More Good Days and Serving with Joy and Letting God Write the Endings

Posted on: February 26, 2012

Hello Friends,

I think something good must have happened in me last weekend. Joel volunteered at a speech and debate tournament in Jacksonville, so I drove him there and then checked into a hotel for 2 ½ days while he served, and while Bill got in another refreshing sailing trip with his brother and aunt.

It didn’t feel like a very spiritual weekend to me, no huge insights or new thoughts, but it was extremely restful, quiet and peaceful at the hotel and I got a little writing in. Since returning though, I’ve had five good days in a row (which is a record), and that makes me think there was something in that aloneness that I needed.

The day after we returned home from the tournament and Bill from his sailing trip, Patrick’s best friend drove up for another visit. This is a young man that I have such great respect for and love (adore) with all my heart. I had already adopted him as one of my own, but now he means more to me than ever. The last time he came, a few weeks ago, I was still so fragile and vulnerable inside, and I could tell I was pushing myself to serve on the outside for his sake, and for the sake of the young people who were there with him. This visit, though, my heart was really more about him and the others who were here. Something in me said it was okay to thoroughly love and serve them, and to also thoroughly enjoy them, and there was joy in doing so. There was laughter around the table, laughter where I wasn’t holding back tears at the same time, sweet chats and fun teasing, a sweet evening.

That night was also my first regular meal to cook for our family, as we have been overrun with meals of love from the body of Christ for the past 8 weeks. I still don’t know where everything in my kitchen is, and my fridge and freezer are a sad mess, but I know I will eventually retake that ground. Those chores sit on a long waiting list that does not call out to me, but waits its turn.

Five good days in a row feels wonderful. Good days are days when my attention gravitates toward meeting a need or loving someone in my world, rather than nursing this wound. Good days are when I get a chance to feel the joy of serving someone else again. Good days still have tears in them, but they are not centered around mourning with the rest of life waiting outside for a chance to squeeze in because grief has filled up the entire room of my heart with itself and won’t let anything else in. Anything, that is, except a supernatural comfort which remains equal to each visit, and soothes it away before the end of each day. Good days let me think about someone else, let me miss people I haven’t seen, let me serve with joy, but still let grief in whenever it comes knocking. And on good days grief still shows up unexpectedly, in a reminder on my calendar of an upcoming vacation our son won’t be joining us on, upon catching the glimpse of a young man who has his figure and lanky gait, as I dash upstairs and instead of looking straight ahead happen to catch him smiling at me in his graduation picture. Even on good days, grief shows up softly or ferociously, when I’m alone or with a house full, and stays until an amazing and undeserved grace ushers it back out again. I never know when or how long or exactly what will trigger grief, and I know that is okay.  But it is becoming less demanding in its visits, less encroaching, is camping for shorter times, and still being ushered out with grace.  Now, it is being kept a little more at bay through a bit of serving.  Serving makes me feel almost like me again.  Almost…

Yesterday, Day 6, was one of those teary-all-day days, but today my heart is again comforted and soothed, and turning toward serving again. What relief.  I should mention that I haven’t felt anger at God, not even from the first phone call. I know that some might wonder if I am either in denial or sustained shock, and that anger will eventually come. I guess it might; I’ve  never walked this path before.  But I cannot imagine it doing so. We gave our children to the Lord when they were born, so I never felt that God took something that belonged to me. Patrick was His. I felt horrible, dreadful shock and unbelief, but have never passed through any feelings of anger. For the first few days, before we learned of his TBI symptoms, I camped in a big empty room in my heart and just sobbed. In the corners of my mind I could see doors off to the side, doors of anguishing regret that I wanted to go camp in front of and cry and see if they would open – “What did we miss, How could this happen, Where did we go wrong, What could we have done?”  But, it was all I could do to just sob and see those closed doors. I somehow knew I couldn’t force them open, and I didn’t ever feel like God owed me those answers. Part of me was terrified that one of them might creak open and when it did, I would be able to somehow connect the dots of this tragedy to being my fault, my oversight, my blindness. Even in that terrifying waiting period, before we knew of the symptoms, I felt a supernatural peace trying to descend on me, bracing me for the truth that this path, as tragic and horrifying as it was, was the path we were now on, and could not get off.  And that God was all-knowing, all powerful, all loving, and that I was very weak and without insight, and that I must not, must not demand answers from Him.

After we learned of the TBI symptoms, those doors of regret faded out of sight in my mind, and I then sat and cried in front of new doors – Whys and What-if’s. I cried and cried and cried in front of them, hoping one might open up with an answer and help me to understand some reason why my kid was not protected from that injury, or why we didn’t realize it, or what we could have done to have prevented the accident. But, I knew it would be fruitless to bang on those doors relentlessly or to rail against God or demand He reveal something to me. I knew I would no more get an answer to any of my questions than I would understand why Hugh Hefner or Hugo Chavez or murderers or rapists or child abusers live long lives, but my friend’s child who loved the Lord passionately dies of cancer and leaves young children behind. Or why our son was allowed to be in that accident in the first place. I did many things which were more dangerous – I smoked cigarettes and marijuana and hitchhiked and made foolish decisions – and I was protected. He was making better decisions than I had at the same age, and was not.

Last week an old friend gave me the book One Thousand Gifts. Reading Ann Voskamp’s writing is like tasting for the first time a very rich and delicious chocolate mousse. But, this mousse has been laced with medicine. You know that medicine is in there because it every few bites it stings in the swallow. But, you cannot put your fork down or resist another bite because the mousse is that good, and the medicine that helpful.  No mousse, no medicine.  Ann Voskamp writes that well. When she recounts her brother-in-law’s amazing acceptance of the death of yet another child, his second baby, she writes:

I had stumbled out their back steps, laid down on the grass. I had cried at the sky…And now…again with John, Tiffany, but now with their second-born son, Dietrich. He’s only five months old. He was born to hope and prayers – and the exact same terminal diagnosis as his brother, Austin.

John hands me a Kleenex, and I try to wipe away all this gut-wrenching pain. He tries, too, with words soft and steady, “We’re just blessed. Up until today Dietrich’s had no pain. We have good memories of a happy Christmas. That’s more than we had with Austin.”

All the tiles on the floor run fluid. My chest hurts…I shouldn’t, but I do. I look up. Into all his hardly tamed grief. I feel wild…In that moment I forget the rules of this Dutch family of reserved emotion. I grab him by the shoulders and I look straight into those eyes, brimming. And in this scratchy half whisper, these ragged words choke – wail. “If it were up to me…” and then the words pound, desperate and hard, “I’d write this story differently.”

I regret the words as soon as they leave me. They seem so un-Christian, so unaccepting – so No, God! I wish I could take them back, comb out their tangled madness, dress them in their calm Sunday best. But there they are, released and naked, raw and real, stripped of any theological cliché, my exposed, serrated howl to the throne room.

“You know…” John’s voice breaks into my memory…”I don’t know why all that happened…But, do I have to? Who knows? I don’t mention it often, but sometimes I think of that story in the Old Testament. Can’t remember what book, but you know – when God gave King Hezekiah fifteen more years of life? Because he prayed for it? But if Hezekiah had died when God first intended, Manasseh would never have been born. And what does the Bible say about Manasseh? Something to the effect that Manasseh had led the Israelites to do even more evil than all the heathen nations around Israel. Think of all the evil that would have been avoided if Hezekiah had died earlier, before Manasseh was born. I am not saying anything, either way, about anything….Just that maybe….maybe you don’t want to change the story, because you don’t know what a different ending holds.”

The words I choked out that dying, ending day echo. Pierce. There’s a reason I am not writing the story and God is. He knows how it all works out, where it all leads, what it all means. I don’t.

And I see. At least a bit more. When we find ourselves groping along, famished for more, we can choose. When we are despairing, we can choose to live as Israelites gathering manna. For forty long years, God’s people daily eat manna- a substance whose name literally means “What is it?” Hungry, they choose to gather up that which is baffling. They fill on that which has no meaning. More than 14,600 days they take their daily nourishment from that which they can’t comprehend. They find soul-filling in the inexplicable. They eat the mystery. And the mystery, that which made no sense, is “like wafers of honey on the lips.”

When I read John’s words, “…maybe you don’t want to change the story, because you don’t know what a different ending holds,” my heart cries, “Yes and amen.” This is what the Spirit comforts me with in those mournful moments and on those grieving days. Patrick’s story is not mine. His story was in God’s hands. And I do not, cannot, can never know what other endings might have been. I can only imagine. My imaginings have always been good endings, great endings, amazing endings as I am head over heels in love with these precious kids of ours. But, I do not know, and can never know. I do believe I’ve been a gift of faith to pray that all our children and grandchildren will know the Lord, will be known by Him on the last day. Of what their trials and tribulations might be on the way, of their joys and sorrows, I have no idea, and sense no inner guarantee. But, this one thing  I pray, this one thing press for – that our entire household, down to the last grandchild born before His coming, will be saved. And I believe, I know, I believe I know – we have one in Heaven with Him now. My first prayer has been answered.  And that, I believe, is all I am supposed to know.

I am healing. Healing slowly but healing well. And being allowed to add a little more action of serving this week has been very therapeutic for me. Serving others = Joy. I think, after last weekend, I am one small step closer to whatever healing I am supposed to come to.

I will never tire of thanking you all for your prayers because I know they are the reason for the grace that keeps showing up to soothe away the grief. I am so thankful, and it makes me wonder if we all prayed for one another the way our family has been prayed for what a different life, what a different church, what a different world we would see. Your prayers are powerful.

5 Responses to "More Good Days and Serving with Joy and Letting God Write the Endings"

Rich stuff… thank you for sharing. Love you

Wow, Mardy! You write like Ann. I am enjoying her book right now and when I read the piece that you copied here, my thoughts were of you and your grief. You are so precious! There is so much healing in your words, for you and for many others who have suffered similar pain.
Thank you for yet again giving of yourself. I love you!

I got chills reading this entry because I just read the same passage in this book this past week. It was one of the books I came home from the cabin with on my reading list. I’ve picked it up and put it down several times (I started to read it in early January) because it is so painful-powerful. I think and pray of your journey often while I read it; I question myself about my own strength-faith. In that one line, I saw your family.
Then, today on FB I read a quote from SonGear that seemed to mirror this for me: “If you spend your life telling God to leave you alone… the moment of your final breath, he will honor your request.”
Lord, please help us all to be strong enough to pray for your will to be done in each of our lives, and for us to cling to you as your will is carried out.
Thank you for sharing, Mardy. ♥

Mardy, Thank you for sharing your heart and the amazing words of Ann Voskamp. You and Bill are in my prayers daily.

I love your words of love & prayer for your kids & grands! I must borrow them.
I rejoice in your healing progress! God is good.

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