The Way to Pentecost: The Empty Tomb

Hello readers and friends. I hope you all had a wonderful Easter weekend. Today I’m going to begin a study series from the moment of resurrection to day of Pentecost. I know the stories of the empty tomb, the road to Emmaus, the doubting of Thomas, but I’ve never taken the time to just read and study what gospel has to share. I invite you to study this with me as Pentecost approaches.

But for today, let’s talk about that empty tomb.

Photo by Pisit Heng on Unsplash.com

Each of the gospels tells a different story. From which women went exactly to what they found there. But also remember that each of these gospels were written for specific groups of people and came from the oral tradition first. There are a few things they agree on.

First, the stone was rolled away. The body was not there. In some versions, there were burial shrouds present. In others, they didn’t even enter the tomb. But all accounts agree on the stone rolling away, and the tomb being empty

Second, someone always announces the fact that Jesus has risen. In Matthew it was from an angel, in Mark and Luke it was a man (or two) in white, and in John it was Jesus, himself. But this event is made very clear what has happened. If there is any confusion, it doesn’t last long.

And finally, women were the first at the tomb. Specifically, Mary Magdalene is mentioned in all four gospels. And in all four gospels, word of the missing body of Jesus is shared with the disciples from these women.

I know that Matthew’s gospel was specifically written to the Jewish community as a bridge between the old and new testament. It’s interesting that an earthquake is included only in this gospel. I wonder if the Jews who read this account thought of the Israelites in Exodus 19:18 when they approached Mount Sinai as God descended on to the mountain, how the whole mountain trembled. Was the earthquake here in Matthew also signifying the presence of God in the resurrection?

In Mark there were women who witnessed the empty tomb and the announcement that Jesus had risen who were too afraid to say anything. It was only Mary Magdalene that ends up sharing the information with the disciples after her direct encounter with Jesus. In other accounts, more women shared the news, but there were probably some women who didn’t share the news with others out of fear. It is a challenge to remind us to share what the Spirit puts on our heart, despite the fear that may hold us back.

Luke is my favorite gospel in how meticulous he seems to write each scene. I imagine the interviews he had with people who were trying to recount exactly who was at the tomb that morning. He begins to list the names of some of the women, but then adds the “others” at the end. It would make sense that this would be a good number of women coming together to take care of Jesus’ body that day, both for safety as women traveling anywhere together and power in numbers considering they would have to convince the guard to let them in.

But John has my favorite scene. The one where Peter and John race to the tomb. John gets there first, but Peter goes inside the tomb first. The funny thing about this was that this is supposed to be coming from John’s perspective, so he had to let his readers know that he won the race to the tomb before Peter. But regardless, it isn’t revealed to either of them that Jesus has risen. That message is saved for Mary Magdalene to share. And according to both John and Mark, it was she who saw Jesus first, before anyone else did. She seems to be the costar in this story. The woman of seven demons who supported Jesus financially throughout his ministry. It was she who spoke those first words to the disciples, He has risen.

Whether it was the difference of eye-witness accounts or it was the emphasis the writer wanted to make to their audience, all of the stories agree that Jesus Christ rose from the dead and would make himself known to his followers for the next 40 days in many different ways. From Jerusalem to Galilee to right outside Bethany as he makes his final farewell. The tomb was only the beginning.


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Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month: Stillbirth 2014

This is the third part of the story of my first stillbirth in November 2014. The First and Second parts are linked in this sentence, but this was probably the most comprehensive and cohesive post of the three.

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Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month: Miscarriage 2013

This post was written on April 26, 2013, after I found out that there was no heartbeat in my first pregnancy, before I actually had the miscarriage. I wrote this blog because I felt like I had told so many people that I was pregnant, and I didn’t want to have to go back and tell them all that I wasn’t anymore.

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The Month of October

This month is Infant and Pregnancy Loss Awareness Month. On October 15th, we light a candle at 7pm to remember the babies we have lost.

I’m a loss mom. I’ve had one miscarriage, followed by two stillbirths. We are so grateful that after these losses we had our beautiful rainbow baby, who is now three. But we know that isn’t the story for everyone. We mourn with our friends who have had similar journeys, and pray for comfort and love for those still waiting for rainbows.

This month is going to be incredibly busy for my family, as we prepare for a move as well as the season of holidays that is fast approaching. But I want to share a few blog posts that I have written in the past over the next few weeks, parts of my journey some of you may not know. So, each Friday I will share a blog post from the past regarding my personal journey or some reflection on that journey.

If these resonate you, if you are going through something similar, and especially if you are grieving, know that you aren’t alone. Feel free to comment with your own story or email me at katyslifestory@gmail.com. And always remember, you are loved, you are worthy, you are valuable just as you are, no matter where you are in your story or what the next chapter may bring.

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Community, Take Two

Last week, I talked about how I lost trust in community over the last 10 years, but especially more recently. A lot of you reached out publicly and privately, online and in person, to share your own frustrations with specific communities in your life. It is always encouraging to know I’m not alone, but my heart breaks that communities at large have become so fractured.

My own observations feel that this has been a long time coming. The pandemic was just the physical manifestation of things that have been happening for a while. In my life time, we have had large established entities fail us. We no longer have the security of our schools since Columbine and Sandy Hook. We no longer have the security of our American soil after 9/11. We no longer have the security of buying a home or our economy after the recession and housing crisis. Even in the last year, we have seen failings in our legal system, corporations, and many more, even in our own churches.

And in this pandemic, there has been no consensus in our government or even in our medical field. While ER doctors who are on the brink of breakdown are begging people to get vaccinated, we have nurses who are mourning the loss of their job because they don’t trust the vaccine. I have seen people be berated for wearing masks in a grocery store, while others are yelled at for not wearing them at all.

But regardless of how or why, which I’m sure people with much more expertise that I have are already trying to figure it out, I think we can agree that community is broken. But, it’s not gone forever. We were made for community. I truly believe that it will break through, that somehow through compassion and conversation, wounds will heal.

I’m in a unique position right now. While waiting for our impending move to a new home (the house is still being built so we have to wait until that is done), I have been taking the time to figure out what I am looking for in building or joining communities moving forward.

First, healthy boundaries. I am choosing to trust my own voice given to me by God to remind myself that I am valuable and worthy of any community I choose to join. In the past, when I’ve moved to a new area, I always started with a posture of proving my worth by exhausting myself in busyness so that people in that community would label me in positive light. Without that being my goal anymore, I can now focus on developing healthy relationships, making commitments when I’m ready and feel that I can devote the time and energy required.

Second, finding places that don’t participate in gatekeeping. I want to find places and groups where anyone would feel welcome, safe and loved walking through the doors. No matter how long they stayed, they didn’t feel judged and were met not with a put together attitude but one of humility and love.

Third, finding people who lead with love, that are willing to sit in the tension of differing opinions, devoted to listening with humility and being okay with not having everything figured out. None of us have all the answers, though we have lots of opinions. Trite, cliched comments that attempt to sweep others under the rug need not apply.

And finally, having an awareness for the needs of the community. Not just in service projects, but in learning how to develop relationships with people who don’t look like them, think like them, talk like them. Leading the conversations with questions and curiosity instead of judgment and close-mindedness.

Our communities are fractured, but I still have hope. I have already begun to develop relationships with people who have hearts like the ones I described above. I see that as a sign that God is guiding me. I will continue to pray for our communities, that God moves in big ways. And I look forward to seeing where we will find these places and people that will make a difference that we desperately need.

Trusting my Community (Part 1)

I want to disclaimer this last post of the series. And it will be in two parts. In talking about trusting my body, trusting my own voice, I was moving from a place where I questioned those things to a place where I’m finally listening to them. This first of two posts is about the opposite, and it is coming from a place of grief, confusion, anger, and sadness. But I need to share it.

I have lost trust in my community.

This is not just about the crazy stuff happening in our country, though it is a part of it. This is something that I haven’t really addressed for the past 10 years, mostly because I’ve blamed myself, that I wasn’t consistent enough, wasn’t giving enough, wasn’t thoughtful enough, grateful enough. That’s why I wake up on a random Saturday morning and see other people celebrating their years and decades long friendships with people who have been there for the ups and downs, and I just start crying.

It really hit hard when my second daughter’s 5 year stillbirth anniversary came and went and no one reached out. I get it. It’s a family anniversary of a sad milestone. Something I can journal about and talk to a therapist and reach out to loss mom groups and take that initiative myself, right?

It hurts because I grew up with the notion as a people pleaser that I needed to be there for people as a way to show them how to be there for me. What a difference it made to acknowledge anniversaries and pain in their life, and that if I did it consistently, the right way, and was there for people, then they would do the same and be there for me. If I could anticipate their needs, then they would anticipate mine in return. It’s a weird return on investment perspective that never seemed to work out in reality. And while I’m moving away from being a people pleaser and unlearning all these expectations, I don’t know how to build relationship with people outside of this model.

But it’s not just people. It’s organizations who portray a family-like or team-like atmosphere, but end up getting all caught up in the programs and the goals and the initiatives and lose sight of the people. The need for volunteers or for people to come to them instead of reaching out and building relationships beyond buildings. It’s making decisions that exclude or abandon whole groups of people. It’s the feeling of not belonging when you or someone you love walk through the doors.

I know what it’s like to not feel heard, not feel seen, not belong. Decisions being made without you in mind because you are a minority. After my first stillbirth, I realized how much I didn’t belong in the community I was a part of. I didn’t have kids, and I had to explain it to every new person I met. And there wasn’t a place for me, unless it was a place of service, while others were getting served. But the reality was that I was drained and I needed so much, but I wasn’t the right demographic. They didn’t know what to do with me, and they wanted me to figure it out.

And that’s what I did. I looked for other communities. And I found some. And I became a part of them, but after our kid was born, I realized that we no longer fit. We didn’t belong, again. So, I went back to the original communities thinking that now I could finally belong. But being marginalized and spending time with other people who have been hurt and marginalized changed me. I kept seeing groups of people getting left out again and again. And I knew I couldn’t stay.

But now, I’m really alone. It feels like people are too busy or I’m too much of a burden, that the timing is always off or I’m just not the kind of person people want to invest in. I feel like everyone is still Facebook friends with me, but they have all unfollowed me and I’m talking into the wind or the abyss.

Anytime I write about this pain, I immediately delete it. It sounds too angry. It sounds too bitter. People are going to get mad because I’m not being grateful for the things they have done in the past or I should speak up more or not be such a hard person to be around in the first place. That I did this to myself.

There is some truth to that. We are moving out of the neighborhood we have lived in for 12 years, moving into a new city where we really don’t know anyone. We left the church where we were members for almost 14 years, without any real plan or place to plug into. I lost a lot of friends during my pregnancy loss season and didn’t make many new mom friends (thanks COVID). And on top of all that, I am horribly inconsistent because I get overwhelmed easily and forget what day it is sometimes. But I’m tired of carrying this burden. I’m tired of feeling alone.

But if I’ve learned anything, I know we are never truly alone. Yes, I believe God is walking through this season with me, but I also believe that other people feel this way too. Or they have been there. I believe we are made for community, even those who are introverted and socially awkward. And I know that it will get better, that all will be revealed in God’s perfect timing. So, I choose to share this to show others their thoughts and emotions are not wrong, their pain and hurt is valid and real, and you are worthy of love. And maybe, just maybe, this confession will lead me to the community I long for.

Trusting My Voice

I used to describe myself as a people pleaser the way an interviewee would say their weakness is just being too committed to their work. I didn’t understand how detrimental it was to try to please people. To make people happy. That doesn’t sound bad, right? But what it did was put undue responsibility on myself to regulate other people’s emotions and tempers and views of who I was. Things that I had absolutely no ability to control. Still, I was consumed in wanting people, anyone really, to see me in a positive light, because my whole identity was hanging on that opinion.

In the midst of all this worry and anxiety about what other people thought about me, I lost my own voice. I didn’t set up healthy boundaries. I always had an excuse for others, but never excused myself. I would break down if someone confronted me about how they felt I needed to change or how I disappointed them in some way. Shame became the guide in my life, either by trying to avoid it or just letting it consume me.

Something changed over the last year. Along with learning to trust my own body, I started building space around me. Space to sit in stillness and listen to the Spirit’s whisper reminding me who I was. Reminding me that I had a voice of value. Reminding me that I no longer needed to let shame lead my decisions or overpower my thoughts. And as my voice grew louder, it had some things to say.

  • I have the power to say no. Even if I have said yes in the past. Even if I said yes to begin with. I can still say no. This requires me to slow down and start listening to my body, to God, to my own bandwidth. No longer can I fill up my days with busyness. Busyness was a way I could escape from the shame and the guilt of not measuring up to other people. Saying yes until I was burnt out was how I showed others that I was dependable, to show that I cared. But I could never balance it all, and something else in my life would always be left wanting. So saying no gave me the power to create space.
  • I purposefully create space. Space for body breaks. Space to sit with God and with my breath. Space for days when I do absolutely nothing. For me, one of those days is Monday. I don’t set appointments on Mondays. They are the days I recover from full weekends. I don’t do housework on Mondays. They are unproductive days to the outside eye, but they are so necessary. And if Monday doesn’t work, then it’s a different day. I’m not rigid in the structure, but I make sure that there are at least a couple days like this in my week. They are an important reminder that I have value even when I’m not producing. I get to just be me.
  • I get to define me. When I was a young married, I would scour the internet and books for information on how to be a good whatever. Wife. Christian. Person, in general. I thought I needed some definition to fulfill. And if it wasn’t research, then it was how other people thought I was doing. Did they feel loved by me? Wanted? Respected? I measured my entire life on the opinions of others, whether in person or in word. But now, I have taken back that responsibility and acknowledge that right now, without a single change to who I am, I am a worthy and valuable individual.
  • I stopped trying to constantly improve myself. What I mean by that is instead of feeling like I’m a broken thing that needs to be constantly fixed, I start with the idea that, “I am already good.” Maybe a bedtime routine needs tweaking, or maybe my lack of patience means I need more sleep, or I need to add an extra walk into my day, or maybe I don’t need that extra cup of coffee in the afternoon. But none of this takes away from the fact that I am already good. I don’t have to have it all figured out. Of course there is always something new to learn, something new to try, but I celebrate the things I’ve already learned and what I’ve already let go.
  • I officially retire as a mind reader. For the longest time, I would anticipate other people’s feelings, desires and needs. I would get it right enough to think I was right every time. This doesn’t mean I have completely stopped caring about whether or not my actions or words hurt others. I take responsibility for causing pain or hurt, even unintentionally, to other people. But it is no longer my responsibility to regulate other people by trying to read into their tone or facial expressions or expect any kind of passive aggressive behavior. I want my words to be taken as truth so it’s only fair that I give others the same treatment.

I’m learning and growing every day. I am finally really giving myself grace, and not just one more chance to get it right. I’m not the girl I was yesterday, though I look at her as the beautiful heart that she was, willing to carry shame and blame for the sake of others. But I’m letting go of that shame and moving towards the person I was created to be. What I keep reminding myself is that I’m doing the best I can with every day God gives me on this earth. Letting go and learning to become the person that God created me to be on this lifelong journey.

Trusting My Body

In the first year of my kid’s life, I was desperate to find a schedule that solved every issue we faced. But even to this day, not one of the many schedule suggestions online worked for us. Namely because this kid wakes up between 6 and 6:30 almost every single morning, and apparently, the majority of the schedules out there cannot fathom a child getting up that early. The best piece of advice for us was “feed the baby when they are hungry and sleep when they sleep,” but it required me to slow down, tune into my kid’s body, and look and listen for cues.

That was extremely hard for me. And one of the reasons it was so difficult was because I wasn’t doing it with my own body. I hadn’t for a long time. I didn’t realize that this was a major barrier at the time, but looking back, and after an extremely good amount of therapy this last year, I discovered that somewhere along the way, I stopped trusting myself.

I stopped trusting my body. Instead, I let society, community, and culture dictate how I should take care of this body, what it should look like, what it should be able to do. I chased one diet after another, one schedule after another, researched every culturally successful person’s morning and evening routine, trying to glean some wisdom that would make me feel happy, healthy, put together, organized, and whole. Even church culture promoted a certain standard to chase, from the clothes I wore to how I should act in every relationship I had, even how to grieve.

But this spring, I started listening to my body. At first, it was chaotic because it had so much to say, but once I stilled, once I allowed it to speak, it reminded me of the truths that God had woven into my heart from a very small age. I am loved. I am beautiful. I am strong. I cannot be defined by the ideas around me because I will never completely fit. I was not made to completely fit. I was made to stand on my own, to shine, to sing, to dance, to smile and laugh, to be in relationship with the one true Creator of the universe.

Now, that sounds wonderful, doesn’t it? But I am still in the early stages of this realization. I still struggle with the beauty of my body. Something that I’ve seen work for other women who have had children and are trying accept their body after it goes through so many changes in pregnancy is the fact that their body carried those babies and brought them into the world. But that doesn’t completely work for me. My body has a 25% success rate so far in that area. And before I had my kid, I was carrying the weight of failed pregnancies. So, how do I find beauty in a body I thought betrayed me?

It’s not easy. Surprisingly, or maybe not so, when I recently started doing 20-30 minutes of yoga a day, I started to feel more in tune with my body. I’ve been doing yoga for about 20 years now, off and on, but I don’t think there is something mystical or magical about yoga. It’s about breathing, listening to the basic breath coming into your body and releasing out of it. It’s about being aware when your muscles stretch and your bones creak or pop. It’s not about the positions or getting to the next level for me, it’s about the slowing down.

When I slow down, I see my body in action. It actually tells me much earlier than I realized exactly what it needs. There are the big signals, like the extreme pain of a kidney stone, but it also tells me in the small nudges towards hunger, loneliness, thirst. I also recognize that this isn’t new. We learn this in science class, but it’s drowned out by words like food addiction and laziness. These kinds of words have convinced me not to trust my body, that it is too broken to communicate. When in reality, it’s been communicating just fine, it’s just that how my body works doesn’t seem to match how my culture says it’s supposed to work. And that is what I have to unlearn and let go.

It’s a work in progress. For the longest time, being busy was considered the highest achievement, but I realize now that it was keeping me from listening to the body God created, to allow it to work the way it was made to, instead having to turn to other sources who could never know my body the way I do. Right now, I have a slight headache, and I realized I hadn’t had much water this morning. Now, I wouldn’t have realized that before, I would have taken a pain pill or tried to find some quick fix, or I would have tried to muscle through it, ending up more sick, usually with something sinus related. But I stopped, listened, and I’m sipping on water between sentences. Slowly, my headache is disappearing. Of course, if it didn’t, I would try other things, but I’m not chasing the quick fixes as much anymore.

And learning to embrace my body, to listen to its cues, will not be quickly fixed either. There are days I’m frustrated that I don’t look like I did when I was 20, or fit into clothes and styles I have loved in the past. But now, I have an opportunity to really find what I love, really know who I am, and build a confidence that will see me through this life with grace, compassion and love.