Grief/Difficult Times

Come and Listen, Sorrow is Singing

Grief Group came again last night. This is the hardest one, the day when they tell their stories. You can see it in their eyes as they walk through the door, how they have been turning their words over and over like rocks, sifting and sorting, trying to find the right ones to tell of love and a lifetime.

How do you do this in a room full of strangers and only a few moments? But they do, brave souls, they do.

In the telling there is pain, yes, but also a striking beauty. Because although they speak of death, they mostly speak of life. They tell stories–funny ones, sweet ones, long ones, short ones–about the brilliant moments shared with the ones they love.

What strikes me about these stories, always, is that they are so very ordinary. They talk of things like fishing, friendship, building a family. Last night several of them said with voices full of emotion, "They taught me so much of what it means to live life."

That sentence swirled around my heart long after I got home. There is such glorious simplicity in it. Because this teaching comes not through grand accomplishments, fame, or fortune. No, the lessons come in quiet moments, the touch of a hand on a shoulder, a long laugh with a child.

Really, learning life comes so much more in being than in doing.

I needed to be reminded that although love is a verb it's not so much about action–at least in the way we tend to think. More often it's about stillness, togetherness, sharing life that seems insignificant but turns out to be the very best of what's left behind when we're gone.

Those stories blended together and sang my heart a song. Some high notes, some low, all having a place and purpose. And if you were listening I think this is the chorus you would hear…

Live well

Die well

Most of all,

Love well

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I’m facilitating a Grief Support Group…

Tonight the members will bring a photo of their loved ones and tell their stories. There will be tears and (surprisingly) laughter as we share about the ones we’ve loved and let go.

It feels like a sanctuary, this night, like standing in the middle of St. Paul’s cathedral and realizing this is ground where all of mankind has walked.

This group has changed the way I write. I see the faces. I remember the stories. I carry each one like a gift entrusted to me.

The first time I did story night I cried in the closet.

 I thought I’d done fine. I even remember thinking, “Yes, I’m learning to be a counselor. See, I can handle this.” Then all of a sudden as I was picking out my pajamas I burst into tears.

It caught me off guard and I sat down on the carpet in a daze. What were these tears? Where had they come from?

Then I realized those tears were from God’s heart.

I thought about Jesus at the tomb of Lazarus.  Jesus wept…the shortest verse in the Bible and yet it speaks so much.

I knew then that God enters our sorrow. He grieves with us. He doesn’t stand on the sidelines and give us clichés. He doesn’t say, “Don’t cry–you’ll see them again one day.”

No, the shoulders of the God of the universe shook with sadness that day at the tomb of Lazarus. His nose ran. His eyes were red. His throat was raw.

God is not afraid of grief the way we are.

We tiptoe around it because it’s messy, uncomfortable, unpredictable.

It reminds us of our own mortality. It opens our wounds. So we don’t go there.

But not God. No, He’ll be the first one to show up at Grief Group tonight. He’ll have His arms open and His compassionate eyes fixed on those broken hearts. He’ll cry again with them as He did with the mourners for Lazarus.

And the amazing, mysterious, beautiful part of it all is that He chooses me to be there too.

My arms will be His arms. My tears will be His tears. My words (hopefully, prayerfully) will be His words.

If you’re looking for God’s presence, enter the sorrow of another. As soon as I arrive, I always find He is already there.

I need your help…If you have you been through a loss, what did people say or do that comforted you least and/or most? 

* My comments aren't working so if you'd like to reply please send me an e-mail (

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I cried on the way to Panera Café this morning…

Several people this week have asked me how I’m feeling about our infertility. I haven’t talked about it for awhile because there’s never anything new to share. But since my book came out, the subject has come up again.

It’s not that I mind mentioning it. It’s been four and a half years so discussing it is the equivalent of talking about my elbow. I actually have to remind myself that there are certain subjects that are not appropriate for polite conversation. Actually, I’m doing that now. So, moving on…

I tell most people who ask, “I’m at peace about it.” That usually evokes a puzzled look on my part and theirs. There’s a second or two of silence in which we look at our shoes and/or the ceiling. Then they say something like, “Oh, that’s good.” And I say, “Yeah, it is.” Then we smile awkwardly and move on to something else.

I walk away from those conversations always feeling as if I didn’t express myself well. I feel like a Sunday School teacher giving a pat answer, a nice little Christian cliché. But there’s so much more to that word “peace” than I’ve been able to explain.

Until this morning.

As I was driving, I reflected back over our journey and I realized the kind of peace I meant. It’s not the pansy, pie-in-the-sky, life-is-perfect peace. No, this is the kind of peace that comes after war. It’s the hard-won, show-you-my-scars, didn’t-think-I’d-live-to-tell-about-it, peace. It’s not gentle—it’s wild, fierce, and I’m not giving it up, not ever, because I paid too high a price to get it.

When I realized that, I cried.

There’s something beautiful about naming and knowing the place where you are in life. I could feel myself sigh inside and say, “Yes, that’s it.” This peace is mine and I can stay there as long as I’d like. I can eat the food, put my feet on the furniture, and invite my friends over.

It was once the land I fought for and pursued. Now it’s the place where my heart lives.

It’s good to be home.

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A Prayer for All Who Need Courage Today

I have found that there are three stages in every great work of God; first, it is impossible, then it is difficult, then it is done. –Hudson Taylor



Thank You that with You, there is no line between dreaming and doing.
All things are possible with God.
MARK 10:27 NIV

With You, there is no limit to what I can accomplish.
I can do everything through Him who gives me strength.

With You, there is no imagination that can capture all You have in store.
No mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love Him.

With You, there is no fear that can hold me back.
I am the Lord, your God, who…says to you, “Do not fear; I will help you.”

With You, there is nothing that can defeat me.
In all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us.

Give me courage today and may I never give up, give in, or give out. There is no force on heaven or earth that can overcome a heart fully committed to Yours.


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Matthew Russell – A Little Boy with Big Faith

Matthew Russell – A Little Boy with Big Faith

Last summer I had the privilege of helping facilitate a grief support group. Each person’s story deeply touched my heart and helped me write Comfort & Encouragement: A One-Year Ministry Guide for Helping Those Who Are Hurting. Thank you again to each of you who were a part of that group. 

There’s an amazing little boy I’ve thought of almost every day since the group ended, and I’d like to introduce you to him today. His name is Matthew Russell. I didn’t get to meet Matt in person because he went to heaven last November after a car accident. But I feel like I’ve had the blessing of getting to know him through his wonderful parents, Dana and Greg. They shared his remarkable story with me and I’m so honored they’re letting me share it with you. I know you’ll be blessed and inspired by Matt the way I have been.


Matt was born October 23, 1997. He shared his birthday with his twin sister and best friend, Katelyn. During his short time on earth, Matt was an active member of his church, an outstanding student, and an athlete with a “winning attitude” and “coachable spirit.” Matt was dearly loved by his family and known as a “loyal and faithful friend” to his classmates and many others in the community.

Matt became a Christian at age seven and had a deep faith. This became especially evident when his parents looked at a spelling test Matt took during his last day on earth. Matt’s parents wrote on the back of the program for his service…

On the very day Matthew died, he took a spelling test at school. The 20 words on the test all contain ‘ea’ sounds. At the bottom of their papers, the students were instructed to write a sentence using as many of the spelling words as possible. Matthew’s sentence is a gift from God that assures us that Matthew is where his heart longed to be.


A few hours after he wrote this sentence, Matt was home with his Heavenly Father. The teacher said she had never asked students to write a sentence on their papers before but felt prompted to do so that day. With those few words, Matt left a legacy of faith that brings hope to the hearts of all who knew him…and many more who are looking forward to meeting him one day.

The evening Matt died, his grandmother gave Dana the book “90 Minutes in Heaven.” It was sitting by the phone when she received the call about her son. While nothing can take away the hurt they feel, the Russells find comfort in these small reminders of God’s presence even in the midst of tragedy.

Matt spent ten years on this earth. He loved, laughed, and lived to the fullest. He brought incredible joy to his friends and family. He made a difference in the world. Matthew Russell’s life is an inspiration and reminder to us all that it’s not about counting our days but about making each day—and every word—count.

Dana and Greg graciously gave me permission to share Matt’s story and they’ll be reading this page. If you’d like to leave a comment for them you can do so below. I’d also love for you share this page with your friends and family by using the "Send to a friend’ link above so many more people can honor Matt’s memory and be touched by this little boy with big faith.

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