My Life's Stories
Inspired by the testimonies of others and the invitation given to me a few weeks ago to share my own, I have created this space on my blog to share My Story. Here is the introduction and an invitation to read along as I share My Life's Stories to give a Testimony of God's Goodness. Along the way, I hope you will also be inspired and equipped to start recording your story.
In the introduction of Story No. 6, I shared that the greatest lessons I have learned about myself and my approach to God in hard-times came upon leaving a place and a people I had come to love more than I realized until I had gone. And even though I wouldn’t want to unlearn what I have learned from the last seven years of acclimating to life and ministry in America, I believe it is important for me to admit to you and myself that it has been one of the hardest set of years I have journeyed in my life so far.
For a long time, I believed I should downplay the hurt and disappointments brought on by moving from a life overseas back to one lived at “home.”
Because compared to the hurt and disappointments I have seen others walk through, mine seemed so intangible or maybe even made-up in my head. I have watched others tragically lose loved ones, experience the loss of babies, or live with constant strife in the relationships most important to them. I have watched as cancer, cystic fibrosis, and depression have robbed people I love of healthy living. And so I wondered how my hurt and disappointments could ever measure up to the devastation of such things. I assumed that my heart’s hurts weren’t worthy of acknowledging out loud or rightly grieving.
My loss just wasn’t that big of a deal. My loss didn’t happen to me. We chose to move. We chose to follow a plan we thought would be best for us and our children. My loss didn’t fit the categories of tragic or terminal and thus I truly felt like it should be dismissed and disregarded with the hopes that time would simply heal it all.
Loss. This is a word that I have had to come to grips with in a way that no one ever told me about in my younger years. For most of my life, this four-letter word seemed only tied to death. And loss by way of death was the only thing I had been taught grieve. The loss of a loved one brought with it permission to grieve, to weep, to mourn, and to let pain be seen by others. Yet, even this kind of loss, I did not know well because I had lost so few people in my life.
In addition, growing up in the midwest on a farm, emotions just weren’t of that high of a value. They were not often revealed or discussed. The term “emotional health” hadn’t hit the science labs or parenting books. Life was life. You took it as it came and prayed that if it was difficult it would be better soon.
No one pretended life was easy. It just didn’t do any good to grieve about what went wrong because most likely you couldn't change the circumstances anyway. I am no researcher of culture, but if I were I would hypothesize that my view of loss and grief in life were largely a result of the time period and location I was raised. And to be quite honest, I think this mentality was necessary to survive the life of a farmer. Every year a farmer experiences the ups and downs of crop prices, the unpredictably of weather conditions and markets thriving or failing. All of which are beyond their control.
So, because I grew up on a farm it is not surprising then that my approach to life was quite matter-of-fact. Until I experienced grief so deep and so unexpected that I couldn’t pull myself together with any of the tools I had used in the past. I guess one would summarize, that I didn’t know how to cope. But I also didn’t know how to name this shard that kept puncturing the hope, faith, and trust I had in the plans God had for my life.
And then I stumbled upon a little known book, Re-Entry: Making The Transition From Missions To Life At Home. And a new concept was formed in my mind. “Loss of place.” This was a real thing that real people experience. People out there in the world who had lived a little bit of life in a little bit of the same way I had, had also experienced this unnamed kind of loss. And they had come up with a name for it! “Loss of place.” The revelation of the identification of “loss of place” set me on a path to understanding myself, the journey I was on, and above all, helped me begin to let myself grieve, process, lean into the pain and believe it was okay to do so.
On this journey of understanding loss as it pertains to my story, I have grown. And I have learned that no matter the size or name of the hurt or disappointment, God sees it all as brokenness in need of healing. He doesn’t measure out his compassion, reserving it only for those who, by human observation, have the greatest hurts. Rather, his compassion and nearness are authentic and available in the dose necessary for the hurting one to find comfort in him--no matter what that hurt is or what caused it.
Yet I didn’t experience his comfort, compassion or nearness for in the early part of my struggle. I couldn’t see that even though what I had lost didn’t fit the categories that I thought deserved permission to grieve, I was reeling in grief without knowing what to call it. And because this loss was unnamed, undefined, and thus, unexamined, I didn’t know how to process it. Which also meant I didn’t know to ask God to help me grieve, to be near my broken heart. At that time, I don’t even think I knew my heart was broken because I had never realized one’s heart could break from choosing to move home.
What I have learned, and am continuing to learn to put into practice, is that transitions are hard. Our hearts are attached deeply to people and places that have provided for us fond memories, milestone moments, and experiences that grow us spiritually, physically or professionally. When we leave places, we don’t just get to start where we left off at a new address because much of who we were at our previous location gets left there. We also take much of who we are with us, but when we leave behind a place and a people who have impacted us deeply, our identity is intertwined with the days lived in that place. So, when we move forward, truly, pieces of who we see ourselves to be are left on the soil of that place.
The recognition of this can lead to a fear of becoming settled in a new place. What if the same thing happens again?
What if I become deeply rooted in my place and with my people and I have to do this all over again?
To choose to settle into the work of building relationships and investing in a new place is weighed heavily by a heart that has been broken by “loss of place” because it is to choose to jump in fully aware that when it comes time to move on, it will hurt. Beginning the work of investing in a new place is also hard because it requires setting comparing the past and the present behind. It is hard to accept God’s plans for making new things out of one’s life without wishing they looked more like the old ways of him using you.
Alfred Lord Tennyson once penned this now very famous quote, ‘Tis better to have loved and lost than to have never loved at all.” I have learned this is true of not just people but places. To arrive at believing such a claim requires one to put her full trust in the Truth that God knows best. To be able to claim, even in the midst of loss, that His sovereignty is ruled by an unshakeable love that is rooted in goodness and grace, likely won’t happen naturally. Sorrow and sadness don’t often find close company with Truth and reason.
Yet, God uses seasons of loss to walk us slowly but surely to a greater understanding of his capacity to make us new, and our capacity to be made new. In His strength and through abiding in His word, we can see that the new he makes is built on the old he also made, and trust that as long as we are living and breathing, his love for us compels him to continue to set us on new journeys from time to time so that he can continue creating new things out of us.
All because of grace.
Photo credit: Abby & Brandon
Event: Go & See Retreat Spring 2019
Location: Lake Darling Resort, Alexandria, MN
Caption: Jaclyn doing one of the many things she loves: inspiring, instructing, and encouraging women to live out of who God made them to be, no matter their season, location or vocation.
Jaclyn is a wife, mom, educator, visionary, and avid runner who uses her writing to pick up and examine life, culture, faith and running, probing to discover the awe of God who is sovereign over it all. Join her on her journey at jaclynloween.com. She is a firm believer in the powerful, effectiveness of the body of Christ united together to live out theGreat Commission. Because we are stronger, healthier and lovelier when living on mission together, she desires to help others know their unique design and purpose for such a time as this.