If you’ve never been caught short in the midst of an unexpected downpour you might not know how important refuge under the boughs of a cedar or oak tree can be.
Living in the middle of woods, punctuated by open pastures, I’ve retreated more than once to the safety of thick boughs which limit the rain’s ability to soak me through.
I have memorized every safe haven between the road and the middle of my 34 acres.
Faithful friends are like those sheltering trees-offering respite to a weary heart, providing a safe space to take a breath, granting protection when we are pursued by the enemy of our souls.
When Dominic ran ahead to Heaven I was a mess.
Most folks that brushed shoulders with me in public might not have guessed but those who knew me well saw me devolve from “got it together” to “don’t even know what I should be getting together”.
I was utterly devastated.
Some people were repulsed.They either couldn’t handle my ongoing neediness (a week or a month on the prayer list ought to be enough according to them) or they simply found my presence too uncomfortable a reminder that bad things happen regardless of how “good” you are.
But there were a few…a precious, precious few who refused to go away. They showed up and stayed.
It didn’t matter if they had any remarkable insight or help or “solutions” to my heartache.
What mattered is that they bent over my broken heart and provided shelter.
We all need sheltering trees in the storms of life.
And I am beyond thankful for every single person who is brave enough to bear the brunt of evil winds to provide that shelter.
I’m not entirely sure this quote is an accurate one from the original Winnie the Pooh books but it is absolutely an accurate reflection of the characters.
And it’s a beautiful reminder to all of us how powerful presence can be.
May we all have Poohs and Piglets that come sit with us when we are Sad, and Alone, and Not Much Fun To Be Around.
“It occurred to Pooh and Piglet that they hadn’t heard from Eeyore for several days, so they put on their hats and coats and trotted across the Hundred Acre Wood to Eeyore’s stick house. Inside the house was Eeyore.”
Jehovah is the God of promises made and promises kept.
From Genesis to Malachi, God sent prophets to proclaim the coming of Messiah.
And He used Mary and Joseph, willing servants of the Most High, to bring about His plan.
22-23 All this happened to fulfil what the Lord had said through the prophet—‘Behold, a virgin shall be with child, and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel’. (“Immanuel” means “God with us.”)
24-25 When Joseph woke up he did what the angel had told him. He married Mary, but had no intercourse with her until she had given birth to a son. Then he gave him the name Jesus.
Matthew 1:22-25 PHILLIPS
Not only was Jesus the Child of promise, the Messiah, the Savior, He was God wrapped in flesh.
Fully God and fully human.
The King of all creation chose to subject Himself to it. He was born in the ordinary way though His conception was miraculous.
There are many religions in the world. But there is not a single other faith whose cornerstone is Deity come to earth.
Only Christianity can claim that our God left Heaven and took on flesh to dwell among His people and that makes all the difference.
Grief is isolating.
There are moments, days-even weeks-when I feel trapped inside an impermeable bubble of sorrow and pain. No human touch or words can pierce the armor around my heart.
I can’t pray, I can’t read my Bible, I can barely lift my head.
It’s then that Jesus comes to me gently, sweetly, with grace, compassion and love because He knows every single heartache I endure. He walked the earth and was betrayed, wounded, forsaken. He is not far off and unaware.
Immanuel-“God with us”-isn’t just a lofty theological concept.
It (He!) is a living reality.
In my weakest and most vulnerable moments, when I can’t conjure hope for myself, He brings it to me.
What does it mean to YOU that God took on flesh?
Have you ever thought about Jesus as a man, living like a man, hitting His thumb with a hammer, stubbing His toe, loving His mother and all the other things life means? Or do you simply think about the punctuated moments described in Scripture?
The writer of Hebrews says that because Jesus experienced humanity in every way we have a High Priest who sympathizes and understands our weakness. I find that liberating! How might embracing this truth encourage your heart to bring every request, lament, praise and doubt to the throne of grace?
When have you experienced the Presence of Jesus?
Your people waited long for their Messiah. After hundreds of years You didn’t just send just someone, You sent your own Son. Fully God, fully human. He walked among us. It’s hard for me to wrap my head around that idea.
But what I know from experience is that You ARE the God of Presence. You do not abandon me to despair. When I am most lonely and my heart is crushed under the weight of sorrow, help me remember that.
Give me the confidence to bring the good, bad and the ugly straight to the throne of grace. Remind me that though Heaven is your high and lofty holy dwelling place it’s not so far You can’t hear me.
And You DO hear me. You see me. You capture my tears and count them precious. Thank You for your promises. Thank You for your peace. Thank You for your Presence.
O come, Thou Day-Spring, come and cheer our spirits by Thine advent here
Disperse the gloomy clouds of night and death’s dark shadows put to flight.
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel.
I ask myself this question often: Do I want to keep writing in this space?
Sometimes the answer is a resounding, “no!”.
Because while I love to write, some days it’s hard to put together words in a way others can understand. Sometimes I’m tired, or rushed or just tired of thinking about how grief and loss impact my life.
And then I ask the follow up: Do I still have anything to say?
That’s the one that keeps me here.
Because as soon as I think the answer is “no” to that question, a conversation or a comment thread or a personal experience brings up something that I feel I need or want to write about.
So I sit down and begin again.
I made a commitment in the beginning to be as honest as possible and I’ve done that the best I know how while protecting identities of those who are part of my story but who have their own stories to tell (should they choose).
I also promised to be transparent about my thoughts on God, on faith, on life everlasting. I feel like I’ve done that. In fact, I’m pretty sure some of my rambling has shocked friends and family from time to time. But I’m not afraid of shocking God. He knows my frame, knows my heart and cannot be made small by my questions or doubts.
I try to do research when appropriate to bring together resources and ideas for bereaved parents in one place.
One of the most frustrating things to me in the early months of missing Dominic was how hard it was to find good resources. The Internet is not your friend if you are looking for local and accessible help for practical problems. It was over a year and a half before I found a closed group of like-minded bereaved parents. But once I did, oh, what a difference that made in my journey!
So if you are interested in finding a safe, closed group, ask me. I know of several.
And then there’s the sweet comments that (usually) mamas send my way-either through Facebook or here. When someone writes that looking for the blog post each morning helps them get out of bed-well, that’s both encouragement and a serious responsibility. I don’t want to not show up and disappoint a heart. Even when all I have to offer is only my words.
So for now, at least, I plan to stay.
When my life circumstances make it impossible to carry on or I run out of things to say (which my mother will swear won’t happen!) then I’ll quit.
I send each post into cyberspace with a prayer-even for my readers who don’t believe in prayer:
“Father God, help each heart hold onto hope. Send a ray of sunshine into every cloudy day. Bring someone along who will listen, who will care and who will offer a hand to the one who is too weary and broken to take another step. Help them believe that they are seen, they are loved and that they matter. Overwhelm them with Your love, grace and mercy.”
Calendars crammed weeks and months in advance and no white space left over to pencil in lunch with a friend even though we desperately NEED it.
It seems impossible to make that call, write that note or stop by and visit a few minutes.
How can I meet my obligations if I use precious time doing the optional?
But when the unexpected, unimaginable and awful happens, suddenly that calendar and all those appointments don’t matter.Balls drop everywhere and I don’t care.
Because when your family or best friend needs you, you come-no questions asked.
You toss a few necessities in your carry-on, lock the door, unplug the coffee pot and RUN.
You connect that phone to the car charger and dial away as you drive down the road.
And you show up.
Because when someone needs you, REALLY needs you, there is NO SUBSTITUTE for presence.
And the world keeps spinning.
All those “important” commitments cluttering my calendar are still there. But a few phone calls later and they are easily rearranged. Medicine refills can be sent almost anywhere. Church responsibilities can be shouldered by someone else. Social dates can be rescheduled.
The only thing that matters is being exactly where your heart tells you it needs to be for exactly as long as you need to be there.
But you don’t have to wait until it’s an emergency to show up.
If it can wait if it HAD to, then it can wait.
You will not be going over a “to do” list with your last breath.
Choose to make people a priority right now-you might not get a second chance,
I mention that today is a hard day to someone who knows my story and the words fall with a loud “thud!” between us.
I don’t know whether to pick them up or not and she isn’t having anything to do with them.
So I move on to another topic. Clearly this one isn’t going anywhere.
There are lots of ways to send messages of disapproval. You can “just say NO” like kids are told to do in anti-drug and anti-bullying campaigns. You can rant and rave and argue and rail against someone or something in person and on social media.
Or you can just ignore someone when they spill what matters to them like an offering on the ground at your feet.
The opposite of love is not hate.
The opposite of support is not opposition.
It’s looking the other way.
Strangers line streets to cheer marathoners on-offering cups of water and words of affirmation.
“You can do it!” “Keep going!” “You are more than half-way there!” “Don’t give up!”
And yet many of us are running the race of our lives without a cheering section.
I get it–you are so very tired of the fact that I am so very tired. I have worn out the welcome mat to the door of your heart. It DOES get old when I bring the same baggage with me each time we talk.
Trust me, I’m working hard at unpacking it. I’m doing all I can to lighten my load and what I ask you to help me carry.
But it is a slow, slow process.
And every time I need help or encouragement and don’t get it, another brick is added to the suitcase.
You might think you are helping me learn to ignore the pain by ignoring my mention of it but I don’t have that luxury.
It’s my heart wound, not yours.
It’s my child buried, my child not here, my child gone from sight-how exactly should I ignore that? Which of your children could you put away for a lifetime and forget was ever here?