Transparent, Vulnerable, Scared

I wish I could write openly about the things that are going on right now in my life,  but I can’t.  

So you’ll just have to trust me when I say these past months-really this past year-has been the most challenging since the first 365 days after Dominic ran ahead to Heaven.

I have cried more in the past three weeks than I have cried in the past three years.  

I am forced to crawl into that secret space inside my heart and soul over and over if I hope to not vomit all these feelings on whoever happens to be nearby.

I look like I’m walking around in the world, but I’m really just walking around in a fog-putting one foot in front of the other and hoping I don’t trip and land flat on my face.

I want to be transparent, but I can’t be.  Outcomes depend upon my ability to keep it together.

If I’m transparent, they will see that I’m falling apart.

So I plant a fake smile on my face, put on my good clothes, suck it up and suck it in and do what I have to do.

But I feel so very vulnerable.  

Every day I feel like I’m in one of those dreams where you show up naked to class or to a job interview or to some other important function.  And everyone just stares-dumbfounded-because they don’t know whether to laugh or cry at my predicament.

And I’m scared.

I know I write a lot about learning to set anxiety aside and not trying to figure out what the future holds.  I really do take my own advice.

But some days, some weeks, some months I find I’m just as unable as the next trembling heart to do that.  

So I’ve spent a lot of mornings crying before the sun rises too high in the sky.  Letting all that vulnerability and fear leave my body through my eyes.  

Then I dry it up and get dressed.  Put on my mask and get going.

It is utterly exhausting.  

I’m clinging to the fact that my track record for surviving hard days is 100%.

But it is still so very hard.  

grief bubble

Vulnerable

It’s tempting when wounded to build walls to try to protect your heart.  

It seems logical.  

Who wants to invite more pain when already carrying a load?

But the wall I build for protection keeps EVERYTHING out-love, grace, mercy and hope as well as heartache.  

To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything and your heart will be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact you must give it to no one, not even an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements. Lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket, safe, dark, motionless, airless, it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. To love is to be vulnerable.

C.S. Lewis, The Four Loves

So I choose to let the walls fall. 

I choose to let it all in and take the risk. 

I will stay soft,

reachable,

vulnerable.  

be soft

 

 

 

Courage Requires Vulnerability

 

It’s a funny thing. 

If you’ve never faced anything very frightening, it’s easy to think that those who do and march on through are somehow immune to fear.

But nothing could be further from the truth.

Courage is not the absence of fear but the mastery of it.  

courage is resistance to fear

Yet you cannot master something you deny.  You cannot resist that which you claim doesn’t exist.

Child loss is frightening. 

So frightening that those not forced to walk this road usually choose to pretend (in practice if not in words) that it simply isn’t part of the world they live in.

It’s so frightening that most bereaved parents experience a period of time we would describe as “being numb” and “shock”.

It was probably six months until my heart truly understood the fact that Dominic was not coming back.

Ever. 

It was frightening on so many levels-I had to face the fact I was not in control, had to face the fact my life was never going to be what I had envisioned it to be, face the fact that my surviving children would be shaped by grief in ways neither I nor they could anticipate, face the fact that I would live out my years carrying this heavy burden, and face the fact that no matter how hard I wished things were different, they were never going to be different-my child was dead.

sometimes even to live is an act of courage

And when the numbness began to wear off and fear creep into my heart, I had to choose: Was I going to embrace and experience this awful, devastating fear or was I going to try to deny it, distract myself from it or try to dismiss it as inconsequential?

Facing fear requires facing my own weakness.

Facing fear means becoming vulnerable-admitting that I am hurting, admitting that I cannot do this on my own, admitting that maybe, just maybe, I can’t climb this mountain without help.

cant get to courage without walking through vulnerability

Choosing vulnerability was its own challenge.

What if others mocked me?  What if no one helped me?  What if I just wasn’t up to the task?

courage starts with showing up and letting ourselves be seen brene brown

I decided that NOT facing fear was not an option.  As long as it lurked in the shadows I would be its prisoner.  

So I turned and looked it square in the eyes.  And I found, with God’s enabling help, I could master that fear. 

Two verses became my touchstone:

When struck by fear,
    I let go, depending securely upon You alone.
   In God—whose word I praise—
    in God I place my trust. I shall not let fear come in,
    for what can measly men do to me? 

Psalm 56:3-4 VOICE

When I admitted my weakness, His strength was sufficient.

strength made perfect in weakness ant

Choosing vulnerability and facing fear opens the door for God to show His power in and through me. 

Child loss is still scary.  

I’m still afraid.

But the Lord gives me strength to master the fear.  

courage doesn't always roar male liion

 

 

Heartache, Healing and Hope

I spent last weekend with eleven other bereaved mamas in a small Christian camp in Mississippi*

I’ll be honest-what sounded like a great idea a few months ago had begun to sound like an awful and intimidating idea about three days before I was supposed to go.

Even though I felt more prepared for this event than the  Through This Valley Conference in October, I was still filled with trepidation at facilitating five sessions over three days with women I had only “met” online.

 

melanie at hhh retreat 2018 last session (2)

I wanted to go.

I wanted to take this next step toward sharing and serving and healing for my own heart.  But I was still more than a little scared.

I am so, so glad I went!

Every single mama who came through the door brought one more measure of grace into that cabin.  Every heart that cracked open and shared spread the sweet aroma of brokenness and compassion rose up to meet it.

hhh retreat pics of kids (2)

Every tear was acknowledged, every sorrow counted, every story heard.

It was beautiful.

I was overwhelmed by the grace, mercy and love that flowed in, around and through the women there.  It was a perfect picture of how God intends the Body of Christ to work!

We were all poured out in service to one another.

No need for a kitchen committee or clean up crew because it was natural to reach out and pitch in.

I am oh, so sorry for the reason that brought us together.  But I am absolutely amazed at the blessing that ran like a river through that place.

hhh retreat hugging cristal (2)It was a river of healing and life.

No one left “healed”But we all left a little better equipped for this journey.

No one received “answers”But we all left with a few more truths tucked into our belts.

Our hearts are knit together because we chose to show up and be vulnerable.

It is a gift I will carry with me wherever I go.

healing power of exchange

 

*If you are looking for a lovely place to hold a children’s camp for your ministry, please consider  Abby Acres Christian Camp Facebook Page

The Greatest Showman: The Power and Peril of Story

I went to see The Greatest Showman the other day with my daughter.  It was an amazing film-I was drawn into the story and my heart longed to see where it was going and how it would end.

greatest showman movie wide

I highly recommend it for two hours of uplifting entertainment.

But I’ve been thinking about it since.

So I did a little digging into P.T. Barnum’s REAL life story.

As you might imagine, several liberties were taken with actual history in order to create what I saw on the screen.  That’s really just fine.  I knew what I was getting into when I plunked my money down for the ticket.  I had no illusion that I was walking into a history lecture- I understood I was there to be entertained.

When I compared the actual Barnum life story to the tidy, beautiful, uplifting and wonderfully scored musical I had seen in the theater, I found gaping holes.

And most of the holes involved the hard and ugly parts of his story-the parts people don’t like to talk about, much less live through.

While leaving them out or glossing them over with a moment or two of wistful glances for the movie is exactly what I expect from Hollywood, it can condition hearts to expect the same kind of thing in real life.

But real life stories don’t skip over the hard parts.

Real people have to live through the ugly and the painful and the devastating and the doubt and the sorrow.  We don’t get to hop right to the happy ending (if there even IS a happy ending) nor do we get to whitewash the dark truths that inform our experience.

And because we prefer tidy (and happy) endings, bright and sunny days, encouraging and uplifting stories, when we are face to face with a challenging and difficult reality, we often turn away.

If we don’t hear it, it doesn’t matter. 

If we don’t look, it didn’t happen. 

If we wait long enough in our safe cocoon, someone else will deal with it.

Sometimes those of us in the middle of hard stories try to ignore it.  But busyness and distraction do not make bad times better.  Maybe for a moment, but not in the long run.

We’ve got to learn to experience it all, tell it all, be honest about how dark the path, how difficult the journey.

And those who are on the sunny side of the street need to learn to lean into friendship, cross over and offer compassionate companionship to those who are struggling.

Because sooner or later, it will be all of us.

we will all struggle and fall brene brown

How Transparent Should I Be When Sharing?

I am committed to authenticity but I am also committed to my own privacy and the privacy of my family.

So while I share freely here and in other places, I don’t share everything.

Sometimes I withhold because it’s not my story to tell.  Sometimes it’s because I can’t tell it without harming or defaming others.  And sometimes I don’t bare all because I just can’t weather other people’s reactions to what I have to say.

But for the most part, I’m pretty transparent.  Because secrets don’t serve anyone well.  

If I pretend to be stronger than I really am, I hide the truth that it is Christ in me that gives me strength.

If I don’t admit that certain words or actions hurt my heart, I enable thoughtless behavior.

If I only parrot “Sunday School” answers when someone asks about my faith in relation to my loss, then I silence other hearts wrestling with questions and pain in light of God’s sovereignty and love.

If I hide my tears, my pain, the missing then I minimize this great loss, And I will not make losing Dominic small.

business-authenticity

 

But if I am honest about my feelings,

honest about my weakness,

honest about what helps and what hurts,

then I can redeem part of this pain.

I can use it to make space for other hurting hearts.

 

Transparent is hard because it makes me vulnerable.  

But transparent is good because it makes my pain useful.

I didn’t choose this life, but I won’t waste it.  

brene brown vulnerablity sounds like truth