Can’t Hide the Ugly

Yesterday I was impatient and ugly with someone I love.

When you are hurting, physically or emotionally or physically AND emotionally, you just don’t have the energy to hide the ugly.

But the pain didn’t create the ugly-it just revealed it.

And I am sorry to say that even burying a child did not cleanse me of some ugliness I wish I didn’t have in my heart.

I keep asking God to fill me with His love, mercy and grace.  And I am more full of those things than before.

But there is still plenty of (if not hate then) less-than-love, judgement and impatience. Trials don’t automatically lead to refinement or stronger faith.

Tribulation can drive someone away from God as easily as it can drive them to their knees.

If I’m not careful-if I’m not very careful-I can use my pain as an excuse for all kinds of bad behavior.

So I’m here to confess:  I am so, so sorry.

I’m sorry that when my glass gets tipped, anger and bitterness spills out. I’m sorry that I’m not more faithful to extend grace when I hope grace will be extended to me.  I’m sorry that speaking truth so that I prove my point and wound a heart is sometimes more satisfying than speaking truth in love.

I wish every  deed I did  and every word I spoke was full of life and never full of death.

I hate death.  I. HATE. death.

It has taken enough from me. And I want no part of it.

Father, I want to be a beacon of light and life.  Lord, make me so.  Fill me to overflowing with YOUR love, YOUR life, YOUR grace, YOUR mercy.  Left to myself I have no hope.  But by Your Spirit, it can be so.

When all kinds of trials and temptations crowd into your lives my brothers, don’t resent them as intruders, but welcome them as friends! Realise that they come to test your faith and to produce in you the quality of endurance. But let the process go on until that endurance is fully developed, and you will find you have become men of mature character with the right sort of independence. And if, in the process, any of you does not know how to meet any particular problem he has only to ask God—who gives generously to all men without making them feel foolish or guilty—and he may be quite sure that the necessary wisdom will be given him.

James 1:2-5 PHILLIPS

 

Silence Doesn’t Serve Anyone Well

One of the reasons I write is to share my grief experience with others.

I realized when tossed into the ocean of sorrow that of all the things I had heard about or read about, surviving child loss was never mentioned.  

Oh, someone might comment that so-and-so had LOST a child, but then the conversation quickly moved on to more comfortable topics.

But if we don’t talk about it, we can’t learn to live through it.

Silence doesn’t serve anyone well.

I agree with Mr. Rogers:

Anything that’s human is mentionable, and anything that is mentionable can be more manageable. When we can talk about our feelings, they become less overwhelming, less upsetting, and less scary. The people we trust with that important talk can help us know that we are not alone.”
― Fred Rogers

spotlight3

During the course of my lifetime I have seen many topics dragged from behind closed doors out onto the stage and under the public spotlight.

Frankly, some of them could have remained in darkness as far as I’m concerned.

But there is something still taboo in polite conversation–something hushed with awkward silence should it ever be spoken aloud in a crowded room–mention GRIEF and eyes drop to the floor or someone hastily throws an arm around you and says, “There, there–it’s going to be alright.”

I don’t blame them. Remaining in the presence of great pain is uncomfortable.

In my growing up years I don’t remember anyone speaking about death and grief for longer than the time it took to go to a funeral home visitation and stand by the grave as the casket was lowered in the ground.

What came AFTER the loss–not a word.

We need to talk about it.  We need to educate ourselves about it.  Because, like my EMT son says, “No one gets out of here alive.”

You WILL experience grief in your lifetime.

I pray the people you lose are full of years and ready to go–that you get to say “good-bye” and all the important things have been said and done so you aren’t left with extra emotional baggage in addition to the sorrow and missing.

But you never know.  Neither you nor I are in control.

And even in the one place where it would seem most natural to talk about life and death and grief and pain–our churches–it still makes those who are not experiencing it uncomfortable.

Yes, there are grief support groups.  And, yes, they are helpful in ways that only a group made up of people who understand by experience what you are going through can be.

But much of life is spent rubbing elbows with folks unlike ourselves, with parents who know the fear of losing a child but not the awful reality.

And just a little bit of openness, a little bit of education and a little bit of understanding would make such a difference.

We don’t want pity.

compassion and stay with you

 

We aren’t looking for special accommodations that single us out and mark us as “needy”.

But we long for understanding and compassion and the opportunity to tell our stories.

Morning Meditation

My living room window is a huge, energy inefficient affair that lets in too much heat in the summer and too much cold in the winter.

But I will never replace it–because it also gives me a breathtaking view of the sunrise.  

Every morning my body responds to an internal alarm set to the time I was startled out of bed by the deputy delivering the news of Dominic’s death.

I cannot sleep longer.  

So I rise, make coffee and settle into my rocking chair with computer, Bible and journal close by.

I spend the dark hours writing, reading and sharing in community with other bereaved parents who wake to their own alarms, unable to fend off another day of living the reality of missing our children.  

It is so quiet that the purring cat in my lap sounds loud in my ears.

Slowly other sounds join the chorus of daybreak–roosters challenging the sun to a duel, birds flitting from branch to branch, calling out the news that now is the time to get the worm.

I look up and the warm glow of sunrise silhouettes bare winter branches of giant oak trees and reminds me that the world still turns.

Seasons still change.

And I am still breathing.

Darkness hides things from us, it fosters fear and isolates. The black of night turns familiar territory into fearsome wilderness.  The enemy thrives in the inky corners of unlit places.

But light disarms the darkness.

I venture forth boldly in the daylight where I would not set foot in the night.

So I treasure the daily reminder that darkness does not last forever, even the night has limits.

Open up before God, keep nothing back; he’ll do whatever needs to be done: He’ll validate your life in the clear light of day and stamp you with approval at high noon.

Psalm 37:6 MSG

God Uses Broken Things

It is a hard lesson to learn:  that my brokenness is more useful for God’s purposes than my strength.

When I feel strong, I’m like the Israelites who, being full of good things, forgot the One Who gave them.  I carry on, giving God a nod, but feeling quite capable of accomplishing things on my own.

Sure, it’s nice if He blesses me here and there-but the blessings are icing on a very thick cake.

I’ve got resources.

But when I’m broken, in the dust on my face, begging for the touch of His hand, pleading for His Presence, I am open to what He wants to say to me.

“Pain insists upon being attended to. God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our consciences, but shouts in our pains. It is his megaphone to rouse a deaf world.”
― C.S. Lewis

My brokenness allows the life and light of Christ to shine through the cracked veneer of self-assured independence.

It makes me useful in God’s Kingdom.

What I see as ruin, God views as the seed of victory:

Jar of Clay

 

 

 

Guiding Light

Jesus once again addressed them: “I am the world’s Light. No one who follows me stumbles around in the darkness. I provide plenty of light to live in.”

John 8:12 MSG

He didn’t say that there would be no darkness.

He didn’t promise that night would never come.

Instead, He declared that those who follow Him would have a guiding light. That those who look to the Good Shepherd won’t get lost, because He will lead the way.

Even though I am now two years into this grief journey, there are still sleepless nights. And as I lie in bed, remembering Dominic, rehearsing the events surrounding his accident, feeling the pain and longing for relief-it is the trustworthy lamp of Christ’s Presence and the eternal truth of His Word that sheds light on my path.

A Single Candle

Sunrise Benediction

My living room window is a huge, energy inefficient affair that lets in too much heat in the summer and too much cold in the winter.

But I will never replace it–because it also gives me a breathtaking view of the sunrise.  

Every morning my body responds to an internal alarm set to the time I was startled out of bed by the deputy delivering the news of Dominic’s death.  I cannot sleep longer.  So I rise, make coffee and settle into my rocking chair with computer, Bible and journal close by.

I spend the dark hours writing, reading and sharing in community with other bereaved parents who wake to their own alarms, unable to fend off another day of living the reality of missing our children.  

It is so quiet that the purring cat in my lap sounds loud in my ears.

Slowly other sounds join the chorus of daybreak–roosters challenging the sun to a duel, birds flitting from branch to branch, calling out the news that now is the time to get the worm.

I look up and the warm glow of sunrise silhouettes bare winter branches of giant oak trees and reminds me that the world still turns.

Seasons still change.

And I am still breathing.

Darkness hides things from us, it fosters fear and isolates. The black of night turns familiar territory into fearsome wilderness.  The enemy thrives in the inky corners of unlit places.

But light disarms the darkness.

I venture forth boldly in the daylight where I would not set foot in the night.

So I treasure the daily reminder that darkness does not last forever, even the night has limits.

Open up before God, keep nothing back; he’ll do whatever needs to be done: He’ll validate your life in the clear light of day and stamp you with approval at high noon.

Psalm 37:6 MSG

Dragging Grief into the Light

During the course of my lifetime I have seen many topics dragged from behind closed doors out onto the stage and under the public spotlight.

Frankly, some of them could have remained in darkness as far as I’m concerned.

But there is something still taboo in polite conversation–something hushed with awkward silence should it ever be spoken aloud in a crowded room–mention GRIEF and eyes drop to the floor or someone hastily throws an arm around you and says, “There, there–it’s going to be alright.”

I don’t blame them.

In my growing up years I don’t remember anyone speaking about death and grief for longer than the time it took to go to a funeral home visitation and stand by the grave as the casket was lowered in the ground.  People were designated by their loss:  He was a widower; she lost a child; her mother died when she was young.

But what came AFTER the loss–not a word.

We need to talk about it.  We need to educate ourselves about it.  Because, like my EMT son says, “No one gets out of here alive.”

You WILL experience grief in your lifetime.

I pray that the people you lose are full of years and ready to go–that you get to say “good-bye” and that all the important things have been said and done so that you aren’t left with extra emotional baggage in addition to the sorrow and missing.

But you never know.  Neither you nor I are in control.

And even in the one place where it would seem most natural to talk about life and death and grief and pain–our churches–it still makes those who are not experiencing it uncomfortable.

Yes, there are grief support groups.  And, yes, they are helpful in ways that only a group made up of people who understand by experience what you are going through can be.

But much of life is spent rubbing elbows with folks unlike ourselves, with parents who know the fear of losing a child but not the awful reality.  And just a little bit of openness, a little bit of education and a little bit of understanding would make such a difference.

So for the next few days I am going to be posting about the grief process itself.  About what grieving parents experience and how friends, family, co-workers and churches can support them.

If you are a grieving parent, I hope these posts will serve as a launchpad for you to have conversations with your own friends and extended family.  If you aren’t a bereaved parent, please commit just the few minutes it takes and consider how you might support someone in your circle of influence who has lost a child.

We don’t want pity.

We aren’t looking for special accomodations that single us out and mark us as “needy”.  But we long for understanding and compassion and the opportunity to tell our stories.

 

 

Choose Wisely

Even if I live to be ninety, the years I spend on this earth will be the tiniest dot on the eternal timeline of God’s Kingdom.

“Humans are like a breath of air. Their life span is like a fleeting shadow.”

Psalm 144:4 GW

I have one life, one opportunity to do the work for which I was created. There are no “do overs”.

Only one life, ’twill soon be past,

Only what’s done for Christ will last.

C.T. Studd

Every day I am confronted by choice.

I choose life or death.  

My words can heal or my words can wound.

Words kill, words give life; they’re either poison or fruit—you choose.

Proverbs 18:21 MSG

I can help or I can hinder.

My life can be a light or it can add to the darkness of this world.

Father, help me to choose wisely as I enter this New Year. Empower me by Your Spirit to do ‘the good works which [You] have prepared in advance for me to do’ (Ephesians 2:10). Give me the grace to embrace whatever comes my way and accept that it has passed through Your hands before it reaches me.  Fill me to overflowing with Your love so that when I am shaken (and I’m sure I will be shaken), kindness and gentleness spill out.

 

 

Chasing the Darkness

I live in a rural county.  You can travel for miles without seeing a street light or a house light or even the lights of an oncoming car. But the deep blue-black of a winter night can be pierced by the tiniest pinprick of light–even a pocket flashlight can chase away the darkness.

There are so many people struggling to find hope and light in this world.

Especially at this time of year, when it seems that everyone else is having a “holly jolly Christmas” those who can’t find even a spark of joy in their hearts feel abandoned and alone.

Walking this path of grief has made me so much more sensitive to people in pain.

My repeated prayer has been, “God, fill my broken heart with Your mercy, Your love, and Your grace.”  I want to shine light for those walking in darkness.

Even if it’s faint, and small and not very bright.

There are hurting people all around us and it is so easy to hurry past because their pain makes us uncomfortable.

Stop.

Look at them.

Ask the hard questions and LISTEN to the answers.

Hope is often only a tiny glimmer at first and each of us has the ability to shine that much love and light into someone else’s life.

“Here’s another way to put it: You’re here to be light, bringing out the God-colors in the world. God is not a secret to be kept. We’re going public with this, as public as a city on a hill. If I make you light-bearers, you don’t think I’m going to hide you under a bucket, do you? I’m putting you on a light stand. Now that I’ve put you there on a hilltop, on a light stand—shine! Keep open house; be generous with your lives. By opening up to others, you’ll prompt people to open up with God, this generous Father in heaven.”

Matthew 5:14-16 MSG