Bitterness Is 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.  It would spread like kudzu on an Alabama roadside.  

kudzu field huff post

The writer of Hebrews warns against this very thing:  

Be careful that none of you fails to respond to the grace which God gives, for if he does there can very easily spring up in him a bitter spirit which is not only bad in itself but can also poison the lives of many others.

Hebrews 12:15 PHILLIPS

There is sufficient grace for even this. 

But I can refuse it.  

It’s a choice every single day. 

Do I embrace the grace God freely offers or do I turn my back and embrace bitterness?  Do I lean in to every promise of God in Christ or do I listen to the enemy of my soul who whispers, “Did God REALLY say….?” 

Woman hands praying with a bible in a dark over wooden table

 

Bitterness never ends with one person.  It spreads.  It grows. 

It ruins lives and relationships and generations.  

We all know families where it has taken root.  We all know old folks whose faces have frozen in frowns and who rarely speak except to pass along their spiteful comments.

I may not get many things right.  I’m pretty sure I get quite a few things wrong.  

But I don’t want to mess this one up.  

Bitterness is a terrible legacy.  

I refuse to pass it on.  

lifetime of unexplored resentments brene brown

Legacy of Love in Spite of Pain

It’s said that “Hurt people, hurt people”.  

And it’s true-often in my own pain I lash out and hurt others.  Partly because my pain is so huge and so real and so blinding that I don’t always see what I’m doing to others. 

But also, sometimes, (and I hate to admit it!) because misery loves company.  If I’M hurting then someone else better hurt too!

hurt people hurt people

That’s not the high road.  

And it’s not the road Jesus paved with His blood.  

I need to take my brokenness to Him.  Because truth told, He’s really the only one that can minister true healing. 

heals the broken hearted

When I use my pain-even the unfathomably great pain of child loss-as an excuse for bad behavior all I do is spread the hurt. 

It doesn’t take one bit of my own away.  

So I try to be more mindful of when discomfort authors my words and stop them before they pour from my mouth on some unsuspecting victim.  

I want my legacy to be love.  

It’s a daily choice.  

did I offer peace bowl brown

A Trail of Love Crumbs

I used to read- a LOT.

By that I mean I often had five or six books going at a time and typically finished four in a week.

Since Dominic ran ahead to heaven I find I rarely have the attention span for books anymore.

But every now and then I find a book that can hold my attention and I read like I used to-carrying it with me from the kitchen (where I read as I wait for cookies to come out of the oven) to the bathtub (where I read as I soak my achy joints).

EVERYTHING HAPPENS FOR A REASON (and other lies I love to believe) by Kate Bowler is one of those books.

everything happens for a reason book

I heard an interview of Kate on an NPR program while driving.  She had me in tears and rolling in laughter all at the same time.

And this bargain loving, never-pay-full-price mama came straight into the house and ordered the hardback book off Amazon.

It lived up to every expectation.  I felt like I was sitting across from someone who truly “gets it”.

The author is not a bereaved parent but is living with Stage IV metastatic colon cancer.  Her life is, as she describes it, “Stuck in present tense.

So, so many nuggets of wisdom and truth hidden in these pages.

But the one that resonated with my heart the most is this:

My little plans [thoughtful gifts, words and actions] are crumbs scattered on the ground.  This is all I have learned about living here, plodding along, and finding God.  My well-laid plans are no longer my foundation.  I can only hope that my dreams, my actions, my hopes are leaving a trail for Zach [my son] and Toban [my husband], so, whichever way the path turns, all they will find is Love.

When I read it, I nearly shouted aloud, “THAT’S IT!!!”

Her heart sings the same song as mine.

Very few of us will do great things, remembered in history books or blazoned across the front of granite edifices.

Most of us will only do small things.

But we can do them with great love.

not all of us can do great things typewriter

Dominic left this earth before he even had a chance to do great things.  Twenty-three years taken up by growing to adulthood and going to college and then law school left little time for solving the world’s big problems.

But he left a trail of love crumbs.

One that can be followed from his heart to dozens of others.

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That’s what I want my legacy to be:  A trail of love crumbs. 

I want tiny bits of me scattered far and wide-a wild and winding path made by relentlessly giving away all I am and all I have.

My name won’t be engraved anywhere but on my tombstone.  

But I pray my love is engraved on many hearts.  

the answer is still and again love

 

 

Life is Short, Be Swift to Love

Grief has worn away some of the sharp edges of my personality.

I’m still prone to impatience-especially when faced with incompetence or hateful behavior in others.

But I’m learning that walking gently through life is not only good for others, it’s good for ME.

Life IS short.  ‘

Not just the life of a child or teen or young adult cut down by accident or disease.

But even if I live my “threescore and ten” the Bible talks about, it will STILL be short.  Seventy, eighty, one hundred years set on the timeline of history or eternity is less than a pinpoint.

What do I want my legacy to be?  What do I want to leave behind for others to remember, to ponder, to carry in their hearts attached to my memory?

small things with great love

That’s easy.  I want my legacy to be love.

I want people to remember that I treated them with kindness, that I respected them as persons, that I reached out, reached down and never separated myself from them by false barriers, foolish divisions or fake measures of who is “better” and who is “worse”.

forget what you say 3

More than anything I want people to feel that I made their burden lighter, not heavier.

So much of life is hard. 

So many things happen for which there is no remedy. 

I can’t choose everything, but I can choose love.

Life is short and we have not much time for gladdening the hearts of those who are traveling the dark way with us. Oh, be swift to love! Make haste to be kind.

– Henri Fredric Amiel

Ripples

Toss that rock in the water and see what happens.

It’s impossible to keep the ripples from moving farther and farther from the point of impact.

And even though I can’t see it, my casual toss has changed the environment of the pond in ways it would not have been changed without my action.

Our lives are like that- we touch other people every day and rarely know how our brief brush may ripple through their lives for years or even eternity.

I have been lifted up by a smile offered by a stranger-that buoyant mood lasting long enough to save an otherwise dreary day.

I have also had a beautiful morning made overcast by the sour attitude of someone that should be helpful.

I want to bring sunshine not rain wherever I go.

I want to speak courage to trembling hearts.

No telling how far the ripples may go. ❤️

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What’s Your Legacy?

I can’t tell you how many people try to tell me what Dominic’s “legacy” is.  They extol his positive virtues and comment on how many lives he touched in his short 23 years.

They want me to be consoled with the intangible, relational, immeasurable impact of his life on the lives of others.

Yet they continue to live as if their OWN legacy will be determined by the amount of stuff they acquire or the size of their retirement accounts or the money they leave behind for others to spend.

It can’t be both.

If my son’s life is worth remembering just because of who he was, the people he loved and how he lived, then EVERYONE’S life is worth remembering for the very same things.

Christmas is the one time a year when far-flung family members are often gathered around the same table.  It’s an opportunity to make connections and build relationships.

So I ask myself, “Am I going to spend it talking about the weather and the news and other sundry things that won’t matter in a day, much less a year?”

family-reunion

OR, maybe I can choose to reach out, to ask deep questions, to make space for honest conversation and real sharing.

Maybe I can mend a broken relationship by offering a long-hoped-for apology, speaking aloud the offense and taking responsibility for the pain I’ve caused in the past.  

Perhaps I can proclaim a REAL blessing-not just the one we memorized from grade school-over the food and over the heads of the people gathering to eat it.

Why am I glad they are there?  TELL THEM!

Most of the presents under the tree will be consumed, broken, outgrown and tossed away one day.  But meaningful words spoken in love and kindness will live forever in a person’s heart.

We all leave something behind.  

We are all building a legacy.  

This Christmas I’m asking myself, “What’s mine?”

greatest gift is your time