Tag Archive | Loss

A melancholy musing

Two almost-sisters were blessed with new grandbabies last week.  One is a cousin by marriage who has been family a long time  The other is a life-long friend who calls me her “forever friend.”

I am so happy for both of them.  There is nothing like holding a new baby in your arms, and when that baby is your very own grandchild, well you just have to experience it and you know what I mean.

I was blessed beyond measure to be at the birth of my first grandchild, a girl.  Our one and only son and his beautiful wife lived close to us then, and her parents were driving from out of state to be here when she entered the hospital.  So it was my great priviledge to be in the birthing room when that tiny little creature breathed her first and squalled like a baby.

It was one of the most amazing experiences of my life,   Because birth itself is simply breathtaking.  But when the son of my heart gives life to his own child, that is a mountain’s high peak.

My melancholy comes when I wish for and long for that grandgirl to be closer to my house.  She, along with her two siblings (my other equally precious grandchildren), and her parents moved far away three years ago.

So when I get a Facebook message from that first grandgirl saying, “Dreamt that I arrived at your house after a long trip. I miss your face!!!!!”, I weep.  I just can’t help it. Because I. Miss. Her. Face. So.Very. Much!

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I know I’m not the only one.  I have friends whose grandchildren live across country, and we often share our joys and heartaches at short bursts of togetherness and long stretches of being apart.  We understand each other.

So I rejoice with those almost-sisters who have new babies to hold and snuggle.  They will cherish these days.  And I weep with those who wish their grands were right next door, like mine were for twelve years.

I thank God for those twelve wonderful years.  I was given time to invest in relationships with three that are still precious and dear to this Grammy’s heart.  Those years were a gift, an important and valuable gift that I don’t take for granted.

In my tears, I will remember the hugs, the smiles, the cups of hot cocoa, the snuggles with a thousand Disney movies, the tucking into bed, the reading of books, the telling of stories, the prayers.  Ah, the prayers.  They never stop.  They go wherever the grandchild goes because that is my connection with her and with God.

And I trust God to hold her.

Burden bearing

Day 25 of 31 Days of October – Roses Among The Thorn

The call came in the middle of a beautiful October Saturday when the sunshine’s warmth is a surprise.

It’s been a busy and full day already.  There are tasks still ahead that don’t even show up on the list of things to do.  They simply must be done before night falls.

But the call interrupts and I hear her sadness and then the struggle to speak because of the tears she is trying to hold back.  And my heart breaks for her, for her family.  The loss is sudden and unexpected.  The grief is hard.  Isn’t it always?

Sometimes I can get caught up in my own stuff, my own struggles, my own thorns.  It is easy to forget the rest of the world while I’m muddling through my mess.

But there are hurting people all around me.  I must pay attention.  I must share their load.

Jesus came as the ultimate Burden Bearer.  He took the weightiest load in the world, my sins, to the cross and thus relieved me of having to bear the unbearable myself.  At the same time He asks me to help carry someone else’s burdens.  This is the law of Christ.

Love God.  Love others.  It really is that simple.  Do it with all your heart.  Do it with all your strength.  Do it in whatever way you can.

While I pray for strength to get through my day, I must not forget to pray for strength for someone else.  It is the Lord’s way of helping us all to keep going.

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On the phone, I listen to her talk.  I share her sorrow for I have dealt with my own loss.  I promise to pray.  And I will.  For this is my duty of love, for Christ and for my my friend.

I am extravagantly loved by God in order to be a conduit of His love to others.  No matter what, this is my highest calling.

  For a list of the days of October, go here please.

The plan

I’ve been reading some of my old journals to remember other Christmases because I want to remember our celebrations.  This year is so different with son and family having a Tulsa Christmas.

As I read my Christmases past, it becomes apparent that they have not all been picture perfect.  Time tends to shadow the sadness that surfaced during our holidays, the separations we experienced, the sickness that kept loved ones away, the death that left a place at the table permanently empty, the problems that were only magnified during the stress of the season.

Looking at our last Christmas entries, I am glad God did not give me a glimpse of the coming year, of what lay ahead for us in 2011.  I think I may have gone back to bed, covered my head with the blanket wanting to stay until the year was over.

Perhaps your year has been something like that.

For certain 2011 did not go according to my plan.

My plan was to accomplish many things, to be successful in my undertakings, to finish projects, to excel and experience happiness in all my endeavors and relationships.  I had it all written down.

I didn’t have any room in my plans for operations, hospital stays, extensive care-giving, or learning how to live with our grandchildren so far away.

Reading the account of Jesus birth in the books of Matthew and Luke, I see something that resembles my own life.  The characters of this story had plans.  Mary and Joseph had plans for a marriage and a happy productive life.  Zachariah and Elizabeth had plans to live out their old age in quietness and service.

Mary and Joseph’s plans were disrupted by an unexpected miracle pregnancy, by the decree to go to Bethlehem and then the urgent warning to flee to Egypt.  I feel sure it was not the simple life in Nazareth they had envisioned.

Zachariah and Elizabeth were not expecting to be parents in their old age when strength and vigor were waning, when keeping up with a lively toddler would take more energy than they could muster on any given day.

Yet . . . it was God’s plan.

My morning Bible reading recently took me to Micah chapter 4.  Verse 12 was the one that caught my attention:

But they know not the thoughts of the Lord, neither do they understand His plan . . . “

Ain’t it the truth?

I know the verses that say our ways are not God’s ways, that His thoughts are far above our thoughts.  It’s just that I want to make sense of what happens to me and to the people I love.  I want to understand the “why” of it.  If I did, maybe I could accept it more easily.

But alas, that is not the case in almost all of my unexpected interruptions whether it is a minor irritation or an extremely painful life change.

I am required to trust when it is dark and I cannot see the way ahead, when taking the next step is scary and I don’t know how to do it.

Who among you fears the Lord, listening to the voice of His Servant?

Who among you walks in darkness, and has no light?

Let him trust in the name of Yahweh; let him lean on his God.”  Isiah 50:10

Even in my confusion, I find there is always an answer in the Word.  It may not explain all the details, the whys and wherefores I want to know.  But it does tell me what to do until the day when all things will be made clear.

Until then, there are some things I need to learn:

To trust

To wait with expectant hope

To learn contententment whether I have plenty or not

To give thanks in all my circumstances

Tall orders for this sojourner.  I am willing to walk in the dark as long as I don’t walk alone, as long as my God goes with me, goes before me and prepares the way.

It’s okay that I don’t have all the answers.  I know the One who does.

If you have had an “Unplanned Year” like me, leave a comment.  Let’s learn to trust Him together.

Life’s a journey

Life’s a journey.  Enjoy the ride” was a commercial slogan from a Toyota campaign a number of years ago. It appealed to me so much that I have made it a life motto of sorts.

I guess I was born with a personality type that tends to look at the glass half full, trying to glean the sunshine from experiences, even when it is raining.

Please don’t think I am a practically perfect Pollyanna who has mastered the Glad Game she played to deal with her disappointments.  I have had my mully-grubs, my bought with depression, my pity parties, and my “gloom, despair, and agony on me” days.

Still, the journey has been strewn with a vast array of joy, beauty, and friendships; an abundance of love coming from so many directions; and most of all the knowledge of the ever-present God.

This year, our road has taken some detours. I’ve been sidetracked and had to re-calculate my map.  There was no use trying to turn around and go a different way.  We cannot go back, can we?  Only forward.

The journey Sweet William and I have been on lately has been rocky and rugged at times, to say the least. The mountains have looked impassable and the waters too deep to cross over.  But God . . . (I love that phrase!) . . . but God has poured grace upon grace and so often given the oil of gladness for the spirit of heaviness.

Now we face yet another recovery process after yet another surgery this year. Complications have already threatened my plan and upset my apple cart.

While on a road trip today, taking Bill to an appointment for a medical procedure, I considered the hard journey this year.  With those thoughts begging for my attention, the Spirit turned  them and I began counting the blessings and the beauty in spite of the problems.  And so I list some of them:

The splendor of fall still glowing.

The yellow carpet of Maple leaves underneath the front-yard swing.

Our Bradford Pear tree that stands strong and tall after so many years whose leave just now turn red and are waiting to be enjoyed.

The orange berries on the shrub that grows by the garage, some of its branches cut and gracing a vase on the kitchen counter.

Roses stubornly blooming in the front yard.

Friends who call, send cards, and express their love in so many ways.

Strength in my own body.

Laughter.

A warm house and food to eat.

A washing machine that just keeps washing.

Our Maltese Buddy who greets me when I return home with the enthusiasm only matched by my grandchildren.

The newest member of the household, Gus the cat, whose purring machine turns on as soon as I reach out to touch him.

Sweet William who smiles through the pain and thanks me for all I do.

Kind, efficient, and knowledgeable medical professionals.

Family close by I can call when I am in need.

The distraction of work I enjoy.

Piano students who brighten an otherwise cloudy day.

A really good cup of coffee with half and half cream.

Hearing my Dad say he’s praying for Bill and me throughout the day.

The assurance of my salvation, that nothing or no one can ever separate me from the love of God because of Christ Jesus.

A good Word from Holy Writ, God’s personal message to me.

Being able to cry my tears, knowing my Father understands.

I could count more, and I do for they are always falling down to earth from God’s hand, mercies that are new every morning, just waiting to be noticed and appreciated.

Life will present me with more rough roads, places under construction, warnings to slow down and be cautions because danger lies ahead. Such is man’s destiny in a world longing for its own deliverance.

But the journey is not to be dreaded or faced with fear. It is journey God promises to walk with me, a journey Jesus himself paved for me. It will be filled with trials and temptations.  But it will also be filled with blessings untold.

It is a ride of a lifetime, one to be enjoyed and savored.  I don’t want to miss it.

Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father . . . (James 1:17)

The Lord gives and the Lord takes away

The Lord gives and the Lord takes away.

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Even as I write those words my eyes mist with tears.

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I am well acquainted with the givings and the takings of life.  I am sure you are too.  We don’t get very far in our journey without experiencing both.

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Recently, I had another “the Lord takes away” event that has left me with a hole in my heart about the size of three precious grandchildren.

I had 12 terrific years of living across the field from Elyse who is now 14 years old, Celeste who is on the verge of 11, and Ethan who is 9 and a half.  I was close enough to see them in their yard, hear them playing or taking the dogs out for breaks.  They were close enough to hear me whistle at them, and they scanned the horizon looking for me.  We both would wave a great big “hi” and talk loudly to each other.

The “Lord gives” part of this experience filled me to capcity.   How often I felt sad for grandparents who didn’t get to see their grandchildren like I did.  I was allowed the precious privilege of watching them grow from babies to teen, preteen, and big boy status.  I was a “Grammy close by” for many wonderful years and adventures.  Recently, the grandchildren and their parents moved almost 700 miles away.

But I was on the receiving end of the Lord’s giving for 12 wonderful years.

I rocked the babies, cuddled the toddlers, cheered when they learned to walk and talk and use the potty.

I attended soccer games and piano recitals, school talent shows and awards day.  I visited their church when they sang solos on Sunday mornings and Christmas programs.

They put on aprons and helped me prepare food.  We baked cookies and their very first batch of homemade Rice Krispy Treats.  They learned to set the table at my house where we had family birthday and holiday celebrations.

They drank my special blend of Hot Cocoa Mix from the Saturday-morning-after-spending-the-night mugs.  There were always plenty of marshmallows.  They sat on the three stools at our kitchen counter to stir and mix, to pat biscuits, to nibble or eat lunch.  The conversations we had were priceless.  They are my Three Amigos full of smiles and chatter and hugs and “I love you, Grammy.”

I’ve carried their tired bodies to bed.  I’ve bandaged their boo-boos.  I’ve washed their dirty feet after playing outside barefoot, calling it a “foot washing.”  I’ve tucked in their sleepy heads.  I’ve listened to some of the sweetest and funniest prayers at bedtime and at meals.  I’ve prayed prayers of blessing over them, naming their gifts and talents, and asking God to use them for His glory.

I answered questions and helped explain math and told stories about my life when I was a girl.  I rocked them by the fireplace until their legs grew so long that they touched the floor.

I took them to plays, to church, to work.  They accompanied me to the mall, the grocery store, yard sales and Goodwill.

We hit croquet balls, softballs, wiffle balls, basketballs and badminton birdies  in our yard.   I’ve seen chalk drawings all the way down my driveway, art that was too quickly washed away by the rain.  Sweet William and I watched them play the very life out of an appliance box in one afternoon.

They learned to win and be good losers at regular checkers, Chinese checkers, and Jack Straws.   I taught them to play The Game of Life on the same board on which my mother taught my son.

I told them Bible stories and challenged them to live obedient  to God.  We’ve sung praise songs in the car on road trips.  We’ve boogied to the beat of Steven Curtis Chapman or the final song at movie’s end as the credits rolled.  They listened to my classical and worship CDs and learned to appreciate different styles of music.  They were offered musical instruments to play and experiment.

We’ve eaten popcorn while we watched a movie they had seen so many times they could recite the words.  And they did.

We had tea parties and dress up games.  They pretended to be ballerinas, pirates, doctors, mothers and daddies, puppy dogs, kittens, heroes, and damsels in distress.

I could probably go on, but I think you see the picture.  My life has been full and overflowing for 12 years.  The Lord gave.

Now it is time for the rest of the phrase to be my life.  How can I complain when I’ve been blessed with so much, with more than most grandparents have in a lifetime?

At the moment I realize I am very much at the center of my own universe.  It’s all about me right now, my loss, my pain, my loneliness, my tears and how I am going to handle it.

As the leaves begin to die and loosen their connection from the tree, making their way to the ground, I identify and feel myself in an Autumn season.  The fullness and ripeness of summer has given way to the endings of fall.  Winter will come soon this year.

But winter will end, as it always does.  And Spring will break forth in all her glory.  I have to believe in the hope of a spring season.  As one dear friend wrote to me, “I whisper a prayer for you often that God  would . . . comfort your heart and reveal His glory through it all.”

Comfort.  Revelation.  God’s glory through it all.  That’s what I want.  I will wait with hopeful expectation, endure the winter and look toward the spring.

The Lord gives and the Lord takes away.  Blessed be the name of the Lord.

Living in a shaky world

Television news this spring has often centered on the tragic events caused by earthquake, tsunami, floods and tornadoes. 

Sweet William and I have huddled in our hallway on several occasions, listening to the warning sirens and the blowing wind. 

I’ve watched the aftermath news reports with sadness.  Some losses are material and can be replaced.  But losing loved ones, especially when they are not found, are devastating to the heart.

The tragedies have resulted in deprivation, heartache, confusion, and perhaps questions.

I have questions.

  • How do people survive such catastrophic events?
  • How long will it take to rebuild.  How long to recover emotionally?
  • What if it happened to me and mine?

It doesn’t even take an earthquake to shatter our dreams and our lives.  All we need is to get the a doctor’s diagnosis, or to be handed the proverbial “pink slip” because our job has been eliminated, or to hear dreaded words like, “I want a divorce,” or “This is the police.  Your son has been arrested.”

In a shaky world, we need a sure foundation.  There is only One.  Sadly we build our hopes and dreams on things and people who are shaky themselves.  When the winds blow and the rains come, those foundations crumble beneath.  What is there to do then?

A daily devotional comes to my email each day from Roy Lessin, co-founder of DaySpring, author, and blogger at “Meet Me In The Meadow.”  His post from March 4 is appropriate encouragement for those of us who believe Someone holds this world and all its inhabitants in His strong and mighty hand.  When the world is shaky, there are some things we can count on.    Here is Roy’s post:

Things You Can Count On Now!

There is a grace that is sufficient; a mercy that endures; an atoning blood that cleanses; a hope that doesn’t disappoint; a love that never fails; a purpose that works all things together for the good; a peace that passes understanding; a joy unspeakable; a kingdom unshakable; a foundation indestructible; a High Priest who prays; a Savior who lives; a Spirit who comforts; a Father who cares.

Therefore, we who have fled to Him for refuge can have great confidence as we hold to the hope that lies before us .This hope is a strong and trustworthy anchor for our souls. Hebrews 6:18-19 NLT

Leave a comment at Mr. Lessin’s blog – http://roy.dayspring.com/2011/03

Some birds sing in the dark

I’m an early riser though I have not always been. As a teenager, I could easily sleep until noon on any given day during the summer. When I was married with children (or with an only child), I relished sleeping in on Saturdays when no one had to go to work or to school.

These days, I usually rise before dawn. Actually I like it, having the first hour of the day in quietness. Please, don’t ask me questions or require me to do chores. Make no demands of me. It is my “quiet time” to spend with Bible open and coffee cup full.

I sit where I can open a window, weather permitting; and this time of year, the weather permits it daily. I listen to the silence of the predawn. And I listen for the bird that sings in the dark. He sings before the breaking of day. He sings with the hope of morning even before a glint of first light.

I have wondered at that bird. Why does he sing alone when it is still so black outside? I realize his Creator made him for such a task. He is the one who wakes first and begins his warble. Later, others will join him. By the time the first glow of pink-orange sun rays show in the east, a cacophony of bird songs echo through the window.

Speaking of singing while it is still dark . . .

I met Mary Lou at Sunday School class when Sweet William and I first “found our place” at Little Flock Baptist Church.

Shortly after we began attending the class, Mary Lou discovered she had cancer. The dreaded C-word wrecked havoc on her body, causing her to suffer much and to lose her hair. There were weeks she didn’t have the strength to come to church. But when she came, she smiled her faith. I was drawn to her.

I know there were days when she didn’t feel like smiling or couldn’t smile. But each time I saw her, she smiled with a hope that her God was faithful even during chemo treatments.

As hair loss set in Mary Lou came to Sunday School with pretty scarves tied on her head or wearing a saucy hat that matched her outfit. And she wore that signature smile.

Mary Lou and I exchanged emails on occasion during those trying days. Hers were faith-filled and God-honoring. While I tried to encourage her, inevitably she ended up encouraging me. She was singing in the dark.

Mary Lou’s hair has grown out now, and she is a cancer survivor. Her smile still warms my heart. She is a warrior, and I have witnessed her courageous song.

More recently another friend, Sharon, heard her cancer diagnoses and expects surgery in the coming weeks. When she told me about the test results, a smile graced her lips and peace countenanced her face. Every day via email she sends me and many others a “good thought for the day.”  She is singing in the dark.

Yet another young friend is enduring the heartache of brokenness that won’t be mended.  I feel helpless as I see her world crumbling beneath her.  Still she smiles, she laughs, and she sings to the glory of her Savior’s praise though her darkness is long and unrelenting.

I am reminded of many Biblical characters who sung in the dark: Job when everything was taken from him; Abraham as he walked toward the mountain of sacrifice; Paul and Silas after a severe beating and imprisonment.

All these knew the song of the dark night.

I ponder those night singers. One sings before the break of day, then others  join in. Does the first song encourage another song, and another and another, until the air is filled with praise and worship for the God who made both the day and the night?

I want to be a night singer, one who can make melody through tears, one who can see God when it is too black to see anything else. 

The night singers encourage me to sing.  To sing when the night lasts too long.  To sing though the dawn is not in sight.  To sing because weeping may last for the night, but joy come in the morning.

Sing on, sweet singers.  Sing on!