A Broken Pair of Sunglasses

This morning I opened up my Timehop to a video from a past Beer and Hymns. The video caption read “Canticle of the Turning.” I quickly closed out of the app. I knew that if I watched the video, the tears would quickly begin rolling down my cheeks. One of the most rousing renditions of this song happened at a brewery in Wisconsin after our friend Ben’s funeral. Our friend DJ played his guitar and all of our voices (voices of those who loved Ben) raised up. It’s a moment that I’ll never forget.

(If you are a fan of NCIS and haven’t watched this week, there is a slight spoiler alert here. So feel free to skip this paragraph.) On Tuesday, NCIS opens with one of the main characters, Nick stepping on a pair of sunglasses and breaking them. After stepping on his sunglasses, things spiral into a poor interrogation of a witness, a bar fight and an arrest. The rest of the team are trying to figure out what the deal is. Toward the end of the show, Nick is sitting on the front porch steps of one of his fellow agents. She asks him whats wrong. He tells her that these sunglasses were a gift from the friend who died. And now both this gift and his friend are gone forever.

The day after our dear family friends funeral, I came to church and one of the songs for the day was the song “Jesus Loves Me.” We had just sung that hymn at Jims funeral the day before. The picture of his wife and four children singing this beloved hymn along with the gathered community was still fresh in my mind. Another reminder of how grief pops up in the most unexpected ways but thats grief.

My friend Lindy captured grief so well. She wrote these words on Instagram the other day, “Grief is a broken pair of sunglasses, a song in church, a photo, a date, a memory, a dime found in the parking lot. Grief is not just about someone who has died. It’s about something that is dying or changing. It’s about a relationship ending, a season of life changing, someone leaving. It doesn’t have to only be a sad change either.”

A year ago, this long season of loss and grief began. Every memory is a memory of the loss of the last year. There is the anniversary of Maggie and Justin’s deaths along with the anniversary of their funerals. This week has been filled with grief once again. On Sunday, Lindy shared how one of the hymns took her back to that brewery in Wisconsin. She writes, “Sunday was a hymn that brought back the heartbreak of our Ben. That is grief. It rolls and it’s like a wave and it surprises you. And that’s okay. That is OKAY!”

She is right! Grief has a way of knocking us over in the most unexpected ways. And then there are other times, we ride the waves of grief quietly. But most of the time, grief surprises us which is totally ok. It’s a part of the grieving process. And it also shows that we loved and were loved.

Linking up with Kelly and the Ra Ra linkup and Mary and Tell His Story!

 


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Sharing in Grief

I am linking up for the Five Minute Friday. This is also Day 5 of the Write 31 Days challenge. The FMF is hosted by Kate Motaung over at our Five Minute Friday website. Today’s word prompt is “share.” We would love to have you join us. 

In grief, there is so much to share.

Sharing of tears

Sharing of stories

Sharing of photos

Sharing of families.

Just a few weeks ago at our dear family friends funeral, his wife invited my sister and I to come early to the church when all the family was gathering. I said, “But we are not family.” To which she replied, “That’s the dumbest thing I’ve heard all day.” My sister and I processed in with the family. Sometimes family is more than blood.

Over this long season of loss, I’ve shared so much. I’ve shed tears with family and friends. I’ve shared in some incredibly holy moments. I’ve shared with friends as we stood around our friends urn and commended him to God’s care. I’ve shared moments that will not leave me.

Sharing is an important part of the grieving process. So share away, friends!


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Lamenting How Long?

Grief can sometimes feel like way too much. Every time I have opened my Facebook feed or gotten a call that another beloved friend has died. I found myself crying out to God “How long, oh Lord, how long? How long will I wake to the news of an untimely death? How long will I watch as friends bury their beloved? How long, oh Lord, how long?

As I rattle the names of those who have died off in the last year, I find myself crying out again and again. It’s all too much. Too much loss. Too much grief. Too much…. Too many children are without one of their parents. Too many are having to say goodbye unexpectedly. Too many are not getting to live the full lives we wished for them. And again I cry out, “How long, oh Lord, how long?

This cry is the cry of so many who are grieving. In the midst of grief, it can be so hard to make sense of what happened. We continually find ourselves asking the questions of why. We want to make sense of our tragedies yet the only sense we can make is that God stands with us in our grief. God cries when we cry. God understands when we get angry at him. In fact, God can take it.  And God also understands why we ask “How long, oh Lord, how long?

This cry is the cry of poetry found in Psalm 13.They are words not just for then, but are words for today. They are also a cry of lament. The reality in this world is that we often don’t give ourselves enough time to lament. Lament, according to the Merriam Webster dictionary, means “to mourn aloud” or “to express sorrow, mourning, or regret for often demonstratively”.

Yesterday, I shared about free flowing tears. It seems to me that our tears and our laments are one of the many ways God calls us to grieve. Lamenting allows the tears to flow freely. Lamenting allows us to cry out again and again, “How long, oh Lord, will you forget me forever?”

“How long, Oh Lord? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me? How long must I bear pain in my soul, and have sorrow in my heart all day long?  How long shall my enemy be exalted over me?” (Psalm 13:1-2; New Revised Standard Version)

In our grief, it may often feel like God does not hear our cries. But the truth is that God hears every cry that is wailed out before him.


Click Here to Head to the Grieving Well Landing Page

 

Free Flowing Tears

All of us experience grief in our own ways and in our own times and places. For me, grief usually comes first in an overwhelming sense of sadness. And often there are certain stages that I usually skip right over.

For me, tears are a huge part of my grief journey. Tears that are shed at a funeral. Just a few weeks ago, at our dear family friend’s funeral, my sister and I both found ourselves crying pretty hard. So hard that one almost has to gasp for breath because the tears are coming so quickly.

The truth is that I am no stranger to tears. In fact, I often cannot keep my emotions in. And when those emotions are compounded by grief, the tears can burst forth at a moments notice and without much warning. I often feel guilty and sad when someones actions are misinterpreted by me because my grief has gotten the better of me.

But tears also can be a gift. I remember standing with almost 90 other clergy as we gathered around our friend Ben’s urn and commended him to God’s care. As his wife and daughter stood to my left and his best friend stood with his hand on Ben’s urn and as all of us spoke those words of commendation, tears fell from my eyes. Tears that told the story of how this man was a husband and father as well as a friend to many. Tears that proclaimed in the promises of Baptism given to both Ben and all of us as beloved children of God.

It is a moment that is forever engrained in my mind. Months later, tears once again fell from my eyes as my friends and I gathered around our friend Rachel’s casket. A life once again taken too soon and too unexpectedly. Another moment forever engrained in my heart, soul and mind. And again last week, as my friend Leslye, her in-laws, and all four of her children were presented with military flags after their beloved husband, son and father’s 33 years of service in the military. Another moment engrained in my heart, soul and mind.

These moments are only some of the ways that grief (and in my case, often tears) have manifested themselves. Sometimes it’s a song like Canticle of the Turning that takes me back to that March day in a brewery in Wisconsin where Ben’s beloved friends, family and colleagues gathered to raise our voices for Ben. Other times, it’s standing at one friend’s funeral and looking to your left to see another friend’s headstone right next to where this friend is being buried.

The funny thing about grief is it can show up in the strangest places too. Like picking up a Diet Coke and seeing the words “Share a Diet Coke…with Rachel.” Again the tears begin to flow.

In the last week or so, the tears have not been flowing as freely. But I know that in time, something will trigger that emotion. Something will remind me of Justin, or Ben or Rachel or Stephanie or Jim or any of my beloved who have been lost to death this year and again those tears will begin to flow freely.

The thing about tears is that they are a reminder that we have loved and been loved ; whether by a dear family friend, a seminary friend, a professor or teacher or a family member. So now when the tears come, I do not hold them back. I let them flow freely.

And you, my friends, if tears are part of your grief journey. Remember that is ok to cry. Let someone hug you (with permission of course) because hugs can often make things better. Don’t hold them in because holding in only prolongs the grief that we are experiencing. And know that your tears are not the only tears being shed for this beloved soul taken from you.


Click Here to Head to the Grieving Well Landing Page

52 Weeks, 365 Days, One Year!

52 weeks
365 Days
One Year

A year ago today, I woke up to the news that a seminary classmate/friend Justin had passed away in the middle of the night. He left behind his beloved wife and two beloved young children. Little did I know or did anyone know that this death would be only the beginning of a long season of death.

After Justin’s death, in the last 12 months, I have lost no less than ten friends/colleagues/teachers to the reality of death. In some ways, time has stood still and in other ways, time has moved fast. Yet the truth is that time has moved forward. Justin is no longer with us. His wife Jillian and children still miss him every single day.

Time has a way of getting away from us so easily in this world. But what grief has taught me is to take more time to just be; to not get wrapped up in the busyness of life. In fact, just last night on Facebook, I saw a graphic that a friend shared on their Facebook page and it really spoke to me. The graphic read: “Read more books than status updates. Look into more eyes than screens. Hold more hands than devices. Love more than you judge (Dulce Ruby).” In these last twelve months, I find myself wanting to cling to the words of this graphic more than ever. I don’t EVER want to take anything or anyone for granted because things can (and sometimes) do change in an instance.

In this world, we are often guilty of being too busy. Yet grief teaches us to really take the time to invest in what is really important. Justin and the many who left this earth after him have taught me the value of friendship in a new and profound way. They have taught me to take the time to say I love you. They have taught me to spend quality time with those I love. They have taught me that busyness is not the answer. They also have taught me that time is to be valued and invested but not spent carelessly. (How often have you been guilty of spending your time carelessly?)

The last year has also taught me the value of time. I find myself learning to say more no to the things I really don’t want to do. And yes to those things that a year ago scared the living daylights out of me. I find myself grabbing for a friends hand, looking into their eyes instead of at my phone and saying I love you more.

If grief has taught me anything, grief has taught me the value of 52 weeks; 365 days; one year more than at any other time in my life. And grief continues to teach me that time is also a part of the grieving process. It takes time to grieve those we loved and cared for. It takes time to move past the anger, the denial, the depression, the bargaining, and the acceptance. And to be honest, time has taught me also that these stages don’t happen in a linear fashion at all.

Grief has its own timeline. But the thing about grief is it happens because we loved and were loved. I cannot help but think of the song “Seasons of Love” from the Broadway musical Rent. “Remember the love, remember the love. Measure your life in love.” Because time teaches us that love ultimately wins especially love grounded in God’s love for the world.

 

31 Days of Grieving Well: An Introduction

According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, grief is defined as “deep and poignant distress caused by or as if by bereavement;” or “a cause of such suffering.” Grief is an emotion that we all feel at some time or another in our lives.

Grief is a funny thing too. It ebbs and flows. At times, we are so thankful for the times we shared with the person we lost to death. Other times we wonder if we should have taken more pictures or told me more how we felt. And at other times, it can take us totally by surprise. Or take our breath away because we cannot imagine a life without them.

In fact, there have been studies done on grief. Elisabeth Kubler Ross and  David Kessler have written about the five stages of grief. These five stages include denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. These stages are not linear. They can happen in any order and can move between the different stages.

I’m no expert at grief. I’ve only learned what I’ve learned from what I’ve read, or studied or even experienced in my own life. This past year has been one of the hardest in regards to grief. Since last October, I can count ten individuals/colleagues/friends who have been taken from us to death; most of them way too young and way too unexpectedly. So this year has been a year of deep grief.

It seems I would just catch my breath and then I’d learn of another death. My grief would become compounded as the grief would pile upon itself. And it would just become harder and harder. Yet the truth is I knew I was not alone. Others were grieving too. And the reality is that none of us are strangers to death and grief.

So my hope and prayer during these 31 days is that perhaps my words will help you as you grieve or maybe my words are how you are feeling or maybe this series will remind you that you are not alone as you grieve. In fact, I’ve learned that grieving is best done together. We walk this journey of grief hand and hand.


Click here to Head to the Grieving Well Landing Page

Sunday Blessings 231

(1) Members buying me lunch

(2) Fresh plums!

(3) A surprise package from SS

(4) Texting with my faves!!

(5) Phone call with KL

(6) This is Us

(7) Lauren Daigles new album

(8) Some goodies from KD

(9) Pumpkin Bread. Thanks for the recipe AR!

(10) The return of my fave shows

(11) New TV shows like A Million Little Things, Murphy Brown, etc.

(12) Tastefully Simple Wild Rice Soup

(13) Playing with Luna

(14) Rest

(15) Freshly washed bedding

Whats Your Potential?

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 “potential.” We’d love to have you join us. 

What potential do you have?

What gifts has God given you that could lead to great potential?

Are you a writer who potentially could become a best selling author?

Are you a singer who could potentially star in a Broadway musical?

Or are you a baker who can take ingredients and turn them into a potential award winning cake?

There is so much potential in our world. But often I think we don’t see it. Or we let fear stop us from seeing our own potential in this world.

But God gives us all potential. My potential led me to self publishing a book. My potential is leading me to be a mom by fostering rather than through the traditional way of being a family.

Teachers see potential. Coaches see potential. Parents see potential. Pastors see potential. God sees potential. Do you see your potential? Because I see the potential in you. You all are so gifted, my friends!

The Longest Season

I stood in the cemetery with my friend, her family and all those who knew and loved her husband. The American flag draped over the casket; a symbol of this man’s 33 years of military service. The 21 Gun salute fired. The sound of the trumpet playing taps echoing in the air. Tears streaming down my face as six flags (one for his parents, his wife, and each of his four children) was carefully folded and presented to his family members.

As I stood in that cemetery, I was reminded once again of this very long season when I looked down and to the left of where Jim was being buried was my friend Rachel’s headstone. The last time I had been in Grand Forks, I was there for Rachel’s funeral. A poignant moment as two of my beloved friends now laid in the dirt. “Remember you are dust, and to dust you shall return.”

This season has been an extremely long season of loss. It started almost a year ago with the deaths of Maggie and Justin. Then in November, a beloved high school teacher took her final breath as she succumbed to the reality of cancer. Then in March, my friend Ben lost his fight with cancer followed shortly by our seminary professor Ralph. Then in July Rachel, followed shortly by Stephanie and then Jim. After each death, it seemed I would finally catch my breath and then that breath would be taken away when I would learn about a new death.

And I find myself wondering when it will end. When will this season of life and death take a break for awhile for me? I find myself continually crying out “How long, Oh Lord?” It is all too much! There are too many children who have had to say goodbye to a parent way too soon. There is too much grief. Too much pain!  Too much death. Simply too much!!

Yet in the midst of the too much, I see glimmers of hope. I see my friends living their lives with a strength that amazes me. I see glimmers of hope in little children who are also grieving and reminding me of the resurrection promises. A tree is planted in a friend’s honor. Life does come again. Mourning does eventually turn to dancing.

I watch as the season slowly turns from Summer to Fall. The leaves changing color once again. The weather turning much cooler as we put on sweaters instead of shorts and tshirts. Fields finally being harvested. It is a sure sign that another season has come and another one is coming. And then I remember that seasons sometimes last longer than we want them to. But that a new season always comes again.

So trusting in the resurrection promises, I am trusting that this season of death; this season of too much; this season of loss will come to an end soon. In the words of Clarence W. Hall, “Easter says you can put death in the grave but it won’t stay there.” In other words, we experience Maundy Thursday, Good Friday and Holy Saturday throughout the year but Easter always comes! New life emerges out of death. Hope returns and we are once again able to proclaim in the Gospel promises that sometimes get lost when we cannot see the end to the longest seasons of loss and grief.

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 230

(1) Friends who are like family

(2) A Confirmation student who shared his “Share a Coke” bottle with me because it had my name on it.

(3) Texting with my sissy

(4) Listening ears

(5) Holy rain

(6) A Vox from KA

(7) Safe travels to GF and back.

(8) Being with people we love as they did one of the hardest things theyll ever have to do.

(9) My friend KG checking in on me.

(10) Baby snuggles with Mr. Quinn

(11) Lots of hugs

(12) KD sharing some of her bountiful basket with me.

(13) A Furnace

(14) 3rd Grade Bible Milestone

(15)An epic PLN!!

(16) Lauren Daigles new album