The Gift At Our Doorstep

I woke up this morning full of memories. Christmas Eve. It is a time that so many happy and joyous moments flood my mind. But this morning my mind played a trick on me. I fully expected to wake up to a phone call with the sound of my Mom’s voice over the phone, full of excitement. I know that this is a normal occurrence during grieving. It sucks. Because after the fact, reality hits you in the gut like a two by four and you find yourself hunched over in tears, with a pain that no one else can see. In that moment it feels unbearable. In that moment, you ask yourself how you are going to make it through Christmas.

For those of you in similar situations my heart goes out to you. I pray for you to feel God’s love for you in the moment-by-moment journey. He carries you.

Even though the journey is very hard, there is still so much to be thankful for. Let me share with you a God moment that I had last night.

After a long day of cleaning, baking, and art making, I was tired and busily attempting to get more done before the Eve of Christmas. My hands were thick in the perfectly delicious and addictive Oreo truffles that I make every year. I have always loved getting my hands dirty and being able to lick the mess off of my fingers makes it that much more enjoyable! My amazing (as well as hott, hott, hott) husband was having me hide myself in the kitchen while I was mixing these truffles together so that he could wrap my present. He had just come back inside after getting my gift out of his truck (this is the first year we have been able to get gifts for each other… yippee!).

He said, “Be prepared. I think that we will have carolers.”

And I respond, “Really? Do we know these carolers?”

So there I was, my hands were covered in this delicious mess and I heard the most beautiful sound. Carolers with voices like angels!

I attempted to clean my hands quickly but when you have such a delicious, gooey mess, it generally takes longer. I was so excited!

When I made it outside the people had faces that I knew. They were not some strange group (although, some may argue that point. Lol!). These were genuine friends, who have helped walk us through one of our hardest journeys here. Jeremy and I both know how much they care. Their hearts love Jesus.

I was overcome with gratefulness and a mingling of sorrow as memories flooded my mind. But mostly I was overcome with the overpowering flood of love that I felt in that moment. I was unable to keep my tears at bay. I wept long after they left.

You have to understand something here. Earlier that day I had been having a conversation with God as I was art making to cheesy Christmas movies. I remember talking to him about how Christmas has changed. As a kid one of my favorite things to do, as well as see, were carolers. Why did it seem like that tradition had gone away?

I told God how I missed that part of Christmas. I missed the genuine action of people doing simple actions for others. I missed seeing groups of people singing door to door, even if they were off key (although this bunch were not). It was a matter of the heart. The heart of Christmas is Jesus. I saw and experienced this through caroling (I know. Go figure!)

This may seem like it is no big deal to you but to me it is a small piece of Christmas that I feel reveals a piece of Heaven.

God knew. He sent me carolers last night. It revealed his heart for me. It confirmed his unchanging love for me. It was a small detail. Carolers. But he knew just how much it would matter to me. He knew how much it would touch my heart.

To the family that came, please know just how much it meant to me that you came as carolers. It was one of the best Christmas gifts you could have ever given me. God has used you greatly in our lives and we are so grateful for you. Thank you!

God, thank you for loving us so deeply! Thank you for bringing your heart of love into our home, into our hearts, and last night right at our doorstep. Thank you for giving us Jesus.

Please give Mom a hug from me.

We love you.

Our hearts are yours.

Happy Birthday, Jesus!

Addressing the Poo Poo and the Importance of When “Jesus Wept”

One of the things that I have realized after going through a loss of someone so close is the natural tendency to want to get out of those dark days of sadness. And to make it worse, our “Christian” culture has sometimes made it unsafe to be grieving. Or in one way of saying it, our culture does not allow grieving like it used to. I am unsure which one came first: the church following our culture, or the culture following the church. To that, I say a bunch of poo poo… yes, I said, poo poo. I could have said a mingling of other words but I am choosing to remain calm today (just writing this out makes me laugh out loud).

To be perfectly clear, I have only had minimal criticism in this way. But because of that criticism it made me reflect and observe the natural tendencies of some places where grieving should be allowed, and allowed without judgment from others. It technically should be allowed anywhere since the grieving process is often filled with an unexpected journey of tears that strike in the most inopportune moments. It should be allowed in your home, in your friendships (you will find out who sincerely loves and cares for you during this time), in your marriage and appropriately even at your job. It definitely should be allowed at church.

To be treated and told in more ways than one that you must be doing something wrong, lacking faith and/or not obeying God correctly because you are grieving and struggling with the separation that death brings, is the most absurd thing that I have ever witnessed and heard. To anyone who believes this I challenge you to look at the life of Jesus. Out of any man in this life, he showed us how to continue on obeying God while still grieving. Because of who he was (and who he still is), he was able to do miraculous acts after raising the dead as a statement of the victory that he would bring over death from his own sacrifice on the cross.

For a ladies Bible study I researched the passage in John 11 where “Jesus wept”. That is a legit scripture right there people! It is found in John 11:35. Why did Jesus weep you might ask? He wept because of the deep grief he was feeling for the loss of his good friend Lazarus and the loss he saw Mary and Martha experience. Grief is multi layered. It is not a cut and dry experience. With the loss of someone so close it is more than just the loss of the person. Everything changes. Families change, relationships change, and the way life was, will never be the same, ever again.

I understand this because with the passing of my Mom, I have to grieve the loss of who my Dad was with my Mom. I am having to process the ongoing grief of the loss of who our family was with her around. I am changing. All of us have been forced to change. My relationship with my husband is changing. It literally is one of the most challenging things to wrap my mind around, especially with the holidays.

Anyways, lets get back to Jesus!…

Jesus loved Lazarus deeply. He also loved Mary and Martha deeply. There were multiple layers of grief going on here within Jesus, the Son of God. Really? In this passage we can see but a brief insight into the grief that Jesus experienced himself. Mary knew who Jesus was, which was why she said in verse 32 of John 11, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.” Can you imagine what Jesus had to have felt, knowing how true her words were? Can you imagine what was going through his mind knowing the pain that Mary was experiencing while she was saying them? Every grieving person goes through the “if only” and “what if” questions. Jesus experienced this first hand. He felt her pain while he was feeling his own.

What I love the most is Jesus’ response to Mary in the next several verses:

“When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in his spirit and greatly troubled. And he said, “Where have you laid him?” They said to him, “Lord, come and see.” Jesus wept.” (John 11:33-35 ESV).

Jesus, God made flesh wept because of the grief he felt and also witnessed in others. This man named Lazarus was a dearly loved friend of Jesus. This was heartfelt, deep sorrow that Jesus was experiencing with those who were grieving in that moment. Lazarus had been dead for four days. Mary and Martha were already on the course to readjust living their lives in a new way. Jesus could have chosen to immediately raise Lazarus from the dead, but he did not.

To me this reveals the human side of Jesus. Why? Because Jesus took the time to grieve. He took the time to weep with those who were weeping (yes, this is also another scripture found in Romans 12:15). He took the time to mourn with them.

The next passage gives us insight into the reason why God came as a man. It is where God triumphs over death, which reveals the greatest act yet to come from Jesus himself for all mankind, found in the gospels. The next passage begins again with a similar theme where it says, “Then Jesus, deeply moved again, came to the tomb.” (John 11:38a).

Did you catch that? He was deeply moved not once, but twice! Can you believe it? Jesus, who was about to raise Lazarus from the dead; the one who was going to conquer sin and death for anyone who would accept him after dying on the cross, was deeply moved when he got to the tomb of Lazarus. Let’s just pause right there for a moment. Let that sink in…

Out of everyone on earth, don’t you think that Jesus would have been able to just charge right in there without a tear knowing that he was going to raise Lazarus from the dead? He also knew that his death and resurrection would mean victory over sin and death. But yet he still grieved in that moment.

It says in Isaiah 53:3 that, “He was despised and rejected by men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief; and as one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not.” So, if you are being despised because of grieving. If you are being told that you need to work harder to get over it. Or if someone has the nerve to tell you that you lack faith because of the grief that you are currently going through, understand this:

Jesus mourned and grieved himself and he still brought glory and honor to God. Grieving has nothing to do with faith, lack of it or mountains full of it. As seen through the example of Jesus, love in human form, when centered in God, can still mourn, grieve, and weep while making a huge impact for God’s kingdom.

We also have this scripture to hold onto as well, “Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed.” (Isaiah 53:4,5).

The death and resurrection of Lazarus reveals so much about Jesus being both man and God in one. It reveals a heart of love and understanding of anything and everything that we go through. Take heart dear child of the King. God will carry you through every high and every low point of your life. He still weeps with you. What a beautiful, powerful image of God.

All scripture verses were from the ESV Study Bible published by Crossway.

Thanksgiving: Beauty Amidst Sorrow

Thanksgiving has come and gone. I will be perfectly honest with you and tell you that for me, the anticipation of the Thanksgiving Holiday was much more difficult than the actual day. Questions would go through my mind about how we were going to be able to handle the day without our Mom. Initially, Mom and Dad were not going to be able to be a part of Thanksgiving this year due to serving in Dominica. But it was the reality that we would never have this day with Mom as a part of it that created such turmoil. I cried everyday prior to Thursday. I would wake up in a deep sadness and go to bed with a similar ache. But Thanksgiving morning came and I was doing much better than I had anticipated.

There was joy in being able to pick up our 6-year-old daughter knowing that we were going to bake in the kitchen together. Some of my fondest memories with my Mom were in the kitchen. Not every Mom or woman in the kitchen would do such a thing. The kitchen for my Mom was a place of love not a place of ownership. Because these times with her were so precious, my dream was to do the same with my daughter. And I have to say that this year it was so healing for us to bake pumpkin pies. My daughter would ask me, “Did Grandma Carrie teach you this?” and I would reply, “Yes, she did. And that is why I want to teach you.” Her eyes would light up and she would smile from ear to ear.

It is moments like these that help all of us to be able to grieve in a healthy way.

Thanksgiving week seemed to be a refining time for my heart. The past several months have presented challenges and other heartaches. God has somehow increased his measure of love within my heart for others, especially those who have hurt me during this journey. I know that there are many who simply say things because they do not understand. But there is such a thing as empathy and compassion for others who are grieving and doing their best to work through the grief while living their lives. This Thanksgiving God was able to bring me around full circle. He helped me to realize that most often, those who inflict pain upon others have hidden wounds and pains themselves. This is not a new fact for me. But God gave me a deeper understanding of such things.

God has been teaching me so much about the hurting. Because of what I have been experiencing through my own journey of grief, God has been helping me walk others through similar pain. I never would have these new tools and insights had I not been on this journey. There can be so much beauty amidst such sorrow.

My Mom was an amazing gift. She graced this earth with obedience and love to God that many would never be willing to give simply because of their own selfishness. Through her death, we saw the ultimate sacrifice. Even though there is pain in the separation, there still is so much beauty.

Having made it through Thanksgiving, gratefulness overflows out of my heart for God. He has blessed us so much. He has taken care of us in our time of need. He has given us many more moments with our Dad whom, had things gone differently, would still have been serving on the island of Dominica. God continues to reveal through our mess that life is still so beautiful!

There is so much to be thankful for.

Thank you God!

We love you!