Grieving and Growing

Some of us have had an extra long and difficult year… full of sweeping emotional highs and dark, empty, lows. Engagements and weddings, divorce, death, and new birth. Life in its fullest cycle of the old and new. Some tragic, and some natural to the order of things… but ALL of it was exhausting. Left me feeling emotionally out of gas, living on empty.

As I look over the past nine months… it seems my mind is numb and weary from absorbing the epic transitions of an entire life crammed into just a few months. All of us will encounter life’s tragedies … and sometimes they stack up. Multiple tragedies in a short period of time… leaving many of us feeling destroyed by those losses, emotions so raw and deep that they linger long after the moment has moved by.

We can’t quite put our finger on what’s wrong inside of us. We feel “off”… but can’t express exactly why. We know it must be a part of the residue of our loss, but it’s fuzzy inside, shades of gritty grey instead of sharp and colorful like before.

DockYard – image source

We all get to choose how to move forward. We can decide to grieve and grow, or we can stay where we’re at. Stuck and in the doldrums of life. (Doldrums – a nautical term for a boat caught at sea without any trade winds to fill its sails. Stuck in a dismal malaise of floating in circles, no power to move forward or back.) 

It may be we need some extra ‘help’ with these things. More than just a gallon of our favorite ice-cream and a Netflix binge weekend, we might need a lot more in fact. It maybe that we need to grieve and grow from the injuries we’ve lived through.

My encouragement to you… don’t deny the emotions or lack of emotions you’re feeling. Look at the hints you might be suffering a silent tragedy of your own. Are you withdrawing from activities that used to attract you? Are you losing sleep or sleeping way too much? Are you struggling to finish things you started… lacking in energy or excitement for life? How’s your appetite? Are you finding yourself doing self-destructive activities… drinking too much, cutting, or starving your body of vital nutrition. Maybe you’re acting out sexually, obsessively eating or drinking more than you should, fixated, driven to stay busy with activities and unable to rest or be quiet.

These are all potential symptoms… or signs of unresolved issues with grief and mourning.  Natural in their own way, but destructive if left unchecked and unresolved. 

74211.com – source

It may be time to go and talk with someone about your situation. A counselor or therapist – (grief counselors are great!) – a pastor or priest,  a close and trusted friend. Someone who can listen carefully, and respect your feelings. Someone who can help you process through the pain and emptiness inside.

It’s so easy to get stuck here. So easy to do nothing… restless in your ‘doldrums’ , in danger of becoming like the bitter and cynical water you’re floating in.

Don’t give in to the pride and shame stuff, instead take the plunge to trust someone else with your grief, someone who is equipped to help you. It’s time to confide and release this pain. Include prayer and scripture reading in your plan for recovery. Jesus was known as the “man of sorrows, acquainted with grief“. He can sympathize, comfort, and encourage you in ways no man or woman can.

The 5 stages of grief and loss are: 1. Denial and isolation; 2. Anger; 3. Bargaining; 4. Depression; 5.Acceptance.

People who are grieving do not necessarily go through the stages in the same order or experience all of them.

The stages of grief and mourning are universal and are experienced by people from all walks of life, across many cultures. Mourning occurs in response to an individual’s own terminal illness, the loss of a close relationship, or to the death of a valued being, human or animal. There are five stages of grief that were first proposed by Elisabeth Kübler-Ross in her 1969 book On Death and Dying.

In our bereavement, we spend different lengths of time working through each step and express each stage with different levels of intensity. The five stages of loss do not necessarily occur in any specific order. We often move between stages before achieving a more peaceful acceptance of death. Many of us are not afforded the luxury of time required to achieve this final stage of grief. 

All, keep in mind — all people grieve differently. Some people will wear their emotions on their sleeve and be outwardly emotional. Others will experience their grief more internally, and may not cry. You should try to not judge how a person experiences their grief, as each person will experience it differently.

Source – https://psychcentral.com/lib/the-5-stages-of-loss-and-grief/

Struggling with grief is natural and normal, but it is also the place of choosing. It’s  where life begins again or drags us down. Moving forward takes courage and faith, but it causes us to grow in both. Something we all can take hope from!

As parents, we’re not only working through things for ourselves…but we’re doing so with an audience. Our kids are always watching us… learning and growing too.

Pastor B.

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Living like you mean it!

2017 has been a tough one for our family.

I know for many of you…it’s also been a time of struggle and loss, a year of milestone moments… some of deep joy, others of bitterest grief. 

The massive and rare full solar eclipse this August (in Middle TN) followed immediately by two major hurricanes in as many weeks, and you start to think. Maybe things are a bit odd, even turbulent. From the recent astronomical event and intense weather pattern to the divisive trends of our culture, life is spinning faster and faster. It seems like the world is running parallel to my own life.

2017 isn’t going to be soon forgotten by our family, or the millions affected by the catastrophic hurricanes of Harvey and Irma.  These moments of tragedy and triumph help us ‘clarify’ what’s important. We can see what really matters in the breadth and depth of our lives.

It has helped me to drop the petty crap and leave behind the little offenses of humanity, and focus instead on the ‘good’ stuff. Things like….taking extra time to enjoy a sunset, lingering for a moment to snuggle in bed… the prompt decision to get a new bed instead of enduring another awful night of so-so sleeping on our 11 year old mattress. Don’t put off those things you’re ‘planning to get around to’.

It’s the proximity of loss that brings our senses to fullest alert. We start to really “live” when we see the danger of dying and loss so close by. 

As parents, it may be time to reconsider. Maybe it’s not as important to overachieve at work while letting your home life suffer.

Maybe… we shouldn’t continue to risk the relationships with our spouse… or deny our kids our fullest attention any longer. Maybe the goal of providing for a better ‘future’ needs to slide back on the priority scale…?

Instead, why not flip those things. Maybe it’s time to make some sacrifices with our career to stay connected and healthy at home. Maybe it’s more important to spend time with our family than anywhere else…?

Maybe…It’s not about how much money we save, or how deep our 401K grows.

Maybe…we need to stop running so hard for the ‘what if’ of tomorrow and start living the life in front of us…TODAY!

Colour of Life Photography

Our spouses.

Our kids.

Our nieces and nephews, aunts and uncles.

Our friends and those we love… these are the greatest treasures we can ever know. It’s not the stuff of life that matters. It’s how much life we can ‘stuff’ into our days that truly counts.

DON’T LIVE LIKE YOU WILL ALWAYS HAVE TOMORROW. LIVE LIKE YOU ONLY HAVE TODAY.

#NoRegretsLiving

Pastor B.

Scripture Reference: Matthew 6:34 “Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” (NIV) 

Tired of Waiting…the AcheDeepInsideOurSoul

The greatest single threat to a family’s health… is divorce.

As a pastor and a parent, I get it.  We all understand the temptation that promises to bring excitement and passion when we feel ‘nothing’. The allure of being free again….to leave what we have for something… ‘better’.

NBC – source

But sometimes we get tired of trying.

We just wear out inside. No more desire. No more determination to stay… we just surrender to the dull and relentless… and seriously consider its time to simply ‘give-up’.

 

We feel only a little…  and it all adds up to just an empty AcheDeepInsideourSoul.

St. Augustine tells it like it is in his classic, “the Confessions” … “You have made us for yourself, and our hearts are restless, until they can find rest in you.” (source link)

For those who are grieving… those who lost a spouse… a parent, or a child. The grief that consumes is identical in its impact to our psyche as when a marriage runs off the rails… For those reading who are openly contemplating divorce… the truth is, you’re already grieving.  In your sorrow, you can lose all sense of time or purpose. You can lose your colors and taste, no flavor… personality dried up. We simply ‘exist’.

The need to ‘feel’ again is overwhelming. It scares us. 

In those moments of panic and desperation we turn to everykindofcrazy option. Cutting, drugs, sex, alcohol, work, ministry, friends ,cars, boats, exercise, gardening, books, movies, music, porn, you name… if you hurt badly enough…  we give it a whirl.

The solution to the “AcheDeepInsideOurSoul” isn’t obvious or easy. It’s not ‘more’… but ‘less’. 

We can’t fill up our empty spaces with stuff, or pleasure, or pain… we can’t get back to being whole again by doing more or owning nicer things.

source – Readers Digest

Our pain is only resolved by living with less. Less of us. Less of me… more of God. 

We start a terrible and dangerous spiral down when we keep insisting on getting what we always wanted. We look at the stuff we don’t have and then we start a checklist of all the things that will be better without someone else holding us back… or weighing us down.

If we were free to do and be and go…  would we be happier…. ? Or would we be more MISERABLE?

Here’s what I’ve learned….To fill the empty ache, you need to shift your focus. When we give up our rights, and our petty little wrongs…we gain life. Real life. Jesus said that. He meant it. 

Take whatever it is in your life your so weary of.  That thing you’re so tired of waiting for… Maybe it’s the option to walk away from an empty marriage or a dead-end job that you know you’re supposed to keep. Are you willing to consider another option?

Would you take another day… another week and sincerely ask (Pray) for God’s help?

Do something radical… don’t run away… trust God and stay. What if you chose to sacrifice your ‘wants for someone else’s needs? What would God do with such an act of faith?

(Disclaimer – It takes 2 to make a relationship work, and if you are the only one who wants to try, you’re going to have to pray for a change of heart in your spouse – and there are definite times to walk away from marriage – abuse – infidelity – addictions etc… God knows your specific circumstance – ask Him – listen – wait – He’ll show you what to do)

You won’t regret it and neither will your family…

Peace out, Pastor Brad.

Need some extra encouragement and practical support? … Check out a “Weekend to Remember” with Family Life.

 

 

 

 

Finding Joy… where is it?

Advent week three… light the JOY candle and let’s all be happy! 

Plastic smiles at the ready we can brave another day of rushing to get life done. Christmas is crazy! We loose our minds from time to time… recitals, parties, work, church, school… it’s exhausting and worse. Somewhere in there we have to shop, wrap gifts, decorate, trim a tree, and prepare for family. JOY

Sunday we sit for an hour and listen to the pastor tell us to put on “JOY” and we’re urged to remember the reason for the season in our hectic holiday. We smile and nod, seems like a good idea… but by Monday morning we’re so removed from that ideal we can’t even recall the passage it was preached from, let alone live with intent.

First of all… skip the guilt and shame. No one is here to bash you. We’re all parents, living in the same nutty world. It’s a struggle to balance life in the best of times… let alone at Christmas. No other holiday compresses so many facets of our lives into one three or four-week period. Personal, private, family, church, professional, etc… everyone area of living gets a dose of Christmas obligation and in the end we’re left on the short side of it all. 

So… couple of encouragements.

1 – Happiness is NOT the same as “JOY”.  The Christian ideal for Advent isn’t fake happy. It is a cool reminder that God is really the one in control. Gives us permission to relax. In letting go we can rest in the work we’re doing and in letting go we find Peace.

2- Perfection doesn’t exist. So you can stop killing yourself to have the perfect party, dinner, Christmas… etc. Smile at the gaps in your life, instead of critiquing yourself and everyone else for falling ‘short’. After all it’s those imperfections that give us ‘character’… and who doesn’t love “character’?

3 – Enjoy the season at a pace that you can reasonably tolerate. Say “NO” when you must. No Guilt. You cannot do everything for everyone. Include times to rest and recharge yourself in the weekly commitments.

4- Stay off social media for a bit. It can be overwhelming and a huge distraction. The pictures and posts are all awesome and enjoyable, but for parents in overload…. it’ maybe a hill too far. The contentment factor is a personal issues for some… if it affects your JOY… ditch it for a while.

5- Sleep. It’s way underrated. Seven to Eight hours a night. Stop what you’re doing in time to go to bed. Whatever it is… you can do it better with a clear mind, and rested body. The last thing you need is a cold or cough to add to your woes.

Merry Christmas Parents! Your awesome and so is your family! It-s-A-Wonderful-Life-christmas-movies-2394010-1024-768

Philippians 4: 4 “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

Unlikely Heroes

We read in the bible of great and courageous people…. men and women of “FAITH” who earned a place in the greatest “whose-who” list of all time. On first glance they seem to be ‘elevated‘ above mere mortals like us.

Taking time to look a bit closer, I believe you’ll find these ‘super-Christians‘ have some familiar behavioral traits. Issues and life struggles that lower them to a more ‘humble’ stature, and in doing so… it makes their stories much more inspiring to everyday folks like us. knights

Gideon… a man of great faith. Historically known as a heroic leader of the nation of Israel in the time before King David.

A wise and influential judge and general, he led an army of 300 to overthrow tens of thousands of Midianites and save his people from tyranny and injustice to peace and safety for 40 years. 

Seems a bit out of ‘our’ league at first…. until you read his story. Judges 6-7 outlines a very familiar and very human process of God empowering, leading and encouraging an ordinary man to do extraordinary things!

Gideon wasn’t a ‘born’ leader, his life was controlled by fear and frustration and in a series of faith steps… he discovered how to ‘trust’ God for bigger, and bigger things in his life… until he was ‘ready’ to step fully into his destiny.

For families of faith…. raising kids in this crazy culture… we need heroes!

Look again at Gideon… see him with new eyes. Do you recognize your story in his ? Maybe as someone who could very much be like us…an intimidated and overwhelmed guy who simply obeyed God and took his steps, one – at – a – time.

Gideon is and was an unlikely hero…courage was hidden deep in his heart and exposed by the struggle and circumstance of his life. Our difficulties can ultimately renew our Faith if we trust God in them… looking for a way ‘through’ them rather asking God to ‘make-them-go-away”.

It’s been God’s heart for six thousand years to come and find us in our moment of greatest weakness to show us His greatest strength!

Be encouraged 🙂

Pastor B.

Sad Days Happen

Do you find yourself bumping along your days, caught up in a parade of semi-tragic life circumstances, followed by a regular series of dull and disappointing developments at your work and in your personal life ?

Do you wake up each morning feeling that your about to start a slow-motion repeat of the lonely and lifeless schedule that ran you into the ground yesterday? The one that keeps filling up with dozens of domestic obligations that seem to have no real purpose? 

Are you realizing that deep beneath your half smiles and faded pleasantness….inside of you is a sense of profound and deep sadness,  dangerously close to the surface –  repeatedly being hidden/pushed  underneath. Realizing that honestly…we’re only trying to protect us, to help maintain some status quo for our weary soul?

caringvoice.org

caringvoice.org

Do you feel trapped’ by commitments made long ago and mis-understood, of a faint desperate echo in your heart that never seems to get answered… a fading question….God, where are YOU ?

I have.

What do you do with those days… those weeks… those periods of life when all is sadness and sorrow and silent suffering?

I go find my friend King David and his painfully familiar poems and songs, written over 3000 years ago, I read – and re-read his words over and over letting their truths soak deep. PSALM 40 (ESV – Biblegateway)

I waited patiently for the Lord;
he inclined to me and heard my cry.
He drew me up from the pit of destruction,
out of the miry bog,
and set my feet upon a rock,
making my steps secure.
He put a new song in my mouth,
a song of praise to our God.
Many will see and fear,
and put their trust in the Lord.

And suddenly the darkness fades and a little ray of hope, of encouragement grows in my weary heart and God’s word revives me – restores me for one more day. One more push forward in faith, trusting that somewhere in my life, God does hear, God does answer and that He will never fail me.

Peace out my friends,

Pastor B.

Reconnecting… parents and kids, husbands and wives… us and God.

I hate that awkward moment when I bump into someone over lunch or in the aisle at the local Kroger…someone I used to know pretty well. Usually its a former co-worker, a familar face from our old church small group,  an ex-neighbor… maybe a long ago schoolmate, or aging friend of a friend we used to hang out with before we had kids. Someone we  knew once more than casually…but somehow in the current of our life  we were slowly drawn apart until almost forgotten. Someone we now have less of a friendship with and more of a neutral  polite acquaintance status… a relationship that we all feel bound  to try to observe, but move quickly to avoid whenever possible.

All that awkward social stuff is common enough… to some degree or another we  all travel through our lives bouncing from one polite conversation to another. What can get uncomfortable is when this happens and you suddenly realize, that awkward uncomfortable odd, almost stranger social vibe is coming from one of your teen kids…or maybe it’s become your spouse?

The realization can hit a parent or family member like an electric current…Breathtakingly painful as it drills  into a newly awakened chamber of our almost empty and slowly numbing hearts. What happened to us ? We used to be so “tight”… so connected, where did things get off track?

It’s kinda of obvious on reflection…somewhere along the way, our life distracted us for a bit too long. We forgot to stay connected  and took their friendship, love and respect for granted. We made the “assumption” that things were “good”, simply because no one was chucking frying pans or lava lamps at us when we came home from work each night. So we plod along without so much as a hug or a peck on the check in greeting…. unaware that things might be drifting in the relationships we value the most… Not good.

Relationships take a regular dose of time, energy and focus. Not out of ritual or habit, but out of a genuine desire to share, listen and be heard. Passive parenting will kill a teen-relationship like a passive marriage will destroy a happy home. They are related, linked together. When we take the time to spend with our most important relationships, the rest of our lives will fall into balance, into the proper place.

Same is true of our relationship with God.

When we take the time to read in His word, pray in His presence and live in the shadow of His cross… we find life goes much differently than when we surge ahead without Him or lag way behind. God is calling to us to start and end our days with Him. If you make that personal shift, the rest of your life will sort itself out. Jesus describes this all in John 15 as “abiding”…

 4 Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. 5I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing…. 7If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. 8 By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples. 9 As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love… 11These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.

Bold statements I know. But true nonetheless.

If your marriage, your teenager or your family are driving you nuts… take a few minutes and be honest. Do you need to actually pick up the Bible and read the word of God and ask for His help?  If you do, welcome to the human race. If you don’t think  it will matter, it may be that you’ve just gotten used to living life on your own and it’s time to soberly consider how that’s working out for you….?

Be careful, my own experience with living out things on my own terms were beyond painful.  If your pattern follows my own… relationships and life will continue to drift hopelessly away, you’ll find yourself disconnected from the ones you love the most. God wants to help… if you let Him, I believe He will redirect your path from where you are, to where you need to be to get reconnected.

I promise.

God is so intentional with us. He sends us such specific messages of hope, love and encouragement to His children. When we push through our pain and apathy and resentment long enough to re-connect with Him, we are choosing to abide.  You will be shocked at how amazing and simple it is to recover your peace,  perspective and hope on everything else. Our kids and our homes suddenly get a revised clarity and in the glare of His light we find that He will direct us forward. I’ve discovered that somehow… when we abide, it’s not long until we’ve found a specific way to recover and reconnect with our kids and our homes along the way.

Simple and Profound, Timeless and True, God’s word cannot fail.

Jesus is ready to help reverse the awkward into familiar. To heal, to renew and to reconnect you with your kids, with your family, with your spouse… All that’s holding you back is… well you.

Peace OUT.

b