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Episode 26 - Shaped For The Journey Forward


As I prepare for this episode and think through all that I want to share with you, I’m currently at a girlfriend’s beach-house for the week. Spring is finally here, and the weather is like a promise of something new. The mornings are crisp, and the sun warms the afternoon just enough to enjoy being outside without getting overheated - which is exactly what happens here in Texas oh too quickly.

So, I’m enjoying watching the beauty of nature here - the rhythmic, almost hypnotic, crashing of the waves that expose tiny hermit crabs, who then dig themselves back under again. The scurrying of the little Sandpipers as they rapidly try to catch their next snack before the waves roll in again, and the occasional dolphin spotted close to shore early in the morning. I love walking on the beach in the early evening and finding sea glass and interesting sea stones that have washed up throughout the day. And I’m not sure why the sunrise and sunset looks and feels more…um I don’t know the word I’m looking for…but I have a greater sense of the divine when I see a sunrise and sunset out on the horizon of the ocean. Do you know what I’m talking about? Majestic. Maybe that’s the word. But even that word feels lacking…if it’s possible.

Anyway, now that spring is here and we can enjoy this beautiful weather, my heart feels a little heavy. Most people feel ‘blue’ in the winter months when the sun stays behind the clouds too long, and the temperature is chilling to the bone. But the first days of spring makes me a little sad. Mostly because spring is an invitation to watch newness burst forth; an invitation to join in the celebration of life; to get out and breathe in the new. And for me, this is what I did with my best friend, my husband, by my side.

There’s an enormous antique market that brings in all kinds of artists and collectors and purveyors of unique wares at this time in the spring that’s just about an hour drive away that was our regular outing every year. It was our thing. I think Brian loved it more than I did. Of course, he was the collector of the most interesting things, and if it was to be found, it would be at that antique market. It’s going on right now, and I have no desire to go without him. And I honestly don’t think I could enjoy it the same anymore. So, my new normal is me trying to figure out how to embrace spring and all that it has to offer - the promise of new life. Because I do believe there are good things out there to experience and even enjoy.

I heard someone say recently that they were 7 years out from their grief. Meaning, that 7 years ago they lost a loved one. My first reaction was that you never “not” have grief. You will always grieve the loss of your loved one, it just looks different as we move forward. And that’s another thing. You don’t “move on”, you “move forward.” The Cambridge dictionary defines “emotionally moving on” as: to accept that a situation has changed and be ready to deal with new experiences. Maybe this definition fits if you’re talking about a job, or finding a new apartment, or maybe even finding out that your favorite air bnb in the mountains is no longer available. But death of someone close to you, no. Every other definition indicates that you leave something behind and go in a different direction. Again, no. You may go in a different direction, and sometimes that’s the healthiest thing to do. But you’re never able to leave your loved one behind.

I talked about this in a previous episode about when we were just about to move into 2018 and I was in a panic feeling like I was leaving my husband behind in 2017, the year he died. I know that might sound strange and maybe even unreasonable. But the heart and emotions don’t operate in reasonableness. Anyway, the Lord brought me great comfort in realizing that where I go, Brian goes with me. And at that time, into the new year. He’s a part of me. Life with him shaped me. His presence in my life is a large part of who I am today. I move forward, yes, with all of those experiences, challenges, hopes, and dreams that were part of my life before he passed away. All those things - the good, the bad, and the ugly - made me who I am today. Shaped me.

So, I want to ask you, friend, if you’ve lost a loved one, do you find yourself feeling stuck a time or two - having a hard time as you’re moving forward? Maybe it’s the changing of the seasons. Maybe it’s upcoming anniversaries or birthdays or holidays, or just normal events of life - do you, friend, feel like something’s missing?

Can you, right now, take an inventory of all that you are as a result of all that you have been through with your loved one in your life? And, is it possible that something’s not missing at all - that you’re still perfectly whole? And maybe even better than you were before? Not in spite of all that you’ve experienced in life, but because of it. Does your heart know, intimately know, something that you were never able to understand before? Are you more aware of your own strength and ability - maybe emotionally and physically? Are you finding that challenges create resiliency - Even if you fight hard against it?

I used to think I could be defined by resilience. The dictionary says it’s the capacity to recover from difficult life events or to spring back into shape. It’s your ability to withstand adversity and recover. Just after my husband passed away, I would’ve said this no longer defines me. I am not resilient. The capacity to recover from the death of someone you loved deeply is never quick, and I didn’t find it was quick to "spring back into shape." Grief is a slow process, and I feel more like a yo-yo than a spring. Just when I feel like I've successfully moved through one stage of grief, it somehow comes back around again. Resilience. Maybe it just means that at some point I can stand and say, "My heart is breaking, but I'm not broken yet." That I get knocked down, but I get up again. One thing I know, God is speaking loud and clear the same message to me at every turn - that trials qualify us for “lacking nothing”; for being “perfectly whole.”

James 1: 2-4 says, “Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, lacking nothing.”

Now, I don’t know about you, but I think it’s advanced-level faith to have trials in your life and to be able to consider that great joy. But James is trying to tell us that in the trials, God has an opportunity to change our hearts to become more like Jesus; and the full-effect of the trial on our lives is that our hearts are full, and we are perfectly whole, lacking nothing.

I know that this is what I need and what my heart is truly after. So it seems to me that as I let the trials wash over me I will find my resilience. And I'm sure I won't look like the same person!

What about you, friend? You are getting pushed forward. Seasons come and go. The world keeps spinning. You keep living and moving. And sometimes it feels more like a stumble or a misstep, but if you let it have its full effect, that is - as you endure the trial, let it shape you, let it change you - you'll get up and find that you’re different. Better even. And you land on solid ground.

I took that walk out on the beach this evening and I found a beautiful sea stone. It was a gorgeous mixture of chocolate brown and the deepest ebony, and it was smooth as glass. I couldn’t help but wonder about this sea stone’s origin. Where did it come from? Where did its journey begin? How long had it been under water? And how long had it been on this journey before finding the sandy beach of the shore?

Right now, my heart feels like that piece of sea stone. How the waves & torrents of emotion roll my heart like this stone at the bottom of the ocean. Tossing, turning, flailing; beating up against the surroundings, making it hard to catch a breath. The current too fast, too strong; picking me up from the ocean floor and slamming me back down again, making the landing unpredictable. Will I be left standing upright this time? Or will I be laid flat on my back, unable to right myself? Left to wait for the next rush of current to push me further. Further forward, or further down? All the while, rolling and rolling.

And as the wave subsides just enough, I realize my edges are smoother. My shape is more refined. The rolling becomes more distinct and looks more like a dance of precision in the sand than a senseless, directionless tumble amongst the sharp reef. As I sense the stirring and roar of the next wave, I brace myself knowing that this time my heart is better, more prepared for the journey...Forward. Resilient. Whole. Complete. Lacking Nothing.

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