November 13, 2016

don't miss the gift

This day greeted me with peace and hope.

Today, I choose to trust in God and His timing. Today, I choose to not say the unkind thoughts rolling around in my mind. Today, I choose to live in this moment, and even though my life isn’t what I had planned on, or hoped for, or dreamed of, this is what’s before me and I don’t want to miss the gift.

I’m in several widow groups online. I read the stories of pain and brokenness and shattered lives. I can relate to so much of it. But then again, I think I’m different. I don’t want to be defined by my pain for the rest of my life. I had an amazing marriage and I was loved more than any one person deserves. But oddly, that doesn’t make me want to wallow… it makes me just want to love all the more. Love is the best decision I ever made.

I recently met someone who made me realize that, contrary to what I thought after Todd died, I can love again. It’s exciting! Things didn’t work out with this person, but my heart isn’t wholly dead, as I used to think, so I’m grateful for the lesson.

I was - and am - well loved. I’m not sure anyone will ever love me the same as Todd did, and I don’t think I’d want anyone to. What we had was so special and I can’t even find the words to tell you how so worth the past 15 years have been. I’d do it all over again in a heartbeat. I will never regret saying, “yes.”

But I have another gift still unwrapped.

I have the potential to have another 15 years - or 5 or 50 - of love all over again. If God brings love to me again, I will be the most blessed woman ever. To love and be loved all over again - I’ll say, “yes.” Every time. I will never regret love.

My girlfriends and I have been having some hilarious, some serious, and some painful conversations on the topic of finding love again. I don’t even know where to meet guys my own age that aren’t already husbands. I’m pretty sure that I can add socially out of practice and awkward to my list of fine qualities I have to offer. LOL.

Yes, I’m still grieving the loss of my husband. I think I always will. A love like that isn’t something I even want to forget or get over. I want his love to stay in my heart forever. Yes, I still cry a lot and have lots of fresh pain and memories. I hope I never forget the painful parts right along with the happy parts. Yes, I have a lot of feeling and emotions and I don’t expect that to ever change. LOL.

I am a widow. I’m not bitter or angry from my marriage. I come with a set of baggage that is unique and not what most people are used to. I won’t stop loving my husband, or talking about him or missing him. I come with two kids who long for a daddy here on earth. We’re a package deal. I feel broken and I feel like I don’t have much to offer anyone, but someday, someone will help my heart to heal and remind me what I can give. Someday.

And, I have really high expectations. My husband set the bar really high. I’m not going to settle for less.

So while I wait for God’s timing, and learn how to open my heart up again, I want to tell you to be brave. Say, “yes” to love. Don’t miss the gift.
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November 4, 2016

the blessings to come

In the dark moments of life it seems that there’s always a light waiting to shine though, if only we look for it.

For me, this light has come in many forms. Sweet cards and letters. Family who is there for me. Friends with open shoulders to cry on. Smiles from strangers who know our story. Hugs from church members.

So much love. So much light.

In Tennessee, it is still 85ยบ and sunny. We’re at the park. My mother-in-law is here visiting us for Todd’s birthday which was last week. Hard day. The kids are playing in the sand with friends and the MIL is watching the pup. So I’m sitting in the shade of a tree and trying to sort some things out.

I know when I have too many feelings that I need to write to sort them out. The hard ones, the happy ones, the yucky ones.

As we enter November and the leaves change colors and drift to the ground, I think about the changes in my own life. There have been so many this year. But those aren’t the ones I’m thinking about.

I’ve decided to be intentional about living in each day. I can’t dwell on the hurt and pain of my past, I need to focus on the blessings that are to come. Each day as I remember to breathe, try to eat, and watch my kids grow I look for the beauty and the blessings in the moments we have together.

I find myself wondering about to blessings to come.

Will anyone ever love me again the way Todd loved me?

Will I ever be able to open my heart again?

Am I too broken to have hope in love again?

I’m inpatient not knowing the future. Life takes time and love takes time. My brain knows these truths, but my heart looks to fill the holes torn through it.

The warm fall breeze reminds me that life is ever-changing. What I once was secure in was ripped out under my feet. I’m no longer naive enough to believe that it can’t happen again. Dare I risk it?

The fear of losing part of my heart again is real and raw.

Yet knowing how much his love was so very worth all I’ve endured, I feel that maybe I can risk it again. Maybe my heart will beat fast and my tummy will flutter again. Maybe someday.

As for today, I’ll face the sun and let the breeze warm my soul. This is the moment I’m living. Someday will come, and patience or not, I can’t rush it. But I can prepare for it. And pray for it. And enjoy the journey to it.
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October 12, 2016

imperfections

Throughout our thirteen years of marriage, I used to get annoyed at the imperfections in my husband.

As time went on, I seemed to notice more and more of them.

Now, as I lie alone in bed at 4 am, all I can remember are my own imperfections.

The times when I was impatient. Unfair. Misplaced my anger.

All too late, I’ve been reminded of one of life’s quiet truths - you can’t change other people, nor are you responsible for their behaviors and actions. At the end of the day, all you can change is yourself. Your actions. Your responses. Your character.

Self, stop trying to change other people. Let’s work on you. On kindness. On patience. On grace - shall we?

Sigh…

Starting over in life isn’t an easy task. Neither is it a particularly gentle process.

We’ve been thrust into a world I was not prepared enter. This world is messy and rocky and often times I’ve felt like I’m failing at every single thing I try to do.

Life isn’t fair. I vividly remember my dad telling me that with a shrug when I was growing up. I never realized how painfully true those words are until the moment I had to say goodbye to my husband.

Life isn’t fair.

It isn’t easy. Or predictable. Or laid out in a neat little package.

Life is something else, something unexpected and complicated.

And here we are, starting plumb over.

It kind of feels like we just watched a really great movie, and then it ended. And you don’t know what’s going to happen next, but you hope they make a sequel.

I wish there was a script we could follow. I need a line prompt right about now…

I feel caught in a world where, even though I’m “doing well,” I’m an absolute mess. On the outside I smile and say, “we’re doing fine, thank you for asking.” I appear to have showered, and my children are relatively clean.

But on the inside, I don’t want to talk to people. Even my closest friends wouldn’t hear from me if they didn’t call me. I can see how easily it would be to close up inside myself and never open up again.

I loved him, and he died.

These other people I love, what if they die too? I don’t think my heart could handle it. It’s too risky. Better to let a little distance in to buffer the potential pain…

What a painful life we live.

If I didn’t have the hope in a life to come, a life without pain and death and tears, I don’t know how I’d make it through this life.

But just because something is painful doesn’t mean it’s not worth it.

Knowing what I know now, I’d marry that boy all over again.

Only this time, I’d be a little more gentle when I felt injustice had been done. I’d be more patient. I’d be more adventurous and do more of the things he wanted to do.

I’d kiss him more. I’d communicate better. I wouldn’t have any regrets.

Instead of getting to have my love story with my husband over again, I have a whole life to live without him. Maybe slowly, I can be more adventurous. And communicate better. And live without regrets.

As for the kissing…

It’s a hard thing to imagine anyone else’s lips right now. And I’m good with that.

Back to the starting over bit - we live in a RV-turned-tiny-house. The idea was to go wherever the wind took us. But as it turns out, there was just a gentle breeze and we didn’t go very far. For the first time since 2016 began, we’re starting to feel a little settled. A little stability. Weekend trips have been fun, but it’s nice to just be settled a bit.

Our grand plans of grand trips - it just feels a little hard and a little lonely right now. So we’re just going to hang out here till the wind picks up.

The children are growing. The pup is growing. The kittens have turned into cats. Life just has this funny way of going on, even if you don’t want it to.

As life goes on, hope goes on. Love goes on…

I never wrote thank-you cards. If you were wondering if yours got lost, it didn’t. It’s still in the box. I addressed them and sobbed over them. It feels like it’s the last thing to do. The final item on the list. Once I write thank-you cards, it’s over.

Please be patient if I hang onto them for a little while longer. I haven’t forgotten your generosity. Your kind words did not go unread. Your thoughtful gesture was not unnoticed.

Grief is just a funny thing. It doesn’t make the most sense or is always logical.

Please know, dear friends, that I am grateful for you. For the words and notes and kindness. My aloofness is a protective layer.

I think that someday I’ll shed that layer and emerge from the pit I’ve landed in. Until then, we would love your prayers. If you want to go on an RV adventure with us, we’d love your company. And if you don’t mind that I might not remember when the last time we showered was, we’d love your hugs.
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July 30, 2016

freedom

“How can you be gone?” I whispered to one of the many photos on our fridge.
I took a moment to study the faces. One from the dating days, and then one from the parenthood days.

We both got older. A few wrinkles have begun to claim space on our faces, a few grey hairs have claimed space on top.

We grew up, I realize.

We grew up together…

If you’re new to my little blog, hang on. You’re in for a roller coaster. There’s a lot of feelings going on here.

Three months ago I said goodbye to my best friend, my husband. Our children and I laid in bed with him as he slipped away from us, silently changing the course of our lives forever.

We had a happy Christmas, although we had already begun packing to return to our mission field - a remote little village in the jungle in South America. December 30th we found out that Captain had cancer… less than 4 months later we said our goodbyes.

Now, as I’m trying to pick up the pieces of our lives, figure out this single motherhood business, and find balance with working, nothing, homeschool, housekeeping, etc., I’m left in the quiet. The meals have stopped. The random visits from friends offering condolences have stopped. The barrage of affection from every direction has slowed.

There is a time and a place for everything, as the shock of our loss wears off in our community, we’re left in the quiet to figure this new life out.

Please don’t mistake me for complaining; there is a time for rallying and a time for quiet. Now is the time for quiet. It’s needed.  (Please don’t mistake this for a lack of support. My tribe around me is very much involved in making sure there are vegetables in my fridge and that the children have clean underwear.)

Like the gentle breeze stirring the grass, life seems to be gently stirring me away from shock and grief and darkness to light and laughter.

As I grapple with letting go of our old life, and trying to accept this new life, I’m left also grappling with God.

So many questions for God.

One of my best friends told me shortly after Todd died that she wasn’t sure if I would cling to my faith or turn to alcohol. I laughed at her statement, but I also wondered the same thing. Tragedy has a way of making you examine what you believe.

You figure out pretty quick if you have faith that will be scorched and whither away, or if the roots of your faith will fold fast through the storm…

There’s going to start to be some changes that you’ll see in our family. I’ll be writing about it, and I’m sure I’ll be posting on Instagram and Facebook too. After a lot of prayer, thinking and discussing, I’ve made a decision about our lives that quite frankly - feels a little crazy. I still can’t believe we’re doing this, but, we’re going to give it a go.

 I know that this decision isn’t for everyone, and that some people are going to think it’s stupid. But don’t judge me. Unless you’ve lost your spouse and know the emptiness and brokenness our family is experiencing, you don’t get to judge us. We need to heal some more before I’m ready to work and put the kids in school, and we have chosen an unusual way for this to happen…

We’re joining the “tiny home” world. We bought an RV and our goal is to live in it for a year. To take a year and heal, grow, bond, and learn how to be a family of three. We’re going to sick around TN through the winter with a few exceptions (I’ve always wanted to see New England in the fall), and then head west, visit family, see things, and homeschool as we go.

We might hate this. We might last two months and change our minds. And that’s OK. Our animals are coming with us. We’re going to be a traveling zoo. This is crazy town and I know it. I guess I’m just the right kind of crazy. But we need this freedom right now. The freedom to stay, the freedom to go. To cry some days, and have wild adventures other days. The freedom to cling to each other and to explore and to run in the wilderness.

Todd would have loved this.

I don’t know what this next year will bring, but I do know that God is with us. And He loves us. And sometimes that’s all we need to know.








 
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July 19, 2016

survival

“Mama, I need you!”

I walked back to my bedroom where my little boy was laying in my bed, trying unsuccessfully to fall asleep. Those bright blue eyes looked up at me and I sat down next to him.

Earlier we had talked about the sheets we just put on my bed. It was all I could do to make it sound like a happy thing to put these sheets on the bed.

Todd had slept in them.

Just a couple nights, on the blow-up mattress when he was staying with his parents while the kids and I headed out to Washington for chemo treatments. 

He had shoved them back in the cloth bag and they were forgotten.

Until now.

I had covered Sam up and told him to smell deeply. I told him that these were Papa’s sheets and sleeping in them was like sleeping next to Papa.

“Mama,” he said again.
“What sweet boy?”
“I feel like Papa is dead. Can you lay with me?”

Sob.

It’s the little things in our broken lives that remind us how acutely we feel his death.

The skinned knees. Standing at the sink without him hugging me from behind. Riding bikes. Lazy Sunday mornings. The deep void next to me as I sleep…

We live in a different world all of a sudden. A different life. What was meant to be a a temporary stop - Tennessee - has turned into home. What was meant to be our dream - living in the Guyana jungles - is nothing more than a distant memory.

It was never about surviving.

Every time we sat down to talk about our lives in the jungle, or any time anyone else would talk to us about our lives there - we always knew what we would need to survive.

But we didn’t want to go to the jungle to survive. What blessing is there in surviving? We wanted to thrive there.

Now, I’d be happy with surviving.

This is it. This is my life. It’s not the jungle. It’s not with my husband. It’s not what I had signed up for.

There’s a common theme among married people these days - people don’t really mean their wedding vows. I’m not sure I did either, truthfully.

Till death do us part.

Like that’s when the love stops.

Death did part us. But the love didn’t stop.

Sigh.

I don’t want to survive in life. I want to thrive. I want my kids to thrive. I want us to not count cold cereal as a supper meal three consecutive nights in a row. I want us to be able to lay in bed together at night and talk and laugh instead of being so exhausted that I barely tuck them in.

I want us to stop feeling death.

I want us to not feel broken.

I want us to find a new dream.

The shock has worn off. I don’t walk around in disbelief anymore. A semblance of acceptance has crept over our home and we’re starting to eat more vegetables and less frozen waffles.

I often find myself remembering our other life and feeling apathetic over this life. I wonder if someday that spark that we used to have will find us again.

“I feel like Papa is dead. Can you lay with me?”
I looked into those hurting eyes. “I feel like Papa is dead too.”
“I’m really sad that Papa died.”
“I know, sweet thing. So am I. Close your eyes. Ok, Can you see Papa?”
He shook his head no.
“Try to see Papa’s face. It’s smiling at you.”
“I see him!” His eyes were clamped shut but they smiled. “He’s picking me up and giving me a hug!”
“That’s right! Do you hear what he’s whispering in your ear?”
He shook his head no again.
I leaned over and whispered in his ear. “He’s saying, I love you, Samuel. I love you so much!”

And he fell asleep with a smile.

Oh, to dream.
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July 7, 2016

hot mess

For being a Christian, I sure do lie a lot.

The first thing people generally ask me when they see me is, “How are you doing?”

“I’m doing alright, I guess.”

Liar.

For the first time, yesterday I decided to try the truth.

I don’t know what made me say it, but when our supper arrived (our community has a meal train going for our family and is bringing us suppers several times a week), the pastor’s wife asked me the question.

“So, how are you really doing?”

I hesitated for a moment. What would people say if I told the truth?

“Well.” I paused. “I’m a hot mess.”

That’s really the only answer I had. And it was the only truth.

I AM a hot mess.

She followed me into the kitchen and shifted the mess around on the table to set the meal down. I shifted mess around on the counter to set something else down.

The kids came in. I told them to wash their hands and set the table. There were only 2 clean plates left. All others were stacked disorderly in the sink and surrounding vicinity. “Uh, just get a paper plate out for me.”

A few moments later the report came back that the paper plates were too far buried under the mess on the counter for the 5-year old to find.

I looked at Heidi in exhausted confirmation. Yep, hot mess.

I don’t want to be a hot mess, but I do want to be real. I don’t want to say I’m OK when I’m clearly not. Why do we do that? Why is it so hard to say that we really aren’t OK?

This year has been the worst year of my life. My children have learned far to early how unfair life really is. That bad things happen to good people. That sometimes it looks like darkness wins.

But darkness doesn’t win.

And yeah, I’m keeping it real over here with all my belongings in boxes lining the hall wall because I don’t want to unpack. I keep forgetting to put things back in the fridge and having to throw them out. Not because I’m ungrateful or trying to be wasteful, it’s just part of the coping. The honest truth is, I’m in survival mode.

This morning Millie walked into the front room and gently asked me, “Mama, what are you looking at?” She looked at the blank wall and saw nothing. I tore my gaze away from months ago back to the present and smiled at her. “Nothing.”

I don’t know if she understands or thinks I’m crazy, but probably once a day there is a small hand on my shoulder with a gentle, “Mama, what are you looking at?”

I’m looking at Papa, I think to myself. I’m watching him sleep in the hospital bed. I’m laying next to him. I’m watching him slip away.

I know that someday the time will come to move on. I weep at the thought. But I know that someday, I really will be OK. It won’t be a lie anymore. I know that I’ll be able to be present with my kids without them having to remind me to. I’ll be able to stay on top of dishes and laundry. Ok, maybe not laundry because, life, but the dishes I can handle.

Someday…

So there is the truth, friends.

I’m not OK. But I will be.

Until that day comes, I’m so grateful for the community we have here and the support for our family. I’m so grateful for every prayer offered on our behalf. I’m so grateful for the generosity that has been poured out often times from strangers. I haven’t forgot your kindness. I’m grateful that God is holding onto me when I struggle to hold onto Him. 
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