Our community suffered a great loss this week. An 18-year-old 2015 graduate was killed in a car crash early Sunday morning. Just like that, she was gone.

She woke up and probably thought it was going to be a normal day, just like any other. Instead, she met her Maker. By God’s grace, she trusted Christ as her Savior and is now enjoying eternity in His presence.

A few days ago, my almost ten-year-old daughter asked if she could have Pop Tarts for her upcoming birthday breakfast. Her 8-year-old brother quickly pointed out, “You might not even be here then.”

It might sound morbid, but my son understands that tomorrow is not guaranteed. At least, not in this life.

But for those who have put their faith and hope in Jesus Christ, there IS the promise of a better tomorrow — a tomorrow with “no more death or mourning or crying or pain,” for all who believe (Revelation 21:4).

Until then, it’s easy to fear what lies ahead beyond the horizon, beyond what our fallible eyes can see.

I wrote the following post several weeks ago, but apparently the Lord had me save it for such a time as this.

 

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In light of this week’s events, I’m also offering my e-book, Letters to Grief, FREE from Monday to Friday this week (6/29-7/3) on Amazon Kindle. 

Click here for your free download.

(If you don’t have a free Kindle reading app to use on any device, you can get one by clicking here.)

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An Open Letter to the Future

 

Dear Future,

The other day, I watched a friend stand up to you. She was afraid of you. She went to bed scared and woke up terrified.

Weary of the fear, she put on her brave.

I watched with silent applause as she squinted her eyes and leaned into you. She gripped a raised umbrella, shielding her cheeks from the force of your wind.

She doesn’t know what you look like, but she held on tight and walked forward in the face of your shadowed anonymity.

I want to be her.

Instead, I feel your tension in the middle of the night.

Your fickle moods manifest in my sleep.

I feel it in the clench of my jaw when I wake. I massage the knots and try to rub your uncertainty out of my face but you’re locked deep beneath the skin.

Your question marks are lodged between muscle and bone and sometimes I forget that I hold the key to release you.

I try running more, as if the exercise will free me from your tension.

The secret to a good night’s sleep is found not in running, but in resting.

Resting in the One who holds you and me both.

I may not know what you hold, but I know the One who holds you — and that makes all the difference.

 

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You are not the boss of me.

I need not stand in fear of you.

Yes, you’ve made me waver in the past. I’ve lost sleep over you. I’ve longed to know what you look like.

But I know the One who made you, who owns you, who sees you and knows you.

I don’t need to fear you, because in Him I trust.

 

Image courtesy of kaitlynbouchillon.com, used with permission
Image courtesy of kaitlynbouchillon.com, used with permission

 

You are divided.

You exist in before and after. An invisible curtain looms within you, unseen, but known.

This side of the curtain, you are a black hole. A void. Dense fog.

I can’t see whether the sunset is crimson or grey, whether the sunrise is rose or shrouded in gloom.

But soon the clouds on your horizon will blow away and the Light that has come into the world will make you fully known.

Beyond the curtain, there is certainty. Surety. Hope. Clarity.

 

“She is clothed with strength and

A great day is coming when all your question marks will turn to periods. Full stops.

The dead will be raised to life.

Every knee shall bow.

No more tears. No more death.

No more clenched, aching jaws.

No more question marks.

Only hope.

Only promises fulfilled.

So I step into you gently, unsure of how or where my foot may land today — but persuaded that beyond the curtain, I’ll find the solid Rock on whom I stand.

 

 

Related Post: An Open Letter to Grief

I’m honored to welcome Joy B. Rudolph to the blog today, with a guest post on grief. I asked her to share her experience after reading part of her story on her blog.

 

This post is in conjunction with the release of my e-book, Letters to Griefwhich is available on Amazon for just $0.99.

Please join me in welcoming Joy, and maybe even take a moment to thank her for sharing by leaving a comment at the end of the post? Thanks for reading, and thank you, Joy, for blessing us with your honest words today!

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“I feel like God is a big jerk who gets pleasure from taking things from me.”

The words come out as tears run down my hot cheeks.

I am tired, on the brink of depression, and feeling trapped in a space that is suffocating in a city I don’t yet love.

 

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My husband listens. He is there with me in my tears and grief. He is struggling, too.

I repeat the words to my counselor. They are ugly, difficult, but oftentimes feel like so much truth to me.

Some weeks later, we open the doors to our POD and a bad dream has come true. We see puddles, smell the scent of mildew and feel cardboard crumble beneath our fingers. Moving to a brand new city, leaving everything we know and love behind has been a kind of hard I never expected. But this is completely out of left field.

We assess the damage. A lifetime of journals ruined. Words poured out to a God I believe hears even when I’m not sure He cares. Art that has been made with hours of love poured out on canvas and layered on paper. Destroyed. It is irreplaceable and unquantifiable.

 

My dad died in December.

Some days I feel incredible loss. Others I feel relief. But most days I don’t know what to feel. I am numb. Our relationship was a disaster and his death leaves a different kind of hole.

In January, we started preparing for a cross country move and in March, we came to a city thousands of miles away from home. For the first six weeks we not only grieved what we left behind, but the trouble that seemed to wait for us behind every corner.

Moving to Houston has reminded me of the parts of grief I had forgotten.

Parting from those closest to us reminded me of my first husband’s death. Of how I wanted to to stop dreaming. Stop hoping for the future. Because you certainly cannot see the death of dreams if you don’t have any.

Saying goodbye to a city I loved reminded me of standing in the airport and putting the Colombian orphan we loved as our own son on a plane. It reminded me how I never wanted to open my heart again. You cannot have holes in your heart if you refuse to let anything take up space there in the first place. Giving up the life I loved reminded me of our miscarriages and failed adoption. Of what it feels to have something wrenched from your hands as you try desperately to cling to it.

I know grief intimately and yet I feel that grief is unknowable. It is broad, full of surprises and all encompassing. You never know what it may deal up next or where it may choose to show up unexpectedly.

Perhaps you’ve gathered this already, but I can’t wrap this up with a nice bow for you. I can’t tell you anything amazing about how to survive loss, suffering, or tragedy. I’m in the middle of it all over again, and if I’m honest, so many of my past losses have yet to be fully grieved. But recently I read this from Emily P. Freeman:

“He doesn’t shame me for my hesitation to trust Him. But He is inviting me to set those hesitations aside.”

So what if we sit in these hard places instead of running from them? What if we feel the ugly emotions, and experience the grey, and ask God all the hard questions? What if we’re not afraid to be mad at Him and not understand Him? What if we don’t hurry through grief and try to wrap it all up with a nice bow and move on?

That’s where I am. It’s hard. I don’t like it. But it is reality in this season. So I’m inviting you to join me. So that together in the midst of the difficulty we can begin to set our hesitations aside and let God regrow our faith.

I’d love to hear from you in the comments below. Let me know where you’re at on your journey or how you cope when life is at it’s darkest, because we’re in this together.

 

Headshot1Joy is a Florida girl currently living in Houston, with her husband and drool-covered basset hound. She is currently accepting applications for people to do life with around her table (a.k.a. friends). She writes to women about living intentionally on mission at joybrudolph.com. Find her on Instagram @JoyBRudolphBlog, Twitter @JoyBRudolph, and on Facebook.

She made it.

Precious Kara Tippetts, wife of Jason, mother of four, and author of The Hardest Peace, made it home yesterday.

She got her “well done, good and faithful servant.” She got her crown of life.

Kara fought the good fight. Her battle is over.

And she won.

She scaled the mountain of The Hardest Peace .. and now she knows eternal peace. There is no more hard for her.

She didn’t cower away and crouch down to shield herself from the ugly pain of suffering. She held her candle high, standing firm on the sturdy hill of sufficient grace, and she let it shine. For Him.

Though outwardly she wasted away, inwardly she was renewed day by day (2 Cor. 4:16). She did not lose hope.

She suffered. And she died with dignity. Much like the One she worshiped here, and worships now.

Kara’s life impacted more than she will ever know. For good. For God.

Our hearts are broken … but she is whole.

She is whole, and she is His.

Kara finished the race exactly three years and six months (to the very day) that my mom crossed the finish line. Both were ushered home through Hospice care; both won their battles against breast cancer.

And on both occasions, when I heard the news, my first reaction was one of relief.

Not relief that they were gone, no. But a blanket of relief at the awareness that nothing more could happen to them. Nothing more could go wrong.

But they’re safe now.

Safe in the arms of Jesus.

 

 

And it hurts, for us. It burns deep within, an ache that matches no other. Yet there is a sweet relief in knowing our Savior — the only One who can grant that peace that passes understanding.

Our God is the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort (2 Cor. 1:3). And “just as we share abundantly in the sufferings of Christ, so also our comfort abounds through Christ” (2 Cor. 1:5).

Let’s not forget that part.

Yes, it hurts. The grief is far too real. But comfort abounds for those who are held by Him.

 

 

Related posts:  The Hardest Peace, On Dying with Dignity, & Why I’m Grieving for Someone I’ve Never Met

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links to Amazon.

 

Linking up with Jennifer Dukes Lee for #TellHisStory, and with Meredith Bernard for #Woman2Woman. Read Jennifer’s beautiful post about Kara here. Read Meredith’s moving piece on the purpose of suffering here.

As soon as I read her letter to Brittany Maynard over at Ann Voskamp’s site, I couldn’t turn away.

I was captivated by Kara Tippetts’ words. So saturated with grace. So infused with humility. And this, coming from a young mom of four who is dying of cancer herself.

I clicked over to her blog, then to her Facebook page, then her Twitter profile. My fingers hovered over the keyboard, and I paused.

I couldn’t bring myself to click “Follow.”

The truth is, I didn’t want to see the end.

I didn’t want to become so wrapped up in her story, a story that was all-too-familiar — and then have her vanish from the screen, unable to type any more. I knew a day would dawn when the updates would stop coming, when the pictures would be recycled and no new images would appear.

A time would come when she would be gone.

And I wanted to protect myself from that pain.

Imagine that.

I, sitting in my comfortable house, free from illness and disease, wanted to protect myself from witnessing someone else’s suffering.

How selfish of me. How pathetic, really.

If that were how I wanted to live, then why bother investing pieces of my heart into anyone’s story? Isn’t life all about the giving of one’s heart, piece by broken piece, cupped by the One in Whom all things hold together?

So that day, as I sat staring at Kara’s story on my computer screen, something (or maybe Someone) caused me to click “Follow.”

And my heart has been all tangled up in her story ever since.

 

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I see my mom in her eyes. Her eyes that still sparkle, even though dark cancer circles have made them sink in around the sockets.

I hear my voice in her husband’s phone call, the one that told Hospice it was time to come. I know that wheelchair, the one they resisted for so long, determined to walk unaided.

 

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It baffles me how her smile can still be so radiant when she endures such constant pain.

And then I see Jesus. I see Christ in her, the hope of glory.

She shines hope.

 

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I see her, shining Jesus through her suffering, and I can’t help but think of those who support the Death with Dignity Act. Setting aside arguments for or against a person’s choice or right to end one’s own life, it’s the word dignity that gets to me. You see, the Death with Dignity Act presumes that a person who suffers at the end of their life does not die with dignity.

Is that really true?

If so, what about Kara? One look at her photo, one glance at her words, and that theory falls flat on its face.

My mom fought cancer for nine years until the Lord called her home at age 59. She clung to Jesus, but she suffered tremendously. Does that mean her death was absent of dignity?

If suffering in death equals an absence of dignity, then it means that Jesus Christ most certainly did not die with dignity. He suffered more than any other person on earth. Even before the cross, on the night he was betrayed, he prayed, ““Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me” (Luke 22:42). But that’s not where he stopped: “…yet not my will, but yours be done.”

Dignity goes beyond the absence of suffering.

 

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It shines brightest in how a person suffers. How they cling to hope, an anchor for the soul. How they endure and persevere, and in the end will be rewarded with “well done, good and faithful servant.”

We need Jesus.

 

 

It’s my pleasure to welcome Colleen Mitchell from Blessed are the Feet to the blog today. I read this post on her site a few weeks ago, and it resonated with me so deeply that I asked her if I could re-post it for you here. 

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It was so encouraging to see so many bloggers, writers and magazines acknowledging how many people were hurting and grieving during the holiday season. It means much that people stop and notice. And that they want to acknowledge and reach out and help lessen the burden of loss and grief.

I was so appreciative for that movement this year.

But I didn’t really feel like I needed it this particular year. Maybe you didn’t either.

Maybe, like me, you’ve had your long seasons of grief and your holidays that felt like all the celebrating was just salt being poured in your wound. But then this year you thought going into the season, “No, I’m okay. Thanks all for your concern, but I think this is the year I’ll finally get my joy back–unsullied and sweet.”

And you felt that hope deep down, you really did.

It seemed that finally that strange, unwanted friend Grief had gotten the message that you had tolerated her long enough, that she had finally moved on to haunt someone else with her fickle ways and weird tendency to show up out of nowhere.

You were ready to rejoin those sweet, shiny friends Joy and Peace at the holiday table this year. To laugh with them again and breathe the sigh of relief you know everyone around you has been waiting for.

And yet here we are in the days after all the hustle and bustle. And maybe you did have your share of good moments with Joy and Peace.

But I bet there are some of you who have found that even though you didn’t think she’d come for the holidays, even though you didn’t mean to let her back in, grief has arrived once again.

The biggest of the parties is done, but life is still quieter than usual. Things are still shinier than normal. Kids are still closer than the rest of the year. Friends still come and call more often.

And suddenly, it all hurts a little bit.

Like somehow you got a terrible sunburn on Christmas and now the hugs sting and your warm cozy blankets scratch and nothing feels right any more.

 

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And you see her there, lurking in the corners of all your celebrations, curling her dark fingers around the edges of your soul. Grief is worming her way back in.

You didn’t mean to invite her. You’re not sure where she came from. But without a doubt, grief is present and has rubbed you raw once gain.

Can I just tell you that it’s okay? That I get it.

Sometimes you end up grieving when you didn’t mean to. And you feel a little ashamed because you told everyone you were okay. And you thought you meant it.

And now you’re not but you saw the relief in their eyes and you can’t bring yourself to disappoint them. So you are curling up into the darkness–alone and sorrowing–and afraid to admit it.

Friend, see me? See my hand extended to you? You don’t have to take it. Just know that it is there.

 

This is grief’s way with us. Never content to be understood, she morphs just when we think we have grasped her. 

We start to step sure again, and without knowing how, one small stone comes loose, our foot slips, and there we are again–

tumbling down, down, down her spiraling slope.

I don’t know when she will leave you next. I don’t know how long she will lurk or just how suffocating her presence will be this time.

All I can tell you, friend, is that she stay and still you can find your way back to the table with joy and peace.

 

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Let hope be your escort. She knows the way.

And I will sit beside you. Both in the dark and at the lighted table.

She is a fickle friend, this grief, but she comes bearing her own kind of gifts.

Don’t be afraid to receive them with open hands.

 

photo1Colleen Mitchell is wife to Greg and mother to five precious sons here on earth. She also has five precious children awaiting her in heaven: her sixth son, Bryce, who flew home to heaven in his sleep on September 1, 2009, and four little ones lost to miscarriage. In 2011, she and her husband founded St .Bryce Missions in honor of their son Bryce and now run the St. Francis Emmaus Center providing access to medical care, support and education to indigenous mothers in Turrialba, Costa Rica. Colleen works out what it means to follow Jesus with her whole heart and encourage others along the way at her blog Blessed Are the Feet. She invites you to join her on adventures in love on Twitter and Instagram or Facebook.