The Power of the Cross

A few weeks ago, I was sending a YouTube video of the song, “The Power of the Cross” to some prospective choir members in our church, in hopes that they would join us on Easter morning in singing this amazing song.

A similar group sang this for an Easter service at our church out in Earlham 10 years ago.  And because we all loved it so much, it became a favorite of the congregation and we added it to our repertoire.  We even did the full-blown choir version!  So, I’m extremely familiar with this song as I’ve sung and/or played it dozens of times.

So, I was completely caught off guard when, while I was half-viewing the YouTube before sending it, I just broke down into tears as I was moved by the words of the verse I was hearing.  But do you think I can remember WHICH verse it was now?  Of course not… I reread them all just now and decided that any one of them could create the same reaction because they are all extremely powerful – and TRUE!

The thought that slammed into my mind and caused the flood of tears was this:  Jesus went through the agony of the cross, both physically and spiritually (in that He experienced separation from His heavenly Father), SO THAT I would have the joy of seeing my husband again one day.  It makes me cry again even now.

And while that is an incredible promise and what I often cling to during this time of grieving, it really is NOT what we can best celebrate in heaven.  Yes, it’s a huge comfort to think about seeing our loved ones again, because, let’s face it, what or who could be more tangible to us than the people we have loved the most and lost?  And let’s not forget the biblical promise of no more tears and no more sorrow and no more pain.  Boy, do I long for THAT!

But if you’re a believer, our greatest joy lies in the indisputable fact that our Savior, Jesus Christ, the same One who went to the cross on our behalf, is reigning triumphantly in heaven, seated at the right hand of God the Father and WE can now be in His presence FOREVER!  There can be no greater joy than to spend eternity in Paradise with the One who sacrificed it all for us.  And the icing on that heavenly cake?  We also reunite with our believing loved ones – and no more sorrow, pain or tears..or SIN!

Although this song focuses on Christ’s death on the cross, the greatest news in the history of the world is that He rose again!  No other world religion has a leader who died and came back to life ON OUR BEHALF!  It’s an amazing truth of the Gospel and one that I hope and pray you will be able to embrace this Easter weekend.

Christ didn’t stay on the cross, but the penalty for our sins did if we acknowledge Him as Lord and Savior of our lives.  If we don’t, then there is no power in that cross for us. Our part in this salvation story is to recognize that we “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”  Romans 3:23  And then what?  “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” 1 John 1:9

There you have it.  Direct from the mouth of God!  Don’t put off this decision if you haven’t made it yet.  None of us knows if we will see tomorrow.  But we can face it with hope, as Dale did, if we’ve claimed Christ’s sacrifice as our own.

I’m including a link to the song below and I hope you’ll take the extra few minutes to listen through it and let the truth of the words sink deep into your heart.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nPFv-ywTY-c

Have a blessed Easter because CHRIST IS RISEN!

 

The “How Are You Doing” Dilemma(s)

This post topic was originally going to be a singular dilemma, not two.  But a recent conversation with a friend caused me to tweak that a bit and write about TWO dilemmas – one for me and one for you!  How generous of me.  😊

I’ll start with my initial inspiration for this article.  In an earlier post, I talked about how encouraging it was for me when people check in with me to essentially see how I am doing.  And while I’m not reneging on that statement, I am finding that I’ve created a dilemma for myself.

Simply stated, I don’t know how to answer it!  It depends on who is asking, how well do I know them, what communication means are they using, how much time do they have, what kind of day am I having and any number of other factors.

Now we’ve all met acquaintances “on the street” so to speak who, upon having the “how are you doing” (HAYD) question posed to them, go on and on and on with a litany of every little detail of their amazing or pitiful life!  Our intention was just a friendly howdy do.  (But I have to wonder if there were times when I should have stopped and listened more intently, sensing they needed to talk, but that’s not a topic for today.)

In those first couple of seconds after the question is posed to me, I make a quick determination on what an appropriate level of detail in my answer should be.  If the person is truly just an acquaintance and may not even know that Dale has passed away, or we are just passing each other at church, my obvious answer is, “Good.  How are you?”  Nobody here really wants that long, drawn-out litany mentioned above!

On the other end of the “HAYD” spectrum are the people who ask me, “How are you doing…really!?”  Then it’s clear to me that they are looking for the nitty gritty of my heart condition and what I’m currently feeling or struggling with.  I feel comfortable sharing the grief and pain because I know they truly want to know the answer and apparently have time for it.

In the fuzzy middle are the situations where I struggle to know just how to answer.  These are people who know of my loss and would be considered friends.  But I’m not necessarily sure how much time they have, if texting limits my answer, or if they really want all the gory details. So far I’ve come up with a few semi-noncommittal statements such as, “One day at a time,” “I’m hanging in there,” “It’s still hard,” or any number of other pat statements.  I’d like to say that God has hit me with His perfect, lightning bolt answer to HAYD, but alas, nothing has popped into my head.  So, I’ll just have to continue muddling my way through this middle fog!

One answer I never give is, “Great!”  Two reasons for that – I generally don’t feel great.  And I don’t want to perpetuate the myth that you can recover from a devastating loss like this in just a few months.

Just a side note here.  By God’s grace, I AM still able to find blessings in each day through people and events He places in my life. And His promises are still rock-solid to me, so there is still joy in my life.  As James so clearly states, “Count it all JOY, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness.”  James 1:2

Now onto YOUR dilemma!  Boy, I’m not sure I even know how to tackle this one.  The dilemma is – what SHOULD you be asking me?  Is it, “How are you doing?”  Maybe.  Or any other number of discussion-opening statements.  Again, I’d love to have a lightning-bolt answer from God to tell you how you should communicate with someone who is grieving.  There are TONS of books written about that subject and I don’t claim to know much more than those authors.

So, I think the best I can do for you here is to share the questions friends have posed to me in the past 5 months that were helpful.  And with the caveat that they won’t be the same for everyone.  No wonder this is such a tough subject!

I’m actually fine with the HAYD question, especially with the “REALLY” attached to the end!  Have also appreciated, “How is your day going?”, “How can I pray for you?”, “Let’s set a date to have lunch/dinner/movie together.”  There are numerous other ways that people have blessed me during this time and I plan to share some of that in an upcoming post.

More important than the words you or I use, is the heart from which they come.  When a friend is clearly wanting to know how I’m doing, I sense that and it really doesn’t matter WHAT words they use!

While I really did want this post to be much instructional than it turned out, maybe the message is that there is no one right way to do this – on your end or mine.  Trust your instincts or the nudging of the Holy Spirit to guide you on this.  And I will strive to do the same with my answers!

“Five More Minutes”

With apologies to my non-country-music-lover readers, my theme for this post comes from a recent #1 hit on the country charts by Scotty McCreery entitled, you guessed it, “Five More Minutes.”  I first heard the song a month or two ago and without even listening to the verses, I knew that there was a message here, not just for me, but for hopefully many of you as well.

Before I get to the stab to my heart I felt upon hearing it, I’ll give you a brief synopsis of the song – and a little country music writing tutorial for you country-music illiterates!  Often the song writer will tell a story with each verse, using the chorus as the tie that binds.  In this case, the verses talk about children wanting to play a little longer, a young couple wanting their goodnight kiss on the porch to last longer, the high school senior football player needing a little more time in that last game they just lost – and then finally, the writer asking for more time with his dying grandfather.

But when I heard the song the first time, I only paid attention to the chorus and I immediately thought to myself, “What would I say to Dale if I could have him back for just 5 more minutes?”  (Although I would seriously never ask him to leave the glory of heaven to come back to earth for even that short period of time!)  Would there be enough time to make up for the things I didn’t say before he died?  And surprisingly, I decided that yes, I could say a LOT in five minutes.

We were blessed that, in the 10 months Dale spent in the assisted living facility, God brought restoration to our marriage after some very difficult years dealing with his dementia.  I was able to go from being his full-time care-giver to his wife again.  So, we did have time to reminisce about the many good years we had together and thank God for the blessings throughout those years.  And I was able to ask Dale to forgive me for the times I hadn’t been as patient as I should have been, to which he replied, “I already have.”

And yet, I felt so strongly about the message in this title that I did stop and honestly address the question.  What would I say if I had five more minutes?  I would be much more intentional about letting him know how much I loved him and how much his unconditional love meant to me for over 35 years.  I would thank him for his faithfulness to me, for his great sense of humor, for his outlook on life, for his patience, kindness and understanding, and for his quiet faith.

I would also be more intentional about asking for his forgiveness for all the times I fell short of being the wife that I knew God wanted me to be.  And maybe I’d even ask forgiveness for the times I felt compelled to correct the spelling in his grocery lists!  Maybe…

While my message from this song was about doing something completely impossible – bringing Dale back for five minutes – its original intent was, in part, to challenge the listener to consider how we would treat five more minutes with a loved one.

What would YOU do with those five minutes?  What would the most important message be?  And who comes to mind when you ponder the question?  Just what are the scenarios that pop into your mind?  What about sending a child off to college?  Or seeing a friend move across the country?  Or thanking a favorite teacher or boss?  Or just seeing your spouse or child walk out the door to work or school in the morning?  Simple, every day interactions in which those five minutes would become very precious to you.

So, this post is really food for thought.  Who are the people in your life that need you to fill up five minutes with words of encouragement, or repentance, or love?  We all have them – lots of them, most likely.  Let me encourage you to take that little snippet of time and use it for the good of others – and you’ll find that you’re blessed in the process. I know it’s good advice for me as well.

And it’s not just good inter-personal relationship advice, it’s also biblical.  “Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.”  Ephesians 4:29

May God give you and me the courage, the heart and the opportunities to use our five minutes well!

What Your Grieving Friend Wants You to Know

Like so many of my writing projects lately, I seem to ignore the urgings that I feel to tackle a particular subject. I question if it’s of my own volition or if God is truly telling me to do this. I may not ever be completely sure but I’ve been ignoring this one for weeks now, even though it seems like God has already written it all in my head, including the title!

I want to acknowledge that what I share here doesn’t reflect the grieving process for everyone. It’s such an individual journey and no two people go through it in the same way. Many do not truly grieve for a long time, but I am facing this head-on, knowing that I can’t NOT grieve. But in talking with others, especially widows recently, there does seem to be some consistency with the areas I’m including here. But these are my words and my experiences on this (as of the original writing), the four-month anniversary of my husband’s death. I come from a newly-acquired unique perspective, from someone who is now on the other side of the deepest loss I have ever encountered.

  1. I’ve Fallen Short, Too. As I’ve thought through what I want to share in this writing, it’s crystal clear to me that I have fallen short in every single one of these at some point in my life. My downfalls ranged from innocent ignorance all the way to willful dismissal of God’s strong leading for me to reach out to someone in need.

    So, I don’t write this from the standpoint of judgment, because if I did, I would surely be in the middle of the pack of offenders. My hope and prayer is that this can be from the standpoint of education and enlightenment. I have been heartened when friends have told me they are grateful when I’ve shared honestly with them. In many cases, they had no idea and wanted to know how best to be an encourager to me.

  2. The Grieving Person Shouldn’t Be Expected to Do All the Reaching Out. How many times haven’t we all said to someone dealing with a loss, “If there’s anything I can do, please let me know.” I know I’ve done it all the time, and still do! And I know people say that with the purest intentions, as do I. But as I thought back over the times when I’ve extended that offer, I honestly don’t remember a time when that person has taken me up on it! Any time I reconnected with a grieving friend, it’s because I took the initiative to reach out to them.

    Mind you, I’m still far from faithful in this, but I’m learning that this is the proper order. The grieving person is often in so much pain that the last thing they feel like doing is initiating that contact. For me personally, if I did reach out, it would be to someone who had already been reaching out to me. And quite honestly, when I’m having a meltdown, I just do it by myself.

  3. Don’t Let My Normalcy Fool You. A friend texted me something recently I reposted on FaceBook that I thought was brutally honest and accurate. It said, “Grieving is like living two lives. One is where you pretend that everything is OK, and the other is where your heart silently screams in pain.” Oh my! Yes, that’s it, exactly. There are times when it’s all I can do to get through something in public without completely losing it. But we just can’t cry all the time because it’s exhausting, so we do our best to move on with daily activities. But, for me, there is ALWAYS a sense of loss and sadness surrounding my every day.

    That doesn’t mean that I don’t have times of fun or enjoyment. They are welcome respites in my day, and sometimes I’m not even faking it! But they don’t erase the pain that I live with – at a minimum, it’s always lurking just under the surface, waiting to come boiling over at any time, often when I least expect it.

    One other point to make here is that I truly believe that having times of laughter and fun does nothing to dishonor my loved one. They are two completely separate universes. I can laugh at something, or have a good time and then turn right around and have a tearful breakdown. Every single day I cry; every single day is hard, and yet every single day, there is something to make me smile or laugh or enjoy or feel blessed by. That is the nature of this beast called grief.

  4. Don’t Assume You Understand My Grieving Process. I think we all are guilty of assuming we know at least partially what someone’s grieving should look like. In my case, here are some reasons people might think it shouldn’t be so bad: He had been physically and mentally declining for years so it wasn’t that big a surprise. He was elderly. I had even wondered myself if the grief would be less since I had lost so much of him to dementia already. The last 4-5 years had been HARD. I had been living without him for 10 months since his move to the assisted living facility. “You are so strong…”

    All of those are true, except the “you are so strong” one… (Nobody is strong enough to lose the love of their life and not grieve.) But the reality of it is that my grief is deep, painful, lonely, relentless, heartbreaking, tearful, with no relief in sight. None of those other things matters. Despite a difficult 4 years prior to his death, I am grieving almost 30 years of love and good times and precious memories.

    I feel like it’s just the opposite of someone who comes from an abusive past where they have to peel through the layers of hurt, like an onion, to get to the heart of the issue before true healing can occur. For me, I’m grieving through the loss of layer after layer of memories from all those years. It doesn’t mean that we never had difficult seasons, or that there aren’t things that I regret. You can’t have a 35-year relationship without those things. But I know God and Dale have both forgiven me, so I’m not spending time or energy or emotion on that. There’s nothing to grieve about the difficult times. But there is MUCH to grieve about the loss of all that Dale was to me and for so many happy times.

    One last assumption I ask you not to make – how long I should be grieving. At this point, I have no idea. I hear everything from 1 year to 5 years to “you never get over it.” So be careful about saying that the person should move on, or assume that things MUST be getting better by now. More often than not, things get much worse in the months following the loss, ironically about the time some people think we should be on the healing side of things. I know that has certainly been true for me. It’s harder now in many ways than it was back in October.

  5. Please Don’t Ignore My Pain or Walk Away from Me. This is a really hard one to write, because I don’t know how to do it without it sounding judgmental. I know there are so many reasons why people don’t stay in touch with their grieving friend. And my role in this is to extend as much grace as I can in understanding that. Again, I’ve been guilty of using many of these myself. Here are just a few of the reasons I believe people don’t stay in touch:

    • They think other people are staying in touch. But when many friends think that, it is a very lonely time.
    • They don’t want to make me cry. I know that can be uncomfortable. And honestly, I really try NOT to cry! But sometimes, it’s so close to the surface that I can’t help it. Bear with me!
    • They have their own issues with death or loss and aren’t in a place to reach out to others.
    • They have other difficult issues they’re dealing with in their own lives right now.
    • They don’t want to remind me of the loss. No way I’ve forgotten…
    • See #3. They think my normalcy means I’m OK now.
    • Life just gets in the way. Let’s face it, we get into our busy routines and that’s where the focus stays.
    • They haven’t experienced a deep loss and truly have no idea what it entails or what response might be needed.
    • They aren’t responding to God’s nudges – much like I have been guilty of in the past, so I get this.
  6. Check Up on Me. Similar to #5, but specifically, it’s so encouraging to me when people reach out to see how I’m doing. It doesn’t have to be face-to-face. It could be a text, a note in the mail, FaceBook – whatever works for you. I do know that people care, but when you’re in so much pain, it’s hurtful when most don’t ask. That also makes me feel like I shouldn’t bring it up because it’s an uncomfortable subject. So, I resort to the first part of the earlier quote – Pretend that everything is OK.

    Most of the time, I really just want someone who will listen to me with an open heart. You don’t have to have deep words of wisdom, but a caring spirit and willingness to let me grieve with you are so appreciated

  7. I Don’t Expect You to Take Away My Pain. If you’re anything like me, you want to fix the problem! It is hard to see people you care about in pain. And I SO love the heart of my friends who have told me they just want to take away my pain. As I told someone recently, “Even God isn’t taking away my pain, so how could He expect you to!” I don’t mean to be flippant about that, but it’s true. I have to walk through this pain for as long as it takes until I’ve either absorbed it, created a new “normal” or outweighed the painful thoughts with happy memories. All of that takes a LONG time. I’m not anywhere close to that. And I don’t honestly expect to ever “get over it.

  8. I Want to Talk about Dale! If you knew Dale, I want to hear your memories about him (well, mostly the good ones!) If you didn’t, let me tell you about this wonderful man that meant everything to me. He was handsome and charming and witty and so loved by everyone. I was blessed to be his wife for 31 years. It does my heart GOOD to talk about him. Yes, maybe I cry a little, but mostly it makes me smile. He will ALWAYS be a huge part of who I am and talking about him is the most natural thing in the world to me.

  9. Careful Conversations? Oh, goodness, this is maybe the trickiest one of all! First of all, I need to have grace to know that people can’t be afraid that any little thing they say might be upsetting to me. And I have to fight the temptation to think that nobody has more pain than I do. This isn’t a contest and my pain doesn’t lessen yours.

    And yet, I think it’s worth mentioning that when there is someone in your circle of friends who is grieving a deep loss, you may want to be sensitive to what they’re dealing with and select your conversation topics with that in mind. For example, I may not want to know what a wonderful anniversary your husband planned for you when I’m grieving the fact that I’ll never celebrate another one with my husband. As I said, it’s tricky! Maybe you refrain from talking about that. And maybe I have grace and be happy for you. I think both can be true.

  10. This List Isn’t Finished. I originally started with the goal of journaling through this valley – and I do have that project “on ice” for right now. But this “article” just wouldn’t leave me alone and so I’ve tried to be obedient to what God would have me share. And being a numbers nerd, I thought I should have 10 things on the list! But I do know that I continue to learn things about this journey and I’m only 4 months into it. I think one of my next posts will be looking inward and sharing what I’ve learned about myself and my walk with God through the past months. Stay tuned!

The Maiden Post

My first blog post!  How do I feel about this?  Excited, scared, humbled to think that God would work through this, although that is my greatest prayer.

I’ve felt a certain calling for the past few years to start journaling through some of the challenges of a difficult season in life.  And I often had fairly profound thoughts land in my brain, usually during my daily walks with my Boston/Frenchie mix, Daisy.  Clearly this was one of the better times for God to try and get my attention by sharing His truths with me!

But I wasn’t very receptive and essentially ignored those nudges.  On October 16, 2017, my husband of 31 years, Dale, passed from this life to eternity and I plunged into a grief that surprised me with its depth, given the years of living with his dementia.  So as I tried to navigate these new waters, I again felt the call to write through this journey.

This time I listened.  And when I ran the idea past friends, they all agreed it would be an effective way to work through my grief.  As one topic after another rolled through my head, I understood that this was the path for me at this stage of my life.  I didn’t know exactly what format my writings would take, but in just a matter of days, the idea of a blog rose to the top of this pile of options, so here we are!

I want this to be so much more than just a healing mechanism for me; I pray that it would be God’s vessel to encourage and challenge any who find their way to this blog.

Just a word about the title – I can’t take any credit for it, but when I received the suggestion from my friend, Lisa, I knew immediately that it was right.  What does “It’s Beyond Me” mean to you?  Different things to different people, so I’m not going to limit what it is to you by telling you what it means to me!  At least not yet.

If you want to officially follow my posts, look for the “Follow” button in the bottom right corner.  (At least I hope it shows up there!)  And feel free to share this with whomever you feel could relate or benefit.

Thank you for being here for the maiden voyage.  I hope it’s the start of a beautiful relationship!

Blessings,

Lynne