Receiving Rest

It’s hard sometimes to admit that I’ve reached the end of my physical strength. 

I’m much more adept at finding the edges of my emotional limits.  I’m even half-way good at understanding that my brain just isn’t what it used to be.

But giving up on getting up?  That feels like defeat to me.

But it’s not.

I am a fragile human being and just like all human beings have limits.  My body can only take so much.  If I push too far past the boundary of exhaustion it will take more than rest to bring it back to working order.

tired

So today, after six weeks of stress, mental strain and travel, I’m resting.

Not just sitting down for a few minutes between chores but curling up with a book and glass of tea and not moving all day.

rest renew and reconnect

At least that’s my plan.

We’ll see how it goes.

I really need to rest.

I hope I can.

we all need a break ordained sabbath

Grief Groups and Echo Chambers

I belong to several online bereaved parents’ groups and they are truly a lifeline in so many ways.

I can speak my mind there without fear of rejection or correction or of hurting my non-bereaved friends and family.  I learn from other parents farther along in this journey how they cope with birthdays, anniversaries, holidays and every day grief triggers.

Sadly, there are new members added daily.  New parents are forced to join this “club” where the dues are higher than anyone would willingly pay.

I am horrified by how quickly the numbers jump week-to-week and month-to-month.

And usually the parent (when they are ready) will share a bit about the child that has run ahead and the circumstances of his or her death.  It’s an important part of learning to live with this pain-learning to speak your story.

But when too many of the seasoned parents are silent and my newsfeed explodes with stories of newly bereaved parents, my heart can easily be ovewhelmed by the desperation, sadness and utter despair that swamps a parent’s heart when they first find out their child is not coming home again.

Then the sites turn into echo chambers where sadness calls to sadness, circles back around and calls again.  Despair is everywhere and there appears no way forward.

what is an echo chamber

Bitterness weaves a black thread through post after post after post:

No one understands,

everyone has abandoned me,

I am unloved, alone and hopeless.

That’s precisely how I felt in those early months and it is an appropriate response to the awful devastation of out-of-order death.

But if I’m to survive this life I didn’t choose, then I’ve got to also have a healthy dose of hope.

hope holds a breaking heart togetherSo I limit my exposure to the echo chamber from time to time, especially if I’m feeling weak and vulnerable.  I might take a week’s break to let my heart recover a bit and then go back with fresh vigor, ready to participate, encourage others and be encouraged.

Life after child loss is a marathon, not a sprint.

I have to pace myself if I’m going to make it to the finish line.

Sometimes that means taking a break and sitting on the sidelines.

let-yourself-rest

 

The Inestimable Value of Rest

It’s not the same as just doing nothing.

Sitting still doesn’t guarantee that the mind remains quiet or the spirit settled.

I know, because sometimes I’ve been forced to stay perched in a chair like a toddler in time out and it was not restful.

At.

All.

But the other day I did spend time in my favorite rocking chair, cozied up to a heating pad with my cat companion

and wrote

and wrote

and wrote.

It was wonderful! And it restored my soul.

I haven’t enjoyed something like that in several months.  Things to do had crowded my schedule, places to go and people to see or talk to had used up nearly every waking moment.

I let rest-genuine, soul-restoring rest-be pushed aside in hopes of making progress on a never-ending list of necessary tasks.

What I failed to take into account was that the more weary I became, the less effective my efforts and the less enthusiastic my attitude-not to mention my rebellious body!

I don’t know why I push harder when I shouldn’t be pushing at all.  Because when I don’t build rest into my schedule, I’m sorely tempted to give up and give in-every little thing becomes a struggle!

The most productive people know when to take a break.  The highest yielding fields remain untilled from time to time.  

Life is hard and if I’m going to make it on this long and laborious journey, I’ve got to learn to take my own best advice:

take-rest-by-ovid

 

Eye On The Prize

“To win the contest you must deny yourselves many things that would keep you from doing your best. An athlete goes to all this trouble just to win a blue ribbon or a silver cup, but we do it for a heavenly reward that never disappears.” [emphasis added]

~ I Corinthians 9:25 TLB

I remember one particularly grueling semester in college.  I had foolishly stacked five upper level political science classes on top of one another thinking that taking them together would be easier.

That was a dumb idea.

The end of semester assignments included 200 pages of written term papers along with essay tests and other random bits.  For two weeks I fell asleep on my bedroom floor, pen in hand, legal pad underneath my head and surrounded by dozens of open books I used for reference.

After composing the papers, I had to type them, add footnotes and bibliography and deliver them. All back before computers and word processing programs made it easy and electronic!

Oh, how I wanted to give up and give in!  I was certain that I was not going to make it.  I just knew that my body or mind or both would give out before I completed the task.

But they didn’t and I did manage to make it through.

I was willing to put forth the effort and pay the price for a letter grade!

No one cares what I made on those essays.  No one asks me about my college classes or grades.  At 53 I can’t even remember what I wrote about.

Now I face a much more challenging task:  Living without the companionship of one of my precious children.  The “grade” I make on this effort has eternal impact.  

This is the Valley of Weeping, yet Christ promises it will become a place of refreshing.

“When they walk through the Valley of Weeping, it will become a place of springs where pools of blessing and refreshment collect after rains!”

Psalm 84:6 TLB

I can’t see an end for this grueling work.  There’s no “semester break” circled on my calendar.

But there will be an end to this toil and pain-just as surely as there was an end those many years ago.

“As for us, we have this large crowd of witnesses around us. So then, let us rid ourselves of everything that gets in the way, and of the sin which holds on to us so tightly, and let us run with determination the race that lies before us. Let us keep our eyes fixed on Jesus, on whom our faith depends from beginning to end. He did not give up because of the cross! On the contrary, because of the joy that was waiting for him, he thought nothing of the disgrace of dying on the cross, and he is now seated at the right side of God’s throne.” [emphasis added]

~Hebrews 12: 1-2 GNT

And the reward for faithfully completing this assignment is so much more valuable than a good grade.

“Yet, my brothers, I do not consider myself to have “arrived”, spiritually, nor do I consider myself already perfect. But I keep going on, grasping ever more firmly that purpose for which Christ grasped me. My brothers, I do not consider myself to have fully grasped it even now. But I do concentrate on this: I leave the past behind and with hands outstretched to whatever lies ahead I go straight for the goal—my reward the honour of being called by God in Christ.”  [emphasis added]

~Philippians 3:12-16 PHILLIPS

This reward is eternal-a never-ending supply of God’s grace and love and joy that will overwhelm the toil and pain I’ve endured.

Reunion.

Redemption.

Restoration.

gods stor doesnt end in ashes

So while I wait, I encourage my heart with these truths:

“Even more, I consider everything to be nothing compared to knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. To know him is worth much more than anything else. Because of him I have lost everything. But I consider all of it to be garbage so I can know Christ better.” [emphasis added]

~Philippians 3:8 NIRV

“We are cracked and chipped from our afflictions on all sides, but we are not crushed by them. We are bewildered at times, but we do not give in to despair. We are persecuted, but we have not been abandoned. We have been knocked down, but we are not destroyed. 10 We always carry around in our bodies the reality of the brutal death and suffering of Jesus. As a result, His resurrection life rises and reveals its wondrous power in our bodies as well. 11 For while we live, we are constantly handed over to death on account of Jesus so that His life may be revealed even in our mortal bodies of flesh.” [emphasis added]

~ 2 Corinthians 4:8-11 VOICE

“And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” ~Jesus

~Matthew 28:20b NKJV

i-am-with-you-always

He Will Hold Me Fast

 

I’ve mentioned it before.

I’ve encouraged others not to resist.

But I want to be absolutely clear:  Losing my son made me doubt EVERYTHING.

I grew up going to church, listening to Bible stories, hearing “God is in control”, “Jesus loves me”, “prayer moves mountains” and  (even though it isn’t true) being “good” gets rewarded.

The prerequisite, of course, was receiving Christ, being “saved”, trusting Jesus.

I did that when I was eight years old.

And I leaned in and studied Scripture, fashioning my life around the Holy Word.  My home rested firmly on the solid rock foundation of belief in Jesus and the sovereignty and sufficiency of God.

For heaven’s sake!  I spent twenty years homeschooling my kids!  We might skip a math lesson but we never missed a chance to note how biblical principles and biblical truth informed our worldview and guided our choices.

I know, I know, I know that I don’t deserve special treatment.  I know that God does not promise to exempt any person from hurt and heartache as long as we walk this earth.

But somewhere I got mixed up.  

Somehow I thought that if I did all the right things, made all the necessary personal sacrifices, read the right books, walked the right path, my heart might be spared.

I was, oh, so wrong.

So when I had to bury my perfectly healthy, vibrant, brilliant, loving son who was here-one-moment-gone-the-next, I had to take a little while to decide how much of what I used to believe I could still believe.

I had to pull out all the verses, all the suppositions, all the theological arguments upon which my faith had rested and test them against my new reality.

Is God sovereign?  Does He have control?

I decided that He is and does.

Based on His Word and my own life experience, I am convinced that God is in control.

But His control does not routinely override the laws of physics He has put in place to rule the world.  His control does not always spare someone the natural consequences of choices made by free will.  His control does not always supersede the sinful brokenness that abounds on this earth.

So, here I am.  Left with absolute rock solid faith in the few, most important things upon which my hope can rest.

Christ died.

Christ rose.

Christ will come again.

Death is conquered.

Heaven is sure.

Redemption has been paid for and restoration will be complete.

I know by painful experience that His ways are not my ways and His thoughts are not my thoughts.  

my-thoughts-are-higher

I do not understand everything.  

But I cling to what I can understand.

Doubt is not sin.  I don’t try to talk myself out of it anymore.

Because the One Who made me holds me fast.

Those He saves are His delight
Christ will hold me fast
Precious in His holy sight
He will hold me fast
He’ll not let my soul be lost
His promises shall last
Bought by Him at such a cost
He will hold me fast

~He Will Hold Me Fast, Getty Music

 

 

 

 

Worship as Warfare

After [Jehoshaphat] had advised the people, he appointed people to sing to the LORD and praise him for the beauty of his holiness. As they went in front of the troops, they sang, “Thank the LORD because his mercy endures forever!”

2 Chronicles 20:21 GWT

Image result for image music and worship

 

I love worship music.

My heart is transported from here to there in a single note.

 

In a moment, I am before the Throne, inside the Holy of Holies, crying out for more, more, more of Jesus.

Worship makes me vulnerable to the Spirit’s deep work in my heart-I hear truth, I see beyond the pain and I feel God’s love.

But it also makes me a target for the enemy of my soul.

Yesterday I plugged in Pandora to my stereo and was lifted higher, higher until… in a breath I was brought low.

Leaning over to raise the volume of a favorite song I came eye-to-eye with my missing son.

The photo we chose for his memorial folder is hanging with his siblings’ on my living room wall.

And I was transported from here to there in a heartbeat-

from almost two and a half years past that awful day to the moment I first breathed in the truth that he was gone.

Image result for image tears

 

I covered my eyes with both hands and refused the whispers of darkness.

The tears fell and my heart hurt, but I hissed back, “He’s not dead.  He’s just not here!”

 

 

And I cranked the Truth up higher and dared the devil to come back.

I raised my hands and chose to worship the One Who is loving my son until I get there, Who loves me even in my brokenness and Who will redeem this pain and restore what the enemy has stolen.

I took out my sword and declared  “He is a Good, Good Father.”

Image result for image he is a good good father

The Cup of Sorrow

See, here’s the thing: to the outside world, my son’s death happened at a single point in time.

But to me, his death is a continuous event.

I must lift the cup of sorrow every day to parched lips.  I must choose to take it to the One Who can help me lift it.

Jesus knows this cup.

He knows my pain:  My Cup Overflows