Thursday, December 29, 2011

Performance Living

Going through the motions. That’s what I’m doing these days. The motions…of simply living, that is.

I wake. I perform my morning routine.
I arrive at work. I perform my workday routine.
I return home. I perform my evening routine.

Sometimes, I just sit…performing my “nothingness routine”.

As I pondered this last night, I began to think that, for me, going through the motions really means “performance living”.

I’ve entered a new unfamiliar stage of this grief journey. Nearly 8 months into this, I find lots of discomfort in this new territory. I’ve experienced small fragments of time like this previously since my husband’s death, but nothing this consistent. I just don’t have the energy for true, purposeful living right now. Yes, I’m living day by day, obviously. But, I’ve discovered I’m really doing more “performing”. I’m like an actress, performing the role of Leah, the widow. There are certain tasks that must be performed everyday. I do them, but that’s it. That’s the extent of it.

I don’t like this role, at all. I want to be cast in a new role…one with more pizzazz, more excitement, more joy! I have so much I want to much I want to give back…so much life to live! But, I have no energy right now, so my desires translate into very little.

I’m a fixer, a doer, a Type A perfectionist (yes, I admit it). But, right now, I feel lazy, unproductive, and somewhat “fake”. I feel like I see the shell of a woman I don’t recognize anymore. And, that translates into many areas of my life. I spent the first 5 months of 2011 losing weight in a healthy manner. After Chris died, I lost even more (just due to grieving). But, by August…food became my comfort again. Not good. At all. I don't recognize me anymore and am sickened by what I see in the mirror every single day.

So, I’m struggling right now…with grief, with purpose, with self-esteem, and with trying to regain focus. I simply can’t stand this.

Jesus came for more than this. “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.” John 10:10 NASB

Lord, I beg you. Show me how to live that abundant life. Give me renewed strength and energy. I want more than this performance living. I want all that You gave up for me on that cross over 2000 years ago. Help me, Lord!

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

The Grief Marathon

Sometimes I think running a marathon would be easier.

Before setting out on the 26.2 mile race, one hopefully trains extensively...body and mind. The big day comes, and if well-trained, the race is no doubt difficult, but possible! Just when you think you can't run another step, you see the sign along the path that says 14 miles! You've done've run over half the journey! You're in the last part now. You can do this!

Somewhere around mile 22, your body wants to cave again. You begin the self-talk, "You're almost there. Four more miles." But, even with every optimistic word you share with yourself, your body wants to cave...until...

You pass a crowd of cheering onlookers. Strangers...urging you on, clapping loudly, screaming shouts of encouragement. It's just what you needed, you press forward and four miles collapse with tears of joy! You did it! You completed the 26.2 mile race! It may have been the hardest, most grueling thing your body's ever endured, but you did it! It's over! Let the celebration begin!

And such is my grief "race" on many levels.

I'm racing through each grief mile...some quite successfully...others find me barely hanging on. And...then I see the "signpost" showing me how far I've come, and I start to think "I can do this...I can do this...".

I continue to run; even walk sometimes. The grief miles become even more difficult this time. My body is so exhausted from the long endurance of this "race". Suddenly, a crowd of onlookers start to cheer me on. I hear the applause, the words of encouragement, the whistles, and the shouts of praise. It's just enough to get me through the next set of miles.

And yet, there are two distinct differences I've discovered on my grief marathon that don't exist in a regular race. In my case, there was no training of mind or body. I just suddenly found myself on the racetrack, and the whistle suddenly blew, signaling the start...whether I was ready or not.

But, the biggest difference? It doesn't have a definitive end. There aren't just 26.2 miles of grief to endure. There is no celebratory finish line. Will it get easier? Yes - I trust that it will, in time. But, as for ending...I'm not sure that will ever happen. So, for me, I have to learn how to cope on this lengthy race that I was not prepared for even remotely. But, right now...I'm just soooo tired.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

I'm Trying So Hard

I’m trying so hard. I’ve never fought the tears back as much as I have this week. I don’t want to cry. I really, really don’t. I’ve cried enough tears to start a new lake in the last 7 ½ months. Why can’t this week just be different?

This week we celebrate the greatest gift that has ever been given (or ever will be) to mankind…the birth of the Messiah! My Jesus! That alone should give cause for jubilant celebration, a bigger-than-life smile, and euphoric joy of the eternity that’s yet to come for all believers!

But, for me…grief is trying to win out. And, I’m trying just as hard not to let it! Grief doesn’t win in the end. God does! Because, in Heaven, there will be no more tears, mourning, or sadness. But, this isn’t Heaven. I’m not Home yet.

Instead, my Chris is already Home, and I’m here…missing him terribly. Listening to the thunderstorm outside isn’t helping things either. I just want to lay my head in his lap and sob until the tears won’t come anymore. I just want to feel his large hand rubbing my back and moving my hair out of my eyes like he used to do so tenderly. I just want him to tell me it will all be okay. But, I know I can only dream of such things.

I feel guilty for even feeling like I do at times. People have gone out of their way to make this first Christmas without him so very, very special for Anna and me. And, it is. I know it would be so much harder without all the love that’s being poured out upon us so abundantly. For that, I am thankful beyond words.

I think that’s part of the reason I’m trying so hard, but I think I might be losing the battle this evening. The tears continue to leak out whether I want them to or not. 

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Immanuel - God With ME!

Happy Tuesday blog friends!

If you happened to stop by after reading my post on A Pinkdaisy Life, welcome! So glad to have you join me here as well!

I honestly can’t believe it’s here. December 20, that is. Five days until Jesus’ birthday! I really want to throw Him a grand party after all He’s done for me! But, this year might be a little subdued. I’m still deeply hurting in my new role as a 39-year-old widow. And yet…my Savior understands that too.

Even so, He’s been so good to me this year.

Even with such great loss, my Jesus has been by my side every step of the way.

Even with the magnitude of tears I’ve cried, He’s caught each and every single one.

Even with the agonizing screams of grief, He’s never wearied of hearing my pain.

Even with an ungrateful spirit at times, He cradles me in His warm embrace.

Even with question after question after question, He continues to listen.

Even with my broken shattered heart, He’s still mending and healing me.

And so…in my continued preparations for this first Christmas without my precious husband, I rejoice in who Christ is…Immanuel…God with us…God with you...God with ME!

Monday, December 19, 2011

Angels Among Us

Several days ago, God began blessing my daughter and me through a most unexpected, yet very generous & simply unbelievable, way.

Last Wednesday, December 14, we were greeted with a beautiful basket containing candy, ornaments, and other amazing goodies and a card that contained the following excerpt...

"Dear Leah and Anna,
This is the beginning of your 12 Days of Christmas! Consider all these gifts, as they have come from the lavish love of Jesus. You both are in His thoughts continuously and also in the thoughts and prayers of many of the saints. You are both loved beyond measure. I know that this Christmas will be remembered as the 1st one without Chris...but also remember it as the Christmas season that prayers, grace and gifts were lavished on you both!"

The note continued to say that we should check our porch each morning from now through December 25!

Blog friends, I'm struggling to even type this post, because the tears are literally pouring out of my eyes right now. The very Sunday before all this began, I asked the ladies in the Sunday School class I teach to share their most memorable Christmas gift ever received (aside from Christ's gift of salvation). Little did I realize that my most memorable gift was coming later that week.

This has literally blown my mind.

Not because the gifts are so amazing (even though they are).
Not because it's created a sense of sweet excitement in our home this first Christmas without my amazing husband (even though it has, and the excitement is helping us cope).
Not because I think I deserve any of this (because I know I most definitely do not).

It's blowing my mind, because I feel extremely loved right now. Extremely loved. When life is most difficult (as it has been these last 7 1/2 months since Chris' death), knowing you are loved isn't enough. You need to feel it...see it...taste it...touch it...hear it. Friends, I have done just that!

I have no idea the identify of these Christmas Angels among us. Just when I think I've figured it out, I'm thrown a little off track again. I need to quit trying to figure it out...I know...I know.

I simply pray that this is blessing my gift-givers as much as it is Anna and me. I pray that the Lord bestows immense blessing and favor on each hand that was involved in this. my Christmas angels (I pray you're reading this) will never fully know the depth of this blessing! You have made this widow's heart sing (Job 29:13b NIV).

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

I Don't Know Why...

I really can't think of any reason why God continues to bless me like He does. There are so many other people that deserve blessing far more than I do.

There are women experiencing their first Christmas as a widow and are even more lonely than myself.

There are so many unemployed moms and dads this Christmas, praying like crazy that someone...anyone will provide Christmas for their little ones.

There are Christian brothers and sisters across this continent being persecuted for worshiping the same Jesus whose birth we so openly celebrate in the United States.

There are disabled veterans that continue to be plagued by the harsh indifference they receive from their "fellow" Americans day in and day out.

There are still orphans praying for a mommy and/or daddy.

There are loved ones, in the care of Hospice or family members, anticipating their last breaths.

There are homeless men, women, and children that just crave a roof over their heads.

There are still infertile couples that would give anything to see the pregnancy test declare "positive" this year.

There are hurting moms and dads praying their prodigal son or daughter would choose this Christmas to come home.

There are drug addicts and alcoholics that would give anything to be clean and sober...forever...but are waiting on that miracle to get them there.

There are victims of cancer, still waiting to hear the word "remission".

So, why me? Why does God continue to bless undeserving me?

Honestly...I think it's for the same reason He gave His life for me 2000 years ago. His love for you, for me, and for those yet to come is already 100% complete. There is nothing we can do or not do to make Him love us any less or anymore. We just have to say "yes" and "thank you" to that love!

In the same way, I choose to say "yes" and "thank you" to His blessings. Some days, His blessings are obvious and enormous. Some days, they are much harder to see.

I don't know why He chose me, and I don't know why He continues to bless me so much, but I'm eternally grateful that He did then and that He still does now!

I love you, Lord Jesus!

Monday, December 12, 2011

Best Laid Plans know what they say about "best laid plans"? My intentions of blogging Monday through Friday have, well...let's just say been challenged a bit this past week.

I faced another grief tidal wave last week. Now, 7+ months into this new life as a widow, I still struggle to know how to battle those giant, pounding mounds of grief water that tend to shatter me...for a day, or two, or three... I've learned enough about grief to know that there is no "magic" formula to its ending, there is no timetable to follow, and honestly - there is no end to it.

Yes, there will be an end to some parts of this journey, but memories of my precious husband will never, ever leave me. God gave me such a gift in him and in our marriage! I was blessed indeed, and for that I will continue to give thanks and yet grieve that which I no longer have until the day God calls me to the land of Glory!

Just as the tidal wave started to pass, a new wave arrived! This time - one of physical sickness. Within three hours, I went from laughing with the sweet ladies I teach every Sunday morning, while we enjoyed our Christmas potluck luncheon...

Connect Group Christmas Potluck Luncheon & Ornament Exchange
to feeling like this...

No - this isn't me. My picture would look much worse!
I've literally been rendered pretty helpless right now. Fever, body aches, chills, headache, upset stomach, nausea, you name seems to have temporarily taken over my body. My plans of having a productive Sunday afternoon and evening yesterday abruptly changed.

We have company coming this weekend, and I still have cleaning to do, grocery shopping that needs to be tackled, Christmas shopping to do, and the list goes on... But, interestingly enough, I can't do any of it now, because my body won't let me. I've slept about 19 of the last 24 hours, and even that doesn't seem to be enough. So, for now, I succumb to this "bug" that seems to have invaded my space. And, I pray that it leaves QUICKLY!!!

Interestingly enough, this reminds me of another time - the first week of May, 2011. Life was busy, as usual, and I was puttering along through it as I always do until I realized my husband was missing and then later gone. Quite abruptly, my "plans" changed, and nothing else seemed to matter except trying to cope and exist through those first days and weeks of widowhood. 

A "planner" by nature, God has really had to work on me in that area. It's so easy for me to have everything all mapped out and then when something doesn't go as planned, I unravel a bit. But, as only God could ordain, part of that planner in me has also changed. I'm still very much Type A, but I've learned that my best laid plans can be snuffed out at a moment's notice. And so...I have to leave my plans in His hands! His plans for me are the best anyway (no matter how crazy that may appear at times). Therefore, I lay even my plans at His altar, as my act of worship this day!

Many are the plans in a man's heart, but it's the LORD's purpose that prevails. ~Proverbs 19:21

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

31 Weeks

What does it mean to survive the first 31 weeks of widowhood? Today marks that day for me, and I can assure you that my answer today is different than it would have been at 30 weeks (and probably different than it will be at 32 weeks). Before I go further...I need to offer up a little disclaimer...

Today's post does not, in any conceivable way, diminish the healing work that God is doing in me. Please hear me on that! I love Him more today than ever before, and I owe Him everything! Everything! He is with me on this journey. He is truly Immanuel to me (God With Us, as that name literally means). He is cradling me in the palm of His hand. He is catching every tear I cry. He loves me with an unconditional love. He will not leave me stranded on Grief Road - not even for a second.

With that said, today stinks! I hurt. I ache. Another tidal wave ensues. Tears are pouring. The grief is so thick today, mainly this evening.

I am so, so sad! I know I will see Chris again in Glory, but I want to see him now!!!!! I don't want to travel the next two and half weeks until Christmas without him. And, I am already dreading waking up Christmas morning this year as a widow...without my precious man by my side.

Sometimes, I don't know how to do this. So, I don't. I let God do it for me along with all of my prayer warriors. I am sapped of strenth. This feels like the early days all over again. I don't want to make decisions. I can't make decisions. I have no energy. I don't want to do anything. I don't even feel like writing this post. But, I'm doing it anyway, because I'm waiting on my daughter to get ready for bed. Otherwise, I'd already be there.

I am so thankful to have Christmas to celebrate, but I'm so tired of the pain that goes with it this year. I feel like screaming from the rooftops, "I'm hurting here!!!!!!!!!!!" But, that's a selfish response. I don't want to be selfish. This life isn't about me.

So many mixed up thoughts. I'm exhausted from thinking. I'm all "thunked" out!

The tidal wave is winning tonight. Thankfully, I know the One that ultimately wins in the end!

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

I See You...I Miss You

I see you everywhere.

-I see you in pictures all over the house.
-I see you in ornaments hanging on the tree.
-I see you in the deer that leap across my path in the early evening hours or the wee hours of the morning.
-I see you on the couch sitting beside me as we watch our favorite Christmas movies together.
-I see you in the kitchen whipping up batches of yummy goodies.
-I see you in your sister’s crystal blue eyes – your eyes.
-I see you in “our spot” in church sitting right beside me.
-I see you in the bathroom using your sink to get ready in the mornings.
-I see you decorating a gingerbread house with Anna like you do every December.
-I see you kissing me goodbye as you leave for work each morning.
-I see you putting out the trash every Monday night.
-I see you helping your mother hang a new light fixture.
-I see you giving announcements in our Connect Group.
-I see you baking cookies to take to the Christmas program outreach night at church.
-I see you saying “I do” to me with a smile on your face, quivering voice, and tears forming in your eyes.
-I see you in the memories that continually flood my mind.

And yet…I don’t see you at all. I miss you Chris…from the depths of my being …I miss you!

Monday, December 5, 2011

Jesus Loves Me This I Know

If you hopped over here from my post on A Widow’s Might today – thank you! I’m so glad you decided to stop by this little corner of my world.

I was completely honored when LeAnn Rice asked me to join her small team of bloggers on A Widow’s Might. I had no idea that God had this in store for me 7 months ago, but LeAnn did, as He whispered my name to her the very day Chris died (and, we had never met at that point and only barely knew of each other).

I remember so clearly the day LeAnn asked me to pray about joining her blog team. She shared the story of how she’d been praying for quite awhile for someone else to join the team but wanted God to lead her to that person. She knew it was me on the day Chris died, and she thought I would think she was crazy for sharing that with me.

Crazy? Not in the least! I’ve learned to listen closely for that still small voice of His. There have been many times that the Lord has revealed something to my heart that seems completely insane. But, when I act upon it, in obedience to whatever He reveals, it always reveals His Glory!

That’s what we’re here for anyway…right? To Glorify Him!

This life isn’t about me.

It’s not about my grief experience.

It’s not about my faith (or lack thereof, at times).

Life doesn’t care how many blog followers I have or how many comments I receive (even though, I have to admit it makes me smile).

This life isn’t here for me.

But God…my sweet Lord…

God has allowed me to be here…at this time…in the history of the world He created…for one purpose…to Glorify Him!

I try to do so daily. And, I know that I mess that up more times than I care to admit. But, I still live to Glorify Him.

I want to Glorify Him most especially with “my story”. I’ve said it so many times before, but He’s given me a story to steward. And, I want to steward it well. He’s been writing my story for nearly 40 years, and He’s woven all over it. And, others need to hear about what He’s woven in me. And so I share…

Some might argue I share too much. Others might say that I don’t share enough. It doesn’t matter what others say anyway. It only matters what He says!

And so today…I shared more of that story on A Widow’s Might. Friends, God has been carrying me every single day of these last 7 months + 1 day. Every single day. There is absolutely no way I could have made it this far without Him. No way. I know that much about myself. But, one thing I know for certain…Jesus Loves Me This I Know! 

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Even So I Still Say...

I had another single mom friend of mine and her daughter over for a “slumber party” last night! We had it all planned out. We attended a Christmas show at our church (that my Anna is in this year) and then we came back home…lit up all the trees and decorations, and ate a bunch of fun food. That’s what you’re supposed to do at slumber parties…right? Then, we decided that we’d play with the Wii and do a little “Just Dance” for some laughs. The problem? The Wii is suddenly broken.

In my mind, I’m thinking…seriously? Now, Lord? I know it’s just a “thing”…but, it does bring us laughter and enjoyment, and it’s not easily replaced. Really?

But, with my mouth…I simply said, “No big deal. I’ll fix it later. Let’s watch a movie instead.” So, out came Alvin & the Chipmunks on DVD. (Later came too…I tried to fix the Wii…it’s still broken…my daughter and I are a little heartbroken.)

This morning, we slept in a little and then got up and spent time slowly getting started for the day. We later ventured out for some window shopping and girl’s lunch out. Three out of the four of us woke up not feeling so hot. So, our lunch out wasn’t quite as entertaining as it could have been. But, surely ice cream would do the trick.

A trip to Cold Stone was our next stop. It hit the spot for me and helped my scratchy throat, but I still had that silly broken Wii in the back of my mind.

We all came back to the house, took naps, and then Anna headed back to the church for two more performances of the Christmas production. In the meantime, we had another surprise brief visit from an out-of-town friend. We enjoy coffee and chat time together, but it was soon time for our girl’s adventure to end.

We said goodbye to LuAnn and thanked her for popping by. Carol and Ella also got ready to head home. Safely back in their car, ready to take off – the car decided it didn’t want to start. After a couple more tries, we determined it must be a dead battery. Here we were – two women trying to figure out how to jump off a car. We had a little help over the phone from Carol’s dad. And, we successfully got the car to crank.

Off they went…I waved goodbye and headed back into the house to work on the Wii again. It was no use. It’s dead with a game disc stuck inside. I didn’t know what to do. I just kept thinking – now would be a good time for a meltdown, Lord. But, He wouldn’t let me have one. Instead, I just grew more bitter and the “not fairs” started to roll off my tongue.

It’s not fair that Carol and I had to stand outside and try to figure out how to jump off a car.

It’s not fair that the Wii is broken, and I can’t seem to fix it.

It’s not fair that the husbands in our lives are no longer with us, and we are “stuck” playing both roles more often than we like.

It’s not fair that the Christmas season is here, and we feel lonely again.

It’s not fair…blah, blah, blah.

I just had to whine a little. Sometimes, that’s all I can do.

Finally, I decided to cuddle up in my chair with my Bible on my lap and read. God’s Word never returns void. Never.

Please give me something tonight Lord. Please. I’m empty, and I need to feel your Presence. I need to get over this bad attitude. Please help me!

And He gave me this…

“Before the mountains were born or you brought forth the earth and the world, from everlasting to everlasting you are God.” ~Psalm 90:2

That’s it! God is God…from everlasting to everlasting. The same God that brought forth the earth and all the world out of nothingness…the same God that created me…the same God that continues to reach for me and rescue me from the depths of deep grief waters is the same God that can take care of a broken Wii and dead car battery (and a broken wireless router that also died this week).

Who am I to ever doubt Him? I guess I just get weary of “doing hard” sometimes. But even so, I still say…

Blessed be the name of the Lord!