Unspeakable grief – when our words fail: The Word.

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It has been six weeks since my previous post and that’s because words lost all meaning when my sister called me to tell me there was no more hope for her little boy.  Then the sounds and words that came from my mouth are not ones I can rewrite. There is nothing that anyone can say to remove this awful thing, to mend their destroyed hearts, to bring back their child. For a while shock left us speechless. Later that evening we had to break the news to our children and my husband struggled to get the words out. How do you pass on this pain to your kids? Later we held each other as we cried aloud, our tears swallowing any attempts to pray.

I am a cracked pot, not really useful for much. I’ve been told that the cracks are good as those will better reveal the treasure that hides inside. I hate how it hurts though. I have been told to look after myself but I don’t know how to and I want to look after her instead. I am devastated that I couldn’t protect my younger sister or prevent the harm that came to her child. I’m clumsily hoping to fix her heart with my feeble attempts and struggling to accept I can’t. Their loss as parents is uniquely theirs and I cannot enter into that private space, all I can do is wait at the entrance. I can hope to show her love, to walk beside her and help carry her heavy burden. We can weep together. We can remember him and do things for his sake. We will never stop grieving his loss because we will always miss him and would never have stopped loving him.

The one helpful thing I know about mourning is that it is better when we don’t do it alone. Romans chapter 12 talks about what love looks like in action and it reminds us that we are to mourn with those who mourn. Our comfort comes with being together, even silently. Knowing there is another person who sits with you in your sorrow helps in a way which is hard to understand. But I hate to be told to be strong! We can’t ignore the grief just as much as we can’t ignore the death.

In verse 19 of Romans 12 it says “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord. There is no denying that my sister and husband have been grievously robbed. They were robbed of their child, shockingly fast, at Christmas time; and no person on this earth can avenge their loss. There is only one who has overcome death, only one who can pay back what has been taken from them and his name is Jesus. I think it is no co-incidence that another name for him is ‘The Word’. Speaking about him in John chapter 1 it says: ‘In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.’ and then in verse 14, ‘The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.’

Sometimes what we say to each other is meaningless, our words are trite and in our pathetic attempts to help we end up hurting. When all our words fail us and we are unable to comfort one another, there is only one place to turn that carries any meaning and significance beyond the hurt. There is only one Word that brings life and hope and healing, who knows our suffering and shares in it. He is the only one who has and will redeem us from all that has been lost, taken from us or by us.

I am unable to speak but I can know.

Only One Word.

Jesus.

 

 

Another year older, another year wiser?

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Christmas – a time of reflection, family, faith and a baby. I was thinking how a lot happens in 365 days and it made me wonder just how many babies are born each year. (Two arrived to two of my siblings so they are in part responsible). I did a little bit of an online search and good grief have you seen this world population website?! It’s not only fascinating but also a little frightening. The births and deaths are live, which makes my eyeballs pop with the thoughts that those numbers represent actual babies arriving breathlessly fast and people really dying, albeit a litle slower. And did you see how many people there are in the word today? Well no, you can’t  focus on the final digit as it keeps changing, but it is phenomenal that there are nearly 7 and a half billion of us weighing our planet down and according to this site there were only half that number of us the year before I was born. What happened lads!?!

I found these two articles published last year: In May the Journal.ie proclaimed: The Irish aren’t making as many babies as they used to… , however, it only took us two months as in July, according to the Irish IndependantBaby boom hits Ireland as we top the European birth rate. So in other words, although we are slowing down here on the Emerald Isle we are still ahead of the rest of Europe. Personally, I blame the wet weather and long winter evenings which keep us indoors.

Facebook told me this morning that one year ago I wrote the following. HA! One year older and wiser? It would be nice to know I’ve become a little wiser after a whole year of trying:

The 12 Guilts of Christmas I gave to myself:
1. I Don’t feel like Cooking a Huge Dinner for a Crowd Guilt
2. I Spent Too Much on that Gift Guilt
3. This Gift was Too Cheap Guilt
4. Forgot the Teacher’s Present Guilt
5. Once Again Didn’t Do a ‘Locally Produced’ Christmas Guilt
6. Bought an ‘alternative’ non-Christmas Tree the Kids Hate Guilt
7. Threw away some of the hand made tree decorations the children made for the past ten years because we have too many, (whew) Guilt
8. Want Really Nice Presents for Myself Guilt
9. Haven’t Bought Supplies for the Charity Hampers yet Guilt
10. Worry Too Much About Christmas Guilt
11. Keep Forgetting the True Meaning of Christmas Guilt
12. And after Christmas, The Undelivered Cards/Gift Guilt

This is what I have learnt:

Number one: I DO want to cook the dinner this year as we will be in the home of my sister and her husband who have spent the past few weeks in hospital with their youngest child.

Number two to twelve. The rest of the items on this list don’t matter anymore, we just want the little guy to be home for Christmas.

It’s a good thing we don’t know what’s in store for us in the year ahead, there’s always bad mixed in with the good. I wouldn’t wish difficult experiences on anyone else but I think going through them is a refining process which can bring something precious to the surface. I’m glad that Christmas comes at the end of the year to remind us of what is most valuable, like people and their babies. We only seem to appreciate them when we are close to losing or have lost them. It makes me realise once again how precious are we to Him who made us and who sent his only son as a humble baby even though He knew how much it would cost Him, so that we may not be lost but found in Him. Merry Christmas everyone.

I will refine them like silver
    and test them like gold.
They will call on my name
    and I will answer them;
I will say, ‘They are my people,’
    and they will say, ‘The Lord is our God.’” Zech 13:9

Park your Mind in the Trolley Bay…

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..and then step right in to your supermarket. Don’t stop to think twice, it’ll cost you either a pretty penny, your health, or your conscience.

So, the other night I had an hour to kill between fetching and carrying children from here to there and decided to spend it peacefully exploring the largest supermarket in town. Aren’t we lucky to have such a place? I can tell you it’s a wonderful experience wanting only one item but having oodles of time in which to get it. After finding what I needed I spent the rest of the time perusing the aisles discovering what it is other people love to bring home.

I usually buy my groceries in a cheap German store where there are so few brand choices, mentally not much is required of me and all I need to decide is whether it’s cheaper to buy the chopped or whole tinned tomatoes. It’s even quite exciting to see what the special buys are of the week as you never know when you may need a pump for your car tyres or a knitted jersey dress in one of three colours. I’ve put my finger on why it is one’s irritability levels subtley rise when having to fill a trolley with produce in any supermarket as large as the one I was in that night. There is simply too much to choose from and we are spoilt for choice. You end up spending more than you meant to as well. Oh yes, and its takes aaaayges to find your way from the entrance back to the tills.

Our cavemen forebears had no choices about ethical/local produce/health food shopping, they didn’t know how lucky they had it. What did they care for carbon footprinting and organic or seasonal ingredients? Shopping is meant to be way easier for the modern housewife but it’s very tricky when wearing blinkers. This is what I’d recommend:

  1. Do not take a second glance at the Fairtrade labelled products for fear of having to pay extra, or worse, having to consider that others may be disadvantaged though your shopping choices. Keep your eyes averted and skim over to the neighbour product which will cost you far less.
  2. Just one particular aisle, if you are unlucky (lucky is if it’s just a tiny section of an obscure aisle which, not even somebody working in the shop will know where to find) will be proudly bannered ‘Health Food’. So, could the rest of the supermarket, all other eight aisles where the majority of people shop, technically be displayed as ‘Unhealth Food, Illness Food or Sickness Food’? Hard to decide which label would stick. Look, how seriously do you take your health? (Really, to be ultra concerned for those who’d like to live for ever, there ought to be table manned by Christians with ‘Eternal Life Food’: get your Bread of Life (John 6) and Living Water (John 4), for free.)
  3. The ‘Free From’ section should be avoided at all costs as the main ingredients missing here are sugar and wheat. More like Free From Fun. Definitely Free From Money after shopping here. (I spotted some interesting looking wraps made from quinoa and chia and other ingredients with exotic birdy sounding names. They reminded me of those balls you hang in your garden in the winter time to help our feathered friends along a bit, perhaps after having been flattened by an SUV – the ball, not the bird. I worked out that one wrap here would the same as a packet of six in the deadly ‘Ordinary Bread’ section).
  4. Beware of food containing Chia! Apparently it is the food of the ancient Aztecs and just would you look at what happened to them? If any were alive today they definitely would be ancient I suppose, to be fair maybe the stuff really works – we just don’t know it.
  5. Shopping for your baby is fraught with difficulties. It’s a good thing the writing is so tiny under the list of ingredients, who wants to know what manner of nasties is being included in baby food these days? It’s hard enough being a parent! And those baby wipes containing alcohol could be handy for some truely desperate folk.
  6. As a final insult, sadly don’t count on there being chocolate bars at the check out anymore. It is profoundly disapointing not to be able to reward oneself at the last minute. After all the stress of shopping avoidance who on earth would want a health bar or trail mix? All I can say is how thoughtful they are in my personal favourite supermarket that they have brought out dinky bottles of wine and cans of G’nT within an arm’s reach of the tills. Who needs chocolate then? Definitely not harassed housewives with nothing better to do than to bring the shopping home.

 

The Waiting Game

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I will fear no evil,
for you are with me. Psalm 23

Such a simple phrase and so easy to say but Oh so very difficult to put into practice. Each time I contact my sister to get updates on my young nephew in ICU my heart feels like it is being squeezed tight and all the world around blurs together in one dizzying swirl.

I am angry and want to protect my little sister from this terrible evil, how dare it come into her home! We are all praying for his recovery and hoping for good news but in the meantime the waiting is awful. And then nasty words I don’t want to even mention like anomaly and cancer start getting thrown around and how on earth is one meant to accept those?

Forget about goodness and love following one all our days, right now our only constant companion is the phone. It was the same when my Dad went missing years ago. The waiting game is the worst part. Every little moment is spent with one ear listening for a message or a call.

Well I give up, I hate this game and I don’t want to play it anymore.

Please can we skip right to the end of it all now where ‘God will wipe away every tear from their eyes’?

 

 

Mr. McGuffin’s Plot Device And Writer Unblocking Emporium

Here’s Tara’s post which inspired my Writer Number Four today, thanks Tara!

Tara Sparling writes

Today I’m over on Headstuff, the online cultural hub, with the following skit. Headstuff love content with actual content in it so I’m delighted to be there.

I reckon we’ve never needed a laugh more than we do this week, so here is my contribution to our newly hyper-globalised human condition.

*************************************

The shop door bell of Mr McGuffin’s Plot Device and Writer Unblocking Emporium tinkles pleasantly, announcing the entry of Writer 1, a woman wearing pyjamas and swathed in several cardigans. Mr McGuffin stands to greet her.

Mr McGuffin: Good morning, Madam.

Writer 1: Good morning. I’d like to buy a plot device, please.

Mr McGuffin: Certainly Madam. What genre are you writing in?

Writer 1: Crime, mainly. But lately, I’ve been branching into grip-lit. You know. Thrillers, that kind of stuff.

Mr McGuffin: Ah. Luckily, we do have a new grip-lit section. Tell me, is your crime domestic or commercial?

Writer 1:

View original post 889 more words

Writer Number Four

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Many thanks to Tara Sparling, most excellent of writers, as the idea for this post was inspired by her latest blog Mr McGuffin’s Plot Device and Writer Unblocking Emporium. If you read hers first what follows below will make more sense.

Another woman enters the shop, she is wearing a baggy t-shirt and a pair of tracksuit bottoms. She looks exhausted. Mr McGuffin wrinkles his nose at the odour of sour milk and, is that scrambled egg crusted on her knees?

Writer 4: I need some drugs

Mr McGuffin: I think you may have the wrong shop my dear.

Writer 4: Um, no. I read about you on the internet chatroom when I was feeding the baby. They said you could help me.

Mr McGuffin: What then is it you are looking for exactly?

Writer 4: Something to boost my confidence, maybe to take me back a decade or two?

Mr McGuffin: Mm you’ve left it quite long, I have something under the counter but it’s fairly potent. You will need to take it everyday for at least half an hour.

Squinting he reads the label.

Possible side effects include loss of grasp on reality, invisibility of present surroundings and people. Contraindicated for breastfeeding.

Writer 4: The half an hour a day could be a problem but I’ll take it, I’m desperate.

Mr McGuffin looks away as her eyes begin to well up.

Writer 4: *Gasp* Is that the time? I was meant to be at the playschool to fetch my older two kids 45 minutes ago! And the baby – where’s my baby – I can’t remember where I left the baby!!

She dashes out of the door yelling hysterically. Mr McGuffin sighs as he wipes off the dusty bottle left behind on the counter top. Not yet, he thinks to himself, but some do come back.

 

 

 

Deep despair, deeper grace.

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There are some nights when sleep eludes me and the thoughts of all I’ve left undone enlarge themselves until the pressure of their weight heats me up to the point that I have to throw off my bedclothes. Then in the bathroom I run the cold tap ’til it’s icy and drink straight from the spout. Last night was like that, my winter pj’s were stifling and my eyes spilled my frustration at not being able to sleep along with the fears of being overwhelmed by what I have committed to do. I’m trying to be as quiet as possible so as not to disturb my husband and when he whispers ‘Are you alright?’, I answer ‘Yes’.

Partly it’s the constant choices one has to make that are wearing, wearying, worrying. When I’m not trying to make the right decisions as one of the parents responsible for the four young lives in this house, I’m trying to figure out how to balance the bit of freelance work that comes my way along with childminding a couple of other people’s children and volunteer work at school and church ministry. In the middle of this I’m wanting to be a good and loving wife. The housework and upkeep of the garden is always last on the list so an unironed school shirt at 9pm or pile of dirty dishes in the sink is enough to turn me really nasty.

Aren’t we are all the same, juggling a million balls, trying to keep them all nicely timed and up in the air? It takes a moment to recognise which balls ought to be eliminated from the group so that the rest can be caught each time. It should be easy to know which are the most valuable, most of the time it is. Maybe the problem is I’d like to believe I am more able than I actually am sometimes.

Lately I have been thinking more about Sabbath rest. I know it is extremely important, that it brings rejuvenation and life, that the worship it incorporates is fundamental to the core of who I am. There are many days though when the scent of it is an elusive odour that I am chasing around corners. It’s always my fault then for doing the chasing, for not stopping to realise that what I am running after was here with me all along.

This morning I realised that God is far bigger than the box I had Him in yesterday and that He continues to bless me in unexpected places. When my friend gave me flowers I cried again but I wasn’t able to fully articulate all that it meant to me.  She wasn’t to know the timing of her gesture or a deeper significance of flowers right now that I haven’t explained.

What I know is that it’s always when I look to Him that I see more clearly who He is and then who I am through His reflection. ‘Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when Christ appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is.’ 1 John 3:2  When I read these words I am amazed, that we should be like Christ! What mercy and love has been shown to us, the depths of it are impossible to fathom but ours to plumb; as deep as we dare and way deeper than our despair.

I believe in a blessing I don’t understand
I’ve seen rain fall on wicked and the just
Rain is no measure of his faithfulness
He withholds no good thing from us

I believe in a peace that flows deeper than pain
That broken find healing in love
Pain is no measure of his faithfulness
He withholds no good thing from us

I believe in a fountain that will never dry
Though I’ve thirsted and didn’t have enough
Thirst is no measure of his faithfulness
He withholds no good thing from us

I will open my hands, will open my heart
I am nodding my head an emphatic yes
To all that You have for me

Lyrics from ‘Open My hands’ by Sara Groves