LETTING GO: an exercise in faith, a gift of grace


Nobody, and I mean nobody, likes change, that is, the change that interrupts our lives and makes the world we know uncomfortably different. I’m tired of the old cliché that states change is good, necessary, and a catalyst for growth. *foot stomping* I don’t like change!

But I don’t want to be stagnant either. And because I am a believer, I live by the assertion that I must change to live up to the potential assigned to me by God. What? Am I so full of myself that I actually think the almighty God of heaven and earth knows me personally and even takes the time to direct my path if I ask Him to? Yes. Period. Therefore, I must accept change as it comes and then discern how I choose to react to it. I must exercise my faith to allow whatever change is at hand to make me a better person, one more worthy to live up to God’s expectations of me. In the meantime, I don’t want to miss any of the graces He wishes to bestow upon me as a direct result of my decision to accept the direction of His hand over the changes of my life. And in the bigger picture, the change that effects me will have an affect on those around me. It’s a domino effect, you see. The changes in other’s lives influence me, the change in my life influences others.

Simple truths, right? Yeah, it’s easy as long as it is happening to someone else. “Therein lies the rub.” In case you didn’t hear me the first time, I don’t like change. But change is a lesson we all have to learn and grow from, hopefully. It’s a lesson that creeps up on us every day and demands we pay attention. It is stubbornly present and won’t let go, much like a dog and his favorite bone.

We liken change to either good or bad and, face it, the bad changes are the ones that really get our attention. Unfortunately, the good changes are the ones we accept, perhaps joyfully, but more often than not, without a second thought that they may, in fact, be blessings and graces sent from you-know-Who. Both good and bad are golden depending on our reaction to them. Uh huh. It’s true. Let me illustrate why I feel this way.

I haven’t blogged much since I had a brain tumor removed in August 2015. Even though it was a simple (! Did I just say that??), nearly painless surgery, it has not been without it’s effects and that has taken some adjustment to get used to. For example, I have written the previous sentence three times. Moving on… My memory is affected. I don’t remember a lot of the more recent past, things I have done, places I’ve gone, most notably, people I’ve met. Not too many weeks ago I was in a grocery store and a couple passed by me. They greeted me by name as if they knew me well. I had no idea who they were. I nodded to them, smiled, and proceeded on out the door. But it bothered me a so much that I didn’t recognize them that I had to go back into the store and find them. That lovely couple was gracious enough to understand my explanation that I had no idea who they were. I apologized to them and told them about the effects of my surgery. I felt like a fool. But they were kind and actually seemed happy to fill in the missing blanks. What a relief!

All of that just to say this: I’ve been through a lot of changes lately. Trust me. And I suppose there will be more to come. God, please grant me the grace to go through them the way You would have me to.

So, some of these changes I’ve been through recently have been pretty hard. They get the most attention, of course. The biggest and hardest change has been the death of our former daughter-in-law. Erica was not without her issues. If you are a human being, you too have issues. But Erica’s issues were a bit out of the ordinary. The first time I met her (she answered the door at my son’s house and promptly closed it in my face) I thought she was incredibly rude. Little did I know she was afraid of what my reaction to her being in my son’s house would be. Poor thing. I often wonder what on earth my son told her about me to cause that fear! No matter. I learned to love her. In fact, the day she married my son I fell in love with the brilliant loving smile she gave my son after they were pronounced husband and wife. Aside from that, she bore my first grandchild. When he was born I felt a love like I had never felt before in my life. She was responsible for that. Had it not been for her, who knows if I ever would have discovered what unconditional love was all about? Erica and my son divorced after their difficult marriage refused to survive. They were forced to continue their contact with each other in order to raise their son. And by the way, that boy is awesome which speaks to the success of their efforts. Even so, they went their separate ways. Not too many years passed before Erica became seriously ill. The choices she made hindered any healing that we all prayed for. Over time she lost function of her kidneys and liver and had to go on dialysis. Eventually, her circumstances dictated she live in a nursing home until she could get on her feet. The rehab was good, she was successful and was ready to be discharged to home. The last time I saw her at the nursing home she was so happy and full of life and ready for a new beginning! We rejoiced and she ascertained that her healing was certainly due to Divine Intervention. Then she had an accident and smacked her head on the concrete. It was the last assault her body could tolerate. Within two weeks she was gone. She died at the age of thirty seven just when she was getting her life in order. Now, I’ll be the first to tell you that our God has a purpose and a plan for everyone. But I had a hard time accepting it, even now, a hard time believing it. My head says no way. My heart says it has to be. That, my friend, is the definition of faith; believing in what you cannot see, like it or not.

As it would happen, on the day before Erica’s wake, my grandson and I went out to lunch. He is very nearly fourteen years old now and such a man already. I had heard from one of my former neighbors that my old house, the one I poured blood, sweat, and tears into, was being demolished. This I had to see for myself. So on the way back from lunch, the boy and I drove past my old address. The neighbor was telling the truth. There wasn’t a house standing, there was instead rubble strewn about, piles of bricks, pipes reaching out of the ground as if looking to connect to something, anything. Lumber, solid, hard heart-pine and oak, was stacked along the perimeter of the old house’s stead. Ghost-like, lonely. There was a man sitting on a pillar of bricks and one standing close by, obviously the workers employed to take the house apart. He approached me as I pulled up and greeted me like a long lost friend. He didn’t know me but somehow he recognized the attachment I had to this place, this ground on which a lifetime was lived and children were raised. He let me tell him how I loved this place when I lived there, how I raised two boys there, how I remodeled the kitchen and built that deck laying in pieces over in the far corner. He smiled knowingly as I told him that was MY home, the one I bought and paid for myself. As if to comfort me, that darling man proudly assured me that he had already removed the kitchen cabinets and, in fact, had recycled them into another project he was working on. And the doors. And the beautiful parquet floor that I put down piece by piece on the floor. (My knees have not been the same since!) His eyes lit up and he told me he figured I was the one who stained the glass on the back door and bathroom windows. Yes! It was me! He proudly led me around the back of the property to show me he saved them somehow knowing a person would come around asking about them. Yes, me again.

For the next few days after Erica’s funeral, I mulled over these big changes set before me. Big big changes. You know, I came to understand something. I spent more time living and loving, and trying to live life in that old house than I have anywhere since, at least so far. I learned about myself and others. Life lessons. Heartache. Joy. Self-discovery. I had hard lessons about growing up. Sacrifice. Selfishness. Forgiveness. From 1987 to 2001 I lived there. I sold it in I think 2002 or 2003. I poured heart and soul into that old house. I gardened to my heart’s content, coaxing flowers from the earth, fashioning sidewalks and secret flowerbeds. I labored and was constantly surprised at the results. Working on that old house gave me the confidence I lacked previously to accomplish many things, personally and professionally. I think there was not one inch of that house and the ground beneath it that I didn’t touch. My identity was tied up in that house for a time but I wasn’t sorry to let it go. It was, after all, just a building. I was grateful to have had it. It sheltered us and gave us a sense of security. It had a foundation when I didn’t. Then the boys left home and I got married and moved away. Change happened.

I can in no way compare loosing Erica to the tearing down of my old house. That would be ridiculous. I can share my reaction to the changes. Loosing Erica hurts. Her presence leaves a hole in the life of her precious son and all who love her. The demolition of the old house merely evokes sentimental musings. Both soul and building are now memories, albeit one more poignant than the other. One leaves behind a legacy, a life, and now love eternal. The other, just memories.

I am a better person for having loved both. They represent different planes in the plan of life. I have learned lessons from each; patience, perseverance, love, frustration, epic failure, joy, happiness, satisfaction, hope, forgiveness. Yes, big changes indeed.

Eternal Father, You Who loves us in ways we can’t imagine, thank you for the gifts You have given. Thank You that Your daughter Erica touched my life, gave me my first grandchild, and taught me lessons no other could. Thank You for that old house and the lessons I learned there; the strength and stamina I needed. Please let me keep these blessings in my heart always and never be afraid to think of them and grow from them. Father, I’m asking that my faith be strengthened to accept Your will and not question it. Thank You again, my Lord, that You love us.

Amen

 

Please don’t forget to pray for peace.

Walking Through Fire


So….my family has been going through a hard time lately. I won’t go into what happened only to say that we have been deeply hurt by a situation many families have had to face. In other words, we are not alone although that fact doesn’t really change a whole lot about how we feel. I just feel sorry for anyone who has suffered in such a way.

I am compelled to share this with you because this morning I was gifted with a moment of clarity; a beautiful moment, a revelation that put my soul at peace.

Personally, I have struggled to balance my act. My first reaction is grief and all the ugly-face crying and ‘gnashing of teeth’ within me. My husband, usually strong and brutish, grieves quietly, a steady stream of tears soaking his beard and burley chest; a strong man with the breath knocked out of him. It’s a hard thing to see.

Some are some things you never want your children to see. A marriage dissolved is one of them. I don’t need to go into details because…well…it’s not the right thing to do. I’m sharing only to tell you this: God doesn’t leave you in the fire. The following is what I learned just this morning.

My house is filled with children today. Two are my grandchildren and two their step-sisters whom I have claimed as my own.

We have been waiting all summer for this weekend long slumber party. When any of my grandchildren come for a visit, I try to keep them busy. We do a lot of projects. It cuts down on the mischief. Yes. It does even if it means I am a drooping rag doll when they leave. It’s all about good memories and loving. It’s important. Last night and today they have been working on grand masterpieces of art work – painting, gluing, stenciling, whatever they can get into from the bowels of my art room which does, in fact, contain mountains of rejected paintings (that can be gessoe-ed over), tons of acrylic paint, sparkles, piles of ‘gems’ and unused beads. It’s the young art aficionado’s paradise. They dive in with glee, with both hands, with huge smiles. I am filled with joy for being The Best Nana. I thought having them on this particular weekend would be too much for me. But I find that I am strangely appreciative of the noise and innocent chaos. I am actually enjoying this reprieve from the drama that is our normal life at the moment. I am paying attention to all the details, all the little things. I made smiley face pancakes for breakfast with red lips and blue eyes. There were also some lopsided Mickey Mouses, a spikey dog, and swirly pink and blue pancakes. Their laughter was a soothing balm. I am healing.

Monkeys

After breakfast as I was washing up the dishes, my thoughts focused on the event that has us all in an uproar. I silently lambasted the situation, dredging up all the painful words I could think of. But then…I was ashamed of my thoughts. I never used to be that thoughtful, if you can call it that. I let myself talk to God about my feelings. From my heart I told Him how I felt, the anger, the sorrow, how I want to make everything go away and for everything to go back to the way it used to be. The situation hurts. How are we as a family going to get through this?

Then, I heard a little voice. One of the Grand Artists had looked up from her masterpiece and said “I have a scripture I’m thinking of but I can’t remember where it comes from in the Bible.” I asked for the scripture and she said “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” I knew immediately that it was God’s message for me. The hair on the back of my neck stood up and goose bumps popped up all down my arms.
Then she asked me if I could find it in the bible. I did. Philippians 4:13

From the mouths of babes, right? My Baby-Grand was unknowingly God’s messenger. Awesome! I hope I don’t sound selfish, but I am so glad they are here this weekend! God’s word let me know how I can get through these dark times, and how I can help my family get through it. Yes, I’m still angry but that will pass. Maybe. Eventually. If I let God help me. If I allow Him to strengthen me. I like that path a lot better than the one I’ve been on. That anger has got to go. I’m not ignoring the situation that hurt my family, I am, however, planning to deal with it a little differently.

And here’s another nugget that came my way this week. A friend told me that sometimes God allows devastating things to happen to us to mold, teach, and lead us to the next life event He has planned for us. And always, always toward blessings that wouldn’t have happened otherwise. Disclaimer: I am not talking about atrocities across the world. Just my life. To enter into that conversation, I would have to be some kind of gifted theologian or incredible biblical genius.

What happens when we don’t live our life according to God’s flawless plan? Well, I guess it just doesn’t work out.

Life is not easy. Some things are just too hard and painful. It’s terribly hard to practice even a little bit of forgiveness. But I trust God. He has a plan and I want to cooperate with Him. He will hold us and care for us when life throws fire at us. We go through the darkness to get to the light. We go through the fire to become refined. We won’t be burned if He is there.

Feel free to add your perspective in the comment section. Who knows? Your words may help someone who could be reading this.

Please don’t forget to pray for peace. And, I might add, for all the hurting people.