All holy and difficult experiences
are there to transform us.
- Elizabeth Lesser, Broken Open: How Difficult Times Can Help Us Grow.
Transformation is a word that appeals to me.
It is a make-over from the inside out. Not the kind of "get all your wrinkles tightened" makeover, but a change that takes time and pain and thought and insight and evolution and self-reflection and other-reflection. It is not easy.
It's safe to say that most of us would like a life that just flows along smoothly, a life that has a few bumps that are easy to navigate. Few of us, if we are honest, would choose to take on one of the big ones. The earth-shaking experiences, the gut-wrenching, toss your life upside down and leave you spinning experiences.
Who would choose cancer? Who would choose going through a divorce? Who would choose having your child attempt to take their own life? The answer: No one.
What I know for sure is that real transformation, the kind that brings you to your knees, often feels like being in a tsunami that leaves you tossed and turned, gasping for air and looking for a place to hold on to. In the end you are in the aftermath of your once somewhat tranquil life, humbled and broken wide open. Nothing is the same. Your former life is almost unrecognizable.
You have a new normal that will last forever.
Someone once shared with me this profound wisdom-
Everything is a gift. It's just that some things
don't look gift wrapped.
Really? Everything? Are you kidding me? Yet over time, much time, I have come to embrace this notion and hold it close to my heart. In the hardest moments I whisper to God, "I'm looking for the gift, Lord. I'm open to seeing the blessing, Father."
I now believe that truly transforming life events rarely seem gift wrapped. It may take years to sort out the gift they are to our lives. To our hearts. To our souls.
Seeing those toughest life chapters now, almost as a distant vision in a rear-view mirror, I wonder a bit how I survived them. At the same time, I marvel at how they changed me.
I turn 68 in about a week. February 5th to be exact. :) This is a time of looking back, celebrating, and reflecting. Lots of conversations about the learnings, the big and the small.
One of my students asked me what had changed me the most. What had transformed me and made me over, from the inside out?
I took her question very seriously. So I've decided to share a few of those here. Those life changers that changed me forever. Those "holy and difficult experiences that transformed me" to quote Elizabeth Lesser. I have tears just thinking about these events. I am grateful even though they were hard, very hard...
Deep breath, here goes...
Going through the end of a marriage. I never, ever, ever expected that this would be part of my life story. Making this decision was completely heart breaking. After years and years and years of trying and talking and pleading and crying and begging for certain things to change, there was a necessary ending that had to take place.
Out of respect for those closest to my heart, I won't share the details here. It's enough to say that at the end of that journey, I was shattered and didn't know who I was any more. I had given myself away. I was lost, so lost. And I was sad, so, so sad, for my darling daughters. I would never, ever have wanted for them to go through this and I would never have wanted this for myself or other family members either. Going through a divorce, I was painfully broken open and I chose to be transformed.
So what was the gift in a situation that looked anything but gift wrapped?
In the long and very hard journey of coming back to me, I had a new strength, a new backbone, and a new and revitalized relationship with God. He, the Lord God Almighty, was my precious calm in the storm, my anchor. I started to know me again. And I made a sacred promise, I would never allow anyone to treat me like that again. I was and am God's daughter, and I didn't deserve to be treated like that. I promised God that I wouldn't let that happen again. And I have kept that promise.
Another gift? A huge gift from God. If there had been no divorce I would never have met and married my beloved Bert more than 30 years ago. I would never have experienced having a husband who kept all his vows and who loved and cherished me completely.
I also learned, truly learned, that God is good all the time and that He will never leave me or forsake me. I felt His sacred presence when I was lost, and confused and scared. His love transformed me from the inside out.
Another huge gift? Both Tim and I committed to finding forgiveness and healing for our broken family, for the sake of our daughters and our own souls. We both eventually remarried. We both wanted to be able to be at weddings together and births together and be free of rancor and bitterness. And with God's grace and internal healing, we got there.
Another transforming event...
Taking care of my Mom when she was so seriously ill broke me open and transformed me in ways I never could have imagined. Being her caretaker from afar, since she wouldn't move to Spokane, had me going in every direction.
Every other weekend for two and a half years I traveled to Seattle to coordinate her health care. Mom had emphysema from years of smoking and was constantly on oxygen. Our roles changed and that was a bitter pill for her to swallow. Yet I felt like I was part of a sacred moment, a full circle holy gathering. I had the honor of taking care of the Momma who had taken such good care of me. Yet, it was hard to conceive of the cost to me in that process. As an only child, there was no one to share that with, no one I had grown up with to come along side me in one of the hardest times of my life. I was exhausted and weary, very weary. I was stretched so thin that I hardly knew who I was any more. I was simultaneously raising my daughters while taking care of my Momma. It was a "new normal" for sure.
And the gift in the midst of the chaos?
As Elizabeth Lesser says, in her must-read book Broken Open: How Difficult Times Can Help Us Grow, we have a choice. A profound choice. A life-altering choice.
When life brings us to our knees we can become resentful and bitter or we can choose to have the shattering be the very thing that grows us into who we were meant to be.
True, we never would have chosen this journey, but it is the very thing that
makes us a fuller, deeper, person...one filled with compassion when the lives of others are in transition with a life full of change. If we let it, the very event we would have given anything to avoid, becomes our greatest teacher. We have a new depth and breadth to our lives that we could not have gotten any other way.
So as I approach 68, there is so much I am grateful for. So many blessings that
mark me and bring such enormous JOY to my soul. I am Blessed Beyond Measure! And as I look back over all these many years, I also embrace and feel so grateful for being in a day-to-day transforming process. My life-story has had some very difficult chapters I would not have chosen, but I truly believe they have molded and sculpted me to be who I am now. Those holy and difficult times have changed me for the better. In a way I never could have guessed, those oh so tough experiences have been my greatest moments of breaking open that led to personal and spiritual transformation.
I also know that there will be tough life moments ahead. While I may be heart broken as I go through them, those holy and difficult life-changers, I know in my deepest heart-of-hearts that God will see me through them. He will be along side me as I grieve them, accept them, and allow them to transform me.
May your holy, broken open and difficult moments transform you as well.
And may you know, in your deepest heart-of hearts, that no matter
how difficult your life gets, how scary and out of control it feels, that
God Almighty holds you in the palm of His hand. He is there with you, by you, holding you up when you cannot hold yourself up any more. He will never leave you or forsake you. Never. Never ever.
God Bless! I love you to the moon and back.
"If you want something new, you have to stop doing something old." ...