Archive | December 2012

Of Christmas past . . .

christmas morning cinnamon rolls!

Christmas morning cinnamon rolls!

2014 is almost behind as we stretch toward the New Year sneaking up on us. Did the year fly by? How about Christmas? Was it hustle and bustle, busy or burdened? Did it drag by or is it over too quickly for your taste? It’s about time to take down the trimmings and store them away. Finish off the goodies and leftovers and hide the scales until Valentine’s Day I say. Personally, I can do without the tinsel, but I love being reminded of Baby Jesus in the Manger and all the old hymns we bring out and sing with gusto. How wonderful to praise God!

But I am going to take a little trip down memory lane and ask you to ride along. Christmases past before our son died are naturally happier ones. No one wants a family gathering with a beloved member missing. So I have traveled back to times when it was “over the hills and through the woods to grandmother’s house we go” with kids and presents and treacherous roads because, of course, it had to be a white Christmas to be perfect.

All of us would arrive from near and far, crashing the quiet of our parents’ farmhouse and turning it into a zoo for a few days of festivities, and of course they loved every minute of it. There would be hugs and smiles and squeals of delight from the kids as they all saw each other again. The men would catch up on life while generations of women would roll up their sleeves and roll out pie dough and cinnamon rolls and cookies for decorating. We’d bake and get in each other’s way, compare recipes and other tidbits while sampling and laughing and brushing away flour or tears from belly laughter. I close my eyes and I can see it all and hear the laughter. I smell cinnamon and cloves and hot apple cider. Can you? If not, don’t blame the story; blame the writer. My memories are perfect.

The kids were never bored. There were snowball fights and snow angels. Arm wrestling and chasing. There was ping pong in the basement ~ which was mostly storage, so if your ping pong ball bounced out of bounds ~ good luck finding it. We always did. But it made for a longer game and much patience, but nobody seemed to mind.

The presents had arrived from near and far too and were piled under the tree. They positively dazzled and begged to be opened. It wasn’t long before toys were in the hands of eager children and fancy wrappings were in the trash. No matter. Just being together enjoying each other for the time we had, was worth it all. Too soon we’d be packing up, sharing hugs and kisses goodbye, and wiping away tears of sadness knowing we’d likely have to wait a year before gathering again.

There is no gathering place like that one. Parents have gone to their rest. Our son has gone to his rest. The farm is home to another family now. As our lives change over time, we cannot go back and relive. We can only go forward . . . and make new memories with family gatherings in new places and as often as possible throughout the year. The ones we love are precious. And time slips away.

Whether it is Christmas or not, let’s determine to stay in contact with the ones we love and tell them often how very much they mean to us. The gifts we purchase, wrap, unwrap and exclaim over are rarely remembered as much as the time we spend sharing our joy.

 Love each other like brothers and sisters. Give each other more honor than you want for yourselves. Romans 12:10, NCV

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In honor of Ellie

I want to share a story of tragedy and triumph I found on Facebook. It is worth the read. Todd Nigro lost his daughter, Ellie, about a year ago and he shares his thoughts and words of scripture to aid and comfort him and his family as they live the loss of their precious daughter. Like he says, “It is a work in progress”. May it bless you in some way on your personal journey.

 

Some Thoughts on Grief and Loss Romeo and Juliet, Act 4, Scene 5 O woe! O woeful, woeful, woeful day! Most lamentable day, most woeful day That ever, ever, I did yet behold! O day, O day, O day, O hateful day!

Never was seen so black a day as this. O woeful day, O woeful day! Those words describe January 20, 2012. It all began as a normal Friday. I woke up holding my wife, Kristen, and snuggling before stumbling out obed. My daily act of love is to make the coffee and bring it to Kristen. She seemed to enjoy it so much and it always felt great to deliver it. My six-year-old daughter, Ellie, would sometimes try to beat me to the coffee and would bring in two cups to us or just ask if she could deliver Mommy’s coffee to her. Ellie inspired me to write her a note of love. The inspiration was simple. The night before she said in a delightful and innocent voice, “Dad, I wish you would write me a note, I haven’t seen one in awhile”. I left the note in the usual place on the wall where I knew she would find it and left for work. I went to work and the family was having a normal day of homeschool. Kristen and I had planned a long run in preparation for a marathon that she had dreamed of running ever since we were married. I came home from work just after noon and Kristen had just left to go shopping for a few things. I walked in the door and greeted Ellie sitting at the table. She smiled at me as she always did. “Hi Dad!” she said. I patted her on the head and could see she was doing her work. She was writing while snacking on some peanuts and having a hot chocolate. She would drink her hot chocolate with a spoon like soup and somehow managed to always make a mess. To be honest, I didn’t notice the hot chocolate at this point, but would later. I grabbed a snack from the refrigerator and asked Ellie, “So how is your day going?” She replied, “I’ve been doing my work.” Then she beamed, “And, thank you for the note”. She jumped up and showed me where she had been hiding the notes she received under the kitchen bar counter. She liked having secret hiding places for important things and it seemed she treasured these notes. I came up with an idea at work that I wanted to start, so I went up into the office and began to work at the computer. I was sitting there for about 5 minutes. My world was about change. Life was so good. I didn’t have any real problems or concerns. My kids were delightful, my wife was amazing, and I was a happy person living the good life.

Then it happened. Ellie was killed in a tragic accident within minutes. 

I’ve learned many things since January 20, 2012. I hope that this list of thoughts is helpful to you.

 Gifts. Life is a gift from God. Our children, family, friends, neighbors, and strangers are all gifts to be savored. Although some days may be full of hardship and sadness, each breath, heartbeat, and thought illustrates the beautiful gift of life.  When a loved one is lost, try to avoid the feeling of being robbed or wronged. Keep the positive memories alive and thank God for the blessings in your past, present, and future. Romans 6:23 – For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. Revelation 22:17 – Let the one who is thirsty come; and let the one who wishes take the free gift of the water of life.

Your Path. God has planned a path for you. You will travel the path on your own, with God to help if you choose. Don’t compare your path with someone else. Other people’s paths may cross or run nearby, but only you can take steps on your path. Only you can choose to see the beauty around your current location and enjoy your journey. There may be amazing drops to deep valleys, but keep looking forward and take it one step at a time. Psalm 23:4 – Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me. Psalm 119:35 – Direct me in the path of your commands, for there I find delight.

Feelings. You will experience many feelings in a way that you never have before. Sadness, guilt, despair, anxiety, fear, hopelessness, longing, anger, and frustration will likely run through your mind.  Your feelings need to be expressed, but always remember that they are “at this moment”. This gives you hope and permission to have different feelings at a later time. Consider writing a letter to your loved one or keep a journal of your feelings. The “why” and “what-if” questions will be asked over and over in your mind. At some point, you will realize that you cannot understand the divine nature of birth or death. Embrace living without an answer by trusting and embracing the mysteries of God. Matthew 6:10 – your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.

Cry. It is human to cry. Crying helps you to heal. Cry with friends, family, and alone. Don’t be surprised when the grief “freight train” runs over you. Just be in the moment, and it will pass. Struggle through your emotions and you will find relief as your reward. Ecclesiastes 3:4 – a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance. Psalm 30:5 – Weeping may endure for a night, but joy comes in the morning.

Talk. Talk to people about your loss and pain. Don’t hide or deny your feelings. Let people know that you need them and ask for help. Be patient with those that don’t know what to say. Talk about your loved one, and share your precious memories. Always remember that you can always talk to God through prayer. Matthew 12:34 – For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks. 1 Timothy 5:5 – The widow who is really in need and left all alone puts her hope in God and continues night and day to pray and to ask God for help.

Grieve. During your time of sorrow, bring your family together and not pull it apart. Realize that each person is different and will grieve in ways you may not understand. Be patient and find ways to support each other. Guilt and anger need to be expressed and released. Sadness and sorrow can be so heavy and paralyzing. You might struggle with this thought, but grief, guilt, and anguish can be a blessing. Matthew 5:4 – Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted. Psalm 88:9 – my eyes are dim with grief. I call to you, LORD, every day; I spread out my hands to you.

 Grow. It is not in people’s nature to change. Significant change usually does not occur without a significant catalyst. Although loss is not comfortable, it can provide an amazing marker in life for incredible transformation. Look for the lessons to be learned in your situation about yourself and in life. What can you do to overcome and survive? Vow to use your loss situation to generate the energy to become more. Seek to serve others and value the gift of life in a way that you never knew before. John 16:33 – “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” Become. Follow the example of Jesus Christ. Love God with all heart, soul, and mind. Love people unconditionally. Forgive. See beauty everywhere and give thanks for all the blessings in your life. Become the person that God wants you to be. Luke 10:27 – He answered, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ ” Philippians 4:7 – And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Accept. Accept that your loss will offer you a new understanding. Accept God’s leadership and live in the palm of His hand. Accept His peace and comfort and be an instrument of His will. 2 Timothy 2:21 – Those who cleanse themselves from the latter will be instruments for special purposes, made holy, useful to the Master and prepared to do any good work. Isaiah 61:3 – and provide for those who grieve in Zion—to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of joy instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair. They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the Lord for the display of his splendor. 

Forgive. God forgives you and loves you. Forgive yourself and others and free yourself from guilt. Let the anger go as it only destroys you and serves no purpose. Sometimes the hardest person to forgive is you. Luke 6:37 – “Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven. Apologize. No relationship is perfect. You have made mistakes. There are things you wanted to do with your loved one, or things you wish you didn’t say. Thinking about all the things that could have been different can overwhelm you. Apologize from your heart in prayer and let those thoughts go. Acts 3:19 – Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord.

 Give. Seek meaning and a positive outcome for your loss. At some point you will understand that there is not an answer to the “Why”? Your loss will open your eyes to those experiencing loss, giving you the unique ability to provide support and compassion to others. Serve other people. Open your eyes to other’s needs and provide comfort. Loving other people will take your mind from your pain and heals your grieving soul more than you realize. Be the rescuer, not the victim. Romans 8:28 – And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. 1 Peter 4:10 – Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms.

 Hope. Have hope for a brighter day. As painful as it seems, you will survive and thrive. Always believe that the rest of your life can be the best of your life. And, our greatest hope is that of an eternal heaven with our Lord Jesus Christ. Colossians 1:5 – the faith and love that spring from the hope stored up for you in heaven and about which you have already heard in the true message of the gospel. Isaiah 40:31 – but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.

 Seek Help. Grieving is a normal process, but is also unique to each individual. Seek help if you are “stuck” or not on track. Learn what “on-track” might look like. Read books and/or seek counseling to see how you are coping. Seek a support group if you need to discuss and vent your feelings to people who understand in a non-judgmental environment. Seek help from the Lord. You can make it through the process of grief and growth. Matthew 11:28 – Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Proverbs 15:22 – Plans fail for lack of counsel, but with many advisers they succeed.

 Connect. Seek help from your church community and compassionate people. Consider GriefShare and Stephen’s Ministry programs. Connect with family members and close friends. Don’t go through grief alone. Reach out to people that love you. Romans 12:15 – Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. Galatians 6:2 – Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ. Hebrews 10:25 – not giving up meeting together…but encouraging one another.

 Choose. Your thoughts determine who you are. Just like “you are what you eat”, “you are what you think”. Each one of us wrestles with our thoughts, and no one will ever “understand” you or be able to see into your mind. Choose your thoughts, actions, and reactions wisely. Take responsibility for your “current” reaction to whatever may have happened to you. Choose positive memories over regret, love over sorrow, forgiveness over anger, and peace over anxiety. Philippians 3:13-14 – Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. Proverbs 23:7 – For as he thinks in his heart, so is he. Philippians 4:8 – Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. 

Patience. Don’t put unrealistic demands upon yourself. Let yourself heal according to your own time frame. Each path is unique and will have many ups and downs. Be patient with other grievers and with friends, family, and strangers that do not understand. Keep an eternal perspective. Colossians 1:11 – being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience. James 1:4 – Let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing. 

Work. Find something to be passionate about. Challenge yourself and take action. Channel your energy and anxiety into a new hobby, sport, or learning something new. Exercise and eat healthy. Staying busy can be an effective way to move forward during stressful periods. Proverbs 14:23 – All hard work brings a profit, but mere talk leads only to poverty.

 Courage. Do not be afraid. Your loving and forgiving Father is in control. Trust in Him and His wisdom. You will find the strength to survive and thrive through any situation. John 14:27 – Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid. Joshua 1:9 – Be strong and of good courage; do not be afraid, nor dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.

 Suffering. Realize that suffering is a part of life. Learn to suffer well. You and your loved ones will experience trials many times and in many ways. People are watching you, especially as you suffer – show them how to do it with integrity, honor, love, and grace. Ask “God, what am I to learn through this?” Find moments of beauty and joy in the depths of your anguish. Seek God and open your heart to His love and peace. James 1:2-4 – Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. Job 23:10 – When He has tested me, I shall come forth as gold.

 Love. Remember the love that you shared. Don’t forget the family and friends that are still part of your life. Stay sensitive to the needs and feelings of others. Spend quality time with those that you love and enrich their lives. God loves you unconditionally. Love all people with no expectations. Seek those that need both your love and God’s love. Love involves action. What we do says more about what we believe, than anything we might say. 1 Corinthians 13:4-8 – Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails. 1 Corinthians 13:13 – Three things will last forever–faith, hope, and love–and the greatest of these is love. 

Prayer. Turn to God with everything you have. Read the Psalms.

Pray silently and loudly. “Lord, thank you for the beautiful gift of life. I trust that the path created for me is perfectly designed by you. Father, as I struggle through this valley, thank you for the blessings in my life. As I cry in despair, please draw near and soothe my heart. Guide me to be patient and kind, and to reach out to those that love me. Open my eyes to see the eternal souls all around me who are in need. Lord, please help me to grow and be transformed through this situation into a more compassionate and loving being. Thank you for forgiving me and saving me through Your Son. I’m sorry for the sins I have committed, and Lord, help me to turn away from them and be the person you want me to be. There is great hope, Father, in the promise of an eternal heaven with you. Thank you for the encouragement and support of my family, friends, and church. Lord, sustain me to seek you in each moment and to choose my thoughts wisely. Help me to be patient and find the strength to do your work. Thank you for helping me to be unafraid. Father, please shine your beautiful light through me, despite my suffering. I love you, Lord. Your amazing unconditional love is beyond my comprehension. Father, I pray that love, compassion, acceptance, and peace will blossom in me as your presence lights my soul. In Christ’s name, I pray. Amen.”

~Todd Nigro

This entry was posted on December 30, 2012.

When Our Hearts Were In Need . . .

English: A view south, near Lower End, Glouces...

English: A view south, near Lower End, Gloucestershire On the left is a wheat crop.

 

 

There are times when I need the devotionals of Roy Lessin to inspire me or make me ponder some deep point or just carry me away on the winds of fragrance: tall grasses, oats, barley and maybe summer wheat and definitely wild flowers being wild and free.

The sniffs won’t make my mouth water ~ too soon for that, but the freshness of the breezes contain the promise of new life and food for the winter. The cycle of life repeats. Perhaps you will decide you’d like to follow his devotionals and you can at http://www.meetmeinthemeadow.com. Here’s a sample. Maybe something will strike a chord in your soul too.

  • To those in sin, God sent us the Savior;
  • To those in darkness, God sent us the Light;
  • To those in bondage, God sent us the Deliverer;
  • To those in defeat, God sent us the Victor;
  • To those in want, God sent us the Shepherd;
  • To those in hunger, God sent us the Bread;
  • To those in pain, God sent us the Physician;
  • To those in doubt, God sent us the Truth;
  • To those in confusion, God sent us the Way;
  • To those in turmoil, God sent us the Prince of Peace;
  • To all in need, God sent His only begotten Son.

For unto us a child is born, unto us a Son is given.  Isaiah 9:6

~Devotional by Roy Lessin

 

Where’s the peace?

Luke 2:14

Luke 2:14

I was listening to a program today. There were lovely sounds of the season by voice and instrument and scripture reading along with a few thoughts tossed in here and there; all on the topic of “Peace”.

There seems to be very little, if any, peace in our world which has gone mad. Last week we lost 28 people in a mass murdering rampage at Sandy Hook Elementary School by a 19 year-old young man who certainly had gone mad. Before then, there was horrific 9-11, a murder massacre at Columbine High School and countless others. Besides murder and suicide, we have “murder by nature” with destructive floods, hurricanes, earthquakes. Then there are diseases of all kinds, but need I go on? History has recorded hundreds of years of pain and destruction and surprisingly, we are not strangers to it in our own lifetime. So where’s the peace?

The world cries peace, peace when there is no peace (Jeremiah 6:14) which                                                                                                         got me thinking. How does “peace” fit into our personal world when we have experienced the tragic loss of our children? If it’s not “out there” can it still be “in here” ~ within my heart?

Shall we find out what the Bible has to say? First, let’s go to the prediction found  in the Old Testament in the book of Isaiah:  For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.  Isaiah 9:6 

The answering echo to the prophet Isaiah is found in the New Testament tucked in the book of Luke:  Now there were in the same country shepherds living out in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. And behold, an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were greatly afraid. Then the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people. For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.

And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying:  “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, goodwill toward men!” Luke 2:8-11, 13-14

Go ahead. Read them again, s-l-o-w-l-y. Savor each word. Let them sink into your soul like water droplets soaking into a dry sponge. Though written long ago, these words of encouragement are meant for us today!

What we feared had been permanently erased from our lives is not. Midst the stormy blasts in our lives we can still have peace. Evidently believers are expected to connect these two stories, for therein lies our hope.

Grace, mercy and peace from God the Father and from Jesus Christ, the Father’s Son, will be with us in truth and love.  2 John 1:3

Are there degrees of evil?

 Penny for your thoughts on this piece by fellow blogger, Lenny Esposito

The Sandy Hook Elementary School shootings is a tragedy beyond words. We think of the innocent lives lost because a young man sought revenge for either real or perceived wrongs from his mother. Horrific. Senseless. Insane.

“But they were kindergartners  really just babies… how could someone look into innocent faces and take their lives? It’s insane.” 

We try to process such brutality. We seek to have it make sense to ourselves and so we start to put labels on the actions of Adam Lanza. It’s evil. It’s monstrous. It’s insane.

That’s the word that people keep falling back upon. Insanity. Certainly, no one in their right mind would do such a thing to such precious children. Some discover that Lanza had Asperger’s syndrome, which is a mental condition, and conclude that this must be the cause. I have a different word for Lanza’s evil, a word that has lost much of its power in our modern discourse. Lanza’s actions were sinful.

We don’t like to label this tragedy as simply “sinful”. It doesn’t seem, well, extreme enough. But why is that? It is most likely because we recognize that we are sinful ourselves. There are enough remnants of the Christian worldview left in our society that we can remember phrases such as “He who is without sin cast the first stone” and we know that we have failed. We know that we have sinned.

Because Lanza had some type of mental condition, we try to separate his actions from our own. He’s not like us, we say. Except that he is. Lanza’s actions were driven by a selfish need. All sin is ultimately selfish, it seeks one’s own feelings, one’s own desires above God or another person. The base motivation is the same; it simply becomes a matter of degree afterwards.

“But I’m not like that! What he did was something totally different than any little wrongs that I may commit.”

Before Christianity was prevalent in the world, slaughtering innocents was a much more commonplace occurrence. Canaanites and Israelites would sacrifice their children to the fires of Molech. There is evidence of the Incas performing child sacrifice in ancient America.Romans would abandon unwanted infants so they would die of exposure. Modern Americans abort their children so it won’t interfere with their personal plans and desires.

Because we live in a post-Christian society, sin is a word we wink at. Las Vegas is known as Sin City and whatever you do there better stay there. The City developed the idea as a marketing catchphrase.  But why? Because the idea is that while in Vegas one should live for him or herself. To find out the things we did, the selfish pursuit of pleasure, we could damage our reputation. We could hurt someone with whom we have a relationship. We could hurt other people. Think about that. Selfishness damaging another. It happens every day.

Lanza’s actions are horrific. But this is why God takes sin so seriously. He knows how sin damages lives and he cares about those lives. We see the immediate devastation of families in Connecticut and immediately recognize that the pain they experience will be with them for life. We look at a pornographic image and don’t think about the life-inflicting pain on the girl who has to live with her objectification or how it encourages acts such as sexting by our young.

Sin is real. Sin is dangerous. We need to recognize that. We need to start thinking about the Christian concept that we are all sinners, capable of things that are horrific to a God who sees the end result.

Pray for the families in Newtown. Pray for their comfort and their loss. Then, pray for the rest of our society. For by seeking to dismiss Lanza’s actions as insane instead of sinful; by trying to escape the fact that Lanza is not so different from the rest of us, we lull ourselves into a position where such incidents could happen again. May God have mercy on our souls.

May I repeat the question at the beginning? Are there degrees of evil? Can it be wee evil or insanely evil or some other label? Care to jump in with your opinion? I know we are supposed to be in a festive holiday spirit, but I for one, usually struggle with this every year and this year, there is so much pain that the entire Nation is reeling.

No Words Needed

I am sharing this from another mom who also knows the horrific loss of suicide. Thank you, Shari! I couldn’t agree more. These are some of the phrases well-meaning people say that burn into our brains and intensify our pain. It’s easy to repeat them when we have no idea what to say when someone we know has lost someone they love:

“They are in a better place.” “Time heals all wounds.” “You have so much to be thankful for.” “It wasn’t meant to be.”  “Everything happens for a reason.” “It was only a baby you didn’t know. You can always have other children.” “She was seventy-five, so she lived a nice long life.” “It’s over now. There’s nothing to do but move on.” “Others are worse off than you.” “I’m sorry to hear about your wife’s untimely death. I understand what you’re going through, because I had to put my dog to sleep recently.” “I know how hard it must have been to lose your six year-old child. I experienced a similar tragedy when I had an abortion.” “God has a plan.” “God doesn’t give you any more than you can handle.” “God needed your father more than you did.” “She’s a flower in God’s garden now.” “Heaven needed another angel.” “Think positive.” “You must be strong.” “Keep a stiff upper lip.” “Pull yourself together.” “Get back on the horse.”

NO WORDS NEEDED

No words needed, for mere words will never say…
How badly a parent feels, when their heart is ripped away!
No words needed, no words will ever do.
When life as we knew it, is over and through!
No words needed, when a beloved child has died.
And all we have are pictures, of that child, who was our pride!
No words needed, when forever we had to part.
There are no right words, to mend our broken heart!

Broken heart symbol

Broken heart symbol

No words needed, a hug alone will do,
We will remember our children, our whole lives through…
No words needed, if you want to be my friend,
For there could never be a better place, than with me,
Until my life does end.
No words needed, but my own words,
as I remember my child.
For when you say the wrong words, my broken heart goes wild!
I can never move on, life won’t be the same…
All I ever want now, is to hear my beloved child’s sweet name!
No words are needed, when you feel uncomfortable and shy,
After all, you’re not the one who had to tell your precious child, Good-Bye!
No words are needed, and none will ever do!
Until I re-unite with my precious child,
When my days on earth are through!

Treat this as an opportunity to practice mindful compassion—instead of blurting out

clichés. Make sympathetic and selfless comments, such as: “I’m so sorry to hear about your loss.” “I can’t imagine what you are going through.” “I don’t know exactly what to say, but I know I can listen.” “Would you like to sit down and tell me how you’re really feeling?”

© by Shari Soklow

The most innocent among us

Baby Sheep

Baby Sheep (Photo credit: Lucy Boynton)

Then Herod called for a private meeting with the wise men, and he learned from them the time when the star first appeared. Then he told them, “Go to Bethlehem and search carefully for the Child. And when you find Him, come back and tell me so that I can go and worship Him, too!”

Herod was furious when he realized that the wise men had outwitted him. He sent soldiers to kill all the boys in and around Bethlehem who were two years old and under, based on the wise men’s report of the star’s first appearance. Herod’s brutal action fulfilled what God had spoken through the prophet Jeremiah:  “A cry was heard in Ramah — weeping and great mourning. Rachel weeps for her children, refusing to be comforted, for they are dead.”  Matthew 2:7-8, 16-18

These verses came to mind in the aftermath of slaughter in Newtown, CT today. The story that played out in Bethlehem of old was ugly, tragic, horrific just like the story of evil inflicted on the innocent children and adults today. Makes me want to ask yet again, “Why, O Lord, why?” Just as God knew about the babies who would die after King Herod’s order long ago, He also knew about the tragedy to hit a quiet town in Connecticut today.

Parents and families had no clue. Last night they filled up the school gymnasium to watch and listen to their children perform in the annual Christmas Program. Pride filled their hearts to overflowing then as shock at the senseless killing does tonight. My heart cries for them. God’s heart cries in overwhelming sorrow too.

Parents, I speak a word to you from one who has faced the sudden and tragic loss of my child. Your lives are forever altered from this day forward. You will join the long list of families who can hardly make it through the holidays each year, especially yours with the date being so close to Christmas. This is not a gift; it is a horrific memory. I would imagine your minds cannot comprehend such wickedness from one so young himself. You are in shock and disbelief which will ease you into grief. May you be surrounded by those who will comfort you now and never forget. May your family members and friends stay by you in the weeks, months and years to come and should you wish to talk, may they listen. There is no way to make sense out of a senseless act of murder except to say that we live in an evil world and the enemy does not discriminate. He will kill any and all to hurt the God he hates.

I know the God of all comfort will wrap you in His arms forever from this day forward. He has always known of this day. It must be so hard to be God; allowing the death scene to play out over and over for all the world to see. I cannot fathom it.

I have hope in the Shepherd who will gather His lambs and I pray it will be soon. Meanwhile I will be praying for you.

He will feed His flock like a shepherd.  He will carry the lambs in His arms, holding them close to His heart.  He will gently lead the mother sheep with their young.  Isaiah 40:11

“Holiday Stuffing” – chipmunk stuffing face – resend during holidays? there are 2

 

We are in the hustle and bustle season again. No snow here to slow traffic, but where do all these people come from around the holidays? The aisles are crammed and the checkouts are long. I guess if I am buying groceries they have need to stock up too. Then there are gifts to buy and wrap. Trees to decorate with ornaments and carols to sing and batches of cookies going in and out of the oven. Maybe family and friends will gather to eat, open gifts, eat, make snow angels followed by hot chocolate with marshmallows and gingerbread cookies followed by a nap, then repeat?

Your version may vary slightly. Mine exists mostly in my memory. I experience sadness around this time every year. I have family to spend time with and I love them dearly, but there is one Still missing and he is much loved and remembered. If you have been following this blog then you know that we talk about loss and all the many someones we love and miss terribly around the holidays.

But since this entry is about eating, we can all do that, right? And holidays are about stuffing our faces if I can make such a bold statement. We will share a meal and make memories before Christmas and then when our kids return from Christmas celebration elsewhere we will make more memories sharing more food and laughter.

I’d like to share a memory that takes me way back when our children were young, exploring rabble-rousers and we loved every minute of it. If not then, we sure do now. We were spending vacation in Yellowstone National Park and having a great time. Off the beaten path, we stopped to watch a chipmunk busily doing his business. Shhhh, kids. Don’t scare him or her away. (I think it must have been a lady and you will understand why soon enough.) Excited children aren’t naturally quiet, but Ms. Chipmunk was not to be chased away.

Then we got an idea. We had some crackers in the car. Let’s feed her! Certainly she’d like Wheat Thins as much as we did, so out came the crackers. We tossed one in her direction and waited. She darted here and there and then got a whiff . . . food! And without having to work for it. Nice! Then the fun began. Ms. Chipmunk found out that putting a square cracker in her round pouch was not as easy as it looked. With her tiny paws she worked it round and round, trying to find a way for it to go in. Finally, in it went and she scampered off with her treasure. She must have dumped her booty in a place nearby because we didn’t have to wait long and she was back for more. Again and again we tossed crackers to her and watched her maneuver it just right so she could haul it away in her “purse”.

What fun we had feeding and watching. What fun we have had over the years eating and watching and laughing and making memories. We’ll do it again this year in spite of pangs of pain down deep where most can’t see. Most don’t ask. Most seem to have no pangs of pain down deep of their own or maybe we all are wearing our holiday masks.

We  (wish) call out, “Happy Holidays” to friends, family and strangers everywhere. There is much to be jolly about and much to be thankful for. Mostly, I am thankful for the Christ Child. It is he who blesses us daily, providing for our needs so it is his birth we celebrate again this Christmas.

He provides you with plenty of food and fills your hearts with joy.  Acts 14:17

Music miracle

Portrait of Georg Friedrich Händel Deutsch: Ge...

 George Frideric Handel

We celebrated the birth of Christ by going with our kids to enjoy Handel’s Messiah performed by orchestra and choral in a beautiful old church with the look and feel of medieval Gothic architecture; fresh from 18th century England. We are surrounded by Christmas music from shops to churches, but as my daughter-in-law says, “it’s not Christmas until I have listened to Handel’s Messiah” and I quite agree. The music was exquisite, masterful and powerful praise to our Prince of Peace.

The music was created by George Frideric Handel and the words were selected from Holy Scripture by Charles Jennings. Jennings offered the libretto called Messiah and based on the birth and Passion of Christ, to Handel. Handel set to work on the libretto on August 22, 1741, completing the score on September 12, 1741. Time alone seems to elevate this to miracle status. It is also interesting to note that Handel in 1737 at the age of 52, suffered a stroke which left him with blurred vision and a paralyzed right arm, making it impossible for him to play the keyboard or conduct music. Definitely down on his luck, depressed, and in debt he gave up on his career in 1740.

“It was only shortly after these calamities in Handel’s life that he came across a libretto composed by Charles Jennings. Composed entirely of Scripture portions, mainly from the OT, Handel was deeply affected when he read this libretto.  It was divided into three parts: 1) prophecies about the coming Messiah (largely drawing on Isaiah); 2) the birth, life, ministry, death, resurrection of Christ; 3) the End times with Christ’s final victory over sin and death, largely based in the book of Revelation. Inspired,  Handel decided he must compose an oratorio based on this libretto. The story of the composition of this most famous of all Christian musical works has been told variously. What we can say with certainty is that he composed the work in a short period of time during the summer of 1741, and when he got to the Hallelujah chorus, his assistant found him in tears saying “I did think I saw heaven open, and saw the very face of God.” (blog.beliefnet.com)

There are familiar phrases throughout Messiah which are based on well-known verses of Scripture in both OT and NT. Some of them are:

For unto Us a Child is born, Isaiah 9:6

Behold the Lamb of God, John 1:29

Hallelujah, Revelation 19:6

Glory to God, Luke 2:14

I’d say God had a big hand in the creation of this masterpiece. Handel was not at the beginning of his career, but at the end and living under difficult circumstances and yet he turned out this oratorio in about three weeks! When we get to heaven, surrounded by an awesome angel choir, we will no doubt have lots of new music to learn, but perhaps Handel’s Messiah will be transported to heaven where we will continue to enjoy its familiar refrains throughout the endless ages of eternity.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Last Good-Bye

I don’t know how to put this into words, Lord. It has been several years and yet the emotions still slam into my heart and gut, wrenching me anew like it was but a few days ago. The news was unbelievable,  shocking, terrifying. My mind dug in its heels and rebelled . . . absolutely refusing to accept the horrifying truth.

“It had to be a mistake! Please tell me it’s a mistake!”

The heart is nowhere ready to receive, and yet much is expected . . . people are waiting . . . they want answers. We need more time. We want to shift this exploding locomotive into reverse.

The burial process is brutal. First the morgue, then the autopsy, then the funeral home . . . and we still couldn’t see him. We still could not verify that he was really ours. Then we could . . . and it was him . . . much to my fragmented hopes and prayers to the contrary.

Lord, where are You? How could You allow this to happen? All the pieces are but a blur. I remember having to greet friends and neighbors for hours while they paid their respects. None of it was a picnic, Lord. All formalities when I just wanted to open up that box and take my son home with me. How we got through the funeral service, only You know. How my children could stand up front and talk about their brother, I’ll never know. They showed such strength and pride in their brother, and I am awesomely proud of them.

Then it was time for the last good-bye. I both dreaded it and longed for it to be over with. I did not know how to prepare for this final ceremony any more than I had known how to prepare for the others. People had just taken us by the hand and led us where we did not want to go. And now we faced placing our beloved child in the ground . . . in the same cemetery we had driven by hundreds of times, but never felt any emotion or connection to until now. And it would never be the same ever again.

Now it would be the final resting place for one of our children. Never would we pass by again without feeling our hearts jump to our throats. Either we stop and cry and check his flowers, or we pass by slowly, craning our necks to look for the bright floral arrangement that marks his special spot against the backdrop of leafy green. But right now, we are getting out of our cars and walking slowly to the canopy. Shouldn’t this gathering be for someone else? Someone we don’t know, but casually feel sorry for as we drive by?

The director gets out of his vehicle and catches up to us. He has a strange velvet-covered box in his hands. “Would someone like to carry this?” he asks. Our youngest has grown up years in the last week. He has done things to relieve our minds ~ things that had to hurt him deeply. But he is the first to respond, “Yes, I’ll carry it.”

I watch as he clutches it tightly to his chest with both arms wrapped snugly around it as if it is fragile and might break should it slip from his grasp and fall to the ground. His face is filled with tender emotion as tears run unchecked down his cheeks. How I ache to hold him, to comfort him, to tell him it will all be okay, but I cannot change this day or I would. Oh God, You know I would.

We were ushered to our seats. My eyes were blurred with tears. Who all was there? I couldn’t see. Mostly friends, I think . . . most family members could not stay for this day or chose to stay away. The minister said some kind words I am sure, but I don’t remember. I could not take my eyes off my son who still cradled the box . . . and yet I did not want to stare and invade his last private moments with his beloved brother, his first childhood playmate and then his grown-up bro.

The service was over and it was time to say good-bye. Do we have to? Can’t we just remain here forever? One by one, we took a turn clutching the remains of our precious son and brother. We turned to leave, but not without one more symbol of love and respect and honor . . . a crisp salute from our oldest son who proudly and faithfully serves our country.

It was over. Nothing left but a smooth granite slab with his name and dates ~ dates and a dash. That is all that remains until Jesus comes. Therein lies our bright spot! Though we mourn daily, we also have hope! Praise God! We have hope in eternal life and our son will jump out of his dusty grave as soon as he hears the trumpet blast! At last, no more sad good-byes, only hugs and hellos!

Oh come, Lord Jesus and please make it soon!

 The Lord will come from heaven with a command, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trumpet call of God. First, the dead who believed in Christ will come back to life. Then, together with them, we who are still alive will be taken in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. In this way we will always be with the Lord. So then, comfort each other with these words!  1 Thessalonians 4:16-18

~from Shattered by Suicide by Gracie Thompson