Tag: saved


Why is there suffering?

October 29th, 2010 — 1:54pm

Everyday I get up and read about some new catastrophe that has befallen the world. Cholera, tsunamis, murder, rape, war…It gets to the point where I become apathetic about it. With all the evil that exists in this world, people (mostly Christians) get asked where God is amongst all this tragedy. A question long asked of me by agnostics and atheists is, if God is loving, merciful and just, why is there so much pain and suffering in the world?

I return this with a separate question: Where in the bible do you read that this world would not have suffering or pain?

God is merciful and loving, but He is also just.

This world is full of evil things and sinful people; as people are on the whole evil (think of what you would do if you knew you would never get caught and never had to deal with any comeuppance).

Since this world is evil and sinful, there will be pestilence and pain, suffering, heartache, rain. The strong will prey upon the weak and the rich ignore the poor. The unsaved will gallivant around in Porsche’s and limousines while the saved watch their children die because they cannot afford the health care needed to give them a simple shot. That is the nature of this world because this world is filled with sin.

So, if one were to look only about this Earth and try to find God’s goodness and greatness and mercy, one would be sorely displeased. That is not to say there is not grace and beauty in this world, but it is often overshadowed by the dark, dark sin.

God’s mercy and love, does not come from Earthly goods and desires. You are thinking and speaking of a being that exists outside the confines of space, time, matter and energy. How can you equate all of His wonder to that which you can see and touch? God’s mercy and love comes from the fact that, though we are sinful and evil creatures amongst whom even the holiest of holy are conceived in sin and bear the sins of Adam, God still loves us enough to allow us to come home into his heaven.

He loves us enough to allow His Son to bear the penalty of our sins (which is death), and allow us to be at peace. What we deserve is eternal damnation, but we have the opportunity to receive life everlasting.

He is merciful enough to leave us with a Comforter on this Earth. As we walk about and live in this sinful world, the catastrophes and the discord can leave us weak and weary and unwilling to go forward, but…

God leaves us with the Comforter, who gives us strength and keeps us calm throughout the stormy sins of ourselves and our brethren.

God is just. The sinful can and will flourish on this Earth, but everyone dies and at death begins the judgment. “For whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap.”

God is!

God is loving, merciful and just in more ways than we deserve…He simply is.

This is not to say that when you see catastrophe in the world that you should turn a blind eye and say everything will be sorted in the next life. Good people should still seek to do all the good they can do in the world. My point is that God’s existence should not be questioned simply because bad things happen in this world.

When you look at the blessings of the beautiful things that thrive despite the evil of this world: children laughing, dawn, births and weddings, smiles and hugs and love, you can find it fascinating that anyone could doubt that God not only exists, but that He touches each of our lives, regardless if we heed His word.

Fun reading: http://www.old-wizard.com/ten-dumb-things-people-say-about-religion

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Dorienne, age 26

September 15th, 2010 — 8:59am

Throughout most of 2009, I ran around in a frantic tizzy about getting old and turning 25. There were so many things I desired to do before getting “old” and, yet, it was happening nonetheless. Despite all the planning and scurrying, I managed to accomplish very little by my actual birthday and started to get depressed because of it.

For most of this year, I feel as if I have wandered around in a fog, reacting to life instead of progressively taking hold of it.

As this September brought another time of deep reflection, I began to once more grow sullen about what I presumed to be my lack of accomplishment throughout age 25, but in my hours of reflection, a thought occurred to me.

Instead of age 26 being another year of prospective failure, this past year has been the year when my career (backup as it is) has really taken the strides it should be taking.

Age 26 also marks 5 five years since I was saved.

Though I was baptized at age 7, I wasn’t really saved until I was 21, on the floor of my apartment, on my knees praying for Christ’s blessings and all that He could do for me. It was in that dark hour that I found Christ and that was five years ago.

So, instead of being upset about what I didn’t get accomplished, I will go into this time of reflection remembering how far I’ve come. I am not the person I was five years ago and I do not want to be that person again. I am stronger from what Jesus has sent my way and I know that ages 26-30 will bring more challenges to make me even stronger in Christ.

🙂

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I feel blessed

July 28th, 2010 — 10:14pm

I got promoted again today…that’s not why I feel blessed though.

Nine months ago, I found myself wallowing in a depression, the likes of which I had not experienced since before I was saved. In the passing weeks and months, He has blessed me time and time again, but…

I always found myself thinking back to that dark point in my life when I thought nothing would ever go right again and I thought I would simply sink lower and lower until the darkness consumed me. I often wondered why I had to go through all of that, why it had to be me, why I had to be brought so low before I was able to feel so high and, until recently, I had passed it off with the easy reason of knowing that one has to go down before going up, even though I never fully understood it. Today, however, it occurred to me why I had to go through my trial and why I will continue to go through trials as I travel through life.

To go through something is always worth telling or sympathizing, but to go through something, only to come out on top afterward is a testimony and this is what He wants. Not just someone to say, I’ve lived through X and survived, but a true light to the world who can I say I lived through X and triumphed!

Today, I was able to testify to someone, albeit in a more secular fashion than I would have preferred, and it was not until afterward that it occurred to me why I was made to suffer. Without my suffering, my doubt, my pain, I would have had nothing to tell this someone who so clearly was searching for guidance. With no hardship of my own, my advice would have been a lecture, not a testimony.

At nearly 26 years old, I have had a blessed life. I can’t remember ever going hungry a day in my life and, even though my mother tells me we were poor when I was a small child, I never once felt it. As yet, I have yet to miss a rent payment, even though I had gone four months without a job and, while my debt to income ratio is not where I would like it to be, I at least know it exists and can still make plans for the future without worrying about a seven-year black mark on name. I am an American who was raised during the 90s, who never saw life on welfare or drugs in my home or wanton acts by parental figures in my presence; I’ve lived a charmed life.

When I became saved, the first thing I wanted to do was bring someone else to Christ, anyone! But, few willing participants could be found. I won’t go so far as to say that I saved anyone today, but I love simply realizing why Jesus pushes us through trials and uncertainty: so that we can be lights to others wandering in the darkness.

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Well played, Old Man

July 19th, 2009 — 7:38pm

I didn’t make it to church today.

This time last year, such a statement would have initiated a barrage of texts, e-mails and phone calls regarding my whereabouts that I would have felt it necessary to release a public statement to let my family know that I was okay. Nowadays, however, things are different. No one calls because it’s not such a rare occurrence any longer.

I’ve been telling myself for months, “I’m not losing my faith. I’m just going through some things right now.” What these “things” are, I don’t know and, as much as I pray about it, these “things” aren’t revealing themselves to me. All I do know is that has been getting easier and easier to skip that which held such an importance to me less than eight months ago and, when I woke up this morning, I had wondered if it was even “necessary” to go to church again. We’ve had another death in our family and, today especially, I just didn’t see the point in going to church.

Some time in 2008, I’d made a “deal” of sorts with God after losing Edrith and also MawMaw in such quick succession; I just didn’t want to go to anymore funerals until I turned 25. This entire time, I’ve known that I can’t actually deal with God, since I’ve got nothing of any real value to offer except my submission, which I should be giving anyway, but I’d made my deal last year, praying that I could just live life for two years without going to yet another funeral; saying goodbye to yet another person. I’ve experienced loss in the past two years, but I hadn’t needed to attend any homegoings. My birthday is not until the end of September and yet, here I am.

When I’d heard what had happened, I immediately thought of my deal and prayed for a very long time about what I’d done so wrong that I couldn’t have until at least my 25th birthday without having to deal with another loss. It wasn’t until this morning, however, that it occurred to me (really occurred to me) that there never was any “deal.” People come and people go as He sees fit and He had seen to it that I had the time I needed to grow up a little more before having to deal with it once again. But, what truly got to me this morning was the growing depression and thoughts that “none of this mattered,” that eventually I’d lose everyone I loved and no amount of church was going to change the inevitable. And, that’s when I started to cry.

I’ve always classified tears into three categories: “small tears” that occur when I shed a few over the birth of a child or when friends marry, “pain tears” that occur when I’m in such physical pain that there doesn’t seem to be anything else I can do, and then there are “real tears” that follow overwhelming depression and sadness. My tears this morning fell into that latter group and it angered me because I hate when I cry “real tears.” Joy or pain can be expressed, but mourning depression is something that I try to hold in as much as possible out of sheer frustration that I can be reduced to tears over something that simply encompasses my own thoughts bouncing against one another until I hit a low and I cannot pull myself out of it.

So, this morning, I lay in my bed, crying these real tears and thinking aloud that there really wasn’t a point to any of “it” anymore and I had no reason to even give “it” anymore thought because God hadn’t cared about my deal and He wasn’t answering me in the time that I wanted Him to answer and, even if He did speak to me, I knew I wasn’t going to like the answer. I must say, looking back hours later, it was very dark moment for me; one I used to experience all the time before I had first come to the church and had hoped I would never see again.

As complete frustration over these nonsensical real tears willed me to stop crying altogether, I lay there half-listening to a CD I’d made a couple weeks ago and wondered if I’d ever feel like myself ever again after recognizing that God doesn’t make “deals” with people. And, that was when the sappiest of songs started to echo through my boombox…

Now, I’ve been listening to Michael Jackson songs non-stop for the past three weeks and I know that’s a subject worth prayer in itself, but for this song to come on when it did… I felt a smile pull at my lips and I had to shake my head at the simultaneous “on-timeness” of God and simple coincidence. MJ’s “Keep the Faith” had come up on the CD.

Again, I’d been listening to MJ songs for close to a month straight and I’d probably played that song twenty times since I’d dug out my Dangerous album, but…when I lay wondering what the point of all of “it” was, when I lay thinking that no path I could take was ever going to bring me fully into Christ’s light, when I lay crying about God not answering my questions, the title of the song spoke to me: Keep the Faith. It sounds almost laughable when I write it because it’s not even a Christian song, but simply hearing the beginning of it and remembering the title right when I did felt like something only He could do for me in a moment so dire.

And so, in hearing this song that had both saccharine sappiness and inspiration weaved within it, I let out a laugh and rose from my bed thinking, “Well played, Old Man.”

I didn’t make it to church today, but I have this renewed vigor in my approach towards it, nevertheless. I began studying my Sunday School lesson for next week tonight, a feat I hadn’t accomplished since I started teaching again and, regardless of the fact that I know I’ve got greater and more painful losses coming my way in the upcoming years, I feel strong. The logical side of my mind is saying, “Dorienne, it was just a coincidence. The song comes on after ‘Give Into Me’ on your ‘MJ-Sleep’ CD. It’s just a coincidence.” but whenever I think of coincidences in relation to religious matters, I consider my favorite The X-Files quote coming from Mulder: “If coincidences are just coincidences, why do they feel so contrived?”

I was in a very, very low place this morning and God spoke to me in a manner, in a way that only He could and He told me, quite clearly, that even though the road ahead looks rough, I need to keep the faith. I can only chuckle to myself when I think about it. Well played, Old Man…

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A three-year accomplishment

May 14th, 2009 — 10:27am

Today marks three years since I joined my church!

I sometimes mention this to some people and they either don’t care or just don’t find it terribly significant. For me, however, May 14th is like a birthday.

Three years ago, on a Mother’s Day Sunday, I decided to come to church with my mother because it seemed like the right thing to do; a gift, of sorts, for Mother’s Day. I had already been coming semi-regularly (because Christ always changes you before you realize it) and each Sunday I faced this inner battle when the pastor was inviting us to join the church. Part of it was my stubbornness saying, “No one is going to tell ME what to do.” Yet, another part, sounding far meeker and calmer, simply asked, “Why not?” It would feel like a burn in my stomach each time and the previous Sunday, it seemed like I had to grab hold of one of the chairs to keep from stepping out into the aisle and giving my life to Christ.

On May 14th, 2006, I didn’t have a response to the “Why not?” and so, I stepped out in the aisle and made my way to the front of the church, ready for a change in my life. I remember quite clearly Pastor saying, “I’ve been waiting for you, my sister.” as I approached and, as I sat down in the front row, I tried so hard not to cry. It wasn’t until I really “let go” that the tears started to come, not unlike they are now as I recall this event and, when I looked back into the congregation and saw my mother nearly sobbing over the fact that I had joined the church on my own free will, I really started to cry.

I can’t say that I changed from all my “evil” ways right there and then, but something was different in me from that day forward. Just reading back through the past entries of this blog can show anyone the difference in the person I was before and after May 14, 2006. Before I had joined the church, my friends and I would laugh at how ignorant all religious people were and how silly they all were to give 10% of their money to their churches and spend half their Sundays listening to “some sermon” every week. Before I had joined the church, Sundays were best spent lounging around, doing nothing and recovering from whatever I had poured down my throat the previous night. Before I had joined my church, Lincoln Park, the last time I had actively pursued a church, I left at the end of their service saying, “I don’t think I’m a Christian anymore.” Before I had joined the church, I was a floundering mess with no direction, no drive and, as sanctimonious and almost trite as it might sound, no future.

Like I said, the total change in myself didn’t come overnight. I still slipped up, but I was very aware of my slip-ups and desired to do more with my life instead. What stands out most to me, however, is what happened not even a full week after I had joined. My roommates were throwing a party that upcoming Saturday and, as I had an exam, for which I had not even cracked open a book, I told them that I would just go home to my parents’ house that Saturday so I could study and then get up for church the next morning. I remember quite clearly one of my friends looking at me quizzically and saying, “Well…you can miss one Sunday, can’t you?” Now, the friend who said this to me is not “evil” or someone who was trying to cause my downfall in any way, shape or form. In fact, we are still, in some sense, friends today, but the question she posed seemed simple and obvious. And, I had actually thought about it for a minute and let the words swirl in my head as I struggled with an answer. You can miss once. It’s just once.

The problem was it would not have been “just once.” Just once would have signified that the commitment I desired to make on May 14th meant nothing, that joining the church was no different than saying that I was going to go to the gym every day or put in three hours of studying every night or write more or call my relatives or try to reach out to old friends…when I never did. “Just once” was not just once. It was everything my life had been up to that point and I knew that if I was going to make a commitment to Christ, I did not want to face this particular “just once” on my judgment day. So, I told my friend that I really had to study (which I didn’t really do when I got home) and I didn’t want to be a downer for their party. They had their party and I went to church that Sunday and have felt like I was at least walking towards the path God had lain out for me ever since.

In many ways, May 14th really is like another birthday. I sometimes detest the term “born again” because I had known so many people who were “born again” and were the most mean-spirited, antagonistic and amoral people I had ever witnessed, but sometimes the term is fitting. On May 14th, I was born again in Christ. While I know I will still have struggles and countless slip-ups between now and the time my journey is over, my goal in this life is to never need to be “born again” again. My goal is to just stay on the path and to let May 14th be the only “born again” day I’ll ever need.

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Saved from my own harm

April 26th, 2009 — 8:40am

I experienced an incident yesterday that happened several months earlier in a similar fashion and, once again, found myself…for lack of a better word: pleased to find that Christ had delivered me from myself yet again.

I have a way of getting ahead of myself, allowing my emotions to take control of my tongue (or in this case, my typing fingers) to the point that I can no longer muster the common sense needed to interact with the rest of the world. To put it simply, when I hear or read something I don’t like, I sometimes respond before taking stock of what I’m saying and what the ramifications of saying could be.

Several months ago, I found myself in a situation where I thought I could not handle the people around me and was just about to say something abrupt and simply mean before exiting the scene, but Christ stifled my voice for just long enough for the situation to work out by itself and leave me looking and feeling like the person I’ve always been rather than the mean and embittered person who tries to come out every now and again. Yesterday, I once again was saved from myself.

Sarcasm is my preferred mode of interacting with others; people always seem to remember the witty, sarcastic girl they had met the previous day. While this can have it’s ups and downs, I know I can definitely “dish out” much more than I can take in return. When I allowed a series of witty snips to really get to me, instead of relying on my own sarcastic quips to take away the minor hurt, I prepared to retort with something that was downright arrogant and mean. In other words, I was prepared to be completely unlike myself in a minute of subdued rage over being incapable of bringing a “comeback” soon enough. The amazing thing is, I actually completed my rant and forwarded it for my quarry to see. It was only after the fact, when I didn’t receive an immediate response, that I took the time to re-read what I had written and realized that what I said could have been the very thing that ruined my friendship with this person. But, then God stepped in for me. 🙂

Even though I’d sent my message, it wasn’t read; we sarcastic run in the same circles and my recipient didn’t wait for a response, and so, my mean epithets were never even seen. The words I’d said were harsh and rude and make me feel ashamed, but it’s moments like these that help me realize that I have to work hard to keep that mean, embittered person from taking over my life again.

Christ has always shielded me, to the point of almost spoiling me. He spoils me with the people around me and He spoils me with gifts as well. I just find it rather amusing that God can find a moment out of infinite time to step in and save myself from augmenting or harming the blessings that lie in wait for me.

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The greatest thing happened today

October 21st, 2007 — 4:04pm

The greatest thing happened today!

It comes after two of the most endearing and tearful weeks of my life and it takes a special resolve to keep my composure now. This past week might have been the most difficult of all. At times I would seem fine and at peace, but then something would happen to bring out the tears once more.

The funeral…The Homegoing was very nice. I nearly forgot. We don’t have funerals for saved people. We have Homegoings to send them on home to their Father. Her homegoing was just very, very nice.

I got there early to help my cousin set up her video and I was completely unnerved because when I first walked in the church, one of the other members looked at me and said I looked just like her as I walked through the door, and I took it as a complete compliment, but I was still rather unsettled at what the sight of me was doing to her. It was a compliment, however. To be compared with someone who was in tune with her Lord…always a compliment.

So, I’m helping my cousin and another member comes into the sanctuary and she pauses as she stares at me because I’m standing right next to the pulpit. At first, I thought she was going to say something because of what I was wearing (I hardly ever wear a skirt and I was wearing white because I kept telling myself that this wasn’t a funeral, so there was no need to wear black), but then she too told me that she thought I was Edrith standing there. She started crying as she sat down afterward and I had no idea what to do even as I kept rubbing her shoulders and telling her that we all knew where Edrith was. To be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord…

At that point, the funeral home had not brought her there yet and my cousin and I kept trying to make the video work, but it simply would not function and as I’m handing her my cell phone so she can call my other cousin, her husband, for more direction, the church doors opened and then they came in with her. The casket was a shade darker than Tiffany Blue and I froze. I stood on the pulpit with my cousin who was working with the video equipment just behind it and I stared anywhere except at the casket. I simply was not ready. I had been trying all week long to get ready, but I simply wasn’t.

The Sunday directly after we had first received the news was the most tearful service I have ever experienced. Everyone was so affected and it really hit home when we didn’t see her there. I remember driving up to the stop sign just in front of the church, as it sits on the corner, and I just sat there in my car for a full minute just staring at the church. My hands were shaking and the tears were beginning to come again because I knew what was about to happen. I knew that I was going to walk through the church doors and instead of getting a quick hug from her and a little “happy dance” that I had made on time for Sunday School for the third third week in a row, she would not be there. I eventually gained my composure and got to the church, and you could just see it in everyone’s eyes.

I tried to keep my lesson light-hearted and my other students and I tried to laugh about how Esau must of have looked being covered in red hair and how simple he seemed to give up his birthright for a bowl of soup, but even toward the end of the lesson, I began to feel it again. When we concluded Sunday School, our secretary only had this year’s records because her mind was clearly elsewhere and the atmosphere was very subdued. It only occurred to me then, that our Sunday School director had forgotten to come around and even collect the offerings for my Young Adult class. I also hadn’t realized how much I’d taken for granted seeing her standing next to Deacon Jordan as they concluded. I nearly lost it at first when we consecrated before Sunday School and she was not the one to lead the prayer. I had grown so accustomed to how she would pray: “Oh Heavenly Father, we come to you…” She would continue to say it throughout her prayers: Oh Heavenly Father, this and Oh Heavenly Father that. It was so Edrith and her style of praying and I miss it dearly.

The devotional service was subdued as well. Normally, it is filled with upbeat songs to get everyone in the spirit, but the songs were slow and moving throughout the service. You could just see it on the face of everyone in the church. Hugs lasted longer as you could feel others shake as they tried to hold back tears and I had held it together until I saw our choir director, her best friend. She was surrounded by others who just kept telling her that we all knew where Edrith is, but the tears just kept coming and when I hugged her I broke down with her. I don’t normally cry in public if I can help it, but I broke down as we cried together for our lost sister.

The rest of the service went along, though also greatly subdued, and I kept trying to keep my eyes dry as I stood at the door and greeted people as an usher, but I kept running for the tissues and simply had to leave for the restroom at one point. I normally take a collection plate down the aisles during the missionary offering, but I could not and asked to just hold the door during the offering. I was not ready to see all the faces yet because I knew what was coming.

The announcements went as normal and I nearly lost it altogether when I followed along in our bulletin. A project she had been heading was still on schedule and her name was still there as someone to speak to about the project. Our announcer, also the same member who broke down after thinking I was Edrith standing at the pulpit, had paused as she read the reminder for the event and thankfully read the other name as the event leader, my cousin, but we all saw it and the other ushers came out with several news boxes of tissues.

Pastor said a lot about her and I was okay at first until he started to tear up at the pulpit. Dear Jesus…everyone was crying at that point. It was just so sad because we knew where she went, yet our hearts still wretched for her and still do. The youth was began singing and with each song, I grew more tearful even though I tried so desperately to keep my composure. One of our lead ushers kept asking me if I was okay and I kept saying yes, wanting to believe the words, but during altar call prayer, I held hands with him and another usher as one of the ministers lead the prayer and I started shaking violently because I was trying to hold it together, but the tears kept coming and eventually, he just pulled me into a hug and allowed me weep openly on his shoulder. By the time, the altar call prayer was over, I knew others were crying just as much and even harder than me, but the tears would not stop and I crossed the church to where my mother sat and just fell into her arms as I cried. She pulled me into the hall continually saying “I know baby. I know.” as I just wailed in the hallway. The hardest thing about it was that…as old as I am; I am 23 years old, I live on my own, I have a job, I go to school and I have my own insurance. I am, for all intents and purposes, an adult, but all my grown self wanted, no needed in that moment was my mother. As I crossed the church, I just kept saying to myself “I just want my mommy.” I had never experienced grief before and I’ve found that as grown as I pretend to be, at the end, I just needed my mother.

She eventually took my outside because a short while after we left the sanctuary, Edrith’s goddaughter, also the daughter of her best friend, was having a fit not unlike mine in the arms of her mother and it made me cry even harder. Outside, my mother just kept telling me that these should not be tears that I would never see Edrith again. She said, that we knew where she was and we know that she is praising Jesus right next to the father; she said to me the same thing I had been trying to tell others all morning, but I just needed to hear someone say the same to me as well. We were joined by other friends who had come to check in on me and my one friend began to cry slightly. She said, “I don’t remember who got on me most about coming to church and Sunday School. Edrith or Dorienne.” and it made me laugh because that was just the kind of person Edrith was.

After a while, I was okay and I haven’t had screaming tears like that since, though the silent ones have slipped every now and again and did so immensely at the Homegoing. Throughout the rest of the week, I was so unnerved by the fact that I could be shaken to my knees with grief and be brought to the point that I needed to just hug my mother and cry. I kept having to tell people what happened and write e-mails to my professors to explain what was going on in my life. I had to turn in a paper a week late because I had had every intention on beginning it Sunday night, but it did not cross my mind again until the class I was able to attend that week. Even now, I am still trying to play catch-up, but it is slowly coming along. My employer has been oddly understanding. I had a vacation day scheduled for last Wednesday, but was able to get it moved to last Monday so that I wouldn’t have to just call in “sick” to go to the Homegoing. They let me work “mail” a lot because somehow, listening to someone gripe about why they had to pay a $4.38 finance charge on their credit after I had just lost a dear friend was just bound to cause problems.

Previously, I had never been involved with the plans of a Homegoing. It never occurred to me that the programs that were passed out during the service had to made. Things had to be written for them, they had to be printed and put together. That first week was probably the most stressful week of my life. I offered help where I could and even then I still felt inadequate. That Saturday, nine days after it had happened, I had called our choir director, Edrith’s best friend, and the director of the choir in which Edrith sang, to see if we were going to have a practice/getting together in remembrance of her and she told me that we weren’t and that they were just looking at the site for her grave that day. I went to work that day able to keep it together unlike the previous week, where I was okay until someone asked me what was wrong, after seeing the look on my face and probably noting that I was still in glasses and had on no makeup. My friends from work tried their best to console me and I pulled it together quickly, but I was in no mood to deal with customers regardless.

Last Sunday was the first time we had to sing without her. It was…very difficult. At one point, right before we began another song, Caprica, our director, looked to Edrith’s seat in the choir stand and this look came over her face. She had to keep leaving the sanctuary after each song and I knew she left to weep away from the eyes of the rest of the congregation. We could just sense it as we sang up there. She was with us, but she wasn’t with us and that’s what made me cry hardest during altar call prayer. It was not as drastic as the previous week, but I still cried hard because I knew that at no point again in this life would I look two seats down to the soprano section and see her smiling face.

After service, we had to put the pieces for her programs together and we had this fun assembly line going as we kept the conversation light-hearted via my other cousin, who I had poked and prodded about the staples not being on the pre-made creases from the assembly line until she sat back and let me do it. It took close to three hours, but I stapled together all 200+ programs…directly on the crease. 🙂 We had pizza together before afternoon service, and we joked and laughed and just talked like women do when we get together and every once in a while we’d talk about how pretty her picture was on the programs and who was doing her hair and such. It was a very bonding moment for all of us and I got to show my sarcastic side more than I had previously.

All of this was going through my head when the men from the funeral home came in the sanctuary with the casket and when they had opened up the casket and I could just make out her hair between the top of the closed part and where I stood, I handed my phone to my cousin and I ran away into the side hall. I had tried to keep it together, but I really wasn’t ready. I came back quickly, though, to help her and when it looked like she got a good handle on making the video work again, I left again to sit just in the hall. I hugged those I knew who had come through the doors and at one point I stood just to the side of the casket’s opening and could see the white of the pillows around her face before I left again. My other cousin just kept repeating that we were not having a funeral. We were just sending her home.

With everything set up, we filed up to see her and I was holding the hands of two of my cousins as we walked toward the casket. I began to shake again as we approached and I thought I was going to lose it again and I felt my cousin squeeze my hand just as tightly as I squeezed hers as we finally got there.

Her hair done exactly like she always had it, even with the little flip across her forehead and as my other cousin said as we stared at her, she really looked at piece with all the white around her. My memory of what I saw is very blurry because the tears were coming down my face so readily that it blurred my vision, but that’s okay because that’s not how I plan on remembering her anyway. All of my memories of her are happy, not sad at all.

Our choir, with my two cousins included, took the choir stands, but as we sat waiting for the service to begin we noticed how full the sanctuary was and by the time service was about to begin, some of the actual church members were sitting in the choir stands with us to make room for all those who had come to pay their respects for her. It was just so full. The doors of the sanctuary remained open and they had set up more seats out in the hall to account for all the people. We actually ran out of programs and someone had to quickly run out and have some xeroxed to accommodate everyone who was there. What is amazing is that there were so many people and yet, lots of people had already left during the wake and even more had left because there just wasn’t anywhere else to sit. So loved…

I kept it together for the most part once we were in the choir stands and we sang twice before they showed her video. Tears were streaming down my face throughout most of it and I was trying so hard to pull things together because I knew what the last song we were going to sing was and it was always one of my absolute favorites.

As this was a Homegoing and not a funeral, the songs we sang were bright and uplifting and that is how we sing “Pass Me Not.” I think I’ll post of video of us singing it a couple months ago in this post…but my favorite part of “Pass Me Not” is when we break the harmony and the different parts sing alone. Edrith was a soprano and though she was not some Whitney Houston-type singer, she could carry the soprano part all by herself and even before October 5th, it was one of my favorite parts of the song; how Caprica would point to Edrith and the other sopranos and we would just continue with the song from that point. I knew the song was coming and I glanced at where she should have been sitting. We had lain this shimmering throw over one of the seats in the soprano section, right where she should have been, and tears fell down my face before we even started the song because I knew whose voice I would not be hearing as I tried to maintain my own alto part.

Right when we broke into the soprano, alto and tenor parts like normal, the tears began to flow even harder, but I sang Edrith home as loud as I could. Afterward the music was playing and Pastor was yelling about how great God is and how we’re just singing our sister on home and I had a little moment of my own. I’ve never been one to be so moved during service that I dance and so on, but I had this moment where I was sort of bouncing in my seat a bit as I cried tears of mixed joy and sorrow. Something like that for a person like me is akin to jumping up and screaming and taking laps around the sanctuary as I screamed “Jesus!” I really can’t explain that moment, but it brought me peace afterward and throughout the rest of the service.

I rode in the car with my cousins and some other friends to the grave sight and we had a nice talk on the way there. We sang along with some of gospel songs that had come on the radio and jokingly suggested what we wanted for our own Homegoings. No one really wants to think that kind of thing, but it’s good to get it out early on so that when tragedy strikes, everyone knows what you wanted. Caprica had said to us that Edrith hadn’t wanted a sad funeral. She wanted it to be joyous and she wanted everyone to be happy. That kind of conversation had probably taken place months or years earlier, but at least we knew what she wanted.

I should ask my cousin what the exact number of her marker is because with all the twists and turns we had done in the cemetery, I know I’ll never find it again on my own. She rests by several large trees and it is so peaceful out there…

We had dinner at the church afterward and I had to explain my choices for vegetarianism multiple times and endure several calls of “I’ve never heard of a black person who didn’t eat chicken.” before I was able to sit. I sat next across from friends and between Pastor and one of the ministers I just call “Paw-Paw” even though we’re not related. I laughed a lot when talk with Paw-Paw turned to me ever getting married, since Pastor had talked about how Edrith was not willing to settle for anyone, but waiting on a good man. I had never given it a lot of thought, but I really do want Paw-Paw to dance at my wedding someday, so I should probably get on with that, too.

This past week had gone by in interesting spurts where I was upbeat having sang her home to points when I wanted to watch one of our church DVDs, but knew I couldn’t because I knew most of the services I have are ones where our choir sang and I wasn’t ready to see her just yet and the thought of that kind of brought me down a bit. Most interesting is that I don’t see myself ever trying to sleep in on Saturdays anymore. I don’t know because I know getting up at eight on Saturdays when I don’t have to probably won’t keep anyone else from passing, but I still don’t see myself doing that anymore.

But…today, the greatest thing happened.

I had been so crazed this week trying to just push through things that I hadn’t got to the lesson until I was literally driving myself to the church. I won’t be allowing that to happen again because there’s just no excuse for it. I know I should be prepared to teach the adult class on any given week and it would have been due justice if Deacon Jordan had looked at me and asked and I would have had to tell him that I simply wasn’t ready, but we got through the lesson and had a rather fine discussion as a whole group as Sunday School concluded, though it was very small with the fewest people I’d seen there yet.

As I stood my post at the door later on, greeting people and handing out the bulletins, I saw her mother and hugged her as she came through the door, though I had never hugged her previously even though she was a church member. Some people I hug, some people I don’t because we just don’t know each other like that, but she I hugged and probably will continue to hug each Sunday. What was so great though, is that directly behind her was a face that had only become familiar to me last Monday. One of Edrith’s sisters had come to our church.

I remember Caprica telling us after it had happened that Edrith was the only one of siblings who was saved and seeing her sister this morning nearly brought tears to my eyes. Throughout the entire service I kept praying and praying that the Word would touch her and that she would see reason to join and “give her life to Christ” today and like always, my Lord Jesus answered my prayer when I prayed so earnestly. She probably had made up her mind to do it when she got up this morning, but I prayed for her anyway. I was so sad for her when I saw her at the Homegoing because I knew she wasn’t saved and that was probably the hardest thing to deal with, but there she was and when Pastor Emeritus opened the doors to the church this morning, she stepped out in the aisle and I nearly burst into tears.

She joined the church today. She’s older than Edrith was, but she’d never been baptized and I’m just so happy and I burst forth with happy tears. Anytime I see someone join the church, it is cause for me to smile, but she in particular was most moving.

1 comment » | Deep Thought, Favorite, Jesus, On Me

So…this is grief

October 6th, 2007 — 11:40am

I was enjoying my Saturday morning; simply lying there as the sun streamed in through my window, completely comfortable. Warm and cool at the same time and lying against my soft pillows on a bed with more feather bed and egg crate mattresses than anyone could ever need. I hadn’t slept-in on any given day in weeks and yesterday, upon hearing that my choir practice had been moved to later in the day, I rejoiced at knowing that, for once, I would get to enjoy my Saturday morning.

As I lied in the bed, I considered all the things that I could get done today: write a little, check website stats, see if anyone’s left any book comments, go to the church business meeting, go to work, Gallery Hop tonight as the finale of my birthday celebrations…Today was going to be a good day.

The call between my mother and I:

(My cell rings to the tune of Law and Order)
Me: Yes?
Mother: Hi…did I wake you?
Me: Kind of.
Mother: Oh…I guess you haven’t heard yet.
Me: Heard what?
Mother: Well…Sister Edrith passed away last night.
Me: What?
(It takes me a moment to bring her face to the name and then I’m confused. She just turned 36 a couple weeks ago. Only old people pass away. What the hell does she mean “pass away?”)
Me: What? What d’you mean pass away?
Mother: She passed away. She was in a car accident last night and she was killed.

Something else was said by my mother, but I’m not sure what. All I can really remember these hours later is the feel of immense pressure bearing down on my chest. That’s what it feels like. Grief.

It didn’t make sense. That’s what I kept telling myself. It just didn’t make any sense. Edrith is a good person and she’s got a lot to do. She’s the Sunday School teacher for our adult class, she’s a lead soprano in our “young adult” choir, she wants to still get married and have children, she wants to begin a wedding planning business; she’s got a lot to do.

My mother kept talking as the initial tears began to spring from my eyes. “When we’ve done what we’re supposed to do, God takes us. You know, to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord.” I heard the words, but my body shook as it still shakes now, making it very difficult for me to type. How could she be dead? I just saw her on Tuesday. I shared my Matthew Henry commentary with her during Teacher’s Meeting because she hadn’t brought hers. I had meant to ask her if she had just come from work that night and if that was why she hadn’t brought her things with her. What am I supposed to do now? My mother kept saying “I know. I just had my own…”

Then, I started to cry out loud. I’d never heard my own cry of grief and now that I reflect back on it, I suppose it sounds as it should. A long wail followed by gasps and gasps of screaming and gurgling in the back of my throat as my mind could no longer prepare words to describe what my heart was feeling. I just set down the phone and started to cry and scream. I couldn’t see anything and my thoughts were simply “How could this have happened?” “What do you mean pass away?” “She couldn’t be dead. I just saw her?” “This doesn’t make any sense.”

I couldn’t collect myself. Me, Dorienne, I couldn’t collect myself. I can pull it together in any situation, I am the strong one, I am the leader, and yet I couldn’t collect myself. I told my mother, who could be heard sniffing softly through the phone was talking, but I couldn’t hear her. I told her I would call her back. I needed to collect myself.

I went to the bathroom, but I had a temper tantrum and slapped and kicked anything close to me. I banged against the shower door and kicked at the walls and stomped my feet and cried and cried and cried. It just wasn’t fair.

As I’m writing now, a friend of mine is IMing me. She wants to know when we’re going to Gallery Hop tonight. What can I tell her when I am only now able to form coherent thoughts?

…”oh, i’m sorry” is her response and then she asks who was it. It’s someone you’ll never meet because you’ve always been too high and mighty to humble yourself and come to church with me. That’s who it is.

I keep remembering my own thoughts that flew to mind as I cried. At one point I remember thinking “Jesus…I hate you.” That’s right. I thought that and it was almost as good as saying it. How could this have happened. How could He take my friend away from me? She had so much more to do. My mother had been saying to me God only takes when we’ve finished what we’re supposed to do, but I still say it’s crap. How could He have done this? It’s not fair. I’m not prepared.

We have a lot of sick and elderly in our church, and for them I was prepared. Someone had a seizure not two seats next to me in the choir stands last Sunday. For her, I was prepared. Our “mother” had a stroke a few weeks ago and is recovering. For her, I was prepared. So many of my “family” are over seventy and have been sick previously. For all of them, I was prepared. Not for Edrith. She’s my friend. I just saw her on Tuesday. I was going to see her today at our church business meeting. I was going to see tomorrow when we all consecrated for Sunday School and I was going to see her next Tuesday at Teacher’s Meeting. And now…

I don’t like not being prepared. I don’t like not having control. I kicked at the walls and pulled at my hair because I didn’t know what else to do. I’m so unprepared. It’s like I have no control over anything. I don’t like this. I need to be prepared. I need to be in control. I need to be prepared.

I remember thinking “Why do you do this to me Jesus? Why do you have us live only so that we die? Is this what my own life’s going to be like too? At the end, only a series of phone calls and gallons of tears shed? Why do you do this? It’s so unfair.”

What am I supposed to do? The one place I think I should go, church, is the one place I can’t. I associate her with church. I’ve been at that church for eighteen months and when I think of everything, from the seats to the fellowship hall to the steps to the parking lot, I think of her. What am I supposed to do now?

Last year about this time, we lost another member of our congregation. I had only just gotten to know her at that time, but it still hurt. Is this what you’re going to do Jesus? Are you going to take someone from me every fall? It’s so unfair. There was so much more she was going to do.

One of our choir’s songs just popped to mind and I have to collect myself again.
The struggle is over for you.
The struggle is over for you.
You’ve been in this place long enough
And the mountainside has been rough.
The struggle is over for you.

Dear Jesus…what am I supposed to do? It’s just so unfair. I was just talking to her. I can’t even remember the last things I said to her on Tuesday because it was so meaningless. It didn’t matter. I was just going to see her again on Saturday at the business meeting, so there was no reason to bother remembering what I’d said to her. It just doesn’t make any sense.

At one point I told myself I needed to get dressed, so I did. Everything except my glasses. It was as if I kept my eyes in this blur of the unseen, then I could delay reality. To put on my glasses or put in my contacts meant I’d have to see the world clearly and face the fact that our family had suffered this tragedy and the longer I delayed, the longer I could go without seeing it.

I just don’t know what to do. I still don’t know what to do. My mother called me back after I hadn’t called her and I answered after the second call. I barely remember what we talked about. I don’t want to see anybody at all. If I go without seeing anybody, then this can just be something in my mind; something that didn’t happen. More real than a dream, but something imaginary nonetheless.

I write all the time and I live in my head. I imagine things and perceive feelings and events that never happened all the time, and yet I am completely caught off guard. I had recently written about grief. It’s stages and what it was like when someone looked upon another who was grieving.
Something I had written months earlier:

“He was always out,” a voice said from the dining room doorway. Mrs. Whickfield, having recovered from the initial shock of hearing of her son’s death, stood just behind where the detectives sat, looking extremely distressed. Her blonde hair with its slivers of silver was tousled and standing on end in places, and blue eyes appeared dull behind the torrent of red in what should have been the whites of her eyes.

I find it almost laughable now to read the words. Once I dressed and finally digressed to put on my glasses, I took a look at myself in the mirror. My black hair stands on end in places from having been pulled at in fits of frustration and my brown eyes are laced with these traces of red lines everywhere. Months earlier, I could imagine grief, but…

Last Saturday, just one week to the day, I sat next to her as we prepared for our Mass Choir rehearsal and revealed to her that I had written a book. Her response: “Oh you go, girl! You gotta make your dreams come true. Like me and my business. I’m really looking into it too. I’m just imagining where I’d set up shop…” There was so much more she was supposed to do. I don’t understand why He would take her now. My mother kept saying that she had done what God had wanted her to do and he took her home, but we are selfish and we want her here with us. Mother said “God called her home and if there was ever a person I knew who deserved to be with her father, it’d be Edrith.” I just remember when our Sunday School lessons had brought us into Revelation and how she described the home of our heavenly father and how grand it would be. She spoke with such elation. I know she sits with Jesus never worrying, never crying, never stressing again, but…I’m still here and the shaking has returned as have the tears. I’m not prepared for this, like I’m not prepared for my own eventual end. Why doesn’t the fact that I know she’s at peace stop the sudden outbursts of tears? It just keeps happening and I don’t know what to do.

It’s almost time to leave for our church business meeting and I don’t know what to do. If I leave now, I suppose I can drive at a normal rate, right? Instead of speeding for once. I keep thinking, “Is this my punishment Lord? Is this what I get for not studying your Word enough for my own class? Is this my lesson for speeding throughout the city every single day? Is this some message you’re boring into me because I won’t listen?” I don’t hate Jesus and I haven’t lost my faith, but I’m still so unnerved that he could leave me this unprepared. I just don’t know what to do…So, I do what I always do in times of strife. I write. I write to bring these thoughts out of my mind, if only for a little while. I used to write poetry, but my mind cannot form even the freest free-verse right now. I can barely type at all, but I just need to write. It’s the only thing I can do to make some sense of this. To give it some perspective.

Mother kept saying that this is not something we’re meant to understand, but I still say it’s crap. I should get an answer. I want one now. I don’t want to wait for it. I deserve an answer!

She’s the third person I’ve ever known to die, but they are becoming increasingly worse as I get older. God, she just put her birthday money in the jar with me barely two Sundays ago…I didn’t know either of my grandfathers and I’d never met my mother’s cousin. I had only met my step-father’s mother once or twice and while I knew Kim, I didn’t really know her all that well. I saw that she looked a little sick, but I had only learned that she was on dialysis that Monday before, and had I known how truly sick she was, I might have been more prepared when Pastor announced from the pulpit that Sunday “Sister Kim passed away last night.” causing me to think “Who? No, that must have been some other Kim. Some Kim I didn’t know.” This is so much worse. We laughed together, worshipped together, prayed together. Wasn’t she just teasing me last Sunday because I had made it to Sunday School on time for two weeks in a row. God, what am I supposed to do?

Four of my own surgeries and now two deaths associated with Grant Hospital. I’ll never be able to go there again. I just…I don’t know.

I called Mother and told her I won’t be going to the church business meeting. I have to go to work today and I haven’t the strength to do both. I’ll be in the same place with which I had come to associate Edrith and I’ll fall to pieces again.

The first hints of a smile are trying to form, though face lacks the capacity to do it currently. When I spoke to my mother, she said something to me that makes me feel like all is not lost; that Jesus still hears me and still loves me even through my anger, frustration and sadness. She said to me, without me even mentioning that I didn’t know what to do, “You know what to do in times like this. Pray. We all have to pray. It’ll get you through this.” I needed to hear the words because I’ve realized I just kept saying it. That I didn’t know what to do. So, that’s what I’ll, now that I’ve written. I’ll pray about it and surely cry about it some more, but I think…I hope I’ll be okay.

It’s interesting because Pastor has always said that we never know when we’ll next get a chance to be in the house of the Lord. A part of me feels like if I had only known what was happening, I could have prayed about it right then and there and saved her, but I didn’t know. I would’ve known earlier today, but as my eyes fluttered open, I realized that my cell had been on vibrate all night and I turned it on to see I had missed several calls. I saw that my mother had called, but she’s always calling, so I turned the volume to normal and lied back against my pillows just as happy as I could be.

So many times earlier, I have prayed with all my strength and the Lord had delivered. It’s why I’m back with the church now. I had left when I was eighteen, insisting that I believed in God, but that he was not ever-present in my life and I had no reason to go to church. It wasn’t until I needed something, really, really needed something and literally fell on my knees praying for something specific, that I realized that God still listens to me. I asked for something specific; very specific and God delivered precisely what I needed. I would call it a miracle, but even now that seems far-fetched. I had prayed fervently weeks earlier as our church received some other terrible news. I had prayed and just said, “Jesus, it’s me again. I only really, really call out to you like this when it is most dire. Forget all the other little crap I’ve been asking about. This is what I need.” and He delivered yet again. If only I had known. I feel that I had only been awakened some time in the night when it happened; if I had just known, I could have prayed heartily again and there would only be need for a post about how great God is as opposed to my sorrow-filled lament.

My mother had told me earlier today that she thought Edrith was gone before they had even taken her to the hospital. I am just so despondent. I went to the bathroom and the toilet seat is broken. Now, I know what to do, but I just…

I just find it fascinating that this is what grief is like. I can imagine and ponder and theorize about anything this universe, but it’s not the same as actually experiencing it. I’m just…

I suppose I’m in awe.

6 comments » | Jesus, On Me

Anniversary!

May 13th, 2007 — 10:34pm

It’s my one-year anniversary of joining my church! I’m so glad I wrote about it here. I don’t think I’ve written it anywhere else, so it’s important to nail down the date because it gives me a point from which I can measure my walk. The exact date is May 14th, but I’m excited about it nonetheless. My mother marveled about it, saying that I had done more in our church during one year than others have done in entire lifetimes, which fascinates me. But, looking back over this past year, I can’t believe how far I’ve come.

Sunday School today was very interesting. It was just me and one student, but we had a very good conversation about the text and about religion altogether. At one point we started talking about gays, and I started to feel the strain of my “old self” and my “new self.” My old self thought of gays and thought, “Okay, to each his own.” however, my new self knows what it says in the Bible and knows what is believed whole-heartedly by all those around me, so the “To each his own” idea just no longer seems appropriate. But still…I’ve learned so much through Sunday School and by teaching and what I’ve learned most more than anything throughout all these texts is that as a Christian, I must love everyone, regardless of their sins because I too am just a big a sinner as the next person.

One of the most poignant things I’ve learned is that sin is sin in God’s eyes. The liar and the murderer have done equal sins; it’s just Man who has made these divisions within sin. Albeit, one could argue that a murder could have a far larger impact on the lives of those around the affected individuals than would a “little white lie,” but the fact remains that sin is sin. I’ve told lies in the past and I’ll undoubtedly tell more before my end. On the subject of gays, I think to myself, “How dare I pass judgment on them, when I’ve sinned too.” and then there’s the idea that even though I may not be able to change how they think, I still don’t have to agree with it. As a Christian, I can be civil with all people, because in God’s eyes, I am no different. My only hope is that with prayer, that they can have salvation and won’t have to suffer the white gates.

I’m not running around with the “I don’t care what you do” mentality any longer, but I’m still nowhere near actually looking down on someone or treating them relatively different because they believe something other than I would believe. As ludicrous as it sounds, I think the Libra in me finds it unfair that I would look down on gays because they don’t follow the Bible, but not look down upon Jews or Hindus or anyone else as well. I’m not willing to take the plunge, so it feels wrong to even take that first step.

Sigh…

On a less melodramatic note, Flight is coming along well. It’s about 80,000 words currently and I’m about in the middle of the first “part,” but I’ve hit a bit of stall. The storyline needs to be changed slightly and I know it will take some time for me to correct what needs to be changed. My hope is that this doesn’t derail me from writing because I’ve been going on at a pretty good clip for a while now, writing at every chance I get.

I’m practically counting down the days before they put up another roadblock for me in regards to writing at work. As long as I have the will, there will always be a way, but it’s that nerve-racking feeling wondering when they’ll pull in the ropes. I won’t be telling anyone, this time, how I’ve been updating my novel, as the last time I spoke up, my primary means of editing was shut down. Hopefully, that will buy me some time. It’s not like I’m doing anything wrong, but I know somehow, someway, it’ll seem “unproductive” or something when someone looks at my, for lack of a better word, talent, and feels somehow undercut.

It doesn’t matter though. If they cut me off electronically, they can’t prevent me from bringing pen and paper to work and writing the old fashion way. I’d to have to resort back to that since I’ve just now gotten over my lack electronic creativity phobia, but I’ll do what I have to do.

Adventures in Vegetarianism #6
On this 13th day of the month of May, I begin my 13th week of vegetarianism and things couldn’t be going better. Today, I went to dinner with my parents and I barely even considered looking at any dishes with meat. I’ve also decided that I’m not going to be eating fast food this month, which makes the veggie thing all the more easy. Not visiting Wendy’s for even french fries, allays the craving that comes after gazing at the #6 option while at the drive-thru. I’m finally looking at this as a normal part of my life, rather than something I’m just doing for the time being. I’ve even lost all cravings for chicken and I can’t even remember what red meat tastes like. It’s a very cool feeling.

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