Wednesday, March 19, 2014

When Death is on Repeat

I've been dreaming about her again.

If they were nice and wonderful dreams where I find myself wrapped in her arms and held in her gaze, oh, I'd want to stay in that land for more time than I can possibly afford.
Me and Grannie

Instead, in my dreams this past week, she's been dying all over again. 

I wake up weeping, my grief uncontainable.  She's been gone almost four long years, but when you wake up reliving one of the most painful experiences of your life, wow.  It all comes back like it's just happened yesterday.

Four years ago, my grandmother died on Easter Sunday.  It makes sense in a variety of ways why Lent is a season of grief for me.  Not only am I in the process of unearthing spiritual weeds and prepping life space for new growth (which often times means grieving my sin that rooted those weeds deep), I grieve the loss of her.  The most intense part of her cancer dying took place over the span of Lent.  God was preparing her for a new season.  A season of death turned new life. 

Four years ago, I was also training for my first marathon and I completed it in between my last two visits with her.  Just last month, I crossed the finish line for the 3rd time.  Even though it's almost 4 years and two more marathons later, I still wanted to call her and tell her I had finished.  Because she'd listen to every single detail and drink it in and she'd tell me she was proud.

I've spent the last four years grieving her death, some times certainly more intense than others, but now I find I'm grieving the loss of her for a different reason.

See, she was the one person I thought loved me unconditionally.  She was always proud of me. She was always supportive.  It seemed that in her eyes I could do no wrong.  

I was afraid to lose that.

But as I've been reading Love Idol, as I've been asking God to pour into me deep this undeniable fact that I am already preapproved by Him, I realize that perhaps I just never let her see what I did wrong.

I filtered facts. I dressed them up.  I put on my best behavior when I was around her.  All because I was afraid of losing her love, her encouragement, her undying support.

The truth is, one can love unconditionally on this earth. I believe that.  But one cannot always hide disappointment or refrain from being disappointed by the behaviors of others.  It's nearly impossible to always approve of your loved one's choices.  And see, that's where I got mixed up.  I had the wrong equation.

Unending human approval ≠ Unconditional love.

Humanly speaking, you can love without approving.  You can love despite bad decision-making.  I realize this may not be revelation to some of you, but this is earth-shattering to me: 

Unconditional love is so strong because it is not dependent upon approval.  Because grace can step in, because grace is a requirement, because love doesn't demand perfection.

We can love the people around us despite their lack, despite our lack because God loves us first.  Because He's already preapproved us and therefore, we have no right or space to take that away.  Not from ourselves.  Not from anyone else.
I don't need my grandmother's approval anymore, even if she was here.

Because finally, finally, finally, in the depths of my soul, I realize it wasn't her place to give it to me.  I didn't need it from her because I already had it from Him.  I just didn't know it then.

So this grief, this grief for my Grannie, it's intense right now because no longer am I grieving the loss of having access to "approving words."  I'm just grieving the loss of her.  Two so very different things.

I loved so much about her. I miss her very presence. I miss her fun and her quirkiness and how she adored being with my kids, even when they were being brats.  I miss how she gathered her family.  I miss her stroking my hair, my 31 year-old head on her chest as she lay dying.

My grief is laid bare, my chest ripped open because I can see her fully for who she was, good and bad, and my vision is not longer obscured by what I thought she gave me.

She's more beautiful to me today, a complete picture, one who was capable of being disappointed in me, than she ever has been in my memory.  Because love is stronger when it's not dependent upon approval.  

Love is stronger when grace enters in.

Love is stronger when grace is a requirement.

Love is stronger when approval isn't given or needed because it's simply already had.
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My laptop is dead, but if I'm able, I'm planning on linking up here: 
Linking up with Emily for Imperfect Prose, Jennifer Lee for #tellHisstory, Michell for DYWW,  Women to Women Sharita for Everyday Jesus, Lyli for Thought Provoking Thursday, and Laura for Quitting Thursday.


  1. Such a beautiful post! You were so blessed to have this relationship with your grandmother. Jen, you so hit a powerful thought right on the head - Love is stronger when grace is a requirement. May we be vessels of grace - His - to those around us. I am so grateful to have stopped here today. Grateful to be on this Love Idol journey with you. Blessings!

  2. Okay, Jen, thanks, I needed a good cry this morning, LOL. Everything about this post reminded me of my Nana, and me. She was often disappointed in me (although she never, ever said those words) but she loved me as you describe - unconditionally. Nana has been gone a long time. I think of her all the time. My life took a sudden, completely wild and different turn then any of us would have imagined when she was alive. I think of how proud she would be of me, how much she would love my new family. So much of who I am came from her. I didn't realize that until she was gone. I'm sorry for, renewed, pain, but it sounds like God is still using her to teach you and that's pretty special :) Blessings.

  3. Oh, my. This is beautiful. And ministered to me deeply. My younger brother passed away almost 12 years ago when we were teenagers and I just dreamed about him for the first time (that I can remember) this past weekend. And it wasn't a good dream - it was one of those re-living his death dreams. So hard. Though grieving for different reasons than you outline here, it's so good to be reminded of God's perfect love and grace for us in these moments of grief! Blessings to you!

  4. That is how my Grandma love me too! But she also taught me about "tough love" when I was in a sin season of my life. Because I knew she loved me unconditionally, I received her words of reproof and they began to change my world - long after she succombed to cancer at 79. Because of her honesty, spoken in love, my life was redeemed. Praise God and thanking Him for a godly Grandma!

  5. Oh, precious Jen, what a precious, precious post! I'm amazed, too, at the things God is revealing on the pages of this book.
    I love your words here. Beautiful.

  6. Jen, you had my crying!! I am so very close to my grandmother and as time passes I dread the day of saying goodbye to her. My family says I have a "Mamaw voice." I tend to change when I talk to her. I don't know that I do but I do know that she means so much to me and her approval means so much too. But your words are beautiful. We don't need the approval of anyone, not even our wonderful and amazing grandmothers. We are pre-approved by a great God.

    Thanks for linking up with Woman to Woman's Word Filled Wednesday! God bless.

  7. best post ever, I have tears. SO TRUE!

  8. "I realize it wasn't her place to give it to me."

    Such good words to remember when we're grieving the loss of anothers approving words... and when we're grieving the loss of approving words from another. Oh, to remember we're preapproved by the One who really counts... Grieving with you, friend.

  9. What a powerful revelation.It's so easy to get unconditional love and human approval mixed up, isn't it? I know I'm guilty of it. When Jennifer Lee wrote her book she had NO idea what a movement her words would God be the glory!!

  10. Resounding heart is with you as you grieve her, for real. Hugs to you, my friend.

  11. Thanks for sharing these words, Jen. Death keeps being on repeat all over in my life, too, with people I've met and with posts like this...I don't like it but I am sure God is doing something in it. Prayers for you as you do continue to grieve, even now -- but grateful for all God has done in and through these last few years and your relationship with your Grandma. Sounds like such a treasure!

  12. Such a sweet post. Thanks for sharing, I love when God works and changes us for His glory and our good.

  13. Jen. This post is utterly, gravestone-rollingly beautiful. I can't thank you enough for sharing this revelation. You have nailed an essential truth that I have only known-but-not-really-known.

  14. I have chills. I understand both the grief and the revelation.

    And, eerily, my father-in-law died unexpectedly two days after your Grannie - on April 6, 2010. Apparently we were grieving at the same time. Now to be on this #preapproved journey with you now ... God is good, even in grief and certainly in joy.

    Love you!

  15. The Lord spoke to me through your post. Thank you so much.

  16. Are you reading my mail?!? Your words resonated with so many parts of my life....thank you for sharing this. This is powerful. Gives me hope and I think I need to read this book to get some insight into this much of what I am learning.

  17. Ah, I had a granny like yours. I was a young wife when she went to heaven. I miss her prayers most. I'm praying God will comfort you with His neatness. Your words touched my heart, too.

  18. I love this post. I lost my Dad 2 years ago and 3 months later, I gave birth to my 4th child...bittersweet moments. It's interesting to read that after 4 years you're still grieving. I thought it strange that I still grieve my dad but now I don't think it strange at all. Thanks for this post.....

  19. Oh sister Jen... B-E-A-utiful post. Just lovely. I adore the distinction between grieving your gma vs needing her approval.

    You are certainly preapproved, my friend. Thanks for sharing your heart here! Made my day.


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