Life is fragile

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

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

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

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

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

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

We just never know . . .

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Splashes of joy

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

Puddles are magnets

Puddles are magnets to little feet

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

He’s our calm

Calm, Roy Lessin, Photo by Marina Bromley

Dear Readers,

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

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

Which led me to read this…

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

Which led me to this…

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

Which brought me to this…

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

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

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

~Roy Lessin

Photo by Marina Bromley

Spinning a new normal

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

Laundromet

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 LIAR

THIEF

COUNTERFEITER

DECEIVER

MURDERER

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

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

Trash Talk

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

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tasty trash

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

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

The power of editing

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

Cut away the bad and leave the good

Save the good stuff

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Tribute to Mothers on Mother’s Day

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

family feet

Family feet

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

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

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

Love is Pain Tattoo

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

Fighting a Battle in Your Life

Worship is an Act of War by Holley Gerth

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

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

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

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

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

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

{2 Chronicles 20:21-22}

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

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

~Holley Gerth

Gifted by a stranger

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

 

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

On Broadway: “My Man, Job”

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

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

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

 ACT ONE

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

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

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

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

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

ACT TWO

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

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

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

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

ACT THREE

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

INTERMISSION

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

ACT FOUR

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

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

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

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

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

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

ACT FIVE

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

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

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

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

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

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

EPILOGUE

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

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

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