New Year’s Resolutions

The funny thing about New Year’s resolutions is that they are pretty much the same, year after year.  We all have particular struggles and the turning of the calendar seems like the perfect moment to commit to action to try to overcome them.

But most of us fail miserably and find ourselves back at precisely the point from which we started, regardless of our best efforts to change.

Truth is, we are terrible at remaking ourselves.  Habits wear ruts in our thinking and in our behavior.  It requires more strength than most of us possess to climb out and start fresh.

But God has promised that those who trust Jesus will be “made new”–they will be changed dramatically, like a caterpillar to a butterfly.  From the inside out and no turning back.

“Therefore, if anyone is in the Messiah, he is a new creation. Old things have disappeared, and—look!—all things have become new!”

I Corinthians 5:17 ISV

In the five years before Dominic died, I had slowed my Bible reading to a crawl–limiting myself to one chapter a day and writing it out in my journal.  After decades of church attendance, I realized that the stories had become too easy to rush through, the verses too familiar to resonate deeply in my spirit. I had just finished my journey through God’s Word in this way when my son was killed.

No one is prepared to bury their child, but God did lead me in the years before Dominic’s death to commit to reading Scripture in a slower, more deliberate way.

Having those Bible verses in my heart and in my head gave me a safe place to land when I received the awful blow.

So may I suggest that this New Year’s, choose the one resolution that can truly transform–if you don’t know Jesus, ask someone who does to introduce you to HIm.

If you are a Christ follower, commit to reading His Word. Store it in your soul. Write it on the tablet of your heart.  You never know what a new year will bring…

And so, dear brothers, I plead with you to give your bodies to God. Let them be a living sacrifice, holy—the kind he can accept. When you think of what he has done for you, is this too much to ask? Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but be a new and different person with a fresh newness in all you do and think. Then you will learn from your own experience how his ways will really satisfy you.

Romans 12:1-2 TLB

 

curating grief

Most of us have taken a class or two in literature–we read other people’s writing and sit around discussing “what it really means”.  My husband has always scoffed at the notion that anyone but the author knows that.

Me–I love books, plays and poetry so I’ve spent a lifetime reading and trying to interpret the meaning of others’ words.

But now I find I’m leaning more toward my husband’s point of view.

One of the challenges I face as a grieving parent is finding that other people want to interpret my experience for me.

They want to curate my mourning like a museum exhibit–arrange and highlight and sift through the days before and after burying my child and lay my experience out in some way that makes sense to them.

Sometimes it is subtle and involves mentioning memories that cast the missing child in a positive light–extolling his virtues and highlighting his achievements–as if noting how wonderful he was when walking this earth makes it easier to let him go.

Other times it is direct and forceful–“Everything happens for a reason.” Or, “He wouldn’t want you to be sad.”  Or, my personal favorite, “You know he’s safe with Jesus and you will be together again one day.”

While my theology rests firmly on the finished work of Christ, my heart longs for the physical presence of my son.  So none of these platitudes are helpful and they only draw a sharper contrast between my hope and my experience.

Let me just be blunt:  unless you have buried a child, you do not know how it feels. 

Full stop.

No debate.

I am grateful for your support, for your prayers, for your kindness, compassion and love.

But please do not tell me how this all makes sense or fits together in God’s plan or will someday “make a difference”.

I  invite you to travel with me, to share stories (good and bad) of my son with me, to sit with me and look at the memories, feel the sorrow and experience the missing.

And, if you are brave, you can ask me what it means.

 

 

Rachel Weeping for Her Children

I woke up with this Scripture on my mind: “Rachel weeping for her children and refusing to be comforted, because they are no more.”(Matthew 2:18b)

God warned Joseph in a dream, but apparently didn’t warn the other fathers.

It served His purposes for those children to die. There is no way to know if their mamas ever suspected the reason or understood the plan.

We read the “story” focused on Jesus-as is right. And we conclude that everything turns out well. But those families lived the rest of their lives with grieving hearts.

The Kingdom has always advanced at a steep cost and the ways of God are mysterious.

This tension is hard to  bear.

We live in a scripted world where we can watch and re-watch news, events, movies and Youtube videos.  We can read and re-read books. And our attention span is short.

Our compassion is often short, too.

We want to rush past the hard parts, the sad parts and the uncomfortable parts.

We want to get to the end of the story because we want to see how the parts fit together.

But when you are living the story, you can’t hurry to the end. You must live each day, each minute as it comes.

The only way to make it through is with patient compassion, tender mercy and extravagant grace.

Not as Strong as I Look

 

No matter how tightly I strap on my armor, grief sends arrows through the tiniest unprotected chink and pierces my heart.

There is no defense against the sound, the smell, the wayward memory that sends me back in time to when Dominic was alive and with me.

And once there, to drag myself forward to today—where he is neither—is torture. 

Sometimes the process can be a matter of seconds, the only evidence a blank stare or a single tear.  Other times the memories and the forceful return to the here and now unleashes a flood from my eyes and ends my usefulness for that day.

Either way, it’s exhausting. 

I think that might be one of the most surprising aspects of grief for me.  When it strikes hard (as it still does sometimes) it robs me of energy and the desire to do anything.

I am a “get-it-done” kind of person.

But there’s no way to get grief “done”. 

It works itself out in its own time and in its own way.

I can position my mind and my heart to heal by focusing on the promises of God in Scripture.  But I cannot hurry along the healing.

And healing, when it comes, will always be incomplete this side of heaven.

Please don’t mistake the fact that I can stand straight and look strong as proof that I am recovered. 

I am often frightened and sometimes I want to hide.

But vulnerable and wounded, I remain until God calls me home.

In His feathers He shall deliver you and under His wings you shall have refuge; His truth shall surround you as a supply of armor.

Psalm 91:4

Faithful Waiting

I fell in love with Ron Dicianni’s painting,  “Simeon’s Moment” many years ago.  My husband bought and framed a print for me and I sit opposite it every morning as I drink my coffee.

It never fails to touch my heart.

There was a man in Jerusalem whose name was Simeon. This man was righteous and devout, looking forward to Israel’s consolation,and the Holy Spirit was on him.  It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he saw the Lord’s Messiah. Guided by the Spirit, he entered[b] the temple complex. When the parents brought in the child Jesus to perform for Him what was customary under the law, Simeon took Him up in his arms, praised God, and said:

Now, Master,
You can dismiss Your slave in peace,
as You promised.
 For my eyes have seen Your salvation.
You have prepared it
in the presence of all peoples—
 a light for revelation to the Gentiles[c]
and glory to Your people Israel.

Luke 2: 25-32 HCSB

We don’t know how long Simeon had waited, how many times he had looked at a male child brought for dedication only to realize that he must still wait–but we know that Simeon returned to the temple because he trusted God’s promise.

Then one day, perhaps a day he thought would be like any other, THERE HE WAS–Messiah had come.

As he cradled Jesus in his arms, spoke prophecy over his baby head, Simeon’s faithful waiting was rewarded.

Yet even at that moment, Simeon did not receive the fullness of the promise–Jesus was yet a tiny child.

But the foretaste of God’s trustworthy love flooded his soul and he was able to say,  “You can dismiss Your slave in peace,..for my eyes have seen Your salvation”.

Waiting is hard.  

I miss Dominic and I long for the time when my family circle will be restored.

Sometimes the days drag on and it seems as if the promised light and redemption is far away.

But one day, perhaps a day that begins like any other, CHRIST WILL COME.

So until then, I will rest in the foretaste of God’s trustworthy love and wait faithfully for His appearing.

 

Anticipation

All around the world children climb in bed tonight, barely able to close their eyes because they can hardly wait for the celebration tomorrow.

Anticipation is a powerful motivator.

Looking forward to a reward, children may find that they really CAN behave.  Thinking ahead to family flooding in, parents might realize that those piles of clutter that have been too big to tackle are easy to get rid of.

Presents, food and family fellowship will bring in the new day.

Anticipation fuels expectations and all too often our perfectly imagined Christmas morning doesn’t quite measure up.

Inevitably someone will be disappointed because what they thought they were getting for Christmas isn’t under the tree.  Eventually a cross word disrupts the harmony and hurt feelings reign.

People disappoint us.  Life rarely turns out the way we think it should or hope it will.

But there is One in Whom I can place my trust.  One Whose name is Faithful and True.

He came as a Babe but reigns as a King.

My heart longs for the day when wrong is made right and my faith made sight.

On that Day, I will take hold of my heart’s hope and I will not be disappointed.

Until then I will rest in the real promise of Christmas:

At once the angel was joined by a huge angelic choir singing God’s praises: Glory to God in the heavenly heights, Peace to all men and women on earth who please him.

Luke 2:14 MSG

 

Costly Worship

I don’t know what the wise men expected to see.

It seems natural to us who know the story–who know the REST of the story–that they ended up finding Jesus-The King of the Jews-the One whose birth was announced by a star in a humble abode.

But I think it might have surprised those rich rulers traveling so far to worship Him.

In their experience, future kings were born in palaces, surrounded by servants.  Such births were announced and trumpeted loud and long.

So when they found this little child with poor parents in a poor house, perhaps they thought they were mistaken.

We don’t know because Scripture is silent on this point.

What we do know is that they offered the gifts they brought, they worshiped the One they had traveled long to see.

They undertook a treacherous and costly journey for the purpose of worship.

True worship is expensive.

To raise my voice and my hands after losing Dominic is hard. It requires that I trust God regardless of my circumstances.

It means I lay my treasure at His feet even when I don’t understand why or how He intends to use it.

But worship inclines my heart to the God Who made it.

Just like the star led the wise men, worship leads me to the feet of Jesus.

And there is where I can safely leave my treasure.

Now when Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judaea in the days of Herod the king, behold, there came wise men from the east to Jerusalem,

Saying, Where is he that is born King of the Jews? for we have seen his star in the east, and are come to worship him.

When they saw the star, they rejoiced with exceeding great joy.

And when they were come into the house, they saw the young child with Mary his mother, and fell down, and worshipped him: and when they had opened their treasures, they presented unto him gifts; gold, and frankincense and myrrh.

Matthew 2:1-2, 10-11 KJV