Climbing

All my boys are climbers. My first born spends the better part of his summer several stories in the air- one of the many benefits of the stand of pine trees in the backyard. But I think the youngest may take the climbing cake. He was slower to walk than his siblings but compensated my scaling every surface possible. So, I shouldn’t have been surprised when I turned around and found him on the top of the bar stool. I had actually just returned him to the floor and I thought that pushing in the dining room chair and moving the bar stool back to it’s home had taken care of it. I must have been too engrossed in the thousand piece puzzle on the counter though because I didn’t notice that he (two feet away) had pulled the stool back out and scaled it; this time without the aid of a dining room chair. There he sat. Proud and undeterred as he pointed to daddy and I at the counter and jabbered something.

I realized then that He just wanted to be with us. 

This week was not my finest. I would not have won any parenting awards (I may have actually received a few demerits). I struggled to remember the truth of the gospel and to quiet myself before God. The times I did try to make space for Jesus things usually went awry and I got interrupted before getting to the bedrock of my soul. Turns out that interruptions, though valid obstacles to encountering God, can easily become excuses not to try. In many ways I was content to play the whack-a-mole game with life despite the fact that it ended in frustrated exhaustion. It’s like gambling and mastering all the circumstances is the big jackpot. The allure that I can spin all these plates myself and have it together and life will be tidy and right and I will have won! But the odds are always in favor of the house (literally) and despite winning a few hands, if you keep playing you will inevitably go bankrupt. And man, have I ever felt bankrupt this week.

Regrettably I had to take my eighteen month old off the stool. After all he just go his cast off two weeks ago. But as I did I made a note. That little guy used all his might to move what he had to move and pull as hard as he had to pull to get up that stool. Every ounce of intellect, dexterity, balance and strength went into that attempt. And he didn’t give up when I took him down the first time. He got right back up. He left the lowly vantage point of the stained and littered floor and determined to get to higher ground. He wanted to be with us. He wanted to do what we were doing and humility begged me to take note.

We don’t have to earn our way to God. Works based righteousness is no righteousness. Yet there remains for the believer, a daily process of rising above our mess. Of doing what must be done, moving what must be moved, throwing all our strength and understanding to leave that lowly plain and climb to where He is. This is more of a mental exercise than any true reality because God is with us even in our lowly mess. But there is a climbing we do in our soul to see Him. We stop clamoring in this lowly place and reach up. And why? 

Because we just want to be with Him. 

God, I have been content on the ground. I have spent my efforts and energies spinning my wheels when you have purposed to fellowship with me. I have wasted all my time trying to master things that you can speak to in just a moment and set to rights. I have not stopped to do the one thing that truly matters. I have chosen the lesser thing in so many ways. I’m sorry. Thank you for your mercy and thank you for speaking to me in the beautiful face of my son this morning. By the power of the Holy Spirit, help me to chose the better thing. Help me to move what needs to be move and climb what needs to be climbed to have my heart be where you are. Help me not be deterred when I don’t get it on my first attempt. Let me press in to fight the one fight that’s worth it each day. To know You! To dwell in your house, to sit at your feet and to believe all that You say. You are the better thing and I surrender my desire to master my life. Continue to have your way in me. You are good and all beauty and peace is found in you. Amen. 

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On Grieving

This summer my friend died; an astounding woman and the one who essentially mentored me through the early years of motherhood. We said she had a terrible accident. In hindsight it was perhaps among the poorest of word choices. She died in a war. A guerrilla war, where its often hard to tell enemy from friend and what kills you are the lies you believe. Suicide is such a strange thing. It registers as loss but also as trauma and the mixture of the two… well it’s just so very sad on every level. Six months later I somehow seem to feel the grief even more acutely than the day she died. Maybe it’s just that the shock and rage is no longer there to buffer the pain. Or maybe it’s that six months has shown me that she’s not coming back. I can’t undo this and no matter how many months without her I put behind me… well, I still have every month ahead to do the same. There is no easy here.

No one person owns the market on grief but some certainly have more shares of stock. My mother-in-law passed six months after our wedding. She was fifty-three and there was no cause of death. Afterwards my father-in-law said to me “death is personal”. Oh, dear God! Is death ever personal! The one who loses a spouse, the one who loses a mother, the one who loses a child… it’s just different. People can share the loss of the same person and it’s not the same. Strangers can both lose someone and it’s remarkably familiar- or not. There aren’t quite any hard and fast rules. Except that it hurts. I didn’t think anything could hurt so bad.

Shortly after her death I wrote “Part of me wants to go on with life and pretend this never happened. Like she never existed. Another part of me wants to stop everything and never move on. Just camp out here in the pain and never let it go. The irony is that neither is healthy.” Stuffing the pain and the memory is easy enough to understand. Humans are notorious for divorcing ourselves from all forms of discomfort and suffering. Holding on to the pain is a little harder to follow. Perhaps it’s just that the pain is the last tangible thing remaining of them. Or maybe a twist on the virtue of knowing some things (even hard things) should never be forgotten. But we’ve all had to move on. Whether we wanted to or not.

Doing so, has not made me the authority on grief. But, if only for purely selfish motives, I thought it would be healthy to write down what I have come to understand in my own grieving process. If my friend’s husband were to write something it would probably look different. I’m fairly certain her sister has written something, though (as of yet) I lack the constitution to read it. I suspect there is some measure of contrast as well. But in here there may also be the comfort of familiarity or the asset of perspective. So I submit these thoughts and pray they’d be of profit:

*Grief comes in waves. My sister told me this once and it’s true- and at times nonsensical. The monthly date of her passing will come and I’ll scarcely mark it. But nights like tonight, with no rhyme or reason I feel her loss so acutely. The sadness comes, unannounced and I am left in tears. Things I thought would be triggers- not so much. Small things… well nothing seems small when it is so permanent.

*Anger. Let me pause from any urge to wax poetic. Sometimes I get so angry. Angry at her, angry at the lies, angry at this stupid not-reconciled planet full of it’s crappy juxtaposition. Someone dies, another is born… ahhh! How can something that was so wrong actually happen? At first it was the anger of shock, now it’s the anger of having to let go. Sometimes it’s just because it seems so needless and there’s no having that conversation. I can’t talk that out with her. She’s just gone and we’re all stuck with it and sometimes that just makes me very angry.

*Pictures are painful. My friend was exceptionally beautiful. Her face and her smile changed the room. In grieving, sometimes my heart wants to tell a story. A story that it usually lopsided from the pain. Pictures pull me back. Back to the reality that things aren’t just one way. The reality, that I miss her and she was worth being missed. Back to remembering happy days together and understanding that this was, in all senses of the word, a tragedy. Right now I don’t look at pictures very often. Maybe one day I will more.

*Nothing is too sacred to learn from it. Sometimes we sort through the wreckage of loss for an answer that is going to make it okay. I have yet to find anyone who has ever found that answer. There are answers to be had but the answers don’t bring peace. Not real peace. But there are truths to be found if we’ll examine our loss- if we’ll stare down the pain and ask some hard questions. I’ve had to come to terms with several hard lessons from this loss. Talk about a wake-up call. Some things have hit close to home and I’ve had to let them. I’d rather set this incident on the shelf and immortalize it but as it turns out God is not too good to use even the hardest of circumstances to work in my little heart.  Again to learn from loss doesn’t ease the pain, but neither does it waste it.

*Grief feels like a rock in my backpack. Sometimes, I forget that I’m still grieving and then all of the sudden I’ll feel that weight in my soul and remember… oh yeah. It never seems to announce itself and honestly, at times I don’t recognize it. But there is a sadness to moments right now that scarcely leaves. I imagine for those closest to her it never leaves. It’s usually not conscious or defined but present none the less. Always there and if I get tired I feel it all the more. It can become a heavy stone to carry when the back is weary.

*Healing comes in layers. Shock and zeal anchored me in the first weeks of my friend passing. I wrote quite succinctly on God’s magnificent grace and peace even in the midst of the harshest circumstances. In a way I feel less healed then I did at that time. But as it turns out, it takes time for things to soak in and healing has to happen on each layer. I’m just feeling some things for the first time in all of this and so, letting God speak to those and surrendering them… well. I found a month ago that I was starting to feel guilty for not being further along emotionally in this process. Oh my. How the modern era has skewed our understanding of time and seasons. I want to have a bowed tied neatly around this thing and in truth I’m just starting to feel the effects of what has happened. Maybe I should have labelled this bullet healing takes patience. Because it does. Every heart, every loss is different and there’s just no speeding up the process.

*God is still a strong tower in time of trouble. For many, loss/suffering/pain, is proof that God is either non-existent or is horribly maniacal. It’s not really a mystery to see why. But experience has afforded me no comfort apart from His arms. His tender words and ceaseless companionship are the only balm that has ever salved any of my deep heart wounds. And the promise that He will make all things new… well, it is my only peace. Trusting that He won’t waste this, that He won’t leave us wanton in a world of random happenings and needless strife… He won’t leave us torn. Yes, this gives me courage and hope to endure the trial. It is hard to see Him through the clouds of this life. Truly at times He remains more hidden than my good opinion would encourage. But He is wiser than I am and can see the end from the beginning. He has not yet failed me. Whatever stage my grief has brought me too, whatever emotion seems to dominate this moment- He is big enough to handle it.

I trust, as always, I will find Him where I am.