Kara’s Collection: Inevitable Pain, Stunning Grace

From an article originally posted July 15, 2014…

We had a big day full of celebration yesterday that left us all full and a bit ragged. Jason only woke one for VBS this morning. Our oldest had responsibility, so she needed to show up, even if she was a bit party worn.

I had a sweet morning talking through retreat planning and speaking engagements, and the kids slowly made their way down the stairs into the bright day. One even slept all the way to 11. It was unbelievable, especially since my road is currently being torn up by giant earth movers. In the loud, they slept on in response to the amazing night with friends we enjoyed last night.

We all entered the car before noon to capture Ella. Lake was struggling. Struggling with me, struggling in general. Everything was disappointing his heart. We were wrestling with the edges of each other. We have gone a long season without feeling the edges this deeply. He was angry, angry in a way that the tears won’t stop angry. A mix of not getting what he wanted from me and something else. I could hear the something else, but I could not name it.

I had mentioned the possibility of Chick-Fil-A, but my heart told me it would be a mistake. I directed the car home. We arrived home, and I asked the girls to go inside and begin making lunch. I invited Lake to join me in the front seat. Somberly, he made his way up beside me.

I asked him to look at me. As soon as our eyes met, I could see him soften. We needed to be close for this talk. Looking at one another helped us both know that our words can help or hurt our hearts—both of us. We were using the edges of our voices and our disappointments to try and win at something, but nothing was being won. Nothing.

Then all at once, his voice became small. With tears in his eyes, he said I haven’t been very much fun. He said I’m in my bed a lot. And he said he was feeling angry about it.

My first response in my heart was, I’ll do better, dear heart. I’ll fight harder. I’ll pretend better. But I knew they would be lies. I knew that as much as I WANT to do better, it will not likely amount to what he was wanting. You see, Lake knows, Lake remembers, Lake enjoyed the mama that could go, and do, and laugh, and love with endless energy. My dear Autumn would hear when I grew tired with little ones, but tired never stopped me before as a mama in love with living. No, I’m slowed in a new way. A way that hurts the heart of one amazing little boy.

So, I listened and I turned to my beloved son and apologized. I simply said I was sorry. I told him I’m sorry his mama has cancer. I told him I’m sorry for the ways that is making his heart sad. I could not make promises, though in my heart I hear myself screaming to do better, play harder, fill this growing hole in my sweet Lake’s heart. But this is a new edge my young son must meet. In my weakness, Jesus will teach him strength. Where I am less, Jesus will be more. I cannot work, I cannot fix this edge, but I can love my boy honestly where we are today.

I simply turned to my beloved boy and took his dirt stained hands in mine and prayed. I prayed for strength beyond myself, I prayed for Lake to meet his own disappointments in life with a gentle heart. I prayed for both of our angry hearts and asked Jesus to help us both love one another well when we feel such anger at our circumstances.

I am not disappointed in the anger I met today. No—it’s inevitable. It is honest. It is what is true for us today. But I also know there is a story bigger than our anger. I know that we can listen to these feelings for a moment, but to hold onto them would be dangerous for us both. So we sought the words that brought tenderness between us, and they came. Lake and I left the van restored. Restored in a way that the honest sharing hurts, and hard, and pain openly can restore us. You see, I couldn’t make his hurt better. I could not promise that I’ll suddenly become stronger. I could only promise that we would both be carefully kept—even in the midst of crushing disappointments. You all know I want to make those empty promises for strength and better. But I won’t. I will cry with him, pray for him, and point his pain to the bigger story found in a caring Jesus that is not unaware that my young son is hurting.

I think my young son taught me something beautiful today. Something remarkable. The pain of losing me will happen a little at a time not all in one crushing blow the moment I die. No, it is happening a little bit each day as my limitations find new corners. And the beauty, the grace, the stunning love of Jesus is that He is allowing me to be here for my loves in these new edges. I get to gently point them to Jesus and teach them to depend on His love when they meet their own pain in loss. I don’t think I saw the beauty in that before. It’s the grace of the long goodbye. But maybe—just maybe—we should all live like this, not simply those stricken with disease. Perhaps we are all to treasure each moment and give it eternal value. The beauty of the long goodbye is my beautiful honor and joy in painting the picture of the place I’m flying away to someday. To let my loves know I’m not flying away from them but flying to something greater. And in that beautiful picture of grace a longing, a sweet longing could begin to grow in them for their forever home where I will greet them one day.

Yesterday, a friend who was asked by Jesus to open her hands to her daughter in that next place came and gently sat on my bed. My birthday and the home-going of her dear baby girl 3 years ago were on the same day. She came and sat on my bed and asked me that if I beat her to that forever home, would I hold her baby girl? I simply cried. It’s an answer I didn’t need to give. It was a gift to see her longing for that place. It was the best gift. I struggle some days to enjoy what I cannot see, feel, hear, or touch. But in her request, in her brokenness, she showed me the beauty of my destination. I get to tell the story of that forever home until I take my last breath. And in the telling of that story, I get to love, big GIANT love my people.

Are you certain of Heaven? Do you have peace in your destination? Do you share that story with your loves? How could today, this day, you begin to embrace eternity in a real way? Do you know Jesus? Do you know His love, His care? Do you know His unbelievable redemption and grace? If you don’t, find a Bible, look at the book of Mark. Look at Jesus. Let him look at you. His life, death, and resurrection matter. They mattered then, and they matter today. Today my son didn’t need his mama to be strong. Today Lake needed me to point him to the only strength that matters. Jesus. With each breath, it’s my privilege to share that story. It’s the beautiful story.