“So she called the name of the Lord who spoke to her, ‘You are a God of seeing,’ for she said, ‘Truly here I have seen him who looks after me.’” Genesis 16:13

God sees me, and I am not alone on my unwanted journey. He is with me. Better said, I must stay close to him every step of the journey. Who else do I have? Sure, I have faithful friends and family, but I have learned they alone cannot carry my burdens. Long unwanted journeys have many twists, turns, and stops along the pathway.

I often feel like Peter did in John 6:

“…Jesus said to the twelve, ‘Do you want to go away as well?’  Simon Peter answered him, ‘Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life…’” John 6:67-68

To whom shall we go? On unwanted journeys you have no choice whether to go or not. The journey is given to you. However, you do have a choice to whom you will go and with whom you will go. As I have traveled my journey, God has walked with me as I have made many stops along the way.

I have learned it to be very important how you embrace the firsts. You have to fiercely focus your attention upon your journey. To whom shall I go? Of course, we go to God. But we also go with others. I needed to be intentional about the firsts I would face. To God. With others. Fiercely intentional.

I visited Trevor for his birthday in March. I celebrated Easter with Paul’s family. I was with my children and grandchildren over Mother’s Day—a trip Kim had planned late the year before she died. Providential. I drove down again to North Carolina to spend Kim’s birthday in June with Paul’s family. I was with Kim’s parents on Father’s Day.

My July anniversary trip to Maine was the most significant of the firsts, and I chose to do that one alone—or better said, alone with God. And God was there, too, on each and every stop. I thought I was going to Maine to remember and celebrate the past. I thought I was on a pilgrimage to honor my marriage. God was wooing me to get away to consider the present and future, as well. God was seeking a meeting for me—a retreat—to see if I would realize that in loss, he is enough for me in my present and future.

I visited Emily for her birthday in October. Then, Trevor and I drove to North Carolina to celebrate my birthday and Paul’s. Paul and his boys, Trevor, and I went to Kennesaw, Georgia to be with Kim’s parents for Thanksgiving. Trevor and I flew for Christmas—always a big holiday in Kim’s house—to spend it in Conroe, Texas with Emily’s family. Trevor insisted on spending New Year’s Day with me.

And then came February 18, 2020—the one-year anniversary of Kim’s death. Michael and Emily flew in, Trevor drove down, and Paul and Brennan drove up to be together and to help me go through some of Kim’s personal belongings. A brutal but unavoidable first.

Facing the firsts turned out to be more about finding that he is enough than grieving the loss. Both, of course. I’m not diminishing the pain, believe me. But in dealing with the firsts, God changed the narrative to remind me that he has plans and new memories for my life.

El Roi—God sees me. Immanuel—God is with me. If you’re facing loss, fiercely mark the firsts by running to God and with others who love you.

“For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope. Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will hear you. You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart.” Jeremiah 29:11-13