The power of editing

Is there anyone else who watches reruns from the long-running hit show “Everybody Loves Raymond”? You don’t have to raise your hand or do anything that suggests an embarrassing admission, but I still like them even though I can mute the sound and fill in the lines as the pictures click by. If that makes me weird or ancient, so be it. Perhaps there are a few of you who are in agreement but if not it doesn’t matter.

Cut away the bad and leave the good

Save the good stuff

Raymond gave the Best Man speech at his brother’s wedding. Before that moment, he was worried about what he should say, but when he stood up to speak he said that life seems to present material. If you caught this episode you remember there was drama from the usual characters and he could have talked about all the embarrassing moments starting with mother Marie, but instead he talked about editing and how we can let the bad stuff fall like discarded clippings to the cutting room floor. It was a point well taken.

Have you had to edit your life story? Do you remember unnecessary drama at a wedding? Even your own perhaps? How about drama at a funeral you attended? I’m familiar with that one. There was drama surrounding a death very close to me. It created painful memories. I have posted before in “Mama Pain” about the need to extract the purity of our loss from unnecessary drama. When we can do this we honor our loved one without negative thoughts from outside sources elbowing their way into our story. It’s our right to edit them out.

Therefore, does editing have a place in our grief journey? I say, yes it does. May I suggest that the devil does the destroying since he is the father of lies (John 10:10). He won’t stop with suicide if he can get others to destroy their lives, too, or mix so much family hatred in that it’s hard to think of your precious child or other loved ones without additional pain.

A friend recently attended her mom’s memorial service. She was naturally sad. Siblings were sad. Family members who came from near and far to attend the service were sad, too. They had lost someone they love dearly. But the time spent together was not cohesive, in fact, far from it. There were negative family dynamics depending on whose “side” you hailed from, either the local family or the long distance family. The “sides” stayed in separate locations and did not socialize together much at all. From my standpoint as a friend and observer, I couldn’t tell that there was a split in the family, where each member was expected to take sides. My friend says that her grief triggers these painful family memories, which is probably a common occurrence in many families after loss. Editing. We can choose to leave the bad stuff on the cutting room floor.

It is easy to blame others or to sabotage a gathering intended to bond us together by refusing to speak to certain family members or friends going forward. But all negative thoughts or actions do us a disservice in our grief. If it serves no earthly good then why not let it go? We deserve better.

If anyone can control his tongue, it proves that he has perfect control over himself in every other way. We can make a large horse turn around and go wherever we want by means of a small bit in his mouth.  And a tiny rudder makes a huge ship turn wherever the pilot wants it to go, even though the winds are strong.  So also the tongue is a small thing, but what enormous damage it can do. James 3:2-5 TLB

 

Tribute to Mothers on Mother’s Day

Many women have done noble work, but you have surpassed them all!   Proverbs 31:29 GW

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Family feet

The days and months tick by and another holiday is upon us. To all you moms out there, I wish you a happy Mother’s Day with your families. Whether you have outlived your children or still have them and their offspring gathered around you, you are always a mother and greatly blessed.

If I may, I choose to devote this piece to moms who live with daily heartache after the loss of one or more of their children. Every holiday brings a stab of pain. We can’t help it. We love all our children; they are most precious, but we will never forget the one we no longer can touch and love. I look into each face around the table, noting their shared characteristics, loving the shared resemblance. But at the same time, I see the face of my missing son in theirs. It stings and I wince just a little. You too?

No matter how many years it’s been and perhaps this is your first, we get through them and even have some moments of pleasure surrounded by those we love. They yearn for this day to be special. They will for us to go on; to find them to be enough. We love their intent and we try our best to be the special mom for this special day so that they are comfortable. But where is the deep comfort we long for? Not the superficial stuff just under the mask, but the deep heart stuff. You know what I mean. You know where it is. Most often it’s just too painful to poke around in there too much. I imagine it to be ten times worse than a root canal without Novocaine, as I’m sure it is.

Love is Pain Tattoo

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

When I ponder this question spiritually speaking, I wonder about God. Does the pain ever lessen for Him? He’s on a grief journey too. His loss is constant and unfathomable to me. If He has been present at every birth and every death since the beginning of time, that is too much grief for my mind to comprehend. But it beckons consideration, doesn’t it?

Our heavenly Father poured Himself into His Son, Jesus Christ, who poured Himself out for us. If He had not died on the cross, we’d be without hope and most miserable in our sins. But there was no heavenly system failure. Jesus followed through on what He came to do. He showed us what His Dad is like and He did not turn back from death. I get a lump in my throat when I think about my Friend dying for our sins; dying as a common criminal, a dirt bag, scum of the earth, if you will. His own people relished the kill, wanting it so badly they were willing to own it and even shouted, “His blood is on us and on our children!” (Matthew 27:25). Haunting words that continue to ricochet down the halls of time . . . they got their wish.

So God did a wondrous thing when He made Mothers, creating within them the ability to make new life. We are the product of a loving Master Designer and He does not make disposable. Ever. He loves us more than we can understand His pure love, but He has designed mothers to love deeply their unborn child as it begins to grow and kick. And then to hold their baby for the first time, looking into that sweet, puckered little face with eyes trying to focus while squinting against the harsh, bright light of their new world. This new little one has made us a family as we juggle schedules, meeting their most basic needs with loving care, which all too soon turns into car pools and packing lunches. We lie quietly in bed, listening for gentle breathing before we nod off to sleep; dreaming of all the special things we want to teach them before they fly from the nest in their quest of an exciting future of their own.

That’s the ideal. That was God’s plan. As we look at this sweet babe, who could imagine God killing the baby He just gave life too? God makes babies. He does not kill them. This has always been the work of a murdering thief (John 10:10). It is in studying God’s Word, comparing scripture with scripture and asking God to reveal His purpose in  bite-sized portions for our understand is when the “light comes on” in our minds and we can begin to comprehend His will, for His thoughts are so much higher than ours (Isaiah 55:9). But He has not neglected us and He never will. He loves each one of His kids of all ages, and desires that we love Him back. And as we do, a tiny seed of faith begins to sprout and our hearts are stirred with hope, and hope does not disappoint (Romans 5:5).

Perhaps our families will carve out something different from the usual if the usual is too hard to bear. But no matter what, we are mothers. We have spent our lives investing in our children. We are entitled to have this day. We’ve “paid our dues” with bitter-sweet tears. The arms that held and rocked our sweet babies, now ache from loss. I look forward to the day when I get to squeeze the stuffin’s out of my boy who will be made all brand new.  And no more death. . . . ever again. It will be a Mother’s Day like no other! But through it all, isn’t it better to risk the pain that is love?

“Just as you’ll never understand the mystery of life forming in a pregnant woman, so you’ll never understand the mystery at work in all that God does.”  Ecclesiastes 11:5 MSG

 

This entry was posted on May 8, 2015. 2 Comments

Fighting a Battle in Your Life

Worship is an Act of War by Holley Gerth

“We have no power to face this vast army that is attacking us. We do not know what to do, but our eyes are on you.” — Jehoshaphat, King of God’s People

Has your heart ever echoed what’s expressed above? You’re weary. You’re overwhelmed. You feel under attack. And you don’t have a single strategy or plan or idea about what to do. You just know something has to give–somehow this battle must be won. 

God answered Jehoshaphat with courage-giving words and His response can encourage us too. He tells the King to go and fight his enemies. And as the people prepare to go, Jehoshaphat does something interesting. He doesn’t put the warriors at the front. He puts the singers.

Jehoshaphat appointed men to sing to theLord and to praise him for the splendor of his holiness as they went out at the head of the army, saying:

“Give thanks to the Lord,
for His love endures forever.”

As they began to sing and praise, the Lord set ambushes against the men of Ammon and Moab and Mount Seir who were invading Judah, and they were defeated.

{2 Chronicles 20:21-22}

When the people arrived at what should have been a battleground, all they saw were bodies. The enemy had already been defeated. The threat eliminated. The victory won. That can happen for you too…

The Power is outside myself . . . it is in God alone.

~Holley Gerth

Gifted by a stranger

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Yikes! Look at her! She’s totally lost it!

She wasn’t a total stranger. I knew of her, having met her at a previous family gathering, but she wasn’t yet a close friend and she didn’t know about me, and as far as I knew, she didn’t know much of anything about my loss. It was at a later family gathering where this story took place.

We rarely had the opportunity to visit, but when we did, they would always invite us to see the sights the city had to offer. Today, they wanted to take us to the Holocaust Museum. Ugh. I didn’t think I was in the mood for something I assumed would be depressing, but I said nothing, not wanting to put a damper on their plans. We stepped inside and were immediately assigned to a group. Each group member was handed a card on which was pictured a real holocaust victim and a bit of their history, which was intended to make the horrific story from long ago come alive, and become personal to each visitor.

Already I was feeling a sense of dread as we descended a flight of stairs. Then immediately to my right and the full length of the wall, as I recall, was a mural. On this mural was a blown-up black and white picture of stacked, layer upon layer of . . . corpses. If you have visited this museum, then you know the shock of looking upon this scene and I lost it.

I came totally unglued, unraveling right in front of my family. It wasn’t a couple of tears while biting my lip in the attempt to fight back the urge to scream. No. It was an instant wail from deep within and then the dam burst. I was shocked at my sudden reaction, but stood there helpless and powerless to stop it. And before me stood my family, staring at me, not unlike the little family of Meerkats in the picture above ~ mouths open in disbelief and frozen in place like statues. No one made a move toward me.

Then suddenly, she was by my side. She took me by the arm, and in her no-nonsense approach, she told the family to go on ahead, and whisked me away from the horrific wall, back up the steps, and into the safety of the Gift Shop. I could now begin to muffle my sobs, dry my eyes and attempt to get myself back under control. I told her how embarrassed I felt. She would hear none of it. Instead, she encouraged me to cry all I needed to, and left me alone to gather myself again while she wandered around the Gift Shop, looking at all the items on display.

I will never forget her care of me at such a time of great need. She reacted differently than anyone else. They seemed to turn to stone, but she had the presence of mind to get me out of there and I will always remember her kindness. It’s not that she spoke eloquent words. She barely spoke at all. It was, plain and simple, her spontaneous act of kindness that gifted me at that moment. Needless to say, she is no longer a stranger. We have bonded heart to heart.

Perhaps you have also experienced kindness from an unexpected source? Care to share? I have often been disappointed by someone I expected to give me what I longed for, but didn’t. But over time, I have come to realize that I must lower my expectations in an attempt to quell the feelings of disappointment after someone, who knows me and my story well, fails to deliver. But perhaps it’s a daunting expectation to think that people know just what I need at a particular moment? To be fair, they aren’t mind readers, and if it has been a reasonable period of time, they’d likely expect that life should have long since carried me beyond grief, and they’d be right?

But of course, they would be wrong. Grief, the kind that follows child loss, does not go away after a period of time, but tags along with us for the rest of our lives, so we are subject to unexpected encounters at any time and thus, it creates a quandary for those around us. It’s no one’s fault, but a fact of our lives going forward. Maybe this story will spark a memory from your memory bank, reminding you when a simple gesture made a friend out of a stranger. If not, may there be someone who will come along side you, when you need a lift, and connect heart to heart, even if only for a moment. Even brief moments can be treasures for a lifetime.

“Will [you] show kindness to my family, because I have shown kindness to you.”  Joshua 2:12 NIV

 

 

 

 

This entry was posted on May 1, 2015. 2 Comments

On Broadway: “My Man, Job”

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 Decide today whom you will serve . . . Joshua 24:15 GNT

Perhaps not many of us would like our life story aired on Television or portrayed on Broadway before a live audience, but essentially that is what living on Planet Earth is all about. We live in a war zone and like it or not, we are all players. And like it or not, many of us may feel like we live in glass houses after loss where our pain is visible to prying eyes even as we try to keep it hidden. Someone else was a player long ago, and today we will observe a bit of his story played out on stage. His name is Job.

“There was a man named Job, living in the land of Uz, who worshiped God and was faithful to him. He was a good man, careful not to do anything evil.  He had seven sons and three daughters,  and owned seven thousand sheep, three thousand camels, one thousand head of cattle, and five hundred donkeys. He also had a large number of servants and was the richest man in the East.”  Job 1:1-4 GNT

 ACT ONE

Lights go out. The audience hushes in anticipation. The curtain rises to reveal a celestial summit in heaven. Satan strolls out on stage uninvited. He chooses this public forum to challenge God ~ you might say ~ to another duel. Perhaps like the one back in the Garden of Eden. The one he won ~ he’s quick to remind God ~ just in case He’s had a lapse in memory. But this time, the subject is Job. Why Job?

“Well,” Satan claims, strutting about with his hands on his hips, “Would Job worship You if You didn’t protect him? You’re like a heavenly Santa Clause, providing wealth and goodies to fill his every whim.” “But now suppose you take away everything he has—he will curse you to your face!” Job 1:11 GNT

How would you expect God to respond? Would you expect Him to fill His lungs with air and blow Satan to the edge of the cosmos? The audience leans forward in their seats, eager to hear God’s response.

“All right,” the Lord said to Satan, “everything he has is in your power, but you must not hurt Job himself.” Job 1:12 GNT

Gleefully, Satan exits. He can’t wait to inflict pain and suffering. It’s his specialty and he gets right to it.

ACT TWO

In rapid-fire succession, one by one messengers run on the scene, reporting to Job so fast it’s enough to keep your head spinning: the first messenger rushes in to report that Job’s donkeys are stolen and his servants are all killed; the second messenger rushes in to report that lightning strikes Job’s sheep and shepherds, killing them all; the third messenger rushes in to report that Job’s camels and servants are all killed; the fourth messenger rushes in to report that a storm blows down the home where all of his children are gathered having a celebration and killed every one of them (Job 1:13-19). Job drops to his knees and wails in agony as the curtain drops upon his grief.

“In spite of everything that had happened, Job did not sin by blaming God” (Job 1: 22 GNT).

The curtain rises as the lights go out. Job is sitting in a heap in the dust. He gets to his feet and tears his clothes and shaves his head, as is the custom to display one’s grief. Then he throws himself face down on the ground again and cries aloud,

“I was born with nothing, and I will die with nothing. The Lord gave, and now he has taken away. May his name be praised!” (Job 1:21 GNT).  Great wailing pours forth as he grieves his horrific losses and the curtain drops, hiding his misery. Some in the audience sniffle, sharing his sorrow.

ACT THREE

The curtain rises as the lights go out to reveal another celestial summit in heaven. Again Satan strolls out on stage uninvited. He’s scowling, obviously in a rage as he paces back and forth in front of God, like some caged lion. “What’s on your mind, Satan?” God asks coolly. Before Satan could open his mouth to speak, God calmly asks,

“Did you notice my servant Job? There is no one on earth as faithful and good as he is. He worships me and is careful not to do anything evil. You persuaded me to let you attack him for no reason at all, but Job is still as faithful as ever.” Job 2:3 GNT

Every muscle on Satan’s body appears to be rippling into one giant knot as he roars so loudly the audio guys hustle to adjust the sound,

 “A person will give up everything in order to stay alive.  But now suppose you hurt his body—he  will curse  you  to  your  face!” Job 2:4, 5 GNT

The audience is deathly quiet as if collectively holding their breath. God had refused Satan’s request to touch Job’s body in Act One. Will He allow it now?

God responds to Satan. “All right, he is in your power, but you are not to kill him.” Job 2:6 GNT

Satan hastens from the scene. He lives for the adrenalin rush every time he inflicts pain and suffering on unsuspecting, naive, weak-willed, worthless, humans. 

INTERMISSION

The curtain drops and the lights come on. The audience is buzzing. Those who thought this was going to be a comedy are muttering to themselves what a waste of money. Some in the audience groaned aloud. They obviously didn’t trust Satan to not “accidentally” kill Job or maim him within an inch of his life. Others are wondering aloud how God could allow such a thing to take place. Poor Job! He lost his entire livelihood, and all his children all in one day! And where was his wife in all this? Certainly he will blame God now!

ACT FOUR

The curtain rises as the lights go out. What horror met the audience’s gaze. Sitting before them is Job, squatting in the middle of a garbage dump. The vaporous stench rolls out over them, and the tidy guests in the first few rows are either fanning themselves with their programs or covering their noses with their laced handkerchiefs.

Job is covered from the top of his head to the bottoms of his feet in nasty, seeping boils. He takes a piece of broken pottery and carefully scraps the puss from his sores. What a miserable condition. His wife is watching him with her hands on her hips, shaking her head from side to side. It’s hard to know whether she is trying to be encouraging to her husband or not. And when she finally opens her mouth, her voice is high pitched and shrill,

“You are still as faithful as ever, aren’t you? Why don’t you curse God and die?” Job 2:9 GNT

Lest we desire to criticize Job’s wife too harshly, she has lost her children and her livelihood too. No doubt she could have said just about anything but that last sentence. It had to inflict even more pain on her suffering husband.

Even though Job was miserable, he did respond to his wife, and right to the point. “[Woman] you are talking nonsense! When God sends us something good, we welcome it. How can we complain when he sends us trouble?” Job 2:10 GNT

God knew His man pretty well, didn’t He? He was being sorely tested by the enemy, but remaining faithful in spite of all the trouble and loss and suffering and sorrow and in addition, nagging from his wife. The curtain drops and the lights come on.

ACT FIVE

The curtain rises and the lights go out. We see that Job is still sitting in the garbage dump. The smell is still overpowering. He’s still scraping his sores and looking most miserable. From a distance we see three men approaching. Our program says they are his three closest friends: Eliphaz, Bildad and Zophar. As they draw closer, they appear to have shocked looks on their faces. Apparently they hardly recognize their old friend.

“They began to weep and wail, tearing their clothes in grief and throwing dust into the air and on their heads. Then they sat there on the ground with him for seven days and nights without saying a word, because they saw how much he was suffering.”  Job 2:12, 13 GNT

Sidebar: Sweet silence from dear friends in a time of sorrow. Perhaps some of us can relate. I may have experienced maybe a few minutes, but never a few days like these friends. I applaud their endurance and faithfulness. It would have been best if they could have stayed silent, but they did not. Perhaps Satan worked thru them to bring even greater pain on their mutual friend. I’ve experienced such behavior. Likely you have too, from those who profess to love you?

Job’s friends dialogue through most of the remaining chapters where they: challenge, accuse, and blame Job, assuming that he must have offended God and he should scour his conscience until he has made proper amends . . . until God speaks, and when He does, He challenges them with knowledge too great for them to comprehend and they all bow their heads in silence.

“When God speaks, the power of His word puts our life and our questions instantly into perspective.” Blackaby Study Bible, Encounter (background) Note on Job 38:1

The curtain drops and the lights come on for the last time. The play is over. The patrons are rather subdued as they file out quietly, as if in deep thought. Perhaps some expected this to be a divine comedy of sorts, while others can relate, perhaps having experienced similar reactions from friends during their seasons of grief.

EPILOGUE

This is just a portion of Job’s life, but throughout his story, he remained faithful to God during both good times and bad and Satan lost this huge challenge. Perhaps during his lifetime, Job never got all his questions answered and he, like some of us, must wait. Job trusted God so much, had such a good friendship ~ a special one-on-one relationship with Him ~ that he could speak the words below. He wasn’t particularly special. God longs for this same kind of relationship with each one of His children. I choose a close relationship like this with God. I’d like to trust God enough to say these words to Him too. How about you?

“Though he slay me, yet will I hope in him.” Job 13:15 NIV

“The Lord blessed the last part of Job’s life even more than he had blessed the first. Job owned fourteen thousand sheep, six thousand camels, two thousand head of cattle, and one thousand donkeys. He was the father of seven sons and three daughters. Job lived a hundred and forty years after this, long enough to see his grandchildren and great-grandchildren. And then he died at a very great age.”  Job 42:12-17 GNT

Tethered by grace

Trust in the Lord with all your heart. Never rely on what you think you know. Remember the Lord in everything you do, and he will show you the right way. Proverbs 3:5-6 GNT

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I don’t know if you’ve ever put your life in the hands of someone who harnessed you into a contraption, like a parasail. It wasn’t against my will since I actually paid good money for the experience! The parasail is tethered to a boat and the boat takes off at breakneck speed pulling you high into the sky. You have no control over the parachute; you go wherever the boat pulls you. You are supposed to enjoy the ride and the breathtaking views from high over the ocean, and if all goes well, you are promised a soft landing ~  if you follow instructions.

A teacher friend, who was a senior class sponsor, invited me along for spring break. I saw it as a bit of a vacation away from the grind and so did she, but she knew the trouble the kids could get into . . . but that is not what this post is about. It’s actually about two adult women who did not follow instructions. Now before you go gettin’ too smug, haven’t you ever not paid attention when you were supposed to?

We were going double on this sky ride thingy and she was in back where the rip cord was located. I figured she should pay more attention to the instructions since she would be guiding our return to land and since I was in front, I should have no responsibilities whatsoever, right? Then suddenly we were up and away! The sky was a gorgeous blue with puffy white clouds and the water was so clear . . . way down, down, down below. I tried to not think about how high up we were. I tried to feel safe . . . tethered by a skinny rope . . . oh, what was I thinking to agree to do this? Was my insurance premium paid up?

We jabbered to each other as we took in all the scenery from high in the sky. With our aerial vantage point, we tried to pick out our hotel from all the hotel roofs we had to choose from. Needless to say we lost all track of time. Noting we were circling back toward shore I glanced down at the people “specks” and thought I saw one of those speck’s wildly waving its arms. Was that our guy giving us the signal to pull the cord and land this bird? I hollered at my pilot who was busy jabbering away. She concluded the frantic waving could not be intended for us since, in her estimation, we had not been up here long enough. Certainly the ride should last longer, shouldn’t it? I was more doubtful, but overruled since I had “no responsibilities whatsoever.”

Now we are approaching the shore again and the speck is larger this time and I could clearly see it was a guy flailing his arms and jumping up and down and his mouth was moving too, but we couldn’t hear what he was saying, which was probably a good thing. Again I yelled to my pilot who finally looked down for herself. Yep. Looks like he’s trying to get our attention. So she yanked on the cord and we started our decent. I guess I should tell you that the students on the beach were howling with laughter at the two of us. They got an earful of what was intended for us and they totally enjoyed watching two adults being bad examples and getting into trouble.

Needless to say, our landing was not a smooth one and we both got wet, but at least we were safely on the ground again . . . and got a lecture from the boss man. And as my husband likes to say, “I’ve done that twice, first and last!”

Perhaps I can attempt a spiritual application here. We are created in God’s image, in fact, we can look at our attachment to Him like a spiritual umbilical cord; sort of like the rope that attached the boat to our parasail. But like our unwillingness to follow instructions, I might tell God to leave me alone; to go pick on somebody else, that I can take care of myself. But an attachment to God is a good thing. I might even consider it my lifeline; another one of God’s gifts of grace.

“Grace brings us into a life that is greater than what sin could ever offer us. Grace extends the hand that lifts us out of the miry clay, throws the rope that pulls us from the deepest pit, and lights the flame that brings us out of the darkest cave. Without His grace we were without hope, without the assurance of heaven, and bound by the fear of death; by His grace we abound in hope, we rejoice in the certainty of the resurrection, and we glory in knowing that the very best is still ahead.” Roy Lessin, “Today is Your Best Day”, pgs. 91, 96

I know the plans that I have for you, declares the Lord. They are plans for peace and not disaster, plans to give you a future filled with hope.    Jeremiah 29:11, GW

 

 

 

 

Why not me?

We all have “why” questions, don’t we? Maybe you’ve stepped outside on a clear, dark night, looked up into the star studded sky, ablaze with twinkling stars, and shouted, “Why me? Why MY child?” But there’s not the faintest whispered reply.

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He determines the number of the stars and calls them each by name.  Psalm 147:4 NIV

I’m re-posting for the benefit of new readers. Sadly, there will always be new losses. Someone reading reading this for the first time or even for a second time and feeling comforted in some small way, would be my hope. Loss is hard. We all experience loss in one way or another. Pain is pain as they say, and whatever tops your list of pain will be the worst at this point in your life experience. You cannot compare yours with another’s, but you will find similarities which will give you the opportunity to journey beside someone else for a time who truly understands how you feel.

I had been on my grief journey a few years when I penned these words below. So perhaps it is fair to add a disclaimer by suggesting that if you are new to your grief journey, this might be a piece to set aside for later. It takes time to see the big picture perspective. As always, be gentle with your healing.

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Remember my prayer, Lord? Save my children at all cost? I never thought praying that prayer would lead to death. But that’s what happened. I was forced to bury one of my children after death by suicide. Out of my tears and agony I sobbed, “Why me , Lord. Why? He had his whole life before him. Why now, when it seems he was lingering in the valley of so many decisions?”

Silence. No answer came. I slogged on, picking up the pieces as best I could. Life is for the living, but I was barely breathing. As bad as my pain has been, would I wish this gnawing grief on anyone else? The answer had to be, “No.” So should my question instead be, “Why not me?”

To which Jesus seemed to answered softly to my heart, “This is the work of Satan. I created and love each and every one of My precious children.”

“But is that all the time I get with him, Lord?” I implored. “Sorry, but it wasn’t long enough. Not even close.”

I pause and take a look back . . . I grew up Christian, always assuming good things come to those who pray, but my heart shattered that day into confetti-like bits of flesh, and I fell on my face begging God to extend His mercy. Who else could understand my wailing and tears? Are You listening, Lord?”

Long, long ago before Adam and Eve were created, the heavenly council met somewhere in the heavens. There had to be a back-up plan ~ just in case the humans God was going to create would choose to follow a different path. Who could do the job? Who would willingly volunteer to give up life to pay the ultimate price sin demanded?

Jesus pushed His chair back from the table and stood up. “I’ll do it, Father,” He said. “If sin demands blood, then let My blood pay the ransom.” And it was done. Council adjourned.

Fast forward about four thousand years to the Garden of Gethsemane. The dreaded cross looms just ahead and Jesus is on His face, begging His Father for mercy.

Father, if possible, let there be another way, but if not, I will keep the promise I made long ago. They are worth every drop of blood I must shed for them.”

Now zoom forward to the present. The scene is full of indescribable pain and tears as parents, siblings, and friends say “good-bye” to a son, brother, and friend they loved so much. But we weren’t alone in our sorrow. We were wrapped in the loving arms of Jesus, while He gently wiped the tears from our eyes with His nail-scarred hands, the victorious reminder of the price He paid long ago, forever releasing humanity from the grip of sin.

“It won’t be long,” He seemed to whisper softly in my ear, “Soon I will come and raise him up and you will have all of eternity together. Please cling to My promises. Please try to comprehend that He had been in terrible pain for so long. The enemy took pleasure in harassing him. His grip on life . . . and on Me . . . were weakening. I could not bear to watch Satan make fun of him any longer. It was time to let him go to sleep. He’s safe and at peace, and I have the best part of him ~ his DNA. So don’t worry. He will be so much better than you ever remember him. His face will be lit with the glory of His Heavenly Father and you will recognize his beautiful blue eyes and his cute little chuckle with his delicious sense of humor, when something strikes him funny. I made him once . . . I will make him again.

Yes, My child, you are right when you can finally ask, ‘Why not me?’ I couldn’t stand his pain . . . and yours hurts Me too, but we have each other and you will continue to grow in My love. You will also continue to grow in your understanding that this world is a war zone between good and evil and sadly, many more of My children will become casualties of this war before I return. Satan is hell-bent on taking as many with him as possible, but remind those who have lost precious loved ones, that he does not have the last word, I do.

I, alone, know the hearts of all My kids. 

I, alone, know who is safe to save for all eternity, and that is what matters most. 

There are many who need to hear your story. They are everywhere, trying to bear their terrible grief in silence, guilt, embarrassment and shame. They need to hear from your lips, your story. They need to hear about My love that will never, ever let them go.”

Love you,

Jesus

Those who walk uprightly enter into peace; they find rest as they lie in death.  Isaiah 57:2 NIV

For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first.  1 Thessalonians 4:16 NIV

~ shared from the book, “Shattered by Suicide, My Conversations with God after the Tragic Death of My Son”

This entry was posted on April 3, 2015. 2 Comments

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