What's Love Got to Do with It?
It's Valentine's Day . . . ❤️ and it seems like a good time to talk about love, right? This day can be fun, romantic, disappointing, sad, frustrating, over-inflated, etc – truly it can be all of these at any point in life.
At age 8, I probably was excited to receive a cute valentine card from a friend or cute boy. If I had heard Tina Turner's hit song, "What's Love Got to Do with It" on the radio that year I would not have understood it. But here and now, this "fun song" causes me to pause and analyze all the lyrics related to love, loving someone, and navigating true love, loss and grief.
At root, this song is about having an attraction and trying to understand the feelings and emotions, the fears and doubts, and of course, wondering, "Is this love?" It's easy to over-analyze the words to any song - especially when you enter conversations about what it means to love someone truly. Pop songs are not always a good guide - ha :)
Experiencing true love has changed my life. More specifically, loving God has brought peace and hope to my soul in an incredible way. Loving my family and friends has rooted me. Loving my late spouse has brought both incredible joy and great heartache –– heartache that is and was worth it. Through the pain, this love has not disappeared, it is rooted deep within me in such a way that it makes it hard to navigate what it means to love someone else.
So when someone innocently asks me, “Do you love this other person?” I can answer, "Yes" but also I know that it feels and looks different. While it seems like it should be simple to "love again," it is not always cut and dry. Of course, there are fuzzy feelings, that some might call chemistry, but these can easily fade in the moments. Love is (and always has been) about more than feeling good. It is about trust, commitment, selflessness and sacrifice; it is delicate and can be risky - especially after being hit by a grief truck.
Losing someone you love deeply leads to heartache. . . there's no escaping it. And it is hard to continue after this detour. As I navigated my own grief journey, I’ve talked with many friends along the way. I’ve talked about why I decided to “get back out there” - because ultimately I still have love in my heart to share. This looks different for people grieving, because each story and love story is unique.
I’ve talked with widows, widowers and friends who were in committed relationships who approach, “what’s next” in different ways. Some people have a strong desire to marry or be in a relationship again, some believe they had their time of great love and intend to remain single and focus on trusting God as a single person for the rest of their time on earth. Some people don't even know where they land right now - and that's ok too. It really is a journey for each person to walk in.
So . . . what’s love got to do with it? It’s got everything to do with it. If we have loved greatly and lost that person, our hearts have been broken. Working with anything that has been broken, and even healed then repaired, comes with challenges. The broken piece might not ever look or feel quite the same.
Of course, God is in the business of healing the broken parts of our lives - including messy hearts broken in grief. This is a beautiful thing to consider. It also is a spark of hope when considering loving and trusting again - whatever that looks like. Yes, it all takes time and often it means taking a risk with your heart.
Tina Turner's song continues with these words that represent how we might feel after loss, "I've been thinking about my own protection. It scares me to feel this way." Here and now I can say, "Yep - that's true." As a widow I do fear I might experience another heartbreak or loss. But at the same time, God has carried me through and there is space to love and care again. And, it could just be worth the risk.
"Who needs a heart when a heart can be broken?"
We all do.
Happy Valentine's Day Friends . . .
wherever you are and however you are feeling today, know you are loved. ❤️
Each year on my birthday I take some intentional time away to reflect on life, working on some creative projects and consider that goals or dreams I might have for this next year of life. I started doing this about 8 years ago and find it to be rewarding in so many ways. This year, nestled away in my little cute cabin in Branson, Mo, I found myself thinking about Josh and our lives and suddenly was writing a song. I still miss him greatly but also have found myself at a point where I can also give thanks for the time we did have.
Over the period of 24 hours, the lyrics and melody to this song came together. I know I could keep tweaking it in many ways but at core, this song reflects my heart and love for my late husband. Below is a (not perfect) recording and also the lyrics.
Everyday… It’s Hard to be Blue
written by Jenn Brown | 1/6/2023
All my life I had waited, to find someone like you
You came along and our love was true
True love, it carried us through
Through the dark days and sun rays too
But then you were gone, faster than I wanted
But it’s hard to be blue when I think of you
You brought a smile to my face every time
You brought laughter to my heart
And joy to my soul
Everyday, everyday … I called you mine
If I would have known our time would be abridged
I would have loved you still
Cause each memory lingers like a capsule in my mind
A treasure for all time
But I’m still sad your gone
Faster than I wanted.
I hope some way, somehow
You can hear these words from me now
Cause wherever you are without me.
I hope you know I loved you truly.
I can barely believe how long it’s been
Since I felt your embrace
Sometimes it feels like a lifetime ago
But then only yesterday
We hoped, we cried we prayed for more time
But time can’t be contained
Still it’s hard to be blue when I think of you
You brought a smile to my face every time
You brought laughter to my heart
And joy to my soul
Everyday, everyday … I called you mine
Memories worth missing
Recently, I pulled up a random photo of “us” and found myself starring at it longingly. In doing so, the thought could not escape me, “I miss you.” The photo was a good one taken after we learned that the next few months held a lot of uncertainty. We were both smiling wonderfully – even as our eyes clued into something more.
The sorrow of losing you lingers in my heart; "I miss you so."
This is the narrative in my mind. As it scrolls, it is easy to dive into analyzing my "status" in the grief journey. “Am I ok?”. . . “How sad am I, still?” . . . “Should I feel like this?”. . . “Is this what 3 years feels like?” "It's thanksgiving shouldn't I be thinking about gratitude?"
As a reader or friend you might be tempted to answer these questions for me, but I’ll save you the time, as this isn’t necessary. I know it is ok to be “whatever.” I say it often. It is “ok” to feel however I am feeling at any point. Yet, even when facing the facts and feelings about grief and fully accepting the various levels of permission, there still remains this humanistic desire to try and fix the piece that doesn’t feel right. To find a solution to the part that we know is just a little out-of-sync with what was or what we imagine should be correct.
This tangled mess of grief that lingers like the lyrics of a song by The Cranberries remains an unsolved mystery. It tears at my heart and seeps into my mind making it hard to navigate the present moments. The shear fact that "I miss him" pops in and out of my mind, even in fun moments, like an ongoing bass line of a song fading in an out. It impacts how I handle various stresses in life and how I navigate the relationships around me. This grief allows me see the immense value of enjoying the big and small moments of each day, and leaves me disappointed at the big and small parts of life in other ways.
This grief badge also provides opportunities to minister to new friends walking in their own heartache. There is joy in this, although I have found that in in doing so, my own feelings of loss can be rekindled and enhanced.
Maybe . . . (and this is me trying to “figure it out again”) . . . this is why I find myself starring at our old photos missing “us” terribly. Of course, it could also be the holiday season – which easily triggers grief, both fresh and tucked away. There are so many memories with family and friends who once sat around a room or table; things change, and there are people to miss who are no longer here – for me, my late husband being a key figure.
These memories are beautiful and hard. Encountering these emotions makes me want to burrow down in my sorrow. Of course, they also serve as a fuel for gratitude. I am thankful for our story. There is a tension and a challenge in it all. A challenge for myself and reminder to keep making those memories worth missing.
This Thanksgiving, I will spend time with friends and family who I love who are still actively part of my life - thanks to God's grace. I want to enjoy these moments and will. I already enjoyed time with friends tonight listening to great local music – a new memory and something I wouldn’t have pictured three years ago. .
Of course, it's fair game to know there will be times when I need to say out loud to the heavens or to family member or friend that indeed, "You are missed." This acknowledgement is a perfectly acceptable part of any holiday season.
One last word of encouragement for my grieving friends. Joy might feel like it is also missing but it is there, it truly is. It is there because God is there with you.
Photo captions: this post contains both that picture of "us" (below) that I looked at for a long time (and still do) and a photo of a fresh bouquet of Thanksgiving flowers bought for me, resting in a cup that was from a few years back (Royal game memories) what a mix of then and now.
Bonus pic of a fun night out listening to local music to bring in the holiday and kicking off Turkey day with a fun run!
Tears of Thankfulness
A moment of thankfulness today quickly turned to tears as I looked at my sweet baby nieces. Seeing them reminded me of dear friends who were in a small group with my late husband and I over a decade ago in Texas. They also had twin girls and we, as small group buddies, had opportunities to watch their family grow from the start. What a beautiful thing!
I sent my friend a quick message to let her know I was thankful for our friendship and those now seemly “age-old” memories. Almost before hitting that little send arrow, I felt the tears form in my eyes. My thankfulness had led to a beautiful memory, which led to me wishing Josh could see his sister’s babies today. How I miss him. A mix of joy and sorrow all in one.
The sorrow didn’t take away my thankfulness, of course, but it did stir up all the emotions of grief until they boiled over to hot tears for a few moments. Ekkk.
Grief continues to hold in tension remembering the beauty of the past and striving to embrace today. There is much to be thankful for today: health, life, dear friends, creation, hope for the future, and a God who is near.
At the same time, all around us there are significant heartaches happening - ongoing tragedies that seems beyond unfair. In those moments, it is hard to even want to be thankful for anything. Maybe you're just mad.
So what do you do? Personally, I think it is helpful to keep aiming for thanksgiving. This means thanking God for the smallest, simplest things all the way up to the biggest ones. You can make a daily list, if you're that type of person, or you can just say something out loud on your drive to work.
Of course, there are also times when you simply need to give yourself permission (and time) to freely shed tears of Thankfulness. It's ok. You can literally be a Thanksgiving hot mess ... not a turkey.
Psalm 107: 1-2a
Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good;
his love endures forever.
Let the redeemed of the Lord tell their story . . .
p.s. One more extra thankful moment came tonight late after learning my boyfriend, Brad was not majorly injured in a head-on crash.
Waking before dawn today at 3:50 am, my first thought was "on this day three years ago my life changed dramatically." It was the last day I saw Josh’s face and held his hand. It was a ridiculously sad day.
It’s hard to return to sleep after waking to such thoughts. So many more things ran rampant in my mind from there. I did eventually sleep again, waking to a conversation via text from a friend who thoughtfully referred to the day as “Happy Josh’s Day - the day he got to see our Savior face to face” - that is an encouraging thought for sure.
Now hours later, as I am reflecting on this busier-than-expected third anniversary, my mind is still wired up. This week particularly, has been packed with life, work projects, and preparing to share part of my grief story at a women’s retreat this weekend - of all weekends!
It's crazy to look around at life today and realize how many people don’t know what my life looked like three years ago. Sure, there are plenty of dear friends that do, but there are many new friends and acquaintances who don't have any idea. Additionally, there have been many new wonderful unexpected adventures since then.
Often as we experience deep heartache and grief - through the loss of someone dear - it is hard to believe that there could even be a good next adventure or season. Even IF we think it’s possible, we debate if we really want it – the past was so good, can we just stay there a little longer?
Trust me I get it. I’ve had all of these thoughts, but keep trucking along. As I do, I keep finding goodness and beauty. I will never tell you there is a timetable on your grief journey - or a time to stop crying - it varies so much with each person and story. But I do know that hope comes with embracing each new day and seeing what good God might have to share with you. There is hope to be found, there's sun shining on the water, and healing that is in process – even now, within our stories.
For me, on this third September 30, my heartache mended a bit more as I enjoyed God’s creation paddling down a Missouri river soaking in the beauty of this world with a loving friend. And then a little more this evening as I sang out praises at a park and laughed playing goofy games, building friendships with ladies from my church. I wouldn’t have pictured this three years ago, but God did – that’s definitely an interesting thought.
This day, is still special because Josh was/is special, yet I know I can also honor him by continuing to trust God daily and by embracing the day's joys and challenges as much as possible - with honesty.
In preparing for the women's retreat, I found a song that has been echoing through my mind every day this week – on the water, on the road, and as I practiced the guitar outside the “glamping tent” I stayed in yesterday, where I retreated to spend time resting and not ignoring my grief process.
Here are a few lines that seem to perfectly fit this season, words I think Josh and his artistic mind might have also enjoyed. He always talked about God’s goodness. Always.
You make all things work together
For my future and for my good
You make all things work together
For Your glory and for Your name
For my good, for my good
When I doubt it, Lord, remind me
I'm wonderfully made
You're an artist and a potter
I'm the canvas and the clay .... you're not finished with me yet....
Listen to the full song below:
Shifting from What If to What IS
Standing starring out my hotel window near Nashville, the thought crosses my mind, “Would I have ended up moving here with Josh?” It’s not too wild of a thought. You see, before he got sick, we talked about what might be next, a career change, a location change. We talked about many options for our next step in life and ministry. There was a lot happening in our personal conversations related to our future. This all got halted with a brain cancer diagnosis, treatment and the total change of life course direction. In our dreaming stage, Nashville was a place that intrigued us both - even still in my old Google chat there sits a conversation between us about this city.
As I ponder the initial question, I, of course, take it a step further pondering, “Would my life be better if Josh and I could have moved here together?” If we were in fact attending a conference together … if he were still here? My heart screams “Yes, of course!!”
But then clarity and God’s truth echos out. “No.” That’s too short-sighted.
It’s unfair to try and compare the “what ifs” to “what is”because I’ll always sit in deficit and disappointment. And because in doing so, I am missing out on what God is doing here and now. My life couldn’t be better because it is still good today. My life IS good because God is with me. He was with me when we were exploring options of what was next, he was with me in the midst of the hard nights of sickness, grief, loss and the heartache. He is with me now - in my tears that spring up three years later. He is even with me now as I stare somewhat longingly out a hotel window in a “what if” city.
This is not me trying to hopefully wipe away the heartache and missing part of my life, but it is a reality check that I must still see God here in now. In this new part of the story, in the what could be today if I continue to trust him fully. To believe that beauty and blooms can come from what seems like destruction.
I admit a big sigh happens there when I type, “Trust Him Fully” because it’s a challenge after what I consider a “big let down.” It’s a choice to trust. It’s a choice to believe God is with me and still showing up. And yeah… it is challenging but I am willing.
How about you? Are you up for a God trust challenge too?
“Enter His gates with thanksgiving And His courts with praise. Give thanks to Him, bless His name. For the Lord is good; His lovingkindness is everlasting And His faithfulness to all generations.”
Hi! It's Jenn Brown, writing my story that is now slightly different as we enter a season of new grief. On September 30, 2019, my dear husband Josh passed away after battling brain cancer.