When Eliza was born, I would get up to feed her in the wee morning hours. I’d drag myself out of bed and bring her out to the couch. It was dark and quiet. Suddenly, I would hear it – the first chirp of a bird, calling all the other birds to wake up. Immediately, the air would be filled with all of these beautiful songs. Have you heard it? Every morning I would wait in expectation for the first brave bird. In those days, just eighteen months after Annie died, my heart still felt ripped to shreds. The full force of the loneliness of grief was still hitting me. In spite of the fact that we had three healthy, living children, we were still so sad. So I would sit on the couch, listening to the birds, crying for the baby who had been taken from me. In many ways, I felt like I was in the middle of a never ending dark night.
But I also knew God was calling me to rebuild, to catch the song of the birds and to welcome a new day.
I had spent a lot of time surviving, collapsing into bed each night simply thankful I was one day closer to heaven. And while surviving is a natural response to our grief, and is necessary, there was a day when I knew I didn’t want to only survive for the rest of my life. In the back of my mind, I was aware of the fact I have been given this one life to live, and I didn’t want to waste my years merely surviving.
In some ways, we’re forced to live in this delicate tension of loss and life, aren’t we? I remember the second anniversary of Annie’s death, because I was determined to go to the cemetery with the kids. But life was crazy. We were between errands, so Peter and I made the kids stay in the car while we took a few minutes at her grave. We held each other close, tears spilling over…. and then we heard the kids screaming in the car. The two oldest were fighting, the youngest was screaming for her lunch. As much as I wanted to stop and reflect, my stage in life was so demanding.
We mourn, but we go on living.
The grass keeps growing, the floors need mopping, and there is daily work to be done.
Nestled into the middle of Psalm 84 is this verse: “When they walk through the Valley of Weeping, it will become a place of refreshing springs, where pools of blessing collect after the rains!” If anyone knew about suffering, it was God’s people, the Israelites. The Old Testament is full of stories of how they fought and failed and stumbled and grieved. Yet somehow, they knew that God is a God of redemption and rebuilding. They knew, in some unexplainable way, he would take their tears and make them into pools of blessing. The dark of night would give way to the beautiful song of birds to usher in the day.
And so, in our grief, the day comes when we spend less energy surviving our loss and we begin to rebuild.
Rebuilding your life takes courage and bravery, because the person you become will be very different from the one you were before. But bravery is a choice, not a feeling. You, like me, might realize you’ve been changed as a result of your grief. As we sift through our memories and emotions, we slowly find a way to get back up on our feet, to realize we will have the strength to go on.
We look at the dry valley of our life and realize the tears of sorrow have suddenly turned to pools of blessing.
Nicholas Wolterstorff wrote a book called Lament for a Son, written when he lost his grown son in a mountain climbing accident. He says, “And sometimes, when the cry is intense, there emerges a radiance which elsewhere seldom appears: a glow of courage, of love, of insight, of selflessness, of faith. In that radiance we see best what humanity was meant to be… In the valley of suffering, despair and bitterness are brewed. But there, also, character is made. The valley of suffering is the vale of soul-making.”
I don’t know when or how this will happen for you. The beautiful and maddening thing about grief is that there is no set agenda. But when you see the beginnings of a new thing, when you hear the first song of the bird, grab hold of it. You see, it’s impossible to get stuck in your grief if you’re doing something new. Don’t buy the lie that your loss will make you less. It can, indeed, make you more if you allow the Holy Spirit to turn your tears into pools of blessing. The rebuilding is difficult and scary, but in death it is possible to find life.
So many of you have been so kind to us over the years, always remembering and praying for us. Thank you. This year, I have some exciting news that I’ve been holding close for the last several months: The words above are an excerpt from a new eBook I have coming out soon!
MOPS International reached out to me awhile ago, asking me if I would partner with them to provide a resource to others who have lost a child. So we’ve been working hard and it’s almost ready to go! The eBook will be a free resource, available to everyone– so even though it targets grieving moms, it will also be a great read for friends, spouses, pastors, and leaders or anyone who just needs a little hope as they walk with someone who has experienced loss. I’m beyond honored to be able to use Annie’s story to help others.
I’ll have more details for you in the coming weeks, but Annie’s birthday just seemed like an appropriate time to let you in on what I’ve been working on. Please be praying for the ways this eBook could reach those who need it most.