The question was meant to be light-hearted and fun, and I answered it with the first thing that came to mind:
If you could switch lives with anyone in the world, who would you choose?
I’d switch with my 6-year-old daughter Roxie. She doesn’t have a care in the world. She finds joy in the smallest things. You could hand Roxie a gift-wrapped banana, and she’d look up—with a huge grin and sparkling eyes-–to holler, “I love this day!”
This 20-second conversation, barely a blip on the radar of my day, has come to mind again and again over the last few weeks.
Moving our family to Boyd in June meant stepping into a revolving door of change. New house. New job. New school. New question marks.
We left behind an incredible support system. Moving 150 miles away from our family, friends, church, school, and community in Stamford feels like letting go of a security blanket.
So many of the relationships we formed there were built to last, and I know that I can pick up the phone and call. I can get in the car and head West. What I can’t do is bring them all with me. There are doors ahead that I have to walk through on my own.
I underestimated the level of uncertainty that would come with that reality. Maybe it’s because I cried so many tears in Stamford—many painful ones and just as many prompted by pure gratefulness to God for the way He provides through community. It was a season where the highs were really high and the lows were really low.
I don’t think I realized how comforting it can be to walk through life with people who’ve seen you at your best and your worst—people who are there whether the makeup is freshly applied or the mascara is running down your cheeks. People who are willing to celebrate big in the mountain-top moments and then hold on tight when the floor falls out from under your feet.
I believe I’ll find that again. God has never failed me before, and I don’t expect that He will now. Honestly, we are fortunate in that we moved to a place where we have a history. Here in Wise County, we have family. We have friends who are like family, a church we already trust, and a school and community full of friendly faces and promise.
I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t shaking on the inside, though. Grief feels fresh in a different context. Change has a way of making us scramble for something familiar, and I find myself reaching for my old companions:
All three are rooted in fear. I know this to be true, and still, they nip at my heels. How quickly the old patterns—the harmful cycles I thought I’d broken long ago—come knocking. How easy it is for fear to find an open door. One question, one curveball, and my insides gasp in alarm.
Since Olivia died, I’ve kept to the habits that I formed as a little girl in Sunday School. I go to church. I worship. I pray. I read my Bible. How could I not? All I know of Jesus tells me there’s no one and nothing else for me in this world.
And yet, my heart is rarely engaged in the way it used to be. More often than not, I hold God at arm’s length. Fully aware of my fault, I’ve been burdened by guilt I know I’m not meant to carry. At times, I think I’ve forgotten how to trust.
I sense my Father’s patience with me, even as I miss the closeness we used to enjoy. I know He hasn’t gone anywhere, but I can’t remember the way back from the distance I created all on my own.
Recently, I shared all of this with a new friend—someone who understands loss and grief and change. I don’t even remember what she said, only that I walked away feeling like it was OK to give myself a break. That it would be alright to hope for a future where I am stronger because of what I have gone through and what I am going through now.
That conversation was like a trail of breadcrumbs, showing me the way back from self-imposed isolation. It somehow helped me let go enough to get out of my own head.
And when I finally got out of my head, I found I could hear God again—His whisper so tender, more familiar than fear:
Do you want perfection, or do you want joy?
I thought of Roxie and the way she spins and twirls through life. We gave her the middle name “Joy” for a reason.
Fear has had me striving for perfection, claiming perfect is safe—that it protects against uncertainty and all of the ways that life can go wrong. But the path to perfect is never ending, and it’s a joyless journey.
I think of Roxie and how she tells me she loves me ten times a day, unprompted. I realize I don’t want perfection, I want joy. I understand too, that I can’t have both—at least not on this side of Heaven. True joy requires a kind of surrender that the pursuit of perfection just won’t allow.
Although I’ve got a long way to go, I think I am following breadcrumbs in the right direction, because the questions keep coming:
Do you want control, or do you want love?
The giving and receiving of real love—God’s kind of love—requires us to relinquish control.
Do you want security, or do you want a life of faith lived well?
Don’t we all face these questions? Don’t we all have words that fit within those diametrically opposed blanks?
Do you want _____, or do you want ______?
The way we answer determines whether we take another lap around the mountain or continue forward on the path of God’s purpose and peace.
You are so faithful to leave breadcrumbs that lead me to life, peace, joy and all the fruit of Your Spirit. Help me to follow them.
In Jesus’ name, Amen.
“You make known to me the path of life; in Your presence there is fullness of joy; at Your right hand are pleasures forevermore.”–Psalms 16:11 (ESV)