The Complexity of Mother’s Day

mothersday

I usually reserve my posts to my own writings and my own thoughts, but as Mother’s Day approaches, it can be a very emotionally charged, complex day.

Amy Young, who has a blog called, “The Messy Middle”, has written a beautiful tribute to mothers that I would like to share with you. Please enjoy. Please share this with a mom who needs this. Thank you Amy for your wonderful insight.

——————————————————————-

To those who gave birth this year to their first child—we celebrate with you.

To those who lost a child this year – we mourn with you.

To those who are in the trenches with little ones every day and wear the badge of food stains – we appreciate you.

To those who experienced loss through miscarriage, failed adoptions, or running away—we mourn with you.

To those who walk the hard path of infertility, fraught with pokes, prods, tears, and disappointment – we walk with you. Forgive us when we say foolish things. We don’t mean to make this harder than it is.

To those who are foster moms, mentor moms, and spiritual moms – we need you.

To those who have warm and close relationships with your children – we celebrate with you.

To those who have disappointment, heart ache, and distance with your children – we sit with you.

To those who lost their mothers this year – we grieve with you.

To those who experienced abuse at the hands of your own mother – we acknowledge your experience.

To those who lived through driving tests, medical tests, and the overall testing of motherhood – we are better for having you in our midst.

To those who have aborted children – we remember them and you on this day.

To those who are single and long to be married and mothering your own children – we mourn that life has not turned out the way you longed for it to be.

To those who step-parent – we walk with you on these complex paths.

To those who envisioned lavishing love on grandchildren -yet that dream is not to be, we grieve with you.

To those who will have emptier nests in the upcoming year – we grieve and rejoice with you.

To those who placed children up for adoption — we commend you for your selflessness and remember how you hold that child in your heart.

And to those who are pregnant with new life, both expected and surprising –we anticipate with you

This Mother’s Day, we walk with you. Mothering is not for the faint of heart and we have real warriors in our midst. We remember you.

-Amy Young http://messymiddle.wordpress.com/

5 Things Every Church Should Do (Part 3)

Every church should have funeral and grieving ministries that love and care for families during some of their darkest times.

Tom looks a lot like Santa Claus, plays the acoustic guitar a lot like James Taylor, and teaches children a lot like no one else.

A group of us from my church took a trip to West Africa and we were able to witness Tom’s amazing skills teaching local and global children about how special they were and how they were loved by God.

When we would walk through small villages, Tom would lead the way playing his guitar.

Children would appear out of nowhere, yelling, “Papa Noel! Papa Noel!” and before you knew it, the children were singing brand new songs, following their new found friend.

To say that Tom has a gift is an understatement.

To say that Tom was made by God to teach and invest in children is an obvious statement.

To say that Papa Noel’s joy and smile comes easy is about not knowing about the hole in his heart.

Five years ago, Tom lost his soul mate, the love of his life, his wife, a phenomenal teacher in her own right.

He lost her to cancer, a long, heroic fight that they fought together, and when she succumbed to the dreaded disease, Tom found himself exhausted, alone and wondering if life would ever make sense again.

He would tell you that there has never been a greater marriage.

And he would tell you that there has never been a greater pain.

To this day, every once in a while, I can see that look in Tom’s eyes, the twinkle in those baby blues is a little subdued, and I will put my arm as far around Papa Noel as I can.

I will ask him, “How are you today my friend?” and he will say, “It is a sad day. But I will be ok. My heart just hurts. And the sky is a little gray. But God is good.”

Every church should have funeral and grieving ministries.

This is what my church’s funeral and grieving ministries look like:

The family and friends who have experienced loss will sit with staff and volunteers to plan the service with the church offering everything they need such as live music, pictures, DVD production, food planning and post grief share options.

When the service happens, all the family has to do is celebrate a life and grieve a loss.

They do not have to worry about any of the details, so they can be there in the moment with the freedom to mourn.

After the service, the family and friends move to our café where food is provided as people share a meal and tell more stories and the healing of sad hearts begins.

We have seen miracles happen in that café where family members who have not spoken in years for many reasons are reconnected and reconciled.

After the service is over, we offer a grief share class 52 weeks a year, where healthy grieving is learned and a new community of friendships are forged.

90% of our funerals are for people who are not connected to a church.

We charge nothing.

Oh, and by the way…every church should do this!

It is one of the most difficult and blessed things we do.

But let me warn you, Grace is messy!

And let me warn you, when a church begins to do this, it will never be the same…and you will never want to go back!

I remember meeting with some leaders from a church that wanted to start doing funerals.

They seemed eager to learn until we told them we do not charge.

You could see them add up the costs.

I told them, “It is called faith to do the right thing when you are not sure how it will work out.”

We also told them that some funerals get a little messy and raw.

We did a funeral several years ago for a family that lost a 43 year old father.

This family was a little rough around the edges and for the first time seeking God during this crises.

During the reception, with about 100 people eating, the family asked us if we could put in a DVD of some pictures they didn’t show during the service.

The DVD started with pictures of birthday parties, fishing trips and camping when all of a sudden a stripper at a bachelor party appeared on screen and we froze. (We now have a new policy: “Do not show pictures we haven’t looked at yet!”)

One of our young men volunteering in the kitchen, was sweeping, looked up, saw the picture, looked back down and kept sweeping. (Good job young man.)

Before we could do anything about it, the picture was gone and pictures of birthday parties, family gatherings and hunting trips appeared again.

Another one of our volunteers, in her seventies, saw the picture, and said, “Well, this is why we do what we do.”

I love her! She gets it.

I do not have time to tell you all the healing that has happened through our funeral and grieving ministries, but it is one of the most important things we do!

Last year we held 55 funerals.
This year we are on the same pace.

Every funeral brings heartbreak and healing. Hurt and hope. Loss and redemption.

It is a ministry very close to the heart of God.

I started this post by telling you about my friend Tom(Papa Noelle). The first time I met Papa Noelle was at his wife’s funeral at my church and now Tom is part of our church helping others heal.

I am a much, much better person because I know him.

Every church should have funeral and grieving ministries that love and care for families during some of their darkest times.

Check out tomorrow as I share part 4 of “5 Things Every Church Should Do.”

Struggling With Hope

Wrestling with my emotions, I wrote this shortly after my sister Rhonda went home to be with Jesus much too early:

My body sweats, soul shivers
Senses numb, spirit quivers
Eyes smile, heart aches
Walking strong, legs break

I look so good, feel so sad
I have so much, give so bad
I know so much, still can’t find
I see a rainbow, I’m color blind

I need to know, I need to feel
I need to find, I need to understand
I want to celebrate, I want to smile
I want to dance awhile
I want to feel love

The sun is bright, my body’s cold
Promises new, my faith is old
Past is clear, future hole
World stands still, spinning out of control

I love so much, nothing to give
I try so hard, tired to live
I cry so deep, no emotions to find
I run so fast, while I am getting behind

Can I live again?
Can I trust again?
Can I dream again?
Can I spread my wings and fly?

Many people, all alone
Pressing deadlines, postponed
Beautiful sounds, deaf ears
Echoing laughter, salty tears

I talk so much, people bemused
Search for meaning, more confused
Asked to be strong, silent fear
I am asking the same question……
IS IT HOPE THAT I HEAR?

I need to know, I need to feel
I need to find, I need to understand
I want to celebrate, I want to smile
I want to dance awhile
I want to feel love

Can I live again?
Can I trust again?
Can I dream again?
Can I spread my wings and fly?

Can I finish as I began
I am asking the same question……
IS IT HOPE THAT I HEAR AGAIN?

“The Lord is there to rescue all who are discouraged and have given up hope.” Psalm 34:18 (CEV)

This Happens To Other Families, Not Ours

Loss is the great leveler of the human race. It is no respecter of age, race, gender, net worth or spiritual affiliation.

One of the darkest times of my life happened over 20 years ago, when my sister Brenda, who was 29 at the time, was diagnosed with breast cancer. She was married with 3 children, and the diagnosis rocked our family’s world! Fear, confusion, anger, sadness hit us so hard, that we were stunned. It was as if it wasn’t real.

This happens to other families, not ours.
This happens to older women, not young ones.
This happens to people with unhealthy lifestyles, not health conscious ones. This can’t be true.

Our family was numb. We were in denial for a while. We cried for a while, then we sucked it up and got strong, believing that she was young and she would overcome.

And why shouldn’t she? She loved God. Thousands were praying for her. God knew she had 3 young children. We all knew, through prayers, family support and doctor’s wisdom that she would make it.

My sister was in remission for two years. But she didn’t make it. (Her faith was strong, her body weak.)

The emotions in me 20+ years later are still surreal. All these years later, it still hurts. It’s still confusing. I’m still not alright with this. I’ve been real honest with God on this one. I don’t understand.

There is a void in my family that will not and cannot be filled by anyone else. There is a pain in my mother and father’s heart that will not go away this side of heaven.

I’m just being as honest as I know how. All these years later the loss still aches. It was a pivotal point for my family. This loss could break us or focus us. We had a choice. Give up or grow through this tragedy.

Slowly God refocused and grew us, because the alternative was death. The alternative was to quit, maybe do destructive things but that doesn’t make sense and it doesn’t honor my sister and it doesn’t honor the gift of life, no matter how short it is.

A few years ago, like a combination punch from a prize fighter, my other sister, Rhonda, acquired a rare blood disease that was incurable, (again, too young, and a healthy lifestyle) and on December 26, 2009, she passed away and went home to be with Brenda. She left behind a loving husband and two intelligent, God-loving young adult children.

My family once again was staring at a loss that was unimaginable. Losing one sister, was devastating enough, losing two, and you are not sure what to do. For my parents, I cannot even imagine.

Once again, reality has smacked my family upside the head and we are faced with a choice. My parents have led the rest of us by example, that even through their broken hearts, they will not give up, they will not lose hope and they will not grow bitter.

There are a few things my family and I are learning about loss, life and not losing hope. Let me share with you a few of them.

The first is that “bad things happen to good people”.

Brennan Manning writes in his book ‘Ragamuffiin Gospel’ that, “Most of the descriptions of the victorious life in following Christ do not match the reality of my own. Hyperbole bloated rhetoric and grandiose testimonies create the impression that once Jesus is acknowledged as Lord, the Christian life becomes a picnic on a green lawn. Idyllic descriptions of victory in Jesus are more often colored by cultural and personal expectations than by Christ. The New Testament depicts another picture of the victorious life. It’s Jesus on a cross. It’s Jesus dying for our sins. It’s Calvary. The biblical image of the victorious life reads more like the victorious limp. Jesus was victorious not because he never flinched, never talked back or questioned but having flinched talked back and questioned he remained faithful.”

When we experience loss, God says it is totally ok to flinch, talk back and question…God just says, “Please remain faithful…I still have plans for you.”

God never asks us to participate in a pretend, religion that says “Follow Jesus and everything will be fine.”

The reality is bad things happen to good people. And that doesn’t make you weird, it doesn’t make you strange and it doesn’t mean something is wrong with you.

Jesus once said, “The rain falls on the just and the unjust…you will have trouble in this world.”

My family has experienced that reality first hand, but we have also experienced the reality of the promise of the psalmist who wrote, “The LORD is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.”

The second thing we have learned is that you have to “grieve while moving forward.”

I’ve seen people either getting stuck in the past or moving onto the future so quickly that they have denied the real hurt and the real pain of loss.

Dr. Terry Sandbeck, co-author of the book, “Renewing your Mind” says, “The number one reason people are depressed is because they have not mourned the past. They have not gotten angry, they have not cried. They have tried to move on too soon.”

I have met so many people who have had deep loss in their life, and they are feeling guilty for still being sad. Friends have asked them why they are not “over it” yet. The reality is when we have deep loss, we will never be “over it”, nor should we.

My family will grieve the rest of our lives. But we are grieving while moving forward.

Moving forward is different than “moving on.” “Moving on” implies that I am not going to think about the past. I am going to pretend it didn’t happen. I am moving on, forgetting the joy and the grief of the past. That is very destructive to the healing process.

Moving forward is remembering and grieving and celebrating the past while knowing that, while we still have breath, God is not finished with us. He still has plans for us.

Grieving while moving forward honors those we have lost. We actually leave a legacy for them by doing this! Many times it is through loss that God directs us to a new purpose. That has certainly been the case for my family.

The prophet Jeremiah, who experienced personal, relational and spiritual loss lived out the principle of grieving while moving forward when he wrote, “I’ll never forget the trouble, the utter lostness, the taste of ashes, the poison I’ve swallowed. I remember it all…the feeling of hitting the bottom. BUT there’s one other thing I remember, and remembering it, I keep a grip on hope: God’s loyal love couldn’t have run out, His merciful love couldn’t have dried up. They’re created new every morning. How great is Your faithfulness!”

My family and I are still learning how to live this out, and there are still many days when our hearts hurt and are heavy, but there is one more thing I would love to share with everyone who is reading this.

LIFE IS PRECIOUS, DON’T WASTE A SINGLE MOMENT.

Life gets busy, we get involved in petty differences or petty interests and we think that we will live forever, but life is fragile and life can be short. Let us live out the words of Moses when he said, “Teach us (Lord) to use wisely all the time we have.”

Love those who need love.
Forgive those who need forgiven.
Serve those who need served.
Honor those who should be honored.
Encourage those who are discouraged.
Hug those who need a hug.
Give thanks to those who have given you hope in this life.
Tell someone today that you love them!

Life is fragile and a gift. Don’t let it pass you by with a frivolous focus. Celebrate and live fully each day.

Author Richard Evans reminds us that, “The tragedy of life is not that it ends so soon, but that we wait so long to begin it.”