Archive | May 2015

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  

 

 

 

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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

meerkat_family (1)

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