Hope for You, If You’re Going Through a Season of Loss and Change

August 17, 2015 | 21 comments

Something wonderful happened last night.

I re-remembered something I had re-forgot, and it happened during a Sunday night worship service with my family.

This wasn’t our church, but we’d come to hear the last of a two-part message being delivered by our new friend, Adam.

Before the service began, the worship band played a song that I knew, but it was like I’d heard it for the first time:

The lyrics go like this:

You stay the same through the ages
Your love never changes  
There may be pain in the night
But joy comes in the morning 

I felt a familiar sting of tears, as I stood in the dimly lit room with the girls and Scott. That one line, about God “staying the same through the ages” gave me a settledness that I haven’t felt for weeks.

He has always been. He is now. He always will be. No matter what. 

I’ve been in a hard, restless season of feeling like nothing has stayed the same. It would be wrong to give you all the details here, because while they are partially my stories, they are entwined with the stories of others. Know this: there has been loss.

I have been walking around my heart, skirting the edges of the gaping holes that remain. Some of the holes are new, and some are very old — but it’s as if I never tended to them before. It’s as if I had ignored hurts and losses of the past. And because of this season of loss, I’m reliving a hundred other losses, and it’s been almost too much to bear.

My husband has been incredibly generous with his ears, listening to me psychoanalyze myself, letting me drag him to the edges of the holes — some of them twenty years old. The other day, he brought home a bag of dark chocolate because he knows my love language.

He has resisted his overwhelmingly strong urge to fix things for me, and for that I am grateful because I need to look down into the holes. I’m grieving things I’ve never grieved. This is part of being a healthy human — saying goodbye to the way things were.

Here’s something I may have never told you: I have spent a lot of my life, wide-eyed and fearful that if I let people get close enough to me, they’ll eventually leave when they figure out what I mess I really am. So I have this annoy habit of trying to hold on to you for dear life. I’m like the Mafia — I won’t let you go!

Because sometimes, I can’t bear the thought of losing you.

The other day, overwhelmed by death and loss and change, I snapped a photo with my family, outside a sushi joint.

I uploaded the photo to Facebook with this caption: “No matter what else happens … these ones remain.”

But that’s not actually true.

In truth, something could happen. Sooner than I imagine, those girls will actually move away to pursue what God is calling them to do outside of our little family unit — at least that’s how it’s supposed to work. But because of the curse of brokenness in this world, tragedy could befall any one of us. There are no guarantees. And I know that’s morbid to say, but acknowledging this truth? It keeps me in a state of deep gratefulness for each moment, each tuck-in, each date night, each band concert, each Minecraft village that they want me to see, each shared meal, and each glittery craft project that leaves my office in sparkly disarray.

I want to hold tightly to these three. But last night, God reminded me gently through song: “Hold loosely to all that you love.” I did not take that as a threat, or some foreboding warning, only a reminder that I don’t get to choose, and that no matter what, it is God who remains.

“You stay the same through the ages.”

And then, as the song played on, God walked with me around all of those holes. He had me look in them again, reminding me that the holes have become a part of who I am.

I am more than all that I’ve kept; I’m also all that I’ve lost. 

In seasons of loss, even as I still grieve, the holes made space for the presence of God to do a new thing in my heart.

All of us have holes left by death, by betrayal, by the feeling that you’ve been left behind, by the natural tendency of friendships to change, by the children moving off to college. We have loss of opportunity and loss of possibility. Someone moves away; another dies.

 

But loss is more than a hole. Loss will always teach us the worth of all things.

In good times, I shall look to my Father and celebrate what He’s given. And in hard times, I shall look to Him, … and grow. It’s in the darkest, deepest holes, that God has planted new seeds.

I am not a desert. I am a garden. These holes are neither barren nor lifeless — but are places for God to plant something new.

Last night, I felt a sacred permission to grieve what has been lost, to celebrate what remains, and to look forward to what might be ahead, without fear.

My wise friend Kristen said it like this: “The old thing may be familiar, but the new thing may be fantastic.”

And all the while, God remains. He stays the same through the ages — yesterday, today and forever.

 

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by | August 17, 2015 | 21 comments

21 Comments

  1. Calista

    Thank you for the beautiful reminder that God plants seeds in the darkest holes of our lives so something new can grow. It can seem like such a long, hard process – this grieving the loss, celebrating the present, and looking forward to the future without fear. I, too, have found comfort and strength knowing that God is with me and He never changes!

    Reply
    • dukeslee

      Thank you for sharing, Calista!

      Reply
  2. Patricia W Hunter

    Amen, amen, amen!!!! I so relate to this, Jennifer. I’ve been staring down a series of losses for months now. They’ve been hard to escape. In fact, they seem to keep piling on. As you said, it’s my story, but it’s tangled up in the stories of others. I don’t ever want to publicly shame or embarrass others, but leave wide open spaces for grace to work — in me and others, so my personal writing (blogging) has been stifled. I love how you kept this all about you and God. I also love you.

    Reply
    • dukeslee

      I understand, in my own way, how the pain keeps us from writing. I have experienced that as well, and feel like writing this post has helped work some of the cobwebs out. I was so grateful for our worship experience last night. Praying for you, as you stare down your series of losses.

      Reply
  3. Lynn D. Morrissey

    Jennifer, such a beautiful post, and I have known this kind of grief (and fighting it). I have stuffed grief, and perhaps you remember from my book when I wrote about being alone in a cemetery and how all my ignored grief over many years–the large and little losses–came pouring out, deluging the pages of my journal and my cheeks with tears. It really shocked me. It was good grief, though. I’m sorry for the pain you are experiencing, and yet simultaneously joyful that you are letting joy in God’s goodness and blessings transform it. Pain and grief carve deeper places in the soul (soul-holes, as you say) to hold more love and joy. Your post reminds me of this quote from Blaise Pascal’s Pensées VII(425) (to some extent): “What else does this craving, and this helplessness, proclaim but that there was once in man a true happiness, of which all that now remains is the empty print and trace? This he tries in vain to fill with everything around him, seeking in things that are not there the help he cannot find in those that are, though none can help, since this infinite abyss can be filled only with an infinite and immutable object; in other words by God himself.” Please hear… this quote only reminds me of what you are saying, but it is not exactly what you are saying! 🙂 You are describing holes and not abysses. And I would hardly put your beloved family in a category of that with which you are trying to fill your soul that will not help you. I just saw you talking about holes and needing God who never changes to fill you. I’ts that God-shaped vacuum that both you and Pascal are in sync about (I believe.) 🙂
    Love you so much….and that Lydia. We’ve had such a lovely FB exchange today. Like mother, like daughter!
    Lynn
    – Blaise Pascal,

    Reply
    • dukeslee

      “Holes … not abysses.” Yes! That’s it precisely. Thank you for adding to the conversation so beautifully, as always, Lynn. xo

      Reply
  4. Trudy Den Hoed

    God remains. Such a comforting thought. I’m sorry You have been going through a hard, restless season of gaping holes, Jennifer. It’s hard to grieve through them but how true that “It’s in the darkest, deepest holes, that God has planted new seeds.” Thank you for sharing a new seed of truth with us here. I couldn’t help but think as I read this that perhaps there is another book growing from one of the seeds God has planted…

    Reply
    • dukeslee

      Thank you, Trudy! I am so glad for the lessons he has taught me through this season of loss, and feel good to be able to share what I’m learning as I come off the back side of it. Perhaps a book is in the future. We shall see! 🙂 Meantime, Kristen Strong does a beautiful job of addressing change in her soon-to-be-released book “Girl Meets Change.”

      Reply
  5. Kathy

    I echo your words about being a place where there remains a sense of loss, grief and pain that create huge holes in my psyche. I long for understanding of why all has happened and what to do with the gaping wounds that create craters in my heart. The only comfort comes from the reality of abiding in Christ and drawing closer to Him. He yearns for me to confront this loss, learn from it and to continue walking by faith. He will lead me in His perfect will. I pray that the seeds of faith will become firmly planted, healing the scars. I’ve heard it said that God never wastes any experience. He uses the hard places and the wounds to mature the growing plant to become more like Jesus. Thank you for this thought provoking writing that helped me see that many are walking wounded as I am. In this fragile state, God is with you and I to deliver us from the holes that surround us

    Reply
    • dukeslee

      That is what I have found, too, over these years, Kathy. God has not wasted the experience. He is turning all things to rights. Thank you. And I do feel whole and good. I hope that you could sense that in the post. 🙂

      Reply
  6. Constance Ann Morrison

    You write, “I am more than all that I’ve kept; I’m also all that I’ve lost.” When your (needed and appropriate) season of grief over loss comes to end, I would have you consider that you are also more than what you’ve lost. (After my husband died, I had to decide I was more than a widow.)

    As others have written, seeds are being planted in the deep dark holes. Like mystery flowers seeds in an envelope with no description, something will sprout and grow and bloom! Perhaps, as a part of the mourning process, you could plant tulip bulbs this fall, bury them deep in the black where they wait through the cold winter to surprise you in the spring.

    Praying now for a good grief and healing tears. May the Spirit wrap around you like an old quilt and comfort you. May you be constantly reminded this week of God’s steadfast love and kindness. You are so right, “all the while, God remains.”

    Reply
    • dukeslee

      I think perhaps you may have misunderstood? I need to know that those relationships and jobs and past experiences and opportunities are a part of me. They were not wasted years. I am the sum of all that has happened in my life, and I don’t regret any of it.

      And if you read closely, you’ll see that I was talking about seeds being planted in the deep dark holes, and that I am a garden, not a desert. This is a story of hope, not of despair. But I do greatly appreciate your encouragement! 🙂

      As the opening paragraph says, “something wonderful happened!” And as I said toward the end, “Last night, I felt a sacred permission to grieve what has been lost, to celebrate what remains, and to look forward to what might be ahead, without fear.”

      I hope that came through.

      I think people need permission to feel their losses, not bury them.

      Reply
      • Constance Ann Morrison

        My apologies for misunderstanding, Jennifer. Oh, yes, we do need to feel the pain of loss. This is a wonderful post and has touched my heart. Sorry for my muddle-headed response.

        Reply
        • dukeslee

          I worry that my post may have been the muddy part! I rarely write out of such fresh vulnerability. It always feels risky to do that. Things can be easily misunderstood, but I really needed to write this for myself, and hopefully it impacted someone else. Thanks for the grace of letting me work some of this out. I so appreciate you, my friend.

          Reply
  7. Tara Ulrich

    Thank You! So much THIS: “But loss is more than a hole. Loss will always teach us the worth of all things.” Yes, yes, yes!! God indeed remains the same yesterday, today and forever! I’m reminded of my fave verse; Psalm 30:5 “Weeping may come for the night, but joy comes with the morning.” It just takes time for the joy to emerge out of the pain and mourning.

    Reply
  8. Brenda

    (((Hug))) I’m sorry for your loss.

    Glad you took the “risk” and wrote from the fresh, raw spaces. One of my biggest fears is the fear of being misunderstood, so I truly get that. Satan is a master manipulator, b/c we know the truth is he’s afraid that if it gets out there, in all it’s raw vulnerability, God’ll be glorified in it. This is beautifully written. Thanks for sharing. Prayers for you and yours during this difficult time. <3

    Reply
  9. Meredith Bernard

    This is such beautiful truth wrapped up as a beautiful gift for me today. Thank you for this. And I carry the same fear…that if those I love the most actually knew who I really was, they’d want nothing to do with me. It’s enough to cause major stress at times. Then He will remind me in some way, like your words today, that no matter what, HE WILL REMAIN ALWAYS. And in Him, I’ll remain, too. <3 Love this.

    Reply
  10. Nancy Ruegg

    What a meaningful metaphor you created, Jennifer, of gaping holes in our hearts that represent loss, hurt, disappointment, etc. Praise God they become a seedbed for him to plant something new! Looking back on my life, I can pinpoint circumstances that exactly fit that process. I also appreciate your comments here to Constance): “I need to know that those relationships and jobs and past experiences and opportunities are a part of me. They were not wasted years. I am the sum of all that has happened in my life, and I don’t regret any of it.” You are so right. God allowed those events for a purpose; they’ve helped to shape us–hopefully in positive ways, as we’ve allowed his power and grace to work within us. And all praise to him as he continues to carry on his work, until it’s completed on the day we see Jesus (Phil. 1:6)! Thank you for your insight and honest sharing, Jennifer.

    Reply
  11. Leah Adams

    Oh boy, do I ever get this! Loss, death, pain, separation. I get it…and so does Jesus. He has been so faithful in all of it. He has been so tender, so caring. He has shown up in a thousand ways. He remains faithful. When those gaping holes threaten to drag us down into them, He is our anchor and our lifeline. Keep your eyes on Him, friend. Praying for you, as you have prayed for me.

    Reply
  12. Dolly @ Soulstops.com

    Jennifer,
    Thank you for this tender piece and for sharing the deep, good and new work God is planting in the garden of your soul….I get this: “In seasons of loss, even as I still grieve, the holes made space for the presence of God to do a new thing in my heart.” Yes…hard, but hopeful…praying God continues to be with you, my friend 🙂

    Reply
  13. Sophia DeLonghi

    Dear Jennifer,
    Thank you for this beautiful, raw, look at your heart. I feel like you were speaking about me and that you somehow knew how I have often felt at different times of my life. It is refreshing to know that we all have these holes in our heart. They may have not been made by the same things, but they are all filled by the same God that is the only one that can makes new things grow and blossom. Thank you for this! God bless your honesty and vulnerability.

    Reply

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