Two days ago my family did what most American families do on July 4th; we celebrated Independence Day. As I put on my red lipstick, I thought of how just a year ago, I would have done that with my daughter. Kelley’s love of holidays matched my own. (Her love of make-up greatly exceeded mine.) She would have approved my patriotic cosmetic efforts. Any chance to celebrate was always grabbed hold of with both hands. If one can dress up for the occasion – excellent!
Even without my partner in beauty products, I enjoyed celebrating with my family and friends. I find myself in a strange new reality. I cry so often I have pretty much given up wearing eye make-up. Yet I can still laugh, play games, enjoy good food and great company. I can carry on a conversation with a friend uninterrupted even while tears roll unapologetically down by face. This duality of living a life of both grief and joy is perplexing to me. It’s not what I would have imagined.
It takes no imagination however, to predict that my pain would open doors to ministry opportunities. I know God never wastes the difficult experiences in our lives, but uses them to further the spread of his love, his kingdom.
“We know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” Romans 8:28
I don’t ever seek to use my experience. I still find myself resentful of anything that smells of consolation. In my mind and heart, nothing can ever be worth the loss of my precious daughter. But opportunities do come unbidden onto my path whether or not I seek them. One such opportunity took place at a conference in May.
I was searching for nothing more than a seat when I found a woman who looked up at me from her phone. Despite not knowing me she shook her head, sighed heavily and proceeded to tell me in an exasperated tone that she had just about had it with one of the women in her church to whom she had been ministering. It seems this tiresome woman had lost her son and just couldn’t “get over it.” When she revealed that this had happened almost two months ago I repressed the visualized urge I had to do a fancy karate spin ending with my swift foot to her teeth and said a mental prayer for wisdom instead. I was able to share how I had lost my only daughter in August and assured her that at two months, this woman had not even begun to grieve. I talked to her at length and encouraged her to be compassionate. I shared what little wisdom I had through my recent experiences and she left with a changed heart.
And now one more heart has melted, just a bit.
Our church rents space from another business. One of the women who works for that company is kind-hearted and thoughtful. However, during one of our earliest conversations, in an attempt to preempt any spiritual talk, she told me flat out, in no uncertain terms that she did not and could not believe in God. Yesterday as I was praying, for some unknown reason she approached and asked me about my children. Normally, I talk about my three boys and do not mention Kelley to those I don’t know well. After telling her about my sons, I felt a nudge in my soul to talk of Kelley. As I talked smoothly and calmly, seemingly disconnected from the tears that started to flow, she was moved emotionally. She shared that she too had lost a child. Her only son had been killed at the age of seventeen. We talked for only a short time. In that time, we connected. As she walked away after a brief hug, this woman that I had only just begun to get to know said, “I love you.”
While nothing is worth the loss of my Kelley, I thank God for his mercies in allowing me to use my grief to reach others, to connect on a deeper level and impart some level of blessing.
May you too find hidden fruit blooming from the soil of your sorrow my friends. Until next time, be blessed and be a blessing.