Anymore till evermore

I don’t hurt the same way at Christmas anymore.

I don’t dread the holiday season anymore.

I don’t desire to isolate myself at this time of year anymore.

This is Christmas number five since my son left this life. There was a time when I felt the heaviness would always return at this time of year. It doesn’t anymore. Grief continues but it has changed very much over time. Time is a friendly healing balm that the bereaved use daily to close the wounds and soften the scars.

We don’t leave the Christmas decorations in storage anymore. We do not choose to work on the holidays anymore. The spirit of the season has been given new life to us with the birth of our first grandchild.

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Holiday seasons changed suddenly to heartache five years ago and each passing year it morphs again. I am not in constant pain at this time of year anymore. The dull ache continues but the stabbing pains have become infrequent and short-lived when they visit my soul. Pain doesn’t dominate my life this time of year anymore.

This Christmas season I have embraced with open arms. It was once intolerable, it became tolerated but now has new welcomed traditions.

I empathize with the bereaved especially at this time of year. It’s so hard to endure. I thought the day would never come where “anymore” would be in my vocabulary. But it is and I am very pleased to use it.

Anymore has become one of the greatest gifts of the Christmas season. But there is something eternally better on the horizon. Anymore will become evermore.

Assured eternal hope is better than the temporary comforts of all my “anymores.” Hope changes everything because someday the journey will be complete, the pain will cease and there will be no more tears. Anymore!

“God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away.” Revelation 21:4

Live in evermore hope my friends and enjoy the anymore steps in your journey with grief. Grace and peace to you all this holiday season.

 

 

 

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Overcoming seasonal depression by the two advents of hope.

This Christmas is our fourth holiday season without our beloved Jacob. Much has changed in our lives since his departure. Much is an understatement of the truth I suppose. Truth is, everything has changed and nothing is the same for us in life which especially includes our holiday observances.

Stacey and I have often said to each other, “I can’t believe this is our life.” It’s as if we walked through the wardrobe into Narnia but the way back was lost to us. If I were given the script for our biography to read five years ago I would have placed it in the genre of fiction. I guess truth is truly stranger than fiction. Through it all I have found the words of king David to ring true and provide much comfort for my soul.

The Lord is near to those who have a broken heart,
And saves such as have a contrite spirit.

 Many are the afflictions of the righteous,
But the Lord delivers him out of them all.
 He guards all his bones;

I am thankful that God is near me, that he saves me, delivers me, guards me and protects me in all my troubles. This is especially true at this time of year when seasonal depression and waves of grief can overcome my heart so quickly.

I remember the terrible dread of those first couple holiday seasons. I also remember hearing from others who had lost children that the grief will change, it will get better but Christmas will never be the same. I have found this to be true.

The Christmas season is here again and advent is being observed by many Christians. We all get a little short-sighted at this time of year. The holiday buzz is everywhere and I can get distracted quickly with all the sights, sounds and smells of the season. I can also easily get swamped by grief and focus on the empty chairs in the family room. My eyes can lose their focus very fast. When hope is forgotten, comfort is forfeited and despair grips my heart when I lose sight of the reason for the season.

The coming of Emanuel was prophesied by Isaiah. The hope of nations was born in Bethlehem, placed in a manger and later nailed to a cross for the redemption of all who believe. He walked out of the grave, showed himself to many witnesses, ascended to the right hand of God and now Christians wait for the great second advent of the King.

God comforts the Christian. He dries the tears of his children with the tissue of hope. My hope is anchored in the reality that Jesus is coming again. As a believer in Christ I do not grieve as the world grieves because I have a living hope. I have God. This brings me great consolation.

All my sorrow will someday be turned into joy when I see Jesus face to face and he reunites me with my boy. All this is possible because the promised advent of Messiah was fulfilled in Jesus over 2000 years ago. The second advent is assured by Jesus himself and secured by his victory over sin and death through his resurrection from the dead.

In My Father’s house are many dwelling places; if it were not so, I would have told you; for I go to prepare a place for you. If I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself, that where I am, there you may be also. John 14:2-3

The prophesied first advent is over and the promised second advent is soon to come. There is something far better waiting for those who love him and watch for his appearing. I encourage you to wait patiently in hopeful anticipation as you endure the many trials of this life. I leave you with theses comforting words of God penned through the apostle Paul.

13 But I do not want you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning those who have fallen asleep, lest you sorrow as others who have no hope. 14 For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who sleep in Jesus. 15 For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord will by no means precede those who are asleep. 16 For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. 17 Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord. 18 Therefore comfort one another with these words. 1 Thessalonians 4:15-17

Merry Christmas Jake!

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A joyful and hope filled Christmas to you all!

 

 

An unexpected and inexpressible gift

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I received the most amazing gift from my wife this Christmas. I was caught a bit off guard when I received it because we decided not to exchange gifts with each other. The gift came unwrapped, without a bow but was to me the most beautiful and thoughtful thing I have ever received. I say it was thoughtful, actually I am certain it was deeper than that. Though the gift was spontaneous, impulsive and emotional when presented to me I have come to realize it came from the deepest part of her heart and soul.

From Thanksgiving to New years day we endured the holiday season for the third time without our son Jacob and Stacey’s mother. Linda died suddenly six weeks after our son and I can see in my wife’s eyes the grief she carries for both of them. I struggled again to get through this holiday season but in my heart I believe Stacey’s struggle with heartache may be double what mine is. There is no way to measure this and most people haven’t a clue-but I do.

Not many words are shared between us about the pain we feel during the Christmas season. Yet volumes could be written from the unsaid words that our souls communicate to each other. Sometimes by just the meeting of our eyes and other times the holding of our hands we say it all.

Grief always finds a way to be released. It builds, it creates pressure and eventually that pressure finds it way out. It could be expressed by tears, in anger, in frustration, by sullenness, isolation or a myriad of other ways. It was New Years eve and Stacey’s grief came to a head and when released (strange as it may seem) it became the most amazing gift she has ever given to me.

I will spare you the details of how and why we came to this point on the last day of 2016. Suffice it to say that it was a difficult grief day and there was a moment of painful release. Moments later she gave me the gift. She said, “I know you love me and I know that you will do anything for me.”  I can die a happy man knowing that this came from the deepest place of her heart.

For better or for worse, for richer or poorer, in sickness and in health, in happy times and times of grief her words have become very precious to me. They are the greatest gift a Christian man could ever receive because this is how Jesus loves me and this is how he instructs me to love my wife. He loves me perfectly, infinitely and sacrificially. I am just a mortal man, imperfect on my best days yet Jesus loved me and gave his life for me. Somewhere deep in the heart of my wife she knows I love her and will sacrifice all for her just as the Lord did for his church. I am called to love like this and it warms my heart to know it is sealed in the heart of my wife.

“Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself for her.” (Ephesians 5:25a)

What Stacey gave me was affirmation that in all my short comings and failures I am loving her the way God has called me to love her. This was her great gift to me but it pales in comparison to the greatest gift given to mankind. The free gift of eternal life through the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth. I know he loved me and he demonstrated the love of God towards me by sacrificing all for me.

“Thanks be to God for his inexpressible gift!” (2 Corinthians 9:15)

Grace to you and peace in 2017

 

 

A Christmas confession

I am struggling with holiday depression. I feel its heavy pull today so I write with the reins in hand pulling back hard to keep me from writing too deep into the darkness I feel. All is well and good in my life and yet my soul is cast down- and so it goes, no reason to be sullen but darkness overshadows me.This is our third Christmas without Jacob and this is my current struggle without him during this Christmas season. IMG_1437

The world loves to expose a Christian hypocrite. A hypocrite wears a pretentious mask and desires the applause of men rather than that of God. Hypocrisy is nauseating to God and man so I decided to reveal what Christmas has become to this Christian since the death of my son. Confession is good for the soul they say. Maybe…hopefully.

It is Christmas time, I am a Christian, but my mind is rarely on the incarnation of Son of God at this time of year. Actually my thoughts concerning the birth of Jesus are elevated more around the Easter season- he was born to die and give his life a ransom for many. My confession to you (so all pretense is gone) is that Christmas for me is more about family than about Bethlehem, and Easter is more about Jesus and Calvary and less about family.

All the Christmas sights, the sounds, the smells and the bells lead my heart and my mind to one place this time of year. My Jacob. Everything about this season reminds me of him and family, not of grandiose thoughts of my Lord. This admission to myself last week was a bit of a personal revelation. I concluded after much thought that Christmas for me is more about family than about Christ. This confession makes me feel very unchristian but at least I am not a hypocrite I suppose. Lying is always bad, but lying to God and myself is worse and just plain stupid.

We say the cliché, “Remember the reason for the season.” What exactly does that mean? It can mean many things to different people. I know what it should mean to me as a Christian but it’s just not evidenced in my life. Jesus is the reason for the season but how I long for family more than him most of the time. My heart aches terribly for my son this time of year. All I see and hear reminds me of him and stirs up my pain. I wish I could say that all that I see and hear makes me ache for the Son of God; but it doesn’t and that is my terribly honest confession.

Merry Christmas my friends

Remember Jesus Christ, risen from the dead, the offspring of David as preached in my gospel. -2 Timothy 2:8