Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Embracing Where You Are

"...this one thing I do
forgetting those things which are behind, 
and reaching forth unto those things which are before..."
Philippians 3:13

"I want you to let go of the past.
That is part of this process of being remade.
You are no longer there...
in your childhood with all of its insecurities & threatening fears,
in your teens with all of the adjustments and trepidation,
in your twenties, newly married, trying to find your own identity,
in your thirties, a brand-new mother, in the midst of life-altering change,
dealing with, worrying about, and caring for ailing, aging parents.
They are both gone.
Resting in my arms.
Eternally at peace.
You are here...in the now....middle-aged,
floating mid-stream down the river of life...of time.
46 years of living behind you.
Countless life experiences lived.
Innumerable lessons learned and stored...for future reference,
and to pass on to your child.
I want you to embrace where you are...right now....
your current situation.
To live in the past is to carry unnecessary burdens.
To yearn to go back to the way things used to be is unhealthy.
It is futile...useless...pointless.
Because you can never go back...only forward.
Some things in your life have changed...irreversibly.
Embrace the changes.
They have happened.
They are what they are.
You are here.
In the now.
Live it."

My mind deeply pondered the Potter's words.
He is omni...all.
Omniscient - all-knowing, unlimited knowledge, perceiving all things.
Omnipresent - present everywhere at the same time.
Omnipotent - all-power, almighty, infinite in power, unlimited power.
Omnificent - creator of all things, unlimited Creator.

He is all....everything.

I pictured the parts of the past I cling to.
In my mind I could see that to the Potter, it is more residue...
clinging to the inside....
needing to be removed.
Refusing to release my grasp on the past creates excess baggage...
that is mighty heavy to carry around....today.

He wants to cut a little deeper.
To scrape the insides of my vessel....a little closer....
and remove the clingers called "the past".

I listened close to the Potter's voice,
taking in every word....
letting it sink deep....
while cleaning up from our lunch meal.
As I stood there listening to Him teach,
I thanked God for every dirty dish....
every soiled pot....
and most of all for the two precious ones
who provide daily company and laughter around our kitchen table.
Who relish the bites.
Who say, "thank you for making this" and "this is good".

I realized standing there that I am glad it is now.
Though I miss Mom and Dad...some days to the point I feel I can't bear it...
it is comforting to me to know that they no longer have to worry about what is
going on in this changing, sometimes beyond-frightening world.
They don't have to worry about Medicare cuts,
Social Security going bankrupt,
Long Term Community Care being eliminated,
or the bottom of the economy falling out.

Their earthly bodies are resting peacefully....in two serene graves,
hundreds of miles apart,
(that part makes me sad)
surrounded by the beauty of nature....
just waiting for the sound of Gabriel's trumpet.
Waiting for the moment they will come up out of those graves
and go to live forever with the Lord....and us.

I am glad Mom and Dad made it safely through this life...
glad to know they are in Jesus' arms...
resting today "with Him in paradise".

I have reached a point of accepting the fact that I am an adult orphan.
We all will be, if time continues, and life takes its usual course.

"It's okay, Lord.
I am ready.
To let go.
To leave it behind.
To embrace where I am right now.
To live it...to the fullest....
without the chains of the past dragging along.
I am willing for you to cut it loose."

"That is what I want to hear from you, child.
Gripping tightly to the past is an unnecessary drain.
You will never stop missing them.
There will always be a void.
They were with you longer than anyone else.
I gave you those years to prepare you for this.
To teach you how to walk on and enjoy and live.
Embracing where you are doesn't mean you are forgetting them.
That you are obliterating the memories.
That you are not honoring them.
You honored them your whole life while they were here.
I saw that.
I kept a record.
Now, you are free to focus on your own family....
your own home....
your own dreams.
It is okay."

Sometimes I feel a little guilty for thinking thoughts like this.
But, today they came to me straight from the mouth of the Potter.
When He says it, it is so.
It is right.
It is the way it should be.

One of the nicknames Dad gave me years ago was "WW"....
short for "worry wart".
From my earliest recollection,
I don't ever remember there being a moment
that I was not worrying about Mom and Dad.
Anyone who knows me knows this is the truth.
I don't really remember too much about being a child...
at least not in the carefree sense of what one would imagine childhood to be.
Even then...I worried.
About their health,
about them dying,
about their happiness,
about the depression they both continually struggled with,
about the way they were treated,
about the restlessness in Mom,
about pleasing them and making them proud,
about our financial situation and needs,
about the problems in their relationship,
and a host of other things....
I will leave it at that.

I struggled with whether or not I wanted to voice such thoughts today.

I asked the Potter.
He nodded.

"I want you to.
It will be of help to you...
and to others.
I want you to share what I have told you.
There is someone who needs to hear this."

From my very first childhood memory,
it was there.
I don't think a girl has ever loved her Mom and Dad
any more than I loved mine.
I don't think the human heart holds any greater capacity for the love of parents.
I cared for them so deeply...it was all-consuming,

I remember the guilt I felt when I fell in love with Kevin.
What would Mom and Dad do?
Without me?
I was the last one, of five.
They depended on me.
They needed me.
How could I ever really be happy....
knowing they were so unhappy...
without me?

When God created Kevin Smith, He threw away the mold.
There was only one.
He created him with me in mind...I have absolutely no doubt.
He is the most patient, long-suffering, kind, gentle, understanding man
I have ever known.
No contest.

Kevin knew the cost of loving me...
before he ever said "I do".
He was willing to pay that price.
I didn't name the cost,
nor was it my doing....in any way, shape, or form.
It just came with the territory...of loving me...of being with me.
It was one of those situations that cannot be changed,
but, to him, it was worth the cost of accepting it anyway.

He has stood by my side through things that would have made a man made of lesser stuff
turn and run full-speed in the opposite direction.
Trust me.
Even those who know us best probably only skim the surface of
knowing and understanding the depths of what I am trying to say.

Losing Mom and Dad was the hardest thing I have ever done.
Due to the circumstances, it probably hit me harder than it does the average person.
It has taken me a long time to even be able to face some of the feelings that are
coming to the surface...here in the Potter's house.
Some of what I am seeing are things I probably knew all along,
but never would allow to be validated.
This is the most honest I have ever been with God.
I am denying nothing.
As He brings it to light,
I am accepting it, no matter how painful,
I am admitting to it, no matter how ugly,
and I am putting validation on every bit of it.

That is the only way I can make real progress.
I know that.
So, I want only the most brutal form of honesty....from Him.
I want to know the truth.
Because that is what is setting me free.
From every chain.

Today, I actually thanked God for where I am...right now.
It is a different place than I have ever been.
I embraced it....owned it....
accepted it...for what it is.
I realized that in allowing things to be as they are now,
God has broken yet more binding chains.

I don't have to worry about them anymore.
They are in the only truly safe place.
I can let them go.
I can breathe.
It has taken me a long time to realize these truths.
The grieving process is blinding in some ways.
I believe God designed it to be that way.
Until we are ready to see.
Until we can absorb the truth.
He cushions us,
puts a protective, binding cast over and around our raw, bleeding hearts,
until the bleeding stops.
Jesus came to bind up our broken hearts.
That is a major part of His mission to mankind.
Keeping broken hearts bound and protected until they are healed is part of the process.
Only He knows when the cast should come off.
Only He sees beneath the layers and knows when it is time.

Sometimes, I find myself still to this day...
feeling like I should be worrying about them...
doing something for them....
checking on them.
Then it hits me.
Jesus is doing that for me now.
He has lifted that responsibility....
right off my shoulders....
and He has given me a beautiful gift.
The gift of life.
To live.
To enjoy.
To be.

I am only now beginning to see this.

"You don't need to feel guilty, child.
This was My doing.
You were faithful....to both of them.
You saw them through.
You never let them down.
You never walked away.
More was expected of you than was fair.
You accepted that.
You did what you needed to do to find a sense of peace.
I am well-pleased with every sacrifice.
I know it came from your heart.
You shoulder this weight no longer.
They are free.
So are you."

As I listened to the Potter,
His words took me back....to almost 30 years ago.
I was 17.
Standing at the back door of Grandpa & Grandma Sowders' house.
Looking at the apple orchard just beyond the driveway.
In my mind, I could see myself on his old riding lawnmower,
countless times through the years,
long hair blowing in the wind....
full of dreams for the future....
he and Grandma and Mom and Dad seated outside in the yard...
It was the last time I ever stood there...
inside their back door...
looking at that orchard.
I was walking away for the very last time.
They weren't my real grand-parents.
They "adopted" me somewhere down the line.
We used to go there to visit often,
and they took me as one of their own.
Loved me.
Advised me.
Supported me.

"Cheryl, I want you to see them through.
They're the only parents you'll ever have.
Make sure you see them through."
Love and kindness, along with unshed tears, brimmed from the corners of his eyes.
He was one of the meekest, mildest-mannered men I ever knew.

We were moving to Florida.
It was our last visit to their welcoming, country home.
I miss going there.
They are both gone now...long-buried...out of my life.
The memories remain.
His words have played over and over in my mind,
countless times after that day...through the years.

"See them through, Cheryl.
They're the only parents you'll ever have."

I did.
I was faithful...through it all...
the good, the bad, the ugly, the near-unbearable.
I stood by both of their dying bedsides.
Watched both of them take their last breath.
Held on to them until Jesus took over.
Kevin was there...right by my side.
To the bitter end.

Now, we are here.
A new stage.

I stood outside yesterday completely at peace.
Watching Zach push the lawnmower...
waiting for my turn to take over and relieve him.
All at once, I felt a familiar feeling...
it started deep in the pit of my stomach,
rose up inside of me,
until it hit a level of panic and anxiety I hadn't felt in quite a while.
Here I was.
Free and happy.
Outside...enjoying one of the warmest days we've had in a while...
when that old nagging fear wormed its way right into my pleasant day.
Threatening to take away every bit of the joy inside my heart.
Until I heard the Potter's gentle voice.

"It's okay, child.
She doesn't need you.
She isn't trying to call.
You don't have to rush inside to check the phone.

It is all over.
You aren't beholden anymore.

Enjoy Zachary.
Watch him grow.
You are free to live...your life...the life I have given you.
In my arms.
Can't you see?
I did what was best.
Embrace where you are.
Right now.
Don't look back.
You are free."

Enveloping serenity....in the Potter's arms.
He comes to me in the gentlest of ways,
reassuring, encouraging, setting things in order...in my mind.
Removing the guilt...making me see it is okay...to enjoy.

I felt a sense of relief
as I took the mower handle from Zachary's grasp
and made my trek around the yard.
It felt so good to be outside...
fresh air blowing across my face.

From someplace deep inside, I told the Potter,
"I embrace it, Lord.
I accept it all as having been Your perfect will.
It was rough getting here, but I know in my heart
that this is exactly where I am supposed to be.
Never before have I felt such peace.
Thank You, for bringing me...
to the here....to the now."

The words from a beautiful old hymn written
by Frances R. Havergal
suddenly flowed through my mind,

"Light after darkness, gain after loss;
Strength after suffering, crown after cross.
Sweet after bitter, song after sigh;
Home after wandering; praise after cry.
Sheaves after sowing; sun after rain;
Sight after mystery, peace after pain.
Joy after sorrow, calm after blast;
Rest after weariness, sweet rest at last.
Love after loneliness, life after tomb.
After long agony, rapture of bliss;
Right was the pathway leading to this!"

Bumpy, rough, rocky, unstable, and near-impossible as the past few years have been,
from the heart, I too must say...

"Right was the pathway....leading to this."

"Thank You, sweet Jesus...
for loving me enough to bring me here,
to make me over,
to be my Potter.
I'll love You forever.
In Your name I pray,


  1. Cheryl - thank you for stopping by my blog and leaving me such an encouraging comment!! You share your own journey here beautifully!! I hope that you have a wonderful day!

    1. Thank you so much, Kristin! It is so great to have "met" you! Keep in touch, and have a wonderful day in Him!!