Life Happens

I confess. 

When I used to drive by an unkempt yard, a run down house or ran into an untidy person, I would think, “Goodness!  Don’t they care about their yard, home or appearance?  They need to do better!  I would NEVER let my (fill in the blank) look like that.”

I don’t do that anymore.  

Because I’ve learned that there are all kinds of reasons a body may not be busy mowing a lawn,  painting a porch or even putting on matching socks.

Life happens.  

And when it does, it demands all my energy, effort and attention.  I don’t have the time or luxury of worrying about things that aren’t absolutely necessary for survival.

When Dominic left for Heaven, my priorities were immediately shaken out, sifted and re-ordered.  Not only the big ones-like spending more time with the people I loved-but also the smaller ones-like whether or not I swept the front porch before someone visited. 

More than four years later and I look around sometimes wishing I was better at keeping up with things, better able to tidy up,  decorate for the seasons, mend the fences, stay on top of clutter, or put together decent outfits.

But then I pause, breathe and realize that while the outside looks messy and unorganized and not at all like I’d prefer, my inside is focused on the things that really matter.

I am spending most of my time caring (one way or another) for other hearts. 

Now when I see someone’s home that needs attention or someone who isn’t put together,  I think, “What battle are they facing?  What life circumstance has swallowed up their time, energy,  and emotional reserves?” 

Because life happens. 

Whether we are ready for it or not. 

everyone is fighting a battle

 

Repost: Baby Steps and Falling Forward

Sometimes I schedule a post the night before and wake up to a day that contradicts everything I just wrote.

Grief is like that.

Good day.  Bad day.  Better day. Worse day.

Read the rest here:  Baby Steps and Falling Forward

Why You Might Have to “Forgive” God

I love this quote.  

It’s honest and exactly how I felt after Dominic was killed.

Like any healthy human relationship, forgiveness is a key component in allowing us to grow closer to those we care about.  Intellectually, I believed that God is perfect, and could do no wrong.  I could agree with all the scriptures I had read since I was a child that told me God cares for us with an everlasting love.  But what my heart felt was that God had done Cathy and my whole family an injustice.  As long as I held onto those feelings, I knew I could never move forward.

So one evening alone at home, I simply said these words out loud:  ‘God, I forgive you.’

When I was finally able to let go of my ‘justifications’ for feeling angry at God, something inside of me shifted.  There were no heavenly rays of light breaking through the clouds, but I could tell that much of the mental turmoil I had been struggling with was being replaced with a quiet peace.

The thing is, I knew deep down that God did not need to be forgiven.  The forgiveness was meant for my sake.  It opened my heart to begin to listen and allowed me to receive more of what God wanted to teach me about who He really is.

~Warren Ludwig, Jewels in the Junkyard

It may be an affront to our religious sensibilities to even suggest that we “forgive” God.

But it is a bold rendering of the betrayal my heart felt.  Why MY son?  Why ME?

It’s true-as long as I held onto the reasons God had “done me wrong”, I was unable to lean in and trust Him again.

Like Job, I thought I had Him figured out and could hold my own in a debate with the Almighty One.

But also like Job, when confronted with His holiness, perfection and majesty, found all I could do was cover my mouth.

And when I shut up long enough to hear Him, His voice brought comfort.

He [Christ] said not, ‘Thou shalt not be tempested, thou shalt not be trevailed, thou shalt not be dis-eased,’ but He said, ‘Thou shalt not be overcome.’

~Julian of Norwich

I no longer feel betrayed.  

I still don’t like this life.

I would never have chosen this life.  

But I will trust the One Who made me to carry me through it. 

i made you and i will carry you

 

 

 

Repost: Grace Gifts in Grief

It was a long time before I wanted to believe that I received any gifts worth keeping from this life I didn’t choose.

I knew I had tears, pain, agonizing sorrow, loss, heartache, dashed hopes, empty arms.

If I could give those back and regain my son, I would do it in less than a heartbeat.

I can’t, so I’m left here to ponder what else I’ve received from burying a child.

Read the rest here:  Grace Gifts of Grief

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

 

 

 

 

Through Tears

Honestly I have no idea why I don’t climb my stairs, lay down in bed and pull the covers over my head.

Well, really I DO know why:  it’s the enabling grace of Christ Jesus in my life

But my flesh still wants to give up and give in.

Because there is NO LIMIT to the amount of  pain a heart may have to bear on this earthly journey.

how are you fine words in letters

I feel awfully guilty sometimes for being overwhelmed by my circumstances when I hear of much more challenging situations that other hearts face.

I have to remind myself that comparison is unhealthy regardless of whether I’m stacking up pain or pleasure, blessings or trials.

Truth is, sometimes life just sucks.

I know that’s an unpopular assertion among church folks.

But it’s a fact.

God shows up and He showers grace.  And His grace sustains me.  Still, I feel ALL the pain.

Faith is not anesthesia.

faith says i will sit with you in the pain

I’ll be honest-I’ve had a summer full of hard things.  I’ve greeted more than one sunrise with tears.  I’ve ended more than one day worn out, worn down and utterly bereft of hope that tomorrow will be any better.

When I’m finally able to enter the bliss of dreamless sleep I manage a bit of escape until the day’s dawn drags my heart back to reality.

Of course the background noise of grief and loss never changes but goodness gracious how I’d love 24 uninterrupted hours of everything going right!

So far that hasn’t happened,

Seriously. 

I’m getting kind of used to it. 

I’ll never forget the trouble, the utter lostness,
    the taste of ashes, the poison I’ve swallowed.
I remember it all—oh, how well I remember—
    the feeling of hitting the bottom.
But there’s one other thing I remember,
    and remembering, I keep a grip on hope:

      God’s loyal love couldn’t have run out,
    his merciful love couldn’t have dried up.
They’re created new every morning.
    How great your faithfulness!
I’m sticking with God (I say it over and over).
    He’s all I’ve got left.

Lamentations 3:19-24 MSG

What If I’m Angry* With God?

God’s grace meets us where we are, not where we pretend to be.
~Esther Fleece, No More Faking Fine

Yes, I know, the commonly touted wisdom in church circles is not to ask, “Why?”

It’s also bad form to admit that you might actually be angry* with God. 

But I can pretty much guarantee that over half of any congregation sitting in the pews on a given Sunday has had at least one moment when, with raised eyes they screamed, “Why?????” to the sky aimed at a God they didn’t understand but believed in anyway.

I know I have.  

David did.

Paul did.

Job did.

So what does a heart do if it’s upset with God?  Stuff it?  Reason it away?  Shame it to silence? Hope it fades on its own?

I think the only thing a heart can do with that anger and doubt and disappointment is take it straight to the Throne of Grace where we are promised to find help in an hour of need.

Hebrews-4_16

That’s what I did.  

I wrote hundreds of pages of journals with my Bible beside me.  When the Holy Spirit brought a scripture to mind as I was writing, I looked it up, read it and usually copied it into my journal right alongside my questions and rambling.

Sometimes I would write the letters large and decorate them or look up the meaning of words in a concordance or dictionary and write the definitions or synonyms out to help me deepen my understanding.

In the end, my heart was finally able to accept the truth of Who God is-my loving, omniscient, omnipresent and omnipotent Heavenly Father-even when I do not like what He is doing.

Reaching a place of accepting His will while still acknowledging the pain it brings me (like Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane) has given me a measure of peace.

It has freed me to walk on in this life and to take the good, the bad, the painful and the wonderful in stride.

Do I still have moments (days!) when I want to scream?

Absolutely. But I am submitted to God and bow my heart to His.

It took a long time.

The more I read and studied Scripture, the more I found evidence of anguish, tears, and the messiness of human emotion. When we are in pain, the pain we are facing is temporary, even though it never feels temporary. Pain can linger, and it will always be with us, but for the believer in Jesus Christ, pain is never the final destination.

~Esther Fleece, No More Faking Fine, p. 134

*I am lumping a lot of strong (often considered “negative”) emotions in with the one word “angry”-for me, it was actually disappointment-God did not live up to my expectations (which is not to say He should or that my expectations were accurate).  For others it might be distrust and for some it might be doubt (does God love me?).  I’m most certainly NOT suggesting that Jesus was angry with God in the garden but it is plainly stated in Scripture that He begged God for another, less painful way that would still accomplish the Father’s plan.