What a difference a year makes. One year ago today I got the call early in the morning that my Dad was gone. He had run the race and was now reaping his reward. I left the hospital a little after midnight knowing it was most likely going to be the last time I saw him alive. I wanted so badly to stay and be there, but my kids needed me home and awake with them the next day. I was exhausted from the 22 long days since he was first hospitalized with a collapsed lung and some spots. It was a mere 5 days later that our world was completely shattered with the ugly word – CANCER. At that point we did not know the extent or anything more than what it was and that it was in his lungs. He came home from the hospital when his lungs were re-inflated and rested for the next week before he saw his doctor. He saw his doctor the next Friday and was sent back to the hospital with a partially collapsed lung. That was the last time he saw the outside of the hospital and the last time I saw my Dad walk, breath or talk without strain.
This past year has been one of pain, suffering, heartache, fear, uncertainty, emptiness and trials. But besides the obvious of having my Dad here with me today, I wouldn’t change a thing. The lessons I have learned over the past year have been nothing short of life altering. I am continually amazed at how God has weaved things in and through my life to mold me into who He wants me to be. Don’t get me wrong…I am a LOOOOOOONG way from being even remotely close to the “perfect” Christian, but I am learning so many important lessons about myself and Him and I’m growing deeper in my relationship with Him and drawing closer to Him daily. And for that I am truly grateful and take great comfort.
So what has the Lord been teaching me this past year?
Patience – just when I think I have it all together, He shows me I don’t. I have always liked structure and order. I like lists and like to run off of those lists. With four kids in tow, you think I’d be used to it by now. Life rarely happens from lists! Some days I’m just happy to get a load of laundry done and out of the dryer before dinner. I have had to learn that it’s okay not to have it all together – all the time. Now, I still like functioning on a schedule, but I have learned that schedules can be more flexible than I make them. Some days wear me thin, but it’s then that I stop and take real time to love on my kids and just enjoy them where they are now.
Trust – I don’t trust people easily, so this has been more than difficult for me. I have learned that no matter what happens – sickness, death, overwhelming bills – HE is in control of it all. He allows certain things to happen in our lives to stretch us and mold us into who He wants us to be. He has taught me that in order to be molded, I must first put my trust – wholly and completely – in His hands. That is no easy task!! Have you ever done one of those “Trust Falls”? Yeah…I failed miserably at that. Combine my inability to trust perfect strangers to catch me falling backwards with my inexplicable fear of heights and you’ve got a major disaster waiting to happen! But isn’t that when God works? When you are terrified beyond all comprehension and you can’t see past the end of your nose. This past year has been a series of Trust Falls – one after another. Difficult? More than I ever imagined. Worth it? ABSOLUTELY!
Faith – Now I’m not talking about the “I know He’s got it” faith, but true, deep, lasting Faith. I have found that this only comes from working and strengthening my personal relationship with Him. And strengthening that relationship only comes through prayer and time with Him – daily. It’s not always easy and I don’t always make the time, but I am getting better. I have days that are a struggle to get up and moving, but I am finding my strength in Him and His promises for me!
Peace – He’s had me wrapped in His loving, comforting, caring arms for years preparing me for this exact time in my life. It’s in that promise that I have found indescribable peace. It truly is a “peace that passes all understanding.” Am I always emotionally okay? NO! But in those moments I take great comfort in knowing He is in control. Some days I find myself spending more time in the bathroom with the vent on (my alone space with four lively kids). But that’s okay. I often need just a few minutes to myself to grieve about the precious moment or funny quip Mister Bull said that my Dad would have loved. It’s in those moments I feel a peace unlike any other. I go to the bathroom to meet God doesn’t sound quite as eloquent, but it’s the truth.
Pride – I have always prided myself on being independent. But this past year I’ve learned that it’s okay to ask for help. I have always been a person who didn’t want much help with anything. In fact, my mom’s favorite story to tell on me is when I was about 2 1/2 – 3 years old. She had told me several times that I was not allowed anymore cookies. So what did I do? The minute she turned her back, I made “stairs” out of the kitchen drawers and climbed my way to the kitchen counter. She glanced back into the kitchen just as I was reaching for that prized cookie in the jar. As soon as I knew I was caught I quickly shoved the cookie into my mouth and proceeded to quickly chew it up. Of course I still received my due punishment, but the cookie far outweighed my punishment – at least in my little eyes. So to say I’m stubborn, might be the understatement of the year!! It might not seem like a big deal to most people, but asking for help has never been easy for me. School work always came easy for me, so I rarely (if ever) asked for help. I was a tutor in college, so rather than asking for help I was the one being asked. I may not have the neatest or “cleanest” house on the block, but I took PRIDE in taking care of it myself – without help from others or even my kids!
Through several godly women and their blogs, sickness, fatigue and HIS WORD I have learned that my life doesn’t need to appear perfect. In fact, it’s rarely in the same time zone as perfect. My life is messy. My life is full of laundry, dishes, toys, kids and it’s wonderful. Am I good at embracing it? Not always. But I’d like to think I’m getting better!!
All I need is Him – This is probably the most difficult lesson of all. When He can’t get a hold of us through conventional ways, He uses the unconventional to shake us up and rock our world so much that we can’t help but rely on Him. Many areas of my life contributed to this lesson, but none more than my illness. I found myself in the hospital no less than 20 times last year, 4 of which resulted in week-long stays. My diet began being restricted more and more and I found myself starting a big ol’ pity party. Then, through some time with God and a divine revelation I realized – All I need is Him!! I don’t need comfort food to make me feel better. I don’t need the right car or the right house or the right clothes. I just need HIM!!! Sadly, the most difficult part for me to give up in that list was the food! I had come to rely on food to fill the voids of life. I knew I needed to give them up, but just couldn’t do it. At least not on my own. So, God has used my illness to take them away for me. I can no longer have gluten or any other grains – that pretty much knocks out most carbs and breads (which I love). I can no longer have MSG or anything too spicy – that pretty much knocks out fast food and any restaurant. While at first I focused on what I couldn’t have, I have since changed my tune. I now focus on all the fruits and vegetables I can have. I am learning new ways to cook chicken (the staple of my diet) and enjoying it. Do I miss those foods? Sure. But I have learned so much from this journey that I wouldn’t go back – not even for a minute!
Has this past year been easy? Not by any stretch. Has it been worth it? COMPLETELY!!! I know my Dad is reaping his reward in heaven, dancing on streets of gold (which is humorous, because my Dad couldn’t dance to save his life…well, other than the two-step), singing and playing his guitar at the same time (Funny story – he could sing very well and he could play the guitar very well. But he couldn’t do both together in tune! It was a running joke with the music minister at church.)!! I know we will one day be reunited again and in that I rejoice. So for now I will keep learning and moving forward with my life. I recently heard that phrase and felt it was so appropriate. I will never “move on” because that would mean forgetting my Dad ever existed. But I will move forward – learning to live life without him here. I will move forward in my relationship with my Savior, Christ Jesus. And I will move forward with my family as we learn and grow together – no matter where life takes us.
You can read more testimonies of God’s Love in the previous posts of this series.
Blessings to you today,
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