Birthday Musings

Today I turn fifty-five. 

Not old (not yet!) but hardly young.  

My body sometimes tells me I’m older than dirt while my mind plays tricks and lures me into all kinds of childish pursuits.  

Mornings I creak down the stairs, holding tightly to the handrail lest I step wrong and end up in a tumble at the bottom

Midday I’m out in the woods picking up interesting bits of nature that I bring inside and set on a shelf-I still ooh and aah over empty cicada shells and help stranded earthworms back into moist soil.

Mostly I kind of plod through time taking it moment by moment except when forced to look ahead and plan for the big things like (yay!) a wedding (my daughter!) and a grandchild (my son!).

brandon and fiona engagement

 

But some days I stop and take stock of the years gone by, the things I’ve done or not done and the things I wish were different.  

Birthdays tend to make me do that.  And since my birthday always falls near Thanksgiving, I usually add a list of things for which I’m grateful.  

I will always be glad that I chose to pour my life into my family.  All grown, we still weave our lives together across the miles and in spite of crazy schedules. I have never regretted for a single moment that the one great achievement that will outlive me is my children.

desimones uab family

Except for the one I have outlived.  And that is my heart’s greatest burden.  

dominic at olive garden

I am so thankful for a husband who has graciously provided for our family.  I never wrangled a moment over grocery money or necessary homeschooling supplies.  That is a gift! (And for his unending support for my crazy livestock lifestyle-here’s this year’s birthday present.)

golf cart and roses

I have the great privilege of the ongoing companionship of my own parents.  We talk every. single. day.  even though we are miles apart.  These last months of health struggles and Hurricane Michael destruction have forged new links in the chain of love and compassion that bind us to one another.

I have a close circle of “I’ll come over in the middle of the night if you need me” friends.  I remember being on the outside looking in for most of my high school years wondering if I would ever have a really, truly best friend.  In these years since Dominic ran ahead, God has given me one of the desires of my heart and blessed me with just that kind of friendship.

friends pick us up

I have a broader circle of parents that understand what it’s like to send a child ahead to Heaven.  They are a safe place to offload comments and questions that the rest of the world would neither appreciate nor comprehend.  So many have touched my heart with the right word at the right time.  I am overwhelmed by the compassion, grace and kindness of this community.

I write.  It helps my heart.  And the truly amazing and surprising thing is it seems to help a few other hearts too.  I am so thankful that three years ago I followed a prompting to compose that first timid and intimidating post.  Now I can’t imagine a morning where I don’t get up in the wee hours to peck away at the keyboard.

Five years ago I celebrated my fiftieth birthday with all my children, my husband, parents and a crowd of friends.

Tonight the celebration will be a little quieter but very precious.  

My fiftieth year was to be a jubilee of sorts-a culmination of so many dreams in our family and in my own life.  

Instead it was the year we buried Dominic, in addition to the beautiful things we looked forward to.

I’ve stopped making predictions about what a year will bring.  But I haven’t stopped looking forward to the good things I know are on the horizon.  

ultrasound 1 jm lillie

This year our family will grow again and that is a great blessing.  

So I wake and watch and wait.  

Happy Birthday to Me!

 

 

Plus Three

 

sunrise trees

Today I am 53born one day after the assasination of JFK.

I always thought that would be the most signifcant marker of my otherwise quiet life.

But it isn’t.

I wrote this post last year and it still speaks for my heart:  Jubilee

 

Beauty for Ashes

It crosses my mind sometimes.

And it’s a topic of conversation among bereaved mamas:

  • Why fight?
  • Why struggle on in this hard life without my beloved child?
  • Why keep on keeping on when I am so very tired?

There are lots of answers.

Some of us remain in the fight because we still have people depending on us-other children, aging parents, a spouse who is also grieving.

Others persevere because they want to honor their missing child’s memory and life and they do some big thing to commemorate him or her-fight for a cause, promote awareness, create a foundation.

Me-I hold onto the promise that in all this pain, all this sorrow, all this struggle-God is doing a work in me and through me for His glory.  

Before Dominic left us I knew only  a handful of bereaved mothers.

But each of these women had a sweet, gracious, patient, kindness that flowed out of them like water from a spring.

I saw one of them yesterday.

We hugged and exchanged knowing looks filled with deep love born from deep sorrow. She didn’t ask me about trivial things-because she knows there is really only one question that matters:

Am I continuing to lean on Jesus?

Is He enough?

Do I trust that God will redeem and restore?

Because in the end, the only thing that makes this struggle meaningful is the promise that one day, a never-ending, eternal day, God will bring beauty from the ashes of burying my child.

shofar jubilee

He will fulfill the promise of the everlasting Jubilee:

He wants me to help those in Zion who are filled with sorrow. I will put beautiful crowns on their heads in place of ashes. I will anoint them with olive oil to give them joy instead of sorrow. I will give them a spirit of praise in place of a spirit of sadness. They will be like oak trees that are strong and straight. The Lord himself will plant them in the land. That will show how glorious he is.

Isaiah 61:3 NIRV

 And I believe that God’s going to have show and tell.  He’s going to parade His persevering children to a wondering world at the end of the age.

Pottery

Maybe He’ll say something like, “See!  There’s My masterpiece!  There’s My love on display! The devil thought he had won, but he is wrong.  Eternally and undeniably wrong!”

For we are His workmanship [His own master work, a work of art], created in Christ Jesus [reborn from above—spiritually transformed, renewed, ready to be used] for good works, which God prepared [for us] beforehand [taking paths which He set], so that we would walk in them [living the good life which He prearranged and made ready for us].

Ephesians 2:10 AMP

I want to be pliable under the hand of the Potter-even though it hurts.

I’ll stay in the fire-even though it’s hot.

I’ll trust the One Who made and is making me.

Because the story God is writing for me and my family doesn’t end with ashes.

Image result for doesn't end in ashes

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