Saturday, December 27, 2014

...who has felt the stone?

We've finally reached the other side of Christmas. It's the 27th, and even though there are still some extended family celebrations planned, the main events are now part of our family's history.

I took few pictures. (I even forgot the video camera for the church Christmas program.) I'm usually quite the shutterbug, so this was unusual for me. I'm not sure what was wrong. It's as though I felt recording the events would in some way be recording the pain as well. Strange, I know. But it's what was.

I felt disconnected from much of what was going on. Survival seemed to be the ultimate goal rather than enjoyment. Christmas Day felt no different from December 29th. It was another day to get up, perform my duties as mother, to survive... Strange, maybe, but it's what was.

I dreaded the special holiday because of the emotion it normally evokes. I dreaded the memories of last year's Christmas which seem to be trumping all other memories. I knew it would all be different, feel differently, affect me differently...I was expecting that. What I guess I didn't expect is the horrible loneliness, the ache, the deep gnawing sense of grief that came back for so much of the month of December. For quite some time, I had been able to say I had more good days than bad. Not in December. It has been dreadful. I suppose more of this is due to the approaching one year anniversary of Michael's death rather than Christmas itself. There have been many moments in which I've honestly thought a mental breakdown will be arriving before January 17th does. Strange? Probably, but it's what was.

I listened to Christmas music, yes.  But not "our" songs. I couldn't bring myself to do so. It was too tender a place in which to venture. Sometimes grief processing requires me to surround myself with all things Michael...other times the pain is so deep that I am completely unable to "touch" them. Strange? Most likely. But it's what was. 

I pray my children survive without any lasting damage...I've done my best to separate my pain from their performance or behavior and continue to let them know how much I adore them. And I worked my hardest to make sure Christmas could be as special as it's ever been for them. But I've checked out more this month as a parent than in a long while. There has definitely been overspending in the "dining out" portion of the budget. That does not make me proud. Michael wouldn't have wanted to eat out that much. So it bothers me. But I've had to do it some days just to survive with our family relationships all still intact. Strange? I don't think so, but for sure, it's what was.

There have been some extremely precious moments this Christmas. And I do my best to not lose sight of them. They are special, sweet reminders that God is still loving on us. He has not forgotten us in the pain. 
I have felt deep connections with my children as tears have coursed down our cheeks. 
I have sensed the Lord's help and sweet presence in the writing and recording of a special song. 
We have been wrapped in love by the generosity of a youth group and the wonderful gifts they carefully chose, packaged, and sent to us; generous gifts from family; and some delightful packages from one of Michael's former bosses. 
We were carried through the busyness of the church Christmas program with strength and health and (somewhat) clear minds. 
We were encouraged by conversations and sweet notes from family and friends who let us know they were carrying us in prayer faithfully. 
We were blessed with quick recovery from the illness that finally caught up with us this week.

Yesterday, I was stunned to receive a cashier's check for a very generous amount...from my "Guardian Angel!" It humbled me. It shook me to my core. No, I've not worried, per se, but I've felt a few fleeting moments of panic at how quickly the money was flying out of our account here at the end of the year.  

But receiving this today revealed to my bruised reed of a heart that my God was not just answering prayers for Michael - He is also answering prayers for me! I am loved! Truly loved and cared for by an amazing and all-sufficient Savior! In fact, I would have to say I'm truly spoiled! He has supplied every need!!! And so many of our desires as well!! Praise be to the One true God Who fulfills as His promises! 

I cling to those promises. I depend on those promises! I live and breathe those promises for provision, care, strength, and grace!


Because I'm experiencing this new level of's not the same outburst of strong emotion, pound the pillow, scream till my throat is raw kind of grief. That kind comes, flows over me, then passes leaving me exhausted, but able to face the next day with some measure of sanity. 

This is different. 

It has crept in and around me, swallowing me whole. It is a deep down, soul bruising, bruised reed trampling, dark tunnel, bone-ache, physical weight kind of grief. That's the best I can do at describing it. It has commandeered my life for days now. And it's only grown worse. 

"Grief, according to him, was like a large stone tied to your heart. 
Grief is a feeling you carry inside, a heaviness of spirit. 

Mourning, on the other hand, is best described as putting the grief on the outside. 
Mourning is the public expression of grief."
~ from Life after the Death of My Son, Dennis Apple

That's it. It's a stone...a boulder, if you will, tied tightly around my heart. And it goes with me everywhere...even into my dreams. Mourning - that outward sign of the grief - comes and goes. 

As I heard another, "sometimes you just have to keep living until you can feel alive again."

So, this post wasn't terribly profound, nor was it exquisitely written, but at this point I'm beyond endeavoring to impress. It just is what it is...

In celebration of Michael's love of God's creative design in sunsets as well as his solid and visible testimony to the faithfulness of that same God, I created a calendar for the new year to give as gifts. I wanted to share the photos with you all.

Each month's photo was taken in that same month in 2013; and each Scripture was one Michael highlighted or marked in his favorite Bible. 

Best wishes for blessings on your new year!
I pray you are encouraged as you enjoy these photos
and read the Scriptures...

P. S. I'm not a watermark fan from the standpoint that I'm not trying to promote any business nor draw unnecessary attention to my very amateurish photography, but it has been pointed out that it would be prudent to protect the photos in some manner. Thus, the addition of the watermarks. Thank you for your understanding.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014


It's late again. It seems that's when I usually get around to writing these things.

This time, I'm in the living room by the lit Christmas tree. I've overridden the timer so it will stay on tonight. I can't stand complete darkness right now.

Christmas music is playing very softly from's favorite music (Christmas) using his favorite technology (internet) through the avenue of his own creation (the internet music station).

I've succeeded in keeping myself distracted most of the day. But now those distractions must cease...I must try to sleep. But in the void of this quiet night, the memories rush in to take control of my emotions and sleep becomes unattainable.

I sit in the location of the hospital bed procured one year ago today -
Monday, December 9, 2013.

It was one of the most dreadful days of this ordeal.

I resisted the invasion of hospice into the sanctuary of my home.
I resisted the admission that Michael had reached the point where hospice was necessary.
I resisted the acknowledgement that he would never sleep in his own bed again.
I resisted the commanding presence of the clinical hospital bed in my living room.

I knew it had to be. Yet with everything in me, I pushed it away.

Family members came to see us. They interacted with the children and we all tried to grapple with the new development.

Friends stopped by. They brought with them a generous offering that had been taken for our family just the night before. By the time they arrived, I was about as close to "basket-case" status as I could be and still be in "public." Instead of condemning, they quietly checked on me, too, giving a hug, sharing tears, understanding my fears...

It felt we were now a spectacle in some ways. I know that wasn't anyone's intent, but in my state of emotional panic, I didn't want our living room, my peaceful sanctuary, to become a display case or a commons where any and all could come and go at will. Maybe those thoughts were due to my introverted nature, maybe not. Maybe it was that I felt our "safe place" was being ripped away from us. I felt desperate to claim something as my own personal space where no one could intrude.

I distinctly remember the panic I felt...the deep-seated fear that gripped my heart.
It was NOT time to give up!!! I couldn't lose him so soon!!!  We had just gotten this whole true love in marriage thing really and truly figured out!! All we thought we knew the day we joined hearts and hands in marriage became tested and tried, purified and real and we finally had a grasp of what true unity of heart means. We had been through so much together...and I didn't want to face the next steps in this journey without my companion.

I'm not sure at what point I finally calmed down.

To make that day a bit easier for the children, we gave them an early Christmas present - their "Daddy" blankets. They immediately fell in love with them, and have used them almost every day since.

So here I am. It's been a year since that day.
I've scurried around Christmas shopping, ornament decorating, gift creating, list making, program preparing, cleaning, schooling, remembering...stressing...remembering more.

I'm no busier than any other mom this season. I am just finding my tolerance for stress greatly decreased. It breaks me much more quickly than before. So as the memories rush all around me every day as I do my best to continue fulfilling my duties, my heart feels battered and bruised. My "nerves" are edgy and strung tightly.

And I just want to hide in a hole. I feel like hibernating until spring. I don't want to face all that the days ahead flaunt in my face. January 16 is looming in the distance, too. I don't WANT to have made it a year without Michael.  In some ways, I don't WANT to be okay.  I need him!!!

But my God is still here - beckoning me to keep trying to "live until I can feel alive again."
He keeps whispering in my heart that these precious children need me to be what Michael can no longer be for them - an active parent, stability, and support.
And the coolest part? He keeps giving me what I need to fulfill that role!!!  I worry at times that I ask too often and beg too much of my dear heavenly Father...but I also know that there is really no way that I can accomplish one task without Him!

The devil wants me to get so focused on my own emotional journey and grief that I cannot accomplish any Kingdom good. And sometimes he comes extremely close to succeeding. Then Jesus reminds me of others who are carrying heavy loads, grieving lost loved ones, finding the world cruel, and needing a word of encouragement, a prayer for peace and strength...and the way becomes clear before me again.

Nothing is accomplished through self-pity.

So once again, I will feel these emotions thoroughly.
I will journal and blog.
I will process them, then lay them down and move on - because God asks it of me, and my children need this of me.
But it won't be in my own strength. God alone gives me breath and life. He alone can help me find the other side of this tunnel. He has been so preciously patient and near to me. I can never adequately express my love for Him...

But He said to me, 
"My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness." 
Therefore, I will most gladly boast all the more about my weaknesses, 
so that Christ's power may reside in me. 
~~ 2 Corinthians 12:9

Many times I'm tried and tested 
As I travel day by day 
Oft I meet with pain and sorrow 
And there's trouble in the way. 
But I have a sweet assurance 
That my soul the Lord will lead 
And in Him there is strength for every need. 

O, His grace is sufficient for me. 
And His love is abundant and free. 
And what joy fills my soul, 
Just to know, just to know 
That His grace is sufficient for me. 
-Mosie Lister (

I know it will be there when I need it...that grace is boundless. So I'll rest now with the promise of Jesus's tender care forefront in my heart and mind. 

And I'll attend the brass concert Tuesday evening (December 9, 2014) expecting to shed a few tears, yes, but also fully intending to enjoy it as thoroughly as I always did with Michael by my side!!

After all, isn't HE hearing the most amazing music of all???

Remembering, yet resting in the promises,