Messy Christmas

The Christmas story is a messy one.

An unmarried mother, a hurried and hushed wedding (you know they HAD to get married, don’t you!).

Life is messy.

It rarely fits into the tidy boxes we create for our convenience.

My grief has taught me that really, we are all a mess.

Some of us are better at hiding it but I’ve learned that sharing my own brokenness invites others to do the same.

Losing a child opened my heart as never before to the broken and wounded and ignored of the earth.

And isn’t that really the message of Christmasthat the Almighty God Who is unapproachable in His holiness, comes to us as the Babe in the manger–inviting us to draw near in our brokenness and receive grace, mercy and love?

Maybe the best way to honor the Son of God leaving the glorious perfection of heaven to enter the world in poverty and dependence is not creating lovely tablescapes and piling packages under a decorated tree.

Maybe the best way to honor Christ’s birth is to open our hearts and homes

to the outcast,

the lowly,

and the disregarded.

Sar Shalom

Sar Shalom.

Prince of Peace.

My favorite name of Jesus.

According to Strong’s Concordance 7965 Shalom means completeness, wholeness, health, peace, welfare, safety soundness, tranquility, prosperity, perfectness, fullness, rest, harmony, the absence of agitation or discord.

Peace is not a place or a promise–peace is a Person.

I made this paper weight in January 2014 to remind me that Jesus IS Shalom–He IS Peace.

Four months into that year, my confidence in this truth was shaken. What tranquility can dwell in the heart of a mama who has to bury her child?  Where is wholeness when the family circle is torn asunder?

And yet…

Even as I walk this hard path, I am strangely, inexplicably at peace in the core of my being.

And God’s peace [shall be yours, that tranquil state of a soul assured of its salvation through Christ, and so fearing nothing from God and being content with its earthly lot of whatever sort that is, that peace] which transcends all understanding shall garrison and mount guard over your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:7 AMPC

Surrounded by violence and threats of violence, peace is hard to come by. Fear reigns in the hearts of many–even those who believe in Christ.

And if we trust in the government, or the police, or ourselves to keep us safe, we have every reason to be fearful.

But when we rest completely in Sar Shalom, the Prince of Peace who is Himself our Peace, we can be assured that we are safe.

Not safe from all harm, but safe in His love and care.

 

Everlasting Father

We live in a throwaway society.

Cups, cans, plates and people.   Too often we toss friendships when they become inconvenient, uncomfortable or require more energy than we are willing to give.

Adults trade partners in a frenzied search for happiness and fulfillment and leave children’s hearts in the wreckage as families are ripped apart.

So it’s no surprise that many people find it difficult to believe in a Heavenly Father that is good, and loving and everlasting.

But God is just that:

He is an Everlasting Father.

A Faithful Father.  

A Father whose enduring love lasts FOREVER. 

 Who shall ever separate us from the love of Christ? Will tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword?…For I am convinced [and continue to be convinced—beyond any doubt] that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present andthreatening, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the [unlimited] love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Romans 8:35, 38-39

My mother love is fierce.  But it was not strong enough to keep my child from the grave.

How much greater is the Father’s love that NOTHING can separate us from it?

What fills my heart and soul with hope and gives me strength to bear this great grief is unshakeable confidence that my son is safe in the eternal arms of my Everlasting Father.

 

 

 

Mighty God

For a child will be born for us,
a son will be given to us,
and the government will be on His shoulders.
He will be named
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Eternal Father, Prince of Peace.

Isaiah 9:6 HCSB

So many times, when I think of the “Mighty God” I conjure pictures of thunder and lightning or conquering power.  I’ve been in church services where someone will pray, “Show Yourself mighty here today, Lord!”  And what they mean is:  do something bold, easily identifiable and outwardly visible.

I believe the Mighty God shows up a lot more frequently than we realize. 

We are looking, like Elijah, for God in the whirlwind, but He usually comes in quietness and whispers.

I experienced the Mighty God the day I had to bury Dominic. 

I didn’t think I could physically survive greeting friends and family at his funeral, hearing loved ones tell him good-bye and watching his casket lowered beneath the earth.  But I did.

That morning I prayed:

“Father, bind any scheme of the enemy to take away the victory You have ordained for our great loss.  I know he cannot take away the real victory, but he delights in confusion, dissension and discouragement.  Only Your love, grace, peace and mercy can overcome hatred, bitterness, anger and discord.  Give us your Spirit in abundance—overwhelm us with Your Presence.  Help us say good-bye to our sweet boy in a way that honors You, magnifies You and honors his memory.  The only way we can do that is by Your grace and in Your power.  I must cling to the truth and to the Truth—otherwise all is lost!”

The Mighty God put steel in my backbone and upheld me with His love, grace and mercy.

He raised my hands in praise even as my heart broke in sorrow.

His warrior Spirit infused me with strength. 

I held on to the promise:

That one day Jesus, Who came first in meekness, will return in power.  He will set wrong things right and restore the earth to beauty and peace.

Death will be defeated and the grave will be no more. 

I am still fighting the enemy—every day he tries to defeat me and convince me that darkness and pain are all I will ever know.

But my faithful Savior, the Mighty God, comes quietly to my heart and reminds me that the victory is His—the promises are sure—and I, with Dominic, will dwell in His house forever.   

 

 

 

Jesus: Wonderful Counselor

Grief is confusing and scary. 

In a heartbeat I was transported from life-as-I-knew-it to a foreign landscape where I don’t speak the language, there are no sign posts and no way to get home.

Here is where God whispered the rock solid truth that He is near. That I am never beyond His reach, His care.  He brought to mind Scripture, and promises, and memories of past faithfulness–something familiar to cling to in the wilderness of grief.

The day Dominic died I wrote in my journal:

“The LORD gives and the LORD takes away.  Blessed be the Name of the LORD.  May my soul find rest in Thee alone.  May my eyes look only to Thy face.  May my heart’s peace be the Prince of Peace.  ‘Dominic’–belonging to God–You gave him to me and he is Yours again.  Marana Tha–Come quickly, Lord Jesus!”

When Jesus was preparing the disciples for His death, He knew that they would need a Counselor in their grief.  They would need a guide through the difficult and scary and confusing path they were about to walk. So He told them:

“But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit-the Father will send Him in My name-will teach you all things and remind you of everything I have told you.”  John 14:26 CSB

What a gift!  To have the Living God in me–my ever present Guide even on this most treacherous journey.

 

 

 

Jesus: The Alpha & Omega

I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End [the Eternal One].” Revelation 22:13 AMP

Jesus, the eternal Son of the eternal Father, bookends all history.

Even though there are things that surprise me, there is nothing that surprises Him.

When my son died, I wrote this to be included in the bulletin at his funeral:

“Dominic’s death was an accident from our perspective, but God knew from the moment He gave Dominic to us, that this would happen.  He was not surprised and He was and is in control.  Jesus was with my precious child when he took his first breath and when he took his last.  I don’t understand but I will trust.”

I still don’t understand, and I hurt,  but Jesus is eternal, ever present and ever faithful–and I will trust.

“Lord, I am so caught up in the here and now that I often lose sight of eternity.  Forgive me.  When things surprise me, help me rest in You–the Beginning and the End–to trust You–the Alpha and Omega.  Give me the grace to face each day with the settled assurance that whatever it may bring, You hold it in Your hand.”

Buying Time?

It’s been awhile since I braved the crowds and participated in the shopping frenzy known as “Black Friday” looking for a great bargain or the perfect present.

In years past, my mother, my daughter and I would wake up before the sun, slip out into the cold morning, hit two or three stores for a special gift and then head to a breakfast buffet to recuperate.

breakfast-buffet

I can’t remember a single purchase, but I remember the laughter and conversation and comraderie.

Losing a child puts lots of things in perspective.

Like memories and time.

Time is the only thing in life that moves in one direction.  From birth to death in a straight line.

This season has most of us rushing from one place to another, squeezing in another activity, seeking just the right something to put under the Christmas tree.  We start the day after Thanksgiving and hurry into December, and suddenly the month is gone, the days have fled.

Ask any parent who has buried a child what they want most in the world and they will not hesitate–another heartbeat, another second, another opportunity to say, “I love you” or “I’m proud of you” or “Thank you”.

All the world’s wealth won’t buy even one extra minute–the ticking clock is no respecter of persons. 

think-you-have-time

I cannot buy time, I can only spend it.

We all trade this life for something–a unique transaction–no refunds, no exchanges.

It’s up to me to choose…what am I going to trade it for?

My life for love?  

Or stuff?

No contest.

If I speak with human eloquence and angelic ecstasy but don’t love, I’m nothing but the creaking of a rusty gate.

If I speak God’s Word with power, revealing all his mysteries and making everything plain as day, and if I have faith that says to a mountain, “Jump,” and it jumps, but I don’t love, I’m nothing.

Love never dies. I Corinthians 13:1-2, 8 MSG

 

love deeply2