George, Barbara and Robin: Child Loss, Love and a Lifetime of Service

I’m not a huge fan of the images of Heaven that feature people floating on clouds.  

But I love this one.  

bush reunion

Here’s why:  Because it highlights the lifelong impact of child loss on a parent’s heart.  

You can agree or disagree with his politics or her choice of service projects, but you can’t argue with the evidence of lives lived passionately committed to loving others and doing good in the world.

And I absolutely, positively believe that a huge part of what informed that passion was burying a child.

A heart that has endured such painful loss cannot remain unchanged.  

Brokenness begets bountiful love if you let it.  

And I believe the Bushes did just that.  

I am thankful they are reunited-no more pain, no more suffering, no more waiting for redemption.

So I’ll hang onto this whimsical cartoon as a reminder to my heart that even as I wait, longing for the same, I can choose to live a life of loving service.

As long as I am here, I will reach out

reach down

reach across

to touch the hands and hearts of other hurting humans.  

Thank you,  George and Barbara, for your example.  

Enjoy your reward. 

Thankful Heart, Broken Heart

I think I will repost this every year as long as I maintain this space.  

It may get old for some, but it will never get old for me.  

While my heart is turned toward thankfulness this time of year, I’m also profoundly aware of my own brokenness…

Thanksgiving has always been my favorite holiday.

My birthday sometimes falls on the day itself, and I have often been able to celebrate with extended family and friends-a full table of food and a full house of fellowship.

Read the rest here:  Thankful But Broken

We’ve Got To Do Better: Making Ministry the Heart of Church

I am not among those who have given up on the local church.

But I AM critical of the way we in the U.S. –and especially the Southern U.S. -do church.

Let’s be honest. 

Most of us go to church because it makes us feel good, refuels our spirits for the week ahead and is a safe spot to park our kids for a few hours respite from the demands of parenthood.

An added bonus is that sometimes we get to contribute to a cause, a mission or a personal need without having to get TOO involved.

So we come away feeling pretty good about who we are, what we believe and how much we “sacrifice” for others and the Kingdom.

But this is not what Christ came for folks.

He didn’t come so that we can have a weekly club meeting, soothe our souls and shut out the world.  He came so that desperate hearts on the fringe could draw near.

He rent the veil so that no one who trusts His finished work is excluded.

Not even the messy and imperfect.

Not even the poor or unlovely or slightly crazy.

We have got to do better.

We have got to make church a place where people who have no hope feel like they are welcome.  We have got to reach out and reach down and reach across and pull those hurting hearts inside.

I know (believe, me, I know!) that it takes more energy than you want to exert.  It takes more flexibility than a crammed-full schedule can allow.  It takes more time and more emotional investment than any of us really want to spend.

But this is what Christ came for.

He came to expose the barriers religious people had erected between God and man. 

He came to make a way where there was no way.

How welcome are the truly broken to our house of worship? Do we want to see their pain, entertain their questions and offer hope that includes walking the road alongside them and giving support for the long haul?

Jesus came to heal the broken.

Healing takes time and resources. It requires personal commitment to those God brings into our lives. It is messy and can’t be boiled down to a formula or pamphlet.

Jesus has invited is to be His hands and feet.

Will we accept the invitation?

christ has no body but yours teresa of avila

I AM Defined [In Part] By Grief

I’m not at all fond of the saying, “Don’t let your grief define you”.

I understand that I shouldn’t let my grief CONSTRAIN me, shouldn’t let it circumscribe my life, making it smaller and smaller until all I think about, speak about or experience is sadness, sorrow and missing.

And I don’t.

But I cannot ignore that losing a child DOES define me.  It defines me in exactly the same way other momentous events-good and bad-shape, mold and make me into who I am.

Marriage, divorce, receiving Christ as Savior, growing up in a small town or big city-all those things matter to me and in my relationships with other people.

Becoming a mother changed everything. 

I was no longer free to think only of myself, consider only my wishes and schedule, eat, sleep and go places without making arrangements for this new little person.

Burying a child changed everything again. 

I was no longer free to believe that I would be spared great heartache in this life.  I couldn’t ignore the hard question of why does a good God let bad things happen?  My heart was shattered and though the pieces are coming back together again, it will never be the same heart it was before.

We routinely ask one another, “What kind of work do you do?”  

Why?

Because learning about a person’s work usually gives you insight into many aspects of a person’s life, character, preferences and inclinations.  

In the same way, you can’t really understand me unless you know that one of my children lives in Heaven.  

 

Am I ONLY a bereaved mother?

Absolutely not!

I am many other things besides- a wife, mother, follower of Jesus, shepherd, daughter, rural resident, bookworm, writer, lover of all things living.

But I AM a bereaved mother. 

And that colors my perceptions of the world just as surely as any of those other aspects of my identity.  

I can’t ignore it.  

To do so would be to dishonor my child.

I refuse to do that.

Unbroken

I call my parents pretty much every morning.  

It was a habit started years ago after my mother had a bad spell and ended up in the hospital.  I like to start my day knowing how she and my dad are doing.

The other day Papa and I were talking about the movie, “Unbroken” we saw a couple years ago.

There’s a scene where the main character was forced to hold a heavy beam over his head in a Japanese POW camp for hours.  If he let it fall, he would be shot and his torture over. Malnourished, mistreated and disheartened, he somehow found the strength to do it.

He endured.

unbroken movie beam

His courageous example lent courage to the others in that camp.  His victory was in not giving up or giving in, though he bore the scars for the rest of his life.

These past months have been difficult ones for both of my parents.  Mama’s fall, heart attack and multiple hospital stays have left her very different than she was last summer.  Someone needs to be with her all the time.

That means my dad-who has no physical limitations-is as housebound as she.  

Papa is absolutely committed to caring for Mama and he’s doing a great job.  

But it’s hard on a heart to be confined when you are surrounded by so many chores that need doing and so much wide open space that begs you to get out in the sunshine.

He is enduring.  

And I am thankful for his example.  

So few of us will have an opportunity to do really grand things that make headlines.  But most of us will have a chance to be faithful in hundreds of small things that make up meaningful lives. 

courage doesn't always roar male liion

Quiet, everyday commitment to not giving up when life is hard and rest seems so very far away is victory even when it doesn’t feel like it.  

It speaks courage to other hearts to hold on.

Truly.

Always.

 

be strong you never know who you are inspiring

 

 

“Why Am I Robbed, And Who is Benefited?” Mark Twain on Child Loss

I only recently came across this quote by Mark Twain.   

It’s from a letter he wrote to a close friend after his favorite daughter, Susy, aged 24, died of meningitis while her parents were abroad. 

It is heartbreaking and utterly perfect.  

You have seen our whole voyage.  You have seen us go to sea, a cloud of sail-and the flag at the peak; and you see us now, chartless, adrift-derelicts; battered, water-logged, our sails a ruck of rags, our pride gone.  For it is gone.  And there is nothing in its place.

The vanity of life was all we had, and there is no more vanity left in us.  We are even ashamed of that we had; ashamed that we trusted the promises of life and builded high-to come to this!

I did know that Susy was part of us; I did not know that she could go away; I did not now that she could go away, and take our lives with her, yet leave our dull bodies behind.

And I did not know what she was.  To me she was but treasure in the bank; the amount known, the need to look at it daily, handle it, weigh it, count it, realize it, not necessary; and now that I would do it, it is to late; they tell me it is not there, has vanished away in a night, the bank is broken, my fortune is gone, I am a pauper.

How am I to comprehend this?  How am I to have it?  Why am I robbed, and who is benefited?mark

He and his wife never returned to the home where she died.

there is no at least in child loss

 

Barefoot Over Broken Ground

I first shared this in 2014 not quite a month after Dominic ran ahead to heaven.

His leaving has made me much more aware that what we read as “stories” where we can turn to the last page and know the ending, others lived in real time, with no ability to fast forward to the ending.

It’s easy to be impatient with a heart barely holding onto hope and try to goad someone into “looking on the bright side” or hammer them with Scripture because “we know how this ends”.

But when you are walking barefoot over a path of sharp stones, you really can’t focus too much on the fact that it might not be as long as you think.

All you know is it hurts like hell right now.

When I read the Gospels it is tempting to mock those who refused to see that Jesus was bringing in a kingdom that would be so much better than the earthly one they expected from Messiah.

But they were living a day-to-day reality of hopelessness under Roman rule that made them ache for relief.

When life this side of heaven is more than you can bear, there is great tension in your soul to beg God for relief in this earthly life and to be a bit impatient with the idea of “all things working for good” in some distant future.

It doesn’t mean you don’t believe it, but it does mean that you carry a weight of sorrow.

So be patient with broken hearts and with those walking a broken path.

You might think declaring “Victory in Jesus” is helpful.

But it’s not. 

Instead, hold a hand, call courage, choose to walk alongside.  

In the end it’s endurance that’s the real victory and that is only possible when a heart can hold on.

endurance is patience concentrated