How and Why I Keep Writing: A Shepherd’s Heart

I am still utterly amazed that since November 2015 I have managed a blog post every day.

At first, I was writing because I wanted to make public the things I was learning in this Valley and to honor my missing son.  

dominic at tims wedding

He had been in Heaven a year and a half by then and it was clear to this mama’s heart that (1) people (including ME before it WAS me!) had absolutely NO IDEA what life after child loss was like once the funeral was over;  (2) one way to redeem this pain was to share how God had been faithful even as I struggled; and (3) I just didn’t see too many honest portrayals of life after loss for Christ followers (which is not to say they didn’t/don’t exist but I hadn’t found them).

So I wrote.  

Then I realized (much to my surprise!) that there were mamas (and a few daddies) hanging on by such a tenuous thread to hope that my meager attempt at redeeming this pain was strengthening their grasp.

Then it became a ministry.

Shepherding is in my blood. 

I’ve been a shepherd my whole adult life-first to my own children and then to other children through various home school groups and activities.  Then God granted a desire of my heart when He allowed me to become  a “real” shepherd 20 years ago to a flock/herd of sheep and goats.

goat and mel on porch (2)

I’ve learned so, so much.  

I’ve learned that consistency is key. 

My herd depends on my faithful feeding and my peaceful presence.  They love routine and hate change.  They respond immediately to my voice and run straight to me when they are afraid.

They will endure nearly anything as long as they are assured it is from my loving hand.  

I am not able to shepherd every heart that reads this blog. 

But I hope that a bit of my shepherd’s love and care and compassion is present in each post.  

My desire is that consistency helps the hearts that congregate here every morning.  I long for my words to feed hope to you from time to time.  I pray that routine gives you something to look forward to even on the hard day.  I pray that I faithfully point you to the Shepherd of your soul who can provide shelter no matter where you are or what is chasing you.

sheperd

I pray that together we can endure and persevere and finish strong and well.  

I continue to write because I love you. 

I continue to write because if a single post reaches a single heart on the verge of giving up and helps that heart hold onto hope, then it is worth every minute I spend thinking about, composing and producing these posts.  

And, frankly, many of you have ministered hope to MY heart.  

hope holds a breaking heart together

Dom left for Heaven about when my nest became empty.  Thirty years of raising children and twenty-plus years of homeschooling came to an end right when my heart was dealt this grievous blow.

All the energy and time I had poured into shepherding my children was suddenly available for a new adventure at the very moment when adventure was the last thing on my mind.  

Sharing has turned survival into something beautiful.   

I am so thankful for that.

And I am oh, so grateful for each of you.

thank you

 

 

 

[Mis] Perception

“I’ll believe it when I see it!”

That’s the standard, isn’t it?  We trust our eyes to tell us the truth.  We rely on our senses to winnow out the chaff of falsehood and leave us with the meaty grain of truth.

But what if my eyes aren’t as trustworthy as I think?

What if my perception is limited and unreliable?

Living in the south means long, hot summers.

In the middle of July I would sign an affidavit that it has to be at least 100 degrees outside and not much cooler inside unless I run my air conditioner to the tune of a huge electric bill.

But if I do a little digging, I find that the average high for July and August in my part of Alabama is only 90-91 degrees.

Now, that doesn’t mean there are no days hotter, but it does mean that my sense of interminable heat is inaccurate and untrue.  As a matter of fact, the average temp begins to decline mid-August when we are all panting for fall to make its appearance.

My point is this:  when I am sweating in the middle of summer, I’m not in a position to give you an accurate weather report.

All I know is that I am hot.

All I know is that I think I will be hot for days and weeks to come.  All I know is that a cool breeze would be welcome but it doesn’t seem to be in the offing anytime soon.

I don’t readily perceive the tiny creep toward cooler temperatures that is happening right under my nose.

It’s been the same way in my grief journey.

Four years in and I am definitely in a better mental, emotional and spiritual place than I was even a year ago.

But if you had asked me at any point during that time if I could perceive a shift toward healing, I would have said, “not really”.

I was (and am) relying on my senses to tell me where I am in this process of embracing the life I didn’t choose.  Yet they are easily overwhelmed by my daily experience-crying one day, laughing the next, undone by memories again, blessed by a friend’s text or phone call-filled to the brim with input.

I have a hard time sorting it out and looking objectively at what the data suggests.

When I can take a step back, I see that my heart has healed in some measure.  I have enfolded the truth that Dominic is not here into who I am and what my life will look like until I join him in heaven.

And understanding THAT helps me continue this journey.

braver stronger smarter

I don’t want to be stuck in the misperception that I can “never learn to live without my son”.

I am learning how to do just that.

I don’t like it.  I will NEVER like it.

But I am doing it.

Little by little, in tiny increments, every day reaching out, reaching forward and making choices that promote healing.

It’s happening.

Even if I can’t see it.

fear is what we feel brave is what we do

Repost: 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?”

Read the rest here:  Will It ALWAYS Feel Like This?

How To Pray For Your Brokenhearted Friend

We’ve all been there-someone we love receives a terminal diagnosis, someone we care about loses a family member, her husband walks away from their marriage of twenty years, his addicted child hasn’t made contact in months.

The list is endless.

This life is hard and broken hearts abound.

What to do?

I’ve written extensively about the many practical ways a friend or family member can reach out and walk beside a wounded heart.

Choosing to offer compassionate companionship is the greatest gift you can give.

But there is another way you can help.  You can carry the one you love to the Throne of Grace and intercede on his or her behalf with the One Who can be there when you just can’t.

I’ve learned the hard way that many situations are not fixable.  They are only bearable.  And because we so often pray for blessings and miracles, when faced with this reality, words tend to fail us.

But there are prayers to pray for the brokenhearted.

Pray for God’s Presence. 

Father God, alone and broken is too much for anyone to bear.  I know you are right beside my friend, but give her assurance of Your Presence.  Let this wounded heart feel You very near her.  When she despairs that You are not listening, bring to mind Your Word and flood her with Your comfort.

Pray for the presence of God’s people. 

Lord, You don’t need people to do Your work, but you have ordained that the work of Your Body will be done by the hands of men.  Stir the hearts of those that follow Jesus to show up and bring practical help to this broken heart.  Give divine guidance to the people You want to be there so that they do things, bring things and say things that bless and do not harm.  May this abundant outpouring of love, grace and mercy give strength to a struggling heart.

Pray for grace.

Father, we so often think of grace as what You give us when we receive salvation.  But grace is so much more than that-it is the oil that lubricates the gears of life.  It’s what gives us the space we need to process offense, to overlook offense and to avoid offense.  My friend is wounded and oh, so vulnerable.  Overwhelm his heart with Your grace so that the unthinking and even unkind words or actions of others will not hurt him more.  Suffuse every single relationship that is being strained and stretched by this hard season with grace so that it remains supple and does not break. Fill the hearts of those who come to minister with grace to endure his silence or their rebuffed attempts to help.  Keep relationships alive and intact, even in this difficult time.

Pray for mercy.

Oh, Lord!  How well I know that one tragedy or unbearable hardship does not preclude another on its heels!  I beg mercy for this family!  Pour mercy out on them and in them and prevent any schemes of the evil one to succeed.  They are so, so weak and such easy targets!  Let Your mercy surround and protect them.

Pray for strength.

Father, “weak” can’t begin to describe the crumbling of a spirit under the crushing load of grief.  If You do not raise the head of my friend, she will not be able to raise it herself.  If you do not infuse her body with Your strength, she will not be able to make it through this valley.  You have promised that if we wait on You-expectantly and hopefully and trustingly-that You will give us strength as eagles.  We will run and not be weary, we will walk and not faint  You are the Everlasting God.  You are the Source of Strength.  Fill my friend with Your strength as You have promised.

Pray for faith. 

Lord, there is a space where faith and experience conflict.  Losing a child creates a gulf between what a heart wants to believe and has believed and the unbearable pain that fills it right now  Help my friend’s heart hold onto the hem of Your garment.  Give him the will and conviction to say, “I believe, help Thou my unbelief!”  Bring those who love You alongside to bear witness to this crisis of faith without correcting or shaming.  Send Your Holy Spirit in power to flood this hurting heart with an assurance of Your Presence and power.

Pray for courage. 

Father God, one of Your great champions, C.S. Lewis wrote, “No one ever told me grief felt so like fear.”  He was right.  Grief feels like the most profound fear a heart can experience.  The entire world has shifted.  The bottom has fallen out.  It seems there is no end to the pain and suffering that a person may have to endure.  And it is scary-so, so scary.  Let my friend join the Psalmist in declaring, “God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea” (Psalm 46: 1,2 NIV) You are the unchanging constant Truth in a world where everything else seems untrustworthy.  

Pray for perseverance.

Lord, it’s easy to start well but something else again to finish well.  When a heart realizes that this missing, this sorrow and this pain is going to be with it for all the days of life on earth, that’s a whole other burden to bear.  Defeat seems imminent.  How can someone possibly carry this for years-perhaps decades?  Give my friend the commitment and strength to persevere.  Help her wake each day and decide to keep on keeping on.  Infuse her tired body, mind and spirit with the power You have promised to give to all who love you:  the power that raised Jesus from the grave (Ephesians 1:19,20).

Pray for love.

Father God, a broken heart is open and ready for filling.  And it will be filled with something.  It will be filled with love or it will be filled with bitterness.  Overwhelm my friend with Your grace, mercy and love so that all the spaces are filled to overflowing with You and there is no room for bitterness.  Bind the work of the enemy so that no scheme formed against him can stand.  Give him a heart of flesh-that even hurting, even broken-he can give and receive love.  Because love lives forever.

Amen.

hope holds a breaking heart together

Holy Week Reflections: Resurrection-Reality and Reassurance

Paul wrote, “if Christ has not risen, then our preaching is in vain [it amounts to nothing] and your faith is devoid of truth and is fruitless (without effect, empty, imaginary, and unfounded).” ( I Corinthians 15:14 AMPC)

If Jesus was just another prophet or good man or moral teacher and his body lies buried forever then there is no foundation for my hope.

But He IS risen!  And I DO have hope!  

“The worst conceivable thing has happened, and it has been mended…All shall be well, and all shall be well and all manner of thing shall be well.” ~Julian of Norwich

I’m not sure when I first read this quote, but it came to my mind that awful morning.   And I played it over and over in my head, reassuring my broken heart that indeed, the worst had already happened, and been mended.

Death had died.

Read the rest here:  Resurrection: Reality and Reassurance

Saturday

For decades I looked forward to Saturdays.

When I was a child it meant a day off school and an opportunity for freedom.  Many Saturdays were spent playing outside or riding along with my dad to the hardware store to pick up needed items for a home project.

snoopy saturday

A little older and I used up my Saturday at the horse barn.  Mucking stalls, riding a little and hanging out with sawdust and hay and sweaty animals and people.

Older still and Saturdays meant date nights.  Squeezing in fun between long days in a college classroom and part time work were what Saturdays were made for.  Catching a movie, going dancing or taking a ride in the country were favorite past times.

Then came children and for awhile Saturdays represented the only time I was not solely responsible for four little lives.  The only day I might get a chance to take a bath without small heads peeking around the doorway with some “emergency”.

Later, as they grew, Saturdays were spent at basketball games where three boys played on three different teams and it took all morning and into early afternoon for everyone to finish up.  Sack lunches were the order of the day as we cheered and waited, waited and cheered.  We went home exhausted and managed a little yard work before hitting the bed.

saturday you are my favorite

Children grow into adulthood and Saturdays continued to reflect changing needs, priorities and schedules but almost always meant some family time despite the many responsibilities of each of us.  We managed to squeeze in family work days, family fun days, family trips, family movie nights.  It was beautiful.

And then came one Saturday.

A Saturday I’d like to forget if it didn’t mean forgetting Dominic.

Now Saturday is a reminder of the doorbell,

of the news,

of the horror,

of the disbelief.  

In some ways it is fitting that my heart is brought back around to this pain every Saturday because as a believer in Jesus, every Sunday is meant to recall the resurrection of Christ.  

So EVERY weekend, not only THIS one during Holy Week, my heart replays the sequence of sadness turned to joy.

The difference is that I still wait for the fullness of my promised joy.  But I’m holding on with both hands to that hope.  I’m digging in my heels and refusing to be dragged away from the hem of His garment.

He is faithful Who promised.  

 

He will redeem.  

He will restore.  

His resurrection proves it.  

wait patiently for gods promises

 

 

 

 

Holy Week Reflections: Living Between the Crucifixion and the Resurrection

It is tempting to forget that there were three long days and nights between the crucifixion and the resurrection beause the way we observe this season rushes us past the pain to embrace the promise.

But it’s not hard for me to imagine how the disciples felt when they saw Jesus was dead.  It was neither what they expected nor what they prayed for.

Read the rest here:  Living Between the Crucifixion and the Resurrection