February 7th has come and gone. For some it slipped away unnoticed — an unremarkable blip on the calendar. For others, it brought burdens and hardships. Perhaps the day was wished away and bathed in tears. For me, February 7th holds both the pain of the past and the promise of the future.
This day marks my grandmother’s passing in 2007, a loss that still stings.
Today marks the day I was to hug Kelly and hear her laughter.
Today brought healing for decades-old wounds.
This afternoon, my moms’ group met for our reveal party. My ears were met with laughter as I walked into the room. My eyes met a table spilling over with gift bags and brightly colored tissue paper. My heart broke as I passed the table empty-handed. I had nothing to offer in Kelly’s absence, yet somewhere on that table was a gift with my name on it.
Over the past several weeks, my gift-giver unwittingly came to my rescue countless times. She offered timely words of encouragement, shared uplifting scripture, blew me away with handmade gifts, left me in tears with her handwritten notes, and brought dinner on our anniversary.
Through her overwhelming generosity, I have become keenly aware of how much I rely on myself. I do not say this boastfully, as it is one of my greatest weaknesses. I do not expect or ask for help from anyone…especially other women. When someone offers help, I don’t know how to accept it without feeling awkward or indebted. Oddly enough, I can trace the root of this issue to about the age of twelve, when my father pastored a small church in a ghost town. When the time came for our family to move on, a handful of once-friendly women seemingly turned on us. As an adult, I can look back and see they were acting out of hurt feelings…but as a child, I only saw bitterness, backstabbing, and betrayal. Women I once admired broke my trust in all women for decades to come. Without realizing it, I learned to hold other women at arm’s-length. To this day, I only have two close female friends who truly know me.
When it was time for Lauren, my secret gift-giver, to reveal herself, I became overwhelmed with gratitude. I was humbled that she took so much time and effort to reach out to me. Her acts of love broke through my defenses. With each word of encouragement, I let down my guard a little more. One particular note will stay with me forever. In part, it reads…
There is always a 41. Throughout the Bible, 40 is usually the number used for a trying time, a dark time. The rain fell for 40 days and nights. Forty years of wandering. Jesus fasted for 40 days. For every 40, the 41 was a literal bright sky, a promise, and food. There’s always a 41. There’s always a reward or brighter day at the end of a troubling time. When you’re feeling defeated, remember that your 41 is coming soon!
God used Lauren as a literal laurel branch of hope in my life…a messenger of peace and victory…which is exactly what her name means. I see no coincidence in that.
I choked back tears when it was time to reveal myself to Kelly. I watched happy embraces, surprised faces, and listened to squeals of delight. I thought of her children. I thought of her unfinished business here on this earth. Then I looked across a little sea of caring, compassionate women. I looked at Lauren’s gift to me. While sadness remains, I cling to a hope that is bigger than myself. I lean my head against Abba’s chest, listen to his heartbeat, and thank him for the gift of renewed trust.