Mar 30, 2014

Then She Shows Up

She was one of the first people I told the night we lost my brother.
As The Hero drove to my parents house , I texted my out of state soul sister
begging for scripture and prayers.
She was working on both within minutes.
She was adamant about flying in for the funeral.
I begged her to stay; I knew we would be unable to just be with everything else going on.
She checked on me constantly.
Lifted me up so deeply and fervently I could feel it.
And then came the day she just showed up.
In real life.
On my doorstep.
Four states away from Colorado to Oklahoma.
With her amazing little family.
All five of them.
Four full days of friendship. 
Friendship that has gone beyond Amy and I and has infected our children and husbands. 
A true blending of hearts and lives.
  We played with our kids,
laughed and cried together
and spent an entire afternoon engaging one another while moving two tons of
dirt and mulch in our backyard garden.
Our kids were actually begging us to go out again and play in the dirt some more!

She offered to take me out to dinner or shopping
just the two of us on more than one occasion.
And while we did get some great "mommy time",
what I needed most in those four days was just the presence
 of my friend and her little family.
To embrace our kids and giggle at kid antics and
sibling quarrels and to be reminded that friendship
is never completely what we bring to a relationship.
It is not only the sum of what we can offer someone else.
It is the ebb and flow of what we give to and what we take away
 from one another that makes it deep and pure and yes, even holy.
She gave all of herself and I hope she took away a new appreciation for how amazing she is at meeting somebody in their suffering.
I gave her a glimpse into my hurt and the hole in my heart and took
from that the knowledge that we are not meant to suffer alone.  
An example of Earth as it is in Heaven.
Perfection in my recent darkness.
My little family was devastated to see them pull out of our driveway.
We were renewed and revived just by spending time together.
Then my amazing friend drove four states home and wrote a blog post about what a gift it was to serve me and mine during our suffering and the meaning 
of just showing up in the midst of someone's hurt.
And show up she did.
In so many ways, with very little words
and yet in the middle of grieving,
it was everything myself and my little family needed it to be.

Mar 25, 2014


Being the youngest of three, my brother was always doing things to make us laugh, or to turn our heads. When my sis and I started dating, in the age before cell phones, we would crowd around our parents' phone on a Friday night in the kitchen and wait for it to ring.
My brother, even in his pre-teen years, towered over my sister and I and was almost six foot before he was fifteen.
When the phone would ring, Laura and I would leap for it and he would barrel past us easily.
"Uh...she's not here."
"She left about an hour ago with some other dude."
Then he would hang up.
We would be fuming, demanding he tell us who was on the other end
and which of us they were asking out.
He would shrug his shoulders, laugh and head off to his room.
"I've got no idea girls. Good luck with that."
He got his first tattoo before his twentieth birthday.
My mother was horrified that her baby boy had inked himself permanently.
For at least a year, he convinced her as only the baby of the family can, that it was only a henna tattoo and he went every three weeks to have them redone.
She was livid when Laura and I broke it to her that those tats would never be coming off. He finally got her to laugh about it when he told her he was getting her name tattooed on his backside. When she finally realized he had meant he was going to get "your name" tattooed on his butt, she gave up on trying to parent him and just laughed at his joke.
He and I talked about getting tattooed a lot.
 He loved it.
I think he believed that his tattoos had to be temporarily painful so he'd permanently
remember all that he had been through.
He also said that Laura and I would never go through with getting
one because we were too big of chickens.
(Actually, I know he said that to me. I think he believed Laura always had the guts.)
After his funeral, Laura and I decided that there was only one way to appropriately remember all the pain that his loss would carry with us for the rest of our lives.
We decided on the Bible verse that we had chosen for his coffin.
Isaiah 46:4 "I have made you. I will carry you. I will sustain you and I will rescue you."
And I insisted that it be in Laura's handwriting.
His Bible verse.
Her handwriting.
Sibling love.
I think my mom is secretly pissed we marked our bodies.  
But I know he is smiling his face off on his cloud as our witness, as we muddle through this race of life without him.
P.S. Laura was a trooper and went first when we got our tats.
I cried like a baby.
Some big sister I turned out to be. :) 
He was right all along.
I miss you precious dude.
I wish we would have gotten inked together, but I'm honored that my first was in ode to you.

Mar 24, 2014

Musical Monday: The Afters' Broken Hallelujah

This song is such a great description of how I have felt over the last month. Losing my brother has changed how I pray, how I look at death and how I view the rest of my days on this earth. So many times throughout the day, I just stare up at the sky and think

 "How are you going to bring beauty from ashes?" "How can I be any good to You after this?"

I am thankful for the reminder that He is God and I am not. It helps relieve the stress and is a great peace that whether my Hallelujah is broken or not, it's offering it up that makes all the difference. Happy Monday ya'll!

Mar 19, 2014

The Anger Side of Grief

I tried to "google" the different stages of grief after my brother's funeral. It just made me mad and I stopped looking to the Internet for answers that will never come. I do remember in my research that there is supposed to be an anger stage of grief. This makes sense to me because I reached the anger stage of grief quite easily on my own. Actually, I believe that I may have taken up residence in this stage.

I had even suggested to my sister that she buy two sets of boxing gloves and whoever had a problem with anything for the rest of forever could meet me in a dark alley and I would be glad to school them. I was angry at every doctor who ever saw my brother, every medication he was prescribed to take instead of investigating the cause of his depression, the funeral director for a ridiculous suggestion for music and various friends and family members who dared to suggest that my brother's death would be a mere event that I "got through". Oh yes. I am quite familiar with the anger side of grief in the past few weeks.

But out of every flash of anger, each rage of emotion that crossed my heart, I never was mad at my brother. Several people have suggested that it will come; that it is customary, acceptable and even appropriate to be angry with those who take their own lives. But I have read my brother's journal, his emails, his text messages and his notes to himself. And there is no way on this side of heaven that in the midst of his depression and loneliness that I could ever be angry with him. Am I devastated by missing him? Absolutely. Angry with myself that I did not know the depths of his sorrow? I will be for the rest of my days. But mad at my baby brother for fighting off demons that I have never understood, nor fought off myself? No.  Never.

How could I be angry at someone who fought so hard to conceal what he battled, so that no one else would know? Why would I, for one second be cross with a soul that would have never harmed another living creature? And how could spend one minute of my given breath being upset that my brother's struggle had ended in any other fashion than him back in the Father's arms?

I may forever be in the angry stage of grief, but it will never be because I am angry with my brother.


Mar 18, 2014

Grief Doesn't Come With A Handbook

It's a miracle that both of my parents are still sane. Having three kids under five must have been a circus most of the time. Heck, sometimes have two almost five years apart is more than my feeble mind can process. One thing I always remember my mom saying when we got in trouble or we were trying to reason through some family issue was "Maybe that was the wrong parenting move, but you guys didn't come with a handbook on how to parent you."
She's repeated the same thing to me when I became a parent and I would call her about whether or not some behavior issue of mine or my child(ren) was adoption related or a personality conflict.

"Linz, go with your gut because God doesn't bring kids with a handbook."

She wasn't kidding.

Grief is the damnest thing I've ever been dealt. It strikes me in the most inopportune, ridiculous places in a day. A parent screaming during my 5 year old's basketball game sent me into a full blown panic and a house full of guests playing cards, led me to crying in my bathroom. Neither of these instances have any explainable reasoning. Maybe it was the undue pressure parents were placing on their children during the game and perhaps it was the most merriment I had felt in weeks made me feel guilty, but grief is definitely getting the blame.

Just as children don't come with a handbook about parenting, neither does death have a guide for how we are supposed to grieve. Tears will find me in the oddest times and sadness can creep inside my heart while there is still a smile on my face. I sometimes catch myself wondering "is this normal? Am I supposed to react like that?" But then nothing about death and living with the loss of someone you love is normal and since no one has written the handbook on grief, I'm giving myself the grace to muddle my own way through.

Mar 12, 2014

Choosing Grace

I could see very early in grieving my brother's death that I could easily become bitter. At him, at the world, at my current circumstances and at life in its entirety. But I wanted to see Christ move through this loss and use it in a way that was glorifying to Him. If that were to happen, I was going to have to make the choice to see Him in this season of my life.

Please hear me. This does not preclude me from dealing with all of the appropriate stages of grief; yet, while I embrace each emotion, as each day is the struggling that it is, I have promised myself that I will purposely search out God's provision and goodness. Some days this proves easier than others. On the days that are harder than most, I have to focus in a moment of the day and simply say "Thank You." There have been more than one day that the only thanks I could utter was that the water in the shower was hot. And I give myself the grace on those days to be okay with just those few words of thanks.

So if you are struggling today, whether it be with addiction, depression, grief or just a general disposition of dissatisfaction, if you can't make the election of thankfulness, give yourself the grace to try again tomorrow.

Mar 11, 2014

Purple Tulips

I live less than a half of a mile from my office. For the last two weeks, I've gotten out of bed, showered, put makeup on my face and brushed my teeth and combed my hair. If you would have seen me function the last two weeks, an improvement would definitely have been noticed. The Hero is thrilled that I have returned from the land of sweatshirts and yoga pants and on most days the mental relief has been great.

Today was different. I followed our daily routine of teeth brushing, packing lunches, kissing the kids and sending everyone out the door. The cold air has seemed to have left Oklahoma for the season and at almost 9:00a.m., it was already 55 degrees. As I past by the tulips I planted last fall, two purple blooms had begun to make their arrival to our flowerbed. I smiled at the memory of the kids and I digging in the dirt and explaining how God brings something that looks dead in the ground, back to life under the right circumstances; a perfect mix of water and light.

The Hero let me drive his Jeep and I had the windows down, enjoying the drive alone.  I made it a block from the house when the tears came. I sat at the stoplight past it turning green and just wept. I wish my brother would have seen this spring day. He died on one of the coldest days of winter; biting winds and cold and snow. When I got to the office, I sat in the parking lot, just crying and praying.

Peace filled my heart and I was reminded that God brings something that looks dead back to life under the right circumstances. I will see my brother again. And not just in my dreams; which have been so amazing to experience lately. But one day when the sky rolls back, the Bible says that "the dead in Christ will rise" and if I'm still living, I will meet him in the air. And if I go before that day, he'll be right there, leading me to Jesus. Of these things I am sure. And so while his loss is real and will be with me the rest of my days, it is only a temporary condition; and for that I rejoice.

13-14 And regarding the question, friends, that has come up about what happens to those already dead and buried, we don’t want you in the dark any longer. First off, you must not carry on over them like people who have nothing to look forward to, as if the grave were the last word. Since Jesus died and broke loose from the grave, God will most certainly bring back to life those who died in Jesus.
15-18 And then this: We can tell you with complete confidence—we have the Master’s word on it—that when the Master comes again to get us, those of us who are still alive will not get a jump on the dead and leave them behind. In actual fact, they’ll be ahead of us. The Master himself will give the command. Archangel thunder! God’s trumpet blast! He’ll come down from heaven and the dead in Christ will rise—they’ll go first. Then the rest of us who are still alive at the time will be caught up with them into the clouds to meet the Master. Oh, we’ll be walking on air! And then there will be one huge family reunion with the Master. So reassure one another with these words. 1 Thessalonians 4:14-18

After I wrote this post, I went online and researched the meaning of purple tulips. While purple is often used to signify royalty, "purple also symbolizes rebirth, therefore being the perfect color for spring."

Insert more tears.

Mar 10, 2014

Musical Monday: Charlie Hall's 'My Brightness'

I've loved this song for years, but every word of it has rung true yet again through this agonizing time.
And Happy Musical Monday 

Mar 9, 2014

Funerals Are For The Living

 It was a Tuesday. The Oklahoma air was so cold it would take your breath at the inhale. My brother had left us two days earlier. It seemed like a lifetime and a mere second before Tuesday. Someone had suggested Thursday for the funeral, but my sister had more of her wits about her than I did in that moment and had objected. The weather was predicted to be thirty degrees warmer on Saturday. I think the weather was definitely a factor, but I think she believed that Saturday would give us more time.

Who wants to attend a funeral on Saturday? I knew I didn't. But nobody whose loved somebody deeply ever has a desire to attend their funeral. Yes, Saturday technically gave us a few more days to plan and to process, but the time that I wanted had already been taken from me. I wanted more holidays, more blazing hot summer Sundays out by the pool watching our kids play together and us laughing at some silly joke. But the only time I had left alloted to me was going to be without him. So Saturday it would have to be.

While my brother's life was honored that day, the entire process of burying the dead is really for those who are left behind. We choose flowers and caskets and burial plots, not for those who are being planned around, but for those who are standing there to see it. I'm not sure if knowing that makes the process better or worse. If for the better, than it is so we carry the remembrance of those we've loved and lost into a honor we want those who knew them to agree with. Perhaps though it is always for the worse, because after all the flowers have died and the casket is lowered, the dead's status remains unchanged and the hollowness of our hearts are all that remain.


Mar 4, 2014

Your Free License

I finally looked through my brother's phone last week. I ended up on the floor of my bathroom heaving huge tears into a bathmat because of the wall of guilt that I found myself slammed against. The thing about my baby brother's depression was that no one really knew its depths. It wasn't until reviewing his text messages and pictures he saved to his phone did I really have to confront the doubts that had plagued him. And now knowing how long they had been haunting him just took my breath away.

You see, I never knew. That's one of the issues with depression is the suffering try to mask their true emotions from those even closest to them. They don't feel as though expressing them will do anything more than cause someone else pain.

I started a board on Pinterest a few weeks ago and I titled it "'s okay to struggle." I did that because if I could hold my brother one more time and explain to him how much I loved him, I would also whisper that I know now about his struggle and that it is okay.
There are so many debates among Christians that our faith is the essential oil of the rest of our lives; it will cure anything. We treat Jesus like our personal genie so that if someone is struggling we tell them to "just pray about it" or "Jesus solves everything." I don't mean to gloss over that fact. I do believe that the God of Abraham, Jacob and Issac is alive and moving just as he was when Jesus walked the earth, but do we really believe that even having a personal relationship with him makes up Teflon to attacks by the enemy?


Of course it doesn't. In fact, it makes us as Christians even better targets. Jesus himself told us before he was betrayed and crucified "...While you are in the world, you will have to suffer. But cheer up! I have defeated the world." John 16:33.

Since we have been instructed by Christ himself that troubles are apparent in this life, then why do we react as if we are surprised? And why do we allow others to believe that their struggles are not valid? My brother's suicide has taught me a lot so far. But the most potent realization I want to have forever is encouraging others that whatever it is that they are going through, it is okay. You have free license to struggle, no judgement here. Now being given that license, you also should approach someone you trust in order to help you work it out.


Mar 3, 2014

Musical Monday: I Will Praise You In This Storm

The first song I started playing after learning of my brother's death was Casting Crowns' 'I Will Praise You In This Storm'. It was even one of the songs that we played during my brother's church service. It is one of my favorite reminders that I have no idea what God is doing through my family's tragedy, but no matter what it is, we are to praise Him. 

Here's your musical Monday song. 
Tell someone you love them today.