Tuesday, April 30, 2013

On your 18th birthday, Matt

Thursday would be your 18th birthday. I just can't go there. I can't wonder about what kind of cake I would have made, or what your Dad and I would have gotten you for an 18th birthday gift. I can't wonder if we would have gotten a big smile, for once, out of you. I can't wonder how big you'd be or how much you've grown. I can't wonder what kind of Dollar Store gifts you're siblings would have gotten you. I can't wonder if you'd be going to the prom this Saturday or who you'd be taking to it. I can't wonder how your high school graduation invitations would look with your name on them. I can't wonder what it would have been like to fill out college applications with you.

I can't wonder, because you're not here. You are gone this side of Heaven. My heart hurts beyond words and, honestly, all I want to do is crawl into bed and not wake up until next week. I want to skip May 2nd. I don't want to put on a happy face or pretend I'm fine. I want to weep, wail, and flail my fists on God's chest. I want relief from this never-ending grief. Yesterday was 21 months since I last saw you, and eternity seems so far away.

But God. God keeps whispering to me, "My grace is sufficient." "Hold on to Me." "I am faithful and true."

"...Do not throw away your confidence, which has a great reward. For you have need of endurance, so that when you have done the will of God, you may receive what was promised."

Busted Heart by For King and Country

I love you, Son.
 Love, Mom

Friday, April 26, 2013

Seeing the tide come in

The closer it gets to Matt's birthday, the higher the grief waters rise. Grief has two M.O.'s, ambush or rising tide. Both devastate. Both suck. Both leave one gasping for air.

I am struggling to keep my footing amid the rising waters. Thankfully, I've learned what works for me, and that's worship and praise music. The truthful lyrics are my life jacket to the swirling, rising waters around me. I must put the music on. Absolutely must. If I don't, my mind immediately goes to where it shouldn't; the accident, the what-ifs, the if-onlys. It ends up becoming all about me, all about my loss. Yet Christ calls us to be mindful of Him. We are, as His children, called to remember what He has done for us. When I turn my thoughts instead to what He has done for me and to who He is, then the tide waters recede and are kept in check.

I will not get through this valley of grief by myself. Neither does anyone else. They are lying to themselves if they think otherwise. There is a helper. It is the LORD GOD Himself, through the person of Jesus Christ who is "the way, the truth, and the life." Do you have the Truth?

Are You Talking to Yourself
 Thursday, April 25

Our Journey - James MacDonald

Are You Talking To Yourself

5Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me? Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my salvation 6and my God. My soul is cast down within me; therefore I remember you from the land of Jordan and Hermon, from Mount Mizar. —Psalm 42:5-6

D. Martyn Lloyd Jones said:

“The main trouble in this whole matter of spiritual depression in a sense is this, that we allow our self to talk to us instead of talking to our self. Am I just trying to be deliberately paradoxical? Far from it. This is the very essence of wisdom in this matter.

Have you realized that most of your unhappiness in life is due to the fact that you are listening to yourself instead of talking to yourself?”

He is correct. Talking to yourself and not the other way around is what the psalmist is advocating. When we start listening to what our heart says, we will find ourselves cast down and in turmoil. That thinking leads to dismay, discouragement, and doubt.

We must tell ourselves to place our hope in God and not in the things of this world, or in the circumstances of life. Often, we use the word hope but the type of hope we are accustomed to is not biblical hope. Biblical hope is not a fleeting hope (I hope the Cubs win the World Series), or a wishing hope (I hope I get the new job), but a fixed hope, a certain hope. When we hope in God, our hope is certain because of who God is. He cannot lie. He does not abandon His children. He always does what is best. We don’t hope in financial success, family success, anyone or anything but God because He alone is our salvation and God.

Here are some practical ways to talk to ourselves throughout the week:

1.)   Re-read sermon notes from church, and work on one point of application.

2.)   Make sticky notes with Psalm 42:5–6 and post them everywhere as a way of remembering this truth.

3.)   Spend time in the Word every day. How can we tell ourselves who God is if we don’t know how He describes Himself?

“Why are you cast down, O my soul, (because I am listening to myself), and why are you in turmoil within me? (because I am believing lies), Hope in God; (that is what I am supposed to do, why?), for I shall again praise him, my salvation and my God.” Because He is the only One who is always faithful and the One who is worthy of my steadfast hope.

  • What are the situations/sin issues plaguing me right now?

  • What is the truth I should tell myself about these issues? 

Father, I thank You for Your patience with me. I so easily close my ears to Your voice and listen to the voice of my circumstances, others who are not your children, and the voice of the Accuser. When I do this I put my soul in turmoil. Help me to speak truth to myself daily. From the moment I wake to the moment I lay my head down to rest, may I place all of my hope in You alone.

In Jesus’ name,



Wednesday, April 17, 2013

I wish

I wish you were here, Matt. I wish we would have gotten a family picture in July of 2011. I wish I could be planning your graduation party. I wish I could be plowing through college application and financial papers with you. I wish I didn't have to put on a happy face with others when they're talking about the milestones they're experiencing with their teenager. I wish your little brothers didn't have to experience the loss of their big brother. I wish looking at pictures of you didn't make me cry. I wish God hadn't given us this sorrow to bear. I wish grief never existed. I wish I didn't have to refer to you in the past tense. I wish Jesus would hurry up and return.

I wish things were different. But they're not. This is reality. And this is the way things are. I can either wallow in grief, never moving forward, clinging to what was, or I can grab hold of God and allow Him to move me forward, to bring healing and goodness out of this. His grace is sufficient for me. It is sufficient for my family. I choose to let God be my all in all. I choose to let the loss of my son make me better, not bitter. And I do that by knowing and believing the truth. The truth is this: Do I long for Heaven or the God of Heaven? Do I long for the gift or the Giver of the gift? Do I want my own way or God's way? Do I value this life more or the one to come more? Do I believe my own deceitful heart, or do I believe Him who cannot lie?

The days, like today, when the ache of grief is overwhelming are the days when I must remember the truth. I must appropriate the grace God gives. I can wish in vain, or I can live in grace.

Streams in the Desert
December 18
More Than Conquerors
"In all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us" (Rom. 8:37).

The Gospel is so arranged and the gift of God so great that you may take the very enemies that fight you and the forces that are arrayed against you and make them steps up to the very gates of heaven and into the presence of God.

Like the eagle, who sits on a crag and watches the sky as it is filling with blackness, and the forked lightnings are playing up and down, and he is sitting perfectly still, turning one eye and then the other toward the storm. But he never moves until he begins to feel the burst of the breeze and knows that the hurricane has struck him; with a scream, he swings his breast to the storm, and uses the storm to go up to the sky; away he goes, borne upward upon it.

That is what God wants of every one of His children, to be more than conqueror, turning the storm-cloud into a chariot. You know when one army is more than conqueror it is likely to drive the other from the field, to get all the ammunition, the food and supplies, and to take possession of the whole. That is just what our text means. There are spoils to be taken!

Beloved, have you got them? When you went into that terrible valley of suffering did you come out of it with spoils? When that injury struck you and you thought everything was gone, did you so trust in God that you came out richer than you went in? To be more than conqueror is to take the spoils from the enemy and appropriate them to yourself. What he had arranged for your overthrow, take and appropriate for yourself.

When Dr. Moon, of Brighton, England, was stricken with blindness, he said "Lord, I accept this talent of blindness from Thee. Help me to use it for Thy glory that at Thy coming Thou mayest receive Thine own with usury." Then God enabled him to invent the Moon Alphabet for the blind, by which thousands of blind people were enabled to read the Word of God, and many of them were gloriously saved. --Selected

God did not take away Paul's thorn; He did better--He mastered that thorn, and made it Paul's servant. The ministry of thorns has often been a greater ministry to man than the ministry of thrones. --Selected

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Grief with a big side of grace and a heaping of forgiveness

I never imagined grief would involve grace and forgiveness. I mean, I knew God would give grace in our loss, but I never dreamt I'd have to. Selfish, but true.

The bereaved live buried under a mountain of grief and are so busy trying to navigate their way out of the dark, who would have thought that the journey of grief would require grace and forgiveness on top of it? Every hurtful (albeit well-meaning) comment after our loss was like a dagger to an already shattered heart. I learned quickly, however, that giving grace was a necessity if healing was going to happen. GriefShare was instrumental in helping us to realize early on that the intention of the comforter was not ill will. 

It takes truth to reveal grace and forgiveness. It's one of the reasons I believe GriefShare is so incredibly important; GriefShare shares truth. A heaping of forgiveness is necessary because grief is messy, and no one acts the way we, or others, expect. Grief changes relationships. Grief changes people. A big side of grace is needed because there is no handbook of plays for the bereaved or for the comforters. Grief is as unique as each individual.

It's now twenty months down this road. There is still ample room on the plate for more grace and forgiveness. I'd been wondering how soon it would be before graduation invitations arrived this year. This week ended the wondering. There are just no words to describe the sorrow. I know there is certainly no hurt intended in sending us an invitation to their son's or daughter's graduation, but part of me wonders, "Did you forget that Matt died? Did you forget that this is the year he, too, would have graduated?"

I had a good cry and then decided this is exactly the thing that requires grace and forgiveness. Grace because they just don't get it. And that's OK. It really is. Never in a million years do I want anyone else to experience this kind of loss. So I will choose to remember that the invitations are not sent with ill will. I will choose to forgive and not harbor bitterness. I will not focus on what I have lost or will never have. Instead, I will remember the truth. Matt is alive and this world is not our home. God's grace is sufficient for me. "An eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison" is being achieved for me. (2 Cor. 4:17) This life is short, and I am learning to count my blessings, to be thankful in all things.

I realize these situations are a "damned if you do, damned if you don't" sort of circumstance. I am aware that the sender may be conflicted about sending it. If they send it, it may cause pain, yet if they don't, they risk causing potential pain by excluding us. My advice with anything like this is to send the invite, announcement, or whatnot, but please include a note acknowledging that you realize this must be very difficult for them.  

I want to give grace and forgiveness despite the grief I am experiencing. I must allow the LORD to work in me and accept His comfort and remember that the things of this earth are temporal. As I cling to Him, I know that He will give me the strength to endure and the grace and forgiveness to extend to others because that is exactly what He has done for me.