Does This Story Ever End?

No, the journey doesn't end here.-Tolkien

When Life Stops

Bang.

I didn’t hear the gun go off.

But I heard about it.

It happened 20 minutes before I arrived to prepare for Outdoor Church. A few hundred yards away, on the bridge, they said.

When my friend Brenda arrived, she told me the body was still there. It was covered with a sheet. She couldn’t see if it was a man or a woman. Just someone who had run out of hope.

Then Brenda caught me up on her own struggles. Brenda has been knocked down many times in her life. Even now, life events are threatening to bury her.

She said five times in her life she wanted to be like the person on the bridge. She had wanted to give up, too. Yet God hadn’t let her die.

She sounded close to giving up again.

But not yet.

A Plot Change

Our stories don’t go like we expect them to. We envision the plot leading in one direction (usually to a healthy, happy, prosperous place), but life places us in different scenes. Sometimes good ones. Sometimes not so good.

Like the person on the bridge, sometimes stories seem to end too soon. We aren’t finished reading. The ending is confusing.

I sat last week at the funeral for the brother of one of my best friends. Don was 61 years old. Only a year ago, he was in prime shape, a runner, a skier, an active man. But a cancer chapter entered his book. And now, even though he wasn’t ready to leave, he’s gone.

How do we adjust when a book we’re reading suddenly slams shut?

Even when we’re not the main character in a story, someone else’s ending can still devastate us. It can make us anxious. It can cause us to be jumpy, wondering what’s next around the corner for us, too.

What to Do with a Short Story?

How do we deal with a story when a character suddenly disappears?

  1. Put down the pen.

For starters, we can learn to release our expectations. Stop predicting the endings. Try to live more flexibly. Bend without breaking. When we hold our scripts loosely, we’re less likely to be caught off guard when edits are written in.

  1. Embrace the mystery.

Then we can keep reading to see what’s on the next page. We learn to welcome the unknown, instead of hiding from it. Surprises bring hidden gifts with them, if we can lift open hands.

  1. Trust the Master Storyteller.

When we let go of our own version of the story, we’re more receptive to God’s autograph. Let him sign our books, embedding his fingerprints on every page.

  1. Flip the book.

For both Don and for the unknown person on the bridge, the story isn’t over. They both live on. We just can’t see the new pages being written. God picks up the story on the other side.

The Page You’re On

Making peace with the unknown is a lifelong journey. It’s not easy to trust the hard things. And we need to feel the sadness when it comes.

But when we learn to live freely, instead of manipulating the words into what we want them to say, we can fully live the page we’re on. We can stay in the story of the present, not jump ahead.

I still haven’t heard who the mystery person was who died on the bridge last Saturday. I probably won’t. Not every life makes the news. Or has a funeral. Or gets an obituary.

But every life is a story that matters. To somebody here. To somebody already gone. And to God who writes each life into being.

At the end of Outdoor Church that Saturday, I asked Brenda if she wanted prayer. She said she’d rather pray for the person who died than for herself.

So we prayed for God’s grace to welcome this person into the kingdom. For this person to know deep love. For he or she to finally enjoy the peace of complete healing.

Brenda prayed thanks that she had survived five times when she had wanted to die. And I prayed thanks that Brenda is still here.

We each are about to finish the last blank page in our 2017 chapters and open a clean white page entitled 2018. I’ll be leaving behind my theme of “Story” as my One Word for 2017.

But I won’t be leaving behind the stories themselves. The stories continue on. The ones we read. And the ones we no longer see.

Our stories never end. Not even death can stop them.

Don’t be afraid to turn the page. Keep reading. This story isn’t over.

story-2017-lisanotes

* * *

Have you lost anyone unexpectedly this year? What helps you deal with your loss? Please share in the comments.

More Stories from 2017:

sharing with Anita, TerriDeb, LyliSusanCrystal,
Holley, Kristin, Patricia,
ShariJenniferAbby, Char

52 thoughts on “Does This Story Ever End?

  1. Joanne Viola

    Lisa, I so appreciated this post as we had a loss in our family recently. This > “Trust the Master Storyteller.” It truly does come down to this. He is a good God and all He does is for our good and is good. We are only seeing a small part of the story. But one day when He reveals the entire story, we will understand completely. May we trust Him and keep on. You have encouraged me today!

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      I’m sorry for your loss, Joanne. 🙁 It’s never easy when someone we love disappears for awhile, even though we will see them again. Yes, what a blessing it will be one day to see the complete story!

  2. Susan Nowell @ My Place to Yours

    Good thoughts and counsel here, Lisa. Our family has had several tragic deaths like the one on the bridge, each time re-awakening memories and emotions of the previous ones. How I pray there will be no more. The questions, pain, and long-term consequences for loved ones are so hard to watch—and live. Trusting the Master Storyteller is simply the only hope-filled response…

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      The pain is definitely real. 🙁 I’m sorry you’ve known this pain again and again. But it’s an indicator that you dare get close enough to people to walk alongside them. God bless you, Susan.

  3. Andrew Budek-Schmeisser

    Great post, Lisa, and wonderful insights. And Gandalf’s quote is one of my favourites.

    I lived by a paradigm that said, “Life is cheap, death is violent, and save the last bullet for yourself”. It was very useful under certain circumstances – vital, perhaps – but it made me a really dreadful husband when I finally married. It’s hard to make together-plans with someone who’s so fatalistic that dying’s treated with disdain and a joke.

    But now it’s come into it own again. There never was a book or story, there was jut life, and cancer is merely a part of the journey whose meaning and purpose, in a temporal sense, I never really cared to discern.

    And I can still joke about it…I mean, it could be wore. I could be slow, soft and ugly.

    https://blessed-are-the-pure-of-heart.blogspot.com/2017/12/your-dying-spouse-414-caregiving-home.html

  4. bill (cycleguy)

    I’ve enjoyed the stories of 2017 Lisa. You have brought people to life…real people. I tell people we each have a story and it is not finished yet. I pray my conclusion will be one that shows I lived an adventure.

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      Oh, I think we can already say you lived life as an adventure, Bill. 🙂 Lived and loved. (Oh, and I got the Paul David Tripp devotional for this year after all. Good stuff!)

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      Yes, I have to believe that it’s for our good that we can’t see the whole picture at one time; we probably couldn’t take it on either extreme. Thanks, Lesley.

  5. Barbara H.

    An aunt and an uncle passed away this year – the aunt I was named for and was close to as a child. December is hard for my family as both of my parents and my grandmother passed away in December (though in different years). I have one nephew who has made an attempt on his own life a number of times, has seemed to stabilize, but then destabilizes again. A friend’s 25-year old daughter passed away from breast cancer this year. It’s particularly hard when it happens to one so young, but it’s a reminder that none of us is guaranteed 70-80-90 years and to make the best of what time we do have. I read that David Cassidy’s last words were “So much wasted time.” I’m grateful that someday “The last enemy to be destroyed is death,” and that until then, we know each person’s story doesn’t end there.

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      That’s a lot of death this year, Barbara. I’m sorry. We’ve been spared from close family dying this year, but have seen friends and others’ loved ones leave us. It’s never an easy thing. But I agree that it’s particularly hard when someone is so young. It’s ironic that the last words of a famous singer/actor would portray such a longing for a better life than the one lived. (I was a big David Cassidy fan back in the day.) I’m grateful too that death will eventually be destroyed forever. It still pains us down here.

  6. Trudy

    This brings tears to my eyes, Lisa. There was a funeral here yesterday of a 14-year-old boy who unexpectedly ended his life. He was on our grandson’s basketball team. It’s so, so sad. My heart aches for the family. It’s bad enough to lose a child (as you yourself know), but to have him end his life without knowing why and always wondering what one could have done differently must be even more difficult. I love your compassionate heart, Lisa – “But every life is a story that matters. To somebody here. To somebody already gone. And to God who writes each life into being.” Amen! Thank you for these reflections. Love and hugs to you!

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      Oh my—14. 🙁 Still a baby. Sigh. That is very, very sad, Trudy. Praying for your community, your grandson, this family who will be in such pain for a long time to come.

  7. Linda Stoll

    Your story resonates today as a Bible Study friend shared of her nephew’s suicide over the weekend.

    It’s like a knife plunged deep into the heart, the shock, the untold sadness, the despair.

    Thanking God for Brenda, for your ministry to her, for her redemption story tonight, Lisa …

  8. Betsy de Cruz

    Lisa, all I can say here is that I’m so glad you were there to talk to Brenda. She needed you. And I’m so glad you’re writing your stories in this spot, friend. We need you and your voice too. 🙂

    And that video in your November post is priceless. Thank you.

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      It’s hard to know what to think and say in situations when we just don’t understand. So thankful that we don’t always have to have the “right” words. Thanks for your encouragement, Becky.

  9. Melissa Gendreau

    As a therapist I work with many suicidal individuals of all ages. And while all of them have different stories that have lead them to their place of pain, they all have one thing in common. Lack of hope. And while most of the stories end happily, all be them still bumpy, I have had three people commit suicide in my almost ten years as a therapist. The pain of the surviving family members is heartbreaking. And as the therapist I’ve had to reconcile “Was there anything else I could have done?” God has given me peace that it wasn’t my fault and it wasn’t my choice. While each of us have plot twists we never saw coming, only we can write our own character development.

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      What a difficult but important position you are in, Melissa. I thank God for people who like you who are willing to take on the risks and responsibilities that come with helping people in the midst of deep pain and confusion. May He continue to give you peace as you walk alongside people who choose to make different choices than you might suggest. Blessings!

  10. floyd

    Excellent post, Lisa. If we live long enough we all get to come face to face with our mortality. And all of us will make the trip “up” from Thessalonians, which is passing from this flesh and into the spirit realm where our soul lives for eternity.

    May we do share the truth of the power of free will this side of “the circumambient air”.

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      Exactly right, Floyd. Physical death is something that comes for us all; there’s no escaping that fact. And the older we get, the sooner we know it’s coming. It’s not a thing to dread, but to be prepared for. “Making the trip up”—good way to put it. 🙂

  11. Char

    Lisa, thanks for sharing and taking the time to weave an allegory together for us. I appreciate that you didn’t discount the pain and say something about how “death has lost its sting” because it hasn’t. Perhaps when we join those in eternity, it will, but not here and now. Nonetheless, there is a sweet joy for a reunion with those we love and believe are redeemed.

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      Unfortunately, I’ve felt that sting too often to discount it, so I agree with you, Char. 🙁 And yes, I am grateful, too, for the hope we have for a reunion on the other side! That thought does help. I recently sat with a 80-something-year-old mother who lost her son, and she was much comforted to know that her son is now awaiting her in heaven.

  12. Anita Ojeda

    Beautifully said, Lisa! I love that the Master Storyteller gets to tell the story. I haven’t lost anyone in my life–just come very close several times, so I know how difficult it is to put the pen down and raise my empty hands in submission (as if somehow I could write a better story).

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      “As if somehow I could write a better story” – oh, the humility we all need to say that, Anita! It’s so hard to trust the Storyteller when we’re thinking we could do a better job. Thanks for sharing this.

  13. Karen Friday

    Great post, Lisa. Love the analogy of our lives to chapters and books. I’ve written about that before, but your tips are simply awesome! Especially, “put down the pen” and “trust the Master Storyteller.” So grateful when God began weaving us in the womb, He began writing our story. And God continues to write it today. I do try to edit and revise my own manuscript. Yet, I make a poor author in comparison to the author of the most popular published book ever in print (the Bible) 🙂 Blessings!

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      I love the thought of God writing our story as we are in the womb. Our first grandchild is now being woven in my daughter’s womb, and I love thinking of God writing a beautiful plotline for her life. Thanks for sharing these thoughts, Karen.

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      Yes, it was a particularly heavy week last week. But for those more directly affected, I know it will be heavy for a long time to come. 🙁 Praying blessings for comfort.

  14. Jean Wise

    This post leaves me speechless. Beautiful. Moving. Thought provoking. Your words cause me to pause, value life, say thank you, pray for your friends and the unknown bridge person. Yet this post holds so much hope too. Thanks for framing your story in God’s light

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      Thanks, Jean. To add on to the story, another friend told me last that that the person on the bridge had gone to our local hospital just hours before the suicide. He wanted to be committed, but the story is that they didn’t take him seriously and sent him away. I don’t know if that’s true or not. But either way, the ending is definitely tragic for his friends and family. 🙁

  15. Donna Reidland

    Great wisdom, Lisa. God is the Master Storyteller. Life is His story and how He writes us in is up to HIm. Things can be pretty discouraging when we don’t understand and trust Him in all of it. Thanks for reminding us. Happy December!

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      Thanks, Donna. Depending more and more on God for our stories is such an important part of our maturation in Christ, yes? Praying that your story this Christmas season is a fulfilling one!

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