31 Days of Thanks – the Fog

I’ve been struggling with what to write today. One minute I am happily thinking of Caleb’s first birthday and then wham-o, I picture Mike in his last hours. What a contrast. I feel pretty numb.

For me, the days before a significant anniversary are much harder than the actual day. If you asked, I could give you the details of the last week of Mike’s life. They have been playing over and over in my mind.  It is not the day he took his last breath that is most difficult for me.  It is remembering the days leading up to that moment that cause sleepless nights. The day Mike passed to Heaven brought with it some relief – relief because he was no longer suffering, relief because he knew where he was going, and relief because we are confident that we will be together again one day. Mike said several times that he was not afraid for himself, but knew that this was going to be hard on us. He even went so far as to say that it was harder on us than him.  I am not so sure about that. We are running a marathon; he ran a sprint. Each is challenging in its own way, and can take you to your breaking point. But he was right in the fact that yes, this is hard. So very hard. And this week the fog has settled in thickly, making it hard to see clearly and to know where I am heading. Sometimes I want to move faster, but we all know that going faster in the fog does not make things clear up. In fact, it puts you at greater risk.

So I do my best to slow down. To take care, be intentional in my actions, be aware, and know that this fog is temporary even though I may have to sit in it for a short while. And that is OK. Clearer moments are coming. I never know when, but I will keep looking and I can be thankful that they exist even when I can’t see them.

 So we don’t look at the troubles we can see now; rather, we fix our gaze on things that cannot be seen. For the things we see now will soon be gone, but the things we cannot see will last forever. 2 Corinthians 4:18.

31 Days of Thanks – Broken Hearts

This morning the sun was shining bright and I noticed shadows dancing on the curtains in my bedroom. These are the leaves from the redbud outside of the window that were casting the shadows:

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I noticed that some of the leaves had holes in them while others were whole:

My heart feels like this one:

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But as I work through these hard days, it will one day be like this one:

And this is the promise that I am thankful for today:

He heals the broken hearted and binds up their wounds..~Psalm 147:3

 This is day 28 of:

31 days of thanks_2013

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31 Days of Thanks – A Peaceful Place

It has been very difficult to write a post today. My mind is swirling, my emotions are raw, and I am physically exhausted.  All the things that go with grief and everything is turned up a notch this week. I try to be objective about it and remind myself that every day is 24 hours but no matter what I tell myself, the numbness, disbelief, and sadness crash in. When it gets to be too much, I am fortunate to be able to go to this beautiful place.

Lakehouse

This is the lake house where Molly and I went the day that Mike died. It is a lovely home on a lake where quiet reigns. You can go there and stay in your pajamas, fish, go for walks, kayak, and read. Or, like Red, you can sit and watch the squirrels and chipmunks.

Mike enjoyed doing small projects at the lake.  He enjoyed working on the dock most of all. He was always thinking of new ways to make it straighter and stronger. It was fun to watch his engineering brain take over. I doubt there are too many people who visit that house and look at the dock without thinking of Mike.

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I am so thankful for this place. And for this man. How I miss my friend.

Lakehouse

Peace and quiet pictures and quotes | quiet quote, quiet quotes and sayings, quietness quotes, quotes quiet.

31 Days of Thanks – The final week

I am entering the final week of my “31 Days of Thanks”challenge. I took on this task in an effort to keep my mind focused as we approach the one year anniversary of Mike’s passing on October 31, 2012. It has been helpful to be more aware of what I am thankful for as I maneuver through this grief process this month, especially with the one year anniversary date on the horizon.  More and more memories of Mike’s last days are coming to the forefront of my mind and my heart. I am more sensitive to some things and as much as I want to brush them aside and ignore them, I know they are signs of grief that need to be addressed. So for the next week I am clearing my calendar as much as I can so I have the time to lean into the grief and work through those memories.

One of the biggest things I am dealing with as we come upon the one year mark is the burning question of “what now?”.  OK, so I made it through all of those “firsts”. And yet, the fact remains that Mike is still not with us. And as I being the year of “seconds”, there is an underlying sense that I must “move on”. I don’t know where that expectation comes from. Everything I’ve read and experienced tells me that grief is so personal and there is NO timeline and yet I don’t think our culture outwardly grants the freedom to go at your own pace. There is a general discomfort with those who are grieving and so we ignore it, run from it, or numb ourselves from it in a number of ways. But it doesn’t go away.  So I anticipate not only October 31 and the memory of Mike’s final hours but also the days, months, and years after without him by my side. What will my life look like? Where will I be? What will I be doing? Will my life look a lot different? Or a little different? Which relationships will be altered?

So many questions. So much unknown.

I don’t like this new lifestyle. Not at all. But I am learning how to be content.

“for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength.” Philippians 4:11-13.

And I have learned that I cannot spend my time trying to figure out the future on my own. Yes, I need to be proactive and plan but that has to be done with an open hand IF I believe the following to be true:

“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

I cannot spin my wheels in an attempt to figure everything out. I’ve come to accept the fact that I may never have answers to the questions that I have. And so that leaves me with living for today. How will I use my energy? How do I want to approach life during this time of uncertainty? I saw this video today. I love this Doctor’s infectious joy in the work that he does. He enjoys the opportunity to celebrate this wonderful life.  And that is how I want to approach our “second year” of life without Mike. I want to find the simple things that are truly worth celebrating and do it whole heartedly. I know it will take work and it will not come naturally. I will have to seek out others who have the same vision. I will let God handle the burdens that are too heavy for me to carry and I will do my best to keep my focus on taking one step at a time trusting in the God who cares and who heals.

“God never touches the heart with a trial without intending to bring upon it some grander gift, some tenderer benediction.” Streams in the Desert

Today I am thankful for this example of infectious joy.  You can see the video here.

31 Days of Thanks – Time

Time

I have not written in a couple of days. It seems that I just ran out of time. Often I will start writing my blog post at 10:30pm and push to publish it before midnight. But I just couldn’t do it the last few nights. And so that made me think of the concept of TIME.

Several people have asked me “What do you do with your time?”  The nest is empty, I am not currently working outside the home, and it can appear that I have nothing to do. This is one of the hardest things to explain about grief. It absorbs time.  It does not matter whether I am at home, running errands, or with friends.  Grief is a constant companion. And Grief is selfish. It constantly fights for your full attention. And that is tiresome. It has almost been a year since Mike passed away and my energy levels are higher. But I still get worn down. And when I start to feel those waves of emotion, memories, or fatigue, it is a sign that I need to slow down and give myself some grace. And that takes TIME.

It takes TIME for me to get on track in the mornings. To get the tone set for the day.

Quiet time

It takes TIME for me to write down my list of things I need to do and then to prioritize them. And yes, sometimes my list includes things like “take a shower”, “make calls for job inquiries”, “work on the volleyball club website”, “contact IRS” – AGAIN – , etc. Almost every task I take on requires multiple steps due to bureaucracy or tracing Mike’s steps to find something I need. It all takes TIME.

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I am sure to spend some TIME with people most days. In person. Even on those days when I’d rather not be social. It is a commitment I made with myself very early on. It is not easy. It is a discipline. Sometimes, I realize it is a mistake to be with others in that moment. I have a hard time being present. But most times it is just what I need. Even if it is for an hour. But I never really know how much time is going to be enough. It sure would make things easier if I did.

I am extremely grateful I have had the gift of TIME this past year. I believe strongly that I need to process loss when it hits –  to the fullest extent I am able to right now. In doing so, I am able to move forward into the new life that is unfolding before me. I know from past experience that if I avoid and bury the hard memories, they will haunt me into the future.  And I do not want to waste one moment dragging junk around with me. I learned that by actively working through grief, eventually the hard memories start to fade and as they do, the good memories come more into focus. But I also know that I cannot force it and I have to be patient in dealing with things as they naturally arise. In short, grief takes time.

And today I am thankful today that I have the gift of time.

“I have come that they may have life and have it to the full” John 10:10b

31 Days of Thanks – Yet Another Gift

This morning I met Rebecca and Caleb at the airport. They are visiting for a few days. We went straight to the lake house.

Lakehouse

Once we unloaded the car and got things in order, I lifted Caleb up so we could look at the lake and the beautiful fall leaves. I told Caleb about the special birds that God sends to the lake that remind me that He loves me and cares for me.  And I asked Caleb what kind of special bird did he think God would send to us today.  A few minutes later, a blue heron arrived.

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What a unique and elegant bird. It was fascinating to watch it move so slowly and deliberately as it scanned the water for fish. Rebecca was able to take a few more pictures of this beautiful bird later in the day.

Heron2

Heron1

Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows. James 1:17

I am thankful for the gifts that surround me each day. Give me eyes to continue to see them even in the midst of the hard things of life.

31 Days of Thanks – Peace

“The peace of God is that eternal calm which, like the cushion of the sea, lies far too deep down to be reached by any external trouble or disturbance; and she who enters into the presence of God becomes partaker of that undisturbed and undisturbable calm.” 

Dr. A.T. Pierson

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Today I am thankful that I have access to a peace that passes all understanding.