The Story Is Still In Progress

Just a little over a year later, I got the early morning phone call that my father had taken his own life. Once again, it seemed so surreal. I was hearing the words, but it was difficult to wrap my mind around it. This happened to other people, not me.

But it did happen. Regardless of the depth of relationship, when a parent dies, something forever changes. Childhood innocence (even when an adult) is tainted with hard reality.

So much had happened in my story. Pages turned, lessons learned.

Resilient.

A word that became familiar to me.

Months passed……Being a single parent was fine, but sometimes lonely. Jesus was very real to me and I stuck closely to Him as we walked this story together.

Years passed and God, in His goodness, brought my new husband and I together. In His sovereignty He wrote a chapter for my story that I never would have guessed had I been the one holding the pen.

I realize that my story…this story, the place I’m at right now…might never have been.

That realization, make no mistake about it, is a gift.

It allows me to value my moments so much more. Some would say I’ve paid a high price for this knowledge, but without my experiences I would have missed out on so much. That is just the truth.

My life’s story is just a small portion. If I were to give you a book, any book, and tell you to turn to chapter 14 and begin reading…it wouldn’t make sense. The story never makes sense if one doesn’t read the whole thing.

God’s story is the overriding story for all of us. It all started with Him and it will all end with Him. His is a true story of love, and it is through Him that all the rest is even possible.

1Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us,2fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. 3For consider Him who has endured such hostility by sinners against Himself, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart. —-Hebrews 12 

Amen and amen.

 

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The Next Chapter Of My Story

I knew what I wanted to do since the time I was sixteen. I had always felt God called me to work with the special needs population. My desire never wavered, even when my friends were indecisively changing their college majors. Following college graduation, a career began that spanned decades. I found myself in a small town in the mountains of Tennessee, the suburbs, the inner city, and now the rural farmlands of the Mid-west. I’ve witnessed poverty up close, seen what drugs and alcohol can do a family, and became hardened by working in an area known for drive by shootings. I’ve also been privileged to see smiles, watch children grow, and go on to live fulfilling lives. Teaching is, and always has been, more than just a job.

I never did go back home to Maryland. My parents divorced when I was nineteen and the house was sold. The road to home became someone elses. My mom and sister moved to Tennessee, where I lived. Through those years, I found out that home isn’t a building. Home is where I am, with those I love.

When I turned twenty-four I married a man that was a Tennessee native. A few years later we had a son. Time passed and my husband was diagnosed. The doctor’s words were both surreal and scary. A little over a year later, I watched my young husband laid in the ground. It was a damp gray day in early November. The tears escaped from eyes squeezed shut from the scene in front of me. Death is hard and jagged. It cuts deep. Even though the marriage wasn’t perfect, the finality of my husband’s death wore heavy on my heart. I remember looking down at the grave site and seeing the sweet soft hand of my five year old son enveloped in my own reminding me of the preciousness of life. We would be okay.

God is good. He always is, even when we don’t feel His goodness, or acknowledge it. Our lack of understanding does not change Him.

And over the next several years I was reminded that His grace truly is amazing………

 

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A Life Worth Living

I believe that I’ve mentioned in previous posts that I will be speaking at my church’s ladies luncheon. This event happens in just a few weeks. Time has gone by rather quickly and I am not fully prepared. I have the ideas in my head, the outline….but, I have to fill in the meat, so to speak. As you all well know I like to tell a good story. I enjoy details and sometimes get side tracked….that is the most difficult part of speaking. I get caught up in the story and forget where I’m headed. I need to focus:)

What will my story be?

It all started when….. Nah.

Once upon a time….Uh, no.

In a galaxy far, far away….Definitely not.

Hmmmm…… What IS my story???? And how am I going to help a roomful of ladies figure out theirs?

As much as women have in common, things that unite us…..motherhood, friendships, being a daughter, a wife, having a family… we all are also unique. The stories are each as different as the grains of sand on the beach. Not one is a carbon copy of another.

As a child I was the the compliant one. The people pleaser. Everybody’s friend. A good listener. A loyal friend. A voracious reader. Good grades. A volunteer. I saw life in vivid detail—as I am a visual creature. I still see life that way. I love color and symmetry. I am aesthetic to the core. I see the beauty is architecture and in the stars. I enjoy the coziness of a new pair of socks, and also enjoy how my books all line up on the shelf. I enjoy people. My very analytical, problem solving, “please get to the point”,  husband does not always understand me. I think I frustrate him sometimes because I like to elaborate on the details of how I “see” things and he wants the bottom line. The bottom line, to me, is not near as much fun…..so, I loop de loop through my story until I finally reach the end. He is exhausted and I am energized. God made us each different. That is what makes each person so interesting and exciting…..if we were all the same, how boring would that be? That is where the story begins……

“God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them……God saw all that he made and it was very good.” (Genesis 1:27, 31) God in His infinite wisdom created each of us. Each child that is born– He knows. From the first breathe, until the last. He gave us our personalities. He delights in us. Much like a parent delights in watching his/her child as he/she grows, God must enjoy watching His creations. We are not perfect. We are sinners of the highest degree….but, He loves us. So, our stories each begin with HIM.

I had a good childhood by most people’s standards. I grew up in a rural county of Maryland in a house surrounded with corn and soybean fields, and the occasional run away cattle. I was away from the hustle and bustle of Baltimore and Washington D.C.  I grew up surrounded by family members that loved me, went to the same church for the entirety of my growing up years, had friends, rode my bike, had regular family get togethers for birthdays, did well in school and graduated with awards and scholarships. I went on to a private, Christian, liberal arts college in the south. I graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree in Special Education. Exactly what I wanted to do, exactly how I wanted it, graduated on time, surrounded by family and friends…… indeed, life was good.

Up to that point, I would say life had been pretty good. (with the exceptions of losing all my grandparents by the time I graduated from college–but, I was blessed with many happy memories of each of them) Life was an adventure and I was ready to set sail.

In the two decades that were to follow God would write my story in a way that I could never have for seen….and to be honest I’m glad I couldn’t see it, because if I had known what lie ahead of me….I might have turned and ran. I’m not necessarily the bravest soul on the face of the earth. I find it difficult to smoosh a big spider with my shoe, much less face some of life’s darkest hours. Just like me, I’m sure that many of you that are reading my blog have had to face your own giants. Things that seemed so big, and so scary that your breathe caught in your throat, your heart pounded in your ears, and the tears spilled like a torrent that you thought might never end. A cry came from deep within your soul…a place that only you and God even know exists.

Almost always our stories have some joy in them. A marriage, the birth of a child, anniversaries, meaningful friendships, families that love us unconditionally,  exciting vacations, fulfilling careers….things that give us purpose, make us happy, things we love. I have been blessed to have all these things in my life.

As much as I love these parts of my story….and they have truly brought me unexplainable joy, it would be wrong of me to not mention the darker side of my story. As with most people, it seems that it is during the darker times of life that I learn the most. The easy times of life I am able to coast through, the darker times cause me to have to struggle, work my muscles, and yes…..at times to give up. I fall in a heap at my Savior’s feet. Utterly used up and exhausted from the strenuous climb through the dark valley.  Job loss. Death of my spouse. A father who chose to take his own life. Broken relationships. Mistakes that affected others. These things are a part of my story. They are each a piece of my life. Whether I like it or not. Whether it hurts or not…..it is part of me.

All of the good and the bad mixed together make me. How I choose to deal with these experiences is what makes my legacy. Too many  good experiences make one lazy, and spoiled. There is no joy in a life where everything is handed to you. There is no hope when all one has known is sunshine. There is no appreciation for salvation if one does not recognize the darkness in their own heart.  The dark times cause struggle, but they also cause determination, they cause pain but also courage, they can make us bitter or make us better. The choice is ours to make.

What kind of legacy do you want people to remember about you? When you have breathed your last, what will others say about you? Will your words be carried in someone’s heart? Or left in your own, buried along with you?  My desire is that my story will shine in the lives of those that know me. Not as a perfect life…but, as a life that was worth living. I hope my words, both spoken and written will fill my family’s hearts and minds for generations after I am gone. I long to give my children the hope that so lovingly was given to me.  A hope that only comes from knowing the Lord. I want others to know I spent my life pointing at Jesus. This life was never really about me. I am grateful for it…and I have been blessed by it….but, when it all comes down to it…it is all about HIM.

That is a legacy and a story worth writing about.