Good Mourning

Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted. Matthew 5:4

I’m not going to lie, I can be selfish. So selfish. Sometimes, I just can’t help it. Working from home and spending most of my time here breeds inward focus. And so, not surprisingly, I viewed every word I read last week in context of me. When I found myself in the book of Job and Ecclesiastes, it was for me.

Me, me, me.

However, Friday turned my eyes another direction. And through the gift of God’s Spirit and hindsight, I quickly saw those holy scriptures in reference to someone else. And I comprehended the content wasn’t so much about me after all. No, in the bright light of Saturday mourning, I realize the reading was also for him…

It was for Robert and for his brood. My family.

And for that reason, I offer up the following.

Aunt Margie

I received word about my aunt this past Friday. She was declining rapidly. And like most, I found myself wanting to do something. But what? My answer was food. Comfort food. I could take a bite to eat and so, I made that my plan.

Thus, I brought a few items and went to see Margie. And I think she heard me. Told her I loved her but deep down, I felt like a hypocrite. Because why does it usually take a time like this to draw family together? What about when life is running smooth and fast. Why not then?

And so, I grieved not only what was happening, but loss of a whole other sort. And sadly, my aunt’s spirit left this earthly realm sometime through the night. When I heard the next morning, every thing I’d read came flooding back to me. Yes, deep verses I’d skimmed over came surging to life through the filter of mourning.

He has made everything beautiful in its time. Ecclesiastes 3:11

I swear, I experienced John 14:26 recently. Because the Comforter, which is the Holy Spirit, came to me. He brought to mind everything He said last week and most poignantly, He reiterated a passage from the third chapter of Ecclesiastes.

I went there a week ago because of our tree that was cut down and uprooted. Unfortunately, we’d planted it too close to our septic system and we needed to address it before it did damage. And Jason tried to save it. Planned to move it, but the root system was so big and his tractor couldn’t do the trick.

That’s what initially sent me to Ecclesiastes 3:1-2. But see, my eyes were fixed on the part about there being a time to plant and a time to uproot. It was important to me, spiritually speaking. And so, my eyes skimmed right over the line preceding it…

There is a time to be born and a time to die.

Lo and behold, my devotional book sent me right back there the next day. Two times within two days, I read those verses. And when a separate source sent me back there again, I still didn’t see what I was supposed to. But today, I do. Every bit of it. See, God knew I’d need those verses. And because I’m a little dense, He had to point it out three times before I got it.

But now that I do, I’m assured there’s a time for everything. A time to be born and a time to die… a time to weep and a time to laugh… a time to mourn and a time to dance. And perhaps most important for today?

Well, maybe it’s the part about a time to keep silent and a time to speak. Because God teaches me there’s a time for both. Perhaps my job, as one who wants to come alongside those who grieve, is to learn which is which.

Thus, I grasp what I’m supposed to…

I’m certain God wants me to learn how to grieve well. He wants me to show good mourning to those who mourn deeply. And because God is God, He shows me how through His word.

Margie and Robert

I guess I shouldn’t be awed that God sent me to the book of Job on Friday morning, but I am. The morning before I received bad news, I was immersed in the suffering of Job, a man who lost everything. When his friends heard, I’m sure they felt like me. What to do? And like me, they made a plan.

Job 2:11 says they made an appointment together to come and to sympathize with him and to comfort him. I see three steps, number one being they came. The word means to go in or enter and that’s just what they did for when they saw Job from afar, they lifted their voices in weeping. They entered into his grief.

When they drew near, they simply sat on the ground with Job and for seven days, and no one spoke a word to him because they could see his pain was very great. And how amazing is that? And how very unlike us today. Because maybe we’ve lost the ability to sit in this manner.

I can only speak for myself, but silence is awkward. And as a people, we’re fixers. I am. I want to go and bring some comfort. I want to make things all better with my pot of comfort. But sometimes, that’s not what’s needed. Sometimes, the pain is so great that nothing will help. And sometimes, the best way to come alongside one who grieves is to just give them our silence.

But more, to be a good mourner, we enter into their pain with them. That’s what Jobs’ friends did. And Friday night, I can’t help but wonder if I skipped that vital step.

Because in all reality, a casserole can’t bring comfort to a broken heart.

It is better to go to the house of mourning than to go to the house of feasting, for that is the end of every man and the living will take it to heart and solemnly ponder its meaning… Ecclesiastes 7:2

This is how I like to remember my aunt. Oh she was lively. But this wasn’t who I visited Friday. And as I grieved the impending loss, my heart broke for every one within those walls. Because though Margie was still with us, the house I entered was one of mourning. Saturday afternoon, I opened that screen door once more…

And you know, I was surprised to discover there’s a verse about such a home. I confess, though, I find it hard to take in the words offered through Ecclesiastes 7:2. Nonetheless, I find truth. Because indeed, in facing the loss of a loved one, a person cannot help but contemplate their own life and times.

And how ironic that Spring touches the air. I’ve seen robins on the ground and peepers have already peeped. And it all feels so familiar. Because on the cusp of the season that offers hope and new life, we find loss instead. The same happened ten years back. My cousin passed in the Spring followed by another aunt soon after…

Now my father is left with four sisters and it makes me so sad. And thinking about all this, that’s when I finally cried. Alone in my car, I wept aloud.

Rejoice with those who rejoice and weep with those who weep (sharing others’ grief). Romans 12:15

Romans 12 teaches us how to live. There I find instructions for living. We’re admonished to use our gifts. We’re exhorted to live and love. And we’re instructed…. rejoice and weep accordingly. Weep. It means sob, mourn, or lament. And as I prayed this morning for those who grieve, I was halted mid sentence because I remembered such truth…

“Jesus wept.”

This is the shortest verse in the Bible and I had to look it up. Because there I find my example. Jesus showed good mourning, for He came to His friends. But then, when He saw their grief, He wept with them. He entered their pain. Oh, it’s true Jesus brought comfort, but He entered into their grieving first.

He came, He grieved, and He comforted, and this is what God shows me today. More, He wants me to grieve as Jesus did. Because me? I like action. A plan. What can I do?

Thus, in all my pondering, I can’t help but wonder. Can it be in our haste to comfort, we skip this most vital step? Oh, we rush to those who mourn and we’re quick to offer food. But do we know how to enter into grief with them? Do we dare enter their pain? And if we don’t, maybe it’s time we learn to.

Again, I’m speaking for myself here.

I hesitate to share this picture because his suffering is great…

His friends know him as Bobby, but he’s Robert to me. And this man poured into me when I was little. He saw I maybe had a little talent and encouraged me at his table. He’d hand me a pencil and a pad and give prompts… “Draw a fox.” Then he’d praise me for it. And when I joined the Air Force, he wouldn’t let me leave until he grilled me the biggest steak you ever saw. I truly love him.

And because I do, I so want to help. But what, I wonder. See, sausage gravy can only go so far. And because I write, that’s what I’m prompted to do. I offer up a message and send up a prayer. I ask God that those who come near would enter his pain. And if they dare lift their voices, may it be in weeping or prayers. Because see, like Job, he’s had such great loss. Let no one speak a word to him until the time is right…

Because as God reveals, there’s a time for everything under heaven. A time to be born and a time to die. There’s a time to cry and mourn. And indeed, there’s a time to speak and a time to remain silent. So that’s my prayer.

Lord Jesus, please send good mourners to my uncle Robert. Those who are led by your spirit and know how and when. Send those who embody what we learn through Your word, through the pages of Job and Ecclesiastes.

And for those who’ve read these words, I ask you to please pray the same. Ask God to send people who without having to say a word, can show good mourning to my uncle Robert.


The LORD gave and the LORD has taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD. Job 1:21

In closing, I saw this picture on Facebook yesterday. I think it’s glorious. The love captured there. New life and old. The never ending circle. It causes me to cry. And it makes me think of this verse. Oh, it’s a hard one to swallow, and surprisingly, it was voiced by Job. After he lost everything, this is what he said.

It came to me Saturday morning after hearing about Margie’s passing. Because see, the day before I’d received word of an expected birth. Someone in my sphere was gearing up to have a baby. My thought? While someone’s water is breaking, ushering in new life, another’s heart is breaking, while life recedes.

What a picture this brings.

I told Jason it reminded me of a song by Live called Lightning Crashes. Now, this song is twenty-eight years old and I’ve not heard it on the radio since I was in my early twenties. But don’t you know, it’s exactly what I heard Saturday after leaving my aunt’s house. And though it’s not one I’d typically use in one of my blogs, I think it’s appropriate for this one.

Because after listening to it ten times yesterday, I finally heard what I was supposed to. For over and over, this line is repeated, “I can feel it.”

And I do. I can feel it. I feel their grief. But I think God teaches me this is what good mourners should do. They don’t just go and comfort, they also enter into the house of mourning. They enter into the pain. This is the lesson God wants me to take to heart. And through the book of Job and Ecclesiastes, and an unlikely song, I hear what He’s saying.

And for that, I give thanks.

And like Job, I echo his cry. Blessed be the name of the LORD.

Child sized holes… for Cathy

I’ve been blessed in that I can work from home… it’s been almost seven years now. However, that can be good, and that can be bad. Because when you stay at home, you can become isolated and separated from the world and current affairs. Especially when you quit cable and satellite and have nothing but internet for news and Netflix for entertainment. And so, it was last year when a couple of my family members died that I purposed in my heart to see more of my family. And here I am a year later, but not much has changed. Oh, I’ve reached out a little bit more this past month, and have tried to do better with loving on my family, but not nearly enough. And so, it was last week when I was praying that I had to stop mid-request. Because it was my aunt Cathy that I thought of. And what came to me was clear… “She’s next.” It was her that I wanted to love on next… but here I am a week later, and I’ve not moved from my hermit’s quarters.

It was earlier this week that a devastating tornado ripped through Oklahoma. I didn’t even know it till late that evening. As I said, I’m isolated here… I work from home, I check the web for news sporadically, and I don’t leave the house much. And when I finally realized what took place so many miles away… I was moved, and yet, I had nothing. Writing-wise, that is. I fancy myself a writer, and here was this catastrophic event that took place, lives lost, and I had nothing to offer by way of words. Until today that is. It was not till this morning that my heart was heavy, and that my eyes were weepy, and that I pondered what really took place. It was not till this morning that I fully comprehended that the worst had happened for so many people. Because what really happened is that some peoples’ biggest fear was realized in that they lost what mattered most to them. They lost their children. And what’s left are child sized holes in their hearts… holes that can never be filled. And that’s when I remembered… I remembered my aunt Cathy.

people sized holes

Honestly, I can’t tell you how many years ago it was when my cousin Barbie died. It has to have been at least eleven or twelve years. But what I do remember is the time of year… May. I remember because I was at the beach with my husband’s family. It was near Memorial Day, and we were having a blast. But there was a message on my phone… Barbie had died in a tragic accident. She was a young woman and it was so unexpected, and when I called my brother, he could barely choke out the words. It seemed so surreal to me… how could this happen? And when I heard the news, I was young, myself. And I had no children… and no thoughts of trying to. Not really. And so, this sad and tragic event affected me… but not as it would today. Because now, I am a mom. And now, I know how I feel about my own. And if I want to be truthful, this is my deepest fear… that I’ll lose my darling boy. And I know that if he were to be taken from me, he would leave a hole in my heart that no one could fill. Because there is no other him. And I’m sure this is exactly how my aunt feels. And I’m pretty sure that what took place in Oklahoma earlier this week serves as a reminder of her own loss… and of her own broken heart. I’m sure she sadly remembers her own child that was ripped from her arms way too soon, leaving a hole that can never be filled.

“A voice is heard in Ramah, weeping and great mourning, Rachel weeping for her children and refusing to be comforted, because they are no more.” Matthew 2:18

Today there are so many broken hearts. Today, so many mourn the loss of their precious babies, and comfort seems far off. For some families, like in Oklahoma, the wounds are fresh… but for some, it’s old wounds that have never quite healed. And age matters not. Because I don’t care how old the soul is that moves on from this earth, the fact is, she’s still someone’s baby. And I wish I could tell Cathy this… that I think I have an idea of what she may feel. I wish I could go back to that time so I could really empathize with her and let my heart break alongside her own as it happened. Because then, I could not…. not like today. I wish I could go back to that time so I could offer her words of hope… words of wisdom. But you know, it’s never too late. And it’s no accident that God brought my aunt to mind last week. Because He knew what was going to happen this week… He knew just how she would feel. Remember, “Cathy’s next…” See, her daughter died sometime in May. There’s no doubt… she is remembering. There’s no doubt… she still feels it. And there’s no doubt, the child sized hole remains.

It’s Memorial Day weekend. And too often, we forget what really matters… see, mostly we think about beaches and pools and hot dogs and lakes and cook-outs and fun. But it’s so much more. It’s a time to remember those who have gone on before us. And may we not forget those who were left behind. And this weekend, may we not just remember those left behind, but come alongside them. May we offer them hope and surround them with prayers… especially the mothers.

See, a mother is connected to her child in a way that no one else could be. At first, the baby is knit together in her womb… inside her. The baby is encompassed, surrounded by protective fluid. And she receives life sustaining oxygen and nutrients from her mother through the umbilical cord. And then, when she finally leaves the safety nest of her mother’s womb, she exits by way of the birth canal and is placed directly into her new safety nest… her mother’s arms. And most mothers will testify today, that if we could, we would keep our children right there… in our arms forever. But that’s not the way of life.

So this Memorial Day, may we remember, and may we pray for those left behind…

Dear Lord, may they know! Please God, may all those left behind with child sized holes realize that yes, it’s true their sweet children were indeed carried away from the safety of their arms. However, may they receive some sense of peace when they comprehend that their little ones were carried away by the arms of Your angels. And although they cannot physically hold their precious babies here on earth, just maybe, God, just maybe… they will find some comfort in knowing that those little ones are now with You, in Your everlasting arms. May they realize that there’s no safer place to be…  in His name I pray, Amen.

No, I don’t think those child sized holes will ever be filled here on earth. But one day, the holes will disappear, when we ourselves are ushered into His arms… alongside our children. And so this Memorial Day, I choose to remember. I will remember those families out west, and their hurts. And my heart will break alongside theirs. But also, this Memorial Day, I will remember Cathy and her own child sized hole. Today, my heart breaks for her. And because God brought her to mind, I just have to think today’s writing is specifically for her… this one’s for Cathy.

the Valley of Slaughter

I was uncertain about posting something. Quite frankly, it scares me. Because it’s something dark… something I’ve kept hidden for so long. Not many people know. But this morning I felt moved. After praying, I typed up this blog, crying while fingers tapped the keyboard. Crying because of something I did. Crying because I have to share it. Crying because I wonder if I will ever be completely okay.

I typed up a draft, feeling certain I would post it the next day. But as the day progressed, doubt took hold. How could I be sure I was doing the right thing? What would people think after reading it? What will my family think, if they hear of it? Will people look at me differently? And so day turned to evening, and I became even more uncertain… that is, until I watched The Lorax. Yet another child’s movie, but so deep. As I watched it, my mind drifted back to the draft I had typed earlier in the day. “Are you sure, God?” A squeezing of my heart. “But I’m scared.” More squeezing. Yes… I am to share it.

I’m not sure how many of you are familiar with this well-loved Dr. Seuss tale, but if you’re not, it’s worth both reading and watching. Basically, a guy invented something called a Thneed. But, he needed the materials to make his Thneeds. So he traveled along till he came across this beaufiful forest full of Truffula trees. He wanted the Truffula tuft, so thinking nothing of it, he chopped down a tree. He snuffed out the life of that tree without a thought… not till the Lorax made his appearance. He said, “Mister! I am the Lorax. I speak for the trees. “But the guy said he was doing no harm… he just chopped down one tree. But the Lorax knew. He said, “You are crazy with greed.” The Lorax repeated, “I speak for the trees!” But the guy was too busy, he had things to do. He shut out that voice, and set to making his own dream come true. Why, he was going to be rich. He started with one tree, but then used a device to chop down four trees at once. And so, the guy became rich. He continued to chop down trees, polluting the air… the Lorax would appear to make his plea for the trees, but the guy didn’t listen. Finally, he yelled at that Lorax, “Now listen here, Dad! All you do is yap-yap and say, ‘Bad! Bad! Bad! Bad!’ Well, I have my rights, sir, and I’m telling you I intend to go on doing just what I do!” Finally, the last tree fell. Well, there was nothing left to say, so the Lorax picked himself up and left. There were no more trees to speak for. But, he did leave a pile of rocks with one word – UNLESS.

The guy who destroyed the trees pondered that phrase for years (he’s called the Once-ler, by the way), and when he finally had a visitor he figured out what it meant. “UNLESS someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It’s not.” And so, the Once-ler let a Truffula Seed fall into the hands of his visitor. He said it was the last one, and exhorted the visitor to, “Treat it with care. Give it clean water. And feed it fresh air. Grow a forest. Protect it from axes that hack. Then the Lorax… may come back.”

Sound like a lot of rambling here? Read the above again, but picture unborn babies instead of trees. And me? UNLESS someone cares a whole awful lot, nothing will change. I’m that someone and I have a seed… See, I have first-hand knowledge… I know all about snuffing out the life of an unborn baby. And so I need to plant this seed, of what I know, among those who will listen. Because we don’t have a Lorax, who speaks for the trees. We have a God, the God, and He speaks for the babies. He spoke for them through His prophet, Jeremiah:

“And they have built up the high places of Tophet, which is the valley of the Son of Hinnom, to burn their sons and their daughters in the fire, which I did not command, nor did it come into My heart. Therefore behold, the days are coming,” says the LORD, “when it will no more be called Tophet, or the Valley of the Son of Hinnom, but the Valley of Slaughter; for they will bury in Tophet until there is no more room.” Jeremiah 7:31,32

My mother-in-law educated me this morning about King Manasseh, who was evil. He “made his son pass through the fire.” That means he instated the practice of killing the firstborn children, sacrificing them to the god of Molech. Manasseh was the king… so the nation followed his lead. God’s people killed their firstborn babies. It was culturally accepted. Pretty much like today. And like then… we will bury until there is no more room. When I heard the term, the Valley of Slaughter, it struck a chord with me. I actually thought, “Hmmm… would make a good name for a book concerning abortion and our nation (if there’s not already one out there).” But no… now I see it is to be the title of one of my blogs. A fitting title for a blog about abortion.

Abortion is part of my past… it’s part of who I am today. I have certainly walked through the Valley of Slaughter by way of my selfish and greedy actions. And I just have to wonder if that’s the reason darkness enshrouds me today. See, I’ve been striving. I’ve been seeking God with my whole heart. I want to do what He wants me to do. I want to be pleasing to Him. And yet, I just feel so bad so much of the time. I can’t understand it. I thought I dealt with the abortions this past September. I thought I was done with that. So why do I still struggle? Why then, after talking with my mother-in-law about abortion, was I in tears as I prayed. Why did I have nothing but cries to offer up to God?

When I wrote a draft this morning, I wasn’t sure what the point of it was. Because I’m not sure that I have an answer or the encouragement that someone needs to hear. I thought that perhaps it’s simply something God wants me to be honest about. Because it’s been hidden for so long. See, abortion is not something we all want to talk about… especially when it’s part of our pasts. But God’s word assures me that whatever’s been said in the dark will be heard in the light, and what I’ve whispered behind closed doors will be shouted from the housetops for all to hear! (Luke 12:3). So I thought that maybe this was my rooftop moment. A time to come out of the closet, if you will. Finally, the moment had come to bring to light what was done behind closed doors. I thought perhaps that was the point of today’s blog.

But now I see. God spoke to me through The Lorax, of all things. UNLESS someone cares to speak up for those unborn babies, nothing will change. He’s already spoken, and He’s waiting for us to do the same. And I can speak from firsthand knowledge… because I know that when you do such a thing, you don’t just kill a baby. You also kill part of yourself. Oh, you can hide it away and pretend it never happened. But it colors your whole life. Jeremiah 7:34 says it all, “Then I will cause to cease from the cities of Judah and from the streets of Jerusalem the voice of mirth and the voice of gladness, the voice of the bridegroom and the voice of the bride. For the land shall be desolate.” And this is just how I feel sometimes.

I have my good days. I have whole seasons of joyfulness and mountaintop experiences with God… But then I seem to slip up. I always seem to fall back down that mountain into the valley… that Valley of Slaughter. But for those days when I fall, I’ll cling to His promises…

The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want. He makes me to lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside the still waters. He restores my soul; He leads me in paths of righteousness for His name’s sake. Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; for You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me. Psalm 23:1-4

When the darkness comes, I’ll cling to God’s promises. His word assures me that He is with me. He is in my midst. He is my shepherd, and He will comfort me. Perhaps someone else needs to know His promises today.

If you know someone who needs to hear this message, be that someone who cares an awful lot – and pass it on. UNLESS you do, they may never know.