What Do You Have to Let Go Of? {Book Club}

What a great discussion we had last week about what keeps us sane! From foot massage to being near water to house plants, podcasts and baking, we have gotten creative. As I said in one comment, I just feel saner reading through the comments :)! This week as we continue with Cracking Up: A Postpartum Faith Crisis by Kimberlee Conway Ireton I’m a bit, I’ll just own it, anxious about the topic.

It’s fun to think about what keeps me sane and to hear from you about what keeps you sane. I like thinking about flowers and making scripture art and smelling freshly baked cookies (by one of you! But I’d help you stay sane by popping in and helping you eat them :)). But as I’ve said before, part of what draws me to this book is the ways in which Kimberlee is willing to walk straight into the wide spectrum of life. She doesn’t camp in all the pain OR all the joy. She lives broadly and so shall we!

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This is from the chapter called Bed:

“[In my journal] I write, I am just now — just now!– realizing that life is a long journey of letting go. We embrace for a season and then we have to release those we love. How do we live with love and joy, without fear of pain, when we finally see that loss and the grief that accompanies it are the price of love, the price of any life worth living?”

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A long journey of letting go.

I know it’s true because I have seen the truth of it in my own life. And I know you get it. This isn’t unique to those of us called to this life overseas, but we have been asked to pay a different price (I almost said “higher price” implying that our path is more holy than those who aren’t called). I don’t know about you, but the revolving door of relationships is one of the hardest parts for me.

This is embarrassing to admit. And I’m not sure it’s going to make the final edit, but here goes. On of the places I lived for ten years was a combo of long and short term people. By short term, I mean recent college grads who made a one year commitment. It was a very significant year for them and for many the gateway to longer service. A great program and I support it! But after about seven years, I got worn out of meeting people who were not going to be in my life the next year. That particular year there were six new women, I learned two of their names and gave the other four numbers in my head. The only problem was others didn’t know who #3 was so they had no idea who I was referring to.

(Before you think I’m a monster, let me justify myself — for that is what I”m doing — by saying I wasn’t their team leader or directly involved with them. If I were, let’s hope it is OBVIOUS I would have learned their names. You can see why this might get edited out.)

I’m not saying we need to embrace everything and everyone. That leads to a whole host of other problems, doesn’t it? But Kimberlee asks a valuable question: How do we live with love and joy, without fear of pain, when we finally see that loss and the grief that accompanies it are the price of love, the price of any life worth living?”

I look at pictures of my nieces around the age of 18 months and the ways they nestled in my arms. Even though we can now play games beyond the mind-numbing (bashing?!!) Candy Land, that phase of life is over and I miss it.

I remember holding my dad’s hand on his deathbed.

I think of the hundreds of time I have said goodbye to someone at the airport as either they leave me or I leave them. And I think, Amy, you are exaggerating, it can’t be in the hundreds. But when I slow down and do the math, it pains me to realize I’m not exaggerating.

And this is just the tip of the iceberg.

So how do we do it?

For me, it helps to remind myself to hold both as true: the good and the painful. I held my dad’s hand, but I also hold hundreds of good memories with him. I see who my nieces were, but I also get to see who they are becoming (and Lord willing, the ways they will torture my sister during adolescence :)!). I have so many more people in my life because I didn’t live in just one place.

Maybe the most important word Kimberlee used was “season.” We don’t embrace forever. Either a place, a stage of life, a career, a home. But we do embrace, knowing the embracing will be laced with times of letting go.

What are you being asked to let go now (I’ll share mine in the comments). What are you getting to embrace right now? Does this idea of a “long journey of letting go” help you? I love our chats!

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NEXT WEEK: Is ask an author! Kimberlee will be here and open to chatting with us in the comments. I’ve got a few questions to get us going, but then the floor is yours! Be thinking of you might want to ask Kimberlee.

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Photo Credit: zenobia_joy via Compfight cc

16 Comments

  1. Morielle September 15, 2014

    Oh, Amy, this idea of a long journey of letting go makes me feel better and worse at the same time. It makes me feel better because I know what my heart is learning now is something it really needs to know. It makes me feel worse because… really? This is going to go on for my whole life? (Yep, it is. And it will only get harder the more and deeper you love people.)

    But in the midst of the seasons of loss, there will be finding new people to enjoy. And in the midst of tearing apart, there will be new friendships to stitch together with care.

    A time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing / a time to seek, and a time to lose / a time to keep, and a time to cast away / a time to tear, and a time to sew

    1. Amy Young September 17, 2014

      Morielle. Yes. Just yes. These lessons of letting go are so important, but as you said, REALLY? As I’ve been reading through the comments I keep thinking of Emotionally Healthy Spirituality by Peter Scazzero. He looks at five key elements that if we don’t get/learn will hamper us from growth, maturity and depth. One of them is learning to grieve well — and the fact that most don’t learn how to do this. AND another is living with limits. I’d rather be happy and limitless, thank you very much. But this isn’t realistic and that kind of thinking will keep me from being the TRUE person I want to be. Thanks for your thoughts Morielle!

  2. Elizabeth September 16, 2014

    Oh this letting go is so hard! I love my children now, but sometimes when I look at pictures or videos of the way they were in earlier years, I get so sad. I miss those times, and sometimes I can hardly remember them. Their voices, the chubby little faces. You go along, every day, with them growing, and don’t notice the changes. Then I look back and think, how did that little breastfed newborn become a young man?  With leg hair and broadening shoulders and an emotional distance from Mommy? My two little girls are still sweetie pies to me, and we snuggle a lot, and I love watching what they do, but they are also much much bigger than when they were teeny little nursing babies who needed me for everything. I love them all so much, but they really are growing up too fast. I’ve been realizing this more and more lately and trying to savor the moments more. I want them to grow up and be strong, responsible adults who will hopefully get married and have children of their own someday, and if they do, I want them to be good parents. But that means they won’t be MY little babies anymore. Letting go is hard!

    1. Amy Young September 17, 2014

      Oh Elizabeth, this just rings so close to home. Last night I happened to be looking at a photo of a car I used to have (that’s another story, but suffice it to say, after YEARS of being on the field, it was finally time for me to pass her on and you would have thought I had terminal cancer.). Anyway, on her last night with me, My mom, sister and four nieces pilled in her with me and had our picture taken. Last night as I looked at that picture, I couldn’t believe how much #4 has grown! And how much she looked like #1 at that age and how very much NEITHER of them look like that now. Letting go IS hard!

  3. T September 16, 2014

    So, pretty much, the thing that keeps me going is thinking on eternity.  I think that relationships will still be relationships later, so if it is a believer that I’m mourning the loss of (from death or a move), then I am thankful that I can look forward to being with them and discovering heaven and then the new earth with them.  So, it is a temporary pause in our relationship, or at least a pause in the way we were used to relating (like when my teammate moves away), but eventually we will have no time or distance limitations to catching up and living life together again.  I hope this helps give others encouragement.  I have to repeat it to myself, so that I go ahead and invest again and again.  I tend to get a hard outer shell, and have to consciously slough it off.

    1. Amy Young September 17, 2014

      T, pointing to eternity is helpful!! It also helps me to remember it’s not just about letting go, there’s some embracing to do :). I remember how it used to annoy me in high school when people would write in my year book they hoped I never changed. Really? You want me to have the emotional depth and fortitude of an 18 year old in a 30, 37, 42, 49, 53, etc body? I know that’s not what they meant. But it does highlight how hard it is to let go :). As I focus on what I’m embracing — a season with these people, or this job, or this stage of kids lives, it helps me to be more present 🙂

    2. Elizabeth September 19, 2014

      You are not the only one who thinks of relationships in eternity, T! I miss a particular friend who moved away this year. My husband and I had a special relationship with her and her husband — we all got along well and laughed hysterically together. I miss sitting across the table from them, drinking coffee and discussing deep spirituality, while our kids played or watched movies together. I miss those times so much it hurts, and I keep thinking that in heaven, we can sit at the same table once more. That’s the only thing that helps when it hurts that much.

  4. Karin September 16, 2014

    Last year when we were home, I was asked to speak at a women’s gathering.  The first thought I had was “I could share about a “Life of Loss.”.  It is difficult for me to accept all the good-byes and little losses that come with those good-byes.  We come from a culture that has taught us we can have it all.  The truth of life living overseas is constant change and loss.  But God is in these changes, in these losses.  He sees my pain, sits with me in my sorrow and promises good things even in the darkest moments.  He has something to work in my heart.  I always have a choice in how I react to these changes.  It comes down to what I believe about these losses.  Do I believe that God is asking me to let go of something or someone necessary for life?  Or do I believe that God is asking me to let go of something so I can know him deeper?  Do I believe that these losses and the pain I feel make my heart weaker?  Or Do I believe that God’s love is enough?   I like the way Henri Nouwen writes of this “The pain that comes from deep love makes your love ever more fruitful.  It is like a plow that breaks the ground do allow the seed to take root and grow into a strong plant.  Every time you experience the pain of rejection, absence of death, you are faced with a choice.  You can become bitter and decide not to love again, or you can stand straight in your pain and let the soil on which you stand become richer and more able to give life to new seeds.  The more you have loved and have allowed yourself to suffer because of your love, the more you will be able to let your heart grow wide and deeper.”  While this is not an easy or painless process, it does have the capacity to change my heart. I have to trust that letting go will leave my hands open to receive his love.

    Nouwen writes further.  “The more you are called to speak God’s love, the more you will need to deepen the knowledge of that love in your own heart.  The further the outward journey takes you the deeper the inward journey must be.  Only when your roots are deep can your fruits be abundant.”  God has been calling me this year to a deeper knowledge of his love.  It has required letting go of more than I thought my heart could take.  I realized I had a small view of his love for me.  I was convinced of his love for the world and those around me, but I questioned his love for the deepest part of me.  All the loss and letting go revealed my doubt in his love for me.  I am not through to seeing any fruit in this.  I am still overwhelmed my the emotions of it all.  I have in the past few weeks seen felt a hope emerging.  There is a new season coming.  He will bring me through.  I feel the breaking up of the soil of my heart, but I trust my heart will be enlarged to love more deeply.

    1. Amy Young September 17, 2014

      Karin, I love Nouwen’s writing! Thanks for sharing him.

      For some reason your comment brought a line from The Princess Bride to mind: Life is pain, princess.

      Life is pain, but it’s also joy. This is the paradox of letting go and embracing. It can be confusing for my soul when the two get mixed together 🙂 … but that’s part of my soul’s permanent state. Pain and joy mixed together (I think the confusion is that I have some how gotten the wrong idea that it should be this OR that. Not this AND that. But holding both in tension can be exhausting :)!

      1. Karin September 18, 2014

        So true Amy!  That is what is so powerful about Christianity.  The Cross and the Resurrection.  And that is why the gospel is real and true.  For Jesus meets us in our pain, but does not leave us there.  We in turn can embrace and let go because he holds us through each season.  A rock throughout the changes, losses.  His love permeates deeper with each season that we open and surrender to him.

        To take your Princess Bride quote further.  I think that Wesley didn’t soften towards Buttercup until he knew she had suffered.  So often we can bring wishes of joy into people’s suffering and pain forgetting to acknowledge how deeply they hurt.  Acknowledging both joy and pain with wisdom so we don’t emphasis one while ignoring the other.

    2. Brittany September 20, 2014

      Thank you so much for sharing, Karin!  Oh how these quotes have encouraged my heart!  I need God to deepen the love in my heart so that I can better serve Him where He’s placed me.  I’ve been experiencing a lot of pain and a lot of joy these months and as I read your comments, I was thinking of the phrase C.S. Lewis uses in the Chronicles of Narnia:  Further up, and further in.  The Father is breaking me, pressing on me, stretching me so that I can experience Him in ways I never have before.  So I can go further up and further in my experience with Him, knowing Him deeper, experiencing Him more fully.

  5. Jan September 18, 2014

    Hi Amy,

    I read your blog. How can I know that all my goodbyes are not making me bitter but are making me better? How can I know that in my relationships now I am still being vulnerable with others rather than hardened or jaded with all the goodbyes?

    thanks

  6. Grace L September 18, 2014

    I have been wanting to weigh in on this all week. I love what others are sharing about joys and losses, and especially how that affects us when living overseas. As I close in on turning 70 later this year, I have had insights during the decade of my 60’s that, for me, have really come with many years of life behind me. I have come to treasure what I call the seasons of life. I had my season of raising my son and he is now 32 and quite independent. I have had my seasons of secular work and close friendships back in the states. But having lived in China for 8 years now, I am better able to treasure the seasons I have with people. For 3 years we had a young Chinese woman working for us and then living with us. She was like a daughter, a best friend, a sister, and also an employee. But I knew she wouldn’t stay with us for the long term. She would get married and move away (which she did) and we would have to let go of the everyday relationship that we all treasured. But it did not end the relationship. She’s about to have a baby and I am feeling very grandmotherly:) For me, if I can treasure the seasons I am in, knowing that others will move on or we will move on, I can enjoy them more and appreciate what a special gift of God these people are. If you are in the process of raising children, enjoy it for what you have now. But it is a very special season that will pass as they grow into adulthood. And God will bring new treasures and joys and sorrows into our lives. I may be getting older, but I love the wisdom that aging has brought to me. What a gift life is and the great privilege of walking where He leads us.

  7. Stacey September 18, 2014

    Once again, when I read Kimberlee’s thoughts on the tension of experiencing  deep joy and deep thanksgiving while experiencing deep sorrow and fear in an anticipation of the day when  these seasons will be over – I wondered exactly how it is that she got inside my head and wrote down all my feelings?

    Even the guilt, yep it’s mine too. So back when I said yes to God when He proposed the (to me; I’m not very adventurous:) terrifying idea of moving to Myanmar as a single, I grieved over the loss of my hope of getting married. Exactly one year later, I was walking down the aisle to join lives with a man who had been seeking God for direction, found me, and determined that God’s direction was: To Myanmar, Together. It was quick, it was surreal, it was amazing, and it Should have assuaged my fears. But instead, the fears grew darker and drearier while the guilt that I wasn’t properly enjoying this undeserved gift of mercy compounded on itself. Now my fears grew into terror that I would one day wake up and lose my One True Love, a loss that I was absolutely sure I wouldn’t be able to handle. So many moments of joy were pierced with a stab of fear that, when the moment fleeted, I was sure to fall harder and lower than I had ever fallen before. But even when dealing with such fear, there was always condemnation and judgment, from self, that I could be so spoiled and so bratty to take such a gift and turn it into depressive terror.

    With the birth of our first child, the joys – the joys increased exponentially and I never knew such love. Fears increased exponentially as well. I  had agonizing nightmares, or as I thought them to be, projections of the future, of pregnant me with our toddling firstborn, searching our new country for my kidnapped, or jailed, husband. I spent enormous amounts of energy fighting off the feelings that this was actually going to happen. So much love, and yet so much fear that I wouldn’t make it if these blessings were to suddenly change.

    Now? Well, same story, different scene. The taxi driver swerves into oncoming traffic in order to avoid waiting for our lane to inch forward. My blissful 1.5 yr old continues to happily wallor around in my arms, my seven year old and five year old continue to blissfully chat and giggle about whatever absurd thing has currently captured their imaginations. I feel that I could not ask for more in this life, that I am so richly blessed, so rich in love. And I feel terror, terror that in one blink it could all change. And I feel selfish, selfish for feeling entitled to worry. And I feel guilty. And in the moment, I thank God for His gifts, I pray for mercy, I cry out for protection against all the bad things I imagine, and I confess feebly the truth that God will be good even if the worst happens. The line in Kimberlee’s book, in the Bible, in my heart: I do believe, help my unbelief! Oh, Lord have mercy, help my unbelief.

    So I guess that all that rambling on just leads me to this: every aspect of my life, the good and the hard, seems to call for a full embrace and a full let go at the same time – but it takes the Grace of God to embrace and let go of the right things. A Grace filled embraced moment is: In the taxi I choose to stay engaged with my kids’ ridiculous banter, because it is fleeting – it’s a stage I’ll never get back, and it’s hilarious. I want to embrace it, to live it fully. A Grace filled let go moment is: But at the same time I am letting them go. I am fully aware of my frailty and theirs. Not letting go of them means not recognizing that God is in control, and that ultimately means not living. And yet my flesh wants to embrace fear, embrace the illusion of control. When my flesh embraces these, it lets go of the joys of the moment. It disengages from the banter so it can anxiously search the oncoming traffic for the potential crash that’s coming. (Now I’m all for doing what I can. I will tell the taxi driver to get back in the proper lane, tell him that it’s dangerous and to think of the children. I am not going to not try. But the inner peace, or lack there-of- this is where the embracing and letting go bit comes in.)

    this is such a real, intense battle in so many areas of life. I have been so encouraged to read of others’ journeys through the same. Eternity with no darkness to shadow our joys — that is the hope that keeps me hanging on, thanks be to God.

     

    1. Brittany September 20, 2014

      Yes, Stacey.  All I can say is yes.  I am with you in these feelings.  These are the same things I’m needing to let go of: everything.  Full embrace and full surrender.  At the same time.  God help us!

  8. Brittany September 20, 2014

    I really don’t have much to add after reading all these comments.  “Letting go” is only possible when we “hold tight” to God and the Truth of His Word.

    I’ve experienced deeper pain than I’ve ever experienced these last few months, but I’ve also experienced true Joy.  Amy, as I read your post, it reminded me of the movie that my hubby and I got to see this week (the second movie we’ve gotten to see since moving to Romania almost a year ago!!!).  We went and saw The Giver and enjoyed it so much.  The whole theme is that you can only be protected from pain and hate and evil IF you are willing sacrifice joy and love.  The experience of true joy and peace and love is worth the pain.  I’m having to tell myself this constantly.  As much as I want to stop feeling the pain, if I numb it, it also numbs my other feelings and I don’t want to do that!  I must hold to the Truth that the presence of God in the pain helps me to endure and that the sorrow only lasts for the night, but the promise that joy comes in the morning!

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