Fragile Vessel, Mighty God

I was asked by a precious fellow bereaved mama to write a guest post for a new and exciting ministry her family is launching in honor of their son, Rhett.

It was an interesting and challenging assignment to create a single entry that might give enough background to make my voice an authentic source of hope based on shared experience.

I spent over a week working it out but settled on what you have below: The essence of my story is I am a broken, fragile vessel whom God chooses to use to share His light, life and hope in a world full of searching hearts.

Child loss is MY cross. Yours may be something else.

But our great and faithful Lord can and will use us, if we let Him.

“But this beautiful treasure is contained in us—cracked pots made of earth and clay—so that the transcendent character of this power will be clearly seen as coming from God and not from us. We are cracked and chipped from our afflictions on all sides, but we are not crushed by them. We are bewildered at times, but we do not give in to despair. We are persecuted, but we have not been abandoned. We have been knocked down, but we are not destroyed. 10 We always carry around in our bodies the reality of the brutal death and suffering of Jesus. As a result, His resurrection life rises and reveals its wondrous power in our bodies as well. “

~2 Corinthians 4:7-10 VOICE

As a young mother of four stairstep children I copied out these verses and taped them to my bathroom mirror for encouragement.

I knew Paul was talking about his own hard times and troubles as he carried the Gospel to those who hadn’t heard but I felt certain God would allow them to minister hope and life to my fragile, worn out heart even if the pressure was coming from another place.

And He did.

Paul’s words became a touchstone I returned to many times over the decades between those early years and one very, very awful day.

When a deputy rang my doorbell in the wee hours of April 12, 2014 I was startled from sleep, unsure of why he was there and generally confused until the words that shattered my heart fell from his lips.

My third child would never be coming home again.

I can’t claim that my mind went immediately to a holy place. I didn’t rush into the arms of Jesus or feel overwhelmed by supernatural peace.

I simply felt overwhelmed.

Undone.

Broken.

In a little while-maybe ten minutes or so-I remember taking the hands of the two children who were with me and saying, “We will survive this. This will not break us. This will not end us.”

Even though I didn’t realize it at the time, I was reminding my heart of the truth I’d been clinging to for all those years: We might be cracked and chipped but we would not be crushed. We might be confused but we were not abandoned. We were definitely knocked down but we would not be destroyed.

That night was only a beginning. I didn’t have the tiniest clue how much more challenging, painful, desperate and frightening things would become and how often I’d have to return to these verses.

Before Dominic ran ahead to Heaven, I clung tightly to the promise of preservation in those verses. Now, I am drawn just as much to the promise of pain redeemed.

Paul never pretended that all those trials didn’t scar a heart. He never shied away from giving details about the suffering he endured. He never suggested that death wasn’t real or awful or hard.

I am not the woman I once was. Child loss has chipped away at my edges, poked holes in my self-sufficiency and revealed oh, so many fragile places.

Pain has definitely left its mark.

It’s tempting to try to cover up the tattered edges of my worn out soul but I’m convinced I’m a more authentic herald of the Good News precisely because of the loose threads and broken bits.

This journey is a hard one. There are no shortcuts, no detours, no easy paths through the tangled briers and over rocky steppes.

But my Shepherd King never leaves me.

I think sometimes our desire to demonstrate the power of Christ in our lives makes us long to tie things up into a perfect package.

I know I do-I want desperately to be able to say that I can see the good that can come from Dominic’s death. I long to be able to point to a finished monument of redeemed pain and restored joy.

But I’m compelled to tell it like it is.

And it is just plain HARD.

But God uses the broken things of this life to display His glory.

Because then there is NO DOUBT as to the Source of strength.  He leaves no room for boasting.

He declares His power and faithful love by taking those of us who are weak and stumbling and leading us home, redeemed and victorious.

“For look at your own calling as Christians, my brothers. You don’t see among you many of the wise (according to this world’s judgment) nor many of the ruling class, nor many from the noblest families. But God has chosen what the world calls foolish to shame the wise; he has chosen what the world calls weak to shame the strong. He has chosen things of little strength and small repute, yes and even things which have no real existence to explode the pretensions of the things that are—that no man may boast in the presence of God. Yet from this same God you have received your standing in Jesus Christ, and he has become for us the true wisdom, a matter, in practice, of being made righteous and holy, in fact, of being redeemed. And this makes us see the truth of scripture: ‘He who glories, let him glory in the Lord.”

I Corinthians 1:26-31 PHILLIPS

Here’s the link to this new ministry: https://www.archwayofhope.org/

Check them out. ❤



The God Who Stays

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: Child loss is not a hammer in the hand of God.

He didn’t “take” my son so He could mold me into the person He wants me to be.

But He will use this pain and sorrow if I run to Him.

Sometimes I resist but His Father heart is steadfast in its love toward me.

God doesn’t give up and decide I’m “too much trouble” or “too far gone”.

NO!

He’s the Faithful Father watching and waiting with open arms for the Prodigal to return.

He will weave even the darkest and most tangled threads into a beautiful, redeemed tapestry if I let Him.

He’s the God who stays.

Always.

Forever.

Amen.

Road Work

One of the “fun” events this summer to happen in my neck of the woods is a set of long overdue road projects.

I’m not sure where the funding came from but my rural county suddenly decided that several roads, including the one leading to my house, would no longer suffer from insufficient patches that wore out in a week and would instead get the full treatment-totally repaved, new stripes and new guardrails.

I admit, it was a bit inconvenient.

Especially when for an entire week I could no longer travel the most direct and timely path toward the closest town because the road was closed.

And, more than once I was stuck behind that “pilot truck” crawling along a mile or so until freed from the restraint and allowed to go on my merry way.  Once I was even stuck in my own driveway, unsure of whether or not I could even leave the property due to large and loud machinery blocking my path.

BUT, it was temporary.

It was only going to last so long.  These efforts would culminate in a smoother, more enjoyable and accessible way to get from “here” to “there”.

It was not going to last FOREVER.

I learned a few things from those weeks of waiting.

One thing I learned was that I still think (in spite of burying a child) I have some control.

And when that sense of control is threatened, I resent it.

I rarely have to go anywhere that can’t be rescheduled.  But when I was sitting at the end of my driveway, trying to figure out if I could even drive out onto the road, I was frustrated. Actually,  I was downright angry that these folks were blocking my way.

Silly, I know.  But revealing.

Another thing I learned was that I could more easily endure inconvenience or delay when I chose to focus on the eventual outcome instead of my current irritation.

If I looked at the clock on my dash and counted up the minutes I spent waiting, I was indignant that my agenda was delayed.  But if I could turn my thoughts to how pleasant it would be for years when they finished this project, the minutes flew by much faster-it didn’t seem like much of a sacrifice.

Some of my waiting was done beside the cemetery where Dominic’s earthly shell is buried.

And it made me think again of how very brief life is-not only his-which was shorter than most-but even my own-should I live the threescore and ten David wrote about in Psalms.

No matter how much I have to endure in this life, it is but a moment compared to an infinite and unending eternity with Jesus and my son.

Eternal perspective is hard to hold onto.  Especially when missing Dominic is so much harder than rearranging my schedule or waiting behind a dump truck for my turn to pass down the road.

But the principle stands:  when I focus my heart and mind and soul’s eyes on forever, even this awful pain of burying my child is a little easier to bear.

If I can lift my head-or let Jesus do it for me-I can cast my gaze to the horizon of His promise.

The troubles of this life are temporary.

But the joy of Heaven is eternal.

So we’re not giving up. How could we! Even though on the outside it often looks like things are falling apart on us, on the inside, where God is making new life, not a day goes by without his unfolding grace. These hard times are small potatoes compared to the coming good times, the lavish celebration prepared for us. There’s far more here than meets the eye. The things we see now are here today, gone tomorrow. But the things we can’t see now will last forever.

2 Corinthians 4:16-18 MSG