It was a relaxed autumn night in Austin as I sat on the patio of a downtown Italian restaurant with a couple of out-of-town visitors. Sharing a meal and discussing the work God had been doing, one friend remarked, “Wow, Lisa, you are glowing!” Although I had heard it said before, the irony struck me: That is often said to pregnant women, and I was quite the opposite! At that point, my husband and I had gone through eight years of infertility in our marriage. Plus it was just seven months since my dad, who I cared for in his final days, had passed.
“You’re glowing,” was not the reaction I anticipated within the first year of grieving, especially since my experience eight years prior, after my mom died, was very different. At that time, a Christmas visit to my parents’ home unexpectedly extended into a couple of months in Florida as Mom’s rapid decline required Hospice care. Amidst it all, Mike and I became engaged. My hope was to be married before Mom passed, but it became apparent that was not to be, so we put our plans on hold to care for her. As Ms. Independent, that is when my real-world marriage prep began. God was teaching me how to lean on my partner, grow deeper in trust, and take comfort in Mike by my side to help me through everything.
I was surrounded by love and support, yet there was still great pain and sorrow in that season. As her only daughter, Mom and I had looked forward to wedding planning; yet I had to forge ahead after the funeral, planning a South Texas destination wedding in five short months. Despite my years of working in catering and special events, I was floundering. I wanted to do it all, but looking back, I’m grateful that my fiancé saw how grief was affecting me and arranged for help from a wedding planner.
Even with help, it was stressful. With fresh grief ruminating below the surface, emotions arose that I did not know how to navigate, which hyper-charged certain situations. I understood sadness but didn’t realize how exhausting grief was, or how easy it was for feelings of anger to be displaced. I would overreact to things without realizing it. Trying to manage, I did not seek any outside grief support through therapy, groups, or the Church. With so many things I needed to do, I feared that beginning to address the grief might render me unable to function. While I talked and cried with loved ones at times, I still had unwanted feelings that sometimes emerged in puzzling ways.
Amidst trying to prepare for our marriage and beginning to merge two lives together, I sang in the Church choir and was working. Sometimes it was all I could do just to show up. It was hard to be present—the grief would drag me back to the past, and worry would make me concerned about the future. I was concerned about my grief-stricken Dad, living alone with many health issues.
Sorrow is a difficult state to navigate. I held on to my faith, as Psalm 34 tells us that the Lord hears the cry of the poor. Not only does He hear our cries, but He saves us from all our troubles and delivers us.
“The Lord is near to the brokenhearted,Psalm 34:18
and saves the crushed in spirit.”
My splintered heart was grateful for various friends and family who stepped in to help in different ways. Many thoughtful acts of kindness and love were a balm to my heart. There were even four bridal showers planned for us by different loved ones so we could celebrate with family and friends in various parts of Texas and Louisiana (where I had lived prior)! I felt God’s care through the hands of those loving and serving us in different ways. And I felt the heavy shroud of a sorrow that I was not fully ready or willing to dive into, yet.
It was different when Dad passed. My heart was a bit more prepared for what traversing the landscape of grief would be like. I was at a different stage in my life. Married for eight years, we were no longer a new couple trying to plan and establish our marriage. As a business owner and nonprofit founder, I ran things from home. Following Mike’s counsel, I had pared down my workload. While I struggled at first with letting go of what I’d taken years to build, I knew it was wise and the best decision. I also had support from a seasoned mentor and a good friend, who continues to journey with me. While I was still caring for Dad, I began seeing a Catholic psychologist. She continues to help me navigate through healing from trauma, grief from the loss of both my parents, and infertility.
After years of journeying alongside Dad, there was a bittersweetness in the loss. No longer suffering, he was at peace with the Lord, reunited with Mom and many of his loved ones. After such trials and adversity, I felt relief amidst the sorrow.
Following the counsel of the circle who were accompanying me, I did not rush. I decided not to throw myself back into work or make sudden changes. But rather, I opened my grieving heart to the Lord for restoration. Slowing down, letting God and others pour into me, and not running away from the grief were pivotal in my healing. Also investing time in myself through therapy brought breakthroughs—profound, internal shifts were happening.
The Father’s Heart knew what I needed, and I felt His generous love. Brimming with wanderlust after caring for Dad, the opportunities for trips (sometimes even expenses paid!) arose immediately. Reconnecting with old friends, spending time again with family, traveling to Europe with Mike for the first time, and experiencing new adventures refreshed my weary soul. Then, in the moments of stillness, I could hear God speaking to me.
God had been refining my purpose. Slowing down allowed me to see the new ways He was calling me forward. I needed to return to writing the infertility devotional that He had laid on my heart a few years prior. While I had resisted for years out of busyness and not wanting to embark on another grueling emotional journey, it has become a source of even more healing, joy, and purpose. The Lord also laid the idea of this restoration ministry, Little With Great Love, on my heart during that season. He began to forge this space from my own restoration journey, so that we could share many more stories of God’s restorative work, resources, artwork and handmade goods, through this website and various media. Three years ago on the restaurant patio, face aglow, these were the things that I was sharing with my friends. Which led to another promise in Psalm 34 that the Lord fulfilled.
Those who look to him are radiant,Psalm 34:5
and their faces shall never be ashamed.
The beauty, mystery, and the glory of the redeeming work of Christ are encapsulated in Psalm 34. The heart crushed by afflictions that finds refuge in Him will be transformed. To become radiant, we must look to Christ, our Deliverer. His love and joy are what radiates from us. Poured into a heart expanded through suffering, when the joy of the Lord come forth, it magnifies Him.
This prayer, adapted by St. Teresa of Calcutta from Cardinal Newman, was prayed by her daily. It is a beautiful way to invite the Lord to radiate through you.
Dear Jesus, help us to spread your fragrance everywhere we go.
Flood our souls with your spirit and life.
Penetrate and possess our whole being so utterly,
that our lives may only be a radiance of yours.
Shine through us, and be so in us,
that every person we should come in contact with
may feel your presence in our soul.
Let them look up and see no longer us, but only Jesus.
Stay with us, and then we shall begin to shine as you shine;
so to shine as to be a light to others;
the light, Jesus, will be all from you.
None of it will be ours.
It will be you shining on others through us.
Let us thus praise you in the way you love best,
by shining on those around us.
Let us preach you without preaching:
not by words, but by our example,
by the catching force,
the sympathetic influence of what we do,
the evident fullness of the love our hearts bear for you.
This prayer inspired musician Tom Booth to compose this beautiful song, The Fragrance Prayer.
May the Lord give us every grace needed on our journeys for our souls to radiate and glorify Him.