Monday, May 20, 2024

Letting Go Of The Past To Embrace The Present

If any of you have ever been to our home, or even our little "small town bright future" space on the map for that matter, you may have noticed a HUGE change over the past year or two. LOTS of construction and change. We have the perfect location. Directly behind our property and all around to the right were open fields used for fort building, pretend camping and anything else the imagination could conjure up as our kids grew up. The fields weren’t ever ours though. We’ve been in this house nearly 15 years and the property had been for sale even longer than that. We knew eventually the day would come that the fields would be bought up and building of some sort would begin. A couple years ago that day came when we saw people with clipboards walking around the field. And then we saw them again. And again. We were soon informed that a private youth volleyball league had bought the 3 lots surrounding our home and would be building a gym, parking lots and beach volleyball courts. As you can imagine we were devastated to see the hills being leveled, our favorite tree cut down and the field slowly turn from grass to pavement.

Yes, there were actual tears shed at this loss.

We’ve had to grieve the loss of what was.

We’ve had to reckon with what we wish we still had.

This may seem pretty trivial but I have noticed this pattern with other circumstances in my own life and maybe you can begin seeing it in your own as well.

As you know we have 5 kids. A High School graduate, another well on his way to adulthood, two in High School and one bringing up the rear as a 12-year-old middle schooler. We are in the trenches of full time jobs, part time jobs, some kids driving themselves to activities, sports and other extracurriculars and friends coming and going. Where we used to pick up a child, place them in their carseat and head off to wherever WE had planned to go we are left trying to match schedules and activities to get at least the majority of us together for an outing or even holiday. This season has left me feeling disoriented as the idea of family time is rapidly shifting.

I have had to grieve the loss of what was.

And I’m having to reckon with what I wish we still had.

Or how about this example.

Friendships sometimes have a way of slowly finding themselves to be in completely different seasons of life that have a tendency to leave little to no time for the friendship. I have had the hardest time with these gaping friendship voids in different seasons of my life, and I'm typically not great with change anyway, so when I find myself here I feel stuck and alone. I remember calling my mom in tears on more than one occasion in college as I transitioned from home to school.

I have had to grieve the loss of what was.

I’ve had to reckon with what I wish I still had.

Maybe none of these examples have hit close to home yet.

But what if I circled back to 2020?

COVID rocked us ALL. Many of us suffered great loss. Whether it was the loss of a job, a relationship (gosh, the tension and hatred that was birthed in this season has left such deep wounds), or even the loss of a loved one. Or maybe it was as simple as a loss in routine and what used to be “normal”, or as complicated as a fallout causing deep hurt and relational betrayal. 2020 was not biased. This season left no-one unscathed. That period of time is such a fog for pretty much all of us. It’s as if we lost nearly two years of our lives in respect.

For Josh and I, this season turned into one of the hardest, darkest seasons of our lives and our entire family felt the ripple effects of the aftermath which went deep and wide.

We had to grieve the loss of what was.

And we were faced with reckoning with what we wish we still had.

On top of fear of the unknown of what was going to be.

But you know what?  After I look back at these specific examples (and I’m sure we could all come up with dozens more) I was reminded of something.  When I get stuck longing for what WAS I neglect the blessings in the what IS.

Yes, grieve what was. That is an important part of the healing process. In fact, God even tells us to look back in remembrance. To recall what He HAS done. But if we get stuck in the past or quickly try to push through to the future, it becomes nearly impossible to see the now.

When I find myself in the backyard with yet another car shining their headlights into our living room I can really quickly find myself going into a negative place. But I have a choice. I can stay here and fall deeper and deeper into that hole, as I long for what used to be, affecting everyone that is around me with my negativity, or I can choose to get out. At this point I try to remind myself of what COULD have been built behind our house, like a building complex, busy business, or condos, and I am quickly brought back to the reality of the amazing space God has allowed us to have. A big yard, plenty of parking for the non-stop flow of people that come in and out of the front door, the places that our kids can walk, the park trails directly beside us that open themselves up to miles of running potential or to hours of conversation as we process life. And thank goodness the gym is not directly behind us so we can still see our beautiful sunsets!

I have to be present in order to see God’s good for us here.

When I get stuck sulking over the lack of family time and let’s face it, the things I used to feel like I had control over, I miss the amazing season we are in with the kids. The independence they have in this season is truly freeing. The friendships I am forging with the oldest ones gives me a glimpse into what I hope to have with all my kids as they get older. Watching our kids friend and work and learn boundaries and navigate relationships and begin thinking for themselves…it’s all so beautiful, and exhausting, but beautiful. I really wouldn’t trade it for anything, except maybe a little more time when we are all together, lol.

I have to come back to the present to see God’s good for us here.

Oh the friendships I have had to grieve over the years. It’s hard to see friendships change over time. Grieving the way a friendship used to be is ok, but I cannot stay there. I have to stop trying to fit that friendship into a space it no longer fits so that it can find where it DOES belong now. Just because a friendship looks different doesn't mean that it isn't still a beautiful thing. This also opens my heart up to the people that are right next to me right now. And God is so gracious to give us just what we need.

I have to be present to appreciate God’s good in my friendships, whatever season I might find them in.

But what about when it comes to the gut-wrenching hard things? When we find ourselves on a merry-go-round that just keeps spinning out of control?

There is no magic formula that has worked for me here, and I bet you would say the same. But our God is in that too. We wake up, we pray, we release it all to Him, we put one foot in front of the other.  We cry, and try to find SOMEthing to bring joy and laughter, and then we do it all again the next day and the next. The living in the now is hard, but as we pull from the deep well of faithfully walking with God we get glimmers of grace along the way.

We have to be present to appreciate God's constant grace in the chaos as we wait patiently for the season to pass. Joy and chaos can coexist. 

So, for whatever it’s worth, I invite you to walk with me today, to see what God is up to right now. Not as if the past didn’t happen, or that the future doesn’t matter, but today is the only thing we are called to worry about, for tomorrow will have enough troubles of its own. 

Dedicated to the New Sandy Creek Saints 

who have walked with us through so many seasons of life.

You are a blessing in our NOW! 

I am thankful for the opportunity to have shared these words with you last week. 

It was truly an honor to be with you all. 

Thank you for being a shining example of Christ's bride.

(adapted for public audience) 


Michele said...

This was meant specifically for me! As you were giving your presentation, and referring to the Matthew scripture, I was appreciative because I’m in that grieving phase of my life. Tal died of suicide in Sept. and I struggle even though I have a wonderful support system of NSCBC friends and family. I believe God sent me this message through you, Thank you!

Mary Hardesty said...

I'm here for you any time you need a friend or a " mom" shoulder to cry on.

Jessica Todd said...

Michele, as I was really this, you came to my mind and I was going to message you the link to read these words! I hope you know that I think of you often and pray for you whenever you cross my mind. We Burnette’s miss Tal so much and are so grateful for the friendships of you both. I love you!