Do you know that the heaviness & sadness you are feeling could be grief?
We often don’t associate grief with anything other than the loss of life but there is a lot of grief related to other things. We grieve the loss of a job, work, lifestyle, faith, hope, love, friends, networks, communities, weather etc. in different ways. Many times it isn’t large or noticeable enough for us to name it as grief, but it is just that.
Let me clarify. The deep longing for that joint in your old neighbourhood that stops you from settling in well in your new hood…that is grief. The inability to move on from the broken relationship or friendship that makes you compare, judge harshly or remain frozen with fear…that is grief. The terror that everyone who comes your way will leave you like your parents did when they died…that is grief. The anger at anyone doing better than you since you didn’t get that promotion or lost that job…that is grief. The laughter and bravado even when everything is falling apart…that is grief. There are so many causes of grief but the current containment measures have brought a rare kind of grief to light.
Many are grieving the loss of Choice.
There is a new set of rules in place. The chips won’t fall in the places we know. The cards are all down and we cannot see a way out. Nothing is the same as before and there is no road map to the future. There is fear at every turn, uncertainty at all other stops, hopelessness under ever cover and tight smiles behind every door. The truth is…many have just realised how limited their choices are and have always been.
Was it always this way? Likely! Did we ever see it as so? Never! Why? There was an illusion of a thousand choices but in reality there were very few. Think about it; educated or uneducated, employed or unemployed, unliked or liked, unfair or fair, safe or insecure, sweet or sour, bad or nice, dark or light and the list goes on. We rarely looked at those doing different as really having an option to succeed.
Did you ever think that you would be at home but someone with a lower income than you would be out and about? Did you ever think your weren’t an essential worker in your company, now you are home and the cleaner is there? Did you ever realise that you would be put into jail for being outside after 7 pm yet the nurse next door can come and go at will?
Life as we knew it has changed and so must we.
People in the credit arms of many banks are stranded because their work meant they were on the road meeting clients but unless they innovate quickly they will be out of jobs. There are no clients to visit, no loans to give, no payments to collect and no growth for their departments. Small businesses selling imported goods from China have no stock, dead stock or no sales because people are saving for food and other essentials. Cab drivers have fewer customers at lower fares and work shorter periods but must still make ends meet. Yet some of the young people around are tired and bored because they cannot party.
When will they realise that life has changed? When will they understand that they cannot go on the same way? Who will tell them no? Who will stop their extravagance? When will they understand that we get exactly what we put into life back so unless they focus on good inputs their outcomes will be a big mess? Will they ever understand the correlation between their mindset, their current station and the future possibilities? They must if they are to survive.
Things must change if we are to find hope.
When the Israelites went into captivity in Daniel 1, the king ordered that the educated and teachable young men of noble birth to be raised as the leaders for the next generation. Many qualified but only four have stories told about them, Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah, later called Belteshazzar, Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-Nego.
The thing that stood out for me is Daniel 1:8, ‘But Daniel purposed in his heart that he would not defile himself…’ He made a conscious decision to remain true to who he knew he was no matter what. He went to pray even when he knew people were plotting against him to catch him at it so they could get him killed. He kept to his pattern regardless of which king was in place or whichever edict was declared.
He lost his ability to choose where to live, how to be educated, when to rise. He lost his freedom of movement. He lost his connection to the homeland. He lost access to his spiritual leaders, the scripture and community to fellowship with. He lost family and friends. He lost more than he ever thought possible but he never lost hope.
His hope for stability was in knowing whose he is and where he is going.
The hope for all of us is in knowing the things that anchor us. Am I harping on the need to know why you are here and what season it is? Absolutely! Why? There is no other way forward. If a man is only here to make money and be able to travel, he has nothing to lean on now. If a pastor only has tithe and offering as his support, he is baseless right now. If a mother has only her children and they are separated right now, she is restless and fearful. If a child only had the coming transition to the next level of education, he or she is lost for sure.
It is ok to feel the sense of loss and there’s no need to pretend all is well when there’s grief. Just don’t get stuck there. Rail, scream, cry and let it out. Lean on a friend and pour it out. Call on your Father in heaven and have it out with him. Then get back up and walk on dealing step by step. Take a step every day to deal with it, take a bite of the grief and digest it bit by bit. Make a pact with yourself to process the realities and feelings leaving nothing to chance therefore growing into true faith.
You can deal and stand strong through any season.
You don’t need the whole world on your side when you have a clear word from and stand in God. He will lead and guide you to the right people at the right time in the right combination to help you stand. He will also make you the right person, at the right time, in the right place and combination to help another stand. Like Daniel, when you have faced the challenge and connected to the reality of God, nothing will ever be impossible again.
You are assigned to this season to become an example of walking with God and changing your corner of the world. Make the choice to acknowledge where you are, deal with the situation and remain standing on His word for it sanctifies and strengthens because it is truth.
Recently I was part of a webinar on crisis communication and it was totally intriguing. Why that webinar? I have decided to expand my range of knowledge and challenge myself to understand different aspects of work deeper. This ensures that once a week I do a webinar in a topic that interests me. So last week I did one in human resources and the one in crisis communication I mentioned earlier. In the crisis communications one, I heard a statement that shifted my axis and settled deep within me;
A crisis is defined as a season of deep or intense difficulty and danger and the current covid19 pandemic fits that definition. We are facing uncertain times ahead with lockdowns taking effect across the world, overdoses from proposed medications, fear and terror about infection rates and tracing challenges, seemingly looming shortages and outages and the general uncertainty of the unknown. There have been and likely will be more job losses as companies grapple to find ways to keep alive and in reality, there are companies that will be brought to their knees and never recover.
Don’t waste a crisis is such a loaded statement because many of us waste crises.
How do we waste crises? Crises have the ability to strike us deaf and dumb, catch us in sticky mud like back cotton and keep us stranded. Crises shake our beliefs and desires as they strip away our sources of strength thus hinder our ability to walk forward and deal with life. I know it sounds odd to say that we can waste a crisis but think about it for a bit. Did others find themselves in crisis before us? Yes! Did they ALL survive? No! Who did? The ones who took a different look at life!
For many of us, our default setting when trouble or challenges come our way is to ask why or why me. How about changing the questions to why not me or who else should go through this? I know it sounds like madness but that small shift changes perspectives completely. It is a lot like the half full half empty perspective of the glass and that is what I want us to think about.
Every crisis has a lesson for each one who goes through so why not focus on that.
If there is a lesson in every crisis then can there be another way of dealing with it? Most certainly. When we say don’t waste a crisis we mean, learn all you can from every crisis that you may have the right tools for the path ahead. Why? Life beyond the crisis is never the same as life before it thus a new set of skills are needed to navigate this life. How do you navigate a path you have never been down if you haven’t developed a new set of skills to deal? You can’t.
How do we harness a crisis?
Shift Perspective: Challenges come to make us strong and the acceptance that there is something to learn shifts our ability to overcome and accomplish more.
Ask Questions: Questions are the best learning tools you have in your arsenal. Ask about root causes, trends, rising numbers, locations, patterns of communication, failures, successes and anything else you may be curious about. If you cant find answers from your questions, change the set of questions and keep asking no matter what.
Be keen: Keep your eyes peeled or open to see. What is there to see? Reasons for the situation, answers to questions, new phenomena, causes, challenges…anything that helped contribute to the situation, provided solutions and possible lessons.
Right Conversations: You will find that not many people see things the way you do and will either think you are mad or discourage you from this new perspective. When your mind shifts or begins to shift, find people who will challenge the thought process without demeaning your position. If you get dismissed, review the response and assess its validity but keep your ground on your thoughts, they will make sense
Reflect & Review: Take notes of key lessons, capture your key thoughts and assess them. Take time to think through it over and over until you see the realities coming to mind. Read others comments and ideas to grow your own but capture your thoughts that you can review and deepen them for growth.
Stop and Listen To God: Our sure radar is God for he never sleeps or slumbers nor forsakes us. His answers are sure and His word is reliable. His ways lead to life and His love is eternal. He is the answer to all our questions and His thoughts are so much higher than ours that we will understand more as He brings us clarity.
Remember, that every crisis make us bigger, better and badder. Remember that no matter where it comes from, we will come out better because we will never again waste any event in our lives. Remember that God has allowed this situation to build us up and make us stronger and He has the solution.
There are times in life when the questions are many more than the answers and this is one of those times for me. Often it’s not even about my personal life and the things unfolding there but about the lives of others and the things unfolding there. This has continued to affect my perspective in life for the better.
I grew up happy and relatively uninhibited by life because of the love of those around us. One family that was part of this happy and strong foundation is the Neimeyer family…Larry, Judy, Heath and Ronan. We lived in the same neighbourhood, carpooled to school, went on joint family outings and holidays. It was four adults and five children between the ages of 9 and 5 years. Wow…I see it in a different light now that I have a son in that bracket…mad respect to the folks…mad respect. I remember trips to Naro Moru River Lodge and Naivasha, meals at each other’s homes, playing in the back yard till night fall and being dirty like crazy. The thing that stands out from that time was the warmth, love and family. For about five years life was idyllic, and then came end of primary school and boarding school in high school and we lost touch.
Last year I met Uncle Larry at a restaurant and we joked about how great it would be have coffee soon and catch up. Even as I had every intention of doing so, it didn’t happen as life took on a life of its own. I reconnected with Aunt Judy on Facebook and found some really amazing photography she was taking. Here’s a secret… pictures of scenery and plant life have me hooked without trouble. Anyway, we would chat and I have indeed used some of her pictures in my articles. What none of us could conceive was that 2014 would throw a curveball bigger than a football field.
Early this year Aunt Judy was diagnosed with cancer. It hit hard because I was so used to her sunny disposition and energetic pace in life I didn’t know how to take it. I watched from the side-lines for a while to see if this would change and to my amazement very little changed. All I saw was courage and encouragement for all of us and when she was down she asked for prayers for courage and strength. Every post I saw and still see celebrates life and the daily good. Everyday meant that there was something to smile about. Then I say the most amazing thing I have ever seen…My Tribute from Uncle Larry about all Aunt Judy’s attributes from A to Z. I cried. I cried because of the depth of love and commitment that this had taken to put together. I cried because I had never seen something like this done. I cried as this amazing celebration of life, love and companionship. I was totally blown away
One Tuesday my sister Tibaga and I went to see them at home. The only thing I can is that it was like time travel. The house is the same one we used to go to with the same warmth, love and welcome. I could see all of us running around, through the kitchen and sitting round the side and back in. The colours were what I remembered…it was like coming home. The heart and soul I remembered from this home was thriving…it was a strong healthy heartbeat. It was true to who I knew Uncle Larry and Aunt Judy to be. The only difference was Aunt Judy isn’t well in the body but her spirit is on fire.
There is a certainty that amazed me. She talks about how excited she is to see people come through her doors. She keeps you in stitches about things that have happened in the last few months. She talks about how we will all certainly die. She talks about songs she wants sung at her funeral. Yet, she is deeply concerned about brining joy to those around her. They shared how they take cards with them when she goes for chemo because they need to share the peace they have found. They talk of nurses and doctors also need the encouragement because they have to deal with frequent losses of their patients. They talk about how everyone there struggles with the pain regardless of creed or faith. It struck me that as they share these stories they smile at each other, finish each other’s sentences and are at peace. It is amazing. We could have stayed there for a couple of days but we understood that she needed to rest and we needed to get home.
It was surreal to see the new depth of understanding of life on display in front of us. It wasn’t denial or simple acceptance. It was like a mantle they have accepted with joy and expectation, walking through and working through the pain everyday yet still looking for the plans and purpose of God in everything. Everyday Aunt Judy posts something on Facebook that keeps us abreast of her progress and following her has taught me a lot in the past few months and left me with more questions than answers as is usual in life.
I am left wondering:
Am I so clear, certain and confident in my relationship with God that nothing will shake my belief in Him regardless of the circumstances?
Can I honestly tell God when and where it hurts and allow Him to heal it or help me deal with it?
Am I eager to follow in His footsteps even when I can’t see the way ahead?
Is my heart and soul so connected to God that I see the hurt and pain in the world and do something about it?
Is my heart so connected to God that I can see good in all circumstances and celebrate it with Him?
Do I really believe God’s word that:
And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. Romans 8: 28
And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow — not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 8:38-39
For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Jeremiah 29:11
My heart is still working on these questions. This year I have seen more people I know leave this world than any other year in my life and so the questions are asked over and over and linger a lot longer now. Yet I choose to rise and put my hope in God for where else can I go.
If I raise my eyes to the hills, from where will my help come?
My help comes from Adonai, the maker of heaven and earth.
He will not let your foot slip — your guardian is not asleep.
No, the guardian of Isra’el never slumbers or sleeps.
Adonai is your guardian; at your right hand
Adonai provides you with shade —6 the sun can’t strike you during the day or even the moon at night.
Adonai will guard you against all harm; he will guard your life.
Adonai will guard your coming and going from now on and forever.
Now faith is the substance of things hoped for and the evidence of things not seen.Hebrews 11:1
I have been thinking about faith and hope and realised how I cannot have one without the other. If faith and hope are so intertwined, how does one connect with it? They are not emotions but realities I must connect to that will make the walk of my richer every day.
Faith is in simple things like opening our eyes in the morning, getting out of bed, breathing etc. Hope is in simple things like going to work with a big plan, working hard so as to do something with the family. We cannot make plans in a vacuum. We cannot have plans for the future unless we have hope for the same.
There has to be something our lives are hinged on. However, in reality, the hinges differ for everyone. For some it is their personal abilities, others it’s their connections and upbringing and others it is their faith. I choose to hinge my life on faith because it the one thing I have found to stand the test of time.
One thing I have learned in the last few years is that faith grows as I exercise it. Faith is neither foolish nor blind but is grounded in the reality of a relationship with God. It is not sitting around doing nothing and waiting for things to work out. Faith is a connection with God that provides insight and direction. This connection brings out the best in each of us and gives us the balance we need to live and be productive citizens in this life.
Find faith in God an anchor your life to it. This doesn’t mean that the walk will be easy; rather it means that it will be manageable and well-directed.
O little town of Bethlehem How still we see thee lie Above thy deep and dreamless sleep The silent stars go by Yet in thy dark streets shineth The everlasting Light The hopes and fears of all the years Are met in thee tonight
This is simple but profound. In a small town in the middle of a little known province, a mother gave birth to a baby boy who would grow up to be the Savior of the world. This was no normal affair. He was born in the cowshed, with cows, sheep and goats and other animals watching. His first bed was a cattle feeder as his mother sat close by on the milkman’s stool and dad sat on a bale of hay. Yet, the shepherds and wise men from afar came to worship him, the angels joined in chorus and a wonderful star shone above.
How often are we unable to see the outcome of our current situation and despair because of all that is around us? Our hopes and dreams are met in Christ and only He and the Father know the unfolding. When we trust Him the plans He has for us become a wonderful reality. Joy can be found in the simple things like breathing in and out, watching children play, thinking wonderful thoughts about those around us and so much more. The beauty of life is in the simple things and these are the things we must focus on.
Take time to watch life and see the simple things. Connect to God and understand the depth of the simplicity He calls us to live by. It is a wonderful day to be alive.