Navigating the Journey

It is hard to believe it is the end of 2015, like so many I feel like I blinked and it was done. Today is my beautiful firstborn’s birthday….13 years old. It doesn’t even seem possible that the tiny baby girl I brought home from the hospital and fell in love with is now a teenager. Thirteen is huge, really huge. I know the coming days can be tricky and they mandate an exploring and discovering of who she is as a person and a child of God. I long for her to rise above the drama, hormones, and challenging choices that will inevitably come.
A shift is taking place, one where I have to take another slow step back and let her begin to navigate life and well I just don’t want to. I would rather keep her tucked under my arm and shield her from anything that may come, but I learned a long time ago that shielding her from all of life does not benefit her. It only seeks to give me some sort of perceived control I really don’t have.

In the same way attempting to control our feelings and experiences rather than navigating and processing them seek to give us a perceived control we really don’t have.

I learned in 2007 and multiple times there after that no amount of effort on my part was going to completely shield my daughter from the pain of life and the challenging questions that would arise. 2007 begin multiple tragedies and losses that left her with no grandparents and in a foreign land far away from home.
My broken little girl grappled with God, was angry and obsessed with death. At such a young age she was grappling with tech questions adults grapple with. How could a “magical God would let death and loss repeatedly take place.” Oh the challenging questions she would ask and the nightmares that haunted her.
We navigated it, sought counseling, and prayed hard. It was then when I had my massive “helpless parent moment.” I realized that nothing I could do would stop pain from coming her way, and we had to learn to navigate it with Jesus and community. We have seen miraculous growth in her and a beautiful healing. She is sensitive to other’s pain, she continues to have a sensitive heart to the Jesus, and she loves family. Jesus has been faithful and we have learned a lot.

We are still navigating.

Though that dark season of repeated family loss ended, the massive holes in our lives remain. And changes and pain continue to come.
I have come to understand that life is less about arriving at a place of blissful happiness but rather navigating the journey through embracing all of my joy, pain, celebrations, and losses and ultimately continually surrendering to Jesus.
That is why I am writing this now, I am overwhelmed with feelings so I MUST continually stop and check in with myself and my Savior.
The end of year causes us to reflect, and holidays place dead smack in the middle of some of our most painful places. Family brings some of our greatest challenges and losses and they often manifest the most at the holidays.

I personally stand in the midst of multiple losses and gains. The holidays are still never easy. We had beautiful and amazing family traditions with the our parents that instantly were gone. We had to pick up the pieces and try to navigate finding new traditions while perhaps honoring or keeping some we had before. We had to navigate the shifts in brother and sister relationships with the absence of parents. We had to navigate new joys while still acknowledging our very real pain.

And here we our with some of the pieces navigated and yet we are navigating again what our lives are in a brand new city.

We are navigating the losses of celebrating birthdays and holidays without parents but also without dear familial relationships we developed in NYC. We are navigating the loss of NYC traditions, familiar schools and familiar faces. We are navigating the burying of some hopeful dreams, and the change of culture. We are navigating the loss of another year, knowing we are now older. We are navigating the loss of our firstborn’s childhood and that hurts so much.
And yet simultaneously we are celebrating the realization of dreams and the birth of new dreams. We are joyfully experiencing new relationships and engaging and developing with some of the most beautiful people in the world. We are experiencing familiar cultural bonds from our childhood and watching our children experiencing life with many beautiful children their age. We are watching some prayers be answered with a yes, and some with a wait. We are forming new traditions, discovering new land, and growing with new people.

I feel joy, I feel sadness, I feel relief, and I feel frustration….ALL AT THE SAME TIME.

Yes all of these feeling can and do co-exist. Yes celebration and loss can be experienced together.
Think about it…
“fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” Hebrews 12:1b-2

There was joy in the cross. Joy in the midst of tremendous pain and suffering.

Pause and reflect on the reality that they can and do co-exist.

How are you going to navigate this season of your life? How do you navigate endings and beginnings?
The first step is to embrace it…embrace each moment and each feeling, acknowledging that they do exist. The first step is actually one of the most challenging. We prefer to embrace only what feels acceptable and good. Jesus calls us to a place of full surrender, it is where He does the greatest work in our lives, and it is where true freedom is found.
He cannot redeem what I have not surrendered and I cannot surrender what I have not become aware of.
Do not suppress your losses and feelings but rather embrace them, that you might increase your awareness of them, process them, and then surrender them to Him.
I am going to tell you that all of it must be embraced so that you may process it and surrender it to Jesus.

I encourage you to take a closer look at David and the Psalms. This is just one example of the honesty we see in the Bible. It is an honest gut wrenching expression of all feelings, both celebrations and losses. God called David a man after His own heart.
I know from my own experience that the more honest I am with Jesus about my feelings and my losses, the more in tune with His heart I become. Our relationship with Jesus becomes deeper and more intimate when we are fully vulnerable and honest.

Do you edit your prayers?
Do you refuse to speak certain thoughts or feelings with Him?
Do you believe He is incapable of handling your “negative” feelings and thoughts?

He CAN handle it, He is Emmanuel. I am not holding Him up, He is holding me up.

Choose to navigate honestly and openly with Jesus and with trusted people. This is something we have to practice and learn because we are taught to protect, defend, hide. Take a look in the garden of Eden (Genesis 2 and 3). Adam and Eve did this as soon as they sinned. They covered themselves because of their shame and ran and hid.

Don’t run and hide, be honest and run to Him.

During this season of holidays and ending another year may we pause to reflect on all of our feelings both our losses and gains. Realizing that a Emmanuel “God with us” is more than capable of handling all of it.

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