Stifling My Grief

Lately, I’ve been feeling the absence of John. As much as I want to explain through words what this feels like, there are none.

I feel like death is this glass door through which humanity walks. One side is a window and the other side is a mirror.  Those who have passed away can see the world through the window. And we, still waiting to walk through the glass door, only see a reflection of this world. In some sense this is biblical, Paul says in Corinthians 13 that now we see in a mirror dimly and only know in part.

But as I grow to miss my brother more and more it is so difficult to sift through these murky waters.

There are times when I really want to talk to John. And there are times when I try. I tell him I’m proud of him for living a life well done. Sometimes I talk to him as if I’m expecting an answer. And that’s when I feel like I’m talking to a mirror. I know he’s on the other side, but all I can see is my own face. All I can hear is my own voice. All I can feel is my own heart thumping so rapidly I fear it might burst out of my chest. . .

These days I’ve learned something new about my grief and how I’ve suppressed it in the chaos of my car accident. And I see how I’ve minimized it in attempts to just move on.

I recently told a friend, who asked how I was doing, that I try not to think about John’s death because it’s too heavy to bear.

We sing this hymn in church that says “Where is death’s sting, where grave thy victory?” And to this I say, the sting of death is incredibly real. Even five months after the event, the sting is like a hot poker, jabbing the scars of the one who grieves.

But these words actually come from Paul’s letter to the Corinthians where he quotes the prophet Hosea and says death will be swallowed up by victory. But on this side of heaven death seems to be the one who is victorious in silencing our hopes. It watches ruthlessly as we weep in our beds.

So why revisit the grief when it’s much easier to simply push it away? I once likened the suppression of grief to that of an inner tube in a swimming pool. No matter how hard or how long I push it down, it will burst up from beneath me.

Paul says “Thanks be to God who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.”  In some sense God is on both sides of this mirror window. Though he seems but a shadow on this side of heaven, He still abides with us until we too pass through that great glass door and behold him face to face.



Wednesday Wisdom

He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will abide in the shadow of the Almighty. I will say to the Lord, “My refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.” Psalm 91:1-2

Dreams and the Falsified Idea of Happiness

Aerial view of computer laptop on wooden table

His name was Jimmy and he was a college senior still wet behind the ears, birthed into a society that told him to dream big and to make that dream a reality.

He asked to sit at my table in the student center so his computer cord would reach the outlet. I said yes and we began talking. Jimmy had a wide smile and a dark complexion with hair that swooped up over his head. He began prodding as I ate my Chick-fil-a sandwich, asking what I studied and where I worked. I knew this conversation would probably turn into a blog post so I thought about what his ethnicity was and before I had a chance to ask, he told me he was Indian. But alas, this is not a post about race.

He was studying finance and accounting.

“But that’s not what I really want to do,” he said quickly, trying to redeem himself, as if the field of finance and accounting wasn’t cool enough for today’s world. “I want to open a car repair shop.”

Jimmy’s innovative idea was to open a repair shop with hours between 6 p.m. and 4 a.m. so that people who worked late could still take their cars in for repairs. I could tell that he really loved cars and he said he bought his first car for $50.

“I grew up always working on cars with my dad,” he said, clearly brought to life just by talking about it.

Full of drive and ambition he continued the conversation asking what my dream was and what I wanted to do.

My dream had been to play in a symphony orchestra. My dream had been to publish a novel. My dream was once to work at a newspaper and be a foreign correspondent. But after living a little, and experiencing some hard things, I have come to notice that life is more than dreams.

I didn’t really tell Jimmy what my dream was. I mentioned East Africa and wanting to work for the United Nation. But then I wondered what Jimmy would be like in a few decades, maybe forty or fifty years from now. I pictured him looking back and thinking, “What happened, I thought this dream would make me happy?”

And I began to ponder the issue with the idea of “dreams.” Perhaps that’s it. They are just ideas. It seems like people have an idea of what will make them happy and they gamble their life on it, working tirelessly to get that one thing, or job, or spouse.

Although I’m probably too young to be talking about life as a whole, I feel like the book of Ecclesiastes is right in saying everything in life apart from God is like chasing after the wind. Every hope and dream will come to nothing. And at the end we will all lie in our coffins waiting to be buried.

When my close friend John died last fall, they published an article about him that said he dreamed of opening a coffee shop. But as his friend, I know John’s life-worth wasn’t in this dream. He put his worth in the saving work of Jesus—and he used this love of making coffee to bring glory to God.

I recently heard a talk by Tim Keller where he said that young people are more likely to believe there is something in life that will satisfy them. But I suppose anyone who has lived life without God would probably say they really thought there would be more in life.

As I left Jimmy at his computer, I wished I had told him that God loves him. Despite what trials he will face as he pursues his dream, God loves him. God loves him when he succeeds and when he fails. And when there’s nothing left in life to live for because it has all disappointed him, God still loves him and because of the saving work of Jesus Christ, life is worth living.

My Black Hi(story)


February is the one time of year I don’t like being black.

“Why?” you ask with a furrowed brow and a tone of concern.

Why? I ask myself as the conversations on the radio, in church, and even in my home start to bother me like an itch that’s too far to reach.

I guess it’s not so much the month of February that I dislike, rather it’s what happens during this designated time to talk about my race when I find myself at a loss for words.

“Black is beautiful,” they tell me, the people to whom I’m supposed to belong.

But I am not that sort of black person. My blackness is a shade of color inherited from my African father who was raised in New York City by African parents, a foster care system and eventually himself.

My blackness displayed itself in my college years when the president of the Black Student Union approached me at a football game and extended a hand of welcome. I sat in a row of white girls wondering why this black man had singled me out.

Raised in a white culture, I was desensitized to race in a most conventional way for my upbringing. Never referred to as black, my parents called my siblings and I brown. And whether to protect us from the stigma that comes with being black, or to remind us that we were indeed half white, I don’t really know.

Black to me as a child looked like teen pregnancy, friends without fathers, gang fights outside my home, gold teeth and chains. Black sounded like loud music, gun shots and a dialect — better known as ebonics — that my mother told me not to speak. And finally, black was a people I learned I didn’t really want to be like.

Apart from this somewhat dreaded month of the year I do value my blackness. Without the politics, and painful ramifications of being black, it truly is beautiful.

Black is skin that never burns in the summer sun, a hair texture like no others. Black is commonality with other ethnicities and questions of interest sparking conversations of far off countries, cultures, and languages. Black is an African heritage of which I am proud, a lineage that reaches back to my grandmother’s home in a land of a thousand hills.

So if I love my blackness, why is it that every year in February I want to hide in a hole? Perhaps because I feel ill-prepared to speak on behalf of my people. Because it only reminds me of how different I am from them. Because the conversations tend to only focus on the issues of black people as if we are powerless and should be pittied.

This blog once existed to explore my racial identity and to remind my readers to be more aware of life as a black person. But because I am biracial, I find myself being the one who is unaware.

Two years ago I stood outside a neighborhood pool, watching the little blond kids I babysit go in before me. “You have to pay $20,” the old woman at the counter barked.

I told her I was instructed by their mother to use her pass. She argued aggressively, determined to make me pay. I stood there, bewildered at her stubbornness. Meanwhile families passed by without even scanning their passes.

At a loss for what to do, I phoned the mother who was as shocked as I was. She explained they should allow me to use her pass and get through without a problem. The old woman glared at me when I hung up, so I tore my eyes away to search for a twenty dollar bill.

“That place is known for being racist,” someone told me later. “That’s why it was exclusive to begin with.”

I’m often unaware of my own skin color, more confused at how people respond to me than I am able to attribute it to race. Even compliments go over my head. When I was a kid I went to visit a nursing home with my white friend and her family. A black nurse spotted me in the group of white kids. “You are so beautiful,” she told me.  And I received the compliment without realizing why.

I cannot deny that my skin color is a blessing in many circumstances. It’s like a right to passage in any ethnic group. I’m an instant sister, daughter, or granddaughter simply because I too am a minority.

But my ignorance does not blind me to the struggle of black people. With sadness I remember standing in a Georgia Cracker Barrel with my Dad. We waited patiently to be seated and  as other white families coming after us were seated first, we eventually left without service.

And so, I teeter back and forth, irritated by the insensitivity of the majority culture, but also intolerant of my own ethnic group and their response of anger and hate. So please excuse me when I shut down during a conversation on race or when I back away from the people who victimize blacks. But this is my black hi(story) and it should be known.

My Pursuit of Happiness



One of the happiest moments in my life was when I got into college. My parents stood in the kitchen glowing with excitement waiting to hand me the letter of acceptance. It was like opening an envelope with my future inside. I spent the summer planning and packing. In autumn I left home and started making new friends and all the newness of college was carried by a sense of adventure and possibility.

Those were happy days.

On a cool night in November I sat in orchestra rehearsal, rolling my wrist around. Playing through our repertoire was beginning to ware on my body and the growing tingling sensation through my hand told me something was wrong.

“I think I have tendinitis,” I told my mom. She was visiting for homecoming weekend and I told her casually as we walked to the football stadium. She gave me a look of worry and I blew it off, without knowing how detrimental this could be to my life as a violinist.

And it was.

A year later I had to turn down multiple opportunities and soon enough no one remembered me for my musical ability, because I had none. The tendinitis resulted in chronic nerve pain and I, the failed violinist, began to spiral into a dark place for most of my college years.

“You should go see a counselor,” my roommate suggested as she drove me to the pharmacy for more pain meds. Eventually I did. And counseling taught me to recognize the good and bad in life and not to fixate primarily on either one. The happiness of going to college was soon forgotten and in its place dwelt the cloud of sadness and his friends broken dreams and disappointment.


I was serving breakfast in a Puerto Rican cafe on Washington street when I got the call. It was a warm September afternoon just five months after graduating college. We were slow with customers so I slipped back to the dish-washing room to answer the phone call that would change my life entirely.

“Miss Camara? We were very impressed with your interview and we’d like to offer you the position.”

Oh the joy of getting a new job. The next two weeks I steamed lattes, pulled shots of espresso, mopped floors and washed dishes with the anticipation of doing something more in life. My closet began to fill with professional clothes as I tossed my coffee-stained aprons into a storage bin. And weeks later I was parked in my downtown garage and smiling at the sound of my high heel shoes on the Statehouse floors.

But happiness is not joy; it only lasts a moment. The days and weeks after my first day of work were rather mundane. Others were peppered with anxiety and loneliness. But I don’t think I really knew what sadness felt like, until last October when my friend John was killed in a bike accident.

Death makes life feel as if nothing will every be happy again.


For a while I mistook happiness for joy and sadness for hopelessness. Greg Morse in his article Happiness Can Betray You said, “Physical blessing is not the same as spiritual blessedness.” I did feel betrayed by happiness. But that is simply because I mistook the good things from God for contentment in God. The question remains as to where I stand apart from all good things. Can I still find happiness? As a christian whose hope is not in happiness and whose faith is not broken by sadness, I’m learning to relate these highs and lows to my spiritual life.

Dear January, you’ve been so unkind


I really wanted to begin this year with confidence and poise. I went to a conference on evangelism. I was going to make 2018 about spreading the gospel and loving people unconditionally and using every opportunity to share about my life-giving God.

Instead, I’m held up in my house watching TV, eating microwaved dumplings, stressing about my statistics homework and dreading small group — which I’m already late for.

We’ve come to the end of January and I’m so far from the Julia I wanted to be this year. I typed a blog post on how God was calling me out of my comfort zone, but I was terribly unprepared to actually experience discomfort.

My car accident two weeks ago sent me into a flurry of stress, confusion and sadness. But mostly I find myself irritated with everyone: the smiling people overjoyed with happiness, the sad people complaining about a flat tire or their dog who died last year. And I’m frustrated with myself for not sympathizing. After all I’m a feeler. I’m usually so understanding. But lately this Julia is cloaked in an unsettling numbness.

My current form of transportation is a rental car. I’m still waiting to hear if my issuance will cover my car damage or just write me a check for a new one. If only they’d call me back.

My time is consumed with calculating data for my stats class and drafting memos for my finance class, all the while hoping this semester won’t swallow me alive. Then I’m sitting in a classroom, tired from a long day, and reluctantly eating my jalapeno Chex Mix because I accidentally bought the wrong flavor. My professor is lecturing but I’m not following him, all I can think of is how much he looks like Frank Sinatra with the teeth of Humphrey Bogart.

As the sky outside grows dark I think about the night, like this, when I drove home from class to discover my friend had been killed in a bike accident. Death is the greatest discomfort.

After class, I stumble through the 27 degree air to my garage and climb into my rental car. It’s nice actually, a 2017 Corolla, with a little screen that says, “Hello” and “Goodbye.” My gas tank is so low I might not make it home, so I pray as I’m speeding up the main road that I’ll find a gas station.


It’s Wednesday morning in January and I’m so glad this awful month is almost over.

Maybe February will be better. Peut être. -_-


The Saga Continues


Indianapolis, 9:30 pm — This blog should be called The Saga of a Girl Named Julie.  In a recent blog post I noted that I would stop writing about death and write more about living.  Well here you have it. Bet you didn’t realize there would be so much drama.

Today my symptoms of pain from the car accident increased tremendously. I arrived at work feeling pretty bad with the pain in my neck and lower back drifting in and out. A few hours later the pain was so intense I couldn’t think straight so I decided to spend my lunch break napping in my car. I headed to the garage and felt both nauseous and dizzy. As I gently rubbed my neck, it only seemed to worsen.

I decided to go straight to the ER. Only after I pulled out on the wet streets did I realize I was in no condition to be driving. But I made it there. It was the same ER where we sat in the bereavement room with fresh news of John’s death. I felt a wave of sadness and my heart began pumping rapidly. I stayed a moment before realizing the line was way too long and that maybe I was just overreacting.

I went back to the office and sat at my desk to formulate a game plan. My body seemed to tell me to go home, so I scheduled a quick doctor’s appointment and found my way back to the garage. My sweet and wonderful roommate met me at home and drove met to the doctors office.

As a result I learned there was nothing seriously wrong with my body other than severe whiplash and maybe a little PTSD, which I don’t want to admit. I’m suppose to take some meds and start Physical Therapy. The doctor noted that the symptoms may have been increased by anxiety and trauma, not only from the accident but also from losing a friend three months ago.

So I went home and slept it off but when I woke up I realized I had all the same problems I went to sleep with: damaged car, unfinished grad school homework, and a huge bill for the repairs. Sometimes it’s difficult to keep going when you have to deal with one dilemma after another. It’s so tempting to just throw in the towel.

When I woke early this morning I felt like a car had run over me. “God, I can’t get up today. I just don’t have the strength,” I whispered into the darkness, then I thought of something.

Yesterday in church our pastor shared a video of his friend who has terminal brain cancer. This man is only 40 years old and has a wife and kids. But the video was about living for the kingdom of God. Even though this man can see the end drawing nearer, he still lives everyday sharing the gospel. So I told myself, “If that man can get out of bed everyday and live for the kingdom, so can I.”

Today was tremendously difficult. I cannot deny it. But writing seems to help a little, I’ve made it through a lot of days and lived to blog about them.

Let us keep the faith and live for the Kingdom without growing weary of doing good.

I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need.  I can do all things through him who strengthens me.” Phil. 4:12-13

The Stress is Real


This week has been extremely exhausting. Let’s be honest. As cheerful as I sounded in my last blog post, I really didn’t know what was coming. It’s amazing the amount of stress one suffers under the conditions of a car accident. Not only are your joints achey but you’re suddenly forced to coordinate rides and humbly, dare I say desperately, ask for help.

Things seemed to go from bad to worse, over the last few days, as the holding lot charged me for not only the tow but also for spilled fluid and the four days it held my car. And no matter how many times I tried to coordinate with the body shop for them to pick up my car, I woke up to another morning to find that my car was still waiting in the pound.

There’s nothing like seeing money leave your bank account for no good reason.

I feel like this week I was in survival mode, all the while trying to remain calm. From work to school to talking with my insurance, to phoning the impound lot and driving to the repair shop, I kept telling myself “This is not that bad.” But who am I kidding? This absolutely sucks.

But I finally got my car out of the holding lot. For some reason coordinating a tow truck was way more difficult than I anticipated. Aside from some whip lash and stiff joints I’m physically okay. Mentally? That’s questionable.

For the time being I wanted to say thank you to everyone who has helped me out so far. My friends who gave me rides, John’s parents for lending me their car. And hopefully by Monday I should have a rental.

I don’t usually do update posts, but considering the circumstances I just thought I might as well.







Accidents Happen

Indianapolis 3:57 a.m. — My bedroom is dark and I’m sitting in my warm bed listening to the hum of the humidifier. This is becoming my prime time for writing blog posts, those sleepless hours when my mind begins to formulate my feeling into descriptive sentences. But tonight it isn’t caffeine keeping me awake. No, I’m just rattled from my car accident.

So, remember when I wrote about letting go of comfort? Maybe I spoke too soon. This evening I was on my way home from work. The roads were pretty slick and the temperature was flirting with the single digits. Yeah, a recipe for disaster.

I was almost home when I lost control on an icy road. Suddenly I was forced to decide between hitting the guy in front of me and hitting the fire hydrant beside him. Reluctantly, and in a sputter of panic I chose the latter. And now I am without a car.

Talk about letting go of comfort.

A moment later a kind face appeared in my car window as I began to sob. I couldn’t get the door opened so he told me to roll down my window.

Why was I crying? I wasn’t hurt and hadn’t hurt anyone. I guess the shock of it was what triggered the tears all at once. And I couldn’t help but relate those feelings of shock to the night John was hit. And in seconds I was not crying for myself or my car. I was just crying for John.

I’m sure the witnesses were wondering how such a small accident could cause a girl to cry.

In all honesty, I left the scene of the accident feeling disturbed and achy . . . but I was alive. After the initial shock wore off I started to worry about getting through the next few days sans my beautiful Toyota—don’t worry I’m not one of those people who names her car. My car and I are friends, but at the end of the day it’s just a car.

Then I remembered my empty fridge and how I was planning to buy groceries on the way home. And then I wondered how I would get to work tomorrow and to class and back home. . . sigh.

Life is a gift that often feels like a burden.

“You’re lucky to walk away uninjured,” they told me. Am I really? Wouldn’t it have been better to say, “Well, time’s up. Now I can cross over from this side of heaven, a place that sometimes feels like hell, and graciously bid this world adieu.”

But of course not. In reality I’m not ready to die. As I was sailing toward the fire hydrant, bracing myself for impact, feeling absolutely no control over my car, I felt so afraid. And as I collided and watched my bumper explode, I felt only fear. The cold air bit me as I came out to examine the damage, exchange paperwork and phone my friends. My legs wobbled as I found warmth in a stranger’s car and waited for the police. It was a minor accident but definitely left me feeling shaken up.

Life is so surreal sometimes. The mundane is ruptured by these things called accidents where ordinary people experience extraordinary things. And you look up at heaven and breathe into the cold air, “Lord, why?”

Why Johnny, and not me? Why here in my neighborhood and not the forty minute trip I took over highways and under bridges where such an accident could have been fatal.

In high school I was in a car accident. Oddly enough I didn’t blog about it or even share it on social media. I was embarrassed and scared. It’s interesting to see where I’ve come and how I view life differently. I believe it’s important to be both authentic and transparent, to recognize life as difficult and cumbersome, and sometimes mundane and often scary. By recognizing our difficulties we learn to bare each other’s burdens.

These next few days will be far from comfortable, but I’m resting in Jehovah Jireh, my God who provides.