A post that was written but never published…until now

I was up early today and thought I’d write something about my time in Haiti. But then I saw this draft and for some reason I feel like it needs to be published.  Maybe someone who reads it will know why…….

Written April 22, 2015 at 12:49AM:

It’s been such a long time since I’ve been able to find words that express what life is like lately.  My last blog post was about one year ago. One long year ago.  My journal has gaps in it. Days, weeks, and months with not a single word to be found.  This post is full of pauses, wrestling to find a word, swirling thoughts.  It is work.

“Do you ever feel like life is flying by for others and you are standing still?” This was a question asked by an acquaintance who suffered a terrible loss almost two years ago.  Yes. I get it.  Sometimes I feel as though I am wearing Mike’s big waders schlogging through waist deep water, heading upstream; pulling a barge behind me…filled with coal.  Get the picture?! But it’s been 2 1/2 years! I should be “over it”! Life moves on!

I started a few posts about “the second year”. After a loss, the first year can be a blur. You have all those “firsts” to anticipate and get through.  But then the second year comes and the numbness of the first year has worn off. Now you get to go through the realization that the loss is permanent. And you start to wonder how you want to recognize each milestone.  Or not. You continue to work through the practical pieces of life without your loved one. Life goes on for those around you. Grief becomes more private. More internal. And then the “third year” comes. I had glimmers of this new life. There were some moments of familiarity. Something I had not felt in a long time.  I even started to feel that I was going to “make it”. Whatever “it” is.  And then the next shoe dropped.  Another loss.  Someone who was a mentor, father figure, and friend. I never thought another significant loss would come so soon.  It has rocked my world in a way that I do not even have words to describe.  There is silence. A very quiet time. The quiet I relished a year ago, the quiet that gave me rest, is not the quiet of today. It is a reminder. It is an empty quiet.

There is a tremendous desire to look back. To relive days gone by; what it was like. There is a tendency to look ahead. To imagine what life will look like. Neither helps. Both are overwhelming and evoke

And that is where the post ends.  It is fitting that the sentence was never finished because that is what life feels like sometimes. Words are elusive.  And I’ve learned that it’s ok.  For me, it is important to feel within that moment; to be willing to go to that place where it hurts, because I know that unless I feel that sorrow, I cannot experience the full depth of joy that life brings.  It is this work that I am committed to. It is a willingness to be uncomfortable and to have faith, believing that healing and strength will come from the momentary pain. I can say this with confidence because since this post was first written, I’ve experienced greater strength, joy, and peace than I ever thought possible.

Press on, friends.  You are not alone.  You are loved.

The Second Year – Let Not

Lately, my mind has been flooded with  memories of Mike’s clinical experiences throughout his illness. In particular, our challenging trips to Dana Farber in Boston. From our first trip, every bump in the road caused extreme pain for Mike. When I saw one coming, I warned Mike to brace himself. And when I hit one unexpectedly we both cried. These trips became increasingly difficult as time went on. Not only on the day of the appointment but days prior as we anticipated our next journey.

As I prepared for yet another trip to Boston, fear and anxiety gripped me. I didn’t know if Mike could handle the four hour round trip drive in addition to the sitting and waiting at DFCI. I was afraid of what the Doctor was going to say. I feared the results of the scans. It was agony. I pleaded with God for help. I came across this verse:

“Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.”  John 14:27

My first reaction was ,”God, are you kidding me? You know what is going on here. You bet my heart is troubled and yes, I am afraid.  Can’t you see how hard this is??!” And again,

“Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.”

I didn’t want to be afraid. Really. I wanted to be brave and confident and overcome all that we were facing. But I am human. So I started to really look at the words in that verse. And the one little word that jumped out at me was the word “let”. I took it a step further to learn more about the meaning of that little word:

let1
let/
verb
  1. 1.
    not prevent or forbid; allow.
    “my boss let me leave early”
    synonyms: allow to, permit to, give permission to, give leave to, authorize to, sanction to, grant the right to, license to, empower to, enable to, entitle to;
    antonyms: prevent, prohibit

The fear and anxiety were controlling me it was clear. But then I realized that I was allowing that to happen. I was in a sense giving permission and even authorizing those emotions to completely take hold of me, and in doing so I was paralyzed spiritually from receiving the strength to be strong and take courage. So if I was allowing this to happen, I could prohibit it from happening as well, I could “let not”….even in the most dire of circumstances. But I could not muster up the strength on my own. I was so weary and overwhelmed.  I asked God for help – to help me learn how to recognize when I was letting my heart be troubled and afraid. And so our journey began. the journey of “Let not”. Even today, it is moment by moment as I learn how to lean on Him and allow Him to carry my worries and cares. But the end result is always the same.  I experience a renewed peace and hope. Peace that I can focus on and live for this day and hope that one day I will see all of this clearly and have answers to the “why”. I still plan for the future but it is with a looser grip now. I am a work in progress. But I trust the One who is leading me.

Is your heart troubled? Are you afraid? There is hope that even in the midst of life’s tragedies, we can have peace.

“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.” John 14:27

The Second Year – “With water you can do anything”

Last night I had the privilege of having dinner with friends and visiting with Pastor Jephthe Lucien and his family who are from Haiti.

Jephthe is the lead pastor of the Jerusalem Baptist Ministries in Pignon, Haiti. His wife, Mitou, oversees the finances of JBM’s micro-loan program and the Del la Grace Christian School. The Luciens have two young boys, Dominick and Abdel. Our church (Groton Bible Chapel) has partnered with JBM’s evangelical and humanitarian outreach for the past three years. It is through JBM that we feed school children, support orphanages, build wells, construct buildings, provide health services, host conferences, and attempt to help JBM where help is needed.

I will remember last night for a long time. The impact our time together had on me was life altering. In fact I am having a hard time finding words to describe what I am thinking and feeling. But I will do my best.

I wrote about a well in my previous blog, “The Second Year – Living Water Well Update“. The Thomonde well is in quite a remote area. And Jephthe described this newly constructed well as “lonely”, sitting in the middle of a large field. Why would you construct a well in the middle of a field? So you can build a community around it. The water from this well will enable construction of a church building to start in March.  I had never thought about the need for water in order to build buildings. Of course, Mike would have understood that! As Jephthe said,

“With water, you can do anything.”

I was overwhelmed as Jephthe described day to day life and just how much this well will improve the lives of those in the community.  The need for water is critical for so many reasons.

And just as critical is the need for hope.

When Jephthe came to visit two years ago, Mike was moved deeply by the needs of the people of Haiti. In the inside cover of his Bible, Mike wrote these words from Jephthe’s message:

“Needs are an opportunity for God to do great things.”

How true. As I take a broad look at the events of the last two years, I am in awe. Mike had such a strong desire to go to Haiti.  I have great sorrow in my heart that he did not get that opportunity and yet I cannot deny the great joy that has come to others out of our loss. If Mike was alive today, would the well in Thomonde exist? Would any of the wells have been built? I don’t know. But I do know that the people of Jerusalem Baptist Ministries have more access to water than they did when Mike was alive. In his death, more people have access to life giving water. And this water gives them hope. One kind of hope. But there is another kind too, and that involves living water of another source:

“Jesus shouted to the crowds, ‘If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink.  For the Scriptures declare that rivers of living water shall flow from the inmost being of anyone who believes in me.’” John 7:37,38

It is this type of Living Water that carried us through Mike’s illness and continues to carry me still. I daily drink of his Words and hold onto his promises in the Scriptures. Promises that I am never alone, that my mourning will be replaced with joy, and that God has a plan for my life – for good, for a future. I realized that my sorrow has made me thirsty for hope for the future and just as Jephthe said,

“With Water you can do anything.”

I deeply thank everyone who gave to the Wells for Haiti at Groton Bible Chapel and through the Mike G Living Waters Golf tournament. You responded to the needs of the people of Haiti and God has done great things. My hope is that everyone who has given money for these wells will experience, at some point, the Living Water that gives me hope as I continue to face the uncertainties of this life.

Jesus answered, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” John 4:13,14

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 – Living Water Well Update

This is a message I recently received in regards to the new well at Thomonde, Haiti.

This is a picture of the new well at Thomonde, one of the Living Water wells.  Notice the water on the ground–it works.  The man in the brown shirt is Etienne Rolzaph, the pastor of the church in Thomonde. The well is the anchor of the church’s dream for a new church building. I included his email to me when he requested a visit from us to give a “proper thank you.”  

Hello my dear pastor, I greet you in the soft invaluable name of Jesus. I am Etienne Rolzaph pastor of the church Baptist Jerusalem of Thomonde. how is – that you go? We have so much to pray for you and your group. How was the journey? On my behalf staff and of the church we are anxious to say to you thank you and thank you still for this big gift(donation) how much important for the church not to say the whole community (for the well of water). The committee of the church wants to thank you face to face. When can we to hope you and your group in Haiti still more exactly has Thomonde?
I remain at your disposal to give all the information necessary for this demand(request) and ask you to approve, my brother, the expression of my distinguished consideration.

Below is a map of Haiti. You can see where Thomonde is located.

Thomonde Location Map

And here is another map that shows you how remote this area is.

How thrilled Mike would be at this news! He would truly be humbled and in awe at the kind generosity of all who have contributed to this worthy project in his memory.

Beauty from Ashes

 

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)