Advent: The Light That Bursts Through Gloom

In our modern age of light switches and street lights it’s hard to imagine a world where the tiniest candle flame could lead a body to safety.

But for most of human history that was how people lived.

It’s how some still live.

So when John described Jesus as the “Light that bursts through gloom-the Light that darkness could not diminish” (John 1: 5 TPT) he’s really saying something.

This isn’t a tiny candle or smoky oil lamp barely pushing back the edges of inky night.

Jesus is a spotlight dispelling not only the experience of darkness but the power of darkness!

And that’s only a fraction of the truth revealed in these five verses.

In the very beginning the Living Expression was already there.

And the Living Expression was with God, yet fully God.

They were together-face-to-face, in the very beginning. And through his creative inspirations this Living Expression made all things, for nothing has existence apart from him!

Life came into being because of him, for his life is light for all humanity.

And this Living Expression is the Light that bursts through gloom-the Light that darkness could not diminish!

John 1: 1-5 TPT

Jesus is co-equal with God. He has existed for eternity past along with the Father. They were, and are, in perfect community.

Face-to-face, cooperating in speaking life and light into existence.

No thing and no one draws breath apart from Christ.

In Him we live and move and have our being. Acts 17:28 | Good morning  girls, Inspirational scripture, Morning girl

That is why my heart can rest secure in the promise that the resurrection is coming.

If Jesus breathed life once into my son, He will most certainly breathe life once again into his glorified body.

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So when the darkness threatens to consume me I light a candle.

I watch the flame and listen for my Shepherd King’s voice singing hope over my soul.

QUESTIONS:

  • Do you have personal experience of being lost in the dark? How did you find your way to safety?
  • When have you felt soul darkness? Could you hear or feel the Lord reaching out and reaching down to lead you to the Light of His love?
  • Why is it important to know that Jesus is eternally co-existent with the Father?
  • Does the fact that Christ is the creative force of the Godhead give you confidence in His promise to redeem and restore what the enemy has stolen?
  • How does the fact that Jesus is the Eternal and Inextinguishable Light help your heart hold onto hope?

PRAYER:

Lord,

I live in a world of uncertainty and often great pain. It’s easy for my heart to sink into despair. It’s hard to hold onto hope.

In the natural it feels like darkness is winning.

But I know, deep in my soul, that Your Light will conquer the darkness. In Your Presence there is no night-only, always, glorious Day.

Help me lean into this truth and hold onto hope.

Let the light, love and life of Christ dwell in me richly and spill over into a lost and lonely world.

Amen

Be The Difference

It’s so easy to withdraw and hide.

It’s so easy to decide that since the world isn’t what I want it to be, I’ll just ignore the greater “out there” and create my own little corner filled with people and things that suit my preferences.

But that’s not who I’m called to be.

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Jesus has called me as a conduit of His love, mercy, compassion, truth and grace to a hurting world.

I am inundated every day with comments or messages from struggling hearts. They are hungry to know that God sees, that God cares and that His people are willing to listen and minister His love to others.

So when God tells me to reach out- I DON’T resist.

I may be the only hope a hurting heart can hold onto.

If God is calling you to lend a hand, lend an ear or lend your time, DO IT.

Be the drop of His love in the ocean of another’s need.

Be the difference.

Bouquet of Blessing

I have the privilege of being trusted with my grandson for over a week while his parents work on getting ready to move.

I recognize not all moms and dads are comfortable leaving their not-yet-two-year-old with grandparents several hundred miles away so I am very thankful my son and his wife are OK with it.

I won’t sugarcoat it and say it’s all rainbows and butterflies. But I will say every minute is a blessing-even the ones that stretch my nerves or my muscles.

I understand NOW what my friends with grandchildren have told me for years-it’s wonderful to be freer from everyday responsibilities and to focus exclusively on relationship and experiences.

When I was a mama to four children six years old and under by age twenty-eight I didn’t have the luxury of spending morning hours exclusively on interactive play.

But now I do.

And it is a lot of fun.

Even when my hand and wrist don’t work as well as they should and screwing on sippy cup lids hurts like all get out. Changing a soaking wet nighttime diaper is a real trick for these arthritic fingers. But my little man is learning to help his ol’ grandmama by lying extra still while I get it done.

I know not every parent on this road of child loss has grandchildren. I didn’t have one until almost five years after Dom ran ahead to Heaven. And I’ll never have one that carries HIS genes, HIS personality, HIS unique quirks.

So it might not be a grandbaby that feels like a blessing in your day.

It might be a pet or a friend or an opportunity to pursue a passion or hobby or pour your life into your community or family.

Whatever it is, take the opportunity to pick those blessings like blossoms, gather them into a bouquet and take a deep sniff.

You’ll be surprised how even a tiny budvase of blessing can spread the fragrance of hope in your life.

And hope helps a heart hold on.

Take A Minute To Remember How Far You’ve Come

It’s so easy to focus on the miles left to travel and forget how far I’ve come.

Life has a habit of reminding me that there are hills yet to climb, emotional hurdles still to come and (the ever looming threat) gray hair, wrinkles and an aging body with which to tackle them.

But every now and then I remember to take stock of just how many miles I’ve already traveled.

I pause, sometimes with pad and paper, and recount the bends, twists, devastating events and challenging circumstances I’ve already navigated (some by the skin of my teeth and ALL by the grace of God!).

Doing that helps my heart hold on to hope.

It helps me take one more step, one more breath, last one more sunrise to sunset. It’s a way of speaking courage to myself when I’m afraid I won’t be able to endure and might give up before I complete my course.

So if you are, like me on some days, feeling undone by long years stretching ahead or a particularly hard season already upon you, may I ask you to think back, to take stock, to answer a few basic questions?

  • Are you getting up each morning and caring for yourself and/or others?
  • Are you fulfilling job obligations (if you’re employed outside your home)?
  • Have you lost a job, changed jobs, found a job, retired or relocated?
  • Are you sending birthday greetings to friends, family and children or grandchildren (even if they are belated!)?
  • Have you celebrated important milestones with those you love (even if you cried before, during or after)?
  • Have you planned a wedding, baby shower, birthday party or other public event?
  • Do you pay your bills?
  • Have you resisted the urge to turn to food, alcohol, drugs or any other destructive habit or behavior in an attempt to numb your pain?
  • Do you take the garbage out?
  • Have you taken a shower recently?
  • Are you connected to a faith community/bereaved parent group/small group of some kind?
  • Are you still married or with a long term partner even though grief may have strained the relationship?
  • Have you or are you caring for an ailing family member?
  • Are you buying groceries/preparing meals/or otherwise feeding yourself and others in your household?
  • Do you practice self-care (exercise, journaling, prayer/meditation, rest and proper nutrition)?
  • Has your home life shifted significantly (empty nest, boomerang kids, elderly parents moving in)?
  • Do you/have you addressed health concerns and are you following recommended and prescribed treatments?
  • Do you maintain contact with those you care about (even with coronavirus limitations)?
  • Is there at least one thing you pursue that feels like a break from responsibility (reading, a hobby, pets, watching old movies…)?

Then you’ve covered miles, my friend.

You are making progress.

No matter how much is left to travel, you have it in you to make it!

Winnie the Pooh Braver Than you Believe and Stronger Than You | Etsy

There’s Hope in Every Scar

Sometimes people ask, “How can you cling to Jesus when He could have saved your son, but didn’t?”

I give the same answer Peter gave, “Lord, to whom would we go? You have the words of eternal life.”

He is light and life in the Valley and on the hilltop, in the fire and in the flood.

He will redeem every tear and restore every thing the enemy has stolen.

My scars tell a story: Yes, I’m wounded but I’m still walking. I’ve been hurt but I’m healing.

There’s hope in every scar.

Suffering is but a moment.

This is not forever.

Jesus is.

Hallelujah!

Many Kinds Of Grief: Eight Ways To Help Your Heart In Hard Times

Long time readers may have noticed that the past month there have been fewer original posts and more recycled ones.

I’m not sure precisely why, but it’s been a lot harder to put my thoughts and feelings into words than at any other time in this journey.

I’ve started and abandoned post after post. They languish in my “drafts” file and will, hopefully, eventually, be completed.

There’s just something about the rest of the world being forced to live in the no-man’s-land between what we used to take for granted and what we now have to face that makes it harder to talk about my personal experience.

Grief takes many forms and I believe the whole world is grieving now.

I can hear it. I can feel it.

All of us are facing (many for the first time!) the fact that control is largely an illusion. We climb into our vehicles and assume the person coming at us in the other lane will maintain their position but don’t know that he or she is distracted or medically impaired or drunk.

And then-BAM!-all bets are off. What we take for granted can change in an instant.

So I guess my challenge is in translating my particular grief into language others can understand and relate to.

For the first time I feel there’s a wider audience longing for the secret recipe to life after loss.

I know not every heart is suffering from physical loss of a loved one but I think there are some general principles I’ve learned that can help anyone who’s struggling to find a path through this difficult season:

  • Acknowledge what you’ve lost. It often helps to name what’s changed, what you miss, what you’ve had to give up. It may seem obvious but you might be surprised. When Dominic ran ahead to Heaven I knew I’d no longer have HIM. But what I didn’t realize at first was that I also lost the family I once knew (we were all changed), the me I used to be and the life I thought I’d have. There are Secondary Losses hidden inside every grieving heart.
  • Face your feelings. Consider journaling your thoughts. Often speaking or writing out a feeling is the first step to dealing with it. Grief isn’t just one feeling-although we tend to think of it that way. It’s A Tangled Ball of Emotions. I had no clue until it was me trying to unravel the strands and understand what to do with them. Emotions will leak out somewhere. Are you short-tempered and cranky? There’s probably something underneath those outward signs.
  • Think about your strengths and coping skills. What has helped you get through tough times in the past? How can you use the same set of skills or tools to tackle this challenge? Child loss is the greatest and most difficult thing I’ve ever faced. If you had asked me in the first five minutes if I’d survive I would have told you, “no way”. But I have. Largely by leaning into my faith in Christ (which I know not everyone shares) and depending on coping skills I learned over the years dealing with chronic illness and other hard things. What have you survived in the past? Use that to get through this.
  • Stay connected to the people who matter most to you. Social distancing is an unfortunate label for what is actually physical distancing. Social media, smartphones, Skype, Zoom meetings and other electronic means of connection are widely available and can help a heart stay in touch with friends and loved ones. When someone feels isolated he or she is much more apt to give up and give in. Humans were made for community. If you can’t be physically next to people, find another way to get close and stay in touch. It might well require more effort but it’s worth it.
  • Make a new routine. It’s not just babies that thrive on schedules. We all need a semblance of control and normalcy. Eat at regular times. Set up a work station/school station if the virus is keeping you at home. If possible, make sure each day includes some physical activity and outdoor air. Exercise, hobbies, family story time or shared movies are all things that could be included. Try to go to bed and get up at about the same time each day. For several months after Dominic left us, I wrote each day’s plan on an index card. When I found myself at loose ends, sitting staring into space and sinking into despair, I consulted my card. I moved on to the next thing and eventually found I’d made it through yet another day.
  • Limit your media diet. Let’s face it-most of us are easily drawn into an “us vs. them” mentality. And once we begin to think in those terms it’s harder and harder to see beauty in the world. It’s one thing to remain informed and it’s another to be absorbed by all the things over which we have no control. Focus on smaller things-friends, family and community. That’s where a heart can make a difference.
  • Practice discernment and draw a line between what is inconvenient and what is truly tragic. Lots of things can FEEL like the end of the world but very few things actually ARE. Life has changed dramatically but it’s still life. Work and school look different. Masks are uncomfortable. Celebrations might be virtual. Shopping without trying on clothes is a hassle. But none of those things equate to death or loss of income or being unable to visit an elder in a nursing home. There are absolutely, positively tragic aspects to this experience and (sadly) one or more of them may visit your family. But unless and until they do, save your energy in fretting over (relatively) minor inconveniences.
  • Remember that there are more chapters to your story. All of us have dark pages in the books of our lives. Some of us have several chapters’ worth. But as long as there is life, there is hope. My family HAS survived child loss/sibling loss. We are different, we are wounded, but we have survived. Some of the things we have learned are truly beautiful (although we wouldn’t have chosen to learn them this way). If you listen and pay attention, you will learn things too.

Truth is, grief can drag you down so low you don’t remember which way is up, much less how to get there. No one knows that better than a bereaved parent.

Still, there are things you can do even there that will help your heart hold onto hope.

Where there is hope there is light.

And light will always, always chase away the shadows.

The Keepers

Those of you who have followed the blog for a bit know that I’ve said over and over and over: there is no limit to the heartache you may have to endure in this life.

The past three years have been the most difficult since the very first year after Dominic ran ahead to Heaven in 2014.

But this memory popped up in my Facebook timeline the other day and reminded me that along with all the hard, there have been some beautiful blessings.

Two years ago around this time I was listening to day after day after day of witnesses giving first one account and then another of events that happened three years prior trying to frame facts so that the twelve jurors would vote a certain way.

Only my friends and family from miles away helped me hold onto the thin thread of hope that truth would prevail.

It was brutal and not something I ever want to repeat.

If you ever wonder if a phone call, text, card or message make a difference, just ask me.

I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that I would not have made it without them. 

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Sighing Is My Second Language

Pale.  Flat. Tasteless. 

Yes.

They’d crossed over to that continent where grieving parents lived. It looked the same as the rest of the world, but wasn’t. Colors bled pale. Music was just notes. Books no longer transported or comforted, not fully. Never again. Food was nutrition, little more. Breaths were sighs. And they knew something the rest didn’t. They knew how lucky the rest of the world was.

― Louise Penny

It was absolutely this way for more than the first three years. 

Read the rest here: All The Color Gone

Empathy: Let Me Hold The Door For You

I remember struggling mightily to get four young children to church Sunday mornings.

At the time we attended a larger church that had a couple of parking lots-one near and one not-so-near the entrance.

Of course, I was never early enough to park very close to the doors so had to shepherd all four (while carrying the youngest in his car seat) across a small lane, up a hill and finally to the foyer.

What a blessed relief when some kind person opened that door for me as we approached!

It wasn’t much in the whole scheme of things.

It didn’t relieve my aching arms of the load I carried.

But it said, “I see you. I want to do the little bit I can to encourage you.”

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I have never forgotten those days.

Opening the door taught me that sometimes the smallest act of kindness is the difference between a heart giving up or hanging on.

I’ve had a lot of people “hold the door” for me on this journey of child loss.

Most of them have not walked in my shoes but they could see my soul was worn and I needed encouragement.

For that I will be eternally grateful.

Only Twenty-four Hours


I remember the first summer after Dominic ran ahead to Heaven.

The days stretched interminably before me. I woke with a sigh and not a few tears as I realized I had to wait out another cycle of the sun before sleep (if it came!) would grant respite from the memories, the feelings, the ache in my heart.

Sometimes it was nearly unbearable.

But then I had a moment when I realized no day lasts forever. No matter how hard, no matter how long it seemed, it would end.

Even the worst day of my life only lasted twenty-four hours.

I had survived THAT day. I could survive any day.

I don’t know just when I figured it out, but somewhere in this Valley it dawned on me-NO day lasts forever.

Many feel like they do.  

The day I got the news stretched impossibly long in front of me as calls were made and people came to be wtih us.

But even THAT day ended. 

Read the rest here: https://thelifeididntchoose.com/2017/04/22/twenty-four-hours/