A Mothers Day Message To All Women. I See You.

I won’t worship with community today – no “church” services. I chose this day to sleep late and enjoy true Sabbath rest. To lament a little, to escape a little.  To ponder. To write.

Mothers dayTo be relocated in hope, deep in the corners of my mind where only God can interpret and renew the reimagining that I need to see, and hear, and feel.

And to know, I am seen.

The world only gets more broken with each passing year, gender, racial, and religious oppressions are grievous, wars and refugees increase.  In my mind’s eye, I see the suffering and loss of babies, women, and children, worldwide. The judgment that still falls upon single women and childless women, sex workers, working women, and women warriors. Expectations of what you should do and be which are so often not who you are. 

My own sadness which is a just a tiny molecule in a galaxy of intense suffering mingle with the voices of those weeping.

A close friends daughter is slowly dying. I know she is holding the pain of loss and the joy of one more day tightly together.  Another mourns her singleness and deep desire to have a child.  Yet another mourns the suicide of her son, and another the loss of her infant.  Another empty nest.

Meanwhile, multitudes are kept hidden by the abusers who hold them.

Galaxies of galaxies of pain, joy, and what is.

I no longer see a dichotomy between suffering and joy – they are held in that space between the two where hope rests and where God works – all blended together in a Trinitarian dance – the perichoresis of us. 

I will always remember my first time attending Plattsburgh Faith Assembly on Mothers Day, 2005. We had moved into the small community a month before. After about 17 moves it was our “forever home.” Our dream farm purchased in part by my father who was to move in with us. He died two days before.

The pastor had asked all mothers to stand up along the back wall. My introverted cells were freaking out over the thought, but all my kids were making a bigger scene at trying to get me to stand up. Little did I know mothers would be asked to raise their hands at “one child,” “two children” “three children” … “When he said “more than five” I knew I was in trouble with ten who called me “mom” at that time.

When you lead an active busy life the time goes swiftly. We were farmers, parents, grandparents, friends, teachers, students, community volunteers, college small group leaders – we were going to die in that community. Home.

Life was a whir of relationships. It wasn’t unusual to have fifteen, twenty, thirty people in our home. The whir was slowly chipped away but never did I imagine Dave would lose his life long job, or that a job loss would be followed by so much change.

Today I remember a better time when laughter rang and small feet ran, friends gathered, and family abounded. Before the scattering. Before the brokenness. Before the losses. Before the days of social media and cell phones further disconnected people while simultaneously shouting the joys of others. Today I’m thankful for lunch with grandkids and those who I can laugh with. I’m thankful that I can touch the lives of other women who have suffered from the loss of stillbirths, broken relationships, miscarriages, divorces, child loss, financial loss, abortions…

I see you. 

I identify with the mothers who wish they had known then what they know now. Before the mistakes and irreversible decisions. Before the miscommunications and wrong perceptions. Before the pain.

I see you. 

I join with all those whose memories of their own mothers bring visions of abuse, neglect, and pain.  Or those who can only mourn the loss of what never was, in place of joyful, motherly love.

God sees you.

God see you, loves you… delights in you. Delights in you.

You are a Trinitarian gift to the world…

…wrapped in all the mistakes, the brokenness, the pain, the hiding – the beauty. God calls you.

You.

Humanity calls you to lift up your heads and be the role models of what is real, and true, and deep, and redemptive. 

So rejoice this day, lament this day, wail, weep, cry, shout, sing, dance, struggle, rest …

I see you. 

If we have the freedom to be a voice for others, we have the freedom to be a voice for ourselves.

See them. Be heard. Be seen. 

I see you. 

 

Surviving Love: The Way of Grace in the Pain of Now

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Love is is filled with intense emotions, joyful high’s and neverending laughter, sexual pleasures, even the joy of holding a new baby – the ultimate mama high.

This past month I’ve been reminded of the pain of love. The relationship struggles, the end of love, the goodbyes, the deaths, the letting go’s, the end of dreams, even the bittersweet emotions of parents as they give away a beautiful daughter into the hand of another, or watch a child leave for military basic training, college, or simply “good-bye” without knowing when you may again say “hello.”

For deeply passionate people love and hate, anger and joy create a place where the tensions of each must find rest. Newton’s third law:  “The law of interaction is also Newton’s third law of motion, stating that each action brings an equal and opposite reaction. Forces are either pushes or pulls resulting from the interactions between objects.

Push and pull, pursue and retreat. In relationships, we each become the object of the other person’s actions and reactions. 

Created in the image of God we are so easily reduced to the scientific matter of our creation as opposed to the spirit person God has breathed into us. Only the Holy Spirit of God – the essence of the Trinity can hold a sacred space within this dichotomy,  a third space between the dualism of “either or” in relationships. This is the place where Shalom resides yet it is so hard to locate with the broken compasses that make up our lives – our world.

This matter we live in – this ordinary creation in ordinary days are the places of extraordinary moments caught in cosmic battles of redemption.

God enters into this common, chaotic, ordinary space and simply is.

He doens’t show up through binding or loosing, by claiming or declaring, in prayer or fasting – or even seeking – He simply is.  When we know our compass is utterly worthless and we can’t find our way to Him in the desperation of trying, He is. When we are crying out in pain and anguish “Daddy, please, please help me,” as our souls are ripped asunder from the pain of this world, He is. When it feels as if we will never, ever, ever be whole again, He is. 

All of a sudden He is becomes more than the plea to find him – but the essence of the plea itself. In the calm – grace. In the quiet – grace. In the rest- grace. In the midst of the heartbreaking pain and confusion, the Trinity is holding together time and space – suspended in infinite now.

Grace

Just for a moment, He breathes for us – between the sobs, between the tears, He breathes for us. The breath of life goes in and we know and the utterance of grace comes out. We know we’ll be OK. Somehow.

We are going to be alright because the God with us sacrificed himself that he maybe become the God in us. 

It’s tangible. Real. Embracing. Otherworldly. God in Triunity with our singleness dancing in harmony, twirling in pieces of healing among the shards of brokenness. Undivided – us and Him. Infinite love. 

Even now – I am feeling the pain of a broken, wounded relationships. A few nights ago I wept those tears that rend the heavens in waves of grief but as my plea became his presence I felt the cosmic shift. I’d like to say the pain was gone but it wasn’t – it isn’t. It’s wrenching at times – but He is. To walk through fire means we get to know God’s fireproof presence. How can we know if we can walk on water if we never get tossed into the raging sea To be under crushing weight means we get to know His strength. His strength. His strength. It is only when we are weak that we know His strength (2 Cor. 12:9). I am so thankful to learn of his strength.

We never know ourselves, our strength, or what we are capable of nor do we never really know God or his strength or his faithfulness unless we’re given a chance to prove and to be proven.

So if anyone is surviving love, it is all about grace.

We keep moving forward with love, in love, revealing God in the presence of love and pray that grace will clear the path.

 

 

 

 

“Ashes, ashes, we all fall down. Lent, ashes, and mother’s love.

Children sing it joyfully. Dancing in celebration of all the good and playful engagements that childhood is made of. On Ash Wednesday the song played and replayed in mind…

“… ashes, ashes, we all fall down.”

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Ash Wednesday is a reminder that from dust we came and to dust we will return. It is a reminder that the cross is at the end of dust.

We, His beloved, are at the end of dust. 

The forest fire wipes clean the growth of everything that is dead and barren, but in just a little while we see the new growth rise from the ashes. Resurrection.

If we can hold on just a little while longer, and sometimes just a little while longer yet. 

The earth doesn’t want the pain of fire. There is a surrender to the flames that are beyond its control. Beyond our control. Something greater is about to happen, but it is painful, oh so painful right now.

So Lent begins – ashes, ashes, ashes. 

We are reminded that all of life is a circle – a ring around which we play and joyfully sing…

…and the fire where we fall.

We are feeble. We are burned. It’s terrifying. Exhausting. We cry out for answers in the midst of the flames but all we get back is the crackling of the fire. Noise, chaos, confusion. We strain to listen for that still small voice…                (I Kings 19:12).

…we know you are there God. We are listening for your to speak. We are begging you to respond.

Are you weeping too? God my Father – is your son grieving? Is your Spirit moving? Is the Trinity mourning with me? What does your dance look like today?  

My friend is in the fire with her little girl. Her beloved. Claire has been struggling with life-threatening medical issues for too long.  Pain for too long. A ring of ashes without the joy. Every day in March is an anniversary of one year of hospital stays. One year of turmoil. One year of suffering

Lent ushers in a long year of ashes for Claire.

The pain and the fear are unbearable. Yet God remains silent in the midst of it all and the questions rise. The unbreakable wall between the fire and safety grows bigger. All God has to do is shout and the wall comes down.

Why don’t you shout Lord? 

Why are You silent?

Why don’t you break down the wall between death and life, winter and spring, suffering and joy?

You are in the whispers, the gentle, the consoling. We have to strain our ears to listen and the noise drowns out Your voice.

Yet, You are there in the pain. In the fire. In the suffering.

In the Love

He doesn’t shout over our fears or command over the fire – He walks in the pain, through the flames, consumes the fire.

God stills our hearts. He embraces our soul. He picks us up when we fall in the ashes. He cradles the grief, the loss, the emptiness, and the questions. 

We may not know when, or how, or always have the answers we hope for – the longed for answers…

…but we have Him. 

And he remains. Even when it feels as if he is an eternity away.

God is in the dance of pain and suffering and leading the ring of weeping. He is holding our hands with a grasp that never, ever lets go. He is breathing, and moving, and flowing through the new life that springs from destruction. It’s just a tiny indistinguishable seed among the ruins right now but it is there…

…growing, yearning, reaching for the life.

Waiting

Waiting

He is nurturing the seed and bringing life. To Him, it is already a forest full of grace and beauty, planted before we were formed – growing as we wait.

We wait for the end of times that is just the beginning of something greater. As mother’s we question and cry and suffer, and ponder…

… and Hope.

We hope with vision. We believe that what we don’t yet see is greater than we can imagine. We hope for the rains. We hope for the sun to shine. We hope for the light.

We hope for Life. 

fb_img_1488550724530God, our mother hearts wait for you. Among the ashes, we wait. 

We wait.

We love.

We surrender.

Please pray for Claire and Claire’s family. 

(Ring a Ring o’ Roses is not about the plague, that is an urban legend.)

For more on Lent and Ash Wednesday.

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Honey, you’re a grumpy old Christian and you’re scaring the kids

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My heart is breaking for the anger, fear, bickering, pride and hatred that is spewed every day. Many of my generation have lost their way (under 40’s too but it’s to my generation over 45’s I implore)  If I was Peter Pan I would say, “You’ve forgotten how to fly.” The term “grumpy old man/ women” comes from somewhere, doesn’ it? We use the term “snarly” in our home when Dave gets that overworked, tired, face twitching tension and tone of voice. Me, well, that’s for another day…

There’s been a whole lot of snarly the last year. (Especially social media. So much so I can’t even go on anymore. )

Obviously, I know how this happened. I’ve lived it too. It looks like this…

We have lived out the “truth” of our own gospel (within American culture) for so long we no longer remember what it was like to have a zealous love for questions. There’s no excitement about navigating the path spiritual growth. We don’t need a journey of Knowing. We know it all already and can spew scriptures to prove it. We’re unable to hold two opposing views in our two feeble hands and we can’t image a third option – a place in the middle – a balance, an equalizing place, a grace-filled place. A place for discussion, sacred listening, and meditation. It’s either or, right or wrong, black or white, republican or democrat, “believer or unbeliever,” legal or illegal, resident or alien, “Christian” or “other.”

we have a GPS that’s infallible.

Culture does not impact our biblical interpretations. We are on the narrow path and our interpretations are correct, others are swinging way too wide and caving into the culture.

We are in a post-modern, post-Christian, ant-Christ, persecuted time and we need to be careful not to be led astray by doctrines of demons, dogmas of secularism, or the terrorism  of the “other.” We need to fight for the solidly Western “Christian” heritage that was exemplified by our forefathers.

The ones who not only owned slaves but raped and bore children by them? We romanticize it by calling them “mistresses.”  They were Theists, pluralists, and held to doctrines far broader than The Shack Movie which is now being criticized as heresy. But if it fits our ideologies of a Christian nation worth defending against at all costs then so be it.

Oh stop it, you’re just scaring everyone. The Good News is not about apocalypse but redemption. There are more than 12 people sitting next to Jesus and they aren’t conservatives or liberals or moderates. They aren’t even “Christians.” They are disciples of The Way. Titles aren’t the way in, Jesus is. 

Why would anyone want to follow a message handed out in such angry, bitter, contention? They would rather fly without a compass then be led into the abyss.

Much of the next generation is too educated to buy into the lies they’ve been fed. I’m so thankful my children grew up and gently exemplified the Jesus who I read about in the Bible as a child. The one I actually knew before I was led astray by sin… and some bible teachers who claimed to know the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. Amen.

I love the younger generation because they have taught me about…

The Jesus who cares more about the lives of others than Himself.

The One who brought the lowest members of society into the middle of his presence…

… children, women, Samaritans, lepers, and the infirm and gave them a place of prominence.

The Jesus who wasn’t preoccupied with politics and policy but justice and mercy.

The refugee Jesus, the outcast Jesus, the counselor Jesus, the friend Jesus, the guy who hung around tax collectors, prostitutes, and crooks, the vulnerable Jesus, who opened his arms wide to be shamefully crucified – modeling how we should live. 

We posture as if we are more worried about protecting our lives than how we actually live – self-preservation, prosperity, safety, individualism is more important than the desire to stand before God and know he doesn’t only see the righteousness of Christ in us (the only righteousness we have – for by grace you are saved but also witnessed us live our lives out as followers of The Way – here, now, every minute of every day as living testimonies of great Love.

We hold a lot of fear. Fear of the future, fear of not measuring up, fear of inadequacy, fear of surrender, fear of being genuine, fear of aging, fear of losing out. For women, we hide behind hair color, make-up, lying about age, and (for some) facelifts, tucks, botox and enlargements. It’s all to look, act, and be the way we think we should before society. We conform to the culture. 

But we are to live in the way Jesus did. That’s the way of love. The way of forgiving our enemies. The way of sacrifice. We are to live as examples of restorative, redemptive, liberating, communal peace for everything who breathes because all of humanity bears the image of God.

That’s a life lived without masks, pretenses, or safeguards. It’s a life of make-up or none, gray hair or green but it’s a life that doesn’t compel us to hide behind dangerous surgeries to protect our images or geographical border walls to protect our lives.

It’s youthfulness born out of reckless abandonment and lived out by risky faith; it’s trust forged in the power of imperfection which rests in an unknown future that is held by a very Known God.

It’s the faith of the young who lean into their future instead of grabbing for the past. It is the faith of the child. The faith we must possess.

There is more to following Jesus than believing, or trust, or even faith. To know God is to follow him even when the stakes are high.

It’s following Him to stakes in our wrists and ankles. I think a lof of the younger generation has figured this out.

I’m glad. I’ll just sit here in the middle for a while and listen. I happen to know an Essence of Three that provides a pretty good place to hang out. 

 

 

 

 

 

A Child in the Midst: Infant Loss in Kronos Time

The unimaginable. There are no answers to be found so I write. I lament through the written word. I question. I cry out. I ponder. I answer my own question with the knowledge that an answer isn’t enough.

Isn’t necessary. 

baby

 

An answer doesn’t matter. Doesn’t change, or rearrange, or re-do, or fix.

God is the answer. His love is the answer.

He is the joy. He is the pain. There is nothing else.  No one else.

When we cry out for mercy, he lifts us up.

He carries us.

We are held. 

In this time between times.

This moment where only our imagination can take us to the place where tears are deprived of their reasons for existence. The place where immeasurable joy is a reality, instead of an yet unrealized state.

A place where babies never die. 

A longed for place.

It is a Kronos moment pregnant with the pain of a life in this world.

What I feel is only a token of empathy for others in comparison to a suffering savior. An inner knowing of the darkness we share in this fellowship of suffering. The suffering that God feels a gazillion times more deeply, harshly, and ripping. 

Yet, it is part of this existence he created. An existence that doesn’t make any sense as we embrace the groaning of creation longing for restoration and redemption.

The baby boy left this time between times to be with Jesus in the eternal. While his parents thought he safely slept he was carried into eternity – into the arms of Jesus.

But even Jesus lived until he was an adult. The death of a child defies human logic. It is quite simply unfair. It is a great struggle – and a compelling reason to step into that sacred place of

It is a great struggle – and the compelling reason I step into that sacred place of suffering when God enables me. I know the way out of our darkness. Companionship in suffering – even for a moment – brings life. Brings hope. 

 

A glimpse of the eternity where children play amidst the heroes of old.

The place where Jesus brings sets them forever in his midst – not just for a moment, but for all the yesterdays, flowing into rivers of now and before and forever, and ever, and ever.

“At that time the disciples came to Jesus, saying, “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” And calling to him a child, he put him in the midst of them and said, “Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven” (Matt. 1:1-3).

Baby Boaz is in the midst being held by Jesus. He is in the “better place.” But those who love him are not. They have a lifetime to wait in this time between times. In this place. They have been baptized by fire into the pain of childlike trust. There is no other kind trust on the hollowed ground of suffering.

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Only Abba, Papa, hold me. Jesus, help me. Spirit keep me. 

Please remember that when you are tempted to step away from grieving. When days turn to months and months to years and you think, “Surely they are over it.” You never get over it. It is never back to normal. You learn to live again, to breathe in moments of joy and pain –  in this, they call a new normal.

It is certainly new – but never normal. 

You heal, and heal some more, and heal some more until the pain is more bearable as all things begin to be “worked out for good.”

But things are not “good now.”  The hole where a child lives is never filled. Children are not objects that can be replaced with another child. Parents learn to live in Kairos time – God’s time – moments of the now and not yet combined with the reality of our children who live in God’s eternal time. We see glimpses of it and learn to live there…

…in Kairos – God’s time. 

Moments of the now and not yet combined with the reality of our children loved in God’s eternal now. We find love, laughter, and hope in those kairos moments of shared eternal reality. 

We breathe. We mourn. We laugh. We love.

We wait.

We are held. 

NOTE: 

Things you never say to grieving parents:

*You can have another child.”

*God must have wanted an angel with them.” Or any other God must have…

NEVER say anything that starts with “At least…”

*At least you can have more children. At least he was only three months old. At least she wasn’t six. At least you have other children. At least you won’t have to put up with unruly teen years. At least they didn’t suffer.

*”All things work together for good.” (it doesn’t feel good right now)

*Do not quote scripture – if they are disciples they most likely know them and if they are not, there is no better way to turn them away from the faith.

What you can say – and please Call the child by NAME.

*This is beyond words.

*I can’t imagine what you are going through, but I’m here for you.

*I am so sorry.

*I don’t know what to say. My heart breaks for you.

*Tell me about ___. Do you have a picture?

 

*We want to talk about our children – they may be dead but they are never gone from our hearts.

 

 

 

 

Advent Waiting: Moments of Movement Differences in Grieving

There must have been total chaos in the creation of the universe. I like the way it is depicted in the movie The Tree of Life. Thundering, crashing, upheaval…  rolling in and out of darkness and light…

… constant movement…  bringing about beauty.

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Bringing about life.

It’s as if the beauty of creation had to be filled with confusion to depict what was to come. Darkness. Brokenness. Pain. Death. What is.

Not what will be.

Life. Redemption. Restoration. Beauty.

No pain.

Sometimes life in the now, but not yet, is simply awful. It’s a dance of pain and joy. Heartache and healing. Clarity and confusion. Stillness and agitation. 

We wait for the Child King; we wait for redemption from pain.

We wait for the not yet, to be the finally now. 

He said he was sad on Friday, December 9th, the day before the day of sadness. I was sad on the day of sadness. It’s not that there aren’t other moments in time when I feel the loss – not a day goes by that my son who isn’t, but is, is far beyond the reaches of my conscious thoughts. I carry him with me always. Never here, yet always here.

But December 10th is the day. It’s the day that didn’t exist for that decade plus more when grief was repressed. It was December 7th or 8th, and then it was December 13th or 14. Like vapor, days just passed by without notice. I couldn’t notice. It was deep inside in a place where light doesn’t shine. Hidden in darkness I didn’t have to look at pain. I didn’t have to think. Or feel. Or remember.

Or live with “what if?”

For greater than a decade we didn’t talk about it. If he was sad, he didn’t express it. If I was sad, I didn’t know it. For me it was all deep down in the darkness waiting to spill out in an angry mess.

They say that’s how repressed memories are. They simply don’t exist, suspended in a dissociation of elapsed time.

He is an instrumental griever – a doer. He expresses grief by getting busy. I am an intuitive griever – a thinker feeler. I need to process.

I need to dance. 

I need to be in the abstract (like now) when only those who think in the abstract understand –in that place beyond words, where thoughts run in a pattern of ordered chaos. After almost fifteen years of repression, I need the the warmth of what can be and with a spark of imagination to find my momentum into the pain.

He wants to stay away from all that. Away from pain. Away from my grief. “I’ll wash dishes.” “I’ll vacuum. ” The subconscious thoughts drive him to his movement of grief, and away from my mine, even as he tries to do those things which are helpful.

Grief is hard work. Marriage is hard work. Grief in marriage is chaos.

One of the burdens of grief in relationship is that people express grief differently. It’s a simple concept really.

Not really.

When I need him, he is far away. Grieving in his way, and in his time. 

It can be lonely. Really, really, lonely.

I want to grieve together; he wants to grieve alone.

Yet it is all movement and movement is healing.

The only way to heal from our brokenness is through the movement that  flows in and out of our brokenness.

If we rest in brokenness too long the life is sucked out of us. It’s a  vacuum of endless sorrow, devoid of light. The movement is lost and we float without direction.

Still. Unmoving. Without air.

If we try to stay out of the brokenness, we miss the waves of growth that grace pours out only in the darkest places.

The movement is big, disturbing.

Creative. 

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The movement is small, a whisper, floating on the breeze.

If we listen carefully we can hear the voice in the movement.

“It’s your grief not his. It belongs to you and you alone.”

“It’s his grief and not yours, it belongs to him and him alone.”

The movement is a dance of grief. The Holy Spirit spinning with me as we twirl through a cosmos of sadness… and joy… and sadness… and sadness… and joy… and joy…

When the Spirit is the choreographer, the movement is a perfect blend of grace filled Light within the darkness. He is the perfect partner to guide us through the chaotic endless movement of brokenness.

No two dances are alike. He has crafted each one to move in a different way. Unique. Beautiful.

Sometimes I stomp on His toes and hurt my feet. I want to dance my way, not His. Anger fills the space where harmony demands attention.

A dance of life.

It’s only when I step away from my Spirit Partner – my Choreographer- that my dance is confused with David’s waltz. He also dances with the Spirit. It’s a movement designed just for him. It doesn’t look anything like mine. But when he allows himself to enter into it, it is beautiful as well. Graceful. Purposeful. Healing.

Sometimes we just have to switch partners and accept that not everyone dances well together. The dance of grief is best led by the Spirit. No one else can lead. No one. 

As I was writing this yesterday a young boy died in a tragic accident.

A family torn.  Chaos. The circumstances for this family – this mother –  is reminiscent of the natural disaster victims I have been with.

Loss upon loss. Pain upon pain. Darkness within darkness.  

They will not find the rhythm of the dance for a very, very, long time.

Kyrie eleison seems to be my hearts cry this Advent season. Lord have mercy.

Only the One who sees the beginning and the end can enter into the darkness and reveal the way out. Maybe He’ll allow me to help facilitate that meeting – to reveal a movement in and out of brokenness for a newly torn family, here in my own community. For now I’ll pray.

For now we wait. 

For now we dance. 

“He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” Revelations

Solus Christus

 

 

 

 

Advent Grief: Finding Hope in the Midst of Memory

Advent grief defies description.

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Depending upon where we are in our grief journey, it draws us in during Advent.  A mixture of overwhelming sadness with living Hope; growing despair with gentle resolve.

Ache with joy; doubt with faith.

God with Us.

For those who embrace Advent as a season of Hope, remembering loved ones who have died somehow diminishes the light. The grief seems darker, heavier. It’s wearying.

It’s gripping.

The reason for Advent doesn’t dim. The glimmer of Love isn’t distinguished.  It’s the journey out of grief  – it feels longer, more tiring, our hearts get heavey as we struggle – further up and further in.

When the grief is new, raw, and all encompassing, the way out is elusive.

Just beyond our grasp.

Our hearts alone become our guides as we blindly feel our way with our hands, cut and bleeding – the sharp edges of grief try to snare us and prevent us from moving forward into the pain.

There is a need for darkness. A need for quiet.

There is a comfort in the darkness. Sitting in the twilight of a new day with nothing but the glimmer of Christmas lights, I shy away from the glare of the sun. There is a safety alone in the quiet with the gentle glistening.

The light of day exposes my vulnerability and forces me to deal with it.

 Get up.

 Move.

Grow.

Remember.

As if the hole in my heart could ever forget.

I want to be stagnant for a season – a day in the season, or two days, or three – like a winter bulb buried in the cold, asleep, waiting for spring. Just let me rest here a while in my grief.

As we move out of the darkness the light is often so blinding we need to move back into the darkness. Just for a while.

And adjust our hearts to what lies before us.

I don’t retreat into deep darkness anymore, but I will always have moments of darkness. I don’t want to lose them. To lose them is to lose him. To lose the moments is to lose empathy for the darkness.

He would be 26 today. My little dark haired babe who never opened his eyes. I want to see his eyes, I want to know the feel of his sweet baby breath on my face.

Today, it is what never was that shouts into the dark.

No good memories. Only the searing pain of labor which ended long ago – overshadowed by the pain of never seeing him move.

Never tiptoeing into the room just to listen to him breathe or watch him sleep.

No playing, giggling, or walking.

I’ll never see him marry, or know the love of another daughter welcomed into my life.

No baby breath.

No “mama” words.

No embrace.

No “Welcome home son. I’ve missed you.”

Instead, he will welcome me home.

Baby yet, or twenty-six, in the place that knows not time or pain.

I had a baby boy who filled the never was for a season. A grandson who tried to make his entrance on this day, and entered into the hole in my heart. 

Not so long ago.

He filled it with December wonder in the place where winter pain had rested.

He gave me a reason to celebrate this time of the year, with Happy Birthday, and December labors that ended in physical life.

He is also out of my reach these days.

Just beyond my grasp.

The pain is complicated like the complication of the labor, where the end result was unknown, and you never quite understand how you got to this place. 

Only heaven knowns the end of the beginning when eternity is in motion.

My birth was violent. Tearing. Painful. Gentleness was absent.

There was no breath of life. Sometimes I struggle to breathe now. Missing what never was, what was, and what is yet to be.

Twenty six years ago today, he was birthed out of darkness into True Light. His first breath was a breath of Life.

Two thousand years ago He was birthed out of True Light into darkness.

Jesus’ birth defies imagination. God born of woman, to become man.

The mystery of Jesus the Christ is the mystery of Christmas. The violence of the cross had already claimed Him at his birth in a great eternal Alpha and Omega. It is the time and absence of time that only the creator of all things lives in.

Birth is often violent. Death is often violent.                                                                                 Birth is often gentle. Death is often gentle.                                                                                       The constant is Christ. He suffered it all. He understands it all. He is present in it all.

This morning in the stillness He is present. The glimmering of the lights on the tree are gentle. They call me to weep. They call me to rejoice. They call me to remember. They call me to Life.

The voice of Jesus whispers to my saddened heart that the end is not yet. There is so much of eternity to live with my babe. So much Life where the Son shines without end.

I will know as I am known.

I will love as I am loved.

I will see and understand.

My hope lies in the One who is greater than me. In a purpose that is bigger than me. In a Light that is brighter than my darkened heart can handle right now.

As the sun begins to spill through the windows, the tree lights begin to fade. The Light has called me back to breathe, move, and live. There is so much life. So much to live for. So much to do.

To be.

The light in my heart grows brighter. Lit by the memory of two infants – one born dead – one born to die.

Both, very much alive. Both waiting for me.

In memories of Hope. 

Happy Birthday Micaiah James Grubb. You are loved.

You are missed. You are so very, very, very, missed.

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And regarding the question, friends that has come up about what happens to those already dead and buried, we don’t want you in the dark any longer. First off, you must not carry on over them like people who have nothing to look forward to, as if the grave were the last word. Since Jesus died and broke loose from the grave, God will most certainly bring back to life those who died in Jesus.

And then this: We can tell you with complete confidence—we have the Master’s word on it—that when the Master comes again to get us, those of us who are still alive will not get a jump on the dead and leave them behind. In actual fact, they’ll be ahead of us. The Master himself will give the command. Archangel thunder! God’s trumpet blast! He’ll come down from heaven and the dead in Christ will rise—they’ll go first. Then the rest of us who are still alive at the time will be caught up with them into the clouds to meet the Master. Oh, we’ll be walking on air! And then there will be one huge family reunion with the Master. So reassure one another with these words.   I Thessalonians 4:13-18  The Message

Beauty in the Now; Lessons From My Son

Our youngest son Samuel was adopted from Kazakhstan, just two weeks short of his third birthday.

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The first year, or two, or three that he was home were filled with both joys and challenges. I mean, how could they not be?

Samual Miras,  “Miras Smagulov Kaponovich” was not one of the orphaned children who ran to meet the strangers, accepted treats, or wanted to run off and play. He was the toddler who caused “trouble” because he preferred to stay with his caregivers, have a book read to him, and be loved on by those he knew.

All good signs for an orphaned child in an institution. 

Then we showed up to be his parents and he didn’t want anything to do with us. We took him away from everything he had known (I appreciated the mandatory 21 days of in-country, in orphanage, bonding time so he at least knew us).

We took him from everyone he had known- to a small child this was his  community, peers – brothers and sisters to a small child. The smells were different, the food was different. Cars, planes, appointments, check ups, pictures, visas….

The routine – the routine that never, ever, ever, ever, ever changed in an orphanage in Kazakhstan. The routine was shot, gone, kaput, over.

The neural pathways in his brain that had formed in that routine simply did not know what to make of the changes. The fear response was huge.

Terrifying. 

He didn’t yet know that the hand that was leading him, compelling him to move forward, to walk on wobbly legs, holding him close as he kicked to get away, forcing experiences and greater horizons, enlarging his world…

Did it all for love. He didn’t know the one causing pain loved him more than life itself. 

For many of these formerly orphaned children they have challenges stacked up against them. Trauma, pain, loss…

This blog is not about that – this blog is about life. There will be challenges yet to be revealed. We all have our own inadequacies, shadows, and egos – illusions to overcome throughout our entire lives. It’s all part of the process of living. 

Sam has overcome his challenges to become a young man full of grace, talented, loving, and with a very old soul. 

I can’t help but compare his life and redemption to the life of all of us. Life is scary. It is wrought with challenges and choices. Every day we face the moment by moment choice of loving the Other or saving the Self. Love or hate. Sacrifice or gain. Me or you.

Yet, we too are held by the hand of  One who leads us. Even when we don’t really know Him, when the love hasn’t grown yet, when we are scared, alone, and facing unknown territory, He is still there pushing us forward…

Into the painful, into the joy, the growth, the health, and the peace.

Life is a symphony; sometimes it’s the soothing tones of the cello as it sadly sings a days end lullaby. Other times we hear the thundering piano concerto stirring us to fight.  The Maestro is orchestrating, but we often fail to recognize what piece He is playing.

Lenten Longins Sam cello

I believe those early years of suffering as a child somehow created a deep spiritual sense for Sam – of life – but more – the ethereal – the metaphysical – beyond words or description.

Sam hears the music.

He sees the unseen. 

Glimpses of God. 

Hidden in the recesses of memory, and formed by the Holy Spirit he holds to an inner knowing.

 I am often awed by how he seems to connect with the deeper things of life that are foreign to people years ahead of him. Foreign to many people for their entire lives. If I am honest, often foreign to me. What I struggle to embrace comes naturally to him.

Age, does not always equate with emotional or spiritual maturity.

Sam is a photographer but he captures more than just scenery in his photos – he captures life. He doesn’t see through the eye of his lens just something that would look good in print, he sees the essence of it – he sees the eternal.

Sam is teaching me to see. Not through the toddler’s eyes that consumed so many years of my life as the mother of a large family, but through the eyes of being.

Eyes that remind me that in every moment is the thread of times past, present, and eternal. A tapestry that is woven from being to being, place to place, season to season, moment to moment. 

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I’ll let Sam speak for himself:

“Welcome Autumn, with your vibrant colors of red, orange, yellow and brown. Welcome all the misty afternoons and refreshingly crisp air. Welcome all the hats and sweatshirts and warm fires that set an orange glow on the walls. Welcome those long walks down winding roads that call old memories of past joys; the crunch of leaves beneath your feet as you walk. Welcome leaf piles and rakes and crisp apples that are picked with care. Welcome rosy cheeks and cold noses and warm hands in red mittens. Welcome Autumn with all you hold, pointing us to something greater.”

You can see more of  SamShots photos on his Facebook page.

Just Breathe in the Moment – Breathe in Shalom

It’s there in the moment.

sunshine

Sandwiched between the sadness and the joy. Between the love and the difficult relationships. Between the sun and the clouds. Between till death do us part, and lets talk about this another time. Between confidence and fear. Between self-preservation and laying down our lives. 

Between risking it all, and guarding our hearts.

Between finding God and losing Him.

Shalom

I am starting to understand Shalom in this time between times as I listen to the rhetoric of a political figure who incites fear and anger. I wonder what has happened to our country – to respecting those in authority as given by God even when we don’t agree. To respect each other and our different opinions – the fabric of freedom.

It is a higher calling to love others rather than to hate –  to have faith instead of fear.

All politics aside – I serve the Son of  a Middle Eastern immigrant who also happens to be the Son of God, born of the Holy Ghost, and born to die that others may live.

A Middle Eastern immigrant who had to flee persecution and death on several occasions beginning as a wee child.

We are compelled to give the person who asks us for our shirt – our coat as well.

We are encouraged if asked to walk one mile to willingly go two instead.

We are called to lay down our life for others with a promise that if we hold tightly to our own lives we will lose them, but if we give up our life we will gain – everything.

We will gain Christ. 

We are called to love, love, and then love some more. We are not called to Patriotism but to Kingdom life.

We are not called to an American flag but a Banner of Love.

We are called to an expansion of the Kingdom, not an expansion of our government.

We are called to this moment in time.

We are called to the person next to us on the bus who is a different color, a different race, a different ethnicity, a different religion – but of one blood. We as Christ followers have the Spirit whispering to us, “You were called for such a time as this.” The pain, the suffering, the wars, the genocides, the immigrants, the oppressed – we were called for them.

The hurting, the weak, the despised. 

We can’t love without Shalom. True Agape love can’t spring forth from the polluted waters of fear, self-preservation or anger. 

Shalom is so much more than peace. Shalom is complete wholeness, peace, tranquility – it is our emotions at harmony with everything that is –  breathing to the rhythm of God’s love. It is a state of being even when everything around you is in a state of doing.

It’s outwardly weeping the pain of one of our children while we breath in it is well with my soul. 

It is crossing thoughts of movie theater terrorism carried away by the laughter of happy grandchildren eating popcorn without a care.

It’s overcoming the fear of flying and seeing the in the Middle Eastern Muslim sitting across from you the face of Jesus instead of the face of the enemy.

Our Triune God is great. Our country is just a group of people fighting to do the best we can with fallen perspectives and selfishness and sin striving against the guiding compass of Love with a small measure of finite greatness. 

We as disciples are to live in the moment of Shalom. It is well with our souls when we put others first.

We must recognize that we are afraid, and fear produces cognitive dissonance…

…and cognitive dissonance causes spiritual dissonance…

…and spiritual dissonance is not where Shalom abides.

Shalom resides only in the God who was willing to lay down His rights – His very life that we as immigrant children could be adopted as sons and daughters into a Kingdom without end, without boundaries, without wars, pain, or suffering. A Kingdom party of Imago Dei.

We can’t invite enemies to the party – we won’t get close enough to them to do that. We must invite friends, acquaintances and neighbors.

We are called to inhale a time as this – and bring others into that breath. 

(All photography courtesy of my son Samuel – SamShots )

 

 

Pot Lucks, Trauma, and Relationship

What does trauma, pot lucks, and relationships have to do with each other?

In my world a lot. 

Advent tears

For so many years grief was an abstract concept. I was a  “Christian.” I didn’t acknowledge anxiety, depression, mental health… (sadly so many still don’t.)

I overcame.

When diagnosed with PTSD my response to the doctor was “That’s impossible, I have the peace that passes understanding!”

 After all, in our Christian cult if our prayers weren’t answered it was a lack of faith or disobedience for whatever sins we may have been involved in – and that covered a multitude – from owning a TV, to women wearing pants, to listening to secular or Christian rock, to reading books with any magic like C.S. Lewis or Tolkien, to being in debt for anything – ever – to… 

The list of don’ts was very long. The do’s were summed up quickly. 

Especially sinful was going to the “arm of the flesh” – the doctors, the lawyers, the insurance salesman. Psalm 91 was our “assurance policy.”

If you lacked faith to trust, you didn’t love God and He wouldn’t love you. It fed right into my perfectionist upbringing where nothing was ever quite right – not good enough, perfect enough. Too much ice. Not hot enough. You look like a slut in that shirt. 

“Perfect love casts out fear.” If we were afraid, we didn’t love God.

Fear, control, and manipulation is used far too often within church relationships, to persuade insecure people to confirm to what an individual person believes is truth.

When Micaiah died there were little comforting words of “I’m sorry.” Instead people wanted to know where we had “missed it.” It was their “truth.” 

When I finally started to pursue the long road of healing which began with recognizing we were in a cult, the emphasis of the trauma was placed upon on the loss of our son and traumatic circumstances surrounding his birth. Though I had common trauma reactions from the horrors of the birth, it took years to realize my trauma was spiritual abuse, not the birth. 

For an introvert, pot lucks are difficult enough – for a survivor of spiritual abuse – they scream conversation. 

“Pot luck” dinners are opportunities for relationships. 

Relationships that often judge and hold to expectations of what a Christian does or doesn’t do. Like church on Sundays.

Christians always go to church on Sunday.  (“Forsake not the assembling…” they said. “If you’re not in church, where are you? they said.” 

Relationships with people who have all the answers instead of simply loving silence. 

People who always have the last word because they know better how you should believe or feel.

The same platitudes and attitudes that had been present in the cult.  People are people.

After speaking at an event not long ago, I was told I couldn’t have been in a “Christian cult.“If it was a cult, it wasn’t Christian.” Therefore, I couldn’t have been a “Christian.”

I loved Jesus and had devoted my life to following him – enough to die for him. But I wasn’t a Christian because my theology was wrong.

Just recently someone who I called “friend,” someone whom I trusted enough to plead “please don’t go there it’s painful for me”  – someone who Dave also told to leave certain doctrines alone – a leader -felt the need to instruct me in my most painful place – again. We don’t communicate, we don’t have a relationship, but the last word was dished out without any thought to what had been shared in dark places of honest vulnerability.

I wish I was dead to this. I’m not. It’s like Paul’s thorn to me. I cry out for God to take this last piece of healing and deliver me so I can laugh and not cry. Instead he says, 

“My grace is sufficient for you. My strength is made perfect in your weakness.”

My pain enables me to remain silent with others who are suffering and suffer with them. 

 

Everyone who draws breath will be wounded and judged. It’s all part of this great journey we call life. The more visible you are, the worse it is.

It’s OK. We are in the company of all of humanity with Jesus as our  shining example of humble forgiveness.

 

Let it be. Agree to disagree. Choose to be silent.

It took a long time to realize that it’s the people not the birth that triggers a traumatic response. 

It was people who I trusted to mentor me in The Way of Life, who instead lead me – us –  to death. 

I was in a one sided abusive relationship with Jesus. God was not love – God was a judgmental jerk. He resembled judgmental humanity more than sinless perfection. 

For a short time, God provided a safe place to heal and be. Mature and kind leadership loved us. We could leave when it hurt, stay when it was safe, discuss our beliefs with mutual respect. It wasn’t based upon being in church on Sunday, tithing, Sunday school attendance, or meeting the expected belief system of that church leadership.

We could serve in our strengths, be used in our wounds, and accepted in our own, unique, divine story. 

The church is our battle zone. It’s where the music of worship can sound like bombs, the words of leadership whiz by like bullets, and the attitudes of people are a beheading.

For me, healing in community has been more therapy by immersion than by love. I want to call Dr. Leo Marvin and ask him for a copy of Baby Steps, instead of Bob’s, Death Therapy. 

We can’t be healed if we don’t know where the wounds are. 

People expose the wounds.

God heals.  

For Dave, his battle zone rages. Bullets whiz, bombs drop, sirens blare. Church is hard – really hard. It’s performance and failure, death and financial loss, expectations and damaged relationships – wrapped up in  “praise the Lord brother, God is good.”

For Dave, church is the tears my father cried when he returned to Normandy Beach after fighting on D-Day. Overwhelming reminders of pain, death, and friendships lost.

For those who love us, for those who know, they understand you’ll find us serving God out there. In the pain. In the loss. In the suffering.

It’s our sanctuary.

Where Dave goes, I go. When Dave leaves, I leave. My journey is to see him let go of the voice that says, “What kind of man lets his son die in a cult?” 

Love heals. 

 

My heart may continue to race when I am among the church; I may experience the stale smell of fear in the musty odor of basement pot lucks…

But I also smell redemption…

..in the kindness of the pastor who understands.         

A mom who grieves.

A father who has given his life to raise his family.

A refugee who has fled. 

In myself. 

In being who I am.

In who He is.

Love heals. 

 

Note: I would be remiss not to say that we have a few close friends and pastors who are “safe.” Dave has two. For me, a person who has always worn my heart on my sleeve – outside of blogging and writing I am stepping away from wounding relationships, becoming less trusting, and guarding my heart. For those who would question that attitude as healing – Jesus only had 12 he trusted, and among those there still was a betrayer.

Shalom