When Love Showed Up, To Sit With Me

I first met Kristin Tennant a few years ago when I was blessed with the invitation to share a meal at her table. From that first meal it became obvious that her warmth, hospitality and writerly wisdom were something to be cherished, today you get to share in a piece of that, enjoy. 

Two Old Friends

We all know that love is better when it’s shown rather than told—that it’s more believable when it impacts your life in some tangible way you can point to.

There’s the love, for instance, shown by my mom when she came and stayed with us for a week after each of my babies were born—the cooking and dishwashing, the early morning baby soothing and late evening advice-giving.

More recently, we witnessed the love of friends who showed up with rubber gloves, cleaning supplies, and a fresh burst of energy as we were frantically preparing our house for its sale the following day.

Yes, those demonstrations of love carried me through stressful times, giving me not just nourishing post-partum meals and a sparkling pre-sale kitchen, but also a clear understanding that I wasn’t alone.

But maybe it’s wrong to assume that love showing up is always active and busy—that it must involve a flurry of helping and working, problem-solving and doing. Maybe in the midst of so many busy demonstrations of love, we miss the love people need most: the quiet, steady love that doesn’t try to control what happens next, but just sits with you and waits to see what happens next.

* * * * *

Of course, there’s something to be said for the most practical forms of love—the meals, childcare, and snow shoveling: It’s much harder to screw them up. Being a loving presence in someone’s life, on the other hand, is a tenuous balancing act.

I experienced this first hand 10 years ago, as news of my failed marriage spread through our small church and community. The people in my life seemed to instantly sort themselves into two categories: those who faded into the background, where they could pretend nothing uncomfortable was happening, and those who assumed a very active role in what was happening.

Of those who chose to speak up and get involved, there were also two distinct groups. One group, primarily Christians from both our current and former church communities, felt compelled to demonstrate love through lecturing, debates, and “loving discipline.” They were so laser-focused on my Issue they became blind to every other part of my life and the whole person I still was.

The other group, consisting primarily of non-church-going friends, demonstrated love through vocal, all-encompassing support. They were my cheerleaders, and in their eyes I could do no wrong. There’s no doubt this was a refreshing counterpoint to the many critical voices in my life, but it also didn’t exactly feel like love. It wasn’t nuanced enough to make room for the complexity of the situation—for the conflicting emotions and uncertainty, for both the despair and the hope. The comfort these friends offered lasted for only as long as I was sitting with them, having coffee or a beer, soaking up their approval; it dissolved as soon as we hugged goodbye.

I know that these expressions of love—both the brutal questioning and the blind acceptance— are generally well-intentioned. They emerge from a desire to move people we care about toward a better place—toward whatever is best for them. The flaw lies in assuming we know what is best for them.

* * * * *

In the dark days of my separation and divorce, love showed up and stayed with me in the form of a friend who didn’t pretend to know what I should be doing to fix my life. She didn’t come bustling in to shine a harsh light on my messiest corners, nor did she sweep the mess under the rug. She simply came with a quiet, steady love, ready to sit with me.

She was saddened by my situation, but not hopeless. She hurt for me, but refused to take on that hurt in any personal way. She listened when I wanted to talk about the dark details of my divorce, but she also listened when I talked about the type of mid-century modern sofa I was hoping to find for my apartment, or when I wanted to complain and laugh about the mundane trials of parenting two little ones. She reminded me that she was praying for me—not for any specific outcome, but for God’s clear and steady presence, guidance, and love in my life.

And in exactly that quiet way, she was God’s hand of love in my life.

* * * * *

KTennant Kristin Tennant has been a freelance writer for 12 years. In 2007 she began blogging about family, faith, doubt and redemption at Halfway to Normal (www.halfwaytonormal.com). Kristin, her husband Jason, and their blended family of three daughters live in Urbana, Illinois, where they love cooking and sharing meals and conversation with friends.

 

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Reflections on the life-saving gift of Caedmon on the occasion of his 3rd birthday

My baby is three. I have no idea how that happened, except yes, I sort of do.

It happened through late night nursing and strained carrots, through sippy cups and walks in the park, it came in tantrums and way too early morning snuggles and then?

Then this morning we woke up and there he was, three years old and requesting his 5 am snuggles, whispering me awake, warm breath on my face.

I followed him down the hall and pointed to the decorations, the streamers, the puff balls and the tissue wrapped banister.

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He made demands, because even on his birthday that’s who he is: a little boy still clinging to the firm belief that he is the axis on which the world turns.

Then there was an epic muffin-related tantrum where he ran around the dining room with the $6 box of gluten free muffin mix screaming.

“I don’t want you to make them, I just want to eat them!”

I’ve learned to halt logical thought in moments like this. #wheresmycoffeeIloveyouhappybirthday

Time out for both of us. 

Time outs are all about time to think things over, right?  

I choose to think about the timing of babies.  It is as my friend Anne Bogel says “a crapshoot.”  

Can I tell you a secret? We had a big fight after Caedmon was conceived over who was supposed to do what and “what if we just got pregnant?”

Then I retreated into the bathroom to cry, wailing about how if I did turn up pregnant then I would always remember how we fought about it.

what if our fight just turned my womb into a hostile and unfriendly environment?!”

Don’t you love the ridiculous things we think and say in the middle of arguments? 

And then? Cue Caedmon.

Caedmon who announced his arrival before we’d even had the chance to celebrate Noelle’s first birthday. Who’s presence made me worry that people would doubt our intelligence and sanity with two babies so close together (20 months.)

Little did we know that this pregnancy was a life raft in disguise. Little did we know that this baby boy would be more than wanted, he would be a needed distraction in one of the worst seasons of our lives.

The baby I wasn’t sure I was ready for is the thing that kept me going after my mom took her life.  

I was in my third trimester of pregnancy with Caedmon when we got the call, made the trip, planned the funeral. I was heavy with pregnancy and grief when I spent hours and hours on my feet greeting funeral guests in cheap, plasticy ballet flats.

At my next OB appointment I filled my doctor in on what had gone down since our last visit. He immediately escorted me down the hall to “take a peek at the little guy.”

“Is he going to be okay? Isn’t stress really hard on unborn babies?”
“He’s going to be fine, it’s going to be just fine.”
“But I’ve read that in like, a thousand places. Extreme stress isn’t healthy in pregnancy, I’m there, extremely stressed.”
“It’ll be okay, you’ll see.  He’s doing great.” 

Pan to baby on ultrasound. Healthy heartbeat. Healthy growth. Healthy boy.

When people asked me about the pregnancy I would usually tell them it was all fine

But if I decided to be honest I would tell them: “I just want him to be born, even early.  I want him to be in a happier place than inside me. I need to see him. I worry about him, being along for the ride on all of this. What if he’s born sad?”

People would tell me it was ridiculous but that didn’t change my mother’s heart…

 I just wanted to see him on the outside, have him in Kel’s arms and safe from the storm inside of me.

Yet all along I knew that this child came for a reason. He came as the best and possibly only beautiful distraction that could have turned our heads in that season.

I don’t understand the foreknowledge of God and I couldn’t tell you why mom left as she did, when she did.

But I deeply believe that Caedmon’s birth right after my Mom’s death was no accident.

photography by Janey Wilson

photography by Janey Wilson

And when he came? Oh, the joy of that moment.

When he came I was able to let go of the worst of it and trade it willingly, gladly for the joy that comes with holding a minutes-old baby.  It wasn’t “all better” but guys, it was better with Caedmon.

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He was loud, he was particular, he was beautiful, he peed all over everything but he was here.

And now he’s three and he doesn’t understand a word of this story. He only grins when I show him pictures of the day he was born, He grins and asks when the muffins will be ready.

He has no idea that there was a time in which he was one day and seven pounds old, a time in which he kind of saved our lives.

photo

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Christmas without them.

I had something else all lined for today. I had other plans. But no. Today, I’d like to pretend that we’re sitting across from each other and enjoying venti versions of our favorite coffee shop pleasures.

And since we’re coffee buddies I want to tell you the thing I really need to say rather than the thing I planned on saying.  

lights-21

I really miss my Dad this week, so much.  It hurts like a fire in my rib cage that he’s not here for Christmas.  It hurts so bad. I keep bursting into hopeless angry tears because I feel like there’s nothing I can do to get what I want.  I want my Dad back.  I want to call him and make him laugh, tell him all about what the kids are up to, gripe to him about the fact that they’re throwing up, ask him about the broken heater in Kel’s car, give him a hug and smell the combination of smoke and cold that always lingered on his collar.

He should be at my parents house in a flour covered kitchen filling card tables in the garage with one of his 5 signature cookies or baked goods.

He should be filling stockings with the really good deals he got on toothpaste and pens.

He should be putting light up deer in the front yard and imparting his irreplaceable Christmas magic onto my children.

Showing him that there are few greater gifts on Earth than being his kid at Christmastime.

He should be here, for Christmas.

I drove home from the grocery store today weeping, the sort where you should pull over but you don’t because you have to get home.

I pounded gloved fists on the steering wheel like a petulant child because in that moment I wanted something I couldn’t have.  I wanted my Daddy back.  I wanted to be a kid at Christmas with none of the cold reality of the behind the scenes work of it all.

I went shopping with my Aunt this weekend and as we walked through Kohls she told me this story:

I remember it was the morning after thanksgiving, had to be 3:30 in the morning and there we were all standing in the long checkout line at Kohls. We were so happy, laughing, joking, exchanging coupons with strangers. Your mom would stay in line while your Dad ran to get another color of fleece for your sister or something else he had a deal for.  We were having a riot, all of us in line in the middle of the night.  It was contagious, strangers started joking around with us… it had to be the Christmas before he died.

I want to go back in time, I want to be in that long line with my Aunts and Uncle and Parents and have a chance to be grown up and all together. I want a different ending to my family’s story because right now Christmas feels so lonely without them.

And you know what?  This post doesn’t resolve.  Not today.

This is the thing about grief, sometimes you just rest in it and sit for a while with your empty places.

You respect what you lost by acknowledging it with tears and breakdowns during coffee dates and trips to the grocery story.

Sometimes there’s yelling at God, sometimes all the peace you though you’d made with it can’t be found and you’re back to the rhythm of churning and aching.

Oh Come Oh Come Emmanuel and Ransom Captive Israel
That Mourns in Lonely Exile here
Until the Son of God appears
Amen.

If you’re mourning in lonely places I pray grace for you, moments of laughter in the mourning.  Feel free to tell me your story in the comments, I’m miles away but I’ll love and listen. 

If you have friends who ache for what they cannot have this holiday season check in and be ready to listen to how “not okay” it is.  Grief doesn’t resolve and the holidays put unrealized memories into sharp and painful perspective for so many of us.  Some years are worse than others, this year for me, coming home and realizing all I lost… it’s been incredibly hard.

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Love showed up (a story and a series announcement)

Today I want to tell you a story, talk about light and then introduce a new series I’ll be hosting here for the foreseeable future.  

loveshowedup

It all felt like a nightmare, one I half believed I would wake up from.  Denial at it’s finest, or worst rather.

I stared down at my ruffled ballet flats pressed together on the funeral home carpet and marveled at the turn my life had taken. Just days before I had been laughing with my Dad on the phone and now I was standing 5 yards away from his body, laid out in a casket.

I couldn’t find the strength to approach it, to see him in his stillness, his glasses still and speckled with paint. As I stood there I felt a tap on my shoulder, it was my Grandpa, the one who had stepped up to pay for the costs of my Dad’s funeral.

It’s all a blur in hindsight, but I know I heard something like this: “I think it would be really nice if you and your siblings pitched in to cover your Dad’s headstone.  It doesn’t have to be anything fancy, just a stone to go visit.”

I told him that yes, I would take care of it. Silently I wondered how I’d pull it off, I was in college, my brother was in High School and my sister lived in a group home in Texas, not a lot of money in that equation.

A few days after the funeral Kel (at that time my boyfriend who’d flown in to support me) and I headed up to the monument place recommended by the funeral home to figure out our options, headstone-wise.  The worst shopping trip ever.

Over the next few weeks my mom and I decided on a black granite stone with the words of Romans 8:28 etched along the bottom.

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who are called according to his purpose.”

I chose a scripty, non deathlike font for the main text along the top and a pond scene with loons to be etched across the entire front.  I took great care to make it something that didn’t feel like anything I’d seen in the cemetery before, something that felt more like life than of death.

It would be pricier than expected, but it was what I needed to do, it was the only design I could deal with. Continue reading

13 tips for loving in loss.

loveinloss

First off let me say how overwhelmed and thankful I am for all that likes, shares and comments on my last post 12 Grief Clichés and the reasons they suck.  I’ve never had such a massive response to my writing and it was amazing to have those words connect with so many hearts.

On the flip side of that, a handful of people commented that the list of clichés just made them more anxious when it came to interacting with their grieving friends

Many stresses the good intentions of those who deliver clichés in a time of awkwardness and pain and felt a little bit like I was throwing them under the bus with the post.

Here’s the thing, I never meant to suggest that those who bear clichés do so with ill intent.  I would say that for the most part clichés come out in the anxiety of helplessness. That being said, words bear weight and those of us who resonated with the post needed to have them dismantled because bad words with good intent, still hurt.

And now more people know what not to say, and that’s a good thing.

Moving on, many of you asked for a list of what one SHOULD do or say in the midst of grief and pain and I absolutely agree, now that we have dismantled, let’s build up.

Like this first list, this one is crowd-sourced and comes not only from my own experiences but from those who were willing to chime in for what they found helpful in their worst moments.

1) Speak Up– Saying something and fumbling it is still better than saying nothing at all.  Even worse than hearing clichés is not hearing nothing from those who supported you in the good times. I lost friends after the deaths of both my parents simply because people stopped talking to me, that hurt worse than any cliché. I know that it’s scary and sensitive to speak up, but know that few words are needed. Just go and listen, open up the floor for them to talk about the person they lost, they want to do that.  They want to remember what was for fear it may slip away.

2) I’m sorry + hug (this is especially useful for formal events like funerals and wakes) Not everyone is a hugger so proceed accordingly, but remember that going out of your way to attend a funeral related event speaks volumes. It’s a busy time and not usually conducive for long chats so you don’t need to say much more than: “This sucks, I’m sorry” Remember that words don’t fix it so you don’t need to worry about having the right ones, just go.

3) Share a story- This year on the anniversary of my mom’s death my friend emailed me a ridiculous story about my Mom. Years previously my mother had flipped out with worry that my sister’s and my curling irons and flat irons would burn down the house.  So she tried to pawn them off on people from church out of the back of her car. When this didn’t work she thew them all away in a gas station dumpster. I was so pissed at the time but when my friend emailed me the story about my mom forcing a flat iron on her it made me laugh and remember my Mom in a way I’d totally forgotten.

You can do this at any time, not just on anniversaries or funerals, people cherish stories of those they lost.

4) Practical Support- Grief is a time where life screeches to a halt, this means that the person you care about may have missed work or have increased travel costs. Think through that and then support them that way. My dad died from a sudden heart attack when I was in college and my best friend’s parents covered my rent .  Later my church friends helped with my Dad’s headstone.  When my Mom died my husband’s work covered our unexpected travel costs.  I would have been sunk without these thoughtful gestures.

5) Acts of Service: You what what the most common response is to the question: “Can I do anything?”  It’s no. We all want to be on the serving end and never want to admit that we need help. But we do, we need help. My best advice here is to be a little, just a little, pushy about this.  Say something like: “Hey, I’m taking your kids this week, when is most helpful?” or “Hey I’m bringing you a meal, what day works?”  Or just drop off practical necessities like paper plates, toilet paper or diapers, grieving people are forgetful of such things.

6) On food (Yes, this one needs it’s own category)  The short and overwhelming response from readers was, yes to food! There are really helpful websites when it comes to setting up meal deliver and maybe you can be the one to offer set it up. I’ve personally used and recommend Care Calendar. Without organization things can get a little crazy. If there is no organization in place I recommend making something freezable or dropping off really great takeout gift cards. Also, keep dessert proportionate, although once I ate my way through an entire sheet cake with no regrets so maybe just go for it.

8) Go the distance– There is no “all done” in the journey of loss, it keeps going.  I was immensely thankful for those who checked in on how I was doing for months after the funeral. It was so refreshing to have someone open the floor for something I worried people were hoping I wouldn’t bring up, to know that they didn’t expect me to be all better.

9) Remember special dates– Put loss anniversaries on your calendar and try to remember them like birthdays, yes it’s more morbid but death is a part of life. I assure you it will mean everything to your grieving friend that you took the time to remember.  Ask them if you can help them remember. For years after my dad died we did what was called “soup and pie” where my friends came over for my favorite comfort foods and a time of remembering. One year we just played board games but it meant everything that they were there supporting me.

10) Pray in the moment- Many readers echoed this, but as a people we so often don’t follow through after uttering the phrase “I’ll pray for you.”  We’re all sort of in on this dirty secret and we know that when someone says it, all to often (not all the time) it doesn’t happen.  So pray for them in the moment, briefly, authentically.  You can even text it.  It may seem weird, but it won’t go unappreciated.

11) Thoughtful Gift- In-between the two visitation services for my Dad my church group showed up all at the same time to circle around me and pray. Instead of flowers they brought me a willow tree figurine of a father and daughter, I have it to this day and every time I see it I remember them and that thoughtful moment.

Thoughtful gifts could be anything: a journal, a piece of jewelry, a picture frame.  Be thoughtful about what would best speak to the person you’re supporting.

12) Permission to Lament (for a long while) If your grieving friend tells you that they’re pissed, depressed, empty, exhausted or just all around seeing the world with gray glasses,   Tell them that’s okay.  Give them full permission to feel everything that they need to feel.  They don’t need your permission, but it helps to know that you don’t expect otherwise.

13) Permission to Screw up (Dead dad pass) – Do you watch New Girl?  Well you should. Last season one of the characters unexpectedly lost his dad and anytime someone pushed him or asked too much he’d just yell out “Dead Dad Pass!”

Encourage your hurting people to do the same, let them to be as strange or as messy or as out of it as they need to be. I swear to you that I spent the two months in-between my mom’s death and Caedmon’s birth in the bathtub.When people came to carol our house that Christmas, guess where they did it?  Yup, bathroom window.  The tub was my pass.

I hope that these help, that you can refer to them when you need to. Mostly I want you to feel comfortable to love well in the midst of loss.

If you’d like to add to the list, please do so in the comments, I don’t pretend to know it all when it comes to how to love well in the midst of loss.

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12 Grief Cliches and the reasons they suck.

some things we can't put a bow on.

some things we can’t put a bow on.

Two weeks ago I asked a question via my Facebook page: “In your opinion, what is the worst cliche used for grief and loss?”

People hate clichés, so they were happy to chime in on the flippant things people said to them in their worst moments.

I’ve had nearly all of these thrown at me in a funeral receiving line, all except the ones that pertain to loss of a child, a unique grief which I haven’t walked through.

I’ve spent the past few weeks going over these in my head, turning them over in my heart and I’ve come to realize that there are two central themes running through every one

1) Loss isn’t that bad and it will all be better soon, this isn’t really that hard.
2)  God is the source of your loss, he willed it for the good of all.

I find that every grief cliche has one or both of these going on.

Often those who come bearing these cliches also come armed with scripture that makes us wonder, “wait, are they right? Is the way I’m feeling completely invalid? Is God up there sending the worst into my life like a parent doling out punishment?”

This practice is called proof texting, it’s what people do when they want to say something and they want it to be biblical, so they find a verse that backs up their thoughts and ignore the context completely.

And the google gods have just made this even easier to do… 

Proof texting has backed up slavery, racism, gender inequality, corporal punishment and pretty much all of these awful cliches. So when you hear a verse that seems completely incompatible from what you know to be true of the Gospels and the love of God, dismiss it until you’ve had time to look into the context itself.

For now, let’s blow up some clichés, yes?

1) We’re not having a funeral, we’re having a celebration– Asking grieving people to celebrate is patently unfair. Loss it’s hard, it’s part of the fall, minimizing it isn’t something Jesus did so perhaps we shouldn’t either.  God loves his people, but he hates death, hates it.  Sent his son to make it go away forever in fact.

2) God needed another angel – This one is ridiculous on every theological level imaginable.  Shall we break them down really quick? 1) people don’t become angels when they die, two different things. 2) God doesn’t exist in time so God doesn’t ever “need us” up in heaven, he wants us, but he doesn’t need us there at any certain time.

3) God wants to make you stronger through this – Stronger? Like God’s taking my people away like a body builder adds weights? Grief doesn’t make you stronger or more impervious to pain. It tenderizes, breaks your heart and leaves it partly broken, it wounds and leaves you living but limping.  This brings you closer to God not closer to strength and independence.

4) Be strong, you’ll get through this just fine! – Again with the strong. Nose to the grindstone!  Grieve well, grieve hard and you’ll be fine by next Tuesday!  You know what I love about the Bible?  How it talks about our weaknesses as acceptable, as our best shot at falling in Love with a God who wants to sustain us moment to moment.

5) God never gives you more than you can handle (the most hated and discussed cliché) I still remember the first time I realized that this wasn’t in the bible. So many people think this is scripture, it’s not.  This is a twisting of 1 Corinthians 10:13 which says “he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear.” The context of this verse is a letter to the church of Corinth encouraging them to take a look at the history of the people of Israel to find a common thread for their own struggles. All this to say this verse was never, ever, ever written as a means to minimize loss or pain.  It’s not true.  We get more than we can handle all the time, in fact we were never intended to handle it in on our own in the first place.

6) Everything happens for a reason The more I live, the less black and white it all is.  I believe that God gives and takes away but I don’t understand what that looks like from God’s end of things. I’m too mature to believe that God is hands off with death, but I also believe that God grieves with us and that this is no trite thing.

7)  Well, you know he was “saved” right?  Whether or not someone is in heaven is comforting, but it never makes death easy. Death is a permanent tearing away and it hurts no. matter. what.  Paul (who had been to heaven at this point) described death as sorrow upon sorrow, wave upon wave of pain when we are torn apart from those we love with no other options.  Paul had seen heaven, and he still grieved death.  He’d been there and he still described losing people to it as repetitive, crashing pain.  

8)  All part of God’s plan We don’t understand God’s plan, at least I don’t. I know that there are two forces at work in the world right now and one of them is evil. It is never, ever, ever helpful to tell someone that the God they are clinging to is the one who inflicted their wounds for the greater good. It’s not good theology and it’s a terribly unhelpful at a funeral, I worry that those doing it are driving people away from the God they deeply need in the moment.

9) You shouldn’t be attached to the body, it’s just a shell, they’re not there anymore.  I’ve heard this one a lot, too much. It pissed me off every time. As humans we’re allowed to be attached to objects, homes, wedding rings, photos…. but when it comes to the bodies of our loved ones we’re supposed to be completely detached. The body is the way we saw the soul on this earth, we’re allowed to be a little attached. It’s hard to put those bodies in the ground and walk away.  Don’t forget this.

10) At least you’re young enough that you can have another child OR remarry  “Makes it sound like you can go to the store and get a new one to replace the one you’ve lost.”  Are any of the people in your life interchangeable?  Expendable?  Replaceable?  Then neither are other people’s. If we say that God creates us all unique and that all life is precious than grieving the loss of any life, no matter the gestation or age, is completely justified.

11) Well at least it was early in the pregnancy so you weren’t that attached.  I haven’t miscarried so I don’t pretend to understand that pain. But I do understand the pain of hope that doesn’t come to completion and I understand the heaviness of grieving “what didn’t happen.”  I understand that my parents were supposed to be grandparents and likewise those babies were supposed to be born full term, to nurse, babble, walk, graduate and fall in love.  Life is precious. We are attached.

12) It was just their time to go.  This reduces people to timers, there is no comfort in telling someone that their loved one’s clock ran out. Our lives play out in complex ways and the manner of death is sometimes so shocking that it’s nearly impossible to believe that when God planned this life, he planned this ending.  I’ve sat in front of caskets and wondered: “Is this really how it ends, God? When you sent a baby, did you know this was how it ended?”

Clichés are human attempts to make the hugeness of life and death easy to manage and understand.  This cannot be done, it hurts more than it helps.

The phrases are something that people who “don’t get it” say in attempt to make it all better, to put a magical bandaid on it and reduce the raw awkwardness. They usually come to us with good intentions

As a society we aren’t all that comfortable with pain in progress, we like a bow, we like a quick happy ending.  We need to get over that.

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The Song of the Weak Voices

I took seven years of vocal training as a kid. If you’ve met me in person, this shouldn’t surprise you.

I’m loud. I can project. I have things to say and often do so.

But this past Sunday and for a month of Sundays proceeding it, I can’t project and I can’t sing. I have a weak voice that can’t do much more than talk and even that’s a stretch by the end of the day.

This is due to an emotional October combined with a stubborn chest cold that’s left my throat in tatters.

This past Sunday was particularly frustrating, because our old worship leader returned to lead worship and brought with him some of my life’s favorite songs.

I wanted to sing, really sing along to those words that have soundtracked entire seasons of my life. I wanted my voice to match the passion in my heart and the tapping of my toes.

Yet, I could only softly squeak along.

The thought occurred to me not to sing at all, but I quickly dismissed it.

Because I had to add my voice to the song.  I couldn’t keep it inside, as weak as it was.  

And after all, doesn’t the church need all the voices?

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This goes so far beyond singing and chest colds, doesn’t it?  It extends into who we are as we gather together, and what we feel brave enough to bring through the doors. Continue reading

The Worst Part of “Getting to Know You”

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So there’s something awful about getting to know me, especially if you’re a tender hearted person.  It’s this: At some point I’ll have to tell you my backstory and I’m nearly 100% sure that doing so will hurt more for you than it will for me.

I’m used to telling this story, you’re just not used to hearing it.  My story flies in the face of everything you’ve assumed to be true about me through our interactions.

Online it seems to be a little less dramatic (I’ve rolled out the three major blows of my life here, here and here) but this could very well be because you’re on the other side of the screen and have time to compose and comment, or not.

When people meet me in person, their first impression is usually that I’m a talkative, upbeat, bubbly mother of two who’s good for a laugh.

Then, at some point, the conversation usually has to take a turn, usually not the first time we meet.

It starts with someone asking about my parents, here, I’ll just dialog it for you. Continue reading

Day 13: Here lives hope

Three years ago today, my mom took her life after years of struggling with something that I sometimes struggle with myself, depression.

There is nothing easy in this truth. Nothing.

This day, October 13 falls heavy on the calendar and then sits, like a lump in my throat

As much as I try to avoid it, my mind moves through her last day to her final decision with an inward groaning.

But, we don’t grieve like those who have no hope, and this?  This is goodness.  This is something to grasp onto with white knuckled hands when every other thing seems shaky and unstable.

This is the reason I pump like a child on a swing, that I gather the freedom and life and love that I still have and fully intend on having for another 50+ years.

I am here. I am alive. I will not, will not surrender the fight.

I don’t not grieve, proceed or live like one who has no hope.

I tell this story because I know I am not alone in this weary remembering, we all have our days of the year that seem heavier than we can conceivably bear on our own.

I have hope, so when I take my children to the park, I grab a swing and I fly, I remember who I am, whose I am.

I hang on, press on, free, hopeful and loved.

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Day 12: Here, With Holes.

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Today would have been my Dad’s 58th birthday. Some days it seems as though it’s been forever since I had a father to call and then other moments I think to ask him something. Still, 8.5 years later.

Usually it’s for advice on cars or painting. but I’m still wired to go to my Dad for help when things get overwhelming.

I know the cliché Christian thing to say here is that I should pray and talk to my Daddy God in these moments.

I hate to disappoint you, but it’s not the same, we are wired for God and for people and when people make an exit it leaves gaping holes in our hearts.  It leaves us with a void that cannot and should not be filled this side of heaven. Continue reading