The Question that Dangles For Us Who Grieve in this Season

It was after her question at the hardware store. Trudging across broken pavement in biting snowy cold, we pushed hands in pockets deep, my arm through hers protectively.

Inside the red box store, she asked it –my mom wanting to know — and it has reverberated inside the depths of me still.

“I want the kind that keeps burning even if one has burned out.”

Photo Credit: Flickr user Rakka, Creative Commons cc license

She’s holding a defective string of Christmas lights, but it feels like me. How do we keep burning even if part of us is gone?

At the customer service desk earlier, we had graciously handed back the cardboard box of twinkly lights, sliding the receipt beside it.

“Anything wrong with them?” a red-sweatered woman asked smiling.

“Nope, they’re just the wrong ones. I want the lights that’ll keep burning even if one bulb is dead.”

Later in the parking lot, we walk arm in arm and I unlock her door first.

“Jennifer, I’ve realized that I need to let my friends know what I’ve been learning — what God has been teaching me in these hard times. God has been teaching Dad and I so much about suffering…” she trails off, her voice breaking slightly.

Dad is gone, and Mom has been sobbing in the loving closeness of her God as she walks through the grief of losing her husband.

Her friends are veiled elegant North African women, emigrated to Minneapolis. My mom learns the lilting beauty of their language and helps them navigate English grammar and vocabulary. They eat sambosas and saffron-flavored rice, and speak often of husbands, children, and aging parents faraway.

“I get to tell them of the hope we have in Jesus and of the confidence we have that Bruce will be in heaven with God.”  Mom spoke excitedly of the Christmas presents she was gathering for her international friends, and she carefully chose cards to accompany them.

At home later, Mark and I uncoil our own long strands of lights and assemble them end to end. Wrapping the tree in strands of red, blue, green, and yellow, all the wiry lights culminate into one outlet plug. Electric current courses and the lights shine on.

Verses of Bible truth grab me this Christmas break as we march wise men to a starry stable and gather shepherds near, their sheep already fallen over. I pour eggnog and grind another portion of French Press coffee beans. In crowded rooms here and there, we pass gingerbread men and Belgium chocolate truffles, talking loudly as nieces and nephews race with toys underfoot.

And my mom, sister, and I plug into our Source again and again, drawing strength and constancy from God. As the tears come, and we count it out — two months now since Dad died– we play his songs, and laughing-cry as we scroll through old photographs.

This intermingled grief with joy is a sharper chapter for me now, a newly-formed reality. As the question bubbles up: “How do I keep burning even when part of me has burnt out?” I sense the answer.

Pulling out pen and paper, I reflect further. I trace the words and underline “In Him” and the lights keep burning — through no strength of their own.

“We wait in hope for the Lord; 
He is our help and shield. 
In Him our hearts rejoice for we trust in his Holy Name. 
May your unfailing love rest upon us, O Lord, even as we put our hope in you.” Psalm 32:20-22.

Merry Christmas, you. May this New Year bring you an even deeper sense of God’s rich love for you and his delight in you. May you rest in his presence. What have you been reflecting on this month?

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  1. Mihaela Echols on December 30, 2017 at 2:05 am

    This is beautiful. As you and your family experience both grief and joy you will be in our prayers. Even in times like this is amazing to see how God continues to work in your guys' lives.

  2. Bill (cycleguy) on December 30, 2017 at 8:39 pm

    I've been reflecting a lot of God's grace the past few months…ever since my second bicycle accident in February. It has come alive in me the closer I got to christmas and spent time with "Come Let Us Adore Him" by Paul David Tripp. God's grace is sufficient for all we need. He is all we need. Blessings Jennifer as you navigate these new waters.

  3. Leanne Mills on January 2, 2018 at 2:14 pm

    What a beautiful picture of your family! I've been praying for you!

  4. Cheryl Barker on January 19, 2018 at 4:58 pm

    So thankful we can find joy in Him, even in those times when grief is so fresh. Blessings and continued comfort from above, Jennifer.

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