On Canceled Plans and Grieving

This week I’ve had to flip ahead to May to write some due dates in my planner, because using my planner brings me a sense of normalcy. And every time I flip to May, I see this all-caps reminder to myself in the May 15 box.

GRADUATION! 

I jotted it down way back in January to keep me focused during my last semester. I just can’t seem to cross it off, and I don’t think I want to.

When I pass this hot pink reminder, I remember the stressful days running from class to work and eating my lunch in my car. I remember the hustle, and counting down the weeks until it was over. May 15 would hold a little hope for me amidst my piling due dates and demands.

And now instead of bubbling up with excitement, I tear up a little. It’s a “would-have” day now. The day I would have graduated (I still graduate, but you know what I mean). And that is sad. 

Grief is kind of like that. This gross familiar feeling of mixing happy memories with sad realities. This happy thing that once held so much anticipation and excitement is kinda bitter now, and this excitement now dances with sadness surrounding May 15. 

I don’t want this whole spiel to be sad. I mean, a lot of what we read and see lately is just heavy, and I don’t care to add to that. But I think I’m just allowing it to be sad. And maybe I’m trying to remind you not to compare your grief with others.

This is a great time for empathy and compassion. We all bring a different level of pain and canceled plans to the table. Some are seniors in high school; some don’t know where their next meals are coming from; some live too far away from family; some don’t like being with their family; some are single moms; some are having to turn their dream weddings into at-home elopements. The list honestly goes on and on. 

I think the internet is a breeding ground for comparing canceled plans. You might be the single mom wondering how you’ll pay rent. And for you, I would trade my trivial canceled graduation. But comparing pain is never the point. Empathy is always the point. What’s healing is when we can lean on each other in whatever capacity we’re grieving. Just listen and be there.

If I know anything about grief, it’s that God walks with us through it. He is Emmanuel, God with us. He is good at using our pain, and restoring broken things. Canceled things. God has the capacity to be exactly what we need today. I know that when Jesus met the woman at the well in John 4, he was able to give her living water to meet her deepest needs. He can do the same for you and me. 

I’ve been reminding myself (some days I’m better at it than others) of Psalm 118:24: “This is the day the Lord has made; I will rejoice and be glad in it.” 

I’m sorry for your loss in this season. But cling to him. He always fills the void of heartache and loss.

Canceled plans and all, God has made this day, and so I can find goodness in it. It might be a different kind of goodness than I’m used to, but I can look for it.

It might be a different kind of goodness than I’m used to, but I can look for it.

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

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Here’s the Story

So I wanted to share how Her Greater Joy got started. My testimony (fancy word for what God has done in my life) will always be the birthplace of that. Wherever you find yourself, God wants to use it all.

I guess my passion for writing begins from when I was little, but I didn’t notice it until college. I have always journaled in my time with God. It’s just how I communicate with Him, how I allow Scripture to really sink into my heart, and sometimes how I process what God’s doing.

In 2014 I moved with my family from Florida to California. I was fresh out of high school with no major direction for my life. I’ve always loved leading worship, so I thought I would end up at some type of music school. But I stayed with my family and enrolled in community college. A simultaneously boring and exciting fresh start. In hindsight, I know God had mapped this out for me.

By the end of my semester, not even six months after moving across the country, my mom was diagnosed with stage three breast cancer. It completely and utterly sucked. In a matter of one sentence of delivered results that had “cancer” in it, my life shifted from happy-go-lucky to grim and teary-eyed days.

Thank God for best friends who skip classes on crappy days to get coffee with you and just hug you while you cry and agree that it’s not fair (a great tip if you have a grieving friend or loved one).

The new normal was hard, and I asked off work at my new job to sit with my mom during chemotherapy. We watched Gilmore Girls and made the best of it. When my sister got out of school for the day, we’d get a snack and walk around Target if my mom had enough energy. We didn’t make plans but we made every day fun if it was possible.

I started writing. I started reading Bible verses that were my only source of hope. And I wrote from that place. I wrote about how things were just different. I wrote about God’s goodness through it all, about the bad days, and about His peace.

Well, this routine of “normal” lasted from December to July. In the middle of July we found out the cancer progressed to stage four and she didn’t have long. My dad, sister, and I sat on the guest bedroom floor and talked about what the future looked like without my mom. It was natural conversation based on what was in front of us, but I hated hearing it come out of my mouth.

This wasn’t what I prayed for. It wasn’t what I thought healing meant. I wanted her healing to be something I could see. Something here on earth. But to my dread, July 29th, 2015 became an anniversary. There was a lot of grace that day for my little heart. I had no capacity to perceive all of it, but God just met me there. And he was with me like he always promised.

But God will walk with you through your gut-wrenching pain, and he will pick up the pieces.

I have seen restoration, and I have seen God’s hand in the details. I know that if you find yourself in a dark and tear-filled routine, God sees you and he knows you. He didn’t cause this mess. He’s actually here to help you walk through it.

One of these details in my life being that God placed two amazing women in my life to play the mom role in my life after mine was no longer here. One happens to be the woman my dad remarried. These two helped me on my wedding day, and every moment between. God showed me his character through people. They loved and they lived out Romans 12:15 like I’ve never seen before.

Now, I’ve gone through many, many counseling sessions, my dad’s marriage, college (one baby step at a time), and my own marriage. I have kept up with writing and publishing it as much as I can. But with change after change, one thing remains: my vision for this space.

I want to communicate with other women that need hope. And if you find yourself reading this, you’re part of that vision. I want you to know that you can access peace and joy wherever you’re at. When you feel shaken, God is your rock. When you face job loss, divorce, grief, breakups, or stress, I want to dig deep to that place with God.

He loves you, sees you, and knows you. He created you with purpose and I hope God speaks to you through these little words I write. The world needs the hope you offer.

“The joy of the LORD is your strength” (Nehemiah 8:10 ESV).

“You have given me greater joy than those who have abundant harvests of grain and new wine” (Psalm 4:7 NLT)

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