Category Archives: Grief

Chicago Baby

“We’ve left our house in Spokane and are moving to a department (apartment) in Chicago,”  Amélie confided soberly. Moving is NO FUN! I was just Amélie’s age (5) when our family moved from Indiana to Michigan, and I was heart broken, particularly because I wasn’t sure how I’d find my way back home so I could marry my boyfriend (also 5) when we grew up. It was the summer of 1956, and “Que Sera, Sera” was playing on radios everywhere! “Whatever will be will be.”  Somehow, I found the words comforting and remember singing them to myself as I explored our new home in East Lansing. Little people feel things with every bit as much passion as adults! In an effort to soothe the kids, Jon gave us all a little slide show of their home and friends from Spokane, and I think it might have helped Amélie in her efforts to process everything, but poor little Sophie (3) burst into gales of inconsolable tears. Jon and Linda have been doing everything they can to ease the way, but there’s no doubt about it: Moving is tremendously unsettling! Yes, it’s fun to spend some time with Nana and Grandpa, and yes, it will be fun to spend some time in Germany and visit with Gerlinde’s family, but leaving all their friends and moving from their lovely home out west into Chicago—one of America’s biggest (and scariest) cities—is paramount to panic!  Are you facing a move? I think it’s good to get in touch with our feelings during transitions, but I also think it’s important to track our thoughts. We shouldn’t just listen to ourselves, we should talk to ourselves too…speaking truths into our lives to give us courage, such as Jeremiah 29:11, “For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the Lord, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end.”  God loves us. He is doing a good work in us to make us more like Himself! Rather than being fearful about the future, let’s ask God for the grace to claim Isaiah 26:3,  “Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on thee: because he trusteth in thee.”  P.S.—I am so thankful for my courageous daughter-in-law, who is a beautiful example of Sarah from the Bible (and her mother Sarah, who left her homeland and followed her husband to the mission field in Tanzania). “Even as Sara obeyed Abraham, calling him lord: whose daughters ye are, as long as ye do well, and are not afraid with any amazement” (I Peter 3:6).

“When I was just a little girl
I asked my mother
What will I be
Will I be pretty
Will I be rich
Here’s what she said to me

“Que sera, sera
Whatever will be, will be
The future’s not ours to see
Que sera, sera
What will be, will be

“When I grew up and fell in love
I asked my sweetheart
What lies ahead
Will we have rainbows
Day after day
Here’s what my sweetheart said

“Que sera, sera
Whatever will be, will be
The future’s not ours to see
Que sera, sera
What will be, will be

“Now I have children of my own
They ask their mother
What will I be
Will I be handsome
Will I be rich
I tell them tenderly

“Que sera, sera
Whatever will be, will be
The future’s not ours to see
Que sera, sera
What will be, will be
Que Sera, Sera.” (—Composed by Jay Livingston)

Have You Ever Experienced a Season of Heartbreak?

I suppose there’s no one alive who hasn’t experienced a season of heartbreak at some point. Isn’t it a universal part of each human tapestry? Every person who has loved deeply has had to cope with loss. It might not be as traumatic as losing a child or experiencing divorce. It could be something as natural as losing an aged parent or parting with your adult children when they move out of your home for the joy of marriage, or to transfer locations in order to further their career.

Although Mark Karris’s book focuses mainly on the issues facing those who’ve experienced the heartache of a major breakup, the strategies for grieving well and overcoming heartache are helpful for anyone who’s feeling the pain of loss—or even for those of us trying to prepare for the inevitable future as we see loved ones (and ourselves!) aging. Mark’s objective was to “provide a powerful, life-giving resource that will help you not only survive your season of grief but also thrive and be transformed.” That, I thought, was a very lofty goal, and personally I felt he succeeded, at least in how his book impacted my life.

But, Mark was even more ambitious that that! He also aspired to finding “powerful practices to help me embrace grieving as a liberating spiritual discipline.” Wow! Come again? Is that possible? Actually, by the time I finished the book, I understood what he meant. I can’t say that I’m free from heartache as a result of being liberated by developing appropriate spiritual disciplines to deal with grief, but I can say that I understand the many principles and practices he taught, and it’s helped me explore areas of grief that were hidden in the crevices of my heart, forgotten but unhealed because I never knew what to do with them!

I intend to keep my copy of Season of Heartbreak as a reference book, knowing that in the years ahead I will inevitably experience my own intense seasons of grief, either as I pass through the Valley of the Shadow of Death, or as I watch loved ones passing on from this life to the next. However, I’m willing to lend you my copy if you’ll promise to return it! Otherwise, it’s available on Amazon, although if you’re willing to buy it from Kregel Publishers directly, then they don’t have to pay a commission to Amazon. The link is:

http://kregel.christianbook.com/season-heartbreak-healing-heart-brain-soul/mark-karris/9780825444715/pd/44471X

If you’ve experienced heartache and never really addressed it, or if you’re still actively feeling the sting of pain from the loss of love, please consider reading Mark’s book. As a family advocacy and support specialist for the United States Navy as well as an ordained pastor and licensed marriage and family therapist, Mark Karris has a wealth of experience in identifying the issues, and he’s done a masterful job of teaching strategies for coping and overcoming. He has insightful chapters with provocative titles like “In Need of Story Catchers,” “Forgive to Live,” “Holy Huddle,” and “A Theology of Suffering.” And…about a dozen more!

In ostensible theory, I chose this book because I have over a thousand young adults who follow my blog, and I thought it might be helpful for them. In experiential reality, the book opened my heart to some buried, unhealed griefs and helped me in my own spiritual journey. If you have a heart that’s still beating, it’s a worthy read!

“He healeth the broken in heart, and bindeth up their wounds” (Psalm 147:3).

A Lion of a Little Boy

Have you seen Lion? It’s a heart-rending biographical drama adapted from the non-fiction book, A Long Way Home.  Lion premiered last fall at the Toronto Film Festival, is PG-13, and has an 8.1 IMDb rating.  If you’ve been adopted or have adopted…if you’re a foster parent or have grown up in an orphanage, Lion will break your heart, but it might also help heal some of the pain that haunts most people who’ve grown up without knowing their biological parents.  The story begins back in 1986, where little five-year-old “Saroo,” lives in Khandwa, India with his mother, older brother, and younger sister.  Saroo and his brother steal coal from trains to trade for food, but one night Saroo is so tired that he falls asleep at the train station rather than helping his brother.  Through a series of misadventures, Saroo ends up lost on the streets of Calcutta, many hundreds of miles from home.  In fact, he doesn’t know the name of his hometown…or even his full name!  He survives many frightening episodes before a kindly man helps him get to an orphanage, where he learns some English and is later adopted by a couple in Hobart, Tasmania.  The story picks up again nearly 25 years later, when Saroo, as a young adult, sets out in search of his lost family.  Although I wouldn’t recommend the movie for children (at least until you’ve viewed it first), it is a very moving account that brought out a visceral response in me…I felt the horror of lostness, the fear of strange adults, the hunger, the loneliness, the pain…the relief…the deep, lasting grief. I came away feeling like I’d experienced a tiny taste of what it might be like for the millions of children abroad—and at home—who’ve grown up without the loving support of their parents.  I’ll never meet someone who has been orphaned now without feeling more compassionate toward them. It’s one of those movies that has a lasting impact.

Defend the poor and fatherless: do justice to the afflicted and needy
(Psalm 82:3).Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this,
To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction,
and to keep himself unspotted from the world
” (James 1:27).

(The photos are a combination of two real pictures of Saroo as shown at the end of the film, plus images from the movie, Lion.)

Nat the Knitter

Have you ever seen someone in a casket who was buried with knitting needles in her hands? Me neither, until the other day! This morning I want to share a short story about this wonderful person. Nathalie was Rex’s mom. She was a night nursing supervisor professionally, but somehow she found time to do about a zillion other things too, like volunteering to help with blood drives. She was a Service Unit Director for Girl Scouts, ran day camps, summer adventure camps, volunteered as camp nurse, and oversaw many cookie sales. (Apparently there were sometimes large stacks of Girl Scout cookies neatly lined up in their barn!) She was also active in their church: She helped make quilts for missionaries, played the piano, and sang in the choir for many years. (The two photos below are of Nat’s granddaughters at the service; all of Rex’s kids are very musical!) Nathalie’s daughter-in-law (who’s been my prayer partner for nearing 20 years), told me that she was always busy doing something productive…and just never stopped! Nat knitted well over a thousand hats for preemies at their hospital over the years. In fact, Cindi said the last time they sat together at the hospital before her father-in-law died (just five months to the day before Nathalie joined him in heaven), Nat was still knitting while she sat at her beloved husband’s bedside. During that visit, Nat fell asleep in the chair, but while she was asleep, her hands kept knitting! Cindi said she could hardly believe it, but Nat was really asleep. It was sweet and amazing to watch!  So, Rex’s mom spent her entire adult life working hard and helping others. What a legacy!!  Now she’s in heaven with her beloved Savior and dear husband of 65 years. Rex says he knows it might not be theologically correct, but he likes to picture them together at a little cottage in the woods, where his dad can go out duck hunting and fishing. And, I wonder if his mom might still be knitting…   🙂

A good name is better than precious ointment; and the day of death than the day of one’s birth. It is better to go to the house of mourning, than to go to the house of feasting: for that is the end of all men; and the living will lay it to his heart. Sorrow is better than laughter: for by the sadness of the countenance the heart is made better.” (Ecclesiastes 7:1-3)

Writer’s Block, Jokes, and Such

Do you love to write? If so, you’ve probably experienced “Writer’s Block” at some point…a time when you just can’t concentrate on what you’re doing. Usually I have so many ideas bubbling in my brain that I can’t write fast enough, but this morning I felt rather zombiesque so concluded that it might be time for a pick me up…which usually sends me to my friend Dave’s Face Book page, because Dave always posts jokes that make me laugh! Okay, so not all these are from Dave’s page, and some of them are more inspirational than laughable, but I’m shamelessly sharing some favorites from FB, because I figured if I am feeling a bit sad today, then you might need a little good cheer as well. I hope they brighten your day as they have mine. Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me” (Psalm 23:4). I’m not personally experiencing the shadow of death, but I’m attending a funeral today, and a friend is having surgery for cancer next week, so I’m definitely feeling the weight of loved ones passing through the shadowlands.

What Happens After We Die?

Tomorrow morning I will be sitting with a lifelong friend while her husband undergoes surgery for cancer. Hopefully, the surgeons will be able to remove the cancer, and thankfully, her husband is not afraid of death. Tom is a man of great faith who knows that he will go to be with Jesus whenever he dies (and we hope that’s not for many years yet!), but I think his peace and confidence are exceptional, not the rule for people. Do you ever wonder what will happen when you die? A friend sent me the following devotional thought, and I wanted to share it with you this morning, just in case you are facing or fearing death.

~DEATH~
WHAT A WONDERFUL WAY TO EXPLAIN IT .. .

A sick man turned to his doctor as he was preparing to leave the examination room and said, “Doctor, I am afraid to die. Tell me what lies on the other side.”

Very quietly, the doctor said, “I don’t know.”

“You don’t know?  You’re a Christian, and yet you don’t know what’s on the other side?”

The doctor was holding the handle of the door; on the other side came a sound of scratching and whining, and as he opened the door, a dog sprang into the room, leaping on him with an eager show of gladness. Turning to the patient, the doctor said, “Did you notice my dog? He didn’t really know what was in this room, but he knew that his master was here, so when the door opened,  he sprang in without fear. I know little of what is on the other side of death, but I do know one thing…I know my Master is there, and that is enough.” Jesus taught us: “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me: And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand. My Father, which gave them me, is greater than all; and no man is able to pluck them out of my Father’s hand.” (John 10:27-29).No one has ascended into heaven except he who descended from heaven, the Son of Man. And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in him may have eternal life. “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.  For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.” (John 3:13-17, ESV)


A Poem for Maundy Thursday: “Be Still”

As we grow older, it’s easy to become discouraged over unmet goals and broken dreams. Where did the time go? How is it that our sand castles washed away? What really matters to us during our life on earth? What will happen to us after we die? What will remain of the legacy we hoped to pass on? Maundy Thursday is the Thursday before Easter Sunday…a special time to reflect on the ways we have failed in the past year—often despite our best intentions—and our need for restoration and renewal. In many churches, it is a time for practicing foot washing, following the example of Christ, who washed the dust off his disciples’ feet. Today, I hope you take time to reflect on your year and find contentment both in knowing that God will be exalted in the earth and that believers will remain.

Be still: “Be content.” Be still: “Continue to be.”

“Be Still”

“Be still, and know that I am God: I will be exalted among the heathen,
I will be exalted in the earth”
(Psalm 46:10).

Earth.
Time.
Life.
Me.

Earth spins.
Times fly.
Grass greens.
I try.

New earth quakes,
Time to mourn.
Springtime buds,
I’m reborn.

Now earth shakes
Time brings change.
Grass grows tall,
I arrange.

The world turns,
As time goes by;
The flowers bloom,
And so do I.

The world slows,
And seasons change.
The flowers fade.
I rearrange.

The earth stands still;
But seasons pass.
Though life distills,
My heart is glass.

The earth grows old.
This too shall pass.
Dreams drop like rain
On dying grass.

Still earth remains,
Though time stands still.
The grass is gone,
But I am still.

(Kathryn W. Armstrong, April 07, 2017)

 My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me: And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand” (John 10:27-28).

(P.S.—If you’d like to attend a Maundy Thursday service and live near Grand Rapids, we’re having one at Calvary Church (on the Beltline) at 7:00 pm.)