Kuyper Coffee Dates- Friday (Grief Edition)

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Another day, another coffee date.   I don’t know about you but I’m feeling pretty blessed on this end.

Today I want to cluster some of the grief-specific student questions and put them into one post so that those who need them can access them easily.  I know that this topic was peppered throughout the other questions, but I want to dig into this specifically.  

“I would ask her what the hardest thing for her was through the accident of her sister and the loss of her parents, and how did she make it through?  I know the answer is ultimately God, but there are everyday moments in which the strength seems to deplete … and that is where I want to hear what she has to say”

The hardest thing for me about death is the unwavering permanence of it. There is no bargaining that will change it, no medical staff that can un-do it.  We cannot go back in time and save those we have lost, they we are left with a brand new life, with a huge gaping hole.

I can tell you some of the little things that I did to make it through: I was worried about forgetting things, so I wrote down memories and collected pictures and items that were very important to me in my relationship with my parents. 

I took a lot of baths because the tub was the only place where I was still and alone with my deep and painful thoughts, naked before God in every way.  

After about a week I went back to a modified version of my usual routine whether it was work, school or my family schedule.  I found that it wasn’t helpful to sit and dwell on things, that the processing and healing would come in the midst of daily living.  When it did I stopped and gave it priority and I was blessed by others who gave me space for this.

I went to counseling, every time, because I wanted to be sure that I was moving through each season with as much mental health as I could muster.

I can sum it up by imploring you to be intentional about grieving.  Telling your story in trusted settings be open about your aching.  There is no quick fix, there will always be an empty chair, but there is a better place ahead, when the wound becomes a scar and the breathing comes easier.  Continue reading

31 Letters to My Mother {Day 15} A gracious horrible thing

 Dear Mom,

I have no doubt that made it to heaven.  No one at your funeral had a single doubt where your soul had found its’ rest.  Your journey was bathed in God’s fingerprints and your heart was tender for the hurting.

You never stopped seeking him Mom, your bible was open when you died, you were still after Our Father.

Last night I found myself wondering how you felt about God, did you feel abandoned, pissed, confused?

Do I ascribe you more logical thought than you were capable of at the end?

Can the soul find rest when the mind is so ill?  Were you there, underneath the crust of depression, suffocating to breathe the air of freedom?

I know what it is to seek God come up utterly confused in the most painful seasons.  And you’d experienced the pain of depression for at least 25 years.

Could you even come up for air in the end?  Did you find any joy in the living?

I know how many times you thought about running for the end, and I have no idea why October 13 is the date when it all came together.

Sometimes I wonder if that was the night where God let you come home.  Where he lifted the road blocks because the timing was finally right for you to make your exit.

Something about this thinking feels so merciful and heretical all at the same time.

I think I understand the Progression:
First there was the depression itself, oppressive and lasting.
Then came the financial struggles that you felt powerless to change, that compounded your anxiety.
Then Laura’s accident, seeing your baby in a hospital bed, forever altered.
Then Dad, taken away in the night, his heart had failed him.
Then I yelled at you, tore you down, I think you blamed me too.
Then they told you they were taking your job, the one thing you felt like you could still do to contribute, a small sense of pride.

I think that your death was a messy, awful, all-wrong, gracious, horrible thing.

Not God’s plan, yet I believe he was on the other side of it, welcoming his beautiful baby home.

It was so much easier when faith was black and white, easier but less far beautiful.

There is beauty in the confusion, not in your death, but in the ability to have compassion for the broken in a way I would have never had otherwise.

Oh Mumma, I love you, I miss you

Damn life is confusing, isn’t it?

LeaRae

Dear reader, if you find yourself reading these words and considering suicide as an out for your pain, please seek help.  Suicide is never the best choice, this sort of freedom comes at an awful cost to those left behind.  If you are contemplating or planning suicide please call 911 or The suicide prevention hotline at 1-800-273-8255.

My Confession

confession time

A look around my house would give you a hint to a flaw of mine that isn’t really a big secret.  I love creative projects, the adrenaline, the challenge, the starting out… but I often stop short of the finish line. Way short.

 

On the back patio, several unfinished chairs and a few more in the garage.

In our bedroom, a tub of old sheets, some balled up in strips, some still whole, all rag rugs waiting to be woven together.

On the top of my desk, an old bucket we salvaged which I plan to paint white and fill with hydrangeas.

On my laptop?  A dozen blog posts and chapters, started, raw, unedited, unready, unfinished.

Most of these creative projects are actually symptoms of my anxiety about writing and about money.

All are deep down a lack of trust.  I don’t trust myself to be a “real writer” and I don’t trust God’s current provision to sustain us.

Deep down I feel as though I can never really pull off the writer gig, never really make it a career, that “they’re all gonna laugh at you (me).”

So I refinish chairs and sell them online, I make rag rugs and sell them online, I make kids hats and sell them online because… It’s easier than writing, than finishing those chapters and being brave with this writing, these words, this story.

Lately I’ve heard God whisper, will you trust in my call on your life?  Will you do less, better?

Last night Kel actually asked me: “Will you believe that for now, my income is enough for both our passions?

And so over the week I’ve asked for help in saying no, in finding the strenght to craft more words and fewer rugs.

In taking this writer thing and believing in it, in myself.

Do you find yourself running from your true call, retreating from the harder race to stroll so often on the easier path?

Me too.

Let’s run that mother of a race together.  Shall we?

The Evolution of “Us” (A love letter to Kel)

This week I’m writing about marriage, mine mostly because that’s the only one I’ve been in.  I’m still working on the details, so for now I’m just writing a love letter to my stud muffin, the bacon to my BLT, the brown eyed okie boy who took my life by storm, The Kel.  

a goodbye, nose-smooshing, airport kiss.

Wow babe, six years eh?  Six feels like such an odd number, it’s not tiny and it’s not a multiple of five, it’s just… six.

Six years ago my uncle walked me down the aisle and we cried, you more than me.  We slow danced to a song about a broken road, not because it was popular but because it was just right for us.

We had no idea then how many winding roads we would take together and how soon we would fall apart, side by side.  In a way we both know that this is a getting up place for us, that for the first time since our cross country move, Noelle’s birth, My Mom’s Funeral and Caedmon’s arrival we have our bearings, maybe, probably.

And yes, we know that it could all change tomorrow…

We’re learning to laugh again, you and I, and we’re daily giving each other handfuls of grace, even on days when the sink is broken and the AC has gone out. We’re learning to look across the table and see each other as perfect in the moment, even in paint stained shorts and frizzy hair and always it seems, with bags under our eyes.

We had no idea what a marathon parenting would be, we dreamed it would happen in soft, hazy blips, but the constant march has been a steep learning curve.

So we’re perfecting at art of the “at home date” and the humor that can be found in just how wrong things seem to go some days. Such as babies who build tacos on their head and then poop on the floor without us noticing because we’re Just. That. Tired.

Mostly I just love you and lately I feel like I love you all over again in a new and fresh way that’s come clean of all my unfair expectations.  My heart is full of passion to love you as the man God created you to be.  I’m dropping all my silly notions of who you should become.

I’m seeing you beyond my own nose, taking you into my newly tender heart, surrendering to all the ways that I can’t earn or control love.

In year 7 I’ll keep buying you super hero underwear because I want you to feel strong in spite of all the ways the world can tear you up.  I want you to wake up and believe you’re able to work miracles in his name, because you are and you do.

As the days go on I say screw the lawn, forget the theological bickering and all the high expectations I used to put on everything.  Let’s just draw together, skin on skin in the moments of life, not as we imagined or planned them but just as they are.

And of course I’m half awake writing this, and of course you’re 1,000 miles away finishing up your masters but baby, I love you like whoa.

Bring on 7, 17, and 47.

Daily Bread, Raining Manna

Give us this day our daily bread.

For a long time it was something I recited as a child because they taught me to.

At some point I realized that it was about asking God for food, something I wasn’t lacking in my blessed, middle class, American life.

As I grew in faith and maturity I became aware that even though I never lacked food, that my world was full of people who were starving to death.  When my friends flew and returned from Africa and Honduras with stories of streets full of hungry children it became more real, this prayer for bread.

Sometimes I wander into my stocked pantry with exotic jars of dates and 4 different kinds of rice and wonder “where do I get off, God?  Why me?”  I have daily bread to spare and it leaves me in a mixed place of thankfulness and fat guilt.

The Hebrew teachers describe scripture as a book full of jewels with many facets.  Each passage and verse filled with layers of meaning, taking us ever deeper.

Lately, Jesus’ prayer for Daily bread has gone beyond food for the stomach and has spoken to the food needed to sustain my hungry soul.

Summer life can be dry for me, leaving me hungry for quiet moments and routine, desperate for sustained rhythm.  Caedmon is going through his “no” phase and Noelle is so resistant against potty training it’s ridiculous.  There are moments I want to cry, or scream, mostly both.  Sometimes this supposedly blissful mom life makes me want to run out the front door like my hair’s on fire.

Lately, when the ends of my hair start to spark and threaten to burn, God’s been showing me my daily bread.  I stand in the kitchen, face down on the cold countertop when suddenly Caedmon peeks around the corner and yells “a-peek-boo!”

That moment is a bit of my daily bread.

Noelle is beautiful and creative and bless her heart she doesn’t stop talking from sun up to sun down.  There are moments that I long for quiet as she peppers me with questions about what skunks like to eat.  Then she starts playing baby bird with me and asks if we can go to her nest (our bed) and read books together.

Suddenly her tweets as she circles pillows are daily bread.

For too long I thought manna was something that only fell in the desert ages ago, then I realize that it’s raining manna in my home.

Even though life is somewhat hot and dry, I am sustained by a portion beyond measure.

Around the world there are millions with hungry stomachs and billions with hungry, lonely souls.  My heart is burdened with the hungry all wondering if they will be seen, loved, fed.

Can I lift up an entire world that you’re already holding in your hands?  May heavy manna find its way to their tongues, their heart feeling full of your sweet sustenance and love.

As for me God, I dare not ask for more.

How about you?  What manna has hit your tongue this week?

Can you see daily bread, even in your dry spell?

Really, it’s all God’s Love

“Can a mother forget the infant at her breast, walk away from the baby she bore? But even if mothers forget, I’d never forget you—never. Look, I’ve written your names on the backs of my hands.” Isaiah 49: 15-16

I am often intoxicated with the sweetness of the evening.  The softness of clean, freshly bathed baby skin on my lips, the peace that accompanies nothing left but the easy unwinding of putting another day to rest, teeth brushed and pajama clad.

I love my life, all surrounds me and all that I sense on the horizon.  I love breathing strong prayers over sleeping babies just before I slip into sheets that feel so soft on my well worn and calloused feet.

As time passes I find I’m learning to release all my desperate striving and breathe grace.  Through this new way of living the spirit is prompting, leading and reassuring me.

We’re staying with our adoptive parents, Dave & Sandy while Kel is the Dean of a High School Summer camp a few hours south of us.  The way they have taken us and our children in is an unimaginable gift to us.  My mother heart wondered what life would be like for our family with no grandparents or parents left alive, and God knew and responded.

Last night I was stressed out and crabby, I had attempted to make dinner for everyone, one of our favorites, Pioneer Woman’s Dr Pepper shredded pork.  It’s spicy and sweet and will clear your sinuses and your worries in no time flat.

But last night it wasn’t turning out, wasn’t falling off the bone, wasn’t shredding or reducing.  The kids had just creamed their way through target and the little man is going through a “nothing will please me” phase where he throws whatever you offer him.

The dinner conundrum was the last straw and I couldn’t hide my aggravation and stress.  I didn’t snap at anyone in particular but no matter how much they insisted dinner would be fine I stressed that it was ruined and wrong.

Somewhere in the back of my mind I heard a whisper:  “You better cut it out, they don’t have to love you or let you stay.  Be sweet, be only the best parts of yourself.”

I apologized to Sandy later and told her sometimes I worry that since I’m not her real daughter that I could do something to send her away.  She cried and asked me never to say that again, that I am loved and our children are cherished, that we have a place here.

Suddenly it struck me, why is it that I think that real, lasting love comes only with blood and documentation?  

After all, isn’t love always a choice?  A series of choosing God’s ways over our human desires to serve ourselves first?

Parents abandon their blood children, and legally documented marriages end all the time.  These things that I thought obligated us to love are easily done away with.

I love Kel with a forever love that has nothing to do with our legal marriage certificate.  I love my children not because of our shared DNA but because of their light in their eyes and the spirit they bring to this world.  There is nothing that anyone could do or say to remove my cover of love from them.

Do I believe that my friends who worked so hard to bring home their adopted children will actively love them less than their biological children?  No, not at all, I have a lasting faith in the love of adoption.

We are all adopted when you think about it.

We all love people deeply without any legal obligation.  I’m connected through love to my friends, my life group and our college students with a love that is a choice and has nothing to do with blood or the law.

So, if I question this earthly love, then what of the love of Christ?  Do I believe he’s obligated to love me?  That because he created me that he had no choice but to save me, sustain me?  Does he love us because it’s the responsible thing to do?  He made us so he has to take care of us?

No, but I believe that he does and always will, because he is faithful and forever.  He promised this cover of love for us would never cease to flow and he has yet to break a single promise.

The wonderful and terrifying thing is that when you bring yourself to this place where you realize that no one on heaven or earth is obligated to love, you must take a leap of faith and trust that their love is true, heavenly and lasting.

The flow of human love relationships in my life could and will change, because we humans do that sort of thing.

All real love in our lives is truly the love of God, whether it comes directly from his hand or through the hands of his people.  For me to love my children strong I must be a channel of his love in me.  For Kel to love me fiercely he has to tap into the husband love that God is growing in his heart.  In order to be true friends we have to follow the bible’s teachings and lay down our desires for the good of each other.

It’s really all God’s love, none of it human in the slightest.

He is the source of love, and if I trust that he is the spring and that those around me are seeking to plug into it then we’ll all be forever lost in a torrential flow of love.

This love is for us, but it must always be shared.  It will always move us to rescue those drowning in hope, loneliness and death.

True love can never be hoarded, it demands to given away.

Have you feared this?  Grown through it?