Wednesday, October 4, 2017

When Its Deep We Get Tossed Head Over Heals, But Its Not Forever!

The loss of my brother will always take my breath away - that's true for all who miss Joel.  As my heart constricts and my breath leaves, and I feel the deep ache in my chest and throat - even then,  I feel God again.  People said I would, but the despair made it impossible to imagine.  I also know that every day, season, event will bring new filters...

I'm sure that in life, we will always be aware of someone suffering.  The ones who can get closest to our heart are those who have suffered in the same way.  In time our inward suffering calls us to outward action.

A lot is going on in the world.  Where can God use your pain?  If not yet, some day He will, if you offer it up to Him.  Take your time...I'm taking mine.  But when you're His child, He is close, whether you sense it or not. 

God. Is. My. Anchor.

I have hope and a taste of His presence again.  Psalm 34 says, "Taste and see that the Lord is good."  Many have prayed for our family in our grief.  God calls us to pray for one another.  Thank you does not even begin to express my gratitude.  

Prayer lifts our gaze, lets us confess, praise, intercede, offer thanks.  There is a listening part of prayer too.  Slowing down allows us to hear His response of unconditional love.  
We have a good good Father.I am seeing, and want to see more of
 "the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living." Psalm 27:13

I am trusting in the truth that we drink from the living waters of hope.

"Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.’” John 7:38 and "I will make rivers flow on barren heights, and springs within the valleys. I will turn the desert into pools of water, and the parched ground into springs." Isaiah 41:18  and Isaiah 43:19

"Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God." – 2 Corinthians 1:3-4

I don't know what God has planned.  But I know that I don't want this pain to be in vain.  My desire is to see God not only continue healing my family and me, but that He would grace us to be living vessels of His love to the hurting.  May the following verses bring you hope today, in what ever you are facing.  And know this, the bulbs we plant down deep in the cold hard winter soil create the most beautiful blooms come spring.  Hold on dear one.

Psalm 42:6-8: 

"O my God, my soul is in despair within me; Therefore I remember You from the land of the Jordan And the peaks of Hermon, from Mount Mizar. 7Deep calls to deep at the sound of Your waterfalls; All Your breakers and Your waves have rolled over me. 8The LORD will command His lovingkindness in the daytime; And His song will be with me in the night, A prayer to the God of my life.…"

Psalm 31
“In you, O Lord, do I take refuge; let me never be put to shame; in your righteousness deliver me! Incline your ear to me; rescue me speedily! Be a rock of refuge for me, a strong fortress to save me! For you are my rock and my fortress; and for your name's sake you lead me and guide me;...

I will rejoice and be glad in your steadfast love, because you have seen my affliction; you have known the distress of my soul, and you have not delivered me into the hand of the enemy; you have set my feet in a broad place. Be gracious to me, O Lord, for I am in distress; my eye is wasted from grief; my soul and my body also. For my life is spent with sorrow, and my years with sighing; my strength fails because of my iniquity, and my bones waste away.

But I trust in you, O Lord; I say, "You are my God."

Make your face shine on your servant; save me in your steadfast love!

Oh, how abundant is your goodness, which you have stored up for those who fear you and worked for those who take refuge in you, in the sight of the children of mankind!

I had said in my alarm, "I am cut off from your sight." But you heard the voice of my pleas for mercy when I cried to you for help. Love the Lord, all you his saints! The Lord preserves the faithful but abundantly repays the one who acts in pride. Be strong, and let your heart take courage, all you who wait for the Lord!”
‭‭Psalms‬ ‭31:1-3, 5, 7-10, 14, 16, 19, 22-24‬ ‭ESV‬‬ 

This following songs soothes me with the Scripture:

Til The End of Time by Cody Carnes and Kari Jobe

 calls to deep at the sound of Your waterfalls; All Your breakers and Your waves have rolled over me. 
8The LORD will command His lovingkindness in the daytime; And His song will be with me in the night, A prayer to the God of my life."
Psalm 42:7-8

Sunday, August 13, 2017

#No Filter

I write my heart.  I write of pain and beauty.  My Blog title, Beauty from Ashes, is not about my beauty at all!  It is taken from Isaiah 61 where the Isaiah was telling of a God-man to come.  Jesus.  

Jesus was going to come,  now Jesus has come, and the full healing of Jesus is to come.  But God wanted Isaiah to give us hope...

The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me,
to proclaim good news to the poor.
to comfort all who mourn,
3 and provide for those who grieve in Zion—
to bestow on them a crown of beauty
instead of ashes,
the oil of joy
instead of mourning,
and a garment of praise
instead of a spirit of despair.
They will be called oaks of righteousness,
a planting of the Lord
for the display of his splendor.

Today at church we read Psalm 130.  David writes of pain, mercy, and waiting, and hope.

A year and 5 months after my brother's death, I have grown and healed, and at the same time I'm torn apart.  Split second interruptions of my thoughts can send my soul back 1 year and 5 months.  

But I have tasted of healing and hope, and so my soul grows in faith.   God is once again, showing me that He wants to create beauty from pain.   He won't waste a moment if we open up to His love.  I don't know what that will look like yet.  My hope is that in some small way, my writing of this journey will be a slice of the hope of Heaven to a soul in need.  

I used to love to throw out bits of hope as I come across them in my own heart.  It's been a long dry spell.  But I am waking in hunger for His presence each morning.  I'm beginning to find and share #hiddentreasures again.  This was my early morning taste of hope from God:

The honest truth about my personal journey of grief is that I sometimes hurt more in church than when alone in the Word.  My mystical view of "church" as a child was that it should always be a happy place.  But church is a "real" place.  A place to bring the brokeness and the pain.  A place to give your heart to those moments you don't understand.  A place to slice off a piece of your own broken heart and share it with someone else who also needs understanding.  Jesus came and took all our brokeness on Himself, so we could look and point to eternity with Him.  Now that is hope!

Get some Jesus from someone further on their journey than you.  
Be you in the moment.  
And give some Jesus to someone coming along behind.

One of the hidden treasures, might not seem like a treasure at first.  I'm not quite there yet myself...but you begin to know how someone else feels in this pain.  You are part of the "inside circle" you never wanted to be a part of.  But you find family in that circle and you begin heal in that circle.  You are one that knows the second year is not easier, it's still raw and the hard part is that life goes on and you're still dealing with such great loss.  I will never see a second year suicide survivor of a loved one again and assume anything, I will know what they need and I hope I can bring a gift with that knowledge.  I also hope to join the army of those raising suicide awareness.  There is work to be done and survivors know what that work looks like.  Often they live in silent pain because they were not able to prevent it.  So many much love needing poured into those wounds.  Who better?...Someday.

I took a walk today, and saw this one lone sunflower in the middle of a construction site.  A picture of beauty from pain.  The dirt and weeds all scruffy and piled in messes all around, the beautiful landscaped part that was finished in the distant background.  

And this lovely yellow smile right in the middle.  Bringing a smile right in the middle of my heart.  This flower needs no filter, it's real, and brilliant and bright mixed in with the dirt and weeds.  Let your self  just be who you are, and lean into Jesus as He does the work.  One day a sunflower will pop right out of your heart and you will breathe again.  

This I know.  

Hillsong United, Wonder

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

When the unimanigable is a "filter," a new normal, the "picture" is still there... Hold on to hope!

Today I pray a glimmer of God's light will shine through my brokenness, the many cracks held together only by the Spirit of God. He is my glue. I'm learning that there's always a new filter through which we see life. Each painful experience, changes the way we filter past pain as well. We see everything differently.  With the unimaginable, there can come unimaginable strength as well. At some point we get to the place where this filter, though unwanted and always with us, allows us to see a new kind of beauty. A beauty from pain.  There is no time table for this...

On my drive home last night I saw the sun setting on the horizon of a beautiful Kentucky farm.  I snapped the picture through my dirty car window.  All these thoughts came crashing in.  The window changed the purest beauty of the sun setting, but the sun was in the picture,  and its beauty was still there.

A new strength slowly sprouts from beneath the cement, it's tender and needs nourishment, but a change does begin.  Hope does return.  Memories and belly laughs and big bowls of ice cream come sneaking in.  Isaiah said that Jesus would come to heal the broken hearted in Isaiah 61,  I've always loved and believed this.  But oh how the "filter" has made this truth all the richer:

The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me,
because the Lord has anointed me
to bring good news to the poor;
he has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,
to proclaim liberty to the captives,
and the opening of the prison to those who are bound;
2 to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor,
and the day of vengeance of our God;
to comfort all who mourn;
3 to grant to those who mourn in Zion—
to give them a beautiful headdress instead of ashes,
the oil of gladness instead of mourning,"

Jesus quoted that passage about Himself in Luke 4:18-21,

18 “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
because he has anointed me
to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives
and recovering of sight to the blind,
to set at liberty those who are oppressed,
19 to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor.”
20 And he rolled up the scroll and gave it back to the attendant and sat down. And the eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him. 21 And he began to say to them, 

“Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.”

Jesus is always and forever, the true bookends to our measured days.  The truth of His mission was foretold and then announced in the present time, and now is the truth of the cross of over 2,000 years ago that we can cling to for strength for today.  

I did not think I would ever have a flicker of light return.  In fact, there were many days that I thought maybe God's light was snuffed out... I chose to wait in silence.  Not just wait, I pursued healing, but it was so dark.  But, I held onto hope that God would not abandon me.  There is a song, "He will hold me fast."  Those lyrics put me to sleep countless nights.

Brokenness is talked about a lot.  I've been broken before, but never in such a paralyzing way.  In the 15 months since my brother Joel's death I have smiled outwardly, as the shell of my soul hid beneath the hopeless unending questions.  It's not over.  3 weeks ago I had one of those days.  A day of beating myself up for the weight of the pain and its power over me. 

There is no set time or pattern to grief, and the grief of a suicide is a complicated grief, and mixture of tragedy and loss combined.  All grief is different.  And spouses, children, parents, and siblings all grieve differently as well.  But pain is pain and we do not compare, but encourage each individual journey.

My aunt recently reminded me that diamonds are formed in the dark.  John 1:5 talks about the light shining in the darkness.  I claimed that verse for years, and it says that the darkness is not overcome.  But "would I be overcome?"

I have felt God nudging me to look for the hidden treasures in life.  A picture of the geo-cashing that I got to do with Joel.  I felt God saying, your going to keep hurting, but "now I'm giving you the strength to look up and out.  Just keep following me a day at a time."  

I'm learning not to look ahead.  I'm working at being present in this moment.  Another practice that is spreading, but there is real meaning, especially when I can practice His presence...the knowledge that God is with me in this very moment.  I'm beginning to ask for glimpses of Him daily, a practice I once did routinely.  And you know what? God shows up.  Or actually, I see that He is there!

This past week, Steve and I got away alone for a week, a first in 31 years.  Yes, it gave room for the tears to flow, time slowed enough to remember that God says He collects our tears in a bottle.  A time to remember that Jesus wept, that Jesus suffered on this earth so one day our pain could be gone and we will be overcome by Him in all His glory.

On this trip I had this crazy impulse to chase joy in something I would normally fear.  I went para sailing.  This moment made a benchmark in my life.  A moment in time when I chose to allow myself to have fun,  like Joel would want.  A time to mark my smile as real.  

Yes, we've had joy this year;  Kristen and Tyler got married, Kristen graduated from college, Josh and Eliza got a puppy...he named her Zoey after Joel and Tammy's dog.  But I needed a moment, a moment where I could "feel," and also say to my family, God's got this mama and she is going to be OK!  A moment to see that there is life after loss, a life worth chasing so that your broken places are not wasted, but used to come along side others.   But also to realize that there is not a clock for this process.  There is a freedom in that. 

I've been blessed by a precious group called survivors of suicide.  If any of you in the group read this, please know that you received me and my tears, and shared your tears.  Together you were/are an instrument of hope to my soul.  And as new broken souls join, we can together carry one another and point to hope.  Thank you from the bottom of my heart.  I know that we all have different beliefs.  I am sharing my personal journey as I blog.  It used to be about knowing God while dealing with and overcoming anxiety and depression.  But the "filter" has changed.  And as life is fluid, so are anxiety and depression.  But I have found God to flow with me in this river of life.

I have always been very moved by Scripture and lyrics of worship music.  Most recently I've been deeply touched by Hillsong United's album, Wonder.  I've shared some lyrics and links below.  Yet this past Sunday, I had to leave church during one of my favorite worship songs.  It's OK.  I tell you this because the big smile I posted on FB while para sailing points to a moment in time.  A moment when the tide is beginning to change.  The tide is always changing.  And sometimes it brings joy and other times, not so much.  

I just thought maybe it was time to put another stake in the ground of this journey for anyone following behind.  Hold onto hope.  Life on earth is a time to fall forward into Jesus and share light.  One day we will see face to face Who we now often see dimly... Jesus.  We the broken can link arms and move forward. We can in time give faith, hope and love to each other.  Most importantly love.  Jesus says His perfect love casts out fear in 1 John 4:18.  I'll admit, sometimes I'm afraid to love too deeply, because real love hurts.  But its a hurt worth chasing and a chase worth running after.  

There is a movement called the semicolon movement.  It speaks of hope.  Of moving beyond darkness, pressing on, because there is so much more to give, there is no "period" at the end of the sentence...but a semicolon 

And so we move forward, peace be with you on the journey... I have a picture returning to me;  a tall, strong, loving, giving, caring, brother with the warmest smile and best bear hug you'd ever want!

2 Corinthians 4:6-18
"For God, who said, “Light shall shine out of darkness,” ...
7But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, so that the surpassing greatness of the power will be of God and not from ourselves;"

1 Corinthians 13:12
12 ...Now we see but a dim reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known. 13And now these three remain: faith, hope, and love; but the greatest of these is love.…"

"The Garden" by Kari Jobe
I had all
But given up
Desperate for it
A sign from love
Something good
Something kind
Bringing peace to every corner of my mind

Then I saw the garden
Hope had come to me
To sweep away the ashes
And wake me from my sleep

I realized
You never left
And for this moment
You planned ahead
That I would see
Your faithfulness in all of the green

I can see the ivy
Growing through the wall
'Cause You will stop at nothing
To heal my broken soul

I can see the ivy
Reaching through the wall
'Cause You will stop at nothing
To heal my broken soul

Ohh, You're healing broken souls
Ohh, You're healing broken souls

Faith is rising up like ivy
Reaching for the light
Hope is stirring deep inside me
Making all things right

Love is lifting me from sorrow
Catching every tear
Dispelling every lie and torment
Crushing all my fears

You crush all my fears
You crush all my fears
With Your perfect love
Ohh-ohhh, with Your perfect love

Now I see redemption
Growing in the trees
The death and resurrection
In every single seed...

Hillsong United
"Rain / Reign"

Everything starts in You
Made to be beautiful
Nothing could tear Your heart
From the covenant You made for love

Everything moves in time
Played into Your design
Nothing could tear Your heart
From the world You died to save

You fall like rain!
In fire and thunder
The mountains melt
Like wax before You

Everything finds its place
Folding beneath Your ways
Nothing could stand against
Your resurrected Name

You fall like rain!
In fire and thunder
The mountains melt
Like wax before You
Your kingdom reigns!
In everlasting grace and wonder
Your love making all things new
Your love making everything beautiful

My God
Making all things new
Everything turning from ruin to life in You
Making all things new
Everything turning to something so beautiful!..
Your goodness, Your mercy
Your promise crashing down like rain
Your kingdom, Your glory
Your presence breaking out...

Like rain!
In fire and thunder
The mountains melt
Like wax before You
Your kingdom reigns!
In everlasting grace and wonder
Your love making all things new
Your love making everything beautiful

Everything ends in praise
Shining in Your embrace
Nothing could tear Your heart
From the promise that remains

You fall like rain
In fire and thunder
The mountains melt
Like wax before You
Your kingdom reigns!
In everlasting grace and wonder
Your love making all things new
Your love making everything beautiful

"Glimmer In The Dust", Hillsong United

I was lost in a moment
A glimmer in time
Like a child chasing shadows
My back to the light
I was lost in a fog till
You caught my eye
Through the smoke and the mirrors
A glimmer of life

I know there’s a place I belong
Where I’ll see the fullness of love
A child face to face with my God Lost in
Your awesome wonder While I wait
I will not be afraid
My faith will remain all the same
My hope in the things not yet seen
Found in the greatest of these

I found love in a moment
Exploding in light
At the cross where the curtains
Were ripped from my eyes
I found heaven in pieces
In glimmer and dust
Broken glass in reflection
Till we shine like the sun

I know that You love me I know that
You love me Your love never fails
Your love never fails
When all’s said and done
All that matters is love
So let love take over
Not just in part
But in all that You are
Let Your love take over

"Splinters and Stones", Hillsong United
Holds nothing on the providence I know
No longer bound to things of wood and stone
When all I had to offer was my worst
You saw my heavy heart and loved me first

Your beauty staring down my brokenness
You chose to throw Your heart into the mess
Compassion crashing down upon my debt You were there

All this time
Like a river running through my failure
You carried me all this time
Like the splinters buried in
Your shoulders You carry me now

If ever now my heart cries hallelujah
If ever now in the wonder of Your grace
A thousand times a thousand years my soul
Will say

You saw the crushing weight my flesh deserved
You kneeled and wrote forgiveness in the dirt
And one by one the stones fell where they lay
As one by one my accusers walked away
With nothing left to throw they made a cross
And knowing only love could count the cost
You were there

All this time
Like a river running through my failure
You carried me all this time
Like the splinters buried in
Your shoulders Your love carried all my shame
Jesus how my soul will praise You
You carried me all this way
Like a diamond in the scars upon
Your crown You carry me now

If ever now my heart cries hallelujah
If ever now in the wonder of Your grace
A thousand times a thousand years
My soul will say
Forever now in the greatness of my Saviour
Forever now in the brightness of Your Name
Jesus on this rock I'll sing Your praise

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

HOPE IN GRIEF: When you start to see that the forest is not a mirage, you begin to see past the trees...

 & worship is part of my journey again...

Two blog posts ago, I shared about not being able to "see for forest for the trees."  Progress is a journey, so I bring hope in this post.  I may not see the forest, but I can see a wooded area.  The desert is a long hot, ugly hike, but the trees give shade and rest.  My brother knew a lot about hiking!  He was on a journey to hike the AT a chunk at a time.  He found his peace in the forest.  And now I can see that in this inexpressible loss, hope is no longer just a mirage, there is water...

Two years ago when I fell in love with the song Oceans, by Hillsong United, I knew I had been in deep waters  (Psalm 42:7) before and God had carried me. I knew I would soon be letting go of one to Honduras, and two nearing college. I knew I had a lot to learn. I felt confident that God had given this song to me at that time to point me back to the truth that He is always with me.

Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the LORD your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you." Deuteronomy 31:6

But I did not know, nor do any of us know what tomorrow holds.  It's been a year since my brother went to Heaven.  I became angry about that song, Oceans.  What?  Not this deep Lord!  Honestly?  I still have a lot of anger and hurt.  Any of us could insert something here incredibly painful here.  

So many are involved in rescuing children and find themselves in need of rescue, so many battle disease, so many counsel the hurting...we all need HOPE.  This is not our home.

I'm re-learning that as in Philippians 2 says, Jesus humbled Himself as a man to die for what I did, so I could live like He LIVES - in victory!  Just think of the pain as God the Father looked away as Jesus took on our sin.  But HE KNEW...

"who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7 but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. 8 And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. 9 Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, 10 so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father."

I don't want this to be in vain.  I want hope, light, Jesus to win in my heart.  He has already won, and yet I am still stuck in the not yet.  I know I (we) will get there but not on our own.

"This is the word of the LORD...: 
'Not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit,' says the LORD Almighty. Zechariah 4:6

Your Word, Hillsong Worship

Psalm 119 - All of it! The Power of the Word of God
Psalm 42:7 Deep waters

As It is ( In Heaven), Hillsong Worship

Matthew 6:9-13,  The Lord's Prayer

Empires, Hillsong United

"What no eye has seen, what no ear has heard, and what no human mind has conceived" -- the things God has prepared for those who love him--"1 Corinthians 2:9

Isaiah 40 - All of it.  He will watch over us and give us strength.

Captain, Hillsong United

John 1:5 "The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it."

Captain, Jesus, I ask You today, to help us walk into the unknown trusting, all things are possible in You.  Someday I WILL BE A VOICE OF HOPE  to the grievers of suicide and loss.  But for now, I am learning by experience that YOU HOLD ME (US) in it all.  So I leave the keyboard today, knowing of so much pain in all our lives, and also so much joy.  Let us look to the Son!  Let us look for the joy, and let us ask God to let us see Him.

Look To The Son, Hillsong Worship

Passion - Worthy of Your Name

The journey continues, lets do this together.  I still mostly see trees, but just like Jesus healed the blind man in stages, I know I am seeing more, living more each day.  Let me give Hope!  God's Word and worship music move my heart and so I'm sharing where I am living now.

In honor of our brother, Joel, ( a son, a father, an uncle, a nephew, a husband, and friend to all ) and the many Officers who suffer from PTSD and live to sacrifice and serve and protect us,

"I will not die but live, and will proclaim what the LORD has done." Psalm 118:17

There's more to your story...

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Thursday, April 27, 2017

The Garden and grief, a beautiful place to be real

So I said in my last post that "I can't see the trees." It's true.  And you can't just snap your fingers and be teleported to the other side of grief.  I've only written a few times this year, but when I write, I don't hold back.  In my case, grief is about my brother taking his life at age of 47, and losing a dear friend to cancer a few months later.  Its true what's been said, you can't go around it, you must go through it.  

But I have a Great Shepherd leading me through the desert.  This is not about pulling yourself of by your own boot straps, or faking joy, or mustering up the "right" feelings.  It's about truth transcending our feelings, and being OK with both, truth and feelings.  It's about being real.

There is a movement in suicide awareness called Project Semicolon.  It is to signify to suicide survivors and those who are pressing on with mental illness to keep going.  Do not put a period on your story, there is more!

Once we get OK with real, we can begin to reach out and encourage others.  In time, we can minister even in our brokeness.  Actually, that is all we have to offer, because God says,  “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." 2 Corinthians 12:9

The song Even If by MercyMe is linked below.  The words resonate with me because he says how it's easy for him to encourage in concert when things are going well for him.  But he doesn't stop when things go bad... the story behind the song is good.  I also put a link in below for that.  I want to write only when there is HOPE typed out on the keyboard, even if its in pain...I want you to know I have hope.

Isaiah 40:11
"He will tend his flock like a shepherd; he will gather the lambs in his arms;
he will carry them in his bosom,
and gently lead those that are with young."

This BLURRY SEASON doesn't mean I throw in the towel.  For me it has been an intentional effort to be in community that presses into God; to stay in God's Word even when numb; and to give myself permission to hold back  from gatherings when I need to, not entirely, but to know that is OK.

I've learned that I judge myself harshly by setting a standard of how I should feel, and be by putting markers on time.  Sometimes I judge myself for being happy, sometimes for being sad... When all along I need to "just be" and not figure it out.  Just "be with Jesus" or sometimes just trust that He is "being with me."

Learning to live "in the moment" has been a goal of mine for years, but God is helping me with that skill set in this season of my life.  God sees my heart, and He knows me in a way that no other can know me.  He has suffered and walked this earth - He feels with us, and prays for us knowingly.

I just finished a Bible study on 1 Peter with a sweet community of women who have walked along side me as I have laughed, literally fled the scene in tears, participated, and at times sat and wept quietly, but stayed.  I'm sure it has been awkward for them at times - AS IT HAS FOR ME! But God kept saying go and just "be."  God kept me in community,  kept me in His Word, and kept me from isolating.  Only God could do that.

Last night one lady said "It's so hard to believe that Adam and Eve gave up walking in the garden with God." 
 It. blew. my. mind.  

Why?! Because we can still walk in the garden, and I so often don't think I can in my grief.  He dwells in our hearts, He is with us - Emmanuel, and "the garden" is not a lost opportunity for us!  On good days and bad days we can "walk in the Garden" with God.  He said, "I will be with you always..." (Matthew 28:20)

John 1 summarizes Jesus' ever presence so well. 

"1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was in the beginning with God. 3 All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. 4 In him was life, and the life was the light of men. 5 The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it."

14 "And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth. "

29 The next day he saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!

34 And I have seen and have borne witness that this is the Son of God.”

God came and dwelt among us, so that we could dwell with Him!  Romans 8 is another of my favorite passages.  You can read it in full here

But I love these verses:
26" Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. 27 And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God. "

37" No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.38 For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, 39 nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord."

Can grief make you feel separate from God? Yes!  But only Jesus was truly separated from God when He died on the cross.  He said "My God why have you forsaken me?"  He knew why, so that we would not have to be separated from Him.  And yet His pain was very real.  His separation was very real.  Beyond what we will ever comprehend!

As Raymond Edman, one of Billy Graham's mentors said, 

"Never doubt in the dark what God told you in the light."

Our circumstances change, but they do not change the character of God.  He loves us, and loves for us to dwell with Him - even in pain...especially in pain.  He understands our lament.  The pain we surrender to Him can be used by Him.  

I'm falling forward into this pain and healing.  I'm falling forward into His presence every morning.  If you don't know where to begin, read Psalm 119, even take it slower, and write a few verses of it a day.  That in itself is DWELLING IN THE GARDEN.

I don't only listen to songs of lament, I have included a few of my favorites of lament, and also those that re-direct my thoughts to the character of our GOOD GOOD FATHER.

Even If by MercyMe

The story behind Even If

Though You Slay Me by Shane and Shane

1 Peter 5:10
10 "And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you."

Yearn by Shane and Shane

Behold by Hillsong Worship
1 John 3:1
"See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!

Worthy of Your Name by Passion

Where will our souls walk today?  In the Garden? Our bodies can walk through this world, and yet our souls can walk in the Garden with God.  When the spiritual and the physical blend, there is a new of just being at peace no matter what we are feeling.  Seems like a contradiction.  It is a contradiction that I want to lean into.  Letting Jesus hold us, dwell with us.