I always thought that by forty, I’d have it all figured out. That I’d have my life in order, know what I was doing and even maybe be at least a little bit like that Proverbs 31 Lady. (She makes me tired.)
Instead, I’m still me. Still broken, still fumbling through life, still making mistakes and falling down and getting back up again. I’m finding out that I’m not strong, I’m weak and GOD is strong. I’m finding out that life is filled with good gifts and they don’t always look like we thought they would. I’m finding out that Big Life Stuff, Hard Things, Trials and Tribulations end up being loaded with beauty and good gifts.
This does not make me unafraid. But it gives me peace. Sometimes.
I always thought that by forty, by the halfway mark…I’d maybe have it all figured out. But year one of my forties is just a few days from being over and I’m just as clueless and bumbling as ever.
But that’s okay.
I don’t know much of anything.
I know I’m poor in Spirit. I know that I’m just now learning how to really acknowledge my needs. I know that it’s okay if I don’t have the mysteries of the universe figured out. I know that it’s okay to say Forget Silver Linings and just be in the guts and gore of the moment. Sometimes, things just suck. Sometimes, we need the freedom to say that things just suck.
Sometimes, things just really, really suck.
I think Christians have convinced themselves that we can’t be honest about stuff. That somehow God’s goodness will be diminished because we recognize the awfulness of a situation.
But that’s silly, isn’t it?
There is nothing we can do to make God change. There is nothing we can do to make God love us more or to make God love us less. He knows that sometimes our circumstances really, really suck.
I want to suggest that maybe He really wants us to speak the truth about our circumstances. Unload. Let it all out. Release. Be true to where we are.
We are all broken. We are all beautiful. We are all loved. We are all redeemed.
We need to give ourselves permission to just be where we are. We need to stand with our friends through their storms and just stand. Sometimes there is nothing more to do than just be. Sometimes there is nothing to fix, there is only a storm to be weathered.
It’s okay for us to be broken and to be where we are. It’s okay for us to still be figuring it out. It’s okay for us to be sad or wounded or needy or hurt.
Of course I’m not saying to stop counting your blessings. I’m not saying to forget gratitude. I’m not saying to stop offering praise. I’m just saying that we need to also acknowledge our needs. I’m saying we must give ourselves space for our hurts. I’m saying we whisper those words of gratitude in the midst of broken hearts and tears.
It doesn’t have to be all or nothing. We can be hurting and thankful. We can be broken and blessed. We can be lonely and loved. We can be where we are.
She shows up unexpectedly and sometimes with no warning at all. All of a sudden, there she is and the sight of her knocks the wind out of you.
Grief and I have unfinished business-Asher, my Paw, my old church. I have processing to do on each one and most days, I’d rather pretend that I don’t.
But there she is. Grief. She waves to me with a small smile and her face says that our meeting is inevitable.
The difference between Grief and Poor Me and Discouragement is that Grief is a healthy friend. She means me good and not harm. She knows I need her to get through the valley. Those other two…they want to hold me back. But not Grief.
So, even though spending time with her hurts…I know it’s for the greater good.
And so I start with Asher.
I have not forgotten that Nora is supposed to have her twin with her.
I have not forgotten those two little hearts beating. I have not forgotten the day that I found out that Baby B’s little heart stopped beating. I have not forgotten that he waits for us in heaven.
And sometimes I stare at Nora in awe and my heart breaks a little…because while she is my miracle baby and I am so, so grateful…I really also just want her twin too.
I’ve thought about Baby B, about Asher a lot lately. As Nora grows and the scary preemie nicu days fade away and she is just such a treausre, I wonder what Asher would’ve looked like. My heart aches remembering that she is one of two. What would he have looked like? Would he have been the warrior that she is? Would he have been snuggly and sweet like she is?
And I know, I know, I know…Asher’s passing gave Nora a bigger chance at survival, at thriving. I know that having two in the NICU and having two newborns at home while I still so slowly recover from my own version of Nora’s birthday would’ve been so much harder…but knowing that it would’ve been harder and scarier and all of that doesn’t mean I didn’t want them both.
I did. I wanted them both.
And now I won’t have any more babies. I am mostly okay with this, especially in my logical, sensible (you havesix, you crazy woman!) part of my brain. But there is a pang. Because seven is a good number. And we almost had seven.
All I have to remember kid #7 is a few ultrasound photos.
So I pour Grief a cup of coffee and we sit together and we think about Baby B. And tears fall and I hold Nora and am so grateful for her. Thankful that I only have to grieve one of them because my other one is here safe.
I know I’ll see Grief again. I know she’ll be back by. She comes and she goes. Grief is not finite. But she brings with her hope. Because, if I let Him, God is present with Grief and God counts our tears as precious. And God brings joy in the morning.
I am the sort of person who panics long after the emergency is over. A person who mourns some time after the emergency of the loss has ended. A person who processes catastrophe after it has passed.
I think this is part of my mother-ness. I have to be able to compartmentalize enough to get through the emergency, the loss, the catastrophe.
I remember Hurricane Isabel which was a kick off to a very hard season. The Hurricane came and washed over two feet of my house, leaving us with three kids, three cats, one dog and no place to live. I remember going to the house, working hard all day trying to salvage things and just Getting Through It. I did not cry as I looked at our possessions, water logged and molding. I just saved what I could save and threw away what I couldn’t. Weeks later, we were settled into an apartment and I laid awake and wept…pictures of the carpet rolled up, frames of family members ruined, my children’s toys destroyed. The catastrophe had passed…but I mourned.
Very shortly after the crisis of the Hurricane, my sister gave birth to her first child, my niece. What was supposed to be a time of celebration became an emergency. She had complications from her c-section that her made her gravely ill. About a week or so after the baby was born, we were told to come and see her…or we might not get another chance. She was in the hospital for such a long time. I steeled my heart and did what I had to do. Nearly daily I drove to Norfolk to spend time with my sister and the rest of the family, to stand with my brother in law and to love on my new niece. Some nights, I brought my little niece home with me. It was uneasy, and it was stressful but I got through it. I did what had to be done. The day my sister called to say that she was being released from the hospital, I fell on my bed and cried and cried. Relief, grief for what she has missed with her daughter, fear, anxiety, worry…it all came out then. After it was all over.
Less than a month after Bethany’s discharge from the hospital…something else happened. Our dear friend, A.C. was in a car accident and after ten days in that same Norfolk hospital…she slipped into the arms of Jesus. And I don’t have enough words to say what A.C. meant to me. She was a younger sister, a partner in crime and a treasure. I loved her, my children loved her, the community loved her. She was the sort of person who made you laugh until your sides hurt. She loved fully and lived big. She was rare. I think of Enoch, who was such a joy to the Lord that he was just taken up to heaven. This was A.C. She died and I went into crisis mode. Planning a funeral, comforting my children and tending to my flock. A.C.’s death rocked our little world. At the funeral, I cried nostalgic tears and smiled at her send off. She brought so many people together to celebrate a life that was fully lived, even though she was only twenty four. Days later, I was bustling around, getting kids ready for school. I hustled into my room, went into my closet to get a jacket and found myself in the closet floor…tears came, angry, broken sobs came. I despaired and I mourned.
This is my pattern. Hard thing…time of work, duty, pressing through…grief.
And I find myself in this pattern again.
Lately I am reminiscing. I find that my mind, when left to wander, wanders on over to the section of my memory marked “Hope”. Hope was my church from 1999 until 2011. Twelve years we walked together. And those twelve years are cherished. Rich with memory. God planted, watered and grew so many good things in me over that twelve years. It is right that I grieve the ending of this long season.
This week marked our new beginning with Waters Edge Church, a place that God practically sent us an engraved invitation to attend. God has rarely been more clear about the path, we are where we are meant to be. We are excited to dig in, get involved, become a part of things. But it’s an odd thing too, because we know lots of people and we are known, but it’s also unknown. It’s new.
Sunday was my first day of serving and it was good. It’s an exciting thing to be a part of.
Monday was our first day of community group and it was good. We’re excited to make some connections and go deeper with the Lord.
But it also underscored the ending of the season of Hope. Making these two commitments meant that we have truly moved on, moved forward, that we are moving with the will of God. We’re investing, and we’re expectant because we are where He called us.
And so the mourning begins. I am full of memories and it is so bittersweet. Thank you are the weak words I offer to God for the home and the family that He gifted me with for twelve years. Thank you are the weak words I say to the One who grew me up and changed me in the midst of that community. Thank you are weak, weak words for the sense of Who I Am in Him that I gained there. My memories are fond…little jewels that I picked up along the journey. Every memory an Ebenezer stone that marks how He’s loved me, grown me up and changed my heart and my life.
Twelve years ago, I was married to someone else. I had a six year old, a four year old and a not quite two year old. I was only just meeting the people I would be doing life with for a dozen years. People I am still doing life with; because where you go to church doesn’t negate relationships. These are the ones who walked with me through that hurricane, through my sister’s illness, through the loss of our A.C., through my bed rest pregnancy and the birth of Lila, through my separation and divorce, through my tumultuous post divorce time, through my meeting, dating and marrying John, through the birth of Claire, through court and custody stuff. These are the ones God gave me. He has been so good to me.
Today, I give myself permission to shed a tear or two of loss. I will give myself a break when I pause to let a memory run its course. Today, I will look back over the jewels and the stones of the past twelve years. I will say that these things are Good. That He is Good. That He is the giver and the keeper of every gift.
I will allow myself a time to mourn, intermingled with a time of hopeful, excited expectation for what will come next.