The 7th of the month

It was the day of searching, the night of waiting. The final kiss and glimpse and touch. The phone near my hand at every moment. News? Silence. People praying. Texting. Drifting to sleep. Shallow and then back to waiting. 

I can see myself there. I remember. The closing of a book, not just a chapter. The final words written. Can’t add or take away. It just is. 

And I see myself now, living after the dying. Some joy, even some easy days. Fewer tears. More thoughts. In the next volume. Uncertain how this story will be written. 

And then I remember that I know the Author. He is love. He is a good Father. He loves me and has a plan. But this plan hurts now. My heart aches. 

Once again I bring Him my widow’s mite. All I have. My hurting heart. My uncertainty in the future. My memories. My regrets. My thoughts. My plans. I don’t know what to do with them. I trust He does. 

Treasure chest in the deep

Awhile ago as I was journaling I had a very vivid picture come to my mind. I was in the ocean on a calm, sunny day. The water was clear and warm. I felt myself sinking beneath the surface and as I looked up I could see the sun shining on the rippling waves as the distance grew greater. I had no sense of danger or panic. I didn’t go very far before I looked down and sitting on the sandy bottom quite a ways below me was a good old fashioned treasure chest. 

I then had the sense that I did not yet have the tools or equipment to dive to open the lid. I had a sense of foreboding as if there was something dark inside, maybe it was from my past or a new area of growth to see, something I needed to know, but was very unpleasant. I decided to rest in the fact that if God wanted me to open it, He would equip me. 

Some time later, as I wrote down my thoughts as I often do, the picture came back. This time I was nearing the deeper water and the chest was within reach. I had been processing some hard things so I figured this journey would lead me to some insight. I pushed back the lid with the realization that is was not a dark or sad thing, but a chest of treasure!

I still recall the feelings of  relief and joy! I looked in and saw that there were gold and jewels. The stuff of pirate booty legend. As I looked closer I noticed there were some plastic trinkets among the gold and jewels. It was going to be time to sort through and take out the things that suddenly didn’t have value compared to the other precious things they were next to. Here in the depths with actual gold and gems, plastic didn’t hold any appeal.

It was as if the gracious hand of my loving Father was going to guide me through an inventory and I felt somewhat sheepish,  but mostly grateful. 

Fast forward to today, May 27, 2017. I have just posted an article about protection and the refuge that is available to me any time, anywhere. The first feedback I get is 

Girl. This is rich – a treasure chest in a hidden cave, jewels spilling over as you crack open the lid, rich.

And a light bulb goes on. Could my Heavenly Father have even been using this picture in my mind to prepare me for this part of my journey, in the depths, in the valley? I marvel. I am in awe. Such love! How can it be?

Jewels? Gems? Things hidden in the depths that He had to prepare me for and equip me to see? Not dark or scary, though desperately needing His presence and perspective to take it all in. Who knew the necessary scuba equipment was loss, pain. 

So I shake my head at His creativity and care and I look forward to letting go of the trinkets and digging deeper to find the treasures He had prepared and stored here for me for such a time as this. 

Continue entrusting

“When He suffered, He did not threaten, but continued entrusting Himself to Him who judges justly.” 1 Peter 2:23

Continued entrusting. 

The trusting was already present. Walking it out in suffering was just what came next. 

It turns out the word for entrusting is “to deliver to one something to keep, use, take care of, manage”. Placing myself and all I have and am in the Father’s capable hands. 

Seems like another example of my experience that you don’t really get to start new things in this initial season of grief. You only have the muscles that were there. I am grateful for all that God knew I’d need in my tool belt in this season. Some days I don’t feel like I remember I have them much less know how to use them, but I’ll continue with the entrusting of that too. 

Thank you, Jesus, for your example. 

Life in the new normal

Five months ago right now was a Wednesday morning like so many others. Breakfast being made, eaten and cleaned up. Showers taken. Bags packed. We were headed to town. The morning was busy but not frantic. There was not a sense of foreboding or finality. There were tasks and instructions. Quick hugs and a kiss. Mail to be mailed. Planes to catch. 

As I rode in my seat on the way to Anchorage I couldn’t help but think how much like a minivan it felt. So normal. So a part of life. When we moved to Port Alsworth I distinctly remember standing on the edge of the runway waving as the plane carrying Sam to a cross country meet took off. And I knew that at some point that would all seem very routine. I wondered how long it would take for that to happen. 

At some point it did. 

Normal: Putting up salmon each summer
Normal: spending time fishing
Normal: climbing mountains in our back yard
Normal: riding 4-wheelers everywhere

When people come to visit for the first time they sometimes ask me to tell them what special things they might need to know as they prepare to come. I do my best to tell them, with the caveat that I’ve forgotten what is different. The unusual has become routine. The shocking barely noticed. So many things that used to dismay now require no extra energy. 
I wonder if it’s a little bit the same with this new story. At some point some of the shocking things have become routine and I expect at some point those that still cause electric shocks to run through my body will become only twinges. When every part of life seems to take a Herculean effort, I look at where life has taken me so far and I find myself hoping at some there will be less effort for simple things. 

And it doesn’t mean I love less or my memories is failing. It means the God of great grace and kindness loves me and makes a way for me to keep walking in these familiar places that became a foreign land that will again become familiar. 

So today I do remember that morning again. And my heart squeezes at wishing for more hugs, more time, more “I love yous”. In the wishing I am grateful that some of the intensity is less. I realize that I am getting used to my new story. It is another one of God’s great mercies that are new every morning. 

A birthday 

Today is Scott’s birthday. His parents and my dad and my brother are here. Sam’s graduation is in 4 days. 

So many thoughts and emotions today. Another first. If I’m not careful I can find myself stressed about wanting to do this right and missing just being right where I am, right where we are together. 

Traditions feel like a necessary lifeline for Josh and Sam and I as we move forward. What kinds of things are meaningful? What is sustainable when we will mostly likely be apart for so many of the milestone days in the future? 

And I don’t know. 

And it’s ok. 

For today we had tacos and razzleberry pie. The only thing I took a picture of was the pie and that was after I’d started to cut it. I guess I was doing a good job being in the moment instead of behind the camera. 

It seemed like we should go around and share memories of Scott or something we learned or appreciated. But it felt too forced. So I let it go. 

These thoughts don’t end up being about Scott at all, but about us without him, so grateful we knew him; that he loved us and we loved him. Knowing that the pain is hard but I wouldn’t trade it if it meant I’d never done life with him. What a gift to miss him. 

And at the end of the day, here I am. We did it. So I’ll put my head on my pillow and rest with memories and smiles and tears, looking back and looking ahead all running together as they sometimes do. 

Living in Saturday

Yesterday was Easter. I have always been thankful for Easter and sometimes I’m a little perturbed at why Christmas gets so much more fanfare because the message of Easter is amazing. 

These days I find myself thankful for different parts of the story than ever before. I find myself grateful that I have a Savior who understands suffering. It used to bother me that it was such a high price, such a brutally, painful process that bought my freedom from sin. Couldn’t there be another way? But as I stood in church in pain I was comforted in knowing my pain is not foreign to any part of the godhead. The Father needing to turn His back and separate Himself from His beloved Son. The Son suffering shame and pain and being cut off. The Spirit who is grieved and groans with us. God is no stranger to loss. What a great truth to have such compassion moved toward me now. 

And I spent more time thinking about Saturday. That day of waiting. We know it was only one day, but did they? And would that not have been the longest. day. ever. even if they had put the pieces together and remembered what Jesus had said about the third day? 

We’re kind of living in Saturday, waiting for the ultimate Sunday when all things will be made right. When everything will be fulfilled that has been promised. And there are some times this does feel like the longest day ever.

But in the grand scheme of eternity, this one day is just that, one day. One part of this story unfolding of completion and redemption and even more grace coming when Jesus is revealed in all His glory. All of it. And it’s no wonder we will need new bodies for that. These ones would disintegrate. What a glorious day that will be. Yet even knowing Sunday will be beyond amazing doesn’t take away the pain of living here now. 

So today I write to remind myself even as I acknowledge that Saturday is hard. Really hard. 

I can’t even imagine!

Nope. You can’t. I’ll just say it. You can’t imagine what it’s like to be in my shoes. Husband. Daughter. Son. Gone in an instant. 

But I think there are some good imaginations out there and enough pain to go around to give the thoughts some tracks to run on. Each soul knows their own pain, but it is a common language.

What I really don’t think you can imagine is …the grace. The mercy. The provision. The tenderness. The personal, intimate sweetness. 

I constantly “find grace to help in time of need.”

Here, in this place of grief, God is truly my refuge and strength and very present help in time of trouble. (Psalm 46:1). And this upside down kingdom leaves me in awe once again. Somehow the depth of the grief increases the ability to have joy. Shouldn’t the pain negate joy? Shouldn’t there be no more smiling or enjoying or looking forward to? Seems like that makes more sense than the face-splitting grins I sometimes find on my face and the joyful anticipation of the future that catches me off guard. 

And the only reason it’s possible is because I have a safe place to go with the pain. One who sees me, knows me, is aware of what I need and completely capable of providing it. 

“Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” Hebrews 4:16

And I can draw near because I have a Savior who gets it. 

Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession.

For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Hebrews 4:14-15

In the midst of the pain and the things no one can imagine because each heart experiences their pain, see a glimpse with me of how big God is, how unfathomable his power, how deep and wide His mercy and compassion. His resources are endless and He looks on us with tenderness. 

And then there’s the 6th

The seventh of every month. The day the plane crashed. The day they died. That’s a hard one to swallow, of course. 

Today I am struck with the fact that the 6th is hard in a different way. On the 6th I remember that they were still very much alive. The earthquake had yet not hit us. Our world has not been turned upside down and inside out. We were blissfully unaware. And they were so very much alive. 

This one squeezes my heart too, but it is a memory of life. Life before. It was such an ordinary day. I’m not sure I have many specific memories. It just didn’t stick out. Our life was still a moving picture. After the 7th it was as if all the frames were sliced apart and the production stopped. 

I give You my heart 

Giving my heart to Jesus is not a new concept or a new phrase, but today it ceratinly has new meaning… context…gravity.

When I’ve pictured giving my heart to Jesus before it has been a vision of a healthy heart, maybe even a bit of a cleaned up, cartoon version. Either way, it was whole and it worked. 

Today? Today I’m on my knees. I see my heart in my hands and it looks bloody and beat up. I’m not even sure it works any more. It sure can’t do much. I think some pieces are missing. I’m not sure what Jesus would even want to do with a heart like that.

But it’s all I have. The widow’s mite. Given in gratitude that God can use something so small to accomplish His purposes. Another miracle. Another example of this upside down kingdom. When I have nothing, and I finally realize it, that’s when He sees fit to meet me, the show His tenderness in ways I never knew. 

Seeing into the Dark

The word that comes to mind in interacting with people in the depths of pain, maybe I can only truly speak for me, is see.

So many lists written on what to do or not do when you interact with people who have grief as their houseguest, with those who are in pain, whose brokenness can’t be ignored. Those lists can be helpful guidelines. I’ve seen some good ones.

But since all generalizations may turn out to be false they only get you so far. And quite frankly, I don’t even know what I need. There are so many times when I have just had to wait for God to tap someone on the shoulder and send them my way because I don’t know how to ask. And He does.

Some of the things you could see for me are that it’s hard to put together a meal, or that the laundry doesn’t wash itself. See that an invitation to a cleaning party is a call for help. See that everything takes herculean effort. See that it’s not flakiness or even necessarily lack of desire (though that may happen too) that keep me from showing up. See that there is laughter and joy. See that memories are always present and not to be feared.

In this place I know that my grief has a bit of an identity of its own and its cloak is over me, covering all people know of me, sometimes even all I know of myself. My cry so often has been, “Remember, I’m still me!” I think I’m reminding myself. I long to be seen.

Grief can feel lonely. 

You can feel abandoned because your heart is too too broken.” Broken Way by Ann Voskamp

I know my pain cuts other people and I am powerless to do anything about that. I see the uncertainty in people’s eyes.

C.S. Lewis says it like this in A Grief Observed. ” An odd byproduct of loss is that I’m aware of being an embarrassment to everyone I meet….I see people, as they approach me trying to make up their minds whether they’ll ‘say something about ‘it’ or not.

I’ve seen fear of doing things that will cause pain because there is already so much pain, in myself and in others. I think it’s where the uncertainty of what to say or how to engage with loss, brokenness. It makes sense. And it’s hard. 

I wonder if my part in this process is to get better at hearing, seeing, acknowledging, instead of controlling, since I can’t control the brokenness any more than you can. To live in being fully known and fully loved. To invite you in closer by exposing my brokenness willingly.

To know that there is always compassion there. For me. For everyone.

In the midst of the pain I want you to be able to see glimpses of the grace I get to see all the time.

There is beauty that if God chooses not to send anyone, even if I think I probably REALLY needed it, I can trust His complete provision for me and I can rest in that. I do trust that He knows what I need and is able to provide it. So if no one shows up, I needed alone time with Him. Truly remarkable how that works when I can see it and accept it instead of pouting or striving. Quite frankly, there’s not much energy for striving. Being satisfied in God’s provision is something He’s been doing in my heart for the past 4-5 years. What a gift. More grace.

Please see your own grief and pain and remember how God meets you there. You can beat respond to others in pain by first seeing your own. My loss does not negate your pain. He’s the same God and He’s meeting me too. See. Look. Listen. 

For my part I would rather you say something. Acknowledge the loss. Share a memory. I may cry. You may cry. Don’t be afraid. There is no perfect answer. And it’s no one’s fault. It’s a messy business, this grieving, the losing, the keeping on living.

Don’t be afraid of hurting each other in our brokenness because God is an adept enough healer to bind up those wounds too. He is enough. His grace is sufficient and I am applying it to you even as I soak it in for myself.