Inseparable!

In the first days and months after Dominic left us I copied this verse dozens of times-in my journal, on notecards, on posterboard to plaster across the refrigerator and stick on mirrors and doorposts.

I had to remind my heart that even death could not separate my son from Him.  

That even the most wily schemes of the enemy could not rip me from the hand of my Savior and that even my own doubts or fears or questions were not stronger than God’s love through Christ to hem me in and keep me safe within the confines of His protection from eternal damnation.  

God’s Word is living and active.  

It is part of my inheritance in Christ Jesus and I can appropriate it for my own life.  When I am afraid and when I doubt, I try to repeat truth until my heart can hear it:   

“If God is for [Melanie and Dominic] who can be against us?

32 He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for [Melanie and Dominic]—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give [Melanie and Dominic] all things?

33 Who will bring any charge against [Melanie and Dominic] whom God has chosen?

It is God who justifies. 34 Who then is the one who condemns? No one. Christ Jesus who died—more than that, who was raised to life—is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us.

35 Who shall separate [Melanie or Dominic] from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? 

37 No, in all these things [Melanie and Dominic] are more than conquerors through him who loved us.

38 For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers,39 neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate [Melanie or Dominic] from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

Romans 8: 31b-35,37-39 NIV

nothing can separate1

There’s a Hole in My Bucket

I bet most of you reading this have listened to more than one round of the kiddie tune, “There’s a Hole in the Bucket, Dear Liza, Dear Liza”.

It is a funny song full of silly remedies for patching a bucket that won’t hold water even though it’s been dipped in the well and filled to the brim.

I was talking to my husband the other day about how hard it is to describe the ongoing difficulty of living with child loss.

And this song popped into my head.

Good things still happen in our lives (our bucket is being filled) but losing Dominic has put a hole in the bottom of it (the bucket never gets full anymore).

It’s not that we don’t appreciate and enjoy happy moments.  We do.

We love seeing our children, we like to celebrate their accomplishments and sing, “Happy Birthday!”.

We are so very proud of who they are and what they have overcome.

We savor the time we get to spend together, we enjoy eating and laughing and sharing experiences.

But we can’t plug the leak of loss that saps our strength and reduces the fullness of our joy.

Hope postponed grieves the heart; but when a dream comes true, life is full and sweet.

Proverbs 13:12 VOICE

Lest anyone think I’ve forgotten that Jesus promises joy to those who follow Him, I haven’t.

But I also know many promises will not be completely realized until He returns as King on Earth.

lion-and-lamb-best-friends-fahad-photographer

 

The lion will lie down with the lamb, but not today.

Swords will be beaten into ploughshares, but not just yet.

 

There will be no more night, but the sun still sets once every 24 hours.

rev 22_5

I am looking forward to the moment when every single thing I now believe in faith will be plain to every eye.

I can’t wait to see the redemption of not only my pain, but ALL pain.

I long for the morning when JOY is all I will know.

In that day the New Jerusalem shall descend and there will be no need for the sun or moon, because the LORD Himself will be the light.

All the way around shall be eighteen thousand cubits; and the name of the city from that day shall be: THE LORD IS THERE.

Ezekiel 48:35 NKJV

 

Unhealthy Denial

Ignoring pain doesn’t make it go away.

The world we live in is a broken place where bad things happen and life can be hard.

Sometimes believers in Christ can convince themselves that admitting their world is dark with pain or suffering or questions diminishes the power of God–that it speaks ill of God or that it means God is insufficient to uphold us in our weakness.

If I pretend that I’m never afraid, or that I never experience darkness, I am denying others my aid.

Even worse, I may be shaming them to silence, sending the message that if they are experiencing pain, something is wrong with THEM.

God of the Day and God of the Night

 

Jehovah-Jireh: The LORD My Provider

The first time God reveals Himself as Jehovah-Jireh, The LORD Who Provides, is Genesis 22.

Abraham and Sarah have received their son of promise.  But God tests Abraham.asking him to sacrifice Isaac.

Abraham obeys in faith, trusting God even in this request that seems to undo every promise the LORD had previously made to him.

How would he be the father of many nations if his only son was taken from him?

As they were going, Isaac noticed something unusual, “See here is the fire and the wood but where is the lamb for the burnt sacrifice?”  (Genesis 22:7)

To which Abraham replied, “My son, God Himself will provide a lamb for the burnt offering.” (Genesis 2:8)

Jehovah-Jireh, the LORD My Provider was his answer.  

He couldn’t see the provision, there were no loud bleats in the distance, but Abraham knew the character of the God he served and he trusted that what he needed God would provide.

And God did provide.

Isaac, bound on the altar, Abraham’s (trembling?) hand raised, the Angel of the Lord calls to Abraham:

“Do not lay your hand on the boy or do anything to him, for now I know that you fear God, seeing you have not withheld your son, your only son, from Me.”

And Abraham lifted up his eyes and looked, and behold, behind him was a ram, caught in a thicket by his horns. And Abraham went and took the ram and offered it up as a burnt offering instead of his son.  So Abraham called the name of that place, “The Lord will provide” Genesis 22:12-14

I wasn’t asked to give up my son.

There was no miraculous intervention on that day.

No angel stayed the hand of circumstance that slew my child.  

But I do believe that even in the Valley of the Shadow of Death, the LORD is My Provider.

He provided His own Son, Who conquered sin and death and Who made a way through the Holy of Holies for my child to enter eternity straight into the arms of Jesus.  

I don’t have to fear that when Dominic left us, he was left alone.

I don’t have to worry that our seperation is forever.

I don’t have to wonder if he was “good enough” to get into heaven.  

I can trust in the character of my God, The LORD My Provider, that He has made full and adequate provision for me and for all those who trust in Him through Jesus to be redeemed and restored.

And He has provided friends and family and online communities and His Word to bring me comfort in the waiting.

He fills my heart with hope when my soul is weary.  

He grants peace when I am overcome with anxious thoughts.

He pours grace and mercy and love into the empty places so that being filled, I can overflow.

There are days when I wonder, days when I am afraid.  When those days come, I run to the tower of the Name of the LORD.  I remember that He is The LORD My Provider.

He has provided.  He does provide.  He will provide.  He IS His Name.

When struck by fear, I let go, depending securely upon You alone. Psalm 56:3 VOICE

Why Not?

I cannot bring Dominic back-I cannot have my child once again in my arms.  I cannot undo the damage death has wrought and the great gash loss has made in my heart.  

And so I am left with my pain and my questions.

“Why?” is not a particularly fruitful question (although I ask it still).

 “Why not?” is probably more helpful.

If I consider the lives of all the people God chose as examples of His faithfulness and grace there is not one who escapes heartache.

Not even one was allowed to walk this sod untouched by suffering that forced them to lean hard into the only Hope that lasts for eternity.

Adam and Eve reaped the consequences of their sin, were cast from the Garden and buried one son murdered by the other.

Noah watched the world descend into unbelievable wickedness around him and then witnessed the destruction of all flesh on earth.

Abraham left the familiar, trudged for years in a land promised but not given, had a son that he loved but had to send away because he was begotten outside the plan and will of God. He finally received the son of promise but was aked to sacrifice him.

He grew old without the blessing of possessing much of what God had promised him.

Jacob reaped the reward of his deception but lived a complicated and heartbreaking life.

Joseph enjoys a happy ending,  but it was a long lonely path that led him there.

David, Moses, Paul, the apostles, Elizabeth, Hannah, Mary, Esther, Ruth-all were called to walk in sorrow as vessels of God’s glory.

Only recently in human history have we been able, in small pockets of abundance, to mistakenly assume this mortal life is as wonderful (or, dare I say it?) MORE wonderful than the promised eternal life provided by God through the ultimate and complete suffering and sacrifice of Jesus.

I want victory without war.  

I want harvest without planting and working the fields.

I want to be happy and satisfied here yet still have a heart for heaven.

It is impossible to have both.

Only in light of eternity am I free to live a life set apart for God’s use in the here and now.

Only as a recipient of God’s grace can I be a conduit of that grace to others.

Only in deep sorrow can I find the true value of Christ’s promise that He will never leave me nor forsake me.

Only alone can I fully appreciate the gift of God’s constant companionship.

Only when I am truly hungry can I taste the bread that satisfies my soul.

Simon Peter answered, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You [alone] have the words of eternal life [you are our only hope].

John 6:68 AMP

It’s Complicated

One of the things I’ve been forced to embrace in the wake of child loss is that there are very few questions, experiences or feelings that are simple anymore.

“How many children do you have?”

A common, get-to-know-you question lobbed across tables, down pews and in the check-out line at the grocery store.  But for many bereaved parents, it can be a complex question that gets a different answer depending on who is asking and where we are.

I decided from the beginning that I would say, “four” in answer to that query.

But that doesn’t always get me off the hook.  A follow-up of, “Oh, what do they do?” means that I have to make a decision:  do I go down the line, including Dominic in any kind of detail or do I gloss over the fact that one of my children now lives in heaven?

I try to gauge whether or not the person is deeply interested or just being polite. No sense making them feel uncomfortable if they are really only making chitchat.

All of these calculations flash through my mind in an instant but they are distracting and draining.

“Want to go to a movie?”

Maybe.  

First I have to look up the plot (something I never did before because I didn’t want to ruin it).  I can’t be stuck in a dark theater in the middle of a row full of people with no way out if larger-than-life there will be anything that sends me back to Dominic’s accident.

Same standards for television shows or books-but it’s easier to turn those off or set them down.

Sitting in church can be excruciating.  

A hymn or chorus, a Bible text, a random statement from the pulpit-any or all of those things can lead my thoughts down a path that takes me to a dark place where sorrow is overwhelming.

No matter how much I long to listen and participate, I find myself literally biting my tongue so that I don’t burst into loud sobs.

It doesn’t happen every Sunday, but I never know when it might.

Social media is an emotional minefield.  

first world problems

 

I confess that in the first days after Dominic left us, I had to limit the posts that showed up in my Facebook newsfeed.  It was too difficult to see complaints about children growing up or graduating and how hard it was to “let them go”. I could not take whiny status updates that included having to wait in line for the new iPhone.

It’s easier now that my grief isn’t so raw but there are days…

Making a meal, I reach for his favorite ingredient or leave something out because “Dominic doesn’t like it that way” and then I remember he won’t be here to eat it.

waves of grief

 

Music can transport me to a moment of joy or pain with a single note.

Sometimes I walk in a store and smell coffee-he loved coffee-and I have to turn around and leave.  Other times the fragrance draws my mind to sweet memories of shared Starbucks runs for a caffeine infusion.

 

If you ask me to do something next week or next month, I might say, “yes” and then find on that day I just. can’t. go.  

I used to be a woman who lived by her calendar and commitments, but now I’m someone who never knows what a day will bring.

Learning to live with this changed me is an ongoing process and exhausting at times.

So much energy is used up negotiating what used to be simple things that there’s not enough left for pursuing new interests or delving deeper into old ones.

I’m trying to reach equilibrium.  

I long for a time when simple things are simple again.

But I don’t think it will be today.

courage doesn't always roar

 

 

 

 

Mother’s Day as a Bereaved Mother

In recent years I’ve noticed more awareness of how hard it can be for women who struggle with infertility to walk into church on Mother’s Day and I am glad.

Pews filled with other women’s children and bulletin announcements, public recognition of “oldest mother”, “youngest mother”, “mother with the most children” along with the obligatory sermon based on Proverbs 31 conspire in a litany of accusation against the barren womb.

Some of these women choose to stay home.  Others may be silently lifting a prayer for grace or may, like Hannah, be begging God for a child.

As a bereaved mother, this is a complicated holiday for me too.

I am so, so thankful for all my children.

I received each as a gift from God and treasure them in my heart.

Being a mother has been and continues to be the most demanding and most rewarding thing I have ever done or ever hope to do.

I used to look forward to Mother’s Day.

Not so much because it celebrated me as a mom, but because it was a moment to pause, reflect and remember how wonderful it is to be surrounded by my children.

But there’s no train from here to Heaven, no telephone line that can bridge the gap between where I am and where Dominic is.

I will never again be able to gather my children around our earthly table, see each of their faces, hug their necks.

So bear with me.

  • Let me be happy for the children I can see and sad for the one I can’t.
  • I might join in with singing, or I might just close my eyes and remember Sundays past when we were sitting in the same pew, together and strong.
  • If you see me rush out of the sanctuary at the end of service, please don’t stop me.  Let me go-I may have held back sobs during the closing prayer and need to escape and let them loose.

And if you think of me and other mothers who have buried children, pray for me and for them.

Pray that we finish strong, that we persevere and that we continue to cling to the One Who can carry us through the rest of our days with hope and courage.

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing [through the experience of your faith] that by the power of the Holy Spirit you will abound in hope and overflow with confidence in His promises.

Romans 15:13 AMP

 

 

 

Learning to Grieve With Hope

One of the things I am learning in this journey of child loss is that while I can work hard to frame my experience through the Truth of Scripture, I cannot deny my feelings.

I cling to and copy down and recite Bible verses on a daily basis.  I feed my heart and soul and spirit with heavenly manna and trust that it will sustain me.

But if I ignore or distract myself from acknowledging the feelings raging within me, I am only delaying an inevitable confrontation-they will not be put aside forever.

Paul didn’t say, “don’t grieve”.  He said, “grieve with hope”.

Hope gives me something to hold onto. Hope gives me courage to keep going.  Hope grants me vision so I can look forward to a time when pain will end.

But it does not end the pain.  It does not remove the ache of longing.  It does not erase the sorrow.

Read more:  Grieving With Hope

 

Extravagant Love-Tales of Friendship and Encouragement After Losing a Child: Loving Well Series

I asked other bereaved parents to share from their experience the things that were helpful and not so helpful to them after losing a child.  I was amazed by the answers!

What follows is a combination of their words and mine–blended together to help others in this journey.

If you are a bereaved parent, and have wanted to gently remind amily and friends what is helpful and what isn’t-sharing a post to Facebook can be a non-threatening way to let them know using someone else’s voice.

“When I asked other bereaved parents to share the things people did that blessed them in the wake of losing a child, I didn’t expect so many stories of extravagant love–of acts surpassing anything I could have thought of or imagined.”

Read the rest:  Extravagant Love: Tales of Friendship and Encouragement After Losing a Child

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.

There were many points in the story when things could have gone a different way:

  • When taken by the religious leaders-surely, they thought, He will explain Himself, they will let Him go.
  • When taken before Pilate-Rome will refuse to get involved with our spiritual squabbles, Pilate won’t authorize His death.
  • When presented to the crowd-no Jew would rather have a wicked murderer released instead of a humble, healing Rabbi.

At every turn, every expectation they had for a “happy ending” was dashed to the ground.

But here they were:  Jesus was dead.  His body was taken hurriedly to a tomb.  And they were hiding, praying-fearful they might be next.

There is a popular church saying:  “It’s Friday….but Sunday’s coming!”

Meant to be comforting and encouraging, it can also be confusing and condemning.

Because there are many people who will live their lives on this earth between Friday and Sunday.  They will live out their years, wondering just what Jesus is doing, why He didn’t act in ways they expected and exactly when they will receive the fullness of His promises for abundant life.

Here I am: my son is dead.  It is certainly not what I expected.  It’s not how I thought God would honor my prayers of safety and long life for my children.

Yes, I live on the other side of the Resurrection-I know the end of the disciples’ vigil-I am convinced of the empty tomb, the ascended Lord and my Great High Priest’s intercession at the right hand of the Father.

But what I long for I cannot hold.  What I hope for I cannot touch.  What I know to be true I cannot see.

I live in the space between “it looks like everything has gone horribly wrong” and “Hallelujah!”.

It is painful.  It is hard.  And it will last for a lifetime, not just a few days.

I am thankful for the resurrection, and I live each day longing for Christ’s return.  But my heart hurts in the meantime, my arms ache to hold the child I love.

So be patient with me if I  cry harder when singing the hymns of heaven.  And be gentle when reminding me of my hope in Christ.

I am living between pain and promise and waiting desperately for Sunday.

There is a nice symmetry in this: Death initially came by a man, and resurrection from death came by a man. Everybody dies in Adam; everybody comes alive in Christ. But we have to wait our turn: Christ is first, then those with him at his Coming, the grand consummation when, after crushing the opposition, he hands over his kingdom to God the Father. He won’t let up until the last enemy is down—and the very last enemy is death! As the psalmist said, “He laid them low, one and all; he walked all over them.” When Scripture says that “he walked all over them,” it’s obvious that he couldn’t at the same time be walked on. When everything and everyone is finally under God’s rule, the Son will step down, taking his place with everyone else, showing that God’s rule is absolutely comprehensive—a perfect ending!

I Corinthians 15:25-27 MSG