The Value of Brokenness

you
a fragile
piece
of pottery
knocked over
falling to the floor
that rises to meet you

you pull yourself up
another crack to tend to
another piece of pride to mend

you see the mess
you think
you’ve become
broken pieces
irreparable

you feel
every scab
every scar
every wound

He sees something
different
He sees something
beautiful
in every crack
in every crevice
in every break

you don’t become useless
because you have been broken
you become wiser,
you become stronger,
you become more beautiful

the cracks
that bring a humility
that draw others in
as they witness
a new beauty unfolding

imperfections
are being perfected
weaknesses
are becoming a holy strength
experiences
are bringing a godly wisdom

In Japan they call it Kintsugi
in essence –
the art of bringing more value
to something broken

God calls it
grace

faithful
enduring
steadfast

Grace

In the Midst of Fear and Grief

Biographies of bold disciples begin with chapters of honest terror. Fear of death. Fear of failure. Fear of loneliness. Fear of a wasted life. Fear of failing to know God.

“Faith begins when you see God on the mountain and you are in the valley and you know that you’re too weak to make the climb. You see what you need… you see what you have… and what you have isn’t enough… Faith that begins with fear will end up nearer the Father.” ~Max Lucado

Though we still may not have lost a loved one, grief is still possible to experience. To experience grief, you need not be standing at the foot of a closed casket or next to a hospital bed watching for the next breath of a loved one to be the last. Grief can begin before death. Grief can sweep over you for things lost in life – friendships, quality of life, loss of family relationships, etc.

C.S. Lewis said, “No one ever told me that grief felt so like fear… the sensation is like being afraid. The same fluttering in the stomach, the same restlessness, the yawning. I keep on swallowing.”

The comfort I gain from the quote above is that although I know fear does not come from the Father, it can lead us deeper into Him. When you ask what you will do without your best friend, a child, or a parent that has just died, the loss of your quality of life, a wayward child – who will you turn to for encouragement, support, and comfort, it is as if you have just opened the door to the arms of your heavenly Father. It is as if you hear Him whisper, “I want to be all of that for you and more.”

Unfortunately, I have run to the wrong places for comfort before running to the arms of God. I have sought after best friends instead of seeking a greater intimacy with the lover of my soul. I have listened to the counsel of others before praying for guidance from the One who holds my future in His hands. I have sought peace from other means before praying to the God of all comfort.

Yes, God uses others in our lives to help us to grow, but they cannot grow us nor can they give us peace. They cannot fill the hole that only He can and wants to fill. Those people in our lives who we trust with our love, our fears, our hearts – they are needful, just as we are. They are vessels God works through. But, they are not God.

When I hear the word ‘fear’, I think of Psalm 23. “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death (surgeries, chronic diseases, heart problems, dying marriages, lost children), we do not have to fear anything, for our God is with us. He will never leave us. His rod and His staff, tools used for protection, bring comfort and peace to us.

Fear immobilizes us. Faith gives us courage. And courage happens not because of the absence of fear but because of it. Courage, even though standing with heartache and weeping tears of what can feel like unending sorrow says, “Even though the valley of death surrounds me, I will not fear, because You, my God of all comfort, are here for me.”

We must believe that is true, even when we don’t feel like it is true. Faith and courage do not rest on what or how we feel but on what we believe and know to be true. And one thing I know to be true…

The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is His faithfulness. ~Lamentations 3:22-23

Even in the midst of fear.

Top Regrets at the End of Life

There was no mention of more sex or bungee jumps. A palliative nurse who has counselled the dying in their last days has revealed the most common regrets we have at the end of our lives. And among the top, from men in particular, is ‘I wish I hadn’t worked so hard’.

Bronnie Ware is an Australian nurse who spent several years working in palliative care, caring for patients in the last 12 weeks of their lives. She recorded their dying epiphanies in a blog called Inspiration and Chai, which gathered so much attention that she put her observations into a book called The Top Five Regrets of the Dying.

Ware writes of the phenomenal clarity of vision that people gain at the end of their lives, and how we might learn from their wisdom. “When questioned about any regrets they had or anything they would do differently,” she says, “common themes surfaced again and again.”

Here are the top five regrets of the dying, as witnessed by Ware:

1. I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.

“This was the most common regret of all. When people realise that their life is almost over and look back clearly on it, it is easy to see how many dreams have gone unfulfilled. Most people had not honoured even a half of their dreams and had to die knowing that it was due to choices they had made, or not made. Health brings a freedom very few realise, until they no longer have it.”

2. I wish I hadn’t worked so hard.

“This came from every male patient that I nursed. They missed their children’s youth and their partner’s companionship. Women also spoke of this regret, but as most were from an older generation, many of the female patients had not been breadwinners. All of the men I nursed deeply regretted spending so much of their lives on the treadmill of a work existence.”

3. I wish I’d had the courage to express my feelings.

“Many people suppressed their feelings in order to keep peace with others. As a result, they settled for a mediocre existence and never became who they were truly capable of becoming. Many developed illnesses relating to the bitterness and resentment they carried as a result.”

4. I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends.

“Often they would not truly realise the full benefits of old friends until their dying weeks and it was not always possible to track them down. Many had become so caught up in their own lives that they had let golden friendships slip by over the years. There were many deep regrets about not giving friendships the time and effort that they deserved. Everyone misses their friends when they are dying.”

5. I wish that I had let myself be happier.

“This is a surprisingly common one. Many did not realise until the end that happiness is a choice. They had stayed stuck in old patterns and habits. The so-called ‘comfort’ of familiarity overflowed into their emotions, as well as their physical lives. Fear of change had them pretending to others, and to their selves, that they were content, when deep within, they longed to laugh properly and have silliness in their life again.”

What’s your greatest regret so far, and what will you set out to achieve or change before you die?