Amazing Grace

I will be forever thankful that in the years just before Dominic ran ahead to heaven, I spent each morning lingering long over Scripture.  I had just completed filling my fifth journal, copying entire chapters and making notes about what God revealed as I wrote and read.

Because if I had not been so thoroughly steeped in truth before it happened, I’m not sure I would have listened to it afterward.

I understand how hearts are hardened by tragedy.    

It’s a wonder that any heart remains soft at all.  

Only God’s amazing grace has kept me from turning away.  

Only His steadfast love has kept me from leaving it all behind.  

not doubting wondering how painful the best will be.jpg

 

 

He Is ALL That and More

Sometimes I have to remind myself that the One Who holds me in His hand IS “All That” and MORE.

He is more than I can imagine,

more than I need,

His resources are limitless

and His grace sufficient for every day

and all eternity.

HE IS-

The Way and the Way maker:

“Behold, I will do a new thing; now it shall spring forth; shall ye not know it? I will even make a way in the wilderness, and rivers in the desert.”

~Isaiah 43:19 KJV

The Truth and the Truth Speaker:

“When swearing an oath to confirm what they are saying, humans swear by someone greater than themselves and so bring their arguments to an end. 17 In the same way, when God wanted to confirm His promise as true and unchangeable, He swore an oath to the heirs of that promise. 18 So God has given us two unchanging things: His promise and His oath. These prove that it is impossible for God to lie. As a result, we who come to God for refuge might be encouraged to seize that hope that is set before us. 19 That hope is real and true, an anchor to steady our restless souls, a hope that leads us back behind the curtain to where God is (as the high priests did in the days when reconciliation flowed from sacrifices in the temple) 20 and back into the place where Jesus, who went ahead on our behalf, has entered since He has become a High Priest forever in the order of Melchizedek.”

~Hebrews 6:16-20 VOICE

The Life and the Life Giver:

“The Word gave life to everything that was created, and his life brought light to everyone.”

~John 1:4 NLT

The Promise and the Promise Keeper:

“Whatever God has promised gets stamped with the Yes of Jesus. In him, this is what we preach and pray, the great Amen, God’s Yes and our Yes together, gloriously evident. God affirms us, making us a sure thing in Christ, putting his Yes within us. By his Spirit he has stamped us with his eternal pledge—a sure beginning of what he is destined to complete.”

~2 Corinthians 1:19-21 MSG

I cannot see the end of this journey but He is already there.  

god is already there

It looks black as night to me and I am fumbling around in the dark, but there is no darkness in Him at all.  

in him is no darkness

My flesh and my heart will fail, but His never will.

god is the strength of my heart

Count Your Blessings?

Count your blessings, name them one by one,
Count your blessings, see what God has done!
Count your blessings, name them one by one,
*Count your many blessings, see what God has done.
[*And it will surprise you what the Lord has done.]

COUNT YOUR BLESSINGS by Johnson Oatman, Jr.

I grew up singing this hymn.  It has a catchy tune and a good message-if the most trying thing you have had to endure is ordinary disappointment.

But if you’ve been devastated by the storms of life, hope dashed to bits on the rock of despair, heart shattered into a million pieces by loss-well then, the advice seems rather infantile and useless, however good-intentioned.

It is useless, if what I’m trying to do (or what someone else is trying to do for me) is pile up blessings on one side and losses on the other and make the scales balance or better yet-tip toward the blessing side.

Because there is NO way to balance losing my son with any earthly blessing.

I have my other children.  Yes, but I had them when I still had him.  I have my health (sort of).  Yes, but I had it when I still had him.  I have a home, freedom, food-yes, yes, yes.  But all that I had when I still had him.

So you see, I can’t make it balance out.  No one can.

But there is a kernel of truth in this hymn.  And it’s not in trying to pile up one side and weigh it against the other.

No.

The truth lies in two things:  First, when I learn to count blessings I change my heart’s focus from what I’ve lost (and cannot regain this side of heaven) to what I still have.  It helps me live forward instead of trying (without success) to live in the past.  It whispers hope and courage instead of shouting death and despair.

Second, counting blessings forces me to see God’s faithful love even in the midst of terrible loss.  It reminds me of Who He is, what He has done and what He continues to do.  It brings to mind and burns into my spirit the truth that God never fails, His Word is true and He will finish what He started.

The Psalmist begins many of his songs with something like this:  “Where are You God?”  “Why have You forgotten me, God?”  “When will you answer my plea, God?”

He lays out his case, his worries, his broken heart before the Lord, begging for mercy, for action, for some kind of observable help.

And then there’s a turn in the song, it’s like a switch is flipped in the Psalmist’s heart-he remembers…

He remembers Who God is, what He has done in the past, how His faithful love has sustained him and continues to sustain him.

Nothing has changed except the Psalmist started counting blessings.  The pile of blessings didn’t outweigh the pile of troubles but it bore testimony to God’s gracious goodness even in the midst of trouble.

That spoke hope and courage to the Psalmist’s heart.

And it speaks hope and courage to mine.

How long, O Eternal One? How long will You forget me? Forever?
    How long will You look the other way?

How long must I agonize,
    grieving Your absence in my heart every day?
How long will You let my enemies win?

Turn back; respond to me, O Eternal, my True God!
    Put the spark of life in my eyes, or I’m dead.
My enemies will boast they have beaten me;
    my foes will celebrate that I have stumbled.

But I trust in Your faithful love;
    my heart leaps at the thought of imminent deliverance by You.
I will sing to the Eternal,
    for He is always generous with me.

Psalm 13 VOICE

Repost: He Will Hold Me Fast

I need to remind myself of this every few days.

I’ve mentioned it before.

I’ve encouraged others not to resist.

But I want to be absolutely clear:  Losing my son made me doubt EVERYTHING.

Read the rest here:  He Will Hold Me Fast

Out of [My] Control

I really think I’m in control.  I choose, I do, I make it happen.

Hogwash!

I do make the coffee, sure, but I can’t make breath fill my lungs.  I sit in my chair and watch the sun rise, but if it didn’t show up one day there wouldn’t be a single thing I could do about it.

IMG_0992

Even this mama who had that awful, awful knock on the door that should have settled this question forever is lulled back into embracing the myth that I am in control.

For some odd reason that brings me comfort.

Odd because I fully realize how absolutely terrible it would be if I WAS in control of everything.  I can’t find my glasses on top of my head-how in the world would I keep the earth spinning?

If it was up to me, things would be a mess.

Thankfully it is NOT up to me.  I am NOT in control.

But I know the One Who is.

God-is-our-refuge-and-strength-an-ever-present-help-in-trouble.-Psalm-46-1So many days I live like if I hold on tight enough, I won’t lose anything else.  But that’s just not true-it’s still all up for grabs-I don’t have the strength or power to stop loss.

When I let go of my futile attempt to be in control, to maintain the illusion of control and to feed my need for control, I can receive the peace God is offering me through Jesus Christ.

Closed hands can’t receive anything.

If I am going to live at all,

I  have got to live with open hands,

not clinched fists.

open hands on floor

Don’t Dare Hope

My prayer list is very short.  It’s been whittled down to the basics.  I don’t ask for much and I expect less.

But today I will be waiting with bated breath to find out if a prayer that’s been lifted up for months will be answered.

It’s risky business to ask when the answer may be “no”.  If I’m honest, I’m not sure my heart can take it.

I am confident that I will see Dominic in heaven when I get there.  My heart rests assured that the blood of Christ is sufficient and my salvation sure.

BUT….

I do not dare hope anymore that when I pray specifically for someone or something it will come to pass.  Oh, I believe God HEARS my prayer, that He knows the desire of my heart, that He COULD grant my request.  But I no longer rest my head on the pillow of peace, settled in my spirit that the “effectual fervent prayers  of a righteous man or woman availeth much.”

I will be the first to admit that to hold both thoughts simultaneously seems impossible and contradictory.  Yet I do.

Because I’ve learned the hard way that my prayers are not God’s “to do” list.  He is sovereign, not me.  His plans may or may not conform to mine.  His work in my life may very well include pain and sorrow and disappointment.

Sometimes I just want that old naive hope back.  I want to erase this dark knowledge from my heart.

Especially when someone I love needs my prayers.

I want to believe.  I want to trust.  I want to rest assured that not only is my prayer heard, but that it will be granted.  But it is oh, so hard!!!!

So I offer the only prayer I can still lift up with absolute confidence:  I plead mercy and grace.

I pray that God may have mercy on my fragile spirit, that He may grant my desire and strengthen my faith.  And I pray that regardless of the outcome, He will give me the grace to accept it.

It’s the best I can do.

 

 

 

 

 

Will It ALWAYS Feel Like This?

I belong to several bereaved parents online communities and this question comes up again and again-it was the first thing I asked a bereaved mom just after Dominic ran ahead to heaven:

“Will this suffocating pain remain sitting on my chest, smothering the breath and life right out of me?  Will I ever be able to stop crying? Will it ALWAYS feel like this? “

The short answer is, “No, it won’t.”

For those of us who follow Jesus, we know that eternity with Him will be filled with inexpressible joy and peace.  Whatever pain and sorrow we have carried down below will be swallowed up by redemption and restoration.  He has promised both to collect our tears in His bottle and to wipe them away.

tears-in-a-bottle-blue-bottle

The longer answer is, “It depends.”

If I cling tightly to my sorrow, focus my eyes and heart only on what I have lost, then I will continue to feel overwhelmed.

How can it be otherwise?

I have lost more than I can comprehend-both what WAS and WHAT WILL BE.  My son is gone, gone, gone.  And that is not going to change on this earth.

I can’t play mind games and trick myself into thinking it will.  My heart knows the truth and it won’t be fooled no matter how hard I try.

BUT-if I turn and face the pain, embrace it, feel it and work on healthy ways to carry it-then I can begin to breathe again.

There is no way through but through.  I have to let my heart feel all the feels.  Stuffing or ignoring them is not an option.  They will not be ignored forever.

There’s no way around grief and loss: you can dodge all you want, but sooner or later you just have to go into it, through it, and, hopefully, come out the other side. The world you find there will never be the same as the world you left.

Johnny Cash

I can choose to equip myself with tools for working through them.  Counseling, journaling, learning to lament, sharing with a trusted friend are all healthy ways to process pain.

And because I believe in Jesus, the most helpful thing I can do in this Valley is look to my Shepherd.  When I focus my gaze on Him, on His character and provision, my heart is strengthened.

Make no mistake-the missing and sorrow are still there-faith is not anesthesia! But there are other feelings that take up residence alongside my pain-hope and courage and grace.

faith is not an epidural

I have to choose.

Am I going to work through this pain or simply be crushed by it?  Will I allow my Savior to heal my heart or will I refuse His aid?

My heart is still beating either way.