What is the Meaning of Life? #DeathGivesLifeMeaning #MyConfession #NotASadPost #Faith

It has been my privilege to be so incredibly busy with all things professor that I haven’t had much time for reflection or writing. After surviving midterms week, I’m stealing a few moments for both because I can and because I need it.

In working with students, I often find myself in the conversation of what is it you want to do with your life? Of course that’s a broad question and I leave the phrasing open on purpose. I love hearing their responses especially the ones who don’t know at all what they want to do. Honestly, that has been the most frequent response I’ve received. I don’t find that concerning at all, instead it’s refreshing and honest and that place is the best place to build a future from.

I remember being in my twenties and having conversations with my friends as we’d ask ourselves, “What is the meaning on life?” We were both a bit arrogant and naïve to actually believe we could find actually answer that question. Instead the question we should’ve been asking was, “What gives meaning to our lives? What gives meaning to my life?”

I’ve heard the cynical response from students and career professionals alike. I’m sure you’ve heard them if you aren’t guilty of spouting them yourself. The phrases like, “Life sucks and then you die.” Or whenever someone is looking at things from an overly negative tone and they follow it up with, “I’m a realist.” There are mounds more but they make me roll my eyes so hard I can’t remember them.

There’s one solid thing I’ve learned about myself and what gives meaning to my life and that is death. Death and everything about it gives my life meaning. That sounds a little creepy but I promise I haven’t crossed over to the dark side. 😉

When I was younger I remember thinking I want to accomplish A, B, and C before I die. I want to have a good job, a husband, and a family before I die. I want to experience what it’s like to be truly loved and respected by a man, to care for our children together, and to have a job that I’m proud of. I want to be able to make a difference. In my youth, the thought of my own physical death propelled me.

My twenties were filled with motion and often times a regimented routine. Routine is good for us human beings but too much of it or rather too much routine doing the things we are not meant to be doing with our lives, well it sucks our soul. It turns us into hamsters on a wheel running round and round with our only purpose being to run. Again death gave meaning to my life.

When my husband died my hamster wheel came to an abrupt stop and it sent me flying onto the ground with a brutal force. After the dizzying effects of grief and loss settled I realized I had no idea why I was doing the things I was doing except that I’d always done things that way.

In death God showed me the things that gave meaning to my life. The physical death of my husband AND the death of our relationship brought on a pain I could never fully explain. It’s something that is beyond words, it is a pain that can only be shown through our hearts and our eyes. I see that pain in others–those who’ve lost a spouse or another loved one to physical death and those who’ve lost that relationship by the death of divorce or just the blatant end of a friendship. In those moments I hope that I’m able to show them they are not alone and there is still meaning to their life and meaning behind their pain.

Again, death has given meaning to my life.

The goals of my youth remain unchanged at the core. I still want to experience the love and respect of my husband, my partner. I’ve just changed my perspective and motives as to how to get to him. I still deeply desire my own family, a home filled moments caring for children and giving them all the tools they need to discover what gives their young lives meanings. Again I’ve changed my methods for getting to them. And then there’s the job, I have that now. In this moment right now, my means for sustaining my financial needs have been met with not one but two jobs that feed my soul. Teaching and writing. Professorhood and Authorhood. The means of how I got to these jobs was a bit different than anything I would’ve planned for myself and yet they are perfect for me. Death opened the doors to show me this is exactly where I belong.

Again, death gives meaning to my life.

And as for those new motives and perspectives of how to get to the goals in my heart. That has come from prayer. That has come from my faith. And because of death I recognized the comfort and peace to be found in my faith and in my prayers. Prayer changes everything. It truly does. I never really “got that” until prayer was the only option I had left for an answer. And in deeply pouring out my heart and opening myself up to God, I’ve found what gives meaning to my life and how to get there.

I can tell you I walk blindly most days. I don’t know how things will work out. I don’t know much of anything but I know God gives my life meaning and direction. He moves all the pieces of the puzzle of my life to exactly where they need to be when they need to be there. I wouldn’t have made this spiritual journey or leaned on God so intensely if it wasn’t for the death of my husband.

Death has given meaning to my life.

I have lots of believes about death and what happens when we die but I haven’t experienced physical death so I can’t prove to you what lies beyond it. But I have experienced other forms of death in my life and with each death has come a new beginning. Death and birth are synonymous to me. They mark changes in our lives and life is all about change. Change is growth. Change is one of the guarantees of living. You see death is not necessarily a bad thing. (Disclaimer: I don’t mean commit suicide. That is not what I’m saying.)

Death has the ability to give our lives meaning. In a strange ironic way it is a gift to us. I’ve learned it was never God’s intention for us to suffer death and that He uses all things for our good. In an interesting turn of events this blog post seems to be a demonstration of those facts. Imagine that. 😉 And here I was just taking a moment to talk about myself since I don’t do that enough in my classroom. LOL!

I’ve spilled my guts on the page as I need to do from time to time. So now I ask you what do you want to do with your life? What gives your life meaning?

Think, pray, and live—I’ll bet you’ll uncover some interesting things about yourself.

 

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He Never Forgets His Promises #BackToSchool #FiveYears #TheJourneyContinues

I’m sitting here at my coffee table covered with binders, books, planners, notebooks, and pens getting myself ready for the six classes I’m about to teach this semester as a full-time professor (that’s right I’m a full-time professor with an office!) And I’m crying. Not because I’m stressed. Not because I’m worried. Not because I’m overwhelmed. I’m crying because I’m here and this is really happening.  The tears of joy and gratitude are spilling out as I’m reminded of the things my late husband said to me five years ago weeks before his unexpected death. I’m remembering  all the trying times that have led to this–all the confusion, the heartaches, the up and downs, all those moments I was misunderstood and alienated.

Most of the time, doing the right thing isn’t easy. It’s scary. It’s rough. It doesn’t always make sense. We don’t have any idea where we are actually going or if we’ll end up on the higher ground we think we saw when we started the journey.

This fall will mark five years. Five years since I taught my first class accounting class as an adjunct professor. Five years since I unexpectedly lost my husband. Five years ago the puzzle of my life that was starting to come together got thrown into the air and it shattered my heart. Thankfully, time and effort can heal a heart in surprising ways.

One of my best friends and I were talking the other day. He was telling me this story about this bamboo fable he’d read. How the bamboo is in the ground but for years but no progress can be seen. People ridicule and discount the man’s faith, effort, and time he puts into growing this plant. But he doesn’t give up. He keeps caring for this bamboo seed until suddenly in the fifth year the bamboo sprouts and grows incredibly fast in a short amount of time. If he’d stopped caring for this seed or walked away from it, he would’ve missed seeing his plant grow. He would’ve missed seeing his faith turn into a real tangible representation of his work. He would’ve missed the success of his efforts.

I could look at this moment, the unexpected phone call on a Wednesday afternoon that lead to my full-time position, as a stroke of good luck but that would mean completely missing the message. That’s like standing at the top of the mountain and forgetting all the steps and rough terrain you climbed to get there. Like you magically transported yourself to the top. (Well if you could’ve done that all along why didn’t you?!)

This full-time teaching position was a right place right time thing BUT I wouldn’t have been in the right place at the right time if I hadn’t been taking all of the steps to get there. For five years, I’ve worked for this. Class after class. Hour after hour. The last twelve months of my life have been some of the roughest I’ve had in a long time. I’ve watched my mother-in-law fight cancer and find her seat in heaven at the end of it. I’ve been knee-deep in loss—loss of life, loss of health, loss of financial stability, and loss of relationships. I’ve sat in tears on my kitchen floor, been stranded on the side of the road, sobbed at an altar, held a dying woman’s hand, wrapped my arms around hurt children, and poured my heart out to Jesus on my knees multiple times.

Each time, God provided. Sometimes it was the strength to pull myself off the floor and put myself to bed. Sometimes it was the humility to call for help from a friend. Sometimes it was an instant feeling of inexplicable peace and comfort to dry the tears.

The puzzle is being put together again or rather I can see it forming before my eyes. I keep picking up the pieces, putting them on the table, and asking, “What next Jesus, where does this one go?” Last year’s big piece was my conversion to Catholicism and this year’s big piece is this job. Neither did I see coming.

When we let God put the puzzle of our lives together for us, we don’t always understand His designs, His process, but He does things best. After all He created this puzzle, who are we to doubt His capabilities to put it back together?

Let my life remind you, to keep going. Don’t give up on what God has put in your heart. Keep doing the right things. Keep taking the steps. Some days everything seems impossible but if you don’t give up you’ll see the top of the mountain. I know that’s not always easy to believe but try. Let this special moment in my life, be hope for you and your struggles. <3

Today I’m thankful for those people who never let me quit, who always pick me up, who remind me of who I am, and who are the reasons why I keep doing the right thing. Just because you can’t understand why or how something can work out doesn’t mean it won’t. Just because you can’t see the progress doesn’t mean things aren’t moving.

Pray hard. Work hard. Love hard. And never ever EVER give up on your always and forever!

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