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Monthly Archives: December 2016

How To Bring Relief To Those Who Grieve | Michele Cushatt

The holidays are hard on the grieving. Gatherings surrounded by intact families, seem to taunt the bereaved with all that’s been lost—all that’s painfully absent in their own lives. Following Thanksgiving and Christmas comes the new year and all the expectation for a fresh start. Rarely do the bereaved feel this way.

The cold, dark months that follow often reflect the hearts of grieving families. Life comes to a screeching halt and also has a weird way of speeding past following the death of a loved one. It feels like you are standing still while the rest of the world rushes by. It doesn’t just “feel” this way; it happens. I remember the first time I really got out and around town following our accident. I was shocked to find a Cracker Barrel, a Chipolte’s and a new Walmart Convenience Store and Gas Station had been built. Life moved forward. I had not.

This blog post by Michele Cushatt, will help those who love the bereaved to minister to the hurting in 2017.

A teaser and a link to the full article can be found below. I hope you will take the time to follow the link and read the article.

“New Year’s Eve is supposed to be a celebration. A butt-kicking “goodbye” to the old year and raucous “hello” to the new one. After the year our family had, we were ready for both. So I prepared the food, pulled out the games and puzzles, and chilled sparkling cider to the delight of my children. By dinner, …”

Source: How To Bring Relief To Those Who Grieve | Michele Cushatt

 
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Posted by on December 28, 2016 in Grief

 

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What Christmas Means to Me

I sat in the darken church, Christmas tree beautifully lit, a trio of nativity figures beneath, Mary, Joseph and the baby Jesus. Centered in front of the pulpit stood the Communion Table, the elements security covered in silver trays. The music was beautiful; especially the rendition of “O Holy Night”. I listened closely, maybe for the first time ever, to the words of each individual verse. And as the elements were distributed my mind filled in the words I knew to “What Child Is This?”, as the pianist played in the quiet sanctuary.

During an earlier song, “Sleep Jesus Sleep”, individual snapshots of the accident scene flashed through my mind. Horrible images of a day I wish were only a nightmare instead of reality. My Dad sat to my left, completely unaware. I contemplated exiting the sanctuary but stubbornly remained seated thankful that the images abated once the congregation stood to sing, “O Little Town of Bethlehem”.

The Pastor took the pulpit and began to tell of the Christmas Story from Matthew chapter 1 verses 18-25. . . 

And in the reverence of that darkened sanctuary I knew exactly what Christmas means to me. It is the Genesis of my most precious hope. The reason my broken heart can celebrate at all. A babe in a manger, the seed of an untouched woman, a virgin, not the seed of the first man of sin, Adam. The seed of woman as foretold in the book of Genesis and Isaiah, free of the sin nature passed down through the centuries as described in the book of Romans. The first and only sin-free man ever born. A perfect blend of deity and humanity born in a sheep fold and laid in a manger – a feed trough – how fitting for THE BREAD OF LIFE. God set aside the exaltation worthy of His holiness and took on human flesh, the cloak of humanity, wrapped in humility, to enter our world for the sole purpose of saving His creation.

And therein lies my hope. His advent led to the Via Dolorosa, to the cross, on which He would sacrificially lay down His life for the sins of the world. And so at His birth we take into our bodies the symbolic representation of His broken body and spilt blood. We remember His death. He came to die and because He did, we all have hope.

Hope that a place free of sin and sorrow awaits those who receive the free gift of salvation through faith by the grace of God. Hope that every painful loss will be redeemed by the same Savior who laid down His sinless life in atonement for our sins. Hope of reunion. Hope of perfection. 

Hope.

That long ago starry night, full of angels proclaiming and shepherds searching and wise men from afar worshipping a tiny babe in a dirty sheepfold, the manifestation of the redemptive hopes of all the world. We think of the gifts offered this child-king but this little baby was both the gift and the giver. A lowly birth, a shameful death . . . culminating in the foretold resurrection and the birth of hope. 

Christmas – the small, seemingly insignificant babe for which there was no room – ushered hope into this world of sin. 


Christmas – and Easter – brought the only hope of my eternal soul. So as packages are passed, and families gather together, and the Spector of those gone before lingers over the day, I will worship the King of kings as my heart longs for His return – longs for that great day of rejoicing – longs for reunion – longs for Jesus – the one and only hope for all of humanity.

Christmas means hope to me!

 
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Posted by on December 25, 2016 in Faith

 

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No, No, No!

My heart lies in tatters once again as I hear of the loss of another son, another grandson. It’s personal this time. People I know and love . . . the second such family in two months time . . . it makes me nauseous.

Oh, how helpless I feel!

I don’t want to be there to help. . .

No, no, no!

I want to rewind the clock so this is not their present stunned and horrified reality!

I want to save them from this anguish like none other.

And since I can’t. . .

I want to draw them close and catch their tears.

I want to receive and heal their broken and distraught hearts.

I want to listen to every painful word and let them know they are loved.

That God still loves them—will still be faithful to them—that there are mercies.

“It is of the LORD’s mercies that we are not consumed because his mercies never diminish. They are new every morning; great is thy faith[fulness].” ~ Lamentations 3:22-23 (Jubilee Bible 2000)

There is no silver lining! Nothing will ever make this loss acceptable or justify it for the family even when a good work of the Lord is later revealed. Silver linings imply that this horrible loss can be wrapped up in some future good, tied with a pretty bow and completely nullify the bad. The bad is made good.  Mercies, on the other hand, are blessings within and after and in spite of any tragedy.

There are mercies!

He can take the shattered pieces of our lives and in time make something good and beautiful but still cracked and scarred for all to see. He can make us beautifully broken but never unblemished by the ravages of sin in this world.

And everyday from the moment of loss until my friends step into eternity there will be mercies.

Small mercies in the midst of overwhelming sorrow and despair.

God doesn’t promise to fix this in the here and now. He promises to draw close, to catch our tears. He promises to be faithful to us. He promises new mercies every day.

Here I sit several states away and I can’t ignore the parallel that lies before me. I am afar off but the wonders of technology allow me to be close via phones, social media, Skype, cars and planes.

In many ways I can immediately respond if my friends reach out.

But they know I can’t wiggle my nose and be in actual hugging distance instantly.

They know that God sees them, and responds immediately to their call for help . . . but at the same time they are separated from His physical touch.

Consequently, the bereaved often feel alone, abandoned and betrayed. Please don’t correct these feelings. Imagine yourself in their shoes. Wouldn’t you feel the same? Validate those feelings! It’s not sinful to feel any of those things. Hear the words of the prophet Jeremiah:

“My soul has been cast far away from peace; I have forgotten happiness.
So I say, “My strength has perished And so has my hope and expectation from the Lord.”~ Lamentations 3:17-18 (Amplified Bible)

In many ways grieving families are simply inconsolable.

They don’t want to be consoled . . .

They want to go back!

Back to the moments before their lives were so tragically changed.

Three years later I can testify to this truth:  while life moves relentlessly forward there are parts of a parent’s heart that stand still in shocked horror indefinitely.

How can this be?

Surely, this is not real?

I’ll wake up from this nightmare!

God, please let me awake from this nightmare! 

Let it all be a terrible dream . . . a horrible mistake.

Please God, take this cup from me!

Yet the die has been cast and lives have unraveled in unimaginable ways.

Every sight thereafter will be seen through a lens of grief. Every written and spoken word filtered through grief. Every joyous event that follows will not be felt with pure, unblemished joy as in the past but will be bittersweet—tainted by the fact that you are no longer whole and you long for the presence of the one out of reach.

Faith will be shaken.

Minds fogged by confusion and fear, anger and frustration, and a sorrow so deep they will never find its limits.

They are shattered.

Not merely broken.

Utterly shattered!

Thus saith the Lord: A voice was heard on high of lamentation, of mourning, and weeping, of Rachel weeping for her children, and refusing to be comforted for them, because they are not. ~ Jeremiah 31:15 (Douay-Rheims Bible)

Mourn with those who mourn!

Weep with those who weep!

God’s mercies will be new every single morning.

He has His job; we have ours.

Today, once again, I mourn for and with others. Won’t you join with me and carry those who grieve before the throne of grace?

Anguished prayers for parents, siblings and family as a whole rise in begging supplication for God’s mercies to rain down—for His presence and love to wash over every shattered heart—for this to be nothing more than a terrible dream!

The desperate prayer of my heart to see faith made sight is far more urgent today.

“Hear my prayer, O LORD! Listen to my cry for help! Do not ignore my sobbing! For I am dependent on you, like one residing outside his native land; I am at your mercy, just as all my ancestors were.” ~ Psalm 39:12 (NET Bible) 

If you know of a bereaved family, please pray them through the holidays. If you don’t, please pray for the VanGulick, Vickers and Williams families who will each be missing their son, sibling or grandson while others gather with intact families and celebrate together. These families are secure in their confidence that Harry and O’rane will celebrate Christ’s birth in His presence; but their hearts will ache with the absence of their presence (as my friend Melanie is known to say). Please cry out to Jesus on their behalf!


*Follow the link below to read more about the beautiful sculpture pictured above. It’s only a few brief paragraphs.

Rachel Weeping for her Children Sculpture

 

 
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Posted by on December 15, 2016 in Faith, Grief, Links

 

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Great Lines in Fiction & Non-fiction Words of Note

Great Lines in Fiction & Non-fiction Words of Note

Often I find that authors speak the things my heart knows but can’t quite put into words. Words about fear, grief and prayer…Words that offer the sweet relief of knowing that my struggles, spiritual and worldly, are common across mankind. Here are several that have spoken to me. I hope you can appreciate them even if you haven’t encountered a situation where you understand them experientially.

Let’s start with non-fiction.


Non-Fiction Words of Note:

One bold message in the book of Job is that you can say anything to God. Throw at him your grief, your anger, your doubt, your bitterness, your betrayal, your disappointment — he can absorb them all. As often as not, spiritual giants of the Bible are shown contending with God. They prefer to go away limping, like Jacob, rather than to shut God out.” ― Disappointment with God, Philip Yancey

***

When weakness meets weariness, and discouragement meets disillusionment, we must be on our guard. These are spiritually precarious moments. . . I’m finding that what I really need at this phase of life is the refreshing gospel reminder that it is precisely my weaknesses that showcase most clearly and beautifully the strength of God’s grace (2 Corinthians 12:9–10), and that I have need of endurance, so that when I have done the will of God I may receive what he promised (Hebrews  10:36). My weaknesses have a purpose in God’s design, and so does my weariness.”  ― Turning Fifty and Still Fighting for Faith, John Bloom

***

“Rejection steals the best of who I am by reinforcing the worst that’s been said to me.” ― Univited , Lysa TerKeurst

***

“Waking up every day and loving someone who may or may not love us back, whose safety we can’t ensure, who may stay in our lives or leave without a moment’s notice, who may be loyal to the day they die or may betray us tomorrow – that’s vulnerability.” ― Daring Greatly, Brene Brown


Great Lines in Fiction:

“I like to think that all those stars are my prayers,” whispers Charlotte. “God thinks they are so pretty he chooses to string them in the sky.” ― How Sweet It Is, Alice J. Wisler

***

“. . . the most difficult battles are not the ones fought outside the armor, but the ones within it.” ― The Prayer Box, Lisa Wingate

***

” It’s been my experience that fear doesn’t have a set of parameters. We can’t turn it off just by realizing we shouldn’t be afraid.” ― Hidden Away, Maya Banks

***

“Her mind would have accepted the facts about the deaths, done its best to shield her from the emotions of those facts. To survive it, she would have fought to keep that distance.”   ― Taken, Dee Henderson

***

“I walked over to the shoulder of the road, unsure of what I expected to see. Sirens in the distance placed a sense of urgency, but I was numb. I knew I should be feeling something, but I didn’t. Every single emotion I’d started to feel had been placed back in the vault of my soul.” ― Hidden Sins, Selena Montgomery 

***

“She needed one person besides God who knew it all, who knew her, and accepted her as she was.” . . . But she also needed friends who knew, whether in whole or in part who still unreservedly accepted her.” ― Taken, Dee Henderson

***

“Silent is always better than sorry.” ― Buried Secrets, Irene Hannon

***

If only worry could keep him safe.” ― Buried Secrets, Irene Hannon

***

“I think he’s scared to trust that someone could actually love him. That it’s not just a mistake. Simon knows all about how to love. He just doesn’t know how to be loved.” ― Daring in the Dark, Jennifer LaBrecque

***

“The urge to live was as intrinsic as it was intense. And the urge to save those she loved was stronger still. But, in the end, she’d been helpless. Infuriatingly, pathetically helpless. . .” ― Thrill Ride, Julie Ann Walker

***

“. . . finally saying the words out loud, telling the tale and admitting to the root of her fear was freeing in a way she never could have imagined. Letting someone else share in the horror of her experience, having someone hold a mirror up in front of her face so she could address the foolishness of her irrational fear, relieved her of a burden she hadn’t known she’d been carrying around like a two-ton bolder of shame.”  ― Thrill Ride, Julie Ann Walker

***

“. . . being without him made her heart heavy—it felt literally heavy, as though it had become a lifeless, leaden organ, barely worth carrying around. And everything remotely happy had an echo of pain that hurt like hell.” ― Against the Dark, Carolyn Crane

***

“. . . People always judged themselves by their intentions; they judged others by their actions.” ― Wild Thing, Robin Kaye

***

“Writing had always helped her, before. It always clarified her feelings and her thoughts, and she never felt like she could understand something fully until the very minute that she’d written about it, as if each story was one she told herself and her readers, at the same time.” ― Look Again, Lisa Scottoline

***

“Suddenly, someone who was at the center of your life is gone, excised as quickly as an apple is cored, a sharp spike driven down the center of your world, then a cruel flick of the wrist and the almost surgical extraction of your very heart.” Look Again, Lisa Scottoline

***

“Nobody was ever replaced in life, no hole completely filled or loss totally healed. You didn’t need a medical degree to know that the human body really wasn’t stronger in the broken places. Like any bone, the cracks would always show if you looked hard enough.” ― Come Home, Lisa Scottoline

***

“I’ve learned that you don’t stop loving someone just because they die. And you don’t stop loving someone who’s dead just because you start loving someone else. I know this violates the natural law that two things can’t occupy the same place at the same time, but that’s never been true of the human heart anyway.” ― Everywhere That Mary Went, Lisa Scottoline

***

TEN YEARS (A song)

“In one second, I see ten years

I picture a future of all my fears

One Blink, and I think

Losing you is like losing me.”
“Lights flash, the car spins

Every time I close my eyes I see

Broken skin and broken kin

The end of you feels like the end of me.”
There’s a scream in my soul

‘Cause I’ll never feel whole

I’m stuck in the moment. My mind’s on repeat

Trapped in an instant I can’t delete
“Time unravels, my life unspools

The future has made us all into fools 

You’re lying there, and I’m stuck in my chair

All I’m allowed to do is stare.”
We’re all slaves to the grave

Helpless to save

So we close our eyes to shut it out

Instead it becomes what we’re all about.”
“In one second, I see ten years

Can’t hold it back any more than the tears

I see black dresses, life’s stresses

Imagine the grief, loss of belief

My life unfolds as yours is untold
“Every time I close my eyes.

Every time I close my eyes.”

― Faking It, Cora Carmack

***

“I love it when you swear. It’s like a Care Bear giving someone the finger.” ― One Blazing Night, Jo Leigh

***

“So he simply said, “make sure it’s about justice and not revenge. ”

“What’s the diff?”

“Justice will keep your head straight. Revenge will skew your judgement.”  ― Wild Ways, Tina Wainscott

***

“You’re trying to think it through, trying to, make sense of it. The thing is, though, it doesn’t make sense. It never will. You can’t equal it out. What he did and how you feel for him may never . . . wash, I guess. You just have to make a decision and stick to it. Right now, you’re basically burying your head in the sand and hoping it goes away.” ― Alpha, Jasinder Wilder

***

“Fear is just fear. We must take action in the face of it, Cassie, because action increases courage.”  ― Secret, L. Marie Adeline

***

“Love has many guises . . . Sometimes it’s a stroke of lightening . . . other times a slow building storm . . . But the one thing that never changes is that it must be be nurtured. You can’t kick a heart and expect it not to flinch.”  ― Rock Courtship, Nalini Singh

***

“”I didn’t lose him. God took him.” The edge was back in his voice when he spoke of the Lord. “You know what I don’t get? he quickly continued, “Why did God even bother creating Tucker if it was only so he could die?”

Her heart physically ached, her chest tightening at the hurt and anguish in his soulful eyes. “God didn’t create Tucker to die. He created him for eternity.”

He looked at her with such longing, her breath caught. “Gage, Tucker’s time on earth was short, heartbreakingly so, but his life didn’t end in the NICU. He’s alive for eternity.” . . . “How can you sound so sure, be so sure?””Because of God’s Word. He’s never reneged on a promise, so I know He’ll keep His promise of eternal life for the innocent as well as those who choose to accept the redemptive death of His son.” ― Stranded, Dani Pettrey 

***

I hope you were able to find a bit of validation for yourself among those quotes, and if not . . . Did you know that studies show that people who read fiction are more empathetic than those who don’t? There’s great value in the written word! 

 
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Posted by on December 13, 2016 in Adversity, Books, Faith, Grief

 

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He’s Close to the Broken-Hearted

No one likes pain. But it is a necessary part of life. And loss is one of the most excruciating pains. But we can have this confidence which helps us when we experience pain. When our hearts are br…

Source: He’s Close to the Broken-Hearted

 
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Posted by on December 12, 2016 in Faith, Grief

 

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The Savior of the World

The holidays are notoriously hard for the bereaved; Christmas in particular. It’s the quintessential family day. It’s looked forward to with joy by kids filled with anticipation and hope and parents and grandparents excited to see that hope realized and the resulting celebration . . .

Not only that, the entire month of December is filled with triggers for memorable moments that will be no more . . .

Ever again.

santanativityShopping, decorating, making candy and cookies, late night cocoa by the light of the Christmas tree, piles of presents gradually growing higher and spreading out before the tree. “White Christmas” and “Charlie Brown’s Christmas” on the TV and trips to visit Santa Clause. It’s a recipe for family magic . . .

And then the circle is broken.

There’s one less person to buy gifts for, one less stocking to fill, one less excited squeal as brightly colored paper and bows fly through the air.

The day has become less.

But Christmas isn’t really about family. It wasn’t about Mary and Joseph. It wasn’t about angels proclaiming good will to men, frightened then excited shepherds and wise men traveling from afar to worship either. Everyone from the awe inspiring angels to the wise men and Mary and Joseph were all just supporting cast members. They all played an important role but there is no doubt that the focus was squarely on the new born babe—the Christ child in a dirty sheep fold—the hope of redemption for all the world. That’s the good news—that’s the gospel.

christmasBut we, in modern days, have relegated the Christ child to the background. Can you find signs of the nativity in the picture on the left? We’ve overshadowed His glory, God’s miraculous appearing in human form—Emmanuel—with sights and smells and greedy hearts.

And when your loved one dies, the props of the season are but painful reminders of what’s been lost. What was once shared. What was anticipated.

Melancholy blankets the joy of the season because we’ve made Christmas about Santa and gifts and family. The time between Thanksgiving and Christmas Day has been consumed by the pursuit of happiness. The real gifts of the season, life and liberty, barely receive a cursory nod if they are acknowledged at all. How very American of us!

In Luke chapter 4 the beginning of Christ’s ministry is recorded following His temptation in the wilderness by Satan. He began His ministry in Galilee and people began to talk and word of this new prophet spread throughout the area. Eventually, Jesus returned home to Nazareth, the place where He grew from a child to a man, where he went to church. Can you imagine how curious the people from His home town must have been?

“And Jesus returned in the power of the Spirit into Galilee: and there went out a fame of him through all the region round about.

And he taught in their synagogues, being glorified of all.” ~ Luke 4:14-15 KJV

One thing I didn’t know that’s of cultural significance, is that the scrolls were read in a certain order. On the day Jesus returned to His home church He was handed the preordained scroll from Isaiah. The text was Isaiah’s prophecy regarding the long anticipated Messiah. Jesus read that prophecy and basically told all those in attendance that He was the Messiah they had been looking for.

He went to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, and on the Sabbath day he went into the synagogue, as was his custom. He stood up to read, and the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was handed to him. Unrolling it, he found the place where it is written:

 

jesusscroll“The Spirit of the Lord is on me,
    because he has anointed me
    to proclaim good news to the poor.”

“He has sent me to proclaim freedom       for the   prisoners and recovery of       sight for the blind,
 to set the oppressed free,
   to proclaim the year of the Lord’s        favor.”            

    

Then he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant and sat down. The eyes of everyone in the synagogue were fastened on him. He began by saying to them, “Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.” ~ Luke 4:16-21 NIV

And the fact that Jesus read that specific scripture is important because Jesus didn’t select the scripture to be read in the synagogue on His own—but it was no coincidence that He read that specific passage. Now, it’s important to understand that a prophet in that day was held to a very high standard—a 100% accuracy rate. The first time a prophecy failed to be fulfilled the prophet’s career was over. The Jewish people knew with absolute certainty that an unfulfilled prophecy meant God did not send that man.

The scripture Jesus read was inspired by God and then prophesied by Isaiah in order to enable the Jews to recognize the Messiah when He appeared. They should have been able to identify Jesus as the Christ because He fulfilled the prophecy of what the Messiah’s earthly ministry would look like. They heard the rumors: the evidence was before them if they’d just observed His ministry.

healingtheblindHe healed the brokenhearted by curing their sick and dying loved ones—by actually raising the dead on a few noted occasions.

He delivered the demon possessed from Satanic captivity.

He gave sight to the blind.

He set free those bruised by life’s harsh realities—by the sin that stains the soul all mankind.

He is—and was—and will always be Messiah.

Christmas and Easter should be the holidays the bereaved most enjoy. They should give those who grieve hope. Yet the birth of Christ and the full scope of it’s meaning is lost among decorations, flying wrapping paper and ribbons.

That long ago day, Christ was the only one to receive gifts; gold, frankincense and Myrrh. We don’t actually know how the gold was used. It’s been speculated that it paid for Christ’s escape from a fearful earthy king  [Herod] desperate to hold onto his kingdom. But the frankincense and myrrh were commonly used to anoint a body at burial. The gifts Christ received prepared Him for life and death. Just as the gifts we receive from the Lord do for us.

Since Bethany and Katie’s deaths we have not done much decorating for Christmas. We haven’t put up a tree or hung stockings or made Christmas cookies. Last year I bought a small (1 1/2 foot)  pre-lit tree and set up my usual manger scene. My heart has not been in what is commonly referred to as the Christmas spirit. And as the anniversary of the girls’ deaths is the day after Christmas; I have had no desire to return home from the holiday with family to a “festive” house. It’s just painful. My heart is not festive this time of year. Well, actually, my heart has not really been festive since that tragic day.

But . . .

Christ was still born . . .

He is still my hope . . .

His birth, death and resurrection are the rock solid foundation of the one hope I still nurse.

It’s the only hope that really matters.

Everything else is cake – a temporary sweet to savor for a short time.

But Christmas is about permanent things. It’s about the permanence of my life’s highest priority. It’s about peace, hope and joy and my heart longs for those things in pure unblemished permanence.

As translated by the Amplified Bible, Jesus said,

” I have told you these things, so that in Me you may have [perfect] peace and confidence. In the world you have tribulation and trials and distress and frustration; but be of good cheer [take courage; be confident, certain, undaunted]! For I have overcome the world. [I have deprived it of power to harm you and have conquered it for you.]’  John 16:33

This month will still be hard for me. It’s filled with the sorrow of what was and what will never be again.

elegant-nativity-scene-editedI’m still not sure if a full-sized Christmas tree will grace our home.

But this year I did purchase a larger manger scene.

The nativity will take center stage in our home.

Christmas Day I will still struggle to focus on what is and what will be and not on what was. I’ll still be distracted from the true purpose of the holiday by the commercialism that has become Christmas.

I’ll still miss the children in my heart but not in my presence.

It will be a bittersweet day.

You may not find me is a state of good cheer, but you will find me confident and certain that for all that sin and Satan have snatched from my hands, Jesus has deprived them of the ability to harm my eternal soul. He has conquered sin and death.

So I will celebrate—not with happiness but instead with joy—the birth of the Christ child.

The Savior of the world.

 
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Posted by on December 5, 2016 in Adversity, Faith, Grief

 

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