I Think I Can Breathe Again…

This was originally written in 2013…

Puddle Jumping

Steven Curtis Chapman says it best…

I don’t even wanna breathe right now
All I wanna do is close my eyes
But I don’t wanna open them again
Until I’m standing on the other side
I don’t even wanna be right now
I don’t wanna think another thought
And I don’t wanna feel this pain I feel
And right now, pain is all I’ve got.”

Today was a hard day.

Let me back up.

Three days ago I waved good-bye to my son, his wife, and my two grandchildren as they drove down the street, on their way to Northern Idaho to a new home, to new jobs, to a new life. Now instead of twelve minutes away, it’s fifteen hours.

My two grandchildren, one five and the other, one year old. My two grandchildren, who I have watched almost since day one. Every day. All day while mom and dad were at work.

I helped them learn to walk. Eat with a spoon. Drink from a cup.

I sat in that rocking chair over there, and rocked them to sleep. Sang hymns to them. Read to them about the “pants with nobody inside of them” (Dr. Suess). Held them when they were sick or healthy or when they just wanted to be held.

I sat at that table over there and played games with Boo, colored, painted, had tea parties.

And then one day, not long ago, my son announced a new job opportunity and you can guess the rest and that’s why I stood outside on Sunday morning, waving good-bye to a car filled with precious ones.

And Sunday, after they left, I went to the rose garden and everywhere I walked I heard Boo. I saw her chasing the blackbirds. And I could hear her excitement upon finally seeing the elusive jack rabbit we’ve been tracking for months – if only she had been there.

And Monday I worked in the garden and watered her garden – a garden filled with volunteer larkspur, bachelor buttons, poppies. She was so proud of her garden. I worked out there most all day. I worked out there until I couldn’t move. I worked out there so I didn’t have to think.

And Tuesday, yesterday, I still couldn’t move. I moved too much on Monday and paid for it on Tuesday. I had lost mobility and.. gained pain in its place. I sat on the couch and worked on my pictures and cried. My digital albums are filled with children’s smiles and I could almost hear the giggles behind them.

And then there was today. At one point I felt like I had been locked in a blackened room – hopeless, lost, empty. And I wept. For something lost. And it felt as if my heart was literally breaking in two. The crack I could live with a week ago became a bottomless crevice. The strength that held me together a week ago had become jello.

And I wept.
God, how am I going to do this?, I whispered through tears that hadn’t spilled out so hard in so long.

My head told me those two little ones were not mine to hold onto. I was not even their parent. Can a Grammy love her little Grammy grandchildren so very much?

Yes. Yes – she most definitely can.

As I sat on the bathroom floor, I cried some more and through the tears whispered, God, I lived for those kids.

They were my daily dose of laughter, love, smiles, hugs, joy. God used those two little ones to bless me over and above in so many ways I never deserved. I viewed them as my little disciples and we talked about God everywhere we went. In everything we did.

How I found the energy to do it every day, only God knows. I napped with John and napped when they went home. I fought through the pain within my body and refused to not hold my grandkids or change diapers even when I didn’t think I could stand it another minute.
My body was screaming to let go. My heart was screaming to hold on. My head was saying it was time. Time to listen to the body. The disease that strives to claim more ground with each passing day. Time to let go.

It was the grace of God that intervened. But oh how it can hurt.

And then I heard it. That still, small voice that you can hear when you’re sobbing uncontrollably because your not busy talking and making incessant, un-needful noise and chatter. The comforting, life-giving voice of God.

God, I lived for those kids, I had whispered through tears.

And before I could go on to the next thought of despair, He whispered back.

“Live for me.”

The uncontrollable sobbing became controlled. The tears dried up (for that day). A tiny ray of sunshine, a tiny grain of hope took hold deep inside my heart and the crevice began to close and return to a crack. A few more tears fell. Not from grief but because of grace. The grace of God. The trustworthy grace of a merciful God.

I don’t know what living for Him looks like in the days ahead – His plans, His dreams for me – but as I live for Him, I will trust Him completely. I’ve been through too much in my lifetime to do anything less.

Like I said, Steven Curtis Chapman says it best…

I don’t wanna feel this pain I feel
And right now, pain is all I’ve got.
It feels like it’s all I’ve got, but I know it’s not
No, I know You’re all I’ve got
And I will trust You, I’ll trust You
Trust You, God, I will
Even when I don’t understand, even then I will say again
You are my God, and I will trust You.
Trust You. I will trust You.

Even when I don’t understand the physical, emotional, or mental pain, I will trust Him.

He’s Holding On, I’m Letting Go


Swallowtail Duo Photo by Sherri Woodbridge
Swallowtail Duo
Photo by Sherri Woodbridge

Last year about this time I took my daughter over 1.000 miles away to college. It was about 9:30 and the ceremonies for new students were just ending and it was time for me to get in the car and get going. Itook her face in my hands, and with tears in my eyes, I let her go.

“The verse God gave me for you is Jeremiah 29:11… ‘He knows the plans He has for you – plans to prosper you and to give you hope and a future. Plans that you will not be harmed. Seek Him and you’ll find Him, if you seek Him with all your heart.’ And now, He has taught me that if I don’t let go, then He doesn’t have all of you. So, I’m letting go.”

And after many hugs and tears, I left.

Trying to get out of Los Angeles afforded many distractions to the moment but after about an hour or so, traffic died down and life was returning to a slower pace. I turned on the radio and one of the then new releases was playing on the Christian radio station.

And then the tears came full force.

“This is what it means,

to be held,

how it feels

when the sacred is torn from your life

And you survive.’

Now I knew that my daughter hadn’t been torn from me, but it felt like it. It felt like I was not going to survive. I felt like I had a huge, empty hole in my heart and I couldn’t breathe. There was an emptiness like I had never known. How could I let her go? She had become my best friend. And I just let her go?

And so I cried some more, for on that dark and quiet stretch of highway there was really nothing else to do at one o’clock in the morning.

I listened to more of the song in between sobs.

“This is what it means,

to be loved,

and to know

that the promise was

when everything fell,

We’d be held.”

And that’s when I knew I’d be okay.

God promised that in the dark times, he’d hold me and I knew he would because He always did. I drove on and cried some more anyhow.

It’s a year later now and I just drove my daughter back down to school again. We unloaded the car in less than half the time as last year. After a day and a half of unpacking boxes, Togo’s sandwiches, thrift stores and Targets, it was time for the dreaded good-bye.

I told her I’d continue to pray the same prayer for her that God had given me. We hugged and I let her go… again. I walked away and headed towards the car.

I didn’t look back. I didn’t want her to see the tears streaming down my face that my sunglasses could no longer hide.

I got on the highway, the same one as the year before. After getting past the congested areas, I turned the radio on.

‘This is what it means

to be held,

and to know

that the promise was

when everything fell,

We’d be held.’

I cried again.

This year, however, as I listened to that song again, so intricately planned by God to play right at that moment, I cried out of thankfulness to God.

I cried because He has been so faithful and has always held me in the dark times of missing my ‘little girl’. This year it was tears of joy that wet my cheeks. I have had the the privilege of seeing just how faithful God has truly been this past year.

He is there when we are lonely and alone. When we are down and discouraged. He is there fighting for us when it feels we have no fight left. And, He is there to hold us when everyone fails us and everything around us falls.

He is always there and if we believe that He is, then that must mean we are… always being held.

“’For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the LORD, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” Jeremiah 29:11

Sherri is a freelancer and novelist and lives in the Northwest. She’s a mother of three, pet owner of two, wife of one, and grandma to the greatest little toddler in the world.