Thursday, June 10, 2010

Things I Am Learning This Week

Right now, my family is on a vacation to one of our favorite places on Earth.  Colorado.  There is just nothing like the mountains.  I had every intention of working on my blog this week, and quite obviously I have not.  I still have a few days, and I have caught the writing bug, it seems, so who knows what might happen... As for now, I wrote something this morning about what I am learning this week that I wanted to be sure and document:

This week has been full of opportunities for me to learn and think and pray. That is something I like the most about being in the mountains. My soul is at peace here. I am able to think clearly here which gives me the chance to listen to what God is saying to me more easily that in the hustle and bustle of home. And this week He has spoken clearly to me.
It kind of began last week, we got on the road early to drive from one mountain town to another, and while we were driving I "checked on my people"... checked my Facebook. Sadly, I found that a high-school friend of mine had been in a terrible car accident that morning. My heart was heavy for her, her family, her sister that was across the ocean with a newborn baby and a husband that is serving in the Middle East. I have thought of them all constantly since that day. As I have fun experiences here, in the place that I love with the 4 people that I love most in the world, I have been fully aware that there is pain and suffering happening for her and her family and so many others as we hike and play and fish and snuggle... and it has put every single thing about my life into perspective. The fact that I am blessed beyond anything that I deserve has not escaped me. And the fact that it could all be in jeopardy tomorrow has not either. Then, we have come to a place where our family that lives here is only months into the process of learning to live without a child. Our nephew has been gone 20 months. A miniscule fraction of the time that he lived and was loved by his family. The loss is still evident. The pain, sometimes just under the surface, is still raw and real. That, juxtaposed with the fact that we are here to celebrate the marriage of a niece from the same family... the complexity of it all is more than I can put into words. And then there are the things that are real to me, to my immediate life, that somehow seem so trivial in the light of the ones that I have just mentioned. But when they are happening to you, they seem important. Things like how to juggle the everyday ups and downs of relationships with grace and love. How to wait a second before reacting and think through what is really happening in any given situation. How to live a life in which your happiness is not dependent on your circumstances. How to go on about life without expecting people to meet your needs and live in way that you get your needs met from the only One that is meant to fulfill them. How to live in a way that meets the needs of your soul. How to find out who you really are, what you really believe, and how you will implement that into your life. How to live without fearing what others think and only living to please the One that is worthy of that. Those are the things that I have been grappling with. Trying to make sense of. Trying to find peace in. I am an emotional person. A person that thinks a lot and usually speaks little. I would not describe myself as a passionate person. I will not typically talk a person's ear off about what I enjoy or am interested in or am learning. I am introspective. I typically avoid conflict and situations where I am going to be challenged. Not because I am unsure of myself, but because I find it hard to articulate what I am feeling. But I feel deeply. And here, in the clarity that I find in the mountains, I have been feeling very deeply this week. I feel like life is a puzzle. Sometimes the pieces - facets from different parts of my life - all come together in such a revealing way. That has been the case for me this week.  
One of my favorite things about Telluride is something that they have called The Free Box. It is literally a huge box with several compartments that are labeled "Men's", "Women's", "Housewares", etc. People bring the things that they do not want or need anymore and place them in the compartments. Then, people that don't mind digging through other people's things are free to take what they want from The Free Box. I love hunting for treasures there, and I always find something great. Since we are staying in town for several days during this trip, I have had the opportunity to find several things. The most treasured thing, so far, has been the book Tuesdays With Morrie. I "coincidentally" found the book a few days ago, and I have loved reading it. In fact, I find myself reading it slowly and taking breaks from reading it, so it won't end. As I read, I sometimes dog-ear pages of things that have spoken to me, and I have dog-eared many pages of this book. Although it is not a Christian book, God has used it to speak to my soul and help me put pieces of my puzzle together this week. I didn't go looking for a self-help book to help me figure out the things in life that I am working through right now, but He placed it in the place that He knew that I would frequent this week - a week when I would be feeling many emotions from many areas of my life. A week when I have time to sit and think and pray and listen for His voice. The book is subtitled "an old man, a young man, and life's greatest lesson". I feel like I am the only one on Earth that had not read Tuesdays With Morrie, so anyone reading this might know what this book is about, but just incase... in a nutshell, it is about a old, wise, dying man teaching a young man about life. The young man makes a list of things that he wants to talk to Morrie about: Death, Fear, Aging, Greed, Marriage, Family, Society, Forgiveness, A meaningful life. There are several things from the book that I love, but this one jumped out at me this morning as I read: Morrie, very close to death, explains - "What I am doing now is detaching myself from the experience.... And this is important - not just for someone like me, who is dying, but for someone like you, who is perfectly healthy. Learn to detach." But wait, I said. Aren't you always talking about experiencing life? All the good emotions, all the bad ones? (Mitch asked) "...detachment doesn't mean that you don't let the experience penetrate you. On the contrary, you let it penetrate you fully. That's how you are able to leave it. Take any emotion - love for a woman, or grief for a loved one, or what I am going through, fear and pain from a deadly illness. If you hold back on the emotions - if you don't allow yourself to go all the way through them - you can never get to be detached, you are too busy being afraid. You are afraid of the pain, you are afraid of the grief. You're afraid of the vulnerability that loving entails. But by throwing yourself into these emotions, by allowing yourself to dive in, all the way, over your head even, you experience them fully and completely. You know what pain is. You know what love is. You know what grief is. And only then can you say, "All right. I have experienced that emotion. I recognize that emotion. Now I need to detach from that emotion for a moment." "I know that you think this is just about dying", Morrie said, "but it's like I keep telling you. When you learn how to die, you learn how to live."

A few years ago I was experiencing deep loss for the first time in my life. I had no idea how to do that. It was completely foreign and scary to me. I had a friend, my Morrie in that moment, give me some advise. She said, "Grieve fully. If you don't, you will never get beyond this point. You will always live in this pain." So I took her words to heart and I fumbled through grief. It wasn't pretty. It was raw and intense and uncomfortable for me and many people around me, but I did it. And I am so thankful that I did. Now, that situation that could have made me bitter and depressed for the rest of my life has become something of a sacred place for me. A place that I am indeed not scared of. I have faced loss and pain and sadness, and I am not scared of it. I still feel it - sometimes more often than I would like to - but it doesn't scare me. I have come to see the reason for it. The things to be gained by pressing into it, and I am even thankful for it. It has provided me with a relationship of trust with my Lord that I had never experienced before. It allows me to love fully without the fear of the loss that losing a loved one can bring. It has given me the ability to sit in the room with a mother as she holds her lifeless baby and not run out the door in fear or speak/ listen often to my dear sister-in-law as she fights through figuring out life without one of her children or to read countless messages from young women who, like me, are dealing with the loss of a child that they desperately wanted. It has opened doors that I would never have walked through if I had not decided to face the ugliness of grief and pain head-on. I say none of this to brag about myself - I am far from anything worth bragging about - but to say that I am in awe. Who am I that the God of the Universe would choose to speak to me? But the fact is that He did. And He can do that for all of us - in many ways and in many places - if we are willing to listen. So, whether it is in the form of a book that someone else is discarding, or the most Holy book that there is or whether it is words from a wise friend or the silence of His creation, I am humbled and I am thankful.

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