Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Crossing the Finish Line

And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us,  fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Hebrews 12:1-2

As many of you know, I named this blog in honor of my sweet daughter and all of you who have showered us with love and support over the last 7 weeks.  I often say that we would not be able to endure all of this without your constant thoughts and prayers.  I feel  them.  I feel you lifting us up and I, in turn, ask God to bless all of you for the constant outpouring of love you've given us. 

This past weekend was no different.  The support we received, whether in person, through prayers or monetary donations to Olive's Branches team was overwhelming.  We had over 50 people join us and walk with us as we honored the memory of our baby girl at the annual Briggs & Al's run/walk to support Children's Hospital of Wisconsin. Our team raised over $3200, and that combined with the donations we received after Olive's funeral, totaled over $5000 donated to Children's in her name.  What a beautiful day it was!

I've been trying, over the last two weeks specifically, to honor her life - rather than dwelling in her death.  This is a difficult task, but one that is so important to my healing. I don't want to be angry. I don't want to be sad every day. I want to look back on those days with her and remember them as ones filled with love.  Our days are numbered and hers were shorter than most - but that doesn't mean they were insignificant. 

I wasn't sure how I would be on Saturday.  I was anxious (as I've been lately) about being in public - surrounded by people who don't know what to say or how to take the hurt away.  It's a tricky, conflicted state I'm in - constantly feeling like I'm straddling heaven and earth, my mind always on her but my body here on earth, running the race of life. I've questioned a lot the past few weeks, but always come back to the same reality: this is our story.

A lot of people ask me how I can continue to cling to my faith, how I can be so strong?  Let me assure you that this is not strength - this is a grieving mother, navigating the best she knows how, through a whirlwind of events that continue to lead me back to one thing: God has never failed me before, and He certainly didn't fail me in this either.  We're human, we naturally believe that we are in control and when we aren't it's easy to want to place blame.  That blame is typically directed to God.  How could He do this to ME?

The event on Saturday got me thinking about the race of life and how often we stumble through it. We start out feeling so strong and able and then something gets in our way.  We slow down, we hit a rough patch, our brain starts to tell us we can't finish - but we press on.  Hitting that finish line brings so much relief - we can rest! And then we find ourselves in the next one - going through the same motions.  I don't believe life is one big race, but many - testing my endurance, my strength - a true battle of brain vs body. Maybe you've been there?  I'm certain you have.

What options do you have when you're tired? Stop and walk? Give up? Any of you who have ever ran an actual race know that even when you're tired you still keep going.  You may go a little slower, you may actually stop and sit - but eventually you keep going, eventually you hit the finish line.

That's how I view this loss - I have days where I have to stop, cry (sob), yell (scream) and rest. Then I find myself waking up to a new day, another opportunity to keep going, regardless of what yesterday brought I have another day in front of me.  I cannot give up.  I have to believe there is good in all of this.  I have to believe there is a plan and a purpose - even if I never see it with my own eyes. For some reason my race is longer than Olive's - which is hard for people to understand because we believe no one should have to bury their child.

God never promised us a life without pain, (Heck, even if you don't believe in God you know that there will be challenges in this life), so why when faced with it do we feel like He let us down? Because good people get hurt? Because innocent people suffer and die? Why do we act as though these things don't or shouldn't happen when we know full well they do and they will? If these things never happened there would be no faith, and without faith there is no finish line.

The way I see it I have two options: I can blame God for her death or I can praise Him for her life. This doesn't mean I don't question Him or often times think I could have done this better.  This doesn't mean I can't be angry or sad or conflicted - but if I ever want to get through this, if I ever want to see her again- faith is my only option. 

So I choose faith.

I found myself walking, at different times through the race on Saturday, with different friends and family - but as we approached the finish line there was one person I was looking for. I stopped and waited for a moment until I saw him- my husband.  I wanted to cross the finish line with him. Last year we found ourselves walking this same race - who could have imagined this year we'd be walking for a different reason?  Certainly not me. But this is our story now, this is our race - and there is no doubt in my mind we'll finish.

At the finish, the real finish, we'll not only be rewarded with the ultimate prize - but our precious Olive will be there to greet us.

I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. 2 Timothy 4:7

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