Month: February 2018

The one and only Hannah Nitz

I have to tell you about this 7th grader I met years ago.  She was impressive even as a 12 year old.  I often tease her that she acted like a 25 year old back then.  It’s true; she was mature, insightful, outgoing, and made everyone in the room feel valued and like her best friend.  We met while I worked at The Chapel in the Jr High department, and she was in my class.  I had the privilege and opportunity to watch her grow over the years.  When Hannah served as the First Glance Board President for four years, I really felt old.

Over the years Hannah has become my friend.  I used to wonder as I watched people become friends with former students how that happens. And then it happened.  Hannah and I stayed connected, and although she served on our board and even was the president, our friendship shifted when I started learning from her.  One day over lunch soon after I found out I was pregnant, I told her I felt like I needed to start a new blog.  To me this was weird. I already had one, and nobody read it.  Why would I start a new one?  I remember so clearly that warm day sitting outside the Mustard Seed and saying, “This doesn’t make any sense, but I feel like I’m supposed to start a blog and announce my healing and pregnancy.  And I feel like I’m supposed to have you help me.”

Within a few days those first three blog posts about my healing and pregnancy were written.  Hannah was the first person I sent them to.  She edited and helped me launch my new blog.   Little did we know that my son would die and blogging would be a way for me to process, inform our friends and family of our grief journey, and hopefully encourage others in their faith.

Hannah has continued to be a resource of information and insight for me, some with this blog.  You should probably thank her because she’s the one that has continued to push me to write, post them on FB, and post the blogs that feel the most vulnerable or scary to write.  I can’t tell you how often I send her one and say “Are you sure I can post this? It feels scary.”

Then a year ago, I invited Hannah to go away for a few days with me, think through, pray about, and brain storm what would happen if we started a conference called “bad-ass women of Akron unite.”  As many of you know, Akron Women on Purpose came from that weekend just months later.  And now we are planning the next conference for March 24th!

The thing I admire most about Hannah and continue to try and learn from is her natural, unconditional love for every person she comes into contact with.  I saw this in Hannah when was she was 12 years old in the Jr High room and still see it now as she approaches 30.  Over the years I have prayed a lot about seeing people as God sees them, and I can honestly say that Hannah does so without much effort.  She genuinely sees the best in people, encourages them towards those things, and sees God honored because of it.  Hands down she does it better than anyone I know.  And yes, I did corner her one day and ask her how she does it because I wanted to learn.  She will tell you the same thing she told me, that this is her spiritual gift.  And anyone who has interacted with her will not deny that it is.

I am so very grateful for the way that God brings people into our lives “to spur one another on toward love and good deeds.” (Heb 12:4)  Hannah is certainly that for me!

This scrapbook page Hannah made me in the 8th grade when she was graduating from my class.

 

Loving a grieving friend

It is not uncommon, unfortunately, that I get a message from someone reaching out because a loved one has just lost a baby.  I got one a couple weeks ago and they asked what they can do to love and support their friend.  I wrote a fairly lengthy message back with some insights that I gained from being on the receiving end after a tragedy.  I thought I would edit them a bit and post them here for others who may be wondering this same question.

Let me start by saying obviously everyone is different so these insights on how to navigate it may differ some from person to person.

  • Let the hard be the hard.  I had super strong faith, I sincerely trusted God and still do. But hard days are still hard and the sorrow is deep. So don’t be afraid to just say “this is terrible.” My dearest friend would say this to me, although with stronger language, and it was oddly helpful.  There is a desire to make it better, to say things  that are encouraging and make it hurt less, but the realitity is it hurts a lot! It doesn’t  mean we don’t love and trust God, but we were also created to have our children with us. So it is hard and it’s ok to just say that and let it be, especially in the beginning.  There will be time and space to be positive and encouraging and send them verses and words of encouragement.  But in the initial shock, just let the hard be the hard.
  • Asking “what can I do” is hard for someone in shock and grief to answer.  The fact is that here really isn’t anything anyone can do.  Plus in that state it’s hard to think on your own what needs done or what you would like. The best was when someone would say “I’m bringing you coffee tomorrow afternoon, if you want to chat we can, if not, that’s ok too.”  If someone just took initiative and suggested something it was easier to know if it would be helpful or tweak the plan rather than to try and think about something on my own.  Be willing to make an offer and don’t be hurt if they don’t need or want it.  Sometimes our temptation is to do something, because WE need to do something, anything.  Make sure what you’re doing is genuinely what’s best for the person in grief.
  • Never ask “do you feel better now.”  Food, distraction, comfort will help get through the impossible minutes.  But, nothing will make the person feel better, so don’t go into the situation with that expectation.
  • Be ok to sit in silence. My most comforting friends are the ones who will just sit and say nothing and let me be sad or stare. There’s so much emotional and mental energy going toward grief.  So to remove the need for conversation the whole time sometimes is nice. I remember asking a friend once, will you just sit RIGHT beside me and watch a movie. I just wanted someone near, but I couldn’t process what was in my mind.  It’s ok to ask occasional questions, but let the person in grief determine the amount of conversation, because even talking can feel overwhelming at times.
  • It’s ok to bring up.  The person who is in grief is thinking about it all the time even weeks and months after the initial lost.  Sometimes we don’t want to “remind people,” but my mind would think “my baby died” every day, hundreds of times, literally.  It’s all my mind wanted to think about.  So bringing it up, asking how they are doing won’t be offensive.  There may be moments that they don’t want to talk about it, or the timing is bad, but be willing to engage the conversation.  I promise it won’t make him/her sadder, they will be grateful that you are saying the words that they are thinking about.  Plus they don’t want to be the downer in the room who talks about the person who died.  I remember thinking, “don’t be the lady who always talks about her dead baby.”
  • Remember the loved one lost.  For myself because Enoch was born with no heartbeat they didn’t even give him a birth certificate.  According to the world he didn’t exist.  But to me, he meant SO much!  The life of my son was significant and my fear is that people will forget.  So I’m always grateful when people tell me they remember him.  I am guessing that’s how most people feel about their lost loved ones too.

These are a few of my initial thoughts, I’m sure there are more.  Over all my encouragements is to walk toward them, love them well, and be willing to sit in the sad and hard.

**I wanted to add this tip from another friend, Courtney, who unfortunately also has walked this road.  “Yes. To all of this. I would add: keep showing up for the person, even when they don’t respond to you. KEEP PURSUING. They might not have the energy to respond the first 20 times, but they NEED you. Don’t take silence as a sign of rejection, but simply as “I just can’t muster the strength to respond right now”

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Monday Momentum – We are free!

For freedom Christ as set us free (Gal 5:1)  God has continued to show me the freedom that Christ really does give.  I have been obsessed with this song since I heard it a few weeks ago!

Christine Cain is on fire in this message.  So much about freedom, about doing whatever it takes for others to know Jesus and to realize people aren’t numbers!  So good!

Here’s your Monday Momentum.