Grieving for Real

Jesus has been doing something in me that I just can't keep to myself anymore. So I'm going to dive in.

Today, I am sad. Lead in my heart, tears ready to spring at any moment--and they have multiple times--sad.

So let me explain. As I've written about, Roger has autism. One of his manifestations on the spectrum is understimulation, meaning that he requires excess to stimulate him. He loves big sounds, big movements, big spaces, big collisions, big everything. The best way I explain it to people is that for most of us, holding our spouse's hand is a small amount of touch that expresses a lot of intimacy between the two of you. For Roger to receive that amount of expressed love via physical touch requires a huge bear hug and tackle and a loud, silly, "I LOVE YOU, ROGER!" He works similarly with playing--he loves to run and throw and swing and dig. He's very go big or go home...how great would it be for him to be able to go big AT home. He can't really right now. Our condo felt huge when we had a 13 month old Roger and a 4.5 months gestation Juliet in my belly. Now, they are constantly all over each other in the 20 sq feet of play space and the deck allows zero percent run around room.

For this reason, and others, we believe one of the best ways to serve our son is to move to a house with both an open playroom and a back yard. Affording that while also trying to pay off as much of our student loan debt as quickly as possible means that we are looking in Renton. And there are some cool stories of how God, unbeknownst to us, was also calling some of our best friends there while we were still in the praying-and-not-yet-saying stage. It's a big move but we have seen Jesus doing so much in our hearts and friends around us. And we're careful not to say it's our "calling" because people like to throw that word around, straight up needing to put the label of  God's "calling" on everything. Jason and I have found that we don't always get the clear, audible voice from heaven. It's very rare, actually. So we pray, seek Jesus, and do the best we can trusting that we don't need the "calling" label. And so we've been watching housing prices in Renton and preparing as best we can.

Roger gets stressed at the park but LOVES being in a yard with a fence.
Look at how relaxed he is!

The swing is Roger's happy place.
But there are complications. The many details made very simple are this: Roger has a great program that he is a part of until he's 3. But as soon as he turns 3 in March he has to leave that program, and we need to start planning that transition in January with our local public schools. Unfortunately our lease ends in April, so not only do we need to plan with our local school and then transfer to a new school district with completely new people, but Roger has to be in 3 different classrooms in the span of about 6 weeks. Not cool for any freshly 3 year old but ESPECIALLY not cool for an autistic 3 year old.

We tried to get out of our lease early but we're unable to do that without finding new tenants, and that is super complicated because it would be uncertain and up in the air and scattered and scrambling for last minute options and we don't feel peace about that. But then an opportunity presented itself to move in November. After pursuing it, we found a house we LOVE. The homeowner loves us and everything was set...and then, totally beyond our control, someone who gave their word suddenly said they never said that they had said "yes", that things were always a maybe, and backed out. This leaves us not only unable to get the house because we would be on the hook for our current rent until we found new renters (which we just can't risk) but also frustrated that we were wronged and, well, lied to. And though we did nothing wrong we now suffer the consequences of someone else changing their word to protect their profit margin that we provide them.

But beyond all of that, we are just sad. The Bible rightly says, a "hope deferred makes the heart sick," and today my heart feels sick. Our renting experience has had so many of these ups and downs, and while I have no problem with people seeking to make money in real estate I am just weary of being someone's profit machine with no regard for treating us with dignity and respect when suddenly their profit is on the line. Especially when we were given someone's word and then they change it. Just so discouraging.

Plus, to be completely vulnerable here, having the house yanked from under us felt like reliving Roger's autism diagnosis all over again. I've read about the grief process when someone loses a child to death, and how little things make it feel like the child has died again for the first time. At the risk of sounding melodramatic, losing the house felt like finding out our son is autistic for the first time because the house represented hope to help our son in his autism and losing it made the grief fresh and new.

Roger at his grandparents' home in Montana last month. PALPABLE joy on that face, no?
Juliet enjoys it outside, too. She'll go nuts when she can actually run around.

I know we are not entitled to anything because Roger has autism but the truth is if I were a landlord I would absolutely have compassion and allow the family out of their lease early if their reason were similar to ours. The amount of money in the bank does not matter to me as much as ensuring that people are cloaked with care and compassion, especially parents seeking to care for their special needs child. Now, this is probably why we don't have much money in the bank, but still. The, "Well, I can be nice but I'm under no obligation," attitude that basically says, "Sorry things will be rough for your kid but you'll just have to figure that out," is something I simply cannot understand. Maybe there's pride lurking in my heart there, but I am not bitter or angry, just...devastated. I just cannot make my mind see the value of money, ending a lease a few months early, over helping heartbroken parents do their very best for their child.

And at the end of it all, we don't get this opportunity we hoped for, that looked like a complete "yes" until suddenly the rug was pulled out from under us. We're just trying to do the very best we can to serve our son, whom we adore so deeply. And it breaks my heart to not get this good gift that we desired and prayed for.

It's tempting to tell myself it's not that bad. It's not like our kid has cancer or Jason lost his job. It's just a house that we don't get now. We can still move in April. Maybe that house then is better. Not to mention that there are people who live in condos with kids all over, plus what about the people who live in shacks in Africa? I should get over myself and just be grateful for the problems I have. Because guess what? Yes, we were sinned against. We were lied to. Someone did not "let [their] yes be yes." But God is sovereign over that and allowed it and I just need to make peace with knowing that God is good.

But you know what? I have spent ALL OF MY LIFE saying the right things in my head and trying to force myself into compliance to believe them. I think God needs me to believe him rightly.

But he doesn't.

Did you hear that? God doesn't need me to believe the right things about him and act accordingly.

Our family on Juliet's first birthday. We want to honor and love those sweet babes well, 
and that's a GOOD desire.

God needs nothing from me, not for my salvation and not for him to be able to work in others. God doesn't minimize or trivialize my pain, ever. Because he knows this isn't just a house, this is our beloved son, our sweet boy, and his future, and our family. We saw our family growing there, saw our kids bouncing about in the backyard and in the playroom, saw hosting community group and living life with friends and family and neighbors in that big, open living space. We saw the joy of our kids eating at the table on hardwood floors and not having to hire carpet cleaners every six weeks months. This house is the hope of my heart in the circumstances of the life God has given me. God didn't place me in a shack in Africa nor has he given us an income that requires a tiny condo. God put us right where we are and calls me to live real and raw before his face in the midst of the circumstances HE HAS GIVEN ME. And in my circumstances right now there is real pain, real grief TODAY.

God's grace to me is not that he tells me not to be sad, but because he tells me it's ok to be sad. He's not disappointed that I'm sad--he's graciously allowing me pain and sadness with the purpose of drawing me to him through it. He doesn't want me to escape from what I am experiencing. He just wants my heart. He is a great high priest who is able to fully sympathize with me; he knows my pain. I know that eventually I will be ok with this and it won't hurt anymore. Eventually we'll be in a house with a yard and today's pain will fade to that time where that thing happened but over time things worked out and God was always good to us through all of it. But today it hurts and I get to live before the face of a loving, tender, sweet, compassionate, gracious God. And if I minimize or trivialize then I can be fine, redirect my heart to how to manage and cope, and not need to cling to Jesus.

But I love Jesus. I need him desperately. And I am so thankful for this continued uncomfortable grace, because I get to know him in my pain, an area I never let him touch before.

I leave you with these verses that have been salve to my broken soul today:

Remember my affliction and my wanderings,
the wormwood and the gall!
My soul continually remembers it
and is bowed down within me.
But this I call to mind,
and therefore I have hope:
The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases;
his mercies never come to an end;
they are new every morning;
great is your faithfulness.
“The LORD is my portion,” says my soul,
“therefore I will hope in him.”
The LORD is good to those who wait for him,
to the soul who seeks him.
It is good that one should wait quietly
for the salvation of the LORD.

For the Lord will not
cast off forever,
but, though he cause grief, he will have compassion
according to the abundance of his steadfast love;
for he does not afflict from his heart
or grieve the children of men.

[Lamentations 3:19-26; 31-33 ESV]


  1. Thank you for sharing your real pain and grief with us. It is a privilege to walk along side, journey with and pray for you guys. I absolutely loved this "I think God needs me to believe him rightly. But he doesn't.
    Did you hear that? God doesn't need me to believe the right things about him and act accordingly. . .

    But I love Jesus. I need him desperately. And I am so thankful for this continued uncomfortable grace, because I get to know him in my pain, an area I never let him touch before."

    I am praying for this to be true. That your picture of Jesus gets even BIGGER and purer! And his arms of love are what you feel wrapping your broken heart.

    1. Thank you, sweet friend. And you know YOU have my heart. Need to shore up plans for Friday, PS!