Friday, February 14, 2014

...who has felt this way?

"I am learning that
joy and sorrow
are not that far apart."

~~ Dr. Dennis Kinlaw, 
quoted by Rev. Blake Jones, Sea Breeze Camp 2014

When I heard this quote earlier this week, I immediately identified with the sentiment expressed.  These words were uttered by Dr. Dennis Kinlaw, former president of Asbury University, who had recently been through the agony of losing his wife.  

I have been churning the phrase over and over in my mind...

I too have been learning about this - although I'd not yet thought of expressing it in quite this manner.  It has seemed so easy to swing, somewhat wildly at times, from one sensation to the other.  This deeper awareness of these dramatic emotions has built quietly - slowly, actually.  I've only recently begun to understand that such closeness can exist between the two extremes...and that it is okay...

I've experienced the sorrow of seeing a dear one suffer with indescribable pain...
           ...and I've experienced the joy of watching folks come forward to let him know just how much his life has impacted their own.

I've felt the sorrow of saying goodbye to my life's companion...
           ...and I've felt the joy of saying hello to a new life just a few days later - a baby born to a good friend.

I've experienced the sorrow of seeing my children lose their hero and biggest fan... 
           ...and I've experienced the joy of watching them grow in maturity and dependence on God in amazing ways!

I've felt the sorrow of a Valentine's Day without my own true love beside me...
          ...and I've felt the joy of love from my children, my family, and sweet friends.

I've experienced the sorrow of deep and piercing loneliness...
          ...and I've experienced the joy of deepening communion with a very real, very present, very faithful God Who has promised to NEVER leave me nor forsake me!

I've felt the sorrow of watching others who are dealing with their own difficult days full of tough news and difficult decisions...
          ...and I've felt the joy of seeing God work on their behalf!!

I've experienced the sorrow of watching my husband slip into eternity...
          ...and I've experienced the joy of watching God answer one prayer after another all around that very same event!

I've felt the sorrow of standing by my husband's casket at the visitation...
          ...and I've felt the joy of seeing so many wonderful people take time to let us know just how much they care!

I've experienced the sorrow of tragedy...
          ...and I've experienced the joy of 
                                              and love in the midst of that tragedy.

You see, this quote gives me an opportunity to express something else that has been on my mind.  I've been wanting to somehow thank all of you who have prayed for me and my children.  I've wanted to tell you somehow that those prayers are really and truly working.  

I've always heard about the power in prayer.  

I've now experienced that very power at work in my own life.

I've FELT the prayers of God's people bearing me up as I faced my greatest fears.

I've FELT those prayers surrounding me in my darkest moments...working to push back that oppressive darkness.

I've FELT a supernatural strength and unearthly peace in the middle of exhaustion and emotional turmoil. And no, that's not a mistake.  In the middle of the grief and pain, I have ALWAYS felt a peace...and a hope. This has not been a journey of hopeless despair...nor one without a "light at the end of the tunnel." I can truly say that I have felt God's presence - real and strong - in the middle of everything. He has guided me in how to help the children, He has led me in performing necessary yet unfamiliar duties, He has held me together even in the craziest of emotional times - and He has allowed laughter and love and light to still be a vital part of our lives!  

So, you see? If you happen to see me or my children laughing, or if you happen to hear of some victory in our lives, or if you happen to witness us smiling even on difficult days, know that God is hearing YOUR prayer.  

And He is answering - by bringing us joy that isn't so very far away from our sorrow.  

Thank you. From the bottom of my heart. 

And remember, if He answered THOSE prayers, He'll answer others for you as well! Have faith, dear friend!

Leaning hard, learning much,

A favorite song of mine:

  • He giveth more grace as our burdens grow greater,
    He sendeth more strength as our labors increase;
    To added afflictions He addeth His mercy,
    To multiplied trials He multiplies peace.

    When we have exhausted our store of endurance,
    When our strength has failed ere the day is half done,
    When we reach the end of our hoarded resources
    Our Father’s full giving is only begun.
    1. Fear not that thy need shall exceed His provision,
      Our God ever yearns His resources to share;
      Lean hard on the arm everlasting, availing;
      The Father both thee and thy load will upbear.
    2. His love has no limits, His grace has no measure,
      His power no boundary known unto men;
      For out of His infinite riches in Jesus
      He giveth, and giveth, and giveth again.

      ~~Annie Johnson Flint

    Thursday, February 6, 2014

    ..."celebrating" today?

    Today is February 6.  

    It's just a normal day for most folks.  

    Aaron Burr, Babe Ruth, and Ronald Reagan were born on this day in 1756, 1895, and 1911 respectively.  

    On this date in...

    1862, General Ulysses S. Grant captured Fort Henry in Tennessee
    1899, the Spanish-American war ended
    1911, a great fire destroyed downtown Constantinople (modern-day Istanbul, Turkey)
    1935, the board game Monopoly went on sale for the very first time
    1948, the first radio-controlled airplane was flown
    1951, Paul Harvey was arrested for trying to sneak into Argonne National Laboratory
    1952, Queen Elizabeth II succeeds King George VI to the British throne
    1968, former President Dwight D. Eisenhower shot a hole-in-one
    1971, a golf ball is hit for the first time on the moon (Alan Shephard)
    1974, the U.S. House of Rep. begins determining grounds for President Nixon's impeachment 
    1974, Shawna Joyce Englund was born to Don and Joyce Englund in Centerville, Iowa.

    See?  No big deal. Really.  The day is just another day in most folks' lives...not just this year, but pretty much any year.  

    But for me, it's a big one.  And I don't mean because I'm turning 40.  I don't really mind that.  Not anymore.  In another lifetime, the big 4-0 might have brought with it a twinge of "Seriously?? I can't be this old!  Where has time gone?  Do I LOOK that old???"

    But in this lifetime, I don't really care.  40 isn't that different from 39.  

    It's just that I don't want to face the day alone*...   

    You see, I wasn't supposed to be a widow at 39.  I was supposed to be celebrating this big birthday with Michael by my side, teasing about how I'll soon need bifocals...because that's what people told him just before his 40th.  

    But instead, nine days into his 40th year, his right femur decided it had had enough strain from the tumor it had secreted away...and it broke...bolting us across the game board of Life, putting an emphatic end to all the hopes and dreams we shared for our future together. 

    Kinda puts a new spin on the term "mid-life crisis," doesn't it?  

    And Michael never did need bifocals.

    Could it be that I'm nervous about what my 40th year holds since Michael's was so traumatic?  Maybe. 

    This day represents so much to me.  Yes, I'm now 40 years old.  That means I have now spent half of my life with Michael and half without. Being with him is all I really know.  I don't know how to do life without his steady wisdom and precious encouragement.  I have depended on his emotional support for so long now, I find I have trouble finding any alternatives.  Sharing important things with another seems so...well, awkward...

    This day is also the beginning of many special days we will face as a family without Michael.  

    Valentine's Day. More birthdays. Family events. Our 20th anniversary...

    Julie was sobbing last night as I tucked her in bed.  She said she had to have her "Daddy blanket" with her - she was missing him so very, very much.  So we wrapped it all around her little arms and snuggled it up close to her face. I told her to think of it as a hug from her daddy...

    I often wrap myself up in my blanket.  It sports three of my very favorite pictures of Michael and me together.  It helps.  Temporarily, at least.

    Other times, I hug his pillow.  

    Or smell his cologne.  That cologne sits proudly on Karson's bedroom shelf now.  He claimed it for his own just a few days after his daddy went where the scents are beautiful beyond anything our feeble minds are able to imagine! 

    Sometimes I wonder whom I will be now that Michael is gone.  

    I know I am a daughter of the Most High God - my loving Heavenly Father and a Protector of the widows and orphans.

    I know I am a mother - of four of the world's most amazing human beings!  And they need me.  They need me to Still. Be. Mom.

    I know I am a daughter, granddaughter, sister, in-law, cousin, niece, and aunt.  And oh, how I appreciate the blessings I have been given in that these relationships have not been torn apart by bitterness or anger, but are supportive and comforting and dependable!!

    I know I am a friend.  Well, I have many wonderful friends.  I don't feel as though I've been much of a friend to many of them for a while now.  Maybe someday soon that can change.

    I know I am a widow.  For now, that status seems forefront.  But I know it won't always be that way.  And I know that at some point, I can and will - by God's precious grace - get to a place where it will no longer define me.

    I know I am blessed.  
    I was blessed beyond measure by the privilege of being the wife of Michael J. Wright!
    I have been blessed to have been given these four precious children!  
    I have been blessed to have seen God's gentle hand at work in our lives, in my life, in undeniable ways! 

    I know I am a recipient of God's amazing grace and precious provision...daily.

    I don't know what else the Lord may have in mind for me. 
    I pray that someday I can share with at least one person some of the lessons I've learned or  encourage at least one soul who is faced with tragedy...

    But for today, I will do my best to focus on the blessings I have been given instead of whining like a spoiled brat about what I do NOT have.  

    Frankly, though, that is much easier said than done.

    * By "alone," I'm referring to the sense of loneliness that comes with facing things without my precious husband.  I will have my family around me, so I won't literally be alone.  

    (Please understand.  I am not complaining.  If you feel I am, please just skip any further postings on this blog.  Writing in this form happens to be one of my favorite ways of processing and facing the things I'm feeling.  It is by no means meant to be whiny, nor am I trying to beg for sympathy.  But as Michael was open about his trials and struggles as well as his victories and blessings, so I may be at times about my own.)