Monday, January 28, 2013

Living on Borrowed Time

It may be the dreary skies, it may be the after holiday blues, and it may even be that we are again entering the winter season of grief but I am feeling emotionally strung out.  I feel raw, exposed and vulnerable this rainy Monday morning.  As the familiar dates begin to re-appear, I am feeling the weight of loss and although I am getting much better at the balance between the sadness of yesterday and the joy of today (thank you God), there are certain days that will always prick me to my heart's core.

January 25th for instance is one.  Four years ago on the 25th of January we dedicated our sweet baby to Jesus along with an early birthday party bash at the church.  The church was packed with amazing family and friends - many of which traveled to be there for this celebration.  4 years ago we were celebrating Grace's 1 year birthday and this year we will be remembering her 5th.  Insert long *sigh* here.   The 25th of January, 2009 was such a bittersweet day.  We were told earlier that week that she was in fact regressing, and we were given the words 'palliative care' and 'keep her comfortable' but we hadn't bought in just yet.  There is a strange dichotomy that comes to those in such peril; to those stuck in that proverbial rock and hard place.  You long and hope for the best outcome, while all the while a nagging feeling of the opposite keeps rising within.  It was in this balance that we found ourselves that beautifully painful day in January.

We dedicated and released our littlest lamb to Jesus trusting that He would make all things beautiful in His time. Ecclesiastes 3:11  This dedication was not like the ones we had experienced before when we brought our healthy children to the Lord and asked for guidance to rear them and love them.  No, this dedication was a turning point for us.  We released our baby girl to the Shepherd and His will for her.  Did we still hope she would make a full recovery?   Most assuredly, yet in the moment captured in the picture below, a painful shift occurred in our hearts.  Gracie was indeed living on borrowed time.

My heart's memory flashed back to that hospital hallway where I pleaded with God for more time with my baby.  I realized in that lonely hallway that Grace was on the edge of her life and that all I wanted was for more time with her.  So I pleaded like never before and although God did not answer my prayer for complete healing for here on earth, He did grant me the gift of time.

Every so often my spirit is still nudged and reminded that we all are living on borrowed time.  Every breath we take is given to us it is not ours to determine the days, hours or seconds.  When one is in crisis this thought of 'living each day like it's your last' is suddenly slammed into your face like a cruel, unexpected wind that takes your breath away.  Yet when the winds of crisis settle, we fall back into this deceptive thought that life is ours and runs on our time and in our control.  The reality is that we are all living on borrowed time.  I am reminded this rainy Monday to love Christ and others with all that I have so that when crisis comes, I will have no regrets about loving this life I have been given.  I am challenged today as I think and pray for the beautiful brave souls going through all sorts of differing crises today.  I am challenged to love my family and community around me so that they know who I belong to, not only in times of crisis, but in the beautifully mundane moments of the everyday as well.

Friday, January 04, 2013

New Year Musings

Yes it is that time of year again, where we take stock of the past and look to the future with doe like eyes of anticipation.  A new year is a time of fresh starts, new hopes, and most of all a clean slate.  Last year at the beginning of the year, I met with a dear friend who shared with me that she chooses a verse each year as a theme verse!  What an awesome idea!  So I followed her example and I chose the verse "I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength." Phil. 4:13  Instead of setting up 'goals' for the year, I chose to live my life through the lens of this verse.  Working as a substitute teacher was a HUGE step for me in my grief journey.  I actually thought I would never return to teaching after our journey with Grace.  Going through the process of being hired and entering new situations everyday as a sub is draining in every way.  It's hard being the new girl in the staff room every day and there are days when I leave the classroom with a migraine and a broken heart for the hurting kids I encounter.  Don't get me wrong, there are other days where I leave uplifted, feeling like I had made a difference in the life of a child.  Yet, as a sub, you never know what kind of situation you will be walking into.  The stress of it is hard, and after experiencing such deep grief, these normal stresses earlier on in my grief would have left me paralyzed.  

So as I entered 2012, strength in HIM who carried me through the darkest valley of my life, became my daily lens.  Each day, I cinched my waist with the belt of truth, His word and prayed that He would be with me in every situation and circumstance.  
So as I look back on this year I can see so clearly how God has strengthened me and has brought yet another level of healing.  I am in awe some days that we are coming up to Gracie's 5th birthday in just a few short weeks.  Five years old seems, well...old.  In my heart she will always be baby Grace, but in reality, she would be 5...entering Kindergarten in the fall.  My heart misses her, aches for her, and will always grieve for the years lost.  Yet, simultaneously I am also so incredibly thankful for the year I had her.  Although the pain of her loss hasn't dulled, I know that God has done a miraculous work in me for I am finding joy in life again. Although in the early days of grief I still found joy in my children and my family, the joy of 'life' had gone. Things that used to make me laugh were somehow dimmed.  For example, Nerf gun fights at Christmas with the Evans Family have been a long standing tradition that my brother-in-law started when we were just teens.  We would rampage through the house, shooting through Christmas tree branches and hiding in stairwells, laughing until our sides hurt.  This is the first year since Grace died that I actually joined in on our family Nerf Gun fight.  Now this may not seem like a big deal to an outsider, but in my heart it was representative of something great.  Everyday joys are returning and what makes this notable is that I can experience this joy without the guilt.  You see, when you lose someone you love so deeply, you feel guilty when you enjoy life for your heart is torn by the opposing emotions.  How can I possibly feel happy when my heart is so very sad?  Learning to balance these opposing emotions is getting easier, and through HIM who gives me strength I am finding joy without guilt more and more.

John 15: 4 is my theme verse for this year.  Now that I have found the strength in HIM to do things I never thought I could, my heart's cry for this year is that I lean into Him in order to do all that He has called me to do.  I was just talking about this thought with my sister the other day.  I want to be the 'me' He created me to be.  So here it is...."Remain in me, and I will remain in you. For a branch cannot produce fruit if it is severed from the vine, and you cannot be fruitful unless you remain in me."  

If you do choose to join in on this challenge... what will be your verse for this year and why did you choose it?  May the year 2013 bring us closer to Him and His will for us!  Oh how I long to be who HE sees in me.  As I look to this year in hopes of being pruned and branched out by the Father I leave you with a  quote from dear ol' Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery - "I'm not a bit changed--not really. I'm only just pruned down and branched out. The real ME--back here--is just the same."