Someone said to me recently, or maybe I read it somewhere, that “to those who count themselves blessed, more blessings will come.” When I look back on 2018, I would name that statement as the truth which defined my days. 2018 has not been without its own share of sadnesses. Yet, when I review the year, it is the blessings that stand out.
I’ve been trying to work out, for quite a while now, how to write about the happy in my heart. As a high school poet, I determined that it was the most depressing thoughts and situations which caused my creativity to flourish. It seemed accurate. Whenever I was sad, I could write all the things. But when something lovely happened, my pen forgot the paper. Or rather I forgot both. I just didn’t feel any kind of drive to document it.
So now, I’m attempting to write about a year I would rate at an 8 out of 10, and the words come stiffly to my fingers. I’m realizing that I have neglected to learn how to capture contentedness with words. So here I am, ready to learn something new. Bear with me?
Landing in pillows
In May 2018, I discovered a new way to hear God speak to me. Did you know God actually talks to his children!? I mean, I did, theoretically, theologically – but this summer I began to learn how to be quiet and listen with my mind. And Faithful God whispered into my mind a new language – pictures.
Here is one of those pictures. It’s a scene in a sharp and sleek, concrete city where a girl falls from the top of a skyscraper. It’s unclear if she has been pushed, or if she jumped, or if a heavy wind knocked her off the edge, but she falls none-the-less. She tucks her arms and legs to prepare for landing, but who can prepare for this? But then, all at once, she does land – into hundreds of thousands of soft, fluffy, foam and feather-filled pillows.
And the picture feels like me. For a while I was falling. Grief pulled like gravity, anxiety surrounded my body like the wind. But then, somewhere this year, I realized that I was no longer stranded in the air. I was found, in a million pillows, safe and alive and blessed.
I believe with all my heart that nothing happens in this world that does not first flow through God’s hands – sunshine, rain, delight, sorrow, new life, final breaths… none of it comes to pass without God’s kind and loving providence. So when unthinkable tragedy hit my family, when I felt like I had nothing left, God was not alarmed or unmoved. He cried with and comforted me. When I grew and changed, drew near to Him and learned to be loved, He was there with open arms and a Daddy grin. God knew that I would fall. He knew that His arms were all I needed. But in His compassion, He chose to show me abundant grace – grace like pillows.
Hope and Healing
I’ve said it a hundred times and I’ll write it a thousand more: there is no right or wrong way to grieve. And it changes – the grief, and the process of grieving. My way has been to lean in, feel the hurt, and move ahead. Year one after Eric died felt like one-step-forward and two steps back on broken autopilot (2016). The second year felt like surviving a nightmare (2017). But year three has been more like onward motion and finding joy (2018). The clouds don’t feel silver-lined to me, anymore. They just feel silver.
In February, exactly two years after his father died, Bingham and I read a book about Heaven. We’ve had a lot of conversations about that place, and how to get there, and Bingham was especially inquisitive after reading the book. He wanted to pray for God to take his sins and control of his life so that he could be with God. I have no doubt that Bingham knew what he was asking (I have seen the fruit of that decision since!). Bingham and his brother had to go to sleep, but I couldn’t bear to be silent. I danced that night. I sang “Hallelujah For The Cross” in worship to God who had redeemed the darkest day of my life into one of the brightest.
Grief after loss is dissimilar from other types of wounds as it does not completely “heal.” In my experience, the hole where a person once lived does not fill or scab over. There is no scar. Rather, the hole remains. Healing from grief is not living as if the person had not died, but instead it is choosing to live even though the other person is not. It’s breathing and moving with a deeper appreciation for life because of the knowledge that it could be lost. It’s coming alongside others with a greater sense of compassion and the comfort I have been given. Healing from grief looks like gratitude for where I am at now in-spite of, and even because of, what happened originally to cause it. I know where Eric is. I know where I am. I praise God because with His Holy Spirit, I am never alone.
Kin and Community
One of the greatest blessings in my life is my living situation: I am part of a multigenerational household. Granna and Papa (my parents) own the house, in which Bingham and Billy and I get to live. I am, of course, the mother who has the final word, but my kids have two other parental figures (plus, Granna is their teacher!). Almost every night, I get to benefit from the face-to-face wisdom of my parents as an adult and a friend. Again, this season has not been without hardships, but looking back I could not imagine a sweeter space to grow. We do life together. We make and eat dinner, tidy, host, work on projects, watch shows, solve problems, learn and grow with one another. During the first week of January 2019 we also welcomed a white lab puppy into our home! “Maggie” is Granna’s dog, but we’ve all been benefiting from her playfulness and the joy she brings.
Being a mom has it’s hard moments. It’s one of the most difficult things to which I have ever been called! However, I’ve noticed a few perks as well. Though I’ve never considered myself a “morning person,” waking up has become the sweetest part of my day for at least the last year. Just before my eyes open, soft kisses grace my cheeks. If I’m exceptionally lucky, I get in a snuggle or two. And usually a giggle. Night time is still difficult. But mornings? Praise the Lord!
The boys and I take frequent road trips to spend time with Grammie/Cheryl and Buppah/Scott. Over especially the past few years, the connections we have created are priceless. This year we grew things in the garden, watched fish thrive, learned about racing, looked at old pictures, cooked for & hosted gatherings, and saw Uncle Ian marry Auntie Brittney. Whenever we are together we both laugh and cry and we thank God who has blessed us with each other and Himself.
Also this year, I got to coordinate gatherings for women in Austin! Moms of Preschoolers (MOPS) came together for brunch, to learn and discuss topics about our lives and connect while our kids were in childcare. This community of women surrounded me when I felt terribly isolated and full of holes. These women reminded me that I am not alone by coming alongside me practically with meals, messages, thoughtful gifts and words of encouragement, laughter, and chances to help them with what they were encountering as well. Our group now consists of women from many different backgrounds, styles of mothering, family dynamics, preferences, religions, and allergies. Yet, we all have in common that we are mothers of young children who want to love and be loved.
Reflections and Romance
Writing has been an outlet for me since I was able to hold a pencil. This year I processed life through my blog. My favorite series of posts was about secondary losses – the things you lose which are directly related to the primary loss of a loved one. In February I shared the opportunity to co-write my story of loss with my friend, Lindsey’s story of new life! Hope Assured: Birth and Burial is the resulting article.
I also had the honor and privilege to have an essay published in a devotional, “Tenacious Hope,” by Bridging the Gap. I wrote about hope that is anchored in God’s promise to never leave me. At the same time I was writing that devotional, I took my first speaking engagement at a family conference, where I had the chance to talk about the fact that I am never alone. And then, my friend Ellie Heringshaw invited me to record an episode on her podcast about reclaiming – the act of leaning into pain and letting God redeem it through tears, laughter, and making new memories. (Side-note: I am SO stoked about her ministry. I hope everyone checks it out.) Thank you, friends, for encouraging me and blessing me with outlets to share about God’s faithfulness.
And last, but certainly not least, God has been opening my heart to a brand new kind of horizon; romance. I began going on dates about a year and a half ago. Honestly, the decision was partially out of curiosity. And it was partially upon the insistence of my kids – who think that finding a husband is like shopping for a puppy. But nothing “clicked,” and I wondered if I would ever again feel anything for another person – romantically – at all. I almost gave up, until a switch flipped and my heart did too.
I’ve heard that, “Man makes plans and God laughs.” I used to see that as a sardonic kind of chuckle, but I’m learning that it’s a lot more like a father’s kind reassurance. With a nose nuzzle, he gently says, I got you, baby, and I love you. Here’s the way forward. You’ll see.
And as I look at the way forward, I am thankful to know that none of my steps will be a surprise to God. Relinquishing the illusion of control and casting my anxieties on Him is a daily discipline. Yet, I can’t help but praise God for His faithfulness with the past and that gives me hope for a carefully curated future. The way forward does not mean that I leave in my past all that I have learned and who I have loved. It means that with new understanding and gratefulness for what has come before, I boldly trust God by stepping toward what comes next.
A new favorite author, Davin, said it well: “New chapters do not replace old ones. They only expand the story. God has written a beautiful story for each and every one of us.”
I have an inkling that my heart is about to learn some new tricks. So here’s to 2019. With healing on my heart, community by my side, and hope in my eyes, I press on to watch my story continue to unfold.