Sunday, March 30, 2014

...who has cried over a phone number?

Yup. A phone number.

I thought I was ready. I mean, I've been paying $40 a month or more extra for an under-used phone, so really it was past time to take care of the issue. You'd think it would be an easy decision to make.

I thought I was ready. I mean, we've been short one "device" for quite a while now, which has caused a few impatient arguments among the younger set. Making this swap would solve the problem for all. You'd think it would be a no-brainer.

I thought I was ready. I mean, I know I don't retain much information thrown at me these days, but I had a helper along to help with the decisions, so the bases were covered. And most folks my age do this without any help!  Surely I could do it WITH help! You'd think it would be a breeze.

But I wasn't ready, I guess.

I wasn't ready for the waves of emotion that assailed me in the Verizon store.

The memories of the one who had done all these types of things for our family before hit me full force. I began to remember how he was in such settings - his quick comprehension, his competent decisiveness, his money sense, and his amazing ability to have great conversations with folks everywhere - from doctors to clerks, from nurses to janitors!

And then I thought of the fact that I was asking them to deactivate the only mobile phone number Michael had ever had.

I know in my heart of hearts that I can never again contact Michael using that phone number or any other. I know that texts sent to that number are only read by those of us left behind. But there was something dreadfully final in deactivating that number.

It served to hammer one more nail into the coffin of loss.

I began to feel as though I were drowning under another wave of reality.

I also began to cry.

Not crazy sobs or hysterical hiccups, but the soft, uncontrollable rain of pain-filled tears.

wanted to dash back out to the van and sob my heart out, but the embarrassed adult inside me kept me endeavoring to hide the panic behind a Kleenex one more time.

I'm SURE Thomas P. of the Verizon store at 95th and Quivira was extremely puzzled by my demeanor. He might have even thought me nuts, but he was very kind and patient nonetheless.

And my kind personal assistant was just as understanding and patient. I even landed a pitiful and squeaky "help" on him one time.

But we made it. I made it. One more difficult task completed.

Other widows have mentioned what their difficult tasks have been. Maybe theirs was buying a car with the life insurance money. Or maybe it was ordering the grave marker. Or taking the loved one's name off the house deed or the car titles. Or making the loved one's favorite dessert for the very first time since the funeral. But we have all had them. And more than one.

This was just the latest installment of tough realizations for me this past week. You see, I've been hit right between the eyes not only with a feisty cold, but also with a new understanding - the WOW of knowing that I and I alone am responsible for everything regarding the welfare of this family.

Yup. Just little ole inexperienced, unsure, wobbly me. Even if someone else does the work, I'm still the final decision maker.  I'm the one to blame for any mistakes. I'm the one who will be at fault if my kids aren't getting what they need. I'm the one who has to make the final call - popular or unpopular, successful or unsuccessful. I have not one single soul with whom I can truly share this load.

Or do I?

No, maybe the right to bear this burden doesn't belong to any other human, but one thing I know for sure is this:
My God loves my kids waaaaaaay more than I do. 
And since He does, I can trust Him to know what they need and I can rely on the promise that He will provide it for them.

That means that He will provide the wisdom their mother needs.
He will provide through Himself all the love they crave.
He will provide comfort for their hearts when mom can't or isn't aware of their needs.
He will provide father figures and male role models for them.
He will provide for their needs financially and physically, emotionally and...spiritually.

I can trust the God Who has cared for my husband and me to care just as sweetly for my children!

And even though some of the objects that tied us to Michael are slowly needing to be set aside, put away, or deactivated, I can trust my sweet heavenly Father to help my children remember the man who used those items, the one who inspired the children to be who they are, and the one who made it such a priority during his last years to make sure they knew where he was going and how to get there.

I pray for wisdom often. I crave God's help and grace. I feel so needy and weak without them.

"For he will deliver the needy when he cries for help,
The afflicted also, and him who has no helper.
He will have compassion on the poor and needy,
And the lives of the needy he will save...
Blessed be the Lord God, the God of Israel,
Who alone works wonders.
And blessed be His glorious name forever;
And may the whole earth be filled with His glory.
Amen, and Amen."
Psalm 72: 12-13, 18-19

When your heart breaks from earthly sorrow
You feel that you are all alone. 
Tears fall as rain, your soul is anguished.
Faith now is tried, all hope seems gone.

You're not alone. Jesus is with you.
He said He always would abide.
Just speak His name
You'll feel His presence.
You're not alone. He's by your side.
~ Squire Parsons

"Nevertheless I am continually with You;
You have taken hold of my right hand.
With Your counsel You will guide me,
And afterward receive me to glory.
Whom have I in heaven but You?
And besides You, I desire nothing on earth.
My flesh and my heart may fail,
But God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever...
But as for me, the nearness of God is my good;
I have made the Lord God my refuge, 
That I may tell of all Your works."
~Psalm 73: 25-26, 28

God has been so incredibly good to me. I want so to bring glory to Him in any way I can. Maybe someday I can take what I have learned from Michael and his way of interacting with those he met and try to touch the lives of people like he did...but for now, for today, I'll just do my best to not scare any more clerks with my tears.

Resting in the Presence of the One Who is ALWAYS present,

Saturday, March 22, 2014

...who encounters mixed-up days?

Today everything felt, well,

I could NOT bring the name of a friend to mind even though I tried very hard.
The two younger children scrapped even more than usual, with many of those scrappy moments ending in tears for at least one of them.
The older two seemed to feel a bit snappy with each other and the one who had homework found it very difficult to focus.
I felt anxious, taut, distracted, achy...and a bit snappy myself.

Why? This isn't the norm for us. It is odd for us to ALL be in such a funk.

I tried to work on some projects, but getting distracted from my original tasks seemed to be the rule rather than the exception.

Somehow I ended up looking through photos from the visitation and funeral...thinking and feeling all over again.

It may have been somewhat prompted by my viewing of the live stream of a funeral this morning...another family was experiencing heart-wrenching and deep loss.

Or it could have been the fact that the project of managing the pictures was easier to deal with than some of the other tasks looming over my head...tasks that demanded clear thought and decision making abilities.

Somehow, lunch was prepared and cleaned up. Somehow, we continued to stumble through the strangeness of the day.

I have learned to take these days as something to endure while looking forward to the prospect of a brighter outlook and a new day.

Sometimes a song or a verse of Scripture will be just the thing to break the tension and ease the anxiety. Sometimes it's a text or personal Facebook message that helps change my thought processes.

Today it was a sweet gal who stopped by with a bouquet of flowers and candy to go around...because she's "been there..." And she remembers how strange these days can feel.

She became a messenger from God to us today. We have met many of those along the way, and we are so very grateful for each one! With their sensitivity to God's promptings, they become a vital part of our journey along these unfamiliar paths...

Oh, and the WHY of all this? Well, I finally came to the conclusion that we have all been reacting to the two month anniversary of Michael's funeral. It didn't hit me until late in the day since today is Saturday and I mark so many different "anniversaries" that this one slipped up on me. But as I've experienced before, our subconscious awareness of events seems to work its way out in physical and emotional ways even before there is conscious thought of its cause. I was told this could happen. I believe it.

So, what is our coping strategy? Well, tonight as "the littles" were settling down to sleep, they talked about Daddy, shed tears, and wrapped themselves up in their Daddy blankets. The older ones are learning more about extending patience to each other and understanding when mom or siblings are different than normal. Me? Well, I tend to cry more, remember more, feel more, and crave rest more.

I do my best to catch each grief wave, ride it to Jesus, and then do little things to keep Michael's memory close to my heart...all the while knowing that as each wave passes, I'm moving toward healing.

God has been there for me on each of the days such as this one. He's patiently comforted our sorrows and held out His hand, ready to pick us up and put us back on track for living our new normal.

I must rest now. I'm so very, very tired and my brain is so foggy that I'm not sure this post makes much sense, but I think maybe, just maybe, that if I can somehow give you readers some windows into how I think and feel, maybe it will help you help others in this very situation.

And isn't that what being part of The Body is all about??

Resting in God's gracious acceptance and love,

Thursday, March 20, 2014

...who is reminiscing today?

Today is March 20.
Many things come to mind when I think of this date. And many emotions follow.

I think of the first time that March 20 became significant for our family. We had a bit of snow that day, the last of the season, and we had special plans in place for the day. We would be attending a birthday party in the afternoon, then eating out with some friends coming in from Colorado - it was intended as a belated 40th birthday celebration for Michael...

What happened instead was far different than any of us expected. And that same sentiment has characterized the four years that have followed that fateful day.

But God wasn't taken by surprise. Looking back, I have often marveled over the many ways in which He prepared us for this journey. Our hearts have filled with praise time and time again for the goodness of our gracious heavenly Father!

Just a few short days after the beginning of this most challenging of journeys that began with a broken femur bone, a friend gave me a journal. Journaling has become a vital part of my coping strategy ever since.

I began by recording basic events and feelings and progressed into sharing
deep, dark secrets of haunting fears, intense pain, fragile hopes, dashed dreams,
unexpected challenges, and desperate prayers,
as well as emotional highs, amazing blessings, sweet memories,
cherished gifts, and promises from God...

On March 28, 2010, I wrote:
"I have cried...I have pled that God show Himself to me in a way I couldn't miss...I have grieved...but I have not felt deserted nor alone. I cannot thank the Lord enough for His loving care for us through each and every moment! Life has changed...God has blessed!"

A year later, we celebrated our newly completed home and God's faithfulness to us with a house dedication and reception - 117 were in attendance that day. Love was showered upon our family, God was praised and worshipped lovingly, and a new determination was settled in our hearts...this home was built by God and would be used for God's glory in any way possible.

March 20, 2011, I wrote:
"We've made it one year from the day our world turned upside down. We've faced so much.
Hurt...mentally and physically.  Fear. Loneliness. Decisions. Anger. Frustration. Separation. Miscommunication. Depression. Awkwardness. Worry. Sleepless nights. Calling on God.
Tears...and more tears.
But we've also experienced God's abundance! heart is so full of gratefulness to the Lord for such a beautiful day, wonderful attendance, anointed singing, kind people who have touched our lives in so many ways, for guidance and strength and grace to help help us make the journey thus far and promises for more in the future...and for my husband!!"

In March of 2012, I was experiencing another loss...the death of my uncle, age 42...Michael's age.

Plus, from reading entries from around that time, I was suffering from some severe depression and was looking for some help in coping with these new emotional challenges. I don't have an entry for the 20th, but on the 18th and the 21st, I made note of the meetings that began my interaction with Stephen Ministries. This step proved vital to my progress in dealing with not only my current needs, but the dark days I knew were still ahead of me. I believe with all my heart that God knew exactly which Care Giver I needed to be assigned to, and He lined everything up just as He had so many other times on our journey!

I am so grateful He cared enough to help not only my husband, but me. By this point I had begun to understand the weight of responsibility that was being transferred to my shoulders whether I wanted it or not. I had begun to see that if I fell apart, so did all the rest of my family.

Frankly, I had begun to HATE being an adult.

I needed someone to come alongside me, hear my heart without judgment, and then keep me focused on God's truth in the matter at hand.

My Stephen Minister served just that purpose for me and still does. God also brought others into my life to minister to me in love in different ways.

It still amazes me how much Jesus cared for me during my very darkest hours!!

The entry for March 20, 2013, includes these remarks:
"3 years.
3 long, yet short years.
What I've learned cannot be measured. We've been blessed beyond all measure. God has proven His faithfulness time and time again...and He has been sooooo patient with me.
Today is a day of mixed emotions...the crazy ones that remembering brings and the happy and relieved ones that having MJ here and doing fairly well bring...
Dear Jesus...Please guide my every every every that I may be the person I should that I learn more fully the extent of Your will and grace and that I become a shining reflection of Your light and love in my life."

Yes. There were still hurts and disappointments. And I wrote about those, too. In fact, the devil fought our family in so many ways and with so many different tactics, it seemed a more difficult battle than the fight we were in against cancer!

But the recurring sentiments were that in spite of it all, GOD IS GOOD...His mercies are everlasting...and new every morning!
He has been faithful to His promises to strengthen and help me!
He has taught me many, many things and answered many, many prayers!
He has become MY God in new and real ways!

And now here we are - March 20, 2014. My journal entry today will include the words from this song as I remember the amazing life of my best friend and remind myself of the comforting hope of seeing him again in that land that is fairer than day...

I shall see you soon again in the land of life
I shall hear your voice again, singing praise to the Lamb
No more heartache, no more pain, you are home free 
So I'll see you soon again in the land of life.

Where there is peace, peace in your presence,
And there's joy evermore, you will nevermore depart,
Never say one more goodbye,
You are home.

So I'll see you soon again in the land of life
I shall hear your voice again, singing praise to the Lamb
No more heartache, no more pain, you are home free
I shall see you soon again in the land of life.

No more heartache, no more pain, you are home free
I shall see you soon again in the land of life.

~~ Bill & Gloria Gaither

Listen to this beautiful song here.

And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; 
and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: 
for the former things are passed away.
Revelation 21:4

I know this post is long, more than likely there are grammatical errors, and it is likely that few will read it. But that's okay.
It stands as my testimony to God's grace and faithfulness to me...
and I want to share that with the WORLD!!!

Loving Jesus more every day,

Saturday, March 8, 2014

...who has been sucker-punched by a very little thing?

It's just a little thing, really. A very, very small thing in the big picture of life. 

But last night it was the cause of much grief...much pain in my heart.

"What is this little thing?" you say. "If it is truly so small, why let it bother you so?"
It is true that it is very small.  You are correct in assuming I should let it go. And I did. Eventually.

But not until after I had processed it a while. 

You see, even the smallest details are important in my journey through grief. "Through" is an important word here. It is indicative of the hard cold fact that grief is something I must go through. I cannot escape it. I cannot delegate this unpleasant task. I cannot get "over it" nor detour around it. If I try, I only end up harming myself and ultimately my children because of the internal stress and turmoil that "stuffing it" causes. 

So, even the smallest of details must be faced head-on; the grief and sorrow must be felt, then set aside. The pain sweeps over my soul, my whole being...then, as it subsides, sweet peace often takes its place - the peace of acknowledging the good times, the amazing memories, and the love shared.

It's all a part of the process. And it can happen anywhere, anytime.

And this time it was triggered by something miniscule.

I was sucker-punched with a wave of jealousy over the ampersand.  "What's that?" you say.

It is this ------>  & 

Yup.  Just that ----> &

But you see, it was more than just the symbol fact, that's a great word to describe it - "symbol." It always serves as a connector...a link between two persons or things. 

And in this case it was serving as a link between husbands and wives. It symbolized  relationships...marriages...shared dreams, date nights, private jokes, long looks...

I was typing up a long list of names - and over and over again I had to type that "&" between the first names of the married couples...

"John & Mary Brown" became a symbol of what "they" had that I have no longer.

Temptation hit hard to think those names, those people deserve their "&" less than I do...

I was hit hard with the grief of losing my "&."
I was tempted to resent my loss.

But God...

God has been so faithful to pick up the pieces every time I fall apart.

He has loved me in spite of my crazy moments of extreme pain and the silly things I may do as a result of that pain.

He loved me through my spell of difficult tears once again, then gently reminded me that He is IN this...He is IN this process with me...He is in control of the whole series of events that has led to this moment...He has brought me "through" so much and He will NOT leave me now.

God has promised to be with me.  He has said,

"Fear thou not; for I am with thee: be not dismayed;
for I am thy God: I will strengthen thee; yea, I will help thee;
yea, I will uphold thee with the right hand of my righteousness."
~Isaiah 41:10

"Have not I commanded thee?
Be strong and of a good courage;
be not afraid, neither be thou dismayed:
for the Lord thy God is with thee whithersoever thou goest."
~Joshua 1:9

See there?? How exciting this is!!!!  God has promised to be with me EVERYWHERE I go. 

I know, I know, we've been taught this principle ever since we could think in sentences if not before, but it means something different to me now! You see, my husband was a finite human being. He could only be in one place at one time. So, if I ever had to be away from him, our only communication was via phone or text, etc. I missed his physical presence when we were apart.

I miss it even more now...because I cannot come home and find him here waiting. I will never again pick up the phone and see a text from him. I will never again hear his wonderfully kind voice over the phone.

But God...

He CAN be and WILL be here with me at ALL times!  In the happy moments as well as those filled with pain, His presence can be very real...and no one can take that away from me.

Maybe I can have an "&" next to my name after all!

                 God & Me...

Kinda shines a different light on this verse, doesn't it?  ;-)

"What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder."
Mark 10:9

"The Lord is my strength and my shield;
my heart trusted in him, and I am helped:
therefore my heart greatly rejoiceth;
and with my song I will praise him."

~Psalm 28:7

May you be blessed with a personal knowledge of the Lord's presence today and every day...

"Be not dismayed whate’er betide,
God will take care of you;
Beneath His wings of love abide,
God will take care of you.

"Through days of toil when heart doth fail,
God will take care of you;
When dangers fierce your path assail,
God will take care of you.

"All you may need He will provide,
God will take care of you;
Nothing you ask will be denied,
God will take care of you.

"No matter what may be the test,
God will take care of you;
Lean, weary one, upon His breast,
God will take care of you.

"God will take care of you,
Through every day, over all the way;
He will take care of you,
God will take care of you."
~ Civilla D. Martin

"I'm gonna make it.
He's already said that I would.
I'll keep on trusting
That He's working everything for my good.
He walks beside me and Heaven is in my view.
Oh, I'm gonna make it through."
~Cissy Padgett