Unexpected Gratitude in Grief

“I am thinking now of grief,

And of getting past it;

I feel my boots

trying to leave the ground,

I feel my heart

pumping hard, I want

to think again of dangerous

and noble things.

I want to be light and frolicsome.

I want to be improbable, beautiful

and afraid of nothing,

as though I had wings.”

(excerpt from Starlings of Winter by Mary Oliver)

The words to this poem came unexpectedly early last week.  I was searching the internet for something a friend had shared with me and stumbled upon this, it felt like such a gift for my soul.

As I think about this past year, since last Thanksgiving, my thoughts quickly go to places of loss and grief and to the frozen winter that lasted for months.

Last November I suffered the loss of two important relationships.

Both losses left me questioning the future, replaying the past and aching in the present.

I found myself remembering other places of loss and grief, almost as if I needed the past to guide me in the present.

It has been a long and difficult year for my heart.

A little over a week ago I joined twenty other women for the Red Tent Living Weekend in New Braunfels, TX.  The day of the conference I drove into San Antonio for coffee with a friend.  As we sat and sipped our mocha’s we talked about the past few years.  Years that have been marked with the fallout of ministry pain, feelings of betrayal and the loss of what had been a very close relationship for us.  I was tearful and the time was healing.

It’s been seven years since the initial blow out that disrupted our friendship.

During that time we moved, Mark changed jobs, two of my kids graduated from college and one from high school.  Profound things have happened in my life.  Things that have changed me.  And, she’s been changed too, in ways I haven’t had the chance to completely learn about yet.

She offered me a release with her words.  Words she spoke about the past, but that felt so applicable in the present.  I felt as if God had gift wrapped this coffee date because He knew it would be so good for me.

I left my time in Texas with heart filled with gratitude.  Gratitude for the unexpected beauty of what transpired while I was there.  Gratitude for the past and all that it formed inside of me, Gratitude for the present and the surprising ways I experience God’s goodness and Gratitude for the future and what is unfolding for the coming year.

“I want to be improbably, beautiful

and afraid of nothing,

as though I had wings.”


Tracy Johnson is a lover of stories and a reluctant dreamer, living by faith that “Hope deferred makes the heart sick but when dreams come true there is a life and joy” (Pro. 13:12).  Married for 27 years, she is mother to five kids.  After nearly a half century of life, she’s feeling like she may know who she is.  Founder of Seized by Hope Ministries, she writes here.