Holding Space for Grief

I’ve been reading the book Inspired by Rachel Held Evans, and it has validated a lot of my own ideas about my faith and how I view Jesus, the one I call my Lord and Savior. I was inspired to start it (pun not intended) when I heard of her unexpected death last month at the age of 37. I haven’t finished it yet, but I wanted to speak to one of the topics today as I have a lot of experience with it.

So, holding space for grief. Over the past few years, I’ve learned about lament and about how many of the Psalms in Scripture are psalms of lament. In them, God is cursed, wrestled with, complained to, and doubted. It was almost a relief for me to see the words in black and white and see that they matched the thoughts that were in my head. Evans provided a few examples I want to mention.

From Psalm 139:19-22:

“If only you, God, would slay the wicked! Away from me, you who are bloodthirsty! They speak of you with evil intent; your adversaries misuse your name. Do I not hate those who hate you, Lord, and abhor those who are in rebellion against you? I have nothing but hatred for them; I count them my enemies.”

Or from Psalm 109:9-12:

“May his children be fatherless and his wife a widow. May his children be wandering beggars; may they be driven from their ruined homes. May a creditor seize all he has; may strangers plunder the fruits of his labor. May no one extend kindness to him or take pity on his fatherless children.”

Not quite the words people usually share from Scripture. Right?

But, I find I must quote them if only to bring to light a major problem in the American church and some hypocrisy in my own life. There is a lack of lament in the American church. There is no “holding space” for those in grief. The nearest we come to it is individual counseling with church staff members or with trusted friends. We all suffer from the heaviest of burdens, but we refuse to lament with each other. We just pretend that everything is okay. Evans had this to say which says it better than I could. “That American tendency toward triumphalism, of optimism rooted in success, money, and privilege, will infect and sap of substance any faith community that has lost its capacity for “holding space” for those in grief.” (pg. 110, Inspired, Rachel Held Evans) No one is willing to sit with people in their pain without judging or offering solutions. They don’t want to share their pain either because they are afraid of being judged. This is a conundrum I’m not sure how to navigate, but I see it as a problem we, in the church, need to talk about. The comment I quoted also reflects how we choose our leaders. Because there is a veneer over their appearance in which none of their burdens are seen, we choose them thinking they are effective leaders. But then, we don’t allow them to lament or lament to them, and the cycle starts all over again

These words have resulted in another conundrum in my own life, one which I’m not proud of. There are many times I don’t feel seen in my faith community or in my life. There was even one time I was told to “go away” by someone in my faith community. As you can imagine, that comment made me feel like garbage. But, it brought me to a conclusion. I want to be important, to be an influence too. I want to be noticed and to have friends. Isn’t that what being a faith community is all about? Isn’t that the definition of community? I believe we should recognize ALL of those in our faith communities whether they are leaders or not.  But, it also made me ashamed. It made me think my wanting to be an influence was not coming from the purest of motives, that I was letting Satan influence me.

But, Jesus clarified my thoughts and reminded me of something. There’s nothing wrong in wanting to be an influence for Him. He reminded me I probably wouldn’t have done the reading I’ve done if I’d been more of a “person of influence” or “leader” in my faith community. My heart wouldn’t have been open to the changes it has undergone, and I wouldn’t have been willing to explore the concept of lament or to challenge the status quo either. He wanted me to be open to His voice.

Let me leave you with another quote by Evans to consider. “Life is full of the sort of joys and sorrows that don’t resolve neatly in a major key. God knows that. The Bible knows that. Why don’t we?” (pg. 111, Inspired, Rachel Held Evans)

God bless you all today!

The Tension of Striving

I’ve been thinking about this lately. Striving, striving, and striving again with my writing. Getting rejected and being knocked down by said rejection. Thinking I had nothing to contribute because I was so different. Getting back up and trying again. Wondering if I was where God wanted me.

These are all things that have created this tension within me and, I’m pretty sure, within all of us who are creatives. This brings me to a question. How can I create from a settled place? Does there always have to be tension, or can I actually feel settled as I create? This place would say I’m going to keep trying no matter what, but it would also say the writing, just the writing, is what matters in the grand scheme of things. Not the achievements that could come, not the goals that could be reached, just the writing.

For me, I have figured out I need three things to feel settled as I write so I can strive from the best place. The first of these is my writing life itself. Octavia E. Butler had this to say about writing. “You don’t start out writing good stuff. You start out writing crap and thinking its good stuff, and then gradually you get better at it. That’s why I say one of the most valuable traits is persistence. So, persistence is important in staying settled. I also like this quote by Anne Frank. “I can shake off everything as I write; my sorrows disappear, my courage is reborn.” Writing also helps my courage. That’s another reason to keep doing it. Finally, one of my favorite quotes by Virginia Woolf leads into my second thing. “Every secret of a writer’s soul, every experience of his life, every quality of his mind, is written large in his works.” This is truth for me, so much truth.

This also leads to the second thing I need to be settled with in order to write from my best place. My life. That’s it, plain and simple. I might not ever have any family or friends that read my writing or encourage me with it. I might always be considered too strange to contribute to anything or anyone else. There might not be people who want to be my friends because they don’t like who I am and wish I would be different. But, I can’t be different. I can only be the way God made me, and that needs to be enough.  Enough for the settling and enough for the striving.

Finally, I need to be settled with my faith in order to be at the place where I can strive with my writing. I’ve spent a long time denying who I am–not in the blogosphere, but in the real world. I want to be accepted in my community (Who doesn’t?) so I pretend to like things I really don’t and don’t talk about things I do like. It’s a conundrum. We try to fit in when we’re not made to fit in. We’re made to stand apart and reflect the love of our God who made us. As it says in John 3:16, “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” Jesus died on the cross for all of us, and for me, when I’m settled in this truth, I can strive and I can write with my truest self.

Praying for all of us to have success in the tension of striving!

Overcoming

Two weeks ago, I wrote a post about being at a stalemate (http://thrivingingrace.com/stalemate/) and not thinking I had the talent or will to move forward. It seemed to me that the approach I had taken with my writing was too general, and no one would ever read what I had written, not strangers and not even people I knew. It was a frustrating place to be in since writing was the only place I felt like I could clearly communicate. My spoken words were not easily understood, and I didn’t feel like I fit in anywhere. I wasn’t sure where to go from this hard place.

For several reasons, I still feel like I don’t fit into real-world groups or situations, but I figured out I had been more specific with my writing than I had thought. I’m still asking myself how I got to this point, how my confidence was renewed. It was simple really, and something I would heartily recommend to anyone who has the funds for it. I went through what turned out to be a life/ writing coaching session. Let me outline how it came about. One day, I was scrolling through Facebook, and I saw a post in one of my writing groups. It was from someone who was doing research on creativity. She was asking that people complete a questionnaire and participate in a phone call with her. It sounded pretty simple so I decided to give it a whirl. I completed the questionnaire and then emailed her to set up a time to talk. It took us a bit to find a good time but then we decided to do our call this past Saturday.

I got up Saturday morning excited, but a little nervous. I wasn’t sure exactly what to expect. She put me at ease immediately. We were both moms. In fact, one of her children was the same age as one of mine. We talked about the different parts of the world we lived in–She lives in Spain, and I live in the southeastern United States. Finally, we started talking about writing. I shared my desire to help people with my words. I shared how writing had helped me with some dark moments from my past. And I shared how I had developed my writing routine over the past few years and especially over this past year as my younger son started his post-high school career. She had me do an imagination exercise of where I would like to be in three years. The conversation was fun. We laughed, and I felt like we made a real connection.

Then, she asked the question that brought me out of my stalemate. She asked why my answers to the questionnaire had been so different from the conversation we had been having. I had to think for a second. I explained about the stalemate I had been in and how I was feeling lost about my prospects of going any further with my writing. Then, a word came to mind. It reminded me of the words about having a theme I had read from author K. M. Weiland. I knew what the theme to all my writing was now. Everything I had written so far had been about overcoming. I write about other people overcoming things I wish I could overcome. I write about gaining and losing courage and then gaining it again. I write about my faith and my writing and the challenges I face as an introvert. I write about my God who overcomes and my Jesus who overcame His death on the cross to become my Lord and Savior.

So, my writing is more specific than I thought. It has a theme and a purpose, and I can see a way forward now. I am so grateful for this conversation with someone who gets me as a writer and as a person of faith. She also reminded me Jesus shared stories during his ministry. I had always wondered how life coaching worked and now, I know. My wish for all of you who are creatives is to have that friend, that person in your life who can have that conversation with you.

Praying God’s blessings on you all today!

Permission to Feel

I dreaded the days leading up to this Mother’s Day. It’s always been a hard day for me because of my relationship with my own mother, but I made it more difficult last year by thinking my permission to feel my own feelings had been yanked from me. It was not really yanked; it was just how I felt.

God gave us feelings when He made us. Feelings that we, in the church, have classified as good feelings and bad feelings. When we come together to worship, it’s okay to have the good feelings. The bad feelings, not so much. Or maybe I should say that people are uncomfortable with bad feelings. I know I have been in the past.

But, as I’ve gotten older and experienced more of life, I’ve realized some things about myself. First of all, I feel deeply perhaps more deeply than other people, and it’s gotten me into trouble more times than I can count over the years. Second, I suffer from a mental illness that makes these deep feelings even more prominent. It tells me that my feelings are wrong even when they’re not, and I have to jump through hoops to figure out how to reconcile my feelings with my faith. Finally, I battle with realizing my worth to my Lord and Savior and to the people around me. I have a hard time knowing what feelings are true and what feelings are not as I seek to live my life as His disciple.

So, this past year has been a tough one for me as I’ve sought to figure out how I was supposed to feel in the different situations that came up in my life and what would be God-honoring as I negotiated my way through it all. When things went well and when I had what I considered to be good feelings, I didn’t struggle, and those were the good times. But, as we all know, the good times never last and are always interspersed with bad feelings. Those were tough times for me especially when I felt I didn’t have God’s permission to have the feelings I had. I felt alone and ashamed and felt like I had nothing to offer to God, to others, or to myself.

During those times though, I was also studying, praying, writing, and talking through my feelings. It was like a yo-yo. Sometimes, I felt God’s presence through all I was doing, and the times would be good. And then, there were the other times when there was silence. I felt like I never knew what was okay and what wasn’t since I couldn’t sense God’s presence and felt like I had to model what I was seeing in other Christians.

I know that was a mistake now which brings my story of this past year up to yesterday morning. I’ve studied and written about Scriptures where the writers were honest with God about their feelings. Scriptures such as Job 3:25-26. “What I feared has come upon me; what I dreaded has happened to me. I have no peace, no quietness; I have no rest, but only turmoil.” Or Psalm 109:6-9. “Appoint someone evil to oppose my enemy; let an accuser stand at his right hand. When he is tried, let him be found guilty and may his prayers condemn him. May his days be few; may another take his place of leadership, May his children be fatherless and his wife a widow.” For some reason though, I had it in my mind that those “bad feelings” were only okay for writers of Scripture and not for me.

But, yesterday…yesterday, it came together for me in a way it hasn’t before. From verses used in Sunday School to verses used during the sermon to a phrase used that has become the title to today’s post, God showed me I had done something to myself He had not ordained. It’s okay to feel whatever I need to feel whether it’s a good feeling or a bad feeling. I had His permission. There was even a present for me, a deep thinker, in the verses used, Luke 2:19 says, “But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart.” Yay! A deep thinker in Scripture. Someone like me. It was a moment I will always treasure.

God made me just the way I am for a reason, and I’m gonna live into it as much as I possibly can. I won’t be ashamed of my feelings anymore. Thank you, Jesus, for helping me forgive myself and for giving me permission to feel. May we all feel that from you today!

God bless you all!

What I’ve Learned from Lent and Easter

Lent and Easter are both over, and we’re at the beginning of a normal week. I’ve been thinking about what I’ve learned over the past forty days. It might not be what the church expected me to learn, but I know I have heard words from Jesus.

It’s because I have a burden. A burden for the person who comes to church alone for whatever reason. In our churches, we have a default setting. A setting where every adult is part of a married couple. And if people are different from that setting, there is pressure to conform. It’s not done purposefully, I know. But it’s done often enough that people who are alone can often feel like they’re the third wheel. It can happen with the college student who doesn’t have a boyfriend or girlfriend, and it can happen with the person who is widowed or divorced. It can happen with the person whose spouse doesn’t come to church or with the person whose spouse serves somewhere else. I think the last one is the hardest. You know your spouse is doing what Jesus has called them to do, but it is hard to see everyone sitting in couples. I won’t deny it.

People are generally oblivious as well. They ask if you’re going to celebrate a holiday with family not thinking there might not be any family to celebrate with. In fact, there is only one person I’ve ever known who has the gift of including a single person in their family gathering without making them feel weird. My college mom. From the first time I met her and her family, I knew I was always welcome. I remember fondly all the Sundays and holidays I spent at their homes when I was in college and across the country from my own family. They truly showed Jesus’ love to me.

But I digress. I was talking about Lent and Easter. Over the past forty days, I’ve spent a lot of time alone with Jesus–in prayer as I’ve worked through my Lent book. He’s brought me to the end of myself as I’ve asked questions that have been on my mind and heart. Especially this question. Why is the “church as a community” always talked about when all anyone ever wants to do is spend time with their own families, their own tribes. It’s frustrating to see things like “community” be given lip service when there are so many people in this world who are alone and hurting, people who are different from us, people we might not typically see.

Jesus reminded me that He saw them, and He still sees them today. He told me He sees all who are alone, even me when I don’t fit into church culture. It’s funny to talk like that when we’re told all the time not to try to fit into the world, but we also ask people to fit into a mold at church instead of loving and appreciating their differences. We’re all imperfect so loving other people is going to be done imperfectly until we go to be with Him. I know I’m imperfect, and I bet you all know you’re imperfect too. It’s overwhelming to think of all the mistakes I make as I try to be Jesus’ disciple in this world and make a difference, but not ever feeling accepted anywhere because I am so different.

But, maybe that’s the point. Maybe I’m not supposed to be accepted anywhere, not even at church. Maybe I’m supposed to love without any expectation of being loved back except, of course, by Jesus. And then, my eyes were opened, to all of the times Jesus was there for me yesterday even when I felt like I had failed. He was there when two children asked for me to play with them. He was there as I counseled my own son who had been feeling like a third wheel in the middle of “couple-land.” I was able to give him good counsel because of all the times I have felt like a third wheel even though I am part of a couple. Jesus was even there when I got in line behind a family taking communion together. Boy, that hurt, and I cried.  I won’t gloss over it. There’s nothing like feeling alone in the middle of a group of people. But, of course, I couldn’t admit it to said group of people. I was able to admit it to Jesus later on though, and that’s when He reminded me He was there, even through the tears.

So, that’s what I learned during this Lent and Easter season. I learned that Jesus is always there for me even when other people are clueless or selfish. I learned that “community love” will always be broken and imperfect at least until we are with Jesus. And I learned that Jesus wants me to pay attention to the burdens He puts on my heart even when I’ve been told no by a “church person.” Because God always provides a way even when it seems impossible.

Father God, help me to put into practice the things I have learned. Help us all to pay attention to who we meet so we can share your love. Help us not to be clueless and selfish and help us to reflect your love in a world that desperately needs it. In Jesus’ Name, Amen!

God bless you all!

Holy Curses

Another week has passed so it’s time for another post in my Lenten series from the book 40 Days of Decrease by Alicia Britt Chole. I wasn’t sure I’d do the post at first. In fact, I had to read the entry several times to understand what the author was talking about. I’m still not sure I completely understand, but I had to put my wrestling into words, to write down the questions I’ve been considering about my faith.

So, the phrase this week is “holy curses.” The author connects this phrase with the  Scripture where Jesus curses the fig tree for not having any fruit on it and says for it never to have fruit again. Then, He and the disciples walk by it again later, and Peter remembers what Jesus had said. The fig tree had withered because Jesus had cursed it. The author calls it Jesus’ only “destructive miracle.”

But, wait a minute. I thought cursing was a bad thing. And sure enough, the four other times in Scripture where this Greek word was used talk about how we’re to love our enemies and not curse them, about the cursed who won’t be in heaven, and about the taming of the tongue which can be used to curse others. I especially liked the reference from James 3:9-10 because I’ve been in a class studying this book of the Bible. “With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse human beings, who have been made in God’s likeness. Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers and sisters, this should not be.”

By this example, I’m pretty sure God is telling us not to curse. He wants us to live together in community with His love at the center of our hearts and beings. So, what does the example of the withered fig tree mean? The author uses two verses from John 15 which talk about bearing fruit. Verses 5-6 say, “If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me  you can do nothing. If anyone does not remain in me, he is like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned.”

I quote these verses and say all this to come closer to what I think the author means and to come closer to the questions I’ve been asking myself. As part of our faith, Jesus wants us to bear fruit. The things we do for our faith are not necessary to come to faith. They are what is supposed to come afterwards. I agree with and understand all of that.

I guess my question is what exactly is that supposed to look like. Does that mean we take every class or go to every activity that the church offers? Do we bear fruit in our families, in our jobs, and with our friends? Do we take the risk of letting the guards on our hearts down so we can wrestle with the things Jesus taught us? Do we deny self in our pursuit to bear fruit? I believe the answers to these questions come in pieces and are all related to the denial of self. One person’s fruit is not the same as another’s. So many people I know are doing so many different things for God, it’s almost impossible to count them all. Among my friends, I know someone who is living a life dedicated to her family and to the children in her classroom. She doesn’t make it to church all of the time, but I know she would be there for me if I ever needed her. I have another friend who runs a ministry to the least of these. Some of the people she ministers to are not welcome in churches, but I believe she is bearing the fruit Jesus wants to see. And, finally, I have a friend who has opened her home to me more times than I can count. When I was in college, she let my car stay parked at her home for more than six months while I was recovering from mononucleosis on the other side of the country. I believe all of these examples are examples of the fruit Jesus wants to see in our lives.

And that makes me wonder. Do I bear the fruit Jesus wants to see? If I were to be honest, there would be many times I would have to say no. Times when I’ve used my tongue unwisely. Times when I haven’t loved like I should. Times when I’ve not denied self. Times when I’ve been hypocritical. I look at these words and feel deeply inadequate to this task Jesus has called me to of sharing His love. Have I borne the fruit Jesus wants me to bear? Have I shown His Name is the only Name that matters? I won’t know the answers to these questions until I am with my Lord and Savior, but I hope that by considering them now, I would consider my words and behavior each and every time I consider the question what would Jesus do. And I hope, that by writing these questions down, you would consider them too.

God bless you all!

Holy Gets Angry

Today, I’m going to spotlight the second of the phrases I found in my Lenten book, 40 Days of Decrease by Alicia Britt Chole. The phrase is “holy gets angry.” There aren’t many instances of Jesus getting angry in Scriptures. I am sure though we are all familiar with the most quoted instance of Jesus’ anger with His clearing of the temple. Until now, I had always heard sermons of why Jesus cleared the temple–the religious establishment was cheating those who had come to worship. But, I had never paid attention to the words of how he had cleared the temple. So, I went back and read the verses that stated the how.

John 2:15-16 says, “So he made a whip out of cords, and drove all from the temple courts, both sheep and cattle; he scattered the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables. To those who sold doves he said, ‘Get these out of here! Stop turning my Father’s house into a market!”

The other Gospel writers covered this instance and at least one more–one at the beginning of his ministry and the other towards the end. Jesus was seriously angry about this–serious enough that it was covered in the written accounts of his ministry.

But, anger is not a nice emotion, right? It’s not nice just like grieving isn’t nice, and people don’t know what to do with it except maybe to tell people they shouldn’t be angry about a particular situation. Now, I agree. There are many instances where we shouldn’t be angry. Anger can have a negative effect on emotional and physical health. Getting angry can result in violence you really don’t mean to happen. It might be the result of a misunderstanding. Or it might be the result of a legitimate situation. God knows we get angry just like we grieve, and He doesn’t condemn us for it. It’s part of who we are as humans.

So, with that negativity against anger, is there ever a good reason to be angry? To get angry, yes, but to stay angry, no. That’s where forgiveness comes in. Anyway, I did some thinking before coming back to writing this paragraph, and I realized that Scripture shows us the way. God wants us to use our anger on things that affect others. I’m not talking about a hashtag campaign on hot-button issues like abortion or poverty either. I’m talking about getting down in the trenches with someone who needs help and getting angry when the church refuses to help. I’m talking about not condemning a person for their “sin” and instead loving them in Jesus’ Name. We all sin. There is not a one of us who sins less than the other. In fact, the only person who never sinned was Jesus, as we all know.

I’m talking about walking with the person who is being abused, walking with the woman or couple who is facing an unexpected pregnancy, walking with the person who is not the same race or income level as you, or walking with the person who is addicted. God doesn’t want us to stay in our comfort zones. He wants us to get in the trenches with those who need to see His love.

I guess that’s why I get angry when I see news coverage on any of the hot-button issues. There is never a solution, only angry words offered–from both sides. Even from Christians. What happened to sharing instead of greed? (And don’t tell me only one side is greedy. I’ve seen greed on both sides.) What happened to hope instead of despair? And finally, what happened to love instead of condemnation? When I consider the answers to these questions, I get angry at others and at myself. Because, we’ve all sinned in this way. I think that’s when God gets angry too. We’re not living the way He wants us to live.

So, as I finish this, consider the answers to these questions in your life. And then, when you get angry, are you angry because something hasn’t gone your way or are you angry on someone else’s behalf? How can this anger then be turned to show Jesus’ love in our sphere of influence?

“He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.” (Micah 6:8)

God bless you all!

“Higher, Further, Faster” (With God as my Co-Pilot)

It generally takes me awhile to go and see a movie. Between not wanting to be in the crowds on opening weekend (That’s my introvert self talking.) and looking for the cheaper showings (I hate how much it costs to go to the movies nowadays.), waiting for a couple of weeks seems to be the norm. But, last Monday, I saw K. M. Weiland’s blog post of 4 Pacing Tricks to Keep Readers’ Attention in her ongoing series of The Do’s and Don’t’s of Storytelling According to Marvel. It focused on Captain Marvel, the most recent Marvel movie. I was entranced when I read the post. I could go see this movie, learn some tricks for my own writing, and be entertained at the same time. Seemed worth the price for a ticket so I headed to the theater last Thursday afternoon.

The movie was worth penny I spent. Not only was I entertained; not only did I learn some tricks I could use in my own writing; I also saw some of my own life in Carol Danvers’ life. No, I haven’t been to another planet. No, I haven’t had amnesia. And no, I certainly haven’t gained super powers. But, I’ve gone through a lot of the past year not knowing who I was. I was no longer a homeschool teacher, and there was no natural niche where I felt I fit. The parts of my life were in pieces with parts not being acknowledged by other parts. I’ve had a difficult time working my way through it.

But, back to the movie. There was something happening every fifteen minutes or so that kept me in the story. That, in writing terms, is called pacing, and the movie was a great visual example of it for me. And it wasn’t just random. It was something that moved the story along and brought Vers (Danvers’ Kree warrior name) to our technologically challenged planet. She had decisions to make at each point too.

I also liked how they began the story in the middle of the action, but were also able to combine character development with it which made sense and didn’t feel forced. Her character arc combined seamlessly with the story as it should have since this was an origin story.

There were two things though that felt off during the movie, but not off enough for me to take my good rating away. The first was the jarring nature of the flashbacks where the Skrull commander repeatedly “rewound” Vers’ memories forcing her to pay attention to details she originally hadn’t focused on. It reminded me of the skipping of a record player each time it happened. (which should tell you how old I am, 🙂 ) But, in its defense, it was a different way to do a flashback which made it memorable.

The other thing that bothered me was the characterization of the villain. Even if it wasn’t already known this particular character was going to be the villain, it was easily figured out by the way he behaved toward the heroine. I didn’t see very much good at all in the way his character was presented even before his villainy was on the movie screen.

When everything was known though, when Carol was about to know and knew who she was, and when Yon-Rogg was shown to be the villain, some of the best scenes of the movie sizzled on the screen. I could see the good writing. I could see the good characterization. I could even see that the revelations were handled crisply and cleanly.

And the part about it relating to my own life? I saw my life coming together as a whole through watching this movie. That might be a funny thing to say about a secular movie, but bear with me. I felt awkward with the thought at first. How could my faith life, my writing life, and my life in general come together through watching a secular movie? That’s when I thought of the addition to today’s post title, “Higher, Further, Faster” (With God as my Co-Pilot). I had thought I needed others’ approval for what God was calling me to do, but I really don’t. I just need to do what God is calling me to do on whatever path He sets me on.

So, that’s it for today. Highest recommendations for the movie! Can’t wait for Avengers Endgame in just a few weeks!

Holy Grieves

For almost a year, I’ve wrestled with the question of whether it’s okay to grieve in church. If I’m honest though, it’s been longer than that. I’ve just been thinking about it in particular over this past year and wondering if it was okay.

Sometimes, I think I’m the most human person in the world when I go to church. I weep when I grieve. Tears come easily though I do my best to hide them, and there aren’t many people who understand when I try to tell them. So, I keep my thoughts and feelings to myself when people ask what’s wrong, or I just don’t cry at all even though I want to. And all along, I think I’m a terrible person because it seems like I’m the only one who needs to grieve, and God must think badly of me because I grieve so openly. As you can see, I internalize many things about grieving.

But, I’m going through a book during this Lenten season as I’ve mentioned before, 40 Days of Decrease by Alicia Britt Chole. One of the more recent entries had the answer to my question, and I’m using two of the words in that entry for the title of my blog post, “Holy grieves.” The author provided the translation of the word Luke used when he was describing Jesus riding into Jerusalem. When Jesus cried at the sight of the city, He was wailing. Yes, that is the translation of the Greek word–lament, wail, cry–all of those words. He grieved for Jerusalem. He grieved for all its inhabitants. He grieved for all of humanity.

I read the author’s words and felt better about my question. We’re all familiar with the Scripture where Jesus weeps at Lazarus’ death though he was about to be resurrected. But, the other instances, I had never heard them explained so clearly.

We don’t do a good job though of wrestling with this in the church. The author of my book calls it “wrestling with the mystery of the Incarnation,” and I think that’s appropriate. We use words that are easier for us to understand though they cut open the heart of the receiver because we don’t understand the point and the purpose of grief.

Here are some of those words quoted directly from the author. “You shouldn’t cry, grieve, wail, or weep. God is in control. He works all things for the good of those who love Him…so there’s no need to feel___.” (Alicia Britt Chole, 40 Days of Decrease) I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve heard those words spoken to me or have spoken them to others. We’ve lost the art of just sitting and grieving with each other.

So, I wonder what I should do in church when I hurt. Should I weep and feel awkward and lacking in faith after I do so? Should I keep it all in and not share it with anyone? Or should I remember this sentence from the author of my Lenten book? “It is never weakness to grieve where God is grieving.” (Alicia Britt Chole, 40 Days  of Decrease) Crying is not a sin, and grieving is not a sin, and I think I finally understand what God has been trying to teach me.

May all of us who are believers grieve authentically knowing that our Lord and Savior grieves with us. Praise God that “holy grieves!”

God bless you all!

An Interesting Question

Recently, I became involved in #writingcommunity on Twitter. Last week, I saw a poll that posed an interesting question I want to explore further today. What was the question? It was this. Are all writers introverts, or are they a combination of introvert and extrovert? I was also interested in how these personality temperaments affected writing so I read many of the comments as well.

The poll results were interesting. Of those who responded, 65% said they were introverts, 10% said they were extroverts, and 18% said they were a combination of both. Now, this is not a scientific sample by any stretch, but it was interesting. In case you were wondering, I fall fully into the introvert camp. I’m more comfortable and get my best ideas when I’m alone which is why this week will be such a special treat. During the day, no one else will be here except for me. Both of my children are out-of-town, and my husband is at work so I have plenty of time to be alone with my thoughts. This is a good thing. In fact, I will, more than likely, have to drag myself away from my notebook or computer for possible interactions with people. Or maybe not. I haven’t decided yet. 🙂

But, back to the poll. It didn’t surprise me that the majority of responses came from those who were introverts. In fact, I would say that most writers write alone. Writing is generally not considered a group project. There were writers though who said they were extroverts or a combination of both. And it made  me wonder. It made me wonder how they could sit at a computer and write for the amount of time it took to produce something since their energy gets renewed by being around other people.

I believe it comes down to this. In my experience, writers, of all types, have a tendency to be more self-aware. This can apply to temperament as well. With that being said, I believe everyone can write–introverts and extroverts. It just takes an awareness of when we need a break whether that means we go and do something else while still being alone or whether we go and see other people to be re-energized.

So, I guess my question should really be ‘Can people write whether they are introverts, extroverts, or a combination of both?’ And to that, my answer would be an unqualified yes! Because, I don’t want to put people into one group or another as being able to pursue a certain profession. That’s wrong. We are all human beings whether we are introverts or extroverts, men or women, white or black, Democrat or Republican, citizen or immigrant, or married or single. We, especially those of us who are believers, should love every person we come in contact with and refuse to demean them. Isn’t that what Jesus did?

God bless you all today!