Wednesday, December 31, 2014

The End of the First's?

New Year’s Eve of 2015... 

How is this even possible?  It is our final “first” holiday without Tim by our side. 

In many ways I just want the clock to strike 12:01 so I can declare we “survived” the first year of firsts.  But then I realize, in several days we will have to cross that one year anniversary of his passing.  And then in a few weeks, we still have to return to our favorite family vacation spot and hit the slopes for the first time without him.  I think maybe that will be the official threshold of our survival of the “firsts”. 

Our family of three has so many things to be thankful for from 2014.  We have so much gratitude in our hearts for the men and women who have stepped into our lives and stood in the gap for us.  It is completely humbling and overwhelming to sit and recall this past year.  I cannot even list all the ways we have been blessed by friends and family; I know I would inadvertently miss someone or something.  What a great problem to have, huh?

From the two men who came and oversaw the removing of Tim’s body from our home because I was too fearful to have that vision permanently ingrained in my or the kid’s minds; to the help around our home with lawn care or projector light bulb changing; youth who showed up for furniture moving during floor repairs and anonymous gift cards arriving in the mailbox...we have been cared for.  The precious friend whose final text to Tim was that she would keep me supplied with Dr. Pepper (a text he never was able to read) who has faithfully showed up randomly throughout the year with my sweet addiction treat.  I mean, it is insane how the body of Christ has intimately and intentionally loved on us. 

I really am not going to continue listing, but this tiny glimpse into a few of our blessings gives you the picture of what an amazing group of family and friends we have. 

These are the things that flood my mind as I remember 2014, the blessings.  My heart is filled with gratitude to our amazing God for His great love.  He is where our strength lies. 

Was this year hard?  It has been absolutely gut-wrenching.  I would never want to paint a false picture of the depths of grief and the horror of the deepest sorrows.  Everywhere we turn; it is obvious who is missing from our daily life.  But please hear me, WITH CHRIST, joy and sorrow can co-mingle.  In His great love, we find peace and we find comfort.  Even in the saddest times. 

We are grateful and we are thankful.  Tim is exactly where he is supposed to be.  In God’s great sovereignty that I cannot always understand, He is orchestrating beauty in our lives.  Tim is already experiencing the unfiltered beauty of his Savior.  We will one day join him for eternity.

Until then, we choose joy. 

We choose gratitude. 

And we choose to live lives that honor God and honor our husband/daddy’s memory.


Thursday, December 18, 2014

Transforming Power (as seen on A Widow's Might)

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience,
kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.
~Galatians 5:22-23 {NIV}

Being a widow is not exactly what we had planned for our lives, is it?  Being dealt the “BIG W” card has really shaken things up.  So many things are vastly different in our lives without our husbands.  Practically every aspect of our world has been altered.
Oddly, as I am learning to accept this new title, I realize it isn’t just that my life has drastically changed; it is that the innermost part of me is shifting as well.
Listen, I’ve had a love affair with our God since the age of 14.  He has been constant and patient towards me.  My devotion has ebbed and flowed throughout the decades.  Regretfully, I have spent some seasons distancing myself from His righteousness, and thankfully, I have spent many seasons running full speed into His open arms.
The past several years have been spent clinging desperately to His promises as He has stretched me into someone I hardly recognize.  He is faithfully nurturing this widow and transforming me on the inside just as drastically as my life has changed on the outside.
Truthfully, I mess up often and sometimes in big ways; but I am learning to live life by the Spirit one tiny, baby step at a time.  By continually tapping into the power of the Holy One dwelling inside of me, I find access to the fruit of His Spirit.  I have a long way to go in my transformation, but the glimpses of where His power is slowly taking me; well they look something like this:
*More loving and empathetic towards others. 
*Joyful, even in my deepest of sorrow. 
*Peaceful inside in the midst of a life that looks to be in chaotic change from the outside. 
*A tiny bit more patient (personally not my strongest attribute).
*Softer and kinder, both to others and to myself (which is huge for this rehabilitating perfectionist).
*Choosing good things…good attitudes, good words, good facial expressions, and good actions.
*Faithfully believing He has control of my life and the lives of my loved ones.
*A gentleness that doesn’t distract from strength but instead enhances it.
*Calm self-control, focused more on obedience to my Savior and less on me controlling anything.
This transforming of every part of me, it hurts sometimes.  I think of it as earning my “Spiritual stretch marks”.  The stretching is not pleasant, but the reward is phenomenal!  Spiritual stretch marks reflect the growth God is creating in my heart and I am grateful that He redeems my pain to use for His glory.
Can you relate?  Have you noticed a softening of your spirit as you nestle deeper into the arms of our Father during this all-changing whirlwind of widowhood?  Sisters, as one who is walking this road too, I gently urge you to tap into the transforming power of the Holy Spirit.  Tap in and then watch how God stretches you while growing His fruits within you.
Father God, You are faithful to produce spiritual fruit in our lives when we hand over control to You.  Thank You for the work You are doing in each widow’s heart, as You transform us more into Your likeness.  There is such beauty in the women You desire for us to be.  You are patient as You mold us and stretch us, You are forgiving when we forget to surrender, and You are gracious and kind.  Lord, help us to keep in step with Your Spirit within us.  Amen.  
This article was featured on A Widow's Might

Friday, December 12, 2014

Eleven Months

Today is the 11th. 

It's been eleven months since Tim went to heaven. 

In many ways, today was just another day in our new normal. I had the oldest home from school sick today for the third day this week. As he started feeling better this afternoon, we took an hour for him to practice his driving. He is doing great, but he doesn't enjoy it. I had the youngest at early basketball practice at school and then late riding lessons at the barn. And as usual, I squeezed in my work hours around the kids schedules.

While life continues moving forward, the 11th always hits me in a tender way. Tim is still constantly on our minds and daily in our conversations.

The holidays make the missing of him harder than I ever could have imagined. Memories flood my mind with every fire in the fireplace, every morning Bible Study, every walk into our home. We are leaning hard into Jesus right now. Loving each other. Extending grace. There is sadness.

But there is also laughter. There is ornery sarcasm and joking. There are references to old family jokes and new "sayings" that the kids recite and crack up over. Honestly, I don't always get their humor, but I love the laughter! It reminds me of their Daddy, his quick wit and contagious laugh.

I wonder often what he is doing, who he is visiting with, I envision him in a country setting with sun-kissed skin, an easy smile and a sparkle in those beautiful blue eyes of his. I imagine him enjoying time with the children from our family who had gone to heaven before him. I know he would enjoy long walks exploring nature and visiting with his Savior.

It's weird to be separated from the one person on earth you have loved most. The one person who knew all your secrets, and cherished you anyway. The one person who chose to stand by you, who stayed when times were difficult, who celebrated when times were magical. The person that could make you laugh the deepest belly laughs and could also hold you through the gut-wrenching tears. To not have the one you've experienced the most memories with; or the one who has seen you at your absolute ugliest and still claimed you were's a bit much to process. The "missing" of such intimacy can be all-consuming and terrifying.

I am grateful for a God who promises to never leave or forsake me. I am reminded that there is One who knows me even better than Tim did and loves me even deeper. So tonight, as I lay my weary head on the pillow, I am focused on the One who loves with a perfect love, the One who chooses to stay with me in difficulty and triumph. The One who has seen my sin and forgiven it.

"The Lord gives strength to his people, the Lord blesses his people with peace." -Psalm 29:11

What If We Have It All Wrong?

I stand in my kitchen, unloading and re-loading the dishwasher.  My heart is heavy.  I am distracted from my task with a million different thoughts intermingled with prayers for loved ones that are facing yuck in this life.  I mean Y-U-C-K.  Memories of a conversation between Tim and me in his final weeks dance in and out of my consciousness.  I can’t quite grasp hold of the exact wording and I want so much to chase it down and share it with you.  Instead, I will write out the ramblings that keep bubbling to the surface. 

What if we have it all wrong?

This life that we cherish and hold sacred, what if we are clinging onto the wrong thing?  With every ounce of our strength, we beg for more time HERE, in THIS life, on this EARTH.  What if we are wrong? 

What IF we have our thinking backwards?

While this life is important and sacred, what if it isn’t what we are all about?  Or at least isn’t supposed to be what we are all about?  Where does eternity play into our desire to “never leave” here or our fear of death?

One of Tim’s closest friends is a wise pastor.  He would say to Tim with each horrendous cancer surgery or life threatening treatment…

“Well, it’s either gonna get better or it’s gonna get a whole lot better.” 

Let that sink in a bit. 

God was either going to make Tim better on this earth, or He was going to heal him completely in heaven for eternity.  Which one of those is really what Tim needed?  Which healing mattered the most?

Our selfish human side wants death to never occur.  No suffering, no separation from our loved ones.  I get that.  I have experienced those exact same emotions.  But just go here with me for a moment…

What if we could see earthly death of a believer as God sees it? 

Do you think when Tim crossed over the threshold into heaven the other saints and angels were consoling him?  Was Jesus apologizing that He didn’t give Tim more time in this sin-filled, illness-infected, cruel and evil world?

Or were they all celebrating and praising God together?  Were they ecstatic that Tim’s eternity could now begin?  His healing had finally come to fruition, a healing that would never be erased or marred by death again. 

I can’t answer the “why’s”.  Why we stubbornly grasp tightly to this life that is but a vapor in the time table of eternity? [James 4:14]  Why we see death as the “worst possible scenario” when we are praying for healing?  Why we treasure this life in a way that ignores the picture of eternity?  I can’t answer them, but I do think it is possible that we

I’m NOT saying this life is worthless or not worthy of us giving our best to the Lord.  I am NOT saying that anyone fighting to stay alive should just roll over and give up.  I am NOT saying any of those things, and hopefully those of you reading this have followed our family’s journey long enough to not take this post out of the context of who we are in Christ or our testimony of His faithfulness.

I am merely sharing the thoughts that swirled in our heads and captured our hearts as Tim lay in his hospice bed.  And I am thinking that just maybe, if God is swirling them back into my consciousness right now…He has a reason and someone needs to hear this.  I trust Him to make sense of it for you.

What are your thoughts?  I’d love to hear your perspective and what God stirs up in your heart over this.