I meant to write on this topic yesterday, but perhaps a morning greeting will prove a blessing to someone in particular. To those who grieve on Christmas, who have experienced the loss of a loved one, or found yourself in an harsh circumstance today, perhaps disappointed, living with a loss of some kind, I want to say, "Hello" just to you this morning! This greeting is for and about you.
It can be easy to feel like you are crawling along on the outskirts of this day, pressed outside the worldwide joy parade by a sorrowful circumstance. You are watching it happen, trying hard not to be sad while the world sings, "Glory!" It can feel like the festivities are more like arrows to your heart than gifts, the sounds and visuals of the day a blaring reminder of what you are living without. In particular, if it is your first Christmas without a loved one, it is likely no less than a hike up Mount Everest to make it through this day emotionally. Even now, for me, years later, I still miss those who beat me Home. Christmas holds amplified emptiness when those we love are not with us in it.
I have a word for you. Hear me, beloved! You are not on the outskirts of this day. Do you know what everyone is gathered around? They are celebrating the coming of King Jesus, who is a man who was familiar with sorrow and well-acquainted with grief. I believe, although it is rarely acknowledged, that every single twinkling light is a sign that there is hope for those who are brokenhearted. This man Jesus came, and courageously pursued those who were most hurting. He is still doing that very thing today, on Christmas. His eyes and heart are towards you. You are not alone. You are not outside of what "Christmas" is about. You are actually the reason for this season.
YOU are the reason He came.
You grumpy grieving sorrowful beautiful person.
Perhaps feeling very much alone.
"He is near to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit."
Today is a holiday about Jesus, and Jesus sees you in your grief and loves you more deeply than anyone ever could. He is near to you, nearer than breath. It is possible to be comforted today and benefit deeply from the good news that sits at the core of this holiday. Jesus came, and is still coming, to save, rescue, and redeem those who are hurting. I declare to you – beauty for ashes, joy for mourning, and praise for despair. Isaiah 61:1-3 belongs to you! Unwrap it. It’s all yours. You are at the center of what this day is about.
My love to the grieving today!
Love, Katie Luse.
People seem familiar with gifts that keep on giving. My crockpot is nine years old. It's formed porcelain is still performing; pulled pork production and all. All I do is plug it in. It's a gift that keeps on giving.
People are not so familiar, it seems, with losses that keep on robbing. My little girl would be nine years old today; we celebrated two treasured birthdays with her. Every year I wish I could be with Ruby on this day. If only I could plug a shared birthday back in. It's a loss that keeps on robbing.
Celebrating a child's birthday is a gift. I grieve the loss of this experience at five, six, seven, eight and now nine. I am not excited about this day being on every annual calendar everywhere for the rest of my life. Ruby, come home.
It feels healthy to me every once in awhile to sit in a cemetery, to let a cemetery sit with me. While that is undoubtedly morbid to many, it is part of my life and I find it a grace.
There is a gentle voice in the cemetery that rides the wind through the grass and speaks, "Brevity, brevity." In that simple word it dares any soul that will hear to live fully, to fully live.
The pathetic and yet love packed bunches of plastic flowers scattered across the field seem to have eyes of their own that burrow into mine as their shadows fall on their stones. Every life will eventually lie in peace under a shadow of time, perhaps under the shadow of a plastic rose.
There are many people who are no longer with us, many, many, many, people whose lives are over. I am not one of them. Not today.
I rise with a conviction to live. Live aware of brevity. Live now.
My cemetery grace.
Morning, afternoon, night.
Another simple day -
tail illuminated by happy street lights.
The bustling of a culture world re-known
The music of a language romance has found
The passing of mundane time
The breathing of life divine.
A sudden explosion
A terror alive
An unforseen invasation
Loss of life.
The anti-thesis of divine.
This is not okay.
Someone please take this moment of history away.
Where families are thrown into the hot hands of grief
And cradled in loss without relevant relief.
A deafening scream
A weeping team
A dismantled security
A restless popularity
Tonight, the world's heart
is with Paris.
When I was thrust into grief two and a half years ago, I learned quickly that holidays had become my enemies. They would creep up on me like a ravenous bear and then ruthlessly attack my heart in the area of my loss. I can remember our first Christmas without Ruby; I thought I might die.
After months of introspective chaos, I realized that I was not the only one running for cover at the sight of a holiday. As a matter of fact, I found that there were more people grieving on holidays than celebrating. To this day, I wonder why this is not talked about more.
Holidays have a weird way of highlighting our losses, uncovering our pain, and then making us feel like our vulnerability is on display for the world to see.
Today is Valentine's Day. I am aware that there are many people with hurting hearts who are faced with the hard task of navigating this holiday. I am not trying to create pessimism around this day, but I do want to say something:
If this day is hard for you, you are on my heart and I want to speak to you. If it's not, don't read on. Go eat your chocolate and enjoy your day.
To those with more hurts than hearts on Valentine's Day, I wrote you this piece:
In your longing you are beautiful.
In your waiting you are strong.
In your remembering there is beauty.
In your dreaming there is light.
In your mistakes there is redemption.
In your losses there is gain.
In your wanderings there is precision.
In your trusting there is preservation.
In your courage there are miracles.
In your hope there is freedom.
In your heart - there is value.
In your journey - there is endless grace.
You are an amazing lover. Do you know that? Seriously. Ask the people closest to you. You do it well. You deserve to be celebrated today. I celebrate you.
Happy Valentine's Day. I wish I could re-package this holiday and deliver it to you with a pretty bow. But I have no bow to tie this up, just an honest expression to validate that some people hurt where others celebrate, and both deserve to be honored. To the latter, redemption rain is yours. It will come.
You are seen.
And honored today -
by the One who IS LOVE.
I’ve received professional counseling, sat under pastoral care, processed things with friends, threw stuff into journals, bounced stuff off the mirror, held stuff in silence, filtered stuff through books, and at times … fought to forget.
It all has a role: a time, a place, a season, a reason – for being. But there is nothing - not a thing - that compares to hearing directly from The Wonderful Counselor: Holy Spirit.
That still small voice, that inner compass of peace, that divine thought, that internal impression, that grace-filled sense of direction... however it comes ... one word from Him can:
Motivate the soul
Revive the heart
And navigate me through
For Christmas: Free advice from the Wonderful Counselor. Consider it. Find some quiet. Tune in. Choose a topic. Start a conversation. Listen. Receive. He’s the best.
For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Isaiah 9:6
Two years ago we lost our daughter to a terminal disease. I’m a Mom. I live with loss. Early in my grief journey a trusted friend looked me straight in the eye and said, “I am so sorry, Katie, but you cannot run from this, you must go through it.” I knew she was right and I have chosen to embrace the grief process.
Weird idea. Who wants to embrace pain?
No one. But when you discover that the deepest love, most profound comfort, and invaluable teaching happen in the crux of pain … you stop fearing it.
Last week I spent time grieving. I was at a meeting and sat on the floor crying for a long time. Deep expression tumbled out of my broken heart. I let the tears fall and fall hard. I wept and didn’t try to stop it. I held Holy Spirit’s hand and poured out my heart without reservation. I was a mess on the floor in a public space and did not care because I have learned that my heart honestly expressed is of value to the Father.
Three hours later a series of events occurred that caused me to feel a height of joy that I’ve not known in a long time. It was so encouraging it took me off guard. It wasn’t long before I realized that the joy I was experiencing was connected to my tears that had just hit the floor. It was coming as a response. And then I remembered …
Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.
Weeping endures for the night, but joy comes in the morning.
To those who grieve in Zion, I will bestow beauty for ashes …
Have you ever noticed that Isaiah 61 (beauty for ashes, joy for mourning, praise for despair) is allocated specifically to those who grieve? Isn't that amazing?
What if weeping is a passageway to joy? What if mourning sets the stage for comfort? What if ashes are the prime materials needed to create beauty?
Friends, it is in the tears, the groans, the raw outpouring of our hearts before God that we encounter the God who heals. People get over stuff all the time without healing from it. I believe that healing happens when we courageously face the reality of our pain and encounter who God is for us in it.
There’s something about the freedom to weep, mourn, and grieve that sets the stage for joy, comfort and beauty. God attaches provision to grief, which is why it is not okay to deny each other access to it. Too often we fear what we cannot fix and therefore short-circuit each other’s process through not giving each other permission to grieve. In that resistance, we also resist the God-given provision to those who grieve.
The holidays have a strange way of exposing our losses; big and small. What you feel in this season matters. It matters to God. Talk to Him about it. He’s not tired of hearing from you. You don’t have to shove it down. He cares. You are free to grieve. There’s a love encounter waiting for you in the midst of what you fear to face.
How do I know?
Two and a half years of steady grief and I’ve learned to dive into Him without fear. He has only ever responded to me with love.
I can’t fix your hurt, but I can tell you that it matters to God. In that validation I hope your hands will be untied to face what you feel and pour your heart out to Him.
Trust in him at all times, you people; pour out your hearts to him; for God is our refuge. (Psalm 62:8)
Katie Luse is a speaker and writer who is passionate about navigating life with eyes on a hunt for beauty.