I thought about my dad a lot this weekend.
My boyfriend and I spent the weekend up north at his family’s cabin in Alpena. It was so beautiful and peaceful. I felt very blessed for such a relaxing opportunity.
My dad always loved the woods and camping. He had always hoped to retire up north in a secluded cabin in the woods.
I went camping with him a lot as a child. Sometimes I would even request to have my dad set up the tent in my grandparents’ backyard so we could go “camping”. I would bring all my Barbies with me and make sure they were comfortable. 😊 And snacks. I always brought snacks.
My dad also had a strong love for astronomy. He had so many astronomy books. I thought it was the coolest thing ever to bring some to school with me when I was in 5th grade to show my class. I think this is what sparked my own interest at such a young age.
Because of my dad's love for astronomy, he always had some sort of neat telescope in his possession. The first time I ever really looked into one was on his balcony at his apartment in Grand Blanc when I was 9 or 10. I saw the moon and all its little craters. I had never seen the moon so close in person.
My dad later got a much bigger telescope with a lens that was about 10 inches in diameter. I always wanted to use it. But for some reason we never really set it up to use it together. Maybe once. That is one thing I wish we had done together before he passed away. We talked about it a lot. And then life keeps happening and things get pushed aside.
The other morning as I was scrolling through Facebook from my bed in Alpena, I saw an article about how the Northern Lights would be visible in Norther Michigan Sunday evening around 11pm. Jared just this weekend set up his own new telescope which we had used at the cabin. I did some research on nearby parks that would be good for stargazing, so around 11:30pm Sunday night we drove out to Rockport State Park. We had hoped to catch a glimpse of the Northern Lights.
As soon as I got out of the car I noticed a hazy trail that stretched across the entire sky from east to west. I thought it was clouds, but Jared informed me that it was the Milky Way. I had never seen the Milky Way so clear before. I couldn't stop staring at it.
Jared set up his telescope on the dusty and rocky land along the coast of Lake Huron as I laid out a blanket. Jared also brought his nice camera to take some photos.
Once the telescope was set up, I looked at the "fog" and saw the millions and millions of tiny little stars that make up the Milky Way. I was in awe.
We looked at more stars across the sky. Usually the brightest ones that twinkled and danced in the lens of our telescope. I remember seeing Saturn with my dad through a telescope at his house in Sterling Heights when I was young and how cool it was. I picked out from the sky what I thought could be a planet and ended up finding Saturn. There's nothing like seeing its rings for the first time in over a decade...I was so excited!
We took a break from the telescope and lied down on the blanket together to admire all that was around us, snuggling to keep warm from the cool summer air.
We saw so many shooting stars that night. So many that I stopped keeping track. The skies were totally clear in every direction. The moon had not yet risen, so there was no glare from that either. Although we stuck around to watch the moon rise around 2:00am. We saw that through the telescope too. Even though it was still behind some trees. 😊
I thought about my dad a lot Sunday night. How he would’ve loved being there with me to see what I was seeing. At the same time though, I felt grateful for this new life God has given me. That He has given me the opportunity to experience all that I have been able to with Jared. And the incredible healing that it has brought into my life.
We didn't end up seeing the Northern Lights that night. We left the park around 2:00am. Apparently they didn't start until 2:30.
Even though we didn't see what we had initially set out to, I ended up experiencing more healing than I set out to. Enjoying the things my dad enjoyed and enjoying them to the fullest. Carrying on his love of the universe and everything that exists outside of our own planet.
That night brought me hope and the reminder that there is more. There is always more. We just need to be deliberate in making time to look for and experience it.
Trauma. It's one of the main things that has led me to Christ over and over and over again in my life. Through the trauma, Christ was the only constant...the only thing that made sense. And the one thing that gave me hope that there were better days ahead. That Christ was with me and near, and close to the brokenhearted...close to the suffering and sick. Close to those who needed healing during and after the death of a loved one. Close to those who were going through a divorce and the children experiencing it. Close to those going through tough breakups and assuring them that their worth was not found in men but in Christ. That though we might be feeling rejected, we are extremely LOVED. Close to those trying to find that one job, through the rejections and hurt along the way.
But what happens when you are no longer experiencing trauma? What happens when all the hurt you've ever known has suddenly subsided and lessened, and you no longer feel like you're drowning and in desperate need of a Savior?
This leads me to where I am now...learning how to cling to Christ when I am beyond the storms. Beyond the trauma and the immediate pain. Beyond the divorces, break-ups, job rejections, cancer diagnoses, and traumatic death. I know I am not freed from these things for good, but at least and hopefully for a little while.
Since the 6 month mark of my dad's passing, I began to allow myself to really rest in the peace that God has brought me. For the first time in my life. But it wasn't until the peace finally came that I realized how my whole life I have never been given the opportunity to find Christ beyond the storm. Christ is in the storms with us, but where do we find Him when things are actually...good?
Since as far back as I can remember I have experienced some sort of repeated trauma, beginning from my earliest memories of having to go back and forth from my mom's to my dad's...the sadness of leaving and missing my mom when I was with my dad and the sadness of leaving and missing my dad when I was with my mom.
I found Christ at an early age. I don't remember exactly when, but if I had to guess I would say 7. I would pray every night when I went to bed. It just felt like the right thing to do.
That same God continued to come through in rough patches with my dad in early high school, the divorce between my mom and stepdad in early college, my first break up after a nearly 5 year relationship when I was 21...the list goes on and on.
When my dad got sick with cancer, I had the peace that God prepared me my whole life for that time. Almost 5 years of therapy on and off, being on anxiety medication for an insomnia battle the spring prior, and finally getting a steady job with benefits.
God came through as my dad was passing away in the hospital, giving me strength to get through and then coordinate all the arrangements. I didn't even get a chance to begin really grieving that week because I was so busy.
Then God came through in bringing me my dream job, my boyfriend, a home, and a sweet puppy to help me move forward in love, peace, and stability.
And now I sit. I sit with God not because I need to through the suffering, but because I want to, and it's the right thing to do. The traumas in my life have always launched me towards Christ full speed. But now things have slowed down, and I have slowed down. There is so much stillness right now. So much silence. And that may not necessarily be a bad thing. I am waiting to see what God is calling me to through this very specific and new time in my life.
God is there through the storms, but He is in the calm too.
He might sound like quiet mornings and a soft breeze. And feel like the hot sun on your back. Other times He might sound like laughter or feel like a hug from a friend or like soft grass beneath your feet.
Maybe we need only to be still. And in that stillness rest in the thought that He is God. The stillness might very well be the biggest blessing yet.
Maybe we don't need to find Him in the calm after all...maybe He IS the calm after the storm.
I haven't written in a while. I've mostly been taking time for myself and honestly just enjoying this season of peace I am in. This season of calm...for the first time in my life, and I don't want it to end. I'm used to always waiting for the next thing or being stuck in some kind of storm. In a lot of ways, I had grown used to my life being "out of control" for one reason or another. I am actually and truly enjoying the present. Not just surviving it. And for that, I am so thankful.
I was hit with a lot of grief a couple months ago around the 6 month mark of my dad's passing. It began to really sink in that he's gone. And not coming back. In my head, he was just at a very long extended shift at the hospital. But as my 27th birthday approached, it hit me.
My dad always loved celebrating my birthday. He would take June 1st off every year, even if I had other plans. He even would usually start asking me a month or 2 prior what I wanted for my birthday. He loved giving gifts.
I spent a lot of time grieving leading up to my birthday. In fact, I dreaded it. And the people close to me knew how much I was dreading it. I couldn't fathom a birthday without my dad's goofy birthday texts or calling/texting me at 10:08pm--my birth minute.
But as my birthday approached (as in the week of) I suddenly didn't dread it so much. I decided I was going to spend the day with some special people in my life. My dad would want me to be happy.
My birthday came. I woke up beside the man who loves me and went off to work.
My school had also planned a field trip for that afternoon. I can't tell you the immense joy it brought me to spend my day with my coworkers and students, and seeing my students so happy. They each have a special place in my heart.
When we got back to the school, one of my coworkers had surprised me with a birthday cake. So I got to celebrate with my kids and work family. I was so happy.
I went out to dinner that evening with my boyfriend, best friend, and sister (who is also my best friend). I guess my boyfriend is my best friend too, so I got to spend the day with all of my best friends haha.
After we went back to Jared's for presents and a cake that he baked me from scratch complete with a broccoli on it (I LOVE broccoli).
Then 10:08pm came. I cried many tears thinking about that minute coming and going without hearing from my dad. Well, I got so distracted watching a giant spider on Jared's front porch catching mosquitoes that before I knew it my birth minute had passed.
My therapy for that day? Living each moment. And not living in fear for what it might be like without my dad. But rather enjoying it for what it was, with some people who love me most.
Aside from getting through my birthday, things in my life really are calm, and over all, I am happy.
There are only 6 days of school left in the school year. I can't believe I am nearing the last week of my first year of my dream job.
I also started a pretty strict workout regimen again, and I am loving my results so far! It's called BBG (Bikini Body Guides by Kayla Itsines, later renamed "Sweat with Kayla"). I am currently nearing the end of week 7. The workouts consist of alternating every other day circuits and cardio. The circuits are high intensity and utilize weights and mostly anything you can find at home!
I love being able to put more focus on my health now that things are calm and stable.
My boyfriend and I have also spent many hours working on his yard. It's always fun to see the progress... :)
I spent a while talking to my dad in the car today...telling him about how I hope that he is so happy wherever he is. I told him how it broke my heart that he was always in pain. And expressed my sorrow that he never got to meet Jared. But I am moving forward with my life, and I know he would be so happy and proud. He was always proud of me no matter what I was going through.
It's interesting being able to have the courage to verbalize things to him now that I could only ever put in writing.
Be blessed everyone. <3
This is why He came...and this is why He died...to lift up the dead, to heal the sick, and to sustain the brokenness of those who grieve. The brokenness of those who were at the foot of the cross then. And those who find themselves at the foot of the cross today. The God who was present when Jesus died and tore the curtain at the temple is the same God who is present now in our sufferings.
I just got home from a funeral. I'm sitting in one of my favorite spots, the "plant room" at my boyfriend's house, listening to the hard rain and thunderstorm. Looking at the little seed tray I started of herbs and veggies, watching the rain fall out the window behind them. Thinking about how God created the tiny seeds I planted. And yes, created the rain to help the new life grow.
I also celebrated my first Easter without my dad. My dad and I never really spent many Easters together. He was usually working at the hospital, and I was very much into the routine of spending the day going to church and then my grandparents' house.
But nonetheless, it was my first Easter without him on earth with me.
I spent the week leading up to Easter extremely busy and preoccupied by work. I meant to write and share a blog post on Good Friday, but the day passed without me even looking up from my computer for 6 hours. And at that point, I needed a break.
But Easter...the holiday that completes Christmas. Completing Jesus' life and creating wholeness where man fell short. Filling the gap between us and God with salvation...a redemption and love like no other.
I remember the season of Lent 2 years ago really moving me, as it had followed the death of my brother's high school best friend. A life cut short too soon. A life that spent much time with my family in the years prior.
"I really do have a new perspective on how short life can be, the reason why we are here and what we should strive to reach for, how to treat people, how to live, how to love... To love at all takes risk. And even though through loving you can experience great pain, you can also experience great joy.
I guess I want to get to know more people, connect with more people, and love more people in this short time I am here on this earth. A human lifespan is a quick blink of an eye in measure with eternity. It can also be taken away in an instant.
I don't know what God's plans for me are, but I know how I want to live. I am not even entirely sure where I want to be, let alone how to get there. But if I can strive for love and connection and vulnerability, I will have no regrets about that. I shouldn't, anyway..."
God...God is so merciful and so good.
My pastor, Kenneth, really brought it home on Sunday. I even teared up at church thinking about my dad. Thinking about how Easter is the day we celebrate the greatest love story that ever existed. The day we celebrate the life that was raised up to bring us healing and closer to the One who created all things.
Closer to the one who didn't create death, but defeated it. And in defeating it, bringing us the hope that this life is not the end.
Because of Jesus, and because of Easter, I know my dad is safe in the arms of the One who created him and loves Him more than any of us here on earth could comprehend. His final moments here do not mean the end of his soul. We grieve and mourn, but not as those without hope.
Because of Jesus, I can look at this photo from my dad's visitation with hope that the Glory of God was at work and continues to be through all of mankind...connecting all of us to a greater love story.
Although the grief still consumes me from time to time, I try to remember that my dad is in the presence of God now and for eternity. That even though his life ending was one of the worst things I have experienced and probably will, his soul has never felt more freedom or love. He is where we all long and hope to be someday...if we believe that there is more. And I know that there is. There is always more. I can feel it all day everyday. That Hope and Promise bringing me more appreciation and gratitude for the life God has given me since my dad's passing...more than I could comprehend.
The Lord gives and He takes away. He brought my dad home much sooner in life than I could have anticipated. But through it God continues to fill any spaces in my own heart with His goodness and provision for my life. It continues to be beyond what I can understand. I feel so undeserving. Yet so humbled, cared for and protected.
I always try to remember that if God didn't love life, then He wouldn't have created it. And if He is able to sprout a tiny seed in just a week from soil, sunlight, and water, then imagine what He is capable of doing to our own hearts and lives.
There has been a lot on my heart lately... April being Autism Awareness Month, Easter approaching, and of course my dad. And the many dreams I keep having about him. Almost every night.
The thing that has been on my heart even stronger lately, and why I feel led to write this week, is the one thing that has been ever constant and powerful over my life: God. His Grace. His Timing. It's more than my heart can process or understand. I wish I could write God a thank you letter for all He has done in my life. All He did in my life prior to my dad's passing...and the amazing love He brought into my life immediately following.
Growing up, it was apparent that I had a passion for teaching. I was always creating some sort of classroom and worksheets at home...my brother and sister being my students. Marissa being the easy student, and Colin being the...challenging student.
I also had a passion for the medical field...my favorite thing to do when I got home from high school was make a bowl of popcorn and turn on the Discovery Health Channel (I know my mom remembers this well).
When I graduated high school, I immediately began my college education studying nursing.
It didn't take long for me to realize that it wasn't for me. To be honest, I didn't know what I wanted to do. It was stressful. But even then I believed that I was supposed to trust in God's timing.
During the summer of 2009, I had my experience teaching ESL to Muslim women in Hamtramck. Soon after I changed my college major to elementary education with a major in math and a minor in language arts. This is where I felt God leading me, although I wasn't totally sold on it.
Then the big day came for me to graduate from college in May of 2013. My parents were so happy. And I was ready to begin looking for a job as a middle school math teacher.
The teaching market was tough though, and I began to feel discouraged. I questioned if I had made the right career move.
Fast forward a month into a new school year, and I began subbing in the Rochester school district. My friend was/is a teacher at an elementary school there, so when a sub job popped up at Hamlin, I took it.
Because of the subbing experience, I found myself falling totally in love with working with children with autism. It surprised me how much I loved it actually. It was a natural fit.
I never had any intention of beginning grad school as soon as I did, but I listened to my heart and this new passion and ran with it. I applied to a master's program and began taking graduate courses the summer of 2014.
Even though I knew what I wanted to do with my life, career-wise, I still hit some road bumps along the way. I was rejected a lot (both in the work field and by men). But deep down inside, I held tight to the dream and vision of being able to teach in Rochester as a teacher of students with autism. It was also during this time that my dad and I began to make peace, so he began to reach out to me more.
At the time I had this conversation with my dad in May of 2015, something inside me told me that I needed to save it. It was so special to feel my dad wanting to connect with me and encourage me along the way.
Before I knew it a year and a half went by...
September 13th, 2016: The day my dad found out his cancer was growing again.
September 17th, 2016: The night I had my first date with Jared (after not seeing him in almost 5 years).
September 18th, 2016: The day I got a call from the Director of Special Education for Rochester Schools saying they had a potential job opening for an elementary ASD teacher. They asked if I would come in for an interview the following day.
I had my interview in Rochester on September 19th. Had my follow up interview on September 26th. Signed my contract with them on September 27th. And started teaching in my very own classroom for students with autism on September 30th.
My dad lived long enough to see me get my dream job. He left this world just 5 short weeks later.
He always wanted the best for me. Through all the pain, of this I am sure. He always wanted me to be happy and successful. He wanted for me and believed I would get my dream job someday and find happiness with a man who could take care of and love me.
Although my dad never got to meet Jared, he did hear about him. When my dad was in the hospital for his biopsy on November 4th, the Friday before he passed away, I told him about how I had a date the next night with a good man that I really got along with well.
I think my dad's prayers for my life were all answered in just the right time so he could go in peace knowing that I was taken care of, loved, and would be loved.
Good things take time.
I started seeing my therapist again...about every 3 weeks. It makes me feel better knowing I have someone to check in with as I walk through the different stages of grief.
I have dealt with a mixture of emotions lately...including anger, disappointment, and frustration. Not just with my dad, but with other people in my life. Not understanding why things had to be the way they were. Not understanding why it didn't always feel like my dad could protect me. Feeling abandoned by the fact that he is gone now...forever.
I don't like feeling those emotions though. Especially when everything is done and over with. Maybe that's why some emotions are beginning to surface. Because he's gone. I can't just text or call him to get answers. I can't ask him why he did or didn't do certain things.
In fact, one day I spent 2 hours in tears feeling totally confused and forgotten by him. And it hurt. Especially since I spent so much time the week he passed away trying to really be there for him and plan everything for his visitation and funeral so that it was perfect. Perfect for him and perfect for everyone to remember my dad by.
So I let myself feel the anger and pain. It hurt to let myself go there in my heart. It felt wrong. But I trusted that it was another level of grief. And it was okay.
After crying for about any hour at my boyfriend's, I thought to get up out of bed and do some dishes.
When Jared got home, I was at the sink trying to hold back tears until I couldn't anymore. He pulled me away and just held me. I told him some things made me wonder if my dad ever loved me. Jared just kissed me and reminded me of how much he loves me. I let myself cry it out. But kept in mind how truly blessed I am. My dad may not have provided for me in all the ways that I had hoped. But God did. God provided a thousand times over. More than.
Remembering this helped my heart to soften--softening the pain I had been experiencing. I let myself feel the anger and disappointment. And thus learned to go to new levels of forgiveness with with my dad in my heart.
As I started to forgive my dad at an even deeper level than before, I began remembering the moments when he did come through.
I remember being in middle school (6th or 7th grade), and I was set on becoming an architect or interior designer. I bought a bunch of magazines with home plans in them and began doing my own home designs and layouts.
One day, my dad decided to take me out to buy my very own drafting board and stencils to trace in doors, appliances, and furniture. I also needed a specific kind of manila paper for my drafting class. We searched high and low until we found just the right paper. In that moment, my dad wanted to make sure I was taken care of and provided for.
I also remember back to about 4/5 years ago being a struggling college student trying to make her way through student teaching. Any teacher can relate to that time of paying for 12 credit hours to teach full time. Through student teaching, I faithfully worked every Saturday at Beaumont. But it wasn't enough to get by at the time. I shared my financial struggles with my dad. And though he was going through his own, he still offered to help me out with gas. So ever so often when I would see him at work, he would give me whatever money he could to make sure I had a full tank of gas when I needed it.
Remembering this honestly brings tears to my eyes.
Even though he couldn't always emotionally provide for me in the ways that I needed, I know he did his best. And through the grief, that brings me comfort.
So don't be afraid to experience all the different stages of grief. It just might help you to reach new levels of forgiveness and healing. And that will make it all worth it.
As an aside, today I had the courage to revisit Troy Beaumont again for the first time since the night my dad passed away. I was there visiting a relative who happened to be in the same unit my dad passed away in, who was also recently diagnosed with stage 4 cancer.
But I did it. I had the courage to visit her. And the courage to walk by dad's hospital room.
Although it was hard being there today and not being able to visit him at work, I am continuing to trust that God's grace and love are sufficient. And maybe my dad was even there with me today.
The seasons this year have been reflective of my mood. But time and time again, I have always held to the hope that spring always comes. Even if it comes later than we are hoping...it always comes. And because spring is sure to come every year, we can trust that it will come again. Always.
I have found in my life that the darkest winters tend to produce the most beautiful and vibrant of springs. It could be the anticipation of brighter days. Or it could be that all the tilling of the soil is making way for something beautiful to grow. But through the storms, we are made stronger...if we allow it. We may be weathered, but we are not broken.
Romans 5:3 says, "Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us."
My pastor shared and talked about this verse at church yesterday. It is one that has always spoken to me.
Kenneth shared that he could understand how suffering produces perseverance and how perseverance produces character. But how can character produce hope? Now that really got me thinking. About myself and my own life. How has character produced hope in my life?
And of course, the answer points straight to the cross: Christ. When we draw near to Christ in our sufferings and allow our sufferings to strengthen us, we naturally grow closer to Him. And in clinging to Christ, we cling to Hope itself. Christ is Hope. And Christ has the ability to strengthen the character of a person and ignite a new kind of hope and passion. The strengthening in character strengthens the confidence in hope. A character built on Christ, and a hope centered in Christ.
A hope that spring always comes.
Christ always comes.
The past few weeks have been hard.
I had to let go of the one thing I had of my dad that I could keep with me.
And this is what I was left with:
The one thing that has remained unchanging all my life. From the beginning of my life until now. From the beginning of time to the end of time.
Time has only strengthened my faith as it continues to prove itself to be a constant. It is always there...Christ is always there. Always faithful. Always steady. Always sure. Never changing. Always ready to bring life and healing and wholeness. The creator of winters and the creator of springs. Maybe Christ even allows the storms and winters into our lives so that He can use those seasons to draw us closer to Him as we wait for spring.
Spring always comes. And for some of us, it is already here.
And the storms of this life will pass, and all will be well. Our troubles here are momentary. Which make the moments of joy momentary too. That is why we should live each and every moment to its fullest...through good times and bad. In sickness, and in health.
When I was growing up, I always had this idea for myself. That I would go to college. Date a little bit. Find my soulmate at a fairly young age. Be married by 25. And then start having a family before 30.
And then life happens. Trauma happens. And things don't always go the way you plan. At first you're upset and discouraged. But eventually, in time, you learn that it's okay. You accept what is, trusting the hope that God truly is working things out for your good.
Going through trauma, but then coming out stronger and using it to grow you, I believe, also gives you a stronger capacity for love.
I have known love in my life. Through family and friends, yes. But also through relationships. Each relationship I felt like I was able to give more than the last. The years shaping me and my heart... changing my perspective and appreciation for the good things.
I'm 26 now, which is still relatively young. I remember turning 25 and feeling like I had grown significantly. I got through another heartache. I learned to let go of my timeline. I felt stronger than ever. I somehow knew I was on the edge of a turning point in my life. I just couldn't pinpoint what.
Then I went through my 26th year. Some days I felt like I was crawling. But I also felt in my heart that surrendering daily the things I couldn't control were helping me grow to a new level of confidence, self love, and living in the present.
My 26th and 27th years are the ones that have sharpened me the most in this life so far. I was put through the ringer last year watching my dad succumb to cancer. Month by month. Day by day. I have been pushed to my limits emotionally and spiritually, but have come out stronger for it.
I remember questioning a lot in my life though. Especially about why things didn't work out with the men I dated in the past. I wondered what was wrong with me. I questioned my worth. We all struggle with thoughts like that when relationships don't work out.
Then it began to all make sense to me. I couldn't let real love into my heart without first making peace with my dad. And as I was making that peace with him and within my heart his last few days on earth in early November...loving and letting go...Jared stood by me.
And for the first time in my life I was free to love. Really love. In the deepest, purest, yet simplest of ways. I was stronger than I had ever been with an even greater capacity for love. Without the weight of tension I felt with my dad. I don't even mean tension within mine and my dad's relationship (though most of my life that was the case), but the tension of knowing that he was always in pain. The pain I carried knowing he was in pain. Always suffering. All the time. And that there was nothing I could do about it. But in his death, his pain finally left him. Every ounce of it. Forever. His soul was set free from the burdens of this life, which in turn, freed my soul from constant worry for him.
I believe with my whole heart that God saved Jared for this very specific time in my life. A time when I could give the most of myself, freely and genuinely. No burdens or barriers.
What I thought was me being let down in the past by failed relationships was really God's way of making His perfect plan known, without me knowing what that plan would even entail. God, in all His Grace and Mercy, saved a good man for the very time in my life (that only He could know) when my heart would finally be healed, after 26 years of heartache and loss.
For the first time in my life, I can move forward in love, with peace. Knowing how important it is to be present. Appreciating all the blessings along the way.
Thankful to serve a God who replenishes what was lost a thousand times over.
I've posted about this before, and everyone knows that it is true; grief comes in waves. Lately, I have been in that stage of transitioning back to normal. Or rather, finding a new normal.
Even though my dad and I didn't see each other as often as I would have liked, there was still that peace of knowing he was there, and that there was still time for more. I find myself grieving more of what wasn't than what was. I miss him so much.
I have been getting by okay...as best as I can, and I feel confident of that.
I recently saw my therapist, and she gave me a piece of paper with strategies on how to deal with grief. I was pleased to find that I have been doing everything that was listed.
Then as I was going through my own Instagram account last night, I was looking at photos I have posted recently - everything symbolic of my healing process. From there, I started thinking about how I have been dealing with my grief, and thought I would pass along the information to all of you. :) God has been so good and strong in my life.
Spend quality time with people who love and inspire you.
It has been so healing to be around people who love and inspire me. People who I can be myself around and share my faith, grief, and heart with. People who accept me and also challenge me in a good way. It just makes me come alive and want to strive for more.
I have been enjoying spending time with my good friends Jon and Charlotte, and their daughter Liza. Every week I sit with them at church, and we worship the Lord together. They are preparing to embark on a trip to the Middle East come summer, and their faith and passion inspire me so much. Time with them always feels good for my soul.
My mentor, Leslie, has also been a huge blessing during this time. She has been a big part of my life for almost 6 years now. She has seen me through so much. Many dark times, but also many moments of joy and triumph. She has been constant in prayer for my life, guiding me when I need it most. She lives on a farm in Ortonville and is currently caring for her 2 foster daughters, who are 9 months old and 2 and a half. So much love from and for them.
Then there is my boyfriend, Jared. Every day I am so inspired by his work ethic and passion for life. He gets things done and always finds joy in the process. He makes me feel included and loved. The beautiful thing is that he seems to love me without making it feel or seem like "work" for him. He just does it. Always taking care of me in big ways and small...even when we were both sick this weekend (thanks for the Pedialyte, babe!).
I also find myself calling my mom way more often than before (which was still often). But it has been important for my healing to stay connected to her. She is always there to answer any call, even when I don't even have anything to say.
I could go on and on about all the love from family and friends, but I will stop there for now. :)
Take care of your body and get that workout in!
When you are grieving, it can seem almost impossible to want to make the effort to take care of yourself. For me though, it has been quite the opposite.
I started to find a passion for living a more active and healthy lifestyle around the summer of 2014 through boxing and yoga. Then last winter (almost a year ago to be exact) I found a workout program (BBG/Sweat with Kayla circuit training + cardio) that worked for my schedule and also challenged me mentally and physically (I will most likely write a post about this at a later date).
But oh man! Whether it is just 15 minutes or an hour, it has been so good to get that blood flowing and my muscles moving. It's amazing to me that I can simultaneously release stress and toxins while also getting physically stronger in the process. Whaaat?!
Seriously, even if you feel short on time, get that workout in! You will feel so much better when you do and won't regret it.
I also received my yoga instructor certification last year - my goal is to begin to hosting classes soon, so stay tuned!
Find healthy ways to process your grief.
For me, seeing my therapist when I need to and also starting this blog have been HUGE!
Whether it is blogging, journaling, or sharing your journey with someone you look up to, it is so important to share your pain...whatever that may look like. Otherwise it can just sit and fester. It will eventually come out one way or another.
You also don't want to be in denial of your grief and just not deal with it at all. Because guess what? IT IS STILL THERE. Let it in. Feel it. Let it out. Repeat.
I know it can sometimes be scary to reach out to somebody, let alone a therapist, but it will do wonders for your soul and healing process. If you need encouragement in that area, don't hesitate to reach out to me!
Get plugged in to your faith.
I have always, in some way, felt the Holy Spirit on my heart. The peace in the storm. The light in the darkness.
After going to a megachurch and a community church, I finally found rest in a little charismatic episcopal church called Holy Redeemer. I didn't know what an asset this church would be to my spiritual growth and healing process when I first began attending last year. I never could have foreseen that my dad's funeral service would be held there, leaving standing room only.
But to know I am not alone in my struggles and that there is a greater purpose to life, even and especially in human suffering, has brought me a peace that I can't even describe. To know that there is one Who is fighting for our souls and that my dad's soul is at rest brings me a peace I can't describe. The thought that I will be reunited with my dad in Heaven and that he will be healed also brings me a peace that I can't describe.
You are not alone in your suffering. And even if you were the last person on earth, you still would not be alone in your suffering.
"And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus." Philippians 4:7
Unwind/Spend quality alone time.
After a long day of work, I love nothing more than 1 of 2 options: drinking that hot cup of coffee and relaxing...or cleaning!
Unwinding looks different for everybody. Some days, it feels absolutely right to throw on that pair of sweat pants and fuzzy socks and curl up on the couch with a fluffy blanket, coffee, and Netflix. And that is okay!
Other days, it feels amazing to throw on yoga pants and a sports bra and clean the house. That is okay too! Whatever you need to do to unwind is okay! It is healthy as you grieve to do things that make you feel productive. It is also just as healthy (at times) to sit and do nothing. It is all about balance. :)
The important thing is to make sure that you are taking steps in your life to move forward. Grief is hard, but you don't want to sit in it forever. It is good to reflect on the past, but you don't want to stay there and miss out on the amazing things ahead of you. Life is calling you forward, and God wants you to heal.
Even if you aren't struggling with or through grief, these are all healthy and important things to do anyway.
If you need any encouragement or tips on dealing with grief, please don't hesitate to reach out to me. You are not alone. Xo.
"Maybe my story will also be one not only of redemption and healing, but that we don't always need to have the answers. Jesus is enough." - 5/21/15
During the spring of 2009, I spent 5 days down in Detroit doing mission work. I spent those 5 days sleeping in the basement of a church and working closely with a group of college students. We went through different neighborhoods, went to a therapy session to spend time with recovering addicts, and spent an entire day or 2 clearing out the inside of a house in Hamtramck that had been burned down.
That house had been purchased with the hope of being remodeled and restored to house women who taught ESL (English as a Second Language) to the women of the Muslim community in Hamtramck.
The last few hours we spent working on the house, the owners stopped by and asked if anyone was interested in teaching ESL that summer. Completely covered in ash and soot, I said, "yes."
Deep down, I didn't want to. But I knew I had to and that it would be good for me to be immersed in a culture totally different from my own.
So a few months later, there I stood, in the upper flat of a Hamtramck home, surrounded by women completely covered in black from head to toe, only speaking Arabic.
I had also dressed extremely modestly to be respectful of their culture and show them that I too was submitted to God.
I was so nervous my first day, but then it eventually came naturally to me. Teaching. I had finally found my passion through the unlikeliest of experiences.
During the fall of 2009, I taught math and science to the women who more advanced in their English and looking to obtain their GED. It was then that I got a vision that I wanted to fix up the school.
So I acted on that vision. Pulled the funds and people together. And spent 2 days working to fix up this school that I felt so passionately about. We worked on that place from top to bottom, putting in new light fixtures, a ceiling fan, painting the walls, replacing tiles. Cleaning...you name it, we did it. I was so proud. I was only 19 at that time.
Because of all my work in Hamtramck with the Muslim community that year, I was invited to be 1 of 5 leaders on an upcoming trip to the Mideast in June of 2010.
Jersualem, Israel. The place I arrived broken and left whole. The place that began to give my life more meaning...opening my eyes to the bigger picture. The Bible coming to life.
As I mentioned in my previous post, I was in so much pain at this point in my life. I struggled to see any hope for my current situation. I was grieving the loss of my childhood family. I was struggling to accept another divorce in my life. It was so hard not having control over so much in my life. It was hard giving up the control that I thought I had.
I arrived in Israel at the Tel Aviv airport on June 19th, 2010. I was no more than 100 pounds. I was anxious and depressed. I was angry and confused. I was wanting desperately to create space in my heart to do some soul searching, but my heart was cluttered by all the pain I was experiencing. I didn't even know where to start. But I knew I wanted to be healed.
I journaled a lot on this trip from the rooftop of the hostel I stayed at in Jerusalem, just outside the walls of Old Jerusalem.
I came looking for answers. Would I get them? How would God work in my life?
At every prayer site we went to, which were many, I would pray for healing for my family. Would it come?
The turning point on that trip for me came when I worked up the courage to share my story with the other leaders on that trip. Up until that point, I had kept my pain to myself. It was such a personal thing that I was struggling with, that it made me nervous to even think to invite anyone else into my pain.
We took a bus that night to the top of the Mount of Olives. We sat on stone benches that overlooked Jerusalem. The Dome of the Rock, the city walls...it was so surreal.
We all shared stories about where we were at in our faith. I waited to go last.
When it was my turn to share, I told them that I was honestly struggling and struggling to see any hope. I shared what had been going on at home with my mom and stepdad. I shared my grief, and I asked for prayers. I told them that I felt it on my heart that God wanted me to draw close to Him and to get to know Him through this season. I don't know why, but that is what I felt in that moment. And it felt right.
In sharing my pain, it helped alleviate some of the weight I had been experiencing. I wasn't alone. And the people who had made the long journey overseas with me were reflections of God's desire for me to draw in community with people during this time.
After I shared, the group prayed over me. I cried. Then one of the leaders started to play his guitar. We sang songs of worship to God while overlooking the Holy City. The city lighting up the nighttime sky.
It was possible to praise God while grieving? That was an idea that was totally foreign to me up until this point. But what would ultimately bring me peace in the storm.
I made a deal with myself that night at the Mount of Olives that I would stop regularly taking things at night to help me sleep. And that instead I would read my Bible more. If all else, I knew I wanted that much...to draw close to God. That was what He was asking of me. And I was ready to listen.
I came to Jerusalem hoping for a solution for my pain. Hoping for answers. Hoping for a miracle.
Did that miracle come? Did I get the answers I was looking for?
The answer is yes. What I found on that trip was God putting on my heart the truth that He is enough. Not only was He enough for me then, but that He would be enough for my future too. A lesson I wouldn't fully grasp until my dad got sick, 6 years later.
Yes, my biological parents had divorced, and I have no memories of them together. Yes, I had a dad who was wounded my whole life and needed help. And yes, my healthy parents that gave me a stable family did end up divorcing too.
But from June 2010 on, I learned to cling to the hope that through the brokenness in my life, that I served a God who was a provider of all things Good. A God who restores and makes all things new.
I learned that even though I could not control my circumstances and the hurt that surrounded me, I could control my heart and the direction that I wanted my life to go in.
I wanted to live a life of praise for the One thing who was unchanging before time and Who would continue to be for the rest of my life and for eternity. The One who would be unchanging through tough breakups, challenging therapy sessions, job rejections...and the One who stood unchanging when I got the phone call from my dad the he had terminal cancer.
Through the heartache and grief, there is and will always be more. I even want to believe that there is a purpose for my pain. Although God didn't create all the trials in my life, I do believe that He is using them to give me the courage to write and give people hope that there is One who heals.
He continues to pour is His Grace abundantly over my life. And I can promise that He is doing the same for you.
The first song we sang at the Mount of Olives - How He Loves by Crowder