Tuesday, May 31, 2011

The Joys of Dirty Laundry

In the weeks following my husband's death earlier this month, I've been blessed by having my house cleaned twice by other people. What a precious gift it was not to have to focus on something as mundane, yet as important, as house cleaning. It seems that even something that simple can take a toll on a grieving widow. However, the time came this past weekend when I had to do it myself. Another first since entering this new phase of life. There never seems to be a shortage of firsts.

I had no motivation to clean but knew I would feel so much better after it was done. I had my list of chores, and my daughter had hers, and we both got to work. I think it took me practically all day on Saturday to get everything done, because I kept getting distracted. I would go to put something away in a drawer and see something that reminded me of Chris, and then I would just park there for a little while.

While hanging up some of my clean laundry, I side-stepped to Chris' side of the closet for a few moments and literally stuck my head into the area where his clothes were hanging. You see...within hours of learning of his death, I quickly ran to our closet to seek out a whiff of him and found comfort in his clothing. I could smell him when smelling his clothes. I'm sure I'm beginning to sound a bit crazy at the moment, but trust me...having his scent around me brought extreme comfort. So, on Saturday...I did my usual routine of "sniffing out" his clothing only to discover his scent was barely there. Actually, I'm not sure it was there anymore at all, but I think my mind wanted to pretend that it was. I actually panicked a little, and the tears began to well up in my eyes. It was almost as if it was my last link to a small piece of his physical presence - even though I know he's gone. But, as long as the scent was there...I still I had a small piece of him with me.

Deeply saddened, I took a 30-minute break to go sit outside and read some. I had no desire to clean at the moment. I felt betrayed...again. This time...by a loss of a scent. It reminded me of when Isaac was comforted by the scent of his beloved Esau (actually Jacob in disguise)...

So he went to him and kissed him. When Isaac caught the smell of his clothes, he blessed him and said, “Ah, the smell of my son is like the smell of a field that the LORD has blessed." Genesis 27:27

That's similar to how I felt whenever I could still smell my husband among his clothing. It was a pleasing and most blessed aroma. But, now...it...was...gone.

After my break outside, I came back to our closet and just started shuffling things around a bit. I'm not sure I was really accomplishing anything. As I was straightening up some items on the floor, I noticed a small pile of clothing on the floor on Chris' side of the closet. Oh my goodness. I remember now! Right after he died, I saw his dirty clothes on the floor and asked everyone not to touch any of it. I wasn't ready to move any of his things. I had literally forgotten all about that little pile until I saw it again on Saturday. I scooped it up into my arms, and YES...his scent was there...boldly there! You would have thought I had just opened the most glamorous gift I'd ever received. And...in a way...I had. Who would have thought that finding dirty laundry would have brought me such joy?

Friday, May 27, 2011


I've been in prison. No...not the literal type with the metal bars and barbed wire fencing. But, I've been in prison nonetheless. Not only have I been in prison, but I've been in shackles too. Barely able to move...

My prison has been my home filled with pictures, smells, reminders of my sweet Chris who left me 23 days ago.

My prison has been my closet filled with reminders of the clothes he used to put on each morning.

My prison has been the memories in my mind that continually interrupt my daily thoughts and take over any available cavity and crevice in my brain to render me useless in accomplishing anything else.

My shackles are my dreams of what could have been but now never will be.

My shackles are the unending task lists that are created following the burial of a loved one.

My shackles are my emotions that tend to control me rather than the other way around.

My prison...is my grief.

I feel like I've been sentenced to a prison called Grief. It's a lonely, painful, sad place to be. I don't know my release date just yet, but it seems like it's an eternity away.

During my time with Abba this morning, I almost heard His audible whisper...don't forget Paul and Silas. What Lord? Don't forget Paul and Silas.

Yes Lord. I know all about Paul and Silas's time in prison in Acts 16. It just happens to be one of my very favorite stories in all of scripture. And...I read the story again.

"After they had been severely flogged, they were thrown into prison, and the jailer was commanded to guard them carefully. Upon receiving such orders, he put them in the inner cell and fastened their feet in the stocks. About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the other prisoners were listening to them. Suddenly there was such a violent earthquake that the foundations of the prison were shaken. At once all the prison doors flew open, and everybody's chains came loose." ~Acts 16:23-26 NIV

They praised their way out of prison. The greek word for hymn in this passage implies they celebrated God in song.

After being led back to this passage, I fell on my knees...raised my hands in praise to God and asked Him to meet me where I was (as ugly as I might be right now). And, then I began...

to pray to Him

to thank Him

to speak His Word back to Him

to celebrate Him in song

to PRAISE Him!!

And...the shackles started to come undone, and the prison door slightly opened, and He picked me up and carried me out the door.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Sitting Alone in a Cemetery

Monday night was probably the hardest night I've had since the first week following Chris' death. And, interestingly, it followed one of the better days I've had in recent weeks.

I started a new job Monday with an organization that I greatly admire. It's actually a result of years of prayer and fasting...and the journey began this week. Yes, it's stressful beginning a new job. Yes, it's even more stressful beginning a new job within weeks of burying my husband. However, this is a position and an organization that I KNOW God has called me to and even more...I'm convinced He called me to it at this EXACT time in my life for purposes not completely known to me just yet. But...I trust Him completely and must obey His lead.

So, after having a wonderful first day at my new job...I couldn't wait to get home Monday night and tell Chris all about it. Yes, while driving home...I literally thought that for just a brief moment in time! Just as the thought escaped my brain, I caught myself.

What are you thinking Leah? Chris is gone. Pull yourself together.

Almost as quickly as I the thought came to the forefront of my mind...it fled.

I began to think about what it might have been like had he been at home waiting on me (he usually got home from work first). More than likely, he and Anna would be planning a special celebration dinner. He loved to cook and did the majority of it in our home. He probably would have baked my favorite treat for a sugar celebration as well. While eating dinner as a family, I probably would have monopolized the conversation while unloading the events of the day for his and Anna's listening pleasure. Yes...that's probably what it might have been like. But instead...

There was no special celebratory dinner.

There was no special dessert treat.

There was no family conversation around the dinner table.

Instead...I went to the cemetery. As a Christian, I know my husband isn't truly there, but I still can't help but feel close to him in some special way when I go sit beside his grave. As I got out of the car and walked towards his grave, I looked around and noticed that I was the ONLY one in the cemetery. This is a pretty big cemetery, but at that moment I was completely alone.

I sat down on the grass by my husband's freshly dug grave. At first...I said nothing. Then, I began to tell Chris (and the grass and silk flowers surrounding me) everything about my day that I had wanted to share with him in person. If somebody had walked up behind me at the moment, they might have thought I was crazy. But, I didn't care. I shared it all. I had to.

Then, I began to pray...well, I actually began a time of questioning God. It wasn't pretty blog friends, but it was necessary. Then...it came. The downpour of tears. A flood of tears like nothing I'd cried since the day I found out (three weeks ago today, actually) that my husband was gone. Through my sobs, I managed to say one last thing to God at that moment...

Please Father...please Abba...please let me know you're here. I know your Word says you'll never leave me or forsake. I really do know that to be true, but right now...I need to FEEL you. I have no right to ask for this, but I really need to feel your presence, because I'm feeling very alone right now.

As I continued to sit and wait in the stillness of that moment...a soft wind quickly developed and literally passed through my hair and across my skin, and I knew. He was here. Thank you sweet Abba. I felt no other breezes other than this particular one the rest of the time I was there. But, right after the wind swept across my body, God spoke into my heart something that went like this...

Sweet daughter, come to me with your heavy heart and give it completely to me. Cry as many tears as you need to as often as you need to. Ask me anything you want to ask me. I never grow tired and weary of listening to you my child. I love you, and you're right...I'll never leave you or forsake you.

So, while sitting alone in the cemetery Monday night...God made His presence vividly known to me. And then...we sat...together.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

How are you doing?

How are you doing?

A question I hear most often these days. Sadly, I don't know how to answer it...or, at least I don't know how to answer it in ways that won't send my questioner reeling with feelings of dread for even having asked the question to begin with. Generally, I respond with something like...

I'm hanging in there. or

I'm just living day by day (or hour by hour). or

I'm really not sure. I guess okay.

Those are my typical responses. I guess they are my "safe" responses. But, today I started thinking about my real answers to that question. They aren't pretty. They are very raw. So, if you don't want to really know...please go ahead and stop reading and move onto a happier blog post. I won't blame you one bit. However, if you really want to peek into the heart of a grieving widow, this is just a small taste of how I'm really feeling:

*I miss Chris so badly that I hug his pillow so tightly at night as I sleep in hopes of still catching a whiff of his scent.

*I wear his t-shirts to bed and his sweatshirts around the house just to feel as if a little piece of him is still with me.

*I smell his bottle of cologne quite often so that I don't forget how good he always smelled.

*I ache over the fact I had to go purchase his permanent gravemarker this morning and was so emotionally spent following that brief appointment that I couldn't even go to work afterwards.

*I am already dreading our wedding anniversary coming up in less than 3 months.

*I am angry...tearfully angry...that I'm a 39-year-old widow.

*I'm overwhelmed at the outpouring of love and support that I've received from countless friends and strangers, and my heart breaks that my husband is not here to witness the love people have for us.

*I have a long list of things that I can't wait to tell Chris...things that I would normally share at dinner or as we're cuddling in the evenings. I feel as if I'm about to burst, because he's not here to hear all my stories.

*I'm hurt...I'm heartbroken...I'm beyond sad...and yet I'm having to learn how to function with such deep-seeded emotions.

*I'm exhausted from crying so hard, thinking so deeply, and questioning so often.

*I wonder when I'll feel "normal" again.

*And...I crave heaven and yearn for Jesus' return more than ever before.

There you have it...a snippet of how I would really answer the question, "How are you doing?" if I were being completely honest. As I said, it's not pretty. It's just real.

Monday, May 16, 2011

I Didn't Sign Up For This!

I knew many years ago that God was calling me to speak...to share the glory stories of his redemptive work in my life with every audience He gave me. I knew the difficult childhood I survived, the painful divorce I walked through with God's glorious grace, and everything in between could be shared for the purpose of bringing hope to others that have yet to attain that Hope that I have found...and ultimately be shared to bring Glory to God. I got to a place of healing, and I started crying out, "Use me Lord. I'll do anything you ask me do."

God began to open doors for me to speak - even in Liberia, Africa last summer! And, I hesitantly went but wondered how He could use "little 'ole me" to serve in such a God-craving nation as Liberia. How could I relate to these women? But...He already had that planned out too. My heart for serving women with "my story" grew deeper and deeper. And...so I prayed..."Use me Lord. I'll do anything you ask me do."

My most recent speaking event took me to Western Kentucky. I instantly felt a connection to this group of women and the community, in general. As I hugged their necks at the end of the event, women shared the little nuggets that would remain with them from my message. They shared how hearing the ways God redeemed my life gave them redemptive hope following deep pain. They loved on me with genuine agape love. And...again...I cried out to God, "Use me Lord. I'll do anything you ask me do."

Then came May 4.

My husband left me for his eternal home.

My heart broke in two.

And, I heard God whisper to my heart, "I will use you Leah. Are you still willing to do anything I ask you to do?"

Not this Lord. PLEASE...not this! I didn't sign up for this!

But...again I prayed, while weeping..."Yes Lord. Please heal my broken heart and use me. I'll do anything you ask me to do."

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Our Dreams Died Too

When I shared with my friend that I thought I needed to start blogging again, especially in light of my husband's tragic death, she agreed on one condition..."no pretty bows". She was quick to remind me that my tendency in blogging is no matter how humorous, how serious, or how painful my posts are...I tend to wrap them up and place a pretty bow on top. She was right. I may not always succeed, but that is my intent, because I want to offer hope...hope to my readers that regardless of life's sufferings...there is always Hope.

While I still believe that with everything in me, right now my posts will tend to be more reflective of my pain. My very raw pain. I'm still learning to cope. I'm still asking questions. I'm still begging God to let this simply be a bad dream. So, if you choose to continue to read along and share this journey with me...just know that I'm temporarily out of pretty bows. The wrapping might be ugly, but it's very, very real.

Last night and this morning I've been stuck. Stuck in realizing that not only did my husband die last week but all of our hopes and dreams that we talked about died too. I'm not only grieving the loss of my best friend and true love, but I'm grieving the loss of our dreams of...

1. ...restored fertility allowing more children.
2. ...adopting from Ethiopia.
3. ...me learning to scuba dive so that we could share in Chris' passion for the sport together.
4. ...owning a place at the beach, since we loved being at the ocean more than anywhere else.
5. ...going on a mission trip TOGETHER.
6. ...being debt free enabling us to live on very little and give most of it away. Chris' passion for giving was unbelievable.
7. ...growing old together.
8. ...spoiling our grandbabies.
9. ...going on a cruise for my 40th birthday next year.

My heart hurts more than I can express. My grief is greater than I can even fathom. And...right now I can't think beyond today, because today is difficult enough. But, as my dear friends reminded me when they were visiting last night..."God has only promised you the grace for today." Very true. So, for today...that's where I settle...in my portion of grace allotted for me today.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

One Week Ago Today

One week ago today...my world changed. Completely.

One week ago today...my heart broke completely in two.

One week ago today...I wept gutteral cries like I never knew existed within me.

One week ago today...the "worries" of my past and my future became laughable in comparison to my present pain.

One week ago today...I experienced the love of the body of Christ in its fullness.

One week ago today...I began a new season of suffering but a season more painful than any that has come prior.

One week ago today...I was abandoned...again.

One week ago today...I was betrayed...again.

One week ago today...the one who loved me most on this earth left me to be with the One Who loves me completely for all eternity.

One week ago today...my husband died and took a piece of me with him.