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Grief

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O The Pain

Caleb Mosaic Pic.JPG

Our son Caleb’s would be 26th birthday is drawing near... and here it comes again... the pain.

O that horrid pain.

I guess in some ways I’m glad because I genuinely miss him, and since I can’t see or touch him, the pain reminds me that my love for him is still alive and well.

But pain has this weird way of making us feel broken, un - whole, shattered... un - beautiful.

The mysterious thing about brokenness is what our broken Savior can do with all those fragments...

Perhaps you’ve seen a vase or picture, or some other gorgeous art form that is made up of a bunch of fragmented pieces. Each raged edged shard alone seems pointless... yet put together with a bunch of other misfit pieces, it forms a stunning mosaic.

Mosaic = mixture – conglomerate – complicated – convoluted – tangled – involved – intricate – multi faceted creation.

Isn’t that the story of our one beautiful life?

A gazillion broken pieces that come together to create something staggeringly magnificent for the world to see and receive hope from.

We don’t see or feel it, but others do. Perhaps God made it that way.

I’ve read many times that mother Theresa, in her latter years, whether from tiredness, the enemy’s schemes, or just a super keen awareness of her own sinful nature… Often wondered if she was even worthy of entering heaven. How could that be after all the faith filled prayers she prayed – after all the pain and poverty she brought healing and provision to?

She felt lost – others saw one of the most admirable, selfless lovers of humanity... A beautiful mosaic.

Then there’s Jesus.

I love Ann Voskamps description of a mosaic-type painting of those final moments in Jesus’ life: “In the semi – abstract painting, there's no tidy pattern, just light and dark bleeding into this subtle suggestion of Jesus hanging on the cross. He was hoarse with the begging, for himself, for us: God, why have you abandoned me? Yet he surfaces in the patches of color, the broken brush strokes, the silhouette of him visible in the chaos – Christ entering all this chaos.”

Even Jesus, in his darkest hour of brokenness, wondered where God was... yet depicted the most glorious mosaic of all time.

I would never in a million years assume to have felt the same sacrificial pain Jesus experienced, but I do know the disturbing allurement of pains grip. Each birthday, anniversary or any random moment, when I feel the gut wrenching sorrow of no more todays spent with Caleb in this earth life... hopelessness creeps in, my brokenness becomes more pronounced and I wonder how in Heavens name I can ever be a beacon of light or hope or anything good for anyone to see.

Then I surrender to God’s perfect peace - his soothing presence - and remember HIS ability to take the broken places, the scars and shattered pieces, mixed with his divine touch... and I trust again that...

He will make all things beautiful in its time. (Ecclesiastes 3:11)

Maybe you can relate to feeling broken, ugly, useless... may the Holy Spirit remind you that while you may only feel & see scattered devastated parts & pieces, others really do see God and goodness in the grand, panoramic, mosaic of your life.

Heavenly Father, please take every fractured place, mend the pain – full spaces, and do your thing in such a way that YOU shine through the cracks and crevices for others to have hope that they can also become a mosaic of your resplendent beauty.

-Laura

 

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Where ya gunna go?

Today is our son Caleb’s 8 year anniversary of being in Heaven.

O how the pain is still so real. Not a day goes by that I don’t think about him, drive by the crash site, see his picture, or whisper a prayer of gratitude to God that Heaven is real and one day we will all get to be together again. In those moments, tears come easily and my heart aches for my boy.

When I’m overwhelmed on these or special days like his birthday or anniversary, family reunions, holidays... I often feel like running away from it all. Then I think, “Laura, where ya gunna go?”

Psalm 139:1-8 – You have searched me, Lord, and know me. You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar. You discern my going out, and my lying down; you are familiar with all my ways. Before a word is on my tongue, you, Lord, know it completely. You hem me in behind and before, and you lay your hand upon me. Such knowledge is too wonderful for me, too lofty for me to attain. Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence? If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.

God is all knowing, all powerful and everywhere. There is absolutely no escape mechanism or place we can go to get away from his constant pursuit of us!

So, the only logical, helpful, and joy filled place to run and hide is into the safe haven of God’s perfect comfort and love! And every time I do... it is well.

If for any reason at all you are in a tough spot and thinking you need to ‘get away from it all’ – may I gently ask you, ‘Where YOU gunna go?’ Instead may I boldly invite you to join me in running right smack dab into the center of the caring grace & presence of your heavenly Father!

WHATCHA GUNNA DO?

Grief is horrible on every level. However, one of the most life transforming and perspective changing things I’ve done since Caleb relocated to heaven, is to give my life away in service for others. DOing something for others, who are also walking through difficult life circumstances, always takes my focus off of my own pain and sorrow, and brings a ton of joy to my soul.

Over the past 7 years, as a family, we have participated in the CALEB Run, which is a Caleb Foundation 5K race we put together to galvanize our church family, to raise resources for at - risk youth in our community. It was a fabulous and rewarding 7 years.

This year, our family decided to shift the 5K run into a city - wide outreach week we’re calling Beyond The Shore. Our goal is to get outside the 4 walls of Shoreline and love Austin and the surrounding areas in ways they’ve never been loved before. The week kicked off with a golf tournament in which we raised over $22,000, for 6 charities, who care for under-resourced youth in our community and in Haiti, and victims of sex trafficking around the US. There are over 30 serving opportunities, ranging from stuffing 1100 backpacks with school supplies for a Title 1 middle school, to partnering with Habitat For Humanity, Central Texas Food Back, cleaning up parks in the city, Austin Life Care, Side By Side Kids and much more...

The response has been overwhelming! The number of people who signed up and showed up all week long is mind blowing! If you were to ask any one of them how they felt after they spent just a few hours caring for people, hammering some nails, smiling, buying someone’s coffee or groceries, opening someone’s door, mowing their lawn... on top of volunteering countless hours serving their fellow man in all the ways we reached out... you would hear comments like:

“So thankful to be a part of a church that has a heart for the middle school students. 1100 students will get backpacks FULL of supplies to start the new year! It was such a joy to serve today!”

“So as this guy started out thru the green light I saw his load start sliding off of his truck. I stopped, I honked and prayed everyone would stop behind me. They did right away. I had a choice to stop and block the lane for them or drive around them and get to my doctor’s appointment on time. I decided to stop and make a difference in a stranger’s life!”

“This is my first time ever doing anything outreach based and I thought to myself ok I am going to go do something for someone else and as I sat there writing a little love note to hurting people and I just thought this is going to go to someone and it is going to help them know that they are worthy and they are important. I am so thankful to have the chance to have my eyes open and a perspective change. I encourage everyone to go out and volunteer in some kind of way”

I guess what I’m trying to say is that giving your life away to serve and bless others is one of the quickest ways to fill your heart with joy and make a difference for good in the world.

Luke 6:38 MSG - Give away your life; you'll find your life given back, but not merely given back – given back with bonus and blessing. Giving, not getting, is the way. Generosity begets generosity.

So, if you’re bumming out about something small, or truly grieving over a deeply painful loss of anything, let me ask you, “Whatcha gunna do?”

Live for a CAUSE bigger than you are – give your life away – DO something for someone else... and chase those blues away!

-Laura

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Grief Sucks

Grief Sucks

Perhaps I shouldn’t be writing when I’ve also got a horrible cold and a shooting pain down my leg... and... It’s a few days away from my son Caleb’s ‘would be’ 25th birthday... IF he were still on planet earth...

My heart is aching.

Last night while talking (complaining) to a friend about all my woes I said, “I hate sickness with a passion, I hate sin, I hate sorrow, I hate death... I use to feel sorry for the devil but no longer – I can’t wait to see him burn. I think I’m going to write a blog called grief sucks.

So here it goes...

We have now been walking this grief recovery journey for 7.5 years.

Has the extreme pain diminished? Absolutely. Are most days filled with joy as we trust God’s promises concerning Heaven and the eternity we will get to spend with Caleb? Yes. Are we blown away at the privilege and opportunities we have to carry on his legacy through the Caleb Foundation? 100%.

In just two weeks, I’ll have the honor to love on some precious orphaned children and gorgeous women in Ouanaminthe, Haiti. What a sincere joy. And there are countless other young people, all over the world, being loved on, nurtured, taught God’s ways, treated medically, educated and led to what matters most – a life forever with Jesus! Giving my life away is like a balm to my sorrow.

At the same time, in ways, it all still seems like a nightmarish dream. I see Caleb’s pictures around my house and these haunting feelings & questions surge again, “Why can’t he just be here?

I want to touch him – talk to him – know what he would have chosen as his life vocation – who might he be dating or married to... There’s this inconsolable longing – this itch that can’t be scratched – this pain so deep that time evades.

I want to see my son. So I choose to allow myself to feel... To grieve.

Grief sucks.

There aren’t too many other words I can think to describe grief really. Grief hurts, it has no happy (earthly) ending. No resolve for today. It just hurts. Our hearts are broken. Our feelings are bruised.

And it’s okay to feel it.

Feelings are exactly that – just feelings. They are neither right nor wrong. Good nor bad. Sinful nor holy. Feelings just are. When we allow ourselves to sit with our feelings for a hot second – it causes us to be honest in the moment – to remember – to be human.

Stuffing our emotions doesn’t help, and remaining too long in the pain certainly isn’t healthy either... but often, we don’t give ourselves permission to simply feel. It’s okay to feel.

It’s here in the pain – in the heartache – in the tears – in the overwhelming sucky feelings of, “I am sad, I miss Caleb, I hate this.

That beckons my Father to draw near.

I NEED his comfort.
I NEED his peace.
I NEED his love.
I NEED him! O how I need Jesus! And he always does come. He comes with EVERYTHING I need. His presence covers it all.

Jesus knows all too well.

“We despised him and rejected him – a man of sorrows, acquainted with bitterest grief. We turned our back on him and looked the other way when he went by. He was despised, and we didn’t care. Yet it was our grief he bore, our sorrows that weighed him down. And we thought his troubles were a punishment from God, for his own sins. But he was wounded and bruised for our sins! He was beaten that we might have peace; he was the lashed – and we were healed! We - every one of us – have strayed away like sheep. We, who left God’s paths to follow our own. Yet God laid on him the guilt and sins of every one of us!” (Isaiah 53:3-6 – TLB)

“Death is swallowed up in victory. O death, where is your sting? O Hades, where is your victory?”

(1 Corinthians 15:54–55)

Sickness – healed.
Sorrow – carried away.
Sin – forgiven.
Death – conquered.

God has experienced and understands grief – he comes to us in our grief – he smashed grief forever.

I’m so grateful grief only sucks for a little while.

-Laura

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Arrows

Arrows are everywhere right now. They’re in style. They’re cute. In fact, I have an arrow bracelet, a few arrow t-shirts and bags, a beautiful arrow painting, and an arrow tattoo.

Arrows might be vogue, but they are also very meaningful to me. They indicate direction, placement — they point the way.

Webster’s defines an arrow as: a slender, straight, generally pointed missile or weapon, designed to be shot at a specific target.

So, arrows also have a targeted purpose. However, in this day and age, we rarely use arrows anymore. Unless we are members of an archery club, or live in the bush and need them for survival, there’s just no need for them. None the less - arrows carry important significance for me. Here’s why.

As many of you know, our 17 yr. old son Caleb was instantly relocated to Heaven, after a car accident on July 14, 2009.

It absolutely was and still is beyond our belief.  Our hearts have a hole the size of Texas, and the pain is still very raw and real. Yet, we are basking in the unchanging love of God and depending on Him as we move forward to carry out His purposes.

Shortly after the accident, I was roaming through the house, as we girls do, and Rob was watching the movie ‘Prince Caspian’ on TV – I passed by the room at the very moment Susan, the oldest Chronicles of Narnia chick, was shooting her quiver full of arrows at the enemies surrounding them. She was shooting them so quickly, one right after the other, successfully contributing to the destruction of the enemy.

Susan had been given this quiver full of arrows, as a gift, from Aslan (the God figure) in the previous movie. These gifts were meant to be used as tools to help in times of need. The beautiful cinematography of that scene is forever etched in my mind. I watched as hundreds of arrows went flying through the sky in slow motion. As I saw that picture, all I could think of was the verses in Psalm 127:3-5:

 “As arrows are in the hand of the Lord, so are one’s children in their youth. Happy is the man whose quiver is full of them… for because of them, your enemies don’t stand a chance against you.”

My heart skipped a beat. Outraged, I literally yelled out to God, “But I have one less arrow God – my legacy – an arrow that I just knew was going to go far, is gone now – He was such a strong leader – I hate this!!” But the sweet Holy Spirit immediately reminded me of a few things. Some of the thoughts He shared were meant to personally help heal and encourage my broken heart and other thoughts were meant for the encouragement of those He knew I would be ministering to.

First, He reminded me that we are eternal beings.

We don’t end life when we leave this planet. God reassured me that Caleb was safe in Heaven and that he wasn’t just sitting around on a cloud somewhere. His earthly destiny was over for now, but Caleb is continuing his eternal destiny and will ever increase in his strengths there in Heaven, so by the time I get there, he will be leading in powerful ways beyond my imagination. What a comfort that was.

Second, He reminded me He has given me many arrows.

No just of birthright, but in our church and beyond, that I have been given the privilege and opportunity to pour into. There are young people and others who are targeted to destroy the enemy’s work for generations to come that will continue my legacy and His work.

Those words are powerfully imprinted on my heart and encourage me on this journey almost every day, because it is my greatest desire and passion to see this next generation go farther than ours, and carry the love, grace and ways of God to their generation!

And finally, God reminded me, that every single one of us, as His children, are His arrows.

Isaiah 49:2-3 says: 

“In the shadow of His hand He hid me; He made me into a polished arrow and concealed me in His quiver."

He said, “You’re my dear servant, through whom I will SHINE.” Wow! God has a specific destiny and purpose for which He created each of us – we are His kids – HIS ARROWS!!

As I mentioned earlier, there are several purposes for arrows, but typically, they are used for hunting & combat… to destroy an enemy. So, He, as the Creator and Chief Archer, is shaping and forming us into the arrows He desires.

He is positioning and setting our course, to be a part of the solution to hunt down & destroy the works of the enemy; every injustice that we see affecting and devastating the precious people in our beautiful world that He so dearly loves and died for.

God designed us to SHINE His light in the darkness that is destroying so many lives.

Bottom line – we are God’s arrows! He has carefully placed us in His quiver (His hands and heart) and He is strategically aiming us directly into the souls of humanity that so desperately need God’s love and grace. The good news is – He will SHINE through us no matter how broken or wobbly our arrows (lives) feel.

I often ‘feel’ incapable and inadequate to be used in strategic ways, yet even in my brokenness –He chooses to use me to help another thirsty, wounded soul.

Through these blogs, my intention is to simply share my life with you. And prayerfully, you will grab a thought or two from my story (& the stories of a few of my friends) that will give you the courage to surrender your life to God’s shaping, so that you will become the polished and strategic arrow He’s uniquely crafting you to be for His purposes and honor!

Concealed in His Quiver,

- Laura

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