Yesterday, I didn’t do a whole lot. A good, warm-bath-certified, day of rest.
Got up, packed Skillet’s lunch, and made sure Saffron had her full water bottle to go with the nachos she buys every Thursday at school.
Totally my kid.
After Dr walked them to school and then left for work, I got busy doing nothing.
The Today Show, scrolling through social media, working on church projects, reading an incredibly fascinating (and lengthy) article on ProPublica, and then I took my long, warm soak in Eucalyptus Epson salts.
Around lunch, I was craving a Honeycrisp apple with some crunchy peanut butter.
(Come at me about crunchy peanut butter.)
(I can take your hate and loathing.)
Honeycrisp apples are little round, sweet, delightful, tart, crunchy bits of heaven. Along with a Ginger Peach water and The Beatles, they were the first items on my first ever gratitude list in March 2008. They will forever be my favorite because with every bite they hold morsels of memories for me.
I still remember walking into that Target, grabbing the apples and water, driving back to the office with my windows down, sun shining, singing Octopus’s Garden too loudly, and just beginning the hard work of building a life rooted in Christ and overflowing with thankfulness.
And I remember the immense sadness, fear, and anger of our infertility struggles, too.
The sweet of gratitude paired with the tart of grief.
Last Sunday, we began our Advent series at church. Our pastor is preaching through Isaiah 35 this year and he introduced it by saying English majors will LOVE Isaiah’s writings.
Which made me laugh because he’s SO right.
As he preached and read the words of the passage, Grief came to sit next to me. A tart feeling that made me wince just a bit at the taste of it.
You know that feeling? One minute, feeling fine. Totally normal even. The next, sadness and grief seem to move in right next to you.
The words in the passage…desert, parched land, wilderness, feeble hands, knees that give way…all brought me right back to those years grief and tartness of infertility.
I started whispering the glory of the passage to myself.
Blind eyes opened, ears unstopped, lame leaping, water gushing forth, burning sand becoming a pool.
My life is no longer parched, my hands no longer feeble, my unsteady knees strengthened. What once was a dry, desert of barrenness is now a pool of laughter, love, and lots of snuggles. With a heart of sweet gratitude, I reminded myself I am redeemed. The years of the locusts ate have been restored. My soul knows the joy of the Way of Holiness and, one day, the crown of everlasting joy in Zion.
But I knew if the tartness of Grief came to sit with me, he would come and sit with others in the room too.
For years, I thought Gratitude and Grief could not fit together. They were opposites, repelling each other like the same sides of two magnets.
But the truth is Gratitude and Grief absolutely fit together. They draw towards each other, not repelled.
And they sit together on pews, in movie theatres, at funerals, around dinner tables, and on couches in our brightly decorated Christmas living rooms. They are popcorn drizzled in chocolate. Sugar and cinnamon coated pecans. A Honeycrisp apple.
The tart and the sweet.
Separate, the tart causes wincing. Eating a lemon, that first sour candy. But the sweet, it enhances the beauty of the tart. Sugar and lemons make lemonade. Brown sugar and apple cider vinegar mixed with ketchup and soy sauce give us Sweet and Sour chicken. And chocolate covered pretzels are bite-sized pieces of heaven.
This Christmas, as you prep for family dinners and small group gift exchanges and classroom holiday parties, we can love one another well by remembers the sweet and tart of life belong together.
And we can give ourselves grace when the grief comes to sit right next to us in the midst of our gratitude.
We can remember loved ones we miss, offer praise for the struggles God’s brought victory to, mourn unmet expectations, gladly celebrate provision.
The sweet joy of the birth of our Savior and the tart sting of His death on the cross together fulfill God’s promise to reconcile us to Him for eternity.
The tart of Grief and the sweet of Gratitude.
Thank you, Lord, for the brightness and brilliance the tart and sweet bring to this life you’ve given me and the eternity you secured for me that first Christmas long ago.