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Tag Archives: Faith

How to Know When Your Journey Through Grief is Complete

Several months ago I asked my psychiatrist how I’d know when I had completed the grieving process. My most pressing need in recovery is/was to reconcile my losses and Gracen’s prognosis with my beliefs about God. I defiantly needed the Holy Spirit to make sense of it all within the context of scripture. That process has been impacted by the overwhelmingly raw agony of emotion cursing through my system. Anger, fear, discouragement and defeat cycled and recycled through my heart and mind constantly. There was, there is, no escape from that cycle without processing both my thoughts and feelings.

Frankly, following the death of my daughters everything I saw, heard and thought was filtered through loss. My perspective shifted and words, actions and thoughts were interpreted in a far more literal and somewhat cynical sense in spite of recognizing the good intentions of others. I understood the intention but was frustrated by others inability and/or refusal to see things from my perspective. Others fairly vibrated with the need to fix the unfixable. To justify with some grand overall plan and purpose. To extinguish the palpable pain. To escape the negativity so they were not inadvertently soiled by it. Those individuals probably felt the same frustration with me. 

Unbeknownst to most, inside an intense desire to be understood refused to be appeased or denied. It took root and demanded attention, refusing to be placated and demanding validation. And every bit of it was entwined with my faith in Jesus Christ.

So I set about entangling my seemingly contradictory thoughts and feelings with the truth of scripture. I did my best to ignore the advice of the untested and sought refuge with broken believers who shared my struggle to cling to and reconcile my faith. I withdrew to escape judgment and rebuke and carve out a safe, secure, silent space in which I could wrestle with the complex truths of scripture. And in that place I made peace with the contradictions of what love in action looks like. I meditated on the complexities of God’s promises and plans regarding my earthly existence and eternal purposes. In time, my internal struggle ended. I found answers that satisfied and let go of the unexplainable. I made peace with my losses . . . with Gracen’s prognosis. 

However, just as Jacob walked away from wrestling with the angel limping, I have also paid a high price in the search for understanding and peace. Depression dogs my steps and anxiety chases after me. And I wonder, have I processed grief only to be handicapped by the mental health issues that rode in on the coattails of loss? Will I ever escape them?

When I asked my psychiatrist how I would know when I had completed my journey through grief he responded that I will have healed when I no longer processed everything through the filter of loss. I will no longer analyze every thought, feeling and action in minute detail in regards to death. He told me I had not yet arrived at that place; but I know I’m making progress.

A long time ago, before Bethany and Katie died, I came to the realization that disease had thrust me into a constant grief cycle. As Gracen and Katie’s bodies changed, as hard won abilities were lost to the ravages of disease, I would grieve, rebel, adjust and adapt to new and painful realities. I would strive against, and then for, acceptance of less than palatable changes. 

I am not sure I will ever completely succeed at living life without filtering it through loss. Loss is destined to color my life and future. However, I always come back to Ecclesiastes 7:2,

“It is better to go to the house of mourning than to the house of feasting, for that is the end of every man, and the living should take it to heart.” 

And the living should take it to heart . . . 

The living should take it to heart . . . 

Maybe I’m right where I’m suppose to be.

There are valuable life lessons that are only learned through the crucible death and suffering. That is not so much a negative thing as it is a painful reality. At times I will conquer the fears and sorrow that share space in my heart and mind and at other times I will once again find myself overwhelmed by them. That is the curse of humanity – the cost of the fall of man. For as many times as others have suggested or implied that I should move on I wonder if my Savior is whispering, “Stay. Linger with Me here in this hard place for just awhile longer. Talk to Me. Don’t turn away. There is a gift of great worth awaiting you.”

“Call on me in prayer and I will answer you. I will show you great and mysterious things which you still do not know about.” ~ Jeremiah 33:3 NET Bible

“And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace [Who imparts all blessing and favor], Who has called you to His [own] eternal glory in Christ Jesus, will Himself complete and make you what you ought to be, establish and ground you securely, and strengthen, and settle you.” ~ 1 Peter 5:10 AMPC

 
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Posted by on August 9, 2017 in Faith, Grief

 

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Seasons of Disease and Death – Where Life Gets Real

I’ve been reading and meditating on John Chapter 9 and 11 of late. Those two chapters are significant to me because they touch on the very things that have most impacted my adult life – disability (or illness) and death.

Those two chapters are significant to me because they touch on the very things that have most impacted my adult life – disability (or illness) and death.

John 9 chronicles the story of Christ healing the man blind from birth.

John 11 tells of Christ raising Lazarus from the dead.

As I mulled those scriptures over in my mind I looked for similarities and differences. I noted that the blind man didn’t seek Jesus out for healing, but Jesus healed him anyway. And as I thought about that blind man I wondered why he didn’t seek out this miracle performing man. Surely he had heard the gossip. John 9:32 might answer that question for us.

“Since the world began was it not heard that any man opened the eyes of one that was born blind.”

The blind man held no hope for healing. Never had it been reported that a man born blind had been made to see. It was a foregone conclusion in his mind that he would never see the world around him. Why chase after the prophet who was stirring up so much controversy? How could he even find his way to the prophet? So he sat in acceptance of the circumstances he had always known with no hope of changing them as the world passed by around him.

I understand that mentality all too well. It’s hard to carry the hope of healing while simultaneously accepting what is deemed unchangeable. How does one invest the effort required searching for a cure while expending so much energy coping with what is? How was the blind man supposed to hunt for this wandering prophet when his very survival was contingent upon the alms he begged for day after day?

On the other hand, Mary and Martha knew that Lazarus could be healed. They had access to Jesus. They had cultivated a relationship with him. They believed He was the long awaited Messiah. They had likely seen Him heal others. So they sent for Jesus communicating their dire need for His presence. And then they waited . . . and waited . . . until it was too late and their brother was dead.

And when Jesus finally showed up their deep anguish bubbled up and out their mouths as they each told him that Lazarus would not have died if he had been there. Their faith is revealed alongside their confusion and vulnerability. They trusted Jesus to come, to step in and save the day. But he didn’t do it. And they still trusted him for resurrection at the last day.

One man without faith – without hope.
Two women with faith – with hope.

And in a rare turn of events Jesus answers the most common and difficult question that always arises when death and disease become a part of our lives. Why?

Why was this man born blind?
Why did Lazarus die?

And the answers are strikingly similar in both situations. So that the works of God could be revealed through him. So that God and the Son of God would be glorified.

Sandwiched between those two stories is John chapter 10 where Jesus proclaims, “I am the good shepherd”! And in that chapter Jesus lays bare the reason for which he came, “. . . That they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly (in the fullest measure).” He proclaims his power to both lay down his life for the sake of his flock and to take it up again. He proclaims himself to be the long awaited Messiah. And maybe most remarkable of all is that he flat out tells his audience how to prove that he is not who he says he is. He tells them that if they won’t believe his words, they should believe his works.

And isn’t it interesting that “I am the good shepherd” falls right between the stories of death and disability? In the grand scheme of things what leads us to question the meaning of life more than disease and death . . .

When disease or disability become our eventual reality, we can be confident that there is an important purpose for our suffering – that the works of God might be revealed through us. And when death invades your life, stealing away your hopes and plans we can be assured that God and the Son of God will be glorified.

7 But we have this precious treasure [the good news about salvation] in [unworthy] earthen vessels [of human frailty], so that the grandeur and surpassing greatness of the power will be [shown to be] from God [His sufficiency] and not from ourselves. 8 We are pressured in every way [hedged in], but not crushed; perplexed [unsure of finding a way out], but not driven to despair; 9 hunted down and persecuted, but not deserted [to stand alone]; struck down, but never destroyed; 10 always carrying around in the body the dying of Jesus, so that the [resurrection] life of Jesus also may be shown in our body. 11 For we who live are constantly [experiencing the threat of] being handed over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the [resurrection] life of Jesus also may be evidenced in our mortal body [which is subject to death]. 12 So physical death is [actively] at work in us, but [spiritual] life [is actively at work] in you. ~ 2 Corinthians 4:7-12 AMP

Our suffering is not in vain but has eternal value. And in the seasons of disease and death, where life gets real and all we’ve worked for and stood for is called into question, stands the good shepherd who is worthy of our faith and trust, who leads us and cares for us and is powerful enough to usher us from this earthly fold into eternity where we will experience life in its fullest measure.


***(From Wesley’s Commentary on 2 Corinthians 4:10 – alittle help understanding verse 10)

” . . . Wherever we go. . . Continually expecting to lay down our lives like him [Jesus]. That the life also of Jesus might be manifested in our body – That we may also rise and be glorified like him.”

 
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Posted by on July 25, 2017 in Chronic Illness, Faith, Grief, Uncategorized

 

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If 2013 Broke Your Heart… | Urban Hallelujah

Sometimes it feels like all we will ever know is the refiner’s fire. I am no Biblical scholar, but in rare moments I have wondered if the people who suffer the most trials and tribulations on this earth are paradoxically the most blessed of all people, because as the blogpost below points out, our burdens, trials, tribulations and just plain sucky circumstances force us to either get bitter or to lean on the Lord. 

I’ve observed many Christians over the years (those that seem to encounter an unusual amount of hardships) repeatedly chose to lean on the Lord.  Somehow, I think people interpret that to mean that the circumstances become easier to deal with, but I don’t think that’s true at all. The lightening of the load comes from trusting there is a purpose, a plan and even on the days when that’s not enough (because there will be those days) you know deep in your soul that He is there and you are not alone. Alone in bad circumstances is profoundly worse than having the Holy Spirit within you in the midst of your bad situation. 

I am so grateful for the encouragment I’ve received from those who have done little more than trudge their way through problem after problem, trial after trial serving as a living Bible for me and others to read. Most were completely unaware that anyone was observing their faithful walk. My prayer is that you and I will have eyes to see the work of the Lord and ears to hear what He says to the church (for that is what we are collectively) so that when our time comes to walk through the fire we instinctively follow the example displayed before us in better days. 

He is doing a new thing, but sometimes, we, like the wilderness wandering Israelites want nothing more than to return to the old, the familiar, the comfortable existence we once complained about. The known is less frightening than the unknown new thing God has planned for us. It takes courage to move into our new reality. Courage to face the raging Red Sea. Courage to walk across the seabed blown dry by the breath of God who is holding back the towering wall of water on either side of us. The Christian life requires the courage to allow God to have His way and to follow along behind Him as He leads us to places we never wanted to venture. And God knows this. 

He knows!

That’s why he told Joshua repeatedly to be strong and very (yes, He used that word!) courageous. It takes far more strength and courage to surrender your efforts, let go of your plans, and take the hand that reaches back for us, securely leading us into the vast and frightening unknown, than it takes to strive to control the chaos around us through our own dogged determination. 

Faith and trust are the hallmarks of courage.

When you exercise your faith and trust in God, you are bravely courageous!

Please follow the link below because it doesn’t matter what year broke your heart – we all end up broken at some point.

 

We were crushed and overwhelmed beyond our ability to endure, and we thought we would never live through it… 2 Corinthians 1:8 Each Christmas, my husband and I search the city over, in pursui…

Source: If 2013 Broke Your Heart… | Urban Hallelujah

 
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Posted by on February 21, 2017 in Adversity, Faith, Links

 

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Love, Love, Love!

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Since my girls were small we’ve always made a point of giving gifts for Valentine’s Day. I wasn’t raised that way. It’s something I coerced David into, although it wasn’t difficult. I knew that when girls don’t feel loved by their fathers they tend to seek out love from other sources. More often than not their unmet need for love would be taken advantage of by a boyfriend and they would likely exchange love for sex. I didn’t want that for my daughters and having two daughters with ARSACS, a progressive neuromuscular disease, I feared my girls might seek love from the wrong people.

Gifting at Valentine’s Day was just one small way for David to demonstrate his fatherly love for his daughters. So at Valentine’s Day, a small gift and candy normally appeared for Bethany, Gracen, and Katie. Over the years David added in a card with his gifts. Inside he would write a special message for each one of his girls. He’d tell them why he was proud of them individually, what he enjoyed about them or enjoyed doing with them and he’d usually offer some encouragement before signing his name and expressing his love in writing.

beecherheart

We have several of those cards lying around and for me, they are a treasure in the aftermath of the car accident that took Bethany and Katie from us. David and I made more than our share of mistakes parenting our daughters, but those cards, a coffee mug, a small stuffed bear, candles, etc., all testify to the truth that each one was uniquely loved.

The night of that tragic accident David and I were driven from the hospital we were treated at to the hospital Gracen was taken to by helicopter. I remember sitting in the back seat of my in-law’s car in the dark, holding tightly to David’s hand and whispering to him, “They knew they were loved.” Knowing they were loved was second in importance only to knowing where my daughters would spend eternity.

They were loved.

They had no doubt that they were loved.

They are still loved, and always will be until we are reunited in Heaven above, and there they will be loved eternally.

In the meantime, it’s time to start planning a Valentine’s Day surprise and personal card for Gracen as Valentine’s Day will be upon us before we know it.

Neither death nor disability will ever dim the love we have for each of our daughters. We rest confidently in the knowledge that what Satan means for evil God allows for good. And David and I know we are loved too, by each other, by our children, and by our Heavenly Father.

Long ago the LORD said to Israel: “I have loved you, my people, with an everlasting love. With unfailing love I have drawn you to myself. ~ Jeremiah 31:3

 
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Posted by on February 13, 2017 in Faith, Grief

 

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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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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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