Wednesday, October 06, 2021

Older Brother Syndrome

“Meanwhile, the older son was in the field. When he came near the house, he heard music and dancing. So he called one of the servants and asked him what was going on. ‘Your brother has come,’ he replied, ‘and your father has killed the fattened calf because he has him back safe and sound.’  The older brother became angry and refused to go in. So his father went out and pleaded with him. But he answered his father, ‘Look! All these years I’ve been slaving for you and never disobeyed your orders. Yet you never gave me even a young goat so I could celebrate with my friends. But when this son of yours who has squandered your property with prostitutes comes home, you kill the fattened calf for him!’ “‘My son,’ the father said, ‘you are always with me, and everything I have is yours. But we had to celebrate and be glad, because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’”     - Luke 11:25-32

I have to confess that some days, it feels like the older brother gets a bad rap. 

All older siblings (like myself) know the inherent "unfairness" associated with being our parents' guinea pig. They get to learn on us ... and mess up on us ... and get a do-over with our younger siblings. In our fallen human nature, it's hard to watch as our siblings have it "easier" than we do. (Of course, sometimes that very "ease" leads to its own problems, since God has created us in such a way that difficulties become part of what shapes us.)

I don't know about you, but I can go for weeks in my normal routine, my typical "responsible" mode, and then come up against one of those days ...

...when somebody drops the ball and it lands in my lap

...when I am "unfairly" judged for something others do all the time

...when it feels like I alone am indispensable

...when everyone else says "no", and my inner sense of responsibility pushes a reluctant "yes" out of my lips

Suddenly on those days I realize, as the words of a song I couldn't find said, "Some days I'm the prodigal/some days I'm the older brother." On my "older brother" days I realize I have more in common with the Pharisees, to whom Jesus was directing this parable and who the older brother represents, than I really want to admit. I find myself seeing the logic of the earlier workers in Jesus' parable of the vineyard workers - of course they should get paid more, having worked hard all day and not just a couple of hours! 

And then the truth hits me like a ton of bricks: I realize I am nullifying the grace of God, not living by faith but living in my own sense of right and wrong, my own strength, my own righteousness. As much as I hate to admit it, there is still some Pharisee in me to be purged out. It might not come out in the form of legalism like we see in the Gospels, but it does rear its ugly head in the form of "older brother syndrome". "I'm the responsible one, I deserve better" is just a subtle form of spiritual pride. 

Ouch! Talk about conviction! Oh, but the wonderful news, as a speaker at a conference once said, is that when we realize something is sin, we know what to do with it! Turn to Jesus in repentance, and allow His love to fill me to the point that I give of myself to others out of love instead of duty. Then walk in a lifestyle of repentance by resisting all forms of that spiritual pride that is characterized by impatience with others who are in a different place than me, by nitpicking small errors, by always having to know or be able to find the answer, by feeling that I am indispensable. Walk in grace, remembering that I could have all knowledge, but without love, I am nothing. 

You came for criminals
And every Pharisee
You came for hypocrites
Even ones like me

Thank you, Jesus. "The cross meant to kill is my victory" - even over older brother syndrome.


Tuesday, May 04, 2021

Obedience

After all, you have not yet given your lives in your struggle against sin. - Hebrews 12:4


Recently while getting ready for work I was captured by lyrics to a song I'd never heard before: 

How in the garden He persisted
I may never fully know
The fearful weight of true obedience
It was held by him alone
    ("Your Will Be Done" by CityAlight) 

I couldn't stop thinking about the truth of this fact: I'll never know the full weight of true obedience. As I sat down for my quiet time that day, Hebrews 12 immediately came to mind. I read the context and remembered afresh the truth the author is communicating: Jesus is better than what has come before. As part of that, we are called to live out our relationship with Him in specific ways - ways that can feel hard. This section (Hebrews 12:4-13) is primarily about discipline and obedience in the life of the believer. It is instructive that before getting into those exhortations that the author tells us we have not yet resisted to the point of bloodshed.

What does that even mean? In the context of verses 1-3 exhorting us to keep our eyes on Jesus and the cross He endured, the author clearly is calling us to focus on HIS sacrifice for sin. We haven't given our lives to fight against sin - but HE did. This of course refers to the cross, but also brings to mind His suffering temptations. Many wiser than me have pointed out that Christ's deity and perfection doesn't mean His temptations were weaker than ours - they were stronger. He endured every temptation to the fullest extent possible, because the temptations do not get easier as we resist, they get harder.

As I reflected on all of this, I thought of the contrasts between my obedience and His. My best obedience is imperfect and mixed with impure motives; He was perfectly obedient with perfect motives. All of my obedience is carried out in God's presence; His ultimate obedience on the cross was carried out with the Father's face turned away. All of my obedience is covered with grace; His was covered in wrath. And as Hebrews 12:4 says, all my striving against sin doesn't reach the point of bloodshed - but His did.

This life of faith is not an easy one. Don't get me wrong, there are blessings and joys and happiness and incredible benefits of intimacy with God and others that come as we walk in faith. But if we are truly committed to growing and maturing as believers, we will find ourselves constantly challenged at various points to go deeper in our faith. Sometimes that might mean we face a crisis and have to decide how to deal with it. Other times it might mean a challenging ongoing relationship. At times God reveals something in us that is not in alignment with the image of God in which He created us, and challenges us to see things differently and live accordingly. All of these are hard things.

One of my favorite scriptures is Deuteronomy 29:29, "The secret things belong to the Lord our God,but the things revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may follow all the words of this law." My faith is inextricably connected to the fact that God has revealed things that we can seek and know, that He does not hide Himself from us but that He makes Himself known to us, often to the degree that we seek Him (though being God, he does love to surprise us when we are not even seeking Him!)
This video captures some of what I've learned about leaning into the hard things of faith and obedience. We face a challenge or an obstacle and we have to choose whether to keep going or not. We have to choose whether to model our walk on someone ahead of us or pick out our own steps and only focus on what's immediately in front of us. We have to decide if it's worth the continued climb... If HE is worth the continued climb. We have to decide whether to keep going or give up. Ultimately, we have to decide how much we can know and how much we have to just trust into His hands, trusting his character in the "secret things." I can guarantee that there'll be surprises along the way, we will slip and sometimes fall, sometimes we will become strong enough to catch ourselves before we fall and sometimes we won't. The important thing is that we are continuing to walk it out with him, getting to the place where we can look at where we've come from and know that only He brought us from there, and that He is worth it all.

I don't get it right all the time - but I am increasingly learning what it means to walk in the Gospel and prioritize relationship with Him, to love Him and others well. This imperfect believer is falling more in love with Jesus every day. As a result, I'm learning to lean in to the hard beauty of obedience - and when I do, I find myself enjoying unexpectedly beautiful views.

Habakkuk 3:17-19
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,
18 yet I will rejoice in the Lord,
I will be joyful in God my Savior.
The Sovereign Lord is my strength;
he makes my feet like the feet of a deer,
he enables me to tread on the heights.


Friday, April 23, 2021

Longing

 

Picture of Engagement Ring

We, however, are free citizens of Heaven, and we are waiting with longing expectation for the coming from Heaven of a Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ (Philippians 3:20, WNT)

Wait

There is something in our fallen human nature that doesn't like that word. I don't know about you, but I'd rather hear "no" from God if I can't hear "yes", because "wait" feels Way. Too. Hard. 

I've written about waiting before on here, in a different context. I still believe there is much to be learned in general while we are waiting on answered prayers, or guidance, or any number of waitings in life. But these days, I've been walking through this more personally, as I am doing plenty of waiting in light of our upcoming wedding - waiting on wedding appointments, waiting on the day to get here, waiting to experience biblical oneness, waiting on the day we begin our lives together and no longer say goodnight from separate residences. I am learning anew that waiting really is hard! My fiance and I have intentionally chosen to use the phrase "eagerly anticipating" rather than "can't wait" - we want the reminder that this is a positive process, and that we can wait in His strength. But it's still hard

As Rich Mullins wrote in "The Love of God" - we are tested and made worthy during life's challenges, but it is all within the love of God. As my fiance and I have intentionally leaned in to the benefits of waiting, we have learned so many things. We have learned that God speaks to us in the longing. We have seen ministry opportunities open up specifically because we were obedient in the waiting. We have learned that it is our flesh that wants to avoid the pain of waiting - just as we tend to want to avoid any suffering - but to avoid suffering means we also avoid the growth. We avoid the very thing that can draw us closer to Him. 

As I have leaned into the hard and studied God's word about waiting, I have learned how deeply connected it is to longing. When we "expect something fully", we wait for it with longing. When my parents lived hours away and would come visit, I would hear every door that slammed, every car that drove by, and run to see if it was them. I longed to see them and fully expected them to show up. In the same way, I "fully expect" to walk down the aisle less than a month from now and take covenant vows in front of our covenant community with my groom-to-be. We know this will happen - and yet we long for the arrival of that day. 

As I studied the words for waiting in both the Hebrew Old Testament and Greek New Testament, I was astonished to learn how deeply these words capture the emotions associated with this season of waiting: 

  • To fix the eyes and mind on a thing; to "hunt" for it
  • To be strong, robust, gathered and bound together
  • To wait with patience and trust
  • To give unremitting care
  • To show one's self courageous
  • To be in constant readiness for something
  • To expect fully
  • To not depart
  • To be pained
  • To receive to oneself, admit, give access to oneself
All of this boils down to one thing for me: Biblical waiting is inextricably linked to longing. Simply put, we wait with longing for what is worth waiting on. As we have focused on our upcoming marriage as a picture of Christ and the church, we are learning that wrapped up in our waiting is a picture of the longing the church should have for her Groom. We should wait "with longing expectation" because He is worth it. As we wait, we have been drawn closer into His presence - and we're learning that is indeed the point after all.
 


Joy and sorrow are this ocean
And in their every ebb and flow
Now the Lord a door has opened
That all Hell could never close
Here I'm tested and made worthy
Tossed about but lifted up
In the reckless raging fury
That they call the love of God

Wednesday, January 20, 2021

Blindsided

Anyone close to me knows that near the top of the list of things that I don't appreciate is being blindsided. Unlike some who prefer to know as little as possible until they have to face something, I can handle just about anything if I have a little heads up and time to process, if we can talk about it, if I know it's coming. I want more information, not less. Unfortunately, life doesn't always cooperate with my preferences. 

Most of the time, my good, good Father prepares my heart for hard things. He whispers ahead of time so I'm not blindsided. He gently guides me toward hard directions. He gives me His peace before, during, and after the storms of life. 

Yet there have been times I have been left reeling - from unexpected phone calls that brought tragic news; from a diagnosis that changed everything; from memories that felt like gut-punches; from shocking facts about people that I had trusted; from the realities of life. I know you have as well. But I have come to realize that there are plenty of good ways that I have been blindsided as well. 

I have been blindsided by grace. God's unmerited favor broke through my defenses, tore down my arguments, and embraced me with His love. I wasn't seeking Him, but He came looking for me. It wasn't logical, and it wasn't fair. I call it "weird grace." One of my favorite songs says, "He's not fair, no He's not fair, when He fixes what's beyond repair, and graces every one who don't deserve." The undeserved nature of grace is the very definition of weird, and the most beautiful way I have been blindsided. 

I have been blindsided by mercy. When I was struggling the most, when my faith was limited to just holding on to John 6:68 and getting through the day with Jesus, He never judged me or condemned me. Quite the opposite. His mercy met me where I was, triumphing over the lies of the enemy that screamed at me that my faith was weak. He gave me His Word that told me no, just holding on to Jesus when it doesn't make sense is the victory. 

I have been blindsided by love. When I have struggled the most with sin and simple human frailty, I have felt His love the closest. I have never once sought forgiveness without feeling His arms of love surround me. When I wasn't looking, He brought love near to me and gave me hope for the future. He has pursued me and, "every time I wrestle with His promises He wins my heart all over again." 

I don't think I will ever stop preferring not to be blindsided. But in this new season of life, as I learn to trust that there can be "good surprises," I want to also remember that I have been blindsided in good ways as well. I never want to get over being in relationship with a God who delights to surprise me with grace, mercy, love, and so much more. 


Saturday, July 04, 2020

Unseen Miracles

Job 26:14 "And these are but the outer fringe of his works; how faint the whisper we hear of him! Who then can understand the thunder of his power?"

I had a bit of a crisis of faith this week.

We had an amazing testimony at church, a story of miraculous healing from stage 4 cancer. I fully believe that God does miracles, and hearing their story in a season of grief was a timely reminder of that truth. But when I went up afterwards to thank one of the speakers, I started crying. I knew that my soul needed reminding of visible miracles, but I was still struggling on a level I didn't even realize with confusion, hurt, and even anger at not getting a visible miracle with my husband's dementia. In fact, it felt like the harder I prayed, the worse things got!

I had a bit of a crisis of faith. Yet as I continued to pray and seek God, I sensed Him calling me to write down some unseen miracles, some of the things that were amazing to our family as we walked through that dementia journey. Here are just a few of them:


  • Restoration of relationships
  • Unity among me and his kids over every decision
  • God took away my resentment and helped me to respond in love even when I was exhausted
  • God gradually changed my heart to trust and not fear his death
  • God perfectly timed the caregivers that were brought to us to be exactly the personality traits that we needed during that time
  • Bob never lost his faith or dishonored God, and grew to love the church in a deep way.
  • He remained a worshiper to the very end and the redemption God had done in his life, from a very broken and wounded person with a lot of regrets to someone who just loved Jesus with all that he had, was visible.
  • God perfectly timed bringing in hospice to help us when we needed it most.
  • We were able to keep him at home which nobody thought we could do at diagnosis.
  • We had so much support from our church and my job. Even friends that were just acquaintances before became really close through this process as they walked with us.
  • As hard as it was to lose him two and a half weeks before Christmas, I could see God's hand in it because I was able to have an extended time off to catch up on rest before I had to start back to work. Additionally, the money for caregivers was running out and God knew that was a concern of mine. And, as much as I'd love to have him here right now, I'm glad that we're not having to do dementia caregiving in the Covid world.

These are just a few of the unseen miracles of our caregiving journey. As I  processed this week, I've thought about where I am in life right now. I'm in a season of prioritizing being, of learning to be present, of going slow. Of prioritizing those invisible traits that God cares about deeply, like joy and gratitude and love and faith. For example, I'm responsible for the care of my parents. God makes it very clear in 1 Timothy 5:4 that taking care of parents is our first responsibility when they are older. But, I can do that responsibility grudgingly, with resentment, sparingly. Or I can do it willingly, with joy, generously. 

I really think that part of the second greatest commandment to love our neighbor as ourselves is learning to recognize the unseen miracles that we need to pray for. I think of Joni Eareckson Tada, one of my sheroes of the faith who is a quadriplegic. For 50 years now, she's dealt with people who want to pray for her healing. I read in one of her books that she said she had finally learned how to respond. She says "yes, please pray for my healing. Pray that I would be healed from bitterness, from laziness". She's learned to prioritize the unseen miracles.

I love this passage in Job, where we hear about a lot of God's visible miracles, and then we are told that these are only the fringes of his ways. They're just the beginning of what he does. 

I want to rejoice at every healing from stage 4 cancer, every healing from paralysis, every person set free from drug addiction. But I also want to share and hear about unseen miracles. Those things that are sometimes only between us and the Lord, or between the people closest to the situation. I don't ever want to discount them. I want to know more about His ways.



Sunday, April 26, 2020

Around the Bend

I’m not much on speaking publicly. I don’t think well on the fly; I prefer time to weigh my words and to process internally before putting pen to paper. Most of the posts on this blog over the years existed in my head for days or even weeks before I sat down and put them in writing.

But I’m in a different season now, a season of healing as I walk through this grief process since my husband passed away. And part of that for me, as it is for anyone who loses a spouse, is facing the question of identity. Who am I as an “I”, not a “we”? I don’t mean the core of my identity in Christ. I know that hasn’t changed. And I don’t mean to imply in any way that I was subsumed into my husband’s identity in any unhealthy way. It’s just that in the reality of becoming one, after being married long enough, it becomes hard to tell where you end and the other person begins. You forget who first suggested going to that specific Mexican restaurant.You forget why exactly someone thought it was so important for the kitchen table to be in the bay window instead of in the kitchen. That and thousands of other examples are faced not only by me but by every single person who loses as a spouse. Like no other loss, we literally bury part of ourselves the day our partner dies.

So this identity discovery portion of my grief journey has been especially daunting to me. I spent four months in anxiety, if not outright fear, about the day that I would wake up and no longer feel married. I felt lost, like he had gone on this incredible journey and I was just staring up waiting for him to come back. I didn’t know how to get past that point, despite continuing to live my life and move forward as best I could.

Then came Easter weekend. I found myself watching a biography of a Christian musician whose music has ministered to me many times. As I worshiped and prayed with the music in the documentary, I began to experience what only God can do. He began to release that anxiety and fear about identity from me. He began to remind me that there is a core of who I am, not just in Him but who I am as He created me, that has not been lost. The next day on a walk, He continued to speak truth to me, and reminded me that Bob is now part of the great cloud of witnesses Hebrews 12:1 speaks about. But he hasn’t left me here doing nothing; in fact Bob is the one who is now at rest while I continue my race. In the two weeks since, I have felt such peace, and I felt myself moving into more of a healing phase of the grief. Not that the missing him and the sadness or the loneliness is all gone. I’m sure that that will continue at some level for a very long time, and I’m sure that part of me will miss part of him for the rest of my life. But I no longer feel anxious about moving forward, or scared about my identity, or lost. I’ve even started having a sense of anticipation about things that might be different, not only different from what Bob and I experienced together but different for me.

So yesterday, as I took my parents on our weekly drive to find something nice to look at that meets social distancing requirements, I found myself looking down a lane on a dirt road at the edge  of the Ozark National Forest. And somehow, this girl that doesn’t like public speaking and prefers time to put her words together, found herself turning on the camera and recording my first ever video blog. And you know what? It was even a little fun. I hope it blesses you and encourages you as the Holy Spirit leads you in your own journey



Friday, December 13, 2019

Lessons from Caregiving, #24: The final road



(This post is part of a series. For previous posts in the series please see #1#2., #3#4#5#6#7#8#9#10#11#12#13#14#15#16#17#18#19#20#21, #22, #23)

We're walking the final road in the dementia caregiving journey this week. After we mourn together at my husband's funeral tomorrow, honor his military service at the graveside, and celebrate his life with a meal at our home, I know that I will be entering a new phase of life. Although I'll still provide care for my parents, it will be very different than the intensity required for dementia caregiving.

As I step into this new phase of life, this blog series is also coming to an end. I know that I have a lot of lessons still to learn and process, and I may very well write about it again in the future. Right now, though, I need to apply what I have been learning at a deeply personal level.

Over the past 2 1/2 years since diagnosis, I watched my husband surrender to the increasing levels of care required by the disease. His trust in God and by extension in me has been profoundly humbling. The depth of his humility was beautiful. His surrender was complete and total - not in a fatalistic sense, but in a simple, childhood faith way that just knew God would take care of him. I don't know how to trust like that, but I want to learn.

He also remained a worshiper to the end. Less than 18 hours before he died, he was trying to sing "Amazing Grace" by mouthing the words. Just a couple of hours before he died, the only thing that relaxed him even after medication was listening to a sermon with his daughter. So many people that came through commented on the love of Jesus in his eyes. I want to learn how to worship at that level.

To the end, he retained his love and concern for others. He wanted to know that I would be cared for and would look back and forth between me and whoever was visiting until they promised to take care of me. His last visit with his kids involved him looking back and forth at them until they promised to care for each other. I want to be others-focused even in my own trials.

For some time, we've been walking a narrowing road. His world was shrinking, and with it so was mine. Now, he's walked on alone, around the bend in the road. I'm left behind, trying to figure out how to walk on alone - and yet not alone. I have the presence of God, my family, friends, church, and 25 years worth of love from my husband to see me through.

My husband was generous and open-hearted. He embraced people whatever their background or beliefs. Our family has chosen this poem, from a different religious tradition than ours, that really speaks to what we think he would tell us. Yes, we grieve. Yes, we miss him deeply. But I want to learn how to turn that pain into a pathway for love toward others.

Thank you for walking this journey with me. I appreciate your prayers as we move forward from here. I'll write again when God guides me - for now, I want to rest, and learn how to apply all these lessons from caregiving.

MEDITATIONS BEFORE KADDISH - From MISHKAN T’FILAH

When I die give what’s left of me away
to children and old men that wait to die.


And if you need to cry,
cry for your brother walking the street beside you.


And when you need me, put your arms around anyone
and give them what you need to give me.


I want to leave you something,
something better than words or sounds.


Look for me in the people I’ve known or loved,
and if you cannot give me away,
at least let me live in your eyes and not your mind.


You can love me best by letting hands touch hands,
and by letting go of children that need to be free.


Love doesn’t die, people do.
So, when all that’s left of me is love,
give me away.


Lessons from Caregiving #23: Worship - Lament - Trust


(This post is part of a series. For previous posts in the series please see #1#2., #3#4#5#6#7#8#9#10#11#12#13#14#15#16#17#18#19#20#21, #22)

I started this blog post a week ago, not knowing that it would lay unfinished as I sat with my husband, his daughter by my side, and caregiver looking on, while he took his final breaths. My ongoing grief is taking on a whole new layer as we face the reality of death.

When we began walking the Dementia Road, I was surprised at how overcome with sadness I could be at the most random times. With a fast-progressing disease, new changes were coming at me before I could adjust to the last one. I never found a "new normal" and constantly felt the rug pulled out from under me.

In the middle of this I began to learn about the stages of grief and began to connect with other dementia spouse caregivers. In this process I learned of an often-overlooked Biblical practice: Lamenting. As I began to cycle through the stages of grief, I also studied Biblical examples of lament. I began to see a pattern emerge: Worship, lament, trust.

Worship is more than just singing - at its core it is acknowledging the truth of who God is. As the first step in the process, worship is a good reminder that all of our pain can be processed in the context of relationship with Him. The classic example of worship in the face of grief is found in Job 1:20-21:
 At this, Job got up and tore his robe and shaved his head. Then he fell to the ground in worship 21 and said:
“Naked I came from my mother’s womb,
    and naked I will depart.
The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away;
    may the name of the Lord be praised.”
The Psalmist Asaph also begins facing his grief with worship in Psalm 73:1:
Surely God is good to Israel,
to those who are pure in heart.
What I am learning from this is that no matter what I am facing, having a heart of worship that acknowledges who God is in the middle of my pain is crucial to biblical lamenting. 

Lament is the outward expression of grief and sorrow. It is defined as "a passionate expression of grief or sorrow." In Scripture, we see lament reflected in such practices as weeping and wailing, tearing clothes, sitting in dirt, and outpourings of sadness in conversation with God. These practices are the norm in parts of the world today, even among Christians who suffer for their faith or from poverty and disease. Somehow, those of us in western Christianity with our cultural acceptance and our plenty and our medical care have forgotten how to lament. We see lamenting in the majority of Job's words from chapter 3 to chapter 37. While he does express some truths about God and some defenses of himself, much of his complaint to his friends is in line with his opening statement to them in Job 3:1:

After this, Job opened his mouth and cursed the day of his birth.
Asaph, too, processes his grief with what sounds like frustration in Psalm 73:13-14:
Surely in vain I have kept my heart pure
    and have washed my hands in innocence.
All day long I have been afflicted,
    and every morning brings new punishments.
Studying these and other examples of Biblical lamenting has taught me that there is really nothing "wrong" that I can say to God. He just wants me to keep communicating with Him, through the raw and gritty pain that I feel, always remembering who He is. I've told several friends that I don't want to be remembered as the woman who never uttered a complaining word. I want to be remembered as one who poured out every complaint to God and wrestled with Him, but never gave up on Him. 

Trust is ultimately where I want to land and how I want to grow through the process of grief and lament. I cannot tell you how much I have learned about trust by watching my husband yield to God in the challenges of dementia. Through everything that others had to do for him, through losing his ability to speak and relying on others to be his voice and his advocate, through surrendering to a parade of strangers through our home, he exemplified trust. I've told many people I don't think I've ever trusted anyone even half of how much he trusted me - and that is humbling. His trust in God was even more profound. He exemplified childlike faith and simple trust.

We see Job get to this point after God speaks in Job 38-41. In Job 42:5 Job responds with what sounds to me like definite growth in trust:
My ears had heard of you but now my eyes have seen you.
Asaph also found the ability to grow in trust after being in God's presence. He ends Psalm 73 with these words of trust:
But as for me, it is good to be near God.
    I have made the Sovereign Lord my refuge;
    I will tell of all your deeds.

My desire as I walk through this season of grief is to come out on the other side with a deeper trust - not so that I never again lament, but so that I know that God is big enough to see me through whatever grief I face.

I am learning to embrace lament. As I allow myself to feel the full weight of grief, I also see more clearly the fullness of our hope. I'm learning that it's only through the gospel can we both fully grieve and fully hope.

The photo at the top of the page was taken just two days before my husband died. I went for a walk on a crisp morning and realized that the setting matched how I felt: Cold, barren, and empty - but because of Jesus, there is hope that allows me to process this grief in the light instead of in the darkness. As I worship, lament, and trust, I do so in the light of His love.