The Danger of Rushing to Serve After Loss

There are all kinds of doubts that creep in and take up residence in a mind after child loss.

Most of them have to do with the child that ran ahead to heaven.

But many are also about me:  “What should I be doing? Where should I go from here?” 

For those of us active in church ministries, we wonder, When do I return to service?”

There can be a lot of pressure to “get back in the saddle” if you fill a large role in a particular ministry.

No one ever wants to find a replacement for an effective Sunday School teacher, youth worker or hospitality hostess.  It’s hard when you have months of warning and nearly impossible when the vacancy opens up suddenly and unexpectedly.

But does the difficulty in finding my replacement mean that the burden is on me to keep serving, even when I am utterly broken, empty and unable to do so?

I don’t think so.  

I’ve learned many things through child loss and one of them is this:  the world still turns and things still get done in spite of the absence of any single person.

God invites us to join in the work He is doing in the world.  It is HIS work, not mine.  And He will absolutely assure that it gets done.  If I am unavailable to fill a position, then He will raise up another to fill it.

Jesus said, “Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy laden, and I will give you rest.”  

His yoke is easy, His burden light.  

yoke-of-oxen

We are never to serve out of a place of exhaustion, weariness, emptiness.  

Grief certainly exhausts us, wears us down and depletes our resources.  

Take a season-as long a season as necessary-to allow the Holy Spirit to minister grace, mercy and love to your broken heart.  That is the calling of Christ on our lives.  To listen and follow our Shepherd-our Gentle Shepherd-who promises to bind up our wounds and tend our shattered souls.

heals the broken hearted

People who have not suffered the death of a child will not understand.  But it won’t be the first time you’ve been misunderstood if you’ve ministered for more than a minute.

Don’t let others’ expectations or your own fear of failure keep you from hearing the call of your loving Father to come to Him, to lean on Him, to rest in His arms as He sings over you.

rejoice over you with singing

There will be a day for ministry again.  

I promise.  

crown of beauty planting of the lord

 

How and Why I Keep Writing: A Shepherd’s Heart

I am still utterly amazed that since November 2015 I have managed a blog post every day.

At first, I was writing because I wanted to make public the things I was learning in this Valley and to honor my missing son.  

dominic at tims wedding

He had been in Heaven a year and a half by then and it was clear to this mama’s heart that (1) people (including ME before it WAS me!) had absolutely NO IDEA what life after child loss was like once the funeral was over;  (2) one way to redeem this pain was to share how God had been faithful even as I struggled; and (3) I just didn’t see too many honest portrayals of life after loss for Christ followers (which is not to say they didn’t/don’t exist but I hadn’t found them).

So I wrote.  

Then I realized (much to my surprise!) that there were mamas (and a few daddies) hanging on by such a tenuous thread to hope that my meager attempt at redeeming this pain was strengthening their grasp.

Then it became a ministry.

Shepherding is in my blood. 

I’ve been a shepherd my whole adult life-first to my own children and then to other children through various home school groups and activities.  Then God granted a desire of my heart when He allowed me to become  a “real” shepherd 20 years ago to a flock/herd of sheep and goats.

goat and mel on porch (2)

I’ve learned so, so much.  

I’ve learned that consistency is key. 

My herd depends on my faithful feeding and my peaceful presence.  They love routine and hate change.  They respond immediately to my voice and run straight to me when they are afraid.

They will endure nearly anything as long as they are assured it is from my loving hand.  

I am not able to shepherd every heart that reads this blog. 

But I hope that a bit of my shepherd’s love and care and compassion is present in each post.  

My desire is that consistency helps the hearts that congregate here every morning.  I long for my words to feed hope to you from time to time.  I pray that routine gives you something to look forward to even on the hard day.  I pray that I faithfully point you to the Shepherd of your soul who can provide shelter no matter where you are or what is chasing you.

sheperd

I pray that together we can endure and persevere and finish strong and well.  

I continue to write because I love you. 

I continue to write because if a single post reaches a single heart on the verge of giving up and helps that heart hold onto hope, then it is worth every minute I spend thinking about, composing and producing these posts.  

And, frankly, many of you have ministered hope to MY heart.  

hope holds a breaking heart together

Dom left for Heaven about when my nest became empty.  Thirty years of raising children and twenty-plus years of homeschooling came to an end right when my heart was dealt this grievous blow.

All the energy and time I had poured into shepherding my children was suddenly available for a new adventure at the very moment when adventure was the last thing on my mind.  

Sharing has turned survival into something beautiful.   

I am so thankful for that.

And I am oh, so grateful for each of you.

thank you

 

 

 

Blind and Broken

How do you know when you are blind?”…”You don’t…you only know afterward when you can see. The blindness of the disciples does not keep their Christ from coming to them. He does not limit his post-resurrection appearances to those with full confidence in him. He comes to the disappointed, the doubtful, the disconsolate. he comes to those who do not recognize him even when they are walking right beside him. He comes to those who have given up and are headed back home, which makes this whole story a story about the blessedness of brokenness.

[Barbara Brown Taylor, Gospel Medicine]

Oh, how I am tempted to build a wall between myself and Jesus!  

I keep thinking that I must be a certain way or do a certain thing to be worthy of His grace and mercy.

The checklists I create are really just a way to make myself feel better about my own helplessness.

And I am so very helpless.

There is no prerequisite to receiving grace.

He comes.  

He gives. 

He saves. 

I am the good shepherd. I am the one who really cares for the sheep. The good shepherd is willing to die to save his sheep.  ~Jesus

John 10:11 WE

sheperd

 

 

 

 

Love in Action: How the Church Can Serve Grieving Parents and Other Hurting Hearts

One of the hardest things for me  to hear is how sometimes the church fails to minister to grieving parents.

I don’t think it’s because leadership decides to ignore them and others who have intractable situations.

But I do think that our modern emphasis on programs and platforms often leaves hurting hearts behind.

I am a shepherd.  My goats and sheep depend on me for food, for guidance and for their security.

And every day I am reminded that a shepherd’s heart is revealed by the way he or she cares for the weakest and most vulnerable of the flock.

Read the rest here:  Loving Well: How the Church Can Serve Grieving Parents and Other Hurting People

Attitude Adjustment

This week has been challenging on multiple fronts and the challenges kept coming at the most inopportune moments.  None of the things I faced was truly awful but each wave of stress swept over me exactly when I thought my head would be above water and I could breathe easy for just a bit.

I admit that by Friday morning my attitude was pretty awful.

And I was feeling rather justified and satisfied in my bad attitude-some people had let me down, some people had lashed out against me, my hips hurt, my feet hurt and my “to do” list had lengthened every day instead of getting shorter as I worked through the items.  I was not looking forward to next week which is going to be filled with daily interaction with strangers and increased responsibility for children I don’t know.

But a conversation with my daughter (O Wise One!) helped turn that around.  

She didn’t do it by shaming me or tossing Bible verses at me or refusing to acknowledge the very real challenges, stress and pain I faced.

She did it by turning my heart and mind to the children I would have the opportunity to reach next week in our community through VBS.

She did it by reminding me of the many children she and our family have known through the years that may not need to hear the ABCs of how to receive Christ (because they have heard that before) but may need the undivided attention of a trusted adult for just five minutes out of a long summer.  

let the little children come to me

She helped me remember I love children and I love seeing their faces light up in the glow of genuine affirmation and encouragement.

She reminded me who I really am.  

Sometimes we all need an attitude adjustment and her wise words helped adjust mine.

I have a shepherd’s heart.

It’s why I go to extraordinary lengths to save a member of my flock.  It’s why I will drop everything to come to the aid of a broken heart.  It’s why there is no such thing in our house as being “too busy” when someone reaches out and needs a hug.

But for a few days I forgot that.

I had forgotten my true identity in the frenzy of trying to live up to others’ expectations and in allowing others’ remarks or actions to dictate my own.

I forgot that the only One Who matters is the One Who made me.

When I remember that I am the beloved child of a loving Father Who has promised to meet every need I have through the riches of His bounty in Christ Jesus, I am free to be the person He created me to be.

And that’s who I want to be.

Nothing-you-do-can-change-Gods-love

 

Healing? Curing? Same Thing?

Healing and curing are not the same thing.

Healing is a process that takes as long as it takes and may never be complete this side of eternity.  It’s a folding in of the hard parts of my story, an acknowledgement of the way I am changed because of the wounds I’ve received.  It involves scar tissue and sore spots and ongoing pain.

healing is not the absence of pain silhouette of sorrow

To be cured is to be free of the effects of disease or injury.  

And there is no cure for child loss.

I will never be free of the effects of burying a child this side of Heaven.

I did not understand the difference until it was my heart bearing an incurable wound.

The thing about healing, as opposed to curing, is that it is relational. It takes time. It is inefficient, like a meandering river. Rarely does healing follow a straight or well-lit path. Rarely does it conform to our expectations or resolve in a timely manner. Walking with someone through grief or through the process of reconciliation requires patience, presence, and a willingness to wander, to take the scenic route.

~Rachel Held Evans, Searching for Sunday

It really IS all about relationship.

Relationship first with the Living God through His Son, Jesus.

The ongoing life-giving ministry of His Spirit calls courage to me as I travel this Valley and sings hope to my heart when I cannot hear anything else.  

He will not leave me in my distress.

He does not abandon me in my darkest hour.

flesh-and-heart-may-fail

But it is also about relationship with others.

Relationship with those willing to meander with me along this unlit and winding path.  They are the ones who give me courage to carry on. They are the ones who lift me up when I am unable to lift myself and who lie down with me when even their best pep talk is not enough to get me off the floor.

friends pick us up

They have listened to me tell and retell my story.

The first time I told it, I didn’t have a clue what to say or how to say it-what to leave in, what to leave out.  How do you condense a life-sized earthquake to a novel, much less a few sentences?

But I find as I practice telling my story, it is healing.

Sometimes it’s as if I speak without my mind being engaged and listening,  I have an “aha” moment-suddenly recognizing a new insight and another place that needs work or has received healing.

I’ve learned that there is no substitute for companionship on this journey.  

My healing depends on the faithful Presence of my Shepherd

AND

the faithful presence of friends who refuse to leave even when it seems we are lost in the wilderness of grief together,

relationshipmatters-pic

 

 

 

 

Soul Food

Whether I think about it or not, every day I’m feeding my soul.

I’m either feeding it truth from God’s Word so that it can grow fat and full of hope, joy, contentment and peace or I’m feeding it with the lies of this world so that it shrivels and becomes cold, disheartened, cynical and disillusioned.

I don’t always make the right choice.

Sometimes I give in to the temptation to linger long over my questions without answers, my pain without end in sight and my desire to have my old life back.

I have to choose, as an act of will, to turn away from despair and turn again to the Lover of my soul.

And when I do, He restores my soul, just as He promised.

The Psalms are full of verses that feed my soul hope and peace:

Adonai is a stronghold for the oppressed, a tower of strength in times of trouble.

~Psalm 9:10 CJB

psalm-9_9

I told You, Eternal One, “You are my Lord, for the only good I know in this world is found in You alone.”

~Psalm 16:2 VOICE

The Lord is my strength and my shield; my heart trusted in him, and I am helped: therefore my heart greatly rejoiceth; and with my song will I praise him.

~Psalm 28:7 KJV

psalm-28-7-1024x768

psalm56_3

When struck by fear, I let go, depending securely upon You alone.

~Psalm 56:3 Voice

Trust God, my friends, and always tell him each one of your concerns. God is our place of safety.

~Psalm 62:8  CEV

psalm-119-50

Never forget your promises to me your servant, for they are my only hope. They give me strength in all my troubles; how they refresh and revive me!

~Psalm 119:50 TLB

Guess what happens when you linger with the Lord?
He restores your soul.
– Eric Mason