Friday, November 22, 2013

lessons learned in a bittersweet season.

I recently used up all the pages of my journal. Every one of them filled with thoughts, prayers, heartaches, scripture, moments to remember and praises to God. A piece of me was excited for this journal to end because there was a certain bitterness to it. But then another piece of me was sad for this journal to end because there was a certain sweetness to it. In fact, it was just that... bittersweet.
Bittersweet is the idea that in all things there is both something broken and something beautiful, that there is a sliver of lightness on even the darkest of nights, a shadow of hope in every heartbreak, and that rejoicing is no less rich when it contains a splinter of sadness.     --Shauna Niequist, Bittersweet 
I began this journal on May 5th, five months after finishing my final semester of college, but just a few weeks before officially graduating. A lot happened since that mild spring day and I felt it worthy to read the pages of my heart between then and now.

As I flipped through the pages, these are six lessons I believe the Lord taught me in this bittersweet season of life.

1: We all long for someone to know us deeply, to feel our pain, and never let us go. Those spring days were filled with a lot of loneliness... feeling like no one really understood where I was in life and that no one knew the deepest parts of my soul. Many days were spent searching for the one that could know and understand but I always came up empty. And then one gloomy day as I was driving home from a much needed Starbucks break, I burst into tears. I couldn't do it anymore. I needed someone to hold me and tell me it would all be okay. And in that moment, I felt the warmth of the One who knows me more than I know myself. I was embraced by His love, grace, mercy and forgiveness. And since that moment, I am slowly learning that there is no one who can always promise to know us deeply, feel our pain, and never let us go. The only one who can promise that is our loving Father.

2: Life is much sweeter when we stop to recognize and thank God for the little moments. At some point along this journey, I started a list of gratitude, daily jotting down all things I was grateful for. Grateful for the microwave to reheat my coffee... smell of fresh play-doh... the ability to so easily talk to a friend too many states away... dirty dishes... weather that allows me to run outside again... baking with a 3 year old... tight embrace of a hug. Even though many of those days were hard, there was always a multitude of things to be thankful for. Always.

3: Do not take the people in your life for granted. Some days of this season were lonely, yes. But I also had a lot of people walking along side me through them and I do not take that for granted. A few pages of this journal are reserved for those people and my thankfulness for their presence in my life.
Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.    {Ecclesiastes 4:12} 

4: We are called to obedience... to be steadfast despite. 
"This is what God is teaching me here at Michindoh and in this moment of life. I am learning what true obedience is. I've always thought it to be following God's law strictly and when I screw up, hope is lost. I've thought obedience means constantly trying to discern God's will and only doing that. But these are false narratives God is helping me to overcome. Obedience and freedom can be in the same sentence. "Obedience is... inviting the Spirit of God to flow freely through us." Obedience is steadfast despite. Obedience is pursuing God when all hope seems lost. Obedience is trusting the Lord is faithful in the midst of a desert."         --taken directly from the pages of my journal (in a season of waiting shares more about this lesson)

5: Do not grow weary in the waiting. The Lord sees you and knows how hard it is for you. The waiting has been hard. Waiting to get to Crooked Creek. Waiting to feel freedom. Waiting for this place to feel like home. The waiting was hardest when I convinced myself I was alone. But looking back now, I know the Lord was with me. He saw me. He knew it was hard for me and he provided the strength I needed.
"But they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up on wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint."    {Isaiah 40:31}

6: The Lord is faithful. The Lord has been so faithful in my journey of moving across the country, but also in even the smallest of things. In the sadness of leaving Kenosha, the place I grew to know and love, I wrote...
"But I trust the Lord will provide new places that will become my favorite. I will discover new coffee shops that I love. I will find a new church bursting with love for God. I will find a new grocery store. I will travel new roads over and over. I will find a new view I can't get enough of. The Lord makes all things new."
When I read this a few days ago I was so overcome by joy because the Lord proved to be so faithful in all of these. I discovered new coffee shops in this town that I love. I found a church that is quite different from what I'm used to, but I love the tight community there. I could probably navigate you through our small town grocery store blindly. I travel the same back country, dirt-covered roads all the while looking at a view I can't get enough of. Wow. The Lord is so faithful.

And so as I close this journal and sit it on the shelf I am thankful. I am thankful for the hard days that taught me invaluable lessons. I am thankful for the sweet days that reminded me of the Lord's goodness. And I am thankful for today... the day I can declare this to be a bittersweet season and be content with it.   

"Bittersweet is the practice of believing that we really need both bitter and sweet, and that a life of nothing but sweetness rots both your teeth and your soul. Bitter is what makes us strong, what forces us to push through, what helps us earn the lines on our faces and the calluses on our hands. Sweet is nice enough, but bittersweet is beautiful, nuanced, full of depth and complexity. Bittersweet is courageous, gutsy, earthy."   --Shauna Niequist, Bittersweet

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