Hope, Keeping it Real

Lessons In Living Through Dying

As I reflect on the last few weeks and the last ten months of my life, it keeps popping up that as much as I have experienced great loss I have also experienced great gain. I have learned so much in the process, and in the last days of my mom’s time on earth I learned more about living and life than I can completely understand.

I am absolutely still not sure that I have all the words, but in the meantime, I share what I can and hope that someone else will pick up even the smallest nugget that they can hold on to or release; whatever the case may be.

Life is really short. Really. Maybe I have a better understanding of that now more than ever. I don’t currently see that through a filter of sadness, regret or remorse but more through a filter of determination, courage and freedom.

What I learned about the brevity of life, even though my mom made choices that I wouldn’t make for myself, is that when you go through hard, ugly and painful things there’s still a blessing buried in that mess. It’s all about how you choose to see it. Even more so, how we choose to respond to it. I thought I had that concept pretty well mastered, but maybe not as much as I do now. Once again, as a believer in Jesus, I see how He is making all things work together and I am even more convinced that there’s no coincidence in His economy; just divine plans for a purpose.

I have realized after two plus years of hearing the words “new normal” that normal is not my favorite word, but new is a word that makes my top five. New after experiencing death takes on a whole new color and the best part of the new came on this side of heaven.

I have learned a whole lot more about my passion in life, and what picking up the pieces to rebuild looks like. There are more pieces being left on the floor than used in the creation of the next new chapter. That’s something that I have learned and understand at a greater level. New means new. Pieces of the old get added to the mould, but it’s a brand new creation opened up by purpose, plan and through a lot of pain. It’s still a new thing and sewn together by experience, belief and the choosing of one’s perspective and attitude.

I have learned the massive importance of true self care and how to go about that in the most loving possible way. Loving God and loving others is important, right now this other needs to crush the self care in the here and now as well as going forward. And it really just cannot be optimal or set aside for any good reason at all.

I have learned that a mom will truly go through life trying to protect their kids until their last dying breath. I have also learned to speak my heart even when it’s not the most favorable opinion and it’s still okay because my needs still matter as much as they always have.

Sharing all of these thoughtful and experiences seems like the best way through the grief. I long ago stopped saying things like I am fine. I have really learned more about the depth of His love for me. So instead of saying I am fine, how does “I am doing as expected” sound? Although I have also learned that grief does unexpected things at will all day long.

Take whatever you need to from this. If it’s how to see differently I hope you do. If it’s how to let go, I hope you do. If it’s how to find a mustard seed of faith then I hope you do. If it helps you let go, then I pray that you will.

Hope, Keeping it Real

Never Too Late

I have not been able to prioritize writing over the last few months. Oh, I have had a lot on my mind and a lot to say, but this was never really meant to be a personal journal type of blog that only contained my recent season and current experience in the first place. So I did not write, and if I am honest, probably mostly because this was not how I intended to utilize this platform, but apparently God has a better idea of what is going on and needs to happen. 

Honestly, I kept hearing God telling me that He never wastes a hurt and that someone else may hear a piece of the story that will unlock a prison, release a chain or give them hope anyway. I ignored it, and the brutally honest truth is that I was having a hard time seeing the joy in the middle of this hellish experience. It’s in there, joy has always been there because He is there and here and everywhere; I just didn’t know how to find that piece for a bit. 

And then…..

Backstory and a quick one: My mother has finally come to terms with the fact that we are not going to win this battle and agreed to start hospice care. All of that was not in a pretty little bow, but we got there. It officially started a few days ago, and I have to tell you that I feel like the cavalry has arrived. It has, I tell you. The letdown of the adrenaline and pure grit that I have been operating on for the last several months is overwhelming in the best kind of way. Just a few days into this, and not all the moving pieces in place and I feel like a ton of bricks just got dropped on me emotionally, but the physical weight has also been left. It is odd and beautiful. It is sad and joyous. It is both heartbreaking and hopeful. Just another both/and scenario. 

Jesus told us this in so many ways, and it hit me hard in the last 24 hours that He has and is still with and for me. Just as He is with and for you through any and every.little.thing. Seriously, how do we become so unaware of that? The scripture puts it right out there plain as day. 

John 13:7-You don’t understand now what I am doing, but later you will understand.

Yesterday, I heard my mom talking to an old friend that practices a different religion than I do. They were talking about the rapture. For me, that means ‘second coming’ and so when the friend told my mom that they did not believe that was true and that it really wasn’t in the Bible anyway I about lost my mind. I heard mom say that it was in the Bible, it was in Revelations. (Super proud and wonderful moment there.) The friend says, “We think that the book of Revelations is mostly symbolic.” Okay, well duh. The friend says, “Jesus did not say it anyway.” My heart broke for this friend and it broke my heart even worse knowing that my mom may be tempted to believe that. The truth is, that Jesus tells us throughout the Bible that He is coming again, and that if we have given our lives to Him as our Lord and Savior we will see Him face to face. There was further conversation between the two about heaven, hell and purgatory and I was annoyed, somewhat triggered, and told my mom after they hung up that it was really cool that she knew what Jesus said through Revelations and that it was, in fact, throughout the Bible that He was and is going to return. I left it at that. 

At 2:30 this morning, it hit me. I was thinking, planning, not sleeping and figuring out how to utilize the team that God has placed around me to support me and our family during this time, and it hit me that my mom was not feeling at peace about things as to where she will graduate when this time is over with. How heartbreaking. Maybe somewhat normal to not be sure, but still heartbreaking.

 I know that she was saved when she was 7 or 8 years old. I have written proof of that in my possession and I know that we don’t earn that salvation and I truly don’t believe you can lose that. Once you are a YES girl, you are a Jesus girl. Period. 

And I was prompted again to help bring her peace, and when I caught on to what He was asking me and how He was reminding me that despite the trouble, He has overcome. Despite the short season of suffering and pain, there is a pain-free, unfathomable perfect home in Heaven waiting. I must have asked Him the question, “What do you want me to do here?” And with a big, fat heavenly, straight from God answer He told me. Help bring her peace. Honor her, and help her to understand. I think I know what He wants me to do, and He has provided me the words and wisdom; the people, and the opportunity to provide her assurance and peace that she will be meeting Jesus face-to-face and in her heart of hearts she knows the truth, and the truth will set her free. She has already asked so many things that would go against what the religion she follows is absolutely against and for me, there is no more real picture than knowing Jesus and the truth deep, deep in her heart. That brings me peace!

In a step of obedience, to be an instrument in the peace process, I made the phone call to a dear friend and brother. Before I even uttered the words that I was about to ask him, he said yes. I am not even kidding. As soon as I am able to have a conversation with her about how I sense that she is unsettled about what will happen when she graduates, where she is going and whether she has truly been saved or not I will. And then, I can make that phone call and that friend will come. He will stand in the gap, answer the questions, and help me to bring some peace and assurance that PRAISE GOD she will be seeing Jesus and she will be completely healed when that day comes. I am also at peace knowing we may not get that opportunity, but I am confident and at peace enough for her. She gets to meet Jesus soon.

All of this to tell us this: there is hope, there is a purpose to every painful circumstance and experience and there is a Jesus that is alive and well working on our behalf in the middle of absolutely everything who will continue to draw us back to Him again and again and again. We are called to be His hands and feet, serving others as He would do, and helping them know peace right up until the very end. While our family manages the balance of heartbreak and hope, I pray that you will find peace, make peace or choose to renew your relationship with His peace. It’s never too late to be used by God. 

And friends, there is so much more that I am realizing and experiencing about community, faith, heartache, hope and all the things in between. The unreal phone calls and conversations, the willingness of dear friends to pray with and for me; to laugh and snot cry; to mourn and celebrate; to listen to me swing from all in Jesus girl to all sorts of anxious and slightly inappropriate Jesus girl; has been an incredibly treasured gift. All unknown to me at various points, but never unknown to Him. 

Wishing you peace today and always and the courage to do the next right, hard, nearly impossible thing that He asks of you. 

Hope

Choosing a response

So, today I moved my mom in with me. I knew when God said that He wanted me to trust Him and do this that I would choose to respond.

There was some arguing and whining about what it would cost me, but in truth what it cost me (emotionally and physically, not financially) is far less than what it has already gained me. I didn’t do it because of the benefit to me in any way, I did it because God says love Him and love others. She is an other no matter our history.

And so, today I settled her in, made her lunch and helped her shower. I was hit with the image of Jesus washing His disciples feet as I washed her hair. It was in that moment that I gained another HUGE perspective about choosing the response He would ask me to. Choosing the response that looks past so many things and sees your incredibly sick mother as another piece of His handiwork and having compassion for her and the things she didn’t choose as I would have it.

Choosing to see the incredible love and compassion that He has for me. A broken sinner, learning to live loved and love like Jesus.

Today was a special day and affirmation that His plans are always better than my own.

My encouragement for you today, dear loved ones, no matter who or what you believe is to see those around you with the eyes of compassion. Check to see if there are places and relationships in your life that you may not be choosing the best response for them or for you and then choose to adjust if needed.

Hope

Staying in the moment when I would rather not

It’s been awhile. It’s been a road. It’s been a challenging season with way too many things happening all at once that’s taking a heavy toll on me in every way possible.

But knowing that God isn’t surprised at all and that He will make all things right brings some comfort and peace sometimes. I am not yet angry with God. Honestly. It isn’t His doing that finds us with the reality of the end days or months of our mom’s life.

I AM angry though. I am fighting not being resentful of her because a good portion of this she did have control over and chose not to change habits or lifestyle. And then there’s the financial choices she made and didn’t which leaves us to figure out to not only pay for her basic needs but her cremation or services when the time comes. In my heart, I know that day is far more near than we would hope it to be, and at the same time I ask God to take her home.

When the anger and resentment comes I am reminded of “thou shall not judge” and have to look in the mirror.

And so, trying to live in one moment at a time is stupid hard when we also have to make decisions that are best for her when there’s so many if/then scenarios in play.

So, I keep praying. I keep trusting. I keep doing. I keep feeling. I keep struggling to accept the love, care, and offers of help in various forms. I forget how to love others and let others love me. I do.

What we are dealing with isn’t uncommon. It’s not any harder than what other families go through. There’s no chapter in the playbook that explains how to deal with making the best decisions possible during a deadly virus outbreak. There’s no chapter that adds in our very special set of family dynamics. There’s just not.

Mixed in with total hell is absolute joy and amazing grace. I have a lot to talk about and yet nothing to say. I’m exhausted and cannot sleep at the same time. I’m in the middle of both/and. We are in the middle of a storm and a miracle.

Whenever I start to wonder what the next day looks like let alone the next few months I am assured that He is already there.

Hope

Choosing to Believe

Step 2: We came to believe that a power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity. 

“For it is God who works in you to will  and to act according to His good purpose.” Philippians 2:13

Today, as I am writing this, friends….no truer words could ever have been spoken. I am so grateful for the first-hand experiences of His power and love. I think we can easily become immune to that, or maybe so comfortable with it that it becomes comfortable and maybe even taken for granted. 

It is dangerous territory to get into a place of comfort. Living there for a minute, probably not a big deal. Staying there, however, can lead to complacency and denial and self-will from my perspective and experience. 

We all tend to want to do what is safe and comfortable. Safe and comfortable is not always wise. Safe and comfortable is not always the place of His will, but our own if we are honest. If I am honest.

What are you choosing to believe in your place of safe and comfortable? Safe and comfortable is a mindset that can either be Satan’s playground or God’s fertile ground. Amen.

Choosing to believe. Those words and that real-life experience and choice has hit me upside the head time and time again. Recently in a very powerful, tangible and real way. 

I fail to live up to my own standards before I open my eyes. Let’s be real, for most of us, before our day even starts we do, say, or think something that is stupid and not of Him. I don’t pretend to be perfect, and the reality is I choose to believe and accept that I am not. 

I also choose to believe that He knew that about all of us long before we ever came into this world. This not-so-safe and highly uncomfortable world. 

I am choosing to believe that none of us are as we should be not as an excuse to justify my weakness, but as an act of choosing to believe in a power greater than myself that will restore me to sanity and quickly, if I allow it.

I know that I choose to stay comfortable and find comfort in the wrong things easily, if I am not seeking God and His will for my life above all things. 

My challenge for myself, and to you, is to examine what you are choosing to believe. 

Do you find yourself in a place of safe and comfortable? Are you truly safe and comfortable, or are you in denial? Do you find yourself growing in faith and belief more when you are in the safe and comfortable place or when you are not? Who is your safety and comfort? Is it Him or someone/something else? 

Hope

Affirmed

You just never know when life will throw a curveball your way and recently I took a big swing at one. I am not sure, yet if I hit it out of the park or it stayed infield, but I hit the ball. 

I found myself choosing to make a choice instead of outweighing every.single.possible.scenario and to remember that no matter what, He was with me. I talked about it with some of my favorite people and when I did, I felt Him. 

Now, let me just say that I knew that the choice I was making was complex and that it could very well turn out with me asking myself, “Well, how many times are you going to put your hand on a hot stove knowing you get burned.” Instead, I felt empowered to choose and fully aware of the consequences of making a choice either way. I also knew that it could lead to some judgment, shame and rejection. 

Before, I stepped to the plate I chose to reach out and talk about what I was thinking about. I not only talked about it, I prayed about it. And although God did not give me a clear go ahead, what He did give me was “I go with you and there is nothing you could ever do that would make me love you less.” Not permission, but affirmation that He has never walked away from me when I have completely struck out. 

I felt affirmed in His love for me despite my weakness and failures. 

And I chose and I did it. And then I ran through a checklist (mental, emotional, spiritual and physical) to ask myself questions. Nowhere in that checklist was, “Why did you do that? You  know better?” and nowhere in that was, “You should probably not tell anyone about this.” 

The beautiful thing is that I am not attached to shame for this choice or any of the other previous choices or any of the probable poor choices I will most likely make at some point in my life again. Am I proud? No. Am I full of shame and self-loathing? Also no. 

When you break free of shame, and instead feel convicted you tend to do the next right thing. I did that. I did not hide. I did not pretend I didn’t do it and I most certainly did not put myself into a shame cycle. I made a choice and now I choose to live with the outcome. I cannot claim victimhood when I am the one who chose to swing the bat. 

I talked about it with the same trusted friends. And you know what, once again affirmed. Not necessarily affirmed in the choice, but affirmed in not only His love for me but their love for me. Graciously speaking the truth in love and loving me where I am. That’s more affirmation than I could ever ask for or deserve. 

But God, He redeems. He loves. And He gives us the opportunity to recognize His hand in everything including the times when we choose something that is not necessarily what He wants for us. 

And although I will still choose to take this one day at a time, I am both humbled and affirmed that I need a Savior, will never live up to my own standards let alone His. Thank you Jesus for your redeeming grace and mercy! 

As much as I am going to fail, with Him, I cannot lose. We win or we learn. With Jesus, we cannot lose. I am affirmed in my choice to be my whole, real, messy self and not hide from the pieces of me that still need work. 

Be good to yourselves today!

Hope

Like-Minded

Every single human on this earth wants the same basic things: to feel loved, heard, cared for, secure and safe. Every single human on this earth is wired to receive all of that through God, our Heavenly Father and lover supreme. 

We all have filters and character defects that sometimes prevent others from offering those things to us. We all have God who also offers the same things to us and is the only one who can get it right every.single.time.

In order to feel loved, we have to first be able to give and receive love. In order to feel heard, we have to learn to use our voice and also listen. To be cared for, we first have to care. To be secure and safe, we first have to find our safety and security in Him.

I love the idea that the same character defects that can be used to destroy, can also be used to bring life if we turn it over to Him.

Most of us have to learn all of this hardway. In learning it the hard way, it is a lesson deeply ingrained in me that I won’t easily forget. How about you? Do I have an occasional memory lapse? Absolutely yes. It is true that there cannot be light without darkness. 

I was thinking about the words in scripture found in 1 Peter 3:8 that say, “Finally, all of you be like-minded, be sympathetic, love on another, be compassionate and humble.” I landed on like-minded and camped on that for a bit. 

Like-minded? What does that mean? That I have to agree with everything someone says or does or believes? No, not actually. For me, it means like-minded in terms of basic needs and securities. 

What does that have to do with filters and character defects and all of that? Well, could it be that the person that we are in a relationship with is wired for the same things and needs and wants the same thing as us? Could it be that the person that is not using words towards me that are helpful, really needs me to help them bring out the words, thoughts and feelings that they are trying to share with me? 

Could it be that one of my many character defects (aka talents) could be used for His glory and my good? Yes. It is possible. For example: my filter of rejection and abandonment can cause me to hear things that you DID NOT say. If you speak that language, then you know what I mean. In other words, I hear past what you said and instead hear, “I don’t like you. I am leaving you. I don’t want to be around you.You are not safe with me,” Think bigger now, and think about communication gaps and how we can use that same exact thing in an upside down way to hear that the person is actually saying, behind the words that they ARE saying. 

I seriously do not have this all figured out, friends. I still have to go through a mental, emotional, spiritual checklist on the regular. I still have to ask for Him to reveal what is actually happening in my heart and head before I get all the more confused and butthurt. Seriously. 

Here’s my challenge for all of us. Grow to be more like-minded with Jesus in our thoughts and actions. Think and pray before we spout and say. Develop like-mindedness in all of our relationships as a result. Simple equation, so hard to do. Thanks for holding me accountable!