Sunday, October 28, 2018

When the Label Doesn't Fit~

Have you ever felt
mistaken for who you are?

A couple of weeks ago,
I ventured into our local library.
Knowing a dear friend
had donated a copy
of my new book, IF ONLY I COULD,
to our local library,
I was excited to type my name
into the electronic catalog database
and see my book
pop up on the screen.

And, sure enough -
the title of my book came up.
Jotting down the number
assigned to my book,
I headed out to find it.

Only -
the section of books
I soon found myself
in the middle of
had nothing to do with
"Christian living",
"grief counseling"
"life beyond the death of a spouse",
or even
"the Christian walk and God's faithfulness."

To my surprise
(and really, surprise is not a
strong enough word here!)
I found myself surrounded
by literature -
poetry to be exact.

And upon closer inspection,
as I narrowed in on the search even more,
I discovered my book
sharing shelf space with
none of than
William Shakespeare!

I almost laughed out loud.

"Oh, sure. Of course,"
I thought to myself.
"This makes perfect sense -
Sanchez, Shakespeare.
Nope. I don't think so."

I spent the next twenty minutes
trying to explain to the reference librarian
why my book
absolutely. did. not.
belong in the literature section
sharing a shelf with "Romeo and Juliet".

"This is poetry.
Plain and simple.
Just look at any page of this book."

"Well, yes, I suppose
at a quick glance
it looks like poetry,
but really,
it's all about the journey of grief.
I don't see how anyone
looking for a book on grief
is going to find my book
if it's not listed in the appropriate section."

But, alas
(not to sound like Shakespeare)
no matter how hard
I tried to explain to her
my book would be better suited
somewhere else,
I was met with the same answer.

"This is poetry."

As I walked out of the library
and made my way to my car,
I shared my frustration with God.

And, as He is always faithful to do,
He spoke a powerful truth to my heart:
It's not the number on the spine of the book,
or the classification of the book,
or even the book itself that matters.
It's the message inside the book that counts.

Judgment calls.

Like my book
getting a quick one time glance
and labeled "poetry",
you and I are often
"labeled" in much the same way.

And I was reminded again,
how man is so quick to look on the outside
without so much as taking the time
to open the cover of
a human heart,
a human hurt,
a human being,
to discover what is truly inside.

(Forgive me, Lord.)

For the Lord does not see
 as man sees;
for man looks at the outward appearance,
but the Lord looks at the heart.
~1 Samuel 16:7

After conviction and confession,
what God spoke next to my heart,
and what I felt His Spirit
wanted to make sure
my spirit didn't miss
was this beautiful truth:

"It's why, sweet girl,
it's so important for you to know
who you truly are -
not who the world
tries to tell you you are.
It's why you need to know
who you are
in Me
and through Me
and because of Me."

More than poetry,
between the front and back cover of my book
is a powerful testimony
to the faithfulness of our God
in a season of grief.

More than who the world says you and I are,
beyond our physical characteristics,
beyond our social status,
beyond our bank statement,
beyond our worldly labels,
we are who God says we are.

And who we are,
is messengers of 
His grace,
His power,
His love,
His hope,
His comfort,
His salvation.

But we have this treasure
in earthen vessels,
that the excellence of the power
may be of God
and not of us.
~1 Corinthians 4:7

It's not the label that counts;
it's the message on the inside that matters most.

No matter
what label life tries to place on us,
no matter
where we might get "placed",
no matter if we feel we belong,
or even if we don't,
our label,
our placement,
our classification
doesn't change the message that is
Christ in you,
Christ in me,
the hope of glory. (Colossians 1:27)

Don't worry, sweet girl.
No matter what shelf
your book is on,
I will be faithful 
to place it in front
of the very hearts
you and I wrote 
this book for.

Don't worry, 
sweet heart reading this post,
no matter where
you might find yourself,
I will be faithful 
to use you
to carry my message
to a dying world.
and faithfully,
shine where you are.

Sanchez, Shakespeare?

Maybe so.


Thursday, October 4, 2018

That Which Remains~

"I'm sorry, but I don't think you understand."

And really,
how could she possibly understand?

A letter from my credit card company
alerting me to suspected fraudulent activity on my account
found me on the phone
engaging in a conversation
that soon
had me fighting back tears.

The conversation had started out fine.

"Ok, Mrs. Sanchez,
you will not be responsible
for these unauthorized charges.
We will be sending you out new cards
within the next few days,
but before we do, I'll need to speak
with the primary person on this account
to verify this information."

This is where the conversation
headed in a downhill direction.

"My husband passed away."

"Hold please."

The next thing I knew
I was speaking to an entirely different person
about an entirely different subject.

"Since your husband is now deceased,
and this account was listed
under his social security number,
we will be closing this account immediately."

"No, that's ok.
I'd like to keep this account open.
Since my name is already on our account,
please just update our information
using my name and my social security number
instead of his."

"I'm sorry, but that's not possible.
This account will be closed immediately."

"I'm sorry, but I don't think you understand.
We have had this account for years
and I would like to keep it open."

"I'm sorry, but that is not an option."

"Is there someone else I can talk to about this?
I really don't want to close it."

"No. I'm sorry. You can reapply for your own account.
Would you like to do that?"

And while my head
(understanding the whys behind
why this was happening)
was trying its best
to stay in this conversation,
my heart was completely lost
in a conversation all of its own:
"We can't close this account.
Not THIS account.
Not THIS card.
Why isn't she listening?
Why won't she cooperate?"

"Ma'am?  Would you like to do that?
Would you like to reapply for your own account?"

Fighting back tears,
all I could say was
"No, thank you.
Without him,  - - -
it  - - - it - - -
wouldn't be right."

Sensing I was coming unraveled,
the woman on the other end of the line
thanked me for my call
and ended our conversation.

As I hung up the phone,
another conversation
from so many years ago,
began to play in my heart
like it was yesterday.

"Hi, Beautiful! Glad you're home, Baby."

Arriving home from work,
the look on my husband-of-barely-three-week's face
gave away the surprise
that he had a special surprise
to share with me.

"Here you go, Beautiful."

Standing proud and tall,
and sporting a huge smile
and a sparkle in his eyes -
my husband handed me
a credit card.

"Look, Baby.
It's got your name on it.
Your married name.
Stacy Sanchez.
As soon as we were married,
I called my credit card company
and told them to add you to my account.
(he was very proud of this next point)
I told them I wanted your card
to have your name on it.
That way you'll never have any trouble
if you need to use it.
Put it in your wallet, Beautiful,
and always keep it with you.
If you ever have an emergency,
you'll have this to use."

Oh, the look on his face.
Oh, the pride of officially being my husband
and longing to watch out for
and take care of his new bride.
Oh, the beauty of that moment.

unless she would have been me
standing in our living room
that day so long ago,
there is no way she could possibly understand.

What I was feeling
had absolutely nothing to do
with a piece of plastic or
an account with a credit company.

Here, once again,
was simply another
of my husband's death,
of the hard to accept he's-no-longer-here truth,
of all the changes his passing
continues to bring to my life.

Having my husband in my life
was like opening my wallet
and seeing this credit card.

I knew they were there.
I knew I could count on them.
I knew that I knew
I had what I needed.

No longer having this account,
no longer having this card,
pierced my heart -
yet one more time -
with the truth that
I no longer had him, either.

And as it usually does,
this truth
completely broke me.

When I finally quit crying enough
to be able to speak,
I fell to my knees
and began to  . . .
thank my Heavenly Father.

And this is when the downhill spiral
took an upward turn.

Early on in my journey of grief,
this wouldn't have been my natural response.
I would have fallen to my knees
because (thank God) my grief always took me there,
but I would have questioned,
I would have wrestled,
I would have fought to understand.

And I think all of those reactions are
more than fine, more than welcome,
more than understood by our God.

And, eventually -
God's Spirit at work in me
and at work for me,
would always lead me to a place of

two years and eight months
into this journey,
thanksgiving comes easier.

I am learning to bypass the
how comes,
why nots,
if onlys,
and just settle in on the
thank yous.

Because what I've learned about grief
is this:
It's the not having
what you once had
that breaks your heart.
It's the once having,
but no longer having
that hurts so much.

But -
it's the fact that you once did,
it's the fact that you once had,
that is worthy -
so very worthy -
of our thanksgiving.

And it is in this place of thanksgiving
that I am always reminded again of
my Father's heart,
my Father's love,
my Father's goodness,
my Father's care,
my Father - period.

And more than a
piece of plastic
with some numbers
and my name on it,
tucked into my wallet
could "protect me"
or "take care of me",
my Father can
and my Father does.

And more than
the love of my life,
my husband -
a mere human being
could "protect me"
or "take care of me",
my Father can
and my Father does.

And more than
the reminder
that neither of these
are no longer in my life,
I was reminded once again -
in the most
undeniable way -
that my Father God
has been,
is still,
and will always be
with me.

I know He is here.
I know I can count on Him.
I know that I know
I have all and so much more
than I'll ever need.

The reminder of the loss hurts -
oh, how it hurts.

the reminder of my God who still remains -
and heals -
oh, how He heals.

And, I'm starting to understand -
it ways I couldn't possible before -
this is a beautiful part of the journey.