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Bittersweet Breakthroughs

As sweet as breakthroughs can be, the breaking is often bitter.

jars of lemonade

Mountains and valleys, like lemons and lemonade, are used figuratively to denote the highs and lows in life. However, what we call "mountain ranges" are actually long mountain-valley-mountain-valley successions. You can't have lemonade without lemons. Both mountains and valleys are gorgeous, and I know I'm not the only one who enjoys eating a fresh lemon by iteself.

My culture tends to focus on the distinction between bitter and sweet. But I have experienced, especially these past few months, that one thing can be both bitter and sweet. Life is complicated and lived in a bubble (yes, I mean that) where everything is grouped together, not separated in neat pieces perfectly aligned.

One Saturday in June I spoke with my dad about a place I was considering moving to. With joy I shared about the area and showed him pictures. He smiled and was fully engaged in the conversation.

He was doing much better than the year before when he fainted from his chemo, two days later drove my mom to her cancer-removal surgery, and then that same week we learned his cancer had grown and he had a brain tumor (which, turned out, was so low on the list of things that were killing him that the doctors decided to just monitor it rather than treat it). It's hard to move out when both your parents have black eyes (my dad from his fall and my mom from her surgery), so I cancelled my home search.

Fast forward to the spring of this year, and both of my parents were doing better. I resumed my home search. I didn't know at the time that that June conversation with my dad would be one of the last conversations I had with him when he was fully lucid. His health declined rapidly soon after, and he passed away in August.

I got the keys to my new place in September. It was a momentous occasion and a significant accomplishment in rebuilding my life after my divorce. And that day I discovered something broken (well, usable but not working optimally) in my new home. It was the sort of thing I would take to my dad and say, "Dad, I need something that does this..." Only he was no longer around to ask. I cried on the way to pick up my belongings to start the move-in process. Bittersweet.

My dad passed at home, which is where he wanted to die. And he left this world at a signficant time: the only time during the week when my dad was consistently left home alone during the last year of his life. (He had an uncanny ability to know what time it was.) Except on this day, several of his children were with him. My dad left where and when he wanted. I work for a funeral home; I know how rare that is. It was bittersweet.

Switching gears, I'll confess I procrastinated when God told me--repeatedly--to pack my belongings as if I was about to move. I figured there would be time for that once I found a place to move in to. I did not anticipate multiple trips to the hospital followed by planning a funeral. I've had the keys to my new place for almost a month, and I'm still not fully moved in.

It's an emotional rollercoaster with lots of decision fatigue, as I am having to replace many things that were either lost in the divorce or did not survive the move. At the same time I am getting to see my things again (most have sentimental value) and purchase new things I like. Bittersweet.

To complicate matters, crazy things have been happening. My new mattress arrived, and it's the wrong dimensions. Wayfair sent me the wrong items with someone's emptied drink containers (aka someone's trash) in the box. These are just two of the bizarre things that have happened, coupled with less-than-stellar customer service as I've tried to get them to remedy the situations. What gives, God? I think He's giving me a lesson in the receiving end of procrastination.

(This post is already long, so I won't go into details about a 3rd major life event, but know that also during this time the funeral home I work for changed ownership. The process has not gone well. I've been dealing with extra stress related to that on top of everything else.)

I doubted I made the right decision. So many things have gone wrong. And yet, God

pointed out to me what happens during a breakthrough. The image He gave me was of a large stone wall, like the kind used to surround ancient cities. When you break through it, large and small stones go tumbling, pummelling you from all sides. You get hit from every angle, repeatedly, with both small and big things. That certainly describes my life recently.

On the day God gave me that revelation, I opened my planner to October for the first time. Each month has an inspirational saying. October's:

The resistance is always fiercest right before a breakthrough.

Within the next few days, twice I watched someone drive across the intersection in front of me after my light had already turned green (as in, they started to cross the intersection when their light was red). If I hadn't been paying attention, I would have likely been hit. I also watched a vehicle in front of me accelerate over the speed limit while disregarding a stop sign. The driver who arrived at the 4-way stop first shared a "Really??!!" look with me; he would have been T-boned if he'd taken his right-of-way.

The instances made me realize that I've been delayed but not stopped. Inconvenienced but not knocked off course. Reassurance from God that I'm going the right direction despite the obstacles.

Not long after this I dropped a bag clip, and it rolled into the empty alcove where my washer and dryer are supposed to be. (The delivery was originally scheduled for weeks after I wanted, but that was their earliest available time. Then the install was delayed because of sick employees. I still don't have a washer and dryer.) Anyways, the gas line connection looked fine, until my head was even with the hole in the drywall and I discovered a really worn spot right where it came out of the wall. I'm not sure someone installing the gas dryer would have noticed since the rest of the cord was fine and this worn spot was hidden by the wall. And unsafe. So I got that fixed and became more understanding and accepting of the delays.

Though I still think a lot of this is payback for me delaying things I know God wants me to do. Hence why I'm now writing (which God often tells me to do) while dishes are still on the floor waiting to be washed and furniture pieces are laid out in multiple rooms waiting to be assembled.

Life is messy. There are planned priorities and unexpected ones. The song "That's The Thing About Praise" by Benjamin William Hastings has become an anthem to me. The key line:

Sometimes the only way through it is a hallelujah.

Despite chaos, praise. In the midst of hardship, praise.

Breakthroughs don't come easily; there's often a lot of breaking involved. They can bring joy and pain simultaneously. Bitter moments can be sweet, and vice versa. Perspective and mindset play a part. There are some things you can control and others you can't. God expects you to take responsibility for the things He gives you that you can control, and trust Him for the things you can't. Afterall, He created everything that can form a wall; He knows how to break through it.

*Lemonade image by Kaizen Nguyen on Unsplash.

*Stone wall image from Media from Wix.

*Bloom daily planners.


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