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Faith Loss Relationships

lean in

July 17, 2017

Reflecting on life’s journey, I become aware of the highs and lows. The present can feel chaotic and random, but when held up in light of the past, I see purpose in every step. Each moment has brought me to this place.

The turns and twists, the ups and downs, have taught me that there are indeed rhythms, but often we can only discern them in retrospect. The loss, the change, and the struggle have yielded great fruit in my life. I find myself surprised to discover I may actually be grateful for the way hardships have transformed me.

For I have learned to lean in.

The ability to lean in is a conscious choice, an act of the will. To lean in is to embrace discomfort with the knowledge that surrender facilitates healing and growth.  The energy once expended resisting pain is instead channeled toward allowing said pain to enable advancement of character and faith.

To lean in is to have the courage to stare pain in the eyes until the trappings of selfishness, frivolity, and vanity have been burned away and we are able to truly live life to the fullest. To take from pain its power and realize our own strength.

To lean in is to be fully attentive to the experience of joy without bracing for its ending. To root ourselves in the present. To allow ourselves to be affected. To posture our heart for change.

To lean in is to reject emotional shortcuts. To refuse to rob ourselves of the gift of today by numbing the sensations of pain, but rather to glean and learn from them, for the aggravations of struggle refine our very souls.

To lean in is to accept.

To lean in is to surrender.

To lean in is to trust.

To lean in is to hope.

We lean in to pain. We lean in to joy. We lean in to life because it is ever-changing and evolving. We lean in because the only moment we have is the one we presently behold.

Photo by: Tori Vandament

Loss Relationships

When You Hate Christmas for a Year…

November 29, 2016

It would only be fair to warn you that I still love Christmas. I actually adore it. Minus the great debacle of “pregnant-and-just-lost-my-parents-Christmas of 2015”, the holiday has been a shining beacon of joy in my calendar.
But last year knocked the wind out of my squished, pregnant lungs and I will never forget what it feels like to freaking hate Christmas.

I hated that everyone was so happy (so I thought) while I was dying of grief.
I hated that the holidays so highlighted the relational fixtures I DIDN’T have in my life.
I hated that I actually had to buy my children and siblings Christmas gifts for the first time EVER to compensate for the presents Mom and Dad would have given.
I hated the Christmas parties.
I hated cold weather.
I even hated freaking Santa.

Last Christmas, I was so overcome by the reality of loss in my life that I took a nap… On Christmas day… and it wasn’t short. I wanted it to be over.

The birth of my third child, Beatrix, a few short weeks later served as a healing salve for my holiday-hating soul. She was born on my dad’s birthday. The first birthday he was gone.. and Beatrix arrived….

My therapy baby, as I affectionately call her.

The months following sweet B’s birth became less enveloped in pain and more full of gratitude. Her entrance into my world jolted me awake from a fog of grief with the great realization that I have a choice… No one can create my happiness other than myself….I began to keep a journal on my kitchen counter and would jot down things that brought me joy during the day…. Somedays I recorded pages… other days, the journal sat empty… but I determined to keep fighting because I didn’t want my kids to grow up with memories of a mom who was always sad.

The more I recorded in my journal, the more I realized life’s gifts are coming at us faster than we can take them in… and if you doubt me, just grow conscious of that last breath you drew… pure gift. Are your eyes reading my words? Gift. Has your tongue tasted food today or your ears heard the sounds of Christmas music? Gifts abundant….

There has been a shift in my mindset since the holidays last year. I am devastated by my parents’ absence. I miss them everyday. But in many ways, their death has forced me to live with greater intentionality than I otherwise would have. I make decisions differently. I love my kids and husband more. I am more sensitive to hardships in others’ lives.

I have already determined life is beautiful because I see it as such. I see the gifts. And the more I see, the more I become aware of. Not without the absence of pain, but alongside it. Pain and beauty, grief and hope, loss and love link hands to comprise the human experience. Sometimes it’s sheer joy and other moments, it hurts… but I am wide awake to life.

And some years, it’s ok to hate Christmas a little.

*Photo by Tori Vandament