Finding Strength to Heal a Broken Community

A year ago, on this very morning, my husband Russ and us I held each other as the sun came up over the surrounding hills. Our serene valley turned beautiful shades of orange as the light hit the autumn trees.

We were basking in the glow of the night before. We had renewed our vows in front of family and friends, promising to love each other well.

This morning, we held each other again. As the sun began to show it’s light we prayed for strength to find hope. We vowed to love our community well.

Both mornings we were tired. The first was an overflowing and peaceful tired. This morning was the exhaustion from feeling poured out.

We have relief workers coming in tomorrow to help our community navigate the hairpin turns of this scary winding road. A path that is is dark and unknown.

These are the folks I trained with to become a Disaster Relief Responder myself.

We have both grieved and walked others through grief. What makes this unique is the sense that no one here is truly objective. No one is untouched and no one will come out unscathed. We are all aching and even the strongest among us are so very weak.

We can only hold each other.

We are lighting candles because Roseburg is our home. We are feeding each other because that’s what you do at times like this.

Still, I’m just not hungry…I feel sick.

Scripture tells us that we are to “weep with those who weep” and all of us are taking turns weeping.

This is the first Sunday since our the first news of our tragedy and we will gather with our faith community to comfort and grieve together.

We gather. That’s the important thing. We come together in the same space to breathe the same space and wipe eachother’s tears.

When dealing with her mother’s cancer, Jen Hatmaker said that she went to her office to quietly ask God if He was still good. The answer was yes. He is still good.

Evil is still evil. Darkness is still so very dark. The only thing to get rid of darkness is light.

A reporter asked me on Friday if I can forgive the shooter. I replied “I have to.” When he asked why I told him that I can’t hold that place in my heart for darkness.

We can get angry, yes. We should be very angry. However, if we allow ourselves to hold the anger until it turns bitter, we give up a place in our soul and it does nothing to punish the evil.

Forgiveness doesn’t release a person of their responsibility. It only releases us from our own soul from the bitter prison in which we hold the key. It also takes strength to hold onto the anger and my strength is needed to love and comfort because loving through the pain is hard.

This morning we will release tears.

On this day we will seek peace.

In these moments we will find a way to the next moment.

For me it will be standing in the midst of my church family as we raise our hands and cry out to the God of mercy and grace because right now we need both.

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Dear World, From Roseburg

Dear World,

Before yesterday most of you had never heard of the City of Roseburg. Now when you hear that name you will link us to the tragedy that happened on our small community college campus yesterday.

That is not who we are.

We are a logging community tucked into a beautiful valley with some of the most beautiful tree covered hills you’ve ever seen.

The waters of the Umpqua river flow through our town and Umpqua Community College sits above its banks.

The same interstate that brought reporters and government officials is the same road that’s welcomed back our own Charlie Company from more than one tour protecting our nation.

Our children bring their livestock to show at the county fair on the same fairgrounds that welcomed busloads of students to frantic families anxious to see them step off the bus. Local pastors, relief workers and counselors were waiting too.

The Thursday night sky filled with candlelight in the park where music fills the air every summer on a blanket covered hill.

In July our streets fill with classic cars as families line the sidewalks of downtown, waiting for a history to roll by. The same streets rocked by an explosion more than 50 years ago.

On Veterans Day, those same streets welcome war heroes, marching bands and flag waving children, sometimes in pouring rain.

Photographs of the injured being rolled into the hospital doesn’t tell the whole story either.

Most of our babies have been born at Mercy and lives are saved there everyday, not just the tragic ones.

Umpqua Community College is the place where too many will remember for the wrong reasons. You won’t speak of the thousands of graduates who’ve learned to be nurses, dental assistants and anything that would put them back to work in our once thriving timber economy.

We’ll still show up at Jacoby Auditorium as it fills with local actors and musicians throughout the year.

In July, the track on campus fills with walkers as we join the Relay for Life.

There is so much more to remember about us than the day this tragedy tore into our lives and changed our community forever.

Today you will hear names and get to know a small bit of who we lost.

We will hear the names and feel the loss.

After the media is gone, we will still be here. We will return to celebrating in our streets, dancing in our parks and holding each other up when they are too weak to stand.

As the story continues to unfold and details emerge and you speak the name of our city please remember this, our city and college is not the name of a tragedy.

We are not here to provide an argument for your agenda or to be on a horrible list somewhere.

We are here because Roseburg is our home and that is the on thing about us that can’t be changed.

This post originally appeared at NRToday.com/moms

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Small Stain, Large Lesson

Sometime in the spring I found some adorable outfits on Pinterest that I wanted to try. They all involved a nice white t-shirt with bright colored statement necklaces and the rest was left to my imagination.

For years I haven’t purchased much of anything white for a couple of reasons.

The first is that I bought into the whole “dark colors make you look slimmer” approach to life. I’ve had black dominating my closet forEVER because it was safe.

Right behind the first reason was the fact that whenever I wore white I inevitably also showcased whatever I had just eaten in a lovely display around my chest or neck area.

After deciding that messy food and old fashioned fashion rules were not the boss of me, I set out to find the perfect white t-shirt. This turned out to be plural.

I found more than one and to be safe, I purchased them.

Around a month ago I took my youngest on a mom/daughter trip to celebrate her upcoming “Sweet16”.

While getting ready one morning I spilled a dot of makeup on my white shirt. I tried to spot clean it but seriously, Micky Mouse was waiting for us and I didn’t want to mess with that window of opportunity. I sprinkled some water on it and hoped for the best.

After returning home I found the shirt in my dirty clothes bag. The stain mocked me as it had grown to the size of a quarter. As I began to work on getting the stain out I lost track of time. Maybe I even became a little obsessed with getting the stain out but I worked at it, vowing not to give up.

Since then, two other white shirts (one is a new tank) have fallen victim to my inability to navigate a white wardrobe. As I type, all of these poor, innocent shirts with stains are soaking in a borax and bleach solution because I can’t seem to just let it go.

While working on the first shirt something occurred to me. If I had just tended to the stain when it first happened, it would have been so much easier to get out and the likelihood of saving the shirt would have been greater.

This thought made a segue into the topic of relationships.

How often is someone hurt and we just tell ourselves we will deal with it later? We let them sit and soak in the offense instead of tending to the stain on their heart as soon as we realize it?

Later we sit in awe of how someone could have become bitter when at the time it seems like something small.

Bitterness grows out of a wound left untended. The root burrows deep into the ground just like the stain on my shirt. It grabs hold of a soul and doesn’t let go.

You may wonder why I didn’t just toss my shirt aside for one of the others. I don’t know except I didn’t want it to go to waste or to be lost. I even asked myself why I was so bent on saving this one garment. It still had value to me.

It’s vital that we see those who are hurting as valued and worth redeeming. When offenses come we owe it to ourselves and those around us to seek healing immediately.

I’ve decided that I can no longer wait until damage has altered someone. Every soul in our path has value and a purpose. Every person is an integral part of our community and we owe it to each other to engage in the healing process. Whether it is a hurt inflicted by us or we are to help in reconciliation, if we are in a place to recognize it, we can learn to help heal it as well.

James 1:19 tells us to be “quick to hear”. Sound advice to those of us who hope to be healers of hearts as we learn to live gently and love passionately.

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For the Love: Fighting for Grace in a World of Impossible Standards (book review)

I’m passionate about community. My mercy heart screams out when I feel as if someone has had to to walk a dark path on their own or even celebrate a special day by themselves making the victory feel a bit hollow.

When I posted about Jen Hatmaker’s new book “For the Love: Fighting for Grace in a World of Impossible Standards” I wrote about the gift of community that has been the best part of being on the launch team.

Today I get to tell you more about the book itself because today is launch day!

For the Love is a witty, deep and beautiful piece written from the trenches of life. Jen Hatmaker lives the life she writes about with a simple approach to grace and love.

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Jen shares her heart on women in Haiti as well as those in arms reach we can gather around our own tables. As I took in the thoughts of her heart I remembered the days where simple comments from other women put pressure on my soul for me to become a person I was never created to be.

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For the Love leads me to the freedom in Christ to fully rely on Him to lead the way. No longer will I ascribe to the manufactured, Pinterest perfect ideal taken from a polished speaker as some fancy event.

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If you’ve ever read anything by Jen you’ll know to expect humor and plenty of it. Her views of life are often wrapped up in the hilarious stories that are laugh out loud funny.

This book was all quotable so I finally stopped highlighting because I realized that reading it all over again would be a gift to myself. My next time through will be a book club style with some women who have become a safe place for me to gather.

If you have ever struggles with being a woman, mother, friend, Christian, wife or just with personhood, you’ll find a beautiful path in the pages here.

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Order yours at Amazon or Barnes & Noble or Christian Book

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PS
A special shout out to my launch team besties for creating the great graphics from the book so we could all share them with you! You have all been an example of organic grace that is the fresh water needed to grow a community of love.

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