Barbara Francis

Unexpected Turns

Unexpected Turns: Leaning into the Losses of Life

Excerpt from the Introduction

"This is a book I never wanted to write and one you never wanted to read.

Oh sure, we all know we can experience loss, reversals of fortune, tragedies, and betrayal. Knowing is one thing; living it is quite another. I wish I could tell you my journey through darkness was rather unremarkable, and I’ve skipped through to the other side without scars. No, actually I don’t wish that.

It’s been good for me to comb through the memories and see what I’ve remembered from the series of events that reshaped my life. When everything unfolded, and a light in my life was abruptly turned off, a part of me shut down as well. I knew immediately I would never be the same. What scared me was the thought that I’d never recover."

Chapter 1 Excerpt

"Jody was gone, the most unexpected turn in my nearly fifty years of living. I was left to grieve. And I discovered that grief had a way of morphing. Grief did not look or feel the same from moment to moment or day to day. I cried constantly despite my efforts not to. I felt mentally numb. And I battled for my faith.

I was in full-time ministry. I should have been fine. I knew where Jody was—in heaven. I’d see her again. She was fully whole now and would never even want to come back. I knew these things. I had taught and believed them for years. I should have been fine. But I was not fine and found it hard to imagine I would ever be fine again. Life lost all its color, all its laughter. Everything seemed bleak shades of grey and black. Hopeless. Vague. 'Loss strips us of the props we rely on for our well-being. It knocks us off our feet and puts us on our backs. In the experience of loss, we come to the end of ourselves.' Indeed."

Chapter 2 Excerpt

"I posed the nagging, unanswerable questions like a dare to myself and to God: Did Jody know what was happening? Was she afraid? Did she scream before the crash? Did she put her hand over her mouth and squeeze her eyes tightly shut? Did she feel pain? Was Duane’s hand on hers, as it often was when they traveled together? Was there time to say, 'Goodbye'? 'I love you'? 'Thank you for making my life whole'? Those imagined images and scenes and all those questions played frenzied and futile leapfrog through my mind.

Grief and loss make me crazy.

Questions play such a real role in coming to terms with the unexpected, don’t they? The vast majority of the questions we pose can never, and will never, be answered. But, in time, the why questions seem to lead to more helpful inquiries, like, 'Where do I go from here? Who can help me through these dark, dizzy days? Where are grief groups I can attend? What can I read to give me guidance?' And so on."

Chapter 3 Excerpt

"Many people want to blame God for the mishaps of their lives. I have talked to thousands of people about a relationship with Jesus, and the ones who are most opposed, if they are able to be honest, will tell me of an early tragedy—loss of a parent or sibling, divorce, personal injury, or some other great loss—that they have blamed God for. Maybe you are one who has. I am hoping that as you journey with me through the spiritual dimension of my own healing, it will help you see God differently.

Psalm 23—Jody’s and my favorite chapter in the whole Bible—was the means God used more than anything else to bring me to a place of healing through my painful struggle to recover from the loss of my dear friend. Verse by verse, day by day, he showed me his love and care and nearness, and I found myself personalizing each phrase and paraphrasing it, writing it in words that seemed to be mine and yet his. Perhaps these words will help you, as well. I will include both the New International Version (NIV) of the Bible and my personal paraphrase of Psalm 23, written during my healing." 

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