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