Archive | May 2014

No Charge

photo 1 (6)For God loved the world so much that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not die but have eternal life.  John 3:16, GNT

Just an ordinary day running ordinary errands for ordinary purchases. Nothing special. Simply routine with nothing interesting to share . . . but sometimes unexpectedly, material just presents itself ~ a God surprise, you might say. Take today for instance. My last stop was to a specialty shop which has a wonderful deli with all manner of tempting salads, entrees and side dishes. All are arranged beautifully behind glass just begging to be tasted. I ask for a sample and one is readily given. Yum. Each tidbit voices clearly in my head, take me home and you won’t have to cook! Aw, come on . . . you’ve been there too, haven’t you?

I finished making my selections and since I’m always in “just looking” mode, I wheeled my cart by the hot bar just to take a look. One lonely cabbage roll lay forlornly in the corner of the tray. It looked tempting, but I had already calculated my max for today’s purchase and it didn’t include “Mr. Lonely”. Before I could roll on by however, an employee approached the hot bar, just doing his job.

He smiled. He had noted that I gave the cabbage roll a second glance and being a good salesman he promptly offered,  “Don’t you want to take that last one so I can remove the tray?” Surprised and flustered at being caught daydreaming, I returned his smile and slipped away.

I pressed on to the checkout counter to begin the routine task of taking items from the cart and setting them on the conveyor belt. Perhaps even a bit of chit chat with the employee ringing me up. Then to my left “Mr. Salesman” shows up again and this time, bearing gifts. He smiled and held out a plastic container on which he had written with a magic marker, “No Charge”.

“Hope you like it,” He said and walked away. A gift offered by an employee just doing his job. Perhaps his heart was gladdened. I know mine was.

And by the way, the cabbage roll was delicious!

No charge. Hmmm. How often does that happen in one’s life? Certainly not often in mine.

But it reminds me of what Jesus did. He did a “no charge” for us too. A free gift of grace that cost Him everything. Food for thought I’d say.

 

 

 

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This entry was posted on May 31, 2014. 6 Comments

Yesterday’s News

So also the tongue is a small thing, but what enormous damage it can do. A great forest can be set on fire by one tiny spark. James 3:5
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Yesterday’s News

Yesterdays news is recycled to the bottom of the birdcage today. Our revolving world has a constant thirst for something new, something different, something that buys ratings when in actuality it is “chasing after wind.” (Eccl. 1:14) One can imagine how quickly a struck match dropped into a pile of shredded paper could destroy a house. Lives are forever changed. Words strike a match too and set hearts ablaze.
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It’s risky taking on the establishment and expose the heart to further beatings. The community at large may not have an interest in this piece, but there is one out there who will find this rings true for them. I have had more time in the trenches than many so I will speak up for you. Perhaps you would rather I keep my opinions to myself and I still respect you even if you feel that way and you may respond accordingly, but I will still speak up. One tiny voice can be heard over the din of life and that goal is worth the risk.
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It’s when our world crumbles at our feet after tragedy of any kind that we see yesterday’s news for what it really is. If you are not fresh and new, you are discarded ~ which include the painful feelings that come with loss. It isn’t long before we become boring and a drag, holding others back. We’re no longer continuously upbeat and soon find ourselves outside the social circle. I’m older and can accept this condition more easily that those who are younger and thrive on the social scene. It’s hard to find someone willing to come along side and listen to your story . . . yet again. It’s not fresh news. They want to move on. They want you to move on with them so why don’t you, they reason. But it’s a hollow argument lost on deaf ears. Our hearts are preoccupied with more pressing issues that we grapple with every breathing moment.
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I struggle to find words to cover the difficulty encountered with the casual, flippant attitude toward grief “out there”. This is not said to hurt anyone’s feelings, but rather to impart a conscience determination to stop giving the grieving a continual tongue lashing with one’s choice of words. Yes, we are sensitive! I won’t lie! Yes, it may feel like you are walking on eggshells with our tender feelings. This is true, but there are ways to help us. Please make an effort. It may be way outside your comfort zone, but this is not about you!

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Please, don’t tune us out. Please keep up a friendship. Please take the lead. Don’t volunteer to “help in any way needed” expecting us to contact you. Just go ahead and do what you are impressed to do. Put some teeth into your offer. Be specific. Don’t wait to be led. We always need to eat. We may need a break from small children in our lives. We always need a listening ear, a true listener, not a fake one who looks about in all directions for an excuse to escape while you’re still speaking. We have plenty of those. We seek real friends for the long haul and it is long. In fact, it is life long. Tall order? Yes, and unless you have experienced tragedy first hand, you sincerely have no clue.

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I cannot accurately put into words how it feels to bury one’s child. I refer to suicide because that is my experience. Even if this is not your experience maybe you can still touch the edges just a bit. If you are a parent, can you remember when you weren’t? Can you remember wondering what it would be like once your child was born? Are we in agreement that once the baby came, you realized how “clueless” you were before the birth? Can you put into words how you felt when you first held your baby? The touch, the sweet smell, the warmth, the sounds, the tears that flowed? So how did being a new parent change you? Can you describe the feelings? Actually, I can’t. It is beyond words for me. The awesomeness still floors me…and now he is gone, ripped away from my life for the rest of my days. No, words fail me to speak of the deep anguish.

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I am continuously shocked to my depth to hear phrases, loose words, whether intended to inflict pain or not. After reading long threads of expressed pain on Facebook grief sites, the heartbroken could fill page after page of words that continue to assail our senses. It is revolting! And  should you be ceased with intense desire to refrain from causing pain, good! Then the time it took to write this post has not been wasted. I have wondered aloud on Facebook if some persons could admin a new site open to the community to bring awareness and enlightenment to grief language. Is there interest? I don’t know. Would the public be concerned? I don’t know. Many of us are wanting to break the code of silence, shame, indifference, apathy that drapes over us like a wet blanket. Our ears and hearts are constantly bombarded with sharp, poisonous arrows by the use of words. Take suicide for instance. To hear the media use the word in a flip way, like everything from political suicide to career suicide. I’ve heard it all and so have you whether it registers or not. As a mom who has lost a child to suicide, it registers. My antennae are on high alert. That is no one’s fault. I can’t change how I feel, but we can all be more aware of our language. We can all learn to not say “I just want to kill myself” when we break a fingernail or say “just hang in there” a common phrase perhaps intended to encourage when said in the presence of the parent who found their child and had to cut them down . . . . Do you feel the jagged edge in your gut? As well you should. These are the nightmares some live with. Others have just as painful reminders. It may not be your story, but it is theirs. Its time to put someone else’s pain first.

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If you have kept reading to this point may I ask you a question. In your core beliefs do you extend salvation to those who complete suicide like you might extend salvation to your saint of a grandmother? If your answer is “no” I respectfully ask you to refrain from making any comments about your beliefs to anyone in public or places like Facebook where those suffering grief are likely to read or hear you. Any hurtful words only further crush our hearts. We prefer to hear from those who understand first hand or who are willing to put personal views aside if necessary and open gracious hearts to us in peace. We seek healing and kind words can help.

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I’m speaking out for me. I am speaking up for you. Listen up, world. Grieving hearts deserve your best words. You can do it!

Do to others as you would have them do to you.  Luke 6:31

 

 

This entry was posted on May 24, 2014. 6 Comments

Beef in the Backseat

Whether you take pride growing up in the country or in the city I think you’ll like this story which gives new meaning to the words, “cattle car”. Being a city girl myself, the “beef” in my backseat was always children dishing out sound effects, each hoarding space by drawing imaginary lines. Read on if you’d like your funny bone tickled.   file000782803913

“I was a city girl, 26 years old with three young children and one on the way, when we moved to the country outside Tacoma, Washington. We didn’t have much money, so we were always looking for ways to stretch a dollar. In the summer of 1961, we agreed with some friends to go in together on a calf. each family would pitch in $12.50, and we’d raise it on my farm.

It was my guess that $25 would buy a 40-pound calf, and an animal that size would easily fit into the back of our 1941 two-door Chevrolet, right? So when the day came, I simply took the backseat out, put down an old carpet, threw in a 10-foot coil of rope and considered myself ready to haul livestock. My two older kids stayed with a neighbor, and I packed up my baby and drove to town to pick up my friend Rose and her baby. She held the little ones while I drove the cattle car.

The farmer was friendly, and we visited awhile. But when Rose paid him for the calf, he looked at my car and just shook his head. Then he walked away with our lead rope and returned with a beast the size of a full-grown cow!

I couldn’t let on that I didn’t have the faintest idea what I was doing. ‘Oh, this will be easy,’ I bluffed. ‘We’ll open both car doors. I’ll pull. You lift his front feet, then push him in from the back.’

I pulled the rope for all I was worth, while Rose and the farmer pushed as hard as they could. The poor calf had no choice but to climb into the car. His big head hung out one back window and his tail hung out the other.

The drive home was uneventful until we reached Tacoma. About this time, the calf had taken to stamping his feet and shifting his weight, which caused the car to rock from side to side. We stopped at a red light in front of a Woolworth’s dime store. The sidewalks were full and the intersections packed, and every person within staring distance was doing exactly that.

Then, while we were waiting for the light to turn green, we heard a noise. A noise like someone sticking out a tongue and blowing a raspberry. A noise that made me think, no, no, not here!  ‘Rose,’ I asked, ‘was that you?’ ‘No,’ she replied, ‘not me. You?’

I didn’t want to believe my eyes, but I saw the calf’s tail sticking straight out the window. And then it happened. Cow business! Right there in the middle of Tacoma! with some of the stares turning to open-mouthed shock, I slid down in my seat, trying to hide.

It’s not easy to work a clutch and a gear shift when you’re crouched down that low [and pregnant!] but believe me, I managed. We finally got the calf home and let him out of the car. I think he was glad the ride was over, I know Rose and I were.”

“Laughter is the sun that drives winter from the human face.”  Victor Hugo (1802-1885) Poet, Novelist, Playwright

story by Joanne Tripp, Country magazine, Aug/Sept, 2012

This entry was posted on May 17, 2014. 4 Comments

Calling all mothers . . .

I know what day is coming. I have a calendar. But even if I didn’t, there is plenty of advertising out there to remind me. I’m going to be honest here and tell you that I’d rather skip over Mother’s Day. Not because I don’t have a loving family who share hugs and cards and gifts because I do, and I love them dearly. But my heart still aches for one more, one whose presence is deeply missed by all of us. This post is dedicated to all surviving mothers ~ mothers who are surviving the loss of a child. We may have other children whom we love, but we have outlived one which causes us unspeakable pain.

Perhaps I should spend our time together wisely and search for kernels of truth that will provide more lasting hope than the wonderful, but temporary blessings such as bouquets and cards and invitations to dinner. No, I don’t have them on the tip of my tongue, but in the digging, God will be right there to make sure that what we unearth will be just the blessing we both need to hear to get us through this bittersweet holiday.

Just in case you are a new follower perhaps I should briefly give you a recap how I got here and to add . . . only by God’s amazing grace. I have experience horrific grief first hand by losing my firstborn son to suicide going on 9 years now. As we moms know, one can never plan ahead for grief. There is no space in the mind to allow for such a thing. Tragedy sucks the air out of our sails immediately after loss. There is no air to breathe and we’d rather there not be any. We’d rather die after their death than live.

Time has a way of ticking passed when we aren’t looking and when we don’t think it can. My world crashed on top of me when my son died. This “Humpty Dumpty” had no desire to be put back together again, ever! There was nothing left of who I was. Others wanted me back just the way I had been, but that normal had died. There would have to be a new normal, a re-creation, but I was incapable of re-creation. It was above my “pay grade” so to speak. It would have to be a miracle. Was that possible?

This is where God stepped in and made me once more. He could do it . . . and this time He would reinforce the backbone in me; I would be less shy, less “I can’t”. He would encourage me to journal my feelings for His eyes only. I would refuse. He would encouraged. I would refused. Back and forth we went until I gave in. Staring at a white PC screen ~ where were the words going to come from? But once the dam broke, it unleashed a torrent of deep pain which eventually became a book, Shattered by Suicide, My Conversations With God After the Tragic Death of My Son. Who knew this was possible? Not me. Only God knew. Only God sees the bigger picture. Only He can see what we can become in His strength.

Together, you and I, we walk this grief journey arm in arm. Unfortunately new ones join us for the gush of loss continues, but we make room. There is always room for one more. Each day we are reminded of our sorrow, but each day we are encouraged, in His strength, to survive and even thrive. Yes, thriving is possible. Hope is possible. And even joy is possible on this impossible journey.

So that is why I write. I am the least “techy” person you will ever meet. In fact, you may give me tips on how you blog so beautifully and I will eagerly accept them. I am willing to learn, but never as fast as others, much younger, learn. But God writes thru me. He asked me to be a conduit, to be His hands, feet and heart to those who follow after. The stats are so high, so tragic. There is loss to suicide ~ 99 every 66 minutes around the globe. I shudder to think of the impact this makes on families everywhere! But all death of children, no matter the cause, takes a heavy toll on parents and siblings and all who love them. All death breaks God’s heart too.

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I am but a drop in the bucket, but collectively as we are able to pick ourselves up and join the human race again, we make a difference. One drop alone makes little impact, but many drops make a stream    file1101246806947

 

and the stream fills many buckets.

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As we face yet another holiday maybe it will be a happy one for you? I hope so. I pray so. No matter if you are surrounded with the happy faces of children or with children who have children of their own, making you a grandmother, realize the blessings that continue to flow.  Like that stream, we continue to live by God’s amazing grace. We continue to live to be an inspiration to others. God can use each willing “cracked pot”, which is what I call myself. I am a cracked pot, broken by circumstances out of my control, but not out of His.

If you have yet to find a Bible text which describes your loss, you may share mine: The Lord is close to the brokenhearted [me] and saves those who are crushed in spirit [my son].  Psalm 34:18, NIV

Be encouraged by the many promises in God’s Book. It is my “go to” place when my cracked pot seems to leak faster than it fills. Perhaps these texts will encourage you as they encourage me. It is a place to start and there are many more where they come from.

What is faith? It is the confident assurance that something we want is going to happen.

It is the certainty that what we hope for is waiting for us, even though we cannot see it up ahead.

Hebrews 11:1, LB

This hope is a safe anchor for our souls. It will never move. 

  Hebrews 6:19, NLV

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This entry was posted on May 6, 2014. 4 Comments

Choose compassion

Remember the oft repeated children’s rhyme: “Sticks and stones will break my bones, but words will never harm me.” Whether hurtful words are said to adults or to children, they cause harm do they not?

Abraham Lincoln had this to say:  “Better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak out and remove all doubt.” We adults know what this means. How often are we guilty? Is it possible to cast a stone with words? With facial expressions? How about attitudes?

Ever met people who seem to lack a brain filter? A river of opinions may flow unchecked from their mouths, making what President Lincoln said a truth. If I were to ask you the number of times someone has said something hurtful to you in the past year, would you require another hand or two to add them up? Likely, you remember. It is easy to remember the hurtful words. It’s sad, heartless, and often downright cruel the things people say, particularly to those who are suffering deeply. Rather than speak words of compassion, they wax long in their limited understanding of the burdens you carry. They have zero experience but an abundance of “knowledge” picked up from here and there ~ and sad to say, they are often members of our inner circle. If you have first hand experience, I am sorry for your pain.

Words, like throwing stones to drive home a point, leave bruises that last a lifetime. It reminds me of a Bible story that you may recall. Perhaps there are similarities between stones thrown then and words of stone “thrown” now?

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This story is about a single woman named Mary. Pardon my loose translation of the Bible story which in the telling goes something like this. Mary worked the late shift in the city. She walked the lonely streets at night looking for opportunities to sell her body to make a living. Men liked her good looks, but secretly despised her and treated her accordingly. She preferred the wealthier men because they paid her promptly. She performed their preferences and was rewarded for it, but the job had lost its luster.  No doubt she was still a beauty in spite of the rough treatment she had to endure in her line of work. But she was tired of the harsh treatment . . . and the shame. Many a time she was kicked out on the street to spend the rest of the night curled up in a dark alley until the first rays of dawn erased the dark shadows, attempting to erase the ugly memories as well.

Mary grew up in the village of Bethany, a suburb of Jerusalem. Often while leaning against the lamppost or curled up in an alley, memories of home flooded her mind. There were always hot meals and a warm bed. She knew her sister Martha and her brother Lazarus would take her back ~ her room was kept just as she had left it ~  but they would expect her to give up her lucrative job on the streets in order to live with them. But who would hire her with her reputation? She had no acceptable work history to write on her resume. A prospective boss’s scoffing would only deepen her shame. As bad as her profession was she was not ready to call it quits. Not yet.

Then Jesus came to town. He had no home of his own and often stayed with Martha and Lazarus in Bethany. They quickly bonded into a beautiful friendship and he was always welcome. Jesus would get road-weary and Martha always had warm bread in the oven and hot soup simmering in the kettle when she heard he was on his way. They had good talks too. Lazarus and Martha were eager to learn about God, believing Jesus was God’s Son. They poured out their pain about Mary, how they worried about her safety and the gossip from the neighborhood. It followed them wherever they went, but they loved their sister and wanted a better life for her.

Back in the city, Mary had a bad night. The trick turned ugly. The man had beaten her after having his way with her. As much as she didn’t want to drag her family into her world, she needed them now more than ever so pulling her veil over her face to hide the bruises, she caught a ride with a passing stranger to Bethany. Martha washed off the dried blood and applied ointment and bandages. Lazarus fretted over her employment while she filled her tummy with the best meal she had eaten in a while and Jesus just listened.

When she felt safe enough to let her guard down, daring to trust this kind stranger, Jesus began to share with her the love he brought with him from heaven. He instantly loved Mary as was his nature. His Father loved her too. They talked and talked. Mary felt safe and trusting ~ more than she had felt for any man other than her brother. The Holy Spirit was working on her heart, drawing her and she found her soul satisfied with Jesus’ words of hope and healing. Her heart was touched. She had never felt more sinful than she felt at the feet of Jesus and yet she knew he loved her inside out. She felt no shame in the presence of Jesus, who knew no sin. But he did not condemn her. Instead, he cast out the demons that haunted her very existence. Her sin gone!

Mary had found a new love. But after a time, the lure of the city streets pulled at her again. The money was good and she needed to support herself and think of her future, so she returned to the night life in the big city with deep pockets. It was during one of Mary’s business transactions that she was caught in the very act of adultery. Suddenly she was surrounded by men in colorful robes with matching turbans who swiftly drug her half-naked body out into the street. The bright morning sun temporarily blinded her. Try as she might, she had little clothing with which to cover her shame. These haughty businessmen in their freshly pressed attire ~ some she recognized from previous engagements ~ were hell-bent on making an example of her.

Shielding her eyes against the morning rays, she felt a Presence. Sandaled feet joined her in the circle formed by these blood-thirsty men intent on making a spectacle of her. She knew the law. They intended to spill her blood today. But they wanted to “kill two birds with one stone”. Truth be told, they weren’t really after her, but after Jesus. She was the pawn. He was the target. A trap had been set and they were prepared. Each Pharisee tensely fingered the rough stone they held, hidden in the folds of their robes. Each stone would inflict serious damage when heaved at the trembling form. A few blows would forever silence the woman huddled before them, but they craved silencing the Man in the middle, more. Much more.

These pious church leaders were hoping to trick Jesus. They hated him and his following. He made their blood boil when he preached loving messages of freedom to the people. They wanted control over everyone and this woman at their feet was to be made an example. There would be one less prostitute when they got through with her. Never mind they had used her. There would be others they’d willingly pay for favors in the dead of night, but today, catching Jesus in his own words, would be worth it.

“Hey, Teacher,” they yelled. “We caught this woman turning tricks, caught her in the very act. Moses said we are to stone her to death. What do you say?”

The air echoed with their curt words and then silence fell. It got eerily quiet. Was this man, Jesus, going to say nothing? Mary barely lifted her mop of sweaty curls to see the sandal-clad feet in front of her. She wanted to cover her head with her arms as if to shield herself against the stones she expected to be hurled at any moment. Still silence. Daring to peek, Mary noticed something strange going on. Jesus was bent over and writing in the soft dirt.

He stood up and said in a quiet, even tone, “Any of you who has never sinned, go ahead and throw your stones at her.” Then he returned to his writing. One by one, Mary heard thuds and the shuffling of feet as stones hit the ground and the men slunk away. It grew quiet again. Only Jesus remained.

Mary did not know what to think. Not only was she a nearly-naked mess, she had been trembling with the expectation of death. Now all she wanted to do was get to her feet and unabashedly throw her arms around her Benefactor. Jesus reached down and took her hands, pulling her to her feet. All the feelings of guilt and shame vanished in an instant as the Savior said to her, “Mary, neither do I say you are guilty. Go on your way and do not sin again.” (John 8:11, NLV )

Perhaps you can see the correlation between the stones of this ancient story and the stony behavior of people today? People who liberally condemn the behavior of others with their stony words, piercing the hearts of those who hear them. Self-righteous folks form circles around hurting families. They set ultimatums. They draw a circle in the sand with you and Jesus in the middle. They throw stones. Have their say. They share their personal truth thru stinging words. Now they wait for Jesus to finish you off. After all, if he is who he says he is, God tolerates no sin. Someone has sinned and must be punished. Even though surviving families will bear the crushing pain of loss for the rest of their natural lives, they expect Jesus to not only agree with them, but pronounce final judgment on you or your loved ones right here, right now, just as they have done. They know the law and it has been broken.

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But how did Jesus treat Mary? She was set free by the One who would later die for all sins: past, present, and future. He was her Savior and she fell in love with him at that moment. Though the world was harsh and sinful and people made it clear that she was worth nothing, Jesus accepted her as she was, forgave her sins, and set her free. He treats us the same, does he not?

Therefore if the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed.  John 8:36, NKJV

 

 

 

This entry was posted on May 3, 2014. 2 Comments