Posted in Celebration, Faith, Friendship, Grief

The Three Dots

Text one: “Please pray. It was a horrific day!”

Text two (about two minutes later): “GOOD NEWS! My husband found a job!”

I sat there staring at my screen. The three dots kept coming in two different places.

I waited anxiously, my feelings all over the place. Tears welled.

Strange tears. Filled with gratitude and grief all in the same moment.

Was that even allowed?

Could I cry for the pain and cry for the joy?

It didn’t matter the answer, because I was. Plain and simple.

I felt myself tossed around for the next several minutes as I went back-and-forth with these two people who I love.

Grief. Joy. Sadness. Relief. Anger. Gratitude.

A bouncing ball inside from one emotion to the next.

Then it all hit me. Right between the eyes (of my heart).

This is sacred ground I am walking on.

This is humanity at its fullest.

This is what I’ve wanted my whole life.

To not stuff it down. To not brush it aside. ANY.OF.IT.

To grieve with those who are grieving.
Like cry real tears for them.
To hold them in their pain and trust that somehow their sorrow is halved because I am sharing in it.

BUT also to rejoice with those who are rejoicing.
Like cry real tears for them.
To hold them in their joy and trust that somehow their delight is doubled because I am sharing in it.

I want it from others and I want to give it to others.

This is how I heal.
How I embrace my humanness.
How I come closer to Tender Lover of My Soul.
How I help to mend the world, right in front of me and all around me.

Welcome ALL.OF.IT.

Come close to EVERY.LITTLE.BIT.

Cheer.
Cry.
Laugh.
Text.
Hug.
Pray.

ALL.OF.IT.

Posted in Faith, Grief

Once Upon a Time

Once upon a time, there was a woman who was sad.

About a year ago, she was skipping along, busy as a bee, marching to the beat of getting things done and getting ahead. She believed the new year held possibility and promise like every other year.  Why wouldn’t it?  It was the start of not only a year, but a whole new decade.  She was excited.

But right after her big party in her new house with all her friends, an ugly monster came.  It came and gobbled up all her normal, all the rhythms that held her and rocked her and told her that everything was okay.

Days went by.  MUNCH.
Weeks went by.  MUNCH MUNCH.
Months went by.  MUNCH MUNCH MUNCH MUNCH MUNCH.

The monster kept devouring her normal.  But not just hers.  The normal of everyone around her.  It ate up bank accounts and dreams and businesses and celebrations and hugs and peace-of-mind and worst of all, it gulped down lives.

She tried really hard to stay upbeat and hopeful and to “look on the bright side,” but it didn’t really work very long.

She was sad.

One day, she figured out that she had to do something about it.  But what?  What should she do about her sadness?

She could take Vitamin D.
She could binge watch TV.
She could eat a cookie.
She could work in her garden.
She could pretend the monster wasn’t there.
She could make a grateful journal.

If that helped, maybe then she could tell all her friends and family to do the same.

After making her “what-should-she-do-about-her-sadness” list and checking it twice, she tried hard for a really long time.

Guess what happened?  She was still really sad.

Oh no!  What should she do?

One morning as she was swallowing her Vitamin D for the 282nd time, she thought of a great idea!

She was going to STOP doing some things. They weren’t working anyway, no matter how hard she tried.
 
So she STOPPED making the monster smaller than it was. She actually said the word “monster” out loud. She told her friends and her family that it was scary and horrible and that she wanted it to go away.
 
That was really hard for her. She liked talking about rainbows and butterflies and happy things.
 
But it was really good for her too. She felt like she was finally telling the whole truth and nothing but the truth, so help her God.
 
She also STOPPED trying to rush really fast to “happy,” even though Joy was her middle name and she had been told her whole life it wasn’t good to be sad.
 
She looked right in the mirror and said, “You are allowed to be sad right now. That’s the best thing to be when you lose a bunch of stuff that’s really great.”
 
And then she took a shower and cried for a long time.
 
That helped a bunch and she figured out that now she could START doing some things too. She had time and space (like more than ever before).
 
She STARTED to talk, talk, talk. To her friends. To her husband. To Jesus. To a counselor. To her journal. She got her sadness outside of the inside of her. She gave it really carefully to those who loved her and who she trusted to hold her all safe, like inside-her-heart safe.
 
She also STARTED to listen, listen, listen. To her friends. To her husband. To Jesus. To her kids. And guess what she found out. They were all sad too. Just like her. She was not all by herself. How about that?

The story is not over yet (even after 324 days) and sometimes, the woman still eats cookies, binge watches TV, and pretends the monster isn’t there.

But more often, she cries.  And prays.  And talks.  And listens.

Once upon a time, there was a woman who was sad.

But she was not alone.

And it was the perfect place to be.

Posted in Anxiety, Faith, Grief, Health

Jittery

It’s a jittery kind of morning around here.

I strike up one of those “conversations” with God.

“Principal’s office” god begins his normal barrage.

[WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOU? Can’t you get your act together? Enough with the anxiety already!]

That familiar UGH swoops in.

[This again? What is wrong with me!?!]

Newly-found voices of “up-in-arms” battle their way to the surface.

[That is NOT the voice of the real and true God. It’s those dang and destructive voices of discouragement and shame, enemies of my soul.]

I clear a just-enough space for a tender, gentle Voice.

[What’s wrong with you, my Sweet? What do you NEED?]

The ping-pongy chitchat heads into full swing.

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[I NEED my son to keep his new job so he can pay his rent.]

[Actually, you probably NEED My wisdom to know how much to help or not help. You know, that whole boundaries thing you’ve been working on for (basically) ever.]

[I NEED this pandemic to be O-V-E-R! Like right now! It’s basically ruining ALL.THE.THINGS along with me always feeling like I’m playing Russian roulette.]

[Actually, you might just NEED a settledness of soul in the waiting, an abiding trust in Me. I really care about you and this and I know how it all feels.]

[I NEED my youngest to come home for the holidays.]

[Actually, you likely NEED to feel your sadness over missing her and confront your own loneliness without her. You NEED to grieve.]

[I NEED our financial situation to be secure.]

[Actually, you undoubtedly NEED to live in today and from a place of provision from my generous heart, instead of that never-ending, life-sucking place of scarcity.]

[GOD, HELP ME! I NEED TO BE OKAY ON THE OUTSIDE!]

[Actually, you NEED to be okay on the inside.]

This time around, I keep quiet and He keeps going.

[My daughter, it’s not going to be having all the OUTSIDE problems solved. More of them will creep up every day. What you “needed” a year ago is completely different than what you will “need” a year from now. It’s always changing.

What you REALLY NEED, however, is the SAME every moment, every day.

You need to trust, to settle, to BE in that “all shall be well” place INSIDE, the place where I dwell.

It’s safe.

Your jitters can rest.

You DO have EVERYTHING you really NEED.]

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And my God will liberally supply (fill until full) your every need according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:19)

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P.S. One thing I do desperately NEED this morning (and any of you who might grace my presence would heartily agree): I NEED A SHOWER! Warm soapy, water, here I come!

Posted in Anxiety, Faith, Family, Grief

How Did You Feel?

How did you feel, LITTLE ANT, the day your world was turned upside-down, the day I moved the huge rock that your whole little life revolved around and was protected by just so I could build a rock wall to line the fence in my yard?

How did you feel?

Maybe you felt…

CONFUSED.  You were scampering along, working hard to take care of your family, happily doing what you were supposed to do.  Suddenly, you found yourself exposed to a world you’d never known.  Maybe you asked yourself, “What the heck just happened?  Why oh why?”  I don’t blame you.  I would feel the same way.

Maybe you felt…

ANGRY.  I know you did because you bit me, at least three times.  I felt it sharply under my pants just moments later.  You know what?  I would bite me too.  Maybe it was all your little self could do to yell, “THIS IS NOT RIGHT!  SEND ME BACK TO THE WAY IT WAS!”

Maybe you felt…

OUT-OF-CONTROL.  After all, life as you knew it had just changed forever.  All those systems that you had put in place to make your little life easier and more predictable blew to bits.  Your formula for how the world works and works well was upended, to say the least.  When I ventured back to check on you, I saw a whole bunch of you just scurrying around, looking like you didn’t know what to do next.

Maybe you felt…

AFRAID.  Who wouldn’t?  I sure would.  Would some giant ant-eater come out of the woods and gobble you up?  Would your life ever look remotely the same as it had before the rock was taken away?  Would your ant family be okay with this new normal?  Would you be able to find another rock?

Maybe you felt…

SAD.  Some of your family and friends were just taken away from you, some never to be seen again and some that you don’t know when you will see again, eat with, play with and work with.  It’s just horrible, my little ant friend.  Just horrible.  It’s not really supposed to be this way and I’m so sorry what happened is putting you through this.  I would just stop right now and cry the tears that are rightfully yours.

Maybe one day, LITTLE ANT, you will have a whole new world, one where you will be working, taking care of your family, busily at peace and full of new adventures.  Yes.  I bet it will happen soon enough.

But for now, my new found friend, I get it.  I get you.

I’m with you and I AM you, more than you will ever know.

God-speed, my LITTLE ANT friend.

 

 

 

Posted in Faith, Grief

What am I Doing About My Grief? And Yours?

In these unprecedented times, I have been asked over and over again, “What are you doing about ______________?”

I’ve been asked about food prep, my mental health, my routine, church, etc.

Because of this, I want to offer short videos answering those questions over the next several days, weeks, etc.

I plan to give you practical HELP and glimmers of HOPE as we navigate our new normal together.  I promise to sprinkle lots of HUMOR throughout as well.

Today, I am answering the question, “What am I doing about my grief?  And yours?”

JOIN ME AND FIND OUT.  (I know you have the time hahaha)

CLICK HERE!!!

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in Faith, Family, Friendship, Grief

Sheer, Terrible Beauty

One very ordinary Thursday, a precious friend poured out her heart to me about her son’s death by suicide.

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“She’s gone,” I heard my brother say on the other end of the line. “We sang and prayed with her.” His wife had succumbed to cancer on that fall Saturday morning.

******

I received a terrible phone call that my best friend from high school’s two daughters were killed in a wrong-way crash by a drunk driver. It was Good Friday.

******

“Do you want me to come over?” I asked my close friend as soon as she spilled the ugly news that her brother had taken his own life.

******

I could go on and on and on. Loss. Death. Unstoppable grief.

So much sadness. So little understanding.

Each person loved so fiercely.
Each tender one lost too early.
Each story shared bravely with me.

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Nothing is more sacred than to share another’s pain. It brings both great sorrow and surprising healing. Each time I enter into this very “holy ground” space, I count it as one of the greatest gifts I will ever know in this lifetime, the gift of another in their most vulnerable and real and raw place. Sheer, terrible beauty.

For those of you who have wildly loved and lost a precious someone, I pray today that you would find a safe space to share your true heart, the one that might be hurting. I pray that those who listen would dive deep and sit still and share some measure of your grief and suffering, so that you would feel unexplainably loved and cared for. I pray that in God’s vast wisdom, compassion, kindness, mercy and love, He brings unfathomable healing to you in the places only He can reach.

We share every part of this life together, including the great sorrows we face, arms and hearts wrapped around each other, each one of us helping the other hobble along toward redemption.

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Please feel free to share the first name of someone you have loved and lost in the comments. I would just like to hold the space for them today.

#grief #healing #hope

Posted in Faith, Family, Grief, Motherhood

Two Babies

I wasn’t good at listening to pain in those early mom years.
I was good at getting things done.
I wasn’t good at facing loss in those early mom years.
I was good at never looking back.
I wasn’t good at sitting in grief in those early mom years.
I was good at looking at the “bright side.”
I lost two babies in the middle of all the other pregnancies that bore children and never skipped a beat. I got things done. I never looked back. I looked at the “bright side.”
This morning, as the reality of moving away from our family home in just a few short days, along with my grown-up children sleeping in homes far away,
I choose to skip a beat.
I choose to listen to my pain. I choose to not get things done. I choose to remember those babies whose names I will never know, who didn’t get to live in our family home and who are not now sleeping in homes far away.
I choose to face my loss. I choose to look back. I lost those babies. I am losing my home. I am losing my heavy-duty, active mom years.
I choose to sit right here for at least a few minutes with this gentle friend called grief. I choose to look at the shadow side. Those two precious souls who live with Jesus in heaven makes this mama heart sad. The truth that I will never sit around my beat-up kitchen table again with my kids makes me sad. The memories of little ones clutching my pant legs and teenagers sleepily coming down the stairs on Christmas morning makes me sad.
I choose to not rush to joy this morning. It’s really good in this place.
Posted in Family, Grandparenthood, Grief, Marriage, Motherhood

I Want to Numb It!

I want to watch Law and Order.

I want to eat coconut almond joy ice cream.

I want to wash every sheet and towel in the house.

I want to take a nap.

I WANT TO NUMB IT.

I don’t want to sit with the sadness of saying goodbye to the summer.

I don’t want to sit with the sadness of saying goodbye to my husband and children and their loves.

I don’t want to sit with the sadness of saying goodbye to the squeals of laughter from my most adorable grandson.

I don’t want to sit with the sadness of saying goodbye to the fireworks, the sandy flip flops, the bike rides and eating pizza without guilt.

BUT I WILL.

I won’t watch Law and Order at least until later tonight.

I won’t eat ice cream until tomorrow.

might wash some of the sheets and towels, but not all of them. 

I will stay awake, sit on the porch and make friends with this place I find myself in.   I am sad and that’s EXACTLY where I am supposed to be.

I am also strangely okay.

Front porch, summer’s end, here I come.

“A time to laugh.  A time to weep.”  (Solomon)

 

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in Celebration, Faith, Grief, Health

I Don’t Agree with Dr. Seuss on This One

“Don’t cry because it’s over.  Smile because it happened.  (Dr. Seuss)

“There is a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance.”  (King Solomon)

In my kids’ high school yearbooks, seniors usually put a quote at the bottom of their picture, words that represented them and they wanted to pass along to their fellow classmates.  I loved reading each one of my kids’ friends quotes because they gave me a little glimpse into what mattered to them, their final statement as they pushed on to the next world of college.  They varied from very serious and mind-stretching to completely silly and slightly inappropriate (here’s a secret…those were my favorite).

The above quote from Dr. Seuss was under at least a few of the pictures every single year.  For a long time, I loved it.  It shouted the very important ideas of hope and thankfulness.  It helped people look “on the bright side” of life.  It granted a new perspective when sadness and pain came knocking.  Or so it seemed.

I filled my kids’ scrapbooks with quotes from Dr. Seuss.  Many speak words I want to shout from the mountaintops and especially whisper to the souls of my kids.

“Today you are you.  That is truer than true.  There is no one alive that is youer than you.”

“A person’s a person no matter how small.”

“Be who you are and say what you feel because those who mind don’t matter and those who matter don’t mind.”

“And will you succeed?  Yes!  You will indeed!  98 and 3/4 percent guaranteed!”

Wisdom.  Hope.  Life.

So why does the “Don’t cry because it’s over…” quote rub me in the wrongest (not sure if that is even a word) way?

I am not good at crying (except at Disney movies and This Is Us episodes).  I like to pride myself on being the “strong” one, the “positive one,” the “hope-bringer.”  But that pride gets me into lots of trouble.  I keep others out, when it would be best to let others in.  I put on the “smile” even when I am hurting inside.  I push aside any grief (like a good American) that threatens to overwhelm me instead of working through it.  I don’t like the negative emotion of sadness.  JOY is my middle name after all (no pressure there WINKY FACE).  

BUT…

(and it’s a BIG BUT this time)

I’m discovering ever so slowly that:

  • CRYING releases toxins and reduces stress.  Tears feel cleansing and authentic.
  • SADNESS speaks to the value of what’s been lost, giving honor to the good in our lives. (I joke often that if my kids or Allen don’t seriously fall apart for at least a year or two or three after I’m gone, I will be pretty upset about it!  What does that say about me if they only “smile because it happened?”)
  • GRIEF brings empathy for the pain of others (our universal human language) and creates a healthy path towards true, lasting restoration.

It’s okay to be sad just as much as it’s okay to feel joy.

It’s okay to cry just as much as it’s okay to smile.

It’s okay to grieve just as much as it’s okay to celebrate.

It’s why funerals and memorial services feel so bizarre sometimes.  One moment, sadness, crying and grief are palpable, threatening to overwhelm.  A split-second later, laughter and the celebration of the one who has been lost bursts on the scene.   What feels so dichotomous actually pronounces the permission to live fully in BOTH AND, not either or, the integrated,  beautiful experience of our human space and my human heart in it’s entirety.

BUT (hopefully a smaller BUT this time)…

I say to myself, “Sure, it’s true for the large, visible-to-everyone, life-changing human experiences.  But what about the very ordinary parts of my life and my day?  What then?”

I cry when my baby takes his first step away from me, but I smile that he is reaching his normal milestones.

I cry when my husband takes a job with a very long commute, but I smile that all his hard work is paying off.

I cry when my friend tells me she’s moving, but I smile because she just landed her dream job.

I cry when my daughter buys her own place, but I smile knowing she’s spreading her wings just like I taught her.

All these run-of-the-mill life happenings echo the same voice as those that are profound.  What happens in the momentous also takes place in the mundane.  I have freedom to embrace BOTH crying AND smiling, in all that this adventure sends my way.

I do love Dr. Seuss, even though the man is surrounded with controversy.  He reminds me of me, having both horrible parts and beautiful ones.  It’s his birthday today!

So HAPPY BIRTHDAY Theodore Giesel.  You’ve brought much happiness into my life and the lives of my children.  For that, I am truly grateful!

BUT (and this one is a middlish BUT)…

I wish your quote said this instead:

“Cry because it’s over…AND…smile because it happened.”

King Solomon was right.

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P.S.  When I told my daughter (one of the seniors in the picture on this post) what I was writing about and why, the basic gist of her response was this, “Oh Mom, I think you’re missing his point.  I don’t think he’s saying “don’t cry.”  I think he’s saying remember to smile.”  So there you have it.  If you also believe I am clueless about Dr. Seuss’ original intention, you are in good company!  Point taken.

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P.P.S.  If you’ve read this far and want to comment here or on social media or in an email, I’m asking you this question:  can you think of a time where you found yourself laughing and crying at the same time?  What was it?

 

 

Posted in Friendship, Grief

Grief – One Friend’s Journal Entry (For Steven)

“True love between two human beings puts you more in touch with your deepest self.  The pain you experience from the death of the person you love calls you to a deeper knowledge of God’s love.  The God who lives in you can speak to the God in the other.  This is deep speaking to deep, a mutuality in the heart of God, who embraces both of you.”  (Henri J.M. Nouwen, The Inner Voice of Love)

Grief.  Most of us try our very hardest to shy away, or even run away from it.  We question what to say when someone is grieving.  We are unsure how often or even if to “bring it up” once life supposedly goes “back to normal.”  We don’t know what to expect from ourselves or what the other might need from us.  Should we come close or give the other space?  It can be a very confusing time for everyone.  And truthfully, if I can speak candidly about myself,  I don’t like to be in pain or be with others in pain.  It’s just downright uncomfortable.

The past couple of years have been filled with family and friends who are grieving.   And like most things in my life, I am not an avoider.  I want to throw myself headlong into the process, engage in it, learn from it, deal with it.  After all, it’s fairly new to me and I’ve heard that it’s horrible, sacred, beautiful intimate, and gut-wrenching all at the same time.

I lost my own sister-in-law, Denise Maret, just under a year ago, after a year-and-a-half long battle with colon cancer.  My brother and 19-year-old niece are left to raise my nine- and ten-year-old nephew and niece, along with the help of their grandparents.

My friend lost her precious brother to suicide.  He has left behind a wife, three children and two grandchildren and her heart is broken.

Our friend and former babysitter lost both her dad and her husband to cancer during her two pregnancies and she is left to raise two young children alone.

I reconnected with someone on Facebook who lost her only son to teen suicide.  This was the second time she lost a child, the other, a daughter, in early infancy.

A friend from church battled kidney cancer for many years.  His wife faithfully cared for him, only to lose him.  He missed his step-daughter’s wedding by only three short months.

One of my best friends from high school lost both of her daughters, her only children, in a tragic car accident on Good Friday.  They were only 19 and 20 years old, absolutely stunning girls, one only 10 days away from her college graduation.

You have your own stories.  So much horror.  So much sadness.  Grief multiplied.

This is probably where you want to click off, log out, go find puppy videos on the internet.  Me too.  At times.  But not today.  Come with me.  Lean in.  Learn along side of me.  Today, we will catch just a glimpse inside the world of my friend, Annie, who lost her baby brother to suicide at just 51 years old.  I promise you that it’s not all horrible.

When she first shared this journal entry with me, my heart was filled with horror, joy, sorrow, connection, injustice and comfort.  Yes.  All of those things.   Loss feels raw and sad and terrible and wrong, but also sacred and beautiful and precious.  Entering in to the pain allows our hearts to be touched with a deeper knowing and beauty that we will miss if we click away.  I ask that you would read on.

Annie’s Journal Entry on 6/17/2017.  Four months later.

Steven is gone.  He is gone.  He is gone from me.  How can this be?  How can he be gone, just gone?  I don’t feel disconnected from him . . . but definitely disengaged.  He is not here to hope, or dream, or plan for a future together.  All those things are gone.

My connection to a future here that includes him is gone, and nothing will take its place.  It is an empty space…and it will stay empty.  It is a space that holds his absence and my missing him.  My own future will always hold this empty space.  I am suffering.  I will suffer, but I will not be destroyed or left desolate by an empty space.

This empty space where Steven is missing is a sacred place.  I would rather have this sacred, empty space than no space at all.  Our love and connection to each other created a space for our future together.  If there had been no love and connection, there would be no space – – and I am thankful for it, for our empty space . . . for my empty space.

I am thankful for all the other spaces, the other spaces that are full – – beautiful, cherished spaces filled to bursting with love and life and memories.  Memories of the two of us.  All the precious moments we had together and apart-but-connected.  All the treasured memories we had together with others.  Those spaces are filled up and will stay full . . .
nothing will change that.

I don’t have you with me now my Steve, my beloved Steven, but I am forever grateful for you – my one time little brother, my forever friend.