Pausing to Honor

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So there I was in an overwhelming stupor of depression, living in a new country, brokenhearted. A couple of times I was so out of it, I left my house in the middle of the night and walked the streets of my town, tears streaming down my face, rage erupting out of my heart. My mom visited. My good friend visited. Nothing seemed to help. I was a verifiable mess. I’d rally for two hours at a time, then fall again into the trenches of despair. I did what I knew to do: I read my Bible, I journaled, I prayed. I went on walks or runs. I tried to forgive and snap out of it. But there are some sorrows and some disappointments, some betrayals we don’t just snap out of. We walk through them to the other side, and life is never the same again.

My two children watched me go through it, and were far too young to understand. They were confused and, quite honestly, very alone. I made their lunch every day and sent them to school in a foreign language where they knew no one. My daughter called me most mornings on her phone during recess, hiding in the bathroom stall. She’d tell me she was being brave, but the sound of her sniffles told me her bravery was costing far more than it is supposed to cost an eight-year-old child. My own sorrow was so poignant, so visceral, that I could not for the life of me, haul myself out of it enough to make any clear-minded decisions. I lived one day at a time.

Then Christmas season came. Christmas happens at the onset of summer in Chile, which was a relief. I needed the sun and the warmth in order to lay aside the dark cloak of winter that had almost suffocated me. But with Christmas came another kind of gloom. I was far from home, far from my family, and I felt so lonely.

Finally, in what I can only describe as God’s grace, I asked my kids how they were doing with all the changes, with Mommy crying all the time, with the chaos that had come in like a flood.

Let me tell you, they found their voices and cried and cried.

They were not doing so well.

Their cries became a siren call to my heart.

Amidst their tears, I realized I wasn’t alone after all. A very tangible part of me–two precious lives–were right there, smack in front of my face, and needed me. In the spirit of John Ames, of the novel Gilead, I remembered that God always gives us someone we can honor. In a rare moment of clear-headed thinking, I decided to do something to honor them.

I went to the store and bought hot cocoa. I found printer paper, tape, and scissors. They stayed home from school the next day and we made breakfast together and stayed in our pajamas most of the day. We drank hot cocoa in the warmth of the summer afternoon, cut out dozens of snowflakes, and taped each of them to the side of our kitchen wall. We snuggled on the couch, listened to each other, and let the gift of being together assuage our tired hearts.

By God’s grace, I found a way to pause my own sadness in order to meet my children in the middle of theirs and I was all the better for it.

I wish I could say that this made a huge difference in the overarching trajectory of my story. It didn’t. For three or four more months I continued to battle a debilitating depression. Yes, over time things improved. I eventually made some wonderful friends who were the palpable grace and peace of God in my life, but things still turned out quite differently than I had hoped.

That’s where faith and honor come in. Faith comes in, because I have learned that sometimes it has to get really dark before I’m willing to claim the light and do what needs to be done.

Honor, because no matter how dark it is, God always gives us the gift of a person we can esteem. There is a sacred beauty to be experienced when we step out of our own hurt in order to bring goodness to someone else.

So, I pray for you this season … that God would grant you, from the storehouse of his kindness, the eyes and ears to recognize your person, the one you have been called to honor. That you would pause from your particular weariness just long enough to honor them, however that might look. Perhaps it’s as simple as making a special breakfast and cutting out snowflakes with your children. Maybe it’s writing a thank you card, or purchasing an extra special gift for someone.

One act of honor certainly won’t make everything better. Most of us have figured out we are not living in a Hallmark movie, and yet, the radical act of honoring one another does something real to help heal our broken world.

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Tina Osterhouse
Tina Osterhouse is passionate about living deeply and authentically. Through fiction, blog posts, and creative essays, she writes about ordinary life and the way God meets us in our everyday circumstances and creatively weaves the sacred into them. She studied ministry and theology at Northwest University, most recently lived on thirty acres in Southern Chile, and finally returned to the Seattle area in June of 2015.
Tina Osterhouse
Tina Osterhouse

Latest posts by Tina Osterhouse (see all)

  • Yes! So often the kindness or the inspiring presence of one person (a messenger from God, of course!) has made all the difference for me in persevering in this following life. The challenge, now, is to be that encouragement and inspiration for someone else — and I’m finding that it’s often the person we least expect who may be in the greatest need.

    • Yes. Yes. Often the person we least expect! How true. Merry Christmas!

  • Melissa Henderson

    We never know how our “one act” of kindness may affect someone else. I pray that I show God’s love and kindness to everyone. Merry Christmas! 🙂

  • I love that you gave your kids permission to grieve. And HOW.

    So beautiful, Tina. I love how you mother.

    • Thank you! Making room for our grief matters, doesn’t it? If we don’t let it out in honest ways, it leaks out in unexpected ways. xox

  • Saskia Wishart

    Beautifully shared Tina, I am feeling tearful reading this.

    • Thank you for reading! Your presence is appreciated. Merry Christmas.

  • Nichole Bilcowski Forbes

    Tina, thank you so much for sharing this. I fear that, in the middle of derision, there is an expectation that if we can muster a good day one day then we should be able to muster another one to follow. There’s this idea that we should be able to will ourselves out of our sorrow – but that just isn’t the case. Thank you for creating space for good days on the journey to better days and for honouring your own journey by giving permission for it to be a journey.
    Much love to you!

    • It’s so nice to hear from you. Your point is so true and valid. Sorrow and sadness and just plain old hard times take their toll and we need to give each other lots of room to deal with those seasons.