Tag Archives: sadness

more than our sorrow

He sat down at the table with me briefly while I ate and he waited on food to go from the cafe. Since he knew of the chaos raging, not much had to be said. I looked up and tried to squint in the way we try to squint when working to hold back tears that we are tired of.

The same way we squint that usually fails when someone knows of the raging chaos.

As tears began to crack and run down the edge of my runny nose, he said, “It’s like a bomb got dropped in the backyard.”

More tears. Nods. Then conversation about weather, salads, and other things neither of us cared about.

I’ve noticed a sense of being caught between surveying the damage and trying to move. The quote housed about my desk that refrains often in my own mind and heart when things seems unbelievably devastating felt a little out of reach at this point. To quote it, even to myself, felt like cheating the grief and confusion and fury and loss that was gripping everything inside of me:

We fill the craters left by the bombs
And once again we sing
And once again we sow
Because life never surrenders. 

– Anonymous Vietnamese poem

I could not imagine myself filling the craters yet, much less singing and sowing because I could not yet fathom or feel the extent of the damage, I could not sense the size of the crater left by the bomb in our backyards. I could only survey the damage. And with every glance, its complexity became deeper and harder to wrap my hands around. I would find myself staring into the crater and disappearing in my thoughts. I was beginning even to have trouble remembering what used to be in it’s place. All I could sense and see was a crater. Impossible to fill.

But somewhere, a sense that we, in community, always fill the craters, kept me from jumping in completely to the loss. Phone calls to friends and mentors. Visits to kitchen counters and living room floors. Weeping and asking and not answering.

And then, somewhere, even while still surveying the damage left by the bombs, something somewhere insists that we are our sorrow, but we are also more than our sorrow. We are also our hopes and dreams and work and errands and children and families and lives and friends and promises of the future. “We are more than our sorrow” Thich Nhat Hanh says, and so we enter into the reality that is the only thing stranger than the reality of the chaos. We enter into the reality that we are all of these things at once, in our humanity, and we must be all of them at once to find a way to move.

And so we move.
Because we are more than our sorrow, even as real as the sorrow may be.

Michigan Ave, Chicago

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the loudness of silence | one year of www.mosthopeful.com


I was sitting with a good friend a few nights ago over a last minute dinner. We’d made jokes already about who was late (me, as always) and about what it was going to cost me (dinner, even though it never does).

At some point in the meal, after we’d been laughing and harassing and deciding all kinds of things, I realized that we had grown very quiet. But it’s the kind of realizing that it’s gotten quiet after it’s been quiet a while and yet I hadn’t realized no one was talking.

(There’s the other kind of silence, you know, when all parties are dying to speak but no one can think of a thing to say, either because they are bored senseless or the moment has grown too thick for words. This night was neither of those kinds of silences.)

I looked up at my buddy and knew in that moment that the last year for both of us––although in very different ways––had been both hellish and life-giving. We had endured all kinds of things, and moved unsurely but necessarily to the other side of what was lost, and began looking toward what will be found.

We are both still looking, of course, as everyone who is telling the truth about anything at all will admit that he is still looking for what will be found.

But in that moment when I realized no one was talking, but all was well, I realized how much I appreciate this kind of silence. It’s a kind of silence that is no longer pregnant with impending misery and loss and sadness, but has been there when misery and loss and sadness have been there. It’s a kind of silence that is no longer awkward and wishing for words, but has pushed through to where nothing needs to be said, and nothing else has to be made known. It’s a kind of silence that speaks to the fact that while there’s not much to talk about, that means there’s not much to talk about––which means that of all the things the space between me and my buddy has had to hold onto and make sense of, tonight it need only make sense of good food and good laughter and good memories of time when we have carried heavy silences together.

It’s a loudness of silence that makes me thankful for the last year. A year that looked like the end of all things, but ended up being the beginning of all things new.

New hopes for what God is doing through his church in the world.
New hopes for what God is doing through his people in their
businesses, offices, homes, churches, classrooms, streets, neighborhoods, banks, schools,

New hopes while though we feel unsure, unable, unwilling, unfeeling, unhelpful
a year later
after trying

we still feel, above all, most hopeful.

Most hopeful about the future.
Most hopeful about the stories that will be told about the past.
Most hopeful about what God is doing in the world.
Most hopeful about how God will bring his church to life to join him.
Most hopeful for the way the stories of pain and sadness will resolve.
Most hopeful about the way the stories of excitement and anticipation will continue.
Most hopeful about the coming of God’s great kingdom.

Here’s to one year of mosthopeful.com, and all that has it represents of things lost, learned, and loved.

We cannot walk alone.

Pine Tree Dr.


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from the archives: closing the book

In reflecting on the upcoming one-year anniversary of mosthopeful.com on August 23, I’m throwing some of the posts that readers have looked at the most back into the mix. Thanks for allowing me the space. It’s been a most humbling experience.


View original post from January 17, 2012

closing the book | Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close

I cannot remember the last time I’ve fallen so deeply into a novel. I’ve said for many years that I’m not grown up enough to read fiction, so I mostly stick with memoirs and textbooks.

After finishing Foer’s “Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close,” I’m sticking to my guns and saying I’m not grown up enough for fiction,

but that it is surely time for me to start growing up.

A better summary can be found HERE, but in a single swipe of great injustice, I’ll try: it’s a story of a young boy whose father was killed in the 9/11 attacks. It is his parallel journeys through finding a lock that a mysterious key of his father’s opens, and through a child’s honest and sharp grief of losing a father on “the worst day ever.” I often found myself with tears about to break, just after a laugh would suddenly erupt. I felt more human while reading than I’ve felt in a very long time.

What I noticed the most were the dozen times that I would find myself shielding my eyes from the upcoming lines, often closing the book in the middle of a conversation, an argument in motion, a story in telling, a memory in recollection.

I knew I wasn’t ready for it.

I knew I couldn’t bear to go on. Yet.

So I shut the book; I looked around to wonder why no one else was as worried about the impending outcome as me. And then finally, after the not-knowing would outweigh the not-wanting-to-know, I would flip the book back open, hold my breath, and …


I read books and journal articles constantly about clinical and community work because I want to do justice with the beyond-generous people who offer me their beyond-personal stories as we look to do hopeful and honest work together in therapy.

But I’ve never closed a text on grief and grieving because I couldn’t bare to read what came next. My heart doesn’t bleed out onto the pages of an article about responses of communities to children who lost parents on September 11. A text can name and normalize complex emotions, but the voice in a well-written novel can make me feel it.

Make me feel it so much that I have to close the story and catch my breath.

And you can close the book and catch your breath until you know that you must find out what happens in a novel. And precisely in those closed-book moments, I think we are being honest with ourselves, and the teller of the story––and ourselves when we are the teller of the story––honest in that we simply can’t bare it anymore, and we must take a breather if we are to remain human. The thickness of our humanity is often more than even we can tell or hear or feel about.

Textbooks make it clean. Novels make it raw. Living voices make it true.

So we have to do whatever it takes to finish hearing the stories.

The stories of poverty.

Of abuse.

Of abused power.

Of arrogant leadership.

Of selfless givingship.

Of painful loss.

Of ridiculous loss.

Of silent suffering.

Of resilient sufferers.

Of global conflict.

Of über-local conflict.

Of the conversations and stories of the flesh-and-blood people who are acting in those roles as antagonist and protagonist and an(pro)tagonist.

If it takes closing the book for a few moments to catch our breath before we say, “Go on. If you have to tell, I have to know…”


I’m a better person for feeling what the book invited me to feel. I’m sure I’ll keep reading textbooks and articles, but it’s time for me to grow up into a deeper humanity and brave the world of fiction for all that it can help me see and feel. For all that it can help me hear. And then listen to.

It feels necessary as part of living and leaning into the kingdom.

Even if it takes closing the book multiple times over to catch my breath before losing it again.

Cape Town, South Africa

RELATED POSTS | Fahrenheit 451 and Mrs. Kee | Narrowing the Voices

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ten years | a guest post by ashley gill

ten years later

Ten years after the suicide of her sister, these words speak to the experiences of grief, healing and community by a sister over the ten years since her loss. You can read more of Ashley’s work by following her blog “There is no later, this is later.” Thanks, Ashley, for sharing your words. 


In the early morning of this day ten years ago, I slept in blissful ignorance. When my dad woke me up, I opened my eyes to see his, red, but dry. My blissful ignorance vanished as he spoke.

I can count on my two hands the days that have passed in the past ten years without thinking about my sister. When she sneezed, it sounded like she was yelling. When she walked, her right foot stuck out ever so slightly at the wrong angle. She hated board games, and changing plans. She drove a hideous car, the horn screaming from the red frame like a dying animal. She was great at being a sister. She was a good listener. She quickly admitted when she was wrong, and forgave even faster. She taught me how to love without even realizing it. She never owned a cell phone, never had a Facebook account; she is forever nineteen years old.

I’m not sixteen anymore. I feel like a completely different person. It still hurts to remember her, to think about her for too long. I am not writing this to dwell on the past or to make a shrine to someone I’ve lost. The reason for this post is to thank all the people that have been in my life for these past 10 years. I wish I could list you all by name, but it would take ages and I would of course probably forget more than one.

So I put you in groups.

My family. We talk. We talk about Meghan and we laugh about all the silly things she did. I have never once felt afraid or guilty about bringing up her name. When my parents lost their daughter, they did not forget about their other children. They loved us well. My brother stopped yelling at me. He let me sleep on a mattress in his room for the first week. My extended family never counted the cost. They traveled for miles, just to sit with us. They helped me get ready for my prom. They took pictures at my high school graduation. They sent me birthday cards. Years later, they acknowledge that it still hurts.

Meghan’s friends became a part of my family. They talked for hours on the phone. They listened to me recount all the memories, trying not to forget. I got to sing with them while we all cried. They love Mom and Dad like they are their own parents. They love my brother and me like we are their siblings.

In high school, I had two best friends. They never made me feel dumb for being sad at the wrong time. They threw me a surprise birthday party when I thought my birthday had forever been ruined. They tried to make me laugh, even when I felt guilty for smiling at anything. Through trips to Lubbock, a certain Italian food place, and countless other tiny things; they made what could have been the worst days of my life into some of the best. They continue to be my best friends.

Over the past years, I have made so many good friends who never met my sister. They have remembered her birthday, listened to my stories, asked questions about her, and asked to see her picture. They acknowledge and validate a part of my life they likely don’t understand.

My brother hasn’t always been known for having the best judgment. But he married this girl that is fantastic. It’s been a joy to have a sister again. Like a breath of fresh air, Klaire, my niece, was born in March, three years ago.

You have all been the bandages God has used to patch up a wound I never thought would heal. He has used your hugs, letters, phone calls, laughter, time, money and flowers to show me that He is good. He can create beauty from ashes. And He does. Every day.

Some of you don’t believe in Him the same way I do, but He’s used you just the same. This restoration of my heart is what He’s done for us all. He’s taken our shame and guilt and replaced it with Goodness. He is the Great Physician. Even though I’ve doubted Him, I’m reminded, today more than ever, that He is good and He heals.

Grief is the most difficult thing I have ever experienced. I miss my sister very much. I wish things could have happened differently. But I think she was healed too. Judging from the sixteen years that I knew her, I think Meghan would probably want to thank you for taking such good care of me.

You smell like a banana!


For more work on grief, loss, resilience and faith, click HERE. 

For Rayna Bomar’s guest post “A little help from his friends” click HERE

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on grief | a collection of work

Click any of the images below for past reflections on grief and trauma, loss and losing, and the kind of mix of hopelessness and hopefulness that always accompanies both. Here, again, is a favorite quote on grief:

“Real criticism begins in the capacity to grieve because that is the most visceral announcement that things are not right. Only in the empire are we pressed and urged and invited to pretend that things are all right – either in the dean’s office or in our marriage or in the hospital room. And as long as the empire can keep the pretense alive that things are all right, there will be no real grieving and no serious criticism.”

+ Walter Brueggeman, The Prophetic Imagination

Remember Me Commemorative Walk for Homicide-Loss Survivorsa time for everything under the sunheavy boots, i pinched myself, extremely loud and incredibly closejohn chapter 11, lazarus, jesus, mary, marthalazarus, mary, martha, jesus, death, grief, time, too lategrief, losing, loss, death, sudden death, violent deathgrieving in public, grief and the news, sadness, publicity, gossip

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