Letting Go….Again

This picture sums it up.  A couple of years ago, we wanted a new family picture; .  Red squeezed his way in; right in the middle. That’s where he wanted to be.  You can see how happy he was.

We go to the world’s greatest veterinarians. So kind. Their gift of mercy gave me the courage to take the step to let Red go. When all was said and done, I got in my car with his leash and collar.  This was exceptionally hard. You see, after Mike died, I took the risk to love this dog. And he loved me right back.  Yesterday, my heart broke.

As I drove out of the parking lot, this song came on. I do not believe it was a coincidence.  It reminded me that there is hope. My heart takes hope that one day I will be reunited with all those who have passed on; with all those whom I’ve loved.

And on that day, we will walk along the streets of gold.

 

Be brave.

 

The Second Year – The Lucky Ones

I am a Downton Abby fan. From the very first season I was hooked. If I had a bucket list, visiting Highclere castle would be on it.

Highclere castle

This last week, there was a poignant scene in which Isobel, Branson, and Mary reflected on their great loves:

These three characters are of different age, gender, and social and economic class. And yet, they find common ground in the fact that they all experienced great love…and great loss. Isobel is on mark when she proclaims, “Aren’t we the lucky ones”. That sounds like crazy talk when you realize the heart ache each one has been through. And yet I can relate. How fortunate I am to have experienced great love. Mike and I were far from perfect as a couple, but through life’s trials and triumphs, we developed a deep trust and respect for one another. Our love was forged in the fire of joblessness, infertility, financial hardship, and loss of family, among other challenges. Our joy blossomed in the triumphs and blessings of children and God’s provision at times when we didn’t know how we were going to make it. Oh, how I miss him. It physically hurts at times. Before I was married, there was a time when I would rather have avoided the possibility of lost love than invest in meaningful relationships. Now, I understand and agree with Alfred, Lord Tennyson in his In Memorium 27 poem:

“I hold it true, whate’er befall;I feel it, when I sorrow most;’Tis better to have loved and lost, Than never to have loved at all.”

I believe I have come to a place where I agree with the sentiment that was shared in the Downton Abby clip above. I can now wholeheartedly say, yes, Isobel, we are the lucky ones.

“Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends.” 1 Cor 13:7,8

 

The Second Year – More loss, more challenge, more growth

On Monday, I attended the memorial service for our dear friend, Josh. It was held in the auditorium in the high school where he taught for the past ten years. It was packed. It was a wonderful time for faculty, students, friends, and family of Josh’s to honor him and to recognize Josh’s faithful personal relationship with God publicly. Usually there are custodians to pay, doors to unlock, security to deal with, and other hoops to jump through when trying to access public school spaces during break. Not so yesterday. Bravo to Josh’s Waterford High School for giving us all the opportunity to come together, in a space that was big enough, to laugh and weep and thank God for the privilege of knowing Josh.

To be honest, it was a challenge for me to attend Josh’s memorial service. There were aspects of his courageous battle with cancer that were so very similar to Mike’s. His selflessness, kindness, care for others in the midst of his own trials, and incredible courage. As I walked into the auditorium I was overcome with sadness, my knees were shaking, and I had to concentrate on taking one step at a time. Memories flooded my mind and heart. It was a very intense “I still can’t believe this is my life” moment. And then I saw Josh’s beautiful young wife and quickly my thoughts became, “I can’t believe this is now her life as well.” My heart broke. Again. For Josh’s wife. For his family, his friends, students, co-workers, his community.

And then we sang.

Nothing can separate
Even if I ran away
Your love never fails

I know I still make mistakes
But You have new mercies for me everyday
Your love never fails

You stay the same through the ages
Your love never changes
There maybe pain in the night but joy comes in the morning.

And when the oceans rage
I don’t have to be afraid
Because I know that You love me

Your love never fails

The wind is strong and the water’s deep
But I’m not alone in these open seas
Cause Your love never fails

The chasm is far too wide
I never thought I’d reach the other side
But Your love never fails.

And my heart was comforted. The tears came. The God who Mike and Josh loved while they were with us is the same God whose love never fails. When the waves of emotion hit. Or the winds of change blow. Or the deep sense of loss tempts me to pull the covers over my head. When I get stuck wondering what the future holds, I am reminded that I do not have to be afraid. Because the God of the universe loves me. And His love never fails.  Sometimes I wonder how I will get through the next day, week, month, year. And then I remember, His love never fails.

And here we are. The first day of the New Year. As I reflect on 2013 – my first full year without my dear Mike – I stand in awe of how fast the year passed. I guess this is what happens when you focus on living one day at a time.  I am so thankful for the family and friends who have walked with me through this past year. And continue to do so. Even the other day, more than a couple of people after the service reminded me that they pray for me every night. I cried. It is so easy to feel as though others have forgotten. Clearly, this is not true.

And so I look forward in hope, knowing that God’s love surrounds me – through the beauty of His creation, people, and his Son. I am well loved. I pray expectantly for this  year ahead knowing that I will reach the other side.

Your Love Never Fails

The Second Year – Melancholy days

I have been reading a book called “The Greatest Gift” by Ann Voskamp. It is a series of daily readings which coincide with Advent – the anticipation of Jesus’ birth and ultimate celebration of Christmas. I am so glad I came across this book. I look forward to my mornings reading and reflecting on this season of the year. It has enabled me to experience the days leading up to Christmas with a depth of peace and anticipation that I have never experienced before. It is a quiet joy. That sometimes includes tears.

My heart has been heavy lately. I realized that in an effort to gain some sort of “normalcy” in life, I am trying to “remake” myself – who am I? What kind of work do I want to do? Figure it out. Figure it all out. Where do I want to live? Where will I be in six months or six years? Figure it out. Figure it all out. Churning, striving, thinking. Always thinking. Wakefulness, wonder, worry. Yes, there are questions to be answered. So many. Why did the coal fire go out? It was just burning great three hours ago. Why is it 49 degrees upstairs when I had the furnace repaired last week? Why can’t I escape the multitude of things rushing through my head? God, why? God, how? God, help.

I have questions. I have doubts. And this is what I learned about doubts today:

There are “two kinds of doubts – one that fully lives into the questions, and one that uses the questions as weapons against fully living.” (The Greatest Gift)

I do not want my questions to stagnate me. To get me stuck and become a barrier to living. Life here is short. I am painfully aware of that – and seem to be reminded of it frequently. But the unanswered questions grab onto my legs and pull me down into the sea of doubt. And this is the doubt that becomes a weapon against fully living. I cannot be afraid of the doubt that fully engages me into the questions – to talking about it, all of it. Be authentic and real. We all have doubts. Even the most faith-filled have doubts. How we handle those moments of uncertainty determines whether we truly live or not.

Trying to “remake” myself has been exhausting. I am realizing that the process cannot be forced. But what to do? Today I received some insight from the Greatest Gift:

“Come to Him just as you are.  Give up trying to be self-made: this is your gift to Him – and His gift to you. Simply come.” “the miracle of Christmas is that you get more than proof of God’s existence. You get the experience of God’s presence.”

This Christmas I desire to be freed from the striving, the churning, the worry. I know it is a process. But there is this hope – that life can be lived; fully. Even with the doubts. There is a place where I can go. Just as I am.

“You don’t have to work for the coming of the Lord. You don’t have to work for Christmas. The miracle is always that God is gracious. You don’t have to earn Christmas, you don’t have to perform Christmas, you don’t have to make Christmas. You can rest in Christ. You can wait with Christ. You can breathe easy in Christ. Open your heart to the miracle of grace. He will prepare your heart for the coming of the Lord.”

I may not have much to give others in the way of gifts this Christmas. It is humbling. Can be frustrating. But perhaps the gift I can give is one of Hope – that there is life to be fully lived. Joy in sorrow. Beauty from ashes. Hope that came in the form of a helpless infant. Hope that grew and willingly suffered as a man; One who knows my sadness, my quiet sorrow, my doubts. One who understands. And because of His life and death, I can experience life fully here. That is the joy and hope that I have.

What can I give Him, poor as I am?
If I were a shepherd, I would bring a lamb;
If I were a Wise Man, I would do my part;
Yet what I can I give Him… give my heart. (In the Bleak Midwinter)

The Second Year – Miracle of the Moments

Red and I took a walk during the last snowfall. It was that kind of snow that coated the trees and sparkled on the lawn. I am always amazed at how quiet it is when it snows.  Since Mike has gone, I have these moments once in a while – they are fleeting – but they are deep seated and joyful. Filling me with gratitude for the love and life we shared for 30 years. I miss him deeply and the heart ache hits hard. And yet how blessed I am to have had such a loving companion for so long. These are the little miracles of the moments in life that I am so thankful for.

The Second Year – Finding JOY on the Journey

I have been dreading this “holiday season”. Before Thanksgiving, I honestly felt like I just wanted it all to blow over. To go away. To leave me alone. I was overwhelmed even with the anticipation of the busyness and cultural urgency of the season. I didn’t want to listen to Christmas music, I stayed out of stores, and even the thought of decorating the house was overwhelming. But in spite of my seeming “scroogy-ness”  there was one word that entered my mind and took up residence there.

It didn’t scream for attention. It gently nudged me at times. Quietly. I decided I better start giving it some of my attention. One night I was working on a project and decided to “watch” the Charlie Brown Christmas special to give me some “white noise” (the house gets very quiet) . And there it was. That word again.

“Be not afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of a great joy which will come to all the people…”  Luke 2:10

Good news. Great joy. That is quite a promise. I realized how accustomed I have become to receiving bad news. I think on some level, I even expect it now. Linus got my attention.

“for to you…”

Get ready for it – here is the news – and it is good….

“….is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.”

According to Webster’s Dictionary, a Savior is “someone who saves something or someone from danger, harm, failure.” And Lord is defined as “one having power and authority over others”. This is the good news that would bring great joy to all the people. Even to the woman who is swimming in grief. The one who is sometimes afraid of moving forward, making new memories, discovering a new life. Don’t be afraid….there is good news for you…. there is One who has the power and authority to save you from danger, harm, and failure. There is hope for you. You are not alone.

This is reason for great joy.

I put my project aside and I was inspired to make it a goal of mine to find JOY in the next 20 days. This season, for me, is to be one of anticipation – an advent –  as I anticipate receiving, yet again, the good news that brings great JOY to all the people on Christmas day.

Here’s to the first day of finding JOY on this journey.