep; [and] he was buried with his ancestors” Acts 13:36 NIV

Here I am, a bit more than two years later, and I can say this:

If my grip on Jesus was the determining factor in staying connected, I would have fallen into the pit long ago.  If MY hold on hope decided whether or not the rope slipped through my hands, I would be lost.

But while I can muster the strength (sometimes) to grab desperately at a thread of His garment, I am not the one who holds Him.  He is the One who holds ME.

no one can snatch them

Jesus said:

“I give them eternal life, and they shall never lose it or perish throughout the ages. [To all eternity they shall never by any means be destroyed.] And no one is able to snatch them out of My hand.”

John 10:28 AMPC

I still have work to do, and I don’t want to be immobilized by fear of what might happen.  I don’t want to waste the days that I am given by worrying about the ones that might be taken away.

gods workmanship good works

For we are God’s [own] handiwork (His workmanship), recreated in Christ Jesus, [born anew] that we may do those good works which God predestined (planned beforehand) for us [taking paths which He prepared ahead of time], that we should walk in them [living the good life which He prearranged and made ready for us to live]. Ephesians 2:10 AMPC

So I recite truth to my heart.  

I sing courage to my spirit.

I remind myself that while  I am not in control, but I am loved by the One Who is.

loved by the one in control

 

Where is Victory in Death?

I first learned my son had been killed in the dark hours of morning.

I made phone calls.

I had to be certain there was no mistake in identifying the accident victim.  I assured the officer on the other end of the phone I was not in denial, I was just confirming what I knew was true.

That was a lie-my ears heard it as true.

Some part of my brain was acting as if it were true.  

And I was passing the information along as true, but it was not until I saw his body that my heart embraced as absolutely undeniable what I had been told.

He was gone, gone, gone.  No coming back.

That’s when I knew:  Death is awful.

It is hard to have patience with people who say, ‘There is no death’ or ‘Death doesn’t matter.’ There is death. And whatever is matters. And whatever happens has consequences, and it and they are irrevocable and irreversible. You might as well say that birth doesn’t matter. ~C.S.Lewis

Death was not part of God’s perfect plan for the people He made and the world He created.

But sin marred that perfection and we are left to walk this wounded world in bodies that, at best, wear out, and at worst, plunge headlong into darkness due to illness, accident or violence.

Where is the victory in this defeat?

Where is the happy ending to this sad chapter of life?

Victory is declared when I trust in Jehovah-Nissi-the LORD my Banner-to uproot the evil that the enemy seeks to sow into my life.

desimones uab family

Victory is displayed in my surviving children who have chosen to lean in and labor on and love and laugh even while grieving the loss of their brother.

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Victory is demonstrated when my marriage does not crumble under the heavy weight of sorrow, when my family is made stronger- not weaker-and when our story breathes courage into the hearts and lives of others facing devastating trials.

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The ultimate and eternal victory lies in the finished work of Christ.

 I need to emphasize, friends, that our natural, earthy lives don’t in themselves lead us by their very nature into the kingdom of God. Their very “nature” is to die, so how could they “naturally” end up in the Life kingdom?

But let me tell you something wonderful, a mystery I’ll probably never fully understand. We’re not all going to die—but we are all going to be changed. You hear a blast to end all blasts from a trumpet, and in the time that you look up and blink your eyes—it’s over. On signal from that trumpet from heaven, the dead will be up and out of their graves, beyond the reach of death, never to die again. At the same moment and in the same way, we’ll all be changed. In the resurrection scheme of things, this has to happen: everything perishable taken off the shelves and replaced by the imperishable, this mortal replaced by the immortal. Then the saying will come true:

Death swallowed by triumphant Life!
Who got the last word, oh, Death?
Oh, Death, who’s afraid of you now?

It was sin that made death so frightening and law-code guilt that gave sin its leverage, its destructive power. But now in a single victorious stroke of Life, all three—sin, guilt, death—are gone, the gift of our Master, Jesus Christ. Thank God!

With all this going for us, my dear, dear friends, stand your ground. And don’t hold back. Throw yourselves into the work of the Master, confident that nothing you do for him is a waste of time or effort.

I Corinthians 15:50-58 MSG

Jesus has redeemed and restored what the enemy has stolen.

I will not enjoy the fullness of this victory until I embrace Dominic in heaven.

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But I can live confidently in the promise that it has already been decided.  

I can walk through the Valley of the Shadow of Death without fear, because Jehovah-Nissi-the LORD my Banner (my Victory) is with me.  (Psalm 23:4)

I am not alone. 

 

Jehovah-Jireh: The LORD My Provider

The first time God reveals Himself as Jehovah-Jireh, The LORD Who Provides, is Genesis 22.

Abraham and Sarah have received their son of promise.  But God tests Abraham.asking him to sacrifice Isaac.

Abraham obeys in faith, trusting God even in this request that seems to undo every promise the LORD had previously made to him.

How would he be the father of many nations if his only son was taken from him?

As they were going, Isaac noticed something unusual, “See here is the fire and the wood but where is the lamb for the burnt sacrifice?”  (Genesis 22:7)

To which Abraham replied, “My son, God Himself will provide a lamb for the burnt offering.” (Genesis 2:8)

Jehovah-Jireh, the LORD My Provider was his answer.  

He couldn’t see the provision, there were no loud bleats in the distance, but Abraham knew the character of the God he served and he trusted that what he needed God would provide.

And God did provide.

Isaac, bound on the altar, Abraham’s (trembling?) hand raised, the Angel of the Lord calls to Abraham:

“Do not lay your hand on the boy or do anything to him, for now I know that you fear God, seeing you have not withheld your son, your only son, from Me.”

And Abraham lifted up his eyes and looked, and behold, behind him was a ram, caught in a thicket by his horns. And Abraham went and took the ram and offered it up as a burnt offering instead of his son.  So Abraham called the name of that place, “The Lord will provide” Genesis 22:12-14

I wasn’t asked to give up my son.

There was no miraculous intervention on that day.

No angel stayed the hand of circumstance that slew my child.  

But I do believe that even in the Valley of the Shadow of Death, the LORD is My Provider.

He provided His own Son, Who conquered sin and death and Who made a way through the Holy of Holies for my child to enter eternity straight into the arms of Jesus.  

I don’t have to fear that when Dominic left us, he was left alone.

I don’t have to worry that our seperation is forever.

I don’t have to wonder if he was “good enough” to get into heaven.  

I can trust in the character of my God, The LORD My Provider, that He has made full and adequate provision for me and for all those who trust in Him through Jesus to be redeemed and restored.

And He has provided friends and family and online communities and His Word to bring me comfort in the waiting.

He fills my heart with hope when my soul is weary.  

He grants peace when I am overcome with anxious thoughts.

He pours grace and mercy and love into the empty places so that being filled, I can overflow.

There are days when I wonder, days when I am afraid.  When those days come, I run to the tower of the Name of the LORD.  I remember that He is The LORD My Provider.

He has provided.  He does provide.  He will provide.  He IS His Name.

When struck by fear, I let go, depending securely upon You alone. Psalm 56:3 VOICE

It’s Complicated

One of the things I’ve been forced to embrace in the wake of child loss is that there are very few questions, experiences or feelings that are simple anymore.

“How many children do you have?”

A common, get-to-know-you question lobbed across tables, down pews and in the check-out line at the grocery store.  But for many bereaved parents, it can be a complex question that gets a different answer depending on who is asking and where we are.

I decided from the beginning that I would say, “four” in answer to that query.

But that doesn’t always get me off the hook.  A follow-up of, “Oh, what do they do?” means that I have to make a decision:  do I go down the line, including Dominic in any kind of detail or do I gloss over the fact that one of my children now lives in heaven?

I try to gauge whether or not the person is deeply interested or just being polite. No sense making them feel uncomfortable if they are really only making chitchat.

All of these calculations flash through my mind in an instant but they are distracting and draining.

“Want to go to a movie?”

Maybe.  

First I have to look up the plot (something I never did before because I didn’t want to ruin it).  I can’t be stuck in a dark theater in the middle of a row full of people with no way out if larger-than-life there will be anything that sends me back to Dominic’s accident.

Same standards for television shows or books-but it’s easier to turn those off or set them down.

Sitting in church can be excruciating.  

A hymn or chorus, a Bible text, a random statement from the pulpit-any or all of those things can lead my thoughts down a path that takes me to a dark place where sorrow is overwhelming.

No matter how much I long to listen and participate, I find myself literally biting my tongue so that I don’t burst into loud sobs.

It doesn’t happen every Sunday, but I never know when it might.

Social media is an emotional minefield.  

first world problems

 

I confess that in the first days after Dominic left us, I had to limit the posts that showed up in my Facebook newsfeed.  It was too difficult to see complaints about children growing up or graduating and how hard it was to “let them go”. I could not take whiny status updates that included having to wait in line for the new iPhone.

It’s easier now that my grief isn’t so raw but there are days…

Making a meal, I reach for his favorite ingredient or leave something out because “Dominic doesn’t like it that way” and then I remember he won’t be here to eat it.

waves of grief

 

Music can transport me to a moment of joy or pain with a single note.

Sometimes I walk in a store and smell coffee-he loved coffee-and I have to turn around and leave.  Other times the fragrance draws my mind to sweet memories of shared Starbucks runs for a caffeine infusion.

 

If you ask me to do something next week or next month, I might say, “yes” and then find on that day I just. can’t. go.  

I used to be a woman who lived by her calendar and commitments, but now I’m someone who never knows what a day will bring.

Learning to live with this changed me is an ongoing process and exhausting at times.

So much energy is used up negotiating what used to be simple things that there’s not enough left for pursuing new interests or delving deeper into old ones.

I’m trying to reach equilibrium.  

I long for a time when simple things are simple again.

But I don’t think it will be today.

courage doesn't always roar

 

 

 

 

Some Days, Getting Out of Bed is Courageous

We walk past them every Sunday.  

Those people who almost didn’t come to church.  The ones who spent thirty minutes just talking themselves into getting out of bed.

And we never know.

Life is hard.  Suffering abounds.  

Since losing Dominic I have become ever more aware of how very many people are hurting. And how very many people are truly brave.  Every. single. day.

It’s one thing to act in an instant-when adrenaline rushes through your veins and pumps extraordinary strength to your muscles and grants clarity to your mind to gather all your nerve and power to jump in and DO SOMETHING.

It is quite another when, without aid of chemical courage, you wake each day to a long list of “to do” items knowing all the while you will be dragging the heavy weight of grief and sorrow everywhere you go.

Read the rest here:  Brave

 

Then and Now: How Can Death and Life Inhabit the Same Frame?

April 17, 2014

Father, I have received through Your hand a most grievous wound-part of my heart has been ripped from my chest and I will limp through life forever changed, forever broken.

My beautiful, fearless, strong son has been struck down in his youth. I am dismayed that my body will continue to live when my spirit is crushed.

How can death and life inhabit the same frame?

How can I attend to the externals of commonplace things when all I want to do is hurry through to the eternal home You have prepared for me?

Oh Jesus!  Hold my baby!  I know that You were with him and I know that you love him.  I know (I have to know-or I couldn’t breathe) that you love me!

What a steep price to pay  for a tender heart-fill me up with grace, mercy and love.  Make our circle stronger and more resiliant.

Help me to love, to be love, to show love, to give love, to eat,sleep, drink love.

“Here I am, LORD, and the children You have given me-make us as signs and symbols to Your people, for the glory of Your Name.” ~Isaiah 8:18

If I believe that only Your Word and the people You have made are eternal, then I must order the rest of the life You give me to align with that truth.

Take this mother’s heart and make this pain count for something.

“A woman giving birth to a child has pain because her time has come, but when her baby is born she forgets the anguish because of the joy that a child is born into the world.  So with you:  Now is your time of grief, but I will see you again and you will rejoice, and no one will take away your joy.” ~John 16:21-22

Lord, I choose to believe that this pain will produce the life You have ordained and that joy will be the ultimate outcome.

April 30, 2016

I continue to carry both death and life in my body and my heart.

Death reminds me of the cost of sin, of the price of redemption and of how fragile and temporary our earthly existence.  It makes me uncomfortable here-is a constant thorn in my flesh.

I cannot lay it aside or ignore it.

The undeniable presence of death contrasts sharply with the equally undeniable life of Christ sustaining me.

I have been asked how I can believe in what I cannot see or touch. How I can trust a God Who allowed such pain in my life.

It is true that I can’t see God,  I can’t prove His existence.

But the fact that I’m still holding onto hope gives testimony to the life of Christ in me.

This is in keeping with my own eager desire and persistent expectation and hope, that I shall not disgrace myself nor be put to shame in anything; but that with the utmost freedom of speech and unfailing courage, now as always heretofore, Christ (the Messiah) will be magnified and get glory and praise in this body of mine and be boldly exalted in my person, whether through (by) life or through (by) death.

For me to live is Christ [His life in me], and to die is gain [the gain of the glory of eternity].

Philippians 1:20-21 AMP

 

 

Brave

I grew up reading and hearing tales of bravery, of one person risking their life for another, of people standing for their convictions and dying because of it.

The first time I read The Hiding Place,  a book about Corrie Ten Boom and her family’s commitment to hide Jews from the Nazis, I cried and cried.

It cost them everything to do the one thing God had called them to do.

As the years rolled by, I learned of personal stories of rushing into burning buildings to save children and of others standing between violence and its intended victim.

All of these people were brave.  All of them put aside fear of their own safety to do the right thing.

But I am here to tell you, some of the bravest people I know are mamas who have buried a child.

It’s one thing to act in an instant-when adrenaline rushes through your veins and pumps extraordinary strength to your muscles and grants clarity to your mind to gather all your nerve and power to jump in and DO SOMETHING.

It is quite another when, without aid of chemical courage, you wake each day to a long list of “to do” items knowing all the while you will be dragging the heavy weight of grief and sorrow everywhere you go.

Brave is the mama that still participates in her surviving children’s birthdays and school plays and graduations and weddings–all the while marking in her heart the child that IS NOT THERE.

Brave is the mama who gets up, gets dressed and walks out the door to work.  The one who manages to lay aside the overwhelming grief load and still get the job done.

Brave is the mama who boxes up what’s left of her child’s belongings, the things that speak of who he was and who he was going to be and lays them aside for another day, when the pain might be less and she can look  at them again.

Brave is the mama with the broken heart who keeps on keeping on-who shows up to church, who goes shopping, who cleans her house, who refuses to give in to the cloud of doom that threatens to undo her.

And the very bravest thing about these mamas is that they know, THEY KNOW, that this side of heaven, there will be no relief, there will be no respite and they have no idea how close they are to the finish line.

courage doesn't always roar

These brokenhearted warriors are committed to continue to love the child they lost and those around them by bravely facing each day as it comes, giving the best they have to give, and persevering until the end.