Sunday, October 14, 2018

the power of forgiveness

This past Tuesday's keynote speaker at the Iowa Justice Action Network conference was Jeanne Bishop.  With the conference focus on restorative justice, Jeanne shared her journey toward forgiveness and mercy after her sister, Nancy, her brother-in-law, Richard, and their unborn baby were murdered.  
I wanted Nancy's name to live on and his to die," Bishop said. "At the trial, my mother said we'll never see him again."
That would not change until Bishop was given a book written by Randall O'Brien. One of the book's passages stuck with Bishop, and it reads, "No Christian man or woman is relieved of this obligation to work to reconcile with those who wronged them."
"I was incensed," Bishop said. "I called Randall O'Brien. He called back. I told him my story. I said, 'I'm supposed to reconcile with him? What would this look like?' He said it would look like Jesus on the cross."   (excerpt from Chicago Tribune article)
Here is a 33 minute video of Jeanne sharing a similar message to the one she shared with us Tuesday.   This talk was powerful, moving, challenging...what might this work to reconcile look like for each of us?  

Friday, October 12, 2018

lean into it

In August, after following my son back to Boulder with a load of his personal items so that he could move into a house with teammates for his second year of college, he and I enjoyed some coffee together for a few hours before I hit the road to come back to Iowa.  

I thought I would be the one being strong for our young adult twins through this divorce, but they have both proven to be strong for me.  They have been listeners, grace givers, forgivers as I've poured out my mistakes and failures to them, and they've been encouraging as I've struggled to find any way forward.  Sara's met me on the floor when I was in a puddle, making me stand and repeat positive sentences back to her, and Nathan spent time with me at that Boulder Starbucks listening to me tell him that I have three words currently.  The words are "wait for it".  Through my tears, I told Nate that I know from experience that God is faithful and that Jesus will eventually refresh and restore me; I just need to trust and wait for it.  Nathan in turn, told me had 3 different words for me: "lean into it".  He reminded me that God and His promises are there and available for me; that I just need to lean into them.  He encouraged me to let go of guilt and sorrow and embrace forgiveness and healing.  He encouraged me with a vision of a good future and a life that waits to be lived large and fully.  

Seriously, when did our children become wise and strong and emotionally intelligent?  

I will attempt to lean in.  You?

Sunday, October 7, 2018

fierce....and broken

I have a cousin who has been an incredible part of my pit crew through these dark days of divorce.  On one occasion, I opened up a package from her and found that her encouraging message to me in the form of a framed FIERCE had been broken somewhere in the process of there to here.  

I was about to take it apart so that I could buy a different frame, when I very clearly realized that this was just exactly what I needed- as is- on my shelf.  Who of us has not been broken somewhere in the process of there to here?  Who of us does not need the encouragement that we can be FIERCE right in the middle of that brokenness?  

Thanks, Cousin Kate.  

"Let us then approach God's throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need."  Hebrews 4:16

Sunday, September 23, 2018

learning to live well with sorrow

"I did not go through pain and come out the other side; instead, I lived in it and found within that pain the grace to survive and eventually grow.  I did not get over the loss of my loved ones; rather, I absorbed the loss into my life, like soil receives decaying matter, until it became a part of who I am.  Sorrow took up permanent residence in my soul and enlarged it.  I learned gradually that the deeper we plunge into suffering, the deeper we can enter into a new, and different, life- a life no worse than before and sometimes better."  -J. Sittser, A Grace Disguised

"When we plunge into darkness, it is darkness we experience.  We feel pain, anguish, sorrow, and despair, and we experience the ugliness, meanness, and absurdity of life.  We brood as well as hope, rage as well as surrender, doubt as well as believe.  We are apathetic as often as we are hopeful, and sorrowful before we are joyful.  We both mourn deeply and live well.  We experience the ambivalence of living simultaneously in the night and in the light."  -J. Sittser

"The darkness lingers for a long time, perhaps for the rest of our lives."  J. Sittser 

"Is it possible to feel sorrow for the rest of our lives and yet to find joy at the same time?  Is it possible to enter the darkness and still to live an ordinary, productive life?  Loss requires that we live in a delicate tension.  We must mourn, but we must also go on living."  J. Sittser

This is a work that I am very early on the journey of learning about and choosing to do well. Sorrow has been the dominant  and overwhelming emotion in my life of late, but I am grateful for this author who reminds me that I have a choice to embrace and absorb that sorrow into my life in such a way that it can be integrated into a new narrative of which its very presence in my life can create a greater capacity to live and love well.    

Friday, September 21, 2018

the valley of suffering is the vale of soul-making

In May, my good friend's dad passed away suddenly and unexpectedly. I did not know Gerald, but through his loss and funeral, I learned some beautiful things about him.  I learned that Gerald stopped in daily at his Catholic parish to light a candle and to pray.  My friend shared this practice of her dad's in a text to me, and it attached itself to me and would not let go.  I went home and took the unity candle from Mike's and my wedding day out of my cedar chest.  I placed it on the table next to my bed, and I've been lighting it each morning when I make the bed....praying daily to Jesus, Light of the World, to illuminate, reveal, heal in the midst of so much difficulty and darkness found in the lives of family, friends, our community, our world.  Perhaps, these words below might be the greatest prayer for us all...

"And sometimes, when the cry is intense, there emerges a radiance which elsewhere seldom appears: a glow of courage, of love, of insight, of selflessness, of faith.  In that radiance, we see best what humanity was meant to be...In the valley of suffering, despair and bitterness are brewed.  But there also character is made.  The valley of suffering is the vale of soul-making." -Nicholas Wolterstorff, Lament for a Son.

"It is therefore not true that we become less through loss- unless we allow the loss to make us less, grinding our soul down until there is nothing left but an external self entirely under the control of circumstances.  Loss can also make us more.  In the darkness, we can still find the light. In death, we can also find life.  It depends on the choices we make.  Though these choices are difficult and rarely made in haste or with ease, we can nevertheless make them.  Only when we choose to pay attention to our souls will we learn how much more there is to life than the external world around us, however wonderful or horrible that world is.  We will discover the world within.  Yet such attention to the soul does not have to engender self-absorption.  If anything, it eventually turns us toward the world again and makes us more compassionate and just than we might otherwise have been." -Jerry Sittser, p.49 A Grace Disguised

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

tied together

We must all learn to live together as brothers and sisters, or we will all perish together as fools.  We are tied together in the single garment of destiny, caught in an inescapable network of mutuality.  Whatever affects one directly affects all indirectly.  For some strange reason, I can never be what I ought to be until you are what you ought to be.  This is the way God's universe is made; this is the way it is structured.  

-Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. 

Sunday, September 16, 2018

plunge into the darkness

“the quickest way for anyone to reach the sun and the light of day is not to run west, chasing after the setting sun, but to head east, plunging into the darkness until one comes to the sunrise.” p. 42 
A Grace Disguised by Jerry Sittser

“I discovered in that moment that I had the power to choose the direction my life would head, even if the only choice open to me, at least initially, was either to run from the loss or to face it as best I could.  Since I knew that darkness was inevitable and unavoidable, I decided from that point on to walk into the darkness rather than try to outrun it, to let my experience of loss take me on a journey wherever it would lead, and to allow myself to be transformed by my suffering rather than to think I could somehow avoid it.  I chose to turn toward the pain, however falteringly, and to yield to the loss, though I had no idea at the time what that would mean.”  P.42 A Grace Disguised by Jerry Sittser

A Grace Disguised: How the Soul Grows through Loss has been the most helpful reading I've done through the unrelenting pain of losing my husband and marriage.  I have not yet counted a day in the past 8 months that has been without tears, but I have also not yet counted a day in the past 8 months that I've not recognized that I've entered a core space, and that I sense deep meaning and message in the darkness.   Perhaps, I'm flittering close to this truth...

"The soul is elastic, like a balloon.  It can grow larger through suffering.  Loss can enlarge its capacity for anger, depression, despair, and anguish, all natural and legitimate emotions whenever we experience loss.  Once enlarged, the soul is also capable of experiencing greater joy, strength, peace, and love.  What we consider opposites- east and west, night and light, sorrow and joy, weakness and strength, anger and love, despair and hope, death and life- are no more mutually exclusive than winter and sunlight. The soul has the capacity to experience these opposites, even at the same time." p. 48 A Grace Disguised  by J. Sittser