Our twilight month November is,
The evening of the year.
The brilliant summer noontide left
A pallor soft and clear.
Dame Winter brings with quiet grace
Her curtains all of snow,
And pins them deftly into place
With boughs of mistletoe.
– Ruby Archer
Hello, November. Hello, brilliant leaves. Hello, change. Hello, healing.
October was good for the soul: we finished our fall garden planting, took a trip to the state fair (the agriculture and livestock are our favorite parts!), watched the leaves turn, and had our first-ever camping trip with our church. It was awesome. Some of our crew decided to go sans-tent and slept under the stars. What great memories our kids made. I also completed a goal last month, finishing the Old Testament in Two Years reading plan I started with friends (and Ari!) in 2020. We choose a slow pace this time around and it was so good. We’ll continue with the New Testament in a Year plan on Thanksgiving together.
I closed October with a much-needed grief retreat. It was one night away and just what I needed. I felt so burdened the last weeks. The weight of grief was often unexpected. I felt frustrated, angry, and unable to do the things I’ve always loved to do without getting overwhelmed. Seemingly simple things like cooking dinner each night became unusually difficult. Between work and my dad, I’ve experienced a lot of change in a short time. With a backlog of things unprocessed each day, I felt sensory overload in the kitchen, driving, at church, at soccer practice, and even out in the garden.
I’ve learned so much in this process and continue to. There are no magic answers to healing from loss and no set process. Everyone’s grief is different. For me, these three things have helped lately:
1. Setting the right expectations for myself. Simply put, setting them very low.
2. Asking for what I need.
3. Taking time away. Letting my grief have a more significant space than just the moments between homeschooling and chores was so helpful.
Ari kept encouraging me to take a day away and I didn’t feel mentally ready at first. It takes strength to be still and acknowledge where you are and what you’ve lost. When you feel that strength depleted, as I did, there’s only one other way forward: faith. I had to trust God to carry me and take dedicated time to process what has happened. Other cultures know well how to honor grief and help people through it – I have been learning from this. I took one night away, just down the street at a local inn, and God provided such clarity and healing. I prayed, listened to God, wrote, cried, prayed some more, walked several miles through changing leaves and fields, journaled through a set of grief prompts from a hospice resource, read (I’ve been reading so many books lately), talked to God, talked to myself, and eventually talked with my therapist, Cathy, to finish my time. I brought pictures of my dad with me and a note he wrote me. I bought a new journal at a local shop specifically for this time. And I kept praying, “Lord, lead me. And help me follow wherever you want me to go.” It was hard work and it was needed.
Now, I’ve described to you much of what I did, but not what I experienced. Psalm 147:3 is sufficient: He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds. God is faithful. Grief will continue, but it changes and I am changing with it. I am thankful to be learning so much. Time may not heal all wounds, but it does help us make space for us to reap the gifts of healing anew. As always, Psalm 90:12 has been at the forefront of my mind.
Things I’m loving right now:
My friend Kimberly sent me a Memorialight. It’s so beautiful and extra meaningful. My dad was an eye doctor and used prisms every day to help people see. One of the few things I have from his office is a full set of ophthalmic prisms. I remember him keeping them in his pockets and letting me hold them up to the light to see rainbows. This beautiful crystal prism with multiple facets makes the light dance across the house. It’s so subtle and makes me stop, think of dad, and smile every time. I hung it right above my dad’s favorite chair in our living room.
Many friends have given me guidance for navigating the holidays. I.e. have a plan, expect it will be hard the first year, give space to your grief, and do something meaningful in honor of your dad, etc. Most of all though, take the pressure off. In continuing to set expectations well (lower than I think I need to!), my plan is to focus on our most meaningful holiday traditions and keep gifts as simple as possible. My former co-workers, Irene and Julie, started Persnickety Gifts and I am already a very happy customer! I love these women and getting to laugh and learn from them with their blog and newsletter. They are launching Done-For-You Stockings on November 10th. Thank you, friends. I will be first in line.
As mentioned, I have been a book lover as of late. What I’ve been reading and some thoughts on each are forthcoming. Till then, I am grateful to share one of the books I’ve read (and had the honor of writing the forward for!), Intentional Pursuit: Practical Rhythms to Activate Your Faith. My friend Stephanie Huxter has written a beautiful and practical guide for flourishing faith. It’s so so good. I am saving a copy for my children! It was a joy to write the forward as I’ve known Stephanie’s life and heart for the Lord for a very long time. I’ve seen what she shares in this book in action and experienced her gift of hospitality. Get your copy of this self-published gem here.
I have been collecting my thoughts for a post about several significant things I’ve learned in the death of my dad—things I want my children to hold onto in their own future grief and in helping others with loss. One of those things is the gift of being present with people in their loss. It doesn’t take much but I was surprised by what made a huge difference and what stayed with me. So many friends showed up for me in this season—in ways that have been extraordinary and sacred. One of those dear friends just launched Love Goods Co., and it’s 100% a reflection of her generous heart. I love all of the curated boxes and can’t wait to send these meaningful gifts to friends.
Poetry and good words. Always. We went on a little poetry spree at the library recently and found the most wonderful anthologies! Two of our favorite library finds: Julie Andrews’ Treasury for All Seasons and A Family of Poems. (Amazon affiliate links are used here for the books.)
I brought my PowerSheets with me on my grief retreat and I’m so glad I captured my thoughts when they were fresh. When what matters is clear, it can be easier to know what to do about that clarity. Little by little steps add up.
What are you focusing on in November? I love hearing about your goals.