When the only path through grieving is… through…

On the heels of a year where the Lord taught me to live vulnerably in tight-knit community and through writing my heart out on this website, I came to a place at the beginning of last summer where words felt entirely inadequate to express the thoughts and emotions that flooded my body on a daily basis. In the span of two months, I had unexpectedly lost a dear friend, my “adopted little brother” in a motorcycle accident and a childhood friend to cancer. As I traveled last summer, I continued to journal and write privately, figuring that this lack of “words to share” would pass in due time.

When I resumed my “normal” life in Colorado in August, I felt strongly that I was being called into a season of silent processing with the Lord and I decided that a break from public writing was what I needed to do to respect that season of life. But as time here in Colorado wore on and transition turned to stability, my ability (and desire) to vulnerably share “where I was at” began to wane. Over time, I closed into myself, shutting nearly everyone else out so dramatically that most days I didn’t know how not to. (Aside: If I’ve done this to you, please, please, please know I didn’t mean to hurt you if I have. I want to sit down over a cup of coffee with you. I want to mend relationships. I want you to know that as much as it sounds like a cheesy relationship line or an excuse, “It’s not you. It’s never been you. It’s me. I’m a mess.”)

In the days that preceded the disappearance of my friends and our plane in December, I felt a shift occurring in my heart; I knew my season of silent processing was being called to an end. I knew I was supposed to start writing again. And yet, when the plane went down, a part of me went down with it. Obviously, the part of my heart that held Scott, Kyle, Zach, & Kaitlyn dear, but the articulate part of me was also lost that day.

For months, I’ve struggled with and through depression, trying and failing to express anything of real value without bursting into tears. Despite feeling the Lord pressing me to write or express my heart in whatever way I could, I couldn’t do it. Time and time again, as I’ve tried to write, I instead closed my laptop and retreated back into my own introverted brain.

In those moments, a part of me knew I was being disobedient to what God was calling me to in my grief. I knew closing myself off wasn’t a true solution to any of my problems, and yet in this complex season, I didn’t know how to stop.

Thus, I’ve spent my weeknights and weekends largely holed away from community, avoiding my laptop, and wrestling with the Lord in coffee shops and counseling, or while crying with my roommates on the Yarrow kitchen floor.

In the individual nights of these last few months I’ve felt the extent of just how little I have “it” together (whatever “it” is…). And to be honest? This realization of the extent of my weakness paired with this “calling” to be vulnerable in that weakness?? It’s scared the living daylights out of me.

I don’t know what to say. I don’t know how to say it. I don’t know how to not tell other’s stories while telling mine because they’re so intertwined. I’m scared of unintentionally drudging up pain for the people I love, those who are walking through this complicated season of grief too. I don’t want to be “that sad writer” or ever come across as though I’m seeking pity, because I beg you to realize, I’m not. 

I so desperately want to feel “normal” again. I want to stop crying. I want to stop grieving from the core of my being.

But that’s not where the Lord has me… 

Instead, I’m here in this weird in-between– the place where I thought I was finally “okay” enough to attend a symposium on gospel-centered grieving and most days am more hopeful than I am bitter with God.

I’m here, in the muck and the mire of loss and redemption, joy and grief.

I’m desperately seeking contentedness with God’s plan when in actuality? I feel like I can’t handle being content with this new reality without the people I love. And the mere thought of trying to do so spiraled me into a panic attack Friday night at said grief symposium where I ended up running out of the sanctuary and ugly crying/ snotting into a close friend’s hair on our church steps.

This season isn’t cute.

It’s rendered me a mess. One giant freaking paradox.

Yet daily throughout this season, I have heard the invitation of Jesus to the weary in Matthew 11– “Come to Me.” And privately, I have. Through His sweet grace that I know I possess and yet so desperately crave more of, I come to Him a little more each day.

Today’s come to Jesus moment has been through obedience and tears; it is through a long overdue introduction/ continuation to this convoluted season through writing although I’d much rather remain silent and still, alone with Him and my little blue journal.

It comes through breathing life back into this dusty, neglected blog and it comes in the same vein as the words I’ve read time and time again this year: “The only way out of grief is through.”

Part of me hopes that maybe writing again will be the beginning of the end of this messy chapter. Most of me knows that more than likely it’s not; but I simply hope am confident that somewhere in this mess, in this journey through grief, I will see more of Jesus and I pray somehow you do too…

{To be continued}

“I remain confident of this: I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living.”

(Psalm 27:13)

Throw me in the deep end

Like most people who work in ministry, I’m not super great at “self-care”. There are days when I chase high schoolers into and around our building for so long that I forget to eat lunch. There are days that I nap in my parked car with Hailey because I’m exhausted from work and don’t want to risk waking her from her afternoon nap by transferring her into her crib. There have been days where I have been going-going-going from 7 am to 10 pm and have forgotten to drink water– a stupid idea when you live in Denver, at altitude.

The outcome of this hair-brained, busy lifestyle? Absolute exhaustion.

Please don’t get me wrong or think that I’m complaining here because I’m not. I LOVE caring for people. Chasing my hot-mess high schoolers around, caring for baby Hay, making meals for my friends, and having mass gatherings in my home are some of my favorite things. God reveals so much of His beauty to me in those chaotic moments.

But when I don’t pause to take a breath, a drink, or have a snack, I eventually crumble.

By then, I’m usually too tired to eat or drink and I usually just lay on my bed and fall asleep, only to wake up even more hungry or thirsty. It’s a self perpetuating cycle and if I was stupid enough to allow it to continue on forever, it would literally kill me.

My spiritual life is no different.

In the chaos of being the hands and feet of Jesus– of begging high school students to do their homework and driving them to youth group, of putting tiny shoes back on a rambunctious 1-year-old for the umpteenth time that day, and making yummy snacks for Gospel community– it is easy for me to forget to spend time with the One that I am working so hard for.

And over time, even if that time is only a few days, if I don’t drink from the Living Water, I eventually become dehydrated.

Last night, I laid in bed after one-heck-of-a-day at work and simply stared at my Bible and the glass of water sitting next to each other on my floor.

Physically and spiritually dehydrated from my own time-management issues, I contemplated downing the whole glass of water and staying up to finish reading the last two chapters of the Gospel of Matthew. But instead, even though I knew that I needed the life that both of those items provided, I simply rolled over and shut my eyes.

As I laid there, the story of the lame man in John 5: 1-9 ran through my head:

“After this, there was a feast of the Jews, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. Now there is in Jerusalem by the Sheep Gate a pool, in Aramaic called Bethesda, which has five roofed colonnades. In these lay a multitude of invalids– blind, lame, and paralyzed. One man was there who had been an invalid for thirty-eight years. When Jesus saw him lying there and knew that he had already been there a long time, he said to him, “Do you want to be healed?” The sick man answered him, “Sir, I have no one to put me into the pool when the water is stirred up, and while I am going another steps down before me.” Jesus said to him, “Get up, take your bed, and walk.” And at once the man was healed, and he took up his bed and walked.”

Lord, I feel like I need someone to throw me into the Water. I’m literally too tired and dehydrated to even get up and walk, I prayed as I dozed off.

This morning I woke up still dehydrated in both senses. And just an hour into my work day, I had a few  of my students absolutely unleash on me, essentially telling me where I ‘could go’ and how I could ‘get there’, if you get my drift…

After those conversations came to an end, I sat in my empty classroom and stared at the Bible next to my computer, letting my thoughts get the best of me. I need someone to throw me into the Water.  I don’t really even feel like doing it myself right now. As I stared at my Bible and examined my own stubborn heart, tears of exhaustion and grief from how my week was already shaping up splashed against the inside of my glasses.

A few moments later, the history teacher burst through my classroom door, disrupting my zoned out state, with a Bible in hand.

“Here. This is what I’m talking about in chapel today,” he said as he flopped it open and nodded to the highlighted chunk in the middle of the page. “It looks like you could use it a little early.”

Matt1128

As I read the words in the yellow box, I laughed involuntarily and blurted out, “Shut up, Fuller!”

“No, seriously. That’s what I’m doing for chapel today! Crazy, huh? God knows…”

As he laughed and walked out of my classroom, I started getting choked up again. (#typical) My eyes read over the words I had convinced myself that I had committed to memory years ago, but clearly I still have some work to do…

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.”

All week long (Yes, it is only Tuesday, but OH MAN does it feel like it should be Friday) I have sat next to the pool filled with Living Water like the man in John 5– I was a dehydrated mess, refusing to drink until I was too weak to get myself up and lower myself into the pool to be refreshed by His goodness.

I’ve carried my Bible in my purse like I always do. I’ve taken it out and put it on my bed, on my floor, on my desk, and in my lap, but I haven’t opened it.

I don’t have any good reason or excuse except simply to say that I was dehydrated and that is entirely on me. I didn’t take the time to read or spend time with God the way that I knew I needed to. I didn’t run to Him in prayer when the proverbial “ish” hit the fan and I almost tackled a student yesterday trying to protect one of my co-workers. I was too proud and exhausted and knowingly unworthy to come to my Father and ask for help, and in doing so, I allowed my problems to grow bigger and more difficult for me to manage– I allowed myself to shrivel up and become dry.

But thankfully, God is a God who cares about my tiny prayers just as much as He cares about my “big” ones.

Through Fuller coming in and “throwing me into the pool” by handing me an open Bible, open to the exact thing that I needed to read at that exact moment, I found refreshment for my soul and an answer to the prayer that I had been praying since last night.

Was this life giving moment meant to be the thing that completely re-hydrated my soul? No, of course not.

But it was the catalyst to me spending my entire lunch hour doing the very thing that I love the most– spending time with Jesus.

Do I still suck at taking care of myself and currently have a dehydration headache from still not drinking enough water? Why, yes. Yes, I do. But I know that this is something that God is working on within me, both metaphorically and literally.

Are you weary? Burdened? Exhausted? Dehydrated?

Come and taste that the Lord is Good; see that He keeps His promises, His promises to love you well forever regardless of whether you are bright and shiny or dry, cracked, and cranky.

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

(Matthew 11:28-30)