Celebrating community

I remember walking into Visiting Angels of West Michigan on August 1, 2003, and wondering if the phone would ever ring? Would this whole idea of owning a home care business really work? Would we find the right caregivers for the right clients and how would my future unfold.

I was young, at least compared to now, and I was filled with questions and wondering. 16 years later I am older and still filled with questions and wondering, but I believe the difference is that I also now fully trust that God has a plan for Visiting Angels and all of the people who come and go from our community.

I am grateful for so many of the people that I hold in my heart because they have invited us to provide care or journey with them. And there are so many who have joined our multitude of angels and lovingly, compassionately and professionally offered a variety of services.

Today we gathered for lunch, a community that in some sense is a group of strangers, as so much of what we do is in individual homes. And yet we sit together and share conversation and laughter and tears and struggles.

We are a group of people who gather and acknowledge the loss of spouses, parents or friends. We name hardships, and we celebrate healing! We call each other wrong names, and we listen to stories we have heard before, but none of that matters. In the moments we gather, there is something sweet and sacred as I look around the room. There is a gathering of strangers who are comfortable with each other because of kindness, love, honest expression of need and a desire to connect.

I want to share some of the faces with you from today and from years past. I am so grateful for the opportunity to work in a job that connects deeply with my purpose and passion.

Blessed Be His Name

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Blessed be his name

I will never forget reading the care page of my friend Kathy sharing with us that their 11-Gerrietyear-old son Gerrit died after an 18 month battle with brain cancer. It was tragic in so many ways. He had the best smile and vibrant spirit, and it felt wrong and hard to make sense of.

And the next day Kathy asked people to listen to a song and come ready to sing it at the funeral…Blessed be your name! It was a bold request from a mother whose heart was shattered. And it has stayed with me over all these years.

Blessed Be Your Name
Blessed Be Your Name
In the land that is plentiful 
Where Your streams of abundance flow
Blessed be Your name
Blessed Be Your name
When I’m found in the desert place
Though I walk through the wilderness
Blessed Be Your name
Every blessing You pour out, I’ll 
Turn back to praise
When the darkness closes in, Lord
Still I will say
Blessed be the name of the Lord
Blessed be Your name
Blessed be the name of the Lord
Blessed be Your glorious name
Blessed be Your name
When the sun’s shining down on me
When the world’s ‘all as it should be’
Blessed be Your name
Blessed be Your name
On the road marked with suffering 
Though there’s pain in the offering 
Blessed be Your name
Every blessing You pour out I’ll 
Turn back to praise
When the darkness closes in, Lord
Still I will say
Blessed be the name of the Lord
Blessed be Your name
Blessed be the name of the Lord
Blessed be Your glorious name, oh
Blessed be the name of the Lord
Blessed be Your name
Blessed be the name of the Lord
Blessed be Your glorious name
You give and take away
You give and take away
My heart will choose to say
Lord, blessed be Your name
God you give and take away
Oh you give and take away
My heart will choose to say
Lord, blessed be Your name
And how I remember the feeling in my body when we sang the words on that Spring day remembering Gerrits life.
You give and take away
You give and take away
My heart will choose to say
Lord, blessed be Your name
God you give and take away
Oh you give and take away
My heart will choose to say
Lord, blessed be Your name
I am keenly aware of these words in different seasons of my life. In this past year, I often remind myself that if I am going to feel the pain of what is taken, I can not forget the gifts I have been given. There is a balance for gratitude and grieving. Both are critical to peace, and it is imperative that we do not live as if one cancels the other out.
Grief/sorrow is powerful and real and deserves space in our lives for what we lose.
Gratitude is sincere and abundant and life-giving. To live a life with gratitude is to become healthier in all areas of our being (physical, social, emotional and spiritual)
IMG_8722As I have reflected on words that bring comfort on hard days, I have found that my Dad would often sign off his emails with these words.
Blessed be His name
And so tonight, I carry with me a message offered to us by Kathy and Jeremy in one of the most painful seasons of their days and words from my Dad as he came face to face with the reality that his life was drawing to an end. Gerrit was only 11 years old and battled a brain tumor for 18 months. My Dad was 78 and battled a brain tumor for 7 weeks. Today I received this message from Gerrit’s grandpa who was also a friend of my Dad. I smiled when I read his very good words, he had no idea I planned to write about Gerrit today.
“Stay strong. Your dad, brother, and Gerritt have actually seen Jesus! I can only imagine!”
Blessed be His name

Story work

I have been invited to speak at a dinner on the topic, embracing our stories. I have been reflecting on what to share for the last few weeks and feel compelled to return to writing. Now I know I have said that before and have been bold in declaring it here, but the last year has been a tough one for me in a variety of ways, including writing.

The story of the last year is so much more than grief and sorrow, but it definitely has included that in significant ways. I have learned that losing my Dad has been a very different grief journey than losing my brother. It is not about easier or harder, but different.

As I have begun reflecting and writing about what I want to share about embracing our stories, I find myself often reflecting on my own early story work. At that time, in my late 20’s, I was an either/or thinker. I was invited to consider that as long as I believed that most things were either/or, it would be close to impossible to explore my God-given story.

I was then invited to consider that perhaps most of life is both/and. That indeed my experience could hold a variety of feelings, even about the same experience. This felt foreign to me as I considered the way my mind felt that two conflicting emotions were not welcome into my way of thinking/feeling.

Over the years, as I allowed myself to consider this possibility, I have experienced the freedom to put words to so much of what my heart holds. The process of embracing both joy and sorrow, both love for people and a need to be alone, both a deep ache in friendship and holding hope for redemptive spaces, and so much more, has given me a passion for being attentive to my story almost every day.

But in this last year, I lost sight of my both/and in my writing. When I have sat down to write, I have felt a tension that if I write about the good, I will not be true to my sorrow and if I write about the sadness, I will not be honest about all the goodness that surrounds me. And to consider writing about both felt difficult as well. And so I did not write.

Image result for Brene Brown quotesAs we approach the first anniversary of my Dad’s death, I am aware that I have stories I want to write, I have experiences I want to share, I have memories I want to record. I want to reflect on the depth of the last year but also about what today and tomorrow, next month and next year might be shaping up like. I want to return to honoring the many spaces of life that are within me. I want to give my story the time, tenderness, embrace and voice that it deserves.

I have a heart that aches deeply and tears that flow often.

I have a heart that celebrates life and experiences deep joy and feels an abundance of gratitude.

I have a heart that is curious about where God is at work in my story and also so acutely aware of God’s faithfulness and provision.

I have a full heart…

Blessed be His name!

 

 

Post-Holiday Fog

Some days I sit down to blog with a sense of writing energy coming out of the tips of my fingers. There are thoughts in my head that seem to travel through my heart and come out on paper. I love blogging on nights like that.

Lately, the energy feels stuck and even though I have an idea or a thought it doesn’t seem to travel anywhere. Maybe you understand that feeling?

As I think about what is going on in my mind and heart in this past 10 days, I am aware that I feel like I am in a post-holiday fog.

fog.jpgAs I journaled about this fog, I began to name the dread I held in my heart as I was moving into the first Christmas without my Dad. We have learned over the years how to navigate the holidays around Len’s death and bigger than life absence. I did not know if I had it in me to do it again. But I knew our Family Christmas weekend and Christmas Eve and Christmas Day and New Year’s Eve and New Years Day would come and I was pretty determined to be ready for them.

I can say that overall it was a good Christmas. It wasn’t an easy Christmas, and we missed my Dad’s presence and Len’s presence in many spaces, but in the end, we lived present and honest and true to so much in all of those essential spaces.

But in the last 10 days, I am releasing the sadness and the ache and the relief that the holidays are over and I am aware that yes they were good and in my heart, they were equally hard. We did things differently in some ways, and it was good, and it was hard. We laughed, and we cried, and it was good and hard.

I used to be a Hospice Social Worker, and we would have Thursday night grief group, and I was often reminding them that usually, the hardest months of grief are months 3 thru 9. It is in those months that you realize this is the new normal and nothing feels normal yet about it. It is in these months when reality sets in and so does depression and deep sorrow.

I figured out tonight that since that day in May, it has been 7 months and 25 days.

And so, perhaps my writing thoughts have been lost in the fog of grief. A fog that maybe isn’t post-holiday, but just the fog of grief.

I also know that grief comes from more than the loss of life. I wonder if you have grief in your journey right now? Grief is powerful and invites us to spaces that feel uncomfortable to visit but so worthwhile to name.

Often I find myself thinking I should be further along or not so emotional.  It feels more honest to say that some moments are tough when I am met with the reality that my Dad isn’t here to watch my new garage go up, or I won’t be golfing with him in February in an annual trip to a warm place.

It feels good to name it and to know grief won’t overcome me, but it does live within me right now.

And with that, I will call it a night. I don’t have some fluid ending other than to say what my Dad said to my niece in the days after her Dad died; The Birds will sing in the morning! (even in the fog)

UCT+3xHWQNiBNXmzUNTenA_thumb_15633.jpg

Embracing 2019

Due to a technical error, this is being reposted from last night.
I have read lots of messages that people have written saying goodbye to 2018 and hello to 2019. I have thought and wondered about what words I would use to do the same and honestly, I find those words challenging to comprise.
There is something in me that isn’t ready to release 2018.
And there is something in me that isn’t quite ready to embrace 2019.
But that really is silly since it doesn’t matter what I am ready for.
Each day will come as it does and ready or not, this year will be 365 days of opportunity, challenge, love, sorrow, laughter, work, invitation, fun, solitude, celebration, family time, regret, success, focus, transformation, and hope.
And so today I reflected on the fact that I don’t have a lot of words, but I am willing to choose a stance of embrace for 2019.
2018 was hard in so many ways, but there was so much good as well.
Yes, my Dad died in May of 2018, but that is not all that happened.
Yes, my grief feels like it has a steady stream in my heart, but Joy is also abundant in so many ways.
Yes, my family feels a vast gap in the spaces that Len and my Dad used to fill but we added Ellis this year and we grieve death, but we celebrate life.
Yes, we cried together as a family, but we also grew stronger, hugged, loved, laughed, and strengthened our bond.
2018 changed me and 2019 will as well. I don’t have the words yet for all that changed within me as the process is still unfolding. I am confident that 2019 will continue to reshape me.
I am reminded of the words to the Hymn we often sang in Church:
potter and clayHave Thine own way, Lord! Have Thine own way!
Thou art the Potter, I am the clay.
Mold me and make me after Thy will,
While I am waiting, yielded and still.
I am grateful for the presence of so many good people in my life, and I know 2018 was
possible and even enriched,  because of the love extended to my family and me.
May 2019 be a year where I generously give back to others the support so freely offered to me!
Happy New Year to each and every reader.

Priceless photos

Every year when we gather for Christmas, we have a memory dinner since Len died on the 23rd of December. This year we watched these two videos. We were crowded in a room with a big screen, and we laughed, and we cried, and we remembered, and we were sad, and we were grateful….cause that really is how life is when you have loved and lost.

As we watched these videos, our sweet 9-year-old family member said, “Aunt Trish, is that why you take so many pictures of us, so you can make our funeral video?” We all laughed as her question was honest and yet light in the midst of a room full of emotion.

And yet tonight, as I remember Len’s funeral on New Years Eve Day 2012, I am thankful for pictures. I remember my cousin saying to me as they drove home from my Dad’s funeral, we need to take more pictures. I want to invite you to take more pictures in 2019. Capture the moments and celebrate the life that surrounds you! It is no longer about film reels and developing and free double print days. Photography is easier with phones and digital and technology.

Take pictures to remember the moments, to create movies that tell your family story and to recall the goodness.

IMG_2869As I journey through grief and remember the day we had Lens funeral 6 years ago, I am so grateful for pictures. Pictures that remind me of the sorrow, the comfort, the love and remind us how God’s provision for all of us has continued.

UNADJUSTEDNONRAW_mini_17683

Take the pictures for the living, but also remember, when those you love are no longer with you, the pictures are a priceless gift that will bring such goodness!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cup of courage…

Last night I received this beautiful gift, and it was presented with this fantastic poem in song, by my 10-year-old niece.

Roses are Red

Violets are blue

dutch is sure sweet, and Trish so are you

I got you a mug that will keep you brave

I hope it becomes your Fav

Love Johanna


courage

Today I took some time to reflect on what might look different in 2019 if I really do practice my brave in new spaces this year.

I found a few boxes of my favorite tea, and I plan to use my cup of courage as a tangible reminder to live brave each day.

Will my brave invite me to speak up or remain silent?

Will my brave invite me to show up in new spaces or give my heart permission to say no and stay home to reflect and grow in my own space?

Will my brave invite me to laugh more, cry more, struggle differently or celebrate differently?

Will my brave give me the confidence to move into new spaces or will my brave invite me to name my fear and move into it anyway?

What will my brave and courage grow in me in the coming days, weeks and months? Joahnna’s sweet gift and delightful presentation remind me how not so long ago, this child was timid and self-conscious. She has practiced some significant courage in the past months, and she is exercising some of her new found discoveries.

I am looking forward to drinking my tea, finding my courage, practicing my brave and letting this cup become my fav…

I am ready to discover some new things in my 50th year. I am grateful for the assurance that no matter our age or circumstances, the choice to grow is always within reach.

Maybe it isn’t brave and courage that resonates with your soul in this season of your life. There is also a Cup of Love, Cup of Peace, or Cup of Gratitude. I am pretty sure that one of the four might invite you to new spaces in the new year. Give it some thought and choose one that might become your fav.

How I wish we could visit together and I could hear all you hope for in the coming year. Stay tuned, and I will share with you as I discover just how this cup of courage will invite me to new adventures!