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

Being Upheld and Holding Up

We made it! We saw the end of a difficult year and now we turn the page for the next chapter.

I have never been the “what’s my word of the year” person or been super big on sitting down and writing down a list of goals, but I do take the time to reflect, review and look forward to a fresh page. 

As I am reflecting, talking with God and thinking about what has happened and what has yet to happen, I hear Him telling me, “Take forward with you all the good, and the bad, because without one there isn’t the other.”

The recovering instant-gratification girl would really like to be able to button up the crazy 2020 chapter with a pretty little bow, but the living-in-the-moment girl knows that’s pretty much not remotely possible. 

I hear Him whisper, “I have upheld you. I have strengthened you” and I KNOW that to be true. So, when I think of being upheld and how I am holding up and how we are collectively holding up I can not only think of what I personally have faced in the last 12 months, but so many other people I know as well. Not one person I know has had a stellar year, but we have all had opportunity and reason to take some stellar lessons with us into the next one. 

How have I been strengthened? How have you been strengthened? Through trouble and hardship; mourning and loss; and division and drama. I think I am familiar with that territory. He has a great track record of holding me up, strengthening me through the stretching of faith muscles and trust muscles, and I have held up just fine. It was not painless, but it was an exercise in what to hold on to and what to let go of. 

My relationship with God is stronger. It’s being held up. My relationship with my siblings is stronger. Those relationships are being held up. My connection with my dad is stronger, and it was held up through the strain his children are experiencing facing a horrible set of circumstances with our mother-his ex wife. My relationship with my mom, the person that hurt me the most, loved me the worst, and did the very best she could do at the time is stronger. He is holding it up and I am being held through every challenging piece of the story while the book comes closer to the ending. 

My reflection is this: what do I want to carry with me, and what do I want to leave behind? I tell you, I don’t think I can leave one piece of it behind. Since He has a great way of using all things for His glory and our good, I don’t think we can just spit out the things and pieces that leave a bad taste in our mouths. Instead, we take it all forward. Without the bad, there cannot be the good. Without darkness, nobody can see the light. 

The situations, circumstances, changes and losses of this last year will always serve a bigger purpose if we let them. I will take forward the moments of hard; the times that isolation became too heavy; and the days that felt like they were years long because there was a limit placed on what we could do, where we could go and what we could do. The extra bonus complications that the pandemic brought also brought out creativity. I had to get creative many times over in how I was going to afford another special memory for my mom or with my mom. I did not always like it or see it as a great opportunity, and I bitched, moaned and complained. But being held up, helped up and held onto by my God meant that I would soon see the blessings even in the many bummers once again. I still saw 365 sunrises and sunsets. I still had love and loss and all in betweens. I had major milestone high moments and some really ugly low moments. I had a lot of BIG feelings and I didn’t hide from them. I had a lot of opinions and still managed to do what I could to keep my mouth shut in wisdom and grace. 

As a reminder for you and I, He will strengthen us. None of us truly can get through our lives without Him being the good God that He is. His strength to carry us out of, over, and through the things He knew were coming is all we have to get us through the hardest of days. 

When this period of history is written in the books, I hope that we can reflect on all the good in it. Many times before in our history, in our personal lives we have gone through dark things (addictions, divorces, child loss, death, etc.) and He has given us wisdom, peace, recovery and growth beyond our understanding. I am confident that He will continue to do the exact same thing with all of this and whatever comes next. 

So, thank you 2020 for all that you have taught us. Thank you Jesus for what you have upheld us through. Truly. We have all experienced more love for our neighbor; more creativity in difficult times; more compassion for those with less resources, less family or those that don’t even know that they belong to You as Your children; and we have all experienced the loss, rebuilding and value of community and basic human decency. 

Welcome 2021, we are stronger than whatever silliness you have to throw us, we are being upheld by the One true God and we are not just ready to hold up but to level up. 

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

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!