How to pick up the pieces when your Peaceful World shatters

How to Pick up the Pieces when your Peaceful World Shatters.

For those of us in the small community of Cleveland, MS, yesterday started off as one of those perfect pre-fall days… the sky was cloudless and the brightest of blues, the weather was crisp enough for a light jacket, and those pesky misquotes were finally moving on to occupy themselves with something other than human flesh and blood.  Yes… It was going to be a good day!

But by 10:45 am, an active shooter was loose on the Delta State University campus (which is five minutes from everywhere in our town), one professor was dead, the shooter was on the loose, and the campus and all nearby schools were on lockdown.  Emergency lockdown – not the “drill” kind.  This time it was for real.  And it lasted for hours.

Helicopters swarmed, sirens blared, rumors abounded.  A little over twelve hours later, the shooter was caught and took his own life.  The imminent danger ended for Cleveland, but the drama and trauma had just begun.  Three families are publicly grieving today, a grief compounded by the nation’s attention and interest in this case and the unanswered questions that won’t let any of them grieve in solace.

Fear and terror had a field day in our town yesterday and shattered our imaginary peaceful bubble.  So now, what do we do?  How do we pick up and move on?  Where do we go from here?

Our tiny town, which is more like family than city, has just entered the same list of names as Columbine… though, praise God, the outcome wasn’t as destructive… but yesterday, none of us knew that.  I honestly can’t think of a single person who wasn’t affected in some way by this trauma.  Every one of us had either loved ones or friends on the Delta State University campus, or loved ones on lockdown nearby, or loved ones as first responders to the crisis.

So…as Cleveland awakes this morning… as school busses run and mamas drive their babies in the carpool lines… as spouses kiss their educators goodbye… as friends make plans to meet later for lunch… as workers leave for their jobs this morning… as life demands that we continue as normal today, how can we?  Especially after what happened yesterday?

How can we pick up the pieces when our peaceful world was shattered?

I was asking the Lord that very question this morning, and want to share with you His answer from His Word.


1.  We MUST Stand upon God-the-Rock.

We can’t stand on the shaky ground of our own understanding or the broken pieces of what we can see.  If we do, we’ll fall right through the cracks. Nothing will hold us up during these quaky days but the Rock of God.  We don’t understand.  We won’t understand.  But we can choose to STAND upon the ONE Who does, and Who can help us navigate the days ahead.

The Lord is My Rock and My Fortress and My Savior,
My God, My Rock in whom I take refuge,
My Shield, and the Strength of My Salvation,
My Stronghold.
The Lord should be praised.
I called on him, and I was saved from my enemies.
Psalm 18:2-3

So always trust the Lord

because He is forever
    Our Mighty Rock.
Isaiah 26:4  


2.  We MUST Connect with God’s presence through thankfulness.

Psalm 100:4 tells us to Enter with the password: ‘Thank you!’ Make yourselves at home, talking praise. Thank him. Worship him.” (Psalm 100:4, MSG).When we can’t see God in a situation, it’s usually because we are focusing on the situation and trying to find God through it instead of setting our focus ON God and seeing the situation through Him.  Thankfulness adjusts our focus.  

Every single one of us can come up with at least 5 things for which we are thankful… even those affected by yesterday’s shattering events.

1. Law enforcement and first responders – They did an excellent job! Thank You for them, Jesus!
2. School officials and teachers on the DSU campus who kept the students safe.  Thank you, Jesus!
3. School officials and teachers all over Cleveland who kept their own schools and the students in their charge safe, especially the littlest ones, with those loud helicopters flying overhead… Thank you that they kept calm and protected our loved ones!
4. Thank you that this shooter didn’t shoot in a classroom full of students.
5. Thank you that the shooter was acting alone, and was caught before we went to sleep last night and we didn’t wake up this morning wondering.
6. Thank you for the excellent communication between schools and homes, students and parents, and community via modern technology, texting, and yes… even Facebook! 😉
7. Thank you that as bad as it was, this was not as bad as it could have been.
8. Thank you that these grieving families aren’t grieving alone – that you are with them, and that they are loved here, even the family of the shooter… we certainly don’t hold them responsible.  Thank you that this community will stand behind these grieving ones in the days to come.

Listing thanksgiving during a difficult time is a sacrifice.  It goes against everything we naturally want to do.  But this is what will turn the focus off of ourselves and the impossible weight of the situation and place it on the ONLY ONE who can handle the heaviness, and help us piece back together whatever it is that has been shattered or torn.

Then they cried out to the Lord in their trouble;
He saved them from their distress.

He sent His word and healed them;

He rescued them from the Pit.

Let them give thanks to the Lord 
for His faithful love
and His wonderful works for all humanity.

Let them offer sacrifices of thanksgiving

and announce His works with shouts of joy.

Psalm 107:19-22


3.  We MUST Pick up one piece at a time, and entrust it to God.

What is it that needs to be done today?  Then, start there.  Do the next right thing.

After yesterday’s shake-up and wake-up, we were all reminded that none of us are guaranteed one more breath, much less a string of tomorrows.  But what we do have is this moment.  Right now.  So let’s determine to use it wisely.  Not in fear.  Not in foolishness.  But in wisdom, stepping forward into the next thing God has laid before us to do.  What is it for you?

For me, it is catching up on the work I missed yesterday because I was paralyzed and glued to the tv/phone/computer.  For my daughter, it’s going back to her high school and processing this with her friends.  For our DSU family, it will be something much more difficult, and for the families of the victims and shooter it will be even more harrowing… but each and every one affected by this tragedy has a “next step” to take – and can only move ahead one step at a time, picking up one piece at a time.  

The best news is that these picking-up-the-pieces-steps aren’t meant to be made alone! God, the Rock Upon Whom We Stand And Set Our Focus is the One who will also carry us as we tentatively take each new step and pick up each broken piece.  His arms are outstretched to us, offering us a safe place of help and carriage – as much as and whenever we want and need.

Don’t be afraid, because I am with you.
Don’t be intimidated; I am your God.
    I will strengthen you.
    I will help you.
    I will support you with my victorious right hand.
Isaiah 41:10
Whatever it is that is your next step, don’t go it alone…take it with God.  When you are gazing at the shattered and trying to figure out where to begin to clean it up… just ask Jesus to help you, then bend down and start with the closest one.  Pick it up, place it in His “victorious right hand” and entrust the clean up process to Him.  He will strengthen you.  He will help you.  His Word promises it, and He doesn’t go back on His Word!

I praise you, Lord,
    for answering my prayers.

    You are my strong shield,
    and I trust you completely.
You have helped me,
    and I will celebrate
    and thank you in song.

 You give strength
    to your people, Lord,
    and you save and protect
    your chosen ones.

Come save us and bless us.

    Be our shepherd and always
    carry us in your arms.

Psalm 28:6-9 (CEV)


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About SmellingCoffee

I'm a Jesus-loving, husband-loving, family-loving minister's wife and mom to two college kids, making our home and serving our Lord in the Mississippi Delta. I study, teach, speak, and write for the greatest Boss in the universe. "Faith, Family, Food, Fun, and Living Life brewed in the fragrance of the knowledge of Jesus Christ in every place": That's what you'll find at