This morning, Pat and I are heading down to the beach for a few days. We’ve been keeping a watchful eye on Hurricane Matthew, but it looks like he is going to stay away from the Delaware coast. Whew!
We will encounter a dramatic-looking ocean for a day or two, though. There is nothing like whipped-up, white-capped waves! Since I will be just looking and not swimming, I’m actually looking forward to it.
When we took our trip to Bethany Beach last year, I wasn’t really looking forward to anything. In the months that led up to our little get-away, both my mother and my best friend Marylou had died within a short time of each other. Their deaths were sudden and shattering. The spring and summer of 2015 were a blur and, by the time October came, all I wanted to do was just sit on a balcony and look at the waves.
It ended up being a nice trip but, looking back, I remember how grief pressed on me. I felt it physically — as if my heart was literally broken in two.
What a difference a year makes.
Last October I was deeply sad, suffering from the trauma of losing two of the most important people in my life. I wasn’t looking forward at all. The thought of life going on without them hurt. It wasn’t time.
Ecclesiastes 3:1 tells us:
To everything there is a season. A time for every purpose under heaven.
Last year was a time to mourn. It was a time to look back and a time to look inward.
It was a time to gather. I gathered together my precious memories and as much hope as I could hang on to – but I needed help.
A few weeks before our trip to the ocean, I made the decision to go for counseling. It wasn’t the first time I’ve sat in a counselor’s chair and I am sure it won’t be the last. The losses were hard to bear and my mother’s absence stirred up other brokenness that I knew needed attending to once and for all. It was time.
We often think it’s weak to tend to our mental well-being – but in my experience it is one of the bravest things we can do. We cannot do it all ourselves. Our loving God provides gifted and skilled counselors to help us.
They are our beloved guides who safely take us to places of revelation within our life story. They are empathetic and encouraging truth tellers – the light shines in and then we place it all before the Father for healing.
As I learned in college – psychology reveals, but Jesus heals.
Upon my first visit to her office, a carved wooden bowl of beautiful hand painted stones was sitting on a table. A sign indicated that anyone could pick up a stone, hold it and take it with them.
The first one I picked up had the words ‘Be Brave’ painted on it. I brought it home and placed it on my desk. It would remind me to have courage to move through the grief and pain that were laid bare in her office each week.
Over the months that followed, I gathered more stones with different words on them. I placed them around my home office along with scriptures and prayers.
It was a time of looking back, looking inside and, quite honestly, grieving over more losses than only my mom and Marylou. It was a time of discovery and of painful truth.
Each week we met and together worked our way down the healing path. She led the way and I followed. It took longer than I expected, but one day something happened – I began to lift my head.
My eyes had been in a downward gaze for so long. Pain pushes us into that posture. But, as the light took over more and more of the darkness, I began to look up and out. My gaze moved outward and away from myself.
I felt so much better. The heaviness that had been pressing down lifted too. The season was changing and I was on the mend.
What a difference a year makes!
Not too long after, I realized I didn’t need the stones anymore. The time to gather had passed and so… I began to give them away.
I gave the ‘Peace’ stone to Marylou’s husband.
As my youngest son was leaving for an internship far from home, I slipped the ‘Be Brave’ stone in his hand.
And then to others. One by one, I gave them all away.
There is a season and a time for every purpose under heaven.
A time to mourn
A time to seek answers
A time to accept
A time to heal
And then … He takes our chin in His hand and gently lifts our head. Our perspective changes and we notice that it’s time to give the hope away to someone else.
But you, O Lord, are a shield about me, my glory, and the lifter of my head. — Psalm 3:3