The end of winter

We were inundated, once again, with winter weather advisories this last week in Minnesota. A snow storm on Monday and another on Saturday brought icy roads and fresh, deep snow, much to the delight of children. The children’s sledding anticipation ran high, while the adults’ grumbled expectantly, shovel in hand. My Facebook newsfeed resounded with shouts of, “Enough, already!” So many are done with winter.

A few of us, however, smile secretly and tuck away the white scene in our minds, knowing that this season is exactly that. A season. The slowly falling flakes bring hope; hope that covers the emptiness of the hard ground. The sparkling layer of fresh snow glints off yards as if to shout, “Look at me! Notice the beauty in the barrenness!” An acquaintance on Saturday also remarked, “The snow is a wonderful reminder to me of God’s words in Isaiah.” What hope these words bring!

“…Though your sins are as scarlet, They will be as white as snow…” Isaiah 1:18a

The newly fallen snow also reminded me of other words from the book of Isaiah.

“For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven,
And do not return there without watering the earth
And making it bear and sprout,
And furnishing seed to the sower and bread to the eater;..” Isaiah 55:10

I try not to complain about the snow because I know that there is purpose in it, and there is a limit to it’s presence. I know this to be true, though it feels like winter will never end. I have certainty, proof, of this truth: Every year winter ends. Every year winter gives way to spring. Winter has never lasted 12 months. There has never been a year where winter did not end.

As I thought of the winter season and anticipate the budding of the pussy willow trees in my yard sometime in the next several weeks, I was struck by the thought of God’s faithfulness, how these seasons reflect His very character. He is faithful. Just as the seasons faithfully come and go year after year, God remains faithful. Year after year, season after season, He is faithful. How awesome it is, too, that He shows us His faithfulness through His creation, through the passing of seasons. Does that not give you hope, hope that winter will, indeed, end? Hope that your season of hard things, whatever they are, will, indeed, end, too? Though the trees remain barren and the ground bereft of color, may the snow upon them remind you of this: He is faithful. He is faithful. Winter will end. Spring will come, my friend. Spring will come. Until then, hold on to hope.





Life after loss is, well, a lot of things. The loss of a loved one is often compared to an amputation. The death of a loved one is permanent. There is no re-growth of a limb. Of late, however, I’ve described child loss akin to a house fire where one’s house is literally burnt to the ground with only the foundation left. (Yes, I’m a “This Is Us” addict fan!)

After loss, you have to decide to rebuild. See, the only other choice is to sit in the ashes, never rebuilding, never recovering. (Of course, we must sit in the ashes for a time; allow ourselves time to process our loss. But at some point, we have to rise up and begin the rebuilding process.) It is much like recovering from a house fire. Grieving loss is like sorting through the ashes, the rubble. It takes time. It takes intention. It requires help and outside resources. Can you do it alone? Sure. But it will take longer and you will miss the benefits they provide. (And there are many!)

Rebuilding after loss is incredibly overwhelming, every step painful, but necessary. The process is not quick, and once the ashes have cleared, monumental decisions remain. One has to answer the questions, “Who am I now?” “What is my life going to look like?” “How do I want to rebuild?” As with a house fire, loss destroys everything. But loss doesn’t always involve material items. Loss causes one to question one’s identity. Bereaved parents often wonder, “Who am I?” and “Am I still a mother/father?” after their child dies. The loss of relationships and friendships after a loved one’s death is also common. Daily life and certain routines, too, never get back to what they once were. Assuredly, just as a house is recognized as a house from the outside, the reality is that the inside is drastically different. Suffice to say, grief is complicated.

Rebuilding is complicated, too. For the bereaved, it is a process of redefining one’s self. You are no longer the person you were before your loved one died. That person died the day they did. But the foundation remains; you, your physical body. Now the question becomes, “What is this new me going to look like?” This is the question I’ve been asking myself for some time now because the death of my son stripped me of who I was. It’s taken time to figure out since loss also creates insecurity, fear, and mistrust.

This is why rebuilding and reinvesting is so difficult. It’s one thing to build and reinvest when one has confidence and assurance. It’s another when one’s not sure they can trust the future, or be secure in themselves. Can you blame them? Their once secure world came crashing down into a billion pieces. They are never again a naive participant in the world.

This is where many of my bereaved parent friends and I are at right now, this reinvesting in the world. We navigate with caution, confusion, and hesitance. Do we, essentially, want to risk having our world crash down upon us again? We’re not ignorant any longer, we now know that, indeed, the unspeakable can happen. And we’re not talking smack or exaggerating. It’s real. We speak from experience.

So this? This post from Ann Voskamp the other day spoke volumes to me, made me cry, in fact, when reading it: Told You’re Too Much? Or Feel Like You’re “Too Much”? Dear Me: Lifelines to the Person I Long to Be

See, child loss makes you question everything. It causes you to doubt who you are anymore and question whether certain parts of you even still exist. You wonder if any part of you remains, if anything in the foundation of the “old” you remains. I am, I believe, coming to the conclusion, at last, that yes, one thing, at least, remains: My strong personality.

I think the biggest thing I’m learning lately is that, as Max Lucado puts it, “God loves you just the way you are, but He refuses to leave you there.” (Just Like Jesus) Meaning that I am a “strong” personality; that’s how God made me. And it is 100% okay. BUT, I have to also temper it, learn to be gentle, patient, humble, and speak for the right reasons, not just to win an argument or prove a point. Losing my son definitely humbled me; grief will do that. But after Matt died, I sort of lost my voice, if that makes sense. I’ve been afraid, really, to reinvest in people, in life. I no longer care to discuss surface issues; trivial matters grate on me. Yet so much of building new friendships and relationships rely on this, so I have avoided them altogether. Additionally, I no longer have the desire to prove a point or win an argument. That sort of pride died when my son died. (Not that I don’t, on occasion, fall into the temptation! But as a way of life, it’s pretty much been stamped out.) While humility is good thing, the flip side is, because of that, however, I stopped investing in relationship, in pursuing earthly connection with those outside the realm of grief. Grief has a way of silencing one’s voice like a fire extinguishes the living, leaving only ashes.

I recently realized I was afraid to be that person again, the vocal one. I have been fearful of reinvesting in relationships, of risking depth. Deep hurts, like child loss, can make a person withdraw from the world and from others. Pain has a way of making a person feel invisible somehow. I can’t explain it, but pain is isolating and lonely, even if you are surrounded by a plethora of people.

So this reinvesting is hard. The me I used to be? In some respects, I still feel like a pile of ash, and reinvesting is like blowing on those ashes, trying to rekindle a flame. Or, it’s like the frame of the new me is in place; built on the foundation that remained, but the inside needs furnishing yet. Again, I don’t know how to describe it. I’m trying to find my voice, establish my place in the community of life once again. To be honest, I’ve resisted reinvesting. I didn’t want to invest. Investing takes energy, energy I didn’t care to expend. I don’t want to risk loss, risk losing any more relationships. Yet I know that this is reality in this fallen world; not everything lasts. People move away, relationships change, and life on this side of heaven is not perfect.

But reinvesting is necessary. As a believer in Jesus Christ, we are called to community. We are, like it or not, a part of a body. Each member of the body has a part to play, something to contribute, a responsibility to fulfill. Fear cannot be an excuse to excuse myself from stepping into others’ lives. God is calling me to invest. He gave all for me, experiencing grief and sorrow for my sake, willingly. And so, I, too, must willingly give all for the sake of others and to glorify my Father in heaven. With His grace and strength, I will triumph…and the house, this earthly tent, will some day be finished…and beautiful. Because of Him.





When Seasonal Affect kicks your butt

I woke to a sunless sky this morning. Freezing rain and a forecast of snow showers makes for a gloomy day. My SAD therapy light clicked on, and my mind grapples for brighter thoughts than the depression that threatens. I know this battle well, and I know the effort it takes, effort I don’t have. But thanks be to God, I know Who does!

I showered and dressed for the day while praise and worship music played in the silence of the morning. I need these words of truth, this music that echos the truth of scripture. My head knows that the sun is there, above the clouds and gray sky, but my eyes plead proof. Depressing thoughts duke it out with chants of courage and comfort.

I know better on days like these that the battle for light will not likely be won, and I lower my expectations for the day. The streets are slippery with a sheet of ice and the hourly weather projection shows consistent precipitation; the snow cloud symbol boldly posted next to each hour. Where is my hope? I know that today the sun, in all probability, will not shine.

Hope may lie beyond the clouds, but it is not dead. It whispers, “I’ll be back.” I take refuge in God’s word, in His promise that He will give me strength, that HE is my strength. While this gloomy day may hide the sun, I will give thanks for the SON. I will praise Him still.

Psalm 147

1 Praise the Lord!
For it is good to sing praises to our God;
For it is pleasant and praise is becoming.
2 The Lord builds up Jerusalem;
He gathers the outcasts of Israel.
3 He heals the brokenhearted
And binds up their wounds.
4 He counts the number of the stars;
He gives names to all of them.
5 Great is our Lord and abundant in strength;
His understanding is infinite.
6 The Lord supports the afflicted;
He brings down the wicked to the ground.

7 Sing to the Lord with thanksgiving;
Sing praises to our God on the lyre,
8 Who covers the heavens with clouds,
Who provides rain for the earth,
Who makes grass to grow on the mountains.
9 He gives to the beast its food,
And to the young ravens which cry.
10 He does not delight in the strength of the horse;
He does not take pleasure in the legs of a man.
11 The Lord favors those who fear Him,
Those who wait for His lovingkindness.

12 Praise the Lord, O Jerusalem!
Praise your God, O Zion!
13 For He has strengthened the bars of your gates;
He has blessed your sons within you.
14 He makes peace in your borders;
He satisfies you with the finest of the wheat.
15 He sends forth His command to the earth;
His word runs very swiftly.
16 He gives snow like wool;
He scatters the frost like ashes.
17 He casts forth His ice as fragments;
Who can stand before His cold?
18 He sends forth His word and melts them;
He causes His wind to blow and the waters to flow.
19 He declares His words to Jacob,
His statutes and His ordinances to Israel.
20 He has not dealt thus with any nation;
And as for His ordinances, they have not known them.
Praise the Lord!




Praying without ceasing

Have you ever grown weary of praying? Has the question, “What’s the point of praying?” ever crossed your mind? Have you, in fact, ever given up on praying?

I have.

I’ve experienced all of the above and more when it comes to prayer. For many people, prayer is tough. For even more, it’s an enigma. Many find it difficult, too hard to bother with, too uncomfortable and awkward to pursue. For some, it’s a last resort, applied only when absolutely necessary; for emergencies only.

But for others, it is a daily habit, as involuntary as breathing. It comes easy, like a native language. It wells up within, begging release. Prayer is their outlet, their priority, their first response, not to just the tough stuff that gets thrown their way, but to the daily things of life. Prayer for those steeped in a relationship with God is considered as no different than conversing daily with their best friend or father.

Prayer, for me, has been all of that. Decades ago as a new Christian, it involved desperate pleading and awkward attempts at communicating with a God whom I knew little about. In times recent, it was willful refusal to speak to the One who could have healed, but didn’t. Praying has been both easy and hard. I have both forsaken and embraced it.

What about you, friend? Can you relate?

God’s word has much to say about prayer. Most recently, as I’ve been studying spiritual gifts in an evening Bible study, I came across this verse from Acts 4:22:

“…for the man was more than forty years old on whom this miracle of healing had been performed.”

While I was looking up cross-references to teaching in this chapter, I couldn’t help but take note of this man’s miracle. It was 40 years in the making. 40 years. I wondered if this man and his family prayed for healing. If so, I wondered how long they prayed for healing. After all, he had been lame from birth. (Acts 3:2) If there’s anything that would want to make a person quit praying, surely waiting 40 years to be healed would do it, wouldn’t it?

But I know something of what it’s like to pray for decades without an answer. I wrote about it here: The 30 year prayer I stopped praying. To be sure, there were years I gave up, times I quit praying. But I went back to prayer. I kept at it even though there was no evidence of hope. I kept at it, not because I am faithful, but because God is faithful. I kept at it, not expecting the gift, but expecting the Giver. Absolutely, I wanted my prayers to be answered, but more than that, I wanted my prayers to be about Him, and not about what I could get from Him. More often than not, praying is about getting God.

But prayer continues to be a “both, and” endeavor. It’s not an “either, or” exercise. It is both challenging and freeing. Prayer challenges us to trust God, to wholly remove our hands from the circumstances that try us. Yet it frees us to live in recognition that God is sovereign, that He is holy and just, that His love overwhelms and His grace is sufficient.

When my son died, I quit praying for a time. I questioned the purpose of prayer. I mean, really, what’s the point of praying for God to save and rescue if He’s just going to do what He wants, anyway, right? Oh, I remember the struggle with prayer! I also remember the faltering steps back to prayer, much like when I was a new Christian trying to figure out what living for Jesus looked like. My prayers were timid and doubt-tinged.

But thanks be to God, I don’t have to have the perfect prayer or the right words to say. I don’t have to have all understanding or all the boxes checked in order to pray. I can pray, knowing that God is sovereign, and still trust that He is good even if my prayers go unanswered. I can trust that prayer isn’t about me; it’s about what God is doing, both in others, and in (and through) me.

I’ve once again been praying, praying for a loved one trapped in addiction, praying for my church body, my pastors, and my sisters and brothers in Christ. I am often overwhelmed by how many people and things to pray for and about. I’m prone to discouragement as my prayers for my loved one move into yet another year of pleading with God to rescue. I am impatient at times with the slowness of prayer, but I am assured of this: God never is. He is never discouraged, never overwhelmed. I am encouraged to know that God hears even 40 year old prayers. I am relieved to know that circumstances are never beyond His capability to accept the prayers of His children. Praying has no expiration date.

Easy or hard, we are called to pray. Pray without ceasing. And when we are bereft of the ability or the desire, we can rest in knowing that despite our lack, God never lacks. He’ll be there waiting for you.