Hope in the Midst of Heartache

The value of one’s life is not measured by weeks or years.

I wept when I learned that Eden Hope passed away last week. Born at 24 1/2 weeks gestation, she weighed 1 lb.13 oz. Eden steadily gained weight and lived in NICU until she drew her last breath eleven and a half weeks later.

Such a short life span, but the value of one’s life is not measured by weeks or years. Just ask the people whose lives were touched by Eden Hope’s life. I’m one of them.

I physically ached when I imagined being in her mama’s shoes, especially the last time they were together. Did Mama kiss her daughter’s pale rosebud lips? Did she softly caress her infant’s cool face, committing it to memory? Did she breathe in Eden’s scent before the nurse took her away?

I’ve never met Eden’s parents. A friend of mine asked me to pray for that family. The more I prayed and received updates, the more invested I became as though these strangers were my family. I couldn’t get them out of my mind—my heart.

“Eden going home to Jesus” isn’t what I’d prayed for when I heard she’d been scheduled for surgery last week.

I asked for a safe, successful procedure, protection and healing. I prayed that God’s peace and love would surround Eden so she wouldn’t be frightened as she lay (uncomprehending) on that operating table. I prayed that His Spirit would comfort the family while they waited for the outcome. I prayed God would use this agonizing chapter in their lives to draw them closer to Himself and impact people’s lives.

I also prayed, “Thy will be done.” 

But honestly, I didn’t want God’s will if it didn’t line up with mine. I wanted Eden to defy the odds, grow strong, and go home to play with her two sisters. 

Others prayed too for this precious soul who was wonderfully and fearfully made in the image of God. Imagine a band of prayer warriors who never gathered, but rejoiced each time Eden gained another ounce. We grew hopeful with each passing week. For every two steps forward, there was one step backwards. When her health finally took a turn for the worse, we pled for a miracle.

I can’t speak for others, but I wonder if part of me hoped for a life-giving miracle to counterbalance COVID19 and the debilitating bad blood that’s been flowing through our nation’s veins. I needed some good news. I needed some hope.

“Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a longing fulfilled is a tree of life” (Proverbs 13:12 NIV).

My longing wasn’t fulfilled. God’s will, not mine, prevailed.

This morning, tears came when I thought about Eden and how hard she fought to live. But she no longer needs my prayers. I don’t know what her new glorified body looks like, but I know in heaven there is no pain or sorrow. She is healed. She is whole. 

Eden struggled to breathe on earth, but now I picture her inhaling heaven’s pure air and singing at the top of her lungs, “Jesus loves me this I know!”

Yes, Jesus loves her. The same way He loves Eden’s mommy and daddy, her older sisters, you and me. This is lovenot that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins” (1 John 4:10).

God’s vast and infinite love reminds me to trust His heart when I can’t comprehend His ways. God’s sovereignty assures me that His eternal purposes for Eden’s life were fulfilled. And in the process, He used that small, delicate infant to reveal His love and grace to a hopeless world.

I consider that a miracle. Don’t you?

And a reason to trust God’s heart—even in this heartache.

Photo by: Jennifer Wrede

Are You Grieving This Season?

I wrote this three years ago. I still think about the families who lost loved ones that year. And this December, I know several more families who are in the midst of grief. I pray these words encourage someone’s heart.

Even In This

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There’s a grief that can’t be spoken. There’s a pain goes on and on.”

Thus sings a young man (in the musical Les Miserables) after his friends have died in battle. And it was these heart-wrenching lyrics from the song Empty Chairs, Empty Tables that echoed in my mind as I drove to the airport a few days before Christmas.

Although I was over-the-moon excited to hug my son who was coming home for the holidays, my heart mourned for two moms who will never hug their sons this side of heaven.

A week earlier, their eighteen-year-old sons were killed in a vehicle accident while driving in our town. I didn’t know the young men. Never met the families. But my heart still aches like an open wound whenever I think of them; pray for them.

Sadly, they’re not alone this Christmas season. I have several friends who celebrated…

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Are You Grieving This Season?

candle photo

There’s a grief that can’t be spoken. There’s a pain goes on and on.”

Thus sings a young man (in the musical Les Miserables) after his friends have died in battle. And it was these heart-wrenching lyrics from the song Empty Chairs, Empty Tables that echoed in my mind as I drove to the airport a few days before Christmas.

Although I was over-the-moon excited to hug my son who was coming home for the holidays, my heart mourned for two moms who will never hug their sons this side of heaven.

A week earlier, their eighteen-year-old sons were killed in a vehicle accident while driving in our town. I didn’t know the young men. Never met the families. But my heart still aches like an open wound whenever I think of them; pray for them.

Sadly, they’re not alone this Christmas season. I have several friends who celebrated Christ in the midst of a grief that can’t be spoken…

The death of an elderly father. The loss of an infant grandson. A broken marriage. A pre-school child with cancer. Someone facing a double mastectomy. So many lives touched by a pain that goes on and on.

I try to make sense of it all especially during Christmas when hearts are meant to be merry and bright. A friend told me that tragedies like these remind us to hold our loved ones close, forgive and keep short accounts, and share Jesus. Another woman, whose husband was killed, said, “Instead of asking why this happened, I ask how I can live to honor God despite my circumstances.

Wise words, but I also opened my Bible to Matthew because I thought of those ancient moms who grieved for their sons—martyred babes, slain by the sword when Jesus was born.

For even though a bright star led the Magi to worship the Christ Child, the troubled soul of King Herod resulted in the blood-thirsty slaughter of children.

“Then Herod, when he saw that he had been tricked by the wise men, became furious, and he sent and killed all the male children in Bethlehem and in all that region who were two years old or under, according to the time that he had ascertained from the wise men.

Then was fulfilled what was spoken by the prophet Jeremiah: ‘A voice was heard in Ramah, weeping and loud lamentation, Rachel weeping for her children; she refused to be comforted, because they are no more.’”

When I look at the current mayhem and sorrow in the world, has anything changed since that blessed year when Christ was born?

After all, one of the Magi’s gifts was Myrrh, a bitter perfume, that breathed “gathering gloom, sorrowing, sighing, bleeding, dying, sealed in the stone-cold tomb.

lamentation-of-christ-by-antony-van-dyck-1599-1641However, outward appearances can be deceiving.

Jesus wasn’t born to spare folks from pain and death on earth. He came as the Lamb of God to take away the sins of the world. To prove God’s great love by dying for us while we were still sinners. And His resurrection guarantees us new life when He’ll wipe away every tear and there will be no more death.

“Rachel wept…refused to be comforted.” Maybe you’re mourning too.

Just remember, when we believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing we may have life in His name, it truly is possible to experience His peace and comfort that defies human logic… 

Even in this grief that can’t be spoken.

 

References: Matthew 2:16-18, John 1:29, Romans 5:8, John 20:31, Rev. 21:4 & lyrics from We Three Kings of Orient Are

 

When Death Interrupts Life

My uncle died Friday night.

Lying in hospital, his one strong hand clung to the woman he loved. His pale cheeks wet from my aunt’s  teary butterfly kisses.

My uncle had suffered a Stroke weeks earlier, but on Friday—the first day of spring—I didn’t know his frail body was shutting down….

While I played Florence Nightingale to my outdoor plants—amputating dead limbs, nurturing them with life-giving water.

Springtime—the smell of fresh-cut grass, a sky the color of robin eggs, yellow buds unfurling in the afternoon sun.  My Friday was pregnant with new life around me and joyful possibilities.

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 What a stark contrast to my uncle and aunt’s reality. Death’s chill shadow loomed over them as the life they knew and shared concluded.

And yet, even in this…gut-wrenching pain of letting go….Hope was present.

Hope is the balm that soothes the burning sting of death.

 “If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are to be pitied more than all men. BUT Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who have fallen asleep.”

Death can’t be sugar coated. “There’s a grief that can’t be spoken.” (Lyric from Empty Chairs at Empty Tables)

However, my uncle and aunt believed “That Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that He was buried, that He was raised on the third day….”

And their FAITH is what the Bible describes as “the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen” (Hebrews 11:1).

This world isn’t the end all. There may be mysteries we can’t explain. But God has given us His Word, and His Promise, that death will be swallowed up in victory.

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The Columbine seeds I scattered in my garden last year now rise from the earth, but in a new form. The clover-like foliage and lavender bell-shaped flowers are more beautiful and fragrant than its seed.

So it will be with the resurrection of the dead. The body that is sown is perishable, it is raised imperishable; it is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory; it is sown in weakness, it is raised in power; it is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body.”

Because Christ lives, we live too!

That is the sweet reality for those who believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have LIFE in His name.” (John 20:31)

*Other scripture  cited is from 1 Corinthians 15

Photos by Jennifer Foster

Where was God?

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Where was God?

Where was the Almighty while twenty-one Egyptian Coptic Christian men were murdered by ISIS for professing their faith in Christ?

Joshua 24:15 says, Choose you this day whom you will serve….

And on February 16th, 2015~~

Twenty-one Christians chose the name of Jesus!

This horrific event happened last month, but the image of these martyrs will not be forgotten. Not by me.

What about God? 

Is there any doubt that He saw these men dying for their faith, claiming the name of Jesus?

If so,then why not spare these men?

Why didn’t God step onto planet Earth and perform a miracle that would prove He is real, and turn the world upside down? And thereby show how much God loves His own.

The ones He chose and knows by name.

Actually, God did!

Two thousand year ago, “the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth” (John 1:14).

Jesus, the Son of God, spoke about the Kingdom of God. He performed miracles to prove His deity.

Then God demonstrated His own love towards us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us“(Romans 5:8).

But in case we forget, Jesus warned His followers: “If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first” (John 15:18). “…If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you….” (John 15:20)

Where was God when the twenty-one Christians died?

God was present with each man.

Because His Spirit lives inside every Believer, and the Lord has promised, “I will never leave you nor forsake you (Hebrews 13:25).

Twenty-one Christians died, but “their blood is the seed of Christianity.”

The words of Tertullian’s (A.D. 160-230) during the early stage of Christianity rings true today:

Proceed in your career of cruelty, but do not suppose that you will thus accomplish your purpose of extinguishing the hard sect (the Christians). We are like the grass, which grows the more luxuriantly the oftener it is mown. The blood of Christians is the seed of Christianity. Your philosophers taught men to despise pain and death by words; but how few their converts compared with those of the Christians, who teach by example! The very obstinacy for which you upbraid us is the great propagator of our doctrines. For who can behold it, and not inquire into the nature of that faith which inspires such supernatural courage? Who can inquire into that faith, and not embrace it, and not desire himself to undergo the same sufferings in order that he may thus secure a participation in the fulness of divine favor?