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Climbing Upward

On my way to town, I drive past houses where smoke from chimneys curls upward. It’s comforting to watch the updraft. I suddenly recall the boxy houses with chimneys that I once drew with a pencil as a child, always a curl of smoke climbing.

What I like about the smoke, I suppose, is that it has direction. Not lost, not confused. It’s climbing upward.

I live among mountains. I am nestled below in a valley.

Yesterday I was in a group where people were talking about grief and how it feels to carry that denial, anger, sadness.

It zaps energy, even though the moon rises and gives plenty of light.

People in the group shared old and new losses. They have gone through Christmas, made plans, visited the sick, cooked for family, and carried a mountain of grief.

Strong people. Smart people. Dedicated people.

We listed ways to ease the burden of grief. Here’s what I remember:

1. Be in reality that a loss has really happened.

2. All feelings are okay and normal.

3. All behaviors are not okay. (Keep those in check.)

4. Cry. Let the tears out, rather than keeping the sadness inside the body.

5. Anger comes when we don’t get what we want. Anger is okay, but we need to create healthy ways to express it, so we don’t get stuck there.

6. Write thoughts and feelings. Journal, journal, journal. Get it to the outside.

7. If written as a letter, it can then be buried or torched.

8. Talk with a friend. It helps to say it, to own it. Somehow, it makes it real.

9. If we did the best we could do at the time with the circumstance, why guilt ourselves by using the phrase “I should have…”? Why doubt and question?

10. Forgive if there is a resentment. Holding a resentment only hurts ourselves.

11. Remember how God brought you over other mountains.

12. Be thankful. God gave us Jesus, and Jesus left us the Holy Spirit to help us. We are not alone.

Mountains come and go. Grief comes and goes.

Maybe some of us have to carry the mountain for a while before we can climb it. Wish I’d thought to say that in the group! Each mountain I climb definitely brings me closer and deeper into God, closer to Home.

Like a good farmer, we may need to know that the land will rest for a season, but the work is never over, never done. There will be more plowing, more planting. There will be more mountains to climb.

As we climb higher, there’s something good about rising higher. Something about gaining a new perspective.

Shel Silverstein wrote a short poem called “The Climbers,” reminding us that there are mountains where we’ve never been before. Some are hard climbs.

And still, there’s Christmas, family, the closing of a year, the start of a new one. All of it involves changes—sometimes major losses and grief. This is the part where one book ends and you can hardly wait for the next book of the series to begin.

I walk over and move the Christmas cactus, making sure it can receive the morning light. The Amaryllis from last year is coming on strong and rising.

The air is cold and full of closure. Everything promised has been given.

We are between Christmas and Epiphany. We are in the twelve days of Christmas that follow the birth of the Christ child. We are to trust that God knows what He is doing.

Herod’s soldiers slaughtered innocent babies, hoping to kill the Christ child. We don’t understand. Oh, the grieving mothers.

The remedy is trusting God. His ways are higher than our ways. He knows what He is doing. We don’t understand.

So how do we grieve? How do we find peace?

God’s love is bigger and better than our love. His ways are higher. We do not have the full picture on anything. We must trust God like a little child trusts a good parent.

The fog drifts and rises. I am grateful and say, Thank you, God. Maybe just saying thank you feeds trust.

It certainly helps me breathe easier.

Let us grieve our losses and be thankful. We are not alone.

May it be a great New Year for you!

Pat Durmon

P.S. – Thank you for commenting, sharing, and just being you!

Mountain country in Baxter County, Arkansas, photographed by Rebecca Bland on a cloudy day, December 29, 2018.

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