The Beauty of Never Letting Go

The tears are sitting on the surface. I can feel them welling up in my eyes. But today, I don’t want them to come. I would much rather they stay hidden from the rest of the world. But then reality sets in. I think back over the last year and begin to list all the grief I have experienced: the end of a call, the deaths of several friends (Justin, Ben, and Rachel). No wonder the tears come so easily these days.

Walking into the sanctuary, several of us grab each other’s hands. It is a moment that just feels right. Hand holding sometimes is just the comfort we need. I am reminded of a picture my friend AR shared of her two beautiful girls. The two little girls holding hands. They had held hands to cross the street and simply forgot to let go. How often do we forget to let go too? The truth is that sometimes hand holding feels just right. The grasp of someone else’s hand in your own; the touch of a friend’s hand on your back as the tears are so heavy and you feel you cannot catch your breath. It is these simple moments that continually remind us of the beauty of the body of Christ God places in our lives.

In the midst of my own tears, I stand in the sanctuary as we say goodbye to our friend Rachel. Slowly the line moves until we reach Rachel’s casket. Several of us look at each other and one of my friends says, “I think we should do this together.” So several of us crowd around Rachel’s casket; the tears leaking from our eyes as we get ready to say goodbye and celebrate the light she is. My arms are linked around the three friends in front of me. I don’t want to let them go.

Grief is something that can often paralyze us. It comes in huge waves or it gently finds its way into our heart and soul. I sit here in my grief and I want to move on. But I am not sure I can. There has been so many hard days this past year. There has been way too much death. I am not sure my heart can take anymore. I find myself clinging tightly to the promise of the resurrection. “Easter says you can put death in the grave, but it won’t stay there.” (Clarence W. Hall)

The truth is that Easter will not put death in the grave forever. But that is hard to trust in when the dirt is still wet from burying another friend; when another friend is burying her second child in four months; when my own faith is shaken; when it continually feels like we are walking through Lent; days after Easter and the Resurrection.

Yes, the tears are sitting here on the surface; tears that have no place to go; tears that tell the story of so many who love and are loved; tears that are holy as they remind us again and again that we are not alone.

“Tears. I’ve learned is really just love. It’s all the love you want to give, but cannot. All that unspent love gathers up in the corners of our eyes, the lump in your throat, and in that hallow part of your chest. Grief is just love with no place to go.” (Jamie Anderson)

So today, I am not letting go either. I will hold onto the hand of whoever will let me grab onto it; hopefully my friends and family. For as we hold on, I know that God is with us in these hard days of grief.

…..The tears are beginning to fall!

Linking up with Kelly and the Ra Ra linkup, Mary and Tell His Story, Holley and Coffee for your Heart and Kristin and Porch Stories.

 

 

Sunday Blessings 221

(1) An awesome weekend with my sis

(2) Time with momma. It’s been way too long since weve seen her.

(3) Stopping and seeing EG at the farm.

(4) EG sending goodies home with us.

(5) Jer Bears Sno Cones

(6) Swimming at Spring Lake Park

(7) Texting with my faves

(8) Friends who hold each other in our grief.

(9) Adopting Luna the kitty

(10) Rental Car Agencies!!

(11) KD and RD cat sitting

(12) Seeing all my friends and grieving together.

(13) The hugs of so many friends! (You know who you are!)

(14) Stopping at sissys

(15) Summer Nights on Main

(16) Grace!!

(17) Goodies left at my house.

(18) David’s BBQ sunflower seeds

(19) A beautiful PLN!!

(20) Playing with Luna

(21) Fresh veggie stir fry. So yummy!!

Done with Grief

I am linking up for the Five Minute Friday. The FMF is hosted by Kate Motaung over at our Five Minute Friday website. Today’s word prompt is “done.” We would love to have you join us.

This week has been filled with grief once again. I’m tired, spent, done. Since last October, I’ve lost four colleagues/friends under the age of 40. These lives taken from us way too early. I know that death is a part of life, but in these days of grief and emotional exhaustion, I’m so done with grief and dying.

But I’m not done with loving. I’m not done with friendships. I’m not done with a community who cry together. It makes death, dying and grief a little easier. It reminds me of the promise of the resurrection. In the words of one of my favorite quotes by Clarence W Hall, “Easter says you can put death in the grave but it won’t stay there.” In other words, resurrection always comes.

God calls us to trust in God’s promises; to let our lights shine before others that they may see our good works and glorify our father in Heaven. Im not going to take another day for granted. But I’m so tired of death! Im tired of burying my friends. I’m ready for life to continue to emerge in the midst of death.

Sunday Blessings 220 (#elcayg2018 Edition)

(1) Getting to Houston safely!

(2) Awesome Lyft drivers who have karaoke in their car

(3) Getting to hug and see so many of my dear friends!!

(4) A long conversation catching up with GV

(5) IPadel Houston

(6) Kolaches!!!

(7) JL and his crew from Texas gifting us with a Texas themed welcome basket

(8) The lady at IPadel who paid for court time but was giving up her time to teach us all how to play. What a giving heart she has!

(9) Amazing speakers that challenged us and cause me to work towards more inclusion for all God’s beloved in the church.

(10) A Houston Astros game. So much fun!!!

(11) Sunday dinner with CS, TM, EO, and AA.

(12) Awesome co adult leaders! Thanks PNM and JJ!

(13) CM bringing me my backpack when I left it at the synod day hotel!

(14) Our youth helping serve communion and blessing the WND participants! Such a cool moment!

(15) Starbucks Cool Lime Refreshers!

(16) 4th of July with EL and LL and friends! So much fun!

(17) Texting with my favorites!

(18) Support from so many friends!

(19) Water and First Aide stations!!

(20) Air conditioning

Resting in the Promises of the Resurrection

One of the joys of life is the many friends that God introduces to us along the journey of life. But with the joy also comes the sorrow. Life ebbs and flows with both life and death. Since last Fall, I know of at least four young leaders who are now resting in the promises of the resurrection. These four young leaders were taken from us way too soon and it is so difficult to comprehend. My heart is breaking and I once again feel like I am walking through the darkness of Lent.

Yesterday I learned of the death of another youth ministry colleague/friend who passed away suddenly and unexpectedly. Rachel was on vacation with her family when she suffered a pulmonary embolism. I met Rachel through the youth ministry world. In fact, in January, while at the ELCA Extravaganza, Rachel stopped me while we were both descending a set of stairs. She introduced herself and shared how she thought we should be friends since we have a lot of the same friends in common. I shared how much I missed my Fargo-Moorhead friends and asked her to watch over them for me. She smiled with that beautiful smile of hers and promised that she would do just that.

Rachel was a radiant light who exuded God’s love and joy in the world. She gathered with the youth from her church and 31000 of our beloved brothers and sisters in Christ at the youth gathering last week in Houston. In that stadium, we all created a wave of hope. Today I find the image of the lights lighting up that stadium coming to mind as I remember Rachel as she rests in the promises of the resurrection.

With Rachel’s death, grief once again sets in. “Grief, I’ve learned is really just love. It’s all the love you want to give, but cannot. All that unspent love gathers up in the corners of your eyes, the lump in your throat, and in that hallow part of your chest. Grief is just love with no place to go.” (Jamie Anderson)

And with love that has no place to go, I am thankful for a community that is standing in that same place with me and all those who know and love Rachel. Another youth ministry friend (Tom Schwolert) captured this well when he wrote, “This hurts deeply because we all know her even if we’ve never met her. We know her passion for sharing the love of Jesus with young people. May we be grateful for every life Rachel touched and that she is in the loving arms of Jesus.” Together, as a body of Christ, we are all linked as beautiful beloved children of God.

Rachel now rests in the promises of the resurrection along with Maggie, Justin, and Ben. These faithful servants know that for them and all of us Jesus truly changes everything. Yet it is hard to trust in these promises when we are having to say good bye to our friends too early in life. It is a part of life that I would much rather not have to experience. But the reality is that grief comes because we loved these friends and family members. This love is grounded in God’s love for the world, but it is also a love that God calls us to share with one another.

And in the midst of my grief, I find myself clinging to the book of Romans. “If we live, we live to the Lord. If we die, we die to the Lord. So then, whether we live or whether we die, we are the Lords.” Or in the words of Clarence W. Hall, “Easter says you can put death in the grave, but it won’t stay there.”

For Rachel, Ben, Maggie, and Justin, life; eternal life found in Christ, not death has the final word! Thanks be to God!

Linking up with Kelly and the Ra Ra linkup, Mary and Tell His Story, Holley and Coffee for your Heart, and Kristin and Porch Stories.

  

 

Vacationing

I am linking up for the Five Minute Friday. The FMF is hosted by Kate Motaung over at our Five Minute Friday website. Today’s word prompt is “vacation.” We would love to have you join us.

Colorado for continuing ed classes, Houston Texas for the youth gathering. The last part of my June has been busy. I love being in the heart of the Rocky Mountains. I love being with my youth and getting to see so many of my friends from seminary, prior calls, etc. Yet my friends, I’m tired. I’m still recovering from the Gathering. Seriously, I took a 6 hour nap on Monday!

In a few weeks, my sister and I along with our aunt and uncle will head out for our vacation. NYC, here we come! NYC has been on my bucket list for forever. I’m excited to explore the city. I’m super stoked to see Wicked on Broadway. We also plan on spending some time at the 9-11 memorial.

My sister and I started the sisters vacation about four years ago. We’ve been to Nashville, Mount Rushmore and the Badlands of South Dakota, and Chicago. We have so much fun and I’m sure NYC will be the same.

This summer has been so full of travel for me. I may need a vacation from my vacation after all the trips have been finished! And after all this travel talk, I think I might need to go take another nap!

Hope and Our Church

Eleven year old Rebekah Bruesehoff stood in front of 30,837 youth, adult leaders, volunteers and shared her story of transitioning to female. Rebekah was born a male. She is an advocate protesting for equal rights for all. This 11 year stood with such confidence; more confidence than many adults I know and proclaimed the promises found in the gospel: “Love one another.” Rebekah created a wave of hope as we all texted a friend the words “May God hold you in the grip of grace.” 30000 plus cell phone lights lit up and illuminated NRG stadium.

Rebekah, her mom Jamie, Tuhina, Nadia, and so many of the speakers were attacked because of their messages. Yet their messages are messages this church desperately needs and needed to hear. These messages proclaim the gospel as they speak the truth in love and call us to be a better church.

Approximately 31,000 youth, adults, etc heard that they were loved; that they are welcomed in this church. Approximately 31,000 individuals served in various ways throughout the city; being the hands and feet of Jesus. And these same individuals worshipped together as we lifted our voices to the Lord. It is these moments and so many more that continually give me hope for our church.

Yet the world is still full of people who believe that we are a church that doesn’t proclaim the gospel. They need to take a closer look because the truth is we are a church that is working hard to embody the words “all are welcome here!” We are a church that I am willing to stand up for until the day I did. In the words of Martin Luther, “Here we stand. I can do no other.”

The ELCA Youth Gathering is a powerful witness to what it means to live as the body of Christ. It is a place where truly all are welcome. It is a place where two or three or 30000 are gathered in Christ’s name. It is a place that teaches us to truly listen to those who are different than us. It is a place where the Holy Spirit is completely evident!

Rebekah reminded us of this incredible witness and hope as she proclaimed, “We don’t have to wait until we are all grown up to make an impact. We can be hope for the church and for all people. They need us.” She is right. This church is hope!

So to Molly Beck Dean, the whole gathering team, and all others, thank you! Thank You for creating an incredible event. Thank You for choosing speakers that cause us to ponder and maybe even challenge our own views. Thank You for creating hope for the future. Thank You! Thank You! Thank You!

(And to those who constantly feel the need to attack our church, look again! This church/my church and especially our youth are a gift in this broken messed up world. Honestly, you’ve got nothing on us!)