Everybody Grieves

Today I officiated my 30th funeral.

It’s really a milestone I never considered as I started in my first solo pastor position ten years ago. As a 27-year-old mother of almost two at the time, birth was on my mind ever so much more than death. Regardless, I narrowly missed preaching my first funeral less than 2 weeks after my first Sunday in my new church. Thankfully the family had already planned for a former minister to come for the service.

I’ve had years of no funerals, and a 12 month period in which I performed 10. There is no predicting how many times I will serve in this way, nor whose family I will sit with next as we attempt to honor a 60, 70, 80 year life in a span of 30 minutes of memories, eulogies, scriptures and songs. It can be heart breaking.

It can also be uplifting as I listen to family members laugh at their loved one’s quirks, smiling at their bossiness, forgetfulness, tardiness, or other trait that in life annoyed them. Now those family members cherish even the most irksome habits.

img_0095In a society that goes out of its way to ignore death, put it off, and pretend it only happens to other people, I need to tell you that everybody grieves. Sooner or later there will be a day when you grieve the loss of a loved one. I have grieved more than I could ever have thought possible in these past 10 years. I need to tell you that it’s ok to mourn.

There is no time limit on grief, no amount of days or months in which you are required to be over the loss you suffered. You will find that life continues to go on. Without your permission the clock still ticks. The sun sets only to rise again on days when you feel darkness would be a better accompaniment to your pain. But no one asks you if it is ok for light to come seeping in at the corners.

The waves of sudden sadness crash in at the most unexpected times, when you see someone who reminds you of the one you lost. A memory, a smell, a song might send you rushing from the room to dry your tears. Don’t listen to the voices in your head or from others who will say you are being ridiculous. Tears are a sign of love.

Pain from loss is a signal that you are missing something precious. You would not grieve if you did not cherish what was lost. If you felt no pain, would you be claiming they had no value?

Or perhaps the person died leaving pain of a different kind in their wake. They caused real harm, and never made amends. The hurt of that loss can persist even longer.

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If you grieve today, know that you are not alone. Grief is as much a part of life as the celebration of birth. It is inseparable from our human existence. Look at the people around you, either they have experienced grief or they will. And you can be guaranteed that it will not be on their preferred time-table.

So cry your tears, laugh at the memories, share your pain with people who love you.

“Blessed are those who mourn, for they will receive comfort.” – Jesus

Acknowledging our common experience.
How ReFreshing.

 

 

7 Questions to Help YOU be your own best advocate!

If you are like me, it can be hard to know what to say when your doctor or other professional asks if you have any questions. The truth is we often don’t understand enough about what is happening to know what to ask. That is why we are talking to a professional! Here are some questions to help you learn the things you need to know in order to make the best choices for you.

7. Ask for more information–“What else can you tell me about this procedure?”
Sometimes when talking with an expert, they may assume we know what they know about their field of expertise.

6. Ask for more time–“When do I need to make a decision about this?”
Not all decisions have to be made right now, or even today, or this week. Find out your time frame and ask when you need to decide.

5. Ask for clarification of jargon–“You used a word just then I am not sure I understand, can you explain it to me in plain English?”
Related to #7, you and I may not understand the words those experts are using.

4. Ask for a second opinion–“I want to make sure I get more than one perspective on this, who do you recommend for a second opinion?”
If you don’t think what they are describing applies to you, or if you feel that the person you are consulting is not relating well to you, go see someone else. You are the consumer, you are paying for a service. Don’t feel bad about getting a second opinion.

3. Ask about alternatives–“What other treatments are available? Is there something else we haven’t tried?”
Maybe there is a treatment, or a process that is unavoidable for your situation. Ask about alternative ways to gain the same benefit.

2. Ask about risks–“What are the possible side-effects?”
Often, all we hear are the benefits. Don’t forget to ask about the risks in the short term and the long term.

1. Ask why–“What specifically are you hoping to achieve with this therapy?”
Especially when pressed to make a decision quickly, ask why this is the best option for you and your situation. Maybe it is, but maybe it is more beneficial or convenient for the professional.

Don’t say yes unless you feel it’s best!

My Doula Heart

My first thoughts after giving birth to my oldest child were “That was amazing! I want to do that again! I can do anything!” I was so empowered, I truly felt that I could move mountains.

I know that not every woman has that experience, and as I talked with other moms who had struggled I knew that I wanted to be a part of the solution. Looking into becoming a labor support professional, a doula, I realized there were too many road blocks for me to pursue that dream at that time. But my heart had been awakened, and it wanted to serve.

kathrinas-birthday-2My first child was born in 2003 and it took nearly 13 years for life to swing around to where I could attend a doula training. In that time, though, I had been longing. I had checked in over the years to see if there was a training near enough, within my budget, at a time when I could attend. I read books, and articles, and blogs on birth. I even served my first laboring mother two years before I attended training.

46-baby-feet-3By the time the stars aligned and everything fell into place, I was ready to jump in with both feet. This year I have had the privilege to attend two more births, serving two brave, strong, and capable women as they brought new lives into the world. I got to encourage their partners in providing support to the women they love. I took beautiful photographs of those passion-filled, life-drunk moments filled with fresh tears and smiles of victory.

6 Cry Black and WhiteSome are uncertain about this beautiful process, but for me it stokes an inner joy for the parents and their new loves. I love birth! And I love that the women I serve will walk away knowing they are courageous and strong.

My doula heart beats for those moments.
ReFreshing

Steadfast Heart Doula Services

Empty Hands

We don’t know what to do with prayer sometimes. We’ve heard so many different perspectives from fatalistic ones that claim prayer is only an act of obedience that doesn’t change anything to entitled views that we can demand what we want and it will happen. I’m not that old, but I’m old enough to have experienced both unexpected abundant blessings as well as heartbreak following prayer that exhausted every cell in my body.

Right now this topic of prayer is so relevant to my life and the lives of people I love dearly. What do you say to the mother who has lost a child in a tragic accident? What do you say to the family in an ongoing battle with cancer? Or the friend who is staring death in the face? And how do you pray when you know that God heals, but not always.

Recently, I spoke with a friend with her own concerns who gave me her take on prayer. She said she prays to the God of miracles, recognizing that God is at work in the details, asking for faith both to trust and to act. I needed that reminder, and the conversation that allowed me to clarify my own thoughts on how to pray in the face of the impossible.

When Jesus prayed facing the impossible–a tortuous death, even with the promise of resurrection is incomprehensible–he first poured out his heart. He asked that if there was any other path, any other way, anything else would be preferable. God if there is any way for healing to come, if there is a way for you to supernaturally heal, if there is a way for this person to receive healing medicine, if there is any other way, let’s do that. Let’s walk the path of healing and restoration, please, that is my heart’s desire.

Then, Jesus says something else, “Not my will, but yours be done.”

When some read these words and pray them, it feels like a cop-out. It feels like giving up or not investing in the outcome, and it can be. Simply praying “thy will be done” can be a way for us to pass the buck, but it can be a supreme act of faith as well. We can say those words with a heart that trusts God’s perspective is greater than ours. We can trust that God’s healing sometimes comes in a release from suffering. We can trust that when our circumstances are full of pain, God is still good. “Thy will be done” can be “God I trust that you are good. I trust you to work good in this situation. I trust you to bring life where there seems only death.”

But I’m not Jesus.

Sometimes I have to follow that with “And help my unbelief.” My faith has room to grow. My trust has room to expand into areas that are unsteady. My belief is not 100% of what it could be. I won’t lie to you and pretend to have it all together. This is a struggle.

Paul didn’t have it all together, either, even as he penned much of the New Testament. He said it himself, “Not that I have already obtained all of this or have already been made perfect…” (Philippians 3:12) But his determination was to press forward into the circumstances that would bring growth.

This is where I stand: trusting, while asking for more faith; loving, when that love brings risk; praying my heart’s desire even when the outcomes are not guaranteed.

For me this honesty brings peace and rest in my soul.
And that’s ReFreshing.