Cup of Life

But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near by the blood of Christ.

Ephesians 2:13 NIV

Blood of Christ, cup of salvation
Who doth drink from this cup?
Our cup was death
and sin’s poisonous effects.
He took that cup for us…
He drank it in our place

His blood was shed
and we- whose cup was death
now are offered to drink
from the cup of life and salvation

We who were far off are drawn close
Do you hear Him calling?

Heart and Light

Today my only child heads out the door to begin her senior year. The last 12 years truly have flown by. It is surreal that we are here!! How did we fast forward through learning to walk, to putting monkeys (stuffed) in the microwave (toy kitchen) to gnome, fairy and Barbie adventures to her last year of high school. We had fun getting stuck in ice cream trucks (Snow Buddies), building Legos, Littlest Pet Shop parties, Mario Bros adventures and races. She went from learning to read, to write in cursive, to many doodles and scribbles and now art in full manga style among other images. She went from playing piano by ear since she was young to self taught ukulele then acoustic and electric guitar. She went from trips to Chuck E Cheese to the Game Preserve and movie nights with friends. She started dressing up as princesses, fairies, and lady bugs and continues to dress up, but now as more complex cosplay characters for comic cons and anime fests. She started her theater debut as a Dalmatian and has continued on to portray a Greek goddess, a Constable, a nurse, and a cranky businessman. There have been so many fun adventures and memories that the volumes would exceed Tolstoy’s great work. Thank you Lord for each moment of joy and for each trial and triumph.

I have so much joyful expectation for her. I have prayed and will pray even more fervently that she know who she is in Christ Jesus. I pray she takes all the gifts and talents the Lord has bestowed upon her and continues to grow in them so she may serve His Kingdom well by utilizing these gifts to bring light to a broken, weary world.

After she and my husband who teaches at her school both left for the morning, I sat sipping on my coffee and picked up my bible. I turned toward the Psalms and opened up to Psalm 27. I read it aloud.

I got to to these verses and I choked through tears . Teach me your way, Lord; lead me in a straight path because of my oppressors. There are two reasons this verse choked me up. First it echoes the plea found in Psalm 25: 4-5 which Kyra chose as her verse when she was baptized at age 8. Second, because of my oppressors -she has a story to tell that is her own but it involves some bullying in middle school and some challenges with depression and anxiety. Add to that some physical challenges that began to manifest in middle school mildly that were exacerbated and fully flared up after a virus last year. The oppressors of physical, mental, and spiritual torment come after us all in different ways. I watched the past couple of years my child take on some challenges, I am not sure I could have endured so well when I was her age. And then the next verses make a praying , pleading mother’s heart burst with hope and joy invincible and expectation that greater things are yet to come. I remain confident of this : I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. She will be healed and flourish like a seed planted by a stream. What the enemy has meant for evil against my sweet precious girl, God will use for good.

I pray for her delivery from anxiety, depression and the illness that afflicts her body. I pray for her soul wounds to heal. I pray for her to rise out of the ashes and soar. I know our God is good and has great plans for her. So I am holding fast to that promise here, now in the land of the living.

The night is far gone; the day is at hand. So then let us cast off the works of darkness and put on the armor of light.

Romans 13:12

I want her to learn and grow in her studies this year. I want her to continue to be equipped to take on the world . I want her to develop skills and nurture her God given talents . When she was confirmed Bishop alluded to her God given talents and prayed she would use them for God’s Kingdom.

“Mom, ” she said inquisitively. “Did Bishop say the same thing to everyone confirmed today? ”

“No , he prayed a unique prayer for each of you, ” I replied.

“Mom, Bishop does not know about my art and music, does he?”

“No, Kyra, but the Holy Spirit does and Bishop is very in tune with the Holy Spirit.”

I share this with my readers, but it is more a reminder to myself that the Holy Spirit knows and guides her. Our Lord has a plan for her and it is GOOD!

You see her name, Kyra means light or Lord. She is and has been my light from the Lord. I know he does not intend her light for me alone but for the world as she reflects his light. I pray he continues to shine his Light in and through her that she may reflect this light and shine into a dark world that craves light and hope.

The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.

John 1:5

Created

Made to live

Made to love

Made to give

Made to rise above

Trials and tribulations

Are guaranteed

Choice in how to face them

Is what makes us free

Given a voice

Given a choice

Given a soul to rejoice

In the victories

In the pain

In the dark nights

In the rain

Cause the pain is the rain that waters the seed

The seeds of life that give birth to victory

And the victory is not always a golden crown

It’s the getting up after each falling down

Made to press on

Made to endure

Made to overcome

Made to be sure

Despite my failure

Despite my fear

There’s a reason why I’m here

I was purposely made

Given a soul

Given a name

The Creator of the heavens

The Keeper of the stars

Fully designed me

Created my heart

To be filled with passion

To feel so strong

To be filled with ire

When someone is wronged

To be filled with compassion

When someone’s in need

To be filled hope

To plant and water seeds

To spread to the weary

The good news of love

Made to speak

Made to proclaim

Made to encourage

Made to heal

Made to pray

Made to feel

Deeply for a creation

That isn’t mine

It belongs to my Father

And he is so kind

To let his child

Still learning to grow

To join in the work

Of bringing His Kingdom hope

A Hero Not Fallen, but Raised Up

Vince Lucadou, my raised hero
April 23,1960-Jan 25, 2021

I did not make it to church this morning because I chose some physical rest after a late evening with my mom in the emergency room. Thanks be to God she is ok. I chose to complete my Bible study homework to reflect on this day of Sabbath rest. As I was working on it, it speaks of King Uzziah and the prophet Isaiah and how Uzziah was Isaiah’s hero. This question is posed-

“Have you ever lost a hero? If so, who was it and why was he or she a hero to you?”

Now I recently lost my Daddy and in so many ways he was a hero to me. However this question posed made me truly sit and think quietly and interestingly enough the man that came to mind, I was just talking about with my husband yesterday. I concluded that discussion with “I want to be like Vince.”

Vince Lucadou was a hero. I am not sure of every aspect of his life, but if someone told me that he scaled a building to save a kid, I wouldn’t be surprised. That was just the kind of character this man had. Let me tell you about my hero Vince Lucadou.

This tall man with dark hair , brown eyes that were caring, but could be as serious as he was witty. His stature is one that I imagine as a football player in his youth turned teddy bear. I met him at church for the first time in a prayer team meeting.

I just joined prayer team in a large sized church. I loved praying and was hoping to connect to others who loved the same. Vince was one of the first few I had met. Oh, Vince could pray. His prayers were with a firm certainty that was wrapped in love and set ablaze with passion. He loved praying.

Vince also loved praising. Many a time I would witness him in worship at a usual church service or even special praise and worship services . Vince worshipped with his heart, mind , soul , hands , voice and all of his being fully engaged in praising our Great God. I can still envision him with his uplifted hands singing out the words to the song ‘The Great I Am”.

I would learn Vince was part of a motorcycle ministry and a prison ministry. He would go and share the gospel and lead the Walk to Emmaus at the prison. He always loved to share the great things God was doing in prison. It is amazing how our God can free captives even though they may remain incarcerated and serving their secular penance. With repentant hearts they can be as free as the apostle Paul was in prison. Vince knew this. He wanted all of them to know it and he was there for any who would receive it.

I would learn Vince was a general manager of a Randall’s store. He heard I needed some empty boxes to create and activity for my daughter’s Minecraft themed birthday party I was hosting at home (back before any Minecraft items were marketed). Vince loaded up his truck on his day off and delivered several empty boxes to our home. He talked to my husband and myself but made a point to offer special attention to the birthday girl. He offered her a prayer blessing and then gave her a gift card. She could not believe this guy she barely knew from church was so very kind. That is just who Vince was.

Vince served on our church’s food pantry. He would minister to several people in our surrounding communities. As they would come and get their physical needs met, he would share a prayer and the gospel with any opportunity.

My mom was widowed in 2014 and she would not only benefit from the food the pantry provided she would tell me about this guy Vince who she discovered knew Steve (my stepfather) from the hardware store. Apparently Vince would go to Circle S, a locally owned mom and pop hardware store where my stepdad worked over 20 years. Vince knew my stepdad from there and how kind Steve was and how he loved to serve. So you can imagine how my widowed mom who humbly had to get assistance at the food pantry when meeting this man that was gracious, joyful, prayed for her and then found out he knew her husband, well this made her so happy. Vince and all the staff at the food pantry made my mom feel loved and appreciated, but this connection with Vince and Steve made mom feel even more comfort.

Vince always wrote encouraging replies on my Facebook page and long after the Lord shifted me to another church he stayed connected to me in this way.

When my Uncle Lynn died, my prayer was what I pray for anyone I lose. I pray they know and are at peace with Jesus. My Uncle Lynn spent time in and out of prison. He did not always choose well. In the last of his years apart from alcohol he straightened up mostly. Apparently there was a “preacher man” that would come to visit him at least monthly and sometimes more often.

I showed up for my Uncle Lynn’s funeral at the Veterans Memorial Cemetery in Houston. Apparently this preacher man was coming to deliver the message at my Uncle’s service . I learned my Uncle Lynn would hear the preacher man coming to his house and shout out “hide the beer , here comes the preacher man!” . The “preacher man” was Vince Lucadou. Vince met my uncle at least through the food pantry (and possibly at some point in prison ministry). He explained to my Uncle Lynn that he didn’t care about the beer and that didn’t need to hide it from him. He told Lynn the only one he needed to worry about any issues he had with that beer was God and well we can’t hide anything from him . Well that “Preacher Man” Vince gave me the sweetest gift when he shared at my Uncle Lynn’s funeral that after many visits eventually my Uncle Lynn professed his faith in Jesus.

I learned also at my Uncle’s funeral that Vince is married to the cousin of my Aunt Christi (who was married to my Uncle Stevie and is my cousin Kayla’s mom).

One man impacted the life of my stepfather Steve Quebedeaux as a customer of a hardware store; my mother Kathy Quebedeaux as a widow receiving assistance from a food pantry; my Uncle Lynn from the food pantry and prison ministry; my Aunt Christi Hicks as family; my daughter Kyra Huckaby as a fellow church member and a general manager of Randall’s that had some boxes to give; my husband by being a friend to his wife and kind to his daughter and a fellow church member; and me as a fellow prayer warrior, recklessly abandoned worshipper of God at Stonebridge Church in The Woodlands and as an encourager and prayer warrior on Facebook.

Look at how one man impacted a lot of people in a single family and he was unaware we were all connected.

Everything Vince did, he brought Jesus with him. He shared Jesus through his life and work and words, and posture and leisure time. Vince loved the Lord His God with all his heart, mind, body, and strength. He carried the good news to countless people. There is no telling how great was his impact. God knows and Vince knows now.

What we see ” through a glass, darkly;” Vince sees face to face and what we know in part he knows as he is known.

When I found out Vince had contracted COVID and was very sick. I flooded the throne of heaven with prayers of certainty that our God could most definitely answer and raise Vince up in that earthly tent. However, our God who is good, whose plan is perfect, knew it was time for his good and faithful servant to come home. I know without a doubt as sure as I breathe now that Vince heard , “Well done!”

Vince, Preacher Man…..you are my hero and if I can live my faith out with the reckless abandon in every aspect of my life as you did, then I will have a life fully lived.

Zakar

Soul of mine, so entwined

And dare I say accustomed

To comfort, pleasure, and delight

Though once you were a child of night

And come from hard and humble places

No stranger to struggle or pain

Persistence and faith have brought great gain

And how easy it is to slip, trip and stumble

Once you make it through the desert

But remember the days in the scorching sun

Each drop of water was as gold

You clung to every word and prayer

Proclaiming truth and holding onto hope

Delivered from the desert

It didn’t take long for that milk and honey ,

To go from a blessing to an expectation

Mind yourself, guard your heart

Lest you be eating manna and begging for captivity

Soul of mine do not incline

to forget your rescue

Lest we forget, then we will drift

And become willfully captive yet again

Soul of mine, guard your mind

Seal your heart and return

To the first joy and love

Ransomed and freed from above

Remember well your rescue

Daddy’s Home for Easter

Radiant warmth beamed down

As we sang of truth and hope

Fellow sojourners on every side

Melodies unlocked the recesses

Of heart and mind and soul

Allowing tears to outward flow

And a soothing balm to enter in

Images and flashes of painful moments

Glimpses of hospital rooms and graves

From the back to the front of my mind

Not to haunt but to heal this time

Resurrection promises more than hope

But blessed assurance and peace

We do not think, or hope or just believe

We KNOW because he ascended

So too shall we who are alive in Him

Dad made it a point to let us know

The Christ, his Savior was his hope

So he is home and he is whole

Restored, renewed, and rejoicing

And whether it’s a whisper from him

Or a whisper from our Lord

Heaven came down to hug my soul

This sunny Easter morn

Radiant beam from the Son

On this most sacred day

To let me know my Daddy is with Our Father

And we’ll be together again

Unobtrusive Pride

Sometimes I feel Peter is in the Bible just for me. I really identify with Peter most often. Any other fellow Peters out there? His impulsivity is fueled by his passion. He is well meaning but when he is quick to speak or act at times, he comes up short. I am thankful that God used Peter and the Peters of this world for great things.

Holy Week wasn’t always something I observed. It began when I came to the Anglican Church several years ago. My former tradition was more of a Protestant Evangelical background. We did not follow the church seasons , so we did not follow Holy Week. Easter Sunday was always a huge celebration, but we did not walk out the week with Christ. So the first time I observed a Maundy Thursday service, I was in awe.

On Maundy Thursday there is a foot washing. Our Priests reflect the same humility and servant leadership that Jesus exemplified when he washed the feet of his disciples. This is carried out in our Anglican Church as the rector invites 12 members of the congregation to come to the front pews. Six persons will sit on each side and two priests will each choose a side and wash 6 set of feet.

I watched the first year as my husband and 11 others came forward. I watched our priests wash and dry 24 feet. I was blown away by the humility. The rest of the service is powerful as well, but I will save that for another day. For now let’s talk more about this foot washing business.

So it is my second Maundy Thursday service to attend. Father Stan calls for volunteers from the congregation. I felt a nudge to go. This was the internal dialogue:

Nudge: Go up there and get your feet washed

Me: No, thank you. I will save that place for someone else. I wouldn’t want to take a spot that was intended for them.

Nudge: there are still several places

Me: *looks around for people to see if more are making their way forward* No I am sure others are just waiting to see. Besides I would rather do the foot washing then dare have my priest wash my feet.

Nudge: Shelly, go forward and have your feet washed

Me: That’s ok, someone else needs to more than me

Nudge: Shelly, you think you are being humble, but refusing to be served is a type of pride. Now go up front and let your priest wash your feet.

Me: *slowly nervously walk up and grab a place. Sit quietly fumbling to remove my shoes hoping my feet don’t smell because I am sure in my nervousness they are sweating now*

The priests are making their way through each parishioner.

The priest gets close.

‘Lord, forgive my pride. Sorry I was too embarrassed, too prideful, too worried what others thought to come up here. Lord wash all of me so I can serve you well. ‘

Oh , Peter, Peter I so get you!

I truly thought I was being humble by not going up to have my feet washed. Little did I know that pride comes in various forms. There is the obvious kind exhibited by self importance, arrogance, or a haughty nature. Then there is the kind that is quieter and more subtle. It disguises itself in selflessness.

I learned through a study of David written by Beth Moore when examining King Saul that one can be giving and selfless, but still self-centered. As a recovering people pleaser mind was consumed with constant worry of what others thought.

I had a family member explain “you are not self-centered, you are giving and kind.”That is what I thought, but I was because my thoughts were always on me- what did people think of me, what did they think of what I said or did. It would leave me paralyzed at times.

Through that “David”self study I realized I was a people pleaser like Saul and my people pleasing was holding me back from all God had wanted for me. God also revealed to me in that study that there was a King David inside of me and he wanted to wake up that part of me. He wanted to nurture it and grow it. He had plans for me. What I didn’t know then that I know now was that he had some giants he needed me to face too.

So how does one recover from being self-centered in thought, people-pleasing in nature, and worried about approval of others? God taught me he wanted me to be centered on him.

Am I now trying to win the approval of human beings, or of God? Or am I trying to please people? If I were still trying to please people, I would not be a servant of Christ.

Galatians 1:10

So I continued that Bible study and began another one. I fell in love with Christian music. I listened to sermons on the radio from several different pastors on the way to and from work. All I could think about was Jesus.

It was like when you first fall in love and you want to be with that person all the time. When you can’t you want to talk to them. When you can’t do that you want to talk about them to everyone. I found myself a hopeless mess that was head over heels in love with a Savior that took me out of a pit and placed my feet on solid ground. I thought about the Lord. I talked about the Lord. God bless a couple of my friends who knew me back when that contacted me at the time, because I inadvertently beat them over the head with it. I was in love, being transformed.

God placed people around me that would nurture me. He had me move across the street and next door to pastors. My brother became a pastor. The friends I met across the street , the patients in my exam room, the main pharmacy we sent prescriptions to …they all loved Jesus. It was like he saw I was a mess and needed discipleship and he just lovingly surrounded me and hugged me until I fell deeply in love, finally with an understanding that he loved me back. In fact he loved me first.

It was in and through that experience that I learned to listen to his voice, especially through his word in the Bible and learned about those nudges from the Holy Spirit. It was that understanding that placed me on the front pew of St. Timothy’s Anglican Church in Spring, Texas with my nervously sweaty and likely smelly feet as I sat humbled and laid down my pride to allow my priest to wash my feet. So I could allow my true love, my Savior Jesus to keep transforming me and making me new.

[For I am]… confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus

Philippians 1:6

Even now as I use this passion of writing to share my reflection of Maundy Thursday, Peter, and overcoming pride… this witness , this retelling of my story has taken me from a place of complacency in the relative recent past to return to my first love of Jesus. As I typed it out for you I relived the elation and exuberance of my days of exponential growth in my faith as the Lord discipled me. The good news is he is not done with me, as I noted above. And with the rekindled passion, fervor and butterfly in your stomach feeling from my love of my sweet Jesus I will move forward in this Holy Week.

I will walk with my precious Jesus through some wonderful and some trying times. Then I will accompany him , but only as far as the foot of that cross that he bore for me, because I could not bear it. At the foot of that cross I will remember not only my first love , but my first moment of faith when as a 10 year old little girl when even though I didn’t understand it all… I knew that I knew that I knew that this perfect man, Jesus of Nazareth, Son of God died on a cross for me and my sins. And I will wait …. So it can sink in deep …..and the resurrection Sunday bells and “Hallelujahs” will resound all the sweeter, louder, and deeper because I walked with my Jesus, my Savior and alas my Lord through this week.

May you have a blessed Holy Week.

The Lord Needs It

As he approached Bethphage and Bethany at the hill called the Mount of Olives, he sent two of his disciples, saying to them, “Go to the village ahead of you, and as you enter it, you will find a colt tied there, which no one has ever ridden. Untie it and bring it here. If anyone asks you, ‘Why are you untying it?’ say, ‘The Lord needs it.’ ”

Luke 19: 29-31

This prelude to Jesus’triumphant entry into the city kicks off the week that Christ followers call Holy Week. This week in the life of Jesus of Nazareth will unfold with a series of events that lead to his death by crucifixion. Jesus the Messiah will walk out this week in continued obedience to His Father’s will. He would fulfill prophecy and man would be reconciled to God. For this has been the plan all along.

This very moment of instruction to Jesus’ followers was part of fulfilling the plan God had laid forth.

We know Jesus was not received by all as Messiah, because he did not come and do as they expected. However, Jesus came not to fulfill the desires or expectations of the people. He came to fulfill the will of His Father who sent him . He came not to overthrow Rome, but for a greater purpose. He came to defeat sin and death for all, even the people who would reject him.

I want to pause for a moment in the story and consider the God of the universe, Maker of the heavens and the earth subjects himself to the limits of the human flesh. He is a God who needs no thing. He is Maker of all. However, he made a plan and a promise and he used some material things to fulfill that plan.

So the Lord needs a ride into town. He needs it to be a colt to fulfill prophecy. And make note this King of Glory comes riding in on the day of his triumphant, glorious entry to the people not on a large stallion or strong mare, but a colt. God enters in to our world humble and gentle on a colt.

Our Lord does not need anything, but He is a Creator who loves his creation. He knows we need him. We needed a rescue from ourselves . We needed a plan so we could see and understand it. We needed a promise so we could see its fulfilment unfold so that we could understand, take hold of, and believe it in order to receive what it means.

The Lord did not need a triumphant entry, but he was about to walk to the cross. He was about to be beaten, and mocked and nailed to a cross. The Creator of the Universe did not need this passion week, but we did and do. And for love he was willing to do it, because on the third day he rose again according to the scriptures. He rose and dwelt among man. He defeated sin and death and showed us. He let Thomas touch the wounds so that he might see and believe. He promised blessed are those who believe though they do not see .

He ascended into heaven and sits on the right hand of the Father. He will come again. This time not on a colt but on the clouds. He is coming soon. The Lord does not need us, but he wants us. He wants you as his own.

A Finished Book, An Unending Process

Poi si torno eterna fontana

(And the she returned to the Eternal Fount)

– Dante , quoted by C.S. Lewis, A Grief Observed

I finally finished Lewis’ A Grief Observed. I mean I literally just finished the book. I felt compelled to see it through after coming across it last night. My immediate thoughts are – Wow! What a raw, honest, introspective, eloquent journey with Lewis through one of his darkest valleys.

As I am ever the optimist, midway through the reading I found myself praying and hoping Lewis would find light and peace and hope. Yet in those same breaths and thoughts I was thankful he was honest and bold to share the truth of pain, sorrow, and anguish. As he said when he married H. the two were one flesh and losing her was an amputation. His doubts of God, reality , and his own faith were very real struggles he did not disguise. It is often so with us when our souls are torn.

Every thing inside of me wanted to reach through those words to the hurting author and just make it better. As a caregiver by nature, a nurse practitioner by profession I have taken care of many with physical and emotional pain. I have dedicated 26 years of my life thus far doing this because I love to help people. I especially love to help hurting people and what the caregiver wants most of all is to ease the pain. We wish we could eliminate any suffering at all, but in my many years in medicine, I have encountered the reality that sometimes you just cannot.

In losing his beloved wife, Lewis faced with the reality that “there is nothing we can do with suffering except to suffer it.” This is true and hard. The question of pain is the one that will place any defender of the faith on shaky ground. The harsh reality of grief is one that we all have or will meet in time.

There is nothing we can do with suffering, except to suffer it…

C.S. Lewis, A Grief Observed

Just as it is true in one’s own grief journey , Lewis’ record of his wrestling with grief leaves so much to unpack. There are the issues of faith, marriage, relationships , pain, loneliness, lament, and the nature and character of God himself. While this was a first completion of reading it through, I doubt it will be a last as this brief 94 pages leaves so much to ruminate. On the surface however, let’s just talk about the grief process as a whole.

In our modern western society we are uncomfortable with the subject of grief. I feel this is because first and foremost it is hard. In facing the bereaved we confront our own grief. It is a reality of life that we do not want to dwell on. So we don’t talk about it. We don’t learn about it. We don’t know how to walk with others through it. So inadvertently we leave the walking wounded limping because we are paralyzed by the whole topic, process, and situation.

Because we don’t talk about it or dwell on it , and we sure don’t dedicate time to study it , we don’t learn anything and thus we don’t teach. We don’t really know how to help someone in the raw pit of grief. And when we do attempt to help, we often lean on old adages that are intended to soothe or comfort. You know the ones we have all heard.

They are in a better place. At least they are no longer suffering. They are with God. God will use this for good. And the worst told to my brother and his wife after they learned at 28 weeks of pregnancy their precious Lydia was with us no more. At least you are young and you can have more children….

Did that person even think before they said that? And as a nurse practitioner I am ashamed to admit it was healthcare professional that told them this. So none of us are immune to the well meaning , empty adages that leave the bereaved feeling worse.

Let us just consider a few of these and look on the other side of the coin:

They are in a better place.– So I am selfish because I want them still here with me.

At least.... Here is good advice one of our guest instructors in nursing school shared. NEVER start a sentence with at least. It just doesn’t help.

They are with God.– I hope and pray they are. Ok maybe I know if anyone could be they are, but isn’t God everywhere and it does not change that I still want them here with me?

When my niece died it was then I truly came to learn just how poorly we handle grief as a society. I did not want to be like that healthcare provider leaving them with adages that only added to the pain. I was at a loss. I remember going to the library and bookstores looking for something on grief. This was in 2010. There was very little to be had. There is probably more now than there was then, but it is still lacking. My hopes in finding a book on grief was not to ease my pain or my brother and sister-in-law’s pain in losing their daughter. I however was just hoping to learn how to walk along side them. How am I am even supposed to be there for someone I love dearly who lost their daughter? I did not know what to say or do. I will attribute my actions solely to divine intervention and definitely not my own wisdom or merit. I turned in desperation to the book of Job.

Job’s friends came to him, wept with him, grieved with him and sat in silence for seven days and nights. In fact if you continue the story you will see that when they speak, that is when things go downhill. Silence is uncomfortable. Allowing ourselves to enter into the grief with a person is hard and uncomfortable. We want to say something because we feel powerless and we want to make better a thing that we cannot. Even the most careful chosen words often fail when it comes to soothing the anguished soul.

I remember on the anniversary of my stillborn niece’s delivery, Aug 1. I was in Honduras on a mission trip. It was our 2nd year after we lost her. I wanted to acknowledge her and my love for her and my love for her parents and acknowledge their grief. What I posted had in some way been mistaken. This led to a reply that showed me they were hurt. I was more hurt that I hurt them and that they mistook my well intended post. So as I stated, even the best intended words can come up mighty short to the grieving soul.

Since that time I have experienced much loss. The good news is I now have heard of things like Grief Share. We actually have a group that meets at our church. I have been transparent with my grief and I see others are doing the same. There are efforts made to improve how we approach grief in our society, but I will say this: we still have a long way to go.

Lewis writes in A Grief Observed that he hoped his jottings would prove a map of the state of sorrow. He goes on to say, ” sorrow , however turns out to be not a state, but a process. It needs not a map, but a history.” Lewis’ history of his early grief process offers insight and allows us some understanding. Another book by Mary Beth Chapman, Choosing to See offers this peek into the reality of a mother’s loss of a child and those early days of her grief journey. Listening to the thoughts and words of those deep in the pit of grief is the only way we can being to understand any of this or how we can help and when it is our turn to be in that pit, how we can cope and endure.

2 Corinthians 1: 3-4

This is the foundation of how we help the bereaved. We will love and lose. We will grieve and by God’s grace we will be comforted. As we are comforted in time he will allow us to help others with the comfort we received. I lost my Daddy July 4, 2021. A friend recently lost her father. I reached out to her as one who does not know her exact pain, but as one can parallel as I too have lost my Daddy and so relatively recently. I can tell you in that at this stage in my grief process the ability to help a fellow sojourner fresh on the road of grief offered some healing deep in my soul that is unexplainable.

Observing Lewis’ grief over his beloved H. has allowed me to add another layer of understanding of how others process grief. It allows me to contemplate some deeper components of the grief process where faith and reason are intertwined. Coming out the other side of this first read, I feel like I understand Lewis more. I feel like there has been some progress in my own grief through the reading. Additionally, I can now relate to others with a different personality than my own as they wade through grief. Most importantly, I feel compelled to keep the conversation about grief going. The aim is that we may grow in our compassion, cognizance and competence in the matter of grief and the grieving. Though the walking wounded will still limp down the road of grief, we will be better prepared to travel alongside and offer some hope in knowing they do not make this journey alone.

Spring Cleaning, Grief, and an unfinished book.

I purchased this copy of A Grief Observed in a used bookstore in Glenwood Springs, Colorado. It was August 2014. My stepfather, Steve, had died May 17 that year. I was no stranger to death or grief, but losing my stepdad would hit closer and cut deeper than any grief I had known before.  I immediately went into caregiver mode. My mom, newly widowed would need me like never before. In fact only once I knew someone would be with her while I was away in Colorado, I decided to make the trip.

The Colorado Rocky Mountains are a place I feel closest to God. I was a mess and had not even began to process my loss. I needed a respite and I needed God. I knew I needed to do something with all this pain , but I did not know where to begin.  So when I saw that book on the shelf it was staring at me.  “Buy me!” , it seemed to say.  So I did.   I started reading it, but did not get very far.

Little did I know when I bought this book I would also say farewell to my Grandma Shirley (Steve’s mom) September 4 and my Aunt Angie (my dad’s youngest sister) October 1. This began a long list of loss. It was like every two years the list would grow. I had already lost my cousin Shane, Pappa, Granny Hicks, Aunt Diana, Uncle Ronnie, Grandma Arlene, Grandpa Arvie, my niece Lydia, Grandpa Charley, my mother-in-law, Mary Lou and my father-in-law, Huck.

I would go on to lose my stepmom, Lana; close church family; Grandma Curtis; Uncle Lynn; Aunt Lou; my cousin, Rachel; Aunt Val; Uncle Elmer; a dear friend , Vince; my cousin, Brandon; and then my Daddy.

I picked the book up again after Lana died. I tried yet again to read it. It’s not even a long book. Reading that book was like taking a bitter elixir, you know once you choked it down you would feel better on the other side.  However, it was too hard to get past the taste at the time.

The rawest grief and if I am honest the deepest yet has been losing Daddy. He passed July 4, 2021. It’s been 8 months. The grief journey has been peace-filled, but hard and intermittent. Initially there was a heavy fog. You could not think or see. I mean you could see, but nothing seemed clear or to make sense. You functioned on muscle memory and rote memory. There was no energy or ability to take on anything new. Getting through the absolute required duties were exhausting and all you could do. Afterwards you would lie down or sleep. Brushing your teeth felt like tremendous effort. It coincided with a Covid surge so I was extremely busy with every 8 hour shift I worked. It was truly only by God’s grace I got thru those days.

In time the fog lifted. The heaviness was still there, but less weighty and less constant. Instead there were intermittent twinges and sharp stings of pain. They were often brought on by the simplest memories. I recall crying in HEB because of pimento cheese. (Dad often had me make him pimento cheese sandwiches on the days I stayed with him after his stroke.) I couldn’t watch football, westerns or listen to Elvis. It just hurt too much. In fact it took some extra energy to watch the Astros in post season because it reminded me so much of him. I pushed through the pain of it and got through to the sweet side of doing it because if he were here he would be watching. I watched the Astros mostly as a tribute to Dad.

There is still a lot of grief to unpack. A few days ago I kept seeing an image of him in my head. He was younger, healthier, and smiling. I found that odd because Daddy was not one to smile much. He wasn’t mean; he just wasn’t a smiler. It was sweet to see those images. It was peaceful, but at the same time it comes with the sting of his absence. Now mind you, I grieve with hope. I am a believer and Daddy was too. He wanted to make sure the world knew that after he lost his precious wife, Lana. He made sure to start going to church. He was baptized. He knew there is a God and a Savior and an afterlife and he wanted to be sure that profess that. This hope is what keeps me going.

It’s been 8 months. The week of spring break my brothers and I were all together again for the first time since Daddy’s funeral. We had a great time just hanging out together. I like to think Daddy was smiling because of that. He would have loved that… us together as a family. That was important to him.

So here I am spring cleaning and this book is on my night stand because I had on many occasions intent to read it. Perhaps it is time. As I dive into Lewis’ grief, I know that he will have thoughts that resonate with me. He will also have some that do not, but there will be something in that common grief journey that will seep into the recesses of my soul that is still healing from the loss; I just know it. And perhaps whatever balm I receive, maybe, just maybe I may be inspired to write more so that I too can help other grieving souls like me.

You see grief is a journey no one wants to take but we all will. We will feel alone at times, but we are not alone. All the sojourners who have gone before us and continue on are a testament that we will be okay and persevere. The sorting through the emotions and the pain and the good memories and the sobering regrets that is the hard work of grief. But …much like cleaning out my cluttered, overcrowded closets and drawers …with each painful step a little progress is made. And while it won’t get and stay tidy forever , it will get to a place that is just tidy enough that life is doable with a sense of peace. What I am working on in the physical state of my home is symbolic of the emotional state of my soul. As I make each next step, not to perfect (that will only happen when I am with Jesus), but to better.

So spring cleaning, an unfinished C.S. Lewis book and grief …

Soon I will have to be brave and swallow the whole 94 pages of soul elixir prepared by one of my favorite authors who is now in the place of hope that helped him endure life’s toughest pain to swallow.

Here’s to healing, hope, joy and helping others….

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