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Posts Tagged ‘weeping’

You’d never know it if you saw us all there on that stretch of the shore.

No. You’d never know…

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That her niece was drowned in a pool.

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…and that their husbands just couldn’t go on.

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That my brother ended his anguish…

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Or that their only son was slain.

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No, you’d never know any of this if you saw us there;

In the warmth of the sand and the sun.

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You’d only know that we had made a pilgrimage…

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We’d come with a purpose.

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To let go of her niece.

And my brother.

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To let go of their husbands.

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And their only son.

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And we’d never know it…never comprehend grief’s great mystery.

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That only when we let go of their lives…

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And let the sea swallow all of our pain…

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Would their love be right there…waiting.

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For in our hearts they will always remain.

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“What joy for those whose strength comes from the LORD, who have set their minds on a pilgrimage…

When they walk through the Valley of Weeping, it will become a place of refreshing springs.”

Psalm 84:5-6

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My journal from January, 2012 contains only two entries. The first is a black “X” across the entire page along with one sentence that reads, “Everything—life as we knew it—changed forever.” The second entry simply says, “I can’t write.”

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In the days following my brother’s suicide, grief paralyzed me in body and soul. I’ve come to the conclusion that there are two kinds of pain in life: The pain of being outside God’s will, and the pain of being inside God’s will. Having experienced both, I’ve always said I’d take the latter any day. But after Jay took his life, I was tempted to rethink my preferences.

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Someone once said, “Grief is life’s greatest teacher.” I’m not far enough into the journey to pass judgment. When a wound is gaping wide, you don’t care about learning anything. Grief burns a hole through the center of your chest and, frankly, most mourners just want to pick a different teacher.

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My friend, Micki Ann, understands suffering because she has suffered. She says, “Suffering is a seed we are given to steward.” Several months after Jay’s death, Micki Ann gave me a handful of seeds. Even though there were days when I wanted to throw them back at her, I couldn’t deny the fact that her wisdom invited intrigue to inhabit my despair.

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In an effort to prove my friend’s theory, I searched the scriptures.

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It didn’t take long to realize that the Apostle Paul had a real knack for stewarding his suffering. Stonings? Shipwrecks? Paul went through the wringer. That’s what makes him so credible. Given his ordeals, on many nights, Paul’s words stopped my self-pity in its tracks. “Our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all” (2 Corinthians 4:17 NIV).

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I believe Paul. I really do.

It’s just that in the face of our present pain, eternal glory can seem so very far away.

When I glance up from my computer and see the photos of Jay posted above it, glory’s gates couldn’t feel any farther away.

On days like this, grief outweighs glory—hands down.

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When I used to write essays, articles, or blog posts, I would conclude my thoughts with some neat and tidy resolution.

But, grief isn’t neat, or tidy.

It’s sloppy and snotty. Inconsolable and distressing.

There is no closure, especially with death by suicide. Instead, there are only endless questions that will never be answered.

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Grief makes a writer ramble, but I should at least be woman enough to confess what I can’t gloss over…

I have no prescription for this pain.

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Truth be told, if the J-shaped hole in my heart could be filled with a prescription, I’d be the first person in line for that pill.

I’m not trying to sound dramatic, just honest.

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The temptation to shrink back from my sorrow and suffering is immense. But, there’s no evidence that grief’s purpose is to make us give up.

Paul never backed off from God’s mission. Actually, the opposite is true. It was Paul’s pain that propelled God’s purpose, and he knew it. “Now I want you to know, brothers and sisters, that what has happened to me has actually served to advance the gospel” (Philippians 1:12 NIV, emphasis added).

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By faith, Paul pressed into his pain and in doing so, his pain shaped his purpose; giving it color and contrast and depth.

And so…

That’s all I know to do.

I press into my pain as I ponder God’s Word.

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I press into my pain as I grasp for Micki Ann’s seeds.

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I press into my pain as I pray that somehow, my lament will offer hope to yours.

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And, somewhere amidst all this pain and pressing…

A tiny bud bursts through the dirt.

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What if suffering isn’t supposed to be a hazard, but a hallmark?

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What if suffering isn’t supposed to be avoided, but embraced?

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What if, instead of shrinking back, I seized my suffering?

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And, what if I let God till this unplowed ground, hoping against all hope, that what sprouts forth will become “an oak of righteousness, a planting of the Lord for the display of His splendor”? (Isaiah 61:3b NIV)

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God only knows what the seeds of suffering might become.

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And, although there are still days I want to throw my seeds back, I have a sense that if I press into this pain hard enough…

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Redemption will tip the scales in glory’s favor.

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On nights like this…

I want to hear your voice on the other end of the line.

To have one last chance to beg you to stay…

To declare how deeply you are loved…

And, how we long for your return.

On nights like this…

I long to hear your thoughts and inklings…

And, the things that concern your heart…

To hear your records blaring in the background…

To know that you won’t give up.

On nights like this…

I want to wake from this terrible nightmare…

To hear joy in our family because you’re back.

I want your healing to have come on our side of Heaven…

To have this night without you be my last.

But, I can have none of these things,

No, not one.

THIS is the sobering reality I must stare down…

Knowing that it will stare coldly back at me.

Unchanged.

Unmoved by the weeping of my soul…

On nights like this.

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What’s a woman to do when…

The basket on the table contains the ashes of her brother…

 And sorrow comes parading…

To bid one last goodbye.

When she weeps as those who loved him…

Reach in for one last touch.

When words are few…

But, tears are many.

Just what IS a woman to do?

A woman must surrender at sunset…

 

And exchange his ashes…

for His beauty.

“To all who mourn in Israel, he will give a crown of beauty for ashes, a joyous blessing instead of mourning, festive praise instead of despair.”

“In their righteousness, they will be like great oaks that the Lord has planted for his own glory.” Isaiah 61:3

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“The people who survived the sword, found grace in the wilderness…” Jeremiah 31:2 NKJV

What does grace in the wilderness look like? It looks like…

A morning message that stirs the Spirit.

A gift from someone who has walked THIS road.

 A symbol to hold out Hope’s light.

A word to keep carrying on.

A card in the mail from a friend.

A text of tenderness and blessing.

What does grace in the wilderness look like?

The shedding of a brand new light…on a very old promise.

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Some say, “GRIEF IS LIFE’S GREATEST TEACHER.”

But, I’m not far enough along to agree or pass judgment…

My heart-wound raw and gaping.

Because frankly…if I had my way in the world tonight…

I’d alter the anguish of my journey. 

I’d pick a different teacher.

Because on night’s like this…

When all seems lost and dim…

Grief burns a hole through the center of my chest and I want an easier way.

I want to turn back time and cut death off at the pass.

Until I cease my anxious striving…and sit alone with God in the silence of my soul…

Then and only then, do I hear Him faintly whisper,

“You didn’t pick grief.”

“Grief picked you.”

“Just as it is written, ‘FOR YOUR SAKE WE ARE BEING PUT TO DEATH ALL DAY LONG; WE WERE CONSIDERED AS SHEEP TO BE SLAUGHTERED.’ But in all these things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us.” Romans 8:36-37

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Then Jesus shouted, “Lazarus, come out!” And the dead man came out, his hands and feet bound in graveclothes, his face wrapped in a headcloth. Jesus told them, “Unwrap him and let him go!” John 11:43-44

I love the story of Lazarus because, well…Jesus raises a dead man from the grave. I mean …what’s not to love?

But, what should you do when death doesn’t rise? What should you do? 

What should I do?

Almost every post I’ve written over the last 9 months has been penned from a place of deep pain and desperate hope. Living in the shadows of Heaven’s silence. Lazarus getting sicker and sicker and still, no Jesus. Mary and Martha panicking and praying their guts out.

“Where’s the miracle? Why hasn’t Jesus come? When is He coming? Why, of all things, is my brother getting worse? So much worse?”

Like Lazarus’ sisters, these are the honest questions that I’ve cried out to God and wrestled with everyday. Every single day of my brother’s troubling illness.

While there is much I won’t pretend to understand, this I know: God has used this painful season to teach me to come alongside, more intimately, the suffering of others…those precious ones grieving the loss of a marriage…a dream…a family as family was intended to exist. And, this I also know…my intimacy with Christ has grown in breadth and depth beyond all confines.

These are all good things. I know that. Redemptive things. And, I’m grateful for each one. I am. I really am. But, the reality in which I now find myself is that…

I didn’t get what I wanted for Christmas this year…or the last three years, for that matter. I fasted, prayed, worshiped, wept…even slept with my Bible night after night. For three long years my heartcries only became more dramatic as each day passed and still…no “visible” or “tangible” answers. No healing. Nothing.

We tried everything to save my brother. Did everything. Prayed everything. And, still…so much pain and suffering. Too much. Everyday, his mental condition robbing him of dignity. Stripping him bare.

Every conversation…hearing him slip further away from me, the way a song slowly fades down low, until it comes to a silent end. And then…just when I thought it couldn’t get any worse…Heaven’s silence grew all the more deafening.

On December 11th, I got the one thing for Christmas that I never, EVER wanted.

Since Jay’s passing, I’ve found myself floundering in a greater measure of grief than I ever thought possible…the loss of his young life sucking the breath from my chest. My heart throbbing hot with the stark realization that his pain became far too much for him to bear, even for one more moment.

A pain he could not express, nor contain.

God, how can this be? While I know Jay is at rest in Heaven’s peace now, the reality of things gone seemingly awry has turned me upside-down and inside-out. It wasn’t supposed to end like this. His healing was supposed to happen on THIS side of Heaven, not the other.

I share this with you as I weep and grieve and groan–the computer screen blurred by endless tears–only because I know that God never intended us to hide our wounds–as much as we might like to–especially when they’re gaping wide open and bleeding out all over. Jesus didn’t try to cover up His blood. Instead, His blood covered all.

No doubt you’re longing for healing to happen on this side of Heaven too, as were we. That’s what drew most of you to our blog and to our marriage restoration story from the very start. But, as one year closes and another begins, we’re faced with learning to live out the sobering fact that…

Sometimes Jesus comes before death…

Sometimes Jesus brings life after death…

But, sometimes...death just comes. And stays.

Death has come and it is staying and amidst all my fighting and flailing, I know that I know that I know that I will drown in the massive waves of grief unless…

He trains my eyes and I strain my eyes…not to look, but to see. Because when I let God take me beyond the looking and into the seeing, I realize that…

Jesus did come.

Jesus came. 

I only know this because in the days since I got the one thing for Christmas that I never ever wanted, I’ve seen Jesus in unfathomable ways:

Jesus came in the person who left a candle on the porch of our childhood home.

Jesus came in the neighbor who consoled my father’s grief.

Jesus came in the memorial symbols that were definitely ALL THINGS JAY.

Jesus came in the sojourner who held me as I wept.

Jesus came in the smudgy sentiments of little hearts laid bare.

Jesus came in the dear ones who lent us hands and feet.

Jesus came in my Grammy, who wore Jay’s treasure with honor.

Jesus came in the red and green, hung against our mourning drab.

Jesus came in the sunlight, through the windows of the chapel.

Jesus came in the flowers, carried one-by-one.

Jesus came in the faces of the mourners, standing room only.

Jesus came in Hope’s candlelight, soft and glowing.

Jesus came.

Jesus comes.

Jesus will come again.

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