The Stranger Who Saw My Sorrow

 

I have the awesome privilege of having Aimee Niebuhr of MamaCentric guest post on my blog today! This gal’s writing has blessed me so much in very personal ways. Her posts are so raw that you feel like she is writing from your diary. (At least that’s how I feel) and I couldn’t be more grateful for it because she motivates me to be brave with my truth. Her courageous writing will stir your heart to feel and your spirit to soar. You read her honest words and feel compelled to share love with someone else. She radiates love and truth in the most beautiful ways. Read on and be blessed, dear friends.

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I was twenty-one years old. The world before me should have been bright; a horizon of possibility spread out and shimmering like sunlight glinting off of the endless ocean. But life didn’t feel like the beauty of the horizon meeting the vast, blue sea at all. It felt like a torrent of crashing waves, hitting one after the other, intent on knocking me down.

My sister was at the end of her battle with leukemia. It came fast. It hit hard. Within six months, with the arrival of a bitterly cold November, we were preparing to let her go.

Somehow, I managed to work through my college classes during that fall semester, furtively writing papers and preparing for the exams I would take after returning from the weeklong Thanksgiving break. The Thanksgiving I would always remember as the last time I held my baby sister close, the time when I said goodbye.

Classes resumed on a Monday. My peers were full of cranberries and turkey and joy. The whole world seemed to be filled with a goodness that didn’t include my pain or me, at all. I was an outsider.

I stood before my favorite professor – the one who spoke loudly in front of our classroom and taught history in a way which made you want to rise up and be better because of it. “How is she doing?” he asked me. Tears filled my eyes, as I managed to whisper, “Not well.” He hung his head in sorrow, and I knew he understood.

And though I will always remember his gentle grief, the ways he mourned for a girl he did not really know, it is the moment that happened next, which has stayed imprinted upon my soul, all these years later. It was the girl who followed me out of the classroom and tapped my shoulder who made me feel as though I was not alone.

“My brother had leukemia. He died seven years ago.”

I searched her face, trying to remember. Had we ever spoken, this girl who had sat quietly beside me since September? Every Monday and Wednesday for months we had walked into the same little classroom, and I had never even asked her name. How did she know my agony? Was it because I had been wearing it for months, cumbersome like a heavy coat drenched in the soaking rain?

I had never said a word to her, and yet, in that moment, there wasn’t anyone else on the earth that could have known me better than she did.

“What should I do?” I managed to ask.

“You just have to keep putting one foot in front of the other. One foot, and then the other. One foot, and then the other.”

It was so simple, and yet profound.

My sobs erupted. Every ounce of heartache I had been carrying for months now spilled out into the space between a stranger and myself, into the void between my grief and her memories — our collective sorrow building a bridge neither of us knew we needed.

She opened her arms; I fell into her embrace. My tears dropped wildly onto her shoulder and into her hair. I didn’t even know her name, but she didn’t seem to care. Perhaps seven years ago, she had found her strength in a stranger’s arms, too.

One week later we would take our final exams. I never saw her again. I never even learned her name.

It has been ten years since a girl I had never met held me in a hallway and absorbed my grief. She saw me drowning under the weight of my sadness amidst the sea of goodness, and brought the goodness to me.

I’ve always wished that I could go back and tell her that I am so sorry that she lost her brother. That I am so grateful she chose to turn her pain into a beacon of light to help guide the weary home. That I whispered, “One foot, and then the other,” to myself hundreds of times in the days after my sister’s passing. I held tightly to it in the years I spent adjusting to my new normal without her, falling back upon the familiar comfort of the phrase when the days felt too difficult.

Most of all, I wish I could tell her that I have had my chance to be the stranger with the strength. I have held others the way that she held me and gently reassured, “one foot, and then the other,” as they have wept their own stories into my soul. Finally, I have understood what it means to draw forth from the well of sorrow, and find that there is still goodness to be shared.

Maya Angelou has told us that “people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”

This world will always house wounded people who are desperately trying to tread the waters of their grief. It is up to us to decide if we will answer the calling to be the compassion, the understanding, and the light of the Spirit.

I don’t remember anything else my classmate said to me that day. I can’t even really recall what she looked like through my blurry tears. But I will always remember her; her kindness will live on within my grateful heart, forever.

Aimee of MamaCentric Headshot

 

Aimee is freelance writer and homeschooling mama to three on a journey to get real with motherhood. Whenever she can find a quiet moment, she writes soul-searching reflections at MamaCentric. She holds tightly to the belief that a centered spirit inspires a centered home. (And maintains that hiding out from the kids to sneak some chocolate is good for the soul!) She hopes that her words inspire others to always seek the joy in their lives.

She would love to connect with you on Facebook and Instagram.

 

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Living Under the Freedom of God’s Grace

allowing myself to get caught up in yesterday to the point of missing out on today is not okay

I’m guest posting over at Only a Season today! Gloryanna and I hit it off almost immediately. She has a heart for the things of God and a wonderful way with words to deliver that beautiful message. When she asked me to guest post, I was humbled and honored because I highly esteem her blog. I had a hard time picking a subject to write on because there are a ton of topics looming in my head these days. However, a conversation with my best friend kept coming back to my thoughts and it therefore became the catalyst for my piece.

Want a snippet? Here ya go!

My BFF’s heartfelt words spoke to my spirit and caused an awakening of sorts to take place within. Am I showing up for my own life or am I just going through the motions? Am I allowing pain mixed with wine and trips down memory lane to trump the here and now with my beautiful family? After all, they are my future. So, in essence, avoiding the responsibilities of today is stealing from my tomorrows. OUCH.

Come on over to Only a Season and check out the full post! Thanks!

A Four-Letter-Word Christians Should Be Talking About More

I am so excited to have my new friend, Gloryanna Boge, guest post today! She writes for Only A Season about motherhood, marriage, and faith. I believe, in one way or another, that we can all relate to the sensitive topic she addresses.  Prepare to be encouraged through her authenticity and blessed by her truth filled words. Please like, share, or comment to show her some love! Thanks, friends!

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Sweat trickled from my brow as I dabbed my chin to try and keep my makeup from smearing. I had worn my favorite bright pink dress, with “cork” heeled shoes. I wore Adidas perfume religiously during my teenage years. I went to my favorite church camp every summer for three years in a row during my middle schools days. Of course camp was during the hottest days of the year. Meetings took place outside. If we’re all being honest, camp was about seeing that boy you had a huge crush on, wearing that pink dress, and what little makeup I wore was all about impressions.

I think back to those times when I would sit outside under a huge tent and listen to the pastor talk about pleasing God. I remember when the messages hit my heart hard and crying and praying and going to bed feeling the love of God wash over me. Then there were the nights when the pastor would talk about how to please God and what seemed like “rules” we had to follow in order to feel his love. I remember a particular night when the pastor talked about idols in our life and for us to “take a good hard look” at ourselves and what we were worshipping as idols instead of focusing on God. As a 13 year old girl who had eyes for the boy sitting in front of her, idols was a topic that seemed ridiculous. No one worshipped statues anymore.

I’m gonna be honest here and say that the word “idol” is not one that I use often these days as a 30 year old, and most times, I associate those crazy people in the Bible who worshipped an actual object made out of, what was it, gold? And since we’re being honest, I tend to get glossy-eyed when I hear pastors talk about “modern day” idols and how we need to be on alert against the enemy or something like that. Idol was a four letter word that was rarely used in my “Christian” vocabulary.

It wasn’t until one restless night when I felt the Lord tugging on my heart. I couldn’t sleep. I was tossing. Turning. And you know what I was thinking about at 3:00 A.M? My blog. I was thinking about all these topics I should write about. I was thinking about how I needed to be on social media more but then my stomach started to turn because social media is draining. I felt like I was trying to be someone I wasn’t. I was focusing all my energy on this hobby I call writing, and losing my peace in the process. Yet, I kept coming back for more. I kept returning to this empty well, searching to be satisfied. Then that tug on my heart became pretty clear.

Those moments of nodding off in church when the word “idol” came up had bolted me awake in the middle of the night. My blog, which initially started out as a means to encourage others in their relationship with Christ, had become an idol to me.

I’m not here to throw fire and brimstone. All I can do is share with you how I was choking the life out of something that I initially gave to the Lord. Satan had taken something good and was twisting it for his purpose. It started when I quit waking up early for my quiet time with the Lord. This was a result of me staying up late working on the back end logistics of my blog. Instead of taking a few minutes during lunch to pray or read a devotional, I was flipping through all the social media on my phone trying to promote my blog and build blogging relationships. Not to mention times I was messing with my phone while my son was crawling about waiting to play. Then it got worse. Instead of spending time with my husband after our son went to bed and the dishes were done, I would whip out my laptop to research a plugin I needed for my blog. Some of my other relationships started to suffer because of the time I was spending with my blog.

Do you see the picture here? Slowly, God became smaller in my life as my blog became the image in my forefront. The image I was pressing towards to make bigger. After all, part of the definition of idol is an “image” of worship. If you dig deep into its etymology, you will find that “mental image” is part of its meaning.

All I was focusing on was this image of myself as a blogger and where it was taking me. God wasn’t a big part of that picture anymore. Until recently. Until that night at 3:00 AM when I made the decision to give my writing back to the Lord.

I think what bothered me the most about this revelation was how easily I let it happen. How easily I let down my guard down. To keep myself guarded and reminded of His truth, I have made the conscientious decision to speak out loud God’s Word anytime I feel like I am losing balance in my faith.

When I feel like I am not being my authentic self, I speak His Word about being a Child of God and holding on to my child-like faith in him.

When I feel like my blog isn’t growing enough or I let social media affect my peace, I speak His Word finding favor with men for God’s glory. Not mine. I remind myself that life is not about likes. I don’t need others to validate my work. God will do that in a way that is best for me.

I speak His Word out loud to keep His image in front of me. To keep myself from letting idols creep up into my life.

I encourage you to take a step back and look at what is robbing you of peace in your life. Is it something that you have inadvertently turned into an idol? Yes, say it. Idol. It’s not some vague word that doesn’t apply anymore. It’s a word that we need to talk about more often. A word that we need to guard our hearts against.

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Gloryanna is a teacher turned SAHM whose identity is found in her relationship with Christ. She is married to her high school sweetheart who insists that dirty clothes can be left on the floor. Gloryanna writes to encourage others in their walk with Christ, no matter what season you’re going through. If you want to be encouraged, you can follow her writing at Only a Season. You can also catch snippets of her faith and scribbles on Twitter, FacebookInstagram and Bloglovin‘.