Misplaced Blame

It’s taken a couple of days to formulate the words for this post.  I’ve spent time reflecting on the tragic event that occurred this past week, along with reading a variety of thoughts and opinions.

On Valentine’s Day, February 14, 2018, one of the deadliest school shootings occurred.  The lives of 17 people were taken and 15 more were injured.  It’s logical to seek answers for how this act of violence could occur.  Why did the killer do it?  How was he able to obtain the arsenal to commit this horrific crime?  Essentially, we want to know…who is at fault?

As in most tragedies involving guns, the blame gets placed on the weapon.  The NRA is responsible.  The lack of gun control is the cause.  Mental illness is oftentimes blamed.  A failure of the FBI has been a specific source of blame in this case.  But I have also seen fault placed on Republicans and gun owners in general.

Scrolling through my Facebook newsfeed the past few days, I have observed people trying to find answers.  If God was allowed in the schools, this wouldn’t happen.  If kids didn’t play violent video games, this wouldn’t happen.  If guns didn’t exist, this wouldn’t happen.  Protests by students are being formulated.  There is even a movement aimed at teachers going on strike.

Regardless of what any of us believe about the aforementioned issues, one of the factors that seems to be getting lost in the midst of our seeking answers, is that the gunman is at faultHe is responsible for killing 17 people and injuring 15 more.   Using this situation to take a stand for what we personally believe, well, it’s detracting from the responsibility of the person who consciously made a decision to inflict harm on others.

Personal responsibility is quickly becoming a thing of the past.  Working in a school, I see it all the time.  More parents blame the school, the teachers or other students for the wrong choices being made by his/her child.  I can’t tell you the number of situations we’ve encountered this year where students have clearly done something wrong (sometimes resulting in a suspension) and the parent blames everyone else but the child.

In my own family, I’ve seen a close relative (who is addicted to drugs) blame everyone and everything for their struggles.  Divorce blamed on the other person.  Friends making bad choices because of what someone else did.  Fault placed anywhere else but on self.

However, misplaced blame is nothing new.  From the dawn of creation, we have learned how to master the art of blaming someone else.  Eve blamed the serpent for disobeying God.  Adam blamed Eve.

Honestly, I’m tired of people using these types of circumstances to further their agenda.  At the same time, I get why we do it.  We’re trying to make sense out of senselessness.  But in the course of doing that, we’re lifting fault from the wrongdoer.

We have to take personal responsibility for our choices.

With or without gun control, people will still commit violent acts.   With or without God in the schools, people will continue to do wrong things.  Protests and strikes might get our voice heard but it won’t solve the issue of sin in a person’s heart.

Placing blame on everything and everyone else is a trap that won’t free us from the issues of the heart.  Not addressing the evil that’s within us, won’t change our choices.  While a tragedy of this magnitude is certainly an example of putting the blame elsewhere, the truth is that we may fall into the same pattern in our day-to-day living.

We get impatient and blame the slow cashier.  We snap at our children and blame the fact we’re tired.  We get a speeding ticket and blame the police officer for not focusing on “more important matters.”  We’re frustrated at work and blame it on our boss’s demands.  We lose our cool and we blame it on “that time of the month.”

I mean, the excuses are endless.

What if instead, we adopted the mindset of what we read in Romans 7:24…What a wretched man I am!  The NLT version says, “What a miserable person I am!

Self-awareness of our wretchedness allows us to not only take personal responsibility but the opportunity to reach the grace of forgiveness…the glory of redemption…and the hope of change.

Let’s stop pointing the finger at others and turn it inward.  Let’s not make excuses for what we do.  We may have our personal beliefs and issues that we take a stand on, but may it never detract from the reality of our sin sickness and our need for a Savior.

Advertisements

5 Things You Should Never Say to Someone Depressed

  1. Things could be worse.

That kind of goes without saying.  Clearly, things can always be worse!  Although the intent is to help the person realize that others may have greater struggles, it doesn’t magically erase the depression.  It’s not like a lightbulb goes on that says, “Oh my goodness, you are so right!  Since things could be worse, I really have no reason to be depressed!”

It’s important we don’t compare people’s pain.  For that person, the worse is not what could be, but what that person is experiencing in the here and now.

2. Can’t you just snap out of it?

I’m pretty sure the majority of people suffering with depression don’t choose it.  If they could, well then yeah, they would just snap out of it.  Our emotions don’t always transform so easily.  Regardless of the source of the depression, deciding to not feel that way just doesn’t work.

3.  If you…then you would feel better.

If you took these vitamins…followed this diet…gave up this thing…focused on the positive…

Well, then you would start to feel better and no longer struggle.  The reality is that a positive mindset, a healthy diet, physical exercise and adequate sleep can definitely impact one’s mood.  But they aren’t the only solution.  Oftentimes people struggling with depression have deeper issues that need to be tackled.  We can’t make it sound so simple, that just by doing this one thing, you will suddenly feel like a brand-new person.

4.  What do you have to be depressed about?

On the outside it looks like a pretty good life.  There doesn’t seem to be any good reason for the person to be depressed.  But depression isn’t always a result of something in particular that happens.  The feelings associated with it don’t have to be based on a reason.  They just are and they’re quite real to the person struggling.

5.  Try harder to be happy.

Making an attempt to be happy is like trying to put toothpaste back into the tube.  It can’t be done.  You can try with all your might but it won’t work.

It’s important to remember that happiness is generally circumstantial.  So, when circumstances change, our level of happiness fluctuates.  The goal of gaining victory over depression is not to become a happier person, but to experience a deep inner joy.

Saying Less…Listening More

I missed posting something last week.  The reason?  I had nothing to say.  I mean, I literally had no thoughts.  The most logical explanation would be I had a case of writer’s block…at least that’s what I assumed was the problem when I couldn’t come up with anything.  But in the days following it became obvious there was something a little deeper going on.

I don’t know if you can relate, but it seems I’m a better talker than a listener.  That’s true in general but when it comes to my prayer life, it’s even truer.  Lately it’s like God is trying to silence me, so that I will spend more time seeking Him instead of telling Him.  Because honestly, that’s what sometimes happens in my prayer life.  I tell Him what to do, all in the guise of saying I want His will done but the reality is that I prefer to dictate what should be done.  And then I don’t even bother taking the time to hear what He may have to say to me.

Having nothing to say isn’t normally a problem for me.  I have a lot of opinions and thoughts on things.   And most times I don’t mind sharing.  I don’t think I’m alone, though.  Turn on the news and listen to the varying points of view.  Scroll your Facebook newsfeed and you’ll find people have a lot to say.

Recently I shared a post on Facebook regarding something my pastor had said at church.  I felt it was quite profound and could be helpful to others, regardless of their beliefs.  In fact, my intent was to especially reach friends and coworkers who aren’t believers.  Amidst the favorable comments, there was one that quite honestly, angered me.  It was from another believer who had something to say.  And it wasn’t kind.  It was snarky, somewhat condemning and self-righteous.

So I deleted it.  And then I sent her a private message regarding why I deleted it.

Why is it that people always have something to say?  I’m pointing the finger at myself, too.

More importantly, why do we feel inclined to say a whole lot to God?  To fill our time of prayer having a one-sided conversation?  There is something quite divine about silence and yet, most of us probably don’t practice it enough.

I’ve discovered something about myself.  Silence makes me uncomfortable.  Noise fills the empty places inside that I don’t want to face.  Listening to God is a risk because He might say something I don’t want to hear.

With the world having so much to say, maybe it’s time we practice silence.  We refrain from voicing our opinion.  We hold back from responding.  We stop telling God what to do and listen to what He would have us do.

Silence the television.  The radio.  The phone.  Silence the urge to dictate what we think should happen and how life should work.  Silence the tongue that wants to defend.  Silence the need to get in the last word.

I want to start practicing more silence in my life.  I want to give God full access to my heart and I can’t really do that when noise stands in the way of hearing what He would say to me.

God…Why?

I feel it’s necessary to begin this post with a warning—that it’s not going to be one of those wrapped-in-a-neat-package message which brings warm fuzzies.  Just putting it out there from the start that I’m in less of a “God is great” place and more in a “God, why?” place.

Last Saturday I attended the funeral of a young man who died from a heroine overdose.  He was the son of a friend.  A friend that I had spent many years praying with for our children.  Formally in a group at our church called “Moms in Touch” and informally in my home.  Years of prayer.  Tears shed.  Hearts that cried out for God’s touch.  And yet…I have to ask God, why?

Why did he succumb to the addiction?  He fought long and hard, experienced some breakthrough moments.  But a slip is all it took to end his life.  Did our prayers truly matter?  Did they even make a difference?

But I don’t just ask God why for my friend.  I ask it for myself.  For my one child in particular who just can’t seem to get her life in order.  Where it’s one step forward and three steps back.  Years…literally years of struggles and challenges that make me wonder if she’ll ever get it together.  Will there ever be peace and calm? Will drama ever cease to exist?

I’ve often heard moms talk about the many ways prayer has touched their children.  It’s the reason they’re on the right track, they have that great job, they met that godly person or they were saved from a tragedy.  Why did the prayers uttered week after week not save my friend’s son?  Why have my prayers, which began while my child was still in the womb, not prevent the heartache and bad decisions that would permeate her life?

These questions don’t mean I have walked away from my faith.  I still pray.  I read my Word.  I attended a great service at church this past Sunday.  But I’m not some super Christian who can pretend that everything is great…that I’m not hurt by the circumstances surrounding me…or that I don’t have questions regarding God’s ways.

My heart aches for my friend.  No mother should ever have to bury a child.  This was always her worst fear, that a slip would be what took him.  Her fear was realized.  And now she’s left to ask God, why?

Some believers think it’s wrong to question God.  That it’s a demonstration of weak faith.  It shows we don’t trust Him.  But we’re not alone in doing this.  The Bible has many examples in which God’s ways were questioned.  Expressions of sorrow for the hurts of life.  Even anger at the injustices of this world.

I don’t pretend to understand all of God’s ways.  It’s why I ask those hard questions.  I’m pretty sure He can handle it.  It’s what we do with the questions that remain unanswered which determines where we go next.   Will we drift further and further away from the truth?  Or will we cling to it like a lifesaver in the midst of our tumultuous waters?

For me, in spite of my questions and sometimes doubts about God’s ways, Whom have I in heaven but You?  I desire You more than anything on earth (Psalm 73:25.

This world certainly doesn’t hold the answers.  I most definitely can’t pretend to understand the twists and turns of life.  I have absolutely no idea why my friend’s son had to die under those circumstances.  Maybe I’ll never get the reason for my daughter’s struggles.  But even if these questions go unanswered…Jesus.  Just that.  Jesus.

 

5 Ways I’d Like a Do-Over in Parenting

My days of “parenting” are nearly over.  My oldest left home for the military nearly six years ago.  My only daughter moved out four months ago.  All that’s left is our 18-year-old son, who is just beginning to figure out the direction for his life.

Not until I became “gamma” did I start to think about how I’d do things differently if I could go back in time.  Grandparenting is a whole other level of love and grace that emanates from your soul.  There is freedom to enjoy this new role without the stress and frustration that accompanies raising a child.

I think every parent can look back and see the things they’d do differently.  However, it’s important we don’t park our thoughts there and ruminate on the error of our ways.  No parent does it perfectly.  Still, if there were the possibility of going back and doing it again…here’s the ways I’d like a do-over:

  1. I’d let my kids watch “Scooby Doo.”

I know this sounds kind of silly but it’s been a running joke in our family for years.  You’d think my kids are in need of therapy after being denied the enjoyment of this cartoon.  Trust me, there’s a deeper issue at hand.

Although my intentions were good, training my children up in the Lord turned legalistic.  Both my husband and I are first generation believers, so we went at this thing full-on.  As my kids would tell you, virtually everything was “evil” or “of the devil.”

By the time my children were entering their teen years, I stopped parenting by way of the law and gravitated more toward grace.  Honestly, I think it’s what saved my relationship with them.  We still set boundaries but there was a whole lot more balance.

2.) I’d loosen up.

I often point out my Type A personality or my German heritage in my posts.  Yet I can’t deny the impact both have had in the way I deal with life.  It’s always been serious business to me.  Little time for laughter and games.  There are things to do and not much time to get them accomplished.

Everything was scheduled.  I lived by lists and calendars.  There was an order to life.  That sometimes took the fun out of things.

As a “gamma,” I live for spur of the moment trips to the farm or playground.  I can easily set aside cleaning to paint with my granddaughter.  Tickle fights are great and I can make some pretty funny faces that crack her up.  I spend more time enjoying her than watching the clock.

3.) I’d let my kids get messy.

Just some things I let my granddaughter do that I never allowed my kids to do…jump in puddles, play in the mud, take the playdough away from the table (it ends up in all kinds of interesting places when you do that) and paint whenever she wants.

When she spills something, I don’t freak out.  When she makes a mess, I hardly bat an eye.  It’s okay if the cookie dough gets all over the counter.  And a little water splashing out of the tub is no big deal.

Messes aren’t as monumental as I once thought them to be.  They can be wiped up with cleaning products.  Soap gets rid of dirt.  What’s a lot harder to scrub away are hurtful or damaging words.

But glitter…okay, that’s where I draw the line.

4.) I’d show more patience.

In the midst of raising kids, with the pressures of life and responsibility, we can find ourselves getting easily irritated or frustrated.  And let’s face it, sometimes kids can be a real pain in the derriere.  But if I had a do-over, I’d not sweat the small stuff.

I would be more patient in listening to some of their long, drawn-out (and yes, sometimes pointless) stories.  I would read that book one more time.  It wouldn’t matter how long it took for my child to tie his shoe, learn a new chore or complete that last page of homework.

It’s actually quite amazing the supply of patience I’ve built up since becoming a grandma.  Never knew I had it in me…

5.) I would not make God such a bummer.

The expectations that I (and even some of those in the church who played a powerful influence in their lives) placed on my children sometimes made it seem like God was a real bummer.  I think a lot of parents fail to see this as an issue.  We get so caught up in trying to “save” our children (forgetting that it’s not really our job to do), we take all the fun out of being a follower of Christ.

We put so much effort into churning out good Christian kids, that we make it an impossible task for them.  They know all the things they shouldn’t do and wonder if there’s anything they can do.

We shush them…tell them to sit still…use scare tactics…thump the Bible over their heads…spend more time pointing out what’s sinful than what’s good…enclose them in this protective spiritual bubble—that we don’t even realize how much we’re actually suffocating them.

It wasn’t that long ago my daughter made a rare appearance with us at church.  I was holding my two-year-old granddaughter and the worship music was really going strong.  You could hear my granddaughter crooning her own words, sometimes talking a little loudly, and clapping at the wrong time.

My daughter was embarrassed and tried shushing her.  I thought back to my days with young children and knew I’d had done the same.  But not this time.  God is not going to be a bummer with my grandkids!  We are going to sing offkey, clap with abandon and just enjoy the fun of being a Christ follower.

If you could have a do-over in parenting, what would you change?

I Love God But I Don’t Love People

I have deep admiration for people who can easily love others.  I consider those able to strike up conversations with complete strangers a special breed.  Huggers definitely impress me.

You see, people are messy.  And well, I’m just not a fan of messy.  I much prefer comfort.  Order.  And let’s just keep it real…being alone.

By nature I’m an introvert.  To me a perfect weekend is spent at home, working on my craft projects, journaling and catching up on my favorite TV programs.  I’ll skip a party any day.  But when I get honest with myself, it goes deeper than my personality type.

I don’t love people.

You’ll never see me strike up a conversation with a stranger because it’s awkward and I’m probably on a mission.  Hugging is reserved strictly for my husband, children and grandchildren.  I try my best to avoid crowds.  I oftentimes make excuses to not hang out with friends.

If you don’t know me, I’m probably coming off as a not-so-nice person.  Yet if you really knew me, I’m a compassionate, kind and giving person.  Deep inside I care about others.  But love them?  That’s a much different story when you consider what I John 4 says about this topic.  I strongly encourage you to read John 4:7-21 in its entirety.  But for the sake of not turning this post into a book, I’m going to focus on just a couple of verses.

We love because He first loved us.  Whoever claims to love God yet hates a brother or sister is a liar.  For whoever does not love their brother and sister, whom they have seen, cannot love God, whom they have not seen.  And He has given us this command:  Anyone who loves God must also love their brother and sister (I John 4:19-21).

Maybe (like me), you have kind of glossed over this passage because what stands out the most is the part about hating a brother or sister.  Figuring all is well because you don’t actually hate someone.  However, hate really isn’t the main topic.  In just those few verses, the word “love” is mentioned 7 times.  That tells me love is what we should focus on.  And it’s not exactly a suggestion, that we love others.  It says “We love because He first loved us.”  Notice it doesn’t say “We try to love,” or even “We should love.”  We love.  Period.  End of story.  Not based on what’s deserved or earned, but BECAUSE God loves us, we in turn love others.

That means my husband, even when he’s prickly.  It applies to the crabby cashier.  And it includes the unlovable coworker.

But I think loving goes beyond that.  Something tells me it’s more than just tolerating people, it’s deliberately and intentionally making connections…it means reaching out…going out of our comfort zones.

Maybe for me that means getting out of the house on the weekend.  Going to that party, with bells on.  Giving of my time when I’d rather hoard it to myself.  Asking, with sincerity, how someone else is doing.

Turning that compassionate part of me into a doer.  Not just being a kind person but doing a kind thing for someone else.  Giving not with good thoughts or intentions, but with purpose and intent.

As we get ready to wrap up 2017, I feel challenged by I John 4, to love more deliberately.  To love more gracefully.  To love more like God.  And to remember that although I disappoint Him sometimes, and maybe even get on His nerves, His love has no limit.  So why should my love be limited?  Why should the flaws of others stop me?  Why should my personality or the fact I’ve been hurt so many times become an excuse?

More importantly, I John 4:21 says that God has given us a COMMANDIt is not optionalAnyone who loves God MUST also love their brother and sister.

Are you feeling challenged to love others more?

My One Word

We’re about to embark on yet another New Year.  There is something comforting about the idea of starting over.  The possibility of a fresh beginning and the hope of something better.  It’s why many people make resolutions or set goals.  Or you might participate in something I’m doing this year, the “One Word” plan.

How it works is you pick one word to focus on for the next 12 months.  Your word isn’t a random choice, but one chosen purposefully for your life.  It helps center your attention on what’s most important and eliminates the overwhelming feeling we can get when we’re trying to make too many changes at once.

Discovering your word might take time in prayer, a deliberate seeking of what God would have for you.  Or the one word might be immediately obvious, because it’s already been something God has been stirring in your heart or working on in your life.  That’s where I find myself this year.

It didn’t take long for me to figure out what God was saying to me.  In fact, He has been speaking to me about it for some time now.  My word for 2018 is:

God is asking first and foremost that I be intentional in my pursuit of a deeper, abiding relationship with Him.  The truth is, I’ve just been kind of skating by…doing the “right” things (reading my Bible, praying, attending church) but not deliberately seeking more of Him.  In other words, I’ve been comfortable with my comfortableness.  Something tells me things are about to get a little more uncomfortable in this New Year.

Especially since I know God is also directing me to be intentional in other areas of my life—my marriage, my tendency toward isolation and my health…just to name a few.  And since it’s easy to be all gung-ho in the beginning of a New Year and slowly let things slide, I have already been intentional on keeping this word front and center.

I’m really big into creative planning (sort of like scrapbooking, journaling and using a planner all wrapped up in one).  So, I’ve designed some things that will serve as a reminder each and every day of my word.

I’m sharing this with you for two reasons.  One reason is to offer an alternative in making the typical New Year’s Resolution list or setting so many goals that it quickly becomes overwhelming.  Of course, I would love to know (should you choose to share) what your WORD for 2018 is going to be and why.

The other reason I’m sharing this is to keep myself accountable.  Once you put something out there, you tend to have greater motivation to see it through.  Which means there will also be some transparency in sharing how I’m doing with the different areas that God is asking me to be intentional about.

Regardless of how you are embracing this New Year, I would love to hear some feedback.  I really don’t want my blog to be a one-sided conversation, so I invite you to share your thoughts.  And as we look toward a New Year, I pray Numbers 6:24-26 over each and every one of you:

 

5 More Difficult Things You Need to Hear

  1. Seeking validation from others will never make you worthy.

While I can’t totally relate to being a people pleaser, I do know the hurt of rejection and the pain of not being liked or accepted.  But our worth should never be tied to the opinions or thoughts of others because the reality is that we will all face rejection.   There will be people who just don’t like us, deserved or not.  And we won’t be accepted into every group.  To be okay with that, we have to realize our worth is found in Jesus.  We are worthy not because of who we are but because of the One who lives inside of us.

2. God gives but He also takes.

God graciously gives us good things…all of which we don’t deserve but because of His mercy, we still receive.  It’s easy to love a God who gives us good things.  But we can’t just count on the getting.  God will sometimes take…an opportunity, a relationship or a dream.  Both giving and taking are necessary to grow in faith.  Don’t just look forward to what He gives, but learn to accept what He takes.

3. Trauma is a great teacher.

You never feel it in the moment, but trauma truly is a great teacher.  It shows us where our faith really lies…how we handle difficulties…where we put our trust…if we will grow from the experience or stay stuck.  It’s not easy and it hurts.  Yet it’s through our pain that we learn the most about ourselves and the God we serve.

 4. Do what’s right, even when no one else notices.

Watching the news, it’s quite obvious that evil is what gets the most attention.  Rarely do you hear a good story and if you do, it’s a snippet.  When attention isn’t drawn to doing the right thing, it can seem pointless.  But if our motivation is based on “look at me, look at me!” our right becomes a wrong.  Regardless if it’s noticed or acknowledged, do right anyway.  It’s really not about you.

5. Wearing your faith in God like a badge isn’t what attracts the world to Him.

I seriously get nauseated by social media posts from believers that turn their faith in God to a badge they wear.  If we’re making faith about what we do or don’t do, it can be a real turnoff to someone who is struggling to believe that God is real.  That’s why I took the fish sticker off my vehicle several years ago.  My “badge” did little to point others to Jesus when they saw me speeding or getting angry behind the wheel.  No one followed me to find out what church I attend so they could get more of my fleshly behavior.

You know what I’ve found is most attractive to the world?  Keeping it real.  Being who I am, redeemed and flawed at the same time.  Showing what it means to live in God’s grace and yet the reality of His discipline.

In case you missed last week’s 5 Difficult Things You Need to Hear, be sure to check it out.  And remember, hard things don’t feel good in the moment.  But they can make a positive lasting difference in our lives.

5 Difficult Things You Need to Hear

  1. Just a little bit of sin will eventually lead to a whole lot of consequences.

Just as the little bits of unhealthy eating have resulted in my need to lose weight, it’s the “small” sins that over a period of time lead to serious consequences.  We tend to think it’s the big stuff that gets us in trouble, so we feel pretty good about ourselves when we avoid it.  But that’s what makes our seemingly inconsequential little sins that much more dangerous.  We’re blinded to the repercussions awaiting us.

2. You have the ability to make time for what’s truly important.

It’s an overplayed and overused excuse, “I don’t have time for (fill in the blank).”  Obviously, we really don’t have time to do everything we’d like to do.  But we’re all given 24 hours in a day in which we determine how it’s used.  We have the ability to sacrifice or reprioritize our time.

3. While you can’t control everything that happens to you, you can control your response.

Stuff happens.  Disappointments occur.  People disappoint.  Sometimes life sucks.  Instead of getting caught up in what we can’t control, we need to focus on what we can control.  Circumstances might not change or improve but the way we respond is completely in our hands.  We have the ability to find joy and peace in every circumstance.

4. Putting yourself last doesn’t make you a hero…it makes you stupid.

Selflessness is an important part of our faith.  But don’t confuse that with thinking your needs don’t matter.  If you keep putting yourself last it might earn you some accolades from others, but it won’t do any good in the long run if you’re spiritually weak, mentally exhausted and physically depleted.  That’s not what makes a hero.  It’s just dumb.

5. Playing the victim is a copout.

I won’t lie…it does feel good when others feel sorry for you.  But the role of victim isn’t meant to be a way out of facing your own contributions to a situation.  Or to give you an excuse for the way you react.  Playing the victim is an avoidance issue.  If you really want to find victory in a situation, seek a solution.  Rise above the victim mentality and become a problem solver.

By the way, lest you think I posted this because I’m some kind of expert…Not. Even. Close.  God tends to show me things that I just assume others may struggle with, so if these issues don’t apply, great.  But don’t get too comfy…I have five more difficult things you need to hear coming next week.

Grief Doesn’t Have an Expiration Date

This month it will be my third Christmas without my father.  No need to write on my calendar which day my family will celebrate at his house.  I won’t have to rack my brain to come up with a creative gift idea.  He is no longer with us.

Over time I’ve discovered that grief doesn’t expire.  It doesn’t ever truly end…it just changes.

People often wonder if grief gets easier.  I don’t believe it does.  Grief in itself doesn’t get easier but some aspects of it do.  Like it might be easier to laugh about past memories.  Or think about that person without crying.

Grief doesn’t have an expiration date.  And we should be okay with that.  It only becomes a concern when we remain stuck in our grief.

I was thinking about our last Christmas together.  My youngest son (who was 16 at the time), was sitting in my dad’s living room watching something on TV.  My dad walked in and said to him, “Are you watching this?”  My son replied that he was and my dad said, “Oh,” as he picked up the remote and changed the channel.

That was just my dad’s sense of humor, even if my teenager didn’t think it was funny.  The memory makes me chuckle.

I also recall it was the last time we took a family photo.  Even though my oldest son was serving overseas at the time, because we had been Skyping, we got a picture of him on my laptop.  That memory brings a tear to my eye.

And then there was the game we played, “Imaginiff,” which can sometimes hurt feelings.  My dad did that when he made a comment (as part of the game) that I was bossy.  Not that what he said wasn’t true because I definitely can be bossy…but to hear him actually say it, well, it kind of smarted.  But now when I think about his comment, it makes me smile.

Different emotions stirred up from memories that at the time, didn’t seem important.  And yet, three years later, have become part of the grieving process.

With Christmas upon us, thinking about him still brings an ache to my heart.  I don’t think I will ever not grieve for my father.  I won’t ever stop wishing I could get one more day with him.  That I’d get the opportunity to hear him call me “Sweetie” or to seek his advice on a problem.

My faith and the faith He had in God gives me the comfort of knowing that one day I will see him again.  Yet it doesn’t erase the hole that’s been left behind.

Grief doesn’t have an expiration date.

But you know what?  I don’t believe it’s supposed to.  Grief serves not just as a way to mourn the person we’ve lost, but as a way to connect to that person.  Through our tears, laughter and yes, even the anger we might feel…we continue to process the unique experiences and emotions that attach us to the person.

That person is “gone,” but only in the sense of his/her physical life being taken away.  Memories live on.  They are precious reminders of moments, big and small, that contributed to our life.   They are a piece of the puzzle that makes up the whole of we are.  They matter.  They hold value.  They are significant and worthy of our attention.

Grief doesn’t have an expiration date.

So, let the process take you where it goes.  Don’t deny it.  Don’t fight it.  Don’t believe you should be “over it.”  Cry.  Scream.  Laugh.  Question.  Wonder.  Emotions are just part of the journey.  The grief you feel may not end but with God’s help, the process will become easier to navigate.