What Building a Patio Taught Us About God

For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven:
…a time to weep, and a time to laugh,
a time to mourn and a time to dance… Ecclesiastes 3:1, 4

We needed a place to grieve, a place to gather and hold one another close as our hearts were breaking.

Our house had been bursting at the seams for years. In 2008 there were 13 of us in our four-bedroom home. I dreamed of building an addition, but it was too costly. Could an outdoor space expand our home – at least in good weather? Maybe a porch or a patio? 

Then one snowy morning on a rural Idaho highway our lives changed forever.

We lost our 13-year-old daughter, Kalkidan, in a tragic car accident. We were in shock, injured, and devastated.

As we walked through grief, I knew I was different now. My priorities had changed. I could no longer race through my days dealing with urgent matters and living as if there would always be time for important things later. 

There might not be a tomorrow. 

More than anything, I wanted to gather with my family and hold them close. I wanted them to know how dear they were to me. These precious people are my most valuable treasures and I wanted my life and priorities to reflect that.

A few years earlier, my father had given me some money as a generous gift telling me to use it for anything I wanted. My sisters quickly decided how to use theirs; I waited and thought about it. Now it became clear. I wanted to build the long-considered patio where we could gather as a family, grieve, and someday, maybe even laugh again. 

I could picture it in my mind; a simple concrete patio with chairs around a fire pit. Russ, however, pictured something entirely different – a patio of stone pavers complete with a curved wall, lighting, steps leading up from the driveway, and a cobblestone pathway winding to the front of the house.

He researched, drew designs, and dug up the backyard with the tractor. Russ loves hard, detailed work. Making something beautiful with his hands was one way he could grieve.

But as life would have it, time was short and progress was slow. Parenting our large family while recovering from the accident took everything we had.

Then our daughter got engaged and asked us to host the wedding in our yard.

I looked at our home and yard and knew the amount of work would be tremendous. But twenty years earlier we’d stood in the backyard with our realtor and I said, “You know, we could even have a wedding here someday.” This was our dream coming true.

We said “yes” to hosting the wedding and took a good look at what needed to be done.

Over the years of parenting our kids with lots of needs, we’d fallen behind on home and yard maintenance and it showed. Completing the patio catapulted to the top of our frighteningly long To-Do list.

As soon as the snow melted in April, work began. We spent long hours carrying heavy pavers one-by-one, placing them in alternating patterns on layers of perfectly leveled gravel and sand. 

As the wedding day grew closer, Russ worked later each night. Most nights as I got ready for bed, I looked out our upstairs window to see Russ working under bright utility lights. 

There were many times over the past four years when I was frustrated and even angry that this project had become so consuming. The process was tedious and took too much time and effort.

I had dreamed of a place for us to gather and grieve, but here we were four and a half years later still building the patio. 

The wedding day came and just hours before family photos, the patio was finished. It took most of our family and a few incredibly sacrificial friends to complete it.

As I looked at this carefully crafted space, God opened my eyes to a beautiful truth. 

My dream of a patio was birthed in sorrow. Now the first event to take place on it would be a wedding.

This is our God’s way. What we sow in tears, we reap in joy. 

We’ve sown many tears of loss and grief in recent years. Now, after decades of prayer, our daughter was marrying a wonderful man.

We’re reaping so much joy.

God does not leave us in our sorrow forever. He gently leads us back to joy, even in the hard, dark, confusing times. He shines light into our darkness and illuminates the beauty.

On a beautiful July night, our daughter and her husband exchanged vows. Fields of wheat turning from green to gold served as a backdrop. Later that evening, after a delicious dinner, humorous toasts, and cake-cutting, the music started and we danced.

We danced for hours on the patio. And when the DJ packed his gear at the end of the night, our kids set up another sound system and the music kept going. 

You turned my wailing into dancing;
you removed my sackcloth and clothed me with joy,
that my heart may sing your praises and not be silent.
Lord my God, I will praise you forever. Ps. 30: 11-12

God turned our mourning into dancing. His love stuns me and fills me with gratitude.

Sorrow will rip your heart wide open leaving you gasping for air and desperately crying for help and relief. You may weep.

But the tears you sow today will grow into a rich harvest. One day death will be defeated forever and our joy will be complete.

Friend, if you’re grieving and your heart is broken, you can trust Him. This is not the end.

Those who sow with tears will reap with songs of joy. Ps. 126:5

The patio will always be a symbol of what God has done. The place where I thought I would grieve became the place where we rejoiced in the goodness of God and recalled answered prayers. It’s the place where we danced for hours celebrating two people joining their lives and becoming a family.

I believe we’ll see Kalkidan again and I imagine it may feel we’ve only been parted for a moment. Her vibrant spirit we loved on this earth will be even more colorful and brilliant in heaven. 

And we’ll dance in the presence of our holy and loving God.

Lisa

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Let me introduce myself. Russ and I are the parents of twelve children by birth and adoption, and sometimes more through foster care. I'm the creator of One Thankful Mom which has been as much of a gift to me as to my readers. In 2011 I became a TBRI® Pracitioner* and have lived and breathed connected parenting ever since. I'm deeply honored to be the co-author, together with the late Dr. Karyn Purvis, of The Connected Parent; it is her final written work. I love speaking at events for adoptive and foster parents. I'm also the co-founder of The Adoption Connection, a podcast and resource site for adoptive moms. I mentor and encourage adoptive moms so you can find courage and hope in your journeys of loving your children well.

22 Comments

  1. Rebecca
    July 22, 2019

    I needed your words today. What a wonderful testimony! I have been in a grieving place and needed to see your hope.

    Reply
    1. Lisa Qualls
      July 22, 2019

      There is hope, Rebecca, even in the midst of sorrow. Grief is such a long journey, it still catches me by surprise sometimes.

      Reply
  2. Deb Jones
    July 22, 2019

    Thank you for sharing these words of weeping turned to joy. I love your heart, Sweet Friend!

    Reply
    1. Lisa Qualls
      July 22, 2019

      I love yours too, Deb.

      Reply
  3. Alli
    July 22, 2019

    Absolutely amazing! Love you friend…

    Reply
    1. Lisa Qualls
      July 22, 2019

      Thank you, Alli. And thanks for helping with the wedding! Let’s have coffee on my patio sometime.

      Reply
      1. Mary
        July 22, 2019

        God is good.
        Love you, friend, and I am rejoicing with you.
        Mary

        Reply
        1. Lisa Qualls
          July 22, 2019

          He is so good. Love you too, Mary.

          Reply
  4. Joy Weir
    July 22, 2019

    I can’t thank you enough for taking the time to share this. The timing couldn’t have been more perfect. I had to lock myself in the bathroom and weep; the depth of encouragement to my heart is hard to express. The Lord bless you abundantly.

    Reply
    1. Lisa Qualls
      July 22, 2019

      I love your tender heart, Joy. Thank you for your words.

      Reply
  5. Ariane
    July 22, 2019

    Thank you so much for your words. I too lost my oldest daughter at age 13 very suddenly. I have grieved thus past year and a half and tried to find comfort. I would love so much to sit and have a conversation with you. Our lives are similar in so many ways. I am a few years behind you and really appreciate your wisdom. Thank you.

    Reply
    1. Lisa Qualls
      July 22, 2019

      Ariane, I’m so very sorry for the loss of your daughter. Let’s connect.

      Reply
  6. Rachel Rausch
    July 22, 2019

    Your precious story filled my eyes with tears as I see seasons change in our lives. He truly is the “God of all (our) days! I love you Lisa. (Longing to see more photos 😉🥰)

    Reply
    1. Lisa Qualls
      July 22, 2019

      Thank you, Rachel. I hope to have more pics to share before long. So good to hear from you!

      Reply
  7. Julie Staples
    July 23, 2019

    Oh, Lisa, this was so beautiful! Thank you for writing it and sharing it with us all. Thank you for the beautiful reminder that we will rejoice again. And especially in Heaven! Blessings on your family. ❤️

    Reply
    1. Lisa Qualls
      July 23, 2019

      Thank you, Julie. For some reason, this post feels very meaningful to me and I spent a long time trying to get it just right. I appreciate your kind words.

      Reply
  8. Ashley
    July 24, 2019

    Oh Lisa, this is just so beautiful. Tears filling my eyes as I read. Thank you for your willingness to write this down, what a picture of our faithful God.

    Reply
  9. Christine
    July 24, 2019

    What a beautiful, inspiring post – thank you for sharing. Also, I’ve never considered that “it may feel we’ve only been parted for a moment” – What an amazing concept – I absolutely love it.

    Reply
  10. Sheila Kirby
    July 25, 2019

    I am so grateful to read something that I relate to so we’ll in this lonely position as an adopted mom without an adoption community! I am also grateful for His Spirit that testifies in me, reminding me of His faithfulness throughout this journey as a mom of adoption. I am still in the crying season and your story gives me a peaceful hope… This is not about easy or me but about eternity. …praying eternity with Him, over my children.

    Reply
    1. Lisa Qualls
      July 26, 2019

      Sheila, I know how lonely this journey can be. I’m so sorry. Have you joined any online communities? Email me and I can give you some information on a few. [email protected]

      Reply
  11. Debbie Soushek
    July 26, 2019

    This is beautiful and moved me to tears. I’ve watched your family from afar and been in the midst of it for years. I love how you captured so beautifully the thread of redemption God has woven in your lives from tragedy to beauty from ashes. Well done, my friend. And on a lighter note – I can’t believe that sweet Hannah who used to babysit our kids is now a married young woman! Congrats to all!

    Reply
    1. Lisa Qualls
      July 26, 2019

      Thank you, Debbie – you know more than most the meaning behind God’s kindness in restoring our hearts. We’re so excited for Hannah and her husband! So much blessing.

      Reply

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