I awoke in Sedona to the most beautiful camping back drop on Thursday morning. It was a wonderful surprise after arriving after dark (after watching the sunset at the Grand Canyon).
Last time Josh and I wound our way down the curvy road into Sedona, I told him I wanted to camp here, so I was pretty stuck on making this happen. Doing so felt somewhat satisfying. Even funnier, to me, is that I ended up setting up my tent in the dark which was one of Josh’s camping rules.
The next morning, Josh's brother, Gabe and his wife Julie, who were in Phoenix for a conference made their way to Sedona for a hike. We soon found each other and set off on more explorations together. It was a joyful day of exploring and hanging out, conversations about Josh and by the time I got back to my hotel for the night, I completely crashed and basically slept for like 10 hours after watching the sunset from my hotel room window - glorious! I guess all the traveling, hiking and emotions of the day (or days) finally hit me and the dogs.
Another great highlight of this day was eating at a restaurant, The Mariposa Grill, that Josh and I stumbled on in Sedona. It’s one of my favorite memories from two summer's ago of us driving up in our very dirty car, full of all our stuff to valet park. We then ate the best meal looking like hobos as the sun set over the red cliffs. Humorously, this visit, I still didn't look great after camping overnight and hiking and new memories were made with my sister -in-law in the same location.
The memories both old and new are sweet and still bittersweet. I expect many of these memories and even new ventures will continue to feel the same. Day by day I continue forward knowing God's mercies surround me. Lamentations seems fitting:
"The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness." - Lamentations 3:22-23
The beauty of the sunset at the Grand Canyon can be a real tear-jerker on any day but especially in a season of loss. On the way, there happened to be a McAllister’s where I stopped to get a sweet tea in honor of Josh and I arrived 20 minutes before sunset. It was kind of a spontaneous detour on my way to Sedona and so worth it.
As the sky filled with shades or orange, blue and yellow, I thought how saying goodbye to this day also represented saying goodbye to Josh many days ago. I said to the sky, “goodnight my love” but don’t expect these words to be heard. These are more for me than him but they feel good still.
Josh and I visited the Grand Canyon a few times, with friends, just us, on mission trips. We once even woke early with our friends the Nelson’s and read God’s Word by sunrise. All of these memories fill my mind.
Each day my grief goes up and down, there are tears, smiles, laughter, sorrow and contentment. It really does feel like my traveling adventures going up and down hills and valleys. Sometimes these adventures are a welcome distraction, other times they remind me how much I miss Josh.
Through it all, God continues to provide hope and confidence for my own future as I ask for clarity in what is next on this journey. It’s not easy, and I will
keep saying this, it’s a process.
Today, this verse is echoing in my mind.
“For you have need of endurance, so that when you have done the will of God, you may receive what was promised.”
Hebrews 10:36 NASB
There I sat in the hotel lobby, next to the fireplace, eating my waffle I had just made at the free continental breakfast when I became acutely aware of the background music: Jack Johnson’s, “Better Together.”
I already felt a vulnerable sitting on the couch alone, trying to distance myself from the crowded dining hall filled with families, so the song just added a dagger in my heart.
Here I was, trying to stay cool and collected, while enjoying the oversized fireplace. Instead, I ended up more quickly eating my waffle and blinking a lot so I wouldn’t be the crying girl on the couch. I guess if it turned into that, the conversation could be interesting but still not my goal for the morning.
It’s hard to prepare for grief or even what to expect in the process. There are times when I should expect the emotions rise up more and other times of surprise emotions that appear when least expected. This morning was the surprise kind.
Currently, I can easily say life was better when Josh and I were together, but only focusing on this can keep me stuck and I know God has more for me. Thinking more on the idea of better, the first part of Psalm 84:10 comes to mind.
“Better is one day in your courts than a thousand elsewhere.”
One day in God’s court is better than any I could ever have or imagine with Josh. This understanding doesn’t take away the hurt of Josh not being here but it does help shift my gaze a little.
Maybe today, instead of only dwelling on the words of Jack Johnson’s Better Together, I will instead listen to Better is One Day by Matt Redman. Both will probably make me cry for the same and different reasons.
Sidebar: Saying things like “they are in a better place” to someone grieving doesn’t help. While there is truth in it, we still want them here with us, fully healthy. Another thing to say is “tell me what you miss most.”
Strangely, I didn’t want to leave Dinosaur NP. The beauty and serenity of the place was so perfect. Around every corner, a new discovery which fits right into this season of my life. In this ever changing season, I am exploring new angles of grief. During my short 2.5 days at the park, I felt like I really rested in God’s beauty and even grandness. There was one moment when I thought, maybe I should move here. (Probably not a good idea.)
I recently looked up what the word “grief” meant, it is listed as “deep sorrow, especially caused by someone's death.” However, this definition seems too simple. Yes, there is deep sorrow because Josh isn’t here but there is so much more to grieve - things like not having someone to care for as a caregiver, having to use me instead of we, and no longer being a pastor’s wife which is its own unique role. These unique roles can extend to so many friends and family I know too compounding the grief.
One of the biggest pieces I will miss is being able to tell a story together of our adventures. Coming back from travels would weave our stories of adventure in such great harmony - now it is a solo much of the time.
Alas, I continue on, or grieve on, in my story in a new unexpected way. There is much challenge in it but joy still to be uncovered. Much like the wall of bones at DNP, I will continue to excavate.
Maybe it was listening to the Ends of the Earth song that we used in the service to highlight Josh (and Jenn) adventures or maybe it’s just that that song means a lot and always reminds me of our adventures, but I found the song on repeat as I crossed from Wyoming to Colorado.
This turned into tears and into a conversation with God with music. “What is the point of all of this?” “Why couldn’t we still make a difference for this world together with us both here?” “Why now?,” etc..., etc..
I can’t say God answered my questions but I felt it was a good conversation. It will take time to see all the good parts and I may not actually ever see these this side of eternity. I can see some good but still really just wish this wasn’t the story being told.
After miles of discussion, thinking, “I am really out here in the middle of nowhere,” I heard God say,
“There is nowhere you can go that I don’t see you. ... I am always with you.”
Later looking at God’s Word While sitting by a campfire in Dinosaur National Park, I read Psalm 139, in which verses 7-13 read:
“Where can I go from Your Spirit? Or where can I flee from Your presence?
If I ascend to heaven, You are there;
If I make my bed in Sheol, behold,
You are there.
If I take the wings of the dawn,
If I dwell in the remotest part of the sea,
Even there Your hand will lead me,
And Your right hand will lay hold of me.
If I say, “Surely the darkness will overwhelm me, And the light around me will be night,”
Even the darkness is not dark to You,
And the night is as bright as the day.
Darkness and light are alike to You.
For You formed my inward parts;
You wove me in my mother’s womb.
I will give thanks to You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; Wonderful are Your works,
And my soul knows it very well.”
I don’t know where God is leading me next. And definitely don’t understand why THIS had to be the plan but I am talking to God about it all honestly and trusting him with the process.
For now, it’s a beautiful, quiet night camping in the middle nowhere.
So many thoughts today but the big one really was looking out over the area called Layers of Life at Rainbow Curve in Rocky Mountain National Park.
Each of our lives have layers of hills, valleys, beauty, heartache and details that we cannot even recognize. Seeing the spectacular view today reminded me of the many times I had been in this same park and various mountain top moments Josh and I have had literally and even figuratively.
I miss him being on this mountain top trip today. There are times on the drive that I still imagine him riding alongside me. It’s nice to have pups on the drive but they aren’t quite as impressed by changes in scenery or as talkative.
All my scenic detours, while worth it, made for a long day, and a late night arrival at my KOA cabin in Douglas, Wyoming. Pulling up, I met some other campers and share a bit of my story which of course kind of caught them by surprise - especially since they are my age. It’s weird at times, that I can actually talk about Josh, and “what happened” in kind of reporter-like fashion. I, of course, have many emotions connected to our story but can temporarily take a break to share the info. I had arrived hoping to just go to bed but instead spent like 45 minute talking to strangers around a campfire. I guess that’s part of the adventure too.
My prayer tonight as I rest in this cozy cabin is that God will be seen in and through all of this - that people might even be drawn into his love in a bigger, brighter way - much like the bright moon shining over the Wyoming night sky.
Hi! It's Jenn Brown, writing my story that is now slightly different as we enter a season of new grief. On September 30, 2019, my dear husband Josh passed away after battling brain cancer.