Monday, July 2, 2012

In the Shadow of the Mountain

My Monday posts normally fall under the heading of weekend recap and are accompanied by not so deep thoughts. It's late in the day and I feel like I want to say something about the weekend but am not sure exactly what or how much.

We spent the weekend with extended family, gathering for a small private service in honor of my niece in the place she loved best-the Smoky Mountains of East Tennessee. All the people she loved best were there too.

Her whole family.
Both sides.

A swirling twirling contradiction of laughter and tears.
Love and heartbreak.
Memory and Absence.

Cousins on each side linked by the cousin not there. I couldn't help but smile and think how much my niece would love to know that the cousins on her dad's side felt an instant kinship with the cousins on her mom's side. United in their grief but also something deeper.

I'm not going to say much about the weekend because its just too hard, too painful, and too private for this public place. At the same time no words doesn't feel right either.

I listened to my daughter play the song Blessed Be Your Name on her guitar Saturday night. I haven't heard her play in years and sitting on a deck surrounded by the magnificence of the mountains, I felt my heart well up with the most confusing mixture of joy and sadness I have ever known.

Those lyrics danced into the evening air and have been playing across my brain ever since. I know many people, maybe even most people, struggle at some point in their lives with matters of faith. Is God real? Is God who He says He is? If God is truly who He says He is then why do bad things happen to good people? Can I believe what the Bible tells me?

I know people ask these questions all the time, they wrestle with the very nature of who God is or even IF God is, but in my own life, I have never doubted the existence or sovereignty of God.

Until now I guess my life has felt mostly golden. I don't mean to imply there's never been anything sad or hard come my way. I think everyone experiences some measure of that on planet Earth, but for me, this present circumstance?

It stands alone.

There is a shadow that sits at the edge of our every day. Somedays its a dull ache and somedays its a tsunami. A virtual tidal wave of sorrow whose depth seems to know no end. It is your own pain yes, but it's more than your own. It's the tear sliding from your child's eye when they don't know you're looking. That tiny tear lands like a boulder upon your heart. You are also witness to a grandparent's worst nightmare. Most of all, you try to comprehend the incomprehensible- a mother and father with hearts splintered into a million trillion pieces.

What to do when darkness comes? When life suddenly spirals out of control in some cruel twist of fate. When the well of sorrow feels bottomless? When there is no answer to the only question for which you seek an answer- "Why?"

Do I reject all that I have known and believed in the face of something that feels like it could swallow a family up whole?

Or do I push my faith out as far as it will possibly go and finally know for myself, at the age of 51, that the well does indeed have a bottom. And that bottom is rock solid. It is at the bottom of the well, the end of the rope, the edge of a vast and desolate canyon, that God Is.

It is from the bottom of the well that I can say with a sureness I had until now only assumed was there, that His grace really is sufficient.

In spite of all I don't understand, everything I have believed about the goodness of God remains unchanged. Constant. Steady. True.

He is my refuge.
My hiding place.

And my heart will choose to say 'Blessed Be Your Name...'

"I lift up my eyes to the mountains-where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord, the maker of heaven and earth." Psalm 121:1-2


  1. Blessed are those who mourn for they shall be comforted..He really is our comfort. Sorry for your families loss here.

  2. Grief and doubt so often go hand in hand. I am so glad your faith has remained constant through this tragedy for your family. The laughter and tears you all shared over the weekend are the epitome of family.

  3. know that I so understand the feelings you experienced this weekend. I am so glad that your family had this time together. The healing is a little easier when the sadness is shared. Hugs to all of you as you continue to mourn.

  4. Hugs for all of your family. It had to have been an extremely difficult weekend.

  5. "Them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with him." 1 Thess. 4:14

  6. Joyce, what a beautiful post. I struggle with the same questions at times, and it is good to know how somebody else deals with them. I am so sorry for your family's loss, but like you said His grace is sufficient. My thoughts are with you :)

  7. What a beautiful post Joyce! How wonderful that both sides of the family were able to join together for such a special time together. Celebrating the life of someone so dear to all of them. I know so well of the grieve that you describe and that dark, dark valley that few escape. May all of you be comforted knowing of that great reunion that will take place one day. Blessings!

  8. that was such a beautiful post .. thank you for sharing just a little of your thoughts and heart ... GOd is good. All the time. He gives and He takes away - blessed be the name of the Lord.

  9. Perfect psalm when we are despairing. Yes, life is hard to figure at times. I just try to remember that life was not fair/good for Christ either. No suffering we endure will surpass what He went through. God IS trustworthy. He told us there would be suffering in this life, but He is always with us. Sending prayers of peace your way.

  10. I found myself reading with tears in my eyes and nodding my head in agreement to this, Joyce. I have felt all those things. I have said good-bye to three loved ones this year. I have felt that grief/joy/bitterness/hope. I wish we could cry together and just sit together and comfort each other. ((Hug)) to you, friend.

  11. Joyce ((hugs)) to you and your loved ones. I share your tears and feel your pain. I wish your family were gathering in the mountains you love for another reason moor joyous than this. But knowing your strength,belief and love in God you will make it through the dark times and memories of you niece will dance in your heart. ((hugs))

  12. No words seem appropriate...sending ((hugs))today.

  13. I am astonished some days at just how deep pain can go - and keep going. I'm praying for your pain and your faith.

  14. What a comfort to positively sure that God is good and that we can bless his name when we are hurting so badly. He understands our grief and carries our sorrows. I am thankful that the whole family rallied to grieve the incredible loss. My prayers are with you even when youre not blogging about your pain. I know it's there.

  15. A beautiful and transparent post Joyce :) I've felt all those emotions and thought those thoughts as well. And I find myself clinging to that hope that is only found in Him. What comfort it is to know He is good all the time!

  16. Thanks for sharing your thoughts here. That belief is all you need, at least for me. Despite all the problems, I am extremely lucky to have my spouse - all is well with me. I wish you comfort.

  17. Your words portray so much honesty but also wisdom. I hurt with you and hope you will feel God's special love for you in this time of heaviness!

  18. What an incredible, beautiful post. Thank you for your honesty about your loss and your faith. You do so much good for others when you let them see inside just a little. For those of us who have never had to experience the loss your family had, I am blessed by your reassurance that God really is there at the rock bottom and He is sufficient.

    Thank you for sharing and blessings to your family!

  19. "It is from the bottom of the well that I can say with a sureness I had until now only assumed was there, that His grace really is sufficient."

    Many people live their entire lives and never really understand this. Knowing it is a kiss on the cheek from a really good God.
    I love that song and I loved this post, you said it so well.

  20. (Hugs) right now. There have been times (dad's early death, daughter's open heat surgeries, losing a baby, and hub's battle with cancer) that I have asked those same questions and felt so many emotions. With each one of these experiences, I just wanted the world to freeze in its tracks, just as time seemed to have stopped for me. But life goes on. In our human sorrow nothing gives comfort but love and faith.

  21. No words, Joyce. So hard.
    Faith will carry you through. And love.