Cute Mom or Wet, Tired Dog?

A few weeks ago I had the opportunity to attend a women’s conference called “Pursue the Passion” with one of my best friends and our little babies. The worship leader was Meredith Andrews and the keynote speaker was Jen Hatmaker (my blogger/speaker/author crush), so it was pretty much a dream come true.

ma and michal

 

I caught a glimpse of myself in the mirror before heading to the conference that Saturday morning, and I smiled. I actually looked like a cute mom. I was wearing a cute outfit, my hair was curled, my makeup was done. I felt good!

Of course, about 20 minutes into the first session, Copeland spit up all over me. And I’m not talking normal spit up. I’m talking PROJECTILE spit up, like a waterfall. I was soaked in it. My shirt was soaking wet, and so was my hair. As a matter of fact, I’m pretty sure I heard the people sitting behind us gasp!

I took Copeland into the bathroom and tried to figure out how to take care of the situation. Of course I had an extra outfit for him, but not for myself. I cleaned him up, changed his outfit, and then looked at myself in the mirror, trying to figure out what the heck to do. I no longer looked like a cute mom. I looked like a wet, tired dog.  That’s the image that came to my mind as I looked at myself.  A mangy, exhausted little creature.

But as I stood there and looked at my reflection, this thought struck me: This is actually more true to my reality. My life right now is much more similar to a wet, tired dog than it is to a cute mom. My reflection suddenly communicated more truth about my heart and my soul than it did when I had first walked through those doors into the conference that morning.

10 days before the conference started, some of our upstairs neighbors were shot and killed by one of our other neighbors.  We were home with the kids when it happened.  We heard the gunshots.  It was nothing short of terrifying and horrific.

I haven’t known how to process it.  I haven’t known how to write.  How do you get over hearing your neighbors get murdered?  I’m not sure that you do.

It’s a strange thing seeing our condo on the news, even still.  It’s hard living here.  I’m sad and I’m scared and paranoid a lot.

One of the reason I have not talked about this much and haven’t really publicly come out with it is because it felt wrong at first.  Jordan and I would remind each other “we are not the victims here.”  We weep and grieve for these three beautiful lives lost, for their families, and for the brokenness of the world.  But we did not dare want to make it about us.

But yesterday we met with a crisis counselor from the Police Department.  One of the things she said to us really helped me to be willing to open this up and let myself process it more.  She said, “Do not downplay this.  You are victims here.  Most people will go through their entire lifetime without coming even remotely close to experiencing something like this.”  She gave us permission to claim our pain and trauma.

I really regret never getting to know these people who seemed so incredible and lived so close to us.  I sometimes think about how my life may have been richer, had I gotten to know the victims.  For days after the shooting, I would watch videos and read everything about one of the victims and I was constantly struck with the thought, “Wow, she was so beautiful.” Inside and out.

And then I freak out when I think about the shooter; about the thought that someone so dangerous lived so close to us.

I am paranoid over the fact that I cannot always protect my children.

I am baffled at the fact that God doesn’t always stop bullets, and yet sometimes He does.

If anything, this past year has really opened my eyes to the fact that belonging to God does not guarantee safety in this world.  I have never so intensely had to look at the ugliness and pain of the world in its broken and distorted face.  I’ve never so deeply longed for eternity, and yet struggled to be close to God in my current reality.  It is a daily process to continue to trust God and walk with Him while constantly being reminded that there is no immunity for the here and now.  Our security in Christ saves us from the ultimate destruction that our rebellious souls lead us into; but our security is not a material one on this earth.

I know that God is working in my heart through this, and that there is an invitation to trust Him in an even deeper way.  I know that He is good, always.  But I also know that life is not fair and His mercy does not always feel evident.

I don’t really have any resolution to this blog post, but I know it is good for my soul to write.  I know that I need to process this, and I am thankful for my little space here where I can pour my heart onto a screen whenever I need that release.  There is so much going on in my heart, this might become more of a raw space than ever before and I think I actually want to let it be that.  Far too much of the internet displays the “cute moms” and yet I wonder how many of us actually feel more like wet, tired dogs.  I wonder how many of us actually long for the freedom of the mirror projecting back an accurate picture of our souls.  And how many of us need the permission to be honest about it.

 

KM.

The Big Rocks

Recently Jordan and I have felt pretty weary. Or maybe we’ve felt that way this whole past year. I’m too tired to think much past today, but I think that’s right. I think we’ve felt this way all year.

Perhaps it’s the fact that we kicked the year off with the loss of our second baby. Maybe it’s that being in full time ministry (and trying to balance it with a healthy family life) is just plain out tiring. Maybe it’s that I’ve been pregnant for much of the year, which makes normal life more difficult for me and puts more on Jordan. It could be that we’ve felt a lack of community for awhile, or that money is tight or that there just always seems to be 203984930 random life tasks on the to-do list that pile up and never get done.

Whatever combination of reasons, this season has been a weary one.

I know that sometimes it can get annoying when Christians over-use that phrase. I’m in a “season” of this or a “season” of that. What I love about that phrase, however, is the perspective that it shines on my life. Seasons come and go. They are temporary, but you can count on them coming. Each season has it’s misery and it’s glory.

For example, I hate the heat and humidity of the summer here in North Carolina. But I love to go to the pool, the lake, the beach, and on family vacation – all of which happen in the summer! I hate how I get sick all the time in the fall.  But wouldn’t it be tragic if I didn’t take time to appreciate the leaves and the crisp air and the fun fashion trends of the season? I think so. Winter is cold and barren, but with it comes slipper socks, cozy blankets, fires going in the fireplace, and the comforting smells, sounds, and ambiance of the Christmas season! Spring brings awful allergies, but also the beauty of flowers and grass in bloom and the amazing 60-70 degree temps!

If there is one thing we can be certain of in life, it’s that there will always be seasons. Seasons of joy and rest, life and energy.  Seasons of pain and grief, death and exhaustion. Every season is meaningful. Every season shapes us in new ways. And every season offers us the invitation to know God more, to rely on Him, and to make Him our greatest desire.

I don’t want to simply “get through” this season and miss what it may have to offer me. I don’t want to miss the beautiful and sweet things that God has placed all around me, that are unique to this particular season we are in. I don’t want to miss the things that God is trying to do in our lives and in our hearts. I don’t want to be distracted and discouraged.

A friend gave an analogy recently of filling a bucket. He said if you take a bucket and put some big rocks in it, you will still have some room to fill the bucket. You could put in some smaller stones, and you would still have some room. You could add some sand. Even then, you would probably still have room for water – in order to make the best use of filling that bucket. But let’s say instead of starting out with the big rocks, you start with the water. If you pour water in a bucket, you might be able to add a few small stones, and you might even be able to pour a little bit of sand in too. But you will not have any room for the big rocks.

One of the most difficult things in life is to figure out what the “big rocks” are, and then to orient our lives around those things. If we don’t put them first, then it’s likely they will not fit after all of the other things we let fill our lives.

In this season, I’m afraid Jordan and I have let the water fill the bucket first. There hasn’t been enough room for the big rocks. So we’re going to take some time to identify what exactly those big rocks are. What are the greatest priorities in our life? Time alone with God? Family worship? Community? Getting out of debt? Generosity? Ministry? Hospitality? Financial goals? Me staying home with the kinds?  Me bringing in some income? Exercise? Rest? I’m not sure, but as we figure them out, we are going to try to better orient our life around them.

This has been a difficult season, but we refuse to keep letting it fill our bucket with water that doesn’t leave room for the rocks. I don’t want to miss the riches that are hidden in this particular time in our life. And I know that the sooner we can figure out what our big rocks are and how to orient our life in such a way as to prioritize them, the sooner we can live fully in each new season that our life encounters.

What are your “big rocks” and how have you found ways to shape your life around them?

The Waiting Room

Yesterday I had my 30 week pre-natal OB appointment. As I sat in the waiting room, I watched a couple walk back in from the Ultrasound room. They had the fresh pictures of their little baby folded up and gripped tightly. They both sat down and didn’t say a word to each other. They didn’t look at the pictures. They didn’t move a fraction of an inch for the entire 15 minutes I was there. They looked like they had seen a ghost. Judging by the expression on their faces, something was wrong.

I don’t know anything about this couple. I don’t know what their situation was and I want to be careful not to make assumptions. But watching them, I felt my heart drop. It wasn’t too long ago that I remember sitting in that same waiting room, completely devastated. I remember having to walk back through that waiting room full of happy, pregnant women after our ultrasound on that awful day, and trying to walk as fast as I could, eyes averted. I remember trying (and failing) to hold back the tears, and completely falling apart once we got into the car.

And here I was yesterday only several months later, sitting in the same room with a growing little boy kicking my ribs at 30 weeks into my pregnancy.

It seems like a bit of a cruel irony that the room that women have to sit and wait in for their quick healthy pre-natal visits is the same exact room that others have to wait in after hearing the worst news they could imagine.

As I held my swollen stomach to feel my son’s little feet dancing, I was acutely aware of the fact that I am now the woman that I couldn’t look at before. The woman that is too painful to see, because of the stark visual reminder of what you lost. I am now the woman I once tried to avoid in this very waiting room.

The room that holds both immense joy and deep pain, simultaneously.

I looked around the room and let this sink in. Some come here rejoicing. Some mourning. Some completely unaware of how great the gift is that they have; others painfully aware of the gift they have lost. I felt tears threatening to fall for those in the room that may be a part of the later group. My heart ached for them and I wanted to reach out and hold them. I wanted to tell them that their baby mattered. That it was a sweet life lost too soon. I wanted to cry with them and validate their loss and their pain.

I also felt a deep sense of gratitude, as I held my stomach a little tighter. There is nothing I have done to deserve this little boy. There is no reason that I should be here for a healthy visit. We are guaranteed nothing. I’m not even guaranteed that this pregnancy will end with a healthy baby in my arms, even though I’ve made it to 30 weeks.

Remembering our loss and reflecting on our pain isn’t exactly fun. It hurts. But it makes me alive again. It makes my heart beat for humanity. It makes me love and pray for others. It reminds me of the Kingdom of God and how desperately we need it, and it makes me cry out to our Savior for it to come! Because this world is hard to live in. There are so many people who need to be held. So I prayed to the One who created us all, from the day of conception. I prayed that He would see their hurt, hear their cries, and wipe their tears. I thanked Him for Salem. For the chance to be his mom, if only for a couple of short months of gestation. I have a son waiting for me with Jesus, and that is a gift I can look forward to for the rest of my life. And I prayed that God would not let me lose the soft heart that He had been forming inside of me, because of my loss. It made me more real, more raw, more human and more compassionate. I don’t want to forget that. I don’t want to forget those who are newly hurting. I want to ache with them as we call on Jesus and praise Him that one day every tear will be wiped away.

For you formed my inward parts;
you knitted me together in my mother’s womb.
I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.
Wonderful are your works;
my soul knows it very well.
My frame was not hidden from you,
when I was being made in secret,
intricately woven in the depths of the earth.
Your eyes saw my unformed substance;
in your book were written, every one of them,
the days that were formed for me,
when as yet there was none of them.
-Psalm 139:13-16

Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”
-Revelation 21:1-4

remembranceday1

KM.

Although He was a Son

“Following Jesus is a lifelong journey, filled with glorious mountaintops and low, dark valleys.” – From She Reads Truth, Hebrews Study

Since our loss, I have found that I have become more fearful for Riley’s life.  There are many nights when I will feel completely gripped by terror, as horrific images enter my mind of something tragic happening to my sweet daughter.  It makes me feel panicky as I try to swallow the reality that God could actually let that happen.

I’ve had to ask myself a lot lately: How do I love and serve a God who could let my children die?  Who did let my child die?  Who is letting children die in horrific ways in Iraq.  It’s scary that He could choose to allow every single one of my children to die young.   That feels so scary.  I don’t feel very secure.  In most other difficult experiences in my life someone or something else has hurt me or let me down, and it has driven me into my Savior’s arms.  But what about when it is my Savior who let me down?  I don’t have a stable foundation to turn to, and it makes me feel like I have no footing.  Which kind of makes me freak out.

It has been difficult for me to not just try and hold God at arms length.  I can sing in worship, telling God to take all of me and have all of my heart and all of my life.  But the real song of my heart is singing, “All of me, except for this pregnancy.  You can’t have this baby.  All of me, except for Riley.  I can’t bear the thought of anything happening to her.  All of me, except for my trust.”

The crazy thing is, I’m acting as if I just learned something new about God.  That He may allow my children to die.  As if He deceived me somehow.  But I’ve really always known that!  I knew that God can and does allow horrible things to happen.  He allows pain and suffering and death.  And He has been upfront about that from the beginning – all you have to do is read the Bible.  That is how we learn about who He is and How He works, and the pages of scripture are chocked full of bad things that happened that God did not stop.  No, He has not ever deceived me to believe that He wouldn’t allow these things to happen.  Up until this point my theology of suffering wasn’t weak, but my experience of it was.

When I married Jordan four years ago, there were things I thought were true about him that are, there were things I thought were true about him that simply were not (wait, he’s not going to romance me and try to sweep me off my feet 24/7?!), and things I knew were true about him but I just hadn’t fully experienced yet.   In marriage, both spouses learn things about each other through the experience of doing life together.  If you see something that surprises you or something you don’t particularly like, I suppose you can walk away from that person.  But if you keep walking on in your covenant with that person, you will find more depth and beauty on the other side of the learning curve as each of you get to know more of the real person that you married and you stick by them (or so I’m told!).

So I find myself in a similar place in my walk with God.  He sure isn’t going anywhere and, by His grace, I’m not going to either.  I hadn’t fully experienced this part of who God is yet.  And I don’t know what this part of Him means for how the events of my life are going to play out. But here I am.  I’m trying to piece together the puzzle after the picture I had put together has been completely shattered.  I believe that there is more depth and beauty on the other side of this, and I thirst for the taste of it.

Although he was a son, he learned obedience through what he suffered. – Hebrews 5:8

Even God’s own holy son Jesus Christ was no foreigner to suffering.  He was not exempt.  As a matter of fact, he took on the full wrath of God, a form of suffering those of us who call on him will never need to know.  I take great comfort in that today.

He was despised and rejected by men;
    a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief;
and as one from whom men hide their faces
    he was despised, and we esteemed him not.

Surely he has borne our griefs
    and carried our sorrows;
yet we esteemed him stricken,
    smitten by God, and afflicted.

But he was pierced for our transgressions;
    he was crushed for our iniquities;
upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace,
    and with his wounds we are healed.

-Isaiah 53:3-5

 

KM.

Prone to Leave the God I Love

It’s interesting: if you had asked either Jordan or I just a week ago about how we have been doing with our loss lately, we would both have answered “fine!”  We might say something along the lines of, “Of course we are still sad and miss our son, but overall we have been doing fine lately.”  But this past week, our perception of how we have been handling it was blown out of the water.  As we approach Salem’s due date this upcoming week, we have come to realize just how much our world has changed and how our mourning has shaped the ways that we have been functioning in life and in marriage.

 

July has been a busy month for us.  The first week in July was spent packing everything we own in boxes.  The second week was spent moving and unpacking.  The third week we were at the beach with my side of the family.  The fourth week we were in the mountains of Virginia with some friends for a spiritual retreat – which is where the heart of this blog post began.

 

On our beach trip, I wasn’t feeling or thinking much about anything really.  I was just enjoying the sand and the water, the leisure and my family :).  But Jordan and I had a bit of a rocky start to the week and even before the trip we had both referenced how our marriage seemed to be in a hard place and we weren’t entirely sure why.  As the beach trip was coming to a close, I started feeling really sad.  It was a heavy sadness that paralyzed me a bit.  We stayed an extra day because I just didn’t want to leave, but the sadness still lingered deep within my soul in a way that kind of scared me.  I knew that if I were to look that sadness in the face it might take over my whole being and cripple me.  So I chose to avoid it instead, where it just simmered below the surface of my appearance, threatening to overtake me at any minute.  It felt like it was slowly eating away at my heart, but I refused to acknowledge it.

 

Coming into the mountain trip, I started to fall apart.  The sadness was getting stronger and I really started to shut down and withdraw into myself.   When I mentioned to Jordan that I wasn’t sure why I was wrestling with sadness, he pointed out to me that we are getting really close to Salem’s due date.  The thought hadn’t even crossed my mind.  I honestly had not thought about Salem or our loss recently.  But it made so much sense as to why I would be feeling sad.  It is crazy how our bodies and our emotions can respond to things that are in our subconscious even when they are not on our minds!

 

One morning on the trip, I found the sadness gripping me in such a strong way, I could not avoid it.  With so many adults around to keep an eye on Riley, I escaped into a little garden area and just started weeping.  I thought of Salem for the first time in a while and it was so painful that it almost took my breath away.  As I sat there weeping, a very surprising question came to my mind:  Do I really want to be in a relationship with God anymore?  I’m not sure what caught me off guard more – the fact that I asked myself this question, or that my response was, “I’m not sure if I do.”  As I sat there I thought about how appealing it sounded to just give up.  To just pull away from everyone and everything and lock away the key to my heart.  To just escape into myself and hibernate.  At the same time, I knew that I could not actually walk away from God because I know the truth.  I know why we are here and why this world is a mess and what happens in the end.  I know the gospel and I believe the gospel.  So I can’t really throw in the towel all together.  I just don’t want a daily relationship with God right now.  I don’t really want to read His word or talk to Him and meet with Him.  BUT I also know that I can’t just have my ticket to salvation without a growing and daily relationship with God.  It’s one or the other.  This was conflicting my soul.  I wondered how long I had felt this way without acknowledging it.

 

One thing that was a huge gift about this particular trip was that each couple there was given the opportunity to meet with a Spiritual Director for 2 hours while the other couples watched our kids, and then we would also have the opportunity to go out on a date so we could process it together.  Our meeting with Joe (the Spiritual Director) was incredibly enlightening, helpful, and I don’t think it would be too dramatic to say it was life changing.

 

I realized that this was not the first time I had withdrawn.  That actually, I have been slowly withdrawing since January when we lost our son.  As Jordan put it – I have been externally functional, but internally I had been shutting down and shutting people out.  Especially the Lord and Jordan.  This has been affecting my life and my marriage.  Perhaps some of my friendships as well, I’m not sure.  I’ve been too busy licking my wounds to accurately evaluate the relationships in my life.   But one of the things that has been happening (Joe helped to point this out) is that I have been feeling and saying that I want the Lord and Jordan to pursue me, but at the same time I am running 50 miles an hour in the opposite direction.  I’ve been saying, “Come and get me!” but I won’t actually let them get to me.  I remember there being a time a couple of months ago when I felt that God was asking me to give this pregnancy over to him.  After a day of wrestling with that request and shedding many tears my final answer was, “No.  I just can’t.”  Jordan pointed out that there have been many days when he has come home from work and asked about my day but I would respond with, “I don’t have anything to tell you about my day.”  I don’t think it was in a mean spirit or tone of voice, but I had started building walls around my heart in an effort to self-protect, even if I wasn’t aware of it.

 

Sidenote: All of this ^ has been making a lot more sense over the past week as I have learned that I am a “9” on the enneagram scale (I can’t wait to read Richard Rohr’s book soon!)

 

One thing that was interesting was that Joe asked us where we were angry and what we were angry at.  While Jordan was able to list off several different things, I had said, “I don’t think I’m angry.  I have felt angry at other people at times for saying insensitive things, but I have not felt angry at God at all.”  But Joe pointed out that withdrawal can be a form of anger.  It’s saying, “You can’t have any more of me!”  I had never thought of that before and for the first time I realized that I probably am angry with God, even if I didn’t experience the emotion of anger.

 

Joe told me that I had a choice to make.  I have the choice to shut down and withdraw into myself.  To keep running from God and from my husband.  But he cautioned that I should seriously consider the implications of that.  He encouraged me to think about what that will really mean for my life and what it will look like if I continue down that path.  And then I have to ask myself: is that really what I want?  Is that really how I want to go through life?  If my answer to that question is, “no” then I need to take small steps toward God and toward Jordan.  It may not mean that I am able to quickly just jump back into the intimacy and the same place that I was in before; it may mean that each day I take whatever little space I do have and offer it to God and to Jordan.  To say, “There is a small crack in the door to my heart right here, and I want to give it to you.  I want you to walk into it.”  Baby steps.

 

But perhaps the even greater question Joe pointed out was the same one I had asked myself earlier in the week: Do I still want a relationship with God?

 

He pointed out to us that after this huge loss in our lives, our entire understanding of the world and of God had been shattered.  Now we are having to navigate this new world and form a new understanding of God.  He said that even if we knew these things about God, this had not been our experience of God in our lives up until this point, and that changes everything.  We are at a crossroads where we have to decide if we still want to walk with God given this new reality of Him.  He said that he has known several grown men who have walked with God a long time (and even had ministry jobs like his) who had come to this crossroads and had chosen the path apart from God.  The weight of this reality really pressed upon me.  It is kind of scary how fickle our hearts can be and how quick we can be to turn away from our Savior.

 

I thought about this and told Joe that I know I do still want a relationship with God.  Yes, shutting down can seem alluring to me at times, but I know that is no way to live life.  I think that if I had continually walked with God since becoming a Christian at 11 years old, this might actually be a turning point for me.  I might actually walk away from Him, at least for a little while.  But since that is not the case, since I had walked away from Him for 4 years of my life already, I really don’t want to do it again.  I want to stay with Him.  Because I know how miserable it is to live without Him.  I spent 4 years looking for what only Jesus can give me in everything but Him and I was always left wanting.  I was empty and desperate for love and acceptance and purpose.  I have experienced the fact that it can only be found in Him and I shudder at the thought of going back to a life without Him as the center of it.  I never want that again.

 

I left our meeting with Joe feeling renewed and full of hope.  For the first time in a while, I desired to meet with God.  I craved His word.  I told Him that I still want Him, and asked Him to help me each day to give Him whatever I have to offer and to let Him in.    Jordan and I went on our date that night and really felt connected to each other for the first time in a long time.  I actually gave him a little of my heart again that night.  We ate delicious burgers and laughed together and dreamed about our future together and enjoyed the beautiful breeze and absence of humidity in Lexington.

 

Grief really is a process and loss re-shapes our life.  When you lose someone you love, you never really “get over it.”  I am so thankful that God doesn’t expect us to get over it and that He wants to get in it with us.  With me.  That He loves and pursues people as messy as me.  It is humbling to realize just how quickly and easily I could walk away from Him.  Praise Jesus that He has kept me in Him time and time again, no matter how often I have pulled away.  These lyrics keep ringing in my head and they are my prayer today – both for myself and for any of you who may be experiencing similar things:

 

“O to grace how great a debtor

Daily I’m constrained to be!

Let that grace now like a fetter,

Bind my wandering heart to Thee.

Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it,

Prone to leave the God I love;

Here’s my heart, O take and seal it,

Seal it for Thy courts above.”

 

 

KM.

 

Some vacation pics:

 

riley with an ice cream stache

Jordan Krystal and baby number 3

vacation pics 2014 b vacation pics 2014 c vacation pics 2014 d vacation pics 2014 e vacation pics 2014

 

mama and riley

Confessions of an iPhone Mom

(Have you seen this video yet ^? If not, it is well worth the 5 minutes, I promise!)

There has only been one time in my life that I fasted for Lent. It was 4 years ago, and I had given up the gym. I know, I know – sounds like a great fast, right? Doesn’t sound like something hard to give up. But for me that year, it was. I was getting married that June and had become quite obsessed with the gym. I was spending a ton of mental and physical energy on trying to look a very specific way for my wedding. As I decided I wanted to try a Lenten fast, I asked God what He wanted me to give up during that time. The gym kept coming to my mind but I would push it away, thinking there was no way God was asking me to do that, since working out is good for us and He wants us to take care of our bodies. But then I talked to a friend and was telling her about wanting to fast when she said, “This might sound really weird and crazy Krystal, but the gym keeps coming to my mind.  Do you think God could be asking you to give up working out for Lent?”  Ha funny, God.  Real funny.  So I assumed that must be what I was supposed to do and decided that I could exercise but not work out (distinguishing “exercise” as simple movement, rather than “working out” which implies more intensity).  So basically, I could go on walks where I could enjoy the company of a friend, listen to a podcast or pray but nothing more than that.  As it turns out, God revealed a lot to me of my heart and vanity during that time and He drew me so close to Himself.

The gym is a good thing.  Working out glorifies God.  But often what we need to fast from are good things that have become god things in our hearts.

I hadn’t planned on fasting for Lent this year, but a couple of weeks ago I realized that one good thing that had become a god thing for me was social media.  My addiction had gotten out of hand, but it was easy to justify it to myself by pointing out that my obsession with it did not seem much different than anyone else in the US with a smart phone.  I would just say, “this is just a cultural norm, it’s no big deal.” But just because it is permissible, does not mean that it is beneficial (1 Corinthians 10:23).   I found myself feeling anxious if a large part of the day had passed before I had checked in with  my networks.   I also had been feeling really stressed by the volume of relationships in my life and thought, “I wonder if I’m really stressed out by the amount of local relationships I am involved in right now, OR do I just feel like the volume is more dense because of all of the people I am constantly following and checking in on via social media in addition to my local friendships?”

As I pondered this thought, I also came across this blog post by Kelly Needham (love what she writes about): Twitter-itis: Is Social Media Making us Sick?

It made me realize that I was getting “sick” in the way that she described.

So I decided to do a little experiment and fast from Facebook and Instagram for the remaining 2 weeks of Lent.  I thought for sure I would have a hard time doing it and that I would be eager to come back on Easter weekend.  But I’ve been really surprised by the fact that it has actually been really easy, and I don’t miss it one bit.  On the contrary, I have actually considered deactivating both accounts after Easter.  It has been incredibly refreshing to be disconnected.

Here are some things I’ve noticed during my fast:

  1. It was in fact social media that was adding to my stress with my relational capacity.  Without social media, I have not felt at all stressed by the amount of local relationships I have.
  2. The things listed in Kelly’s blog post were absolutely true for me.  By removing social media from my life I found that I was still more often, and had the space to contemplate things for longer periods of time.  I wasn’t comparing myself to others nearly as often.  And perhaps most important: my spiritual alertness majorly increased!  I found myself in prayer far more often because people or things would come to my mind and I would pray for them.  Since I wasn’t filling all my space and stillness with my phone apps, I was able to more easily recognize the nudging of the Holy Spirit.
  3. In general, my Kingdom perspective has just been sharpened.  I’ve sensed a renewed passion for spreading the gospel and influencing our community.
  4. I have felt significantly more content.  With myself, my body, my home, my life, etc.  Since I haven’t been constantly surrounded by idyllic snapshots of people’s personas 24/7, I was able to just be who I am where I am and see the absolute beauty of it.
  5. I have felt more present everywhere that I am and have enjoyed more fully every person that I have been with.  There have been some specific days where I have been with my family or a friend and I just felt like the time was richer and more fulfilling.  I wasn’t as worried about capturing photos of it for Instagram or thinking of a clever way to say something on Facebook.
  6. I have been sleeping a lot better.
  7. I have been less influenced by others in decisions I make or the lifestyle I want to pursue.  It has been nice to think about and research different lifestyle things without being surrounded by pictures of people’s food and material things – which often leads me into covetousness and competition.

So there you have it!  I’m not sure what I’m going to do about my social media accounts right now, but I do know that I will not be using them nearly as often.   I am so thankful for Facebook and Instagram and all of the many ways that we have to connect with one another.   Were it not for these networks, there are some very dear friendships in my life that would not exist!  Praise God for the invention of it :).  It just needs to be put back in its place as a good thing for me, rather than a God thing.

From the iPhone mom herself,

 

KM.

The Communal Dance of Joy and Mourning

I saw it out of the corner of my eye, one second too late. Not soon enough to stop it from happening. Riley excitedly grabbed the “Big Sister” book off the library shelf – the same big sister book that we had bought her in the fall, that we had her open at her birthday party to announce to our families that we were pregnant; the same book that we used in our photography session to take our announcement picture that we were going to post publicly in January.

She ran with the book over to a cozy little reading nook, that just happened to be occupied by one very pregnant lady and two women holding tiny little newborns in their arms.

It was like a knife through my heart.

I happen to have several friends who are pregnant right now, most of them due right around the time that I was. One of my best friends just got married. I have a nephew due to be born in September. All around me there is joy and life, while inside of me is the empty casket that held the death of my second child only a few months ago.

It’s no accident that “rejoice with those who rejoice” is right next to “weep with those who weep,” smack dab in the same exact verse of scripture (Romans 12:15). These two things often happen simultaneously in our communities and in Christian community, we are called to enter into both of them together. Even when they are happening at the same time.

The Greek word for “rejoice” in this passage means to be exceedingly glad; the Greek word for “weep” used here literally means to mourn for the dead; to enter into the pain that is associated with grief.

And that is exactly where I am finding myself.

It’s not an easy thing. Seeing women who are pregnant is a very stark visual reminder of my son’s death. But it is also a stark visual of life and joy.

As crazy as it sounds, rejoicing and weeping are meant to be together. I shouldn’t be afraid of the tears that threaten to fall when I see the joy of a healthy child growing, because those tears show the value of my son’s life. And those who are in the season of rejoicing shouldn’t be afraid of my tears either. The tears don’t mean anything about them personally. And they don’t mean anything about me personally. They mean that death was never supposed to be a part of the equation and people are not designed to handle the sting of it. They mean that the person who was lost was invaluable and there is now a hole in the world and our lives because of his absence.

Nor should I be afraid to smile and rejoice with those who rejoice. Rejoicing does not mean that my son’s loss is forgotten, something that I am very fearful of. If anything, it actually validates the pain of losing him. When we see the picture of joy – what is supposed to be, we are also forced to remember the loss and why it was significant.

When I see a friend who is somewhere around 20 weeks pregnant, I see where Salem should be right now. When I see a mom holding a newborn, I see what Salem is supposed to be this summer. When I am at a wedding, I see what Salem should have the opportunity to experience.

But that is not a bad thing to see. Why do we try to run from pain? Every thing I see that makes me sad and reminds me of Salem, it whispers of his life and significance. It says that he was truly valuable and worth mourning. It says that he was and is deeply loved.

Likewise, those who are in seasons of rejoicing should not be afraid to enter into the mourning of those around them. It doesn’t subtract from their joy, but should actually add to it.

Mourning is made validated when you are reminded of what is actually lost. And rejoicing is made richer when you realize what you have, that could be lost.

This is the sacred dance that we are called into as Christians. Yes, it is painful. But running from the pain is only hurting us more.

If we just indulge in our rejoicing without willingness to weep with those who are mourning, then we aren’t going to experience our rejoicing in as rich of a way as we could. And if we pull away in our mourning without willingness to rejoice with those who are rejoicing, then we will just become bitter and resentful.

I’ve been the one who is in a season of rejoicing before while other friends were mourning. Now it’s my turn to be on the other end of Roman’s 12:15, only to realize that I should have been there (with others who are there) all along. Here is something I’ve learned:

It’s a great disservice to those of us who are mourning when we are treated like we should just get over it and move on, or we are encouraged to find some sort of “good” purpose in all of this. It is an impediment to us being able to enter fully into community and rejoice with those who rejoice when people expect us to be the hero of our own story; to pull ourselves up, move on, and be inspirational with “all of the ways God is working through this!” It makes those of us who are mourning feel like our pain isn’t validated, our loss isn’t significant, and that the life of the one lost wasn’t valuable. Yes, God can and will work good things, even out of tragedies. But my sanctification is certainly NOT more valuable than Salem’s life. How are we supposed to rejoice with others if those things are true?

There are many days when I don’t want to see a single person, other than my family. I don’t want to mourn by myself, but I also don’t want to mourn inwardly while everything else around me seems normal and happy. I am sometimes afraid to talk about anything good that God is doing in my life, for fear that people will grasp onto it as a reason for my son’s death – as if any of it is more valuable then he was.

But when those who are rejoicing are also willing to mourn with us and validate our loss? Oh, it is such a beautiful gift. In the same way that it is a beautiful gift to those who rejoice, when one who is mourning also rejoices with them.

I was surprised by what a gift it was for me to rejoice with two friends this week who are expecting their first child. The reason that it was such a gift was not because it erased my pain; no, in some ways it made my pain more prevalent, brought it front and center. But it was the way that these two incredible women mourned with me while I rejoiced with them. With compassion on their faces and listening ears, they ministered to me by mourning with me even though they are in a time of rejoicing. And hopefully I was able to minister to them by being excited with them and listening to the ways they are changing and things they are contemplating during their pregnancies. To be able to talk about falling into a pile of unfolded laundry in tears of pain over my son in the same conversation as talking about their birthing plans and pregnancy cravings was a rare and beautiful thing.

My situation may bring tears into their smiles, and theirs smiles into my tears; but that is true friendship. That is life in rich community. That is rejoicing with those who rejoice and mourning with those who mourn.

A few weeks ago at my friend’s wedding, I was standing at the back of the room when another friend from our church walked up to me. She is also in a season of loss. Without hesitation, we wrapped our arms around each other. And we wept. We held each other for a long time, and then we turned together and looked at all of our friends – laughing and dancing. And we smiled.

“Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep.” –Romans 12:15

KM.

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