Costly Worship

I don’t know what the wise men expected to see.

It seems natural to us who know the story–who know the REST of the story–that they ended up finding Jesus-The King of the Jews-the One whose birth was announced by a star in a humble abode.

But I think it might have surprised those rich rulers traveling so far to worship Him.

In their experience, future kings were born in palaces, surrounded by servants.  Such births were announced and trumpeted loud and long.

So when they found this little child with poor parents in a poor house, perhaps they thought they were mistaken.

We don’t know because Scripture is silent on this point.

What we do know is that they offered the gifts they brought, they worshiped the One they had traveled long to see.

They undertook a treacherous and costly journey for the purpose of worship.

True worship is expensive.

To raise my voice and my hands after losing Dominic is hard. It requires that I trust God regardless of my circumstances.

It means I lay my treasure at His feet even when I don’t understand why or how He intends to use it.

But worship inclines my heart to the God Who made it.

Just like the star led the wise men, worship leads me to the feet of Jesus.

And there is where I can safely leave my treasure.

Now when Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judaea in the days of Herod the king, behold, there came wise men from the east to Jerusalem,

Saying, Where is he that is born King of the Jews? for we have seen his star in the east, and are come to worship him.

When they saw the star, they rejoiced with exceeding great joy.

And when they were come into the house, they saw the young child with Mary his mother, and fell down, and worshipped him: and when they had opened their treasures, they presented unto him gifts; gold, and frankincense and myrrh.

Matthew 2:1-2, 10-11 KJV

 

 

 

 

What Will They Remember?

Since burying my son, I’ve thought a lot about memories.  Not only recalling specific moments or events, but the nature of memory itself.

Why can I easily relive certain events, bring to mind a joke, or a car ride to the store in great detail yet not access others except in bits and pieces?

There are all kinds of theories on how our minds make and store memories.  Lots of research being done on which synapses fire and which pathways are activated.

But can I just tell you from a mama’s heart that what makes memories–good or bad–is strong emotion.  

We remember what we passionately feel.

When we engage our hearts, we imprint our minds.

So be aware that all the fancy fixings for Christmas don’t make memories. The moments you and they will cherish are the ones bathed in love, covered with laughter, circled round with the warmth of fellowship.

Presents, menus and decorations will be forgotten by this time next year but the sweet aroma of a peace-filled home welcoming the Presence of Christ will linger for eternity.

Skip the lines and frantic last- minute preparation and spend the next few days basking in God’s love, mercy and grace.

Your soul will be filled with His peace and overflow to those you love.

And that will be a memory everyone will cherish.

hospitality

“Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Enter, you who are blessed by my Father! Take what’s coming to you in this kingdom. It’s been ready for you since the world’s foundation. And here’s why:

I was hungry and you fed me,
I was thirsty and you gave me a drink,
I was homeless and you gave me a room,
I was shivering and you gave me clothes,
I was sick and you stopped to visit,
I was in prison and you came to me.’

Matthew 35:34-36 MSG

Our home has always been open.  My children knew they never had to worry about bringing a stray friend with them for a meal or a place to spend the night.

Even since losing Dominic we have continued to welcome others to our table and into our lives.

I’ve thought a great deal about how easy it would be to shut the door, climb into bed and hide from the world in my grief. And some days I have to do that to preserve my sanity.

But God has placed in me a desire to open wide the gates of my heart and to welcome friends and strangers as I walk this valley. Not only to listen to MY story, but to invite them to tell me THEIRS.  

As a follower of Christ I am commanded to extend hospitality. This can feel daunting if I imagine it looks like a clean house and serving beautiful food to large groups of people. But at its HEART hospitality is openness and simply providing a welcome and safe place for people to express themselves.

Displaying the pieces of my broken life for all to see, I can say, “Here–I am fragile and wounded and imperfect.  Your heart is safe with me.”

Grief has erased borders and unlocked doors.

It is teaching me we all need to be made welcome, we all need to be invited inside.  

 

“Hospitality means primarily the creation of free space where the stranger can enter and become a friend instead of an enemy. Hospitality is not to change people, but to offer them space where change can take place. It is not to bring men and women over to our side, but to offer freedom not disturbed by dividing lines.”

~Henri  Nouwen

 

Making Room for Grief at the Christmas Table

Our family didn’t do Santa.

We started to with our first child, but when she asked, “How does Santa know everything and how does he live forever?” at two years old, we ditched him.

I realized that even her young mind had picked out the inconsistencies between Jolly Old Saint Nick and what we were teaching her about God and the human condition.

The path to joy is filled with pain.  The way to heaven is traveled through a world where children die and cruelty is common.  Not every good little boy or girl finds their wishes fulfilled on Christmas morning.

This is precisely the place where the grieving find Christmas difficult.

Even Christ followers tend to section off the celebration of Jesus’ birth from the agony and necessity of His death.  We welcome the Baby but disregard the crucified Savior.  We like to pretend that “all is calm, all is bright”.

The pressure to maintain the facade of jollity overwhelms my heart and makes me weary down to my bones.

Joy and sorrow both dwell in my soul and I cannot reveal one and hide the other.  I may laugh and cry in the same moment.

It is all too easy for others to welcome the laughter and to shut out the grief–to insist that those who gather pretend everyone gets what they want for Christmas.

No one can bring my son back to me.  No one can giftwrap a restored family and place it under the tree. 

But you can give me and other mourners space for our pain at the Christmas table.

You can honor those we miss by noting their absence–you can acknowledge that eternity is truly wonderful, but today is so very hard.

That is a gift we would treasure.

 

Countdown to Christmas

Here in the last days before Christmas, the darkest days of the year, my grieving heart longs for light.

In some ways the busy-ness of the holiday season pushes the pain of missing my son to the background–a mind can only entertain so many ideas at one time.

But the activity and constant barrage of demands and conversations exhausts me and makes me more vulnerable to the moments when grief rolls full force over my soul like an ocean wave.

I am more sensitive to the chasm between me and those who have not buried a child.  

More sensitive to the fact that the world continues to spin, parties are planned, songs are sung and Dominic isn’t here for any of it.

I want to find a way to mark his absence, to include him in conversation, to make sure he isn’t forgotten.

I am so very thankful for the family that surrounds me at Christmas, and want them to know how much I cherish the moments we are together and how fiercely I love them.

But my heart is divided.  

Part of me is “here” and part of me is “there”.  I walk in two worlds–on earth and in heaven.  I savor the sweet joy of the “now” but ache for the even sweeter joy of the “forever”.

So I sing all four verses of the Christmas hymns–not just the ones that speak of Jesus’ birth, but the verses that tell of His return.

I celebrate His coming, but I long for His coming again.

For lo! the days are hastening on,
By prophets seen of old,
When with the ever-circling years
Shall come the time foretold,
When the new heaven and earth shall own
The Prince of Peace, their King,
And the whole world send back the song
Which now the angels sing.

~It Came Upon A Midnight Clear

 

 

My Three Sons

My three sons–I still have three you know.

Two that travel the earth with me and one that dwells with Jesus.

My soul expanded with each birth–like pants stretched to make room for inches gained and there is no going back.

My heart will always bear the stretchmarks of my love.

LORD, I cannot thank You for allowing my son to be taken–I can thank You for Who You are and for not leaving me alone in my grief.

I won’t overlook the beauty in a sunrise, the gift of laughter or the welcome warmth of loving hugs.

I won’t allow bitterness to strip my life of kindness and compassion.  I will try to embrace the pain and let it work Your purpose in my heart.

When I can’t fight the battle myself, I will rest in the arms of the One Who fights for me.

 God is a safe place to hide,
    ready to help when we need him.
We stand fearless at the cliff-edge of doom,
    courageous in seastorm and earthquake,
Before the rush and roar of oceans,
    the tremors that shift mountains.

Jacob-wrestling God fights for us,
    God-of-Angel-Armies protects us.

Psalm 46:1-3 MSG

 

 

Navigating Grief for Those Who Have Lost a Child

With GPS apps on our phones and in our cars, getting lost in the physical world is becoming ever more rare.

But grief is disorienting and every day I must relearn which way is true north.

It has never bothered me to ask directions.  I’ll pull off in a heartbeat–ask a stranger–stop a mailman–look for a fire station (they have to know all the addresses of their district).  I’m not shy and I’m not proud.

But as a bereaved mother,  I’ve struggled to find a map, or guide or landmarks that can help me navigate this wilderness called grief.

Twenty months down this path, here are some practical ways I’ve discovered to help me get through this unmarked world.

It is hard to concentrate so I have learned to break tasks up into smaller units.  I might only clean the bathroom sink and then move on to something else, coming back later to do the tub or mirrors.

I have trouble remembering EVERYTHING so important things like my phone and keys ALWAYS go in the same place.  My purse has designated pockets for specific items and I hold onto my keys when I get out of my truck so I don’t lock them inside.

Going to the store can be very challenging with all the noise, distractions and people (and the memories of his favorite foods).  Even if I’m only shopping for a few groceries, I make a list.

Keeping track of things like phone calls, gifts or thank you notes is also difficult. I use an inexpensive spiral notebook that lives on the kitchen table to write down numbers, notes or anything I need to remember.  I staple receipts to a page so that I won’t lose them.

I use a pocket calendar to note appointments, family schedules or important dates.  I don’t agree to or change anything until I have it in front of me.

I have learned to ask people to repeat things that I’m not sure I understand. Sometimes it seems as if folks around me are speaking a foreign language because my brain simply won’t process the words.

I don’t apologize for my tears or for my need to give myself space and time to make a decision when asked to do something. 

Grieving requires so much emotional, physical and mental energy that there is little left for everyday tasks.  But life goes on even if I want it to stop.

This is who I am now, and I will need to make accomodations for that as long as I live.