Tuesday, August 25, 2015

One Word Photos





view

 crocs

progress

 moon

desert

help

mourning

earthquake

swan

lisa

wildlife

sunset

soothing


lombard

staring

therapy

colorful

neighborhood

 because

companion

grief

growing 

skype

vanilla

favorite

picked

strong

redwoods

ruins

pacific

?

majestic

blue

window

inconsolable

helpers


Thursday, August 13, 2015

Beauty In The Barren Places

Everywhere I turn lately, there is barrenness. I don't know what's with this year, but for myself and those close to me, it's been a heckava year. So much turmoil, confusion, pain, even separation. Too many tears, so much resentment, and a lot of hurt. It's like a big dose of an "unhappy" pill, and it just keeps being distributed. It's honestly quite unbelievable, that if I shared each and every one of the stories or situations, you would not believe me. It's that crazy and hard.

I've always believed there is beauty out of ashes. In the broken places we shall find wholeness and goodness. I've had plenty of brokenness, and have found redeeming value and freedom in most all of them throughout the years. Not because it just happened or came, but because I was active in my own life and turmoil to not just sit in brokenness but to find some glue, to find some tape, so I could fix some of it. With a little glue and a little tape, maybe, just maybe, we can start to be put back together again. But remembering that we will always need tending to.


My daughter finding beauty in the barrenness of her life.


Beauty In The Barren Places

In the moved that wasn't wanted, find it there, in that barren place,
something to be sought, something new, something beautiful.

In the signing of divorce papers, find it there, in that barren place,
grace for both, courage to start anew, something beautiful.

In the findings of betrayal, find it there, in that barren place,
a God to cling to, surprising peace in loneliness, an unknown strength, something beautiful.

In being told of the lay-off, find it there, in that barren place, 
gentleness for self, joy for some time off, something beautiful.

In the struggle of chronic illness, find it there, in that barren place,
contentment of limitations, living in the now, something beautiful.

In the empty nest, find it there, in that barren place,
a chance for discovery of self, the process of renaming, something beautiful.

In the unplanned way of life, find it there, in that barren place,
patience for new beginnings, perseverance in the unknown, something beautiful.

In the news of infertility, find it there, in that barren place,
exploring unique options, accepting new normals, unswerving faith, something beautiful.

In the great loss of a loved one, find it there, in that barren place,
honor their life through memories, learning to let go, something beautiful.

In living in an unfamiliar town, find it there, in that barren place,
excitement of new friends, adventures of new landscape, something beautiful.

In the financial ruin, find it there, in that barren place,
trusting in the unseen, learning to have less, something beautiful.

In the divided country, find it there, in that barren place,
God is sovereign over all, empathetic eyes, something beautiful.

In that barren place, something beautiful, is bound, bound to take shape. 
Every empty place ends up being filled, every broken place, can emerge,
every set of eyes, every open heart, helps it all not fall apart. 


Thursday, August 6, 2015

Don't Play Comparison


Bloom where you are planted. 

I wish I could write like her and her and her. They are so clever, and eloquently put words into meaning. They give writing that extra punch. I appreciate them so much, but I also long to be that kind of writer. I wish I was as business savvy and made all things look as beautiful as her. I wish I was as productive as a writer and had the gift of an artist like her. I'm surrounded, we are surrounded by creative, talented, powerhouses in every direction and in every form. All these women possess something that I don't have. And I have something all these women don't possess. That's a positive, good thing. The world will just make you feel, and think differently.

Some ways they take shape: better jobs, bigger pay, bigger homes, more cars and a boat. More talent, more opportunity, more kids, more organized, more outgoing, more creative, thinner, stronger, better athlete, more control, healthier, prettier, luckier, more blessed, more faith, more cutting edge, more more more! People who seem to be able to do it all and have it all, right?!

Wrong. 

See, we are all consumed by comparisons. And the world I live in with blogging and Instagram, it smacks me in the face everyday. It smacks all of us in the face every single day. It use to be that only Celebrities could do this to us. But now, with FB and other social media outlets, we are exposed to the everyday man having this kind of power over us. Leaving us with our tongues hanging out wishing we were them, or had what they had. Which then leaves us feeling inadequate, lonely, good for nothin', and sometimes, even more often than not, depressed.

At every turn it's a photo of someone posting their new car, their new baby, their new home, their new boat, another something you don't have. A job promotion, a book deal, or an athletic reward of some kind. People posting pictures of their amazing travels, their marriages and marrying their "best friend" (I don't know about you but I did not marry my best friend). Photos of their "perfect" kid (guilty). Again, leaving you feel like why not me?

Thing is is, everything has an appearance. These wonderful things in and of themselves are not bad. But if we don't zoom out and see the bigger picture which is, we have good things too, and we are talented too, and these people have problems just like any other guy, then these celebrations and sharings will suck the life out of us. And let me tell you, it sucks. I beg you, it's all about perspective!

Others talents, and gifts do not equal, "I have no gifts or talents" or, "My gifts and talents aren't as good as theirs." It simply means that's their set of gifting, and you and I have our own set. Have you tried to discover what yours were?
Others having more material possessions, or traveling more than you doesn't equal "there life is so much better and happier than mine". Or at least it doesn't have to. Zoom out a bit. 

Here's what I mean.

Most of us have more than we could ever ask or hope for! Anything can look good behind a screen. It doesn't take away the behind the scenes of their life.

OUR RESPONSE SHOULDN'T BE LOOK WHAT THEY HAVE, LOOK WHAT THEY CAN DO, IT SHOULD BE LOOK WHAT I HAVE LOOK WHAT I CAN DO.

I am certainly one to get frustrated about the things I can't do! Living with chronic illness takes away much. But if I focus on that, knowing that is my reality, I can combat it with, "what can I do with where I am, and with my set of gifts and talents." We all have something unique to offer to the world. Comparison is probably a form of jealously. I mean God created us all so different and unique, and we spend more time feeling defeated and frustrated because we envy what others can do/have that we can't?! What if we spent that much time and energy focusing inward at our own something special we have to offer to the world? It's a continual laying down, and surrendering for me. Surrendering to comparison and focusing on who God made me to be and what He equipped me with personally. Hone in on that. Ask friends and family, that's what I did. They all seemed to come up with the same thing, it was kinda cool. God made you, YOU. I'm sure you have plenty that someone else doesn't have. Let's try to rejoice or be happy for the happenings of others! There is nothing wrong with sharing the good things in our lives, and there is nothing wrong with someone being good or "better" at something than you. That's just their calling and gifting. Doesn't mean you don't have something to offer. It takes courage and humility to change and gain a new perspective. I dare you to try.

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Grief: 43 Days And Counting

For those of you who don't know, I was with my best friend of 25 years as she faced dying. I was with her the whole 2 weeks until she passed. Including a 5 day hospice experience. We are 40 years old. I am not the same person, but others and me, wish I were.


Greeting guests at the wake/funeral.

We were 15 when we met. We worked together at a Frozen Yogurt shop in the late 80's when they were still really cool, before they disappeared for over a decade, and then came back with a vengeance. We clicked right away because we both were bit of outsiders in school. It's not that neither one of us had a lot of friends in high school, but we didn't like the cliques, the partying, and the usual stuff that came along with typical weekends of high schoolers. So we clung to one another, and a sisterhood formed; a bond just as strong as any out there. Maybe I can share more about "our story" later, but for now, I am in need to write about my experience with the strangest, most awful, dreadful thing I've ever felt: grief.

Amy died 43 days ago, and I am just now able to put a blog post together, which I don't even know if you would call it that. If my whole body has been in a super dark gray cloud, a 1/8 of my head is out of it.

I use to think I knew what people were feeling when they lost someone. Wow, I knew nothing of their loss and pain, NOTHING. And I'm here today to tell you that if you have not experienced great loss, you don't either. You think you do, just like I thought I did, but you don't. And the moment you assume to know, is the moment you have hurt the person grieving. The moment you start to compare your loss to theirs, is the moment you've practically lost all trust in the person grieving. It doesn't help. I repeat, it doesn't help. There are a handful of things that help, and an even bigger handful of things that do not. Maybe I'll get into that later, but who knows because it's a miracle and only by the grace of God that I've gotten this much written. And I write because I've been blown away at how many people who have had great loss have reached out to me, telling me to keep sharing and that hearing from me, me (mainly through instagram and FB), has helped and encouraged them!!! What?! How can that be? I'm new at this, I have NOTHING to offer. So I think. But again, that's the power of courage. Courage to share our stories. Courage to be as real as possible. I'm knew to this grief journey and because I've shared thus far, other grievers have been encouraged. And by golly, they've encouraged me.Not because I'm something great, or know so much, but because I spoke up, I shared. I shared my heart. Everyone needs to hear from our hearts.

Self care in grief consists of: Beach, sunsets. a lot of coffee, essential oils, and buying oneself flowers on the street. And a lot, a lot of mingling with strangers.








One of the first things I read when I lost Amy was "the more the affection for your loved one, the greater the loss." Might sound like, "duh", but for me it wasn't. It helped me instantly understand why I felt the way I did. So traumatized, so deeply hurting, intense pain, utter confusion, and for over a week after it happened, a shock that put me in a smoky fog.

I had lost grandparents before, but I had never grieved for them. I didn't know 2 of them very well, and the one grandpa that died that I loved dearly, I was very sad and missed him a lot, but I didn't really grieve. I didn't go through the stages. Oh the stages, I know them so well now, except I haven't gotten to ACCEPTANCE yet, that's coming; I guess it's the last stage.I'm still in the BARGAINING stage. I actually feel stuck in it. But the grief counselor is going to be helping me through it. Yes I said through, which indicates it will end.

So the affection you have toward your loved one--you can see how losing a child then is the most unfathomable in loss. There are different levels of loss. Mine is a very high level because of the length of our relationship, the depth of it, the greatness of it, the complications of it, the Christ-centered part of it and on and on.


For the first several weeks (and I'm just now slowly coming out of it), I didn't feel like a normal part of society. C.S Lewis says in his book A Grief Observed, "Perhaps the bereaved ought to be isolated in special settlements like lepers."  If you can relate to that at all, then I submit you know of grief. I did not want to go anywhere, talk to anyone or socialize. I felt like an outcast.

I think to myself: Am I even still a regular American citizen? I have no idea. All I do know is that in grief I find myself in 1 of 3 places over the last several weeks following Amy's death--

My bedroom in a pool of tears, holding my dog so tight I squeeze his insides, or at the Cross. A blubbering mess of tears in my husbands arms crossed over the kitchen island unexpectedly while making dinner (which is a huge accomplishment for the grieving), all with slime from my saliva pouring out of my mouth and onto his arm hair.
Grief finds you on the floor, in the tub, on the sofa, and in the flower shop at any give moment.
It finds you sniffy pleasant scents, eating croissants and remembering what your loved one would like and love. The colors, the movies, the songs. Grief finds you crying in the Trader Joe's isle at a cheesy love song from the 80's cuz you know your loved one would love that song and the lyrics are quite fitting. It may also find you spending a little money. It finds you with little to no appetite and getting lots of massages due to the physical condition of your body. Grief settles in the body physically too ya know. Grief finds you desperately wanting to call, text or go visit with your loved one. It leaves you in your desperation wanting to hear their voice. Knowing you never will and hoping you can accept it. It finds you drinking lots of water so you don't get dehydrated. It has found me at the ocean, at the sunset and staring out my bedroom window. At first I tried to think the thoughts of my experience with her the last two weeks of her life, back into existence. Like literally thinking I could do that. So I guess grief finds you sort of crazy.It finds you struggling to deal with life's particulars: answering questions, listening, responding to emails, texts etc.

Each day, I know I have to get up. I have to have my coffee. CHECK. Then what? (I remember asking my closest and now (only) best friend the morning Amy died---"What do I do now? And I was serious---"Just lay here, do I eat? Move? Stare out the window? What??" She said, "What you're doing right now is what you're suppose to be doing." So I laid in bed for 9 hours.)

Ok, now that I have made coffee and sipped a little, I'll check email and Facebook, even though I have little interest in what's going on with others. Pretty insensitive right? I know, that happens with grief, I guess. Apparently it's quite normal. It's not that we don't care necessarily, it's that chemically the brain cannot retain information when grief is thick and going strong. So I guess I'm off the hook then.
I've learned lots of interesting things about how grief happens and works. I guess the reason we go through shock when it first happens is because if we felt everything all at once, we couldn't handle it. So we have this built in system, thanks God, that prevents us from feeling all the pain all at once.

So then, I might have to take my dog out to go potty, that seems pleasurable and fairly simple, yet I'm reminded of his frailty now and scared of losing him and how much Amy loved him like her own. Then I get back to my small apartment and feel frustrated by the small space and little messes I can't keep up with, so I think, ok, I'll go to my room and stare out the window some more.

I then have a slight renewal of energy so I make some phone calls and "take care of business". And in my day I may get a text from a friend/s or any given family member, and then I have to have a response I don't feel like giving. I feel I have to be a certain way, even though that's not how I feel or where I am mentally. But they can't handle it or me if I don't respond to what they want from me. But I do it anyway.

Then my husband and daughter who are both naturally bubbly, continue to use their usual excitable voices to ask me how I am, just like they did before Amy died. And before she died I would typically answer with the same, equally excitable voice and tone, because the three of us have that in common. But now? Well, just find either one of them and ask them what kind of response they get.
I then proceed to wander around my apartment, thinking, "hmm, what's next?" Oh well, I think I'll eat ice-cream, because I can.

"No one ever told me about the laziness of grief. Not only writing, but reading is too much. Even shaving." C.S. Lewis A Grief Observed 

I keep wanting and wishing moments back because the more days that go by after her death, the more distant they feel. At first I was haunted by the "movies" that were playing on repeat for weeks, but now they are fading and that is scary to me. C.S. Lewis was fearful of this too, (he lost his wife), the memory fading. And if it continues to fade will that mean the moments never happened? Will it make me feel further away from my loved one? I don't want that.

I mentioned earlier that I was in the BARGAINING stage and let me tell you, I do not wish this on my worst enemy, if I had any. It's an awful nightmare you wish to wake up from day after day. The thing about grief is that you know it will be there the next day and the next, so it's dreadful. It's not that I question WHY. I've already wrestled with God on the tough theology questions and confusion years ago when I struggled with infertility. The bargaining is more like, "Did I say the right things? Did I say enough? Did I do enough? What If I would have done this or that instead?" etc..
It's tough accepting that the things I did indeed say and do were enough and noticed. Dear God I pray they were noticed by her.

I've also experienced something I use to do myself. Ignored others grief.  Others not asking you at ALL how you are or how you are dealing. I've read this is common because sometimes the people in our lives don't know what to say or they think what they say won't be enough or that they will make it worse somehow, or they think it won't matter. So they stay silent. I have also learned that the people in our lives can be overwhelmed by the depth of our pain in our grief, that they literally back down and out because they don't know what to do to help. I myself, remember making these mistakes with others I knew were grieving. See, one can know a thing about something, but until it becomes an experience in your own life, we really don't know.  That is why we shouldn't be so quick to judge or criticize others. And every single story of grief is different and unique because every situation and person is. I give grace, because I have needed it so much before.

Ya grief creeps in and all you are left with is longing for your loved one. Wishing them back into existence.Wishing and begging to go back in time like that's a possibility.

Then there's the perspective of death itself. Which I'll have to save for another time. God has been speaking to me about this a lot. Eternal perspective. Oh I have known and know a lot about it...the epitome of a christians life is having eternal life, but again, when a thing happens to you that is real, it's all together another thing to believe or see or accept that one thing you thought you knew. So there's another journey for me.

Here is a verse I never knew existed and this is my aim for growth and understanding:

"Precious in the sight of the LORD is the death of his saints." Psalm 116:15

For now I'm thankful for all the family and friends that have loved and supported me through this time. God has provided sweet strangers for me throughout the weeks as gifts to my heart. Things you know are divine. I have received cards, gifts and precious messages. Nell's has been a source of healing and so has worship. I'm grateful to have a community, even if it's not the community back home that I miss, to help navigate me through this time. It's not conventional, but I've appreciated it where it's come. Thanks for reading and for caring enough to spend this much time on something I've tried to write, because I'm sure it was a jumbled mess, sort of like me.


Friday, May 15, 2015

When It's Not What You Wanted

A bit gloomy.

I will hardly use the word want anymore in my vocabulary because first of all, most of the things I have wanted out of life and in life, have simply not come. Plus, being a christian, it's a bit, I find, of a self focused word, when my aim is to be God-centered and others-centered. So I've trained myself in "I shall not want", and it's been good for my soul. Because let's face it, life has thrown many, many curve balls my way, and it's been far from a life I envisioned or planned. And honestly, I worked through a lot of those and have gone through suffering, for years even. It's not that I thought life was "done" with me, or that God wasn't going to grow my character more, I guess I'm just surprised that this move to CA from MN hit me so hard, I thought I had matured enough to handle it better. I wouldn't say I'm in a suffering time as much as I was in the past, but whatever it is, I'm going through it. Although all suffering can be good. It catapults us to the next level of healing, growing, and maturing. Maybe now's the time for me to use and put into practice what I gained in my, what I call 8 years in the wilderness. We'll see.

I'll start by saying, I did not want to move to California. When you hear from others the hard stuff they have to do, and even the hard stuff I've had to do that I never thought I could or would, you think, "No way in H-- am I doing that!" You think to yourself, "there is not a chance I would ever do that." But then the T in the road appears, and you have to choose. Because believe it or not, we always have a choice, always. And that is just what happened. My husband said he wanted to work for a tech-start up in San Francisco, he applied to probably 80 jobs and got 3 offers and accepted 1 and here we are. When he first mentioned it a year ago, I thought it was a fun, passing thought for him. I thought I'd let him have a little fun looking for jobs out west and just leave it be. He'd "get over it". But then he was laid off from his job in MN last Fall, and it became more real and serious. By the summer of 2014, he was adamant about moving and I had to make a choice. Because I did have a choice. Never in a million years did I think I'd be faced with that choice. I've said before how close my family and I are, and the pain of leaving my parents was unbearable, unthinkable actually.

Bay Bridge to Oakland, from Fisherman's Wharf

So for months and months, all I heard about was San Francisco. San Francisco this, San Francisco that. Can you see where I'm going here? Do you hear some bitterness in my sentences?  You'd be right. Because not only did I never think and never did I want to leave my family, friends, community and Minnesota, a life I had there for almost 40 years, but I also didn't want to.....wait for it......

live in Oakland.

Ima be extremely honest here. I am mad that I live in Oakland. Wow Gina, get over it. I am trying to get over it, that's the point with this blog post! I mean Oakland!? Give me a break. I moved and left everything behind, aside from my husband and dog (my daughter is here, but moving back to MN in August), to be in Oakland??? I thought we were moving to San Francisco?? That's all I heard about for months and months. And my husband still gets SF every single day. He works in the city. So he has no problem not living there. But do you see how unfair this is people??! Sure, we are only 7 miles to SF, just across the Bay, but I wanted and still want my daily life to be there. That's a once in a lifetime thing. I'm highly frustrated, and am still mad or whatever it would be called, maybe I'm not happy. But who cares about being happy. I have joy joy joy. What do I need to be happy for? I'm ticked off we don't live in San Francisco because that's where I want to live. I never wanted to be in Oakland. So now what? (I guess you could say I needed to get that off my chest).

But our lives are actually what we have, not what we can't let go of wanting or wishing for.


You think I'm pretty spoiled and selfish don't ya? Ungrateful too huh? Ya, well, me too.

The thing is is there is a lot going on in my life that makes me very unhappy. I won't list them all. There is a list of things going wrong too. There is a lot of confusion, frustration and tears. A LOT.



But next to that list of all that is "wrong" and all that makes me unhappy, is a longer list of all that is right and all that makes me grateful. You see, I've talked about it before, happiness is temporal. It's based on circumstances. And let's face it, a good portion of the time, they bite. Reality bites
.
We all know life is hard. Really hard. In many different ways for every single person. So the first thing I can do is focus on the list that surpasses all that is wrong and icky. The grateful list of all the gifts and blessings. It might sound cliche' but it literally helps. It works, I promise. Our minds can't serve a good and a bad thing at the same time. If we focus on the good thing, and the gift, and keep doing that, the negativity and countless things that are wrong, will fall by the wayside. But that's just it, we have to do it. We have to work in our minds. It always starts in the mind. Tracking and policing our thoughts, and steering them toward what is good, and what we do have. Things that make us rich. SO rich! The other way of thinking makes us so very poor. When we don't look or count on our circumstances to give us total fulfillment, we will find peace. And out of peace comes joy.

"I have learned in whatsoever state I am in, therewith to be content." 
Philippians 4:11
Being content as "satisfied to the point where you are not disturbed or disquieted. It doesn't say satisfied to the point where you don't want change, but satisfied for now. Being patient through the changes, and confusion. The possibility of trusting God, that He didn't necessarily cause this, but He can do something with it, if we allow. Accepting that things take time to bloom. Flowers don't grow overnight. 
We can stop being agitated and disturbed; we don't have to allow ourselves to be fearful and intimidated and cowardly and unsettled. Jesus left us a legacy of peace, and He wants us to use it.

Be present to the gift of now. Ann Voskamp 

And every milestone moment always forks and you get to choose which road you’ll go — bitter or blessed. Ann Voskamp 
Don’t grieve that it’s gone, wonder that it was. (Wow, I dare us.) Ann Voskamp

Along with our thinking about our thoughts, and how that can really save us in tough times; just managing our thoughts and directing them to what you have, not what you don't have, can be key. I would even go so far as to say it can be a survival tactic. At least it is for me.

I've also got to get to accepting. This might not be where I want to be, geez Gina, who are you kidding you're in the BAY AREA, you basically ARE in San Fransico! Give it some time woman! And maybe we can move to the actual city of SF in a year or two. But for now, you still live in one of the most sought after, beautiful places in the country! Ok, am I talking in first person or second here?!

I can learn to accept and "get over myself", when it comes to living in Oakland. I think one of the reasons I don't want to be here is it feels more permanent. And I don't want this move to be permanent. SF is less permanent. The bottom line is none of this is what I wanted or asked for but I'm here now, and I can work with it. I just have to get to accepting. I have to radically accept that this isn't what I wanted, and I do have to "start over" but that in time I trust God will reveal how He wants to use me here. I have to trust that my character will grow, that my marriage will become even stronger, that I will gain new experiences, (I already have), that if I surrender to what I don't want, I may just find a few things I do want. I may just see things in a new way if I allow myself to let go of what I want and wish was. Because the reality is that I do live in Oakland, right now. The reality is that I am away from family and friends.  The reality is that I don't have my rhythm here. The reality is what is, what I wish for or want, isn't. So I gotta live in what is. Because it's honestly all I have. And it's all you have too.


See, it's not so bad. Sitting in North Beah in SF having coffee.

Where you are at in your life and what you are going through right now might not be your first choice or your second choice for that matter. It might not be what you wanted.But you are going through it. It's what is. It's reality. Demonstrate your power of choice where you can, train your thoughts to good and gratefulness, and you'll find more and more that the thinking on what you want or wanted will soon vanish. With perseverance, which we all have a need for, and some patience and a lot of prayer, we can learn to embrace what is instead of what isn't. We can start seeing the good around us and stop wallowing. I know it's what I need to do. It isn't easy. I need to choose to see things in a new light. I need to choose to see that this is a huge adventure that is actually a gift! I've got to start enjoying and accepting that I live here. I am committed to trying, and looking at my situation with new eyes. Afterall, that's usually all we need.