Dear friends,

Some of you are dealing not only with the death of your loved one, but you are facing all that comes with a violent death. Perhaps it was a suicide, a traumatic accident or a murder. I wanted to encourage you today. Death is such a shock anyway. Even when you know it might happen, you’re never quite prepared for its reality. God created our minds and spirits for eternity- not for death. There are times life is cut short in a very violent traumatic occurrence.

When that happens, we not only are dealing with the sudden loss of our loved one’s presence, but we have to come to terms with the violent activity that caused it. There are so many emotions that happen with a violent death. There are times we are haunted by the last moments our loved one had to endure. There could be guilt that we didn’t see it coming or couldn’t protect them. Unanswered questions have to be wrestled with. Things out of our control must be eventually let go. Nightmares of what they must have gone through keep flashing in our minds. These are all issues that call out to be dealt with and somehow accepted so we can eventually go forward with our lives. Writing out your true feelings and emotions in a prayer journal to the Lord are one of the very best ways to deal with all these issues. Even if you don’t get all the answers you would like, you will receive His help and peace as you continually hold all these crazy emotions before Him. (There are some important chapters in the My Forever Memories of You book which can help you work through your own personal emotions related to violent deaths.)

When one of my loved ones committed suicide, it was as though time was split in half—before and after his death. It is amazing what the Lord can help you heal from. There is no pain, no wound, no trauma, no violence that can separate us from the love of Christ Jesus. In our very last breath—no matter what caused the death, Jesus is there. Death in all its forms is a result of sin in this world. God’s desire is for us to have eternal life. The thief on the cross next to Jesus was dying a violent death. He asked Jesus to remember him and Jesus promised, as they both were dying, that he would be with Him that day in paradise. Take comfort in knowing that the Lord was with your loved one in their very last moment no matter who or what caused their death. He is also with you, my friend, as you deal with the violent death of your loved one. Ask for His peace and He will give you that peace that goes beyond comprehension.

Love and prayers

“No longer will violence be heard in your land, nor ruin or destruction within your borders, but you will call your walls Salvation and your gates Praise. The sun will no more be your light by day, nor will the brightness of the moon shine on you, for the Lord will be your everlasting light, and your God will be your glory.”  Isaiah 60:19-20

“Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? As it is written: ‘For your sake we face death all day long; we are considered sheep to be slaughtered.’ No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loves us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers , neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”  Romans 8:35-39

 

Heavenly Father,

Life certainly does not stand still. Graduations are a picture of that. This is the time of year, we teachers say goodbye to children we have cared for since they were on bottles. Sometimes, they are moving up to the next class. Other times, they are leaving our school. It is so bittersweet. Those young souls we have poured our hearts and energy into for however long we had them in our care are graduating from us. Whether we think they are ready or not, they are leaving our little nest. They are branching out into a larger world.

In some ways, we are ready to see them go. So many times, they begin to let us know they need the next step, more challenge, a larger environment to test and explore. In other ways, it’s hard to let them go. They have become our babies, our students. We have invested our lives into them. We know we may not see them again—at least not in the same way. We wonder, “Did we teach them all they needed?” “Could we have done better?” “Will they be OK?” “Will the next teacher be as loving, patient and understanding of their particular quirks?”

Father, thank You for letting us having them for the point in their lives we had them. Let the seeds of love, curiosity, kindness, respect, confidence and trust grow and flourish as they go forward. We hand them off to their next teacher, trusting that You are placing them in their care for the next step. We pray for both the child and their next teacher to continue to build upon what You have instilled in this precious child who is leaving us. It helps to know that You are with them every step of the way. Bless them and their family. As this child graduates from our care and goes forward, may their life be a blessing to this world. Thank You for letting us have a small part along the way.

****

“Not many of you should presume to be teachers, my brothers, because you know that we who teach will be judged more strictly.”(because of our influence)  James 3:1

“…so in Christ we who are many form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. We have different gifts according to the grace given us. If a man’s gift is prophesying, let him use it in proportion to his faith. If it is serving, let him serve; if it is teaching, let him teach…” Romans 12:5-7

“Similarly, encourage the young men to be self-controlled. In everything set them an example by doing what is good. In your teaching, show integrity, seriousness and soundness of speech that cannot be condemned, so that those who oppose you may be ashamed because they have nothing bad to say about us.”  Titus 2:6-8

Heavenly Father,

We in America love our independence. We do not bow to an earthly king. We barely treat our elected earthly authorities with respect. But I come before You this morning to acknowledge Your Son Jesus as my King. You are the Creator of all, the Eternal Ruler and Greatest Authority. Others may come and go, but You, Lord reign forever with no beginning or end. You rule with justice and mercy and wisdom. You are never defeated or caught off guard. No one can discover any hidden sin or scandal in You because You are pure and holy. You do not misuse Your power in any way. You do not abuse us, mistreat us or overtax us. You love us and long to save us from the tyranny of sin’s rule.

Your Kingdom is not of this world, yet it is over this world. You allow us to do our own thing even though it hurts us. You do not coerce us into bowing before You but wait until we see our great eternal need for You. You want more than subjects or servants; You desire children who freely love and adore You. You do not send armies to crush us into submission but sent Your own Son Jesus from heaven to pay the death penalty for our sin. Not one of us can make it into Your Kingdom without accepting Jesus’ death for us on a cross and experiencing His resurrection. There is nothing else we need to do. It is too good to be true—yet it is! Jesus is the only One worthy to bring us into Your kingdom. He is the One who gives us eternal citizenship—even more, He makes us co-heirs along with Him. He transforms us into His likeness though His resurrection power.

We gain so much by belonging to Your Kingdom- peace, love, joy, eternal life. Even on this earth, You never leave us or forsake us. We belong to Your victorious eternal kingdom that holds all power and authority over anyone and anything else. Yet, it is not about us. It is truly all about You! We can trust You. We bow down to You. We acknowledge who created us, sustains us, saves us and invites us into Your kingdom. This life on earth is short. Eternity is forever. You reign forever! Glory to our eternal King!

*****

“Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!”  Luke 19:38

“Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory for ever and ever. Amen.” 1 Timothy 1:17

“Great and marvelous are Your deeds, Lord God Almighty. Just and true are Your ways, King of the ages. Who will not fear You, O Lord, and bring glory to Your name? For You alone are holy. All nations will come and worship before You, for Your righteous acts have been revealed.” Revelation 15:3-4

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Prayer Prompt-

Almighty God, Let me be still and worship and honor You…

 

Dear friends,

There are many people who truly fear something is wrong with them because they cannot cry. They know they are grieving. Yet, there are no tears. Every single one of you is different and will grieve in your own way. That’s why anything I write about grief in My Forever Memories books, in this blog or in the years of being there for wonderful people while grieving never promises that there are certain steps or stages you have to go through in any certain order. Each of you has a unique God-given personality and the relationship you are grieving is completely different than any that has ever existed before. So naturally your grief will be unique from anyone else’s.

Some people’s tears flow fluently as their expression of the physical presence they are missing. Others almost can’t make themselves cry. Both tend to worry that something is wrong with them due to too little or too many tears. In fact, there is a whole chapter in the My Forever Memories book dedicated to one of the questions I’ve been asked the most over the years by those grieving, “Am I Going Crazy?”

I happened to be one who couldn’t cry at first. There was obviously deep pain but no tears fell for a while. I knew how much I loved my husband and thought something was wrong with me because I couldn’t cry. I think I even knew I needed to let all those pent up tears go, but to no avail. The flood came unexpectedly as I was watching a silly sitcom about a little puppy that died. It wasn’t even real. The tears burst like a broken dam and started flowing. It seems like it was almost 2 months after my husband’s death.

Try not to be any harder on yourself than grief already is. Just know you are grieving in your own style. Grief involves much more than tears. Just don’t completely avoid grief, because it’s better to go through it purposely so you don’t carry unresolved grief for the rest of your life.

Love and prayers

 

“Out of the depths, I cry to You, O Lord; O Lord, hear my voice. Let Your ears be attentive to my cry for mercy.”  Psalm 130:1-2 (Cries are not always with tears)

Dear friends,

“Jesus wept.” The shortest verse in the whole Bible is packed full of meaning for those who are grieving. It comes in the middle of a story of Jesus’ good friends who happened to be siblings, Mary, Martha and Lazarus. Jesus came to the sisters when their brother died. He “wept” at the sight of His beloved friend Mary weeping. Weeping is not the same as a tear rolling down the cheek. Those who grieve usually know what weeping means. It comes deep from within. It is full body, mind and spirit crying out in anguish. Jesus didn’t weep for Lazarus because He knew Lazarus was going to be brought back to life. The Son of God wept for the broken human heart He felt in Mary’s weeping. He cried along with her.

Sometimes believers think it’s not ok to grieve if we truly believe in eternal life through Jesus Christ. Jesus knew all about eternal life and He wept. Martha believed in a resurrection-to-come for her brother yet she still grieved. That’s when Jesus told her, “I am the resurrection and the life.”  Yet Jesus still wept. Even now, our Savior sits on the throne and intercedes for us. I often wonder if He cries with us when we grieve. Even though He knows our loved ones have left this world, He cries for those left behind. He sees and knows the pain that no one else could fully understand. He knows. He weeps with us.

We weep and grieve for our loss- not for our loved one’s gain. Jesus’ weeping does not last forever, for our Lord knows the true joy to come. He sees what we cannot see- our loved ones life with Him, our own coming resurrection, the joyful reunion with our loved ones with NO MORE goodbyes, and most of all our complete joy as we come home to Him. Dear friends, your weeping will not last forever (although many believe it will at the time). Go ahead and weep, but not as one without hope. Jesus weeps with you right now, knowing that the day will come when there will be no more tears or death.

Love and prayers.

“When Mary reached the place where Jesus was and saw Him, she fell at His feet  and said, Lord, if You had been here, my brother would not have died.” When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come along with her also weeping, He was deeply moved in spirit and troubled. “Where have you laid him?” He asked. “Come and see, Lord,” they replied. Jesus wept.”  John 11:32-35

Heavenly Father,

My yard is full of stories. The Live Oak tree in my back yard was a dinky six-foot tall tree with two small trunks about 1 ½ inches in diameter twenty years ago when half of a massive elm tree fell on top of it during a major storm. It was bent clear to the ground under the weight of half of a full grown tree. I thought for certain it was gone. It even had a big crack in the base of the trunk. When my husband cut the weight off of it, that small tree sprung back upright straight as an arrow pointing to the sky. I watched it over time, thinking the damage probably destroyed the main part of the trunk, but it continued to grow stronger than ever. Today, it shades our whole patio we built below it. We enjoy its shade as we sip coffee, read, and entertain family and friends under it.

A few days ago, my husband cut down a big branch of another tree I asked him to remove. (He likes his chainsaw!) A twelve-foot branch fell, standing up on its end right on top of a beautiful tender Hosta Lily. That same Hosta froze all the way to the ground in a late freeze earlier this spring. Even under all the harsh conditions, it is coming out lovelier than ever. Every single plant has a story. Not only is my small yard full of broken stories that are flourishing with life…but the whole world is!

Lord, I see people all around who are either broken, going through a storm, or under tremendous pressure. Some of the brokenness is a result of personal choices; other times it is simply part of this life. It might seem like the end of the world to them, but I know You are at work. You are allowing their circumstances to cause them to grow stronger, to develop deeper compassion, to help their trust in You to flourish though they cannot see the outcome, to bring about eternal life through Jesus Christ under what appears to be death…Whether it is in my life, my family members’ lives, those I love and those I barely know, I trust You are bringing new life out of the brokenness. May we all stand up with our scars of brokenness, offering our own personal story of brokenness to flourishing with the glory of Jesus’ eternal life growing in us.

******

“The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit. A righteous man may have many troubles, but the Lord delivers him from them all…” Psalm 34:18-19

“He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.”  Psalm 147:3

“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”  Romans 8:28

*****

Prayer Prompt-

Father, help me surrender to You my brokenness of_________

Good morning, dear friends!

I know Mother’s Day is on a lot of your minds. It is a hard day for so many of you who have lost your wife, mom, an infant, or an adult or young child.

A lot of these special days can be painful. Sometimes the anticipation of the pain is almost worse than how it turns out. Other times, it can be extremely challenging as you watch others celebrate with their loved ones who are still with them. There will be a temptation to be angry, bitter or envious.

It is best to have some kind of plan in place. However you used to celebrate this day, it has definitely changed and you cannot make it go back the way it was–no matter how badly you want to. But you can certainly make a simple plan how you will face this day and still honor your loved one in some way. The following are simply examples. You may come up with something as unique as your precious loved one.

 

*Plant a rose bush or some other perennial type flower in their honor.

*Write them a Mothers’ Day letter or card telling them what you appreciate about them.

*If you lost a baby or child, write a letter with all your dreams and hopes you had for them.

*Write a letter to the Lord telling Him thank You for the gift He gave you through them.

*Go to church to thank God for the gift He gave you in them.

*Wear something that signifies them in your life (necklace, white flower, a hat…) Be ready to tell others you are wearing it for them. That’s all you have to say unless you want to say more.

*If you are ready (and only if and when) you could give something of theirs to another mom or child in remembrance of them

*Or get them a gift you know they would like and find someone to give it to.

*Eat their favorite meal.

*Watch their favorite movie or read their favorite book.

Yes, some of these or other things you might have thought of, sound painful but it will actually help in the long run. It is important to review your life together, no matter how long or short the time you had with one another. One of the most important purposes of grief is to reflect and be able to be thankful for their life. When you do that, it helps you be able to find a way to go on until you are reunited forever.

Also, don’t feel guilty for taking a break from grief to laugh, smile and enjoy a moment. I won’t say “Happy Mothers’ Day” but I will pray that it becomes a richer, deeper, more meaningful day because of the love you share with your loved one.

Love and prayers.

“Her children arise and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praises her…” Proverbs 31:28

Heavenly Father,

Those warning lights on the dashboard of my van are there for a reason. Sometimes I pay attention to them, and other times I decide it must just be a faulty sensor and I ignore it. Those lights are there to warn us to stop and see what’s wrong. If we ignore it too long, it could mean a huge expense or the end of the vehicle. They come on to warn us to fasten our seatbelts, change our oil, check our tires or some kind of fluid level (oil and gas are critical!), or a serious issue such as our engine or transmission.

I have come to realize You put warning lights in our lives. The closer we pay attention to You, the more we realize those flashing lights in our spirit are trying to warn us. When our peace, love and joy are running low, when we are running out of energy, when our inner GPS doesn’t know where to go next, when we get overheated, when fear or bitterness start rearing their ugly heads…we need to STOP and run to You! We need to run to our strong tower to get refreshed, renewed, redirected, and checked out. Since You are the One who made us, You are the One who knows how to get us back in alignment with Your specifications for us personally. You, alone can fine tune us and keep us going on this road of life.

I used to get mad when something went wrong with my car. It’s a machine. It should simply serve its purpose! But it has to be given the proper care and maintenance to do what it was designed for. It has to have regular input of gas and oil to even operate. I have to follow the manufacturer’s instructions. Father, help me pay attention to those warnings lights in my spirit which You use to let me know I need to come back to You. Remind me not to try to keep going despite the warnings. Help me learn to let you fill me, tune me and guide me at all times, and to STOP right away when there is a warning signal, and come to You.

*****

“He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak. Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.” Isaiah 40:29-31

“Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.”  Psalm 51:12

“You are my hiding place; You will protect me from trouble and surround me with songs of deliverance.”  Psalm 32:7

*****

Prayer Prompt-

Heavenly Father, let me stay in Your presence until I am filled with Your peace…

 

Heavenly Father,

I usually go out in my yard at least once a day this time of the year just so I can see the changes and growth from the day before. There is so much joy in watching for each new sprout and flower. I may have planted them, but I surely do not have the power to make them come to life and flourish. I simply give them a little water and fertilize occasionally but these plants are a lot of fun to watch grow from tiny plants to lush bushes producing miraculous fruit and flowers.

It may be the most rewarding to rescue plants about to be discarded. I can see their potential so I prune, transplant in the right place and nurture them along until they are thriving. Before you know it, they are blessing everyone around including me. My yard is full of plants carried over through the winter. Most people would have thrown them away because they looked so damaged or dead…but I have witnessed how You work, Lord! You specialize in reviving and bringing life to worthless looking things and people! All it takes is Jesus Christ! He makes all things new!

As much as I love watching for new growth in plants, what I am blessed with in a far greater way is watching new growth in the people around me. What a joy to see someone that the world would discard as useless begin to show new signs of growth from the live-saving spirit of Jesus who came to rescue them. You love to take the broken, winter damaged, almost dead, worthless-looking people and infuse them with the glorious new life of Jesus. What beauty and fruit emerges! Not because of anything we could do except believe and accept the new life You give us through Your Son’s death for our sins and resurrection for our new life. I know…because You are always transforming me! Jesus’ life flows through my veins. But I also love watching the new growth You are bringing out in those around me! Glory to Jesus who makes all things new!

*****

“I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God made it grow. So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything. But only God, who makes things grow.”  1 Corinthians 3:6-7

“You did not choose Me, but I chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit—fruit that will last. Then the Father will give you whatever you ask in My name. This is My command: Love each other.”  Jesus in John 15:16-17

“It has given me great joy to find some of your children walking in the truth, just as the Father commanded us.” 2 John 1:4

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Prayer Prompt-

Father, help me see eternal life through Jesus Christ growing in myself and others…