Tag Archives: grief

I have loved

 

I’ve never liked goodbyes.  When my daughter was little she would refuse even to say the word, as if by not acknowledging someone’s departure she could somehow prevent it from happening.  There are days when I wish I could work that kind of magic myself.

But goodbyes, and the grief that accompanies them, are a part of life that we can’t avoid.

This week we’ve said goodbye to yet more good friends.  People that we have loved, laughed and shared life with, and who are now off to start a new chapter in another part of the world. It happens, all the time. For some it’s a temporary farewell, because we know that one way or another, we will see them again. But we don’t know how many years that might take, and we will miss them.  They take a part of our hearts with them.

It hurts to say goodbye. And sometimes a little voice whispers that it would safer to love less; to not invest pieces of my heart in friendships with people who will inevitably leave;  that this sadness and sense of loss is my own fault and that perhaps I should have guarded my heart better.  And I certainly won’t cry, because that would be silly.

In some cultures people know how to grieve well.  I suspect that some of us have lost touch with that a bit.  We treat grief of all kinds like an illness, something mysterious that you need to get over as quickly as you can and avoid wherever possible.

And yet grief isn’t a malfunction. It’s not a sign that something is broken and need fixing.  It’s actually the reverse. It’s a sign that you have done what you were supposed to do, a medal of honour to say that you have loved.

CS Lewis wrote this: “To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything and your heart will be wrung and possibly broken.”  Grief is a risk we take when we love.

I’m reminded of this from Ecclesiastes:

there is a time for everything, a season for every activity under the sun
a time to be born and a time to die,
a time to plant and a time to uproot
a time to kill and a time to heal
a time to pull down and a time to build up
a time to weep and a time to laugh
a time for mourning and a time for dancing

 

This is how life is. Goodbyes and grief happen. There are seasons where weeping and mourning and perhaps even anger are the appropriate emotions to feel and to express.  But I love that this piece of poetry also sparkles with hope.  There will also be seasons of healing and building, laughing and dancing to come, at the right time.

So that’s the postcard of the moment.  When you’re mourning, for whatever reason, you may not want to do it loudly, but do it without shame.

Wear it as a medal of honour – I have loved.

medal

 

 

 

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A Christmas Card from Postcards from Heaven

I’ve been in conversation with God for some time now about what picture should appear on the front of your Christmas postcard… A scene of Bethlehem? Something tinselly? But no, this odd little bauble-bottle is what keeps coming into my head and there’s no getting away from it…

it doesn’t have a name, as far as I know it doesn’t even exist and I can’t imagine it would be useful, but Jesus often doesn’t follow my rules and I always eventually realise it is easier just to go with what I think he’s showing me! So this is it: A two-chamber bauble-bottle that holds more one type of liquid.

Christmas is just like this.. Christmas is a container that holds more than one thing..

I really love it.  I love the kids’ excitement, the preparations, the sense of specialness, the time with friends, the family traditions, the special food, the random animals in nativity plays and even the theologically-challenged carols.  I just love it.

and yet…

Yesterday was my Dad’s birthday, and this will be our sixth Christmas without him. And at this time of year, I miss him more than ever. I can’t enjoy our traditional family singsong without missing the sound of his voice, I can’t watch my kids in a recital without thinking how proud he would have been of them, and I just can’t do Christmas day without missing his energy and sense of fun.

And I’m guessing for many, if not most of you it’s the same. Along with the joy comes an acute awareness of what has been lost.

Christmas is a container that holds both joy and sadness, and somehow they can only be poured out together.

For me, it’s not possible to experience the joy without also walking through the sadness.  To not allow one of them to be released from the bottle would be to stifle the other as well.  And I really want the joy…

It seems to me, at this time of year, that the world is conspiring to show me a perfect Christmas.  One with perfect, complete families where no-one gets sick, or forgets anything, or worries about money or falls out over the rules of a board game.  Where teenagers leap with joy at the idea of a game of charades, the roast dinner is all warm at the same time, the whole family gather around the piano to sing carols (in four-part harmony) and above all, no-one feels sad, not even for a moment.

It’s not true of course, there is no ‘perfect’ Christmas.  It’s just another impossible standard for me to fail to reach. Not everything has to be perfect anyway, and I suspect that the fact that the joy always comes mixed in with sadness just makes me normal.

For those of you who are similarly normal: Know that God understands.  He understands great joy and deep sadness.  And he reaches out to carry you through both.

So on this festive postcard I will wish you a Happy Christmas, but because that on its own doesn’t seem quite real enough:

This Christmas

May you have enough joy to soften your sadness

Enough peace to calm your storms

and enough hope to look up into the eyes of the Saviour of the World and to find yourself covered by his love.

Walking in the shade

It’s June and, after a few unseasonably cool weeks, summer has finally arrived in Nicosia.  (Weather.com tells me it’s 38 degrees C out there today- I am hiding inside!)

Once again, as the temperatures rise, I notice that we are beginning to live differently. We walk more slowly,  get up earlier, stay up later, nap in the afternoons.  School closes, we wear hats, close the shutters at 9am – ‘to keep the cool in’,  drink a lot of water and count down the days to when we can escape to chilly, wet England for the holidays.

Last week, as I walked lazily through the old city with visiting friends (in search of ice-cold frappé); one of those friends  pointed out another new habit I seem to have gained:  I cross the road a lot.   It took me while to work out what they meant, but it turns out that like many Nicosians at this time of year, I’m forever crossing over to the other side of the street as I subconsciously choose to walk or stand in patches of shade.

This week’s postcard is ‘walking in the shade’ because I’m aware that life can sometimes be ‘superheated’.

A hot season could be fired by pain, grief, fear, anxiety or uncertainty, or any number of other things, but a major culprit that turns the heat up under many of us are IHE’s: Impossibly High Expectations.

IHE’s -Supercareerguy/girl, superpastor, supermodel, superparent, superfriend, superspouse,  superchristian, superblogpostwriter  (pick your poison) fanned and fueled by family expectations, the media, church, facebook, pinterest, etc. put us (or make us put ourselves) under enormous pressure.  There is always another standard for us to measure our ‘success’ against, always another job that needs to be done yesterday.  That can make things pretty hot.

Whatever the cause; if you’re living in a hot place – you need to learn to walk in the shade.

The Bible tells me that the Lord my God is ‘the shade at [my] right hand’ (Psalm 121:5).  In a hot season you have to hunt out the shade.  If that means crossing the road every time you turn a corner or walking a longer way around then so be it …  If you’re in a hot place right now, it might be taking all you’ve got to keep going, and there may not be much time or energy to invest in your relationship with Jesus.    Please find some.    I’ve noticed that when the sun is at its highest and hottest if you want to get shade from something you have to walk very close to it.  And the closer you get, the deeper the shade.

So, if you’re in a hot season, walk close to Jesus.  Don’t let anger or disappointment, or tiredness or bewilderment make you decide to walk out in the heat of the sun.   Choose the shade.  And then keep on choosing it.

Of course, I know that not everyone who reads this will be living in a hot season… Some of you will be in a cold one.  Perhaps God feels a long way away right now; or maybe you feel as though your heart has somehow grown cold.  I was praying about this today and I felt God remind me that in the winter, everyone in my city chooses to walk in the sunshine…

That’s our beautiful God my friends: In the blast of the hot season he is the shade at your right hand, in the chill of the cold season he is the gentle sunlight that brings warmth to your soul.    Wherever you are living right now, draw near to him… he is what you need.

 

shadefeat

 

 

 

reflect greens

 

For your Journal:

Think about what this postcard says to you.  What kind of season are you in right now?  How would you describe it?  What reasons do you have for pressing in close to God, for listening for his voice, for walking the path he asks you to walk?

 

What do you think it means to walk close to God?  What does it take to get there?

I’m going to think some more about those IHE’s… expect more next week 🙂