The Grace of a Rebuilding Year…

Sometimes we are simply not kind to ourselves. A new year signals hope and new opportunities–but often voices in our heads spout:  “I should be farther along…I should have conquered this by now…I should start…I should stop… I should have a stronger faith to overcome my fear, grief, loss, or temptations. I should…I should…I should.”

One of the most staggering shocks to my system was my inability to recover quickly from loss. I was confident that my faith could hold up under the pain and grief, but instead I was laid out…flat. The recovery process has taken many years–which was too long in the minds of most…myself included: “I should be okay…my faith should be able to carry this load.”  Worse, at times I would self-medicate and then louder voices piled on shame: “I should not emotionally eat, I should workout more to increase endorphin levels, I should stop numbing with things that absolutely will attack my health and wellness and keep me trapped in this cycle.” Though the second group of  voices carried elements of truth, unfortunately they didn’t matter because frustratingly, the darkness of depression wasn’t willing to negotiate with the light of logic.

I’ll never forget the day when a tiny portion of my personality resurfaced; a part that I was pretty certain was irretrievable. I remember greeting her with warmth and surprise. In that moment a glimmer of hope rose up and I wondered if maybe just maybe two years of hard core grief was not a waste–but the only option I had to find my way to the other side? Could it be that I was being too hasty expecting a full recovery just a few months after losing two children? Yes…I believe I was.

Recently I heard Jon Acuff explain that the NFL is one of the only places where we extend grace and recognize that it takes TIME to recover. We  brilliantly dub it: a REBUILDING year. Some teams take multiple years or even a full decade to regain real footing within their programs. But in our day to day lives we expect to recover, change, start over, grieve, create new thought, or build something amazing in a matter of weeks or months. And when we don’t…we believe we have failed…or worse…that we are failures.

I want to call nonsense on this practice. I want to give permission for a much more gentle and loving approach to change. Everyone told me it takes time to heal a heart and this is so very true. The footing I have established on my journey has been remarkable–but I had several agonizing rebuilding years–hours of counseling and therapy–loads of book reading/podcasts–long walks–powerful prayer and faithful friendships that carried me through those dark days. Imagine the work that goes in to rebuilding an NFL franchise…we have no problem patiently supporting our teams…fully understanding it will take time and effort to re-enter the game at a championship level. Yet it seems far more comfortable for us to speak words of failure and shame upon ourselves.

Instead, what if we were to we extend the same kind of grace to ourselves and those we love? If this year needs to be a rebuilding year for you–take it. It will not be easy, but start by telling your fans. Tell them you are in a rebuilding place and wake up each day telling yourself the same. It may be daily small steps (literally or figuratively), it will likely require a support system, it may look like gathering tools or teachers, counselors and positive words reminding you of your identity, value and worth. It is crucial to recognize our lives will not be different next week–or even next month–but if you are committed to a rebuilding year–this just might be the permission you need to embrace this year with joy and not dread.

As I completed this blog I realized my “word” last year was rebuild…it was like I intuitively knew what I needed: (another) rebuilding year. We start wherever we are. We survey the rubble and damage and we decide it is only going to be rebuilt brick by brick. We speak kind words over ourselves and our story.

It is slow, arduous, yet sacred work. 

The bricks look like grace layered upon grace. There are also bricks made of kindness and love. Love for self and reminders of God’s love for you.

If you feel stuck or like you need a word of encouragement…please feel free to comment below or private message me so I might be able to be a fan as you launch in to your rebuilding year.

 

 

The Sea Glass Speaks

Nothing’s fine…I’m torn…I’m all out of faith, this is how I feel…
I’m cold and I’m ashamed…lying naked on the floor.*  

Sea glass is the litter left behind, then drug out to the ocean by the wind and waves, only to surface again busted and broken in to somewhat smaller pieces. When discovered on the beach days, weeks, months, or years later, this glass has miraculously become quite lovely. It has lost its jagged edges. It is frosty and softer in appearance. One can tell the original state from which it has come; yet, it is…in a sense…new.

It is no wonder I identify so deeply with the sea glass I collect. I am full of jagged edges, yet, God is softening me, making me lovely, and making me more lovable. Through my life, I have endured hardship and have been tossed by the waves of despair. The sea glass I find has also endured much to become the beautiful gem it is today.

While walking along the shores of this place, in this time of deep grief, I am longing for a message of hope, a message of love. Trying to make sense of my life while asking the unanswerable questions. God seems silent, but the Sea Glass speaks. Her transparency allows the sun to create a shine unlike any shell on the sand. I am drawn to her…I lean in…I listen. She tells me a story of significance. She tells me of the time she was thrown out, ugly, unwanted. She tells of shattered dreams and a fragmented life. She tells me of her hope being lost. She tells me of the hardship she endured while at sea. She tells me she wanted to be buried at the bottom of the ocean; begging for the tossing and turning and churning to end. She tells me I am not alone. She tells me I am seen, and that some day…some day…I will emerge, not tossed away trash…but His treasure.

*Thank you Natalie Imbruglia (for giving words to describe what we all have felt or feel at times in our lives)

Excerpt from my mini memoir: Oceans Between Us (The Sea Glass) 

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

 

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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Confessions of a (Recovering) Work-a-church-a-ministry-a-holic

Disclosure: Sometimes when I write, I write for anyone who will read it. And sometimes when I write I have a specific message meant for a specific group. Now certainly anyone is welcome to read this piece, but this is written for folks who might consider themselves one of God’s kids, and specifically someone who is working to serve Him with their lives. Today I am writing with you in mind…

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My Love/Hate Relationship with Facebook…

Oh Mark Zuckerberg you lovable little genius you. The thing you predicted would blow up has taken over and altered the way we communicate and connect with the rest of the WORLD. Thank you and darn you all at the same time. I could not be more grateful to follow and keep track of my sweet friends I met and did life with in Uganda. I could not be more grateful for the ways I can keep a “visual eye” on that beloved place and the people who live there. But then I honestly get tangled/trapped in the mind numbing scrolling and sometimes am completely sucked in to a video of a pug pouncing up the stairs or I “need” to know what animal my face looks like!?! Several seconds of my life later THIS pops up.

Completely.unneccesary. But in the “Facebook moment” I NEEDED to know. (Love/hate.)

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