Category Archive: Loss

When Tragedy Strikes

Like many of us, I’ve had a heavy heart this week. Another shooting in Southern California left twelve dead, others with horrific memories and their aftermath. And fires, in both Northern and Southern California. The town of Paradise decimated, 23 reported dead as of Saturday evening.

Amazingly, the Paradise home of dear friends of ours is still standing, as is their church. But for several days they didn’t know whether or not they still had a home. Others I know have lost everything, except in most cases, their loved ones. Homes are gone. Lives are lost. And even if you still have a home, there is currently no water in Paradise, no power. So as of yet there is no possibility of returning to the homes that remain.

Our friends who still have their home are in the minority. We’ve heard that 80% of Paradise is simply gone. Destroyed. Decimated How do you even begin the overwhelming task of starting over? And how do you move back into a home that is still standing when all around you is destruction, ash, rubble?

Others have certainly gone through that. In countries where persecution abounds because of ethnicity, or faith, or religious differences, many have fled their homes with nothing more than they could carry. Here in California, many escaped the Camp Fire, or the Malibu fire, or another, with only the clothes on their backs. Plans for family gatherings at Thanksgiving and/or Christmas or Hanukkah must change because people are now homeless.

So how do we help?

  • Tell people we’ll pray for them – and then DO IT! If the words are simply the “thing to say” in a tragedy, they are meaningless. Perhaps instead of just saying we’ll pray, we can stop and say “Let me pray for you now” and do it immediately, and then continuously.
  • Pray for the firefighters and emergency responders who so faithfully serve in these difficult times.
  • Ask what help they need. Someone commented that they went into Target to buy necessities only to see the store full of people walking around, dazed, not knowing where to begin. If you’ve lost everything, do you start with food or with medicines? With blankets or underwear?
  • Find ways to give where funds will be allocated in appropriate ways. The worship pastor at our Aptos church is from Paradise. He is there this weekend, meeting with the church from which he came to determine how we can help. Twin Lakes Church will give us opportunities to give in meaningful ways that are based on a real assessment of critical issues.

In the tragedy of these days we have an opportunity to come alongside those in desperate need, and love them in the name of Jesus.

My friend Shirley Fransen Holm posted this article on Facebook Saturday. What a beautiful picture of what it means to come alongside those in need.

At my synagogue, I’ll take 20 Mennonites over one armed guard

After telling the disciples he would soon leave them, their hearts were also heavy, Then Jesus said “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33)

Our hope is in the God who is present, the God who has promised never to leave or forsake us, and who calls us to be the hands and feet of Jesus to those in need.

Unswerving Hope

“Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful.” (Hebrews 10:23 NIV)

I attended another memorial service Saturday. They’re coming closer together these days.  Don N was the beloved husband (of 50 years) of a college friend with whom I’ve reconnected in the past few years.

This service was outstanding. I’ve known and admired Marilyn for fifty years. She and Don raised a beautiful family; and she has cared unceasingly for him during these past very difficult eighteen months of his battle with cancer. But I didn’t know Don much other than seeing him around campus years ago. He was always pleasant and gracious. And, from the stories we heard at his memorial, just a bit crazy and a lot of fun!

But I learned so much about Don Saturday. This gifted dentist took up art after his retirement, developing an amazing skill reflected in paintings of the nature he loved as well as a pencil self-sketch that showed incredible detail and perspective.

Don also had a beautiful singing voice, and sang with several groups, last with the Bethany Four, a men’s quartet from his church. He wanted one of the songs they pre-recorded to be a part of his service. Don soloed on “I Chose to Believe.” This was the story of his life; choosing to believe in Jesus, the Son of God, despite whatever life brought his way.

And now he is with that Lord, with the Author of Life! I took one of the complimentary CDs the family offered and listened to it at least three times en route home. I was touched each time to hear Don sing “I Chose to Believe”, knowing his faith is now reality!

This man also mentored other men in their walk with Jesus. One said Don brought him closer to Jesus and then said, tongue-in-cheek, ” …You set the bar high for me, Don … and I don’t appreciate it.”

Pastor Brian Wiebe talked about some of the hopes Don had:

  • Hope that the medicine and treatments would restore his health for long-term survival;
  • Hope that he would see his granddaughters walk the aisle on their wedding days;
  • Hope that he could once again enjoy a good meal; and
  • Hope that he could again enjoy the beauty of the mountains he loved.

Don’s cancer and suffering caused him to question whether God’s promises were true, whether He was trustworthy and could be relied upon. And Don concluded that yes, God could be trusted. While many of Don’s hopes were not realized in this life, Wiebe stated, “Don is now enjoying the greatest of all hopes, the hope of eternal life.”

I pray that when God takes me home, I too will be able to say that “I chose to believe.” That has been and is my choice–through trials, through the loss of a father and a husband and others I love. We can choose to believe in anything, whether or not that source is reliable. If the source is not reputable, our faith is worthless. But because God is faithful, I can and do choose to believe. May trust in Him be the consistent and repeated theme of my life.

*****

But you, dear friends, by building yourselves up in your most holy faith and praying in the Holy Spirit, keep yourselves in God’s love as you wait for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to bring you to eternal life. (Jude 1:20-21 NIV)

Grief Survival Tools

“What are some of the tools in your grief survival kit?” This question was posed on Quora, a site I sometimes respond to. I thought it was worth mentioning some of the items that helped me survive after the devastating loss of my first husband. They included the following:

  • Family/friends who allowed me to be exactly where I was–numb, inattentive, distant, glazed, aching–and didn’t try to “fix” me.
  • Faith in the God who has promised never to leave me nor forsake me. (Hebrews 13:5)
  • Participation in a grief recovery program along with other new widows and widowers. At www.griefshare.org you can enter your zip code and find a group, as well as resources in your area. Processing loss with a trained facilitator and with others in the same life crisis was very helpful to me in understanding some of the impacts, and the timeline, of grief.
  • Prayer – my own and those of others for me.
  • God’s promises through scripture, such as the one at right which He gave me following Jerry’s death.

    God’s promises encouraged my heart

  • Reading some excellent books on grief, its impact, process, recovery. I didn’t read these immediately after Jerry’s death. I needed a bit of time to get through the initial shock before absorbing others’ ideas about grief.
  • A body pillow I purchased to hug at night.
  • A heating pad for those times when my body, in shock, couldn’t get warmed through. A great tip from my nurse friend, Fritz.
  • Sleep.
  • Work, or projects (like cleaning out the garage!) that kept my mind from focusing only on my loss.
  • Writing … whether a journal, notes to others, or blogposts … was another way of releasing the feelings tumbling about in my brain and heart.
  • More sleep.

These were some of my tools. What has helped you deal with grief?

 

The Lost is Found

“Look at what’s in front of you,” our friend Dave challenged me.

I looked at my husband’s hand, holding a glass of water. Was the water clearer than before? Don and Dave had worked in the yard most of the day.

“Your hand is shaking,” I said to my tired man.

“She’s not looking at the right thing,” Dave grinned.

I looked again. And there it was, right in front of me, on the third finger of Don’s right hand … the gold, sapphire and diamond ring Don lost in the yard about four months ago. He had missed it, having worn that particular ring from a former company for many years. But we had given up on ever finding it. The ring was significant, given to him by a company he enjoyed working with; and when the initials wore away and an insert fell off and was lost, we replaced them with a sapphire I had, and several small diamonds. Don wore it daily, including pruning and gardening in the dirt, and woodworking.

Today, as Dave raked leaves out by the well in preparation to put in a wooden walkway, he saw a shiny, perfect round something.

“Could there be a ring out here?” he asked Don.

“No, there’s no ring.” Don had looked long and hard for it at the time of its loss.

Dave raked over the leaves again, his mind holding onto what he’d seen.

“Did anyone ever lose a ring here?”

“Well yes, matter of fact, I did a few months back.”

Oh no, thought Dave. Now I’ve covered it again in the leaves and dirt and won’t find it … but there it was, on top of the leaves. Picking it up, he handed Don’s sentimental, handsome ring back to him. And we all rejoiced like the woman in scripture who searched for her lost coin and rejoiced and told her neighbors when she found it.

I thought how we had to give that ring up for lost before the Lord revealed it to us again. We had done that, let it go. And now, months later, God’s grace and Dave’s eagle eye spotted its shine in the dirt. Sometimes God challenges us to give up things that are important to us before he returns them, or something better, to us.  Not because he doesn’t want us to enjoy good gifts, but because our holiness – our focus on Him – is more important to him than our little pleasures.  And He so often develops our character through the challenges life brings our way. He wants the best for us, and the best is our relationship with and trust in Him.

And it is also precious that He cares even about the little things. And in the light of eternity, of world and personal tragedies, a lost ring is a little thing. But we are invited to “Cast all your cares on Him, for He cares for you.” I Peter 5:7.

To what are you and I holding on?

We’re preparing to move this Fall. Much as we love our home in Soquel, the care for three acres is getting to be too wearing. We’re in that process of determining what to keep and what to let go of. Not always easy decisions when much of what we have comes from our travels, from people we love, from our own interests. But we are downsizing and will have to make some tough decisions. I pray that I will hold material things loosely, being wise in what to keep and what to release, for the good of others and our own benefit; and that I will trust God to lead in the process.

 

Abandoned … for Me

Abandoned.

Left behind.

Completely alone.

Terrified.

It was noon Sunday. I was nine years old, and I realized my parents had left church–without me! Frightened, I wondered how long it would take them to realize I wasn’t in the car.

Would they expect someone else to bring me home?

Come back for me?

Be annoyed with me?

Thankfully, my childhood abandonment was short-lived. Mom and Dad heard the silence in the car(!), realized they’d forgotten one child and, to my great relief, returned to pick me up.

I had very loving parents and I was terrified.

I grieve for the many children who are abandoned emotionally, physically, spiritually by addicted, incapable, or uncaring parents. I remember a former acquaintance who, along with his waste collection buddies, found an abandoned, live infant in a garbage can.

But for Christ, fully God and fully man, to say “My God, My God, why have You forsaken me?” expresses incomprehensible pain.

At that moment, Jesus, carrying all the sin of the world on Himself, identified fully with my sin, and the collective sins of the world. Although He did not sin, Christ felt the separation from God that we sense when we have unconfessed sin in our lives. In heaven, the Son was One with the Father and the Holy Spirit. The three experienced perfect communication, complete alignment, sublime love, total Oneness. Leaving all that only to feel forsaken, abandoned–how great a chasm that must have been!

Truth set me free!

After a God-honoring memorial service for my first husband, I fell into a deep pit of abandonment, aloneness, despair. I was crushed by the question “What if everything I have believed is a lie … there is no eternal life with Christ … and I will never see Jerry again …” My conclusion was that if the Bible was not true, and faith in Christ was based on a lie, life as I knew it was over. No hope. No sustenance. No future. I might as well quit now.

I was alone in another sense. Because I had experienced God’s faithfulness, presence and hope during Jerry’s illness and death, people often commented on my example of faith, and how they were learning from me how to respond in adversity. How could I now disappoint them by revealing my doubts, the anguish I felt, my separateness from God and others? So I kept my agony to myself and wandered through murky darkness for several weeks.

One day God brought Peter’s words to my mind: “Where else would we go, Lord? You alone have the words of eternal life.” And suddenly, my heart was free. Truth won out. The gap closed, and I was again in union with my Lord, who went to the deepest of all pits in order to give me hope and life eternal.

A dear friend once told me that God wants to be God even in my deepest despair; and that however low my pit, God has gone deeper still.

Where are you feeling abandoned? Where do you need to have God reach in to rescue you from your pit? Tell Him. Allow Him to touch you and renew your spirit. If you’re willing to share with me, I’d like to pray for you too.

Jesus agonized on the Cross. He suffered the greatest pain possible, both physically and emotionally, and He died. But then came Sunday, the day the world changed forever! This Easter week, let’s praise Him for His sacrifice and His resurrection, which give us forgiveness and life and hope and peace.

He is risen!