Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Thoughts on Grief

     Before Nick and I moved to Ottawa, we began to pray that God would show us a good church so we could get involved and connected to the community.  After several weeks of searching, God thankfully opened that door to church just 5 minutes from our apartment.  We are so grateful to have an insightful pastor, a new small group, and several new friends to hang out with for the duration of our time here in Ottawa.  Alex and Audrey came for a visit this weekend, and we were able to make it to church right after we hugged them goodbye on Sunday.  Pastor Brian shared a tremendous sermon on grief - it directly spoke to my heart.

      Although I would never wish to relive these last two and a half years, I am thankful for how it has made my heart more tender to those who suffer.  In the past, I would just say "wow! That's really sad...", but now, I truly hurt for people who are going through so much pain.  God graciously puts people in my mind who I know need prayer for their circumstances.  I become a bit discouraged when I think of how many people in my life who hurt from loss of a loved one, cancer, miscarriages, and depression.  It breaks my heart! When I heard Pastor Brian's words on Matthew 5:4 ("Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted"), I knew I wanted to share some things that have opened my eyes as of late.

C.S. Lewis said: "Part of every misery is, so to speak, the misery's shadow or reflection: the fact that you don't merely suffer but have to keep on thinking about the fact that you suffer. I not only live each endless day in grief, but live each day thinking about living each day in grief."

I never thought you could be "blessed" by grieving.  I've heard being blessed once described as a pilot light-always lit, never conditional upon circumstance.  To obtain this pilot light, its necessary to understand that grief is a pathway, not a destination.  Something that takes time and healing to overcome.  Pastor Brian used the example of a broken bone.  If you don't seek attention for it, it will heal incorrectly, and it will have long term effects for years to come.  So, how do you receive the proper attention for grief? Before listening to the sermon and doing some research on my own, I can honestly say that I didn't know the answer to "how should I grieve?".   Here are a few notes I've gleaned from several sources:

Takes time: a journey, not a quick fix solution that many of us are accustomed to in our culture.
Does not pretend: I always hated it when people would come up to me and say "everything is going to be okay"... it pissed me off.. because I was like "uhh...thanks for the support".  Just call a spade a spade-it didn't feel like it was going to be okay in the moment, and its insulting to downplay the reality of everything.  This concept has taught me a lot on how to pray for people.  Honesty is such an important aspect of grieving.
Reflects and Celebrates: My Dad is the poster child for this bullet point.  It hurt so much to let Mom go, but Dad always reminded us of her example, her godly life, and her dedication to being an excellent wife and mother. We have to recognize God's gifts and be thankful for what he gave us--in my case, the perfect example of the mother I want to be.
Surrenders:  The word "surrender" is difficult for a control freak, like myself.  It takes a lot of sacrifice to be "okay" with not knowing the answers.  We have to lay all the questions and concerns at God's feet before we can experience peace and blessedness.
Trusts: The only way to experience hope through grief, is by trusting that God is in control!

A good friend of mine gave me the book, "A Grief Observed" by C.S. Lewis.  Its quite heavy, but I'm slowly making my way through it.  I really enjoyed his quote concerning the loss of his wife, "Can I meet Helen again only if I learn to love You so much that I don’t care whether I meet her or not?"  Bottom line: its not about me or my will-Its about my Creator and His Will.  He gave the ultimate sacrifice so that we could be made new through suffering. 

I guess this post is more beneficial to me than anyone.  After my mom passed, I planned a wedding, got married, moved away and started a brand new life.  I have pushed aside grieving for so long.  I just don't want to do it.  I want to be blessed without going through the whole process.  I know, however, that God doesn't work that way.  And I also know that God needs me to get through this so I can be a living example of healing-just like my Mom was.  So many people need prayer and comfort, and I want to be a vessel of Gods hope that comes from relying on Him through difficult times. 

Here are some key verses that have shown me the pathway of grieving to reach the destination of God's love:

"But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us.  We are hard-pressed on every side, but not crushed; persecuted, not abandoned, struck down, but not destroyed" - 2 Corinthians 4:7

"I will never leave you nor forsake you" Joshua 1:5b

"I will make everything new" Revelation 21:5

"O Lord, how many are my foes! How many rise up against me! Many are saying of me, "God will not deliver him".  But you are a shield around me, O Lord; you bestow glory on me and lift up my head.  To the Lord I cry aloud, and he answers me from his holy hill.  I lie down and sleep; I wake again because the Lord sustains me.  I will not fear the tens of thousands drawn up against me on every side.  Arise O Lord! Deliver me, O my God! From the Lord comes deliverance.  May your blessing be on your people." Psalm 3 (My Moms personal favorite)

"Be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid, do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go." Joshua 1:9

"Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls, yet i will rejoice in the Lord, I will be joyful in God my Savior" Habakkuk 3:17-18

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Ode to a BFF

I hope everyone out there has a Rebekah!  She’s the quintessential best friend who lasts through the ages.  The one who stays your bestie even when you’re several states away, texts you daily with pointless things that only you find amusing, lets you be yourself without any judgment (EVER!), and chooses to encourage you and lift you up rather than pointing out your weaknesses! She never pokes fun at you for poor outfit choices or bad haircuts, she’s quick to defend you, and she laughs at your jokes even when they aren’t funny! She makes your stomach hurt from laughing so hard, but knows when you need to be cheered up!

I love Bekah! We met almost 10 years ago in Peru.  We disliked on another in the beginning-but God had a bigger plan and resolved our prepubescent quarrels.  A lot of people didn’t understand us-since we chose to embrace the awkward middle-school years instead of fighting them.  We loved to be weird! That friendship carried over into adult life.  We stayed close even when we went to different colleges, moved 15 hours apart, and started new lives with our respective husbands.  We only see one another a couple times a year-even still-our friendship remains stronger than ever!

I knew I would stay best friends FOREVER with Bekah when she was such a pillar for me during my mom’s illness.  She always had the right thing to say and knew when I just needed to vent.  She also had a special bond with my mom-so my grief was her grief.  When I called to tell her Mom had passed…we sat on the phone crying together---I knew she mourned with me.  I can’t describe how much that meant to me. 

So….when I found out she was coming to visit me in Ottawa---I was ELATED! We had the greatest time together! She’s so low maintenance so I didn’t feel like I had to entertain her the whole time! We just laughed, relaxed, and enjoyed being together again! I’m so thankful for the rejuvenation of friendship! I feel so refreshed and loved when she’s around. 

Bekah-my bif… I love you so much! Thank you for being so loyal, forgiving, encouraging, and just AWESOME.

(typical Adrienne-Bekah pic)