As a child, I battled anxiety. I did not know it was anxiety. All I knew was that I had moments of intense fear that lead to physical symptoms. I did not know how to handle this huge, overwhelming feelings. I did not have a name for them. It was incredibly difficult to leave with something so powerful and nameless. It was as if I was fighting an invisible dragon.
As an adult, I sought a diagnosis. It helped. Not all diagnoses help but this one did. The doctor told me I was struggling with a generalized anxiety disorder. My symptoms, he said, were textbook. Understanding that I was normal for my diagnosis brought me freedom. I learned how to keep myself from having a panic attack. I learned that if I did have a panic attack it was ok to tell people, "Hey, I'm having a panic attack!" In other words, I learned to have no shame in my fight. After all, I am in good company. Heck, I'm in amazing company!
The more I learned about anxiety, the more I became comfortable with it and it no longer controlled me. It still continues to be a learning process, though. There are times when I notice that I need a tune-up in the way I approach it. There are times I need to ask for help. Supplements help and my sweet friends remind me to take them when they notice I am revving up. Sometimes I need to step away from life in order to regroup. And, it's ok. It is ok for me to need help, or to take time. It is totally ok.
My middle daughter was born with similar anxiety issues. I feel incredibly thankful that I have gone through what I am gone through so that I can help her to be successful in fighting her fight. There are times when I need to push her and there are times that I need to respect her fight enough to give her time. The most interesting thing I have found is that the gift of time has been the what has offered her the most in terms of healing. It has given her a firm foundation in which to plant her feet. She has gone from needing me on a near constant basis to venturing out on her own terms to pursue new opportunities.
Taking time to listen to a person's experience has two purposes: taking in information and bearing witness to what their journey. My doctor took in my information and validated me by offering a diagnoses (and a plan). In turn, I have been able to listen to my daughter and respect her journey. Listening opened up the doors to healing.
If a loved one is trying to tell you their journey, listen. Do not tell them what their journey is, just listen. You may have an opinion, or an idea, or a story to tell...don't...just...listen. They may be fighting invisible dragons that you no nothing about.
Too often we find ourselves caught up in begging God for a breakthrough, for a miracle, for some grand gesture. In the natural, life feels so hard and confusing that we petition God over and over to make it all right. This is where I have found myself for a few years now. "God make things right! Restore to me what has been stolen! Bless me abundantly so that I may have the honor of blessing others! Father, are you hearing me? I need a grand gesture!"
Sometimes, when I pray out of desperation, I feel disrespectful. I feel shallow and somewhat ridiculous. Then I remember that my God is two things: he is the Most High God and therefore able to handle anything I can throw at him; and, he is my loving Father whose desire is for his children. He can handle it and he wants to handle it.
OK, so that's out of the way. Now, on to what God just (gently) hit me over the head with...
I am so busy looking for my breakthrough, for my miracle, for my grand gesture that I am completely missing the intimate, loving exchanges that happen in the most unlikely moments. To put it another way, I am missing the trees for the forest! I am so focused on the bigger picture that I am utterly failing to see the details of how he cares for me minute by minute.
He comes to me when I am balled up on my bed weeping into my pillow. He wraps his arms around me and allows me to sink into his peace.
He comes to me with an encouraging word from a friend, a co-worker, or even a grocery store clerk. He meets me in unlikely places.
He comes to me when I sleep and whispers sweet songs. He dances around me, covering me as I rest under his protection.
He comes to me with provision when it feels like there is no way. He takes care of my needs and even springs for some wants every so often.
He comes to me because I am his child and he delights in me. Each moment is like a beautiful tree, strong, mighty, and life-giving. Each tree builds the bigger picture. The bigger picture is in his hands. I do not need to concern myself with the bigger picture. I walk from tree to tree, from glory to glory, and I trust that he is the canopy above my head.
My breakthrough will come. My miracle is life lived for his purpose. Each tree is a grand gesture from my Father. The trees sustain me. These moments when he comes to me in the still of the night, or while experiencing the anguish of loss, or during the confusion of the journey...each of these moments will propel me into the person he created me to be.
I am no stranger to grief. My life has been consumed with the grief cycle and helping my children through the grief cycle for the past few years. Last week, however, I was introduced to a different sort of grief when I received a text message telling me that my brother had passed away. It was sudden and very unexpected. He had been sick, he had diabetes, and his body said "Enough!".
This grief was not numb. It was immediately painful. It brought up memories, joy-filled ones along with hurt-filled ones. I found myself struggling with insecurity regarding our relationship. Anger rose within me and spilled out as hot tears streamed down my face. It was not fair that he was taken so quickly. It was not fair that I didn't get a chance to have another conversation with him (even a Facebook chat would've helped!). It was not fair that I didn't get the chance to make darn sure that he knew just how much I love(d) him.
It was not fair.
"They" say there are five stages to grief. I disagree. In reality, there are five portions of grief and several hundred grey areas in between that can sometimes be experienced separately within a span of an hour, and sometimes they can all fall on top of you all at once like a giant heap of emotions. To say that grief is linear is not only wrong but it is harmful. Linear means that acceptance is the end goal and that once you reach that end you will no longer deal with the other four portions. This just isn't true for a majority of those who find themselves in the midst of grief.
Grief is so not linear. It is messy. It is a jumble of emotions that sometimes attack us at really weird times. You could be standing there discussing a t-shirt and suddenly find yourself weeping. Grief is sneaky. It is sneaky and it is messy. No one wants to deal with grief. But, oddly enough, grief can also be beautiful.
Memories will come. They will flood your mind and your heart and completely inopportune moments. Let them come. Let the emotions that are attached to those memories come as well. These memories are honoring a life. A precious, beautiful life. Even the messy, messy emotions. They are honoring just as much as the beautiful, fun memories. Maybe even more so. Anger over the lose of someone you love makes sense. Denial, bargaining, depression...they make sense! Those messy, messy portions of grief give you a chance to really honor your loved one.
The one thing to hold on to, though, is that there is no real end goal. The goal is to be able to not be consumed with grief after a period of time but there should not be a goal to no longer feel when remembering your loved one. Portions of grief will continue long after the all-consuming grief subsides. And, that is ok. It is testimony to the love that still remains.
"Therefore, since we have been made right in God’s sight by faith, let us have peace with God because of what Jesus Christ our Lord has done for us. Because of our faith, Christ has brought us into this place of undeserved privilege where we now stand, and we confidently and joyfully look forward to sharing God’s glory.
We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance. And endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation. And this hope will not lead to disappointment. For we know how dearly God loves us, because he has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with his love." Romans 5:1-5
In Hebrew, this means "our dance". It is through our dance that healing in found. Come before the throne and dance for your King!