Sunday, January 11, 2015

One Year

And so life really does keep going.  Time ticks off the clock.  Days disappear from the calendar. 

Suddenly, it is January 11, 2015.

How is this possible?

A year ago, I couldn't even imagine the next ten minutes in front of me.

365 days.

8,760 hours.

It has been a full year of countless tears and an emotional roller coaster that continues to nauseate me.

I am wounded. 

I am damaged….damaged in a way that doesn't always show from the outside.  I carry deep, gaping wounds that continually have the edges of their tender, healing scabs catch and snag on a memory, then rip open again.  There is a bleeding out from my soul that can’t be stopped with a kind word or a hug.  My eyes have seen suffering that cannot be unseen.  My heart has been shattered, it will never go back together in the same way it once was. 

It is something I have to walk through; this grief.

Me quoting Scripture
over Tim in his hospice bed.
There are days when no tears fall, but there has yet to be a waking hour when he hasn't been on my mind. Not a single one.  My ache is so guttural. 

There are also periods when the muck of the grief is so thick that I am tempted to stop, lay down in it, let it smother me and just surrender to the pain.  My chest feels heavy and breaths are ragged. 

I know that this deep suffering is a result of the loss of an even deeper love.  I accept that.  I wouldn't trade our love story for anyone else’s.  But quite frankly, it doesn't make it any easier.  I am lonely without him.  It is a loneliness that is so acute; it can completely swallow me while I am in a crowd of people.

But life continues.  God didn't take me.  He took the best part of me, but I am still here, just trying to muddle through each day, and sometimes each hour.  

I’m struggling to guide our children without Tim’s wisdom, his level-headed parenting, and his wicked sarcasm that lightened every situation.  Oh how he loved these two...with a total acceptance and all-consuming love.  They were his pride and joy; his very heartbeat.     

I don’t have a choice but to keep trudging forward.  I let the grief waves come, some days they gently lap against my ankles and others they attack like a tsunami.  I have given myself permission to feel what I feel; to cry as long as the tears will fall; to experience the full ups and downs of emotions that ravage me.  

I have only given myself one rule for this grief.  One single rule has kept me sane over these past twelve months.  I DO NOT have permission to take my eyes off of Jesus.

I must stay focused on Him

That is my rule. 

He is my strength.  He is my constant companion.  He guides me.  He reminds me that He has a purpose for my life.  He redeems my brokenness.  He assures me that time is in His hands.  Tim’s time, my time, our children’s time; it’s all there, in the hands of our Savior.  If I am left here without Tim, then I have a responsibility to fulfill.  I am now living for two.  Experiencing our children’s youth for the both of us.  I am leaning hard into God as the leader of this little family of ours.

So while time keeps on ticking, and days fly off of the calendar…I want to really be choosing to live this life.  It is a gift with an expiration.  No one knows their time. 

I have no idea how long God will choose to leave me here, but I know Tim expects me to choose wisely. 

He expects me to lead our family well, tucked under the ultimate leadership of Christ. 

He expects me to continue moving forward, whatever that looks like. 

He wouldn't allow me to wallow in the mire of grief.  He sure didn't when facing death. He faced it with honor and dignity. 

He faced it with a bravery that I can’t comprehend, even though I witnessed it.

So yes, I am damaged.  I am different than I was.  I may never stop leaking unexpected tears.  That's okay...  

Because my eyes are on Jesus. 

I trust Him. 

Whatever He has in these next 8,760 hours, I will follow.  I give Him the messy grief.  I depend on Him for the healing of deep wounds that will eventually turn to scars.  I choose to collapse in His capable arms as He carries this family forward.  Not away from Tim, but forward, in honor of his memory.

My Tim,
You are missed constantly.  You are cherished deeply and respected beyond measure.  You continue to be an amazing provider for your family, even in death.  We are doing okay.  The pain is harsh and the missing is raw; but we are putting on brave faces, smiling in your memories, and leaning hard on Jesus, just like you taught us. 
All my love, forever and ever,

Even If…   

Saturday, January 10, 2015

It Matters for the Kingdom; Whether We Understand It or Not (as Seen on A Widow's Might)

I stand staring at the photo on our kitchen counter.

I’m lost in the memory. 

It is a Christmas party.  We are sitting together on the ottoman in our friend’s living room, snuggled close and laughing.  Our friend turns around with her camera and instantly Tim comes in for a kiss, and then pretends to lick my face instead.  We are wrestling and laughing, then settling back in tightly together for the photo. 

My mind rushes to the day this friend showed up at our home 8 months later with the beautifully framed photograph of that moment.  A gift received after my husband's diagnosis.  It’s the photo I am transfixed on now.

How, God?  How does it happen?  This death thing; the “here one second and gone the next”?  I don’t understand. 

I am paralyzed in place, just staring in wonder.

My brain cannot process the reality that he is gone.  Although I am living with that very real truth day in and day out, there is just something so surreal about the permanency of it.

James 4:14 “you do not even know what will happen tomorrow.  What is your life?  You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes.” {NIV}

Memories bombard my thoughts, emotions wash over me in waves so strong if I close my eyes I am easily lost and can almost feel Tim’s presence in them.

Dinner sizzles in the skillet I have neglected.  Still, I cannot pull myself away from the photograph.

Lord, give me wisdom.  Teach me to number my days.  [Psalm 90:12]

Why did you take Tim and leave me?  Oh God, wash over me with your peace!

James 3:17-18 “But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere.  Peacemakers who sow in peace raise a harvest of righteousness.” {NIV}

So full of tears my vision cannot focus, my eyes finally pull themselves away from the photograph.  I lean in, elbows on the counter, head dropped low, gently rocking back and forth.  

Father, I don’t understand the how or the why, but I trust You.  I am incapable of wrapping my feeble human brain around the death process.  I can’t comprehend the minuteness of this life in Your timetable of eternity.  I will choose to thank You.  I will choose to surrender.  I will choose to allow you to use my pain for Your glory. 

1 Peter 1:6 “In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials.  These have come so that your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.” {NIV}

Lord, refine me.  Prove my faith as genuine.  Receive all praise, glory and honor.  Amen.

I want you to know that it is okay to ask God the hard questions.  It is okay to not understand the details of our Master’s plan.  I am just as confused as you are as to the whys and the how of this widow life.  I will not pretend for one second that it is easy to fully surrender with a thankful heart.  It takes a disciplined and deliberate choice, sometimes moment by agonizing moment.  And grief, well it likes to slam into us when we least expect it.  I was simply cooking dinner, when this photograph that has graced our kitchen counter for over two years now caught my eye in a new way. 

Unexpected grief.

There is comfort in our queries.  There is wisdom in our seeking.  There is peace in the imperfection of this life.  It is all found in our surrender to God.  One day, we will stand before the King of Kings and all of this will make sense and it will matter.  We matter.  Our pain and our grief will have mattered.  It matters for the kingdom, whether we understand it or not.  

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