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

 

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,

There is a strange mixture of overwhelming sadness and joy when I hear of a death of someone I know. This week the family-owned company my husband works for has been rocked by the death of two of its own. The president of this company leaves behind a young wife with little children, as well as his parents who have spent their whole lives working there. Another company member just watched her husband of twenty-two years die this afternoon. We have celebrated holidays, had company picnics and other functions together. We went to church with some of them. We are family. We have watched both men suffer and are so glad to have them finally free from pain and whole and healed in Your presence, Lord! We can indeed celebrate that!

Yet our excitement over their new lives is dimmed in the light of the pain we feel for those who are left behind to face life without them. I know You know the strange mixture of pain and joy. Even though Jesus knew He would raise his good friend Lazarus from the dead, He wept at the pain of those left grieving. How I wish I could take that all-too familiar pain away for the wives, their children and parents. I can’t. It is something they have to go through because they love. Never in history has there ever been another relationship exactly like theirs. Unique memories will rise up to honor and celebrate their special relationship.

To take away their pain would mean taking away the richness of their relationship. How I thank You for those deep lasting relationships that will span all eternity- that will pick up stronger and more complete than ever when we join them in Your home, Father. I might not be able to take away their pain, but I can weep with them, and listen as they recall special memories that become an even deeper part of their soul. I can be gentle with them as they walk through the valley of the shadow of death and come out stronger on the other side. Lord, most of all- I thank You that You will never leave them or forsake them. Nothing can separate them from Your love.  Father, I will continue praying for them during this difficult yet necessary time. Most of all, thank You that death is not the end but a new beginning!

*****

 

“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 11:33-35

“Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for You are with me…” Psalm 23:4

“A father to the fatherless, a defender of widows, is God in His Holy dwelling.”  Psalm 68:5

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Prayer Prompt-

Father, who can I pray for who has lost someone to death?

Heavenly Father,

Like millions of people today, I am both happy and sad that Billy Graham left this world to go home with You. Our world will miss Him.  It is incredible how You used one willing humble man to lead so many to an eternal relationship with Jesus Christ. I’ve been thinking how grateful I am for my own connections with him and his wife. Not only did several family members walk down a Billy Graham crusade aisle to begin their life with You through Jesus, but his wife Ruth was personally responsible for telling the editor of Decision magazine to publish my first series on marriage. I never met or spoke to her, but her encouragement kept me writing for You.

My husband and I volunteered like so many others at the last Mission OKC revival for three nights. (Again, one of my stories was published in the special OKC issue of Decision magazine handed out at Mission OKC.) It took two men to hold Billy up as they walked him to the podium. It was disheartening to see him so weak—until he sat down to speak. Then the power of the Holy Spirit took over! He seemed like the most powerful man alive as he once more led thousands to a new life through Jesus. But one instance surrounding that same revival spoke to me of the man Dr. Graham really is.

The day Mission OKC was to begin, a young man who was a good friend of my son had taken off work to go fishing at a city lake. He had been severely stressed by finances and his wife’s health and desperately needed a break. As he was fishing by himself when he noticed an old man slumped over on some rocks. He went to see if he could help. The old man lifted his head and smiled that Billy Graham smile and told him he was just fine but thanks for checking. He explained he always finds a solitary place to pray over a city before he preaches. Then he began to ask my son’s friend about his life. He ended up ministering to this burdened young man for almost two hours. Lord, I thank You for Billy Graham who was always ready and willing to lead people to Jesus whether it was one at a time or thousands at a time. I look forward to meeting him and his wife—after I fall into Your arms!

*****

Quote from Billy Graham: “One day you will hear that Billy Graham has died. Don’t believe it. On that day I will be more alive than I ever will be.”

“Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of His saints. O Lord, truly I am Your servant, the son of Your maidservant; You have freed me from my chains.”  Psalm 116:15-16

“Then I heard a voice from heaven say, ‘Write: Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on.’ ‘Yes,’ says the Spirit, ‘they will rest from their labor, for their deeds will follow them.’”   Revelation 14:13

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Prayer Prompt:

Lord God, help me answer Your call to come to You just as I am…

Heavenly Father,
Two new books I wrote are now released. It is my deepest desire to kick them off with prayer—both mine and hopefully others. My Forever Memories of You has been in the making for twenty years…ever since my first husband died at the age of thirty-seven, leaving me with our four children to raise. Perhaps, these books were actually in the making longer than that—for You, Lord Almighty, knew me, my husband and my children each before we were born. You already knew the wondrous plans You had for us. Your story is written in our lives and not just on paper.
The story of the adult version intertwines three remarkable relationships. One is the amazing story of my relationship with Steve, as I review our lives together after his passing. It is told mostly through excerpts from my personal prayer journal as I worked through my grief. Another story is the one the reader tells as they write their story of their unique relationship with the loved one they are grieving. They tell their story in journal pages and prompts in between mine. It helps them review, come to peace with, and realize how grateful they are for their amazing relationship no matter how long or short it might have been. The third relationship grows in depth and love as we both discover how You never ever leave us; that You walk with us through pain and joy; that You desire an eternal love relationship with us through Jesus Christ. It is Your everlasting love story for us that ties everything together.
Father, I lift both the adult and children’s version before You- asking that You use them in more miraculous ways than I even know to ask. May You use them to bring the deep comfort and peace to those who are brokenhearted. May You use them to draw the hopeless to You at such a critical crossroad in their life. May You use them to fill the deep void in broken lives with the overflowing fullness of Jesus Christ. May You use them to show Your love to adults and children who are grieving the loss of someone so very precious to them. May You even use them to bless those who read it out of curiosity just because they know me and want to hear our story, or want to support the ministry to the grieving. May these books be more than pages of words—but be about loving relationship. May whoever reads them, writes in them or gives them to someone who is grieving be blessed by a deeper relationship with You. How I praise You that You are still writing stories in each of our lives with the blood of Jesus and they are all gathered up in the Book of Life!
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“Jesus did many other things as well. If every one of them were written down, I suppose that even the whole world would not have room for the books that would be written.” John 21:25
“The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.” Psalm 34:18
“I did not see a temple in the city, because the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are its temple. The city does not need the sun or the moon to shine on it, for the glory of the God gives it light, and the Lamb its lamp. The nations will walk by its light, and the kings will bring their splendor into it. On no day will its gates ever be shut, for there will be no night there. The glory and honor of the nations will be brought into it. Nothing impure will ever enter it, nor will anyone who does what is shameful or deceitful, but only those whose names are written in the Lamb’s book of life.” Revelation 21:22-27
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Prayer Prompt-
Heavenly Father, I pray for these books to…

Heavenly Father,
On the same day this last week, one of my young cousins’ husband died and another dear friend was going through the year anniversary of her husband’s death. Having gone through the deep pain of a husband’s death almost 24 years ago, I knew some of what they were both facing. I so wanted to take away their pain, but I knew I couldn’t and shouldn’t. Grief is one of the deepest parts of love—when our hearts wail out from having part of ourselves ripped away. When someone who was a very part of us has to leave, it is though we are critically wounded. There has to be a period of pain, recovery and healing where they were once so intermingled with our own soul. Though there is not much I can say or do to take that pain away; but I can love, pray and offer hope that one can heal and go forward on our own journey with You, Lord.
How wrong it would be of me to try to tell someone else not to feel the pain when there is no way around it. You did not even spare Jesus’ suffering, but turned it into good. How uncaring to not listen to their pain even if it might be uncomfortable for me. How thoughtless it would be to never mention their loved one’s name for fear it might cause them tears when they need to know others still remember their loved one. Let me never avoid a grieving person because of my own fear of what to say or do. Help me to simply stand by them, to offer a listening ear, to let them openly cry or laugh or voice any emotion—even if it seems irrational. Let me quietly let them go through their grief in their own personal way.
Father, there is no way any one single person can be there twenty-four hours a day as someone grieves for however long it takes. Life goes on and we all have to go on living. Yet I can gently keep pointing them to You—the one who never leaves us or forsakes us (even when those closest to us had to go.) Lord, through this intense suffering and personal loss, I pray they discover You in a new and more personal way than ever before. I know it happens through the heart-wrenching process of grieving. I am proof. Lord, I continue to pray that the books You helped me write (which are about to be released)—one for adults and one for children—will help others go through their personal journey of grief with hope as they look to You in the midst of their pain. Let them not fear as they hold Your hand as they travel through the shadow of the valley of death—for You are with them as they go through and find eternal hope and healing in You.
*****
“Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; for You are with me; Your rod and staff, they comfort me.” Psalm 23:4
“Then He (Jesus) said to them, ‘My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with Me.’ Going a little farther, He fell with His face to the ground and prayed, ‘My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from Me. Yet not as I will, but as You will.’” Matthew 26:38-39
“I will turn their mourning into gladness; I will give them comfort and joy instead of sorrow.” Jeremiah 31:13b
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Prayer Prompt-
Father, I pray for __________ who is grieving…

Heavenly Father,

Forgive me when I don’t know the full story.  This morning, in so many words I told someone who had to ride out one of the recent hurricanes, that I was so glad they just lost power instead of their lives or their home. Then I was reminded the trauma that goes deeper than what appears on the outside. I should know that even though someone may look OK on the outside that things can be a whirlwind on the inside. After reading someone else’s post of the emotions that go on for quite a while after the storm has passed, I remembered what it was like when our home caught on fire. We were all physically unhurt. We didn’t lose all our possessions. Yet every little spark caused me to panic for months afterwards. I could smell the smoke long after it was cleaned. I had flashbacks of standing in the front yard with my family with no shoes, in our swimsuits thinking this was all we would have in the world as the fire raged. Everything in me wanted to stop the firemen from crawling into our burning home to save our material things and I wanted to yell, “It’s not worth your lives!”

How often do people look fine on the outside after a death of a loved one, during a traumatic illness, after a car accident or other traumatic event? I can’t help but think of all those who have gone through one of the recent disasters (hurricanes, wildfires, earthquakes…) and know that even though they say they are fine, there is so much more going on deep within their souls. They may not even know yet how to express it or how it will alter their lives. We may care deeply about them, but we do not know the aftermath of these critical life experiences and how they will affect each individual person. Obviously, there are those who lost loved ones or all they had. It will take years to grieve and go on. Even the ones who look OK, will have to go through surprising emotions as they deal with the aftermath of what could have been; how to survive until food, gas, medical help and shelter get worked out; how to deal with the flashbacks, panic and uncertainty. Though we look upon the outward appearance to evaluate how someone is doing, we have no idea what goes on deep in the heart, mind and soul of a person.

But You do, Lord! There is absolutely nothing hidden from You. When no one else understands what we are going through…You know. When we can’t even figure out our thoughts and emotions…You know us better than anyone else ever could. Whether we look ok to others or not…You know what is going on. When it seems like no one could possibly know what we are going through…You know. When it seems there’s no way out of our circumstances…You invite us to hold on to You, the One who created, us, knows us, loves us and died on our behalf so we could never be separated from You. Whether it looks like a disaster to others or not, You are our shelter, our refuge, our Safe Place, our Provider, our Savior, our Counselor, our Guide through it all. And You completely know us and love us. Help others come to know, trust and love You during this time during and after the crisis. Real life is getting to know the One who KNOWS us!

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“In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express. And He who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints in accordance with God’s will.”   Romans 8:26-27

“O Lord, You have searched me and You know me. You know when I sit down 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 know it completely, O Lord.” Psalm 139:1-4

“For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of Him to whom we must give account.”  Hebrews 4:12-13

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Prayer Prompt-

Father, search me deeply and help me in ways no one else can….

All-Knowing Heavenly Father,

It takes holiness to hold back sometimes. I’m seeing that more and more as I get older. I certainly didn’t understand when I was young. When I was younger, it seemed everything revolved around me. When I wanted a certain toy or dress, I thought I should get it right then. It appeared to me that my parents were being cruel or unreasonable to say “No” to my current whim. As I became a parent, I had to learn to hold back on granting my children’s every wish or demand. I knew what was best for them in the long run. Their development of good character was far more important than giving them momentary satisfaction. What a reward for one of my grown sons (after becoming a dad and admitting he used to get mad at us) to come back and genuinely thank us for not letting him watch certain movies, go to uncertain parties or play games with unstable morals. The greatest reward is seeing his awesome character.

Through the years, I’ve struggled with seeing those I care about in pain. At times, it’s been my husband, children, grandchildren or people who are grieving a death or a loss that has rocked their world. I just want to take away their suffering. But You have shown me the eternal value of holding back. If I tried to fix it, they might gain momentary relief…but if I hold back and simply stand with them in the pain and let You fix it in all Your holiness- there will be eternal results. You, Lord, are the only One who can see the whole picture. You, alone know the good which will come from holding back. That is why it is always better for me to wait upon You and Your perfect ways.

It is comforting to know that it must have been hard for You to hold back when Your Son Jesus struggled in the garden, was falsely accused, condemned to die an unjust death, whipped beyond recognition and hung on a cross to die. It was all part of Your plan to give us eternal life. It was part of Your plan since the very beginning. I can’t imagine the holy love it took for You to hold back when Jesus cried out in forsaken agony on the cross. He died alone without You for our sakes so we would never have to live without You. It would have been easy for You to take the cup from Him; to relieve His pain and suffering…yet You held back. You knew what His death and resurrection would mean to each of us. Father, help me hold back when it is part of Your plan …but let me hold nothing back when it comes to worshipping, loving, obeying and following You!

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“Going a little farther, he fell to the ground and prayed that if possible the hour might pass from Him. ‘Abba, Father,’ He said, ‘everything is possible for You. Take this cup from Me. Yet not what I will, but what You will.’”  Mark 14:35-36

“From the sixth hour until the ninth hour darkness came over all the land. About the ninth hour Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?” – which means, “my God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?”   Mathew 27:45

“Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial, because when he has stood the test, he will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love Him.”   James 1:12

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Prayer Prompt-

Most Holy Father, thank You for holding back when I ask for the wrong thing like…

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Heavenly Father,

I love the way You placed Jesus in a family. You chose to send Him to a sweet young girl who was only betrothed but not married yet. You knew Your Son would need a mother who could care for him, encourage and understand Him better than anyone else on earth- to the best of her understanding. You knew Mary’s willing heart and gave her that special place to carry Your Son and stand with Him from birth to the cross. You needed a special man who would step in to raise Jesus, knowing this baby was not of his own flesh and blood. Though you understood his initial hesitation, You always knew Joseph would answer Your call to be Your Son’s earthly stepdad! You knew You could trust Joseph to provide and protect Your own Son. It was all part of Your plan to place Your eternal Son in an earthly family.

I love watching how You place people in families- both biological and otherwise! I have witnessed how You placed children in my family through birth, marriage and many other amazing creative ways. Now, I get to watch You place other people in my children’s families in lots of ways. Recently, You placed three little siblings in my son and daughter-in-law’s lives to transform a childless couple into an instant family of five! These kids might have been forever separated had it not been for their willingness to gather these children into their family. They are willing to give up their own freedom to care for these children as their own. You still use Your own willing children to draw the lonely and needy into Your family!

More than that, You sent Jesus who was willing to be born in humble human form as a needy baby; to live and grow up in this dark and challenging world; to take on all our sin (though He was the only one holy and pure) so He could willingly die on the cross and rise again- all to gather us back into Your family! Many may feel lonely and isolated this Christmas due to death, grief, loss, separation or even the awful wounds of being abandoned or kicked out of a family. Father, thank You for sending Jesus to bring us home to You. No one can ever separate us from Your love! Because of Jesus Christ, we are part of Your eternal family!

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“Sing to God, sing praise to His name, extol Him who rides on the clouds- His name is the Lord- and rejoice before Him. A father to the fatherless, a defender of widows, is God in His holy dwelling. God sets the lonely in families…”   Psalm 68:4-6a

“He came to that which was His own, but His own did not receive Him. Yet to all who received Him, to those who believed in His name, He gave the right to become children of God- children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.”  John 1:11-13

“How great is the love the Father has lavished upon us, that we should be called the children of God! And that is what we are!”  1 John 3:1

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Prayer Prompt- Father, thank You for putting me in a family…