Broken Pieces

On Sunday, our church started a series on what happens when your life is shattered.  Pastor Bryan talked about the motorcycle accident that took the life of his wife back in June.

At the end of the message, a handful of people came to the stage and mentioned their own traumatic events.  They included a woman whose sister was killed in an act of domestic violence just three months before, a man fighting addiction,  a woman whose daughter had cancer at age 6, was cured by a blood transfusion only to contract HIV/AIDS and die from it years later, and Pastor Bryan’s sons talking about the loss of their mother.

We are sums of our experiences and nothing shapes us more than tragedy. Our reaction to grief may be the solution to change our future.

pexels-photo-68084

Let’s take it a step deeper.  We are defined by our reaction to grief.

Train, research, workout, study, podcast, take notes, write books, do all you can to prepare and nothing matches the moment things all apart, that point you look in the mirror and realize something is wrong.

That diagnosis. That phone call. That argument.

The lines of demarcation that create our New Normal, the places that only exists as memories and warm summer afternoons, the ones we can’t go back to.

The starting point is knowing it is okay to grieve, to feel, to have the courage to face down what’s coming.

One of Val’s old coworkers is our age, married with two children, and starting chemotherapy this week for an aggressive form of cancer.

Her Normal has changed.

I wish I had a three-point summation, a quote, infographic, something to put a nice bow on this short run of thoughts, then I imagine her in a hospital bed tonight and I know that sometimes silence is the answer.

Presence is the answer.

Just being there, crying, holding hands and staying close.  Sometimes that’s all we have.

~Matt

 

Advertisements

When We Reach the End

Turn on your computer or the television these past few weeks and it was not be long before you saw a headline about the Ebola virus.  The disease has crossed borders out of Africa and made its way to here and to various countries in Europe.  We see the microscopic slides of the virus itself and cannot help but think about death.

In Oregon, Brittany Maynard has chosen to end her life legally under the state’s Die with Dignity laws.  All you need to do is pass a psychological workup and you can get a doctor’s prescription for drugs that will stop your heart. Maynard is facing cancer in her brain that will lead to a horrific amount of suffering.  She has chosen to die on her own terms before her body is overcome with the disease.

Val and I both have had friends and loved ones deal with cancer. We have had friends die in car accidents and illnesses. We know people dealing with these things right now. Some will be victorious and some will not.

As believers, the shadow of our mortality is a constant in our lives.

1118

Then Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.” Matthew 16: 24-25

We are called to live dead, to have one foot in this world and one eye on eternity.  With this in mind, how we interact with those in crisis is of vital importance. When someone you know is facing death, they will question everything.  Always be prepared:

With Understanding: This person is no different from the one you knew before the diagnosis or accident.  Illness does not make become someone’s identity.  I’ve seen plenty of badly injured people recover with the right mindset.  Understand where they are coming from. Validate their concerns, do more listening than talking, and be the shoulder they need to lean or cry on.

With Love: We are often left speechless when faced with a friend or family member in the midst of tragedy. It seems easier to give them space, put them in their own compartment that we can access when we’re ready. Avoidance is human nature and we must constantly fight this impulse.  Keep lines of communication open.  Be there. Show up. Your time is a treasure they will value more than you know.

With Hope: Don’t be fake or shallow.  Pray with them, if they’d like, and pray for them alone. God can break into our world and heal.  It may not be instant. The wave of life can start with one good day, one cell tipping the battle against infection, one effort to get out of bed and take a step towards the doorway.

If you are, or know someone, who is dealing with any of this please feel free to share this post.  Any light can help in the darkness.

~Matt

Soundtrack Inspiration:

 

Feel Good Friday 10/3/2014

Robin Macmillan is a photographer in Canada and a cancer survivor.  It took a brush with the disease to inspire her to follow her dreams and create stunning photography. There is power is creation and finding your passion.  Macmillan used her camera to tell her story.  If you are in the midst of suffering, document your feelings in words or pictures. Capture the storm inside. Use it for motivation to find victory.  Don’t ever give up.

You can find Macmillan’s story and her photographs here.

 

Berks Coalition to End Homelessness

safe_image.php

Like the volunteer pictured above, the Berks Coalition to End Homelessness is a cooperation of individuals and businesses directly making an impact on the city in the effort to combat homelessness. It includes over sixty agencies and businesses. The Coalition takes the lead in HUD grant application for the county and is an important contact point for other service agencies in the city.  I met with Sharon Parker, the Executive Director, one afternoon at Barnes and Noble.  She told me about the numerous projects they have on the table including an effort to obtain housing for homeless families in Berks County. You can find their website here with a wealth of information and links.  You can find donation information here.

Soundtrack Inspiration:

Feel Good Friday 9-5-14

On Fridays, in this new blog feature,  I will highlight a positive news story, article, or post. I’ll also highlight a local charity that will be part of Overcome when it is published.

The NFL isn’t always known for life-affirming actions.  Players struggle with the law. They can suffer serious injuries.  They make more in a season than most people do in a lifetime while playing a schoolyard game. This week, the Cincinnati Bengals cut and resigned defensive tackle Devon Still to their practice squad.

This happens all the time in the league, but Still’s story has a twist. His daughter, four-year-old Leah was diagnosed with stage 4 cancer in June.  The team signed him to help pay for the girl’s medical treatment.  You can see an article and video piece from Good Morning America here.

 

Hope Rescue Mission

645 North Sixth Street • Reading, PA 19601
Phone (610) 375-4224 • E-Mail hopeforreading@gmail.com

lg_hrm

Hope was the first organization to reply to my request for a tour and interview.  The building, a former corporate property for the Reading Railroad, houses almost seventy beds spread over a dorm space and transitional housing. They have a library, chapel, cafeteria, and computer lab. They offer training in discipleship and job skills. I met with Robert Turchi, the director, and Frank Grill, the associate director. Grill took me on a tour of the buildings and his passion for the men they house was evident from the start of our conversation.

Hope also runs a thrift store and wood shop. They refurbish furniture, sell and recycle wood pallets, and operate gardens to supply vegetables in the summer. Every item is donated, from the stock of the thrift store to the food in the cafeteria. The men are trained and given jobs to offset the cost of their housing.  The average water bill for a winter season is around $18,000 dollars.

They receive no government or city support.

As I walked through, I spoke to the men and listened to their stories.  There are amazing accounts of losing everything and redefining their identities. Some of the guys were at the top of their fields and, through addictions or other factors, ended up in jail or on the streets.  Hope is making a difference in the lives of the men it houses and the city it serves. Please consider making a difference and helping them out.

You can find their website here with photos, media, staff biographies, needs, and ways to give.

If you like this post, please share with your friends and family!

~Matt

Why Me?

This spring my oldest son, who is five, played t ball for the first time.  He’s a baseball nut and loves the game. We’ve pitched to him in the back yard since he was a toddler. Initially, we were not counting outs. Every kid was able to stay on base and run the bases. They could experience the feeling of getting a hit and scoring a run. As we neared the end of the season, we started counting outs.

I was the assistant coach for the team and I felt bad sending our first real “out” back to the bench. Then the game happened where Carter was forced out at second base.  I remember the look on his face when he walked past me.  He walked past the bench, went to my wife, and broke down in tears.

One of the biggest things we will ever face in life is that moment where a door is slammed shut, a job is lost, a loved one passes away, and tragedy pays us a visit. We look to God and ask why.

be41caf602ea3a42dace9063f2fe8094

In Luke 22:42, Jesus is in the Garden of Gethsemane and he prays, “Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done.” After he is arrested, tried, and in the midst of hanging on the cross he says, ““My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”

A friend of mine who is a pastor wrote to me once that God is a big boy, he can take your honesty.  We all face circumstances where we question the divine reason.

This Monday I had my blood drawn to be sent to the Mayo Clinic to be evaluated for any sign of cancer.

It hurts to write that sentence.

We will keep going as a family.  The specialist I’m seeing believes that things will work out, that the cause of my past altered lab results is something rare and specific, not the possible darker option.   He told me to trust him.

I know where I put my trust.

So as you go forward this week remember the bottom line. Know that we are in the midst of a refinement process, that this world is not perfect and know the truth of the verse I pray every night:

All things work for the good of those who love him and are called according to his purposes.

~Matt