Keep the Faith

These last couple weeks have been tough. I realize in the difficult times I tend to not write as much. I guess I’m not inspired. I feel a bit sorry for myself. I don’t have much energy…I try not to push myself too hard. I have been missing family a lot recently and feeling the full weight and isolation of living alone in a foreign country. The side effects of my medicine have been brutal as the summer temperatures climb and in general I have just felt suffocated by the things that are unknown and the things that are out of my control.

I have my bad moments. I don’t like them but it’s honest. I’m not endlessly positive…I can throw myself a pretty good pity party. I reached a point on Monday where I just needed to get out of town. Somehow being alone in an unfamiliar place is better than being alone in a familiar place. Through a last minute cancellation I was able to head up to a friend’s place on Ameland for a few days.

This has been just the right mental break for me. I don’t have any real answers to my questions but God is gently restoring my perspective.

I was incredibly encouraged by the story of Peter walking on the water in Matthew this morning:

Meanwhile, the boat was far out to sea when the wind came up against them (the disciples) and they were battered by the waves. At about four o’clock in the morning, Jesus came toward them walking on the water. They were scared out of their wits “A Ghost!” they said crying out in terror.

But Jesus quick to comfort them “Courage it’s me. Don’t be afraid.”

Peter, suddenly bold, said, “Master, if it’s really you, call me to come to you on the water.”

He said, “Come ahead”

Jumping out of the boat, Peter walked on the water to Jesus. But when he looked down at the waves churning beneath his feet, he lost his nerve and started to sink. He cried, “Master, save me!”

Jesus didn’t hesitate. He reached down and grabbed his hand. Then he said, “Faint-heart, what got into you?”

The two of them climbed into the boat and the wind died down.

Matthew 14:24-33 (parentheses mine)

Peter can sometimes get a bad rap in this story. The Message translates it as “Faint-heart, what got into you?” The NIV says “You of little faith, why did you doubt?” I really empathize with Peter. At the beginning of the story it’s the 12 disciples…in a boat…in the middle of the lake…in the middle of a storm. Not a very nice place to be. I don’t know if they were sleeping but at 4:00 in the morning they were probably a bit groggy and then they see Jesus on the water. What the? I’d be terrified too!!

Peter tends to be the bold, impulsive one so once Jesus lets them know it’s OK he immediately asks to join him. My paraphrase of his question is:

Master, if it’s you…ask me to do something I can ONLY do by your power…ask me to do something I would never be able to do on my own! And Jesus does.

And then Peter jumps out of the boat excited to join Jesus…he takes some steps and then there’s a moment when reality catches up with him. Hey, wait a minute?! I’m walking on the water!! In a storm!! This is impossible!! And he shifts his gaze from Jesus to the churning water beneath his feet…that’s when he begins to sink.

Even with his sinking I have respect for Peter. The other 11 disciples stayed in the boat where they didn’t need to risk anything. Peter stepped out of security toward Jesus.

I feel like I am Peter in this story. I’m not walking on water literally. But in a season of my life where fears…and insecurities…and doubts…and pain were crashing against my heart like the waves against that boat…I saw Jesus standing there. I knew there was a way forward toward him but it was a path I couldn’t walk on my own strength…

Jesus, if it’s really you…ask me to do something I can ONLY do by your power.

Ask me to love when it is the last thing I want.
Ask me to trust when I don’t see the path but long to be healed
Ask me to forgive when it costs me so much.
Ask me to have faith that you wont let me sink.
Ask me to be confident that you will provide what I need
Ask me to have hope when things feel impossible.

Because in pursuing these questions I am no longer protecting my heart in the boat but RISKING…and it produces both fear and excitement…and life. I am being absolutely transformed.

I’ve spent the last few weeks focused on the fear and the waves at my feet rather than Jesus in front of me and I’ve been sinking. I’m thankful that he wont let me go down and is so gently shifting my focus back to him.

Sometimes Storm Survival is just recognizing the moments when your perspective is off…and shifting it back to where your strength/power comes from.

Blessings,

Lynnea

Fear of the Pain

I’ve decided that the next few “Storm Survival” posts will center around my experience with healing wounds…both physical and emotional. These difficult seasons often involve wounds. Wounds we have from the past, wounds we have given ourselves, wounds others have given us, wounds from circumstances. This past year I have been on the receiving end of some pretty deep blows which brought me to a very raw place. The type of rawness/hurt that made me want to take my heart, tuck it away in a locked box and throw away the key. It will be safe there. But healing doesn’t happen in the box. Healing happens when we allow the “healing process” that I wrote about on Monday. Which means keeping our hearts exposed and accessible…this can be vulnerable…scary and down right hard. I think the fear of the pain and uncertainty involved is what can keep people from engaging the process and true healing. It is easier/safer to choose the box and protect our hearts from further hurts.

If you follow this blog you will know about my recent physical wound which is teaching me so much about healing. After the accident I knew I would need stitches and my colleague took me to a local general doctor or “Huisarts”. From my experience they don’t actually DO much except act as a gate keeper for the rest of the medical system. Typically, I show up for a 10 minute appointment…they ask me some questions to determine the nature of the problem…and then if they decide it is severe enough they will refer me on to a specialist. I was fully expecting to have the cut evaluated and then be sent to a hospital to have the stitches put in.

WELL after the doctor evaluated the wound, and gave me the “You’re very lucky” speech, he reached for his suture kit to clean it and put the stitches in.Helium pain

WAIT! Hold up…YOU are going to do this? Now?! My brain was racing. I wasn’t quite mentally prepared and nowhere in his kit did I see any anesthetic. YOU are going to put stitches in WITHOUT giving me any pain medicine?! Ummmm. I have had stitches before and they numbed the area so well that I couldn’t feel it for another 6 hours. Now, NOTHING!! Crap, this is going to hurt. This is going to hurt A LOT! Immediately, the fear of the pain gripped me. OK, deep breath…I don’t have much of a choice. Another deep breath and I closed my eyes…it should be over quickly.

And you know what? It wasn’t nearly as bad as I had built it up in my head. My imagination was so much worse and the FEAR of the unknown and “what could be” ran away with me. It wasn’t nice. And, yes, it hurt but I needed it for healing and apparently I didn’t need anything to numb the pain.

It made me think of all the things I can allow FEAR to build up in my head. And how often I think I NEED something I don’t. I am not saying that healing deep emotional wounds is the same as getting stitches. There are things that can and probably will really hurt…but for me the healing on the other side is worth it. And we don’t do it alone. I’m learning to trust more and more that God really is who He says He is. He wants nothing more than to heal our wounds. Honestly, it can sometimes be hard for me to know how to relate to an invisible God ESPECIALLY in a crisis. But He has been faithful over and over. Part of my healing this year has come from learning how to trust Him completely and learning that He really will keep me from going down. He really will! He loves me more than I can imagine and has spent the last year and a half showing me what that looks/feels like. It’s been incredible. And as difficult as this season has been I wouldn’t want to go back. I LIKE the person I am…and THAT is freedom.

It is tough to give REAL practical tips for this that don’t sound cliche but I’ll give it a shot:

  1. Don’t do this alone. Find friends or a community to surround you. If you have some deep pain/heart ache try working with a counselor. We’ve all got wounds and we can’t heal on our own. We need community.
  2. Pray A LOT. He will be faithful to answer just don’t be surprised if it is not how you expect
  3. Read the bible – learn the promises it has for you. My favorite this year:

    Don’t Panic. I’m with you.
    There’s no need for fear for I’m your God.
    I’ll give you strength. I’ll help you.
    I’ll hold you steady, keep a firm grip on you.

    The poor and homeless are desperate for water,
    their tongues parched and no water to be found.
    But I’M there to be found, I’M there for them,
    and I, God of Israel, will not leave them thirsty.
    Isaiah 41:10, 17 (The Message)

Blessings,

Lynnea

 

All Night Long

This blog has been a little bit quiet the last week because my sister has been visiting me from Singapore…and the sun finally emerged in the Netherlands so I have to enjoy that while I can. But I wanted to get a quick “Storm Survival” post out.

I have received this particular “Streams in the Desert” post 3 times in the last 2 days and stormy seawanted to share it. I found it to be very encouraging and sometimes storm survival is just allowing yourself to be encouraged for that day…allowing God to provide what you need to keep going and keep hoping. The post talks about Exodus 14 and God parting the Red Sea so the Israelites could cross.

“Then Moses stretched out his hand over the sea and GOD, with a terrific east wind ALL NIGHT LONG, made the sea go back. He made the sea dry ground. The seawaters split”
– Exodus 14:21 (The Message – emphasis mine)

I’d heard this story many times but somehow always missed the part that God worked through the night to part the sea. I guess I had internalized the “Hollywood” version where Moses raises his hand and the clouds get stormy and the waters immediately part…or at least within the span of the 2 minute clip. Nothing about them needing to wait all night. The first 1:30 from this clip of the Bible Miniseries Episode 2 (Exodus) does a great job of illustrating what I am talking about with the dramatization of the event:

I am trying to imagine what it was like. God had just used Moses to free his people from slavery under the Egyptians in a pretty spectacular fashion. He sent 10 plagues down to try and convince Pharaoh to release them…they were all pretty brutal but Pharaoh wouldn’t budge until the last one that killed his son. He had finally had enough of the Hebrew people and their God and allowed them to leave. So they collected their families and belongings and set out as a giant mob across the desert heading to the “Promised Land” where God would establish them as a new nation. Pharaoh eventually regrets letting his entire work force go and calls up his army to go after them.

There comes a point where the Israelites reach the Red Sea and God promised they would cross to the other side on dry land but I’m sure it looked pretty impossible to them…also they know now that Pharaoh is coming after them. There’s water in the front and a vicious army behind them. I think it would be pretty easy to doubt God’s promises and be afraid. Especially when Moses raises his hands, the wind picks up…and then nothing immediately happens. They need to wait ALL NIGHT.

Here is an excerpt from the Streams in the Desert post:

In this verse there is a comforting message showing how God works in the dark. The real work of God for the children of Israel, was not when they awakened and found they could get over the Red Sea; but it was “all that night”.

So there may be a great working in your life when it all seems dark and you cannot see or trace, but yet God is working. Just as truly did He work “all that night,” as all the next day. The next day simply manifested what God had done during the night. Is there anyone reading these lines who may have gotten to a place where it seems dark?

You believe to see, but you are not seeing. In your life-progress there is not constant victory; the daily, undisturbed communion is not there, and all seems dark.

“The Lord caused the sea to go back all that night.” Do not forget that it was “all that night.” God works all the night, until the light comes. You may not see it, but all that “night” in your life, as you believe God. He works.

– C.H.P. (via Streams in the Desert)

To me this is encouraging in the waiting, hoping, trusting season I am in. God was and IS faithful. The sea did part and the Hebrew people were able to cross to the other side. But I imagine that night of waiting was extremely terrifying for them.

I can’t see God working right now. I am in a figurative “night” holding on to promises that He will work all things out for my good. I feel like I am standing in front of a “Red Sea” with no idea how I am going to get to the other side. I do believe that when the time is right the path forward will be revealed…when this night shifts to day. Until then, I will remind myself of God’s faithfulness in my life and in the past generations and I have no reason to think this is any different. I will attempt to live my life in faith/trust not in fear.

Blessings,

Lynnea

Feel your ground

My latest “Storm Survival” post has to do with the life lessons I learned from my running shoes. We can often “over cushion” our lives (numbing – especially during hard seasons) and not allow ourselves to truly feel the ground we are running on. This cushion can give us a false sense of reality…can cause us to run in unnatural ways…and can just be unnecessary weight. Removing that cushion was freeing but meant changing the way I ran.

I have gotten more into running these past few years – Probably because I live in the flat FLAT Netherlands and the largest incline I need to navigate is a bridge over the highway. 🙂 I prefer longer, slower distances. I’m not a sprinter. The initial endurance/distance increase can be rough but once I establish a routine I find running to be almost meditative. I can Photo1(11)clear my head and let my body fall into an easy rhythm. But like most runners I have had my share of injuries. I spent several months in 2011 rehabbing an IT band issue after the Amsterdam 1/2 marathon.

If you are around running you are probably aware of the barefoot or “minimalist” trend that has been gaining momentum. (Please bear with me if the very thought of running sends chills up your spine 🙂 )The idea is that humans really were designed to run…just differently than most people do it today. The theory is that we used to out run our dinner because we are able to use oxygen better and would literally run the animal to death. We were running before Nike existed so it meant we were barefoot. A major shift happened when the running shoe was invented and we put a cushion in between our foot and the ground. We changed from our natural bio mechanics absorbing the impact to the shoe. This cushion allowed us to change our running style (not for the better) and may be contributing to the increase in injuries that runners experience. I can’t go into all the science behind it but if you are interested there is a great resource here.

After I finished chemo and was rebuilding my mileage base I decided to change from my clunky Asics to a much more streamlined, minimal Adidas shoe. This change has made a huge difference for me. When I first started running I went to a proper store and had my stride evaluated…they decided I needed a shoe that would stabilize my foot when I ran along with a custom insole for my high arch. It was comfortable enough and I used this set up for years but I never felt like my foot landed “completely” correct. It always felt forced into a certain orientation. When I switched to the Adidas I felt more free and lighter…there was no arch support and only some slight padding…so I needed to make some adjustments to compensate for losing the cushion. Here are the major ones:

  1. You need to change the way you run – smaller faster steps reduce the force and landing on your forefoot helps you to absorb the impact
  2. You need to build up your miles SLOWLY. Can’t make this change and immediately expect to run the same distance. It’s similar to starting over. You are using different muscles/tendons and need to train them
  3. It takes a lot of focus in the beginning but eventually becomes more natural
  4. Accept that you may not be able to run as fast but you are (hopefully 🙂 ) running better

OK, that’s quite a back story…how did this change teach me about life? As I have been processing through my own storm season I began noticing all the ways I was tempted to compensate for my emotions rather than experience them. I would avoid them with TV. I might numb them with some wine. I would hold on to anger and resentment without facing the fear of letting go that existed underneath. These things were the cushion I wrapped around my life which allowed me to keep moving forward but I wasn’t living as free as I could. I wasn’t living how I was designed. I was relying too much on the padding and it was weighing me down.

But here is where the running analogy comes in. I know people who have wanted to make changes in their life and tried to dramatically overhaul everything. New goals, new way of living only to have the enthusiasm burn out because they did too much too fast. Then they get injured or frustrated and just stop. It takes time to retrain yourself and often we don’t have the patience.

Here are my practical suggestions based on the running lessons I learned:

  1. First you need to decide what you want to change and how. Much like changing your running stride it takes a decision. example: I realize I am using TV to distract myself from sitting with and processing through difficult emotions. I want to change that.
  2. Second, start slow. If you are removing a cushion and changing how you’re living you need to rely on something else to compensate. Partly, you might need to absorb more impact with your body. I think we are designed to experience more pain than we usually allow ourselves – it isn’t nice but with God’s grace it’s how we evolve and grow.
  3. You might need to strengthen other muscles…again slowly. You want to eat more healthy? Start with one meal a week. Exercise your planning and self control muscles. Build up from there. You want to stop avoiding things with work or TV? Try meditating/praying for 5 minutes everyday. Pretty soon that will seem easier…increase it to 10…etc. You are building up your “letting go” and trust muscles.
  4. Making changes takes focus and determination. Don’t expect it to be easy initially but it will get easier.
  5. Accept that you can’t start out where you ultimately want to be but with time you can get there. Trust God and give yourself grace in the process.

Til next week…happy surviving and running,

Lynnea

Surviving on Grace

2 Corinthians 12:9 is a popular verse for Christians and one that I have received comfort from and have been convicted by this year.

” My grace is enough, it’s all you need
My strength comes into its own in your weakness”
2 Corinthians 12:9 (The Message)

It is easy to say but I know that I haven’t always lived my life trusting that God’s grace REALLY is sufficient for me. And what does that even mean? We can limit it to something we only need to cover our sins. I have heard people use this to justify passivity…maybe there is an action you feel called to take but it’s OK “God’s grace” is enough for me so I don’t need to do that. Or, we say his grace is all we need and continue to pursue our own agendas and plans…then when we get to a crisis moment we find a way to solve it or hide it as fast as possible because it is painful and uncomfortable. We really are WEAK and often rather than allowing God’s grace to truly be enough we find a way to avoid the situation. I know I did…until I found myself in a place where I couldn’t avoid or control or escape. It was a strange/scary feeling to look around for my available options and find that I had none except truly landing on God’s grace. It kind of felt like this scene from Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade:

You know what? Grace really is sufficient…but it is not magic…it requires a real leap of faith by leaving the ground you have been standing on. And it typically means you need to wrestle with God through the hardship until your eyes and trust are fully on him and his purposes. It’s not always fun but it is freeing.

I think we spend a lifetime working out what it means to trust completely in grace but I am going to describe what it meant for me on Monday evening. Nothing glamorous but honest:

“There are a lot of things I would change about my situation if I could. I am not pretending things are fabulous…in general I live with a constant ache in my soul and I have absolutely no idea how things are going to turn out. I have peace, hope and trust but there is a war in my heart every moment of the day about which side is on top. The evenings are the worst. The darkness. The quiet. A TV show has brought some raw/hopeless feelings to the surface and it feels hard to breathe. Who knew that empty space can feel so oppressive? I have chosen to not have any wine this evening which means I feel the full spectrum of emotions. It’s time to get ready for bed. Lord, how do I even move? Honestly, I don’t know how but I move off the couch and head upstairs. I feel tired from not sleeping the night before and weak from being emotionally drained. I hit my knees…I don’t always pray on my knees but I was broken…

Lord, do you see me here? Do you see my pain? The hurt in my heart that I want so badly to be healed? Can you really touch those raw deep places? There is so much I want to change! I hate this! Is your grace REALLY all I need? These are the moments when it is hard to believe because it hurts so much. How do I trust? [something shifts in my spirit] I trust because you have been faithful beyond what I can imagine this year and even though it is hard to trust I believe you will continue. It really hurts but there is no place I can go where you can’t see me…even though sometimes I feel completely alone. I continue to offer you my heart to heal and restore. I don’t want to pull it back and “protect” it due to fear, anger and bitterness…but I also know that I can’t do that on my own. All I can do is keep coming to you asking for your transformation and healing…it is happening…just slowly. Thank you for loving me as much as you do.

I lay awake in bed most of the night. Even though I am exhausted I can’t sleep due to my medicine and emotions. A CRAZY spring rain storm passes over my house at about 1 am. It was ridiculously loud. I wasn’t sure if it was hail or rain pounding on the windows but it seemed to feel like the storm in my heart. Tossing and turning…Ugh I need to be up in 5 hours for work. Eventually I must have fallen asleep but I wake up more tired than when I went to bed. Lord, I don’t have the energy or the focus for today and I have a training in statistics…this is where I know I need your grace.

I left my house to head to my carpool. The rain had washed everything clean. The birds were chirping and there was even some blue (ish) sky :-). Spring smells of wet dirt and flowers filled my nose. I took a deep breath and it was as if God spoke back to me “Lynnea, your storm will eventually pass. There will be flowers, new life and springtime. I see you and things are changing even if you can’t see them yet…hang in there.” Me back to God after a deep breath and resetting my spirit “OK, this is not a fun process and I don’t know how I will survive it…but only by your strength every day. I trust in your promises. And you need to help me get through work today…I’m exhausted and you know I hate statistics.” End Story.

I feel like part of my purpose in this season is to break down some of the “Christian-ized” perceptions of how to walk through these difficult spaces with faith and hope. God’s grace IS sufficient. Right now. In the present. Not tomorrow or next week. NOW. It doesn’t mean that things will be magically easy. It means that it is an opportunity for God to transform your heart if you let Him. There is real hope. I believe in a God of redemption who will bring beauty out of the ashes of our broken lives. And I am proclaiming that even before I know what the beauty is in my own life…I’m still standing amongst the dying embers. I trust God’s promise that I will not go down or be burned up. That he is working all things out for my benefit even though I can’t see it yet.

I don’t have a lot of practical tips because grace is God’s arena, but we can make ourselves more available…take some space to ask yourself these questions:

  1. Are there emotions I have a hard time facing? Failure, Rejection, Fear, Pain, Boredom, Sadness, Uncertainty, Anxiety
  2. Do I use anything to distract myself or numb these emotions? These examples aren’t all bad in themselves but we can use them to avoid the hard things in life: TV, work, Facebook, alcohol, sex, exercise, kids, relationships
  3. It is in these places where we say with our actions and choices whether Grace is sufficient.  Are you truly trusting and relying on God or yourself? It is always in the difficult places we come face to face with our true hearts. It is easy to proclaim grace is sufficient on Sunday but what about the dark corners of your life? In what areas do you need to take a “leap of faith”?

Here’s to surviving another week,

Lynnea

I will KEEP remembering

This blog has been a bigger blessing in my life than I anticipated when I began writing. Sharing my journey has helped me make real connections with people going through similar trials. It has helped me know how many people are supporting me around the world which makes me feel less alone and isolated. Another thing I have appreciated, as I hit the 1 year anniversary of various milestones, is that it has captured my thoughts and feelings through this year. I can look back and read posts about my surgery or feeling scared before my first chemo infusion. I can relive some of the grief from lost dreams because I have chosen to be honest in this forum. Being able to look back helps me to look forward and that will be the topic of this Storm Survival post.

Almost exactly a year ago I wrote a post titled: I will remember. That was not a good season. That was an especially bad day. I was just starting chemo and it was going…well as good as chemo can go…but life outside of cancer had just become excruciating. I was broken. I was overwhelmed by everything that was coming at me. I didn’t have the capacity to deal with or process things that I needed to. I spent a lot of time in bed or on the couch in a daze. Breathing seemed to take too much effort. But I chose to write a post about remembrance. I believe in a good and faithful God, who is bigger than my circumstances, who has worked miracles and loves me more than I can imagine. A God of redemption. When my life was falling apart I chose to lift my eyes and remember the works and miracles of the past. His character hasn’t changed just because my life circumstances are hard.

I re-read that post…remembering all the pain I was feeling in that moment…and thinking some things have changed…some things haven’t. I had no idea what was in store for me over the next year when I wrote that. I had no idea what would still be stripped away and what I would need to surrender. I had no idea that God was actively training my heart to rely ONLY on him because the biggest tests were coming and I would be forced to my knees like never before. I had no idea that I would be able to point to practical examples of God’s protection of me. That I would be pushed completely out of my capacity into his and he really would sustain me…through the most difficult season I have ever faced…and am still facing.

I am not the same person I was a year ago. Only by God’s grace I am a better version of myself. This year has been scorching but it is solidifying who I am as a woman and a child of God. But the act of remembrance is one I need to renew and struggle with every morning. It wasn’t just a nice thought a year ago but the beginning of a continual process of calling to mind God’s faithfulness when my life circumstances want to pull my eyes down to my own hardships. This is an excerpt from my post a year ago:

Psalm 77
For the director of music. For Jeduthun. Of Asaph. A psalm.
1 I cried out to God for help;
I cried out to God to hear me.
2 When I was in distress, I sought the Lord;
at night I stretched out untiring hands,
and I would not be comforted.
3 I remembered you, God, and I groaned;
I meditated, and my spirit grew faint.[b]
4 You kept my eyes from closing;
I was too troubled to speak.
5 I thought about the former days,
the years of long ago;
6 I remembered my songs in the night.
My heart meditated and my spirit asked:
7 “Will the Lord reject forever?
Will he never show his favor again?
8 Has his unfailing love vanished forever?
Has his promise failed for all time?
9 Has God forgotten to be merciful?
Has he in anger withheld his compassion? ”
10 Then I thought, “To this I will appeal:
the years when the Most High stretched out his right hand.

11 I will remember the deeds of the LORD;
yes, I will remember your miracles of long ago.

12 I will consider all your works
and meditate on all your mighty deeds.”
13 Your ways, God, are holy.
What god is as great as our God?
14 You are the God who performs miracles;
you display your power among the peoples.
15 With your mighty arm you redeemed your people,
the descendants of Jacob and Joseph.
16 The waters saw you, God,
the waters saw you and writhed;
the very depths were convulsed.
17 The clouds poured down water,
the heavens resounded with thunder;
your arrows flashed back and forth.
18 Your thunder was heard in the whirlwind,
your lightning lit up the world;
the earth trembled and quaked.
19 Your path led through the sea,
your way through the mighty waters,
though your footprints were not seen.
20 You led your people like a flock
by the hand of Moses and Aaron.

At this particular moment I feel like I am living in the first half of this psalm (vs 1-10). Where my spirit is grieving and weary. It is difficult to be comforted or to find the strength to carry on. Sleep is hard to come by and it is impossible to know what to do. Except remember. I will choose to remember the ways God has worked in my life and the power/miracles he has displayed throughout time. This is not overly spiritualized my heart is still heavy…but I know my God. I know he is the giver of life and redemption. I know he can move mountains and pray fervently for transformation and provision.  And with this remembrance comes the peace of knowing it will not always be this way.

Once again…Psalm 77 by Kristin Serafini

I would love to say that after a year all my struggles are in the past. Unfortunately that is not the case. I am, however, in a different place. I have my moments of grief but I don’t feel like I am trapped any longer in the overwhelming, emotional cycle of the first 10 verses. It is easier for me to see and hold on to how faithful God has been through the generations and in my life. Again, note that I said easIER…because I still have to fight against my pride and desire to control things. It is not easy for me to truly let go but I am learning every day that that is the only way to true freedom. There is a mountain being moved in my life. It is still in process and in general it isn’t fun but God REALLY is moving a mountain. So I will keep remembering…I will keep clinging…I will keep hoping.

Practical tips:

  1. I have a list of the very real, very practical ways I have seen God provide and protect me this past year. When I doubt, when I am scared, when I am losing hope I read it. I remember the faithfulness of the past and wait expecting the same for the future…even when I can’t see the path yet.
  2. Sometimes “remembering” is hearing someone else’s testimony about how God has transformed their heart and life. Everyone’s story is different but hearing the ways God has worked helps keep me going. There are so many but here are a few I would recommend “The Hiding Place” by Corrie Ten Boom (This book will give you an amazing perspective on what Thanksgiving is), “Blood Brothers” by Elias Chacour (Finding God’s hope for reconciliation in a difficult region), “A Severe Mercy” by Sheldon Vanauken (Read this one with a box of tissue…but definitely read it)
  3. Once again with the journaling. 🙂 Nothing tells you how far you have come like a record of where you have been.
  4. No other practical suggestions except do what you can to get up every morning…it wont always be like this.

Here’s to surviving another week,

Lynnea

 

Allowing space to grieve

Vincent_van_Gogh_-_Old_Man_in_Sorrow

Vincent van Gogh – Old Man In Sorrow

Grief. It isn’t pleasant but it is an inevitable part of our life if we choose to invest our heart and care about anything. In general our society does not deal very well with it. We avoid it. We judge it. We numb it. No wonder people choose to harden their hearts and keep them locked away. It is safer that way. Grief hurts. It is a natural response to loss. Losing dreams. Losing people. Losing your reality and adjusting to a new life. And the process of grieving is unique to each person.

I am in a course right now and we just completed a section on grieving. In general we tend to experience/judge emotions based on our family upbringing. If anger or tears weren’t acceptable then you might have a tendency to judge those aspects of your grieving process. For me, I want to hit the fast forward button and get to the healed part. I know the emotions themselves are OK and necessary…I just don’t like being in the midst of them. However, experiencing them, in their natural timing, is the only way through them. Big sigh.

If you are grieving yourself or someone in your life is, it can be difficult to know how to ask people to relate to you…or know what to say. The material I am studying gave permission to share these tips with “family and friends”…maybe sharing them on the blog is a liberal interpretation of that. I hope not because they are useful. I didn’t write them but I don’t feel comfortable revealing the source because it’s too personal.

To be helpful, those dealing with a grieving individual should…

  1. Normalize what they are going through.
  2. Not throw Scripture band-aids at the grieving individual (even with good intentions)
  3. Refrain from telling the person that they know exactly how they feel.
  4. Let them talk about it if they want to, while being respectful if they don’t.
  5. Keep from making assumptions about anything
  6. Encourage them that one day their pain will be manageable – And it REALLY will be
  7. Give them hope for better days, but be realistic about the time frame. (The first year is difficult the second may be a bit easier)
  8. Continue to support them over time without expectations.
  9. Call and leave messages without expecting to hear from the hurting one.

Basically, give them freedom and space to be authentic with their feelings without griefjudgement. Because grief can come from SO many different places. It can be having something irreplaceable destroyed or stolen. A miscarriage. Your security in your home or health might have been taken. Loss of a cherished pet. The key is being honest with the feelings and allowing them to pass through you because experiencing them is the only way to move beyond them. If you don’t…then they will continue to influence your life in negative ways. I go back to this post I wrote about the hidden beauty of pain. I truly think that we need to allow ourselves the space to experience the hard emotions in order to experience the positive. Otherwise we just get numb. And personally I would rather experience pain/joy than nothing.

So here are a few practical tips:

  1. Again I am going to come back to the journaling – write it out. If you tend to judge your feelings ask yourself why? Do you think you should be feeling something different than you are? Do you think you should be over it by now?
  2. Read “A grief observed” by CS Lewis if you need to normalize the pain you are experiencing
  3. Scale back on commitments if necessary. Give yourself some space but be aware if the space is turning into isolation and depression. You might need a professional to help you sort through your feelings. That is not weakness but courage to face the real issues head on and recognizing that you can’t do it alone.
  4. Know that there is hope. I am still in the midst of the storm but I feel the tide shifting. Things are hard but not as hard as they used to be. There is a small part of me starting to believe everyone who told me “I wont always feel like this”.

Here’s to surviving another week,

Lynnea

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