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. 

Keeping it Real

When patience is tested

I got up at least 6 times throughout the night last night and my cranky was at a level 4, but not quite defcon level 5.

It’s been like this every night for almost a week now. I don’t know that I remember how to have a newborn in the house again. But that drive kicks in and we do what we do because that’s what love does.

To be clear, I am not always appreciative of the opportunity to be tested in my patience or my grace. In fact, while getting my mom patient dressed this morning I may or may not have told her that I would suffocate her if she didn’t start sleeping at night. She knew I was kidding, but for the real, I am whooped.

I cannot help but see how God sees me again and again, doing the same dumb things that cause trouble or pain or rattle my peace. He keeps loving me when I keep Him up all night, I am sure.

And the next morning He wakes me up to continue to live and love loudly knowing that before nightfall my patience will be tested and I will also have the chance to love bigger. Like making a fancy breakfast for the one that keeps me up all night, He loves big and loves when I am exhausting because He so loves me and you as well.

He loves still. He loves despite and He loves because love does.

So, I invite you to reflect and share about the times you are exhausted and your peace has been rattled. Do you choose to love bigger and louder? How do you change the trajectory of your day and perspective when you’re whooped? Can you see yourself and others through the eyes of grace?

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

Self Care is NOT Selfish

I did this to myself and now I am reaping what I have sown. 

Have you ever said that to yourself? Yeah, me too. Recently, I find myself beating myself up a little bit about a choice that was SO DANG GOOD for me. I took a break, went a little wild and took a little trip to my favorite place on earth and that should be a really, really good thing. It was. It is. 

The problem is that I have a difficult time making sure I am doing what I need to do for myself and when I do things that might disappoint someone else, then I start second-guessing my choices and decisions to do what I am confident is the right thing for me. Maybe you are a recovering people-pleaser codependent that can understand this concept. Let me remind you that self-care is not selfish. Repeat that a few times in case you forget it. 

E V E R Y single time I return from my home state, I feel a little blue and down and out of sorts. The upside is that I am normally past that state of being in a few days. This time, it’s been a lot different. 

Here are the facts: 

 Exhibit A-We are in a pandemic and it is wise to limit interaction with other human beings whenever possible to slow the spread and flatten the curve.

Exhibit B-This means that life as we know it is blown to you-know-what.

Exhibit C-Mental health is important and I am losing my ever-loving mind being cooped up in my house where I get to work all day, clock out, hang out, and get up and do it all again five days a week. 

Exhibit D-It does not appear that this is going to let up any time soon. Sigh. So we all have choices to make. 

Exhibit E-We get to decide how we live the life we have been given, who we spend our time with and how we go about loving the people around us. 

So, I am deciding what it looks like to do what God wants me to do. Love Him, love others and that includes me. That includes you. I am reaping what I have sown and, with His help, in the very best way possible. I am reaping what He has sown into me and how He created me to be. 

The God we know will be with us wherever we go. I know He is with us while we play house in our houses, and don’t hear what I am not saying. I am not saying I am ungrateful for the opportunity to work from home, slow down, and really pray and think about what God wants to teach me in the middle of this. If there’s anything I have learned that He will hold open the door while we decide which ones to knock down and which ones to go around; which ones to kick down and which ones to walk through. 

He is in it with us no matter what choices we make during this time. This time that we cannot really seem to get away from talking about. I remember when it started that it was just going to be a couple of weeks or a month at most. That was precious, now wasn’t it?

Repeat after me: Self-care is not selfish!

What doors do you need to kick down? What doors do you need to go around? What adjustments do you need to make to keep yourself sane and healthy? 

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!