December 2, 2015

Dear Grief

Dear Grief,

We've been keeping company for the last several months, but we haven't spoken directly.  We have simply coexisted. Although you have been relentless in your pursuit of me, I've been tentative in embracing you as more than an unwanted intruder.  Friendship was an offer you put on the table, and frankly, I found it pointless.  That is until the One who sent you was kind enough to let me see glimpses of who you really are.  You are the remnants of losing both my parents just three months apart during the early summer, but I know now that you are more than that. You are a beautiful ugly presence.  When I think of the most beautiful ugly thing that ever was, I think of Jesus on the cross.  Could anything have been more ugly, more cruel, more barbaric, more seemingly pointless on the surface?  Yet could anything more beautiful ever exist?  Could anything more amazing result from such violent conditions?

In the spring and early summer, the gardening begins.  We cherish the beauty and wait with anticipation for the harvest that will come, bounty for the table. But this year, you injected yourself into our lives, and the garden had to take a back seat.  We harvested tomatoes, and okra and the like, but the time and energy for tending was sorely missing.  The longer you decided to stay, the taller the weeds grew.  The vegetables, and the flowers we planted amongst them to fend off pests, grew side by side, and the weeds joined them. 

 
At first I saw it as an eyesore, but the taller the grass grew, the more whimsical the site became to me.  I would lie on my bed next to the open window and look upon the sight, breeze blowing through, birds chirping as they sat perched on tomato cages, and butterflies flitted to and fro in the sun.  The neighborhood cat had even found a jungle playground to romp around in as he caught bugs, and  I laid in the bed on a tear stained pillow watching.


I began to see the beauty in this odd peaceful picture, and it became a symbol for my pain and my growth. Before I knew it, fall arrived, and I begged my husband not to mow down the garden because to mow it down was to mow down this beautiful thing that was happening inside of me.  The work wasn't complete, and I wasn't ready to see you go or to distance myself too far from those final painful moments of losing my parents. To distance myself was to forget, and I feared forgetting. You were drawing me closer to my God.  As painful as it was to lose my parents I realized that you didn't cause the pain, loss did, the loss that has come to all of us since we were separated from God in His garden.  You weren't the pain, you were the force pushing me to my knees in prayer.  You were the voice echoing in my ear that said, "Go to Him, and find rest."  And so, I embraced you.  We have journeyed together into the presence of God, and we sit side by side as you help me more deeply feel the love my parents had for me, that God has for me now and always, and that I need to have for others.  You are a healer, not a hurter, and I have grown to realize that you are God's gift.

Like the struggle of fall taking over summer, the drop and rise again in temperatures, your presence has come and gone and come again. Just when I think you have left, there you are again.  You are so dominant, so hard to ignore, but I know God has sent you because there is work to be done. Like a mother, my mother, trying to keep me on the right path, you always usher me to the foot of the cross where each visit makes me more like the person He intends for me to be.  Anything that draws my closer to the Heavenly Father is good.
 
"Whatever is good and perfect is a gift coming down to us from God our Father, who created all the lights in the heavens.  He never changes or casts a shifting shadow.  He chose to give birth to us by giving us his true word. And we, out of all creation became his prized possession." 
James 1:17-18

So we understand each other these days.  I've embraced you as a welcome guest. You stay more often than you leave, and I work on not needing you, and I know that's what you want too.  I call on God, and you move to a corner in the room, but you know I'll take on the pain again so you don't leave the house altogether. Your job is to push me to God. And like all good friends should do, you remind me of Who holds me.

Because of you, I'll never see the seasons the same again.  A wilting flower won't signal the end of something good,  but the beginning of something new.


It's winter now, and the garden has been mowed down.  It was sad for me, but I'm sure the neighbors were relieved.  The garden spot is barren, just dry frozen ground, no visible life.  And it is still a symbol of this healing process.  The space that Mom and Dad vacated, feels barren.  I understand barren.  But I also understand that barren can be beautiful.  There is a beauty in a garden spot that waits for spring planting.  The soil lives and breaths and waits to enrich the seeds that are planted there. God too remains in the barren, and he plants seeds in our soul soil that has become rich and fertile through the trials in our lives.  I can't keep you at arms length, Grief, for He's commanded me to consider you an opportunity for great joy.  And you've proven Him right.

"When troubles of any kind come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy.  For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow.  So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing."
James 1:2-4

So I thank God for how He's using you in my life.  I can almost see you smile when I say those words.  I know He's smiling.  It brings Him great joy when the lessons of his Word take root.

Sincerely,

Stephani


Thank you to Kate Motaung for giving me this opportunity to write a letter to grief. This is the third letter in a row that I've written in this space.  These letters are valuable tools in the healing process after great loss.  I am hoping this will be a re-entry into blogging for me.  The care of my parents over the last few years has left me with little energy or time to blog much.  I've missed it.


10 comments:

  1. Wow. Just wow. This is jaw-droppingly beautiful writing. You have given me much to think about in my own grief, and particularly its purpose and function. Thank you. So very glad you wrote and linked up. May the Lord continue to use your circumstances and your gifts for His glory.

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    1. Kate, thank you so much for your kind words! I'm glad you found it helpful. I love to write and have missed it! And thank you for sponsoring the link up. I used to write a lot for FFF, but blogging has just had to take a back seat in recent months and years!

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  2. Stephani, this is so beautiful. This line really hit me: "You are a beautiful ugly presence." And the whole idea of begging your husband not to mow down the garden "because to mow it down was to mow down this beautiful thing that was happening inside of me" -- so powerful. Thank you for showing us how to feel and how to turn something so painful into something beautiful.

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    1. Thank you Ashley. I'm glad it spoke to you in some way. One of the miracles of our God is His ability to make things that appear ugly in this life become something quite beautiful when placed in His hands. He's pretty awesome!

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  3. Everything about this post is making me think...even the comments. I want to say welcome back today and then email you later. I like to read good writing several times. And this is very, very, good.

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  4. Beautifully written Stephani and I pray you will continue to heal from your losses. It does take time and something you get through but not over. Blessings my friend!

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  5. Stephanie, this is absolutely beautiful. Yes, you will heal from loss and you will continue to share your story to inspire others. Hugs!

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  6. Thank you for this. I'm looking forward to the year I can get through Christmas without feeling such a sadness from losing my mom.

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  7. A bit of a long day here...and your blog is comforting.....and prayers across the miles my friend.

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