A year ago today, my life changed in every sense of the word.
Suddenly, and tragically, nothing was the way it had been. Life as I knew it was turned upside down. It sort of happened in a blur. I am blessed in a lot of ways to say that it was the first tragic thing that had happened in my life. It took a really long time for any of it to seem real to me…sometimes I am still not sure it is real yet.
Of course I am not the first person this has happened to. People die every moment of every day and they all belong to someone. Life changes in this same manner for people as each second passes. I suppose I am just more aware of this now.
Now when I hear an ambulance wailing down the street, my heart stops for a just a second because I know that feeling that lingers in the pit of my stomach all the time is about to become a reality for someone else. Now when I hear that someone is sick, I pray that much harder for them and their family because I understand how fragile and fleeting life really is.
Sometimes, I feel guilty for feeling so sad about my daddy dying. I mean people’s dads, moms, kids, grandparents, friends, aunts, uncles, and pets die ALL the time. It’s normal. It’s part of life. But that’s one of the many things that I have learned this past year since MY daddy died. It’s true that death and tragedy happens to people all the time. But that doesn’t make those that happen to you any less significant…because they are YOURS. So, this is mine.
Change, though difficult is a good thing.
Among several other difficult things that had to be dealt with throughout this year, my mom and I had to choose what would be engraved on my daddy’s grave stone. If any moment in my life has been surreal…let me tell you, that was one of them. In the midst of studying for finals and attempting to graduate from college, I was choosing what to have written in memory of my daddy. While most dads were planning how they would travel to graduation ceremonies and what they would write in graduation cards, I was imagining the first major event in my entire life without my dad there annoying me with his excessive picture taking habits.
Anyways…all of that to say, this is the quote that we chose to have put on the back of the stone. It is so symbolic to me in more ways than one.
“If nothing ever changed, there would be no butterflies.”
My dad LOVED butterflies. While most kids were putting on sports jerseys and watching games with their dads, my dad and I were constructing homemade butterfly nets and running around on railroad tracks searching for bugs and birds and rocks. He was just so amazed by them. So, it seemed appropriate to commemorate him in that sort of way…
But that quote has so much deeper meaning to me too. As humans, often times we are so reluctant to change or to allow change to happen around us. We want everything to stay the way that we have always known it; we want to be comfortable and feel safe inside this sense of consistency and normalcy.
But take a look at this simple, fragile little creature. Its life is so short and so fleeting. It doesn’t have the capacity to understand as we do….but it does understand one very important thing. If there was no change, and if it were afraid to change, it could never become all that it was meant to be.
The same goes for us on so many levels. If we live our lives afraid to let ourselves grow and change or afraid to survive the changes that will inevitably come our way, we will miss out on the truly beautiful things in life. It’s true that the process of change is difficult and often times extremely uncomfortable, but as we learn from the butterfly, the end result is much more beautiful than we ever could have imagined, and in the end SO worth it.
I can just see my daddy saying something like that. He wanted his life to be celebrated not mourned. He wanted us to enjoy life with or without him, and so in his honor we have. Of course there are days that are so unbearably hard and I miss him more than I even know how to say…but there are more days that are lovely and that I smile to myself thinking how proud he would have been of me.
This year was not only full of change because I lost my daddy. See, I could have just put the brakes on there…decided that one major change was plenty and in my stubbornness refused to allow for anymore. But my daddy taught me so much better than that and my mommy too by her example to me this year. So, I went back to school, graduated from Central Bible College, became a pastor, moved all the way across the country to plant a church, and became a nanny too.
And in the midst of this crazy year I spent becoming a butterfly of sorts, here are some things that I was blessed and often times humbled to learn…
- To appreciate every person in my life. I should ALWAYS tell people how I feel about them and how much they are loved and should never ever leave them with anything unsettled between us.
- That life is fragile and that we are blessed with every breath that we take. I should make the most of every day.
- The joy of the Lord truly is my strength and there is always more than enough of it to face each day.
- My dad used to have this bookmark that I gave him when I was a little kid stuck in the corner of our bathroom mirror. It said, “Anyone can be a father but it takes someone special to be a dad.” This year I learned how true that simple statement was.
- So often we don’t realize what we had until we don’t have it anymore.
- The importance of having deeply developed friendships in my life. I am so incredibly blessed to have the people in my life that God has given me. By no means do I deserve their loyal, patient, constant love but WOW I have so much of it.
- I have realized how much of who I am comes from my parents. The reason that I am so clumsy and flighty and I can never sit down, well that’s from daddy. My incredible need to organize and my elephant like memory comes from my mommy as well as my craftiness. Last year, I was so very blessed to see so many people come and support our family because of the friendships that my parents had maintained throughout their lives. I learned that friendships are not meant to end but to survive every season and get stronger with each. I realized why I love to entertain so much and to surround myself with people; because that’s simply the way I grew up.
- I have learned an awful lot about grief. That death is not something you just get over. Grief is unpredictable in every sense of the word. Sometimes days that you expect to be hard are just another day and other times just your average day can seem like an unbeatable obstacle. Grief will always be a part of my life in some form and I have to allow myself the grace to deal with it as it comes.
- There truly is something wonderful and good that God brings out of EVERY situation. He is always working things out for our good no matter how hard it is for us to see at the time. He really does know best and it really is in our best interest to trust Him.
- The importance of family. Family is a blessing God has given us and that we should treasure. While my friends have been wonderful through all of this, no one could quite understand like my family and I am so thankful to have them.
- Most importantly, I have learned this year that God’s character is constant. That it does not depend on circumstances or situations, He is everything He says He is despite all else. And that my friends, is MORE than enough.
So, though lately I have been known for my comparing life to cupcakes, today I would encourage you to be a butterfly. Embrace every change that comes your way, try to see the beauty in it, and if nothing else face it knowing that the end result WILL be more beautiful that you ever could have dreamed.