Uncategorized

Grief Packaged — Memories Unpackaged

Along about this time of year — when joy and goodwill exude from the masses…shopping carts are filled, Christmas cards are written, Menus are planned, Christmas Trees are dressed in their finest, and packages wrapped with love are placed under them — my heart “catches.”

Oh, I do get lost in the magic of Christmas — I adore the reasons we celebrate in the first place ~Jesus~ and I love to watch my son get caught up in the decorating and lights.  His requests for favorite dishes never escape my notice and well, the glimmer in his eye captures my heart!

However, a tsunami of grief breaks over my soul and a deep longing settles within me.  I became a bit more acutely aware of that grief today when I was messaging with my friend, Shelby, in Virginia.  We were sharing our Thanksgiving plans and the putting up of Christmas Trees — admittedly what is supposed to be a joyful conversation — but for both of us it turned into tears.

For Shelby and me, our parents have passed away.  We reminisced on how our Momma’s would put into our stocking an Orange, an Apple, some Walnuts, and for me a big Candy Cane….there were other little things, but that’s what Shelby and I have in common…two Virginia girls whose Momma’s loved a similar way.  The specialness of what was is now gone and we are grown and we have our own children and grandchildren to share all that love with during this Season of rejoicing over family.

How, though, do we package the grief — the loss?  As the tears flood in, I must confess that I haven’t quite figured that part out.  God sewed into my life such sweet and kindred relationship with my parents — a tenderness not found in another soul or relationship.  He wove a lifetime of memories and experiences that cannot be replaced — mimicked, yes — not replaced.  Parents are afforded a unique relationship with their children — it is honestly irreplaceable.

Shelby said, “Oh, I didn’t mean to make you cry!”  Oh, she didn’t make me cry at all  — the truth is that I was on the precipice of tears for days.  She only identified with my soul — God allows people to do that — so we have Christ-like relationships in good friends…sisters — we reflected what was in our hearts —- grief, joy, and Jesus!

I think we can both say, with the same assurance of Job:

“Naked I came from my mother’s womb, And naked I shall return there. The LORD gave and the LORD has taken away. Blessed be the name of the LORD.” (Job 1:21 NASB)

It’s not easy to say goodbye — its difficult to journey on without those familiar, kindred spirits when the aromas and sounds and laughter invade the home — but we must — for our good and for His glory!

~Soli Deo Gloria 

 

brown pinecone on white rectangular board
Photo by rawpixel.com on Pexels.com

 

 

Advertisements
Uncategorized

Thanksgiving Pardon

I can almost smell my Momma’s Turkey roasting in the oven for Thanksgiving.  I remember Momma putting it in around mid-night on Thanksgiving Eve…it would roast all night, as she would get up every two hours and baste it.  There was really nothing better than waking up on a cold, Thanksgiving morning as it permeated the house.

Momma and Daddy (and all of my grandparents) have passed on and I’m left with just the memory of those days.  I miss the smells and laughter and joy that those days brought to our family.  I miss the coming together and how the love melted away the stresses of the year.  I find my heart longing for what was…playing with cousins…laughing as Pappaw would try and chew our ears off…safety.

Our President has a tradition each year of symbolically pardoning a Turkey…the Turkey probably was unaware of his fate in the first place…but in a gesture of good-will he is pardoned none-the-less.  He gets to gobble back to his abode and live his worry-free life and hope that next year he will be as fortunate.  How ridiculous, right??

Well, it could be considered ridiculous to pardon a Turkey — save him from the roaster — give him a second chance!  However, as I thought more about this gesture, God reminded me of His pardon.

We are all like that Turkey — headed for a certain death and the all consuming, punishing fires of hell.  However, God, in His great goodness, compassion, and mercy through the abundance of His Son’s shed blood on Calvary pardoned us!  To the glory of God!  Scripture tells us in Titus 2:11, “For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all men.” (Titus 2:11 NASB)  His love for us reaching down into the depths of wretched hearts and saving us!

Unlike that old Tom Turkey, we are pardoned once and for all!

For Christ also died for sins once for all, the just for the unjust, so that He might bring us to God, having been put to death in the flesh, but made alive in the spirit;
(1 Peter 3:18 NASB)

I am grateful and thankful that God loved me so!  My prayer for you, this Thanksgiving season, is that you will surrender everything and make Jesus Lord of your life.  Repent and Believe on Him.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Psalm 107 1 10142018

Suffering, Uncategorized

Earnest HOPE in a hopeless world

But God

 

To hope … how does one find hope in a world that seems to be ripping apart at the seems?  How do you explain hope when all seems so bleak and dark???

The last few weeks have seemed pretty dark here in a country that sells the “American Dream.”  You really can’t find a lot of good news, really, you can’t!  We are bombarded on every side — seemingly thwarted in our pursuit of happiness and the American Dream.  Political advertisements that run hatefully, hourly, and quite destructively.  Hostility is at a premium…you can get some here!

Let’s not forget the refugee crisis and the sea of people flooding across the desert mountains of Mexico…all looking for a better life, hope for their children…the American Dream.  What does that look like for them??  A home with a two-car garage, good schools, plenty of food, healthcare, and a reason to hope?  Hope in what???  When you are fleeing life, there isn’t much to run to…or hope in…is there??

I don’t think so…what about the poverty-stricken imprisoned within our own borders?  What of the children who go to school every.single.day with their bellies hollow and their hopes even hollower.  Where is their American Dream and apple pie and healthcare and hope??  Where do they flee to and who would open their arms to receive them???

It’s down right bleak, huh?  I guess if you look at it the way I’ve told it, it is the epitome of hopelessness.  Yet…and yet, there is HOPE!  There is…just look:

In the same way God, desiring even more to show to the heirs of the promise the unchangeableness of His purpose, interposed with an oath, so that by two unchangeable things in which it is impossible for God to lie, we who have taken refuge would have strong encouragement to take hold of the hope set before us. This hope we have as an anchor of the soul, a hope both sure and steadfast and one which enters within the veil, where Jesus has entered as a forerunner for us, having become a high priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek. (Hebrews 6:17-20 NASB)

Jesus is Hope — He is Hope every time for every need through every heartache.  Hebrews tells us of this Hope.

Did you read that weary one??  We who are refugees have strong encouragement to take hold of the hope set before us.  It is an anchor for us — sure and steadfast — Jesus is our HOPE!

So, as you sojourn through the desert mountains of Mexico,  in the traffic jam in Los Angeles, the remnants of Hurricanes and Tsunamis, the lava flows of Hawaii, the fire-engorged valleys of California, out on the sidewalk in front of an abortion clinic, at the foot of your beloved’s casket at the cemetery, in a divorce court you never thought would come, in the confusion of political ads and double-speak…take heart…Hope in Christ.  He came to make us refugees no longer!  He bought us with a great price.  Earnestly hope in Him — when you feel there is no more hope — Hope in Him!

 

Uncategorized

Job! Thy Wife is Called Faithful

Tams roses

I haven’t often thought much about Job’s wife…really…a couple of days ago, if you had asked me, I would have said, “She told him to curse God and die!”  I’ve never given a lot of thought to Job’s response to her or what happens to her in the end…until this morning!

This morning, I was drinking coffee with my 19 year-old son and we began talking of Job.  His great suffering…his well meaning friends…his loss…and, well, his questions to God and God’s responses Job!  But, what of Mrs. Job….?

Sidebar:  We’ll have to call her Mrs. Job from here because God does not share her name with us anywhere in the Book of Job.  I did some research on her name and Rabbinical scholars had some ideas, but it’s not in the Holy Scriptures, so we’ll just give her Mrs. Job for the purpose of this blog!

Well, the first we hear from Mrs. Job is in chapter 2, verse 9:

“Then his wife said to him, ‘Do you still hold fast your integrity? Curse God and die!'”
(Job 2:9 NASB)

Ok!  Stop the presses!!!  What did she say???  Let me do some modern-day translation here:  “Job, come on now…husband…no one expects you to have integrity now!  Why don’t you just tell God He wins…I give up…and die with your integrity intact!  I wouldn’t blame you…no one would!”

Job sweetly…well, righteously answers her and says, “Lady — quit acting like the other foolish women.  Are you going to take only good things from God and not also accept adversity?”

But he said to her, “You speak as one of the foolish women speaks. Shall we indeed accept good from God and not accept adversity?” In all this Job did not sin with his lips. (Job 2:10 NASB)

She does not answer, we hear nothing further, and that is the end of their love story! Well…..not so fast!  A lot happens between chapters 2 through 42…here’s a recap:

  • Job has some good friends come by and sit in the ashes with him…
  • Job laments to God of his humanness and that he should have never been born…
  • Job’s friends start giving Job their two-cent advice…
  • Job questions God and this goes on for awhile…
  • God answers Job (I just really love this discourse between God and Job)…
  • Job confesses, repents, and acknowledges that God is sovereign and that he has spoken of things that were too big to understand for himself…
  • God rebukes Job’s friends and this brings us to the end Chapter 42!

The LORD restored the fortunes of Job when he prayed for his friends, and the LORD increased all that Job had twofold. Then all his brothers and all his sisters and all who had known him before came to him, and they ate bread with him in his house; and they consoled him and comforted him for all the adversities that the LORD had brought on him. And each one gave him one piece of money, and each a ring of gold. The LORD blessed the latter days of Job more than his beginning; and he had 14,000 sheep and 6,000 camels and 1,000 yoke of oxen and 1,000 female donkeys. (Job 42:10-12 NASB)

Wait a minute, though!  I don’t want you to miss the best part because you think you know or understand what God did in the last chapter.  Something very important happens to Job’s wife, too:

He had seven sons and three daughters.  He named the first Jemimah, and the second Keziah, and the third Keren-happuch. In all the land no women were found so fair as Job’s daughters; and their father gave them inheritance among their brothers. (Job 42:13-15 NASB)

God restored everything to Job…fields, donkeys, money, servants —- but he gave anew to Job and Mrs. Job sevens sons and three daughters.  Mrs. Job was restored too!  She didn’t just exit left stage, after being rebuked by her husband…no!

What I have always failed to see is that Mrs. Job lost the same amount of everything that Job had lost.  Her children were killed, grandchildren, livestock, servants, and she is left with a husband sitting in a heap of black ashes talking a bit suicidal…about never being born.

I imagine, as a woman, after that rebuke from her husband, she probably returned to the house that no longer existed and began picking up what was left.  Bring Mrs. Job back forward to the 21-Century — someone runs to tell you that all of your children were killed when a great wind came in and destroy their home and taken their lives.  You run home and it all destroyed….those you love….all dead….you fall to your knees…you bury your face in your hands and cry out the most blood-curdling, deep-throated cry of pain that is felt by all around.  Mrs. Job’s chest felt that it would implode, as she goes from child-to-child —- oh, the memories of their childhood…the laughter on their wedding days…the joy of babies…grandbabies —- now all.gone.

As she swept, it must have run through her mind…”curse God and die women!”  He has taken everything…there is nothing left.  It would be better if my dear husband and I were dead.  Can you not feel this dear woman’s heartache and pain….meanwhile, her husband is still sitting in ashes…despairing…and Mrs. Job is alone.

However, just like Job, Mrs. Job has not been forgotten…she too was given more children from her husband.  God blessed Mrs. Job again, as much as blessed Job.  Her heart and her grief and her fear did not go unnoticed by Jehovah God…not one minute.  God understood her heart — her fear.  Wait patiently my child….wait and see what I am about to perform!  God had restored a faithful man and his faithful wife!

There are many other things we can learn about Job’s wife….Mrs. Job….but I’m thankful God showed me her value….value like not leaving Job when the going gets tough, not blaming Job…value in her stick-to-itiveness and persistence.

The Book of Job end beautifully:

After this, Job lived 140 years, and saw his sons and his grandsons, four generations. And Job died, an old man and full of days.
(Job 42:16-17 NASB)

 

 

 

 

 

 

Uncategorized

Walking In Soul Dust

dirt road dry fence footprints
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

We live life and we love…we love deeply.

I loved my Grandma Keen and everything about her.  I loved the way she laughed, with her hands to her mouth, giggling about what tickled her soul.  I loved the way she would sip her saccharin-sweetened coffee and enjoy a piece of toast with it.  I remember sitting at her kitchen table, with my own coffee and piece of toast —- she would pour the last gulps of coffee into a saucer and dip the toast — I would do the same…thinking I was such a big girl to sip coffee and dip toast.  Even today, when I sip my morning coffee —no saccharin, but Stevia — I remember back to those summer mornings and I feel so blessed to have known that precious woman.

I loved my Daddy…a man who chose to adopt me and make me his own.  I remember how proud I was when he wore his police uniform…wondering if anyone else’s Daddy was a giant like mine.  I can still smell the aroma of Christmas breakfast that he would cook us each year — oh, how he loved Christmas.  I cannot but think of that giant of a man, whose heart was even bigger, when we decorate the Christmas Tree and enjoy Christmas morning breakfast.  I remember his sheltering arms when I wept over my Grandma dying or my childhood friend dying.  He loved me and those memories are profound to me.

I loved my Momma!  Certainly the hardest goodbye I’ve ever had to whisper through cascades of grief and questions and regret.  Regret that I did not try harder to understand her.  She was so fragile and yet so strong — much like the Live Oaks that line the streets of my now home, Sanford.  When I am overwhelmed and yet survive the hurt, I think of her and I’m grateful that some of her got left in me.

I’ve stood at two graves of young friends questioning the short length of their paths.  I’ve stood also at the foot of friends who lived long and had much to leave to the world in years and family and experience.

God created us for relationship!  He gave us fathers and mothers and siblings and grandparents and friends and love so that our journey wouldn’t be so long or laborious.  He gave us moments of laughter and the gift of grief and tears.

The Bible says that “the steps of a man are established by the LORD, and He delights in his way.  (Psalms 37:23 NASB)  So then, grief is a gift because it means we loved someone and we walked with them in those established steps.  We had the grand privilege of sharing in their delight along the way.  And, as we loosen the earth and lay them gently to await the coming of Christ, we get the privilege to bring others along our journey while we walk in the soul dust of those gone on before…I’m so grateful for that soul dust and the footprints!

 

 

 

 

Uncategorized

Stones of Remembrance

Each morning when I open up my Facebook©, I am reminded of my social media “memories” from that particular day dating back several years.  While it is not completely unlike looking through an old, family photo album, it is!

When you open an old, family photo album, you are often reminded of sweet memories…sometimes bitter/sweet…but usually sweet.    Therein you may find pictures of your grandparents at a family reunion or old school pictures that make you cringe (in a good way) because your Momma cut all your hair off.  Maybe you will find one of those awkward photos of you and your siblings, posing unknowingly for the laughs the photo would generate 45 years later.

rene paul tammi angelaGod created within our brain extra folds of brain-matter that would not only store precious memories for us, but that would also filter out the painful memories that remind us of hurt, struggle, hardship, grief, and loss.  We are not equipped to carry such burdens every day for the rest of our lives…they are only meant to be sifted out after healing (and many times repentance).

The Jewish people have a custom that when a loved one passes away, instead of flowers, they place a stone on the headstone as reminder that God is mighty and that they would, for generations, fear (in the Hebrew this word “fear” means reverence) Him.  In the account of the Hebrew children crossing the Jordon in Joshua 4, we find how this came into being:

Now when all the nation had finished crossing the Jordan, the LORD spoke to Joshua, saying, “Take for yourselves twelve men from the people, one man from each tribe, and command them, saying, ‘Take up for yourselves twelve stones from here out of the middle of the Jordan, from the place where the priests’ feet are standing firm, and carry them over with you and lay them down in the lodging place where you will lodge tonight.'” So Joshua called the twelve men whom he had appointed from the sons of Israel, one man from each tribe; and Joshua said to them, “Cross again to the ark of the LORD your God into the middle of the Jordan, and each of you take up a stone on his shoulder, according to the number of the tribes of the sons of Israel. “Let this be a sign among you, so that when your children ask later, saying, ‘What do these stones mean to you?’ then you shall say to them, ‘Because the waters of the Jordan were cut off before the ark of the covenant of the LORD; when it crossed the Jordan, the waters of the Jordan were cut off.’ So these stones shall become a memorial to the sons of Israel forever.” Thus the sons of Israel did as Joshua commanded, and took up twelve stones from the middle of the Jordan, just as the LORD spoke to Joshua, according to the number of the tribes of the sons of Israel; and they carried them over with them to the lodging place and put them down there. Then Joshua set up twelve stones in the middle of the Jordan at the place where the feet of the priests who carried the ark of the covenant were standing, and they are there to this day. For the priests who carried the ark were standing in the middle of the Jordan until everything was completed that the LORD had commanded Joshua to speak to the people, according to all that Moses had commanded Joshua. And the people hurried and crossed; and when all the people had finished crossing, the ark of the LORD and the priests crossed before the people. The sons of Reuben and the sons of Gad and the half-tribe of Manasseh crossed over in battle array before the sons of Israel, just as Moses had spoken to them; about 40,000 equipped for war, crossed for battle before the LORD to the desert plains of Jericho. On that day the LORD exalted Joshua in the sight of all Israel; so that they revered him, just as they had revered Moses all the days of his life. Now the LORD said to Joshua, “Command the priests who carry the ark of the testimony that they come up from the Jordan.” So Joshua commanded the priests, saying, “Come up from the Jordan.” It came about when the priests who carried the ark of the covenant of the LORD had come up from the middle of the Jordan, and the soles of the priests’ feet were lifted up to the dry ground, that the waters of the Jordan returned to their place, and went over all its banks as before. Now the people came up from the Jordan on the tenth of the first month and camped at Gilgal on the eastern edge of Jericho. Those twelve stones which they had taken from the Jordan, Joshua set up at Gilgal. He said to the sons of Israel, “When your children ask their fathers in time to come, saying, ‘What are these stones?’ then you shall inform your children, saying, ‘Israel crossed this Jordan on dry ground.’ “For the LORD your God dried up the waters of the Jordan before you until you had crossed, just as the LORD your God had done to the Red Sea, which He dried up before us until we had crossed; that all the peoples of the earth may know that the hand of the LORD is mighty, so that you may fear the LORD your God forever.” (Joshua 4:1-24 NASB)

What is impressed upon me from this account is that God wanted them to remember something good…His provision.  He didn’t ask them to gather these stones so that they could remember their doubt and disobedience while wondering 40 years in the desert…No!  He wants them to remember that He is still with them — He loves them and that He is mighty!

The problem with some of the Facebook© memories that I have found are the ones where I said something that I should have kept to myself…poorly chosen posts to either complain, seek pity, or show unkindness toward someone.  Often, words written in anger or hurt.  When these “show up” for me to revisit, I am once again face-to-face with the same sin I have confessed and God has forgiven.  I am face-to-face with my shame and the depths of sin my heart has at times plunged.  Satan is using Facebook© as a tool to keep me defeated.  He doesn’t want me to remember that God has forgiven me!  As long as he can keep me feeling shame, hurt, bitterness, and angst toward myself or someone else, he can keep me from being an active and useful part of the Body of Christ.

Satan does not want us to walk in the fullness of who we are in Christ Jesus!  Ephesians outlines who we are for us:

  • We have redemption through His blood; ( Ephesians 1:7)
  • We have obtained an inheritance;  (Ephesians 1:11)
  • Were sealed in Him with the Holy Spirit of promise;  (Ephesians 1:13)
  • He raised us up with Him, and seated us with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus; and,  (Ephesians 2:6)
  • You who formerly were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. (Ephesians 2:13)

What a beautiful picture God has given us, through His Word and the richness of His mercy and grace, of who we are in Christ Jesus!  I am so thankful this picture is now in my photo album to replace years of sin, shame, hurt, heartache, and even grief…a stone of remembrance to His might, redemption, and faithfulness in my life!

Uncategorized

Twenty-One Junes and No Refunds

It is difficult to wrap my head around twenty-one Junes!  Twenty-one Februarys ago he said, “I’m starting to think of you as more than a friend!”    Twenty-one Marches ago, over a long distance telephone call, and still having not met face-to-face, he POPS the big question, “Will you marry me?”

We stood before the Clerk of the Court in Orange County, Florida twenty-one Junes ago and committed our lives to one another!  I said, “I will!”  I was frightened and far away from home, standing in front of a Clerk I had never met, telling this man that I would be his for life.

Dave and Tam before Clerk

“No refunds!”  We didn’t even realize that sign was there until we got our photographs back from our friend who was there to memorialize this day in our life.  Looking back, I don’t think it would have changed our minds or hearts.  I have learned one thing for certain, you cannot refund twenty-one Junes!

In those twenty-one years there has been the birth of a son and the death of parents and grandparents.  We’ve moved three times, bought a house, and our son is now a high school graduate.  We’ve buried cats, dogs, and fish!  There have been hospital floors paced and grieved hearts.  I can still hear the echoes from basketball games, Cub Scout meetings, and birthday parties.

You cannot refund Christmas Trees and Christmas morning happiness, as colorful paper lays scattered on the floor or Turkeys cooking in the oven and permeating the house with simple love.  How can you possibly refund eyelash kisses, skinned knees, and new bicycles!  You cannot!

However, how do you limp through hurt feelings and thoughtless words — how does twenty-one years survive pain?  It is through covenant!  David and I stood before that Clerk — two Christ-Followers committing to a life time of  laughter, tears, love, hurt, and sometimes pain.

We had indeed, as Scripture declares, become one flesh!  He became mine and I became his…in covenant with God the Father!  We not only believed there could be no refunds, but we committed to no refunds…even when a refund seemed warranted.

Marriage is a commitment of work!  Some days love comes easily and others it is chosen and worked for — amidst heartache, financial struggles, death, and pain!  I chose, in covenant, to love my husband on days that I didn’t like him very much and he probably felt the same way — we still loved.

We are not the young man and young woman that fell in love twenty-one Junes ago…no, not at all.  We are grafted onto each others hearts — one thought and heart much of the time…and while our relationship has grown deeper and sweeter with each other, it has also matured in our fellowship with Christ.

Twenty-one Junes ago, I married the man who would make me laugh, make me angrier than I’ve ever been, make me cry and then dry my tears.  He has held my hand and steadied my thoughts…he balances me.  He is my best friend and my only lover!  We are one because twenty-one Junes ago we trusted the Lord and stepped out into a journey that would last a lifetime.

I never want a refund!  Happy twenty-first anniversary to the love of my life!

Dave and Tam at ballet