A Year Later: On the Shore with a Towel Ready for You

This Easter, I read Jen Hatmaker’s post entitled My Saddest Good Friday in Memory . Her words broke my heart and I sat with them all weekend. I thought of her during a song at church on Easter Sunday and choked up.

First, and always first, I’m sad for Jen. This is her unique story. Yet, I could also relate to what she was describing in my own way.  A year ago, the following was my story, too:

“I’ll tell you a bit of how loss and grief and rejection will pulverize your heart and deliver you to Good Friday in pretty bad shape, or in any case, in the throes of recovery. ”

“Good Friday is about death – even a necessary death – and that makes more sense to me now than maybe ever. It speaks of a dark day and broken hearts, unmet expectations, mob mentality turned brutal.”

“I experienced betrayal from people I thought loved us.”

My reasons for why I arrived at Good Friday 2016 in pretty bad shape are varied and unique. It was a perfect storm. Any one stress or hurt on their own wouldn’t have taken me down, but gradually, I began to sink. I clung to the following quote in those dark days:

sometimes-good-things-fall-apart-so-better-things-can-fall-together-quote-1

2015/2016: I’ll never fully understand why things happened the way they did. Some of it was part of life – my best dog dying of cancer, newborn sleep deprivation, and a natural disaster. I can’t say that all of it was God’s plan. God has given us free will. Some people know the path that leads to life and light and they choose the one that leads to destruction and darkness. Thankfully, while I don’t believe that all of my loss, stress, and pain were part of His plan; I know that God can work things together for good and that He’s in the business of resurrection.

“I believe in the resurrection, so I know it will come. It always does. God wrangles victory out of actual, physical death. The cross taught us that. You can’t have anything more dead than a three-day old dead body, and yet we serve a risen Savior. New life is always possible evidently, well past the moment it makes sense to still hope for it. The empty tomb taught us that. I have enough faith to live a Friday and Saturday existence right now without fear that Sunday won’t come. It will come. I am nearly certain the way it will look will surprise me; I’m watching for the angel on the tombstone. ” – Jen Hatmaker

A year ago, I was attempting to keep my head above water.  This Easter, I realized something. I’m no longer in the water but on the shore! On Easter Sunday, I got choked up for Jen instead of myself (when you’re in a dark place you’re rather near sighted). From the shore, I’m cheering on those who have experienced loss and grief and rejection. I’m here for you and I’m saying: “keep treading water! Your feet will touch ground again. It will. I’m here! I made it. You will too. Keep breathing. I have a towel ready for you.”

Love,
R.

How to help and not hurt those who are grieving

My 96 year old grandfather died yesterday, April 4th. Yesterday, I was reminded again of the following reality when it comes to grieving: us humans (this includes me) tend to have a hard time just sitting with someone in grief. I find this to be especially true with persons of faith. Often, the uncomfortable reality of heartache is swept aside and those grieving are told to be grateful that the deceased is in a better place. While this may be true, this type of immediate response doesn’t make sense when we look at Jesus’ example surrounding the death of a friend.

John 11:35 tells us that “Jesus wept.” Why was Jesus deeply troubled and wept? Jesus wept after Lazarus’ sisters, Mary and Martha, delivered the message that Lazarus had died. Jesus knew that all would be well (he later raised Lazarus from the dead) but he still cried.

Another biblical example re: grief is found in the Old Testament. Job, who had lost family, livelihood and health, had people come to sit with him in his grief. Job 2:13 reads:

“Then they sat on the ground with him for seven days and seven nights. No one said a word to him, because they saw how great his suffering was.”

What a beautiful picture of literally sitting with someone in their grief!

Recapping, the following are tips that may be helpful when coming alongside someone in bereavement:

  1. Showing tears is appropriate. Jesus wept. He knew all would be well and he still wept anyways. Don’t be afraid of crying for yourself or crying as you observe the pain of others walking in grief.
  2. Pause before immediately trying to put a positive twist on loss. And if you do want to celebrate something that you’re grateful for – do just that. Use “I” statements instead of “you.” Example: “I am glad that he lived as long as he did” instead of, “you should be glad he lived as long as he did.”
  3. Whenever appropriate, just be with those who are grieving. You don’t need to know what to say. Often, the simplest words go so far like “I’m so sorry”, “I will miss him” and “praying for you.”

Unfortunately, loss and heartache are part of this journey of life. Our lives are mixed with the beautiful and brutal. When it comes to grief, we can take our cues from Jesus and from those who sat with Job. We don’t need to push the sadness of death under the rug. We can show up. We can weep. We can sit in our own grief and sit in the grief of others. And that can truly be enough.

Love,
R.

Edited to add: We all need grace in the midst of grief. Extend grace to yourself and others. While there are ways that we can do this grief thing better, we will never be perfect at it. Showing up is what matters most and seeing the heart/motives behind comments and efforts made is very important.

When minimalism makes you angry

Today, as I started purging and reorganizing some of our things, I noticed myself feeling angrier and angrier.

Why do we have this item tucked away in a place where we can never use it?

Why do we have so much stuff? Ugh.

When will we have the time to dispose of or find a new home for all these things?

I recognize that my problem is totally a first-world problem. I feel frustrated that I’m even angry about having too much stuff!

Now hear me out, I’m typically a calm and patient person. Not at all quick to anger. But attempting to live with less stuff triggers an anger response in me. I think I’m feeling overwhelmed with the process of going through items, making decisions, then actually removing those things from home. It takes time, and time is something that we’re all short on.

I don’t think I’m the only one on this journey to minimalistic living who finds themselves feeling angry in the process. I’ve had others tell me that the fact that they are more on-board with minimalism than their partner or kids drives them mad. So what is a person to do when they feel angry in their attempts to live more simply?

For me, I think that I’m going to attempt to take deep breaths and remind myself that little by little, I’ll eventually get there.

What about you? Do you ever feel angry while trying to rid junk from your house? What helps you to remain calm and positive?

 

Book Review: Love Warrior by Glennon Doyle Melton

20170322_172139~2.jpg

I first found Glennon via her viral blog posts. “Dear Chase (Be Kind & Brave)” and the one about her choosing to be grateful for an outdated kitchen are my top favourites! Since I love her work, I was eager to get my hands on this book. And considering that I have a 40 minute commute (each way), the book on cd was the way to go.

First up, the positives. I really like and prefer for the author to read the book. I was very glad that she did this! Secondly, I was glad to finally hear her autobiography. This book gives a good overview of her life (although mostly focused in on the struggles). There are definate moments in the book where Glennon’s wisdom hits a home run. With all that she’s been through (bullemia, addiction, her husband’s affairs) it’s evident that her strength is nothing short of a warrior.

With all that said, I found parts of this book to be difficult to read. Some sections felt quite dark and the new agey message (i.e. you are your own god) didn’t sit right with me.

Turns out, this is a book that I don’t see myself reading again. I’d give it a 3/5. If for nothing else, I’m glad that I read it for the “stay on your mat” story in the book. I say those exact words to myself from time to time and it has been very helpful.

Did you read Love Warrior? What did you think?

First time guest to church: 5 things we appreciated

In 2016, we had the experience of being first time guests at a lot of churches. If I had to guess, I’d say that we visited 20 churches. Big churches. Small churches. Middle class churches and churches where most congregation members are living in poverty. Congregations that meet in old buildings, new buildings, etc. Quite a sample platter.

A friend asked if I’d write about what some of these churches did well in regards to welcoming us as new guests. In no particular order, here are 5 things that stand out from our experience.

First up, we noticed and liked when congregation members went out of their way to greet us. Whether this was done before, during, or after the service, we remembered their efforts. The message this sent was: this is a church who doesn’t expect the pastor to do all the work of the ministry (we were only greeted by the pastor in several churches). Also, this said to us: “there’s room for more!”.

MMM. So one church gave us a bag of homemade cookies! That was a first and hasn’t been repeated since. Who wouldn’t enjoy cookies for their drive home from church? Taste buds aside, what was important was the message that it sent to us. The cookies said: this church thinks about, plans for, seeks out, and ministers to first time guests.

On another first visit, we were given a tour of the church building prior to the service. Everything from where the bathrooms are to the nursery in the basement were covered. Before the service even started, we felt comfortable and at home there.

As first time guests, one church demonstrated to us the difference between nursery volunteers who supervise vs. nursery volunteers who minister to children. (We’ve been to many a church where the nursery volunteers seem to be more interested in talking to each other than interacting with the children). At this particular church, the nursery workers got on the floor to play with our daughter to help her feel comfortable. It was evident that she was their top priority. And in addition to having a fun and safe nursery experience, she also learned about God.

For a few of the churches (read: 3 churches), we received contact from the pastor within a week or two of having visited for the first time. This took the form of one typed “standard welcome letter” and two that e-mailed us. (It was surprising to me that no church sent a personal, hand-written note. Despite his poor hand writing, this was something Derek did regularly in his ministry – which he received a lot of positive feedback for. Over the years, he was told on several occasions that the hand written note caused the guest to check out our church a second time). Whether it was a typed letter or an e-mail, we greatly appreciated hearing from the church that we had just visited. It helped us to feel noticed, appreciated, welcome. It also sent the message that the pastor/leaders don’t only focus on those who are already there but they also take the time to reach out to those not connected in, yet.

Have you recently been a first time guest in a church? Can you think of something that the church did well that helped you to feel welcome? Would love to hear about it!

 

 

Lesson from our tiny teacher: water, prayer, gratitude

This afternoon, in the midst of playing, our 23 month old stopped and asked me to pray before she drank her water.

IMG_20170316_140042_209

As a result of this simple request, so many thoughts flooded my mind.

I thought of what a gift it is to know that the water she’s about to drink won’t make her sick.

The fact that her “dirty” bath water from last night is much cleaner than what most of the kids in the world will drink today.

And I thought about the reality that we’d all die much sooner without water than food…yet, we bow our heads in thanks for food much more often than for a simple glass of water. Hmm.

Thankful for our tiny teacher. ❤

Letter to the church as a millennial: set your women free!

Dear Church,

I love you. And I am disappointed. I’m disappointed that you’ve not only been responsible for historic oppression of women, but currently, so few of you have set your women free. As long as women are told to “play small” in church, we won’t see the Kingdom come on earth like it is in heaven. And we’ll continue to see less and less millennials in our pews or chairs. Millennials are good at picking up scents of oppression and running the other way. More than just attracting millennials to our churches, we want to be churches that are busy about loving God and others well. With love as the motive, here are three areas that you can work on as a congregation to help set your women free:

1)Let’s start with the “first lady” of your church, if you have one. The Pastor’s wife. Oh how Pastors’ wives need to be set free. They must not be seen as a 2-for-1 package.  Just like everyone else in the church, the pastor’s wife needs to be free to serve out of her unique gifting, passion and personality. When you do this, you will be a church that appeals to millennials. Why? By setting your pastor’s wife free to be who God created her to be, your church will be a refuge. You will be demonstrating that this is a safe place for all – even, and especially, the pastor’s wife. And you’ll be ridding your congregation from a yucky part of church history that involves sexism in how pastors’ wives have been pigeonholed and unfairly treated.

2) Women need to be free to serve in positions of leadership in the church and encouraged to do so. If we study the life of Jesus, keeping in mind historical context, we see that Jesus was a radical in his inclusion of women in his life and ministry. And women were in positions of leadership in early Christianity , building and growing the church alongside the apostle Paul. If you already are a church that supports women in leadership on paper, great! Just make sure that you demonstrate this support in practice, too. Millennials want to experience evidence to the effect, not just a statement on paper.

3) The third area of consideration is mostly for the pastors and teachers in the church. How you can help is to be intentional about using examples of women from the Bible and throughout history in Sunday School lessons, Bible Studies and in Sermons. Millennials don’t desire for biblical and historical lessons of men to be pushed aside, rather, they ask that leaders in the church remember to teach about female role models, too.

I realize that it’s a bit bold of me to write a letter to the Church on behalf of millennials. And yes, I know that I don’t speak for every millennial who is connected to a church. But I’m also not the first millennial to think of or express these thoughts. Not the first to ask for our churches to do a better job at setting women free. And I’m fairly certain that I won’t be the last.

With best regards,
a church-loving millennial