Repost: Monday Musings-Mercy

A precious sister-in-loss created this image.

It’s my theme song.

And the message of my heart.

Read the rest here:  Monday Musings: Mercy

Church Signs

Can I just say I’m not a fan of church signs?

I could list a dozen reasons but here I will simply list one:  It is impossible to constrain good theology to the few words that will fit on most church signs.

The temptation to be funny, cute or trite generally overcomes any desire to be biblically accurate.

Case in point-just down the road from me is this sign:

THERE ARE NO PROBLEMS, ONLY OPPORTUNITIES FOR GOD TO WORK.

I could write for days on why I hate (yes, HATE!) this sign.  But I’ll restrain myself.

Here are the top three reasons I want to close my eyes when I pass it:

  1.  It’s simply does not line up with Scripture.  Paul gives a list of “problems” in 2 Corinthians 11:25-27.  Did God help him?  Yes!  But was Paul discouraged?  Yes!  He turned to God but was also thankful for the practical help of those who cared about him and gave him aid.
  2. People who are struggling are not encouraged by platitudes.  Platitudes close the door to further discussion.  They are a giant “period” in a conversation.  If the purpose of your sign is to invite others in, this one will do just the opposite.
  3. Preaching this foolishness (in person or by sign) lets congregants off the hook.  If there are no problems then there is no reason to extend a helping hand.  If God will handle it-why should I get my hands dirty or waste my time?

This week alone I have dealt with at least ten “problems” that required practical solutions in addition to prayers that God would help work them out.

Did He make some things fall in place that otherwise might not?  Probably.  And for that I am very thankful.

But did He shower solutions from the sky like raindrops?  No.  I had to face the problems, look for solutions and ask for help from others.

When Christ instituted the church it was not for us to sit inside four walls and dole out pithy platitudes to passersby.  It was for us to be His hands and feet in the world.

Truth is that God DOES work.  But most often He works through US.

All around us are people hungry for the Good News of Jesus Christ.

If we are going to put out a sign, could it just say, “We welcome the broken, the wounded, the hurting, the ones with no hope”?

Isn’t THAT what Jesus came to do?

weary

 

 

 

Don’t Dare Hope

My prayer list is very short.  It’s been whittled down to the basics.  I don’t ask for much and I expect less.

But today I will be waiting with bated breath to find out if a prayer that’s been lifted up for months will be answered.

It’s risky business to ask when the answer may be “no”.  If I’m honest, I’m not sure my heart can take it.

I am confident that I will see Dominic in heaven when I get there.  My heart rests assured that the blood of Christ is sufficient and my salvation sure.

BUT….

I do not dare hope anymore that when I pray specifically for someone or something it will come to pass.  Oh, I believe God HEARS my prayer, that He knows the desire of my heart, that He COULD grant my request.  But I no longer rest my head on the pillow of peace, settled in my spirit that the “effectual fervent prayers  of a righteous man or woman availeth much.”

I will be the first to admit that to hold both thoughts simultaneously seems impossible and contradictory.  Yet I do.

Because I’ve learned the hard way that my prayers are not God’s “to do” list.  He is sovereign, not me.  His plans may or may not conform to mine.  His work in my life may very well include pain and sorrow and disappointment.

Sometimes I just want that old naive hope back.  I want to erase this dark knowledge from my heart.

Especially when someone I love needs my prayers.

I want to believe.  I want to trust.  I want to rest assured that not only is my prayer heard, but that it will be granted.  But it is oh, so hard!!!!

So I offer the only prayer I can still lift up with absolute confidence:  I plead mercy and grace.

I pray that God may have mercy on my fragile spirit, that He may grant my desire and strengthen my faith.  And I pray that regardless of the outcome, He will give me the grace to accept it.

It’s the best I can do.

 

 

 

 

 

Repost: Remember: Why Good Friday Matters as Much as Resurrection Sunday

“On the one hand Death is the triumph of Satan, the punishment of the Fall, and the last enemy. Christ shed tears at the grave of Lazarus and sweated blood in Gethsemane: the Life of Lives that was in Him detested this penal obscenity not less than we do, but more.
On the other hand, only he who loses his life will save it. We are baptized into the death of Christ, and it is the remedy for the Fall. Death is, in fact, what some modern people call “ambivalent.” It is Satan’s great weapon and also God’s great weapon: it is holy and unholy; our supreme disgrace and our only hope; the thing Christ came to conquer and the means by which He conquered.”  C.S. Lewis,  Miracles

Bury a child and suddenly the death of Christ becomes oh, so personal. The image of Mary at the foot of the cross is too hard to bear.

Read the rest here:  Remember: Why Good Friday Matters as Much as Resurrection Sunday

Fragments

I recently heard  a young woman describe a Chinese grieving ritual on an NPR broadcast:

At her grandfather’s funeral, his oldest son was tasked with demonstrating the depth of grief and pain the father’s passing left behind. He stood before the casket, raised a clay bowl above his head and smashed it to the ground while loudly wailing.

The bowl was shattered into fragments too small and too fragile to be put back together in any semblance of what they once represented.

broken bowl

When I heard the story, my heart cried, “YES!!”

Why can’t we do something like that?  Why can’t we have a dramatic outburst at the edge of death that burns an unforgettable image in the hearts and minds of those who join us to say good-bye?

I honestly wouldn’t change a thing about Dominic’s Homegoing Service –except for it to be unnecessary.

We had a beautiful video full of photographs provided by friends and family.  There were praise songs chosen to remind us of the brevity of life and the eternal hope we have in Jesus.

He was placed under a giant Tree of Life that had been constructed in the sanctuary as part of the Palm Sunday/Easter celebrations of that week. Even as we planned the service I remember thinking, “Only a DeSimone could leave earth when some wild thing like this was available to mark his passing!”  

IMG_1832

And our Pastor/Shepherd/Friend who had spent many quality hours with our children gave the message.  The sanctuary was filled with people from all walks of life, all faith traditions and all ages-many hearing the Good News of the Gospel of Jesus for the first time.

It was as good as it could have been.

But if I could go back-I’d add this element:

I would raise a clay bowl over my head as high as I could and I would smash it with a loud wail.

Because in the end, that’s what child loss does to a mama’s heart.  It shatters it into pieces so tiny and so fragile that simply to gather them into a pile takes oh, so much time.

And the pieces never fit again.  They never make a whole.  There are always gaps and the vessel remains fragile and easily broken.

I am still gathering pieces.  

Still looking for the ones that slid under this edge out of sight or got kicked farther away than I thought they could be.

I’m placing the ones I recognize back into what seems the proper setting.

I’m finding some that look like they don’t belong anywhere and will have to wait to see if I ever figure out where they should go.

I’m beginning to look more and more like I’m whole.  

And in some ways, I am.  But in many ways it is an illusion-a trick of the eye-a turning of the ugly broken toward the wall where you can’t see it.

I’m still missing so, so much.

dickens quote rainbow

 

The Day Before It All Fell Apart

Friday, April 11, 2014:

Julian and I went to a college honors banquet and came back to the house to find Fiona home for the weekend.  I called Hector and texted with James Michael.

I turned out the light and went to sleep.  

No warning shots across the bow of life rang out to let me know what was coming.

But that Friday was the last day I spent misunderstanding the awfulness of death and the absolute uncertainty of life.

Those were the final 24 hours when I indulged in silly chatter, playful planning and the mundane tasks that used to take up most of my time.

That Friday was the last night I fell asleep thanking God that all my family were safe and secure.

It was the last night I COULD have called Dominic, but didn’t because he was coming over Saturday morning.

IMG_1984

The sun rose for us, but not for him.

I will never forgive myself for not talking to him one last time.

I woke up in the still-dark morning to a deputy knocking on the door to tell me Dominic had been killed.

And my world fell apart.

dragging heartIt’s been three years and it is not yet put back together.  Pieces have been picked up and tacked into what remains of the outer shell.

I can function.

I can even laugh.

And I am so, so grateful for the family I have still with me.  Together we are working hard to make it through.

But there are no words to help those who have never buried a child understand the depth of the pain, the sorrow and the ongoing struggle to live each day.

I miss my son.

I miss the family we used to be.

I miss the old me.

I miss being blissfully ignorant of exactly how awful death is.

IMG_2637

I will not live long enough for this to stop hurting.

My son is gone.

He is GONE.

He is still gone.

And even three years later,I can barely stand it.

 

Healing? Curing? Same Thing?

Healing and curing are not the same thing.

Healing is a process that takes as long as it takes and may never be complete this side of eternity.  It’s a folding in of the hard parts of my story, an acknowledgement of the way I am changed because of the wounds I’ve received.  It involves scar tissue and sore spots and ongoing pain.

healing is not the absence of pain silhouette of sorrow

To be cured is to be free of the effects of disease or injury.  

And there is no cure for child loss.

I will never be free of the effects of burying a child this side of Heaven.

I did not understand the difference until it was my heart bearing an incurable wound.

The thing about healing, as opposed to curing, is that it is relational. It takes time. It is inefficient, like a meandering river. Rarely does healing follow a straight or well-lit path. Rarely does it conform to our expectations or resolve in a timely manner. Walking with someone through grief or through the process of reconciliation requires patience, presence, and a willingness to wander, to take the scenic route.

~Rachel Held Evans, Searching for Sunday

It really IS all about relationship.

Relationship first with the Living God through His Son, Jesus.

The ongoing life-giving ministry of His Spirit calls courage to me as I travel this Valley and sings hope to my heart when I cannot hear anything else.  

He will not leave me in my distress.

He does not abandon me in my darkest hour.

flesh-and-heart-may-fail

But it is also about relationship with others.

Relationship with those willing to meander with me along this unlit and winding path.  They are the ones who give me courage to carry on. They are the ones who lift me up when I am unable to lift myself and who lie down with me when even their best pep talk is not enough to get me off the floor.

friends pick us up

They have listened to me tell and retell my story.

The first time I told it, I didn’t have a clue what to say or how to say it-what to leave in, what to leave out.  How do you condense a life-sized earthquake to a novel, much less a few sentences?

But I find as I practice telling my story, it is healing.

Sometimes it’s as if I speak without my mind being engaged and listening,  I have an “aha” moment-suddenly recognizing a new insight and another place that needs work or has received healing.

I’ve learned that there is no substitute for companionship on this journey.  

My healing depends on the faithful Presence of my Shepherd

AND

the faithful presence of friends who refuse to leave even when it seems we are lost in the wilderness of grief together,

relationshipmatters-pic