In my last blog, I mentioned that I had recently returned home from a long stretch of travel, during which I walked with divine ease through many significant changes and opportunities. I completed my first book manuscript, which has significant personal implications. It marks the close of a long season of hard healing from loss and adjusting to massive change just in time to launch into a new season, in a new world, as a newly restored family. (Here we come, South Carolina!). We also bought our new home, are engaged with a potential ministry opportunity for me in our new setting and I am progressing forward with potential publishing options, etc…
To be transparent, I was quite proud of myself and praised God for the obvious growth and healing that has taken place in my life! I love taking notice of the small nuances that reflect God’s ministry of grace and healing in my heart, like in the areas of patience and positivity, greater capacity and endurance, maintaining perspective in stressful situations, and walking with grace beyond my natural limitations. I experienced new levels of boldness in praying with others and even seeing some divine healing taking place. So good!
The thing is… after arriving home, a series of events led me to quite the opposite feeling toward myself! The fall of my great confidence tends to come in the midst of a perfect storm, when exhaustion, hormones, and grief triggers are all conspiring against me…
I knew I would be tired… and tried to rest the first day home, but there was so much to get caught up on regarding the details of the move! Brent had been working tirelessly on my immigration VISA, the purchase of our home with the financial transition across the border, closing off loose ends, etc. We had bank meetings, major decisions to make, a huge move to plan, not to mention little girl (or medium-sized girl) snuggles to be had!
The downward turn happened after a long afternoon at Service Canada. I was attempting to move the Canada Pension Plan deposits (small “survivor benefits” that the girls and I receive due to Lynn’s death) into a new account. This was extremely easy for my own survivor benefit but became difficult when trying to move the girls’ portion. Apparently, their survivor benefit was under Lynn’s SIN (Canadian version of a Social Security Number), not mine, and the two accounts had not been linked appropriately. The girls were on Lynn’s account, but he did not have the necessary bank information linked to his account. Long story short, hours were spent on the phone with higher authorities. I had to run home and dig out my big binder of death certificates and every other imaginable documentation (most of which was not necessary). I had to prove that I was indeed the mother of my children and present Lynn’s old documentation…
This brought back every emotion of my life as a widow and was the last straw. It pushed me to the limit of what I was able to maneuver while maintaining composure, perspective, positivity, endurance, and grace. A dark chord started wrapping around my heart as I sat and waited in that office (outwardly patient, but inwardly falling), as all the memories of countless hours and similar situations in which I had sat and waited, proved my husband’s death, my widowhood, the fatherless state of my children… The people behind the desk in these situations often say things like, “I’m sorry, but this is a complicated case. We won’t be able to process this here in this location. You’ll have to go to higher authorities.” Or “I’m sorry, we’ve just never had this situation before. We aren’t equipped to process this information,” as if no one has ever died young in the history of the world.
So on the heels of my return, which landed on the same day as (what would have been) Lynn’s 37th birthday (May 26th), and following an unexpected wave of grief that occurred in the hearts’ of my daughters, and in the loss of yet another normal, with a new normal in South Carolina still to come, my soul fell. Grief had been stirred and worked its way back into my soul by the end of that afternoon, and exhaustion gave way as it took hold.
New Freedom’s Get Tested.
One of the misconceptions about grief is that it is a simple feeling of sadness. Grief can certainly bring about a feeling of sadness! But it is much more psychological than is often understood. I did revisit the pain of Lynn’s loss in those moments, (and I believe this will continue to happen in a healthy way throughout my lifetime), but certain triggers bring up the other stuff that surrounds loss and influences grief. In this case, all of the circumstantial triggers combined brought up the old familiar psychological trauma of total insecurity. By insecurity I mean, the reality that your world can vanish in seconds so that what was sure, and secure, can suddenly vanish and leave you without a ground under your feet.
That’s what sudden death felt like to me. If Lynn could drop dead than there was no guarantee. Anything could happen, which meant that there was no security for me in this life apart from God.
Days after reveling in my new levels of strength, growth, endurance, etc., I found my new freedoms tested. I found myself deep in the pit of insecurity – not personal insecurity – but the kind that says, “If I step on this floor, I might find that there is no floor, and I will fall.” I felt like I was drifting in space with no gravity to ground my feet or home to grab hold of. I spent several days grasping for control, desperate to lay hold of something constant in a season of rapid change and transition… This is what it feels like when I ride the unexpected waves of grief that take me by surprise. I feel powerless like I’m drifting, with no ground under my feet, and terribly out of control.
It felt long but wasn’t long before I found my surety again, and felt the firmness of God’s Solid Rock beneath my feet. I found renewed confidence in the firm foundation God has been building under our family and the season of blessing He is bringing us into. I was reminded of my human soul, that still exists even when we walk in the Spirit.
I returned and rested in the quiet confidence that I am secure, no matter the circumstance, as a beloved child of the Living God.
God’s Timing Makes Space for Sabbath Rest.
Walking in God’s timing, surrendering to His government and leadership over our lives, inevitably leads us to places where we feel powerless or out of control. We aren’t in control but have given it to God. Walking by faith and not by sight is not a practice of perfection, but of presence. It changes the inner mantra of my own mind from “Did I do okay today? Was I good enough today?” to “Did I maintain intimacy with Jesus today?” “Did I rest in His grace today?” “Did I abide in His love as a trusting daughter would today?”
Every time I have “fallen” into darkness, beneath a heavy wave of grief, I find that my initial response is to fight against it. I think, “What is wrong with me?” or “What did I do wrong?” I first assume that this treck into the depths has taken me off the Narrow Path and out of step with God’s perfect will. But I always discover quite the opposite! That God actually steps aside with me in those moments and wills for me to abide in Him. He removes the outward pressures of performance and productivity and creates a spiritual Sabbath of ceasing – a season of stopping and resting, trusting and abiding, re-establishing God’s control and authority and my own status as a humble child.
Many of the days I’ve walked in darkness, my mantra has simply been, “Jesus. Jesus. Jesus.” Words have often failed me, but His presence held me still.
“Present over Perfect” (to borrow Shauna Niequist‘s phrase)
Learning to live in God’s timing doesn’t mean that everything will turn out perfectly. God’s timing is perfect, but we are not perfect. Still, God is perfecting us according to His good purposes! “You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect“ (Matthew 5:48).
We are made perfect as our faith is made perfect. He perfects us, by perfecting “our faith” (Hebrews 12:2), which is rooted in our trust relationship with personal Jesus, our humble status as a faithful child. God’s timetable is one that does move us forward in growth and “good works” (Eph 2:10), but it continually draws us into the presence of Jesus. God orders our steps that we might know Him. Walking with Him teaches us how to believe.
God’s Timing is linked to His Mind.
And slowly but surely, as we walk with Him, as we keep believing in Him and trusting His Word, we start to think like Him. Keeping in step with God’s Spirit gives us insight into “the mind of Christ.” When I experience God’s grace toward me, I learn to have grace for myself, and for others. When I see God prioritize healing and wholeness over productivity and performance, I learn to value my humanity and cherish my soul. When I am surprised by God’s timing, the way things take longer than I’d prefer, I learn to hear His heartbeat and recognize His deepest desire… to be with me and I with him.
“’For who has understood the mind of the Lord so as to instruct him?’ But we have the mind of Christ” (1 Corinthians 2:16).
Father, I have known ups and downs. When I continually evaluate myself, I find that some days I meet the mark and some days I don’t. But when I keep walking with you, you remind me of YOUR evaluation system, one that reflects YOUR mind, YOUR heart, YOUR goals and priorities for my life. You don’t want to know how well I performed according to my own goals, but you want to know if I will keep walking with You, with my hand in your hand, my heart in your heart, and one foot following after the other in your steps. Will I lean into your grace and live as your child through the ups and the downs, the losses and the gains, the highs and the lows? As I walk with you, you are doing a deep work in me that both sets me free and reveals Your mind toward me. When I know You, when I hear your thoughts and understand your heart toward me, then I am “transformed by the renewing of my mind” (Rom 12:2) and find myself forever changed.