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) 

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

 

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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Stumbling through the Playground of Life

I remember the day Lela Serapin spit in my face on the playground. We were standing near the metal dome-shaped soccer ball climby-thing. I remember standing there stunned wondering what in the world I had done to receive such treatment and why in the world she was so angry? I think we were talking about our backgrounds…and I shared a bit about my families’ faith…I might have uttered the name of Jesus. What I quickly discovered was her background and the offense she took of his claim to be more than a man. Whatever the words spoken that day…she was cut deep and I was devastated. Not only because my face was covered in humiliation and saliva…but also because I never intended her harm.

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Cause This Day Can Be Hard…

So I see this as a blessing and a curse. And it is probably a combination of nature and nurture generating my hypersensitivity to the feelings of others.  Sometimes I am paralyzed as I don’t want to say something to offend…or do something that might hurt your heart. (I am not perfect at this and am sure I have hurt many–but I can assure you it was not intentional as I have spent the better part of (almost) 40 years doing my best to be very very very sensitive to the hearts of others…especially surrounding delicate topics like this one!) So on a day like today as much as I would like to post a picture of my babies (and there is NOTHING wrong with doing this)…or a picture of my mom (and this is also to be celebrated)…I pause. Because this day can be hard.

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