Friday, November 11, 2016

I Will Give You Rest

“My presence will go with you and I will give you rest.” Exodus 33:14
Sometimes I am just tired.

Wiped out.

The exhaustion is typically fleeting; I know better than to allow myself to camp out in the negative thoughts of “woe is me”. My mind is trained to focus on the positive when I get tired or lonely.
But every once in a while I am so busy I fail to realize how tired I really am. When in a period of unacknowledged weariness, as I am chugging along with my daily responsibilities, oblivious to the time needed for true rest, tears will unexpectedly leak.  I am so distracted trying to be the best me I can be at work, in our home, with ministering to others, I can fail to pause and really feel those under the surface emotions.  Driving down the road, on my millionth errand of the day, not even thinking about him or the reality of widowhood…tears randomly fall from my eyes.  It is strange.  I am not sobbing.  I wouldn’t even classify it as crying, really.  Yet my eyes drip salty liquid of their own accord.
 
It’s as if my body is begging me to slow down and rest.

For the first few months after his passing, I suffered intensive physical grieving. There were sharp pains with each intake and exhale of breath, deep cutting twinges in my chest (doctors clinically describe this as a broken heart), full body joint aches, and a lot of fatigue.  It was excruciating and surreal.  I’m unsure of when the attacks subsided, but with time they did.  Just like my body knows when the 11th rolls around each month, even when I am oblivious to the date on the calendar.  He passed away on the 11th and since then I have found myself being more easily frustrated and on edge each month during that time.  It took me over a year to connect those dots and learn to control my responses; but like my body responds to dates subconsciously, so too does it know when I am overdoing it and need rest.

I was driving yesterday and my eyes did their odd little leaking thing.  Then again this morning as I was on mile four of a ten mile training run, they briefly started back up.  Stopped and reoccurred around mile seven.  I am void of emotion when this happens.  It is typically when my mind is free of detailed thinking; which is one of the reasons why I run in the first place, to clear my mind and just exist.

We speak a lot in this ministry of moving forward, walking in grace, choosing to really be alive and present in this life we are blessed with.  And we should.  We should absolutely be actively working towards all of those goals.

But we also need rest.

Our bodies will tell us when we are pushing too hard.  But are we listening?  We do ourselves a disservice to be stuck in a cycle of pity, refusing to do the work for self-improvement; likewise, we also do ourselves a disservice when we neglect resting.

We are in this for the long haul. Our loss will never be left behind.  It takes its toll on every portion of our being.  It affects us spiritually, mentally, emotionally, and physically.  Consequently, we must remember to tend to our physical needs.  Exercise and fresh air are important.  Strengthening and stretching are vital.  Daily time sitting still in God's presence and listening for His voice are crucial. 

And rest is necessary.

However you find it.  Whatever it looks like for you.  A nap, soaking in a bath, sitting alone in silence...find what works for you and let Him give you REST from the inside out.

Thursday, November 10, 2016

34 Months...


Dear Tim,

This week marks thirty-four months since I last kissed your forehead goodbye. 

Thirty-four months.

I can't process this reality.

It is unexplainable to me how life continues without you by my side.

Minutes tick to hours.  Hours roll into days.  Days become weeks.  Weeks tumble into months.  Months morph into years. 

It is too much to wrap my brain around.

Our son, 14 years old at the time of your passing, has grown in wisdom, stature and favor with God and man...just as we prayed together that he would. (Luke 2:52)  Now at 17, I look up to him, both physically and in awe and respect.  I know you are beaming with pride over his maturity and growth. He exhibits self-control and determination at levels rarely seen in youth these days.

When you died, our 13 year old daughter was standing with me at your bedside.  She has weathered the hell of grief and battled for every glimpse of happiness she can muster since that moment.  She is slowly learning how to breathe again. At 16, your song bird has finally returned to singing regularly. 
When I hear her voice echoing through the halls of this new home, I can't help but smile knowing her singing was your favorite sound on this earth.  You are no doubt proud of her battle scars and the strength God is building within her. 

Life progresses and changes constantly. 

Everything is different now without you here.

Every. Single. Thing.

Losing you has made this life take a sharp turn and not one portion of our existence is unaffected.

And yet time just keeps slipping away. 

We probably now daily come in contact with as many people who never knew you as we do with those who did.  And I don't really know how to comprehend this fact.

I won't lie.  I don't prefer this new life.  I miss the comfort and stability of our old life. It was so close to perfection.  Our laughter, our fun, our working toward common goals while supporting each other's independence.  I miss parenting with you.  I long to discuss politics, religion, and current events with you.  I miss dating you!  You were my husband, but you were also my boyfriend and my best-friend.  What we had was pretty special.

I am convinced that the three of us left here without you can learn to still live life fully.  We can love each other and choose joy.  We can serve others and choose humility.  We can adapt to our new and still cherish our old.  I may never prefer life this way, but I can find things to love in our new. 

Because the time is going to pass, whether we are choosing to be miserable or choosing happiness.  I want us to honor you by living this altered, unplanned, and often awkward feeling life well. 

I love you forever,
Lori

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Being Present in Our Now

 
"Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself."
Matthew 6:.34 ESV
Breathe deeply.
 
Smile genuinely.

Find beauty in every single day.

Be grateful.

Laugh.

Start living in the now.

I know how some days this comes easier than others.  I am walking this very same road myself.

And I am raising children on it.  I recently shed tears with my teenage daughter over how she won't have her Daddy to walk her down the wedding aisle.  She is fifteen and she shared that she almost dreads her wedding day because of what has been lost and who will be missing.

My heart splinters in new places I didn't even know had not previously been shattered.

Life changes suddenly.

We have faced catastrophic loss. We know deep hurt and unrelenting sorrow.

We can choose to remain in the pain, being paralyzed by the fear of nothing ever being good again, focusing on all the events he will be missing from, that are yet to come.  Wallowing in the exhaustion of facing these future moments as our sadness steals their joy before they even have a chance to occur. 

OR

We can start taking steps towards BEING PRESENT IN OUR NOW.

Because, dreading the future without him won’t bring him back. It won’t make the days to come any easier.  What it is guaranteed to do though, is steal us from our now.  It will suffocate the current right out of us as the days will pile upon themselves until we have missed living.

We’ve lost enough. Let’s not choose to give more to death than it has already taken.

So together, let's pause.

Breathe deeply.
{The Spirit of God has made me and the breath of the Almighty gives me life. ~Job 33:4}

Smile genuinely.
{A cheerful look brings joy to the heart. ~Proverbs 15:30a NLT}

Find beauty in this day that is before us.
{This is the day that the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it. ~Psalm 118:24}

Be grateful.
{Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus.
~1Thessalonians 5:18}

Laugh.
{She is clothed with strength and dignity; she can laugh at the days to come. ~Proverbs 31:25}

Let's make the choice to start being present in our now.

My daughter's wedding day will arrive sometime in the next decade or so.  And yes, her Daddy will be missing from the day.  And yes, we will be achingly aware of that missing.  But dreading it now isn't going to change his lack of presence, it will only steal peace from today.  We will find a way to honor his place in her life and heart, and it will be a beautiful celebration.  He will have the best seat in the house, from heaven above.


We’ve lost enough. Let’s not choose to give more to death than it has already taken.


So together, let's pause.

Breathe deeply.
{The Spirit of God has made me and the breath of the Almighty gives me life. ~Job 33:4}

Smile genuinely.
{A cheerful look brings joy to the heart. ~Proverbs 15:30a NLT}

Find beauty in this day that is before us.
{This is the day that the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it. ~Psalm 118:24}

Be grateful.
{Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus.
~1Thessalonians 5:18}

Laugh.
{She is clothed with strength and dignity; she can laugh at the days to come. ~Proverbs 31:25}

Let's make the choice to start being present in our now.

My daughter's wedding day will arrive sometime in the next decade or so.  And yes, her Daddy will be missing from the day.  And yes, we will be achingly aware of that missing.  But dreading it now isn't going to change his lack of presence, it will only steal peace from today.  We will find a way to honors his place in her life and heart and it will be a beautiful celebration.  He will have the best seat in the house, from heaven above.

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

It's ALL Hard; Choose Your Hard


 
It is hard to be stuck in grief.

It is hard to walk through the heaviness of grief and process the pain so you can move forward.

CHOOSE YOUR HARD.

It is hard to regret poor food choices and neglect your health to the point of obesity.

It is hard to wake up early and prioritize your personal health and fitness goals.

CHOOSE YOUR HARD.

It is hard to “check out” from parental responsibilities and then deal with the aftermath of your absence in your children’s lives.

It is hard to be truly present with your children and remain consistent and firm in your parenting.

CHOOSE YOUR HARD.

It is hard to face difficult times without a firm foundation in God.

It is hard to be diligent in setting aside daily time for Him.

CHOOSE YOUR HARD.

It is hard to date.

It is hard to be single.

CHOOSE YOUR HARD.

It is hard to feel isolated in a relationship and watch it crumble around you seemingly out of your control.
It is hard to roll up your sleeves and work through the communication that will make you a stronger couple.
 
CHOOSE YOUR HARD. 

It is hard to keep your experiences locked inside yourself.

It is hard to be vulnerable enough to share your story.

CHOOSE YOUR HARD.
 
In this life, we have choice after choice to make.  Which "hard" will you choose for yourself?  Because really, it's ALL hard; so choose YOUR hard wisely.

Monday, September 26, 2016

Fill My Days with Living


 
 
“And Job died, an old man, and full of days.”
Job 42:17
My husband died in the supposed prime of his life. He was 45 years young when he passed away.  He never even got to have his midlife crisis!  In a few weeks, it will be my 45th birthday.  The shock of being alone has worn off over the past few years.  The rhythm of this new dance without him by my side has settled into its familiar cadence.  Grief cuts in occasionally now, but the debilitating occurrences are further apart.  Maybe partially because I refuse to slow dance with my grief over and over again or possibly because the time spent on the dance floor of widowhood has changed me.

I appreciated my husband. I was blessed and I knew it.  I had one of the good ones; a hard worker and great provider, an involved father to our children, a follower of Christ, and a hilariously witty man.  May I tell you a secret?
 
Sometimes it makes me sad that he isn’t here to be loved by the new me. 
 
Don't get me wrong, we loved each other well, but losing him has made me more aware of my faults and flaws in the marriage.  It has given me fresh perspective on struggles we encountered and how I could have been more for him.  He knew he was cherished and respected.  He was secure in my love for him.  We had great communication and a ton of laughter.  But, if I was given a do-over with him as who I am now, I think he would be pleasantly surprised at how mellow his loss has made me.  I hope I would remember to sweat the small stuff less, not worrying over the goal of perfection in each area of our lives.  We loved our life together, but I'm fairly certain he would be super proud of my increased passion for living.

Tim was perfect for me as he softened my rough edges and taught me it is okay to not always have a plan A, B, and C.  Losing him to cancer taught me that I can only control my responses to life’s circumstances, not always the circumstances themselves. I am softer in many ways and much stronger in others.  I still laugh at most things (that is just part of who I am and part of why he loved me); and in general, I now tend to keep things lighter and more relaxed around our home.  I am more tolerant of others personal journeys and less accepting of unnecessary input and opinions in my life.  I wish my Tim could be loved by this Lori.  I am a better person for the spins I have taken on the dance floor of terminal illness, death, and the aftermath of loss.

Losing him caused my deepest pain so far in this life.  I could choose to park myself in that despair, focusing on the negative, and miss the gifts his loss gave me.
The gifts of…

awareness that time is fleeting and we won’t all be given a life “full of days”, which causes a sense of urgency within me to fill my days with living!

knowing God’s strength will never fail me, and choosing to tap into His strength!

a deeper desire to enjoy the now and the wisdom to slow down and soak up moments!

Sunday, September 18, 2016

Worth It


On this weekend, 23 years ago I went on a blind date to an outdoor rodeo with a handsome cowboy whose blue eyes and sly smile intrigued me.

I’ve made a lot of poor choices in this life.  I have plenty of regrets.

Reluctantly agreeing to meet Tim Streller at a rodeo was neither.  Instead, it was one of the best decisions of my life.

We had twenty years of laughter and love.  God built a beautiful life and an amazing family for us.  We experienced heartache and joy holding tightly to each other’s hands.  Our life together was spectacular.  We kept our eyes on Christ and prioritized open and honest communication, even when it was painful to do so.

A good marriage is work.  It requires the desire to build the other up with kindness and encouragement.  It demands self-sacrifice and commitment.  It requests honor, protection, and respect; but a good marriage is also FUN and carefree.  It is comfortable and casual.  It is late night giggles and arms wide open.  It prefers to do life together.  It is safety and security, in it you find the one place you can be completely you without risk of judgment or abandonment.

A good marriage has you knowing you are treasured and chosen.  It is rolling up your sleeves and working beside each other for common goals.  It is being the cheerleader outside of the limelight, the quiet supporter of each other’s dreams. 

I am immensely proud to have been the wife of a man who chose to make me feel beautiful even when I wasn’t (both internally and externally); one who challenged me to be the best version of myself; one who didn’t walk away in the hard, but stayed in the messy and did the work to make us a better team.

I’m forever grateful I said “yes” to the rodeo blind date that late September evening.  And even knowing now how our lives would end up, I’d tell that young girl to SAY YES AGAIN!  The two decades together were worth it.  His love was worth it. 
 
      

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

His Voice!

We are a picture taking family. Anyone who attended Tim's Celebration of Life service can attest to that fact. However, we have never owned a video camera or been big into home movies.

I regret that now.

He has been gone for over two and a half years and was ill for two years before his passing. He had throat cancer. His voice changed drastically throughout his battle.
...

It pains me to admit, we have forgotten the sound of Tim's healthy voice. Today, as I was going through photos on my computer and reminiscing over our daughter's childhood in this, her 16th birthday month, I came across some iphone footage of Tim in the pool with the kids and in the driveway with my parents dog. I have played them too many times to count and was just able to share them with the kids.

Tears!

To hear his strong voice and contagious laughter again warms my soul. The thought of him having a restored healthy voice makes me joy filled.

He will always be missed, forever be loved, continually be appreciated and respected.

Today's find didn't leave me crumpled on the floor in despair. Instead, it found me crying through my smiles and laughter as I listened over and over to the sound of his voice.

I think God led me to find those videos as a little birthday gift for our girl who just last week commented that she missed his voice and couldn't remember how it sounded anymore.

He is still at work in our lives. Our God is redeeming years of pain for His glory. He is an intimate Savior who cares about the little things that matter to us.

And I am one grateful Momma!
 

Monday, September 5, 2016

LIVE RIGHT NOW, Trust God Has Your Tomorrow

Even when it feels like life isn't going "as planned".

Even if you've made mistakes you can't imagine Him redeeming.

Even though you have walked through loss that seems impossible for Him to provide restoration in.
...

He has already made a path for your future. The tree has been planted. Your future needs will be met.

Learn to rest in the now, forgive the past, and have hope for the "next".

Don't waste time regretting what has been nor dreading what will be.

LIVE RIGHT NOW, EXACTLY WHERE YOU ARE. Find the joy here. Trust God has your tomorrow.

 

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Do the Hard


I struggled with stamina a bit on my morning run today. Running is like that, some days I feel strong and can endure the miles, and some days I have to time myself for frequent one minute walk "breaks" in order to make it the full distance. I started looking ahead and picking out landmarks to reach before
I would allow a walk break. And I began a mental dialogue....

"Come on, Lori! Do the hard. Don't quit."

Traveling uphill to my landmark and determined to maintain my c...urrent pace, I told myself,

"Do the hard until the hard gets easier."

And a smile broke out across my face.

Because this is true in life too, isn't it? Some days we feel strong and can endure with ease. And some days our struggle is real.

On those types of days where our feet feel heavy, our lungs can't find a good rhythm, and we want to quit...we dig deep and do the hard work to accomplish our goals, one step at a time. One landmark at a time. So let's keep looking to God for our next small goal and moving in the right direction to accomplish it.

Because each step adds up. Each decision in life can either be propelling us towards our goal or taking us further away from it. We have the power of choice!

"He who is faithful in a very little thing is faithful also in much;" ~Luke 16:10

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Accepting No

Yours, O Lord, is the greatness and the power and the glory and the victory and the majesty,
for all that is in the heavens and in the earth is yours. 
Yours is the kingdom, O Lord, and you are exalted as the head above all. 
1 Chronicles 29:11 (ESV)
May I share a secret with you?

Sometimes I get tired of hearing the “feel good” narratives…even from the Christian community.

So often the stories told are ones of victory.  Stories where people prayed for years and God granted them their request.  I have those in my own life too; years of prayer where God eventually said, “Yes”.  Our children are a result of such prayers through years of failed adoptions and infertility.  I am grateful.  But guess what?
I also have stories of years of prayer where God said, “No”.  
Why don’t we hear more of those? 
Why are those stories not shared as beautiful tapestries of immense faith as well?
I’d love for someone to share how their life fell apart and they fought to still keep their eyes on Jesus, right in the midst of the chaos and yuck. How they don’t know the “why” and they don’t see the reason for their loss or pain.  That it doesn’t feel at all like God “chose” this outcome for the good of anyone, yet they still trust He will make good from it for eternal purposes.

I want to raise my hand and shake my head in affirmative solidarity that THIS STINKS and know that it is okay to hate the situation yet still adore God. That it is normal to have to work hard at finding the joy in all circumstances we are commanded to have; a discipline of joy rather than a natural response.

I guess I selfishly want to know someone else thinks they got totally cheated, that this isn’t fair. I want to not be handed a blanket of “it’s for the best” when I have two children in this home being raised without their daddy who was madly in love with them.
I guess my whole point to this thought pattern is…it is okay. We don’t have to have it all figured out in our accepting no from God.
Life doesn’t have to tie up in a pretty bow for it to have meaning and depth.
Our faith isn’t less than someone's who received an answer of “yes”.  As a matter of fact, having lived through both “yes’s” and “no’s”, I’d have to say in my personal case, my faith is stronger from the “no” journey than it was from the “yes”.

I recently heard a question on the radio.

“Do you believe God is in control?”

I repeated it aloud to myself. Really stopping to question, do I believe God is in control of ALL when Tim still died a horrendous death from cancer?  A death that God could have prevented, but chose not to; a death that ripped the hearts of many people (but especially the three of us) to shreds in grief…do I believe God is in control of THAT?

I turned off the radio and drove in silence.

Yes.

Yes, I do believe God is in control. I believe He has the power to do anything He desires.  He is in control but He is not a controlling God.  There is a difference.  His eye is on eternity.  He is faithful.  On this earth we are guaranteed struggles and pain.  One of their purposes is to draw us closer to Him and to direct our focus to eternity.

So here I stand, sharing my “No” story and still raising my hands in honor to the God who is in control; the Faithful One who doesn’t equate my faith with an earthly happy ending, but instead equates it with the blessing of knowing Him better.

Father God, it is extremely possible that I will never understand the "No" answers this side of heaven, but I still call upon Your name as Faithful.  Thank You that You are less concerned with my desire to have all the answers and are more concerned with my eternal relationship with You.  I trust You even when I don't like the answers.  My story is no less relevant than stories with "yes's". Amen. 

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Applying Peace


 
“You keep him in perfect peace,
whose mind is stayed on You,
because he trusts in You.”
Isaiah 26:3 ESV

My phone dinged with notice of a private facebook message.  A sweet friend had a question for me.  "How have you effectively applied the peace of God to your life?"   The question stopped me in my tracks and took my mind down memory lane as visions of the past four years began bombarding me.
Here is a portion of my response:

I guess for me, it all comes down to a choice. As a child of God, access to His perfect peace is constantly mine. It is my choice to rest in that peace or not.
It is easier to write the words, than to put them into practice.
 
My choice to sit still in the midst of chaotic suffering
and let His peace wash over me is one of acceptance and surrender.

I've had to accept that God is good. His ways are higher and His plans are better. His promises are of an eternal perspective. These facts do not change. My circumstances do not hold the power to alter the character of who God is. His goodness is not dependent on whether He answers my prayers the way I desire.

I have come to terms with pain and difficulty always being a part of this life. They have a purpose for being allowed to touch us. Nothing touches me that God hasn't first stood upon. He knows. He allows; partially because we live in a fallen world and partially because He wants to draw us closer to His side through the difficult times. It is during hardships that we have the ability to see His character, strength, peace, and majesty magnified.

The losses, the sufferings, the sorrows I have faced in this life leave me with a choice.  I can choose to surrender it all to the One who comforts, consoles, and loves. I can surrender the hurts and exchange them for His peace.

For me, being filled with His peace does not mean everything will work out while on this earth. It means, regardless of what occurs here, I have eternity with Him. That knowledge doesn't necessarily lessen the pain. My heart is literally broken. I've felt the physical breaking of it as well as the emotional. It stinks. I won't lie about that.
But what His peace does is stand beside my faith and fills in the cracks and gaps of my brokenness.
It reminds me that my life is only a vapor.
It assures me that eternity in the presence of God will be grander than my wildest imagination.
It sustains me when I cannot catch my breath.
So the application, in my opinion, comes in the CHOICE to accept and surrender. Through these deliberate actions, I am able to apply His peace to each area of my life.

His peace is where I choose to collapse when my parenting skills are lacking and I feel like a failure doing this solo. His Word tells me He is a father to the fatherless. I trust Him to help me parent these children He blessed us with.

His peace is what comforts me when I am lonely. Doing this life as a single wasn't my plan. I still want Tim by my side. But I trust that God goes ahead of me, walks beside me, and hems me in from behind. His peace gives me confidence to hold my head high and not be ashamed of my singleness nor be desperate for a mate. My worth and value are found in my relationship with Him.
His peace is where I surrender my financial fears. I work hard with the skill set He has given me and I try to be prudent in my spending habits. I trust that seeking His wisdom and the counsel of those He has placed around me will help me thrive with less.
 
The foot of the cross is where I exchange my frustrations for His peace.
It is a daily occurrence.

Lord, I lay it all down at the foot of the cross in exchange for Your peace that passes all understanding.  Give me the strength to leave it there, surrendered to You and not pick it back up again piece by piece.  And when I do start trying to carry the burdens of worry, fear, and frustration again, guide me back to You where You are always willing to take my burden in exchange for the gift of our perfect peace.  Amen.

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

God is Good

 
"And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose."
  Romans 8:28

Trusting in God's goodness, it's what I always seem to come back to when everything flips topsy-turvy and I find myself disoriented and unsure of things in this life.

Sometimes it is hard to see goodness around me in the midst of tragedy.
 
It is then that I must trust in the unchanging character of our God. 

He is all-powerful, all-knowing, and all-sufficient.  He is always good, even when all around me seems bad.

Even in death.

That’s not an easy thing to process when the life of a loved one ends, when pleas for healing seem to go unanswered.  But He is always good.  And you know what else?  He always heals His children.  ALWAYS!  The healing may not come on this earth, but our loved ones are healed in the presence of their Savior.  The trumpet will sound. The dead in Christ will rise. Every ailment will be no more. Every disease will be vanquished. And that my sisters, is a healing that can never be erased or marred by death again.
“The last enemy to be destroyed is death.”
1 Corinthians 15:26

God doesn't need my life to go smoothly for His goodness to be true.  He is the very essence of good.  I can lean hard into Him during tragedy because He is faithful.  His goodness isn't defined by our standards and it isn't confined to this world.  Often, His goodness isn't even realized here.  We can't see the full extent of what He has planned for us.  Suffering and sorrow are part of life's journey.  They were unavoidable, even for Christ as he walked this earth.  God's plans are for eternity.  The fullness of His goodness will be revealed there.

God restores and He redeems.  He is in the work of making good from bad.
 
"The Lord is good to all and His tender mercies are over all His work."
Psalm 145:9 KJV

His focus is on the eternal.  Cling to His goodness.  When all in this life is ripped out from underneath you and you are free falling into a dark abyss, know that He is with you.  He never leaves us, He never forsakes us.  No matter how dismal this life gets…we win in the end.  Because, God is good!

~Lori

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Breathing In Hope (as featured on A Widow's Might)

 
 
“What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man imagined,
what God has prepared for those who love him"
1 Corinthians 2:9 ESV
None of us envisioned THIS as our future.

We didn’t walk our wedding aisle gazing at the pure love and joy on our groom’s face with thoughts that we would one day be widowed.

But THIS is where we are.

It is our “current”.

The pain is real and the grief is raw.

We cannot alter the circumstances that have brought us here. No matter how much we wish we could.  Time doesn’t flow in reverse.

There is a time to grieve. We cannot skip out on this.  We only harm ourselves if we try to rush the process.

Our loss was life shattering. Every single aspect of our world is now changed; every one of them, new.  This compounded loss that exists in each layer of us can plant seeds of fear.  Oh, we don’t necessarily recognize the little nagging thoughts as fear.  But it is there.

Fear we can’t possibly navigate this earth without the leadership of our husband manifests itself in constant thoughts of failure. If we aren’t careful, we can almost convince ourselves we are incapable without even attempting to accomplish something new.

Our fear of repeating a walk through such great loss causes us to hesitate in loving again.

Fear of the unknown nestles deep worry into our thoughts. Worry can begin to influence all processing in our brains, turning each situation into something potentially negative.  But we of all people should remember that this life is full of unknowns.  After all, we didn’t plan on being here, right?

What if it is time to come out from under the heaviness and start living again? Not living without the pain, but living around it.  Not erasing the memories, but cherishing them in their rightful place and looking ahead with expectation.

If you are not at this place yet, that’s okay. Do the work inside of your grief for now.  But, if you can honestly evaluate, and you are one who knows you should begin taking those bold steps forward, this writing is for you!

So which is it? Are you working through a healthy phase of grief, or are you stuck in grief because of fear?  Have you quit doing the work of sorting through grief and just settled in tight?  Are you stagnant in this life?

Friends, our God is anything but stagnant.
He is mighty and active.
He is alive and working.
He is NOT in the fear.  No, He is in the hope!

If these thoughts ring true within you, will you take time today to pray through your fears? Hand each one to God.  Name them and give them to the One who calms fears and offers hope.  Call on His mighty name with expectation of what He will do with your life.

Will there be unknowns?
Will there be things that seem too hard?
Will the newness at times be awkward to walk through?
I answer all of these with a resounding YES. But that “yes” is where hope lives.  It lives in the light that is revealed when fears are brought out of their darkness and surrendered.
Hope lives in the increased breaths as you contemplate that first step toward newness.
It resides in the accelerated heartbeat as you bravely walk into your future.
It is the combination of not knowing what comes next and the excitement of trusting that God will walk whatever path lies in your future with you.
Years ago, we had only dreams of beauty when we eagerly gazed upon our groom. Now we have lived more.  Pain has tinged our hearts edges.  What has happened, we cannot change.  We can choose to let that pain grow fear and leave us stagnant, or we can allow God to move us into a place of hope.

“What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man imagined,
what God has prepared for those who love him"
1 Corinthians 2:9 ESV
None of us envisioned THIS as our future.
We didn’t walk our wedding aisle gazing at the pure love and joy on our groom’s face with thoughts that we would one day be widowed.
But THIS is where we are.
It is our “current”.
The pain is real and the grief is raw.
We cannot alter the circumstances that have brought us here. No matter how much we wish we could.  Time doesn’t flow in reverse.
There is a time to grieve. We cannot skip out on this.  We only harm ourselves if we try to rush the process.
Our loss was life shattering. Every single aspect of our world is now changed; every one of them, new.  This compounded loss that exists in each layer of us can plant seeds of fear.  Oh, we don’t necessarily recognize the little nagging thoughts as fear.  But it is there.
Fear we can’t possibly navigate this earth without the leadership of our husband manifests itself in constant thoughts of failure. If we aren’t careful, we can almost convince ourselves we are incapable without even attempting to accomplish something new.
Our fear of repeating a walk through such great loss causes us to hesitate in loving again.
Fear of the unknown nestles deep worry into our thoughts. Worry can begin to influence all processing in our brains, turning each situation into something potentially negative.  But we of all people should remember that this life is full of unknowns.  After all, we didn’t plan on being here, right?
What if it is time to come out from under the heaviness and start living again? Not living without the pain, but living around it.  Not erasing the memories, but cherishing them in their rightful place and looking ahead with expectation.
If you are not at this place yet, that’s okay. Do the work inside of your grief for now.  But, if you can honestly evaluate, and you are one who knows you should begin taking those bold steps forward, this writing is for you!
So which is it? Are you working through a healthy phase of grief, or are you stuck in grief because of fear?  Have you quit doing the work of sorting through grief and just settled in tight?  Are you stagnant in this life?
Friends, our God is anything but stagnant.
He is mighty and active.
He is alive and working.
He is NOT in the fear.  No, He is in the hope!
If these thoughts ring true within you, will you take time today to pray through your fears? Hand each one to God.  Name them and give them to the One who calms fears and offers hope.  Call on His mighty name with expectation of what He will do with your life.
Will there be unknowns?
Will there be things that seem too hard?
Will the newness at times be awkward to walk through?
I answer all of these with a resounding YES. But that “yes” is where hope lives.  It lives in the light that is revealed when fears are brought out of their darkness and surrendered.
Hope lives in the increased breaths as you contemplate that first step toward newness.
It resides in the accelerated heartbeat as you bravely walk into your future.
It is the combination of not knowing what comes next and the excitement of trusting that God will walk whatever path lies in your future with you.
Years ago, we had only dreams of beauty when we eagerly gazed upon our groom. Now we have lived more.  Pain has tinged our hearts edges.  What has happened, we cannot change.  We can choose to let that pain grow fear and leave us stagnant, or we can allow God to move us into a place of hope.

Saturday, April 2, 2016

His Birthday

Tomorrow would be his 48th brithday.

It's the third time we have faced this day without him by our side.

The weirdest thing is that the sun rises and falls each day just the same as always.  At first, I was baffled the entire earth didn't abruptly halt its rotation when he breathed his last breath.  OUR world froze in place, but life around us continued.  Calendars flip months, and years progress.

Our every reality was so altered by the loss of Tim, that we have spent the past few years fighting through slow motion for each opportunity to feel the sunshine on our faces.  Some months all we could feel were rain drops and hail stones when we mustered the courage to lift our faces upward.  Other days, we were incapable of even lifting our heads to check for any rays the sun might be spilling our way.  There have also been moments of fresh air breathed in deeply and precious hope.  Those are the moments that have carried us through the monotony of this life. 

I never could have dreamed how difficult this journey would be for our children and me.  The emotions are not containable at times.  They simply are not.  Tears flow.  Anger rages.  Misery settles.  But I do a disservice to God if I don't also admit that there are positive emotions present too. 

Joy dances.  Peace swirls.  Love settles.  Strength embodies.

We crave more than to just live.  We desire to do more than simply exist "trying not to die", we long to be more than survivors.  We want to shatter expectations and stereotypes of young widows and fatherless children.

We are more intently looking for the sun to wash us with its warmth. 

We are looking for the Son to wash us in His warmth.

I wonder.  Do the saints celebrate the day of their earthly birth?  Probably not, but we will always remember April 3rd as his day. 

Happy Birthday, Babe!  You are loved.  You are remembered.  You are appreciated.  Your life mattered and your legacy lives on.  We are accepting the new mercies of God with each sunrise.  We are thinking of and missing you with each sunset.  We are digging deep to follow your example of taking the next right step, making the next right decision, choosing the next right thing.  I would be lying if I said we are not eager to be with you again.  The missing is so deep, the loss felt in every fiber.  But we are deliberately choosing to live this life to the fullest in honor of your memory and to bring glory to God.  Our God has been ever faithful.  Our God has never once left our side in the darkness of this battle.  Our God is our strength, He is our stability.  He alone causes the sun to rise each morning and we are grateful to Him for your life and the time we were blessed to have you; we are grateful for each day He gives us.  We will view them as the gift that they are and be intentional in our living. 





It Is What It Is (as featured on A Widow's Might)


 
 
“I have been crucified with Christ. 
It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. 
And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God,
who loved me and gave himself for me.” ~Galatians 2:20 ESV
It was what he said.
Time and time again.
When the diagnosis first came, “Lori, it is what it is.”
When the treatments failed, “It is what it is, Babe.”
When death approached, “It is what it is.”
It was never about giving up. It was always about our inability to change the circumstances.
It was never about a lack of faith. Quite the opposite, it was always about knowing that whatever lied ahead, God was already there.
The words have rattled around in this widow’s brain since he first uttered them to me– such wisdom in the middle of tremendous pain. So much confusion for us both, and yet he possessed a complete dependence on the One who was in control, surrendering.
Surrendering…
to the Lord who knows our difficulties and leads the way.
to the One who is trustworthy and faithful.
to the God who never asked us to understand, but did call us to believe.
I watched it play out right before my eyes. “It is what it is.”
This husband of mine and his clinging to God, regardless of what was thrown at him; it left me speechless.
His searching for and finding God’s perfect peace in the midst of chaotic suffering was a humbling and gorgeous process to witness.
The example of full surrender to God’s plan, even when it meant acknowledging the loss of every single shattered dream, every selfish desire, and every personal plan is something of which I still stand in awe.
“It Is What It Is” was moment-by-moment surrender in the heat of the battle.
When Tim’s final cancer war began, we were desperately crying out to God, pleading for earthly healing. Somewhere along the way, our prayers changed to reflect more surrender in our hearts. We found a new level of acceptance that this life ultimately is not in our control.  It simply is what it is.
Now I stand on the other side of the trauma of his death. Facing new challenges, different pain, and unique depths of frustration, I have a choice.  Thankfully, that choice comes on the heels of God’s proven faithfulness.
And so, this life as a widowed woman raising children through adolescence and into adulthood is mine to view as a blessing.
I cannot change the events that took my husband from this earth and left me as the sole earthly parent to our children.
I cannot change our loss, but I can choose my response to it.
I can remember the Lord who knows our difficulties and leads the way.
I can lean into the One who is trustworthy and faithful.
I can fully rely on the God who never asks me to understand, but does call me to believe.
My faith tells me that no matter what lies ahead of me, God is already there. He is preparing the way.
It is what it is
and
He is who He is.



Lord, I surrender to Your will. Use all of this for Your glory.  This loss and my finding how to survive the other side of it isn’t the path I would have chosen, but I trust You to be working in it for my good. Amen.






- See more at: http://anewseason.net/author/loris/#sthash.NjTBPSMT.dpuf

Friday, March 4, 2016

Simple Morning Carpool Music Thoughts


As Colton Dixon sang to me on KLOVE this morning, these lyrics stood out.

"Fear sees a ceiling
Hope sees the stars."

What "ceiling" have I allowed fear to place on my life?

How am I limiting God's work in my life by allowing these fears to have power?

Don't I desire to see the stars?  I teach our children to live their dreams.  I intrust them to aim high adn go big; to do the hard work that will enable their dreams to come true.  This advice should know no age limit!

If we are breathing, we should desire a clear view of the stars.

Friday, February 26, 2016

A Daughter's Pain {as featured on A Widow's Might}

But the steadfast love of the LORD is from everlasting to everlasting
on those who fear him, and his righteousness to children's children, ~Psalm 103:17


{By far, the HARDEST part of losing my husband has been walking beside my children as they navigate their own grief.  This article is a personal excerpt out of a prayer journal I keep for my daughter.  My son has a similar entry in his.}


A nine year old girl should never have to sit across the breakfast table from her hero and hear he is dying.


She shouldn’t have to experience the shock of hearing months later that the doctors had it wrong and her Daddy’s rare form of leukemia wouldn’t take him, but would change the lives of her family members forever.  Only to hear at the age of eleven that he is battling another new cancer.


A fifth grade girl should not spend her Spring Break moving her parents into an apartment 425 miles away their from home, then returning home with her sixth grade brother to be cared for by extended family.


She shouldn’t have to endure the next two years separated from her parents more than she is with them due to out of state cancer treatments and lengthy hospital stays.


She never should have her eyes see the horrors of a strong man shrinking away in a cancer riddled body.


She shouldn’t have to hold this man’s hand as he lay in a coma experiencing a series of strokes and seizures.


She shouldn’t have to sweetly “shush” his agonizing moans.


No thirteen year old daughter should ever have to stand over the hospice bed of the greatest love of her young life while he takes his final breath.


She should not have to choose a dress to wear for her father’s funeral.


And no fourteen year old young lady should have to spread her Daddy’s ashes at their favorite annual vacation spot.
macie and tim2


Today, as deeply as my heart is shattered and breaking for my own loss as well as the tremendous loss my children are experiencing, I stand in awe of my daughter.


She is not like other fifteen year old girls.  She has witnessed too much heartache and unspeakable sorrow.  She has matured beyond childhood in many ways, and yet is still just a girl who deeply loves and desperately needs her Dad.


As she ventures forward in this life, learning, growing, navigating complex relationships; my prayer is…


*that her loss both strengthens and softens her. 
*that the horrors her eyes have witnessed somehow bring a deeper acceptance of and compassion for others.
*that the love affair between her Daddy and me built enough memories in her young mind for her to know what a strong marriage centered on the foundation of Christ is like.  Not that we were perfect, but that even through our imperfections, God made us perfect for each other.  I pray she finds the one who God is already molding to be hers and that she is sensitive to the work He is doing to prepare her for him. 
*that she continues to lean hard into God.  Praying earnestly and listening intently as He guides her through the final years of adolescence into adulthood.


Her healing process will continue until she draws her own final breath.  She has many firsts without her Dad yet to experience, many tears yet to cry, and many frustrations yet to overcome.

She lost too much far too soon.  She has walked a difficult path for years and is finally emerging into the light of living life fully again.  In many ways, she reminds me of a butterfly.  She has had to spend a great deal of time immersed in darkness, and it has made her who she is.  The layers of a happy, loving childhood; intense trauma and sorrow; fierce love and loyalty, they intricately interlace to form beautiful wings that will help her fly.

And fly, she will.  She loves deeper.  She dreams bolder.  She sees the value and goodness in a person quickly.  There is a strength that radiates from her soul that can only come from Christ.

I am honored to be her Momma and proud to watch God working in her life.

Father God, You promise to be a Father to orphans.  Your steadfast love and righteousness are gifts for generations of those who fear You.  I lift the children of each widow who reads this to Your throne right now.  Lord, guide them in your ways, comfort them as only You can, and transform their pain into something beautiful that brings glory to You.  Amen. 

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Intercessory Prayer Warrior

On particularly difficult days, especially those hard ones involving parenting solo, I like to think of Tim petitioning with me on behalf of our children. He, face down before the very throne of our Most High God, while I kneel here on earth; our prayers mingling together as they approach God's ear.
The Bible is clear, Tim did not become an angel and we will not be married in heaven. But he is still the Daddy to our children; his love for us did not diminish when he left this earth. In fact, I believe his love for us has multiplied to a level our human brains cannot comprehend; love so pure and true.
I take comfort in knowing that we have Tim as a prayer warrior interceding for us and praying in unison with me. 
 
Me at his burial place

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Year Two in Review and Year Three Ahead

Photo Courtesy of Trish Scott
Sweetberry Photography

 
Most days I step boldly forward in this life and find secure footing as the kids and I navigate our way into a new kind of beautiful life.

Most days.

But some days…

Some days, I take that step and find nothing but air beneath my feet.  I free fall.  Spinning wildly, gasping for air, and wondering what will break my fall.

While the bad days are farther apart now, they still arrive ferociously and unexpectedly, leaving me faced flat on the ground, a bit dazed, and quietly whimpering the name “Jesus”.

Medical memories flood me, nestling in the forefront as if set to constant replay on the big screen of my mind. 

His battle.

The days away from our children turning too quickly into weeks and then months; we blink and it has been two years consumed with medical treatments.  The IV’s, tests, scans, exams that violate, radiation masks, chemotherapy ports, too many surgeries to count; they are horrors that can never be erased from my existence. 

His constant suffering plagues my thoughts.

My continual juggling of roles.  I remember with pride the honor of fulfilling my wedding vows to this man, “to love and to cherish, in sickness and in health”.  The privilege of being a mother to his children.  The two separate responsibilities are so tightly interwoven, existing out of the deepest love for my family.

It’s all there.  The guilt over being away from my children coupled with the joy of serving my husband by rarely leaving his side in the battle.  The traumatic memories of medical horrors I can find no words to describe and the comfort of the love we shared that somehow only deepened through the journey.

I remember someone telling me that missing him would be harder than walking beside him as he awaited death.  I thought they were crazy.  I needed them to be crazy.  The pain of anticipating his death was excruciating.  Having to ensure I was the first one in the door from school carpool so I could protect a child from being the one to find their Daddy’s unresponsive body somewhere in our home was exhausting.  Holding my own breath to listen for his staggered breathing throughout each night would cause heart palpitations.  I am experiencing them even as I type this.

Then, he died.

And someone dared tell me year one would be hard but year two would be hell on earth.  I needed them to be a liar.  I couldn’t fathom pain more intense than each “first” ticking off the calendar.  I thought “well, maybe for them, but we have been living with the stress of death for a few years, so we are probably further along in our grief journey than most.”

I’m not here to say that losing a loved one to a terminal illness is harder than receiving a state trooper knock on the door with notification they have passed away.  This isn’t a competition!  It is all hard.  It is all painful.  It all downright stinks.  All I know is what I have experienced.  And yes, while we were able to say goodbye, I also witnessed suffering that I wish I could somehow un-see.  I simply thought we were “more advanced grievers” in our home.

I was wrong.

Year two was H A R D.  It was MESSY and painful.  It compounded grief in ways that I could never have foreseen.  There was anger.  There were hurt feelings between friends.  Abandonment, betrayal, loss of self-all tumbled upon us triggering new levels of grief in each of us.  His loss was the undercurrent of every encounter we had; whether the other person realized it or not.

We have emerged into the beginning of year three without him; having passed the two year anniversary of his passing one month ago today.  It is still hard, but we have found new footing and it seems to be solidly holding us. 

Here is hoping that the healing is sinking deeper within each of us with the dawn of each new day. 

They say “this year will be a turning point for us”.  The missing never ceases, but the coping with loss becomes more stable.  I pray they are correct.  I need stability.  Our children need to string good days together in a consistent pattern of success.  I believe Tim is praying on our behalf at the very throne of God; praying for Him to use all of this, our good days and our bad, for His glory. 

Lord, thank You for never once leaving our side.  YOU ARE GOOD.  Remind us to remain focused on your goodness and rain down your healing into every crevice of our  brokeness.  Amen.