Father’s Day

Have you had an experience in your life where after the event, you wondered about God’s goodness + sovereignty? Many of us spend time questioning God in the midst of such evil + suffering in the world. Maybe this is something that keeps you from praying or believing – I get that!

Recently, I was stopped in my tracks, breathless, when I realized God had allowed a specific trauma in my life. He could have intervened. Yet, He let it happen, even while I was pleading my will. I’ve been stuck right there for a while. I can’t wrap my mind around how God could allow me to go through this pain? He knew my dreams and He knew I did not deserve this. Processing this has taken me to the garden.

I’ve deeply related to Jesus in the garden of Gethsemane. Jesus didn’t do anything wrong, even so, He was about to go on trial and be crucified, unjustly. He was in such agony He cried blood. I do not notice any joy in this picture. Jesus begged His father, “please let this cup pass.” As you may know how the story goes, Jesus also said, “Nevertheless, not my will, but yours be done.” (Luke 22:42).

I’ve been here in the garden with Jesus for some time now. Relating so deeply to Him and the suffering found there. Stuck. 

As a human, it’s hard, wait, impossible, to understand the thoughts and ways of God. I realized I felt very close to Jesus because I know he understood my suffering and was gentle + kind as I stumbled through it. But I have been detaching God the Father from Jesus, also fully God. My perception of God in my experience is that Jesus is with me and our Father is torturing us with pain and suffering. Allowing it. Willing it. 

As I wrestled through this with the Lord, here is what I’ve learned:

Jesus surrendered to the hand of the Father because He trusted Him. Jesus knew God’s love and wisdom so He went to the cross. We get to see the other side of that story with the resurrection + redemption of all people who receive that rescue. But me… my story… I don’t know the other side yet. It’s a battle to pray that prayer, “not my will but yours be done.” It’s hard to trust God, and I’m squeezing more than surrendering.

Have you been there?

Does anyone else project their experiences/perceptions of their earthly father onto their heavenly Father?

My dad loved me so much. But he also had more trauma he was trying to survive than most of us can imagine. He didn’t have the love, support, or resources he needed, so he self-medicated with alcohol, starting when he was a young boy. And even though it felt like he chose a bottle over me, his daughter, my entire life, I know now that the story is more complicated than that.

On earth – we have to live in the tension of already but not yet. We have to live with the paradox that our earthly fathers love us, but they may not have any capacity to show it through parenting. My dad was a good dad, yet he was the source of much of my trauma.

God is my Heavenly Father. It’s been hard for me to understand His love + my belovedness as his child because truthfully, I didn’t feel very loved by my earthly dad. What I remember is alcohol. And fear. And shame. Not being seen. Or loved. My brain developed and was wired in toxic stress. 

Now as a grown woman, I’m trying to better understand God’s love. As I’ve been doing my own work in therapy, I realize that God feels distant. I don’t picture a Father in the garden with me and Jesus. Because I’m projecting my earthly father on to my Heavenly Father. I know God loves me in my head, but I’m not experiencing the deep love the Father has for me. I didn’t receive or experience that kind of love by my parents or any other human, so it is hard to recognize it from the Father. 

In January I received a few pictures from my grandma I had never seen before. Pictures of me and my dad. Pictures of him looking at me, noticing me, nurturing me, + loving me. 

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c15f6a56-f95e-4c1d-9c95-6f052b7c4c15I love finding pictures like these: ones that show me — that prove — that my dad loved me so much. He was so proud of me. He looked at me with love in his eyes + heart, and my face says that I knew I was adored. When I look at these pics I’m reminded that his gentle touch made me feel so safe. He died over six years ago. Six years and grief is still here. Some grief due to the relational trauma I experienced from him, but most of it now is the grief of missing him, missing fishing together, betting on long shots at the horse track, and sitting in church together. 

God the Father loves us exactly like these pictures I found. He sees us. Knows us. Holds us + our hands. The difference is… God loves us perfectly. God doesn’t struggle with sin or trauma. God does not have unhealthy coping/survival skills. God never leaves. He doesn’t get drunk. He doesn’t abuse. He doesn’t shame or condemn. He doesn’t get cancer. He doesn’t die (exception of Jesus – but He is risen!).

This is the important thing I know now in the garden. God, my Father, looked away from Jesus so that He would never have to look away from me (us). The new thing standing out in this Gethsemane story is that after Jesus submitted His will, an angel from heaven came to strengthen Him. 

Question: Who sent the angel? 

Answer: His Father. God is a good Father!

But what is even more interesting to me… AFTER that, is when Jesus started sweating blood. Jesus was in agony AFTER the Father had sent an angel to minister to Him. The Goodness of God the Father is that He is with us in the suffering. He may not take away the pain of the suffering, but He will join us in it so we can move THROUGH it. God the Father sent an angel to minister to Jesus in the garden, and God is the one who gave me Jesus in my garden. Jesus sent me the Holy Spirit to be my friend, comfort, + ever present helper. God is the giver of every good thing. I don’t know the reason why God is allowing your specific suffering. But I do know…

“Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” And He who was seated on the throne said, ”Behold, I am making all things new.” Revelation 21:3-5

I believe my Dad was saved during the very last year of his life. I’m certain He is with Jesus in paradise, worshipping with the whales and all of creation. Today on Father’s Day, the root of my joy is that one day I get to be with my earthly dad again. That’s only possible through the blood of Jesus. And I invite you to take a risk of knowing and surrendering to Jesus… you just might gain eternity + lose the sting of grieving with no hope. You might not be fatherless. 

The truest truth about God is when we are far away, He comes running with open arms. He leaves the 99 for one. He gave up his own son to bring us into his family. This is why God sets the lonely in families. The church.

Today on Father’s Day I may not have my earthly dad with me. But I have a Heavenly Father and I have my family. And today, in the midst of grief… My Father is giving me very good things. His greatest gift being His presence + adoption as His child and into His family. And may it be so for you as well. 

If you enjoyed these thoughts, pretty much all of my (published) blogs are about my dad. So feel free to check them out. 💙

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?”

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