In fact, I’ve never been the retreat kind of gal myself.
But I’ve changed my mind about one very different type of retreat that has both encouraged my heart and led to deep and lasting friendships with other women who know the pain of child loss.
Since February, 2018 I’ve had the privilege to be part of two unique, intimate and life-giving retreats for bereaved moms.
This February (21-23) will be the third.
This time we are focusing on God’s promises to redeem our pain, to restore our hearts and to weave the broken threads of our lives into a beautiful tapestry that testifies to hope, grace and the faithful love of our faithful Father.
He binds their wounds, heals the sorrows of their hearts.
Psalm 147:2 VOICE
Hope Lee, a fellow mom-in-loss, provides the wonderful facility (a cozy but spacious camp house in the Mississippi countryside) and I facilitate interactive sessions filled with Bible study, sharing and encouragement.
There is plenty of time to just visit, lots of great food and we usually do a fun craft or other slightly zany activity.
It’s a wonderful opportunity to meet other moms whose experience may help you in your journey. It will definitely be a safe space to let your hair down and take your mask off.
I have left each weekend with renewed energy, hope and courage for this often tiresome and lonely road.
Depending where you are in this journey the thought of a weekend away with other bereaved moms may be either terrifying or exciting.
But may I encourage you-whether terrified or excited-to listen to the Spirit? If He is pushing you to step out in faith, do it.
I promise you won’t regret it!
Spaces are limited so call or text Hope at 662-574-8445 today and reserve your spot.
I’m no stranger to disappointment, disillusionment, discouragement and despair.
I have had some amazingly lofty peaks in this life but I’ve also had some terribly low valleys as well.
Some of the stories aren’t mine to tell so you will just have to take my word for it. Some of the stories I’ve already shared in this space so if you want more details you can check out old posts.
Right now I feel likeI’m in one of those valleys.
In fact, I feel like I’m in the locust years the prophet Joel talks about in the Bible book that bears his name.
So I will restore to you the years that the swarming [a]locust has eaten, The crawling locust, The consuming locust, And the chewing locust, My great army which I sent among you. 26 You shall eat in plenty and be satisfied, And praise the name of the Lord your God, Who has dealt wondrously with you; And My people shall never be put to shame. 27 Then you shall know that I am in the midst of Israel: I am the Lord your God And there is no other. My people shall never be put to shame.
Joel (his name means “Yahweh is God”) was sent by God to encourage the nation of Israel during a time of famine and judgement. Because God’s chosen people refused to follow Him and obey His commandments, they were punished. God didn’t do that to harm them. He did it to draw their attention to their sin and to woo them back to Himself.
I firmly believe that while God may discipline His true children (see Hebrews 12:6) all the punishment sin requires has been paid for by the life, death and resurrection of Jesus.
Still, I feel like there are parallels to the famine and devastation Israel faced and the past eighteen months of my life.
One “disaster” after another.One herculean challenge after another. One hill to climb after another.And with each new hard thing, I find my reserves are fewer and fewer.
Nothing-NOTHING-rises to the level of sending Dominic ahead to Heaven.
But that one giant, life-altering, earth shattering, heartbreaking event has weakened my defenses. It has made me more prone to wearing down and giving up than I’ve ever been in my life.
My faith is intact.
I have absolutely no doubt that every promise of God in Christ is “yes” and “amen”.
I trust the truth that all the enemy has stolen will be restored. Every sad thing will be undone. The world (including my own family) will be redeemed, restored and raised to life in Christ. When I pass my son’s grave facing east, I know one day the skies will open and Jesus will return as triumphant King over all creation.
Even so I am weary and heavy laden.
I take the burden to the foot of the cross over and over and over.
Just as I think the weight is lifted, another heavy brick is added to the load.
Sometimes you can see the light at the end of the tunnel. Other times you just have to trust in the dark.
Sometimes the trial is limited. Other times it goes on and on and on.
But I know, know, know God is faithful.
His love endures forever.
And even when I find myself in the midst of spiritual famine, desolation and desperation, He will meet me there.
So I wait.
Holding on to hope.
Looking for the promised bounty.
Trusting that He will redeem, restore and resurrect.
I have always, always felt a special duty to tread lightly with respect to those parents in particular. I want to honor them and never suggest I speak for them. I’ve started and discarded at least a dozen posts on child loss and suicide.
So when a mom who lost a child to suicide shared this in one of our closed groups, I messaged her and asked permission to publish her comment here.
So here are HER words, precisely as she shared them:
I was blessed to live several years in Colorado and it never got old to head off in the mountains, round a curve and come upon a grove of trembling golden aspen. They demanded I step outside the car and drink them in.
Photographs don’t do them justice.
You have to be there, see them, hear their leaves make music in the wind and smell the cool, clear air of the mountains to understand.
When Paul says that the sufferings in this life are incomparable to the glories of the next, I think he had something like this in mind-Heavenly experience is so far outside mortal language and understanding, it’s simply impossible to describe.
Through that prayer, God’s Spirit confirms in our spirits that we are His children. 17 If we are God’s children, that means we are His heirs along with the Anointed, set to inherit everything that is His. If we share His sufferings, we know that we will ultimately share in His glory. 18 Now I’m sure of this: the sufferings we endure now are not even worth comparing to the glory that is coming and will be revealed in us.
Romans 8: 16-18 VOICE
It’s no accident Paul tags this assurance on the end of declaring the fullness of my relationship to God the Father through Jesus His Son. If I, like Christ, am a child of God, then I. like Christ am an heir to the promises.
It’s a fact, not a theory.
God doesn’t lie. He will do every thing He says He will do.
I can rest assured in that truth.
We endure many hard things for a guaranteed earthly return on our time, money, energy, strength and tears.
How much more sure are the promises of God?
The glory to come must be some kind of wonderful it if makes the pain of child loss so small there’s no comparison.
Am I willing to trust Him even here, even now?
What’s your first impression of these verses? Do they hit a nerve? Make you defensive of your pain and suffering? Are they comforting?
What does it mean to you that God is Father? That you are a co-heir with Christ?
Have you ever had the last verse tossed at you by a well-meaning (or not so well-meaning) person trying to “cheer you up”? How did you respond (internally or verbally)?
Write out your own example of an awe-inspiring experience that stopped you in your tracks? Read it back to yourself aloud. Do you feel like you were able to convey the depth and breadth of your actual experience in words? Why or why not? Does this give you more or less confidence in how amazing Heaven will be?
I am thankful I can call You Father. I am thankful my position in Your family is secured by the blood of Christ. Thank You for the gift of salvation through His sacrifice. Thank You that the Spirit bears witness with my spirit that I am Yours.
It’s hard to suffer well sometimes. It’s hard to hold onto hope when pain is so very real and Heaven is somewhere I can’t really picture well. I’m trying to lean into the promises here and throughout Your word.
Strengthen me by Your word and with Your strength. When my heart is overwhelmed, calm me with Your songs of deliverance. When my grip is weak, wrap Your arms around me and help me hold on.
I realize not every parent enters child loss with the same reverence for Scripture and trust in the promises of God that I had when Dominic left us.
So it may be hard for your heart to believe the words we’ve been reading and studying this month. It may be near impossible for you to feel that God is a good Father, that He has not abandoned you and that He has a purpose and plan for your life, even here in this awful Valley.
If you’ve read this blog for any length of time, you know that while I still have faith, it’s a tested faith. I have dragged every single thing I believed before Dominic ran ahead to Heaven, held it up and scrutinized it in the cold light of loss.
Some things I don’t clutch so tightly anymore. Many things I wouldn’t spend five minutes defending anymore. But there are absolute, rock-solid, foundational truths that I will declare with my dying breath.
The character of God is flawless. His ways are holy and good. He will not allow the enemy of my soul to have the last word. Death is (ultimately) defeated and victory is sure.
When I was on my face in mourning, when dust was my food and bitter tears were my drink, these are the promises that breathed life back into my broken heart.
Remember [always] the word and promise to Your servant, In which You have made me hope. 50 This is my comfort in my affliction, That Your word has revived me and given me life.
Psalm 119: 49-50 AMP
When people in the Bible asked God to “remember” it wasn’t that they thought He forgot. It was a way of reciting truth to their own hearts and praying God’s words back to Him.
So when I was just on the other side of the awful news but past Dom’s service and all the people and activities surrounding it, I began most days in my journal with something similar.
I would write out a verse confirming God’s promises to me and my family. I would make it personal-put our names in it- and pray it back to Him. The more I did that, the more my spirit was revived. The more my spirit came back to life, the more I was able to listen to and hear from Him.
It’s a slow, slow process.
The blow is sudden, severe and debilitating (no matter how your child left this earth).
Recovery cannot be rushed along.
I feel most days like I’m still receiving hope and life in drips and dribbles.
But the more I focus my mind’s attention and my heart’s affection on God’s sure promises, the more alive I feel.
And one day I’ll be fully alive-as Dominic is right now- dancing, laughing, singing to the tune of millions of rejoicing voices.
Until then, I’ll keep pointing my heart in the right direction.
My own plans are made. While I can, I sail east in the Dawn Treader. When she fails me, I paddle east in my coracle. When she sinks, I shall swim east with my four paws. And when I can swim no longer, if I have not reached Aslan’s country, or shot over the edge of the world into some vast cataract, I shall sink with my nose to the sunrise. ~Reepicheep
C.S. Lewis, Voyage of the Dawn Treader
Do you have hope? Why or why not?
Do you think you can influence whether or not hope lives in your heart? Why or why not?
What do you do each day to feed hope in your heart?
If you are new on this journey of loss, you may be certain you will never feel alive again. You may think you will never feel hope or joy or anything besides sorrow again. I promise that if you will let the words of God sink in, if you will take your heartache to Him and allow Him to touch the broken places, you will begin to revive. How do Reepicheep’s words speak to you today?
If you are farther along the road of loss, record some specific moments when you felt God met you and breathed life into your spirit.
Truth is that all life comes from You. There is nowhere else to turn but to Your face, Your hand, Your heart. Part of me wants to give up and give in. I want to be rid of this pain, this heartache, this sorrow and unrelenting despair. But I know You have a purpose and plan for me even here, even now.
Help me choose to make space for Your word and Your love to penetrate my heart. Help me offer up my broken bits to You and wait patiently for You to weave them back together into something beautiful.
When I have nothing left, touch me. When I give up, encourage me. When I can’t see the light for the darkness, shine on me.