being human

What does it mean to be human?

I believe that God made every human being in His image, and because of that we all have intrinsic value and worth just because we are alive. I also believe that all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God, and therefore we are all broken. So being human is to be broken.

“God meant us to live forever. But sin has broken everything and now we – all of us – die.”  – Sally Lloyd-Jones

I am not sure how you are experiencing brokenness in your life and all around you. I imagine if you stop and think about it, you will be able to name several ways. You are probably, like me, very human. I attended a counseling seminar a few weeks ago on traumatized youth and so many of my personal experiences from my past and the thoughts and feelings that come with them were stirred up and have continued to bounce around in my head and in my heart. I’ve been reminded of just how human I am.

When faced with our humanity we can do a couple things, the same is true about trauma. We can fight, we can flight, or we can fright. I’ve been taking one or the other, and sometimes all of these routes, for my entire life. But I think I have found a better way.

My dad passed away a few years ago and tomorrow is his birthday. One of the most human things I have experienced was the death of my father and it has never gone away. I have been having this internal struggle going on as I wait and anticipate the pain and grief I will feel when I wake up in the morning and he is not there, not alive. I want to pretend like it’s not true, I want to be busy so I don’t have to think about it, and I also want to stay in bed the whole day and just skip Saturday this week. How can I fight, flight, or fright this away?

God is so very kind to me and He has shown me grace upon grace upon grace. As I have tried to overcome my brokenness and have continued to fall, God has been there to catch me, dust me off, and set me on my feet again. As I have tried to hide my brokenness and it continues to show up uninvited, God has been there to speak life to my discouraged soul and make me feel new and whole again. And as I have been overwhelmed and wanted to give up, God has been there to love me, accept me, and want me, just as I am, again and again and again.

I wrote this song to process my trauma and express the grief that comes from missing my dad… it’s called “You’re my Father when my dad is gone”:

He grew up broken, helpless, war made him sick. Tried to cover it up with butterflies and beads. Generation to generation passed down sin.

Now it’s jail, affair, can’t drive, can’t walk. I can’t see him now. I can’t see him now.

There was a time I remember my papa. Took me to work, brought me candy. We went fishing, he watched me play. I wish he could watch me play. I can’t see him now.

I saw him running, chasing my brother. He got beat, they both got beat. In front of me.

There was a time I remember my papa. He rode with me up to the city. Gave me money, for the long shot. He can’t come, but we promised. We will go. We will always go. I can’t see him now

He told stories between coughing. Called me baby, read him Scripture. He took his last breath, then he left. I said goodbye, cried on his chest. Felt fatherless.

I can’t see him now. I can’t see him now. You’re my Father when my dad was gone. And You’re my Father when my dad is gone.

The better way that I have found is to lay my brokenness on to the heart of Jesus. He not only understands my humanity, He is literally the only One who can actually fix it. He is the reason why people can read in the Bible, “Death where is your sting?” Jesus killed my sin, brokenness, and death when He died on the cross in my place and rose again.

I can’t help but look at my dad’s work boots and remember just how human he was. Those work boots are a picture of not only my dad’s work ethic, but his brokenness. When he died he was no longer dirty, worn out, sick, he came alive. He was perfected. And now he is in heaven with God. His Father. And tomorrow I will be okay, because I will get to see my dad again. The trauma won’t last forever.

“Jesus came to destroy death. He died on the cross and was buried–but death couldn’t keep him dead. On the third day he burst out of the tomb! And now death can’t keep us dead either. The preacher Charles Spurgeon said that Jesus has turned the tomb into a bed–and dying into just waking up. We will still die. But after we die, we will wake–as if from a refreshing night’s sleep–and Jesus will lead us by the hand into Life that won’t ever end. {Jesus said,} ‘Anyone who believes in me will live, even after dying.’ John 11:25 (NLT)”  – Sally Llyod-Jones

So I am hoping, trusting, and resting on the promises of God. And I am waiting til that day when I meet Jesus face to face and he completely changes what it means to be human as he wipes away my tears and makes me like Him. May you hear the voice of Jesus calling your name, inviting you to this better way. You don’t have to choose fight, flight, or fright, you can too choose Jesus. And if you do, you will be able to sing, “Death where is your sting?”

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Waiting for midnight

The last time I wrote a blog was January 13th, 2015. It was all about my dad, how much dads matter, and our perfect heavenly Dad. One of my goals this year is to speak more, and that includes writing. So here we go…

On this day, three years ago, my family was gathered around a hospital bed in my father’s home, holding our breaths while my dad gasped for his. We were waiting. Waiting for our precious dad to be pain free, tear free, perfect, with Jesus in paradise. But we were also waiting for midnight. It was my sister Rachelle’s birthday and we just didn’t want my dad to pass away on her special day. We told him it was okay and he could go home, but asked that he wait until the 13th.

We were also waiting to grieve. Battling cancer is a horrific journey no matter the outcome. It’s terrible whether it lasts 2 months or 2 years. Cancer comes with it’s own grief. But on this day three years ago, we were waiting for my dad to leave this earth and go to his eternal home.

I haven’t written for a year, but grief has a way of stirring things up in my heart and in my mind. It’s as if the grief is wresting around deep in my soul, searching for a way to come out. My sister called me tonight to talk about Dad. She shared memories and asked me how I felt. She mentioned how today was our last day with Dad and how by missing him and talking about him we are loving him. I couldn’t speak because I was crying. So now, I am processing by letting my fingers do the feeling and expressing it for my sister as I type, a grief share gift for her on her birthday.

My grief has been still and has quieted me this past year until now because as some of you know, my college basketball coach, went to be with Jesus in paradise this past week. So this year on the anniversary of my dad passing away I am not able to be quiet. The grief on top of grief wants to be felt, expressed, and comforted.

My coach, Liz Metcalfe, was diagnosed with rare uterine cancer in August 2014. I had been following her journey on caring bridge and praying constantly for her during her cancer battle. A few weeks ago she shared her decision for hospice…  It was hard because right around the first of January is when my dad went on hospice. There were so many similar things between my coach and my dad that made them both very hard to bear. I think their funerals will even be on the exact same day. I’ve been looking back through pictures and emails from my coach being reminded of our sweet friendship. She was a blessing to me, choosing me to be a troll at Trinity! My heart is heavy as I think and pray for her family, the long journey they have been on and now this new journey of life without their precious Liz.

My dad did wait until midnight. He took his last breath at 12:02. What a gift to us. God has given me other gifts to help me grieve. After you have lost someone, you are able to better understand what others go through when they lose someone. Grief connects you to others. God has blessed me with friends who have also been there and that share in my grief.

My first favorite preacher, Chad Monahan, the guy who introduced me to Jesus when I was 12, lost his mom a couple years ago. I’ve been binge listening to his sermons lately and was overwhelmed with grief when he started talking about his mom. He said, “There is nothing worth more or more valuable than those handwritten notes from my mom.” Lately, I have been desperately searching to find cards from my dad with his handwriting on them. After hearing that sermon I know I must continue my quest to find my dad’s words.

I take the pictures of my dad and my coach and hold them in my hand. I am certain that there is nothing worse then death in general and especially for those who are left behind. As my pain overflows in the form of tears and these words, I find myself with a feeling of hope. I am thankful for a Father who will never die. I’m thankful for Jesus who will one day kill death. And I am thankful for the way God gives us hope, and hopeful people to inspire hope in us. Not only has God been using my friend Chad to encourage me, but He has given me a special boss and partner in ministry , Rachel Warren, who has lost both parents and in my opinion, is some sort of hope expert. She constantly reminds me about the hope of heaven. She points me to this hope almost daily. After spending time with her this past year I am convinced that the hope of heaven is the greatest thing in this world. The only thing in this life that matters is that we have grabbed hold of that hope. The hope of heaven won’t end the tears and it isn’t going to keep my coach’s family from this grief journey they’ve begun – but it is, one day, going to reunite them. It has reunited coach with her dad. And it will reunite me with my dad. It will reunite Chad and Rachel with their moms.

So instead of waiting until midnight, I am now waiting for my suffering to produce hope, and joy to mingle with grief. I’m waiting, being reminded of the inheritance that is being stored up in heaven waiting to be revealed when we have finished the race. Join me and wait in hope, not for midnight, but for our eternal home and glory in Christ with Liz, my dad, and those you have lost.

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to His great mercy, He has caused us to be born again to a living HOPE through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith–more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire–may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. – 1 Peter 1:3-7

wish dad was here

Fathers are important to their children. No matter the child and no matter the situation… biological, step, or father figure… good or bad, happy or sad, living at home or living away, rich or poor, dead or alive…. every dad has a huge influence on his kid’s life. Even though every family looks different, the research overwhelmingly shows that dads matter.

I started today in The Foundry at Eastview for our monthly prayer time. We were praying for the prayers that were pinned up on the prayer wall by the fourth and fifth graders in our ministry. I came across a few that took my breath away.


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I pray that my dad gets out of jail soon.

 

I pray for daddy to come home soon.

 

I hope that my dad becomes a Christian soon.

 


I prayed those exact prayers for my dad when I was younger. I think that’s why I was immediately moved with compassion. I felt their pain and begged God to answer their prayers.

Dads matter.

It’s hard when your dad isn’t around. It has been two years today since my dad passed away and I miss him deeply daily. I praise God for answering the prayers I prayed when I was a young girl… I’m grateful that God never gave up on my dad, that he rescued him, that my dad made Jesus his Lord and went home to live in paradise with Jesus. This comforts my soul and gives me so much peace. But I still miss him and wish he was here. And from those pinned prayers I read this morning I know that I’m not the only one missing my dad.

There is only one thing that can remedy the pain that comes from the brokenness and imperfection of earthly fathers. And that is another Father. One that has done and is doing everything in His power to rescue His children. He loves His kids so much that he was willing to die to make a way to be with them. No matter who your earthly father is, or how great he is… there is a True and Better Father that all of us long for. And He has chosen us to be a part of His family, He has adopted us as His children, and He is the perfect Father that we never have to miss because He will never leave.

You see, God was the first father, and He created us in His image. He started family and called parents to love their children the way He loved His Son Jesus. Earthly fathers reveal and represent God the Father – they show us what He is like and the nature of His love. As we were studying Psalm 139 on Sunday at church I was reminded of the intricate detail and purpose God had when he made each and every single one of us.

This Psalm is especially meaningful to me right now because my sister just gave brith to a baby girl and I got to see the miracle happen as Ellery Marguerite was born! “How you made me is amazing and wonderful. I praise you for that. What you have done is wonderful. I know that very well.” Psalm 139:142015/01/img_7910.jpg

I have gotten to see a glimpse of the love of God the Father by watching my sister and brother-in-law love their precious new baby. They hold her in their hands, nurture, comfort, and protect her. They love her so much! I wish my dad was here to see her and hold her.

I think that I am going to say that about every single little, big, or miraculous thing that happens in my life. I am always going to be wishing my dad was here.

But God the Father loves His children and comes to the rescue. He adopted me so I would never have to be fatherless. He knit my little niece Ellery together and knew the exact time she would be born. He had the day that my dad passed away in His book before the world was made. And He is chasing after those kiddos that wrote those prayers with His grace and love – working all things together for their good and His glory. Because dads matter. And children matter to their Dad.

Think about your earthly dad – how has he shown you what yor heavenly Father is like? How can you allow God to fill the holes and meet the needs that earthly humans can’t? Have you experienced God the Father? Maybe it is time to receive your adoption as a son or daughter in His family!

O Lord, you have searched me and known me! You know when I sit down and when I rise up; you discern my thoughts from afar. You search out my path and my lying down and are acquainted with all my ways. Even before a word is on my tongue, behold, O Lord, you know it altogether. You hem me in, behind and before, and lay your hand upon me. Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; it is high; I cannot attain it. Psalm 139:1-6

Not Forgotten

As the new year quickly approaches, I can’t help but reflect on this past one. My most precious time this year has been spent with my family, having coffee with my writer friend, sharing and praying with my long-time partner in ministry, pouring into my edge group, doing life with my small group, missing my dad, and serving with all of my heart at Eastview. God has done great things this year! One of my greatest dreams came true when I was hired on staff in The Foundry, but I also experienced some of the most painful losses in my life. I truly believe that in time I will see all of it, even the hurt and pain as God’s severe mercy as He continues to work out His will in my life.

As I look forward to the next year, my goals are basically the same as they were last year. I want to read and write more, drink more water and get more sleep, and I am still working on memorizing Romans 8. But my greatest hope and prayer for the new year is that I would learn to trust God in a deeper way, rely on Him more, and allow Him to make me brave and confident as I try to live our the calling I have received.

I have this overwhelming sense of brokenness as I reflect back and look forward. I have fallen and will fall short every day. I’m fully aware of my desperate need for the gospel of grace on a daily basis. As I am tempted towards discouragement and feeling worthless or like giving up I am comforted by a song I heard this year that I play often. It reminds me that God didn’t forget about me in 2014 and he wont in 2015 either. I think about God saying this to me:

“I’ve been watching you child… Still learning to love, just starting to crawl. And I am waiting here now. Will you open your heart, I’ve been here all along? I’m not giving up on you. I’m still running after you. Everywhere, I’ve been there with you. Child I will never give up on you. Child I have given my heart to you.”

This is the truth I am going to stand on this next year. No matter how I perform or what other people think, God is pleased with me and His love is unconditional. He chose me and bought me and promised to never abandon me. He will never leave me or forsake me. God doesn’t give up on His children and He always comes to the rescue. God is enough for me and I can fully and wholly trust Him.

Heading into 2015 I am focusing on the True and Better… The Lord will be the One who is shepherding me. I lack nothing. I’m excited about a few things… I’m dreaming and working on a children’s book about sheep with my best friend. I’m totally in love with what I get to do at Eastview and eager about what God will do next in and through His bride. And I am most excited about my new baby niece or nephew that is coming any day… Can’t wait to meet the peanut!

I hope that as you reflect back and look forward you are covered in grace and believe that the King of glory is chasing after you and fighting for you in all things. The greatest thing you and I can do this year is be loved by God and then splash the overflow back to Him and on to others. Stand with me on the hope we have in God’s promises for 2015!

fatherless

For those of you who don’t know, I lost my precious father this year on January 13th to lung cancer.

One of my favorite things to do with my dad ever since I was a little girl was putting together puzzles. I got my dad 2 puzzles for Christmas, but sadly he was too sick and didn’t have enough energy to work on them before he passed. They’re sitting in my room, unopened, untouched.

The worst part about putting together puzzles is when you get to the very end, only to find a piece is missing! The puzzle can never be completed or whole without that missing piece! Oh the horror! That’s how I feel about those puzzles sitting in my room. They will never be complete because my dad isn’t here to work on them with me.

Lately, I feel like a puzzle with a missing piece.

Every year around Father’s day my entire family goes to the horse races at Arlington Park. We’ve had this tradition for about 10 years! Before Dad passed away he told us he wanted us to keep going – so we are honoring his wishes.

Tomorrow we go to the track – and I’m not quite sure how I’m going to make it through the day! Dad and I used to chat before every single race! We would talk about the horses, jockeys, owners, odds, etc… this year I am going to have to do all of that without him. He belongs at the track with me, yet he won’t be there. I’m left with emptiness. A deep ache in my heart where I long for my dad… It’s like I’m missing a piece of the puzzle. The piece I’m missing is my dad.

God never intended for us to die. But the wages of sin is death. I am experiencing the consequences of the fall that began in Genesis 3. The brokenness that death brings is excruciating. Grieving through days like tomorrow are the hardest.

As tears stream down my cheeks I begin to feel peace, joy, comfort, and hope. The crazy thing is that even though my dad is gone and my heart has bruises, cracks, and holes all over it…  I don’t feel empty anymore… I actually feel whole and complete.

Because even though I’m fatherless, I will never ever be Fatherless.

It may seem like you are missing some pieces to your puzzle. I totally get that. There will be holes and confusion in your puzzle until you find the One and Only, True missing piece.

May you find the Only piece you truly need, the One that turns your puzzle, which may seem like it’s broken or missing pieces, into a beautiful picture that makes sense and is whole and complete.

Cool story:
Last week I was a small group leader at CIY, where 220 students from Eastview joined 1400 others in Holland, Michigan at Hope College for a week-long-conference. At the end of the amazing, life changing week, we were all given a “kingdom worker” card — each card had a different challenge on it — a kingdom work action step. My card was perfect for me. It was proof that God is real, alive, and actively pursuing me, His beloved child. God loves His children and always comes to rescue them and remind them of His love.

My card said this:

“Study up on foster care and orphans in your area. Pray for the fatherless and orphaned, ask God how He wants you to serve them.”

Tomorrow will be one of the hardest days of my life. But God is a perfect Father. He will never leave me, nor forsake me.  He won’t abandon me as an orphan, He will come to me, and take me in (Matthew 5:48, Hebrews 13:5, John 14:18, Psalm 27:10). Even though my father won’t be there, My heavenly Father will.

May you find the Heavenly Father piece in your life, in your puzzle. It’s the piece that makes all the other pieces fit together! It’s the piece that makes your picture beautiful.

And stay tuned about how God uses me as His hands and feet to run to the ones in need… specifically to the fatherless, because they need to know that they will never be missing the “Father” piece to their puzzle, the only piece that really truly matters.

If you think of us… pray for my family tomorrow. Thank you!

Grief Share

 “BLESSED ARE THOSE WHO MOURN, FOR THEY WILL BE COMFORTED.”

–MATTHEW 5:4

It’s been one month since my dad passed away… One month. And I am still so scared of my grief. I’m tired and empty but I continue to go, go, go because if I stop… I have to deal with losing my father. When I stop I get flooded with emotions. Sometimes the pain that comes with feeling my feelings is too much to bear, so to cope, I avoid going there at all.

Denial (stage 1 of grief) is helping me to survive by pacing my feelings, only letting in as much as I can handle. Denial has helped me through the overwhelming reality of my father’s death. To get past this… you have to start accepting the reality. As you get stronger the denial begins to fade. But as you proceed, all the feelings you were denying begin to surface.

“‘Blessed are those who mourn,’ is more necessary than ‘rejoice in the Lord always’ because there can be no true rejoicing until we have stopped running away from mourning.”

Sin is running from God. I didn’t realize until lately that I have been running as fast as I can. I’m running away from mourning. Not even just mourning my father’s death… but mourning a lot of things from my past. Satan has been very pleased with my “busyness,” but God being rich in mercy has come, yet again, to rescue me. I’ve come to this place of being “swallowed up by a big fish.”

I recently realized from the Holy Spirit through a wise friend and two sermons last Sunday that my lack of rest and withholding from God is disobedience. Call me Jonah. I’ve been unable and unwilling to lean into my pain. I’ve been self-protecting from God and others. My heart has become rebellious and hardened because of my lack of trust in God. But right now… I’m stuck in the belly of a whale.

It’s interesting because when God told Jonah to go preach in Ninevah he rejected that calling and ran the other way to Tarshish. Jonah ended up being thrown overboard because he caused the oceans to rage. Our consequences are a direct result of our sin. Jonah refused to go to Ninevah, but God refused to let him run away. What’s your Ninevah? What’s your Tarshish? God gave Jonah a second chance to obey. But first, Jonah had to be swallowed and rescued by a big fish. While in the belly, Jonah prayed.“From inside the fish Jonah prayed to the Lord his God.” (Jonah 2:1)

Prayer is the way we run toward God. God works all things together for our good and His glory. He is constantly making all things new, but the first step is our repentance (changing mind, going the other way).

“The Word of the Lord came to Jonah a second time. ‘Go to the great city of Nineveh and proclaim to it the message I give you.’ Jonah obeyed the Word of the Lord and went to Nineveh…” (Jonah 3:1-3)

I’m desperate for God to revive me. I’m broken. Weak. I am nothing and have nothing. My unworthiness is overwhelming. If God wants me to go to Ninevah… he is going to have to spit me out there. But first, I will spend 3 days praying in the belly of a fish.

“Jesus praises those who can enter into solidarity with the pain of the world and not try to extract themselves from it.”

One of my Ninevahs is mourning my father’s death. I’ve only been going there subconsciously in my dreams. But I have decided to stop running and enter the place I’ve been avoiding the last month. So while I’m in this fish I will give grief it’s time and turn. A friend encouraged me to walk THROUGH hard times head on without avoiding the pain, because Jesus is with me. Jesus told us that in this world we would have trouble, but to take heart because he has overcome it all. He is a great Shepherd and a great comforter… He walks with us through the valleys.

The second stage of grief is anger, which is necessary for the healing process.

We have to be willing to feel our anger because the more we feel our emotions the more they begin to dissipate and the more we can heal. Underneath that anger is pain.

I opened up a grief book and the first thing that I read was “It is natural to feel deserted and abandoned.” This took my breath away. I can’t even articulate my thoughts or feelings that get stirred up by the word “abandonment.” It’s too much to bear. For now… I will stick with the anger.

Bargaining is the third stage. I’m constantly saying “if only….” and “what if….” statements. I wish I could go back in time. I feel guilty. My natural tendency is to find fault in myself and satan is quick to remind me that I am naked. I know that there is no condemnation and it’s not my fault but I have to do something to bargain with my loss. I will do anything not to feel the pain that is just so painful.

Depression: The present. Empty feelings and grief has entered my life on a deeper level, deeper than I ever imagined. I want to withdraw from life, because I’m in such a fog of intense sadness. I can be moved to tears almost instantly, and this leads me into isolation and hiding so people won’t see my vulnerability. But according to the experts, grief is a process of healing, making depression one of the many necessary steps along the way.

One thing I have recognized with my grief is that the stages are responses to thoughts and feelings that come and go and can last for minutes or hours, possibly days… Acceptance is about accepting the reality and living in a new way. I think the key is to feel the feelings when they come, but more importantly I think for me it’s important to stop running away from them.

My Ninevah is Mourning. My Ninevah is Resting.

I know that I’m wounded. But lately I’m feeling called… Called to heal. Called to help, to heal others. To be a wounded healer. Only God can bring purpose and meaning to our pain and suffering. Only Jesus can turn our adversity into ministry. Genesis 50:20. To save the lives of many. Isaiah has been my “testimony verse” for a long time. But just recently it has really come to light…

“The Spirit of the Lord God is upon Me, because the Lord has anointed Me to preach good tidings to the poor; He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound; To proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord, and the day of vengeance of our God; To comfort all who mourn, to console those who mourn in Zion, to give them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; That they may be called trees of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, that He may be glorified.”Isaiah 61:1-3

Jesus came to heal the brokenhearted. The pain seems too painful to feel so we stuff and ignore it, but Jesus is able to heal it. God sent Jesus to heal the brokenhearted. The opposite of love is self-protection. Since it’s painful to feel the feelings I run and hide… I pretend it doesn’t exist. Satan uses fear, guilt and shame to keep me wounded and in a prison, paralyzed. But it was for freedom that Christ set us free. So I have decided to give Jesus access to my wound. I’m opening my heart to God, and I’m asking him to visit it and heal it.

“We will never experience the angel of comfort until we enter into the mourning…. the admission of what is deepest within us can be done only with an angel of comfort.”

We have to mourn in order to be comforted. Jesus came to comfort all who mourn, to give them beauty for ashes, joy for mourning. Yes there is somebody that can comfort you and heal you. Yes there is somebody that can stretch His hand and help you. Yes the wound is not necessary to remain there forever nor you are doomed to stay forever locked in a prison. Stretch your hand to the Lord. Go to His throne with boldness to find help in a time of need. (Hebrews 4:15-16). We all need help. We all suffer from wounds and all we need the Lord to deliver us from them. He can sympathize with our weaknesses and we can find the help, the encouragement and the healing that we need.
“For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” Hebrews 4:15-16
“It is not enough for us within the arena of the world’s pain merely to know of a God who sympathizes. It is not even enough to know of a God who heals. We need to know of and be connected with a God who experiences with us, for us, each grief, each wound. We need to be bonded with a God who has had nails in the hands and a spear in the heart.”

We all have wounds and we must deal with them someway. We might stuff them. Ignore them. Run from them. Try to hide them. We may focus on other people’s problems instead of our own. We may have an addiction that we use to cope with our stress and to comfort ourselves. But the truth is the world and everything in it is broken…we are needy, in need of rescue! Our attempts at self-salvation are pale in comparison to the comfort that comes from the love of Christ.

I was recently called arrogant because I continue to minister to others without withdrawing to retreat. If Jesus needed to wake up early and pray, and go home early to be alone with God, and would leave crowds of people that needed healing to retreat and refuel with God… and he was the savior of the world…. then I think I need to do that too. God didn’t need to rest yet after creating the world he did. He rested and He is our example.

So I am going to Ninevah…. to mourn… and to rest… “….and I will give you rest.”

I wrote this in remembrance of Ryan McDannold and my father, Richard Karr, to comfort my precious high school friends and dear family who are mourning with me today. February 13th, 2012

The 5 Stages of Grief

It happened so fast.

I had noticed at my sister Erin’s birthday party on October 20th that Dad had lost a lot of weight, but it wasn’t until November 29th until I got the call from her saying that Dad was really sick. He was having some difficulty breathing.
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I rushed to my dad’s house after I got off the phone with Erin to check on him. I had this feeling that something was seriously wrong. I was anxious that something was going to happen to him that night and I just had to go see him immediately.

I shared the gospel. We talked about Jesus. We cried. Hugged. Prayed.

He has been gone for 16 days… and I feel like I am just now catching my first breath from this season where my family and I walked through the valley of the shadow of death. When I look at the timeline, I can’t help but realize just how fast everything happened.

December 7th, found out Dad has cancer.

December 17th, it’s stage 4.

December 23rd, Family Pictures.

December 31st, chemo vs. hospice decision

January 4th, admitted to hospice.

January 10th, turn for the worse.

January 13th, 12:02, Dad took his last breaths here on earth.

It happened so fast. Too fast.

I spent every single day with my dad during his last month. Every free moment in his presence. I knew he didn’t have much longer to live, so I wanted to make the most of the time left.

I heard amazing stories. I got some precious videos. I fell more in love with my dad than I had ever been before. God had done and was doing miraculous work in my Dad and in our entire family. It’s so amazing how God can take the worst situations, the most horrible circumstances, the things that satan intended to use to harm us… and work them together for our good, and His glory!

God beautifully restored my family through my dad’s disease. Not only did God restore my family to each other, but He restored my father back to Himself through Jesus Christ. There is nothing like that blessed assurance during the grief process!

To be completely honest, I feel somewhat traumitized by the experience of watching my father go through the dying process. What makes my suffering worth it is the comfort in knowing that there is a healer. And my dad has been healed. And because of Jesus, the shadow of death never had any power over my Dad– he was led right through that valley into new life with new lungs. Death has been defeated and the grave has lost it’s sting. This has been my constant joy during the last 2 weeks of mourning.

I wanted to share with you, what would turn out to be my last few moments with him and his final breaths with all of us.

For those of you who read my last blog, you know that I was praying Dad wouldn’t pass away on my sister Rachelle’s birthday. Unfortunately, he was fading fast and starting to suffer, so we had to put him on morphine. Dad said that he wanted to wait as long as possible for the morphine, that it was for his death bed.

We were there.

I broke down when we started the morphine. I knew what it meant. Dad was using every muscle in his entire body to breathe. Gasping for air. As I sat next to him watching him fighting, it was like a needle going through my heart during each and every breath. It was close to midnight, and a few people were leaving the room for a quick phone call or bathroom break. Although hesitant at first, I gladly took the opportunity to have some alone time with Dad.

I held his hand and told him how much I loved him. I thanked him for everything he had done for me. I spent some time just sobbing, with my head on his chest as it went up and down, up and down… expressing to him how much I would miss him. Dad had notecards with Bible verses on them that he would read every single day the last couple months. I talked to him about the hope and truth and peace that we had been reading all along. It was honestly too painful for me to watch him suffer, so I told him that this was just a valley of shadows, and he could walk through now. I assured him that God was with him and would be with us too. I told him that he could let go. It’s ok to stop fighting. I told him that he could go be with Jesus in paradise now. As tears flowed off my face and onto him as his entire body was using every bit of strength just to catch one, small, breath, I had peace. I told Dad that it was ok, that we would be ok. That I would be ok. That it was ok.

I didn’t want Dad to be alone, so I quickly ran into the hall to tell the others they could come back into the room now. I thought they heard me so I went and grabbed Dad’s hand. I was really anxious that my family wasn’t coming, and then, his breathing began to change. I panicked and ran into the hallway screaming for everyone to hurry and come. They all entered the room and surrounded Dad’s hospital bed. Everyone was there as Dad took his final breaths.

The miracle is that it was 12:02. Dad promised Erin that we would all be there when he passed, and we were. These two things have increased my faith in a huge way. God is good. God is so good. As painful as it was giving Dad permission to go, and as selfish as I feel for being alone with him…. it has, and will forever, bless my soul.

I gave a eulogy at Dad’s funeral. I wanted to share it with you:

I would do anything to have one more day with my dad.
He was such a good man, and the best Dad.

He was the most giving person I know. He would do anything for absolutely anyone, no matter what. He loved helping people and fixing things. I know anytime I ever needed anything, it was Dad to the rescue and he would always fix it. I don’t know what we will do the next time our car breaks down– I wish we had just one more day with Dad.

He taught us how to be loving and kind, to all people, even if they did something wrong.

Dad taught us a good work ethic. He taught us that there is always a way. He taught us how to be generous.

He taught some of us how to build houses. He taught others just how to fix the sink, make concrete, or use a hammer. I would do anything for just one more lesson, for one more day.

My siblings and I were joking about how Dad was spending his time in heaven. How on Sunday, he was resting and celebrating his dads birthday, going fishing together. We know he would be back to work soon, as even during his last breaths he was measuring and hammering and working. We think Dad and Jesus would have the best construction company in heaven… I’m sure they are working on a mansion right now.

He taught us how to be good parents.

Everyone has been telling me how much Dad talked about us kids. He was so proud of us. He said, “you know how you want your kids to do better than you? Well mine did.” And we will continue to make dad proud.

We will continue to cherish our precious memories while missing dad telling the stories.

He was the best story teller. Whether it was about Andrew falling asleep on the roof, Rachelle hitting her head on the top of the stairs, Richie’s cars, trying to fix Erin’s garage door, going to the horse track at Karen’s, or my chicken Elvis, Dad told it best, and would always make us laugh.

I know we would give anything to work on one more puzzle, to go fishing one more time, to spend one more day at the horse track, or have one more long car ride talking to Dad.

The good news is that I will have one more day with my dad. Not only one, but forever. The good news is that when I’m with him again there will be no disease, no suffering, no hurt or pain, no tears.

What the enemy intended to harm us with, God intended for good. Through this pain of losing my amazing Father, I can still say bless The Lord and God is good. His hand has been in this and all over my Dad.

Dad had so much peace this last month. Dad was at peace. So we are at peace.

His peace came from the Holy Spirit that was living in him, healing him. Maybe not physically, maybe not in his lungs, but I can tell you that dad has new lungs now, and he is breathing well. I pray that God would draw you near to Himself like he did with my dad. That you would meet my Dad’s Jesus that came and rescued him and raised him from death into new life. So you too, could have this comfort and this peace that Dad had. That I have. That you could be at rest, because there is a healer. We praise God, because Dad is worshipping with the whales.

I can’t explain or articulate what I’m going through. Words are pale. The only comfort I have in the midst of my overhwhelming feelings and numerous breakdowns is Jesus. His promises. His truth. His grace. His love. His presence.

I have been wishing time would stop so I could catch my breath… Yet, I have been hoping that time would speed up because apparently it all gets better with time. I’ve felt numb and empty, like I am just going through the motions because I’m not really here. I’ve stayed extremely busy, and usually grieve at night before bed and when I wake up from a dream about Dad. There are certain triggers that bring tears to my eyes immediately despite my best efforts of keeping it together. When I feel Dad’s chapstick I have been carrying in my pocket, when someone says Dad, during commercials about cancer, or cigarettes. When I see a picture of Dad, and realize he is really gone.

I can’t explain it…. but despite all my grief, I have peace.

It is probably because I am being carried through this difficult time by God’s love. I have literally been overwhelmed by people being Jesus to me. I am so grateful for the constant words of encouragement, helping hands, prayers being prayed, and so many cards and gifts with messages of love and comfort. Thank you SO MUCH to my friends and family that have covered me in love and prayers. I do not know how I would have been able to go through this without you. I have been blessed. I am blessed. My heart beats thank yous.

Be at rest, once more, O my soul, for the Lord has been good to you.