Tag Archives: sadness

Chapters in December

The skies are grey and heavy with rain on this Saturday a week before Christmas.  I’m supposed to be editing my yearly Family Christmas letter.  The envelopes are addressed, and stamped, the cards are ready to go into the envelopes, and the letter is mostly finished, but it’s been a difficult task this year.

Certain Man is home today, in the house, working on tomorrow’s sermon for our congregation at Laws Mennonite Church.  I’m sitting for the first time since I got up!  And I did sleep in this morning.  In fact, when I got up and saw that it was after eight o’clock, I rattled around the old nursery rhyme in my head, editing it as I went.

Mary Annie has grown so fine
She won’t get up to feed the swine
But lies in bed till eight or nine
Lazy Mary Annie!

This week has been another week in the journey I continue to make in life.  I think the last months I’ve felt more like I was walking in my Mama’s footsteps than I ever have before.  One of the things that is evident to me is that the Mama I remember best was far younger than I am now.  And often things come up that hit me squarely in the face that were things of the years when I considered her “old.”

One of the things that has been entirely too reminiscent of her has been this thing of getting accustomed to my partial plate.  Mama had a bit more vanity than I do, and she went the route of implants and caps for most of the teeth she lost, but as the years passed, she was forced to go with dentures.  They were a sore trial to her, and they hurt, and they didn’t fit right, and they wouldn’t chew the things she wanted them to chew.  Lots of times she had sores in her mouth from where they rubbed, and she was dependent on me or someone else to take her to her dentist in Dover to get things adjusted or repaired or replaced.  I feel so sorry sometimes when I am dealing with even a minor maladjustment to my partial plate and I think of how she must have felt and how miserable she must have been with the constant lack of satisfaction with her teeth.  I wish that I had paid better attention and tried harder to help her get that one issue resolved.  I felt like I did run her to Dover a lot, but if she felt the despair in proportion to what I feel, I’m certain that she often wished that either she could just do it herself, or that I would have understood better and done more.

And then there is that issue with her feet.  In the last months, the feet that I inherited from her have been giving me a fit!  Last week I had a few days when I felt like I couldn’t walk!  I have been seeing a specialist, and he had told me on my first visit to his office that my feet were not in any kind of good shape.

“The arthritis in your feet, particularly your left one, is very advanced,” Dr. Menendez said that day in September.  “You have some bones in there that are ‘lipping’ and there are calcium deposits and just bad arthritis.”  He sat at the end of the table, holding my foot so gently in his hands, like he was willing it to be better somehow.  I saw a look in his eye that I decided to read as “compassion” instead of “pity” but I knew that he had seen something on the x-ray that told him that I wasn’t lying when I said that my feet sometimes hurt.

“I don’t feel like I’m in any sort of a crisis right now,” I said to him.  “Rather, I’m here for sort of a base line consultation at the advice of Dr. Wilson, and because I have a feeling that in the not too near future, I may need some help.  I also wanted to know if what I am doing now is the best thing I can do for them, or if there is something more I could be doing.”

He affirmed all of the things that I had been doing, prescribed a different anti-inflammatory, and told me that if I ever felt like I needed some shots in those feet, I shouldn’t hesitate to call him.  He did think that “putting them up whenever I could” might be a good practice to pursue.

I went out of his office that day with a heart that wanted to turn away from this aging process.  Dr. Wilson has told me (more frequently than I care to remember) that I’m “a young woman trapped in an old woman’s body.”  Excepting that over the years since he started to tell me that, the “young woman” has mutated to being a bit more age appropriate for the body, I’m rather forced to admit.  I remember hearing Uncle Johnny talking at one of our family reunions some time before he died.  He said, “You know, I’ve always been able to count on this body of mine to pretty much do what I want it to do when I want it to do it.  But something has started to change, and this old body is letting me down!”  Yepper, I’d say that pretty much catches it.  This old body is letting me down.

In the months since that first visit to Dr. Menendez’s office, I’ve had a life so full of happenings that I’ve hardly had time to think about feet.  There’s been canning to finish, lima beans to freeze, a beloved sister in law living in our yard, a dishwasher that needed replacing, seven family birthdays and a trip to Ohio, parties for my grandsons, Grammy days with my granddaughter, an ordination for Eldest Son, a new foster baby in the family, Thanksgiving, a Christmas Open House for Certain Man’s office friends, Christmas preparations and shopping and then the usual things with Our Girl Audrey and Blind Linda.  Life just hasn’t stopped, and that business about putting my feet up just hasn’t been a happening thing.  And slowly I became aware that there was something just not quite right with these crazy feet of mine. And last week, when it was rainy for a few days in a row, and I could barely motor, I called Dr. Menendez’s office and asked if I could come in for shots. The thing that really put me over the top was that the foot that hurt the most was my “good” one.  That kinda’ scared me because when my “good knee” went bad on me, it had to be replaced before my “bad” one.

They put me on the schedule for Thursday, a week out, and I hobbled about and got ready for the Christmas Open House, and prayed.  And the pain diminished and I felt a whole lot better about things.  I started toying with the idea of not going.  But then I had a regularly scheduled visit with Dr. Wilson, and decided to ask his advice about whether I should have it done.  I thought maybe he would advise against it.  However, it was my first visit to him since he had read the x-rays, and he had some strong words to say about it.  “Go get the shots,” he said forcefully.  “By all means, get them.  It’s Christmas, you are going to be on your feet a lot, and it just doesn’t make sense to not get them.  I really think you should!”

And so, on Thursday afternoon, I tromped off to Dr. Menendez’s office.  I thought I had prepared myself quite muchly for this encounter.  I had taken My Sweet Mama to her specialist often for this sort of thing, and I knew that it wasn’t pleasant, but as I sat on that table waiting for the doctor to come in, I was overwhelmed by such a feeling of Déjà vu that it almost took my breath away.  My feet stuck out the end of the table, and the veins, purple and prominent made their tracks across them in almost the same pattern that I had seen on Mama’s.  And when Dr. Menendez brought his spray for numbing, and sprayed it on my foot while putting a needle into almost the exact same spot that Mama often had hers, the pain from the needle wasn’t even a scosche compared to what was crashing through my heart.  My Mama!  My Sweet Mama!  What she must have felt those many times that she went for these shots, hoping to find relief for the pain that dogged her every step.  What had she thought?  Did she really think it was going to work this time?  Did she think she would spring out of there, able to do all the things that she so longed to do?  Did she somehow know that she was fighting a losing battle with time and aging and a body that was “letting her down?”

It was another chapter in my Decembered grief.  I missed her terribly in that moment, wished for the chance to talk to her again, and ask her more about what was in her heart.  Dr. Menendez put bandaids on the the drops of blood that appeared on the tops of my feet.  He smoothed some callouses off the bottom of my feet and reassured me that I would feel better.  I chatted with him cheerfully over the pain in my heart and took myself out of the office and into my mini-van and headed home.  And then, as I motored towards home, I talked to My Sweet Mama and cried some overdue tears.  The years slipped away so quickly.

But my feet are feeling so much better.  The weeks ahead hold so much promise.  The offspringin’s and the grandchildren are coming home for Christmas and I don’t feel nearly as incapacitated as I did a week ago.  I’m looking forward to the celebrations of Joy that are ahead.  The message of Christmas is that of incredible hope.  A Savior is born!  He came to us, in our sorrow, our need, our pain.  He came to bring Light and Healing and Life.  He came to bring Peace and Joy.  All the things that are wrong with this old world will someday be put right by this Precious Christmas Gift.

And that includes bodies that let us down.  My Sweet Mama’s feet don’t hurt her anymore.  She’s dancing in her brand new feet, and they are beautiful.  What a glorious expectation!  What a thing to look forward to!

My December Heart gives grateful praise.

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Filed under Aging, Dealing with Grief, Family, Grief, Heaven, My Life

Chilly Mornings and Shadows of Sorrow

The promise of a beautiful day made us decide to let the fire go out in the pellet stove. I came down in the early morning darkness, and it was chilly in the farmhouse at Shady Acres.

My heart felt bleak, too.  The last few days have been a struggle to stay optimistic.  I told someone earlier this week that everybody was grumpy!  OGA has been touchy and a little schitzy.  BL has been difficult beyond my ability to understand.  And my own restless heart has been impatient and selfish.  When I felt like even BL’s pulmonologist was a bit peevish this week and I resented being sent for a chest x-ray for BL, I was brought up a little short on the fact that the problem (just might!) lie with me.

This morning, when my alarm went at its usual time, I felt the darkness in my soul.  I turned over, accosted immediately by an unaccustomed ache in my head, and a stuffy nose.  But morning’s work was waiting, so I did what needed doing, the usual morning routines; Making  beds, combing, straightening what needed straightening, washing my face, getting dressed, using moisturizer, washing my spectacles.  Certain Man was already downstairs, having had difficulty with heartburn early in the night.  I came down to find him soundly asleep in his chair.  I went to get my morning vitamins and coffee.

How very much I’m missing my Sweet Mama.  The memories of her last few weeks of life have been hounding me, and the sadness sometimes feels overwhelming.  I know she’s okay now.  I know that she would say that the difficulty of those hard, hard days are but a part of a long forgotten past, and that she blesses the tempest, lauds the storm that tossed her safely on the Heavenly Shore.  I know she’s okay! 

But sometimes it doesn’t feel like I am.  Not all the time.  Not when I have something I want to ask her.  There are just life questions that only a Mama can answer.  Not when I have something I want to tell her. I wish I could see her eyes light up with that familiar gleam, and hear her opinions and reactions and verdicts on human nature.  Not when I just wish for the physical essence that was my Mama for all of my life.  The sound of her voice, the taste of her cooking, the smell of her cologne, the visuals that defined her — her pretty dresses, her neat hair, her beautiful face, her gentle touch.  My Mama.  Everything so gone.  So unreachable.  The aching void is made more acute by the color and light and authenticity of my memories, and by these long nine months.  (“Lord Jesus, she’s never been gone this long!”)

I bring myself into the comfort of the blue recliner that I purchased with money that I was given from Mama’s account, and shiver in the predawn quiet.  Folded on the back of the chair is the trusty afghan that Middle Daughter found, barely started, among her grandma’s things.  Deborah brought it home, worked on it furiously and finished it before Christmas.  When I opened my presents in our family Christmas gathering, there was this lovely blue and white afghan in a familiar stitch, lying in the tissue paper.  And when I heard the story behind it, I knew it would do more than warm me on chilly days.  On this morning, when it is easy to feel bereft, I reach for my afghan and stretch it over my toes and snuggle my arms under its  welcome protection.  It’s time to think.  It’s time to allow myself some grieving time.  It’s time to allow myself to be comforted.

IMG_1144 (1)

Allow myself to be comforted?  Sometimes I don’t even want to be comforted.  Sometimes I just want to feel the ragged, broken shards of grief, and I just want to feel the reality of this loss.  Sometimes I don’t want to listen to reason (she was so miserable so much of the time in the last year, she was getting older, we all have to go sometime, it must have been “her time”).  And sometimes I don’t want to listen to hope! (She is healthy.  She is happy.  She is more alive than she has ever been.  She had the promise of Heaven.  She was going HOME to be with people she loved as well her Savior.  She believed.  She had fought a good fight, she had finished the course, she had kept the faith.)

But in the softness of the afghan, in the reiterating of my sorrow, in the tears and in the memories, I find myself (strangely) comforted once again.  I think of the colors she loved, the spring time yearning she always had to dig in her flower beds and make something pretty.  I think about the fact that she fostered relationship with me and my siblings in such a way that we truly knew her, and in these days since her passing, I have things that bring up specific, wonderful memories that remind me that I was so blessed to grow up with the sort of Mama that she was.  Not perfect, but never wavering from her commitment to raise us to love Jesus and to make sure of Heaven, and to love each other and to do all we can to see to it that the next generation knows the way HOME.

Comforted?  Yes, I’ve been comforted.  Easter is just around the corner when we celebrate the victory of JESUS over death and the grave.  When our RISEN LORD became the cornerstone of our Faith.  Where a cross and an empty tomb became a place for me to hang this heart that sometimes feels so fragmented.

Is it enough?

Indeed, it is!

And this old heart gives broken, grateful praise

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The Lows, The Highs.

This week has been a roller coaster for me.  Monday morning I was talking it over with Jesus, and telling Him how sad I felt.  And telling Him that I just wanted to undo the last fourteen months.  “I want Frieda back, whole and healthy and alive and HERE!  I want our church to not be burned.  I want Mama to not fall full on her face on a cold tile floor at our “borrowed” meeting place on a Sunday morning in February (a pivotal incident for embarrassment and infirmity in her life).  I don’t want to think about the health issues and infertility issues in my family that were exacerbated this year.   I don’t want Mama to fall in May and break her femur.  I don’t want her to have suffered those four weeks.  I don’t want her to have died.  I want her here, healthy and alive.  I don’t want Youngest Daughter, Rachel, to struggle to find a job for six months, with all sorts of reversals and setbacks and disappointments.  I don’t want Middle Daughter, Deborah, to be diagnosed with a genetic liver condition (http://www.alpha1.org/) that has given great cause for alarm.  I’m just so tired of everything! And I’m just so sad . . .”

And (Believe me!) there were a few other things in there that I “didn’t want” that can’t be said here.


Where do we go when life is too much for us?  How do we choose life and hope and peace when it seems like an exercise in futility?  What do we do when the people we love are hurting and struggling and doubting and failing? And what makes us think that it will ever be okay again?
Listen, dear friends!  Here is where I’ve chosen to focus:


Even though the fig trees have no blossoms, and there are no grapes on the vines; even though the olive crop fails, and the fields lie empty and barren; even though the flocks die in the fields, and the cattle barns are empty, yet I will rejoice in the LORD! I will be joyful in the God of my salvation! The Sovereign LORD is my strength! He makes me as surefooted as a deer, able to tread upon the heights. Habakkuk 3:17-19a

 

If there is anything that I’ve learned on this sojourn, it is that praise makes the darkest night navigable.  And while there may be all sorts of things that make me sad, I still need to choose that He does all things well, and that He is to be trusted.  It probably won’t ever all be “okay” again.  That’s what Heaven is for.

And if I can’t sink my “trembling soul” onto that immovable rock, then I’m pretty sure there’s no hope for this season of my life, this time, this place and my future mindsets.

The last few days have been better than that terrible Monday.  For every one of the “I wants” there have been blessings that I can choose to look at, be grateful for, and acknowledge God’s hand, working for our good.

I’m as convinced as ever that faith is the key to having a life focus that gives courage and hope.

It didn’t end at the Cross, and our Sunday’s coming!

My heart chooses grateful praise.

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Incredible!SweetCorn, Incredible Sadness

It was two of the kind of days that seldom come at the end of July.  Cool, breezy, and so nice for the jobs at hand.  We worked in the refreshing coolness on Friday, making short work of over 1200 ears of gorgeous Delaware Sweet Corn, named (appropriately) “Incredible!” by some foresightful agriculturalist.

“I don’t remember ever having this nice a day for doing corn,” I said repeatedly to my sometimes skeptical co-workers, members of my family that are suckers for this kind of punishment on an annual basis.  They would look thoughtful.  Some agreed and some did not.  But no one could dispute the fact that it was almost perfect..  We finished in good time and put things aside for the 750 ears that would be coming the next morning.

Saturday.  By 9:30, a familial crew descended upon the grounds of Shady Acres and we got those 750 ears done and all cleaned up by three o’clock.  It was, again, a wonderful day .  The weather was almost as wonderful as the day before, the company was good, and the camaraderie was so sweet. It felt really good to have the year’s supply of corn in the freezer.  Then everyone scattered — taking the freezer bags of corn home to their own freezers.

Certain  Man, who had been working on his sermon, came outside to do the final washing and put the pavilion and driveway back to order.  I carried the clean wash baskets, muck buckets, pans, knives and put them away.  The afternoon sunshine was dappling down through the shade in the side yard and the pavilion’s cement floor was clean and wet.
corn day clean up

There were loose ends in the house to round up, and there were several loads of laundry from the morning still hanging on the line, warm and dry from the long hours it had spent there.  I stirred around in my house, started a bleach load of laundry from the day’s gathering and loaded the dishwasher.  I put away the corn utensils, pots and pans and felt that deep, deep satisfaction of a good day’s work.  I still needed to retrieve my dry laundry and do some Saturday night straightening, but I kept landing on my chair and taking breaks.

A little before seven, the phone rang and it was Eldest Daughter.  “Mom, did you know that Lem and Jess are stopping on their way home from the beach?”

“I had texted him, Chris,” I said, “and asked if they were stopping.  I hadn’t heard back.  I decided they had just gone on home.  I might have missed something, though.  My phone was almost dead and I have it plugged in.  I may not have heard.”

“Well, he said that he told you guys that they were going to be there around eight.”

Certain Man picked up my phone from the phone booth where it was charging and said, “Oh, yes.  There is a message here.”  He read it.  “It says they are going to be here around eight.”

Around the phone receiver, I mouthed to him,”Tell them it will be fine!”  And then went back to Christina and learned that the Alexandria Yutzys were hoping for some burgers on the grill.  That was fine because there was still nothing decided upon for late Saturday Supper.  Eldest Daughter was making some zucchini bread, and we decided that she should bring that on down to the oven at Shady Acres to bake and add to the late night snack.

And so the happy evening passed.  Burgers and fresh tomatoes and lettuce and garden tea and other snacks pulled from the pantry mixed with the smell of baking zucchini bread and a pot of Dolcés Jamaican Me Crazy Coffee.  I looked at this small gathering and was grateful for the gifts of this day.  The conversation and laughter and stories and the smell of good coffee wrapped around me with the love of those gathered there and I counted blessings.

Then, in the middle of it all, the phone rang.  I was surprised to see the phone number of my sister in law, Polly Yoder, appear on the caller I.D., and even more surprised when I answered, and it was my brother, Mark, Jr. on the other end.

“Mary Ann!  How are you this evening?”  It was my brother’s voice, subdued but strong.

“I’m good!” I answered, feeling good to the core.  “How are you guys?”

It was Polly’s voice as well as Mark’s that answered.  “Well–”  “We aren’t so good–”  “We’re feeling kinda’ sad this evening.”  And I heard the tremble in one of the voices.

Bravely, one of them went on.  “We just left Jeremy and Cheryl’s.  They got the results of the testing for Jase.”  I felt my stomach tighten.  I felt like I couldn’t breathe.  “. . . and Jase is positive for SMA.”

SMA.  Spinal Muscular Atrophy.  Our family already knew enough about this terrible genetic disorder. Jeremy and Cheryl’s sixteen month old daughter had the same disorder and, after brightening our lives for what seemed but a moment, flew home to Heaven one April night in 2014.  It is difficult to put into words how the days that marked her short live affected us all.  She had a smile that could light up a whole room, a deep affinity for her family that was a result of being known and loved and cherished and tenderly cared for all the days of her life.  Her short life spoke joy and value and God to us all.  It was the hardest of times.  But the valley was ablaze with GRACE and GLORY and HOPE.

Jeremy and Cheryl, their two sons, Max and Boaz, and Mark, Jr. and Polly and the rest of their family finished strong.  Their Anchor did not fail them.  And when we heard that there was another baby on the way, we all prayed for a healthy child.  It seemed like it would be the right reward for their faith and for their faithfulness in the storm that would have destroyed so many others. God gives good gifts to his children, doesn’t He?  He’s promised the desires of our hearts when we delight ourselves in Him, and delighting themselves in God has been the heart cry of this family.  I cannot erase the sounds of Cheryl’s voice, lifted in unmitigated praise and trustful relinquishment in a small church in Baltimore where we gathered to celebrate Ariel’s life.  There was a small white casket, and this brave young mother exalted a God who could do no wrong, who was worthy of our praise, even when we couldn’t understand.  Surely God would reward/honor that kind of faith.

He should, shouldn’t He?

He would, wouldn’t he?

Jase Marius was born exactly a month after his great grandmother went to Heaven.  July 16, 2015.  9 pounds, 9+ ounces. Beautiful. So incredibly beautiful.  I looked at his pictures, and searched for any clue of SMA.  I prayed that the testing, done once he was born, would come back totally clear.  I thought of all the things that would indicate it was okay. The truth is, SMA isn’t immediately evident, and all the looking to see signs that all is well in the first days of life won’t really reveal anything.  But I really thought it would be.  I thought it had to be.

But now, I couldn’t escape this report, these results.

Mark and Polly and I talked for a little bit.  The conversation around the table had stopped when my side of the conversation had indicated something was terribly wrong.

“Did somebody die?” Hissed Christina anxiously.  Out of the corner of my eye, I saw a very anxious Charis hovering at my elbow, listening intently.  I shook my head, and tried to reassure them, but they knew that there was some sort of bad news.  My heart ached for Mark and Polly and their family.  My heart ached for this old world where the very state of being human begs for Redemption.  These disorders of genetic nature happen because we are a part of a world where things can go so wrong — Sometimes because of our sin, or because of our wrong choices, but often because we are mortals and subject to the laws and accidents of this natural world.

And now I sat, the reality of what this little guy and his family were facing, crashing over my heart while the tears streamed down my face.  But we have a six year old granddaughter.  She was obviously troubled by my distress.  She sidled up to me and threw her arms around my neck.  I took her on my lap and felt the warmth of her healthy body.

“Grammy — what will happen to the baby?”

“I don’t know, Charis, but I do know this, that his family will love him, and Jesus loves him and He can heal Jase.”  Her eyes were earnestly seeking mine.  “But Charis, if he does go to Heaven, just think about it!  Grandma Yoder will be waiting right there to just snatch him right up and hold him and squeeze him.  And that will be wonderful, too.”  I fought back the catch in my throat as I tried to think of hopeful words for her.

And so the evening passed.  Lem and Jess left for Alexandria, Charis went home with her Daddy and Mommy.  Certain Man went to bed so he could get up and finish his sermon.  I folded laundry, stirred about and thought and thought and thought.  And cried.  Deborah came home from Shakespeare in the Park and helped me clean the kitchen and we talked about life-important things.  Mostly about trusting God when things aren’t the way we want them to be.  About letting Him be God when it feels like everything is out of control.  About knowing that He is ruling and reigning and controlling, even when we hate what is going on.

After midnight, I climbed the steps to bed, took my shower, washed my hair, and finally slept.  The morning was here before I was ready.  I came downstairs to organize the morning, and it felt like a cloud was covering everything I did.  I stood at the counter, methodically counting meds and getting ready to get Our Girl Audrey and Blind Linda up and ready for the day.

“Oh, Lord Jesus!” I was going over the same row for the umpteenth time. “This looks so big, so hard, so overwhelming.”  The tears kept falling and I felt so incredibly sad.  “I thought your promise was that this child would be okay!”  Somehow the words settled into my anxious heart.  “Okay???  Are you saying he isn’t ‘okay?'”  “I know, but we asked for health!  And you could have made it that Jase was born without SMA!”  Then the words from Jeremiah 1:5 kept coming insistently to my head.  They were so strong that I finally went and looked them up.  I heard what God was saying to Jeremiah and I knew that it was true for this much prayed for, much loved, much anticipated Jase Marius.

“Before I formed (Jase) in the womb, I knew (him). Before he was born, I set him apart for my holy purpose.”  Jeremiah 1:5 GW.  God’s purpose for Jeremiah was that he was to be a prophet.  What is God’s purpose for Jase?  I don’t know.  But I do know that God has a purpose for Jase.  And He will show us what that is.

The other verse that was cross referenced from this verse was this one: “I saw (Jase) before (he) was born. Every day of (his) life was recorded in (my) book. Every moment was laid out before a single day had passed.” Psalm 139:16 NLT

God’s eyes are on this family for good.  He is neither surprised nor dismayed; neither stymied nor baffled.  This is hard.  We don’t understand. But He is God!  He has a plan.  He can be trusted. He is worthy of our praise.

And so, today, this heavy heart will choose to give HIM (grateful) praise.

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January Evening

The cold seeps in around the edges of the old farmhouse.  I take a cup from the corner roundabout and wonder at how cold it is.  Why is that cupboard so cold?  I almost want to pour boiling water into it and let it sit for a bit until it is thoroughly warmed before making a cup of mint tea.  The day has been long.  Tonight I finally finished the delinquent paperwork that I need to file with the state.  I feel cross.  I should be grateful.  I have a wonderfully understanding case manager, and I’ve had the best nurses in the system.  My case has just been reassigned, something I always dread, but the replacement is optimistic and warm and she makes me think that just maybe, losing the best nurse I’ve ever had won’t be the end of my tenure.

The cold has been seeping around the edges of my soul these last few months.  Sometimes it seems like grief deferred is grief escaped, but it just isn’t so.  It niggles at the edge of my conscious thought, lends cloud cover to my sunniest days.  I’ve fought with all my might, I think.  I refuse to answer any question of “How are you?” with anything but an enthusiastic, “I’m GOOD!”  Or even, “I’m GREAT!!!” and if the truth be told, that does make me feel better.  But the tears are so close, and the smallest things set me off.

Today, Youngest Daughter stood in our kitchen, ready to go see Joe, the employer that has suffered a stroke.  She is blinking back the tears.  “I know that he knows me, Mama, but he doesn’t remember my name sometimes.  I feel like my sense of loss is far deeper than I realized at first.  At first, I knew he was in there, and I thought that he would probably get better, but now it’s like he knows that he knows me, but he doesn’t know how or why.  And–” her voice caught and I had to strain to hear her, “I’m afraid it’s just too late.”

“It reminds me of  a story I read recently,” I told her, “about this girl who would visit her grandma and her grandma never spoke her name, but would engage in conversation with her.  She wanted her grandma to remember her name so desperately, so as she was leaving, she said, ‘Grandma, you don’t know my name, do you?’  Her grandma looked at her intently and then said, ‘I don’t know your name, but I know that you are someone I love.’  And Rachel, I believe that is how it is with Joe.  He may not remember your name, but he does know that you are someone that he loves.”

Tonight I am so glad that when Jesus looks at me, He knows my name.  He knows my heart.  He knows that I am someone He loves.  This soul sadness is something that He has already carried, so he understands it.  And while there are numerous things that are honest grief, there are still One Thousand Gifts to count, and people around me who need to be encouraged and loved on and who “borrow” joy from me.  This I purpose to rejoice in and I also purpose to not let them down.

And so, let the evening begin.  I have “promises to keep and miles to go before I sleep.”  I think I’d best get busy.

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Poured Out

I was standing in my sunny kitchen. It was the morning after our family reunion. It had been a glorious weekend — lots of good exchanges, wonderful food, incredible singing and familiar faces. It was well planned and things went smoothly. I had reasons to rejoice, but I felt so incredibly sad.

Most of the weekend had been colored by my Sweet Mama’s nasty fall, with ensuing concerns about her coumadin blood thinner and the ever increasing bruising that kept showing up on her face. I had made decisions to the best of my ability and tried to be as careful as I could to not miss anything — but her trip to my brother’s house in her beloved Pennsylvania mountains had to be scrapped.

I wondered at the depth of my sadness, and thought about the many things that were tugging at heart. There are difficult faith journeys of several people whom I love deeply that keep me on my face before The Father. There was my Sweet Mama’s fall, of course, but there are also the difficult questions about her care and ongoing aging issues. There is a precious sister in law who is dealing with serious health issues and a brother whose melancholy temperament and tender heart is suffering, too, as he watches his beloved’s pain. Youngest Daughter’s internship in inner city Philadelphia has been stretching and wrenching in so many ways. And though she cannot tell me the stories, she lets me pray, and it is despicable the crimes that adults commit against defenseless children. Sometimes I hear snippets from other avenues and it feels as if my heart will break for the children. And I know my girlie. Her heart is not hardened. Yet. And though things hurt her so deeply, I still pray that she will not allow the sin she is exposed to daily to harden her heart against all that is pure and good and right. There are others who are making life choices that make me sad. There is grief and conflict and fractured families. And this old world is “hell-bent for disaster” on too many fronts.

I stood there in my kitchen, praying against the darkness in my soul. I knew that there was more going on here than the proverbial “Yoder Blues,” but I felt powerless against the magnitude of it all. It seemed there wasn’t even room for my favorite weapon of grateful praise. Maybe if I would take each thing that was troubling me and bring them individually to The Father, it would help. And so, I began, but it wasn’t long before I felt overwhelmed by the enormity of my task. The broad expanse of need (both mine and others) was so great. And then a strong impression overwhelmed my conscious thought.  “Pour it out!”

“Pour it out???”  The thought was so full of hope. I wondered what would happen if I could envision taking this heart, so full of negativity and pouring it all out into the love and joy of The Father. The mental picture energized me and I picked up the largest tumbler I could find and filled it to the brim. I imagined that tumbler, full of all the things that were making me so sad, and I held it over the sink and prayed as I poured it all out and watched, weeping, as it went down the drain.

Unbidden, Psalm 51 came to my mind in song.

v. 10 “Create in me a clean heart, O God,
And renew a right spirit within me!”

(Yes, Lord Jesus, A clean heart! A right spirit!)

v. 11 “Cast me not away from thy presence;
and take not thy Holy Spirit from me.”

(Please, Father God!)

v. 12 “Restore unto me the joy of thy salvation;
and uphold me with thy free spirit.”

(Ah, this I need, I need!!!)

v. 13 “Then will I teach transgressors thy ways;
and sinners shall be converted unto thee.”

(And may your strong arm be seen in this weakness in such a way that others will be attracted to you and come to know you and love you!)

“Pour it out!” I looked at my empty tumbler and turned to face the day. There were still things to pray about, things that concerned me. But the sadness had retreated and no longer overwhelmed me.

And my heart gave grateful praise.

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