Heaviness was in full swing and then Lent began.
This was my second Lenten season as a Catholic and again my faith served me well. I’d decided after lots of thought and prayers that for lent I would spend thirty minutes a day every day walking the indoor track at the gym while praying. First of all, I hate exercise. I mean really, really hate it. I suck at it. It is one of the things that I consider to be one of my weaknesses. I’m not even remotely athletic and I trip over air and did I mention that I hate it?
I thought setting the intention of walking and praying would combine two important things I needed to do especially during my busy semester. Turns out I was right. I managed to walk every single day during Lent for thirty minutes a day. I was so excited that I was able to keep my commitment to walk and there were some days that it was incredibly difficult to do so. One night I was walking at 9:30 after the longest day of classes ever. But I managed to do it. I made my daily walk with Jesus and I know that is how I survived the semester. Lent was an extra tough season for me.
I walked a total of 78.68 miles with Jesus. (Specific right? You can thank my walking app for that.) I prayed about so many things during that time and asked a lot of questions. Sometimes the walk started with “God I don’t know how I’m going to make it these thirty minutes, you’re going to have to carry me through this.” And I made it through every single walk—He carried me through like He always does. We talked about my job and the future of my career. During this time I was in the middle of the interview process in order to be rehired for the same position. The interview process took a lot of my time. I was searching for some stability in my life. I was hoping that knowing the outcome of the job would help with that. I desperately needed to mark some things off of my long and heavy to do list. When that process was over it helped but with the end of interview process came the next large to do list item—my doctorate. That’s right starting this fall I will begin my doctorate program. I registered for my classes last night.
Jesus and I discussed this again and again. Pursuing my doctorate was never on my things to do with my life list, but now it is and it is happening. And I’m having a hard time with it. I’m sure I’ll eat my words at some point and I will be able to look back on this and see some semblance of the tapestry God is weaving in my life.
Why does this bother me? It’s not the work that truly bothers me (although that doesn’t thrill me either) and I know I can do this. I’m more than capable. This is what gets me–I don’t want another title. I don’t need another framed certificate on the wall. No, I want framed wedding photos and family portraits instead. I don’t need another title—I need my family. Another professional title is meaningless to me. I’d rather have the personal title of wife and mom/step mom. And I have no idea how to get there. I have no idea how to earn those.
I make the joke that I need a new last name before I’m done my doctorate. Then all of my higher education degrees would have a different last name on them. (Bachelors – my maiden name; Masters – Files; and Doctorate ???) That may sound silly but somehow I feel like it would make getting my doctorate feel less burdensome. If I knew I’d have my own person to share it with, our own family to share it with at the end then maybe it would feel less burdensome to me. It really feels like more of the same. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not taking my education or career for granted but those things have been settled for me for quite some time. My heart isn’t settled. Again same story. Different day.
But of course feelings are just feelings so all of those maybe’s and theories could be completely untrue. I’m working very hard to see all sides of this.
I know I’m looking at this through the lens of pain and not the lens of opportunity. This is something I’m working through right now. Prayer by prayer. Day by day.
During one of my Lenten walks with Jesus I found myself saying, “God I don’t know how this is getting me to my family but I trust you.” As I made the lap, the sun was shining through the skylight casting little prisms across the track lanes. As I came upon the prisms, the miniature rainbows had formed the shape of the cross. What better reminder of God’s promises—a rainbow shaped cross! I had my phone ready to take a picture when I came back around but within that minute and a half the cross was gone and in its place scattered prism lines. God never forgets His promises. I know that. I just didn’t know how I was going to make it to the actual realization of those promises and that added the next layer of grief to my life.
I knew (and still know) that God is going to deliver on His promises but when and how? I haven’t made it to that promise yet but like my Lenten walks with Jesus, it is step by step, day by day. Some days are easier and my pace is quick and light and others are tough, my pace slow and heavy.
I’ve cried so much this year. I know part of that was from physical and mental exhaustion and part emotional exhaustion. I’ve taken to counting the span of days between tears again. I know they will eventually be further apart than before. The seasons always change and so will this one.
I lost my hope during this time but I still had my faith or so I felt. That may sound ridiculous but that’s exactly how I had been feeling. A hopeless heart with a head knowing, trusting, and believing in God’s abilities to get me to where I belong, to get me to who I belong with.
It’s a little ironic I named my new vehicle Hope and yet I felt like during these past few months I’ve lost my hope. A few weeks ago, I was at the gym taking my walk (I’ve continued the habit after Lent now I pray the rosary while I walk followed by a few moments of focused listening) and it hit me, I never lost my hope I just couldn’t feel it. The sadness, the grief was blocking the feeling of hope. I felt like hope had died. Some days hope would prevail and lighten my heavy heart but as quickly as the light would fill me it would dissipate into the darkness.
I’ve been working on getting myself back to me or at least caring for myself these last couple of weeks. Manicure, pedicure, fresh hair—those things coupled with drives with the windows down and the music up, good coffee, friends, and writing. Those are the things that help level me out (on top of prayer of course but I’ve been doing that all along the way.)
I heard a song on the radio the other day and I’ve decided it is my current theme song, “The Stars Are on Your Side” by Ross Copperman. Music speaks to me and it is one of the ways I feel God speak to me. During my walks he tended to use Journey a lot (which made me chuckle) and there’s a few other songs that remind me to never give up, but this song soothed me and helped me understand that my hope was never lost. It was hidden beneath exhaustion and grief but it was never completely gone. It was always there waiting for me to notice it again—to feel it again. It was the new dependable car taking me to and from work. It was the friends and family continually praying for me.
It is the light in my eyes, the faith in my heart, the reason I keep moving. It was, it IS all around me.
Nothing is wasted when God’s involved and I know He’s in this. All of this. So, I’ll take care of all of these things on my plate. I’ll get up each day and do the things I need to do because at some point he’ll be there (my person,) at some point they’ll be there (my family.) Because like I’ve found myself saying over and over recently to people hurting and struggling, “God never forgets His children. And He never forgets His promises.” While this may all take so much longer than I wish it would, I am His child and He hasn’t forgotten me. He remembers me and the promises He made with me. I have nothing to fear.
Same goes for you. You have nothing to fear. If you feel like your hope has died today, remember it is still there even if you can’t feel it. Don’t give up just yet.
Get up, raise your head towards the sky, and let hope wash over you. Never give up on your always and forever no matter how long it takes, no matter how much it hurts to wait for the things that are already set aside as yours, the day will come when you will be living a life that you never thought could be yours. One day we’ll look at each other and say I’m so glad we didn’t give up on our always and forever.
Faith welcomes hope. Hope waits for love. And love is yours–always and forever–yesterday, today, and tomorrow. Love never fails. Love never dies.