Faithful Waiting

I fell in love with Ron Dicianni’s painting,  “Simeon’s Moment” many years ago.  My husband bought and framed a print for me and I sit opposite it every morning as I drink my coffee.

It never fails to touch my heart.

There was a man in Jerusalem whose name was Simeon. This man was righteous and devout, looking forward to Israel’s consolation,and the Holy Spirit was on him.  It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he saw the Lord’s Messiah. Guided by the Spirit, he entered[b] the temple complex. When the parents brought in the child Jesus to perform for Him what was customary under the law, Simeon took Him up in his arms, praised God, and said:

Now, Master,
You can dismiss Your slave in peace,
as You promised.
 For my eyes have seen Your salvation.
You have prepared it
in the presence of all peoples—
 a light for revelation to the Gentiles[c]
and glory to Your people Israel.

Luke 2: 25-32 HCSB

We don’t know how long Simeon had waited, how many times he had looked at a male child brought for dedication only to realize that he must still wait–but we know that Simeon returned to the temple because he trusted God’s promise.

Then one day, perhaps a day he thought would be like any other, THERE HE WAS–Messiah had come.

As he cradled Jesus in his arms, spoke prophecy over his baby head, Simeon’s faithful waiting was rewarded.

Yet even at that moment, Simeon did not receive the fullness of the promise–Jesus was yet a tiny child.

But the foretaste of God’s trustworthy love flooded his soul and he was able to say,  “You can dismiss Your slave in peace,..for my eyes have seen Your salvation”.

Waiting is hard.  

I miss Dominic and I long for the time when my family circle will be restored.

Sometimes the days drag on and it seems as if the promised light and redemption is far away.

But one day, perhaps a day that begins like any other, CHRIST WILL COME.

So until then, I will rest in the foretaste of God’s trustworthy love and wait faithfully for His appearing.

 

Countdown to Christmas

Here in the last days before Christmas, the darkest days of the year, my grieving heart longs for light.

In some ways the busy-ness of the holiday season pushes the pain of missing my son to the background–a mind can only entertain so many ideas at one time.

But the activity and constant barrage of demands and conversations exhausts me and makes me more vulnerable to the moments when grief rolls full force over my soul like an ocean wave.

I am more sensitive to the chasm between me and those who have not buried a child.  

More sensitive to the fact that the world continues to spin, parties are planned, songs are sung and Dominic isn’t here for any of it.

I want to find a way to mark his absence, to include him in conversation, to make sure he isn’t forgotten.

I am so very thankful for the family that surrounds me at Christmas, and want them to know how much I cherish the moments we are together and how fiercely I love them.

But my heart is divided.  

Part of me is “here” and part of me is “there”.  I walk in two worlds–on earth and in heaven.  I savor the sweet joy of the “now” but ache for the even sweeter joy of the “forever”.

So I sing all four verses of the Christmas hymns–not just the ones that speak of Jesus’ birth, but the verses that tell of His return.

I celebrate His coming, but I long for His coming again.

For lo! the days are hastening on,
By prophets seen of old,
When with the ever-circling years
Shall come the time foretold,
When the new heaven and earth shall own
The Prince of Peace, their King,
And the whole world send back the song
Which now the angels sing.

~It Came Upon A Midnight Clear

 

 

When The Last Fingerprint Fades Away

Dominic was always working on his car.

During one weekend session, something went wrong and he came storming through the garage.

He slammed both hands hard on my extra pantry, crashing one mason jar full of tomatoes into the other, making a mess and leaving greasy hand prints on the white melamine doors.

I waited until he made his way into the house and upstairs then went to assess the damage-tomatoes dripping everywhere, glass on the floor and hand prints in several places.

I cleaned the tomatoes and glass and gave a swipe at the doors. But those marks of my son’s temper remained for months. I finally found a mixture that got most of it off so only faint reminders were left.

After Dominic was killed, I went to the garage and put my fingers one by one into what was still there of his hand print.

It made me feel closer to him, like there was a little of his life left that I could touch.

Today I was thinking-what will I do when the last fingerprint fades away?

What will I cling to that can make him real to me again?

I know he has only left this earthly tent and the real Dominic is with Jesus, but I’m still stuck in the physical world, longing for physical connection.

A mama’s arms are made for holding her children, not for holding their memories.

This is the greatest challenge I face in my grief–not blaming God or even dealing with the pain–it’s the need to touch my children and knowing now one is beyond my reach until I join him in heaven.

[King David said] “Could I bring the child back to life? I will some day go to where he is, but he can never come back to me.”  2 Samuel 12:23b GNT

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

 

Welcoming the Stranger

Last night I did something brave (for me).  

I went to a Christmas musical production at a large church about 45 miles away from my home.  It was brave because since Dominic died I haven’t been able to go to a worship service that includes a band and worship singers without being frozen in my seat, tears running down my face.

Someone posted a video of a practice run for the song “Mary Did You Know” done Pentatonix style and it was beautiful.

Made my heart long to hear Christmas music again.

I thought sitting in a different church, with different people  might just be the bridge to help my wounded soul  reengage in worship music.

So I arrived early, walked in and sat down in a row facing an aisle, right in the middle of the sanctuary.

By myself.

Clearly alone.

And not one person greeted or spoke to me or even smiled–though I smiled at several as they passed.

Flashing up on the large screen at the front of the room was an invitation to “send us your photo” watching the musical,  followed by various ways to connect with the church online.  Cute snapshots of people from around the area and around the world cycled through.

But no one saw, or reached out, or spoke to the person right there in front of them.

My feelings aren’t hurt. I wasn’t looking for affirmation or comfort and I’ve already “found” Jesus–but they didn’t know that.

I could have been a struggling middle-aged woman who had come, desperate for hope, or a reason to keep living,  or for the Savior everyone seems to sing about this time of year.

And that made me think:  What are we doing?

Really?

Are we so busy being IN church that we have ceased to BE the church?

The music was wonderful, the staging flawless, the choir amazing.

But what frightened and seeking and lonely people really want is a personal connection not a perfect production.

At this time of year when the days grow short and the nights are long, so very many people’s hearts are yearning for a tiny ray of light, the smallest gesture of compassion, a glimmer of hope.

And some of them bravely step through the doors of our churches.

One smile can bridge the gap.  One word can invite them in.  One extended hand can give them something and someone to hold on to.  

For if you love those who love you, what reward can you have? Do not even the tax collectors do that? And if you greet only your brethren, what more than others are you doing? Do not even the heathen do that?

-Jesus

 

 

 

Advent: A Season of Waiting

We spend a lot of time waiting.  Waiting to grow up.  Waiting to get married.  Waiting to have children.  Waiting for our children to grow up.  Always looking toward the next big thing.

Israel waited centuries for the Messiah.  Generation after generation was born, lived, and died without seeing the fulfillment of God’s promise.

I have always loved the tradition of lighting  a candle and reciting Scripture to build anticipation for celebrating the birth of Jesus.The ritual forces me to slow down in the rush of holiday preparation to ponder the coming of God’s great gift.

Celebrating Advent helps me recapture that desperate hope–Israel’s longing heart for her Savior.

Since Dominic went to heaven,  Advent is no longer just a seasonal celebration–it’s an attitude of my heart.

I received the blessing of Christ’s first coming-His payment-in-full of sin’s penalty and freedom from the curse of the law.  I know my eternity is secure.

But I live in this fallen world where death still intrudes to take the ones I love.

So now I’m waiting with greater desperation and hope for the complete redemption and restoration of the earth God created and the people for whom Jesus died.

Every time I light a candle to drive the dark from a room I remember the faithfulness of God and His promise that no matter how dark it gets, Light is coming.

 

The people who walked in darkness
    have seen a great light.
For those who lived in a land of deep shadows—
    light! sunbursts of light!
You repopulated the nation,
    you expanded its joy.
Oh, they’re so glad in your presence!
    Festival joy!
The joy of a great celebration,
    sharing rich gifts and warm greetings.

Isaiah 9:2-4 MSG

 

 

Season of Joy: Blessing the Brokenhearted During the Holidays

Most parents feel a little stressed during the holidays.

We used to be able to enjoy Thanksgiving before our 24/7 supercharged and super-connected world thrust us into hyper-drive.  Now we zoom past the first day of school on a highway toward Christmas at breakneck speed.

For bereaved parents, the rush toward the “Season of Joy” is doubly frightening.

Constant reminders that this is the “most wonderful time of the year” make our broken hearts just that much more out of place. Who cares what you get for Christmas when the one thing your heart desires–your child, alive and whole–is unavailable…

We want to enjoy the family that gathers, but their presence makes the empty chair more obvious.

It is so hard to find a way to trudge through the tinsel when what you really want to do is climb into bed and wake up when it’s all over.

There are some practical ways family and friends can help grieving parents during the holidays:

  1. Don’t resist or criticize arrangements a bereaved parent makes to help him or her get through this season.  If they are brave enough to broach the subject, receive their suggestions with grace and encourage them with love.  Do your best to accommodate the request.
  2. If the bereaved parent doesn’t approach you–consider thoughtfully, gracefully approaching him or her about what might make the holidays more bearable.  But don’t expect a well-laid plan-I didn’t get a “how-to” book when I buried my child…this is new to me and very, very painful.  I am doing the best I can to keep my head above the waves and I cannot be expected to captain the boat through these turbulant waters.
  3. Don’t be surprised if a bereaved parent doesn’t want to exchange gifts (or at least, not receive gifts).  No one can rewind time or restore my family circle to wholeness and I just can’t think of anything else that I want or need.
  4. Don’t assume that the bereaved parent should be relieved of all meal duties around the holiday.  For some of us, doing the routine things like baking and cooking are healing.  For others, there just isn’t energy for anything other than the most fundamental daily tasks. ASK if they want to contribute.
  5. Don’t corner surviving children for a private update on their parent’s state of mind.  My children are grieving too.  When you expect them to give an update on me you diminish their pain and put them in a difficult position.  If you want to know, ask me.
  6. If there are young children in the family, it might be helpful to offer to take them to some of the parties/gatherings/church services that their parent may not be up to attending. Ask, but don’t be upset if they say “no”–it might still be too traumatic for either the child or the parent to be separated from one another.

I know that life goes on, the calendar pages keep turning and I can’t stop time in its tracks.  I greet each day with as much faith and courage as I can muster. This season requires a little more-and I will need help to make it through.