From lost to found

I have gone astray like a sheep. Psalm 119:176

file0001110809384 (1)

I can relate to the text above. Being lost is a physical condition in which I find myself on occasion. Each incident is temporary, but, while in the throes of it, it can seem overwhelming. I also know what it feels like to be emotionally lost. Many of you know exactly what I mean. Being blindsided by tragedy flattens one for an unknown period of time. And even when you can pick yourself up and move forward, it’s easy to fall back into feeling emotionally lost all over again. Don’t lose heart. It’s all about the healing process, slow and sure.

Recalling times when I have felt lost and discouraged, my mind happened upon a cute memory back when I was mommy to two little ones. Memories, such as this one, have helped lighten my emotional load. Bear in mind that I have been on my journey longer than many of you. You may not be able to remember good memories yet; meanwhile, maybe you can enjoy the memory I am about to share.

To set the stage I was fortunate to be able to stay home with my boys while they were preschoolers. Back then there was less pressure to start them early. If I had been working, my paycheck would have gone toward the expense of daycare. Instead we decided that until our children were ready for kindergarten, I would stay home with them. Not everyone could make the same decision, but it was one I have never regretted. Because my boys and I were always together, it sometimes meant we had to run errands, which of course, little boys are never excited to do. This story took place while the boys were quite young, and yes, it was shopping day.

They were two little cherubs most of the time, but shopping was NOT something they enjoyed on their BEST day. Wherever I went, they went. This particular day we were heading to a shopping center outside our familiar part of town.

I have to admit they were being good little guys, entertaining themselves with their toys and books in the back seat, even with their chatter increasing in volume once in a while. Meanwhile, I was making wrong turn after wrong turn ~ there was no GPS back then. The kiddie chatter was distracting me at a critical juncture, so I said, “Boys, Mommy has made a mistake and she needs to have you be quiet for a few minutes until she gets turned around.” Obediently they hushed to a whisper.

Quiet as mice, the boys played with their toys. After just a few minutes, we were headed in the right direction. It was so peaceful in the car that I was reluctant to give it up. Having the opportunity to soak up silence was a rare treat in those early years. We were just humming along when a timid little voice piped up from the back seat, “Mommy, are you through making mistakes now?” A heart-melting question. Rare, sweet footage in my memory garden. Am I finished making mistakes? Hardly.

We fall in love with our first child when excitedly we discover we have a baby bump. Once placed in our arms, we cannot imagine life without this baby. There is never a thought of death. Why should there be? We assume our children will continue to live long, fulfilling lives way after we are gone. We expect the natural order of things, do we not?

We get rudely awakened to the unnatural order of things when we are blindsided by tragedy. We are shocked senseless and flounder in disbelief. Numbness sets in. We feel disconnected between heart and mind. Nothing makes sense from the words tossed about in our hearing. This can’t be real. We feel lost and want to go into hiding. Blame rears its ugly head. Self-doubt and guilt become daily snacks we gulp down without resistance. Instead of nighttime bringing relief, we roll and toss, wondering what we could have done differently. Could other decisions or actions have saved our beloved children? Like a pet hamster, running round and round and getting nowhere on his exercise wheel, our minds can play and replay the facts surrounding the death of our children. It’s as if blame and guilt have been programmed to play in our minds continuously night and day. Will it ever stop?

Is it possible to take a break from the negative feed flowing through one’s mind? Maybe not at first, but after some time has passed, it is possible. I have been able to take a break. In fact, my mind is free from the steady diet of negative thoughts. Please send me a comment if you are ready to take such a break. I will gladly guide you.

For me, connecting with God has helped immensely. When the tempter urges me to return to a place of overwhelming sadness, heaven sends relief in the form of Scripture such as this one:

Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly. Matthew 11:28-30 MSG

Is there possibly a spiritual connection to being lost? Could I lose my way spiritually and not know it? Do I deliberately push God away, especially if I blame Him for the loss of my child? Just as I finally got turned around and headed in the right direction in this story, we can come to realize that we need someone greater than ourselves to help navigate through the waters of grief. The line from a popular hymn comes to mind: “I once was lost, but now am found, Was blind, but now I see.” Perhaps this line refers to being lost and found, not only physically, but also spiritually.

PS – Blogging has helped me focus on what’s most important for me, and since I’ve begun to write, I feel a little less lost. I write to help others feel a little less lost, too. My purpose is to help encourage and inspire readers who are also on a grief journey wherever it shall lead them.

Hymn, “Amazing Grace” by John Newton, published 1779.

 Scripture shared from the Amplified Bible (AMP) and The Message (MSG)

 

 

 

 

This entry was posted on July 15, 2016. 4 Comments

Squatter’s rights

Intruder

So ugly he’s cute?

I don’t know about you, but I find relief from grief in the form of an occasional belly laugh. Absolutely not in the beginning, but after some time had passed, I welcomed a diversion from the heaviness of grief. Occasionally I have shared with you stories which provided a bit of humor for me, in hopes that, if you are in such a need, they will provide the opportunity for you to laugh as well. Laughter helps break up the cycle of grief, even if only for a moment . . . before sadness takes over again.

Do you remember reading about my lil’ orphan kitten, Rudy? I thought his story was finished, but, as it turns out, there is an epilogue. If you haven’t read the story of Rudy, you may want to read it first. You will find it in the archives, entitled “Soakin’ Up the Love”, posted April, 2016.

Some of you may remember that I fashioned a cozy house inside an old trash can to help Rudy survive his first winter. Laying the can on its side, I filled it with a variety of fuzzy pillows around the sides to help insulate against winter’s chill. I even included a furry pet bed, refused by my indoor cats, pushing it to the back of the can. It was the least that I could do to help Rudy stay warm and toasty all winter. Luckily he took right to it.

In the mornings I would open the door to the patio and call, “Here, Rudy. Come and eat breakfast!” There would be a rustling in his “den”, followed by a tiny “meow”, then his little black head would poke out. All was well until the temperature outside plummeted to single digits and stayed there. I would let Rudy into the garage so he could curl up close to me for a few moments to get warm. As much as Rudy needed me for warmth, I needed him for comfort. We grievers who have pets know how much they comfort us when we are sad.

Bundled up in the garage in the freezing cold I knew that Rudy was not keeping warm outside, with sharp winds buffeting his den. Plan B began to take shape in my head. Would Rudy stay in the garage? He might still be cold, but he would be out of the wind. Using a blanket and pillow I fashioned a soft spot in a chair where Rudy could curl up. I took into consideration his other needs and made a proper litter box, which he quickly adapted to. Indoor “plumbing” has to be more inviting than cold snow, right? Rudy might still be cold, but at least he would be out of the wind and blowing snow.

About now you are thinking . . . it sounds like outdoor Rudy had taken a giant step toward becoming indoor Rudy . . . making him my 4th furry child, but I haven’t weakened that much . . . yet. lol

When the temperature finally inched upward to a balmy 30 degrees, I attempted to switch Rudy back to his outdoor house. He balked. When he wouldn’t go inside his den on his own, I tried to push him inside. He planted his back feet down firmly and wouldn’t budge. The harder I tried to “help,” the more he resisted. Apparently he preferred being on the chair in the cold rather than in the trash can in the cold. Poor little thing.

Going out the patio door one day, I was surprised to see one of the pillows sticking out of Rudy’s den. Funny, I thought to myself. Rudy isn’t sleeping in there  . . . and hubby isn’t in the “dog house” at the moment, so who or what could be disturbing the pillows? It was time to investigate. It would be dark in the trash can, so I pulled the pillow out, and tossed it aside. There was just enough light as I bent down and peered in.

The trash can was . . . occupied! What? Who had the audacity to set up squatter’s rights in Rudy’s house? It looked like the fur of a light-colored cat, and I supposed it was one of garden-variety critters that regularly jaywalked our property. Then my presence disturbed the occupant . . . and it looked up. I immediately recognized its snout. That was NOT a cat face. You already know from the picture above . . . it was a possum! Yuck! They are such ugly creatures.

Now it was perfectly clear why Rudy did not want to sleep in there! Bug-eyed, I backed away from the den and immediately hurried to find my hubby. Grabbing a broom, my hero poked and prodded at the intruder until, hissing and growling, it begrudgingly vacated the trash can . . . and with further “assistance,” vacated our yard. Hopefully he won’t return, but there are no guarantees. He definitely won’t stop trying if I leave the trash can on its side, inviting him to return where he had been snug and warm.

“Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.” 1 Peter 5:8

The possum in this illustration is not a “roaring lion,” but he did barge in uninvited and planned to stay. This is what the enemy does in our lives if given the opportunity, doesn’t he? Satan is sneaky, conniving, and dishonest. He may seem harmless, but don’t be fooled. He preys on the weak and the grieving, to cause further death and pain wherever possible. If not ousted, he considers himself an invited guest . . . and nothing could be further from the truth!

Verse shared from the New International Version (NIV)

 

Jesus Christ, Life-giving Warrior

“But the Lord says: I will stand up and show my power and might.” Isaiah 33:10 NIV

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Power being displayed in the heavens. The Life-giver is flexing His muscles.

Inception of life is a powerful thing, and we are in awe and overjoyed when our baby is born. At the other end of the spectrum, we hate life at its end as it ebbs away into death. Loss of life leaves us in overwhelming sorrow. How can anything good come from it? Today we will read a story which is intended to create within your heart and mine, a surge of hope and courage to sustain us along our way.

I write for the purpose of sharing messages of hope with hurting hearts; however, the messages don’t always begin there. Sometimes they start with the last memory I have of my firstborn, so bear with me. The last time I saw him . . . the last picture I have in my head . . . is of him in repose. He looked asleep, but there was no warmth to my touch or rapid eye movement that naturally occurs when we dream. There was no rise and fall of his chest. The horrible truth . . . so hard to face . . . this was my son . . . and this was a deep sleep from which he would not awaken. Why? Because the enemy who pushed him toward suicide, holds him in the vice grip of death . . . for now. But not forever. Read on if you are interested in a powerful story with a powerful outcome. It’s a Bible story that fuels my faith and hope in rebirth.

Death came to the little town of Bethany, leaving two sisters, Mary and Martha, in overwhelming sorrow. Their only brother, Lazarus, whom they loved and depended on for everything, became ill and died. The sisters’ hearts were burdened with grief. Tears streamed unchecked down their cheeks. They clung to each other for support as muscular men moved the heavy slab of stone to rest against the hillside cave where their brother was laid to rest. Multitudes of people from the rocky hillside witnessed the burial. They had gathered to show respect for the sisters in their loss.

Mary and Martha, walking arm in arm, slowly make their way back home. As was the custom, mourners, neighbors, and townspeople, will linger a while longer to provide comfort. But there was only one face they had longed to see . . . had hoped He’d come in time . . . but He did not come, and now it is too late. Life is over for Lazarus. What were they to do without him? Just the thought of his absence starts the tears flowing again. As the sisters were about to find out, we who mourn know that after the burial service is over, our grieving has just begun.

Not so long ago, life was a normal routine for the three siblings: Lazarus, Martha, and Mary. Jesus and His disciples had become acquainted with this family, and often traveled to Bethany to spend time resting and relaxing in their home. They enjoyed each other’s company, and it was an opportunity for Jesus to recharge. He and the fellas needed breaks from the throngs of people who surrounded them wherever they went. Jesus was lovingly doing the work His Father had sent Him to do, but His human nature became exhausted, and He craved R & R just like we do. The hours they spent together in Bethany were precious. All was wonderful until Lazarus’s health suddenly declined.

One day a messenger came running up to Jesus and said simply, “Lord, your dear friend is sick” (John 11:3 GNT). To answer the question reflected on the faces of His disciples, Jesus responded, “This sickness is not fatal. It will become an occasion to show God’s glory by glorifying God’s Son” (v 4). These words may have heightened the disciples’ curiosity, but undoubtedly they missed the meaning. Apparently Jesus said no more, and they remained where they were, healing and teaching for two more days.

After two days had passed, Jesus announced, “Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep. I’m going to wake him up” (vs 11). Like the disciples, I would also have assumed that if Lazarus was “asleep,” then he would get well. But Jesus clarified what He meant stating, “Lazarus died. And I am glad for your sakes that I wasn’t there. You’re about to be given new grounds for believing. Now let’s go to him” (vs 14, 15). (Further details of Jesus’ choice of word for “death” appears at the end.)

Along with curiosity, there was something else astir in the air that the disciples couldn’t quite put their finger on. Jesus’ words were confusing, and yet He said they would see God’s glory! Like a distant drum beat growing steadily louder, excitement began to build. Tensions mounted as they hurried to keep up with their Master, who was definitely acting like a Man on a mission.

Finally Jesus and His disciples were nearing the outskirts of Bethany. Someone spotted them afar off, and word spread like wildfire through the house of mourning.  Martha is the first sister to hear the news. Hurriedly she makes her way to Jesus, who is walking toward her. Dropping to her knees, and with a voice full of pain, Martha wailed, “Master, if you’d been here, my brother wouldn’t have died” (vs 21). Jesus drew her to Him and wrapped His arms around her. There were words exchanged between them that aren’t included here, but you can read the entire story in John chapter 11. Jesus had come for one purpose. It was about to be made perfectly clear to the sisters and all others in attendance.

Now Jesus is standing motionless outside the cave where Lazarus is buried. His regal bearing speaks volumes. The air is electric as if a storm is brewing. Tension is palpable. Anger wells up within The Warrior. His brow furrows. His jaw tightens. His nostrils flare like a bull in the ring ready to charge. Jesus is staring down the enemy bullfighter, Death.

Death is the enemy, and it’s personal with Jesus. Satan is death. He is a killing machine, but his days are numbered. Satan will die, but until that day Jesus rages at death and the agony it brings, not only to Lazarus’ loved ones, but also to us!

Today we are poised to witness a showdown between the Life-giver and the life-taker. The stakes are high. Battle lines are drawn. Those gathered with Mary and Martha do not have spiritual eyes; they cannot see who opposes Jesus, but Satan is there. Death is his domain. If the devil has his way, Lazarus will stay dead! But Satan is facing the all-powerful Life-giver against whom he has no power!

Jesus knows what He is about to do. The sisters, mourners, and townspeople do not know. His disciples should have had an inkling, but they do not know either. Jesus sees tears in the eyes of His good friends. He hears the mourners wailing. His heart is touched, and He weeps. He weeps because He has a tender heart for all who have grieved down through the years of time. He weeps in spite of the most amazing miracle just seconds away.

“Then Jesus, the anger again welling up within him, arrived at the tomb. It was a simple cave in the hillside with a slab of stone laid against it. Jesus said, ‘Remove the stone.’ The older sister was quick to protest, ‘Master, by this time there’s a stench. He’s been dead four days!’” (John 11:38, 39 MSG)

Four days following death was enough time for the process of decay to begin and Martha is pointing that out. Jesus deliberately delayed this special miracle to counteract the commonly held belief that for three days following death, the spirit of the dead person can return and revive him. After four days no one could deny that Jesus had brought His friend back to life.

We know how the story ends, don’t we? Jesus shouts a command, Lazarus is raised back to life, and God is glorified. Tears of sadness are turned to tears of joy! “By giving life to Lazarus, Jesus sets in motion his own death” but that does not stop Him (biblegateway.com). Today’s miracle was for His friends, Lazarus and his sisters, and for us. Every time we read this Bible story, we are encouraged that one day soon Jesus will again exercise His power over death. One day soon it will be my turn, your turn.

What can we take away from this story? Hope. Hope in eternal life. Only Jesus can give life. To the believer, He is the Life-giver not the life-taker. No matter how many days or decades or millenniums it has been, nothing can stop the Life-giver from bringing new, immortal life into His sleeping children.

I am ready for this same Warrior, who fought for Lazarus, to fight for my child! I want my “Lazarus moment”, don’t you? It’s time we are reunited with our children!

Note the promise given to the disciples as Jesus ascended before their eyes. Two of His angels said to the disciples: “Men of Galilee,” they said, “why do you stand here looking into the sky? This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven” (Acts 1:11 NIV).

Jesus will come back. He will display His mighty power. We will have our Lazarus moment!

“Death is called ‘sleep’ at least 50 times in the Bible. We are to regard it as a sound, dreamless, painless, unaware sleep. A person may have been in the tomb 1,000 years, but when raised in the resurrection it will seem to him that he only dozed off for a moment. They all wait in their graves for the resurrection. (John 5:28-29) Death is not life in heaven, hell, limbo, or purgatory. It is not life of any kind. In death the soul does not live, the spirit does not live, the body does not live. The words ‘soul’ and ‘spirit’ are used over 1,600 times in the Bible, but not one time are either given any life or personality or wisdom or knowledge when separated from the body. Body plus breath equals ‘soul’. Breath is not referring to one’s common breathing, but breath as the ‘divine spark of life,’ and when someone dies, the spirit (or breath) returns to God, not the disembodied soul. When a man dies, ‘his breath goeth forth, he returneth to earth; in that very day his thoughts perish’ Psalm 146:4.” (wwco.com)

Scripture from the Good News Translation (GNT); New International Version (NIV), and The Message (MSG)

 

This entry was posted on June 17, 2016. 2 Comments

Calling all prayer warriors

I make no apologies. I am appealing to praying people all over the globe. Even if you do not pray, pause to think of the impact multiple prayers can have on those who are on the brink of death by their own choice. Somewhere there is a person right now who is in a battle for his life. Evil forces shout very negative things in his mind, and his resistance to their demands is weakening. I’m afraid he or she represents far too many. The statistics are ascending not descending. Suicide numbers are now higher than vehicular accidental death. Let’s remind ourselves that there are 99 deaths by suicide every 66 minutes worldwide! Or to break down the math even further . . . every 40 seconds. 40 SECONDS! These numbers are staggering! Many of us are also in great heartache. It’s personal for us because we can add a beloved name and sweet face to these statistics. It’s your child. It’s my child, and it’s so heart wrenching.file0001404780822

I am calling out to rally Prayer Warriors from the north, south, east and west to pray for even one person because God loves for us to pray. He loves for us to have a conversation with Him. It matters not whether we are alone or in a group. There is power in prayer. We don’t have to convince God to save; He has already done so, but He sends even more power to earth through His Holy Spirit and His angels when we pray. God is mighty to save to the uttermost, and in His Word we find the proof:

“Therefore He is able also to save to the uttermost (completely, perfectly, finally, and for all time and eternity) those who come to God through Him, since He is always living to make petition to God and intercede with Him and intervene for them” (Hebrews 7:25).

Dear Reader, you and I both know that hindsight is 20/20. I now realize that I should have pushed to do more for my firstborn in his time of great need . . . if only I had known. If he had been lost in the woods, in the mountains, or at sea, within minutes, search parties would have been dispatched to look for him. Somehow it’s not the same when they are “lost” in their own little world of pain.

With all the Prayer Warriors I knew, I didn’t call one. Why didn’t I? It’s an agonizing question, to be sure, but one for which I have no answer. And what’s worse, I didn’t even think to call. I was praying and pacing, worried out of my mind. Hindsight suggests that it would have been helpful to have someone with me; someone to pray with me, her arm around my shoulders, but I prayed alone. I cannot reverse my child’s death any more than you can. I admit that it’s unlikely anything could have been done to save him. It would be easy to dwell on the “shoulda, woulda, coulda’s,” but I choose not to. I encourage you not to dwell on them either. They serve no earthly good, and the ravages of guilt only zap our strength.

When I allow myself to think about how my firstborn died, I choose to believe that heaven was present with him. I can’t imagine the Creator of heaven and earth would leave my child, His child, alone at such a time. Maybe his personal guardian angel,”Gabe”, who was with him when he was born and throughout his life, was with him when he died. I don’t understand how God could let him die, but I’m learning to accept that His ways are higher than mine (Isaiah 55:9) and someday I will understand. You will, too.

Max Lucado, an author many times, over has this to say about prayer: “If you want to deepen your prayer life—pray! Don’t prepare to pray. Just pray. Don’t read about prayer. Just pray. Don’t attend a lecture on prayer or engage in discussion about prayer. Just pray! James 5:13 says anyone who’s having troubles should pray. Anyone who’s happy should sing praises! Posture, tone, and place–these are personal matters. Do what works for you. Just don’t over-think it! In other words, don’t be so concerned about wrapping the gift that you never give it! Better to pray awkwardly than not at all. And if you feel you should only pray when you’re inspired, that’s okay! Just see to it that you’re inspired every day!”

Max Lucado, Grace for the Moment

Scripture versions: Hebrews from Amplified Bible (AMP), Isaiah from New International Version (NIV)

 

 

 

 

This entry was posted on June 3, 2016. 2 Comments

“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 . . .

file000533175307- Mother & child

“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)

 

This entry was posted on April 22, 2016. 2 Comments

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

10694196_562038693942708_7076829097818954022_o

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)