This year needs to be a year of rest, I've heard God whisper time and time again since Lily's death.
And I've nodded, understanding. The past few years have been full, too full. Pregnancy. Newborn. Pregnancy. Miscarriage. Book drafting. Pregnancy. Newborn. Book editing. Pregnancy. Stillbirth. Burial. Book release.
We're tired, all of us. We've been living in crisis mode for a year at least, possibly years, and it shows. In the cluttered corners of our home. In our battle-weary bodies. In hundreds of tiny eruptions of anger and impatience and frustration. In parenting issues too long overlooked.
So we've chosen quiet this fall. We've stepped down from our leadership responsibilities at church. We're homeschooling. The kids aren't taking any classes or participating in any sports. I'm not writing much.
Most days, the girls and I are home all day doing chores and school and play together.
As we've settled into these decisions the past few weeks, part of me has exhaled, relieved to not be rushing anyone off to preschool in the morning, to have hours to spend snuggling on the couch with a pile of library books, to be able to show up at church meetings that I don't have to lead or plan.
But it's been hard too. Hard because too often, busyness is my antidote to suffering. Productivity allows me to hide from my pain.
The choice to slow down means it's harder to hide from my sadness. I have to face it and feel it and figure out what to do with it, even as I spend my days wiping noses and bottoms, teaching vowel sounds, and mediating between screaming siblings. None of it feels easy or glamorous. At the end of the day, I have very little to show for my labors, except crumb-covered floors, counters scattered with science experiments and art projects, and often, tears of grief that just won't stop.
And yet, I sense this is where I am to be this year, where we all are to be. Together. Grieving. Resting. Building. Trusting that God will work here, that He is already working to heal and to restore.
* * * * *
Yesterday afternoon, the girls and I went to the cemetery at the request of my oldest. She and her sister ran to Lily's grave, small, white pumpkins in hand. They'd decorated them earlier that day with purple and green markers and puffy gem stickers. "Hi Lily, I'm your big sister," they said in turn, while they placed their pumpkins next to her memorial plaque.
Then, we walked to a nearby pavilion. The girls munched on pretzels, while I sat, surveying row after row of graves, pensive. "When I die, " my two year-old belted out suddenly, a wide smile on her face, blonde curls whipping in the wind. "Hallelujah by and by," she continued singing. "I'll fly away."
I smiled at her and her joy and the irony of her words in this place. In that moment, I felt God speak: This is not the end of your story.
And a few tears slid down my cheeks because I really do believe this to be true, even as I lose sight of it daily - the best is yet to come.
I long for it here, for glimpses of redemption in this broken, dying world, for another baby perhaps, or for small tastes of how all our family's pain has done some good somewhere.
But more and more, as I keep on facing the deaths of my girls, keep on feeling the weight of their absence, I long too for a world made new, for the end to both striving and sorrows, for a true and lasting rest. To a land where joy will never end, I'll fly away.