I Am Not Ready

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I walked outside and felt the sun upon my face. It’s been a few days since I felt its warmth. It wrapped me up like a blanket, touching my face and my heart. I needed it’s warmth. I took a deep breath and looked at that blue sky and wondered how it could look the same when all inside my heart felt so different.

As we emerged from the Hospice House, I had family come walking towards me. Normally a light and happy feeling, today felt like a deep pain inside of me. I couldn’t talk. I couldn’t find any words, so I just kept on walking straight to the car. How had the warmth of the sun I had just felt become so cold?

It hit me then in that moment, as it has many more since then – that life goes on no matter what happens in your own. People will still gather together, enjoying meals, laughing, telling jokes. Working, playing, living – that is the nature of life. It’s meant to be lived.

Even in death.

I had just witnessed someone I dearly love loose their battle with cancer. They had fought  very long as they faced the disease that would finally claim their life. As I said goodbye for the final time, I was overcome with the emotions that saying goodbye really means. This isn’t a TV show you turn on and off at a whim, or some internet sensation you can google to learn more about them, this is not temporary, but final. This is life – and his was ending.

Somehow sitting around talking about the weather, the news, the current state of politics, or any other subject just doesn’t matter. It was all minutiae in comparison to the deeper questions we had been facing. We had been talking about life and death, embracing the precious journey of having one foot in this life and one in the hereafter. Moments were sacred. Time was precious. Love is eternal.

We all have a journey in life and this was his to walk.  I was humbled and so honored to be a part of his story. Touched to be trusted with tender moments that I will never share again. Forever changed by the authenticity and the humility that comes in facing death. If you are blessed to walk this road, standing beside them from this life into the next – it’s a gift.

Embrace it.

Do not fear the difficult days, the hard work of love, the sleepless nights nor endless days of activity and probably stress.. There will be painful moments of grief that tear apart your soul. Ripping at who you thought you were and inviting you to step even deeper into the presence of God. This road is not something to be taken lightly. Countless hours of doctor’s appointments, treatment, travel time, injections, TPN administration, medication, organization, physical, emotional and relational assistance. It wasn’t a blur – it was a hurricane.

Yet, oh yet… there were moments of deep conversations, laughter that came from deep in your soul.  Times of reminiscing and rememberance. Moments of regret and of wonderful forgiveness. Oneness like never experienced before. Family that bonded in new ways. A treasure which anchors your soul. Love heals and love hurts.,

It hurts to give sacrificially, it hurts to give it your all, it hurts to love in deep ways over long periods of time – it just hurts. This pain doesn’t go away overnight. There is no easement of the grief as the people who surrounded you during the memorial services leave your side. It doesn’t subside when the grave is covered up with dirt. Grief lives when you love, why would I expect it or want it any other way?

So, if you are reading this – I am not ready.

I wasn’t ready that first day standing in the sunshine and I am not ready today. Don’t invite me to a crowd or gathering, I probably won’t come. I am not ready to be around people. I am not ready for the questions that may come. That very first day I said goodbye, I didn’t want to talk and it’s still true today. The grief is suffocating, the loss too raw. I am not the same person and I pray I remain forever changed by the gift of the relationship that emerged in these months of service.

In time – love will heal, love will reignite the spark, love will bind up the wounds. But for now, I choose to embrace the pain and not run from it. Be brave, like he was. Honor his memory by fully feeling the loss of his place in my life and the life of my family. It won’t bring him back, oh no. But it will allow me to process through the depths of pain that come in losing someone so dear. So when the time is right, I will fully laugh and love anew again.

Just not now.

Think whatever you’d like about how to handle this grief. Encourage me or not, that’s your choice. I have no control over your thoughts or your perception of me. Just remember, it’s not your place to tell how me to grieve. You can honor me, and the memory of the one I loved and cared for – by accepting me for who I am. It’s time character trumps duty, grace more than works – love overall. All.

That was the gift of these precious months as his health declined and his body gave out. Authenticity. Realness. Honesty. Openness. I may not be ready to live again, as most people would define their day to day. Certainly not ready for crowds of people. Ready for conversations about what seems to me trivial things. I just may not be much fun for a while. Oh well – deal.

Love me, or not.

That’s your call, this one is  already deeply entrenched in my own heart. Love me unconditionally. Places no strings upon me. No expectations on how to handle life. No quick prayers that all will be okay. I challenge you today – to love. Truly, give deeply of yourself and your heart – and love.

Let go of the past. Let go of your anger. Let go or your bitterness. Let go of your unforgiveness. Those dark places in our hearts we all fear to admit even exist. Let it all go. Rest in the promise that love can heal. That love is enough. My friends, it’s time to experience love. To receive love. To feel love for others. To give in ways you never expected. To see with new eyes that every heart is hurting and it is only love that carves into the trenches of hearts and heals.

How?

By trusting others. By giving in new ways. By accepting someone for who they are. Do you struggle in really loving? Do you gossip and slander those you say you love? Do you harbor resentment and bitterness? Are you selfish with your time? Do you waylay your energy? Shift your focus? It’s hard to offer unconditional love. It’s so hard to bring compassion into places that may have never experienced them before. I encourage you, I challenge you. Do it.

There is a beautiful treasure that lies within a heart, let God dig in you. Give to yourself and to others. Most of all, honor those whose lives you stand upon, who came before you and loved you when no one else would. Yes, I am grieving, but grieving is a part of love.

Love anyway.

Which stage are you?


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About 6 months ago, we learned of a very close family member diagnosed with cancer. Not just any cancer, but a rare form of incurable cancer, stage 4. After a recent hospital stay and surgical procedures – the rays of hope dwindled as we learned that there is no surgery nor even one clinical trial that is available to try to help with this disease as it advances. In essence, we wait, we watch, we strive to comfort – and we grieve.

Oh, we grieve.

The life we have lived, the moments we missed, the time we cannot reclaim. We deeply grieve and we learn. What a process this is! You cannot force someone to deal with their own mortality. Whether they accept their fate or not, it effects all in the family unit. The ripples of denial of the current reality leak out – crushing  hopes and dreams of reconciliation and forgiveness.

How do we  face a prognosis you aren’t allowed to discuss? In what ways do you deal with loss in an environment that says over and over again, “this is not happening.” I’m sorry, so sorry, but it is happening. It’s happening all around us as we all grapple to cope with the days ahead. The cancer keeps moving along whether we accept it or not, changing lives and generations to come with how we choose to handle our final days.

We die, as we have lived.

Not facing the reality that stares us in the face. Refusing to admit the days to come, avoiding any discussion of what lies ahead. Denial has deep, deep roots entrenched in familial relationships that will forever be touched by it’s tentacles. In denial, we move through life, often feeling alone, desiring deep relationships but not knowing how to have one. Afraid to ask questions, for when we do, it rocks the boat and puts the truth out there for all to see. It’s a hard way to live, and evenmoreso, a terrifying way to die.

I remember heading back and forth to the hospital, over and over again. Problems needing hospitalization and care. Getting you settled in and pray with you, over you – trusting God in His provision for you.  You’d heal from that setback, but the disease continued to raise havoc in your body. Accepting the truth or not, here we are.

I don’t want to see you go. I don’t look forward to that day. No. NO. Not at all. I do however, yearn to be able to talk about what’s happening, to be able to walk together and forward in this journey. We don’t need to walk alone, we really don’t.

So, why are we?

Refusing to accept our terminal illness touches all those effected by this disease. When denial continues to be the way we handle difficulties then it’s highly likely we will walk alone. Be alone, grieve alone and perhaps die, alone. Alone. Oh my heart just aches, who wants to be alone? Ever.

How will we choose to live our days? If we think we have many years ahead of us or even a few weeks remaining – how will we choose to live it? We all have 24 hours in a day and every single day we choose how we will spend the precious time we will never get back. The harder we fight against the truth, the less we get to live in it.

Live.

Yes, live! Even in our dying, we are still living. Even in our moments of fear and great loss, we live. In moments of deep pain and hard realities, ripping at the core of who we are, we continue to live. Regardless of the stage of life we are living, or the stage that cancer has advanced to. We have choices. We can live out our days towards eternity, growing, healing, hoping and deeply present in love. We can!

We must choose.

Today I offer you no solution, no quick answer to this eternal question. I humbly point to Jesus Christ and offer His live as the way to live. Emulating His love, His grace, His mercy and His patience with one another, as we grieve, as we mourn and as we live. Jesus did not live in denial. He did not hide behind misunderstanding about what was going in the world or in the lives of those He loved. Jesus was present – He was authentic. He was real. He loved. I remember when Jesus’s close friend Larazus  died.

“Mary approached Jesus, saw Him, and fell at His feet.

Lord, if only You had been here, my brother would still be alive.

When Jesus saw Mary’s profound grief and the moaning and weeping of her companions, He was deeply moved by their pain in His spirit and was intensely troubled.

Where have you laid his body?

Come and see, Lord.

As they walked, Jesus wept; and everyone noticed how much Jesus must have loved Lazarus. ” John 11:32-36

Even Jesus, the One who raised Himself from the dead, mourned and cried at the death of someone He loved. Just like we too, mourn the loss of those we love as well. Jesus loved, loves and continues to love by His Presence in our present moments, even those filled with grief and denial.

We all will die – but how will we live?

I encourage you today, if you are living in denial, face it. If you are filled with remorse over time lost together, make time. If you are grieving the loss of relationships and yearn for something more, reach for it. It’s not the time to lose hope, but rather to gain hope.

No matter what stage of life you are in, or stage of cancer you face. Whatever  serious disease you battle. No matter the prognosis. Regardless of the difficulties. Free yourself from denial and learn to live.

For we die, as we have lived.

Intimacy cries out

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She sits alone, wondering – how? How did I get here? Breathing in deeply, she bows her head – yearning for arms to envelop and wrap her up, bringing comfort to her heart that only tender moments can bring.

Nothing.

Not a word of encouragement or a plead of hope rise up within her. This is not the place of positive self talk, or deliberate choices that spur on action, listing what I need “to do.” Oh no, this is the place to just be – as you feel the insecurities and doubt swirling within you. Let them come.

Don’t deny the reality of your life, your choices – your experiences. Often it seems we want to run from the troubles that pound against our hearts, avoiding even thinking about what’s right in front of you.  Sometimes we don’t want to not face feelings of despair, sadness or abandonment. When you are knee deep in these feelings, denial is not a healthy strategy. Let them come.

Embrace who you are and how you feel in the moment.

Probably the most simple and most difficult thing is – to be. To stop looking for answers. To stop doubting the direction you are pointed in. To stop lamenting what could have been. To stop, just stop. I don’t mean stop having the feelings, we can’t contralto that. But we can control how we manage them.

When I am in this place and these feelings come, the desire to be held and comforted cries out from deep within me. Oh, how I need encouragement. Not just laughter, or fellowship, or companionship – but encouragement – deep, trusting, sharing souls walking together.

Think I am alone?

“Then Jesus went with them to a garden called Gethsemane and told his disciples, “Stay here while I go over there and pray.” Taking along Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, he plunged into an agonizing sorrow. Then he said, “This sorrow is crushing my life out. Stay here and keep vigil with me.”

Going a little ahead, he fell on his face, praying, “My Father, if there is any way, get me out of this. But please, not what I want. You, what do you want?”

 When he came back to his disciples, he found them sound asleep. He said to Peter, “Can’t you stick it out with me a single hour? Stay alert; be in prayer so you don’t wander into temptation without even knowing you’re in danger. There is a part of you that is eager, ready for anything in God. But there’s another part that’s as lazy as an old dog sleeping by the fire.” Matthew 26:36-38

Think again.

Jesus Christ, the perfect Son of God was crushed in His Spirit. He  was in agonizing sorrow. He was human – and He didn’t want to be alone in that place. He wanted His closest friends to keep watch and stay awake with Him. To just be in the moments of His deepest pain.

Jesus knew that being alone was not the ideal. It’s wiser to have the encouragement and strength of a trusted friend or friends. Not the whole crowd mind you, but a few sacred soldiers by your side. Jesus had 12 disciples and He could have invited them all into the Garden, but He didn’t. He invited 3 of His closest friends to be a source of strength in the time of His greatest, darkest, most vulnerable need.

Jesus wanted intimacy.

He craved their companionship, for why else would He have invited them into the Garden with Him? This wasn’t a moment of weakness to be easily dismissed. He was overcome with anguish. Jesus did not ignore the depths of the soul and what He needed.  He knew what lay before Him and understood His vulnerability. Our Savior was looking for compassion and comfort from His most trusted friends. He desired strength wrought from the intimacy of deep fellowship. Jesus was self – aware and had no shame in making decisions He needed to have His needs met.

Not judgement telling you to get over it. Not a lack of affirmation in who you are. Not an inconsistency in showing love based on how you act or don’t act. No. Jesus wanted unconditional love and He asked for it in the middle of the night. I suspect if we are truly honest with ourselves, and each other – we might find that we ask for the same type of love in the most difficult times. It may not be at 2 a.m., but it could be in the middle of an important business meeting, or a family get together. I don’t know – you fill in the blank. Ask yourself what is most important to you and then consider – are you willing to give it up? To sacrifice?

That’s what Jesus was asking His dear friends.

“Stay awake with me, keep watch.” Sacrifice yourself – your time, your energy, your focus on what you think is most important in your life. In this moment, love me. Follow me. Give to me. Hold onto me. Love. That’s what Jesus was asking. To love. To give. To sacrifice. To embody the very love that Jesus had been showing and giving to them all along.

He asked for their hearts.

So when your body seems weak, when you can’t stay awake, when your mind wanders and you can’t focus. Know that it’s not the body those you love need or desire, it’s your heart. When you are called to give beyond what you can normally handle or hope to provide. Know this – it’s your heart, you’re beautiful heart that intimacy craves. I  encourage you –  love.

You’re body may be willing but the flesh is so weak.

I submit to you that love is greater than what we do. We see. We hear. We think. Love is. Love moves. Love feels. Love compels. Love comforts. So, the next time you find yourself weary of hearing the same old stories from your friends. The struggles that they battle against. Or you want to tell them what to do, or how to handle it. I encourage you.

Choose love.

Choose to be open. Choose to sacrifice. Choose to give. Choose to comfort. Be tender. Be kind. Be merciful. Be! Give love. Give grace. Give patience. Humble yourself like Jesus humbled Himself in that Garden. For once He invited them into that place with Him, He made the most difficult decision of His very life. He chose to sacrifice it. He choose love. Love.

Now, I encourage you to be Jesus and do the same.

No matter what agony is tearing apart your soul. No matter what fears lie ahead of you. No matter what struggles you currently face. Jesus is The Way. For He’s seen it all, experienced it all and empowers us to be love. So, invite your closest friends in, let them see your fears and allow the mercy of God to permeate your entire being.

Jesus was serious about His intimate friends. Once they fell asleep, He pleaded with them to stay awake. He wanted them by His side. Don’t you want the same? Don’t you want others to comfort you? Wouldn’t you like to be held? Could you allow others into your deep and  most darkest of places? Can’t they sprinkle a seasoning of their sacrificial heart into your current struggles?

I ask you – do you really want to be alone?

Jesus didn’t want to be alone. He pleaded to not be so at this time in His life.  He is our example, shouldn’t we consider to learn from Him? Open your hearts my friends. If Jesus needed trusted friends, who are we to think we don’t? Not just good friends, but intimate, trusted friends.

Crack open the door of your heart and let the Light of Jesus shine in, bringing you an awareness of who you are. What you need in hard places. Whom you can truly trust. Follow Jesus. Let the Spirit guide you and teach you and be Jesus.

When you sit all alone and wonder how you got there, consider the choices you have made, the circumstances of your life and be like the greatest Teacher of all time, Jesus the Christ. Be Jesus. Be willing to examine yourself and invite others into the hard places. The difficult times. Become a searching soul whose greatest desire is to be like Him, Jesus.

Be intimate and imitate our Savior. Love dear ones.

Love.

Sit

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We sit.

Isn’t that what benches are for? We find them in parks, on busy street corners and in places where you are encouraged to take a moment and sit. Taking in the beauty that’s around you – in the people that walk by and in the vistas laid out before you. Places which speak to you and take your breath away, a sunset, a waterfall – a mountainside oasis.

Sometimes we are perched beside the ocean, and witness the storm rolling in – we recognize the darkened sky, we feel the wind whip up and we see the rain along the horizon. There we are, present and watching as the approaching storm tumbles in and we continue to  sit – and wait.

Wait?

I don’t know about you, but I sure have a few storms in my life. Storms I expected to head on out to sea, blow over,  move on and dwindle off into a small rain cloud rather than an ongoing monsoon. But here they are, dodging me, not letting me go and becoming a source of constant pain. Why would I want to wait for that? Seems to me I’d want to run!

Yet, here I am.

I know the signs. Like when I sit on that bench and see the rain clouds moving in, I sense a storm brewing.  So too, I witness the relational dynamics that toggle my horizon askew as I see a storm rising within.  The question is – am I ready?

Am I ready to face the storm?

Am I ready to fight the battle? Am I ready to stand firm and undergo whatever the storm clouds bring? Am I ready to be still and ride out the storm?  Perhaps your storm doesn’t come with pouring rain and thunder, but with subtle words and inaction. Maybe it’s not the beating rain upon your back but the constant subtle drip of an unsatisfied life. Regardless of what’s on your horizon, and what you see, there is one truth that anchors your soul.

Jesus knows.

He knows what you struggle with, knows where you fall and how you do. He knows how tired you can be, how worn out you can become and loves you anyway.  No matter how you have acted. No matter what you have done. No matter what you will do. Jesus loves you. YOU. Yes, you.

So sit with Him.

See those storm clouds coming and call out in the only way you know how. Holler to Him. Cry out to Him. Whisper to Him. In whatever way you speak – speak. Just go to Him. Him. Jesus Christ who offers hope in a darkened world. Jesus Christ who promises to love you even as the storm blows.

“Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.” Matthew 11:28-30

Sometimes as we sit – we see.

The longer I sit in a storm the clearer my vision can become – eventually. Rather than wishing for the storm to pass we need to keep company with Jesus. He asks me to get away with Him and in doing so I will recover my life. Getting away with Jesus is as simple, and as difficult – as being still with Him and waiting on His timing.

Waiting might be what we are called to do. As we sit by the sea andsee the storm rage on, it can call us to drink in the creation that affirms one thing – our Creator. We are not alone in our storm. We are invited to sit with Him and learn the unforced rhythms of grace. So grab a bench, a chair, any perch will do.

And sit.

 

Peterson, Eugene H. The Message: The Bible in Contemporary Language. Colorado Springs: NavPress, 2002.