A Few of My Favorite Things

When I had a child, suddenly I cared about everything. When I lost a child, suddenly I cared about nothing.

~ a bereaved mother

When I read this comment, I thought about it for a moment to see if it was true for me.

And I realized that, yes, it WAS true at the very beginning.

Mind-numbing pain and soul-crushing agony pressed down so heavily that I couldn’t care about anything other than reminding myself to

Image result for image breath

In. 

Out.

Repeat.

A bit over twenty-eight months have passed and my body, mind and spirit are stronger.

The pain is still great, but I am better able to bear it now.  

My heart is bigger because I suffer and it is softer toward those who also suffer.

heart and wood

Trials make great room for consolation. There is nothing that makes man have a big heart like a great trial. I have found that those people who have no sympathy for their fellows, who never weep for the sorrows of others very seldom have any of their own. Great hearts could be made only by great troubles.

Charles Spurgeon

Now I care much more deeply about a few, select “things”.

The ones I can take with me into eternity:

People

And love

And grace

Forever in heaven with Jesus.

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When Routine Wears You Down: Encouragement for the Worn Out Heart

It may not be this way around the country or around the world, but here in Alabama school has been in session for several weeks and the hot weather along with added commitments makes life a little harder.  

After the excitement of posting “first day” photos wears off, routine sets in.

Carpools, music lessons, homework, getting everyone ready to rush out the door...it’s enough to wear anyone down.  

That’s when it’s easy to lose sight of what’s important.  That’s when the enemy whispers, “You don’t make a difference.”

He’s wrong.  

You are shepherding eternal souls. 

Don’t give up!

The tyranny of the urgent can push what’s important past the fringes of our attention.

Our vision can be so consumed with the day-to-day until there’s no space for long-term goals or ambitions.

But God has ordained that our children, eternal beings, be set in families.

 Read the rest:

Sowing in Tears, Reaping in Joy

Set it Aside

Good is something you do, not something you talk about.
Some medals are pinned to your soul, not to your jacket.
Gino Bartali

Set aside the tweets and the memes

Set aside the scores and the football predictions

Set aside the latest greatest whatever.

Move it off the table of your heart 

And create space for the truly important:

The drowning people fleeing war torn countries where children are starving or being buried alive in bombed out rubble;

The families displaced-many forever-from homes that were nowhere near a flood plain and who never imagined they would watch a lifetime of memories float downstream;

The frightened ones trafficked for men’s pleasure-praying that someone, anyone, notices and steps in to save them;

The lonely teen unsure of where to turn until his thoughts become so unendurable that only one way out seems reasonable;

The old man or old woman, forgotten and alone, breathing stale air in a home that isn’t home-no one speaking his name, her name-as if they had already passed from this life to the next.

You think it doesn’t matter much.

You think someone else will take care of it

Until it’s you

Waiting for light in the darkness

Looking for hope to hold onto

Begging for help as you’re drowning in despair.

As it is, you boast in your proud intentions.  All such boasting is evil. Therefore whoever knows the right thing to do, yet fails to do it, is guilty of sin.

James 4:17 The Berean Study Bible

 

 

 

 

 

Beauty for Ashes

It crosses my mind sometimes.

And it’s a topic of conversation among bereaved mamas:

  • Why fight?
  • Why struggle on in this hard life without my beloved child?
  • Why keep on keeping on when I am so very tired?

There are lots of answers.

Some of us remain in the fight because we still have people depending on us-other children, aging parents, a spouse who is also grieving.

Others persevere because they want to honor their missing child’s memory and life and they do some big thing to commemorate him or her-fight for a cause, promote awareness, create a foundation.

Me-I hold onto the promise that in all this pain, all this sorrow, all this struggle-God is doing a work in me and through me for His glory.  

Before Dominic left us I knew only  a handful of bereaved mothers.

But each of these women had a sweet, gracious, patient, kindness that flowed out of them like water from a spring.

I saw one of them yesterday.

We hugged and exchanged knowing looks filled with deep love born from deep sorrow. She didn’t ask me about trivial things-because she knows there is really only one question that matters:

Am I continuing to lean on Jesus?

Is He enough?

Do I trust that God will redeem and restore?

Because in the end, the only thing that makes this struggle meaningful is the promise that one day, a never-ending, eternal day, God will bring beauty from the ashes of burying my child.

shofar jubilee

He will fulfill the promise of the everlasting Jubilee:

He wants me to help those in Zion who are filled with sorrow. I will put beautiful crowns on their heads in place of ashes. I will anoint them with olive oil to give them joy instead of sorrow. I will give them a spirit of praise in place of a spirit of sadness. They will be like oak trees that are strong and straight. The Lord himself will plant them in the land. That will show how glorious he is.

Isaiah 61:3 NIRV

 And I believe that God’s going to have show and tell.  He’s going to parade His persevering children to a wondering world at the end of the age.

Pottery

Maybe He’ll say something like, “See!  There’s My masterpiece!  There’s My love on display! The devil thought he had won, but he is wrong.  Eternally and undeniably wrong!”

For we are His workmanship [His own master work, a work of art], created in Christ Jesus [reborn from above—spiritually transformed, renewed, ready to be used] for good works, which God prepared [for us] beforehand [taking paths which He set], so that we would walk in them [living the good life which He prearranged and made ready for us].

Ephesians 2:10 AMP

I want to be pliable under the hand of the Potter-even though it hurts.

I’ll stay in the fire-even though it’s hot.

I’ll trust the One Who made and is making me.

Because the story God is writing for me and my family doesn’t end with ashes.

Image result for doesn't end in ashes

This is NOT Forever…

One breath

One glance

A single tiny detail transports me from here to there.

Takes me from doing alright to devastation

Changes daylight to dark and grips my soul with terrifying pain.

If I didn’t have hope to cling to

If I didn’t know that every promise of God in Christ is yes and amen

If I didn’t trust that my tears are recorded in His book,

my name written on His hands

and my life secure within His own I’d let the darkness take me under.

Breathe in

Breathe out

It will pass

THIS is not forever.

Forever is waiting for me

Dominic is already there-

Tomorrows without end.

No tears

No fears

No goodbyes

Open arms.

not your best life

The Forgotten Ones: Grieving Siblings

I am always afraid that Dominic will be forgotten.  

I’m afraid that as time passes, things change and lives move forward, his place in hearts will be squeezed smaller and smaller until only a speck remains.

Not in my heart, of course.

Or in the hearts of those closest to him, but in general-he will become less relevant.

But he is not the only one who can be forgotten.  I am just as fearful that my living children will be forgotten.

Not in the same way-they are HERE.

They are participating in life and making new memories, new connections and strengthening old ones.

I’m afraid their grief will be overlooked, unacknowledged-swept under the giant rug of life and busyness that seems to cover everything unpleasant or undervalued.

If the course of a bereaved parent’s grief is marked by initial outpouring of concern, comfort and care followed by the falling away of friends, family and faithful companionship then that of a bereaved sibling is doubly so.

Surviving children often try to lessen a grieving parent’s burden by acting as if “everything is OK”.

But it’s not-it is definitely NOT.

missing them from your side

Their world has been irrevocably altered.  They have come face-to-face with mortality, with deep pain, with an understanding that bad things happen-happen to people they love-without warning and without remedy.

They are forced to rethink their family, their faith and their future without a life-long friend and companion.

Part of their history is gone.

If surviving children are young, it can be so, so easy to mistake the natural enthusiasm and excitement of youth for complete healing.  They are often busy with events, education, work and life and the grief they still feel may go unnoticed-even by themselves.

But they need safe, consistent and compassionate care while they navigate grief and the enduring impacts of sibling loss.  School counselors, grief counselors or mature and emotionally stable adult friends can be very helpful during this process.

It’s important to be alert to danger signals.  Behavioral impacts may present in many ways:

  • Anxiety (situational, tests, generalized)
  • Risk taking
  • Isolation
  • Inability to enjoy previously enjoyable activities
  • Withdrawal from family or friends
  • Depression
  • Self-harming behavior
  • Drug or alcohol abuse
  • Poor grades (may have given up or may not be able to concentrate)
  • Extreme concern for other family members and their safety

If you observe any of these changes, get help.  A grieving parent is rarely able to be the sole source of intensive counsel for a bereaved child-someone outside the grief circle may be a better choice.

Adult children-even those married and with kids of their own-are also changed forever by saying “good-bye” to a brother or sister.  Addiction, depression and physical health issues can surface in the wake of loss.  

It’s not always easy to connect the dots back to grief since life is full of stress and strain and they may need help.

My children have been blessed to have friends and loved ones who give them a safe place to go when grief overwhelms them or when other stressors on top of grief make life really hard.

If you know a bereaved sibling:

  • Reach out.
  • Be an encourager.
  • Don’t assume that because time has gone by, they are all better.
  • They may not want to talk about it and that’s OK.  But if they do, listen.  Without platitudes, without judgement-just be a safe place.
  • And if you notice something that’s just not “quite right” try to get them the help they may need to make it through this hard place.

Bereaved families are often doing the best they can, but they can’t do it alone.  

When you bless my earthly children, you bless me.  When you give them space to grieve, you give me space to breathe. When you encourage them, you encourage my heart too.

Don’t forget them.  

Please.