When everything you have is not enough

It's a crispy, almost-Fall evening, and the smells of the 28 jars of pizza sauce that are bubbling in my canner are filling the house. Busyness has been pulling at me from every side for weeks now, and in the free moments I've had, the quiet heart needed for thoughtful writing has been far from present.

The three blog posts that I started, and are now sitting in my draft folder are a clear testimony of what life has been lately. The earliest one starts out like this....

"Four gallons of chopped cauliflower sit in the fridge, waiting to be blanched and frozen. A bucket full of freshly gathered, pickle-sized cucumbers are on my steps, awaiting a vinegar dill treatment and water bath. I won't tell you how many e-mails are sitting in my inbox, letters that need to be responded to, and thank-you notes that should be written. Half-finished curtains hang un-hemmed in a window, while new ones are crumpled on the bed waiting for hardware to be installed in window frames.

It's Summer. The season where the work is always pressing around me in Titanic-sized proportions, and I dare not think too far ahead for the certainty of the overwhelming stress it is sure to bring. One day at a time, one canning jar on the shelf at a time, and one more safely tucked away freezer bag full of Summer deliciousness."

This has been the story of my last six weeks. It is by far the busiest part of the year in this short-summer-season part of the globe. As Summer reluctantly gives way to the first chilly breaths of Autumn, everything seems to be a mad, final dash of franticness before the outdoors is no longer conducive to activity. The last of the gardens are being harvested before killing frosts arrive, and social gatherings are at an all-time high.


In the few minutes I scrounge up for quiet reflection in-between this frantic pace, I find myself pondering the wisdom of the bygone era where those bereaved were expected to observe a period of mourning for at least a year. To withdraw from the gay part of society in a sense, and not only be allowed it, but expected to do so.

How things have changed. We are no longer obligated to wear black and grey for months on end, and a quick return to normal social life is not frowned upon. In the contrary, that seems to be the expectation now, and anything else is the oddity. We lead full and busy lives, and to not get back to normal quickly is frowned upon.

A big challenge comes with this. Though unspoken, we feel the necessity to "be strong" and to "get-over-it" pretty quickly. To take our few weeks of upheaval, and then to get back with the program quicker than not. My idealist personality has often tried to live up to this expectation.

It's been almost five months since we buried our son. In ways, the last month has felt easier as the busyness has pushed grief onto the back-burner, but almost without fail, a slow day that allows me time to think and be still reminds me how close the pain still is. In reality, it's just a hair's-breadth under the surface, and is triggered most often by completely unexpected things.  Things that take my breath away, leaving hurt so palpable I've wondered at times if my heart will physically survive the pain it feels.

In the last few months, so many have come to me, expressing how strong and brave they think I am. I shake my head, knowing that anything they think they see is most definitely not me, but simply the God that is carrying me. I've had to learn to lean hard, as I've been discovering through this that the absolute best that I have is just not enough to make it. To admit that I can't do it has been one of the biggest fights against my ingrained habits and personality.

You see, I'm the firstborn of seven children by nearly five years. I've been used to being the one that fixes everything. That fills in the gap when there are needs. For being the one that has it all together and can help when someone else's world imaginatively or in reality falls apart. For being strong.

I've been learning the hard way that it's pretty hard to pretend everything is fine when your hair is falling out by the fist-fulls, and your hormones and emotions are dancing around like the readings on a seismic monitor.

I've discovered that it's impossible to be strong when undiagnosable abdominal pain keeps you debilitated for six days, and the doctors have no answers. When the emergency room is rushed to frantically three times in those six days for unmanageable pain, only to be given stronger pain meds and no answers, and continued problems.

When normal life is yanked out from under you, and the journaling and alone time you so relied on before to make it through each day is replaced with visitors, phone calls, social obligations, trips, and child demands, something has got to take it's place to fill in those gaps.

It's been during some of these times, that I've lifted my tear-stained face to heaven, and said, "God, I'm through. I can't do this anymore. You picked the wrong person to walk through this. There is absolutely nothing left in me to go one more step."

And God has said, "That's ok."

And I've finally been ready to listen.

Does He step down from heaven right then and pour a jar of ointment on my aching heart that takes away the pain? It's not happened even one time.

Does a phone call come in that moment that gives me the answers I'm looking for? If it has, I haven't wanted to talk about the deep, dark pit I find myself in that instant.

God's grace has not at all looked like what I thought it would. The phone calls, the cards, the e-mails, the meals, the prayers, the hugs; they help and remind me that I am not in this alone, but they are not enough to face one of life's deepest sorrows with grace.

It's been during those times where I have everything I could want in the terms of human help yet found it insufficient. Where everything I have relied upon to get me through has been taken away.

What's remains then? It hardly needs to be written. In my utter weakness, God is not only there, but enough. Enough to take one more step, one more breath, and hug my girlie's owies away one more time. To face the next day with hope. Not the hope of a complete resolution of this pain here on earth, but a hope and anticipation of the beauty God has promised to bring out of it, and the eventual reuniting with our son.

Is every day hard? No. Are most days easy? Absolutely not. But every day is marked with grace. Grace to say "Yes, Lord," one more time. To desire His will. To walk in His ways. To embrace the path He has set before us, with hope in God's promised redemption. It will be worth it all. 

3 comments:

  1. Wow; found another young lady blog from Manitoba!
    So sorry for your loss. I too identify with loss and death, but my story is different. I lost my husband to cancer when I was 36 and he was 32; we had been married 7 1/2 years. We did not have children. It's been 6 years, and a lot of life has happened, but I still miss him and wonder how it would've been in one or another time. I struggled with a difficult work situation a few years ago. No, none of that was wasted, though there are still some memories where I ask God, did I really NEED that?
    As I shared with a friend who was baptized this past Sunday, we're all in this together, and in our weakness God is strong. We all have moments we just cling to that, huh? I look forward to more of your posts

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  2. Thank you for that comment! Really blessed by day. So sorry for your loss... It all makes heaven so much more sweeter and desirable.

    Keep pressing on! Someday, we will look back through the tears and KNOW it was worth it all.

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