Christmas is my favorite holiday, but I’ll be honest with you (because we keep it authentic around here), I was unsure how it would go this year. There was a nervousness attached to it because this has been a season of processing a pendulum swing of intensities.
I gained wisdom. I lost 8 loved ones due to death. I acquired insight. I lost a dream. I gained stronger relationships. I lost ties I thought I had. I developed a deeper love for myself.
Sweet and bitter. That was the mix I couldn’t bypass. I tried, but it didn’t work. I screamed in both victory and in anguish this year and frankly, the velocity of the pendulum swing was nauseating. As we speak, I cried tears of appreciation and grief in less than 5 minutes. So, I paused, prayed, made some hot tea, and returned to writing this post. A post for processing smiles and frowns and to let you know you are not alone.
It’s OK to be excited about a new home, new family member, or new career venture, and yet be nervous your stewardship of it. I’m crazy enough to believe that God can handle that dichotomy of emotions.
You may not be finished processing everything, and that’s OK too. It truly is. Don’t let anyone stamp an expiration date on your journey; only God knows when and how. The Holy Spirit can walk you through a season until it is digested and He’ll even give you certain hands to hold along the way.
I also want to stand with you and say “You made it.” You made it through one of the most intimate holidays of the year! Keep breathing through the rough patches and celebrating the good parts. That’s what Christianity truly is. It’s giving God our broken pieces instead of hiding them and it’s appreciating His divine communion as we take one step at a time.
Process it, Family. Everything doesn’t bounce off you and everything shouldn’t stick to you either. Digest as you need it so you won’t be imprisoned by it. That’s what I’m doing… and it’s working.
Peace & Thanks for listening. I love y’all and stay well out there!
Written in honor of Alana, Kevin, Courtney, George, Mrs. Packer, Brian, Aunt Janice, Mr. Larry, Deacon Welch, Daddy Wade. I am so grateful to have experienced this life with you. You will forever be missed.
I wanted to post, but after a couple of deaths in my circle, I just wanted to go to bed after work. Usually I can push through and even blog the next day, but I simply didn’t have it in me… so I thought.
When I’m full (sad, tired, excited, all of it), one of my coping behaviors is to free write. Whatever is on my mind ends up on the page. Sometimes it’s difficult to read later, but at least it isn’t swirling in my soul without a place to land or filling my mind with stress. In this case, I was sad and frustrated at the grieving process. In essence, I wanted the rawness of the loss to pass. The part of grief where everything is firing and numb at the same time. So, I wrote the following to keep the process moving. I hope it gives you hope if you’re experiencing the same.
When Pillars Pass
When a person that has shaped your life passes away, the Earth shifts a little. She knows she is carrying a heavyweight. She welcomes the return. She exhales in relief and says welcome home. When her role is fulfilled, the spirit of that Pillar ascends to its Originator and the sky opens up her arms and smiles. “Hello, Baby,” she says like an 85-year-old grandmother with cocoa-weathered skin and a warm smile spread across her face. Head slightly tilted to let you know it’s real. I believe that’s what happens when we die.
But when Pillars pass… when a person who amplified divine gifts in you, there’s more. Let me explain how it feels to me.
Pillars aren’t supposed to move. They’re the support beams of your existence. All around, you can find their impact on your life. So when they die, a vacuum effect removes the land from beneath your feet. All that you know and reverenced. All that you upheld now feels like grains of sand you can’t stop from falling between your fingers. It’s an alternate reality. Your footing feels off like you’re in a wicked funhouse. You can tell your axis has changed, but before you lose all control, those grains of sand start filling the holes beneath your feet. You remember the words he said and the cakes she made. You hear his laughter as the sand migrates toward your heart. Wisdom. Jokes. Phone calls. Food runs. The memories overtake you and suddenly, you are sonically surrounded by the beauty of her voice.
Then, you smile.
The sand starts to feel more like a warm blanket of comfort. It doesn’t take away the sting of their absence, but it does create a force field of love around you. Whatever she deposited in you floats to the surface. His life-giving words are saturated enough to water your soul again.
That’s the beauty of Pillars. Although it hurts like hell to lose them, they give you everything you need to stand on your own. Everything you need to continue.
I wish I could press a big pause button that would prevent them from passing away, but deep down we know those people in our lives will transition at some point. So, what do you do when it happens? You remember their gifts. You recall their lessons. You remind yourself that you were a vessel they valued and that they shared priceless oil with you.
I know it’s difficult. I know the tears are inevitable. It doesn’t mean your grief is weak.
It means you were blessed to be born into her family. You were favored to cross paths with him. Take daily comfort in knowing that s/he knew you were good ground to sow their seeds. The same seeds of wisdom and skill they could have died with are now in you.
So use them and sow them well. Don’t let their teaching die with you. Don’t let the natural process of grief choke the new growth that is happening inside.
Grow up and be a Pillar to someone else. The same oil is still needed.
I’m praying for all of you that are missing your loved ones. I’m so sorry you’re hurting. You are surrounded by prayers of love, peace, comfort, and warm memories that make you smile. 🙂
Help comes in different forms. The question is — do you want it?
Now, before you respond with hearty yes, take a minute a think about your answer.
Help sounds heroic, urgent, even sexy. We revel in being the helper. I’ve seen pre-Kindergarteners fight over who would help the teacher and adults battle in a boardroom to supply the solution. We like to help, at least most of us do. Sometimes this heroic (or altruistic) gesture comes with a price. We end up being horrible at accepting help when it’s our turn. I heard a preacher say once – everyone wants a miracle, but no one wants to be in need of one.
Fast forward to the next dot on this shortstop — What do you do when you need help? And I mean, you know you need it, but being in the mess feels good. It feels cozy. Comforting. Familiar. You may start to indulge in thoughts that keep you bound in the mess… recounting the past or imagining a future that may never arrive. Next thing you know, the thought clouds pass and there you are… still captive in the muddy mess. Let’s go practical.
In order to wrap yourself in the presence of Jesus instead of marinating in the warm, cozy mess, you have to accept help. Your heart has to be open enough to receive it. This sounds easy, but it can be difficult to release what feeds our monsters. When we do, the presence of Jesus creates a new blanket for us to curl up in. The downside? We can sometimes use our faith as an excuse not to seek help.
So, whether it is gluttony via extra trips to fridge or lack of self-control by mismanaging your funds, you need help and it’s up to you to accept it.
It’s mental health awareness month, so there are professionals available to help you through the rough patches. I have a shortlist of counselors/therapists I can share if you need a starting point; just private message or email me and I will send it to you. After all, God made therapists too. That’s a form of help you may be avoiding. That’s a healthy journey to receive the peace of Jesus’s presence in your life.
So, I’ll circle back to the beginning — Help comes in different forms. The question is — do you want it? What do you do when you need it?
Peace & Thanks for listening! Stay well out there!
My heart has been heavy for those left to bury their loved ones at this time. If you’re in that number, I can’t shake the insurmountable inconvenience this pandemic poses on you. Final arrangements being curated over the phone. Creating streaming capabilities for such a personal moment. Sitting six feet apart from each other during the eulogy. The inability to console your family with the warmth of your arms. And for the ministers, funeral directors, morticians, and cemetery workers… I can’t imagine the stress and emotional boundaries you must maintain right now.
It’s horrible and I’m sorry.
While we walk in the faith of healing and restoration, sometimes the steps we take do not reach that happy ending. It’s difficult to experience and I don’t have the answer as to why it happens, so I won’t offend you by presenting a false rationale or a super churchy response. As much as it hurts, the truth is our loved ones die when we thought they would come home from work. When we didn’t know they were sick. The day before their birthdays. When we thought they would see the end of this pandemic. The timing is never perfect for us. Never.
Place this gravitas in the middle of a worldwide initiative to minimize touch and you have a recipe for grief to yell loudly or muffle the mouth of the sufferer. A wall of emotions hovers at this physical impasse. And while I could give you a plethora of Bible verses to soothe your pain, all I want to do is stand next to you and hold your hand as your loved one is lowered into the ground. I want to have tissue on-hand as we sit together. I wish I could hug you. Yes, all of you. Whether they pass away from COVID-19 or not, it’s just a crummy time to not be close.
So, I had to write this post to say I’m sorry you’re going through this and I’m praying for you. Every day. You are not alone and I love you.
In times like these, we desperately grasp for shredded remnants of words and memories to stuff into the holes of our despair. We don’t know what to say. We don’t know what to do. We don’t know if we want to breathe. We just know what we had, what we wish was left, and what we never want to let go.
Times like these also force us to do things. They make us pause, be more grateful, drop the petty ish (hopefully), and love deeper. The pain is horrible, but it does make us pour. We release empathy, tenderness, compassion, and camaraderie. Right now, I’m thinking about that outpour. The tighter grip we place on what we value most… each other. I’ve seen hashtags, photos, and videos that celebrate family, fatherhood, motherhood, athleticism, discipline, achievement, entrepreneurship, teamwork, leadership, and friendship — all the things that surpass materialism and fame.
So, let’s take note of what matters… what makes us tick day-to-day. We don’t get to let up on that outpour. If anything, tragedy should encourage us to increase Love to maximum levels. Could any of us leave Earth at any moment? Sure, but more importantly, we have the gift of family, friends, and networks that can house incredible memories that outlive our mortality. We have passions that could leave a perpetual imprint on the world.
Make your mark, Sweetheart. Savor opportunities to create meaningful relationships. Capture moments to love on people. Pause to admire God’s handiwork. Do random acts of kindness. It’s not about beating the clock of death; it’s about expanding and producing within the time you have. I, for one, plan to continue that mission.
Peace, Blessings, and Thanks for listening! Let’s go!
Prayer:“I don’t understand this one. You’re going to have to help me with this. I don’t get it. Why did they have to die? Why couldn’t you just take someone else? This just doesn’t make sense. I don’t get it.”
I admit that I have thought about the following: Why did she have to die in a car accident? Why did he have to die with Alzheimer’s? Why did she die before seeing me graduate?
I know it’s not acceptable Christian vernacular, but I’m guilty of asking God why he didn’t take someone else’s life in place of the ones I love. I thought of the rapists, the murderers, the pedophiles… the ones deemed by society as below hell’s respect of persons, then I thought of how sweet my persons were. How undeserving their deaths were in my eyes. I couldn’t wrap my rationale around the reality of my persons no longer being a phone call away and to be brutally honest, I was pissed. Why would a good God take away pieces of my heart? Some deaths were easier to handle while others pushed me off my axis. What was I supposed to do with that… all of that anger and confusion?
I questioned my faith. I questioned the validity of the Bible. I didn’t want to hear that they were “in a better place.” I wanted them here. With me. No exceptions. No soothing back rubs. No funeral flowers. Just here… where I could touch them. Talk to them. Love on them again. At those times, the only prayer I could release were the words above and I had to trust that God wanted to hear my pain just as much as my praise.
During those seasons, I clung to this Bible verse with every fiber of my weakness. It was the only thing that made sense because it described how I felt.
The most difficult thing to do was to crawl my way back to Love after feeling scorned by it. I had to come to terms with the truth that I didn’t know the prayers of my persons. It could have been one of relief or swiftness. I don’t know. I just knew I was hurting and my prayer lines were on life support. Eventually, I made my way from a crawl to a kneel like a fighter recovering from a blow. Kneeling transitioned to standing. Breathing slowly. Then came walking forward. No one could rush me or assign a path to my process. Only God could resuscitate me back to life and I had to grow to the point to let Him do it.
I love you all and pray that you feel confident to pray a real prayer of grief whenever you’re ready. He can handle it. Trust me. I’m a living, breathing, walking witness of that. You are still more than a conqueror. You are still strong. It’s just time for you to be honest about the rest.
Hello, Sweethearts! I hope you’ve had good days between last Wednesday and this one.
My late father’s birthday was this week and instead of writing a lamenting post, I want to share three lessons Pop taught me in word and in deed.
– LESSON #1 –
You are not responsible for how people treat you, but you areresponsible for how you treat them.
My father was a pastor and before that, he was a deacon. For the majority of his life, he was in a position of servitude. I watched him load his pickup truck with lawn tools to cut the grass of those who couldn’t do it themselves. I heard him pray for people who cursed him. I saw him use kind words as weapons. He would share vegetables from his garden. He would always tell me “You don’t have to give an account for how folks treat you. You got to give an account of how you treat them.” And you know what? He was so right. Every time I wanted to say something hurtful to someone that hurt me, I remembered Pop’s words. To this day, his voice resides in my ears and acts as a stop sign. A gentle reminder that I am only responsible for myself. Someone can treat me horribly, but I don’t have to accept her/his behavior on my plate. I do, however, have to take responsibility for how I respond. That is the only thing that will require an answer from my Creator. (Sidebar: Pop loved to cook and was excellent at it.)
– LESSON #2 –
Say what you mean; mean what you say.
When he married my mother and we became a blended family, he made a point to show me that he was trustworthy. This meant having my mother’s meal ready when she came home for lunch. He also picked me up from school when I was on the floor debilitated from extreme menstrual cramps. With a limp from a stroke, he still rushed to the door of restaurants to open it for me. When my mother and I were mistreated, he was our defender. Immorality was not his cup of tea and spoke up when necessary. Pop’s lesson took root into my spirit because his word was everything. Whatever he said was authentic and solid whether it was encouraging or corrective. The more birthdays I have, the more I absorb this quality.
– LESSON #3 –
Preserve your name.
I have a fond memory of Pop sending me to the local feed store to pick up food for the 20+ hunting beagles in our backyard. I didn’t need money. I didn’t need a note. I just needed his name. My dad had a tab that he settled every month with the owner. They had an understanding that only worked because Pop displayed good character. How simple, yet priceless that is. He was that way about everything though. If something did not align with his moral compass, he did not engage in it for the sake of his reputation. If he was wrong, he admitted it and asked for forgiveness. I try my best to maintain the same decorum. He taught me that your name is the only thing you truly own. Everything attached to it determines your altitude, connectivity, and longevity. I can only hope that when I die, my name is preserved in the heart of those I served just like Pop.
Sweethearts, I pray that you are hugged by loving memories if you’re missing someone right now. I want to also give you permission to miss her voice, his smile, her laugh, his snore… everything. It doesn’t mean you’re weak in your spiritual beliefs; it means you’re a spiritual being in a human body that longs for another spiritual being outside of her/his earthly frame. That’s all. This week, I heard my dad’s chuckle and felt his love all around. I cried a little and let myself marinate in his sweetness. It was a beautifully intimate moment. So, the next time you’re experiencing a memory of your loved one or you miss them so much that your heart aches, just close your eyes and say “I feel you.” Once for your loved one and once for the God who allowed you two to merge moments in time.
I am so grateful that last week’s post reached your heart. You told me in person, on Facebook, and through direct message how much it helped you and that you are keeping me and my family in your prayers. You are why I take the time to write each week. (((HUGS))) to all of you and thank you again for your support.
Below is a post I wrote in August 2017 and I’m ready to share it. Oddly enough, these lessons still apply. Hope it helps. If it does, let me know. – CJW
It seems like life slowed down a lot after my father passed away. I’ve been on auto-pilot, getting things done on the list, but vitality is a visitor. And no, this isn’t a sad soliloquy about how much I’ve lamented over the last three weeks. This post is actually a summary of how much I have learned experienced in the month of August and some of the lessons completely surprised me.
I listened to a few friends who felt like they have lost themselves in their parental and marital roles. I realized I don’t know how to do that. I think no matter what I do, how full my schedule may be, I always have a sense of self. I may not like her sometimes, but I always know who she is. That may repel some and draw others, and I am at peace with that.
When someone loves you, s/he will show it. Maybe not the way you want them to, but they’ll respect you enough to try. I am so grateful for people that do. I get distracted by those that don’t, but I’m working on shutting those blinds and pulling those curtains for good.
Pull people closer if they are worth the intimacy and don’t be afraid to say how you feel. If you’re hurt, say it. If you’re happy, say that too. Don’t just welp when you’re wounded. Say something when your soul is happy.
Allow friends to “see” you… in all of your messy glory. The best friendships I have are because of this rule. They’re the grittiest, most beautiful kaleidoscope of experiences I could never describe with justice. I share moments with people. That’s my gift and my desire. But, some moments multiply exponentially into priceless relationships. Keep watering those and they will refresh you too.
No matter what you do, someone’s lie will always be the truth to her/him. And there’s nothing you can do about it. Save your energy. Literally and spiritually. Let them live with the lie.
Honor is an big word. You have to open your heart wide to do it. Some flies get it in, but that’s part of the price. To honor is to open yourself and be humble toward someone’s esteem. And it doesn’t end after death.
Family is anywhere Love lives. What a sweet feeling to be counted as a family member by the blood of Love alone. You are born into one, and there’s something special about being adopted into another.
Legacy is everything and we are building it everyday… good and bad. My sisterfriend shared the legacy of her family and I was excited to see the fruit of her family’s labor. What a beautiful aftermath bore in the midst of segregation, heartbreak, economic development, and old-fashioned hard work. What legacy are we leaving? Bullet holes? Student loans? Shattered hearts?
Seek your insecurities and stare them down. Talk directly to them and don’t let them wiggle out of your sight. Don’t let them shade the truth with a different color.
God knows where you live. You don’t have to hide in your dark hours. You have a Father that knows your name and each star in the sky and each animal on the planet. You don’t have to fear your humanity; just know that you are clothed in divinity through the blood of Jesus and He gets it.
It’s OK to retreat. You need to refuel and recharge sometime, just like a car and a cell phone. No one has the right to make you feel guilty about doing so. Instead of fighting from fumes, choose to regroup so you can live more efficiently. Now, don’t randomly disappear where your loved ones think you’re unsafe. You are loved and will be missed, OK? OK. So, at least tell one person that you’re taking some time.
Peace & Thanks for listening, Sweethearts. Keep shining, keep breathing, and wind down safely. I’m praying for you!
It’s been two weeks since I’ve blogged because my reservoir of words was empty. Now, I can connect again, so here goes. As always, I hope my transparency can help you as it is helping me heal and grieve.
Peace & Thanks for listening in advance.
I’ve only had two boyfriends in my life and the second gentleman became my husband. That should tell you how stringent I am when it comes to making decisions. My forever made it a point to let me know that he was intentional about me and what can I say? He passed my tests and I said yes.
So, when the best friend of my former husband called on Father’s Day and said “It’s not looking good and…,” my answer was the same. I knew I had to be there. No matter what. I immediately adjusted my route and was at the hospital in about 25 minutes. It was the least I could do. The least I could be for the man I vowed to love forever, regardless of what those papers said.
We had a beautiful beginning, a sweet middle, an amicable denouement, and a beautiful friendship all over again. It’s not what normally happens, I know, but it was us.
Was everything perfect? Of course not, but we had a love and respect for each other that wouldn’t disintegrate. And I appreciate that part of God’s plan. The fragments of questions that float around in my mind, I will never understand and I try to not to marinate on too much. It was devastating to say the least, watching him fight and knowing he was going to let go. As I walked into his hospital room, my heart began to throb in pain. I felt like someone had loosely stitched it together in light of my father’s passing less than a year ago, but the inner part of me was about to make it burst. We had gone through this before, he and I… the undulation of health. Like a Pavlovian subject, I switched into “wife mode” – talk to God, talk to him, touch him gently, kiss his face, rub his head, listen to the nurses, watch the monitors, ask questions, remember names the medical team, notate medicines given, nap during sponge bath, keep up with anything he needs to know when he wakes up… Something was different this time. Every beep echoed sadness in the hallways of my soul and the tears just wouldn’t stop stampeded down my face.
Being a Christian, of course I was hoping for a miracle of any kind, but I could feel that prayer request being removed from my fingers every time the medical team told me differently. I took a picture of me holding his hand so I could show him when he woke up. We were supposed to have lunch that week and I thought it would be a great topic of discussion. A part of me wanted to ask him over shrimp and grits to describe what he saw, felt, and heard as he lay in that bed. Did he hear us? Could he see angels? Was he talking to God Himself? Silly, I know, but I wanted to chat all about it as we laughed about another school year down in the books. Singing and praying and crying and meditating, I held his hand along with Mark and his wife. The lower the blood pressure, the less strength in those stitches that held my heart together. At the last beep, they couldn’t hold any longer and my heart bled mercilessly.
Needless to say, I’m letting myself feel everything now and staying soaked in prayer along the way. I couldn’t start grieving for my father until months after he passed away and this time, I am allowing myself to just be. If tears fall at school, so be it. Just the other night, I screamed and cried out in anguish on my way home from work. The outpour of support has been amazing, but some fail to realize my spirit has an open wound that resembles more of a widow than an ex-wife. And that’s OK. It had only been a little over a year since we divorced and we weren’t bitter. We weren’t angry. We were simply us and I now understand what he was trying to do. I hate the pain, but I get it. Before, during, and after our marriage, the most important title was Friend. Such a rarity it is to come full circle with someone. I couldn’t have asked for a greater honor in this life.
It was a pleasure to love you, Shawn, and that love extends beyond the grave. My heart cries into the heavens as you enjoy your new home, but I’m so happy for your relief. The world may have lost your beautiful mind, body, and spirit, but your legacy will live in us all. Always and forever grateful.
I share this not as a lament, but to encourage anyone who is grieving a loved one anywhere in your soul. Be present. Be human. Be tender. It doesn’t mean you’re not a “good Christian” (whatever that means anyway) and that you just need to “get over it” (insert same sentiment here). Jesus cried too and He understood what it meant to grieve the inevitable. Don’t let anyone tell you differently. Yes, joy comes in the morning, but there is a new morning everyday, so it’s OK if you have to get a refill on that joy more than once. He has plenty and will never run dry. That’s what I’m leaning on right now.
I love you and I’m praying for you. Keep me in prayer too, please. In the words of my mother, God’s got a whole world out here, so let’s make the best use of our time while we’re here, OK?