God Whispers

 She [Jezebel] sent a message to Elijah: “May the gods strike me dead if by this time tomorrow I don’t do the same thing to you that you did to the prophets.”  1 Kings 19:2 GNT

file000844849936

Even if you hide, God know where you are

 

Queen Jezebel’s death threat could not be misunderstood. If I had heard these words while on God’s mission, I might have taken off running too, which is exactly what Elijah did. He ran until he was deep in the desert and collapsed under the first tree that offered shade. Based on his request to God to end it all, I’d say he was depressed and suicidal, but don’t take my word for it. Please read on . . .

“Elijah walked a whole day into the wilderness. He stopped and sat down in the shade of a tree and wished he would die. “It’s too much, Lord,” he prayed. ‘Take away my life; I might as well be dead!”

You see, Elijah had just come from a pyrotechnics display of God’s power on Mt. Carmel in a showdown between the prophets of Baal and the God of heaven. Even if you aren’t familiar with the story you can probably guess who won. One might expect Elijah to be invigorated and excited after witnessing God’s mighty power. Instead, when he received Queen Jezebel’s death threat, his high quickly evaporated, and he ran for his life.

Now Elijah is sitting exhausted under a juniper tree. He begs God to put him out of his misery, but God does not grant his request. Instead, He sends an angel to prepare a meal for Elijah to eat. Famished, Elijah wolfs down the meal, satisfies his thirst, and falls back to sleep.

The angel returns later and prepares another meal. He awakens Elijah, who eats and drinks. Nourished, Elijah walks forty days and nights, all the way to Mt. Horeb, where he crawls inside a cave and falls asleep.

Up to this point in the story, Elijah’s actions appear to be motivated by fear: he ran, he slept, he hid, he was fed by an angel ~ okay, that part would be a bit out of the ordinary.

I cannot compare my experience with Elijah’s, but I have acted in similar ways when depression has descended upon me like a wet blanket. I have felt myself tumbling into a dark, bottomless pit. Fearful, helpless, I have also asked God to take my life. Like with Elijah, God answered me, but not according to my request.

Had Elijah stopped trusting in God? Where was God during this critical time in his life? Had He left Elijah to fend for himself? God was caring for his basic needs by sending an angel. Now let’s read what happens next:

“Suddenly the Lord spoke to him, “Elijah, what are you doing here?”

“He answered, “Lord God Almighty, I have always served you—you alone. But the people of Israel have broken their covenant with you, torn down your altars, and killed all your prophets. I am the only one left—and they are trying to kill me!”

Essentially God said to Elijah, “You mean to tell Me, after all My power you witnessed on Mt. Carmel, you turn and run from a . . . girl?”

Poor Elijah. He was scared out of his wits and feared for his life. Was he no longer believing that God was protecting and providing for him? Apparently not. He even told God that he was the only faithful prophet left. God responded by telling Elijah to go stand in the mouth of the cave. He was about to witness God’s amazing power displayed just for him.

“Go out and stand before me on top of the mountain,” the Lord said to him. “Then the Lord passed by and sent a furious wind that split the hills and shattered the rocks—but the Lord was not in the wind. The wind stopped blowing, and then there was an earthquake—but the Lord was not in the earthquake.  After the earthquake there was a fire—but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire there was the soft whisper of a voice.”

Again God quietly asked Elijah, “What are you doing here?”

Elijah recounts how he has been working diligently for God, and now he is the only prophet left who serves Him. God instructs Elijah what to do next and then adds, “By the way, Elijah, you are not alone. I have seven thousand people alive in Israel who have remained faithful to me”(1 Kings 19:18, paraphrased).

I love this story. It keeps me on the edge of my seat. God eliminated the enemy with a force of fire power, and yet when He spoke to Elijah at the cave He did so in a still, small voice. I know this voice. I have heard Him speak to my heart, time after time, when I am overwhelmed with sorrow and depression. And when I am tempted to think, I am the only one, He gently reminds me that I am not.

It is unlikely that you have witnessed God’s power displayed in wind, earthquake, or fire, but you have probably heard His voice whispering to you in the night. Maybe you have called out to Him in your suffering, and He has responded gently to your heart. Maybe you have wailed to God, “I want to die! Life is too empty, too painful without my child.” And God responds with calming comfort.

In the quiet, listen.

In the storms, listen.

In your pain and suffering, listen.

God is loving and caring. He will always supply your needs.

Seek your happiness in the Lordand he will give you your heart’s desire.” Psalm 37:4 GNT 

“Your ears will hear sweet words behind you: ‘Go this way. There is your path; this is how you should go’ whenever you must decide whether to turn to the right or the left.”  Isaiah 30:21 VOICE

~Bible story found in 1 Kings 19, Good News Translation (GNT)

 

                                            

 

                            

 

 

 

 

 

This entry was posted on August 28, 2015. 2 Comments

The Grand Reunion ~ I Can Only Imagine!

~ Anniversary post honoring our sons & daughters gone too soon ~

photo 2 (9)

“We who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air.”

Warm sunshine beckons. It’s long, shadowy fingers draw me back to a piece of ground we consider our own. The trees are bursting with buds in all shades of pink, heralding spring’s arrival. It’s time to play outside. It’s also time to put flowers on my son’s grave once more, reminding me that I still have this small task I can do in his honor.

I’m no different from you, dear reader, if you, too, are outliving a child, especially to suicide, which we know adds another painful dimension to our grief. We know the difficulty of carrying on. Some may never set foot in the cemetery where their child is buried. Others may keep their loved one’s remains close by or do other special things to create important memories going forward. Setting out flowers during the warm months centers me, reminding me that life is moving forward. But there is something coming, and I can hardly wait for it to get here!

I am expecting the granddaddy of all reunions ~ the great Grand Reunion in the sky! I have read 1 Thessalonians 4:16-17 over and over, comparing various versions and allowing the words to sink deeply into my being. They warm my spirit and fill me with hope and longing. Let’s read them together, allowing the energy to capture our imagination and charge our batteries for what is to come:

“On that day, with a command that thunders into the world, with a voice of a chief heavenly messenger, and with a blast of God’s trumpet, the Lord Himself will descend from heaven; and all those who died in the Anointed One, our Liberating King, will rise from the dead first. Then we who are alive and left behind will be snatched up together with them into the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. This is how we, the resurrected and the living, will be with Him forever” (1 Thessalonians 4:16, 17 VOICE).  

I don’t know about you, but for me, this is very good news! I can only imagine!  

It’s okay if you believe differently. Your comments are welcomed so that all readers can be encouraged by our individual pictures of this Grand Reunion. Much of what I have pictured in my mind comes from the above two verses and ignites my imagination. Of course, as a feeble human, I have nothing of such grand scale for comparison. But it helps me visualize this awesome event and long for it . . . to long for it with greater intensity than any planned vacation. I can only imagine!

Please allow me freedom to express that I believe my son is in a deep sleep, referred to as the sleep of death (Psalm 76:5). He is unaware of anything going on above ground (Ecclesiastes 9:5). He doesn’t know who’s President, how the stock market is doing, or who won the Masters this year in his favorite sport. He has no thought or memory (Psalm 146:4). Once he drew his final breath ~ borrowed from the Life Giver ~ he returned to dust. This is the exact reversal of the creation process: God formed man from the dust of the earth, He breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and Adam became the first living being (Genesis 2:7).

It astounds me to realize that I have been on this journey almost ten years now. I actually didn’t think I could survive a week after my boy died. Many of you are new to your grief journey, and your hearts are raw, fragile, and heavy. I know your pain, and I am so sorry for your suffering. It’s hard to keep moving forward. I know. My desire is for this piece to provide hope, encouragement, and be a reminder that time does pass. With all the mayhem occurring in the world today I think we don’t have much longer to wait. Any day now Jesus could return. I can only imagine!

Should He delay, perhaps I will go to my rest, but if not, I can tell you what I will do: I will drive about two miles down the road, make a left turn into the cemetery, follow the winding road back to a line of trees, and arrive where my son is buried. Maybe I will pitch a tent nearby, camping out in anticipation. If the heavens start to rumble, and the air becomes supercharged with energy, it’s time for me to dash to my son’s spot. I can only imagine!

Will this be a quiet event? Absolutely not! There will be shouts and thunder and trumpet blasts in the skies. The pandemonium undoubtedly will reverberate around the world, since every eye will see Him come (Revelation 1:7). And not only that, for the first time ever, cemeteries will be the grandest, happiest, busiest, noisiest places on earth. Families like ours will gather in eager anticipation. My heart will be pounding out of my chest as we wait in breathless excitement for our precious son and brother to pop up out of the ground. In fact, his dad had better take a step or two back from where he is standing (in the picture above), for our boy could shoot out of the ground like a ball out of a cannon! Or, maybe “Gabe,” his guardian angel who was by his side all of his life, will give us a huge grin before he reaches down into the ground, grabs Greg by the hand, and pulls him up out of there! I can only imagine!

Whether I get my first hug on the ground or in the air does not matter. I can hardly wait! As our feet leave the ground, we will keep our eyes fixed on the sky, which will grow brighter and brighter as Jesus Christ, crowned King of Kings and Lord of Lords, surrounded by billions of heavenly angels, draws closer and closer. The colors, the strains of beautiful music, and the angels singing in the skies, will be unlike anything I have ever seen or heard. Can I absorb it all? Can my eyes and ears take it all in? My heart will be full to bursting with my arms clasped tightly around those I love and have missed for so long. I can only imagine!

I close my eyes and try to picture what it will be like. Whenever I become discouraged and think this reunion is taking too long to arrive, I hit “start” and replay my reunion “video” over and over in my mind to encourage me to hold on. The great Grand Reunion is coming! I can only imagine!

That is what the Scripture means when it says, “No eye has seen, no ear has heard, and no mind has imagined what God has prepared for those who love him.” 1 Corinthians 2:9 NLT 

 “And then there will be one huge family reunion with the Master. So reassure one another with these words.” 1 Thessalonians 4:18 MSG

I can only imagine!

This entry was posted on August 14, 2015. 6 Comments

In the Trenches

sharing the journey

“I am the Lord your God . . . who leads you in the way that you should go.” Isaiah 48:17 AMP

To my faithful readers: Thank you for sticking by my blog even as I “disappeared” for weeks due to computer failure. I am limping along with my old one, but a new computer will be up and running in the next few weeks.

* * *

I’ve been in grief’s deep trenches “forever” it seems. Many seasons have come and gone. In my opinion, burying a child who has died by suicide is the hardest battle one can endure on Planet Earth. I was blindsided, gutted, and left wondering what happened. I will likely spend the rest of my life trying to fill in the missing pieces. Unlike death from disease, old age, or even accidents ~ where law enforcement specialists can usually put the jigsaw puzzle together ~ suicide survivors are left with jagged holes in their report. We are more likely left with unanswered questions to carry the rest of our days. Sound familiar? I know this deep pain. I know what it feels like to outlive my child. I know the longing and deep anguish that hounds my every step like suffocating shadows wearing combat boots. Battle weary, it is a challenge to keep going. You too?

Every anniversary of my son’s death, and often in between, I struggle with his final personal battle, wondering how things could have been different, and missing him so much. Many “newbies” to this grief journey, may find it a challenge to get out of bed every day, put one foot in front of the other, and keep up with the living going on around them. But as tough as moving forward is, I can never do it alone. Over time, I learned to turn my mess over to my Commander-in-Chief, the God of heaven.

I invite you to take a look back with me as I share a bit of my war story when I lost my son to suicide. It eventually led to a grief ministry, but that comes later.To say that I was under a rock or unavailable for a couple of years is no exaggeration. I had no connections with anyone who was surviving in the suicide trenches, so where could I turn? In time, I sensed God nudging me, trying to get my attention. It was as if He was saying to my heart, “I want you to reach out to others who are grieving loss from suicide.”

And my response, after recovering from shock at His request, was, “Excuse me, God? You mean You want me, who has been curled up in a fetal position and under a rock so long I don’t remember, to reach out and help others? How do I do that exactly? And whatever do I have to offer another griever, other than a shattered heart?”

Like many of you, I finally joined grief sites on social media. Sometimes I add comments to what others have said. It totally surprised me one day to read something I had written and another griever had copied and pasted my words and sent them back around. I read the comment, which included my quote, and gulped. Did I really write that? Hopefully, readers found it meaningful and helpful, as I intended. The paragraph below is one of those examples. I truly meant these words when I wrote them, and perhaps they are worth repeating for the benefit of those who are new to this journey. If they don’t fit where you are now, one can always tuck them away for future pondering:

“Coming face to face with horrible tragedy, drops us to our knees, where we are in the perfect position to grasp the feet of Jesus, refusing to let go, like Jacob, until He blesses us. And that He does. He also will never leave us or forsake us ~ His promise, not mine. Like you, I would have rather escaped major sorrow, but looking back, I see more clearly than I did facing forward. Tragedy has a way of revealing pure gold that has been tried in the fire. Humbled by horror, perhaps we are all the more useful to our Heavenly Father.”

Yes, I have been humbled to the marrow. There is no escaping the horror of the sudden death of our children, and all too often, it is by their choice. It is a pain like no other, and although the intensity waxes and wanes over time, there is no doubt it will continue all of our days. By God’s amazing grace, something good can come from it . . . will come from it.

Now back to God asking me to help others. I wondered what He had in mind. I don’t remember the timeline. I’m sure that much time passed before anything came of it, and it didn’t happen overnight. First He gently asked me to journal my pain to Him. I emphatically refused. He nudged. I refused. He nudged some more until I gave in, sat down in front of a blank PC screen, and said out loud, “Now what?” Amazingly, the screen did not stay blank for long, and before I realized what was happening, words of raw, painful emotions were pouring out of me. Writing, something I had never done before, became a healing balm for my soul.

After I had journaled for a time, somehow I just knew He had plans to share my private thoughts with others, and the very idea scared me spit-less. Nonetheless, I tried to keep an open mind, knowing God could do anything with willing clay. If He wanted to take my journal and turn it into a book, then He would have to do it. How? I had no idea. God had given me my marching orders, but it did not mean the enemy raised the flag of surrender. Hardly. I learned really fast that I needed my Commander-in-Chief always at my back, guiding and guarding me as I wrote. The enemy must have sent his scouts to see where they could sabotage God’s soldiers, because two computer hard drives bit the dust while I was writing. My faith grew as I realized I could put my trust in my God, and He would never fail me. Our side won the battle over the manuscript, and it was not lost with the computer.

Today I look back at an amazing feat, really a miracle. A book about my shattered heart after suicide was published several years ago. Judging by the responses from grievers, God not only is blessing others through those pages but also is honoring my son’s memory.

I share the quote and publishing as examples to remind us grievers that good things do come out of this lifelong journey. Suicide is not the end, but the beginning of yet another portion of our lives. Granted, it’s not what we would plan . . . not in the least. And we get battle fatigue. But God can use even something this painful for His glory, even a miracle of helping us heal. When tragedy strikes, we are wounded beyond human repair. And if the loss itself is not enough, bullets are constantly whizzing overhead: bullets of ignorant comments or bullets of sabotage by those who are supposed to support us, to name two. I’m sure you can think of more. Deep in the trenches, we learn to keep our heads down. In fact, learning to bow our heads in prayer is like connecting our “plug” into the Power Source of heaven. God hears and answers every prayer. He stays in the trenches with us. He knows we are broken, and over time, He will heal.

It’s not in looking forward that I am aware of healing, but in looking backward. Looking back is where I have 20/20 vision. Looking back reveals a surprise ~ where I can actually see the evidence of how God has led me. By experience I am learning that I can trust Him to inch me forward and eventually lead me out of the trenches and into eternity to live forever with my loved ones. He has beautiful plans for all of us.

“Jesus answered them, ‘Do you finally believe? . . . I’ve told you all this so that trusting me, you will be unshakable and assured, deeply at peace. In this godless world you will continue to experience difficulties. But take heart! I’ve conquered the world.’” John 16:31-33 MSG

“Shattered by Suicide, My Conversations With God After the Tragic Death of My Son” & “Picking Up the Pieces, Stories of Encouragement for Mending Hearts” by Gracie Thompson

 

 

 

This entry was posted on July 31, 2015. 6 Comments

Sweet memories

I drew them [the children] to me with affection and love. I picked them up and held them to my cheek; I bent down to them and fed them.  Hosea 11:4, GNT

00864

Berries and vanilla bean ice cream. Yum!

It’s not much of an achievement, but I could probably walk away with a lifetime award for Dairy Queen consumption. Soft-serve may not fill your sweet tooth, but it does mine. Factor in a hot, muggy day, and I am ready to lick a cone.

When I was young, living in a small town had its perks. From my childhood home to the Dairy Queen was about three city blocks. I loved it when Daddy said these yummy words, “Let’s go get a twenty-five cent-er” which was ice cream code for “Let’s buy the largest cone DQ sells and pay only 25 cents.”

I know I date myself when I ask this question: can you believe how cheap Dairy Queen treats were “back in the day?” Drive-thru had not been invented yet, so I stood in line until it was my turn to order. The person inside where it was cool, would lift up the window and listen to my selection, then lower the window to keep the hot air out while making my treat. The window would open again, and money and treat would be exchanged. Ahhh. Cold, creamy, smooth, and sweet. What’s not to like?

My firstborn as a young child could win hands down for making his ice cream last the longest. He absolutely loved the stuff ~ probably pulled from my gene pool. I remember his first taste, however, provided by an enthusiastic aunt. She smiled. He made a face and cried. Even though it was not love at first taste, it soon grew on him and he joined his parents in licking the creamy goodness.

I think my favorite family ice cream memory involved a trip to the coast, and boy, it was a boiling hot day. We were walking across a bed of sizzling sea shells, so unlike the crunch of hot gravel underfoot back home. We needed a ferry to give us a lift and had to wait for it to return before we could board. The heat was unbearable. Was there no relief? And then we spotted it. Towering high above us was the sweetest sign of signs, [DAIRY QUEEN]!!! We were not seeing things. This was no mirage! And I can honestly say I have never had a DQ before or since that tasted that good.

Memories. Life is made up of them. Many are wonderfully sweet while others are so desperately sad, especially after losing someone we love. So why didn’t I take more photos to remember these now priceless moments when there was no one missing back then? Did I think there would always be more opportunities? Yes. I’m sure I did. Did I not factor in the possibility of tragedy? No. Absolutely not.

All memories remain as we survive, outliving our loved ones. But it becomes a blessing when one’s grief journey is able to take a stroll back to happier times. If it’s too soon, and the wound is too raw, I am so sorry for your suffering, but don’t lose hope. You will begin to remember sweeter memories when you are ready . . . maybe even ones smothered in ice cream.

O taste and see that the Lord [our God] is good! Blessed (happy, fortunate, to be envied) is the man who trusts and takes refuge in Him. Psalms 34:8 AMP

 

 

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

Life is fragile

~ “Life is fragile, handle with prayer.” Harold B. Lee ~

file000942152455 (1)

We can’t stay in worry mode all the time . . . wondering what calamity may be lurking around the bend. Life is to be embraced to the fullest, but it is fragile . . . and I had no idea how much.

We were excited. It was to be the first family gathering of its kind. Immediate family members would be traveling miles and miles from all directions to finally be together. My sons and I would finally meet my step-son’s wife. Many years before, when my boys were young, I met my step-son and my sons met their step-brother. And now, years later, we would all be together at the same time. How grand! I don’t remember which came first: the planned visit or realizing all the celebration dates falling within the vacation time. How wonderful that we would be able to celebrate birthdays, a graduation and an anniversary, my husband’s and mine.

My husband and I got there first. The boys arrived in the wee hours the following morning. They came in clamoring for breakfast, and it wasn’t long before all the youngins were joking and exchanging barbs as if they had known each other their entire lives.

I was loving every second of it. Seeing them all together, enjoying each other though strangers, put me at ease and warmed my heart. I smiled until my cheeks ached. We laughed. We played. We toured the sights. We feasted. We took advantage of the time we had together, to make good memories to cherish for years to come.

“Let’s make this an annual event,” we promised each other, vowing to not wait this long ever again. But unbeknownst to us, it was to be our first and last family gathering. In just weeks, we would gather again, but this time for the funeral of our firstborn. Never again . . . on this earth . . . would we all be together.

We just never know . . .

I wonder, am I the only one? Do other readers of my blog have similar stories? Consider sharing your story for the benefit of us all. It doesn’t hurt to be reminded how fragile life is. We know to take it slowly, which is the only speed most of us grievers can manage. We are known to say frequently on social media,”Take one step, one breath at a time.” It is a gentle reminder, particularly to new grievers, to focus on simple tasks and let the rest go for now. Perhaps it’s another way of suggesting, “Life is fragile; handle with prayer.”

Recalling my bittersweet story, I can’t help but look longingly toward heaven for hope. I know this earth is rapidly breaking down. We hear of wars and climate change and mass shootings and natural disasters everywhere. You may disagree, but when I hear about the awful things taking place around the world, I am reminded of the Scripture that says:

“You are going to hear the noise of battles close by and the news of battles far away; but do not be troubled. Such things must happen, but they do not mean that the end has come. Countries will fight each other; kingdoms will attack one another. There will be famines and earthquakes everywhere.” Matthew 24:6-7 GNT

That reads like yesterday’s news, doesn’t it? Prophecy predicted this a long time ago and yet, it has a familiar ring to it. It’s sobering. I can’t ignore it. The death of my son by suicide reminds me every day that this world, in its current state, cannot last. It appears to be rapidly “fraying at the seams.”

While we remain here on earth, there will always be sad stories to share. But I also want to share the hope and joy we can have . . . even in the midst of our pain. My joy comes in knowing that I trust God. He is the only One with power to save us from destruction. It’s His mercy that nurses our fractured earth along, not wanting anyone to miss out on the good stuff to come.

There will be an end to earth as we know it (2 Peter 3:10). But first Jesus will return! He’s coming to awaken those who have been resting in peace (RIP). All the living and our precious loved ones we have missed for so long will at last be together forever.

“Why wait?” I often ask Jesus. “Why not come today?” But He is merciful. He is waiting for everyone to choose his master. We have two choices: God or Satan. Good vs evil. It’s sobering to realize that there is not a third choice: me. We either choose God or choose Satan. If we don’t choose either, we get Satan by default. We have enough evidence to make the right choice, don’t we? Let’s choose wisely. Eternity hangs in the balance.

Listen! I stand at the door and knock; if any hear my voice and open the door, I will come into their house and eat with them, and they will eat with me.  To those who win the victory I will give the right to sit beside me on my throne, just as I have been victorious and now sit by my Father on his throne. Revelation 3:20-21 GNT

Splashes of joy

“The love of God toward you is like the Amazon River flowing down to water a single daisy.” ~ F.B. Meyer

Puddles are magnets

Puddles are magnets to little feet

He hushes the storm to a calm and gentle whisper. Psalm 107:29 AMP

Who didn’t love splashing in after-shower puddles back when you didn’t have a care in the world? Remember doing this when you were a kid? First the dark clouds gathered, then the rumble of distant thunder grew louder and louder as the storm drew closer. Then the scary, ear-splitting clap of thunder as the clouds released their load. Sometimes the pouring rain had barely reduced to a shower before the sun came out, as if it couldn’t wait to shine once again.

As a child I could hardly wait until it was safe to get outside after the rain and stomp in the puddles. Never mind boots. Who has time for those? And splashing barefooted was the best. What joy!

As adults we are more serious, and laden down with responsibilities. Then a monster storm of tragedy strikes and turns our world upside down. It shatters us, leaving us numb and mute for a time. And even after years on our grief journeys, we can still feel the effects of that horrific storm. We shudder to think there could be more storms in our future. Where do we find shelter?

My grief journey has been stormy. There has always been a rumble of distant thunder when another anniversary date rolls around. I feel like taking cover under a layer of blankets that day and staying huddled in the safety of my bed until the day is over, but I don’t do that.

Instead of huddling under blankets, I am learning to ask God to carry the load of grief while I walk beside Him. With my little hand in His big one He holds the umbrella over us both. Sometimes He carries me when I feel too weak to walk on my own. Together we weather the storms.

I have a friend who is a mom, like many of us, on this life-long grief journey. Her story includes the loss of two sons. She lost one in an accident and the other to suicide. I cannot fathom her pain. I’ve lost one child to suicide and that is enough, but she is outliving two. And she is not alone. There are others out there, perhaps even readers of this blog, who have lost more than one child, or who have lost their only child. My heart goes out to my friend and to all of you. I am so sorry for your unspeakable loss and pain. We have a time of it, don’t we? Is it possible to feel joy again? Can we be encouraged in spite of the storms?

I would like to include some words from my friend, who has given me permission to share. Our stories are all different and uniquely our own, but in sharing, we learn and grow in our understanding of this giant storm of pain that envelopes us. Here are the words from my friend:

“How does one find joy again? To fully understand, you would have to live inside my skin and walk my path, but I would not wish for anyone to experience the losses I have had in my life. I still walk with a heavy heart, and I don’t expect it will ever change while living on this earth.

“Do you feel like your sorrow is taking over your life? Keep hoping, keep dreaming, keep praying, and God will see you through. Just be patient. He will bring back your joy. How do I know this to be true? He has done it for me, in spite of the loss of two of my precious children. If I focus on Him, instead of myself and all the pain I carry, He enables me to live beyond the pain.

“Trust me when I say ~ living after losing not one, but two children, is impossible without God. I miss my children every day, but God walks with me through the storms, and even carries me when I am weak and the pain is too great.

“One can experience the blessings of following God without tragedy, but to rely on God alone, after tragedy strikes, is a life-changing experience. It’s not an easy road. There were times when I just wanted to fall by the wayside or jump off a cliff and end the pain. But instead, God slowly revealed Himself to me. He came along side me and we are walking together as He heals me day by day.”

Dear reader, are you encouraged to believe that joy is possible in spite of your sorrow? It’s unlikely that joy will come in river-sized portions, but more likely in small quantities, like splashes. Unexpected, cooling splashes. And for a few moments, we are refreshed. And for a few moments, we experience joy.

“In the shadow of your wings, [O God], I find protection until the raging storms are over.” Ps. 57:1 GNT

“Yes, it is God who raises the humble and gives joy to all who mourn.” Job 5:11 GNT

 

 

 

 

 

 

This entry was posted on June 12, 2015. 4 Comments

He’s our calm

Calm, Roy Lessin, Photo by Marina Bromley

Dear Readers,

I am sharing a devotional by Roy Lessin because it touches me deeply. Perhaps it will leave its mark on you, too. I apply most everything I read to my personal circumstances. Even though Lessin’s message may not be written about survival after loss, I believe there is healing in the words he shares. How often we liken our loss to being in a storm, frightened out of our wits, and needing guidance. Read about the storms and the only One who can calm them.

I recently read this…
Their ships were tossed to the heavens and plunged again to the depths; the sailors cringed in terror. They reeled and staggered like drunkards and were at their wits’ end. “LORD, help!” they cried in their trouble, and He saved them from their distress. He calmed the storm to a whisper and stilled the waves. What a blessing was that stillness as He brought them safely into harbor! Psalm 107:26-30 (NLT)

Which led me to read this…

And a great windstorm arose, and the waves beat into the boat, so that it was already filling. But He was in the stern, asleep on a pillow. And they awoke Him and said to Him, “Teacher, do You not care that we are perishing?” Then He arose and rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, “Peace, be still!” And the wind ceased and there was a great calm.
Mark 4:37-39 (NKJV)

Which led me to this…

Late that night, the disciples were in their boat in the middle of the lake, and Jesus was alone on land. He saw that they were in serious trouble, rowing hard and struggling against the wind and waves. About three o’clock in the morning Jesus came toward them, walking on the water. He intended to go past them, but when they saw Him walking on the water, they cried out in terror, thinking He was a ghost. They were all terrified when they saw Him. But Jesus spoke to them at once. “Don’t be afraid,” He said. “Take courage! I am here!” Then He climbed into the boat, and the wind stopped. They were totally amazed, Mark 6:47-51 (NLT)

Which brought me to this…

How are we doing in our little boat of life—as we sail upon the sea of culture’s changing tide, upon the strong winds of adversity that batter against our sides, upon the coming and going of people’s views and opinions that seek to redirect our course, upon the highs and lows of the world’s pressures and demands that put stress upon our sails, upon the churning waters of rebellion and discontentment that seek to overturn us, upon the undercurrents of opposition and persecution that want to push us back, upon the riptides of the devil’s schemes that want to keep us from advancing, and upon the choppy onslaughts of misunderstanding, misrepresentation and false accusation that want to sink us before arriving on the other shore?

Let’s pray for one another and encourage one another to stay in the boat…and always remember that it is not our boat . . . it belongs to our Captain. His hands are on the wheel, He has set the course, He has trimmed the sail and knows how to use the winds for good. His compass is true, His bearings are right. The boat won’t sink! He will never abandon His post, and He will safely bring us to the other shore.

Do you find yourself battling against a storm of emotions or opposition that is beating against your soul? Ask your Captain, Jesus, to speak to the storm…He still has the power to quiet the winds and calm the storm.

~Roy Lessin

Photo by Marina Bromley

Spinning a new normal

“‘Normal’ is just a setting on your dryer.” Patsy Clairmont

Laundromet

Life may be spinning, but never out of God’s control.

Some of us use the phrase “new normal” to describe a place where we have been thrust suddenly after tragic loss ~ a place wildly beyond our control. What does “new normal” mean, anyway? Is it an accurate phrase in your world? It is in mine. I was shocked into numbness, and shattered beyond recognition, after my son’s suicide.  I didn’t know bottom from top. There was no way to get around or beyond my tragedy. Does this sound familiar? Have you been pulverized by adversity? The old normal is forever in the past, and a new normal is hopefully, on its way. Maybe that’s not a bad thing . . . particularly if we are able to pause, reflect, and possibly grasp, the spiritual significance within our circumstances. At least it is helping me to do so.

After losing my son, and after much time had passed, I began to contemplate what my future might look like without my firstborn in it. Without a doubt, it would require a new normal. And without a doubt, it would require God to create it. I was forced to look deep within my heart, and I came face to face with a surprising truth: I had never really grasped God’s goodness in my life before. Even though I grew up in a Christian home, I did not understand, personally, how much God loves me. Really loves me! You might say, I was full of assumptions, and most likely took each day for granted. I was too busy for reflection ~ assuming things would always be the same. There was never room for “what if’s” in my thinking. Wouldn’t that be tempting the negative or fate, as some say?

After tragedy struck, and after much time in the trenches of sorrow, I began to realize what I had been missing in my life. As my thirsting heart opened to His Spirit like a dry sponge soaks up moisture, He has helped me understand His love, goodness, faithfulness, mercy, and tender regard for my wellbeing. God, and His overwhelming love for me, had been there all along, and I was too blind to see it. But there’s good news! I am not the exception. God loves and cares for each one of His children, of all ages, with that gigantic heart of His.

Losing my son opened my eyes in another way, too ~ opened them to the invisible, but not so subtle, prowling evil monster, Satan. It was the devil who took the life of my son. Perhaps not all at once but gradually, over the years, by keeping his failures ever before him. For example, I suspect that he reminded him over and over that he was worthless, and reminded him over and over that unless he could be a jock like other guys and get the girls, his life was meaningless.

Time, reflection, and prayer for understanding has helped me put as many of the available puzzle pieces of my son’s life together ~ enough for now. All the “why” questions will have to wait to be answered. Like you, and like Abraham of old, “I am confidently waiting for God to bring [me] to that strong heavenly city whose designer and builder is God” (Hebrews 11:10). And once we have all been gathered to our heavenly home, God will answer all our questions to our satisfaction, and wipe away all our tears (Isaiah 25:8).

“Don’t think of Satan as a harmless cartoon character with a red suit and a pitchfork. He is very clever and powerful, and his unchanging purpose is to defeat God’s plans at every turn ~ including His plans for your life.” Billy Graham, The Journey

“The Enemy will take any small victory he can get. It moves from you did a bad thing to you are bad. After a while it just becomes a cloud we live under, accept as normal.”  Ransomed Heart Daily Reading

Has the enemy snuffed out the life of someone you love? I know how painful it is, but really, should we be all that surprised by his evil actions? After all, he is the best in his line of business. On his T-shirt is stamped:

 LIAR

THIEF

COUNTERFEITER

DECEIVER

MURDERER

Scripture calls him the “father of lies” (John 8:44). His very first attack against the human race was to lie to Eve and Adam about God, and cast doubt in their minds about God’s character. Satan is a master of disguises, and creates a counterfeit for every truth, which so closely mirrors the genuine article, that an untrained eye will miss the difference. He’s hoping we’ll buy whatever he’s advertising, promoting, or selling. Our first parents had perfect brains, fresh from the Creator’s hand, and they still bought the lie, leaving the blight of sin forever on the human race.

Are there days when you feel like your life is spinning around and around, like clothes in a dryer going nowhere? Perhaps we can grasp and believe this: God misses nothing. He has not left us alone or comfortless or spinning out of control. Jesus, who is the perfect Antidote to Satan’s poison, said these words of hope: “I am leaving you with a gift—peace of mind and heart. And the peace I give is a gift the world cannot give. So don’t be troubled or afraid” (John 14:27).

Life as we know it includes birth and death. God represents life. He is the Life-giver. Satan represents death. He doesn’t care how he achieves this goal, just as long as he makes it happen. Both extremes exist and are at war with each other, and will be until this life comes to an end. Both sides are fighting for our loyalty. Which side do you trust? Is it time to trust God? We know only the past and present. God knows the past, the present, and the future. His eyes look beyond ours to the future, where sin and Satan will be no more. Maybe it’s time to accept His gift of peace. Maybe it’s time to look up in faith and prepare for His soon return.

“No eye has seen, no ear has heard, and no mind has imagined what God has prepared for those who love him.” 1 Corinthians 2:9 NLT  

 

 

 

This entry was posted on May 29, 2015. 5 Comments

Trash Talk

“You hold my right hand. You guide me with your counsel, leading me to a glorious destiny.” Psalm 73:23, 24 NLT

file0001241530364

tasty trash

It’s quite common to look for someone to blame after losing a precious loved one. Sometimes, out of deep despair, the one we blame is God. I can’t condemn these actions any more than I can whip the cat. I probably blamed Him in the beginning. We might call our blaming or ranting, “trash talk,” but I don’t think it is really intended to insult God. Could it be pain talking?

Some readers may feel a friendship with my cat, Pippy, who has been the topic of my stories on a number of occasions. Take today for instance. He’s usually fast asleep during the midday hours, but for some reason he’s eyeing me warily. Hmmm. Could it be because I see a trash can turned over, and the contents spilled out, as if someone, or in this case, “some thing,” was searching for treasure. Really? Like many other mornings, I pick it all up and stuff it back in the can again, all the while muttering “trash talk” to myself.

There is rarely a morning that I don’t find a trash can on its side, with the floor littered with yesterday’s trash. I’ve yet to figure out what he’s rooting for, but he loves to pilfer through the can looking for something, perhaps a wrapper with a hint of something sweet on it. Who knows? Do I hate him for making a mess? No. Do I whisk him off to the pound, knowing full well that he won’t be given another home? No. I love my cat in spite of all his foibles, frustrating though it may be.

Along this same train of thought, but spiritually speaking, do you think our actions frustrate God? Do you think it hurts His feelings when we blame Him for tearing our family apart? Is He guilty of what we accuse Him of? Does He love us whether we love Him in return or not? The Bible says He does. Even in the depth of our sin, He sent His only Son to take our sins onto Himself; He who knew no sin. He stayed on that cruel cross and died to save you and me from eternal extinction so that we never have to pay the death penalty for our own sins (Romans 6:23). If you remember only one line from this post, let it be this: saving humanity cost Jesus everything.

I don’t know about you, but I have contemplated whether or not I blame God for allowing my child to choose death over life. Because He has all power and therefore, could use it to save my son, I asked Him in my heart, “Why didn’t you save my son from death? I’m his mother, so You should do what I think is best, right?” Within the total silence that followed these two questions, came this thought . . . is it possible that it takes all of God’s power to resist stepping in?

There will come a day when I will be able to ask all my questions and get God’s answers. Meanwhile, I will never understand His mind, for His Word says, “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways and My thoughts than your thoughts.” Isaiah 55:9 AMP

Over the years since my son’s untimely death, I have slowly begun to learn how to love God more deeply than I’ve ever loved anyone before, including my children. God will never leave or forsake you and me (Hebrews 13:5). He will never slam the door in our faces because we scream in His. God is love. He can be no other way. Granted, it does not answer the “why” questions or bring our children back ~ not yet anyway. What He does encourage us to do, is to get to know Him just like we get to know a new friend. He asks that we take time to read about His character, and try to be more like Him. In doing so, our hearts are likely to melt in surrender to our loving heavenly Father, who loves all of His children equally.

Learning to be open to God, comes naturally as we surrender to the wooing of the Holy Spirit. I have found this to be true in my own life since my son died, and I never want to return to the person I was before ~ while he was alive. I know, I know. It’s risky to write that down. It sounds impossible to think, and unbelievably hard to admit, but it is my personal truth. If you strongly disagree, I understand. I took the same stance in the beginning, but over time, God has become more precious than breath, and I know with assurance that one day, He will restore our children. Meanwhile, I lean not on my own understanding, but on His (Proverbs 3:5).

“Whenever God thinks of you, he has your best interests in mind; he has plans to take you further, deeper, and higher than you ever dreamed. This process begins when you seek God and spend time with him. Look for every opportunity to know God.”  Margaret Feinberg, Se
Secret Strength

 

 

This entry was posted on May 22, 2015. 2 Comments

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