Wednesday, December 6, 2017

On never giving up ...

I recently found out that Winston Churchill is a distant cousin. Out of all the distant relations I'm finding connections with using Ancestry's "We're Related" app, he is my favorite.  His ability to inspire courage, bravery and and righteous obstinacy resonate with me. That wonderful British obduration strengthened the spirits of a nation. His charge to "never, never, never give up" has been a mantra for me so many times in my life.  I pair it with Philippians 4:13, "I can do all things through Christ which strengthens me."

This train of thought fits so well with a stanza from my favorite poem, "If--" by Rudyard Kipling.
"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!’"

I set this intention for my life - to resolutely, steadfastly get through whatever it is that I have to get through.  I cling to, not my own strength to see things through, but that with the determination to do so there is One greater by far than I who will see me through.

Churchill rallied the people during the horror and oppression of war; while we are not facing (thankfully), the horrors of the world at war, we are facing a spiritual battle. 

When your plans fall apart - never give up.
When you are harshly judged and your feet begin to falter - never give up.
When you've been slighted, betrayed, or abandoned - never give up.
When the odds seem insurmountable - never give up.
When you feel devalued - never give up.
When you are just plain sick of the twisted world - never give up.

There is not one darned thing or one darned person who can separate you from the love of Christ. There is not one thing that this world can sling your way that His love cannot conquer.  And may you have to content yourself with knowing that you may not see the physical victory in this life, but as Shadrach, Mescach and Abednego knew, when having done all STAND. They knew this and proclaimed to Nebuchadnezzar, "If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to deliver us from it, and he will deliver us from your Majesty’s hand. But even if he does not, we want you to know, Your Majesty, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up."

The battlefield you find yourself in the thick of may be on the job, with your health, within your family, even church - but never, never, never give up. Things may not look. They might look like it is time to throw in the towel or to run to a corner and lick your wounds.  Resist.  Ephesians 6:13 "Therefore take up the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you will be able to stand your ground, and having done everything, to stand. Because of this, take up the complete armor of God, so that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all things, to stand."

Never give up. Trust in the God who loves you and values you more than you can even fathom. Having done all, clothe yourself in Him and stand.

Thursday, November 23, 2017

Strawberry Salad

This is a family recipe that is served at every holiday. It just wouldn't be a holiday without it.  Since food allergies entered our world, we had to do away with the nuts. I'm typing this up for posterity.

3 ripe bananas, mashed
2 boxes sliced frozen strawberries (or a bag of frozen, you will smash to smithereens)
1/2 cup to 1 cup chopped nuts (omit for nut allergies!!)
1 large box or 2 small boxes strawberry-banana Jello
1 3/4 cup boiling water
2 envelopes unflavored gelatin mixed into 1/2 cup very cold water
1 pint sour cream OR plain Greek yogurt

Smash bananas and strawberries, mix in unflavored gelatin mixture.

Mix strawberry-banana Jello with boiling water.  Add to banana/strawberry/gelatin mixture.

Spread half of mixture in a large glass pan (13 1/2 by whatever it is)
Chill in fridge until just set.
Spread with sour cream or yogurt.
Pour the rest of the mixture on the top.
Chill until completely gelled.

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Thinking about my parents...

When you are going through hard stuff in life and your parents are gone, their absence becomes that much more profound. Would that you had that strong shoulder to lean on, that voice speaking up on your behalf and assuring you that "this too shall pass." Chances are they have been exactly where you are and would have a wealth of wisdom from the experience to share.  The older you get, the more you appreciate that truth - I'm glad that my journey to appreciation of my parents happened before they were gone.  Although I will always wish that it had happened sooner.

“Children begin by loving their parents; as they grow older they judge them; sometimes they forgive them.” -Oscar Wilde

I was not unlike other children and young adults. Growing up from starry-eyed child to the judgmental teen and 20-something,  I had my list of wrongs that I perceived my parents had committed against me that I would occasionally throw back at them, as did my siblings. Like Shylock, I wanted my pound of be in the form of an admission of guilt and the acknowledgement that my perception of the situation/memory/event was the correct one. I didn't want to hear a defense - none of us did. My late sister used to rail on about their failings, so seemingly we agreed on this or that and that seemed to shore up our point of view. Siblings have these conversations, compare notes, and build their cases. It fuels the fire, adds to the bitterness, and makes one feel very, very justified. We would occasionally blow off steam and let our parents have it in one way or another and feel very self-righteous about it.

I'll never forget my mother's shock and anger over something one of my sisters swears that she did. She had no memory of it whatsoever and that made the sister even angrier  that something so deeply painful to her had not registered to my mother. My mother, on the other hand, felt so unjustly condemned and misjudged that her reaction was more like, "If I did do something like that, no doubt you deserved it."  This reaction did not make matters any better. My mother was not one to apologize for something she did not recall doing.  She would never apologize in a more general way either.

My father was a different story. If you confronted him with some failure or misdeed you perceived he had committed, he would want to defend himself. He would try to get a word in, yelling if he must, about why or his side of things -- this was never well-received, because when you come embittered as a wounded, injured child you do not want to accept defense.  What exactly do you want?

That is a good question.  You might easily say "an apology" but chances are it will be deemed insincere or without "enough" admission of guilt. If the parent were to come crawling to your doorstep begging forgiveness?  Eh, maybe - but it only would last until the next time something cropped up. They could likely plead for forgiveness in a letter written in their own blood, but at some point or another it wouldn't be enough. One of us would always demand more - even though more was some intangible, undefinable something that could never be truly satisfied.

I remember my mother distinctly telling me (and overhearing her tell my sisters) that she hoped one day we had children who did the same thing to us.  My father was a different story - I may not have fully realized it then, but I discovered over time that it deeply wounded him and that he would spend sleepless nights and hours with the priest worrying and fretting over mistakes he made, wondering if it was all true and he was really a monster, and if he was a monster, could he be redeemed?  As in so many other things - I am my father's daughter and even if I don't know for sure what I've done, I can guilt myself like a master.

A fantastic thing happened after I got saved -- I wish I could say that it happened all at once. It didn't.  But that thing was that I first began to forgive my parents for whatever I had believed they had done. Secondly, I began to grasp the concept that they were not perfect nor ever professed to be. And thirdly, I began to understand them as human beings.

When I was at that first stage where I began to forgive my parents for whatever I had believed they had done to hurt me, I was at a point where I had discovered the forgiveness of Christ for my own sins. Like the Apostle Paul said, "Christ died to save sinners of whom I am chief."  Man, I had a laundry list of faults, shortcomings, wilful and ignorant sins that I could never pay for. Jesus paid it all, so who was I to not forgive my parents?  This changed our relationship drastically.  I wish I could say I was perfect in my forgiveness and stopped bringing up real or perceived ills in arguments and in moments of anger.  As time went on those things came up less and less.  My relationship with my parents kept improving.

They started growing older, lots of things changed.  I began spending more time with them as adults. My mom and I would go for frequent long walks together or she would drive me to appointments.  I got to know so much about her life, the things that she cared about  and the things that had hurt her over the course of her life - and she would listen to me. Were we always perfect in listening to each other? No, sometimes we had other things on our minds or were distracted but I remember that I was just happy to have this time together.  I was finding out the person behind the parent - the person who had a whole heckuva lot going on, struggles, fears, etc, that were unrelated to me and definitely played a role in how she parented.

My father and I had so much in common and as our relationship changed with that forgiveness he shared his fears, his worries, the way he beat himself up about not being able to rescue the world.  One of the things about my dad that often got everyone so angry was his trying to guide and direct.  I learned that this wasn't out of "narcissism" or whatever stupid thing we children had decided in our profound wisdom was motivating him -- no, it was his desire that we be safe, that we be "on the right path," protected, the best we could be.  He wasn't trying to manipulate or control our lives - he just genuinely cared and was acting on his love in the only way he knew how.

When I began to understand them as human beings, hallelujah! That brought my memories of the past into perspective.  I was able to let go of crap that clogged up my own soul and was able to remember all the great, awesome things about them that I did enjoy and love so much.  Instead of fixating on how they had failed me (or how I felt they had failed me) when I was a child, instead of ruminating over every harsh world or action, I found that I was seeing clearly the thousand more days, times, situations that were not part of our unhappy childhood narrative.

My mother's answer to being accused and judged was to retire back "home" to Florida, away from children and grandchildren. Her thoughts were "if they want me, they can come to me." I do not blame my mother for that. She reacted in a way that was consistent with her personality type. My father was different - he was the initiator of phone calls, always, always trying to maintain a connection.  When they did ask me to move to Florida after the birth of my first baby, my mother was happy that "I came to her."  Were things always perfect? Things happen -  relationships get tangled with a mess of actions and reactions. Did we get under each others' skin from time to time? Yes. Perfect relationships never will exist when you are dealing with imperfect humans.  Iron sharpens iron.

Getting to know my parents, accepting them as individuals, not pigeon-holing them in the role of "my parents" was a continual awakening.  When I go back to some of the times in my life that show up on my list of traumas, I can now in my maturity see the stages my parents were going through at various times.  When I was a mouthy tween and teenager,  my parents were struggling with the weighty cares of mid-life. Mortgages, debts, job stressors, passed-over-promotions, marital problems, health issues, vehicles, craziness in other siblings' lives, a myriad of troubles that had an effect on whatever else went on in their lives, including parenting.  To think that I felt perfectly comfortable judging them for this or that reaction that upset me saddens me.... did I expect them to be super-human perfect beings immune to sin? Ridiculously, yes. Did they ever react in anger? Did they say things too quickly that came out wrong? Sure - but didn't I? Heck, yes. Did they have a right to defend themselves if they chose or make excuses,explain themselves in some way?  What court of law does not let the accused provide a defense or an alibi? They had their own anxieties, battled with depression -- and once I got old enough and wise enough to "get" the whole picture, it became an awful lot easier to develop a completely different perspective and give up my childish "right" to feel embittered.  Hebrews 12:15 says, "See to it that no one falls short of the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many." 

My friend's husband said, "Everybody wants mercy but they don't want to give it."  We enjoy amazing love shown to us in that while we were yet sinners Christ died for us.  He chose to forgive us, we who do not deserve it at all -- we love that mercy. How can we be stingy about extending it to others?

When it all boils down to it the things in my life that were good, the things in my life that hurt like hell, the good times and the bad, they shaped me and molded me into who God wanted.  He chose those parents for me. He chose my siblings and I to be their children. He allowed them to make mistakes for reasons that are His.  I am so grateful that I realized this while my parents were still alive so they could know that I was sorry for judging them, sorry for condemning them, blaming them, and sorry for not appreciating them.  Instead of fixating on fleeting failures - because in the grand scheme of things the good outweighs the bad - I choose to focus on the happy, the funny, the uplifting.  Books my dad read, nature hikes, singing in the car, listening to the radio and having girl talk with my mom, learning about family history and foreign languages, dreams that were fulfilled and dreams that were never realized.

My parents have been gone now - Mom since 2001, Dad since 2011. I miss them more than I can say.  Funny thing - irregardless of what sort of ungrateful children any of us were, they were our staunchest defenders and advocates. I could use that belief and that unconditional love right now when I spend sleepless nights worrying, ruminating, second-guessing or condemning myself.  How good it would be to go for a walk with Mom right now or take my Dad for a long drive. Having walked the other side of this road, I'm sure they would have good advice to give -- after all, they were flesh and blood people who have experience being on the receiving end.

Mom and Dad - I love you. I miss you.  One hour with you would be amazing - I could really use a pep talk and some of your Mama-Papa Bear fierce devotion. Thank God that I know I'll see you in glory.

Monday, November 20, 2017

When you need to hear "If-"...

There are definitely times when you want to throw in the towel, give up, let go, fade away, vanish... Times like that it is always good to pull out this poem and make an effort to rally. Sometimes it works. At the very least it is a reminder not to give in to the temptation to drop out of this dog and pony show, that you can strive to be a better you.

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!

Source: A Choice of Kipling's Verse (1943)

Thursday, November 9, 2017

The god of pop psychology is NOT the God of the Bible...

I was going through a great deal of stress and decided to seek counseling.  I made it clear that I wanted a Christian counselor.  I received a counselor that was a "Christian," that is,  she had some sort of loose faith in Jesus and considered herself a "spiritual" person. The first words of advice she shared were completely anti-Scriptural and steeped in pop psychology. To me, the Phd was meaningless because the wisdom to be shared was worldly wisdom, foolishness to God and a waste of time for me. Colossians 2:8 states, "See to it that no one takes you captive through philosophy and empty deception, according to the tradition of men, according to the elementary principles of the world, rather than according to Christ." Transferring to an actual Biblical counselor made all the difference.

This reminded me of situations I've been seeing on social media which promote ideas that are not Christian in nature. Pop psychology is founded in secular humanism.  It is deeply woven with the philosophies of man. Pop psych tells you that you deserve certain things.  It tells you to set boundaries, to walk away from difficult people. If you research how this stuff fits in the Bible, you will see certain things loosely tied in with Scripture and a whole lot of stuff that doesn't come with any Biblical support. The Bible tells you to love sacrificially. It tells you that you need to affirm your self-worth and self esteem. The Bible tells us that we were made in the image of God but that sin has corrupted us; we need a Savior. Pop psych paints a picture of Jesus - when it acknowledges Him at all - as a kumbaya surfer-dude who just wants us to be happy. Did I remind you that Jesus drove the money-changers out of the Temple with whips?

You will find that the Bible tells you that you are to forgive others “even as God for Christ’s sake has forgiven you” (Eph. 4:32). Specifically, we are told to imitate the forgiveness of Christ (Col. 3:13). We examples of the Prodigal Son, Joseph and his brothers, Hosea and Gomer, and well, the whole Bible. Forgiveness is a cancelled debt, an elimination of the record of wrong-doing.  Now, does any person want to love in such a sacrificial way? Does any person have the necessary strength to do that? No, but what a wonderful Savior we have.  The Word tells us that love covers a multitude of sins.  His love upholds us and will get us through.

So where can we draw the line? Scripture is *very* specific about what instances merit blocking someone. 1 Corinthians 5:11 But now I am writing to you not to associate with anyone who calls himself a Christian who is sexually immoral, or greedy, or an idolater, or verbally abusive, or a drunkard, or a swindler. Do not even eat with such a person. 12 For what do I have to do with judging those outside? Are you not to judge those inside? 13 But God will judge those outside. Remove the evil person from among you.

Should this go on forever? No. Paul revisits the issues in his next epistle to the Corinthian church. 2 Corinthians 2:6 The punishment inflicted on him by the majority is sufficient. 7 Now instead, you ought to forgive and comfort him, so that he will not be overwhelmed by excessive sorrow.  The Bible doesn't condone the idea of cutting off a Christian brother or sister.

We are actually supposed to care about causing "excessive sorrow" to someone - even someone we think has wronged us or is in some way making us angry enough to make us think that cutting them out of our lives is the right thing to do. We're supposed to be those guys who pray for those who persecute us and do good to those who despitefully use us.

On the stupidity of choosing money over my dogs...

On the stupidity of choosing money over my dogs

They say a dog owner and her pet
Begin to look like each other over time
Waking up to that cold empty bed
I realized
I am indeed like my dogs
Maybe I look like them
Maybe I don't
But my soul looks like theirs
My dogs need love
More than a pat
More than a “good boy, good girl”
Here or there
They need full body
Mutual adoration fests
The kind of affection that says
“I love being in your presence”

Yet here I sit - and I miss them
“The money is good”
“You'll get ahead”
“Good for your resume”
“We'll be together”
And so I left, left them in the care of others
Deprived them of the love they were
So accustomed to
I deprived ME of the love
I was so accustomed to
Following a job
Following a man
Like a dog, stupidly assuming that
What I needed was what everyone wanted to give

My heart broke when I saw
That they were being treated
So unlovingly
So unkindly
Sasha's mask, greyed in that month like she had aged a hundred years
Charlie, stooped and slinking
Fearful and heart-broken
We reunited with joy and love
Tails wagging, hearts singing...
But now I'm trapped
Trapped in a job and in a place
Where a pat on the head and a good girl
Are all the affection I get

I found them love, I found them
A temporary home
Away from kids who pull tails
And throw rocks
Away from adults who say
“Go away, dog!”
And lock them away
And as for me...
I drove away with a man
With a hard heart
Who loved neat and clean
More than he loved me

Dog hair is a badge of love
It's a daily nuisance that screams
“I am loved!” like the toys that
Children leave scattered on the floor
Dog hair is scattered on my soul
It's a sign of mutual appreciation
And my heart bleeds to have
A lint brush required to stroke away
The hair of my beloved furry ones

Dogs, they don't turn away morning snuggles
Dogs, they don't need to go turn on the TV
Read the sports page
Have their coffee
Have a thousand reasons why they can't pile together in fur and skin, wet noses and belly rubs
Why being with you isn't a great way to start the day
Yet here I am, the fool that chose the money
Over the faithful love
Over the unfailing love
Over the ecstatic, joyful, consuming love
Of my dogs

Saturday, October 28, 2017

Projecting, reflecting...

"Jesus, help me see you in everyone, even the people who challenge me. Light me up with your radiant love so that I may see you even in the most difficult of people. Every human being is made in your image. Help me to recognize you and love you in them."

"People aren't toxic. We are humans troubled, afraid, hurting, struggling, and although some of us use more harmful ways to cope than others we're not toxic." ~Iva

Romans 5:10 "For if, while we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life!"

Labeling people as toxic (or labeling them as narcissists who must be avoided) is an awful lot like an excuse to not love them like Christ loved us. "While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us." Romans 5:8 If we all look in the mirror honestly, we will see that we each exhibit the traits that it is so trendy to accuse others of. Ephesians 4:2 exhorts us to be completely humble and gentle, patient bearing with one another in love. The moment we use excuses to write people off, label them, and call ourselves "victim" is the moment we choose to be disobedient and non-followers of Jesus.

Think about this. Label the person as "narcissist" or "toxic" and you are judging them just as these memes or lists usually accuse these people of judgmental. Manipulative? You are guilty of trying to manipulate other people's views of them when you insist on diagnosing them as such and spreading it out there. Bullying? You are guilty of bullying them by labeling and manipulating opinions of them. Selfish? Likely you are selfishly deciding that they did not put your needs or feelings first and hey wait, isn't that also selfish? You claim they "need to be right" yet - is it your own need to be right that is so angry about the belief that their opinion is right? If you both agreed on something, wouldn't this be a moot point? They are surrounded by drama? Generally, it seems the drama is generated by the person who shares this beware of narcissists, etc, all over social media. That's pretty dramatic. The list can go on.

Look in the mirror. Then turn away from the mirror and look at Jesus - that's who you want to look like in the end, right? Follow His example.

We are all hopelessly messy, multidimensional and needing a Savior.

Toxic is as toxic does...

“Stop pointing fingers and placing blame on others. Your life can only change to the degree that you accept responsibility for it.” Steve Maraboli

There is a trend building for the last couple of years involving labeling people as narcissists.  There is a hypocritical fad for calling other people toxic. The funny thing is that the person doing the calling is often practicing what is called "neurotic projection." That is, they are seeing undesirable elements of themselves and reflecting them on to the person they are angry at. Call someone narcissist or toxic and include a list of what that entails - and...drum roll, you've just accused them of the very judgmentalism and conceit that you are proclaiming to stand against.

A great little piece I found on the topic:

Sunday, October 22, 2017

Bringing on our own storms...

We ask God for wisdom, we ask Him for direction and to guide our paths -- but do we always listen to that wisdom? I believe we often ask with an agenda, an agenda that we want that wisdom and guidance to lead to.  We want a straight path - a straight path right to what we want.

I'm so guilty of this right now.  I wanted something. I wanted change, I wanted escape. I believed that all my ducks were lining up in a row. I asked for wisdom and God sent several warnings. I chose to view those as obstacles to be overcome, not the clear warnings that they were. Like the centurion and boat owner who chose not to listen to Paul in Acts 27 when he warned them - after difficult headway, obvious bad weather, clearly bad sailing weather. They still chose to press on. Paul said, "Hey, it is going to be bad with loss of things of value!" and still they chose to press on. The writer of Acts tells us "We took such a violent battering from the storm that the next day they began to throw the cargo overboard.  Acts 27:18  Not listening caused loss and a great deal of it.

I was given signs - things that were not right, that didn't sit well with my soul. I was blinded by a different kind of hope. It had been over a year since my husband had died. I wanted to feel happiness. I wanted to feel alive. I want to get away from the things that seemed to constantly burden me and I had high hopes of wintering in a safe harbor. There were warnings I did not heed and I fell for that gentle south wind that seemed to promise a safe trip. My disobedience has certainly caused a storm to kick up.  There has already been loss. I've thrown some things overboard that I didn't even realize I was throwing, things I hope that I can recover some day. There are things that had to be thrown that made me wake up and wake up hard.  I heard God loud and clear when those went over.  Now more loss will be required before I can run aground and find land/safety.

Now I must - once again - rely on God's unfailing mercy and grace.

The greatest of these is love...

1 Corinthians 13:13  So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.

I was talking to someone who was surprised that I was concerned for and praying for someone who had been and is being very cruel to me.  He pointed out the things that this person is doing that are very hurtful, the amount of time this has been going on, and that he couldn't understand why I even cared about their current pain. He said the person in question - professing to be a Christian - needs to be confronted with how wrong they are, how ungodly this behavior is. I'm in a position where I cannot do that - however, there is one thing that I can do. I can love. Because of that love, I can pray.  I reminded him that "While we were yet sinners Christ died for us." We are to emulate Him - and if that means praying and worrying over the pain of this one, then so I will.

Thursday, September 7, 2017


Triggers - a device that releases a spring or a catch and sets a mechanism off, such as the trigger on the gun. In the land of grief you find that there are some triggers you are aware of and others that  catch you off guard. I wandered into a veritable minefield when I chose to make a temporary move back to my home state. I'm playing Russian roulette with my heart, not knowing when I'm going to set off a cascade of tears.

Maybe during that first year the very act of "being" in the home we shared was comfort and made the reality of my loss less "real." I don't know how many times I remarked to one of the girls that I often felt that he was just "out in the yard" doing his chores and would be in the house in a minute. So many times I lay in our bed and looked over at his dresser and envisioned him standing there, just fiddling with his plethora of odds and ends like he did so many times. His presence was so very strong that I believe that part of me felt allowed to believe he was indeed "there."

Now I am 336 miles away and he is not here. Memories of him are, however.  I've been down back roads that he and I drove down 30+ years ago. I've been places that he longed to go - without him. In the midst of doing something truly enjoyable, like hiking the Appalachian Trail, I have felt the icy grip of reality clutch at my heart. I'm no longer in our bed, with his dog beside me, feeling the old indent he made in the mattress. That song comes on the radio and I'm mere miles from where "it all started with a beer."  I'm in the place we found each other, found the Lord, escaped our old lives, built something real.  His absence here is profound. The loss of him is palatable.

It is only now that his death has become painful real; my heart has lost the shroud of pretense. The veil has lifted and my soul cries out, "You're gone! You're gone! Come back..."

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Missing my dogs...

When Pat died, Sasha and Charlie were my most stalwart companions. We grieved together. When I cried, they came to comfort me. When they were sad, I hugged and cheered them.  Why did I think that I could move 300 miles away and not miss them with every fiber of my being? Being away from them a week was hard but they survived with the boys to hug on them and love them. Now, so many changes are happening I know that they are on edge. They watched me move things out of my home. Charlie moped and cowered because he knew deep in his heart that something was not right.  Now that it has been 8 days away, instead of being easier, for me it has become harder and harder.  It is grief. I'm experiencing grief - but without the comfort that got me through Pat's death. With that grief, I'm having bad dreams. I'm tense, I'm on edge. I keep thinking about their pain, their anguish. Wondering where I am, why I haven't returned. Their little world turned upside down. I think of Charlie creeping into the boys' bed after they fall asleep (they want him in earlier but pester him too much). Poor Sasha, doesn't want to be in the bed. She lays on the floor.  Her heart was shattered when Pat died. I must be killing her with my absence. Praying that I can have them with me soon. Desperately hoping something will work out so that they can be with me. We belong together.

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

My Tookish spirit awakens and adventuring I go...

"Sorry! I don't want any adventures, thank you. Not today. Good morning!"  I just wanted to cling to as much of my old life as possible. To come home to my lonely house (and wish it wasn't so lonely), do the things I always did, and somehow to add the things I want into it. It would be perfectly okay for me  to work at the job I began after Pat's death - I loved my job even though I couldn't afford to live on the salary. Somehow, if life could go on that way, I would be worried about survival and yet strangely content.

And then, my Tookish spirit awoke. God moved and doors opened, connections were made, bringing with them a job in my field, in my home stomping grounds, near the man I love and my daughter/family.  My Tookish spirit cried, "Walk through those doors!" and as I crossed each threshold more and more of a new life was revealed to me.

No matter how promising it looks, it is hard for a hobbit at heart to come from the comfort of the home hearth and step out into the unknown. I had to slowly ease out of my comfort zone by doing things like driving 336 miles alone and back. That was something that had frightened me stopping at rest areas alone, oh my!) and now I've done it several times.  I also have been having to come to terms with the thought of leaving 3 of my daughters and 7 of my grandchildren behind. I plan on coming back on monthly visits and on all school breaks. (My head tells me that during the school year I've been so busy working two jobs that I didn't see them as often anyhow - my heart says, "Shut up!") Whatever the case, maybe the apron strings need to be cut and this will be healthier for us all. I can't live a shadow existence, working and waiting to be needed to babysit or needed for something.

So here I am - on the cusp of an adventure. There is no turning back. Once I set my face to the east, I'm committed for the whole school year. There is fear -- and there is excitement. There is hope and yes, some anxiety. Will this be good for me? What kind of changes might this make within me? Who will I be when all is said and done?

Thursday, August 17, 2017

In one word...

On a FB grief support community, someone posted this meme. The top words that people chose were: Unending. Unbearable. Life ending. Everlasting. Relentless. Surreal. Lonely. Difficult. Impossible. Shocking. Crushing. Empty. Lost. Hell. Change. Broken. One user even put "Can't."  One user put "hope" and another "heaven."  As for me, the word I chose was: REDEFINING.

How has grief redefined me?

My world was turned upside down. I had a hole in my heart the size of the Grand Canyon. Having been part of an "us" for 34 years, I was suddenly on my own. It was like falling of a boat into the middle of the ocean. During a storm. In the dark. My life became so utterly different than what it was and while the changes were being made, having to contend with crushing sadness and loss was at times nearly overwhelming.

I say "nearly overwhelming" because God won't let us be overwhelmed. His presence in the fire, in the flood, in the furnace, wherever we may be, keeps us from being consumed by it.

Wednesday, August 2, 2017


It occurred to me that I have spent most of this past year since my husband died in a whirlwind of busy-ness. It is rare that I relax - often that means collapsing.

Before Pat passed, I had accepted a position that did not pay well because we had his income for our main support. This job was a mission and very worthy in terms of experience. We were both excited about it.  When he passed, I knew the salary wasn't going to cut it BUT there was no way on this green earth that I could handle interviews after his death. So I've been drawing from the life insurance I received to pay my big bills every month - this cannot go on forever.  I also would lose my health insurance because we were insured through Pat's job. My new job offered that but it took a huge chunk out of my paycheck each payroll. Therefore, I began teaching several exercise classes a week to supplement my income.

Each day involved getting up at 5:30, taking care of the dogs, leaving for school by 7, a 30-minute drive, starting my workday, dealing with a very unkind co-worker, heading home at 3:15 for a 45-minute drive since the traffic had picked up. Taking care of dogs, eating quickly, heading out the door to teach a class, coming home, grading papers, cleaning, laundry. For a couple of months there was a man I was seeing who showed up every night that I didn't work at the gym. This meant that I couldn't do the stuff that needed to be done because I was entertaining him or he was taking me out to eat. Sometimes we walked or went to the gym but I was determined to be in bed by 9:30 pm to get a good night's sleep. Therefore, there was more rush on the other days. On weekends I tried to see the grandkids, tried to accomplish bigger chores. Went to church every Sunday. Directed a children's church Christmas program from October through December.

All the while I was rushing hither and yon, working, breathing, juggling life, I was stricken with grief and striving to function around it somehow. My house was (and mostly is) positively overflowing with my husband's things. He liked his "stuff" and there has been quite a wild amount to deal with. (My goal was to get that done this summer, ha ha ha). I was able after a few months to give away and donate more than 15 giant bags of his clothing. When I say "more," I am talking 5 - 10 bags more. I lost count. There were 64 pairs of pants/jeans before I stopped counting. I'm still working on shoveling my way out of his belongings and there are less than three weeks left to summer break.

This summer break I had so much that I planned to tackle. However, Vacation Bible School was slated for two weeks after school ended. That first week meant decorating and organizing stuff. Any one who has done this know what kind of work this is. My dear friend and I had the teaching station so we had to plan/practice our lessons and then spend 3 hours each morning delivering them.  Meanwhile in the first two weeks after school ended, I taught 26 exercise classes.  The summer has been spent with me teaching 10 classes a week  - and sometimes a couple of more. I've babysat grandchildren whenever possible.

I also fell in love. After the first fuzzy relationship - more like friendship - with a widower ended, God put a man in my life that had been a friend of my husband's. He was seeking after God, reading my writings, and wanting to talk to me about the Lord. That turned into a long distance relationship and a prayer partnership. We read the Bible together daily and pray every morning before work and every evening before bed. We also have been seeing each other every month, sometimes twice a month. Each of those visits is jam-packed with a great deal of busy, busy frenzied activity. He has projects that he feels need to be done at my house (and I'm thankful). When I go there, he has things he wants to take me to do and I also need to see my daughter and her four children. It hasn't been restful.  The most restful time was when I had two snow days in a row and he was visiting while out of work due to an injury.

I've had very few days with the luxury of truly having nothing to do in a "good way." The days that there has been "nothing" were also populated with emotional turmoil. There has been quite a bit of that to contend with. The co-worker who was so much like Dolores Umbridge who seemed to make a business out of trying to tear me down. The grieving child lashing out at the easiest target. Suffice it to say that other relationships can be affected by grief, especially when it is shared. Being the "mom" it was very hard to function in full mom mode when I have also been a new widow trying to find my way in a completely new life.

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

One year has passed...

It seems like yesterday they were lowering Pat into the ground - and yet it seems like a thousand years ago, or at least a dozen.  On one hand I feel like I'll spy him out in the back yard, putzing around, doing what he love. On another, I feel like it has been infinity since I saw his face, kissed his lips, and felt his warmth.  Here I am, after one year has passed, gazing into the gaping hole left by the loss of my husband.

How can it be that my life somehow moves forward with such an intrinsic partner in it missing? We were an "us" not a "you" and an "I." This is something that he emphatically stated time and time again. We were a team, each with our own roles to play but clearly working together towards a common goal. I feel at times like I am standing out in a ballfield, facing my opponent, and yet somehow expected to cover all the bases by myself. On those days I'm torn between trying to do it all and wanting to call "forfeit" and run home to nurse my sorrows.

There are things I would tell him, and I hope he would understand. I'm an athlete, no good on the sidelines. Letting life pass me by doesn't come natural to me and no dishonor to the relationship is meant. "I'm in the tryouts or training season for a new team. Seven months now.  He is not you, but he is a good man in his own right."  This new team is going to have a completely different schema; its own strengths and weaknesses. It doesn't replace the team that Pat and I once made. In fact, it is an entirely different league. Once upon a time we were children who grew up into adults together, we built a life, had our own children, then grandchildren. This new team is made up of two people who are already all grown up and who do not want to stand alone in the ballfield hitting balls and running after them alone.

Sometimes I cry; most of the time I just keep muddling forward. I've made it through one year this way. One day I'll probably sit down to write and discover it has been ten years. I wonder where I will be then.

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Do you deserve to be happy?

What do you deserve? Deserve means to be worthy of, to be entitled to, to have a right to.  There is a current song by Little Big Town that says "we all deserve to be happy while we're here." Why? Why are you entitled to happiness? Where is this written? The Founding Fathers seemed to understand happiness wasn't an entitlement. They said we had the right to *pursue* it, not that we deserved it.

Our culture programs us to equate happiness to the material pleasures, sexuality and other bodily gratification. Choose the right partner with the right actions to stroke your ego and you'll be happy. Do this activity and you will be happy. Buy these clothes, cars, gadgets, etc, and you will be happy. Marriages are destroyed and families are broken because we look for other people to make us happy and when they don't, we abandon ship and create ripples of unhappiness for others as that ship sinks. How many children are damaged by divorce and fighting because their happiness was secondary to the egos or material needs of their parents?  We teach them that other people are expendable if they don't gratify our selfish desires. We teach them that obtaining material things is crucial to finding joy. Pursuing money to gain material goods becomes more important than time rearing children, making memories with spouses, and even proper rest.  The idea that happiness comes from "entertainment" leads to time spent in emptiness and immorality, opening the door to more temptation and destruction of the values and people who are truly important  There is so much ugliness that tends to accompany the concept that we "deserve" to be happy. Throw in the concept of being entitled to it and a blind eye is turned to the negative until far too much damage is done.

The Bible tells us this, "Godliness with contentment is great gain." and Psalm 144:15b "Happy are the people whose God is the Lord!" Godliness is the key to happiness - and being content, not constantly looking for more and more, but being satisfied is profitable. One way I can see right off the bat that it is profitable is because you aren't striving, striving, striving to have things or a movie-perfect marriage.  When you are looking at and truly appreciating the things you have, you can build upon them. Try gratitude. Seek contentment.

Philippians 4:12 - 13  "I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.  I can do all this through him who gives me strength."

Hebrews 13:5 "Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said, “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.”

Luke 12:15 "Then he said to them, “Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; life does not consist in an abundance of possessions.”"

Psalm 37:3-4 3 "Trust in the LORD and do good; dwell in the land and enjoy safe pasture. 4 Take delight in the LORD, and he will give you the desires of your heart."

Matthew 6:33 "But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well."

Monday, July 10, 2017

A message from beyond...

My friend, Sherie, lost her mom the day before Patrick, passed. I was trying to figure out if she felt the same sensation I did (that I also discussed with my daughter, Erin, this morning). I said:
"Do you feel the void more strongly now that it is one year? I feel like being in the same physical place in the solar system where we were when going through the trauma of it all somehow intensifies the feeling. Like a rock thrown in a pool of water sends out strong ripples. It's like hitting that place again and the ripples are still present - or an echo or shadow or something of the intense emotions is still there."

When I was talking to Erin just this morning, I was speculating about tesseracts and folding the fabric of space/time and trying to illustrate what I meant/felt with a blanket and an envelope. I talked of wormholes and physics. I likened it to a person pushing forcefully upward from down in the realm of the sea and the pressure of bursting through the surface tension of the water and up, up into the realm of the air. The force of the departure creates a burst, waving and rippling. SO to what effect does the departure of a soul leaving its body create when leaving the earthly realm into the heavenly realm?? And to what extent does the emotional intensity surrounding that departure affect the size and the resulting strength/length of the reverberations of that ripple?

 In talking about this with Jenna, she offered that when a star dies, its energy in the form of light, continues on and we see that star ages after its death. Erin and I had discussed how time isn't the same for God/heaven - that a day is as a thousand years and a thousand years is as a day. That there is no sorrow and mourning in heaven and it is likely due to no knowledge of loved ones suffering while in bondage to the earthly clock and no worries of unfinished business in this realm.

And now I'm going to add a freaky, touching, wonderful part to this: Today I've been cleaning out my computer room which has become a receptacle for all things I don't know what to do with or don't have time to deal with. I have boxes spread out in the middle of my living room. I took a break and AS I WAS WRITING THE ABOVE to share, I went into the kitchen. When I returned, THIS was laying in the floor about a foot and a half from the doorway to the room, right where I had to walk. I HAD NOT STEPPED OVER IT ON MY WAY PAST; NOTHING WAS THERE BEFORE. No junk, no clutter - no where near the boxes I was sorting - empty carpet and this laid there in full view upon my return to my desk. A love note from my late husband...

This seriously just happened and I cried...not tears of sadness. Tears of loss, tears of joy, tears filled with the knowledge that God is in control and loves me as He loves Pat. Call it coincidence, say that I overlooked it when it fell out of who-knows-what. I know that it is a message from my husband and from my Lord.

Mark 12:26-27 "As for the dead being raised, have you not read in the book of Moses, in the passage about the bush, how God spoke to him, saying, ‘I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob’? He is not God of the dead, but of the living."

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Where my strength comes from...

If there is one thing I can say about what has gotten me through this past year since Patrick left this world, it is this from Nehemiah 8:10: "The joy of the Lord is my strength." Strength is the quality or state of being strong - well, what is strong?  To be strong is to have the power to move heavy weights and/or to withstand great force or pressure. And what is joy? It is delight, great pleasure, happiness. "Of" expresses a relationship or a connection between a part and a whole. When I say the" joy of the Lord" has been my strength, I'm not talking about a crutch that I lean on (that is a support), a cushion when I fall (a soft landing), an insulator (to keep bad things out), or a piece of armor (He does arm us mightily). When I say the "joy of the Lord is my strength" I'm talking about POWER. Defining "is" is hard, but it is a state of active being. This, strength, this power, is of God. It is a happiness that flows like liquid steel into the fiber of my being from the mighty God who created the universe. It is power to be more than an overcomer in Christ.

Over a year ago, my cousin who went to be in glory last week, Monica, and I had a conversation about this. This was before my husband passed, before her daddy passed away. We had both been both challenged and afflicted by those who challenged our beliefs, who came against that joy with a radiating sort of negativity.  She told me that she had learned that she was *never* going to let anyone or anything steal her joy. She wasn't going to stifle that joy of the Lord no matter what and joy was like a fountain spewing forth from her. I think everyone she came in contact with it was touched.  Her joy was that "joy of the Lord" and she wasn't hiding it from anyone. What a testimony she gave as she walked in that joy. We had some similar challenges and shared some prayers concerns - and in a discussion about those things back in December she reminded me we were "Walking by faith not by sight!"  It was a proud moment, indeed, when this woman who shone her light so brightly told me she was proud of me for "pushing ahead even in my grief."

It is one thing to get through the battle unscathed but why settle for merely making it through each day? .Romans 8:37 tells us we are MORE than conquerors. A conqueror prevails, defeats and masters.  Just absorb the rest ---
Romans 8:38-39 "For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come,  nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

A friend of my cousin's shared this quote from John Piper, "Occasionally weep deeply over the life you hoped would be. Grieve the losses. Then wash your face. Trust God. And embrace the life you have."   This past year has seen a lot of weeping and grief, but there have been many reasons to smile and rejoice. When God took Pat home, He did not take His joy from me.  If anything,  He poured me some more and taught me how to better access it.  He taught me how precious every single day is and to embrace this life. So while this is bound to be a difficult week of reflecting on the the anniversary of the  loss of my husband, the recent loss of my uncle, and the fresh loss of my cousin full of Sonshine, the Lord has given me blessings to remind me that I am well-cared for.  As Monica would say with confidence, they took the glory train. They are in His presence now - but as for us, nothing can separate us from His love.

The joy of the Lord is, indeed, my strength.

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Dear Pat...

Dear Pat,

It has been 11 and a half months since my world completely changed. My whole world *was* you and the life we created together -  our children, our routines, our rituals. Getting up each day with you beside me and going to bed each night in each other's arms. July 3, 2017 seemed like any other day. We went to church, we had lunch, we looked at furniture and laughed because there was not a single thing we liked. We joked about being the hippies our kids thought we were and just having bean bags and the exercise ball. You did your yard work while I wrote yet another paper for my graduate degree. Without warning, July 3 became the last normal day.

I miss you - that is a given. There is no denying that not a single day goes by without thoughts of you, without shock and wonder that this state of existence without you isn't really just a terrible dream. Wendy and I were talking the other day about how it is simply unfathomable. Some days it seems like you are really just here, maybe outside tinkering in the yard, or upstairs napping. Other days the horrible hole left in this life by your passing becomes a yawning chasm impossible to cross.

How have I dealt with your passing? I've done what I always do. I've sucked it up; I've kept a stiff upper lip. I've done what has to be done. Oh, I've certainly broken down and howled, bawled, sobbed, and screamed. I've tried to do that in privacy but there have been many times where the tears rolled freely and I couldn't stop them. Regardless, I've made it a point to keep moving forward. Survival. That's been the name of the game. Because really -what other choice is there?

My mother always said, "Don't cry over spilled milk. Clean it up." Well, losing you is far, far, FAR more than spilled milk. However, the sentiment still fits regardless of whether other people don't "get it." Staring at my loss and wallowing in it would do nothing at all to get me from sunrise to sunset, day in and day out. It certainly wouldn't make me feel any better in the long run. So with no other option, I've surveyed life on each given day, made a mental inventory of my needs/wants and sought to meet whatever each day required of me.

I had accepted a job before your death that, while very rewarding, does not pay well at all.We both prayed and felt so right about this job.   Knowing I couldn't live on that income, I began a side job that would cover my health insurance costs. Now I have another side job that will further supplement my income. You would be very happy with God's blessing me with the ability to do what I love - teaching language arts and more exercise classes (as long as they didn't take time away from you). There are things that would not make you happy: the adult bully who tormented me throughout the year and the fact that the exercise classes are co-ed. I can imagine your opinions and advice on both. So many times I wished I had had you to come home to and tell the stories of my day. You would have laughed so hard - that special Ernie laugh. You would have wanted to come to my classroom and meet everyone, do special things for the students. You would have loved building things for science experiments. You would also have been my knight in shining armor and my shoulder to cry on when my own Dolores Umbridge was doing her best to make my days dark.

But you are not here to be and do what I know you would. Instead I've had to face my trials in a different way, find new support, You were my "person" and I was your "person." Even when things were rocky and we were at each other's throats we always knew that we had each other. To suddenly find myself without you put me at such a loss. What we built over decades can never be recreated. I have had no choice but to find new connections, engineer a new support system.  Yet God, He has always been there - a strong tower for me to run to, a mighty fortress, my deliverer.

And then there are your children - they miss you so much. You were a rock, a steady, immovable rock. They could count on you being there - for a laugh, for a hand, for a strong shoulder. We were all so blinded by our own grief, but I really expected better of myself. I was so consumed by my loss of you that I wasn't the nurturing mother I should've been to help them deal with theirs. It is so hard to be the mother when you want to be mothered yourself. That's a whole other ball of wax - not having my mom and my dad at a time when I want so badly to run to them, pour out my sorrows and have their support.  When I started coming out of my own fog and seeing everyone else's struggles, it was mind-boggling, guilt-riddling and awful on numerous levels. It isn't my place to write here about their stories - but I know that they would give anything for the strong, loving hands of their Daddy on their shoulders and embracing them in a huge bear hug.

I went to your grave this morning - our anniversary. Thinking about how one year ago you were here, taking the day off from work while I was substituting at Biomed. We had plans to celebrate our anniversary in July, after Jenna's baby was born. You had a big surprise for me when I came home. You had cleaned out the back bedroom, set up bunk beds for the grandchildren, fixed the ceiling fans, and set up toys. You were so proud to show me this - you had me close my eyes and then revealed it to me.  Here it is, one year later, and your body is in the grave. I miss you so much.

How can this be? We are 15 days away from that dreaded one year anniversary. Six days away from the night the week from hell began. I've been living without your hugs, without your kisses, without your loving texts and phone calls, without your warm, snuggly body for 350 days. I asked, how can this be? It doesn't really matter, does it? Because it *is* and there is no changing it.  Abject acceptance is the only recourse.


Sunday, June 4, 2017

From back in October and February...

Teetering on the edge
Of loss
And on the brink of being found
Heart - broken
but not shattered
But willing to mend
Could be that
Leads to flight
Or sinking to
It's all in where the balance
Is lost
Whether it is a slip backwards
Or a leap of faith

There is just us
Your hand in mine
No past
No history
our skin touching
Our breath shared
Your body, warm and solid
Against mine
No once was
No other loves
Just this love

About difficulty...

Difficult things --
I am drawn to them like
Ants to sugar
Easy holds no thrill
No satisfaction in
The lack of work
So I always
Gravitate to
That thing that doesn't
Just happen
That thing that requires
Toil and delay
Focusing on a point ahead
With sweet gratification
Just outside my reach
Or some denial of
Happiness in the now
Always striving
I tire of it
Yet I choose it every time
Like choice is not a factor
And "chose" is a word I use
Funny that this
Impatient, very impatient person
Takes the path that requires
The most patience

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Castaway Part V... Off the Island and a little bit about the Whale

Chuck Noland was stranded on a desert island - stripped down, leaned out by isolation, cut off from the life he knew and its daily rhythms.  That's what widowhood after 33 years of wedlock feels like at first. Once you lived in a marriage, suddenly you were a adrift and washed up on an unknown shore. It feels like you may never get off that island. You have moments where you almost resign yourself to the idea that you will forever mourn the loss of your old life and scratch out a barren, joyless existence. Chuck Noland, face with the formidable barrier of the reef and the lack of materials to devise a sail felt trapped as well. He couldn't reasonably imagine rescuing himself with the materials he had available.Without intervention, he could see no way off.

Noland was trapped four years. Four long years.  I've met people trapped in grief for that long and longer. They fail to get find or accept the resources to get off the island. They remain preoccupied with the loss, crippled by longing for the loved one who is no longer there, unable to find purpose or meaning. I believe that the loss of a spouse if very different from the loss of a parent or a child -- and that each of these losses have their own nuances. None is worse than the other. I've experience all and I can say that the loss of a spouse, to me,  is more like the loss of my life and my identity than any thing else.  Parents raise us up to set us free; we raise up children, not expecting to keep them forever. We experience little deaths when we move away from our parents, when our nest is emptied. In no way is the physical death of either "less" than the death of a spouse, but it is different.  A spouse is someone we commit share life with "until death do us part."  We become one. And as C.S. Lewis wrote, losing a spouse is much like an amputation. In order to not remain trapped on the island of grief-stricken widowhood, you must hold out hope that there IS LIFE out there, just beyond that barrier reef. You need to dream; you need to patiently (gulp, I said the word) believe that escape is possible with the right tools.

"And one day my logic was proven all wrong because the tide came in, and gave me a sail. And now, here I am. I'm back." The island changed him, but at the core Chuck was still Chuck. Parts of who "he" was came back to serve him rather than to control him. Once he was a slave to the clock and to the calendar, now he used his knowledge of these things to purposefully plan his escape. Where the old Chuck was constantly trying to race against minutes, he was now working with the slow, steady reliability and timeliness of the forces of nature. As you find your way off the island of your grief, you will find that you learned a lot being married and you learned a lot as you were thrust into life on your own. Putting the best of the old with the new resiliency and it is a matter of waiting upon Providence to send in the key to escape with the tide. He knows what we need better than we do and Philippians 4:19  tells us "... my God will meet all your needs according to the riches of his glory in Christ Jesus."

Watching Chuck launch his rickety raft off the island and row headlong into those terrifying waves makes me tense up every time. I'm still impressed by how that rickety thing that didn't look safe and didn't look pretty made it over such an overwhelming obstacle. It took faith to depart from that island. Four years before he was flying above the clouds, his life on course, finding himself in a horrifying struggle against the power of the ocean which spit him out on that rocky shore. Now we see him bravely turning his back on that island and venturing forth with faith into the same ocean. That's faith. Belief in action that there *is* something better out there, that sitting on that island and rotting is not "life."  For me, the knowledge that Pat loved the Lord and that his death wasn't some grim finality made a huge difference in my attitude and my unwillingness to set up camp on the island for the long haul. I also completely believe that God has plans for me, good plans, plans that are not mean to harm me but to see me prosper (Jeremiah 29:11). I have faith that all things work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to His purpose. Just because there is a season where I'm blinded by tears or facing rocky uphill climbs, I have known all along that I can't lose heart because one day I'll see what He was doing and I know it's going to be for good greater than I can imagine.

This is where I have to mention about the whale - this is getting too long for one sharing opportunity - but that whale represents to me God's presence. (I've got much more to write about this that I probably will at a later time). When Chuck gets past that barrier, past his long,dark night of the soul (four years worth), in the dead of night he encounters the peaceful presence of that huge whale. The whale, with all its majesty,bellows, exhales, submerges and reappears on the other side of that rickety raft, casting its peaceful, benevolent eye on Chuck. One flip of a fin or turn of the tail and that whale could crush Chuck, instead it is on one side, then the other, a protective guardian. It vanishes below the surface and yet you know it is there. There is a wonderful song by Mark Heard, a man who also died young of a heart attack and is with the Lord today.  The song talks about how we so often do not realize the "strong Hand of love hidden in the shadows."

I'm on that rickety raft like Chuck.I'm out on the sea on the way to living this new life as whoever He has planned for me to be.

Monday, May 1, 2017

Castaway (Part III)...

And now time for part III of the comparison of my past 10 months with Castaway. It's apparent to me now that this will not be done in three parts. I'm verbose and a lot has happened, a lot has changed in me and around me. REMEMBER, please, that this is not necessarily where I am right now. This is a lot of "hindsight is 20/20" reflection. With that.....One thing Chuck couldn't do was get off that island. He could not get past the barrier reef. He would try but the huge waves would send him crashing back. My barrier reef has less physical than it has been emotional/spiritual; my barrier reef has been my loss of identity and the ability to see myself in a new light. For most of my life my identify has been as part of a union, a very strong union that had survived some very big storms but could not withstand the division of death. Coming to terms with "aloneness" and accepting myself as a singularity, recreating myself as "me" instead of part of "us," this has been my hurdle.

Chuck had purpose in his old life - loving Kelly with plans to marry her and keeping things smoothly oiled at FedEx. That purpose helped him to focus on staying alive on that island and gave him hope.  The thought of Kelly back in his arms kept him alive. The intent to deliver the one package that he chose not to open gave him a sense of continuity of purpose that helped him hang on to his identity. The barrier reef defeated his purpose - but only temporarily.  Temporarily can be a short time, but it can also be longer than we like. The key is that it is not permanent. Chuck had a purpose which enabled him to work toward the hope that the island was not his final residence.

A portion of my purpose was buried with Pat. After all, unlike Chuck's desire to reunite with Kelly, I knew from the get go that reuniting with Pat in this lifetime would never be an option. Therefore, I've had to pull from other parts of my identity in order to give me a reason to hang on to some semblance of sanity. I've  also had to dig and untangle the knotted purpose of my life and extricate the single cord of my own purpose as "Glynis," the stand-alone entity/

Faced with that barrier reef and a seeming inability to make it over that reef, Chuck had to come to terms with life on the island. He said, ""I had power over *nothing*. And that's when this feeling came over me like a warm blanket. I knew, somehow, that I had to stay alive. Somehow. I had to keep breathing. Even though there was no reason to hope."  He had to look around that island and find resources that would enable him to survive. Action had to be taken and often it was painful and exhausting.

Sometimes the tide brought in useful items from the plane crash that greatly aided Chuck in his survival. Lessons learned in my marriage have surfaced, as well, to help me survive this unexpected life.  Chuck was able to use those blessings as tools to scratch out a life on that island.

When Chuck made it back to civilization, he was faced with loss all over again. Kelly was gone - she had a new life, one that he was not part of.  He was faced with loss but he was also faced with possibility.

"I had power over *nothing*. And that's when this feeling came over me like a warm blanket. I knew, somehow, that I had to stay alive. Somehow. I had to keep breathing. Even though there was no reason to hope. And all my logic said that I would never see this place again. So that's what I did. I stayed alive. I kept breathing. And one day my logic was proven all wrong because the tide came in, and gave me a sail. And now, here I am. I'm back."

Castaway Part IV

Part IV. It seems to be the proclivity of man to not appreciate things properly until they are gone. Continuing to compare my first ten months of widowhood with Castaway, Chuck became keenly aware of the things that he once assumed were always going to be part of his life like ice, fire, knives, dentists around the corner, companionship... I also became keenly aware of the things that were no longer present in my life.

There are things in a marriage that one truly takes for granted. Waking up next to someone every morning. Having someone who says, "Are you ok?" when you sigh, groan, scream, or perhaps make a loud bang as you wipe out.There is someone there to laugh with you and cry with you. There are so many pleasant things that you don't truly appreciate until they are gone. I was blessed to have a husband who loved to give me back/neck rubs. Driving in the car, if I was at the wheel, I'd get a neck rub. Sitting in church. Watching TV. My neck has been so tight since he left this orb because the daily ministrations are gone.  Twirling my hair - wherever we were, particularly sitting in church, Pat always had his arm around me twirly my hair. Sometimes it would even hurt because he'd be so absentmindedly doing it that he wouldn't realize it was too much. He also would really muss it up and shrug if I got annoyed, then go back to twirling.  I can't remember a day that went past that he didn't compliment me, tell me how beautiful he thought I was, or let me know in some way that he still had the hots for me even after all the years. Women always complain about toilet seats left up, trails of laundry, misplaced items, the last piece of something eaten. Lose your spouse of 33 years and I'll guarantee you that you would jump for joy if you fell in the toilet at night because that meant he was there.The passive aggressive battles over which way the toilet paper should be placed on the roller, waking up to dishes from his midnight snacks.

You miss what you no longer have; strangely enough, this means the bad with the good, the "meh" with the wonderful. You think you have time, therefore, you gripe, you forget to be thankful, Marriage is an amazing opportunity to come to terms with your own humanity and someone else's. It is a time to exercise forgiveness and humility, to learn to put another's needs before your own. You learn about specks in someone else's eye and planks in your own, up close and personal. Iron sharpens iron, if you don't kill each other, you will be stronger in the end.

In the beginning of the story, Chuck extols the virtues of the clock - "We live or die by the clock." Chuck lives in a world where time is of the essence. As for me, one of my life mottoes has been from "IF--" by Rudyard Kipling: "If you can fill the unforgiving minute with 60 seconds worth of distance run..." Time is relentless and as Chuck says, "Relentless is our goal." Suddenly, days marked by the ticking of the clock were gone. Used to time broken down in seconds, minutes, hours, with must-dos and the all-powerful schedule to comply with, Chuck now finds that time can be relentless in a completely different way. He also must build a new personal of relentlessness that includes patience, something heretofore not a part of the equation. Not that my time now is as unrelentingly slow and focused as Chuck's became on that island, but I deeply regret the constant motion, the time spent meeting goals and conquering to-do lists. This is not to say that those goals that I met haven't served me well - in fact, I thank God for the foresight to do some of the things I did. However, I wish that more time had been filled with the simplicity of enjoying our life together. The clock stopped on our marriage far earlier than I ever had imagined it would. Job 1:21 - "The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away; may the name of the Lord be praised.” Let this be a cautionary tale.

Psalm 90:12 says "Teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom."  In James 4:14 we are reminded, "Yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes."

Next up: The Whale. What the Tide Brings In. Facing other losses.  Not necessarily in the same post. :)

Sunday, April 23, 2017

All is not lost, so it seems...

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

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Castaway...(Part II)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, April 1, 2017

Castaway...(Part I)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, March 30, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Meaningfulness or meaninglessness of things...

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

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

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

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