Chasing the Darkness

I live in a rural county.  You can travel for miles without seeing a street light or a house light or even the lights of an oncoming car. But the deep blue-black of a winter night can be pierced by the tiniest pinprick of light–even a pocket flashlight can chase away the darkness.

There are so many people struggling to find hope and light in this world.

Especially at this time of year, when it seems that everyone else is having a “holly jolly Christmas” those who can’t find even a spark of joy in their hearts feel abandoned and alone.

Walking this path of grief has made me so much more sensitive to people in pain.

My repeated prayer has been, “God, fill my broken heart with Your mercy, Your love, and Your grace.”  I want to shine light for those walking in darkness.

Even if it’s faint, and small and not very bright.

There are hurting people all around us and it is so easy to hurry past because their pain makes us uncomfortable.

Stop.

Look at them.

Ask the hard questions and LISTEN to the answers.

Hope is often only a tiny glimmer at first and each of us has the ability to shine that much love and light into someone else’s life.

“Here’s another way to put it: You’re here to be light, bringing out the God-colors in the world. God is not a secret to be kept. We’re going public with this, as public as a city on a hill. If I make you light-bearers, you don’t think I’m going to hide you under a bucket, do you? I’m putting you on a light stand. Now that I’ve put you there on a hilltop, on a light stand—shine! Keep open house; be generous with your lives. By opening up to others, you’ll prompt people to open up with God, this generous Father in heaven.”

Matthew 5:14-16 MSG

 

Testimony of Hope

No way around it–this goat is ugly.  He was born a runt and never outgrew it.

But he’s my favorite.

Several years ago he was attacked by dogs.  One had him by the ear (thus his missing ear) and one had him by the hindquarters. Only my youngest son’s swift barefoot run through the woods saved him from being killed. Julian carried him out, mangled and bloody.

We spent weeks cleaning and treating his wounds and months nursing him back to health.

He has no monetary value–in fact he’s cost me a good deal.  But I love him because he is a testimony of hope.  

He lives in spite of his scars.

Walking through the valley of the shadow of death, I’m meeting others who have buried their children too.

And it is so, so hard.

But these mamas are so, so brave.

And they are clinging with all their might to the hand of the One Who has promised to redeem this pain and these wounds.

I can’t tell you that anything “good” has come from my son’s death–at least nothing that couldn’t have come from his life.

But I can tell you that what the enemy intended to use to destroy me and my family has not done that.

I am hurt and I bear scars.

But the Shepherd of my soul has carried me and is carrying me.

I will continue to trust in Him and offer my life as a testimony of hope.

 

Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.

Romans 5:3-5 NIV

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sar Shalom

Sar Shalom.

Prince of Peace.

My favorite name of Jesus.

According to Strong’s Concordance 7965 Shalom means completeness, wholeness, health, peace, welfare, safety soundness, tranquility, prosperity, perfectness, fullness, rest, harmony, the absence of agitation or discord.

Peace is not a place or a promise–peace is a Person.

I made this paper weight in January 2014 to remind me that Jesus IS Shalom–He IS Peace.

Four months into that year, my confidence in this truth was shaken. What tranquility can dwell in the heart of a mama who has to bury her child?  Where is wholeness when the family circle is torn asunder?

And yet…

Even as I walk this hard path, I am strangely, inexplicably at peace in the core of my being.

And God’s peace [shall be yours, that tranquil state of a soul assured of its salvation through Christ, and so fearing nothing from God and being content with its earthly lot of whatever sort that is, that peace] which transcends all understanding shall garrison and mount guard over your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:7 AMPC

Surrounded by violence and threats of violence, peace is hard to come by. Fear reigns in the hearts of many–even those who believe in Christ.

And if we trust in the government, or the police, or ourselves to keep us safe, we have every reason to be fearful.

But when we rest completely in Sar Shalom, the Prince of Peace who is Himself our Peace, we can be assured that we are safe.

Not safe from all harm, but safe in His love and care.

 

Everlasting Father

We live in a throwaway society.

Cups, cans, plates and people.   Too often we toss friendships when they become inconvenient, uncomfortable or require more energy than we are willing to give.

Adults trade partners in a frenzied search for happiness and fulfillment and leave children’s hearts in the wreckage as families are ripped apart.

So it’s no surprise that many people find it difficult to believe in a Heavenly Father that is good, and loving and everlasting.

But God is just that:

He is an Everlasting Father.

A Faithful Father.  

A Father whose enduring love lasts FOREVER. 

 Who shall ever separate us from the love of Christ? Will tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword?…For I am convinced [and continue to be convinced—beyond any doubt] that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present andthreatening, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the [unlimited] love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Romans 8:35, 38-39

My mother love is fierce.  But it was not strong enough to keep my child from the grave.

How much greater is the Father’s love that NOTHING can separate us from it?

What fills my heart and soul with hope and gives me strength to bear this great grief is unshakeable confidence that my son is safe in the eternal arms of my Everlasting Father.

 

 

 

Mighty God

For a child will be born for us,
a son will be given to us,
and the government will be on His shoulders.
He will be named
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Eternal Father, Prince of Peace.

Isaiah 9:6 HCSB

So many times, when I think of the “Mighty God” I conjure pictures of thunder and lightning or conquering power.  I’ve been in church services where someone will pray, “Show Yourself mighty here today, Lord!”  And what they mean is:  do something bold, easily identifiable and outwardly visible.

I believe the Mighty God shows up a lot more frequently than we realize. 

We are looking, like Elijah, for God in the whirlwind, but He usually comes in quietness and whispers.

I experienced the Mighty God the day I had to bury Dominic. 

I didn’t think I could physically survive greeting friends and family at his funeral, hearing loved ones tell him good-bye and watching his casket lowered beneath the earth.  But I did.

That morning I prayed:

“Father, bind any scheme of the enemy to take away the victory You have ordained for our great loss.  I know he cannot take away the real victory, but he delights in confusion, dissension and discouragement.  Only Your love, grace, peace and mercy can overcome hatred, bitterness, anger and discord.  Give us your Spirit in abundance—overwhelm us with Your Presence.  Help us say good-bye to our sweet boy in a way that honors You, magnifies You and honors his memory.  The only way we can do that is by Your grace and in Your power.  I must cling to the truth and to the Truth—otherwise all is lost!”

The Mighty God put steel in my backbone and upheld me with His love, grace and mercy.

He raised my hands in praise even as my heart broke in sorrow.

His warrior Spirit infused me with strength. 

I held on to the promise:

That one day Jesus, Who came first in meekness, will return in power.  He will set wrong things right and restore the earth to beauty and peace.

Death will be defeated and the grave will be no more. 

I am still fighting the enemy—every day he tries to defeat me and convince me that darkness and pain are all I will ever know.

But my faithful Savior, the Mighty God, comes quietly to my heart and reminds me that the victory is His—the promises are sure—and I, with Dominic, will dwell in His house forever.   

 

 

 

Jesus: Wonderful Counselor

Grief is confusing and scary. 

In a heartbeat I was transported from life-as-I-knew-it to a foreign landscape where I don’t speak the language, there are no sign posts and no way to get home.

Here is where God whispered the rock solid truth that He is near. That I am never beyond His reach, His care.  He brought to mind Scripture, and promises, and memories of past faithfulness–something familiar to cling to in the wilderness of grief.

The day Dominic died I wrote in my journal:

“The LORD gives and the LORD takes away.  Blessed be the Name of the LORD.  May my soul find rest in Thee alone.  May my eyes look only to Thy face.  May my heart’s peace be the Prince of Peace.  ‘Dominic’–belonging to God–You gave him to me and he is Yours again.  Marana Tha–Come quickly, Lord Jesus!”

When Jesus was preparing the disciples for His death, He knew that they would need a Counselor in their grief.  They would need a guide through the difficult and scary and confusing path they were about to walk. So He told them:

“But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit-the Father will send Him in My name-will teach you all things and remind you of everything I have told you.”  John 14:26 CSB

What a gift!  To have the Living God in me–my ever present Guide even on this most treacherous journey.

 

 

 

Buying Time?

It’s been awhile since I braved the crowds and participated in the shopping frenzy known as “Black Friday” looking for a great bargain or the perfect present.

In years past, my mother, my daughter and I would wake up before the sun, slip out into the cold morning, hit two or three stores for a special gift and then head to a breakfast buffet to recuperate.

breakfast-buffet

I can’t remember a single purchase, but I remember the laughter and conversation and comraderie.

Losing a child puts lots of things in perspective.

Like memories and time.

Time is the only thing in life that moves in one direction.  From birth to death in a straight line.

This season has most of us rushing from one place to another, squeezing in another activity, seeking just the right something to put under the Christmas tree.  We start the day after Thanksgiving and hurry into December, and suddenly the month is gone, the days have fled.

Ask any parent who has buried a child what they want most in the world and they will not hesitate–another heartbeat, another second, another opportunity to say, “I love you” or “I’m proud of you” or “Thank you”.

All the world’s wealth won’t buy even one extra minute–the ticking clock is no respecter of persons. 

think-you-have-time

I cannot buy time, I can only spend it.

We all trade this life for something–a unique transaction–no refunds, no exchanges.

It’s up to me to choose…what am I going to trade it for?

My life for love?  

Or stuff?

No contest.

If I speak with human eloquence and angelic ecstasy but don’t love, I’m nothing but the creaking of a rusty gate.

If I speak God’s Word with power, revealing all his mysteries and making everything plain as day, and if I have faith that says to a mountain, “Jump,” and it jumps, but I don’t love, I’m nothing.

Love never dies. I Corinthians 13:1-2, 8 MSG

 

love deeply2

 

 

 

When It’s All Been Said and Done

What would you die for?

What are you living for?

These are the questions that fill my mind most days.

It’s easier to think about what I would die for:  my family, my God. Definitely not stuff…

But if I were to die for something, it would be a moment in time, an unrepeatable and finished work.

It’s much more challenging to think about what I will live for.  I have to decide and commit to THAT over and over.

Living after losing a child is a daily exercise of walking in two dimensions–the here and now and the world to come.

My first journal entries after Dominic died were filled with prayers begging God to pour His love, mercy and grace into my broken heart and to make me a vessel of healing for others–to not allow me to become bitter or hard or uncaring–

It was the only good I could imagine coming from the horror of burying my child.

When it’s all been said and done
There is just one thing that matters
Did I do my best to live for truth?
Did I live my life for you?

When it’s all been said and done
All my treasures will mean nothing
Only what I have done
For love’s rewards
Will stand the test of time

Lord, your mercy is so great
That you look beyond our weakness
And find purest gold in miry clay
Turning sinners into saints

I will always sing your praise
Here on earth and heaven after
For you’ve joined me at my true home
When it’s all been said and done
You’re my life when life is gone…

When It’s All Been Said and Done (lyrics)

We each only get this one life–how are we going to spend it?

When It’s All Been Said and Done By Robin Mark

Jubilee

Two years ago today I turned fifty.  I was celebrated by family and friends with a sweet surprise party organized by my children.

It was going to be my Year of Jubilee–a year of celebration and freedom.

About three years before, I had figured up on fingers as I sent my last homeschooled child to college that in 2013/2014:

All my children would be through undergraduate studies;

James Michael would be married and have his DVM degree;

and Dominic would be in the home stretch for Law School.

I had no idea I would bury my child.

I have thought a lot about how the year didn’t go as I planned and about how my year of celebration turned into a year of mourning. Instead of feeling free, I felt bound by sorrow and sadness, weighed down by grief and the gravity of carrying this heavy burden.

My fiftieth year stripped me of all illusion:

that what I hold is my own possession;

that this physical life is all there is;

that I have any control over the future;

or that my plans are secure.

I did not willingly surrender my child but surrendering him I was forced to accept that what I thought was mine is only on loan from God.

It is a hard, hard lesson--one that can find room only in a broken heart:

“Do I delight in what God gives me or in Who God is?”

It doesn’t seem that the children of Israel ever observed the Year of Jubilee. It was just too painful to return land to the original owner, to free slaves when you depended on their labor.  It was too hard to give back what God had given to them.

There is a certain freedom in letting go–a certain weightlessness that comes from an open hand.  It is not the freedom I would have chosen, but perhaps the one I need…

I discovered that Jubilee is really about what I hold in my heart and not what I have in my hands.

Adonai is all I have,” I say;
therefore I will put my hope in him.

Adonai is good to those waiting for him,
to those who are seeking him out.
It is good to wait patiently
for the saving help of Adonai.

Lamentations 3:24-26 CJB

 

 

 

 

Dry Places

I discovered these one morning in the hard ground of my gravel driveway.

New life where one would never look for it.

Are you walking in a hard, dry  land?

I am.

But I trust that God is working even here. And one day life will burst forth beautiful and full.

 Even if the fig tree does not grow figs and there is no fruit on the vines, even if the olives do not grow and the fields give no food, even if there are no sheep within the fence and no cattle in the cattle-building, yet I will have joy in the Lord. I will be glad in the God Who saves me.

Habbakkuk 3: 17-18 NLV

 

 

 

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