the glow beyond then.

IMG_3067 Few days I go back, deep into the abyss where those days hold the stillness of a mausoleum, memories cataloged beauty and yesterday.

When I do revisit those days, I find the most perplexing piece of my life lived.  Like a garden pushed up through soil holding death and pieces of what once was, I only gaze upon goodness flowering death and disappointment, a sure evidence of God’s immeasurable grace.

And soon, another evidence of good grace stands ready to fill our lives raising us from four journeying hearts to five. I can’t help but realize God foreknew of the goodness to come, all seen now and much more far into tomorrow.  Even in the darkest days following my first wife’s death, the horizon glowed with hope and passage to promise.  Little felt sturdy under our feet and the present day then seemed to stretch longer than my resolve.  Still the horizon glowed in contrast to the faded hues of then and whispered invite and rest.  When we shuffled lost and weak stepped and she meandered through life sure but curiously wondering of beyond, he knew.

Into the new horizon, the new day, hope swallowed death in a momentary microcosm of eternity arriving as always echoed.  Only weeks away from the light of new day warming our faces, we couldn’t be more ready to enter in.

Let me be lovingly clear, she’s not the horizon, nor the salvation; she’s the evidence of his resolved grace.  And grace continues to be the most formative teacher shaping life beautiful behind and warm joy ahead.  God doesn’t keep score or measure fair of all good and bad in our lives somehow having to managing balance.  Grace invades where it’s not welcomed, grabs our hand and leads us through.

The new day pushing in requires a new me – the days after yesterday brought me here.  Through those grief wrenched days following death, I learned to be a different man who sweats the same, yet talks with a heart hallowed, then filled again.  Grace primed me in my darkest to stand, to love and belong again.  Death fits as a defining memory behind and little more than a looming reality somewhere ahead, while life rushes deeper and freer closer to the feet of God.

And so life independent must swing to life together, merging messy, lines blurred into a new color of two now together.  Much of my life has been a strong lean into grace and furious falling forward each day.  The approach to each day fixed into a rhythm of not focusing so much on how we made it as a family so long as we did make it, but life merging from the four of us to the five of us demands more stability and intentionality, not mere happenstance and butterflies.  My love must be ready for more than just affectionate high fives and romantic date nights.  After all, she is someone my heart will be tied to and my feet will find cadence with until there's little distinction.

I’m learning how to practice love that cuts through me – my fears, my circumstance, my past, my worries, my mistakes, my deficiencies – for sake of belonging to her and us and now and promise not always seen.

[II Cor 4:16-18]


Gillian_Carnegie,_Black_Square If memory serves me well, we were all just floating; hollowed hearts recoiled by death’s touch.  You don’t just get over such things.

Year’s from the touch, our hearts still feel tender in moments of our memory’s choosing.  It’s easy to feel captive about what you will and won’t allow yourself to esteem or talk about.  We’ve held a high rule in our home since Marianne’s death, a rule that has held us together tightly in times grief would’ve pulled us apart.  It is always okay to talk about memories of her.  In fact, more than okay, sharing memories is a measured must that keeps gauge of our honest movement through grief and life inexplicably coming undone.

Tomorrow makes three years. What makes grief so precariously hard to track is its random rhythm in our lives.  Out of nowhere a difficult string of days will move in unpredictably - tempers flair, patience flattens thin, arguments stir quick and tears do fall freely.  We are a war torn bunch who sometimes jump at the sound of grief’s return.  Never was it easy, and our memories don’t let us forget that.

Still my daughters hold tightly to those close to them.  Goodbyes are hard.  Each time we leave family after a visit or they leave our house after a few days all together, I recognize their little eyes dim for a bit.  They grow quiet, and they remember the feeling of letting go.  One day, I’ll have a conversation with the women they will be.  I hope to hear sadness their vocabulary struggles to express at times in their young age.  I pray their future expression of sadness will give greater evidence to God’s faithful watch over them in His keeping of their designed destiny.  Then my joy will be touched with wholeness and once again reminded of the fury and mystery of grace.  Maybe I’ll need reminding then.

In poignant eloquence and thoughts collected, too, from the sting of pain, C.S. Lewis observed, “We regard God as an airman regards his parachute; it's there for emergencies but he hopes he'll never have to use it.”  

That learned reality is the blessed fruit of pain experienced; to know God because of healing bruises.  Only in that regard, maybe I’m more blessed than some.  Amen and amen.

Memories taking me back three years and some still hold dark insecurities that if given open door could easily overwhelm my trust in God and who He is.  Other memories of saving grace and strength not of my own - from God and family and friends - float atop steady tossing waves and still give passage through grief . . . to the point where I confidently say I am forever healing and not forever grieving.

Grief does burst in and out of life unpredictably.  I think many reasons play culprit to grief’s irrational movement in our lives, but possibly most prevalent to me is life’s fragility exposed in death’s touch.  In a moment all can be lost.  And in that same moment, all can be simultaneously found.

Friends, I count it blessing the three years behind us.  All 1,095 days.  And for as many are ahead, may grace always guide us and trust always bind us.

As Julian of Norwich hollowly spoke to times beyond her, “All shall be well, and all shall be well and all manner of thing shall be well.”

Let come what may, and I pray both in smiles and tears we remain honest in all things.

As I look about and count rich blessings sprouting and blooming all around, love, marriage, family and tomorrow, I, for a moment, take to blushing at such weakness and frail faith in difficulty.  But then I am corrected by the scars of life's real blow and reminded of the even greater realness of God's hunting grace.


*(artist/image credit: Gillian Carnegie)



things she wants to say.

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It's in the remembering that we live braver, hungrier and more convinced of hope and grace and beauty swallowing.

I have noticed small bright pink post it notes lying around in the same spot.  At first glance, I paid little attention, but a stack began forming messy demanding better attention.  For days I moved right passed the tiny little heap until my walking by caused a couple pieces to stir and drift off the counter top onto the wooden floor.  I have a tendency to sort of stack papers.  It’s my way of cleaning the kitchen or anything actually.  My process is quite simplistic.  Dispose of as much as possible as often as possible.  I tolerate clutter in a compartmentalizing sort of way.  Or maybe it’s procrastination.  The latter is honest response.  Compartmentalizing simply sounds more together, in control and sophisticated.  As a telling side note, procrastination is mode of operation for me.  It is a chronic characteristic I am working out of my life.  There simply is not enough room in the life of a single parent for much procrastination.  Bright pink landing on wooden floor.  The contrast unmistakeable in both size and color.  Leaning over to reach the few fallen, I could see that each brightly colored little piece of paper held scribbled words, messages deep and searching.

A daughter wandering through day, lost in thought and dream of a life different, the undisturbed continuing of the life she knew.  Sometimes dishonest with her smile bright and affectionate, hiding when she hurts or needs or wants but thankfully, bleeding out words that grab to find home in her heart wishing to grow only darker and deep.

“I wish I could tell her all the things I’m doing.” “She’d smile real big and be hugely proud of you, sweetie.”

Still reforming and in the piecing back together in beautiful miracle the life so disturbed by one quick blow, we wade through the unknown and questions lingering.  The trust that weans in days lasting too long makes us stronger together.

One easy to recognize evidence of her heart once devastated now growing stronger in the day to day is her courageous heart.  She’s braver in the bleeding, risking for reward and foregoing shadows.  On the basketball court for the first time, lined wood giving direction to game and position, the sound of soles shuffling, a ball bouncing, hands raised, the game still so foreign to her, I saw her heart laid bare.  She positioned herself vulnerable in front of yelling parents and strange onlookers for shared experience and enjoyment of game and friends.  In the confusion of plays and rules and game, she jumped right in determined to know and participate.  For her, it’s discovery, of who she is undeniably and deeply wound within the DNA.  It is also an aim at who she wants to be and is traveling toward.  All in the game, in the experience, she’s finding and becoming.  My heart soars quietly sitting in the stands each time.  Camera clicking.  Recording her evolution.

One day Elizabeth Marie will look long behind her and gaze upon a field of flowers in the wake of her pursuit.  In ways out of my reach, she is cutting a path for us all, not around, but straight through heart and mire and questions with unfitting answers.  Their hearts remain resilient even in the distance and miles away from that life.  Just last night, we talked about her notes and basketball.  She smiled honestly in the sadness revisited.  But together we left it again coming and going as visitors both stronger.

“Nothing will ever replace her.  The thought of losing mommy will always cause sadness, but both the memories and the life we live will always be brighter.  Promise.”