Saturday, January 30, 2016

Running hills

I started running again and it has brought me to many places. Not just to certain streets, landmarks and views, but it has taken me through a lot of thoughts, reflections and moments of growth and healing. 

This morning's run was amazing. I felt energized and strong. 

And then I came to the hill. It was about three miles in and it was bigger than I remembered. 

But I keep going. 

Every time I start to feel tired, I remind myself that I've faced "hills" much larger than this. 

I've travelled up "hills" where I could not see more than a few inches in front of my face and felt convinced that the fog would never lift. I've battled "hills" that have been beaten by strong winds and burning flames. 

And by the grace of God, I've made it through. Even when I didn't think it would. Frankly, even when I didn't want to. 

Surely, I can climb this little hill. 

My legs begin to ache. I remind myself that I've faced more pain before. 

You've faced a dismal diagnosis. 

You've labored a baby without medication. 

You've recovered from an emergency c-section. 

You've given your precious baby back to God. 

God has carried you through. He has given you strength. Surely you can keep going. 

This is nothing. 

So I keep going. Pushing. Fighting. 

And then I got to the top of the hill and saw the view. The sunlight shining down on the city below and the mountains towering over in the distance.  It was breathtaking. 

If I had given up, I would have never seen that view. Sure, I may have been sore, tired and winded, but I felt joy rise up in me.

And I kept going. 

And I will keep going. 

There are more breathtaking views out there. And perhaps the painful journey makes them that much better. 

He will carry me through. 

Friday, January 15, 2016

An Apology to the Hurting. An Admonition to the Church.

"This is the reason I don't go to church." 

My heart felt heavy as I heard these words from yet another hurting friend. It wasn't the first time I had heard those exact words. I scrambled for a response, but I could not find one. 

agreed with her. 

I almost didn't write this post, for fear of being taken out of context or of offending everyone I know. Please know, I love the church. The church has been a huge encouragement to me. 

Consider this an admonition to the church; a "gentle or friendly reproof" as Webster's dictionary defines it. When I say "the church", I do not mean any particular church-I mean Christians as a whole, unified "church".  

I'm going to be real because I'm a little fired up about this. Maybe even a little mad- At ourselves. At myself.  I've seen too many friends turned away from God because of the lack of compassion from Christians. I'm guilty of it too. We've all done it. We all need to stop misrepresenting God's character by our lack of compassion. 

We need to cut the crap and love like Jesus.  Really, truly love people. 

The church, as a whole, does not always do a very good job of ministering to the broken. The hurting. The seeker. We plaster smiles on our face and we are all fine and dandy. We make it hard for people to be real. 

This is why they don't go to church. Real life case studies. 

""How are you?" The question was asked by someone wearing the biggest smile that I'd ever seen. I tried to smile, choking back tears. "I'm doing okay," I said. "OKAY?" they responded, looking at me as if I said that I was from outer space. "Just OKAY?!" they said again, for emphasis. "Oh honey, you'd better be much better than okay! God is on the throne!" I started to cry. I couldn't help it. It had been the hardest day. Month. Year. "Oh honey, stop crying. You have no reason to cry. God is in control," they said with a huge smile, patting me on the head...I mean, the back. It might as well have been on my head. I felt guilty for hurting. I felt guilty for not having it all together."

"Everyone is always smiling. When I ask how they're doing, they just say, 'Great!' No one has any least that they talk about. I feel like I'm the only one hurting."

"People make me feel guilty for hurting."

"Someone told me that my grief is a sin."

"This is why I don't go to church."
"This is why I usually don't hang out with Christians."

As another hurting friend told me those words, my eyes filled with tears. My heart broke because I knew that God wasn't like that. I knew that she had been misled by the mistakes of others. My heart broke because I knew that I've been one of those people. My heart broke because I also understood. I had been hurt in all the same ways. I was struggling with the same frustrations. I too wanted to hide on Sunday mornings for the same reasons. 

Church, we need to love the hurting. Really, truly love them. In their brokenness, in their hurt. We are turning people away with our lack of love.  We are making it hard for people to want to confide in us. We need to quit simply "throwing spiritual words" at people, when they really need us to come alongside them and show them the love of Jesus. 

Now hear me out. Love does not mean that we tolerate sin. Love does not mean that we do not speak truth. Love does not mean that we cannot share scripture. Love means that we must do these things with compassion. We must be willing to enter into the mess of the broken and help them as they seek truth. We have to be willing to acknowledge that pain is real

In Romans 12:15, Paul admonishes the church to "rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep". When talking about the "body of Christ" (the church) in 1 Corinthians 12:16, Paul says that if one members suffers, all suffer together.

To the hurting, I am so sorry that you have been cast off because of your brokenness. We are all broken. We are all hurting. 

Someone once told me something that I have to remind myself of often. They said, "Don't let the mistakes of Christians shape your perception of God." 

We are all human. We all make mistakes. We are all broken. People let us down. I've let people down. But God doesn't. God is perfect. He does not make mistakes. He is love. 

In my grief, I've asked many questions. I've doubted. I've been angry. I've been hurt. Through it all, He has never let me go. He has answered some of my questions. He has comforted me in moments when I least expect it. He has given me hope when I have forgotten that I have any reason to hope. 

It is okay to doubt. It is okay to hurt. It is okay to be upset. God can handle it. We can bring all of that to Him. 

I want you to know that following Jesus has been the best decision I have ever made. It does not take away trials. It does not automatically make life easy. But it has brought me comfort and a reason to hope. Without Jesus, I honestly don't think I'd still be here. 

Please do not let the lack of compassion from people shape your perception of God's compassion toward you. 

Psalm 34:18  “The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.”
Psalm 22:24  “For he has not despised or scorned the suffering of the afflicted one; he has not hidden
his face from him but has listened to his cry for help.”

John 11:35 "Jesus wept." 

Isaiah 53:3 "He was despised and rejected by men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief." 

Jesus did not avoid sadness. He faced it. He comforts us in it. He will conquer it.

Revelation 21: 4 "He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away."

Luke 6:21 "Blessed are you who weep now, for you shall laugh."

2 Corinthians 1:3-5 "...God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God..."

We need to give our all to God; our hurts, our joys, our entire lives. The hurt will not last forever. God will make all things right for eternity. He is coming back to make all things right.

John 16:33 "I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the word you will have many troubles. But take heart; I have overcome the world."

Let us love as Jesus loved. Let us restore people with compassion. Let us cling to the truth; including the truth of God's heart of compassion.

_ _ _ _ _ 

I've been so thankful for the friendships that have sprouted out of this grieving journey. Here are a few posts from some of my mama friends that are also great resources on this topic:

Scribbles and Crumbs: Making Room for Grief Within the Church
Clive Wins: Grief and Faith
Lessons from Benji: Learning to Lament

Saturday, January 9, 2016

The most beautiful thing

I looked in the mirror today and it felt different than it used to. Before you.

From the time I was twelve, and into my twenties, I struggled with body image. I noticed every flaw, every extra pound, every out-of-place hair and every blemish.

Before you.
You completely changed my perception of beauty.

You gave me extra pounds. Pounds that protected you and nourished you. The extra weight was never a frustration or a flaw- the extra pounds you gave me are precious to me. I'll never fit into my old pants again and I'm okay with that. Because of you.

You gave me a scar. A long red scar that will probably never go away.
I love that scar. It is a physical reminder that you were here. My Ethan "tattoo".

When I look into the mirror I see flaws. Beautiful, wonderful flaws of a woman who has carried a son and came to love her body because of it.

The extra weight, the scar, the changes...They remind me that I am your mom.

And that is the most beautiful thing.