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

Busy-ness

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.

Love,
Glynis





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
Wary
But willing to mend
Could be that
Falling
Leads to flight
Or sinking to
Despair
It's all in where the balance
Is lost
Whether it is a slip backwards
Or a leap of faith
10/16/16

Tonight
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
This
2/5/17

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
Heartache
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
Instinctively
Like choice is not a factor
And "chose" is a word I use
Loosely
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: http://glynis-p.blogspot.com/  In Castaway, Chuck Noland found himself on a deserted island with one main focus: keep breathing. I found myself in the same place after Pat died. Purpose itself becomes confusing, so it must be simplified to what once was automatic.Every day becomes a matter of inhale, exhale.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, April 1, 2017

Castaway...(Part I)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, March 30, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Meaningfulness or meaninglessness of things...

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

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

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

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


Saturday, March 18, 2017

Though the darkness hide Thee...

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And this from 2 Corinthians:

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

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

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

He's holy. :)


Sunday, March 5, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Thursday, February 23, 2017

One body, made of some messy parts...

"Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. " Ephesians 4:2-3
"For just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us." Romans 12:4-6
" For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ...." 1 Corinthians 12:12-27

These verses were heavy on my heart/mind today. With my classes I've been using different informational texts for Black history month. We've had some good discussions about the injustices and unfairnesses that occurred and have occurred through history. Today one particular text led to a discussion on bullies.  I found an article that talked about different reasons why people bully others. One of the reasons is that the bully perceives the victim as different in some way - smarter, weaker, whiter, blacker, more easy going, more anxious, etc. The bully might have a big ego and think he/she is better than anyone else, that his/her ways are the best ways or the only ways. The bully might be jealous and have a problem with low self-esteem. There could even be a pack situation.

So here we are in the Body of Christ, a collective of broken people who recognize their need of a Savior. People from all kinds of walks of life come together, called by God, at all different places in their spiritual growth. People with all sorts of different gifts. People with all sorts of different ways of doing things. People who are different from each other. Sometimes very different. Now, whoa, wait - can you figure out what I might be getting at? Bullies within the body. The Apostle Paul must have dealt with this - he writes in 1 Corinthians 12 "The eye cannot say to the hand, “I have no need of you,” nor again the head to the feet, “I have no need of you.”  On the contrary, the parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, and on those parts of the body that we think less honorable we bestow the greater honor, and our unpresentable parts are treated with greater modesty,  which our more presentable parts do not require. But God has so composed the body, giving greater honor to the part that lacked it,  that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another.  If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together."

We are not going to be just like each other. Some of us may have old habits or behaviors that need the Holy Spirit - or we ourselves may have them and someone else's actions are revealing our personal not-so-good-junk in our reactions. They may want us to be clones of them or we may want them to do things our way. BUT the body needs eyes, it needs knees, it needs hands, feet, ears... It needs some of the parts that some may find less than presentable.  This is where being completely humble and gentle comes in. We need to be patient with others and pray that they are patient with us. We need to humbly realize that we, too, are imperfect and should bear with each other in love. It is our responsibility to make every effort to keep the unity in peace.  We are not the same and YET we are loved by our Lord and should love one another.

As I was writing this, one of my graduate school classmates shared a fantastic devotion with my from John Piper's "Desiring God" page, featuring Philippians 4:6 and 4:19. Don't be anxious, make sure that in all things you pray with thankfulness and let your requests be known to God and rest assured that God will supply all your need out of His riches. Therefore, if you want unity - ask. If you want to be accepted, understood and treated with compassion, pray. If you might be reacting with a less than humble and gentle spirit to another member of the body, present your problem to God. He will supply you with what you need to overcome the battle you are in. Now, it is a shame, that sometimes we must feel like we are in a battle with other members of the same body but again, this is apparently a thing that has gone on since the early church. Nothing is new. People are people and until we meet our Lord, we are bound to experience friction. We must patiently and prayerfully allow the Lord to knit us together.

Monday, February 13, 2017

Being blessed in many ways...

Lately when I run into people who don't see me regularly I am greeted with tender glances of concern and questions regarding how I am doing. Just last week I got three super sweet notes of care in the mail. How precious this is! (I *adore* mail). It has been seven months since Pat passed; I must say, it is extraordinarily sweet to have friends out there who are still reminding me that I'm in their prayers. In the words of Leo Buscaglia, "Too often we underestimate the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word, a listening ear, an honest compliment, or the smallest act of caring, all of which have the potential to turn a life around."    

Langston Hughes once said, "When people care for you and cry for you, they can straighten out your soul."  Daily I'm out there with my James F. Bell attitude telling myself that "Fear is met and destroyed with courage," but I know darned well that it is the folks behind the scenes praying and lifting me up to the Lord who have given me the strength to go through this grieving process, to start two new jobs, to go through all the chaos and craziness that ensues when your partner is torn from you and your  life suddenly does a tailspin.  So - how am I doing? Thanks to the grace of God and the prayers of His people I'm alright. I am really and truly alright.

I'm working two jobs - teaching middle schoolers by day and teaching 5 exercise classes a week.  I can't even begin to say what a blessing this is. Yes, it is hard sometimes to come home and have to rush right out the door again BUT -- and this is a big BUT -- I am doing what I love. How many people get to do what they truly love? Lighting fires, teaching kids to love language, to love learning, to find better ways to communicate -- I adore this. One of my 7th graders told me last week, "Mrs. P, I admire you for your empathy." I was impressed that he understood the word and ecstatic that he saw that in me because I try so hard to feel what they feel, to figure out where each of them is coming from so that I can get them excited and involved in learning. And then there is the gym - To give people a good hard work out, to help them feel good about the things their body can do and to help them believe in themselves and their potential - that energizes me.

Steve Jobs hit the nail on the head when he said, "Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do." I know I'm really flinging the quotes around tonight but these words from Kahlil Gibran hit home: “Work is love made visible. And if you cannot work with love but only with distaste, it is better that you should leave your work and sit at the gate of the temple and take alms of those who work with joy." When I'm teaching, I'm teaching out of love, out of wanting to impart some knowledge or start the wheels of cognition grinding in someone's mind - and I love it when the lights come on and I can see the "Aha!" moment like a neon sign flashing. I love when I've challenged someone's body and they thought "I can't do that" and they find themselves saying, "Hey, I DID THAT!"

It is a warm and happy feeling to know that I've got friends out there praying me through this widowhood. I am certain that the road would be much harder if it weren't for your visits to the throne room on my behalf. Every hurdle that arises, every obstacle that looms ahead, I'm hedged in with the knowledge that God's got this. Romans 8 all the way. :)  And -- God has blessed me with a prayer partner who has been praying with me every morning and every night. If I were to write an infomercial script about why everyone should have a prayer partner, it would start with "Would you like your prayer life be transformed with a spiritual practice that will maximize your results?" Matthew 18:19-20 tells us, "If two of you agree on earth concerning anything that they ask, it will be done for them by My Father in heaven. For where two or three are gathered together in My name, I am there in the midst of them" Praying with a partner is uplifting, encouraging, humbling, and simply beautiful.

And on that note, Mondays are one of my few nights to play "catch up" around the house. After a busy Friday/Saturday, I was waylaid by that nasty stomach bug all day Sunday and it lingered into this morning. I've got mountains of laundry to put away and chores galore.  God bless!


Friday, February 3, 2017

Death and taxes...

Benjamin Franklin once said, "In this world, nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes." These things are said with resignation. As humans, we must be resigned to the undeniable fact that we all are going to die and we are all going to be required to pay/file taxes.  An unfun part of this time of year for me is having these two collide.

I have the task of filing taxes jointly with Patrick for the last time and having to check off a "deceased" box with death info on my 1040. Throughout this whole ordeal there have been times that bring about suffocating horror like taking his name off insurance, documents, property, etc.,  or stabbing pain like being stumped when filling out emergency contact information and not putting his name on the paper. Sitting here seven months from the day his heart attack turned my world upside down, the wound will be torn a bit as I go through the ordeal of taxes and realizing the finality of his death once again. It's not like it's not there in little ways daily, but a big ticket item like this certainly salts the wound. (The fact that I substituted for seven districts last year and have to enter info from ten W-2 forms doesn't help make the chore any easier).

Now, Pat never helped with taxes. It's not like in doing the deed, I'll be missing much of anything. He lurked somewhere at a safe distance while I muddled through the chore; he made himself available for occasional whining or griping. He preferred avoiding the stress and listening to how things were going from just far enough away to hear without being sucked into the ordeal. Nothing has changed - I do the taxes, I do them well.  I randomly complain loudly, I'm sure the dogs will also keep their distance.

Tax time is just another hurdle to cross. I'm sure the burn and the aching reminder of "Yes, my husband is dead" will pass. Then there will be Valentine's Day, birthdays and an anniversary and such is life. A whole bunch of "first withouts" will come, be survived, and time will continue to march forward. I'm doing things - whether I really want to or not - that need to be done. There is a feeling of accomplishment that comes with every item checked off my list. Sometimes it is satisfied accomplishment; sometimes it is the "WHEW!" glad that is over sort. There are things to freak out about, but I know God's got my back and I'm shielded, covered and in the best of Hands. Regardless of what is my current situation, I'm plugging away and moving on to the next "must do."  " Pat's death happened. My husband is gone. The clock ticks, the sun rises and in the words of Miyamoto Musashi "The Way of the warrior is resolute acceptance of death." And hey, the truth of the matter is that in the mundane or in the horrific, the banal tasks or the noble challenges, Romans 8:37 rings true: "In all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.

"It is only through labor and painful effort, by grim energy and resolute courage, that we move on to better things," said Theodore Roosevelt. Lest I sound too heavy on the "grim" and to light on hope, God has been blessing me. Romans 12:12 says to  "Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, continue steadfastly in pray."  The Lord has definitely been throwing joy into my life with encouragement from friends both old and new, (thank you Anna for the card!), opportunities to talk about Him, and lately a prayer partner to help me start and end each day (thank you, thank you).

Death and taxes may be colliding in my life this month, but dancing around them are irrepressible hope and the certainty that my God's on my side.



Saturday, January 21, 2017

Finding Boaz...

Ruth is a good go-to story for widows everywhere to illustrate that love can come a second time around. It makes for a good romance novel in general - there are obstacles and yet they are overcome.

In the biblical account, Ruth is a Moabitess married into the family of Elimelech who had escaped a famine in Israel. Tragedy seems to track down this family as her mother-in-law, Naomi, is widowed. Within 10 years, Naomi's sons, Mahlon and Chilion, have also died.  This leaves three widows destitute and fortuneless.  One daughter-in-law, Orpah, returns to her people with Naomi's blessing; however, Ruth clings to Naomi and will not abandon her.  Together they head to Naomi's home of Israel where the barley harvest has just begun. Naomi is older and unlikely to ever remarry. Her hope had been that Ruth would find a husband among her own people; however, Ruth tells Naomi that basically the people of the Lord (Naomi's people) are her people and she will go with her wherever she goes.

Digressing a little, this is what the Bible says about widows:

“A father of the fatherless and a judge for the widows is God in His holy habitation” (Ps. 68:5)
 “The Lord protects the strangers; He supports the fatherless and the widow” (Ps. 146:9)
“Cursed is he who distorts the justice due an alien, orphan, and widow” (Deut. 27:19)
“This is pure and undefiled religion in the sight of our God and Father, to visit orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world” (James 1:27)

Paul talks to Timothy about four types of widows:
(1) The “widows indeed” (NASB; NIV this translates to “really in need”), who do not have family members to care for them (5:3-5, 9-10)
(2) Widows with children and grandchildren (5:4, 16)
(3) Younger widows, who should remarry (5:11-15)
(4) Widows who live for pleasure rather than for the Lord (5:6).

As for me, I know I come under category 3.  I'm too young to be a burden on my children and grandchildren. Too full of life to resign myself to a manless existence. This is what the Bible says to me:

1 Timothy 5:14  I counsel younger widows to marry, to have children, to manage their homes and to give the enemy no opportunity for slander.
1 Corinthians 7:9 But if they cannot control themselves, let them marry. For it is better to marry than to burn with passion.

I don't want to be category 4 - so it is of crucial importance to me that the man I chose to spend my later days with loves the Lord with all his heart, soul, strength and mind.

So back to Ruth, she and Naomi arrive in Israel basically destitute. No man to provide for them; they are reliant on the good will of the community. Naomi was depressed over the situation and it is obvious that Ruth is a source of comfort to her. As I mentioned, the barley harvest is about to start so Ruth offers to go out and glean the fallen barley, dropped by the harvesters, in order to provide food for the two women. She winds up in the field of Boaz, a relation of the deceased Elimelech. He takes notice of her, asks around about who she is, and then tells her "Don’t go and glean in another field and don’t go away from here. Stay here with the women who work for me. Watch the field where the men are harvesting, and follow along after the women. I have told the men not to lay a hand on you. And whenever you are thirsty, go and get a drink from the water jars the men have filled."  He zooms in on her need for protection. He makes sure that she knows that, not only is she welcome there, but he is going to provide that protection. She is grateful and actually asks him why he is being so nice to her. He lets her know that her reputation has impressed him and he wants God to bless her.

It turns out this is a good place to be - Naomi is pleased and tells Ruth to stay there. Now, Ruth must have already respected Naomi deeply because she chose to leave her own land to stick with her.  Read the rest of the story and see what happens.  Boaz is obviously quite happy that this young widow took notice of him and he gets right to the business of seeing that she can legally become his wife. Ruth asks him to "spread the corner of your garment over me" (Ruth 3:9, NIV) which had several meanings.  The word for corner in Hebrew means "wings," so she is asking him to protect her like a mother bird protects her babies beneath her wings. She was asking him to take her as his wife, to be her guardian-redeemer.

Now widows come with baggage. They come with memories, with the heartache of loss, often children and belongings from the former relationship that death has completed. The guardian-redeemer of the OT willingly understood that offspring from that relationship would be accounted to the deceased relation.  While this is not a practice in our world today, there is still a boatload of baggage that a Boaz acquires when he finds a Ruth that he desires. It is a special, kind and loving man indeed who is willing to take on that role.

Feminists might cry out that women have no need of a guardian-redeemer, they can take care of themselves, very well, thank you. Feminists can keep their opinions to themselves.  I know that for me, I enjoyed a symbiotic relationship with my late husband. We each had strengths and weaknesses that balanced out the others. We stuck to traditional relationship roles and well, I like that. I have no need within me for crying out "I am woman, hear my roar!" I'm more like, "I am woman, hear me purr." So for women like me - young, widowed and not liking this self-reliant thing - I hope you find your Boaz.  A kind, loving man who wants to honor and protect you. A man who respects and honors you, who loves the Lord and is full of faith.

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Lights go out...

Don't laugh, but I changed a ceiling light bulb for the first time in my life all by myself - no one to stop me from dropping the globe and breaking the glass dome thing! #impressedwithmyself It was simply was never my department. He could do it without standing on a chair.

After I changed that ceiling light bulb today, it occurred to me that this is the third burnt out bulb that I've changed since Pat passed away. One in the kitchen, one on the back porch (which turned out to be the light fixture and Bob put up a new one), and now this one in the living room. I really needed light for my project so I got the bench he made for me and stood on it. The most solemn sobering thought hit me. I was painting baseboards under that new light and I suddenly realized: Pat had never lived in that light. This light never touched his skin, lit his path or gave me light to see his face. One by one all the lights that he lived in and shared with me will go out. Lights we lived and worked in, kissed, hugged, cried and fought under. One by one, I'll be replacing bulbs and he will never share in this light with me.

Part of me is so very, very sad but there is bigger part of me that has no choice but to rejoice for him. In Revelations 22:5 the Word says, "There will be no more night. They will not need the light of a lamp or the light of the sun, for the Lord God will give them light. And they will reign for ever and ever." Here I am, changing light bulbs, facing the strictures of time. Day. Night. Lights on, lights off. Pat is basking in the light of God's presence -- which never goes out.


Posted on Pat's wall:
I changed one of the ceiling light bulbs today. I could almost hear you telling me to wait until you got home and you would do it. It's the third light bulb I've had to change since you died. It occurred to me tonight that those were lights that shone on you. One by one all the light we shared will be gone; new bulbs and light you don't live in with me will eventually be in every room. I hate thinking that, but it is one of those truths that grabs me by the throat and squeezes the tears out of my eyes.

Saturday, January 14, 2017

Love? Widows/widowers - what are you looking for...

This will just hang here for anyone who happens to find it.

I had a conversation last week with a man I had been seeing. I felt something was missing - I felt that maybe we didn't have the same wants/needs in a relationship.  So I did the thing that men and women alike dread in a relationship. I said, "We need to talk."  This was a Wednesday. The upshot of it is that by Saturday we mutually decided that we needed to move on. It didn't get ugly. It just was. I can't say I wasn't hurt and disappointed that, after investing a bunch of time (having realized how darned precious it is when Pat passed on), that we really weren't as compatible as we initially thought. The fact that a week out, I'm not heartbroken says that yep, it just wasn't right,

So here is what I wanted to talk about.  What are you looking for in a relationship? This has some twists when it is post-death of the proverbial "love of someone's life." When someone is separated from their spouse by death there isn't the rejection from other types of separation; there is a very different emotional imprint that comes with losing someone via break up or divorce. When death parts people, that love is deep and abiding. It can even seem larger than life.  The bereaved may not truly want to move on from that love to another. They may be merely looking for steady companionship to bide the time until they follow the beloved spouse to the other side. So "what are you looking for in a relationship?" is an important question.

If you want companionship only, someone to come home to and spend the days with until the shadows fall, that is fine - but you both need to know and want the same thing. There is a love that's like a comfortable old pair of slippers or those favorite jeans that are worn out just right. Easy to be in but you just "know" they are there.  You don't take them out just to admire them; you know where you left them and you don't need to slip them on your feet one more time before you start your day or end it. In a relationship you  aren't driven - you don't "need" to hear that person's voice to say goodnight. You can survive without that one more hug and kiss at the door. You walk to your car, you put in the keys, you drive away. Oh, you'll call in the morning and you like that you have "a person" and are even willing to devote time to that person - but something is just missing. Or maybe it's not - maybe you are so whole and complete that they aren't needed to make you feel that sensation. In Randy Travis' song, "Forever and Ever Amen," he sings "you're not just time that I'm killing." In this situation, well, it might feel like exactly like you are just killing time together.

There is another kind of love - and it's the kind I want. Don't get me wrong - I want that comfort and ease, too. However, I want madly, deeply, passionately along with it. I want the earth to move under my feet and the stars to sing. I want the man who has to say "I love you" before bed, whose voice makes me feel warm and alive. I want the talk to be of us, of the future. Oh, when people have lost someone they love, there will be talk of the one who is gone - but it shouldn't dominate the conversation. A constant diet of another woman or another man is a buzz kill.  Back to Travis' song, he sings, "They say that time can play tricks on a memory, make people forget things they knew. well, it's easy to see it's happening to me, I've already forgotten every woman but you." No, you don't actually "forget" the love of your past, but you have so embraced the love of the now that your focus is on this present love, this present life.  It's mad love; it's need to see you one more time love; it's passionate, mind-locking, into your soul kind of love.

You have to stop and ask yourself. Which love do I want? Don't settle for the love that doesn't fit the bill.

Here's to finding the person who wants the same things that you want in a relationship. Here's to a comfortable place to land, a peaceful easy feeling - and for me, I'll take madly, passionately, deeply along with it.

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Some my poetry about the power of words...

This was written about someone who didn't feel it was necessary to use words of affirmation.

Make love to me with your words
Stroke the inner lining of my soul
   with your deepest thoughts
Find the soft, secret places of my heart
Ready for the touch of your intimations
With your mind make me plead for more
Make me sigh and shudder with passion
For more -- more of the words you use
Communicate to me of your desires,
Your dreams
Your hopes
Spell them on my skin
Burn them deep, like a fire in my veins
Assurances, commitment,
Promises
Make love to me with these
And my body is yours, as well