On Grief

I posted this on Facebook about a week ago. And since my thoughts lie in this direction, wanted to paste it here as well.

“I watched an interesting video on the topic of grief the other day. At the end, the man speaks of death saying “death feeds everything that lives. The recognition that that’s the case, and that it includes, not you, that’s the easy part to see, but that it includes the people that you love and the things you don’t want to end. That’s grief, and it’s not personal. But the key, the real skill to being grateful is not to be grateful for the stuff that benefits you. That’s easy. What about being grateful for the stuff that doesn’t benefit you in the least, but you’re grateful that it’s in the world anyway? Now you’re getting somewhere, now you’re seeing the big story. Now you’re willing for life  to be bigger than your life span, or your childrens lifespan.

Grief is not a feeling. Grief’s not how you feel, grief’s what you do. Grief is a skill. And the twin of grief, as a skill of life, is the skill of being able to praise, or love, life. Which means wherever you find one authentically done, the other is very close at hand. Grief and the praise of life, side by side. …….. Grief and the ability to love life, they’re toasting the living.

That has proved so true in my life. When I have not allowed myself to grieve, my heart has grown cold and I have found myself unable to fully live. But when I allow myself to feel pain, to walk the painful and slow road through grieving I also find myself living new all over again. It’s Ann Voskamps “Eucharisteo” – swallowing the death and the life of Christ, thanking God for all things – the good and the ugly. Or as Bonhoeffer said, the Christian living life from the perspective of the end unto the beginning.

Take some time and think on that. Grief, hand in hand with the love of life. What do you think?”

On this day 4 years ago the man I was named after struggled one last time for breath, and breathed into the eternal glory of no more sickness. I remember blogging on valentines day that year of how I was able to Skype with my family in his hospice room, and coax a smile onto his beautiful, wrinkled face. I cherish that memory on days like today when I miss him deep down to my bones. His beautiful smile, his soft wrinkled hands, the smell of his shirts when he’d hug and not let go. My grandfather was a precious soul. It’s crazy to me to think that the things that remind me of him – his wrinkled hands and deeply lined face, the ragged sound of his breathing – those things that are included in all of my memories have nothing to do with who he is now. I don’t remember him without an oxygen tank, I never saw him run, never saw him young. But now he is free, whole and remade. I can’t imagine what it will be to see my grandfather whole. Today we grieve as we remember you Carroll, but our grief is laden with heavy hope. Hope that does not disappoint, grief that leads to truest life.

Missing Miah, Round Two

Pre-East Coast move I probably talked to him a couple times a month. Post move, every couple of months. Since his sudden passing, I wish I could talk to him on average several times a week.

We’re so like sheep. Just walking out our daily routine: food, water, sleep. Never thinking that the routine, all that is daily & hourly taken for granted would every change. Never thinking that the people in our lives, the people that make up our lives, would ever be gone.

I’ve come to believe that who we are as individuals is largely composed of the effect of the people whom we love and the people who love us. Like it or not, like them or not, the people in our lives mold us.

I was so broken at the idea of how the lack of him in my life could change me. I was afraid that the effect that he had made in me would slowly fade away, afraid that as the years passed I would forget him. But I haven’t. So much of KC reminds me of him.

And it’s not just Miah, it’s all of “those that have gone before”. I feel the pain of the missing, the ache of the longing for the ones I love that I can’t see, touch or talk to. In the stillness of remembering I find myself regularly composing letters to them in my mind.

As I fill the bird feeders around my house I think of my grandpa and unintentionally it starts,

Dear Grandpa, my bird feeder collection is starting to rival yours. Does it make you glad to see me feeding the birds….

A Friday night will roll around and I have no plans, and I remember when Jeremy left and I so needed a brother. On those sad Friday nights I’d call Miah and he’d take me to coffee or dinner. Once, after telling him a story of a weird encounter with a man in an airport he grabbed my phone, took a picture of himself flexing and said, “There, when you travel make that picture the background on your phone and tell all the creeps that you have a boyfriend!” That picture brought so much laughter every time I stumbled across it. Driving home from work I whisper,

Dear Miah, thank you for loving me so well…..

The lawn mower breaks down…. again… And with a deep sigh I look to the heavens and it begins,

Dear Bob, when you were alive I always had a working lawn mower…..

Changes are coming. My little weary squeezes at the changes that I know about that are around the corner, and fears the things I have yet to know. I take deep breaths and thank the Lord for the years, the time in KC where so many of the friends and people whom I love live less than 5 minutes away, and I grieve them as they leave. With each move, each friend that suddenly becomes distant the view of my life just as suddenly changes and I wonder how long the old normal that has become normal again, will stay.

I wonder how long I will stay. How long will I live on my parents property, in the house my Daddy fixed for me? How long will I live with my sister and BIL? I’ve been working and working the property to make it beautiful again and each day I wonder, am I doing this for myself or will someone else be one to enjoy it?

The questions, the pain in the missing, it would utterly overwhelm but for the anchor in my soul. The hope, of life that never dies, of love that never ends. The hope in know that each day brings me closer to the City, the New Jerusalem, the home that never changes, the life where there is no missing. Can you imagine? Just stop for a second! Take a deep breathe, push the crowding thoughts away, and for a moment just allow yourself to image. Life. Lived to the fullest. No goodbyes, no missing.

And those letters I write turn to Him. Wondering at the real life that is being lived with the Lord, the unimaginable joy from those I love who are WITH Him.

And that’s the only resolution. To live “from the end” as Bonhoeffer wrote, to live each day with the end as our hope and our prize and our goal. And to fight to love better those whom are still with us.

Do not take them for granted, those family members, those friends. I meant to call him the week before the run, but I didn’t. That conversation will come, but I will wait long for it.

Don’t wait long.

Express yourself, verbalize the things you think, the things that you love about them, the things that you’re grateful for. The things you would wish a thousand times that you’d said if they were suddenly gone from your life. Be transparent, be real, be grateful.

Lewis said that “the fact that our hearts yearn for something Earth can’t supply is proof enough that heaven must be our home.” My heart yearns more by the day. I want your kingdom Jesus.

Loving long

Today is February 8th, 2012. Today I leaned hard into grace & you know know what? There was enough for me today. God’s good like that, always giving more than I need though maybe not in the ways I expect for that “more than enough” to look like.

Tomorrow is February 9th & my Papa’s 57th birthday. I love him with all my heart & this year more than others I am pained to not spend the day celebrating with him. On his birthday last year his dad, my Grandpa Carroll went into a hospice home to live out his last week of life. A life stuffed full of stories,  full of adventure and cut too short.

My dad’s been dreading tomorrow, dreading his first birthday without his father, dreading the memories. I’ve been calling him everyday for about two weeks, sent him a card & a present, even mailed him a box of homemade cookies but none of those things can ease the pain of  living without one whom you so love.

He told me over a tearful skype date tonight that so much of the pain he is feeling today  is due to regret & guilt of things undone, unsaid, & too little time spent.

Oh the deep wound of regret.

We ended our call with no ending. No solution to the pain, no medication. And as I went through the motions of helping my Southern Lady prepare for the night, all I could see was my Grandfather in her face, behind the oxygen tubes & in the tired & sometimes fearful eyes. And my heart yearned to give more to ease her pain, longing for more time to ease his. To sit by his chair, stroke the thin skin on his hand & just be with him again.

There’s not enough time on this side of eternity, not enough time to LOVE. To love as long, as hard & as deeply as people deserve. And as I pondered that painfully tonight I heard a whisper in my soul,  “there’s only ‘not enough time’ for now. ”

So I called my dad back to remind him to lift up his eyes to the Lamb that was slain. My Grandfather loved the Lord & though now we do not see him & now we wait long to be reunited, my daddy doesn’t have to live in pain that his time to love his father is over forever.  Though now we wait. Now we ache. But only for now, only for a moment. We as the living, those who were dead & have been brought to life, we never ever have to stop loving & being loved. We get to love for forever & be loved for forever.

We get to love long & never stop. Life abundantly, overflowing for forever. Thank you Jesus for all of your love, for all that you bought us. We love you Forever.

 

In the Whirlwind, He still wants everything.

Last year was a whirlwind, start to finish. Each month seemed to bring it’s own fresh version of crazy, & December was no different. In fact, by the 1st of December I was suddenly facing two weeks to find new housing & either a new job or another cross-country move.  I’ll spare you the details & just say that in the beginning I threw up my hands in the air making a declaration in my heart to let the Lord lead my steps. And He did. He’s faithful like that.

The not so slow but dramatic demise of my beloved 97 Geo Metro, increased monthly bills & seriously needing of dental work forced my sudden need to stop working for Bound4Life International, a ministry that I have been honored to serve since my move to Virginia in January of 2010.  This decision was forced by unexpected changes & came with a flurry of job applications, long late-night conversations with my brother Jeremy about direction, & deep painful conversations with the Lord. Ultimately, it was good. Ultimately, it forged clarity in my soul. Ultimately, I am thankful. Oh but it was a rough, bumpy and painful transition.

One of those rough bumpy painful days found me sitting with a Pastor from Florida who had recently moved with his family to DC to help fuel JHOP-DC & serve with B4L.  His father has been battling against cancer  & he told me that his sister had made a large sacrifice to help lift the burden of the medical bills.

After this great act of love she was left with a small sum that she intended to put into savings. However, during a morning devotional time she heard the Lord say simply “Give it to me”. She responded with surprise, since she had freely given so much & replied “But……Lord, that is mine” to which He simply responded, “I know, & I want it.”

He told me, “Christina it doesn’t make sense, but sometimes God asks us for that tiny little bit that we’re holding onto for ourselves, just to see if we’re willing to give it to Him”. Oh how I cried when I heard those words. He’s right, it doesn’t make sense……. but do we trust Him? Do we love Him enough to give Him that last little bit that we’re reserving? That thing we think we HAVE to hold onto in order to make it?

And I felt that pull all through December, the Lord asking for my control, my self-preservation & the question lingered “Do you trust Me?” Even in the whirlwind, He still wants everything.

In a swirl out of my control, completely apart from anything I could have possibly tried to manage to pull together, He provided for me. Housing & a job. I would be moving into the home of an elderly Southern Lady in order to drive her to doctor’s appointments & serve part-time as her companion. Housing, & a job that enabled me to stay in the House of Prayer. This literally landed the day before I flew out of Virginia to spend 3 weeks with my family.

It was a glorious, restorative, joyful, healing three weeks. And getting on the plane to head back to the East coast was hard. It always is. Standing in line & swallowing the lump in my throat, refusing to look behind me at my mother watching until she can no longer see me with tears streaming down her face, tightly clinging to my little dog as if that will keep me there. It literally never gets easier. But I knew, I KNEW that He was worth it, that He had a plan & that I was walking in it.

I flew back to Virginia on January 8th. Exactly one year to the very date that I flew to Virginia in my original move. Tell me that’s not God! Only He would do that, just to catch my attention because He likes to talk to me in dates. I flew back to Virginia on January 8th, & as my plane hit the ground, the Southern Lady was being loaded up into an ambulance. I moved into her home on the very day that everything changed in her life, the day she began a rapid decline in health.

Two weeks in it was apparent to the family & myself that she was not going to pull up, & today, less than a month after my move-in, she began receiving Hospice services in her home.

I knew that the Lord was sending me back to Virginia to learn about Intercession. I thought that it had to do with America & the Presidential race, and somewhere along the line it probably does. I’m learning it’s much deeper than that though. Moses, Daniel, Jeremiah, John the Baptists, even Jesus. They made intercession on others behalf. They were in understanding, a level of compassion that moved them to feel the way that other’s felt in order for them to stand alongside & speak on behalf of. And I’ve realized, I’ve a thing or two learn of compassion.

It’s been almost a year since my dear grandfather Carroll stepped into wholeness & glory & the nearness of our Lord Jesus Christ. I wasn’t a part of his last days since I’d just moved to VA but here I am one year later, daily, intimately walking out this woman’s last days. I’m not a nurse or doctor, & even if I were there would be nothing to fix the problems. But I do other things. Rub her shoulders, wash her feet, clip her toenails, rearrange cushions, read the Psalms, sing Hymns. And sometimes I’m tired, & sometimes I’m frustrated, & sometimes I just don’t want to rub lotion on her itchy skin. But I’m learning to bend the knee, learning to cry out for grace & find it pouring on the inside of me. Learning to hold her hand & sometimes, like today, just cry with her because I can’t help her breathe, & I can’t make the itching stop, & I can’t make her kidney’s work. In the back of my mind all throughout the long days I am thinking of how I will stand before my Saviour & He will ask “Did you learn to love?” and my heart cries “Teach me!”

I’m learning that it’s easy to have compassion for the orphan baby. But what does the Lord feel for the elderly woman who kept me up late with her needs & woke me up early with her needs. Does my Lord bend the knee, receive the grace to do so, & gladly serve her? Can I enter into that kind of intercession? There are nights I step into my room & hit the floor in prayer, crying out for the sake of peace in her heart, opening the Psalms & with tears speaking loudly words of truth & life & comfort into the atmosphere of the home.

It carries over to my service in the House of Prayer. My tired tender heart is moved to feel, moved to enter in, moved to pray, moved to worship because there’s no other relief for the turmoil on the inside. Not when I’ve been convinced every step of the way that it was His will for me to walk through it with Him.

Psalm 84:11: “For the Lord God is a sun and shield: the Lord give grace and glory: no good thing will He withhold from them that walk uprightly.

We’ve been talking a lot of Grace & Glory, & I tell her that wherever we have to lean in & reach out hard to receive His grace He will make that very spot a place to reveal His glory. If we cry out for Grace, we’ll receive it & He will glorify it. We ask God to give her peace, & I’m learning to live out of un-moveable heart peace. We ask God to give her a vision of eternity so that she will have the grace to let go when the time comes, & I’m learning to reach for it in my own heart. We thank the Lord when the night is over, thanking Him for the mercies to live out the new day. And as I pray with her my heart receives, probably more than I will ever know on this side.

And in the whirlwind, He still wants everything. Each whirlwind, He’ll never stop asking if we trust Him but that’s not an angry question. It’s gentle, said with a smile. It’s promising. And it’s safe, because He gave & He gives, everything.

My story will never stop being just stupid crazy. And that’s part of how I know I can trust, because He’s never stopped being FAITHFUL in every step of every crazy whirlwind. And every-time I think He’s asked me to do something I’m fully not capable of doing, He places the ability inside of me through His spirit. The more I lean, cry out for help, the more I find the help inside. The more His word becomes meat & bread & water & wine.

I listen to “Measure of a Man” on repeat. And Johnny Cash’s album “My mother’s Hymnbook”. I listen to Leonard Ravenhill speak with zeal & tears of the worth of Christ. I rise early to jog & pray. And I’m eating a lot of chocolate these days 🙂 I’ve filled up her room with primroses & when all attempts to relieve & comfort & bring joy fail, I just sing until peace comes to her. It reminds me of mid-morning nap time at the Bohlender’s. Singing a nursery of little girls to sleep & the crazy thing is that Amazing Grace never fails to bring the presence of God, to those little girls, to this dying woman, to my own weary soul.

Bob Falkner text me the other morning saying “You were made for hard things. You can do this.” And I’ll say to you friends, God made you to do hard things, & He will enable you to do them. Amazing Grace how sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me. One bright morning when this life is over, I’ll fly away. And tis so sweet to Trust in Jesus.

 

Dreaming of Home

I woke up yesterday with a migraine.

And I ended yesterday with a migraine.

During a late night trip to walmart with Jenny I could feel the pressure rising & my vision blurring and decided to call it a day. A few minutes later I was in the kitchen grabbing Excedrin which I chugged with some coconut water for the elctrolites & promptly jumped in a steaming shower. This is my only migraine back up plan, and it didn’t work. 60 minutes later & like so many nights, I’m curled up in the dark wishing my mom were here to bring me an ice pack. I’ll get married some day if for nothing else than to have SOMEONE to bring me an icepack!

Half an hour later, I woke up. WIIIIIIDE awake from the caffeine in the Excedrin. Back up plan fail. After many attempts at sleep I decided to get up and…… do some accounting. *Sigh* I guess that’s the downside to sharing a basement with the office. Somewhere in the middle of that I found myself daydreaming about the Arabian’s we had when I was a teenager. Sassy died five years ago. I drove home to be with my parents for a few days who they said that losing the horse was the worst thing they’d ever gone through. Soon after that they gave Cressy to a BoyScout camp & I never saw him again.

That is until he popped up in my dreams this week. It was one of the nights that pain kept me awake until after 4, and somewhere before the alarm went off at 9 I found myself in Iowa, surrounded by rolling hills of rich, black soil, in the riding arena with the giant mulberry tree in the middle, and he and I went round and round in circles until his strong will finally caved & he would let me take him through rounds. It was a sunny spring day, the kind of perfect weather that bathe’s Iowa in glory all through the Spring, and in the dream my grandfather Carroll was sitting strong & straight on the top rail of the fence. With no oxygen tank & that beautiful smile spread across his face as he watched me determinedly fight the proud Arabian spirit. It’s amazing what dreams can do, the effect that they have. I woke exhausted, again, and breathless from the heart-pain.

Some hours later I stole away to the old horse farm where Jen & Jeremy live. Pain still racked my body as I walked through the forest and empty riding rings before settling in the top of the empty barn, aching for relief & aching for home. Home. Where the heart is, where loved ones are, where rest resides. But my heart is split, torn into so many pieces with those who I love, and peoples that I pray for all over the earth. Those whom I love live so far away from each other, and rest always seems to stay just out of my reach. And as I sat up in that window I ached for the home that never changes, where loved ones never die, where love always reigns victorious. Home.

We’re only at home where You are Jesus.

As those who have no Hope

2.47 pm February 16h, the phone call came in.

Brothers & Sisters, we do not want you to be ignorant about those who sleep in death, so that you do not grieve like the rest of mankind, as those who have no hope. *1 Thessalonians 4.13

And it’s true, we only have to grieve on this side. My grandfather has been dying my whole life & right now, right this very minute, he can breathe. He is whole, no more fighting & no more fear of death. Death & the Grave have no hold of him, and Jesus, his friend is King.

Grandpa, you have the most beautiful smile in all of heaven. I just can’t wait to see it again. I’m so thankful for the Resurrection.

Please continue to pray for my family, for my Daddy & for my sister – both of whom lean on me for strength that I can’t give from a distance. Pray that the Holy Spirit would bring comfort to them & lend to them His strength.

The Most Beautiful Smile

Today I’m thankful for the wonders of technology. That’s saying something, because a handful of years ago I tried to forbid electronics from my home. Seriously. My sister went through quite the battle to bring her TV into the house when she moved from Arizona. We’re all thankful that phase is over.

But today I sat in a little prayer room in DC with the IHOP-KC webstream on the big screen in the corner as my friends led the prayer meeting praying for a Revival in the teens of that city. From half-way across the country I could enter into the same prayer meeting, see their faces & hear their voices & sing the choruses & cry & pray for the teens who hold my heart. And I was really thankful for that big screen, & for live webstreaming.

This afternoon I received a text message from a friend who has been ministering in South Africa. She’s been out of the country for almost 3 weeks & I have deeply felt her absence in my life. Though I can’t see her & the distance between us is still, well about 1,066 miles……exactly……. knowing that I could call or message her was a huge relief to my heart. And I was thankful for the glory of cellular telephones, & for text messaging.

Tonight I had a skype date with my Daddy. While sitting in my office I could look into his face & grieve with him. He unpluggled the computer, walked across the room & there in the bed was my sweet Grandpa. I was able to talk to him & tell him I loved him & look into his gentle face. The constant pain medicine is keeping him almost completely unresponsive, but I broke through.

It was unbelievable. I can charm my way through almost any situation but tonight was the first time I’ve charmed my way through medicated stupor. He lay still, breathing heavily. The family said he could hear but for all I could see I was pouring my heart out to a sleeping old man, until the ‘conversation’ ended,

‘Grandpa you have the most beautiful smile in the whole world’

& everyone in the room began to laugh as a gentle smile spread across his face. What a miracle, that I could share that moment with them from so far away.  And I’m really thankful for laptop computers & for skype. And really thankful for the faithfulness of the Lord & His constant kindness to us.