On Suffering and Redemption

If there is anywhere on earth a lover of God who is always kept safe, I know nothing of it, for it was not shown to me. But this was shown: that in falling and rising again we are always kept in that same precious love.

~Julian of Norwich

Truth is this life is not easy.

There is joy. 

Absolutely amazing awe-inspiring, breath-taking joy.

But there is also suffering. 

Utterly devastating, heart-breaking suffering.

Mark then, Christian, Jesus does not suffer so as to exclude your suffering. He bears a cross, not that you may escape it, but that you may endure it. Christ exempts you from sin, but not from sorrow. Remember that, and expect to suffer.

~C. H. Spurgeon, Morning and Morning

When I ponder the pain of child loss, it helps to remember that Jesus suffered too.

Not just at the end, when He allowed evil men to crucify Him, but throughout His life when friends abandoned Him, people tried to kill Him, religious leaders mocked Him and sought to destroy His reputation and work.

It helps me to know that my wounds and scars, like His, will be transformed from evidence of pain and loss into a testimony of grace and redemption.  

The cross is both the symbol of our salvation and the pattern of our lives. Everything that happened to Christ in some way happens to us. When darkness envelops us and we are deaf to everything except the shriek of our own pain, it helps to know that the Father is tracing in us the image of his Son, that the signature of Jesus is being stamped on our souls. For Jesus, the darkness of night gave way to the light of morning.

~Brennan Manning, The Signature of Jesus

When Thomas doubted, Jesus didn’t perform another miracle or call down angels from Heaven to testify on His behalf.  He said, “Here, touch my wounds.”  

I don’t know what that felt like for Thomas, but it was the only proof he needed to believe.

And while Christ accommodated Thomas, He spoke a special blessing on those who would not have such proof.  

blessed are those who believe without seeing

I have doubts some days too.  

There are moments when suffering washes over me like a flood and I am swept under with the tide.  

It’s then I cling tenaciously to the promise that my wounds, like Christ’s, will one day not only be proof of pain but also evidence of God’s redemptive power. 

Could it be that God will wipe the tears from our eyes, but not from our memories, that the renewed experience of the glorified saint will be to recall those sadnesses with the transforming joy which God’s presence and God’s disclosed providence will bring? Surely part of our praise in heaven will not merely be that we are now saved, but that we have been saved, that the very title of being those who have conquered means that our memory of victory will include a transformed awareness of what the whole battle meant.

What a difference this could make to my suffering. The scars I bear in my body, my mind, my soul, the adversities and setbacks, the pains that may yet await me before I get to heaven, the relational wounds, the memories from which I struggle to recover, the darkness of doubt and the battles with unbelief, will not necessarily be removed when I get to heaven, but they will be redeemed, they will be transformed by the long view that being perfected in the presence of my perfect God will bring. What an experience it will be to probe the scars, but to no longer feel their pain – to see them as contour lines of God’s grace by which I ascended into glory. What could it mean for my wounds to sing his praise, for my scars to record his perfections, for my memory of old pains to be set in the context of a new and never failing joy. That makes suffering sufferable now, and glory all the more glorious then.

~Andrew Roycroft, Thinking Pastorally blog, 6.23.19

 

 

Repost: My Cup Overflows

You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.

~Psalm 23:5b

I remember standing in our field with my husband at sundown one day, thankfulness and grace and mercy and wonder flooding my heart-and I whispered, “surely my cup overflows!”

Surely, God’s hand is in this, is on our lives-He has brought us to this place of blessing.

And that’s how I used to always think of that verse-the cup overflowing with goodness and blessing.

But what about when the cup overflows with sorrow?  

Read the rest here:  My Cup Overflows

Walk Gently Among Your Fellow Humans

One of the most interesting (and best) pieces of advice on relationships I ever read was this:  Imagine the person with whom you contend as an infant or a very elderly individual.  

Try it. 

Pick someone who rubs you the wrong way every which way to Sunday and think about him or her as a tiny baby or a frail and feeble grandparent. 

I’ll wait.  

Did you feel some of the hostility melt away when the image of your “thorn in the flesh” as a helpless human came into focus?

It works every time for me.  It doesn’t mean that I won’t have to address any underlying issues between me and whoever.  But it does tame the mean and vengeful out of me.

It makes me tender when I talk to a friend or family member about a testy topic.  It helps me be kind to the cashier who has picked now to count out her drawer just as it’s my turn after I’ve been waiting in a long line.  It moderates my reaction from road rage to a more appropriate and safe, “Oh, well!” when cut off in traffic.

It makes it easier for me to be gentle. 

Gentle:  1. having or showing a mild, kind or tender, temperament or character; 2.  moderate in action, effect or degree; not harsh or severe.

~Google Dictionary

Truth is we are surrounded every day by people who are one unkind word away from falling apart.  We drive down the highway with strangers whose lives are filled with pain.  We work and eat and worship and play with folks who carry wounds we know nothing about.

walk gently tree bark

I don’t have to understand everything about someone to appreciate that there is more than meets the eye.  All of us have scars and secrets, stress and strain, unmet needs and unseen struggles. 

So I try to give the benefit of the doubt, assume the best, extend grace, be humble, choose love.  

I want to walk gently among my fellow humans.  

At minimum I hope to do no harm.  At best I hope to encourage another heart to hang on and keep trying.  Most of the time I probably fall somewhere in between.  

be soft

 

 

 

 

Messed Up. Again.

I’m not sure when I’ll get the hang of this life after loss.  

Five years is long enough to have completed a college degree, so you’d think it would be long enough to explore the edges of how to walk in the world without my son, without the family I used to have, without the confidence I once enjoyed that “every little thing was gonna be alright”.  

But it’s not.  

I’m still feeling my way in the dark much of the time. 

man in woods with glowing light

 

New challenges greet me and I have to navigate them with the profoundly changed “me” that I neither understand nor like.

I make mistakes. 

I get upset and I upset others. 

If I didn’t believe that there was a Day when all this would be redeemed, I would just give up. 

But I DO believe that.  

It doesn’t take the pain away.  It doesn’t soften the feeling of failure when my sorrow stops me being what others need me to be.  It doesn’t blow soft breezes across my weary soul.

faith is not an epidural

It gives me focus and a goal.  It gets me out of bed so I persevere.  It helps my heart hold on and not give in to despair.

Today is not a good day.  

Tomorrow doesn’t look good either.  

But one day-

One. Glorious. Day.

there will be a day blue and pink jeremy camp

 

Meltdown

One of the blessings (although I didn’t realize it at the time) of the early days of this journey was the immediacy of my response to triggers.

Something would upset me and I would react right away.

Nearly five years in and I’ve developed such excellent coping skills that I am rarely caught off guard, cry in public or respond dramatically regardless of what happens.

So this past couple weeks of on again/off again stress has been met, for the most part, with a calm demeanor and a “can do” attitude.

But it caught up to me last night.

All the pent-up, piled-up stress and grief poured out of my heart and dripped down my face.

I had a good, old-fashioned meltdown.  

meltdown

Smack dab in the middle of overwhelming thankfulness that my grandson is doing well, my heart reminded me that Dominic is not here the enjoy it.  I remembered that Ryker will grow up and never see Dom’s amazing dexterity on the drums or hear his witty remarks or be caught up in his powerful hands and held overhead until he squeals to be released.

And I realized once again that while I love, love, love the blessings God sends my way, there’s no cosmic scale where those blessings eventually counter-balance the desperate longing I have for my son.  

balance_scale-300x225

I have so appreciated the messages from other bereaved parents who “get it”.  They know that I am absolutely overjoyed my son and his wife are spared the horror of child loss.  But they also know that my mama heart still yearns for my own son even while rejoicing in the birth of theirs.

I’ll be OK.  

A few tears, a quiet evening, reflection on truth and my heart will manage to find a way.  

just because no tears doesnt mean heart doesnt hurt

 

 

Falling Down and Getting Up Again

I hate that question that every doctor’s office asks now, “Have you had any falls in the past twelve months?”

I always say, “no” even though that’s rarely true.  

Because I know what they are looking for is evidence of disease that might be impacting balance and I’m perfectly free of that so I don’t want to place a red flag in my medical chart.

But I fall down pretty regularly.  Mostly because I trip over something as I’m walking from one animal enclosure to another, hands full of buckets and mind somewhere else.

The other day was one of those moments.  

I was done feeding our beagles, headed back to the house when my feet found a random piece of looped wire on the ground.  (I still have no idea where it came from!)

There’s that split second when you know a fall is coming and your mind tries to figure out how to stop it even as your body is giving in to gravity.

Down I went!  Hard!  On my left knee and right wrist but sparing my head.  

It really, really hurt.  In fact, it hurt so badly that I simply rolled over and rocked back and forth for a second or two.

helpless turtle

Then I realized there was no help for it but to put weight on those knees and wrists and get up.  So I took a deep breath, counted to ten and pushed myself up.  I hobbled back into the house to survey the damage and put ice on my knee.

And I reminded myself once again that I can do things that are hard, that are painful and that seem impossible.  

strengh grows when you go on anyway

Life is full of falls-real ones that bang up body parts and figurative ones that wreak havoc with hearts.

They all hurt.  

When I find myself down and out I have a choice. 

I can sit in the pain and lie helpless and hopeless. 

Or I can take a deep breath, gather my courage and get up.  

Every time I choose courage, I build up my reserve and strengthen my resolve and make it more likely I’ll get up every time.  

fear is a reaction courage is a decision

 

Legacy of Love in Spite of Pain

It’s said that “Hurt people, hurt people”.  

And it’s true-often in my own pain I lash out and hurt others.  Partly because my pain is so huge and so real and so blinding that I don’t always see what I’m doing to others. 

But also, sometimes, (and I hate to admit it!) because misery loves company.  If I’M hurting then someone else better hurt too!

hurt people hurt people

That’s not the high road.  

And it’s not the road Jesus paved with His blood.  

I need to take my brokenness to Him.  Because truth told, He’s really the only one that can minister true healing. 

heals the broken hearted

When I use my pain-even the unfathomably great pain of child loss-as an excuse for bad behavior all I do is spread the hurt. 

It doesn’t take one bit of my own away.  

So I try to be more mindful of when discomfort authors my words and stop them before they pour from my mouth on some unsuspecting victim.  

I want my legacy to be love.  

It’s a daily choice.  

did I offer peace bowl brown