Saturday, December 31, 2016

Fast away the old year passes...

"Fast away the old year passes...hail the new, ye lads and lasses!" There are many who would join me in happily shutting the door on 2016 with hopes that 2017 will prove itself to be a much happier year. 2016 was the Year of Juxtaposition for me. Success and failure. Joy and sorrow. Achievement and loss. Collaboration and conflict. Birth and death. Each tempered the other. Abundant stress is detrimental to good health - even too much good stress can play a part in causing damage, flooding the body with chemicals like epinephrine, norepinephrine and cortisol. When it's already battered from bad stress, this flood does no favors. This must be where Nietzsche developed his famous quote regarding what doesn't kill us makes us stronger. Some stress will indeed strengthen us, it keeps us alert, it helps us focus. Too much knocks us off our feet and beats us down like hail on a Dakota wheatfield.

Of course, I'm hoping (unrealistically) for a 2017 to be a year of minimal stress. 2016 saw me completing my master's degree in education, getting a job teaching 5/6th grade at a great school, teaching classes at an awesome fitness facility, building my credentials as a certified fitness trainer by completing CEUs to up my game from instructor to cycling master practitioner, yoga master practitioner and kickbox practitioner. It's hard to fully enjoy all of that wonderful good stress, all the hours, weeks and months of hard work for which at any other time I would have felt intense satisfaction. All that personal success and growth - it pales in comparison to the loss of Patrick.

The eight days spent in the varying levels of cardiac ICU were by far longer, and more arduous than any other time I can remember. Those who know me have heard me discuss my views on the viscosity of time. Time is fluid, but I believe it is chameleon-like. Sometimes it flows like water, racing past; other times, it sluggishly oozes along with the consistency of pudding. A million variations, all leading up to 10 seconds that feels like a minute, 10 hours that feels like a lifetime and a lifetime that passed by in a blink. Every moment of those 8 days watching him fight for his life was slow, painful and horror was juxtaposed with hope as time seemed to hold its breath. And then WHOOSH, the sand ran out, the timer was flipped and the pace became startlingly speedy in comparison. Here I stand, almost suddenly, at the cusp of the new year, nearly six months out from that fateful day in July.

I gained two beautiful grandchildren who just light up the world and they, along with my other grandchildren, are healing beacons of hope. Death and loss I think, are the greatest diminishers of one's ability to ability to be fully exuberant. I say to fight the melancholy, Fight the urge to sink into the depths of grief, claw and scratch your way back if you have to, but somehow get to a place where you can delight in the smile of a baby, the first time a toddler says your name, the sounds of grandchildren telling you they love you and that feeling of their small hands embraced by yours. Hold onto these moments and create mental talismans that you can use to ward off the dark.

Ecclesiastes tells us there is a time and a season for every purpose under heaven. This year the times and seasons were a jumbled, chaotic blur. So hail the new! Here's to a zephyr instead of a maelstrom.

Thursday, December 29, 2016

Let next year be Kansas...

Long ago, I drove through Kansas
Flat highway stretching to the horizon
Round sky-bowl, deep blue and containing
I felt small and I felt safe
No peaks, no valleys
A level, certain beauty
Ah, I was always one who sought the
Glory of mountain sides
The rich depth of ravines
Beauty needed to be  a wild thing to me
Full of exertion and
Sharp intakes of breath
This year, I've had my fill of wild landscapes
Of hilly climbs, of precipices
And all that effort to catch a view
I've gone too deep down
In the dark, earth of the glen
Stubbed my toes raw
Falled over too many a twisted root
This year, give me Kansas
Give me great plains
Gentle undulations
Let the topography of each day
Lend itself to travels over arrow-straight roads
Surrounded by golden wheatfields
Smiling sunflowers and meadowlarks
Let me feel small and safe
Once again

(A work in prgoress - December 29, 2016)

That piece of paper doesn't represent brain power...

It blows my mind that there are still people who judge others' intelligence by the pieces of paper they hold. Many of the most intelligent and sharp individuals I've met in this life do not hold a "degree." (And, truthfully, some of the densest and less savvy, do). My own grandfather was brilliant, an amazing writer and deep thinker, and yet he had an old-school 8th grade education. Bravo if you have been able to afford a college-education --- but if you haven't had the time or wherewithal to pursue such, don't let anyone ever try to demean you or degrade you for not holding a slip of paper. NEVER let them tell you that you are "uneducated" because you can't wave a degree in their face. Smart people don't confine their learning to some prescribed "program" of study that someone else devised. They read, they research, they listen, they study the world around them. They never stop learning. Some of the greatest minds in our world were autodidactic. The Nobel Prize in various disciplines has been handed out to numerous individuals all lacking a college degree.
Also, do not let them judge your brain-power by their personal disdain for your occupation of choice (or necessity). I know homemakers, carpenters and janitors who could provide a more intellectually stimulating conversation than many "professionals."

I went ahead and got the paper and I can guarantee you I'm not any bit more or less intelligent. It's just a token of completing certain prescribed learning. The achievement degree is all dependent upon the availability of time and money, but you and I both continue to learn, think and grow in diverse subjects.

Saturday, December 24, 2016

Long lay the world in sin and error pining...

It's my first Christmas Eve in 34 years spent without my husband. I was busily wrapping presents, stopping to run to the store for more tape and things I forgot, back to wrapping, starting to bake, washing laundry, etc. It occurred to me - without bitterness, without sadness - that Christmas at that instant, on this day, was really not any different for me than all those other years. I laughed at this thought because it was true - Pat didn't help much if any with these things. I could count on him for a run to the store to get some odd or end that I'd forgotten, maybe to run to Sheetz for coffee (always better not made at home), but his usual holiday behavior was to nap somewhere quietly and out of the way. If I broke down and began to freak out about "no help!" and "I always have to do it all myself," he might come out of hiding to very, very slowly wrap a present or two and then escape only to come out to check on any baking that was going on and steal a cookies or two. So in God's tender mercy, He has reminded me that this Christmas isn't so very different for me than other ones.  I found myself very comforted by that thought and once again, knowing where Pat gets to spend his time now.

While I busily wrapped, I had a fake fire going with holiday instrumental music. "O Holy Night" came on several times in different arrangements and I found myself singing the words in my head. I think this is the first time I've ever really thought about the words to O Holy Night:

Long lay the world in sin and error pining
Til He appeared and the soul felt it's worth
A thrill of hope the weary world rejoices
For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn
Fall on your knees

How beautiful!  And so true -- I see the world in "sin and error pining" daily and sadly, the world doesn't even realize what it is pining for. The unhappiest people I know have either rejected God outright or live in a tenuous place where they try to justify themselves by works while they remake God in their own image.  They try to downplay sin or even deny it is sin at all, calling good evil and evil good. (The magic word is "love" - not the kind of love and obedience God demands, but a licentious kind that says "anything goes" and masquerades as the real deal in society today). Their unhappiness, their lack of satisfaction, their need for "things" and self-gratification/justification speaks volumes to the pining in their hearts. Their souls don't feel their worth; they may not even acknowledge having a soul. They don't recognize that thrill of hope or they have shut it out entirely. No matter what they do they can't fill the yearning because it can only be filled by Christ. There is indeed a new and glorious morn, readily available both here and now and in the beyond we can't see yet (but Pat is surely rejoicing in); it requires nothing but faith on our part. "For it is by grace you have been saved through faith, this not of works lest any man should boast." The pining can end - we can have that joy *now* and forever. It's in His Name that all oppression will cease - falling on our knees is every much a gift to us as it is an act of worship.

I'm so thankful for that thrill of hope and that while I'm "in" this weary world, I'm not "of" it. It is my prayer that those souls who don't know their worth will find it in Him this holiday season and in the coming New Year.

1 John 5:19 We know that we are children of God, and that the whole world is under the control of the evil one.
1 John 4:4 You, dear children, are from God and have overcome them, because the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world.
John 15:19 If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you.
John 17:14-16 I have given them your word and the world has hated them, for they are not of the world any more than I am of the world. My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one. They are not of the world, even as I am not of it.

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Looking back, looking forward and looking somewhere in between...

This is the time of year when we start looking back on what we've accomplished, left undone, discovered we had darn well better do, and needn't have bothered with. It's no surprise that as a Type A I am very fond of resolutions and SMART goals.  Over the years I've had a lot of goals - to successfully homeschool my kids, to become a certified personal trainer, to get my associates degree in business, to get my bachelor of science in business, to land a management job, to do a U-turn and got back to teaching, to get my Masters in education, to get a teaching job. I threw in getting those degrees "with a 4.0 GPA" and I did it. Caregiving happened. Death happened.  I kept plugging away, checking off boxes and moving on to the next goal.

 I've probably mentioned a hundred times that my favorite poem is "If--" by Kipling. Different lines have always held varying levels of significance to me with "fill the unforgiving minute with 60 seconds worth of distance run" being my favorite.  I've certainly done that but now other parts of the poem have challenged me.  For the past few years and this one in particular, these portions have become prominent aspirations within me:
 "If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
    And treat those two impostors just the same"
 "Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,  And stoop and build ’em up with worn-out tools"  and
 "If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
    To serve your turn long after they are gone,  
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
    Except the Will which says to them: ‘Hold on!’"

The juxtaposition of Triumph and Disaster was undeniable this year - I earned my Master of Arts in Secondary Education with a 4.0 and my husband died right at the start of my final, benchmark class. I finished on time, didn't place anything on hold, chin up and upper lip stiff.  But the triumph was bittersweet because it was so deeply marred by the disastrous loss of my companion of 34 years. All the plans we had to celebrate - gone. Goals and plans for our future? Gone. It was by his bedside that I learned that I had been selected for the teaching job I love -- while he couldn't talk, I think he was conscious enough to understand. Normally we would have celebrated together but instead I was holding his hand and watching him transform into a cyborg.  It was hard, very, very hard - hence holding on when there was not a thing in me except that will which said, "Hold on."

So here I am, at the end of 2016. Building a new life, sometimes exhausted - definitely with worn-out tools, but pressing forward. Pat's been in the ground for five months now and for five months I've been learning how to navigate the world without the comfort of his presence.  Faced with the thought of making new resolutions for next year, I think my goals this year are going to be far different than my goals of past years. “It's the sides of the mountain which sustain life, not the top.” ― Robert M. Pirsig wrote in Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance. My objective then is to work - and just "be" -  on the sides of my mountain.

Pirsig's full quote of this is even better: "Mountains should be climbed with as little effort as possible and without desire. The reality of your own nature should determine the speed. If you become restless, speed up. If you become winded, slow down. You climb the mountain in an equilibrium between restlessness and exhaustion. Then, when you're no longer thinking ahead, each footstep isn't just a means to an end but a unique event in itself....To live only for some future goal is shallow. It's the sides of the mountains which sustain life, not the top.” This is so very much the opposite of me - I guess it is time I learned to put away some of my Type A tendencies in order enjoy where I am (although it is wise to always be aware of surrounds and have a map).

So I resolve to be more fully present in the present this year. Psalm 118:24 "This is the day that the LORD has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it." and Matthew 6:34 "Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own."  I'm very thankful for the happiness that God is giving me in the present moment and for the people He has chosen to place in my life.
Philippians 4:4-7
"Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!  Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near.  Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus."

Saturday, December 10, 2016

Balance, baby, balance...

"In art and dream may you proceed with abandon. In life may you proceed with balance and stealth." ~Patti Smith

An oft neglected part of physical fitness is BALANCE. Those who have been to my workout classes know this is something I preach about often. Do you want to resist falling and breaking things as you age? Do you want strong joints via strong ligaments? Balance! In your nervous system are special cells called proprioceptors. These cells tell your ear lobe where it is in relation to your big toe, or your left shoulder in relation to your right thigh. Every moment thousands upon thousands of micro corrections are happening as those neural synapses are firing. This keeps you upright and stable. You need to work these synapses - those you don't use lose ability to rapidly fire. Remember as a child how you balanced on curbs, stood on your head, hopped on one foot? You need to do these things in order to maintain the ability to do them. As you do them, you are maintaining your ability to do things like safely navigate stairs when you are 80. Stand on one foot and see how long you can hold it. Do the other foot. Balance whenever you can. This will workout your proprioception, and it will also strengthen the joints and the tissues that support them. Don't stop there. Do things that require coordination. Brush your teeth with the "wrong" hand. Learn new dance steps. Don't say, "I don't have coordination!" Say, "Wow, I will work on coordination!"

(Once you work on that a bit, start jumping up and down. Be happy. Start small. Hop on one foot, then the other. Work your way up. Don't lose the ability to jump because of age. You never know when you'll need it. I certainly want to be able to leap for joy for a long time!)

Grief control vs. controlled by grief...

"The best thing you can do is MASTER the chaos in you. You are not thrown in the fire; you ARE the fire. " ~Mama Indigo.  I identify with this so deeply. It is extremely tempting to wallow in grief and drown in memories, especially during the holidays. I refuse to believe in the idea of allowing grief to consume me as a "romantic" notion, "proof" of my love for my husband, or a socially necessary pity session. His word says I'll walk through the waters and not drown; that I will walk through the flames and not be burned. Believe me, I see the waters rising up, I feel the licking of the flames. BUT I am awake, alive, and I choose to counteract the wildfire of this year with a controlled burn or the backfire set to stop total destruction. After all, my God is a consuming fire.

I refuse to let grief own me or defeat me. I have the reality of the loss but also an awareness of the necessity of survival. For me, I know that I know that I know that no amount of crying and self-pity will bring my husband back (or my father, my mother, my sister, my beloved nephew...). There is no point for me to allow myself to feel like I can't go on because I must go on. I choose not to go on half-heartedly but with hope. Things certainly won't ever be the same but I can't change that. The sooner I accept and find the new normal, the less the sense of unreality becomes. After all, this *is* now the life I must live. Accepting redirection makes me a little bit stronger every day. Time is relentlessly marching onward - we never know when our time is up. Therefore, I intend to make the best use of that time, cherish it as best I can instead of wasting it letting sorrow master me. I cry, but I actively seek reasons to laugh. I get choked up by memories, but I fight live with contentment in the now I have been given.

See, I don't see it as ever getting "over" someone as if they or their memory are an obstacle. I see it has moving forward in the new reality, however sucky it may initially seem, because realistically and pragmatically there is no other choice. Everyone is different but I have seen people broken by grief, their future laid to waste by the inability to overcome it. I won't do that, especially when I am completely confident that he is *not* dead but alive with Christ, simply beyond my present ability to reach.

Knowing the reality of where Pat is, that there is no sorrow, he is with the Lord - that is truer comfort than anyone can imagine. Romans 8:18 "I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us." Pat is there at the big reveal. I choose to fixate on his joy, not my sorrow.

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

About those phases of grief...

My phases have been interwoven and all over the place.  From the get-go my "Shock" was mixed with "Realization" and "Transition." I knew life as I knew it was over. Disbelief that it had actually happened was there; although I had predicted this would happen for years. As I say, it has been the worst "I told you so" of my life. Anguish, alarm, anxiety were all there BUT I knew I had a whole slew of things I had to do to be safe and survive. I never felt like I could sit and let the world just stop.

I felt helpless - so I attacked that with planning, with buying a security system, by getting my new locks done.  I felt separation anxiety so I tried to fill my time so that aloneness wouldn't overwhelm me. I allowed myself to cry and cry and cry some more. I still do. When I'm angry about it, I punch things that won't hurt, I kickbox and I yell. He is not coming back. That is a fact I recognized immediately, and no amount of stagnation in a wallowing stage will change that or actually make me feel any better. Starting a new job in the midst of this took a HUGE toll on my body. Between the stress of the death, of family situations, and the new job, I was emotionally frazzled and my blood pressure was up. I overbooked myself so I retreated. I made sure I drank hibiscus-based tea every day to lower my blood pressure and calm me.

Throughout every single part of this trauma, reality and transition have been a part. Insomnia and exhaustion gripped me hard, so I forced myself to conserve energy. I don't beat myself up if I am too tired to work out. I've learned to adjust so that my workouts are still a priority and that exhaustion doesn't prevent exercise from happening.  I've actively made a point of taking control of my life. There hasn't been a stage where I haven't taken a good hard look at what responsibility I could take to make it better.

I don't see anything "romantic" about remaining single, about wearing my grief like a badge. It better serves me as an undergarment - it is THERE. It is part of my wardrobe. It is important. However, it is not going to be the outfit that I present the world every day. There is a new Keith Urban song called "Blue Is Not Your Color." Blue isn't mine - it just isn't practical to live my life relishing pain. It doesn't mean I loved Pat any less. It doesn't mean I don't love him still. It means that I am alone now. I have a life that must be lived without him. Whether he died one month ago, four months ago or even if it is two years at some point. There is no time frame where I'm suddenly "allowed" to live. I'm alive NOW. I will be busy living in that now.

The following phases are courtesy of a paper by Brooke Brite.

Phase 1 - Shock. Physical symptoms of this phase include weeping, sleep disturbance, loss of
appetite, and weakened muscles. Insomnia may persist.  Characteristics typical in this phase include feelings of unreality, confusion, disbelief, helplessness, and alarm. The confusion in this stage is the result of the inability to conceive life without the deceased.

Phase 2 - Realization. The realization phase brings prolonged stress, separation anxiety, and
disappointments. Crying, feeling angry, guilty, abandoned, and fearful takes a toll on the body. Prolonged stress is unhealthy and may lead to health problems in this phase. As exhausting as grieving may be, it is far worse to suppress emotions as it takes even greater energy to do this. Separation anxiety, another characteristic of this stage and can cause severe pain

Phase 3 - Retreat.  This phase is most commonly characterized by withdrawal, despair, decreased social support, and feeling helpless or hopeless. Physical symptoms consist of an increased need for sleep, fatigue, weakness, and a lowered immune system. The body needs to slow down and
conserve all the energy that was exerted in phase two. By the time phase three is reached
the bereaved is near exhaustion.

Phase 4 - Transition. The characteristics of phase four are accepting responsibility, taking control of
one’s life, transition thinking, regained confidence and role changing. Physical symptoms
of phase four include heightened energy levels, stable sleeping patterns, a stronger
immune system and a sense of physical well-being.

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Take care of you...

One of the things that I have been told repeatedly since the day Pat was admitted to the hospital is this:  Take care of you. Again and again this advice is offered, most recently by a friend who experienced trauma in her life and by the school counselor.  Take care of you.  It seems simple, right?  It's not as easy as it seems.

As a wife we are always taking care of our husband. As a mother we are always taking care of our children. We don't plan for those roles to end. For most women I know this is self-sacrificing service. We rarely say "no" (and when we do, we usually get raked over the coals and berated for our refusal). Over the years we forego nice underwear to buy our kids shoes. We give up hang outs with friends in order to drive our children hither and yon. When grandchildren come along, we give up evenings and weekends to spend time with them. We offer midnight support, hand-holding, hugs, listening ears and whatever is called for. When is there time to take care of ourselves?

Death happened. Devastation ripped open my heart and stomped on it. My life went all topsy-turvy, everything different, foreign, alien. Plans for tomorrow, next week, next month, crushed.  Dreams for the future, gone. Finances, housing, insurance - you name it, it is caught up in the vortex. You can't sleep, you can't eat. Anxiety and dread fill your every waking moment.  Taking care of you now seems necessary but impossible. How do you take care of you when you are in the midst of a freefall?

 A fronte praceipitium a tergo lupi - A precipice in front, wolves behind. This is what happens.  You start to crawl out from under the pain, under the despair and defeat. You find reasons to wake up and live.  And someone finds fault with it -- they want you to be well enough to manage life without assistance, still sad but comfortable enough to not be needy and in their way.  Certainly not happy. Never happy.  There is apparently a time frame that determines when you are allowed to find happiness or not. If happiness happens to surprise you, damned if it isn't inconvenient and ugly to your critics. By all means, do not be so ridiculous as to hope for there to be any joy to be found in seeing light creep back into your eyes.

Decisions have to be made. Do you sink or do you swim? Do you live or do you die? Do you hover in some half state between life and death just to please someone else who isn't walking the path you are forced to walk? Dum viviumus, vivamus - Epicurus.  "When we live, let us live."

I choose happiness.  I choose to take care of me.

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Identifying too well with my favorite poem...

Rudyard Kipling's "If--" has always spoken volumes to me. It resonated within my soul and for years I fixated on one part in particular, which is in red print. Little did I know that this season of my life would have more and more of the poem coming alive to me. It's all about stoicism - that concept of keeping a stiff upper lip. Me, I'm feeling very fragile lately, but this poem inspires me to suck up my hurt, suck up my failures, and somehow keep marching on like a good little soldier.  Anyhow, colored are the parts that are demanding attention in my life right now.

If you can keep your head when all about you  
    Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,  
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
    But make allowance for their doubting too;  
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
    Or being lied about, don’t deal in lies, 
Or being hated, don’t give way to hating, 
    And yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise: 

If you can dream—and not make dreams your master;  
    If you can think—and not make thoughts your aim;  
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster 
    And treat those two impostors just the same;  
If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken
    Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken, 
    And stoop and build ’em up with worn-out tools: 

If you can make one heap of all your winnings
    And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings 
    And never breathe a word about your loss; 
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew 
    To serve your turn long after they are gone,   
And so hold on when there is nothing in you 
    Except the Will which says to them: ‘Hold on!’ 

If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,  
    Or walk with Kings—nor lose the common touch,
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,
    If all men count with you, but none too much;
If you can fill the unforgiving minute 
    With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run,   
Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,  
    And—which is more—you’ll be a Man, my son!

“It was part of war; men died, more would die, that was past, and what mattered now was the business in hand; those who lived would get on with it. Whatever sorrow was felt, there was no point in talking or brooding about it, much less in making, for form’s sake, a parade of it. Better and healthier to forget it, and look to tomorrow.
The celebrated British stiff upper lip, the resolve to conceal emotion which is not only embarrassing and useless, but harmful, is just plain commons sense” ― George MacDonald Fraser, Quartered Safe Out Here: A Harrowing Tale of World War II

Friday, November 4, 2016

Not much of a gardener...

I was never much of a gardener
But I gave myself fully to growing a life
I labored its garden and gave it my all... I did
Poured myself fully
Spread my very life into its furrows
Watered that seed
Watched young sprouts turn to young plants
Saw them burst forth with fruit
And then in a moment, it is gone
Not drought, not harvest but sudden abandonment
Empty fields, vacant rows
Remnants of what was
What is --
Now some barren landscape
On one hand full of possibility
But on the other
So painfully stark
A field left after harvest
Forgotten fruits left to rot on the vine
Chaff and stubble amidst the clods of earth
Fall is come, winter is a moment away
Wondering if it is even worth the toil
To plant those winter crops
Did you know that if you plan
You can grow
In the cold?
I nod my head and speculate
There is life in that dirt
A heartier seed could be planted
But I'm tired
And I never was much of a gardener
Yet still...
There is life in that dirt
There is life in that dirt

Saturday, October 29, 2016

About the hierarchy of need and the criticism of others...

I had two really good conversations over last couple of days which seem different but they really tie together.

My daughter and I were talking about living your life and not "should've-ing" others or being "should've'ed" by them. The old adage about walking in someone else's shoes is very true. Unless you are "in" someone else's life, living it as they live, you have no comprehension of the intricacies of their existence that compel and propel them.

People have subtle and not so subtle ways of should've-ing you. Grief does not give you a pass card on that.  I've felt the should've-ing and the barely veiled innuendos about how I should behave or embrace aloneness, be strong, be independent, how some other way is the more noble way or whatever. This usually isn't about my happiness; it is about how how someone else wants to see me handling sorrow  and being thrust into aloneness. It's for their own benefit, not mine. Certainly it is not about what is helping me to survive.

And that is where the second conversation comes in - survival mode. In talking with my friend last night - whose walk has many similarities with my own - this came up. When you are in survival mode, you do what needs to be done to get your through the day or through the night. Things that might be important to those should've-ing you fall by the wayside.

Maslow's Hierarchy of Need portrays several levels of "need" that motivate human creatures. The first, most basic layer, is physiological needs - food, water, sleep, shelter, homeostasis. Let me tell you -when you lose your closest companion many of these get WHACKED OUT. Some people eat too much, some people forget to eat. I'm a forget-to-eater. Sleep becomes elusive. I spent a couple of months flailing around trying to find homeostasis again. The second level involves safety needs. Security of the mind, body, property, health, employment, family, morality, etc. Right away I freaked out about my housing ("How am I going to afford my house with my husband, the main breadwinner gone?") and personal security ("How will I feel safe with my strong, protective husband no longer by my side?"). I went out and learned to shoot my gun, got my Conceal Carry Weapon license, put in new locks and bought a security system. I got a second job to cover the costs of my health insurance (which Pat had always carried). My need for safety has definitely been a dominating motivator. My need to protect my health has led me to drop some activities to prevent burnout. Working at school, working at the gym, and working on the children's Christmas program are what I know I can handle right now. Since I trimmed demands on my time, my blood pressure has gone down, I've been sleeping better and have been slowly working towards a state of stability. It might not be the ultimate state, but it is what works for now.

The next level - love and belonging. That's harder. Especially when you have other people that are dealing with grief, too, and trying to find their own homeostasis at the lower levels. A father dies and you lose some of your sense of safety and security,no matter how old you are. I know I felt that when my own Dad passed away in 2011. Sometimes I still feel like a lost little girl with him gone. Within that whole motivation for love and belonging is the "not wanting to be the fifth wheel" and not wanting to be an outsider or in the way. When you have been married and had a constant companion for 33 years, you always have someone to talk to, as Pat always said, "the other half." Rip that half away and you feel half a person, half-baked, half-lived. You can be silently condemned for not embracing your aloneness and have them assume that you "don't like yourself" because you don't like being alone but it is ridiculous. It goes back to: unless they wear your shoes and experience the complexities of who you are and exist, it bears no rank. If someone widowed for years never dated or remarried pointedly expresses that their love for their husband didn't permit them to "move on" that is THEIR walk in THEIR shoes. Not yours. So are any arbitrary time limits - you can't date for month, for six months, for a year, forever... if you do or don't, it has nothing to do with lost love. It has to do with SURVIVAL.

Needs for self-esteem and self-actualization are the next two levels. For me, they often manifest in the midst of other levels. Achievement, self-confidence, respect of others, respect by others  As Maslow said, "What a man can be, he must be." Accepting who you are, finding your creativity, navigating the world in morality. I feel that accepting my strengths and weaknesses now doesn't prohibit me from discovering or developing more strengths later.

With that - I accept that I am in survival mode. I accept that there are those both close to me and on the periphery who may be chalking up "should've-ing" my way or disliking decisions I make, such as the big one: not to remain alone. “The LORD God said, ‘It is not good for the man to be alone’ ” Genesis 2:18

My need for morality in alignment with scriptural principles is a guiding factor in decisions I make in that area. I do know that for my *survival* sitting alone with my dogs, my cat, the cat that owns me, and my porch possum is not beneficial for my feeling of security, belonging and safety. And while there are those who think "strong, independent women are sexy" I could care less. My dad used to call me his "Little House on the Prairie" daughter, If you recall, people go crazy out in the frozen plains alone. Even Tom Hanks' character in Castaway needed Wilson to maintain a semblance of sanity.  Someone else said to me something about "survival of the fittest" in the last couple of weeks. Well, this is what this is for me -- and this is where I can truly say my personal strength lies, fighting for survival. No matter how many times I've cried and visions of driving in front of a train, off a cliff or whatever have flashed across my psyche, I've beat them down and captivated those thoughts in obedience to my Lord.

1 Samuel 16:7 "“for man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart."
Psalm 138:3 "In the day when I cried out, You answered me, and made me bold with strength in my soul."

Friday, October 21, 2016


The rain beats against the house
And my heart beats inside my chest
In silence, cold beneath the ground
Your heart beats no more

It's grey out there in this downpour
And it is grey, the sorrow in my soul
No crimson, yellow, hue of elation
All color is buried in that grave with you

They think I'm moving on too fast
Racing away from your memory
In that dirt, you and I
We know the bitter truth
102116 - gep

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

How long is "okay" before you are allowed to live?

Apparently, in order to satisfy the world - or adult children - the way to truly grieve is to be locked away (where they can't see you cry) but be mourning, alone and miserably unhappy for long, long periods of time. Too busy with their own lives to come around much, to see all the stuff that has to be done with their father's things (too depressing for them), but the widowed mother is still expected to sit, alone, in that home...grieving. Grieving and surrounded by the chaos of a life that has ended all too soon.

I *am* grieving. I will never stop grieving my husband and the loss of the life we shared. However, I have a new life that I *must* come to terms with. I simply adjust and adapt. I realize fully and clearly that my husband of 33 years is NEVER coming back. How can you be "disloyal" to someone who is in the arms of Jesus, who is enjoying the presence of God?

As Morgan Freeman's character, Red, said in The Shawshank Redemption, one needs to either "Get busy living or get busying dying."  I choose life. I choose a chance at happiness.

If that makes someone unhappy, then so be it.

Sunday, October 16, 2016

No turning back, so why not head forward?

How do you move on? You move on when your heart finally understands that there is no turning back.
— The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (2003)

Teetering on the edge of loss
And on the brink of being found
But not shattered
But willing to mend
Could it be that falling
Leads to flight?
Or sinking into despair?
It's all in the shift of balance
Forward or back
The focus on loss or possibility
Slip backwards
Or leap in faith
---GEP 10/15/16

My heart understands there is no return to what used to be. I'm a practical, logical soul. I can grieve without wallowing now that I've found my bearings and adjusted to this very real fact. I can't stand frozen in time, sinking in despair and mired in self-pity. I can't do it; I just can't. Does this mean I love Pat any less? Absolutely not. I just don't see any purpose to "honoring" him with unending grief. After all, I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that he's with the King. He's in heaven where some day I'll join him. I know that where he is there is no sadness or jealousy; therefore, he's certainly not rolling in his grave that I'm moving onward. I love him, I loved him. I needed him, I don't have him. I have memories and a multitude of "things" I have to figure out what to do with. He's lost to death and I must live.

Thursday, October 13, 2016

If I were dropped out of a plane...

"If I were dropped out of a plane into the ocean and told the nearest land was a thousand miles away, I’d still swim."
- Abraham Maslow

This is so true for me. Flashes of perhaps wanting to just sink under the water might have appeared (and will likely still appear) on that inner mental screen, but those are shut off quickly by the absolute necessity of being and doing "whatever it takes" for self-preservation.

I've had three months to think about what self-preservation is to me. Or rather I should say, somewhere in the midst of three months, it occurred to me what I was doing out of self-preservation and what I needed to stop doing in order to actually attain self-preservation. First, it was just staying afloat and that meant keeping my head above water with finishing school, then work, dotting some "i's" and crossing some "t's." Then I began to realize that in my zeal to cover all my bases and not feel the void, I had over-booked myself -- said "Yes" to too much, left no time for basics like laundry and unwinding in fuzzy pajamas with a dog's head resting on my lap.

In the doing of stuff that needs to be done daily, while still trying to fit in the contemplation of the doing of stuff that needs to be done to create order in the shift from the old life to the new, there has to be time allotted for finding happiness and the swim for that safe harbor. In other words, I can't be so busy doing "stuff" that I don't leave time for something I don't want to become a

Psalm 68:5-6
"Father to the fatherless, defender of widows—
this is God, whose dwelling is holy.
God places the lonely in families;
he sets the prisoners free and gives them joy.
But he makes the rebellious live in a sun-scorched land."

Psalm 147:3
He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.

Friday, October 7, 2016

And truly, this is limbo...

When your spouse dies, people tell you many things  - not just about grief - but about finding yourself, about how this can be a time of discovery, about an adjustment period.  In other words, a time of limbo, where you are neither here nor there. You can't live your old life, it is over. You are supposed to be acclimating yourself to singleness and making a new life after you find out all this stuff about yourself that has been exposed by grief and by suddenly being thrust into the realm of Being Alone.

I already know things about myself that I know won't change. Since I was a small child, I knew I wanted to be a wife, a part of a team. I'm not aching to embrace being the Independent Widow who lives a life of singleness, dedicated to other pursuits. In fact, I'm pretty resistant to that idea. Over the yearns, I learned very well that you can be part of a team and still driven, dedicated -- just with the bonus of a support system. That is something I want to have again - hopefully, for the remainder of my days. Some people do very well with aloneness, with this "I can make all my decisions, be empowered, etc." Not me. I like taking care of someone and I like being taking care of. I like the mutual give and take. Being told I'm beautiful, telling my love he is strong. I know these things about myself and I don't forsee them changing, even in this horrible place of stagnation.

People will tell you - you have your kids, your family.  When kids have kids, their time is consumed. You don't want to be a burden. You also don't want to be the proverbial fifth wheel. You simply have to find your own circle or circles to move in. Now, while I love my dogs, coming home to just them is a blessing. However, I do know deep in my heart that my desire is for human companionship and I can't be in limbo forever.  I know that He heals. I know that mourning should not last forever. Although you will always grieve and miss the loss of the loved one, that peace of knowing Who they are with *is* very comforting.  Should you then mourn and stay in a place of limbo forever? Is there some time limit that other people are stipulating?

“Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted” (Matthew 5:4)
“He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds” (Psalm 147:3).
"Weeping may last for the night, But a shout of joy comes in the morning." (Psalm 30:5)

Friday, September 30, 2016

That "all things work together for the good" thing...

My life has been full of stress this year - the death of my spouse, completing my master's degree, a new job, new babies in the family, a whole myriad of other stresses both big and small. There was something on my plate that I dreaded and was overwhelmed by recently and it suddenly seemed to get a whole lot worse. When that happened, I cried out to God, "Why do you hate me? Why are you doing this to me?" I was so upset and defeated; I couldn't imagine why it seemed He was adding insult to injury. Surely this would be the straw that broke this camel's back. But then, things changed -- I discovered that the final blow was the clincher in my deliverance from a very heavy burden. While I was railing against God, demanding to know why He was making life so hard, He was actually setting in motion that business of "all things work together for the good of those who love God."  It was so amazing and gave me so much relief from the stress I was feeling.

This got me to thinking - now I must add that I've been feeling a bit lost, Very much a ship set adrift. Driving to and from work, leaving no one at home and returning to no one. (Well, besides the dogs, the cats and now the opossum that visits, haha). It's lonely, it feels disconcerting after all those years of being a dedicated wife and lover. But, after the above happenings, it occurred to me that there is a very real possibility that the stuff that seems so horrible and terrible in my life right now just might be part and parcel to an amazing "working together for good" that I can't see yet.  A glimmer of hope rose up inside of me. I'll just have to expectantly look to Him for that good to be revealed in His time.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

When people don't understand that your life has changed...

Once upon a time I had a husband who was the main breadwinner. Once upon the time I was even a stay-at-home, homeschooling mom. When I worked as a substitute I had the flexibility of taking random days off (unpaid) to do things necessary/helpful for my adult children and their children. Do I wish I was still in the place where I could do that? Yes - but I am not.

My current situation in life is that of a new teacher at a school. I don't get paid well - it is a mission-type school. Therefore, in order to afford the high cost of health insurance, I am working a second job teaching classes at a wellness center (aka gym) two nights a week and substituting others. On Wednesday night, I volunteer at AWANA.  This means that THREE nights a week, right smack in a row, I do not catch a break. I do not get to breath and relax.

I was able to take a personal day when my daughter had her baby - and a good thing because she had complications. However, she was being induced and was in for about 30 hours before it finally happened. I knew this induction would be a long process but I had someone messaging me, asking questions and actually *shocked* that I wasn't there the whole time and rudely saying how they "assumed" I would be and why not. Do they not understand that out in the working world, you cannot just "take time off"??? I know longer have a bread-winning spouse to carry on and make sure income is coming in, bills are being paid. My employer was gracious to give me the day off on Friday. This involved me staying very late on Thursday making substitute plans and getting things ready for the following week. I was exhausted.

Another person had surgery and is hospitalized, so in spite of me being exhausted. In spite of me sitting in the emergency room for several hours with that person on Saturday, totally throwing off any hopes of being in my home doing what I needed to get done, I was pressured about being sure to be there for my Wednesday night volunteer obligation.  HELLO!  I would like to see my daughter and her baby!  I would like to bring them the meal that I prepared for them! And I would like to NOT have to feel guilty about it.  I am one person. One tired person. One frazzled-by-death-of-my-spouse and my life is NOT the same as it was.  I am not able to do and be all the things I was before. I am in survival mode and that is just how it is. DO I WANT IT TO BE LIKE THIS??? NO. No and no.  Do I have a choice? No.

I resigned my position of deaconess because I simply do not have the time or the ability right now to make arrangements for people who need prompt attention. Nor do I have time to receive phone calls after 9pm at night.  Again, WOW - I am trying to be in bed by 9 because I have to get up very early. I had weeks of insomnia that my body is still reeling from.

I'm at a point where I am losing patience for people who don't stop a minute and THINK that this is hard for me and continue to make demands on me. There is a time and a season for every purpose under heaven and I think this is my time to be given space to adjust and some compassion while I do that.

Sunday, September 18, 2016

Sundays then, Sundays now...

Mourning a spouse is not just about missing the person whose departure left this gaping hole.  The mourning of that person is heavy and hard enough but added to that is the loss of "life as you know it."

Today I'm once again faced by the crazy departure of "how I would spend a Sunday THEN" and the reality of "how I spend Sunday NOW."  Then had a definable routine.  I would wake up a bit before Pat and snuggle against him for a while. I would then make my way downstairs, light a couple of candles, roll out my yoga mat and begin my weekly long yoga workout. At some point he would come downstair, the dogs happily following him (they stayed in bed with whoever stayed there the longest).  He would let them out then come back to watch me or go back and forth between me and the kitchen if he woke up hungry. Often he'd bring his breakfast in to the living room to watch me. He or the dogs would bother me along the way. When I was done, it was kisses and off to shower and make my protein concoction. The rush began to get ready for church and out the door. We'd stop to get coffee and then head to service.  During church he would rub my shoulders and twirl my hair. I'd elbow him if his eyes started to close.  We would visit with folks afterward and then decide what to do about lunch. Eventually we'd wind up home where he would want a Sunday nap - I would either join him or work on a paper for school. Before it got too late, we would take the dogs out to a park and go for a nice long hike with them. Sometimes we'd drive them out to the lake to swim.  We'd hug and kiss, watch the sunset, talk and laugh. Then it would be off to prepare for Monday and hold each other close as we fell asleep.

Now I wake up surrounded by animals. I try to get my Sunday yoga in, but since I'm teaching it tomorrow night today I took the dogs on a long walk. I rushed and got ready to pick up my 2 yo granddaughter and then my sister to go visit my daughter in the hospital with her new son. She was being discharged so we were there about 45 minutes and we were walking her little family unit out to their car.  I dropped my sister off, got Khaleesi a kid's meal and a salad for me and went home to let the dogs out and play with her.  We hung out and read books and played until Mommy came with the big kids and their baby at 3pm. I sorted some of Pat's clothes to give away, put away my laundry, and began to cry.  Feeling incredibly alone and incredibly overwhelmed by all the things that need to be done around here. Feeling empty and hollow and just completely lost without my old life.

The calls come about things I should do or am I do, will I do. I'm discomfited by the changes, by the mayhem that is my home with piles of clothes, stacks of papers, things that must be sorted and absolutely no time to do it.  It's two months now. I think people thought I was so strong that they expect me to be moving on, to shouldering my burdens well, but little do they know that I'm just cruising through chaos and my ship is being blown wherever the storm takes me.

A collection of quotes...

“We all want to do something to mitigate the pain of loss or to turn grief into something positive, to find a silver lining in the clouds. But I believe there is real value in just standing there, being still, being sad.”
― John Green

“For in grief nothing "stays put." One keeps on emerging from a phase, but it always recurs. Round and round. Everything repeats. Am I going in circles, or dare I hope I am on a spiral?

But if a spiral, am I going up or down it?

How often -- will it be for always? -- how often will the vast emptiness astonish me like a complete novelty and make me say, "I never realized my loss till this moment"? The same leg is cut off time after time.”
― C.S. Lewis, A Grief Observed

“My idea of God is not a divine idea. It has to be shattered time after time. He shatters it Himself.”
― C.S. Lewis, A Grief Observed

Monday, September 12, 2016

Chunks of artificial construct...

Two months today since Pat left this world to be with his Savior. From one 12th to the next, to another, the months have been marked. Artificial constructs, manmade to mark the passage of something we sense and feel as we move through it, something that we exist "in" but is intangible and vanishes before we can ever truly own it.  We waste it, we kill it, we savor it and cherish it but we never know how much of it we truly have. Time rushes past or it plods along, but it always moves onward. In the present I type this, but already in the past are the movements that brought these words to print. Today marks two such chunks of this liquid, elusive stuff that lives are measured by, Months - a collection of weeks, days, hours and minutes demarcated by man, and measured by a ticking of a clock.  Two of these have passed separating the time since I last touched his living (albeit barely), breathing (by virtue of machines), flesh and blood body and today where I sit here without him. "For we are only of yesterday and know nothing, Because our days on earth are as a shadow." ~Job 8:9

Somewhere in eternity, he is passing time the Lord's way with a day as a thousand years and a thousand years as a day. No sorrow to mark it as we do on earth, measuring our grief in sad days that gather and collect themselves into months that pass.

“Time is very slow for those who wait;
very fast for those who are scared;
very long for those who lament;
very short for those who celebrate; but for those who love, time is eternal.”

- William Shakespeare

I'm not especially melancholy today, just philosophical.

Sunday, September 11, 2016

The part where reality sinks in...

The other day, I referred to Pat as my "late husband."  A page turned, a chapter ended. I hope this is still the middle of the book because I have never liked sad endings.

I went out on a quasi-date with someone I did not really know well at all. It was odd - nice man, no chemistry whatsoever. In person, he looked too much like an old pastor of mine and it was unnerving.  And the act of going out on this quasi-date made reality really dig its roots down. I came home and felt incredibly lonely. Incredible alone. As if my aloneness had been just a dream state that I was sure I would wake up from ...but this action was the proverbial slap upside the head that said, "You are awake, dummy! This is your reality."

And it is. I'm a widow. I'm alone. I have no one to curl up on bed with at night - if you don't count my dogs. No one to rub my shoulders, no shoulders to rub. No one who is putting the toilet paper on the roll backwards or forgetting to put the seat down.

Sunday, August 28, 2016

And the ring came off...

It was time. 46 days after his death and I was still wearing my ring. It anchored me to a life that I no longer live, bound me to a hollowness that I need to fill. Do I love him less with the ring off my finger? No. Does it in any way erase the years, damage the memories, salt the wound? No. But removing it from my left hand tells my heart that I kept my vows - and it was until "death do us part." The parting has occurred; the love lasts forever but the vows are complete.

And so, here I stand, ringless. Unattached and needing to face the world as "me."

It's funny how there are people who love to share advice - there are those who would see me be alone and widowed, directing my energy into some solitary endeavor like my career, missions, etc., bound forever to memory.  Then there are those who want to encourage me to enjoy the independence of singleness - to be strong, powerfully steering my own ship into the land of Alone at Night.

But as for me, who am I really? I am a woman who is a nurturer - I like taking care of someone and I like being taken care of. I like the symbiotic relationship of true partners. I like having someone in the boat with me to work with to get to wherever the destination may be. I'm not a fan of waking up in the morning and not being accountable to another soul. The ring is off and that naked finger symbolizes how cut off and bereft I am of everything that has always meant so much to me.

Friday, August 26, 2016

I miss you...

I miss you... There are not enough words in the whole wide universe to express the emptiness in my life without you.

I miss your strong hands - always twirling my hair, rubbing my neck, the way you placed one on the small of my back when you walked into a room with me.

I missed our morning ritual of kisses. If I was still in bed, you'd kiss me and then either come back and kiss me again or I'd run to the stairs and kiss you at the top.  If we were downstairs, we'd kiss in the kitchen and you'd say good-bye, but we would always kiss again on the porch. There I would stand and tell you to "Drive safe!" If you didn't say, "Yes, dear," you would make a joke and I would watch you drive away.

I miss the way I would wake up and find you kneeling on my side of the bed, staring at me and watching me sleep.

I miss hearing your voice and all the stories you told me about your day and about your projects.

I miss listening to you talking to the dogs. They miss that, too, and all the treats you gave them! I'm not very good at eating things to share with them. They were even desperate for watermelon the other day.

I miss hearing you breathe, stroking your silky soft hair, making you smile, telling you I love you, being your wife.

Patrick, I  miss you.

Saturday, August 20, 2016

Picard on time...

"Time is a companion that goes with us on a journey. It reminds us to cherish each moment, because it will never come again. What we leave behind is not as important as how we have lived." ~Captain Jean Luc Picard

It's no secret that I'm a STNG sort of Trekkie.  Smattered throughout the series are veins of classical literature and bits of wisdom like the above. This one has always struck me hard. Time - you think you have so much of it, or you whine that you have too little of it. However, as Picard stated, it is our constant companion and how we interact with that companion is of crucial importance.  Yesterday, we had a speaker at school (Stephanie, I didn't catch his name) and so many good nuggets to think on came from his talk.  One of these was this, "Every child, every situation passed through the Master's Hand before it got to you."  Think of that! Whoever you interact with, whatever situation arises in your life - He molded it, He arranged it.  It isn't trivial by any reckoning. How we relate to that child, that person, or that situation must be indeed very important as it has been arranged by the Father. The situation that makes us crabby or frustrated? What is God trying to refine in us? The person who exasperates us - what compassion, kindness or patience does God want us improve in its exercise? That situation that feels so utterly overwhelming? I'm pretty sure in my case that He's been teaching me to stop feeling so self-reliant and shed some layers of control-freak because when I admit to weakness, I get to see HIs amazing strength and love at work in ways that my "I got this" autonomy blinds me to.

It is critical to maintain awareness of that silent, always moving companion, Time, and how the Lord has arranged its inhabitants and circumstances along our path.

 “Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is.” – Ephesians 5:15-17

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Grace in the fray...

I was thinking about grace today. This morning I got my final grade (already!) and got full points, completing this degree as I determined to do: with a 4.0 GPA. Now it stings to think of Pat not being here to celebrate with me BUT I was bemoaning the timing of his death at what seems like a completely inopportune time and realized that must STOP.

God's timing is impeccable; He knows best. This was terrible, horrible and I miss him - but happening when it did was also full of grace. It happened during the break from school. I was able to be at the hospital for hours/days on end. Because of it happening when school was out, I've had over a month to cry, scream, melt, etc. In a typical job, I wouldn't have that. I would've been crying on the job and well, I'm not a fan of crying in front of everyone AND once it starts I can't hold it in. There is so much grace in that timing. Grace I did not deserve.

Also full of grace, God knows who I am better than I do. He knew that I wouldn't throw in the towel, drop out, finish at another time. He gave me something difficult that required tenacity to finish during this tempest of emotion and logistical insanity. That was grace because it gave me focus. I had to be focused on my personal goals. It took a lot of fight to focus and to excel.

There was grace, too, in my fears of being all alone in this house - that fear spurred me to learn how to use my gun and get my CCW. My dogs will appreciate that because I won't be afraid to take them out in the woods alone.

As another verse says, "I know who I have believed in and am persuaded He is able..." Knowing Him gives us confidence in HIM. He's faithful when we aren't. Hebrews 4:16 "Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need."
So if I moan about the timing of it all again, someone smack me upside the head and remind me about grace.

2 Cor 12:9 "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"

Deuteronomy 31:6 “Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the LORD your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.”

Time on my hands...

Today I submitted my final project to complete my Master of Arts in Education. My husband was not here to celebrate with me - instead, his body is six feet under and he is with the Lord.  We had talked about the time we would have when this was complete, the things we were going to do. Instead it will just be me with an empty house and time on my hands.

When this whole journey started, you were unhappy as to my reason why I began my return to school.  After the double pneumonia scare where I came close to losing you way back in 2004, I told you that I needed something to fall back on if your health did not hold up. I was upset because you began sneaky smoking again, refused to follow the diet for your hypertension, refused to take medications because you didn't like the side effects and would never give anything time to adjust.

So...first I did a medical transcription program, but although I did well, it was incredibly boring. Then I went for my dream - I became a certified fitness training through two accredited certifying agencies. I started teaching a class at the gym four times a week and training clients, very part-time. We were still homeschooling and you were very resistant to me working outside the home so much.  Along the way, I realized that would never be much of a big income maker.

The world came crashing down when your company downsized and you lost your job of 20 years. Oh, they wanted you to stay at a much, much lower rate and be subordinate to people  you trained (just so they could use your knowledge). Your pride said no to that and I agreed - you were right, without you and the other middle-aged long termers they screwed they went down in flames.  However, our income never recovered. You did finally land in a company that treated you well, with people who you loved to work with and respected. They treated you like family and valued you. Our income as 3/4 of what it had been, You still weren't taking care of yourself.... I went back to school.

You didn't like it. You complained. You felt like you were losing me. It worried you. We lost people during it - Martha, Dad, Sam, two beloved dogs. We faced some really big struggles and overcame some difficult obstacles during this time. We both hated the job I got with my business degree; management in a crooked company doesn't do a lot for morale.

When I decided to substitute teach, you were all in. You were my staunchest supporter. You believed in my education degree this time - although you felt I knew enough, knew more than was necessary and you really disliked the whole system of it. You couldn't understand how I could pass all of those knowledge tests and still have to have the credits. But you were proud and you called me, "Teach."  We started to plan.

The kids were all growing up, getting married, moving to their own little family units. You loved having me to yourself and we began to enjoy each other's company like we hadn't in years upon years. It almost seemed sudden - we got our "coupleness" back. We were waiting for this degree to end to do all sorts of things together. Save more for retirement. Travel to the graves of our ancestors. Play more. Snowshoe. Get a small boat.

And now, I've finished the degree. I've got my Master of Arts in Education -- and I do not have you. I do not have you to spend the time with, I do not have you to share the joy of completion. In fact, completion doesn't even seem joyful at all without you here.  I have the paper, I have the time, and I have no you.

Monday, August 15, 2016

You don't text...

This morning I woke with a start and grabbed my phone. It was after 7am and you hadn't texted to tell me you had arrived at work safely. My mind raced to the text I was about to type, "Hey, where are you? Get there safe? I love you." Then the emergency brake in my mind activated and I realized: You aren't going to text. You aren't safe at work. You'll never text me from work again.

No, we hadn't had our morning kisses good-bye.  Our tradition - if I'm in bed you kiss me, but then I run to the stairs to kiss you again - or sometimes you want me to rest, so you just come back.  Or when I'm downstairs and we kiss at the door, you walk to the edge of the porch, I say, "Wait..." I meet you as you step down a step so our height is more equal and we kiss again, you lightly pulling my lip in. I watch you walk to the car and tell you , "Drive safe." You either say, "Yes, dear" or "I'm going to drive recklessly, ha ha."  33 years of this - even when we were mad about something, you still always kissed me and returned to kiss me again.

I don't know why I hadn't been hit hard by the no at-work-now text until today. Maybe it is because I slept almost 8 hours. Oh, I did wake up in the middle of the night, feet cold, stress tensing my body, but I beat it back and fell back asleep and dreamed. I dreamed that I had a book published. You always wanted me to do that. You told me again and again that I was the best writer you knew and that I needed to write a book, to write children's books, to write anything because you knew whatever I wrote would be great. The book I started is on the computer that broke - I'll get the stuff from the hard drive off soon and I'll finish it...and you will be in it. Lots of things about you.

Sunday, August 14, 2016


"When the stars line up
And you catch a break
People think you're lucky
But you know its grace

It can happen so fast
Or a little bit late
Timing is everything

You know I've had close calls
When it could've been me
I was young when I learned just how fragile life can be
I lost friends of mine
I guess it wasn't my time
Timing is everything

And I could've been the child that God took home,
And I would've been one more unfinished song
And when it seems a rhyme is hard to find
That's when one comes along
Just in time"
from Timing is Everything (Natalie Hemby, Troy Jones)

It is really comforting to know that "Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them." ~Psalm 139:16 Things that seem like coincidences or happenstance, well, they aren't - it is GRACE. Often we just don't recognize it because we don't understand it. That undeserved favor may appear as an inconvenience or even as a tragedy, but there is something afoot that God understands that we just don't. Occasionally we get blessed by getting to see how the pieces of this puzzle of life all fit together; sometimes we're still waiting for that.

I decided not to cry yesterday, but to be happy. I realized that some days I need to let myself weep and other days I need to let myself feel joy. To be able to "feel" - really, really *feel* is a blessing that I think we take for granted. Sure, we like to feel joy but it is nice, but I think that feeling pain, though unpleasant, also testifies to our life, to our love, to our depth of care and there is a loveliness to the ache as long as we don't let it overcome us. "He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end." ~Ecclesiastes 3:11

Saturday, August 13, 2016

A spoonful of medicine...

Proverbs 17:22
A merry heart does good, like medicine,
But a broken spirit dries the bones.

Today I choose to be happy. Today I choose to laugh, to smile and to find fun in the ordinary.

Friday, August 12, 2016

One month...

One month has passed since you went to be with Jesus and left us all behind. One month of learning to be lonely. A month that feels like it was yesterday and that it has been forever all at the same time.

I've cried. Buckets. Rivers. Oceans.
I've screamed. Punched things - YOUR things.
I've cursed in ways that would make a sailor tell me to wash my mouth out.
I sleep in your shirts, surrounded by the dogs who try to keep me close.

After the initial tearing up things looking for important stuff that you forgot to put back where it belonged, I've left it all a disaster. Your stuff. Everywhere. Heaps of it. I yell at it and I punch it some more when I'm angry at you for going.

I'm mystified by the things you kept, the things you accumulated - and I'm overwhelmed because they make me hurt to see and yet it will hurt to not see them.

I know I told you this would happen for years as I begged, nagged & pleaded for you to take care of yourself the right way- I know this is the worst "I told you so" of my life. I didn't want to be right. I scream that, I cry that - the walls of this house will probably hold those cries forever. I wanted you to listen or to prove me wrong or simply just not die - not at 55. I thought there was time. Don't we always think there is time?

I'm mad at you for leaving, but I'm not mad at God. I won't be mad at God. I mourn for me, for our daughters, for our grandchildren. But God, oh my Father in Heaven, He made sure that this wouldn't be permanent. Way back in 1984 you chose Him and even though this hurts so badly, so painfully, so violently - He called you by name and you are His. So in spite of my grief you are more than okay, you are changed. You're seeing HIM. I know that God doesn't love us less because He took you away.

1 John 3:1-2 "See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are. The reason why the world does not know us is that it did not know him. Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is."

Thursday, August 11, 2016

The ride of my life...

Daring drops, steep ascensions, corkscrew turns...and all I wanted to ride was the lazy river.  I remember thinking a few months ago that life had been peaceful. I was wary because in my experience peaceful periods have been followed by a variety of stress-makers, anything from annoyances to tragedies. Sometimes it has been a season of things that can break breaking, ordeals with health, with children, with work, and other times it has been one death after another.

"A click clacking my heart keeps making an ominous sound
That chain keeps dragging me up just to drop me back down
I think I'm over the hump enough to see the other side
That's when another thought of you runs through my mind" ~Eric Church

When I was a child my family vacationed in Montreal and went to the remnants of the Expo ’67 World’s Fair. (Boy, do I have stories about this vacation such as staying at a Lithuanian monastery instead of a hotel). On that trip my brother and I chose to take a turn on a seemingly exciting but we thought mild ride called “The Turbo.” Once we were strapped in and it started moving, it didn’t seem like such a terrific idea anymore.  We were buckled – and I use that term loosely, like the buckles were – into an ovoid container with a cage like front. This was perched on a twisting arm which was connected to another twisting arm. The passenger vessel rotated, the arms rotated, and you, the silly person to get on this contraption, rotated up, down, sideways, over, in a diversity of motion that was enough to make you sick. Now that’s the point of most rides, right? To terrify you and make you feel ill but possibly exhilarated. However, this ride had a problem - the cage was not staying shut, the iron buckle bar was not holding us in. Every time it pitched us face forward to the ground from dizzying heights, it became more and more clear that we were about to die. We screamed, “Let us off! Let us off!” The maniacal carnie behind the controls smoked his cigarette and paid us no heed. Our parents demanded the ride by stopped. Nope. It continued. And continued. And continued. The sadistic operator probably enjoyed his power over two scared kids. Eventually, the ride ended – and with it any derring-do I may have had.

"Pain points his gun and I hold my hands up high
Off the edge I go
On this roller coaster ride" ~Eric Church

Oh, well. Today is a "Buck up, Buttercup" kind of day, in a buck up sort of week. I’ve walked my dogs and visited Pat’s grave daily. I filled out two tax forms where I had to check “single.” The first time I got all teary-eyed, the second time I handled it. I turned in my next-to-last assignments for my Master’s Degree and am finishing the benchmark – my degree is complete in 6 days with a 4.0 GPA. I scheduled my part of a field trip for my class, got my school logon, did some room organization, and some planning – and am so excited about meeting my students. I accepted a fitness instructor position at a really nice local gym – so for the next three Tuesday evenings I’ll be teaching a Power Yoga class and then in September I’ll have my own classes including a Kids Yoga class. I got my hair trimmed. I resigned as a substitute at most of my districts.  I played with grandkids, read stories in a tent, and chased Pokémon with one daughter, shopped with another. I’m about to get busy on the “thank you” notes that are waiting to be written. Step by step, I’ve propelled myself forward...although I strongly suspect it has been God carrying me along.
Job 17:9 says “The righteous keep moving forward, and those with clean hands become stronger and stronger.”

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

But I don't want to go to adventuring...

Texting with a friend this morning led me to a realization:  I'm a Hobbit and unfortunately, more in the Bilbo sense than in the Frodo. Gandalf approaches him with, "I am looking for someone to share in an adventure that I am arranging, and it's very difficult to find anyone."  "I should think so — in these parts! We are plain quiet folk and have no use for adventures," replies Bilbo. "Nasty disturbing uncomfortable things! Make you late for dinner!"  An unnamed writer says this, "And I can't say I much disagree! You have to be a little bit cracked to want to go on an adventure. Think about it. If you had the choice between a comfortable life where you have all the jammy muffins and frosted scones you could wish for, a warm home filled with creature comforts, a strong community--and sleeping outside on the rocky ground in the cold rain eating what sour berries you come across (and perhaps a mangy squirrel if you're lucky), risking life, limb, and happiness to accomplish some goal you think is for the greater good, which would you choose?" So I agree with Bilbo, "Sorry! I don't want any adventures, thank you. Not today. Good morning!"

Experiencing this sudden change of life - the death of my companion of 34 years - is like being scooped up from a nice hobbit-life and dropped into the middle of an adventure in loneliness and survival that you did not sign up for. One minute, you're in the Shire with little Shire problems to overcome and the next, you're on your way to on some crazy adventure and you don't even know what its purpose is.  Now Frodo, he had a purpose and he steeled himself to destroy that ring because the fate of the world depended upon it. So this definitely isn't a case of being Frodo - and Frodo also had Sam, Merry and Pippin risking life and limb with him for the cause. Conviction dragged them out of their warm hobbit holes and into the wild. It's very different for me - I feel I'm just a standard Hobbit and by some crazy mistake got sent down a road to fight dragons and encounter goblins without exactly understanding the purpose. And somehow, someway I'm supposed to be viewing it as an adventure and not a trial.  I get occasional glimpses of something Tookish awakening inside me, wondering what is out in the Wild...but I'm still longing for the safety of my hobbit-hole and quiet hobbit life.

Gandalf makes this clear: “There are no safe paths in this part of the world. Remember you are over the Edge of the Wild now, and in for all sorts of fun wherever you go.”  Fun? Really? Leaving the Shire to head to Lonely Mountain doesn't seem like such a joyous journey at the present though I suspect its going to be very character building.

Proverbs 20:24 "The LORD directs our steps, so why try to understand everything along the way?"
Jeremiah 10:23 "I know, LORD, that our lives are not our own. We are not able to plan our own course."

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Grief as it staggers in stages

Grief is not a tame animal. It doesn't wax and wane with any predictability. It can consume and it can lurk. When it consumes me, I'm all-out crying or yelling. Sometimes, however, it lurks - I'll be having a moment that I'm "in" and it seems like grief is not on the agenda, then I'll feel its eyes on me, slowly the stealthy fingers tremble their way up my spine until I'm overtaken by shudders and tears. Whether it seizes me or not at that moment is not predictable; it's a capricious being.  There are, however, some sure behaviors that I know will unleash the flood of sorrow. There is "that look" - the one that people give you when they ask "How are you doing?" These are the people who know you well or have been through this themselves - a empathetic wavelength gets established and you cannot free yourself as "the look" pierces to your soul and you're caught. All masks are off and any calm facade is flung away.

Sunday, August 7, 2016

On falling...

For today's morning yoga, I decided to to a cross training workout that hit strength, flexibility, and balance. Made me think about where I am in life, struggling to find the right mix of these things emotionally and just "life wise." Right now I'm feeling very contemplative about my mix; a bit shaky, a bit unsure - trying to be strong but allow myself to accept where I'm weak, trying to be flexible but not stupidly so, and working at staying vertical. Travis Elliot says, "You will fall in yoga, just like you will fall in life." This is true. Sometimes you will fall from your own failings, sometimes you will fall due to something outside your realm of control. Nobody likes falling. My daughter, Rhianna, shared the other day how her son, Liam, was upset by the end of the song "Rockabye Baby" where it says "and when the bough breaks the cradle will fall and down will come baby..." Not a pleasant thought, that of a baby crashing to the ground. I reminded her of how I always sang it to them "and when the bough breaks the cradle will fall, but Jesus will catch you, cradle and all." Unsafe, unexpected things happen. Boughs break. Cradles fall. But there is a Hand to steady you, to uphold you, to lift you up.

Psalm 37:23-24 The steps of a man are established by the LORD, And He delights in his way. When he falls, he will not be hurled headlong, Because the LORD is the One who holds his hand."

2 Corinthians 4:9
Persecuted, but not forsaken; cast down, but not destroyed;

Psalm 20:8
They are brought down and fallen: but we are risen, and stand upright.

Psalm 54:4
Behold, God is mine helper: the Lord is with them that uphold my soul.

Sunday, July 31, 2016

Thoughts on Invictus...

Invictus - William Ernest Henley

Out of the night that covers me,
      Black as the pit from pole to pole,
I thank whatever gods may be
      For my unconquerable soul.

In the fell clutch of circumstance
      I have not winced nor cried aloud.
Under the bludgeonings of chance
      My head is bloody, but unbowed.

Beyond this place of wrath and tears
      Looms but the Horror of the shade,
And yet the menace of the years
      Finds and shall find me unafraid.

It matters not how strait the gate,
      How charged with punishments the scroll,
I am the master of my fate,
      I am the captain of my soul.

( In 1875 one of Henley's legs required amputation due to complications arising from tuberculosis. Immediately after the amputation he was told that his other leg would require a similar procedure. He chose instead to enlist the services of the distinguished surgeon Joseph Lister, who was able to save Henley's remaining leg after multiple surgical interventions on the foot.

While recovering in the infirmary, he was moved to write the verses that became "Invictus". This period of his life, coupled with recollections of an impoverished childhood, were primary inspirations for the poem, and play a major role in its meaning. (From Poetry Foundation's biography of the poet).

As much as I want to lay down and let it all be over with, say "Screw this fight!" and just lay in the dirt, I, too have been equipped with an unconquerable soul. But I don't blindly thank "whatever gods may be" because I intimately know the One True God who made me more than a conqueror in Christ Jesus (Romans 8:37).

God gave me free will, so yes indeed, I am the captain of my soul. As captain, I choose to fix my eyes on Jesus, the Author and Finisher of my faith "who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God." I can't help myself, no matter how much I want to give up and forget moving on, I'm destined to be an overcomer. I'm destined to be held in the arms of my God.  You see, the word says "Cast your cares on the Lord and he will sustain you; he will never let the righteous fall” (Psalm 55:22) That means I'm going to stand because He means for me to be upright.

Widow. Just say it. You are a widow.

Widow. You've lost your spouse of 33 years and you are widowed. Part of a vulnerable class of women and feeling it more and more every day. Once a part of a "Mr. & Mrs." you find yourself suddenly bereft of that companionship and all the intricate ways that the partnership worked. He took out the trash, you did the dishes. He did the home repairs, you kept the beds made and the laundry clean. All those years of working out a system of give and take, push and pull, supplement and complement - and suddenly it is all gone. Not only are you missing a chunk of your heart but you are now also feeling the lack in every other area where the two of you had worked out a system of living. He's been your conscience and you've been his, your checks and balances, the strong one or the weak one depending upon the situation. You've held each other up and sometimes brought each other low. The unthinkable happens, (yes, the inevitable but perhaps unthinkably soon?) and suddenly there is a rip in the very fabric of who you are.

Two became one. One flesh. One existence. Bound together by name, by love, by struggles, by every intricacy of life. People try to be helpful and encourage you through their grief by identifying with their own losses. The loss of the spouse is not the same as the loss of a parent, as the loss of a child, or as a divorce. This is not at all to reduce the gravity of those horrible catastrophes nor to disrespect or diminish them; they are simply not the same. I've lost both of my parents, my sister, my nephew who I once raised like a son. I know very well the pain of those agonies, as well as the loss of two mother-in-laws, two father-in-laws (my husband was adopted, we found his birth parents), a brother-in-law, and a dear friend. These were all extremely painful, they were all difficult and terrible in their own right.  Becoming a widow is simply a different beast entirely. This is a losing a part of one's own flesh because God made you one entity.

 “Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail” (Lamentations 3:22).

In a barren land...with who knows what lurking in the shadows

I love this woman's description "the grey mud flats."
"It’s when the drama is over and you face the grey mudflats of the future that the real widowhood begins... You don’t ‘get over’ the man, though you do after a year or two get over the death; but you have to learn to live in another country in which you’re an unwilling refugee.” ~Writer and agony aunt Katharine Whitehorn, who lost her husband in 2003 after 45 years of marriage.
It really does feel like being in some barren, alien landscape. The instinct that propels you forward is survival, but without a map I wonder about the many points where you just want to lay down, refuse to go further and be consumed by tentacled beasts just to get out of there. If you know the distance from point A (the land of Used-to-Be) and Point B (land of Adjusted-to-New-Normal) is a certain distance, you at least have a clue as to how many sleepless nights, how many days of struggle. This is like being conscripted to the crew of Columbus' first voyage and having no idea how big that flipping ocean is and what monsters lurk in it.

Psalm 119:50 says:
"My comfort in my suffering is this: Your promise preserves my life." Comforting, but I'm wondering how long the "How long, Lord?"phase is going to be. There is *no* map. David did plenty of the "how long Lord-ing."

27 days since we last spoke, 15 days buried. Might as well be "days adrift at sea" and I am *not* a fan of the ocean.

1 Peter 1:3-9 is a good reminder this morning of the living hope we have in Him. Then there is 1 Chronicles 29:15, "We are here for only a moment, visitors and strangers in the land as our ancestors were before us. Our days on earth are like a passing shadow, gone so soon without a trace." At least I can say I will wind up with greater understanding of how the Israelites felt wandering in the desert or being carted off to Babylon against their will. 😐

Friday, July 29, 2016

Amputated but not injured?

“The death of a beloved is an amputation.” C.S. Lewis wrote this after losing his wife, Joy. Living in the symbiotic relationship of husband and wife, when suddenly SNAP that person is gone, it really does feel like a huge chunk of "you" is missing. You've been sharing the same air, the same chores, the same joys and sorrows and then, presto, are alone. 

I was having one of "those" mornings when I saw a post with a video of a Crossfit competition with amputees who were killing it. I was reading an article about this and Jason Sturm, Rubicon coach & vice-chairman says to new athletes, "Stand up, you’re not injured. Yeah, you are missing a limb, but you’re not injured. You're completely fine. Get up, do work.” He told himself, "Reject your sense of injury and the injury itself disappears.” So, how do I apply this to my situation? I know that "my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus" Philippians 4:19. I guess right now I'm just finding out what all those needs are.

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Evening thoughts...

It has been sixteen days since Pat passed away. Twenty-four days since this ordeal began. The clock has continued to tick, the dates on the calendar have continued to begin and end. I've washed laundry, swept and vacuumed floors, and cleaned toilets - as usual. I've also taken out the trash, the recycling, tried to un-green the pool and many of the jobs that were "his." Five o'clock rolls around and Sasha, "his" dog, and I both expectantly listen for the car pulling in the driveway that never comes. She knows it isn't coming and she sighs as she lays her head between her big paws. We breathe in, we breathe out. I try to remember to eat. Funny how the dogs aren't seeming to have too much trouble with that.

I had brought Sasha to the funeral home to see his body. Until I did that she was racing out to every car that arrived, circling, sniffing the tires, the doors, wondering where he was and why.  The day before the funeral when I brought her to the private family viewing she raced across the room to the coffin and jumped up on it. She was wagging and she stuck her face in with him and sniffed; puzzled, she turned away hopped down and circled the room, sniffing. That was it, no more going to the coffin. She sensed that it was his body but that "he" was no longer there. From that night on the circling of the visiting cars stopped.

And so time plods by and I try to fill it. Aching moments of loneliness roll in like waves and then go pull back from my attempts at busy-ness. Acceptance blurs with surreality. I picked out the gravestone today. Do I put my name on it as well? I'm fine, really I am; I'm a fine pretender, that is. Sixteen. Twenty-four. Before I know it, there will be birthdays and holidays, tick-tick-tick-tock, without him. Without "us."

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Woe! Woe! What's to become of me? Well...

"Imagine yourself as a living house. God comes in to rebuild house. At first, perhaps, you can understand what He is doing. He is getting the drains right and stopping the leaks in the roof and so on; you knew that those jobs needed doing and so you are not surprised. But presently He starts knocking the house about in a way that hurts abominably and does not seem to make any sense. What on earth is He up to? The explanation is that He is building quite a different house from the one you thought of – throwing out a new wing here, putting on an extra floor there, running up towers, making courtyards. You thought you were being made into a decent little cottage: but He is building a palace. He intends to come and live in it Himself.”
― C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity

I was having a conversation with a friend about the way things were "supposed to be" and now they aren't going to be that way at all. I was wallowing in the enormity of it, gearing up for another Eliza Doolittle bawling session, "What's to become of me? What's to become of me?" He reminded me to take one day at a time, that there were many things to see, many things to do, and that things will turn out alright. While it is hard to let go, I'm beginning to accept the concept that just because it isn't the future I planned, it doesn't mean there won't be good.

Proverbs 16:9 NLT says, "We can make our plans, but the LORD determines our steps."
Proverbs 19:22 says, "Many are the plans in a person’s heart, but it is the LORD’s purpose that prevails."

These make it pretty clear - we can plan all we want, but God is going to determine the steps. His Word tells us that He plans good for us, but as Lewis said elsewhere, we don't doubt that but we do worry how painful that good will be. That is where I am - in the thick of the pain, reeling from how painful it has been and wondering how painful it is yet to be.  Of course, I don't like pain. I had a pretty comfortable path planned out and suddenly I'm facing the Unknown. For someone like me who likes the "i's" dotted and the "t's" crossed, I'm faced with an unfinished cursive sentence and since the pen is still traveling the i's and t's remain incomplete.

Scottish Poet Robert Burns was plowing up his field in the fall and plowed right through a nest that a poor mouse had made for the coming months of chill and lack. In one unexpected moment, man inadvertently had laid waste to the mouse's hope and security for winter.  You will recognize a famous line in this poem used to title a very popular novel:

Thou saw the fields laid bare an' waste, 
An' weary winter comin fast, 
An' cozie here, beneath the blast, 
Thou thought to dwell- 
Till crash! the cruel coulter past 
Out thro' thy cell. 

That wee bit heap o' leaves an' stibble, 
Has cost thee mony a weary nibble! 
Now thou's turn'd out, for a' thy trouble, 
But house or hald, 
To thole the winter's sleety dribble, 
An' cranreuch cauld! 

But, Mousie, thou art no thy lane, 
In proving foresight may be vain; 
The best-laid schemes o' mice an 'men 
Gang aft agley, 
An'lea'e us nought but grief an' pain, 
For promis'd joy! 

Still thou art blest, compar'd wi' me 
The present only toucheth thee: 
But, Och! I backward cast my e'e. 
On prospects drear! 
An' forward, tho' I canna see, 
I guess an' fear!

I can choose to look at the future differently than I am right now. Fear does not have to be my adjective of choice.  I must discard that if I truly believe God's promises. In Psalm 37 a portion has been turned into a song that I always sing, "Rejoice for the steps/of a righteous man/they are ordered of God, they are ordered of God/And in the time of trouble/He will sustain you/He will uphold you/He will lift you up/And in the time of trouble/God will carry you/So rejoice your steps are ordered of God." In Jeremiah 29:11, He tells us, "For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future."

Hope. Future. Both of these words are progressive, they are not words of stagnation. They are not words of wallowing. Like my friend said when we spoke, there might be time left for adventure, for doing interesting things, thinking about those is not a bad thing.

Am I sad? Heck, yes. Grief has physical effects that have hit me a hitherto unknown levels. Am I shaken? To the very core. I'm still in the midst of a raging storm BUT I do know the Guy with the power of that storm. My friend reminded me of Someone who suffered greater pain for my sake and how much more important than the material world that sacrifice is. The Author and Finisher of my faith has unwritten pages, the storyline wasn't mine to write and now it's perhaps a bit more of a cliffhanger than I imagined but...the pen is still writing, the page will turn...