Faith, Mercy and Letting Go

by Chrysula on October 14, 2013 in asking,listening,mothering

Last night in a special church meeting, I received a pink balloon (not a typical church experience!), along with my 400 fellow congregates. It represented two things. The first was to honor the memory of Emilie Parker, who lost her life almost a year ago at Sandy Hook Elementary School. The second purpose was an invitation to mentally insert into the balloon something or someone we haven’t forgiven. And then to release the balloon into the gorgeous fall evening, letting go of our issue as the balloon rose to the heavens.


We heard throughout the evening from various speakers, sharing personal stories of faith and trial. Each was exquisite in the telling, inspiring in the examples offered. My dear friend Lizzy Jensen shared how her hospital room, where she spent eight weeks being monitored for a high risk pregnancy, became a holy place as she drew closer to God. My friend Amie Anger outlined a crisis of faith and an answer no one expected. Julia Laughlin talked about not allowing our perceptions of feeling ‘atypical’ (don’t we all feel this at some point?) to stop us from drawing closer to God and claiming that divine opportunity. Colin Stauffer invited us to access the gift of mercy for ourselves and apply it to others. David Checketts, the leader of my church in this region, talked about the accidental death of his brother thirty years before, and a lifetime of healing from that loss.

And Emilie Parker’s parents, Robbie and Alissa, in powerful and raw ways shared learning from their journey since the wrenching loss of their daughter. I cannot imagine grieving on the national stage. I cannot comprehend becoming well known for such a reason and yet, they have accepted the mantle of this responsibility. In the process, they are each finding their voices to help others.

As I pondered the gorgeous night, and thought about what should go ‘inside’ my balloon, their examples, and those of the other instructors from the evening, dear friends and strangers alike, were anchored deep in my heart. How could I hold on to my ‘stuff’? After meeting Malala Yousafzai recently and being deeply moved by her capacity for forgiveness towards the Talib who shot her, I asked myself, what can I possibly have eating away at my heart that justifies holding on to it?

“O to grace how great a debtor daily I’m constrained to be!
Let thy goodness, like a fetter, bind my wandering heart to thee.
Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it, prone to leave the God I love;
here’s my heart, O take and seal it, seal it for thy courts above.”

Excerpt from Hymn Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing

Last night I realized I don’t need to experience great tragedy (though perhaps it will come) to let go of my anger and the things holding me back. But the power of these collective examples, and the fact that they are willing to be teachers, whilst they themselves are still students, sets a tone and an example I can aspire to as I look to the greatest teacher of all, my God.

I lead an extraordinarily blessed life. But since I was a little girl, I have struggled with anger. I thought my battles with this issue had long since dissipated in my twenties, but in my mid thirties, I had children. And no one warned me about how old habits come flooding back when you haven’t slept through the night in an eon and there are these small people who you love so desperately you can’t breathe, and at the same time drive you so. in. sane.

Last night, as I looked up to the inky clouds backlit by the moon, I said a prayer for Emilie and her precious family. And sent my fiery temper floating gently to the sky. I am leaving this burden at the feet of the only One who can really help me conquer it. At last.

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This is the first time I have openly written about my faith on my blog but as it is integral to my identity, I hope you will find some connection with this element of who I am. I am a mother, a communicator, an agitator, and I’m a Mormon.

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~j. October 14, 2013 at 6:24 am

Oh, Friend, this brings tears to my eyes and warmth to my heart. Thank you for your words.

Chrysula October 14, 2013 at 8:09 pm

Bless your heart, thank you. xo

Kathryn Carmona October 14, 2013 at 9:00 am

I was visiting from a neighboring stake. It truly was life changing, and humbling. What a blessing to be in attendance. I love this aspect about the church, that we all can learn from one another. All the talks were beautiful, and the Parkers were especially poignant.

Chrysula October 14, 2013 at 11:23 pm

So great that you were able to be there. Thank you for taking the time to share your thoughts. It really is a collective instruction process.

Liz Jensen October 14, 2013 at 4:24 pm

Beautiful, both the experience and how you captured it. It was truly one of the most touching and inspiring meetings I’ve been to. It is amazing that we hope and believe that we really can change, let go and become better people. Religious or not that’s pretty powerful doctrine. xo

Chrysula October 14, 2013 at 11:24 pm

Means a great deal coming from you. The constant desire to do better and to truly, in our core, be better, is the thing that keeps me going when all else frustrates.

Tiffany October 14, 2013 at 6:09 pm

Loved this!! Loved it. Loved it. Loved it. How wonderful that your church leaders welcomed an unorthodox type object lesson. Beautiful.

Chrysula October 14, 2013 at 11:25 pm

Tiffany, THANK YOU! It really was one of those moments that could have gone horribly wrong, or been too hokey for words, but it was absolutely amazing.

Ahmet January 15, 2014 at 9:35 pm

I would like to thnkx for the efforts you’ve put in wtiring this blog. I’m hoping the same high-grade blog post from you in the upcoming also. In fact your creative wtiring skills has inspired me to get my own web site now. Actually the blogging is spreading its wings fast. Your write up is a great example of it.

Sisters from Another Mister October 14, 2013 at 9:19 pm

I love this in so many ways – being true to your heart is a letting go all of its own. Your words here, so timely for them in this world we live in and all we have shared of late. You my dear friend are so many things, and being able to speak freely of them all here in your bloghome is truly a gift to all xxxx

Chrysula October 14, 2013 at 11:26 pm

Nicole, thank you so much. I’ve missed the kind of writing that you can only do in your very own spot of these internets and I feel a strong pull to pick that part of my writing up again. Still, it’s always an odd feeling to put that raw essence out there, and hope you’re doing it right. xoxo

Jeannine October 14, 2013 at 10:35 pm

Beautiful words, dear friend. xoxoxo

Chrysula October 14, 2013 at 11:26 pm

Oh thank you so much Jeannine. xoxo

Patti Cook October 14, 2013 at 10:42 pm

Beautifully written and so universal. Thanks for sharing such a personal and powerful night…. makes me ponder what I need to let go of…..

Chrysula October 14, 2013 at 11:27 pm

It’s funny, because I can’t think of anyone I haven’t forgiven. But then the ISSUE hit me with such clarity. That is wasn’t a person, it was a thing. And the thing lived within me. Wish me luck on this journey! And I send you much joy on yours :).

Paula Kiger October 14, 2013 at 10:42 pm

This is lovely in so many ways. I appreciate you sharing your faith (I know it is not always easy to do). For a variety of reasons I am “involved” in denominations other than my own. I do so with a deep respect for each of them — our world is far too big to isolate ourselves in our own corners of faith. Props to you for saying that (and for understanding the difference between “mantel” and “mantle”!!!!!). :-)

Chrysula October 14, 2013 at 11:28 pm

YES YES YES Paula, exactly right. So much to learn from each other’s constructs and traditions. And so many ways to connect within our frameworks on a heart level.

Emily October 14, 2013 at 10:50 pm

Lots of love to you! We also had stake conference out here. It can often be difficult share so opening something that means so much. We actually discussed this at our saturday night session when it comes to sharing the gospel and often why we don’t. I always look forward to your insights and appreciate your forum for sharing them. Thanks!

Chrysula October 14, 2013 at 11:30 pm

And much love to you too! The barriers are real, but they are also largely psychological. I mean, I am always open about the fact that I have a faith, so why wouldn’t I be more open about unbundling that a little. Anyway, we will see where it takes me. xo

Elizabeth Atalay October 14, 2013 at 11:05 pm

This is really beautifully written, thank you for sharing a sacred side of yourself with us! What a lovely symbolic act to let go of the balloons and a grievance within it. I was brought up Jewish, but my husband is not and although we are not bringing our kids up with formal religion we take the bits and pieces of our background that meaningful to us and one of the things I love to do with my kids between the Jewish New Year and Day of Atonement is go to a body of water to throw stones in representing throwing away your resentments, grievances and grudges to start fresh in the new year. I think that is an important lesson in life no matter what form of spiritual symbolism it takes.

Chrysula October 14, 2013 at 11:31 pm

Elizabeth, THANK YOU for sharing that and I completely agree. The idea of clean starts and new beginnings is core to every faith I think.

Henry Timms October 14, 2013 at 11:40 pm

This was so moving. Proud of you for sharing.

Chrysula October 15, 2013 at 8:17 am

Means a lot coming from you Henry.

April October 14, 2013 at 11:40 pm

Chrysula, I think you beautifully wrote about principles that unite people of all faiths. That need to forgive is universal, and this seems like such a lovely way to teach that concept. Love you!

Chrysula October 15, 2013 at 8:18 am

Oh April, it really is universal and so essential for us to grow and progress. But also so human to not want to do it. xo

Kaitlin October 15, 2013 at 12:19 am

I’m having such a bad day and this was so great to read. Love you.

Chrysula October 15, 2013 at 8:18 am

Bummer on the bad day. Hope tomorrow is kinder. Love you too!

Caryn/The Mid Life Guru October 15, 2013 at 12:35 am

What a great activity for your congregation. It is comforting to know that we are all tied into this (life) together and that no one is trial-less. Each of wake up every morning with a challenge of one kind or another. I need to be better at reminding myself of this and stop believing I’m the only one. Thanks for sharing and thanks for the encouragement to let it go and have faith.

Chrysula October 15, 2013 at 8:20 am

Isn’t it the truth? We all facing our challenges. There is indeed some comfort (I love that word) in feeling the universality of it all.

Anita Joos Eyre October 15, 2013 at 4:38 am

Oh Chrysula, this brought tears to my eyes. You are honest and good and I love how you describe your experience and faith. Beautifully written with a tender heart and mind behind it. Thank you.

Chrysula October 15, 2013 at 8:20 am

Anita, means a great deal coming from you. xo

Nicki Dunn October 16, 2013 at 1:46 am

Linked up to your blog from Lizzy’s. That was a beautiful rendition of such a memorable night. It brought tears to my eyes to re-read it from your perspective. The meeting left me feeling emotionally drained but funnily enough, enlivened as well. Such incredible examples in that room that night… surely there is more I can do to let God in! XO

Emily October 17, 2013 at 5:51 pm

Chrysula, I’m so moved by your post and getting to see this side of you, your faith and your life path. I’m always inspired by you and with this post, even more so. I will be thinking about my own pink balloon and what I would put there. I love Elizabeth Atalay’s approach with her kids too. So much to ponder and learn from here. Love and hugs.

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