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This post is also linked up to #TellHisStory
As I was running through the red-golden forest yesterday, I reflected on my post from yesterday and the grief that has been building within me lately. It is coming up to the month, two years ago, in which my world turned upside down and my heart was torn between two continents, as I traveled to the other side of the world with my one-year-old daughter to be with my mother before she entered a life-threatening operation and left my three-year-old daughter and husband behind. My already tearing heart was yanked further apart, as we heard the diagnosis: a terminal brain cancer with no hope of survival, with a life-expectancy of two to three months.
In journeying back to that time in my heart, I am reminded of God’s deep abiding Presence and why leaves turn a beautiful golden red this time of year: to remind us that Immanuel is a God who is with us, bringing beauty, hope and comfort in the dying. This has also brought me back to a post I wrote almost two months ago, a post that reflects on His deep abiding Presence in my journey. As I share this with you today, I pray that it will encourage both you and me to lean into God’s strong, comforting arms:
Lately, I’ve been reflecting on my journey back to God and my Mom’s part in that. I’m overcome by the lack of words involved and the power of grace. There are three distinct experiences of Him that God used to draw me home:
– as I walked in the new subdivision of our holiday home in January 2014: I surveyed the spectacular wonder of the mountains and lake, the way the sky broke open and I felt a love envelop me. In that moment I was completely and utterly broken. I felt torn between my own immediate family and my Mom. A heaviness rested upon me as the death sentence of two to three months Mom was given weighed upon me. And I was hushing my little girl into sleep, a wee girl who often refused to sleep and kept getting sick. But in that one moment, my hardened heart broke and tears flowed. A God who I had for years envisioned shaking His finger at me, covering me in guilt and shame, was holding me. And I couldn’t stop crying. Me the sinner, the one who kept failing, kept losing the control she fought so hard to hold onto.
– in the dunes, I ran alongside my husband, coming to a clearing where all I could see was dunes upon dunes, and a startlingly, beautiful sky. This was in the five weeks, when I found myself on one continent, but my heart was on the other, with my dying Mom. My heart was torn in two, a grief I will never be able to fully explain in words. But in that moment God’s beauty poured over me like a balm and all the tension and fear and ripping came to a halt and poured out into tears that kept flowing.
Your beauty and love chase after me every day of my life. I’m back home in the house of God for the rest of my life.
– with my dying Mom, as the more she surrendered the greater the peace that settled upon her. I was anything but peaceful during that time, as I kept myself frantically busy doing everything I could for Mom and her home. So, the contrast was startling. The less she did, the more she surrendered to her Lord and Saviour, the more peace settled upon her. The more I did, the greater the fear, tension, unsettled feeling grew.
Don’t fret or worry. Instead of worrying, pray. Let petitions and praises shape your worries into prayers, letting God know your concerns. Before you know it, a sense of God’s wholeness, everything coming together for good, will come and settle you down. It’s wonderful what happens when Christ displaces worry at the center of your life.
And so, when I returned home, I vowed to seek after this peace that passes all understanding. And it brought me to the table of grace, to His broken body and flowing blood that covered all my guilt, all my shame, all that I’d sought to run and hide from, in my utter brokenness.
John 3: 16
For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.
Now, when I look back, my Mom’s greatest gift to me is not the years of beautiful service to me as her child. Not the hugs, the kisses, the way she looked at my girls, the giving of her heart till no more could be given. No, her absolute greatest gift to me is her testimony to the redeeming grace of God. As a Mom who fails daily in being patient, kind, protective, humble, I am encouraged by my Mom to turn to God with palms open for a grace I do not deserve. I am humbled by her choice to walk through her pain, into her Way, her Truth and her Life: her Grace at the Cross.
Ephesians 2 : 8 – 9
For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith – and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God- not by works, so that no one can boast.
And so, slowly, very slowly, I’m learning to listen, rather than talk. Learning to wait, rather than do. Learning to surrender, rather than hold onto. Learning to follow convictions, rather than guilt and fear. And it’s a painful process, as my insides scream “But, but, but” and He responds “I make ALL things beautiful, in My Time”. As I look up and tell Him I can’t do it all anymore, He reminds me I don’t have to. All I have to do is follow and let it all, every little bit, go. Palms open to heaven, as the manna falls.
Hebrews 12: 1- 4
Do you see what this means – all these pioneers who blazed the way, all these veterans cheering us on? It means we’d better get on with it. Strip down, start running – and never quit! No extra spiritual fat, no parasitic sins. Keep your eyes on Jesus, who both began and finished this race we’re in. Study how he did it. Because he never lost sight of where he was headed – that exhilarating finish in and with God – he could put up with anything along the way: cross, shame, whatever. And now he’s there, in the place of honor, right alongside God. When you find yourselves flagging in your faith, go over that story again, item by item, that long litany of hostility he plowed through. That will shoot adrenaline into your souls.
Father God, forgive me for holding on, for trying to convince, for turning back to try and undo the pain, for seeking recognition, when you call us to carry our cross, to feel the pain, to admit our brokenness, to walk through it and open our palms to You. Father God, help me. Help me to not shy away from letting go, from feeling the pain, from continuing on this path of surrender. Help me to walk through the fear, through the grief, through the refining changes into Your Way, Your Truth and Your Life. Just like you taught Mom, teach me to become a child before You with palms open wide for Your manna from heaven.
John 14: 6
Jesus answered: “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me…”
And then I get to church and sing Great are You Lord (All Sons and Daughters), tears flowing relentlessly down my cheeks: oh yes, Immanuel, God with us in it all.
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