Every life has its seasons. Some we can expect, some just knock us off our feet and leave us lying flat on our back, staring at the ceiling asking "how did I get HERE?" Most of you who have followed this blog in the past know that I am in one of those "hit-me-out-of-nowhere-can't-believe-I'm-in-this" seasons of my life. It's a season called grief. It's not unfamiliar to me. I've known my share of grief in this life. But each season of grief is different, just like the four seasons are different every year - last year the front of my driveway was piled with snow from Nov. - March. This year, not so much.
I'm going to re-start this blog. Sometimes I will write about my grief. That's not all this will be about. It will be about my family, my church, my ideas about this and that. But mostly, it will be about the ribbon of God's grace that is woven through every season of life. Sometimes the ribbon is beautiful and silky smooth, and sometimes it feels more like sandpaper - but it's there - and it holds me together day by day.
If you want to know more about the season I am in - you can read the CaringBridge journal my sister and I created when our mom was suddenly diagnosed with Stage IV Pancreatic Cancer and our world shifted.
Mom died on October 11th, 2014. She was 75 years old and lived a full life to say the least.
But it's always too soon. I don't care if someone lives to 45 or 100 - if you love them deeply it most certainly leaves a hole. The size of the hole and the size of the love are in direct proportion to one another.
I feel the hole every day. Some days it feels like a cavern and some days it feels like it is getting filled up with all of the love that is poured in by people in my life. I am so profoundly blessed and humbled by my kids, my husband, my extended family, my friends and my amazing church community. Not a day goes by that someone doesn't acknowledge the grief - either with a hug, a card of encouragement, a small gift of remembrance. I wonder - why am I so surrounded by this great cloud of witnesses? People who don't forget six months later - who still hold us in their hearts and prayers. What blessings. What treasures. It seems that most people in this world think that grief lasts until the end of the funeral and then it's time to move on. Not so with the people in my life. They get it. That's the ribbon of grace. Even in the rainy season - that ribbon dries the tears and mends the heart.
Tomorrow begins the season of Lent in the church year. We begin with Ash Wednesday when we trace the cross on our forehead with ashes. There is lots of history behind this practice but the bottom line is that in the tracing of the ashes, we remember that we are finite.
I certainly don't need that reminder this year.
Watching mom breathe her last and open her eyes to God's eternal promise was enough of a reminder for me. Hearing "Ashes to ashes, dust to dust" at her graveside as we gazed on the graves of my Dad and my Brother was a moment I don't ever need to relive. Nope. I don't feel like receiving the ashes on my forehead this year - because - well - I feel like it's going to be pretty redundant.
But - I'll do it anyway. First of all, it's my job.
Second, even though it's a startling reminder of my mortality - I'm choosing to believe that it's also a reminder that God's love is more. I might be finite. But God's love is infinite. When I lean into the finite nature of life on this side - I find a promise that is even more startling than death itself. A promise that extends that grace-ribbon to places beyond my imagining. The ashes remind me that I am not perfect and I am not God. The cross reminds me that NOTHING stops God's love. Not my sin, not my stupidity, not my disbelief, not my grief. God's love is infinite and shaped like a cross.
Yep. I'm made from ashes. So are you. But we are also made and shaped by God's promises. Ashes may be what we're made from But God's love is what we are made of. Let THAT love define you. And as you receive the imposition of ashes - may it remind you of the ribbon of grace that weaves your whole life together. That ribbon is made of God. And it's there - even in the ashes.