Happy are Those that Mourn

Happy are those that mourn, for they shall be comforted. Mat. 5:4

I ran across this verse earlier this week studying for my Sunday School class. I have to confess, it’s caused me to pause and ponder for days now.

Happy are those that mourn?

How does that even begin to make sense? Isn’t’ the whole point of mourning the absence of happiness?

In my inability to wrap my mind around this I decided it was time to dig deep. So here goes.

According to Strong’s Concordance the Greek for mourn is pentheo. It means “the feeling or act of grieving”. It is derived from the root word penthos which means “strengthened from a sensation or impression (usually painful); feel, suffer; passion”.

Strengthened from grieving. But how? How does grief strengthen us? The second part of that verse says that those who mourn will be comforted. So let’s look at what that means.

Comforted is- parakaleo “to call near, invite, invoke, beseech, call for”. Its shares the root word with parakletos “intercessor, consoler, advocate, comforter”. Yes, this is the word that is often translated “Holy Spirit”.

So, when we mourn (grieve, feel, suffer) we call near (invite, call for) the intercessor (consoler, advocate, comforter).

In other words, our mourning invites the Holy Spirit of God to draw near to us. Could there be anything more comforting than that?

Those that mourn are happy because the very act of our suffering brings forth the closeness of God Himself.

This week I have peered into the face of mourning. Almost 300 of our neighbors lost their lives in deadly tornados. As I view the pictures of destruction and hear the stories of the survivors my heart wants to pull back, to go numb to the suffering around me. But God doesn’t want me to turn away, to pull back, to become apathetic. He wants me to mourn with those that mourn. To weep and cry and hurt with those who suffer.

Nowhere in God’s Word have I found anything about turning away from grief or sorrow. No, what I find is encouragement to mourn.

  • Weeping may last for the night, but joy comes in the morning. Ps. 30:5
  • The Lord is close to the brokenhearted. Ps. 34:17
  • Evening, morning and noon I cry out in distress, and He hears my voice. Ps. 55:17
  • He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted. Isa. 61:1
  • And God will wipe every tear from their eyes. Rev. 7:17

God does not turn away from our grief. He turns to our grief. He doesn’t ask us to “be strong” or “move past it” or “get over it” or “pretend like it never happened”. He gives us permission to feel sorrow. And then He comes close and brings solace to our darkness and pain. He holds us and wipes our tears away.

Today I experienced this truth first hand. Just hours ago I watched a sweet young couple lay to rest their beautiful five month old baby girl. As the father of precious Zoe preached her eulogy with tears in his eyes and sorrow in his voice I saw the Holy Spirit of God, the Great Comforter, strengthen him. As I sat in the back of the sanctuary and listened to this daddy talk about the goodness of God while standing beside the casket holding his baby girl, I could only whisper “happy are those that mourn”.

Happy are those that mourn.

For they shall be comforted.

It’s when we shut down, when we turn away, when we live in denial of our pain that we get stuck in grief. But to find healing, to find strength, to find joy we must mourn. But we do not mourn as the world mourns, those who have no hope. We mourn in the safety of Christ’s arms, resting in His strength and comfort. Trusting that He is able to bring forth good out of the deepest of sorrows.

As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When can I go and meet with God? My tears have been my food day and night, while men say to me all day long, “Where is your God?” These things I remember as I pour out my soul: how I used to go with the multitude, leading the procession to the house of God, with shouts of joy and thanksgiving among the festive throng. Why are you downcast, O my soul? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God. My soul is downcast within me; therefore I will remember you… Deep calls to deep in the roar of your waterfalls; all your waves and breakers have swept over me. By day the LORD directs his love, at night his song is with me– a prayer to the God of my life… Why are you downcast, O my soul? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God. Psalm 42

Empty

Empty- adjective– containing nothing; having none of the usual or appropriate contents

“Hi, my name is Keri and I am empty.”

This is the declaimer that I wish I could say out loud when I meet someone these days. It would save us both a lot of trouble; me the trouble of having to act like I’m all good, them the trouble of trying to figure out what’s wrong with me.

There’s nothing “wrong” I’m just empty. I have none of the “usual or appropriate contents”. Oh, there are contents, just not appropriate ones. Where there should be peace, there is anger. Where there should be trust, there is worry. Where there should be faith, there is doubt.

I am empty.

Life, circumstances, trials, let downs… all have piled up and left me emptied of me. I feel poured out. Dried up. Out of control. With nothing left to give.

The reality is I’m legitimately not feeling good. My doctor has had (I threw it away yesterday) me on medication that is turning me into a raging hormonal lunatic (literally). Yet in spite of the fact that I have medically documented reasons for feeling out of control I still wrestle with guilt. I still believe that regardless I should be able to suck it up and carry on as if nothing is wrong.

But the simple truth is… that’s a lie!

I am not OK.

I am empty.

And that is OK.

It’s OK that I don’t have it all together. It’s OK that I might cry if you ask me how I am. It’s OK that I need extra sleep, or a day off of work, or a hug. It’s OK that my dishes are piling up and my kids ate sandwiches for dinner.

It’s OK.

I am weak, and tired, and frustrated, and worried, and empty.

But the crazy thing is… when I let down my guard, when I let people see the empty, needy, hurting part of me, when I confess my weakness I am not judged. Instead I am loved. Overwhelmingly, unconditionally loved.

It’s as if my transparency opens the door for love to poor in and fill up my empty heart.

I have never felt so empty.

I have never felt so loved.

Can I ask you today… How are you? Are you empty? Are you trying to pretend like everything is all right when really inside you just feel dry? It’s OK. It really is OK if you are hurting and in need. You’re sisters are here to love you. Overwhelmingly and unconditionally. Can we love you today? 

Broken Wing

I watched her cradle the butterfly with the broken wing in her hands. As the others danced in the sunlight, her tiny concerned face knew that this one would never fly because it was broken. Something happened in the stages of development, clipping its beautiful wing making it different than the rest.

We, much like the butterfly, emerge from our cocoon ready to fly, yet life happens bringing its brokenness and we have a choice to make. We can bring our broken wing to the mender of all that is broken, the God that cradles our frailty in His hands or we can embrace the brokenness and cling to it because our wounds have become our identity.

He is the God that mends broken things. He takes our “broken girl” status and replaces it with a joy that knows no scars. God takes the tattered journey and weaves together the beauty and purpose that comes from the fullness of all that He is.

“For this reason I bow my knees to the Father…that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with might through His Spirit in the inner man, that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the width and length and depth and height- to know the love of Christ which passes knowledge; that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.” (Eph 3:14-19 NKJV)

Today your healing can begin. I’m praying for you.

Love,

Jennifer

Code Adam

I was at Wal-Mart last week, in a hurry trying to get to my son’s baseball game. I had everything on my list and was headed to the front of the store towards the registers when I heard the store manager come over the loud speakers “Attention Wal-Mart Associates, we have a Code Adam. Attention Wal-Mart Associates, we have a Code Adam” I froze. I know what a Code Adam is; it means someone’s child is missing.

My mother’s heart sank as I stood there watching to see what would unfold. What I saw amazed me. Wal-Mart associates appeared from every direction, dropping what they were doing. Leaving shelves unstocked, leaving customers waiting, with one mind and with laser focus they turned from their jobs and set out to find this missing child. From the store manager to the door greeters every Associate participated. It was one of the most beautiful sights I’ve ever seen.

As I stood there watching this army come together to pursue a lost child I heard a gentle whisper “Oh, if my church would respond like this.”

And I wonder why we don’t. Is it because we are too fearful to call our own “Code Adam” when our lives fall apart? Are we worried what others will think if we open up and ask for help? Or do we think we don’t need help? That whatever it is that we are facing that we can handle it on our own?  Or is it because when we have called a Code Adam in the past no one cared enough to show up?

What would it look like if we responded to need like the Wal-Mart Associates respond to a Code Adam? What if we dropped everything and went to God in prayer with that same determination when someone is hurting? If we determined to fight for our families the way we would fight for a missing child? What if we considered another’s pain as important as our own?

Being of the same mind, maintaining the same love, united in spirit, intent on one purpose. Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves ; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others. Phil. 2:2-4

It’s time to call a Code Adam. It’s time to come together in prayer, in support, in love.

Do you have your own personal “Code Adam” right now? Is there something heavy on your heart that we can pray with you about? 

Redemption

The following in an excerpt from undone: a masterpiece in the making.

Yesterday I stood with the crowds reading card after card trying to find the perfect one for my mom on Mother’s Day. As I stood in the middle of Wal-Mart I was suddenly overwhelmed with the fact that the card I selected wasn’t a generic, non-emotional card, but one that was deep and meaningful and true. God’s ability to restore relationships amazes me. 

If you dread Mother’s Day, as I did for many years, will you allow God to bring healing to your heart? He longs to. 

It’s not often that I allow myself to travel back to that time when wounds were fresh and raw. Healing has a wonderful way of dulling the pain of the past.

It’s fascinating to me how we view things differently in different seasons of our lives. When I was a fifteen year old girl my parents’ divorce shattered my world as I knew it. From as early as Eden we’ve learn to cope by placing blame. And that’s exactly what I did. I blamed my mom.

Now, as a grown woman, and a mom myself, I look at the circumstances of my childhood through different lenses. I see my mom differently now than I did then.

Redemption is a curious thing. True redemption causes a change of heart. I can look back at my own life thankful that I’m not the same person today that I was decades, years, or even months ago. I’ve grown, evolved, changed. I’ve been redeemed. I’ve been forgiven. I’ve been loved.

And through my redemption I am free to forgive. I am free to let go. I am free to accept the truth that just as I have grown and evolved, so has my mom and also my relationship with her.

I’m overwhelmed by the healing God has done in both of our hearts. I’m so grateful that God has restored our relationship. But before healing came I had to let go of the pain of the past.

I was thinking this morning about how we love to hold tightly to our hurt. We grip it in white knuckles. We hold our hurts up to God asking questions that begin with “Why?”

The problem with holding tightly to pain is that it hinders us from being embraced.

I’ve learned that God very rarely answers the Whys. But He always comforts His child. And in His arms the Whys slip away. It’s simply enough to be loved.

But we must first let go. We can’t hold on to our hurts and God.

I remember when my little boy was around 3. He had an obsession with trucks. This particular afternoon he had tripped and one of the trucks he was hugging busted his lip. He came to me with tears streaming down his face wanting me to hold him. But I couldn’t get my arms around him. There were too many trucks between us. Eventually his longing for me superseded his need for his trucks and one by one he handed them to me. I took them from him then gathered him in my arms and soothed his anxious heart. We sat and rocked and snuggled until his cries turned to sweet peace.

God stands ready and able to do the same for us. His arms are wide open waiting for us to run to him for healing. The choice is ours.

We can hold on to the truck.

Or we can hold on to God.

Irreplaceable, A Crayon Card for Mom

Can I confess to you that I’m a stay-at-home mom who loathes housework? I can assure you that when I colored my picture in grade school of what I wanted to be when I grow up it did not have someone scrubbing toilets and conquering mounds of laundry. It probably had a picturing of a girl with a huge smile on her face wearing a tiara while she prances around her castle feeling treasured. But, today my castle is much smaller with dishes in the sink and tiny shoes belonging to little princesses that haven’t learned how to pick up after themselves yet. There are days when being a mom is a thankless job and then there are days that I can’t hold back the tears because I’m grateful that I get the privilege of hearing “Mommy” a million times. Yes, there are days where I want to pull my hair out, lock myself in the bathroom and never come out. We all have those days where we feel replaceable, invisible, and under-valued.

Saturday night I heard my little girls whispering something to their Daddy. I tried not to listen, but I have super powers and good ears that hear just about everything.

“Can we give it to her now?”

He knows that they get the trait of being unable to wait from me and gives them the “go ahead”.

They came into the room with the sweetest smiles and their hands behind their backs, “Here Mommy.”

I opened the cards they made and began to sob as I wrapped them up in my arms. I didn’t see that coming.

“I love you, Mom. I could never replace you.”

My response took them by surprise. To be honest with you, it took me by surprise too. Spilling out from within me was the awareness that I am not replaceable. I am not invisible. I am loved as the flawed mother that I am.

As I wept my oldest smiled as I whispered, “It’s happy tears.”

She ran into the living room to tell Daddy that the cards were a huge success while my baby wiped my tears and held me. She kissed my wet face and said the words she couldn’t write on the card in crayon.

“No one could be gooder than you.”

Forget Mother-of-Year, perfection does not live in my home. Love does.

Moms, you are not replaceable. You are not invisible. You are treasured. You are loved. No one could do it better than you do. Set aside your need to make everyone think you have it all together, let a few things pile up, let love fill your home as you aspire to be the Proverbs 31 woman.

You are irreplaceable.

“Her children arise and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praises her: Many women do noble things, but you surpass them all.” Prov 31: 28-29