Holidays have a gift for the grieving

By Heather Walton

“Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God. Trust also in Me. In my Father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am gong there to prepare a place for you. And if I go to prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you with me that you also may be where I am. You know the way to the place I am going.” John 14: 1-4

Christmas Tree 2015

 

It’s almost Christmas—the “most wonderful time of the year.” However, for many people, this is a time when grief is highlighted. That special loved one is conspicuously absent in the midst of all the cheer. Perhaps this is the first Christmas without someone special, or perhaps it’s one in a string of many, but that may not lessen the pain. Whether the loved one was lost through death or a falling out, whether that loved one was human or a furry friend, whether a child had been born, unborn, or maybe just longed for, the holiday season can be less merry for you than for those around you.

A few Christmases ago I had just started going through the divorce process, and my kids had to leave to be with their dad’s side of the family at 2 p.m. Christmas Day. Some family and good friends invited me over, because they didn’t want me to be alone. It was so nice of them to include me, but I remember just being miserable and wanting to go home. Here I was, hanging out with families, but I was all alone. I really wasn’t in the Christmas spirit that year, and I was relieved when New Year’s came and went.

 

This year is not like that one for me. This year I am very happily married and I’m looking forward to Christmas. But there is still the heaviness of grief as my would-have-been due date approaches in early January. Honestly, I’m tired of grieving. I keep thinking I’ve turned a corner. But as I wrapped a baby gift for a friend this morning, the heaviness returned. This time of year, there is much to remind me that our baby is gone. We are celebrating the Savior’s birth, and there are a lot of songs about the “Baby” Jesus. Our little girl’s middle name would have been Noelle, and Noel is a popular word at Christmas.

 

But in both of these situations, and in anyone’s situation during a time of grief, the above Scriptures, which I read this morning in my Bible study, apply. In John 14, Jesus was addressing His disciples at the last supper, after He had told them that He would be betrayed and that He was going someplace where they couldn’t follow. Jesus comforted them, telling them that they should trust in Him and that He was going away to prepare a place for them.

 

Heaven is the place to which He referred. In heaven, ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” (Revelation 21:4). In heaven, there is no death, no divorce, no disease, no miscarriage, no ectopic pregnancy, no separation, no falling out, no sadness, no anger, no bitterness, no grief. In heaven, we will be reunited with many of the loved ones we have lost if they were followers of Christ or if they were children. In heaven, we will not feel the pain of separation or loss. The heaviness I feel over the loss of a child, the loneliness I felt over the loss of a marriage, and whatever grief you may feel over your losses will simply not be there anymore.

 

Jesus has asked us to trust Him on this. Since I have trusted Him with my life and my eternity, this really isn’t asking too much. And just because I choose to trust Him on this, that doesn’t mean that the heaviness is gone.

 

And even if this Christmas is hard for you because you have lost someone precious to you, remember that without Christmas, there would be no Easter. And Easter is the celebration of the Resurrection of Jesus, which is what makes eternal life possible for us and for our loved ones. Without Christmas, there would be no hope to recover our losses or to heal from them. Even through great trials and grief, Christmas is a gift.

A blessed year didn’t begin that way

Wedding centerpiece 3This was my Facebook post on January 1, 2014:

“My Scripture for the incoming 2014 year: “… one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 3: 13b-14)
I’m putting the past in proper perspective and focusing on God’s good plans for me and for my children as we move forward into the new year and new beginnings. God is on His throne, and I trust His goodness and faithfulness.
Happy New Year!”

Sometimes moving forward can be difficult to begin. At the beginning of this year, it was challenging at times to focus on the future, rather than on the past. But I was determined, with God’s help, to do just that. And trusting God to hold my hand (and at times to carry me) as I journeyed into unknown territory has paid off. If anyone would have told me at the beginning of 2014 what God would do in my life this year, I’m not sure I would have believed them. But as this year draws to a close, I must say that, despite my initial expectations, it has been the single most blessed year of my life. In this year, I have learned much about the grace of God, lack of control over others, how to truly trust the Lord, and what love really looks like. I have had the support and encouragement of family and friends, both old and new.

I have seen my dreams continue to come true in my business, which is also a ministry. Most days I have to pinch myself to make sure I’m not dreaming. I started this business during the most difficult time in my personal life, but God truly caused the growth. I believe I am doing the work I was created to do, and it’s an incredible feeling.

As significant as that is, I have to say that the most pleasant surprise of the year was finding true love and having the opportunity for a new beginning. I feel completely blessed to have a wonderful husband, and to be beginning a journey that started with a “Broken Road,” but has turned into a new path that I’m confident will take us to beautiful places.

So yes, God has demonstrated His good plans for me this year in a major way. But those plans started with a season of heartache. Putting the past in perspective and looking toward the future was the first step in being able to move forward. It wasn’t always easy to do, but the results were worth it.

The difference a year can make

10285258_10205378926856698_7225796448017537297_oChristmas Eve, 2014

I began this blog 14 months ago with the post “How should we respond to the consequences of other people’s choices?” The point of that post was that we often are affected negatively by the decisions other people make. The opposite can be true as well. We can be positively impacted by other’s actions.

This time last year, I was in the midst of a divorce that was the result of repeated devastation. I remember not feeling at all festive as Christmas approached the next day. All I could think of was that my family had fallen apart and that I would be sending my kids to be with their father at 2 p.m. on Christmas. Still, I had joy because I knew that Christmas isn’t really about presents or even about family–it’s about a baby who would grow up to change the world by giving His life for our sins.

During the agonizing process of divorce, several people told me that I would feel so much better after a year had passed. Repeatedly, I heard people say, “I know you don’t believe it now, but it really will get better.” They definitely were right, but even they had no idea what God had in store.

Soon after the divorce was final, I began praying for a “kinsman redeemer,” someone who would love me as Christ loved the church and who also would love my children. Two months later, God answered that prayer. We soon became best friends, then more than friends, and last week, we were married. Not only married, but parents to seven children between us. We are off to a good start for sure, and I look forward to seeing how God uses us in ministry together.

Just as my life seemed to be devastated last Christmas, due to negative choices made by another, my life is absolutely blessed this year, due to positive choices made both by myself and by a man who loves me with a 1 Corinthians 13 kind of love. Now I have what I never even knew was possible in human terms.

What a difference a year can make … and I look forward to the year ahead as I learn what further beauty God wants to create from the ashes of the past.

He has brought beauty from ashes

3-stranded-cordChange can be scary, but sometimes you just know you have to take that step. I have had many changes over the past few years–several of which have been monumental. But nothing will ever compare to the change that took place 21 years ago, when I decided to follow Jesus. He is my First Love and always will be. So in the past three years, I have been through a variety of big changes along this “broken road” we call life.

I have been through the devastation of two separations and a divorce. I have spent time as a single mom, something I never thought I would be. Two years ago, I went through a period of major depression, so deep that I thought of ending my life at one point.

But I also have had some wonderful changes, such as having the opportunity to start my own school. I will tell you that I was not equipped to do this, so God did it through me. I still marvel on a regular basis that this is real, and not a dream.

Earlier this year, with fear and trembling (This was actual trembling, not metaphorical trembling.), I decided to enter the dating scene. (My last date had been 24 years prior, and things have definitely changed since then!) I figured I would date around and figure out what I really wanted in a man. I did want to remarry, but I expected it would be a few years. I reasoned that it would take awhile to find the right man. But I did pray that God would provide someone who would love me and my children, a godly man who put Jesus first in his life. So I had a few dates. It was fun and interesting, but also somewhat terrifying.

We should never be surprised when God answers prayer quickly. But often we are, aren’t we? After about a month on the dating scene, I met a godly man. We quickly became close friends, and then best friends, and then more than friends. I observed how he interacted with me and with others, including my children, and I knew that God had answered my prayer. So I look forward to marrying my best friend in December. It will be a change, another unexpected change, and frankly, it’s a little scary. But it’s not too scary, because I know that we both have placed Jesus first in our lives.

“Two are better than one,
because they have a good return for their labor:
If either of them falls down,
one can help the other up.
But pity anyone who falls
and has no one to help them up.
Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm.
But how can one keep warm alone?
Though one may be overpowered,
two can defend themselves.
A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.”
(Ecclesiastes 4: 9-12)

That cord of three strands in any relationship should be the two involved in that relationship, with God in the middle. I am blessed and thankful that we have that strand in our relationship. God is good all the time, and He allows changes in our lives–some positive, some negative. But He always works those changes for our good, if we truly love Him. I look forward to seeing what God has in store for us as we embark on a journey through the “broken road” of life until the day He calls us into the perfection of eternity.

“beauty from ashes” Isaiah 61:3

Love is worth the risk

red symbols of loveLove is risky, but we shouldn’t give up on it. Is it better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all? I don’t know. But I do know this: If we don’t take a risk, we will never have the opportunity to love and to be loved, which is one of life’s greatest experiences.

What is love anyway? The Bible puts it this way:

“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.” (1 Cor. 13: 5-7)

This Scripture is often read at weddings. I read it at my brother’s wedding and plan to have it read at my wedding, should I be blessed with a second chance at marriage. But this is more than a wedding Scripture. This is how we should conduct ourselves with everyone. Love is an action. Any relationship, including a romantic one, should be based on this kind of love.

So, rather than focusing on love lost, I choose to focus on the potential that love still carries–in all my relationships. Though love requires vulnerability, it offers possibilities I wouldn’t want to miss out on. Love is worth the risk.

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