Happy Easter!–A re-visitng of an older Post–THE END?

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THE END?

I am on the last few chapters of the Hunger Games.  I have been losing sleep the last three nights due to its riveting intensity of action. I have fallen in love with the characters – Peeta with his unconditional love and the hijacking of it, Gale with his undying loyalty yet clinging to anger, Katniss with her flawed harshness and her fierce love, Prim with her innocence and finding her strength…I am drawn like a moth to the flame or an addict to the needle.  I am sucked in each night, way past my bedtime, with a need to see how it ends, yet something holds me back… I don’t want to say good-bye to Peeta. I will miss Katniss’s valor and attitude. I don’t want it finished. Even as I fly through these last pages of mounting action, I am savoring every last word like they were my last breaths.

I don’t think I am alone in this.  –Not wanting to say good-bye to something. Even if the next novel, the next trilogy, the next job, next relationship, or whatever could be even better, could exceed our wildest dreams or could be “THE ONE?” Good-byes are tough.  I believe it is part of what keeps people locked in abusive relationships and dead end jobs; missing out on what is around the corner or what could be if you just held on a little longer…

Yet, nothing and no one in this life is permanent.

Until recently, I was never a church-goer. I didn’t know that people when to church on Good Friday.  Now that I have been to church on this day, I still don’t quite understand.  How is this day “good?” The Crucifixion? The One who came to save us is hanging on a cross?

John 19:30 records Jesus:  “It is finished!” Then he bowed his head and released his spirit.

When I picture the scene, Jesus’ beaten and abused body hanging on the cross and between two thieves, I can’t help but think about what his mother Mary felt. What Peter was thinking?  The confusion of all of those who followed him to that place. If there ever was a time to think things had hit an absolute bottom, this was it.

I can barely make it through a Good Friday service. Beyond the visual and the corresponding heartache, I don’t want to say good-bye.

Emerson Hart wrote a song for a friend who described to him the conflicting emotions he was having as he faced divorcing his wife. The song’s called “I wish the best for you.”  Check out a few lines:

“How long can we wait here To say goodbye?
The words once they’re spoken Are words that we can’t take Back to where we were, before Things got in the way Life gets so confusing When you know what you’re losing
You Me
Why can’t we see that there’s More to love than we’ll ever know
Sometimes you’re closer when you’re Letting go… I wish the best for you”

 

This song gets me because of the truth of it.

I know.

I’ve walked in those shoes – The very pain of saying good-bye, the hurts of letting go are vividly right in your face, even as you are saying good-bye. Even if you know it is the right thing. It has to happen.

 

After the Resurrection, Jesus spoke to Mary Magdalene in John 20:17: “Don’t cling to me,” Jesus said, “for I haven’t yet ascended to the Father. But go find my brothers and tell them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’”

I tend to forget what is around the next corner; that the story doesn’t end on Good Friday. I forget that this was part of His plan. It had to happen.

“I am leaving you with a gift; peace of mind and heart. And the peace I give is a gift the world cannot give. So don’t be troubled or afraid. Remember what I told you; I am going away, but I will come back to you again. If you really loved me, you would be happy that I am going to the Father, who is greater than I am. I have told you these things before they happen so that when they do happen, you will believe.

I don’t have much more time to talk to you, because the ruler of this world approaches. He has no power over me, but I will do what the Father requires of me, so that the world will know that I love the Father. Come, let’s be going.” (John 14:27)

He knew what He was going to have to do. There was a purpose to the pain He was going to endure. He said His good-byes.

When I walk into the Good Friday service, I forget to believe. I forget to move my focus to the empty tomb; and the story doesn’t even end there! I get wrapped up in the pain and the stuff of this world and forget who God is—Forgetting that He knows about the pains of this world; that He overcame death; that He still lives.

As I ready myself to say good-bye to Gale, Katniss, Prim and Peeta from The Hunger Games, I remember there is always the movie.  As I dig out my waterproof mascara for the Good Friday service, I remember the Sunday Easter Service. And as we all face the pains of whatever it is we have to let go of, I pray that you hold fast to the peace that Jesus left us with. I pray that you know that there is a plan and a purpose to the pain and that purpose might just be around the next corner.

And I pray that you take heart and hold on to knowing that even though it is finished, it is not the end.

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THIRST

Thirst via flickr.com

THIRST
Sometimes a thirst is so ragged and entrenched in the soul that NOTHING seems to satisfy.

“Anyone who drinks this water will soon become thirsty again…” (John 4:13)

I live in the desert. I always carry water with me.
Because I once made the mistake of not carrying water.

It was during the running part of a triathlon. It was September and late in the morning; the sun was a blazing fireball in the sky. The course map showed several water stations along the run. I left my water bottle tucked nicely in my bicycle and, right before I headed out on the “out and back” trip, I stuffed two gummy sharks (for quick energy) in my mouth. After a chaotic swim and surviving the bike, even though it was hot and uphill, I looked forward to what is usually my strongest event.
Huffing up the desert mountain trail left no saliva to digest the sugars and those two gummy sharks became plaster in my mouth. Over the next mile of the steep run, my sandpaper tongue attempted digging those Sharkies away from my teeth in a fruitless attempt to dislodge them. Their indigestible shark bodies taunted me for 1.6 miles until the first water stop at the peak of the hill and the turn-around point of the trail.
The miniscule amount of water I was given at the first stop barely made a difference, like two rain drops falling on an encrusted desert floor.
And all those water stops on the course map?? There was ONE.
I tried to focus on waterfalls and drinking fountains, rivers and aquifers, children dancing through sprinklers…but my mind overpowered my will. My mind instead brought me all the scenes from the movie “127 hours.” Remember the story of Aron Ralston? He went out on a summer hike in the Utah desert and got trapped/pinned in between rocks for days and nearly died of thirst before he cut his own arm off to escape? That is what I couldn’t pry my thoughts from.

“… But those who drink the water I give will never be thirsty again. It becomes a fresh, bubbling spring within them, giving them eternal life.” (John 4:13)

God nudged these words into my conscious. I let go of the nightmarish visions of “127 hours” and held fast to this verse.
Even as I crossed the finish line and chugged three bottles of water, my thirst lingered. This verse had a hold on me—it was what brought me through. It had brought me through before…

My father’s final days on the earth; he lay in Collier Hospice center in Wheatridge, CO. His skin, bones and organs were overtaken in malignant tumors winning their battle for his body. The friends and family visits had subsided except for those closest. The nurses/“experts in dying” told us his body systems would be slowly shutting down.
He was sufficiently drugged up with whatever concoctions they give to make the body more comfortable, but his face told a different story. He had lost the ability to communicate and, because he could no longer digest and swallow, we could no longer nourish him. The last friends who came by, dabbed the mouth sponge with rum and we all toasted with a shot of Captain Morgan’s and they swabbed it into my father’s mouth.

It was the last pleasant look I saw on his face.

Days passed. No water; just the moist sponge (that got really nasty after about two swabs) and his favorite lip balm-cherry “liprageous.” The things we remember… (and maybe should’ve re-thought that Captain Morgan’s).
When his eyes would open, they shone with fear and confusion. As he “slept,” his body writhed against some unseen enemy. His breathing was sporadic, sending my sister and me into panics. His existence appeared steeped in absolute torment.
In the quiet of the late nights, I sat in the chair beside his bed praying for life’s hold to let go, and for him to find peace. It was not to be so for several more days…
Every night, through those last few days of his earthly life, I prayed the same prayers–for peace and release.

“I love the Lord because he hears my voice and my prayer for mercy. Because he bends down to listen, I will pray as long as I have breath!” ( Psalm 116:1)

Ever wished someone you loved dearly would leave this earth?? Don’t judge—it is TORTURE to watch them in pain and wish yourself in their place, and yet be absolutely powerless to make that happen. I thought my heart would shatter in pieces. My anguish was inconsolable.

Yet, I know Jesus. I know the love of my Savior. I know God’s love is what did this very thing for us with His Son on the cross.

It is written that no angels or demons will separate us from that love. (Romans 8:38)

He quenches the soul-thirsty. (And no “sacrificial” arm is required from you!) 😉

It appeared that God was working His magic on my father’s soul. My friends and my study of His Word all tell me that there is none too lost and it is never too late to accept the everlasting forgiveness, love and life offered through Jesus Christ. I was reminded of the one repentant thief that hung on a cross next to Jesus. His last minute change of heart and acceptance brought salvation and peace to his soul.—He would dwell with the everlasting. He would get to see his family again.

Could this be what was happening with my father? My father was a man who dedicated his life to science and engineering and who needed an explanation for everything. Faith was too murky for him. But, as his last days approached, (and it just happened to be Easter) he opened himself to the immeasurable, unfathomable faith and love of God.
As I watched the struggle between this world’s hold on him; his body and his spirit, it was the thirst that bothered me most. To be without water and with nothing but drugs and booze as the last “soul nourishment” that one experienced? Agony.

“If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, “Out of his heart will flow river of living water.” (John 7:37)

My father found release days later as the world’s hold finally set his spirit free.

“… But those who drink the water I give will never be thirsty again. It becomes a fresh, bubbling spring within them, giving them eternal life.” (John 4:13)

My thirst is quenched.

In the days following my father’s passing, I was given so many “coincidental” occurrences pointing to his salvation that even doubting Thomas would have been convinced! (The trains, the flower, the song, the cross on his brain scan…Creepy, but awesome!)

With Christ, I have hope in seeing my father again. It’s where I find refreshment. I live with it now tucked in my heart.
I will never be without it again.
It’s what my heart needs to survive the desert days ahead.

FREEDOM

anonymous freedom

anonymous freedom

“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy…” (John 10:10)
Have you ever been afraid? And not just afraid, but truly fearful. I’m not talking about what I will call “scary movie” fear. –Who didn’t feel this type of fear in the movie “The Exorcism?”–The original one–Linda Blair and the pea soup. Scary stuff. I’ll admit my fear in that movie. But it wasn’t the fear that paralyzes. Thinking back, I’ve really just barely touched this type of fear.
True fear.
The paralytic kind of fear in which your brain sends sudden large amounts of adrenaline to your muscles and it either moves you into heroic action—the mother lifting up the car to free her trapped child, the soldier propelling in to saving his or her comrades in the heat of battle—OR the opposite occurs and fear overpowers you–your muscles are immune to the new fuel they’ve been flooded with and they simply freeze up. Not a chilly “goose bump” freeze, but absolute loss of function. The massive pounding in your chest blasts sound waves of blood pulsating throughout your head and eardrums. Your breathing is nearly non-existent and shallow in your chest, your body poised to strike, yet no amount of will can budge the load of bricks that have become your legs. Your nearly catatonic body that has become utterly non-responsive as deadly rigormortis settles around your soul. Surely you know this by now as the “fight or flight” response. It is (or at least, it can be) life changing. It is where the proverbial “rubber meets the road.”
What will you do in those circumstances? Action or paralysis?
We all would like to think that we would experience that “hero” response and be moved to achieve something transporting us beyond our human capacity. But if you have never been in one of these situations, how do you know?
When a friend of mine told me of her sister’s experience, I realized my fear experiences, though terrifying to me at the time, only skim the surface of this “true fear” that I am referencing. My true fear experiences were ones in which I could’ve lost my life. At least that is how I felt when I was knee deep in the experience. Really, it felt like any future I conceived turned completely moot and void. Nothing but that moment mattered because I didn’t think I’d survive past it. Falling out of the two man raft in a level five rapid on the upper Animas in Colorado. In retrospect, my life seemed in jeopardy but I wasn’t as close to losing it as I thought. That hike up the tallest mountain in Arizona when I freaked. The recurring nightmares haunting each of the 40 years of my life: the dizzying vertigo, loss of control at life’s edge of whatever chasm, bridge, or ledge it might be, the accompanying nausea, paralytic muscles, brain lock, shallow breaths, heartbeats quick rabbit-like but pounding like blare drums. All of this–nothing like what she details. Nothing. –Not to spoil the ending of my true fear story, but, SPOLER ALERT– I survived! I didn’t fall off that mountain and I was pulled back to safety by an experienced guide on the Animas River. However, I did experience momentary paralysis. Frozen in that moment and left with a choice. I will never forget the experience. But it just skims above the depth of what she tells.
Back to my friend.
I use that term judiciously because I see her as so friendly that I think she’d make friends anywhere. Or, it could be that I perceive her differently. Most people in my generation are keenly aware and sensitive to what she must’ve gone through to be here in America. She doesn’t always get this reaction. She’s a U. S. citizen and 23 years my senior. My friend, choosing to be unnamed, is one of five children born into extreme poverty in a small village less than 30 miles from Saigon. As a child, she saw a war-torn Vietnam, blossoming like a fungus as incomprehensible confusion, chaos, unnecessary death and lack of compassion overtook the scenic beauty of her birthplace. To this day, upon her return visits to try to help her village and her remaining family, she still sees the devastating, flesh-eating effects of Agent Orange on the civilian population left there and the health horrors that poverty permits.
We met at a food bank where we both volunteer. Often times the bank is low on food and with no other jobs to do, there is time to chat. My friend, who retired from a nearly 25 year career at Motorola, as she learned English in her spare time, is always one of the hardest workers and rarely is involved in chat time. If she isn’t marking foods or carrying out boxes, she is mopping the floor, sweeping or cleaning out bins. Today, except for the occasional carry-out, all is done.
Time for a rare chat.
Today she proudly wears a red, white and blue embroidered touristy shirt from her most recent trip to Vietnam. She is bubbling over with conversation and telling of her bravery at the doctor’s office. Yesterday she received a cortisone injection directly into her spine to help her deal with the pain and the numbing and tingling in her knees and legs brought on from work-related injuries through her career at Motorola. Yesterday. She refused anesthesia so she could drive herself.
She pounds her chest Tarzan like, “I so brave!” and smiles her huge toothy smile. Did I mention it was just yesterday?
A huge needle, (aren’t they all?) that could actually truly paralyze if moved just millimeters in the wrong direction, was inserted into her spine while she was awake and aware. She avoided burdening anyone for a ride. She’s a master at the self-sufficiency we Americans pride ourselves on. And ready to be working at the food bank today.
“Hey, Mrs. Saigon!” Buddy, who has been around longer than any volunteer (and most human beings! *wink*wink*!) razzes her, “You’re looking quite spry this morning!”
Her big smile erupts again.
She’s been married to an American soldier now coming up on 40 years. With two children and two grandchildren, this woman has more drama in her life than in most incident reports I read from the police department’s “ripped straight from the headlines.” (Can you hear the Law and Order “bong-bong?”)
Several weeks ago she told me one of her memories while living and working in Vietnam. She worked at the Vietnamese military base located just across from the American military base. She often walked between the two. She, totally in character, made friends with many of the Americans. The Vietnamese Military Police didn’t like this.
“Feel ‘dis.” She nods at me, picks up my hand, places two of my fingers on the top of her head, just to the left of her black hair’s part-line. My fingertips register the sheen of her soft hair. She pushes down on my finger and I feel it. Rough and uneven through skin, scalp and silky hair: granite.
Unaware, while walking between the two bases, she was stoned. Not that kind; an actual stoning. Out of the blue, she felt something smack into her head. Confused, disoriented, tears stinging her eyes and in pain, she realized her own countrymen were hurling rocks at her. Bloodied, and too embarrassed to tell anyone about her pain (and too poor to do anything about it,) a quarter-sized stone is still lodged in her scalp to this day.
I felt it.
Other drama in her life story includes very unwelcoming parents-in-law. It wasn’t until ten years ago (only 30 years in to her marriage) that her in-laws, still skeptical, admitted their continuing mistrust in her relationship with their son. They believe she is using him for her “green card.” For the record: she obtained her citizenship outside of marriage and on her own. They are from a different generation that is immune to her style of cooking, refusing her food at family gatherings and refusing the overwhelming kindness in her heart, and apparently severely lacking in the compassion department for what this woman has experienced and overcome. She is proud. Their treatment of the overly compensating, foreign daughter-in-law borders on the criminal.

The Pastor of the food bank, who missed being drafted and serving in Vietnam by answering God’s call to serve those back home, asks her to delve into her experiences. Being the same age as my friend, he is very curious about her time in Vietnam and her journey to here–right now.
The three of us stand in an alcove and she diverts the focus from herself and chooses to tell us about her sister.
Both her and her sister dreamed of escaping the poverty, the confusion, and the madness of what overtook their country. She–newly enamored with a young G.I.–has been offered (through this new love) an opportunity to leave.
She takes it.
She is in the U.S. just two years and then– April 30, 1975. The day she describes as “the day the world ended.” The U.S. attacks Vietnam. Through her new connections, her military husband is willing to help her sister and sister’s entire family to come to the U.S.—The sister must simply collect her five children, her husband and, at the predetermined rendezvous point, at the designated time, there is an arrangement for them to get out for free. All can make it out. Freedom. Opportunity. A new start. A new place. No more war in your backyard. But she must choose it.
The designated time and place come and go.
My friend and her husband-to-be wait for her sister and the family at the rendezvous point. All the while, the sister is crouched low, in the dark of the dirty walls of the one room that is home for her family of seven. Paralyzed. Tears of terror escape eyes that have seen too much. The tears run down this mother’s face as a sick example. She doesn’t heed their message. Her body is frozen in the crouch. Paralyzed at the opportunity. Paralyzed about a new place. A new start. The unknown. Freedom?!?
The depth of the fear that must’ve permeated this mother’s soul as she crouched there.
Maybe true fear isn’t what I comprehend it to be. Maybe this fear is actually a more subtle enemy. Maybe true fear is simply the doubts that cloud our minds when we are about to step off a ledge into the unknown. Maybe it’s more about choices. My friend’s choice to move to a country that doesn’t understand her, mistreats her and yet, gave her opportunity and freedom to live without fear. Maybe this explains why she is so friendly. She lives without fear. She lives in the chasm of opportunity that was opened to her when she took the leap into the unknown.–To work hard, to live fully, to give unconditionally, to forgive hurts, and to live with the rocks that have been embedded in her soul. And later, to return to the fears of her birthplace as she visits her sister and family who live in an abyss of regret each day in the country of their birth. She returns to try to understand and to try to change her remaining family by giving whatever she can.
But she can’t stay long on her visits there.
“My heart bleed too much there,” she explains to the Pastor and me tilting her head to the side. Her eyes drift away from us and her brows crease in confusion.
“…I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.”
(John 10:10)
Where does your heart bleed? Are you courageous enough to re-visit those places? Are you ready for the leap of faith or are you crouched in paralysis?

FREE WATER-SKIING!

free waterskiing
My college roommate left the university paper on the counter for me to read. Was she trying to get rid of me for the summer? I read on:

“Water ski instructors needed for Camp Vega, an all-girls summer camp in Maine.”

Hmmm. I grab up the paper. My attention is now focused. Both my parents were competition water-skiers. My family grew up waterskiing throughout the summer in Colorado. Now, with the both my sister and I away at college, the competition ski boat was sold and we only sporadically, recreationally skied behind the old blue outboard boat we cleverly named “Bluie.”

“Four Competition Ski Nautiques. Ski all summer and be a part of molding young ladies lives. Must be able to instruct all levels of skiers and to safely pull skiers through the slalom course.”

No problem.

So I made the call. Throughout the phone interview and job details I heard, “Free waterskiing. Free waterskiing. Blah-de-blah-de-blah-blah.” Something about being a camp counselor, getting free meals and something about $800 for the summer plus $2oo for travel, and then I heard it again, “Free waterskiing all summer.”

I was in. I sold my sister on it too. Both of us were hired to be Water-ski Instructors and looked forward to a wonderful summer of free waterskiing in Maine!!
I should have paid closer attention in my geography class– Maine is that state all the way up there by Canada; with all the cold temperatures and a plethora of chilly lakes.

I should have paid closer attention in math class– $1,000 for the whole summer: June, July and August. Adding in the camp counselor part of the job, this was a 24/7 position. Break that down hourly and we’re talking about $0.37/hour. In 1991, you couldn’t even buy a Snickers bar for that.

Did I also mention it was run by a retired cop? He ran the place with an iron fist, keeping all in fear and ensuring the campers were safe and had the time of their lives. (As if being sued by the campers’ wealthy parents wasn’t enough fear!)

It was beyond exhausting. Days being tossed on the lake all day long with young girls whose ages ranged from six years old through to fifteen years old and at every level of aptitude. Some girls had never been in a lake while others were already competition slalom skiers. After a marathon day filled with that, I was assigned to “Saco;” a bunk filled with fifteen angst driven twelve and thirteen year olds mostly at this camp so their affluent parents could travel all summer.

Originally my bunk had four counselors assigned. Two quit before all the attention-starved campers arrived. Lucky them. Their positions were never filled.

Did I mention all that free waterskiing I did? No? I think I skied twice. I chose days where the water was warm enough so that I wouldn’t have to report to the nurse’s station for hypothermia and then I was already so exhausted from all the other duties, I could only summon two or three passes through the course.

Yet, I still have so many fond memories of that time. The trip across country with my sister will forever be re-told as the adventures grow through each telling; how we almost died when we ended up in the wrong part of Chicago, how we got stuck spending the night in a cockroach infested single-wide hotel in Pennsylvania, and the story of the lake spider (the size of Connecticut!) crawling up my sister during a ski staff meeting.

Heidi, my remaining co-counselor, became instant friends by sharing a bond forged in the “trenches of Saco.”

I (reluctantly) fell in love with all the girls by summer’s end. Tears stung my eyes watching Sarah who belted out the leading role in Sound of Music. I was hoarse from screaming encouragement at Ashley who scored the winning goal against the rival soccer team. And Jill, my very favorite camper, successfully skied the whole slalom course in the final water ski competition. On, and on and on the achievements and growth that happened over one summer. Until just a few years ago, I still maintained contact with some of those campers. Saying good-bye was one of the most emotional days of my life …

It was the toughest job of my life on many levels: physically, emotionally, financially…

Until now.

This writing thing is brutal.

I just received my first review on Amazon.com. It wasn’t very uplifting. It is from a family member.<br />
Don’t get me wrong, I am so very grateful for all who have spent the money and took the time to read my first novel “grace.” So grateful. And I am grateful for those who will take the time to write a review and to be very honest about it. So grateful.

Author Kristen Lamb summed it up for me in one of her blogs titled “HOW BOXING CAN MAKE US BETTER WRITERS—LESSON ONE.” She writes, “Think of this job like boxing. We’re in the ring. Outside (and even internal) critics are going to seek to gut-punch and knock the wind out of us. Their objective is to drop us to our knees and make us give up.”

The world out there is rough. Family has always been my “soft place to land.” I didn’t see this one coming.

Just like the end of that summer watching my favorite camper Jill’s face, eyes puffed and red from all our crying and hugging good-bye, as the yellow school bus shuttled her out of my reach and back to her parents on August 30, 1991.

Gut-punch.

On my knees, trying to catch my breath.

I think about the time it took for me to finish “grace.” The hours I spent writing, re-writing, editing, then re-writing, then re-rewriting, and revising and re-revising. Then more edits and more re-writes. The writing courses, the writing critique sessions, the weekends spent at my computer from sun-up to sun-down. Add it all up and I am not even close to a Snickers bar.

I’ll never forget the wise words of one of my upper division Creative Writing Professors. He said, “If you’re doing this writing thing to make the ‘big bucks’ you should get out now. It’s the rare occasion when a writer makes lots of money, but that is never why you become a writer. You do it because you love writing.” He went on to cite all these (now dead and now famous) authors who were penniless.

I didn’t write “grace” or any of the stuff I write to “make the big bucks.” I don’t write to become even remotely “famous.” I write because I have to. I write to honor the dream that God placed in my heart many years ago to be a writer. I wrote “grace” because I truly felt God nudging me, time after time, to put it out there.

Did my abilities get in the way of His message? Possibly.

I put a little bit of everything in “grace:” love, betrayal, murder, a football story, a boy with his dog, death and new life, and all in a beautiful location. A little bit of everything and hoping to appeal to everyone with the underlying message that true grace is available to everyone. My mistake is thinking that everyone will accept grace.

Determined to not give up, I arise from my knees.

That review aside, God’s message is still golden. His message is grace. Not my character in the book. The term grace has been described as “undeserved forgiveness.” Lots of people have problems with the idea of something they don’t have to work for–something free–something given to them when they don’t feel they deserve it.

I don’t blame them. I will be the first to yell, “THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS FREE WATERSKIING!”

And what Jesus did for us—the underserved forgiveness that He accomplished for us by doing what He did on the cross—it doesn’t cost us a thing. But don’t, for one second, think that it didn’t come at a price. It cost Him dearly.

As discouragement pricks at my eyes and my exhaustion from working long hours at these other “real jobs” so that I can have these other “free hours” to spend on writing and trying to honor what sparks God has put in my life to write about, I grit my teeth and remember another lesson I learned along the way–

It was another “not-so-kind” review from a former class-mate that I took too personally. I recall sharing my feelings with a third party who was also taking the course. His words got me through, “You didn’t write this for her anyhow.”

You got that right.

When I set out to complete “grace,” I decided that if it made an impact on just ONE person, then all the hours, all the late nights and early mornings, all the money I threw at it and the heart I put into it would be worth it.

As I tuck in my chin and raise my gloves, I prepare my armor for another day. I take heart in all the positive words of encouragement, the prayers, and the kindness of those who have supported me along the way and who continue to remind me of the Truth –I don’t write for reviews. I write to point the world to something greater than me and I do it to try to honor the “free” gift I have been given.

So grateful.

THE END?

THE END?

I am on the last few chapters of The Hunger Games trilogy by Suzanne Collins. I have been losing sleep the last three nights due to the intense action at the end of “Mockingjay”. I have fallen in love with the characters – Peeta and his “hijacked” love; Gale and his angry loyalty; Katniss and her flawed altruism and Prim’s purity. I am drawn like a moth to the flame or an addict to the needle. Each night, way past my bedtime, I try to hold off picking it up, but I plunge right back in. Hours later I am devouring the words and the world around me has morphed into the Capitol. I don’t want it finished. — I don’t want to say good bye to Peeta. I will miss Katniss’s valor and spunk. Even as I fly through these last pages of mounting action, I am savoring every last word like Katniss with the loaf of burnt bread outside of Peeta’s bakery.
I don’t think I am alone in this. Not wanting to say good-bye to something, even if the next trilogy, the next job, the next relationship, or next whatever is even better. It might even exceed our wildest dreams and could be “the one;” good-byes are tough. I believe this is part of what keeps people locked in abusive relationships or dead end jobs and missing out on what’s around the corner, or what could be if you just let go…
Yet nothing and no one in this life is permanent.
Emerson Hart wrote a song for a friend who described to him the conflicting emotions he felt while divorcing his wife. The song’s called “I wish the best for you.” Check out a few lines:
“How long can we wait here
To say goodbye?

The words once they’re spoken
Are words that we can’t take
Back to where we were, before
Things got in the way

Life gets so confusing
When you know what you’re losing

You
Me
Why can’t we see that there’s
More to love than we’ll ever know

Sometimes you’re closer when you’re
Letting go

I wish the best for you”

This song gets me because of the truth in it.
I know. I’ve walked in those shoes – The ache of saying good-bye, even if you know it is the right thing. You have to let go.
This song reminds me that I am not alone. I also find comfort in The Bible—Even people who spent time with The Almighty had a tough time with this. The followers of Jesus had just said what they thought was their final good-bye to Him as He hung on the cross and took His last breath. Good Friday.
John 19:30 records Jesus: “’It is finished!’ Then he bowed his head and released his spirit.”
But after the Resurrection, when Mary Magdalene sees Him just after she came upon the empty tomb, she cannot let go: “Don’t cling to me,” Jesus said, “for I haven’t yet ascended to the Father. But go find my brothers and tell them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’” (John 20:17)
The story doesn’t end on Good Friday. This was part of His plan. It had to happen. Jesus knew they would struggle with letting go of Him and even tried to give them a “heads-up”:
“I am leaving you with a gift; peace of mind and heart. And the peace I give is a gift the world cannot give. So don’t be troubled or afraid. Remember what I told you; I am going away, but I will come back to you again.”…. I have told you these things before they happen so that when they do happen, you will believe.” (John 14:27)
He knew what He had to do. There was a purpose to the pain He would endure. He said His good-byes but He also assured His followers that He would always be with them (John 14:16 “And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, who will never leave you. He is the Holy Spirit, who leads into all truth.”)
Because I know Jesus and because I believe, I have found that there is something beyond “good-byes” and beyond this life that is permanent – God’s love. “For his unfailing love toward those who fear him is as great as the height of the heavens above the earth.” (Psalm103:11)
“Be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid or discouraged. For the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” (Joshua 1:9)
As each of us faces the pain of whatever it is we have to let go of, whether it be a relationship, an addiction, a loved one, a job or a decision, I hope you grasp firmly to the peace that Jesus left us with. I pray that you know that there is a plan and a purpose in the pain and that purpose might just be around the next corner.
As I prepare myself to say good-bye to Gale, Katniss, Prim and Peeta, I remind myself – there is always the movie. And I ready myself with my waterproof mascara for the Good Friday services, I focus my heart on the joy of Easter –Resurrection Sunday.
And remember, even though it is finished, it is not the end.