More Lucy Memories

Lost in all the hoopla about the solar eclipse, Monday, August 21, marked two months since my Lucy crossed the rainbow bridge. While I have Peanut, my lovable and playful kitten to heal my heart, I still find myself at times missing the old gal fiercely.

Tonight, I stood at the railing overlooking the stairs. I remembered how Lucy used to look up from the bottom, see me, and come running up the stairs to me. Every single time. Even when she was older and couldn’t run as well, she still willed herself to run to me, greeting me with her friendly chatter.

I remember how when I got home and found her in one of her usual napping spots, the first thing she did when she saw me was let out the hugest yawn ever. I believe it wasn’t because she found me incredibly boring but rather because she was completely relaxed and at ease with me.

I’m finding out these days that it’s possible to carry around two conflicting and completely opposite emotions at the same time. For me, it’s joy and grief, peace and longing. Sometimes, it’s hard to know where the one ends and the other begins.

It’s another reminder of the “now and not yet.” Sure, there’s good to be found here and we can have the peace of Christ, but we wait the perfect consummation of all our hopes and joys. We know that we were made for another and better world — heaven– and we have a longing and a desire that nothing earthly can satisfy.

I do wish that rainbow bridge had visiting hours. I’d go see my Lucy every chance I got. I bet she’d come running up to me and greet me with that ginormous yawn of hers. I would expect nothing less.

A Little More Heartache

I was doing just fine tonight. I’d celebrated my sister’s birthday earlier and we’d all had a grand time (except for a food allergy scare with my nephew, but even that turned out fine in the end).

Then I saw a short video of my recently deceased cat Lucy kneading the pillow next to mine, getting ready for one of her patented naps. I wanted so badly to reach through my computer screen and pull her out if only for one more night beside me. My heart still aches for moments like these that I know will never come again.

I know that you can’t short-cut the grieving process, whether it’s for a pet or for a brother or sister, husband or wife, son or daughter. It’s not a process that you ever get through, but a process where you learn to live with a new normal, like an amputee learns to live without an arm or a leg.

I’m also learning how very deep the grace of God is. I’m learning that His arms are indeed strong enough to carry and long enough to save those who feel they are drowning in sorrow and grief.

I know that faith in God doesn’t always make the road easy, but it makes it possible. I’ve learned when you’ve exhausted all your own strength and peace and joy, God becomes your strength and your peace and your joy.

Strength doesn’t mean the absence of weakness but persistence in the presence of it. Peace doesn’t mean that there’s no conflict or storms, but the knowledge that God can still calm the waves and winds of your soul. Joy doesn’t mean the absence of sorrow and pain but the ultimate belief that God can transform those griefs into gold and work even the worst possible circumstances into something far more beautiful than you could ever have dreamed.

I’m resting in the strength of God tonight. Soon, I’ll go to the shelter and bring home a cat who won’t replace my Lucy but will honor her memory with all the love that’s still left to give.

God is still good, so I am still good.


Living in the Now but Not Yet

I have several conflicting emotions at the present. My heart hurts over how my cat Lucy’s health continues to fail and she inches closer and closer to that rainbow bridge.

I’m also at peace and feeling gratitude over 17 years with her that I wouldn’t trade for the world. And yes, I’d go through all of it again (even the hardest parts) in a heartbeat.

How can you be sad to the point that you feel that at any moment you might burst into tears, yet at the same moment be filled with joy? I have no idea, but I’ve known both feelings simultaneously.

For every believer, there’s always going to be a tension between the now and the not yet, between joy and sorrow, between contentment and longing.

The fact is that we’re living in the Kingdom of God now but have yet to see its fullest consummation. Still the hope that carries us is that God will finish what He started and will make everything right and wipe away all the tears from our eyes.

I’m clinging to that hope with all my might tonight.



A Greater Joy

There will be times of great sadness in your life. There will be times so heartbreaking you wonder how you’ll ever get through.

I truly believe that God never gives us all the details about what’s coming up in our lives because that would completely overwhelm and destroy us.

I do believe that God does sometimes give us more than we can handle– in our own strength– so that we can find out that He is completely reliable and dependable to carry us when we can’t carry ourselves.

Most of all, I believe that beyond every great sadness is an even greater joy that awaits. There is one final and ultimate joy that awaits every believer, one that can and will never be taken away.

Above all, God is faithful through all the sadness and joy. He will not fail you.


Sadness and Joy

“Our life is a short time in expectation, a time in which sadness and joy kiss each other at every moment. There is a quality of sadness that pervades all the moments of our lives. It seems that there is no such thing as a clear-cut pure joy, but that even in the most happy moments of our existence we sense a tinge of sadness. In every satisfaction, there is an awareness of limitations. In every success, there is the fear of jealousy. Behind every smile, there is a tear. In every embrace, there is loneliness. In every friendship, distance. And in all forms of light, there is the knowledge of surrounding darkness . . . But this intimate experience in which every bit of life is touched by a bit of death can point us beyond the limits of our existence. It can do so by making us look forward in expectation to the day when our hearts will be filled with perfect joy, a joy that no one shall take away from us” (Henri J.M. Nouwen, Making All Things New: An Invitation to the Spiritual Life).

It seems like lately there is so much sadness. So many people I know are grieving over loved ones who have passed away. So many are heartsick over those they love who have received bad news from the doctor in the form of a cancer diagnosis. So many who see those close to them slipping away from Alzheimer’s or some other kind of dementia.

The sadness can feel overwhelming at times.

But there’s joy, too.

It can be hard to find, like trying to catch a glimpse of the sun on a cloudy, rainy day, but it’s there.

Joy is knowing that God can take the worst imaginable circumstances and transform them into the best possible outcome. He can truly work all things together for good, including grief and loss.

Jesus endured willingly all the shame and sorrow of the cross for the joy set before Him. So you and I can endure the seemingly unendurable because we know that in the end, death and sadness and loss and pain will not have the last word.

Joy will. Love will. God will.


A Pre-Lent Lenten Prayer

“A lenten prayer to avoid entitlement from Richard Rohr:

‘Maybe we all should begin our days with a litany of satisfaction, abundance, and enoughness. God, you have given me another day of totally gratuitous life: my health, my eyes, my ears, my mind, my taste, my family, my freedom, my education, clean water, more than enough food, a roof over my head, a warm bed and blanket, friends, sunshine, a beating heart, and your eternal love and guidance.

To any one of these we must say, “And this is more than enough!'”

Ok, I know we’re not quite to Lent season just yet. I realize that Mardi Gras and Ash Wednesday are two weeks away (and Mardi Gras just happens to fall on my birthday this year, which is neat).

Still, this applies to any season of the year or of life. Gratitude is the gift that never goes  out of style and never becomes obsolete. Joy is as much of an art and a discipline as it is a gift because while it’s free, it takes effort and stamina to fully realize and appreciate it.

I should probably at some point tape these words from Richard Rohr to my bathroom mirror so that they are the first thing I see when I wake up. Or maybe I should post them somewhere I will see them AFTER I’ve had that all-important first cup of coffee.

I need reminding often of how blessed  I truly am. It’s easy in a culture that promotes dissatisfaction and envy to look at all that’s missing from my life and all that I don’t have. That can lead to despair.

Joy starts with being content with such things that I have already. Gratitude is the way we see God’s provident hand everywhere working in everything. Even on Mondays.



You Get Joy

“When you take your life for granted?
You get jealous.
When you take your life as a gift–
you get joy” (Ann Voskamp, 1000 Gifts).

On the surface, that sounds easy, right? Who in their right minds wouldn’t choose joy over jealousy and peace over comparison?

But in a society that runs on envy and comparison like fuel, choosing to see your life as a gift to be cherished rather than something you’re owed that you can take for granted is like imitating one of those crazy fish that swim upstream every year. It’s nuts.

The hardest thing in the world sometimes is to celebrate with and for those who have what you don’t– what you desperately long for and pray for and still don’t have– relationships, solid finances, stable careers, etc. It’s easy to get competitive and develop an “us versus them” mentality that leads to a way of life where you have to outdo, outspend, out-everything your neighbor.

Joy comes when you stop competing and start cooperating, when you can genuinely be happy for the person who gets what you’ve waited for so long. Joy comes to those who see and choose to focus on what they already have instead of what they lack.

Joy is not our default. Joy isn’t automatic like breathing. Joy is something we must choose every single morning, and sometimes with each moment. Joy is good.

Right now, joy is a very sleepy geriatric cat on the pillow next to mine. Joy is satisfaction from a full eight hours of work (even if I wasn’t able to get everything done that I wanted to accomplish). Joy is any kind of Halloween candy with chocolate in it. Joy is a warm bed under a ceiling fan. Joy is knowing that real value lies in what can’t be bought or sold or even owned.

Once again, I choose joy because I choose to see this life as a gift.




More Thanksgiving and Thanks-living

“When you rise in the morning, give thanks for the light, for your life, for your strength. Give thanks for your food and for the joy of living. If you see no reason to give thanks, the fault lies in yourself” (Tecumseh).

Even on Mondays in October, there is always something to be thankful for. If I’m going to be a one-hit wonder, then my song will always be one of gratitude. I hope you never get tired of hearing just as I never get tired of telling how much joy there is in giving thanks.

Rejoice always. That’s God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. That means that gratitude isn’t just a preferred way of living. It’s prescribed.

Gratitude is the polar opposite of cynicism and sarcasm, two twin fuels that seemingly power social media these days.

I decided a long time ago that seeing the glass as half full was a much better way to live, a much saner way to survive the hard days and the dry days and the long days.

If I come across like a trumpet braying out a one-note symphony, it’s because I’ve seen the power of gratitude to transform not my circumstances but me in the midst of my circumstances.

“Gratitude can transform common days into thanksgivings, turn routine jobs into joy, and change ordinary opportunities into blessings” (William Arthur Ward).

“Gratitude is the inward feeling of kindness received. Thankfulness is the natural impulse to express that feeling. Thanksgiving is the following of that impulse” (Henry Van Dyke).

Give thanks. Try it. Just pick one thing, no matter how small or insignificant from your day, and be thankful to God for it.

“Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos to order, confusion to clarity. It can turn a meal into a feast, a house into a home, a stranger into a friend” (Melody Beattie).


“Joy is God in the marrow of our bones” (Eugenia Price).

No matter what new sorrows and tribulations life brings, underneath it all is the joy of God.

No matter how difficult the days are or how hard-pressed on every side we are, joy comes from a place deep down that trouble can’t touch.

No matter how dark the valley gets, God’s joy can always be found in abundance.

All these momentary afflictions pass, but the joy of the Lord is forever.

Joy is like manna. Every morning we make the choice to seek it out and take hold of it with both hands.

Joy is interwoven into the fabric of both the deepest grief and the wildest laughter.

For those who know where to look and to Whom to look, joy is everywhere.

“Joy is prayer; joy is strength: joy is love; joy is a net of love by which you can catch souls” (Mother Teresa)

“Walk as if you are kissing the Earth with your feet” (Thich Nhat Hanh, Peace Is Every Step: The Path of Mindfulness in Everyday Life).

“Some of you say, ‘Joy is greater than sorrow,’ and others say, ‘Nay, sorrow is the greater.’
But I say unto you, they are inseparable.
Together they come, and when one sits alone with you at your board, remember that the other is asleep upon your bed” (Kahlil Gibran, The Prophet).

Does God Want Us To Be Happy?

“It would seem that Our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.” (C. S. Lewis, The Weight of Glory and Other Addresses).

Tonight at Kairos, Chris Brooks asked the age-old question, “Does God really want us to be happy?”

I admit that for years the answer has always been a knee-jerk version of “No, God doesn’t want us to be happy. He wants us to be holy.”

Maybe happiness and holiness aren’t mutually exclusive. Maybe holiness doesn’t have to mean a dour demeanor and grumpy face. Perhaps there is happiness in enjoying God and His good gifts.

The problem isn’t in seeking happiness but that we seek for it in the wrong places. We seek to find fulfillment and joy in the created rather than in the Creator, and in the gifts rather than in the Giver.

It’s not that we desire too much but that we desire too little. We can glorify and make an idol out of just about anything (or anyone). Careers, possessions, relationships, children, morality, and even worship (more accurately, the worship of worship and the adrenaline rush it brings).

We can’t seek happiness and joy outside of God because it doesn’t really exist. At least not true happiness and joy. We often end up over-stimulated and under-satisfied. Nothing apart from God brings a lasting gratification.

That’s why there’s always the push to do more, buy more, consume more, and be more. It will never be enough.

God is enough and in Him are joys and pleasures and happiness that will never end.