Choosing My Path Through Sun and Shade

We are only officially a few days into summer here in Alabama but we’ve already suffered weeks of extra hot weather.

And while I can’t do a thing about the absolute temperature outside, I can make choices that help me tolerate it.

It’s the same in my grief journey.

Everyday decisions make a difference in how well I cope.

I walk the half-mile stretch down and back on my driveway at least four or five times a day.

In the winter I follow the sun.

In the summer I follow the shade.

The path I choose to take either adds to or subtracts from my ability to make the trek in relative comfort.

Read the rest here: Sun & Shade: Picking My Path

Lenten Reflections: Fleeing From Willful Sin, Resting In God’s Love

I’ll just be completely honest here-there are some sins I don’t have much trouble avoiding. I’m not tempted to shoplift or physically harm others.

However, like all of us I have some pet sins I not only don’t avoid but I actually feed from time to time.

And like most folks, I justify my sin as “small” compared to the “big” sins of headline worthy wars or crimes or dastardly actions by those in power over those beneath them.

Why linger in the pain so many centuries after Christ’s resurrection?
Because it was real. Perhaps we would live differently if we remembered more frequently (and more accurately) what the cross cost.

Alicia Britt Chole

The thing is, any time I choose to willfully so something God has expressly forbidden I am sinning.

In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus enlarged our understanding of sin to include thoughts and intentions of the heart even when our outward actions appear above board.

By this standard I fall short very often-sometimes by slipping into inadvertent sin but also sometimes by actively choosing that which momentarily satisfies my flesh but dishonors my Savior.

After Dom ran ahead to Heaven it was very, very hard to justify to my heart the benefits of continuing to walk the narrow path.

I was focused on what I thought was unfair and unkind-the death of my son-and found it difficult to focus on what I knew to be true-that God was all-loving and good.

‘It’s God who ought to suffer, not you and me,’ say those who bear a grudge against God for the unfairness of life. The curse word expresses it well: God be damned. And on that day, God was damned. The cross that held Jesus’ body, naked and marked with scars, exposed all the violence and injustice of this world. At once, the Cross revealed what kind of world we have and what kind of God we have: a world of gross unfairness, a God of sacrificial love.

Philip Yancey

Little by little, as I leaned heavily into His lovingkindness, mercy and grace, I once again could choose Willful Obedience.

Today’s challenge is to fast from willful sin.

To lay down my tendency to arrange sin in categories ranging from “acceptable” to “hell-worthy” which makes some OK and excusable.

May I be more aware of the cost Christ paid and choose to honor that sacrifice in my daily life.

Jesus died for our sin. Why then do we work to keep it alive? What benefit do we perceive ourselves receiving? Does that benefit outweigh the cost Christ paid? This is not a simplistic call to stop sinning. No, this is a sincere call for us to start loving Jesus to a degree that compels us to walk away from sin where we can and get help where we can’t.

Alicia Britt Chole

Still Flying the Plane

I first shared this a couple of years ago when the world seemed to be going crazy and there was nothing I could do about it.

This year has been a real humdoozy too for different reasons!

Our family has welcomed another little bundle of joy earlier than expected (he’s doing really well, thank the Lord) and transitions abound.

So when a friend of Papa’s reminded me of his wise words, I decided to share once more.

Maybe someone else needs to hear it again too.

I was talking to my dad the other morning as I do every morning.

We catch one another up on personal news and then turn to the world at large.

After another day of dismal and disconcerting headlines I asked my retired fighter pilot/flight instructor/still flying/recently bereaved dad, “So, how are you REALLY doing?”

He replied, “I’m flying the plane.”

He told me the first rule of flying was: NO MATTER WHAT– never, never, never stop flying the plane.

Read the rest here: Fly The Plane

Lenten Reflections : Letting Go of Regret to Make Space For Growth

Today’s fast is regrets.

That means learning to let go of past mistakes, missed opportunities, woulda/coulda/shoulda.

Because the truth is no one lives backwards.

It’s helpful to reflect on how past actions might have influenced present conditions but it is crippling to hold those thoughts and feelings so close that there’s no room for new ones.

Every one of the disciples ended up being less brave than they had sworn to be. Each carried a heart wound that could have stopped them from fruitful ministry after Jesus rose.

They might have allowed regret to bind them to the past but they didn’t.

Regret empties anticipation, flattens dreams and suffocated hope, because regret is a form of self-punishment. Whereas hindsight lets us learn from the past, regret beats us up with the past.

Alicia Britt Chole

There is no more fertile ground for regrets to flourish than surviving the death of a child (or anyone you love).

It’s even more tempting when the person leaves suddenly, unexpectedly and without any opportunity to at least say, “goodbye”. When Dominic was killed instantly in a motorcycle accident I woke to a world where there would never be a chance to say anything that hadn’t already been said.

It was devastating.

But it’s not helpful to rehearse what I might have said or done if I knew the last time I saw him would be The. Last. Time.

Instead I have to live forward, embrace lessons learned from my past without allowing them to destroy me.

The Lord’s mercies are “new every morning”.

I want to embrace them every sunrise emptied of yesterday’s regrets.

I can face today confident that the Lord who made me will mold me and use me even when I haven’t always (or even often) made the best choices. ❤

*I am sharing thoughts on 40 DAYS OF DECREASE (a Lenten journal/devotional). If you choose to get and use the book yourself, I’ll be a day behind in sharing so as not to influence anyone else’s experience.*

The Battle For My Mind: Thoughts Matter

So much of this battle has been fought in my mind.

Really, even more than in my heart.

Because you can’t argue with sad or shock or missing or disappointment.

But you can absolutely argue with hopelessness (there is nothing to live for), apathy (there is nothing to do) and distrust (there is no one who can help me).

Read the rest here: Thoughts Matter

Wondering If It Will Ever Get Better?

I know that when I first stumbled onto a bereaved parent group, it was one of the things I was looking for: evidence that the overwhelming pain of child loss would not last forever.  

Some days I was encouraged as those who had traveled farther down this path posted comments affirming that they could feel something other than sorrow.

Some days I was devastated to read comments from parents who buried a child decades ago asserting that “it never gets better”.

Who is right?  

What’s the difference?

Do I have any control over whether or not this burden gets lighter?

Read the rest here: Will It Ever Get Better?

Reflections on a New Year

This year has been challenging in ways I could never have imagined nor anticipated. It’s been that way for most of us I think.

Communal grief, pain and loss have wrapped themselves around the unique grief, pain and loss of hearts everywhere.

Definitely plenty to give a person pause.

And while I do believe it’s a good thing to reflect every so often I’m not certain it has to be on the same date every year.

But since the world seems to agree on this one, I’ll join in:

Turning a calendar page doesn’t guarantee a fresh start. Resolutions, affirmations, hopeful aspirations can’t erase the marks we bear from previous life experiences. I’m all for declaring boldly that tomorrow may be better but I’ve learned the hard way it might be worse. So I hold my hands open either way and adjust my stance to accept whichever it may be.

Attitude makes a difference. I despise silly little mantras that claim I can will my way out of every dark and desperate situation. Bad things happen. Sorrow and sadness are appropriate and reasonable reactions to hard times. Sometimes there’s nothing else to do but feel the feelings, let the tears fall and allow my heart to experience the pain. But I can choose to turn my attention to whatever may still be beautiful in my world. I can lift my eyes to tiny flickers of light on the horizon. I can embrace joy along with sorrow.

My worth is not tied to external accomplishments or society’s arbitrary markers of success. I refuse to listen to the enemy’s lies whispered in my ear, “You are less than. You are a failure. You only count if your ‘wins’ outweigh your ‘losses’”. A new year may feel like a new beginning but it can also be a stark reminder of last year’s list of resolutions that may or may not have yielded measurable progress. Striving for improvement is healthy. Beating myself up for not meeting every goal is not.

Things can be replaced, people can’t. I’m not making light of the very real and very painful loss so many people have suffered this year as businesses failed, income dwindled and hopes for financial progress dashed. It’s no small thing to come back to ashes where your home once stood. Standing in line at a community food bank for a box when you used to stand in line at the grocery store is humbling. But if my family is alive and (relatively) well at the end of the year, we can work the rest out together.

The only investment with a guaranteed return is love. Sure I try to plan for the future. I eat right, exercise, save money and maintain my home and car all in the hope that investing time, energy and effort today will pay off tomorrow. But truth is (as we’ve all learned this year!) outside and unseen forces can undo the best laid plans and preparation. But love is never wasted or destroyed. All the love I pour into others lasts forever.

This time last year I was hope-filled and looking forward to a less stressful, amazing twelve months.

That’s not how it turned out.

I’ve learned some things though.

So I’ll carry that wisdom into 2022-no lofty resolutions or proclamations-and settle for survival

Tomorrow May Never Come. Live Like It.

We say it often.

Usually after someone we know or someone we love or someone famous is suddenly and unexpectedly taken from this life to the next.

And for a few minutes or a few days or a few weeks we think more carefully about what we say, what we do and what we worry about.

Read the rest here: Tomorrow’s Not Guaranteed. Live Like It.

Life Grows Around Grief

When days become months and months become years it’s hard to explain to others how grief is both always present but not always in focus.

I’ve struggled to help those outside the loss community understand that the absolute weight of the burden is precisely the same as when it fell on me without warning that dark morning.

Dominic’s absence, if anything, has seeped into more places, changed more relationships and influences more choices than it did seven years ago when I was only just beginning to comprehend what a world without him would look like.

But I, and my family, have continued to live.

We’ve added family members through marriage and birth. We’ve gone places, made memories and made career moves. We’ve gotten older. My husband retired. Children moved away.

All these things and more mean that life is simply bigger than it was when Dom left us.

I really like this graphic that puts this in perspective.

It’s a slow, gradual process. And for some hearts who are forced to endure multiple losses in a short time the circle may never get very large because the grief is so great.

I remember when I realized that sorrow was not ALL I felt nor Dominic’s absence ALL I saw. It was a bit frightening to be honest.

Did that mean my love for him was waning or that his importance in our family was forgotten? Was I a bad mother because I no longer cried every day for the child not here? Had my heart grown cold?

But then I realized none of those things were true. What allowed me to feel joy again, to participate fully in family outings or gatherings, to plan holidays and birthdays once more was instead that my heart had found a way to hold both sorrow and gladness at the same time.

There are still days when grief looms large and my world seems too small to contain it. But those don’t come as often as they once did.

Life will march on, regardless of how hard we might wish it wouldn’t.

And, in large measure, life after loss is what we choose to make of it.

I’m not abandoning Dom by embracing my life now.

In fact, I’m sure he’d approve.

Bitterness: A Terrible Legacy

Oh, how easy it would be to become bitter!  

If I’m honest, part of me just wants to tell the world to “Get lost!”. 

But the wiser part of me knows that’s neither a helpful nor healthy response to even this most awful burden of child loss.  

Lament is how we bring our sorrow to God. Without lament, we won’t know how to process pain. Silence, bitterness, and even anger can dominate our spiritual lives instead.

~Mark Vroegop – Dark Clouds Deep Mercy

Because my bitter spirit wouldn’t stop with me.

Read the rest here: Bitterness Is A Terrible Legacy

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