The gift of falling apart: an Easter story


It’s Easter, the time of year when Christians celebrate the end and the beginning, the death and the resurrection. It is also Springtime, when that which was dead awakes and is renewed.

For the past six years, Easter has taken on special significance for me. In my own life, I too celebrate death and resurrection, beginning and end.

Six years ago, my family and I traveled north to my brother’s house for some time with my family of origin. It was while we were there that we learned that my mom had cancer. It was also there that the crack in my marriage became too big to ignore.

At the end of the evening, when we were all shell-shocked with the realization we might lose mom, my husband and I got into an argument. I knew suddenly, with painful clarity, that if things didn’t change, this marriage would end. On the long drive home, I told him, in low tones so the girls in the back of the van couldn’t hear, that if things didn’t change, the marriage would be over. By the time we’d gotten home, we’d agreed that the next step would be counselling.

Something else happened that weekend before we’d gone to my brother’s place. Sitting in church on Easter morning, I had the sudden realization that the church I’d called home for the past fifteen years no longer felt like the right place for me to find community. Though I still loved the people in the congregation, changes in the church and changes in me made me feel like I didn’t fit anymore.

Monday morning, I woke with a horrible sense of dread, knowing that I was standing on the precipice of destruction. Everything was crumbling and I stood to lose the two people closest to me – both my husband and my mom – and the community that had once been my greatest support. The ground underneath my feet suddenly felt like it had turned to quicksand.

On top of that, I was in the first faltering steps of growing a businesses, and wasn’t making much money at it yet, so I had very little security of any kind.

When I look back over the five years following that fateful Easter Sunday, what I remember most is struggle and resistance. I was struggling to keep everything from falling apart and resistant to the changes I was afraid were coming. My husband and I attended repeated rounds of marriage counselling in hopes of saving our marriage. Together with my siblings, I supported Mom as she went through surgery and repeated rounds of chemo. I joined a new leadership committee at church, hoping a renewed commitment might help me feel like I fit again. And all the while I was struggling to make my business viable and to be a good mom for my teenage daughters.

One by one, all that I’d feared that Easter Sunday fell apart. Mom died a year and a half after she was diagnosed. My marriage ended and I stopped going to church. Three for three.

Yesterday, I was building some Powerpoint slides for a talk I’m giving in Kentucky next week, and I was looking for a visual metaphor for a point I want to make about how the work of holding space is very often the work of supporting destruction and regeneration. What I finally came up with can be seen in the photos below – a Lego house that is destroyed so that a bridge can be built out of the pieces.


As I was building it, I wasn’t focusing on how personal it felt, but now that I look at it, I see my own story. My life was like the house in the first picture – tidy and secure, with my mom, my husband, and my church standing as the walls that kept me safe. But a house wasn’t what was needed anymore. It had kept me safe and secure for the first half of my life, and for that I was grateful, but now I needed to step into a new story. Instead of the safety and security of a house, it was time to transform and embrace the possibility and risk of a bridge.

The transformation can’t happen without the destruction. That’s what the story of Easter teaches us.

What made me feel safe needed to be dismantled because it was also keeping me stuck. Safety meant that I wasn’t telling the truth. I wasn’t living authentically. I wasn’t stepping out in boldness. I was saying and doing the things I needed to say and do in order to keep everything from falling apart. I was letting fear guide me instead of courage.

But now that it’s all fallen apart and I discovered I was strong enough to live through the pain, I am receiving the gifts of the destruction.

I am living more boldly because I have less to lose. I am telling the truth because I know I can. I am living like each day matters because I know it can all end in a moment.

In the process, I am building new relationships and finding new community that feel increasingly more authentic and connected to who I am now. I don’t have time for shallowness anymore – I need depth and passion, and that’s what I’m pouring my energy and my heart into.

After the destruction, I am living a bigger, bolder, more beautiful life. I am crossing the bridge instead of staying stuck in the house. That’s the gift of falling apart.

Tomorrow is Good Friday, the day we focus on the death of Christ. It’s a sombre day that reminds us of our own endings, deaths, and failed dreams. But that’s not the end of the story. Just around the corner is Easter Sunday, the resurrection, the delight, the fulfillment.

If something is dying in your life, don’t fight it, let it go. Release it and trust, because just around the corner will be your chance to rise again, to be made new.

After the destruction comes the possibility.

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If your life is falling apart, perhaps I can hold space for you with some coaching? If you’re rising from the ashes and are using your experience to help you hold space for others, join us in The Helpers’ Circle. If you’d like to explore how writing might support your transformation, there are two opportunities (one online and one in-person) to join the Openhearted Writing Circle.


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In preparation

Our house in winter
I’ve spent much of the weekend preparing for the arrival of my dear friend Randy, who, like the wise men of the Christmas tale, will soon come from the East.

The house is clean (or at least reasonably so), the bed is prepared in the family room, and a little basket of goodies is waiting for his arrival. Randy is one of the best gift-givers I know, and so I delight in gathering things to honour him. Some of my long-time readers will remember Randy as the friend in Nova Scotia who gave me a beautiful spiral necklace. Because he is about to embark on a year-long contemplative study, I created a special journal for him to gather his thoughts in. I have no doubt that he will react with just the right amount of pleasure.

Though I’ve been scurrying a bit, and stressing a little too much about the house being “just right”, it is with eager anticipation that I prepare for his arrival. Soon I will leave for the airport, and for the next two days, I know that we will have many deep conversations, lots of hearty giggles, a road trip or two, and the odd glass of wine. (Randy is one of those rare humans who is as comfortable with his feminine side as his masculine, and so it is easy to be myself in his presence.)

As I look forward to his arrival, it occurs to me that all of this preparation serves as a kind of mirror reflecting the season we’re currently in. Advent. The time of waiting, anticipation, and preparation for the coming of the Christ child.

Advent is a big season. It holds so much in its weeks of waiting. It holds the hopes of nations waiting to be rescued by a new kind of leader. Slaves waiting to be released from bondage. Women waiting to be liberated from an oppressive culture. People of all stripes and colours waiting for a new paradigm, a new kingdom.

Sometimes I underestimate just how revolutionary the coming of Christ was – how it turned the world upside down. Sometimes I forget that Advent is still happening today. We are still waiting. We are still hoping. We are still being released, liberated, and set free from old bondage.

It is Sophia – the wisdom of Christ – that releases us. We are free to be who we are meant to be. We are redeemed from the old rules, the old paradigms, the old bondage. We can live fully in our bodies, dare to be bold and powerful, embrace our femininity, and BE BEAUTIFUL.

We can dance with Sophia – embrace her and move forward into new life  – because Christ came.

Just as I anticipate the arrival of Randy, who affirms me and celebrates me just the way I am, I welcome Christ, who knows me more deeply than any other, forgives my failings, and says “my child, you are beautiful.”

That is why I celebrate Advent.

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