The past week has been hard though it’d be difficult to put my finger on exactly what was it that made it hard. And I must apologize to you for not sending you something last week, because I was too much in the middle of a battle. Or maybe somewhere on the bottom, might be more accurate.
If you’ve been journeying with me a few months, you might remember When You Want to Give Up. You might say I’m still recovering. If you’ve been with me for about a year, you may remember Expect Attacks, but Also Expect Victories! That is one of my all-time favorite posts. The lego guy in the picture might be a little cheesy, but that lego guy belonged to my little brother and best friend growing up, John.
Past tense belonged. You can’t take it with you, as they say. John would have turned 34 last week.
It was hard for me this year to know how to commemorate a birthday he didn’t have. You’d have thought I’d have a tradition by now. It’s the sixth birthday he hasn’t celebrated. But it always feels weird to live in a different reality than those around me.
It’s not frightening or new but it is lonely that my parents are the only persons with whom I can reminisce about my brother. But they live in another time zone. It’s also hard because their grief losing their child is different from my grief of losing my only sibling. I don’t want to infringe on their grief with my own. (Like they need more.) My husband only met John a few times. Our kids were too young to remember their uncle. Extended family lived far away growing up. Where I live now no one around me would even know John existed if I was silent. Growing up I remained silent, at my brother’s wishes, about him having cystic fibrosis. So much more I could share…
But the point is that sometimes life, or death, derails us. Long time ago, I naïvely thought I could drive through Chicago driving the speed limit. I actually tried this. Sheer foolishness. If you value your life, and those in the car with you, drive whatever speed everyone else is, period. And that’s just it. The unrelenting, callous thrust of life’s onward movement makes me desperate to grasp a shred of sacredness from what I lost. You know, if you’ve lost a loved one. You know.
Sometimes we want to quit, or at least pause a freaking second, but don’t even know how. Or it’s not in the plans and maybe not supposed to be. How to keep forging ahead? It came to me when I realized I’d failed to send you the weekly post: look up sometimes. (I’ll take head-smacking volunteers momentarily.)
The figurative looking up happened when I was desperate for relief against nameless despair. Laying in bed, I listlessly read a post written by my friend Rachael Colby of Tattoo It On Your Heart titled One. I reread it and was enabled to literally get up and keep moving. A thousand thanks, sister. (Dementors and Expecto patronus, Harry Potter fans?)
More looking up happened the other night. The Northern Lights were forecasted to possibly appear in our neck of the woods so I crept outside, after the kids were tucked in, and sat on the front step in the dark. I watched. I waited. For three hours. I spent much of that time talking to God about you. I’d forgotten my pledge to pray for you daily so I made good on it again. Asked Him to draw you near to Him, giving you success as He’s defined that for you, comforting you, strengthening you…and I found myself strengthened in the process.
While still sitting in the dark.
I saw planes, fireflies, and a sky chock full of stars but no aurora borealis. I realized after I’d prayed for all but two of you, that I wasn’t going to see them. (Don’t worry, I still prayed for the last two of you.) God restored my faith in the dark. It was both maddening and comforting. Faith sees even when the eyes don’t. I knew with certainty God was with me, in me, and I didn’t need to see something spectacular to prove it. Although the star-filled sky was arguably spectacular. I’m given a million mundane moments every day if I really want to see Him. “All” I have to do is live life His way.
As if that’s easy. Which is why I was somewhere under the bottom of that struggle last week. We need each other, don’t we? My husband, my parents, and a few good friends are unsung heroes in all this too. Each encouraged and undoubtedly prayed. Yet who knows how many people are required to encourage in any given situation before those breakthrough moments?
My pastor’s sermon included the verse from Hebrews (this week’s tea party tidbit) and I was encouraged again remembering that this walk of faith from beginning to end, and everywhere in between, is by the gift of grace.
Thank You, Jesus, that “it is finished.” We can run in the wake of your victory. Or walk. Or crawl. Or let you carry us. But we WILL cross that finish line. We will.
Carry on, fellow warrior! Keep looking up.