Every Beat Of My Heart

4/7 I found the following post in my draft file; the sentiment is still the same.

My friend texted me about her mother’s condition as she battles COVID. My heart sank as I read the text but, as life usually does, I was distracted by my plans and I did not respond right away. As I scrolled through my texts, two days later, my friend’s text popped up to remind me I had not responded.

Rather than type out my prayer response, I tapped the microphone icon to pray out loud. I needed to hear my voice as I shared it with my friend. What surprised me, as I prayed, was the tender tone of my voice. It was gentler than usual. This epiphany gave me pause to think about the tone of my voice as I’ve “encouraged” others in the past.

What I heard today was my heartbeat in that prayer, a precious moment of heart connection with my friend as I felt her heartache as she watched her mother struggle to breathe, as she realizes there is nothing she can do but cry out to God for His intervention.

I’ve probably always known this but have not really thought about the heart to heart connection of prayer. I remember the elders of my past who prayed that we would have love that ran from heart to heart, from breast to breast. Prayer links us to the hearts of those for whom we pray.

Sometimes we are so focused on the prayer that we miss God’s heartbeat in our prayers. Prayer is not just a vocal expression but it also a moment of a linking of hearts, a moment of sensing God’s heartbeat in our prayers and in hearing His heartbeat, we feel their heartbeat, their heartache, their struggles, their brokenness.

I heard God’s heartbeat this morning. I heard it in my prayer as my heart linked to the heart of my friend.

Psalm 69:13 –

But as for me, my prayer is to you, O Lord.

At an acceptable time, O God,

in the abundance of your steadfast love answer me in your saving faithfulness.

p.s. My friend’s mother recovered and is doing well.

Sausages and Love

I was downtown for a medical appointment. The friend who dropped me off went into a store that’s been a part of the landscape of downtown for years, at least as long as I’ve been in California, 48 years.

Done with my appointment, I walked over to the store and found my friend standing in front of the meat counter. In the glass enclosed case in front of me were trays of sausages. My mind immediately went back to the member of the church who would go home to Texas and when she returned, she would gift me with some Texas sausages. I loved those sausages but could never find anything close to their taste. I would occasionally search for it in California but never could quite get to the taste of those Texas sausages.

But, here in front of me in this glass enclosed case are sausages labeled Texas Brats. I bought four of them right away with the hope that this would be “the taste!”

As soon as I got home, I cooked one. As soon as it was done, I bit into it. Yes, there was the taste! I planned to cook the rest for Saturday morning breakfast.

That Saturday morning a memory hit me like a ton of bricks and I cried. It was a memory of a Sunday breakfast of short plump red sausages, steak, and rice and gravy devoured around my grandmother’s kitchen table. This was not the usual breakfast; this was a treat, the Sunday after Market Day breakfast. Market day was that day when my grandfather get dressed in his khaki shirt and pants, slip into his blue jacket and would hitch a ride to town with a cousin (if she stopped and blew for him on the road that ran in front of the house) or he would walk out to the highway and hitch a ride into town. I do not remember what else he would bring back from market, but those short, plump, red sausages were a mainstay. I have searched for those sausages, also, but I have not been able to find them. The memory of them makes me both droll and smile. Drool because of the taste and smile because I was seated around my grandmother’s cheesecloth covered kitchen table warmed by the wood stove and her love.

It’s been a challenging year, this year of the pandemic, racial unrest and political chaos, loss and isolation. I’m so very grateful for the memories that warm my heart when it seems the world has grown cold. Memories that remind me of simple things, red plump sausages and love.

When Grief Takes Up Residence In Your Heart

The world has entered into a season of profound grief. It is most likely a season of common grief that is shared around the world. Quarantined inside the four walls of apartments and homes, isolated from loved ones and physical touch. Jobs have been lost. Homes have been lost. Income has been lost. Relationships have been lost. There is food insecurity and housing insecurity that results in the new homeless. All are common events around the globe.

But, the most overwhelming loss, the most devastating loss, is the death of loved ones, some, too soon, others, too young, mothers and fathers and sisters and brothers, sons and daughters, friends and partners. All are losses that fiercely deposit grief into our hearts.

It is interesting to me that death always seems like a thing that never happens until it happens to someone we know or someone we love. Death is not embraced as a part of life so when it does take up residence in our living rooms, we are so surprised that it would dare cross our thresholds. As such, too many of us are not prepared for the grief that follows to demand absolute control of our thoughts.

Moment by moment, we are drawn into the shadows of life with only “Why” as our companion.

Those individuals who express a faith in God may turn to Him with their “Why,” but are often too broken, unable to quietly process His response through their grief and the anger that they even have to ask the question.

What do we do when grief takes up residence in our hearts? Well, here is what grief experience has taught me:

  1. Breathe intentionally, even if you have to set an alarm to remind yourself to take deep breaths
  2. Do your best to center yourself in the moment, heart wrenching though it may be
  3. Accept the depth of the pain but try your best not to wrap yourself in it
  4. Sort through the memories, literally/figuratively, welcome the laughter and the tears
  5. When the broken moments/meltdowns come, go with the moments then come up for air
  6. When you feel like retreating from the crowd, retreat without explanation or apology
  7. When you need help, seek help, either a good friend or a professional counselor or a grief support group
  8. Don’t feel compelled to explain your pain, your tears, your silence
  9. Distance yourself from individuals who try to fix you and/or dismiss your grief
  10. There is no need to take care of everything in those early days; handle what needs to be handled now; leave the rest for later

Zig Ziglar, the Master Salesman and motivational speaker, wrote that grief is not only unavoidable, but desirable because it “brings us to the point of realizing the vastness of our love,” and it “puts us in a position to trust God alone for our restoration, that it “is perhaps the most profound way of expressing love; the more we love a person we have lost, the greater our grief.”

This is not a truth any of us would want to embrace but it is definitely understood by every broken heart.

In the beginning, the grief that takes up residence in our hearts is cold and hard, slow to dissolve, but as the moments roll on, memories begin to warm our souls to eventually begin to melt the cold lump in our hearts.

I have read in the Bible that God captures our tears in a bottle. The context may be one of acknowledging our pain but I find it somewhat comforting to think that God cares enough about me to keep track of my sorrow. While most people are embarrassed by or turn away from my tears, God captures them.

One final word: Give yourself the grace to grieve. When people ask, “How are you doing?” tell them how you are doing. They may not understand. They may not be able to fix anything but you will have given them the opportunity to step into your grief with you. That is the definition of compassion (your heartbreak becomes their heartbreak; your suffering becomes their suffering).

I am grateful that He is the God of Comfort, especially when grief takes up residence in my heart.