Grief never dies.

Daddy died May 14, 1960. He was 46; I was 16. He had been scheduled for open heart surgery the following week, to replace a heart valve damaged by the rheumatic fever that daddy contracted during WWII. He’d had several heart attacks and was looking forward to regaining his health. But he had another heart attack in the middle of the night and this time, he died.

It was the night of my 11th grade Junior Prom, which I had reluctantly attended with some boy I didn’t really know, and whose name I can’t recall to this day. I had spent that evening sad, not knowing why, just sad. I’m sure my date had a miserable time.

I never recovered. I began dating guys mother didn’t approve of, marrying Paul when I was 18, basically to get away from my unhappy mother. He was loving, he was kind, he would give anyone a helping hand or give them the shirt off his back – when he was sober. Unfortunately he was an alcoholic.

Mother died June 22, 1970. She had never recovered from Daddy’s death. She had become a full-fledged alcoholic, in and out of rehab, wrecking her car, hurting herself, attempting suicide several times over the next nine years. She shot herself in the head on June 28, 1969. It was my daughter’s 4th birthday. Her concerned pastor and other church friends sat in her living room, unaware of her plans as she walked out into the back yard and fired the shot.

She lived in a nursing home for nearly a year, eventually dying of pneumonia. Her beautiful hazel eyes were open but she was non-responsive, non-moving, although a friend told me years later that she went often to visit and was sure mother heard her as she read the Bible to her and prayed. She was sure mother responded to her questions with eye blinks. I seldom went to see her, never talked to her, thinking that she herself simply wasn’t there, lying so still on that hospital bed.

For many years after mother’s death, I had nightmares every few months. Really it was the same nightmare: Mother was missing. In the dreams I was looking for her everywhere, going from house to house, friend to friend, relative to relative, business to business. Mother’s car was still in her front yard, her purse was still there in the house, but she wasn’t there. Sometimes other people were helping me look for her, sometimes she had just vanished that day; other times I was the only one still looking, she had been gone for a long time. The content was always the same: Mother was missing.

(It wasn’t until shortly after Tim died that those nightmares stopped happening. One night Father God graciously gave me a vision of heaven where I saw Tim, Mother, and Daddy living and working, full of joy and eternal life. I never had another of those nightmares after that.)

I never recovered. My marriage fell apart when my husband and I couldn’t just make things work. Several years later I met and married Tim, a wonderful man. With the Lord’s help we faced many challenges, especially Tim’s health problems.

Tim died December 15, 2006. He fell at home, broke his leg near the hip, had surgery to repair it, had a heart attack in the recovery room and lived one day. No-one had thought Tim wouldn’t recover; he always recovered! He’d had so many health problems in his life, but he always recovered! Until that day.

I never recovered. For days, even weeks, I couldn’t sleep in a dark house. I turned on every overhead light, every lamp throughout the house and slept – although I didn’t sleep much – with the lights on. I couldn’t drive down certain streets in town, I would take various detours to avoid familiar streets. I couldn’t shop on certain aisles in the grocery store; that’s where I used to buy Tim’s favorite foods.

I couldn’t do medical transcription for a certain doctor’s practice any more. He had been Tim’s doctor; that was the waiting room where Tim would wait, listen to a little pocket radio, sometimes chat with other patients. I tried to continue but didn’t last more than a few days. I just couldn’t go into that waiting room, not even into that building. They said they understood.

Gradually I could turn off the lights at night, drive down those streets again, shop in those grocery aisles again. But there are still some things I don’t do. While a year later I donated most of Tim’s clothes to shelters, I have never thrown away some of Tim’s belongings. I kept a collection of his favorite neckties, ties I had bought for him. I kept his South Carolina ID card, his wallet, his cologne, his watch. I sleep in one of his undershirts.

People die. But grief? Grief never dies.

Some people will get this. Some won’t, the ones who think you’ll just “get over it.” Who say “Time heals all wounds.” No it doesn’t. Time may make the pain less, like a fading bruise. But underneath the invisible damage is still there, not throbbing as much but still there. Until…

          I never recovered – but I did heal.

There is a solution to grief. Even if grief doesn’t die, God can heal all wounds. Father God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit know exactly how grief feels. Accepting their understanding, comfort and healing is how I have survived intact, one more day, one more week, one more year.

I began writing a blog about heaven some months after Tim died. Maybe reading through those posts will help somebody else. Here’s my favorite one:  https://speakingofheaven.wordpress.com/2010/02/13/touching-base/

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What’s in a face?

I was reading 2 Chronicles 7:14 one day, “If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land.”

A phrase in the middle sort of “lit up” from the rest and stopped my reading. I thought I knew that verse by heart – after all, I often referred to it when asking the Lord to forgive our nation and send revival.

But that little phrase in the middle, how had I missed that? What did it mean exactly, “Seek my face?” I soon found several other verses containing that phrase:

  • “Seek the LORD and his strength, seek his face continually.”  (1 Chron. 16:11)
  • “When thou saidst, Seek ye my face; my heart said unto thee, Thy face, LORD, will I seek.” (Psalm 27:8)
  • “Seek the LORD, and his strength: seek his face evermore.”  (Psalm 105:4)

Other passages came to mind. Face to face is how God spoke to Moses, although cloaked in the pillar of cloud. The face of God is always on his people and his ears are always open to their prayers. The eyes of God run to and fro through the whole earth to show himself strong on behalf of those whose hearts are right towards him.

The meanings of the root words are pretty basic and easy to understand. Seek is from the Hebrew word darash, meaning “to resort to, seek, seek with care, inquire, require.” Face is from paniym, “face, presence, sight, countenance; i.e. the front of something, or in front of something. The surface.”

Since that day I’ve given that phrase a lot of thought. What is a face? What’s in a face? Here’s what I have thought, so far.

A way to communicate, one type of body language
Expressive; shows or hides emotions and physical feelings
Thoughts show on your face
Attentiveness, inattentiveness
Interest, boredom, curiosity
Attraction, repugnance, horror
Startle, surprise, fear, fright, terror
Concentration, determination, frustration, irritation, distraction
Meditation, thoughtfulness
Shyness, boldness
Embarrassment, shame
Anger, rage, wrath, anxiety, worry
Slyness

The mouth, ears, eyes, jaw, cheeks and nose; all the face is involved in expression, including the skin
Skin color changes, blushes, blanches
Eyebrows askew
Eyes wide open or squinting
Eyelids blinking; winking
Looking past, up, down, or direct; indicates attention level
Stare, ogle, glare
Wrinkled brow, raised brow
Wrinkled, raised nose
Pursed lips
Open mouth, closed mouth
Clinched teeth, clinched jaw
Smile, grin, or no smile
Frown, grimace
Twitching, tics

Indicates or hides direction of attention or focus
Eyes show focus of view, near or far; into the distance while meditating
Facade, fake face hiding real one
Intelligence personnel are trained to keep a stony face; comedians can tell jokes with a “straight” face

Slang terms / idioms in common usage
Face the facts
Face up to your responsibilities
Face up to it
Face it like a man
Face your fears
Face value
Face the consequences
On the face of it
Just a pretty face

So, “Seek my face.” What do you mean by that? I asked the Lord another night, after meditating on it a while. Here’s what he said:

My presence, my opinion, my feelings, my directions, my conversation, my fellowship, my purpose, my interests, my purposes, aims and goals.

My affection, my forgiveness, my mercy, my teaching, my training, my correction, my advice, my attention, my ear, my assistance, my mentoring, my example.

My face is not like your face. Vision, for instance, like X-ray vision. MRI. Ultrasound. Sonar. Infrared. Not bound by space or time or physics. Multidimensional, physical and/or spiritual, either or both at once.

He stopped speaking at that point and I started thinking about it again then, and often since then. Some of those thoughts, in no particular order, include

  • God has senses… well, of course he does.
  • Humans were created in his image; so were their senses, their computing and feeling abilities.
  • Any senses we have, God had first.
  • Sometimes there is a sweet smell like perfume, the aroma of his presence when you’ve been worshiping and praising him.
  • God has physical and spiritual hearing. Even the deepest thoughts of men are discerned by him.
  • The face of our thoughts is the surface of our soul.
  • But thoughts are not all on the surface. Thoughts are many levels deep, God’s and mine; they are similar in that way.
  • But God’s thoughts are countless levels deep and wide, not bound by time or distance.

There’s much more to learn, I know. More to search for, more to find. The Holy Spirit wants us all involved in that kind of search, I know. I don’t think we’ll ever finish finding out more about his face, his presence, his person.

The Prince of Peace painting is by Akiane Kramarik. It can be downloaded free of charge from https://art-soulworks.com/collections/prince-of-peace. 

Remember the Three R’s?

Remember the 3 R’s? Reading, wRiting and aRithemetic?

Here are a few other R’s, some that I use when praying for other people, and even when praying for myself.

You may think of a few more…

Father, please —

  • Reveal – who You are, creator, Savior, Father, empowerer, healer, provider, lover of my soul, comforter, guide, teacher
  • Restore – what the enemy stole, including health, job, reputation, finances
  • Recover – what was lost, self-esteem, sense of your presence, confidence, life itself
  • Repair – what was damaged, broken relationships, any cell in the body no matter where it is, bones, blood vessels, organs
  • Remove – what shouldn’t be there, such as tumors, cysts, infections, parasites, even splinters; also doubt, fear and unbelief
  • Replace – what shouldn’t have been removed, such as broken friendships, relationships, even physical items in the home
  • Recreate – what is missing, whether natural or supernatural, body parts, brain function, healthy emotions
  • Renew – what is worn or fatigued, such as strength, energy, stamina, clear thinking, good memory
  • Refresh – the joy of my salvation, faith in your promises, your word, your mercy, your patience, your power
  • Remind me of your grace! Your love!

More of the same

17 August 2017
“What’s going on today, Lord?” I asked. Somewhere in the back of my conscious (finally awake) mind, I could hear How Great Is Our God, being sung. For a few moments I had just stretched and listened – and agreed with – those powerful words, then asked him that question.

“More of the same, accelerated and intensified,” he answered. Suddenly in my mind’s eye I saw fires again, popping up here and there across America.

I’ve seen and written about prophetic fires before: fires of revival. Small pockets of revival, spreading, enlarging and joining, until a conflagration of glorious Holy Spirit fire is burning coast to coast. Burning away dross, chaff, sin, decay, sickness and disease. Leaving wholeness and holiness, God’s creative life and that “more abundantly” in its wake. (John 10:10.)

These current images weren’t like that, though. These were destructive, toxic, evil. Then he reminded me – nothing that ever happens is a surprise to the Lord. He has a plan for believers to respond to every event, and he’s more than willing to tell us how to do that. Respond, not react. Be a thermostat, not a thermometer. How?! Ask him. Then listen!

Tinkering around the edges

I was just wondering what the Lord was up to this evening, wondering if maybe he’d like for me to do something different from what I was doing (reading stuff online), like pray, study, or what… when he said, “I’m tinkering around the edges.” Huh?

“When I see a loose thread, I’m pulling it.” Loose thread? What does that mean? I asked.

Some loose threads lead to knots, he said. Knotty problems. Knotty emotions. Knotty headaches and heartaches. So, I’m carefully pulling the loose threads, untangling the knots.

I suddenly visualized knotted muscles, knotted nerves, knotted relationships, and now a gentle scarred hand, painstakingly and patiently untangling those knots, soothing as he goes.

Say goodbye

Go say goodbye to your yard, He said. My yard? Okay.

cannaeisen002I stopped what I was doing and walked out into my back yard. I looked at the grass, the mixture of Centipede and Charleston grass that had taken so long to grow. I looked around at the peach trees and the pear trees, the azalea bushes, the Eisenhower cannas, the pine trees and the dogwoods.

As I turned my head this way and that, I said goodbye to them all in my mind, noticing the bark, the color of the leaves, the needles, even the rows of weed and dirt in the side garden. The willow tree – telling that goodbye was especially hard.

I walked back and forth around the back yard and the front yard, all the way to the edge of the far driveway where a solitary quince bush grew. I walked and talked in my mind to the yard, saying goodbye to each thing I saw.

I told the remnants of flowers and shrubs in the flower beds near the house goodbye. I told the place where the baby magnolia tree had once been, mowed down “by accident,” goodbye.

Even the storage shed where the garden tools were kept, even the carport utility room with the deep freeze full of frozen meats and vegetables, even the paved driveway from carport to the street, I told them all goodbye.

For so long I had yearned for things to be calm and peaceful in my household. I had quit trying to be right all the time, even when I was right. I had tried to quit worrying about money, how to make ends meet on my salary alone when my husband’s paycheck was spent on pinball, poker games and beer before he ever got home after payday.

I had done everything I knew to do to cook country-style meals, cooked long and seasoned like my mother-in-law’s. I had gotten up early and stayed up late, working in the garden picking vegetables, then shelling, freezing and canning, plus kept up with the laundry, ironing, vacuuming, mopping, scrubbing and dusting.

All those things that have to be done in a house, I did, since that was a “woman’s job,” even though I worked in an office all day. After all, my husband kept up the seven acres of yards and garden, planted, weeded, fertilized, plowed, fed the hogs, broke the corn, did all those things after working on a city truck all day. When he came home after work, that is.

But nothing I did was ever enough, nothing was ever right enough, or fast enough, or something else enough to suit him. Actually, ever since I’d given my life to the Lord, nothing about me suited him any more.

That winter I had fasted and prayed for my marriage, my unsaved husband and my young teenage children. Weekends my husband seldom came home at all any more. I took the children to Sunday School and church on Sundays, came home and fixed dinner, then rested and read until time to eat a sandwich, then went back to church on Sunday nights.

As a church musician I needed to be there. As a Christian at the end of my rope, I needed to be there.

Then I heard that voice deep in my heart, Go say goodbye to your yard, and I did. As I completed my circle of the yard and garden, He spoke again. Say goodbye to your house.

The house and land had been purchased with my mother’s life insurance money as down payment. A lot of the furniture, dishes and other stuff had been my mother’s or grandmother’s. Was I supposed to tell it all goodbye? Yes, tell it goodbye.

So I walked from room to room saying goodbye, to the piano, cuckoo clock and linen chest that had been my mother’s. To the beds and dressers and chests of drawers, even the sheets and pillows, blankets and bedspreads on the beds.

I said goodbye to all the stored boxes in the attic, all the books on the shelves, the living room drapes, the bedroom and dining room curtains, the dishes, pots and pans, refrigerator and stove. I said goodbye to the electric mixer, the mops and brooms, the detergents and bleach, the roach spray, the mouse traps, even the floor wax.

I said goodbye to all the jars of tomatoes I had canned, all the home-made pickles, the groceries in the pantry and in the refrigerator. I said goodbye to my washer and dryer.

I told the lamps, the ottoman, the platform rocker that had been my grandfather’s, the french provincial armchair and sofa that had been my mother’s, the china cabinet that had been my grandmother’s, I told them all goodbye.

I even said goodbye to the dirty clothes in the closet, the wet washcloths, the soap and shampoo, and all of my children’s belongings. I said goodbye to the pictures on the walls, the carpet and linoleum, the pink bedroom reading lamp that had been my grandmother’s, even the ceiling light fixtures.

I walked from room to room, looking from floor to ceiling, wall to wall, leaving nothing out. I opened every bedroom closet door and said goodbye to the hanging clothes, the dresses, shirts, skirts, winter coats and jackets, folded sweaters and assorted stored stuff on the top shelves.

I opened the hall linen closet and said goodbye to the folded sheets and towels, the extra quilts and blankets, my knitting supplies, yarn and needles.

I said goodbye to the gold and tan sheet-size afghan on the back of the sofa, the one I’d spent countless hours knitting, and to the heavy orange and tan lap afghan I had spent countless more hours knitting.

I said goodbye to the sewing machine and the box of patterns I’d used to make my Easter dresses and my children’s school clothes, even the smoked-up sewing box full of needles and thread that had gone through a house fire at my mother’s home.

When I was finally finished, I thought I would be leaving that place immediately, but there were no more instructions that day, just a through-and-through peace in my soul that I had done what was necessary.

Further instructions would come several months later that year (1978), when it was the right time. I didn’t realize until then that He had not told me to say goodbye to my station wagon… I didn’t have to relinquish that; I was going to need it.

 

Led by the Spirit, how does that work?

Those who are led by the Spirit of God are the sons – mature children – of God. (Romans 8:14)

What does that look like, really? someone asked me recently. How does it work?

Here’s an example... Last Wednesday evening I left a class at church to drive home. Nearing West Palmetto Street, I began “knowing that I knew what I knew” – I wasn’t supposed to go home yet.

But if not home, then where? I wondered. I didn’t know anyone I could just drop in on, without prior notice. I had eaten supper before going to class, but perhaps the McDonald’s at I-95? Or the Huddle House near there?

No, not there, I felt in my gut. So I turned left on Palmetto, waiting for some sort of direction from the Holy Spirit. I live just three minutes from church so it didn’t take long to reach the driveway to my condo, but I knew I was supposed to keep going on towards town.

When I recognized Celebration Boulevard just ahead, I sensed in my spirit that I should turn right, and so I did. And suddenly I knew my destination – another McDonald’s, the one at South Cashua.

I was familiar with that place. During the week after Hurricane Matthew I had spent quite a bit of time there praying with people: folks whose electricity was out, exhausted hospital workers, linemen coming to and from repairing downed power lines, not to mention the weary McDonald’s staff themselves. Although my own power was also out for some days, I had plenty of food and water at home, I wasn’t there for that.

No, the Lord had sent me to that McDonald’s, one of the few places still with electricity and water, to encourage and pray for tired, worried, needy people. The lines were always long, the faces usually long too – there were plenty of opportunities to pray.

And Wednesday evening I had a gut feeling that I would find a needy person to pray for at McDonald’s. While the drive-through was busy, there were no other customers inside. Wondering if the cashiers and cooks were the reason for my visit, I took an order of french fries to a table and sat down.

I prayed as I nibbled, asking the Lord to bless everyone in the building and drive-through, to draw them to himself and meet every need, body, soul and spirit. Several other customers came in as I sat there but none seemed to be a specific prayer target.

I was down to my last few fries when a young man came from behind the counter out into the restaurant, talking on a cell phone. Going by the uniform he was wearing I thought he was probably the assistant manager. Around and around he walked, all the while talking on his phone. Then the voice of the Holy Spirit spoke plainly, “He’s the one.”

The next time he came near enough, I motioned for him to come sit with me. Putting his phone call on hold, he slipped into the booth with a polite, questioning expression on his face. He probably expected a complaint of some kind. I explained that I would like to pray for him, and asked if he believed in Jesus. He said yes, and told me his name.

I asked if there was anything specific he needed prayer for, and he became quiet and thoughtful for a moment or two. Then in a few sentences he shared a worrisome situation that had arisen about his job and his concern for his future with the company. I extended my hand, he took it and we prayed together about all that.

I ate supper at home before I came, I told him, but the Lord loves you very much, he wants the best for you, and he sent me here just to pray for you. He thanked me, I said you’re very welcome, and came home.

That’s how it works, being led by the Holy Spirit. Sometimes it’s words, sometimes it’s knowing that you know what you know, sometimes it’s a gut feeling. The Lord can get his directions across to you in a variety of ways – if you’re listening, and if you’re willing to obey him. It may take some practice.

Also see https://estherspetition.wordpress.com/2015/05/07/encounters/