It’s Never What You Expect, But It’s Always What You Need

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Each year I pick my “One Word” (or God picks it for me I am convinced these days) and I think I know what it might mean at the outset of the year. There is a tingle of anticipation at where the year might lead and how the word will play itself out in my life. It always seems to be a different story at the end of the year and this year was no different.

Listen.

That was the word God whispered at the end of 2014. I penned it into the lines of my journal and I thought it might mean long quiet times and lots of clarity about God’s direction for my little life. It’s mid-December and as I glance back over my shoulder at the previous 11 months I can say quiet has been hard to come by and the only thing clear to me is I need desperately to trim away things that aren’t giving me life. My life is way too noisy.

The first half of my year brought a baby boy who is as sweet as they come. He’s all cheeks and smiles and he is the baby of my heart. The baby I needed more than I could know, but not more than God knew. The transition, despite a traumatic birth, has been fairly seamless.

The last half of the year has been a struggle. I have an amazing and hardworking husband who travels weekly, but on a very erratic schedule, for a job that is both a blessing and frustration. Combine that with a major professional test he was studying for and I found myself solo-parenting more often than not as fall settled across our Appalachian hills. By the time evening came the only thing I wanted to hear was silence coming from both of my babies’ rooms.

Then layer a dear friend passing on top of navigating the busyness of life and something inside of me switched into survival mode. Her death shook me, even though it was expected, and triggered a deep grief I had long suppressed. I wiped the tears away for weeks and I remembered how I wrestled grief while my baby boy grew beneath my heart and for the first time in my whole life I realized I’m no longer strong enough to work through this grief alone.

That’s why I looked at my husband a month ago and told him I needed to find a counselor that specializes in grief. 2016 will be 20 years since my mom passed and 23 years since my dad and this is the first time I have really, really sought out a counselor who can help me process it all.

I thought I was the person who needed to listen, but turns out God wants me to let someone else listen.

If I’m honest this feels like a whole lot of weakness. I told my counselor that. It sounds crazy to even type those words because I am an advocate of counseling. I believe in it. I think that all overseas workers should experience some level of counseling as a simple barometer of mental health. It just wasn’t something I thought I needed to help me deal with the million ways grief has woven itself into my experience as a motherless daughter.

Counseling. Someone listening to me. I confess I’m surprised at where my year to “listen” has led me in its final days. I was mulling over the coming year and wondering if I should bother with a “One Word” when my ears pricked up to hear a word so full of intention I couldn’t ignore it.

Nourish.

I need to go to bed earlier. I need to dig deeper into the layers of grief I’ve lived with so long. I need to feed my people with the labor of my own two hands. I need to focus my work so that I can see goals being met. I need more dates with my husband. I need more snuggles with my babies. I need slower days. More than any of those things I need to know what sustains me is not my ability, but God’s grace pouring itself like a gentle rain on the parched garden of my soul.

I’ve got 12 months stretched out before me and I am certain next December will bring another retrospective full of unexpectedness. Thanks be to God for His unending faithfulness.

Has your “One Word” taken you unexpected places and taught you unanticipated things?

2 Comments

  1. Ellie December 30, 2015

    Wow Jessica, thanks for sharing. I’m so glad you’ve found someone specialised in grief counselling (I’m assuming since you have started talking to someone that they met that requirement :)) I have been coming round to the “I can’t deal with (all the) grief on my own” in the last few weeks too.. Different things but similar “finally too much” situation.

    It occured to me (after a good search) that there’s really not much out there in terms of books for this sort of thing  (grief from situations related to crossing cultures, mid-life/early death grief, multiple layer grief, etc) so I would be interested if you found anything useful. – I loved Jonathan Trotter’s sermon on this which started me off on an illuminating (if painful) journey and I know there have been some blog posts on A life overseas, but, like I say, not an in depth “suggestions and real life examples of how to walk through this” book! (I know of the CS Lewis “A grief observed” and a couple of others but they don’t deal with some of the cross-cultural specific madness.. Maybe when we find our way out of the storm you/I should write one? 😛 )

    And that word “nourish” sounds like a beautiful encouraging (and challenging, like you say) one for the next year. I’m so glad. “I need to go to bed earlier. I need to dig deeper into the layers of grief I’ve lived with so long. I need to feed my people with the labor of my own two hands. I need to focus my work so that I can see goals being met. I need more dates with my husband. I need more snuggles with my babies. I need slower days. More than any of those things I need to know what sustains me is not my ability, but God’s grace pouring itself like a gentle rain on the parched garden of my soul.” Sounds very very good. Praying this for you.

    Still trying to process where my word has and hasn’t taken me this year (and fighting with the “whether I’ve got it “right”” as I do!) and might post about that when I’ve got my thoughts together but it all still feels a bit raw and wobbly at the moment.

    Hugs, my sister.

     

  2. Elizabeth December 31, 2015

    First of all, I love how your word took a turn. (God tends to turn them, doesn’t He??) And second of all, I love that you’ve found some help in a counselor. (God bless all the counselors. Amen.)

    But thirdly, I want to say how sorry I am for all the layers of grief you’ve lived with for so long. It’s a heavy load to carry. I’ve been watching my husband walk through these losses as well, for a long time now. And it hurts so bad.

    Praying for you (and all the motherless and fatherless children out there) as you process this pain. May you experience Jesus as Healer. May your husband and children be Jesus-with-skin-on this year. May you know and feel that Jesus is listening to you, at all times. May you experience Jesus as Everlasting Father, and as the Lover and Nourisher of your soul. Amen.

    God loves you Jessica, and He is with you! Even when you don’t feel it, He is with you. He will bring you through this year with faithfulness, just as you said.

    Hugs.

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