Sunday, April 23, 2017

All is not lost, so it seems...


Yep, I'm the kind of girl who makes Venn diagrams. I've read several things about how one can tend to lose one's self in a relationship. I figured that a 34 year relationship, 33 of that in the 24/7 state that is marriage, that quite possibly I could have lost a lot. No, I did not.  Considering that marriage is designed by God and that I have found no shame, only honor, in being a helpmate to my spouse, I can look at my diagram and soundly say that I am still who I was. I'm just being forced to operate in a different gear.

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Castaway...(Part II)

And back to comparing this past year of my life to Tom Hanks adventures in Castaway. The first part was probably close to two weeks ago because my life has been so crazy busy.  If you wanted to reread it, its on my blog: http://glynis-p.blogspot.com/  In Castaway, Chuck Noland found himself on a deserted island with one main focus: keep breathing. I found myself in the same place after Pat died. Purpose itself becomes confusing, so it must be simplified to what once was automatic.Every day becomes a matter of inhale, exhale.

One thing Pat was always saying throughout our marriage was "We are One." We were a unit with a joint purpose. He would get so annoyed if a business would insist on only speaking to him and not me. He'd say, "She's MY wife. We are One." As that "one" unit, we divided up the tasks of life and each did what was required to keep the life that we shared on course. Chuck's travels on the plane were like our marriage - we had a destination and purpose. For 34 years together we headed there.

As unexpectedly as Chuck's plane broke apart mid-air and plunged into the sea, so the life that we had came crashing down when Pat died at 55. Chuck could not fly through the air and complete his business without that plane. Without Pat, our marriage was no longer a vehicle to carry me further on my journey in this life.  Just as Chuck was forced to cling to his raft while being tossed on the tumultuous sea with no clue where he was or what would become of him, I, also had to cling to something to keep me afloat. My something was my faith in Christ. It's a buoyancy outside of ourselves which kept Chuck and I afloat.

In  2 Corinthians 11:25, Paul lays out the perils he has endured which included, "three times I was shipwrecked, I spent a night and a day in the open sea," Prosperity preachers like to treat itching ears to the idea that nothing scary will happen to you once you are a believer. That is far from the truth - Paul goes on to say, "I have been on frequent journeys, in dangers from rivers, dangers from robbers, dangers from my countrymen, dangers from the Gentiles, dangers in the city, dangers in the wilderness, dangers on the sea, dangers among false brethren; I have been in labor and hardship, through many sleepless nights, in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and exposure."  He certainly didn't escape hardship but he did discover something marvelous and uplifting through it.  In Romans 8 he proclaims this wonderful truth, "For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord." On my island, I've been learning this, too.

As "one" unit, Pat and I had divided up duties. He had his jobs; I had mine. Suddenly last July, I was faced with all the jobs and doing them underscored his absence.  I was so deep in grief it was hard to keep afloat, much less figure out how to do his jobs. The Pool Fiasco illustrates that (look back to last summer's images of my deep green pool and the toxic concoction I created in that giant cauldron trying to kill it). In Castaway, we see Chuck trying to provide for himself - his clumsy struggles to crack coconuts, his comical spear fishing attempts, forcing himself to eat things that are gross simply in order to survive. He was also doing things he had never done because he *had* to, similarly I found myself doing many things because I *had* to. I'm sure that I've looked just as hilarious as I have tried to take on Pat's tasks in order to keep my life and house going. Learning to laugh at myself and to let go of perfectionist expectations has been key. Try, try again. Through it all, though separated from Pat by death, I was never separated from the love of Christ.

With every success there is the satisfaction of, "Hey, I *did* this!" even if you don't want to actually be doing it anyway. Unclogging a drain. Changing a very high ceiling light (that he was always sure I'd break the glass globe of or fall off of something trying to do). Killing big spiders. Making minor repairs.  I love when Chuck finally makes fire, he dances around it, beating his chest, so filled with relief and joy - I have definitely had my moments like that.

The reality of the matter is that Chuck was stuck - by circumstances out of his control - on an island that he didn't want to be on. This past ten months has been a Philippians 4 learning experience for me. The Apostle Paul say in verses 12 and 13: "I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength." I can't say with truthfulness that I've "learned the secret of being content" but I'm getting there.

And again, this is too long to finish my comparison - some of the rest is already written in another piece and I'll wait a few days to share it. God bless. :)

Saturday, April 1, 2017

Castaway...(Part I)

If I were to liken my experiences over the past eight-and-a-half months to anything, I think elements of the movie Castaway are a pretty decent fit. I very much identify with feeling like my life as I knew it was ripped apart by turbulence and went hurtling into the deepest, darkest ocean. I also feel like I've had to engage in a battle of wits with myself in order to survive this ordeal. Mentally, physically, emotionally and spiritually I've had to conquer a slew of challenges. Like Chuck Noland, I've also been working my way back to "home" and yet, unlike the protagonist of Castaway, I have been finding out I must have a brand new life a whole lot sooner than he did. The old one is irrevocably gone.

Chuck Noland is a very busy man with a very busy life. He has an agenda and goals he must meet. That's how I was - I was very much consumed by the things that needed doing and I valued the scheduled down time we had very zealously. Just like Chuck and Kelly had a romantic moment before he took off on the ill-fated flight, Pat and I had had a wonderful weekend - moments of relative peace, contentment and promise which belied the coming storm. Chuck was on board a jet, scurrying to solve a business problem in Malaysia, flying over the ocean when danger struck. I was cleaning up from a nice barbeque in the comfort of my home.

Pat's pain was like the initial turbulence. Suddenly it grew alarming. The next 8 days were akin to Chuck's experiences on that plane until it crashed and plunged him into the sea - ready to take him down to a watery grave with it. The life raft tied to his wrist that inflated and pulled him to the surface - that was my faith in the One Who will always rescue me and cause me to rise above the waters. When the emergency supplies snagged (goods which Chuck could have utilized to survive), they ripped off with a tug and he had to rely on the raft alone - or like me, on faith alone. All the "emergency supplies" that are a marriage sank with Pat's death. In one tragic catastrophe, it seemed like it was me against the ocean. (And yet, the Strong Hand of love was always there).

The struggle to the surface is real. Will you be under and stay under? Will the weight of the plane (aka the lost life) drag you down to the watery depths with it? Would it be easier to just relax into grief and despondency, to let the wreckage and sea overwhelm you? I'm a fighter, sinking without a fight was not part of "me." It's instinctual to fight, to engage in the struggle to rise to the surface - but useless to flail around just looking at all the dangers in terror. One must choose to unleash that raft, allow it to inflate and pull you, albeit choking and gasping, to the top and seek the next step once you get there.

Coming to the surface, the ocean looked like mayhem. An inferno was ensuing, Chuck almost got sucked into an engine... he *had* to THINK and paddle away. He survives to find himself in the middle of the South Pacific, deep dark depths of the ocean below him, nothing but waves surrounding him. I rose to the surface of the eight day ordeal of Pat's death to find myself in the middle of a dark ocean, too. Chuck lost consciousness overnight and washed ashore on an island - I shock-walked my way through a week of preparations and found myself washing ashore on an unknown land, a rocky, desolate place called Widowhood.

Chuck begins to explore his surroundings with one main priority guiding him: survival. Maslow's Hierarchy of Need says that we instinctively seek to fulfill basic physiological needs and safety needs on the lower levels. This is where we diverge a bit because sleep/food were not on my agenda during the first tumultuous weeks. Some people eat their way through grief - not I. So while Chuck was worried about food/water, I did join him in the shelter and safety hunt. I sought out info on what to do about our mortgage, title, etc, etc. I was VERY concerned about safety and within a month after Pat's death had my Conceal Carry Weapon's license. I also absolutely had to finish my Master's Degree - my husband dying in the middle of my last class was at once a curse and a blessing. I had to on some level hold myself together in order to 1) complete my degree and 2) maintain my 4.0 GPA. My new job was starting two months after his funeral - so like Chuck, I was occupying myself gleaning things I could use from whatever washed onto the shore of my island.

I don't recall ever hearing Chuck express denial over what happened to him. He accepted the plane crash and his situation with an active desire to survive and to turn things around. One of the stages of grief is supposedly denial. From the get-go, I knew that I knew that I knew that Pat was gone, that he was never coming back and that my life would never be the same. I could cry a river and it would never bring him back. Oh, cry I did (and do), but it is emotional release more than it is despondency.
The motive of survival is a place where Chuck and I diverge - he was actively trying to survive in order to return to his old life. I was actively trying to survive to do what? To discover who I would now be and what God had in store. Chuck had a deep desire to return to his "normal" - I knew that a return to my "normal" would never be possible. However, I did have a goal of finding parts of the integral parts of the "old" me and to see them incorporated into whatever the future had to hold...

This is Part I - there is more coming. It was just getting far too long for one posting. So, don't worry, lol, I'll get into the differences regarding the ever-present company of God (definitely more powerful than Wilson!), companionship, challenges faced, etc.

Thursday, March 30, 2017

I'll take this heart break and tuck it away...

An Irish headstone says this:  "Death leaves a heartache/no one can heal/love leaves a memory/no one can steal."  In the midst of my crazy, busy life, heartache often stops me in my tracks. I often find myself in a place where I need to just suck it up and keep a stiff upper lip or else I will not be able to stifle the flood the wants to cascade forth. As I've often said, I refuse to succumb to despondency. I do my best to bite my lip and force myself to save the tears for later. If I turn my thoughts to the memories of love and the things that make me smile instead of fixating on the loss, this works well. I do my best to live my life, each day enjoying the happiness that God grants me; in the midst of this, I make my visits to his grave, knowing he is not in it, but using that time I've specifically allotted to let out the anger or sorrow, whichever emotion chooses to rise up. Sometimes it is just poignant nostalgia and a sobbing, "Why?"

Last night I had a dream that included - for the first time appearing together in one of my dreams - both Pat and my mother.  I thought this was great because they always enjoyed each other so much. Seeing them together was so fun. In my dream, I forgot a bag on top a refrigerator at a store because I left due to a stomachache (one actually woke me out of the dream). Pat offered to go back to the store and pick it up for me before it closed. This made me smile because that was how he was -- if I ran out of contact lens solution, he would offer to run out and get it, even if it was late. No matter what it was - now he most likely used the time to sneak a sneaky cigarette. At some point in the dream, I was buckling my grandson, Zane, in a carseat while talking to Wendy when I realized that Zane was born after my mother had passed and she couldn't really be there. As Pat headed off to get my bag, I realized he couldn't be there either. The dream faded and I woke up with the very real stomachache.

Kenny Chesney sings, "I'll take this heart break and tuck it away and save it for a rainy day."  I think there are some that think it is cold or heartless to adopt this perspective. I don't. I call it grit. I call it survival of the fittest.  It's the drive to DO THIS that has kept me afloat and kept me sane during this awful eight and a half months since his life ended and mine changed irrevocably.

It's no secret that lately there ain't no escape
And that I've been waking up alone
Just me and the TV and a sinking feeling
That you ain't ever coming home

But today,
The tears ain't gonna hit the floor
'Cause the boat's in the bay
And it's calling my name
So I'm heading on out the door

'Cause the sun's too bright,
The sky's too blue
Beer's too cold to be thinking about you
Gonna take this heartbreak and tuck it away
Save it for a rainy day

Death - I used a word up there - irrevocable. Irreversible, unalterable, unchangeable, immutable, final, binding, permanent. He's on the other side of that and until I join him, this change in this life cannot be changed. My love for him will never change. My memories of our life together are always with me. This is comforting and I can lean on that whenever need be. But the sun is too bright, and the sky is too blue...

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Meaningfulness or meaninglessness of things...

I committed a faux pas or a horrific error of judgment, depending on whose feelings or opinions are considered.  This past week we had a big snowstorm which led to two school snow days and a lot of shoveling. My boyfriend was visiting from NJ and wanted to help me shovel.  On my back porch were my late husband's muck boots. He suggested that he wear them since he had no snow gear with him. I said "sure" and off we went to shovel. The dogs were happy as could be - and they have been so lonesome without their master that they adore having a man around. They really respond to a man's voice and that masculine energy. Anyhow, I was taking pictures of the dogs in the snow and he wanted a picture to commemorate his first time shoveling Ohio snow. Taking pictures led to more pictures and he sat on the front porch with the dogs.  In the boots.  And I shared these pictures on Facebook. Two of my daughter's were terribly offended and felt an assault on Dad's memory by "pawning Dad's old stuff on a new body."

Years ago when Pat and I were young in our marriage and in our lives, we lived in New Mexico.  We made friends out there that we dearly loved.  We had to go back to NJ because his mother was very sick and work was slow.  We left our stuff in storage with the intent of coming back. After a couple of months, our friends offered to hold the stuff in their garage so that we didn't have to keep paying storage rent.  We accepted. We told them that they could use some of our things. Use, not take.  Anyhow, when we returned to NM one year later all that was returned to us was a large box of haphazard saved items.  My grandmother's wardrobe cabinet - gone. Pictures and paintings we loved gone.  Pots and pans, dishes - only some returned.  My cherished ceramic animal collection and tiny curio cabinet that I had loved and cared for from childhood, including a tiny miniature cedar chest of drawers with childhood treasures. GONE. Our friends had gotten involved in a cult that believed in "no graven images" - therefore, my ceramic animals were smashed or otherwise destroyed. Pat's pictures, including a large portrait of a Native American, were given to some of their relatives. We had to plead for our dinette set to be returned - it had belong to my late great aunt/godmother.  I was devastated. My stomach was filled with gnawing, aching pain and loss. BUT after prayer and anxiety, we chose the friendship over the things and over drama.  A year later when I gave birth to my daughter at 3am, this friend was at my bedside at 6am bringing scads of adorable little girl dresses to clothe my precious one.

Since that point in time, I've not had the same feeling about things.  Small things may be meaningful to me - but they get lost, memories and feelings can't.  When my diamond fell out of my ring while substituting 1st graders, I knew there was no way to find it - I had been everywhere and it was the small diamond that my husband could best afford during our youth. It meant the world to me - but it was gone. He was there, he wasn't gone. It hurt but I learned some more about things.

My husband is dead now. All the things he had are filling up this house. He collected many, many, many things and they are oozing from every closet, corner and crevice. The basement is packed. Which things should I assume hold an attachment to someone? All I know is that he is gone and I loved him. Those things aren't him. They don't even represent him to me. They are things and the person mattered far, far more. So much so that I didn't even think about those boots - he had so, so many boots - being put to use.  And yet, I'm judged callous and heartless - given all sorts of motives, I'm sure.  I'm weary of it. Very, very weary. I could build a glass shrine to encase those boots and what else shall I add to it? Gloves? The walking stick? The smelly shoes he wore far more often that I still didn't throw out? Will it bring him back? Will it make me or anyone else remember him more or someone transport him back? I don't think so.


Saturday, March 18, 2017

Though the darkness hide Thee...

Another overcast day here in Ohio. Grey clouds obscure the sun while the slightly warmer drips are causing the snow and ice to melt leaving patches of brown mud. It's the kind of day where it is easy to let stress and woes wear you down. Doubts and despair seem to love days like this. Challenges and hurts in my life were casting gloom on me that rivaled the greyness of today's sky.

After praying with my prayer partner this morning, I palpably felt the Lord's answer to his prayers for me. After praying for my thoughts to be captivated in obedience to Christ, a simple verse, Proverbs 17:22, was implanted in my head. "A merry heart does good like a medicine." I made a conscious decision to submit to God and resist the devil. We are not to be ignorant of his schemes and surely, I know from experience that he is a destroyer of joy.

This stanza of a favorite hymn began playing in my head - one my Dad and I used to sing in the car together.

Holy, Holy, Holy! though the darkness hide Thee,
Though the eye of sinful man, Thy glory may not see:
Only Thou art holy, there is none beside Thee,
Perfect in power in love,and purity

As I cleaned the house, played playdough with my grandsons, changed a diaper, and all the morning's business, it kept refraining within me and speaking to my soul.

Though distance or drama, death or circumstances separate our hearts from the hearts of those we love -- His love is still perfect, His love is still pure and He still has the power to heal our pain, relieve our doubts, quiet our despair.  When we can't seem to measure up to others' expectations or our own, He sees us with eyes of love and compassion. It may be cloudy out here in Ohio but on the other side of those clouds the sun is bright and vibrant. It is at work, melting away the snow, warming the air, bringing impending spring. On the other side of my inner cloud cover, that darkness trying to obscure my eyes from His glory, He is, as ever, the brightest light, a consuming fire. It's a struggle to get past that "sinful eye" that often wants to wallow in misery (and is too forgetful of the greatness and graciousness of God Almighty - it blows my mind how easy it is for the human heart give in to despair in spite of repeated demonstrations of God's love, care, might and power).

This passage from Ephesians 6 gives instructions on dealing with the struggle:

10 Finally, be strong in the Lord and in His mighty power. 11 Put on the full armor of God, so that you can make your stand against the devil’s schemes. 12 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this world’s darkness, and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.

13 Therefore take up the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you will be able to stand your ground, and having done everything, to stand. 14 Stand firm then, with the belt of truth fastened around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness arrayed, 15 and with your feet fitted with the readiness of the gospel of peace. 16 In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. 17 And take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.

18 Pray in the Spirit at all times, with every kind of prayer and petition. To this end, stay alert with all perseverance in your prayers for all the saints.

And this from 2 Corinthians:

4 The weapons of our warfare are not the weapons of the world. Instead, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. 5 We tear down arguments, and every presumption set up against the knowledge of God; and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.

He goes with us in every battle. He is Jehovah-Nissi, God Our Banner, it is His colors that we wage this war under. The battle isn't mine, the battle is the Lord's. His strength, not my own, is what must be relied upon. His is the victory.  He is also Jehovah-Rapha, the healer and like He healed the bitterness of the waters of Marah, He will heal the bitterness that springs up in our lives.
Self-reliance and the resentfulness that comes from self-reliance not working out so well definitely creates a bitter drink.  But again, just as the battle is the Lord's, the healing is also His.

Philippians 4:7
And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

He's holy. :)


Sunday, March 5, 2017

New creations, even when the people from your past won't let the "old you" die...

"Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.  Now all things are of God, who has reconciled us to Himself through Jesus Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation" ~  2 Corinthians 5:17, 18

Erin Dyck writing for YWAM Montana says this, "In Greek there are two words for new: neos and kainos. Neos means “new in time”, meaning an addition to something already in existence: for example a newborn baby or new year. In the New Testament, neos is the word used to express the “new” in the New Covenant under Christ (Heb. 12:14). The other new is Kainos, it means “new in nature”, implying the very first of its kind. Kainos is Paul’s choice of words to describe the “new” in 2 Corinthians 5:17. Therefore, all who are in Christ are not simply additions to the human race, but unprecedented, never done before, creations. This is the Gospel and it absolutely changes everything! If this is true, the Christian existence is an absolute phenomenon!"

It was many years ago that I gave myself to Christ. The change He made in my life then was profound - but it hasn't stopped. He has continued to transform me, day by day, chipping away at flaws and revealing sin.  I'm a work in progress, constantly being renewed by His word and made over into His image. Philippians 3:12 - 14 says this: "Not that I have already attained, or am already perfected; but I press on, that I may lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus has also laid hold of me. Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead,  I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus."

I remember what it was like back in the day when I first changed and people around me were incredulous. Some did not want to accept the change; some scorned and mocked it. Some even felt it was a fad or a flight of fancy. I remember how my late husband felt - there were many people who did not believe the change in him. He had those who felt disbelief about his conversion and were unkind enough to express it.  It was a struggle for us to be judged and scary to feel the draw of old sins and old habits. However, God does not lose any of those that He calls. Decades later the new creation, continuous being constructed, became "who" we were expected to be and the us of the past was the incredulous part.

We need to remember how hard it is for those who are new creations in Christ. There is a complete reorientation of relationships, of friendships, of behaviors... there is the judgment of those who don't believe in the change in you. They want to bring up your past, they want to discredit the changes in your life.  As you struggle to“Walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called.” Ephesians 4:1, there will be those who naysay and want to bring you down. We need to remember that people look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.  He who began a good work in that new believer has promised to them, just as He promised to you, that He will continue it until the day of Christ.

There is a definite struggle - the Lord told us the Parable of the Sower for a reason. We need to take heed that WE are not trampling new believers underfoot. That we are not the weeds that are choking them out. We need to do as the Apostle Paul did and forget those things behind us and allow new believers to forget those things behind them, everyone pressing onward to those things that are ahead in Christ.

Be gentle on new creations - the struggle with sin will still be there, but as Wayne Stiles said, "You cannot out-sin the grace of God. God the Father never abandons His children." That should be what we remind them. Sometimes a new believer who has experienced New Life may be very sensitive when recognizing sin and not politically correct about it. Spiritual blinders have been removed and it's like seeing trees for the first time. Be kind.

The world wants to hurt us, but take heart - He has overcome the world.

Bob Bennett wrote this beautiful song that has come to mean so very much to me over the years.

Lord of The Past
Every harsh word spoken
Every promise ever broken to me
Total recall of data in the memory
Every tear that has washed my face
Every moment of disgrace that I have known
Every time I've ever felt alone

Lord of the here and now
Lord of the come what may
I want to believe somehow
That you can heal these wounds of yesterday
(You can redeem these things so far away)
So now I'm asking you
To do what you want to do
Be the Lord of the Past
(Be the Lord of my Past)
Oh how I want you to
Be the Lord of the Past

All the chances I let slip by
All the dreams that I let die in vain
Afraid of failure and afraid of pain
Every tear that has washed my face
Every moment of disgrace that I have known
Every time I've ever felt alone

Well I picked up all these pieces
And I built a strong deception
And I locked myself inside of it
For my own protection
And I sit alone inside myself
And curse my company
For this thing that has kept me alive for so long
Is now killing me
And as sure as the sin rose this morning
The man in the moon hides his face tonight
And I lay myself down on my bed
And I pray this prayer inside my head

Lord of the here and now
Lord of the come what may
I want to believe somehow
That you can heal these wounds of yesterday
So now I'm asking you
To do what you want to do
Be the Lord of my Past
You can do anything
Be the Lord of the Past
I know that you can find a way
To heal every yesterday of my life
Be the Lord of the Past