For years now, grief has been an enormous part of who I am. Walking the path of sorrow/comfort with others has been my honor. But sometimes we come to a place where we realize that who we are has become overloaded and confused. We try to hang onto a previous definition, as a new one seeks to be written. One son after another was added, a part-time job became full-time and the Lord called Chris, called us, into ministry together. Though my “Anna-story” was and is an incredibly significant part of my life, I came to a point where I realized it needed to grow smaller because everything else was growing bigger. I needed to open my arms, my heart and my home to the present. I needed to regroup and reclaim life in the way God was leading me to live it with His present, not past instruction. I took a break from blogging and my book ministry and I used that time to love my little’s, women in my community and to date my adorable husband again. It was a sweet season- reveling in all God has given me to steward which breathes in this world.
But sorrow has come back into my life. New chapters of loss have been written and so now it is time (at least for today) to dust off my laptop and to write out the grace I have found to grieve once again. I do so not as an expert, but as a humble servant of pain and words and the love of God which I am ever growing in the knowledge and experience of.
In September we flew to Mexico and had the best week of our lives with our dear friends. We celebrated 15 years of marriage (a few months early) and the blessing of faithful friendship. It was filled with intense laughter, rest and above all, love. Wonderful, magnificent love. And we left Mexico with the teeniest, tiniest, most unexpected but joyfully received souvenir.
We were pregnant.
Nine weeks later that fairy tale ended in a sterile, cold, operating room. We had lost our second child. We had lost our love baby. Our sweet, unexpected fairy tale was over. We were devastated. Our boys were heart-broken. And yet, the loss of this sweet baby gave our family a gift, a new desire for our family to grow. We were sad and yet joyfully expectant with hope for the future.
On our actual fifteenth wedding anniversary, God answered our desire and prayer and we received another little blessing. We barely had time to celebrate a new beginning before saying good-bye again. Our seventh child, our third baby received in eternity. Once again, heart-broken. This time loss brought fear. What did this mean? What is happening to my body? What do we do with our hope and our longing now?
A few months ago when we miscarried, the Lord spoke the sweetest promise to my heart in the moment right before we learned our baby was gone-
“You will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living.” Psalm 27:13
I have clutched this promise with a tenacious grip these past few months and as we stepped with faith and trust into another pregnancy, I held this promise high. I believed we were in a new season of receiving this promised goodness from Him.
But just like that the door slammed shut. Light was boxed out. Death came for us once again.
Today as I write, I am desperately sad.
I look to my right into a storehouse of treasure, truths I have collected throughout my life, boasting of the love, goodness, faithfulness and kindness of my God. But looking to the left, I see loss after loss and pain after wretched pain. For nearly a year now, my life-long friend, mama of four sweet ones and wife of one very dear man, has battled grotesque cancer and I cannot even find the words.
I have screamed, punched, wept, ached and begged. I have the hit the floor in agony, sorrow and empathy for my dear one and her beloveds. “How is this possible” I wonder again and again. What can be done? Cancer strikes like lightening and I know there is nothing that I can do to undo the severing of disease. There is nothing I can do to undo death. There is nothing anyone can do to bring back my beloved children or to make their losses okay. It will never be okay that they are not under my wings. I am running toward the Lord begging for mercy in one breath and raging with questions and perplexities in the next. I want to scream-
Where is the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living? Where is the goodness of the Lord when cancer strikes and death steals and babies die? Where and how is this promise true for me and the ones I love?
I spoke them out, my searing questions, knowing that the throne I approach is one of grace. In love and kindness, my tender Shepherd, the one who left the 99 to find the wayward lamb, spoke to my wayward heart again and again and again-
“I am near to the brokenhearted and save the crushed in spirit” Psalm 34:18
This truth that swaddled me up tight and secure so many years ago when I lost my girl, was coming for me again. As I bleed and cramp with womb and heart ache…I have His presence. My crushed spirit is a beckoning call to the tender One. My broken form hurries the wholeness of perfect love to come swiftly. No matter how dark it gets, or how alone I feel, I am hovered by, invaded with and upheld in the hand of the One who made me. He is the One who knows exactly where all the pain and deception hide and He is there, in each place, whispering truth, shedding blood, rejoicing over me with singing. I am not alone. And more than that, my companion is the one and only whose love is perfect, knows no bounds and promises to be “better than life.” Do I know this, do I believe this? I certainly don’t feel it at times, but today God’s promises are stitching up my wounds and by faith I receive it.
Today the goodness of the Lord is resting in the presence of the Lord.
Again He spoke to me-
“I have said these things to you so in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble but take heart, I have overcome the world.” John 16:33
Today as I weep and as I kneel weary, needy and broken at His feet, the goodness of the Lord is a reminder to not be shocked by my circumstances. “Yes this world is broken. Yes this world is diseased and pain is epidemic.” He told me it would be so. His words were preparation for the hard I have and will face. His words offer validation, comfort and peace. And the goodness of the Lord is reassurance of the truest reality- “I have made a way through the piercing dark of death and sin and I have overcome that for which you weep and for this reason you can take heart. You can have hope. I have overcome.” The goodness of the Lord in my grief looks like taking hold of the solution, of Jesus and clinging to the edge of His robe where power trails out and I am in some way, healed. Not necessarily the way I want or pray to be blessed, but His power is restoring me somehow.
Today the goodness of the Lord is being consoled in one reality and confident in the truest reality. The goodness of the Lord is resting in ultimate victory.
Again- the voice of the Lord…
“Every good and perfect gift is from above coming down from the Father of Heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.” James 1:17
My husband, my boys, my home, every breath I take, even the ones that hurt, all good gifts. So today as I lay curled up on my bed in grief and sadness, the goodness of the Lord looks like a heightened sense of gratitude for what I do have- an urgency to press little boy hearts up against mine and to revel in the sweet beat that they have been given and all that means for me and for the world they live in. It looks like crying tears of joy for the sweet two-year-old who incorrectly and yet very correctly thinks Jonah is spelled J-O-Y. It is pleasure and blessing for the man who stares back at me with tears streaming down his face, telling me he hates to see me hurt and then prays for the healer to comfort our hearts. It is humility and thankfulness for a multitude of friends and family who run to our rescue and make their hearts and homes and shoulders available to us. It is a mama whose lap feels the exact same as it did when I was seven, sixteen and twenty-five and who has the perfect way of brushing the hair from my face and for wiping the tears from my eyes. The goodness of God is a warm bed, thick covers and food brought and flavors savored and many, many, many, phone calls to and from my big sister in Germany.
The goodness of the Lord is all that has already been given growing brighter in the dark night of grief.
And then a song came-
“Worthy is the lamb who was slain- worthy is the king who conquers the grave.”
And on the heels of these notes a prayer- “Restore unto me the joy of my salvation.” Psalm 51:12
The goodness of the Lord looks like the gospel, running hard after me, tackling me like a toddler eager to give and receive love. It reminds me that this one piece of history comes alive again and again in the present every time a prodigal comes home, every time a lost sheep is found and every time a weary heart drinks deeply of the living water. The gospel is embraced every time a grieving mama remembers that God grieved his child too and then said, “NO MORE.” No More to unavenged death and sadness. No more to separation from God and the inability to come close to a crushed spirit. By the cross the Father cried “Hell No” to Hades and permanent death and when “it was finished” the Father raised His son to life and “the Way” to restoration, redemption and resurrection was permanently paved for us. So yes, for all of this He is worthy, oh-so-very-worthy of my praise. Yes, even on the morning of my miscarriage. Even as I wipe tears from my dear friends eyes and as we process life and death and heaven and the mysterious and yet very real grace which will be sufficient for it all. And so I beg God, “Restore unto me the JOY of my salvation.” I meditate on all this ultimate transaction of love means for my past, my present and my future and something inside of me becomes suddenly stationary. The whipping winds and raging waves have ceased and though I cannot hear it, I know my God has commanded the chaos to bow before him and once again I am saved. The gospel has made its home in me. My babies are still gone. Cancer is still a wicked thief and our whole world is reeking with decay, but, the keys of life and death are in His hands, not the enemy’s and salvation belongs to us. In my emptiness and poverty of spirit, I have just become armed and empowered with promises that no amount of death or evil can steal.
Today the goodness of the Lord is receiving salvation and responding in worship.
And finally the Savior reminds me…
“To all who mourn, He will give a crown of beauty for ashes, the oil of joy instead of mourning and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair. They will be called Oaks of Righteousness, a planting of the Lord for the display of His splendor.” Isaiah 61:3
Watch what I can do with these broken fragments of your life. I am making you beautiful, the best kind of beautiful for my kingdom. I will waste nothing. This will be yet another doorway of hope in a dark valley of Trouble (Hosea 2). Abide in me and discover the treasures of joy and praise that I have prepared for you. Walk with me and see Me anew and be changed. Entrust your seeds of sorrow to me and watch as I grow you into a living, breathing display of my Glory.
The Goodness of The Lord is knowing that the dark is not dark to Him, that the night will shine like the day. The Goodness of the Lord is a willingness to be made new. It is a Spirit that accepts and stays soft in the truth while the enemy threatens with lies that can turn a man to stone. The Goodness of the Lord is a heart on a wheel and a Potter on his Throne.
Today the Goodness of the Lord is a surrendered heart to the One who is molding me into Himself. The Goodness of the Lord is hope in the promises of beauty and joy that will come.
This Goodness doesn’t take away my hurt. It doesn’t take away my mourning. It doesn’t mean I will walk into my dark days of Anna February grief with any less ache or throb, but, it adds to it. It adds love, comfort, hope and joy. It adds purpose, peace, presence, tenderness and strength. It adds a final chapter of hope as the rest of my chapters are being written. It adds the perfect ending. An ending that is really the truest beginning, where tears get wiped away by the same finger tips that formed and fashioned me. This ending/beginning where the most painful moments on earth won’t even be able to be recalled. It adds permanent joy and for this mama, my ending/beginning has children waiting to be received.
I do hope for sweeter chapters to be written in my life- that the goodness of the Lord will look like tangible earthy pleasure and hopefully the addition of another Kelty one day…but for now, I do see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. I see dross rising to the surface as I am refined by the fire, as I hopefully am becoming more like the Beautiful One and I will exalt He that saved and saves me still.
To the little ones I have lost-
Oh dear babies, you have my heart, you have each other and you have the face, heart and kingdom of the One who loves us both. Oh to be together! Until then, I am learning the balance of holding you in my heart, and yet, letting you go so I can be unhinged to the past and ever open to all He has called me to in this world. I love you, I love you, I love you, a million times over….
“Surely goodness and mercy will follow me all the days of my life and I will dwell in the house of God forever.” Psalm 23:6