In recent years, I have discovered that grief is an oft misunderstood infirmity that only the suffering can absorb. Like other afflictions, sympathy can be offered, but no other soul can carry our sorrow for us. Even then, solitude can serve as both friend and foe to the bereaved. One moment, the passion of sweet memories wraps its arms around us like a comforting blanket, while the sharpness of loss pierces our consolation the next. Through it all, there is little our loved ones can do except try to keep us warm, remind us to eat, and prompt us to believe that we will survive this agony.
A Peace in Progress is a personal journal written during the first year of my passage through the foggy gloom of grief after my husband’s death in the Fall of 2005. Though there was no escaping the waves that crashed over me, I found that I could move from the throbbing ache of unbearable sadness to the viable and familiar process of living by surrendering my thoughts to the hope that endures even through the pain of death.
In the years since, it has become my desire to share my journey with the anticipation that others will find some comfort in its pages. As others pursue the cessation of their own, personal, and individual inner conflict, I pray that they will be able to reconcile the shadows filled with the silhouettes of times past and move from melancholy to hope to confidence. Somewhere along the way, I pray that each and every traveler will come to experience the peace that grows brighter with each step they take into the joy of living, again.
Who doesn’t love weddings?
On September 16th 2011 my middle daughter, Caren, was married. What an awesome day it was. Words can't describe the joy that radiated from her countenance as she walked up the aisle in her bridal gown. It was enough to make a mother cry. Caren has endured more than her share of scars, yet she freely shares her testimony with those who desire to hear. It is one of tragedy and triumph; battles fought, wars won, casualties and victories...
So, it was that on her special day, she took a break in the war to celebrate, not the beginning of perfect bliss, but the foretaste of something yet to come. And I couldn't help but compare the glory of her wedding to the glory of another or the beauty of this bride to the splendor of the Bride to be.
As this New Year begins, I lift my glass to all the brides who are anticipating a new beginning as they join their hearts in matrimony; two becoming one. But especially, on this day, I honor His Bride.
Christ’s Beloved Church.
You… believer and intimate friend of God.
As you continue to prepare yourself for that great and glorious day, I proclaim this jubilant declaration over the year to come, "L'Chayyim... to Life!"
Bodies dot the landscape
Like mounds of broken clay
Plumes of smoke rise gracefully
Masking death's decay
Soldiers weak and weary
Search for shelter from the fight
But the woman rises slowly
And surveys the ravaged sight
Her gaze is racked with pain
Though hesitantly she stands
Her garments torn and bloodied
Are stained by wars demands
Parched lips part in a whisper
A silent, desperate cry
As she looks to the horizon
For the Son is in her eyes
Faltering, stumbling, climbing
She winds her way among the dead
Her footprints bathed in tears
She is strengthened with each tread
Advancing, pressing forward
Nothing slows her steady stride
Her wedding day is dawning
For the Son is in her eyes
Nothing turns her attention
Not the failures of the past
Not the scent of other lovers
Or death's impending blast
Face fixed on her Beloved
She moves boldly to His side
Held captive by His beauty
For the Son is in her eyes
There they stand in perfect union
Father, Spirit, Son and Bride
As her blemished gown transforms
Into purest, snowy white
And all of time and space explode
“To Life!” as they arise
To celebrate this glorious dawn
For the Son is in her eyes
It was the occasion of my 40th birthday and there was no money and few friends to celebrate. Until… Two friends became the unwitting messengers of the greatest birthday gift I have ever received. Each Christmas since, I look for an opportunity to share the letter I wrote my friends shortly after receiving their blessing.
Truly, it was the gift of a lifetime!
You touched my heart so deeply when you said, “Happy Birthday! I'm so glad you were born!” Such a simple thought and yet, I cannot shake the sweet sound of your voice or the lingering echo of those life-affirming words.
You couldn't have known that on that very same day another friend would send a similar message. Her card read, “The day you were born the angels somersaulted in the sky!” I can be slow at times, but even as the words reverberated through the air, I recognized the voice of my Father. He speaks through friends a lot, you know.
Clearly, on this occasion, He orchestrated your gifts. He synchronized your thoughts in such a way that there could be no mistaking His message. Just when I needed it most… On one of my darkest days, amidst one of the hardest years of my life, those words became the best birthday present I have ever received!
The truth is that I can't get your words out of my mind and from the moment you spoke them, God and I have been having quite a conversation. He has added to your generous blessing and the wonder is so much more than I can contain.
A few days after you shared those words of affirmation and celebration, I stood in church enjoying this wonderful Christmas season with my family. The rafters were ringing with sounds of awe as we celebrated the occasion of Christ's birth.
It was then, in the middle of our exultation, that He interrupted my song with a whisper, “Did you know that Christmas isn’t really your celebration of My birth?”
Stunned, I quietly contemplated the idea. And then, as if He couldn't stand the suspense a second longer, He laughed and answered His own question.
“Christmas is MY celebration of YOUR birth!”
In that moment, as long, fluid beams of sunlight wavered in intermittent streams across the joyful choir and settled on the tiny, unremarkable manger in the corner of the platform, I saw the true message of Christmas.
And for the very first time, I understood your gift.
I realized that Christmas wasn’t a special day for festive lights and colorful presents. It wasn’t a day to celebrate the angels singing, wandering shepherds, or wise men with expensive gifts. To my astonishment, I saw that Christmas wasn’t even a day to honor the tiny baby who was born in a smelly stable.
Christmas… was God’s way of telling every man, woman, boy and girl, “Happy Birthday! I’m so glad you were born!”
There it was! The truth about our favorite holiday. Hidden within the deep, resonating hush of your gift was the real message of Christmas.
Christmas was God's Birthday Present to the world.
God sent His birthday present, wrapped in clothes of flesh and lying in a manger. This Gift had cost Him everything, but the tag read, “Worth the price.”
In fact, His immortal and beloved Son had stepped down from regal throne, put on human form, and lay amidst the hay. For the first time in all eternity, the sound of weeping echoed through heaven’s halls, but God said, “I’m so glad you were born. I don’t want you to be separated from Me anymore.” And He came to where I was.
This was a Gift that kept on giving. Though the cost was beyond price, Love met the charge at every challenge. For me, the determined bargain hunter, who never pays full price for anything, I marveled that anyone would pay so much more than the object was worth. “Because,” He said, “I’m so glad you were born! You’re worth every expense to Me.”
As I waited in that moment of ethereal serenity, I realized that the very first Christmas was so much more than I had ever imagined. For the baby that lay in that rough, wooden feeding trough, amidst the smell of cow dung and donkey’s sweat, had given the Gift of Himself.
He had come as both Giver and Gift and brought presents too many to count!
“Salvation!” read one of His gifts and the cost was a cruel death on a rugged tree. “Here,” He said, “It’s for you.” He smiled as He held out the package. “I’m so glad you were born! I don’t want you to be lost anymore.”
Another was labeled, “Resurrection!” He laughed at death and told me it would not frighten me, again. The cost of that gift was a long, dark night of the soul, a terrible gloom, and the silence of the grave. “I thought about you!” He replied joyfully, “And the darkness was light to Me. I’m so glad you were born!”
There was “Pentecost” and the “Holy Spirit” and He said, “I don’t want you to be powerless anymore.”
There was a gift that read, “Healing,” and my name was written on it. It was damaged and lacerated with deep, painful gashes but He smiled at me and said, “With every strike of the whip, you were on my mind. I am so glad you were born! I didn’t want you to be sick anymore.”
There was a gift that said, “Righteousness!” and a coat so extraordinary that my natural eyes could barely behold it. The Law tried to say I didn’t deserve it, but He said, “She is worth it all to me! She is my beloved.” When he took the garment from the box, I saw the price. The threads were made of blood. His blood. Each drop was woven into my masterpiece; the source of its exquisite quality and irreplaceable value. As He wrapped it around my shoulders, He whispered, “I don’t want you to be condemned anymore.”
Christmas is so much more than a baby wrapped in swaddling clothes. What grace, this manger filled with priceless gifts and all with my name on them.
There was “Hope” so I wouldn't have to be hopeless anymore. There was “Mercy” to hide the shame of my naked condition. There was “Comfort” to dry my tears and “Provision” for all my needs. There was “Creativity” to give me purpose and “Perseverance” to fulfill my dreams.
There was “Love” for my enemies and “Wisdom” to face my future.
There was gift after gift and with each one He would say, “I’m so glad you were born!”
I guess I never realized how important my seemingly insignificant birth was until now.
But the real beauty of this gift is that it is only enjoyed when it is given away and so I give it back to you as you gave it to me...
“Merry Christmas dear Friend! And Happy Birthday!
The day you were born, the angels somersaulted in the sky!
I’m so glad you were born!!”