Abundant life after the Grief

27 years ago today, my life changed forever.  The day began with an abundance of joy and expectation.  It ended with me in ICU fighting for my life and a precious friend having lost that fight.  June 25, 1992 feels like yesterday and it feels like ages ago.  They say that time heals.  That is a great saying but it simply is not true.  Time goes by; memories fade; but pain remains until it is healed.  

Over the past 27 years, I have learned a lot about grief — there is healthy grief and there is unhealthy grief.  In healthy grief, a person works through the processes of the grief cycle; there is no certainty of what it will look like or how long it will last.  We simply don’t get to be in control of grief.  Nevertheless, at the end of the grief cycle there is still the loss and the scars of that loss but there is also an acceptance and a healing, the ability to move on with life.

In unhealthy grief, a person gets stuck in the cycle.  It can be in denial, guilt, anger, sadness, etc.  For many years, I was stuck in grief.  I held onto shame, guilt, and a lingering sadness that I would not entrust to anyone, even to the Lord.  In retrospect, I see that I was trying to punish myself for an accident.  If I had just looked one more time; if I were just a bit more careful; if only, if only, if only………There is no guilt, no punishment that can ever bring Kerrie back or that can change that fateful day.  Until I stand face to face with Jesus, I will never know why He took Kerrie home that day or why I was the one chosen to drive that car and to spend those last hours with Kerrie.  

Here is the good news — time does not heal but God does. What I do know is that the Lord doesn’t want me stuck in unhealthy grief.  Kerrie would not want me stuck there either.  I know without a doubt that Kerrie is healed, whole, beautiful and even more joy filled than she was here on earth.  

So, I have decided to lay that guilt and shame down; I have decided to move on with the grieving cycle.  In doing so, I have not let go of Kerrie.  I have just used to words she loved to say:  “Christians don’t say good bye, just see you later.”  

How I look forward to the day that I see Kerrie again.  That time, I know there will be no good byes, no see you laters as we will have eternity together with the Lord.  Until then, I treasure the memories; I treasure the last conversations; and I choose to trust that while God’s plans and purposes can be quite painful, He is good.

Time doesn’t heal wounds but God heals wounds if we allow Him to do so.  The healing journey is the hardest journey I have ever taken and the very best journey I have ever taken.  God’s heart is to heal:  “The Lord heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds” (Psalm 147:3).

May God empower you and may He continue to empower me to walk this journey of faith with our eyes set on our Savior and healer.  Final healing comes on that last day, but there is healing for us as we walk these days on earth.  There is abundant life in the midst of grief.  

“I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace.  In the world you will have tribulation.  But take heart; I have overcome the world” (John 16:33).

Holy Yoga Class Schedule

Monday 9:00 to 10:15 am St. John the Divine

Wednesday 9:00 to 10:15 am St. John the Divine

Friday 9:15 to 10:15 am Chapelwood

Saturday 9:00 to 10:15 am St. John the Divine

Holy Yoga’s mission statement: In a broken and hurting world, everyone deserves a chance to belong.

Holy Yoga has changed my life! The combination of exercise, breath, meditation and worship has allowed me to connect with God in a new and powerful way. It is my joy and honor to share Holy Yoga through group classes, workshops and private trainings. If you would like more information on Holy Yoga, please contact me: brooke@brookeholt.com.

Resurrection and Life

In John 11, we read about the death of Jesus’ good friend, Lazarus.  By the time Jesus gets to Lazarus’ hometown, the man has been in the grave for 4 days.  Grief is the reality experienced by the family and friends.  

Jesus arrives at the tomb and speaks the unexpected command: “Remove the stone.”  Martha reminds Jesus that Lazarus has been dead for four days so there will be a stench.  Jesus is undaunted by her words or that reality.  After praying to his Father, he shouts these powerful words:  “Lazarus, come out!’  

Lazarus walks out of the tomb, wrapped in his grave clothes.  The man who had been in the grave for 4 days has been set free.  In fact, Jesus commands the people watching to unbind Lazarus from those grave clothes.

Prior to working this miracle, Jesus told Martha that Lazarus would be raised from the grave.  Martha believed Lazarus would be raised at the end of time.  Jesus explains that he is the Resurrection and the Life and that Martha did not have to wait until the end of time.  

This is where this story applies powerfully to us.  We may hope that Jesus can resurrect all things at the end of time, but are we missing what He wants to do in us today?  Just as Jesus was not afraid of the stench of death, He is not afraid of the mess He finds in our lives.  Where we see death and defeat, Jesus sees the opportunity to work a miracle.  Calling a dead man out of the grave exemplifies the truth that there is nothing too difficult for God. 

The question is will we come out of our graves?  As Beth Moore describes in her book GET OUT OF YOUR PIT, we often choose to stay in our grave, wrapped in our grave clothes.  Though our graves are miserable, they are also comfortable.  We know them, feel in control of them, have a sense of safety there.   

Walking out of our graves is risky.  There is so much unknown out there.  Light shines brighter than darkness.  Light brings vulnerability.  Light also brings life.  And we were made for life, abundant life (John 10:10).  

Can we hear Jesus’s words to us today — “Brooke, come out”?  Will we come?  Will we allow Jesus to carefully unwrap us of those grave clothes that hold us?  Can we lay those things at His feet?  Scary?  Oh yes but also liberating, exciting, and life giving.  

Jesus speaks these words to us today:  “You don’t have to wait for the End.  I am, right now, Resurrection and Life.  The one who believes in me, even though he or she dies, will live” (John 11:25-26, The Message).

Walking Through the Door of Pain with Faith

Suffering, pain, disappointment, hurt, loss. These words describe life in a fallen world. What do we do with these feelings? Run, stuff, escape or enter into the painful process of feeling, working and healing.

We all have the hard stuff, and we all have a choice of what to do with it. Personally, the year has been filled with loss, disappointments, and challenges. Since being back from Florida, we have gone 14 days without air conditioning and now 15 days without electricity in part of the house.

Life doesn’t always go the way that I want it to go. I can choose faith or I can choose fear. Today, I want to choose faith. Here are words from Warren Wiersbe: “When you and I hurt deeply, what we really need is not an explanation from God but a revelation of God. We need to see how great God is; we need to recover our lost perspective on life. Things get out of proportion when we are suffering, and it takes a vision of something bigger than ourselves to get life’s dimensions adjusted again.” My challenges are definitely out of perspective (though hard).

Faith, hope, joy, fulfillment, laughter, connection. These words also describe life in a fallen world. These experiences often result from walking through the challenges with faith. Often, the greatest blessings are through the door of pain.

Hard Things

I am a runner!  I don’t like hard things and can so quickly look for any escape to the pain of life.  Each and every coping mechanism you read about, I have tried it.  For so many years, I lived as a prisoner to pain.  It was all there trapped inside my mind, soul and body.  My goal was to keep the pain tucked away in its proper place so that I could keep pushing on with life.  Pain is terribly inconvenient!  Much to my relief, dealing with the pain and the healing that comes is liberating:  “And you will know the truth and the truth will set you free” (John 8:32).

At the beginning of the month, I read Mary Beth Chapman’s book CHOOSING TO SEE, a book that I highly recommend. After the death of their daughter, there was no way for the Chapman family to escape pain.  Throughout the book, Mary Beth said:  “The Chapmans do hard things.”  They pulled together to work through their heartache and loss.

Unfortunately, the Lord has given me the opportunity to push through pain, not denying it or running from it but through feeling it, grieving it, pushing into Him and to my family.  It started with our family’s move to Houston and has continued throughout the year with 3 physical deaths and then the death of many dreams and expectations.  Just Sunday, I got to spend two days with Frontier airlines as they sought to move me from St. Louis to Orlando.  Instead of getting us there in the expected two and a half hours, I got to spend a sleepless night in the Atlanta airport and arrived in Orlando 22 hours later than I had expected.  I kept speaking Mary Beth’s words but applying them to me:  “Brooke does hard things.”

What I heard from top leaders at the Optavia convention is that obstacles are often the way.  Obstacles require us to develop vision, perseverance, patience and grace.  We certainly don’t overcome obstacles by ducking our heads and pretending they aren’t there.  This season of my life has been grueling.  It feels as if I could be completely undone as I continue to face the challenges, pains and disappointments of this life.  However, by God’s grace and power, I will keep pushing into the hard things; I will keep overcoming the obstacles; and I will run this race set before me repeating the words:  “Brooke does hard things.”

What hard things do you need to do today?  Are you able to say that the obstacle is the way?

“Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us” (Romans 5:3-5).

Choose Life

This week in Holy Yoga classes, we are exploring Moses’ words from Deuteronomy 30.  For years, this has been one of my favorite passages in Scripture not because it is a feel good passage but because it is a soul-convicting passage.  Moses is nearing the end of his life.  He has reluctantly led the Israelites out of their Egyptian slavery; he has been like a father to them through all the trials and tribulations of 40 years in the wilderness.   In Deuteronomy 30, Moses writes boldly, passionately and prophetically.  His words call the Israelites to remember all that God has done, to remember His covenant, to remember His laws and the consequences of breaking the law:

“See, I have set before you today life and good, death and evil.  If you obey the commandments of the LORD your God that I command you today, by loving the LORD your God, by walking in his ways, and by keeping his commandments and his statutes and his rules, then you shall live and multiply, and the LORD your God will bless you in the land that you are entering to take possession of it” (Deut 30:15-16).  

Seems pretty clear, doesn’t it?  Obey God’s rules and be blessed in the promised land.  Nevertheless, we know the plight of the Israelites, the plight of us still today.  They forgot; they broke the covenant and worshipped other gods; they forsook the Lord and His commands and sought to do life their way.  It didn’t work well.  They did enter the promised land thanks to the courageous leadership of men like Joshua and Caleb, but they did not remain in God’s blessings due to their sin and rebellion.  

Thankfully, the story doesn’t end there.  Just as God rescued His people out of slavery in Egypt, He will rescue them once again.  They are rescued by the merciful and mighty hand of God, but they still have the responsibility to make choices for life, abundant life in Him.  This responsibility is what I bear today; it is what makes this passage soul convicting.  Am I choosing to do life God’s way, trusting in His promised blessings or do I do things Brooke’s way?  What about you?  Today, will we choose “life and good”?

Raining on the Inside

A conversation with a friend last night prompted to me to go back and listen to Amy Grant music (yes, I am old). Amy Grant’s music meant so much to me in my early years as a christian. Right now the song “Raining on the Inside” is playing. The words are powerful and remind me of a truth I have shared in some small group meetings this week.
 
We so often compare our insides with other people’s outsides. They look like they have it all together. However, we don’t see what is going on underneath the surface. There is often much hidden pain, fear, and insecurity.
 
With the recent public suicides, I am reminded of how fragile we humans truly are. I think God’s call for us is authenticity, allowing people to see that rain on the inside of us. Authenticity allows true community; it also allows for healing.
 
Change begins with one person being brave, allowing her insides to show and creating space for others to do the same.

Breath of Life

Tonight I sat with my 91 year old neighbor while she breathed her last breaths. I got to talk to her of God’s love, acceptance and forgiveness. A couple of days ago, I saw a vision of my sweet neighbor, whom I affectionately called my 4th child, dancing with Jesus — what a precious thing to share with her. It was the most glorious dance. She was beautiful; Jesus was dazzling; the ballroom was breathtaking. She was fully healed and whole in His presence.
 
Each and every day, we are invited into this dance with Jesus. It doesn’t have to be at our last breath. Having lost two people whom I dearly love in the past couple of weeks, I am reminded of how precious life is. We have to choose life each and every day. We have to choose to love even when it hurts; we have to choose to forgive even when it costs us something; we have to choose to pursue the dreams God has put on our hearts.
 
The temptation is to play it safe, but there is no abundant life in safe. Each of us will breath our last breath. What will we do between now and then?
“The Spirit of God has made me, and the breath of the Almighty gives me life” (Job 33:4).

Honor Your Body But Don’t Worship It

“Don’t worship food. Honor the body that God gave you by eating sensible portions of sensible food” (Food, Fitness and Faith).
 
Today, it seems we gravitate between two extremes — obsession with the body and the appearance of the body and a sense of detachment from the body, even to the point of neglect. God calls us to care for our bodies. That care is not idolatry nor is it denial.
 
Our bodies do not define us. God defines us. We are worthy and lovely just as we are because we are made in His image. I wonder if we were able to rest in God’s perfect love and acceptance of us if we might be motivated to make life giving changes. Little changes add up quickly, changes such as drinking enough water; eating more vegetables and fruits; and incorporating exercise.
 
Nothing is worthy of worship but God. What does it look like for your to worship Him alone then ask Him to guide you in caring for your body?