Patchwork Quilt of Comfort: Wrapping up in the Holy Spirit

John 16:7 Nevertheless, I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you. But if I go, I will send him to you.

In the wee hours of grief I read notes of remembrance from friends, family and acquaintances, written on Jonathan’s Facebook page. Your patchwork squares of memories, scripture, and comfort from the cross, got me through those first nightmarish days. Many of your notes are now recorded on the quilts sewn together by quilters in my church. I can literally snuggle into prayers, scripture and memories.

THANK YOU!

Squares from notes left at the funeral.
Squares from notes left at the funeral.

God is a god Who Embraces, Get Used to It!

Ecclesiastes 3:4 A time to weep and a time to laugh; A time to mourn and a time to dance. 5A time to throw stones and a time to gather stones; A time to embrace and a time to shun embracing. 6A time to search and a time to give up as lost; A time to keep and a time to throw away. . .

Philippians 3: 12 Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own.

I am not just a survivor of suicide, I am a survivor of abuse. When you have layer upon layer of trauma quirks are bound to follow. I can give hugs all day to others, but struggle to accept an embrace. At the core is a desire for control. God is a god who embraces! When I began my relationship with Jesus this was a major issue between him and I. It is one thing to invite Jesus into your heart and it is another to allow him to take up residence. When Jesus embraces, I am faced with a God I cannot control. For many years I have squirmed in his arms, not sure I trust his justice, his love, his passion and compassion for me. But lets face it, his character will never fit into my arms. He embraced me from the cross before I was ever born!

When I had my miscarriage, God went ahead of my loss to prepare comfort. Natalie Grant’s new song “Held” had just come out, and I remember thinking what a comfort it would be for those who experience the loss of a child. A month later I miscarried. I listened to that song over and over allowing my heavenly daddy to hold me in a way I had never allowed before. I found out more about his character in those moments and came to see, in this world I will have troubles, but he has overcome the world. This is a season that I must once again settle into. I need to be held by God and his people.

Matthew Henry’s Concise Commentary has a fabulous take on Lamentations 3:1-10:

To expect unchanging happiness in a changing world, must end in disappointment.

My world keeps changing. The question is, will I shake off what lays in the past and lay ahold of the one who has embraced me. Because God is a god who embraces and he gives us the opportunity to get used to being held.

My Spiritual Tool Box: What do I Use When Grief Overwhelms Me?

As I awoke this morning I was immediately hit with going over ever last minute detail leading up to Jonathan’s death. It is in these moments that I pull out every tool in my tool box.

Prayer: Lord, you know that my heart’s longing is for Jonathan to be here–to live. Please Lord, fill me with your love. Direct my mind to what is doable for me today. May you be enough for me. Amen.

Scripture: Lamentations 3:31For no one is cast off by the Lord forever. 32Though he brings grief, he will show compassion, so great is his unfailing love. 33For he does not willingly bring affliction or grief to anyone.

Romans 8:31What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? 32He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?

John 16:22So with you: Now is your time of grief, but I will see you again and you will rejoice, and no one will take away your joy. 23In that day you will no longer ask me anything. Very truly I tell you, my Father will give you whatever you ask in my name. 24Until now you have not asked for anything in my name. Ask and you will receive, and your joy will be complete.

Fellowship: Headed into the office to work. . . bringing Daniel’s joke book. 😉

Witnessing: I share with you my grief, my hope, and my God with you today. May you find comfort in your afflictions, hope in your grief, and love and compassion for those around you.

Suicide Has a Face: Learning to Offer Hope

As a survivor of suicide, there is nothing that makes me recoil worse than hearing, “Sometimes there is nothing that you can do, if someone wants to kill themselves then they will find a way.” The speaker is talking about some abstract, undefined person–not my son. Gratefully I have not heard that too many times, but I have heard it. I have not had the strength to respond until now, not out of condemnation, but out of a desire to offer hope and healing to deeply wounded souls and educate those that desire to help.

My son wanted to live! Everything he was doing, everything that he was planning for was to live a long life. Ironically I’d have to say that I would have fit the above statement better than Jonathan. I made repeated attempts on my life, he made one. I am still here because there were people who never stopped offering me hope in little and big ways, no matter what I might do.

That is the thing, the above statement always comes after someone takes their life. I believe that the speaker is trying to understand something too horrific to ever comprehend. Suicide is not something that we will ever be able to stuff into a box and say, this is what it is! I left no note, Jonathan left a note, some suffer from physical causes, others depression. Our suffering may be different, but the one thing that we all need is HOPE!

Don’t ever stop offering it to me, to those around you just because the task seems daunting or impossible. God is a god of the impossible! Jesus saw our suffering and mourned with us, brought healing, and hope to those that others claimed were without redemption. I will cling to that hope, because in my darkest days it is my sunshine.

Opening Heaven in my Grief

The line was 2 and 1/2 hours from the door to the family. I stood there shaking, unsure whether to flee or stay, my own grief deeply moved by the loss of a dear friend. I knew that I was grieving for my son now, in a way that I could not at his funeral. The tears kept coming and I finally stopped fighting them. It just is.

Often, I have heard, the things that you are unable to grieve while you in the midst of shock and pain come out in odd places, and this was mine. As we celebrated Mike, I grieved Jonathan. But, I also saw heaven in a different light. The head knowledge that Jonathan was with Jesus became heart knowledge. I felt that Jonathan was with Jesus, because God gave me a glimpse of heaven through the eyes of Stephen, the first Christian martyr.  The whole trip to Huntington my mind was on the story recorded in Acts 7. As Stephen was being stoned to death he declared, “Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.”

For the first time I could clearly see that my son was with Jesus! The heavens had opened and Jonathan saw the glory of his heavenly father. Depression clouds our perspective of heaven, we cannot see who we are or whose we are. Heaven was not a place that took my son from me, it is the place that received his weary, battered spirit and restored it!

 

It is God’s will that are sight is restored in our earthly bodies. (Isaiah 61:1-4) I have been with men and women as they were dying, I have seen the difference between those whose eyes are fixed on things above, and those who cannot see past their earthly goods. A dear woman who I sat with in her last days was ministering to me, even as she struggled to take her next breathes. Another woman spent her dying days cursing others around her, her only relief came when I sang hymens to her. Some see heaven so clearly that it changes how they live on earth, how they treat others, how they see God. Heaven is changing me! It makes me look beyond the grave to see that God is sovereign in all things, even my son’s death.

A Snowflake of Refreshment: The Gift of Frienship

Proverbs 25:13 Like a snow-cooled drink at harvest time is a trustworthy messenger to the one who sends him; he refreshes the spirit of his master.

I dreamed about my son Jonathan last night and awoke in deep heartache; the world of the present was difficult to embrace. I walked outside to take the kids to school and saw this snowflake hung from our Jonathan tree.

At just the right moment, when my soul needed refreshment friends brought it to me. WE NEED FRIENDS! I spent the majority of my young life pushing people away and isolated. When Jesus showed me my need for him, my need for friends soon followed. Jesus was not a lone wolf, he started his ministry by calling disciples. He called them friends! The God of the universe called broken man friend. Amazing. So don’t wait until you have it all together (never happening) or mankind has it together (also never happening). I let my friends down, they let me down, but the cool thing is that I now see it as opportunity for grace, growth, and maturing together in faith.

Ecclesiastes 4:9Two are better than one because they have a good return for their labor. 10For if either of them falls, the one will lift up his companion. But woe to the one who falls when there is not another to lift him up. 11Furthermore, if two lie down together they keep warm, but how can one be warm alone?…

Grieving with Hope: Painting my son’s room

Turn the Page:

Today is a hard day to turn. I don’t feel particularly sad, just unsure. Lord reveal your purpose for today. Amen

This is one more large day without Jonathan. We are painting Daniel’s room today and maybe that is harder than I originally thought it would be. We will be honoring Jonathan’s place in Daniel’s life in some spectacular ways. . . Ah, there are the tears. Jonathan’s presence will still be there. I kept their growth chart in their room. I’m going to take a picture of it before we paint over it.

Oh my there is the depth of my ache. I miss you so much my sweet man! “I’ll love you forever, I’ll like you for always . As long as I’m living, my baby you’ll be! ” I used to sing that to Jonathan from the book I’ll Love You Forever. He loved it, and sang it to me not long before he died.

Many of you may be familiar with the story. I remember my first read through I was a bit disturbed by the mother climbing through her adult son’s room and rocking him in her arms as she sang her song, but I understood the heart of the image. As Jonathan pulled away from me towards the end I held him in my heart, and prayed for him, and longed for security for him.

What I was not familiar with was the fact that the author wrote the book as a memorial to two still born babies he and his wife had. Even as we grieve, love, hope, life and celebration can occur. Even if we have but a moment, or no moment at all to say goodbye.

Isaiah 66:12 For thus says the Lord:
“Behold, I will extend peace to her like a river,
and the glory of the nations like an overflowing stream;
and you shall nurse, you shall be carried upon her hip,
and bounced upon her knees.
13As one whom his mother comforts,
so I will comfort you;
you shall be comforted in Jerusalem.
14You shall see, and your heart shall rejoice;
your bones shall flourish like the grass;
and the hand of the Lord shall be known to his servants,
and he shall show his indignation against his enemies.

Suffer Like It Means Something: Allowing God’s purpose to be revealed in my seizures

Turn the Page: Sunday Edition

2nd Corinthians 1:3-7 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, 4who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. 5For as we share abundantly in Christ’s sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too. 6If we are afflicted, it is for your comfort and salvation; and if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which you experience when you patiently endure the same sufferings that we suffer. 7Our hope for you is unshaken, for we know that as you share in our sufferings, you will also share in our comfort.

What an amazing passage! We do not suffer alone. What an precious gift your friendship is to my family and I. Learning to comfort in our affliction means that we look beyond our circumstances to God’s purpose in our sufferings. I share in Christ’s sufferings, but I also share in his comfort. As an added bonus I get to share that comfort with you.

When the seizures started yesterday morning I begged God to take them away. I thought that they had stopped completely several years ago and their return was more then I could bear. “Even in this, I have a purpose.” Was God’s answer to me. I have to decide if I trust him with that purpose. Do we look at our weaknesses as afflictions or God’s opportunity to work in and through us?

One of my favorite women is Joni Eareckson Tada. At tie age of 17 she broke her neck in a diving accident and became a quadriplegic. Does she suffer? Definitely! But oh what she is allowing God to do with that suffering. Painting with her teeth, ensuring that others get the wheelchairs they need, speaking, singing, writing, and serving God in whatever way he calls her to.

So God has a purpose in my seizures! May Jesus comfort you in my affliction that you may not grow weary in your own sufferings. Hugs and encouragement to all of you. I’d much rather give those hugs in person, but will be staying home to rest. I love you dearly!

Escaping Depression: Finding peace in nature

Matthew 14:13 Now when Jesus heard about John, He withdrew from there in a boat to a secluded place by Himself. . .

I have had two experiences in the woods since my son’s death and they both have lifted my spirits. How many times do I stay cooped up in the midst of depression expecting the walls to suddenly stop closing in on me?

Nature is never walled in. It is wild and open and filled to the brim with stories of our maker. Jesus regularly retreated to refresh and spend time talking to God; he invited his disciples to do the same. The crowds were pressing in. Many times it is in exiting the confines of our daily rush hour and noise that we remember to listen and find contentment in God’s provision. I have lived in city areas most of my life, but the country hillsides of my birth have always drawn me into quietness. I love the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains! They are old and wise. They remind me of the paths I have already traveled, and question where I am going. They celebrate who I am and whose I am. These hills teach me that valleys are where most of my growth occurs. They teach me discipline, to listen better, and to breath deeply.

Do you have a place in nature that you are able to draw away to and find peace in the stillness?