Help! I Need Somebody!

So, almost twenty years on a farm and I can NOT back a trailer.  Nope.  Can’t do it.

One day I spent hours trying to teach myself how to do it.  Never was able to do anything other than manage to jackknife the trailer, go unhook it and start over.

So when I go somewhere with a trailer I do one of two things:  (1) I find a space where I can drive in and be able to just make a loop or (2) I find the nearest person who CAN back a trailer, hand them my keys and ask them to do it.

I feel NO shame.

But that’s not the case with other things I can’t do.  So many times I try to avoid admitting that I am unable to meet certain people’s expectations or do certain things that I either used to be able to do or feel I SHOULD be able to do.

I think the reason I don’t mind outing myself on trailers is because that confession usually gets a laugh or a knowing look from the person who helps me or an admission from someone standing near at the feed store that they also have trouble backing up a trailer.

But when I say, “I just don’t think I’m up to teaching VBS” or “I’d love to come to that event but I’ve reached my social quota this week” or “I’m still struggling with driving by that spot or eating at that restaurant” it’s often met with (at best) a quizzical look or (at worst) a comment about how I should be “better” by now.

And then I DO feel shamed.  I feel like I don’t measure up, like I’m not as valuable as the next person or that I have failed some cosmic test.

shame-is-the-intensely-painful-feeling-we-are-unloveable-brene-brown

You know what though?  That’s a reflection on other people’s lack of compassion and experience or their personal insecurity NOT a reflection of my worth.

It is really just fine for me to admit my limitations because EVERYONE has limitations.

I can’t lift a 250 lb barbell.  But I can whip up dinner for fifty people.  I can’t read Chinese but I can read Dr. Seuss with an accent and hit all the rhymes on cue.  I can’t run a marathon but I can work all day without complaining (most of the time).

I’m human (surprise!).    So are you.

brene brown vulnerablity sounds like truth

I have some limitations as a result of burying a child. You may have limitations because of age or disease or something else I don’t know about or can’t see.

That’s OK.

Let’s make a pact:  I’ll take you as you are and you can take me as I am.  I’ll help you when you need help and you can help me when I need help.

We will extend grace and receive grace as needed to make life work.

Isn’t that really the essence of human community?

brene brown we dont have to do it alone

New Eyes for an Old Story

I’ve studied it many times over a lifetime-beginning with fun “coat of many colors” crafts in preschool and ending with an emphasis on remaining faithful in trials.

Joseph’s story is typically told from his point of view.  

But I’ve never considered it from Jacob’s perspective.  Until now.

Because on Jacob’s side of the door, Joseph was gone, gone, gone-beyond reach, out of sight,  nowhere to be found.

All the while Joseph was very much alive, God was working and Joseph would (ultimately) flourish and Jacob would (ultimately) be reunited with his son.

There was no way for Jacob to know this so, of course, he was heartbroken:

Then Jacob tore his clothes, put on sackcloth and mourned for his son many days. All his sons and daughters came to comfort him, but he refused to be comforted. “No,” he said, “I will continue to mourn until I join my son in the grave.” So his father wept for him.  Genesis 37:34-35

Jacob’s grief was real.  His loss was devastating.  His heart was shattered and there was no substitute for the son he was missing.

I understand that now.

I glossed over these verses in the past-rushing to the “happy ending” promised a few chapters later.

But Jacob didn’t have that option.

He was living these years-one day after another, one foot in front of another, one sunrise, one sunset-never knowing he was making his way toward reunion with a living son.

I share Jacob’s heartbreak.  

My son is out of reach, out of sight, unavailable to my arms and eyes.

But I have something Jacob didn’t have-I know the end of the story.  I have the Bible and it’s promise that this life is not all there is, that while this body dies, the soul lives on eternally.

And for those who choose Jesus, the soul lives for ever and ever with Him.  

Hallelujah!

While I too, mourn deeply for Dominic, there IS comfort.

I cannot ignore the pain of separation, but I will hold steadfast to the promise of reunion. I cry for what has been lost, but cry out for faith to cling to what will ever be.

This earthly journey is dark, but there is assurance that light will triumph.  

john-1-5

 

 

 

 

Bifurcate \ˈbī-(ˌ)fər-ˌkāt, bī-ˈfər-\

Bifurcate:  1. to cause to divide into two branches or parts; 2.  my life.

Before Dominic ran ahead to heaven I led a fairly unified life.  

Our family was unusually close, our goals closely aligned, we shared the same faith, had developed routines and even all liked creamy peanut butter.

That changed when Dom left us-suddenly I was forced to live with one foot HERE and one foot THERE.

I didn’t get to choose, it was decided for me.

Paul’s words took on new meaning and great relevance:

We know that if our earthly house—a mere tent that can easily be taken down—is destroyed, we will then live in an eternal home in the heavens, a building crafted by divine—not human—hands. Currently, in this tent of a house, we continue to groan and ache with a deep desire to be sheltered in our permanent home because then we will be truly clothed and comfortable, protected by a covering for our current nakedness. The fact is that in this tent we anxiously moan, fearing the naked truth of our reality. What we crave above all is to be clothed so that what is temporary and mortal can be wrapped completely in life. The One who has worked and tailored us for this is God Himself, who has gifted His Spirit to us as a pledge toward our permanent home.

2 Corinthians 5:1-5 VOICE

GroanYES!

Deep longing can only be expressed with low, gutteral sounds-there are no words!

I am in this earthly tent but want desperately to be free of it and clothed with the eternal-where joy unspeakable will reign and sorrow and death will be no more.

So this Lenten journey is helpful to me-it acknowledges the struggle between flesh and spirit.  It encourages my heart to walk by faith and not sight, to grab hold of that which counts forever and let go of that which is doomed for destruction.

The truth is, all of us who follow Jesus lead a bifurcated life.

It’s simply that some of us can ignore that truth.  Until death touches our bodies or our families, we can pretend that the earthly tent’s not so bad, that it might be somewhere we’d enjoy staying quite awhile.

I am not at all thankful for Dom’s death.  I will never be thankful my son left us in the prime of life, full of promise and without saying good-bye.

But I am thankful that I am unavoidably confronted with the truth that this life is fleeting, this world is only a moment and this body temporary housing for my eternal soul.

Paul goes on to write:

In light of this [our understanding that our life here is temporary], we live with a daring passion and know that our time spent in this body is also time we are not present with the Lord. The path we walk is charted by faith, not by what we see with our eyes. There is no doubt that we live with a daring passion, but in the end we prefer to be gone from this body so that we can be at home with the Lord. Ultimately it does not matter whether we are here or gone; our purpose stays fixed, and that is to please Him.

2 Corinthians 5: 6-9 VOICE

My eyes see one thing, but my heart knows another.

walk by faith feet on path

 

 

 

 

 

 

He Didn’t Have To Do It

Invincible made vulnerable,

Lord made lowly,

Not above me

Not below me

Beside me-

EmmanuelGod With Us, God with ME.

Love took on flesh to walk among us barefoot over the broken shards that bruise our hearts and make our feet bleed.

He knows my pain

He knows my frame

He loves me.

He didn’t have to do it.  He could have decided that it wasn’t worth the cost. He could have wiped the slate clean and begun anew-He made the world the first time, He could have made it a second time just as easily.  

But the God of the universe chose-He CHOSE-to purchase the broken and battered, the weary and worn, the wounded and limping for His treasure.

He’s still here.  As near as your next breath.

Are you empty?

He will fill you.

Are you broken?

He promises to restore.

Are you weary?

He will give you rest.

Open your hands, open your heart and receive the Real Gift of Christmas.

christ-in-christmas

 

 

Bridle your Tongue

In this journey of loss I have been blessed and wounded by words.

I have been encouraged and disheartened by stray comments.  I’ve been thrown a lifeline and pushed under the raging waves of grief by friends, family and acquaintances who often had no clue they were doing either.

Our words matter. 

Our tongues have the power of life and death.

Whoever first wrote “Sticks and stones can break my bones, but words can never hurt me” was either in denial or lived a very sheltered life.

Please, for the love of love, think before you speak.

Choose to listen before you lob a response bomb across whatever divides your heart from another. Count to ten if you have to, take a deep breath, read and re-read your words before you press “post”.

And, if all else fails remember:  if you don’t have something nice to say, maybe it’s better not to say anything at all.

The one you think is invincible may be on the edge of crumbling.  The one you think is strong may be hanging by a thread.

We all make mistakes in all kinds of ways, but the man who can claim that he never says the wrong thing can consider himself perfect, for if he can control his tongue he can control every other part of his personality! Men control the movements of a large animal like the horse with a tiny bit placed in its mouth. Ships too, for all their size and the momentum they have with a strong wind behind them, are controlled by a very small rudder according to the course chosen by the helmsman. The human tongue is physically small, but what tremendous effects it can boast of! A whole forest can be set ablaze by a tiny spark of fire, and the tongue is as dangerous as any fire, with vast potentialities for evil. It can poison the whole body, it can make the whole of life a blazing hell.

James 2-6 PHILLIPS

Every person on this planet bears the image of the God who made him or her.  You can’t disrespect the person without also disrespecting the Lord.

tongue-has-no-bones

Confluence

Like most parents who have buried a child, a line is drawn through my life.

April 12, 2014 changed everything.

Whenever I hear a date or a memory drifts across my mind, I think, “that was so many days, months or years BEFORE or AFTER Dominic left us”.  I can plot events on a calendar like I’m making a history timeline.

Put this one here and that one there. It seems so simple and straightforward 

But daily life is much more complex.  

I live in a world where “before” and “after” run together in a mighty torrent.  And I can’t control the way they mix and churn.

river-rapids

These past few days I’ve been pet sitting for my eldest son, James Michael,  and my daughter-in-law while both are out of town for work training.

They just moved from North Carolina to Florida and are still unpacking.

packing-boxes

So while I’m here I’ve been helping to put things away and clear the boxes.  I decided that working in the office was a good place to start-I figured I couldn’t do much damage by putting books on shelves and pens in cups.

None of these things belonged to Dominic.

But as I opened the boxes I was flooded with memories.  

I found a scrapbook my daughter made for JM’s high school graduation-filled with photos of my three boys-years upon years of adventures, goofy faces, travel and achievement.

Another box held my son’s old Bible with a couple of church bulletins tucked inside.  I was tossed back to the time when we all sat in the same pew, strong voices blending in worship, hands together in service-when I could not have imagined we would be one less-I only dreamed then of adding to the family, not taking away.

There was the graduation program from Auburn School of Veterinary Medicine.

james-michael-grad-auburn

Just weeks after burying Dominic we were celebrating the culmination of four years’ hard work.  It was supposed to be a rip-roaring party, but it was a quiet dinner instead.  

And then onto the mementos marking James Michael’s transitions since then:  from single to married; from sheriff’s deputy to Air Force captain; from West Virginia to North Carolina to Florida.

All important events that were missing Dominic.

Celebrations and achievements that were a bit less because we are fewer.

Even as nostalgia swept over me, excitement also filled my heart because James Michael and his wife were beginning a new chapter.

I was happy to be helpful.  

Encouraged that I could be of use in this season where many times I feel useless.

And I thought about rivers-rivers of time, of memories, of experience and of dreams.

Confluence:   a coming or flowing together, meeting, or gathering at one point, especially of two rivers of equal strength.

This is where I find myself right now-swimming, drifting, sometimes drowning in the rivers

of “what was”

and “what is yet to be”

as they join in the “right now”.

 

 

 

It Takes a Lifetime

I was reminded once again this week how the events surrounding death and burial are inadequate indicators of the profound change that has taken place in the lives of those left behind.

Standing at the graveside of a precious friend’s father, I remembered watching Dominic’s earthly shell lowered beneath the ground.

I was wholly unprepared for the days and weeks and months that followed.

No one had told me it was only a beginningLoving Well: Transitioning From “Good-bye” to Grief