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

 

 

 

Season of Joy: Blessing the Brokenhearted During the Holidays

Most parents feel a little stressed during the holidays.

We used to be able to enjoy Thanksgiving before our 24/7 supercharged and super-connected world thrust us into hyper-drive.  Now we zoom past the first day of school on a highway toward Christmas at breakneck speed.

For bereaved parents, the rush toward the “Season of Joy” is doubly frightening.

Constant reminders that this is the “most wonderful time of the year” make our broken hearts just that much more out of place. Who cares what you get for Christmas when the one thing your heart desires–your child, alive and whole–is unavailable…

We want to enjoy the family that gathers, but their presence makes the empty chair more obvious.

It is so hard to find a way to trudge through the tinsel when what you really want to do is climb into bed and wake up when it’s all over.

There are some practical ways family and friends can help grieving parents during the holidays:

  1. Don’t resist or criticize arrangements a bereaved parent makes to help him or her get through this season.  If they are brave enough to broach the subject, receive their suggestions with grace and encourage them with love.  Do your best to accommodate the request.
  2. If the bereaved parent doesn’t approach you–consider thoughtfully, gracefully approaching him or her about what might make the holidays more bearable.  But don’t expect a well-laid plan-I didn’t get a “how-to” book when I buried my child…this is new to me and very, very painful.  I am doing the best I can to keep my head above the waves and I cannot be expected to captain the boat through these turbulant waters.
  3. Don’t be surprised if a bereaved parent doesn’t want to exchange gifts (or at least, not receive gifts).  No one can rewind time or restore my family circle to wholeness and I just can’t think of anything else that I want or need.
  4. Don’t assume that the bereaved parent should be relieved of all meal duties around the holiday.  For some of us, doing the routine things like baking and cooking are healing.  For others, there just isn’t energy for anything other than the most fundamental daily tasks. ASK if they want to contribute.
  5. Don’t corner surviving children for a private update on their parent’s state of mind.  My children are grieving too.  When you expect them to give an update on me you diminish their pain and put them in a difficult position.  If you want to know, ask me.
  6. If there are young children in the family, it might be helpful to offer to take them to some of the parties/gatherings/church services that their parent may not be up to attending. Ask, but don’t be upset if they say “no”–it might still be too traumatic for either the child or the parent to be separated from one another.

I know that life goes on, the calendar pages keep turning and I can’t stop time in its tracks.  I greet each day with as much faith and courage as I can muster. This season requires a little more-and I will need help to make it through.