Advent: The Light That Bursts Through Gloom

In our modern age of light switches and street lights it’s hard to imagine a world where the tiniest candle flame could lead a body to safety.

But for most of human history that was how people lived.

It’s how some still live.

So when John described Jesus as the “Light that bursts through gloom-the Light that darkness could not diminish” (John 1: 5 TPT) he’s really saying something.

This isn’t a tiny candle or smoky oil lamp barely pushing back the edges of inky night.

Jesus is a spotlight dispelling not only the experience of darkness but the power of darkness!

And that’s only a fraction of the truth revealed in these five verses.

In the very beginning the Living Expression was already there.

And the Living Expression was with God, yet fully God.

They were together-face-to-face, in the very beginning. And through his creative inspirations this Living Expression made all things, for nothing has existence apart from him!

Life came into being because of him, for his life is light for all humanity.

And this Living Expression is the Light that bursts through gloom-the Light that darkness could not diminish!

John 1: 1-5 TPT

Jesus is co-equal with God. He has existed for eternity past along with the Father. They were, and are, in perfect community.

Face-to-face, cooperating in speaking life and light into existence.

No thing and no one draws breath apart from Christ.

In Him we live and move and have our being. Acts 17:28 | Good morning  girls, Inspirational scripture, Morning girl

That is why my heart can rest secure in the promise that the resurrection is coming.

If Jesus breathed life once into my son, He will most certainly breathe life once again into his glorified body.

Image may contain: one or more people, text that says 'FOR He HAS RESCUED US FROM THE DOMINION OF DARKNESS AND BROUGHT US INTO THE KINGDOM OF The Son He Loves COLOSSIANS 1:13'

So when the darkness threatens to consume me I light a candle.

I watch the flame and listen for my Shepherd King’s voice singing hope over my soul.

QUESTIONS:

  • Do you have personal experience of being lost in the dark? How did you find your way to safety?
  • When have you felt soul darkness? Could you hear or feel the Lord reaching out and reaching down to lead you to the Light of His love?
  • Why is it important to know that Jesus is eternally co-existent with the Father?
  • Does the fact that Christ is the creative force of the Godhead give you confidence in His promise to redeem and restore what the enemy has stolen?
  • How does the fact that Jesus is the Eternal and Inextinguishable Light help your heart hold onto hope?

PRAYER:

Lord,

I live in a world of uncertainty and often great pain. It’s easy for my heart to sink into despair. It’s hard to hold onto hope.

In the natural it feels like darkness is winning.

But I know, deep in my soul, that Your Light will conquer the darkness. In Your Presence there is no night-only, always, glorious Day.

Help me lean into this truth and hold onto hope.

Let the light, love and life of Christ dwell in me richly and spill over into a lost and lonely world.

Amen

Tiny Flickers of Light


A fellow bereaved mom commented on my recent holiday post with this question: How do you make joy, when your heart has no joy?

It was a good and honest query. One that stopped me in my tracks.

Read the rest here: Flickers Of Light, Guiding My Heart Home

Many Kinds Of Grief: Eight Ways To Help Your Heart In Hard Times

Long time readers may have noticed that the past month there have been fewer original posts and more recycled ones.

I’m not sure precisely why, but it’s been a lot harder to put my thoughts and feelings into words than at any other time in this journey.

I’ve started and abandoned post after post. They languish in my “drafts” file and will, hopefully, eventually, be completed.

There’s just something about the rest of the world being forced to live in the no-man’s-land between what we used to take for granted and what we now have to face that makes it harder to talk about my personal experience.

Grief takes many forms and I believe the whole world is grieving now.

I can hear it. I can feel it.

All of us are facing (many for the first time!) the fact that control is largely an illusion. We climb into our vehicles and assume the person coming at us in the other lane will maintain their position but don’t know that he or she is distracted or medically impaired or drunk.

And then-BAM!-all bets are off. What we take for granted can change in an instant.

So I guess my challenge is in translating my particular grief into language others can understand and relate to.

For the first time I feel there’s a wider audience longing for the secret recipe to life after loss.

I know not every heart is suffering from physical loss of a loved one but I think there are some general principles I’ve learned that can help anyone who’s struggling to find a path through this difficult season:

  • Acknowledge what you’ve lost. It often helps to name what’s changed, what you miss, what you’ve had to give up. It may seem obvious but you might be surprised. When Dominic ran ahead to Heaven I knew I’d no longer have HIM. But what I didn’t realize at first was that I also lost the family I once knew (we were all changed), the me I used to be and the life I thought I’d have. There are Secondary Losses hidden inside every grieving heart.
  • Face your feelings. Consider journaling your thoughts. Often speaking or writing out a feeling is the first step to dealing with it. Grief isn’t just one feeling-although we tend to think of it that way. It’s A Tangled Ball of Emotions. I had no clue until it was me trying to unravel the strands and understand what to do with them. Emotions will leak out somewhere. Are you short-tempered and cranky? There’s probably something underneath those outward signs.
  • Think about your strengths and coping skills. What has helped you get through tough times in the past? How can you use the same set of skills or tools to tackle this challenge? Child loss is the greatest and most difficult thing I’ve ever faced. If you had asked me in the first five minutes if I’d survive I would have told you, “no way”. But I have. Largely by leaning into my faith in Christ (which I know not everyone shares) and depending on coping skills I learned over the years dealing with chronic illness and other hard things. What have you survived in the past? Use that to get through this.
  • Stay connected to the people who matter most to you. Social distancing is an unfortunate label for what is actually physical distancing. Social media, smartphones, Skype, Zoom meetings and other electronic means of connection are widely available and can help a heart stay in touch with friends and loved ones. When someone feels isolated he or she is much more apt to give up and give in. Humans were made for community. If you can’t be physically next to people, find another way to get close and stay in touch. It might well require more effort but it’s worth it.
  • Make a new routine. It’s not just babies that thrive on schedules. We all need a semblance of control and normalcy. Eat at regular times. Set up a work station/school station if the virus is keeping you at home. If possible, make sure each day includes some physical activity and outdoor air. Exercise, hobbies, family story time or shared movies are all things that could be included. Try to go to bed and get up at about the same time each day. For several months after Dominic left us, I wrote each day’s plan on an index card. When I found myself at loose ends, sitting staring into space and sinking into despair, I consulted my card. I moved on to the next thing and eventually found I’d made it through yet another day.
  • Limit your media diet. Let’s face it-most of us are easily drawn into an “us vs. them” mentality. And once we begin to think in those terms it’s harder and harder to see beauty in the world. It’s one thing to remain informed and it’s another to be absorbed by all the things over which we have no control. Focus on smaller things-friends, family and community. That’s where a heart can make a difference.
  • Practice discernment and draw a line between what is inconvenient and what is truly tragic. Lots of things can FEEL like the end of the world but very few things actually ARE. Life has changed dramatically but it’s still life. Work and school look different. Masks are uncomfortable. Celebrations might be virtual. Shopping without trying on clothes is a hassle. But none of those things equate to death or loss of income or being unable to visit an elder in a nursing home. There are absolutely, positively tragic aspects to this experience and (sadly) one or more of them may visit your family. But unless and until they do, save your energy in fretting over (relatively) minor inconveniences.
  • Remember that there are more chapters to your story. All of us have dark pages in the books of our lives. Some of us have several chapters’ worth. But as long as there is life, there is hope. My family HAS survived child loss/sibling loss. We are different, we are wounded, but we have survived. Some of the things we have learned are truly beautiful (although we wouldn’t have chosen to learn them this way). If you listen and pay attention, you will learn things too.

Truth is, grief can drag you down so low you don’t remember which way is up, much less how to get there. No one knows that better than a bereaved parent.

Still, there are things you can do even there that will help your heart hold onto hope.

Where there is hope there is light.

And light will always, always chase away the shadows.

Compassionate Companionship Is A Gift

Walking beside a hurting heart is hard.

Especially for “fixers”.

We want to DO something, to effect change, to “solve the problem”, to make things better.

But there are circumstances in life that cannot be fixed, changed or solved.

Child loss is one of them.

Those suffering under the load of pain and sorrow, devastation, heartbreak and brokenness that enter a heart when a child leaves this earth need compassionate companionship, not advice.

Image may contain: text that says 'WHEN SOMEONE IS BROKEN, DON'T TRY TO FIX THEM. (You can't.) WHEN SOMEONE IS HURTING, DON'T @abeautfullyburdenedlife ATTEMPT TO TAKE AWAY THEIR PAIN. (You can't.) INSTEAD, LOVE THEM BY WALKING BESIDE THEM IN THE HURT. (You can.) BECAUSE SOMETIMES WHAT PEOPLE NEED IS SIMPLY TO KNOW THEY AREN'T ALONE. © A BEAUTIFULLY BURDENED LIFE'

That might mean you have to bite your tongue. It might mean you have to sit silent as tears roll down or sobs wrack your friend’s body. It might mean that you have to refrain from making comparisons between their grief and your own (whatever that might be).

It most certainly means that you should keep reaching out, reaching across the divide that separates the bereaved from the non-bereaved, and put your own ego aside when it seems like all the effort you are making isn’t making a difference.

It takes lots and lots of time and lots and lots of work for a heart to even begin to heal from deep grief.

EARL GROLLMAN QUOTE – Grief Poetry

Your constant and unwavering support can provide the space and grace that enables someone to do that.

Don’t give up on your brokenhearted friend.

Encouragement can make the difference between giving up or going on.

Your compassionate companionship can offer hope and light in a hopeless and very dark place.

Image may contain: text that says 'When you re carrying this huge load of sorrou and you look up, and you see someone who is shedding tears that they are so identifying with your loss that they are in a sense carrying some of the load of sorrow for you that's an incredible gift to give to someone who's grieving. NANCY GUTHRIE RAW GRIEF REAL HOPE'

Why I Need To Tell His Story & Why I Need Someone To Listen

Every time I tell the story of Dominic, it helps to keep him real.

It reminds my heart that he lived, that he mattered, that he matters still.

And in the telling, I am giving away a little bit of him for another heart to carry. 

His light is passed to another soul that can pass it to another and another.

Read the rest here: Why We Have to Tell Our Stories & Why We Need Someone to Listen

T.H.I.N.K. Before You Speak, Post, Message or Meme

I first shared this post a couple years ago when social media turned really mean and family dinner tables were transformed from generational bonding experiences into hate-filled battlegrounds.

I am saddened that this crisis and upcoming election has once again made us forgetful that our words matter. How I express my opinion matters.

There are real people attached to our Twitter feeds, Facebook profiles and Instagram followers.

There may be some mamas that don’t drill this into their children but if there are, they don’t live south of the Mason-Dixon line.

Every time there was back and forth in the back seat or on the front porch and Mama overheard, we were told, “If you can’t say anything nice, then don’t say anything at all.”

Read the rest here: If You Can’t Say Anything Nice….

Here’s To You, Friends !

I have many friends who have chosen to get up when they could have stayed down, who have chosen love when they could have become heartless and who still smile even when life isn’t easy.

I love you. 

Image may contain: possible text that says 'Here's to all the people who get back up more times than they are Knocked down, who give more than they ever expect to receive, who still show love to others, even when their own heart is broken, who smile through the sad times, who light the way for others, who spread laughter and joy. Thank you for making the world a better place.'

Moms and Dads, this one’s for you.

For not giving up or giving in.

For refusing to become bitter and jaded and instead choosing to be love and light. 

Repost: In Love’s Service Only Wounded Soldiers Will Do

I wrote this last year around this time. I was planning my daughter’s wedding and coming off an extremely stress-filled and difficult year.

Little did I know more wounding was in store.

And now we find ourselves collectively fearful of an invisible enemy. We are holding our breath, waiting to see what the worst will be.

In this hour of need, we wounded soldiers have something to offer our frightened friends and neighbors. Suffering well gives us authority to offer true compassion and genuine love.

Let’s be the light.

❤ Melanie

So often we hide our wounds.

Sometimes it’s because others have shamed us into covering up.  Sometimes it’s because our hearts have been stomped on by folks who might mean well but really don’t understand what it’s like to live every day with a messy and unfinished story.

But there’s no shame in being broken. 

Read the rest here: https://thelifeididntchoose.com/2019/03/27/in-loves-service-only-wounded-soldiers-will-do/

Surprised By Sunshine

The chair I sit in to write faces east and I can see the sky lighten every early morning through my big picture window.

I love greeting a new day, watching the world wake up, hearing the birds twitter around my home scooping up random bits of grain and cat food left behind by the outside animals.

And for a period of about two weeks, twice a year, I love something else-the rising sun is positioned in the perfect spot to cast it’s first golden glow above the trees squarely in my face as I sit here pecking away at the keyboard.

I could move out of the glaring light and continue my work.

But I don’t.

Instead I pause and turn my face toward the sun, soaking up every bit of warmth and light and feeling the energy flow from it to me for as long as it lasts.

And then it moves on.

Doing the work sun does for the whole earth-providing warmth and light for every living thing.

Grief can feel like one long dark night. It can wrap itself so tightly around a heart that no light penetrates the heavy cloak of sadness.

Then one day, one moment, one tiny heartbeat, the sun of gladness or laughter or sweet memory or act of kindness will be positioned just so and make it through.

Don’t move out of the glaring light of hope.

Turn your face and heart toward the gift and bask in its warmth. Let the energy of an extended hand, a thoughtful word, a precious bit of joy energize you.

It will move on and sadness will once again be your close companion.

But if you let it, the hope planted by the light will grow.

It will strengthen you for the journey.

It will sing courage over your heart and remind you in those darkest moments that night doesn’t last forever.

The sun will shine again.

Worldwide Candle Lighting Memorial Service: Sunday, December 8, 2019

I love candles-always have.

I especially love them as the days get shorter and we creep toward the longest night of the year.

I love them more since Dominic ran ahead to Heaven.

Every time I light a candle, I remind my heart that even the smallest light can chase the darkness.

When hundreds, thousands and even millions of candles are lighted together, it does more than chases darkness, it undoes it.

This Sunday, December 8, 2019 is the Worldwide Candle Lighting Memorial Service (WCL) sponsored by The Compassionate Friends (TCF).

Image result for worldwide candle lighting day 2019

Millions of parents and others will light a candle at 7:00 PM local time for one hour to honor sons, daughters, brothers, sisters and grandchildren gone too soon.

As the earth turns, a wave of light will sweep across the globe one time zone after another.

It’s natural for parents, grandparents, sisters and brothers to mark the light and life of one they miss.

It’s less natural for friends and extended family members to do so.

One of the greatest fears of every bereaved parent is that his or her child will cease to be remembered or that the light and life of a son or daughter will simply fade as time goes on.

Year-end holidays accentuate the place where our children should be but aren’t. Merry making and picture taking emphasize the gap between grieving hearts and those untouched by death of a close loved one.

That’s why TCF has chosen THIS week for the annual WCL.

If you want a simple way to bless someone you know who lost a child, grandchild or sibling, a single candle and a quick picture or post on social media will do it.

My heart is always encouraged and strengthened when others take time to remember Dominic.

Buy a candle.

Set an alarm on your phone.

Light up the night with us.

Together we will remember. Together we will chase the darkness. Together we will declare that our children are out of reach but not forgotten.

Never, ever forgotten. ❤