I watched The Shack~

th

When I mention the new movie “The Shack” I get mixed responses. Back when the book came out I never took the opportunity to read it; life was just so busy at the time. Nevertheless, people I loved and respected both loved it and disliked it.

When my girlfriend asked me to watch the movie with her I was intrigued by all that I had heard; allegory or a literal representation of God? It was time to find out.

When The Shack was originally written my life had been a series of wonderful blessings, challenging situations, hurtful experiences, sadness’s, great joys and blessing: a real mix.   Having now seen the movie I believe I would have been deeply moved in so many ways yet it may have lacked a deeply personal response from me at that time.

It’s been over 5 years since an angry, ruthless, greedy individual stole my precious nephew’s life; snuffed out in the prime of life. Christopher was/is dearly loved. Never forgotten.   The perpetrator has yet to go to court; Christopher’s’ body has yet to be found.

In the first few months after losing him I used running as an avenue to process and “work out” the angst in my soul. “WHY GOD?? You could have saved his life, protected him, kept him from harm!!! Where were you??”   My trust in God was challenged, believing in all I was told He was – love, protecting, caring was turned to disbelief. I ran and ran and ran; all the while shaking my fist at what I didn’t and couldn’t understand.

One day, while running, I dropped on my face in a grass field tired of the battle, tired of trying to understand, and heavy with the deepest grief I had ever experienced. When I got still I heard God whisper to my heart “My shoulders are big enough for your grief and questions. I need you to be prepared to forgive in order to feel whole again.” I sat there for over an hour pondering His words and questioning the latter…forgive???

Back to the movie; seeing it now after walking through such deep sorrow, going from anger to sadness and grief, to asking questions, rebuilding trust in the One who formed and knew Christopher, to learning to forgive ( sometimes daily); the impact of the movie struck me deeply in this single paragraph:

“Just because I work incredible good out of unspeakable tragedies doesn’t mean I orchestrate the tragedies.  Don’t ever assume that my using something means I caused it or that I need it to accomplish my purposes.  That will only lead you to false notions about me.  Grace doesn’t depend on suffering to exist, but where there is suffering you will find grace in many facets and colors. Evil exists, broken people exist, wounded people exist and make devastating choices. These are not acts that I coordinate but I will work for good what evil sought to destroy.” The Shack

As I exited the theater I could feel the tears welling, first in my throat and quickly to my eyes as I began to ponder those words and their impact on me in this season of my life.

I settled myself in my car, sitting there in the silence listening to the wind outside. Out of nowhere I began to sob from my soul, more grief finding a way out!   The words had reminded me that God didn’t cause my pain and that he was there at every moment to help and heal my soul and the soul of my entire family. Forgiveness is for me. Forgiveness sets me free from bitterness; forgiveness keeps my eyes on Christ while knowing full well that it doesn’t minimize the perpetrators guilt.

I am confident and long for the day when my entire family will celebrate a grand reunion with Christopher; what a day that will be!! Until then I will fight to forgive and grow even stronger in my faith that God is good, God is faithful, and God will never leave me nor forsake me.

Revelation 21:4  “He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”

I cried again today~

 

chris-smith-1024

Grief is an interesting beast.  Grief sneaks up on us through a smell, a look, a song, or even in dreams.  Experiencing “loss” is something we will all endure in our lives causing us all to walk through different levels of grief.

Today I saw that People Magazine wrote a short story about my nephew who was taken from us over 5 years ago.  It was tough to see the story in print. I cried.

During the first year of grief I was sad and angry at God for having this sadness as part of our family’s story.  How?? Why??  I raged inside.  I cried a lot. Then God began to speak to my heart; asking me to trust him with the questions and the grief ~ He is so good. But the tears would still fall.

Over the years I have cried at the oddest times, it just happens.  Oceans remind me of him, homeless people ( for whom he had great compassion) remind me of him, electronic music reminds me of him, his nieces remind me of him ~ He’s always just a thought away and he is always missed.

Today I cried again.  I know it won’t be the last time, grief is kind of like that.

http://www.people.com/article/california-entrepreneur-covers-up-murder?xid=socialflow_facebook_peoplemag

Birthdays~

I love birthdays, don’t you?  I love having the opportunity to celebrate a friend or family member on their “special day”.  Though most of us may not admit it,  we really do like  to have our “special day” celebrated as well.

Facebook has created a crazy phenomenon that allows ALL your Facebook Friends to know that it is your birthday and within a 24 hour period you may have well wishes and Birthday greetings from hundreds of people! It’s amazing to have greetings from everyone you know, from every season of your life, gathered on one page!!

Birthdays give us a chance to say things to others that could feel awkward saying at other times of the year:  “I love you, you matter, you are special, I care about you, I want the best for you, YOU ROCK!!”  🙂 Birthdays create the opportunity.

Birthdays are often a time we reflect on those that have passed away, our birthday thoughts are bittersweet as we remember many celebrations in days past; we miss them. We may know where they are and that they are at peace, yet on birthdays~we miss them a little bit more.

This week is my nephew, Christopher Smith’s birthday. Because I blog from my heart each week I cannot miss this chance to remember him in my writings. I miss his smile, humor, creativity, love for family, and zest for life.

With this in mind, perhaps waiting until a birthday to share those meaningful and heartfelt thoughts you have for those you know and love shouldn’t wait until a birthday~Today could be a really good day! 🙂 Grab the opportunity……

It’s Been a Year~~ Miss you Christopher Ryan Smith.

It was around this time last year that we learned that our beloved Christopher Ryan Smith had his life brutally ended by an evil, greedy individual.  The hearts of our family and hundreds of his friends were shattered.  We experienced despair, grief, and many questions for God.

As I wrote in previous blogs ( Christopher, Aug. 2011, We said Goodbye for Now, Oct. 2011, and the Uniqueness of Grief, 2011)  losing Christopher is the deepest grief I have ever experienced in my life. Ever.  Through this grief I have learned a great deal.

I have learned that God remains faithful in the darkness of night when questions flood my heart. I have learned that I don’t understand all the ways of God; but that my role is to trust Him even in the midst of deep sadness and unanswered questions.

I am reminded of Christopher in a song, a picture, facial features of a stranger, a smell or even a memory that sweeps across my heart at random and inconvenient times. Thoughts of my precious nephew are simply a heartbeat away.

I now have a very eternal perspective; one foot on earth, one foot anxious to be in Heaven.  I hold a short list of offenses recognizing that life is short and uncertain. I filter my calendar to be sure that I spend time with precious friends and family; never assuming I will get the chance “tomorrow”.

I will never have the perspective that Christopher was taken from us and that all the lessons are “worth it”. NO, I would rather have the chance to make memories, laugh, and discuss the mysteries of the world with that precious young man.

But–God is faithful to give us small opportunities to find “beauty for ashes” in the midst of great grief.

It’s been quite a year.

Perhaps you, too, have gone through grief points this past year. I pray you find, as I have, that God is very very near to the brokenhearted. May you find “beauty for ashes” as you navigate that sadness’s you have faced.

Breathe.

The incredible VALUE of shared experiences~

“But we can’t right now, our lives are too busy!”

  ” I know we have some money put away but let’s just wait and see how this year goes!” 

“I’m sorry but  this is a stressful season at work!”

All valid reasons, They all make sense but perhaps we could address the core issue.

I was blessed to be raised in a family where shared experiences: meals, game nights, camping, and many other options were a rich value. These experiences tended to be the glue that connected our hearts, caused laughter, and helped remind us that we were family, even during those tough teen years.

In like fashion, my husband and I have taken time and resources to build the tradition of shared experiences into the DNA of our family; it is our prayer that they will do the same with their own families.

However, I often hear from friends and colleagues that their lives are too busy, finances too tight, relationships too challenged, and ideas too hard to come by when looking into the possibility of a vacation, or other experience opportunities.

I used to have the idea that making memories could be something we can do “later on”, in a few years, down the road but after losing a precious family member last year my filter has done a 180 degree change.  None of us can count on tomorrow, nor can we count on the fact that we will always have all our family members or our health.

You might say that this is a fearful approach to life; pessimistic perhaps, but I would differ with you and would clarify that it is due diligence to “seize the day”.  Lay down those aforementioned excuses and plan a vacation, have game nights, go on hikes, cook together, dream together, do life together.  The real cost is your time and today is all you know for sure.

Over 24 months ago we took an untimely (and a kind of expensive) trip to Southern California to visit precious family there, went to Disneyland with them and had a very special shared experience with them all……   It was the last time I got to laugh with Christopher……………….It is more priceless a memory than I could have ever imagined!

We are embarking on the doorway of summer!! Use this time to lay down the cell phone, computer, daily worries and make fresh memories and meaningful connections with those you have the privilege to love!! Make a summer list and begin today!