Hard Stops: When You Can’t Ignore the Missing

Most of the time I’m just kind of rolling along.

There are things to do, places to go, people to see, animals to feed.

I get up, get going and get on with it.

But there are some days that are what I call “Hard Stops” on this journey.  They are the days that force my heart to take special notice of the fact that Dominic isn’t here.

Sometimes they are milestone days like birthdays or holidays or the anniversary of that awful knock on the door.

Sometimes they are events where he should be there-like seeing his brother one more time before he deploys half-way around the world.

These days make my heart measure the time since I last hugged his neck, heard his voice, saw his strong, square hands reach across the table for the salt shaker-and I am overcome with how long it has been!

Then my heart shifts to the months and likely years I will have to live with this aching empty place where he should be but isn’t and I fear I just can’t do it!

Many days I’m able to distract myself from the sorrow and to live with the missing.

But these “hard stop” days force me to face it head on. and it is overwhelming. 

Every. Time.

So what do I do? 

When my heart is overwhelmed, I take it to the Rock that is higher than I.  

rock that is higher than i

I run to the Refuge of my Faithful Father.  

sing of strength you are my refuge

I turn my eyes to my Savior Who will redeem and restore.

restore after season of suffering

I put my hand firmly in the hand of my Shepherd Who will not leave me in this Valley of the Shadow of Death.  

jesus the shepherd the i am

And I pray for myself-and every heart having a hard time holding onto hope today-that we will feel the Father’s loving arms around us and that He will give us strength to stand.  ❤

How To Hold On To Hope

We use the word “hope” like a magic spell, an incantation, a lucky rabbit’s foot.

But hope is only as sure as the object of our hope.  

My hope is based on the unchanging nature of the Lord Jesus Christ Who is the same yesterday, today and tomorrow.

Because of that, I will not be ashamed.  

they that wait with hope shall not be ashamed

 

He will prove faithful.  For He cannot be otherwise. 

So I speak truth to my heart.  I sing life to my soul.  I hide myself under the wings of the Almighty, assured that He is my hiding place, safe and secure.

hiding place bird

I cannot let my mind linger long on the whispered lies of the enemy.  I won’t dawdle around the water cooler, inhaling gossip, wondering if God is Who He says He is.  

I lean into love-the eternal, unquenchable force that guarantees deliverance and victory.

Some days it’s harder than others.  But no day is utterly devoid of hope.

The Lord is faithful.  He is the same yesterday, today and tomorrow.  

I can rely on that.  

I DO rely on that.  

Thank God.  

blessed is the one who believed his promises to her

Trusting God After Loss: Why It’s Hard, Why It’s Necessary

One of the greatest challenges I faced this side of child loss was finding a space where I could speak honestly and openly about my feelings toward God and about my faith.

So many times I was shut down at the point of transparency by someone shooting off a Bible verse or hymn chorus or just a chipper, “God’s in control!”

They had NO IDEA how believing that (and I do!) God is in control was both comforting and utterly devastating at the very same time.

It took me awhile to revisit the basic tenets of my faith and tease out what was truly scriptural and what was simply churchy folklore. 

It was worth it.

Because while my faith looks different today than it did the day before the deputy knocked on my door, it is still faith.  And it is rock-solid, founded squarely on the truth of the Bible, the words of Jesus and the unalterable promises of God Almighty.  

I spoke on this topic last October and developed a series of posts to make what I shared available here.

So as a follow-up to yesterday’s post (if I didn’t scare you off!),  I’m putting the links to all the posts in my series “Trust After Loss” in one place.

Here they are, with a brief description of each:  

God is sovereign-He rules.

God is good-He loves.

How do those two truths live together in a universe that includes child loss? How can I trust the rest of my life and my eternal future to a God who lets this happen?

Read the rest here:  Trust After Loss: Admit the Pain

“Faith does not eliminate questions but faith knows where to take them”

~Elisabeth Elliot

Read the rest here:  Trust After Loss: Acknowledge Doubt and Ask Questions

The same God Who keeps the earth in orbit around the sun has ordained that death will not have the last word.

Light will triumph.

Darkness will have to flee.

Read the rest here:  Trust After Loss: Access the Truth

This is what it means to appropriate God’s strength:  

I have to exhale my doubts, inhale His truth and then allow His Spirit to weave that truth into armor so that I am strong for battle.

Read the rest here: Trust After Loss: Appropriate God’s Strength

God is no respecter of persons. 

What He did for me, He will do for you.  

Ask Him to guide your heart and He will do it

 

Prayer After Child Loss: What’s the Point?

One of the most devastating questions I had to face after Dominic ran ahead to heaven was, “What difference does prayer make?”  

I had prayed-diligently prayed-for every one of my children since before they were born.

Even Dominic’s name, which means “belonging to God” was chosen carefully to reflect my heart’s desire that this child follow hard after Jesus.

Dominic had served Christ’s church with his time, talents and resources his whole life.  Yet he was not quite 24 when he met Jesus face to face.

So why didn’t prayer “work”?  Why did my son die in an accident when others live?

I thought I understood prayer. 

I thought that if I followed the formula I’d been taught:

  • praise God;
  • confess my sins;
  • thank Him for the blessings He gave;
  • and then submit my petitions;

He would be obligated to grant them.

But I was wrong.  

Prayer is not a vending machine-put something in and get something out.  

I wrote this just a few months after he left us:  

Did the mother whose son died pray less or with less faith than the mother whose son lives?

We must be careful to remember that God is sovereign and while we are commanded to pray, our words do not dictate His actions. He alone knows the end from the beginning. He alone is the Alpha and Omega.

I now understand that prayer is privileged communication with the Creator and Sustainer of the Universe. 

It is an opportunity to align my heart with His.  

It’s a way to tap into the Living Water that Jesus promised the Samaritan woman He met at the well.

LivingWatersWallpaper

It’s two-way conversation where I need to do as much listening as talking.  

So I no longer come with a basket full of petitions, hoping they are granted.  

Instead I kneel, hands outstretched. longing only for His touch, His Presence, His grace, mercy and sustaining strength.  

woman touching his hem

I still pray but it is a simple prayer: 

“Lord, I need You.”

i made you and i will carry you

 

 

 

 

Overcome, Overwhelmed and Undone

The past seven days have been anything but the lazy, hazy days of summer. 

There has not been a solid 24 hours where some kind of crisis didn’t find its way to my doorstep, across my driveway or into my living room.  

Seriously.  

tree on driveway edited

On a scale of one to ten, none actually rank high in that there’s not a solution or plan of action. 

But every single one of them raised my stress and anxiety to very uncomfortable heights.  

I have no idea why I keep thinking maybe-just maybe-there will be a season of rest when I can get my feet under me, get my mind settled (a bit) and get the laundry put away.

There are good days.  

But then there are bad ones right on their heels.

I’m 54 years old, raised and home educated four children, helped my husband with his career and a personal business, managed a small farm and cooked, cleaned and was the all around go-fer for my family while each one pursued his or her education and dreams.

But there has been no season as stress-filled and trying as this one: the season of grief, the season of missing, the season where I have had to admit that control is an illusion.

So many days I watch the sunset in defeat.

Overcome, overwhelmed and undone.

I know the new day will bring new mercies and that is how my heart holds onto hope. 

lamentations-3-22-23

Did God Take My Child?

This is a question that comes up all the time in bereaved parents’ groups:  Did God take my child?

Trust me, I’ve asked it myself.  

How you answer this question can mean the difference between giving up or going on, between turning away or trusting.

So this is MY answer.  The one I’ve worked out through study, prayer and many, many tears.  You may disagree.  That’s just fine.  I only offer it because it might be helpful to some struggling and sorrowful soul.

I believe that God is the Author of life and the arbiter of death. What that means (to me) is that He is ultimately in control of everything and could (if He chose) intervene and stop the death of any person if He wanted to.

Nothing and no one is stronger nor more powerful than God.

However, we live in a fallen world where sin has tainted the original creation God declared “good”. So there are natural disease processes, genetic malformations, undetected birth defects (that may go unknown until well into adulthood like heart defects) that lead to death.

God does not intervene each time-but He could.

People make sinful and foolish choices that have natural consequences. My son was going way too fast in a curve on his motorcycle. God did not override my son’s free will (just as He does not override our free will all day every day) and my son ran off the road.

There are universal physical and biological laws that most of us are thankful for each day that then took over in my son’s case and doomed his motorcycle to certain paths and his body to certain death when it impacted the ground.

God didn’t intervene but He could have.

Job was ultimately protected by the fences God placed around his person. I believe each of us are too.

Yet God is weaving a bigger tapestry, writing a bigger story than only the part that includes me and my family.  So my son’s death and the changes it has wrought in me, in others that knew and loved him and even further out into the world are part of God’s big story.

I have made peace with the fact that I do not understand nor like what God has done in my life by allowing my son to die, but I will trust His loving character and wait to see how it will be redeemed in eternity.

No, God did not TAKE my son. But He allowed his death.

I gain more comfort in a God Who could have saved my son but chose not to, than a God Who does not have that power.

His word declares that He keeps my tears in His bottle. 

I believe it. 

And I believe that one day He will redeem every one and restore what my heart has lost.  

you keep track of all my tears

Though the Mountains Fall

I spent my teen years living in a suburb of Denver where the mountains marked west and you didn’t need a compass or GPS to get around.

Man and woman mountain biking, Dolomites, Italy

It never occurred to me that the mountains might crumble or that I might wake one morning to find them somewhere else.  

They were steady, sure and absolutely dependable.  

When I moved to Pittsburgh and was forced to navigate without mountains to guide me, I found it easy to get lost (and I got lost a LOT in the first few months!).

The landmarks I had depended on were gone.  

That’s what it felt like when I received the awful news. 

In the first shock of death everything that has seemed most dependable had given way. Mountains were falling, the earth was reeling. In such a time it is a profound comfort to know that although all things seem to be shaken, one thing is not: God is not shaken … the thing that is most important is to do what the psalmist does later, to be ‘still’ and know that God is God. God is God whether we recognize it or not. But it comforts us and infuses strength into our faltering spirits to rest on that truth.

~Elisabeth Elliot

The earth beneath me gave way.  I was falling. 

But God…

When my heart was shattered, my hope hanging on by a thread, the Spirit of God brought truth to mind and gave me the strength to hold on.

though the mountains

I trust God’s Word and His character, even when I don’t understand what He is doing.  

His faithful love endures forever. 

I can depend on that.  

No matter what.