Entering into Grief

With tears running down my cheeks, I sent out a couple quick texts to a few friends. I was bleeding… I had just lost our fourth baby. I didn’t know how to think. I was raw. One friend texted back the polite, and common response…”I am sorry. Is there anything I can do?”

My response in turn… “No, just pray. Thank you.”

But in reality, there was something they could do I just didn’t know what it was.

Then another friend texted: “I am on my way over.” I hadn’t invited her, but she was coming. I wasn’t going to tell her not to come.

A few minutes later, I was sobbing in my friend’s arms. She had even gotten to me first; before my husband could even come from work. She pulled out play-doh and sat down with my children while I made necessary phone calls to my doctor and parents.

Then another text, from another friend. “I am coming to watch your children. Go spend the afternoon out with your husband.”

As one dear friend stepped out the door, another stepped in. My husband came home, we went out for the afternoon. No treatment could have been better for us. I needed the space from my little children and a time to grieve alone with my husband. I was gifted that. I did not know it was even needed.

Then a phone call came while we were out, and another friend spent a few minutes on the phone and prayed with me. I could not speak due to my tears, but her prayer for comfort blessed my soul. I was feeling supported. I was not alone. I felt God close even in my pain. I know those first-responders were key in helping me think through my pain in a biblical way without bitterness and anger.

We arrived at home to find dinner made for our family, the dishes washed, and the children in good care. With a hug and prayer, my sweet friend slipped out the door after having her day completely altered for my behalf.

That evening, home, the children in bed, a church elder came by with his wife for ten minutes. They didn’t even sit down, but stood in our doorway and embraced us in prayer, and then quickly departed.

Sleep evaded me that night. It is hard to set aside mental pain for rest.

There was no knock, but when I went to check the mail the next morning, there on our doorstep was a very small bouquet of flowers and the sweetest note from another mother who had walked the same journey of loss. That was the only bouquet of flowers I got.

If my child had lived to be born, I might have had a few more, maybe even a plot and a stone. But, with a miscarriage, there is little that a mother has to remind herself of the treasure she once held inside of her. I pressed the flowers in the big family Bible where they are today. That is all I have to remember my baby. I have no pictures, no stories, no baby blanket…just empty hands and a bouquet of tiny pressed flowers.

Yes, even now, I am crying, and it has been several years ago. Such holes…never die, never fade, never heal…. we simply learn how to live with that emptiness and incorporate it into the person we are.

Grief… it is a hole, an emptiness inside. Grief is not always accompanied by death, but always by loss. The loss of a church family, the loss of a marriage, the loss of trust in a person, a broken friendship; the ache of a child who is alive, but no longer cares to be in touch; the permanent loss of health, the loss of a life-long dream…we all experience grief throughout our lives. We all understand it.

Why then, is it such a struggle for us to understand how to bless other people as they journey through grief? Or do we know how to bless, but find grieving people uncomfortable to be around? I have come to despise the statement: “Let me know if I can help.” It is a complete cop-out. Because, I believe we know how we should help. We are just reluctant to commit our hearts to the matter of helping. It is hard.

In response to “How can I help?” I have often heard the answer, “There is nothing you can do.” I have given that answer myself on many occasions. I have found it takes a discerning friend to know for sure if that is the case. Because I have found through seasons of grief, that very often, there is much that can be done, but the person grieving has no clue what that is! In the midst of grief it is hard to process the pain, much less the suddenly stupid tasks of life. It is important not only to have people close to us pick up the slack as we work through grief…clean, make food, care for children, yard-work, laundry, groceries, church, and work responsibilities. It is also valuable to simply show a face, give a prayer in person, and create a memory around the moment for the grieving heart to hold onto as time passes.

That weekend, a few days after my loss, I was at at church. One of my friends who knew of my heartbreak spoke nothing of my pain, no words of comfort, no prayer. She chatted with me as though nothing had happened that past week. Later, that same friend texted me to apologize for not talking about my mis-carriage. She let me know she was praying, but didn’t want to talk about it with me in case that was too hard for me. I learned a good lesson that day about what should never be done. One should never ignore the loss of a grieving person. Yes, it is going to hurt and possibly bring tears to discuss the subject. But by bringing up that loss, one is able to enter into that pain and be a part of the comfort. Even along hug without words would have sufficed. My friend completely stepped out of my grief by not acknowledging it to me. I had done the same to others in the past. My mistakes toward grieving hearts in my youth are many. Lesson Learned…Find ways to step into other’s grief. By not purposing to to step into it, you are stepping out of it.

Oh how frightened we are of saying the wrong thing and increasing a person’s grief; as a result excuse ourselves from the matter completly and make ourselfve unfit to minister to that grieving heart. I have failed in this area far too often. But lessons have been learned and I have allowed my own grief to be my teacher in such cases. I do not have to walk the same path of grief to offer support and encouragment to the grieving hearts I know. I only need to understand my own grief and step out to help them understand theirs. When I am told there is nothing that can be done, the cry of my own heart outweighs that answer. And instead I hear: “Help me please…I don’t know what to do.”

Oh sisters, Sometimes it isn’t a physical need that we are meeting, but an emotional need. The need to feel supported runs deep. As I have been loved through grief, I reach out to other grieving hearts.

  1. Be there
  2. Give a hug
  3. Write a note
  4. Flowers
  5. Food
  6. Talk about the loss
  7. Talk about the grief and pain
  8. Pray WITH the grieving person not just for
  9. Don’t have them reach out to you for help, because they won’t find ways to reach out to them with help
  10. Don’t wait for time to pass, act quickly. First responders to grief are crucial to helping a grieving heart work through the pain biblically

The point? Step boldly and quickly into the grief of others. Because when we don’t, that is when we cause pain.

Why I Make My Own Brown Sugar

I will begin by stating that I have never used light brown sugar. Dark brown sugar is superior in taste, texture, and is a few more minerals than light brown sugar. Honestly, I was raised on the dark stuff and am pretty adament about its superiority in the world of sugar.

So, we moved across country almost four years ago. Up to that point, I purchased dark brown sugar reasonably at our grocery stores. Then I went to buy dark brown sugar in our new location. I found it expensive and difficult to find. So, I began to make my own.

It’s easy! Dark brown sugar has a high molasses content. I buy blackstrap molasses in large containers. To make dark brown sugar, all I do is mix about one a cup the blackstrap molasses into a three pounds of granulated sugar.

So often what is more expensive is simply paying for someone else to work instead of me. Regular table sugar is cheap compared to purchasing dark brown sugar. Blackstrap molasses is also on the cheap side, especially when purchased in bulk as I do.

Blackstrap molasses is rich in minerals and antioxidants. In fact, if a person is to use any form of sugar, blackstrap molasses is probably the most nutritios sugar available. Tablespoon to tablespoon, blackstrap even trumps raw honey in its wealth of antioxidants and minerals! The more blackstrap in my sugar, the more nutrients rich it is. I even like to go even a bit darker than what I can find at the store. Too much will make the molasses flavor overbearing, but I certainly go as dark as I can with each batch I mix.

Dark brown sugar contains moisture. When added to a recipe like cookies or brownies, instead of being dry, the result is a chewy, moist texture.

Dark brown sugar is key to making mysteriously flaverful baked goods. A recipe of Nestle Toll House chocolate chip cookies becomes stunning when the dark sugar is added…home-made granola bars…blonde brownies…cakes…muffins…coffee cake…cinnamon rolls… Nothing store bought can compare with the flavor dark brown sugar brings to baked goods made from home.

Cuddle Prayers

As each year of motherhood passes, I find myself challenged to pray more for my children. As a mother of four children, the youngest still being two, I find quiet time to prayer very difficult to schedule. I work in Bible study but for some reason I find it easier to drop and pick up a study in Scripture than a thought in prayer. As I have asked the Lord for wisdom about my need to spend more time in prayer for my children, I was expecting a revolutionary idea about how to fit an hour or two into my day for prayer. But instead, verses came to mind, convicting me about my inconsistent prayer life.

I Thessalonians 5:16-18  “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” Romans 12:12 “Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer.Colosians 4:2 “Continue steadfastly in prayer, being watchful in it with thanksgiving.”

The prophet, Daniel, has always pricked to my heart by his testimony of faithfulness in prayer. Daniel 6:10 “When Daniel knew that the document had been signed, he went to his house where he had windows in his upper chamber open toward Jerusalem. He got down on his knees three times a day and prayed and gave thanks before his God, as he had done previously.” Even the threat of death should not deter my heart from faithful devotion to prayer. Since my faith can be freely lived out, I certainly have no excuse NOT to pray with consistent faithfulness.

Prayer is not something to only set aside for moment of quiet, but to be a thread woven into every thought and event throughout the tapestry of every day. Prayer for my children can easily be incorporated as I interact with them throughout the day. I can pray not only for my children, but with them, during disciplinary moments, around school lessons, before bed, at mealtimes. 

As I have worked through these thoughts, I have found that snuggle moments are amazing opportunities to lift my children’s hearts to the Lord…my husband too! 

All of my children LOVE to cuddle. When they wake up in the morning, each one of them is hungry to curl up in a groggy stupor and sit with me for a bit until their brains get in gear. These moments are wonderful times for me silently whisper cries to God for drawing their little hearts to Himself. It also helps me as a mother to be reminded of the eternal purpose I have been given in mothering each of the dear little souls entrusted to me.

Throughout the day, I am provided with other moments of snuggling with my children, rocking my tot for nap time, holding an injured little girl until her hurt fades, taking a momentary break to squeeze one of my little girls before we begin reading lessons, a long hug after discipline, after a nap, or during times of illness…the day is full of such moments that I now use for prayer. 

As my children lay down their heads for sleep at night, another opportunity to snuggle arrives. I like to spend a moment with each child to chat, read, or simply snuggle. Sometimes we pray out-loud together, sometimes I pray out-loud for them, sometimes, a silent heartfelt prayer fills my soul. But I like to pray for each little one under my care before they fall to sleep.

So, yes, I have found snuggle prayers to be a day-altering habit for me. Prayer for my children helps me as a mother maintain an eternal focus. I also have found, that it is easy for me as a mother to feel like the burden of child-raising, home-schooling, health, is on my shoulders, and I NEED to fall into the arms of my Savior and “snuggle” with Him throughout the day. I can rest in Him completely to do what is best in my children’s lives, to give me wisdom as a mama, and to hold the burdens I feel I must carry as a mother. He, after all, loves my children far more than I do. Psalm 73:26 “My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.”

“He will tend his flock like a shepherd; he will gather the lambs in his arms; he will carry them in his bosom, and gently lead those that are with young.” Isaiah 40:11

Reveling in Weakness Isn’t Reveling in Christ

“Pop!” An explosive sound came from the microwave behind me. I turned around in time to see my sister open the microwave door to a mess of scrambled egg and shells all over the inside of the microwave.

“What did you do?” I asked in wonderment.

“You said to put a whole egg in the microwave to cook it.” my sister responded.

I had not realized what an Amelia Bedelia she was in the kitchen! I assumed she would think to crack the egg into a bowl before putting it in the microwave. But I guess that didn’t occur naturally to her. So was the plight of my sister in the kitchen.

In general, my sister did not have a knack for home-making. She struggled figuring out recipes, and her personal touches in her baking and cooking, often ended up being more like science experiments gone wrong. She was sloppy, and unmotivated to clean or straighten up. My sister liked things neat, but was also at perfect peace in a space that was not neat. She could take a nap beside a pile of unfolded laundry without feeling any urgency to fold it for a few days. She and I both felt her homemaking future was dismal. She often told me that she knew it was not her gift. She accepted that. I accepted that. And so life went on.

My sister, went to Bible college, met, and married a man called to minister. She is now a pastor’s wife and mother of three. Due to her husband’s work, my sister’s world is full of hospitality, food, and an ever revolving door to her home. Her husband, like most pastors, is a busy, stressed, and always on-call. He relies heavily on his wife to manage the home and prepare food for the family and ever present guests.

A few years ago, my sister chatted with me on the phone and made the comment that she was convicted by her pride in her lack of skill cooking and home-making! I was taken back by her comment because I didn’t see pride in her Ramen noodle dinners.

“Oh yes!” She she said. She had been in a conversation with some ladies and realized they were all reveling in the fact they could not cook. They were enjoying making fun of their shortcomings. She realized, she enjoyed flaunting her inability to cook.

She assured me, that the humble thing to do, would be to seek home-making help and learn how to bake, cook, clean, grocery shop, and manage her household better. She saw that she would be able increase her ability to minister to her husband, family, and others if if she could improve herself. So she read books, asked advice, and became a humble learner.

Through her testimony, I see the gospel. The gospel is a poor, destitute, human, who, not only sees the failures and sin of his or her heart, but seeks help from the Savior to redeem and sanctify. The gospel, is realizing one’s complete inability to change and embracing Christ, the ONLY ONE who can bring forgiveness and a changed heart.

It takes a humble person to ask for help. I find it easy to make light of the areas I fail, and sadly, I can even consider the acceptance of my shortcomings virtuous. Reveling in my inabilities is not a virtue. Pride blinds me to areas I need to change in my life, if I can get past the pride to see my need of change, then even more humbling, I need to seek help from the Lord and other believers in my inability to bring about growth in my life in areas I am weak.

Yes, flaws, sin, in-capabilities are part of who we are as human. But the gospel is where we find freedom. In Christ, there is forgiveness of sins, power to change, and even direction on how to get from here to someone who can better glorify God. As women, God not only provides the Holy Spirit, Scripture, husbands, and elders in our church to aid us in our sanctification, but God has instilled and knows the value of relationships and practical solutions in our lives as women. In Titus 2, Paul asks older women to also help those who are younger in their journey. God is gracious to give Th so much help given to those of us women who flounder in specific areas of our lives. “Older women likewise are to be reverent in behavior, not slanderers or slaves to much wine. They are to teach what is good, and so train the young women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled, pure, working at home, kind, and submissive to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be reviled.” Titus 2:3-5. Our struggles in marriage, children, home-making, attitude, bad habits, control, emotions, addictions, all can be faced and changed through the gospel as we seek the help and wisdom from older, godly women. We are not alone! In our culture, church is a great place to start finding that help, but books and internet can also be a good source of direction. And as older women, we do not have to be perfect in every area of life to aid those in need. We can even share mistakes we have made, and prevent others from following a miserable path we took.

My dear sister began a journey to build home-making, cooking, and hospitality skills quite a few years ago. She sought advice, read books, and became a humble learner on subjects she had previously closed her mind toward. Now my sister can cook a delicious meal without breaking into a sweat of fear. In fact, she hosts church and family dinners in her home several times a week. She would probably still say that cooking does not come naturally to her, and she probably still has some crazy turnouts in her kitchen. But what has changed is her heart on the matter. Instead of being prideful of her inability, she has taken refuge in God’ strength and humbly seeks help as needed.

My sister was right. It is my pride, that prevents me from humbly seeking help and changing. If I do not acknowledge my weakness and seek help to change, I do not allow God’s strength to be glorified through my weakness. I simply live with my weakness and carry on unchanged. My goal in life is to bring God glory in all I do. That is my purpose from creation.

Through my sister’s weakness in the kitchen, I see God’s strength. God always seems to call me to do what I am unable to do. But through that inability, He keeps me resting in His strength. He keeps me humbly asking for help. And because of my shortcomings, God can be glorified, instead of me, myself, and I, glorying in what I am able to do without relying on Christ and seeking help. It is all because of Him!

“For consider your calling, brothers: not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, so that no human being might boast in the presence of God. And because of him you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption, so that, as it is written, “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.” I Corinthians 1:1-26