appreciation, change, clarity and direction, grieving, healing, hope, living and growing, perspective, spiritual growth, struggles

2020 Hindsight

This past year caused a fundamental shift inside of me. A blanket of heaviness came to rest upon me and I could not get out from under it. Good things happened but I could only acknowledge them on a surface level.

For much of my adult life, I’ve been a hopeful person. So hopeful sometimes that I’ve been accused of being a Pollyanna. When I became a Christian, that hopeful, optimistic view fused with my faith. It became a gift from God. But somehow, over this past year, that hopefulness, the optimistic person in me who thinks it will all turn out ok in the end, left. I didn’t lose my faith. I could acknowledge that God was still in control and that he wanted only good for me. But the spark that drove my faith could not be accessed.

The pandemic and all the things it changed, all the things that had to be given up and the rules that were imposed, I accepted. Some of them broke my heart, but I accepted them. I knew logically, that good things were also happening. That life, even during a pandemic, even with restrictions, could not be contained. That both good and bad things would continue to happen. But when I would try to acknowledge the good, it was truncated, always seen and felt under that blanket of heaviness.

Even on New Year’s Eve, when those on Facebook were posting their hopes that 2021 would be better, I could not join them in that hope. Of course, I did want it to be better but the heaviness inside of me was in charge. There was no room for hope to work it’s magic. It didn’t dare.

I went to bed expecting to sleep through the change of the New Year. Something I would have never done in the past. Yet I couldn’t sleep. I watched the ball drop, while on my phone, in bed. And after it dropped, I cried. It was an odd kind of crying, almost without tears. The thought that there were no tears left, did not escape my thinking. My heart ached from a loss I couldn’t verbalize.

The harsh realist in me has been telling me all along that I have no right to be sad. No one I loved has died from the virus. Yes we’ve had to cancel things and yes we’ve been separated from loved ones, and yes life as we know it has drastically changed, but it’s all for the greater good.

In hindsight, it was really a critic, posing as a realist, that fed the heaviness. The enemy coming in with just enough truth to make me feel compelled to buy it. And the heaviness settled in on top of me and I could not get out from under it.

Of course, the critic was not alone. He had help. Fear, anxiety and the threat of greater loss….the threat of this 2020 life being the new normal, ripped me apart and put me back together again in a way that left me unable to recognize myself.

Over the last few weeks in December, I had reached a breaking point. I was so weary of this new person I had become. I was so tired of trying to be the old me while this blanket weighed on me. My prayer life, like everything else in this year, had been affected. Over the past few weeks, my prayers, when I could get them out were simple prayers, of “help me, Lord.”

This morning, January 2, 2021, I woke up and thought I would pray before I got out of bed. That is not unusual for me but the prayers that came out of my mouth were. “Thank you, Lord! Thank you for the million ways you love me! Thank you for the thousands of opportunities you give me to love you back!”

That prayer just filled my head. I wasn’t thanking the Lord as I had been – out of the knowledge that he deserved it. This was spontaneous as if it came from somewhere else. And there was a song to it, a lightness, that I have not felt since before the pandemic began.

And I began to wonder, had my hope been restored? And the funny thing is, even asking myself that question confirmed for me that it had. I know we are not out of the woods yet. But I am hopeful that I can now live better in the midst of this.

Hope is a powerful agent against fear and anxiety and loss, both real and imagined. Hope gives me words. It gives me vision that allows me to see beyond the darkness.

I’m not so hopeful that I think everything will be unicorns and rainbows from now on. But I am seeing and feeling things differently~ the weight of that heavy blanket is not noticeable. Perhaps it’s still there and will rear it’s ugly head again. I have no doubt it will try. But suddenly I can see the good that’s happened in the past year and enjoy it. I can honestly appreciate it without the heaviness sucking the life out of it.

My heart welcomes back hope and plans to do all it can to not only help it grow back to what it was, but to help it grow stronger, deeper and more resilient than it was before.

They say hindsight is 2020. I’m grateful that hope has come in and let me look back at the year through a lens that sees both the good and bad for what they truly were.

Hope and I will be going into 2021 together. 2020 took it away but 2021 restored it. A Happy New Year, indeed.

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appreciation, change, clarity and direction, comfort, death, dying, enlightenment, eternal life, families, honesty, hope, letting go, living and growing, Love, mourning, new life, peace, perspective, spiritual growth, struggles

Living in the Valley

I moved to the valley, eleven years ago when my father first got sick.  Six years ago, he died.  I thought at some point after his death I would move out of the valley.  Instead, my mother, after years of caring for my Dad, got sick and my life in the valley continued.

You probably know this valley.  It’s the same one mentioned in Psalm 23….”Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil.”  Yeah, that valley.

I chose to move here years before I understood where I was moving to.  Back when I was young and had no idea of what it would cost me. I knew I wanted to stay in the same city as my parents.  My plan always was to care for them, when the time came.

The funny thing about moving to the valley is that you don’t necessarily realize you’ve moved until you’ve lived there for a while.  The move is both gradual and sudden.  Your loved one ages and you start to help in little ways.  A sudden illness or injury and you help out a bit as they recover.  What you don’t know at the time, is that sudden injury or illness is starting a chain of events that would have overwhelmed you had you ever realized your address had just changed and there was no moving back any time soon.

We all know what valleys look like.  They are low places, with shadows that hang over on all sides..  And these low places are filled with things most of us try to avoid.  Like fear and death. In the valley, fear takes on a life of it’s own…it has a form and a shape and it looks like death.  The threat of death, is always lurking in the shadows.  And then there’s the bone wearying tiredness and overwhelming and sometimes debilitating sense of loss, along with a need to always be on guard for the next problem.

In the valley you learn to fight.  Against ignorance…your own and others.  You fight against your nightmares, which threaten to become reality.  You fight to do what’s right. You fight against yourself when you want to quit and with others when they want you to quit.  The valley can be an exhausting place.

With all the lows of the valley, one might think it is a place to avoid.  Certainly anyone who chooses to live there can’t be right in the head!

But here’s the thing….there is beauty in the valley.  Beauty you can’t see anywhere else. There’s a beauty in the valley that transcends even what a mountain top view can offer. And the company in the valley is the reason for the view.  Psalm 23….The psalm that talks about walking through the valley of the shadow of death, also gives a promise.  And it’s the promise that provides the beauty.

“Yea,though I walk though the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for YOU are with me…..”.

Early on in the valley, I feared evil.  I was terrified by it.  Death was evil.  It was the enemy that you knew would win in the end, but that you would fight against with all your might.  The exhaustion that comes with fighting an enemy that is guaranteed to win is not only exhausting, it’s foolish.

I was controlled by my fears until I met Submission.   Submitting to the reality of our inability to control when someone dies moves you from a very dark valley, to a new valley where there is beauty and potential….right in front of you, that you are now freed up to see.  Submission is not giving up.  It’s not laying down the fight.  But it is recognizing what you can and can’t control.  Its choosing when and where to fight.  It allows you to see who the real enemy is.

Sometimes the enemy is ourselves…Fear is everywhere in the valley.   Left to our own devices, fear can overtake us.  But when I remember that the Psalm promises….”YOU are with me”...the fear is tamed and in the best moments, it is vanquished.

That YOU it mentions, is the Creator of Heaven and Earth.  I don’t just have a good friend or family member with me…..(though praise God when I do)……I have the God of the Universe with me!  He reminds me that even though I live in the valley, the valley isn’t all there is.  I’m choosing to live here for a time, so that the people I love don’t have to walk through this place alone.  Walking alongside someone who is in the valley, has eternal significance.

God knows how we look at death.  He knows how death and the fear of death motivates our choices.  He knows we need him beside us to walk though this valley.  When we freely and willingly go through the valley so someone else won’t be there alone, we are doing exactly what He has done for us.

And that is what love does.  It comes alongside.  It sits with us in the mess that the end of life can bring.  It is a place filled with loss and sadness.  They grieve and you grieve with them.  You grieve for the pain they feel.  For who they were and what has been lost. Their address has changed since coming to the valley and it makes them disoriented.  You remind them, no matter where they live, whether it’s in a place they’ve always known, or a dark valley or in heaven…they are loved.  You are the physical hands and feet of Jesus as they journey to what’s waiting for them, at the other side.  It’s an opportunity to bring light to the shadows and love to dark places.  And that love, makes it all worthwhile.

So these days, if you’re looking for me, you’ll find me in the valley.  I’m not sure how long I’ll be staying, but I won’t regret a moment spent here.  For although the walk is shadowed by death, the path is filled with life and love.

 

 

 

 

 

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clarity and direction, living and growing, spiritual growth, Uncategorized

How to See in the Dark

Life can be blurry.   We can long for clarity and direction yet answers elude us.

I had a dream this past week.   I was trying to find something but fog was rolling in.   It covered everything in a mist that rose about a foot off the ground.   Not only could I not see well, everything felt disorienting.

I forgot about that dream until I went to bed last night.   I have a condition called ‘dry eye’.   Each night I need to use an ointment in my eyes.  It’s consistency is similar to Vaseline.  I put off doing this each night until I have shut off my light.   Once I’ve put the medicine in my eyes, I can’t stand having the light on because it highlights how blurry everything is.  I like to be able to see.

I’m in a season of ‘not knowing’ these days.  A season of not being able to see how things can or will work out.   Personally and with my kids and with my aging mother.   I just can’t see what to do or where to step next.  Just a couple of weeks ago, I came to grips with the unanswered questions regarding my own life.   When it comes to me, I am again content not being able to see ahead.

But as my kids grow into their adulthood and I watch them make decisions that I worry about, as I watch them struggle, I long for answers.   I long for assurance.  I want to ‘see’ a secure future for them.  But things are blurry.   Very blurry as a matter of fact.   The kind of blurry that (literally!!) makes my heart race.   I feel disorientated.   I can’t see!  And when I can’t see, I start to struggle.

But I’m old enough now, to realize how foolish that struggle is.   Life is blurry sometimes, actually it’s probably blurry most of the times.  Sometimes we are blessed with true moments of clarity.  An unobstructed path that clearly points in a specific direction.   And those times are so comforting, so desirable, that it’s easy to start to want it to always be smooth sailing.   Life is messy though, and fog often rolls in.

I know two responses to this.  My first response:  which is to feel disorientated, to struggle, to feel sad, guilty, frustrated…..overwhelmed….afraid.

But then there’s the second response.   The response that allowed me to fall asleep last night.   The same response that had brought me contentment with my own uncertainties.

That response is prayer.   And relinquishment.  To surrender to God the need for me to see the future, trusting that if He is there, I can relax – whether or not the path is blurry.  It’s an ongoing response though, not a one time thing.   The circumstances that cause me to worry haven’t disappeared.   My concern over them hasn’t vanished.   But there is an answer and it doesn’t need to involve stressing out because I can’t see the answer.

I’m reminded that the second type of response involves depending less on my eyes to see what path to take.  But then how do I see?  I reach up, take the hand of the Lord who loves me, and I let Him lead the way.

 

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