Lament Makes Room For Thanksgiving

When I first began writing in this space, “lament” had only just come into vogue.

Now, it’s everywhere.

If this year has taught hearts a single thing, I hope it has taught them there’s no use pretending life doesn’t hurt sometimes. We were not created to carry that kind of pain alone.

And thankfully, we don’t have to.

God, in Christ, invites me to speak it, to sing it, to release it as an exhale so His grace and strength can rush in to fill that empty space.

You’re invited too.

Thanksgiving was always my favorite holiday.

I loved everything about it:  the color scheme, the food (I love, love, love to cook-it was never a burden), family and friends gathered around the table, and the wonderful slowness of the day as it lingered into nightfall.

It was more flexible than Christmas for including all sorts of folks who otherwise didn’t have someplace to go. Living near colleges meant that  we welcomed students from around the world-we might have two or three dozen laughing faces milling about.

happy-thanksgiving

It was wonderful.

And I loved going around the circle, tummies bursting, to share what people were thankful for and why.

When Dominic left us everything  changed.

Oh, I was (and still am) so very thankful for so very many things

Read the rest here: The Power of Lament to Make Room for Thanksgiving

Responding To Another’s Pain

We are surrounded by hurting hearts. When one of them turns to you and bravely holds out her pain, accept it as an offering.

Because it is.

An offering of trust, friendship and vulnerability.

❤ Melanie

We’ve all been there-we ask a routine question and someone refuses to play the social game.  

We say, “How are you?” and they answer honestly instead of with the obligatory, “I’m fine.  You?”

Suddenly the encounter has taken an unexpected turn.

“Oh, no!  I don’t know what to say,” you think.

It can end badly-both of you walking away uncomfortable and wary.

Read the rest here: How To Respond When Someone Shares Their Pain

Learning To Be Yielded And Still

I first shared this four years ago when I was still in the early days of mourning Dominic. Our family was facing the third set of holidays with an empty chair at the table.

Life since then has been full of additional challenges and loss.

I still rebel sometimes at the road I’m asked to walk.

But I am more convinced than ever that when I yield my life and heart to the Master Potter, He will mold me and make me into the likeness of Jesus.

And that’s really who I want to be-even if it hurts.

I can’t claim to be satisfied with this life I’m living.  

do not like this path I am forced to walk, this darkness that hides the light, this pain that burrows deep in my bones.

But I can say I’m learning not to fight it.  

Sometimes I still pitch a fit.  

Read the rest here: Yielded and Still

Walking the Valley: Trust After Loss

When this video popped up in my Facebook memories, I was tempted to skip it.

Three years ago I was in a very stressful season of life. My mother was seriously ill, my husband was working away from home and facing daunting challenges, my surviving children were in various stages of transition and I was just plain worn out.

But I stepped out in faith and accepted an invitation to share at a gathering for bereaved parents.

I was used to hiding behind my keyboard, having days to edit and refine what I would say; not opening my mouth and spilling thoughts without any opportunity to call them back.

It was truly frightening and I had no idea it would be recorded.

I don’t like the way I look. I don’t like the way I sound. But I love the message the Lord laid on my heart and enabled me to deliver that day.

So I’m being brave, being transparent, risking whatever judgement others might feel and some might voice to share it here.

{I’m no tech guru and have absolutely no idea how to edit the video so here it is in its entirety. If you’d rather skip the worship music segment, fast forward to the 30 minute mark.}

Three years later I STILL need to preach to myself. I STILL need to exhale my doubts and questions and pain and inhale the truth and grace of Jesus Christ.

I continue to circle round and round, revisiting questions and issues and feelings I thought I’d conquered.

And every single time He meets me there.

I am more convinced than ever that I am only able to stand in the strength and power of my Father God.

Every day I reach out and take hold of the hem of His garment.

And every day that is enough.

He said not ‘Thou shalt not be tempested, thou shalt not be travailed, thou shalt not be dis-eased’; but He said, ‘Thou shalt not be overcome.’

Julian of Norwich

I Don’t Get To Choose How Life Unfolds


I don’t get to choose.

I don’t get to plan the way life is going to be.

Oh, I bring out the calendar and mark down the days:  birthdays, holidays, special events and obligations.

But then one dark morning a knock stops the clock and makes the world spin faster all at once.

I’m suspended and plunged under in the same breath.

Read the rest here: https://thelifeididntchoose.com/2016/09/17/not-what-i-had-planned/

Sea Of Love And Goodness

Life is full of storms.

Some are outside myself and others start in the secret corners of my own heart.

All of them make me wish for quiet and calm, peaceful waters where I can sail the ship of life and not worry about sinking beneath the waves.

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the  world gives... - SermonQuotes

When I’m afraid I remind myself that Jesus is the Peace Speaker.

He calmed the wind and waves on the Sea of Galilee and He will calm the wind and waves of my heart.

He is the unchangeable, faithful God and I am always safe in the sea of His love and goodness.

Dear Lord,

Today I thought of the words of Vincent van Gogh: “It is true there is ebb and flow, but the sea remains the sea.” You are the sea. Although I experience many ups and downs in my emotions and often feel great shifts and changes in my inner life, You remain the same.

Your sameness is not the sameness of a rock, but the sameness of a faithful lover. Out of Your love I came to life, by Your love I am sustained, and to Your love I am always called back. There are days of sadness and days of joy; there are feelings of guilt and feelings of gratitude; there are moments of failure and moments of success; but all of them are embraced by Your unwavering love….

O Lord, sea of love and goodness, let me not fear too much the storms and winds of my daily life, and let me know there is ebb and flow but the sea remains the sea.

Amen

Henri J. M. Nouwen

There’s Hope in Every Scar

Sometimes people ask, “How can you cling to Jesus when He could have saved your son, but didn’t?”

I give the same answer Peter gave, “Lord, to whom would we go? You have the words of eternal life.”

He is light and life in the Valley and on the hilltop, in the fire and in the flood.

He will redeem every tear and restore every thing the enemy has stolen.

My scars tell a story: Yes, I’m wounded but I’m still walking. I’ve been hurt but I’m healing.

There’s hope in every scar.

Suffering is but a moment.

This is not forever.

Jesus is.

Hallelujah!

Where The Problem Lies

God’s promises.

He said it, I believe it.

Simple, right?

Not so simple when a plain reading of plain words seems to guarantee one outcome and life delivers another.

As a Christian, you are to honor your parents, and you are to show ...

Not so simple when pain obliterates hope and tears blind my eyes to a future that’s anything other than dark.

But is the problem with God and His promises or me and my expectations?

Before my lifestorm I could have worked up a lovely devotional on God’s promises and given good reasons why we should not doubt them. But God’s promises were no longer devotional material; they were real-life issues. I knew I could not go that class and tell those who gathered there how God keeps his promises, but I could assure them I was learning that he does. Even as I questioned his promises because of the pain that wouldn’t go away, I knew I was learning that the problem is not with God’s promises but with our bringing twentieth-century expectations and personal wish-fulfillment to those promises. The problem lies with our expectations of what God should do and how he should do it when life hurts. I was learning that I had to quit just looking at the promises of God and look to the God of the promises.

Verdell Davis, Riches Stored In Secret Places

I’ve written before about how easy it is to put God in a Box.

So often I interact with Scripture based on false assumptions, wishful thinking and my own idea of how God should work in the world. I want a God I can understand or (if I’m honest!) manipulate or cajole into doing what makes me most satisfied and most comfortable. I pick and choose among the promises and tend to focus on the ones that seem to guarantee health, wealth and happiness and I gloss over the ones that plainly describe the painful process of being conformed to the likeness of Christ.

Pruned by God is PAINFUL! | RoadTrip Parenting

I cannot answer all the questions my heart can conjure up and I don’t think God will answer them for me this side of Heaven.

But God doesn’t lie.

His promises stand.

How and when He chooses to fulfill them is not for me to say.

I am learning to lean into His faithful love, trust His heart and live in the mysterious space between what I understand and what I find incomprehensible.

Battling Anxiety/Seeking Peace: Strength To Endure

When suffering is time-limited it is often more easily endured.

If I know six weeks of intensive though painful physical therapy will help me regain strength and use of a limb or joint, I can power through.

If restricting calories for a month helps me fit into that dress for a special event, I’m more likely to sacrifice for a short time so the pictures look good.

But if you tell me I’ll hobble around for the rest of my life because there’s nothing to be done about my bad back or crooked joints or you want me to change how I eat for good-well, that’s gonna take more strength than I have on my own.

When I realized-probably sometime near the end of the first year-that the sorrow and missing and pain of burying my son was going to be a burden I carried to my own grave, it was absolutely, utterly soul-crushing.

That’s why Habakkuk’s words resonate with my heart:

I heard and my [whole inner self] trembled; my lips quivered at the sound. Rottenness enters into my bones and under me [down to my feet]; I tremble. I will wait quietly for the day of trouble and distress when there shall come up against [my] people him who is about to invade and oppress them.

17 Though the fig tree does not blossom and there is no fruit on the vines, [though] the product of the olive fails and the fields yield no food, though the flock is cut off from the fold and there are no cattle in the stalls,

18 Yet I will rejoice in the Lord; I will exult in the [victorious] God of my salvation!

19 The Lord God is my Strength, my personal bravery, and my invincible army; He makes my feet like hinds’ feet and will make me to walk [not to stand still in terror, but to walk] and make [spiritual] progress upon my high places [of trouble, suffering, or responsibility]!

Habakkuk 3:16-19 AMP

Habakkuk was a prophet in Israel just before the Babylonians came and wiped out the nation. He knew what was coming and asked God to spare them.

God said no.

No miraculous rescue coming, no divine intervention to prevent destruction, no manna raining down from heaven to stave off starvation.

Israel is going to suffer.

And Habakkuk, though righteous, will suffer too.

Image result for habakkuk 1:6

Habakkuk is not immediately infused with courage and fearlessness: “I heard [what the Lord had to say] and I trembled…” Habakkuk isn’t only afraid, he’s terrified (“rottenness enters my bones”) !!

He’s out of things to do, convinced he must simply wait for whatever is headed his way.

So he sits down and waits.

And in the quiet stillness of waiting, his heart turns to truth.

Even though he will suffer, even though everything he depends on for physical safety may be stripped away, even though destruction and devastation is coming, he begins to meditate on the faithful enduring character of the LORD.

And he rejoices!

Nothing has changed except his focus.

Instead of concentrating on circumstances he is contemplating his Creator.

I admit I focus all too often on circumstances but sometimes it’s practically impossible not to.

Image result for even the wind and waves obey him

Remember the disciples in the boat with Jesus? A storm blew up and was tossing them back and forth all while Jesus slept soundly.

Fear really wasn’t a disproportionate response to a very real and present danger.

When the wind and the waves are high around me, and I realize how powerless I am to do anything about them, fear easily overtakes my heart.

But the disciples were not alone. The One who could calm the storm was in their midst.

The One who can calm MY storm is here with ME.

Image result for isaiah 41 10

Jesus rebuked the wind and the waves and the disciples finished their journey in safety.

God did not save Israel (or Habakkuk) from the Babylonians.

The Lord did not miraculously preserve Dominic’s life and He may not miraculously (or otherwise) save me or my family from the fallout of Covid19.

Image result for el roi

But whether He intervenes or does not, I know He sees me.

I know He loves me.

I know He longs to comfort me and strengthen me.

He IS my “personal bravery and invincible army”.

QUESTIONS:

  • Often Western Christianity focuses on “victory in Jesus” and tends to associate victory with safety or deliverance from uncomfortable or frightening or seemingly impossible circumstances. Habakkuk not only suspected God was not going to avert disaster, he’d been promised disaster was coming. How do YOU interpret “victory in Jesus”? Do these verses give you a different perspective? Why or why not?
  • It’s kind of been a joke that people rushed to stockpile toilet paper during the frenzy surrounding this pandemic. Apparently having enough TP made them feel a little more prepared, a little less frightened. We all have some tangible things that help our hearts stay calm. What are yours?
  • Fear is not a sin. Doubt is not disbelief. It’s perfectly OK to voice your fear, doubt and concern. But if you rest there, if you don’t then turn to truth, you will spiral downward into despair. What practical steps are you taking for yourself and family to keep the truth of Who God is in front of your eyes and foremost in your hearts?
  • For those of us who get our groceries from Walmart, the complete devastation described in Habakkuk may not be evident. Let me paraphrase for a modern audience: “Though the grocery store shelves are empty and there are no tasty snacks left in the fridge, though the last thing I had to eat was only enough to meet my caloric needs but not enough to satiate my appetite, though there is no hope that things will return to normal anytime soon and I may suffer more than I can imagine, I am going to shout for joy because I know God is in control and He has secured my eternal destiny!” Can you take these verses and rewrite them so they are specific to YOUR circumstances?

PRAYER:

Lord,

If I’m honest (and there’s no reason not to be since You already know my heart!), I want to be rescued. I do not want to live through whatever this stupid virus is going to do to my community, my country, the world. I don’t like the thought of weeks of uncertainty, forced isolation, reduced or nonexistent paychecks, figuring out how to keep kids that should be in school occupied and learning.

I hate this!

When I read the headlines or listen to the news, it feeds my fears.

Help me to be like Habakkuk and appropriate the strength You provide so that I will not only endure, but will thrive! Speak courage to my heart when I would falter. Make me stalwart in the face of fear. Teach me to trust You when I would doubt Your lovingkindness.

Be my personal bravery.

Amen

He [Christ] said not, ‘Thou shalt not be tempested, thou shalt not be trevailed, thou shalt not be dis-eased,’ but He said, ‘Thou shalt not be overcome.’

Julian of Norwich

Battling Anxiety/Seeking Peace: Sure And Fearless

I don’t know about you but “sure and fearless” doesn’t necessarily describe me these days.

I’m not sleeping particularly well.

I try to avoid all but the most needful news and instead fill my days with useful work and outdoor activity.

But I wouldn’t be honest if I said it was working.

In fact, the combination of time of year (I am rapidly approaching the sixth anniversary of Dominic’s death) and the utterly unbelievable changes in the world around us is more than working my nerves.

So I’m really, really depending on the truth I find in Scripture to counteract all the other messages I’m receiving from the media, from friends and from my own unhelpful thoughts.

That’s why I’m spending some quality time with the first three verses of Psalm 46.

God is our shelter and our strength.

    When troubles seem near, God is nearer, and He’s ready to help.

So why run and hide?

No fear, no pacing, no biting fingernails.

    When the earth spins out of control, we are sure and fearless.

    When mountains crumble and the waters run wild, we are sure and fearless.

Even in heavy winds and huge waves,

    or as mountains shake, we are sure and fearless.

Psalm 46: 1-3 VOICE

The verses stand by themselves as a source of great encouragement, but I thought today I’d walk you through one way I appropriate the truth of God’s Word for my own heart.

I often copy out a verse and use a dictionary or thesaurus to expand key words so I get a richer understanding of their full meaning.

Sometimes I include parts of other verses or pertinent biblical concepts.

Doing that for Psalm 46: 1-3 looks like this:

VERSE 1: ” God is our shelter [sanctuary, refuge, safety, defense, hideaway] and our strength [courage, fortitude, stability, vitality, steadiness]. When troubles seem near, God is nearer [the Holy Spirit is our Paraclete or Advocate, Counselor; Jesus said He would never leave us nor forsake us] so why run and hide? [If God is for us, who could stand against us?]”

VERSE 2: No fear, no pacing, no biting fingernails [what time I am afraid, I will trust in You]. When the earth spins out of control [the world is surely out of control right now!], we [those who trust in the LORD] are sure [confident, certain, convinced, free from doubt] and fearless [bold, confident, courageous, daring, assured, dauntless, lionhearted, indomitable].

When mountains crumble [when the very thing we believe will never be shaken IS shaken] and the waters run wild [when there’s no safe haven from a flood of circumstances], we [those who trust in the LORD] are sure [confident, certain, convinced, free from doubt] and fearless [bold, confident, courageous, daring, assured, dauntless, lionhearted, indomitable].”

VERSE 3: “Even in heavy winds and huge waves [even when the the storm is raging so violently there seems no possible way to survive it], we [those who trust in the LORD] are sure [resting absolutely in the certainty that God is who He says He is] and fearless [boldly and confidently waiting for the promised Presence of God in the midst of our storm].”

Image result for psalm 46

Rewriting it once again and personalizing it for myself looks like this:

God is my sanctuary and safe place and my courage. No matter what kind of trouble is lurking at my door, He’s already here, right beside me, ready to help. Why would I run away or try to hide when my Protector is unbeatable?

I refuse to worry. The world is definitely a strange and very fearful place right now but because I belong to Jesus I am confident and courageous. Even though all the things I depend on in the natural world are proving undependable, because I trust in the Lord, I am bold and dauntless.

The current economic, social, and political storm is the biggest I’ve ever seen-bigger than I could have ever imagined. Its destructive power is far-reaching and will leave debris in its wake for years.

But I will rest confidently in my Savior and will wait courageously for His promises to be fulfilled.

~Melanie’s paraphrase

Then I turn it into a prayer:

Father God,

Help me always to remember that You are my sanctuary and hiding place. You are as near as my breath, as steady as my heartbeat. No one and nothing sneaks up on You.

Whisper courage to my soul. Lord, sweep worry out of my mind. Even when every single thing I thought I could depend on proves undependable, teach me to rest securely in Your love, Your promises and Your sovereignty.

Redirect my gaze so that instead of looking at all that’s going wrong, my eyes focus on Your face.

Make my heart steadfast. Overwhelm me with Your mercy, grace and faithful love.

Amen

QUESTIONS:

  • This is MY way of making Scripture personal. Do you have a way to make it personal for you? Can you take these three verses and do just that?
  • Have you ever looked up a word you thought you knew the meaning of only to find out you had misunderstood or not fully comprehended it precisely? I have! How can using a dictionary or thesaurus open up or expand the meaning of words? How can that help you understand what verses say?
  • Illustrating verses is another way many people appropriate Truth for themselves. How could you put the meat of these verses into a sketch?
  • One of the reasons I love journaling is because when I look back, I have a written record of God’s very specific faithfulness to me. Have you journaled before? If so, look back and note God’s faithfulness. Write a personal psalm of thanksgiving in response.
  • Do you feel the earth shaking right now? What is your greatest fear as a result? How do these verses encourage your heart?