Tag Archives: Grief

The Rebel’s Guide to a Good Day


It took me most of the week to make yesterday a good day. That’s right. Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday were pretty much swing and miss days. Thankfully I think I got a piece of Wednesday so I wasn’t a complete strike-out and had another chance. Thursday was no Babe Ruth home run but it got me on base.

On Monday I began the first sermon in a series by Mark Driscoll called The Rebel’s Guide to Joy. There’s ten or twelve of them and I figured I would do well by learning about joy this week. I was very brave and kind to people on the bus and to people at Crossfit and to my classmates. And then Roger and I went home and made dinner, joyful and kind. And then I started a fight and joy did not matter. And kindness did not matter. And logic certainly did not matter. This was war and I was going to win. Wars aren’t joyful! Wars are serious. So I pulled him into battle and regretted every second of it the next day. Swing and miss.

On Tuesday I stayed home and studied and worked on the Great Nurse Practitioner Job Hunt. I also decided that one sermon hadn’t done the job and apparently I needed more so I listened to The Rebel’s Guide to Joy in Poverty and the Rebel’s Guide to Joy in Humility. Now I don’t think I am impoverished but I could still relate. The humility part just kicked me in the pants. In fact, I was so inspired that I cooked a beautiful dinner and set a romantic table to make amends for Monday’s miss. It was a decent day but since we were still licking our wounds and doing a careful war dance around one another, I can’t call it a win.

Wednesday hobbled along with the help of The Rebel’s Guide to Joy in Suffering and in Death. There’s a one-two combo for you. But I have to hand it to Mr. Driscoll, he pulled it off. Once again, I was grateful in a crazy and weird way for the suffering I experienced through Mom’s cancer and death. I’m not grateful for the actual suffering and death. I’m thankful for the way I found joy in Jesus when there was no joy to be found anywhere else. These sermons reminded me to look back and then look forward with joy and bravery. Which I did until I decided that I missed my Mom an awful lot and decided that being grouchy and sensitive and overreacting to minor events would distract me from this. In all humility, let me tell you, this is a false idea. Another miss.

Thursday dawned with the regret of the irrational wife. But the Rebel’s Guide to Anxiety was on the playlist and I decided it couldn’t hurt. But it did hurt a bit. It crushed my pride, convicted me in a major way, and opened my eyes to a lie I have believed for a long time. Anxiety is not a condition to be managed. It is a sin to be repented of. Now, Pastor Mark admitted, and as a healthcare provider, I wholeheartedly agree, that there are chemical imbalances and true disorders that are conditions. But your average, run-of-the-mill anxiety that leads to your(my) above average, burn-down-the-mill freak-outs is a sin. Jesus tells us to let our gentleness and reasonableness be evident to all as we refuse to be anxious about anything but instead lift our requests, give thanks, and rejoice. When I am anxious, it takes a tiny event to send me into freak-out mode and if I am there, I can say and do what I want because I am ANXIOUS. You want me to be reasonable?! Gentle?! Are you kidding me?! Just wait right there, I am going to freak out and then I can be reasonable. But this is so wrong. And I want to change.

So I meditated on this over the course of the day. I shelved anxiety and chose joy on purpose. That evening Roger and I had a long beach walk and a long talk over picnic dinner about the future and God’s goodness to us. We both did some repenting and some changing. We both had a win. We even saw five satellites. Those are better than shooting stars, right? And we made a plan for the weekend to choose joy and to create change. We don’t want the run-of-the-mill. We want the extraordinary.
Crazy little rebels.

Tagged , , , , , , , , ,

Do Not Be Confused


My plan was to post photos of our great Christmas party and discuss White Elephant antics but I can’t bring myself to that point quite yet. Something tragic happened in Connecticut and there is nothing Christmasy about it. There are tragedies that happen daily causing no direct effect on my life, but, I am sure you agree, this one is lingering in our hearts. With a feeling akin to September 11, I fought the urge to weep all weekend. My husband pointed out the overwhelming nature of this event lies in the overtness of the sin. The plain evil. It is crushing. And it can also be confusing.

As I washed dishes on Friday afternoon, I turned on worship music to battle the sadness. Halfway through the dishwasher loading, my iPod shuffled to talking instead of worship. I walked over to hit the skip button and stopped when I heard my mom’s voice. I hadn’t heard her strong voice, her “I have something to tell you people” voice in years. I’ve been wanting to hear it for so long. And all of the sudden, on a sermon file stuck in a random iPod mix, I hear it. She spoke for two or three minutes and I wept through it, of course. And then replayed it to actually listen to what she was saying. Oh, and it was good.

She had just returned from a trip to California with my dad. God had blessed her and refreshed her and given her words of hope and she was sharing them with Living Stones Church. And she said it in her “Let-me-tell-you” voice that I love.

“You know, it’s really simple, but I didn’t know this. God is GOOD and the devil is BAD. God shuts bad doors. He doesn’t open them but he is the shutter of evil doors. And it is such an amazing thing …and we just need to praise Him to the heavens today because that’s what he wants to do. We get so confused. We think he may not want to shut this door. But God is good and the devil is bad. He is good today. That’s what we need to remember. GOD IS GOOD. Let’s not get confused! And praise God I’m not confused anymore! God is good….”

I listened to this several times over and then I did praise God to the heavens for reminding me that he is good. My mom is not confused on that issue anymore. Sometimes I ache for that clarity and that face-to-face assurance of Jesus that she is basking in every day now. And I know there are parents and families in Connecticut with that same ache today. They know the overwhelming desire that everything be set right, for God to obliterate these evil doors that are open once and for all. We, the nation of bystanders and onlookers into this tragedy, should have hearts full of tenderness and compassion, but not confusion. God is GOOD. Jesus came to take on our tragedies and thank God that one day, all WILL be set right.

This Christmas, don’t be confused. Celebrate that God is good. And come alongside the people in your life that can’t quite see the goodness through their own tragedy just yet. God is good…Praise him to the heavens.

Tagged , , , , , ,

Protecting the Peace


I often have very clear dreams about my mom. They are usually happy and I wake up glad and go about my day per the usual. But other times I think I must dream about her without remembering because I will have a lingering nostalgic sense of her in my day. Last week I had one of these days and thought of calling her to tell her some news. Twice. Not the usual “I wish I could tell mom about this” but two times during my day I actually thought “I should call mom and tell her this”. Don’t worry, I’m not crazy and I don’t believe in communication with the dead so put your theology back in your holster. I think that must just happen. Something great comes along and you automatically want to tell the person you have always told. Even if they’ve been gone for over a year. So, I usually pray through the sadness until God restores my peace. And then call Dad and chat his ear off.

What has happened that is so great, you may ask? Roger has started his first American job. That’s right, before you know it I’ll have this guy pledging allegiance to the U.S. of A.

Last week we came home from Kona after a gorgeous Thanksgiving and immediately stopped giving thanks and started asking questions. Should we move? Should Roger apply somewhere we haven’t thought of? Is that even possible? So, unbeknownst to me, the Aussie set aside a morning to pray some serious, down to business prayers. And that very day, he got a call for the best job we could have chosen for him. And we started Thanksgiving all over again. It has been four days and I think my husband is the happiest I have seen him since we moved to Oahu. He bounces out of bed and comes home dog-tired but I have a new found understanding of what work means for the male gender. He is operating on all cylinders now and deliriously happy to be doing it. And trust me, four months, even four years later, he will have the same grin because this guy truly does “do all his work as unto the Lord” and I LOVE it.

So, as the Christmas season traipses along, we are settling into a new routine and I am working to protect my peace. We haven’t landed ourselves solidly in a church community yet as we alternate between our North Shore church and our Kailua church. I have written before about my college friend Todd who preaches up a storm at Kailua Baptist and his wife Natalie. There is something so down right comforting about being around folks who have known you for over ten years . These two have been an encouragement to us. They remind me of college and long conversations over coffee about Jesus and the church, about which plate lunch place made the right color chicken katsu and how to put just the right spin on the ping pong ball.

For the record, that’s the right color.

It was during this time that I memorized the verse Isaiah 26:3 You will keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in You. I was reminded of this verse again this morning as I listened to my dad’s sermon online (Yep, I’m gettin’ sermons from all over the place!). He challenged us to protect our peace during this season by avoiding robbers of peace and trusting in God’s pardon, protection, and provision.

So, no matter what is going on – happy news, nostalgic moments, stressful days – keep your mind stayed on Him. He WILL come through. He WILL give the victory. He WILL bring encouragement. And He WILL keep us in perfect peace this Christmas.

Tagged , , , , , , ,

Remember the Rush


So, as I’ve mentioned before,  I am darn near crazy about holidays. Love them. The older I get though, the more I realize why adults get stressed over the winter months and for some it is a crazy time of laboring under expectations and fighting for joy.  The more I see this trend, the harder I try to buck it. And to do that, we have to be brave.

I know it may not naturally be the hap-hap-happiest time of the year, but it should be merry and free. After all, these holidays are all about freedom: we are free to worship and not worship as we please thanks to the voyaging of the founding fathers. And we have the ultimate freedom through what happened on that night in Bethlehem when God pierced this hurt-filled world with the most thrilling hope ever. That piercing, freeing, miraculous, rush of a night. But round ’bout this time, complicating factors steal the rush.

The Aussie has been on the Big Island for work this week and I go over in a couple days for Thanksgiving week. He took the Porky Terrier with him so that the whole family, dogs included, would be together for Thanksgiving. So, missing my little family, I went and spent a few nights with friends Zan and Matt and their massive hound Harley.

There is something about spending a night or two away that simplifies your life. I think that is why I love hotels so much (well, also the puffy robes and room service with the metal covers on the plates). I like the fact that I can get by with two sets of clothes, a toothbrush, a few books, and my laptop. I am more productive with studying (as evidenced by this blog entry) and I’m not surrounded by half-finished projects and distracting tasks like laundry and dishes. It’s been refreshing to sit and study over cups of coffee with Zan and take breaks to listen to her sage marriage advice or dream about the rural health clinic we will open one day.

These few days have made me look forward to joining the whole family with a simplified mindset for the first round of holiday cheer. It is undeniably a season requiring bravery. It is only our second round of holidays without Mom. And we have elected to spend them at home instead of in a memory-less vacation house. I know a lot of you are steeling yourselves for a fresh wave of grief in the coming months. But remember, these holidays are about new life and freedom. So be free to grieve. Don’t steel yourself against it. Just make sure you have people who love you close at hand and keep it simple. If we don’t belabor the minutia, keep from emphasizing expectations, and focus on a free and purpose-filled future, it can and will be a hap-hap-happy time.

Let’s all buck the trend and remember the rush.

Tagged , , , , , , , , , ,

Gotta have the Rain to Make the Rainbows.


When one does not write a blog entry for several weeks, it always helps to have something life changing happen to get the writing back in gear. On Saturday, sister Megan married Shaun Mitsuda. Three cheers for marriage, rainbows, and adorable Caucasian-Asian babies one day.

Megan planned the most excellent wedding ever (photos to prove it coming soon) and then let us take it from her visonary hands the day before the wedding as we forced her to be the pampered bride. Don’t get me wrong. she was no bridezilla. She was gracefully and happily calling, erranding, and directing and would have given J-Lo a run for her wedding planning money but we insisted she prepare for her walk down the aisle. And she did, beautifully.

A team of expert friends and professional family readied the ceremony site into a garden walk and the reception site into an evening garden wonderland, exactly according to Megan’s dreams. There were hanging potted plants, 200 bottles of garden roses and ranunculus, a photo booth, a dance floor rimmed in large bulbed lights, and individually wrapped matchboxes waiting for the sparkler exit. And then, at 5:25, it rained. A lot.

Sara and I sat in the car with Megan that was to bring her around for the beginning of the ceremony and as the rain beat harder and harder on the windshield and Megan became quieter and quieter, I thought about Mom. I haven’t been angry about it for a long time but sitting there watching Megan fight the emotion of a possible rain-out, I felt the anger rise up that God didn’t let Mom stay for our weddings and that now he was letting it rain.

My prayers in my head began sounding the same as when Mom would be hurting and I didn’t feel like a calm nice prayer. I felt like shaking my fists and reminding God of what we were all going through and that he was in charge of it. In that rainy car, I couldn’t say anything but “Jesus” because I knew the fists would start shaking. And then Dad knocked on the window and squeezed in to the backseat with us and he prayed. He told God how good he was and how thankful we were. He told God how much we loved him and trusted him. And he asked in Jesus name for a beautiful wedding. I watched Megan praying silently and not allowing her emotions to overcome her. And I was filled with a huge joy to be part of our family and gratitude for the roads we have walked together. The rain relented to a shower rather than a downpour. And we were a go.

Somehow in the space of 25 minutes, Sara and I had a few last moments of sister jokes with Meg, Dad found a beach umbrella to walk her down the aisle with, and Shaun and Megan pledged their lives to one another under a beautiful double rainbow. And there was not a dry eye in the garden. Or a dry anything else either. But it was perfect.

The rest of the night was a 400 person party complete with luau food, the greatest best man speech I have ever heard (followed closely by the maid and matron of honor speeches), and some seriously good dancing. Yes the bride and groom have moves but my fiance also made a pretty lasting impression on the extended family with his line dancing skills. And I was grateful once again for the man I get to marry.

And it only took six hours to clean up. Let’s do it again in two weeks.

No really, we are.

Tagged , , , , , , , ,

Panic and Promises


It’s been a whirlwind of a week with school projects, settling into the idea of staying in Kona, realizing some wonderful reasons for staying, and a host of emotions that I have ignored for seven days. Apparently it all caught up with me.

First I got sick. I did what every good nurse does. I pumped some vitamins and went on a run. Instead of feeling invigorated by fresh tropical air, I felt like I’d been pummeled in a boxing ring. So, I gave up the exercise for a couple days and buried myself in books. I seem to have quite a few PowerPoint presentations in my nursing school repertoire written on a Dayquil high.

I was pretty proud of handling a variety of life changes with my awesome fortitude until last night. I woke up almost every hour in the middle of some kind of panic. And realized I needed a lot more than my fortitude. And what fortitude I do have is certainly not awesome. I need more Jesus. I prayed myself to sleep and woke up to do some thinking.

God is  is opening new horizons as I do my best to follow his voice. But there’s always a crushing sadness to keep at bay. The sadness that Mom is not here to celebrate scholarships, advise on relationships, speak prophetically into my life, and go get a latte and a pedicure. But God’s word comes alive in this moment.

He is a father to the fatherless, a defender of  the widow. Psalm 68:5

I know God means he can give me the love of my mother too. Sometimes God’s word becomes real when we need it most. In the happy moments we still might need it the most. So hang on in the panic. God’s promises are real and he WILL do all that he has said. I’m seeing it more each day.

Tagged , , , , , , ,

Making 2012 the Best Year Yet: By doing pharmacology homework.


I had all these lofty bloggy ideas for New Year’s postings and they fell to the wayside in my upheaval of not moving. But now that I’ve cleared up my location, I can move on to being super inspirational about the coming year. And not doing my pharmacology work yet.

Having a birthday the day after the New Year begins is like having my own personal fresh start. My 2012 Resolutions are also my 29th year Resolutions. This year I took a good hard look at 2011 and 28 and decided I can do better. Not because I failed terribly last year, but because every year should be better. I can’t help thinking that I want 2012 to be my best year ever. And then I feel guilty because it’s the first year devoid of Mom. But really, what makes a year GOOD? I’m going to take a few shots in the dark and offer some ideas. And I think doing these things when you’re missing a key part of your life, can still result in the best year yet.

Erin’s Tactical Guide to Making 2012 The Best Year Yet
(Or Things I Will Tell Myself Every Day in 2012)

1. Do hard things: when it’s right, even when other people don’t, even when you don’t see why.
2. Don’t whine about them: Suck it up, keep calm, carry on.
3. Get your priorities straight: Big things first, little things last (I stole this one from a sermon).
4. If it didn’t work the first time, change tactics: the hole is round, the peg is square. Stop sitting there beating on it, it’ll just wear you out and make you feel silly.
5. Eat well, exercise well, sleep well: There is a reason it’s cliche. It works.

I’m pretty sure if I remember these things, do these things, and trust a big and good God, I’ll be improving on last year. Let’s try it. And also let’s do pharmacology homework.

Tagged , , , , , , ,

Twenty-Right.


I am two weeks away from being 29. I am taking stock of the year a little earlier than usual. I will go ahead and get the obvious out of the way – saddest year yet. But in the midst of it, I have been given grace, joy, comfort, and even straight up happy times.

28 is a great age. When you are single and you tell people you are 28, they will often say “Wow, what a great time of life. Enjoy it. You have PLENTY of time for marriage and family.” Which basically means they think you have two years. I’ve loved being 28.

At 28, I became a nurse and began the process of becoming a nurse practitioner. I got a killer scholarship and lots of help in finding a job when I graduate. I collected a small storage-unit full of non-particle board furniture and adulty things like throw rugs and dishes I actually want to keep.

I owned these for a year before noticing them on the wall of Claire's kitchen in Modern Family. My plates are famous.

At 28, I learned to run for a long time without throwing up, how to cook with a dutch oven, and how to throw a party with Goodwill items only. I learned how to save lives, how to not cry when I really want to, and how to be polite when I really don’t want to. I learned how to swim long distances in the ocean and that cars really do need regular oil changes. I also learned that my AT&T roadside assistance really works.

At 28, I was surprised by a proposal from a good friend with a good ring, tried to say yes and had to say no.  At 28 I realized that I’m a much nicer person when I eat and sleep on time, that I can’t stay awake for late-night movies, and that being afraid of things is a waste of time. I also started dating a man named Andy who should feature more in my blog once we actually live on the same island.

At 28, I spent the last terribly wonderful times with my mom and then said goodbye. I’m pretty confident that 29 will be better than 28 because so far every year has been better than the last. Harder. But better. Onward and upward! Bravely!

Tagged , , , , , , , , ,

For the birds.


The Christmas season has been going well. They say the first year of grief is the hardest because you go through each “first” with your new big empty space. I say whatever. Maybe it’s true. But that is about as helpful as the grief books I still haven’t read. Grief isn’t an emotion. I didn’t wake up yesterday feeling grieved. Grief is a giant magnifying glass for the normal feelings.

Yesterday I woke up mad. And since Mom isn’t here, I woke up furious. I swam for a mile in the ocean with my friend Carol and that slightly improved matters. But then I hit a too-slow pigeon with my 30 mph Cavalier. I realized when I burst into tears after parking that it probably wasn’t the pigeon death that started the tears. It was probably the fact that every day I decide to be happy about Christmas and that means I have to make a lot of little choices. Turn the radio station to a different channel when Amy Grant starts. Don’t hang that ornament. Buy a new tree topper. Don’t light that cinnamon candle, light the pine candle. Don’t make the spritz cookies, make the gingerbread men. Every day I decide what part of Christmas I can do and what part will turn me into a mascara mess. We pulled out just the right amount of decorations so that we weren’t a Bah Humbug house but not so much that every end-table told a story of a past Christmas. And it has been working. We are enjoying the season. But the wrenching sobs over a pigeon reminded me that it is a bit tenuous.

So, yesterday, I did the only thing to be done when the tear ducts go rebel, I went to the movies with sisters and girlfriends. We went to see New Years Eve featuring just about every star in Hollywood between the ages of 20 and 70. Let me tell you, they got their money’s worth out of me. Every sappy line, every broken heart, every reunited family got me. The sisters vote cheesy. I vote heartwarming. See it for yourself.

As Megan and I drove back up to the house, we spotted a Christmas-presenty looking thing by the door. We may be 24 and 28 but we might have gotten a little excited still. Turns out it was only a cracker box but it was tweeting. Dad had trimmed the palm tree and had trimmed two baby pigeons right out of their nest. Dad’s a tender guy so he left them on the ground for a few hours hoping the mother bird/cat would find them. But finally he made a box nest and gifted them to his daughters. I’ve done the baby bird thing before so I knew what I was in for. But this time I resented it a little less since I had just killed a member of the species a few hours earlier.

Each time I have fed the little helpless things, I’ve thought how completely dependent they are on a caregiver. They eat until their eyes close and they sleep little pigeony sleep. And I remember how fragile I am in God’s hands and how carefully he takes care of me. A bird-lover friend is coming to pick them up this afternoon so the analogy ends there. God’s got me for keeps…from my first Christmas to my last.


 

Tagged , , , , , , , , , ,

It Is Well


Have you ever gone through something terrible or adventurous or just straight up scary and you feel the compulsion to make sure everyone in ear shot of your life knows exactly what you just endured? Maybe it’s just me. Airplane turbulence, stomach flu, Medical-Surgical clinical rotations…harrowing experiences that I need you to fully appreciate!

I feel this way sometimes when I talk about Mom. I feel like saying that my mom died from cancer isn’t giving her enough credit for the craziness that she endured. I want people to know the heroic years she fought and the way she lived her life. I know this sounds noble of me but it’s not. I get all riled up on the inside. I feel a building sense of unfairness, injustice…bitterness. Towards the anonymous public who is alive, the anonymous daughters who have healthy mothers.

So, Sunday morning I woke up with one of those half-baked trains of thought that occur in between the bed and coffee. I thought about Jesus the way I thought of Mom. I thought: theologians talk about what his death accomplished and the good work that was done on the cross. What about how much it sucked for his human body to go through that torture? What about how awful it all was? Let’s give him some more credit for the pain. I felt that same building bitterness. Towards an anonymous group of theologians.

Good grief.

And then I went to church and we sang the best rendition of It is Well With My Soul that I have ever heard. It is fairly well known that this song was written by Horatio Spafford after losing his fortune in the Great Chicago Fire of 1871 and  losing his four daughters shortly after when their ship collided with another crossing the Atlantic. As we sang, I was struck by the fact that it is well with my mom’s soul. Cancer ravaged her body, yet, because of the cross that ravaged her Savior’s body, her soul remained well. And you better believe, on the cross, it was well with His soul. He desires our gratitude and our worship, not our pity and anger at how he was treated.

No matter what our harrowing experience is, our soul always remains well. Bitterness is a prolonged and angry sense of injustice. I can be sad but I cannot be bitter that Mom suffered and that I don’t have her anymore. Because her soul is well. And mine is too.

I hope you spend some time today reading or listening to these words. I pray that you remember through the scary adventure that you are on, that It Is Well With Your Soul.

When peace, like a river, attendeth my way,
When sorrows like sea billows roll;
Whatever my lot, Thou has taught me to say,
It is well, it is well, with my soul.

Though Satan should buffet, though trials should come,
Let this blest assurance control,
That Christ has regarded my helpless estate,
And hath shed His own blood for my soul.

It is well, with my soul,
It is well, with my soul,
It is well, it is well, with my soul.

My sin, oh, the bliss of this glorious thought!
My sin, not in part but the whole,
Is nailed to the cross, and I bear it no more,
Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, O my soul!

It is well, with my soul,
It is well, with my soul,
It is well, it is well, with my soul.

For me, be it Christ, be it Christ hence to live:
If Jordan above me shall roll,
No pang shall be mine, for in death as in life
Thou wilt whisper Thy peace to my soul.

It is well, with my soul,
It is well, with my soul,
It is well, it is well, with my soul.

But, Lord, ‘tis for Thee, for Thy coming we wait,
The sky, not the grave, is our goal;
Oh trump of the angel! Oh voice of the Lord!
Blessèd hope, blessèd rest of my soul!

It is well, with my soul,
It is well, with my soul,
It is well, it is well, with my soul.

And Lord, haste the day when my faith shall be sight,
The clouds be rolled back as a scroll;
The trump shall resound, and the Lord shall descend,
Even so, it is well with my soul.

Tagged , , , , , , ,