There are events in life that are beyond our control and some of those rattle our world. It requires that we adjust to a new reality, a major change, and usually brings with it a shift in perspective. It may be a diagnosis when the day before you felt fine. It may be a sudden lay off from a job you’ve held for 20 years. It may be someone saying they don’t love you anymore. Events of this size need time, for the adjustments within us don’t happen by flipping a switch.
I recently had a new reality handed to me and the processing of that reality is requiring something of me. My father went to Heaven after a 30 year battle with several things that had a common denominator of chronic pain. My immediate response to his passing was one of great relief that he was no longer trapped in that body of ailments. As I’ve processed the change this brings to my life, my brain sometimes checks out and I think of putting out an APB to find it. I’ve dubbed it a Funeral Fog. My husband has held me, and my friends, pen and paper, have helped.
Journal: It was like we’d watched him run an 83 year marathon, and we hear he has crossed the finish line in much weariness but great joy, and the crowd roared as he entered in victory. I’d like a phone call to let me know he is doing well, like when you send your child to college on another continent, but I won’t get one. There’s no sound anymore. We put on emotional safety goggles at first to protect us from what we see, and they must come off.
I realized that what I miss is the way he used to be. Dad was an in-charge person, and I watched him run his business and run the farm, work the horses, unload trailers of hay. He talked to people all the time, everywhere, putting deals together, selling, meeting needs. He had a way of connecting with people that made them feel significant. He told us stories and published some about his childhood. He was large to me, and I feel strange that he is no longer here, like a giant tree has fallen. In a sunrise moment 3 weeks ago, Jesus redeemed a pain-filled life for a new eternal one and the race was over! Dad had reached the end of the earthly marathon, and those God-Arms met him like that prodigal son experienced on the road, and the King called for the best robe, a ring, and a party, and his life was celebrated. And in this new reality, there are moments I feel short of breath, yet I feel the pen in my hand, leading the next generation of wordsmiths and story tellers. And I live.
No matter what major change we have experienced, any sudden reality or memory of one has a way of sneaking up and striking you across the face with emotion. We may forget who we are for a bit. That’s when we have a choice: either take how we feel to God, or try to handle it ourselves. And the wound we may be protecting will try to hide the face of God, but we need to allow it to take us to Him. We need to follow the example of those in the Bible who pressed through the crowd to get to the Healer.
Journal: I had such a great day, Lord, but in this moment, I can only help myself by running and pressing through the crowd, heavy with need, to grab hold of Jesus who saves, heals, and restores. I am still, grasping His garment in both hands with an unspoken “help” on my lips, and I feel Him turn to me with such kindness in those eyes, and I’m aware that the birds light easy on the feeder, and the grocery carts are rolling in the market, and the traffic lights are changing color. He lifts me firm and strong and I feel it right through. Light has come and the fog has lifted.
When the fog rolls in, you can’t see very far. It makes navigation difficult, and forward movement slow. Pea Soup, the British call it. Like trying to walk through a mire, you get more tired with every step, and the smallest request can feel like someone has asked you to move a mountain. Little things can be overwhelming and you can feel alone in a small boat on a choppy sea. We all struggle to stand under the weight of major life events. We can feel like a wet cloth twisted and not hung up to dry.
That’s a signal to rest physically and mentally without trying to figure it all out. It’s a time to say “no” to the requests of others, no matter how worthy. It’s a time to hand over everything to the Father. It’s a time to be patient and forgiving with yourself. It’s a time to share with the Father how we feel, for when emotions are poured out, whether disappointment, grief, fear, or even joy, it makes room for peace and more of Him.
Journal: We met and wrote out the obituary from Dad’s notes, adding in the things that meant the most to us, like the 9 mile trail ride he’d marked out for horseback riding on dusty roads. We held a family led service with my son-in-law and older daughter speaking and remembering, and their words were like a cool breeze to me, about the life of a protector, a dreamer, and story-teller; words of a life well lived, even in suffering. I sat, holding the youngest of his 4 great-grands, and let my soul be comforted as my sister played piano and her son prayed a prayer, and I was filled with a kind of food from the Father’s hand. Even now, nearly 3 weeks later, I can still feel the support of that blessing, like a rib binder that holds a place pulled loose and hugs good.
The new reality says, I can’t ask him any more questions. I won’t be able to hear him tell any more stories. He has left this life behind for something better, not earthly. And I will keep living because I am still here. Dad lived with purpose and so do I. We must face reality and see things as they are, and let that Jesus-man who healed the blind, give us new sight for now. And light reappears and the fogs lifts….
I have enjoyed journaling for many years, a writer like my Dad. Journals fill cardboard boxes and baskets in my home. Journaling with a purpose can be like a quiet counselor who lets you pour out your heart or ideas in ink on paper until it’s emptied and ready to be filled with God’s peace and guidance. It can burn off fog so we can see the next step.
Journal: If I could hear him now, he’d be encouraging me to do all that God designed me to do – write the books, speak and teach, build others up, and share my stories, too. Sacrifice to fulfill that Kingdom purpose and enjoy life, embrace love, remembering that the life to come will be a celebration like no other, but understanding that now is important. Now is what we have. Now is where we find God.
I teach a workshop called Emotional Baggage. In the West, we tend to stuff our emotions and that’s not good. Emotions are created by God, like the other parts of us, and are part of our relationship with Him and with each other. Meant to be expressed, emotions stuffed, tucked away, or denied don’t die. They remain alive until released. That’s why some of us have problems with anxiety or illness because we can become so bottled up.
The release does more than clear the air, it clears the head and the heart, and even blesses the body. And the fog will lift and you will move forward. Healing will come and growth will follow, and it’s OK for it to be a process.
Life has a way of knocking us off our feet sometimes, and we face our choice: do we stay there or do we get up and keep moving? Complaining or staying stuck doesn’t keep us in one spot; those things cause us to sink deeper. I used to tell Dad that if he was still breathing, then his life still held great purpose. We are here to be victorious with whatever life serves up for us individually. We get up and keep pressing into God and pressing into the life He has given us to live.
Journal: On Saturday, we will help Mom clean up what Dad left behind of his earthly life – mementos, practical and special things, stories on paper in binders. We can hold these and know he is across a finish line, at a party, at a wedding – as he is now one with that sweet Father who first had the idea of him. We will feel his absence, but even more we will feel God’s presence with us. We will laugh some, eat lunch, work hard, and remember that we are redeemed ones walking here, living a good story like Dad did. We will encourage each other into the future God has for us.
When you have to process the really big things, be a friend to yourself, ask to be held, and when it’s time, get up and go again, no matter the odds. And even now, in my own life, I can feel the lesson of the void I’ve walked through many times before. When change brings a void, let that void become a womb where something new grows. Let it bloom, and as child of God, live a story worth telling.
We get one life, you and I. Don’t we want to live it well?
This post is dedicated to my Dad, the writer before me. Now to find some fresh paper, for the next piece is calling out to be written!
With patient grace in the now,
(c) Sozo Life & Leadership, LLC, July 29, 2014
Photo: Dad and me on my wedding day last November 2013.