imagesFor the lonely and broken-hearted
And ones who don’t know where to go
There’s someone who’s always listening
Someone who always knows

He’s your Father up in heaven
And He’s hearing every part
Of every prayer that’s ever spoken
And the ones inside your heart

For the times when you have not the strength
To even cry aloud
He’s always watching, always loving
He still hears without a sound

For those who hunger, and those who hurt
And those who hope for another way
Lift your eyes up to heaven
This is what He’ll say:

“Oh how I love you, How I miss you
How I want you to look my way
When you hurt, oh how I hurt
When you truly love, oh how I play

“Sometimes the “magic” doesn’t happen
In the way you want it to
But you can trust that I’m redeeming
In a way that’s best for you”

Not quite a year ago I woke up around 5am, and felt an urgency to pray. I am not a morning person, so this was nowhere near normal for me to wake up and be wide awake at this time. The feeling I had I could only describe as “keeping vigil.” God brought a particular friend to mind, but not wanting to text in the wee morning and risk waking her up, instead I posted on Facebook: “God woke me up just now to pray… So if you are needing it right now, I am praying for you!” A few people commented about things that were going on with them, and I found out several other people also were awake and praying at that time. I prayed for the friend God had brought to mind, and I prayed in the Spirit: “Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words” (Romans 8:26).

After some time, I think it was about an hour, the urgency of the moment of prayer passed, and I wrote the above poem, and posted it. Several people commented and thanked me.  I think I did go back to sleep for a little while before my day had to begin (It was a Saturday, so thankfully the day started a little later than usual). A few days later I talked with my friend who had been on my heart. I remember the moment she told me that her infant nephew had been in the NICU, fighting for his life at the very time I was praying. It was like my heart stopped almost, realizing that I really was keeping vigil for someone connected to the friend God put on my heart. What if I hadn’t been obedient and prayed? I am so grateful that God awoke me, not because I think I am indispensable to God’s plan, but I am so glad that God included me in what he wanted to do in that moment. Some what-ifs are not worth following.

I think about that poem sometimes, that psalm really, which has a tune, though I have never sung it for anyone. I sing it in my heart. And I was singing it tonight.

Another one of the people God brought to mind that early morning last August was a friend’s son who was in the hospital. I tagged the parents on my post, and the mom wrote back that it had been a rough night, but finally he was able to rest. Earlier this month, just after my last post on this blog, as I was on Facebook and had literally just posted the blog link, I found out this 16-year-old boy had died of leukemia the day before.

I saw him at Christmas. We were visiting California, and I came to the college campus where I went to school and worked for awhile. I had a short meeting and then was going to see his mom, whom I worked with for awhile. It was raining and I was a little late (LA traffic, right?), so I passed my friend and her son in the rain, said a super-quick hello-and-I’ll-catch-up-with-you-in-a-few-minutes and dashed off. I didn’t realize who she was with. I thought that tall young man with a hoodie over his face in the rain must be a college student that hadn’t gone home for break yet. The 12-year-old boy I knew before moving to Oregon was much smaller! When I caught up with her later her son wasn’t there anymore, and she told me it had been him, and he wondered why I didn’t say hi to him. “She probably didn’t recognize you!” his mom said, and I said “no I didn’t! I wish I had realized it was him! He seems to be doing great! Say hi for me!!”

And he was doing great. He was back at school and at home for the holidays. It wasn’t too much longer before he was back in the hospital again though, and this time when he went home it was to his eternal family. I will have to wait a long time to give him the hug I wish I’d given at Christmas.

Some chances we get, and some we miss.

I prayed for him. Many people prayed for him. For months. People registered as bone marrow donors. I registered online & via mail. Someone was found, a match for him, and a time was set for the donation, but it wasn’t to be. An infection set it, and ultimately, his body was too ravaged to carry on, and he moved to a joyful eternal rest, where “God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away.” (Revelation 21:4)

He loved Jesus, and now he is with Jesus, and we who are left behind are filled with a mixture of grief, and gratefulness for his life, thankful that he is free, missing what no longer is and won’t be, and longing to join him in that wonderful place beyond.

This has been a very hard one for me. I don’t know if it is because of others I have lost recently that are compounding the loss. Perhaps it is because of my age, this middle-life place where my peers are dying, some of us are having to care for aging parents, and some of us are losing our children. I am not grieving primarily for the young man, or for how my life is affected. Really, I am grieving for his mom, for my dear friend. Because as a mother of boys, I can imagine what it would be like to lose a son. I grieve for his older sisters, because I have younger brothers, and I can imagine what it would be like to lose one of them when they were sixteen. I am grieving because I choose not to let this just roll over me, but I choose to mourn with those who mourn, and weep with those who weep. I choose to feel the pain of the loss, and to take that pain and pray for those for whom it is at times completely overwhelming.

People mean well and wish well, yet sometimes push aside sadness, as if those who have faith in Jesus and a hope of eternity ought not feel sad when someone dies. I think we are afraid of grief. But I don’t think grief is a bad thing. It is Biblical to allow time to weep (Romans 12:15, Ecclesiastes 3:4). I do not ask why, I do not think God is unfair. The world is broken, and we have an enemy who seeks to devour us (1 Peter 5:8). That is why bad things happen. I do not for one moment think there is anything of cancer that was part of God’s original plan for us. That is a result of a broken, fallen, diseased world. I think God is really looking forward to getting us out of here, once all have heard the gospel, and the time is right (Matthew 24:14, 1 Corinthians 15). Until that day we live with the tenuous joys of this world, holding loosely to the things we love, entrusting them into God’s hands, and trying to make each moment count.

Some moments we get, and some we miss. Some loved ones we may hold onto throughout our lives, and some we will have to look forward to seeing in eternity. The very nature of this fragile world, this life as we know it, is enough that for me, I find many causes to weep. We hurt, we are broken, there is great suffering from many sources. Some of us catch a glimpse of that something beyond, and our hearts ache for that time and place we know we were truly designed to live in. Eternity.

I embrace the pain, the grief, the sorrow for those moments in which it comes. I pray, I weep, and sometimes I write. I hold close the ones I love. And I take a deep breaths, and I go on. I laugh, I dance, I sing, I find joy. I worship, I have fun, I try to live with courage and do the things that are hard. I try to embrace people, to not live closed-off to the needs of others. I try to respectfully disagree …disagreements are inevitable, but respect is a choice. I try to teach kindness and model kindness and thankfulness. I try not to lose my temper. I make dinner, I give hugs and kisses, I listen when I’d rather it be quiet, because the person speaking is valuable to me and to God.  Sometimes I’m quiet when I’d rather speak, because I know words aren’t always the answer. People often need love and safety before they can embrace help or truth.

This is the balance of life and love. We love, knowing we might lose. We embrace, knowing those we love will sometimes hurt us. We are thankful, even if what we have isn’t the dream. We hold closely to God, because there is nowhere else to go but towards the one who holds the words of eternal life (John 6:68). So, to my dear friend whose son is no longer in his bedroom, and whose scent barely lingers, who will never again watch basketball with you… I love you. I am in this moment with you as much as my heart can bear. But God is there more, in your lonely and brokenhearted moments, mingling our tears across the miles, hearing every spoken and unspoken prayer, and working to redeem the awfulness of what you are going through right now. To everyone else who is reading, and grieving losses or missed opportunities, or in the midst of fighting a battle that is not yet over, you are not alone.