Grief and Its Effects

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One thing that you should know about me is my husband died by suicide almost four and a half years ago.  It is possibly the one event that has changed my life more than any other.  If you have been affected by suicide or the death of a spouse, you know that either of these things is traumatic on their own.  But to have both happen simultaneously is a heavy load to bear.

Since then, my mom also passed away and I have done a lot to process through my grief.  I’ve gone to psychologists, taken (and still take) medication to help with anxiety and depression, but probably most importantly, I have continued talking about what has happened to me.  I still talk about my grieving process.  I still talk about suicide and its effects.

It became very apparent to me from the get that we don’t talk about suicide in the church.  I’ve been in church my entire life and I can’t ever remember one sermon or even discussion about it.  When my husband died, I actually kept the details of his death secret because I was ashamed.  Ashamed because I felt like there was something I could have done to prevent it.  Ashamed of what people would think of me…that I should have been a better wife.

I have recently discerned a calling to be a pastor and part of my calling is to make sure that we start talking about these things so that we, as the body of Christ, can start to help those left behind when a family member or friend dies by suicide.

The following is something I wrote in 2014, six months after my husband died.  I started writing back then as a way to process my grief.  If you are grieving, I pray that this somehow helps you navigate through the grieving process.  If you have someone in your life that is grieving, I pray that by reading this you will be able to help someone in their time of grief.

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What Is a Pastor?

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A friend of mine recently shared a post of an opening for a “pastor” in Colorado.  Yes, the quotes are intentional.  You’ll see why in a minute.  Here is a snippet from their job posting:

“When you watch a sermon from Craig Groeschel , Andy Stanley or Steven Furtick. You feel like you were fed. Why cant we have that in a church with out playing the videos from the above pastors?

Here is our concept. If a worship leader can take a song from Chris Tomlin and play it just like the album and that is 100% excepted in the church why can’t you as a pastor copy or do word for word of a sermon from Craig Groeschel ? Sure add 10% of your own style to it just like the band does. This concept would work great mixed with your own sermons about 20% of the time.”

For those of you that don’t know, I recently felt God’s call on my life to be a pastor.  Needless to say, I was stunned when I read this listing.  Even people on Twitter and Facebook are questioning if this was written by Babylon Bee, a Christian satire site.

I did a little digging and after finding their website, I fear that it is real.

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The Snitch and the Mystery of the Divine

For me, the word seeker conjures up images of Quidditch, a team game played in the Harry Potter universe.  A seeker is a player that searches for the snitch: a small, golden ball with wings that flits to and fro at the speed of light.  The snitch is tough to see and it’s a tedious job to keep after it, especially when you have other things flying at you trying to knock you down.  Typically, the team that captures the snitch is the team that wins the match.

People who continue to learn new things of one kind or another typically have fuller lives.  Some studies have even shown that lifelong learning helps reduce cognitive decline and can also help with depression.  In short, those that continue to learn win at life.  I mean, as much as you can win at adulting (which sometimes doesn’t feel like winning at all).

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Fitting In At the Foot of the Cross

I haven’t ever really fit in.  I grew up a poor, overweight, shy kid with a last name that just begged to be made fun of.  I didn’t have a lot of friends and lunchtime at school was brutal.  My only sanctuary during my middle school and high school years was the band room.  Music was literally my jam.  I was good at it and it provided me with the life-giving breath that I needed to make it through those years.

But over time, I’ve gotten more comfortable in my skin.  I’m still overweight and can still be aloof (because I’m an introvert that likes to listen more than I talk).  I also have a very mannish haircut, a nose ring, and a few tattoos (although only one is visible).  Oh, and I’m also studying to be a pastor.  In the south.  In a denomination that can, depending on which flavor, be somewhat hostile towards women preachers.  Thankfully, I’ve been blessed with a support system who affirm my calling and choice of hairstyles both of which make me feel empowered to be me.

Still, sometimes I feel exposed.  Like people are looking at me and judging me.  I’ve got this voice in my head that comes around periodically and reminds me of how much I don’t fit in.  Sometimes she whispers.  Other times she screams.  Then I start thinking I should probably grow my hair out and get rid of the piercings so I can be more feminine.  Maybe wear more dresses.  Or lose weight.  Definitely that.  Or learn how to be more outgoing.  Speak up more!

Why is it that we always want to change to fit other people’s expectations of what they think we should be?

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Preaching to an Unknown Congregation

I’ve been asked to preach.  In a church, y’all.  The only other time I’ve preached is in preaching class to my professor, classmates, friends, and family, all of which friendly faces.

This Sunday I’ll be going to a little country church with my short hair, tattoos, and piercings to preach to a congregation that may or may not be fully affirming of women in the pulpit.  Their website still has remnants of SBC associations (definitely not affirming of women) which makes me nervous.  I’m pretty sure I have Enneagram 6 in me which means I’m preparing for someone to get up and walk out in the middle of my sermon.  But these are really the least of my worries.  Yes, the least.

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Just Write Already!

I’ve been thinking that I should sit down and write.  But I haven’t exactly had anything monumental to write about.  As if I need anything earth-shattering to write about.  After all, no one really reads these things anyway.  So I’m committing to writing something at least once every week.  I guess that this is my one time to do that this week.

So….what to write…what to write…

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You died on a Tuesday
You took your own life
I wonder if you thought
At all of your wife
I was left alone
Half of a whole
Left to patch up
My anguishing soul

I woke the next day
With all the lights on
That’s how I slept
Now you were gone
Filled with regret
Anger and dread
I couldn’t continue
Now you were dead

But then there was light
Light from a friend
Who taught me what
To do when life ends
And then there were tears
Just as before
I wondered if
There would ever be more

And then there was light
From my church home
Love and support
I wasn’t alone
And when there were tears
Just as before
I wondered less
If there would ever be more

And then there was light
Each day from God
Who continually told me
Whose child I was
And when there were tears
Just as before
I started to hope
There would one day be more

And then there was light
In the form of a call
I was moving to Texas
Seminary next fall
And when there were tears
Just as before
I grew to believe
There would one day be more

And then there was light
In classes each day
God had been faithful
In showing the way
And when there were tears
Now less than before
I now believed
God was showing me more

And then there was light
In the form of a man
Who, when I grieved,
Patiently held my hand
Our bond grew strong
Each day we talked
He was loving and kind
And he never balked
At the tears from my loss
At my anger toward “him”
And then there was love

I Do

Then a kiss

There were many less tears
Than I had before
I finally knew
That I’d found my more