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

Timing...

"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 Pok√©mon 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.