Thursday, August 22, 2019

Sorrow is a Nebulous & Elusive Companion

It's all so very surreal, unreal, like a bad dream you hope to wake from but can't quite shed.

All this grief surrounding, overflowing, overtaking our very beings.

Sorrow is a nebulous and elusive companion, seeping into every crack, nook, and cranny of body and soul.  It stubbornly refuses to be neatly labeled into steps 1-2-3 or quickly placed inside a storage box for examination at a later, more convenient time.  

The oft-raging, yet sometimes oddly-at-rest emotions can't be separated from our beating hearts, our breathing lungs, our racing thoughts.  

Our very souls.

There is a great heaviness that descends, for grief is heavy laden and seemingly unmovable.  It lodges firmly in place, here to seemingly abide forever.  It crushes the spirit, dulls the mind, slows the body to a grinding halt.

There are no words, this is true.  

Yet something deep within longs to pull those spelled-out-somethings from hiding and print them in black and white so we can look this onslaught straight in the eye, wrestle with the pain, walk through it all, and come out the other end of the dark tunnel, somehow better for the journey, life-lessons gleaned, closer to the Holy Comforter.  

Those words fight to be released, but they seem locked inside, waiting to emerge at the appointed time.  But at some odd juncture, slowly they trickle forth, bathed in tears of disbelief or wrenching sorrow or the utter shock of all that has so quickly unfolded right in front of our helpless eyes.

We begin to tell our stories of sadness, of pain, of loss.  Sometimes the words come haltingly, almost imperceptibly ... and at other moments what is uttered comes pouring out in torrents of a painful yet oddly comforting release.

We are blessed beyond measure if there is another soul to listen quietly, to affirm what is most true about us with the gentle touch of a hand, a silent tear falling, the simple nod of a head, a word of grace and consolation carefully spoken.  Tender friends who refuse to lob Scripture at us, preach unwelcome words, or share their seemingly endless sagas in an effort to make our hard-to-watch pain somehow magically vanish from view.

And then ... there is a Sacred Friend who is so much closer than any earthly loved one could ever be.   

He, far above all others, truly gets what grief and sorrow are all about for He experienced them to a depth that we'll never come close to imagining.

We pour out our pain and He listens with His endlessly compassionate heart.  He whispers, 'peace, be still.'  He opens His arms wide, wounded hands beckoning us to crawl into the security of His strong embrace.  We lean in close to Him as He ministers comfort and hope and peace into the deepest recesses of our troubled souls.

And then, that glorious amazing grace descends gently like a dove.  

Somehow, by His Spirit, we are able to softly sing as we begin the process of releasing the untold burdens that have so quickly accumulated and overwhelmed.  For these unwelcome guests roll onto His shoulders and He carries them away.  And He promises that He'll keep on doing so as we repeatedly hand our tumultuous emotions over to Him, this Holy One who has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows.

Adapted from a post written four years ago after my dad and grandson unexpectedly died within a few months of each other.

I invite you to share your own stories of sadness, of pain, of loss here in this space today.  You are not alone ...

(1986 - 2019)

Friday, August 16, 2019

On the Porch with My Sister

My soul is downcast within me.

Yet this I call to mind and therefore I have hope:

Because of the Lord's great love we are not consumed,
for His compassions never fail.

They are new every morning:
great is Your faithfulness.

I say to myself, "The Lord is my portion: 
therefore I will wait for Him."
Lamentations 3:20 - 24

In recent days, we've sat together on uncomfortable chairs, in unmowed grass, on carpeted floor.

We've texted and talked and wept and laughed.  We've wrestled with unanswerable questions and wondered over the unknowns and the what ifs.

This weekend, my sister and I are on the porch.

This is where she wanted to be.

I am grateful I can offer something.

Beside my broken heart.

We're remembering Jessica.

I'm so grateful for all your emails and comments, texts and cards.  Especially those heartfelt prayers.  You've come bearing love and empathy and kindness.  I feel less alone because you're sharing in our sorrow. 

So many of you truly get this.  You've been through the valley of the shadow, too.

I couldn't be more grateful to do community with you, especially these days when life seems so very raw and tenuous and fragile.

Hot tears brim over as I read this post to Marilyn before hitting the PUBLISH button.

Thank you, precious friends, for being Jesus with skin on ~
(1986 - 2019)

Friday, August 9, 2019

Remembering Jessica (1986 - 2019)

I have no words.  I don't even know how to tell you.  Except to say that my beloved niece Jessica was taken up to heaven unexpectedly early Monday morning.

Last time I wrote, I shared these words from John Stumbo and I had no idea how quickly they would come to define our family's reality - 'Ignorance of our future is a form of God's grace.  Few of us would be able to fully embrace today if we knew what tomorrow held.'

 And then the speaker up at Camp told us Sunday and Monday that 'we are one text message away from disaster.'

And this is true.  We are living it right now.

Beautiful Jessica's obituary is right here.  There's no point in me trying to come up with anything different than what her family has so carefully written.  She packed a whole lot of living into 33 short years.  She selflessly impacted people around the globe.  She loved Jesus and her family and her ever-widening circle of friends.  She was creative and artistic, lovely, intuitive and adventurous.

Every word is true.

And then some.

We are left with disbelief and tears and questions with answers that might never come this side of heaven.  Our bodies are recoiling with grief, and in many ways we are simply speechless.  Numb.  This must be some kind of nightmare that we'll somehow shed.

But we cling to these truths right here ... God knows the aching of our hearts.  His ways are higher than ours.  He loves us and cares deeply about our grief.  We have faith in Jesus Christ.  We do not grieve like those who have no hope {1 Thessalonians 4}.

And that will have to be enough.


Three years ago, her dad baptized Jessica in the bright blue bay on the sunniest afternoon ever.  What a joyful celebration of her faith!


And our family partied together all day just a few weeks back.  I'm grateful for this snapshot.


A friend sent this prayer.  So eloquent, so heart-felt.  She banged on heaven's door on our behalf.

As your family struggles with Jessica's unspeakable death, I am remembering a hymn which since I was a little girl, I've known: "Children of the Heavenly Father."  Decades later I began to understand ... 
"Though he giveth or he taketh
Christ his loved ones ne'er forsaketh.
His the loving purpose solely,
To preserve them pure and holy."

O Father God,
I lift up to You young Jessica.
I lift up to You, her parents, Marilyn and Bob.
I lift up to You their family.
I lift up to You Linda's mom.
I lift up Linda and Tim, and their family.

O Father God,
Now more than ever Your promise to hearts and minds and souls is needed.
In just one moment on an ordinary day, tragedy struck down Jessica, Your beloved.

Death digs a pit of despair in her family's hearts and minds.
Their hearts are weighted down; their minds seek to comprehend unspeakable loss.
They journey in the wilderness of grief.  Memories of things left unsaid or undone trouble them.

O Father God, You are ever Mercy and Compassion.
Hear these families as they cry to Jesus.
Let them all know that Jesus is weeping at the death of Jessica beloved.

O Father God, You are ever mindful of our distress.
Console Jessica's family in their hour of need.
Let the light of Christ shine out of darkness in their hearts and minds. 

O Father God, You are all Power and Goodness.
Let this family's hearts break forth from the emptiness.
Let water for their thirst spring forth from the arid place of grief.

O Father God, Your love is everlasting.
Remember Jessica,
Bring comfort, peace, and assurance to her soul.

God our Father, Christ the Son, Holy Spirit three in one.
Let Jessica's death not be in vain. 

O Father God, Let the light of Jesus Christ shine in her family's hearts, minds, and souls.
For, we remember Your promise to "Let light shine out of darkness."

Our Father, who art in Heaven,
Hallowed be Thy name.
Thy kingdom come.
Thy will be done.

Ever blessings in God's name,
Ever your sister in faith
- CZ -

I love you, sweet Agape girl.  I can't believe that you are gone ~
Aunt Linda

Jessica's mom, Marilyn, is an active member of our little online community here.  I'm guessing that sooner or later she'll drop by to read this post.  Please share your love in the comment section.

Bless you.

Monday, July 29, 2019

Loose Ends * 2019 Beach Edition

Summertime greetings, friends!

Here we go, heading into the 5th year of these monthly posts.  Sometimes if I'm at a loss for words and looking for a bit of inspiration, I'll glance over at my calendar or reach for my journal, maybe check my phone or look over my to-do list at the crossed out jottings.

I try not to be redundant and go on and on about something that's already been posted.  I know your time is valuable.  I know you're looking for something fresh and inspiring.

I try.  

Meanwhile, life here on the Cape has been impacted by oppressive humidity, countless shark sightings, and a tornado.  On top of the typical bumper to bumper traffic, jam packed beaches, and endless waiting lines everywhere you turn, well, it's been quite a summer.

Putting it mildly.

We lay low, keeping away from the main roads and the shops and eateries as much as possible {although there are some nights I absolutely MUST have some chocolate peanut butter cup ice cream here!}  We avoid the beach during the day and head over to the bay late afternoon or early evening to walk.

Not to swim.

The sharks, ya' know ...



'Ignorance of our future is a form of God's grace. Few of us would be able to fully embrace today if we knew what tomorrow held.' - John Stumbo

We've often heard that ignorance is bliss.  The word also rustles up thoughts of bewilderment, foolishness, being clueless.  So to view it as a lovely grace from God is a whole new ball game for me.

What would our lives look like if we fully embraced today, seeing each moment as a gift, a treasure to be mined instead of expending our limited energy gazing longingly in the rear view mirror at what was ... or endless wishing or dreading over what might be around the next bend.

God has been faithful.  His Word tells us that He numbers our days and will continue to love His people well.  Our response to biblical truth hinges on trust, a choice we're invited to make as we recall all the ways He's been very much present in the past.

Especially in the dark nights of the soul.

He never left for one minute.

'Thou art my God.  My times are in Thy hands ...'
- Psalm 31:14, 15.

Amy Carroll & Cheri Gregory
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Chelsey Hill

Celeste Headlee

Gabriella Paiella

I've left a whole lot of fabulous 'somethings read' this month because I'm headed off for a little break from writing.  It's time for our annual family trip to Camp of the Woods up in New York's Adirondack Mountains.  71 years ago, a shy 18 year old girl bravely ventured north by train from NYC to the wild Adirondack wilderness all by herself to visit the Christian camp her big brother raved about. 

And in doing so, my mom launched a very special family legacy that continues to this day.  This is THE week the twelve of us look forward to all year.  On Lake Pleasant's shore, three generations re-connect with first, second, and third cousins.  I'm guessing there'll be 30 of us or so doing life together for a week.  

What a precious, chaotically joyful gift.

Anyway, feel free to bookmark this post and come on back while I'm gone if you're looking for something else to read.

Don't miss the comment section.  That's all gold.

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Bloggers - invite this community to visit yours!  Please feel free to link up your end-of-the-month post ... and be sure to share your best highlights in the process.

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