21 May

My Heart Hurts for Them

storm

Tears streak down his face.

Somewhere deep inside I breathe a prayer of thanks. Thank you that this is the injustice he struggles with today…how many cartoons he got to pick.

When mommas hold their breath on the edge of fields of rubble….

When family’s salvage treasures from under destroyed houses….

When storms ravage and life hurts….

Thank you, father, for the tears of innocent childhood.

My heart hurts for them…them. Those who are victims of storms, of fear, of a life that seems cruel. I think of them as clouds hang dark and close over a blanket of destruction that  just a breath ago was neighborhoods and life. Those moments when why can hardly be uttered and God seems so far away…when the air tastes like grief and it is hard to see grace through the debris.

I turn off the tv and close the news webpages. Shielding little hearts and eyes from images my heart can barely take. And then I realize the luxury of these moments. That lunches and backpacks were backed yesterday with love…no knowledge of final goodbyes or last mommy hugs. This day was like any other until death broke in. And my heart screams for the mothers who know a grief I cannot fathom…and I whisper for God to come close…because that’s all I can do.

Here I sit, my babies safe, my home intact.

My heart aches and I want to whisper, why??? 

All I can do is lean into Jesus and know that He knows….that He is there. That it is the Lord’s sovereignty that I praise in the sunshine and question in the rain. And I know that He is God of restoration….as sure as spring comes after a barren and cold winter…as sure as the sun after the storms in Oklahoma…as sure as the stone rolled from the empty tomb.

When hearts ache in the waiting for answers….Jesus.

When life feels destroyed and our security seems broken…Jesus.

When it is dark and the storms loom large….Jesus.

My heart is heavy today…for a land I’ve never walked on, for families I’ve never met.

I whisper prayers…short…heavy…

Lord, please be there.

Jesus hold them.

As sun streams through the windows and little hands push pencils across paper. The dog’s slow breathing moving my furry footstool slowly up and down. The birds (and cicadas) filling the air with siren songs. The sounds of laundry and vacuuming filling in the chorus of normal life. Thank you, Father, for this breath, this life, this love…fleeting though it is.

 

 

 

30 Nov

Love-Shaped Holes

jesus 2

There’s nowhere to hide when it hangs in your living room.

The one with her name on it.

The one he carved.

 

The one from her favorite store.

There they hang.

Here I sit, a puddle on the floor. Tears flowing down my cheeks, the cold bitter sting of grief.

Christmas has come. It didn’t ask for permission or pause to breathe in my hurt. It has arrived full of sparkle, tinsel, child-like glee and memories that bear painful witness to the holes in my life.

Scented candles, yummy baked cookies, cold crisp air that begs for snow. Yet, it is hard to breathe when grief hangs heavy.

Twinkling lights, flickering candles,  brightly wrapped packages of every shape and size. Yet, it is hard to see when tears blur your eyes.

And as if haunted by memories I’m scared to forget I try not to remember. The faintest trace of a memory and I blink it away…don’t want to remember what it felt like to hold you when my arms still ache from losing you.

I don’t know Christmas without you….perhaps the truth is, I don’t want to.

And my eyes drift to the ornaments that remind me of my why…of our why…of the reason for the season. {as cheesy as it sounds}

The one who hung on a tree, for me.

The one who died on a tree, for me.

And I beg in my heart, Jesus help me to see you as enough. To hold you higher and greater than I hold my grief.

Help me to celebrate you…YOU.

As our children decorated the tree this week, their laughter and excitement nearly hurt my ears. Oh, for just a bit of that bottled!! They meet each Christmas carol, twinkling light, box of decorations, wrapped package and Christmas card with wild abandoned.  Their excitement and love are contagious as they hurl head long towards Jesus’ birthday and the gifts He gives us.

And, even as I grieve, I want that. I want a childlike spirit that chooses Jesus’ joy over tears. That embraces memories and adventures with the same excited passion.

And again, I ask you, my Jesus…will you help me to celebrate You?

Jesus’ own words in Matthew 5:4 promise there is comfort yet for me {for us…those who hearts have love-shaped holes}….Blessed are those that mourn, for they shall be comforted. Oh, the sweet promises of Savior who comes close.

As I sit at the foot of my tree, hands clenched, eyes burning, tears falling, I know.

I have a part to play in this mourning-comfort equation. These clenched hands that hold grief like a blanket over a raw and scared heart…they have to let go. Open hands receive grace…receive Jesus…receive Comfort. Letting go of grief, letting go of mourning, allows my sweet Jesus to pour into my hands the blessings of Christmas…of grace…of Himself. And those love-shaped holes in my heart are filled with memories of people who were gifts for a season and promises of greater love and reunion in eternity.

And as I open my eyes, I see…

You see, my grief-filled reminders hang on a tree that stands in remembrance of gifts Jesus gave us. That my grief hangs on our Jesus tree is not lost on me. That this picture of what He has given me is bigger than my heart can take in. This life — full of grace-filled memories, love -filled relationships, God-blessed breaths– this life!! Grief hangs on my tree. So do memories — of trips, travels, loved ones, little hands, my hunky hubby. So do dreams — of  travel, of some days, of my girls, of writing, of ministry.

You see, this Jesus tree, it is a reflection of my life and I can sit and stare for hours at one spot, one piece.  And that piece will become overwhelming, all-consuming for me. Too much. But it is when I back up and see it as piece among many…as a part of whole…not the whole. I remember….I see…

There is much to be celebrated even when grief hangs heavy….especially when grief hangs near. There was life lived in those love-shaped holes, and there is life to be remembered and love to honor. There is grace to share.

And, there, in the midst of it all…holding it all together…making it all stand apart…is Jesus. And I know He knows how my heart feels….for He wears love-shaped holes on His hands for me….

16 Aug

When Grace Comes in Goodbye

goodbye 2

Hands that…

…washed lanterns before electricity

…held guns in war

…held the hand of his bride

…rocked his babies to sleep

…swung a hammer

….seemed still only in sleep

…worked in the garden

…swung a golf club

…delivered meals to those in need

…played cards with his brothers

…hid Easter eggs for hours with his grandchildren

…kneaded bread

…mixed the best ice cream sundaes

…held his granddaughter’s hand as we danced at my wedding

…fed his great-grandchildren

…held his wife’s hand as age and illness robbed her of every memory but those of him

…gripped her hairbrush in his sleep after his love of 63 years passed

…hands that held my heart and shaped my world

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Even in the final hours of his life, my grandfather’s hands brought me comfort.

Kneeling by his bed side, I fought tears and heartache. He was ready to go. Heaven was readying his spot. But, even as the logic of death and life well lived played in my mind…my heart broke. What would my life look like without my Grandpa? Who would adore me and make me feel like no one in the world could hold a candle to me?

And there in those moments, a breath away from each other he mustered the strength to hug me, to tell me loved me…to rub my cheek with his hands. To say goodbye.

I was blessed to call him Grandpa. And my life will forever be a tribute to his love and what he taught me. And I know, that I know that I know, that God gave me a glimpse of His love in the hands and heart of my grandfather.

How blessed I was to share a goodbye that echoed a life of love. That the Lord would give me a graceful period to end the chapter filled with stories written in the life of a man many knew, most respected, but only a few called “Grandpa”.

Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted. Matthew 5:4

17 Jan

Grief Hangs Heavy

Grief hangs heavy quilt photo

 

 

Her scent tickled my nose and tugged at my heart.

I stared down into the open Rubbermaid container at the quilt squares. I didn’t want to touch them. I didn’t want to hold them. I didn’t want to breathe in her scent. I didn’t want to exhale grief.

Grief hangs heavy in the room.

When my aunt passed away at the end of 2009 we were looking for something to hold onto. Something to snuggle. To hold. To remind. And there sat her collection of fleeces and flannel pjs. Warm, soft whispers of her life. I had the great idea to make pillows and quilts out of the material. So that all of us (her nieces and nephews and friends) could hold on.

I remember sitting in the living room for days trimming fabric, breathing in the last wisps of soap, fabric softener and the love that she left behind. It hurt. I shut the boxes and put them away. Not ready to grieve, not ready to breathe without her.

That’s how I lived the next year. I didn’t grieve. I didn’t breathe without her. Grief hung heavy, like dark clouds on a late summers day, but I turned my back and pretended it was still sunny.

And so that’s where my memories and my love lived. In boxes. Put away. I didn’t dare unpack the Christmas village (the one that she loved so very much) or finish the blankets. There were few conversations about her life. About her. I thought that if I left the boxes shut the grief, too, would stay sealed away.

But grief hangs heavy. And hearts aren’t meant to be weighed down in pain and past.

At Christmas this year I unpacked houses, stores, buses and people. A Christmas village emerged in our dinning room, whispering a cheery reminder of my aunt. And it didn’t hurt. It wasn’t hard. It was Kriss.

In fact, as we set up the village, my brother and I began to reminisce about what it was like to be one of her kids. The visits when the first stop was the grocery store so that you could pick exactly what you wanted to eat — and if you lived on Cheetos and Diet Coke that was fine with her. The Christmas gifts, perfectly wrapped and exactly what you wanted. The love. The laughter. Her.  And when the village was set up we declared it Auntie Kriss day…off to the grocery store to allow everyone (adults and kids) to choose their snacks…we watched movies, decorated the tree, and remembered.

As I packed the village back up last weekend, I began to remember. Grief threatened to wrap around me. To suffocate me again…

There I stood. Boxes open. The smell of her filling my nose. Calling memories out of dark corners and mental storage.

I inhaled. Twice. But I did not exhale grief.

In a moment I held the fabric and began to picture the blankets that would soon wrap us all in her loving memories.

Flash of needle. Whir of machine. One square after another memories where knit together. A joke from when she wore this blue fleece. The salty wind of the beach blowing that red hood against her head. The last moment I saw her, waving goodbye, that green sweatshirt hanging off her cancer wracked body.

The blankets aren’t done. But they are started.

Grief hangs heavy when we carry it alone. But when we pour out our hearts and allow the good things of God (even memories encased in sadness and loss) to shine in Jesus takes our burdens makes our way easier.

 

 

20 Oct

Sorrow Will Meet Them….Here

sticky and kids

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Death rattles in the next room.

Our sweet little family pet is taking his last breaths.

In the morning little feet will pitter-patter down the stairs. Bright blue eyes will meet the morning with excitement and anticipation.

Death will meet them here tomorrow.

Blue eyes will well with tears and sorrow. I am already grieving for them, the loss of their first pet. The loss of our family’s court jester. The loss of their furry, wiggly love.

Sorrow will meet them here tomorrow.

It seems small this loss of pet, when….

Somewhere in the world a child goes to bed hungry for another night.

Somewhere is the world a soldier defends freedom and gives his life.

Somewhere in the world a military wife prays her son will meet his daddy.

Somewhere in the world a woman sells herself to feed her kids or spare her life.

Somewhere in the world a child hides in the dark, praying the fighting will stop soon.

Somewhere in the world a woman wonders where her husband is and who he is with.

Somewhere in the world a father wonders if there will be work tomorrow so he can provide again for his family.

Somewhere in the world a family gathers round a loved one waiting for death.

Somewhere in the world a young woman waits for the abortion clinic to open.

Somewhere in the world a child dies in her mother’s arms.

And yet, even as they cry and life morphs into a creature of sorrow. Of pain. Of loss. Of grief. Of despair. Of fear. Of uncertainty. Of death. There is a daddy who never sleeps, ready to hold our tears (looking forward to the day He will dry them forever). There is One who whispers in our darkness that He is bigger than our foes and has conquered even our worst enemies.

Death might await the morning, but in Christ it has no victory.

I sit here in the early hours of morning. Eyes stinging with lack of sleep and tears. Praying for God’s grace in mommy’s words and resilient little hearts.

The first taste of a fallen world. A drop in the bucket of a lifetime of tears and sorrows. A temporary pain that time and a Heavenly Daddy will sooth and extinguish.

In a few hours as I dry tears and snuggle little bodies we’ll tell stories and remember. Remember that love came before the grief, that happiness proceeded death. And my children will begin to learn that there is always the hope and joy of the Lord, even in our darkest moments.

Father, thank you for being present in all our grief and sadness, from the first to the last. Thank you for the joy of remembrance and the hope of Christ. Give me the words to ease little hearts this morning and the grace for others in their grief, big or small. Thank you for our baby weasel, our ferret, he gave us great joy and filled our home with laughter as he entertained us with our antics. Amen.

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