Loss-child

Beggar

Last year I taught the Beatitudes and taught students to teach them. The first one is “blessed are the poor in spirit.” I remember describing it as being like a beggar on the filthy ground, teeth rotting, fingernails dirty, hair greasy, hands outstretched, hungry, thirsty, crying out desperately for help, in a place of serious need: “Help me!!!” Blessed means being satisfied/full. Blessed is the one who is super needy. The second one- “blessed are those who mourn.” Blessed is the one who is severely sad. In college, my pastor said these were the upside-down messages of Jesus. Paradoxes. The blessed are the lowly, the bottom of the heap of humanity. How can you be blessed and needy/sad at the same time?

I thought I understood the meaning. I did to the extent that I could. But, today I am truly “poor in spirit” as I mourn the loss of my son. I have been majorly humbled. As a child, I grew up in humble means. We did not have a lot of money, I did not wear the right clothes, drive the right car, wear the right shoes…but we worked hard. I was naturally poor in spirit, not having much to offer. But, as time has gone, with education and opportunity, pride has grown. It is easy to have haughty attitudes. Even when humbled by death, I can still choose pride over humility.


A friend challenged me that when we truly understand the Gospel of Grace, we will be gracious to others. This implies that I understand the sacrifice made for me and the enormity of my sin. I was immediately convicted of sin recently. Not seeing someone as FRAGILE, not being tender with someone’s feelings. When I understood the depth of my sin, I was humbled. I know this is where God wants me to reside, constantly reflecting on His mercy and goodness and gift of life, confessing MY sin. As I do this, through the Holy Spirit, I can change and be loving and patient. I can be TENDER and gentle with others: He who began a good work in you will be faithful to complete it.

Isaiah 66:2 reads, “All these things my hand has made, and so all these things came to be, declares the LORD. But this is the one to whom I will look: he who is humble and contrite in spirit and trembles at my word” as a beggar on the street. Understanding my need. Desperate for God. Satisfied in that. You are full and satisfied only when you understand your need for God.

Contributor-Liana Vincent

Art credit-Lana Ngo

Loss-cancer · Loss-child · Loss-parent · loss-suicide

Breathing Time

Breathe. Just breathe. In and out. Sometimes when you experience the same activity done with your deceased child with a different person, you can have a physical reaction as you experience the emotions. When this happens, I immediately ask friends to please pray for me.  It happened this week. As I breathed through my grief, I decided to listen to music on an errand.

As I drove, the Holy Spirit prompted the thought-Matt Redman lost his father to suicide. I read his story a few months ago. As I relistened to his famous song, “10,000 Reasons”, I had a completely new view. I imagined his pain and how that pain must propel him to worship God and encourage others to do so. I recalled my daughter: a few years back, playing this song on the piano to a group of cancer patients at the Ballard House. She came home telling how her group had gently sang this song together with the residents; I was so moved that she and her friends could bring lasting truth and hope to the hurting, suffering. I thought how they (facing the possibility of death) must have sighed deeply as they vocalized, “And on that day, when my strength is failing, the end draws near, and my time has come, still my soul will sing your praise unending…” I teared up thinking about the sweetness of this moment for all involved.

Now, I listened to this song again, and I took a deep breath as I continued the tune, “ten thousand years and then forevermore, forevermore.” This is the part that I thought about for days. My son is gone. That is the reality. I cannot bring him back. It hit me that I will have 10,000 years and forevermore with him and the Lord. That is a such a wonderfully big number!!!! Infinite.

The sermon in my head started: I need to be present while on the earth. I want to have 50 more years on this earth (I just turned 50)…so that I can support my husband, my daughter, my son, their spouses, their children, and their children and to share the hope of this God who is “slow to anger” and whose “heart is kind.” Each day I wake up claiming the promise that a friend, Mary Kay, gave me on a frame, “His mercies are new every morning…great is thy faithfulness, oh God!” Each day is a new day of mercy…a “new day dawning, it’s time to sing your song again…whatever may pass and whatever lies before me”—we have no idea what will happen within each day, but we can still “be singing when the evening comes.” Our “life is a vapor” (James 4) and we “endure momentary light affliction” (2 Corinthians 4) compared to the eternity waiting for us. Doing our “drop in the ocean” (Mother Teresa).

Contributor-Liana Vincent

Loss-cancer

Transformation

Out of nowhere, a bird appeared in my window and the soft voice of the Holy Spirit reminded me–I was not alone. Following chemo, I would be confined to my room, feeling nauseated and weak, not wanting to be disturbed. I was diagnosed with breast cancer at age 45 and thought, “I have lived a healthy life. What went wrong?” My focus had betrayed me– battling with self-esteem, I spent hours in the gym in search of “perfection.” This unwelcomed disease destroyed my dreams. I had a radical mastectomy and six rounds of chemo. Panic attacks during chemo would only subside with my family’s prayers. Looking in the mirror at 3 a.m. was horrifying–a reminder of disease and unrecognizable self. But, God works in mysterious ways: He announced my journey in a dream three months before being diagnosed. If God allowed this, I thought to myself, I wanted to be the faithful and strong woman in my dream. In Psalm 46:10, God told me to be still and know that He is in total control. He explained that He would keep me in perfect peace as I trusted in Him with all my heart (Isaiah 26:3).

Many of us think we’ve been walking with God, but the truth is–until something radical hits, this is when we know Him face to face. The scars on my body are a reminder of God’s love and mercy. In the midst of this, God whispered in my ear I should only listen to His tender voice. The loss of femininity and physical changes were the hardest to accept. During my walk to recovery, He revealed His unwavering love for me. In His Word, I found comfort; in prayer, I was strengthened. His revelation of who I am in Christ gives me peace. It’s been eleven years since my Father healed me. I know that I am complete in Him (Jer. 29:11).

Contributor-Ivette Menendez

Art credit-Tey Bearden

Loss-parent · loss-suicide

Mountain Journey

I received a phone call at 9 p.m. three years ago—it was my step-dad telling me that my mom was in the hospital. Or maybe it was my grandpa. I can’t remember. It’s a blur. A few hours later, a second call came. She was gone! Heart attack. My mom was only 62. Up to that point, I had never heard my husband wail. He did.

I immediately booked a flight leaving the next morning to Arizona. I drove two hours through the winding purple mountains to get to her home. When I was about 15 miles from the exit, all traffic suddenly stopped. The cars sat. Staring. Helicopters began to hover over. Thundering, loud sounds from these machines. People began to open vehicle doors and look up. I ambled to the car in front of me, “Do you know what is going on?”
“No.”

Next, three armored SWAT trucks and about six police cars formidably waited behind us. They directed to move all vehicles to the right side of the road and proceeded to pass by with circumstance. Someone asked the police what was going on.

A man was in his car with a gun. Threatening himself.

Two hours later, no cell phone service, no bathroom, with hundreds of others, I decided to turn around, and take a new route—the very long route to my mom’s house—-a six hour drive around Roosevelt Lake. As I drove, I honestly thought about myself and why God was putting me through this. I talked, I prayed. It gave me time to think about all my mom had done for me as a teenage mom and how sometimes we take time with people for granted. Losing a loved one takes us on a journey much like my trip around the lake—it can be unexpected, filled with many tears, regrets, guilt, anger, questions, maybe a long path, maybe puts us on a new path-but eventually we reach a destination.

Another layer to this story unfolded for me last week as I told it—-now, when I tell this story, all I can think about is the man in the car. His family. Three helicopters, three SWAT trucks, six police cars—I am grateful for the lengths that they went to save his life!!

God is always for LIFE——regardless of race, ethnicity, gender, sex, age, sins committed, convenience.

Contributor-Liana Vincent

Art credit-Lana Ngo