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10 things to say to a grieving friend

1. “You can only be where you are.”

My counselor said these words over and over to me as I kept feeling like I should have made some kind of peace with my grief, I should have found some kind of purpose in it, or I should feel like I could go a day without a splitting headache. Shoulds can be really loud sometimes, but what wise friends shared with me in the pit of grief was I could only be where I was.  If that meant that day I was angry, that day I would be angry.  If it meant that day I wanted to cry, I would cry.  And if it meant that day I just needed to do something mindless, that was okay too.

2. “You’re going to disappoint people.”

Any experience with true grief is an experience of disappointing those around you. Expectations will go unmet and obligations unfulfilled and while I often carried this guilt, I learned that to truly hold my grief often meant not having space to hold ways I had previously shown up.

In her book Out of Sorts, Sara Bessey states that “We sort our lives on the threshold of grief.”  Something about grief, about seeing the frailty and brevity of life changes us.  It makes us.  Often for a time it sends us searching but it always leads us to new understandings and perspectives, also manifesting in new parts of ourselves.  A friend shared with me that this sorting of ourselves on the threshold of grief is like rearranging your house.  While we are reevaluating and moving around the furniture for its best, practical use, if a friend comes in to sit down on the couch where they have always sat, they will fall to the floor.  Becoming new versions of ourselves means not showing up in ways we always have.  Honest grief will cause you to disappoint people and it is a season, in which, they can only be understanding.  Their season will one day come.

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3. “That makes sense to me.”

No more gracious words graced my ears for the summer months of 2016 than these. When I would share the deep pains of my heart, the big questions that kept me up at night, or the fears I had facing the future, some would try to start statements with “at least” or quote scripture to me, but blessed friends would look at me with love and say the most honoring words “That makes sense to me”.

4. “I love you.”

Simple enough but goes the longest way. Your words won’t fix the hurt, but your continued loving presence will minister so much more than any words ever could.

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5. “I’m so sorry.”

Affirming the hurt and not trying to fix it. Saying you’re sorry to a grieving person makes room for them to sit in their pain in your presence.

 

6. “I’m here for you.”

When you need it and when you’re ready, even if that isn’t right now. I’m here for you leaves room for them to best define how they need you rather than assuming.

7. “Where do you see God right now?”

This one is not for the faint of heart due to the extremely honest nature of the depths of grief. You may be met with “I don’t. I literally can’t even begin to think about him.”  And you may be answered with “everywhere and in it all.”  But making room for them to share and wrestle with their walk with God when you aren’t afraid if their wrestling, anger, or doubt is an incredible way to care for those who are grieving.

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8. “That’s really brave.”

When someone is honest about the questions they are wrestling with or the doubts they have in their theology, rather than answering their questions, sitting with them in the asking and affirming their courage makes you an extremely safe place.

9. “How are you?”

They key to this question is to not stop asking. “How are you?” “What does grief look like for you right now?”  not only the week after a loved one is lost but in the months to come.  Remember the anniversaries and birthdays.

10. “It’s not lost on me.”

This is one of my favorite lines Coach Taylor on Friday Night Lights would say to a hurting player. He would look into a young man’s broken eyes and compassionately share “It’s not lost on me” that you’re hurting, that you’re angry, that you don’t know what’s going on.  Friends who remember your grief and bring awareness in a caring and private way are friends whose ministry is never forgotten.


 

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Thanks for stopping by!  My name is Emily Katherine.  On this page you’ll find lessons I’ve learned through my own story, primarily in the sudden loss of my precious Dad on my 22nd birthday.  You’ll find book reviews and recommendations.  And in between you’ll find a few resources I use in teaching middle school through college students.  I would love to hear from you through your comments!  Click the follow button to stay in touch.

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When you don’t want to open your Bible

This was a message I got to share to the students in the WinShape College Program at Berry College in Rome, GA where I am on college ministry staff.  Our focus this year has been on “A Word Centered Life”.  Here is my story on struggling to have one for the past year.

Books quoted: ESV BibleWhen I don’t desire GodHaving a Mary heart in a Martha worldShe Reads Truth: Open your Bible, and Love Does.

10 ways your church can reach millennials

“What in the world are we going to do about millennials?”

This is the question I heard the Church murmur and whisper and more recently shout from the rooftops.  Some have given up, some have fared well, but many churches find themselves confused and desperately needing help when it comes to reaching so many that I call friends born mostly between 1980 and 1995.  A few researchers expand this bracket to 2000, but many draw the line between Millennials and Generation Z somewhere between 1996-1998.

Lazy, entitled, man buns, unemployed, essential oils- while some these words are adjectives and some of these words are nouns, these are the descriptions of our generation.  I won’t go on my soap box of why we are often misunderstood, but I think Tim Elmore says it well in his introduction to his book, Generation iY.   He describes that if a seasoned sailor were out at sea and felt a new gust of wind from a totally new direction, he would not turn and fuss at the wind.  Rather, he would adjust his sails accordingly.  Churches, though, respond to millennials’ new and unique nature in quite polarizing ways.

Of each generation currently making up the population, millennials come in dead last on Church attendance.  I have sat in seminary classes, Christian conferences, and across the table from various ministry personnel who have all found themselves either really excited about the changes millennials offered their churches or really lost as to how to handle them, an important piece of information to have under control considering we are now the largest generation.

So here are a few practical tips to better engage millennials, increasing their attendance and involvement.

     1.  Hire a millennial.

Many (especially GenXers) love to harp on what a lazy generation we are.  We are so unemployed and lazy, yet what many don’t recognize is that many of us reached a working age when the economy was crashing.  Others of us later in the bracket, came to a working age when many healthcare reforms were made, limiting many employers from the jobs they could offer.  There are less and less blue collared jobs as they are being outsourced to various countries where manufacturing needs can be met at cheaper rates.  There are very few full time jobs available.  Employers are no longer coming to colleges and hiring students.  Instead, we spend hours upon hours in a career center and crafting the perfect resume and cover letter, knowing our resume will typically only be viewed for about 45 seconds.

Churches, this can be to your benefit.  Hire a millennial, maybe even part time.  Invite them to meetings where decisions are made that effect your whole congregation and get their input.  The most influential people to millennials are millennials.  Want to influence us?  Show us you believe in our generation by having one of us on your team.

     2.  Be clear about what you’re about.

Millennials are naturally distrusting of large corporations and organizations.  Have a stated purpose and mission somewhere obvious on the wall, in your bulletin, and on your website.  Don’t assume we will tithe because that’s what we’re supposed to do or what we watched our parents do if a clear budget is not accessible.  When you’re hosting an event or launching a new campaign have a clearly stated purpose for it.  Don’t just assume we are behind everything you are doing because we are a part of your organization.  Our membership has to be enticed and maintained and offered a lot of coffee each step of the way.

     3.  Focus on visuals.

I really can’t say this enough.  Maybe when you’re hiring a millennial, hire a graphic designer.  If you publish absolutely anything typed in Comic Sans font or using WordArt you might as well go ahead and throw it in every millennial’s trash can.  Millennials are experts on brand clarity and consistency.  We are masters at social media marketing and this is a way we can really benefit your church and your ministry.  But millennials will rarely be bought in if your bulletin, slideshow, and website haven’t had a serious facelift in the last 3 years, or really the last 3 months.

     4.  Website.

When we are new to town or looking for a new church in town, the very first thing we visit is a website.  Here’s what will bring millennials to your church:

  • aesthetic appeal
  • easy to find times of when to be there
  • stories of people who have been to your church via video
  • clearly stated mission and purpose
  • diversity of ministry staff (race and gender)
  • up to date calendar of events with good graphic design promoting each event

 5.  Singles.

Our generation is marrying later and later.  The average age a millennial marries is around 28 years old.  If your church drops off in the programs and events it offers between high school and young marrieds or young parents, you are dropping off on millennials.

     6.  Offer events that are solely about building community

While we are the most connected generation through social media, smartphones, etc., we are also the generation most starved for community.  Many of us don’t work in an office where we know what’s going on with John in the cubicle next to us’s daughter.  Many of us work from home or coffee shops because our work is photography, graphic design, social media marketing, etc.  Millennials look to the church as a way to bridge true, deep, and authentic connection with others.  If every event is packed with programming, it’s easy to miss the people around you.  Millennials are looking for nights the church all go bowling together, movie nights in the parking lot, or other events that are just about getting to know each other.

     7.  Stop assuming we are useless.

I think this is a way churches are really missing out.  The millennials in your church most likely cannot cross stitch and quilt like the boomers can, but they are creative.  They can reinvent the same systems you have been using forever to check in preschoolers, often by suggesting new technology that could really benefit your ministry.  Ask us questions.  Show us our input is valid and we have a place in the church.

 8.  Offer services on Sunday night.

We are not a crowd that is okay with anything before 10am.  Remember how you used to have that sun rise service for the boomers?  Change it to a sunset service for the millennials and you’re right on track!

   9.  Share stories.

There is power in story and millennials are particularly captivated by them.  Have members of your church share their story through a video or interview on Sunday morning.  Have the person being baptized share their story of coming to know Christ.  Encourage small group leaders to not just teach, but share about who they are.  We want a place where we can know and be known.

     10.  Use social media.

Use it.  Live it.  Breathe it.  Post your sermons, tweet quotes that stood out, put your next big event on your Instagram story.  Reference social media in your sermons.  Create Facebook events for your events.  Create images of quotes from your church others can share to bring more and more people to your page.

Don’t know how to start? See number 1.


What insights do you have?

Comment below.

“I’m coming with you.”

In studying psychology, I’ve been learning about people for a while now.  People never cease to fascinate me.  Everyone’s personalities, expressions, routines, and thoughts are all so different.  Everyone wants to be loved in a different way, needs to be affirmed in a different way, needs to be challenged in a different way.  The way that our Creator has fashioned us is nothing short of elaborate, complex, and beautiful.

And in studying psychology, I’ve learned a lot about how to interact with people.  I sat in a counseling class where we practiced interacting with one another as a counselor would.  This felt awkward and weird, but it has been so foundational for me.


So I downloaded Audible, which you should totally get.  It’s this app made by Amazon where you can purchase recordings of books that have the actual author reading them.  If you’re someone who finds yourself on the highway a lot, like me, it’s a great find.

I’ve had Bob Goff’s Love Does on my bookshelf and feel terrible to say that I just have not had time to read it.  So despite the fact that I had already bought it, I decided to buy it again via Audible and I very quickly found myself wrapped up in this story.

Bob was a high schooler who was ready to get out of town.  He didn’t really love school and dreamed of going to Yosemite, working at a small café and seeking new adventures.  There was a guy that had been at his high school a good bit who was a part of YoungLife, named Randy.  He thought Randy was cool because he had a beard and a motor cycle so they became friends.  When Bob decided to spontaneously go to Yosemite, he went to tell Randy goodbye.  He said that Randy listened to him and said, “Hold on one second, Bob” and ran back inside.  A few minutes later, Randy came out with a book bag and sleeping bag and said, “Hey, I’m coming with you.  Can I catch a ride?”

So Randy went.

I was waiting for the moment in the car when Randy tried to talk Bob out of this.  I was waiting for Bob to share that only after about 20 minutes they turned around and came back.  But that is not how this story went.

Randy stayed with Bob for days.  As Bob was turned down for job after job, Randy just affirmed him that those places didn’t know what they were missing.  When Bob reached his wit’s end, they headed back home.


I found myself speechless as I heard this story and so challenged.

Recently, a friend and mentor who has been through way too much grief in the past year shared to a group of bloggers I am a part of, that it is so important for us to “Go with” people, not to just “stamp truth” on something they are wrestling with, but to go with them into their pain, fear, grief, etc. and love them there.

And I think that we as a culture are afraid of imperfection.  We only know how to be strong and okay and are afraid of those emotions of our own, better yet someone else’s.  But, how much can we serve by going with our friends, neighbors, coworkers, community, etc. into their pain, fear, grief, guilt, sorry, regret, by telling them those feelings are okay.  What if as the Body of Christ were not afraid of these feelings or of moments of imperfections? What if we could walk with people into the darkness so that they can eventually see authentic light?

I think we can all attest to a time when someone tried to tell us something they felt was truth we needed to hear, but in our spirits it was the very last thing we wanted in that moment.

In fact, I had a whole blog written on how to not love people in that way, but I think it is so much more important to talk about how TO love people in this way.

And I think that there is truth to be spoken, but that truth is planted on the most cultivated soil once you have entered their struggle with them, not when it is first being shared.  For even in the process of planting a seed, you have to first till the soil.

This morning, in my Sunday school class we were discussing a passage in 2nd Samuel, when David wants to build the Lord a house. What God tells David is that He chose to live in a tent on purpose.  He didn’t want to be removed from His people and separated from the difficulty of their journey.  He wanted to be in the trenches of their fight against the Philistines.  God even wants to go with us.


May we not fear grief, pain, hurt, sorrow, or regret.  May we press into the victory that is already ours on the other side of those feelings.  But may we not neglect the journey from this side of those feelings to the joyful promised land awaiting.

A letter to my 16 year old daughter on sexuality

I’ve been hesitant to post this and really hesitant to post anything lately.  The Lord has been walking me on a sweet journey of seeing my inadequacies and being blessed by His grace.  Recently, I sat with a few 16 year olds to talk about sex.  What was weird to me was that in a world where they are so inundated with sexualized messages, they were uncomfortable having a conversation about how their bodies were created or what healthy sexuality looks like.  I think one of the worst responses the Church can have to the sexual revolution is silence.

As a project for one of my classes I had to write a letter to my daughter in various stages of life.  I really resonated with the sweet stage of adolescence, both as I work with teenagers and am so freshly emerging from it.

I don’t write this to share all of the wisdom I have or to claim to be an expert, especially in raising a daughter. These were my very honest thoughts that I’ve been encouraged to share.


 

My little girl,

Happy 16th birthday! It’s so hard to believe you’ve grown up so much. I can’t put words to how much I love you and how proud of you I am. You are so smart and so brave and so beautiful and I am so blessed that you are mine. I know this has been a hard year, but there’s a lot to learn from it that I want to share with you. New things have been happening with your body for the past few years, like I’m sure I sound like a broken record to be saying. I know sometimes you hate this. You hate when you really don’t feel like running in PE, but you feel like you can’t say anything to your teacher. You hate those breakouts that come once a month. You hate when your brother asks you if you’re on your period just because you’re frustrated with him. You hate the way that men look at you in restaurants or at the grocery store, because you’re just a little girl, my little girl! It’s also new that you really do desire to be with boys and many of your friends have started having sex. I am so proud of the commitment you have made to saving yourself for marriage. Thanks for being really open with me when that’s hard. I know where you are coming from probably so much more than you believe on all of these things. Yes, sometimes it feels like ALL of your friends are having sex. Sometimes it sucks to be a woman. And sometimes it’s confusing to know what to do with all of those feelings in this phase of life. Don’t forget just how many times we’ve talked about what a bad choice it is to be having sex right now. There is no magic eraser for STDs or the heartache that follows. Your choice is such a wise one that I am so grateful I made too. Also, don’t forget that I am always here when you want to talk about any of this. I know that you’ve been taught many messages between school and church about saving yourself for marriage, but remember there are some things they teach that are really sad and really not true. I know they’ve taught that boys are so full of testosterone and girls have to keep them in line. They told me the same things. The truth is I know you have sexual desires too. All girls do. You’re not weird. It’s completely biological and natural. And boys’ brains are not the pile of meat they are sometimes painted to be. Boys can be really deep and think really beautifully, so give them a chance to be. Also, Christians a lot of times like to teach you that purity is worth it for your husband. Let me get on my soap box here. Purity is important for you. Protect YOUR body and YOUR heart. They’ll go on and on with this idea about how your life begins when the right man pursues you, but your life began 16 years ago. You are not complete when this dream guy comes along, because the truth is he might not. You are just as significant and fulfilled in The Lord without any man.

I know it’s really hard right now that a lot of your friends are having sex. It’s especially hard when those girls are the ones getting guys attention and you’re not- despite how much I know you love hanging out with your dad and I on a Saturday night ;). When I was your age, I really struggled with believing that those guys weren’t giving me attention because I wasn’t pretty enough. I know we’ve talked your whole life about the standard our media sends us that is fake and unattainable and just plain mean, really. I love how comfortable you are in your body. I love watching you dance so freely at weddings, play so fiercely in your games, and just be so comfortable with your friends. But please please remember that when boys aren’t giving you attention because you won’t have sex with them or any of those risky steps along the way we’ve talked about, first, those aren’t guys whose attention you want. But second, your beauty is not defined by their attention or their attraction. The wounds sink deep when you see all of your friends around you with guys when you really want a guys’ attention, but never for a second believe that they would give you attention if ___________________. You never have to change anything about you for the right guy. It’s tempting to meet this need for attention with other things that we’ve talked about too like sexting or looking at porn. I know right now you’re rolling your eyes a little like “oh my gosh, mom, shut up. You literally talk about this all the time.” and I love that you can hear my voice in your head when you start to think about those things. Remember that any image you send never goes away and while it feels like no big deal in the moment, it is. We’ve talked about how porn is so disgusting and can do a lot of really bad things. Baby, it’s a nasty industry full of nasty people and we just can’t support it. Yes, you desire sex. You were created that way. And one day, if you are going to get married, you’ll have an outlet for that passion, but don’t let porn be your outlet, by either becoming it or watching it. You heart is worth so much more than that.

Yes, there has been some conflict with your friends. Girls can be so sweet but also so mean. Let me first remind you to always be a good friend like I’ve seen you be your whole life. So just like we’ve talked about above, girls are making many bad choices at your age and in your social circles. This is not a time to abandon them or to talk about them. Girls are really bad about being emotional bullies. Be a friend.

I hate that we live in a world where we have to talk about these things, but unfortunately they are a part of life. Know you can always talk to me about anything!! I feel like I was just in your shoes.