It was on purpose that Sunday afternoon, I put my tender little plants out on the back patio where they experienced a bit of the rain. Hardening they call it. The plants have been inside since their birth and now it is time for them, one day at a time, to experience the outdoor elements so they can be planted later this week and enjoy living life as a plant should- in the open and rich soil with rain, sunshine, and eventually a harvest. As I arranged the little plants, my phone dinged. Ah, a message from a friend—asking how I was doing with my very recent ninety-year-old grandma’s passing. Of course, tears sprung to my eyes and my middle did that whole “twisting about” thing that often comes with bouts of grief.
“Okay,” I texted back with my index fingers, because I have never been talented with my thumbs. I looked out at the yard before me, the plants and was amazingly struck by the similarity between the plants and me. Here, they had been sheltered and warm, safe inside. Now, it is their turn to be exposed to the elements. Oh, how I can’t wait for the day they get to put their roots down in the warm soil and put their faces towards the sun. I snapped a picture of the plants.
“I’m gardening today. Here’s the plants.” I sent the picture along with it.
“Oh nice!” She commented.
My eyes misted up. “They are out in the rain so they can enjoy the sunshine here soon.” The irony wasn’t lost on me or my friend.
After a few more minutes of chatting back and forth, I went inside. What a week it has been. The crazy thing about grief, as you may know, is that one moment can be filled with happy memories and the next moment you find yourself sad, missing that person terribly. Or a realization will come to you… I won’t ever receive any more texts from that person, or send a card in the mail for that person, or hear that person’s laughter again. Thank God He gives us grace through those moments until the sun shines again and we remember their eternal destination and how more than anything that is what you want for them.
Two years ago, I remember when we told our youngest daughter (age four at the time) that a family friend went to be with the Lord, she smiled, “he gets to go to heaven! She said from her pure heart.
I smiled through the tears, “Yes, yes he does”.
“Then why are you crying mommy?”
I smiled at that too. She was right of course, why cry when someone is going to the place they most joyously have looked forward to their whole lives? I mean it is the destination of all bucket list destinations. I answered, “I’m not crying for him, I am crying for me. I am going to miss him.”
Oh how I wish little kids didn’t have to learn about grief. I think it is one of the hardest things in the world to stand by and see as your kids grow up and experience more of this broken world that you cannot protect them from. It’s heart breaking, yet in this chance of walking along life with them, it’s teaching moments and moments that will remain with them if we place the God perspective inside of them.
So this same daughter held a very close relationship with Grandma H. At the beginning of this whole process, I dreaded telling my now six year old daughter that Grandma was being transported to the hospital and may be going to heaven soon. I told her and she looked surprised, then smiled again. “She gets to go?” She asked almost as if it wasn’t fair. As if Grandma was taking a special trip and leaving us all behind.
Again, I smiled. “Yes, isn’t that great news?” I said catching her child-like view of it all again, but still the tears burned the back of my throat. We sat with it for awhile and the next day, we cried together. It hurt to see hysterical sobs coming from my six year old as she clutched a unique and humorous card her great grandma had given her. “But we won’t see her again,” and she cried all over again with the card in her hand.
I smoothed her hair, my tears mingling into it, “We will, dear one. Just not here. We will be together when Jesus brings us all to heaven.” The tears still kept flowing on both of our cheeks. Grief is sure nasty and sneaky, but dare I say… necessary? Yes, it’s a part of life. As much as I wish it wasn’t.
So, Sunday, when this friend texted me asking how I was doing, I wasn’t sure what to say. Happy one moment, sad the next. Unpredictable. And you know what? That is okay.
I saw a quote this week that basically said:
“I chose to experience all the things so I can also experience joy.”
Perhaps I am a bit late to the ballgame, but here in my upper thirties, I am realizing that this thing called LIFE is something that we must wholly grasp onto— all of it. It’s messy. It’s confusing at times. It’s also wonderfully peaceful and glorious… more glorious than a beautiful sunrise or sunset over the ocean. But to enjoy the good moments, there are times of slogging through the not-so-great. Sometimes it means the boring, sometimes it is the painful. It can be losses, a season of loneliness, difficulty in different areas. Walking here isn’t really anything nice. Nothing that anyone would look forward to, but then… then the sun peaks up and because you endured the rainy days… now you can enjoy the sunshine.
And you know what?
Monday, the day after the rain, as I went downstairs to check on my plants, I got a surprise. There on one of the leanest, tallest stocks was a freshly bloomed sunflower. It hadn’t been open the day before. But there it was putting its face to the sun after a long day in the rain.
And that, my dear friends, is the key to it all.
In the sadness, in the happiness, in the lean times, in the abundant times, in every messy and wonderful season of life… we must keep our faces to the SON.
It’s the Son who shines down on us and gives us all that we need.
It reminds me of this wonderful old hymn:
O soul, are you weary and troubled?
No light in the darkness you see?
There’s light for a look at the Savior,
And life more abundant and free!
Turn your eyes upon Jesus,
Look full in His wonderful face,
And the things of earth will grow strangely dim,
In the light of His glory and grace.
Through death into life everlasting
He passed, and we follow Him there;
O’er us sin no more hath dominion—
For more than conqu’rors we are!
His Word shall not fail you—He promised;
Believe Him, and all will be well:
Then go to a world that is dying,
His perfect salvation to tell!
–Helen H. Lemmel “Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus”
So, today, whether you are in a moment of rain, clouds, thunder, or pleasant sun,
Keep your eyes to the Lord. I will too.
He is all we need.
Until next time,