“Etched in Stone”

More than 58,000 names

As of 05/2015, there are 58,307 names. (wikipedia)

“I’ll also give a clear, smooth stone inscribed with your new name . . .” Revelation 2:17b

It is awesome and sobering to walk the length of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall in Washington, DC. I had wanted to visit the memorial for a long time. A member of my family died in the Vietnam War. I found him among the 58,307 brave, fallen heroes. Running my hand over his name, etched in the smooth granite surface, it gave me a sickening feeling to think about the awful price his death extracted from his parents, sibling, and others who loved him. Yet, I couldn’t help but feel a sense of pride that my cousin was willing to fight, and give his life if necessary, to defend his homeland.

Recently while rifling through boxes of old greeting cards, I came across a sweet one. On the front of this slightly yellowed card, was a sketch of a tiny baby, but it was the words on the inside, that made it so special. As I read my handwriting, I was instantly transported back to an awesome time; the beginning of my motherhood.

In my hands, once again, I held the birth announcement for our first child, a baby boy. On the card I had written the details we parents couldn’t wait to tell family and friends. Naturally they wanted to know the time of his birth, how much he weighed, and how many inches in length from the top of his head to his toes, and we eagerly shared it!

My, how time has changed everything. I can’t pull that card out now and tease him a little, reminding him how tiny and wrinkled he was when he was brand new. I can’t tell him, once again, how it felt to hold him for the first time. So many wonderful firsts to remember. So many memories to treasure, especially now that suicide has robbed me of his life.

I haven’t written to my precious firstborn lately. I think I will write an update on the backside of this card. Of course it won’t all fit, but we will pretend that it does. You don’t mind if I share it with you, do you?

“My Sweet Son, I loved picking out your name before you were born. I felt so proud the first time I wrote your name on this little card which I quickly mailed to family and friends, so they could share in our joy. It didn’t seem real that you were ours . . . even after all the pain to bring you into the world. Tiny and sweet, you were a precious bundle sent straight from heaven and into our waiting arms.

“How can it be that the only way I see your name from now on is on your marker? So cold. Unfeeling. Impersonal. So final is your resting place. Etched in bronze is the day you were born, and the day you died. How can it be that all we have left of you is in bronze? How can it be that all we have left to remind us that you once lived is a dash? How can a dash represent your life? So unfair! The ache in my heart reminds me that the time you had on this earth was much too short. The raised bronze letters, that spell your name, are more durable than a baby card, but they don’t give me joy. I look down at your name, your beautiful name . . . and the forever river of tears begins to flow.

“Your sleep will be sweet, my precious son, until we meet again (Prov. 3:24). Until then, I write to honor your life and your name. I write to encourage others who grieve. I write to inspire hope when all seems hopeless. I write to remind all of us that there is a higher power larger than ourselves. This higher power, on whom my hope is centered, is Jesus Christ, the Living Hope. Because He lives, we have eternity to look forward to. Because He lives, life is more than dates and dashes. Because He lives, we will have new life without end. My son, no more will your name be etched in stone, bronze, or marble. No more will you need to be etched in my heart . . . when at last I see your beautiful face.”

Love you forever,

Mom

“I’ll also give a clear, smooth stone inscribed with your new name . . .” Revelation 2:17b

Verses shared: The Message Bible (MSG), New International Version (NIV)

 

 
This entry was posted on May 20, 2016. 4 Comments

Almost . . .

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“I wuv you, Mommy”

I’m over the hill . . . and picking up speed. I recently had another birthday. They seem to come around faster and faster the older we get, do they not? In addition to my birthday, the calendar reminds me of another celebration we soon face ~ Mother’s Day. Perhaps you, too, have a hard time with this holiday if you mourn the loss of a precious child. If you have other children at home, they probably still want to celebrate the day. Bless them. I know it’s hard. For me personally, it’s a day I would just as soon ignore.

The May holiday for mothers reminds me of a story. May I share it with you, for no other reason than to, perhaps, coax a smile to our often tearful faces? Please note. This was not funny at the time. Now, I can smile when I think of it. I smile because it is among my treasure of memories ~ back in a time when I had two boys, not one. Back to a time of innocence, where suicide was an unfamiliar word. Sadly, too many of you know the truth of these words.

Instead of the usual incidents occurring when my children were young and underfoot, this story took place when they had “suddenly and without warning” sprouted into teenagers. Remember those years? Gone were the simple, sweet days of childhood. Also gone were the days when I could get my boys to help with household chores. It seemed as soon as there was work to be done, they magically became escape artists. Their lives were consumed with activities perceived more important than what I had in mind, and out the door they’d go. About the same time, they became legal to drive and had jobs after school. I was not likely to see them until evening. Factor in holidays and special events . . . other than their own birthdays . . . and they might be “too busy” to buy a card in celebration, or, bare bones, share good wishes, if not given a strong hint to do so.

Many a year, come the month of May, I was left to wonder: will this be the year one of my men forget? Such was the case this particular Mother’s Day. Down to the wire, per usual, greeting cards were slow to materialize. At the last minute, my younger son, with a sheepish grin on his face, swooped in with a card and tossed it within my reach. I was both relieved and touched, until I opened the card . . . and read this message inside: “You are almost like a mother to me. “What??!! Almost?? What on earth do you mean by “ALMOST like a mother to me”?? I could have smacked him upside the head in an attempt to knock some sense into him!

From distant memory, his explanation went something like this: “Well, uh, there weren’t any good ones left to choose from, and uh, I knew you’d be upset if I didn’t, uh give you something . . . sorry.” It wasn’t terribly funny then, nor was I very understanding of his plight, but now, it has become a funny moment in my memory. I shake my head. It is a reminder that kids, of all ages, exceed our expectations, both pleasurable and not so pleasurable.

Switching gears, I can think of one example where “almost” would be a wonderful relief. Those of us on a grief journey from the loss of a beloved child to suicide, or any other cause, would welcome an “almost”. For suicide an “almost” would mean the attempt had failed. Our child would be given another chance at life.

“Almost” provides relief. Completed does not. The “C” word is all too familiar to survivors of suicide.

Hopefully there are many parents who are able to pull their children back from the brink, saving them from becoming a suicide statistic. Bless you! I know you are eternally grateful. If you happen to read this post, I pray that your child is also grateful for a second chance at life and will find ways to live it to the fullest.

On the other hand, I bear the scars of a suicide statistic. My firstborn completed his attempt. There was no one around to stop him . . . this time. Yes. Previously, he had been given a second chance at life. He took it. We were so relieved and grateful. I held my breath and prayed for him constantly. His life continued on for years, so many so, that I mistakenly thought his troubles were behind him. Alas, they must have continued in a slow simmer, or started up again. I ache to the bone that he is no longer a part of my life.

Aren’t we glad we aren’t almost daughters of God, or almost friends of His Son, Jesus? Spiritually speaking, almost is nothing, nil, zero. How thankful I am that God doesn’t almost save His children. He really has!

“Now God has us where he wants us, with all the time in this world and the next to shower grace and kindness upon us in Christ Jesus. Saving is all his idea, and all his work. All we do is trust him enough to let him do it. It’s God’s gift from start to finish!” Ephesians 2:8-9 MSG

PS – I was recently reminded, once again, of this all-to-familiar family trait when hubby went to the store to buy me a birthday card. In the process he somehow got confused and returned home with a greeting card, which read beautifully until the last line . . . “Happy Birthday, Mom!” Mom??!! Sigh. What can I say? The apples, in this family’s orchard, certainly don’t fall far from the tree.

Verse shared from The Message

Stubborn Dirt

 

file000785016957 - Colored InkWho can tilt the water jars of heaven when the parched ground is dry
    and the soil has hardened into clods?” Job 38:37b-38 NLT

You may be wondering about the title. Why post about dirt? One could go in several directions. You pick yours, and I’ll share one from my memory bank.

Many years ago, having two little boys and trying to keep them clean could be likened to the arduous task of picking up droplets of mercury. One morning before church, after I had gotten them ready and was putting finishing touches on myself, it was all too quiet. Instinct said they were up to something. That “something” turned out to be magic markers; it appeared that each child had used his sibling’s face as a drawing surface. And because it was church day, naturally they chose dark colors for drawing. As you know, there is nothing “magic” about the color disappearing. I scrubbed and scrubbed, stopping short of rubbing off skin, and they still went to church looking like I had beaten them. Fortunately no one called Child Protective Services.

But there is another dirty story, and this dirt was very stubborn, too. After we had an old sidewalk removed and a new sidewalk put in, there remained a little dirt area that needed some sprucing up for “curb appeal.” I purchased some perennials, added some river rocks at the edges, and then I took a shovel to the dirt in the middle of this space. What was I thinking? This dirt had been packed under the sidewalk for decades. It did not budge a millimeter no matter how hard I tried. When I applied the shovel to the surface it resounded like I was banging on stone! I figured I would need a jackhammer to move it. (Anyone have one I can borrow?)

Digging spiritually, do we have dirt? Do you agree we do? We have not only outside dirt, but also inside dirt which needs frequent removal. We keep dirty little secrets, share private dirt others dish out, and the list goes on. If that is not dirty enough, we have an enemy who loves to grind our faces in the ground every chance he gets, especially after shattering loss. After my son died by suicide, everything seemed dark in my life. When my spirits were at their lowest is when I felt the devil’s boot pressing my face into the dirt.

When this happens, I turn my thoughts toward heaven and ask, “Lord, where are you when life’s dirt is more than I can bear? Are you still fighting for me? Are you taking a mighty swing at the enemy, knocking him flat? Please kick him to the curb, and surround me with your holy warring angels, who stand shoulder to shoulder, so that he cannot get back in. I need protection from his heavy boot and flying arrows.”

“We have been pushed down into the dirt. We are lying face down in the dust” (Psalm 44:25 ERV).

But wait . . . there is Good News! Although we live on a planet overrun by sin, Satan does not have the last word. He would like you and me to give him room to work in our minds and hearts and then sign on the dotted line to be comrades forever. Fortunately, we do have a choice.

Jesus also desires that we give Him permission to work in our minds and hearts. He doesn’t force our allegiance, but opens wide His arms, drawing us close with His nail-scarred hands. He demonstrated His love at Calvary by paying the ultimate price to set us free. If He has our permission, He will take care of our sins, one by one. He will also permanently eradicate the world’s sin infestation very soon. We can be certain because of the promise given to Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden after they sinned so long ago.

“And I will make you and the woman hate each other, and your seed and her seed will hate each other. He will crush your head, and you will crush his heel” (Genesis 3:15 NLV).

Satan will finally get his due. At last his head will be under God’s heavy boot, and thankfully, it will be an injury from which he won’t recover. Praise God!

Verses shared: Easy-to-Read Version (ERV), New Living Translation (NLT), New Life Version (NLV)

 

Soakin’ Up the Love

lil orphan

Li’l orphan

“Not a single sparrow can fall to the ground without your Father knowing it.” Matthew 10:29 NLT

I first spotted him stalking a critter of some kind in our yard. I don’t usually see kittens among the plethora of adult cats who roam the fields and farmlands around our home. A tiny kitten looked totally out of place, and touched this Mommy’s heart. Obviously we didn’t need another cat added to our menagerie of three, but I could set out food and fresh water for him (or her ~ I can’t easily tell). A few meals might put some meat on his bones and help prepare him for his first, inevitably cold winter.

He ran away the first time I ventured outside and into his line of vision. I called. He stopped to listen. Eventually he got brave enough to come and eat a bit of food I set out in a bowl for him. Starvation must have made him braver than he would normally be. As soon as he felt safe enough to inch closer, I picked him up and immediately noticed he had been cared for long enough to have his front paws declawed. How unkind of someone to abandon him to fend for himself after weakening his chances for survival in the wild.

Over the weeks leading up to cold weather, we became friends. He “talked” when I approached and loved to be picked up and stroked, giving me a concert of soft purring. He’s all black except for a couple of small dots of white on his belly. Rudy, what I’ve named him, bears a striking resemblance to a large, black and white tomcat that prowls our end of the neighborhood. Tuxedo, what I’ve dubbed him, is likely the father of this kitten but obviously not interested in his welfare. The world will be an unfriendly place for one so small and unable to defend himself like all the other feral felines. “Take care of him, Lord,” I prayed. I know He cares for sparrows, so He must care for cats among His other creatures.

When I think of how the Creator takes care of His little, furry creatures, I’m reminded that He cares so much more for His children. We are invaluable and dearly loved, you and I, and those of us who grieve must be hugged especially tightly to His breast day and night.

You may be at a place in your grief journey where you feel neither loved nor protected by God. Your anger may burn red hot toward Him. After all, He could have prevented your child’s untimely death, could He not? *Each one of us is entitled to our opinions. In my case, I blamed. I raged. I turned away from God. He finally got my attention when the fog lifted in my head. Slowly, softly, tenderly, He has shown me how much He loves. He loves and adores me and my children, including the one who died by suicide. He feels the same toward you . . . and your children.

My li’l orphan kitten seeks comfort on my lap. Mostly he wants to stand up with his front paws on my chest as he tries to “nurse” a ripple of fabric on my shirt. Poor baby. I suspect he was not ready to leave his mommy’s warmth. As much as he desires food and water, he desires love so much more. Despite the curious stares of my suddenly territorial cats through the window panes, I give Rudy the love he so desperately craves. Now that he knows the comfort humans can give, he wants more.

Just like li’l orphan, Rudy, I desperately crave love and comfort, too. Yes, it’s been years since tragedy flattened me. And yes, it took a while before I could face the world again, but God never tired of providing His loving comfort when I needed it. And oh, how I still need it! Sometimes I follow His huge footsteps or walk beside Him, hand in hand. Sometimes I prefer to be curled up in His lap where I feel warm and secure, soakin’ up His love.

“Indeed the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Do not be afraid; you are far more valuable than many sparrows.”  Luke 12:7 AMP

*I imagine if you are like me, you have combed literature for answers to the hard questions like this one: “God, why didn’t You prevent the death of my child?” I have spent much time asking God to help me understand my son’s death; in fact, to make sense out of the senseless, when apparently, it is impossible to do so. Rather than give me a direct answer, He has broadened the scope of my view of this world in light of eternity, which has finally given me peace. I invite you to keep asking your higher power the hard questions, and please don’t stop until you feel a sense of peace. I know that God will answer all my questions once I get to heaven; however, when I see my son again, I doubt I will remember what I wanted to ask Him.

Scriptures taken from the New Living Translation (NLT) and the Amplified Bible (AMP)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Who stole my child?

 “The first step on the way to victory is to recognize the enemy.” Corrie Ten Boom

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Demon death stole life from my son. This Man paid the ultimate price to give it back.

(Dear Reader, if your grief is very fresh, feel free to save this post to read later.)

My child was ripped from my life. Demon Death, the enemy, Satan, or however you refer to the CEO of evil, stole my child. I did not give him up. I could never give him up. Demon Depression tormented him from the time he was a teen and into adulthood, stalking his steps, making him feel less secure as a man, perhaps even worthless. 

Women belittled him, while in relationships, before dumping him. “What a waste,” was the message sneered from Satan’s downturned lips through their red ones. Wrong message. Hurtful, hateful messages.

Lonely, broken, and craving marital love, my son caved to the torment. He didn’t want to die; he just wanted the pain to stop.

My heart breaks all over again just writing these words. It was the wrong order of things. Wasn’t he supposed to bury me at death from old age? But it didn’t happen that way. Instead I was shocked senseless by my firstborn’s death by suicide.

I have no clues from a final letter, email, or chatter on social media as proof my son felt this way. But I have history.

I prayed for each one of my children before he was ever born. I prayed to raise them to the best of my ability with God’s love and help. I prayed for my first teen, who seemed so lost at times and yet so quiet that I didn’t know what was going on inside his head. I prayed and begged God to spare him when he didn’t show up for work that day . . . that awful, horrific day that change my life forever.

With a tear-stained face I was forced to face what evil had done as I looked upon the still form of my precious firstborn son. Death is so cold, so firm to the touch . . . the exact opposite of the warmth of life that surrounds us. I longed to shake his shoulder gently or whisper in his ear to wake him up, but the enemy, Demon Death, was in charge at this moment in time; however, his end will come. I can’t wait for this promise to be fulfilled: “The last hostile power to be destroyed is death itself” (1 Corinthians 15:26). This is very good news and gives us reason to hope, does it not?

I don’t know what works for you, but when pain and sadness overtake me, I focus on hope. The Bible has hundreds of texts with the word “hope” in them if I am willing to dig a little. The sample of texts below bathe me in fresh hope to help keep me going. (If ever you wish to search for yourself, try BibleGateway.com. Enter a word of interest, choose from the list of versions, and allow God’s Word to soak into your thirsty soul.)

“The Eternal sustains all who stumble on their way. For those who are broken down, God is near. He raises them up in hope” (Psalm 145:14).

“Your future with Him will be certain, and you will not have hoped in vain” (Proverbs 23:18).

We rest in this hope we’ve been given—the hope that we will live forever with our God—the hope that He proclaimed ages and ages ago (even before time began). And our God is no liar; He is not even capable of uttering lies” (Titus 1:2).

Watch for His return; expect the blessed hope we all will share when our great God and Savior, Jesus the Anointed, appears again” (Titus 2:13).

“And in that moment, at that glorious time, people will say, ‘This is our God! We put our hope in him. We knew that He would save us!” (Isaiah 25:9a).

I believe Jesus died for all mankind, and now He lives! Satan does not have the last word. Jesus does.  I can hardly wait for a brand spanking New Earth, totally beautiful, totally awesome. The devil and death will be gone for good. Forever we shall live in perfect peace with our risen King and our precious loved ones.

Jesus said, “Do not be afraid; I am the First and the Last [absolute Deity, the Son of God], and the Ever-living One [living in and beyond all time and space]. I died, but see, I am alive forevermore, and I have the keys of [absolute control and victory over] death and of Hades (the realm of the dead).” Revelation 1:17b-18, Amplified Bible
 
Scripture taken from The Voice (VOICE) unless otherwise indicated.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

On Broadway: “The Scent of a Woman”

file000205431503 - Broadway Curtains

Have you had the privilege of attending a banquet as the guest of honor? One might assume this distinction would entitle one to be respected or even admired among the assembly of invited guests, but this evening it is mostly pretense. Much is astir. Between social, political, and religious differences, the food is the only safe topic for conversation. However, some guests are likely multitasking, that is . . . munching while plotting the perfect murder.

Act One

Lights go out. The curtain goes up revealing a lavish banquet room, from gleaming floors to glitzy chandeliers. Around each exquisitely set table are seated distinguished guests in their finest attire, each absorbed in polite conversation. At the head table sits the host, and Simon is his name. He is a prominent Pharisee in the Jewish community. This is his elaborate home, and these are his colleagues and friends. Flanking him on either side are his honored guests. To his left is Jesus of Nazareth, who healed him of leprosy, and to his right is Lazarus of Bethany, whom Jesus had recently given a second chance at life. Both are well known in this populated town as well as in the neighboring towns and villages.

Simon taps his dinner knife against his goblet, making a ring tone heard across the room. The guests immediately give Simon their full attention.

Simon stands to his feet. “Greetings again, everyone,” he begins. “I am deeply honored to welcome each of you to my home. Martha, the sister of our honored guest, Lazarus, is the best cook around, and she has prepared the finest food for your pleasure this evening. As our servants present the courses to you, please partake and enjoy yourselves.”

Everyone claps a hearty response. The orchestra begins to play a fine favorite of the day as servants enter the banquet room, bearing trays loaded with warm rolls and side salads.

Behind the Scenes Duo

Abel & Abner

The banquet continues undisturbed with the guests apparently enjoying each course. The orchestra plays quietly in the background as Abel and Abner take their places behind the microphone on center stage. Hopefully no one is confused; well, maybe a few are. Some patrons appear to be intently studying their programs apparently thinking, who are these two and why are they disrupting the play? Shhh. They’re speaking now. Let’s listen.

Abel:  Nice banquet. Wish I had been invited. Simon gives them frequently, I understand. Perhaps I should volunteer to help out in the kitchen, then at least I could sample the food. I hear it’s always pretty awesome. But we’d better explain why we’re up here before the “natives get restless” and pelt us with tomatoes!

Abner:  You’re right about that!  Ladies and gentlemen, we are here to give you some interesting facts to enhance your enjoyment of the play. Most of the invited guests belong to different religious sects, which are basically at odds with each other. But they are unified in one concern: what can be done to stop Jesus? He is stirring things up with His teachings. The people are flocking to hear Him speak. The leaders are defiant. They, alone, are keepers of the truth. They are not about to accept another authority no matter who He claims to be. Moving in on their territory, Jesus is causing them to lose control of the people. Reports of so-called miracles have reached their ears and the leaders are in an uproar. Their exasperation with this troublesome itinerant has reached a fevered pitch. Something must be done!

Abel: And if these concerns were not enough, Jesus created a spectacle in front of a crowd of people when He brought Lazarus back to life! Lazarus is telling his story to whoever will listen, and the authorities want him silenced because it threatens their power and control. Bringing a man back to life is the “straw that broke the camel’s back,” and they are livid. It must be stopped, even if it means hiring a hit man!

Abner:  Probably not appropriate table conversation this evening, but I wouldn’t put it past Simon or any of his pals, for that matter. They are so angry; they are probably bold enough to talk about assassination right under the honored guests’ noses over dessert!

Abel:  And speaking of dessert, I’ve heard it’s delicious! Someone said that it’s Martha’s classic, warm Apple Cake with Cinnamon Ice Cream. Just picturing it makes my mouth water. We’re done here, so let’s make a beeline for the kitchen. If we’re lucky, maybe there will be some dessert left!

The audience claps as Abel and Abner exit the stage.

Act Two

The audience has a perfect panoramic view of all the guests seated around the room. All are men. No women were invited, so who is creating a stir among the guests? The audience watches intently as one lone woman appears from behind a partition of velvet draperies. Her feminine beauty and her long flowing hair are a stark contrast to a room full of men, whose eyes are following her every move. Quietly she makes her way to where Jesus is seated. The chatter has silenced. The men’s eyes dart in her direction while their forks freeze in midair. The men look her over then meet each other’s gaze with arched eyebrows and knowing glances. Their nonverbal communication speaks volumes and gives the distinct impression that many attending the banquet know who she is. If one could read the message plastered across their shocked faces, it would be ~ what in the world is a woman of her reputation doing here?

“She heard that Jesus was eating in the Pharisee’s house, so she brought an alabaster jar full of perfume and stood behind Jesus, by his feet, crying and wetting his feet with her tears. Then she dried his feet with her hair, kissed them, and poured the perfume on them”(Luke 7:37, 38). 

Jesus feels the warm liquid dribble on His skin, then the fragrance caresses His nostrils. Forgetting His surroundings for a moment, He closes His eyes. He doesn’t turn around and look. He doesn’t need to. He knows who it is and refuses to call more attention to her presence, thus risking her further embarrassment. He feels the caress of her hair on his feet and then the stroke of her cool hands on His temples and hair. She sniffs, trying to hold back tears.

Jesus knows all about this woman. He has forgiven her of her sins many times. Many times she has sat at His feet, listening, learning, and growing in her devotion to Him and to His Father. They have developed a relationship . . . a close, loving friendship. Mary adores her Lord. Even a room full of men, attending by invitation only, cannot keep her away.

Simon suddenly catches a whiff . . . and the woodsy scent transports him back to many a night in the arms of a fragrant fair maiden. Quickly he brushes those stimulating thoughts aside and thinks to himself . . . it’s shameful and embarrassing the way she boldly crashes MY dinner party. “If this man really were a prophet, he would know who this woman is who is touching him; he would know what kind of sinful life she lives!”(v 39).

Judas, one of Jesus’ disciples in attendance, sniffs the scent and thinks . . . it smells like money. Wasted money. Surely the poor could have benefited from its profits instead of pouring the expensive perfume all over dirty feet! (It is unlikely the poor would have benefited from the money. Judas was a thief. Put in charge of the disciples’ slush fund, he habitually stole a portion from each collection for his own personal use.)

The fragrance is carried softly aloft throughout the theater. The audience catches whiffs of the powerful, yet delicate, perfume, enjoying the lovely scent. Those who attended the Broadway play, “My Man, Job,” couldn’t help but make a comparison. (See blog archives for this play.)

Behind the Scenes Duo

Abel and Abner make their way to the microphone. This time they want to share a few facts about Mary, and what might drive her to “crash” an all-male banquet.

Abel:  Now you have met Mary. Her quiet appearance has stirred the men, as you have noticed. Mary has been forgiven much by her friend Jesus. She paid attention to His words, especially when He told of His impending death. She longs to show Him how much she loves Him. She has made a good living as a prostitute. In fact, it was Uncle Simon who got her started in the business. Mary has saved most of the money she has made, and the idea came to her: why not put her wages to good use? She would buy an expensive alabaster jar of perfume. When the time was right, she would anoint Jesus’ body, she assumed, for his burial. He was worth every denarius. No amount of money could match her love for her Master.

Abner: Then the word on the street came to Mary’s ears. Jesus was to be crowned king! Was it true? Her Friend, a King? Now was her chance to honor Him while He was still alive! Even though this was a gathering for men only, and a woman should be shunned for making an appearance, she didn’t care. She knew the town gossips would gobble up the headlines, but she didn’t care about that either. Even if no one noticed as she quietly slipped into the room, her secret would be out as soon as she broke the bottle’s seal, and the fragrance was released to fill the room.

Abel and Abner exit as the audience claps.

 Act Three

Jesus looks up and meets Simon’s gaze and says, “Simon, I have something to tell you.”  

“Yes, Teacher,” he said, “tell me.”

“There were two men who owed money to a moneylender,” Jesus began. “One owed him five hundred silver coins, and the other owed him fifty. Neither of them could pay him back, so he canceled the debts of both. Which one, then, will love him more?”

“I suppose,” answered Simon, “that it would be the one who was forgiven more” (vs 40-43).

“You are right,” said Jesus. Then he turned to the woman and said to Simon, “Do you see this woman? I came into your home, and you gave me no water for my feet, but she has washed my feet with her tears and dried them with her hair. You did not welcome me with a kiss, but she has not stopped kissing my feet since I came. You provided no olive oil for my head, but she has covered my feet with perfume. I tell you, then, the great love she has shown proves that her many sins have been forgiven. But whoever has been forgiven little shows only a little love” (vs 43-47).

Epilogue

It could have been Mary’s brother whom Jesus brought back to life. Scholars don’t necessarily agree that it was this Mary who was related to Lazarus, but more importantly, it was this Jesus who healed them both. I cannot read this story without longing for my own son to be brought back to life. I’m certain you long for your son or daughter to live in your presence again. But we must wait. It’s hard to wait, but it won’t be long.  We will have our “Lazarus moment”. Jesus has promised, and He’s never lied.

The audience clapped their appreciation when the play ended, but they seemed hushed, subdued while filing out, as if what they had observed changed them in some way. Perhaps they were thinking about Mary, who gave the perfect example to carry with them long after the play had ended.

We were created for intimacy. Mary received it in her relationship with Jesus. Many of us have been shaken to our very core with horrific loss, which is something we don’t expect to ever get over. But perhaps having a relationship with Jesus is like being given a second chance; the chance to have an intimate relationship with Him . . . this very same Jesus Mary fell in love with.

Wherever love stories are told, we add Mary’s story, for its fragrance remains sweet. Perhaps it’s my overactive imagination, but when I remember Jesus in this story, I imagine the scent of spikenard . . . still lingers in His hair.

“Then Jesus said to her, ‘Your sins have been forgiven. Your faith has saved you. Go in peace!'” Luke 7:48, 50.

Sweet words. Healing words. Words of blessing that broken hearts long to hear. Mary heard Him say them to her face. We have the same promise written in His Word. Accepted by faith, it is just as sweet.

Story is shared from the Good News Translation (GNT)

Being Kneaded

A cat can be trusted to purr when she [he] is pleased, which is more than can be said for human beings. ~William Ralph Inge (quotegarden.com)

 Precious Pippy, King of home and hearth

“Pippy”

The second word in the title is not a misspelling. Precious Pippy. King of home and hearth, loves to “knead” me like bread dough (and unfortunately I have some). It’s apparently good for him because his expressive, almond-shaped eyes take on a hypnotic look, and his purr gets deep and throaty. Pre-nap drill? Perhaps. At any rate it makes him sleepy, and he finds a quiet place to nap it off. Does it do anything for me? Not really. I try to set boundaries, you know, confine him to my thighs where he can give me some passive exercise, but he’s not happy unless he can can knead my marshmallow-y layers higher up. Sigh.

Perhaps this brings a smile to your lips, or you nod in agreement, if you have a “thigh master,” too. There was such an outpouring of responses from readers to a previous “Pippy” story. They described how their pets responded in a variety of ways, even if only to make them laugh . . . giving them some much needed “internal jogging” while lifting their spirits. Some readers described how their pets “found them,” and they became a member of the family. Other readers said that their cats come to snuggle when they are feeling sad. Somehow they know when we need them. Suggesting they “knead” us just as much as we need them. We might conclude that our pets provide “therapy” for free.

I am grateful that our pets give us unconditional love. Which begs the question: Why can’t people give the same? Maybe some of you have faithful friends and family who stand by loving you, accepting your pain, and allowing you to share your heartache whenever you feel the need. If so, you are indeed blessed. But then there are readers who might be wondering, has my suicide loss made me unlikable? I know this can happen because it happened to me. Apparently the length of my grief journey strained the boundaries of friendship, and they bailed.

If you, too, have lost friends after you buried someone precious to you, I am so sorry for your added pain. Suicide or other kinds of loss of our children is horrific enough, but loss of friendship adds another layer: I picture them as added dimensions to our pain, cascading like “falling dominoes”. Once the first one falls, the others topple after. It’s tough enough to be classified as a “survivor” after tragic loss. We deserve empathy and support, do we not? We may be forever changed, but we are most worthy and in need of real friendship, even more after our hearts are shattered.

Could it be that people fear death? I remember attending a fair number of funerals when I was a child. I didn’t know the people, really didn’t want to be there, but I was too young to stay home alone, so my parents took me along. Death seemed a scary thing; something I did not fully comprehend. As an adult, I lost my grandparents, then my parents. Each loss made me progressively sadder the closer I was to my loved one. At that point, I would have agreed with anyone who says, “grief is grief.” But since losing my firstborn to suicide, my view has been updated. Death to suicide has a far greater impact on the human spirit, don’t you agree? Losing one’s child is a pain like no other, and if that precious child chose to die, that kicks the pain even higher. Is it possible that this particular death frightens folks? But this isn’t about them. There is nothing to be afraid of. We aren’t contagious. We need friends like never before. If they can’t stick around, I respectfully offer my opinion: “Shame on them!”

If I haven’t been bold enough, let me add this: Anyone who can no longer be a friend after the tragic loss of your loved one was not really a friend in the first place. Perhaps we should call them “fair weather” companions or merely acquaintances, unworthy of the title “friends.” True friends come along side you in your pain. Perhaps they have a suitcase full of troubles of their own, but with one hand free, they ask if they can carry one of your suitcases for a while. This lightens your grief load while balancing theirs. You share your story while they respectfully listen. You may listen to their story, too. A bit of pain is purged. You share hugs. After a time you part company, knowing you will meet again, pick up where you left off, and once again share your stories. They hear you say, “I will be on this grief journey for the rest of my life,” and they respond with a nod. No, they cannot imagine the depth of your pain, but that does not keep them from being a friend. They seem to grasp that you need to be “kneaded” and they unselfishly offer unconditional love and a listening ear.

Perhaps you have a loving, caring friend. How blessed you are that you do! Other readers may not, but don’t give up. All we need is one, and just maybe it will be a cyber friend. We are survivors of the worst pain imaginable. But from this side of suicide, I know that all decent, caring, loving people can do the simplest task, and that is to earnestly, wholeheartedly listen.

~A good friend does not have to have experienced the loss of their child to provide comfort after you lose yours ~

Holley Gerth says, “I often get notes from people saying something like, ‘My friend/family member is going through a hard time but I don’t feel like I can help because I haven’t been through the same thing.’ Here’s my response: “You don’t have to experience the same storm to know what it’s like to get wet.”

I had barely sat down when Pippy jumped up on me and squirmed around until he had settled just right in my lap. He wanted to be near me, whether I had food or not. He looked deeply into my eyes with his soulful ones, as if he could read my heart. He craved “mama” time. Wouldn’t we love to have our friends crave time with us like our four-legged, furry friends do?

You know, Jesus can be the perfect friend we crave. In fact it was He who said, “Every person the Father gives me eventually comes running to me. And once that person is with me, I hold on and don’t let go.” John 6:37 MSG

He doesn’t let go. I like that.

 

 

This entry was posted on February 26, 2016. 2 Comments

More than the love of oranges

“Love puts up with anything and everything that comes along; it trusts, hopes, and endures no matter what.” 1 Corinthians 13:7 VOICE

Oranges

Our minds quite naturally turn to the subject of love on Valentine’s Day, which focuses on the romantic kind, but love comes in all shapes and sizes. As this story unfolds, you will understand why I say that love can even come from a humiliating event. All memories are precious, especially those of the loved ones we were forced to say goodbye to way too soon. But the children who remain give us many sweet memories to mix in with the ones that aren’t so sweet. I have such a memory. It involves my youngest son.

I needed to run some errands. Before I left home, I filled a sandwich bag with orange wedges to take along in case I got hungry while out and about. As I turned the car toward home, I reached into the bag and ate a wedge. It tasted good. Its tart sweetness quenched my thirst, so I ate another, then another.

I was about halfway home when suddenly it seemed that my stomach was having second thoughts about accepting what I had just eaten. It rumbled a little. Then the dreaded nausea sensation quickly followed. Oh dear. Could I keep my mouth clamped shut and stave off what normally follows? Nope. My stomach had the upper hand, and this orange was coming back up. I was driving, remember? I had no place to pull over, so what was I going to do? This was not going to be pretty. I was about to discover that the vomiting would be swift and violent.

I don’t remember exactly what happened. When the heaves started, I probably could have set a record for velocity. When I “came to” I found my foot on the brake pedal (thankfully not the gas pedal), and I had stopped right in the middle of a lane. There were cars backed up behind me, but “none were” honking their displeasure. [none were – correct? ask M]

Shakily I accelerated, my hands trying to grip the slimy steering wheel. Slowly, I picked up speed and a few minutes later I pulled into my driveway. What a relief to be home safe! What a mess! I was still too sick to deal with the  upchuck, which had been hurled all over the steering wheel, windows, seat, floor, and my lap. But if it was allowed to dry it would be even worse to clean up.

I entered the house. My youngest was home. This was not the usual “take out the trash” request. This was ugly, slimy, nasty. Would he do it? I told him I was sick and asked if he would please clean up the car? Without a word, he disappeared outside. I peeled off my soaked clothing, tossed them into the tub to deal with later, and climbed into bed.

Hours later and feeling somewhat better, I stepped into the kitchen. My son looked up and asked, “Mom, any chance you were eating oranges when you got sick?” I had to smile. The bits of fiber stuck to everything was a dead giveaway. (In fact, I was finding “leftover” bits stuck here and there for days afterwards.)

In spite of the nasty request, my son willingly cleaned up the mess. It wasn’t even his, but he did an act of kindness without complaint. It is a treasured memory that proves once again that love rules, even in the worst situations. My child has grown up to be a wonderful, selfless man. He lives the gifts God has given him by helping others in the community, which in turn, gives me more memories to cherish.

Dear Reader, if a sweet love story of your own pops into your mind, I invite you to share it!

“Live a life filled with love, following the example of Christ.” Ephesians 5:2 NLT

Scripture taken from the VOICE and the New Living Translation

    

 

This entry was posted on February 12, 2016. 4 Comments

Pain Encircles Planet Earth

Dear Readers, If you are reading this post from my new author page, please let me know your interest by liking the page or making comments. My goal is to increase readership among us grievers. Much appreciated!

 

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“For God so loved the world . . .” John 3:16 NIV

“It suddenly struck me that tiny pea, pretty and blue, was the Earth. I put up my thumb and shut one eye, and my thumb blotted out the planet Earth. I didn’t feel like a giant. I felt very, very small.” ~Neil Armstrong

Pain encircles planet Earth. From suicide alone there are one million deaths annually around the globe; every 40 seconds, someone dies by suicide. Staggering! How many survivors does that make? Also staggering! Looking at Earth from Armstrong’s perspective, it looks like a beautiful blue marble with white swirls. From this distance it is looks peaceful and serene. But down here on terra firma where we live, it is anything but that for those with broken hearts.

How do we manage our grief on a planet of people who expect us to walk away from pain about as soon as we walk away from the cemetery?

It’s difficult to breathe after tragedy strikes. Not only is there a beloved someone missing from our lives going forward, we have to face the firing squad of looks, inappropriate comments, and the actions of others, who are eager for us to put the loss behind us and get on with living. Sound familiar? Folks who don’t understand have no idea that a suffocating mountain of tragedy has landed on top of us, nearly burying us alive. They cannot fathom out loss ~ unless they, too, have experienced the tragic loss of their child, and often to suicide. Those who don’t “get it” may have expert advice to give . . . but from my experience, it absolutely will not work that way.

If I may speak directly to those who don’t “get it”: Unless you have personally experienced the tragic loss of one of your children, please spare those you love from oft repeated platitudes. Instead, hug them. Listen. Listen some more. Listen to anything the griever wants to share about their child, even if you have heard it “100” times. Tell them how sorry you are every time you give them a hug. Nothing more need be said unless it’s asked for. Many of us are fortunate to meet other cyber grievers, who do relate to our pain. It’s not perfect, but it’s far better than having no one in our circle who understands.

~ The most precious gift we can offer anyone is our attention ~ Thich Nhat Hanh

Dear Reader, I know this grief journey first hand. I lost my firstborn to suicide some years ago. I know the pain you are going through, and I’m so sorry for your suffering. I’m not an expert, but as a surviving parent, I have learned to tune out “expert” advice given by anyone who has not experienced this same tragedy. I will accept their comfort and encouragement, but that is where I must draw the line. If you are new to your grief journey, I encourage you to be empowered to stand your ground. If anyone tries to tell you what to do or when you should do it, feel free to put your hand up and say, “Stop. Thank you, but I am not taking any more advice at this time.” Period. You might ruffle a few feathers, but the self-proclaimed advisers will get over it. No permanent harm done. But for them to “ruffle” you does more damage to your already fractured, fragile heart.

I basically lived “underground” for the first couple of years. It’s the only way I know how to describe it. I was shattered and damaged beyond repair. Those around me seemed to be breathing fine, but my space seemed void of oxygen. It was as if I had crashed my vehicle off a bridge, and was gradually being sucked under the rushing, freezing water until there was only a tiny pocket of air left.

We grievers have no rules. We allow the grief to consume us as much as it wants to. Your travels may be different from mine, which is bumpy, crooked, with steep hills and deep valleys. Yours probably will be, too, but not necessarily in the same order. Grief is busy doing what it needs to do to take us into healing. Heart and mind seem to disconnect after tragedy. Please don’t let that frustrate you. It won’t always be so. Perhaps we were created this way for our very survival.

In time . . . lots and lots of time . . . you will begin to breathe easier and even feel less anxious or less other negative feelings. In time grief will lessen in its intensity. There will be days when you feel more like someone you once knew, and then the next day you crash and cry buckets until you are bone dry again. It’s okay. Do not fear. You aren’t going backwards. You are working through the grief. It is slow going and cannot be rushed. I suspect I will be grieving until the day I draw my last breath, and I’m okay with that. I know I will miss my firstborn as long as I live. I carry the warm memories of him tucked in a place of safety, down deep in my heart.

One final note. Blame is easy. It takes the pain and rage we feel and plants it on a target: maybe it’s the boyfriend or the parent. Maybe you blame the classmates who bullied your child or you fault God. Many do. We see Him as a heavenly soda pop machine. We put in our coins, make a selection, push the button, and out pops the answer we asked for. After all we already know the answer we want, so God should dispense it, should He not? He has the power, so He should use it the way we ask, because we know best, right? After all who could possibly love our child more than we do? But please try to reject both blame and guilt, which will pummel your heart unmercifully if you allow. Both strategies zap any energy you may have. I know the struggles. I have them, too, but if we persistently reject them, we save ourselves added pain.

May I make a suggestion? Please don’t wait as long as I did to seek comfort from the God of all comfort (2 Corinthians 1:3). You may not be a believer, but you may believe in a higher power. Seek comfort there. It has helped me so much. As I look back, I could have been aware of His comfort sooner after my tragedy, if I had even been aware of His constant presence. He will never leave or forsake His children (Deuteronomy 31:8).

I have come to see God differently. He has taught me so much along this grief journey. He has been right beside me every breathing moment. I just didn’t care or notice in the beginning. God is neither a puppeteer dangling us from strings, or a heavenly pop machine. He created us as beings to love and be loved, and when our first parents turned to the deceiver as their higher power, reluctantly, He had to back away. He created us with the power to make up our own minds about Him. He is a gentleman and would rather have us turn away from Him by choice, than force us to love Him by taking away our free will.

“For God loved the world so much that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not die but have eternal life” John 3:16 GNT.

Verse quoted from the New International Version (NIV) and Good News Translation (GNT)

 

This entry was posted on January 29, 2016. 10 Comments

Porch swing chats

 

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I have wonderful memories from my childhood, swinging on the old porch swing on soft summer evenings. Nothing is quite as lovely as a porch swing, especially those made of real wood. I didn’t even mind when the swing made creaky “music” as we gently swung back and forth.

When I was quite young, my mom would sit at one end of the swing, and I would lie down with my head in her lap. While we swung, she stroked my hair. I loved it. Usually the motions made me sleepy, which may have been her intent. I loved it then, and I would love it now. But alas, I have no porch and no swing.

If we cyber friends had the opportunity to share a swing, I imagine we would easily slide into a comfortable rhythm while talking about our lives. Maybe our conversation would get real, even sharing something heavy from the burdens we carry. This kind of exchange takes risks ~ daring to delve into one’s personal pain.  If we share with someone equally scarred by tragedy, she would understand, would she not? When the porch swing stops, and we say our goodbyes, we are perhaps changed in some way and likely we have made a new friend as well.

Switching gears now, do you remember the New Testament story about Nicodemus? Let’s bring him in from the past for a closer look. Nick desires to meet with Jesus privately. He has some questions he wants to ask the Teacher. Being a power player in the Jewish ruling council, Nick cannot risk criticism from his peers, so he arranges to meet with Jesus late one night when most folks are off the streets and behind closed doors.

Nick arranges the meeting in a grove of olive trees way off the beaten path. In my mind’s eye, I see Nick peering into the semidarkness looking for someone. He seems nervous. Perhaps he is fearful that someone else may have followed him, but Jesus is the only one who appears. The two men greet each other in the courteous manner of gentlemen in their day. They sit down on a swing. It might have seemed rather odd for a swing to be in an olive grove, but to me it would have been the perfect place to have a private conversation.

I imagine some anonymous, generous soul had secured the swing with thick ropes tied around huge branches of two olive trees. And who could have made the swing? Why not Jesus? After all He had years of carpentry experience. No doubt it was a beautiful swing, smooth to the touch and comfortable. But let’s move along with the story.

Likely Nick is a bit nervous and comments on the weather or some daily drivel, but he is eager to get to the weightier matters on his mind. He approaches his topic by mentioning to Jesus that he and his friends have been discussing the work being done among the people by Jesus and His disciples. They have concluded that He must be from God to be able to perform amazing miracles. Jesus never wastes time. He has a habit of zeroing in on what is important when He’s given the opportunity, and He did so this evening, too. Shall we listen in?

Nick went to Jesus and said to him, “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher sent by God. No one could perform the miracles you are doing unless God were with him.”

Jesus answered, “I am telling you the truth: no one can see the Kingdom of God without being born again.”

Quite puzzled, Nick quickly fired a question, “How can a grown man be born again? He certainly cannot enter his mother’s womb and be born a second time!”

“I am telling you the truth,” replied Jesus, “that no one can enter the Kingdom of God without being born of water and the Spirit. A person is born physically of human parents, but is born spiritually of the Spirit. Do not be surprised because I tell you that you must all be born again. The wind blows wherever it wishes; you hear the sound it makes, but you do not know where it comes from or where it is going. It is like that with everyone who is born of the Spirit.”

“How can this be?” asked Nicodemus.

Jesus answered, “You are a great teacher in Israel, and you don’t know this? I am telling you the truth… You do not believe me when I tell you about the things of this world; how will you ever believe me, then, when I tell you about the things of heaven? And no one has ever gone up to heaven except the Son of Man, who came down from heaven.”

In a nutshell, Jesus covers several topics with Nick, and all of them deep. Then He spoke words that are familiar to many:

“For God loved the world so much that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not die but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to be its judge, but to be its savior.”

Dear reader, you may be scratching your head and wondering what does this story have to do with grief? Perhaps it’s a bit of a stretch, but here is where my imagination kicks in. I, too, long to meet Jesus face to face. I can picture myself wandering through the same dense olive grove where I come across the same swing, lovingly crafted so long ago, and still nestled among thick branches. Over time the trees have spread their leafy green into a group hug, hiding the swing in a tree-like sanctuary. What a nice surprise, I think to myself. I sit down and start to swing back and forth. Back and forth. A minute or two passes, and I hear footsteps. Should I be frightened and make a hasty retreat? No need. There He stands in the shadowy moonlight, smiling down at me. I invite Him to take a seat, and together we swing back and forth. Back and forth.

Neither of us speaks, but the silence between us is peaceful. Topics and questions jockey for top positions in my head. Where to begin? I so want to ask Him “the” question which has troubled me for a long time. Of course He knows my thoughts, and before I open my mouth to speak, He opens His:

“I know your grief journey is difficult for you,” Jesus speaks softly, and as He does, He casually brings His arm to rest lightly around my shoulders as if to help His words bring warmth and understanding to my heart. “It’s hard for Dad and Me, too,” He continues. “We planned for your firstborn long before you were ever born. We knew you would be the perfect mother to raise our precious child. We knew we could trust you to carry out your parental responsibilities with love and devotion and that pleased us. We knew you would love him with all your heart, for you were eager to have a family of your own.”

“It may be hard for you to understand,” Jesus pressed on, “but we already knew this sweet child’s life would be cut short. And, trust Me when I say, knowing this was heartbreaking. Should we give him life? Should we share him with parents? Should we take him out of the pages of history just because his parents will outlive him? After much agonizing discussion back and forth, Dad and I agreed. Allowing you to raise your cherished, prayed-for child was worth all that would become a part of your story.”

Heaven had agonized. The difficult decision was made. Our sweet son would be born to us, making us a family. Thankfully we did not know the future. We would only have each day which would turn into many happy years together. Heaven would love and support us every step of the way, celebrating our joys and carrying us in our sorrows. God knew that my relationship with Him would be severely tested . . . but over time and through all the trials and pain, it would grow to be richer, deeper, closer. Ultimately we would have the opportunity to be drawn into an unbreakable bond of love which will last forever.

We kept a steady rhythm on the swing as we swung in silence. Jesus has given me much to ponder, to think about . . . but still I hadn’t asked the burning question that had troubled me for years . . . actually since my firstborn died by suicide. I was conflicted and having a personal argument in my mind:

Maybe I’m the only mom who has struggled with this thought:  If my son should not get to enjoy heaven, then I don’t want to be there either.

There. I finally admitted it. It almost made me cringe to even think the words. Why was I reluctant to ask Jesus when I had Him right next to me? Was I afraid He wouldn’t answer me? Or was I afraid of what His answer might be? Even though the time didn’t seem right to ask Him, I have no secrets. He already knows what’s in my heart. I can’t hide my thoughts from Him any more than you can hide yours.

Finally Jesus breaks the silence. “It won’t be long now, you know. When you see Me next time, I will be coming in the clouds, surrounded by all the heavenly hosts of angels (1 Thes. 4:16). It will be a time of great rejoicing! Do you know why?” I smiled, took His nail-scarred hand in mine, and nodded. He smiled too. “I can’t wait to raise up ‘our’ boy and see you and your family jumping up and down in joyful embraces. I live for that moment.”

Me, too, Jesus. Me, too.

Scripture story, John 3:2-17 Good News Translation (GNT).