Flickers Of Light, Guiding My Heart Home

A fellow bereaved mom commented on my recent holiday post with this question: How do you make joy, when your heart has no joy?

It was a good and honest query. One that stopped me in my tracks.

When your heart is so broken that all is dark inside AND outside, where does the word “joy” even fit into your vocabulary?

I’m not sure I would have described anything as joyful for months after Dominic ran ahead to Heaven even though those days included two graduations and a wedding.

I felt positive about those events and I longed to feel joyful, but I just could not muster the energy to do much more than smile for the camera.

So I think, for me, it was a matter (over time and with much effort) to choose to allow joy back into my broken heart.

There are moments of beauty even in the darkest and most difficult days.

At first I refused to recognize and acknowledge them because to embrace joy seemed like treason. It felt disrespectful to Dominic-making light of the horror of his untimely death.

But eventually I realized that embracing whatever good I might stumble upon in a day wasn’t denying the awful, it was admitting and affirming that death didn’t have the last word.

I am walking the Valley now, but this journey will not last forever.

One day it will end with more joy and love and laughter and glory than my finite mind can imagine.

So the bits of joy along the way are simply flickers of light guiding my heart Home.

Scripture Journal Challenge: My Groom Is Coming To Get Me!

There was a lovely tradition practiced in Jewish communities when Jesus walked the earth.

After a betrothal and before the final vows, a groom returned to his family home and built an addition to his father’s house in preparation for his bride.

The bride made herself ready and then waited because she didn’t know when her groom would return. What began as hopeful anticipation might sometimes have turned to fear if the groom tarried too long in coming.

But no matter how long it might be, she was expected to maintain that state of hopeful expectation. (The Parable of the Ten Virgins: Matthew 25: 1-13)

What a celebration when he finally showed up, whisked her off and the marriage feast began!

This was the image Jesus evoked when He spoke to His disciples at the Last Supper.

They had questions.

(I can identify.)

They were scared.

(Me too.)

They wondered where He was going and what they were supposed to do when He left.

(Yes, we have the Bible but there are lots of day-to-day situations that aren’t covered.)

He didn’t leave them (or me!) without hope for their anxious hearts. And he used familiar images to help them hold onto what He was telling them.

“You must not let yourselves be distressed—you must hold on to your faith in God and to your faith in me. There are many rooms in my Father’s House. If there were not, should I have told you that I am going to prepare a place for you? It is true that I am going away to prepare a place for you, but it is just as true that I am coming again to welcome you into my own home, so that you may be where I am. You know where I am going and you know the road I am going to take.” ~ Jesus to His disciples

John 14: 1-4 PHILLIPS

When a groom left his bride, he wasn’t disappearing for good.

He was going away for a little while to make permanent arrangements for their forever home.

Jesus is the great Bridegroom and the church His Bride. Those of us who love Him, follow Him and wait for Him will not be disappointed!

Song: We Will Dance on Streets That Are Golden

I may cast off this earthly tent through death or in an instant at His return.

Either way, He’s got a place all ready for me.

QUESTIONS:

  • Why is waiting so hard?
  • Does the cultural background to this passage help you understand it? Why or why not?
  • Is it difficult for you to wrap your mind around the idea that maybe instead of (as suggested in popular culture and some churches) our own private mansion, we might well live in community with others in smaller rooms or additions? How might that alter our behavior here and now toward other believers?
  • Are you as excited for the Heavenly Wedding and Marriage Supper of the Lamb as you were for your own wedding? Why or why not?
  • If you listened to the song above, how does it make you feel?

PRAYER:

Father God, I’m just going to admit it-waiting is hard! Especially when I don’t know how long I might have to keep waiting. Help me hold onto hope as I look expectantly toward the future You have for me-not only my beautiful Eternal Home but also the earthly future and good works You have prepared in advance for me to do as long as I may live.

Thank You, Jesus, for loving me so well.

You don’t despise our weakness or our questions. Thank You for leaving us with vibrant images that help us imagine (even a little) of what awaits everyone who loves You in the glorious hereafter when every wrong is made right, everything stolen restored and everything lost, redeemed.

I know, know, know in my bones that You do not lie. You cannot fail. I will not be put to shame because I wait on You.

My Groom is coming to get me!

Amen

Heaven’s Song

A precious waiting mama isn’t waiting anymore.

Eight years after her son ran ahead to Heaven, she’s joined him.

And I have to think that the step from earth to Home wasn’t a huge one for her.

I have never known a kinder or gentler soul in my life. She was always encouraging other hearts, always pointing others to the hope we have in Jesus.

She never preached, she simply extended grace and love that made it absolutely impossible for anyone to ignore the difference between her and most other folks.

I only met this sweet mama once face-to-face when she and a couple other waiting mamas came all the way to my house for lunch and an afternoon of sharing and encouragement. But our friendship continued long distance through Facebook and private messages.

Our mutual love of Jesus, children and children’s books wove our hearts together in so many ways.

I am convinced that the distance between her heart and Heaven is so short because she was already singing Heaven’s Song here on earth-calling grace, mercy, strength and hope to every heart she met.

I thank God for the privilege of knowing her and am looking forward even more to that Day when everything is redeemed, restored and renewed.

Rest well, faithful servant. Dance in the joy of your Savior. Hug your son. Revel in faith made sight.

We’ll be there soon. ❤

Let the beloved of the Lord rest secure in him, for he shields him all day long, and the one the Lord loves rests between his shoulders.

Deuteronomy 33:12

Doubt Is Not Denial: Journaling My Way Home

When I was asked several months ago to speak to a group of hospice care workers, I titled the presentation “Lifting the Veil on Grief”.

One of the topics I covered was how experiencing the death of a loved one-especially out-of-order or untimely death- can cause even the staunchest believer to doubt.

And the first thing I said was, “Doubt in the face of overwhelming sorrow and hard circumstances is absolutely normal.  But doubt is NOT disbelief.”

So often friends, family, clergy, social workers and others want to steer hearts away from doubt because they are afraid that entertaining questions or expressing disappointment in God will always lead to someone losing faith.

That is untrue.

When my son ran ahead to Heaven, I reexamined everything I believed.

But I did not “lose” my faith.

I never once doubted that God was still working, was still loving and was still in control.

But I most certainly had to drag out every single thing I thought I knew about how He worked, loved and superintended the world and examine it in light of my experience of burying my son.  It took a long time to work through all the pat answers I had been offered and myself doled out to others for years that didn’t fit with my new reality.

One of the ways I did that was to journal my questions, complaints, anger and disappointment.  I wrote it out.

Many of the Psalms are precisely that-David and others crying out to God, begging Him for understanding and for a sliver of hope.  As the Psalmist breathed out his doubts and fears, the Spirit of God breathed fresh life into his soul.

i wait for the lord

My journals are filled with strong words and strong feelings.  They are also filled with, what I believe, God spoke to my heart in response.  Sometimes it was in the form of a Bible verse, sometimes a memory, sometimes song lyrics or a prayer.  And sometimes the pages are simply a record of how my Shepherd gently led me through a particular hard moment or day or week.

So if you are struggling with doubt-let yourself off the hook. 

You can’t deny it. 

And you don’t have to. 

You’re in good company.

Grab a notebook and pen and start writing.  Just begin.  Don’t edit yourself in fear someone may read it one day.  God knows anyway.

When you’re done spilling, sit quietly in the Presence of your Shepherd.  Listen to what He may be speaking to your broken heart.

I have done this for decades through many hard things- child loss being the hardest.

The Lord is faithful to meet me right where I am and fill me with His Spirit.

He’s never leaves me without hope when I turn my heart toward Him.

but the lord stood with me and gave me strength

 

Homesick

I remember the first time I felt homesick.  

I had been away from home before but never without the company of someone I knew well and loved.  

This time was different-I was at a sleepover camp populated with strangers.  Kind strangers, yes, but not a familiar face among the crowd.  

It had sounded like a great idea when I signed up.  So much to do and see:   horses to pet and ride, crafts to be made, campfires to sit around and cook over.

But I soon found that no amount of excitement or distraction could undo the feeling in the pit of my stomach that I was not where I should be.  It was all just a bit “off”.  Everything was slightly skewed.  I never got comfortable enough there to truly enjoy myself.

Instead, I kind of simply endured.

Since Dominic left for Heaven, more than a few days have been spent with that same feeling in the pit of my stomach.  Although I am (very often) surrounded by people I know and love, I still can’t shake the sense that things aren’t quite “right”.

Of course I’m perfectly aware that part of the feeling is generated by Dominic’s absence.

But there’s more to it than that. 

desire-for-another-world-c-s-lewis

I know the Bible teaches that this world is not our home.

Still, I think most of us get so comfortable here that we forget. 

I know I had. 

As my family grew in number and years, I was able to bring “home” with me wherever I went.  Together, we created a bubble of love and companionship.  It seemed nearly perfect-until one of us left suddenly and unexpectedly.  

Immediately, Heaven as my true home become so much dearer to me. 

I know that the correct “Sunday School” answer is that I’ve always longed to see Jesus.

But if I’m honest-and I try very hard to be honest here-as long as my family was intact, Heaven could wait.  

It took the life-altering, heart breaking reality of child loss for me to recognize that this world is NOT my home.  No matter how beautiful, wonderful and fulfilling my life on earth may be, it’s never going to be free of hardship and heartache.

I am homesick-utterly, inconsolably homesick. 

So I point my face to the east-just as Dominic and other saints whose bodies await the resurrection face east-and look forward to that Glorious Day when Jesus will return and make every thing that’s wrong. right.

I admit that my homesick heart won’t ever be satisfied in this world.  

And I lean in and hold on to the hope I have in Christ-trusting Him to redeem and restore.  

I began to try to define the pain I felt. Yes, it was sorrow, but it was something more, something infinitely deeper. I felt it all the time, even when I was happy. It wasn’t just sorrow. It was a longing; a pining for a better place and time … no, not just a better place and time, a perfect place and time; a different reality. It felt like longing for home, but not for a home I had ever been to. I began to see that it was something like homesickness …. Perhaps Christians are the most consistently homesick people in the world because they know this world (as it is) isn’t their true home. Yes, I was home, but I was still homesick.
~Elyse Fitzpatrick, Home

There’s No Place Like Home

Dominic’s Heaven Day fell right in the middle of Holy Week this year-Wednesday, April 12th marked three years since he entered Heaven and left us here.

And every day since then I’ve been homesick.  Homesick for what I used to know and homesick for what I know awaits me when I join him there.

IMG_1795I can’t say that I handled this awful anniversary any better than the previous two but I did handle it differently.  This year I was determined to create space for both mourning and dancing.

I cried a lot from Palm Sunday through his Heaven Day and into Resurrection Sunday morning.  I found new wounds that needed attention and realized some old ones weren’t as patched up as I thought.

It was costly in terms of personal and relational energy but for the first time since Dom ran ahead to heaven, I was able to reclaim a holiday gathering.

And it was beautiful.

photo (40)I missed him, of course, but things flowed and people loved one another and ministry happened and laughs floated through the air.

Everyone left with extra food and smiles on their faces.

This used to be my house every holiday, almost every Sunday.  It hasn’t been that way since Dom left.

But for a few hours it felt like home again.

i-have-come-home-at-last-c-s-lewis

 

Repost: We Are Not Home Yet

substance

 

This past week has been brutal in many ways.  

Some of us are fearful.  Some of us are hopeful.  Some of us just want it all to go away.

For me, it’s yet another reminder that We are Not Home Yet.