Recently I found myself, for the second day in a row, lying prone on the living room floor. Tears soaked the pale carpet as I discovered I had once again fallen to the basement of my grief, where damp gloominess and cold concrete threatened to swallow me. It surprises me that I am still capable of plummeting to that place where hope seems impossible, and happiness is a memory of a bygone time. Yet there I laid, paralyzed from the despair, incapable of clawing myself back up to the light.
Finally the sobs subsided, and I caught my breath. Sitting up, I leaned against the ottoman nearby. From this uncomfortable vantage point on the floor, I reflected on the past seven months. Moment by moment, I was able to bring into focus the many layers of sorrow that had cast a shadow over my day to day life. It’s no surprise that this plunge into darkness had happened. Lately I have experienced far too many of the stressful, life events. For starters, in the past 7 months I have been in some state of moving: preparing to list, packing and moving, and selling a house. To add to that, I helped my family to move, as well. Then there was the death of my 16 year old dog. (See “Letting Go: Part 2” to read more). Parallel to my own grief, I have supported family and friends through their own illness or loss, worked in a hospital and social-distanced through the pandemic, wept at the escalating social unrest of systemic racism, and have experienced event after event that have been cancelled due to the pandemic. Whether direct or indirect in nature, the sorrow has really taken its toll.
Many times in my daily life I have asked myself, So what am I to do when it’s so easy to get stuck in the basement of sorrow and grief? How can I get myself out and back into the light when it’s so incredibly hard? An answer came to my heart saying, This is not where God wants you to be. To further emphasize this point, the Gracious One sent me a message through a wise friend (while I was still ruminating on the floor, by the way) who reminded me to “Pray! Pray! Pray! Then, take time each day to live in a state of gratitude by listing 5 occasions of gratefulness from the day.” And so, from the floor in the living room, I prayed, sat silently, and then picked up a pen and wrote 5 instances of gratitude from the day. I prayed some more, and then I prayed again; not so much with words, but with silent pleas for relief from the sorrow. And do you know what happened? God showed up, covered me in a warm blanket of peace and hope, draping it right over the layers of grief. The chill of despair was replaced with the warmth of hope. This simple act offered me one of the best night’s sleep I’d had in weeks. I was able to set aside my heartache, and find rest as I turned my thoughts and emotions over to God.
Some weeks beyond that difficult day, I wondered why there were still moments of slipping into sadness. You see, there are still some days when the light seems to have disappeared. Yet I know the radiance still exists because I always see its glow in the periphery of my vision. There is a constant reminder that the Light is always near. Still, I pondered the reasons why grief would continue to tug at me. Then it hit me, just like the old commercial for the vegetable drink. I slapped my forehead and said to myself, no, not “I could have had a V8,” but, I have been WAY TOO BUSY! Very little time has been spent lately just for me. “Burning the candle at both ends” creates very little time for just being in my own space, enjoying much loved outdoor time, and, most important, spending time in the Lord’s presence. Once I stopped being so busy, I found that I could deal better with my emotions and grief; that I could continue the journey to my new life that I knew awaited me.
So, once the house closed, and the dust settled in my busy life, I took a vacation. There were no plans made except the destination. And do you know what I did while on holiday? I read. I hiked. I sat. I prayed. I slept. I wrote in my journal. I soaked up the sun on a beach and on a boat. I picked blueberries and looked at mountaintop vistas. Little by little, my shoulders relaxed, my jaw unclenched, and sleep finally came easily. By creating space in my days, I opened up a place to hear the Holy One speak gently to my heart saying, “I am with you in this hard time. I am equipping you for the journey ahead. Things will work out for you, and wonderful days are ahead. But for now, relax, daughter, for you NEED this time of rest. I am guiding you in this time, and in all times.” And I know it to be the truth, for God has sent people into my life to ease my burdens in tangible ways, and I am so very grateful.
While God is central to my life, there is also a part that I am called to play in this. The Good Shepherd is not puppeting my life, but merely guiding my heart so that I live my most fruitful life. And so, in the quiet of vacation, I have realized that filling every moment of every day with activity, does not leave an opening for reflection, listening to the Lord, and rejuvenation of my spirit. The TV does not always have to be blaring, nor does the radio. For it is when I pause for a time of rest and sabbath that the Caring One is able to break through the agitated parts of my spirit; can offer relief and healing when my heart turns to sorrow; is afforded the opportunity to sit in silence with me as I merely exist without activity or agenda.
God is gifted at redeeming the difficult things in my life. Through the wisdom of the Lord, I am able change my perspective and take notice of the opportunities the Redeemer presents. The grief is not gone, but it is much easier to manage because God’s never-ending presence shoulders some of the burden, rather than taking it all on by myself. The hard things are much simpler to deal with when I am able to put pen to paper and lay out my thoughts and feelings to examine. To pause in such a way makes my burden a bit lighter, and my heart is ever more grateful.
I have once more emerged from the basement of my grief, ready to engage life again. I owe it all to the Lord, and a well-timed vacation. Oh, how I wish I could stay on vacation! Yet that is not realistic. Responsibilities remain for me back home, and they must be faced. So I take the wisdom from my time away: “Leave your cares behind...join us on the porch.” It was a plaque at the retreat center where I stayed. The Caring One says this to me every day in the words of 1 Peter 5:6-7:. “Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that the Lord may lift you up in due time. Cast all your anxiety on the One who cares for you.” And so I cast my anxiety and sorrow on the Comforter, and I find solace as I do.
Confident in the Lord’s care, I have resumed my everyday life. It has its rocky days, is carefree at other times, and always, the Light of the World shows me the hope that exists in all situations. You, too, dear ones, may call on the Lord for such hope and light in your life. Take time to seek the One who wants to know you deeper than anyone else. Carve out time in your busy life, away from the external expectations, in order to sit in the Lord’s presence. Find a beautiful view, a sunset, or a blooming garden to relax amid. Sit in a quiet place free from distractions. Spend time in prayer, journaling, and in a space of gratitude. Allow the Creator’s blanket of peace to drape over you in whatever things you are facing, and wherever you find yourself. I pray you are able to navigate through the difficult times in your life. You don’t have to be on vacation to feel this kind of peace, because, as I have discovered, it exists within me and also within you.
Gracious and Loving Lord, thank You for pulling me back into Your light once again. Your peace overwhelms AND sustains me, and I am so very grateful. Help me to live each day in a state of gratitude, pausing often in Your presence to feel Your loving arms around me. Comfort and guide me through my days, filling them with light to help me overcome darkness, as only You are able to do. Amen.
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