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

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, Keeping it Real, Struggle Bus

Rising Above Rejection

I have been wrestling with some ideas and thoughts for a little while about rejection and how to rise above it. In the middle of that process, I have begun to recognize how easy it is to become more about routine than relational. 

I personally realize that some of the things I have done or been doing are taking me further away from the intended destination than I even recognized. When and where things have become so routine that I am further away from my purpose and contentment, and damn it if there is not a sense of people pleasing in the middle of it all. 

But God, as I know and understand Him, has continued to show me about rising above rejection. Even so, how things that have served me so well are now becoming routine and not reaching me as deeply as they once did. Having been one that has compromised self-worth, dignity and self-care for the sake of others while sick and deep in codependency I hoped that I would not do the same things again. In a sense, I think I am. I think I could be compromising and rejecting parts of myself that there is absolutely nothing wrong with but are hidden out of sight because I thought it was what I had to do in order to belong, in order to do what was right, honorable, Godly and approved of. Approved of by who is the question. 

For me, I am recognizing how I have compromised by continuing to do what I have always done at the cost of losing myself again. Not in the same ways that I would and did before recovery and before Jesus, but compromising just the same. 

I am fairly confident that God as I know Him says I am fully known and fully loved. In fact, I know that is true. I think deeply, pray, read, research and review from different angles quite frequently. I have to ask myself, and people that I trust to tell me the truth, if I am in denial at all or just a little bit or not at all just to be sure. We all know how easy it is to rationalize. 

For hell’s sake it makes me so freaking mad when I see the patterns that I thought were long broken sneaking in. I hate how my past tendencies to hide and not talk about what I am really thinking or feeling sneaks in there. It really frustrates this recovering perfectionist knowing that I know better, and yet find myself doing it again. Still. 

Friends, here’s the thing. We get to decide. We get to choose. We get to turn away from those old patterns again and again and again. We get to deepen our relationship with God as we understand Him and don’t need to do the same things over and over again just because it is routine or safe or comfortable. Nothing big happens when we hold back. 

So, as I become increasingly aware of just how individualized and special that relationship between He and I is, I would encourage you to fight to rise above rejection. Do the healing work, do the new things, and be not afraid to rise above rejection experienced in the past and experienced by our own doing and understanding. 

Just because it is safe and comfortable, doesn’t mean it is right. Thank God I have people to remind me of that from time to time. I don’t grow when I get too comfortable. And in a time where God keeps whispering, “Move, loved one.” I am beginning to see more of what that means. Honestly, He keeps telling me in many ways, and I am moving. I am moving ever so slowly towards what He has been trying to get me see in all arenas of my life, not just the ones that I thought.

How are you capitalizing on the time you are in, the time that you have to work at rising above rejection? Are you setting boundaries and/or letting go of things that have served their purpose and time? Are you ready to move into a new time of rising above rejection after finding that you have been invited and reminded to stop rejecting your whole self? 

Hope, Keeping it Real

Operating in the And Also

There’s a term, a thing, in psychology called black and white thinking. It also could be referred to as splitting or polarized thinking. 

If you have done recovery work, are doing recovery work and have ever experienced trauma maybe you can understand this idea of black and white thinking. It’s a life stealer if you ask me. I used to operate there regularly, and have learned to operate in the “and also” over the years. 

The polarized thinking that steals pieces of our lives, relationships, opportunities and memories maybe sounds like: 

  • It is or it isn’t there is not in between.
  • He is the best thing that ever happened to me or he is the devil incarnate there is no in between.
  • You always. 
  • You never.
  • It always….
  • It never….

That thought pattern keeps us from seeing the world as it is: complex and full of different shades of every color in between black and white. Right? It holds us in a place of extremes, and nobody likes to live at nor thrives best at one extreme or the other. It’s difficult to have much of a life or quality of life at those extremes. 

I have got to be on guard against slipping into that type of thinking as a regular way of functioning, coping (read NOT COPING) or facing the real issue. I can say that operating in the and also is a much healthier, fruitful, wise and hopeful way to live and think. God carefully reminds me, from time to time, that I have slipped or that even in the smallest ways I can and do respond in a black and white way instead of an and also way. How about you? 

There’s the big-time, big deal examples of seeing a hard circumstance as just bad, just hard and just impossible. The flip side? There’s the opportunity to see it as an and also scenario. It is bad, and I am also learning new things about myself. It is hard, and also easier with great people around me to love and support me. It is impossible for me to see the way through this and also it is not impossible for Him. 

In my own life, there’s a silly example of me not listening to any music other than Christian music that was created from the year 2012 forward. No, I am not kidding. I stopped listening because I was so offended that George Strait and Eric Church performed on an awards show together one year and I was mortified. So, I stopped listening. I also probably had it in my head, more honestly, that because I had turned my life over to Jesus that I could not listen to that kind of music. Seriously. I know, ridiculous. As it turns out, I have discovered that all new country music is not bad and also I might actually enjoy some of it. I have not thrown my faith out the window by listening to it and nobody got hurt in the process. 

My point is, friends, that I think that whether you believe in God or not; no matter who you choose to worship, there is always an opportunity to take a quick check and see what kind of thinking we have going on inside our heads. If we are moving away from the life-sapping defense mechanism of black and white and towards more of the and also thinking while learning to operate more in that space, then we are better for it. 

Learning to operate in the and also, thinking in the and also, and speaking that into my own heart and mind has gained me a much more colorful, happy, joyful, authentic life. How about you? 

Hope, Keeping it Real

Is Good Enough Good Enough?

When you slow down enough to really think through, feel through, and pray through the circumstances of the season you’re in, the dreams about your future and take inventory of what the next right steps are God will meet you right in the middle. 

I know this is not a new concept for many of us, but sometimes we just forget, get out of practice or find ourselves just going through the motions. That’s how life works sometimes. 

Personally, I have been really fighting over so many things including the idea of being content and being fulfilled and how different those two things are. We can have one or the other and be just fine. But, my belief is that He came for us to have life and have it to the full not just in the ever after but also in the here and now. 

Those conversations we sometimes have with Him that start with the word why or what? There’s been a lot of those lately. How about you? Most of the time I am able to have my priorities and focus right and can say, “What do you want me to learn from this?” and sometimes I ask, “What is it that I am not seeing here?”. And boy, does He answer. 

I recently experienced a three-day series of totally and wholly designed by Him moments that left me so full of hope and so refocused, less afraid, less angry and more bold and excited. I heard some great leaders and pastors speak over the last 48 hours that God used to speak right into me in a way that was so desperately needed. He ALWAYS knows what we need and when we need it. 

The question on my mind beforehand to my own self was, “Are you content? Are you fulfilled?” and there was a lot of if-then-this mixed in with the answers. No shame in that game, people. But the question then comes, how good is good enough? 

I would argue that good enough is not good enough when He has so much more in store. I know He does and He always has. I am asking these questions, and God just poured into me the courage and boldness to answer truthfully. I can have both. Now, I am not talking about wanting more fulfillment or contentment in terms of material possessions, money, or any of that business. I am talking about contentment and fulfillment for my best life and the best version of my whole self I can be and in turn more able and free to share the source of true contentment and fulfillment from a full love tank. Do you know what I mean? 

Friends, I firmly believe that He wants more for us than we could ever ask for or understand, but at the same time, He loves his kids and wants to hear the desires of our heart. I was not asking for courage and boldness, I was asking the questions about what He wants for me and somehow that aligns with what I want for me. I want more than good enough. Good enough is not good enough. He answered my questions in the most unexpected ways which turned out to be exactly what I needed and when I needed it. 

Here’s the challenge for all of us today. Pray big questions. Ask big questions. Listen for those answers that come in unexpected ways and find the courage to believe that good enough is not good enough for the children of the King of Kings. His children are priceless in His eyes and Daddy will always give us what we need and when we need it.

He pours out His love lavishly, so good enough should not be good enough if it doesn’t mean contentment and fulfillment. Today, are you both content and fulfilled? If not, what needs to change?

Hope, Keeping it Real

The Things We Do

I have learned to laugh at myself and the ridiculous things I think and do. I can laugh at myself most of the time, especially when I see the silly patterns and ingrained tendencies within me that can either make me cry or laugh. The response is usually based on the day and how that day kicks off. 

There are funny (READ FUN FACT) things about me that are just silly, weird, awkward or a mix of all of the above. Things that I would be almost afraid to share with my best friends if I did not know that they all possess their own quirks, too. And we love God and other people and accept them for who they are and not as they should be. Right? 

For example: 

  1. When doing anything involving a checklist or project-I have to leave off at an even number. Let’s say I have a list of things to do at work. I won’t stop with 3, 5, or 7 things remaining. I complete them in even numbers. It bothers me to have an uneven number. 
  2. The volume setting on a device also has to be set at an even number. 
  3. When I am walking, I count steps in my head and, you guessed it, I cannot handle an uneven number.

See what I mean? Quirky. And then not so much. Maybe the connection between even numbers could be made to equality and justice and fair. I don’t know. Maybe that’s a stretch. But seeing people treated fairly, equitably and justly matters to me, too. I get a little bent out of shape over various shades of inequality and injustice. Who knows? I will have to wait to see what God has to see about that and that’s another conversation for another day.

My point is, laughing at my tendencies and odd little quirks make life so much sweeter than wrapping myself up in self-pity, self-loathing and general disdain at my whole self and identity. I am labeled as the daughter of the King of Kings and still human. My labels don’t identify me (at least not much anymore on most of the days) and so I can laugh and find humor in the silly things about me that don’t define me, but make me unique.

What labels have you placed on your pretty little head that you need to let go of? What areas of your life can you laugh about? What are the fun facts you want to share with the rest of us? This is a safe place and it’s okay to be who you are. 

Oh! In case you have forgotten, you are fearfully and wonderfully made. 

I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. Psalm 139:14

Hope

Get up and Grow

Somebody besides me needs to know this today: He loves you. He really, really loves you.
 One of my very first life-verses years ago was this one in Romans that says “For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rules, nor things present or things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 8:38-39

I have experienced a lot of skinned knees in my lifetime so far. I am sure that there will be other times as well. What I know to be true is that on skinned knees I can still kneel at the foot of the cross.

Ever had one of those moments or days where you keep hearing cute little sayings, quotations, motivational thoughts and even scripture where you just go “yeah, yeah, yeah” and sort of blow it off? Me too. 

What about the days where you HEAR them and you go, “YES! YES! YES” and brace yourself for impact? It’s these moments that bring me to my knees and also invite me to get up and grow. 

 There was a time when my mistakes or choices defined me; where I took on the brunt of the pain and responsibility for other people’s mistakes or choices as well. Then Jesus, and recovery and intentional choosing to not get caught up in the shit show of lies bouncing around in my head happened.

I have a tendency to overcompensate for just about everything, if I am honest. That used to be a coping mechanism used to avoid rejection, to avoid feeling anything and to avoid vulnerability. So when the opportunity comes up, I still once in a while find myself holding myself super-super-accountable to the point of self-sabotage. And then, I hear myself and the words of encouragement I share with other people about saying things like, “When are you going to give yourself some grace in this?” or “When are you going to forgive yourself for this?” and I am reminded.

Failure is not final. Falling down is not a sentence. Grace wins if we allow it. It’s not wise to sweep things under the rug, but once it is out from under the rug there’s no reason to keep beating the dust out of the rug. 

I consider myself to be mostly self-aware and also humble enough to know the difference when God puts me in a place to remember that on skinned knees I can kneel at the foot of the cross and still choose to get up and grow. 

At first light this morning, God continued to pursue me relentlessly to a point of wanting to scream at Him to stop loving me. That’s absurd, but it is what I was thinking. Him lavishing you and I with love is all He wants to do. 

So, wherever you are today, let me remind you of one other thing that I have to remind myself way more often than I thought I would ever need to: Repairing the damage starts in our own heads and hearts. Making amends will help. Self-loathing will not. 

Get up and grow, people. He loves you. He really, really loves you.