Joy and Sorrow
October 23rd, 2017 will always be a day that stands out in my heart and in my soul. It was the day that life as I knew it changed forever. I remember that morning very vividly. I had just woken up and was still lying in bed when I got a call from my mother. She was crying. “I think something happened to your brother. Dusti called me crying and told me I need to come home now. There are officers at the house. I don’t know how to do this.” My heart beat quickened as I hurried to get ready to leave the house. I remember calling a close friend and my pastors to pray. Before I made it out of the house, I had already heard back from my mother. Our worst fears were realized. My brother was dead.
Life has totally changed. I will always love and remember my brother. I’ve learned a few things about grief. You don’t really “get over it.” But you do learn how to keep going. Overtime the tears don’t come as frequently, but they still come. And they come unexpected. A certain smell, song, or place can take you back to a moment that your loved one was there and the sorrow takes you off guard. I have found myself silently crying in public or in the car on the drive home. It happens.
But this post isn’t so much about my brother as it is a testament to my family. By the grace and the glory and the sustaining love of Father God, we are still here. We made it through this year. We made it through what we thought we could never make it through. We’ve laughed. We’ve cried. We’ve argued. We’ve had good days and bad days. But we are here. And not only are we here…we are here stronger.
I have watched my mother exude so much strength as she has walked through the waking nightmare of losing her only son. I watched her perspective shift from mourning the loss of Tony to appreciating the 36 years she got to have Him. She shared with me that when Tony was born they didn’t think he would make it through. But she got to have Him for 36 years and she’s grateful. I’ve watched this woman that I admire continue to show up for her family, her clients and her life with dignity, grace and of course her crazy wacky sense of humor. There is surely nothing this woman can’t make it through and she has shown me that it is always possible to keep going, no matter the circumstances.
In her book Choose Joy, Kay Warren talks about how most people tend to think of joy and sorrow separately. They think of seasons of joy and seasons of sorrow and don’t think of the two as co-existing. Therefore, when you are hit with a series of losses or one long season of suffering followed by another, it can feel unbearable. But Kay sheds light on the fact that joy and sorrow run on parallel tracks in our lives. There are threads of sorrow to be sure, but no matter what we are going through, there are always threads of joy, even right smack dab in the middle of the suffering. There is always joy and it is our job to choose it. And there is so much beauty in finding reasons to be joyful even in the midst of brokenness.
I have learned this first hand this year. I used to feel like life kept whacking me upside the head and I could never get up for air. I had the tendency to dread the bad because I know the pain of trauma. I used to ask when I could have my break. I still don’t know when “my break” is coming but I know that I’m always well cared for, protected, looked after and loved and I now know that God is always actively loving me and actively blessing me and actively making a way through even in my darkest moments.
I am amazed by the variety and depths of emotion I can experience in one 24 hour period. I can have a great day at work. I can laugh till I cry with my friends. I can thank God for my many blessings and cry on the way home over a memory of a moment I wish I could have back.
I am not the same girl I was. This year has changed me. I am more authentically me now than I was before. A year ago I found my identity in what I did. I was a “leader in ministry.” I was my relationship status. I was my reputation and what others thought of me. This was the year I became Theresa, simply God’s daughter. This was the year I learned to love and accept myself, even in the middle of a mess.
And this is the year that I learned, I can’t control life. I can’t control outcomes. I can’t prevent bad things from happening. I can’t shield myself from hope and I can’t protect myself from pain and disappointment. I learned to simply feel all the feels, as long as I invite God into the center of it. Sorrow feels different and carries a different power locked in a dark room in your heart than it does when it’s vulnerable and open to the embrace of a loving Father. Fear loses its control when exposed to truth. And life doesn’t have to make sense when you have entrusted your heart to the one who always has it figured out. I am learning that all that matters is that He is with me.
Good news. He always is.
And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age. (Matt. 28:20 TPT)