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Posts Tagged ‘love’

“Excuse me, Miss. I’m curious about what you’re doing there.” The old man motioned toward the sand as he spoke.

“Is this something personal, or artistic?”

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I didn’t realize anyone had been watching me carve the sand with my toes—camera in hand—so I was somewhat startled by his question.

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“Both,” I suppose.

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“I lost my little brother two years ago today so that makes it personal. And, it’s artistic because I created a blog in his memory. When I leave here, I’ll post these photographs and try to write about my experience.”

“I’m so sorry for your loss.” His eyes were kind as he respectfully tipped his worn denim hat toward me. I couldn’t help but notice his thin frame and knobby knees.

“Thank you.” I responded, looking into the old man’s eyes.

“How did he die?”

Ah, now there’s a question that is always awkward; kind of like the old man himself.

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“He killed himself.”

My answer startled both of us. Having been asked that question numerous times over the last two years, I’ve always used the phrase, “Jay took his life,” when responding. Somehow saying it that way felt less…intense. It also seemed to soften the blow and minimize the discomfort for the person who asked and for me. That question never gets any easier to answer. While I jump at the chance to talk about my loss as most grieving people do, the suicide factor always pierces my heart clean through.

“I’m so sorry.”

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The old man’s sincerity was rather refreshing.

“Thank you for wanting to know.” I said.  “Most people don’t, or at least they won’t risk asking.”

“Well, it’s beautiful what you’re doing there…for your brother,” he said. “Really beautiful.”

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“This is the best part,” I explained. “Watch what happens next.”

We watched as the tide came in, bringing the magenta-colored daisies with it.

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A few minutes later, a woman who was walking along the shoreline began plucking up each one of the daises from the sand and surf.

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Soon she cradled the entire bouquet.

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I could tell the man was concerned about her picking up the very same flowers I had so tearfully released into the sea.

“It’s alright,” I said, responding to his worry before he had the chance to admit it.

“Every time I release flowers in Jay’s memory, I sit back and watch them for a while. Eventually, the tide brings them back and someone comes by to gather them up with wonder, as if the ocean has handed them a miracle. The last time I did it, a little blonde girl ran along the sand and presented her mother with an ocean-bouquet. I watched as she pointed to the flowers and then out to the waves, trying to explain to her mother where the flowers came from.”

“As I release the flowers, I guess I release my brother all over again. Each petal represents a memory that I treasure. And somehow, God gives Jay back to me. God allows Jay’s memory to be a thing of beauty for someone else who never even knew him.”

“Jay’s life still brings joy, even through his death.”

We sat there for about fifteen minutes talking about life and loss and God before the old man finally stood up, dusted the sand off his cargo shorts, and reached out to shake my hand.

“Bless you,” I said, as he turned and walked away.

Just before I gathered up my things to vacate my sacred spot, a single magenta daisy caught my eye.

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I coddled it gently, as if I was cupping Jay’s face right there in my hands.

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You see, that’s the funny thing about grief. The more you let go, the more God gives you back. I know that’s not some new earth-shattering lesson or anything. It’s been a part of God’s economy from the get-go. Jesus Himself said, “Whoever finds their life will lose it, and whoever loses their life for my sake will find it” (Matthew 10:39).

But the difference is that now, I know this truth.

I know it because I’ve lived it.

I am living it.

Sometimes you just have to live something out for yourself, before it becomes really real, you know?

As a fellow survivor so poignantly put it,

“Once I accepted he was gone…”

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“I realized he never really left.”

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I wish the sun would stop setting.

If, even for just a moment, God would stop it from going down…

Right here in this very place.

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But, the sun will set…

And, tomorrow’s ache will come long before I’ve dealt with today’s.

Because grief waits for no one.

But, then again…

Neither does love. 

“Certainly the faithful love of the Lord hasn’t ended; certainly God’s compassion isn’t through! They are renewed every morning.” Lamentations 3:22-23a

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My life passage is Isaiah 61:1-4.

Powerful? Yes. Purposeful? Absolutely. But, on nights like this…when grief grabs at my gut and anguish atrophies every muscle of faith I can muster…I don’t care about power or purpose. 

I just want God to pick out a different life passage for me.

Please.

Why is it that in order to bind up the brokenhearted, I must know what it means to have my own heart shattered?

And, to comfort all who mourn, I must know what it means to bawl my guts out on the bedroom floor?

And, to restore the places long devastated, I must know what it means to sit among the ruins?

Because, in order for me to fully proclaim these things…

I must also fully bear them.

“What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?” (Romans 8:31-32)

“Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? As it is written: ‘For your sake we face death all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.’ ” (Romans 8:35-36)

“No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8:37-39)

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Then Jesus shouted, “Lazarus, come out!” And the dead man came out, his hands and feet bound in graveclothes, his face wrapped in a headcloth. Jesus told them, “Unwrap him and let him go!” John 11:43-44

I love the story of Lazarus because, well…Jesus raises a dead man from the grave. I mean …what’s not to love?

But, what should you do when death doesn’t rise? What should you do? 

What should I do?

Almost every post I’ve written over the last 9 months has been penned from a place of deep pain and desperate hope. Living in the shadows of Heaven’s silence. Lazarus getting sicker and sicker and still, no Jesus. Mary and Martha panicking and praying their guts out.

“Where’s the miracle? Why hasn’t Jesus come? When is He coming? Why, of all things, is my brother getting worse? So much worse?”

Like Lazarus’ sisters, these are the honest questions that I’ve cried out to God and wrestled with everyday. Every single day of my brother’s troubling illness.

While there is much I won’t pretend to understand, this I know: God has used this painful season to teach me to come alongside, more intimately, the suffering of others…those precious ones grieving the loss of a marriage…a dream…a family as family was intended to exist. And, this I also know…my intimacy with Christ has grown in breadth and depth beyond all confines.

These are all good things. I know that. Redemptive things. And, I’m grateful for each one. I am. I really am. But, the reality in which I now find myself is that…

I didn’t get what I wanted for Christmas this year…or the last three years, for that matter. I fasted, prayed, worshiped, wept…even slept with my Bible night after night. For three long years my heartcries only became more dramatic as each day passed and still…no “visible” or “tangible” answers. No healing. Nothing.

We tried everything to save my brother. Did everything. Prayed everything. And, still…so much pain and suffering. Too much. Everyday, his mental condition robbing him of dignity. Stripping him bare.

Every conversation…hearing him slip further away from me, the way a song slowly fades down low, until it comes to a silent end. And then…just when I thought it couldn’t get any worse…Heaven’s silence grew all the more deafening.

On December 11th, I got the one thing for Christmas that I never, EVER wanted.

Since Jay’s passing, I’ve found myself floundering in a greater measure of grief than I ever thought possible…the loss of his young life sucking the breath from my chest. My heart throbbing hot with the stark realization that his pain became far too much for him to bear, even for one more moment.

A pain he could not express, nor contain.

God, how can this be? While I know Jay is at rest in Heaven’s peace now, the reality of things gone seemingly awry has turned me upside-down and inside-out. It wasn’t supposed to end like this. His healing was supposed to happen on THIS side of Heaven, not the other.

I share this with you as I weep and grieve and groan–the computer screen blurred by endless tears–only because I know that God never intended us to hide our wounds–as much as we might like to–especially when they’re gaping wide open and bleeding out all over. Jesus didn’t try to cover up His blood. Instead, His blood covered all.

No doubt you’re longing for healing to happen on this side of Heaven too, as were we. That’s what drew most of you to our blog and to our marriage restoration story from the very start. But, as one year closes and another begins, we’re faced with learning to live out the sobering fact that…

Sometimes Jesus comes before death…

Sometimes Jesus brings life after death…

But, sometimes...death just comes. And stays.

Death has come and it is staying and amidst all my fighting and flailing, I know that I know that I know that I will drown in the massive waves of grief unless…

He trains my eyes and I strain my eyes…not to look, but to see. Because when I let God take me beyond the looking and into the seeing, I realize that…

Jesus did come.

Jesus came. 

I only know this because in the days since I got the one thing for Christmas that I never ever wanted, I’ve seen Jesus in unfathomable ways:

Jesus came in the person who left a candle on the porch of our childhood home.

Jesus came in the neighbor who consoled my father’s grief.

Jesus came in the memorial symbols that were definitely ALL THINGS JAY.

Jesus came in the sojourner who held me as I wept.

Jesus came in the smudgy sentiments of little hearts laid bare.

Jesus came in the dear ones who lent us hands and feet.

Jesus came in my Grammy, who wore Jay’s treasure with honor.

Jesus came in the red and green, hung against our mourning drab.

Jesus came in the sunlight, through the windows of the chapel.

Jesus came in the flowers, carried one-by-one.

Jesus came in the faces of the mourners, standing room only.

Jesus came in Hope’s candlelight, soft and glowing.

Jesus came.

Jesus comes.

Jesus will come again.

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