Beauty for Ashes.

Monday, October 29, 2012

..solemn thoughts for a dose of redirection..

I am so afriad of the people I love dying, that I forget to think about my own mortality. I worry so much about the next time I will have to go through this and miss someone else, that I forget that I too can die. It is of course perhaps more worrisome to think about being on earth living through life without a person I love. It's much more practical for me to be upset about another death of a loved one because I know so well what it's like, and I learned much but I don't want to know it again. It's much more difficult to remember or think about my own death because I have only ever been alive, so naturally I feel immortal. When I do think about my own dying, I get very lonely. I understand why people worry about being forgotten. I feel so scared that my loved ones will hurt like I hurt when my dad died. I am sad to think that I wouldn't be on this earth anymore, which is all I've ever known. I don't like to think about my own death one day because I just don't think I can die.

Tonight I allowed my thoughts to dwell on my mortality and the possibility that God could take me at any time. He is a good God and I usually know that He has loving plans. I cried a lot. I cried about things that may not ever happen to me. Somewhere in all my worrying and sadness God redirected my focus on my life. I don't know what He did, but I instantly had a change in mind. Life became a little more fragile to me, like glass. Having a wedding isn't a necessity or even a rite of passage as a human being, it's just something I can enjoy. Maintaining my friendships isn't a necessity or an obligation in life, it's just something I can enjoy. And for the sake of my own story, having an awesome college experience is not a necessity for a good life, but those who get to have one get to really enjoy that. And thank God for that. Somehow life in a general sense became a little less stressful and a little more peaceful.

I want to stop trying to conquer my life, and just enjoy it.

I am mortal and life is delicate.

Ecclesiastes 11:8-10
"However many years anyone may live, let them enjoy them all. But let them remember days of darkness for there will be many. Everything to come is meaningless.
You who are young, be happy while you are young and let your heart give you joy in the days of your youth. Follow the ways of your heart and whatever your eyes see, but know that for all these things God will bring you into judgement.
So then, banish anxiety from your heart and caset of the troubles of your body, for youth and vigor are meaningless."

This is probably a depressing idea to some, but to me it was just the breath of fresh air that I needed from God.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

.my obsessive search for meaning.

I have been trying so hard to find some benefit to all of this. I am storing this experience up, taking everything in. I have indeed taken seriously the phrase "that which doens't kill you makes you stronger." I've grieved like a pro. [or so you think from the outside] I have squeezed life lessons out of my dads death like I was wringing out a wet towel.

Grief is like a dear friend to me, having taught me deep valuable lessons. I have studied it, and attacked it head on. I have gotten many many comments about my strength, only reinforcing my need to look strong. I have studied as many angles of grief as one can when in the midst of it. My mental constructs are all perfectly organized with compartments and labels which I make sure to shine every once in a while for when I will need to whip out some brilliant personal experience that someone else might benefit from.

Yes, I have listened. God sure will use this in the future.

I realized this: It didn't kill me, I am stronger. God will use this for good. So what now...

I fill my life with organized technicalities so that I won't have to just give my heart to God. I have put forth so much effort to gain benefits and rewards from this experience (benefits and rewards from both the eyes of the Christian community and secular community, who's not up for some strength and goodness?). I study, I read, Job is like my best friend, I get my necessary crying in in order to have a healthy grief experience, I talk openly about it, I listen to others, but the very last thing I want to do, the very thing I work SO hard to avoid, is just crying to God. Literally. I will do anything else before that.

Because yes, I am stronger. Yes, people will and have already benfitted from this experience. These are examples of rewards that aren't what grief is about at all. We so desperately try to search for meaning in grief, and now that I've squeezed as much meaning out as I can within these limits of time, I find that it is so empty. And the only meaning that can shine through this grief experience is just Jesus. There is no answer from him but I love you. There is no answer. I don't want an answer and I never did. But I don't want to spend time with him because then my deepest darkest fear stands right before me and I have to look at it: I miss my dad, and he isn't coming home, and there is nothing I can do about it, and to its core there is nothing good about that. No further meaning. Nothing. God in his grace can make beauty out of terrible experience, but as much meaning as we try so hard to see, there is none but God.

God did not answer Job. He only promises us his presence in grief and I fear that. It is too powerful for me. I want to stick with my organization and studying to make my own meaning. I cannot face the Lord with my deepest heartwrenching ache. When I come to this realization, I learn that I have not made much of a dent in my heartache. I have only masked it with my passion for learning and the human mind. I have only masked my ache with the thought of helping someone in the future, or the thought of using this expereince to make me stronger. I have done great with that. But actually grieving, I might have put in a few hours.

I think God probably should be in charge of our story changing lives in the future. It is after all His story. I think God probably should be in charge of my strength and my well being.

I fear really letting him in because I fear the deep pain that losing my dad has caused, and I just don't want to feel it. I don't really need meaning as much as I think I did. It was just a coping mechanism. But I realized today for the first time that all my coping mechanisms have run their course and I felt so very empty. So I hope I will start to choose ACUTALLY Jesus, rather than trying to improve His kingdom on my own.

It just simply sucks. And God has been waiting patiently for me to see that all along. It's not about the meaning at all. He's not looking for that. He's just looking at my heart. He knows absolutely nothing will satisfy my desire for meaning. There is nothing He could say to make me content with my dad being gone. Nothing.

And He has never tried to give me an answer, for the first time I am starting to see that as really kind.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

The dead can live on

I hope my dad has been looking at God's face for the past year and a half. I hope he hasn't been able to take his eyes off of our Lord. How could you? I hope he isn't "looking down on us". I don't want him to see our pain. I don't want him to see our world. He is finally at peace, and I hope he is captivated by Jesus. 

Our euphemisms are stupid. I love that God is honest. 

I don't really know exactly what the Bible means when it talks about what happens immediately when we die. Maybe you understand, but I haven't really comprehended that yet. Maybe my dad is at rest until we all join, or maybe he has already experienced judgement. Maybe he's standing outside the gates of heaven. I don't know. I don't really pretend to know either. To me it isn't comforting to know that maybe he "visited me" in a dream last night. I just want to know what's true. 

I do know that his memories are true. I am so thankful for them right now. With memories, your reltionship with someone who has died lives on. I can still think of my dad when the funny SNL skit comes on. My immediate reaction is to tell him, and I really really wish I could. I can still think of what he would say and laugh about it. It's the missing him, that emptiness, that really feels so rich. The pain and loss has turned into a deep hunger. It's not a bad thing. 

I miss him. I wish he could be at my wedding. Not just to perform the fatherly duties, but just as my friend. My loved one who I want to share the day with. I love him and I hate that he can't be there. But, I want to celebrate his memories. Because no matter where is soul is right now, his memories connect me to him. I can create more memories with him, I love that. I already have so many ideas about how I can bring him to my wedding. His laughter, his humor, his love for my family. I don't think our wedding will be void of tears and laughter and richness. I look forward to that. I wish my dad were still physically a part of my life, but I wouldn't change my newfound depth and richness in life for anything. 

God has gifted me with living. Really living. And I credit my dads life and death for that. 

Sunday, July 22, 2012

how to help a grieving friend based on my experiences

Hi friends, I am writing this post because I feel that it has been long enough that I can share some of my wisdom in grief and loss. I am a very thoughtful person and have really meditated on my thoughts and feelings in the past few years. So please take what I say to heart, and if you have your own ideas please comment!

Grief is scary and uncomfortable. Watching someone cry can be so awkward and no one knows what to say to the person who just lost a loved one. What do you say.

Here are a few tips on how to help a friend through grief and loss:

1) Silence.

2) Silence. This is the most important point. When in doubt be silent. They need to talk, you listen. They need to cry, you listen, or cry, or hold them. They need to sit and stare at the wall, you sit with them. You are doing more good for them with your silent presence then you are letting them be alone. You can do a lot of damage with your words. Let silence be your strength. It is not wrong to speak, but that is not what they need.

3) Share their sadness. If you are effected by this, don't be afriad to talk about it with them. It can be the most comforting thing for a grieving person to know that you are sad too. The refreshment I felt from crying with my friends over it could only be explained as "mourn with those who mourn" and "carry each other's burdens"

4) Be specific in your offers. It is not effective to text or call saying, "If you need ANYTHING, Just let me know" They probably won't ask. Be specific. Ask if they need laundry done or dinner made. Ask if they need to take a nap and you can take the kids to a movie. Ask if they want you to go grocery shopping for them. It can be hard for the bereaved to accept those offers sometimes, but it gets easier to accept help so don't be discouraged if you are turned down at first.

5) Ask them about their reason for grieving. For me, I want to talk about my dad. All I want sometimes is for people to ask what my dad's favorite color is. I will talk about my dad in conversations because I just want to talk about him. Sometimes people get really uncomfortable which makes me sad, because I love my dad and I want to remember him. It makes me sad that sometimes even talking about my beloved dad is taboo because death is taboo.

6) Know that grief is not contagious. Don't avoid the grieving person because you may fear depth of conversation, pain, or your own future. This is very obvious in the grieving process and one of the most painful things can be alienation because of grief.

7) Be humble. You don't need to be strong, you don't need to be wise, you don't need to know what to say. Even if you've been through something similar, it is not your story and it is not the same. Silence and listening come from humility. Know that Jesus is in control and we never are.

8) You can't fix it. The blind can't lead the blind, the broken can't fix the broken. Don't try to fix anything. It seems obvious, right? But when the times comes it isn't so obvious. A teenage girl who is losing her hair to chemo does not want to hear, "But you know what? You can still wear a wig!" No, she wants to grow her own hair. Trying to fix things just makes the grieving person hide their true emotions from everyone else. Let Jesus be the one in charge.

7) Your job is to be a friend. If you want to know how to really bother a grieving person, just read Job. His friends talked a lot and made excuses and reasons as to why this was happening. Just be a friend. The best way you can be a friend is to sit and listen, share in their sadness, offer specific help, be humble, and not be afraid of grief. Love this person. This is their story and you get to walk alongside of them. Jesus tells us to mourn with those who mourn and rejoice with those who rejoice. He came to give us abundant life and grieving can ironically be one of the most life giving times. So share that!

Rejoice with those who rejoice and mourn with those who mourn.

These are ideas that I have learned over the past few years and they are also ideas that I forget all the time. If someone I know is grieving my first reaction is that I don't know what to say! Don't stress over the situation because Jesus is in control, and you are not. So don't be the savior, just be a friend. Chances are if you are reading this, you are already a great friend to those who are in need.

With that I just want to say thank you to some of my friends who may not have known what to say, but were the greatest friends in my time of need. I specifically remember the ways you have loved me and I will not forget.

Thank you.

Jake, Jordan, Taylor, Jenessa, Kate, Amy, The Jordan Family, Hope, Jenica, Katie S., Rachel R.

Monday, April 23, 2012


I've never realized how big a price we must pay in order to really be close to God. He will always be there, pursuing us, etc. But for me to know Him takes so much effort, and here's what I mean:

Knowing God is so incredibly simple. I need to abandon my own rights to my life.
         For example: when my boss makes me mad, I feel the need to ignore him or make a sarcastic    
         comment. When I'm hurting one day and I'm at work, I am compelled to rent people gear without
         looking them in the eyes or giving them any sense of love. When I am heavy burdened, I want
         to ignore people and tuck myself away in my house in front of the TV.

But I can't. Because when I do, I take a step closer to my carnal self. I walk closer to my selfish nature. The nature that is so delicious and exhilarating and ignorant. It is so easy, and not just easy but urgent and gripping. It's not just urgent and gripping, but so comforting. It's comforting because I guard my mind from anything that challenges my sin.

-I was rude to him because he made me stay late. He's always annoying anyways and he needs everything to be perfect. The carpets look fine.

No, I was rude because I was lazy and didn't want to vacuum. Vaccuuming is in my job description and I stayed late because I didn't do it earlier.

But who wouldn't agree with me? If I vented about my boss to anyone with those words, I would only get conforming responses, with some sympathy thrown in. Yeah, he's a terrible boss, I heard he's not even a good climber. Ahhh, now I feel better.

These occurances are so common in our lives that we don't even notice it. They are second nature to Christians and non-believers alike. But from my recent experiences with God, these are the tiny details of our lives that impact our relationship with God the most. Each time I choose to exercise my laziness, my rude thoughts, my ability to gossip, etc. I walk away from God a little more. But the thing is, I'm starting to notice this so much in my life that I can actually feel it. I can feel me removing myself from God. He is very much 'there' because he is faithful, but these are the choices that clog my spirit. These choices that clog my spirit don't allow me to feel God's Holy Spirit, which is very real.

From my experience, this is what happens next. We feel guilty. We miss God. We get together and talk about how we just wish God could be our life rather than just a part of our lives. We want to show the love of Christ to our friends and co-workers, but how?

Well here are some ideas I've come up with.
1. Let's take the plank out of our own eyes and choose to see ourselves the way God sees us. Redeemed, but in need of Him everyday. Our friends aren't the only ones in need of saving. Sancitfication needs its tender love and care.

2. Read the Bible. Not because "God will be mad if you don't have a quiet time". Because we desperately need it, seriously.

3. Pray. There are probably so many reasons Jesus may want us to pray, but somewhere within those words, our hearts change and God is pleased.

4. And the one that has caught my attention the most lately, ask God to teach you how to love Him. I don't know how to love God. I sure don't know how to love His sheep. Since those are the most important commandments, let's learn.

Knowing God is so simple. However, knowing God is so complicated for us because we have give up what we know so dearly. Hopefully I can start to challenge my sin through these gracious gifts God has given me: scripture and prayer. I want to start taking it more seriously and I know I will fail that (knowledge from previous experiences) but God is gracious and faithful and I bet that He will help.

Friday, April 6, 2012

One Year Later

I look back on this day last year and remember my disbelief. Mom called me and told me you died and I never cried. I didn't cry because I didn't really know what it would be like without you. I didn't know because you'd been there my whole life loving me and raising me. I did know it was the first day of my new life.

There were changes that we had to make that I didn't like. I didn't like going around without a man with us. We knew people in public would assume you were a bad father and you left us when we were young, but you weren't and you didn't. We knew it looked like you'd left mom to be a single mother and we hated that, because you were the best. We didn't like asking for five seats instead of six at restaurant tables. I hated leaving you out when I had to fill out emergency contacts. Sometimes I still wrote you in. But mom said I could get in trouble for that.

Summer was hard because I felt alone. I didn't know another college student going through something like this. I didn't like how I felt. I felt so angry at people because I wanted people to care, but I also had to remember they had their own lives. This year is when I learned how to love man but not put your trust in man, and God knows that lesson better than I. I did have some good friends though, and you know who you are because you have sat and cried with me when I needed it most.

Going back to Boise was not great to put it lightly, but there I learned the beauty of solitude. I loved Boise, but when things change it's just not the same. I couldn't be there like I was before. Though I had to say goodbye to some dear friends, moving home was the best decision I've ever made.

And coming to CSU. Much like the awkward ''how are you's?" at the beginning of the year, came to infamous "how do you like CSU?" A harmless question but aggrivating nonetheless. I'll clear this question up with -our culture's taboo- pessimism: CSU is fine. But I don't like college. I know. I should go on tour with the circus. A college student? Not being absolutely, over the top, crazy in love with the best years of my life, oh em gee, college? No. I don't like college. Sorry, if you want the answer you're looking for ask (something offensive that I won't post on my blog but it would make most of you laugh, I'm sure).  And enough venting for the year. Just had to throw that in there because I'm naturally passive aggresive and won't say something like this to a nice person's face.

I did love this year for some reasons too. I love how much we love each other now. I spend so much time with my family and we have all gotten so much closer. I love how much I love my dad. I loved you before, but now I get to see you as perfect. I forget your flaws and I long to see you again. I don't remember loving someone this much before you died. And I hate to say it but I don't think my love for you would be quite the same if things were normal like they had been all our lives. Things change and I think I knew what a great dad I had, but I just don't think you can fully desire something when it's in your grasp. Maybe I'm wrong, but I just know that I've never loved someone so much as I do now, and I cry without fail when I think of the day that you'll greet me at the Gates. I'll get to see you again! And we'll be more real than I am now. I'll get to see you again, big smile and think hair. That's the beauty in Jesus.

My favorite part of this year is how much more I know God. What a perfect way to end the first year. The first anniversary being on Good Friday. So much symbolism goes into that and it's one of those things God does for you where you just freaking can't understand how He thought of something SO PERFECT. It's just beautiful to me. I think back to this day last year when my dad died, and 2000 years ago when my God died. But the only miracle and the only hope that matters is that He was raised on Sunday so that my dad could be raised with Him, and so that all who believe in Him can be raised with Him. That is radical. As most of you know I was praying for a miracle last year, but God gently showed me that He performed a miracle that is the only one that matters. I would have loved for 40 more years with my dad, but he would have died everntually just like me. God showed me how much HE matters to our lives. Thank God. He stays true to His word. He LOVES the orphan and the widow, and he provides for them. He is near to the brokenhearted and when I am weak He is strong. Therefore I will boast all the more in my weaknesses. I'm a ragamuffin, I'm fatherless, I'm broken, and I will recieve your amazing grace because I am in desperate need.

Dad I love you. Father, I love you. This next year, take care of my brother more than anyone. I know you've got big plans for him.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

I wrote this yesterday, but I have no internet at my house.

Today it’s been a year since I’ve talked to you and heard you speak to me. I was about to leave for the DR on my mission’s trip and I called mom to say goodbye. I wanted to say bye to you too. You had been pretty sick for a week or so, so you couldn’t talk very well. But I heard you still. The last thing you ever said to me was, “I love you sweetie.” You mumbled it but I heard you. Mom got back on the phone and asked if I heard you and I said I had. I told mom to make sure you knew I heard you and that I loved you so much too. Then I went off to the DR. That was the last time you ever spoke to me. The next time I saw you, you were in the hospital and barely conscious. But I know you heard me and I told you how much I love you and that I knew you loved me too. I still know that you love me. And I love you too.