Grit

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Our family at Brett’s Grandparent’s property in California over Christmas.

I grew up in a small redneck town in the Rocky Mountains. We had a large piece of land and lots of animals including horses, sheep and chickens. I have three brothers and was raised to hunt, fish, camp, and do all the same things the boys could do. I shot my first elk when I was twelve and could out-shoot the guys with a shotgun any day. I was tough and taught to have value for my ability to overcome and good character.

Now, as with all cultures, there were some negative things found in this. For me, one of them was performance and another was stuffing. I had to put a brave mask on and stuff my emotions through trauma at times to avoid being labeled “weak” or “overly emotional”.

There were also many good things that came from this cultural way of thinking. For one, I knew I was capable of taking on life’s challenges. I knew I was strong and not afraid to show it. I’ve always had a firm handshake and never shied away from looking a stranger in the eyes. My yes means yes and no means no. I am dependable, brave, and able to face challenges that come my way. As was expected and taught in my small-town community, I have grit.

Grit is defined as “firmness of character; an indomitable spirit; courage or resolution in the face of difficulties.” As we have faced the hardships of continual loss and sickness the past two years, I have felt at times that my grit is in question. I haven’t felt as strong as I desire, and I haven’t always handled difficult moments as bravely as I’d like to. I have found myself more weak in the state of pregnancy, loss, and continual disappointments than I want to be and have been processing the importance of grace with Jesus.

Then came this past Christmas. As we traveled fifteen hours to California to visit Brett’s family and bury his sister’s remains, I wanted to be strong. I wanted to keep my love on well while sleep deprived and weary. I wanted to help hold up Brett’s parents and family in their time of need, but often found myself simply trying to hold myself together while holding my screaming newborn. The trip was long, exhausting, overstimulating, sad, and difficult for me and I didn’t handle it the way I hoped to in strength and love. The temptation to shame myself and be disappointed has been very real.

As I have processed the trip with God, He’s lovingly pointed out places I allowed the enemy to run rampant, but also affirmed ways I loved well and supported Brett and His parents. He reminded me that His joy is my strength (Neh 8.10). He’s lovingly reminding me that my emotions are valid and sleep deprivation is real, but also that He did not create me to be a person who shrinks back. In Hebrews 10.39 it is written that “We do not belong to those who shrink back and are destroyed, but to those who have faith and are saved.” (NIV)

So, I have and will continue to validate my emotions and hardships but I will also remind myself of how strong I am because He is in me. I believe there is a fine line between being vulnerable enough to experience your God given emotions and hardships in a raw way, while also recognizing our inner God given strength to take it all on. Grit is an inheritance I received from my family and cultural roots that I love and am taking hold of in a new Godly way. I will not shrink back, I will connect to Him and continue to have courage and resolution in the face of difficulties because He is the God who can do all things and I am not alone. He is Emmanuel, God with me.

Isaiah 41.10

Tonight, while putting my older children to sleep, my eight year old began to sob. She has struggled with fear here and there the past month, but especially since we buried my husband’s sister last week. “I am afraid mommy. I feel like bad guys are going to come into my room and get me and hurt me and I’ll never see you again,” she shared through her tears. My heart was broken. How do I tell her that will never happen when someone we love so dearly was just taken from us? I can’t. The truth is that we do live in a fallen world. Evil does exist and people do horrible things. Last month we endured a horrific loss when Brett’s sister, Andrea, was found dead after missing for three days. We traveled to California over Christmas to bury her remains and say goodbye. This tragedy has been a nightmare and is very real and in our face right now.

But there is another truth at play here as well. Jesus exists. He is alive and He is good. With tears in my eyes, I asked our daughter if I could pray for her. As we commanded all fear to go, Jesus reminded me to lead her to Him. He alone can truly comfort her in this horrible loss. I told Elle to close her eyes and ask Jesus where He was in the room. In her mind’s eye, she saw Him with our three month old, Esther. I told her to ask Him if He could be with her too. She closed her eyes and said the first thing she heard was that He loves her. She continued to ask Jesus if He could stay with her through the night. He showed her He would sleep in her bed, next to her side and that she could snuggle Him the whole night. She felt His peace envelope her and she was returned to joy and able to go to sleep. It was beautiful, and far better than anything I could have done.

How often do we think Jesus can, and will, be with someone else in their need, but forget we can ask Him to take care of us? How often do we doubt He actually will? Elle could see Jesus with her sister. She had faith He was there but had to be reminded she could ask Him to comfort her too. Johnny (our seven year old son) was on the top bunk and as he overheard all of this he, was able to tell us he’d struggled with nightmares since Halloween when their librarian read a scary story of a man that turned into a werewolf. After hearing Elle connect with Jesus, he was inspired to forgive his librarian for sharing the fear-filled story then asked Jesus to come take all fear from him as well.

That’s the thing. When we experience Jesus and His goodness, rarely is it just for us. If we are brave enough to share it, it has a domino effect that inspires others to trust Him and ask to experience Him. What we’ve experienced in the loss of Brett’s sister has been horrible. It has been a worst nightmare come true. But Jesus will walk all of us through this tragedy. He will comfort us, show us His truth, and help us process our grief. And, as only Jesus can do, He will find ways to work good in the midst of it too.

‘Do not fear, for I am with you;
Do not anxiously look about you, for I am your God.
I will strengthen you, surely I will help you,
Surely I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.’

Isaiah 41.10 (NASB)