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.

Learning to Love

Recently my church has started a new series in the book of Jonah titled Called To Love. The timing of the start of this series could not be more apropos in my view. As a Christian I have been taught by Jesus and others in my walk that we are called to love. It is after all it is the commandment that Jesus says we must follow.

Matthew 22: 37-40

You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and the first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.

What I see is  discomfort at being called to love, to love God and to love others. Because it is easier to not love everyone and choose to love a few. But we aren’t called to love just the few but all we encounter.

It’s easier than saying that at the end of the day all of us struggle. [Tweet “All of  us have a need to be loved and to love. To feel like we all matter, to be heard and cared for. “] All of have a need to be loved and to love. One life is not less valued because of differing views or circumstances. It saddens me when I read comment sections and people demand  deaths or bodily harm of others because of what exactly? A shared post on social media?

We must choose to love others because God loves us. God loves me through the darkness and my straying heart. We must love the person who chooses to sit out or kneel during the anthem, not call for harm for them. Love the person who protests police abuse, Love the police officer on the job. By loving them I mean to see beyond the surface, to see their soul that God too loves. To sit down and have a conversation, to listen to them. Listening to someone can at times be the single biggest act of love.

Love others by listening. The art of listening has fallen to the wayside. Too quickly we are simply waiting to say what we have been waiting to say instead of hearing the other person ( often, this has been myself). By listening to others, learning their story and what they have endured and why they are where they are in life. Before anything can change, we must first love without placing requirements upon it.

It takes work.  It is hard to love another who perhaps has far different views that we can hold so dear. In loving others is not about making people believe as you do. Or that only those who wholly agree with everything you believe are worthy of your love. I am learning how to love people who can be frustrating or not easy to get along with in the first place. I have had to admit my failings here and seek Jesus’ strength to love as I have been commanded.

Love is not easy, can often seem a far out concept and hurts. In the end, love is worth the effort.

Thankfulness

There are times life can be hard. So hard that it can be hard to see the blessings in our lives. Even amidst the hardships.

However looking at what is good, to be thankful can help you grow as person. Maybe it sounds corny, or cliche’ to you. Taking the time to reflect on things that you have, the people in your life who love you can change your outlook on life. It can grow your relationship with God.

This is what happened to me. A few years ago I was at a point where I took everything for granted and then things changed on me. I had to make a choice, either turn to God or walk away. By turning to Him, I was grown and stretched in so many ways. I was being shown how much I needed Him.

I began a document on  to list all the things I should be thankful about in life. A document I still update today. Sometimes the list goes on and on. Other days it takes time for me to see how I can be thankful in hardship. Writing, journaling always helps me to regain the right attitude in life.

I learned to appreciate so many things and people in my life. I have learned to step back and have a different perspective on things. It reminds me to not take things for granted. A needed reminder at times.

This is what thankfulness looks like to me.

What does thankfulness look like in your life?

Strength Not From Myself

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I do not handle stress well.

I have been anxious and angry lately. Circumstances are not where I want them to be. A lot of is not new but at times it is hard to wait on God. To even be still.

I tend to keep moving. To keep busy until I exhaust myself.

I do not always run to God as I should. Instead I revert to old habits. Habits that I find some kind of immediate comfort. Habits can be destructive.

All this does is run me down. I do not eat as well or exercise. My sleep is not as restful. I feel jittery and out of sorts. In other words, the complete opposite of who I usually am.

Resentment builds up in me. And yet I do not seek God as I should.
Because I do not want to hear what I already know.
I cannot do this on my own.

He is there, waiting to take on my burdens as I push him aside. As if I am a proud toddler, declaring “I can do it!” Even when I do not want to. When all I long to do is hide from my life. To not feel or face things in my life.

As much as I would like it to, life does not stop. There is work, family, friends who have their own struggles.

God is patient with me in these times. Placing people in my life who love over me. Who show me His grace again and again. I am so grateful to be placed in community and relationships who care for me.

He is my comfort. He is my strength. And I forget that. I believe that my problems or struggles are not worthy of His time.

That is when I need to stop. To stop and be still. To listen to my breath. To be still and wait on God.

For His plans for me are vast and pure. All that is asked of me is to trust and rest in Him.

Matthew 11:30 For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.

When do you find yourself seeking something other than God in times of stress?

photo credit: blessed app