October and The Plan

31 days of thanks_2013

October is coming.  Actually, it has been looming for a few weeks now.  I see Halloween decorations and the pit in my stomach grows. I have had a sense of dread as the year ago memories start coming into focus. I have been having some flashbacks to days in the hospital with Mike, nights with no sleep, constant problem solving, the daily emotional onslaught of disbelief, and my burning desire to spend every second with my dear husband.  I know in my head that each day will come and go just as the one before. That every day has 24 hours; no more, no less. But there is something about the one year mark that brings the loss much more in focus and the reality of this new life hits you square in the face – and in the heart.  Mike died on October 31, 2012.

Much of my life has been spent coaching volleyball where I learned to anticipate roadblocks and develop ways for the team to overcome them in competition. The next four weeks are filled with emotional roadblocks that have the potential to stop me dead in my tracks.  It can be overwhelming.  It is easy to allow the onslaught of painful memories to take my mind over and reign in my heart; they scream for me to pull the covers over my head and disappear for days or weeks while they have their way with  me.  It is easy to think that one day I will wake up and it will all be back to “normal” – whatever that is. That the memories and pain will dissipate on their own. But I know better. It takes work.

“It is your mission, tested and tried one, to walk out on the stage of this world and reveal to all earth and heaven that the music is not in conditions, not in the things, not in externals, but the music of life is in your own soul.” Streams in the Desert

Just like in competition, I have identified the roadblocks, and have come up with a plan. What a better way to confront the onslaught of painful memories than with reflecting on the blessings that I; that we, experienced through those challenging days. I cannot deny my sorrow. I am not ignoring it. I am choosing to recognize it, to feel it, AND to companion it with the moments of joy that happened in the midst of the sorrow and the moments of joy that I experience in the present.

In Isaiah 61:3, God promises to:

“give a crown of beauty for ashes, a joyous blessing instead of mourning, festive praise instead of despair”

And so I have decided to post every day in October, 31 Days of Thanks. I know that some days are going to be easier than others. I know that some days I may just post a picture, a word, or tell a story. It will be a journey. And hopefully it will help me to process through the pain and keep my heart and mind focused on the good and the hope I have for the future.

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” Jer. 29:11


Full throttle

This has been a summer of “going back”. I have been so fortunate to be able to revisit some of the places where Mike and I made some good memories. While it was hard at times, I now have new good memories with family that have been added.

Mike and I had the good fortune to be able to go to Bermuda a couple of years ago. And I had the opportunity to go back again this August.  I had so many mixed emotions going into this trip. One thing that became so evident was just how much I missed Mike during those in between times – the times when you are getting ready to go to dinner or you are just coming back from the beach…those mornings having tea and getting ready for a new day. It’s those times that the reality of his absence really hit home.  But traveling with five young adults (and two other “older” ones)  kept things interesting and so very entertaining. It was a lot of fun to be with them and soak up some of their energy.

jet ski

There was great talk about going on jet skis. I always wanted to do that but since I got seasick snorkeling one time, I had my doubts about how fun it might be.  On the day we planned to go, the sky was stormy and the rains came in.

Rainy skies

From what everyone said, it is down right miserable to go jet skiing in the rain; painful is one word they used to describe it. I couldn’t imagine being seasick and pelted with rain; it didn’t sound that appealing to me. But the under-22 crowd out voted the less adventurous adults and so we strapped on our life jackets, jumped on the jet skis, had a quick tutorial, and started out of the harbor.  Nine of us in a line, one behind the other, going about 2 mph. I thought, “I can handle this; the water is not too rough and there is a lot to look at.” It was all very pleasant.

jet ski harbor with flower

I heard a dog barking loudly. I glanced over to the shore and saw a white lab barking at us. He was on a dock with a boat that was named “New Beginnings”.  I thought that was appropriate. In my heart, I thanked him for drawing my attention to that boat and made a mental note of that moment for later. We continued puttering slowly out of the harbor, went under the world’s tiniest drawbridge, and then hit open water. There was no threat of rain in the direction we were heading.  I saw the guide take off. And then one by one the under 22 crowd followed. I watched their skis surge and skim over the water. I gave mine some gas. A wave from one of those 20 somethings smacked into my ski and almost knocked me off. I gave it a little more gas. I wasn’t sure what to do with all the wakes and so I bumped along and hung on for dear life. Eventually we got out to a ship wreck where we stopped to feed the fish. They were pretty hungry. And aggressive.  I decided not to go for a swim like some of the others.

We were on our way again. The sun was shining. The water was smooth, unlike the choppiness of before. The guide took off. I decided to do the same.  And so I took a risk. I gave it the full throttle. I almost went over backwards, but I held on. I felt like I was flying over the turquoise water. I started to relax and enjoy the feeling of the power of the jet ski. For that short period of time, I felt free. Free of the burden of grief. Free to laugh and yell and shake off the heaviness of the previous year.  I soaked in the beauty of the island, the water, the birds, the warmth of the sun. I felt joy. It was a wonderful feeling. A wonderful gift.wide angle beach

What I thought would be an hour of rain pelted seasickness turned into a memory I will cherish forever; a “New Beginning” of sorts. I had accomplished the goals for the summer. I made new memories. Not so I could replace the old ones. But rather, so I could layer them upon the precious ones I have with Mike. I could feel him smiling down on me. I’m sure he would have been impressed! And surprised. And so I move ahead. Moment by moment. Taking new risks. Trying new things. And always, desiring to live out my days…full throttle.


Jeremiah 31:25 (NLT) 
For I have given rest to the weary and joy to the sorrowing.”