A Word on Faith

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My classmate and I stood outside the War Memorial building. We squinted from the misty air blowing in our faces and I could tell he wanted to stick around and talk—despite my obvious efforts to escape to my car. He and I had just attended the Festival of Faiths for a grad school assignment.

“Can I ask you a question?” he said, his words masked in a thick west African accent.

“Sure,” I replied with a shiver.

“What is the purpose of God?” Read More

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Wednesday Wisdom

“For no one is cast off by the Lord forever. Though he brings grief, he will show compassion, so great is his unfailing love. For he does not willingly bring affliction or grief to anyone.”

– Lamentation 3:31-33

Defying Life’s Morbid Moments

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Allow me to break the silence. I recognize the length of time it’s been since my last post.  Summer thus far has consisted of long hot weeks of pondering and observing.  I blame my fiction writing for the lack of blog content. Creative writing has consumed a lot of my free time, even prompting me to start a second draft of my novel. Currently I call it De Paris Sans Amour.

A young girl journeys to Paris hoping to find love, but instead she develops a calloused heart towards anything romantic until she meets a French poet.

I know, unoriginal.

Read More

Lord, Send Me

It’s 3:00 a.m. in Richmond Virginia and I’m regretting that second cup of coffee I had this afternoon. Let’s just say I’m sensitive to caffeine.

I’m at a Christian conference that is all about evangelism, and although I would probably prefer a seminar on grief, I’m slowly beginning to see why God brought me here.

A Christian youth conference is nothing short of speed dating for some. Don’t worry that’s not why God brought me to Richmond, at least I don’t think so. But prior to losing Johnny I probably would have come here thinking about finding a nice Christian guy. I guess death gives life a new perspective.

Instead, as I sit through these lectures about evangelism I feel weird inside. I haven’t thought about sharing the gospel since October 3rd, the night it all happened.

However, there were the few weeks that followed where I felt like I was rendering myself useless to the gospel on account of my grief. At the pinnacle time to share my faith with my coworkers and family who don’t know God, I was instead trying to process the deepest sadness I’ve ever known. My heart was just too heavy to share the reason for the hope within me. Maybe there was no hope.

If you’ve been following my grief story you know that experiencing death has made me yearn for heaven. I feel as if I would go to heaven in a heartbeat if  God called me. Many nights I’ve laid awake wondering why I’m still alive. Many mornings I have risen asking God what could this day hold that is keeping me from going home with Him.

Last night the speaker for this conference shared about the heart of God. He said perhaps God is waiting to come back so that more people can hear the gospel and be saved.

I’ve written these passed two months about yearning for heaven and about the fear of death. It’s the only thing I seem to ponder aside from what I’m going to eat tomorrow. But it’s New Year’s Day and I want to think more about evangelism and sharing the reason for the hope within me.

Christmas this year was really hard. I cried a lot. And at this conference I feel weird hearing people cry about their fear of sharing the gospel and even more their desire for people to know God. I haven’t cried about anything other than Johnny for the last two months. Why don’t I cry for the people who don’t know God? Why don’t I cry about the way I’ve neglected to share with them the need for repentance and forgiveness?

So I’ve learned one thing so far. God wishes that none should perish and we must dwell a little longer on this side of heaven to share with the world the truth that God loves them.

Perhaps I will hold off on praying maranatha and instead say, “Lord send me.”

How to grieve when the world moves on

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Johnny’s sister mentioned something to me this week about the world moving on when we are still sad and still hurting.

There is a tendency to stop and just sit down, like we did in the grass by his grave. To linger in the moment, as my mind seems to return to the night it happened. To stop buying food. To stop eating. To stop working or reading or updating social media.

What do you do when the world is moving on, when all that stopped for John’s death has recommenced its course?  How can you, when you are still grieving the loss of a most beloved soul?

Still.

It’s a strange word, as if the aftermath of a sudden death could ever come to recovery. The word “still implies that we will eventually be okay. Can I agree with this? Some say it will take a year, others claim two years. But since the sudden death of John, I feel we shall never be the same on this side of heaven.

The world has moved on. It has already changed since Johnny left. The grocery stores are decorated for the holidays, the wind has unclothed the warm-colored trees, and darkness sets in before the day is over.

The world is moving on, and people are talking of winter decor and seasonal Starbucks drinks. I listen, trying to enjoy this time of year like I always do. But then I look down at my chest and see a fresh wound still bleeding, still hurting. When my thoughts return to that night my heart aches. I search for something to ease the pain.

I cry. I don’t cry. I hold it in. I don’t hold it in. But still, there is no remedy for death.

Grief is a ruthless enemy. It strikes when you least expect it. It hits you while you’re down. It comes from behind and descends like a cold November rain.

I’m realizing that I cannot just move on as the world has. I cannot come out of this, unchanged. And one thing in particular that must change is time with God. If anything, death should draw me nearer to Him. It surely has. But still, I need something to combat this ruthless enemy.  A lamp to guide my steps as the world is moving on.

Psalm 119:9 “How can a young man keep his way pure? By guarding it according to your word.”

Death was not intended for us

“Death, be not proud, though some have called thee mighty and dreadful, for thou art not so.” — John Donne

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I was sitting in the cozy part of the university student center, near the coffee shop. A blog post I’d shared on social media had brought an unexpected flood of attention. I scrolled through my analytics and realized I’d hit a record of blog views in one day, reaching eleven different countries in readership. I’d only shard it so my sister could find the link, but I must admit the response was rewarding.

My phone buzzed with a text from a friend about my post. He reminded me that God did not intend for us to die.

My last post addressed the issues involved in death and the reality of grief. I asked the question of why people have to die. Lately, I’ve been asking God this same question every time I think of John. I’m okay that John died. I know where he is and I know he is alright. But I’m not okay with death. Nor am I at ease with the thought that every relationship in life will end in sadness. It’s a difficult reality to swallow. Not only will every relationship end — this alone is disheartening — but every relationship will end in pain and sadness.

Great, what a life we have before us.

But, my friend who reminded me that God did not intend for us to die, also reminded me that we should take comfort in this truth. I once wrote that there is no comfort in death. Death is a result of sin and I’m learning to see that in Christ we can overcome sin. I know what you are thinking. Can we cheat death? No. But can we overcome the power of death, not the reality of it? To this I say yes.

I was waiting for my evening class to begin as I pondered this thought. The sun was disappearing, the night was drawing in and I realized that lately I’ve been thinking of death as the ultimate outcome.

I keep returning to this one bible character who walked with the Lord all his life. I can’t remember his name or which book he was recorded in. I heard a pastor say this man walked with the Lord straight into heaven. An ideal way to go. Death for the people in this world appears to be the ultimate outcome, but ultimate would imply that it is final. Although death is the finish line on this side of heaven, it is also the starting point on the other side.

My sadness for Johnny was first brought on by a longing to be with him, then it became a fear of facing death in this world over and over again until it was my turn to suffer this final enemy. I don’t know what I think of death now. But it doesn’t seem quite as scary as it first did. Not with the remembrance that God never intended for us to die.

“One short sleep past, we wake eternally, and death shall be no more. Death, thou shalt die.” — Holy Sonnets; Death, Be Not Proud

A Grave Visitation

Friday was the one month anniversary since John died. His best friend and I went to the grave to pay our respects. I wasn’t ready for it. The night before I tossed and turned until I found myself in the kitchen chugging a glass of water to replenish the tears I’d cried in my bed.

The graveyard is an easy half hour drive from the city. A quiet countryside surrounds it with square farmlands and big roofed houses. Gravel crunched beneath our feet as we silently approached the grave. I trembled with pulsing thoughts that said, I’m not ready for this.

It was one of those moments in life that you never expect to live. To be in your early twenties approaching the grave of your dear childhood friend, on a Friday afternoon in November. Isn’t this the time of life when you’re thinking about who you should marry, or what job you should pursue, or what countries you want to visit?

How surreal it is to visit the dead. They hadn’t set a tombstone, so we stopped at the bed of grass that was raised up from the ground with the bouquet of flowers from the funeral at the foot of it. They were white and wilted with long green stems and their petals were starting to brown at the edges. It felt odd, the two of us looming over this plot of grass where his body was laid. So I told him we should sit down.  And so we did, and then we wept. . .

“I wish there was a tombstone,” I remarked. I’d pictured this moment in my head since the day my brother said we’d occasionally have to visit the grave. I wanted to see his name and the date and the bible scripture his parents had chosen to engrave in the stone. But no. There was just the earth and the flowers and the sky and the absence.

It was indeed surreal, too surreal to recount. Not pleasant, not healing, not restorative. Just sad. Sad that people have to die. Sad to think I too will lie in the earth someday. Sad to consider how many times we will return to this spot to grieve the loss of our dear friend.

Two is better than one. I’m glad I went with his best friend. We cried together. We prayed together. We sat in silence heaving deep breaths of autumn air, while flicking bugs off of us and listening to John’s favorite album through an iPhone speaker.

Leaving was harder than coming. As we drove away with the gravel crunching beneath the tires, I wept again, feeling the absence of John so very strongly. It would no longer be  the three of us.

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Another week begins. And I am doing better. I was feeling so distant from God lately that I sat in church yesterday and waited patiently for a word from him. He met me in the back pew with a passage from Romans 8.

26 Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. 27 And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because[g] the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.

I woke this morning ready to declare my usual greetings to God, but all I could manage to say was, “Thank you for grace.”