how brokenness sings

Written by Kelli Woodford

Kelli Woodford hopes never to recover from the Mighty Mercy she has been shown. Although her life is now filled with more diapers than she’d like to count, she carves time out to write about finding God in the simple and the frustrating at Chronicles of Grace (http://jasonandkelliwoodford.blogspot.com/).

February 18, 2013

brokenness, heart

They found the lump in August.

By September she was bald.  The wall of her chest, I mean.  Cut clean from the cancer, but also dismembered from her femininity.  And the healing was long and slow.  Most of the scars, they still ache, when she thinks of it all.

Thinking is something she has plenty of time for these days.

Because this year of chemo is cleaning her clock.  Those eyes that once sparkled like the ice crystals along the window sill now rise painful, a slow recognition of the grandchildren who used to give her so much life and energy.  Oh, she still knows them, but it’s harder to keep pace.  Harder for the throbbing of her loving heart to make it out of her tired lips.  But it’s okay.  We come to her at Christmastime.  We watch more movies together, because it drains her less.  And we send the kids to play in the snow rather than bring all their wiggles into her living room.  And it works.  Love makes space like that.

But I see she feels the space.  And sometimes, well, it feels rather empty.

Because she used to be the Bible Study leader, the oldest woman in a church full of young marrieds with small children.  And we’d sit at her feet every Thursday night and hear spine-tingling stories about times He showed up in her family life.  She had this engaging way of asking us about our hearts and it was a God-thing.  We’d talk out our hurts and pray out our fears and share recipes and laugh loud.  There was vulnerability in her words and there was kindness in her eyes and we just knew she held our hands and our hearts as we took our first tottering steps into womanhood.  She taught us so much about what that word meant.

Such a different woman sits before me now.  Milo and Otis plays in the background and she feels less sure of her womanhood somehow.  Maybe even of her faith.

But how do you address such a private battle unless you’re invited in?  So I wait.  And I hold open the yawning space.  Will she enter?

She picks up her glasses and studies her camera.  She tells me about how she can only focus for a little while after her chemo treatments, so she only reads snatches of Scripture these days.  And I watch the shadow settle over her face.  Then she describes her new church, how she knows they love her and pray for her there, but she’s not really connected.  She has no deep or lasting relationships there.  And I feel the sigh in her soul.  Days gone by, I wonder if it’s for the days gone by.

Her eyes, always so sharp, fill with sudden tears.  In the silent space that hangs between us, the full and the empty, she speaks her peace.  But you know what I think God wants me to know in this time? 


“He is still pleased with me.”

 

She weeps gently at these words.

And I hold the silence.  Because the peace is just too heavy.  Words would be a harsh intrusion on such a sacred moment.

But I drink it all in.

The past.  Her strength and zeal and all the religious activity.  The present.  A shell of who she used to be.  The very woman who taught me what femininity meant now straps on her breasts with each quiet morning that greets her.  Emptied.  Yet, in the stillness that she cannot change, growing full.  Learning Peace.

Learning to let herself be loved.

But can I tell you something?  She is more beautiful, with a God-glory, with her crocheted snow hat covering her hairless head and her prostheses resting in their box than she ever has been to me before.  Her life ministers great lessons of peace and rest and security in Her Beloved that are beyond all the grace words she ever offered me on a Thursday night over tepid coffee.  She sings the song so clear now, for those who have ears to hear, and it is one of beautiful womanhood.  Of true femininity.  Of a Bridal response to a Lover who never gives up.

And of accepting her radical acceptance by God.  Not for all she does, but for all she is.

Her life is but a whisper now of the noisy days gone by, but she is living theology before me.

The theology of brokenness.

It is the song of the emptied.  And the full.

 

42 Comments

  1. Natasha Metzler

    Oh, beautiful. The great paradox of Christianity. That in brokenness we are truly whole.

    Reply
    • kelli woodford

      very well said, Natasha. thanks for hearing my heart.

      Reply
  2. ro elliott

    Just beautiful…oh may we all daily live theology in our homes…in our community…and yes we are loved because we were born…we can’t add to it or take away from it…what an awesome humbling truth. blessing to you~

    Reply
    • kelli woodford

      good to see you here, Ro. and yes, i love how you said that — can’t add or take away from it — reminds me of the old song “not because of what i’ve done, but because of Who You are.”

      Reply
  3. Cindee Snider Re

    Wow! As one who has had breast cancer, your words are haunting and piercing and incredibly, deeply beautiful. Your last three sentences (“The theology of brokenness. It is the song of the emptied. And the full.”) have found their way straight to my heart, sinking sure and tender roots. Words I will share with two of my teens struggling with long-term, life-changing illnesses. Words of grace and truth and beauty and hope. Thank you!

    Reply
    • kelli woodford

      it’s astounding how even *watching* someone suffer has a transforming effect. it calls forth our compassion, i think, and we find Jesus very present. thank you for sharing this, Cindee. you bless me.

      Reply
  4. Brenda

    Very nice, Kelli. You have a gift of expressing yourself.

    Reply
  5. MsLorretty

    and we cry hallelujah.

    Reply
    • kelli woodford

      this comment needs no reply.
      you nailed it.

      Reply
  6. Kris Camealy

    Kelly, I read this first thing this morning and it’s just so beautiful. These words slipped quietly, startlingly into my heart with such a force this morning. Thank you, really. This is an exquisite write, my friend.

    Reply
    • kelli woodford

      thanks, Kris, for your kind words.
      you really never know when someone needs them. thank you.

      Reply
  7. smoothstones

    God bless. The real miracle is that He never leaves us and that others see His walking along beside in terribleness. Thank you for being a true friend: one who sees and records.

    Reply
    • kelli woodford

      perhaps those times of terribleness are for just such a purpose, eh?
      thanks for reading, Brandee.

      Reply
  8. Shelly Miller

    When we can learn to press in to Christ during things that push us to the limit like this, it is truly a gift. What an example you have in her.

    Reply
    • kelli woodford

      yes, Shelly. you are right. rising up to call her blessed.

      Reply
  9. Nacole Simmons

    Oh Kelli, I love you. This is gorgeous–well, what I really mean, is that your soul is, because that is where this comes from. There are few I read, because I like the quiet. And you are one I need to read. I have missed you. <3

    "Her life is but a whisper now of the noisy days gone by, but she is living theology before me.

    The theology of brokenness.

    It is the song of the emptied. And the full."
    ….I exactly relate because I have someone like this in my life. I see the emptiness in her and I see the fullness that she doesn't even realize is there. I hope to emulate her.

    Reply
    • kelli woodford

      i am touched by these words, Nacole. truly.
      thank you for reading. thank you for loving. it is no small thing.

      Reply
  10. Beth Steffaniak

    Her words and life remind us that only in our brokenness can we really see God’s pleasure in the sacrifice of a life lived for Him. I can’t comprehend it yet, but am wrestling with these very same glimpses from God’s kind and doting heart. Thanks for giving us an intimate look into the precious relationship you have with this sweet woman, Kelli!

    Reply
    • kelli woodford

      like you said, Beth, i can’t always understand God’s amazing love. but deeper than my want to understand it, i guess, is my ache to experience it.
      thanks for being here. and for your kind words.

      Reply
  11. Sandra Heska King

    And I whisper “glory” through tears that drip through your tender and beautiful words. And I think what’s helping her to sing through her brokenness, how she is full while empty, it’s because she’s hidden beauty in her heart all these years. And though she can only read snippets of scripture at a time now, she’s stored them up. And in the stripping, her heart beats closer to the outside.

    This is gorgeous, Kelli. She is gorgeous. And so are you.

    Reply
    • kelli woodford

      thank you, Sandy.
      you’re dead right, you know? in your analysis of her — “she’s hidden beauty in her heart all these years” — spot on. if you learned that from my flawed portrait here, oh friend, i am blessed. this is it. this is it exactly.

      Reply
  12. pastordt

    Stunning writing, Kelli. Simply stunning. Thank you. Over and over again, I have experienced this hold-your-breath holy ground with those who are suffering. The real person just shines somehow, radiant and real. You have captured it beautifully.

    Reply
    • kelli woodford

      why do your words always resonate with me so?
      suffering touches deep places in this heart, Dianna. and that i could have captured it . . . ? makes my wonder run wild. thank you. you are a treasure.

      Reply
  13. SimplyDarlene

    It’s the tension between the two, being empty and being full, where we battle the most. I wonder why.

    Blessings.

    Reply
    • kelli woodford

      oh, i can only wonder at the heart behind your words, friend. but i appreciate your acknowledgement of the struggle. sometimes it doesn’t feel like a green pasture, where we are made to lie. that is very true.
      and sometimes holding silence speaks more beautifully than words.

      thank you for being here.

      Reply
  14. Danelle

    “Learning to let herself be loved. . . ” and this “the theology of brokenness”. Oh my Kelli. I was picturing you there at her feet as a young married and there at her feet after the passing of time. Like so many before me have said, this is truly stunning. What beauty. What a treasure this relationship must be to you.

    Reply
    • kelli woodford

      there’s something sweet, isn’t there, Danelle, in the relationship that changes and somehow endures the change? this is where we are. she and i.
      learning to see through these new glasses together. it’s an unique opportunity. and i find myself grateful.

      Reply
  15. bluecottonmemory

    Oh – I want to live faith like that for my children – to hold on to His love, to see myself how He sees me in the challenge – what a beautiful gift He has given her – and, oh, how beautiful what she has given you:) That is what family should be – for everyone – not the hurtful, brokenness through challenges – but the redemptive love of the Father – and how real it is!

    Reply
    • kelli woodford

      whatever it takes for Him to make it real, right?
      hard as that is to pray, it echoes my own heart cry.
      thank you for reading.

      Reply
  16. Amber C.

    Thank you, Jesus… Kelli, I just want to weep for the beauty of this.

    Reply
    • kelli woodford

      how nice to see you here, Amber. thanks for reading.
      and all glory to Him, indeed.

      Reply
  17. Leslie Rowe

    pure sweetness.
    love power.
    woman of might.
    bless her, Lord.

    Reply
  18. Mary Schieferstein

    This is a truly beautiful story, and one I know I can learn a lot from. Thank you so much for sharing!

    Reply
    • kelli woodford

      thank you, Mary. i want to learn a lot from it, too.

      Reply
  19. Laura

    Oh, Kelli, such a hard place. Humbled by the grace and humility your friend models. Oh, yes–He is pleased. Such beauty here, friend.

    Reply
    • kelli woodford

      hard places forge diamonds, right? or reveal them.
      thanks for being here, dear Laura.

      Reply
  20. Joy Lenton

    Slow to find this but quick to sense the deep place of grace and glory in a life so beautifully threaded with His Presence. Brought tears to my eyes and joy to my heart to see God’s hand on this sweet woman’s life and in your grace-filled depiction of her battle. Thank you, Kelli 🙂

    Reply
    • kelli woodford

      beautifully threaded with His Presence, indeed.
      glad to see you here, Joy.

      Reply

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how brokenness sings

by Kelli Woodford time to read: 4 min
42