Finding Courage To Face The Future After Child Loss


I think it was somewhere around two months from Dominic’s departure when my heart realized life was moving forward whether I granted permission or not.  

Not only folks on the fringes and the “bigger world out there” but close by-in my own family, my own circle of intimate friends-people were making plans, having birthdays, going places and doing things.  

I wanted to scream.

Read the rest here: Child Loss: Finding Courage to Face the Future

Battling Anxiety/Seeking Peace: Strength To Endure

When suffering is time-limited it is often more easily endured.

If I know six weeks of intensive though painful physical therapy will help me regain strength and use of a limb or joint, I can power through.

If restricting calories for a month helps me fit into that dress for a special event, I’m more likely to sacrifice for a short time so the pictures look good.

But if you tell me I’ll hobble around for the rest of my life because there’s nothing to be done about my bad back or crooked joints or you want me to change how I eat for good-well, that’s gonna take more strength than I have on my own.

When I realized-probably sometime near the end of the first year-that the sorrow and missing and pain of burying my son was going to be a burden I carried to my own grave, it was absolutely, utterly soul-crushing.

That’s why Habakkuk’s words resonate with my heart:

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.

17 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,

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

19 The Lord God is my Strength, my personal bravery, and my invincible army; He makes my feet like hinds’ feet and will make me to walk [not to stand still in terror, but to walk] and make [spiritual] progress upon my high places [of trouble, suffering, or responsibility]!

Habakkuk 3:16-19 AMP

Habakkuk was a prophet in Israel just before the Babylonians came and wiped out the nation. He knew what was coming and asked God to spare them.

God said no.

No miraculous rescue coming, no divine intervention to prevent destruction, no manna raining down from heaven to stave off starvation.

Israel is going to suffer.

And Habakkuk, though righteous, will suffer too.

Image result for habakkuk 1:6

Habakkuk is not immediately infused with courage and fearlessness: “I heard [what the Lord had to say] and I trembled…” Habakkuk isn’t only afraid, he’s terrified (“rottenness enters my bones”) !!

He’s out of things to do, convinced he must simply wait for whatever is headed his way.

So he sits down and waits.

And in the quiet stillness of waiting, his heart turns to truth.

Even though he will suffer, even though everything he depends on for physical safety may be stripped away, even though destruction and devastation is coming, he begins to meditate on the faithful enduring character of the LORD.

And he rejoices!

Nothing has changed except his focus.

Instead of concentrating on circumstances he is contemplating his Creator.

I admit I focus all too often on circumstances but sometimes it’s practically impossible not to.

Image result for even the wind and waves obey him

Remember the disciples in the boat with Jesus? A storm blew up and was tossing them back and forth all while Jesus slept soundly.

Fear really wasn’t a disproportionate response to a very real and present danger.

When the wind and the waves are high around me, and I realize how powerless I am to do anything about them, fear easily overtakes my heart.

But the disciples were not alone. The One who could calm the storm was in their midst.

The One who can calm MY storm is here with ME.

Image result for isaiah 41 10

Jesus rebuked the wind and the waves and the disciples finished their journey in safety.

God did not save Israel (or Habakkuk) from the Babylonians.

The Lord did not miraculously preserve Dominic’s life and He may not miraculously (or otherwise) save me or my family from the fallout of Covid19.

Image result for el roi

But whether He intervenes or does not, I know He sees me.

I know He loves me.

I know He longs to comfort me and strengthen me.

He IS my “personal bravery and invincible army”.

QUESTIONS:

  • Often Western Christianity focuses on “victory in Jesus” and tends to associate victory with safety or deliverance from uncomfortable or frightening or seemingly impossible circumstances. Habakkuk not only suspected God was not going to avert disaster, he’d been promised disaster was coming. How do YOU interpret “victory in Jesus”? Do these verses give you a different perspective? Why or why not?
  • It’s kind of been a joke that people rushed to stockpile toilet paper during the frenzy surrounding this pandemic. Apparently having enough TP made them feel a little more prepared, a little less frightened. We all have some tangible things that help our hearts stay calm. What are yours?
  • Fear is not a sin. Doubt is not disbelief. It’s perfectly OK to voice your fear, doubt and concern. But if you rest there, if you don’t then turn to truth, you will spiral downward into despair. What practical steps are you taking for yourself and family to keep the truth of Who God is in front of your eyes and foremost in your hearts?
  • For those of us who get our groceries from Walmart, the complete devastation described in Habakkuk may not be evident. Let me paraphrase for a modern audience: “Though the grocery store shelves are empty and there are no tasty snacks left in the fridge, though the last thing I had to eat was only enough to meet my caloric needs but not enough to satiate my appetite, though there is no hope that things will return to normal anytime soon and I may suffer more than I can imagine, I am going to shout for joy because I know God is in control and He has secured my eternal destiny!” Can you take these verses and rewrite them so they are specific to YOUR circumstances?

PRAYER:

Lord,

If I’m honest (and there’s no reason not to be since You already know my heart!), I want to be rescued. I do not want to live through whatever this stupid virus is going to do to my community, my country, the world. I don’t like the thought of weeks of uncertainty, forced isolation, reduced or nonexistent paychecks, figuring out how to keep kids that should be in school occupied and learning.

I hate this!

When I read the headlines or listen to the news, it feeds my fears.

Help me to be like Habakkuk and appropriate the strength You provide so that I will not only endure, but will thrive! Speak courage to my heart when I would falter. Make me stalwart in the face of fear. Teach me to trust You when I would doubt Your lovingkindness.

Be my personal bravery.

Amen

He [Christ] said not, ‘Thou shalt not be tempested, thou shalt not be trevailed, thou shalt not be dis-eased,’ but He said, ‘Thou shalt not be overcome.’

Julian of Norwich

Praying In a New Year With a Broken Heart


Some of us enter trembling through the door of a new year. 

This last year wasn’t so good and our hearts are broken.

What if the next year is worse?  How will we manage?  Where can we hide from bad news, bad outcomes, disastrous trauma?

Truth is, we can’t.  

So here we are, bravely marching in, hanging on to hope and begging God for mercy. 

Read the rest here: https://thelifeididntchoose.com/2019/01/01/new-years-prayer-for-hurting-hearts/

Repost: The Value of Veterans


I am the proud daughter of a military veteran.

I am the beaming mother of a son who currently serves.

james at pikes peak

And while others argue about why and where we send troops and fight wars, I  pray that wherever they go and whatever they do, they return home safely.

Read the rest here: https://thelifeididntchoose.com/2018/11/11/the-value-of-veterans/

You Can’t Hold It In, So Let It Out

We CAN hold some of it in.

For awhile.

In certain circumstances.

And barring additional stress.

But not forever.

your-story-could-be-the-key

So let it out.

Speak your truth and tell your story.

If others don’t understand or turn away or give you the evil eye, ignore them.

This isn’t their story-to tell or to live.

It’s yours.

owning-our-story-and-loving-ourselves-through-the-process

 

Weak Knees, Strong Savior

When I was a little girl, I used to wrap my hand around my daddy’s forefinger when we walked together.  His long legs meant that mine had to work double time to keep up. 

But no matter where his legs took us, I knew I was safe-because he was with me, he wouldn’t leave me and he would take care of me.  

When I was afraid, I could just squeeze his hand a little tighter and courage flooded my soul.  

I’m very thankful for the example and blessing of a faithful, loving earthly father because it makes it so much easier for me to trust my Heavenly Father.  

There are many things that terrify me in the Valley of the Shadow of Death.  

Left to myself, I’d turn and run, hide or just lie down and give up.  

But I’m not alone.  

My Shepherd walks alongside me.  His Presence gives me courage and strength to keep going.  

When I am afraid, I cling tighter to His promises, lean harder on His grace and hold on for dear life to His love.  

fear is what we feel brave is what we do

In the hour of crisis, I may be weak in the knees, but I must step forward. I may bow in my private Gethsemane, sweat blood, and cry for deliverance, but then I rise to take up the cross and move toward yonder marked-out hill of suffering. The fight of faith does not allow me to flee in terror. … I dare not and will not deny the sustaining power of the living God.

When Paul wrote, ‘I can do everything through him who gives me strength’ (Philippians 4:13), he was not boasting of his cleverness or aptitude in mastering circumstances. He was expressing deep confidence that in whatever condition — sickness or health, abundance or poverty, life or death — Christ would enable him to cope, even triumph. He experienced and preached what he truly believed: ‘In all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us’ (Romans 8:37).   

~James Means, A Tearful Celebration

 

Falling Down and Getting Up Again

I hate that question that every doctor’s office asks now, “Have you had any falls in the past twelve months?”

I always say, “no” even though that’s rarely true.  

Because I know what they are looking for is evidence of disease that might be impacting balance and I’m perfectly free of that so I don’t want to place a red flag in my medical chart.

But I fall down pretty regularly.  Mostly because I trip over something as I’m walking from one animal enclosure to another, hands full of buckets and mind somewhere else.

The other day was one of those moments.  

I was done feeding our beagles, headed back to the house when my feet found a random piece of looped wire on the ground.  (I still have no idea where it came from!)

There’s that split second when you know a fall is coming and your mind tries to figure out how to stop it even as your body is giving in to gravity.

Down I went!  Hard!  On my left knee and right wrist but sparing my head.  

It really, really hurt.  In fact, it hurt so badly that I simply rolled over and rocked back and forth for a second or two.

helpless turtle

Then I realized there was no help for it but to put weight on those knees and wrists and get up.  So I took a deep breath, counted to ten and pushed myself up.  I hobbled back into the house to survey the damage and put ice on my knee.

And I reminded myself once again that I can do things that are hard, that are painful and that seem impossible.  

strengh grows when you go on anyway

Life is full of falls-real ones that bang up body parts and figurative ones that wreak havoc with hearts.

They all hurt.  

When I find myself down and out I have a choice. 

I can sit in the pain and lie helpless and hopeless. 

Or I can take a deep breath, gather my courage and get up.  

Every time I choose courage, I build up my reserve and strengthen my resolve and make it more likely I’ll get up every time.  

fear is a reaction courage is a decision

 

Sterkte: The Empowering Strength of God in Me

Yesterday was four years since the day we buried Dominic.  I can barely comprehend it. It’s a terrible thing for a mama’s heart to watch the seasons change and think, “I need to change the flowers on Dominic’s grave.”

But I do it.

It’s one of the last things I can do for this child of my heart.

Sterkte. 

I didn’t even know this word when we buried Dominic.  

But I wish I had.  

Because “sterkte” expresses precisely the supernatural strength and courage that filled my heart, mind and body as I stood for the hours of visitation, sang the worship songs, listened to friends, family and our shepherd/pastor give a message and invitation to a packed sanctuary, then filed out ahead of my son’s casket.

Sterkte literally translates “strength” or “power” but culturally means much more.

It means bravery, strength, fortitude and endurance in the face of fear and insurmountable odds through the empowering strength of God in me.

The morning of Dominic’s funeral-nine long days after his accident-I posted this on Facebook:

“Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the LORD, I will be joyful in God my Savior.” 
~Habakkuk 3: 17-18

dom on mountaintop

Years before, in another dry but hardly tragic season, God had imprinted those verses on my heart.  Even if-even if- there was no way through but through, I was determined to trust God and to lean in and hold onto hope.  

I had no idea how that choice would be tested in the coming days, weeks, months. 

I had no idea that even now, four years later, I would have to hold on just as hard, wake each morning and make that choice once again, refuse the whispers of the enemy of my soul that spread seeds of doubt and confusion.

But in my own strength, all the determination in the world would be for nothing. 

I am not strong enough or brave enough to stand.  

It’s sterkte that held me up that day four years ago when my son’s body was lowered into the ground and dirt shoveled on top.  It’s sterkte that keeps me upright today when tsunami waves of grief still wash over me and sobs escape.  It’s sterkte that gives me strength to hold onto hope and lean into truth and keep marching bravely into a future that may yet hold more heartache.

Habakkuk committed to praise God no matter what happened.  

He understood sterkte.  It was his lifeline. 

After his declaration of purpose, he gives the reason why: 

The Lord God is my Strength, my personal bravery, and my invincible army; He makes my feet like hinds’ feet and will make me to walk [not to stand still in terror, but to walk] and make [spiritual] progress upon my high places [of trouble, suffering, or responsibility]!

~Habakkuk 3:19

The Lord God is my Strength.

The Lord God is my personal bravery.

The Lord God is my invincible army. 

He is the reason I’m still standing.

melanie feet crocs and driveway step

How Can I Survive Grief Anniversaries?

There are more than you might think.  

Most folks would count the date of death and maybe the date of burial or memorial service.

But a mama’s heart counts it ALL.

I count the day he left, the day I was first able to view his body, the days of visitation, the day of the funeral and burial.

  • I count the day we cleaned out his apartment.
  • I count the day I notified credit card companies he would no longer require their services.
  • I count the day I received the death certificate.
  • I count the day I got his posthumous diploma.

And every year these dates roll around again to remind my heart of the pain I felt then and to pierce it afresh. 

grief as timeless as love

So how does a heart survive all these grief anniversaries?  How can I navigate the minefield of emotions and triggers that only I can see?

I believe the first step is to embrace them and not try to deny them. 

 

Earl-Grollman-grief-is-not-a-disorder

I remember the horror I felt when I realized I had survived 365 days since the deputy came to my door when I was certain I wouldn’t make it through the first 24 hours.  It did not feel like victory, it felt like betrayal.  

How in the world could my broken heart keep beating if I truly loved my son?

I cannot, by force of will, fend off the feelings that are sure to invade my heart when it recognizes that another year has passed.  

The most important thing is to have a plan, I think. That way it doesn’t slam you against the wall unawares. The feelings are impossible to outrun, but having a plan means you are anticipating them and in a kind of “fighting stance”.

The plan might be to go away or to go to the cemetery or other spot that evokes strong connection to your child.  It might be an elaborate gathering that includes friends or family or just lighting a candle next to a photograph.  Your heart may insist you stay in bed all day, covers over your head and wait out the ticking moments.

I think each family has to approach the day however makes sense to them. There is certainly no “right” way or “easy” way to do it.

no right way to grieve

I am sorry you have to do it at all.

Here’s the truth:  even THAT day will only last 24 hours. Just like the awful day when your child left you.

However you manage to survive is fine. 

mother and child paintingYou are not abandoning your missing child if you don’t make a big public display.  You are not forgetting him or her if you let go of some of these grief anniversaries over time-you are learning to carry the load.  You are not a bad parent if you choose a getaway to distract your heart from the pain.

You are coping the best you can-choosing to carry on.  

And that makes you awesome and brave.  

courage is always an act of love

 

You are Braver than You Think

Child loss is not the only devastating life circumstance that can make a person want to hide in bed.  

Every single day, broken hearts, broken bodies and limping spirits open their eyes to the dawn and choose to get up and get going.

If that is you, I want you to know this: 

You are strong.

You are brave.  

You are not invisible.  

braver stronger smarterYou may never be recognized in this life for the heroic struggle you face every day but it counts.

Endurance is triumph.  

Perseverance is conquest.  

Choosing brave in the face of fear is victory.  

fear is what we feel brave is what we do