What has been lost

People often wonder if I’m angry about losing my children. I’ve written about this before (here), but in short, praise God that anger hasn’t been my struggle. It doesn’t mean that I never feel the emotion, but I’m generally able to keep it solidly in check. If there is one thing that has made me angry from time to time though, it’s the reality that our living children have all had to suffer so much in their young lives. 

I’ve cried out to the Lord and lamented to friends that it’s just not fair to them. They’ve lost so much and suffered greatly in many different ways as they grow up around these giant tragedies smack in the middle of their being.  So much has been stolen from them and if I let it that could really get me fired up!  And just to be clear, my anger is always directed at the enemy, the Father of lies and destruction and never at our loving Father. Satan comes only to kill and destroy and we live in this fallen world where sin and death run rampant.

Since Mikey’s death, I’ve just sort of accepted this fact and carried the hope within that all will be reconciled in the end. But still, the struggle of the day-to-day grief remains and the price has been heavy at times, especially for my innocent young children.  Anna always struggled with her little brother’s death. She locked up a whole lot of pain and grief and battled each day to overcome the sadness and heavy burden. As a mom, nothing hurts more than not being able to help your child. But I couldn’t fix it for her then, any more than I can fix it for the others now. 

But what if things aren’t exactly as they appear here? What if the enemy has actually stolen nothing? Here’s a truth I have come to know: There is no school like the school of suffering. The tragedies that my children have endured are what’s making them. They are being tested like gold in fire and how precious and valuable is the Gold that endures it? I can lament all day long that despite our best efforts and intentions, we weren’t able to give our kids the ideal carefree childhood that we both had. But I have only to think of the hope that carried Anna through her days to know with certainty that the Lord used every minute of her pain and struggle for her good. Mikey’s death was like a tether that kept her eyes turned toward heaven even as she lived a little while she was here. She had hope and trust that she would see him again and he was part of her living here, too. In a beautiful way, the Lord was using the pain and struggle to bring her closer to Himself. I’ve had so many consolations that in her final weeks He was wooing her, knowing her day and her hour were near, and if that’s true then the enemy has stolen precisely nothing. Joke’s on him. Despite death, hope remained and Heaven reigns.

The suffering for my little ones is big, no doubt about it. I never want to downplay it or make light if there are tangible and concrete ways to overcome their pain. It does have a way of seeping into the nooks and crannies and discoloring so much of life, but there’s more than meets the eye at work. I trust in that, even as we walk through the sometimes dark valley of these days laced with struggle and suffering. What would these young ones be like without the crosses they carry? I don’t believe the answer is that they would be better off. I really don’t. 

I loved my childhood. I feel so fortunate that I was blessed in all the ways that I was. But if I’m honest, the truth is that I didn’t really start living until I walked along the road to Calvary beside my Lord. What an honor and a privilege, and honestly, not very difficult at all compared to His walk. 

My children may not understand or see the good right now, but it doesn’t change the truth of it. The Lord is wooing them just as He did Anna and He has a plan for each of them; to give them a future and a hope and the enemy is always playing right into His hand.

To me, that is cause for celebration and rejoicing, not anger.

“Surely your goodness and unfailing love will pursue me all the days of my life, and I will live in the house of the LORD forever.” Ps 23:6

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The Hope In ISIS

I was outside playing catch with Andrew a few days ago and one of my throws went way off course. He made a running, leaping, reaching catch before falling proudly to the ground with ball in glove. He, of course, gave a play-by-play commentary afterward saying, “Terrible throw by Mom, really awesome catch by Andrew!” Just calling it as he saw it (with a big smirk on his face). I saw it a little differently and happily gave him my point of view. My terrible throw gave him the opportunity to make an incredible catch. He needed my terrible throw.

As we all know, the atrocities being committed against Christians in Iraq, Africa, and elsewhere are top news stories of late. Our fellow Christians are being murdered and brutalized and, as our country’s leader stands seemingly silent, the situation feels dire and dark. We are feeling helpless as we watch in wide-eyed horror, with the powerful exception of coming together in prayer for our brothers and sisters in Christ.

Certainly, I don’t want to make light of the horror by suggesting it compares to something as trivial as throwing a baseball around, but I do see tremendous Hope in the horror. ISIS is providing an opportunity to stand before the world and boldly give up everything for Christ. ISIS is drawing the line in the sand in a monstrous way, thereby allowing Christ followers to set an example and send a powerful message, to their God and to the world.

Arabic-NazareneEvery night, my family prays and gives thanks to God for these faithful Christians willing to risk everything, in the eyes of the world, for the one thing only seen with the eyes of Faith. They are a beacon, a light post on top of the hill, standing up for the only thing that truly matters. They risk everything to claim Christ and they know it. They possess Christ so much so that not only are they willing to die for Him, but mothers are willing to let their children die for Him. It is beautiful and it is encouraging. It is the Hope we need in this darkness, an example to be pondered while we pray for that kind of faith and relationship with the Savior. Do you have a faith worth dying for? What is our own suffering now in light of martyrdom and persecution?

Some of the most haunting images coming across my newsfeed are those of children and babies, mutilated and beheaded. The cry comes from deep within me as I think of my own sweet innocent baby. Surely, I would die for her. Why the innocent children, Lord? But then I ask myself, “Would the slaughter of only adults make it somehow more palatable”? These children are marked for Christ and I think it is a sign of even greater hope. Just as in the days of Herod, when he slaughtered all the male children because he couldn’t find the true object of his hatred, these holy innocents are being sacrificed. Then, as now, evil thrashed about like a kid having a temper tantrum, destroying all that it could in its path. Why? The answer is so simple and so full of HOPE!! Because God lives! God lives here and now and He has a plan unfolding. The Christians in Iraq are chosen as part of the unfolding. Those who have died, now live. They are a great light for the world and yet just a shadow of the True light that is coming.

Shortly after Anna died, I had a very strong message and experience that I could not fully understand. I wrote about it here. It was of a sunrise that wasn’t quite full of the splendor and majesty I was expecting or seeking, and yet it was a sunrise that dispelled the darkness all the same. It was a sunrise with the hope and expectation of bright rays burning through the clouds at any moment, but it was incomplete and fell short. What was the Lord trying to tell me? I understand that experience with a little more clarity now. We may not feel the hot sun on our faces quite yet, but we must TRUST fully, deeply, and wholeheartedly that the sun is there and the clouds cannot last forever. Even if that sun sets behind clouds and we are steeped in darkness, we must TRUST that it is only dark for a time. The sun will rise in splendor and glory.

The time to seize opportunities to choose Christ, to choose our faith, and to choose Truth is now. It is critically important that we hone a faith like Abraham. Pray for it. Beg God for the kind of faith that willingly offers your child as a sacrifice to Him. We all know the story of Abraham and Isaac when the Lord stays the father’s hand at the 11th hour and spares the son. We breathe a sigh of relief and hug our own children a little tighter, but that’s not the end of the story. Along comes Jesus, willingly offered and sacrificed by the Father, and this time there is no stay.  Anything less than the full sacrifice just does not get the job done. The willingness to lay down life isn’t adequate, only the actual giving of life will suffice for the salvation of the world. The sacrifice of Jesus was once for all, but it is the model for each of us to follow daily. There have been many throughout history who have done exactly that. We need to be prepared to give back to the Lord all that He has given us including our very life. It is the example of faith that we need for the salvation of our souls in these dark, dark days. Every single martyr is a beacon of HOPE that sends a clear and strong message. Dying is not true death. Dying for Christ is true Life.

Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what shall a man give in return for his soul?” (MT 16:24-26)

These holy men, women, and children who refuse to deny their Lord are heroes and champions. I will tell you of the true horror and tragedy taking place around the globe because, sadly, it will never get reported.  It is the tragedy of the Christians who are being given the opportunity to choose Him, but instead are denying the Christ. “But everyone who denies me here on earth, I will also deny before my Father in heaven.” (MT 10:33) We must pray for them as we pray for ourselves.

When a gunman, the unpopular Truth, the socially unacceptable Church teaching, or the private battle with sin calls us to account, will we choose Christ or will we sever ourselves from the Body? No matter the consequence, will we have the courage to take the outstretched hand of our Blessed Mother and say, “Yes Lord. Not my will but yours be done.” At any cost? At every cost? After all, there is no cost greater than Eternity. Our brothers and sisters being persecuted by ISIS know this intimately and many have chosen boldly.

No matter their past sins or successes, when given the choice by ISIS to convert or die, their entire lives of faith have boiled down to one choice in one moment. And the rest of the Body proclaims, “Well done, good and faithful servants. Pray for us.”