Friday, March 29, 2019

Insights to Survive Grief and Loss

Photo by David Jakab from Pexels

Every year I place daffodils on our infant daughter’s grave for her April 1st birthday. But last year, daffodils were nowhere to be found. Our plants held promising buds, but no flowers. The grocery store offered tulips and hyacinths and even chrysanthemums, but no daffodils. So I bought a fresh bouquet that included roses, because, like the poem, our Christy Marie is “the rose that bloomed beyond the wall.”

But then we couldn’t fit a fresh bouquet into our cone-shaped gravesite flower-holder. So back I went and bought a pot of bright yellow chrysanthemums. At least they evoked hope and cheer, which is what I need on Christy Marie’s birthday.

How can her death sadden me even 44 years later? Because the death of a loved one is a loss we never “get over.” We learn to live with it. God is good to send good people into our lives that lessen the pain. I now have daughters-in-law and granddaughters and younger women who are dear friends, and they all fill a void. But I will always miss my Christy. I envy women with daughters to call, to take shopping, to come for sleepovers. I want that too.

But for some reason, God saw fit to take Christy before she took her first steps, before she smiled at me, before I even held her. In those days, nurses believed out of sight, out of mind. My husband was allowed to see Christy at the hospital, but I was not. They knew “what was best for me.”

And so, like David said of his infant son, I will go to her, but she will not come to me. That thought makes me pregnant with hope.

So what insight can we gain from the death of a loved one?

Grief softens over time. We grieve differently, and it takes longer than you might think it would, especially in the loss of a newborn (or even a miscarriage). People don’t speak of the child because they haven’t known the child. They think you can’t miss a child that hasn’t been part of your family. But you start thinking of babies as part of your family long before birth. So it’s a long, lonely grief. Reading Psalms helped soften the pain for me.

Hope in God sustains us. I memorized Psalm 42, because it reminded me of God’s goodness and faithfulness in the past and encouraged me to hope for the future. Then I found that since God had seen me through one of life’s worst experiences, I could offer hope to others that they too might survive life’s heartaches—whatever they may be--with faith intact.

Everyday blessings surround us. Once you experience heartache, you have a deeper appreciation for small, everyday blessings—sunshine, rain, rainbows, friends. I learned to trust in God’s goodness, even when it seemed to vanish for a while.

Eternal life awaits us. Christy’s death makes heaven more real. She is in God’s care. And there, she enjoys eternal happiness and joy in the Presence of God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit. As the bulb of a daffodil brings forth a beautiful flower when the time is right, so the body in the grave is but a bulb that blooms in heaven.

Years after her death, my voice broke speaking of her at a women’s retreat. Afterwards, two women came up and asked to pray with me for healing. Somehow, that simple act moved me on in my grief. I began asking God to say “Hi” to Christy during my daily prayers. I began picturing her as happy in heaven, and that brought peace to my heart.

I acknowledge God’s ways are higher than mine. While I see no point in the death of a child, God must have reason to permit it. I trust His wisdom. Someday, this earthly experience will be past for all of us. With Christ as our Savior, the grayness of dawn will dissipate into sunshine in His Presence. And that Son will shine forever. Earth to Heaven: Happy Birthday, Christy Marie! J

Feel free to share or to leave comments on how you’ve survived grief or loss. We have much to learn from each other.

Blessed Easter.


April Events:

April 7, 12 to 3 p.m. – Shirley at East Shore Library Book Festival, Harrisburg.
April 13, 11 a.m. – Friends of the Heart at Upper Bermudian Lutheran Church, “Tea with Mary/ Martha and their Psychologist.”
April 16, 6:30 p.m. – Friends of the Heart at Grace Community Church, Mandata, Women to Women, “If Our Closets Could Talk.”

Monday, March 25, 2019

Book Review: Your Guide to Marketing Christian Books, Fourth Ed.

According to author Sarah Bolme, there are potentially over 231 million Christian consumers to whom an author could market a Christian book. Her book helps publishers and authors connect with them. I dare say this handbook offers everything a person needs to know about marketing a book.

The first 49 pages focus on launching your book with chapters on everything from gathering endorsements to hosting a book launch. The second 117 pages focus on selling your books, and the third part, 41 pages, targets special markets. There’s a short fourth part that includes a link to download a checklist to plan your marketing.

I published two books several years ago, but I left dozens of notations in the margins of this book that I want to go back and check out because the need to market a book never ends. Bohme not only gives you suggestions, such as join a Christian Writers Association, but she goes on to list a number of Christian writers associations to you might join, including the links to their sites. Most chapters contain lists and links that would alone be worth the price of the book.

Although I’ve done many of the things Bolme suggested, I learned of so many more opportunities for marketing from reading her book. For instance, I had never heard of BookLife, a website run by Publishers Weekly that allows indie authors to list their books for free.

As an author, some of the material was not really helpful. I doubt that most authors can afford to exhibit at trade shows or advertise in trade journals. But such ideas might be passed on to publishers.

In the Special Markets section of the book, Bolme points out connections easily overlooked, such as the number of Christians in the military that might be contacted through associations serving that population.

Bolme is the Director of Christian Indie Publishing Association and conducts seminars on publishing and marketing. Only a person in such a position could possibly know about all the resources she mentions. This book will offer more than you can imagine about marketing your books.

I received a copy of this book in exchange for writing a review.

Saturday, March 9, 2019

Cashing in on Happiness

On a leisurely Saturday morning, I clipped coupons from a local supermarket calendar and set out to redeem them. The first was for Grandma’s Deli Salad, but I couldn’t find that brand. I asked the deli worker who called her manager. Looking puzzled, he said he had never heard of the brand and pointed out the coupon was for “participating stores.”

He did offer to let me use the coupon for any salad I wanted, but the coupon was good for a “1 pound” container and all those available were 15 ounces. So I shuffled it to the back of the pack.

I continued through the store looking for store brand this and that, but they too were unavailable. At checkout I offered the coupons for the brand name items I had found, but the bar code was missing. The clerk called her manager who keyed in the coupons individually. Everyone was so helpful, even though they were unfamiliar with the coupons.

As I drove home it struck me. Those coupons may have been from a different

That reminds me that I sometimes look for happiness in life in one place when I should be looking for it in another. I may look for happiness in relationships, in experiences, in success. And I may find a measure of happiness in those places, but true happiness must be rooted in Christ.

For example, if I expect my spouse to always make me happy, I am sure to be disappointed. Spouses are not perfect. And even if they were, our expectations may differ. Perhaps I expect my husband to do half the housework, to earn an income that pays for all my wants, to talk when I want to talk and be quiet when I want quiet. That is simply unrealistic. A spouse may make a partner happy some of the time but not all of the time. That’s just the way it is. He is not perfect.

But if I am rooted in Christ, I realize that He is the only source of Perfection. I grow in Him as I follow His commands. His Golden Rule tells me to do unto others as I would have them do unto me. That means I must give my spouse space and make allowances, just as he does for me. As author Gary Thomas writes, marriage may be designed to make us holy rather than happy.

Perhaps I look for happiness through success in my work. Here again, Christ’s definition of success may differ from mine. I may equate success with the size of my paycheck, but Christ may consider me successful if I help others. It’s sometimes hard to do both. A business owner is accountable to treat his or her employees with integrity, to pay fair wages, to make allowances for extenuating circumstances. That’s what Christ would do--even though it may cut into business profits.
My point is that just as I tried to cash in my coupons in the wrong store, I may
be trying to find happiness in the wrong places. If Christ is my first priority, then I need to look at my relationships, my work, my experiences through His eyes. And in doing that, I find what I’m looking for.

That doesn’t mean that I never face challenges. In fact, there may be more challenges as a Christian than as a non-Christian. It does means that Christ offers peace in the midst of challenges. If I’m diagnosed with a terminal illness, I can rest in the fact that heaven awaits. If I’m saddled with an angry boss, I can rest in the fact that God may have sent me to be a comfort to someone who covers his pain with anger. That doesn’t make my job easier, but it helps me deal with my every day misery in a godly way. And that brings peace to my soul when I lay my head on the pillow.

So what are you searching for? And where are you looking? Don’t look to Christ as
a last resort. Look to Him first and watch Him smooth the wrinkles of life. He’s the only One Who can cash in your coupon for happiness.