Saturday, November 5, 2016

3 Lessons I've Learned Walking Out Grief & Loss

Disclosure: I write this tonight unlike most of my blogs, with a heavy heart. Loss and grief surround me lately as my loved ones are aching for a multitude of reasons. I too have experienced a great deal of loss and grief lately and I relate as one who has ached and will ache again, so today I write with compassion an a tough subject...

Grief and Loss

Woof, Loss and Grief. What a topic to tackle.

I typically sit on topics for a while and mull them over before posting but this one is different. It almost felt necessary that I get it out as if my fingers couldn't contain it. Grief will do that to you. Have you noticed that? That grief has a way of making you do strange things. It's as if it is taking all the little corners of you and exposing them. Suddenly, ways you typically don't react you do or if you're a reactive person you become inactive. 

I don't know about you but for me it's as if loss is nature's own version of shock therapy. Every time I am surprised by it and my whole being rejects it. It doesn't matter what you grieve, loss is loss and every time we experience loss our body, mind, and heart experiences it too.

There have been more than enough words spoken and shared about grief. There's plenty of philosophers, poets, writers, celebrities etc who have shared their losses and experience with grief. The common thread in all thoughts on it? IT HURTS.

Gosh and tonight my heart hurts. It hurts for me, it hurts my friends grieving and it hurts for people I may never know. But if you are reading this, brothers and sisters, I hope you walk away with one take away by the end of this and it goes like this: My dear friend, you are not alone. You aren't alone- how validating is that to hear another person say I hear you and I'm with you? It makes a world of difference! There isn't anything new or ground breaking I have to say about this topic, in fact as Solomon pointed out thousands of years, there's nothing new under the Sun. All I have to offer you as I write this is my experiences, a heart of compassion and prayerfully wisdom from above. So in an effort to speak on such a delicate topic, I broke down what I've learned into three main points on loss and grief with the intent that if you are going through it now or ever- you can release some of the pressure and open up to healing. I pray these words be anointed, here we go!

1. Call It What It Is
First things first, there is POWER in naming your loss. You lost a loved one, you're experiencing the ache of loneliness in a new city/work place, your life suddenly looks drastically different, you mourn over an unmet desire, whatever it is, call it by name. I quote this all the time because it constantly reigns true- what goes unnamed, goes unnoticed. When loss hits and grief floods your whole being, not giving it a name or speaking it aloud allows your loss to go unnoticed and you unknown. Grief demands it be experienced. Just like a wound, when grief goes unnoticed it festers. It is so easy to allow shame or guilt keep us silent and in this case, silence can be deadly. This summer I took a few hits and they were some of  the deepest losses I've ever experienced. So much of my time I spent trying to manage my burden versus sharing it. I felt guilty when I talked about the hurt I felt from loosing my granddads, leaving country, and no longer living in the same city as some of my closest friends. It hurt and I stayed silent and my silence stole life right out from under me. We were never created to carry such a heavy burden on our own- after all, loss requires a lot of us. We need people to come along side of us and remind us what's true, to be patient and kind, to speak words of reason and logic when the pain of loss stings deep in our minds and hearts. You are human and being human means being needy and weak sometimes, and it's not wrong to be needy. Calling grief what it is opens us up to letting people in. Granted there is space for silence and there is room for time alone- but isolation my friend is the devil's play place. Do not stay there, it's not the fun-McDonald's type of play place. 

2. Loss Was Not in our Design, We Were Never Meant to Know the Sting of Death
On the seventh day when God rested, looking on all he created, seeing that it was pleasing and good- loss was not in that design. We were created for communion with God. God made man for relationship with him. Loss is the direct opposite. The word loss is derived from the old English word los which means destruction. It was a term used for the breaking of ranks in an army. The word loss literally means separation and being pulled apart. We weren't created for that. Regardless of where you stand with Jesus, I am here to tell you that you were not created with separation in mind. However, when sin entered our world and we no longer existed in perfect communion with God- loss, grief, and destruction became our current reality even though our design did not change. It is not in our being to cope with the brokenness of this world alone. It means it is supposed to hurt. Loss is meant to take it's toll and grief is our beings way of coping. The world around us tells us to suck it up and get over it, but that isn't the way this work. So when it hurts, it hurts. There is no formula for bypassing it and there is special treatment to cure it there is only the option to experience it. 

3. Grace upon Grace upon Grace for your Process
Our heavenly Father knew that once sin would enter the world it would be a long, hard road to redemption because with sin came suffering and loss- death being the ultimate loss. The good news is the grave has been defeated and death has lost it's sting! Christ won the war on sin, but we are still here to fight the battles. Some battles are harder than others and they take a lot from us. So friend, when you wake up the morning after you just lost someone you have loved deeply and it hurts to move so much that you don't- I'm going to tell you there is grace on grace for that day. And a few weeks later when routine is the only thing that gets you through the day- there is grace on grace. And on those days when God in His great mercy lifts the veil and shows you He is near and joy overcomes you- grace on grace and we rejoice together. There isn't only grace for our process, our process is grace: undeserved favor for a difficult task at hand. You will experience a vast multitude of emotions and responses from numbness to anger, weepy to laughter, clarity to confusion and more. As you process through your grief grace will abound and the Gracious One offered you the ability to process to tread through and overcome loss. 

We each grieve differently, loss is like a snowflake- no two experiences are the same. The beautiful thing about the body of Christ is that while yours is yours and mine is mine- we share a spirit. That Spirit, our Father and Jesus Christ won the war and victory is His. Drew Holcomb has a line in his song "Live Forever" that I find so fitting..."take courage when the road is long, don't ever forget you are never alone." The road is long and hard, but because Christ defeated the grave, you in Christ will not be defeated. Praise God from whom all blessings flow that we aren't alone!  We are 2 Corinthians 4: 8-12:
We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; 
perplexed, but not driven to despair; 
persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; 
always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, 
so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies. 
 For we who live are always being given over to death for Jesus' sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh. 
So death is at work in us, but life in you.

OH Glory on Glory that our suffering bears eternal glory! Christ is manifested in our lives and his glory is spread among the earth when we suffer as he suffered. It isn't fun, and it's not felt every day, but what honor is bestowed on us as sons and daughters to carry the mark of the Savior- to suffer as he has suffered so that the presence of God may be known among men! We don't suffer for a man who never suffered himself, and we don't worship a God who does not understand our loss. He suffered first to bridge the gap, we follow to shine that light out of our broken, sometimes devastated, fragile jars. There is purpose and good to our pain. if you are anything like me and you are in the thicket reading this- I pray you are encouraged but you may be angry right now. I say this in FULL CONFIDENCE- If you belong to Jesus he will drawl himself near and will find joy in the suffering (just maybe not today).

And my friend that may be reading this and doesn't believe Jesus is enough, you aren't alone in that either. If you find your spirit a little fussy as you read this because you don't believe in Jesus or you simply don't have faith for this today, you aren't alone. But can I make one request of you? It is a simple one- try Him. If you are angry in your grief- let him know. If you are desperate in your grief, let him know. If you are lonely in your grief, let him know and then revert back to step one. Find a friend- one you trust and share your burdens, because there is life in our design when we live it out. Christ came for the broken, the needy, the sick, and the weary- if that doesn't spell out grief, I don't know what does. 

My prayer as I come to an end is that as you experience loss you experience it knowing you were created for more and there is life on the other side. Hold on to hope. Also know that you can take the pressure off yourself to cope in any specific sort of manner, there is freedom in Christ to not be okay and there is freedom in Christ to experience fullness without shame. Wherever you are at in this process- there is a God who loves you, knows you and made you with a specific design in mind. Grief and loss are tough, no easy way around it but there is life waiting for you to experience even in the thicket. 

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Minimalism- How one mom's cluttered house taught me a valuable lesson

Where to even begin. That's really all I'm thinking these days...

Where to start with school, where to start with finances, how to start my day and where is my bible? Just an endless feeling of there's something that needs to be done and if I am honest there is an emptiness I associate with my needs. 

Well a few days ago was no different. I set down at the desk with my tore up purple, fake leather bible and journal and started to spend some time with the Lord but couldn't. Like I literally could. not. will myself to open that bible; I couldn't will myself to journal- I had no will, typical apathy. So in true millennial fashion, I pulled out my phone and pulled up my social media apps and just started mindlessly scrolling. I wasn't really looking for anything, more like looking to do nothing. As I was scrolling I happened upon an article, "How Getting Rid Of My Stuff Saved My Motherhood" (intriguing right?). So I clicked and read, I'm not really sure what compelled me to (apart from the fact that the spirit compelled me) but I'm glad I did. This mom Allie, started writing about how clutter was ruining her motherhood. Piles of clothes bearing down on her patience, toys cluttering her home and her soul- stuff, just stuff, keeping her from her family. I started reading and everything she said just struck a heart chord...

When I thought about my days and how I spent my time, all I saw were piles of dishes, an endless mountain of laundry, and picking up toys and books and markers and jackets and shoes and empty water bottles and paper artwork...
I asked other moms, friends, and people I respected if this was normal, how they managed their homes and kids, and if they felt like they enjoyed it. What I was met with was a resounding “oh yeah, I remember those days! That’s motherhood. It’ll be okay and you’ll get through it.” 
“You’ll get through it.” 
But what if I wanted more than to just survive in my motherhood? That’s what I was doing now.

You'll get through it... You'll get through it?? Are you effin' kidding me? 
I was enraged for her. Allie, girl, I want more for you than just- you'll get through it. It hurt to hear. I think that was the moment I connected with her. It hurts to hurt and I could feel it in me. I could hear the agony in her voice- the "there has to be more than this" moan of defeat. Life is life: circumstances, good and bad, come and go, but in the thicket of life there is more. There is always more. Not a cosmic more, a life-altering, all-transforming more and as she ached for more, I ached for more too. 

After another particularly difficult day, I reflected... This wasn’t abundant life, it didn’t feel purposeful, it felt overwhelming and depressing. In that moment, I had had enough. I decided I wasn’t going to let this be my life, and this overwhelm and depression wasn’t going to rule me any longer.
What I did next set my life on a new course, and it never went back to the way it was. It changed everything.


What she did next was purge! She tossed everything she didn't need. Tossed toys, clothes, etc and left nothing but the basics. She started talking about how she could feel the depression lift. She noticed a difference in her kids and her marriage. She quit letting "stuff" control her. She wrote this one line... 
"Our stuff is literally stealing away our joy and our lives" and tears rolled down my face. Stuff is stealing our joy, our lives away and we let it. I let it.

“Minimalism is the intentional promotion of what we most value, and the removal of anything that distracts from it.” Joshua Becker

Yes, I'm not a mom

No, I don't I have my own home and "stuff" that is cluttering my life. In fact, I just got home from living overseas and I have very little physical stuff. But it hit in that moment I have stuff constantly calling for my attention. I allow all kinds of things into my heart and mind that distract me. I don't just allow them I invited them with arms wide open. I neglect what matters. Proverbs 4:23 warns against this, "Keep your heart (and mind- I add) with all vigilance, for from it flow the springs of life." 

Minimalism is missing. 

My heart hurts because I have allowed infection in it. I invited things into my life that just distract, they keep from experiencing the fullness of God in all that I do and all that I am. The ache of more, isn't the longing for more stuff to distract. It is my spirit's longing to shed all but Christ in me. See everything around me and within me says- self medicate, self help, self sufficient but the reality is self destruction. I don't have to get through life, I don't need to "just deal" because there is greater out there and He beacons me to come and die. Die to the sin that wants to consume me, die to the world that wants to get me down like a bad hair cut. Die to "self" and let that bad boy stay dead. Like D.E.D, dead. Then pick up my cross and live. Abundantly, my friends, ABUNDANTLY. Christ's intention is the promotion of himself, and the removal of anything and everything but himself. I'm not gonna lie, my heart isn't always on the same page, but the promises of God are true. He who began the work will bring it into completion. The day He returns and there is nothing left to distract, nothing left to take away my affections- no lies or deceit- all there will be is glory. Until that day, I am to choose minimalism. The promotion of what is valued most, and the removal of everything else. I am to stay steadfast and true. It isn't easy. It was never going to be easy. 
But it starts with one corner of the house at a time...

Living room- where I spend my time
Toys- the things I think I need that I don't
Bedroom- my language (music is a big part of this- ugh)

Remember- this is the promotion of what MATTERS, not behavior changes; not cleaning up my act so "guests can come over and I won't be embarrased." This is allowing change to do it's job in me- removing everything but the basics.

"I want this for you, sweet friend. I want you to know it doesn’t have to be like this for one more day. You can choose a different path, you can thrive, you can love this life, you can escape the chronic overwhelm that everyone else calls normal. I promise you, it’s so worth it."

If this is true for our homes and our families- how much more applicable is it for our spirits? We were made to experience Life (aka Jesus) given abundance! Minimalism- our well spring needs it.

 "Let your eyes look directly forward,
    and your gaze be straight before you.
Ponder the path of your feet;
    then all your ways will be sure.
Do not swerve to the right or to the left;
  turn your foot away from evil."