As I write this, it's July 1st. I don't even have words to describe what July means to me. I hate July. I hate that it will forever be the month that my son died. And yet, this month I am thankful I am not where I was almost four years ago. This year, I am no longer in a grief fog. This year, I can smile and find joy. This year, I will make beautiful memories despite grief.
This weekend we will celebrate the 4th of July holiday as we always do, in our usual spot, our favorite spot. It will have it's moments of sadness, to be sure, but this year I will recognize the joyful moments as well. I will fight for joy, and I will miss my son. I will cherish what I have, and I will grieve what I don't. And that is o.k. because I have learned that neither joy nor grief is exclusive. Jesus said, "...In this world you will have trouble. But take heart!.." (John 16:33)
Jesus lived with sorrow, and He lived with joy. He knew what it was to suffer, and He knew what it was to rejoice. More and more, I think about how incredible it was for Christ to leave perfection, to voluntarily inhabit an earthly body with all it's limitations and finiteness, and to live on earth with sin and brokenness. He didn't have to do that, yet He chose to so that we could ultimately be coheirs with Him. It just stuns me. When my grief overwhelms, there is great comfort when I remember His sacrifice.
Monday, July 6th
God knows how much this month makes me feel broken, busted wide open again. And, try as I might to find joy like Ann Voskamp entreats, I am bruised and sore. The child loss scar throbs and rubs raw this month. Yet I grasp for the one thing that sustains me: the truth of God's word. And how beautiful it is when played on repeat with the music of MercyMe (Flawless), Colton Dixon (Through All Of It), and Morgan Harper Nichols (Storyteller). The strains of the music are like salve on the wound. I keep applying their lyrics and they keep my heart still, my spirit from being troubled. I am humbled at how God ministers to and comforts His children. When I think I can no longer bear the sorrow, His grace pours over me.
This month, as I am reminded daily of God's grace, I am compelled to make July overflow with joy. Grief is a given. It doesn't take any effort to experience it. But joy? Joy is a choice. Joy is hard won. Joy steps over grief and plants her feet firmly in the dust. She doesn't wait for permission. She doesn't wait to "feel" it. Joy believes God's word even if it doesn't make sense because she trusts in Him.
I want to choose joy and, while joy is a choice, it's not easy. Choosing joy sometimes takes all the strength I have. But it's always the right choice. I rarely (if ever) look at photos of Matt because it's just
too painful. But I decided I would try to "redeem" this month by posting
photos of Matt daily on my Facebook wall. I'll be honest and admit that it's tough. Really tough. Going through photos daily is emotionally draining.
I'm struggling with falling into that grief pit. Yet I am encouraged by the joy it brings to those who see the pictures. I had forgotten how much Matthew smiled. (Not that he wasn't happy when he was a teenager, but there's a reason he had the nickname "Mr. Stoic.") ;)
As I try to redeem this month of grief, I hope to grow in grace and joy. (Do you sense a recurring theme?) I hope that instead of seeing what I have lost, I will instead see how much I have gained. My God is great. He is my Redeemer, my healer, my comforter, and my hope. He is good...no matter what.