Jesus

Coming Back

I’ve been practicing telling my grief story out loud. To people using their ears and their eyes.

It’s easier for me to type my story. I’m more comfortable when you’re just reading what I write.

I’m dreaming of new ways to bring my speaking voice to my experience and sent an email ask to Shelby Forsythia if she would be willing to host me on her podcast Coming Back.  She lost her mom when she was in college, and dove right in to learning more about grief, healing, and the power of owning one’s experience.

Shelby describes herself as an intuitive grief guide and works with people struggling with grief and loss. In her interviews with others, she offers refreshing perspectives on the way our culture handles grief, and focuses on real experiences with real humans as we continue to live with loss.

Her tagline, “because even through grief we are growing” pinched my heart and said, ‘pay attention to this’ – she’s on to something.

I’m thrilled to share our conversation here and am very thankful to be in her group of people growing with grief. We talk about introversion, a little bit of Jesus, and how searching for beautiful things informs my process with loss.

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Shelby is also looking for new folks to interview on her podcast for her FIFTH(!) season.  If you are interested in sharing your experience with grief, send her an email and tell her I sent you.

Happy listening.

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I’m Inviting You

I have the day off. For most folks in Colorado, sunny trails and crunching snow beckon on days gifted outside of the office. I see your pictures, your snow shoes, your athletic pants.

Here’s the thing. It’s cold out, there’s no snow in my neighborhood, and I don’t see myself leaving the house.

Instead, I’ve spent the morning reading Bob Goff’s book Love Does: Discover a Secretly Incredible Life in an Ordinary World

I kept my butt in the chair and my fingers clicked the pages – next, next, next. I devoured his stories and my heart beat quicker with the amazing possibilities he bravely steped into in his life.

If God makes ordinary people move, why can’t God move Bob? Bob kept saying yes.

Why can’t God move me too?

Or you?

I’ve been a little disheartened this season as only one person has told me what gives them hope in the Give Light Giveaway. I find myself asking, ‘Are we so battered and tired, sitting slumped against walls that nothing feels hopeful?’ I’ve been there.

Or are we so busy and bustling we don’t have a quick second to answer the question, ‘What keeps us going despite all this mess?’

Maybe you’re in a better headspace than me and living anxiety-free comes easier to you.  Maybe you live boldly with ease and march into new spaces and sit at all the tables with confidence.

I’m unlearning the practice of waiting to be invited to participate.

Bob’s book invited me to be brave.

I’m inviting you to be hopeful. 

The Give Light Giveaway runs through Monday night. I hope to hear what gives you hope, wherever you sit, with whatever reverberates in your heart this season.

Here’s a reminder on how to share your answer to the question, ‘ what gives you hope?’

Put Your Finger Here and See My Hands

Things at work have been quiet lately. With the majority of my team in Europe for three weeks I have been holding down the fort. I sip my coffee, play whatever music I want, send my emails, cross of my tasks, and think.

Without other voices and fewer phone calls my brain has been on over drive  – feeling the need to fill the spaces of vacant casual office conversations with measurements of accomplishment and tracking my goals.

I’m driven by productivity. All the personality tests tell me “efficiency” is one of my strengths.

And yet, this summer, the universe is telling me to shut off those dials I used to quantify life and sit instead, in quiet, with myself.

My husband has been playing softball two nights a week and gets home late.

My side hustle marketing job slowed to a trickle as my mentor also took a six week sabbatical.

My mom, much to my dismay, tells me she’s busy with dinner at friends, or on bike rides in Breckenridge, or at a movie with Martha who is the best movie theatre photographer you will ever meet. (pst… I didn’t forget)

Our bible study took a break and is perhaps falling apart forever.

I’m realizing kids go back to school this week (um what? I haven’t done any cool summer things besides climb a mountain) and summer is coming to a close.

I’ve found myself going from quiet office, to the gym with headphones on, to my house, where I cook and wait and read – voices of characters filling my head.

As an introvert, I proudly love to decompress with a book (I’ve got Hillary Clinton’s new one loading on my Kindle right now) and I politely turn down invitations to venture out into the world in favor of, um, my back porch and a glass of wine.

But I’m more comfortable there when my days are filled with tasks and to-do lists and deadlines.

This summer, I’ve had few deadlines and despite my best efforts, the ones I’ve created for myself have fizzled.

Quiet.

Two years ago, when Dad died, my mom was given the dark gift of time. She would sit and read hundreds of books by herself, flicking pages and wiping tears and I’d cook for her, angrily swatting at my grief gremlin, wondering when the hell would it be my turn to sit, and read, and cry?

The gremlin burrowed deeper into my pocket, nibbling as she went, saying she preferred to emerge in quiet.

I see why people are scared of silence.

We scramble to fill our time with other’s voices – of friends, of family, of bosses and self-help authors, and even literary characters. These outside forces demand a level of performance, perfection, and escape we can beat ourselves up until we attain.

This summer, others stopped talking and filling my time. My head got moving and my heart got gurgling and if I let them, both body parts pulled my grief gremlin up by the feathers on its head, out of my heart pocket, and into my hands.

“We’re ready” the head and the heart told the gremlin. They conspired to give me the quiet I needed.

This summer, while bosses were in Europe and mothers were out living again and husbands were out smacking softballs and swatting mosquitos, I sat and read and cried.

It was my turn. To sit and to process and let all of what I pushed down bubble up and ooze onto tissues while I ate dinner at the kitchen table by myself.

I wasn’t feeling sorry for myself, but rather, perplexed by this huge open space. I’d shovel in stir-fry or noodles and look curiously at my heart holes. The voids of his missing mingling with all the remedies I’ve tried to use to fill my wound.

I keep thinking of Thomas in the Bible, when he doubts Jesus’ resurrection. I like to think Jesus takes Thomas’ hand and holds his fingers over his wounds.

24 Now Thomas, one of the twelve, called the Twin,[a] was not with them when Jesus came. 25 So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord.” But he said to them, “Unless I see in his hands the mark of the nails, and place my finger into the mark of the nails, and place my hand into his side, I will never believe.”

26 Eight days later, his disciples were inside again, and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” 27 Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here, and see my hands; and put out your hand, and place it in my side. Do not disbelieve, but believe.” 28 Thomas answered him, “My Lord and my God!” – John 20:24-29

Jesus knows Thomas has to touch the scars to believe not only in the truth of Jesus’ power, but to have closure so he can move forward.

Jesus goes right in, tenderly saying to Thomas ‘I see how my pain caused you great pain. How my wounds have given you some too. The scars can heal. Touch them and see. And move forward.’

This summer, all this damn quiet has opened my wounds.

People are busy and instead the spirit is present.

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Photo by aaron staes on Unsplash

She holds my fingers over my scars, touching and tending and healing as I sit and read and cry.

Noise will come again. People return from Europe. Task lists and projects and deadlines will loom.

But for now, I sit quietly, smoothing beautiful skin and wiping my glistening eyes.

 

Rest. Breathe. Observe. Reflect. Repeat. 

I just got back from a weekend away in the mountains.

Funny how when you say yes to rest, your body shows you just how tired you have been.

I have been tired.

Like watching your puppy stare up at you, eye lids heavy, trying to stay alert and awake and failing. Head droops. Heart rests on the floor.

I’ve been tired of the rushing from here to there and my self-propelled late nights working on dreams.

Tired of my wrists hurting from typing.

Tired of scrolling through angry posts, of crazy world news, of buckets of rain and high winds.

Tired of tuning in to CNN.

Tired of fear and inadequacy.

Tired of sadness and the gut ache of grief.

Tired of big sighs and big storms and big losses.

And when we are tired, the world says do more, but my God says, ‘do less’.

Tired of resisting this truth.

I will refresh the weary and satisfy the faint.” – Jeremiah 31:25 

Why is it so hard to press pause, to release, to take not just one, but repetitive deep breaths.

Let go of the guilt you feel walking in the door upon returning from your escape.

Smile as you push the grocery lists and bills off the counter.

Watch the paper responsibilities, just paper, flutter to the floor.

For just for a few moments allow deep pulses of respite to seep into your bones. To massage out the tense aching in our ever fearful bodies.

Rest. Breathe. Observe. Reflect. Repeat. 

It’s ok. You can pick up the envelopes and organize the pile now. Think about food. Nourish your self. Rest.

Tomorrow will be for rising again.

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The Chair in the Middle of The Room

When I was growing up I was an avid youth group kid. I eagerly anticipated Wednesday night church gatherings, and was proud to be an evangelical – inviting my friends to come with me to weekly gatherings in the hope that they too may find the joy of Jesus.

I remember, quite vividly, a sermon one of our leadership gave about being the light in the world. We walked into the Youth Room, walls painted red, fresh carpet in geometric patterns, foosball table tucked in the corner, and at the front one of our leaders was standing on a chair.

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He invited several kids to come and stand on the chair, one at a time. Then invited the one standing to try and lift others unto the chair with them. It was hard for the one standing to get his friends up with him, when little effort was exerted by the  youth being pulled from the arm socket, onto the wobbly, wooden seat.

The demonstration shifted and the leader then asked those standing underneath to try and pull the standing youth off of the chair. With enthusiasm, the teen from the carpet swiftly pulled the other youth down from his perch. The leader paused, waited for laughter to calm, and explained his unfolding metaphor.

It is much easier to be the one pulling down onto the lower levels. When standing in a higher space, it can be difficult to lift others into the light, into the space of grace, onto “spiritual solid ground.” So what can we do to bring others up onto the chair?

Here is where the lesson gets muddy, and my spiritual growth starts to fail me. I’m not sure how I feel about this implied moral superiority – that I was taught that I was the one standing on the chair, in the cleaner, brighter air because of my faith. Seems a little wrong to instill in teenagers that they are ‘better than’ because they have Jesus.

I still have many questions about faith, and Jesus, and truth. Yet, I know that this year I have returned to the Gospel in ways I previously resisted, and do find comfort here in the mist of confusion.

Here is what I do very much agree with – It is so much easier to be pulled down from the chair. 

As I write this there are nine hours left in 2016. This has been one of the most challenging years of my life, and I know there are lessons I’ve learned from this year that will carry me forward. Many events outside of my control seemingly knocked me swiftly off my seat.

I admit that it can be exhausting to be optimistic, to look for the beautiful, to be pulling one after another up into the light, to the seat on higher ground.

Many people are saying 2016 was horrible, and anticipating that 2017 may be worse. To this I cringe – I don’t want worse. I want healing. And I want people to keep helping lift me onto the seat. To pick up my chin, and say ‘Hey, I’m here with you. Let’s climb up these rickety chairs together, and stand with arms triumphant.’

There is beauty in the suffering, and also beauty in the refusal to be dragged down by the negativity of others. Beauty in continuing to choose to look for the good. Beauty in afternoon walks, and the smell of laundry detergent, and sleeping in, and frozen pizza, and dinners in front of the tv. Beauty in music played on guitars, and backyard fires, and laughter, and treats from Trader Joes. Beauty in books, and phone calls, and text messages, and the mountains. Beauty in lattes and rosemary plants that grow indoors. In puppies, in warm socks, in kleenex, in healing tears. Beauty in peanut butter cups, and glasses of red wine. In intelligent conversations and witty comments. Beauty in games, and sweet smelling shampoo. Beauty in holding hands, remaining soft, and open to the world. Beauty in weakness, in vulnerability, in shared experience.

So this I ask you – who will you be in 2017? The one helping individuals into the light, or the one pulling us down from our seats?