Sunday, January 29, 2012

The Hole

It was just a small hole. About the size of the eye of a needle, perhaps smaller. And yet…when I laid my eyes upon it for the first time…I cried, well sobbed actually. I was simply going about the busy-ness of my day, doing my “normal” things, which typically includes making my bed. It was then, I saw it. The miniature hole in my sheets, and the tears began to flow.

No. Holes in sheets don’t normally make me cry. They’re just sheets. Sheets wear out over time. But, these aren’t just any sheets. These are the sheets that I slept under with my husband on his last night on this earth. While I have other sheets, they are the ones that I find I keep washing and remaking my bed with, because they are so near and dear to me. I even accidentally got bleach on the pillowcases, but I didn’t care. I continued putting them on my bed, and I still sleep in them every single night.

I tried to sleep in other sheets for awhile, but I went right back to these, and it’s been that way ever since. But, then I saw the hole. While it’s very small now, it will grow. It’s a sign of the wear and tear taking its toll on these sheets. Eventually, I’ll have to throw them away. How long do I left with my sheets? Who knows? And…that’s not really the point anyway. For me, it’s just another piece of my life with Chris drifting away (or as I really feel, if truth be told – being “stolen” from me – but, that’s another blog post).

I know it’s just a hole in my sheets, but today I’m very sad about it. A bit on the distraught side actually. You may be thinking, “all because of a silly little HOLE??” Yes – all because of a silly stinkin’ hole! I guess I’m just trying to hang onto the last bits and pieces of him that I have left.

And so…today…I shed many tears over a miniscule hole. And the grief continues…

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

The Big 4-0!

I’ve always said that it’s hard to surprise me. I guess it’s that little investigative personality quirk of mine. I’m always trying to figure everything out. That’s generally not a good thing, unless I’m working on a brain teaser or something else that requires problem-solving techniques. Then, I’m your girl.

However, I have to admit – I’ve been surprised A LOT in the last week. Wonderful surprises, thankfully!

We just finished up “birthday weekend in our house”. I turned the big 4-0 last Saturday, and my daughter turned 15 on Monday (two days ago). I had mixed feelings about leaving my thirties and entering this new decade of numbers.

On the one hand, my thirties were filled with tragedy, ending with the worst one to date with my husband’s death last May. So, for my forties represent an opportunity for renewed hope and prayerfully God-given restoration. But, the forties represent aging…dreams unfulfilled…and for me, as recently as last week, a temporary decline in health. Then again – with each day I live – I’m one day closer to Heaven! I long to be Home but not one day earlier than God calls me.

But, there was another part of turning 40 that simply…well…bothered me. I met my husband when he was 42, so I wasn’t around to help him celebrate his 40th birthday. But, I’ve heard stories of that day several times. In short, he was living in Florida – had just moved there actually. He really didn’t know anyone that well yet, and he was alone. He treated himself to dinner at the local Outback, and he and the wait staff celebrated his birthday. He laughed it off a lot, but I also remember him saying over and over that my 40th birthday would not be lonely like that – he would make sure of it.

So, you can imagine when my brain actually had a moment to wrap my mind around the fact that my husband left me in this world before my 40th birthday – I was actually very hurt (and if I’m being honest, a little angry at first too). I couldn’t believe he would do to me the very thing that he vowed to not let happen…spend my 40th birthday alone. But, I know that I know that I know…he wasn’t in his right mind on May 3-4, 2011. He never would have intentionally done that.

Well, I definitely wasn’t alone. Not even close. The celebrations actually began last Thursday (the 19th) when my co-workers surprised me with an “Over the Hill” party full of gag gifts, food, fun, and love! I laughed….a lot…that morning!

My oldest friend (not in age), Kandi, came up Friday night to help me celebrate on Saturday. Little did I know what she had up her sleeve. She told me she “had something planned that she wanted to do”, but I never dreamed it would include all of this…

1) Breakfast at Cracker Barrel with Kandi
2) Pampering with a manicure and pedicure with Kandi, Rebecca, and Carol
3) Dinner at Travinia with Kandi, Rebecca, and Carol
4) A return home to a HOUSE FULL of my closest friends that had gathered for my SURPRISE 40th birthday party! And…a surprise it was indeed! One of Chris’ sisters even came down from Virginia to join in the surprise!
5) Two dozen pink roses (I LOVE flowers and the color pink), a beautiful cake (I LOVE cake too), colorful balloons, and yummy food also showed up at the party!

In addition to that, I received many cards in the mail, well wishes on Facebook and…another surprise…

My blog was HIJACKED! Yes indeed! It was “taken over” by a sweet friend that’s actually working on my new website, and she secretly coordinated putting up some precious messages, videos, and birthday greetings from some amazing ladies – as far away as Colorado!

And…just when you think…this girl has been blessed ENOUGH…God gave me another one!

Little did I realize but a sweet new friend in the state of Washington (that I’ve never met in person) contacted the Carolina Panthers (my FAVORITE football team) to let them know about the recent tragedy that touched our lives last year with Chris’ death. You know what they did? They sent a package of goodies along with a sweet letter (see below), and it happened to arrive on my birthday! Angie (my Washington friend) hadn’t even planned on that…but God did! I was stunned!

So, I think I’m finally beginning to break through the cloud of sweet shock that settled in over me this weekend. I’m so thankful for the way God chose to love on me for this first birthday without Chris! I feel VERY loved right now!

And...just to report...Anna’s birthday was a blast too! It was just the two of us, but we celebrated big time! Chinese takeout, game night, and movie night - all Anna's requests!

P.S. I'll post about my Birthday Project (40 Random Acts of Kindness in a day or two). So, stay tuned...

Monday, January 23, 2012

To Anna

I remember holding you in my arms that very first time thinking, "Is she really mine?" I was scared - that God would entrust something so fragile and so beautiful to us to care for. And yet...I was so very, very THANKFUL!

Secretly, I had wanted my first baby to be a little girl. That had been my dream for years, so when the sonographer announced at our ultrasound that you were, indeed, a GIRL - I couldn't believe it. I think I had prepared myself for a boy...just in case...that when the news came that we should focus on buying pink...I was shocked. Happily shocked! :-) Thankfully, on January 23, 1997 at 5:39 pm - the news the sonographer had given us a few months prior was validated - here was my baby girl, my beautiful baby girl!

And beautiful baby girl has developed into a beautiful young lady.

Anna, your beauty is not just external sweetheart, but your internal beauty is what makes this mother's heart sing. You are uniquely compassionate for those less fortunate...whether it be the kid being bullied or the malnourished child in Africa or perhaps the elderly woman in the grocery store that can hardly push her shopping cart, your compassion is so real. You love people. You want to serve people. And that makes me smile!

But, you also love God - unashamedly! I love your bold faith - so much bolder than my own at your age. You are not ashamed of the Gospel, and you are certainly not ashamed to admit you're a Jesus girl! I love that about you sweetheart! Your desire to want others to have what you have (or Who you have) is so beautiful. You go to great lengths, no matter that cost, to be the hands and feet of Jesus to people that you "do life" with so that they can see the Savior in you and want Him too! That is so uniquely rare in a young lady of 15. At your age, it's more common to be obsessed with the latest fashions/labels, your external appearance, the cute boys around you, what life can give you. But you, my dear, are thankfully different. Those things, while nice at times, aren't the things that impress you. And that also makes me smile!

You've endured much heartache in your brief 15 years, but my sweet are rising above it all! You are a living example of Romans 8:28, and I can't wait to see how God will continue to use your obedient heart in the days, months, and years to come.

So, today, on your 15th birthday...I wanted to publicly say how proud I am of you, Anna! I love you beyond words, and I am so very thankful that God hand-picked you to be my daughter!

Happy Birthday 'Sweet-Sweet'!!!! 

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Birthday Week and Giveaway Winner!

What a week! An unforgettable week at that!

As I noted in my Birthday Project Giveaway post earlier, this week represented the last few days of my thirties, as my 40th birthday was yesterday. thirties went out with a bang.

I spent most of the week in a lot of pain and finally ended up in the ER on Friday. The last few hours of my thirties were spent learning that I appeared to have nothing too serious (praise the Lord!) but nothing could concretely be diagnosed (ugh!). And so...the medical "drama" is not quite over (or so it seems). Enough of that, however...

The Birthday Project has been a BLAST! However, with my medical setback...I haven't quite finished. I started 10 days before my birthday, so I'm allowing myself the rest of this week to finish, if needed. I'll be sure to post about all of the RAOKs (Random Acts of Kindness) I was able to perform. It truly was something I will never forget, and I pray that it becomes a routine practice of mine - showing RAOKs to people - and not just something to do for special occasions!

I'll post more about the birthday festivities tomorrow. But, let's just say...I was blessed beyond measure. This being my first birthday without Chris could have been a VERY difficult day emotionally, but my friends made sure I was well taken care of, and I honestly felt deeply loved! to announce the winner of the grand prize from the Birthday Project Giveaway:

Sheila - Timestamp: January 18 - 9:11 pm

Congratulations Sheila! Be sure to email me or Facebook message me your mailing address so that I can get your prize sent off to you right away!

Thank you for all of the wonderful birthday wishes friends. You are precious to me!

By the way, if you haven't had a chance to check out the "Hijacked" post from my birthday...please do! What a shock but what a precious gift!

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Hijacked! Happy Birthday Leah!

Hey everyone ... Lisa Boyd here. I've hijacked Leah's blog today to wish her a happy birthday and share some messages from her She Speaks sisters. Be sure to leave a comment today and share your special birthday message with Leah!
Hey Leah!

I had hoped to have your new blog ready before today so I could leave these messages there, but the timing just didn't work out. I gathered messages - some video - some text - some graphics - from your Table #73 sisters :) We all wish that we lived right next door so we could bombard you with hugs, presents, food, balloons, and of course, presents! But we have to settle for hijacking your blog.

I hope and pray you have a wonderful day, full of love, friends and family. I'm so thankful that I've gotten to know you online. You are one strong lady who loves Jesus! Thank you for the wonderful example you set for me and for others. Praying that Jesus continues to hold you tight in His arms and that He loves on you even more this next year! ~ Lisa Boyd
Happy Birthday Leah!!! Sending you BIG BIG HUGS on this very special day! I hope your heart is blessed and you receive love over flowing! I am so thankful for your friendship. You have richly blessed me directly and indirectly more than you know. I love you dearly!! And remember...we have a Papa's and Beer dinner on hold that will need filling SOON!!!  TOOT TOOT....that's my birthday horn. ;-) ~ Angie
Happy birthday, Leah! I'm so glad God brought you in to my life this summer. I have enjoyed getting to know you and your beautiful heart. Praying blessings upon you this next year. May 40 bring more true friends, fun adventures, and God-sized "coincidences" your way. Love you, friend! ~ Leigh

And ... one more message from family :)
Happy Birthday Leah....there are no words to describe all that you are to me. We have been through so much together over these past 20+ years. No matter how chaotic things may have gotten in either of our thing has always been a constant...YOU!! I appreciate you so much and I pray that God will bless you beyond belief as you begin this new decade (lol) in your life. Thank you for the inspiration that you are to me and so many....always are truly are the SISTER...I never had.... Love you always, Kandi

Happy Birthday Leah!

Monday, January 16, 2012

The Birthday Project and a GIVEAWAY!

It's here! Birthday week in our house, that is. One week from today (1/23) my daughter turns 15. Yikes. And even more yikes...I turn the big 4-0 on Saturday (1/21). Honestly, I still feel 25 sometimes, so this just doesn't seem possible. However, I'm holding out with great hope that my 40s and beyond will be the best years of my life.

For the past two years, I've had such joy in doing a birthday blog giveaway. I'm doing that again this year...but with a twist.

My sweet friend, Amber, had her birthday earlier this month and spent the better part of a day doing a random act of kindness (RAOK) for each year of her life. You can read about it by clicking here. I thought it was such a wonderful idea, and I knew I had to steal it! I find so much pleasure in doing for others (especially those RAOKs) that I decided I would do 40 random acts of kindness for my 40th birthday. However, I don't have the energy that Amber does to do it all in one day, so I've spread mine out over the 10-11 days leading up to my birthday. I'm in the middle of this birthday project and will report on it Sunday  - the day after my birthday, so you can see how everything turned out. But, let's just say I'm having a blast so far! My daughter has even joined in on the madness and is doing 15 RAOKs for her 15th birthday. I loved watching her in action at our local Walmart over the weekend. It did this mama's heart good! :-)

Anyway, back to the giveaway....

Here's how it will work. First off, it begins tonight (sorry this post is getting up a little late) and will run through midnight on Saturday (the 21st). I'll announce the winner on Sunday evening (the 22nd). How can you enter you might be wondering?

1) Perform a random act of kindness for somebody this week and then come back here and leave a comment saying what you did. If you want to do 2, 3, 30, can come back here and leave that many comments. Essentially...for each unique random act of kindness you do...come back here and leave a comment. Each comment gets you an entry (don't bundle all of your RAOKs into one comment, because that will only get you one entry). See what I mean? Now - as for the word "unique". Let's say that you buy 10 plants and plan to give them to 10 different people...that only counts as one comment entry. But, if you buy 10 plants & give them to 10 people and then carry groceries out for someone at the store, and giveaway 5 Starbucks cards - that would be considered 3 different entries (because that's 3 unique types of RAOKs). I hope this makes sense.

2) The other way to enter is to post about this giveaway on Twitter and/or Facebook and provide the link back to this blog post. THEN...come back here and comment and tell me you've done. The comment is what Random Integer will pick up when selecting the winner.

So, you can get your first entries in immediately by spreading the word on Twitter and Facebook and then come back after you complete your RAOKs. They don't have to be big and elaborate friends...just bless somebody...randomly...when they're not especting it. Can you imagine all the smiles this week?

So, what will you win? I've got a picture of it below, but will win:

1) A Daily Prayer Organizer - what better random (or intentional) act of kindness can you do for somebody than pray for them. This is a WONDERFUL organizer new on the market. I have one and LOVE it!

2) Two journals - one to keep and one for you to give away (another RAOK)

3) Two $5.00 Starbucks giftcards - one to keep and one for you to give away (and yet another RAOK)

4) Lastly, a box of blank notecards. Leaving a kind note for someone is another powerful way to express love and you can even do it randomly!

I'm praying for a great turnout with this giveaway, because I truly want to see all of us catch the "RAOK fever". If you've never had much experience before with offering random acts of me, you will be so blessed!

Now...on your mark...get set...go bless somebody!!!

Don't forget to come back and here and tell me about it and get entered to win! :-)

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Cemetery Guilt

In the beginning, I visited daily. Sometimes more than once a day. My trips to the cemetery to sit at my husband's grave are absolutely precious to me. It's where I spend a lot of time praying, weeping, "talking" to Chris, and thinking. He's buried in a beautiful memorial park in a section that sits on a small hill with a mountain landscape dropped in right behind it - or right in front depending on the angle from where you're observing. It's a beautiful God painting!

After I returned to work following Chris' death, I continued to head to the cemetery before I would go home many nights each week. I know Chris isn't actually there, but just knowing his earthly body is just a few feet under from where I stand or sit makes me feel close to him (as crazy as this might sound). On one occasion, I was talking with a co-worker who also lost a close family member a few months before me, and she asked me a question that she thought would make me wonder if she'd lost her marbles. She asked, "Sometimes, do you ever just want to dig him up so you could see him again, hold him again, feel him again?" She went on to share that she had been thinking those strange things herself regarding her loved one. Interestingly enough...I totally got that. As crazy as it may appear, I also wanted to do that very impossible thing.

As the months went on, the colder days set in, school started back for my new high schooler, and life got a little more hectic. My cemetery days shrunk to just weekend days. I felt so guilty for that. It was almost as if I thought Chris would be disappointed if I didn't show up for several days. I KNOW (in my "knower" as my friend Lorie would say) that this is crazy thinking. He's NOT there. However, it didn't stop me from feeling the way I did.

Then came November. The time changed, and the shorter days became even shorter and much colder. This particular cemetery closes at sunset - meaning I often can't get there after work anymore during the week. Then, I discovered my weekends were full - going out of town, running errands, etc. Before I knew it - I hadn't been to Chris' grave in a couple of weeks. Upon realization of that - I wept. I felt I had betrayed him. Seriously. I know this makes no sense, in many ways, but this was huge to me. The guilt was almost more than I could take.

It's practically mid-January now. I've only been to visit his gravesite maybe 5 times in the last 12 weeks. For some, even that's too much. For me? It's just another bend in the Grief Road. Does this mean I care less? On the contrary actually. As I blogged just a week or so ago, I'm more in love with my husband now than ever before. I want to honor him now every way imaginable. But, the cemetery guilt is leaving. I know Chris would not want me out there all the time. I can still "talk to him" from the comforts of home.

And, honestly, I look forward to spring - the warmer, longer days - when I can spend a little more time in that peaceful, special place out of "want to" rather than guilt. Oh, how I miss him so...

Do You Want to Get Well?

Some time later, Jesus went up to Jerusalem for a feast of the Jews.  Now there is in Jerusalem near the Sheep Gate a pool, which in Aramaic is called Bethesda and which is surrounded by five covered colonnades.  Here a great number of disabled people used to lie—the blind, the lame, the paralyzed.  One who was there had been an invalid for thirty-eight years.  When Jesus saw him lying there and learned that he had been in this condition for a long time, he asked him, “Do you want to get well?

 “Sir,” the invalid replied, “I have no one to help me into the pool when the water is stirred. While I am trying to get in, someone else goes down ahead of me.”

 Then Jesus said to him, “Get up! Pick up your mat and walk.”  At once the man was cured; he picked up his mat and walked. ~John 5:1-8 NIV

The words kept ringing in my ears...

Do you want to get well? Do you want to get well? Do you want to get well?

I remembered this very healing that took place at the pool of Bethesda when Jesus uttered these words, but I couldn't remember the exact location and the context of the words. And so my search began...

I found the reference immediately and went right to John 5, and I studied. I read the words over and over. I even studied the Greek a bit. I went to my Bible software suite and studied it in a commentary. What are you trying to say to me here Lord?

Do you want to get well?

And...then I knew. I've been sick. Not in the physical sense that most would think of...cold, flu, virus...but heartsick, grief-sick. And, like the invalid here in this passage, I've been waiting on someone to help me into the "water". My statements might sound something like this, however...

-I can't do this. It's just too hard.

-Everyone around me seems to be oblivious to how deeply I'm hurting.

-It's easier to just stay where I'm at. Grief work is too hard.

-I'm putting on weight again. I seem to be going in reverse of what I should be doing.

-I've tried everything, but nothing seems to work anymore.

-I want healing, and I'm just too tired to do anything about it. Nobody seems to understand that.

For me, "the water" represents that which I can never reach. Like the invalid, I've had moments where I've simply laid there waiting on someone to help me. But everyone would run right past me. Like the invalid, I got used to my circumstances and eventually fell prey to them. I allowed them to overtake me at times (i.e. food). Like the invalid, I somewhat gave up the fight. I felt it was useless...I would never reach the "water". 

But then the Holy Spirit quickened me with those words that wouldn't go away. Do you want to get well? 

When I studied this passage, I realized a couple of things...

1) The invalid DID want to get well. He was just "stuck" in his misery.
2) Jesus was the only one that could help him see the way out of his misery.
3) The man had to obey Jesus' instructions to receive his healing. 
4) The man no longer relied on anyone else to get to the healing waters. He stood up and walked. 
5) The man didn't need the waters to be healed...he needed the Savior.

So what am I supposed to do with this Lord? What are you trying to say?

Do you want to get well?

Yes, Lord! I do! I desperately do!

Then, start walking. Nobody else will carry you where you need to go. But, trust in what I tell you to do, and you will have the strength to do it...without the aid of the "healing waters". 

My healing may not yet be complete (and it may never be complete this side of heaven), but I'm walking friends...I'm putting one foot in front of the other, and I'm walking!

Monday, January 9, 2012

My Core Four

If you're popping over from my post on A Widow's Might today, I'm so thrilled to say "welcome"!

One of the tangible ways God has poured out His lavish love on me these past 8 months of grief is through a group I have affectionately dubbed my Core Four!

My Core Four is not a group of fictitious superheroes (although, we're working on names and costumes just for fun). It is a group of Jesus-loving women, uniquely gifted and I believe specifically called by God to come alongside me "at such a time as this".

Let me first say, God has blessed me with an ARMY of support - not just these 4 ladies. I actually wanted to write a post calling out each name one-by-one and sharing how each person has served as the hands of feet of Jesus to Anna and/or me in these last 8 months. However, as I started formulating the list, it simply grew so large that I was afraid I would forget somebody. That's a treasure in and of itself. And, I don't take this "army" of support lightly.

However, there are times that I simply can't share everything my heart actually feels on this blog or other social media outlet. It's simply too painful, and honestly not very appropriate at times. That's where my Core Four comes in.

These are the ladies I feel safe in sending a text message to at anytime of the day or night I can also call these ladies, and they will sit and listen even as I share no words - only sob. They are the ones that don't always have the words to say but know the One that does and never fails to go to Him on my behalf. These four pray when they say they pray. I can also trust them with my deepest, most painful feelings, and I know they'll give good guidance and won't pretend to offer any advice not rooted in love. But, perhaps the greatest blessing I've received from these women (aside from prayer and encouragement) is the ability to speak truth to me. They will not allow me to pit-wallow without checking in to see what the latest cause might be. If unfounded, they will make sure the truths of God's word have been spoken into my life. They keep me accountable to His Word, and oh how I need that! Its so very easy in times of despair to not believe anything anymore, to settle into a "woe is me attitude"

These four are from four different stages of life - 3 married, 1 divorced; 1 grandmother, 2 with young pre-school aged children, 1 with children of all ages, 3 work outside the home, 1 works inside the home. The closest any of them live from me is about 35 minutes away. So, they are not just a hop, jump, and a skip away. We actually communicate most frequently by phone, email, Facebook, and texting. I've also known each of them for varying lengths of time - one for 21 years, another for 3 years, and the last two for a little over two years. Regardless of time, God has uniquely knit us together, and they are true sisters to me!

Friends, it is not good for us to be alone. Jesus, Himself, surrounded Himself with the 12 men that became His disciples. God never meant for us to be in relationship alone. He made us for relationship - 1st with Himself, and secondly with each other.

One of the things that's "haunted me" perhaps more than anything else about Chris' suicide is this very thing. Granted, he had a small group of friends. A few guys that he would like to fish and hunt with, a few at church he would joke around with, some at work that he would cut up with, but I know he didn't have a Core Four of his own. He didn't have a group that he could go to with alarming text messages simply saying "Help me!" (Yes - I've sent those at times.) And - he certainly never let me in on the deep burdens of his mind and heart that led to his final action. Could it have had a different outcome if he allowed himself to be surrounded by a "Core Four" of his own? Honestly, I'll never know the answer to that question.

I urge you, however. Allow yourself to immersed into a small body of close friends that can become your "Core". If you don't have that - ask God for it! He'll provide those people, because I KNOW that He wants that for you. Just open your eyes to see them around you, and open your heart to accept their friendship and love. Don't do this life alone. It's simply too hard.

Friday, January 6, 2012

She Gets It! (More Than I Do!)

During these 8 months of new widowhood, I've learned a lot - more than I ever carried to know, if truth be told.

I've learned that my emotions love to ride roller coasters. I've discovered that there is no true "pattern" to grief. I've figured out that the "Leah before May 3/4" is so different from the "Leah after May 3/4". I've realized that I don't always have to be the giver - it's okay to be on the receiving side sometimes.

But, that's where I've gotten hung up - quite a bit, actually. Friends, I've always been the independent one. I've had a lifetime's share of disappointments and heartaches (and that was BEFORE my husband's tragic suicide in May). As a result, I had developed a bit of a thick skin. Independence was my friend. I didn't need anyone or anything. I could take care of myself. And, then I met my precious Chris...

He changed me in so many good ways. He softened me. He cared for me. He loved me! It was wonderful to let somebody "take care of me" as he always did and wouldn't have it any other way. He was a servant, by nature. Not just with me but with everybody he met. He would give a complete stranger the shirt off his back in the middle of winter if needed. And, that servant heart of his translated well in our marriage.

When Chris left this earth for our heavenly home on May 4, 2011 - my world shattered! Completely. I was lost. I didn't know what to do. That independent woman of long ago was nowhere to be found. I depended on anybody that would make themselves available to me, and most especially I depended on God - the One that will NEVER leave me.

After awhile, however, that dependence became uncomfortable for me. I felt needy. I didn't want to come across that way to my friends and family. Yes. I needed people desperately, but I didn't want to ask for help. I guess I just wanted people to figure out what I needed without me having to tell them. That was unfair of me, I know. I just didn't know how to handle this new "temporarily needy me".

Several months ago, I had a conversation with a friend that left me a little unsettled. We discussed the scriptural mandate to care for orphans and widows. I shared that I felt people were more easily drawn to caring for orphans but didn't know what to do with widows. She asked me to explain further. I said that orphan awareness is THANKFULLY growing by and large more and more everyday (and happens to be a passion of mine as well), but I rarely hear about the widows part of the mandate. She then asked, "What would it look like to care for a you?" I tried to answer the question but fumbled over my words.  Honestly, I didn't know how to answer it. I truly didn't even know what I needed at that moment.

And - that's just it! I can only speak for myself and my own journey. But, I honestly believe what I've needed most in these early months is for people to simply come alongside and be the hands and feet of Jesus to me in whatever ways He directs them. People that are closely involved in my life should be able to physically see what that might be. People that talk to me on a regular basis might even hear those needs uttered with my own lips at times (even when I'm not aware of it). For others - perfect strangers - it might take the nudging of the Holy Spirit. But, I honestly believe that learning the Love Language of a widow and speaking that language to her is one of the most loving ways to be "Jesus with skin on" to her. Widowhood is exhausting! I've had so many people say, "just let me know if you need anything". While the sentiment is sincere...what I've needed most is somebody to "serve" in whatever way the Lord tells them, because I honestly don't know what I need sometimes. Don't wait on me to ask or share or give you an will probably never come. I'm simply too tired to even try and figure it out sometimes.

So, you can imagine my surprise, pure delight, and utter amazement when my girlie and I were abundantly blessed this Christmas by an anonymous Christmas Angel (as I like to call him/her/them). It made our first Christmas without Chris much sweeter to have so much love poured out on us. Thank you God!

And then again...God blew me away yesterday when I received an email from a new blog and Twitter friend that I've never met. She lives clear across the country from me, in the state of Washington. She had an idea that she wanted to employ this year about Paying it Forward in 2012 and wanted my permission to bless my daughter and me with this idea. I was literally blown away. I cried and cried (happy tears). I was truly speechless at first and didn't even know how to begin to thank her for wanting to pour out such love and care on someone she's never met. That's all God. I know that full well! But, I also know something new friend gets it! She understands how to care for and pour out love on a new, young widow (much more than I do actually). Thank you friend for being Jesus to Anna and me and for all that are coming alongside her to bless us with encouragement this year! I am praying that God blesses each of you...abundantly!

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Deeper In Love

You know the expression, “Absence makes the heart grow fonder.” For me, I’m finding that to be very true.

I had a hard day yesterday. (OK – I need to get real. I’ve had a hard several weeks.) Anyway, as I was thinking about Chris (like I do ALL the time), I suddenly realized that I’m more in love with him now than ever before. How can that be?

Some would argue that I should be angry with him. Oh – trust me – I have been, but I’ve given that to the Lord, and I have forgiven him. Some would think the longer I go without seeing him, hearing his voice, feeling his touch that my heart would gravitate towards other things/people to fill the “void”. Sure. I guess that’s natural too. The most common things I hear sound something like this, “You’re young. You’re pretty. You have so much to offer someone. You have a lot of life left in you. You’ll find true love again.” Those are well-meaning words from truly wonderful people, but for now…I simply have no comment.

All I know…right now…I’m more in love with my husband – my deceased husband – than I ever have been in my entire life. I love him more now than the day we married, and I never dreamed that would be possible. I truly don’t understand how this can be, but it is what it is. I think that’s why it hurts so badly.

I passionately love someone that can’t love me back. You can’t imagine (well, I know some of you can) how much that hurts. I truly ache inside from a heart that remains shattered.

Yes, I’m learning how to take steps forward. I’m forcing myself to function in life again. I’m actually serving in ministry again, and I LOVE that! But, I’m still a broken-hearted woman, deeply mourning the love of her life!

Monday, January 2, 2012

The Answer

I'm not sure where to start after my last post. That was a painful one to write, but it came in the midst of a very painful season of my grief journey.

One thing I've strived to do throughout this process is be as transparent as I feel safe in doing, because I want people to know what this feels like for three main reasons:

(1) I want other women that have found themselves walking Grief Road as a widow to know that they're not alone...that God allows us to comfort each other with the comfort He also has given us. We are at varying phases of the journey, and our journeys are certainly not the same. Each Grief Road is like a snowflake, in my opinion. No two are the same, yet there are enough similarities that they are relatable.

(2) In the case that someone reading this might have ever contemplated suicide, I pray the pain and the "after effects" of making such a final decision stay clearly in the front of their mind, causing that to never take place. I want hurting people to read my words or watch my Vlogs and see the pain it causes those left behind and maybe...just will be enough to say "it's not worth it".

(3) I pray that the body of Christ that hasn't ever been affected by death first-hand, or in a long time, learns how badly the population of widows needs you. The Lord, in His Word, is VERY clear about how much He cares for orphans and widows and the mandate He gives in caring for them. I am the first to admit, I was much happier to jump on the orphan advocacy "train" before colliding with the widow train head on. But, God never differentiated between the two saying one was more important to care for than the other. We've made that differentiation on our own. I hate to admit...I was in that group. So, I pray that my posts help to awaken a need...a deep need in the church. I have been blessed to be cared for by several in my church body quite well, but I know how easy it is to dismiss widows, in general.

Even saying all of that, there is still much I don't share. It's too personal. It's too painful. I don't believe it will edify anybody if I write it on this format., I don't. The snippets of this journey that I share on this platform are just that...snippets. Oh, friends, there is so much more. So, very much more. In time, maybe God will allow me to share more.

So, where am I now? Tomorrow marks eight months since my husband was first discovered as missing. Eight months since my living nightmare began. And, in eight months, I'm still deeply hurting, questioning, and aching. But, I've also seen Christ reach down and meet me where I'm at, pull me out of the mire, refresh my weary soul, and begin a process of restoration. A slow beginning, but a beginning nonetheless. I let Him. I have been quieter than normal, because I'm listening a lot more.

There are still many firsts ahead to first birthday without him later this month (turning 40, on top of that), Valentine's Day, Easter, the first anniversary of his death, and those are just the major ones. But, I'm still trusting in God's greater plan through all of this.

Just last weekend, I challenged Him with a that I hadn't asked of the Lord before, but I finally did...

Lord, why didn't You stop him? You could have. I know You could have. Why did You let him take his own life? I know we have free will and all, but he loved You. You would have only had to whisper a word, and he would still be in my arms today. So, what is it Lord that kept that from happening? Why is he with You now instead of with me?

The answer came...immediately...

It was one of those moments I wish I could have back, because I wouldn't have believed it if I hadn't been there. I was sitting in my recliner in the bedroom...SOBBING...crying out to the Lord...begging for answers. Right after asking the questions...a calming peace swept over me like I've never experienced. In. My. Life. Seriously! And then came the inaudible answer...

Because, I will be more glorified in his death than in his life. 

The sobbing stopped. Immediately. I was simply stunned, as I sat there. And, then I knew. He was right! He's always right! He's God! I pondered back to many other people that even predeceased Chris. Others that died too young or in ways that seemed unfair. And, each time God appears to have been way more glorified in their deaths.

May it be so, Lord! May it please be so!