something else…

Follow Up: I posted my ME TOO blog yesterday evening and I’ve received so many kind words and messages as well as other individuals saying my words encouraged them to try and tell their own stories. In just a few short hours after posting I heard from former students, dear friends, family members and strangers who commended my bravery.  Bravery? I think bravery would have been saying something right after it happened…even though I lived alone with my daughter…even though I was single and had somewhat of a reputation in my small town and feared no one believing me…even though I now knew he was capable of evil…even though he had a child that would have to find out his dad was not the kind of man he should be looking up to.  Even after all of this and more I could have bravely made a call that could potentially stop him from ever hurting another…but I didn’t. I waited, and over the years silently got over it along with a lot of other things I was getting over.  I catalogued this into what being divorced and single must be like and walked away.

This is the part where it hurts the most. That because of my sins, I decided I wasn’t worthy of being treated like anything more than trash. I thought I’d earned it and kinda deserved it. The next year, when I quit my job as a teacher and walked away it felt good because I no longer had to stand in front of those precious students that I adored so much and pretend I had it all together. I needed to go away…so I did. That’s when isolation took hold of me and veiled itself as my friend. “I like being alone….I don’t need anyone….anything….you can have all my stuff…I hate stuff…but I surround myself with books….Books tell them I’m busy reading and do not want to be disturbed.”

I’ve kept shrinking….the smaller the house the more I felt closed in and safe. Tiny. Tiny spaces. I  don’t want to take up much space. I’ve lost a lot but failure feels good. It gives me something to peg for the sad.

This is my day of reckoning. I’ve led a very remote, quiet, isolated existence for too long and I’m declaring today that it’s over. I’m here to be used by God for a purpose and the enemy will at this very moment hand me back my keys. I’m driving now. I have a voice. I have a story. I’m the best friend you’ll ever have but you won’t know that if I don’t get outside these walls and invite you to dinner or start that book club I’ve been considering. I’m funny and considerate and compassionate and real and yes…yes, I am brave. 

Kurt, I love you. You have been my biggest fan…you’ve been declaring my purpose over me and patiently waiting for me to be everything you’ve known I was capable of being. I love trusting Jesus with you. I love dreaming about our future and I love our story. Thank you for your gentleness and strength. You are a good man. I will never feel like I deserve you, but I’ll take you…forever!

Sweet friends…Promise me you’ll tell your story…it doesn’t have to be on a blog or on Facebook…it can be to your closest friends or a small group…but your telling just might encourage another to tell…and that one encourages another…and eventually we are all telling and bringing the darkness into the light where God works best. 

PS: I did not post his picture or give his name because my earnest prayer is that he walked away from that day broken and ashamed and took a good long look in the mirror at what he’d become. I pray he is a changed man.

PSS: God is good. All the time.

let it do what it came to do.

If no one has told you yet I’m breaking the news…consider this information a gift…

Life will bring you pain.

Isn’t it fantastic! You don’t have to wonder anymore! You don’t have to wonder if you’re going to escape life’s blows!!! You’re NOT! You ARE going to get hit…square between the eyes…at some point…with heartache and loss and pain and all that jazz…

There will be things that happen that you can’t Zig Ziglar your way out of…there will not be a reserve of positive thoughts or fluffy quotes to make the hurt go away or speed the recovery.

It will hurt until it doesn’t hurt anymore and you have to let it do what it came to do…

Let the pain work itself out to completion and not a minute sooner. No premature problem solving will work. If you embrace it, pain will grow you in ways that nothing else can…it will press and squish and sift you into the most raw version of yourself, and while doing so take you back to who you were before you thought you could only survive the pretty.

Now…Let’s talk about the ones who stick around when it’s ugly.

If you’ve ever wondered who your true friends are…the through thick and thin comrades who are not just here for the good news and the promotions and the new house and the nice vacations and the wine and cheese parties…well…now you’ll know.  When you have nothing to offer but you and all your mess and they still show up…

Say hello to your people. 

I drive a 2010 Kia Forte.  I am a stay at home grandma with remaining debt from my business collapse of 2013 and on top of it…I am still grieving! Who wants to be friends with THAT?

She does. And he does. And they do…

My people. My tribe. The ones who walk through the ugly and the valley and ask for nothing…the ones who stick around when some days I have nothing more to offer than the breath in my lungs.

 

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It is okay to suck at life.

It is okay to suck in spite of your belief in God…and it’s okay to struggle with hope in spite of your hope that Jesus will show up.  So what if your shelves and bedside tables are dripping with best selling books on mental and emotional well being?! It’s still sucking over here… Oh, let us not forget how you’ve listened and re-listened to and practically memorized THAT podcast from THAT pastor that told you everything will be alright and we just need to speak life and joy because life and death are in the tongue…{Sticks out tongue and flips off a puppy} Hey Google…play Hillsong United. Hey Google…turn it up! Love this song…but life still sucks.

Pain is your companion until it’s not…and your companions through the pain are your people.

 

Things to know when your friends are in the valley:

  1. Pain is not contagious.
  2. You don’t have to say anything.
  3. Don’t ask a lot of questions. They honestly don’t know the answers. And even if, the answers are not needed in order for you to just be there.
  4. Don’t be a nosey, busy body friend…Don’t text for the details of a situation then disappear until you’re bored or just curious again.
  5. Don’t ask intimate concerning questions via social media platforms like Facebook and Instagram…for the love.
  6. Let them say F*&@$. Let them scream it at the top of their lungs if it helps.
  7. Let them be in a good mood without wondering HOW they can be in a good mood “considering everything that’s happened”.
  8. Don’t be offended by their need for solitude and time.
  9. Don’t let them remain in solitude.
  10. Call and say, “I’m going to pray with you now…you don’t have to say anything and your tears can’t run me off. I’m here. I’m not going anywhere. I love you.”

I love my Claire. Claire is not immune to unexpected sorrow and she does not let her people walk alone. She will bother you until you give in and let her in. She will call you out of solitude and woo you with some soup and wine. She has been a shining example of what to be when our loved ones hurt. And she knows this is it…this is all I’ve got right now…an old car, a grandbaby on my hip and some sadness that is not going anywhere anytime soon…HOWEVER, she wants me around and what that says to me is it’s nothing more than ME she wants in her life. Readers…this is how we must love our friends.

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You’ve heard me say time and time again that MY MESS IS MY MUSE …but I want you to know this one too…MY PAIN HAS BEEN MY PROFESSOR. A professor of life experience that sneaks in the room and says very little…He sits in his chair looking borderline arrogant…as if he knows something I don’t.  He does. He hands me something and watches me cuss and cry and act like I’m above this lesson. Remember those professors? The ones who ticked you off because of their abysmal requirements and immediately you were NOT a fan. And you were not alone. Some even dropped the course and found something easier. But you remained, though not without contempt…and over the course of the school year you start to get it…and the things they were teaching you tend to merge and mesh with other classes you’re taking and oddly enough…all your grades go up?!

Praise God…all my grades are going up.

love gina

 

 

 

g r i e f.

I don’t know how your church does it, but where I came from, when you joined a church they had you stand at the front and after the closing prayer the members come up and welcome you with hugs, handshakes and invitations to collaborate…and by collaborate I mean sign up for a committee and participate. There is more to church than just holding down that pew or chair on Sundays, people!

In the glorious year of 1989, a freshly wed newlywed navigating my way through adulting, I joined a church and found myself on a committee…It was the bereavement division and my role would be to deliver…when needed…a meal to a family suffering loss.

The phone rang and I did like any good southern girl would do when asked to bring food…

I swung through the Kentucky Fried Chicken drive-thru and got a bucket of chicken.

I found the house and rang the doorbell.

Before I continue…let me offer you a visual.

I am wearing the same outfit I wore to my bachelorette party a month prior.

Why? Because I was ignorant.

It was all things 1989. Black pants and a black cropped, double breasted jacket with large gold buttons and braided cord accents. Think Michael Jackson goes sailing. Add in my big permed hair and ankle boots that had seen their fair share of dance floors and you’ve got the picture.

I step inside the living room and stood equipped with a bucket of chicken, yet unequipped with the proper words to offer and I said…

“I’m sorry for the loss.”

Yes “the” loss. Not…”I’m sorry to hear about your dad? mom? brother? uncle? daughter? ….no…The loss. As if they lost a job or their car was repo’d…

I placed my deep-fried condolences in the nearest hands and got the heck out of that awkward, learning opportunity.

And let me say…I still to this day don’t know who died.

I just knew someone did and my job was to take food.

Grief is weird. People don’t know what to do with it. Especially if they’ve been blessed enough to not endure a loss that hits close to home.

It’s been over five months since I lost my best friend and only 2 months since I said goodbye to my stepson. The grief is still very tangible and dealing with me on new levels everyday.

Stages.

There is guilt for having a good day. Anger for having to feel guilt at all. Tears that seem endless and daily. Denial that takes on a new name…known as reality…and with that reality deep, deep breaths that exhale all the pain and make you day by day stronger. And just when you feel stronger your days get better… and then….you feel a little guilty.

It’s real people.

As I’m typing this I receive a text from a friend telling me her family just lost someone young and it’s so very sad and unexpected.  I get it now. My sympathy is now empathy and I hurt with them.

Sympathy says, “I’m sorry for the loss”. Empathy says, “I’m so very sorry. I get it. It’s not going to be easy. I’m here for you. Don’t hesitate to call. I’ll come running. Let’s pray. Now. We need Jesus. Oh my God. Why?”

I had some friends call me immediately and jump right in the pain with us. I had others who needed a minute to reach out and that’s okay. We don’t know what we don’t know…but when we do know…we act differently. We are seasoned in our ability to just be there and sit in it. To be okay with the awkward and the silence and the mourning and the loss. To know that words, whether finesse and eloquent, or stumbled upon and quirky are simply coming from someone willing to show up in the middle of the inevitable.

If you’ve wanted to reach out, please do. Please do not hesitate to call me and please don’t worry you will say the wrong thing. You will. And I will, too. The sweetest thing was when two of my Baton Rouge friends showed up on the scene with lunch and fruit trays and sat with us at our table and made us eat. And even if they’d both shown up with buckets of chicken and dressed like they were going to a club we’d have appreciated it…which makes me think my efforts back in 1989 were more appreciated and less judged than I’d imagined.

I truly am sorry for the loss. I am sorry for those gone too soon. I am sorry for floods that take everything. I am sorry for failed marriages and kids that didn’t grow into the adults you were hoping they would be. I am sorry your business took a hit and your life is now downsized. Anything that makes you sad or lonely or realize the brevity of life and the reality of the pain… I am sorry.

Please continue to keep Kurt in your prayers. I never imagined two months after I said I do, I’d be married to a man who daily grieves the loss of his boy. His one and only son. But I also never imagined God would think enough of me to call me to stand beside this beautiful soul and hurt with him. What an honor. Two really is better than one.

love gina

 

 

 

 

Mystery Solved

“What do you think it means when The Bible talks about the Right Hand of God?”

“Funny you should ask…When I was living with my parents and really struggling and searching for answers, that same question was on my mind. I read so much about “shadow of His wings and right hand of The Father”… I decided it means Jesus. Just Jesus. Like it says in Acts 7, Jesus is seated at “the right hand” of God.

We decided to agree this was correct and move on…

We talked about my girls…she asked about my Luke. She told me how much he favored her Luke and when she had the strength to get upstairs and go through pictures she wanted to send me proof.

I already believed her.

She asked a million questions as I drove from Costco to Target and as much as I wanted to ask her all the questions that had built up in my mind about cancer and if she hurt and when I could see her, I had learned over the past 10 months she would talk about it when she was ready and I would respect that.

We spoke for an hour and a half…90 minutes of clarity, laughter, friendship and eventually the reality that my best friend in the whole world had cancer. For the first time since I received the message from her husband that she was diagnosed with Stage IV brain cancer, we acknowledged it and wept. She told me how amazing Chris had been and how much he loved her.  This was the first time she allowed me to see the weakness and reality of this ugly, mean, walnut-sized invasion in her beautiful, intelligent brain. She shared the embarrassing effects of chemo and bragged on her husband. I’ve always loved Chris. He kept my Jana laughing and appreciated our silly. I know we got on his nerves, like we did everyone else when we were in our own world of conversations that only Gina and Jana could appreciate….but he loved us just the same.

Chris. Chris was born a project manager, solution minded man. When he was informed by Jana in 2007 that my x husband and I were on the edge of divorce, he pulled a super friendship-to-the-rescue move and suggested a trip to Vegas. Chris knows Vegas. I’d never been and somehow he convinced John that this trip would be good for us. It was all planned behind my back and when we were driving to the airport I was under the assumption that I was on my way to Austin to spend a few much needed days with my friend that could hear me and give me some listening ears and bible applied wisdom…That is not how it went down. Once we got to the airport I realized we were on our way to Vegas…together. I didn’t want to be together. I wanted apart. My happy came when we got there and got settled in our room and there was a knock on the door…surprise! For the next 2 days she listened and loved and encouraged and brought me an escape called laughter.

Friends. Show. Up.

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…as the conversation continued I think I knew in my heart it was our last.

It was.

We drove to Austin for Easter weekend and I told my friend goodbye. I had to see her. She had made every excuse for me not to visit but I was calling the shots this time.

She was resting when I got there and her mother said, “Jana, look who’s here…”

When she finally opened her eyes she said…”I like your earrings.”

Of course.

I had on my funky leather feather earrings, and not a hello Gina…but an I like your earrings.

So Jana. This conversation was so normal…and now so cherished.

We shared a love of all things girly and we loved loved loved to talk about Jesus…to talk about revelations and how God could be found in the smallest, finite details…begging for the attention of two girls who wondered what we ever did in the first place to be so utterly blessed beyond measure. We could not believe that we had the children we had! We talked about how unworthy we felt to be the moms of Paige, Laken, Hannah, Chase and Luke. We talked about how much we loved our babies every time we spoke. I thought she had the two most beautiful boys I’d ever seen and she thought my girls were perfect. We talked about what a complete miracle it was that we survived our teenage years…it really was. We contemplated the mysteries of Christ, like what “the right hand of God” meant…we explored the unknown and how to continue trusting when it was difficult to trust.

We ALWAYS encouraged one another to keep trusting.

I was told it rained the whole day on the last day of Jana’s time on planet earth…then just as she drew her last breath a rainbow appeared over Austin, Texas. Rainbows have always signified God’s promises and been associated with Noah and the ark…If it’s okay with you Sir Noah I think from now on when I see a rainbow I will remember how blessed I was that my parents moved me and my comfortable, familiar life in Andrews, Texas to Spring, Texas back in 1981 and afforded me the opportunity to meet Jana Givens…and from there create memories that will forever make my heart smile.

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Thank you for her beautiful life. Thank you for allowing me the opportunity to be called her silly, love to laugh, friend.

One of my favorite verses is found in 1 Peter 5:10…it reads,

“And the God of all grace, after you have suffered a little while, will Himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast.”

Sweet Jana, you suffered for a little while and your suffering is past. I can only imagine what you are experiencing. All the questions we asked…all the unknowns and ponderings of God’s Holy Word… and you are in the middle of it all with complete understanding.

Mystery Solved, ReJanakah….

I will never not miss you until I see you again.

Love, Reginakah.

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