Absence and Other Tangible Things

“Absence has a presence, sometimes, and that was what she felt. Absence like crushed-dead grass where something has been and is no longer. Absence where a thread has been ripped, ragged, from a tapestry, leaving a gap that can never be mended.

“That was all she felt.”

When I first read those words in the midst of Laini Taylor’s Dreams of Gods and Monsters, they jolted me from the story as I realized, yes, this is a thing. A thing I have never heard described so aptly or beautifully.

Absence has a presence, sometimes. I’ve experienced it throughout the course of my life. Dying dreams, crushed hopes, and insufferable loss steal everything and yet leave something with you.

Absence. A great, gaping absence.

Words like these sing to me, making their way into my journals quite often. Maybe I just like the poetry of them, or maybe I have deeper issues that would require years of extensive counseling to unravel, but these are the things that come to mind when the world rocks crazy and I am at a loss. These are the words that resonate when my knees hit the carpet and the floodgates release the tears from my eyes.

But this morning, as the absence started creeping into my soul, something else crept there, too.

“All she felt,” the quote said.

But wait. That doesn’t have to be all.

But wait. There is more than absence like crushed-dead grass and tapestries ripped ragged.

As I found myself on my knees, in the beginning stages of grieving a gap that can never be mended, I remembered something…

God is, and always has been, the God who gives and takes away. He is, and always will be, good. And if He is good, then every single detail He has orchestrated in our lives is designed to bring good. Every joy. Every sorrow. Every tragedy that rips the very breath from our lungs.

The absence is intimidating. Its presence is strong. But is it all I feel?

Sometimes it is. Sometimes I find myself wanting only to sink down into the depths of it and never resurface. Sometimes it tries to swallow me up forever.

But it is not all there is.

When I turn my face toward the heavens, I find there is peace. There is grace, and joy, and hope.

And the absence? It’s a lie.

Crushed-dead grass can be renewed by the breath of the Creator. Tapestries can be remade by the hand of the Master Weaver.

Absence is not the only thing that has a presence. Not the only thing that can be felt.

Hope has a presence just as strong. Joy is a tangible thing. And grace is always there for the grasping.

Even in this. Yes, even in this.

like crushed-dead grass


All the King’s Horses, All the King’s Men, and Other Broken Things

“Rebekah, you have one hour to let it all out and pull yourself back together.”

Those are the words I whispered to the girl in the mirror right before she completely fell apart. Right before her face dissolved into a puddle of tears and her whole body ached with the weight of her sorrow as she sank down onto the floor and wondered how this could have happened.

It’s so easy—the letting it out part. The taking of that deep, shuddering breath that releases the floodgate of emotions. The grief and heartache and confusion and despair. That stuff comes easy. But the pulling it back together…

Is that even possible? When your shoulders are wracked with sobs and your face burns red from the sting of your tears? When what seems like a vital piece of your life has just been cruelly and suddenly taken from you?

You can fall apart in a heartbeat.

A single phone call.
A simple phrase.
A life-altering event.

But can you ever pick up the splintered shards of your heart and hope for a moment that the pieces will somehow resemble what they once were?

It makes me think of Humpty Dumpty having his great fall. As we all know, all the king’s horses and all the king’s men couldn’t put Humpty together again.

“But the King can,” someone once told me.ย “The King can.”

That’s the part of the story Mother Goose forgot to tell.

There’s still Someone who can make sense of the pieces where others have failed.

There’s Someone who can make beauty from ashes.

The realization I had to come to on the day that phone call wrecked my heart is that there is one, simple fact in life:

Either God is good, or He isn’t.

We have a choice to believe what we will, and I choose to believe that God is good. Even when life doesn’t make sense. Even when I’m left reeling in the wake of a sudden and tragic loss.

I choose to believe in a God who can pick up the pieces and make something beautiful from the chaos of my life.

And, no, I’ll never be the same. Because this event has changed me. This tragedy has taken something beautiful from me that will never, ever be recovered.

But those fragmented pieces of my heart still fit together somehow, and there is a God who is lovingly and tenderly putting them back into place. And I’m marveling at the work of art I’m already becoming.

Because we’re all just broken pieces. Like a kaleidoscope or a stained glass window. The most broken parts of us—all our flaws and cracks—are blended together to form something beautiful. Yes, we still reflect beauty. Even in our heartache. Even in our sorrow and grief and despair.

There is a God who makes beautiful things from broken things.

And that is the knowledge I cling to when the world rocks crazy and my heart lies in fragments on the floor.

beauty in brokenness