Thursday, March 31, 2016


Did you know that part of Jesus´ sacred mission on earth was to care for the brokenhearted?  Did you know the whole ¨beauty for ashes¨ thing is for real?  There have been days I found it hard to believe  yet I have been struck lately with the prominence of verses given to this subject - particularly in this classic passage of Scripture about the Messiah´s mission:

¨The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me,
because the Lord has anointed me 
to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,
to proclaim freedom for the captives
and release from darkness for the prisoners,
to proclaim the year of the Lord´s favor
and the day of vengeance of our God,
to comfort all who mourn,
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.¨ 
Isaiah 61:1-3

I have highlighted the phrases directly related to grief within this sacred mission statement and they are about half!  This part of His healing ministry has great significance (not to take away from the others).  In fact, at the end of vs.3, it says this:

¨They will be called oaks of righteousness,
a planting of the Lord
for the display of his splendor.¨ 
Isaiah 61:3

The powerful yet tender transformation required to take the ones who are broken and grieving, sad, exhausted, depressed, in darkness, unable to cope or function on certain days, angry, confused, in faith crises, with their whole life on hold and their physical health on edge is absolutely stunning.  The beauty for ashes thing is not a joke.  Nor is it a dream.  But it is impossible -  except for the Redeemer of Grief and Death, the Transformer of ashes and all that is grey.  Only He can turn all that into a beautiful, colored garland to be worn on our head where all can see it.

To take a hurting, brokenhearted person from the ash heap of death and transform them into an ¨oak of righteousness¨ is nothing short of a miracle!  The fact that these people become ¨a planting of the Lord ¨ shows that it is an intimate, personal work done by the Redeemer Himself.  The incredible end result of this redemptive work is ¨the display of His splendor.¨  Wow!  As he is transforming me in my grief process, he is using it as part of his sacred mission in this world to show Himself!  I get to be part of that!

If you are grieving, please know that the Savior is very near and very committed to helping you get to the other side.  He is for you and He shows it in these verses.  For your broken heart, there is a binding up. for your mourning, there is comfort, for your grief, there is provision, for the ashes of death there is a crown of beauty, for your mourning there is an oil of joy and for the spirit of heaviness or despair, there is a garment of praise.  Some days these may seem a million miles away...but they will come.

Beauty does rise and Jesus is on mission to provide for your grief! 

Graphic by distelfliege

Friday, March 25, 2016


Redeemer of Death,
you can bring life.
Even after the ugliest of deaths,
in spite of the bitterest of tears,
in the face of misunderstanding,
disappointment, confusion.
You did this already
on an Easter long ago.

Redeemer of Death,
who breathed this promise:
I will "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...¨
You did this already
on an morning long ago.

Redeemer of Death,
You placed on the Messiah the Spirit
and sent Him to ¨bind up the brokenhearted¨
as part of His sacred mission.
You anointed Him for this,
equipped Him for it.
You did this already
on an evening long ago.

Redeemer of death,
you can bring Life
even after my daughter´s death,
even after my own heart was broken.
In the face of the impossibility
of beauty to be found in this ash heap.
You are doing this
on Easter...and every day.

You are the only one I know
who stands crowned:
Redeemer of Death.

Sunday, March 13, 2016


There comes a time in the grief journey when grieving becomes almost comfortable.  It's familiar, it's daily, it's a loyal companion.  For some, it may be a subtle way of getting desired attention, extra space, kindnesses or pity.   Grief seems to take on a personality of it's own and becomes jealous and greedy of your healing - so much so that it threatens to become your identity instead of just your process.  In a strange turn of events, grief can become a deceptive, clingy, over-friendly enemy.  Recognizing and confronting this comfortableness at the time that is right for you is crucial to ongoing healing.

While everyone's grief experience is unique, for me I started to become aware of this certain comfortableness through two feelings I had not had for a very long time:  occasional boredom and restlessness.  Subtle tensions began to arise between the desire to protect myself from any external energy drainers outside of grief and some actual thoughts of wanting to do more.  Because of my flexible work, my overwhelmingly understanding co-workers and a little bit of prior experience with grief, I gave myself a lot of permission to grieve.  I am still in process but I can honestly say that I have been proactive with the counsel given to me.  So when these prickings of the heart and mind began to come, they were strange and not entirely welcome.

I began to have a series of thoughts in certain opposition to each other like:

"Have I been giving myself too much permission to grieve?"  "What if I start doing more and it is too anxiety-producing?" "What if I don't have the capacity for more?"  "How much is just right?" "What have I been doing with my life?!" "I don't want to do the wrong things before who I know who I'm supposed to be!"  "Who AM I supposed to be?"  "Does this mean I am forgetting her?"

It wasn't until I started paying more attention to the significance of these things and seeing the guilt and confusion for what it was: growing pains - that I could begin to move forward again.  I am beginning to acknowledge that I feel out of practice at being busy & productive and am not at all sure I want to go back there.  I long to do things from a deeper place and this whole experience has changed some of my priorities.  Some days I feel completely overwhelmed at the thought of all the catching up I have to do - relationally, professionally, physically, personally.  So many things have been put on hold since Jenna´s illness and death.  There are so many things I have not done - let alone done well - in these last 2 years.  How will I ever catch up?

Like all fears that immobilize us, how will I know if I don´t try?  I sense it´s time to step out on some things, to begin to experiment with my energy level and capacity for people, activity & work.  The work I have done on a limited basis has sometimes been exhausting but for the most part I'm happy that they have been almost all successful even if they were short-term.

I don´t regret the choices I've made thus far.  It has had to be this way in order for me to do my most important jobs: grieve and help my family.  I have a friend who also lost a daughter unexpectedly in her early 20´s who says, ¨Grieving is a full-time job; everything else you do is overtime!¨ Who knows where I would be if I hadn´t fully given myself to the task?  I could be ahead in a lot of other things and a mess inside.

Committing to long term projects is scary...there are many what ifs in my mind taunting me.  What if I fall back into a dark time and lose my strength?  What if I fall apart at some important presentation?  What if I commit to  a trip and then find myself miserable?  What if I commit to something six months away and my kids are in crisis?  Then again, don't we all face what ifs in life?  Are mine really that different?

These growing pains have got my attention.  I know this for sure:  I do NOT want to hold onto grief just because it is familiar!  It must be in its proper place and serve its rightful task.  I pray for discernment and strength as I walk forward into the future that looks so very different now...