Category Archives: pain

the unspoken blessing

“But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called Today …” –Hebrews 3:13

I saw it in their eyes last evening … a familiar pain. It’s one I’ve felt before. It always touches a nerve whenever I speak on it, especially those nerves deeply embedded in the heart and firmly rooted in remembrance. In sharing a bit of my own story, I quickly discerned that my strong emotion stirred up emotion in the ladies who’d gathered for our weekly Bible study. And instead of studying the Bible, we studied the God of Bible who comes alongside us in our woundedness, who dries our tears, and who speaks words of healing into those places where words have often gone undeclared.

Oh the ache of the unspoken blessing! Who of us hasn’t longed for a few words of eternal encouragement from an uncooperative candidate? It seems it would be easy to impart words of strength to those we love. Why then, do we so often keep them to ourselves? I think this is one of the resulting side-effects of never having received the blessings due us. The words we long to receive can often be the very words we refuse to give.

What tragedy … to forsake the blessing of others because we feel under-blessed. We are not under-blessed. We are the children of God, the over-blessed, the lavishly loved, and the richly endowed kids of the kingdom. When we live there, in God’s house of affirmation, the overflow of his love to us more easily overflows through us. Blessing others becomes our default rather than our reluctance.

Not so long ago, I wrote a few words about our words of blessing. Maybe you’ve read them; maybe you’re reading them for the first time. They seem an apt fit with today’s rumination, and so I release them to you again for your consideration:

“Our words mean a great deal to others and to us as well. Words released as flowers are words that carry us through our seasons of deepest darkness. They brighten our spirits. They lighten our loads. They keep us from lesser feelings—lesser attitudes—that, if not guarded, could quickly morph into lesser behaviors. Anger, bitterness, selfishness, waywardness, faithlessness, fear, pity, envy, and blame, are all possible, lesser products of the heart when words of kindness and encouragement aren’t extended as healing replacements.

Rarely is our neglect intentional; mostly we don’t think about our words as being an investment into the heart of another. But sometimes we forsake the “giving of flowers,” keeping our words to ourselves because it’s hard to speak them. The emotional toll that honest words require can be exhausting, raw, and exposing, thus the reason so many important conversations never take place between two hearts. Instead, we sometimes choose our silence because the contrast is too much of an honest look into our flawed and fragile hearts. Self-preservation over personal revelation becomes the order of the day. When that happens, hearts remain as they were—unchanged, unmoved, and uncolored by the witness of a flower or two given in the name of love.

Whatever our reasons for keeping our silence, we must understand that some lives will come to an earthly close without the blessed benedictions due them. Words of blessing are reserved for a funeral, when in reality, so many of them should have been spoken in advance. Words spoken at a funeral, flowers given then? Well, they’re likely to be forgotten, to decay over time, buried alongside the casket. But words of encouragement spoken into a heart before a heart moves home to heaven? Those are eternal words that never die. They blossom as a witness to generous grace and serve as a lasting memorial to the human spirit and to the God who puts eternity into the hearts of all humankind.”    (F. Elaine Olsen, on “Sending Flowers to the Living” from Beyond Cancer’s Scars , p. 124-125).

Maybe today you feel the ache of an unspoken blessing in your heart. Maybe today, you’re refusing someone else the privilege of hearing the words due them. Wherever you are in this story, my prayer is that you will allow the Father to move in to that place of woundedness and to restore to you what is rightfully yours. You are the apple of your Father’s eyes, and his love for you is without reserve or condition.

Live in his encouragement today and then, out of that overflow, live to encourage someone else. As always …

Peace for the journey,

If you’d like to secure a copy of Beyond The Scars or Peace for the Journey, click here to learn more. I greatly appreciate your support as I walk through this transition in my writing ministry.

yet inwardly

“Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.”  -2 Cor. 4:16-17

Yet inwardly.

As God-followers, we must remember that for every outward reduction to our lives there is an inward renewal taking place. Soul renewal. New strength to replace waning fortitude. New life in exchange for that which is old, even when the old is mostly preferred.

We cannot always foresee the reductions coming. Sometimes they surprise us. Sometimes we are warned in advance of their arrival. Still and yet, when loss arrives to our familiar, we feel it profoundly. We’re quick to mourn its advent, even quicker to forget the deeper work of grace that is taking place underneath the pain, at heart-level. It is in this inward place where our soul advances. Where faith is shaped. Where eternal glory exponentially increases at a rapid rate.

We may not see the increase happening, but just because our eyesight is momentarily dimmed by personal pain doesn’t mean that something good isn’t occurring at a deeper level. What soil put to the blade has ever thanked the blade for its penetrating sharpness? Until the seed is planted, the earth watered, and the sun applied, the soil has no appreciation for this inward work of glory. The soil just has to wait and believe that, with every passing sunrise and sunset, there is something generous taking place beneath the visible.

As it is with the soil, so it is with the soul.

I’m fourteen days into 2014, and if there’s one word that best characterizes what I’ve experienced in these beginning weeks it would be simply and profoundly be … loss.

Not only have I known deep, personal reduction, but one of my children has as well. My parents, the same. We couldn’t see it coming on the backside of our 2013s; nevertheless, loss has arrived at the doorsteps of our hearts, and we are challenged to take hold of God’s inward multiplication despite man’s attempts at outward reduction.

By the generous grace of God, we’re all still standing in faith. We all still believe in the mighty work belonging to the unseen—the hidden places of our hearts where the Gardener’s inward work is taking place. Even in loss, there is increase. We just can’t see it yet, not fully.

What I can see and what I do know is this:

God is keeping me in his perfect peace. Why? Because I am intentionally choosing to trust him and, moment by moment, to place my mind next to his. Whenever I begin to fret and feel overcome by the arrows of chaos shooting poison into my thoughts, I move my thoughts to a higher place. There’s nothing mystical about this mind-movement; rather, it’s a choice I’m making—a fluid, uninterrupted heart-motion that begins with saying, “I trust you, God” and ends with my resting my head on his chest.

Therein, I am a kept woman, if only for a moment. Moments can accumulate into hours. Hours into days, and days into weeks … these past two weeks of continuing peace. I’m growing to expect this from God, and I am exceedingly grateful for his generosity.

This is an inward work by the unseen God. This is increasing, eternal glory. And today, this is enough to carry me forward.

How about you? I don’t imagine I’m the only one who is experiencing loss in this season. Perhaps you’re standing where I am standing, feeling the sharp blade of unanticipated reduction to the soil of your heart. Might I encourage you with the words of the Apostle Paul that have greatly encouraged me?

Yet inwardly.

There is an inward grace taking place just beneath your seen and visible. It may not feel like much right now; this reduction may have temporarily numbed you to the truth regarding kingdom increase. But when you get to the other side of this loss—when the seeds planted in darkness begin to sprout as glory under the splendor of God’s radiant Son—then you will know that there is more to this current grief than what can currently be seen.

So rejoice with me, ye sojourners on the road of reduction! Yet inwardly, the Gardener is sowing for increase. Rejoice, at least, in this. It’s something more than we expected, and it just might wind up being our preference in the end.

Kept in peace,

Sabbath Sunrise – a prayer for my son

Paint my boy a Sabbath sunrise, Father – one filled with the color of hope, not the cover of despair.

Take the pain that’s been smeared onto his canvas at night and replace it with splashes of your morning grace.

What she has taken from him, replace it with what you have given to him. A hope. A future. A plan that includes something best, not something less.

His are deep wounds, bleeding red, hot, and furious. Stop the hemorrhaging with your hands—the very ones that bled and shed red for our sin and our pain.

I can no longer cradle him in my arms. My lullabies sing harshly, and I have few words to fix the ache within. Only scattered thoughts to fill the awkward pause in between his despair and his healing.

So Father, would you paint him a Sabbath sunrise? Would you paint me one as well?

How we need the color. The warmth. The reminder that all has not been lost in the night.

Your sun still rises. This is gain. This is resurrection. This is Sabbath.

Give us eyes to see it, minds to conceive it, and hearts to believe that you painted it just for us—your perfect peace in the midst of a perfect storm.

For him, my boy with a broken heart. For me, his mom whose heart breaks alongside.

Amen.

Silent Night

Silent night.

It’s been one of those for me. I tried to fill it with a few phone calls and text messages to friends while waiting in my car for my kids to emerge from their youth group meeting. No one answered. All was silent, and the hush filled my heart until I could no longer suppress my reality. The pain inside of me was going to find its voice, and the silence offered it a stage for release.

Rather than trying to hold the silence at bay, I gave in to it and allowed it to hold me. Cradle me. Collect all the tears that had been welling up within me. In those moments of surrender, the Father allowed me to move out of my silent night so that I might enter into another one—the holy quiet belonging to Bethlehem some 2000 years ago.

Mary’s labored breathing followed by the push and pressure of Emmanuel’s eagerness to make his entrance. Joseph’s soft responses to his beloved. Stabled animals shuffling in the hay. Neighs and brays; snorts and sneezes. Whispers of the wind stirring as symphony. A baby crying. The boisterous interruption of a heavenly choir.

And therein, my momentary pain was overshadowed by lasting remembrance.

Perhaps this is the beauty of a silent night … when sorrow bumps up next to Salvation. When pain nestles closely to Promise. When that which is holding us so tightly releases its grip to the mighty Hold of heaven—tiny fingers wrapped around human hurt, reminding us that all has not been lost in the silent night. Instead, all has been gained there, in that place of sacred collision.

It doesn’t seem reasonable, this holding of peace while simultaneously holding pain. But it feels right. Even in the ache, I’m willing to take hold of it, make sense of it, because the thread that ties me to the eternal is stronger than the frayed threads that tie me to the temporal. I am made for heaven, and a silent night tethers me to home.

Maybe today you’re wrapped up in a heart-hurt. Life has surprised you with pain, an unexpected grief that threatens to steal your peace. You have nowhere to place it, no friend to shoulder the load. The silence is deafening, and your escape uncertain.

Me too. Greater yet, God too! God is with us as we make our pilgrimages to Bethlehem this year, as we wrestle with our pain and strive to make peace out of chaos.

Emmanuel is in the manger. Emmanuel is in our silent nights. Emmanuel … holding our hearts. Healing our hurts. Keeping us safe. Walking us home.

How I love the gift of Jesus; how I need this blessed grace! On this silent night, I bend the knee and bow the heart to honor the King’s advent in my life. ‘Tis a sweet mercy and a blessed trust to have my silence interrupted by the great and glad declarations of heaven. As always …

Peace for the journey,

My Silent Night

Oh holy, quiet Bethlehem;

Tonight I linger here.

Beneath your stars, within your walls,

Your truth resounding clear.

 

The Baby cries his advent;

The momma cries relief.

The daddy cries his tears of joy;

The heavens cry belief.

 

How lovely is this moment;

That lingers then and now.

Both quiet and both willing,

For peace to take a bow.

 

To enter in and change me;

To soften pain with praise.

To dry my tears with silence,

To cause my hope to raise.

 

Oh silent night! Oh holy night!

You’ve never sung so strong.

So clear, so true, so tenderly,

Relieving all that’s wrong.

 

You are where I’ll linger;

You are where I’ll sing.

For unto to me a child is born,

Onto him I’ll cling.

(written by F. Elaine Olsen.12-01-13.allrightsreserved)

 

 

time . . .

 

“We’re growing older, realizing we cannot stop the hands of time.”

So said my elder friend in her annual Christmas greeting to my family. I felt the profundity of her proclamation. It’s nothing new; it just hit me harder this go around, struck me in the center of my heart. We’ve all heard it before, maybe even said it a time or two, a comment about our inability to halt the progression of time.

I’m not sure I really want to . . . stop time, but there have been a few occasions when I’ve felt some pain regarding its passage. At the core, I imagine it’s my desire to hold more of it . . . to manage time and to dispense it as I see fit. I find this yearning in others as well. It’s not always obvious, but every now and again, someone lets it slip . . . a word or two of regret that lingers as sadness rather than fond remembrance.

I heard it from my daughter’s lips on Christmas day when she realized that her unwrapping was over. Instead of savoring each gift, she tore into her treasures and could only watch as the rest of us lingered with our piles. She couldn’t stop the clock, and while tucking her in bed that evening, I saw the tears welling in her eyes as hope disappeared into the night with her whisper, “I wish we could do it all over again; I wish tomorrow were Christmas.”

I heard it in myself on Christmas day while listening to the CD my husband made for me of my eldest son’s 1998 cassette rendition of “It’s Carol Time”—song after song of Nick singing a cappella his favorite carols from the hymnal. In 1998, he was nine years old—a boy just discovering his voice via a microphone and a tape player. In 2012, a man now twenty-three, still discovering his voice. And I cried at the passage of time—this brief blip on the radar of my life that came and went by rapidly, almost without notice.

I heard it in my mother’s voice during a phone conversation this afternoon . . . a word or two that led me to believe there’s more to the story than meets the eye. That the passage of time has her, too, wondering about the swiftness of it all. A Christmas come and gone with but a few, brief memories that might easily fade with time.

Three generations of Killian women, all of us thinking on and digging into the depths of what it means to live a life too hastily and to know that no matter our longings, we cannot slow the hands of time. We can only live time as time arrives.

It’s a difficult thing to weigh it all out, especially when emotions run wildly and hearts are easily wounded by realities that cannot be manipulated, only experienced. Perhaps this is why so many of us struggle this time of year. We’re positioned for remembrance, for reflection. We don’t get to manage the calendar. December 25th comes for all of us, whether or not we’re prepared for its arrival. It’s thrust upon us, and we must walk it through.

Yes, we’re fine with remembering the Savior’s birth; his story lived way back then. But what about ours . . . our right now? Christmas also positions us to remember the birth of other things, other seasons in our lives; in doing so, we live the weightiness of the passage of time. It can be a grievous contemplation; accordingly, it shouldn’t be overlooked or underestimated. Instead, it should be given room enough to breathe, thereby allowing our grief a good release, a tilling up of the soil that cradles grief’s roots for the new seeds that God longs to plant therein—a fresh planting of the Lord to supplement the soil of our yesterdays.

If we cannot heartily grieve, then we cannot healthily move forward. We must acknowledge the pain that we feel regarding the passage of time; in doing so, we’re better prepared for the steps that lie ahead. Carrying grief or carrying regret into our tomorrows will limit forward progression. This doesn’t mean we can’t or shouldn’t feel it; it simply means that we should live it as it arrives—recognize it, speak it, and give it the respect its due. This is how we gain better perspective. This is how we live truthfully before God and before his created. This is how we work it out and release some of the heaviness attached to time’s seemingly, increasing cadence.

We are growing older, friend, with each moment we’re allowed. It’s true; we cannot stop the flow of time. We can, however, live our moments authentically, wholly, and wonderfully engaged with the process. I don’t know what this will look like for you in coming days, but for me, it looks like this—a stringing together of a few words and thoughts from time to time that most accurately portray the stirrings of my heart. Perhaps they will stir yours as well, allowing you a moment or two of reflective pause, enabling you to put a few words to your story. If so, then this has been time well spent—sixty minutes of my life that I cannot reclaim, only release forward . . . to you. Do with them what you will; live them as you are able. Live your moments as they come so that you, too, can release them to your history with highest regard and without terrible regret.

And just in case you’re wondering, you mean the world to me. The time that you give to me is a rich grace from God. I love you each one.

Peace for the journey,

 

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