“Don’t forget in the darkness what you have learned in the light.” -Joseph Bayly “Yet sometimes the darkness descends so thickly that we can barely remember the light.” -Phillip Yancey
Grief, like a cloud, rolls in and fog descends to blanket your entire world. You lift your eyes and see all silvery-white, only a few feet before, everything else is hidden. You live in a world submerged, unable to observe, to grasp that life is moving on without the one you love.
They say time heals the pain. Time just soothes the ragged edges, but Jesus heals the heart.
Slowly the morning light pours in and the fog begins to lift. You start to see the world around, still living life, but you see through new eyes. Grief has altered your vision, given a new perspective, a changed outlook on life. Life is not to be taken for granted, those closest, held dear, every day treasured.
They say hindsight is 20/20, but until heaven, we see through a glass darkly.
While blanketed in the fog, you reach with outstretched arms, yearning to feel His love and compassion. Without fail they are there, ready and waiting, always. When the fog has lifted, you look back and define beauty in the moments He gave grace, see His strength supplied to climb the next high mountain. There was comfort for the days overpowered with tears, mercy when we lashed out in anger, and peace in the middle of the storm.
Rather than demanding God answer our “Why?” questions, may we instead ask “What would you have me learn?”
Five years later, questions still crowd our minds, queries with no answers. We will live with those questions for now, trusting God’s sovereignty. We live understanding that walking a fiery trial is not easy, it is not without pain, grief, and days of sorrow. Are we better for having walked this road? Grief has softened, taught grace, mercy, and love. We have learned to cherish, to hold with an open hand. We understand how pain and joy co-exist in life. Heartache made us wise, suffering strengthened us, and we held onto hope, gripping desperately with both hands. We walked the fiery trial and we learned to rest in God, who holds all things in His hands.
On the foggiest night pain is real, but so is hope.
Growing up, camping was not a popular activity at our house. We were farmers and farmers stayed home and worked 95% of the time. Chores and all the things demanded constant attention and left little time for other things. Once a year we went to Ohio and camped with Mom’s family and that was the highlight of our year. We were kids and therefore sleeping on the ground was an adventure.
Fast forward a few years and I got married, and unknown to me, I married into a camping family. Eric soon realized that multiple camping trips a summer while sleeping on a damp, gritty air mattress in a little tent, made for an unhappy wife. Ten years and three children later, we purchased a camper. It needed an entire winter of fixing, but in the end, it was worth it. It tipped the scales to a much nicer camping experience and a much happier wife.
Our children now believe that summer must revolve around camping. If we go less then twice, it’s a crying shame, say they and their father! So, I pack the things and go along. It is still not my favorite thing to do, but has become much more tolerable then it once was. Give me a fan, some water, good company, and I will camp. Oh, and food, give me all the food.
This summer scheduled itself and we ended up with three weekends in a row of lawn chair sitting. They were good weekends, but I am now quite happy to remain in the luxury of my home for a very long time.
One weekend of camping was down at the Millfam farm and that is about 1/4 mile from our house. The long and the short of a weekend like that is keeping the path back the the house well traveled. We run a vehicle, the dirt bike, or the ranger home to take a shower, grab some food, bring some more clothes, take freezer food home, change a load of laundry, and you get the point. Is it technically camping? In my book it still is.
The next weekend we were in IN with my family. We didn’t pull the camper out there but instead slept in a cabin. We spent the rest of our waking hours outside enjoying the beautiful weather. We were expecting hot and humid, but instead it was perfect camping weather, with the exception of a few rain showers thrown in. Doesn’t it always rain at least once when you camp?
Cooking over a fire doesn’t really thrill any of us so we had a few big griddles and grills along to save ourselves some work. You say it’s not camping to cook like that? It’s my kind of camping.
Saturday we did some exploring to places we went when we were kids. It was fun reminiscing those Sunday afternoon drives we used to take.
And when it rains it pours. We were hiding out under everything we could find, table clothes, beach towels, and even trash bags, and the wind was still driving the rain in on us.
When the rain finally stopped, it was time for a fire. We are not your typical campers and therefore not your regular fire builders either. Dad was spraying diesel fuel trying to build it to roaring in just few minutes while Tys strolled by, hoping not to melt his trash bag raincoat.
Evening campfires are probably my favorite part about camping. Everyone gathered around, kids roasting marshmallows, conversations running from one topic to the next, good food being eaten, and depending which group you camp with, there will be some campfire singing. There always good times around the fire.
Do you like to go camping? It’s growing on me. Maybe when I’m old it will be my favorite pastime.
And when she learned to read, a whole new world opened before her eyes.
Long before Madison was old enough to go to school, she was wishing and longing and waiting to go. Her number one priority in life was to learn to read, books were waiting, stories hidden on the pages, anticipated.
Kindergarten was so exciting. She would come home in the afternoon and chatter until bedtime about everything she had learned. She told of numbers and letters, what Jenson did, what Delanie said, and what Carolyn had told them to do. She was going to learn to read.
First grade was all she ever wished for. Miss Lois kept everyone entertained. There were object lessons, recess, green eggs and ham, eggs to hatch, and chickens to carry home. Best of all, she finally learned to read.
She read little books and big books, skinny books, fat books, funny books, and books that were over her head. She read to her siblings and told long drawn out book stories to her parents. She read inside, curled up on the chair, and outside on the swing. She sneakily read while she folded laundry, and of course, late at night in bed. She had learned to read and a whole new world had opened up before her.
Leaving Miss Lois’ room was cause for tears. She was sure there would never be a teacher she loved as much or could teach so well. But Miss Brit swept in and taught with passion and Madison fell in love again.
Those years of school flew by, full of fun, good memories, and laughter. There were creative writing lessons that lit a fire in Madison. She poured her all into her stories, spinning tales for her teacher’s pleasure. A substitute teacher was long remembered for his mud ball fights and a water hose. Once upon a time, she tangled with a cousin in a sprawling, scrapping fistfight. There were art classes, long walks in the fall, and a painted paper dragon to walk around. Many times, Miss Brit took Madison under her wing, listened, consoled, and guided her.
All the while, Madison read on. She read everything in the school library, asking for books on shelves for older kids. She lapped up everything from the public library, soaking in the words, pouring over them, reading and rereading the best. When engrossed in a book, nothing phased her, nothing was seen or heard, she was completely oblivious to the world around.
In 6th grade Madison moved on to Alan’s room, merely quaking at the thought. She remembered times from years past when she sneakily traded jobs to avoid having to go into his room. And now, here she was, about to spend the rest of her school years under his tutorage, sure that none could match so great a teacher as Miss Britt. Words from older and wiser ones told her Alan’s teaching could not be compared. In no time at all, he had put her fears at ease, and once again, she was sure she was being taught by the best.
Social life was her favorite pastime, all her spare minutes were wrapped up with friends. Sleepovers with Audrey and the girls, paired in groups for a Science Fair, or battling it out in a water fight. School plays each year were a highlight, practice days always led to good times. She loved Talktionary in the mornings or a softball game at recess, and slowly she improved in volleyball. There were Honor rolls and field trips, bus rides, and squashed into vans, laughing, talking, and having a good time.
Along with reading, she took up a baking hobby. There were cakes, muffins, cookies, and pastries of the likes her family could not name. There were fails and flops, but she persevered and soon turned things into delectable desserts. When it was too much to eat at home, she carried it along to school to feed her classmates. If there was food involved in a Science Fair, Madison was usually volunteering. Food from Israel, an Ohio State cookie, and even a cake like a heart.
High school brought new challenges, always something new to learn. Algebra was a test of her good spirit, the dreaded math equations seemed to best her every time. Biology was a favorite with many good times in class. Instead of digging right into cellular structure, they started with a joke from each of the three, waiting to see who would laugh first. Class time often involved iced coffees and lots of snacks to power through. Chemistry stretched her brain and tried her smarts, but she prevailed and enjoyed her time in that book.
Since reading was such a key factor in her life, it surely meant others liked to read just as well. Books and more books were stuffed into her bag and toted along to school. “Have you read this one? You should read that one.” was her encouraging way of passing on her love of words. Soon her locker library held nothing but books. She would wheel and deal, passing out new ones and collecting the returned. She acquired a small bookshelf from a cousin, built just to fit her locker, to help run her budding librarian career.
When it seemed all books were exhausted, still she read on. She gathered information, stored it in her brain, spewed knowledge to her family’s bewilderment, while still reading and learning more. She studied medical textbooks, read fiction, biographies, poems, and retained copious amounts of knowledge. She read her Bible, dug in and studied, changed, grew, and loved Jesus more. Her soft spirit portrayed what she read was abiding in her heart.
Life took a turn for Madison and her last year of school was not all she had dreamed of. Plagued with health issues, she missed a lot of activities, spent most of her hours sleeping or studying , while still trying to make the most of her time left in school.
In the Spring she waved good-bye to classmates, excited for plans of Spring break, never knowing she was leaving school for the last time. Plans disrupted, schedules changed, quarantined at home, and home school with Mom, the schoolroom was left behind, quiet and empty. She was disappointed, there was so much missed, yet through it all, her cheerful attitude prevailed, and still she smiled. She bent to her task, read and studied, and pulled up her grades, never giving in to the challenges before her.
Madison, as you graduate and leave your school years behind, keep your smiling, cheerful attitude, and continue fighting for the underdog. Don’t quit reading, studying, and learning, always strive to grow and mature, especially in Jesus. Never give up, cultivate your soft heart, reach out to Jesus, lean on his strength, and no matter what life brings your way, with Him, you will prevail.
This was written almost three years ago, but the last week my mind has been drawn back to it again and again. Perhaps there is someone out there who needs it.
The heart was cold, dry, and musty. It was empty and dehydrated from lack of nourishment. There was no dripping joy of gladness overflowing, no welling up of tender love and care. It was empty, shriveling up, and becoming hard and brittle.
Life had taken a toll on the heart and deserved all the blame. Things were hard, ruthless, unfair, and overwhelming. All the “Why’s” “How’s” and “I can’t handle anymore.” kept crowding in and taking up more space, leaving no room for a positive thought.
Self-pity slowly dripped acid into the open wounds. “Life is just about giving and never receiving, giving of time, talents, money, health, and even family.” “There is never a moment of peace,” it whispered, “You deserve so much more than you are getting.” And the cold, dark, and broken heart believed.
Faith wavered when prayers went unanswered. Doubt crept in and worry filled all the corners. Life seemed to have more questions then answers and the heart was starting to believe the lies.
The more time passed, the more the heart hardened. Life lost its sunshine and everything was covered with the cloud cover of hurt. Anger and weariness took over.
The heart looked longingly at others, wishing for what they had, for the song they sang. It wondered how to find this again, and was there something missing? The head knew all the correct answers, but the heart was not feeling them.
Over time one small note after another made its way across the path of the heart. “I am faithful, I will not fail you. Lean on Me, trust in Me. I am a refuge for the weary. I am a shelter from the storm. I am comfort, I am protection.”
But is it true? Do I dare believe? Can I trust Him again?
“I am close to the brokenhearted. I hear your cries. You are precious to me. You are mine and I love you.”
And with the touch of His finger, a tiny sliver of hope was born.
Slowly, slowly over time the heart began to warm as more notes, more words, made their way around. Deep in its depths where it was cracked and broken, a little light began to shine in and break up the darkness. The Mender poured in healing oil, warm and smooth. He worked the rough edges, patching the cracks, smoothing the broken pieces and closing the gaping holes. A heart badly broken is not mended in one day, but patiently He worked, never giving up and ever so slowly, healing began.
There were still days when the heart wanted to whither and shrink, to pull back and believe the old lies. But the Mender had a gentle touch and while He worked He quietly whispered words of encouragement, of love, truth, and peace into the once torn and ragged heart. Each stitch was reshaping and reviving a broken heart to be made new. Each patch was bringing new strength and vigor to a once worn and struggling soul, life was returning to the heart.
While the heart may not be as beautiful as it once was, each mended piece and scar tell a story, each patched and sewn corner weave a tale. The heart is now filled with gladness and singing, light squeezes through the threads, spilling out to tell the world of the Mender’s touch.
And lo, the days of quarantine were upon them all
and the tribe of Eric, son of Dan, did reside at home
day after day after day upon day
until day turned into night and into the morning,
with no knowledge of what day may be tomorrow,
neither could they tell what day was this very hour,
from the rising of the sun to the setting thereof.
And behold, while they remained in the house,
they did roam about, searching for things to devour
and the sound of munching and crunching
did fill the ears of all that were in the house.
And the Mother of the tribe did weep and wail in lament,
saying unto herself and to all within hearing,
“How is it that the consumption of food is so great among us?
Shall I go out and sell all that we have to buy bread?
Whatever has overcome thy stomachs
that you believe starvation to be nigh?”
And they answered her not, for they did not observe,
neither did they hear, for the sound of their chewing was deafening.
And so it was, that day after day the mother of the tribe
did lean over the fire, cooking for the children of her youth;
and the consumption of food thereof was great.
There were meats to be grilled, potatoes to be mashed,
squawking chickens to be plucked and cooked,
hamburgers to prepare, while pasta and sauces simmered.
Cookies and pies, breads, bars and cakes,
more cookies, along with fruit and veggies galore.
There was the frying of pancakes and eggs, sausage and bacon,
bowls of cereal, with bagels and muffins for all.
Great dishes of lasagna, heaping piles of chipotle,
pizza and steaks and roast beef with gravy,
along with all the leeks and garlic of Egypt.
Behold, they fared sumptuously every day
and they did all eat but were not filled.
And turning, the mother wiped the sweat from her brow
yet her eyes beheld not the fruits of her labor,
but only the crumbs that remained,
being licked up by the dog.
Disbelief and despair marked her face
and upon seeing her look, her son wailed also,
“Mother, where has all the food gone?
I find nothing at all to eat! Behold, I perish!”
And sitting down, she did put her head into her hands
and sighed greatly, saying,
“My son, I too am begging for an answer to thy question.
Who are the ravishing among us scarfing it up?
For lo, all my work has disappeared, eaten by people
roaming to and fro, looking for what they might devour.
What is this that has come upon us?”
And her cooking spirit did wither and fail,
and she rose from her chair with a heave and a sigh,
proclaiming to all within hearing that
she was weary and worn and in need of much rest.
For never in all of her days had she beheld such a thing,
that the staying home of the tribe
had turned them into ravishing wolves,
scavenging for food to be devoured before the next.
And with the voice of a trumpet, she did declare
them to be filled, fat, and full, and no food was to be eaten
until the serving of the next square meal.
And a great cry arose, but she did drown them out, saying,
“Get out thy books. Home school hath begun!”