October 17, 2018

                                             

Weekly thoughts for the believer's walk with God, a walk that is intended to nurture us on a personal level as we embrace our grief and embrace the God who longs to walk with us on our journey.


Hope for the Future

Isaiah 60:20   “Your sun will never set again, and your moon will wane no more; the LORD will be your everlasting light, and your days of sorrow will end.”

Just as I was ready to fall off  into a deep sleep, thoughts of the circumstances surrounding the death of my child began to sweep around in my head.  All of a sudden, the regret, the guilt, the remorse, the shame and the “should of, would of, could have’s” started to take hold.  As usual, I began to entertain the thoughts, thinking through each scenario yet again.  Every time I would do something different than what I had done, my thoughts would swiftly come to the same conclusion, over and over again; if I had made another choice, my son would be here now, but he is not.  Which means, it was all your fault, you are a failure, his death could have been prevented and on and on the insidious thoughts go.  I have come to a point where I don’t stay here as long as I used to and, in fact, these thoughts do not come as often, but they do come, typically on trigger days or when I am super emotional.  I can now instantly recognize the great lie and I have been equipped to speak truth into my mind instead of the “What if I had…?” script that comes from the pit of darkness. The enemy of my soul is so cunning and crafty, he knows exactly when I am weak, when I become preoccupied with the external, and here he comes; he bombards me with the situation surrounding my son’s passing because he would rather me focus on that than the beautiful life we had together, because then I would have the inability to see God’s sovereign hand in my life and I am unable to make sense of what my Lord has in store for me in this new season.

Jeremiah 29:11 says, “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the LORD, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”  The Lord has been slowly teaching me these last three years to see Him in everything, to understand that all things that are occurring have been ordained by Him and for Him, and that no matter what, He has a plan and a purpose for me. He knows the desires of my heart, but I believe He also knows my tendency to become caught up with external difficulties because after all, I have always believed that I am the total sum of who I am as a result of my reactions to what I have gone through.  My problem lies with my tendency to lay my head down on my pillow and re-write conversations with what I should have said and redo situations with what I could have done instead of coming to Him and asking for forgiveness or for wisdom on how I could have handled it better or for compassion and understanding for the other person involved.  In other words, I always think about myself and how I could have done it better. The difference is that in those circumstances, there has always been a hope that I could right the wrong or go to that person and have a do-over, but with the death of a loved one, there is no hope of ever changing what happened; there is no altering the course of destiny; there are no second chances, there are no revisions, it is done, it is over and it is final. The only place left to go is to our Heavenly Father and the only possible resolution to the dilemma is to hold on to the promises of our Lord that He has given us, and that is a hope for the future that one day, He will make everything right and we will be reconciled with that person once again.

John 13:7 says, "You do not realize now what I am doing, but later you will understand." I’m at that tender point in my grief journey where I am truly beginning to forgive myself for all the things I felt I should have done and allow myself the grace to just be okay with what happened knowing I did the best I could, but here lies the problem: There is nothing I can do about any of it. For someone like me, with my type A personality, who wants to do something, anything, to fix what happened there is no amount of spinning that can be done that will undo the fact that my son is no longer here and the magnitude of that reality is so incredibly heavy that it crushes me to the core. So each morning when I rise, I ask my Heavenly Father to help me hold onto the hope that one day I will understand God’s sovereign hand in all of this. And each time I come to Him, He gently woos me into His presence and tells me that one day the sun will shine forever and will never set, that one day the moon will always glow brightly and not recede, and that one day the Lord will be my everlasting light because my days of sorrow and grief will end and I will be with my child in heaven forever and ever. Oh, how I long for that day.

                                                                                                     – Melody

October 10, 2018

My Story and His

I am so fully aware of the beauty God is capable of bringing from the ashes of our lives.  To be a young pregnant mom, squeamish with her own doubts and fears, and yet overwhelmed with the anticipation of the joys of mothering, to be that mom, walking into the hospital’s ER with back labor, days after her calculated due date and sensing that nothing was happening in accordance with “the book,” to be that mom, to be ushered into an x-ray room rather than a delivery room, to be told, “Your baby will not live” – to be that mom – ushered in a crushing, unimaginable darkness.  I was that mom, and I am not the only mom who has faced that same crushing, unimaginable darkness when her child has died.  With the knowledge of our daughter’s impending death, my husband and I were asked if we would be willing to donate her body to medical science for research.  In the midst of the darkness, we reached for a glimmer of light – the possibility of helping another family avoid the darkness.  Her body was taken, and in the months, the years, the decades that followed, we heard nothing.  And the questions left a hole in Tonia’s story, a hole that paralleled the lack of closure we had in our own hearts.  What had happened to her body?  Was knowledge gained that could help others?  Was her body left on a shelf, was it discarded in the trash, was it buried?   And if she was buried, where could I go just to remember? 

Beauty still came though from the ashes of her death.  God gave me a heart of compassion.  A heart that cared.  A heart that wanted God’s answers and not my own.  A heart, in time, that found a compulsion to embrace the hearts and darkness of other moms.  And a heart that was able to focus on the joy of Tonia’s gain – the presence of Jesus, the perfections of Heaven, and the absence of all that sin stains.

And when it was least expected, God gave me the answers to some of my questions.  Tonia did aid in research focusing on developmental and congenital defects.  She was cremated, and a small, historical cemetery holds her ashes within a site trimmed with hibiscus bushes and marked with a plaque that honors not only the gift of her body, but also the gifts of others.  The hole in her story was being filled, and my heart was finding a greater closure.  But in the midst of joy-filled tears, the reality of Tonia’s gain began to shout.  Jesus.  The perfections of Heaven.  The absence of all that sin stains.  Her broken body made whole.  And in her wholeness, she is embraced by the One who made Heaven possible, dancing, growing, becoming, joining the voices of others who sing His praises.  A little girl I too will some day embrace while every darkness of earth will be fully turned to light.  I sent an email to a friend, trying to conceptualize what I was feeling ... As much as her earthly story means to me, her Heavenly story is so much more important, so much more full of hope and expectancy.   And as I reflect, I am reminded again that God tenderly holds it all in His hands.  He has never left me, my husband, or my child.  He cares about the beauty He longs to bring from the ashes, but He cares too about the details that may not matter to anyone else, but He knows they matter to me.  It is my story woven once again into His story – a story that will vibrantly live through all of eternity.

                                                                                                – Bev

(Related Bible reading: 1 Corinthians 15:42-44; 2 Corinthians 5:1-8; 1 Thessalonians 4:13; Revelation 21:3,4)

October 5, 2018

Thoughts Under the Umbrella

Psalm 118:24 “The Lord has done it this very day. Let us rejoice today and be glad in it.”

In 2 Chronicles 20, we are told about the story of Jehoshaphat. He was the king of Judah. He was preparing his nation to face a great army that was getting ready to attack. He knew he could not win this war. He brought all the men, women and children to stand before the Lord to pray and fast. The Lord spoke to one of the men. This man listened to what the Lord had to say. He shared the words of the Lord with Jehoshaphat. “Do not be afraid or discouraged because of this vast army, for the battle is not yours but God’s. Go out and face them tomorrow and the Lord will be with you.” Early in the morning all the people fell down and worshiped the Lord. Jehoshaphat then appointed men to sing for the splendor of His holiness and praise the Lord. As they went out to fight this army, even though they were outnumbered, they sang these words, “Give thanks to the Lord, for His love endures forever.” As they sang praises the men of Ammon, Moab and Mount Seir were defeated; no one escaped.  After four days they assembled in the Valley of Beracah, where they praised the Lord.

There are challenges each one of us faces throughout our day. I believe the challenges often get difficult when our plan is to spread the good news or to offer help to others. I am sure each of you have had good intentions to reach out and help someone and lo and behold your own world comes crashing down. We often blame our trials on that little red guy, with horns and a pitchfork, sitting on our shoulder as the culprit. Whatever brings about the battles, if we face them knowing the Lord goes before us we will rise above the challenges with an attitude of gratitude. 

So, as we wake up each day we walk into the morning sun knowing the battle is the Lord’s and He is always victorious. So come with me to the Valley of Beracah; let us not be afraid or discouraged because of the vast challenges; let us go out and face them each day, and let’s sing for the splendor of His holiness. Whatever battle we will face, it is not ours; it is the LORD’s.

Let us praise the Lord for all He has done this very day and give thanks for His love that endures.

                                                                          – Michele



September 27, 2018

The Place Inside Myself

There is a place we sometimes live that can become very fearful or very sorrowful.  It can taunt us with its irrationality or its oppressive consumption.  Biblical truth is nebulous at best, and as believers, we scorn ourselves that we have secluded ourselves there – again – wrapped in its loneliness, our thinking and our beliefs muddled in confusion.  It’s the cocoon that can wrap itself slowly around us or we can run to the false security of its isolation very abruptly.  I call it, “the place inside myself.”  It is a place the biblical psalmist retreated to with his groanings, his weaknesses, and his agony.  He could be sick at heart or worn out with sobbing.  He could feel attacked, persecuted, or hated – and he could detail all the reasons for why he was living inside himself – just as we can.  In the haze of his thinking though, he never let go of the truth that God knew and God loved, and that he was the object of God’s understanding knowledge and God’s compassionate love.  

Over and over again in the Old Testament, God declares His love for His covenant people.  It is a love that embraces too those who are part of the new covenant of grace, and that includes us.   I have loved you, my people, with an everlasting love.  With unfailing love, I have drawn you to myself.  Jesus Himself says to us, “I have loved you even as the Father has loved me.”  I cannot begin to comprehend the depth, the breadth, the height, or the intensity of God’s love for the One who is part of His own nature, His only Son, the One in whom He takes absolute delight.  And yet, it is a love of that same magnitude and intensity that Jesus gives to us!  Me – with all my imperfections.  Me – secluded in that place within myself.  But not just me – His love is for you, even when your thinking and your emotions run rampant, and leave Him out.  

God knows though, not only when we seclude ourselves, but He knows that to stay there will infect every facet of my being and my doing.  His desire is to lift me out of the pit of despair, out of the mud and the mire, and to set my feet on solid ground and steady me as I walk along.  He wants to give me a new song to sing, a hymn of praise to my God, so that many will see what He has done.  For that to happen, I must invite Him in to my place within myself.  I must be honest with Him and open to the change He is able to bring.  I may need to find someone who is “God-with-skin-on” and invite them in as well.  God works that way, even when I would rather stay in my cocoon.  “The place inside myself” stifles my freedom and my growth, and much more.  Some of us go there more quickly than others, but nonetheless, believing in what God has for me, I must listen for His presence at the door, and invite Him in.

                                                                                     – Bev 

(Related Bible reading: Psalm 40:1-5)

September 21, 2018

Thoughts Under the Umbrella

Psalm 18: 2   “The Lord is my Rock, my fortress and my deliverer; my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.”

I open my eyes and turn to the clock, afraid to see the numbers. It reads 12:30.  I am in one of those times of sleep deprivation. So I lay and toss and turn with the mind on overdrive. This mind in darkness can create mountains out of molehills. Why does everything seem so gigantic in the darkness? I finally decide to crawl out of bed at 3:30 to find relief in my Bible. I find it through the person who killed the giants in his life. As I read the psalm, I wonder if David too was struggling with rest. He was crying out to God as he wrestled with his thoughts. He asked the Lord, “How long must I wrestle with my thoughts, and day after day have sorrow in my heart?  How long, Lord? Will You forget me forever?”  These nights of tossing and turning, I feel like David. I feel the enemy is trying to steal territory that I have fought hard to win. 

Knowing I will face the next day having to face my mountains sleep deprived, I cry out to the Lord for His strength. I hear His voice. I trust He will never leave me or forsake me. I know He loves me even when I am struggling in the darkness. I know I must think on whatever is true, noble, pure, lovely and admirable.  Satan cannot take my hard fought territory if I do my part in this fight. I know apart form Jesus I have no good thing.  So my day will begin quicker than I had planned and with lack of rest, I turn to the One who will get me through this day. I will praise Him for He is good to me. Through the brightness of His love He can turn my mountains into molehills and slay that giant.

Lord, how long must I wrestle with my thoughts?  That, my dear Michele, is up to you. 

                                            – Michele

The God of All Comfort

2 Corinthians 1:3-4  “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.”

I recently met with a group of moms who, like me, had suffered the traumatic loss of a child. We went around the circle and talked about the friends and family who had been there for us in our time of need, the people who had come alongside of us and who had been the hands and feet of our Lord Jesus Christ, the ones who had ministered to us just when we needed a word of encouragement or a nod from our Heavenly Father. Although all of the ladies were able to share at least one or two significant persons who reached out and touched them after their child died, each and every mom agreed that they were surprised with the people who didn’t show up for them. One of the most common themes I heard was that the person who ministered to them the most was someone completely unexpected, an individual who came out of nowhere and who seemed to just come into their lives at the very moment in time when they needed them the most. Interestingly, it was never a family member or someone whom they had been particularly close with before; it was typically someone who had been a peripheral acquaintance, or what I like to call a “fringe friend.” We all have them;  these are the ladies who are not in the “inner circle” or “core sanctum” of our closest friends; they are the ones we may have known in the past or that we don’t really know especially well, but their presence at a desperate time in our lives made an eternal impact that we would forever be incredibly grateful for. 

Proverbs 18:24 says, “One who has unreliable friends soon comes to ruin, but there is a Friend who sticks closer than a brother.” The one thread we all had in common was that even that new forever best friend fell short in areas that were untouchable, on days that there was no one who could understand, in moments of time where there were no words any other human being could utter that could remotely touch the deep sorrow and empty places of our soul and the longing in our hearts. What I have found in my own personal grief journey is that although my Heavenly Father brought amazing and wonderful people into my life who were that cold cup of water on a hot and thirsty day, there was only One who could actually be the most consistent Friend that I truly needed. There was a place I could go to and a Person I could meet with that actually became my closest companion and my forever Best Friend and I have learned not to be disappointed in the human beings I felt were really not there for me at a time when I needed them the most. If there is one thing I have learned in this passage of time, it is this -- people will always disappoint us, especially if we have expectations. Let me say this another way – there is no one, not one single person on the face of this planet who was meant to come alongside us and completely administer the healing and comfort that only comes from our Creator.

God does use every day normal people to come into our lives and who will make a difference at a time when darkness seems to shroud our life and when our hopes and dreams have been shattered. But it is only our Heavenly Father who truly knows exactly who we are, precisely what we are going through and who has the capability of understanding entirely what it is that we will need in order to be healed from our brokenness, from our pain, from our suffering, from our sorrow and from our grief. The beauty of our Savior comes when we cast our cares and burdens upon Him and it is then that His Holy Spirit transcends into the deep places of our soul with the comfort only our Lord Jesus Christ can provide. He alone accomplishes the amazing and extraordinarily powerful work of putting all the pieces of our broken lives back together and when our hope is restored, it is then we in turn can be that unexpected individual who is able to come alongside and comfort another human being with the comfort we ourselves have just received from our God.

                                                                                 – Melody