Looking Back, Living On, Emerging Strong

But as for me, I will sing about your power.
Each morning I will sing with joy about your unfailing love.
For you have been my refuge,
a place of safety when I am in distress.

~ Psalm 59:16

One would think I couldn’t wait to close, make that slam, the door on 2016. A year that brought emotional upheaval, sickness, strife, and death to my life. And yet, while 2016 has had its fine share of wretchedness, it has also been one of great personal growth and new direction. And so, before I bid this life changing year of 2016  goodbye and welcome the promise of 2017 with wide open arms, some reflection is due.

I used to look to the mountains for my escape. They were a place I could go to get away from the chaos of life, challenge myself and come out on top (literally and figuratively), talk to God, and find peace. But the mountains did not avail themselves to me as much this year, partially due to the weather, partially due to my health, but mostly because this year God determined the chaos of life needed to be lived not escaped from, my challenges would come from within not a wanderlust adventure, and I would find my peace in Him at all times – not just when the mountains called me.

13147272_1204040166287246_6929792025810359721_oSuffering from a broken heart and  questioning my future I started the year out very much alone, navigating a route on this journey that we all travel through at some point in our lives – the end of life for one of our parents. Witnessing from afar and feeling quite helpless and guilty as the absent daughter, I watched as my mother progressively began to let go of life as my Dad and brother did what they could to keep her with us. What began as a shift in living arrangements from repeated hospitalizations to moving her to an assisted living center ended with skillful avoidance of her questions about when she was going home. Her clear minded quest to go home twisted my heart as I frantically tried to make connections with her that I knew she could no longer comprehend. My visits home were far too few and too late to bridge the gap and make amends in our fractured relationship however one-sided my attempt was. I fought against the dawning realization that my was mother heading to another home, a much better place for her life weary soul.  Through it all I held on to the belief that God was in this and with us.

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I had marked the last day of winter with a jubilant snowshoe hike to the top of Mt. Brown and on that blue bird day I said farewell to a serious winter of discontent  – ready to claim Spring into heart again.  And then the call came – the call my brother surely agonized over as he dialed – and one I was completely unprepared for.

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After her last happy and bright morning,  my mother had passed sweetly on her way to rest in my Lord and Savior’s arms on the first day of Spring.

The week surrounding her death changed my relationship with God forever. I no longer had my mother to stand by me and as odd as it may sound, at 45 years of age I no longer felt like a child nor could I be.  Rather, I felt determined to be the woman she never imagined I could be with a strength that I knew she had quietly and not so quietly instilled in me throughout our tumultuous yet loving mother-daughter relationship.

As the days after my mother’s death grew greater, the numbness I survived my days with and the fog that inhabited my mind began to fade.  I was left to remember her. To miss her.  To think of happier days  when just knowing she was there wondering what I was up to was enough. It just didn’t seem real that she was gone and yet her absence was all too real in my heart and mind.  I had so many things left to tell her. Now I could and I did. And a sense of peace that truly did surpass all understanding came over me.

Through it all my Lord walked with me, healing me and strengthening me  – preparing me for the coming days that came all too soon.

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Before the sorrow of losing my mother subsided, a new challenge emerged. Cancer came knocking on our door and made itself at home in my Dad. There was no more time for sorrow in our lives. My Dad, my brother and myself had a new battle to face.  Despite having many friends and family members who have faced down cancer  – some winning the battle and some winning their higher reward, I never pictured the battle being waged in my immediate family. We were ill-prepared and already battle weary. How do you fight the unknown? By July we were fully engaged in the  exhaustive, painful,  frustrating, emotional, scary, angry, helpless, hopeful battle. Throw in a car accident and we truly questioned just how much more we could bear.

And through it all, my Lord was there, walking with us, carrying us, and working through His angels here on earth – and there were many- ensuring that this battle would be fought with faith and with His great providence we would win.

And He spoke to me many times. Awakening me and humbling me.

To win battles, one has to be strong, unwavering, and humble -we have to know our weaknesses in order to overcome them. It was my time to be tested. God knew just the thing too… the mountains that once gave me so much exuberance and fed my conquering spirit would put me in my place and lead me towards a new respect –  that for myself and my own well-being.

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The mountains are really not the place to discover your weaknesses – at least not your physical ones. While the events of the year had been quietly (or perhaps not so quietly but I chose to be stubborn and ignore the signs) taking a toll on me.

What began on a perfect, bluebird sky morning and a much anticipated, dreamed about, read about, planned for, trained for, prayed about, stayed up late waiting to get on the much prized waiting list for –  journey across the infamous  23 mile  Floral Park Traverse would end weeks later with much less jubilation.  I had had more than visions of sugar plums dancing in my head during my last three years of living in paradise. From the first time I heard about it, the Floral Park Traverse  captivated me to the point of nearly reaching an obsessive quality in my mountainous pursuits. Tales of deaths, grizzlies, cliffs, glaciers, even just the name – inspired my wanderlust to go wild with want. And finally this was the day, on my 3rd Anniversary of being a Whitefishian no less, that my wanton wanderlust was to be fulfilled! Instead, as I wrote in my epic trail tale, for the first time in my epic climbing life- I crashed and burned and never really recovered.

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But being a stubborn Morck (thanks Dad!) I chose to keep on pushing through –  pushing through stomach distress, exhaustion, inability to breath, and bouts of collapsing with my same determination that I faced everything else – this too shall pass and you will rise above it. Only I couldn’t.

When  fear started to overwhelm everything else in my life, on the morning of September 29th, I headed to the clinic for a check-up and ended the day being thought of as a bit of a walking miracle as I sat for five hours in the transfusion chair receiving three units of blood –  seeing as how I had basically lost all mine and quite frankly as the doctor told me  – should have been dead.

For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.

~ Ephesians 2:8-10

Humble yourself in the sight of the Lord.

My own brush with death made me realize that my physical body –  God’s temple on earth-  needs attention too and for the first time in too long, I began to take serious responsibility for my own health. I had focused solely on others for too long. And so now I end 2016 in a process of rebuilding my life in more ways than I thought possible. I am making good progress! Which is a good thing because this year, through all the turmoil and wretchedness, I embarked on a new direction in life that had been far too long in the planning stages.

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In the midst of the battles being waged in July, God whispered to me –  it was time. He placed before me this meditation – and it changed me.

“In times when everything is changing, when everything seems to be in transition, when nothing seems certain, God plants people in our lives with voices of hope.
These are those who in our times of suffering point us toward the day when suffering will end.
They reassure us in times of doubt that we can have faith.
They remind us of our baptismal callings and of the God who makes a way out of no way.
They remind us of God’s purpose and God’s love for us.
They believe in miracles, not least of which is the miracle of God calling us to fulfill God’s purposes.
And when we cannot, they remind us that God claims us as beloved anyway, just because.”

This was who I wanted to be. THIS was WHO I am called to be!

We need to feel that our lives reflect who we are, that our story is true to who we are.  And at every stage of life, you have choice; you can choose to rebuild your life to become WHO you are or you can keep on feeling restless doing what you do.

And so in October, I began my own journey of becoming WHO I AM –  to be a voice of hope in peoples lives. I finally have a sense of peace in regards to the direction my life is taking. This amazing journey of life I have been on (and will continue to travel) brought me to a point of discernment, discovery, and trust in His purpose for me. How it will all turn out is no clearer today than it was when I first began, but now I see my life through a different lens. I no longer see my life on a wayward trajectory with no purpose. On the contrary, all those potholes, U-turn’s, downhill sprints and uphill trudges were merely a training ground. I do know I am so blessed. Blessed to be alive, blessed to have lived the life I have so far,  blessed to feel centered and focused in a positive direction, and blessed to be finally following a path I have pondered instead of wandered for far too long!!!

2016 changed me. I am stronger now, in WHO I am. I am more humble. I am more aware. I am more alive!  I don’t need to run from life or the circumstances I encounter any longer. When I turn to my Lord instead of running away, I have the strength to find the good in the moment – even when it seems this moment is all I can see. When I call on Him to shine His light in my life, I can be a light in the lives of others. When I am weak, when I have lost heart, He picks me up and restores my spirit.

I don’t need to prove myself on a mountain or be anyone other than the me God created. In fact, as I gaze out at the mountains from my valley home now, the anxious desire I once felt to constantly climb and conquer every trail and peak I could sanely ponder has quelled to a more restful yearning filled with appreciation of the beauty, opportunity, and peace that awaits me.

Let your light so shine ever so brightly in 2017!

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This is what the Lord says— he who made a way through the sea, a path through the mighty waters, “Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland.”~ from Isaiah 43

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