Bitter or Better

People ask me how I am feeling.

I know in essence that’s asking if the pneumonia is gone, or if I have more energy and if dinner is happening easier along with packing morning lunches and hurrying little feet off to school.

But the question I really want to answer is not how I’m feeling but what I’m feeling.

It’s strange how this shell of a body can heal while still leaving one shell shocked.  How you can be better and yet not anywhere near recovered.  How you’re out of bed blissfully baking brownies but still wanting to crawl under covers to hide from daylight. How this being beat back time and time again has left scars and scabs that will take a journey before arriving whole.

blog 2I’m reading this beautiful book called Mourning Into Dancing by Walter Wangerin, Jr. and I have found a friend between the pages.  He says “we die a hundred times before we die; and all the little endings on the way are like a slowly growing echo of the final Bang! before that bang takes place.”

She crawls up at my feet all smiles, her spilling the contents of the day, when in a blink the mood changes and we hold hands into uncharted water and I know deep in my heart we are stepping onto holy ground.  That some great awakening is about to unveil.

She talks about her outbursts, this one born of my own flesh in more ways than one. That no-one really knows it, but it’s not because she’s mad at her brother or the homework that she pitches a fit. It’s that she wishes she had a mom who was well enough to come to all the school parties and lunches.  That when she’s hiding under her bed crying, it’s because she’s sad I spend some weeks with more time in bed and at the docs than anywhere else.  That deep in her heart, sometimes…just sometimes, she wished she had a mom like everyone else.

And I’m her witness nodding at all the pauses.

But it’s what comes next that brings a flood of tears, because hearing that your precious eight year old girl who’s discovered grief so young…to hear that she crawls out from under warm blankets to kneel beside her bed and pray for me while all the rest of us are sleeping…well there are no words. Only tears mingled with hers that this is hard. That this is never what I would have chosen for any of us. But that there is a daily choice to choose bitter or better.

I see god blogAnd in the choice to be better there will be grief, and so much of it! Because my dear friend, no matter what you’ve been told about big girls don’t cry, or tears show you weak and weakness is something to run from at all costs, you’re going to have to come to terms with before the sun sets that

…grief is not the enemy.  It hurts, to be sure. But it is the hurt of healing.  Grief is the grace of God within us, the natural process of recovery for those who have suffered death, exactly as the slash in my arm, with scabs and pain and itchings, healed.  Grief is itself the knitting of wounded souls, the conjoining again of brokenness. ~Walter Wangerin Jr.

It’s hard work this shedding of tears as our old self sheds. But somehow, somehow I’m convinced that perhaps to the surprise of us all, joy comes in the mourning.

And I’m tasting it. In all this sadness, grace carries light.

blog 3

When You Can’t Feel Anything

I’m unpacking lunch boxes, handing out after school snacks and listening with all ears tuned to little people chatter about their day, when out of the blue her call comes through.

Her…the one who’s journeyed deep waters with me.  Who wasn’t afraid of rampaging texts as I worked honestly through the latest crisis at hand.

The one who stood firm in faith as funds emptied and we waited for jobs to come through.

The one who always said confidently “Jesus goes with you” as we’d up and pack for another “even though I walk through the valley” travel.

And all this mostly through text and email.  The encouraging steady heart of a friend reassuring she was there through it all.

Not tiring.

Not wearying that the battles re-occurred and bloodied everyone in the process.

She was and is and will be there.

We chatted small talk when a catch in my throat caught as she revealed her true reason for calling: to cheer on one who was battle weary.

The words were few, but something in her quiet resolute heart opened a window of my soul giving permission to feel.

To feel how hard it’s been.

To count the cost.

To shed tears of loss.

To remember that in all the getting it wrong, my Father’s heart is always warmed by faithfulness.  By our picking-back-up-agains to follow into unknown seas.

And for the first time in months, tears flowed and didn’t stop long into the moonless night.

Who knew?

Tears.

The ticket out of survival mode.

Softening a heart preparing it for spring planting.