Names in the Bible

Disclaimer: I don’t know Hebrew. I will be sharing some of my interpretations from study, but they are just that: my interpretations. Do your own study, listen to the Holy Spirit, and confirm everything with the wholeness that is scripture.

I take offense at the Christian lack of interest in understanding Hebrew names. I’ve heard far too many jokes from pastors about “those boring genealogies” and I’m over it. Names are SUPER IMPORTANT in the Bible, and even if you only read an English translation, that should be clear. God renames Abram, Sarai, Jacob. Jesus renames Simon. Prophets name their children messages for the nation. We see Jews in exile given another name to remove God from their identity. In Revelation it is said that to “the victorious” will be given a “white stone with a new name written on it.”

As 2 Timothy 3:16 says, “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.” Why, then, are names excluded?

I’m not going to belabor the point, but I will give an example. In Hosea 1:1 it says, “The word of the LORD that came to Hosea son of Beeri during the reigns of Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz and Hezekiah, kings of Judah, and during the reign of Jeroboam son of Jehoash king of Israel…”

This is a pretty stock beginning for a book, right? Especially Old Testament. It introduces our main characters and sets the historical context. Believe me, I’m all about that. It’s incredibly important, especially for Hosea. But, yet, there is still more.

After looking up the meanings of the names, I am left with these (roughly):

  • Hosea: salvation
  • Beeri: my well
  • Uzziah: my strength is Yah
  • Jotham: the LORD is perfect
  • Ahaz: he has retaken
  • Hezekiah: Yah has strengthened
  • Judah: praise
  • Jeroboam: the people will contend (or increase)
  • Jehoash: God is strong/fire
  • Israel: God contends (struggle with God, prince/power, etc.)

Obviously every one of those name meanings can be debated, I’m sure.

But what I’m left with is:

The Word of the LORD became to us salvation, a well of life. Our strength is in God, he alone is perfect, he has retaken and strengthened us. Praise him! The people contend with God, but his holiness is a fire, in his strength God will persist forever as the Prince of Power.

Which, honestly, is a great summary of Hosea, and the Bible itself.

A message that is entirely told in the names of one verse.


Happy New Year!

I hope and pray you had a lovely end to 2017 and that the new year brings blessings to us all!

Since one of my strengths is “achiever” I am a HUGE FAN of goals, to-do lists, plans, and anything of the sort. I’m a strong believer in getting a bearing in navigation so you don’t go off-course, and I think that applies to life as well. As such, Devin and I spent last weekend and this doing some self-evaluation of where we’re at in life, if we like the direction we’re going, and where we want to go this year. I wish upon wish I was that type of person who had ONE CALLING but I’m not, and I’ve made peace with that. No use in fighting it! For me, it’s more about shutting out the lesser things that call to me so that I don’t constantly run around trying to do ALL the things.

My goal-setting has evolved a bit over the years. I used to consider “goals” as an epic to-do list and while I do generate those (a lot), I find that generating goals before defining direction first isn’t helpful to me. See, I can fill up a to do list with everything from “learn how electricity works” to “work on garden”, “research astrophysics” to “spin wool.” I would happily take 90% of OTHER people’s new years resolutions and decide I should do them too.

SO, the solution for me, as I said, is to define “themes” for the year, then generate to-dos off of that. Obviously there are some things that just have to be done (like housecleaning) which may not fit into a year’s “theme.” But for the most part, the themes can be used to double check a commitment or project and help me figure out if I should be expending energy on it.

A note on this: we also have a family mission statement (I’ve talked about that on the blog before). I also have a personal mission statement and core feelings. Those ALL play into decisions on where to spend time (or should), especially where matters of family or long-term are concerned.


Family mission statement. Be generous. Obey God. Waste not. Maintain relationships. Act in love & respect. Never lose hope. We do a yearly assessment of this to make sure we still like it and check in on how we did.

This year Devin finally did his core feelings so he, too, used those to inform his year’s theme and subsequently his goals, which I’m super excited about. (Can you tell my love language is quality time with the strength of individualization and analytical? UHHH YEP.)

Part of the exercise is writing out fears, mistakes, failures, wounds, obstacles, and negative phrases that are holding you back. Honestly, this is the most illuminating part for me, because I do a REALLY GREAT JOB of shutting down my own dreams before they can get a good conscious hold on me. In fact, my primary theme for the year is one I’ve been suppressing for, like, ever, because I told myself I can’t do it without money.



2018 Themes: Farming, spiritual connection, encouragement

This year’s themes for me are farming, spiritual connection, and encouragement. Now, you may be thinking, “Those aren’t goals.” YOU ARE CORRECT. Every month I will be checking my themes and developing actual SMART (specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound) goals for them. These themes are just my direction for the year.

I should probably note now that this is the first time I’ve done it this way. My 2016 goals were similar, but I didn’t have the follow up steps and I had a list of separate goals, so that was kind-of a mess. Hopefully I’ll STICK TO IT.

Now, on to STICKING TO IT. I suggested on Twitter making your goals VISIBLE and tied to something you deeply care about. So, in our house, music is a big thing so Devin and I chose a “theme song.”

Here’s mine:

I’m sure not surprising to anyone, but it just felt very right for the year.

I’m also thinking about making a poster or bookmark to remind myself. WE SHALL SEE.

But, actually, there’s something you can do to help me with my goals. As you can see, encouragement is on there. I was originally thinking thankfulness or gratitude, but I wanted something more active. I’m not a very encouraging person, but I want to become one. If you made goals this year (or themes, or whatever) and would like help with them, let me know! I’m obviously going to reserve the right to say no, BUT if you have something you want help with, or someone to keep you accountable, I will make my best effort! Or if you don’t know how you could be helped but still want it, I could check in periodically or just try forms of encouragement and you can let me know if it’s helpful or not.


Go forth, and be the change you want to see in the world!
(Hey, I had to include at least one overused phrase!)

Katie Book Awards 2017

THE YEAR IS ENDING so you get ALL the year end blog posts!

Since I’m always really disappointed in book awards (yes I’m looking at you, Goodreads), I’ve decided to do my own.

RULES: something I read this year, publishing date not taken into account. Books nominated by how I rated them (this is not a comprehensive list of things I read this year).


I don’t read much fiction so I’m just gonna lump all my 4 & 5 star books into one category, and graphic novels into another.

Fantasy & Romance

  • The Final Empire by Brandon Sanderson
  • Howl’s Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones


  • Horizon by Lois McMaster Bujold
  • Legacy by Lois McMaster Bujold

Science Fiction

  • Proto Zoa by Lois McMaster Bujold
  • Gentleman Jole and the Red Queen by Lois McMaster Bujold


  • So You Don’t Want to Go to Church Anymore: An Unexpected Journey by Wayne Jacobsen & Dave Coleman

Oh, gosh, this is ridiculously hard.

Stephanie, close your eyes.

And the winner is…


The Final Empire

and I might regret that choice because Howl’s Moving Castle was SO FUN and So You Don’t Want to Go to Church Anymore fundamentally altered my concept of church. There are things I dislike about The Final Empire (violence, takes a while to get going) but OOF I just fell for it hard after that.

Graphic Novels & Comics

I clearly need to be harder on graphic novels because all these were rated five stars. SHEESH.

  • All You Need Is Kill by Ryosuke Takeuchi, Takeshi Obata, Yoshitoshi ABe, Tetsuichiro Miyaki, Hiroshi Sakurazaka
  • Ms. Marvel, Vol 5: Super Famous by G. Willow Wilson, Takeshi Myazawa, Adrian Alphona, Nico Leon
  • Mockingbird, Vol 1: I Can Explain by Chelsea Cain, Kate Niemczyk
  • Black Panther: A Nation Under Our Feet, Book 3 by Ta-Nehisi Coates, Brian Stelfreeze
  • Hawkeye: Kate Bishop, Vol 1: Anchor Points by Kelly Thompson, Leonardo Romero, Jordie Bellaire, Julian Totino Tedesco

And the winner is…


Black Panther: A Nation Under Our Feet, Book 3

This is definitely benefiting from me having JUST read it, and I think isn’t one most people would’ve picked from this list. But it was right up my alley and I loved it.


SO obviously the bulk of my reading is nonfiction, or at least the bulk of my well-rated books. I did include a couple three stars


  • Start with Why by Simon Sinek
  • Good Grief by Granger Westberg
  • The Delusion of Passion: Why Millennials Struggle to Find Success by David Anderson, Mark Nathan
  • 13 Things Mentally Strong People Don’t Do: Take Back Your Power, Embrace Change, Face Your Fears, and Train Your Brain for Happiness and Success by Amy Morin

And the winner is…


The Delusion of Passion: Why Millennials Struggle to Find Success

This book is not mind blowing, but it does tear down some deeply-ingrained beliefs about what “passion” looks like.

Science & Technology

  • Loneliness: Human Nature and the Need for Social Connection by John T. Cacioppo, William Patrick
  • A Guide to Basket Weaving by Marie Pieroni
  • Astrophysics for People in a Hurry by Neil deGrasse Tyson


Loneliness: Human Nature and the Need for Social Connection

There’s a lot in this book I disagree with, and it drags on way too long BUT it was a real eye-opener with regards to how people act when they’re lonely that is detrimental to getting reconnected with people.

Memoir & Autobiography

  • All Things Wise and Wonderful & The Lord God Made Them All by James Herriot
  • Unashamed by Lecrae Moore

And the winner is…


All Things Wise and Wonderful/The Lord God Made Them All

I just can’t help myself. IT IS SO GOOD on all the levels.

History & Biography

  • Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee: An Indian History of the American West by Dee Brown
  • The Zookeeper’s Wife by Diane Ackerman
  • John James Audubon: The Making of an American by Richard Rhodes

Oh no. OH NO. These are all so good I cannot.

They’re all SO DIFFERENT and SO IMPORTANT. *groans forever*

I feel like they all fundamentally changed the way I look at things.

Alright, the winner is…


Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee: An Indian History of the American West

Simply because of the sheer breadth of knowledge on the topic that I was missing, whereas I’m at least vaguely aware of WWII and early (immigrant) American history.

Religion & Ancient Works

  • The Instructions of Shuruppak
  • Culture Making: Recovering Our Creative Calling by Andy Crouch
  • Strengths Based Marriage: Build a Stronger Relationship by Understanding Each Other’s Gifts by Jimmy Evans, Allan Kelsey

And the winner is…


Culture Making: Recovering Our Creative Calling

This book got me to look at the Genesis creation story in a new light, and think about God’s intention for us.

Graphic Novels & Comics

  • Can’t We Talk about Something More Pleasant? by Roz Chast
  • March: Book Two by John Lewis, Andrew Aydin, Nate Powell
  • March: Book Three by John Lewis, Andrew Aydin, Nate Powell
  • Big Mushy Happy Lump by Sarah Andersen

Oof. Another category with absolute standouts.

I’m going to have to choose…


March: Book Three

..because it’s so well done and so important. But special props to Can’t We Talk about Something More Pleasant? for unblinkingly sharing her struggle and story about caring for aging parents.


Favorite Reread

I don’t really get around to rereading things (except the Bible & Lord of the Rings) because WHO HAS TIME FOR THAT? (I only reread two things this year.)

Winner: Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic Vol. 1: Commencement

It’s only fitting that in the year where my love of Star Wars dies, my favorite reread is old canon.

Classic I Hated the Most

I keep trying to read classics but it just doesn’t go well.


  • The Call of the Wild by Jack London
  • Walden by Henry David Thoreau
  • Murder on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie
  • Mark Twain’s Helpful Hints for Good Living: A Handbook for the Damned Human Race by Mark Twain; edited by Lin Salamo, Victor Fischer, Michael B. Frank

Honestly I just want to give the entire genre of classics the award but I’m gonna have to go with The Call of the Wild. Congratulations on making me question the very nature of dogs while walking my own. *slow clap*

Best Book Whose Worldview I Disagree With

This category is in honor of The 48 Laws of Power which I read last year. It is a category for books who I may have enjoyed or found fascinating, but whose philosophy or point of view I just cannot give a good rating to.

Winner: The Three-Body Problem by Liu Cixin, translated by Ken Liu


This book was fascinating because I am entirely unaware of Chinese history and culture, and I really appreciated this glance into it. It also was a fairly solid sci-fi book, though I ultimately didn’t like how it turned out for technical and philosophical reasons.

The Great Disappointment

This category is specially reserved for books that were really disappointing to me for whatever reason.

Winner: The Great Divorce by CS Lewis

Honestly, C.S. Lewis was kind-of my great disappointment this year. I’ve discovered I’m not a huge fan of his fiction, specifically of his narrative voice. I don’t know why, but it makes me sad.

Too Late For Nomination But Still Deserves Recognition

These two will probably be finished before the technical year’s end, but I CAN’T BE SURE nor have I finished them. So shout out to 1 & 2 Maccabees for being an essential(?) read for Bible scholars, and Amusing Ourselves to Death: Public Discourse in the Age of Show Business for perhaps being the actual best book (TBD) I’ve read all year.


Counting 2017’s Blessings

This year we had a Grateful Jar on the kitchen table (most days). Throughout the year we’d write things we were thankful for and drop them in. Then, on Christmas morning, we read them each to each other.

This year was an immense struggle, and I feel bad about how little I accomplished, so I wanted to share the easily forgotten little things that made us pause and write a note for.

Ian showed me his in-progress top bar hives, and I bought building materials for mine yesterday!

It feels so long ago that it wasn’t even this year but I am still proud of making the hives, seeing it all through to completion, and getting bees! Hopefully they make it through the winter. 🙂

My superb husband who cleans, cooks, hosts, GMs, and is my positive supporter.

“My superb husband” comes up a lot this year because he worked so hard and been my partner in the most emotionally difficult year I’ve had.

Yummy mandarins from mom. ❤

That I was able to make all the yummy food in prep for Extra Life.

Foraging and making a wreath & mantelpiece I love

Still my favorite Christmastime activity!

I’m growing basil and I can make french bread!

This one makes me smile so much. 🙂

A hard-working and supportive husband

I finished the paper towel replacement project!

We still use far too many paper towels (oops) but we do still love those towels I made and use them often instead of paper towels.

Wise budgeting + emergency fund

It’s not a “happy” thing but I am so grateful that we once again were able to pay an exorbitantly large (though tiny compared to some) unexpected medical bill.

Devin: Socializing more with Paul

We’re all a huge fan of Paul. 😉

Devin: Board games with Katie and friends


Probably my favorite slip in here, let’s be real. 😉

Cute fuzzy ducklings and a good momma duck to keep them warm & safe.

New shoes & a ride home from the mechanic from mom.

Both things I was in desperate need of.

For friends who listen & support me when my grief overwhelms me

Finding a fun guild to play with

I put this in here TWICE so clearly it was a big deal lol.

I finished my first roleplaying campaign as a GM!

Choosing HOPE for the future.

Long underwear, blankies, and a working heater.

Thoughts after the three? Four? days without power, probably. THOUGH ALSO APPLICABLE RIGHT NOW.

Visited the Kremers & made soap!

Found Brego a fabulous home and got to have a final trail ride before he left for Washington.

Why yes, I did cry on Christmas morning reading these, how did you know?

Getting to watch Star Wars & Lord of the Rings with friends

Having rubber boots again! Nice, clean, fresh, fitting ones too. ❤

The love of Northwest Faith Center and their openness.

Singing Christmas carols to Jesus.

Devin: Fellowship with Matt and Connor.

Finished Isaiah and Daniel in Bible study!

Having money to heat the house and put food on the table.

Birch tree removal went well – no damaged power lines or houses!

My friends visiting me almost every night when I was sad and Devin was away on a business trip.

The joy Devin expressed when I told him the news of being pregnant.

So, obviously this one is the other that made me cry. But honestly, I think I put it in after the miscarriage, because I never want to forget the pure joy that Devin expressed. Those few days of bliss. I’m thankful at least that I got to see that untainted reaction once.



First Genesis study – exciting but good!

Finally made and delivered holiday neighbor gift baskets!

Devin watched Harry & Snowman with me. ❤

Got to see Hidden Figures w/ ladies: SUPER GOOD

Devin’s masterful GMing skills

Didn’t get hit by person running red light

For discovery of strengths and growing marital respect & love.

Thankful for Devin’s foresight in getting ALL our dishes clean before guests – we needed them all!

For finishing “So You Don’t Want to Go to Church Anymore” with Devin – and future growth

Homemade sourdough & delicious chicken sandwiches


Ducklings!!! AHHH SO CUTE

Dancing to Star Wars music remixes on a Monday!

That Israel means “struggle with God” reminding me that we all struggle sometimes.

Today’s hashbrowns are superb.

Amelia graduation party!

Falling asleep on Devin’s chest. ❤

My dear friends who come to Bible study even when I flummox it up. XD

A new second(!) kitchenaid mixing bowl & having learned a bunch about baking this year

Learning to make DELISH cinnamon rolls! Ye-AH

Kevin Ryan came to visit & brought books, homemade donuts, homebrewed cider, and wildflower seed!

Sitting in the sun

Finn is SEW CUTE

Chickens who are laying well for us to make & eat yummy things with their eggs.

A super fun late anniversary trip! Coast drive, two forts, and a Zelda concert! ❤ ❤ ❤

Britta’s yummy beef stew during Extra Life.

Got quail!

A fabulous roleplaying time & YUMMY guac from Paul

Got to hangout with Gaia and watch Your Name together!

Goat milking opportunity – new skills, fresh yummy milk!

Finished knitting a scarf for mom

Walking the dogs in the winter sun while listening to audiobooks.

Didn’t lose power during our *first* snowstorm of 2017!

(key word first lol)

Finished KoTOR replay and it’s still great!

Devin helping me build things (duck house) and do projects (door painting)

Got to go to the Polk fairgrounds and finally get answers to all my rabbit showmanship questions

Finishing Hebrews & Esther in Bible study!

Devin: Friendship with Kremers. Burritos, markets, lovers

Me: “LOVERS?” Him: “The game.”

Devin’s diligence & dedication in raising money for Extra Life!

Finished Noach course

Parents got home from trip safely (and I don’t have to watch their house anymore!)

Watching the ducks and chickens run and play

Devin’s beautiful music and immense talent ❤

Saw the total eclipse! Started our 7th year of marriage!

Getting to go to the beach with the Houghs for the weekend. 🙂

A fun Christmas potluck with friends!

Getting the camry fixed

Devin: Played Overwatch with friends and found out I went to school with meekmode aka Greg

Finished the bee hive bodies! Reserved some bees!

Snuggling and watching SHIELD, Designated Survivor, Brooklyn 99!

For a house full of friends, food, and fun! #blessed

I definitely missed a few months but I found it fascinating that I didn’t include what I’d typically consider “major” milestones – which reminds me that the most joy comes from little, everyday things that are easy to forget about or dismiss.

Books as a Passive Social Vector

This concept isn’t super well thought out, but I’ve discovered if I want for an idea to congeal in my brain I don’t end up writing the blog post about it. SO COME ON THIS MENTAL JOURNEY WITH ME.

Yesterday I gave a book to a friend and as I did so, I realized it was one of the rare times I had highlighted passages. I apologized for it, I mean, I don’t want people to think I’m SOME MONSTER who defiles the pages of a book.

But later (like now) I was thinking about how oddly fascinating it is to come across highlighted and underlined passages in used books I’ve picked up. Or, books passed to me by family members. Or even when terrible monsters make notes or underline things in LIBRARY BOOKS. After the initial shock of “HOW DARE THEY” it’s weirdly enjoyable. It’s like someone in a different time and place time traveled to say “hey I thought this was worth a second look.” Sometimes the passages are utterly baffling. Even if I was the past person who underlined something. “What made this so special?” I find myself asking, trying to either learn more about the passage itself or about the person who thought it so curious. It can make a weird, but also strangely visceral, connection.

My favorite example of this lately was a graphic novel my friend group all got and read from the library which had little scraps of paper slipped in that said “right arm?” “left arm” (or some such) as a previous reader thought it worth noting that the artist either got mixed up and switched a character’s missing arm or something went wonky when they printed the pages. It didn’t change my life or philosophy, but it was oddly social.

In fact, I find myself ALSO drawn to leave notes or make corrections in books when I come across them. It’s almost as if that other person was the icebreaker, and now I don’t have to worry about “starting” the conversation. There isn’t social pressure to contribute, but there’s an open door. You don’t have to worry about keeping up a dialog. But, if you want, you can add something for whoever else may pick up the book.

For some reason this reminds me of something I read in Tribal Leadership, which, if I had highlighted it, wouldn’t have taken SO LONG to find again I suppose. It’s about having a “tribal leadership epiphany” but one of the actions they talked about stuck out to me. “People who’ve had this epiphany read books differently, often highlighting sections for others, hoping to spread the insights that changed their lives.” (Tribal Leadership, The Tribal Epiphany, pg 111.)

I guess I had never really seen highlighting, or note-taking in that way before. Not as something I may want to come back to later, but with the intention of improving someone else’s life through my own reading. Granted, that can take SO MANY FORMS, but I think it’s worth noting that it can be as simple as a quick highlight and a shared book.

So what do you think? Is highlighting bad? Has your curiosity been piqued by a note in a book?

State of the Bees: Sugar Roll

This is yet another beekeeping update, and very belated. The events in this post were from 05/21/2017.

After the last bee update, I knew there were mites present in at least one of my hives and I needed to do a mite check. The method I employed to do said mite check, was via a sugar roll, suggested by theProspetOfBees who commented on my last blog post (thanks!).

With nice warm weather scheduled for that weekend, I set about getting my necessary materials together:

  • A wide-mouthed canning jar and two piece lid
  • #8 (1/8th inch) hardware cloth
  • Powdered sugar
  • Measuring cup
  • White tub

The canning jar, lid, powdered sugar, measuring cup, and white tub (I used a small bucket) were all pre-owned. Well, technically I got a new bag of powdered sugar just for the bees, but that wasn’t hard.

I went to the local hardware store for the hardware cloth (after calling and confirming they had the right size), and the employee who helped me was a former beekeeper! He also might’ve been the guy who recommended the sheet metal guy I got the hive roofs made. Basically I wish he could help me every time I go there, CAUSE HE IS GREAT.

After getting that (which I think was around a buck since I got so little), I took it home, traced out the size needed with the lid and a sharpie, then used my hardware cloth cutters and VOILA. READY.


A little friend ready to watch the action.

A friend came over and we popped open the hives, and began the…interesting task of scooping up 1/3 cup of bees. People use different size measuring cups, theoretically 1/4 cup = 200 bees. And ideally you don’t want more than 1% varroa mites. (At least, this is my current interpretation.) The first one measuring cup was definitely not full, but I think I got at LEAST 100 bees. Then comes the fun process putting ~ 1-2 tablespoons of powdered sugar in the jar and shaking them up for a minute. Obviously, they aren’t too happy about this, and I felt bad, but it was VERY IMPORTANT. Ideally you cover the opening while shaking so no mites accidentally fall out and corrupt your count but I either didn’t see this in any of the instructions or they weren’t in any of the instructions I read. After that you let sit for 2-3 minutes, then you tip it upside down in your white container and shake all the sugar out. The idea is that the powdered sugar makes the varroa mites fall off the bees, and then you shake out all the sugar and loose mites.


Supply table. Yep, those are sugared bees in that jar!

The first hive had ~ 1-2 mites which obviously isn’t great, but I wasn’t too concerned. I noticed that the hive was still maintaining their varroa graveyard at the end of the hive, so they’re being very hygienic. There were several dead ones there. I’m both concerned and pleased. After all the abuse, I dumped the bees back into the hive to get cleaned off. Unfortunately some didn’t make it as the shaking was too vigorous.


Dumped sugar bees.

The second hive appeared to have zero or possibly one mite after their shake, and I got more bees for that one. YAY! They too had some in a “graveyard” area at the end of the hive. The moisture was still slightly present, and I can only assume it is caused by them evaporating nectar and from their body condensation. At this point they have three entrances open and I think the airflow is helping a lot.

We didn’t do too terribly much during this hive inspection since it took me a while to do the sugar roll, but we saw some uncapped larva brood which was fun. They still hadn’t built out much more lengthwise, but the combs towards the front were now VERY large, built out larger than the one below.


Looking at a couple combs!

About a week(?) later we got some REALLY warm temps that were sustained for several weeks, so at that point Devin and I gave them all but 2-3 bars at the end where they could continue to have a little varroa graveyard separate from the hive.

I went ahead and have left them alone so they don’t constantly have to repair the damage of me tearing into their hive, though I will probably do an inspection in a week or two and another sugar roll. From all outward appearances they seem to be THRIVING, with new records of “most bees I’ve seen doing orienting flights” every couple days.


Personal Ruminations on Grief and Loss

Every grief and loss is different and therefore is felt differently. These are my current thoughts surrounding my own journey, but I am in no way an expert. I am simply trying to understand this key aspect of life. Please forgive any “conclusions” of mine that don’t ring true to your situation, or any statements that inadvertently lessen your grief or experience.

Grief comes in a variety of ways from the disappointment of a missed opportunity to the death of a close loved one. No grief should be tossed aside as invalid, but must be worked through and reckoned with.

Romans 12:15 (NIV)
Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn.

I generally try not to quote verses without context (the context is how to love each other and what it looks like), but this line has been on my heart lately.

See, it seems straightforward. But it gets…complicated in practice, as many things do. I came to realize my problem with how it seems to be practiced is made more evident when I phrase it differently – when you see someone rejoicing, don’t cause them to mourn; when someone is mourning, don’t make them rejoice. I don’t claim this is equally spiritually true or a just interpretation, but it’s something I’ve experienced, and I’d like to talk about it.

In my recent and past mournings, I’ve noticed a lot of weird things that happen. At the beginning – some people, not wanting to experience the grief themselves, become cold and distant. This usually happens to acquaintances, or professionals along the way. It’s brutal, and if it wasn’t the cause of healthcare service failures, I would totally understand. Empathy hurts. A lot. And expressing grief about others’ troubles is awkward.
On the flip side, some people mourn A LOT. When I talk to other grievers, we describe it as having to manage THEIR grief as well as our own, and how frustrating it is. Again, I understand it. Either they genuinely have a great amount of grief at the situation and are trying to work through it, or feel like “sorry” isn’t enough and have to “put on a show” thinking that will help. Whatever the reason, it’s exhausting. It feels wrong to say “hey I’M the one who needs support, not YOU” even though we often feel it in our hearts. At the end of the day we didn’t even manage to get around to working on our own grief because we were busy trying to handle everyone else’s. We’re even closer to the maw of agony than we were when we woke up.

In the case of something like a miscarriage, and I imagine others, throughout the grief process we receive a good helping of “stats” sprinkled in. I think this is meant helpfully, like most things, but for me, it really doesn’t help. I hope (dearly) that people don’t go up to someone who has lost a loved one in a car accident and say, “You know, we all have a 1 in 114 chance of dying that way in our lifetime.” How does that help? It doesn’t matter if the number is low or high, it still crushes my heart. It won’t change anything that has happened. In our darkest moments it makes us think it’ll happen again, or think about how we’re the most unlucky person in the world. In our most optimistic moments, it will make us think this will never happen to us again. Neither is a true representation of an individual life. It’s an average. And there are no averages in the grieving process.

After a few weeks, or whatever time-frame, the general feeling around a griever progresses to an unspoken opinion of “why are you still grieving?” This is definitely the worst. At this point, the shock of grief has worn off, and many people are just now experiencing the full weight of what has happened. But to others, it appears like the brave griever of the previous weeks has given way to a bottomless pit of depression, and they’re tired of it. This is the point where the current emotional polar opposites collide – the griever in the depths of despair and the friends who have bounced back. It can appear in many ways: requests or demands to get back to “normal,” suggesting the person be more joyful, or being ignorant of the continued hurt and exhaustion if the person has returned to “normal” life.
I should also clarify that “normal” is usually defined by such people as “normal before the event” whether that be in practical, emotional, or spiritual terms. There is no going back to that “normal.” There is only a new normal which must be sought out and established. And that’s usually what onlookers don’t realize.

Then we reach what we think the new normal is, or is developing into. We’re starting to experience life again, we’re starting to experience “joy” even. And it feels like as soon as we get there, instead of joining in the rejoicing, we are reminded by others of our grief. Again, I’m sure this is well meaning, and maybe even them processing their grief, but more often than not I experience well-intentioned reminders of why I should be sad. I hate these the most. A strong word, I know. But the thing I dislike most about them are that they make me feel like I shouldn’t be happy. They always seem to come on really good days, and they always take me down to the absolute depths. They seem to say, “Why did you forget about your grief?” It’s hard because I think this, most of all, probably depends on the person. I’m sure some people, on the anniversary of something like losing a parent, would LOVE someone to say they’re thinking of them. Others, I think, would be horrified. We all have different ways of honoring our losses, but to indicate that you “should” do something indicates if you don’t there’s something wrong or dreadful with you.

So, I’ve complained a lot, some would say. What SHOULD we do? Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. The problem is, that’s hard. You have to observe, you have to listen. I have not figured this out at ALL. In fact, I consider myself one of the worst at helping grievers.
But here’s the thing: it’s not your job to help. It’s your job to support. I’m not great at that either, but I try, desperately, to take cues from the person I’m with. I try to ask how they are. I let them bring up the grief if they want or don’t want. I try not to change the subject, whatever that subject may be. It’s not my job to make them talk about the grief or something other than the grief. It’s my job to listen.
If appropriate, I try to share my struggles, with an emphasis on that being my own PERSONAL journey. That theirs will be different and that’s not bad, not weird, and not to be afraid of. I try to make sure their feelings are understood. I think we have a weird relationship with feelings where we either embrace them as “truth” or dismiss them as “unimportant.” In my opinion they are neither. Until I acknowledge my feeling about something, I will never be able to see or address the root cause of it. If it’s dismissed by others or myself, I will shove it down deep to come spewing up with the rest of the prisoner feelings at a later date.

I’m sorely tempted to summarize with a bullet point list of “do this, don’t do this” because it’s in our nature and it’s so much easier than the real answer. Which is listen. Put others first. Be sensitive. Don’t do what you need, do what they need. Forgive. Understand. Love. I know I’m still working on and praying through every single one of those things every day.