Beauty for Ashes

It crosses my mind sometimes.

And it’s a topic of conversation among bereaved mamas:

  • Why fight?
  • Why struggle on in this hard life without my beloved child?
  • Why keep on keeping on when I am so very tired?

There are lots of answers.

Some of us remain in the fight because we still have people depending on us-other children, aging parents, a spouse who is also grieving.

Others persevere because they want to honor their missing child’s memory and life and they do some big thing to commemorate him or her-fight for a cause, promote awareness, create a foundation.

Me-I hold onto the promise that in all this pain, all this sorrow, all this struggle-God is doing a work in me and through me for His glory.  

Before Dominic left us I knew only  a handful of bereaved mothers.

But each of these women had a sweet, gracious, patient, kindness that flowed out of them like water from a spring.

I saw one of them yesterday.

We hugged and exchanged knowing looks filled with deep love born from deep sorrow. She didn’t ask me about trivial things-because she knows there is really only one question that matters:

Am I continuing to lean on Jesus?

Is He enough?

Do I trust that God will redeem and restore?

Because in the end, the only thing that makes this struggle meaningful is the promise that one day, a never-ending, eternal day, God will bring beauty from the ashes of burying my child.

shofar jubilee

He will fulfill the promise of the everlasting Jubilee:

He wants me to help those in Zion who are filled with sorrow. I will put beautiful crowns on their heads in place of ashes. I will anoint them with olive oil to give them joy instead of sorrow. I will give them a spirit of praise in place of a spirit of sadness. They will be like oak trees that are strong and straight. The Lord himself will plant them in the land. That will show how glorious he is.

Isaiah 61:3 NIRV

 And I believe that God’s going to have show and tell.  He’s going to parade His persevering children to a wondering world at the end of the age.

Pottery

Maybe He’ll say something like, “See!  There’s My masterpiece!  There’s My love on display! The devil thought he had won, but he is wrong.  Eternally and undeniably wrong!”

For we are His workmanship [His own master work, a work of art], created in Christ Jesus [reborn from above—spiritually transformed, renewed, ready to be used] for good works, which God prepared [for us] beforehand [taking paths which He set], so that we would walk in them [living the good life which He prearranged and made ready for us].

Ephesians 2:10 AMP

I want to be pliable under the hand of the Potter-even though it hurts.

I’ll stay in the fire-even though it’s hot.

I’ll trust the One Who made and is making me.

Because the story God is writing for me and my family doesn’t end with ashes.

Image result for doesn't end in ashes

This is NOT Forever…

One breath

One glance

A single tiny detail transports me from here to there.

Takes me from doing alright to devastation

Changes daylight to dark and grips my soul with terrifying pain.

If I didn’t have hope to cling to

If I didn’t know that every promise of God in Christ is yes and amen

If I didn’t trust that my tears are recorded in His book,

my name written on His hands

and my life secure within His own I’d let the darkness take me under.

Breathe in

Breathe out

It will pass

THIS is not forever.

Forever is waiting for me

Dominic is already there-

Tomorrows without end.

No tears

No fears

No goodbyes

Open arms.

not your best life

The Forgotten Ones: Grieving Siblings

I am always afraid that Dominic will be forgotten.  

I’m afraid that as time passes, things change and lives move forward, his place in hearts will be squeezed smaller and smaller until only a speck remains.

Not in my heart, of course.

Or in the hearts of those closest to him, but in general-he will become less relevant.

But he is not the only one who can be forgotten.  I am just as fearful that my living children will be forgotten.

Not in the same way-they are HERE.

They are participating in life and making new memories, new connections and strengthening old ones.

I’m afraid their grief will be overlooked, unacknowledged-swept under the giant rug of life and busyness that seems to cover everything unpleasant or undervalued.

If the course of a bereaved parent’s grief is marked by initial outpouring of concern, comfort and care followed by the falling away of friends, family and faithful companionship then that of a bereaved sibling is doubly so.

Surviving children often try to lessen a grieving parent’s burden by acting as if “everything is OK”.

But it’s not-it is definitely NOT.

missing them from your side

Their world has been irrevocably altered.  They have come face-to-face with mortality, with deep pain, with an understanding that bad things happen-happen to people they love-without warning and without remedy.

They are forced to rethink their family, their faith and their future without a life-long friend and companion.

Part of their history is gone.

If surviving children are young, it can be so, so easy to mistake the natural enthusiasm and excitement of youth for complete healing.  They are often busy with events, education, work and life and the grief they still feel may go unnoticed-even by themselves.

But they need safe, consistent and compassionate care while they navigate grief and the enduring impacts of sibling loss.  School counselors, grief counselors or mature and emotionally stable adult friends can be very helpful during this process.

It’s important to be alert to danger signals.  Behavioral impacts may present in many ways:

  • Anxiety (situational, tests, generalized)
  • Risk taking
  • Isolation
  • Inability to enjoy previously enjoyable activities
  • Withdrawal from family or friends
  • Depression
  • Self-harming behavior
  • Drug or alcohol abuse
  • Poor grades (may have given up or may not be able to concentrate)
  • Extreme concern for other family members and their safety

If you observe any of these changes, get help.  A grieving parent is rarely able to be the sole source of intensive counsel for a bereaved child-someone outside the grief circle may be a better choice.

Adult children-even those married and with kids of their own-are also changed forever by saying “good-bye” to a brother or sister.  Addiction, depression and physical health issues can surface in the wake of loss.  

It’s not always easy to connect the dots back to grief since life is full of stress and strain and they may need help.

My children have been blessed to have friends and loved ones who give them a safe place to go when grief overwhelms them or when other stressors on top of grief make life really hard.

If you know a bereaved sibling:

  • Reach out.
  • Be an encourager.
  • Don’t assume that because time has gone by, they are all better.
  • They may not want to talk about it and that’s OK.  But if they do, listen.  Without platitudes, without judgement-just be a safe place.
  • And if you notice something that’s just not “quite right” try to get them the help they may need to make it through this hard place.

Bereaved families are often doing the best they can, but they can’t do it alone.  

When you bless my earthly children, you bless me.  When you give them space to grieve, you give me space to breathe. When you encourage them, you encourage my heart too.

Don’t forget them.  

Please.  

Reminding My Heart of Truth

 

Last week was hard.  Partly due to missing Dominic and partly due to things that had no direct link to him, but were made harder because of grief.

I try to do two things when that happens:  I withdraw as much as possible to create space for rest and renewal and I remind my heart of the truth:

Preaching Gospel to Myself

 

 

 

 

Spent

This actually happened one day last week and I was too ashamed to post it.  I’m better now.  But it took three days to recover from that emotional, physical, psychological and spiritual low point.

It required that I extend the grace to myself I would extend to another.

That’s actually harder than it sounds for someone who prefers to think of herself as the “good girl”  and the “strong one”.

There’s only so much a body can take in a day.  And I’ve reached the limit.

Comfort-For-Those-Grieving-Alone

Started out pretty good-up with the chickens and settled into my rocking chair with a cup of coffee and my journal.

 

But it didn’t last.  First one thing and then another-unexpected, unwelcome, uncomfortable-life just comes flying and all I can do is hang on.

Hamster hangs on a rope

Emotions run wild.  Frustration reigns.

Why can’t things go like they are supposed to???

I am just so. very. tired.  So very tired of dragging my heart through another day.  

dragging heart

I’m trying to find the happy in this mess.

It’s hard.

I’m trying to look on the bright side.

I can’t.

I think I’ve reached my quota for today.

Image result for image bed

 

I don’t care if it is only noon.

I‘m going to bed.

 

Maybe tomorrow will be better.  

 

Death Matters

This talk that death doesn’t matter, that the grave isn’t awful and that separation from the ones we love for the duration of our earthly sojourn is not all that bad in light of eternity upsets me.

Revisit the first three chapters of Genesis and you understand.

God’s original creation did not include death.

It was beautiful.  It was perfect.  It was good.

Sin brought death.  Blood was spilt because only blood can cover sin.

Every time a living thing dies, it’s a reminder of the high cost of sin.

It’s a reminder that the world is not as God intended.

It’s a reminder that there is something better, something more real and perfect than this place we live in now.

It is an undeniable reminder of God’s great love for us and the price He was willing to pay to lavish that love on us.  

A friend wrote this to me and my heart cried, “Yes!

“I do not think it belittles life or the present to say “I am left inconsolable by love”.  I think God made us to love like this.  I think our grief is what it means to Love.  And how He feels about us. Inconsolable longing and agony.”

We should not dismiss death.

We cannot make it small.  

death matters lewis

 

Priorities

Browsing a book store (a favorite pasttime) I came on this selection in a collection of poems by Robert Frost:

A Time to Talk

When a friend calls to me from the road

And slows his horse to a meaning walk,

I don’t stand still and look around

On all the hills I haven’t hoed,

And shout from where I am, What is it?

No, not as there is a time to talk.

I thrust my hoe in the mellow ground,

Blade-end up and five feet tall,

And plod:  I go up to the stone wall

For a friendly visit.

It pierced my heart.

How many times have I chosen to ignore a friend’s need for companionship-brushing past importantly as I pursued the day’s tasks?

I’ll get around to it when I have more time,” I think to myself.

And then one day there is no more time.  The friend I kept putting off has left this world for the next and I can’t retrieve the missed opportunities.

Nothing stings like words unsaid, hugs not given or love left bound in a heart instead of set free to bless another.

C.S. Lewis said:

“There are no ordinary people. You have never talked to a mere mortal. Nations, cultures, arts, civilizations – these are mortal, and their life is to ours as the life of a gnat. But it is immortals whom we joke with, work with, marry, snub and exploit – immortal horrors or everlasting splendors. This does not mean that we are to be perpetually solemn. We must play. But our merriment must be of that kind (and it is, in fact, the merriest kind) which exists between people who have, from the outset, taken each other seriously – no flippancy, no superiority, no presumption.”

And I think I don’t have time?

Of all the souls born on this planet, Jesus had the most important work to do.

Yet He purposed to include people at every turn.

He healed the sick.  He spoke hope to the woman at the well and the woman caught in adultery.  He rebuked religious leaders who were more interested in burdening the faithful than guiding them to God.

Jesus walked everywhere-surely it would have been more EFFICIENT to let the Holy Spirit whisk Him from place to place as He did Phillip after speaking to the Ethiopian.

In walking, the Light of the World  was building relationship-He was speaking truth to the twelve who would be the foundation of His church.

And relationship takes time.  There is nothing instant about it.

It is clear from the life of Christ that after His Father, people were His priority.

Few of us will be called to great public tasks or lofty visionary ministry.  But each of us has been called to carry the light and life of our Saviour to every person we meet.

If we are to follow in the footsteps of our Master, then people must be our priority too.

So I will set aside my “to do” list when someone comes calling.  I will cross the street to meet that person I remember from school or church.  I’ll send a card to the sick relative and remind her that I love her and will pray for her recovery.

I won’t lock love in my heart and hoard it like gold.

I’ll shed it abroad so that it speaks courage to everyone I meet.

“Imagine what our real neighborhoods would be like if each of us offered, as a matter of course, just one kind word to another person.”
– Mr. Rogers

Last minute lectionary (Proper 16C / Ordinary 21C / Pentecost +14)

Don’t let the term “lectionary” throw you.  Lee Botha has powerful insights on a passage in Luke where Jesus healed a crippled woman on the Sabbath.  Much to learn here.  Take a moment to check it out.

 

“Last minute lectionary” is a series of short thoughts on the week’s narrative/Gospel lectionary reading. Luke 13:10-17 (NIV) Jesus Heals a Crippled Woman on the Sabbath 10 On a S…

Source: Last minute lectionary (Proper 16C / Ordinary 21C / Pentecost +14)

Surrender

“Follow Me,”  Jesus said to the twelve.

“Follow Me,” Jesus said to me when I was just a child.

“Yes,” I replied-not knowing or counting the cost. 

If it was a single commitment without opportunity for turning back then it would be easy.

But it’s not.  

Every day I have to face the question, “Did God REALLY say?” Boy that serpent knew just where to aim the spear of doubt so it would cause the greatest damage.

Can I believe that God is in control?  Can I believe that He is good?  Can I believe that He loves me?

Can I believe all those things when my circumstances scream, “NO!”

But I HAVE to believe.  

Because if I can’t trust God, then I am without hope.  If I can’t rely on His Word then there’s no foundation and no future.  If He is not Who He says He is, then I should just quit now.

So I find myself at the foot of the cross, again.  Facing my fears and having to choose: Who shall I serve?

choose this day lion

Surrender is hard.  Daily surrender is harder.

I cannot remake my heart.  I cannot breathe life into my own breathless soul. 

I can only place myself on the altar and allow God’s Spirit to do it for me.

So here I am.

Again.

Brothers and sisters, God has shown you his mercy. So I am asking you to offer up your bodies to him while you are still alive. Your bodies are a holy sacrifice that is pleasing to God. When you offer your bodies to God, you are worshiping him in the right way.

Romans 12: 1 NIRV