And If Not, He’s Still God.

It’s a hard, hard lesson to learn.

It’s even harder to carry it like a precious burden in the bosom of your heart.  

Because while it is oh, so true, it does not take away the pain when circumstances just don’t change no matter how hard you pray, how long you endure or how much you wish they would.  

God’s ways are not my ways.  His thoughts are not my thoughts.  He is not required to fit into whatever box I want to put Him in.

I came to child loss with what I thought was a pretty good understanding of Scripture, of theology and of Who God is.

What I realized was that no matter how much HEAD knowledge I had, it was only HEART knowledge that could sustain me in the Valley of the Shadow of Death.

He [Christ] said not, ‘Thou shalt not be tempested, thou shalt not be trevailed, thou shalt not be dis-eased,’ but He said, ‘Thou shalt not be overcome.

•Julian of Norwich•

Some people live lives that make sense.  They connect the dots-even of the hard and tragic things-into a picture that looks like something. They emerge from the ashes like a phoenix, wings outspread in victory and rising to new heights.

Not me.  

I can’t figure out what God is doing with my life. 

I don’t feel victorious. 

Mostly I feel tired. 

But I am absolutely convinced that God loves me and that He is doing SOMETHING.  What that is and how He is doing it are hidden from me.

I don’t understand.

I can’t trace His hand.

But I trust His heart.  

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•

 

gods stor doesnt end in ashes

 

Refuse to Cause Pain

I’m a kinder, gentler person than I was before Dominic ran ahead to Heaven.

It’s a high price to pay to learn to walk more grace-filled through this life.

I’ve come to find out that every heart has a story.  Every heart is carrying a burden.-perhaps not the same as mine, but a burden nonetheless.

And what causes the most pain in this life (next to the burden itself) is when another person runs over my heart without thinking about the burden it may hold inside.

So I have purposed not to do that to other people.

refuse to cause pain

I certainly forget sometimes-in the heat of a moment, in the rush of daily life, when driving behind a car that just won’t go any faster-but it’s becoming a habit more and more.

I try to look-really look-at the person in front of me to see what might be hiding behind her eyes.

Is she a young mom working a retail job and trying to make ends meet?  An older man still working because his Social Security check runs out before the month does?  A teen driver frightened to make that left hand turn across traffic?  Someone fighting addiction or just out of cancer treatment?  A heart that is lonely because she doesn’t have any close friends or a kind voice welcoming her home each day?

The list is endless.

I am committed to offering the tiny bit of life and light I can to each heart I meet.  And that’s how I think about them-as hearts inside fragile bodies-not as obstacles in the way of me accomplishing a task.

I will do my best not to cause pain.

It’s my daily offering.

It honors the price I’ve paid to learn this lesson.

It’s My Story and I’ll Cry If I Want To

I don’t cry nearly as much as I used to.

That kind of bothers me.

I don’t know if I’m just not as sad or if I’ve just used up most of my tears.

I think it’s a bit of both.

I DO still cry.  And I try hard to remember that I do not need to be ashamed of my tears.  I don’t need to apologize for them-even if they make some folks uncomfortable.

Because, gee whiz(!), if  YOU are uncomfortable watching me cry, how uncomfortable do you think I am that I risk crying in public?

Weeping is NOT something which Christians are not supposed to do or to feel. Hot tears sliding down our cheeks, salty in the corner of our lips, is not a wrong thing to feel as part of our experience of life. It is only when the final enemy is destroyed and the last victory is won that all tears are to be wiped away. Until then we are meant to weep with those who weep, as well as to rejoice with those who rejoice … It is God who will wipe away all tears.

~Edith Schaeffer, Affliction

Sometimes I wish I could cry more.  I wish I could still get the release that sobs secured early on in this journey.

Now the aching sorrow seeps deep into my bones and settles in the marrow only to be freed when my body joins Dominic’s in the ground.

The truth is, I still hurt.

The tears are always near the surface but I can’t always let them flow.

I need to cry. 

I need to bear witness to this ongoing grief and give vent to the deep pain that my heart carries every. single. day.

I find it remarkable that even though Jesus himself mourned with tears, many within the Christian community set their jaw in opposition to this practice of ‘godly mourning and weeping.’ In our culture, we seem to have lost the significant practice of mourning and weeping. This lack has taken a toll on us physically, emotionally, and spiritually … Waiting and weeping go hand-in-hand.
~Jan Frank, A Graceful Waiting

I’m waiting for the day my tears will be redeemed.  Waiting for the restoration of what the enemy has stolen.  Waiting for faith to become sight.  

Trusting.

Holding on.

Offering my tears as testimony to both my sorrow and my hope.  

God not only knows your tears, but He records them and retains them? Why? So that one day He may transform them into gems of joy and glory. No tears are ever wasted when you follow Him.

~Warren Wiersbe, With the Word

What is Suffering?

The slim little book, LAMENT FOR A SON, by Nicolas Wolterstorff was a lifeline for me in the first few weeks after Dominic ran ahead to heaven.

It wasn’t just because both of our young adult sons died in an accident.

It was mostly because Wolterstorff refused to distill the experience down to one-liners.  

He admitted that (even ten years later-which was the copy of the book I received) he was still struggling to make sense of all the feelings and spiritual implications of child loss.

And I love, love, love that he picks out every single thread and follows it as far as it goes.

Here is an excerpt on suffering:  

What is suffering? When something prized or loved is ripped away or never granted — work, someone loved, recognition of one’s dignity, life without physical pain — that is suffering.
Or rather, that is when suffering happens. What it IS, I do not know. For many days I had been reflecting on it. Then suddenly, as I watched the flicker of orange-pink evening light on almost still water, the thought overwhelmed me: I understand nothing of it. Of pain, yes: cut fingers, broken bones. Of sorrow and suffering, nothing at all. Suffering is a mystery as deep as any in our existence. It is not of course a mystery whose reality some doubt. Suffering keeps its face hid from each while making itself known to all.
We are one in suffering. Some are wealthy, some bright; some athletic, some admired. But we all suffer. For we all prize and love; and in this present existence of ours, prizing and loving yield suffering. Love in our world is suffering love. Some do not suffer much, though, for they do not love much. Suffering is for the loving. If I hadn’t loved him, there wouldn’t be this agony.


This, said Jesus, is the command of the Holy One: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ In commanding us to love, God invites us to suffer.


~Nicholas Wolterstorff, Lament for a Son

My heart receives two truths from his words: 

  • that if I love, I WILL suffer.  That’s the nature of love-risking all for the benefit of another means that my heart is ultimately in their hands; and
  • pain is part of but not all of suffering.  Pain can often be dulled, dealt with, the source remedied.  Suffering is a state of the heart, mind, soul and spirit.  It can rarely be undone.  It must simply be endured.  

Understanding that the only way I could never suffer would be to never love helped me embrace this blow with a willing heart.  Even if I had known it was coming, I would still have chosen to love my son.  All the years I had are worth all the years I will carry this burden.

ann voskamp love will always cost you grief

And understanding that there is no cure for suffering changes my perspective from looking for a way out to looking for a way to persevere.  

Nicholas Wolterstorff will never know my name but I will never forget his.

I am so grateful for Wolterstorff’s words.  

So thankful that he chose to share them with others.

Forever in his debt for being one of the first hands proffered to me on this journey.  

 

Repost: My Heart Hurts

Oh, how my heart hurts!

Deep down where no one can touch it-it aches for my missing child, the family I used to have, the lost opportunities, the missed moments.

And there is no cure.

Yes, there is  a Balm in Gilead-there is hope in the Person of Jesus Christ.

And it soothes the pain, takes the edge off, makes it bearable.

But it does not take it away.

Read the rest here:  My Heart Hurts

Love in Action: Some Things Hurt

Bereavement has not made me a perfectly compassionate person.  I still say the wrong thing, do the wrong thing and sometimes don’t do the right thing.

But it HAS made me more aware that what I do/don’t do/say/don’t say can either speak life or death to a struggling heart.

And I so want to speak life and courage to everyone I meet.

Before I lost Dominic, I know that I, like others who had never experienced the death of a child, undoubtedly said and did things that were hurtful instead of helpful.

I painfully remember sharing at a Thanksgiving women’s gathering and, meaning to encourage the ladies, said something like, “I think we are able to better face the big disappointments or trials in life, but find the daily drip, drip, drip of unfulfilled expectations to be a greater challenge.”  A bereaved mom in attendance set me straight (in a very kind and gracious manner!).

That exchange has come often to my mind in these months after burying my son. I wish I could go back and have a do-over.

Read the rest here:  Loving Well: Some Things Hurt

Repost: Sacred Spaces

I wrote this last year because I realized that even three years (now it is four) after my son’s sudden departure, I was absolutely unwilling to wipe away the evidence that he had once been here.

I could not (cannot) bring myself to put his cup in the cupboard or in a shadow box or on a high shelf like a museum piece testifying to a long ago personality that is interesting but hardly pertinent today.

Because Dominic is STILL part of my life.  Every. single. moment.

Just like my living children, his heart beats inside of mine.

Always.

That place where you hung your jacket, tossed your shoes, left your backpack-it’s still here.

Foolish, really, to hold space for someone who will never need it again.

But it belongs to YOU and leaving it bare means that it is still yours.

And it is- Still. Yours.

Read the rest here:  Sacred Spaces