Then and Now: Sacrifice of Praise

April 21, 2014

We bury Dom today-the day after Resurrection Sunday-we will place his mortal shell into the ground from whence he came.

But Father, I know that this is not the end.  I know that what makes Dominic, “Dominic” is not what I will bury.

He is alive and with You-he is stronger than he’s ever been, more full of life than he would possibly know on earth.

I know that You are sovereign and You are love.

At this moment, I don’t understand how losing Dom is a loving act of a loving Father but I must trust in Your character regardless of circumstances.

“I heard and my [whole inner self] trembled; my lips quivered at the sound. Rottenness enters into my bones and under me [down to my feet]; I tremble. I will wait quietly for the day of trouble and distress when there shall come up against [my] people him who is about to invade and oppress them.

Though the fig tree does not blossom and there is no fruit on the vines, [though] the product of the olive fails and the fields yield no food, though the flock is cut off from the fold and there are no cattle in the stalls,

Yet I will rejoice in the Lord; I will exult in the [victorious] God of my salvation!”

Habakkuk 3:16-18

May 3, 2016

I tremble still.

I often do not feel fruitful or particularly hopeful.

I wait for redemption and restoration.  

But my praise is not dependent upon my understanding of what God is doing.

My praise is a proclamation of Who God is.

So I declare with my mouth and speak truth to my heart:

Know (perceive, recognize, and understand with approval) that the Lord is God! It is He Who has made us, not we ourselves [and we are His]! We are His people and the sheep of His pasture.

Enter into His gates with thanksgiving and a thank offering and into His courts with praise! Be thankful and say so to Him, bless andaffectionately praise His name!

For the Lord is good; His mercy and loving-kindness are everlasting, His faithfulness and truth endure to all generations.

Psalm 100:3-5 AMPC

Then and Now: Open Hands, Open Heart

April 19, 2014

One week ago today my world was torn asunder, my eyes opened to the reality of what I said I believed-that any day, any moment, can be the last.  I was forced to face the test-second only to my own death should I have time to think before I die-of whether or not Scripture tells the truth or a tale:

Whether the loving God I claim to serve is for me or against me.

Whether this earthly existence is a path leading to the eternal life Christ promised or just a fleeting moment leading to eternal nothingness.

Will I define the rest of my days by what I have lost, always staring down the hole of emptiness left by Dominic’s breathing, vital absence or will I lift my eyes to the Eternal God and define my life by the very real connection I now have in Heaven?

Will I let grace, mercy and love fill me to overflowing and spill out into the lives of those around me or will I embrace bitterness and defeat and shrivel up so that my story dishonors the generous life Dominic lived?

By God’s grace, I choose love.

If my hands are open to the blessing, then they must be open to the pain.

If my heart is open to the memories and love, then it must be open to the grief and sorrow.

Oh LORD!  You have bruised me so that I will always be tender!

To walk with kindness and mercy and grace toward everyone-make that the legacy of my precious boy!

May 2, 2016

I continue to make the daily choice to hold out my empty hands to the God I serve.

Some days, it’s a greater challenge than others.

Sometimes I want to clinch my fists and cry, “No more!”

I would like to think that burying my son had filled up the quota of pain and hurt for a lifetime.  I want to believe that since I’ve been wounded so grievously, God would spare me further struggle.

But that’s not true.

Life goes on.  

I still face problems, I still face disappointment, I still face hardships and sorrow.

That is when I have to decide:  Will I close my heart and hands to the One Who can fill them with life and hope as well as grief and pain?

Where would I go?

I, like Peter, proclaim:

“Master, to whom would [I] go? You have the words of real life, eternal life. [I’ve] already committed [myself], confident that you are the Holy One of God.”

John 6:68 MSG

 

Then and Now: How Can Death and Life Inhabit the Same Frame?

April 17, 2014

Father, I have received through Your hand a most grievous wound-part of my heart has been ripped from my chest and I will limp through life forever changed, forever broken.

My beautiful, fearless, strong son has been struck down in his youth. I am dismayed that my body will continue to live when my spirit is crushed.

How can death and life inhabit the same frame?

How can I attend to the externals of commonplace things when all I want to do is hurry through to the eternal home You have prepared for me?

Oh Jesus!  Hold my baby!  I know that You were with him and I know that you love him.  I know (I have to know-or I couldn’t breathe) that you love me!

What a steep price to pay  for a tender heart-fill me up with grace, mercy and love.  Make our circle stronger and more resiliant.

Help me to love, to be love, to show love, to give love, to eat,sleep, drink love.

“Here I am, LORD, and the children You have given me-make us as signs and symbols to Your people, for the glory of Your Name.” ~Isaiah 8:18

If I believe that only Your Word and the people You have made are eternal, then I must order the rest of the life You give me to align with that truth.

Take this mother’s heart and make this pain count for something.

“A woman giving birth to a child has pain because her time has come, but when her baby is born she forgets the anguish because of the joy that a child is born into the world.  So with you:  Now is your time of grief, but I will see you again and you will rejoice, and no one will take away your joy.” ~John 16:21-22

Lord, I choose to believe that this pain will produce the life You have ordained and that joy will be the ultimate outcome.

April 30, 2016

I continue to carry both death and life in my body and my heart.

Death reminds me of the cost of sin, of the price of redemption and of how fragile and temporary our earthly existence.  It makes me uncomfortable here-is a constant thorn in my flesh.

I cannot lay it aside or ignore it.

The undeniable presence of death contrasts sharply with the equally undeniable life of Christ sustaining me.

I have been asked how I can believe in what I cannot see or touch. How I can trust a God Who allowed such pain in my life.

It is true that I can’t see God,  I can’t prove His existence.

But the fact that I’m still holding onto hope gives testimony to the life of Christ in me.

This is in keeping with my own eager desire and persistent expectation and hope, that I shall not disgrace myself nor be put to shame in anything; but that with the utmost freedom of speech and unfailing courage, now as always heretofore, Christ (the Messiah) will be magnified and get glory and praise in this body of mine and be boldly exalted in my person, whether through (by) life or through (by) death.

For me to live is Christ [His life in me], and to die is gain [the gain of the glory of eternity].

Philippians 1:20-21 AMP

 

 

Then and Now: Trial by Fire

It’s not a cozy, warm-yourself-up fire in my safe fireplace.  

It’s a raging, too-hot-to-survive inferno, blazing away and uncontrollable.  

Losing my son is refining me, burning off the excess, drawing out the inner woman.

April 14, 2014

“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead,  and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade. This inheritance is kept in heaven for you, who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time. IN ALL THIS YOU GREATLY REJOICE, THOUGH NOW FOR A LITTLE WHILE YOU MAY HAVE HAD TO SUFFER GRIEF IN ALL KINDS OF TRIALS, –These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the end result of your faith, the salvation of your souls.” 

1 Peter 1:3-9 NIV

 My heart is broken open wide, Father.  

Fill it with love, compassion, grace, peace, hope and mercy-but never seal it shut-let what You fill it with spill out

“These three remain-faith, hope and love.  And the greatest of these is love.”

April 29, 2016

I’m still in the fire.

I don’t know if I am used to the heat or if it has burned down to a cooler flame but it is more bearable to be here.

God has answered my whispered prayer:

He has filled and is filling my heart.

He has not allowed grief to make it hard.

“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. 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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Then and Now: The Morning After

April 13, 2014: The Morning After

Everyone is home-everyone except Dominic.  Quiet now that there’s just us.  How did I even manage to close my eyes last night?  How are we going to face another day? How are we going to face all the days to come?

This is the song that came first to mind even as I sat crying in disbelief:

“Alleluia!  Alleluia! For the Lord God Almighty reigns!”

You can watch it here:  Agnus Dei by Michael W. Smith

  And they sang a new song, saying:

“You are worthy to take the scroll
    and to open its seals,
because you were slain,
    and with your blood you purchased for God
    persons from every tribe and language and people and nation.
   You have made them to be a kingdom and priests to serve our God,
    and they will reign on the earth.”

   Then I looked and heard the voice of many angels, numbering thousands upon thousands, and ten thousand times ten thousand. They encircled the throne and the living creatures and the elders. In a loud voice they were saying:

“Worthy is the Lamb, who was slain,
    to receive power and wealth and wisdom and strength
    and honor and glory and praise!”

  Then I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and on the sea, and all that is in them, saying:

“To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb
    be praise and honor and glory and power,
for ever and ever!”

  The four living creatures said, “Amen,” and the elders fell down and worshiped.

Revelation 5:9-14 NIV

Either it is true and everything will be well-or it is not true and nothing will be well.

IT IS TRUE.

HE IS TRUE.

God is on His throne.

“Melanie”-clad in black. Covered in sorrow but trusting in God.

“He who sows in tears shall reap in joy.” Psalm 126:5

eyes of the lord attentive

April 29, 2016

Today I still cling to those verses, still hold those promises close to my heart.

Some mornings I wake and cannot wrap my mind around the fact that my son is gone.

Sunrise finds me crying out to God, begging Him to make it untrue, to turn back the clock and miraculously restore my life before loss.

It is still hard and I still struggle.

But I believe,

I believe,

I believe.  

Then and Now: God’s Grace in Grief

I’ve kept a spiritual journal for decades.  Every now and then I like to gather the pages, look back and reflect.

My journaling intensified after Dominic’s accident.  

Writing out my thoughts, questions, pain and sorrow was one way to process the grief.  I copied quotes and scripture.  I prayed prayers and screamed, “WHY???”.  I tried to document the moments when I felt God close and when I felt He was far away.

As I filled each notebook, I added the dates it covered and tucked it away.  I wasn’t sure when I would be able to look at those painful pages again.

A couple months ago I brought the pile of journals and set them by my chair.  A couple weeks after that, I started reading them.

Some of the entries are still too painful to read.

Some of the events too personal to share.

But over the next few days I’m going to offer a peek into the first hard days after loss.

The days when breathing is a chore, when it still seems like a bad dream, when part of my heart was certain Dominic would walk through the door once again even after I had seen his body lowered into the ground.

My prayer in sharing is this:  that those who read know that God did not abandon me in despair; that it is possible to survive the seemingly unbearable loss of a child; that God does not despise our honest lament; and that when the enemy comes in like a flood, the Lord shall lift up a standard against him (Isaiah 59:19).

April 12, 2014 (The day of the accident)

The LORD gives and the LORD takes away:  Blessed be the Name of the LORD.  May my soul find rest in Thee alone.  May my eyes look only to Thy Face.  May my heart’s peace be the Prince of Peace.  “Dominic”-belonging to God-You gave him to me and he is Yours once again.  Marana Tha-Come quickly, Lord Jesus!

 

 

Helping My Children Walk Through Grief

Bereaved parents often have several tasks before them in the days and months and years following the death of a child.  And one of them is to help their surviving children navigate loss.

I have three earthbound children.  And they are grieving.

Their world changed in the same instant mine did.  Their hearts are broken too.

I found it hard to watch the pain I saw written on the faces of my kids.  Harder still to know that as much as I wanted to be the guide in this situation, I was as lost as they were. My mama instincts demanded that I “make it better” -but I was and am, powerless to do that.

So I settled on being honest.

I decided that I wouldn’t hide my sorrow or my struggle in an attempt to protect them.

Because, really, how could I protect a heart that had been introduced so forcefully to the truth that WE ARE NOT IN CONTROL?

How could I try to manage their sorrow when mine was overflowing?

I acknowledged the pain-the pain of losing Dominic;  the pain of not being able to say, “good-bye”; the pain of never knowing exactly what had happened; the pain of feeling like God had closed His eyes or looked the other way while Dominic ran off the road; and the pain of watching each other in pain with no way to soothe or stop it.

I didn’t draw boundaries around how they were supposed to behave.  

I asked that we not hurt one another in our sorrow-that we not cast blame, that we not lash out-but other than this request, I made room for tears, shouts, pounding of fists or whatever else we needed to do to let out some of the emotion bottled up inside.

I do not insist that they give Sunday School answers to tough questions.  I understand that they are struggling as much as I am. We are all dissecting our faith and our understanding of Who God is, what He is doing, and whether we can trust Him with our hearts again.

We talk-about Dominic and about their lives.  I try to listen.  Sometimes I’m not as good at that as I would hope to be.

I respect their need for space or their need for companionship.  I haven’t tried to be the sole source of support for any of them.

I’m not offended if they choose to express grief in ways that are different than my own.

I am well aware that it is likely they will carry this loss for more years than I will and that they must find their own way to bear that burden.

They haven’t only lost a brother, they’ve also lost the family in which they grew up, the parents they used to have and the sense of safety that pervades childhood.  

Their eyes are opened to the fact that bad things happen.

And sometimes bad things happen with no apparent reason and absolutely no forewarning.

We love one another.  We acknowledge the impact Dom’s life and his leaving has left on us. We don’t sweat the small stuff (most of the time).

And we focus on making sure each one of us makes it through.

Family means no one gets left behind or forgotten.

David Ogden Stiers