The Murky Wave Of Annual Grief…

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November…

Creeping in I start to sense a greater weakness of spirit. I’m more tired and less active. I get lost in thought and my emotions get quicker than usual. I blame it on the weather or work, or the kids or whatever seems like a relevant answer in the moment.

It’s November, which marks a significant anniversary and yet every year it sneaks up like a shadow in the night.

I never think it’ll be as bad as it ends up being. I’m stronger now and more removed than ever, I tell myself. I’ve also done so much healing work, which for some reason makes me feel like I’ll be invincible. Sure, the pain sits with me everyday, it’s just that I’m so used to it now that it feels tamed and trained. I don’t even notice it anymore.

But then in walks November, and like muscle memory the grief returns. It doesn’t matter that its been 4…9…11 and now 15 years. 15 years. Each year is another year without him. Another year he doesn’t see me or them. My kids; his grandkids…

Saying that hurts. Right now it hurts more than every other day. In February or July or September I can reminisce and wonder and feel sad in a way that doesn’t feel like a being struck by a jarring ice-cold wave. But this week…the week before the anniversary. It’s the wave.

I don’t anticipate it, nor do I plan for it. But there it is. Every year. The wave.

It’s just too painful. I just wish I could call him. Like I always used to. I’d call and we’d chat about this and that. I’d have so much to say and tell him. He was so good at acting excited for me even if he wasn’t. The memories have faded though, which I hate. It was so long ago.

The weight of grief is heavy and thick. Deep and wide. And we were never intended to wade these horrible waters. In the beginning of time, it wasn’t supposed to be part of the human experience. Which is why it feels terribly foreign. No, I shouldn’t be surprised by it and most times I’m numb to it. But these days, this week…it feels alien and strange, which just makes me angry.

I wait impatiently for the consummation, when this wrong is finally righted.

Death. Seperation. Grief.

This defect is so completely erroneous and corrupt, the sorrow of it heaps in quantities too much to bear. At least, in November it does for me.

Unexpectedly the dark swell rush’s me without warning. And then I’m left in the aftermath, catching my breath as memories…the painful ones charge my mind and hold hostage my hope. The hope that helps me put my feet on the ground each morning as I ready myself for the day. Hope that tells me, “I don’t know anyones heart”…and reminds me that I may one day see him again.

Hope that reads the good Lords words…love always hopes…so I can move forward out of the dark waters back into the warmth of that precious faith that tells me all will be right and well in the end.

But in November, after the wreckage of that unpredictable surge, I have to fight.

Fight for a steady Spirit and the promises of the Lord. Fight for hope. Fight myself, my heart and this agonizing world. I have to fight to get myself out and face another day. And for when I can turn that pesky lion-like grief back into a domesticated pet that I’ve trained to cooperate with normal daily life.

Until then, I remember. And I wish it weren’t so. And I miss the man I called dad. The man my kids never got to call grandpa…

I let the pain rock haphazardly in the ripples of this aching grief that the dark wave produced in its wake. Until it moves on and the weather of time changes again. Which it will, as it always does.

But until then…here it is, swaying wildly in the mist…unencumbered. Grief.

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Oh Death, Where Is Your Sting? – Halloween Thoughts…

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Every year is the same. October hits, and every store on the planet pulls out its most silly and disgusting Halloween decorations which in turn forces me to explain to my children about the reality of both death and evil, yet again.

We have these conversations throughout the year, of course, also. But this time of year brings with it so many kinds of visual reminders that turn into nightmares for my kids. October brings nightmares. Because there’s no other time of year that my kids are exposed to fake decapitated heads, bloodied limbs and horrifying masks hanging in the grocery store. Halloween, however, gives permission for all kinds of disgusting fantasies to be flaunted.

It’s perfectly suitable in October. Even though every other season, most would deem it despicable.

And it’s usually the Christian who stands up in aggravation of such behavior. And to some degree we should. At least to try and protect the eyes of our little ones and guard their hearts and spirits.

As adults we can see past the hype for fun to the truth behind it all. That truth being, we live in a world filled with people who love to mix up light and darkness. And so we ought to echo Isaiah’s lament of woes in Isaiah 5:20.

Woe to those who call evil good
    and good evil,
who put darkness for light
    and light for darkness,
who put bitter for sweet
    and sweet for bitter!

We see that evil is very much real and very much prodded at for our enjoyment this time of year. Christians should be the ones who see this with the veil lifted in true clarity.

Filthy wickedness and evil sit in the heart of every human on earth. And death awaits all whose heart is currently beating. And its natural for us to be consumed with wonder over the thought of death and what comes after. Every soul ponders the mysteries of it, knowing full well it will take us all.

Yet the Christian sits in peace at the thought.

For the Christian, we think of that day and see it for what it truly is – a moment that takes us from one reality to another. And for this reason we can echo the apostle Paul in his mockery of death in 1 Corinthians 15:54-55…

When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come to pass: “Death has been swallowed up in victory.” “Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?”

The world makes light of death by celebrating and encouraging the depravity within, having no idea what is awaiting them. They should tremble in fear, but instead they embrace the darkness in complete ignorance of its reality.

We, however, can rest assured that our perishing will come but will immediately be consumed in the shared triumph of Christ. And so the sting of that fateful day becomes null. And we can mock it, like Paul does, because it no longer holds any power over us. For all it does is bring final glory. And our desire should be that the world have the same assurance and victory.

Where death, is your sting?! Where is your victory?! Christ has trounced death!

So this Halloween, we ought not to fear, and encourage our kids not to fear also. For death has no hold on us! We must find strength in the good news of the gospel. And we must share the victorious Christ who put death in its place, and numbed the sting of sin.

As you walk around your community and talk to your neighbors, participate not in evil but in the community God has placed you in. Pray for the assurance of salvation that comes from placing full belief in Christ to come to them. And love them…truly love your neighbours. Recognize that they know not what they do, and perhaps they’ve never heard what they ought to know.

Be light in the darkness, for this shadowy world needs it.

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When Jesus Hands You The Spectrum…

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A couple of weekend’s ago my family was at a birthday party where my nine-year old son was triggered by a wasp. Being terrified of wasps, he ran towards me screaming and crying. He ran past 4 year olds more composed than himself, and their wondering parents as well.

At first I was embarrassed, I have to admit. But really, I’ve been dealing with these kinds of behaviours since he was a baby. Large groups always bring out the worst. And that many eyes, ushers in a familiar twinge of sheepishness once again.

After I had successfully calmed my son and brought him inside, my friend whose children’s birthday we were celebrating, walked up next to me and asked me if I was ok.

Little did he know, I’d actually been having a rough day in general and the mere kindness in the question was forcing me to push down a well-spring of tears. I answered as jovially as I could muster, “Oh yes I’m fine, but I’m sorry about that!” He looked at me sternly and said, “What are you apologizing for?”…another question to thrust that pesky  well-spring closer to the top. I pushed harder to keep from turning this birthday party into a therapy session. I answered, “We just don’t want to be disruptive”. To which he assured me would never be the case, he was just happy our kids were there.

I finally let the well burst open into sobs later that evening in the privacy of my bathroom.  All the eyes were gone and it had been a rough day in many ways. But in that moment I was just grateful. We aren’t doing this alone, although some days that’s exactly how it feels.

I haven’t written about this because I haven’t known how to.

How do I even begin to express the range of emotion these last few months have brought up for us as a family?

I don’t know how, so I’ll start with the facts. And the facts begin about 7 years ago after an awkward visit from my mom. I’ve written about it once before…but here we go again.

My son was 2 1/2 and my daughter was just over 1 years old and I was steeped in the stay-at-home-mom-with-littles stage of life. I had two toddler’s and was so new at the motherhood game that most of the time I felt like I was loosing. Particularly when it came to my son. He was challenging, but he was two. So I consoled myself with the reality that every kid is challenging at two. But one thing that was different about my son was that he couldn’t communicate. He had no words. And ever since birth over-stimulation was a genuine issue for him, making him have almost impossible to deal with out-bursts. This stimulation problem brought on a severe issue with night terrors for our little boy, which made us all perpetually exhausted.

One day my mom stopped by for a visit to let me know her concerns for my boy and she encouraged me to get him assessed. I held it together, acting normal and receiving her concerns without revealing the pain vibrating inside me.

She left. And I fell apart.

She didn’t say anything my husband and I hadn’t already noticed, but he was two. And we had prayed for years for God to give us a child. Surely he wouldn’t give us one with special needs. As embarrassing as that is to admit, to my shame – in the dark moments – thats what I thought.

Fast forward to a year later. Assessment time. After many sessions, lots of paperwork and a detailed report, our boy was flagged with a broad learning disability and a few other things, autism not being one of them. Ok. We had answers. We were warned that an assessment at age 3 may not give the best results, but early intervention is the best for kids right? That’s what we thought. Now we had a full report – time to move on.

Moving on, only meant moving into new challenges and new concerns. We experienced an elongated toddlerdom with both kids that seemed to last forever, many child development centre classes trying to teach self-regulation and speech, and night terrors became a very disruptive and serious part of our life that culminated in about 5 years of sleep troubles for our boy and by extention the rest of us.

But the real kicker was school. As soon as school entered the picture, we found ourselves in a new world of wonder that felt a lot like running in the dark. I needed to be the advocate but didn’t even know what to advocate for. Something was still missing. There was a piece to this puzzle still very much unsolved. After more school conversations, doctor and pediatrician appointments, and speech pathologist meetings, we decided another autism assessment was in order.

Fast forward to this past March after another, this time private assessment – our son is in fact, Autistic.

There it is. Our answer. The one we’ve been fighting for, for literally years. There was a strange sense of relief to it. And yet, at the same time deep grief? What a conundrum.

We wanted the answer, just because we wanted a answer. Something definitive, something that made sense and could help us help him. Something. And yet what it means for him, is altogether another thing. What this means for him, is a complete mystery to us. But its a mystery that we’re certain involves great difficulty.

With labels comes clarity. However with labels comes a characterization stamp that may not be true.

It’s a spectrum – this autism thing. You’ve heard the term, and probably know what that means. It means every autistic person is different. The spectrum is wide which makes the term not a cookie cutter term. And we’re still figuring out what exactly that means for our son.

But its a spectrum also in terms of this journey. It’s so many things. We’re so grateful for doctors and care workers and funding and answers and help from those we love. We’re also overwhelmed with lonely uncertainty. It’s been a rainbow of wonder this diagnosis. With layers still not experienced.

Of course, no one can be certain about anything in parenting. Theres no guarantees for any of us – regardless of special needs. And we are so grateful that our son is healthy, and not sick in a hospital somewhere. So many other families have it far worse.

For us though, it’s the little things that reveal the uniqueness of this life we’ve been given. It’s things like needing  to prepare an exit strategy when we plan to be at a large gathering, because of the looming threat of over-stimulation and struggle. It’s realizing we can’t go on that road trip to visit friends, because of the turmoil it will create about being far from home for so long. It’s repeating the same command over and over, only to realize I’m using language he still doesn’t understand. It’s the many conversations had before an event where candles will be present because of the terrible fear he has of fire.

It’s trying to decide whats the right way to stretch and challenge him to grow and what is stretching and challenging him too much.

We just can’t do everything, all the other families get to do and it’s always been that way. Now we know why. This has been his whole life. He grows out of some struggles right into new ones, and there’s never a break. Which makes it easy to feel helpless.

Jesus handed us the spectrum and it still feels like we’re running in the dark. Now there’s just a glimmer of light.

Actually it’s a brighter light now that time has passed. Because not only does knowing more intimately the unique way God has made my son help him for the future, it also makes me cling to God all the more. I know for sure, that God made him, so I can’t do this without Him. I need the One who knit my boy together to help me guide and care for him.

My boy is precious and God has privileged my husband and I with the task of raising him up. And when the pangs of loneliness rise to the surface, I know the truth. And the truth is 2 Corinthians 12:9… “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” The grace of Christ is sufficient for me and for my son. God gave us the spectrum and special needs not as a judgemnet but a very needed grace.

We all come to Christ weak. And that’s the mysterious way the Father wants it. It’s for that reason my prayer is that both my children know and feel their weaknesses so strongly that they see their great need for a strong Saviour.

On this spectrum of uncertainty and grief and weakness…the good news is that God’s power is made perfect through it all.

Posted in Christian Living, Life, Motherhood, Parenting | Leave a comment

The Light Stand’s In The Place Of Darkness…

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As we approach Easter, it’s important to focus our hearts on the cross again. Often, I’ll intentionally observe lent, choosing to abstain from certain things that take my eyes off Christ. This year has been challenging though. I suppose it’s a spirit is willing, flesh is weak, type situation.

I want to, I really do. But just haven’t been able to. My mental margin is somewhat nil  from so many other things pulling in every direction. It’s challenging to focus. So I choose to live in the grace that doesn’t come by earning! Hallelujah!

However, as hard as its been this year to “get into it” I officially give up trying to manage all the nagging things to the neglect of what’s most important. I desire to live in the amazing grace I can’t earn while also re-focusing intentionally on the Easter season. Fully and with both eyes up, pressing in on my Saviour. Boy do I need it.

For this reason, I’m choosing to narrow in on certain aspects of the Cross each week  until Easter.

This week’s focus is; Christ as my substitute.

And as I read Matthew I see that one of the first instance’s we witness this substitution taking place is the moment Jesus stands beside Barabbas. You can read it here.

Pontius Pilate has just declared Jesus innocent, but in order to keep a silly tradition he must release one prisoner at Passover. And so there stands Jesus; pure, sinless and falsely charged next to Barabbas; notorious, known murderer. A perplexed Pilate asks the angry mob who should go free…”The king of the Jews”? Or the murderer?

With the chief priests and the elders persuasion the crowd calls for Barabbas to be freed. Sinners calling for the freedom of a fellow sinner. This is the embodiment of sin itself. The desire to see darkness and evil run freely, unencumbered by anything that would shed light, peace and justice.

Barabbas is released. Wickedness unchained. While Jesus stay’s in shackles. The Son of God immediately take’s the place of a murderous revolutionary. The light of the world stands in the place of darkness.

Pilate leaves the fate of the “king of the Jews” in the hands of a blood-thirsty mob. And the ungodly call for His murder. Sin breeding sin. It’s a sess-pool of unrighteousness at this point. And its just the beginning. The shadow that will fall on all those who called for His death is something they could never had prepared for. For they know nothing of what they’ve done.

The blameless one pay’s the price, so the sinner can walk free.

This story begins as Jesus substituting the punishment for Barabbas. And it ends with Him atoning for us all. Even that chanting crowd.

His blood poured out to repair the damage. The damage a murder creates in the heat of the moment. And the corruption of a faulty trial carried out by mob-mentality. The devastation of thievery on the poor. And every other form of sin that takes root in the life of every single human past, present and future.

He stood and received what we deserved to receive.

It is the greatest atrocity the world has ever known. And yet it’s our only hope. Which is the great conundrum of the faith. I hate it and I love it.

As we approach the throne of Christ this Easter season, whether you’re observing lent or not, take time to turn your attention to the One that bore your sin. Let us never become too busy to remember or too bored to care.

Let the shocking sacrifice of your Saviour stir you up again. Allow its offense to rub harshly against your sensibilities. Know the outrage.

And then give thanks.

“Up Calvary’s mountain one dreadful morn, walked Christ my Savior, weary and worn, facing for sinners, death on the cross,

That He might save them from endless loss,

Blessed Redeemer, precious Redeemer, seems now I see Him on Calvary’s tree, wounded and bleeding, for sinners pleading,

Blind and unheeding, dying for me,

“Father, forgive them,” my Savior prayed, even while His lifeblood flowed fast away, praying for sinners while in such woe, no one but Jesus ever loved so,

Blessed Redeemer, precious Redeemer, seems now I see Him on Calvary’s tree, wounded and bleeding, for sinners pleading, blind and unheeding, dying for me”

Lyrics: Avis m. Christiansen (1920), music: Harry D. Loes

Posted in Christian Living, Theology | 1 Comment

Let Me Direct You Elsewhere…And More…

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I’m back!

Where did I go? Into an oblivion of hectic real-life engagement. And I needed to take my hands off the wheel of things that don’t matter. Like this blog. I like this blog, it’s a lovely outlet. But I have so much outlet in other area’s of life right now that I didn’t used to have as a stay-at-home mom. This place acted as a great relief for all the thoughts swirling and wreaking havoc in my brain. Thoughts that 2,3,4,5 year olds just have no interest in hearing about. Weird kids. But I’m no longer in that stage of life. I’m in a new one and I’m still adjusting to it.

So… what’s going to happen to this blog? Will it continue? Do I have any room for it anymore? I think I do, but not at all in the same way. There was a time that I was writing 2-3 times a week. That ship has sailed so far away I can’t even see it anymore. BUT I still love writing. And I miss writing. And I plan to continue in this forum (somehow), by writing content I care about. It’s just going to be less regular and probably interspersed with old material.

And…what about Let Me Direct You Elsewhere…? Here’s the thing. I don’t read as many articles and blogs as I once did. I used to do it religiously. I was so nourished by so much online content..that eventually it became like gorging on semi-healthy food. It no longer satisfied. A steady diet of other people’s opinions can be unhealthy. Funny how that works. Don’t get me wrong, we need to read other saints and hear their wisdom. I was just doing it far more than reading my Bible. And that’s bad, bad, bad. With that said, when I actually have worthwhile material I’d like to share, I’ll do one of these posts (but it won’t always be on a Sunday).

Sound good?

So for today my dear friends I have one lonely article and a bunch of songs. Because that’s the genuine reality of where I’m at. So here they are…

I Have Forgotten How To Read: I relate to this so much its scary. I don’t even know when it happened. But slowly I find myself struggling to do the simple task of reading – which used to easily translate into writing in this forum. But doesn’t anymore, because my reading sucks. Anyway, just read the article. Can you relate?

Sovereign Grace Music – Lord, Have Mercy: Singing this as a congregation at a conference recently, was so refreshing and nourishing to the soul.

Oh, The Deep Deep Love Of Jesus – Audrey Assad: This is just one of my most favourite hymns done in a way that doesn’t destroy it. So I appreciate that.

Strahan – Help Me Believe: “Lord, I believe, please help me believe” is a phrase I relate so strongly. And singing it, brings a persistence that I otherwise couldn’t express. And for some reason this is the only song that I could get to post directly into this blog. Stupid computers.

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Prophet, Priest, King, Baby…

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Twice I’ve had the honour of having little babies at Christmas time. Those were special days that I cherish in memory, as it gave me a sweeter understanding of Mary’s plight. I also remember savouring deeply each coo and smirk my soft little babies made as I contemplated the absurdity of a baby God.

A long-awaited Prophet, Priest and King in the form of a delicate and defenceless babe.

God would have to be sovereign to do it that way. He’d have to be intricately involved in every detail of every nuance of this story for it to go well. Because a teenage mother whose unplanned pregnancy made her the scourge of her community isn’t exactly the best case scenario for the flourishing of a saviour. Not many of us would choose that path or write that cosmic story.

At the same time the plan is brilliant. Isn’t it?

The weakness of that King revealed God’s upside down Kingdom. It not being one made up of heavy-hitters or high achievers. The lowly, defenceless and diseased would be what this Kingdom consists of. It’s perfect. His little helpless presence is a picture into the wisdom and stature of his Father.

The Son of God putting on flesh and becoming what He created in order to show perfect mercy. Not just mercy. But perfect mercy.

Because only a good Prophet proclaims truth in love, humbly calling the sinner out of the dark and into the light. A good priest mediates for the people with deep understanding of their turmoil within. A good King will lead others by personal sacrifices, not afraid to get in the dirt for the sake of others.

When Christ was born in a manger, it was the beginning of a perfect, blameless and yet acutely challenging life. He’s not a Prophet, Priest or King who doesn’t know and understand our mortal pains and sufferings. He knows them intimately. He’s the best kind of Saviour. The only kind that makes any sense.

The absurdity of it all remains…but for different reasons now. I no longer wonder it happened this way.

Now I’m gripped that He would do it at all. I’m stirred with gratitude for the sacrifice. It’s shocking, not because it’s a strange story, but because our King has come and He’s come for us. For the sick, sad sinner. For me.

Christmas comes each year beaming good hope.

And not just a good hope for the well, affluent and cheerful. It’s for us. For the ones hurting, lonely and sick with sin. It’s not about perfectly posed smiling faces sitting on Santa’s knee or precisely planned activities. As lovely as all that is. When we pull away all the happy wrapping, Christmas is a day of remembrance. Remembering a cold night in a barn. A night with very little fan-fair and a great deal of looming war.

But this is exactly why we sing. We sing rhythms of remembrance and we ought to sing them with joy over that great hope.

I believe Mary’s song is the best Christmas song of them all. She perfectly express’s all the richness of God’s upside down Kingdom in Christ’s coming. So lets read and remember that an immaculate Prophet, Priest and King came down to us as a baby that first Christmas so long ago.

“My soul magnifies the Lord,
and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
for he has looked on the humble estate of his servant.
For behold, from now on all generations will call me blessed;
for he who is mighty has done great things for me,
and holy is his name.
And his mercy is for those who fear him
from generation to generation.
He has shown strength with his arm;
he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts;
he has brought down the mighty from their thrones
and exalted those of humble estate;
he has filled the hungry with good things,
and the rich he has sent away empty.
He has helped his servant Israel,
in remembrance of his mercy,
as he spoke to our fathers,
to Abraham and to his offspring forever.”

Luke 1:46-55

Merry Christmas!

Posted in Christian Living, Devotional | 1 Comment

Let Me Direct You Elsewhere…

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Let Your Pastors Wife Be Herself: This is good. Above all, please remember that your pastor’s wife is human. She will make terrible mistakes. She will say stupid things. She will have days when she is selfish and self-centered. She will go into spiritual slumps. I know because I do all of this and more. But, one thing that keeps bringing me back to a biblical focus is the grace and goodness of the church of Jesus Christ.

Three Ways The Devil Uses Social Media: I’m willing to bet by now most of us have experienced some terrible pit-falls of social media. Of course it can be used for so much good and yet it also has come destructive tendencies. Watch out for these three.

Anxiety and Depression, My Strange Friends: This is all too real for our family right now. For those of us in ministry who have suffered (or are suffering) from this affliction, I think we need to do everything we can to discover and embrace an applied theology of weakness. Even the Apostle Paul said that it is in weakness that we discover the glory, power, and grace of God. This is how God works. He is upside-down to our sensibilities. Better said, we are upside-down to his.

Prince Of Heaven – Hillsong Worship: Every now and then Hillsong writes a song worth listening to. This is one of them.

Posted in Christian Living, Culture, Let Me Direct You Elsewhere, Life, Ministry, Music, Uncategorized, Video's | 1 Comment