Sunday, February 7, 2016

When God's Love Trumps Our Hate For Trump

Let's just get it out in the open, I'm going to talk about something, well, super popular and unpopular at the same time. A person we all love to hate. Donald Trump.

But this is not a person God loves to hate, because He literally hates no one. Not one solitary person because hate is antithetical to hate. God IS love.

It's super easy to hate a villain, huh? We all love to hate one. And this year, many of us have jumped on the hating on Trump train. What's not to hate, right? When someone is referring to me, I'd rather hear, "What's not to love??!!", would you rather hear that?

But when it comes to Donald Trump it's obvious there is a lot about him to make ones blood boil.
I mean his racial slurs, comments and even faces (mocking). His derogatory comments toward women, (he's got a LOT of balls to say the things he says about women, let me at him!), his beyond appalling jokes about the disabled, I mean I could go on. It's actually quite unbelievable what comes out of this guys mouth, this HUMAN. I'm still shocked by his ego maniac-ism--is that a word? If it's not, I'm making it one now. I often think, "What on earth does his wife think? Surely she can't agree or condone this sort of behavior. Who could?"

God doesn't condone it, approve of it or like it. But I can tell you without a doubt, God loves Donald Trump. If God created US, He created The Donald. Donald Trump is precious to God. What?! Yes, precious! Just like I am precious to God, and you are precious to God. No one is exempt from God's love. Not even Donald Trump. As a Christian, I am called to love others and love my enemy.
This doesn't mean God made Donald Trump the kind of guy he is, (because we have free will), that could be a different blog post --how Donald got to be so obnoxious, but just because one doesn't condone, approve or like what someone does, it doesn't mean one can't love them.

What does loving them mean then? What does it, or would it look like to "love" Donald Trump?

For starters I think we can do the harder thing. Doing hard things are rarely based on feelings. It's usually things we must do to endure or persevere through. Sure there are things we plan to do that are hard that we want to do, but love, agape love, has little or nothing to do with how we feel about a person or a thing.
The harder thing here is to not jump on the Trump hating train. What good does it do our hearts? Is it changing us for the better by "hating" on someone or calling them names like most others do? It's super easy to call someone names, but a lot tougher to not give into that. So we could challenge ourselves to refrain from this sort of partaking. We simply don't have to add to the "hate".  How are we any different or better by wishing someone unwell, and calling them names? It might feel good momentarily to put that energy out in the world toward them, especially because so much social media is at our finger tips, but does it resolve anything? Is there something else we could do with that energy that would make a difference?

I think often times we give into this sort of behavior because we think "slimy" people need to "pay" for the way they behave or have behaved. Trust me, if anyone gets this, it's me. But all that brings me is more misery inside. All it does is get me worked up and bound up and hot tempered. Hate breeds more hate. But love, peace, contentment breed more of what we need in our hearts, love.

Love is an action, so we don't have to like Trump to not partake in the poor treatment of him. He treats others poorly so why do the same? What about the golden rule?

"Do onto others as you would have them do to you." Luke 6:31

This verse doesn't say, "expect the political animals, liars, cheaters, cruel and obnoxious ego maniacs like Donald Trump, you don't have to do this in regard to him!"

When God asks us to "love our enemies" He's talking about the very people like Trump (and Bin Laden, Saddam etc...) that hurt society by just being in it! Why?! Because of the upside down Kingdom of God and the radical message of Jesus! He's that loving and amazing, that we are asked to love "monsters", because God does. And that can be something as simple as not adding cruelty, name calling, bashing, and hate into the world. We can choose to see someone through the lens of Jesus, seeing them how He would. Which is seeing that people like Trump have an EQUAL value as a human in this world as any, anyone else.

Hard pill to swallow? That's ok, you don't have to agree with me. I just have learned through the years that all my hating and bashing of someone I don't like or strongly disagree with in the least bit, has done nothing to add to the beauty of the world around us. I know first hand that all it's done, whether it feels good in the moment, is add to the chaos in my own heart. And it's ugly & debilitating.

I'm free when I set the person I'm hating free, and it's no easy call to do that. But I honestly have no control over Trump's actions, or whether or not he'll win or not. I can't ever control the outcome of his destiny. But I can stand up for what I believe in in the meantime, and free the oppressed and speak up for the orphan, or the refugee, whatever I'm passionate about, but I don't have to hate on Trump while I'm doing that. I can tend to my own heart and not add to the hate because by golly, there's already enough of it in the world.

Sunday, December 6, 2015

The List of Adding Down-Especially At Christmastime

Last week, I was busy counting all the things that weren't ok, that I wasn't happy with in my life, the things that I simply wish were different. Boy was I adding them up, or "down" rather. A lot of things have been building and adding up in more ways than one, which is probably the reason for the silence around these parts. But today, I just wanted to chat about the things that I was ruminating over.

The things can really add up, or they can add "down" if that even makes sense. If we take the time to see, we'll realize and have the opportunity to re-adjust a bit, and start counting and adding the things that really matter. Cuz those things we count down, they just don't so much (they matter but they don't have to consume us). When we take the time to add up, and collect the things that are right, that we do have, that ends up filling us up, and in turn, we aren't so deflated, defeated and miserable. But we gotta count, we gotta add em' up. We actually have to do something.

Not just at Christmas time but at most times in our lives, there is a list. The list of all we wish was different, the list of all that is wrong, the list of all the things and people we mourn. Life hurts. It's hard. It's broken, and fragile. At best, we can see the things we have if we get our heads out of the gutter, and take a look, at very best, we can do it with a small smile and a tad bit of grace. Because let's be honest, there's always a diagnosis, there's always a pain, there's always a break-up, there's always an addiction, there's always self-loathing, there's always a job loss, pay cut, divorce, dead-beat dad, unpaid bills, undreamed hopes and dreams, weight gained, tears shed, fists lifted, eyes shedding, hearts beaten, bodies sick, and guns a firing. It just doesn't stop.

But can we choose to look at things that are there, and maybe ever so quietly they exist and they are gifts? Can I choose that? I did this week, when my list that was adding down, was drowning me.

We all have the ability to look, to see (whether your eyesight works or not). We all have the ability to change our minds. We all have the ability to notice something that we hadn't before. What is that for you? What is that for me?

Sometimes it's a matter of loosening our grip, and allowing for something new to happen, for something different to bloom, even if it's not what we wanted, or imagined. It comes in the strangest ways. But ends up being beautiful, if we take the time to see.

Last week, a few of the things on my "adding down" list were: missing my daughter and wanting her in California with me, not having any ornaments or stockings (I couldn't fit them in the PODS when we were moving across the country), not being apart of my christmas traditions that I hold so dear, like shopping with friends, or going to a cookie bake, or even a christmas party. Not having a car and the toll it's taking on me, and finding out something new about my health that is scary to me. But I think I'll stop there, because again, the list of adding down is long. If I let it be. But I'm working on adding up.

Yesterday we, in the most non-traditional sense got a Christmas tree! We did it without a car, my husband walked the tree home for over a mile! How strange to get a tree with no snow, no boots, no Columbia coat, no hat and mittens, and NO cold weather! The trees were super expensive and we had to get a short one because of our tiny apartment. But I say all that to say this: I chose to SEE something! The hilariousness of my lumberjack hubby hauling our tree on his shoulder up to our apartment after a mile of walking. Actually NOT freezing, and screaming and complaining of not being able to feel my toes as I usually do when we are picking out a tree. The fact that the guy that took our photo at the tree farm, did a selfie before he took a pic of my husband and I (oh yes he did). Sure the tree we got looks like an animal of some sort attacked it, (I'm not kidding you, it's like missing half it's branches, we should have qualified for a discount), it's totally lopsided, and it's bare, except for some lights we picked up at Walgreens. These, because I choose to see, are new memories. They might not be what I ever imagined or envisioned, and not exactly how I want it, but it's something I can "add up" on my list, as a gift, as a classic memory that goes down in history in the Norman books.
christmas tree guys selfie 

The other thing I addressed on my list of adding "down" was my daughter not being here. But guess what?! I get to be with her for over a month and for her 21st birthday! She's coming to California this week. Now if that is not a blessing, I don't know what is! Seeing it in this light, let's me add up on my list instead of down, and I re-adjust my seeing; I appreciate what I will have when she's here. I've spent a few days adding up up and up, and my adding down list has become so small I can hardly read it.

Whatever your list of "adding down" is, what can you "add up"? The lists matter, because they help us to see better. 

Monday, November 2, 2015

Expecting Perfection In An Imperfect World

"One of our biggest troubles we have with ourselves, is thinking we can be loved perfectly in an imperfect world." Francis Frangipane

I would be lying if I said I didn't try to get loved perfectly most of my whole life up until about 4 years ago. Not only that, but struggled and still do with my own ideas of ideals. My struggles have been endless, I have had a bounty of struggles! I've dealt with the idea of perfection in my own way for many years, up until about 3 years ago. They are milder now, but still speak loud from time to time. We all have our own set of ideals, we all, at least most of us struggle with the idea that things should be perfect, or wish they were, if not that at the very least we wonder why life is such a mess and so painful, and why we can hardly shed enough grace on ourselves to put one foot in front of the other sometimes. Why these expectations? Where did they start? How did this sort of thinking and these unrealistic ideas even come into play? They are countless really.
There is so much pain and suffering around me, including my own that I can hardly bear. Just this year alone my parents have endured two of their children going through divorces, and one child moving across country and seeing her deal with the death of her best friend (that would be me). I can only imagine how heavy hearted my parents must be. And I am not even mentioning all the "minor" annoyances and tough things along the way this last year. Life hurts. Life sure can suck. And we don't like pain as humans. We naturally don't like physical, or emotional pain, so our instinct is to fight it. To hate it when it happens. There's got to be a better way. I know there is. There could easily be a PART 2 to this!

I'm going to share 4 areas that I believe the idea of perfectionism gets started and takes root. I am only listing 4 of the main ones, but there are several more and each one takes different directions and have deep deep roots. It's complicated, and typically a huge wound in our life. 

1. Competitive Sports: Don't give up on me yet. There is something good in everything and everyone. But what these sports, especially professional, do to ones psyche is actually quite astounding. Take the Olympics for instance, again, I'm not bashing the Olympics, but these players try to be perfect. If they make one mistake are they rewarded? No. They are rewarded if they do better, if they are closer to perfect. And if they "fail" they carry that for the rest of their lives and it takes it's toll on them! They carry the loss for the whole team, and no one human should have to bear such a weight. It's not healthy. The behaviors in training feeds and feeds the person, to the point of actually believing they can be perfect at their skill. And nothing is perfect in an imperfect world, not even athletes, but we many support the sport, and encourage this type of thinking. We want our team to play perfectly, why? So they will win! Why? That's another blog post. But the perfect persona starts at a very young age with sports.
2. Physical Appearance: Never was there more of a time, well actually, I think it's calming down a bit, but the last 20 years with images in the media, TV, billboards, book stores, endless places to have "perfection" slapped right in front of us. Hundreds of years ago, beauty was not looked at the way it is today. Today it's all about being polished and tweaked by photo shop, and plastic surgery. We see make-up and beautiful hair, and we think we can be perfect the way they look in the magazines. Tween girls don't know that a celebrity or a model is actually sitting in a chair for about 3 hours to get the final look, plus if she's in a print spread, the computer will make her appear even more "perfect". Meet her in real life and she's like a different looking person. She's real looking. She even has what we call "flaws". Pimples, greasy skin, some dandruff maybe, and oh, maybe even some cellulite. Oh no! Thing is is most physical flaws are not "flaws" at all! We've just been so brainwashed to think they are. Even with social media there is a belief embedded that people have such perfect lives because they can CHOOSE what they share behind a screen! They are probably leaving out 80% of the behind the scenes.

3. Academics: There is an emphasis on getting A's that I personally think is unhealthy, and I'm not hear to suggest I know all there is about academics, I'm also not political,  and it's also not that I don't believe that kids can do well, or should do well and work hard, but with that said, it seems to me the pressure to perform perfectly at school is a painful one. There is little talk about the child itself, but more about his performance in the tasks and how his or her grades could be better. I understand it's education, so there is an emphasis on performance and assignments, but what if we spent 10 more minutes at conferences talking about our children? Talking about who they are, what they like and how they are a wonderful human being? What if we didn't talk about grades as much? It makes me sad when parents give money to kids if their report card is full of A's. The idea of perfection is out of control if you ask me. But maybe no one is asking me. So it doesn't really matter what I think. But this is an area that perfection can start to take deep roots. We praise for A's. What does that even mean?? I think we are missing a more whole picture here. A more whole student. A more whole person. But that's just me.

4. We want to be loved: From the time we are little girls we want to be rescued. If our daddies weren't there for us, we look elsewhere. We have an instant longing, (I'm not sure how men feel about wanting to be loved specifically, because I'm not a man; maybe it isn't much different, but I can't speak of it). We strive to find love, get noticed for being pretty, or just simply try to get noticed. We want the attention of someone. Sometimes many someones. We enter into relationships that are romantic and non-romantic and we are so hurt along the way. Damaged really. We somehow didn't learn growing up that people can't love us perfectly. Or we maybe knew that, but when it came down to it, we were too devastated by being hurt that we couldn't adapt to being loved unwell. We still expected for whatever reason to be loved perfectly in an imperfect world, why? Is it a lack of remembering? Do we forget in our hurt that people can't love us perfectly so of course they will cause us pain? And we them? I think so. Simply put:others will hurt us something fierce. Beware if you haven't figured that out already. This does not mean we cannot or will not be loved well, so don't lose hope! Lowered expectations is a good place to start. And looking within to see how we might be affecting the relationship or adding fuel to the fire. 

Simply put, we live in an imperfect world. Sure we hear that all the time, but I don't think we really hear it. I don't think we really get it, because if we did, we wouldn't be so hard on ourselves, AND we would accept the crap, the hard times, and the overall ups and downs of life a lot easier, more gracefully, and we wouldn't be so blown away the next time our car needs repairs, or all three kids are sick at the same time, or the water heater goes out, or we have relationships struggles, or we lose a job, or we don't get the promotion, or we don't get the house we so wanted. The list goes on, does it not? And there is never a day that goes by that we say things like, 

"Just when life was going so good.....XY AND Z happened", or "I just can't win!", or "I just can't seem to catch a break!" We are all familiar with these sayings. We either say them out loud or to ourselves. Here's the deal. Life is good and BAD. Life is joy and SORROW, life is easy and HARD. Life is beautiful and UGLY. Life is fun and BORING. Life is life and DEATH(yes even this, sadly). Life is healthy and SICK. Life is happy AND sad. I think we have this idea in our heads that "If I just get to this point or once I'm through this hard time then.....". It doesn't work that way friends! Life is life and it will keep us on our toes in it's perfectly imperfect manner until the end of time! 

My simplest way of explaining in my belief why the world is imperfect is the Garden story in the bible. Might seem like a myth, but I believe that God gave us, like He gave Adam and Eve in the Garden, a choice. They chose against what God said they could do and it has never been the same. We have free will, we chose a different way than what God chose and wanted for us, that means there is sin, disease, evil and much more in this world. It means it's imperfect, and it's not how God set it up to be. So we have a royal mess. So wouldn't we then expect life to be messy if we know this to be true? Even if you don't believe in the Garden story like I do, we can all agree that this life is broken for some reason or another. So that means it's far from perfect, and that must mean that WE are far from perfect. Our everyday. Our every week. Our every month. Our every year. And there after. But yet we are still surprised when things go wrong or get hard! Why??! 

What if we stopped imposing perfection in an imperfect world? What if we accepted that this is reality and we can't do anything about it expect maybe something about our attitudes in it? Maybe we can find a way to live at peace in a set of crappy circumstances? Maybe we can not be shaken when life throws us the curve balls we know it will. Maybe that's the way to approach the imperfections of life. If this life and the people in it are imperfect, including me, how do I live in it well? Maybe living through the lens of "tomorrow will be good no matter what because I accept it with all it's imperfections, including myself", is a good place to start.

And remember, life isn't out to get YOU. It's not personal. Life isn't particularly hard on you. You're not the only one! Life happens in different ways to all of us. It can be harder at certain times for certain people and then harder for others at another time. It's ever changing and up and down. But it's not out to get you. WE all have our own messes, pain, troubles, dreams, goals, stories and hopes. We are all affected and touched by life. All of us. We are all perfectly imperfect.
And if you want to know "why me???!!" It's simple, life is imperfect.
God is the only one who is perfect.

Friday, October 23, 2015

You Are Enough

Every Fall I like to re-post one of my most popular poems to share with all of you again, or to share it with new readers. It's called You Are Enough.

2 Corinthians 12:9 But he said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me. 2 Corinthians 12:9

Something, thee thing, I hear most often from fellow{and myself}woman/mothers/wives/friends is this: 

"I don't feel like enough." "I don't do enough." "I haven't done enough."

{those are lies}
I think the most important thing to remember is that this sentence does not translate into:
"I am not enough." 

I am filled with compassion toward others when I hear of this so often.
  I need to have more compassion for myself I think, and love myself better in this area.

For me I struggle because I can't physically do all that I want to do; even just around the house {making my bed can be tough on me}, so it can be maddening mentally if I think of all that needs to be done that I am unable to do. I've so grown and been refined in this area, learning to let go of a lot. Sometimes, that's the only way to survive. Letting go, that is.

I think of this so often, about how as women {And men, but in different ways}, we are so hard on ourselves, and think: We are either not good enough or not enough. Or that we don't do enough. Whether we are comparing ourselves to other women, or feeling inferior about our talents, or we can't keep up around the house, or we are feeling defeated as mothers, it's often a feeling that leaves us hollow and wishing we were more.

If I keep gently tugging at my skirt everyday to tell myself this, and drink some coffee, call a friend, watch for birds, love God, hug my daughter, encourage my husband, call my parents, pet my dog, and pray for the homeless, I know I'm actually OK. 

Well, here's the deal{the real truth}:
You are enough.
You cook enough.
You work enough.
You clean enough.
You play with your kids enough.
You smile enough.
You bake enough.
You craft enough.
You exercise enough. You exercise enough. Again---You exercise enough.
You are creative enough.
You care enough.
You car pool enough.
You attend children activities enough.
You walk the dog enough.
You eat healthy enough.
You drink water enough.
You organize enough.
You do laundry enough.
You are think enough.
You read to your kids enough.
You weed enough.
Your car is clean enough.
You read enough.
You write enough.
You paint enough.
You listen enough.
You are attractive enough.
You share enough.
You discipline enough.
You care enough.

You  are  beautiful.

Friday, October 16, 2015

Unexpected Beauty In Dying

There is nothing beautiful about losing your best friend at 40 years old. Nothing. It's not what I expected, it's not what I want, I actually hate it. I hate my new reality. Even as a christian, with strong faith, grief doesn't pass by. Sure, I have an anchor if you will, but I still have all the emotions and still need to go through all of them. There's this false belief that if you are a believer, you "should be strong, and have faith, God is with you." No kidding God is with me, but HIS strength is made perfect in my WEAKNESS, so no, I don't need to be strong. I need to grieve. Period. God made us with all of these emotions, and Jesus wept with Mary and Martha when their brother died.
So while there is nothing beautiful about losing someone so close, there is something extremely beautiful being able to be at her side while she was dying. That is a rare gift, and as my grief counselor assured me, "You have run the whole race with her Gina."

When I walked into her hospital room, and I saw her face, her swollen face from her kidneys shutting down, turn toward me instantly, and with an outstretched arm, which I am sure was not easy to extend, she said, "You're here?!"(I'd flown in from California and flew all night)...and then, "Gally, I'm dyinnnngg...". We met when we were 15, and now, with nearly all our children grown, we were about to go into weddings and grand kids. We always joked about our two oldest getting married one day. But this sort of talk had come to a screeching halt. Now it was, how can I help you die as peaceful as possible? How can I love you in the days or weeks to come? How can I sacrifice myself for you at the end of your life like you sacrificed so many times for me before in your glory days? How? Oh the tears stream now.

Gal was able to express how she wanted her last days/weeks to be, which in and of itself is extremely surreal, scary, yet can be positive too. She was heard, she was not just heard, she was listened to in her dying days. She was respected, along with the doctors, and all her family that saw her through, she was loved. And she knew it. There is nothing more beautiful than that in the last days of your life, is there? She was miserable, but focused, which I commend her for. She knew she was dying, and she is my hero, because she faced it with such courage and grace! She is and was incredibly brave. I don't think I could have done what she did in her last days. I admire her tenacious spirit. I followed her lead, and loved her where she was at.

I had two weeks with her. I rubbed essential oils on her body, I massaged her back, and she griped at me if it was too high or too low. Tears again. I bought her a little travel pillow with a soft cover, so she could hold it over her tummy. While her sister was on hair duty, I prayed over her. Can I tell you what a privilege and honor it is to pray over your dying friend??? I read some devotionals. I had one heart to heart with her, and she told me she saw the face of God. She entrusted me with her words. Her amazing blue eyes to my pale brown eyes, she told me she saw the face of God, and it was time for her to rest. I didn't want to believe her, but I felt it in my bones that it was true. I gave her sips of sprite, and water, and tea, and I usually couldn't get the temperature of the tea right, and trust me, she let me know this. I slept on a cot in the room with her while I broke out in hives, and she was asking me how I was. So typical! It was scary and a joy to hear her breathing throughout the night. Even as I held her hand everyday and sat with her, I missed her and she hadn't gone yet. When the Palliative nurse asked Amy what her favorite hobbies were, (they do this before they leave for Hospice), she replied, "Well it use to be going out to eat with my best friend." I had to get up and leave to cry. But I was so touched that that was her answer. Oh those were the days! In assuring her of heaven and the love the Lord had for her, I gently touched and kissed her cheeks often.
While we wish we could have been bringing her her favorite cake from Cafe Latte', or her favorite cookies from Panera, it just wasn't the time for it. We were loving her in the way that she needed from us. And boy were we overjoyed to do so. We were humbled, I WAS humbled.

And as she moved on to Hospice, I and the others continued to finish the race with her. It was incredibly heart breaking to drive behind the van that was transporting your best friend and her mother to her last earthly destination. It's somber, and numbing, and it's so heartbreaking.
In Hospice we were given the gift of the adrenaline rush that a dying person can get a few days before they let go. Amy had it! For two hours she was joking, laughing, and interacting, and we were convinced we weren't losing her. It was a confusing time. I'm so thankful we had that 2 hours with her the way we did, I have heard not everyone gets it.

As she slipped away more and more, I was terrified. I wanted to know every step of the process because that is how my brain works, it's how I learn. I watched for signs of dying, and prayed every time I saw something new. And one of the most heartbreaking things was watching her Mom with her. For as agonizing as it all was for me, I couldn't imagine her pain, We had a few more cute moments and some odd ones with her(which is common), but for the next three days, she had slipped away into unconsciousness. The Hospice nurses told me she had gone to another state. But I still held on. I think I'm still holding on.

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

It's Ok To Be Where You Are

Greater is He who is in me, than He who is in the world. 1 John 4:4

This verse basically means, regardless of what's going on in our lives, our world, God is bigger. God is even stronger and more powerful over death. As a christian, I believe He has conquered the grave, meaning I believe in after life, but when it comes to losing someone so close to me, as I've said before, I've rethought it. I've wondered. "Where" is she really? I refuse to believe she is in that ground. The real her anyway. Maybe her vessel, her body if you will, that held her unique voice, her glowing hair, her beautiful blue eyes, her soft skin, her pretty nails, her lengthy frame...and I shutter to think of her in the ground. I was overcome with thoughts of this last week and told my husband in a panic, "I actually thought of Amy in the ground this week, like her body, and it's process there and I'm scared...I can't, I just can't..." As he tried to respond, "Then don't..." I interrupted and said, "I must..." And isn't that the truth with life? We must. 

We must pay the bills. We must get sick. We must cry. We must lose our jobs. We must go hungry. We must struggle in relationships. We must not get our way. We must say goodbye. We must lose our loved ones. We must die. We must go bankrupt. We must be left out. We must be teased. We must get in accidents. We must experience pain. We must go through the process. We must face hard things. We must do what we don't want to do and what we shouldn't have to be doing. We must, we must, we must.

But we also must persevere. We must train. Many people understand the concept of training for a marathon race, but not for a life race spiritually, emotionally or mentally. I wrote this when I was in Hospice with my best friend:

"Life holds both extremes; the ultra highs--births, weddings, good health, promotions. But it also holds the extreme lows; sickness, divorce, losses and even death. Maybe the key to living well in the middle of both of these is taking the thankfulness and wisdom they each bring."  In Hospice with my dying friend, June 4th, 2015

Paul says this in 1 Timothy 4:8

"For physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come."

Why would we ever think life gives us all lemonade? It's almost like we all missed the memo on getting lots of lemons. I think so. Especially death, I never thought it could happen to me. Now I feel like I'm "one of those"...I've experienced great loss now, and I'll never be the same.
But in the everyday life, is it possible to get by a little less stressed, a little less guilt ridden, a little less sad, if we accept that this is all part of life? What about feeling what we feel, without any boarders or barriers. Most of the time we put those up because we are afraid of appearing "weak" or "not having it all together". Who started that line of thinking anyway? Oprah?! I remember her always talking about "having it all", and that is the biggest, fattest lie that ever existed. WE honestly can't have it all and can't do it all. Yet life makes us go through times that can break us down. Some call it balance. I say, accepting it is how it is. Life having the extreme highs and lows, and figuring out how to live at the center of it all. 

All I know is we have got to train. If we don't go through the low of the lows, how will we grow and grow? How do we become mature and learn knew ways to live better? So isn't that a good thing because we gain some wisdom. I admit I am still searching for the good in the death of my best friend. And maybe I never will find anything good from it. Maybe I don't want to. But I've gained wisdom. I certainly gained a lot of wisdom in moving out to Cali from Minnesota, even though it was hard as heck to get here and it's still hard to be here. I can accept my season for all it is, and learn to live in the middle of it. And in the high times living out here with all the traveling I get to do, and seeing new places that are so stunning, that brings me to happier places, so I'm thankful. Extreme lows, extreme highs bring thankfulness and wisdom. 

I can have an outlook at the life ahead of me and be fully aware that they will not all be happy with extreme highs. I can expect something else to go "wrong". I can expect something else to hurt and bring me pain. But I can also expect to feel happiness sometime. I can expect to have some highs too. We get so focused on not wanting bad things to happen, like we think life should be all good. But it's neither all good nor all bad, so why not accept that? That's where we need to learn to live. We can't stay living in wanting it to be all good, wishing we could always be happy. And we can't have a bad attitude thinking it's all bad, or it's going to stay miserable. 

"What about not being overwhelmed by all the good or all the bad when they happen to us? What about "it's all good"? I'm not saying to not feel what you feel when you have an extreme in your life, I'm just trying to give you a better option in the middle of the rise or fall." Gina Norman

How about radically accepting that we go through seasons as humans, and all of it is showing us a thing or two about a thing or two. I may not have found the good in my friends death, but I've certainly grown in my agony through it. How about being less tough on ourselves and being a bit gentler when it comes to where we are at at any given day? Not unnecessarily torturing ourselves if we can't do all we want to do, or bashing ourselves if we feel we are going backwards. How about just observing where we are instead of judging where we are? 

"A season is a season, that is all. Tears, laughter, pain, happiness. It's all part of the process of living. The key is learning to observe gently where you're at within your process, instead of judging it. Accepting what you feel and think, and finding where to live well right in the middle of it." Gina Norman

I know ahead of me I will lose someone else. And you will too. But you will also see sunny days, and so will I. We have them both. So we must persevere. We must keep our chin up. We must stay positive. We must pray. We must smile. We must feel what we feel. We must talk about what's real. We must stay true. We must give things time. We must accept. We must learn in the middle of it. We must see goodness. We must not give up. We must endure. We must keep the faith. We must allow ourselves to be where we are, because that is right where we need to be.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

When Death Is The Worst & Attributes Of A Sloth/For Those Who Are Grieving

I think I might be ready to frame it. That photo. Similarly like I am not ready to wear a locket I made with Amy and I's baptism photo, I haven't been able to frame my favorite wedding photo of the two of us taken 14 years ago. Boy was she happy that day. Exuding joy and peace. There is so much to say about those days, but I need to talk about these days.

There are so many ways this world is broken and we were not made for ANY of it, that is why we can't handle "bad days" very well, it's why we struggle when hardships come our way, like divorce, abuse, financial ruin, and inevitably, death. And death is the worst of these because it is irrevocable, as one of my books put it. (I know "death has lost it's sting", but honestly, that's a different reality all together when faced with the death of a life long partner, friend and sister of 26 years. Fumbling around trying to make sense of death changes when face to face with it). In the other hardships I mentioned, there are second tries, do-overs and well, newness. And as I firmly believe in life after death and reigning forever and ever with our Most High King, it doesn't change the current status of the one mourning, at least not right away or anytime soon. Death is the worst. It is permanent. I hate waking up day after day after day with the same reality that she didn't make it. Still shaking my head, staring out the window, tears freshly falling from my sunken cheeks because my appetite is so low. God Almighty, how could she not make it. 

I somehow, just like some of you, have been forced to deal with a new normal in my life.

Just like everyone wants me to be well and "better", I actually want that more than they do. They think they want that for me, well I want that for me. I know they just don't like to see me hurting, and as my mom said, in the most loving way, "I just want my Gina back." 

Try being me. Try looking at the dishes from the couch, thinking to yourself, "Simple, just get up, walk over there and start washing." I wish it were that simple, and maybe one day again it will be. But right now, I feel like a Sloth. I mean I have been well meaning for weeks when it comes to making corn bread for my husband. I just can't get myself to do it. Sorry hubby.
I wonder if I could go in a cage with the sweet Sloth in my hometown at Como Zoo? I'd probably feel more normal there than I do here in my own home. Every move is an effort. Think it's easy to admit that? It isn't. I hate this sloth like behavior. Please, please go away.

Tasks just feel impossible. If I accomplish one it is a golden star kind of day. And the toughest part is acceptance. Accepting I am where I am, and trusting my books when the author says, "This will come to and end, you will feel better....." Ok, I trust you book, I think.

I am shedding less tears, and I made some break throughs on healing the last couple of weeks. I was stuck in the Bargaining Stage for what seemed like forever. But through my relentless spirit of wrestling, and not giving up, I finally found freedom with two things that were holding me back! I then, later that week, actually did a little jig in the living room, if you don't believe me, ask my husband. It made him smile and I'm glad of that because it can't be easy living with a griever.

When we rush to get past the tears and "get on" with our lives we actually short-circuit our healing. There is no quick way to get on the other side of this storm. The only way to the end is through it. Even our friends and family tell us or at least think to themselves, "get over it" and get on with your life. They are well intentioned, but ignorant, and just want our pain to come to an end. Lynn Brookside 

Although death is quite different than any other hardship, I have found that a lot of wisdom I gained from my past dessert months/years, still applies. God is still God, and although I wasn't finding comfort in His Word right away, I am now. I read that too, that it can be common to not find comfort in things you once did while in shock. Good to know I wasn't crazy for not wanting to read or hear God's precious Word. I thought something was wrong with me. 
But He is still God, His promises of hope, redemption, grace, mercy and love are still true! Just like those promises were true in my marriage, my health and my abuse, etc. they are true in the death of my best friend! 

In my weakness His strength is made perfect. 2 Corinthians 12:9

Like a woman in labor, whose pain is not 
pointless, our pain is an invitation that beckons us to experience the very presence of God. Raynna Myers

There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven...a time to weep and a time to laugh, and a time mourn and a time to dance. Ecclesiastes 3:1

Grievers--3 Things to Remember:

1. Don't rush things. Don't rush your feelings, don't rush. Take the time you need, and it does take time. Try to remember to be gentle with yourself in this process, and know that there is no right or wrong. Accepting places we don't want to be is the hardest thing in life, but practice acceptance, everyday. It's OK.
2. Pray and journal when you are ready. I found that wrestling with God, writing things out, again and again if you have to, help a lot. You won't find relief right away, but it will come and God will answer you and provide a way through it. 
3. Force yourself to get out. If days or weeks have gone by, aside from working, and you haven't gone for a walk, seen the ocean, or even went on a shopping trip, do it. It's important to be immersed in nature and feel the breeze and get your senses going.
OK, maybe 4
4. Don't let others tell you what to do, how to do it, what you should do, what you should think. Don't be influenced by their thoughts and words on the healing process. I have been in their shoes, I know how awkward it can be when someone you know loses someone and you not a clue how to act. Don't get upset with them or expect things from them. Some just don't know what to do, and that's OK. I too have ignored peoples grief in the past. 

So I continue on my road through grief, but with an acceptance that I don't have to have all the answers, God "waives" our need for having all the answers, as C.S. Lewis puts it, and I accept where I am in the process, even though it's not where I want to be, I want to be doing so many other things, but God is using this unforeseen reality to shape my life somehow. I don't know how yet, and I'm eager to know, but I will be obedient to the call of acceptance and grace, and a mighty endurance as I'm molded more and more in Christs likeness in this process. That is my goal in all of life. Even in death, even in grief. I never thought this would be me, as silly as that sounds. I'm still trying to transition to a new state, a new apartment and adjust to not being with my family and friends, and then pow, this happens. I have to trust God has a greater purpose. He's big enough for that, and I'm small enough to stay open to it. Anytime now God.

Now for the perfect picture frame.