You are a Treasure

Grief has challenged every single thing I believed about God and about myself.

It made me doubt whether He is a loving Father, whether He keeps His promises, whether He even cares one whit about all us little humans running around on planet Earth.

And it made me wonder what in the world is wrong with me that MY child was killed?  What had I done to deserve this?

Grief tells lies.  

And one of the biggest lies grief whispers is, “You are worthless.”

That is simply not true.

Even if you weren’t treasured by your earthly parents, the God of the universe treasures you, and His thoughts about you are always good. He chose you when He planned creation (Ephesians 1:11-12), and you are not a mistake (Psalm 71:6), and His thoughts toward you are countless – like the grains of sand on the shore (Psalm 139:17-18). You are really, truly, deeply loved by God.

~Esther Fleece, No More Faking Fine

I don’t know your story but I can promise you this: God isn’t finished with you yet.

IMG_5324

I believe that each one of us is celebrated as a unique creation of our Father.

That goes for our children, but also for us.

I have no idea why God’s plan includes me outliving my child but He has a purpose that is yet unfulfilled for my life.

What happens TO us doesn’t determine our worth-not even the awful and heart shattering experience of child loss.

You are loved by a Heavenly Father Who has a plan for your life.

He can bring beauty from ashes, even the ashes of child loss.

You are not alone-you have a community of bereaved parents who will listen, love and lift you.

Lean in and hold onto hope. Don’t let go.

I’m praying for you.

beauty from ashes clothespin

 

 

Though the Mountains Fall

I spent my teen years living in a suburb of Denver where the mountains marked west and you didn’t need a compass or GPS to get around.

Man and woman mountain biking, Dolomites, Italy

It never occurred to me that the mountains might crumble or that I might wake one morning to find them somewhere else.  

They were steady, sure and absolutely dependable.  

When I moved to Pittsburgh and was forced to navigate without mountains to guide me, I found it easy to get lost (and I got lost a LOT in the first few months!).

The landmarks I had depended on were gone.  

That’s what it felt like when I received the awful news. 

In the first shock of death everything that has seemed most dependable had given way. Mountains were falling, the earth was reeling. In such a time it is a profound comfort to know that although all things seem to be shaken, one thing is not: God is not shaken … the thing that is most important is to do what the psalmist does later, to be ‘still’ and know that God is God. God is God whether we recognize it or not. But it comforts us and infuses strength into our faltering spirits to rest on that truth.

~Elisabeth Elliot

The earth beneath me gave way.  I was falling. 

But God…

When my heart was shattered, my hope hanging on by a thread, the Spirit of God brought truth to mind and gave me the strength to hold on.

though the mountains

I trust God’s Word and His character, even when I don’t understand what He is doing.  

His faithful love endures forever. 

I can depend on that.  

No matter what.  

Sterkte: The Empowering Strength of God in Me

Yesterday was four years since the day we buried Dominic.  I can barely comprehend it. It’s a terrible thing for a mama’s heart to watch the seasons change and think, “I need to change the flowers on Dominic’s grave.”

But I do it.

It’s one of the last things I can do for this child of my heart.

Sterkte. 

I didn’t even know this word when we buried Dominic.  

But I wish I had.  

Because “sterkte” expresses precisely the supernatural strength and courage that filled my heart, mind and body as I stood for the hours of visitation, sang the worship songs, listened to friends, family and our shepherd/pastor give a message and invitation to a packed sanctuary, then filed out ahead of my son’s casket.

Sterkte literally translates “strength” or “power” but culturally means much more.

It means bravery, strength, fortitude and endurance in the face of fear and insurmountable odds through the empowering strength of God in me.

The morning of Dominic’s funeral-nine long days after his accident-I posted this on Facebook:

“Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the LORD, I will be joyful in God my Savior.” 
~Habakkuk 3: 17-18

dom on mountaintop

Years before, in another dry but hardly tragic season, God had imprinted those verses on my heart.  Even if-even if- there was no way through but through, I was determined to trust God and to lean in and hold onto hope.  

I had no idea how that choice would be tested in the coming days, weeks, months. 

I had no idea that even now, four years later, I would have to hold on just as hard, wake each morning and make that choice once again, refuse the whispers of the enemy of my soul that spread seeds of doubt and confusion.

But in my own strength, all the determination in the world would be for nothing. 

I am not strong enough or brave enough to stand.  

It’s sterkte that held me up that day four years ago when my son’s body was lowered into the ground and dirt shoveled on top.  It’s sterkte that keeps me upright today when tsunami waves of grief still wash over me and sobs escape.  It’s sterkte that gives me strength to hold onto hope and lean into truth and keep marching bravely into a future that may yet hold more heartache.

Habakkuk committed to praise God no matter what happened.  

He understood sterkte.  It was his lifeline. 

After his declaration of purpose, he gives the reason why: 

The Lord God is my Strength, my personal bravery, and my invincible army; He makes my feet like hinds’ feet and will make me to walk [not to stand still in terror, but to walk] and make [spiritual] progress upon my high places [of trouble, suffering, or responsibility]!

~Habakkuk 3:19

The Lord God is my Strength.

The Lord God is my personal bravery.

The Lord God is my invincible army. 

He is the reason I’m still standing.

melanie feet crocs and driveway step

Saturday

For decades I looked forward to Saturdays.

When I was a child it meant a day off school and an opportunity for freedom.  Many Saturdays were spent playing outside or riding along with my dad to the hardware store to pick up needed items for a home project.

snoopy saturday

A little older and I used up my Saturday at the horse barn.  Mucking stalls, riding a little and hanging out with sawdust and hay and sweaty animals and people.

Older still and Saturdays meant date nights.  Squeezing in fun between long days in a college classroom and part time work were what Saturdays were made for.  Catching a movie, going dancing or taking a ride in the country were favorite past times.

Then came children and for awhile Saturdays represented the only time I was not solely responsible for four little lives.  The only day I might get a chance to take a bath without small heads peeking around the doorway with some “emergency”.

Later, as they grew, Saturdays were spent at basketball games where three boys played on three different teams and it took all morning and into early afternoon for everyone to finish up.  Sack lunches were the order of the day as we cheered and waited, waited and cheered.  We went home exhausted and managed a little yard work before hitting the bed.

saturday you are my favorite

Children grow into adulthood and Saturdays continued to reflect changing needs, priorities and schedules but almost always meant some family time despite the many responsibilities of each of us.  We managed to squeeze in family work days, family fun days, family trips, family movie nights.  It was beautiful.

And then came one Saturday.

A Saturday I’d like to forget if it didn’t mean forgetting Dominic.

Now Saturday is a reminder of the doorbell,

of the news,

of the horror,

of the disbelief.  

In some ways it is fitting that my heart is brought back around to this pain every Saturday because as a believer in Jesus, every Sunday is meant to recall the resurrection of Christ.  

So EVERY weekend, not only THIS one during Holy Week, my heart replays the sequence of sadness turned to joy.

The difference is that I still wait for the fullness of my promised joy.  But I’m holding on with both hands to that hope.  I’m digging in my heels and refusing to be dragged away from the hem of His garment.

He is faithful Who promised.  

 

He will redeem.  

He will restore.  

His resurrection proves it.  

wait patiently for gods promises

 

 

 

 

Flying Lessons

My dad is a pilot and flight instructor.  

He’s flown everything from a single engine private plane to a fighter jet in all kinds of weather-good and bad.

When I was a little girl, he’d take me with him sometimes while he gave a flight lesson.  If he was teaching instrument flying, the student would wear a hood that restricted his vision to just the plane’s instrument panel.

No external visual cues allowed.

student pilot instrument hood

The test came when the student’s senses told him something different than the instruments were telling him-would he give in to what he thought was true but couldn’t validate OR would he rely on the trusty instruments that had proven faithful?

Some students just could not let go of their feelings and never did gain their instrument flight rating.

airplane-instrument-training

Some learned (even when it went against everything they were feeling) to lean on the absolutely reliable instruments to guide them safely to their destination.

These years since Dominic ran ahead to heaven feel like instrument flying.

clouds

I’m in the clouds.

The landmarks I’ve used for navigation all my life are obscured and sometimes I can’t even tell if I’m upside down or right side up. I don’t know if I’m going fast enough to stay in the air or if I’m about to stall.  I’m tempted to use my feelings to determine true north and to decide on a course of action.

But I know if I do, I’m likely to crash.

If I ignore the trustworthy and unchangeable truth of God’s Word, I will find myself headed exactly opposite of where I want to go.

If I refuse to listen to good counsel-people I can trust and who are in a position to see my blind spots-then I cannot correct my path.

When a student decided not to pay attention to the instruments, my dad was right there to take over and get them safely back on the ground.  

But for this flight I’m on my own.  If I decide to trust my untrustworthy feelings, there’s no one to rescue me.  

I have to make a choice.  

I have to learn to acknowledge but not trust the feelings that would send me spiraling downward and reach for the truth that can help me steady my flight.

I have got to plot my course based on absolute, reliable Truth.  

The pilots that learn to fly in heavy clouds often still feel frightened.  They sometimes still feel confused and disoriented.

But they have learned that it’s possible to feel those things and not act on them. 

I am learning that too. 

hold-the-truth

To Him Who Overcomes: Promises I Can Count On

Some days I wake up and question EVERYTHING.  

Have I allowed myself to be tricked into believing a fairy tale in hopes that it will ease my earthly pain?

Is God Who He says He is?  Will He do what He says He will do?  How can I be certain?

And then I turn again to the Truth. 

Have you ever noticed how focusing your mind on the Word quiets your spirit? In that peaceful silence, faith dissolves fear. God’s revelations about Himself in the Bible—namely, that He is good, sovereign, and our loving Father—have a way of sharpening our perception about whatever we’re facing We can see the true nature of a matter and it is not bigger than our God. As a result, we cast off the staggering weight of our burdens and instead grow a deep-rooted confidence in the goodness and sovereignty of God. My friends, that is the definition of courage.

– Charles Stanley

 

I take hold of the promises in Scripture.  I recite the faithfulness of my Heavenly Father to myself and others in my family and countless generations before me.

I ask His Spirit to bear witness to mine that He can be trusted. 

He does.

i believe

And then He strengthens me for the journey, giving me what I need to endure.  

  • “The one who conquers through faithfulness even unto death will escape the second death.” ~Revelation 2:11b VOICE
  • “To him that overcometh will I give to eat of the hidden manna, and will give him a white stone, and in the stone a new name written, which no man knoweth saving he that receiveth it.” ~Revelation 2: 17b, c KJV
  •  “And he that overcomes, and he that keeps unto the end my works, to him will I give authority over the nations, and he shall shepherd them with an iron rod; as vessels of pottery are they broken in pieces, as I also have received from my Father; and I will give to him the morning star.” ~Revelation 2: 26-28 DARBY
  • “He who overcomes will thus be clothed in white garments; and I will not erase his name from the book of life, and I will confess his name before My Father and before His angels.” `Revelation 3:5 NASB
  • “He that overcomes I will make a pillar in the temple of my God, and he shall go out no more, and I will write upon him the name of my God, and the name of the city of my God which is the new Jerusalem, which comes down out of heaven from and with my God, and I will write upon him my new name.”~Revelation 3:12 JUB
  • “He who overcomes [the world through believing that Jesus is the Son of God], I will grant to him [the privilege] to sit beside Me on My throne, as I also overcame and sat down beside My Father on His throne.” ~Revelation 3:21 AMP

to him who overcomes

“Don’t let this throw you. You trust God, don’t you? Trust me. There is plenty of room for you in my Father’s home. If that weren’t so, would I have told you that I’m on my way to get a room ready for you? And if I’m on my way to get your room ready, I’ll come back and get you so you can live where I live. And you already know the road I’m taking.”

~ Jesus (John 14:1-4 MSG)

in my fathers house are many mansions

 “See, I come quickly! I carry my reward with me, and repay every man according to his deeds. I am Alpha and Omega, the first and the last, the Beginning and the End. Happy are those who wash their robes, for they have the right to the tree of life and the freedom of the gates of the city.”

The Spirit and the bride say, “Come!”

Let everyone who hears this also say, “Come!”

Let the thirsty man come, and let everyone who wishes take the water of life as a gift.

He, who is witness to all this, says, “Yes, I am coming very quickly!”

“Amen, come Lord Jesus!”

Revelation 22: 12-14, 17, 20  PHILLIPS

the spirit and the bride say come

 

 

 

Where Are All the Pieces?

If you’ve ever dropped a treasured china cup, you will know exactly what I’m talking about.

broken china

Finding the bigger chunks is easy.  But as you begin to put them in place thinking, “Oh, I can glue this back good as new”, you realize that tiny slivers necessary to make it whole are missing.

And you can look as hard as you want to, but you’ll never, ever find them.

Hearts are like that.

shattered_glass_heart_by_piggilovex3-d4qmv2p

When a heart breaks, the pieces are scattered everywhere.

It’s pretty simple to locate the larger bits-although putting them back in place is much harder than gluing together a fractured cup.

But those tiny bits elude me.

At almost four years I’ve had lots and lots of time to sort through what happened-at least in an intellectual way.

But what surprises me every time, no matter how often I pick through the debris like an archaeologist, is that I cannot find all the pieces.  

I have hunted hardest for the pieces to the faith I knew before my world was torn asunder.

I can’t find even a vague semblance of that old feeling that used to be my bosom buddy-that the blessing and favor of the Lord was resting on my family’s shoulders.  I can’t reclaim the confidence that I had at least a rough idea of how God works in the world.

I don’t feel as if God has abandoned me-but I do feel as if He’s pushed me in a corner.

And what I have to do now (have had to do all along) is decide: 

Do I trust even when I cannot see how it all fits together or do I abandon my faith?

I have decided to hold on. 

I have decided that it was foolish for me to think I could comprehend God in the first place.  My experience hasn’t changed HIM, it’s changed ME.

lord to whom shall we go

It revealed a flaw in my logic.  It gave me a glimpse into the vast chasm between what I thought I knew and what I actually knew.

There are so many things that cannot be known.  I have no idea why I once thought that number small.

Is this frightening?  Yes. 

But it is also helpful. 

As long as I’m looking for answers to every question, I will remain unsatisfied and unsettled until I find them. Understanding that I CANNOT “know it all” frees me to lean into my faith.

When Jesus was about to leave His disciples, He gave them this assurance: 

“I’ve told you all this so that trusting me, you will be unshakable and assured, deeply at peace. In this godless world you will continue to experience difficulties. But take heart! I’ve conquered the world.”

John 16:33 MSG

Unshakable and assured. 

Wounded yet walking. 

Fearful but faith-filled.  

hard pressed but not destroyed