What Oklahoma Gave me: Beans and Cornbread (humility of place)

What Oklahoma Gave Me

Yesterday I said it a little. Today I am going to say it a lot: I was pretty snobby when I arrived in Ada.  Before we ever arrived in our rental house Kel’s board members loaded up our fridge with food so that we wouldn’t have to do a grocery run upon arrival.

I assured Kel that they wouldn’t get it right and that I’d end up throwing most of it away, after all they were southerners and I didn’t like chicken fried steak or fried pickles.  (I know… I know… pretentious with a capital P!)

I’m pretty sure that I scoffed and made jokes about what I found in the fridge, turning up my nose at most of it.  I have no idea what I was trying to prove to the state of Oklahoma, but… ugh…what a snob.

So, when I heard about the classic Oklahoma dish “beans and cornbread” I turned my nose up at it.  Who would just eat beans and bread for dinner?  What Nonsense…Crazy Okies!

Then I was given 2 ham bones and a bag of pinto beans all in the same week and the die was cast.  I don’t waste food and Beans and Cornbread fit the bill.

So I simmered up a big ol’ pot of beans on my stove and dove in that evening with a little pretentious sour cream and cilantro on top.  And I loved it, A lot… like A LOT A LOT.  

As The Pioneer Woman says: There’s something so pure and elemental about a pot of dried beans, don’t you think?

Yes Ree, Yes I do.

So now, when it’s chilly or rainy or I just plain feel like it… I grab my large, red dutch oven and start a pot of beans to boil on the stove.  And then I promptly feel like an unlikely Okie and a pioneer of sorts.

Because there isn’t a thing that’s pretentious about a pot of beans for dinner.  It’s simple cowboy food, something I make when the budget is tight but we need protein on the cheap.

And with every bite of beans and crumbled morsel of cornbread I swallow a bit of humble pie.

Because it turns out that Beans and Cornbread is great and that every state has delicious flavor to bring to the table.  And I’m not just talking about food here.

There is no superior state in the union, or place on earth that’s necessarily better than any other.  Oklahoma is the perfect fit for the souls who were cut out for it.  It’s a land and a life beloved my many people I love myself.

 beans and cornbread

And so it was that Beans and Cornbread gave me not only delicious food, but a hearty lesson in humility.  Also it helped me give up my Oklahoma bashing once and for all, and that caused me to surrender the practice of bashing altogether.

Every place is someone’s beloved home, whether they live there or not.  Even if Oklahoma’s not for me it’s certainly for some people, most of them my current friends and neighbors.

This lesson doesn’t just apply to humility of place but to a slew of other things as well.

There is almost always more then one way to do things whether it’s parenting, church, diet, house color, mailbox style, fashion sense… the list is endless.

The only instance I can think of where this doesn’t apply is in “what order should one dust and vacuum?”  And in this case it’s dust first vacuum second I don’t care what you say.

But really, truly we should stop our bashing on other people’s way of life.  It’s pretty pointless, even if we happen to be right we aren’t doing anything but gossip or complain.  

We help no one and accomplish nothing.

So now I’m a more humble person, I make cornbread and I praise the grand state of Oklahoma for all it’s given me and in honor of all those who love it and call it home.

Thank you oklahoma for Beans, Cornbread and all that humble pie.  (Here’s my favorite recipe for beans and cornbread... which I make with a ham bone or bacon)

What unlikely source gave you a hearty dose of humility?

What dish did you once hate and now can’t help but love?

What Oklahoma Gave Me: Church

What Oklahoma Gave Me

Our time in Oklahoma is drawing rapidly to a close.  It’s been five years since our moving truck arrived here in Ada, OK after exiting at the Wayne Payne exit and driving through an hour of nothingness. Some days it feels like it’s flown by and then others I can’t believe we’ve ever lived anywhere else.

As I drive around town and move my feet through our awful WalMart, Our favorite park and our beloved church I’m starting to feel like a ghost. I can feel myself fading away from these spaces and it’s ever so bittersweet.

I see our footprints all over town, cataloged in moments and photographs. This place has shaped me into the woman I am today, our other homes did as well, but it feels like Ada bore the brunt of it.

My heart swells with love for this town, these roads, these walls and these people have woven themselves into my story.  I am thankful, deeply, powerfully thankful to Oklahoma for all that it’s given me.

So I’m going to spend a week thanking Oklahoma for the gifts, joys and memories, pouring over my keyboard with teary words. This will be a heart-taxing week and I’m not sure I’m ready.

First Off: I want to say thank you to Oklahoma for our church, H2O Church.  This is the place that has sustained me in a somewhat foreign land.  Yesterday I walked out the doors for the last time (for now) and my heart could hardly bear it.

This place has given me a sense of what Church Truly Is that I deeply needed, it was part nourishing and part kick in the pants.  I went from being a church critic and consumer to being spiritual contributor, a lover of the bride of Christ.

One of our church’s core values is: The church does not exist for us. We are the church and we exist for the world. This focus will forever change the way our family does ministry and I love it endlessly.

We stepped foot into our church, on main street in the heart of town the day after our moving truck settled into our rental home with the 1970s kitchen. I was newly pregnant and completely overwhelmed, I had no idea which end was up in my own life, given the fact that nearly everything had recently changed.

We choose it because it was the only contemporary church that supported my husband’s ministry.  There were a lot of colored lights, a smoke machine and at the end of each service they did an “ask” where people were invited to ask Christ into their hearts.

Not only that, the sermons weren’t live, we watched a feed from a larger sister church in Oklahoma City, that was weird and trendy…. I wasn’t sure I was okay with it.

It was a challenge for me, I’d never been this evangelical before.  I was sort of a snob when I arrived in Ada, and when it came to church I had big, huge, snarky opinions which I  always flung upon Kel the second our car doors clicked shut.

But, at some point in the last five years I laid most of my snarky ways down in the flow of the love of God at the hands of his people. When you feel the spirit moving and the authentic, powerful love of God all around you… style just doesn’t matter that much anymore and snark smells awful in your own nostrils.  

You just let God work and do your part to be a member church as much as best you can.

You try to get your snarky, crazy, humanity to make way for the refreshing work of the Spirit. You worry less about what you’re getting and focus more on what you have to offer, how you can give more.

This church provided my bread and wine in every possible way.

When we arrived I wondered if anyone would come to the hospital when I had Noelle, but our church was there, they sent flowers and brought meals to our door.

When my mom died our church was at our door at 1 am with a basket of travel essentials for our arduous drive to Michigan.

They Christmas Caroled our house that year when my heart was too broken to feel the joy of that season.

They were there again when Caedmon was born, laughing with me as we prayed that my bladder would start working and I wouldn’t need another catheter… “Dear Lord, we pray to pee.”  Oh the camaraderie of women and childbirth… it’s a club I love to participate in.

This church has given me so much and taken a piece of my heart that belongs properly in those walls with these people. 

So… Dear Oklahoma, Dear Lord, thank you for this Church on main street, this place where your spirit dwells in the hearts of your people. Thank you for all you have given me here and all you’e taught me to give away.  Dear H2O family, I am eternally and forever grateful for you, you’ve changed our family and we don’t walk away easily.  Amen and whimper.

Friends Far Away (Five Minute Friday Link Up)

Today I’m linking up with Lisa Jo Baker at Five Minute Friday where we write for only five minutes on a certain topic, no proofing, no editing, just raw writing.  Today we write about friends… and Go!

I love these ladies, I love this picture because it captures a moment when friendship went from screens to skin.

I love these ladies, I love this picture because it captures a moment when friendship went from screens to skin and kept growing.

I have often thought of making myself a friend map, at this point it would be a map of North America, but in the future?  who knows?

On it I would put a star for everywhere I have a friend, all these places I would like to visit and share a mug of coffee and a nice. long. chat.

The kind that gets away from you and you look at your phone and realize that you’ve been at it for over two hours.  Just laughing and catching up.  You haven’t even gotten to the good stuff yet, the nitty gritty, the stuff you know you need to bear to a trusted friend.

In my dreams there’s this neighborhood where we all live together, borrowing cups of flour and going out for tuesday night trivia to the wine bar.  We have play dates and pop over to watch Grey’s Anatomy together, because it’s better than doing it alone.  I love TV and snark.

In this neighborhood we don’t ache for each other, we don’t count the miles and wish they were fewer.  But this dream neighborhood will always remain in my dreams.  I will always have friends scattered all across the country.

If I move closer to some I move farther away from others, always missing those who have moved their ways forever into my heart.  Right now I’m preparing to renter into my Michigan community and say goodbye to the Oklahoma group I’ve loved and done life with for the last five years.

And It’s ever so bittersweet.

And then there’s my online friends, like you probably.  I consider us friends, I mention you in conversation over dishes, and Kel goes.. who?  Because you haven’t had dinner at our table… Yet.

But I’m working, longing to change it, to meet you, to send you a real handwritten card.

Because my friends are all over and skin doesn’t dictate soul bearing.

And I need you all, skin, screens, cards, paper, friends.  Thank you you.  Thank you God.

Amen. Selah. The End.

Cooking my way through Bread and Wine (A review of Shauna Niequist’s new book)

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goat cheese scrambled eggs and potato pancakes in bed, ala Kel.

Shauna Niequist will always be one of my favorite authors. Her authentic style of essay/memoir blend played a big part in my development as a writer.

She will always be a gracious and unwitting big sister to me in the writing world, I like to pretend she dosn’t mind.

I got to meet her last fall at the STORY conference and I was such a spaz.  I nervously gushed all over her just after meeting Anne Lammott, It’s a wonder I didn’t pass out completely.  I said and did all the typical things ones says and does when meet a personal hero.  But Shauna was gracious about my fan-spasm and eventually my knees recovered from the Anne/Shauna experience.

So when I got the opportunity to receive an advance copy of Shauna’s new book Bread & Wine: A Love Letter to Life Around the Table with Recipes , I jumped at the opportunity.  When it came I skipped from the mailbox to the couch and began to slowly digest every word.

As I moved through the chapters I added the recipes to our menu plan, one by one. They seemed to fit organically into our life, until one day I counted and I’d inadvertently cooked my way through half the book.

Food Collage 1

winter white bean soup, bacon wrapped dates and Nigellas brownies with cream cheese icing for St Patrick’s day.

At that point I decided to keep going, and to cook my way through the entire book, Julie and Julia style (with the exception of 4 recipes, most of which used wheat flour and wouldn’t work well for our GF family)

Why did I decide to do this?  I’m not sure exactly, it seemed like a fun goal and a great way to try new recipes.

Or perhaps I needed something to focus on other than all the unknowns of our impending move.

Or maybe somewhere inside I realized that my cooking rhythm had become rote and monotonous and I needed the creative new life held in these recipes. Continue reading

Grace-filled moving- Our community (crowd-sourced) list of moving tips

Over the past week or so I asked the internet for moving advice.  Let’s be honest, I sorta begged you guys to help me find grace and to dole out advice in the midst of our 1,000 mile move.

And boy did you guys show up!  Dozens of you chimed to share with me the tips and tricks that saved your life in the middle of a move.

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I’ve sifted through the scraps of shared advice and come up with this list which includes not only packing and practical tips but advice that gets down to the heart and soul of the up-ending chaos of packing and unpacking one’s life.

I love this list because it represents a community of real people sharing their best moving advice.  It’s like calling all your friends for help, but it’s all in one place.  Like some sort of online moving party.

So here we go. (did I mention you guys rock?)

1) “Spend as much time as possible just soaking up the friendships you’ve made (in your current location)-coffee, dinner, just long chats. Packing will happen and the going through of stuff will get done, but your face to face time with friends is a must for now – Carol C

2) Ask yourself three things about everything you pack, do I: Need it? Love it? or Use it?  If the answer was no to those three questions, then don’t take it with you.  We only ended up bringing about 25% of our belongings with us to the new house, and life in the new place easier and less stressful! – Stephanie B

3) Use colored tape for color coding according to each room.  Have a special color for things you will need immediately- Ryan B (echoed by many others)

4) Label every box and where it will go in the new house.  Be okay with packing boxes that you know you wont get to until 3-4 months from move in day. Be ultra organized…. you just have to make time for that. Oh and when someone offers to help ALWAYS take them up on it. – Rebecca S

5) Don’t be afraid or shamed to use paper plates for the last week – or even longer. It’s fun for the kids to pretend every meal is a picnic! – Pam W

6)  I hired two movers for 2 hours only to lift the heavy stuff. We have always done it ourselves and we fought a lot about silly stuff. Our movers moved ONLY the heavy things (oak furniture, boxes of books, mattresses, etc.) down three flights of stairs. Worth. Every. Penny.– Kelli S

7) Chocolate chip cookies and frequent date nights. – Anne V

8) When it comes to packing, pretend to be a professional. Don’t get sentimental about things; act like they belong to someone else. Carefully, but quickly, just wrap it and get it in a box. The quicker the better. At this point, it’s a job to be done, not memories of grandma or your firstborn– Janice S

9) Make the family take mini vacations….. a 15 min all stop and drink a pop or eat ice cream together. Do this frequently and it allows you talk and plan too. – Mark A

10) Don’t be afraid to ask for help – and seriously, even if boxes get packed “willy-nilly”; you’ll get a laugh when you unpack. And trust me, you’ll still need to laugh when the unpacking begins. – Pam W

11)  Schedule time to process, particularly with the kids. Make appointments for it, because if you don’t, the time is gone, and they’re asking hard questions and you’re saying, just a sec, I’ve gotta make these three phone calls! There’s gotta be time to talk about it. – Esther E

12)  Just laugh. laugh at the lunacy of it all. because you’re right, moving can be stressful but it’s really not that big a deal. just laugh.  Try to detach yourself from all your stuff. the house you’re leaving is just a house, the clothing you “can’t live without” is just clothing. cherish the memories but let go of the stuff. – Tim G

13) Use professional movers and have them set up beds and hook up all appliances….it’s worth the money!  And direct the movers to place the boxes into the correct rooms when you arrive. Trust me, you Do Not want to have them just stack it in the garage. Been there. Done that. Not cool. – Leah M

14) Packing a kitchen is often the biggest pain. Pack it early and eat off of paper for a few days. Don’t save it till last.  Use styrofoam plates between your glass plates instead of individually wrapping them. – Ashley S.

15) Put your living room together as soon as you can and relegate all the boxes to other rooms so you have one “sanity room” to retreat to when you start whimpering at the thought of unpacking even one more box. – Leanne P

16)  Pack a “First Things” box. This box goes with you and not on a moving truck (or it’s THE last box on the truck). Toilet paper, paper towels, soap, a hand towel, Chlorox wipes, bandaids, the remotes. Think of things you will want in the first several hours after moving in.  Mark this box in a special way so it can’t get mixed in with other boxes. – Janice S (echoed multiple times)

17)  Stop and intentionally savor small moments. my kids, almost weekly, say to me “remember our first night in our new house when we ate taco bell at midnight?” I told them that night that I never want them to forget that moment because it was our first night in our new house. Little did I know it was the taco bell they would remember- Rebecca S

18)  Space saver vacuum bags are amazing for clothes and bedding!! I saved so much room using those, you can put several bags in a suitcase or in tight spaces.  Best thing ever! – Emily H

19)  Avoid using Uhaul at all costs, they are an evil company. I say that without exaggerating. The trucks are poorly maintained and their system ensures no one can be held responsible. Their phone support is nonexistent. – Ed C (echoed multiple times)

20) Set a certain number of boxes you want to pack or unpack each day and stick to that goal.  You won’t kill yourself on either end and it will be done before you know it. – Sarah M

21)  We budgeted for dinners out so neither of us would have to cook. It was important to get out of the chaos, too! – Kelli S

Thank you all so much for contributing!  If more moving tips come in I can always add them to this post so go ahead, share your secrets of grace in the chaos of a move.

Crowd sourcing some Moving Graces

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Did you know that according to psychologists, moving (especially long distances with children) tops the list in stressors for women?

Okay so maybe I made up the “long distances with children” part…but the gist of this is true, moving is a stressful life event and….. And I’m living in the thick of it.

I’m spending my days sifting, sorting, packing and all around disassembling the home I’ve worked 5 years to cultivate.

Am I excited about our new life in Michigan?  Absolutely!  But mostly I’m stuck in the nuts and bolts of getting us there, packing toys, sorting sweaters, getting serving bowls there in one piece.

So… can I ask you for help?  Would you share some of your best moving graces with me?

Would you tell me what saved your life in the middle of a move?
How you found grace in the chaos?
What do you wish you knew “then” that you know “now”?

You see, I have this little idea of a list, something that we can create and cultivate that will give grace, wit and wisdom in the midst of the stress of a move.

Because in the grand scheme of things moving isn’t that big of a deal.  After all, it’s just boxes and totes full of this and that.

Except in the here and now “small scheme”… it’s a pretty big deal indeed.

So, would you help me crowdsource a list of moving graces?  Ideas?  Tips?  Would you tell me your best and pass it on?  Ask a friend?

Can we cultivate a little something tangible that we can send our stressed out sisters and friends in the thick of moving-ville?

Because I need this list right now, perhaps you might someday too?

I’ll post the accumulation of moving graces next Monday.  You can share here in the comments or email me at leannerae@gmail.com.

On moving in, finding grace and moving on (a letter for the new woman of my house)

Dear Future Woman of this house,

I don’t know your name, I keep forgetting to look every time I sign yet another official document.

Your realtor told me you fell in love with this place instantly. I hope this was partly because of the architecture and partly because you felt the warmth we’ve cultivated here.  I’ve been praying that this home would invite just the right family in to stay. People who would love doing life here as much as we have, who would appreciate the sunsets and gather around the table with hunger and gusto.

I know you’re planning on painting the red wall in the living room, I don’t blame you, I’ve being wanting to do it for a few years now. Red seemed like such a great idea five years back but color schemes have cooled down a lot. I was going to paint it a gray/aqua, just a suggestion because of course, it’s your house now. Or it will be in a few short weeks.

home truth

I know you’re excited and you probably want to get everything perfect as soon as humanly possible. You might, like I did, think that a beautiful home is one that’s pristinely clean and tastefully decorated all the time, but it’s not.  One thing that I’ve learned in my five years as a homeowner is that a home is always a work in progress and that the beauty is in the life contained within the house more than the artwork on the walls.

Just as we souls are never finished, neither is a home. There is always work to be done, make peace with this as soon as you can.

I’ve heard that you plan to bring babies home into these walls, this makes me smile broadly because this is a wonderful place to snuggle newborns.  I’ve walked through the white, leaded-glass door with two brand new lives, carrying in my heart all the excitement and fear that comes alongside motherhood.

I nursed new babies half asleep in a glider and walked trails into the carpet soothing their newborn needs.  We woke up in the middle of the night to their cries over and over again, we still do.  You’ll find the hallway layout is such that you don’t really need a monitor, but we installed one anyway and watched their every crib movement from only 12 feet and one wall away.

I learned about sacrifice and selflessness in this house and I suspect that you will too. The first years of marriage are hard and adjusting to marriage with kids doesn’t come naturally either. The living room has seen arguments and make-out sessions the likes of which you wouldn’t believe.

The kitchen walls were splattered with cookie dough one Christmas after a fight over using whole wheat flour in cookies (which I’ve learned isn’t worth the extra fiber.)  I sat in the car with wet socks stewing in anger but I never left home.

The driveway is a good place to cool down, but as soon as you can go back inside.  Always go back inside and keep working at loving well.

This home is a place for staying but it’s also a place to for going somewhere.  Every season will give way to a new one and lessons learned add up to progress and depth.  As you stay within these walls, you’ll move and change as a family in ways that you never imagined.  No home leaves you the same, who knows where this home may take you?

Oh and use the tub, use it frequently and often.  I’ll leave you tips on cleaning it and the shower as well.  I may as well pass it on and make your life a little easier, who wants to clean the bathroom any more than they have to?  Nobody, that’s who.

But mostly, If I could offer you one piece of advice, if these walls could whisper one word to you it would be this:  Grace sister, just grace.

Grace and deep breaths as you get everything settled and make it feel like home, your own brand new home.  Grace as you hang wedding pictures and order just the right curtains.  Grace as you tuck into bed exhausted and discouraged that you didn’t get it all done.  Tomorrow is another day, remember a home is never finished.

May new life come easily to you. May you find grace in your pregnancy and peace in your impatience to hold your new person.  Put your feet up and breathe deeply again in this season, love it as best you can.  Oh and remember:  Babies don’t care what color the walls are or how well-themed the nursery is, babies just want to eat, sleep and feel love.

Grace as you learn that you can’t get nearly as much done with children as you could before.  May your standards lower and may you make peace with it, may you learn to rethink your definition of a successful day.

Oh and when they start walking I recommend moving out the coffee table for a while to foster a safe space for toddling and exploration, trust me the cute coffee table books aren’t worth the banged up baby foreheads.

But really, it’s your house now, in a few short weeks I’ll turn in my keys and this place that seems like it’s been my home forever will become your future and my memory.  A bittersweet moving on for us and a joyful coming home for you.  

Grace. Shalom. Blessings.

Graceful Elephant Eating

Can I follow Monday’s post up with a post about moving anxiety?  Okay thanks.

It’s Wednesday morning and the rain is tapping noisily on my window.  I’m sipping my coffee with special almond cashew creamer as Caedmon lays in the other room watching Little Einsteins. This is the only way I will get some me time in this morning because the cat woke him up with his obnoxious morning song just moments after my feet hit the floor at 6AM.

We have a termite and septic inspection today and then an overall home inspection tomorrow. Last night the kids helped with this by coloring all over the dining room area while I was busy getting dinner in the oven.

Then just before bed, Caedmon clogged the bathroom sink with toilet paper and ran the water until it overflowed onto the counter.

We move in three weeks and I have only three boxes packed, just three. Kel works every evening this week and is out of town next week for an extremely exciting job interview.

When he gets home from the interview we will have only two weeks until the big move… and … Dang… That’s not a lot of time to uproot a family of four after five years of settling into every nook and cranny.

You have no idea how desperately I want to hide in the closet with a book and pretend that all this pressing work of sorting and packing isn’t looming over me like an evil piñata.

My Pastor Zac has a phrase that always comes to mind when I’m facing overwhelming tasks:  How am I going to get it done?  The same way I would eat an elephant: One bite at a time.

elephant

I have no doubts that I’ll be a mess of crazy as we load the truck, I’ll try to hide it with bad jokes and nervous laughter but I’ll be on the verge of stress tears.  I’ll be giving things away left and right and throwing crap through the back door like a madwoman, anything to be done packing.

Yet I know that the moment will come when we pull the truck away with bittersweet tears and begin the slow, three day journey from one home to another, it will get done one way or another.

And I know something else, they’re just boxes and it’s just stuff, only a few things in this house matter and the rest can be replaced at Target or thrift stores.

Last night as I tucked Caedmon into bed he requested I sing him Amazing Grace and as I did he surprised me by knowing every word of the first two verses.  I melted into a puddle as his beautiful, tiny two-year old voice sang those words along with me.

Tis Grace that brought be safe thus far, and Grace will lead me home.

Grace will lead us home, Grace will pack the boxes, Grace will load the truck…

The tiny little man in the crib is what’s real, the rest of it’s just boxes.  One step at a time, one bite at a time we will gracefully eat the elephant that is our big move.

Oh Praise the one who causes the baby sing and the Pastor use ridiculous metaphors.

How do you tackle the big stresses?  Any moving tips?  Will you all be my moving support team for the next three weeks and be okay with my crazy?

Suicide As Mercy: a strange and confusing calling home

(trigger warnings, suicide, depression)

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This past Saturday the news broke that Pastor Rick Warren’s 27 year old son Matthew had taken his life after a life-long battle with depression.

Within a few hours I received several messages from friends online to this effect: “thinking of you as I read this news and praying for their family and yours.”

At first I didn’t know how to feel, coming to mind whenever someone encounters suicide.  But then I realized that people think of me because I have a unique perspective on this devastating type of loss.

As for me, every time I hear of someone taking their life I freeze up and a lump the size of a grapefruit forms in my throat.  My mind drifts off to the family receiving the raw news, their souls smacked with the impossibility of it.  The grasping denial leading to utter confusion.

About a month back I was asked to help with childcare for a funeral at a local church, so we loaded the car with diapers and Gluten Free snacks and headed off to help.  I was chatting lightly with a friend when she was told that we were working a suicide funeral.

I spent the rest of the morning in a shroud of memories and heartache, reliving the moment where I curled up on the bathroom counter, unable to speak or cry after my brother called to deliver the news of my own Mother’s suicide.

My mind flashed back to her funeral, slowly dragging my weary body down the aisle behind my mother’s casket.  Turning around a seeing hundreds of familiar faces, all in shock that she took her life.

We hung on every word the pastor said, hoping he’d give us something to make sense of it all.

I haven’t known all forms of grief, but I think suicide grieving is a rare bird, a hard road, a lifetime of thoughts to be sorted through.

How could they do this?
Why couldn’t life be enough for them?
Didn’t the love we shared matter?
What could we have done differently?
And the hardest one for me:  Why didn’t God send healing?

Scriptures like John 14:14 still make me a little angry.

“You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it.”

Inwardly I ask God what fault he found in my prayers for my Mom?  What spiritual blockage was stopping Him from breaking through the crust of her pain and depression?

Why didn’t He send healing and deliverance?  Why didn’t He hear our prayers and set her free, deliver her from that evil pain?

Those who lose loved ones to Mental Illness have an especially cruel burden to carry because many people question the faith of the deceased.  They wonder if their journey with Christ was phony and negated by the manner of their death.

I get it, even I went through a season of questioning my Mother’s faith, it’s hard to figure out what happens to the soul while the mind languishes in pain.

Yet in the end I will tell you that my Mother died from depression, that her mental illness finally ended her life.  Just as breast cancer or heart disease may have stolen someone you love, depression stole my Mother.

Some days, good days, I see her as brave and long suffering.  She fought against her depression for over 30 years, for my entire life and longer.

My mother placed her daughter in a group home and buried her husband on a cold March afternoon and still she fought on.

She lived in her own private, painful world and got up every morning to fight another day for years, until one evening she couldn’t anymore.  On that evening, tragically, depression won the battle.

On the days when I see her as brave, I view her death as the most confusing kind of mercy I’ve ever come across.

Sometimes I wonder if God’s timing was right and he called her home in a way that we on earth cannot mentally process.  It seems like the most heretical thing in the world, suggesting that God uses suicide to call a child home, yet Cancer ends in death and no one questions it.

I’m not sure, even I don’t know what to do with this idea, suicide as mercy.  

But can you imagine going years without feeling joy?  I’m not sure I want to even try.

I found a lot of connection in the letter that Pastor Warren wrote: “Kay and I often Marveled at his courage to keep moving in spite of relentless pain.  I’ll never forget how, many years ago, after another approach had failed to give relief, Matthew said: “Dad I know I’m going to heaven, why can’t I just die and end this pain?”

The Warrens view their son as a courageous man who fought on for years and not as a quitter who took the easy road out.  And I get it, really I do.

There’s no easy answer or black and white perspective when it comes to suicide. But, for those who have seen the long suffering of our loved one, a beatitude that describes depression perfectly, sometimes we wonder if it is a mercy.

A strange and confusing calling home.

Join me in praying for the Warren family as they burry their beloved son this week.  Pray also that we as a church give grace and love and that harsh words and judgement be minimal if not non-existant.  

(If you are considering suicide, please seek help immediately, please don’t this as an encouragement to take your life.  Call the national suicide prevention hotline at 1-800-273-8255)