Smiling (with tears in my eyes)

Last weekend, I pulled out a well-worn cookbook from my shelf and thumbed through it, looking for the recipe I needed. I could even picture it in my mind, the first recipe on a right facing page somewhere in the salads section.

The cookbook is my favorite cookbook, one you can’t buy anywhere. It’s the cookbook my mother compiled for me when I first moved to Nashville. She wrote in some of her favorite recipes with little notes about who they came from. She asked important women in my life to write their recipes in the book. And she got my Grandma Polly to write some of her recipes, too.

It was one of her recipes I was looking for that afternoon. And I soon found it, clearly written in her handwriting, the handwriting she’d had before her first stroke that made writing, especially cursive, difficult. Dana Irwin’s mostaccioli salad, the title read, and the woman’s name and my grandma’s handwriting brought back a flood of memories.

So I made my grocery list from the recipe and left the book lying open on the table so that I could make the salad on Saturday afternoon after my long run. And later, after I’d made the salad and tucked it into the fridge to marinate overnight, I thought to myself, I’ll have to tell Grandma that I made this. She would like that.

That thought came naturally, unbidden. And it didn’t take but a moment for the truth to sink in and a wave of grief flowed over me once again. Grandma Polly passed away in 2007, and I can’t tell her that I made a recipe she’d once lovingly written into a cookbook as a gift for me. But still the thought came, and in that moment, I would have given anything to be able to just talk to her, to tell her about making that recipe and what was going on in my life and hear her say things that made me feel loved and important, blessed and beloved.

But with the grief also came something else—a smile.

A sense of peace.

Hope.

I’m not sure that grief ever just goes away, but I am sure that the Man of Sorrows who is well acquainted with grief comes alongside us and uses it to show us His hope.

And we can smile—with tears in our eyes—and trust Him in all things.

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