Day 5 of My Challenge
My Valentine’s Day Gift
Happy Birthday Sean James!!
Our culture likes to ignore death and pretend it doesn’t happen. People also act like the ones who have died, haven’t really existed. They don’t say their names anymore. They don’t tell their stories. For those who were very, very close to the one who died–pretending they didn’t exist is not a possibility.
June is the birthday month of our son Sean. As his parents, we can’t pretend that he did not exist. Sean is still alive to us. He is still real. He is still celebrated and he is still grieved.
I write about Sean and the grief of losing him, and the joy of his life—to help others with their grief in losing their loved ones. I also want us to know that the person(s) who passed on to eternity–can still be celebrated–their life was a gift to those who knew them and loved them.
Our family still celebrates Sean’s birthday. We do this because Sean’s life was a gift to us from God. When we celebrate, we are acknowledging to God that we recognize that He gave Sean to us, and we are grateful to Him.
This past week, my husband and I had lunch with a young man and his wife who are going into ministry. This young man was friends with Sean. He told me that he started getting more serious about his relationship with God in High School, and some of that seriousness came about because of Sean’s death. This young man realized that life on earth is temporal, but there was another life after this one.
When we celebrate Sean’s life—we are celebrating that there is another life after this one–that Sean is in this other life–and he is cheering us on in the race that we are all in–in this life–
Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us,
fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.
Sean is in that great cloud of witnesses, cheering us on.
Our loved ones who have run their races of faith here on this earth, are part of that great cloud of witnesses, cheering us on in our races.
They have not forgotten us, and are rooting for us here on this earth. In remembering our departed loved ones and celebrating their lives, we find encouragement and strength to live for eternity, to fix our eyes on Jesus–and to run with endurance our own marathons of life.
If you have ever run in a marathon, you know how grueling they can be, and how there are many times during the race, one is tempted to give up. Sometimes a cheer from the crowd, or another runner coming beside you to say, “You can do this, I’ll run this part with you to help you through”, is the encouragement needed to finish the race. My niece had this experience, she was ready to give up, when a 72 year old woman told her to run alongside of her and my niece said that is why she was able to finish her race.
I write, to give voice to the ones cheering us on, and to encourage us all on our races–because even if you have not run a Marathon–you and I are in the Marathon of life!!
Happy Birthday Sean!! We celebrate your life!!
Thank you for cheering us on!!
We Are Encouraged!!
Listening—-one of the best things one can do for someone who is grieving–is to listen to them–just listen–just be with them. So often, people don’t know what to say, and so they say–well–really stupid things– Things to try to “fix”, things to try to make the one grieving, “feel better.” Perhaps there is a reason one can’t think of what to say–perhaps the reason is–that nothing needs to be said, but instead listening needs to happen.
After we lost Sean, some dear friends who were in the Pastorate, met with us once a week, for over a year, and they listened to us–and they gave us books to read, and they “were there” for us. During one of our times together, I was telling our friends–that I could sense God’s presence with me, but God was not saying anything to me–He was “silent.”
Recently, I was reading a friend’s blog–and she discussed this idea of listening, and she discussed how God is listening to us. Suddenly, it hit me. When I sensed God’s presence–but He was silent–He was listening to me. He was just being with me.
He wasn’t trying to fix my pain. He wasn’t trying to “make me feel better”, He was just listening.
Even as I write these things–I cry. Lord knows, I need to be fixed. Lord, knows, I need to feel better. Yet God listened. And in the listening, it was communicated, “ I am here for you. You are accepted by Me. You belong to me. You are my beloved. You belong to Me. You are accepted by Me. I am here for you.”
All these things and more were communicated in the listening.
Listening—sometimes it is the best thing, it is the only thing….that is needed by the one who is grieving.
Running to the Father
Month ago, I wrote about going through a time of being shaken. In case you wondered—that time is still going on, and the shaking grows worse. Sometimes I wonder if I am going to survive. I find myself crying often. I don’t even wear eye makeup anymore. What is the point? It will just get cried off.
So, what is to be done? That’s just the thing—the circumstances are ones that I have no control over. None. They involve loved ones and their choices, and their illnesses. So, I pray, I grieve, I speak truth and love into situations, hoping to comfort and encourage, and bless. I serve, I give, but I have absolutely no control.
None whatsoever. I know that I am facing the reality that I will lose people I love here on this earth. I know that I am facing others ruining and wrecking their lives here on this earth.
So what is to be done? Do I rail at God—hoping my anger, and my ire will motivate Him to move!!
Do I rail at the circumstances, hoping my anger will change the circumstances?
Do I pray, and pray, and pray, hoping my prayers will change the circumstances? Yes—this is what I opt to do. What I am finding, is that my prayers are not changing the circumstances—but I am changing.
I am changing from anger to acceptance. I am changing from despair to hope. Not hope that everything will turn out the way I want it to turn out—but hope that God will prevail over the darkness. It is a hope that persists in spite of the circumstances. It is a hope that is quiet and deep and stays.
It’s source is from God—so it is an immovable hope—or as Bill Sweeney, fellow blogger said, “An Unshakeable Hope.” One of the blogs that Bill wrote, that I read this morning, is “One Day At A Time.” Bill was diagnosed with ALS and had it for over 20 years before he passed away over a year ago. I find the words of those who have suffered here on this earth and finished their races well—comfort me during my own suffering. So here is the link to this blog: https://unshakablehope.com/2013/07/29/one-day-at-a-time-2/ I hope it helps you as it did me.
May you be encouraged!!
Let Me Tell You ‘About My Jesus!!
This week my daughter and I were riding in the car together, and this song came on. There is something about this song, MY JESUS, by Anne Wilson, that I love. We turned up the volume and listened to this bluesy singer, belt out, “Let me tell you ’bout my Jesus.”, as she also detailed the ways that so many of us today are in need. In reality, even if one does not “feel” the need for Jesus–we all “need’ Jesus. So enjoy this great song, but even more–be encouraged–because every thing she sings about is true–Jesus makes a way where there is no way!! Let me tell you ’bout my Jesus!! Amen!! Amen!!
LYRICS: Are you past the point of weary
Is your burden weighing heavy
Is it all too much to carry
Let me tell you ‘bout my Jesus
Do you feel that empty feeling
‘Cause shame’s done all its stealing
And you’re desperate for some healing
Let me tell you ‘bout my Jesus
He makes a way where there ain’t no way
Rises up from an empty grave
Ain’t no sinner that He can’t save
Let me tell you ‘bout my Jesus
His love is strong and His grace is free
And the good news is I know that He Can do for you what He’s done for me
Let me tell you ‘bout my Jesus
And let my Jesus change your life Hallelujah, Hallelujah, Hallelujah, amen, amen
Who can wipe away the tears
From broken dreams and wasted years
And tell the past to disappear
Let me tell you ‘bout my Jesus
And all the wrong turns that you would Go and undo if you could
Who can work it all for your good
Let me tell you about my Jesus
Who would take my cross to Calvary
Pay the price for all my guilty
Who would care that much about me
Let me tell you ‘bout my Jesus
May we Be Encouraged!!
I love hearing others’ “God Stories”. I love hearing how God has worked in the lives of other people. I get a bigger picture of who God is, and how He works, and I get a picture of faith.
I think that is why I love to read stories of faith in scripture—where people have taken God at His Word and stepped out in faith to do what He has told them to do: Noah building the ark, Moses parting the Red Sea, Joseph and Mary taking Jesus to Egypt to prevent Him from being killed by Herod’s soldiers.
The problem I have, is that I can tend to put God in a box. “If I do this…. God will do this.” I can start to put my relationship with God in a “formula”.
Before my son Sean died, I thought I had the “secret” formula for life. If I did a, b, c—God would do x, y and z.
I am here to tell you, there is no secret formula for life. Isn’t that what Job found out? He lost his children, his wealth, his health, he lost everything. God never really answers Job’s questions about why?
Job could have said, “But God, I thought we had a deal. I obey You. I worship You. I follow all Your rules. You bless me. You protect me. You protect my family. You provide for us.”
If I’m honest, this is the scary thing about having a relationship with God. I want God to do what I want Him to do. I want Him to act, the way I expect Him to act. He does promise us that He will provide for us. He does promise us that He will protect us. He does promise us that if we have enough faith, we can move mountains. So, I’m left with the belief that maybe if God doesn’t come through—the way I expect Him to– maybe it’s my fault. Maybe, I’ve sinned, maybe, I’ve done something wrong.
That is what Job’s friends told Job—”It’s not God’s fault that all these bad things have happened to you, it’s your fault, you’ve sinned.”
Yet, that wasn’t the right answer in Job’s situation either.
After Sean died, there were others who thought that if we had, had enough faith, Sean would have lived. Or there were others who thought that maybe we had “sinned” in some way, and God was punishing us.
When Sean died, I was faced with the question: Did I really love God, because I knew Him, and I loved Him for Who He Was, or did I just love His blessings?
If I’m honest, I loved God’s blessings, and I obeyed and trusted God, because I hoped that I would win His blessings.
When God took one of His blessings away from me, I questioned His existence, His power, His love.
I used to look at verses like Romans 8:18: “For I consider the sufferings of this present time, not worthy to be compared to the glory that is to be revealed” and think—what—suffering????—I don’t want to suffer!!!!!
Honestly—who really wants to suffer? No one that I know does. In fact, I have tried to escape from suffering most of my life.
When I would hear others’ God’s stories—in some way, they involved suffering—but they also involved God showing up and revealing Himself in the midst of the suffering—and that is what I liked—I liked the glory that was revealed. God is the glory that was revealed.
That is what happens with suffering—it reveals God to us in a way, we had not “seen” Him before. Suffering helps us get a bigger picture of God; it gets God out of the boxes we put Him in.
I still hate to suffer. I still want to escape from suffering. I still would not choose to go through the sufferings I have endured. I still would not choose to have lost my son.
However, my son is not, “Lost” to me. I know where he is because I know Who he is with. I know the Lord that Sean is with, in a way, I would not have-unless I had suffered.
I think Job’s sufferings brought about a revelation of God in his life that he would not have had unless he had suffered.
And yes—I now agree with Romans 8:18: “For I now consider the sufferings of this present time not worthy to be compared to the glory that is to be revealed.”
So how do I put my life in the hands of this God, how do I trust this God—who could choose to take away any blessing from me at any time? I do so, because this God loved me and emptied Himself of His divine qualities, took on flesh, came to earth and died for me.
This God gave up His life for me, to rescue me from eternal suffering and bring me into His Kingdom and make me an heir to His Kingdom. This God put His Spirit in my life, and made me a new creature, worthy of His Kingdom. This God promises to never leave me, never forsake me, to always be with me.
This song–I will Praise You In This Storm– was sung at Sean’s funeral. It still has the power to comfort me. My husband and I held hands and lifted them, when this song was sung at Sean’s funeral.
Therefore, I can join the disciples mentioned in Acts 5:14, who rejoiced that they were considered worthy to suffer for this God’s Name—so that others might know this God as well. These are hard truths, filled with immense freedom to live for Jesus, love Jesus and let go of all that would hinder us in this race we are in. May we be encouraged!!
We are approaching the anniversary of my son’s passing. My son Sean died 8 years ago. His accident was on September 16th, and he was declared dead on September 17, 2013.
I want to talk about a difficult subject—the subject of coming along side someone in grief.
When Sean died, others sought to come along side of us and help us—and there was a great outpouring of service and love and help.
But there was also silence from those we “expected” help from. My mom told me a story, that helped me understand. You see, my mom’s sister lost 2 of her children and her husband within a 6-month space of time. My mom said that at times she was so overwhelmed in her own grief that it was hard to help her sister in her grief. She did help her sister—but it wasn’t easy.
This has helped me to understand that I and my husband and children weren’t the only ones who were grieving when Sean died. Others needed grace in their grieving as well. They may have been grieving Sean or they may have been grieving something else going on in their own lives.
Also, I came to realize that no one—not my husband, not my other children, not my extended family, no friend—could ever meet my deepest needs—only God could do that.
That is not to say that others do not have a role to play in helping others who are grieving.
Right now, there is a family who has lost their dad. Another friend and I have been trying to organize others to help them. This friend frequently tells me with great passion: “We are apart of the body of Christ, we are His hands and His feet, and God wants us to move and help others.”
She is absolutely right.
My mom and my Aunt, (who lost her family members), came most frequently to help with–well everything. Other family members also came to help.
After Sean died, a neighbor down the street from us, a sister in Christ, organized meals for us for 2 months—and people from all the churches in my town signed up to bring us a meal.
People came right after Sean died and cleaned our house.
A couple friend, (in the Pastorate), meet with us for over a year, once a week, and provided grief counseling, and friendship.
My best friends took my children on excursions and spent time with me.
All amazing things.
I also experienced rejection, conflicts, loss of friendship, and silence from others.
In reading others’ blogs—the good, the bad and the ugly are all typical and normal things to experience to those who have lost a loved one.
Grief—suffering—these are difficult, difficult things. Grace, kindness and gentleness with oneself and with others are needed during these times. Mostly, and above all else—God’s sustaining spirit is what is needed and is available to each of us, for the asking.
One of the worst things for my spirit, was to hang onto bitterness and unforgiveness. God has frequently pried my hands off these ugly things I was hanging onto and told me with grace and gentleness that He had something better for me to hang onto—Him!!
In saying this—I do not want to minimize the hurt that is felt by the grieving party, over the lack of caring they may be experiencing. I understand the hurt. I too, have felt the hurt.
Rather, I want to give a way for the hurt party to understand that they are not alone—others have walked the same path and have found freedom from the hurt in forgiveness and in the presence of God.
If you are grieving right now, I am praying for you!! I would appreciate your prayers for my family and myself. Thank you!
God is Faithful, Forever
Scared, oh I thought I knew scared
Now I’m so filled with fear
I can barely move.
Doubts, I’ve had my share of doubts
But never more than right now
I’m wondering where You are.
I’m on the edge of fall apart
But somehow Your promises
Find my troubled heart.
When I first heard these song lyrics from the song: Truth I’m Standing On, I thought—wow, someone wrote a song that exposes my deepest thoughts and feelings. I especially liked the line—I’m on the edge of fall apart. Have you ever felt that way? Like you are on the Edge of Fall Apart?
The song goes on to say:
This is the truth I’m standing on
Even when all my strength is gone
You are faithful forever
And I know You’ll never
Let me fall.
Right now I’m choosing to believe
Someday soon I’ll look back and see
This pain had a purpose
Your plan was perfect all along
This is the truth I’m standing on.
This is the truth I’m standing on, even when all my strength is gone—You are faithful Forever!! God –You are faithful forever!! This video is a man telling a powerful story from his life that illustrates so clearly the faithfulness of God, and the steadfastness of God’s love.
God loves us with steadfastness, and faithfulness, teaching us how to love others as well. This is the truth I’m standing on—a truth that encourages me as I pray it does you!
A Weekend to Grieve and Remember
I am reading a book, set in pre-World War II. In it, the author describes the grief parents experience when their child dies. The author is so accurate in her description, that I wonder if she also has lost a child.
I think that when we become parents, we become vulnerable in a way, we never had experienced before. Our child’s pain becomes our pain, their dreams, our dreams, their successes, our successes, and if we should lose them in this life—we never recover. The hole they leave in our hearts will always be there, until we too, cross the boundaries of this world and enter into the next.
We have set aside this weekend to honor and remember all the fallen soldiers and all the loved ones who have gone before us. I am also going to remember their parents, and the ones who have suffered their losses.
If you are one of those who remain behind, I want you to know, you will be prayed for, and that you share company with God Himself.
God is a parent. We like to think of God as all-powerful, and invincible, and He is, but because of His love for us, He has made Himself vulnerable to us. His love for us makes Him vulnerable to us, just as our love for our children, makes us vulnerable to them. Our pain, becomes His pain, our dreams, His dreams, our successes, His successes. And if we should turn our backs on Him, and break fellowship with Him, He grieves.
Talk to a parent, whose child won’t talk to them anymore. They grieve. In scripture, it tells us that the Holy Spirit grieves when we sin. Sin is saying, “Hey—I want what I want, and I don’t care who it hurts.” Sin is walking away from God, and God grieves. He is vulnerable to us. He didn’t have to be vulnerable to us, He made Himself that way, when He created people who could choose to return His love or not.
I have learned more about the love of God the Father, from being a parent, than anything else.
If you are grieving, God knows your heart, because He grieves as well.
When Jesus was here on earth, He knew that He would raise Lazarus from the dead, and yet He wept at Lazarus’s grave site with Mary and Martha. He was able to enter into the moment with them and grieve.
So, this weekend as we grieve and remember, please know that we have a Heavenly Dad who shares and enters into those moments with us. I hope that encourages you, as it does me.