Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Weary and Burdened

"Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” Matthew 11:28

Weariness, yes I wear you like a cloak.  I mother wearily. I wife wearily. I daughter, sister, friend wearily from the weight of pain I carry on my back and on my shoulders and in my heart.  I notice a picture framed on the table. I see the face of a woman I used to know, a mother who radiates light and joy.  This woman gives freely to her husband and her friends and she appears to live in the brightness of heaven’s shine.  I see her and I want to stick out my hand to introduce myself.  “Hello there.  I’m Weary.  It’s nice to meet you.” For though she shares my face, I now hardly know her. 

Burden, yes I’ve met you too.  I carry you around in sinking arms and I stuff you down in my pockets to make room for more to come.  The tasks of the day pile on top of you until everything becomes one more thing and I feel like I might just crumble right here and right now.  You raise up on all sides of me and when I look in the mirror you, Burden, are all I see. 

Then I read His word.  Come to me, He whispers. He calls me by name.  Only He names me Daughter instead of Weary and Burden, reminding me that I am His and He will give me rest.  I feel the lightness return to me.  Heaven’s shine warms me.  My reflection takes me by surprise as I notice that I resemble again the woman in the picture, only something is different.  I now see a little more of Him in this face in the mirror.  I see a cross and on that tree I see my old friends, Weary and Burden.  Jesus has taken their names from me. I give thanks.  And I rest. 

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Returning to Bible Study

Lord, You are a shield around me.  You bestow glory on me and you lift my head.” Psalm 3:2

“The cost for childcare is $55.00 for two children,” the woman behind the check-in desk at my church Bible study declares as she waits for me to write the check.  I look up to correct her.  Before I have time to remind her that I have three children, my throat cracks and my heart drops.  I remember.

You are a shield.  Keep walking.

“This is your classroom buddy.  Have fun.  I’ll be back to pick you up in a little while.  I’ll be right upstairs with my friends learning about Jesus, just like you.  I love you.” Jack runs into his classroom alone, without his carbon copy.

You are a shield.  Keep walking.

Talk of God, talk of obedience, talk of strength and servitude fill the room.  Women of faith, women of beauty protect me on all sides.  Bibles are open while insights spill on the pages.  There is laughter and dialogue but I am far away.  My mind is blank and my body is numb.  My thoughts run to Webb.  The last time I came to Bible study, he was right below me, a level away, playing freely.  He was busy using blue and green crayons to color a bookmark that would be passed out at his funeral the next week.  That was another time in history.  My thoughts return to the present conversation.  While these thoughts camp here for moments, they quickly scurry back to memories of the last time I attended this study.  Sadness fills me and I look around at mouths moving, pages turning yet I hear nothing. 

You are a shield.  Keep walking. 

Small group time is dismissed.  I grope my way through faces to find a seat in the large lecture room.  I search for friends, for familiarity.  I find my place, sandwiched between sisters.  The lecture begins and I flip through my notebook.  It’s been untouched since Webb died.  October 19, 2011 is the date written at the top of the last entry.  My thoughts run to that day.  The words of the woman in the video from that morning flood my mind.  “What are you holding onto?  What are you clinging so tightly that you won’t let go?”  she asked us.  The page is filled with scribbles of notes I’d taken from the video.  I answered her question in writing.  “My boys.”  The two words are written large and clear and I hear myself whisper them out loud.  My family; it’s what I immediately thought of when she prompted us to think about what we hold more tightly than God.  Did I pray that morning that God would loosen my grip?  I don’t remember.  Did I ask Him to unpeel each one of my fingers off of my three children until my hands fell open, palms facing upward to Him?  I don’t know.  Didn’t you know, Father, that those were just words but not the condition of my heart?  Though my tongue spoke freely of desiring Your will, my knuckles were white with control. 

You are a shield.  Keep walking. 

Thoughts return to the current lecture.  Reality slaps my cheek.  The leader concludes our time and encourages us to quickly pick up our children from the nursery.  Eyes to the floor, I pray for invisibility and walk to pick up Jack.  He stacks blocks and returns toys to their shelves.  He spies my eyes and runs to the door.  My heart sinks as I look around for another.  Hand in hand we make our way through the crowd of buzzing mothers to pick up Duncan.  Through the rain we find the car.  We drive home in silence for I am tired and my hands are sore from God’s prying the control away.   Jack spots a train track and I’m back.  We laugh as we drive across the tracks, turn around and drive across them again.  One more time.  We make it home, dump bags on the floor and scurry to prepare lunch. 

One foot in front of the other I walk.  My steps are cautious and deliberate, unlike the carefree shuffle of yesterday. I see others with my old shuffle and I both want it back and yet, I hardly recognize it.  I realize that my new gait is becoming more comfortable and I keep walking.  You are a shield.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Here I am

Why do I write?

Through the years I have picked up and put down countless hobbies, habits and interests. While the dust gathered on the pilates mat, my punch card remained un-punched at the pottery studio and the metal rusted on the mountain bike, I remained devoted to one practice, writing. It has always been my respite and company of comfort. Writing forces me to pay attention. Today I wade through dark waters of grieving the loss of my beloved son, Webb. I find that by writing my thoughts, my prayers, my reflections I take pause from grief’s current and tread water.  Only the treading does not wear me out, but lifts me up. I am able to keep floating because I’ve paid attention to what I’ve floated through, Who has carried me and what still lies ahead.  I pay attention to the prayers left unanswered and the quiet, holy whispers that nudge me to trust. 

Writing allows me to release the aching, the longing and the rage that stirs inside me. By pouring out, I am filled. Usually, ultimately, miraculously God empties out pain and fills with mercy. Often I begin writing staring death and loss in the face.  It is all I see. Eye to eye with fists raised, I type in a face-off with anger and pain. Slowly and deliberately God softens my glare, lowers my fists, opens my hands and turns me around completely. By the time I shut my computer, I find that I am no longer engaged in stubborn battle, but resting in His arms with grace’s blue ribbon draped across my heart.

Why do I want to blog? 

This question has conflicted me the most. Those who know me know that I am fiercely protective of my family in this grief. Their thoughts, their prayers, their questions remain theirs to tell.  But I am now more than ever convinced that God is the author in my story of love and loss, and He always entitles it “Grace”. By keeping the story to myself, I rob Him and you of the beauty He has revealed. This story is not my own to keep tucked inside the hedges of safety and control. My pruning scissors shake from fingers rattled with fear. I begin snipping away the hedges and realize that the roots of control never even existed and the freedom to stand with palms truly open is God’s great gift of grace. 

In addition to the healing powers of sharing the journey, I have also come to believe that as believers in Christ, we are called to know sorrow. For too long I stood in the bleachers, a safe distance away from those who suffered. I was comfortable feeding the poor occasionally, baking bread for the sick and casually praying for the desperate. As I walk through death’s valley I see clearly how I’ve spent too long praising the Lord with my left arm raised high while using my right arm to wrap a wall of protection around my family and friends. Though I thought I desired God, what I really craved was safety. Pain is not something to witness from afar with stiff arms, but to enter into with soft hands. By sharing this valley, I invite others to dare to break, dare to release and dare to trust that God will meet us in the darkness and that ultimately light is always more powerful than dark. 

And lastly, I believe that a life’s worth is not measured by how many days are lived, but by how much love it has inspired. My son, Webb, lived three beautiful, sacred years with us. He now lives eternally with his Father where he knows complete and perfect love. But he continues to inspire those of us who remain on this side of heaven. As his blessed mother, it is my heart’s desire to carry on that love and to be a devoted steward of his inspiration.   God tells us that in the end all that remains is faith, hope and love. The greatest of these is love (1 Corinthians 13:13).  It is my prayer that as I walk through death’s valley I will find faith in God’s goodness, hope in His promises and ultimately God’s love over it all.