Advent for the Brokenhearted: By the Holy Spirit

The birth of Jesus took place like this. His mother, Mary, was engaged to be married to Joseph. Before they came to the marriage bed, Joseph discovered she was pregnant. (It was by the Holy Spirit, but he didn’t know that.) Joseph, chagrined but noble, determined to take care of things quietly so Mary would not be disgraced.

While he was trying to figure a way out, he had a dream. God’s angel spoke in the dream: “Joseph, son of David, don’t hesitate to get married. Mary’s pregnancy is Spirit-conceived. God’s Holy Spirit has made her pregnant. She will bring a son to birth, and when she does, you, Joseph, will name him Jesus—‘God saves’—because he will save his people from their sins.” This would bring the prophet’s embryonic sermon to full term:

Watch for this—a virgin will get pregnant and bear a son;
They will name him Immanuel (Hebrew for “God is with us”).

 

Then Joseph woke up. He did exactly what God’s angel commanded in the dream: He married Mary. But he did not consummate the marriage until she had the baby. He named the baby Jesus.

Matthew 1:18-25 MSG

I’m not the first person on the planet God has asked to walk into the future without understanding exactly what the plan is. 

When Joseph found out his bride-to-be was pregnant, of course he suspected that she had cheated on him.  That’s how babies are made, isn’t it???

Yet he was noble and kind and hesitated to expose her to public ridicule, or worse (the Old Testament penalty was death) so he waited a bit, deciding what to do.

As he waited, God spoke to Joseph’s heart, assuring him that this was no natural conception and that Mary had done nothing wrong.

God also gave Joseph a commission:  to raise His son as his own.  

Joseph received this word and did as God commanded.   

Now God hasn’t spoken to me in a dream, or in clouds across the sky or from the mouth of a donkey or any other supernatural phenomena.

BUT He has spoken to me by His written Word.  

It is plain to anyone with eyes to see that at the present time all created life groans in a sort of universal travail. And it is plain, too, that we who have a foretaste of the Spirit are in a state of painful tension, while we wait for that redemption of our bodies which will mean that at last we have realised our full sonship in him. We were saved by this hope, but in our moments of impatience let us remember that hope always means waiting for something that we haven’t yet got. But if we hope for something we cannot see, then we must settle down to wait for it in patience.

Romans 8:24-27 PHILLIPS

It’s hard when life seems to be going terribly, terribly wrong to trust.  

It’s understandable to look at what I can see and assume that is all there is. 

But I don’t want to do that. 

I can choose, like Joseph, to embrace the command to wait, to be patient, to step confidently in the direction of tomorrow because He is already there.

I want to stretch my faith-receiving God’s promises, holding onto them, and walking boldly into the future trusting they will be fulfilled.  

he is faithful who has promised

 

 

No Contest: There’s Enough Heartache to Go Around

I may get jeered by my fellow bereaved parents but I’m committed to honesty so here it is: there is no hierarchy of grief and loss.

Now, am I saying that losing a dog is the same as burying a child?  Absolutely not!  I’ve written about that here.

But what I am saying is that grief, sorrow, loss and heartbreak comes to us in all shapes and sizes.  And what may be small to me may be huge to someone else.

In the past weeks I’ve been exposed to a number of people who were waiting for those magic minutes of visitation allowed for intensive care units.

Each one had a story.  

Each one had a cross to bear and a complicated life they were trying to maintain outside the additional stress and strain of a loved one hooked up to tubes and heart monitors.

None of them revealed (to me at least) that they were bereaved parents.

But I could clearly see pain, sorrow, grief and weariness etched in their furrowed brows. I could hear exhaustion in their voices as they placed phone call after phone call to update people that wanted to know how things were going but couldn’t make it to the hospital.  I noticed hope spring to life in each heart when the clock ticked toward the assigned visitation window and how they leaned forward willing those last seconds to fly by faster.

heart and wood

I knew they were hurting.  It didn’t matter if they hurt as much or less than me. There’s enough pain to go around in this life.

It isn’t a contest.

And I realized that because of my great grief and sorrow, I had a gift to share.  I could reach out and take a hand, listen to a story, hug a weary shoulder empathetically, gently and without judgement.

I understand the weight of hard things.

I know by experience that life can change in a single breath.  I carry both the ongoing burden of missing my son and the traumatic memory of life changed instantly by a knock on the door.   It’s made me stronger in ways I would not have chosen.

I will not squander that strength.

I will put my shoulder to the harness alongside my fellow humans and offer to help carry some of their burden.  I will extend my hand to the stumbling, strengthen the heart of the hurting and offer a listening ear to the one who has no one to talk to.

yoke-of-oxen

I cannot undo what I know.  I cannot undo what has brought them here or may take them to places THEY don’t want to go.

But I can be present.

I can refuse to turn away because I think their grief is small in comparison to my own.   

I can choose love.  

hands-passing-heart

 

Fifth Sunday Singings and a Mama’s Broken Heart

Fifth Sunday Singings are a tradition down South.

We gather in the evening or afternoon every time there is a fifth Sunday in a month and sing, sing, sing.

Sometimes there are featured groups but often it’s just the faithful few who enjoy picking favorite hymns that might not get much air time on Sunday mornings.

Inevitably the hymns that are chosen most often include a verse or two about “when the roll is called up yonder” or “the streets of gold” or “amazing grace”.  Because almost all of us have a hymn etched on our hearts during a time of trial or sorrow or deep suffering.

And it’s the promise that God is faithful, His word is true and this life is not all there is that gets us through.

But for this mama’s broken heart, a few choruses in and I’m in tears.  

While I am thankful, thankful, thankful that I know I will see my son again, these hymns remind me that a lifetime may lie between here and there.

The waiting is hard.  

waiting with hope water

 

 

Repost: Life at the Intersection of Desire and Self-Control

Maybe you can relate:  It is easier to do without if what I want isn’t close enough to tempt me. 

I don’t shop if I don’t want to spend.  I don’t get donuts if I don’t want to eat sugar.  I don’t have soda in the house if I don’t want to drink carbonated soft drinks.

It’s much harder to deny my desires when what I long for is within reach.

Read the rest here:  Life at the Intersection of Desire and Self-Control

Waiting With Hope

Oh, we mamas are experts at waiting.

We wait for nine months to hold that little person growing inside us.  We wait for them to learn to crawl, walk, talk and read.  And then we wait to pick them up at school, for piano and dance lessons to be over and ball practice to end.

As long as our children are with us, we are always waiting for something.

We never expect to be waiting to join them in heaven.  

But some of us are. 

And this waiting is real hard-not like the other times when I knew about when the waiting would end.  Even though it was sometimes tiresome, lessons and practice wouldn’t last much longer than the appointed time.

missing from my world

I guess I believe there is an appointed time for this waiting to end as well.

I do believe that God has my life in His hands.  When my work here is through, He will call me home, just as He called Dominic.

Trouble is, I can’t find a clock that tells that time.  I can’t look at a calendar and know for certain THIS will be the day.

calendar

And not knowing how LONG I have to hold on is a huge part of what makes it

so.

very.

hard.

Sometimes I want to give up.  Sometimes I want to let go of hope and dive into despair.  

Some days I am afraid I can’t keep on keeping on.  

Not. one. more. step.

But God has promised to meet me even here.  

His Word tells me that there is a reward for those who wait with hope, who trust even when it seems foolish and who lean in even when they would rather run away.  

But the eyes of the Lord are on those who fear him,
    on those whose hope is in his unfailing love,
     to deliver them from death
    and keep them alive in famine.

    We wait in hope for the Lord;
    he is our help and our shield.
     In him our hearts rejoice,
    for we trust in his holy name.
    May your unfailing love be with us, Lord,
    even as we put our hope in you.

Psalm 33:18-22 NIV

The Amplified Bible renders that last verse like this:  “Let Your mercy and loving-kindness, O Lord, be upon us, in proportion to our waiting and hoping for You.”

In proportion to my waiting and hoping, God will fill my hurting heart with HIS mercy and loving-kindness.  

He will strengthen me regardless of how many days I must walk in this waiting.

If I hold onto the hope I have in Christ, He promises not to let go of the other end.  

hope holds a breaking heart together

 

 

Not Ashamed to Wait

“Those who wait for Me with hope will not be put to shame.”

Isaiah 49:23c NLV

We love stories of overcomers.  We invite testimonies that end in victory.

We applaud members of the Body who have a “before” and “after” tale of how Jesus plus willpower took them from the dust of defeat to the pinnacle of spiritual success.

But we hide the strugglers and stragglers in the back pews.

If suffering lingers long, whether or not it is in the hands of the one who suffers to do anything about it, we cringe and pull back and hope they go away.

We don’t offer them the pulpit or the Sunday School hour to speak of how Christ continues to be the hope to which they cling.

Because deep down, we think there must be something wrong with them, something wrong with their brand or quality or strength of faith.  If they only got it “right”, they too, would have the victory.

We would rather shush the suffering than face the tension between God’s goodness and His sovereignty.

We shame them to silence by implying they have nothing to share until they are able to wrap their story with a perfect spiritual bow.

We add insult to injury when their need for help exceeds the allotted three weeks or six months or whatever arbitrary deadline we impose on the prayer list and our patience.

But maybe what God has for me and others who suffer long is not a victorious tag line that can be slapped on a photo or shared on social media.  

Maybe it’s only in the continued press of suffering that God reveals Himself in ways the non-suffering never see.

Maybe a dash to declare victory is actually rushing past what God has for us in deep pain and ongoing struggle.

Maybe waiting in hopeful expectation for what God is doing and will do in me and through me IS the victory.

We wait for Yahweh;
He is our help and shield.
For our hearts rejoice in Him
because we trust in His holy name.
May Your faithful love rest on us, Yahweh,
for we put our hope in You.

Psalm 33:20-22 HCSB