Saturday, April 6, 2013

Being Grateful for Pain: One of the Many Things my 5th Graders have Taught Me

It’s been a while since my heart was broken.

I kind of lived in a constant broken-heart world for years. I was in an unhealthy marriage, for myriad reasons, some of my own, and some others. My mom was sick the last 5 years of my marriage, so that added a brokenness and a sadness that I walked around with as well.

I managed the turmoil, mainly by eating and building walls around myself, especially my heart. My heart became numb, cold, and it kind of gave up on experiencing happiness or peace.

(FYI - eating and building walls don't help situations...just in case you're wondering.)

After my mom died and my divorce was finalized, my heart was shattered, but it was already in so many pieces, that honestly, the final shattering was more of a gift than a nightmare.

Before the deaths of my mom and marriage, hope seemed fleeting, something I couldn't understand. In fact, I would yell and cry at God to stop letting hope be part of my days or mindset. It was too much of a roller coaster to at moments have hope, only for it to be snuffed out just as quickly as it came. 

I was weary of the continual let downs; I couldn’t take hope constantly being stolen, being hijacked.

I didn’t like hope becoming a 4 letter word in my world, and it was becoming just that.

Obviously, I was putting my hope in something other than the Lord, but even still, part of being human is hoping; I believe it’s natural, even healthy...we hope our relationships would get better, we hope our family members wouldn’t be sick, we hope we could come out of the darkness and not feel so damn hurt all of the time. We hope...

Thankfully, 2009 marked the year that the roller coaster ended, the storm clouds began moving on.

A complete shattering in 2008 allowed me to fully be at the bottom of the pit. alone. only with God.

In all honesty, that’s the most beautiful place to be, because you are relying solely on the Lord, because, frankly, you got nothing else. So, in turn, you experience amazing grace, provision, peace, love, and then God’s kind of hope begins to make its appearance.

I had known the dictionary definitions of all of those words before, but in 2009, God began defining those words for me...not by speaking them, but by living them out, by proving them all and showing me.

I came to realize, those aren’t just words one says, but are experiences, and those experiences are named grace, provision, peace, goodness, faithfulness, love, and hope.

And, unfortunately, you have to need them, or realize you need them, before you get to experience them. For me, my world had to get very dark before I opened myself up to let God in, to let Him show me what He had in store for my heart, for my life.

During the years after 2009, I spent immense amounts of time with God, reading, studying, praying, crying, waiting, listening, and trying my best to patiently walk some things out with Him. I was in desperate need of healing, of transformation, direction, quiet, and understanding; I was in desperate need for God.

I read, I wrote, I listened to music. All three were monumental in recovering from being shattered.

There were so many songs that spoke to me, one being “When a Heart Breaks” by Ben Rector. 

Each time I would hear it, it brought comfort and my soul would feel peace. 

Woke up this morning, I heard the news
I know the pain of a heart break.
I don’t have answers, neither do you.
I know the pain of a heart breaking.

This isn’t easy, this isn’t clear
You don’t need Jesus
until you’re here.

Then confusion and the doubts you had
up and walk away, up and walk away
When a heart breaks

...I don’t need answers, I just need peace, I just need someone to help me get some sleep

This isn’t easy, this isn’t clear
You don’t need Jesus
until you’re here.

Then confusion and the doubts you had
up and walk away, up and walk away
When a heart breaks...

That song would sing to my soul, take me to another place, and helped me heal.

Music is powerful that way.

But over these last 18 months, I could tell I had really began to move on out of the muck of recovery and healing because certain songs didn’t take me to that place anymore. God had brought me out in so many ways, that even the songs of my heart began changing.

It’s been a magical 4 years, hard, but magical.

God has taught me countless lessons, mostly about His faithfulness and goodness. He’s let me have incredible opportunities to go and see and live the life I always dreamed about.

For those who followed my old blog, you well know, there’s been an ebb and flow to it all, but that’s just part of life. 

Then...yesterday happened.

On April 3rd, my mom would have been 63.

This is the 5th birthday of hers I have traveled without her. Each time, it’s a day that can be sad, but usually it’s just a sweet day of reflection and remembrance.

But yesterday was different.

I grieved.

I mean, I really grieved.

In fact, I don’t remember grieving like that in years, and there have been many a lonely night over these last 5 years.

Yesterday, I physically hurt from the grief.

My heart felt so broken and sad, that at times it would take my breath away at how much it hurt. I stayed on the verge of tears, and at times a few fell, and I was grateful that none of my students seemed to notice.

Grief is difficult because there isn’t much you can do about it.

It forces you to turn to God, to something outside yourself...well, unless there's animal crackers, I can always turn to animal crackers, but thankfully none were in sight, and this kind of pain, was beyond animal crackers.

All I could do was pray, I mean, all I knew to do was pray because it was such a deep pain that I knew it would take God to help me with it.

So, I talked to Him, told Him how much it hurt, and begged Him to help it go away.

But it wouldn’t go away, it wouldn’t let up.

It just. kept. hurting.

And as much as I wanted it to stop, I couldn’t help but wonder, do I really not want to feel this grief?

Do I want to not miss my mom?

Do I not want to have experienced a relationship that was such a blessing that now that it is gone, I deeply miss it?

In my Bible class, we took about 6 weeks and created a list of 102 things we were thankful for. We added 6 each day, and eventually reached our mark. It was so interesting to see what the students would say they were thankful for. It became a small window into their hearts.

As we would share our thankful things, it was always remarkable when a student would say they were thankful for pain “because without pain, we wouldn’t know joy. Without loss, we wouldn’t know love.”

For an 11 year old, I’d say that’s pretty insightful...wisdom at its finest.

And as I grieved yesterday, each time I would ask God for help, I was also thankful. I thanked Him that I had been given a mom, who was the kind of mom, one would deeply miss when she wasn’t around.

As my heart hurt, as I felt alone, as I cried out to God, I reminded myself that Jesus was weeping with me, that He was my comforter, that He was teaching me through this, and that feeling grief, meant that I too knew joy, it meant I knew what love was.

Greater still, it meant my heart was no longer numb, was no longer cold, and for this girl, who had so many walls built up, that meant it was a victorious day.

As my heart felt so broken yesterday, and as I begged God to take that pain away, and as it never eased, and even today still hurts, it’s a beautiful reminder that over these last 4 years, God has healed my heart of stone and made it into a heart of flesh.

It’s a heart healed, because now it feels, it grieves, it longs, and it even hopes.

So as April 3rd marked a day of incredible grief, it’s also a day marked for me being grateful for the pain, because I am very grateful for that for 31 years I had an incredible gift, a wonderful mom.

Eventually 3:00 came rolling around, and I sat at my desk, in a quiet classroom as my students worked and read, and I was just trying to finish the day out.

As tears began dropping down my cheeks, I heard a voice next to me. 

She asked, “Ms. Vaughn, can we dance?”

I rarely turn that request down, but today, I didn’t feel like dancing. at. all.

But, her voice resonated with that quiet voice deep within that told me what I really needed to do that day was get up and dance.

So I looked at her, and before I could say no, I said, “absolutely!” 

We all stood up, turned the music on full blast, chose our moves, and danced.

And as we danced, joy infused my veins, my heart, my soul, and I looked at those 18 students, and I thanked God for that moment...the moment He turned my mourning into dancing,

The moment He sent an 11 year old girl to extend a hand and bring me joy. 

“Remember my affliction and my wandering the wormwood and the bitterness.
Surely my soul remembers and is bowed down within me.
This I recall to my mind, therefore I have hope.
The Lord’s lovingkindness indeed never cease, for His compassions never fail. They are new every morning; Great is Your faithfulness.
‘The Lord is my portion,’ says my soul, ‘Therefore I have hope in Him.
The Lord is good to those who wait for Him, to the one who seeks Him. It is good that he waits silently for the salvation of the Lord...Let him sit alone and be silent...for if He causes grief, then He will have compassion according to His abundant lovingkindness.” Lamentations 3:19-32

Grief is a funny thing.

It comes, and it goes.

It manifests itself in a myriad of ways: in sadness, anxiety, and even physical pain.

It hits like waves of the ocean...periodic and sometimes calm and at other times violent.

But just as storms roll through, they also roll out.

And learning to dance even when it’s raining is something God wants me to do.

So, as I allow my heart to be transformed and opened up to love and joy, fun and adventure, goodness and grace, as I hope once more, I must also accept the pain of grief, of loss, of regret, and let it be okay...take it in and see it as the road I want to be on, the path I choose, and know that it’s the way God intended for me to be healed, to be transformed.

"You cannot love in've got to lay your soul on the threshing floor...the darkness will soon disappear, and be swallowed by the sun." (Matthew Perryman Jones, Land of the Living)

May we all invite the Light to pierce our darkness and watch as He saves our soul.

In Him,

Matthew Perryman Jones “The Land of the Living”

Into the land of the living
black bleeds orange into blue
I am coming to life
light is breaking through

I can hear the bells in the city
across the ancient shore
I am ready to fight
Let down the scarlet cord
It’s time to shed the masquerade

You cannot love in moderation
dancing with dead man’s bones
lay your soul on the threshing floor

between the walls of the river,
shoulders bare the sacred stones
we made it alive
we are not alone

kiss the ground and change your name

You cannot love in moderation
You’re dancing with dead man’s bones
lay your soul on the threshing floor

I heard the distant battle drum
the mockingbird spoke in tongues
longing for the day to come
I set my face, forsook my fears
I saw the city through my tears
The darkness will soon disappear
and be swallowed by the sun

I am coming home, I am coming home
I am coming home, I am coming home

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