GOD, GRANT ME THE SERENITY
TO ACCEPT THE THINGS I CANNOT CHANGE,
COURAGE TO CHANGE THE THINGS I CAN
AND WISDOM TO KNOW THE DIFFERENCE
Though country artist Kathy Mattea wrote “Walking Away a Winner” about the breakup of a romantic relationship gone bad, when I remembered it yesterday as I walked to the grocery store, I was celebrating a very different event.
I’m walking away a winner
Walking away from a losing game
With my pride intact and my vision back
I can say “I know where I’m going
And I know I’ll be allright.”
I’m walking away a winner
Walking back into my life
PART ONE: LOSS
The bad news is that hurting people hurt people. The good news is Jesus came to heal the brokenhearted and set the captives free and He, for whom the Bible says nothing is too difficult, never fails those who put their trust in Him.
The Bible says God is the head of all rule and authority, that He makes darkness into light and rugged places smooth. He opens the eyes of the blind and He can call into being that which does not exist. That’s the God I believe in, the God I love and serve, the God who came to earth in the form of a man to seek and to save that which was lost – us.
To believe He will not fulfill His good promises regarding my daughter would be to believe a lie. Though her anger toward me, her rejection of me and of God and the often disdainful, disrespectful way in which she treats me are quite painful, I refuse to believe her attitudes and behaviors are permanent.
Almost two months ago, she walked out of my life – for good this time, she said. In an argument, Amy does not allow for rational discussion; Amy goes right for the jugular. I was devastated, to say the least. Was this the bigger-than-cancer, David vs Goliath battle the Lord told me I would fight one day?
It sure felt like it.
I would have despaired unless I had believed that I would see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. Psalm 27: 13
“Sooner or later God meets every trusting child who is following Him up the mountain and says, ‘Now prove that you believe this that you have told Me you believe, and that you have taught others to believe.’ Then is your opportunity. God knows, and you know, that there was always a hope in your heart that a certain way would not be yours. ‘Anything but that, Lord’ had been your earnest prayer. And then, perhaps quite suddenly, you found your feet set on that way, that and no other. Do you still hold fast to your faith that He maketh your way perfect? It does not look perfect. It looks like a road that has lost its sense of direction; a broken road, a wandering road, a strange mistake. And yet, either it is perfect, or all that you have believed crumbles like a rope of sand in your hands. There is no middle choice between faith and despair.” from: “Gold by Moonlight” by Amy Carmichael
The Lord reminded me of that quote a few weeks ago while I was still adjusting to life without my daughter. Then, quite suddenly, one of my two remaining cats, my favorite, stopped eating and drinking.
Copper and Midnight had been having some health problems for awhile. Copper, the one who had stopped eating and drinking, was on thyroid medicine, a monthly expense I gladly accepted out of love for this most wonderful of companions.
After I lost my job and my home, if ever I had to take one of my cats to the vet, it was my sister who paid the bill. But she never did so without managing to say something to remind me of my low financial state, which made me feel bad. Very bad.
Fresh off the rejection from my daughter, I could no longer handle the prospect of another disapproving lecture from a family member. One can only absorb so much pain.
My car suddenly began leaking oil at an alarming rate. Not that it didn’t have an oil leak that couldn’t be repaired when I bought it; it did. But I just had to keep an eye on it, adding about a quart per month. Now, however, it was costing me $10 just to add a couple quarts of oil each time I wanted to drive it anywhere. I couldn’t keep that up for long so mostly the car sat in the parking lot costing me money to keep it insured.
When I added up what my cats and my car were costing me the figure was shocking. For one thing, my cats are both pukers (some cats are). The monthly figure for paper towels and windex alone was eye-opening.
The cancer surgeon who is handling my follow-up care told me that in addition to sugar, cancer loves stress and negativity. Toxic relationships had to go.
After the departure of my daughter, my remaining source of stress was financial. By the end of each month I was usually looking at about 10 days of scraping together something to eat from the odds and ends left in fridge and pantry. It was a given that water would be the only drink on the menu during that time. Something had to change. It was time for some hard choices. It was time I stopped needing help each month from family who were willing, but clearly tired of giving it.
The first two of my four beloved cats had to be euthenized earlier this year due to seriously deteriorating health. Caleb and Feivel passed quickly and peacefully in my arms thanks to the expertise of my long-term veterinarian.
This time, Copper and Midnight did not. The vet on duty was new, young, nervous, fresh out of school – they told me that later. It did not go well.
I didn’t sleep for two days afterwards. I am still adjusting to life without them. Coming through the door into an empty apartment brings a stab of pain when I realize afresh they aren’t there watching and waiting for me.
One day, frantically searching the internet for any bit of comfort, I came across an article that said when someone lives alone with a pet and that pet is their only daily source of companionship, the experience of grief when that pet dies is quite profound, especially if the person does not have a strong circle of supportive friends and family. I can vouch for that being true.
The day I decided to euthanize not just Copper, but Midnight as well, was terrible. Having to hold still with that decision all day until I could get them to an evening appointment was excruciating. At the time I needed comfort most, no human was there.
Of all the cable channels we get here with our free cable, the one Christian channel I listen to sermons on every day inexplicably went out. Just that one. And like that, I found myself deprived of the daily comfort and inspiration upon which I’d come to rely from a group of amazing preachers.
I understood giving up my pets. After all, I made that decision; no one forced me. I knew Copper was obviously very sick. And I told myself it was just a matter of time before Midnight’s chronic condition flared again. But why did they have to pass in such a manner? Why did my final memories of those two beloved cats have to be of the sights and sounds of them suffering while I stood there helpless and distraught before being forced from the room when the vet said he had to take more drastic measures that I couldn’t be present for?
I found my answer while standing at the kitchen sink one day. For some unknown reason, I suddenly remembered having to hand-wash certain articles of clothing by hand as a teenager. It was a chore I’d always hated, to be sure. But now, as I stood there, I realized I could cut my monthly laundromat expense in half: water is free, included in the rent where I live.
The first time I washed a pile of clothes by hand, a sudden wave of satisfaction washed over me, totally taking me by surprise. I was becoming self-reliant again. I was finding creative ways to save money. I was making business decisions (such as selling the car) without my daughter’s help.
And that’s when it hit me: My pain had had a purpose – I was my old self again! The old me was back! Depression had NOT forever changed me like I’d feared! Once again, I was back to being the person who didn’t rely on anyone; the person who handled whatever life threw my way; the person who could boldly, creatively and confidently manage my life. That’s what all this loss had been for…
Now I know what I can live without
I’m headed down the right road now
PART TWO: EXHILARATION
Remember the book quote above? I believe my “anything-but-that-Lord” prayer included the fear of losing my daughter and my cats, my fear of giving up my car and being seen as a poor low-life.
When all I’d feared came upon me, I worked hard to accept the losses. I allowed myself to fully feel the pain, refusing to dull or deny it. I wanted to LEARN from this season and I did.
Today, the Lord spoke to me with a portion of scripture: I love the Lord because He hears my voice and my supplications. Because He has inclined His ear to me, therefore I shall call upon Him as long as I live. The cords of death encompassed me and the terrors of Sheol came upon me; I found distress and sorrow. Then I called upon the name of the Lord “O Lord, I beseech You, save my life!” Gracious is the Lord, and righteous; yes our God is compassionate. The Lord preserves the simple; I was brought low and He saved me. Return to your rest, O my soul, for the Lord has dealt bountifully with you. For You have rescued my soul from death, my eyes from tears, my feet from stumbling. I shall walk before the Lord in the land of the living. Psalm 116: 1 – 9
That’s the second time today He’s led me to a portion of scripture that talks about the land of the living… I think it’s more than just coincidence that yesterday, I started listening again and again to an old country rock song I used to love – “Land of the Living” by Pam Tillis.
Oh, by the way, my cable got fixed yesterday too. The first program I caught after the cable guy left was a sermon called “When Anxiety Attacks” by Steven Furtick. Part of what he said was:
The language of fear asks us “What if?”
Well, what if? What if the worst DOES happen?
I’ll tell you how to answer that fear. “If the worst DOES happen, yes it’s going to be terrible. Sure, it’s going to hurt. But God will still be there. After all, He is the God of the valleys too.”
I was so glad to have that channel restored…
My pain had a purpose. Yours does too. One day, you will discover it.
Jahar, I believe we are both being prepared for a great destiny. When we are ready, the world will be a better place for it. I say that in humility. All glory belongs to God.
I will write again soon, but now, if you’ll excuse me, there’s another good old country song I need to go dance to.