Death is The Enemy, Jesus Our Victory

We live in a culture where we see death often but experience it rarely.  

Movies, video games, cartoons, news stories all flash images of death across the screen so frequently that most of us either ignore them or they register only as numbers, not as human beings.

Of course many of the images are manufactured-the actors don’t REALLY die, the characters in video games are not real-but how often do we wait for a news report to tell us how many AMERICANS died in a plane crash or terror attack?

As if only those affiliated in some way with our own heritage “count”.

But when death comes knocking at your own door, walks in and settles down, that changes everything.  

I can no longer sit and consume death like a meal, meant to feed my appetite for entertainment.

And every single time I hear a report listing casualties I think of the families ripped apart by the absence of a life they loved.

Death is the enemy.  

When Satan tempted Adam and Eve he said, “You shall not surely die.”  

He was wrong.

A single sin ushered in all kinds of sorrow and woe and the ultimate sadness was death.  It meant separation from breath and life, separation from those we love and, without the atoning blood of Christ, separation from God in eternity.  

My ninety-nine-year-old aunt died this week.  She lived a long, useful and fairly healthy life (until the last couple of years).

You’d think that in light of my own son dying at only twenty-three I’d be more OK with her leaving this life and moving to Heaven.  

But I’m not.  

Somehow her death-more than all the other souls I’ve known and loved that have left us since Dom ran ahead-has knocked me to my knees.

mel and mattie lou sahara

Maybe it was how hard and how long she fought against our common enemy.  

Maybe it was just the time of year.  

I don’t know.  

But she reminded me again that death is always sad.

And that Jesus is the only One Who can save us from death’s power.  

jesus the shepherd the i am

It’s The Little Things

I am oh, so grateful for every single thing someone does to encourage my heart.  

And I try hard to pass it on.

Because, really, when you think about it, it’s the little things that either wear us down or build us up.

says something small but fits into the empty space in your heart

 

The daily drip of encouragement or criticism is what shapes our hearts most. 

The hardest stone can be worn away by water over time.  And the softest earth can be packed firm and resist any new seed when trod upon and squeezed dry by drought.

Words are not neutral.  They either build up or tear down.  

And so many hearts are holding onto hope by the thinnest thread.  

I want to be the person that helps build it into a lifeline, not the one who snaps it in two.  

all you have to do is care coffee cups

 

Did God Take My Child?

This is a question that comes up all the time in bereaved parents’ groups:  Did God take my child?

Trust me, I’ve asked it myself.  

How you answer this question can mean the difference between giving up or going on, between turning away or trusting.

So this is MY answer.  The one I’ve worked out through study, prayer and many, many tears.  You may disagree.  That’s just fine.  I only offer it because it might be helpful to some struggling and sorrowful soul.

I believe that God is the Author of life and the arbiter of death. What that means (to me) is that He is ultimately in control of everything and could (if He chose) intervene and stop the death of any person if He wanted to.

Nothing and no one is stronger nor more powerful than God.

However, we live in a fallen world where sin has tainted the original creation God declared “good”. So there are natural disease processes, genetic malformations, undetected birth defects (that may go unknown until well into adulthood like heart defects) that lead to death.

God does not intervene each time-but He could.

People make sinful and foolish choices that have natural consequences. My son was going way too fast in a curve on his motorcycle. God did not override my son’s free will (just as He does not override our free will all day every day) and my son ran off the road.

There are universal physical and biological laws that most of us are thankful for each day that then took over in my son’s case and doomed his motorcycle to certain paths and his body to certain death when it impacted the ground.

God didn’t intervene but He could have.

Job was ultimately protected by the fences God placed around his person. I believe each of us are too.

Yet God is weaving a bigger tapestry, writing a bigger story than only the part that includes me and my family.  So my son’s death and the changes it has wrought in me, in others that knew and loved him and even further out into the world are part of God’s big story.

I have made peace with the fact that I do not understand nor like what God has done in my life by allowing my son to die, but I will trust His loving character and wait to see how it will be redeemed in eternity.

No, God did not TAKE my son. But He allowed his death.

I gain more comfort in a God Who could have saved my son but chose not to, than a God Who does not have that power.

His word declares that He keeps my tears in His bottle. 

I believe it. 

And I believe that one day He will redeem every one and restore what my heart has lost.  

you keep track of all my tears

Why I Say, “My Son Died.”

Died.  

It is a harsh word.

I understand completely that some parents don’t want to use it to describe their child and I respect that.

I have chosen to use it often (not always-sometimes I say “left” or “ran ahead to heaven”) because what happened IS harsh. I don’t want to soften it because there was nothing soft about it for me or my family.

It is heartbreaking, lonely, heavy, hard and utterly devastating. 

grief bubble

As a believer in the promises of Scripture, I use it because I want to paint a stark contrast between hopelessness without Christ and the hope I have because of the blood of Jesus applied to my heart and the heart of my son.

Without that assurance, the hopelessness would continue for eternity.

romans 10_9

But because of Jesus, while this reality is harsh, hard and heartbreaking, I have an eternity of rest, renewal and redemption to look forward to.

not ashamed

I think each of us finds our own path through this Valley and should say or use whatever word is best for our own heart.

This is simply one choice among many.  

I’m so sorry that we need ANY words to describe our child’s physical absence in this earthly journey. 

no evil can conquer grace forever

It’s No Sin To Grieve

You’d be surprised how often Christians are shamed for grief.

Families are encouraged to call their loved one’s service a “celebration of life” instead of a “memorial” or “funeral”.

Of course I celebrate my son’s life-he was a gift-but the day I followed his casket to the cemetery didn’t feel like a celebration, it felt like death.

I continue to grieve what has been ripped violently from me.

Until all is redeemed and restored in heaven, I will walk this Valley in tears.

Grief is not sin.  

It wasn’t until another grieving mom asked the question that I realized there are some (many?) in the community of believers that think grief is sin.

Not at first, mind you-everyone is “allowed” a certain amount of time to get over the loss of a dream, the loss of a job, the loss of health or the loss of a loved one.

But carry that sadness and wounded heart too publicly for too long and you better be ready for someone to question your faith.

Read the rest here:  Grief is Not Sin

 

Messy Edits

Yesterday’s post was a mess for those of you who receive it through email.  

I’m sorry.

What had been a previous draft was tacked onto the bottom of what I wanted to send out so the whole thing was not really how I meant it to be.

But maybe it was how it should have been.

Because that’s where I find myself so often this side of child loss-all the careful editing of words and careful managing of appearances is impossible.   I just don’t have the resources or the energy.  So too often (for my own comfort and probably the comfort of others) the words just tumble out.

A fire hose instead of the gentle trickle I’d rather them be.

That’s why I rely on writing whenever possible.  It gives me a chance to start, stop and revisit what I want to say and how I want to say it.

But yesterday, well, you got the fire hose version.  

There was so much I wanted to say-I wanted to thank Brenda for the portrait and share how having a new picture was truly a balm for my soul-and also to express how I am still unbelievably sad that my son will never grow older.

I intended to blend the two into a seamless post but couldn’t do it so I left it alone for a few hours.  Grief brain kicked in, I forgot about the second bit and just hit “publish”.

So you got the messy version.  The version that lives inside my heart and mind most days.  It’s not pretty and there is a constant battle between hope and helplessness.

I work hard to hold onto hope.  

I keep fighting.  

But it’s messy.

those that wait in hope shall not be ashamed

How and Why I Keep Writing: A Shepherd’s Heart

I am still utterly amazed that since November 2015 I have managed a blog post every day.

At first, I was writing because I wanted to make public the things I was learning in this Valley and to honor my missing son.  

dominic at tims wedding

He had been in Heaven a year and a half by then and it was clear to this mama’s heart that (1) people (including ME before it WAS me!) had absolutely NO IDEA what life after child loss was like once the funeral was over;  (2) one way to redeem this pain was to share how God had been faithful even as I struggled; and (3) I just didn’t see too many honest portrayals of life after loss for Christ followers (which is not to say they didn’t/don’t exist but I hadn’t found them).

So I wrote.  

Then I realized (much to my surprise!) that there were mamas (and a few daddies) hanging on by such a tenuous thread to hope that my meager attempt at redeeming this pain was strengthening their grasp.

Then it became a ministry.

Shepherding is in my blood. 

I’ve been a shepherd my whole adult life-first to my own children and then to other children through various home school groups and activities.  Then God granted a desire of my heart when He allowed me to become  a “real” shepherd 20 years ago to a flock/herd of sheep and goats.

goat and mel on porch (2)

I’ve learned so, so much.  

I’ve learned that consistency is key. 

My herd depends on my faithful feeding and my peaceful presence.  They love routine and hate change.  They respond immediately to my voice and run straight to me when they are afraid.

They will endure nearly anything as long as they are assured it is from my loving hand.  

I am not able to shepherd every heart that reads this blog. 

But I hope that a bit of my shepherd’s love and care and compassion is present in each post.  

My desire is that consistency helps the hearts that congregate here every morning.  I long for my words to feed hope to you from time to time.  I pray that routine gives you something to look forward to even on the hard day.  I pray that I faithfully point you to the Shepherd of your soul who can provide shelter no matter where you are or what is chasing you.

sheperd

I pray that together we can endure and persevere and finish strong and well.  

I continue to write because I love you. 

I continue to write because if a single post reaches a single heart on the verge of giving up and helps that heart hold onto hope, then it is worth every minute I spend thinking about, composing and producing these posts.  

And, frankly, many of you have ministered hope to MY heart.  

hope holds a breaking heart together

Dom left for Heaven about when my nest became empty.  Thirty years of raising children and twenty-plus years of homeschooling came to an end right when my heart was dealt this grievous blow.

All the energy and time I had poured into shepherding my children was suddenly available for a new adventure at the very moment when adventure was the last thing on my mind.  

Sharing has turned survival into something beautiful.   

I am so thankful for that.

And I am oh, so grateful for each of you.

thank you