Hymns and Heritage

Last week my family got to do something really special. My cousin Val leads music from time to time at St Louis Crossing Church and when she was asked to lead on May 2nd, which happens to be our Grandma Anderson’s birthday, she had the idea to invite some of the family to join her and lead with some of our Mamaw’s favorite hymns. Our Mamaw has been in heaven for a while, and I have no doubt that Sarah was a part of her celebration this time. Here on earth it was a perfect reason for us to gather. It’s been to long! Surprisingly, once the younger kiddos heard about what the grown-ups were doing, they wanted to be included in the sing along at the service. How sweet is that? They even came up with a “band name” for the group-The Anderson Roots! Isn’t that precious? Unfortunately, I was unable to participate this time, because I was singing at our own church, but I am so thankful for a family that still honors our heritage and for the respect and excitement that the younger ones had to ask to be included in something that they could have easily chosen to set out of.

Afterwards, we still gathered together to celebrate the day. I had the opportunity to visit with Olivia, one of my little cousins. Olivia is amazing. Out of the next generation of cousins, she’s the one that reminds me the most of Sarah. She’s not at all shy, she has a smile that will light up a room, loves to talk and visit with us old people, and is just full of joy. She endured a pretty significant health scare when she was younger. I remember even at that time, realizing she was so brave and she already had such an incredible faith in Jesus. So, we were chatting about the hymn sing and I asked her which song was her favorite. She said quickly, “Oh, the Do Lord/I’ll Fly Away” one! I really love that one!” It made me smile. I told her that I remember singing those songs too when I was her age and how fun they were. Because of those songs, I learned some very valuable promises of God and experienced watching the joy on my parents, grandparents, aunts, and uncles faces as we sang about heaven someday. In those moments I could tell they were looking forward to a sweet reunion with loved ones that they were missing and that I had yet to meet. It was those same songs that were sang, as a family, as we surrounded my Grandparent’s- before each of them passed. They are songs of hope and comfort for sure.

When I began looking for items to stock in my online store, I found an amazing company called “Revelation Culture” that offers handmade quality signs. I was quickly drawn to them because of the scripture that they used, the message of hope that they give, and just how well they are made. When I saw the subway styled Hymn signs, I knew that I had to offer them. Along with several of their “Shelf sitter” signs and various smaller signs, the shop is stocked with “I’ll Fly Away” and “Victory In Jesus” Hymn signs. These signs are big at 3 1/2 feet tall by 1 ft 10 Inches wide. So they make a statement! For me, it’s more than just a statement, it’s a promise. When I look at them, I’m reminded of my past and my future!

Recently, my friend Mel was drawn to the “Victory In Jesus” sign. As soon as she saw it, she was reminded of her Grandma, who passed away in 2019. Now the sign hangs in her breakfast nook/kitchen area. For her it’s a way of remembering, but also teaching her children about their Great Grandma’s legacy-all while instilling in them the promises of God and growing their “roots” deep in a heritage of hope.

“When we all get to heaven

What a day of rejoicing that will Be

When We All See Jesus

We’ll sing and Shout

The Victory”

What about you? Do you have a favorite Hymn that reminds you of your family and brings you hope?

This is How I fight My Battles

The above sign is just one of the new items available in the Grace In Grieving Shop. You can find the shop by going to the Home page and selecting the Shop tab, which is found the menu. There are many items now available! All chosen to bring comfort and hope to anyone who is grieving a loved one.

I survived Sarah’s first birthday away from us in heaven.  Here in Indiana, last Thursday’s weather was a weird mix of beautiful sunshine and then moments of sudden rain.  It fit the mood of my day perfectly.  Our big announcement about Sarah’s memorial fund was received with a lot of excitement.  We were overwhelmed with some wonderful video tributes and some reflective comments about Sarah’s impact on other’s lives.  It was such a great reminder of how loved she was and the joy she brought to us.  I felt so many emotions though.  Some good and some bad.  As a mother, whenever you’re given positive feedback about your child, or told that your child has done something amazing, it’s such a proud happy moment.  It makes you feel so grateful and blessed.  I am so grateful that God chose me to be Sarah and Libby’s mom. 

I know that I have been blessed, but my grief tells me otherwise and reminds me of all the things that have been taken away from me, because Sarah is gone.  We’ll never get to experience the joys of seeing her graduate, marry, have children, etc… The list could go on and on.  The day after her birthday was “National Sibling’s Day,” according to social media.  That was another reminder of what has been stolen from Libby.  My heart ached for her as I thought about how we were so thankful that Sarah wasn’t an only child.  Like Sarah, Libby was a “rainbow baby” and we weren’t sure if we’d be able to give her a sibling to grow up with. We wanted someone to walk through the hardships of life with her, to celebrate all of life’s occasions with, and eventually help each other take care of us, when we grew old.  We could never have imagined that they would not grow up together.

When I find myself dwelling on these thoughts, and in these areas of failed expectations, I find myself almost yelling in my spirit to God, “Fifteen years was not enough!”   Every time I’m met with a response to my spirit in a voice that comes so gently and says…”Will eternity be long enough?”  It stops me in my tracks because I’m a “prisoner of hope”…

Return to your stronghold, O prisoners of hope; today I declare that I will restore to you double” Zech 9:12 ESV

Other versions of that verse use the word “fortress” or “safe place” in the place of stronghold.  In the Bible, stronghold is meant to mean a protected or fenced in area.  I think that is a beautiful imagery of how to protect ourselves in our grief.  We have a safe place to return to, when the disappoint, the fear, and the loneliness tries to overshadow the truths that we know about God and what He has promised in the coming future for us and our loved one, who has died. Our hope in Him does not disappoint. It’s not a hope that’s just wishful thinking. He is our “living hope” (1 Peter 1:3) and don’t miss the 2nd part of that promise–a declaration that He will restore to us double the blessing.  I don’t understand how, or even when He will possibly do it, but I’m believing Him for it.  I don’t need to understand it.  If I worshiped a God that I completely understood, then what would make Him different from myself?  I’m thankful that His ways are higher than my ways.  That He alone knows what is coming and how it’s going to arrive.  I believe He protects us by only revealing what we are ready for.  I’m ok with that. My confidence doesn’t have to come from myself and my own abilities to fix my grief.  It comes from the confidence in knowing God is committed to restoring this broken world in the future.  My hope is set on His coming kingdom.  It’s not set on today’s circumstances, but on tomorrow’s inheritance. 

It’s counter-cultural.  It goes against everything that the world says in normal, but so much about walking with Jesus is upside down. He is famous for teaching values that contradicted the natural. In the Sermon on the Mount, He said things like, “blessed are the poor in spirit,” and “blessed are those who mourn” and weep. He valued weakness, emptiness, and servanthood. If we’re following His teaching then we should look very different from the world. His focus was on the unseen over what was seen. We can do that too. Paul reminds us that even in our grief, as believers we can grieve differently:

Brothers and sisters, we do not want you to be uninformed about those who sleep in death, so that you do not grieve like the rest of mankind, who have no hope.  For we believe that Jesus died and rose again, and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him. 1 Thess. 4:13-14

Friends, what are you doing to protect your fortress of Hope?  Are you staying in the word of God so that God’s truths and promises are engrained in your thoughts?  Are you praising God and worshiping Him for who He is?  Check out this amazing verse in Psalms:

Through the praise of children and infants you have established a stronghold against your enemies, to silence the foe and the avenger.  Psalms 8:2

There’s that word “stronghold” again. Read the verse again with the imagery of a fenced in fortress. One with walls that the enemies arrows can’t penetrate. Our praise is a powerful way to fight our battles.  Although that verse acknowledges the power of children and even infants in their praise, it applies to all of us-no matter what age you are.  When Sarah was in the midst of her hardest times, worship was her go to weapon.  Many of you remember a video that we shared of her just a couple of weeks before she passed away. 

Friends, I’m praying that together we’ll become “prisoners of hope” and that you’ll strengthen your stronghold and fortress with praise even in your circumstance of grief. Focus on the unseen and know that God’s promises are like concrete. We can build our lives on them.

Grieving with Style?

So, I’ve been dreaming.  No dreams about Sarah, unfortunately, but the kind of dreaming about what I want to do with my life.  I’m so incredibly blessed by you all and the way you share and have shown support for the blog.  I’ve learned that there is a real need for those of us who are grieving to connect and share.  I’ve been blessed with your encouragement and feedback and also want you to know that every comment, like, and share are so appreciated.  Your “clicks” do matter.  They can help a blog grow and reach more people.  It seems more people are grieving right now than ever.

One thing that has brought me comfort at home is to implement meaningful items into our decor that remind me of Sarah or statements of promise that come from scripture about heaven.  I need to keep her pictures around me and God’s promises in front of me.  I can’t help but think that others who are grieving with hope, must feel the same way.  So, a dream that I have had lately is for Grace In Grieving to become a resource for even those types of items.  I have been researching and working to set up a Grace In Grieving online shop and to find makers and items to stock it with.  I’m excited to reveal to you very soon, some of the things that I have found!  I am also hoping to incorporate some handmade floral pieces and a Grief Care box, with some very special items- including a Grace In Grieving signature candle, that can be shipped to anyone to provide some comfort and self-care during their time of grieving. I’m starting out small and it may take me a minute to work out all the website details. So be patient with me. You’ll be able to find the “Shop” menu button very soon! I will offer shipping and local pick-up for those who are in my community.

Honestly, there hasn’t been a lot of innovation in the “bereavement” industry for a very long time and I think it’s time that we find some ways to improve that.  Basically, the stuff that’s available seems to be straight out of the 80’s or 90’. Anyone else feel that?  I think we can do a better job at finding products that bring comfort and hope, but are also more contemporary Items that will fit right in with the rest of your updated décor.

Grace In Grieving really feels like a ministry to me in a lot of ways.  It’s become part of my healing, but I hope that I’m also raising awareness about many things that are related to grieving.  I’m not afraid to be honest and share what I’m feeling.   Most of all, I hope that it’s evident that I grieve with hope and that hope comes from my faith and love for Jesus.  Even though this blog was created out of a situation of suffering from Sarah’s death, He is still working things out for good.  He is close to the brokenhearted and He cares deeply for us, while we grieve.  Jesus himself grieved and wept when He saw the pain that death caused His closest friends when Lazarus died.  He even knew that Lazarus wasn’t going to stay dead, but it still affected Him deeply. The Bible actually says He even felt angry at death. (John 11)  Death was never part of His plan for us, but because sin caused death, He came to abolish it once and for all.(2 Timothy 1:10)  No matter how long it has been since a loved one has passed, we still feel that sting.  It hurts to miss those that we love so much.  Until that day comes and death is no more, we will all have our turn grieving for those that have passed.  Hoping that we can learn to do that with honesty and grace. 

Please keep sharing this safe place with others and I’ll keep sharing my heart.

Anchors A-Way

So, if you’ve been following my blog for very long, then you’ll understand- for the past few days, 4:00am has been the new 3:00am.  Of course, Daylight Saving’s time has something to do with that, I’m sure.  For about a month, I’ve been sleeping much better.  I think it was probably because I had COVID in February and I was just so tired.  However, now I’ve shifted back into my old pattern of waking up again and when I look at the clock it’s almost exactly 4:00am.  When it usually happens, I have about 10 seconds of time before I remember.  Then, memories come flooding into my thoughts in this order, like scenes from a movie trailer almost:  Sarah’s death, scenes from the hospital, various scenes of our life since she’s been gone, and then my mind frantically searches for memories of her face before cancer.  I usually begin talking to Jesus and asking Him to help me see her now, even if it’s only an image that I’m imagining, based on what I know to be true about heaven.  After a few minutes of this battle in my mind, and realizing that I’m not falling back to sleep, I’ll continue to pray and talk to Jesus about the things and the people that are on my heart.  Sometimes, I’ll just go ahead and get up and turn on the coffee pot.  I’ve had some really beautiful and sacred moments with God in these times. 

This morning, as I was praying, the Holy Spirit gave me 2 words that I feel very strongly that I’m supposed to share.  I know that these words are for more than just me.  I didn’t hear them, I saw them as giant text that my mind actually had to read to digest.  It was this…CHOOSE HOPE.   That’s what I saw in all white colored and capital blocked font lettering.  Those “vision” kinds of things don’t usually happen to me.  Not that I haven’t desired it, but that’s just not how God usually speaks to me.  Without a doubt though, I know it was from Him and that I was supposed to share.

Is that message for you?  I can certainly relate to the message that was given.  I’ve written about the topic of Hope before.  The Bible tells us that Hope is the Anchor for our souls in Hebrews 6:19.  The thing about anchors though, is they have to be attached to something to work.  If an anchor’s rope has been severed it is useless and probably sitting at the bottom of the lake.  The vessel that it was once attached too, probably drifted or wandered into places that it didn’t want to go.  Is that happening to you?  Sometimes, our rope isn’t severed, but we can let our rope that’s attached to our anchor of hope get to long.  When we do that- we drift further away from the truth than we should.  Keeping the rope shorter, protects us and allows us to feel the tug, when we start to drift too far. 

Hebrews 6:19 is quoted and displayed often and rightly so, but there’s a second part to the verse that’s equally as beautiful when you understand the imagery. It actually flows right into verse 20 with a powerful truth.

“We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure.  It enters the inner sanctuary behind the curtain, where our forerunner, Jesus, has entered on our behalf.  He has become a high priest forever, in the order of Melchizedek.” Hebrews 6:19 NIV

This is one of those passages that I love to use the Bible App to read in all the different versions.  The verses translates the same, but different versions paint better images for us of what it means.  I encourage you to dig in and study it for yourself.  The way that I interpret this passage is that the anchor of Hope is placed in the very presence of God, where Jesus also is and because we are attached to that anchor, we are attached to Jesus who is acting on our behalf as our eternal High Priest or mediator.  Now in Biblical times, the High Priest was the only one worthy enough to enter the Holy of Holies and offer a blood sacrifice atonement for the forgiveness of sins.  So the significance here is about what Jesus did for us on the cross and how He enters into the presence of God on our behalf to atone for our sins and mediate for us with the Father.  It’s a beautiful picture of how He fulfilled Old Testament prophecy.  I love that it’s all attached to Hope.  That’s the thing that we must grab onto and not let go of to stay connected to the very presence of God. 

You see, God will never sever the rope.  We have to hold on to it though.  Let’s rewind a bit more and read what scripture says before verse 19:

“God also bound himself with an oath, so that those who received the promise could be perfectly sure that he would never change his mind.  So God has given both his promise and his oath.  These two things are unchangeable because it is impossible for God to lie.  Therefore, we who have fled to him for refuge can have great confidence as we hold to the hope that lies before us.” Hebrews 6: 17-18 NLT

The Message translation actually say’s “grab the promised hope with both hands and never let go.  It’s an unbreakable spiritual lifeline.”  Do you see the preface to the promise?  YOU have to grab on and not let go!  No matter how much it hurts, no matter how far away you get from the anchor, just please don’t let go.  This message isn’t just for the grieving, it’s for the living.  Although, I feel very strongly that AS I grieve, the hope that I have has changed HOW I grieve.  Grace In Grieving has grown out of a desire to share that hope and connect with others who are grieving.  It’s my prayer that together we would choose hope and keep encouraging one another to not let go.

So now I’m curious…who was my word vision for?  Would you be bold enough to let me know and claim it for your own?

Thanks for reading, sharing, commenting.  Every click helps support the message of hope!