From Adversity to Triumph

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We also have joy with our troubles, because we know that these troubles produce patience.  And patience produces character, and character produces hope.  And this hope will never disappoint us, because God has poured out his love to fill our hearts.  Romans 5:3-5, NCV 

An anvil is a tool with a hard surface on which another object is struck. You might say the anvil graduated from the “tool house” of hard knocks. In most cases the anvil was used as a forging tool, and before the advent of modern welding technology it was the primary tool for metal workers. If we liken the anvil to the hardships in our lives what is the result? As an example, why don’t we explore a bit of Joseph’s story from Old Testament times. Like many of us, he had it rough, but how can an ancient story make sense to the modern, grieving heart? Let’s peek into his life and see if we can uncover anything that might fit our lives today.

Joseph was the eleventh of twelve sons born to his father, Jacob. He was the first child born to his mother, Rebekah, Jacob’s favorite wife. The other sons were from Leah, Jacob’s first wife and from his wives’ maids. Does it sound complicated? It must have been the source of much drama during the time in which they lived. And on top of everything else, Joseph was his father’s favorite son, which provoked jealousy in the hearts of his step brothers. It didn’t help that he had dreams and then explained their meaning to his family in which he implied that his brothers would one day bow down to him. I can imagine how I’d feel if one of my siblings said that to me. It would not have gone over well.

The jealousy led to a quick life-changing act at the young age of seventeen. One day Joseph’s father sent him to the fields to check on his brothers. He happened to be wearing the special coat woven especially for him. Not the usual drab colors shepherds’ wore, this coat stood out with its bold, bright colors and the brothers saw Joseph coming from a long ways off. Their blood boiled just thinking about this self-proclaimed dreamer. One brother suggested they get rid of him once and for all. Others suggested they not murder him, but sell him to a band of Midianite merchants they could see approaching in the distance, who would be on their way to Egypt to sell their wares and slaves. For a little change in our pockets, some of them reasoned, we could unload this dreamer and be rid of him. And so that is what they did and changed their brother’s life forever. Plucked from innocence and freedom, he was now destined to be a slave in the household of Potapher, Captain of the Palace Guard. Would Joseph ever see his family again? Where was his God when he needed Him most?

Meanwhile back in the fields, the brothers concocted a lie to tell their dad when they returned home. They would tell him that Joseph had been killed by a wild animal. They produced Joseph’s coat as evidence, which they had dipped in goat’s blood, supposedly proving that they were telling the truth. The Bible says that Jacob mourned a long time for his son and refused to be comforted. He lived many more years grieving his loss. Even though he was surrounded by his many other children and their offspring, the death of Joseph nearly killed him. He refused to be comforted saying, “I will mourn for my son until I die.” (Genesis 37:35, GW) Sound familiar? I have said these same words. You too?

And so began a different life for Joseph . . . one he did not choose. He had been taught well at home and even though he must have resented his loss of freedom, he set to work to do his best. Do you think he wondered how this wicked action could possibly be a part of God’s plan for his life? Did he blame God? We have no evidence that he did. Did he know his life would get better over time? Did he know he would get out of jail after being unjustly accused? Did he know whether or not his brothers would be brought to justice? Did he know that one day he would be given a high place in public office where he would face his family again and they would indeed bow down to him? No. Joseph did not know his life in advance any more than we do.

We have the advantage of being able to take a panoramic view of Joseph’s life whereas he did not know what lay ahead. It’s worth taking the time to read through all the twists and turns from adversity to triumph within the pages of Genesis. It may be difficult for us to see our reflection within Joseph’s story, but if we take the time to look, perhaps it will give our own personal faith a boost.

Sometimes we find ourselves in our own deep well of adversity and see no way out. Perhaps Joseph did too, when he was sold as a slave, but he chose to not give up on God even though his future seemed to have collapsed at his feet before he had barely begun to live. How discouraging it must have been to try and try and try and still come up short. He suffered many losses over the next few years while in bondage to Pharaoh, but God never left his side. He had plans, big plans, and one day Joseph would have 20/20 vision, and he would see how God had led him step by step until the day he was promoted to second in command under Pharaoh and was in charge of feeding the nations who were struck by the adversity of famine. Eventually his family joined him and his dad lived out his final years surrounded by all of his children, even the one he thought he had lost forever. All along the way, God was with him and blessed him. Even when he was unjustly accused of raping his boss’s wife and sent to prison, God was with him, helping him to stay faithful within his circumstances. 

~Especially during life’s trials, our spiritual muscles are exercised and strengthened, thus building characters fit for heaven~

But Joseph replied [to his brothers], “Don’t be afraid of me. Am I God, that I can punish you? You intended to harm me, but God intended it all for good. He brought me to this position so I could save the lives of many people.  Genesis 50:19-20, NLT

I am familiar with the same impatience you feel. I didn’t think I could last a week after my son’s suicide and now it has been years. I’m as eager as you are to see the end of suffering and pain and have our children restored to us once again. Like Joseph, soon we can shout loud enough for the enemy to hear, “YOU INTENDED TO HARM ME, BUT GOD INTENDED IT ALL FOR GOOD!”

 

They can’t get it

Who has gathered the wind in His fists?  Proverbs 30:4, AMP

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They don’t get it. They can’t get it. They can no more understand what it’s like than they can see the wind or capture a sunbeam. As human beings, we aren’t wired to comprehend the sudden, tragic death of our children. It’s as if we have been unexpectedly plunged into thick darkness and left to feel our way along in unfamiliar territory with no guard rails or flashlights. There is no data in the imagination from which to draw if you don’t have firsthand experience, and no survivor would wish that on anyone. So I don’t plan on being too hard on those who try to help from the sidelines. They will never be in the trenches of tragedy unless it strikes them personally. Perhaps a couple of personal stories will help illustrate their lack of understanding.

The first story happened a few years earlier when life was humming along on “normal” and when, naively, I did not understand the complexity of depression or the long-duration potential this dreaded disease has on the human spirit. I had developed complications after a simple surgery and needed further surgery. I wasn’t worried. But I was nervous and when I get nervous, I become a “chatty Cathy” and so I was chatting away with anyone within earshot. The doctor was delayed, but the nurses went about making the usual preparations by hooking me up to this and that. The longer the delay, the more urgent became my need to use the powder room . . . again.

Now this all happened quickly, you understand, but I will slow it down to include all the details so it makes sense. The doctor had medical residents observing at nearly every office visit so I was used to having them around and listening to the doctor explained my medical details to us both. It felt like I was on display, but I digress.  I had just told the nurse of my predicament, knowing I was making more work for her to unhook me, but she was gracious about it. I had no more asked the nurse to help me get there when a medical resident came to the foot of my bed and shyly asked, “May I watch?” I hate missing an opportunity to tease (and embarrass, I know, and I should be punished), so I responded, “I’m on my way to the powder room. Not sure watching would be a good idea.” Bless his heart. He turned beet red and quickly disappeared and as far as I know, he never returned to observe me . . . ever.

In telling this story, one does not need first hand experience to understand how the resident felt. You can instantly relate to his predicament, being so “brutally” embarrassed, can you not? Most people have had medical procedures done. Most people have been embarrassed a time or two that they can recall. And maybe there are at least a few readers who would have taken advantage of the situation, just to watch a sweet resident squirm a little.

Fast forward a few years. Life had taken an ugly turn. Sweet had turned to bitter in an instant when I got the word that our son had taken his own life. We’ve explored the emotions of tragic loss in this forum many times and we will continue to do so, for we are never finished. There will always be attempts to plummet the depths of painful loss as long as time shall last.

Friends offered to drive us to the mortuary and memory gardens to pick out things that appalled us and sign things with shaky hands that we would never choose to sign. Death had us in a vise grip. Mind was in a fog. Numbness affected sight, sound, and limbs. I ricocheted between nausea and fainting most of the time. But in the course of riding to these places to make decisions, someone said something in the car, I don’t remember what, and I laughed spontaneously, out of habit to be sure. These were friends we spent recreational time with and laughter was our entertainment, but this day, I was struck instantly with nausea.

What surprised me, however, was the response from one of the friends along for the ride. She responded to my outburst of laughter with, “Oh, that’s the friend we know.” And I heard it as, “Our old friend is back!” They didn’t get it. I was far from the friend they knew. That person had been blown to bits and was still free falling somewhere out in space. They were our close friends, but they had no idea how I reacted to laughing. Apparently they did not see my facial expression nor did they know I suddenly felt sick enough to vomit. I had to mentally talk myself down from that one; it was neither the time nor the place to be sick.

You see, they couldn’t get it. Even though they were taking us by the hand to places we wanted to kick and scream our protest, that did not help them to understand. They were wanting to draw out the usual and customary humor to break the ice and ease the tension we all were feeling . . . more likely what they were feeling. We were embalmed in a fog and not feeling at all. And to this day, I resent anyone attempting to cover up, smooth over, change the subject, or any other reaction they might have at the sight of parents’ tragic horror.

You feel this, don’t you? You understand my reaction and my protest for you have had similar reactions of your own, have you not? You could share versions of your stories and we’d all nod in agreement. Unfortunately we have been forced into getting it. We get it so much it’s hard to allow ourselves to relax our grip. Loss of a precious child to suicide is the most horrific loss and if you witnessed your child’s death on top of it all, I can’t imagine the pictures in your mind and I am so sorry for the added crushing pain you must feel. I am so sorry for the pain suicide causes those who are outliving a beloved child. I am so sorry for anyone who has lost a child from any cause. We are never prepared to lose a child. We would not be able to get it, unless, sadly, it became our horrible reality. Therefore it is all the more reason to cling to this promise:

The Sovereign Lord will destroy death forever! He will wipe away the tears from everyone’s eyes and take away the disgrace his people have suffered throughout the world. The Lord himself has spoken.  Isaiah 25:8, GNT

 

This entry was posted on March 20, 2015. 6 Comments

Make them golden

A word fitly spoken and in due season is like apples of gold in settings of silver.  Proverbs 25:11, AMP

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Best friends sharing secrets

It’s interesting that the Bible has so much to say about our words. I was searching for a picture that could best be described as decadent. In absence of finding such a picture we will have to rely on imagination. Picture an exquisite silver bowl laden with burnished golden apples. Whether you can imagine it or not, you get what this means, right? Our words, as the text above says, are not meant to harm, but to help, to soothe, to please, to teach, to bless. Don’t you wish they accomplished this 100% of the time? Unfortunately, way too often they do not. More times than I can count, I wish I would have hesitated just a bit longer to allow the alphabet soup of letters collecting on my tongue to filter through my brain to avoid saying something that unnecessarily caused another person pain.

Recently while lounging not-so-comfortably in the dentist chair, I determined to keep my mind focused on other things like: my grocery list, errands to run, bucket list, you know, anything to keep me from focusing on the “jack hammer” in my mouth. It always sounds like the dentist is drilling in Grand Canyon, but of course the sound is just magnified.

So while trying to keep my mind focused elsewhere I happened upon an old memory, one that still makes me cringe. That particular day I was again at the mercy of a healthcare professional and awake. The thought of being awake gave me some sleepless nights prior to the day of surgery even though I had been instructed that I wouldn’t feel a thing. Right. True to his word, however, I was surprisingly comfortable, but of course I had been given something to numb the area he was working on and probably something to put me in “la la land”. Again, I was trying to keep my mind focused elsewhere rather than on the work taking place.

Eyes closed, mind who knows where, I amused myself with voice tones. Some high tones going up and deeper tones coming down. Up, down. Up, down. Don’t think me crazy, or go ahead . . . you won’t be the first. Anyway, it was distracting and somehow to my mind at the moment, entertaining. I assumed there were people talking in the room and I was aware of the sounds around me when all of a sudden, I heard my name spoken by a deep voice, probably the doctor. I was wide awake now, listening to see if I had imagined it. I only had seconds to wait. Indeed it was the surgeon who spoke my name, followed by a stern, “please be quiet so I can concentrate.” What? Why did he say that? Was I talking? Oh, dear. What did I say? I had no idea I was talking and the tones “going up” were mine! Naturally I thought the worst. After all, the subconscious mind has no filter, right? My heart beat faster just wondering . . . and worrying.

At the follow-up visit, I didn’t know whether to play it cool or act embarrassed. Would he remember? The suspense was killing me. Finally I had to know so I asked, “Doctor, what did I say to you while in surgery?” He grinned, then responded, “I’ll never tell.” He pleaded the 5th so I guess he will take my deepest secrets to his grave.

Perhaps you will find this amusing at my expense. I don’t mind. After all, I risked in sharing it. But it is a reminder to me that words do matter. We speak them from morning until night. Are they worthy? Truthful? Considerate? I especially speak to the heart of those who weep. Since I am a suicide survivor I know the tenderness of my heart. I know that I am cautious when approached by someone I suspect will ask how many children I have. And will they probe deeper? And if I answer more questions, will they pull back in disdain if I allow myself to reveal the cause of my child’s death? I can feel a twinge just writing this and no encounter with someone speaking hurtful words has even occurred today. Can you relate? Has this happened to you?

Actions are remembered, but so are words. They are stored in the hard drive, perhaps forever. Here is a sample encounter. Two friends, one in a wheelchair, met a person who knew the woman in the wheelchair when she still had the use of her legs. The acquaintance was surprised to see her in a wheelchair and said something like this: “You’re in a wheelchair now? I didn’t know you’s in a wheelchair.” The words may have sounded pleasant, but they seemed to drip with disdain as she gave her wheelchair friend the once over. No doubt when this woman is feeling depressed about her circumstances she will envision that encounter again. She will try to dismiss it, but it will attempt to resurface to her conscious mind again and again to cause her embarrassment.

Words have power. We elect officials by their words. We hold power over our children with words. We trust and believe in words that may not even be truthful. I agree with Terri DeMontrond, who wrote on social media, “Life is short. Speak your mind.” And I’m going to add, “but do it with care.”

Among all the parts of the body, the tongue is a flame of fire. It is a whole world of wickedness, corrupting your entire body. It can set your whole life on fire.  James 3:6, NLT

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This entry was posted on February 27, 2015. 2 Comments

The sweetness of silence

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A picture speaks a thousand words when words aren’t even needed.

In spite of the tragedy that struck our family, I can recall a sweet memory. It involves one of the younger members of our family. God bless him.  Everyone had gathered at our place except this young man. I was walking in the back yard, seeking to be alone where I could cry without the pressure of prying eyes observing my every move.

I heard someone approaching. I turned around to see him walking slowly towards me. He was looking down; only glancing up in my direction once or twice. He was wiping his eyes. As he got closer I could hear him sniffling. Closing in, this huge hunk of a guy grabbed me and squeezed me tightly, his head pressing against my neck. His warmth caressed my aching heart.

Not a word was spoken, but eventually he released his grip . . . and I could breathe again. We sat down on the grass facing each other. Still, no words were spoken, just a pattern of soft sniffles. Finally he broke the silence by asking a question or making a comment, I don’t remember which. But I remember these moments we spent quietly in shared grief. No lofty words were necessary. In fact, this precious shared silence with someone who deeply loves me and loved my son, was enough.

This young man had no idea at that moment, that he was the hands, arms and tender heart of Jesus “with skin on” . . . just for me. He didn’t have the perfect phrase on the tip of his tongue to ease my burden of pain. Instead, he came boldly and unafraid  into my space, and with transparent emotions, enveloped me in a giant hug. No more was needed and I will always cherish his act of kindness and love this memory has given me.

I am reminded of a book I read, Just Like Jesus, by Max Lucado:  “Oh, the power of a godly touch. Haven’t you known it? The doctor who treated you, or the teacher who dried your tears? Was there a hand holding yours at a funeral? Another on your shoulder during a trial? A handshake of welcome at a new job? A pastoral prayer for healing?  Haven’t we known the power of a godly touch?”

We fear saying the wrong thing or using the wrong tone or acting the wrong way. So rather than do it incorrectly, often we resort to doing nothing at all.

Aren’t we glad Jesus didn’t make the same mistake? If your fear of doing the wrong thing prevents you from doing anything, keep in mind the perspective of the lepers of the world.  They aren’t picky. They aren’t finicky. They’re just lonely. They are yearning for a godly touch. Jesus reached out and touched the untouchables of the world.  Will you do the same?”

If you ever feel uncomfortable and uncertain about what to say at a difficult time, remember these words from Max, reminding us that Jesus got up close while He walked this earth.  Our Creator, who flung stars into the night sky and keeps the heavens humming in perfect orbit, was not so heavenly minded that He could not get down and earthly, touching a leper or listening to a mother’s concerns or holding a child while planting kisses on each sweet cheek before she’d wiggle off His lap to run and play.

This same Creator promises to wipe away all tears from our eyes. He will touch us, love us, give hugs and be our Best Friend for eternity. I am drawn to a God like that. Aren’t you?

The Sovereign Lord will destroy death forever! He will wipe away the tears from everyone’s eyes and take away the disgrace his people have suffered throughout the world. The Lord himself has spoken.  Isaiah 25:8, GNT

 

Meet the Thirst Quencher

O God, you are my God, and I long for you. My whole being desires you; like a dry, worn-out, and waterless land, my soul is thirsty for you.  Psalm 63:1, GNT

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Come, all you who are thirsty. Isaiah 55:1, NIV

Have you ever known someone who did not fit in? We are about to meet such a woman . . . from another time and another place. Let’s take a peek into her story.

It’s high noon and the stage is set for an encounter between Jesus and a sad, empty woman. The story begins at the well in Sychar. Jesus is tired and needs a rest so He sits down by the well. His disciples have gone into town to buy food. In His humanness, Jesus is thirsty, but the water is out of reach and He has nothing with which to draw. But His focus is elsewhere and she is walking towards Him right now. He knows all about her as she approaches for her daily chore. Essentially she’s an outcast in the village, so she comes to fill her jug during the heat of the day when she can be alone. All the other women come to the well early to avoid the blistering heat, but she is an exception. She is the topic of town gossip. The women talk about her behind her back. They don’t like her. She has a checkered past, so she is bullied by the women and gawked at by the men.

She approaches in spite of the stranger sitting next to the well, a bit too close for comfort, but she needs water and must get it now during the daily siesta. She plans to ignore His presence even though she is so close she could reach out and touch Him. She sets down her jug to catch her breath and Jesus asks her a question,

“Will you give me a drink?”  

Startled, but trying hard not to show it, she looks up and meets His gaze. He foiled her plan by asking her for a drink of water ~ He has some nerve, she thinks to herself. She notes His heritage and in her discomfort and nervousness she attempts to divert the conversation elsewhere by bringing up a hot topic which usually sparks a debate, since Jews and Samaritans did not associate with one another. The conversation exchange is priceless. Note how quickly Jesus confronts the woman’s heart ~ and instead of immediately dipping her jug, she dares to point out their racial disparity by asking,

“You are a Jew and I am a Samaritan woman. How can you ask me for a drink?”

  Jesus replied, “If you only knew the gift God has for you and who you are speaking to, you would ask me, and I would give you living water.”

“But sir, you don’t have a rope or a bucket,” she said, “and this well is very deep. Where would you get this living water? And besides, do you think you’re greater than our ancestor Jacob, who gave us this well? How can you offer better water than he and his sons and his animals enjoyed?”

Jesus replied, “Anyone who drinks this water will soon become thirsty again. But those who drink the water I give will never be thirsty again. It becomes a fresh, bubbling spring within them, giving them eternal life.”

“Please, sir,” the woman said, “give me this water! Then I’ll never be thirsty again, and I won’t have to come here to get water.”

Jesus knows her daily struggle trying to live peaceably as a scorned woman. He has her attention and is about to get personal.

“Go and get your husband,” Jesus told her.

“I don’t have a husband,” the woman replied. Jesus said to her, “You are right when you say you have no husband. The fact is, you have had five husbands, and the man you now have is not your husband. What you have just said is quite true.”

Ouch! Instant exposure! Can you imagine your surprise at hearing your private life aired before you by a total stranger? But there is a heart connection that Jesus wants to make; He wants to share a priceless gift, a life-changing gift with her. She is eager to receive so He pours it into her thirsty soul. She becomes so excited she forgot all about drawing water and rushes back to the village to share the good news. Suddenly she has something so special to share that it overcomes her previous feelings of inferiority and emptiness.

Many of the Samaritans from that town believed in him because of the woman’s testimony, “He told me everything I ever did.”  So when the Samaritans came to him, they urged him to stay with them, and he stayed two days.  And because of his words many more became believers.

They said to the woman, “We no longer believe just because of what you said; now we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this man really is the Savior of the world.”

I have a thirsty soul too. Mine is from loss. I am a mom outliving my child who died by suicide. It is a death so overwhelmingly tragic that it can leave one curled up in a fetal position  and hoping to die. This was not the story of the woman we are reading about today whose failed marriages, one after another, had left her scarred and bone dry, but we are all broken and bone dry in some way, are we not?

The living water Jesus offers is eternal life, forever quenching the thirst of hurting hearts. And there is not a soul on earth who does not need what He offers and only He has the answer. Does my heart thirst today like hers did then? It’s so like Jesus to zero in on the innermost part that is in need of healing refreshment. Liquid love, the healing springs of living water Jesus offers, cuts across all barriers of human existence, demonstrating once again that the ground is indeed level at the foot of the cross.

Scripture story taken from John 4:8-18, 39-42, NIV

 

 

 

 

 

This entry was posted on February 13, 2015. 4 Comments

Hymnlines: “Rock Of Ages”

My soul is quiet and waits for God alone. My hope comes from Him. He alone is my rock and the One Who saves me. He is my strong place. I will not be shaken.  Psalm 62:5-6, NLV

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Sadly, one of God’s kids has lost his battle with life; another unsung hero has fallen. He may not be a hero in the eyes of the world, but he is definitely a hero in ours. A family friend has died way too young. This piece is in honor of him and in honor of yours, if you, too, have recently lost a beloved someone.

Rock of Ages, cleft for me,
Let me hide myself in Thee;
Let the water and the blood,
From Thy wounded side which flowed,
Be of sin the double cure,
Save from wrath and make me pure.

When I seek comfort, my mind searches through its archives for just the right song, it’s usually an old hymn. An example is “Rock of Ages”. Perhaps you remember it? I know there are versions that change the old language, but I love the original. And I can hear it now . . . being belted out by Vestal Goodman of Southern Gospel fame.

Not the labor of my hands
Can fulfill Thy law’s demands;
Could my zeal no respite know,
Could my tears forever flow,
All for sin could not atone;
Thou must save, and Thou alone.

I am praying and seeking comfort for another family who has just lost their child. It doesn’t matter the cause. It’s just so devastating to have to bury one’s own child! You don’t know this family, but please join me in heart and song or prayer, seeking peace for a family from my community; a family who has been thrust into the midst of a raging storm of pain like no other they have ever encountered.

Dear Heavenly Father,

I come before Your throne asking for You, the Creator of all things and the one who loves us most, please be with all those who mourn, some for years and many more who have just begun their journey into grief. We shudder just thinking about the pain that is so intense it shatters human hearts. But You know this pain and You love us more than any human on earth. Comfort, hold, cry, wipe tears, with these dear families. We long to be reunited with our children once again. Already this family longs to see their precious child again. May it be soon, Lord Jesus. Amen.

Nothing in my hand I bring,
Simply to Thy cross I cling;
Naked, come to Thee for dress;
Helpless, look to Thee for grace;
Foul, I to the fountain fly;
Wash me, Savior, or I die.

The last stanza talks about death. We accept it as the other half of life, but we don’t like it, and in fact, we rebel against it! There are many “if only” and “I should have” statements, but the words fall by the wayside unnoticed. Once again when we hear of yet another young person who will not lived out a full life, we are reminded how very fragile life is.

While I draw this fleeting breath,
When my eyes shall close in death,
When I rise to worlds unknown,
And behold Thee on Thy throne,
Rock of Ages, cleft for me,
Let me hide myself in Thee.

Yes, Lord. Let us hide in You. There is no other safe place. We cling to, rely on, and trust in You alone.

Augustus M. Toplady, preacher and song writer, 1776

Out of the shadows

~No human has more clarity about the scourge of suicide than the survivors who are outliving their loved one who died by this shocking, dreaded killer of our young~

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Suicide is NOT shameful, but society has been saturated for generations with the belief that somehow suicide is shameful and it is reluctant to give up this stinky thinking even in the face of indisputable truth. “The shaming of suicide” in my humble opinion, is a product of society mores and historical traditions, festered by the daily use of the word to provoke emotion. It is society’s intent to pack a punch with this inflammatory word, and the media is hugely guilty when they jam their rhetoric full of phrases like: political suicide, financial suicide, sports suicide, etc.

I will attempt to speak particularly to the heart of those of us who are outliving a child, and worst of all, from a death of suicide. But hopefully, all of us who mourn will take away something. And to each of you, I am so sorry for your pain.

Is there anyone who does not like chocolate? If you happen to prefer, let’s say, bananas, then I know this won’t “appeal” to you, although I happen to think a banana dipped in chocolate makes a nice treat. Please stay with me here. I haven’t “gone bananas” but I want to see if a comparison can be made. You decide.

Chocolate is fragrant and silky smooth and beguiles the senses. Place a piece of milk chocolate on your tongue, let it melt, and then describe the experience. It’s rich and flavorful and screams, “more” does it not? Far too often I reach for chocolate every time I feel bad. It may not be wise to feed the pain, but chocolate helps me forget the problem for a few delicious seconds before it settles permanently on my hips (sigh). And the reason it’s not “hip, hip, hooray” is because of the volume of fat and sugar that goes into that divine piece of chocolate to make it the sensual experience that it is.

I suspect I have swallowed shame just as easily as I have swallowed chocolate. In my young and developing years, I was criticized for my “flats” ~ flat this and flat that. It was totally humiliating when my mother, just trying to help, would say to the clerk, “Do you have anything to fit my daughter? She has flat feet.” It sounded to my heart like she had been handed a megaphone and everyone in the entire store heard her. I wanted to crawl under a display, or better yet, drop through the floor. Perhaps even back then, chocolate was my friend, smoothing out the frayed edges shame spawned in my heart.

Is it possible that shame hides in suicide like sugar hides in chocolate? I read the lines and between the lines on social media grief sites. Some mention shame directly, but many more don’t say the word, but we know what they mean. When people tell us to “move on” is it because they are tired of thinking about the cause of death? Does it make them feel uncomfortable? Some attend church and it’s in this intended “safe haven” where they might feel shame after some saint speaks some thoughtless words within earshot. I could go on and on, but you know what I mean. And if you personally have felt shamed by others, I am so sorry for the extra pain inflicted on your already shattered heart.

file2491298389219Darkness breeds lies and shame so let’s bring this bad boy out in the open. Let’s treat it like the dirty cockroach it is and shine the light on the darkness of shame, scattering and zapping it’s lies like scurrying insects. May I suggest that we don’t have to hide. We have done nothing shameful. Our child or other loved one did nothing shameful. They died. It should be just as acceptable to tell our cause of death, as if it were by any other cause. There is no difference in my opinion. It’s time to tell the world to back off or spread the truth. Give us some breathing room and we will tell you what it’s like to lose someone to suicide. Their lives are worth talking openly about and others to respectfully listen.

I hope I did not sour your love affair with chocolate by comparing it to shame. But shame is slick and slimy and scummy and can stick like glue, but it’s also as smooth as chocolate the way it coats the tongue of someone appalled by the way your child died. Think about it and let’s spread the truth.

Truthful words stand the test of time, but lies are soon exposed. Proverbs 12:19, NLT

 

 

 

This entry was posted on January 30, 2015. 6 Comments

Yesterday’s gone

P1050122acdcThis is the day the Lord has made. We will rejoice and be glad in it.  Psalm 118:24, NLT

 A line of a song, sung by Bill Gaither, drifted into my consciousness this morning and it has a line that goes something like this: yesterday’s gone and tomorrow may never come, but we have these moments today. You may not be at a place in your grief journey where you can think about tomorrow and I certainly understand, for I have been there too. So if you want to save this to read when you are farther along, please do.

It seems our lives are made up of yesterday’s decisions and tomorrow’s dreams. If you have been forced to bury one of your children, then you know the deep longing to have them back in your life. I know this longing first hand. We suffer long into the night with the pain that death brings. I know how difficult it is to even take steps into the next day, next week, next month, when the death is by suicide. I’ve been where you are and I also have taken steps into many tomorrows and I can tell you that you will too. We are survivors. We will take as many steps into as many tomorrows until we meet our children again and hug them tightly to our breast.

Most probably the line from the song above refers to making the most of today. This twenty-four hour period of time may seem daunting. How to live it? What shall go in it? Will I stay in bed? Will I push myself to go to work? What does it look like to you? We no longer have yesterday’s hours. We can’t return and live them again, swapping out wasted time or change out harsh words for something sweeter. Yesterday is recorded in the annals of history and in the records above. And tomorrow is not promised. It is no more promised to those of us who remain than it was promised to our beloved, buried children. Does that seem harsh? I don’t mean it to be so. My goal is to speak truth in love.

I have been in the trenches of grief longer than many of you who are reading this, but if you have been in here with me for years, then you probably understand that time gives us perspective. We’ve exhausted ourselves asking “why” questions. We no longer are swamped with comments from people within our circle who have long since returned to their own rat race. We’ve had enough practice fielding answers to unwanted questions so as to artfully dodge what we consider none of anyone’s business. Sound familiar?

Perhaps the lines to the song above came from a quote by Mother Teresa: “Yesterday is gone. Tomorrow has not come yet. We have only today. Let us begin.” Is it intended to inspire us to make this day our best day? I think so. There is wisdom in this challenge. No doubt it means to treat others as we wish to be treated. Maybe it means to live in a way that honors the one (s) we are outliving. In the New Testament, there is a list of suggestions in case we are low on ideas and need a jump start. They are called fruits of the spirit:  love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (Galatians 5:22-23). Wow. This is a robust to-do list, or bucket list if you prefer. Fortunately I am not expected to add them all at one time, but I can work to integrate each one into my character building. It’s a process that doesn’t happen overnight and will involve many tomorrows. But since this list is with God’s blessing, I suspect He knows that incorporating them will help in the healing process.

I know that one of my first desires in my grief journey, was to experience peace. Let’s suppose God is writing us a love letter about peace. Maybe it would read something like this: “My Dear Children, the only peace you will ever have is in Me. This world does not offer peace ~ though it promises you many things. Some things are good, but most lead your mind far away from truth, and from Me. Please lean on Me. You will never be too heavy for Me to hold. I have much to teach you, to share with you, so you will be strengthened for troublesome times ahead. Yes, many will cry ‘peace and safety’ from now until I return, but don’t be misled. I alone am the Way, the Truth, and the Life. And it is in these three that you will find the fruit of perfect peace.”

Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own. Matthew 6:34, NIV

Prayer quoted from, “Shattered by Suicide, My Conversations with God After the Tragic Death of My Son” by Gracie Thompson, p. 163-164

Bless the children

. . . and little children will lead them.  Isaiah 11:6, GW

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It was just a smile; one I didn’t know I needed . . . until now. As I write this I am being blessed once more by the memory of her sweet smile. Not sure why I’m including this story. Maybe it’s because I’m running low on illustrations. Or maybe, truth be told, I’m getting old.  Or maybe it is because she was just so cute!

I have a disclaimer. Like I said, I’m getting older whether I like it or not. I may look old, but I layer the camouflage on thick enough in an attempt to hide the aging that seems to accelerate after loss. I’m fortunate to walk without assistance so what tipped her off? But she was just so cute!

My hubby kindly let me off at the church door and drove off to park. Walking toward the door, I noticed a family coming up close behind me. The little girls were maybe ages 3 and 5 and the boys older. What caught my eye were their cute pink coats and sweet smiles to match, so I engaged them in polite conversation, asking questions as we approached the door. I got there first so I opened it for the younger little girl. Mamma appeared to be murmuring in parent-to-child language soft enough that I could not pick up what she said. Okay, yes. Add hard of hearing to the list, but she didn’t know that!

As I held the door open for this adorable child, she thanked me so sweetly with, “Thank you, Grandma.” Grandma? Ouch!

I didn’t get much beyond the entrance before the scene hit instant replay and I burst out laughing. I know it’s church, but I couldn’t help it. Grandma indeed. I found myself doing a quick inventory to see if all my body parts were covered. What gave her that idea, I wondered. Do I look that old? But there are some pretty young, hip grannies out there and I hope to be one of them when the time comes. It just struck me funny.

I can’t scold an innocent child. I did the same thing when I was about her age. I was standing at the bathroom sink, watching my beloved grandma wash her face. I studied her intently, capturing her every move, which led me to ask a serious question, serious in my mind anyway: “Grandma,” I asked, “why is your face all cracked?” She looked startled and then had the same reaction as I did and burst out laughing. I couldn’t figure out what was so funny. Her face was “all cracked” with wrinkles and to my young mind, I thought it might hurt.

I love that memory. Time has brought me full circle I suppose. That sweet child thought I looked like a grandma. Bless her little heart.

Remember how Jesus treated children? He loved them crawling all over Him, sitting on His lap, maybe touching His beard, looking intently into His beautiful eyes, sharing smiles, rubbing noses. “The kingdom is made up of these,” He said to their mothers, His disciples, and anyone else within ear shot as He stroked their hair and patted their rosy cheeks.

God does come in all shapes and sizes. He reaches out and blesses us when we are least expecting it and in extraordinary ways. I had hit a rough patch this week and probably was not in the best mood this church morning, but it took some words out of the mouth of a child to lighten my step and put a smile on my face. I know how hard it is to find anything to be cheerful about. Our world often becomes harsh after loss and we may find ourselves berated for taking so long to heal. Definitely not words of comfort. But if I may suggest, I pray that you will be blessed soon with something special. Something out of the ordinary and maybe even delivered by a sweet, angelic child.

But Jesus called the children to him and said, “Let the children come to me and do not stop them, because the Kingdom of God belongs to such as these.  Luke 18:16, GNT

 

New Year’s Resolutions Revisited

Deep water fishing

Deep water fishing

It’s that time again. Time to change calendars to one that reads 2015 at the top. Seems impossible doesn’t it? But not only do we change calendars, we are supposed to make new resolutions aren’t we? Do you remember when your mom cornered you about something you failed to do and you tried to segue to another topic, hoping she would forget her question? Well, I’m about to do that. I just can’t help it; it was just too funny not to share.

My readers know about my cat, Pipy. I have shared several stories about my hi-jinks cat. Although he loves water: faucet dripping, bath water for dipping, spritzing water from my toothbrush to his face, to name a few. No, I don’t think I’m mean when I spritz him. He sits at the edge of the sink, watching me intently while I brush my teeth, and waits for it!

Even though Pipy has an interest in water, he never has intentionally taken a bath . . . until yesterday. We can only piece the story together, but my backside had something to do with it. I must have accidentally turned on the water with my behind while multitasking with the hair dryer. (Don’t ask. As they say, a picture is worth a thousand words.)  Hair done, I left the bathroom unaware that the faucet had been turned on. Fortunately, the tub has a little gizmo that keeps it from overfilling or we would not be having this conversation. I would be too exhausted from pulling up soggy carpet!

Meanwhile, back to Pipy. Our best guess is that he must have decided to dip his paw in the filling tub and lick it dry which he prefers to lapping water out of a bowl like any normal, civilized cat. Perhaps he couldn’t quite reach the water, and since this is a deep soaker tub, we assumed he hopped up on the tub’s slippery edge and you guessed it. He fell in! Now he didn’t stay in for long as you can imagine, but long enough to get thoroughly drenched. Out he came, tearing through the house, leaving wet foot prints everywhere. Finally he settled down to begin the laborious licking to get himself dry and “purrfect” again. Poor Pipy. He looked quite dazed after his surprising bath, but it sure was funny. That was probably his first and last bath during his lifetime. And since he knows nothing about resolutions, he’s making no promises . . . but am I making any?

I should be ashamed to admit this, but I have had the same resolutions on my bucket list for several years now. I’m huddled in front of my computer as I type this ~ as if you could see me if I didn’t ~ which probably helps to keep me honest. The two I will mention are simple and straight forward and obviously hard for me to accomplish: I resolve to eat less and exercise more. Now why don’t I follow through on these? Do you have some that have been on your list for an annoyingly long time too? They roll off the tongue easily in January, but become a distant memory by May . . . or March. Perhaps you are more disciplined than I, and if so, I’m proud of you!!

I would love to read some success stories. Perhaps your successes will help motivate me. I can only hope. As I type this I am aware that there are far too many who recently had to bury someone they love, maybe right before Christmas. The families of two policemen in New York are living this nightmare as we speak. Every Christmas from here on will be laced with the suffering that follows horrific loss. My heart goes out to them and to you too. Fresh grief is a mountain range of pain. Each day that passes is one day farther away from the horrific memory  for me, and I am grateful. You will be grateful too, but it happens almost imperceptibly, like a whisper. So be good to yourself. Take one day at a time, a phrase we often fall back on. But it is true. It is so easy to jack up our agony with “shoulda, woulda, couldas” right?

My grieving friends,  don’t give New Year’s resolutions a thought unless it is your desire. There is nothing harmful about looking out for one’s health, which can help to ease our sorrow going forward, but if our plates are already full, then put aside the things that don’t matter. Instead, just concentrate on taking one step at a time . . . and it’s not a bad idea to follow God’s big ones.

Seek his will in all you do,  and he will show you which path to take.  Proverbs 3:6, NLT