Grief to Relief

On my way out to feed the chickens and rabbits, I noticed tiny black dots all over the melting white snow.  It looked as though someone had taken a pepper shaker and sprinkled pepper all over our yard. I wrote it off as dirt carried in from last night’s windstorm until Elijah, who had been sledding with His brother and sister, noticed it too and ran up to me yelling, “Mommy mommy, there are black bugs EVERYWHERE!”

“What? Bugs?”We knelt down to take a closer look and sure enough, the little black spots were jumping like fleas and wiggling their way deeper into the snow until they disappeared. I’d like to say I was calm and rational but far from it. I was convinced we had just entered into the end-times and this was the first “Seal.”  I walked around our property to see if the bugs were just near the animals or all over the place. I wanted to go into our neighbors’ yard to see if they had been contaminated by the black plague as well.  Crazy thoughts went through my head like: “Maybe we haven’t been cleaning our coop properly and we’ve attracted some deadly parasite?” Or, “Maybe I should have raked up all the dead leaves from the fall because now we have too much compost in our yard and it is attracting some awful disease. Maybe we’ll have to move again or burn the whole place down? Maybe I should call an exterminator. Oh but it’s far too late for that. There’s nothing anyone could possibly do to get rid of these things! Elijah is right. They are everywhere!”

After all my crazy thoughts subsided, I threw my hands up in the air and thought, “This one is totally out of my control and all that’s left to do is just pray we don’t die.” So I did pray.

“I don’t know what all these little black bugs are but You do. I don’t know if they’re dangerous. I don’t know if my kids and I will get sick from them or if our animals will live, but there’s nothing I can do. This is beyond me. So, would You take them away and let us live?”

I’m sure my prayer sounded a bit dramatic and Pharoh-like, but I didn’t care.  It helped me feel relieved- like there was no point in continuing to panic or entertain the thought of trying to get rid of them.

Still, I quickly gathered my kids inside and instructed them to take off all their clothes, leave them in the mudroom and jump in the shower while I did a google search to find out what these black bugs were.

“Snow fleas” or “Springtails” they’re called. I learned that they are harmless creatures that populate our soil all year but go unnoticed until they’re highlighted by snow. They don’t bite and they feed on decomposing material like dead leaves or algae. In fact, they are a sign that you have large amounts of healthy organic material in your yard. They also help speed along the process of decomposition. I learned that they’re the only bug that produces it’s own “anti-freeze-like” matter in their bodies that allows them to survive freezing temperatures, which is why you still see them in the winter. They also have springs in their tail that make them jump. Hence: the name Springtail. One of the FAQ about these critters is “How do you get rid of them?” The answer was, “Why would you want to get rid of them? They are good for your soil and they are totally harmless.”

What a relief.  That was not at all the answer I was expecting. I thought at best I would find out that the bugs can be exterminated for xxxxxx amount of dollars. I hadn’t anticipated reading that they are actually a sign of GOOD soil!  I felt as though I had just found out I was going bankrupt but that someone had come along that same day and paid off all my debt – and not only that – but had deposited a million bucks into my account. Ok maybe I wasn’t quite that relieved, but pretty close.

My sister and her family have been going through a very long and difficult season that appears even more ominous than finding millions of black bugs in your yard. My parents, my other sister, and I have been carrying their burden like it’s our own. We’ve grieved deeply as one grieves over a death. We’ve prayed unceasingly, and have cried until our noses are dripping, our eyes are puffy and stinging from weeping until our tears have run dry.

This is where the story rests. I haven’t gone inside yet to read on google that all their problems are really just a sign of healthy organic soil. But I do have the Bible that says: “Rejoice in trials because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance and perseverance hope.”

I believe we have finally come to the point where all we can do is throw our hands up in the air and say, “God, there is nothing else we can do but pray. The wounds and sorrow are so deep and the years of baggage so heavy. We can’t carry this weight anymore.  This is so far beyond us. It’s up to You to fix this.”

I think this is right where God wants us to be – free from trying to control things and resting in total dependency on Him. Though the battle continues on, I pray with hope that one day, in God’s timing and in His way – this too will not end in death and that the grief will turn not only into deep relief but to a bank full of joy.

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