God often allows us to go through heartbreaking circumstances we don’t understand. The death of a child. The loss of a job. An unexpected pregnancy. Three challenges my own family experienced in the last three years. Sometimes we discover a hidden reason that helps us deal with the devestation. Sometimes we don’t.
In the year after losing our 7-year-old daughter Ruth, I began a small journal. Many times as I wrote about my grief, my words turned into a prayer.
That winter I sat on our front porch and wrote:
A single green shoot peeks through the snow-covered garden.
How you would smile at this first sign of spring. Then I realize I will never show you a tulip again.
Never prop the garden hose in your sparrow-thin hand to help you spray the flowers—or your siblings, heads thrown back in wide-open laughter as they race up the ramp.
It takes two years to fully process loss, my doctor says.
Two lifespans would not be enough.
How do I let go of a life I never got to fully know?
Words you were never able to form?
Places you never went?
Treasures you never saw?
Like this flower.
Joy and laughter return to me.
Bring life where grief now reigns,
Fresh tulips poking through frozen ground.
Yesterday, as I stepped into my garden to cut flowers for the kitchen table, God brought that last phrase back to mind.
It wasn’t a tulip I saw but a pale yellow iris–the sole survivor of a once glorious patch. It seems the rest have been consumed in an underground attack, most likely by voles, which love to eat the bulbs. But there was this one hardy outlier. Feeling a little guilty, I pulled out my scissors and snipped the crisp stalk.
After church, the kids and I took my husband, Dana, to the Brunswick mall, a grassy patch in the center of a historic college town, to celebrate Father’s Day with a picnic. While I poured lemonaid, our three older children kicked a soccer ball. Later Dana and I joined them. Our preschooler played behind a tree while our youngest, Ezra, crawled in the grass.
Looking toward the far end of the park, my eyes fell on a worn wooden gazebo, the same spot where I’d long ago held Ruth on the first night we met her. Some friends, who were hosting Ruth while she was here from Uganda for physical therapy, had invited usfor ice cream. A man juggled bowling pins, enthralling our kids, while I fed 18-month-old Ruth bits of my sugar cone. The following summer, she would be ours.
The memory filled me with warmth stronger than the mid-June sunshine as I felt Ruth near through that special memory. A moment later, I was startled by a shuffling near my feet. I looked down to see 11-month-old Ezra steadily pulling himself over the grass–hand, knee, hand, knee–in a pair of faded blue overalls. And I smiled.
After turning 40, I couldn’t believe the news when I discovered I was pregnant with our sixth child. What would we possibly do with another baby?
Little did I know at that very moment, God was answering the still, silent prayer I’d written in my journal nearly two years before.
Joy and laughter return to me.
They did. Part of the healing arrived in the form of this unexpected child, who daily brings joy and laughter too us all through his fresh pure delight at something as simple as a patch of fresh grass.
How precious that God showed me the answer to my prayer on Father’s Day, reminding me of his own fatherly love. So if your heart is aching, hold on. The answer to your most desperate prayer might be right at your feet.
“You have turned my mourning into joyful dancing. You have taken away my clothes of mourning and clothed me with joy,” Psalm 30:11.