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It’s hard not to think about what is coming up at the end of this week. Friday night, the night New Life parents and friends will gather around to celebrate the graduation of Grace’s 2016 class. For us, it should have been a night filled with the perfect white dress (that we already had picked out in early January), the perfect blond hair (which she had already planned on having Faith do), the perfect nails (which she had begun to grow out, just for the French manicure), and the perfect evening, filled with family, friends and future plans.

I began to think about what we would be missing out on. What we no longer get to enjoy, what we don’t have. And all those feelings and emotions are normal and fine to feel, but this time, as I started to dwell on what I didn’t have, the Holy Spirit reminded me of a few things that I did have.

I did have the pleasure of raising one of the most amazing people I have ever known. I spent 17 years, side by side, with a girl who loved Jesus, her parents, her sister, her aunts, uncles, cousins, friends and almost everyone else she came into contact with.

I did have the joy of nurturing a child who was not without her faults, who struggled with some difficult things, but saw the beauty in the struggle, the beauty in the battle for holiness.

I did have the chance to walk alongside an amazing beauty, who would bend down to lift a child up and cuddle with them, but also, had fight in her, that would only well up on the basketball court.

And above all else, I did have the chance to watch my 17-year-old walk the Christian walk, unwavering and unmoved by outside pressure. I saw a girl who finished the race set before her, all the while, glorifying the One who set up the course.

I could spend this whole week focusing on what I don’t have or what I’m missing, or I could auto-focus on what I did have, the knowledge and memories of one amazing Grace. 

Sometimes reality will wake you up in the morning, screaming. And when you lay your head down to sleep, reality will replay the bad over and over, like a movie reel. Sometimes reality is less reality and more the enemy of our souls, who wants to keep us trapped by only what we can see with our human eyes.

Romans 4:17 is talking about the reality of Abraham being too old to have children. The end of verse 17 says, though, that the God that we serve, calls things that are not as though they are.

Am I missing something terribly? yes…But is God still on the throne? yes

Am I sad and often overcome with grief? yes…But does God say He will turn ashes into beauty? yes

Is this going to be a hard week? yes…But is God bigger than any hardship? yes

What I choose to focus on will change my outlook. This week, as hard and sad as it may be, my auto-focus will be set to the things the Lord has told me, not the pain the enemy wants to keep me bound to. This might be a constant refocusing, it may take several times in the course of an hour, but how else do you get the perfect picture, the one that God will hang in the gallery of battle-worn soldiers, who fought the good fight, and finished the race, only to hear ‘well done.’

 

 

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What Do I Have To Lose?

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I have made a career out of dieting. I know all the good diets, the bad ones, the completely ridiculous ones and the ones that should just be plain old common sense. I can count calories, count points, count steps and count the beats of my heart during cardio. I’m not obsessed with it, it just gives me motivation to stay healthy and fit. I can and have given up all sorts of food. Dairy (because I am allergic) gluten (because everyone was doing it) sugar (because, well, it’s sugar) meat and even eggs (because there for a while, someone said they were bad for us). At this point in my life, food is fuel, I enjoy it, but I can quit eating any combo of the above, at any point, and it doesn’t faze me at all.

Losing the option to eat sugar (an obvious, self-imposed restriction) is easy, but the many other things I have had to let go of (beyond my control) in the last 3.5 months, have been heartbreaking.

Security, safety, a well-functioning home life, my daughter, who was also my best friend, my dreams, my future, my plans and my purpose. Losing so much, leaves a person in a very vulnerable position, one that can trigger a couple different responses, neither of which are healthy or Biblically sound.

One thought that immediately became very real, was a need to hold on tight to everything and everyone. God has unimaginably blessed me with some amazing new friends to walk beside me recently. My initial response to these new friendships was to close my fist around them and hold on as tight as I could. I also became aware that I was doing the same thing to Jim and Evie and my family. Leaving these people with little room to breathe or heal or function, becoming dependent on anyone other than the Lord, is a dark place to be, because as tight as you hold on, in the back of your head, you realize, they too can be taken away. It creates a circle of fear with no finish line. The Holy Spirit gently revealed to me where I was at fault, and I have slowly been releasing my grip, maybe one finger at a time, but in doing so, I have watched many of the above relationships begin to thrive, like a flower in a desert land.

The second response, also one I struggle with, is at the complete opposite end of the scale. It’s what I like to call the Wall-Building Response to Tragedy. It has been my defense mechanism my whole life. Just put up more walls, block people out, block feelings out, block pain or hurt out, block loss out. Just keep stacking the bricks higher and higher, after all, I still have the Lord in my little fortress of solitude, what else do I need? And I know He will never leave me. This is also, an incredibly debilitating response, and the Holy Spirit prompts me, often, to let this one go. In boxing myself in, I box so much out. If I get afraid of losing people and I push them away, I have taken God’s perfect plan of fellowship, and told Him, it might work for other people, but it’s not for me. I end up boxing out the comfort that other people can provide, I box out the joy that new friendships bring and I box out the security of life-long relationships, with the people who know me the best. None of which was God’s design. He created us with a strong desire to be with other people. To open our hearts and souls to others, because there is strength and growth for all parties involved.

So what is the correct response then? If I can’t hold on too tight, but I can’t keep pushing people away, how am I supposed to properly deal with this loss? I wish I had the perfect answer. I wish I had it all figured out. I wish the Holy Spirit was less willing to show my what I’m doing wrong and more willing to just tell me what to do next. I wish for so many things.

So I land somewhere in between on this scale. And I fluctuate back and forth like a teeter-totter, often multiple times, with the same people. Sometimes I push people away, just to hold on too tight. I’m desperate to tell my best friends how I am feeling, just to get them face-to-face and build a wall (which often looks and sounds like small talk). But I am a work in progress. I remind myself daily of 2 Corinthians 4: 8 & 9 “We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed.”

What does center look like? I’m not entirely sure, because I don’t know many people who live their lives perfectly balanced, but I have a crazy close relationship with the One who did. And what I learned and am learning from Him is how to love people…unashamed, unrestricted and unafraid. But, in that massive, fierce love, He was willing to walk away from all those relationships to serve His purpose and to carry out God’s perfect plan, knowing that the end result was Glory, a place where we will never be separated again.

If I can live like Jesus did, letting people in, but also letting people go, really, what do I have to lose?

What Do I Have To Lose?