Rachael Weeping for Her Children, and No One to Comfort Her

f4948-saminorphanage“When Herod realized that he had been outwitted by the Magi, he was furious, and he gave orders to kill all the boys in Bethlehem and its vicinity who were two years old and under, in accordance with the time he had learned from the Magi. Then what was said through the prophet Jeremiah was fulfilled:

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.” Matt.2:16-18 

There have always been weeping mothers and there always will be. A friend of mine who lost an adult, twin, son a few years ago posted about this being a difficult time of the year for so many. Another person “commented” that if people are sad they should get off their “pity party” and volunteer, do something for others and find joy… I know that this friend of mine is not sitting around, but is actively moving on with her life; and she has been through the wringer.

Why is it people are so terrified of grief? Why the need to always jump in and tell other how they should feel? The questions are rhetorical – I know the answers. There are no answers – no answers to pain and suffering – no answers to why bad things happen to good people. If it could happen to them it could happen to us.

Without the discussing the historical accuracy to the biblical account of the “Christmas story,” or whether or not the above scriptures are even part of the Christmas story, the fact is that children were slaughtered, no more, gone from the loving arms of their mothers (and fathers) for ever. There is no greater wound to the heart than the loss of children. It defies everything good and right in the world that our children precede us in death, and yet they often do. In the Philippines right at this very moment, many are mourning the loss of a child. In India, in Haiti, in Japan, in the Ukraine, in the United States… Many are missing their children.  I know I am.  I volunteer – my life is lived as a volunteer – and I don’t do pity parties; but at times I still weep, I mourn, and I miss my son. I always will. That will  never, ever change.

Loss is part of life. It is part of Christmas. It is part of Easter…and Thanksgiving, and Birthdays, and Saturdays, rainy days, or sunny days. We need to learn to live with it, and support others who live with it. Weep with those who weep, laugh with those who laugh.

If Rachael is weeping because her children are no more,  lets be the ones to try and comfort her with our silent, non-anxious presence and support.

Even at Christmas.

They Call Me Lola, God’s Plan for the Philippines

photo (3)They range in ages from yet to be born (early February),  to ten and a half. At the time my oldest daughter and son-in-law was expecting their first child, I was a young forty-four and not feeling old enough to be a, “Grand-ma,” or, “Nana,” or any other array of old sounding names. After all, our youngest son was only four years old – I was still a MOM!

But Lola, well that sounded OK. Lola is the Filipino name for grandmother. (Lolo is the name for grandfathers, but we went with Papa.)  Kristen and Matt had been missionaries to the Philippines for a short while with Mercy in Action, the organization I am partnering with on this deployment. Ethan was born in New Mexico where they were both working stateside for Mercy in Action, training midwives for international missions. There were quite a few years of Filipino influence when the first grandchild was due.

One of the things I have learned about missions and trauma care in particular is God uses common ground for opening doors and bonding. I am sure I will take a few extra pictures of my grandchildren on my phone, as well as in a small picture book for when the time comes that God uses “Lola” to open the doors of the heart. In Haiti, I was warmed to see God use the death of Micaiah as a connection with many of the older women. Even before the earthquake, the loss of children was keenly felt in their country; after the earthquake I doubt there was a mothers heart in Port au Prince and surrounding areas that was not torn on behalf of their own child, or a niece, nephew, neighbors child…

Like Rachael weeping for her children…

This trip was planned before my first grandchild was born, without my knowledge or even the notion that I would become a trauma chaplain; for chaplaincy and trauma care had not yet been fully born in my heart, but God knew. God planted Lola in my heart and in my life as a path to the Philippines, and I go in faith knowing that His plans are always perfect.

But the plans of the Lord stand firm for ever, the purposes of his heart through all generations.  Ps.33:11

The Truth Latch

heartShe had a gaping hole in  her chest that often exposed her very colorful heart. Many people embraced the colors of her heart, but others found it offensive that she wore it so  openly; the colors of her heart were more than they could handle – they believed that her heart should be a more stable, solid, color like those around her. It should be less noticeable and blend in.  The mere exposure of her heart to the outside left it readily available for injury. There was nothing to shield it from the darts that often get thrown by friends and foe alike. Every time her heart was hit by an arrow, or grabbed by another, a piece of it was lost or injured, turning portions of it black. Pretty soon her heart was changed, darkened, and cut, by the pain of exposure.

She felt that to cover up her heart would not be true to the One who was fashioning it, crafting it, and molding it into the shape and colors He desired. It was difficult to try to live out the purpose that the Craftsman had designed, without leaving the heart exposed; so she kept it open, showing it to the world, and having the world repeatedly damage it. There were times that she tried to shut it up, not to reveal it, to close the lid and mark, “Not open to the public,” “Not open to the church.” “Closed for healing.”

“Why?” she asked the Craftsman. “How do I open this heart to those who value it, who need it, to see the fashion by which You created it, and created them? How do I let you fashion my heart, turn it into what you desire, the many colors you gave it, without having it be damaged by others?”

“Grace,” He replied. “And a latch that is fashioned by Truth.” “Your latch has been fashioned by Fear and so it springs open when it shouldn’t. The Truth Latch is fashioned to reveal True Friendship, True grace, True need, and True Love, and so it will only open when I will it to. ” The girl stared in wonder as a warm healing began to spread through the blackened and wounded parts of her heart. “I feel so safe,” she replied, but I am afraid I will continue to open the latch at my will and not yours.” “The Craftsman smiled, “There are going to be times that you force open the box, or the fears from your past weaken the Latch I have created, but over time you will learn to let me control it. Over time the Truth will be revealed only to the ones I choose for you. I have given you great Truth Bearers to surround you. They are True Friends and understand the workings of my Truth Latch. ”

“And the Truth will set you free.”

His Name is Jesus, What’s Yours?

Certain chaplains get it- they get me- we get each other. I am particularly fond of certain groups of chaplains- as a general rule hospital/ hospice, and Military and some forms of Emergency Service, are the ones that work in very interfaith, multi-cultural settings that have lots of death and / or trauma. It’s very different from Corrections for example who have a “captive audience” and though incarceration is a form of suffering, and many inmates have been through traumas, it’s not quite the same as looking death in the eye, day in and day out as you support people of other faiths through their most difficult times.

There are Rodeo chaplains, motor-cycle chaplains and all kinds of community service and industrial chaplains all working as “ministers in the workplace” but my greatest connections come through crisis chaplains- and for that background matters.

I’m an Henri Nouwen fan and loved the discovery years ago that my calling was one of a “Wounded Healer.” Though I’m trained to the teeth in trauma psychology, grief, loss, CISM, yadayada… and it is all relevant important, my education and training only gave a name and face to my own experiences. I repeatedly learn it is not what I know or what I do that makes me effective in serving, but who I am.

I am Beloved, accepted, forgiven, child of God, joint heir, sister, friend of God, unconditionally loved, redeemed, chosen, adopted, unashamed, included, blameless, holy, blessed, filled with His grace, sealed, alive, Gods handiwork, filled with peace, brought near, never alone, never forsaken, built up, a servant to the gospel of Good News… And more…

That is what / who I bring with me to the Philippines- a wounded healer with , the “least of all,” complete with Christ in me. And That is the greatest Healing of all.

Ephesians chapters 1 to 3. Drink them in and believe.

Maybe You Need Deliverence

When describing to someone in more recent, traditional Christian circles, how I still cry over my son Micaiah – that I am still torn on occasion with gut wrenching sadness and moments of near unbearable loss, I have heard the  reply, “Have you ever thought you might need deliverance?” Considering that mimic’s the very kind of statements we heard at the time of his death under spiritual abuse, it used to trigger my post traumatic stress. The racing heart, the trembling, the rising anger, confusion, fear, whatever, feelings that overwhelm a persons coping. I hid it pretty well – but it would come out later in a myriad of frustrating emotions wrapped in stress induced,  depressive, anger.

Recently I found myself chuckling over it. Not quite sure where the chuckling came from, other than I found myself thinking in my husbands fond term of, “knucklehead.” Hmm. What used to hurt me in  the depths of my core now can make me chuckle and think, “KNUCKLEHEAD?”  That is the power of God. The power of grace. The power of healing. The power of Truth. The power of Christ’s unconditional love for me, enabling me to love others. There is something about true and utter betrayal by people you trust, that (to coin the phrase) makes you, “bitter or better.”  It took many more years and many more betrayals (no longer life threatening,  but ministerial death) to find the place of peace where like Jesus I can say, “Forgive them Father they know not what they do.”

This is where true resiliency comes in – the ability to bounce back – move on – hold our head up in reflection of Christ’s love.  This is where we find the peace that passes understanding as Philippians 4 teaches. It stems from a gentle spirit – not to be confused with an upbeat or outgoing personality, but the spirit that has learned simple trust; the spirit that has learned to take the wrongs and let the defensive posture go. The spirit who has learned (or is learning) that the Shepherd leads us into the places of greatest change – sometimes floundering in the dark and murky waters to recognize that the clear springs flow on the other side.  The spirit who has let go of fear and anxiety to find it replaced with things much better.  The “Much Afraid” who has walked along the shores of Bitterness and climbed to the High Places to become “Grace and Glory, and for Peace and Joy to become her new traveling companions. (Hannah Hurnard, Hinds Feet on High Places)

“Accept and bear and obey the Law of Love, and nothing will be able to cripple your hinds’ feet or separate you from Me. This is the secret of the High Places, Grace and Glory, it is the lovely law of the whole universe.”

I will always have times of sorrow over the loss of my son, and I sure hope I am not “delivered” from them; for it only through knowing Sorrow that I can see it so clearly in others. It is only through knowing Suffering, that I can go to the Philippines and maybe, just maybe, instill a small measure of Hope, to those who know Sorrow as their constant walking companion. It is only through Sorrow and Suffering that I was introduced to Peace and Joy, and they have become the most cherished of traveling companions.

To anyone reading this who has lost a child, been betrayed by those you love, been used by people you trusted, were abused, beat up, forsaken, broken, alone, or in despair – hold on, Peace and Joy will join you along the journey if you can just keep on trusting in the Good Shepherd to lead you. One day at a time.

Happy Birthday Micaiah. You did not die in vain, but your life has touched many. I dedicate all my writing to you – you may have become a writer yourself – or a doctor, a scientist, or a Navy Seal. Whatever you may have been, you would have been wonderful, just like your siblings who miss you too. And your Dad, who will always wear your name as a scar upon his heart.  xxoo Mom 

** Excerpts from Hannah Hurnard Hinds Feet on High Places.  If you haven’t read it and are struggling – do so.  It may just encourage you along the way. <hugs>  Jamie

His Name is Micaiah, His Name is Love

handsTomorrow, December 10th, marks the day our son Micaiah would turn 23. He died at birth, never getting to taste of what this life has to offer, but drinking in the presence of God from his first breath of life. I knew it was a boy before he was born, not because of ultrasound, we didn’t use those options for our children, but because God named him before he was born. “Who is like Jehovah?” Micaiah was the name the Lord would put in our hearts before he was born, and would carry to full term.  “Who is like God?” The question would resound for many years after his death. The depths of the destruction that spiritual abuse caused would resound for many years – and at times it still rings now.

I have finally come to understand that very few will ever really understand what it is like to carry the weight of losing a child in such a sad, meaningless way; yet many will genuinely believe that they know what it feels like. Others will know the loss of losing a child and relate in that way, the common bond of understanding that a simple glance between parents can convey a thousand words. But for most, they did all they could to save their child, when in our case, we carried the burden of a loss that was totally preventable. We carry the loss of having learned to forgive people directly responsible. We carry the loss of knowing that the, “what if’s…” of our loss, are very tangible, “If only’s…”

Add to burden of, “If only’s” that during our darkest hour, we were surrounded by people who told us before he was deep in the ground, “You will have to get over it sometime.” “Do you know where you missed it yet?” or the kinder people from outside our corrupted circle of influence, “Well, you have enough children anyway.”

REDEMPTION

One of the definitions for redemption is, “an act o redeeming or atoning for a fault or mistake.”        

Every day, the Lord redeems the loss of our son Micaiah more, but it isn’t in the ways most people would think. It’s not necessarily because we are surrounded by people who understand our experience, or that his death resulted in the ministry of Compassionate Reach (Hesed Hope), or even that our peers are kinder than those in our past, (oftentimes the old saying, “Christians shoot their wounded,” applies to us, even if more acutely because we have been fatally wounded), but the real redemption lies in the permanent scars that mark where I have been.

Like Much Afraid in Hannah Hurnnard’s, High Feet in High Places, it took the traveling companions of Sorrow and Suffering to walk beside me to the high places, and though I cried out like Much Afraid to have Joy and Peace, I finally submitted trusting that the Shepherd, “…would choose the very best guides for [me] and in doing so understand His reason,  “You will be able to mount to the High Places swifter than eagles, for it is only up on the High Places of Love that anyone can receive the power to pour themselves down in utter abandonment of self-giving.”

REDEMPTION

Sorrow and Suffering may have accompanied the faults and mistakes, but Joy and Peace (and forgiveness, and self-control, and long suffering, and contentment, and acceptance, and mercy, and grace, and goodness, and…and…) come through the redemption of utter abandonment.

His name is Micaiah. His name is Love.  Without my beautiful Micaiah, and the redeeming of His life – and death – I would never know the depths of God’s grace to learn to love as I am loved.

Happy Birthday Micaiah. Give Jesus a high five for me.

 

 

The Philippines to Teach, Nope the Philippines to Learn

I am headed to the Philippines soon. It was sudden. Just last week on “Giving Tuesday”  the Sound of Life Radio (the Local Christian Radio Station) chose to have me be their “gift” to the Philippines. The radio audience generously gave to purchase my airline ticket so I can go and bring comfort and hope, in the form of psychological and spiritual aid. If you question what good psychological aid is when there is so much devastation – keep reading over the coming weeks. It matters. A lot. 

We are also collecting toiletries, medical supplies, crank flashlights, bug spray with deet, and various other needed practical aid. Our goal in our ministry (www.hesedhope.org) is body, soul, and spirit. It all matters to be whole.

We will bring as much as our financial donations allow us to purchase, and to carry or ship.

I will teach the victims of the disaster that the awful nightmares, physical discomforts, emotional distress, confusion etc. is “common” for an uncommon event. I will teach them some coping mechanisms so hopefully we can reduce the long term effects of PTSD, and anxiety.  They will get some helpful hints for their children. Or in the case of orphans, their nieces, nephews, neighbors etc. As I learned in Haiti, the chances of any ever seen any “mental health professional’ is very slim. So I will give them current disaster psychological and spiritual cares best. I will give them God’s best – hope. I will do my best. And I will pray that like my Haitian friends, they will be helped, and that God will show up in my frail, weak, limited, scared, humanity, and relieve some of their suffering. 

Mostly, as I did from my Haitian friends, I will learn from them. I will learn what it really means to suffer, and yet to survive, to lose and yet to live, to fear and yet to love.

I will come home a better person for it. I know God will show up, but not really in me, but in them. And that is where the real miracle of humanitarian aid lies, in empowering others to see Emmanuel, God with us.