Compassion Revolution Archives 2012

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  • Recognizing the pain of being childless and being careful what is said -Sue Walsh responds to email comment
  • What Not to Say to a Childless Couple -List compiled by women who can't have children
  • A Church Family Who Loves by Marsha Norris
  • Are You Greeting Visitors? by Pat Gates
  • The Divine Compassion by Gary Henry 
  • Pure and Undefiled Religion by Marsha Norris
  • Someone Needs You (poem)
  • Refresh My Heart by Kaylie Halbrook
  • Comfort by Gary Henry
  • In Loving Memory of Lillian Eva Hollowell by Lisa Hollowell
  • "How Does a Family Deal with Feelings of Isolation When They Have a Family Member Who Is Retarded or Disabled?" by Marsha Norris

Recognizing the pain of being childless and being careful what is said
A topic I would like discussed on this page is: recognizing the pain of being childless and being careful what is said to those who don't have children.
Thank you for sending in this much needed topic. I'm always asking for response from those of you who have experience in the topic suggested because you understand better than those of us who have not had the experience. You know what the needs are and therefore know what needs to be said and not said. I asked a friend of mine, Sue Walsh, for help with this topic. Even though she eventually had a son and daughter after nine years of marriage, she was told, at one point, that she was not able to have children. The following is Sue's reply, plus I added some thoughts I copied from the web from women who have experienced the pain of being childless. I've also added a comment box for any of you who would like to add your thoughts. -Pat

We were told that we were not likely to be able to have children. Both my husband and I had medical problems that posed challenges. All I had ever wanted was to be married and have children. I remember reading the Bible about women who had closed wombs and the sorrows they experienced. Was God punishing me or trying to teach me a lesson? It was so hard to see so many pregnant women, and to listen to those who complained about their children. Why could young teens, who had one night flings, get pregnant and we could not? It seemed so unfair. I prayed and prayed and then wondered why God would not grant us the one thing we wanted more than anything. We had someone offer to help pay for medical intervention. Another to call and insist that they wanted to see our child before they died. We were told not to say anything about child rearing since we had no idea about it. After 8 years I had a miscarriage.
My first time back to worship services was on Mother's Day. It was a custom then for all the Moms to wear corsages. It was hard to see families celebrate special days and to see Grandparents dote on their grandkids knowing that we would never have that blessing in our family. I worried about the empty years stretching ahead of me and knowing that I would never have children to look after me in my old age. A lot of ladies' Bible classes study about being good wives and mothers. I guess I could describe my feelings at that time as being a half a person. Not complete. Waiting, wondering if I would ever experience motherhood. After 9 years we were blessed with a beautiful son and 3 years later we were graced with our gorgeous little girl.

I have been blessed with women in my life who have not been married and are childless. They have befriended us and loved our children. They have taught me so much about unconditional love and how to make the best of their situation. Teaching children's Bible classes, "adopting" families and volunteering with children are some ways they have filled the void in their lives.

There are no guarantees in life. Even if we have a large family, that doesn't mean that they will grow to adulthood or even be there to take care of us in our old age. The important thing is to do our best in whatever situation we find ourselves in. May God bless us as we strive to please Him.
-Sue Walsh

What Not To Say To A Childless Couple

(thoughts taken off the web from women who can not have children)

  • Isn't it about time to get started?
  • You'll understand when you're a mom.
  • Just relax. You'll get pregnant in no time.
  • It must be nice to have time to read a book and spend time with your husband.
  • Here take mine! (comical comeback to "I can't have children.")
  • Have you tried.... (unwanted advice of how to get pregnant)
  • Your dog is your baby
  • Since you don't have kids you can afford.....
  • You're so lucky you get to sleep in (or whatever)
  • You can always adopt. (every couple knows this, it doesn't have to be said)
  • You wouldn't want to bring a child into this world anyway.
  • You must not really have wanted children.
  • You must have some psychological block.
  • If you would just quit trying you'd get pregnant.
  • God has other plans for you.
  • Maybe God knew you wouldn't be a good parent.
  • You can be a mother to your friend's kids.
  • Get over it.
  • Don't ever give up. You can't stop now. (If taking infertility treatments).
  • I know women who adopted and then got pregnant. (it has been proven the percentage is no higher than infertile couples)
  • I have the opposite problem. He looks at me and I'm pregnant!
  • You can contribute to society through your career.

If you'd like to add any thoughts you can use this comment box or write to


"A topic I would like discussed on this page is: How to deal with those who do not care about us or love us, yes even in the church we attend. It often seems we are tolerated but if someone dare ask how we are they cannot get away fast enough for fear that I might actually answer them.Where is the love and acceptance in the church today. We are commanded to love but rarely do we see it in action."

A Church Family Who Loves…

by Marsha Norris

"A generous man will prosper; he who refreshes others will himself be refreshed." Proverbs 11:25.

While I do not know the full context of the situation this reader is in, I have experienced congregations where love for others seems to fall short, as well as congregations who overflow with love for one another. The reasons for each most likely differ from congregation to congregation. Maybe some congregations are more heavily populated with certain temperaments (some of us are more task-oriented while some of us are more relationship-oriented), and perhaps in some cases they are either ignorant of what God calls us to be and do -- or just determined to ignore God and do it their way. There also may be an imbalance in ages. I have been in some congregations comprised mainly of older folks. I’ve also been in congregations comprised mainly of younger members. Some congregations are heavily populated with folks who are related or who have grown up together and tend to be cliquish and closed to newcomers. While this certainly isn’t a godly attitude, it does tend to be human nature.

If you are feeling left out, only tolerated or unloved, perhaps you could take the initiative and make a point at services to speak to others and ask how they are doing. Maybe invite others to your home for fellowship. Sometimes we might need to do a reality check and think about how we present ourselves socially. Do we make it a point to smile and be a blessing to others? Or does our countenance shout “keep away”? (I’ve been guilty of this!)

If you have tried to reach out to others and the results have been unsuccessful, it might be time to “shake the dust off your feet” and go somewhere else. Since worship is both vertical and horizontal, we must find a spiritual community we can connect with.

One of the defining marks of the early Christians was the love they had for one another. Following is an excerpt from Will the Real Heretics Please Stand Up, by David Bercot: (Highly recommended reading!)

At no other time in the history of Christianity did love so characterize the entire church as it did in the first three centuries. And Roman society took note. Tertullian reported that the Romans would exclaim, “See how they love one another!”

Justin Martyr sketched Christian love this way: “We who used to value the acquisition of wealth and possessions more than anything else now bring what we have into a common fund and share it with anyone who needs it. We used to hate and destroy one another and refused to associate with people of another race or country. Now, because of Christ, we live together with such people and pray for our enemies.”

Clement, describing the person who has come to know God, wrote, “He impoverishes himself out of love, so that he is certain he may never overlook a brother in need, especially if he knows he can bear poverty better than his brother. He likewise considers the pain of another as his own pain. And if he suffers any hardship because of having given out of his own poverty, he does not complain.”

When a devastating plague swept across the ancient world in the third century, Christians were the only ones who cared for the sick, which they did at the risk of contracting the plague themselves. Meanwhile, pagans were throwing infected members of their own families into the streets even before they died, in order to protect themselves from the disease.

Do we measure up to the unconditional love of the early Christians? Are we willing to impoverish ourselves so we can help others? Does the community look at us and exclaim “See how they love one another?”

Or have we allowed ourselves to become enamored with the things of this world? Seeking after vacations, new cars, the latest technology devices, and bigger houses and more clothes while turning our heads to those in need? Do we know our sisters and brothers-in-Christ well enough to know their needs? And if we do, what are we willing to do for them? Are we “others focused” or “self-focused”? Would we be willing to forego a vacation this year or sell belongings in order to help a family with their medical bills, housing needs or transportation needs? Are we willing to spend time with the brokenhearted ongoing, or are we there for a little while and then move on when we feel their “shelf-life” has expired?

Know what? I think we all can do a better job. Even if we’re homebound, disabled, or limited in some other way we can all pray for others, send cards, or call or email them. And for those who are able to do more, we can make a point at services to seek out the newcomers, the visitors, those we don’t sit near us, those we rarely speak to and check in on them. Be sure to adorn your face with a sincere smile and be an attentive listener when you ask how they are. Guess what? You just might be meeting your new best friend!

As always….be blessed….and go and be a blessing!

"Do all the good you can, by all the means you can, in all the ways you can, in all the places you can, at all the times you can, to all the people you can, as long as ever you can."  -John Wesley

A smile cost nothing, but gives so much. It enriches those who receive it, without making poorer those who give. It takes but a moment, but the memory of it sometimes lasts forever. None is so rich or mighty that hecan get along without it, and none is so poor but that he can be made rich by it. A smile creates happiness in the home, fosters goodwill in business, and is the countersign of friendship. It brings rest to the weary, cheer to the discouraged, sunshine to the sad, and it is nature’s best antidote for trouble. Yet it cannot be bought, begged, borrowed, or stolen, for it is something that is of no value to anyone until it is given away. Some people are too tired to give you a smile. Give them one of yours, as none needs a smile so much as he who has no more to give. - BJ.Morbitzer

Note from Billie: "I have learned to focus on the ones that do show love and give time.  Folks are always too busy. Please look around this Sun, Wed and speak to someone you don't normally converse with.  How uplifted you will be when you learn something about someone new."


Are You Greeting Visitors?
by Pat Gates
To followup with the point in Marsha's article about greeting visitors, one of the saddest jobs available in denominations is being hired to be a greeter. Most are volunteer jobs but some churches actually advertise and hire greeters. Greeters will have meetings to discuss how to greet people, especially visitors, as they arrive at the front door. It's a sad job because many or most of members know the visitors are being taken care of so why put forth any effort. If the church would care and love for others as God commands no church would have to dream of advertising for a "greeter."
So what about the Lord's church? We would never hire a greeter. It's ludicrous to think such a thought! Imagine bringing up this idea to the elders or asking your husbands to mention it in the "business meetings." What would be the reaction?
While we don't advertise for a greeter, nor would we pay someone to do so, don't many of us actually practice this same concept? Don't we sometimes head right to "our seat," talk to our friends and those we feel comfortable with and leave the visitors up to the men who stand in the foyer? Do we also just take for granted that brother and sister so-and-so who are always friendly to everyone will take care of them? Do we leave visitors up to the deacon who is in charge of giving the "welcome package" and "visitor's card" to those who are visiting? 
Nothing is wrong with men or women who stand in the foyer and greet people as they walk in the church building. In fact, it's not a bad idea. But it doesn't make one whit of difference if there are greeters in the foyer and a bunch of zombies in the pews. Visitors aren't stupid nor do they get satisfaction when friendliness and attention begins and ends in the foyer. Have you ever visited another congregation and sat in the pew without anyone speaking to you? Awkward, isn't it?
We need to quit excusing ourselves from this important, loving deed. To tell ourselves that it's just not "my thing" to speak to strangers and others will take care of that is creating the false idea that the body of Christ is some sort of institution where delegates represent us as a whole and individual responsibility is unnecessary. Read the parable of the talents (Mt. 25:14-30) and then ask yourself if the Master will accept any of the following excuses: "I'm afraid." "I'm shy," "I don't know what to say," "The people in the foyer will greet visitors," "Sister so and so will take care of them," "I never thought to do so because I was too busy speaking to people I know."
I'm thankful I'm part of a congregation of the Lord's people who display their love to visitors. It's such a pleasure to behold. How about you? Are you willing to dig up this important talent you hid and put it to use?
Be hospitable to one another without grumbling. As each one has received a gift, minister it to one another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God, (1 Pet. 4:9-10).

A smile and a handshake is a beautiful display of love.


The Divine Compassion

Gary Henry

“Can a woman forget her nursing child, and not have compassion on the son of her womb? Surely they may forget, yet I will not forget you” (Isaiah 49:15).

JUST AS GOD’S LOVE IS AS TENDER AS A MOTHER’S LOVE, IT IS ALSO AS COMPASSIONATE. A mother would sooner forget her nursing child than God would fail to act with compassion. “When Israel was a child, I loved him, and out of Egypt I called My son . . . I drew them with gentle cords, with bands of love, and I was to them as those who take the yoke from their neck. I stooped and fed them” (Hosea 11:1,4). Even if unrepentant rebellion requires our final banishment from God, we can be sure that the sentence will be pronounced with nothing less than a broken heart. We will have rejected a compassionate love very much like a mother’s.

Robert Fulghum once made an interesting comment about Teresa of Calcutta. Arguing that she was one of the most powerful people in the world at the time, he wrote, “No shah or president or king or general or scientist or pope; no banker or merchant or cartel or oil company or ayatollah holds the key to as much power as she has. None is as rich. For hers is the invincible weapon against the evils of this earth: the caring heart. And hers are the everlasting riches of this life: the wealth of the compassionate spirit.” It is compassion, far more than any other quality, that encourages people to be WILLING TO BE INFLUENCED. People really do not care how much we know until they know how much we care.

This is precisely why the story of the Cross is so powerful. It is from first to last a story of compassion, and those who refuse to be touched by compassion would only be hardened by any other means of influence. If God’s chosen means of influence is compassionate love, we should be slow to use any “stronger” or “more effective” means. Moreover, if we truly hope to see others influenced by compassion, we must be ready to do the same difficult thing that God did. We must be ready, when the time comes, not only to suffer WITH others, but also to suffer FOR them. It has always been mothers, more than anyone else, who understand this.

“Let us not underestimate how hard it is to be compassionate. Compassion is hard because it requires the inner disposition to go with others to the place where they are weak, vulnerable, lonely, and broken. But this is not our spontaneous response to suffering. What we desire most is to do away with suffering by fleeing from it or finding a quick cure for it” (Henri J. M. Nouwen).


Pure and Undefiled Religion...

Marsha Norris

“Pure and undefiled religion in the sight of our God and Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world.”—James 1:27


Though our congregation numbers only about 150, six of our members are widows. In addition, we have a sister whose husband left her, whom I regard as widow status: she is physically handicapped with a degenerative disease that affects her spine and eyesight, rendering her unable to work. So counting her, we have seven widows.

Five of these sisters are part of a weekly gathering at my husband’s coffee house where we meet to write cards of encouragement to others. What we have found in this ministry is that we are the ones most encouraged.


Our weekly numbers range from 12 to 15 sisters. Miss Annie, our matriarch widow, is 95 and in charge of stamping and sealing the cards. She claims her handwriting is too shaky to sign all the cards yet takes her job of sealing the envelopes and putting on postage stamps quite seriously. She is also good at letting the rest of us know if we are dawdling or yakking too much. If she feels we are slacking off, she puts her head down on her arms and pretends to take a nap. Though she might on the surface appear a little grumpy with us when this happens, “cards” is the social event of her week and she becomes quite gloomy when we have to cancel.


Miss Marge, 85, is our matriarch widow-in-waiting. Miss Annie no longer drives so one of us pick her up, but Miss Marge drives herself the 30 minutes it takes to reach the coffee house -- sometimes while hooked up to oxygen. Like Miss Annie, this also is the social event of the week for Miss Marge and they are fast friends, sitting next to each other at cards and at services. Our other widows who attend regularly range in age from 50 to early 70s. Each, of course, has her own story to tell.


We “Card Ladies,” (as we refer to ourselves) know how to have a good time! Most of us have sufficient mileage to have learned not to take ourselves too seriously. Which is why when a Card Lady writes “get well” on a birthday card or “happy birthday” on a “get well” card (and believe me this happens at least once a week), we’re able to laugh at ourselves and realize this is normal at our stage of life. Laughter truly is good medicine and we often incorporate humorous stories into our meetings as well as short devotions and prayer.


Card Ladies give each other the most divine birthday parties! Complete with pot-luck luncheons and gifts. Miss Annie, an avid knitter, always blesses us with a couple of her lovely hand-knitted dish rags on our special day. We never know what color or combination of colors to expect. And if we’re really good, she will bless us again at Christmas with another one. I can’t wash a dish or wipe a counter now without a tangible reminder of our dear Miss Annie. She has injected herself into each of our kitchens as well as our hearts.


Widows, and the above scripture from James, have been tugging on my mind lately. Partially due to conversations with my cousin who is widowed and my daughter’s mother-in-law who last year lost her husband, then her brother, and then our dear little grand baby Lilly all in the span of five months. These widows have shared with me some of the daily challenges and their on-going loneliness. My daughter’s mother-in-law had been married for nearly 60 years. Now she finds herself rambling around her house, dealing with her husband’s estate, her brother’s estate, property damaged last year by a tornado, and countless other issues. I can only begin to image the emotional and physical energy these challenges take, and all while still deep in grief.


My cousin, who is 65 and lives across the country, lost her husband several years ago. She has no family in California and has struggled with depression since her husband died. She also has the “unfinished business” of her husband’s estate to deal with. Though she would like to move closer to family, it is unlikely that her house would sell in today’s economy and her funds are limited. I try and call her Thursday evenings and am encouraged that since we’ve begun these regular connections that her depression is lessening and she is doing better.


How good are we at reaching out to and lifting up the widows in our lives? Do we embrace them during their loss, for a few weeks afterwards, and then move on? Do we limit their “affliction” (also defined as anguish, burden) to a specific time that we deem as reasonable? If so, maybe that is for our convenience.


Why do you suppose God said caring for widows is “pure and undefiled religion”? Could it be He knew they likely would be overlooked unless He advocated for them? Are there widows in your congregation, family, or neighborhood? If so, perhaps some of the following ideas would uplift them and ease their loneliness, burdens or anguish.

Pray for them, and pray for the Lord to show you how to best help them.

Send notes regularly.

Call or e-mail to let them know you are thinking of them and to see if they need anything.

Take them a meal.

Invite them to your home.

Take them out to dinner.

Give them little gifts (chocolate candy, books, etc) to make them feel special.

Ask if they need help with house or yard maintenance.

Make a point to speak with them at services or sit with them if they are alone.

Be available to listen.

Offer to take them to doctor appointments or the store.

Visit them if they are in the hospital.

Teach your children/grandchildren to honor and care for them.


Our children and grandchildren are watching and learning from us. Not just what we say but what we do. My grandson John Luke, almost five, and his sister Clara, almost four, are usually with us on Sunday mornings when we pick Miss Annie up for services. They understand Miss Annie is a widow and cannot drive so she needs others to transport her.


We've also talked about the other widows in our congregation, including Miss Marge who always sits with Miss Annie on Sunday mornings. The other day while leaving the park John Luke said, "That looks like Miss Marge's car."

"Yes, it does," I replied.

"I keep an eye on her," John Luke declared, "I love her." (To my knowledge, he's never had a conversation with her so I'm quite surprised at his declarations.)

"Miss Marge is one of our widows," I answered.

"Yes," he said, "we need to take care of her."


Needless to say my heart was overflowing to know that this little child had grasped the Lord's teaching in James 1:27. Wanting to further imprint the importance of caring for widows on his little heart, we started planning something special to do for Miss Marge that he could be a part of.


I have not been nearly as diligent as I should at practicing James 1:27. But I'm praying for the Lord to guide me in doing a better job. Encouragement is always time well spent, so let's all make more effort to strengthen the hands that are weak and the knees that are feeble (Hebrews 12:12).


And as always, let us...

Be blessed! And go and be a blessing!



Someone Needs You

If you're feeling low and worthless,
There seems nothing you can do,
Just take courage and remember,
There is someone needing you.

You were created for a purpose,
For a part of'God's great plan;
Bear ye one another's--burdens,
So fulfill Christ's law to man

Are you Father, Son or Daughter?
You've a work none else can do..
Are you Husband, Wife or Mother?
There is someone needing you.

If perhaps in bed you're lying,
You can smile and press a hand
Of the one who tells his story,
He will know you understand.

There are many sad and lonely,
And discouraged, not a few,
Who a little cheer are needing,
And there's someone needing you.

Someone needs your faith and courage,
Someone-needs your love and prayers,
Someone needs your inspiration,
Thus to Help their cross to bear.

Do not think your work is ended,
There is much that you can do,
And as long as you're on earth,
There is someone needing you.'



Refresh My Heart

"Let me benefit from you in the LORD; refresh my heart in Christ."

—Philemon 1:20

by Kaylie Halbrook

(Reprinted from Faith Lift, April 2006)


"Refreshing" is not a word we use often, unless perhaps we enjoy annoying our friends with our cheesy renditions of those frenetic Dr. Pepper commercials. The idea of "refresh," that is, of enlivening the spirit of another, is a task vital to the sanity and effectiveness of Christians. In the Bible, the writers take the literal denotation of "refresh" as physical rest and apply it to spiritual activity. One may be, literally, a "lifesaver"; Proverbs 25:13, "Like the cold of snow in the time of harvest is a faithful messenger to those who send him, for he refreshes the soul of his masters." For all who have lived in Florida, or the rest of the South for that matter, imagine outside without air conditioning. You get my point. People, especially people in authority roles, are reinvigorated in their commitments by knowing that someone cares.


In his letter to Philemon, the refreshing Paul receives from Philemon, and his concomitant gratitude, is evident: "I have come to have much joy and comfort in your love," he says," because the hearts of the holy people have been refreshed through you." Notice how that the actual refreshing was done by Philemon to other people unrelated to the immediate situation (which Paul uses as a basis for his appeal for Philemon to show mercy toward Onesimus).


This attitude of Paul's toward kind and merciful acts is interesting. Peter had said earlier that the holiness of GOD's people would reinstate a time of rest, "Therefore repent and return, so that your sins may be wiped away, in order that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord" (Acts 3:19). It would seem that Peter's promise finds at least partial fulfillment in the way the community of Christ interacts.


This being so, I would like now to emphasize the importance of being good. Not "being" in the sense of "doing," as it is so often used, but "being" as existing, as becoming part of one's character. We hear many, many times of the need for committed people to go out and preach and influence the lost. Sometimes, however, the more expansive the speaker's vision for evangelism, the more inaccessible and ideal it seems to the "average" person, in terms of sheer emotional energy needed, if nothing else. Comparatively little time is spent encouraging people to become "refreshers." We spend time, energy, effort, and money reaching the lost, but it seems very little of those resources are spent in retaining the lost we have. An example would be a church where a good friend of mine began preaching. As he got to know the members, he found that many members had been Christians upwards of five years and no one had ever had a study with them post-conversion, no babes classes, no question-and-answer periods, no mentoring.


Consider too the plight of those who grow up in Christianity. Who sees how they are doing, if they have their questions answered, their fears assuaged? Very often they are from broken homes, or dysfunctional homes, or have trouble at school. Unfortunately, the parents for whatever reason are often the last people to be able to help. There is a rich field behind us as well as in front: people. We do not need to sail to a foreign country, nor knock on doors in search of opportunities; they are there, in your churches, in your classes. It is needed; it is so very badly needed. Bring comfort to the lost of heart, the hurting, and the doubting. (I am speaking from both sides of experience.)


"So what do we do? Anything—something. So long as we just don't sit there. If we [mess] it up, start over. Try something else. If we wait until we've satisfied all the uncertainties, it may be too late." —Lee Iacocca



Gary Henry

“Let me come in where you are weeping, friend, and let me take your hand” (Grace Noll Crowell).

LIFE IS HARD, AND IF WE HAVE THE EYES TO SEE, WE SEE ALL AROUND US PEOPLE NEEDING COMFORT. The sources of discomfort are as numerous and varied as the people who’re hurting, but the end result is much the same: PEOPLE NEED COMFORT. Considering the vastness of the need, it may be discouraging to think how little difference for good any of us can make in alleviating the suffering that’s in the world. But the vastness of the need may not be the thing we need to concentrate on. Wouldn’t it be better to concentrate on those few individuals whom we CAN comfort? In their lives, at least, we CAN make a difference, and they deserve that we give it our best effort.

GRIEF. Many of those who need our comfort are those who’re grieving the loss of something valuable to them. Whether it’s a loved one they’ve lost, or something else (such as a relationship, a hope, or a dream), it hurts to lose things. Grieving people need our comfort.

HARDSHIP. If there are sorrowful things in the world, there are also difficult things that have to be dealt with. And while the need for comfort during hardship may not be as poignant as the same need during grief, it’s no less real. Struggling people need our comfort.

FEAR. When people don’t know what’s going to happen, but they suspect that it’s not going to be good, fear is the emotion that results. And fear, in its many forms, can be one of life’s most debilitating, dehumanizing experiences. Frightened people need our comfort.

Our word “comfort” comes from the same root as the word “fortify.” Its literal meaning is “to strengthen.” I believe it does us good to recognize the strengthening, fortifying power of comfort. To comfort someone is a truly remarkable thing. When we comfort, we often do no less than pull the comforted one back from the brink of despair, or even of death. It’s a doable thing, and we need to do it more often.

“Those who can sit in silence with their fellowman, not knowing what to say but knowing that they should be there, can bring new life in a dying heart. Those who are not afraid to hold a hand in gratitude, to shed tears in grief, and to let a sigh of distress arise straight from the heart can break through paralyzing boundaries and witness the birth of a new fellowship, the fellowship of the broken” (Henri J. M. Nouwen).

Gary Henry –


"How Does a Family Deal with Feelings of Isolation When They Have a Family Member Who Is Retarded or Disabled?"

Marsha Norris

Several months ago, while shopping in the produce section of my grocery, a woman entered with her son. The boy, who looked to be about nine-years old, apparently had tourette’s syndrome. He ran around the produce isle uttering exclamations, many of which I did not understand. I must confess my immediate feelings were those of discomfort and wanting to quickly push my cart to the other end of the store. As I analyzed why I felt this way, I realized it was because if the boy approached me, I did not know what he would do or how I should respond. It all boiled down to “fear of the unknown.”

Understand, at that time I had a disabled grandchild of my own. But Lilly was still a baby and I had known her since birth. Therefore, the only discomfort I felt around her was fear that I would do something to jeopardize her safety, health or well-being. Lilly was physically unable to put me in a compromising position of having to respond to abnormal behavior, but even if she did, we shared a history. I felt safe with her. I knew what she was capable of and what to expect.

As I ponder the question that has been submitted for the Compassion Column, I’m not sure I can bring any hard and fast answers. And unfortunately, even though we have put this question “out there” for others to give us feedback, we have received nothing. So what I am about to share with you is strictly my own perspective of how to deal with the topic of this article if you have a family member who falls into this category.

Start small. By that I mean invite someone into your home and beforehand explain your personal feelings of isolation, but not in a negative way. Make no accusations. Rather approach it from a positive perspective. You might say something like, “Our family would really like to get to know more families at church and would feel honored if you would come to dinner. Having a disabled family member sometimes makes others uncomfortable, so please allow me to share a little about Bobby and what to expect and how best to respond.”

Okay, so that family turns you down. What next? Pick another family to invite. If needed, go all the way through the church directory. It might be a good idea to start with the preacher or an elder and their families. (Just thinking these men should be a little further up the spiritual ladder and have more experience in relationships.)

Once your invitation is accepted and the family arrives, continue to be positive. Be careful not to define yourself by the family member’s disability or view your disabled person as a burden. If you do, chances are your visitors will leave with negative feelings about their evening with you. Instead, try and be joyful and share the positives that have come out of your situation. (Hopefully you have grown in compassion, patience, and spiritually through your challenges, and this will be apparent to your visitors as they spend time with you.)

Try to have a plan for the evening. Perhaps an activity that the disabled family member can share in or at least watch. Keep the evening short. In fact you might, when extending the invitation, say something like, “Could you join us from 6:00 to 8:00 for dinner and a game?” This might relieve the awkwardness on both sides of when to end the evening.

Remember that relationships take time, so don’t have any grand expectations, rather enjoy the evening for what it is: time to fellowship with other Christians. If the family you invited does not reciprocate by inviting you to their house, please don’t take it personally. This is fairly normal. I’ve had some families to my home numerous times and not been invited to theirs. Yet we are still good friends.

Sometimes the best people to help you are those in a support group. My daughter found excellent support, encouragement, and tips from other parents in the online trisomy 18 groups she became part of. Often the parents had better information to share than the medical profession.

Do you have a friend to pray with you about your situation? If not, try and find out who the prayer warriors are in your congregation and ask one to pray with you.

Sometimes we are our own worst enemy. We tend to speculate about what others think about us—things that often are not true—and color our relationships accordingly. Try and wipe the slate of your mind clean and see yourself and your family as worthy and precious people who have a special gift to share with others. I cannot over emphasize the importance of viewing yourself and your family member in a positive light rather than in a negative one. Always remember that this family member is fearfully and wonderfully made, created in God’s image, and personally knit together by the Creator. (Psalm 139, imprint this Psalm on your heart.)

Let me wrap this up with a few proactive suggestions. When you see others, smile and be the first to say hello. Ask how they are doing, and if they have a need, respond to it. Think of ways you can reach out to others rather than waiting for them to reach out to you. Send notes of encouragement or take a meal to a family. In other words, become the change you want to see.

God has a purpose for each of our lives and has placed each of us where we are so we can fulfill that purpose. Ask Him to guide you in your journey and give you wisdom in all things. Please take comfort knowing that He will never leave you nor forsake you.

So be blessed…and go and BE a blessing!



In Loving Memory of Lillian Eva Hollowell

July 4, 2010 – December 15, 2011

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By Lisa Hollowell from


Lilly is in the arms of Jesus

Posted: 15 Dec 2011 07:33 PM PST

My heart breaks to say that Lilly went home to be with her Lord and maker this evening. She passed away in her sleep, after having a good day.

"The LORD gave, and the LORD has taken away; Blessed be the name of the LORD.” - Job 1:21

[King David when his baby died] "But now he is dead; why should I fast? Can I bring him back again? I will go to him, but he will not return to me.” - 2 Samuel 12:23

Sweet Lilly's last day on earth

Posted: 17 Dec 2011 08:01 PM PST

I wanted to share some details about Lilly's last day. This may be a long post, but bear with me. I have the need to get it all written down for our family record.

It was a wonderfully happy ordinary day! In fact the first half was so ordinary I have suddenly found myself hazy on the details. Lilly woke up and we did her usual morning routine. She was happy and smiling a lot. I got lots of neck sugar from her! Her congestion seemed a bit better, though she was coughing occasionally a cough that sounded a bit barky. I did her nebulizer treatment, gave her the antibiotic, and she had yogurt with it. (I had planned to do a post soon about how Lilly's blenderized real food diet via g-tube was going. I still want to in case it helps someone else. So that will be forthcoming.)

While I was washing Lilly's things in the sink, I had her in her bouncy seat. That was when she was really playing well and I got my camera and shot a
short video. I'm so thankful I did!

In the early afternoon, Lilly had physical therapy. She did great, working hard, and seemed to be really enjoying practicing sitting. Her therapist even commented, at least once, that it was hard to believe Lilly was sick because she was acting the best she had since we brought her home from open heart surgery last month.

It really seemed that overall Lilly was doing well. I knew she still had some congestion so that something was going on inside. But she was on the antibiotic, and Xopenex, and was just acting so Lilly-like that I thought she was really on the mend.

Lilly was usually in my arms, lap, or close to me throughout the day every day. That day was no different.

After a feeding and nebulizer treatment, Lilly and I sat on my exercise mat while I did my afternoon set of exercises to try and heal my diastis. (My stomach muscles are still split apart some from being pregnant with Lilly.) She laid in my lap for one type of exercise, then we both laid down on the mat for the other. This always made her grin!

At this point my husband came home from work early because he had been at the dentist. (Praise God for that appointment or else he would not have seen Lilly alive that day!) He enjoyed coming in and seeing Lilly laying there smiling. He held Lilly some and talked with her. Then it was time for her afternoon nap so he put her down on her pallet where she always naps. She had her toys around her and her face turned towards her mirror. She loved looking at herself in her mirror as she fell asleep!

Lilly fell asleep pretty quickly, which was normal.

We usually let her sleep until about 6:30 p.m. She often woke before that, or around that time. I liked to feed her and we liked her up by then so she'd be sleepy at bedtime. But this evening she didn't. And because she had been sick, I decided that we'd let her sleep until 7:00. So we had our family devotion after dinner. Then I went to wake her.

As I usually did, I knelt down by her and started speaking to her as I pulled off her blanket. When I did I suddenly noticed she felt cold. REALLY COLD. I exclaimed "Oh my poor Lilly!" and grabbed
her flannel blanket and began to quickly wrap her as I lifted her up.

Then I saw her face.

The coloring was completely wrong. It resembled some of the pictures I had seen in a class I took on death investigation back in college.

I yelled that something was wrong and told my husband to call 911. He did and then began trying to do CPR. I ended up with the phone in my hand. The operator kept talking to me and asking me questions. It was all I could do to keep from screaming at her as I found her questions so irritating. I knew she was doing her job. But I just wanted the paramedics there. It was too hard to focus on a phone conversation.

They arrived within minutes and grabbed Lilly. I ran with them out to the ambulance which was parked in our driveway. We got in and they immediately began trying to revive Lilly. (We didn't go anywhere but stayed in the driveway.) Lilly looked like a rubber doll lying there. I held one of her little hands as they worked. I felt numb with shock. Perhaps that was good though, I was able to mechanically answer all the questions coming at me about Lilly's complicated medical history. I appreciated the group of paramedics. Especially one that had a scripture bracelet on. I even thanked him for wearing it.

From what I could see out of the ambulance, it looked like the street was filled with flashing lights. I later learned there was a fire truck, another ambulance, and many police cars. Neighbors too.

Lilly wasn't responding to anything they tried. They told me that they would keep trying as long as I wanted them too. My husband was finally able to join me. We decided that it was time for them to stop. Lilly wasn't coming back.

A certificate of death was needed. They asked about calling Lilly's doctor. I said "Which one? She has so many!" But I remembered that her pediatrician had been ready to do this, at
the end of Lilly's first week, when we thought she was dying. So they said they would try and reach her. And they left my husband and me alone with Lilly in the ambulance.

The first thing I did was to carefully re-dress Lilly. Then I wrapped her back in the blanket and held her tight. I hummed "How Firm a Foundation" - her favorite song to her. I talked to her about God and Jesus and heaven. I told her I loved her. I kept kissing her. Then my husband held her for a little while. He prayed. Then I got her back. Her head was cold but she felt just right snuggled in close.

Finally the pediatrician was reached and she said she was on her way to our house. My husband went in and talked to Tabitha our 10 year old daughter to see if she thought she wanted to see Lilly. She did. So we took Lilly back inside the house, and all the vehicles left, except a police officer that was waiting for the pediatrician.

My brother Patrick, and mom and stepdad were inside with Tabitha and Hunter (our 3-year-old son). After a few minutes, Tabitha was holding Lilly and crying and talking over her. It was so precious! Then she gave her back to me to hold so she could do Lilly's hair. She gave her the "Lilly bug" hairdo. (Looked like Lilly had two antennae sticking up on her head!) Then Hunter got in my lap and I helped him hold Lilly for a few minutes. When he got back down I snuggled Lilly as close as I could again.

The pediatrician arrived and hugged us and checked Lilly's pulse. It was obvious she really cared about Lilly. She stayed extra and hugged on Tabitha and talked to her. The next day she even sent Tabitha a peace lily plant! A "lily" to give her "peace."

It was starting to get late now and my husband went to call a funeral home. He opened the phone book. We should have had a plan all ready but we never did. He stood looking at the page but not knowing who to call. My mom suggested one that she had been at recently. I really liked the picture in the ad of that home (a large old house) and so my husband called them.

It wasn't too much later that a man from the funeral home arrived to take Lilly. I couldn't stand giving her up. But I did know I couldn't hold her forever. Tabitha was so worried that Lilly would be cold at the funeral home. But when the man came in, he had a big, thick pink blanket with him and he had me wrap Lilly up in it. And he said for us to tell our children that he would keep Lilly safe and warm!

I kept the flannel blanket I had had Lilly wrapped in and held it close as I watched him carry our precious baby's body out the door. (This flannel blanket is very special - it was made for Lilly by the sister of a Trisomy 18 baby that had died. See the link above to read the story. I thought about this baby Hannah Grace meeting Lilly in heaven. Along with Lilly's Pop and a number of other Trisomy 18 babies who I was familiar with.) I told the man to keep the clothes Lilly was wearing safe because I wanted them back. Even her cloth diaper! (She was wearing new sock monkey pjs from my cousin M.)

The blanket is now in Lilly's co-sleeper bed, which is still by my side of the bed. I love to touch it.

I really didn't cry so much until the next day. Even now, I think I'm still in shock. And we've just been so busy that it hasn't really sunk in. But I am feeling the huge void of Lilly not being here. I have the need to take care of her still. And so I'm feeling lost without doing that. Without getting her neck sugar. Without holding her.

But it really does give me great consolation to know that she is in heaven with a Lord and Savior that love her even more than we possibly can. It amazes me that that is even possible! But I know it is!

"But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved. And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus. For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast." - Ephesians 2:4-9

We continue to miss Lilly terribly, yet we all smile as we imagine her in heaven and how she's so perfect and happy. It's so exciting to talk about! A place where:

"‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, . . . "Revelation 21:4


  • That God would comfort our family, and others who loved her, as we mourn.
  • That our family might glorify God as we continue to share Lilly’s story and example.


 “Being confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Jesus Christ.” Philippians 1:6

(If you would like to read Lisa’s words at Lilly’s burial, please go to Lilly’s dad’s beautiful and inspiring funeral eulogy—one that celebrated her precious life—will be posted soon on her blogspot.)

Be blessed…and go and be a blessing!


November 2017