Heart Connections

If I close my eyes, I can see her face. Tiny, with dark hair and dark eyes. In her 40s, she said, though she looked much younger. I think I may have grabbed both her hands with mine when she stated it had been just a little over three months. I know I hugged her to me. When I pulled away to look at her again, I counted three teardrops making a slow, smooth pathway down her cheek.

One. Two. Three. In that moment, it was just me and her; everyone else in the room seemed to disappear. Our hearts connected.

My chest filled with sadness, vividly remembering what those first months were like. Then it expanded further, filling with love. Love for her, for the friend who brought her, the mother that stood behind her. His mother. My breath suddenly caught in my throat. His mother! I met her eyes, the grieving mother, and she acknowledged my unspoken sympathy with a slight nod, before laying her hand on the young widow’s shoulder, as if to say “Her. Can you help her?”

I wanted to ease the pain I saw in her eyes. Hugging her to me again, I prayed that God would give me words that might bring some comfort. I have no idea what I said, but I hope there was a little healing taking place Monday night.

Cecil and Mary grief poster

I don’t remember her name. Or the name of the young widow who approached with her daughter, a girl who had been nine when her father died, just a year older than my Abby. Another widow who lost her husband two years ago, and wondered why she was still having a hard time. The mother who, when her child died, was informed it was because of some sin she must have committed. I don’t recall their names, but if I truly believe that we are here to help each other Home (and I DO) then it shouldn’t matter. They have my name, contact information, my book or brochure, if they want to get ahold of me. And I hope they do.

This is the hardest part of public speaking for me. It isn’t preparing the speech, or speaking in front of a group. Thanks to prayer before each presentation, God’s got my back on both counts.

No, it’s losing the tenuous connection of heartstrings with people I connect with during these events. I yearn to hear from them again. Want to see them grow and move forward. I’d like to hold their hand on their journey, walk alongside them, give out encouraging hugs, remain a part of their lives.

This from a woman who until five years ago, would not have considered doing any of those things.

I barely resemble the woman who stood outside the doors of a Christian Writer’s Workshop in June 2011. I paused for a long time before I opened the door, certain that no one inside would like me, that I wouldn’t belong. I’d made the decision to attend the workshop because my mother had passed away the winter before and the notebooks she’d left behind had made it clear that one of her greatest desires was for her children to utilize their God-given talents. I was determined to take my writing seriously, even if it meant walking into a room full of strangers. The loss of my mother had made me brave; a woman who’d never known how to make friends, didn’t trust females, and was extremely shy made the decision to become more like her mother, who never met a stranger.

After three days with some of the most extraordinary Christians I’d ever met, I left with a mentor in the form of Shelly Beach, several fledgling female friendships, and the distinct impression that these women and a few men had something I desired; a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.

Through the loss of a husband and grandson in the ensuing years, I not only developed that relationship, I began a ministry of sorts in public speaking.

But it is the connections I have experienced at these events that have brought me joy and awe. I find that not only do I feel an unaccustomed love for so many people, I want to maintain those relationships. It was my friend Mary, co-author of “Mary & Me: A Lasting Link Through Ink,” much more experienced in forming friendships, who shared that there are those who disappear from our lives just as quickly as they arrive, and not all who cross our paths are meant to be our friends.

I didn’t care much for that explanation. It took me more than fifty years to learn to connect with people, and by golly, I wanted to hold on tight to each and every connection I made, no matter how tenuous. I’m gradually learning it doesn’t work that way. I’m learning to let go. Let go, and let God.

There are connections of the heart, like I experienced last Monday. Relationships I would love to maintain, but realize that might not happen. And then there are connections of the soul; when I instantly recognize a meaning in the meeting. We have met for a reason that might not be apparent now, but will eventually be revealed. I know it. They feel it too. I love when that happens, and seeing how God reveals his purpose.

Jeremiah 29:11-13 (NIV)

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.”

Posted in faith, writer's conference, writing | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

On Grief and Grace

This morning, during a quiet, contemplative time that seems so elusive these days, I pulled out my journal, and these pages fell to the floor.

Max Lucado.jpg

I’d torn them out of a book I can no longer remember the title of.

I can hear gasps of dismay from fellow book-lovers all over. Mary tore pages out of a book? Why?

It was May or June of 2013. My husband David had died the year before, and my seven-year-old grandson Jacob was losing his battle with cancer. Talk about walking around in a fog of pain. No one but those who have experienced this kind of anguish can understand it.

I had since given it away, but one of Max Lucado’s devotionals had been instrumental in helping me get through that first year of widowhood. (on a side note, I have purchased several copies of this devotional, and each time have felt led to give it away)

Max Lucado morning and evening

I was driving down the street that spring morning when I passed a yard sale that didn’t look at all enticing from the road, except for the fact that a young boy was handling the sales. Something compelled me to turn around and go back. Keep in mind that in many ways I was a new Christian. It was only after my husband’s death that I had learned what it was to listen to God, but by this time I could recognize the promptings of the Holy Spirit. I wandered around the yard, not finding anything,  a bit confused as to why I’d stopped. I started to walk back to my vehicle when I spotted it; a Max Lucado book laying on top of an empty milk crate. I instantly knew this was it; the reason behind the compulsion. The young boy had to go inside to ask his mother how much the book was. His reply when he came out didn’t really surprise me.

“Mom is sick so she didn’t finish pricing everything. She didn’t remember any books, but said if there is one, a quarter is fine.”

I handed the young man a dollar bill, telling him to keep the change for helping his mother. His smile would have been reason enough for my stop, but I knew there was more to it. I couldn’t wait until I got home before beginning to read the book. Instead, I sat inside my vehicle, turning pages. I didn’t even get through the prologue before pulling a pen out of my purse. Without hesitation, I began making notations in the margins. I had no doubt. These words were meant for me. I drank them in as though parched with thirst.

Max Lucado 2.jpg

Page after page, I read Lucado’s words, words that spoke to my aching heart. Had I felt God’s presence during the past year after David’s death? Had I sensed God in the kindness of a stranger, through the majesty of a sunset, or a well-spoken word? Had I felt Him even in the darkness of Jacob’s diagnosis?

Yes, and yes. Even in this, in facing the loss of a beautiful little boy and the anguished eyes of my daughter Elizabeth and son-in-law Ben, I had felt it. I had felt God’s caring presence. I had experienced God’s sudden, calming presence in the face of the darkest storm. I could go on and face what was ahead only because of His goodness and His grace.

I devoured those words that afternoon, before giving the book to Elizabeth to read. Whether she got the same thing out of it, I don’t know, but it had been just what I needed that day. Instead of keeping an entire book I might never read again, I tore out the pages that had spoken to me, putting them in the journal that had become a testimony of sorts; a journal that clearly illustrated the spiritual journey the loss of my mother and husband had begun.

Keeping these pages in my journal ensures that I will look at them again, remembering what it was like to find a timely answer through the words of another writer. The kind of answers I continue to find in the kind and gentle smile of a stranger in the grocery store, in eagles soaring overhead during a visit to the cemetery, or what I’ve experienced most recently; through the uncanny connection of the soul with a woman I’m interviewing in my job as a reporter.

Are you going through a period of darkness? Have you glimpsed even a tiny pinprick of light? Have you felt it? His presence?

To know that you can might be all you need to hear today.



Posted in death of a spouse, grace, grief, hope, prayer | Tagged , , , , | 1 Comment