Her Loss is Not Lost on Me.

I wrote this blog yesterday and realized in light of the precious lives lost in Florida this was worth sharing today…

Kylee and I decided to read the Hunger Games trilogy. I don’t read a ton of fiction, but Kylee devours it. To avoid her 7 book series that contains 600-800 pages per book…I suggested a more digestible option. We  had a playful  discussion surrounding Team Katniss/Gale (Kale) vs. Team Katniss/Peeta (Keeta)…but I was most profoundly struck by the gritty humanity and life that Katniss lived.  The author caught me off guard with her side conversations about the physical death of her father and emotional death of her mother. But I was most astonished by how well she covered the heavy themes of loss and (importantly) survival after loss.

Initially, Katniss’s relationship with her mom caught my attention.

“Slowly mother returned to us. She began to clean and cook and preserve food I brought in the winter…Prim was thrilled to have her back , but I kept watching for her to disappear on us again. I didn’t trust her. And some small gnarled place inside of me hated her for her weakness, for her neglect, for the months she had put us through. Prim forgave her, but I had taken a step back, and put up a wall to protect myself from needing her, and nothing would ever be the same between us again.” (Hunger Games)

Unexpected…nothing I thought I would find in this book and yet so very raw and human. Any child who has had a parent who has hollowed out (become a shell of who they were) understands these words. A parent who due to life circumstances or choice has become unable to function…and the child is left to take the place of the parent. Any child who’s parent endured hardship/loss (themselves) but was not able to recover…understands. Any child who watched their parent choose drugs or drinks to cover their anxiety or pain…and in so doing became unavailable to the child they brought in to this world…he resonates with Katniss’s words. The words grip us…and (like Katniss) we the little survivors make vows. In one fell swoop Katniss lost her father to death…and her mother…even though she remained alive. So many children live this way…little survivors.

But certainly Kylee could not be as impacted by words like this or others. We were both enjoying the story but I was finding deeper meaning and a story that I think Suzanne Collins absolutely intended to tell. The story of loss and coping with unfathomable grief drew me in. I felt the disorientation that Katniss felt as she returned to a district that had been destroyed. I understood the sedation and how her raw pain truly could not cope with all that she had seen and endured in her short lifetime. I was reminded of the dark world we live in with similar greed, hunger for power, control, violence, and war. Where oppression is very real and poverty and gluttony exist in extremes. No one is exempt from the depravity of this world…fictional or otherwise. In those moments of utter despair where confusion sets in and all truth seems twisted…Katniss did an incredible thing…she spoke reminders over her life:

“I start with the simplest things I know to be true and work toward the more complicated…I am Katniss Everdeen. I am seventeen years old. My home is District 12. I was in the Hunger Games. I escaped…” (MJ, 4)

Isn’t that our best bet for our lives? When we are most disoriented, broken, confused on who we are…on who God is…on what we believe about ourselves or others? What a beautiful reminder to return to the simplest truths…and if we cannot remember them for ourselves, it might be wise to find a friend or loved one to help us make our list. I have desperately needed those reminders over the past few years post-Uganda. But any phase of grief, loss, or pain; any time we feel stuck or unable to recover, it would best serve us to return to simple basic truth. So very wise. Again…was Kylee grasping this? I hope so.

The songs of the survivors were disturbing. How does one endure the unimaginable…and live to tell the story? Day in and day out it is the story of the survivor that inspires us. How were they not crushed by the weight of this world? I think of my friend who was abducted and forced to serve as a child soldier in the LRA. How does he escape and then re-engage in this world…as a husband and father? Survivors endure unthinkable pain, loss, grief and they live to tell the stories. Speaking of stories, I was reminded of Peeta’s book…with art…telling the stories of the games and the lives lost. And the book they created together to never forget. Oh this is a beautiful picture of grace and how I believe so many of us are transformed…through expressing and not repressing our pain. 

I appreciated the epilogue reminding us that Katniss’s nightmares remained. There are things that create permanent damage, scars, and there is nothing this side of heaven to fully wipe away the tears or restore us to wholeness. But in the end Katniss shares what she does to survive those nightmares…and what she will tell her children on a particularly hard day:

“…on a bad morning, it feels impossible to take pleasure in anything because I’m afraid it could be taken away. That’s when I make a list in my head of every act of goodness I’ve seen someone do.” (MJ, Epilogue) 

I have a list too. My list is a list of all the things I am grateful for…and daily I write it. The words lifts me…they take the tight grip of grief and despair and loosen one finger at a time. It seems to keep some of the haze and darkness away…it is a necessary list for survivors.

I am so thankful for this trilogy and the words that jumped off the page and spoke to my pain and story of survival. I am convinced that this author knew and understands loss and pain in ways many may have missed. We enjoyed the story…the love triangle…the conflicts and the guides who carried our heroine through. But I can only imagine…with the heavy themes of loss, grief, and survival…the author’s story (or the story of someone’s she loves) is embedded here in these pages…and I am so very grateful. Her loss is not lost on me.

Grateful for you,

Jenni

(photo cred: http://hiconsumption.com/2017/07/best-survival-schools/)

 

 

 

I Thought It Would Be Dark Forever…

I wondered if there was gonna come a day when I would turn a page…when the heaviest clouds would lift and I would not only embrace all the gut-wrenching parts of my story…but also embark on writing a new one.

We want to rush pain, suffering, and grief. We have little compassion for a long grief arc…I know I did…until I lived one. I have had unbelievable epiphanies along the way surrounding suffering and pain. My plastic version of God has been shattered and I have a new and (possibly) less conventional approach to my understanding of who He is…but for this I am thankful.

Incredibly, I can physically feel a lightness in my spirit that I wasn’t sure I would fully find again. An awakening from a darkness that I honestly thought would always be with me. Several impetuses for this change have been truths poured over me while sitting at CoM, or in the quiet hours companioning with my Journey Mates. My love language is books…over the past few years I have consumed written words telling me truth. I read stories of others who traversed the long road of grief. I am currently being transformed by a book about Shame. I have embraced others words and the Word surrounding God’s Love for me and my love for others.

Surprisingly, during this time, I took a job that did not really align with my gifts or passions…and yet it has been a tremendous catalyst for health and wellness. It has forced growth in new areas of my life both through relationships as well as personal development. The books I read surrounding my work were feeding my soul truth even when my head and heart didn’t want to believe it. Recently there was a switch that flipped when I was reading this and it launched me and my mindset surrounding people and my work to a completely different level of health. It is transforming me–and has revolutionized how I lead my team.

If you have experienced catastrophic pain, loss or suffering…first of all I am so sorry. You and story are not forgotten. If you are are feeling like you are not able to really move or recover quickly…don’t force it…it is in the transforming that real health happens. You will not find perfect healing this side of heaven…but transformation…and that little truth may just give you enough hope to carry you until tomorrow. Oh, and you are so very loved.

If you know someone who has experienced hard things, come alongside and don’t say a lot. Let your actions love. When appropriate…laugh…it is the best medicine. Don’t rush it…don’t try to fix…just be. Oh and you (the friends walking alongside the wounded) are so very loved…you bring more health than you can possible know. I daily see the face of God through the faces of friends who were willing to walk with us through suffering.

Read. Read words…read truth…find God’s Word or the words of others who have walked through hard things…let them be your guide. Continue to grow…and let others’ words and prayers wash over you…receive it till you believe it. If you need suggestions for growth and development or books on pain message me. Audiobooks and podcasts have been great gifts during this season for my hubby…and I have devoured the pages of so many who have gone before us…and survived.

I hope this will be a bit of a resurgence of my writing…a place where I share a few words from time to time…some humorous…some painful…it is always so therapeutic for me…but I hope it will provide solidarity for some: a “really? me too.”

May You Be Encouraged,

Jenni

 

The Miracle, Mess, and Mystery of Christmas

How is it possible for a season to evoke so many different emotions? There is the mystery and wonder filled with sights and sounds. Tiny white lights and familiar Christmas Carols. Our senses are elevated by peppermint and pine. But for many, it is not always falalalala and festive this time of year. It’s more of a mixed bag.

Many are experiencing a holiday without a loved one for the first time. Loss and grief are highlighted throughout this season. Love (familial or romantic) appears to be on display–and therefore there is a constant reminder of love that is missing within our own lives. Dysfunctional families still expect Christmas plans to unfold per usual. So unless you plan on inoculating babies in Burma this Christmas*…you find yourself dancing with drama despite your best efforts to avoid these types of shenanigans. You play your part…you may even pretend. I heard recently of a family member’s husband who was so difficult to be around that the mother hosting Christmas gave a fake Oscar to the person in the family who acted the kindest to Mr. Miserable. I am one who is extremely passionate about spreading kindness in the world…sometimes bringing it to our holiday dinner tables or family dysfunction can be the most difficult.

I don’t have the answers to any of these holiday doldrums…I guess I felt like I needed to say they are normal. Life is full of disappointments and heartache and instead of being surprised by this we should expect it. (Wow, Jenni such an uplifting Christmas blog!?!?) I know, but honestly; truth takes the sting away–and shepherds in a more awe-filled wonder when we encounter a tender touch from a child…or an unexpected act of kindness. (I literally blinked back tears of shock in the Starbucks line when I was told the person in front of me had paid for my order.) God’s (hurting) kids are living and loving–being the hands and feet that He tells us we were designed to be–and therein lies the Miracle.

The window of my soul cracks a little bit wider this time of year…and my heart softens to a world that will one day be calm and bright. My fullest understanding of the here and now is that we live honestly with as much love and kindness that we can muster. And when we can’t muster any more we pray for a spiritual fruit basket full of things like love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness, and self-control.**

My holidays are a mixed bag. We have three delightful children with whom who will make magical memories and celebrate simply. There are two in Uganda I long to share this holiday with but cannot. We will remember and miss Chris’ mom and her German Christmas traditions. There are certain family dynamics that will quite honestly be excruciating. And we will end the day with wonderful capers involving candy, popcorn, and insane Christmas light adventures with friends that feel like family. On these adventures we will laugh until we cry. This is mine. You have your mixed bag too. The characters are different but the joy and the pain are the same.

The Christmas miracle this season may be to find the grace to embrace the joy and the pain this season illuminates. To recognize the pain is magnified but so is the mystery. And most importantly this holiday celebrates the good news: a birthday celebration for Emmanuel…God with us. Doing any of this  alone and on our own leaves us exhausted and angry…but remembering there was a Love who entered the world–not to eliminate the pain but to walk with us through it–provides a mystery and miracle beyond comprehension.

So from one who desires to embrace the mess, mystery and miracle of this season…to another…Merry Christmas!

 

(*Four Christmases)

(**Galatians 5:22-23)

Walking on Eggshells…

Have you ever been around someone who made you feel incredibly uncomfortable? No matter what you said or how you tried to connect and please that person; your attempts were never quite good enough? Maybe it was a teacher, coach, or family member…but this person made you feel like there was something innately wrong with you at your very core?

I recently had a run-in with an adult who made me feel incredibly small. He was correcting me on the most minute of details…speaking over me…cutting me off and so on. This interaction took me rip roaring back to some unhealthy childhood relationships–relationships where I was constantly walking on eggshells. I was able to exit the presence of this person relatively quickly because clearly he was a bit unstable. I can now recognize–he was trying to throw me off balance to bring about his own stability.

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Oceans Between Us…

 

Oceans Between Us – Jenni Cockerham *

Almost exactly 2 years ago to the day I penned these words*. It is a mini memoir that was written mostly for me. But it was written with others in mind…those who have had hard histories…who were struggling or disillusioned with life…or God. I think I have spent the past few years spiritually disoriented…after having spent the past few decades so very clear.

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Easter Kids Living in a Good Friday World…

I cannot help but identify with the small band of followers who were left on this earth confused, alone, and wondering why in the world they put their trust in a man for the past 3 years who ended up dying a common criminal. The very first Good Friday must have been one of the most devastating days in the lives of the friends who had done life with Jesus. A man who claimed to be God’s son, who performed miracles and even brought his friend back to life…now hangs on a cross? When they agreed to follow him–they had hoped for much more. They believed something big was going to come from this man’s life…following Him was going to bring about change in the world. They likely believed they had swallowed a big fat lie. I assume that Friday in their grief, they started to make preparations to go back to their fishing jobs; bracing to hear the sarcastic voices of friends and family say, “I told you so.”

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Our Most Provocative Super Power…

 

 

 

 

 

 

A recent Facebook post grabbed my attention. It was written by a brand new mommy who was headed back to work after her maternity leave. Referencing leaving her little one she stated something like…”No one prepared me for how hard driving away would be!” The string of comments that followed were peppered with both words of encouragement, polite judgement or at least insinuated disapproval. All responses had an opinion. Oh–friends. This is one of those super sensitive hot buttons that fill women with a great deal of stress and drama. No matter what decision is made and for whatever reason–there are differing opinions on what SHOULD be done. I have had the awesome privilege over the past 12 years to become the mom of 3 beautiful kids AND I have a passion to lead and inspire those around me. I hold a necessary position of helping make ends meet financially for our family…so this has personally plopped me in the middle of several hot button discussions.

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