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Grace over Grief

For several weeks, I have been tossing an idea around in my head about blogging on a series of choices that we are faced with and find ourselves making on an almost daily basis. How we choose each time has an impact at the moment, but also on our future, because these choices affect our self-image, self-confidence, our relationships with others, and our well-being. They are not the “salad or burger for lunch” choices (although those are important, too), but much deeper. To start this series, I’m going to dive right into the deep end and start with the one I am facing now…choosing Grace over Grief.

My husband, Dean, has a remarkable gift for painting pictures with words to get a point across. This is a gift that comes naturally to him, but it is also a skill that can be developed, and I’m working on that. In this post, I will attempt to get across to you a beautiful word picture that he “painted” for me last week during the darkest days of our 40+ years together.

On November 25, 2020 – the day before Thanksgiving -- our youngest son, Dustin, died. He was only 31 years old, and left behind a beautiful 4-year-old daughter, our Olivia. To say it was a shock would be an understatement, as anyone who has lost a son or daughter suddenly can attest. I was numb, then in tears, then numb again, then tears again. Dustin lived 5 hours away from us, and because he died at home, alone, he had to be taken by the authorities for an autopsy to be performed. Nothing would be done on Thanksgiving Day, so we decided it would be best to drive up on Friday. That gave us a day to be at home together – just the two of us (thanks to Covid) – to talk, to hold each other, to cry, to try to process the reality that Dustin was really gone, to mourn for Olivia losing her Daddy. Our oldest son, Derek, lives 12 hours away, so we were talking with and trying to comfort each other over the phone. (There is much to be said about how important the strength of a relationship is in a situation like this…We’ll save that for a future post.) With God’s grace, we made it through that day and headed to Dustin’s on Friday.

The next three days were a flurry of busyness – cleaning Dustin’s house, packing his things up, making arrangements for his household things to be put in storage – we were blessed to have lots of help from friends. We were able to get it all done and have a day to begin administrative things, and we held it together very well. It’s hard to imagine, I know, but Dean and I were blanketed with a peace of mind that only God could provide while our hearts were breaking. This is when Dean’s gift showed up…

He laced his fingers together loosely and held his hands out in front of his chest. (Go ahead…do that – lace your fingers together, loosely, and hold them in front of you while you read the rest of this paragraph.) Then he said, “Imagine this as a dam that is formed by God holding His hands just like this, and we are nestled inside the circle made by His arms. The grief and sorrow of losing Dustin is a raging river crashing against the dam, yet what comes through the spaces between God’s fingers is no more than what He knows we can handle at any given moment. The rest swirls around and crashes against His arms, and no matter how strong that current gets, it flows on past, and we are protected by God’s grace.”

It is such a beautiful picture…God holding his arms out to wrap around us and protect us – you, me, anyone who will seek Him. Then I realized that we had that protection because we chose to step close and put our hearts and minds in his care – inside his protecting arms. We chose to rest in his grace rather than drown in the grief. We asked “Why?” We asked “How?” But we didn’t ask “How could you?” We trust that something beautiful will come from this, and we have already begun to see evidence of that.

We still have questions…the “what if…” and “if only…” ones that give us some belief that we could have changed the outcome if we had done something different, or if Dustin had. But we – none of us – have that kind of control. The fact is that Dustin died from a natural cause, although so young, but now he is completely healed and is in heaven. He is perfect. Of that, we have no doubt.

So, we have a choice, every minute of every day, to choose to focus on God’s grace or on our grief. God won’t be upset when the grief takes over sometimes; even Jesus cried when his friend Lazarus died, and he was about to bring Lazarus back to life! Grief is a natural emotion, and God gets it. But He is always there, holding out His arms, ready to wrap them around us to extend His grace into our lives and offer peace and comfort, even during a torrent of grief.

Today, right now, right this minute…we choose the grace, because when we choose to receive God’s grace, it fills up our tanks. Then, when we need to make a withdrawal from our tank to be able to extend grace to others, we have plenty to share!

I would love to hear some of your experiences of when you chose grace over grief. I also invite you to share if you are hanging on tightly to a rope trying not to get swept away because the grief is so strong. We can get you a life preserver!

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Jan and Dean - my heart goes out to you as I am just now learning what has happened in your lives. I am so sorry for your loss and also grateful for your post illustrating the power of love and faith you have shared here. May you have peace and, eventually, joy. Olivia is like the rainbow in the clearing of the heavy mists of this time. 🌈💜

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