Reflections from 2013

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Four days after I wrote this on February 27, 2013, my grandmother passed away. I had lived with her for over 10 years, and the impact of her loss is unexplainable unless you have held the withering hand of a woman undergoing chemotherapy or helped your matriarchal figure use her walker, or make sure her drinks were thickened, that she took her medicine on time, that she had gotten her breathing treatment…or seen someone who was so independent become so dependent on someone whose diapers they had changed as a child…or if you have been a crying shoulder for someone terrified as Cancer ran rampant within her body who had once dried your nighttime fears and tears away with an ice cream sundae with rainbow sprinkles from Carvel… This loss cannot be understood unless you have listened as the beeping of a heart monitor slows down, then spikes back up, then slows down again as the struggle for life goes on in a war you cannot help her fight…and finally becomes one constant beep as the white flag of surrender is raised in an action that is all at once, too final. Then taking this and resuming regular life as if none of it had happened three days prior. Interrelating with people who told stories of their week and smiling, not being able to explain the huge void in your life for fear of losing control of your emotions.  This was possibly the hardest thing I have ever faced and ever will face. A loss that I still find hard to believe…that still brings tears to my eyes when I least expect it, like hearing Frank Sinatra singing “My Way” while out to lunch with friends just two days ago.

We then were at risk of losing our home.Where would we go? Where could we afford to live now without my grandmother’s financial support? The questions were quick to drive fear into our hearts.

I also was quickly faced (less than a week after my grandmother’s passing) with smaller but constant trials such as being cursed out by an angry neighbor for something that was out of my control, being scolded by my boss for something that was not my fault, and other things the devil uses to get under our skin during a raging storm.

We also had a family issue raging within our immediate family that broke out like a wildfire by mid-May. My tight-knit family was facing a flame I didn’t think even we could survive. My home had always been a safe harbor for me until then. It was turned into what felt like a concentration camp with a strong spirit of oppression that stomped any joy I had left into pieces and shouted insignificance in my face till I could barely stand. I was a stranger in my home and it was emotionally unsafe.

I was also becoming disgusted with the ugliness I saw growing in my own heart…the things I had become capable of…the sorrow was rotting into anger and it was infesting in areas all over me and eating away at my heart. I could feel anger taking hold over my tender heart like a shield for fear of facing all the painful blows it was receiving. I got to a point where even being near myself was exhausting, I was so hideous inside.

In June, I took on a second job in retail and began working 7 days a week with 6 of them being 13 hour days. I was beginning to feel withered down to the bone but the stress of having to pay my student loans left me climbing up the side of a steep mountain in a raging storm with bruised and bloody hands reaching for the next rock to grab onto. Each step was painful. Each step was exhausting. Each step I didn’t know if I could possibly go on any longer. What made it worse was that I was climbing a mountain that I didn’t even want to climb. That even if I reached the top the climb wouldn’t have been worth it. But what could I have done, let go? Give up? I knew I couldn’t give up, I wouldn’t give up, because it would deny everything I believe…everything I dug my weary hands into with all my might…but there truly was no way to keep going. There was only darkness around me.

September brought a better job opportunity, however, I lost that job opportunity a week after I had already quit my retail job because my employer had lost her own job due to a failing economy. I have been financially in the hole since then.

In October, my other grandmother and only surviving grandparent, passed away. This was not only difficult because of another lost loved one, but because our grieving had not yet completed its course from the first loss we had faced less than 8 months earlier. All the old wounds were torn open once again like the opening of a floodgate, and the pain came rushing in like a roaring river. I sat in the pew at my grandmother’s funeral mass and wept uncontrollably alongside my sisters. I had no energy to hold it in. I had lost all ability to fight. We listened to my grandmother’s final farewell letter that she had written a few years prior, where she told of the deep grandmother’s love she had for each one of us and I longed to share my heart of love with her. All the moments of my childhood passed before me, my grandmothers appearing in each and every scene, one after the other, taking alternating turns. They were the moments I held most dear that spoke of our love for each other. But all that was over now and I was alone crying in a wooden pew.

But through all of this, all these bitter moments that 2013 brought on, I clung to the promise that God was good.

It wasn’t easy.

For a while there between March and August, though I hid it well from my friends and those disconnected from what was happening, I was beginning to feel I had lost all faith in His goodness and was serving Him only out of duty. I walked like a zombie, lifeless, with very little strength to get me through the day. In public, I hid the wounds, smiled to mask the pain, and listened to others as I ignored the torment screaming from inside. When people asked me what was going on in my life I talked about smaller insignificant things that wouldn’t remind me or give the brokenness of my heart away. I was clinging onto a surmounting pile that was slipping from every angle, trying to hold everything together so no one would notice.

But I would never stop serving God. It just wasn’t an option for me. I can remember countless times in worship where I could barely lift my hands to the Lord because I was so weary…and the tears streaming down my face told of a girl who wanted to believe that this Savior she was praising cared…but oh how hard it was to believe as I climbed that awful mountain. Oh how the devil tried to tempt me to want to stop serving Him. To rob me of the joy of serving Him. The desire.

The Lord was Holy… and therefore worthy of praise for that reason alone…He was God and I knew I was a solider in His army. That together we were accomplishing His purposes which were just and true…and I knew there was no other option for me but to serve Him…but His goodness…I questioned. I believed it but I didn’t feel it. I questioned if He really cared about my feelings…my trials which I thought were insignificant to Him, a mere causality of what He was doing…A blow that had to be faced because of something that was much more significant than me.

These words from my journal are so much more meaningful now than they were then. I could not possibly have understood the weight of them then. For I have learned through some incredibly difficult circumstances the faithfulness of His goodness…The weight of His goodness. How it does not falter nor fail. It’s amazing how He works. When I look back at my journals from the beginning of the year I am amazed at how on point God was. The preparation He was bringing me through seemed so subtle at the time…Its moments like these that I am grateful I am a journaler.

I do not say these things to reap your pity, on the contrary, I have reemerged from 2013 with a stronger knowledge of His love for me than ever before.

In November, my heart found a reason to sing when my sister announced that she was expecting. With Death, God has also brought Life into 2013. The fixture of Grandparents is being restored in our lives through my parents who will become grandparents in early June of 2014.  A few weeks later I received a promotion from my job where my salary was increased by 50% and m20131230-234004.jpgy substitute teaching process is finally underway. December brought another wave of blessings, with what was almost the perfect Christmas, aside from the bittersweet visits to two grave sites, this Christmas was filled with joy unspeakable. Love is being restored to our family and our home once again. The ice and snow of bitterness and anger are melting from my heart and the bruises that cover the tenderness are healing.  With this, my strength is being restored and a real smile resides on my face. I am almost up the mountain, just a few more steps, but I am confident in reaching the top. I don’t know why God chose this mountain for 2013, but I trust Him and I know He has His reasons. Our housing situation has been delayed for a while, though still hanging in the balance, I am confident that He will provide.

I have felt His presence in the trenches of war and He has not left me wanting. He still mends my battle wounds from 2013, but the war is over. We have emerged as victors. He, forever my hero. And I know now that I will never turn back. That I love Him and He loves me and that every thing I face is significant to Him. That all the trials that lay ahead will be significant to Him as well.

Oh how the devil must be cringing at the thought that all he has planned for me next year will be faced by a girl who has been reassured and is confident in the love of her Savior rather than a girl licking her battle wounds and embittered by a God who doesn’t care about the pain that still lingers from the bruises.

I will declare and will always declare that my God is good and that His love is overwhelming and invades all areas of my life.

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