there is purpose in the pain

Grief. I hate that word. But grief is something we have all experienced or if you haven’t yet, you will someday. Afterall, death is the only guarantee in life.

Grief comes in many forms. From saying goodbye to an old friendship or relationship, to closing a chapter in an old career and pursuing a new one. We grieve many things through out our lives. Webster’s dictionary describes grief as: sorrow, misery, sadness, anguish, pain, suffering, heartache. It’s a heaviness in heart and most of us have felt it in some way.

Pain is pain, and all pain hurts. But the worst kind of pain was the pain and loss I felt when I lost my older brother Benji. He was the young age of 33 when he died.

His story is definitely that story you hear or read about. A story about how a good person is gone way too soon. He lived a great life.  He married his high school sweetheart and was always madly in love with her. He had two beautiful healthy boys. He helped start and build a tech company that was just months away from going public before he died. Not to mention, he was just an amazing guy. They say ‘only the good die young’, and I can say from the bottom of my heart, Benji was one of them.

Cancer got a hold of him. He was not feeling well and after a couple months, was diagnosed with a rare form of lung stem cell cancer found in his stomach. He was gone 7 months later. Did we know he was going to die? No. He did the chemo treatments and we came together like a family and all had the high hope that he would come through healed on the other side.

It was this same week in July of 2013, the week of his birthday, that he was forced to have an emergency surgery to get his colon removed. However, removing his colon would mean he had to quit chemo and therefore there was no cure for his cancer. The doctors told him they were sending him home, and there was nothing else we could do for him. They were sending him home to die.

I’ll never forgot the call I received from him. He called me to tell me the news. All I could do was cry. And the crazy part about it, all he did was listen and tell me that he’s here for me and I could talk to him about anything I was feeling. He was asking me if I was ok, and how I was handling it all. He was the one dying, the one who had to say goodbye to his wife of 13 years and his sons, yet he was so worried about how I was doing? Somehow, he was all our strong rocks when he was the one suffering and physically weak in pain.

How do you prepare to say goodbye to someone you love for the very last time? I was living in California at the time so I came home every weekend to be with him. We all watched him slowly deteriorate in a short 6 weeks. We spent his last birthday with him in the hospital after he had his surgery. We had nights where we would stay up and talk all night about life, and how much we loved each other. We laughed, we cried. At one point,  we even got into an argument where I was the dramatic little sister that felt bullied by my older brother and so I did what any mature woman about to turn 30 does, I deleted him as my friend on Facebook. HA! But that only lasted a few hours.

I cherish those final moments with him. But throughout those final weeks, it wasn’t sitting well with me. I couldn’t make sense of it all. Why would God take him away? Why wouldn’t God heal him right then and there? Afterall, he was God. And Benji was a devout Christian. How cruel of God to do this to our family. Benji was intuitive and a man full of wisdom. He knew I wasn’t ok and I’ll never forgot one of the last conversations we had. I was telling him my hurt and confusion. My confusion around this God that he spoke so highly of. At this time of my life, I knew who God was, I knew Scripture. But I didn’t walk with the Lord or have any personal relationship with Him.

After voicing my confusion, Benji answered me saying “Alisha, it wasn’t God that gave me this cancer. Cancer, as well as sin and many other diseases, entered the world during the fall of Adam and Eve. In fact, God cries with me every night. He tells me He’s so sorry I have to go through this and sorry I have to say goodbye to everyone I love. He’s sitting right here with me through this all and he loves me”. WOW! at the time, I didn’t understand the whole Adam and Eve comment. My brother is dying and he’s talking about an old school story in the Bible? Whatever. But this is what started my journey to studying the Bible and turning my heart to the loving God my brother was talking about. This is where I found hope in in this pain.

Why does God allow pain? Why does God heal some cancer and doesn’t heal others? I don’t have that answer. But I do know there is purpose and promise in the pain. And its ok that we don’t have the reason as to why. God knows the bigger picture. And although losing my brother was one of the hardest things I had to walk through, I do know we have a God that has a plan. and taking my brother early was part of the plan.

Allow me to summarize the main story of the Bible in a few short paragraphs. It helps paint the picture my brother was describing that night. The world was perfection in the beginning. Adam and Eve sinned and brought the evil and death into the world. However, God promises perfection in the end. It starts with perfection in Genesis, and ends with perfection in Revelation. God sent his son, his very OWN son to die on the cross for us to alleviate us from living in a sinful world forever. I’m not sure I could give up my favorite outfit or favorite pair of shoes, let alone a child haha. Oh, how I love my clothes. But God loved us so much, that he gave us His own son to die to save us from living a life in this perishable world. Now that’s love. In fact, the whole Bible is just one whole love story for God fighting for us back, fighting for the perfection that the enemy stole from us in the beginning. John 3:16 says “ For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him will not perish, but have eternal life”.

We are not stuck in this cancer-filled, brokenheart-filled, sadness-filled, sin-filled world forever. We have perfection waiting for us on the other side. WOW. Let that sink in. God promises in Revelation 21:4 that He will “wipe away every tear from your eyes…there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain.”

I miss my brother so much. And today, he would be 39 years old if he was here. But God called my brother home because He has a different job for him, fighting a war. As Ephesians 6:12 tells us “we are not fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies, but against evil rules and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places.” I think about my brother daily. I often think about what he’s doing. I know he’s got a job. He finished his life here on earth to completion and is helping God and His army finish a job in the Heavenly realm too. I know he’s with the same God I pray to every day and I find that pretty cool. The last thing Benji told me is that he’ll be busy and that time flies by and he’ll see me soon.

God still has me here on earth fulfilling a purpose, just like my brother fulfilled his purpose here too. Remember – God sees the bigger picture. He knows how this story ends and is using you as a character with a purpose. I’m not sure what sort of disappointment you are facing today, but just remember to TRUST the Author. To trust our God who sees the bigger picture. Trust the Author because he wrote he story. And He knows the beginning to the end, so we can rest assured, we are in good hands.

To everyone who is reading this, I hope this helps whenever you go through are faced with anything painful. And don’t forget to raise a glass for my brother at some point today. To Benji, Happy Birthday from the other side. Your little sister misses you.

XoXo,

Alisha Headley

the perks of being single

Yes, you read the title correctly. I am writing about the PERKS of being single. All the benefits and joys of living that single life. This picture above was taken the weekend my husband and I officially became boyfriend and girlfriend. It was three years ago on 4th of July weekend. The title boyfriend and girlfriend lasted all of 94 days before he proposed to me and became my fiancé. But It was the last weekend we were both “single”.

Let me start of by saying that I love my husband and I love being married. I am so grateful I found my teammate who always has my back. And as cliché as it sounds, it came when I least expected it. I am grateful that I get to have a sleepover with my best friend every night. I am grateful that I have someone that asks how my day is and that I get to share all my crazy ideas and dreams with. I’m grateful that I get to build a life with someone and not to mention that someone is a good looking fella that I get to look at daily. There are many perks of being married as I just listed a few.

But what about that single life leading up to dating?

When I was single, every book on the shelf about this topic was all one-in-the-same. There were countless books on how to get over an ex, or how to get that perfect guy. One classic book that was passed through the hands of most of my girlfriends was “why men marry bitches” by Sherry Argov. The book talks about how being extra nice doesn’t necessarily mean the guy you are with will be more devoted. The book teaches you how being a “bitch” will  get a guy to propose to you. That was just many of the books that I came across teaching you to be a certain way in order to land a guy. Oddly enough, my husband said one of the things he was looking for in a future wife was a gal that was sweet as he said those are hard to come by. Sweet AKA nice AKA not mean/bitchy like that book describes. Although I read that book along with countless other women, my husband ended up choosing me for the complete opposite. I know all men are different and to each their own, but there are so many books and advice out there on how to either win the next guy in the future or how to overcome a breakup from the past.

But where was all the advice on just being in the present moment of being single? And why does all the advice need to focus on what you had or what you don’t have yet?

For all my single ladies out there, what would life look like if you EMBRACED being single? Rather than feel left out, lonely, or behind all your friends who are engaged and getting married?

Every journey is different. But one thing I did when I was single was I viewed my single years as a once-in- a-lifetime experience. Trust me, a wedding is a once in a lifetime experience too and I loved every detail about my wedding. But if your goal is to be married for the rest of your life, then that means you only have this small window to be single. So why wouldn’t you EMBRACE it to the fullest?

What does that look like? Lets discuss both practically and Biblically speaking.

It’s going to look different for everyone, but for me, one of the many most basic perks was I only had myself to focus on. A relationship or marriage takes a lot of selfless action. Being single, it’s all about one person…me. I could eat whatever I wanted for dinner without asking what the other person wanted. I could go on vacations wherever and spend all the time in the world with my girlfriends and family because I had nowhere else to be. No one else’s feelings and desires to worry about. I could work on any venture and in any career not worrying about how it would affect another person or a family at home. I could spend all my money on clothes, and I did just that. All of it! Ha, oops. I could move to any state I wanted to without caring about anyone else’s feelings, and I did just that. I truly focused on ME, and not what anyone else was doing. And that time was priceless.

Remember, one can still be happy, and a husband is not a prerequisite to that. My husband compliments my life in ways I didn’t know possible, and I wouldn’t trade him, nor our love story for anything in the world. But he (and all husbands) are not the key that makes one happy.

If you are in a season of not loving the single life, I encourage you to rethink the way you are looking at being single. Being single is a season one should embrace as it’s a season you are able to live “without distraction” as stated in 1 Corinthians 7:35. Earlier in the chapter, it highlights that “the unmarried woman cares about things of the Lord and her aim is to be holy in her body and her spirit…but a married woman has to think about her earthly responsibilities caring about the things of the world –  and how she may please her husband.” I still have a beautiful relationship with God, but now I have a family (my hubby and pup) that need my attention and dedication as well. Being single, your sole focus is God and living for Him and Him only.

For most of us, this is the ONE time you can live a life solely for God and yourself without any distractions. Be encouraged that it’s not permanent. Thank God for this season as it’s a gift with no distraction. So make the most of it for as long as you have it.  Ask God what it is He wants to do with you during your season of singleness. Create a list of all the things you want in a husband and then hand it over to God. “Keep your eyes fixed on God” (Hebrews 12:2) until the day you meet your husband. And don’t forget to pray for your future husband as God hears every prayer. 1 John 5:14 says “ Now this is the confidence that we have in Him, that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us”.

In addition, focus on what makes you happy, learn new things, try new passions, spend time doing the things that make you happy and make you ‘you’. There are the times to be selfish with your time and energy. Focus your time on what makes you happy in this present moment because until you can experience happiness by yourself, how can you experience it with another person?

Both being single and married has it perks. Both challenge you. Both strengthen you. Both discipline you. Both grow you. Both teach you. And both change you. Being single and being married do all of that. However, the one perk of being single that sets this time apart, is it’s typically just a short season in the grand scheme of life. So embrace it TODAY. You have a forever fairy tale for the rest of your life ahead of you, but only this moment in your life to be single. EMBRACE it to the fullest.

XoXo,

Alisha Headley