Linda under a tree

The Edges of Grief

This time of year can bring unexpected emotions for me. It’s an odd time, the season is Spring ( or if your down here in Florida, bordering on Summer), a time of renewal. And yet it contains the edges of grief.

Just over a week ago, a writer I respected passed away quite unexpectedly.Rachel Held Evans was a well known Christian writer who loved Jesus, people and gave so many a pathway as they questioned the idea of faith. This loss is immeasurable, most especially to her young children and husband. ( if you want to better understand the impact that one life can have, spend some time reading through the hashtags #prayforRHE and #becauseofRHE).

In thinking of her life and the grief that follows, I began to also think of all those living with the edges of grief.

Grieving takes a different shape for each of us. It’s complex and undefinable. Though in our desire to understand we try to categorize it. Define it by stages , which to be fair do exist but not necessarily in any particular order.

I lost my mom unexpectedly when I was twelve due to a brain aneurysm.It was a blow to my family that still reverberates to this day. Our relationship was tenuous, complicated. I I felt robbed of getting to develop a relationship with her.

Grief never truly leaves. It becomes less heavy, less prominent but ever present. It lives on the edges of our life. It’s the moment of laughter tinged with the thought I wish _______ was here for this. It’s years later after navigating through those family celebrations that one year I wanted the old way back. Just for a brief moment. Those thoughts don’t take away from the present joy, they are simply part of things as they now.

I think of these things as I reflect on the 27 years without my mom. I’m grateful for the relationship with my Aunt who stepped into my life when my mom was unable due to her mental health. I’m grateful for our relationship today, as we have come far from those initial days of grieving. I’m grateful for the stories about my mom that now flow without effort or that sting most times, I’m grateful for my sisters, who remind me of her and whose love keep her memory alive.

I remind myself that it’s ok to grieve still. Jesus wept after all. I think too often we want to just get through and check off the list. We need to lament, to cry out and to remember. Regardless if the grief is raw or not. There is no time limit on grieving. It took me time to understand how much grief had changed me. How it informed first my lack of relationship with God. But also helped form my current relationship with God.

Living with the edges of grief doesn’t mean I live a life lacking joy or happiness. It’s simply another part of me. And that’s ok.

Cross and bright sunshine

Beyond My Heart

I’ve been thinking about what it means to follow God’s heart instead of my own.

Praying

Wrestling

Journaling

In these times of instant reaction and emotional see saws it’s hard to get a grasp on what truly matters. It’s been hard for me to step back and take my time processing information. So much is thrown out here on the inter webs. One story after another comes out, full of half facts and slanted view points.

It just gets so loud.

I’ve had to learn to limit my time on social media. Spend more time in prayer and with God’s word and less on social media. Taking time to sift through facts and not just react.

I’ve also learned that because I may have a response to someone’s post doesn’t mean I need to respond. Social media is not necessarily a place for conversation. It’s more of a declarative thing, a way to say I CHALLENGE YOU TO ARGUE MY POST!

Something I’ve also been guilty of doing. I mention this because the struggle I have is one of judgement of others. As if a post or comment can show me the depth and breadth of a persons heart.

When I sit in judgement of others , I am saying that I am right and that’s all that matters. But there is something bigger that must happen beyond being right. It’s caring for people in a way that makes me uncomfortable.

My heart gets caught up in the surface of things. The anger I feel towards injustice, pain and hatred is natural. It’s important to reject racist rhetoric, to educate and speak up when needed.

When it gets dangerous is when I’m inclined to turn away from people. When my desire is to turn away instead towards them. Calling out hate speech, racism in our everyday lives is important. But what happens after the call out is important too.

This is where the heart work comes in ( see what I did there). It’s not enough that hatred is exposed, but also to help another let go of ingrained, generational hatreds and fears.

Because if my heart is hardened towards others, how can I even claim to love Jesus?

In this place I sit with the Lord. I pray for a heart beyond myself. To use the anger that I was created with for His will and not my own. How can I be effective for the Lord if I don’t come from a place of love?

My Health Journey

Six years ago I learned how to be healthier and that running isn’t the devil. But so much can change over time, mindset, metabolism, schedule and motivation. I’ve found what works for me, what foods or moods can trigger me. That just because I know how to make better choices when it comes to my health, it doesn’t mean I will or want to.

The things I have learned about my body over these six years are numerous. I will continue to learn more as I get older. I’ve learned what I don’t want just as much as what I want.

Why I Don’t Stress My Weight

It’s not that I don’t care that my weight is where it is today. At my “ideal ” weight, I was the least joyful. The process of losing weight was easier in some respects than maintaining my “ideal” weight. Losing weight, I had a goal to meet. It’s the same as when I did Whole 30, I also had a goal to meet in doing that. I do well with goals it seems, especially if they are public ones too.

But maintaining an “ideal” weight that in the end isn’t so ideal isn’t healthy either. Nor is letting my continued apathy towards where I am right now. How will this look in my life as discover new goals? I honestly don’t know yet. But I do understand better that ideal isn’t necessarily a number on the scale.

Where I am today and where I would like to be has a ways to go.

Lacking Motivation

I also lack the motivation to do what I need to do to get there. When I lost the bulk of my weight, I was doing two intense workouts a day, seven days a week (I learned later on about rest days). It wasn’t something that can be maintained in the long run.

I also don’t want to stop eating the way I have been. There, I said. It’s been a stressful time with my move and moving into a new role at work but it’s also been my choice. It’s not that I eat nothing healthy but ending each day with ice cream doesn’t help that.

A New Start

I know what I need to do. It’s about owning the choices I have made to get here. To understand why I have chosen to eat the way I have ( tastes good, makes me feel good, convenient).

Previously as I posted about healthy eating or a motivational picture, I was not always following my own advice. That is the reality of blogs, social media et al. It’s not the entire story.

The reality of getting healthy is that it’s something that can fall away. I didn’t believe I would end up making the same choices that have lead to my weight gain when I was in the midst of losing it. But here I am and the reality is at times it can feel easier to fall back into the habits that I know. Instead of habits that are good for me.

This takes routine as well as motivation. But life doesn’t adhere to routines, at least not for long. Things shift, an illness, a change in jobs and *poof* it changes. Sometimes it’s easier to get back into it. Other times it takes longer, or even not at all.

This is where I’m at right now. Trying to make the better choices, owning when I don’t and meeting myself where I am. And most importantly, not comparing myself to others. The other day as I went out for my run/walk, a gentleman ran circles around me at the park. It hit me that I too had been at the point where I could run laps nearly non-stop. One day I may be there again but I have to want it and work up to that once again. That’s what I mean by meeting myself where I am.

Reality of Justice

” Injustice anywhere is a threat to Justice anywhere.”

-Martin Luther King Jr.

Letter From a Birghinham Jail

This is one of my favorite quotes from Doctor King. If you haven’t read the letter in full, please take a few moments to do so here. I can get caught up in the visceral notion of what Justice should look like, righting wrongs.

Growing up, I believed that everyone in jail were all bad guys and deserved to be there. I believed all law enforcement were for the good of all.

Then I grew up and started to learn that this wasn’t always true. I began to understand that often people are lead less by altruism for others and more so for their own gain. Or defense of what they believed needs to be protected.

This week the Memorial for Peace and Justice opened in Alabama. It honors those who suffered at the hands of being lynched. A type of “justice ” served up to punish those who were convicted not of crimes breaking the laws per se. But the reality often was ( and is) the breaking of social morays. This memorial is necessary to highlight past injustices and current ones. To address the reality of our past and present.

This memorial is a place of reckoning. A small piece of justice but one that can be fully more so if the gravity of this place is fully embraced.

Justice is often more emotional than is admitted. We want to believe that justice is blind, where the facts of the case carefully weighed. Instead what often happens is the opposite. Emotion rules over facts.

Justice is something we will never get right. Human nature will always mess it up. Desire to be right or to push “undesirables” out of view will be around.

But we can do better. By being willing to learn and listen is a start. It’s the place I started. By asking the hard questions and leaning into the often hard answers.

Trusting in what God is doing is another place I’ve leaned into. In the end, true restorative and healing justice lies with God. Trusting Him, loving God and learning is the start of true justice.

Injustices must be called out, those previously dismissed listened to and given space to speak. We must examine our hearts about what we choose to look past because of the truth being too hard. It has to be hard.

Justice begins by learning, taking time to read, listen and absorb. I have much to learn yet but this is where I am today. Developing a better awareness and understanding in order to do better.

There is the possibility of true justice but I believe that it’s possible to do better, to have hope in that.

Two books that I reccomend reading

The New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander

White Trash by Nancy Isenberg

I suggest Truths Table podcast and finding voices on Twitter follow as well.

That Reading Habit

Ever since I learned to read, books have been my constant companions. Reading was the usual, constant habit in my house growing up. Books, newspapers, boxes of cereal EVERYTHING was read!

I have gone through periods of consuming books ravenously, one after another. Reading has taught me so much, exposed me to different ways of thinking and taught me how to think.

But last year I realized that my reading habit had diminished. I wasn’t reading quite as much as I once had. A lot of different factors contributed to this for me. Busyness was one, lack of interest and my diminished attention span.

Last year I decided to change this, I had to be more intentional with doing it. As with working out or eating well, this too needed to be part of my daily routine.

I have been somewhat successful. I mean after all I still haven’t finished the Alexander Hamilton biography in almost two years .

I still can get distracted by Netflix (too many good shows! I’m looking at you Stranger Things & Black Mirror). Sucked into social media or am just too lazy to engage.

A friend recommended the Hoopla app ( found on google play or the App Store). Connect with your library card and you get access for fifteen downloads a month! Audio books, E books, music and videos available for free!

Utilizing this app has helped keep me on track with reading! Audio books have become my commuting habit and I often listen as I workout or clean up the house.

Some days I have to fight harder past the distractions to read.

I also have gotten into a podcast by Levar Burton Reads where each a new shirt story is read aloud. They are usually thirty to fifty minutes long. I mean it’s Levar Burton reading a short story!

Reading helps to give me perspective. It is far more nuanced than tweets or blaring headlines. It gives me the needed break from daily stresses and allows me to rest.

This year I will finally finish that Hamilton biography.

How do you keep up your reading habits?

Love and Hate

I attended church yesterday with a heavy heart, the events of Saturday in Charlottesvile, VA at the forefront of my mind. I was not however surprised. Racism is something that will always exist in this broken world. My pastor spoke that love and hate are intertwined. I cannot disagree, love is powerful and can be good. It means caring and wanting the best for the thing I love.

But

What do I love so much that I would hate? It’s a valid question. If my family or friends are hurt, I hate what hurts them.

So

As I look at my newsfeed on various social media outlets, and I look at the chilling photos of well dressed white men holding torches and seig heiling ( not sure of the proper verbage for it). I wonder how much do they love the idealogy of whiteness to hate the rest of God’s creations?

For we are all image bearers. My saviour was not white. He was on earth a middle eastern Jewish man who brought salvation to all.

One cannot be of two minds. You either love God and therefore love all. Or hate God and love the few. What you love is what you are most passionate about, what you expend time and energy on. If you are more passionate arguing on social media about things that attack your comfort than  in working to love God and others than perhaps its time to reevaulate what you are truly loving. The heart is a decitful thing, and idol maker and can lead people away from God.

This weekend’s past events in addition to other events have made it evident that there are many who love the idealogy of whiteness over all. The death of Heather Heyer happened because a man so full of hate drove into a crowd on purpose. Because what he loves overrides the diginity of others. Because what he worships was being attacked in his mind.

I pray for him to repent and have  a Paul moment ( Act 9:1-19). Paul was a man called Saul who persecuted Christians until Christ intervened, causing him to be blinded for a period of time. When he was able to see again, he saw the truth of who he had been and became someone new. I truly believe that people can change, to learn to love something beyond their own comforts.

My first inclination is to hate these people right back. I am angered and saddend but not surprised. I must fight against this because how can I claim to love Christ if I hate who he created? How can people meet Jesus if I am not willing to see them as people in need of Him?

I love God and therefore I fight against hate. I will do so by how I know best, my words. I will continue to work in my community loving people because they need love. I will engage in hard conversations and not back down. I will listen and read as I have been. I have much to learn and much to love. Most of all much to be in prayer for my own heart, my community and this nation.

I pray for there to be more love of God then of self preservation.

Books I have been reading

Explicit Gospel by Matt Chandler

When Helping Hurts by Steve Corbett and Bryan Fikkert

The New Jim Crow – Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness by Michelle Alexander

White Trash  The 400 year untold story of class in America by Nancy Isenberg

 

Welcoming Change

Change is part of life. It is not always welcome and sometimes it’s wanted. At other times it is the opposite. Change means letting go of what I know. The routine, what is known and familar. I have clung to the things that have hindered my growth in Jesus because if fearing change. Other times I have tried to force change into my life with varying results.

Welcoming change is different from wanting change. For myself, welcoming it means submitting to what God has planned for my life. Some of the best things in my life have come from the unexpected and unplanned changes. Forcing me to move forward or even away from situations that were not healthy or had hindered my growth. I had no choice but to adjust and move forward. In welcoming change, I allow for growth in my trust of Jesus and what He has in store for my life.

Wanting change, in my experience has been an exercise of running away. Believing that in having this change that something else in my life would be cured. Each time I have been wrong.  Often making things in my life more frustrating. I was not willing to see that in forcing change in my life, I was only exasperating other things. Sins I was unwilling to confess. That I falsely believed could be remieded by changing jobs or moving, what I was trying to leave behind ended up staying right with me.

Change is inevitable, often coming into my life swiftly and unexpectedly. As in anything else in life, how I react to it is what defines me. It reveals where I do place my trust and it is not always in Christ. Instead I look to people in my life for validation or inclusion for my hope. By leaning into the lessons of change in my life I have grown in my trust of Christ. Perhaps that the best reason of all to welcome change in my life. To understand that though much will change in my life, God will always be constant and unchanging. That is a great comfort for me.