Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Be Still...

Lord, You want me to “be still”….
"The Lord will fight for you, you need only to be still.” - Exodus 14:14
Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.”- Psalm 46:10
I know what You want for me, but at times I am incapable of “being still”.  My mind wants to race off on its own rants of fear and confusion.  My heart wants to shatter into millions of tiny shards of pain.  My emotions feel like an ocean storm tossing to and fro.
But then, You already know that I am not able to remain still on my own.  Your command for me to be still has more to do with surrender and less to do with my own ability (for apart from You, I have no good thing-Psalm 16:2). 
“You answer us with awesome deeds of righteousness, O God our Savior, the hope of all the ends of the earth and of the farthest seas, who formed the mountains by your power, having armed yourself with strength, who stilled the roaring seas, the roaring of their waves, and the turmoil of the nations.  Those living far away fear your wonders; where morning dawns and evening fades you call forth songs of joy.”-Psalm 65:5-8
“You rule over the surging sea; when its waves mount up, you still them.”-Psalm 89:9
He stilled the storm to a whisper; the waves of the sea were hushed.”-Psalm 107:29
It is not my responsibility to be still but to simply humble myself before You and depend on You to create stillness within me.  For with the stillness You provide, comes the joy You have promised.
 “The Lord has done great things for us, and we are filled with joy…Those who sow in tears will reap with songs of joy.  He who goes out with weeping, carrying seeds to sow, will return with songs of joy, carrying sheaves with him.”-Psalm 126:3,5-6
“They will celebrate your abundant goodness and joyfully sing of your righteousness.”-Psalm 145:7
“Indeed, you are our glory and joy.”-1 Thessalonians 2:20
“Splendor and majesty are before Him; strength and joy are in His dwelling place.”-1 Chronicles 16:27
Thank You, Lord for creating stillness and a joy within me.  “Even if” the journey I am on is hard.  “Even if” my dreams didn’t fit within Your will.  “You have made known to me the paths of life; you will fill me with joy in Your presence.” (Acts 2:28) and I trust You! 


Monday, December 23, 2013

Hospital Bed and Love

There is a hospital bed….IN MY HOUSE.  This is real.  Like the baldness made us realize the effects chemo was having throughout Tim’s body even on the non-hospital weeks.  This bed slaps me in the face with the rapidly approaching end-of- life reality.  It was no fun in the hospital; it is less fun in my home.

Cannot think of a better use for the quilt my mom made
me last Christmas out of Tim's shirts!

“Awkward” and “out of place” don’t even sum up the appearance of this contraption in my bedroom.  Tim wasn’t even able to gain consciousness as the bed was being constructed a mere 3 feet from him.  I stood there watching, with my dad by my side (as he has been throughout this entire journey).  I may have had a minor emotional moment as the bed was being assembled.  I may have let a tear slip down my cheek and may have had to bite my lip and take a deep breath to stave off the ugly cry, all while internally begging God to calm me so I could maintain composure. 

He did, because He is good like that...and He LOVES me. 

I know I have said it before, but this hospice stage is difficult.  We have spent nearly two years fighting hard every single day to not end up right where we are at.  And it stinks.  And it is weird to be expected to suddenly change brain gears into one where we aren’t fighting to survive anymore.  Our minds know that there is nothing more to be done, but our hearts still hold out hope that someone will step in with a solution. 
Somehow, seeing this hospital bed within the sacred space of our master bedroom feels like another failure…another inability to conquer…another realm of giving up. 
It hurts.  It hurts in a way that takes my breath away and pierces my heart.  It hurts in a way that courses hot tears down my face in the privacy of my home office while my children play upstairs.  Silent sobs rack my body. 
I tell God that I want to yell “It’s not fair!  Take someone else.  Take someone who isn’t good.  Take someone who doesn’t love his family so well; someone whose presence won’t be missed every second of every day in a crushing way.  Don’t take this man!  Don’t rip apart THIS family.  We work so well together.  We have such joy.  We truly cherish each other’s company.  We aren’t perfect, but we were doing life well, serving You.  Please, don’t take him!  Take someone who has lived their life, not this 45 year old man who has made plans with me to travel in retirement and spoil our grandbabies together and host big holidays.”  And then after I blow my nose for what feels like the thousandth time, and I dry my eyes and sit in the stillness of my Lord’s presence,

He reminds me.

This earth is not our home.  This life is not what we were created for.  He is here.  He is Immanuel, “God with us”.  He will never leave us.  He is faithful and He is true.  He is big enough for me to lean into; He is strong enough and patient enough to listen to my rants and to calm my aching heart.  God loves me with a love the depths of which I cannot understand.  It is unconditional, it is un-overwhelmable, it is non-fluctuating, and it is indispensable.

His love for me….

               is patient and kind.

               does not envy, nor does it boast.

               is not prideful, it does not dishonor others, is not self-seeking.

               is not easily angered and keeps no record of wrongs.

God’s perfect love for me…

does not delight in evil but rejoices with truth.

always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

never fails.

So, in this moment, on this eve of Christmas Eve, and yes, even with this hospital bed in my home…I choose to remember that I AM LOVED.  I am loved by a God who is Himself Love.  I am loved by the Great I Am. 

And that is enough.

HE is enough!

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Roller Coasters

We are a fun-loving family.  I wouldn't necessarily call us "thrill-seekers"
(unless we are skiing down a mountain....then some of us are definitely more seekers-of-the-thrill than others)...

a favorite ski run of Tim and the kids
But we all do love a good roller coaster. 
We have often referred to this cancer journey as a roller coaster.  It is an unwelcomed roller coaster that does not induce joy.  This end time with hospice is no different.  My Tim will have days where he is awake and alert for 6-7 hours.  We call these the "good days"; he recently had three good days in a row.  Was even strong enough to leave the house on short errands with me.  Mixed in with the good days are what we call the "sleepy days".  Sleepy days come on suddenly and without true warning.   He may wake up mid-morning to early afternoon, go through the tedious process of clearing out his throat, taking his meds and administering a feeding through his tube; only to find himself too exhausted to stay awake.  This process could repeat two or three times throughout the day.  Some sleepy days allow him to take a few business calls in the minimal, sporadic hours he is awake.  Some sleepy days find him only moving from the bed to use the restroom and clear his throat.  On average, a sleepy day finds him resting 20-22 hours our of a 24 hour period. 
It is this constant up and down that sometimes feels unbearable.  
When the sleepy days are linked together three and four at a time, we begin to think that the end is imminent.  Then, just as we are preparing ourselves for the inevitable and teetering on making the calls to our family and friends, he rebounds remarkably with a good day.  It is a crazy roller coaster with unexpected dips and turns, steep climbs up and stomach-lurching, full-speed drops.
Quite frankly after nearly two years of this constant ride, we are beginning to experience whiplash and nausea.  So this last week, when Tim had a string of three good days followed by a full 22 hours in bed; he mumbled to me that he can't make his body wake up anymore.  I would go to check on him often and he would state that he was trying to get up, but just needed a few more minutes.  (This happened roughly every 2 hours.)  I could tell he was scared that he couldn't get himself awake.  I assured him that this was his normal cycle and we weren't going to worry about this sleepy phase quite yet.  If he couldn't rebound in another 3 days, then we would allow ourselves to begin to think that this really was the end of life process that we have read and been counseled about.  But until we reached that point, he should just let his body rest and store up some energy for his next round of good days. 
We have always been very open with our children about Tim's diagnosis and prognosis.  Bless them.  They have endured this roller coaster right along with Tim and I.  They have juggled the ups and downs and still maintained their grades and their extra-curricular activities.  On the way to school this week I was repeating the conversation I had had with their father.  Our daughter looked at me and with the funniest attitude inflection of her voice she paraphrased my message to Tim, "Oh no, honey-child.  We are NOT gonna get on this roller coaster to-day.  We are just gonna stand at the gate and watch it for a while.  We can get on later if we need to."  She cracks us up!  She also summarized our situation perfectly.  
Tim rebounded for a long day out of bed (struggled to stay awake the whole time, but was determined to stay in the living room or home office most of the day.)  We are back on the sleepy days again now.  This is day two of this round.  The kids are home for Christmas break.  I find myself realizing that it is possible their daddy will pass away while they are home instead of during their school day.  The logistics of it make me feel as though the pit of my stomach is dropping again.  But, then I hear my girl's voice in my head telling me, "Oh no, honey-child.  We are NOT gonna get on this roller coaster today."  Out of the mouths of babes, huh? 
While we have no choice but to be at the gate of the roller coaster ride.  We do have the ability to refuse to get on with every single fluctuation this disease brings to the death process.  We don't have to become panicky over every tiny detail of the end.  We can focus on remaining calm and loving towards each other.  We can be encouragers to Tim and to one another.  We can follow the guidelines of Scripture and trust that God has Tim's days written in His book of life and that His timing is perfect.  We can cling to the peace Christ offers us and we can rest under the shelter of the Almighty's wings.  And we can hope for more good days to peek through the clouds.
The good days tend to make us willing to jump right back on the roller coaster and create beautiful memories in the process.



Sunday, December 1, 2013

(the good) The Bad and The Ugly

Some days are just harder than others.  I can’t change that fact.  There are days when I accomplish everything on my to-do list with a smile on my face and a pep in my step and then there are the days when I can’t even find my to-do list.  Currently, I typically have strings of “okay” days (just keeping it real) with a scattering of really tough ones in the mix.  Recently, my days are comprised of a long string of hard days with mere glimpses of good moments.  It isn’t very much fun.  I am beyond weary; I don’t even think there is a vocabulary word that could fully describe my level of exhaustion and sorrow.  The stress that I carry around every waking moment is unbearable.

Two characteristics of the old Lori were that she didn’t cry very often (maybe a small leaky eye from time to time, but hardly ever a good bawl fest), and she was hyper-organized.  Oh how I miss that girl!  Right now, I am so far past the point of being organized that I cannot even form a semi-organized thought.  And the crying…..oh for the love of all things purple….it comes without warning and I crumble into a heap of tears and snot.  Twice last week alone, I had to excuse myself from the dinner table to try to regain my composure.  It's the ugly cry too, you know?  The one that contorts your face and is impossible to hide.  Beautiful, I tell you. 
This journey has stretched me into a better person in many ways.  I have grown.  I have changed.  Oddly, I have become softer.  I used to think I was a fairly strong woman.  Now I don’t know if I ever was strong or not, but I do know that I am somehow evolving into a kinder and gentler person.  I am far from strong in this moment.  I am weak, angry, sad, scared, confused, bitter, frustrated, exhausted, and overwhelmed.  I know that the healthy thing to do is to let each of these emotions fully wash over me; to experience them deeply so that I can cross through them into healing.  To hand each and every emotion over to God so He can cleanse me of the negative and nurture the positive.  I KNOW these things, but these past few days I have had to fight this odd desire to just cling to the negative. 

Sitting in a deer blind on the eve of Thanksgiving, I was in tears of gratitude for how God had carried us through these horrific months and all the lessons He has taught me.  Then Thanksgiving dawned and I was M A D.  Dare I say I am mad at God?  Might as well say it, it’s not like He doesn’t already know.  Oh, I have told Him of my anger.  He is a big God and He can handle it.  He forgives me.  I think it is okay to admit being mad at God, we just can’t allow ourselves to get stuck there.  We cannot allow ourselves to sin in our anger. 
The emotional swings have never been as great for me as they are in this particular period of the journey.  I am suffering.  The constant stress of knowing death is approaching and yet trying to keep my children involved and active in their own lives while juggling protecting them from experiencing too much of the death process has worn me slick.  I am irritable.  I catch myself being hyper-sensitive, ungrateful, and selfish

People private message me from our support page or this blog and they say how they “loved every second they had with their spouse as he was dying”, how they “were grateful for each and every moment”.  That is lovely for them.  Maybe, (giving them the benefit of the doubt here) their spouses’ journey didn’t stretch out as long as our “terminal” has.  It is possible they didn’t have to wait for the inevitable death quite as long as we have been waiting.  Did they really lie through sleepless nights counting the long seconds between their husbands’ breaths with joy in their hearts and smiles on their faces?  (We have made it past 19 seconds now; it is agonizing waiting for that next breath.)  Or is it that they live in a false reality of their own memories? 

(See, now I am being crazy mean.  What is it with my emotional outbursts?  Why can’t I just let people have their experiences and allow them to be better than or different from my own?)

I find myself desperately hoping that they have altered their memories to fit the bubble they want their grief to fit inside of,
because right here,
in the midst of my grief, fear, and exhaustion,
I don’t love every minute. 
I don’t love it much at all. 
Am I grateful for the fact that Tim saw our daughter’s 13th birthday?  You betcha! 
Am I humbled that God gave us her first hunting season with her Daddy?  I am deeply humbled! 
Am I thankful for every good day he has with us?  I truly am. 
Does my heart skip a beat each time I hear our son say “Love ya, Dad”.  Absolutely! 
But there are also a whole lot of “seconds” and “moments” that are ugly and horrible.  I am not grateful to watch him suffer.  I do not love watching him grow weaker and more confused.  I do not enjoy smelling the tumor 24/7.  I am not a fan of having to sneak into our room every hour or so to make certain he hasn’t passed away in his sleep yet.  This isn’t “blissful” or “wonderful” for me.  I instead find it stressful and paralyzing.  It is as if I am stuck in this limbo of in-between. 
So truthfully, I really am not entirely a crazy-mean lady.  I do “get” that widows loved caring for their spouses.  I certainly consider it a true honor to serve Tim in this way.  But I don’t love the individual specifics of the situation I am in.  I don’t enjoy every moment of the day-to-day stress of this period in our lives.  I just don't.  And maybe I am nit-picking others comments.  Let's just chalk that up to the new hyper-sensitive Lori that I am not the biggest fan of.  But when people say, "enjoy every moment" and they "would gladly take the hard moments to have their husband be able to hold their hand again", a part of me wants to sweetly and tearfully understand the anguish of their expressions.  And another part of me wants to scream, "REALLY?"; because it is scary for me to attempt to comprehend the fact that missing him will be more painful than watching him suffer 98% of the day.  The fact that this will only get tougher terrifies me.  I am already at my breaking point.  Lots of cracks going on over here, people.     
I just think maybe someone else needs to hear that life isn’t always peachy-keen here in my world.  It’s a lot of heartache and struggle.  It has been a long period of just being stuck in the same place. 

And the frozenness of it…
grieving for and fearing what is to come;
trying to live in each moment knowing it could be the last;
playing all the different death scenarios in my mind and planning how I will protect the kids from what they see and hear
it is crippling. 

My love for my husband is so deep and so selfless that on his bad days, I wish he were already with Jesus and not having to suffer through the wait.  And on his decent days, I feel guilty for wishing he were with Jesus for the three days before.  This roller coaster is making me nauseous.  I trust God’s timing.  I trust God’s plan.  And I also, at times, find myself mad at the process and confused by the whole situation. 

So there you have it; the current bad and ugly truth of my life.  Thankfully, God’s mercies are new every morning. 

And evidently, so are my emotions.  Wonder what new gems I'll find tomorrow? 

In the meantime, I will just keep
bringing my weariness to the One who can give me rest;  
laying my bitterness at the feet of the cross;
begging for eyes to see the blessings and forgiveness for my negativity;
and asking for His strength to fill me as I face each new day.     




Friday, November 15, 2013

This Isn’t Your “Willy Wonka-Golden Ticket” Kind of Faith

My faith is personal; it is deeply rooted and strong enough to withstand the horrors of these past 21 months.  I am not a “Name It & Claim It” believer that thinks healing comes only through my BELIEF that Tim will be healed.  Quite frankly, to me, that seems arrogant and self-dependent.  We have personally heard the whisperings that if we believed more, Tim would be healed.  “If only we had more faith.”  I respectfully disagree. 
I don’t think God needs my help to perform His miracles. 

Here’s the deal, people; and I don’t want to offend anyone or to get into arguments, but I think if Christians simply had to believe in healing for healing to occur….then everyone would become a Christian simply to get something from God.  Same would be true for wealth and safety or comfort. 

Did God choose to bless some of His children in the Bible through prosperity and healing?  Absolutely. 
Did he heal some as a reward for their faith in His power?  Yes. 

Did He also allow suffering and loss for other children that He equally loved?  He did.    

Job 2:10 “Shall we accept good from God, and not trouble?”

The train of thought that believing in God somehow makes us immune from trouble leaves us on very shaky ground when trials come our way.  Just as faith in God does not guarantee us a life of ease and luxury; lack of faith in God does not doom others to tumultuous troubles on this earth.  There are extremely successful, healthy, and prosperous unbelievers in this world.  And there are poverty-stricken, believers on their death beds.  While God is perfectly capable of rescuing us from difficult times, He may also choose to allow these challenging times for reasons that are far beyond our comprehension.  There is no doubt in my mind that Satan desires for us to question God’s goodness when we are in the midst of suffering. 
Believers, our faith is not to be based on personal comfort.  As hard as that is to accept, Jesus did not come to this earth, live a sinless life, and then give Himself up on the cross; becoming the gate through which we would pass into the presence of God the Father - so that we could have a comfortable life here. 

He came so that we might have ETERNAL life. 

Person after person in the Bible suffered horribly; persons that God loved dearly.  God’s promises are real.  They are promises for what is to come in heaven.  That is where our future is.  This life is but a blink of the eye when compared to eternity. If Christianity were like God passing out a free golden ticket for a prosperous life inside Willy Wonka chocolate bar wrappers, then everyone would be rushing into a personal relationship with Christ for the sole purpose of getting something from Him to make their lives easier.  The Bible’s promises aren’t that THIS life will be easy.  The promises are that

Psalm 46:1 “God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble.”

Psalm 63:8 “My soul clings to you; your right hand upholds me.”

Psalm 33:11 “His plans endure forever; His purposes last eternally.”

Philippians 2:13 “God is always at work in you to make you willing
and able to obey His own purpose.”

If God always rescued every faithful believer who called out to Him, what would be the purpose of faith?  Wouldn’t our naturally greedy, sinful selves be lined up with our chocolate bars and golden tickets in hand signing up for the free “insurance policy” of good times?
My faith is a gift from God and rests in the hope I have in Jesus Christ.  Faith is often proven through trials and is strengthened and increased by Christ.  My belief will not waiver that God is good all the time.  His goodness is not determined by my circumstances.  He does not have to rescue Tim from cancer in order for me to believe that He is working in our lives.  I’d love it if He chose to, but my faith does not depend on it.    

Both Spiritual and physical healing are absolutely guaranteed for those who have surrendered their lives to Jesus Christ and accepted the free gift of salvation. 


And really, when you pause to think about it, wouldn’t we prefer guarantees for forever rather than ones that will expire in the blink of an eye?

Let's Chat:
What Scriptures do you lean on during difficult times?  How has God proven Himself faithful to you?  I’d love to hear from the individuals who take the time to read this blog.  God’s Word tells us to “encourage each other daily”, what better way is there to encourage each other than to share His Word and the stories of His faithfulness?

Monday, November 4, 2013

Widow Envy????

I experience the strangest emotions at the most unpredictable moments.  I know I have mentioned this before in relation to the waves of grief that overtake me; but it happens with other emotions as well. 

In conversations with our children, we ponder whether my expectation of the grief that is to come is realistic.  We will certainly each grieve individually and have given each other permission to experience the journey in our own ways.  And that is more than okay, it is necessary.  I still simply cannot imagine a single day void of contact with my Tim; however our children are very wise and one child has shared with me that they aren’t so sure the grieving process will take as long since we have been in a state of constant grief and sorrow for going on 21 months now already.  Possibly, this long, drawn out death is a way for those of us left behind to be as prepared as we possibly can be for the next step.  I hear this and I wonder.  Maybe there is deep truth embedded here.  Or maybe the grief that is to come is so far beyond our comprehension that it will wash over us as a fresh wave…somehow deeper and darker.  We won’t know until we get there, but regardless of how each of us heals…we are guaranteed that the healing of our hearts will come. 

"Do not worry, Lori.  I will surely comfort you and will look with compassion on all your ruins; I will make your deserts like Eden, your wastelands like the garden of the Lord. ~Isaiah 51:3"

It doesn’t lessen the sting of loss, but there is such a beautiful hope in knowing where Tim will spend eternity.  There is comfort in this knowledge, and quite frankly we are all (Tim included) in some odd way, ready for Tim to be in the presence of Jesus and free from the suffering involved with this nasty disease.  My brave husband has not tasted anything in over a year.  He has absolutely no swallow; not even his own saliva.  Can you even imagine?  I cannot and I live beside him every day as we administer feedings and hydration through his feeding tube and use surgical tweezers to clean out the thickened dried spit and blood from his throat.  He can feel the tumor ripping through his tissues every single day as its invasive and aggressive fingers spread and grow throughout his head and neck.  He can feel the portion that is invading his mouth and throat as it interferes with his speech.  He aspirates on the blood that seeps from the tumor at night.  His left forearm has been surgically transplanted into his throat to replace the areas that the tumor destroyed.  It is a horrific “sci-fi-ish” existence and the man never complains. 
I stand in awe of his integrity and strength.  I am humbled by the peace Jesus Christ has delivered to our family members as the end approaches.  Just as the Bible promises, it is beyond our understanding.
I like to read several different devotionals.  One is written by Christian widows.  It helps me prepare for what is to come and also shows me that I am not alone in this journey.  I mean, I know God will never leave me, but I am talking about other women who are walking this same path with dignity and grace.  Showing me what it is to lean so heavily into our Savior that only His love and peace radiate from within.  So imagine my surprise when I found myself experiencing a strange emotion while reading a devotional about a woman who lost her husband while he was out on a run. 

I, myself am a runner; have been for 3 years.  Tim is the one that got me interested in the sport.  He loved to lace up his running shoes and head out for a few miles after a long day at the office.  It was one of “our things”.
New Years Day 5K Race

My training partner who didn't really want to run this day,
but didn't want his wife out there alone either.  (Love him!)
As I read of this woman cutting part of her husband’s shoelace from his running shoes to bind a locket of his hair as he lay on the ER stretcher, my heart ached for the suddenness of her loss.  Then she wrote of how she kept his running shoes in a box so that she could smell the sweat on them and remember his aroma after his runs. 

And I felt this emotion that was partly anger and partly jealousy!

How was this possible?  What is this emotion?  Am I envious of a widow?  I spiraled into jealousy that she had something to cling to with her lovers scent on it.  You see, I lost the scent of my Tim almost two years ago.  This cancer came on hard and fast and quickly the tumor took over the smell of my sweet Tim.  It breaks my heart to admit that I cannot even remember his scent.  All I smell is the rancid odor of the tumor.  I have no clothing to cling to with the old scent.  I have nothing to tuck away in a drawer for future times and pull out when I just need to smell him.  And this realization made me envious.  Wow!  What a new low to stoop to!  I was so taken aback by my reaction that I instantly confessed this as sin to God and begged for forgiveness.  He replaced my envy with His grace and mercy.  He reminded me that He has chosen to give me and our children; the gift of time to process the grief.  We may be saying a long goodbye, but we are being given the opportunity to say the goodbye; and there are so many others that do not have this luxury.  Clearly He knew I would need to take baby steps into this thing called “widow”. 
So maybe our child is wise beyond their years after all.  Maybe we are already further than knee deep in this process of grieving and the other side is closer than we realize.  Maybe we are swimming neck deep now and will soon be finding sure footing again and begin our ascent out of the murky, dark waters of this valley. 

And then, just as I prepare to post this blog, I read wisdom from a friend on her Facebook page. 

“We want the shortcut, but often God takes us the long way around because He knows better people, stronger people develop over time. Don't despise the wait. He's in it, too.” ~Lisa Whittle

Isn’t God so good to us, all the time?  All the time, he is good! 

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Keep Putting My Feet on the Floor

The best advice I have received so far for what lies in my future is to remember to keep putting my feet on the floor.  I’ve been told this will be the hardest.  To wake up each morning with the fresh realization that half of my heart is missing and still CHOOSE to place my feet on the ground.

Without that choice, I will wallow in my sorrow all day long, just lying in my bed missing him.  And that simply won’t do.  We have children that need to be tended to.  We have chores that must be done.  I have a paycheck to earn so I can put food on the table and clothes on our backs.  I think I will prepare myself a list.  Like the list that used to hang on our young children’s closet doors.  A list of things to do each morning; like brush my teeth, get dressed, eat breakfast, make my bed, spend time with Jesus.  They say that staying busy and keeping moving will help the pain to not be so overwhelming.  The preoccupation of my mind with menial tasks is supposed to stop the constant grieving.  I doubt that is true.  I can’t imagine the constant grieving ever coming to an end.  But others who have walked this path before me say it will lessen.  The stifling, suffocating, strangling of it all will somehow slowly dissipate.  I hope they are right. 

My goodness, I am not even on the other side of this life shattering situation and I already often feel like I have to remind my brain to tell my lungs to suck in sweet, crisp air.  And it hurts.  Breathing hurts.  It expands my ribcage and I feel physical pain in my chest; as though my heart already knows half of itself is about to rip away.  My lungs sting with the entry of air.  My head throbs with each blink of the eyelid.  When the grief hits (as at this point it comes in waves, unexpected and harsh) I find myself choking back sobs, and staring numbly into space.  How much worse will it be when his death occurs?  If it hurts to breathe now, how much harder will it be to then?  I cannot imagine.  Don’t want to really.  I am not interested in wrapping my brain around the horrible loneliness that will be. 
Oh, I “know” in my head that eventually I will smile again and laugh again.  My Tim would want that for me (and for our kids).  He would want it sooner than I will probably imagine feeling it.  I think laughter will be healing to us, since it is such an enormous part of who we are as a family.  Maybe I’ll add “smile” to my list of morning tasks.  Even if it begins as a fake smile to my own reflection in the mirror, eventually that smile will reach into my eyes again and one day a giggle will escape my lungs and travel through my lips.  This transformation will be a gift; a special gift to me from my Tim. 
The Day We Shaved His Head Because of Chemo
A gift from me back to him, also; as I know he wants the kids and me to carry on in this life the best we can and in as close to the same way we would if he were still here with us.  I do not want to disappoint him.  I want to honor his life and his memory.  I long to raise our children in the same manner we have dreamed of together.  This won’t be possible without putting my feet on the ground each morning.  It will be the most difficult of choices.  It would be the choice Tim would want me to make.  It is the example he has displayed for us during this twenty month battle for his life.  He has said repeatedly, “We just keep putting one foot in front of the other” and “It is what it is.”  We will honor his courageous battle by continuing to do the next right thing.
It will take unimaginable bravery.  Strength we cannot fathom.  Deeply-seeded heart discipline.  I am so thankful to have the Holy Spirit dwelling inside of me and the lives of our children.  His bravery, His strength, His discipline is what will carry us through.  One step at a time….but first, we have to be willing to place our feet on the ground.  Thankfully, God’s mercies are promised to be new every morning.  We will cling to His mercy.  It will steady us as we prepare to have those feet we have planted on the ground begin to absorb our weight as we shuffle through those first tiny steps. 

Whether you turn to the right or to the left,
your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying,
"This is the way; walk in it."
Isaiah 30:21


Thursday, October 17, 2013

Marriage Lessons

It is tempting to look back with only fond memories….blocking out the true struggles and emotional hurts, painful stretching of personalities, and improvement of attitudes. 
But this wouldn’t be fair….to ourselves or to others watching.

The truth is marriage is HARD.
It takes commitment. 

It takes dedication. 
It takes compromise and selflessness. 

It takes a tremendous amount of forgiveness (more on Mr. Tim’s part than on mine, for sure).

               In the center

               In each heart
               In the good
                          and in the bad.

Mr. Tim and I are not perfect (shocking, I know).  We have made mistakes; we have hurt each other with words and choices.  We have been selfish and we have been full of pride.  I don’t want to forget the struggles.  Because the truth is…..the good times are sometimes only possible because of the growth done in the bad moments.   

We have had a beautiful marriage full of many more positives than negatives, lots of laughter, genuine respect and admiration for each other, and a deep love centered on Jesus.  We are the best of friends.  We’d rather be together than with anyone else.  It’s comforting to be so loved by someone.  Especially when they are the ONE person on this earth that knows your ugliest of ugly

thoughts, selfishness, and fears….

and they don’t walk away….ever. 

They love you through the “yuck” of yourself and help you grow into who God desires for you to be.  That’s my Tim.  That’s who he has been for me.  That’s who we have been for each other.  When centered on Jesus, it makes for a strong unity that
                                                                  just    feels     wonderful!

And it works.  And it’s beautiful.  And my heart is filled to the brim with happiness.

But we didn’t get here without conflict.  We didn’t walk down that aisle and instantly “know” how to resolve our differences.  We didn’t magically burn our individual selfish pride away when we lit the wedding unity candle. 

My Tim and I aren’t big fighters.  I know every relationship is different, but we can count our major arguments on one hand and we are over 18 years into this marriage.  (Mr. Tim gets all the credit for this, believe you me, I would have fought more if he would have engaged in a battle!  Bless him and his wisdom.  Bless his dependence on our Heavenly Father to guide him in leading our family!)   

We have spent the past 20 months together virtually 24/7, side by side.  Serving and caring for each other; communicating on the deepest of levels.  And we have enjoyed it!  We have grown even closer.  Our hearts are knit together even more intricately.  God has used this time to teach me something about conflict.  In this somewhat slower pace of our lives, I’ve been able to really pause when my feelings begin screaming that they are hurting.  I have been able to evaluate my hurt or our disagreement in the light of my Tim’s character.  I trust his character.  He has proven himself as trustworthy.  When I align my hurt feelings from something done/not done or said/not said with the character of the man I love most on this earth…..I am able to trust and validate his intentions.  Verbalizing my faith in his character helps to dissolve the conflict and opens my eyes to see that most of the time the issue has more to do with my selfish pride than my husband’s intentions.  OUCH.  Growth often requires hurt , humility, and repentance. 

So, has this marriage been perfect?  Absolutely not!  It has been good (great, really) and it has been fun; but I pray I never forget the struggles intermingled with the joy.  Because it’s important for me to remember and for our children to know…

                              that good things take hard work. 
                              that a strong marriage doesn’t just happen.

                              that being intentional and choosing to love when you don’t
                                                  feel like it are necessary character traits.

to treasure the importance of trusting and validating the character of your spouse especially when in an argument or dealing with hurt feelings. 

Thank You Lord Jesus, for the gift of marriage and the intense personal growth it brings about as we lean ever harder into You.  Amen.