Frustration lies thick and heavy, looming for days on end, altering my vision. When I try to put my finger on it, I come up empty, holding only a fistful of air. The root cause is invisible, escaping us both. My daughter is the only one with the power to voice what is going on with her. These are the impossible things a mom can’t control, the feelings of someone else.
My daughter courageously lets down her walls in the safety of her bed. Her navy, white, and pink quilt cocoons us in together for a brief moment. A simple nightly routine of making the rounds for “snuggles” leaves the door open for each one of my four kiddos to open up if they need to.
Sometimes it’s only an unspoken reminder reassuring them I’m here for them to listen and pray. But sometimes the rounds take longer, like tonight, because my daughter slowly inches the door open a little wider welcoming me in with a knowing look and a sigh.
Diffusing the tension, I lean in with a question, and everything she is holding inside with a white-knuckle grip spills out of her. She trusts my soft posture and gentle tone; I genuinely want to hear her heart and know what’s going on, but she’s the only one who can choose courage.
Grief comes tumbling out.
I should’ve known, but we rarely do, right? Grief plays hide and go seek. He’s the seeker and we’re the hider. We don’t realize we are holding our breath until he pokes his head in and we gasp for air. He reaches out and we desperately try to run away before he can catch us.
As my daughter talks it out, she gains clarity and the fog begins to lift. She discovers grief is less of an answer and more of a question.
She articulates it in a single word, “Why?”
She repeats her same question but in a different way, “Why now?” Her grief didn’t begin with the pandemic, but the isolation of the quarantine is slowly exposing it as she holds a number of questions beginning with “Why?”
Maybe you can relate. Maybe you’re holding questions too. Fear can find us in the fog and bully us with two little words, “Don’t tell.”
But what if love holds enough space for uncertainty? What if the truth is found in trusting someone enough to ask our questions?
What questions are you holding right now?
You’re not alone. We are all carrying questions in the middle of this pandemic. They feel heavy on their own, but when we keep them hidden in the shadows, they loom larger than they actually are.
To give you more of the context of the conversation with my daughter, I want to share some Cope family news with you. I haven’t shared this publicly until now, but by now you probably know it takes time for me to process things, and giving my kids time to process is a gift I want to give them too. Holding space for them is a priority in my life, now maybe more than ever.
Our bittersweet news is that we are beginning a new adventure by opening an additional branch of JM Cope Construction Company in Greenville, SC in July 2020. JM Cope’s main office will still be based out of Rock Hill but Andrew will lead the efforts in opening a new office in Greenville. We are doing this together, as family, which means we will be moving this summer.
Moving is a life-altering event posing unique challenges for each one of us, but my heart is for my children knowing the difficulty of making this kind of change at their ages.
We are deeply rooted in our Rock Hill community in business, family ties, schools, friendships, and in our church. We love our city and built our forever home here, thinking we would never move. In many ways moving feels like we are completely uprooting our lives.
Our faith grew not by holding our questions in but by asking them out loud.
Andrew and I were holding questions when we took a 10-week sabbatical in Kauai last summer. Why? How? When? Where? What? We didn’t ask our questions all at once, but slowly our questions found their way from our heads to our hearts to our lips and we began to talk about things we never had space and time to talk about before.
God didn’t give us all the answers by the time we returned home, but God did give us a direction to walk in and we kept following in faith one step at a time.
I used to think asking questions was a sign of doubt. That somehow if I asked my big and sometimes scary questions, it would reveal my lack of faith. But just the opposite has proven true in my life.
My questions only dig my faith roots deeper.
God is the one who grows our faith; our questions don’t limit him, they lead us to him.
Like my faith, my favorite plant grew while we were away in Kauai. My one beloved plant is an offshoot from my late grandmother’s plant (she loved her plants) and my neighbor and friend with a green thumb took such good care of it that it outgrew the clay pot by the end of summer.
The roots were completely grown into the sides, and the only way to repot it and still keep its root system intact was to crack the clay pot wide open. When I took a small hammer to it, the pot broke into several pieces ranging from tiny flecks of clay to big triangular pieces that looked as if they could easily fit back together.
After months of holding space for several big questions in our lives, it was in that moment, when the hammer broke the clay pot, I knew. The symbolism was not lost on me. The Holy Spirit spoke to me through all the parallels. I could feel the sorrow and the joy of the repotting process.
I could see all the pieces of our lives we would be leaving behind, the bigger portions down to the tiniest flecks. But deep down I knew repotting (however painful the process) will allow space for new growth in our lives. Not just for Andrew and me but for our kids. It will grow each one of us in new ways.
After my daughter confesses her soul-baring question to me in her bed, she turns to me and asks me if I’ve ever asked a similar question. I reply without hesitation, “Yes, I’ve asked those same hard questions, especially in times of grief.” I tell her how Jesus, too, cried out on the cross and asked her very same question, Why?
“My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Matthew 27:46).
I continue on and share the verses following this one leading up to his final breath, “And Jesus cried out again with a loud voice and yielded up his spirit.” (Matthew 27:50).
Jesus trusts God enough to ask, “Why?” Asking the question he was holding onto helped him surrender in the end.
My daughter visibly relaxes. She exhales, her shoulders soften, and she leans in for a hug that feels peaceful and sure. She doesn’t have the answers to all her questions, but fear is no longer the one holding her grief hostage. Loving hands are wrapped around all her questions like a big billowy cloud that morphs into fun shapes in the sky. Joy is on the horizon.
Maybe your grief was already there before the pandemic, or maybe grief found you in the middle of it. You don’t have to be afraid of the questions you’re holding onto. The simple act of saying them out loud will help soften your posture from a white-knuckle grip to palms wide open.
The beauty is when our hands are open in surrender, they are open to receiving, too. Sorrow and joy go hand in hand. Love holds enough space for both.
Truly, truly, I say to you, you will weep and lament, but the world will rejoice. You will be sorrowful, but your sorrow will turn into joy. When a woman is giving birth, she has sorrow because her hour has come, but when she delivered the baby, she no longer remembers the anguish, for joy that a human being has been born into the world. So also, you have sorrow now, but I will see you again, and your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take your joy from you.John 16:20-22