Scripture Journal Challenge: My Groom Is Coming To Get Me!

There was a lovely tradition practiced in Jewish communities when Jesus walked the earth.

After a betrothal and before the final vows, a groom returned to his family home and built an addition to his father’s house in preparation for his bride.

The bride made herself ready and then waited because she didn’t know when her groom would return. What began as hopeful anticipation might sometimes have turned to fear if the groom tarried too long in coming.

But no matter how long it might be, she was expected to maintain that state of hopeful expectation. (The Parable of the Ten Virgins: Matthew 25: 1-13)

What a celebration when he finally showed up, whisked her off and the marriage feast began!

This was the image Jesus evoked when He spoke to His disciples at the Last Supper.

They had questions.

(I can identify.)

They were scared.

(Me too.)

They wondered where He was going and what they were supposed to do when He left.

(Yes, we have the Bible but there are lots of day-to-day situations that aren’t covered.)

He didn’t leave them (or me!) without hope for their anxious hearts. And he used familiar images to help them hold onto what He was telling them.

“You must not let yourselves be distressed—you must hold on to your faith in God and to your faith in me. There are many rooms in my Father’s House. If there were not, should I have told you that I am going to prepare a place for you? It is true that I am going away to prepare a place for you, but it is just as true that I am coming again to welcome you into my own home, so that you may be where I am. You know where I am going and you know the road I am going to take.” ~ Jesus to His disciples

John 14: 1-4 PHILLIPS

When a groom left his bride, he wasn’t disappearing for good.

He was going away for a little while to make permanent arrangements for their forever home.

Jesus is the great Bridegroom and the church His Bride. Those of us who love Him, follow Him and wait for Him will not be disappointed!

Song: We Will Dance on Streets That Are Golden

I may cast off this earthly tent through death or in an instant at His return.

Either way, He’s got a place all ready for me.

QUESTIONS:

  • Why is waiting so hard?
  • Does the cultural background to this passage help you understand it? Why or why not?
  • Is it difficult for you to wrap your mind around the idea that maybe instead of (as suggested in popular culture and some churches) our own private mansion, we might well live in community with others in smaller rooms or additions? How might that alter our behavior here and now toward other believers?
  • Are you as excited for the Heavenly Wedding and Marriage Supper of the Lamb as you were for your own wedding? Why or why not?
  • If you listened to the song above, how does it make you feel?

PRAYER:

Father God, I’m just going to admit it-waiting is hard! Especially when I don’t know how long I might have to keep waiting. Help me hold onto hope as I look expectantly toward the future You have for me-not only my beautiful Eternal Home but also the earthly future and good works You have prepared in advance for me to do as long as I may live.

Thank You, Jesus, for loving me so well.

You don’t despise our weakness or our questions. Thank You for leaving us with vibrant images that help us imagine (even a little) of what awaits everyone who loves You in the glorious hereafter when every wrong is made right, everything stolen restored and everything lost, redeemed.

I know, know, know in my bones that You do not lie. You cannot fail. I will not be put to shame because I wait on You.

My Groom is coming to get me!

Amen

Bereaved Parents Month Post: The Missing Never Ends

I’ve learned that there are new things to miss even five years down this road of child loss.  

I’ve learned that any odd moment, random smell, taste,touch, or occasion can pierce that place in my heart that screams, “Dominic should be here!”.  

I’m also learning additional ways his absence continues to shape the family we have NOW.   Dom’s absence continues to impact decisions, expectations, hopes and dreams TODAY.

I miss family photos when I don’t count heads and note unfilled spaces.  It’s not just Dom I’m yearning for.  I long for us to all be together-no one missing.  It’s a little easier (sometimes) when one or more of us aren’t able to make a particular trip or event because then it’s not ONLY Dominic gone from the frame.

But truth be told, I can’t stop my heart from looking and hoping that this time, it’ll be different. 

This time, we’ll be whole. 

wedding our family

I miss the ease with which I used to toss together family meals, social occasions and holiday gatherings.  I’ve always LOVED making things special and never minded cooking buckets of food.  I used to plan weeks in advance-gathering recipes, ideas, decorative items and sometimes little gifts or favors for those who attended.  I checked with folks for dietary preferences or allergies.  It was a joy even when it exhausted me because I loved shaping spaces and experiences to strengthen family ties.

I miss waking up and facing a new day without reservation or trepidation.  I’m a sunrise kind of gal.  I used to turn my face toward the big picture window in our living room waiting for first light to dawn and the day to get going.  Fresh start.  New opportunities.

It took awhile but some days I can do that.

Still there are many days I watch the trees come into focus knowing daylight can’t always lift the darkness in my heart.  

winter sunrise pines and zeke filter

I miss turning corners in my house or walking on my land encountering only good memories, happy reverie and hope that tomorrow would bring more of the same.  When we moved here over twenty years ago, it felt like home.  Plenty of space for children to run, exciting adventures discovering woods, water and animal life abounded.  There are so, so many memories everywhere I turn.  Memories used to spark hope for more.  Now they are silent witness to the line that demarcates our lives into BEFORE and AFTER.

I miss the certain assurance when someone doesn’t pick up the phone or answer a text that “all is well”.  We have always been a family on the move.  It sounds ridiculous today, but a driver’s license was the ticket to a personal cell phone when my kids were growing up.  As each one gained the privilege of driving away alone, we made sure they had a way to call and let us know they arrived safely.  If I called them and there was no answer, it was a good hour or two before my heart went into overdrive and my mind imagined all the horrible possibilities.

Now I make that trip in seconds or minutes despite any logic that can easily explain it away.  

cell phone in hand huffpost

I miss having energy to spare.  I know part of my energy drain is simply age.  I’m not so cocky as to assume the years don’t play a role in slowing me down.  But I know that’s only half (or less!) of it.  The constant effort to edit, direct, control and contain my words, thoughts and emotions sucks the life right out of me.  What used to easily be a one hour job takes two.  And projects I could whip together in a day require a week or more.  Discouragement makes me sad and tired.  So the cycle continues.

sleep doesnt help if your soul is tired

I miss sound sleep and good dreams.  Right after Dominic ran ahead to Heaven I could barely sleep at all.  There was no escaping awful scenes playing across my closed eyelids.  Eventually I was able to lull my mind into a kind of calm and sleep a little.  Five years later I rarely sleep more than two hours at a stretch without waking.  While I usually roll over and doze off again, I never get the kind of restorative rest I really need.

Dreams are another matter altogether. 

They are often full of jumbled bits that leave me unsettled and full of dread.  

I miss making plans for next month or next year without the silent caveat that we just can’t be sure they will come to pass.  A large calendar hanging prominently in our kitchen was my go-to for keeping track of crazy family schedules and commitments for decades.  I took it down a day after Dominic died and didn’t hang another for over two years.  I couldn’t bear to turn page after page knowing Dominic’s name would never show up again except in reference to him being gone.  I have one now.  But while I still write things in different colored pen (easier to see and track) my mind knows every single plan is really just penciled in.

Until the day comes or the moment arrives, my heart holds it lightly.  

calendar

I miss saying innocent good-byes.  I was never the crying mom waving a handkerchief as my kids made their way down the long driveway to the larger world.  I always missed them, of course.  But the goal was to raise independent persons capable of doing things, going places and living their own lives.  So a good strong hug, a kiss on the cheek, “I love you” and they were off leaving a smiling mama behind.  It never occurred to me that THIS time could be the LAST time I touched or talked to them.

Now, every good-bye is sacred.  Every hug a prayer.  

I miss hearing Dominic’s name in casual conversation.  Oh, we still talk about him.  But it’s not the same.  Sometimes it’s awkward and leads to odd pauses.  Most times it’s more natural.  Always it’s with sad recognition that instead of memories we should be sharing fresh stories of adventure.

rememberers

I appreciate each new day I’m given. 

I take nothing for granted because I know how quickly and easily it can be snatched away.

But my heart can’t help but long for the way things used to be and yearn for the way things would be if Dominic were still here.  

fiona and brandon wedding memorial flowers
In memory of Dominic from an anonymous friend for Fiona’s wedding. Photo by Katie Jewell Photography

 

 

Wedding Day!

Today is the day!

All the preparation and anticipation meet under a covered outdoor chapel as my daughter and her fiance exchange vows and become one.

By the end of the evening, we will have laughed (and cried!), danced and toasted our way through this very important event.

And they will leave changed in ways they can’t imagine nor fully understand.  It takes time to grow into lifelong commitment.

It takes years for singleness to be sanded down to a perfect fit one for the other.

Weddings are fun.  

Marriage is work.  

My parents have been married for 58 years.  My husband and I for nearly 35.  None of us has a magic formula for marital longevity.  Mostly it’s been leaning into the commitment we made at the altar so many years ago even when it seemed easier to give up and give in.

We’ve all faced so many challenges in our decades together.  Some we saw coming and some landed suddenly on top of us without warning.  Life, death, moving house, illness, accident, floods, hurricanes, and dozens of smaller crises have forced us to change course, adjust our sails and adapt to new and often unwelcome directions.   But we haven’t abandoned ship.

Sometimes it’s been pure grit and determination that see us through.  Other times it’s holding on to the good things we’ve shared together.  

I’m thankful we are celebrating today.  

I’ll be tucking this memory in a safe place where I can pull it out on days that aren’t so beautiful.  

It’s my prayer that Fiona and Brandon do the same.  

fiona and brandon at farm

When life gets hard (and it will!) may they remember the promises they made to one another and weather the storms together.

Now this is the reason a man leaves his father and his mother, and is united with his wife; and the two become one flesh.

Genesis 2:24 VOICE

 

 

Ugly Crying

I haven’t had a good gut-wrenching, chest-thumping ugly cry in awhile.

I had one yesterday.  

Taking clothes off the line to bring indoors before nightfall, I was suddenly overcome with emotion.

I remembered Dominic’s graduation presentation in our back yard.  I thought about my daughter’s wedding and how he was missing another important event.  Then I pictured my grandson who would never know Uncle Dominic in three dimensions-only by flat photos and through our renderings of him.

Five years!

How can it possibly be five years since I last saw that face, hugged that neck, heard that voice?

And what has become of us in the meantime?  

We are more  

and less.

More compassionate, more deliberate in maintaining connection with one another, more focused on what really matters,  more likely to cry in movies, more willing to drive or fly or walk or swim to get to the people we love.  Five minutes of face-to-face makes it worthwhile.  

We are less tolerant of petty grievances, less sure that bad things don’t happen to “good” people, less likely to sweat the small stuff and less inclined to assume we know another heart’s story when we first meet her.  We don’t take anything for granted.  

Walking into wedding weekend is another giant challenge.  Full of beautiful things and special moments and wonderful friends.  

But we all carry Dominic-his life, light and death-with us everywhere we go.  

So I’m sure there will be moments when my heart shows up on my face.  

I’m bringing a hanky.  ❤

 

 

Worse For Wear, I Don’t Care

I have never been one of those women who lied about her age.

My weight…well, you will have to threaten me with something that matters to get THAT number out of my lips.

But I’ve noticed this year more than others since Dominic left us that the wear and tear of years and tears and life and loss are showing up on my face as well as my hips.

I am definitely the worse for wear.

My daughter is getting married in May and for the first time in my life I am religious about applying under eye cream and moisturizing lotion to my face each morning and night.

who wants to look young

I don’t want to be the sore thumb in the family pictures!

I’m not sure it’s working.  I’m not sure anything can erase or roll back the marks that life and love and loss have etched on my face.

I’m not sure I want to.

Because each wrinkle, each line, each saggy, baggy skin flap says, “I loved, I lived and I am surviving-even though it’s hard.”

Before Dom left I was camera shy.  I still am, a bit.  But I’m trying hard to suck up my pride and my insecurity and let those flashes pop.  Memories are made one day at a time and photos help preserve them.

engagement party group shot (2)

So whether I’m at my best, at my worst or somewhere in between, I won’t say no to a Kodak moment.

I wish I had more of them from “before”.

Dominic and family at PRSSA banquet

I wish I hadn’t’ been so darned particular about what I looked like, what I was wearing and whether or not my wrinkles or big butt showed.

Worse for wear?

Who cares?

This one wasn’t made to last.  

For instance, we know that when these bodies of ours are taken down like tents and folded away, they will be replaced by resurrection bodies in heaven—God-made, not handmade—and we’ll never have to relocate our “tents” again. Sometimes we can hardly wait to move—and so we cry out in frustration. Compared to what’s coming, living conditions around here seem like a stopover in an unfurnished shack, and we’re tired of it! We’ve been given a glimpse of the real thing, our true home, our resurrection bodies! The Spirit of God whets our appetite by giving us a taste of what’s ahead. He puts a little of heaven in our hearts so that we’ll never settle for less.

2 Corinthians 5:1-5 MSG

I Don’t Have to Choose Between Sorrow and Celebration

Our family is looking forward to Spring and also dreading it.  

This year we will welcome a new baby (my first grandchild) and also celebrate my daughter’s wedding to a wonderful man. 

Our family is growing again!

brandon and fiona engagement

But we will also mark the fifth year anniversary of Dominic leaving for Heaven and another birthday that he won’t be here to greet.

dom on mountaintop

I’m pretty sure tears will be shed on each of these days and they will be salty-sweet, sad and happy, sorrowful and celebratory-all at once.  

There are no more hard lines in my life that separate events into distinct categories where only a single set of emotions is appropriate.  Instead my heart’s a watercolor mosaic where one feeling washes into another, darker colors make the lighter ones brighter.

My daughter recently wrote her own blog post, Guest Books & Memory Tables: A Sibling’s Perspective on Love and Loss.

Here’s an excerpt:

“Even Hobby Lobby reminds me that if I’m remembering anyone at my wedding it should be the family legends of generations past, not current. Somewhere in my carefully- packed boxes of wedding decorations, sits frames and mementos for mine and my fiance’s grandparents and my forever-frozen-in-time 23 year old brother.

I highly recommend you read the whole thing.  She’s done a beautiful job sharing from a sibling’s perspective.

Her wedding day will be full of great joy and celebration and also some sorrow as we take pictures of the whole family minus one.

 

you should be here

I might be laughing one minute and crying the next.  

And that’s OK.  

No need to fake it.  

It’s ALL part of life. 

sorrow and celebration can coexist authentically

Repost: Graduations and Weddings and Trips, Oh My!

Almost anyone you ask anticipates that Thanksgiving and Christmas, two family-centered holidays, are difficult days and seasons  for bereaved parents.

And they are.  

Especially for families that enjoyed special times around the table, unhurried visits reminiscing about years past and traditions that reinforce the unique heritage of their shared history.

But this time of year is also challenging for me and many other parents who have lost a child.

Read the rest here:  Graduations and Weddings and Trips, Oh My!