Co-Pilot.

One of the most vivid memories I have as a child is when I would get to sit in the front seat of the car with my dad while we went on a road trip. I don’t remember the first time he called me this or if it was actually only once. If it was only once, it was more than enough because this is one memory my brain has involuntarily hung onto my entire life.

Processed with VSCOcam with t1 preset Processed with VSCOcam with c1 presetCo-pilot.

There was something in the way he said it. I felt special, equal, useful and more than anything, I felt like we were in something together that not everyone was invited into. It was our thing. It was our name; a code of sorts that you could say while looking at the other one with a wink and a smile and for that moment it was just the two of you in on some secret mission against the rest of the world.

He was choosing me to be this special Co-Pilot, whatever that was, and it was awesome.

Armed with a pillow to sit on (this was back before car-seat rules existed apparently) and a Garth Brooks or Amy Grant cassette tape to put in the dashboard, my Co-Pilot checklist was checked and I was ready.

Dad in the driver’s seat, me in the front passenger seat, I felt like I was the most special and equal partner to one of my favorite people on the planet. I felt like I could do anything. We’d drive down the long stretches of highway on the way to see family in southern Oregon and as dad drove I was perfectly content sitting and riding along as Co-Pilot. After all, that’s what Co-Pilot’s did. They sang along to I’ve Got Friends in Low Places and dad would try to avoid the question of what whiskey was (I think he actually convinced me the word was whiskers for many years) and there was not a care in the world.

roadtrip 1As I think back on that memory with a smile, and I often do, I’m struck with how much that simple title meant to me without any understanding of what it was. I remember later in my childhood learning what it actually meant and I was baffled that it wasn’t something that was only known to my dad and I. I remember feeling as if a little bit of the magic had been lost when learning that this was a term used for thousands of people and not just for me.

But upon further investigation into my heart surrounding this topic I am coming to learn that it wasn’t actually about the name at all. It was about the one who gave it to me. My dad could have called me a sewer rat (affectionately of course) and I wouldn’t have cared because it was coming from him.

We see this play out in the lives of many children, both on the good and the bad end of the spectrum, and throughout the course of our lives we still hold great loyalty to the ones who said these things to us whether they impacted our lives negatively or positively.

As I’ve gotten older, I’ve started to learn who to listen to. I’ve started to be able to untangle the titles put on me and, even if they were put onto me by people I loved and respected, I’ve started to learn how to cast off the ones that God never intended for me to have.

dad embraceI think we all need to come to a place like this at some point if we’re going to truly step into all that God has created for us.

I don’t need to hold onto the titles of being too much or dramatic or emotional or immature or the myriad of other things that come up in my mind right now as I think of some of the more hurtful titles that have been given to me involuntarily. No. They may have been given to me involuntarily, but now it is my turn to give those back; to ask God to help me strip myself of those that He never intended me to bare, and to have Him replace those with the ones that He has deemed worthy of His daughter.

Now it is up to me. It’s my turn to choose now who I listen to. Will I listen to God or the enemy? Will I live as the woman who only filters my identity through Christ? Or will I continue listening to this world? At some point we’ve got to choose. And once we choose? Well then it’s time to fully commit.

What about you? What titles have been given to you that it is now time to strip off. Which ones remain after seeing yourself through God’s eyes? Which ones truly embrace who you are and free you to go after this life without anything holding you down? Have you asked God recently who He says you are? It doesn’t have to be a common answer. I believe He’ll give you a memory or a word that means something to just you and Him and that is the title to fully embrace right now.

It’s time.roadtrip 3
It’s time to take your pillow and your favorite cassette tape and sit back and be that Co-Pilot like there would never be another Co-Pilot again. It’s time to sing at the top of your lungs unapologetically and trust the one who gave you that name; trust that this was the name you were created for and that together, in your full God-given identity, you can truly do anything.

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Three.

The next morning stands out to me the most from that time.

There was a sweet moment where I was able to convince myself that it had all been a dream.

And yet, even as I laid there convincing myself of this false truth, I wouldn’t allow myself to open my eyes yet.

All of the self-convincing in the world was going to run right into my new reality the second I opened my eyes and broke eye-contact with the dream.

writing to heavenBut open my eyes I did. And as I walked downstairs from my bedroom that morning to a house full of people except for the one person I longed to be there more than anyone, I knew that my life had changed forever.

I will never forget the day prior, coming home from school to my dad still in bed (it was the first day that this had happened no matter how sick he had gotten). The house slowly filling up with people throughout the afternoon. The whispers and concerned looks that they tried to wash away as soon as one of us kids would see them.

And then the night that my dad slipped away into a world that we can only dream of this side of heaven. The tears, the disbelief.

I don’t think anyone is ever prepared for a moment such as this one, a moment that is so beyond our ability to understand that our minds and bodies sort of shut down and so we push all of the responsibility of coping onto our understanding of Jesus and our soul’s have to carry the burden.

But Jesus and souls and all of that spiritual stuff is so real and yet so confusing. There’s no way to fully understand it which is why people who go through trauma are never the same.

I know I will never be the same since losing my dad to Cancer at the age of eight. I keep thinking that at some point it will stop feeling so empty when I think about him, and yet my life was altered at that time in a very significant way.

Forever more there will be a before, and an after. A life with my dad and one without.

But the beautiful thing, the thing that keeps me holding on to hope, is that this is not a two-act show.

3It’s a three-act one…

Yes, there has been a before and an after. Most of us can probably point to a time in our lives where things sort of stopped, altered, shifted, something happened that we could never go back from.

…but there is an act that is yet to come, and that is the hope I hold onto.

Maybe it’s because I dealt with death as a very real thing that I have always been fascinated with the concept of it. I don’t mind talking about it at all. I’m sort of morbid in the fact that I always think about who will be next. I am not afraid of it.

Oh, and I love cemeteries.

Like, I love them.

I am drawn to them, spend time in them, I write and read and rest in them.

I think they’re absolutely beautiful.

My dad doesn’t have a gravestone and I’m perfectly fine with that. Because he is not there. As much as the symbolism might have been nice, he wouldn’t be there. He is in the place where Cancer is no longer a defeater and where death and depression and abuse and disease no longer have any rule or reign over the children of God.

And today, on Good Friday, I can’t help but ponder how hopeless the disciples must have felt. If I were them I would be questioning everything.

Did we have it wrong?

I thought He was our hope?

How could He have fooled us like this?

What’s going to happen now?

Why would He just leave us?

How much time have I wasted following Him?

Will this pain ever stop?

 How can we go on?

Many of these questions I have asked myself over the years dealing with the never-ending, just always-changing pain and void that I have to process constantly with the death of my daddy.
And yet.

 

And yet.

 

Act three.

Jesus died on this Friday over two thousand years ago.And. Yet.

In the hopelessneaslanss of the situation, there was a hope that would change hope forever.

There was a death that would change death forever.

Jesus was in the process of changing the way we would live and the way we would die…forever.

By the power of the Holy Spirit, the same Spirit that is in each one of us if we choose to receive Him, Jesus rose from the grave.

Wounds and all.

He rose. He defeated death. The one thing that we truly have absolutely no control over, the thing that seems to be the end of all endings, is only the beginning in Christ.

“Oh death where is your victory? Oh death where is your sting?” (1 Cor 15:55 NIV)

I found the most beautiful cemetery the other day. And while I stood there It started snowing when just hours earlier it had been warm and sunny.

IMG_3841And all I could think about was how this world was so beyond our control. Death and life and wrong and right feel so subjective that we have no other option than to hope in something bigger than all of us.

Someone asked me recently why I loved cemeteries.

I could only answer in sentences as broken and chipped as the gravestones. I had no complete thoughts, but do any of us this side of death?

“Everything” I finally said.

“The stories that must be there. The lives lived. The reality of death and the hope and tragedy of it as well.

Everything.

The beauty.

The reminder of our mortality.

The reminder of God.

The question of whether hope remains in these families or not.

The opportunity to pray for them.

 

The finality.

 

And yet…

 

The eternity.