You wouldn’t be under attack if you were not a threat. If they didn’t see your gifts, they wouldn’t have reason to slander you. If they could control you, they wouldn’t have reason to complain that they can’t box you in. When people lie, accuse, when they throw stones, take it as a compliment. It says much more about their lack of character and integrity than it says about you. What they are really telling you is they wish they could stand in your shoes. They wish they could survive what you have and still thrive. This is the business of the Lord making your enemies your footstool. Be built by their attacks, not broken by them. Don’t let your enemies see more in you than you see in yourself. Take the stones that they’ve thrown and build roads to your future with them.
Psalm 118:22 (VOICE)
The stone that the builders rejected has become the very stone that holds together the entire foundation.
We live in a digital world. We store photos in our devices and then forget about them. We say we will go back and review them, those countless moments passed, but we rarely do. I have always loved pictures, taking them, being in them. I love to look back and remember times passed. I have been called the paparazzi at more than one social event. I love capturing sunsets and candid moments. However for the last several years I have felt less of the desire to capture life’s moments because those moments were filled with so much loss. Yet I cannot allow the loss of my past to arrest me from enjoying my present.
Those moments are far too precious, my only child’s first moments, first days, first years. I have captured many of them in spite of pain that filled those days, oftentimes taking them through tears. So for the first time in my son’s young life, I put those pictures on a wall. That’s a big deal! It is a direct and bold declaration to celebrate life and not be buried by it. It is the choosing to dedicate time and energy to something not dire to today’s survival, yet essential to the survival of esteem and well being. Those lasting moments of self reflection and overcoming, those reminders on how far we’ve come while remaining unbroken. After the loss of our home and possessions, after a nasty divorce, after sickness, after homelessness, after the abandonment, lies and character assassination of those I once called family, and even after coming to terms with my son’s Autism diagnosis, life is still worthy of celebration.
So this weekend, a year after I purchased their frames, I created a small monument to what we’ve overcome. Those moments when we laughed and smiled in spite of the circumstances around us. Those moments of growth, of reaching, of becoming new. Caleb will grow up with a monument to his life, to his mother’s life, to his late grandmother’s life. He will have what I did not growing up, an account of his worth hung high. We frame what we want to celebrate, what we want to remember, and sometimes we decorate those moments with fairy lights.
Rocked to my core! The wind knocked completely out of me! I have spent the last several days stuck on a couch in an emotional pendulum swing between shock and grief. And although my faith has always been strong, this, this thing, your not being on the earth anymore, has shaken me to that core, down to my very faith. It’s like I want to ask the Lord, did You get this one wrong? My niece who embraced me from the very moment she met me after marrying into her family. The one who called me Auntie, thus calling me family when my heart ached from the loss of my own family. In those days when the passing of my mother was fresh, and my support was thin, Stacey had no idea how she blessed me with her very presence, with her acceptance, with her embrace. She had no idea how she made me feel loved without even trying, I can only hope that I made her feel the same. And all the countless qualities she possessed that others experienced through her that I don’t even know about, but so many that I saw for myself. Vibrant, beautiful, talented, creative, warm. The beautiful young woman who smiled with her whole face. The special young woman who radiated of positivity, who was a beacon and example for other young people on how to do this “live your dreams” thing. The one who radiated Black Girl Magic in exquisite and rich dark chocolate skin. With all of this, her young marriage, and babies not yet in grade school, her life budding of newness, is it possible that You got this one wrong God? I know You can’t make mistakes but this has got me stuck on this couch, the wondering if maybe for the first time in history, that this was in fact a mistake. Please help me to comprehend.
And then it occurs to me. A word is dropped in my spirit, this word is seldomly taught in churches. That word is… sovereign. It is the understanding that God You have all power, that You have all authority. And regardless of my little human brain to comprehend what has taken place, You are sovereign. Yet with this understanding we still grieve our great loss, the loss of a child, a mother, a wife, a sister, a cousin, a friend, a niece. We grieve the loss of the phenomenal deposit of Your likeness in her.
We also honor the utmost privilege of knowing that she is now in Your full presence… again. For we know to be absent with the body is to be present with the Lord, and that she belonged to You from the beginning of time. She has now only returned to that place which was her home all along. She is gloriously draped in love, and is now ever abounding in You. Thank you Jesus for taking all of her pain away, she will not again know struggle, illness, weakness, nor despair. She was a woman of God on earth, and now she receives her reward in every moment remaining in eternity. She ran her race, and while we desire that she had more time to run it, she did indeed run it well.
So now Holy Spirit, be who You are, be our Comforter. Be our strength. Be the bearer of our grief. For those who knew her for the full course of her life, and cared for her most directly, be their strength. For those who are now redefining their lives with the inconceivable thought of being without her, be their strength. For those who were touched in personal ways by who she was, be our strength. Comfort us oh God, let us feel Your presence near. And let us have a glimpse of and take great console in the assurance of where she is today. It is an honor to have this knowing and this peace. That she is ever abounding in paradise with You. How glorious she is, how magnificent is that place. Let us be honored by the moments we had with her beautiful spirit as we attempt to accept that she has returned home.
Dear Stacey, thank you for embracing me. Thank you for making me feel loved and accepted. I know now as you are in the full presence of God, that you now understand how special you were to me, are to me. As I grieve loosing you now, I’m just now starting to understand that I am also grieving the loss of you after my divorce, I’m grieving the family I had in you. But I truly thank you for the honor and privilege of knowing you and loving you. It’s amazing the work that was completed in you in countless ways. Your parents did a fabulous job in molding you into this ray of sunshine that lit up dark places. The crevasses of my heart will always be filled by you. Thank you for being my family. I love you niece, until we meet again.
Your Auntie Tiff
(Thank you cousin Jeannie Bates and sis Donyia Burnett for allowing me to grieve and celebrate with the family.)