My tree is blooming and is covered in pink and white. I am not sure I have seen her so full. She must be loving all this rain.
I am reminded each year, as she blooms in the middle of winter, that when life is at its darkest the most growth can be done. Hope isn’t seeing a tree full of leaves and knowing it will bloom, but instead, seeing a tree of sticks and still believing it will bloom. To have hope in the darkest of days is the work of the brave.
Risk that the mystery of your being is trustworthy. ~ Gerald G. May
Only the man who has had to face despair is really convinced that he needs mercy. Those who do not want mercy never seek it. It is better to find God on the threshold of despair than to risk our lives in a complacency that has never felt the need of forgiveness. A life that is without problems may literally be more hopeless than one that always verges on despair. ~Thomas Merton
I was recently introduced to this very simple prayer. I have been praying it several times a day. It brings my heart hope and reminds me I don’t need to count on myself.
Lord have mercy.
Thee I adore.
Into Thy Hands.
And I leave you with Rabbi Kook. This little poem reminds us that our present circumstances are not tomorrow’s circumstances. Life is fluid and change does come.
Nothing remains the same,
everything is blooming,
everything is ascending,
everything keeps increasing in light and truth.
Like many around the world, my soul has been mourning the horrible shooting in Orlando. I am weeping for the families and friends that are grieving the unimaginable loss of their loved ones. I am saddened for my LGBTQ friends who seem to be in a neverending fight to simply be themselves. I am frustrated that in this day and age there are people who still don’t know or recognize the difference between a kind and loving typical Muslim and demented soul who distorts a giving and peaceful religion into a hateful one. And while I have seen a great outpouring of love from so many, I still hear whisperings and sometimes shoutings of hate and hostility and even a call for more violence.
And as we were all still mourning the loss of 49 precious souls, there was yet another tragedy in Orlando when an alligator drowned a helpless toddler. I can’t imagine how the parents must have felt. They must still wake in the middle of the night with dispare, while replaying the tragedy in their mind. And while we once again saw an outpouring of love, we also saw people judging and blaming the parents for their sweet boy’s death.
Why do people react with judgment and hate when tragedy strikes? Is it fear? Do they truly believe that if you live a “perfect” life that horrible things will not happen to you? Do they believe that they deserve the comfortable and worry free life they have? And even if they do believe these things, how is it that they can not have compassion for people when life is cruel, harsh and unfair?
It seems as though we are so busy trying to avoid the pain and injustice of life that when we see it happening to others we know a response is needed. I think this where a soul choice needs to be made.
When faced with this choice, there is a group of people who will blame, shame, and scorn. They will point out why others deserved their horrible fate. They remind the victims that they should have made other choices and that if they had, life would be kinder and easier. They turn their backs on the pain and remind themselves, falsely, that they are safe from all harm because they are doing everything rightly. They don’t step outside of themselves and want to learn and understand more about the world; they instead want to make their world smaller hoping that that will make it safer.
Or, there is a group that puts themselves fully in the shoes of the pained and try to understand and hold the injustice with them. They mourn when death happens because most have felt the sting of death, and know it isn’t something you easily let go. They don’t judge a tragic accident because they remember the many failures of their own life. They hold and help carry the burden of the broken hearted, knowing that brokenhearted is an emotion we will all feel once or twenty times in our lives. They bravely go into a hurting world knowing understanding and compassion won’t necessarily bring safety, but that it will bring wholeness.
I want to believe that most of us want to help carry the pain and injustice so that others do not need to hold the full burden of life alone. We want to reach outside ourselves. However, to live being fully in the world, holding the injustice, and hoping in hopeless situations takes bravery, and a great letting go of the belief of how things should be. It is brave to love what you do not know or understand. It is brave to put aside our own fears and hold the pain of those who lived through fear and tragedy. It is brave to let go of the idea that life will be gracious and kind if you live it just right.
Richard Rohr wrote, “There are two things that draw us outside of ourselves: pain on other people’s face and the unbelievable beauty that is other human beings at their best.” We notice the world when it causes pain and when it shows us brave, bold love. What are we going to do with that knowledge? Are we going to point fingers, yell and ask the world to do it our way, and believe the injustices of this world are really some type of righteous justice? Or, are we going to let go of all of our fear and go boldly into the world, knowing it can be hard and unreliable, but help each other with compassion and graciousness regardless?
I pray I can let go of all fear, let go of all misunderstanding, let go of all self-righteousness and bravely, without question, love this broken, unjust world. As I see it, it is our only hope.
I am writing on the topic of letting go with some brave women. To read more on the topic, start with Cissy’s blog and then click on through the blog roll.
This is one of my favorite times of the year. Spring has sprung. The sun starts warming up the earth and my heart. Dinner can be served on the patio. The BBQ gets fired up more often. A cold beer means something. Easter, one of my favorite holidays, is celebrated in my home.
There have been many things said about Good Friday. Sermons have been told on the suffering of Christ and how that compares to the sufferings here in life. Books have been written about the dark night of the soul; the moments that just seem too much for one to handle. We have all lived these seasons. Each one of us has suffered. Some have had to bury children. Some have had a spouse leave or are forced to leave an abusive spouse. Children have made life changing choices that we have had to watch with great sadness. Cancer has taken a friend. Families have been estranged from each other for years. Friendships have been broken permanently.
And for every story told about Friday, there are twice as many stories on the hope of Easter Sunday. That day that everything seems new. The days that are filled with great hope. There are moments in life that feel like Resurrection Day itself. The birth of a baby. That moment you say, “I do”. Kisses from your dirty faced toddler. Celebrations with friends. Families finding healing and forgiveness. When cancer can no longer be found.
But what if you aren’t in a season of great suffering and still life doesn’t feel all that hopeful? What if darkness just seems to surround you while life still moves on? What if you are in a season of Holy Saturday?
To be honest, Saturday is the day that brings me the most questions. Jesus has died and is buried. What were the disciples thinking? After all, these men had quit their jobs, left home and followed a man who was now dead. Did they just sit at home wondering if it was all worth it? Did they look back at all their choices and question everything? Or, did they know somewhere, deep in their soul, that everything was going just as planned and still allowed this great cloud of questions and fear loom over them?
Part of me hopes so. Part of me hopes I am just stuck on Saturday. You see, there is nothing really wrong with my life. I have amazing parents that love me and care for me. I have a husband that treats me with such gentleness, kindness, and love that I sometimes wonder if I deserve it. I have amazing children that are kind, loving and live life with great joy. I have amazing girlfriends that would blow your mind. People wish for one great friend… I have several. I have a beautiful home. I put good food on the table each week for my family and never wonder if we will be hungry.
But still, my heart aches. My mind wonders and I ask questions. Have I made the right choices? Have I given enough to my children? Are my big mistakes in life so big that I will never feel freedom from them? Is the pain that my husband caused something that my heart will ever fully recover from? Can I move on from the sufferings of all my painful Fridays and get to the hope of Sunday morning?
The only way I can move from the darkness and questions of Saturday is to be brave enough to move on to the hope of Sunday. I can’t go back and change my life. I can only go forward to the life awaiting me. And what is waiting for me?
Tears wiped away.
My mourning turned to dancing.
So I will find the courage to live each day, because my Sunday? Well, it is coming.
I am writing today with an amazing group of women. For more on hope, please click on through to Cissy’s blog post.
**This a repost and rewrite of an old blog post of mine from 2012.
I grew up in a large Italian family. That equals loud and boisterous and a little crazy. I loved it. You didn’t have a crazy uncle or a crazy aunt because we are all crazy. Everyone was a little burdensome, but with good pasta and good wine, it was easy to carry. We gathered and celebrated every holiday. We knew Uncle Hank was a jerk, but we ignored that piece of him because he was family.
This is community.
As I started to raise my own children, they didn’t have the same family life I did while growing up. They were too old for their cousins on one side of the family and too young on the other side. There was a broken part of my heart and I didn’t know what to do.
Around the same time, I joined a life group. At our church, a life group is simply a group you do life with. We raised children together. We had traditions we celebrated together. We had beautiful holy moments that only a few know of. We became the crazy family all our hearts were missing.
Then, our kids grew up. They began to have opinions. They didn’t always like all the kids in the group. I didn’t always like all the people in the group. And this truth broke my heart.
This is when it hit me- our life group had become our family. Family doesn’t always like each other. That is not the deal. Family has an unwritten rule that you love each other even when you do not like them. Please hear- I am not talking about abuse, whether that the emotional, physical, or spiritual. I am talking normal, everyday burdensome people. The average crazy. They are all around us. They say the wrong thing. They have a weird political agenda. They make you want to drink all the wine and most of the whiskey.
This is community.
Then my husband leaves me. My life gets messy. I get messy. Too messy for many. I was almost all alone. All I had was the one thing my soul holds to be true- Emmanuel. I was suddenly without community, but I wasn’t all alone. For me, during the messiest of times, my community was just us two- me and my God.
With His help, I decided to be brave and live my life only caring what He and I thought. I took back my husband. We began to rebuild our family. Living life not caring what others thought of me brought great freedom, but it also had some repercussions. I lost some friends. I lost some family. However, I gained something I did not know existed. After the dust settled, I looked around and saw that in my brave act, I surrounded myself with people that believed the impossible was possible. We no longer believed things were hopeless. We no longer believed people were hopeless. Suddenly, my community wasn’t just family or just friends… it was the people that loved me and my family with a graceful passion and that was unchanging. We loved each other because it was the only thing our hearts would allow. We were to become the community of second, third, and all the chances.
This is community.
Because we have fought for it and because we were brave, we now have a community that sees the truth. Because our truth is rooted in love, we are willing to look beyond the brokenness and the uncomfortable and seek understanding. We want to cheer each other on and we want people that are willing to cheer us on. We know there is a powerful love that connects us, and we don’t want to let it go.
This is my community.
Do you have one? It isn’t always family. It isn’t always because of a belief system. It isn’t always people that love what you love. It is simply, and most complicatedly, people that are willing to look beyond all of your bullshit, and in turn, you look beyond theirs. And right there, between the bullshit and the divine, you find you love each other for just what you are.
Be brave. Get one. It will be the worst and the best, the scariest and bravest, the messiest and most fun, the most painful and the most loving thing you will ever do.
I am doing this project with some inspiring women. Please start with Sarah’s blog and then click on through. We hope you are encouraged.
A dear friend shared this beautiful poem by Jan Richardson. I feel like I am surrounded by friends that are traveling in the dark. It is a season of life none of us escape. May it bless you as it blessed me.
A Blessing for Traveling in the Dark
if you can.
More slowly still.
this is no place
to break your neck
by crashing into
what you cannot see.
it is true:
have different tasks
and if you
have arrived here unawares,
if you have come
this might be no place
you should dawdle.
I do not know
what these shadows
ask of you,
what they might hold
that means you good
It is not for me
whether you should linger
or you should leave.
But this is what
I can ask for you:
That in the darkness
there be a blessing.
That in the shadows
there be a welcome.
That in the night
you be encompassed
by the Love that knows