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.

A time for purpose

To every season there is a reason and a time to every purpose under heaven. A time to be born and a time to die, a time to plant and a time to pluck up that which is planted. A time to kill and a time to heal, a time to break down and a time to build up. A time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance. A time to cast away stones and a time to gather stones together. A time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing. A time to get and a time to lose, a time to keep and a time to cast away. A time to rend and a time to sew, a time to keep silence and a time to speak.  A time to love and a time to hate, a time of war and a time of peace.

What do workers gain from their toil? I have seen the burden God has laid on the human race. He has made everything beautiful in it’s time. He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end. Ecclesiastes 3.1-11

There is a time for every purpose under heaven. Though I could not see all that the past two years in Virginia would bring; how each season would suddenly change bearing new trial and testing in it’s wake, I have found peace here. Through Eucharisteo, the giving of thanks for each season and the gifts that it brings, through swallowing the death and breathing the life I have found peace in believing that there is a time, and a season, and a purpose for every part of my story.

There is a time, and an ending set for each trial. Even the current trials which wring my heart – the wounding of friends without clarity or reconciliation as well as the “unknowns” that lay about me, I lay down in peace knowing that there is an ending time that is set. A ticking clock bringing me freedom and newness and hope.

Hope. One of the rarest things found in the earth. Hope grows wild only in the undefiled heart of a child. After that, Hope only grows intentionally where we plant, labor and ferociously  tend to it. Hope grows in the raw places where we’ve learned to trust the Lord with our woundings;  not to bury them deep in hopes of keeping them hidden, but where we lay them bare. Where we give to Him all that we bare.

As a little girl I suffered from terrible, persistent nightmares. So my parents would play cassette tapes of soothing music to help me sleep. My favorite was an album called ‘Daddy’s Song’ by Dennis Jernigan. There were many songs about sheep and the Shepherd, and I would sleep to his soothing voice singing “My sheep hear my voice and they know it, and they follow Me.” And here I am at 26, leaning, yearning, as a deer after water to hear the voice of the Shepherd and to know His leading. “My heart and my flesh cry out for the Living God” (Psalm 84.2)

The 2012 President Election, the event that marked my understanding of my time on the East Coast, has come and gone, leaving me with out a clue of what the next season of my life is to look like, or where it is to be. And though at peace, I have no clarity of the next step. I appreciate your prayers as I seek the Lord in this season, to know His heart, His mind, and His will for me.

I have seen incredible breakthrough in my own heart and life in God over the last 4 months as I have come into greater surrender to His will in the in and out of daily life. Thanksgiving and surrender, thanksgiving and surrender, “Green and Tender”.

In the next four weeks I need to buy a car ( which though I’ve worked like a maniac I do NOT by any means, have enough saved to do so), have clarity on the next year and somewhat of a plan to walk it out, and last but not least, I have to get to the Midwest for Christmas 🙂 OH  THE GLORY!!! With so much unknown in between now and then, I KNOW that I will be HOME in four weeks, HOME for Christmas!!!

And I am thankful for the road behind, for the gifts, the graces, and the lessons of the seasons, and for the road before. A road of peace and hope, even in the unknown.

Unscripted.

I have a tendency to day dream. Meaning that I think about things to much, plan out events, conversations, flesh out goals, shade in relationships, internally organize, and attempt to administrate the details of my life into tangible moments that I can order and control. And after all of that internal effort those carefully constructed day dreams have a devastating way of crumbling around me without a single piece of the debris falling into the place that I intended.

So I eat a lot of icecream. When the dust settles and there is just not a thing you can do about it, my best response is icecream. This week has been completely outside of my control, ending with a day that I can’t even begin to describe, and at the end, leaving 3 hours after I’d planned due to a situation that I never could have forseen I decided that the only appropriate response was to stop by McDonalds for a dipped icecream cone. Sitting in silence in a borrowed car in the drive-thru and trying not to think about the day, I pulled up to the sign to order only to hear that the ice cream machine was broken.

It’s amazing, just how unscripted this life is.

Joshua has been checking in on me quite a bit during the hurricane of the last few weeks. Yesterday evening I receive a message from him asking why I’ve not been blogging. I thought for a moment before telling him that things have been too personal to write about, to which he replied “I think those may be the best kind of things to write about.”

This Tuesday it will have been 4 months since the Southern Lady passed away.

In an incredible act of love her family offered for me to stay in the house until it is sold.  An estate sale was held at the beginning of July while I was home visiting my family and as expected, I returned to a house with out furniture, decorations, or any evidence of being lived in save for my bedroom. The week of my birthday I acquired two amazing vintage rockers from Craigslist, followed by a small table as a present from my brothers family, the three of which barely scratch the surface of filling the empty space.

The emptiness of the house serves as a very practical means of magnifying the turmoil in my heart;

I am a very communal individual, loving life with MANY housemates, and for four months my little dog and I have lived alone in the empty house.

I have yet to find a replacement  “job” to supplement my missionary income.

Two weeks ago my dearly beloved rust-bucket car actually died. This happened the week of the anniversary of Miah’s death, and the week that we were hosting a regional teen conference, in which I had a large role to play.

Some days later the hard-drive on my iphone crashed leaving it in a state of being completely incapable of connecting to the wireless signal aka, rendering the phone useless. I’ve never even HEARD of that before.

The last four week I’ve been under a constant barrage of irrational, in-explainable personal/ financial/ spiritual/ relational and ministerial events that I can only describe as the craziest spiritual attack I’ve ever experienced….which culminated in the drive-thru lane at McDonalds tonight as I heard that the ice cream machine was broken.

Completely and utterly…..not what I had planned.

Depressing as this story sounds….there has been incredible breakthrough over the last seven days. My physical and spiritual family both in the mid-west and on the east coast have banded around me in prayer and support and the fruit is being manifest in my heart and life daily. And there is light ahead 🙂

A friend has indefinitely given me use of her vehicle. Someone gave me an old at&t phone to use. And just so that you can believe that God does in fact give to us ‘everything that we need for life and godliness…..’  there was half a tub of Strawberry Haagen Das icecream in my freezer when I got in tonight.

When Miah died  Bob Falkner told me to buy Ann Voskamps book ‘One Thousand Gifts’. I had no idea how the next year of my life would be ordered around the Lord’s deep commitment to teaching me about the receiving of His grace.

Tonight I shared with a friend the emotional story of the last twenty four hours.  After some long moments of quiet reflection she said ” I love you Christina, you’re just so…….raw. Do you know what I mean by that? You’re just …..raw.”

Unscripted.

Sara Groves would call it “Wide open, like a lake”

Derek Loux called it “Green and Tender”

It’s learning how to force the fist to unclench, relinquishing the death grip on what I couldn’t control anyway, opening the fingers, smoothing down the palm. You open Your hands and You satisfy (Ps. 145.16), I open my hands and receive. It’s ghastly simple, and the most un-natural position for an anxiety ridden heart like mine; to take whatever You give, to call it grace, and offer it back to You in thanks.

I cry and I pray and I stumble. I think to hard, circle round the options, fight to come up with a plan, stay up too late strumming those same guitar chords trying to soothe the same old ache in my eternal soul. I accuse God, accuse His bride, break, repent, and while aching for answers fight to keep my hands off the details, stop trying to organize, lift up my eyes to the hills and lean into His strength. I am still keeping lists, because Bob say’s that if we’re not operating in Thanksgiving than we’re operating in atheism.

And I choose to live, raw. Vulnerable. To stop fighting tooth & nail to hide the frailty of my human heart, to give God the room to come in and bring healing to the broken, weak places. I bawl in the prayer room, in the weekly meetings when suddenly the room surrounds me in prayer and cry out for break through in my life, at stop lights, and alone in the quiet house that the Lord provided for me when there were no answers to an un-solvable situation.

And as my foundations are exposed and greatly shaken, I choose to cling to the Rock that is higher than I.

In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire —may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the end result of your faith, the salvation of your souls. (1 Peter)

Thanksgiving Escapades 2009

My good friend Danika and I have created a fan page on Facebook called The (Mis)Adventures of Dani and Chris to document some of the hilarity of our friendship. Below is a note that we posted on Thanksgiving, I thought some of you might get a laugh:

I have breadcrumbs in my underwear.
Danika has pepsi in her hair.

Strange? Quite. But not if you had experienced the last three hours with us. See today was Thanksgiving. Dani came over to Chris’s house late morning and had a cup of coffee with grandpa, discussing the word…..in spanish. She went to work. Chris went to sing in the prayer room. They each had a Thanksgiving meal in different places, eating lots of turkey and goodness and spending quality time with friends.

Around 10pm we met up, and together with Audra made our way to Shiloh for a bonfire. Props to Jacob, it was a good bonfire. We enjoyed us some heat, burning logs, burning tires and laughs with friends. At one point we stole down a sneaky little path discovering a very sketchy makeshift bridge over a marsh (one of the upper lakes at Shiloh) and observed the bonfire from our stealthy vantage point until we got cold. Around midnight the three of us decided to go home and sleep.

That lasted about as long as it took us to get to the car. With one single “I feel like we should Seran Wrap one of these cars” all thoughts of sleep vanished. Truly folks, adrenaline is better than a 6 shooter. Unfortunately there was almost NO seran wrap at the Styles house so we gleefully made our way to Walmart. Audra has unsuspectingly discovered that the bonfire had disbanded with most of its members landing at the Scoggan house. We had found our target.

We boldly parked outside and ran to prepare our prize: Jacob’s car. Unfortunately Susie happened to walk out of the house mere minutes later…… to use Jacob’s car. But everyone knows that Susie is awesome, she was TOTALLY on our side, sneaking back into the house to get someone else’s keys, and left us to finish our dastardly deed. But as everyone knows, Susie is also easily swayed. A few minutes later she changed sides, deciding it would be better to TELL Jacob, having him come and catch us in the act. Which he did. He also carried cans of soda, spraying us with sticky carbonated syrup as we tried to muffle our laughter in the cold 1 am air.We had a good laugh together, he pulled some of the wrap from his car, and we began to clean up the mess in the street…..until he went inside. As he approached the door we quickly used the rest of our ammunition and decided to make a second trip to Walmart to commandeer more weaponry.

This time we made sure to get enough for 2 cars, feeling the need to redeem ourselves. We bought 12 more rolls, oh yeah, and a couple of cans of silly string. Really we felt rather proud of ourselves as we made our way back down blue river…..for the second time, and again parked on the street and began to finish the work we had started. I’m not gonna lie, it was pretty amazing. But as you all know, pride comes before the fall. Aaaaaand everyone knows freaking Jacob Burkhalter (aka, we were ratted out again). And again, we found ourselves attacked with Pepsi and also pelted with rolls as Kyle came to Jacobs aid.

It was funny. We ran, we laughed, we screamed, we counter-attacked with Silly String…… and then convinced Jacob to not tell as we went and did one of the other cars. It might have worked. But it didn’t. In the beginning stages of the job we found ourselves discovered, for the THIRD time in three hours, and again pelted with rolls which we blatantly ignored. Well, Dani and Chris blatantly ignored them, Audra on the other hand was thoroughly distracted which proved helpful to the two of us as she kept Kyle busy with the rolls and we continued to work on the car……with the uncaring owner staring out the windows. #fail anyone?

Three hours, lots of money, two trips to walmart and three failed pranks, but you know it was fun. Of course, Kyle did crumble a roll down the back of my shirt, thus the crumbs in my underwear. And Dani & Audra did get soaked with soda, thus the pepsi in her hair. And this may have started a war that we may not be able to 1) keep up with and 2) finish, but all in all it was a successful misadventure. Happy Thanksgiving everyone.

***Addendum added on November 28, 2009***
We would like to extend an apology to the Klopfenstein’s who van we unknowingly caught in the crossfire of soda and silly string. Remember kids, it’s not funny if the neighbor’s have to pay for it…

Full of Family

Half of the Collier clan was in town for the weekend. This morning I woke early and made pancakes for them, Danika joined us and the two of us sent them off to early service, took naps and woke in time to pour cups of coffee and run out the door for the Youth service. Mike had agreed to bring the kids and come to Youth with me after they got out of church, and I was as excited as if my own family had come with me. Afterwards they took me to an Indian restaurant for lunch where I was mostly excited about the true Indian Masala Chai. It will never cease to amaze me how blessed I am simply by time with this amazing family.

Fast forward 7 hours. Katrina and I find ourselves in the familiar Roberts kitchen with a large clan of people, eating fresh just-killed-yesterday venison, talking and laughing with all the kiddos (this is a photo of me busting into Charlotte & Olivia’s facebook photo fun) and adding to the general chaos.  Hours later, I’m confessing stories from last spring when I stayed with the kids while Stephanie & Brad were in Lakeland and the girls are roaring, arguing over details of the stories. My heart was filled by their screaming.

On Wednesday my grandparents are arriving from Texas to spending the holiday with us, followed a few hours later with my parents oldest brother. This thanksgiving we will host the most people to ever fit into this house, and it will be gloriously flavored with my grandfather’s mexican laughter, and my grandmother’s fiesty smile. I will be singing a set on Thanksgiving and am so excited to have them in the room and praying the Lord will touch them with His presence. Our dream is that they will stay a few days, and maybe JUUST maybe we’ll be able to carve out some time for making Tamales with my grandfather.

To be cool like David Pawson I’m not going to tell you where, but  (insert sweet old man British accent) in the book of Philippians (exit accent) Paul says that his joy is made complete when the body of Christ is like-minded, and loving one another. I think that’s when my joy is complete too. The Lord is renewing the hearts of the body in this city, and I’m loving being with people more than I have at any other point of my 4 years here because our heats are unified and in love with Him. We can’t quit talking about Him, can’t quit sharing the stories of what He is doing in our lives and in each other’s lives and I love it. My heart is growing more and more tender, feeling more affection and love for the people around me as I see the love of Christ Jesus blooming inside of them and making them new.

Jesus wants a bride, His father wants sons and daughters, and my heart too is full of the love and fellowship of family. Thank You for love Jesus!