When Holidays Hurt

I hope that we are thankful enough people during these holidays. Thankful enough that we are aware and thankful enough to remember.

Holidays are a beautiful wonderful time. They have the potential for incredible joy and lots of family time, feasts, gatherings, secret Santa’s, parties, traveling, songs, and all sorts of other good stuff.

But holidays are also a time of grief and hurt because families are incomplete:

  • Families with loved ones serving in the military far away from home.
  • Families anticipatorily grieving the loss of a dear and core member of the family because of illness, aging, or chronic health issues.
  • Families missing a parent or both parents because of divorce, separation, division, or even death.
  • Families who can’t come together because they are distant or live distant.
  • Persons feeling lonely and isolated with mental illness like depression.
  • Children missing families because of neglect or abuse.
  • Children missing family because their family has to work to make ends meet.
  • Families grieving the loss of a child.

Holidays can be brutal. Are we thankful enough to acknowledge the fragility of life and own our gratitude for the special relationships we cherish and not just the stuff we call “blessings?” Really, the question is, am I? This is just as much personal struggle and desire as it is a soapbox of sorts.

I am particularly aware of the last thing on that list. I am a parent who finds great joy in my children, and I work with families who will lose children and have very few reasons to celebrate when the holidays arrive. One less seat at the child’s table, if not just one empty seat that shouldn’t be. One less hungry finnicky mouth belonging to a beautiful kid. One smiling face missing in the family picture.

Perhaps it is the loss of the child who far outlived expectations of life and lived on that home ventilator till just recently. Perhaps it is the loss of a school ager to an awful virus. Perhaps the loss is a teen who committed suicide. Perhaps it is the loss of a toddler to a cancer that his brother also has. Perhaps it is the loss of a baby due to a sudden and unexplained stoppage of the heart. Perhaps it is the loss of a baby who couldn’t make it to birth, a miscarriage that weighs on that family. Perhaps, perhaps, perhaps. The list could go on with losses that families carry during this season and feel excruciatingly painful.

Please remember these families. They do not need sympathy but people who aren’t afraid to notice that the family is not complete and that the grief sucks. They do not need your truths (and I believe those truths too) that their boy or girl is in heaven, rather they need people who can invite them to tell stories about that boy or girl that will make them laugh and cry. They do not need reminders to move on, but reminders that you are there and their little one will not be forgotten.

I feel grief for these families, but I also acknowledge the beauty and courage in their grief. I don’t know what the right words are, but my heart goes out to these pained families looking for peace this holiday season, looking for a friend in the chaos, looking for a voice they will not hear again. May they find that voice in the form of Gods comforting love, in the presence of their family and friends, and in their own hearts where that voice will always be cherished.

Reach out to others if you know who they are. For any who might appreciate support, I am thankful to hear your story and your grief if you want to share.

Morning by Morning (9/6/17)

My daily gratitude for:

  1. Ryan sleeping through most of the nights now.  What a great gift it is to not have a child coming into our room!
  2. Norma Shreck, my boss in Spiritual Care who I find easy to talk to and love her sense of humor.  She also is so committed to supporting us as best she can and is willing to go out of the way for us. Having a positive relationship with a supervisor isn’t a given, and I am appreciative!
  3. A working car for my commute.  
  4. The walk to and from my car to work, which allows for calming, peaceful times and some good activity before and after work.
  5. The beautiful autumn weather we had today in Houston.  Breezy, not too humid, cool(er), and sunny- gorgeous day!

Morning by Morning (8/14/17)

My daily gratitude for:

  1. The many fellow parents who both challenge and guide me in how to teach my kids about justice, racism, and living a life in line with the compassion and eyes of Jesus.
  2. The elders of our church who have served our church with faith and commitment for a long while. Their recent health struggles weigh heavy on my heart.  They love Jesus, and that is always seen.
  3. The Muslim woman, the black mother, and the white nurse who came in to the chapel to pray (separately) as I was writing this gratitude and reflected faith and humanity in their bowing down in tears.  They are part of the reason I am troubled and discouraged by the events and subsequent rhetoric in speech and Facebook interactions in Charlottesville.  Being human is what we all bring to the table, and justice and beauty is what we are called to seek.  When I am tempted to just be troubled and not lift my voice, I am grateful for them and the human face that needs my voice as well as my prayers.
  4. A great weekend with Ryan.  I love being a dad, and I love being his dad.  

Morning by Morning (6/17/17)

My daily gratitude for:

  1. A beautiful day at the beach, with steady cooling wind and gorgeous ocean.
  2. A calm Saturday morning.
  3. The Muslims, Sikhs, Hindus, Jews and others in our country who worship in the face of alienation, persecution, and misunderstanding.  Their faith and commitment are inspiring and humbling.
  4. The voices that are crying out for justice in the case of Philando Castile.  His life does matter, and one persons abuse of authority, even if from fear or misunderstanding, does not find any excuse in the pursuit of justice in this world.  (I have never understood why being afraid/fearing for their safety means those in power can kill and not have repercussions) The voices who protest and who name that injustice are powerful prophetic voices. May God bring this world justice!

Morning by Morning (6/16/17)

My daily gratitude for:

  1. The way Ryan greets me when I get home.  “Daddy!!” jumping up and down, and a hug.  Just love it.
  2. The park and splash pad near our house. I am grateful to be able to afford a neighborhood that provides this, but it is also a reminder of the amenities I want other parents and kids in other neighborhoods (which our society often neglects) to enjoy too.
  3. The ending of my 8:30-5:00 shift today.  I am grateful for a new beginning and new opportunity to minister I the evening.
  4. Anything Andy Puddingcomb does about meditation- see his TED talks!

How To Honor Those Who Serve?

It’s Memorial Day.  A day created with an intent to honor the ones who have served our country and now lay fallen.  It’s a day for remembering. 

But remembrance is often complicated.  

Do we remember all of those who fell? Do we celebrate one wars servicemen and not another? Do we remember the compassion and heart of blacks, Muslims, LGBT, or Southeast Asians who served as much as we remember the heart of other service men and women? Do we remember men and women with appreciation and humility or just fireworks and unquestioning loyalty to freedom isn’t free bumper stickers?

I ask these questions because I got to watch an incoming honor flight at Baltimore this past week.  I watched older, hurting, frail but committed men and women who had served in WW II come through the gate and be celebrated with applause and care by the crowd, many of whom (including myself) have no clue what those eyes have seen or experienced. Remembering must be humble in acknowledging the profound awful experience right? 

I ask those questions also because my grandfather fought in Korea and told me the couple times he talked about war- that he knew he had to serve out of duty but never wanted me to fight in a war, and never wanted me to fight period.  He was clear to me that war was terrible in that he felt like there is no moral high ground in that space. Remembering could be bold enough to acknowledge that not every one who died in service died for a good cause (we have been aggressors and committed our own atrocities) I wondered then and wonder now how we, or I, should honor those who have died and fallen, to make sure I honor their life, not the ideals of our country.

My grandfathers service is worth remembering. It’s worth appreciating.  The men and women who have died in World War I, WW II, Korean War, Vietnam War, Desert Storm, Afghanistan, Iraqi War, and other battles and encounters deserve to be remembered. But with fireworks and Memorial Day sales for washers/dryers/cars or barbecues and alcohol? That seems to whitewash what sacrifice and cost have meant to so many.  It also seems to memorialize our country’s innocence and economics rather than memorialize the sacrifice of physical and mental health of those men and women.

I will remember my grandfather and others today by considering ways to support the VA’s or veterans mental health.  I will tell my grandfathers story with the honesty he shared to me.  I will remain humble knowing I don’t have all the answers and that those who choose to serve are gifts and people too, not just numbers on battlefields.

So I ask those who are out there who have served and protected and cared for those who share our borders and culture:

How would you like to be honored today? What would dignify the service of those who have fallen?

Morning by Morning (5/17/17)

My daily gratitude for:

  1. The nurses and physicians who handled CPR on a drowned child yesterday.  CPR seems like both emotional and physical work, and their passion for getting that child back was clear and powerful.
  2. The emotional and mental rest that will come soon after this week and some extra time away from work.
  3. Planting more basil and butternut squash last night. I can’t wait till we have enough basil for pesto!
  4. All those watch over weapons across the world.  I watched a documentary about the exploded Titan II missile in Arkansas in 1980, and so I am very grateful for all the men and women who keep safe and secure all those bombs and weapons (even though I’d love to be grateful that were all destroyed in peace).

Morning by Morning (4/20/17)

My daily gratitude for:

  1. Our church dinner group, which I can always count for a calming night anf good laughs and good food too.
  2. The patience others have for me, especially during this long ‘tired’ phase in life (because as a parent the energy goes elsewhere!).  My friends and colleagues are quite gracious to me in letting me have my laid back or quiet times.
  3. The game Hide and Seek.  It’s sort of the in thing at our house these days!
  4. Uninterrupted sleep.
  5. Working with so many generations and ages at work and at church.  It is a reminder of how much I have to learn and how much others know. Now other words, they are gifts from God in growing me as a person and minister.

Morning by Morning (4/5/17)

My daily gratitude for:

  1. Hang out time with Jacob Schapson, a fantastic guy who I think is always very introspective, intentional, and dedicated in every task and situation he’s in.
  2. Watching kids ride the train.  Every morning it seems there is one kid on the train, a toddler or young school age kid.  And they love the train so much, whether through their giant smiles, their fascination with the passing sights, and their jovial sounds that narrate the trip. I love listening to it all!
  3. Virgil Fry’s sermon that reminded me that in John 11, we have (and need) both the God who resurrects the dead and the God who weeps with/for us.  It is humbling to consider that and have that framework when I serve our families in the hospital.

Morning by Morning (3/31/17)

My daily gratitude for:

  1. Kim Najito and her tireless love of her husband and daughter as well as the many families who walk through the PICU. Her great efforts and conscientiousness are amazing and very respected.  I treasure working with her!
  2. Finally getting a haircut.  I had to leave work a tad early so I could try to get to Sports Clips before they closed! It feels so nice to not have to wonder about how my hair is out of control!
  3. The collegiality I have with Tom and Pam and Naguib at work.  There is a compassion and willingness to step up for the other constantly, and often I am so grateful that I know I can get help or even share what’s going on in my life and units. Great chaplains indeed!
  4. Gods gift of grace.  I don’t know how many times I slip up or keep doing life in a way that is not helpful, but I can trust in a welcoming God as I return each time.