Tuesday, October 20, 2015

3 Things No One Told Me About Losing My Mom

The cold, crisp fall air whirled around my body as I plunged deeper and deeper into the still, quiet woods. The bright blue sky made the oranges, reds and dirty browns pop.

Her voice filled the hallways of my heart, "Look around, Sara! Look around, Sara!" she would demand. "Don't miss the changes in the trees!" as her bubbly eyes glanced to and fro, pointing out her favorite ones as we drove down familiar roads.

We've circled back around to a season I have always loved the best. But nearly 3 years ago,  the bold colors, the glorious pumpkin smells, the crunching leaves, the warm fires and the changing trees were tainted with the bitter suffering of her death.

Yesterday, I couldn't even catch my breath as I placed my hands on my knees, bent over in the middle of the trail on the verge of throwing up. Only the deer and the squirrels beared witness to the sobs as they bubbled up from my gut and overflowed to the red Mississippi mud. "WHY?!" I half screamed, half wailed. "Why, did no one tell me?!"

In the last year, I've had many friends lose their Mamas. And while no two experiences are the same, there is enough sameness to have a shared experience. If I had the resources, I would drop everything and run to these people's sides. There is something out of this world comforting about looking into another person's eyes and knowing, "You've been here. You understand!" Your souls are knit together under unwanted circumstances, and you sit in it together.

1. No one tells you, your birthday will eternally connect you to your mom. No one tells you on your birthday, you will ache for her more than any other day of the year. No one celebrates you on your birthday, quite like your mom.

This year, I had a complete temper-tantrum on my birthday. I woke up to children who were screaming at each other and NONE of whom remembered it was my birthday. NONE. My sweet daddy, (who was washing a butt-load of dishes in the sink) salvaged the moment (and ultimately helped Mark salvage the day); he hugged me around the waist, kissed my check and placed a hot cup of coffee in my hands, "Happy Birthday, sweetie!" #limpoutloud

2. No one told me I would lose my way.

I remember feeling lost for months after Mama died. Almost like sleep walking in a fog. I remember thinking, "I don't know which way to go!" Even though I was a grown adult, married woman, and mother of 4; I felt like I was living without a map. As one of her daughters, I followed closely behind her. She taught me to BE a woman. Her very life was the sign post of daily living. Her life beckoned me, "Go this way. Turn here, graciously. Speak these words, gently. Stand here, firmly. Love them, tenderly. Fight for them, fiercely."

It was like the trail she had blazed before me for 31 years, died with her. And as one her daughters, I felt like the torch of her life of valor, was suddenly laying at my feet and I panicked, "I can't do this. I can't carry on her legacy. I can't bear the weight of being up to bat so soon. I have 3 sets of beautiful baby girl eyes staring at me, who do I stare at? Who do I take my cues from?".........

-Who will I ask when I don't remember all the ingredients in a recipe?
-Who will I call when I am ready to sell my children on Ebay?
-Who will tell me I am not failing as a Mom, and I made the right choice even though it hurts like hell?
-Who will be the nucleus of family gatherings, holidays and celebrations?
-Who will speak truth over my heart like only a Mama can?

Long days, dark nights, buckets of tears, mysterious emotions blind-siding me from no where, and 3 years worth of new memories made without her presence.

3. No one told me, "although you are weeping, the Lord will help you to keep sowing."

This song has been on repeat all week. GO! Go listen to it and come back.

The longer I live the more I realize we are all weeping as we sow. ALL OF US! It is the tears of daily living that water our stories until the Lord restores them.

My mom sowed a lot of seeds, weeping. Weeping over her own broken places or other's broken places. She wept as she suffered her own losses, or as she walked along with others as they suffered.

But just like Psalm 126 declares, "all those who sow weeping will go out with songs of joy!"

My mom went out with songs of joy.

When her spoiled body and mind could respond to nothing, her soul responded to song... Songs of joy! After 67 years of earthly weeping, on November 21st, 2012, her clothes of this world were stripped away and He rejoiced over HER with SHOUTS of joy. He dressed her in bridal gowns and saw her scars. He traced them with His very fingers and looked into the intimate chambers of her soul and spoke, "Sweet child of Valor, look up and behold the seeds you sowed while weeping. They are the witnesses to your sowing, far deeper than your eye can fathom. Well done, good and faithful servant!'

In my weeping, He is sowing, and I WILL go out with songs of JOY!

Me and mom on the day I can home from the hospital.

Mama, grief, loss

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

#LimpOutLoud: The Mission

So ok.... maybe we've tapped into something here. Your overwhelming support of last week's article has me completely humbled and ecstatic. Today, I am breathing with NEW hope.

While I was trying to convey to each of you, "You aren't alone" YOU in-turn shouted right back at me, "You aren't alone! We want to #limpoutloud TOO!"

Click after click, comment after comment, view after view, share after share, the collective online "AMEN" you guys screamed was heard, and I wanted to cry.

I've been chewing, praying, chewing, praying and praying some more, "Ok God, what's next?! Now what?! I've told everyone about #limpoutloud. They're excited. WAY more excited than I could have possibly dreamed. They want to #limpoutloud. They're craving it too. Where do I go with this?!"

I have started small, with 3 ways we are going to #limpoutloud!

Buckle in.
Here we go.

#1. Limp Thru It, Not Around It

Very few people are willing to sit in the uncomfortable places and recognize the wounds we each individually bear. Step one in #limpoutloud is discovering what has caused us to limp. For so long, so many have walked around their own personal stories, instead of THRU THEM. Those "forgotten" memories you attempted to bury have to be dug up and processed.

-All those years of sexual shame; trace that back to its origin. How did you first learn about sex? Who told you? A trusted parent or dirty, rotten playground friend? Did that older snake take advantage of you and start exploring parts of your body that were not his/her to touch? The awakening of your sexually being has a DIRECT correlation to your current, internal/external relationship with sex.

-He was a sloppy drunk who abused with his fist and his words. But for some reason you could not shake how much you thought you loved him. You blamed yourself and tried hard to NOT irritate him. You have moments of rage against God for giving you a daddy who was worthless and absent.

-The one adult figure who bullied you to no end. A person who was suppose to be safe, only to dismember your soul day after day. Criticism, anger, relentless expectations; you were never good enough and they told you repeatedly.

-The shocking grief of a sibling's death; the horror of no tomorrow.

-The church that refused you, the people who ignored you, the congregation that said, "We only serve the healthy, move along!"

-The terminal diagnosis that meant watching her die twice. Both times before your very own eyes.

-The lifechanging memory of blood pouring out of your body into the toilet. The blood sustaining the very heart beat of your child; gone without warning.

-The mundane tasks of daily living, have you dead on the inside and pacing without hope. You imagine what life would be like if you didn't exist anymore. You believe the atrocious lie, "this world would be better off without me!"

-He told you he didn't love you anymore and didn't want to be married to you. He packed his bags and went and found respite in another woman's bed. You are ashamed and hate yourself. The very reflection of your eyes in a mirror makes you cringe. You can't even get out of bed.

The abuse, the addiction, the pain, the neglect, the shame, the guilt, the horror, the betrayal, the anger, the sorrow, the grief, the intimidation, the false hope, the false teaching, the lies, the empty promises, the secrets you are carrying around are holding you captive.

You can hide it, buy it, bury it, burn it, turn it, spin it, ignore it, forget it, and dress it up with a bible verse. You can call it contemporary, traditional, self-realization, independence or rebellion. You can legalize it, promote it, publish it, record it, and make look it eloquent, holy and honorable. You can rename it, rebrand it, repackage it, and recommit it a million times, but I know better now.


Let me share a secret. In walking thru your story, treading on places in your heart that are numb, dead and have been on lock down for decades, might uncover paralyzing pain and agony. FIND A COUNSELOR. Not just any counselor. Choose wisely. The only thing worse than no counsel, is bad counsel. Don't walk alone. Surround yourself with even ONE friend who will hear you. I know you're scared. I know it sounds awful. I know you're thinking, "living through it was hell enough, doing it again seems impossible!" Please, please don't trust in your oppression any longer!

Now lean in close and write this on your heart. One of the single greatest lines my Mama ever spoke over me was, "You can go there, but you CANNOT camp there!" Walk thru your story, but KEEP WALKING! Do not set up tents of bitterness and regret. KEEP WALKING. Do not get stuck in the the 'what-ifs' and 'if-onlys'. KEEP WALKING. I promise, when you get to the other side of your story, having walked thru it with eyes wide open, you will be able to #limpoutloud and have endless passion and grace for other limpers.

In my small 34 years of limping, I recognize the most harsh, unforgiving, legalistic, self-righteous and abrasive people are those who have not walked back thru their story. They have little compassion and patience for the limper. The have no tolerance for on-going failure and struggle. They do not tread gently, but often destroy and burn bridges every where they go. My heart breaks every time I come upon a pilgrim who has been beat up by one of these life-stealing thieves. Lord, have mercy!

#2 Limp With Those Closest To You

Sweet friends, if you cannot limp with those you are living with and doing life with, YOU AREN'T LIVING!! You are faking it, and I call your bluff. We must be willing to show our messy to those closest to us. Laying down our pride and limping along side of our spouse, our children, our coworkers, our church family, our life groups, our small groups, our siblings, our parents, our students, our neighbors and our community. Be ok with starting conversations with, "I'm really struggling today, I need your support!" Don't be afraid to HONESTLY *INSERT GASP* answer the question, "How are you doing?!" And if you dare ask the question, "how are you doing?" soften your heart to hear the REAL answer. Not just some faux, southern living antidote in response, "I'm fine, bless your heart for asking!"

Do not try and #limpoutloud if you aren't limping with those around you!


Now here is the exciting part! When we begin to #limpoutloud we provide a safe place for others to do the same. We create an environment stable enough for healing to wash over stories and redemption is born. When we own our limping we can better invite a desperate world and declare, "I'm limping, your limping, LET'S LIMP TOGETHER!!"

Practically speaking, that means we are going to blow up social media with #limpoutloud stories. Instagram, twitter, facebook, snapchat, etc...etc... I want to see, hear and watch the #limpoutloud concept EXPLODE!! If you have a long story, email me at mslittlejohn@gmail.com and I'm going to start publishing blogs with YOUR #limpoutloud stories.

We want lives, hearts and history to be reclaimed, because a small few souls refused to hide their limping any more. We want people to be set free, found and forgiven! We want to say with our limping lives, "God is MORE than able!" We want our limping lives to testify to the glorious God we serve. We want our limping lives to serve as an example of the beauty our Savior makes out of limping ashes. And in our limping; when we are made low, our only hope is that Jesus Christ is made known.

There is an entire generation of people, desperately craving companionship with of league of limpers. You are welcome here dear, dear, limper.


p.s. If you shared last week's article, PLEASE share this follow up one. We don't want to leave people hanging :)

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Dear 10 Year Old Boy Sitting In The Pew, All Alone In Your Sexual Shame

Daddy and I had sipped through gallons of piping, hot coffee straight from the French Press.  He has always had this impeccable way of coming along side of me, hearing me, cheering me and joining me where I am. For as long as I can remember, Dad has always carved out a safe place for me to come and process everything in this life.

He shook his head slowly, "Sis, I'm so sorry for the mess my generation has passed on to your generation, and unfortunately, now down to my grand kids." 

We had covered every topic; relationships, politics, marriage, Islam, parenting, Pope Francis, serving, missions, recollections of the 1970's, the feminist movement, mental health, spiritual health, emotional health and of course how much missed Mama. 

Inevitably, we circled back around to where dad and I have spent hours upon hours of treading through meaty conversation; the Church, and mighty war between living faith and the tired traditions of dead faith. 

I got all riled up as my voice began to escalate and my hands started flying through the air, whilst my charismatic soul pounded. "My generation dad, is desperate to follow limping leaders. To follow leaders who pass the microphone, to follow someone who says from the pulpit, "I'm limping, your limping, can we limp together?! THIS (as my arms were flailing in all directions around the double-wide) CAN NOT BE ALL THERE IS!

My deep passionate parts are something Dad is 34 years familiar with. After all, he was the first man in my life who chose not to kill off all my passion, but for the safety of my future husband and everyone else in my path, he tried to channel it. Mark thanks you, Dad. 

Hands flying, hearts pounding, dreams overflowing like a fountain from my lips, dad gently lowered his head and quietly said, "Kid, you have to remember, my generation does not know how to limp out loud. We weren't allowed."

Those words slowly began to fall all over my heart as I stared at the wall.

How many people are sitting in churches today who are not allowed to limp out loud?
How many people are drenched in suffocating pain, who do not know HOW to limp out loud?
How many people are isolated, alone and walking through paralyzing darkness who have never once considered that others are limping too? 
Who have never once heard anyone else admit to limping? 
Who have never been given permission to limp? 

What if we limped out loud?
What if we taught people to limp out loud?
What if we provided a safe enough space for people to limp out loud without the fear of condemnation and judgement?
What if we determined, RIGHT NOW, in our own homes and our circles of influence, we weren't going to hide our limping any more, but we were going to LIMP OUT LOUD!

Revelation 12, gives us the blue print to triumphing over the devil and the land he tries to claim in our hearts, minds, and lives, "by the blood of the Lamb and the word of our testimony"


Not the, "I came to know Jesus at 6 years old in Sunday School class, and now I'm good, good, gooder!" testimony.

But the, "oh.my.stars. I am so unbelievably broken and undone. Let me show you my messy" testimony.

How many lives would be changed if leaders, pastors, deacons, elders, Sunday School teachers, mentors, principals, teachers, moms, dads, aunts, uncles, grandparents, cousins, friends, family, YOU AND ME, all lower our posture and begin to whisper truth over each other?

Dear 10 Year Old Boy Sitting In The Pew, All Alone In Your Sexual Shame;
You aren't alone in your struggle with sexual temptation! You aren't alone in your addiction to pornography. You aren't alone trapped in the shame of your mind. There are men AND women all around you who are limping, struggling, and depending on the daily bread of grace to see them through. Let us testify to the ways God will shore you up and help you through. Let us create a safe spot for you to come and confess and find forgiveness and healing and encouragement to fight another day.  Let us limp with you.

Dear 18 Year Old Girl Who Wants To Kill Herself,
You aren't alone in your self hate and self harm. Many women have gone before you and learned to see themselves as Jesus sees them; pure, undefiled and lovely. Let us slow down enough and come to your side. Let us help you uncover your beauty. Let us offer you hope. Let us limp with you.

Dear Marriage That Is Falling Apart,
You aren't alone. So many couples are hiding their dysfunction in the name of "sticking it out". So much severe silence in our marriages, because no one will admit to their own personal marital limping. When couples are allowed to limp out loud, you will see so many people who can and WILL testify to the miraculous work God has done on their behalf.  In the meantime, stifling silence is crushing marriages at their very core. Let us limp with you.

Dear 8 Year Old Little Girl Who Is Being Abused And Tells No One,
You aren't alone. We want to fight for you! We want to rescue you. Along side of Jesus, we want redeem this horror in your life. I know your tiny heart can't believe that all these strong women around you were once the victims of abuse, but they were. Let us limp with you.

Dear Parents Who Feel Like Failures,
You aren't alone. You carry unbelievable guilt for the decisions you made on behalf of your children. You feel at fault for all the bad decisions your children are currently making. You are disappointed in the story you have written on their heart. You are embarrassed, tired and overwhelmed with the task at hand. Let us limp with you.

Dear 35 Year Old Soul, Depressed And Riddled With Anxiety,
You aren't alone. The internal monologue you can't shake, can be quieted when others surround you and share their own depression and anxiety. We want to help strip the lies that are plaguing your mind and show you freedom from your bondage. Let us limp with you.

Dear 70 Year Old Grief Stricken Life,
You aren't alone. You feel like you have no purpose. You feel like you've already lived your best days. You are lonely, sad and weighed down with life-long regret. Let us limp with you.

As long as Satan can keep us silent and isolated, 
As long as Satan can convince us we are all alone in our limping; he wins. 
He will steal another heart, he will crush another marriage, he will attempt to destroy another soul. He will chew us up and spit us out everyday, all day long. He is constantly seeking to devour us. 

WE MUST, by the blood of the Lamb and the word of our testimony, begin to LIMP OUT LOUD! 

Oh, it's scary as hell to think of the vulnerability and rawness required to limp out loud. Satan holds us there in fear. Some of us he holds there in captivity for an entire lifetime. But by the blood of the Lamb, He has redeemed us from the pit of despair and we have ALL the power and authority to LIMP OUT LOUD!

I have an idea. 
It's a small idea. 
One idea that might only see fruition in my small corner of the world. 
But it's an idea, nonetheless. 
I want to limp out loud. 
I believe in my gut, that a wave of sweet, redemptive change will come when we can give ourselves and others permission to limp out loud.

Who wants in? 
Who wants to limp out loud? 
Who KNOWS deep into their toes, THIS (as my arms flail all over my office) stale diet cannot be all there is to this life?!

In the next few days, I'll be flushing out this small idea here on the blog. Come back. It's getting all kinds of wild.

From one limper to the next!
Here's to a mighty change: #limpoutloud

P.S. Don't forget to read Part 2 here!!!