Saturday, November 22, 2014

The Thing About Grief

Sometimes you know the loss is coming, sometimes you don't. Either way, you are never prepared. You can never be prepared. Not prepared for the shock. Not prepared for the deep void. Not prepared for the pain unlike any other you have ever known. Not prepared for the duration. Not prepared, when you think you are finally better, for it to slam into you again.

Early on, I remember someone saying something to me about the next year and my response was, "oh, I hope this doesn't take a year."  Almost 2 years later, some days the pain is still so fresh and debilitating, it feels like it was only yesterday. A memory crops up, seemingly out of nowhere and it feels like a scab being ripped off- still so raw and fresh.

What I've learned along the way:
There is no time limit on grief. There is no right way to grieve. There are no words that make it better. There is nothing you can do for me. There is nothing I can do for myself.  The grief comes in waves, with no warning. Sometimes it comes after a long calm, it hits quickly and is gone; sometimes it pounds into you like a tsunami- relentlessly, over and over with no break in sight. And you just have to ride out. There will be good days and bad days. Embrace the good days and ride out the bad ones.

And it's ok. It's all ok. It doesn't mean you are weak. It doesn't mean your faith is lacking. It doesn't mean you are stuck.  It means you are human. It means you have loved. It means you have suffered loss. And it means you are healing. In exactly the way that is right for you. Give yourself grace and time.

Everyone's journey of grief is unique. Listen to your heart, listen to your spirit, and listen to your body. If you need to cry, cry. If you need to rest, rest. If you need to be alone, be alone. If you need to be with people, be with people.  And listen for what God's Spirit is telling you. Because He is with you - in the middle of your pain and your grief, He is there. He sees you. He knows your pain. And He holds you in the palm of His hand through every second of your journey.

Monday, September 1, 2014

Missing You

It's been almost a year and a half – seventy eight weeks – five hundred and forty seven days-since you left
Somehow I didn't think it would still be this hard
I didn't think the ache would still feel so fresh
I didn't think the memories would still assault so unexpectedly
I didn't think the wound would still feel so raw

I talked a lot about getting used to the “new normal” in the beginning
As the “new” normal became the normal, I thought it would just be easier
I didn't think I would still hear your voice at unexpected times
I didn't think I would still miss the little things so much
I didn't think the tears would still appear so frequently

I thought the one year mark held some kind of magic healing power
We had endured all the firsts without you so surely the next round would be easier
Your absence is still so obvious
Your laughter is still so missed
You've left a hole no one will ever be able to fill

And, yes, we're moving ahead
Changes have been made
Life goes on
But it goes on without you
And it will never be the same

Healing comes slowly, painfully
The journey of life continues
The good, the bad, the celebrated, the mourned
The sun still rises and the moon still shines
The stars come out and the rain comes down

And through it all,
God whispers gently, “I'm still here,
I see your tears and I've caught them all,
I see your pain and you are not alone
Come to me, my child, and I will give you peace
I will give you rest”

Sunday, August 10, 2014

What Doesn't Kill You....

What Doesn't Kill You......

“What doesn't kill you makes you stronger
Stand a little taller
Doesn't mean I'm lonely when I'm alone”

I don't think Kelly Clarkson meant this song to be spiritual in nature, but it is was for me. This used to be my mantra, my anthem: I am strong, I am capable, I am together! But then the unimaginable happened and suddenly I wasn't.

I have lived through the unlivable. I survived what I never thought I could. And I was not strong. I was scared, I felt alone, I was lonely, I was downright panicked. I was nearly swallowed by the darkness and the hopelessness. But I survived. I am surviving. And not on my own. There was a Power at work in me that I acknowledged, but didn't understand. There was a Power in me that was pulling for me when I wanted to give in and give up. God's Spirit was in me saying, “You'll get through this. You are going to make it. You don't have to know how and you don't have to figure it all out. All you have to do is trust. But you will need help. Accept My help.”

Help has never been easy for me to accept. Needing help on any level is a sign of weakness. And weakness is a bad thing, or so I always thought. Weakness opens you up – it opens up the cracks for others to get in, to see inside, to see the mess that is really me in spite of what I pretend. And that mess is not pretty – it is petty, it is scared, it is doubtful, it is selfish, it is greedy, it is even bitter and unforgiving and angry sometimes-no, a lot of the time, it feels entitled, and it is very prideful. It is human. And it wants to be loved and if all that ugliness that is the mess of me is known to you, then you may not love me.

And if you don't love me, that means I am no good – right? I am not worthy of love if you know all the mess inside. So I will put up the facade – the “I have it all together” attitude, the “Yes, I am fine” face, the “I can handle this all on my own” pose, the “I've got this” stance. And then the unthinkable happens and all those shields crumble, they shatter into tiny pieces all around you and land at your feet and you are left defenseless, visible to for all to see who you really are – actually who you really are not. You are not strong, you don't have it all together, you totally do not have this – whatever this is for you. 

For me, it was my husband dying. For you it might be death of a loved one, but it might not. It might be a diagnosis you didn't want. It might be a financial crisis you can't see a way through. It might be a prodigal son or daughter. It might be a job loss, or a move, or a hurtful word or betrayal from someone you thought trustworthy. It might be any one of a million things that just destroys and crumbles the tidy little life you have set up and all the shields and fences you put up around you to keep the mess in. And suddenly, the mess is no longer contained, but out there. You have become the mess you have fought so hard to hide deep inside. And you are ashamed. You are ashamed you are not strong, you are ashamed you aren't together, you are ashamed you DO NOT HAVE THIS. 

But slowly, very slowly, over time, you are able to see just a tiny bit around the mess, through the mess, a little glance above the mess, a tiny glimpse past the mess, And there are people still there. And God is still there. You have not been left alone in your mess. You never were. And you still are not strong, you still are not together, you still don't have this. But there are still people there, and more importantly, God is still there. He knows your mess, all of it – He always has. And yet, He is still there – He always was. 

You begin to see the pale pinks and purples of the sunrise, you begin to hear the birds sing again, you begin to feel the ground beneath your feet. And you realize it was there all along. You put one foot in front of the other when that was all you could manage, and suddenly you feel like you might again, one day, dance or skip or even run. You find small pleasure in things you thought you never would again. The fog begins to lift just a bit and the sun is still there – it shines through, gently and warmly. You begin to feel the raindrops instead of the storm. And through it all, people are still there. Through it all, God is still there. Your mess-your brokenness, your flaws, your tears and your wailings, your doubts and your fears? Your mess did not scare God off. He didn't turn His back on you. He held you in the palm of His hand and patiently waited for you to notice. He waited for you to notice that HE is strong, that HE has it all together, that HE has got this for you – whatever “it” is.

No, what doesn't kill you doesn't make you stronger – it makes you weaker. Yes, weakness opens you up. And maybe that was what it was intended to do all along.  

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. II Corinthians 12:9

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Fathers and Daughters

May 27, 2014

Since the beginning of families, since Adam and Eve, there has been dysfunction.  There has been hurt and jealousy and rivalry and downright ugliness.  This is not a new thing- not to my generation, whose fathers' were strict and not very hands-on;, not to my mother's generation, whose fathers' worked from dawn until dusk; and not in my children's generation, whose fathers' tend to be more hands on but sometimes more in touch with their electronic connections than their human ones.

As women, our fathers shape so much of our identity.  They shape how we see ourselves and how we see the men in our lives and how we filter our relationships with other women. They shape how we expect to be treated and how we expect to be loved.  Don't feel like you could ever do enough to earn your father's love as a child?  Then you probably don't feel like you really deserve to be loved as a grown woman.  Never really felt like you lived up to your father's expectations?  Then you probably won't live up to anyone else's expectations, including your own. Father not present in your life, either physically or emotionally?  Then you probably don't deserve to have someone present in your life now. These are the lies that we have told ourselves over and over until they have become our unconscious truths.

It seems many of the women of my generation ( I am the tail end of the baby boomers), shared the same experiences growing up -our fathers were hard-working, strict disciplinarians, conservative, critical, and emotionally distant.  Or as my teenage self viewed it- the epitome of the "establishment".

Many of us live our lives never realizing that how we processed our father's actions when we were young continue to impact how we process (and react to) the relationships in our lives when we are grown.  Ever wonder why you turn right back into that rebellious teenager when around your father (or other male authority figures)?  Ever wonder why, as a grown woman, you cannot relate to your father on a "grown-up" level?  I have.  And it has made me question myself-"what is wrong with me that I can't just get over this?  Why do other women not seem to struggle with the need for approval and the need to be accepted from their fathers when I still do so many years after it should have ceased to matter? Am I the only person who still struggles with this?"

I don't think so.  All we have to do is look at the divorce statistics in our society today (both in and out of the Church), the number of children being raised either fatherless or with multiple father figures who pass in and out of their lives, and society's attitude toward marriage in general, to see many of us have not "gotten past" this and have not learned to handle our relationships in a healthy, Godly manner.

Some of you reading this may be thinking at this point, "What in the world is she even talking about?"  If that is you, my feelings will not be the least bit hurt if you don't read another word here. If you can relate on any level, please read on. 

If we never realize and acknowledge the hurts we incurred at our fathers' hands, whether intended or not, we will never realize how they continue to impact our view of ourselves and the people around us, including those closest to us- our children, our spouses, our siblings, and even our closest friends. Admitting you have a problem is the first step on the road to recovery. Admitting you avoid conflict because chances are someone will be angry with you and if someone is angry with you, they won't love you and you must be loved at all costs-admitting this is the first step.  Admitting you invite and even instigate conflict because you relate to others best when one of you is angry-admitting this is the first step. Admitting you procrastinate tasks because you figure you will blow whatever you attempt because you never manage to get it right anyway-admitting this is the first step. Admitting you take on more than you can handle in order to earn the approval of others- admitting this is the first step.

And the next step? Admitting (and believing-this takes some time and patience with yourself and  lots of continual prayer) that none of this matters!   Regardless of how we were treated by our earthly fathers, regardless of they standards they dangled in front of us that we could never quite meet, regardless of the love that we felt was almost within our grasp if we just tried a little harder, it doesn't matter!  It doesn't matter because we have a Father in Heaven who loves us with an everlasting, unending, incomparable, unexplainable love!  Just as we are - shortcomings and all, at out best and at our worst, in our shining moments and in our failures.  

We no longer have to prove ourselves, we no longer have to fight for the love and approval we so desperately long for, we no longer have to fight at all! When Christ died on the cross, He said, "It is finished." (John 19:30)  Our fights for approval, our strivings to please, our desperation for love? "It is finished."

God told His children, the Israelites , "Since you are precious and honored in my sight, and because I love you, I will give people in exchange for you, nations in exchange for your life." (Isaiah 43:4)  The nation of Israel were His chosen people, the people He promised all the world would be blessed through.  And they were precious and honored in His sight and He loved them enough to give nations in exchange for them, to make sure they were safe and provided for.  If you are in Christ, you are now one of His chosen people and He loves you, you are precious and honored in His sight.  He will give nations in exchange for you.  He loves you that much!  The God of the Universe is willing to do anything for you! And He did - He gave up what He loved the most - He gave His Son for you.

And all that stuff we didn't get growing up?  We now have it all in abundance, more than we ever could have imagined  - we are precious and honored and loved!

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

A New Thing

April 2013
It took me a while to even locate my blog out here in cyberspace. Imagine my surprise to see my last post was in 2010! Obviously, I have not been very dedicated to blogging. Lately, though, I have been feeling the "bug" to start writing again. Some of my motivation is personal - I have recently (3 1/2 months ago) become a widow - a word I had always associated with much older, gray-haired ladies. To find myself in this category at the age of 57 was, understatedly, a surprise. There are so many things I still have to process and wrap my head around, things I am still getting used to, trying to figure out. But more importantly, I have so many things to share about God's grace, timing, and provision that I felt compelled to start writing again.

 It is feeling like Spring here - a full month after the calendar told us it should be here, but waiting only makes the arrival that much sweeter. My husband always loved Spring. He was passionate, to say the least, about our lawn. Working all day out in the yard was not work to him, but pure joy. He took pride in having a well manicured, green lawn. My passion runs more toward bright, colorful flowers rather than green grass, but the two complimented each other nicely. Unfortunately, our beautiful lawn is not so beautiful this Spring. At least half of the yard is brown dirt with no hint of green coming through. So, I had a choice to make. Do I hire someone to fix it? (My husband would have known exactly what the problem was and how to fix it.). Do I leave it and hope for the best? Or do I put on my big girl pants, do some research, and get out there and get dirty and try to figure out and fix the problem on my own?

May 2014
A year later, I am revisiting this post. I obviously wasn't ready to share my thoughts last year - still too much to process, I guess. The learning and processing isn't done and I imagine will never be, but I have come a long way in 15 months. God has carried me through another winter, a very long one, and is gently breathing new life into me.

One of the things I love most about spring is the new, fresh, tender life it brings. It comes gradually, quietly, and sometime retreats for a bit. At first, it seems like it will never come, but then you start to see small, subtle signs-gentle breezes bringing a new, clean smell to the air, daylight lasting a bit longer, tiny green shoots pushing up through the dry, dead leaves.

God brings healing the same way- slowly, gently, new life pushing up through what has felt dry and dead. The daylight seems to last a bit longer and the long nights get shorter. And, yes, at times it seems to retreat. The thing about Spring? If you don't go through a Winter, if you don't go through seasons, sometimes you can take the coming of Spring for granted. Know that whatever season you may be in, God will bring you through it and Spring will come again. It may not come as quickly as you would like, but trust that it will come. And while you are waiting? God promises never to leave you or forsake you (Hebrews 13:5) and to hold you in His hand (Psalm 37:24).

Oh, the dead spots in the lawn? Grubs! The problem is not completely fixed, but the dead spots are smaller this year, there is new, tender grass sprouting, and more seed has been sown. Just like God is doing in my life and like He will do in yours-the dead spots will recede and He will grow new things in you.