Take and eat, the serpent says
and you will not die,
but be like God.
Take and eat, Jesus says
this is my body
broken for you,
so you may have life
and be with God.
#30daysofpoetry #day19 #GoodFriday
When peace like a river attendeth my way
Oh what joyful delight flowed the day you were born
When sorrows like sea billows roll
And then. That day flooded with deep, deepest despair.
Whatever my lot, You have taught me to say,
And today. Your birthday. With waves of emotion leaving me worn,
It is well, it is well, with my soul.
but oh so grateful for all the days we could share.
*”It Is Well With My Soul” lyrics by Horatio Spafford.
Seven years have bumped and jostled along since our son’s suicide. Although grief occasionally changes clothes or dons various hats, it remains an unruly and unwelcome guest whose weighty presence still presses hard on my heart, still squeezes out tears to the point of overflow in awkward and unwanted moments. My recent reflections on how grief has changed and not changed (and changed me) over the past seven years were interrupted yesterday by a question.
The question is buried in the Biblical narrative of the rebuilding of the temple in Jerusalem under the leadership of men like Ezra, Nehemiah, and Zerubbabel. Rebuilding anything from the rubble was a monumental task, made even more challenging by strong opposition from many sides. The small and tenuous steps towards reconstruction seemed inadequate – how would this ever result in anything that resembled the former glory of the temple before the Babylonians completely razed it?
Into this context, God inserts a question delivered through the prophet Zechariah: “Who despises the day of small things?”
We are not trying to rebuild an impressive temple, but we are attempting to rebuild life, knowing that it will never be as it once was. Life before our loss was as imperfect as it is now, but a missing loved one cannot be replaced, repaired, rebuilt.
This question stopped me because it gave me a new way living with grief.
Because we have just lived through seven years of days upon days of small things.
Rather than viewing all these small things – the sun rising each morning, food filling the table, rain replenishing dry ground, snowflakes sparkling in winter sun – as inconsequential in comparison to the magnitude of the loss or the longing for something that will never be again or never be at all, I am reminded that the small things are foundational to the ways that God is reshaping me and our family. In the story, the people rejoiced when the chief builder picked up his plumb line – a small tool and a small step in the face of the great task ahead. A small step in turning despair into joy.
It was a day of small things.
So I, too, am learning to pay attention to and find joy in the small things. The fact that grieving happens in a place of rubble rather than a finished edifice means that I have much to learn, and I can be grateful for the small beginnings that lead to greater hope and purpose and a deeper understanding of what God is building into my life.
So today I rejoice in lilies, planted after Justin’s memorial, that for seven years have brightened a corner of our backyard and my heart.
A small thing in the days of small things.
It’s Saturday morning and laundry load #2 spins while I enjoy a tea latte and rays of sun. More chores require my attention, but they are content to wait, to allow this day to unfold purposefully and leisurely.
I scroll through some pictures on my phone, thinking that it is time to delete a few.
And this one stops me.
Not because it is particularly unique or stunning – it’s just a little hillside path from a brief bike-hike a few weekends ago. At the time what caught my eye was the contrast between angled green foreground and horizontal purple background.
What stops me today, however, is the unintended focal point of the composition, the juxtaposition of two trees – one dead, one alive. One black etching on a background of green. One skeleton on a hillside of life.
And then I realize that this unassuming snapshot is actually a perfect visual metaphor for living with loss. The grief doesn’t go away. It is always part of the picture somewhere.
But only a part.
The rest of the picture teems with life that keeps reaching for light and anchoring in steep rocky soil and waving and whispering in even the slightest breeze.
Just because death exists doesn’t mean that life stops.
And because life continues, sometimes we forget to acknowledge that for many there is a resident grief-tree. A photobomber of life moments.
But maybe, just maybe, the presence of grief makes all the green-ness of life that much more meaningful and rich and appreciated.
By grace alone.
Winter’s plug is pulled
water flows and overflows
animating ditches, culverts, creeks.
How the landscape of our world
if we pulled the plug
on wintery wastelands
of hatred, jealousy, pride
flow and fill and overflow
animating forgiveness, kindness, grace.
To the Faithful One who caused the sun to rise…
and shine bone-penetrating afternoon warmth
on friends whose hands cradle cups of hot tea
while conversations steep in grace and hope
and broken-hearts-still-healing drink whole-heartedly
the reminders to faithfully pursue truth and trust…
be all glory and praise, honour and majesty.
Today I extract the memories with care
Perhaps this year they’ll be easier to share
vivid and valued
fragile and fading
precious and painful
But once they lay on the table before me
adequate words to express them simply flee
So I enfold each one in love anew
and tuck it gently away from view
There is a place deep inside
where these treasures will always reside
A place where grief and grace meet
the rhythm of this mother’s heart beat.
Beat-beating, beat-beating, beat-beating…
Stained yet washed-clean
Broken yet held-whole
Emptied yet filled-full
Pulsing replies to the rhythms of love
Pounding defiance to the arresting of grief
Drumming percussion to a unique life-song
Metronome of grace 🌿
I make absolutely no claim to being a poet, but April is National Poetry month, so I’m challenging myself to writing a poem a day for the month. It will likely be frustrating and interesting and, well, challenging. It could also be a complete disaster. Oddly enough, I’m actually okay with that as a possibility.