Some of the Best of the Web This Week


Mr. Jay is always greeted with respect.  He’s got rock star status and he loves it.  He enjoys hearing children chant his name as he drives down the mountain road.  But the truth is Mr. Jay is all smoke and mirrors, pay no attention to the man behind the curtain.

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Our school peers were typically mocking of my siblings and me, with our foreign names and ways.  The smell of kimchee streaming from our pores and breath probably garnered us no leeway.

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Today, my family is confronted by a terrible grief and a great absence. My brother-in-law, my sister’s husband, is missing at sea.

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I read this morning that they’ve stopped actively searching for any survivors of last week’s Marine helicopter crash off the coast of Hawaii.

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Check out this awesome Haka performed at a wedding:

“To My Mother, Who Committed Suicide,” by JJ Landis


Today’s “Letter to Those We’ve Lost” is brought to you by JJ Landis. Check out some more info on her and her work at the end of the post, including info on her new book, Some Things You Keep.

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Dear Mom,

The last time I spoke to you was from the phone in Jeff’s apartment. I loved hanging out there with him, my big brother. I called to tell you I was going to stay all night at Dad’s house.

You chose that night when I was twelve as the one you would take your own life.

I was not enough to live for. Do you realize how embarrassing and awkward it makes a kid’s life when she has been abandoned by her mom? I didn’t cry, didn’t grieve, for about eight years. When the tears eventually came, they were agonizing.

You weren’t there to teach me how to apply makeup, when I started my period, or had my first crush.

You messed with my head by leaving me, and I closed up and kept everything emotional inside for years. I eventually mixed drugs and alcohol with the trauma; my goal being to either numb pain or make another kind of pain.

You weren’t there when I was nominated for prom queen and then got kicked out of prom for drinking. You weren’t there when I dated losers, when I married a non-loser, moved to another country, gave birth.

I wonder if you assumed I’d be better off growing up with my dad and stepmom. Did you plan ahead or did you make a rash decision that night when you were drunk? It shouldn’t matter but it does. But alas, I can never know.

By the way, if you did think I’d be better off, you were incorrect. No fault of theirs – but my new parents weren’t really looking to take in another kid and didn’t really know how to handle someone so damaged.

I was left by you. And I was left alone by them.

There’s no decent place in a letter to tell you this, but I should let you know that your firstborn, Jeff, followed in your footsteps and died a drunk by his own hand and left two children behind. He was 34. Five years younger than you when you did it. I’m 45, so I have you both beat.

What have I been up to? Well, here’s where things get weird. You won’t believe it, but my life is completely remarkable. My heart is so full of love and joy and compassion, sometimes I think I will explode from all my blessings.

You’re probably wondering if I’m serious since I have mentioned all the crap I had to deal with. But it’s true. I am one of the happiest people I know. I never expected anything good to come my way, but somehow I won the life lottery. My life is so great it’s almost not fair to others.

My life is sweet, but it’s not without constant heartache. Almost every time I’m alone in my van in the garage, I think of you and how you were in a garage when you died. I think of suicide every day. Every day.

It’s not an easy, shallow happiness I carry with me though. No, I have deep inner joy. Contentment. I have met depression and anxiety, but still I am able to have a joyful soul.

In a way, this is possible because I used your bad example as the motivation to get my life cleaned up. When I was a wretched, drug-addicted drunk before I was even legally allowed to drink, I recognized I didn’t want to live an unhappy life. Suicide was not going to be my way out.

So, uh, thanks, I guess, for giving me a perspective that not many people get to have.

I also knew that I wanted God, so I searched for him. I wanted peace that came from somewhere beyond me and the world. I realized eventually that Jesus had been with me all along, weeping for me when I couldn’t and drying my tears when they did fall. Oh, that you could have seen Jesus in your life, that you could have seen that tomorrow is always a new day and the sun will rise. Always.

I mourn the idea of you probably more than I mourn the real you. I have to fight off jealousy when I see friends turning to their moms for babysitting and recipes and traditions and advice. I was cheated. When a friend’s mom drove two hours to deliver chicken soup to her sick daughter, I physically hurt with envy.

I am fiercely devoted to my own children. I’m deliberate about my mental health and will not let them have a disinterested, damaged mom. They are having an incredible childhood and they know they are loved.

I have cried all the tears I can cry for you. I’m emptied of that grief.

I want to share what I’ve learned. That we can all overcome hardships, heartaches. That we are all valuable and worthy to be alive. We all have strength we haven’t tapped into. Life sucks a lot of the time, but life is fabulous most of the time.

My story convinced a friend to change her plans to jump to her death. She mustered up strength to take one more step, even in her utter despair and weakness. One more step is always possible.

Who knows where I would have ended up had you stayed…

It’s a frightening thought, because I absolutely love where I am.

I was in chains for years but am completely free now. I surrendered to God’s love for me. I knew my wounds would either keep chained or set me free. I decided to build on the pain and make a way to peace.

We have all been given one time around. My hope for others is that they choose to live untethered to those who have harmed them, but choose rather to dance in the joy of freedom.

My hope is that others will choose to live.

That’s it, JJ

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JJ Landis is a writer and speaker who enjoys discussing real life with others. She is the author of Some Things You Keep, a memoir about growing up after the suicide of her mother. She writes about parenting, marriage, and getting through the day at her blog “Living for Real.”

“Letters To Those We’ve Lost” is a series I started running during December. If you’re interested in reading some of the other letters people have written to those they’ve lost, you can check those out HERE. If you’d like to submit a letter, please click on the contact link above and send it through. I’d be happy to consider it for publication here at my blog.

This Week’s Top Blog Posts


Excerpts from some of my favorite blog posts this week. Click on the links to read the entire post, and, as always, I’ve tried to find engaging posts as well as things that might challenge your thinking a little bit. Enjoy!

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Here’s what I did in the NICU: I simultaneously begged God to heal my son and I told God to go to hell.

There’s a good chance I lost half my audience with that one piece of honesty. But I’m not a good marketer and I’m an even worse Christian.

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The assignment I was referring to on Instagram was offered to me by National Geographic Channel. My job? To travel as the exclusive writer/photographer on a trip around the world with Morgan Freeman.

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What Nate is reminding me again and again is you can feel like an exile and still be elect. You can be chosen by God for a purpose and a plan, even one that doesn’t makes sense and keeps you far from “your people” and feels uncomfortable.
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“You’re blessed when you’re at the end of your rope. With less of you there is more of God and his rule.”

How can this be?

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I’ve said this before. It’s difficult to “see” things as racist or racialized when the systems have always been designed and created for the success and flourishing of white people – even as the category of “white” evolves.

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Church every week was a protest, it was resistance, it was a gathering in the darkness, and a way to be given life and light.


Five Recent Blog Posts I Loved

Photo by Jose Murillo via Unsplash

Here are excerpts from some of my favorite recent blog posts by other folks. Click on the links to read them in their entirety.

These are the days we’ll miss and these are the days that also feel like they won’t ever end. It can be both at the same time, I know that now. We get to hold the wonder and sleepiness, the boring and the magical at the same time, the work and the delight, the mundane repetition and the ferocious love altogether, it’s not one or the other.

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This world privileges Monday-morning efficiency and business-as-usual. But the kingdom of heaven is more like a snow day. It is right now. It is permission to be happy. It is laughter bubbling up from within the shadow of the cross.

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On many occasions the worst has happened. I’ve faced all of these fears, and without a doubt they have left me devastated, sad, and despairing about the future.

Then something unexpected happened: the sun rose on another day, and another after that.

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What weighs me down is the idea that my life SHOULD be some certain way.

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And it’s all still pretty close for me, the whole experience. I remember so many things that happened, there at the hospital. Good stuff, and bad. A couple of defining incidents remain especially vivid in my mind.

Five of My Favorite Blog Posts From This Week


“It’s subtle, but there’s a real difference between telling us they want something versus simply stating the fact that they like something. Heck, I’ll even verbally point out to the kids when I like something. It helps them understand that they can appreciate something without necessarily owning it, and it’s a lot easier on my ears, too.”

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“On Sunday, we lit the second Advent candle, the candle of peace. Or, we tried to. An argument broke out between my younger son on one side of the table and my firstborn girl on the other. As quickly as he lit the candle, she blew it out. Light the candle. Blow it out.”

“’It’s not your turn,’ someone hissed.”

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It was her pink jaguar print nightgown; she was trying to wear it as a ‘hijab.’ There were a lot of Muslim girls in her kindergarten class, and their head scarves were beautiful.

I paused. “Honey,” I began, “Umm, you can’t wear a nightgown on your head to school.”

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Now I am awake and thinking
of his voice splitting the night
like an angel choir, the words,
“I love you” falling like snow
across an otherwise silent night.

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The story goes that from that time
many of his disciples went back,
and walked with him no more.
Sounds familiar as I am often sheared
by words from the gentle lamb of God.

Win Seven FREE Books By Your Favorite Authors

comingclean-197x300Every year I have friends who write beautiful books. And every year I preorder a few of these books, only to later receive an advanced copy or review copy from them, which means, yeah, I end up with a few doubles. I was trying to figure out what to do with all of my doubles this year, and then I thought, hey, I’ll give them to you guys. In one fell swoop.

These are the books I’m giving away to one lucky winner:

Coming Clean
40/40 Vision
Searching for Sunday
Preemptive Love
Pocket Guide to the Bible
The Day the Angels Fell

The Rafflecopter giveaway is listed below. Click on each of the options below to gain entries. I think you can get three additional entries every day by coming back here and Tweeting about the contest. If you have any questions about how this thing works, let me know.

Good luck!

(Also, today we released Episode 03 of our podcast, The Story of My Death: it’s called “A Good Death.” You can check out all of the episodes HERE.)

a Rafflecopter giveaway