Saturday, June 28, 2014


Life the past several weeks has not been enjoyable. I realized, however, that it wasn't my circumstances that sucked. It was my attitude that sucked. Life with grief can be a balancing act, and I'm not a good balancer. I hadn't been able to put my finger on what the problem was, didn't want to admit it, though. However, everyone else around me knew what it was. I was angry. Oh, if only those "stages" of grief were as linear and finite as funerals. Contrary to common belief, the emotions of grief are often revisited and deviated.

Once I acknowledged I was angry (yet again), I yielded to God. I knew it was a losing battle. He knew it, too. It just takes so much energy. But grief, as well, takes so much energy. I was tired, but I hadn't turned to God, who never grows weary, who faints not, whose strength is unending. I needed His strength. I needed His perspective. I had sunk low and was buried deep, seeing only darkness in the pit, not even bothering to grope around in search of a way out. I sat in the mire with futile and jealous thoughts.

The month of June, which brought several graduations, also brought jealousy and ungratefulness. After the third or fourth graduation invitation, I fell quickly into the "feeling sorry for myself" dump, rehashing all the things I never got to do, and would never get to do, with my son. I was mad at God and jealous of those parents who got to experience one of the highlights of life on this side of heaven.

I knew I was not in a good place. I began to question, once again, God's word and His promises, whether they were true. I began to doubt, and I was growing bitter. I had let go of hope. But God is so good. I love Him because He is the perfect friend. He knows exactly when to stay quiet. He knows exactly when to speak up, when to chastise, when to be gentle, and when to exhibit some "tough love." This time, I got a well-deserved earful.

After a particularly rough day of "poor me" thoughts, I opened my Jesus Calling book (by Sarah Young) and read the entry for June 22. It said:
Thank Me for the very things that are troubling you. You are on the brink of rebellion, precariously close to shaking your fist in My Face. You are tempted to indulge in just a little complaining about My treatment of you. But once you step over that line, torrents of rage and self-pity can sweep you away. The best protection against this indulgence is thanksgiving. It is impossible to thank Me and curse Me at the same time.
Thanking Me for trials will feel awkward and contrived at first. But if you persist, your thankful words, prayed in faith, will eventually make a difference in your heart. Thankfulness awakens you to My Presence, which overshadows all your problems. 

I will offer to You the sacrifice of thanksgiving, and will call 
upon the name of the LORD. - Psalm 116:17 KJV

Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your 
gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious 
about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with 
thanksgiving, present your requests to God. - Philippians 4:4-6
The words pierced my heart, and I knew I was dangerously close to making a decision I'd regret. Let me tell you, I've had enough regret in my life. I don't want to go there again. I thanked God for telling me what I needed to hear, for loving me so. The pain and loss remain, but I'm choosing to replace the anger and jealousy with thankfulness, humility, and trust.

Grief doesn't cause a person to be bitter or angry. Bitterness and anger is a choice one makes. Grief simply reveals what's already in the heart. It exposes one's belief about life, loss, and faith. It teaches us, whether we like it or not, whether we want to learn from it or not. God uses grief for our good. It isn't pretty. It isn't easy. It isn't pleasant. It is the hardest work I've ever done, working through grief. I stand in awe, still, that one can survive such devastation and even ultimately produce beauty from it. I am comforted, too, knowing that there is purpose in it, even if I may not understand or know what that purpose is. I have that comfort because I know who God is. He is good. He is love. He is faithful. He is Sovereign. He is a God who heals. He is a God who laid down His life for every one of us so that we might live forever with Him.

He is a personal God who is jealous for us. We are His creation. What father doesn't earnestly desire the best for his children? He understands our hurt. He understands what we want, but He gives us what we need...which is Himself. May I be jealous for Him.

**I want to leave you with some laughter today. There is enough grief in this world, but there is also beauty and joy. It's not all drama. He will fill our mouths with laughter. (Job 8:21, Psalm 126:2)

Friday, June 20, 2014

We Dance Between Both Worlds

We Dance Between Both Worlds

by Tom Zuba

The death of someone we love cracks us open.
Big time.
It’s supposed to.
It did me.
And in the beginning...
which varies from person-to-person
and has no “proper” time
and can be a few days,
or a week or two,
or a month,
or many months,
or a year,
or more,
if you’re lucky...
and in the beginning, 
for some (many?),
we dance between both worlds.
I did.  
Did you?  
Are you?
We dance between this physical world
and the world of Spirit
(or whatever you choose to call it)
when our beloved dies.
When she took her last breath.
When he left his body.
(For clearly, anyone who has seen a dead body knows that the essence, the energy, the life-force of our beloved is no longer contained in their physical body.)
When our beloved died.
A part of us died, too.
With them.
We left. 
This physical plane.
To be with them.
And in the beginning, 
we dance between both worlds.
Where all things are possible.
It’s during time when it’s important,
and possible,
and so often frightening,
to question everything.
Because it’s all been cracked.
It no longer matters (really)
what our parents, our family, our teachers, our priests and ministers, and friends believe.
What matters is what we believe.
What I believe.
What you believe.
Because when someone we love dies,
we don’t know.
What we believe.
About life,
and love,
and meaning,
and purpose,
and why-was-I born,
and why-did-she-die,
and could-I-have-saved-him?
And death.
We don’t know what we believe anymore about death.
Because someone we love so much has gone and done it.
We question everything we once held true and dear about death.
Beliefs we clung to without really ever having to think about them.
Until now.
We inhaled what was passed on.
But not anymore.
We just can’t.
So we question.
Is there a God?
If there is, what is he/she/it/they?
If there is a God, what did he/she/it/they have to do with the death of this person I love.
So much.
And do we still exist?
In some form or another,
after we die?
And is there a heaven?
If so, what is it and where is it?
And does everyone go there, or just some people?
And are they still aware of us?
Here on earth?
And if they are, can they communicate with us?
And we with them?
If we’re lucky, 
we dance back-and-forth,
until all the questions are answered.
But it’s not easy.
Because there are so many forces that want to pull us back.
To be just like them.
They want us to go back to the way we were.
But we’re different now.
Someone we love has died.
And we’ve been cracked open.
Big time.
So we dance back and forth.
Between both worlds.

*My personal disclaimer: This poem is quite accurate in describing the questions, the doubts, and the feeling of being cracked wide open after a loss. As a Christian, however, I saw several things that were "red flags" for me as I perused Mr. Zuba's website and watched his videos. I believe many of his ideas and beliefs are New Age in nature. He does not give credit or glory to God, nor gives any indication of relying on Jesus Christ or God as Creator and Sustainer of our lives and the lives of our loved ones. As a Christian, my hope is in God, His word, and the promise of eternal life. Without God, any peace or healing one claims to have is counterfeit. Tom's poem, however, does accurately describe grief and the resultant "dance between both worlds."

Friday, June 13, 2014

He's not enough

I came across a link via my Twitter feed last Saturday. It was the song, "Great Reward" by Tim Timmons. I had never heard of him or his music before, but I listened to the song and appreciated his raw honesty. He sings, "I trust in You...I will trust You, Lord...Help me trust you more..." I echo those lyrics. I believe there comes a time during our trials that we must speak these words, aloud preferably. We must profess the truth, even if we're not "feeling" it or don't necessarily even believe it in the moments of agony.

At the beginning of the video, Tim asks, "What if Jesus is actually enough to walk them through this? What if he's actually enough to walk my wife through this, whatever happens with me? What if he's enough for me in my life?" He replies, "The answer's been no, he's not enough." My knee-jerk response to his comment was, "Yes! He is enough!"

Now, I'm not sure what he means by his comment, and I hesitate to assume what it means. In fact, I actually  emailed Mr. Timmons to see if he would elaborate on his comment. Unfortunately, I haven't received a reply. But after a bit more contemplation, I wonder if he means that Jesus is enough, but he's not enough. He's not enough to take away the cancer. He's not enough to take away the pain. He's not enough to take away the grief. Our lives as Christians are not pain or trouble free. They are not void of sorrow, testing, or times of despair. Being a Christian is not a "get out of ____ free" card. He's not enough in our limited scope of vision.

But He is enough. He is enough to see us through the chemo and radiation. He is enough to be with us in the pain. He is enough to comfort us in our grief. He is enough to walk before us, behind us, and beside us in the trials and testing. He is enough in God's unlimited view of eternity. He is enough because He is our great reward. He is our great reward when we trust Him despite all evidence to the contrary. He is our great reward when we trust Him in spite of unanswered prayers. He is our great reward even when He says "No."

Job says, "Though he slay me, yet will I trust in him..." We can trust Jesus because He died for us. Though God permits devastating circumstances to come into our lives, He remains faithful to every one of His promises. This is why we can trust Him. He promises us His presence. His very name, Emmanuel, means "God with us." We may not understand His plan, but we can trust His promises. "Earth has no sorrow that Heaven cannot heal." (Thomas Moore) 

He is not enough. For many, the cancer remains. For many, the grief remains. For many, the trials continue. But He is enough. He gives us His strength, His peace, His joy, His life, His all. He is enough. May we say, "I trust in You...I will trust You, Lord...Help me trust you more..."

Friday, June 6, 2014

I remember when...

I remember when I used to blog every week, almost daily, in fact. Now, however, I post about once a month (on average) on my private blog, and I struggle deeply trying to come up with something to write about. I remember when I blogged about our days and the daily stuff of life. At the time, I thought it was all so important, so much bigger than it really is. I remember when I cared about the laundry and the menu. I remember when my posts were titled things like: Manic Monday, Tuesday's Tidbits, Wordless Wednesday, This and That Thursday, Friday Funny, Snapshot Saturday, and Sunday Selah.

I remember when I used to think the be-all, end-all of life was line-dried laundry and fresh, homemade bread. I remember when I took complaining about my kids for granted. I remember when I assumed my children would grow up, go to college, marry, and have their own children. I remember when I used to dream about what life would be like in "X" amount of years.

You know what I realize, though? Those posts were all about here. My life revolved around the things that were going on here, on earth. My life doesn't revolve around earth any more. This world is not my home. My life is hidden in Christ.

 Colossians 3:3
"Therefore if you have been raised up with Christ, keep seeking the things above, 
where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God.  
Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth.  
For you have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God.  
When Christ, who is our life, is revealed, then you also will be revealed with Him in glory."

Needless to say, I no longer assume my children will grow up or that my spouse will be here tomorrow. I no longer dream about the future because I know it is not a guarantee. I no longer desire worldy conversation. And while I still love the smell of line-dried laundry and savor the taste of warm, homemade bread, I no longer believe it's the epitome of life here on earth. 

James 4:13-15
Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a city, and spend a year there and engage in business and make a profit.”  Yet you do not know what your life will be like tomorrow. You are just a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes away. Instead, you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and also do this or that.”

I remember when my thoughts of heaven went something like, "Oh. That'll be nice. Someday." I remember when my worship of God depended more on my circumstances rather than on who He is. Never in a million years did I think that, in the loss of my son, grief would be a teacher. I've learned a lot traveling through this season of sorrow.

I've learned that grief is as unique as each individual that experiences it. I've learned that grief will always involve forgiveness at some level. I've learned that grief is humbling. I've learned that passive faith, though sincere, must eventually be called into action. I've learned that only hardships, trials, and grief can activate faith. I've learned that grief isn't all about me. It's about Christ working through, and in, the grief.  (Eph. 4:6)

Ann Voskamp said it perfectly this week on her blog. Her post appropriately titled: "When You Feel Like You Don't Really Belong." These words, especially:

"In Christ, you’re a native of heaven right now. You aren’t a citizen of here trying to work into heaven. You’re a citizen of heaven trying to work through here...
When your ethnicity is heaven, then all adversity offers the gift of intimacy, driving you into the home of His heart...Because this is always it: All my brokenness is a whisper that I don’t belong, and every time I don’t feel like I belong, the Scarred and Rejected God whispers, “Come here, my beloved.”
And the longer I live, the more I feel like an exile. This is a gift. The exiled make His extravagant love their home.
We were made for heaven and Him and our heart beats hard for it." 

I know this feeling now. I know it well. "Trying to work through here," as Ann puts it, is what has me frustrated. I've struggled the last several months trying to figure out the balance between grief and joy and what it's supposed to look like. It is foreign territory, this living in the land of grief and joy. I lay in bed the other night asking God what the point is to this life, this world full of death and sorrow. I asked Him to show me, please, because I don't understand and can't seem to figure out the right balance. Then I came across this quote on my Twitter feed the very next morning:

“The point of your life is to point to Him. Whatever you are doing, God wants to be glorified..." 
― Francis Chan

Oh, my precious Savior! My God who is so incredibly intimate with His children. He hears every word I think, every heart cry uttered. He does not leave us alone in our grief. He does not abandon us to this world. He walks with us through it. He oftentimes carries us, too. He has given us His presence, whether we feel it or not, whether we think He hears us or not. He is there. If we bless His name in the midst of tragedy, pain, and sorrow, He is glorified. And that glory is reflected in us. We can't help but shine when we give Him thanks because we are simply reflecting the brightness of Him. I remember life before loss. But I also remember that He has been good to me. (Psalm 13:6)