Posted in college, Emotions, Family, God, joy, love, Parenthood

JOY Unspeakable

“Weeping may endure for the night, but JOY comes in the morning.” (Psalm 30:5)

9/29/99 was an ordinary Wednesday for most people.  But for me, it was a “line-in-the-sand” kind of day, a day that marked a change in my life that brought unconditional love in the form of a 9 pound 5 ounce baby girl.  Rachel JOY Goetz, our fourth child, was born that morning, at 1:09 am, to be exact.  And now, in just two short days, she is off to embark on her next adventure, taking the “Rachel-only” piece of my heart with her!

Two years ago, at the age of 16, I gave her a gold-dipped white rose for her birthday.  The thoughts I penned for her that day ring truer in my heart tonight as I sit at my computer.  My initial impulse is to weep (and I’m sure it will come in buckets soon enough), but in the wee hours of a Friday, I am reminded that JOY does come in the morning.  So for now, I celebrate.

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Dearest Rachel,

I love giving you this rose.  It symbolizes so much that I want you to know about yourself and why you have changed my life and the lives of all who meet you.

First of all, the rose is WHITE.  White is a symbol of innocence or purity, but not perfection.  I see in you a pure heart, one that longs to love others with good intentions, treat others kindly with much grace and little judgment and do your personal best without getting caught up in “perfectionism.” Your pure heart is beautiful!

Secondly, the flower is a ROSE.   Roses are heart-stoppingly beautiful to the eye and their smell is equally show-stopping. When I think of you, your outward beauty is heart-stopping for me. Many times, as you know, you take my breath away! You are simply gorgeous on the outside! I can’t get around it. But again, more importantly, your “aroma” is show-stopping. Your infectious smile, caring heart, and love for the “haves” and the “have-nots” is truly incredible.  

ROSES demonstrate the following things and I see them in you:

LOVE – You love unconditionally. We have said this about you from when you were a baby. When others are with you, they can’t help but feel loved and accepted. What a gift that is!

FAITH – You are a trusting soul. You believe the best about others. You easily trust God’s heart toward you.

BEAUTY – Rachel, you are truly beautiful, inside and out.

BALANCE – You understand the delicate balance of life: work, play, others and yourself. I love watching this in you. You are a good teacher to me.

PASSION – What can I say? Your passion for what really matters to you is crazy cool to watch!   Those five things…God, love of family and friends, music, puzzles and the beach!

TIMELESSNESS – I think of you as a timeless person. You enjoy people aged 2 to 102. You love where you are and who you are with. Time seems to slow down when I am around you!

WISDOM – Dad and I used to say that “you got it” even when you were a teeny one. You see so much of the world through wise eyes and a wise heart. You are the best counselor to your friends and you see things that others just can’t see.   My favorite wise saying that you have ever said was, “It is better to be kind than right.”   You were only 10 years old when you spoke that deep truth to my heart (and to our basketball team).  Yes! You just “get it.”

INTRIGUE – No one can say that they have explored the depths of what makes you Rachel. You have a mysteriousness about you that is very interesting and causes me to want to know you more. There is so much to you and it has been fun seeing a beautiful young woman begin to unfold!

DEVOTION – You are one of the most loyal people I know.   You stick by your friends, your beliefs, your love for Jesus, your family and yourself!

SENSUALITY – You love all things…what you can see, hear, smell, taste and touch! You enjoy life to the full. You see all the gifts God has for you in nature, in others, in music, in so many simple things, in all of life!

Lastly, the rose is dipped in GOLD. To me, gold symbolizes long-lasting value. Every time you look at the rose on your bookshelf, I want you to be reminded of how incredibly valuable you are, to God, to us, to yourself and to your future. You have infinite value, much more than any GOLD in the world.  The whole person that makes up Rachel JOY Goetz is so undeniably precious and I pray that you would continue to hold onto that understanding for the rest of your life!

I want to end with the second verse that God gave me when you were born! It has really come true for me! And for anyone who has spent a minute with you!

“My God shall do exceedingly abundantly above all we can ever ask or imagine, according to the power that works within us.” (Ephesians 3:20)

I love you precious daughter!

Mom

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PS  If you aren’t tired of Rachel yet, click HERE to watch my gut-wrenching slide show of her amazing life!

PPS  And if you want to read what it was like to be her sister, check out Sarah’s blog post from May of 2011 about the unconditional love that was 11 year-old Rachel.

 

Posted in Emotions, Family, love, marriage, wtf

Make A Marriage Great Again (Part Three of Ten)

Everybody’s got a dark side
Do you love me?
Can you love mine?
Nobody’s a picture perfect
But we’re worth it
You know that we’re worth it
Will you love me?
Even with my dark side?

(Kelly Clarkson)

We had a fight this weekend.  It was over boundaries and adult children.  And no, the next WTF (refer to joke in first MAMGA post) is not the word fight (sorry to disappoint…we will get to that F), but the word fallibility.  Back to our fight.  It was mostly about how we don’t believe the other person is doing a good job in these areas (and certainly not doing what we would do).  Remember, Allen is kind and gracious. I am sarcastic and discerning. Allen is a hard-worker, quiet and reserved. I am quick-witted and loud. He is methodical and analytical. I am passionate and decisive. Allen is a supporter and a peacemaker. I am a leader and aggressive.  Now just imagine (if you dare) how we might approach everything just a tad (ha-ha) differently and we strongly wish the other person would change and think and do what we think and do.

After a day of shutting down, processing by ourselves, apologizing, going to counseling, and then processing together, we came to the same conclusion we always come to:  we both want the other to accept us for our complete selves, flaws and all, even if change never comes.

As in many marriages, we started off seeing only the good in each other.  Believe it or not, we actually kept that up for about 10 years.  It meant a lot of hiding and dodging and pretending, and I must say it felt kind of good.  No hard talks.  No hard work.  We strived to believe the best.  After all, who wouldn’t want a kind, gracious, hard-working, supportive, peace-making husband.  I was sure for a long time that I did, or at least should.  And believe it or not, many times  I would ask Allen, “Isn’t there something that you don’t like about me?  What ways do I drive you crazy?”  And he would return with the answer, “Can’t really think of anything off-hand.”

Until it all “hit the fan.”  About 10 years into our marriage, and with help from some friends, Allen took a huge risk and shared some of his “not-so-perfect” stuff with me.   I would love to tell you that I returned his risk with the reward of kindness, understanding and grace.  Not so much.  His reward was judgment and anger.  After all, I liked my perfect, cookie-cutter world, where we were “godly” people and had a picture-perfect marriage and family.  It was really easy to live there.

Over the next months, things began to slowly change in my heart.  Allen’s risk effected me.  I was free to explore the “dark side” of my own life, the ways I was hiding and pretending, the parts of me that are fallible.  And you know what happened?  For the first time in our marriage I felt safe and free to share those things with him.  If he wasn’t perfect, then I didn’t have to be either.  What a relief!

(For you curious folks, I will share one example that might seem silly.  When Allen was at work and my littles were down for a nap, I would sneak and watch “Days of our Lives,” a soap opera I believed a Christian wife and mother should not do.   You might even be chuckling, and on the surface, it seems trite and “no big deal,” but it reveals the deeper hiding and lack of safety that permeated our lives and our marriage.)  

This was the beginning of a very different marriage (we say we have the tale of two marriages), one where transparency and authenticity came to the forefront, and hiding was over (or mostly over).  I would love to say it went swimmingly and that now, it is all easy sailing.  But that “ain’t the truth,” as they say.

Without the hiding came truth (sometimes hard-to-bear truth), and hard work, long examinations of ourselves, counseling and not-very-easy talks, which continue to this day.  We began to believe what we now know beyond a shadow of a doubt:  real intimacy can’t happen without knowing each other’s deepest selves (fallibility, or dark sides, and all) and loving and accepting those deepest selves.  This came along with another truth:  this is something worth fighting for.  It will bring healing and wholeness to places only God and His unconditional love can reach.

It’s been a full-of-hard-work, wonderful, tough, worth-it 16+ years since this “AHA” moment in our marriage.  And as you read at the beginning, the fighting continues, both with each other and FOR each other.  We continue to face the battle for grace, mercy, acceptance, kindness, and unconditional love, both for ourselves and for each other.  It’s tough going many days.

I watched Scott Harrison (the charity:water guy) on Sunday after my last post.  He said something in his message about the fight for clean water, but it struck me in a completely different way:  “Don’t be afraid of the work that has no end.”  There are days when I want go back to the pretending and hiding marriage where it’s easier and less complicated, where the work does have an end or seem to.  But as I know in the deepest part of me, the best thing in my life is that I am fully known (super risky STEP ONE) and fully loved (super hard STEP TWO) by another.  This reveals the very heart of God to me, something my soul craves and is designed to know.  This work has no end, but it’s worth every ounce of effort we put into it.  Allen and I are determined not to leave but to love.   We reminded each other of that very thing last night (and I promise, we weren’t in a good place at the time).  That changes everything.

There’s a place that I know
It’s not pretty there and few have ever gone
If I show it to you now
Will it make you run away?

Or will you stay
Even if it hurts
Even if I try to push you out

Will you return?
And remind me who I really am,
Please remind me who I really am.

(Kelly Clarkson)

***Watch the video of the song before you sign off by clicking HERE***

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Next Friday:  FINANCES…yikes!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in Family, love, marriage, wtf

Make a Marriage Great Again (Part Two of Ten)

Nothing is more noble, nothing more venerable, than fidelity.  (Cicero)

Disturbing statistics:  22% of men and 14% of women admit to having an affair during their marriage.  Even more disturbing statistics: 74% of men and 68% of women say they would have an affair if they knew they would never get caught. (www.statisticbrain.com)

This past weekend, our friends’ son was married to a beautiful girl.  As with most weddings, there were flowers, dresses, food and promises of love and faithfulness until death. There were also the fun things, like the silly song that the bride’s family sang to the groom called “Lukey Pukey” (don’t ask) and the square dancing in the barn (Allen and I had left feet, six feet, or just a lack of dancing ability – we did get our 10,000 steps for which we were thankful – see FitBit post).

We were reminded again and again that day about the second WTF (see last week’s post on this to get the inside joke) in our series of F words – FIDELITY.

This very word is designed to evoke trust (probably why there is a huge bank who has the name).  With it comes the ideas of loyalty, faithfulness, allegiance and support.

For many of us, the first thing that comes to mind with the word fidelity in marriage is the sexual relationship (the “forsake all others” part).

When Allen and I meet with engaged couples, we ask them, no matter whether or not they are currently sexually active, to give each other the “gift of sexual integrity” during the mentoring process.  It is basically a sexual fast for the four to six months we explore all aspects of their relationship before the big day.  For many, this is a no-brainer. They understand the deeper reasons behind this request:

  • building of trust
  • providing a basic litmus test of self-control and patience
  • exploring spiritual and emotional aspects of the relationship without the physical
  • entering a sexual fast (much like a food fast) to provide an environment where God can work at some deeper levels

For others, this is very difficult, and with good reason.  In a society that has expectations of sleeping together as proof or the natural result of love, it may come as an odd request. At this point, we ask them to take a step of trust in us, in the mentoring process and in the Creator of marriage.  We can tell you this for sure: we have never seen it backfire in our eight years of meeting with over 80 couples.  We have seen relationships heal and thrive.

Allen and I were blessed, albeit for the wrong reasons of following the rules, to wait until marriage for the fulfillment of our physical union. We had no idea then what an incredible gift this was to each other.  A huge benefit for me over these 26+ years is that I have never worried that Allen might have an affair.  His self-control, ability to wait and integrity provided a place of complete trust for me.  I am extremely thankful.  It’s one area of our relationship that I feel safe.  I believe he does as well.

Our hearts were designed for fidelity (loyalty, faithfulness, allegiance and support).  Not just physically.  That is just the area that seems to be highlighted when this subject comes up.  When we marry, we want to be chosen never to be unchosen.   Marriage provides a unique backdrop for true intimacy in every area of our lives: spiritual, emotional, mental and physical.  It is the only human place to be fully-known and fully-loved, and as the Bible says, “naked and unashamed.”

Fidelity is the framework for this intimacy.  This safety net offers a place where we can fully reveal ourselves (become fully-known) to another.  The fulfilled promise of loving and not leaving (“until death do us part”) is huge.  This brings with it the second part of intimacy, being fully-loved.  Each is a requirement of the other and makes a never-ending circle of knowing and loving.

I know some of you are thinking, “But we haven’t been faithful to each other.”  (And maybe even “you have no idea because you guys made all the right decisions,” yada, yada, yada.)  Remember how I said I felt safe in that one area.  That’s true.  But we have not had complete fidelity (loyalty, faithfulness, allegiance and support) with each other.  We are humans.  We have revealed dark sides of ourselves only to be met with a lack of understanding, blame, shame, yelling (okay, I yell), shutting down and bailing out (maybe not the D (ivorce) word, but there are many ways to practice infidelity).  We are still practicing (because we are not there yet by any stretch) what we preach.

Fidelity is hard work.  It’s big and small, long-term and in-the-moment choices to know and be known, to love and be loved.  But it is worth it!

Just now, Allen called and said, “Who are we to share this message?  We certainly don’t have our act together.  It’s hard for us.”  We then paused and reminded each other that even though the struggle is very real for us, we are working really hard because we believe this and the message still deserves to get both in here (to us) and out there (to you)!  Marriage matters!  We matter!  You matter!  Fidelity matters!

Semper Fidelis!

A week break and then number three:  FALLIBILITY

 

 

 

Posted in Family, ministry, Missionary, taboo

Living in a Fishbowl

Living your life in the public eye is a greater burden than most people can imagine. (Justin Trudeau)

“For you, O Lord, have made me glad by your work; at the works of your hands I sing for joy.” (Psalm 92:4)

I promised you that we would dive into stuff that might be a little taboo.  Elephant-in-the-room things.  Behind-closed-door chatter.   You may want to click away if you don’t want your world shaken a bit.  Or feel free to stay here and get some nuggets of the true struggles and joys behind the world of those who live their lives in a fishbowl.  Maybe you are that person and you need the encouragement that you are not alone.

Whether it’s a pastor, a politician, a missionary, a CEO, a professional athlete, a musician/actor or even a small-town leader in the community or church, his/her spouse and family have many eyes on them (and cats ready to pounce…I am referencing the cute cartoon picture above).  Having grown up as a missionary kid where my parents and us kids felt the pressure of being role models and living (or appearing like we’re living) mistake-free lives, my heart has a special place in it for those who are living the dream (or the nightmare).

I came across a brave pastor’s wife who peeled back the curtain so we might catch a glimpse of what it’s like to live in this place.  (Obviously, there are pastors’ husbands out there as well, so don’t get all up in your grill…it’s the principle, right?)  Here are some excerpts from her blogpost entitled Things Your Pastors’ Wives Wish You Knew.  Please welcome Everyday Natalie to the Dolly Mama.

I find the role of a pastor’s wife to be both marvelous and challenging. Pastors’ wives carry a heavy load of responsibility as we care for our families and the people in our churches, and participate in activities of the church and community. There are high expectations for our families and us.

I posed an open-ended question to some pastors’ wives I know who live all over the USA, from different denominations, with various years of service to get some answers. I asked them how they would respond to this question: What do you wish people knew about being a pastor’s wife? I received varied responses about the secret struggles and joys of ministry.  I promised anonymity for all who answered, and was so thankful for their honesty.

Here you will find the things we wish you knew but can’t say out loud:

Struggles of Ministry

  • Friendships are hard for me.  I don’t feel that I can fully be myself. I have trusted and been betrayed, so sometimes I choose loneliness for safety’s sake.
  • There’s no way a pastor’s wife can fulfill the high standards people put on us. There is this pressure to be perfect.
  •  My husband has to be a husband and father before he is a pastor.  It seems that people want him to have a healthy family life while giving the church all of his time.  Both the family and the church need to show grace to one another while we live in this tension.
  • Because I minister to many, keep many confidences, and am very busy, it may seem like I don’t want to be as close to you as you want to be to me. But really, I am often lonely and desire to have a close friend.
  • I don’t enjoy being visible and up front. I only do it by the grace of God.
  • Almost every day I’m afraid of screwing it all up.
  • We taught our children to make good choices, but sometimes they don’t.
  • I am a people pleaser and worry/know others are judging my clothes, my hair, my family, the car I drive, and my home.
  • I don’t enjoy living in a fish bowl. There are some aspects of my life I prefer to remain private.
  • I enjoy talking about other things besides Jesus and church.
  • It is very hard not to take church criticism personally. It hurts, especially if it is toward my husband. At times, they come from people that I think I trust and feel safe with, people that I love. This makes it often difficult to trust anyone.
  • I find it hard not be resentful towards people who expect my husband to be available 24/7.
  • I do not have a thirst for power or even a desire to lead.
  •  My life is not perfect. My husband isn’t perfect. My marriage isn’t perfect. My kids aren’t perfect and most of all, I am not perfect.

Joys of Serving

  • I love my job, and I love my church.
  • I have been so blessed by gifts, money, love, and much prayer.
  • Let your spiritual leaders know how you are doing- it is an incredible encouragement!
  • Jesus is the answer to everything- really, He is!
  • It is an honor to minister alongside and I take it seriously. I want to love people as Jesus does.
  • It is a blessing and privilege to be trusted with other people’s secrets, joys, and intimate details.
  • I love when my when my husband shares insight from his study/sermon prep time.
  • I am challenged every day to depend utterly upon God.

Our hope, as pastor’s wives, is that you would understand we are regular people just like you. We are not special or unique. Please keep all the above responses in mind when talking to us and about us. We try our hardest to love God and love people the best we can.

www.everydaynatalie.com 

Please feel free to comment below and share with those who might need this encouragement today!  I already shared it with one of my pastor wife friends.

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Posted in Family, marriage, wtf

Make A Marriage Great Again (Part One of Ten)

Marriage is the opportunity to inherit an additional dysfunctional family, just in case the one you have wasn’t enough!  (Pinterest)

I was going to call this post “WTF (Part One)” but shied away from the controversy.  I figured the hinted reference to our commander-in-chief might be less contentious than the allusion to a curse word.  You have both to think about now and I might just have your attention.  (I hope you know this is all in fun and to put a smile on your face.)

Back to WTF.  My husband and I have been marriage mentors for many years and have met with countless couples who are getting or newly married.  We love it, not only because we love the people who we come to know, but also because it’s been so good for our own marriage.

We have discovered, mostly because of making our own mistakes, walking through the mentoring curriculum ourselves and getting very wise counsel from a professional, ten F’s (hence the reference, WTF), that couples need to navigate to have the marriage they long for, where they are fully known and fully loved.

The first “F” is FAMILY:  Family of Origin (FOO) and Future Family (FF).

We all have a FOO, and they are all completely different.   There are as many types of families as there are people.  Our FOOs create expectations of what we believe is normal, even right.  It’s no wonder that our FOOs collide when we come together to create an FF.

When we first meet our partner’s FOO, we probably have two things in mind:  I hope they like me.  They look pretty good/or not (in other words, “how good will my partner look in 25 years?”).  As we get to know them a little better, we might have two other things in mind:   We are not doing THAT (fill in the blank) when we have a family.  I am not spending all of the holidays with her side.  (and other such kind thoughts)

Most husbands and wives fall into patterns of behavior and thought from their FOOs.  After all, we believe them to be what’s normal and our expectations follow suit.  Even in the healthiest of families, however, many couples find certain aspects of their FOO that they don’t want to repeat.

When Allen and I married more than 26 years ago, we had absolutely no clue about this.  We were young and in love and thought it would just magically play out.  Then we began to live together.  I grew up in a family that was loud, emotional and nothing was “off limits” in our conversations.  We talked about the taboo things:  religion, politics, you-name-it.  We talked about them passionately.

Allen, on the other hand grew up in a “if you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say it at all” FOO.   Controversial topics were never spoken of.  To this day, Allen’s mom does not know who his dad voted for in any election (maybe that’s why they get along so well).  I’m sure you can picture our first argument and even our argument just yesterday.  Esther:  loud, passionate, emotional.  Allen:  quiet, reserved and logical.  Perfect for each other (insert snarky tone of voice).

This isn’t something that is our faults.  It’s just what’s true.  And what’s true will set you free (the book of John).  As we slowly and carefully unravel what we have brought to the marriage with us from our FOOs (without the damaging partners of blame and shame), we will begin to experience the grace and love we so desperately want and need, providing the way for our FF.

Allen and I are still navigating this, sometimes more carefully than others.   We continue to see patterns from our FOOs that have an effect on our F (which for us, isn’t so future anymore).  We keep working hard with wise counsel to see ourselves and each other more clearly, and give understanding and compassion.  I wish we were perfect at it.  We are not.  But one thing we are:  we are passionate about doing whatever it takes to be fully known and fully loved, FOO issues and all.

We have now produced a FOO for our children, just like many of you.  Others of you are at the beginning of your FF like our daughter Sarah (who just wrote an amazing post on new marriage).  No matter where you are on your journey, it’s never too late or too soon to take a look back and uncover what you might have brought into your F or your FF from your FOO.  The good news is that some of the things might just be wonderful.  After all, the best gift your partner received from your FOO is YOU!

NEXT FRIDAY:  FIDELITY

Welcome comments, likes and shares…

 

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in Family, love, Parenthood

The Goetz Family Law

There were 613 commandments in the original Jewish law.  There were almost the same number of rules in our home in the first several years of our parenting.  I spent countless hours coming up with different “Goetz Family Laws” based on our kids’ ages and stages.

I read book after book on parenting, trying to get a grip on how this whole thing was supposed to work, how I could be a successful mother.  In fact, about six months ago, I found an old Word document from 2006 and it was entitled, “Family Boundary Agreements.”  Inside, there were contracts with each of the four kids, ages 17 down to 10, filled with expectations about right behavior and clear consequences if that behavior wasn’t met and privileges given if it was met.  I was desperate to just manage the chaos that seemed to be a natural part of raising a family.  Reading it 10 years later basically caused me to LOL (seriously LOL).  I probably had never followed through on any of it, no matter how hard I had tried.

Needless to say, this went on for many years until one day, I cried in desperation to one of the kids (I may have been in a bit of a frenzy at the time.  Just saying), “Take care of your SELF and your STUFF and you’ll never have to hear from me!”  If I had been a cartoon at that moment, a giant “lightbulb” would have appeared over my head.  HUGE PARENTING CLARITY MOMENT!

When I had a minute to analyze this to see we could actually adopt this as our new framework, I mentally began to test all of the things that might happen in our home:

  • dropping wet towels on bedroom floor (STUFF)
  • brushing teeth (SELF)
  • not eating 17 cookies (SELF)
  • doing homework (STUFF)
  • putting away toys (STUFF)
  • washing hands after wiping (SELF)
  • getting a job (BOTH)
  • taking off shoes in the middle of the kitchen and leaving them there (STUFF)
  • going to bed  (SELF)
  • developing friendships (SELF)
  • putting gas in car (STUFF)
  • etc.  etc.  etc.

Believing this was the answer, we adopted a new Goetz Family Law, one that didn’t take hours of preparation and doctorates for each of us to understand.  I could pretty much throw out the charts and the contracts.  Each situation was evaluated by these two simple questions:  “Are you taking care of yourself?  Are you taking care of your stuff?”  It didn’t matter how old these precious children of mine were.  It didn’t matter what kind of personality they had.  It didn’t matter if they were a boy or a girl, an introvert or an extrovert, played the guitar or lacrosse, 15 or 3.

As time marched on, many things fell under this purview.  I had great relief as I had a tool to help me.   External behavior that aids in teaching character traits like responsibility, ownership, and stewardship were more easily managed.  However, not all things landed neatly in the columns of self and stuff.  We still faced:

  • cooperation
  • generosity
  • kindness
  • respect
  • compassion
  • thankfulness
  • forgiveness
  • patience

These were the deeper issues of the heart.  Thankfully, I didn’t have to muster up another lightbulb moment to address these.  Someone much wiser than me had already done the job about 2,000 years ago.  In fact, He had summed up all 613 of those rules in the Jewish law with just two:  “Love God.  Love your neighbor as yourself.”  No rocket science needed here.  Easier on the mind and on the heart (so glad I live on this side of history).

I am coming out of the parenting years (very slowly and painstakingly…in fact, our youngest just graduated high school yesterday).  Can I put all of this away now?  My answer to myself is “no.”  All of this stuff applies, not just to parenting, but to life.  And certainly to me.  I need to take care of myself and my stuff (my health, my family, my finances, my emotions, my home, etc.).   But my greater need is one where love (the love of God, self and others) is the center of my heart and all the richer and deeper things of life flow from that center.

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What “rules” do you live by?  How might living in and from love change your world?  Would love to hear your comments.

As always, you can follow me on all the social media channels (except SnapChat, because I’m too old for that, according to my kids).  If you’re not a social media person, and want to do things the old-fashioned way (unbelievable that it’s already old-fashioned), subscribe to my email list.  I would love for you to share, share, share.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in beautiful mess, Emotions, Family, grief, sacred, suicide, taboo

Grief – One Friend’s Journal Entry (For Steven)

“True love between two human beings puts you more in touch with your deepest self.  The pain you experience from the death of the person you love calls you to a deeper knowledge of God’s love.  The God who lives in you can speak to the God in the other.  This is deep speaking to deep, a mutuality in the heart of God, who embraces both of you.”  (Henri J.M. Nouwen, The Inner Voice of Love)

Grief.  Most of us try our very hardest to shy away, or even run away from it.  We question what to say when someone is grieving.  We are unsure how often or even if to “bring it up” once life supposedly goes “back to normal.”  We don’t know what to expect from ourselves or what the other might need from us.  Should we come close or give the other space?  It can be a very confusing time for everyone.  And truthfully, if I can speak candidly about myself,  I don’t like to be in pain or be with others in pain.  It’s just downright uncomfortable.

The past couple of years have been filled with family and friends who are grieving.   And like most things in my life, I am not an avoider.  I want to throw myself headlong into the process, engage in it, learn from it, deal with it.  After all, it’s fairly new to me and I’ve heard that it’s horrible, sacred, beautiful intimate, and gut-wrenching all at the same time.

I lost my own sister-in-law, Denise Maret, just under a year ago, after a year-and-a-half long battle with colon cancer.  My brother and 19-year-old niece are left to raise my nine- and ten-year-old nephew and niece, along with the help of their grandparents.

My friend lost her precious brother to suicide.  He has left behind a wife, three children and two grandchildren and her heart is broken.

Our friend and former babysitter lost both her dad and her husband to cancer during her two pregnancies and she is left to raise two young children alone.

I reconnected with someone on Facebook who lost her only son to teen suicide.  This was the second time she lost a child, the other, a daughter, in early infancy.

A friend from church battled kidney cancer for many years.  His wife faithfully cared for him, only to lose him.  He missed his step-daughter’s wedding by only three short months.

One of my best friends from high school lost both of her daughters, her only children, in a tragic car accident on Good Friday.  They were only 19 and 20 years old, absolutely stunning girls, one only 10 days away from her college graduation.

You have your own stories.  So much horror.  So much sadness.  Grief multiplied.

This is probably where you want to click off, log out, go find puppy videos on the internet.  Me too.  At times.  But not today.  Come with me.  Lean in.  Learn along side of me.  Today, we will catch just a glimpse inside the world of my friend, Annie, who lost her baby brother to suicide at just 51 years old.  I promise you that it’s not all horrible.

When she first shared this journal entry with me, my heart was filled with horror, joy, sorrow, connection, injustice and comfort.  Yes.  All of those things.   Loss feels raw and sad and terrible and wrong, but also sacred and beautiful and precious.  Entering in to the pain allows our hearts to be touched with a deeper knowing and beauty that we will miss if we click away.  I ask that you would read on.

Annie’s Journal Entry on 6/17/2017.  Four months later.

Steven is gone.  He is gone.  He is gone from me.  How can this be?  How can he be gone, just gone?  I don’t feel disconnected from him . . . but definitely disengaged.  He is not here to hope, or dream, or plan for a future together.  All those things are gone.

My connection to a future here that includes him is gone, and nothing will take its place.  It is an empty space…and it will stay empty.  It is a space that holds his absence and my missing him.  My own future will always hold this empty space.  I am suffering.  I will suffer, but I will not be destroyed or left desolate by an empty space.

This empty space where Steven is missing is a sacred place.  I would rather have this sacred, empty space than no space at all.  Our love and connection to each other created a space for our future together.  If there had been no love and connection, there would be no space – – and I am thankful for it, for our empty space . . . for my empty space.

I am thankful for all the other spaces, the other spaces that are full – – beautiful, cherished spaces filled to bursting with love and life and memories.  Memories of the two of us.  All the precious moments we had together and apart-but-connected.  All the treasured memories we had together with others.  Those spaces are filled up and will stay full . . .
nothing will change that.

I don’t have you with me now my Steve, my beloved Steven, but I am forever grateful for you – my one time little brother, my forever friend.