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.

Between Faith and Hope

Living in faith is hard. Having faith means having hope and hope can be painful. It can be especially hard when seeing so much heartbreaking news. On Easter my pastor walked us through the doubt Thomas had in believing Jesus was alive.

It’s hard to believe in the hope of Christ at times.

When churches are burned down in St. Landry Parish in Louisiana.

As the Norte Dame burned last week.

When families worshipping are violently killed.

When a young mother has to be put into a comatose state to prevent her condition from worsening .

It’s hard to hope in the midst of all that. To doubt that God cares about any of that. To have hope in the middle of hardships and pain.

In these things I see the care and love of God. I watch as people donate money to rebuild churches. As people sing hymns in the streets of Paris, worshiping, weeping and seeking. As people come together to grieve for worshippers killed at their Mosque. As Christians endured this tragedy this past Sunday. As prayers for Rachel Held Evans trend on Twitter, I see faith and belief and love take hold.

I see Jesus. He is there in the midst of it all. In the grief and the coming together, the messiness of it all.

Having faith doesn’t mean having everything fixed. It doesn’t mean everything is just right.

For me it means sitting with hope in the midst of hardship. It means sitting in grief because grief doesn’t negate hope. It means making room for questions but also for answers.

Having faith allows me to reach for hope when I fear the pain it might bring. Faith has allowed me to understand hope in the struggle. Sometimes it looks like living in the in between of faith and hope. In all of it Jesus meets all of us.

Embracing Waiting

Waiting. It feel like in my life that I’m constantly waiting for something, at times patiently and other times not as much. I know I’m not alone in this I’m sure.

Waiting is often seen as unfair. People hate to wait. If there is an unforeseen wait, people become uncomfortable and impatient. It can either be the day to day errands that end up taking longer. Or in the waiting for other things, dreams and hopes in life.

Waiting means inconvenience. It means that the thing I may want will take longer or even not at all. Waiting can mean disappointment. It can mean heartache. It can also mean gaining something far greater than originally hoped for.

What matters is how I wait. When I wait with an attitude of I deserve this or that, then I become selfish. I lose sight of the things I already have in my life. Instead becoming obsessed with this thing or hope.

When I wait with a sense of humbleness and prayerfully my focus becomes less on myself and more onJesus. Laying all my expectations at the feet of Jesus. This doesn’t mean I have ceased longing for these things but I give up on the idea that I have control over gaining them.

I confess this is hard for me to do. I’ve had to give up hopes & desires again and again. I’ve had to learn to let go of an expectation. I’ve had to learn that not getting something in the timeframe I wanted doesn’t mean I’m less than somehow. There are things I have longed for in the past that hurt so much when it didn’t happen. As I look back, I find myself grateful today for that journey. I understand that in some things I had desired was with the wrong heart and attitude.

It always comes back to that. It’s not so much the what I’m waiting on but where is my heart and attitude about it? Instead of seeing waiting as an inconvenience, I am choosing to see it as an opportunity.

An opportunity to learn, an opportunity to grow. This year I to choose to embrace waiting instead of fighting against it. Because I wonder how much I have missed when fighting against waiting. What lessons have I missed because my focus was so zoned in on what I was waiting on instead of leaning into where the Lord was leading me?

And just like that, I believe I have found my word for this year. Or in this case phrase Embracing Waiting.

Linda - Victory

I Forgot Hope

Just like that in a flash it’s no longer the start of the new year but it’s end.

As I sit here contemplating what this year has been I realized that I forgot my word for 2018! I had to look at my post from last year to remember what my the word I had chosen!

My word was Hope, and I forgot about it. I think that’s funny.

It’s funny because I didn’t have to think about it. I wasn’t in need of reminding to Hope because this year has been living it out. That is such a blessing! Throughout this year of change and transitions, hope in Christ carried me through.

Just as with all years, it has been good, sad, exhausting, joyous and at times boring. I’ve grown in ways I didn’t foresee, fell back into some old habits and can say this has been a rather productive year for me all in all.

As those social media year end round ups start up I won’t sit there comparing my year against others.

I know what I achieved, what I let slide and what I chose to do with my time.

As this year prepares to wrap up, I understand Hope a bit more. Perhaps at times when I’m hoping for something instead of putting Hope in Christ I’m missing the point. What I learned this year is that Hope was something I already had.

I’m not sure I will choose a word for 2019. At this moment I don’t have an inkling for one. I’m not even sure what I’d like to try to achieve next year. Guess what, I’m just fine with that! Dear reader if you don’t either, embrace it!

A Place to Call Home

Last May I moved into my own place. For the first time since my early twenties, I had my own door to close. I’ve shared homes with roommates and family but it still was not something I could call my own. I never believed it would be possible that I would have have my own home.

But God did.

So much of my growth have been the times that God forced the situation. Forcing me to look at Him in trust and provision. Because so often when I have looked at the situation from my perspective, it was impossible. From God’s perspective it was possible.

I have lived God’s provision in my life over and over again. Ten years ago I was in between jobs, with no savings and no idea what would come next. For months, as I looked for work somehow I managed to put gas in my car and eat. I gave my sister what I could for rent and took up cleaning and cooking for the household to try to make up for the deficit.

Eventually, I did find a job along with some side gigs and another part time job. It wasn’t perfect and I still struggled to get by most weeks. But I was getting by and God was working in me through that time. I needed to mature in some areas and learn how to trust more in others. Trust in Him that good would come from this season.

Last May I signed the lease to my place and handed over my deposit. I held those keys with a sense of awe and disbelief. I finally had my own place! A place to be filled with people and laughter. I didn’t bother to change out of my pajamas or make my bed the first time I had someone over for breakfast. I’ve discovered I enjoy having friends over!

I still have my moments where I still can’t believe that I actually live in my own place. I understand what a privilege it is to have a place. God provided it and I recognize that just as He provided it, it can be gone. Having a safe place to live is such a blessing. A blessing I don’t take lightly. I’m just so grateful.

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.

Typewriter

Finding the Right Words

When I relaunched this blog I came up with the tag line, finding my words. Writing is hard, keeping up a blog in a world of so many has been tough. I question the need for yet another blog in an already crowded field. Not to mention the constant death nil made about the state of blogging.

Which is why I took a break, allowing the website to gather dust. The truth was I had become overwhelmed with my self imposed blogging schedule. More often than not it feels like my words are flung into the great void called the internet.

Does it matter if I write in the greater scheme of things? Who would care if I find my words or not?

As I began to blog again, I found that it’s important to me. Writing, blogging these past few years has helped me to learn how to think through a topic. Believe me there have been many a blog post either deleted or sent to the draft file.

Finding my words mean also finding the right words. I have to own what I say on here, asking myself if what I’m writing will be helpful or show care for others. Too often words are simply flung out there. Not to mention how long things live out despite deleting anything.

Note how past social media posts can be used against someone? That something a person once believed can never change and therefore they should never change or grow? This often makes me think twice about posting much of anything lately to be honest.

I want to be real but also careful with the words I put out there. Regardless if they are read. I know what I’m putting out here and the effect of what I say can have on others.

With a less stringent blogging schedule, I found greater freedom in writing blogs . I’m not struggling to come up with a post. Instead I post as I like to, aiming for at least once a week. If I don’t have anything to say, I don’t post.

My words, whether spoken, texted, posted on social media or in a blog post matter. They come from my heart and therefore I must write with care. I hope for people to come away from reading a post having gained something. Some hope or encouragement or thought provoking.