As I reflect back on this week just a year ago, there’s so many emotions that come to the surface.
Feelings and words left unsaid mixed in with a handful of gratitude for so many beautiful moments.
I’ve often been described as having a heart-full of emotions, as if my heart could be defective because it felt so deeply.
I struggled with this for years embarrassed of how feelings seemed to be woven into every chord of my inner being.
And I spent a lifetime becoming whatever someone else thought I should be.
I became a filler of empty souls.
I became the one who strived to bring peace into unsettled places.
I became a soundboard for broken and wounded hearts.
Mostly in some strange way to find purpose for the enormity of feelings I held within my heart. As if I could possibly find a useful purpose for my emotions, then others would accept how I was designed…and perhaps even deem me as ‘normal’.
But now as I’ve walked through this past year, missing my parent’s conversations and their sweet presence, I am reminded how God has re-membered my heart.
That God sees our value through the condition of hearts and not in our outward appearance.
And our hearts which were created in the image of God, also contain the attributes of him.
My heart isn’t defective, it was given a plethora of emotions to experience others through it.
We experience God through our hearts too.
I truly believe this is what we were given this amazing organ for…
to cry with others,
to feel their pain and their joy with them,
to fully feel the depth of love and loss,
and experience things alone we would never know.
And I’m reminded- it’s truly an extra-ordinary thing to be moved by people…
To see humanity reflected in moments of extreme living and be invited inside them.
To look within a heart, as it’s peering inside yours.
To watch a life breathe its last breath as you gasp for air.
Both lives fighting to live their own version of brave inside one another.
• • •
Last year when my Dad came to stay with us,
I never realized his coming would lead to his death.
It wasn’t his intention either. He came hoping for greater medical treatment.
Yet as the days unfolded, he went from barely walking until he was forced to lay …completely surrendered on his back.
It was strange to see my Dad, a once strong and active man lying at rest. A decorated military veteran, a real fighter of a guy who didn’t seem to be fighting any more….
He’d lived his life fighting…fighting to survive as a teenager following his father and two brothers’ deaths, fighting to prove himself a man which years later transitioned into him fighting for his family, for his God and for his Country.
My Dad was a fighter through and through.
And boy did he like a good fight too.
But something changed over time….
Dad shifted from fighting against people to fighting for them.
I believe there’s really nothing more powerful than a person fighting for others.
My Dad’s heart grew more tender as he deeply began caring for others.
This kind of living is hard though.
We become exposed and raw.
Where our emotions hover the surface and toughness falls away.
Where Love takes over insecurity and love fights for others.
For the souls at risk.
For truth to conquer lies.
And for brave stories to be told.
Love listens to other’s stories.
It reveals souls.
It tells the hard and holy of people’s lives.
• • •
I have to tell you of my strange love affair with cemeteries.
I know its quite morbid.
I don’t know if it’s because I realized at a young age that no souls were ever truly buried there or if it’s my love affair with people’s stories and I recognized cemeteries literally contain thousands of them.
But I once lived in the city across from an old grave yard.
I loved walking along its paths through the acres of gravestones it held.
Call it what you’d like, it was really quite lovely and even quaint.
I strangely found it life-giving to wander through its winding paths reading the inscriptions of people who once lived in the very same streets and neighborhood I was traveling.
Years later when my parents foot steps led them to live in the very same house as I did.
They too became taken by the beauty of this garden of gravestones.
One day while I was visiting my parents I saw a thin white paper lying on their table with a gravestone rubbing on it.
I immediately knew what it was because when I was younger my Mom had taught me how to do this.
Using a pencil with a sheet of paper we would make a copy of the gravestone’s inscription as the pencil rubbed over the surface would make a visible imprint of it. This process renders the natural artistry of the textures and patterns of the stone while also capturing a unique and beautiful print of the engraving.
When I asked my Mom about the significance of the one she’d kept.
She told me the gravestone contained a name she longed to know more about.
We didn’t talk any more about it.
And for the life of me I can’t remember the name that was inscribed on the paper.
I only remember the worn texture it held. I remember how vividly the deep grooves and impressions revealed its age.
And sometimes that’s how it is…
A person’s life leaves impressions and marks on ours.
Ones we want to remember, ones we long to know more about.
Yet when they often leave us far too soon we can feel robbed of this opportunity.
But I’ve been realizing how many lives of my past continue to speak to me.
Much like a permanent imprint on my soul…impressions somewhat unintended left to propel me forward.
Many times I’ve heard my parent’s words whisper from somewhere deep inside as if they’ve been there all along. Whether its words they continuously repeated over me or ones spoken only once, they remain within me. And I carry them close.
Because sometimes as we tread a new territory of our own without those who once cheered us on…
Fear can grow.
We can be afraid because we’re clearing a path of our own and not depending on the footprints we spent a lifetime following.
And I would love to tell you it gets easier and better the longer we do this thing.
But I’m not sure I’m the one who can speak those words with confidence.
Because I’m not entirely sure I believe them.
But what I can say is fear can be something which steers us away
OR it can be the very thing that drives us towards our next brave thing.
We hold this choice in our hands…And since my Father’s death, I’ve been choosing to speak different words of courage to myself.
Because I can hear him telling me to be brave and walk forward.
I hear him telling me to persevere and to believe in myself.
I hear him reminding me to live out the calling given to me by God.
And I hear him cheering me on with every step I take.
Because I believe that’s what he’d be speaking over me if he were still here with me today.
Because words are powerful.
And they move us.
Because friends we get to follow their lives.
Maybe not living them exactly like they did.
Because we’re different…
But just like them, it’s our turn to carry God into our generation.
To take our broken pieces and share them with a broken world who needs to know they’re worthy of being restored.
And deep within me is emerging the person I’ve always been.
One who sees with fresh eyes the purpose of how we’ve each been uniquely designed.
Because at the end of the day, our worth isn’t what’s changed it’s how we see the value of our one life.