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For the mama whose heart has ached on the closed-out side of an operating room door, I'm sorry how you know. The kiss of that precious little cheek - soft and blue that tells you it's time to break a heart wide open. I'm sorry how you know. When your strength is down to one last thread and you cling to any fiber of hope waiting for hours with stirred-up guts and clenched-up fists, I'm sorry how you know.

But did you also know on the other side of that operating door was a healer whose love is bigger than heaven and earth? Did you realize when you opened the hands that held onto the thread - fingernail printed skin - that He had you all the while?

I'm sorry how you know, but I'm thankful He knows you.

Thank you, God, that you will never let us go. You are the maker of heaven and earth. You know every fiber - every hair on our head, and you call us by name. Thank you, Lord, that you love us like no other. Thank you that there is no mountain you cannot move and no waves you cannot calm. You control the seas. Thank you for healing our broken hearts, for mending them up, and making them whole. I pray we always remember that with your life laid down, you conquered the grave. Let us always remember your love. Let us always remember you know us like no other. I pray in Jesus' name, Amen

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I bargain with myself to get out of bed. I hide under covers of polyester and cotton – a tucked-in heap of mess. It’s warm there and the squish of the pillow feels soft against my cheek. Maybe I’ll just stay here. The sun shines through curtains partially open. There is a world beyond the glass. It still spins – somehow without me, not all of me anyway. Part of me lives elsewhere.

This world is not my home so I’ve been told. I dream of heaven in grandiose splendor… the place my husband lives. I close my eyes and bask in images of its beauty. Waterfalls sparkle, love is felt, and the air is sweet. I fill my head with peaceful dreams – the awake kind. It dulls the terrors from sleep interrupted nights and brings a comfort I can’t describe. I love picturing heaven, not because Im ready to be there, but because picturing Thale in heaven is far better than my last images of him.

The call of the day pokes its bony finger into my back and begs for attention. I throw down the covers and force my feet to the floor. Two beautiful daughters await me after all. My jobs are here. My home is here. I dig up the brave. There isn’t a choice.

**** After losing my husband, I found it hard most days to get out of bed. How do we accomplish daily tasks when the first step of getting up seems impossible? Too many times I have tried to do things in my own strength only to find I had none. To this day I find the need to remind myself, we can't do it all. If we could do everything and be everything, what room would that leave for God?

2 Corinthians 12:9-11 (NIV) says "But he said to me, 'My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.' Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me. That is why for Christ's sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

Lord, Thank you for being strong when we are weak. Thank you that we can find rest as your power rests on us. Thank you that we don't have to be strong for the world, we just need to turn to you. Thank you that we can come to you raw, battered or bruised and you see us for who we are. I pray we can give ourselves permission to be real, to be weak, to be able to ask for help. You tell us in Psalm 121 "my help comes from the LORD." Thank you for your help in the strong name of Jesus, Amen.

He whispers, “You don't have to be enough.

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Winter without him froze the air. Crashing cold winds rattle the window panes and noisy darkness wakes me. My eyes squint and struggle to adjust. There is no one there. Undisturbed sheets speak silence from his side of the bed. I reach out my hand and let it glide over the empty. What I wouldn’t give to feel him there once more. I close my eyes and pray that slumber fills my head with dreams of the past. I remember the feelings and focus hard on vanishing moments – the blanket of his arms wrapping around me, the smallness of my back against the size of his hand, the safe embrace of a man. I focus hard, clinging to the lovely and drift to sleep.

Nightmares haunt instead. Locust explosions devour what I planted. Autopsy scars and diced up organs spill out of an open abdominal cavity. Dark red blood splashes onto a no longer sterile floor from a body too large to fit nicely on a stainless-steel Autopsy table. My hands are soaked with dark red and my eyes are soaked with tears. I can’t put him back together. I try. Helplessness drops me to the floor. I look at my husband with his innards spilling out. There is nothing I can do. The law requires slicing and dicing when death is unattended after all. A cause must be determined. His autopsy report reads “severe atherosclerosis and thrombosis to the LAD,” a heart attack known as the “Widow Maker.” It did just that.

Morning wakes me in a sweaty tangle of sheets. The other side of the bed remains empty. I long for the words, “It’s okay, you just had a bad dream.” They never come.

**** After my husband died I spent my days clinging to the lovely, making conscious efforts to focus on the positive as recommended by the apostle, Paul, in Philippians 4:8 (NIV) "finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable - if anything is excellent or praiseworthy - think about such things."

But what happens when night drowns out the ability to focus and sleep is haunted by nightmare fears? Those are the times I focused on the lovely... but within the tragedy. Those were the times I focused on the only beauty I knew. The beauty of the cross, the beauty of God's love, the beauty of Jesus, the beauty of immeasurable sacrifice. The beauty of a life laid down.

Isaiah 53:3-5 (NIV) says "He was despised and rejected by mankind, a man of suffering, and familiar with pain. Like one from whom people hide their faces he was despised, and we held him in low esteem. Surely he took up our pain and bore our suffering, yet we considered him punished by God, stricken by him, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed."

Lord, Thank you that we can always focus on the loveliness of you. Thank you we can come to you and know you will understand because there are no heartaches or pain that we experience, that you have not experienced yourself. Thank you for picking up our messes and taking them as your own. Thank you for carrying not only my burdens, but the burdens and weight of the whole world. Thank you for overcoming the world and overcoming the grave. That, Lord, is lovely and I pray in Jesus' name we never forget. Amen.

Focus... on the lovely

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