At A Loss For Words

She passed. Two words with the power to break me to my knees. I knew it was coming, but the words had interrupted my dinner and I pushed back my plate. My stomach began to tighten and I no longer was hungry. I tried to calm myself enough to respond to the person on the other end of the phone. My voice was shaky, but I managed to utter “Okay”.

No matter how long someone has graced this planet, death still hurts. It leaves an absence in our lives. Certain people touch our lives to the point where they have been a part of who we are, of who we have become. They inspire us and mold us, acting as a foundation, a pillar if you will. When they die, we feel the foundations of our lives shake and wobble, like a tremor. We can no longer seek out their advice or tell them of our latest accomplishments for which we are proud. There is an empty place now that they use to fill.

We can’t go through this life without feeling this emptiness caused by the death of someone we were close to. We know it and understand the finite quality of this life. As Christians who believe in eternal life, we know that this is not the end. If those who died had accepted Jesus as Savior, we will see them again. there is hope and yet, still; we will hurt. We will miss them. We will grieve. This is normal and how we are hard- wired by our Creator God to feel grief. It is okay to cry and grieve over our loss.

But, if you are on the other side of grief, the person who has not experienced the loss, what do you say? Your friend, spouse, neighbor, co- worker has lost someone and you find yourself at a loss for words. We have all been there. A simple “Sorry” doesn’t seem right. But, it is actually perfect.

My Aunt died this week so this hurt is fresh and raw. I have been jolted back to a place of sadness that I felt a few years ago when my mom died. Those familiar feelings of an empty space. Of sorrow. Of grief. And I find myself wanting to be comforted. A hug, kind words and asking me how I’m doing is what I really want.

Her death and my loss, have brought me to a place where I wanted to share what to say and not to say, when someone is grieving. I hope it will help you to know what to say. First, say sorry. Please ask how I am. Please ask how did she die. Please ask what she meant to me. Please ask if you can pray for me and what to pray. Please ask if I need anything. Please ask me to share a memory of her, and listen as I cry, laugh, and vent. Please spend time with me and not rush off because it feels uncomfortable for you; it’s uncomfortable for me too. Please ask if there is anything you can do.

And for the don’t s. Please don’t tell me she is in a better place. Don’t tell me she was old, as if it is comforting. Please don’t say as least you had a long time with her. Please don’t tell me I’ll see her again. Please don’t tell me she is at peace.

These are all true. I know it, but it is not what I need at the moment. She is fine. It is me who is grieving. Grieving takes time. It is not a quick thing. It isn’t easy. Tell me it is hard. Tell me that death is not good. Tell me it sucks. Come along side me and grieve with me. And you will not be at a loss for words. God Bless You- Nancy

Death To Life

Doubting Thomas. Have you ever thought about how he would compare with you? It might seem like a strange topic for Christmas time, especially Christmas Eve, the day I’m writing this blog. But bear with with me for a moment. When we think of Christmas we mostly think about the cute little baby Jesus in the manger. And the cute nativity scene with the animals- sheep, cows, and camels. and the very peaceful baby sleeping in Mary’s arms. We don’t usually fast forward to Jesus all grown up as a man. We save that for Easter.

When we look at the Christmas story as told in the Gospels, we enjoy the story as a completed picture. We have the perspective that those living at the time did not. Except for Mary, Joseph, the shepherds, the wisemen, and John the Baptist. They all knew who Jesus was when he was born because the angels had visited or in the case of the wisemen, by studying the astrological charts. Everyone else around them, did not know what was happening. They were looking for a Messiah, but they didn’t see who He was when He arrived as the little baby lamb of God. They hadn’t read the gospels, like we have.

Sometimes God is trying to show us what He is doing, but we don’t see it. We lack perspective until we look back and see what He has done. The people of Jesus’ time had been awaiting a savior to free them from their darkness and when He came they did not all realize it, and as He grew to a man, even failed to understand who He was, calling him simply Joseph’s son.

As this advent season gives way to Christmas day, God has been preparing my heart and helping me to understand what He is doing in my life. Piece by piece, step by step, He reveals areas I need growth.

Recently, our beloved family dog died. It was the first dog we had ever had and she died unexpectedly early Sunday morning. My sorrow was deeper than I realized it could be for an animal. It brought back grief and sorrow that I still carry for my Mom who passed on Christmas Day 2014. Christmas can be a very sad time for some, myself included. But, as I was feeling so sad about losing our pet of six years, my thoughts and emotions were jolted in the opposite direction when on Wednesday my daughter and her husband announced their pregnancy. From death to news of life. In three days. Sounds like a familiar story, right? From feeling overwhelmed by the death of a pet, and my mom, to celebrating the upcoming addition to our family. From grief to joy.

God showed me in that moment, how I could be like doubting Thomas. He had just lost His friend, the man He had spent three years following and a presumed lifetime waiting for, like his other fellow Jews. And then He was gone. Thomas was in the middle of grieving and was in shock over the news that Jesus had risen. Jesus was not dead, but had resurrected. How could this be? Was it true? Is this really a change from sadness to joy?

Thomas wanted proof. He wanted to see for himself. Even when Jesus appeared to him later. It was Jesus who offered for Thomas to see the nail prints in his hands. I can finally understand how he felt. A bit of shock. A jolt from his grief into hope. Hopeless to hopeful.

I have a print of my new grandson or granddaughter’s ultrasound. I see him/her. I have anticipation for our meeting. On Sunday, I was grieving, but on Wednesday I celebrated. We just do not know what will happen next. God has it under control. It might seem dark now. But light has come into the world.

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through Him all things were made, and without Him nothing was made that has been made. In Him was life, and that life was the light of men. The Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.– John 1:1-5

Merry Christmas and God Bless You

Hold On To Faith

“When everything is gone and all you have left is faith, hold on to faith” I wish I had said this, but no, it is actually is a line from a television series I am currently watching. Let me put it into context for you; one man presumably the son- although it hasn’t been revealed as such yet- is complaining to the older man (his father) that he has lost everything that mattered to him. To which the father replies he too has in the past lost everything that mattered to him, BUT. And this is where the line comes in, he learned that he did still have faith, and that is what sustained him while he was held prisoner for several years. he bent down to his son and encouraged him by telling him to hold on to faith.

So, maybe you think that’s just for cinematic effect, that’s not real life. But, let me assure you it is every bit real life. Recently, I heard about a family who’s son was involved in a car accident. The accident did not take his life, but has left him paralyzed. They are now preparing for his return home, but realizing their home needs quite a bit of modification before he can return such as a wheelchair ramp and the widening of doors. Although this family is no doubt thankful for the sparing of their son’s life, there is still loss and grief they must go through. Loss because their lives will not be as they had thought. They might have to give up on dreams they had for their son, or perhaps their own in order to provide care for him.

There are many kinds of losses in this life and not all involve the death of someone, although that is definitely a more difficult one to process and grieve. But, there are losses when we change jobs, move, watch our kids grow up and leave home. Friends change, relationships end, dreams die. These are all losses and at times they can feel as if we have lost everything.

Have you had losses like this? I would be more surprised if you haven’t. That is what this blog is about for me, changing times in life and how to handle them by living a life of faith. I really wish I could say I have all the answers to how to deal with losses, but I am still in this processing stage myself. That is why lines like the one I shared from the television series can stand out to me and be a helpful reminder to “Hold on to faith”

The Bible as well gives encouragement to our holding on to faith when all else seems to have left. Faith in God sustains us, builds us up, and keeps us going when we just want to give up. Maybe you have heard of this passage from Jeremiah 29:11; “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future” Wow, so good, maybe you’ve even memorized this verse, own it on a plaque on your wall, or used for your graduation verse for high school. Well, do you want the good news or the bad news? At least this seems to be what God does with this passage in Jeremiah.

See, before you get too comfortable with this much quoted verse, maybe we should unpack the context of it and take a closer look at it, so we won’t misapply it. Jeremiah was a prophet and it was his job to tell those in charge what God was about to do. So we find this verse is a part of a letter that Jeremiah wrote to the elders and priests who had been captured and taken away to Babylon by King Nebuchadnezzar. So, you might say of the people he was writing to, they had lost everything. They had been kidnapped and sent to another country. Yeah that’s the bad news, but wait there’s more! In verse 28 God tells them they will be there for 70 years, and THEN when the seventy years it up, He will come get them. So, like I said there’s the good news and the bad news. The bad news; “You’ll be exiled for 70 years, but the good news, it’s all going to work out and I’m going to rescue you because I have a plan” So, while this verse is a good one to memorize, remember it’s original context next time. It was encouragement to sustain the people.  Just think about it, seventy years is a long time. Most of us would rather not have the seventy year wait. I know I wouldn’t. I would prefer only the good news, not the bad. We believe God has a plan, but we don’t anticipate the losses in life, the hardships in life, the waiting in life. So, when we find ourselves in those times, when it feels like we have lost everything, yet, we have faith. Faith sustains us, it is our hope and our anchor. Sometimes it is all we have and we have to cling to it for dear life, like a drowning man clinging to a life preserver thrown out to him. When all you have left is faith, hold on to faith. -God bless– Nancy