She came into my bed at midnight and her brother snuggled in tight at 4 am. There I was, wedged between a 10-year-old and a 7-year-old, both struggling with bad thoughts and bad dreams.
Normally I'd resent their bony limbs and tossing, turning selves precluding my sleep. But not tonight. Tonight I breathed them in and thanked God for their warm bodies nestled against me.
Once I knew sleep would elude me the rest of the night, I put on the kettle and sat down to write. It's a post I began scrawling out a week and a half ago but writing has taken a back seat to life.
It's ironic actually. The message of that half-written post foreshadowed the week that was to come in a way I could have never predicted.
I'd planned to write about how it's the tapestry of triumph and tragedy, joy and despair, hope and heartache that make life the rich experience that it is. How joy and the gifts of the everyday are so much more celebratory, so much more intense when we've walked through darkness and wondered if the light of the morning would ever come again.
I was reflecting upon the past year of my life and how that's been true. Well, really the last 10 years if I'm being honest.
I penned those thoughts in the wake of joyous news: the birth of my newest niece on July 3rd. A lot of tears and prayers have been offered up on her behalf these last 6 months and I can't tell you how special she is. We drove 9 hours to see her just a day after she came into this world.
Life is worth gathering together and celebrating like that.
Last night I gathered with different family...my mom and dad, brothers and sister, aunts and uncles and cousins. And once again, we offered a lot prayers and a lot of tears but this time for a different occasion. My cousin passed away suddenly on Saturday. He was 26.
And that half-written post from 10 days ago now seems trite. It made me question if I really believe what I say I believe. When belief and reality and eternity all collide in the rawest sense, can I actually say that it's all sacred?
I still believe it's true, that moments of happiness and gratitude are richer when they're experienced on this side of real despair, that somehow the intensity of joy and pain are directly proportionate to one another. And that it's all filtered through the loving hands of a good and sovereign God...
But what do I really know? I've never lost a child. Or a spouse. Or a sibling.
At the funeral home I held the hand of an acquaintance I haven't seen in a long time. I walked through the visitation line alongside her because she has a tough time in situations like this. She lost her husband suddenly just three years ago and she is too young to be a widow.
But she beamed through the tears, told me how God is so good and so faithful. She is one who just radiates the beauty of Christ every time I talk to her. Her son is getting married in two weeks and she will cry tears of joy for her son and his bride while she cries tears of sorrow over the empty seat beside her...joy tears and grief tears mixed together and running as one stream.
That is life in this fallen, beautiful world.
It's a web of love and loss, of grand hopes and shattered dreams, of brokenness and redemption.
And it's all sacred.
The silly, inconsequential things of this world tend to pile scales upon my eyes so that I can't see right, the temporal outweighing the eternal until something shatters the scales and I can finally see clearly again.
I can't help but think of the truth in 1 Corinthians 13:12: For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face...
It's times like this that make me want to trade the the broken now for the perfect then.
My friend said to me, Doesn't this just make you long for Heaven? And I tearfully nodded Yes, more aware than ever that this world is not our home and that we weren't created for loss. Death is so unnatural because we were created for life, for perfect communion with the Creator and with one another that never ends.
Loss uncovers the longing for Heaven that's already there but that's too often dulled by the cares and distractions of the everyday. And loss also forces me to grab hold of the good gifts in the here and now that are a taste of what is to come. There are a million of them every day if I'll just look.
Last night I hugged my uncle who has just lost his son and he said to me, Love on your kids.
They did. They loved their son well for 26 years. And you better believe that I came home and loved on my own three kids. So when two of them needed my bed more than I needed my sleep, I cherished the opportunity.
Because they are among the most precious of all the good gifts in this life...sweet, sleeping reminders of the good and perfect that is not yet but that is to come.
So love on your kids. Celebrate life in all it's forms. Drink down every gift you can find today. It's those good gifts bestowed by a gracious Giver that shift our gaze upward and point us toward the perfect place that is to come.