How To Rise From the Mud and Mire

They say Auschwitz has this eerie stillness, this somber silence as DSC07803you step on the grounds of this World War II consecration camp.

We’re in Arlington, driving to a hike with waterfalls along a river. Google says they’re remarkably beautiful.

So, we go.  Hoping to escape it all.

But on our journey, a familiar cliff reaches us. People are gathered. It’s a spectacle.

We stop, curious at the draw of it all.

There, where mud falls, our faces drop. We step out of our car and see the slide that buried our neighbors not that long ago.

The world seems to stop. Our agendas, our plans to climb along the rushing river fails to capture us at all.

Our eyes are now fixed on the miles and miles of open dirt in a world full of green, trees, and breath-takingly beautiful rolling hills….

A scene so serene it seemsDSC07813 to climb and reach us, straight from a magazine.

There it was.  Oso. The place of the mudslide. And I wonder why I hadn’t heard about it lately? Why are tragedies more than victories ever in the headlines?

Our family exits the vehicle. Because when others have passed…the suffering, heart-ache, and the pain of this life has gripped us…How can we just race along our freeways…As if nothing ever happened?

Shouldn’t the sacred be stopped for; felt, seen, heard, absorbed into our being…before we can ever really start living?

The fallen, more important than some waterfalls.  Hero’s needing to be heard more than the freeways taunting each of us; “go faster, do more, live more fully”.DSC07799

As if this life was ever really lived well, by racing.

And it’s real. Just like Auschwitz. Not because the people were rounded up like cattle, starved, or tortured…

But because there’s something about unnecessary death that forces us to hold time frailly more than fleetingly, intentionally more than carelessly, sacred instead of callously and soul-less.

I dig deep for a breath. I wasn’t breathing and barely noticed. It was as if time stopped with the heart-ache and I just didn’t know how to keep moving.

I read the first sign, “believe”. It almost mocks the cries beneath the mud not breathing. I wrestle with this word, as well as with the anger and bitterness that surfaces, thinking, “could faith really be rooted in tragedy”?

Despite the nearly doDSC07820zen at this monument…there is a hush.

Maybe others too can’t breathe at the sight of a hill fallen like a child’s sand castle, land toppled like a deflated cake hitting the cold air too quickly, flattened with no way to return it to it’s original state of picturesque glory.

And I can’t move. My family treads on, but I am frozen, wondering why the media grabs hold of the fallen, trapped, the digging…but can fail to remember a city like Oso.  

Strong.

Courageously going on after the news people leave, the bodies are laid, the dust is dormant…and the city is left with only hope and God, as it’s outlet?

Days continually turning after loved ones are buried, when pain can keep reeling in us though the world keeps chasing the next big story.

And we are left to make sense of our pieces.DSC07800

And why are hero’s and tragedy’s and big events the only thing keeping us strapped to the media?  When isn’t life about the little moments, big hearts rarely seen in money-making headlines?

Scars start healing when life is lived wide open, like a wound seeking oxygen, a heart pounding in place reminding us…

Any kind of wounding has meant that we have really lived. Loved. Won this war on the numbness chasing us, hourly.

Isn’t it time we just stop and really face the reality of this life…in a world that doesn’t want to see pain, slaps on in simply, a belief system that says “think good thoughts and everything will be o.k.”

When in reality, it is soldiers that fight, the brave that last, those that persevere through the rubble of this life that really breath in the reality of what it really means to, “believe”, “live”?

And have we forgotten in the world of fame and fortune, Hollywood, and Facebook worthy media that it’s often the little people who do great things, it’s often the unseen and unheard that earns rewards in heaven, the bravest often in the shadow…more than the spotlight?

I finally get the courage to walk past all the trees.  The ones planted, representing lives, a living monument to those who died in the mudslides in Oso.

And I remember my treasuredDSC07812 friend, the one who the mud stopped at her door.  And who decides who lives and dies?  Who knows when the cliffs of our lives too may erode?

Will we live our one life well?  Or will we be frozen with fear?  Racing too fast on the freeway to even feel and hear that pain is what draws most of us closer to God?

Does He allow the land to move, the earth to quake, the tsunami’s to take place so that we won’t think we are fine without Him, that we won’t be deceived thinking, we are in control of this breathe, our destiny, this moment…our own personal heroes without need for a Savior?

I mean, why does it take Oso’s to stop us, still us, let the weight of a God who created us, really sink in?DSC07794

I see their names, read their legacy.  The two little boys, the baby, the dog with a ball sitting below his picture. I read of the saints, see the bottles of the sinners.  And I think for a moment…

It didn’t matter whose was whose, how old, or what someone looked like when the mudslides came.

And isn’t it tragedy that makes us all even.

Isn’t it the reality that God is above and we all are equally below Him where humanity gets humbled, comes together, finds it’s footing at the place beneath His Sovereignty?

And I get it. I keep reading.  How the saints survive the most difficult things we might experience.

I read their mesDSC07811sages.  Simple.  Timeless. The ones who loved well.  This community that fought for each other, and stayed strong in light of a world shining it’s cameras in their face.

I see it all.  The hope, the truth.  And really get that you can have hope, and faith, and “belief”…even when bad things happen.

Oso’s words are a message to us all, “believe”, “Be strong”.

Because,“What we do in Life…echoes for eternity”.

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Jen Avellaneda

Jen is an adoptive, foster, & bio mom to trans-racial family. You can find her writing, overlooking her property, advocating for the orphan domestically and internationally, & making memories with her husband of 24 yrs.
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7 Comments

  1. It’s a little ironic (in a good way) that I wrote about some of the same thoughts as you this week. We live beneath a big granite mountain, and we are often shook by earthquakes. I’ve often wondered, what if the mountains literally crumbled? Would I still trust God? My answer, of course, is yes. But sometimes faith is really put to the test, just like in Oso. And yet, refined by the fire of tragedy, sometimes faith just shines.

    GOD BLESS.

  2. I’ve never heard this story before, but I am well acquainted with grief, and the message is the same. I’m so thankful for those who are faithful, who keep on believing, even when walking through the valley of the shadow of death. Won’t it be wonderful someday when our faith becomes sight? Your writing is beautiful, the message of hope needed.
    Thanks for hosting the link party, I just found you today!

  3. Beautiful, moving post, my friend. Such a sad story of tragedy, and in the telling of it, you have turned our hearts Heavenward. God bless you, Jen. :)

  4. Your testimony to loving and living, Jen, it touches deep. Thank you. Remembering, now, with you. Thanking God for the chance to live well.
    So much of what you wrote here, I had to go back and re-read… digest… think and process.
    Ultimately, we need to live each moment with loving and no regretting, yes.
    Bless you!
    Dawn

  5. It seems like time should stand still after such a loss, that the world should not go on, whether it’s the loss of a single loved one, or the loss of 250,000 like in the tsunami of 2004. But people keep living their lives, while those who grieve are forever changed.