Monday, November 12, 2012
I realize that I empathize so much more with those who have unexpectedly lost loved ones than ever before. I have experienced a significant amount of death in my family, but none of it compared to losing my husband. Hearing of these deaths this week has broken my heart for those who are left behind. I walked the path, and I know what is ahead of them. I made mistakes along the journey, and had to learn a few things on my own to help me through the process. I find myself this week sharing nuggets of truth, pieces of wisdom for the mourners. So I thought I should write them here.
1. Words can't take away the hurt you feel in your heart right now. But know that God will heal that hurt, fill the void and bring you peace again!
2. You don't have to be strong. Don't hold it in. Let it out. Cry. Scream. Yell. Do what you need to. You don't have to be strong. Look around, there is someone being strong for you to lean on, but now isn't your time.
3. Death happens. It isn't fair. It doesn't make sense. And its not your fault. Don't take the bait of guilt. Its not your fault.
4. Being grateful doesn't negate the pain you feel, or invalidate the life of your loved one. Don't feel bad for being glad you are alive. Its okay to see the good in the midst of a horrible situation. Its a good thing. Don't feel bad for doing it.
5. For those supporting a loved one who has suffered extreme loss... here is a word of caution. They may be some what of an emotional wreck, now, in two weeks and probably in two months. They will not have their right senses about them, and may not make the best decisions. Protect them. Help them. Look over their shoulder. The old saying is true, don't make any major decisions for 6 months... and I'll add on even if they were already planned. I did some really stupid, really really stupid things, within months after losing my husband. Looking back I wish someone who loved me would have guarded me more, and helped me to avoid some of them.
I was hurt. I was broken. I was lost. But God healed that hurt, pain, and confusion. It took time, and I'm grateful for the process I went through to heal stronger than I was before. You will be stronger. I know that means nothing to you now, but it needs to be said. Let the grief process work through you in a healthy way. When you feel an emotion, work it out. But don't camp there either. There is a healthy curve, you feel the emotion building, you give in to and it releases. Listen to and look for the release. When it comes, move on. Don't camp there!
Don't blame yourself, even if it seems like you should. I'm grateful I never blamed myself for his death. I didn't know if he killed himself because of the divorce, but I knew that I was not responsible for any actions beyond my own. I didn't blame myself. And I'm glad I didn't because a year and half after his death I learned of a heart condition, and that it more than likely was the killer. How grateful I am I didn't destroy myself with unnecessary guilt for 18 months, then have to work out of that in addition to everything else.
Finally, sometimes there are lights in the midst of the darkness. Don't ever feel bad for seeing them. It doesn't mean you aren't mourning the loss, or that you don't love the person who passed away. I loved Jonathan. I truly did. But his death set us all free. He was bound in multiple addictions, and quickly destroying his life, and by association ours. It was healthy for me to recognize that. It didn't mean I didn't mourn. It didn't mean I didn't love. It didn't mean I was insensitive. I was honest. And to heal properly you need to be honest. So pay attention to the lights, find things to be grateful for. It's okay. Its healthy. And your soul needs it.
Tuesday, October 23, 2012
per·fect[adj., n. pur-fikt; v. per-fekt]
entirely without any flaws, defects, or shortcomings.
I try to be perfect. I expect myself to be perfect. Regardless of how hard I try, and how much I expect perfection, I am not. I'm NOT perfect. I have flaws, I have shortcomings. I am a work in progress. And its time to be okay with it.
I am a self proclaimed perfectionist. I expect myself to perform to a certain level, and live to a high standard. Mediocrity is not acceptable. I must push myself, I must be the best that I can be. I constantly compare myself to myself, my goals, and my expectations. And I constantly fall short. Its a vicious cycle. I expect perfection of myself, I work towards perfection, I fall short of perfection, I get frustrated... because I am not perfect.
I am a dreamer. I visualize what I want my life to be. I set goals. Goals are a motivator. They place my focus on a target, and help me to build actions to reach that target. If I didn't have goals, I wouldn't put the effort in to reach them, I wouldn't develop the framework to support the goals.
Goals are a measuring stick for success. When I reach a goal I know that I am winning. I have attained the prize, I have conquered. Goals are something to work toward and be attained. I have goals for many areas of my life. I have financial goals. I have spiritual goals. I have professional goals. I have physical goals. As I runner, I have kept myself motivated through goals. My running goals are: to run 1 race a month, to run 20 miles a week, and to run a half marathon in every state. I'm actively pursuing my goals, and am diligent in my effort to meet them. I know that these goals keep me from falling back in my running. Because I have these goals I push forward, I maintain my effort, I focus. But I'm not perfect. I don't meet every goal. And it frustrates me.
I have flaws. My greatest flaw is expecting more of myself than I can always give, and feeling bad for not attaining perfection. Instead of looking at the effort I'm making and the success I'm achieving, I look at the one area I missed. And it captures my attention. I get frustrated because I'm not running 4 days a week. I'm only running 3, and so I feel like a failure. I get stressed because I'm not achieving perfection. I lose sight of the fact that this time last year I didn't run. I lose sight of the fact that in the past year I have run over a dozen races, and completed 7 half marathons. I pay no attention to my running pace dropping from a 14 minute mile to an 11 minute mile. These aren't the areas which gain my focus- its that one day a week that I don't have time to run. Its the shortcoming, lack of perfection where I glance.
Its time for me to get in line with God. He knows I'm not perfect. And even more than that He doesn't expect me to be. If God doesn't expect me to be perfect, because He knows I can't be, why do I? I set myself up for failure. I set myself up for frustration. Goals are good. And ultimately they are achieving their purpose. Even though I don't meet every goal, the effort I put into getting there, the level which I achieve, although falling short of meeting the goal, is greater than what I would have accomplished had I not tried at all.
I'm deciding today to change my definition of perfection.
Thursday, October 18, 2012
Everything seemed perfect, the temperature was in the mid 50s, and the continual rain for the past 24 hours, had stopped! I met a really nice girl on the bus, who had was running her first race ever... and a half marathon at that! The day was looking great! I knew I would encounter a few bumps along the way, specifically the hills, and mud from all the rain, as a good portion of the race was on trails or dirt roads. But I wasn't moved by it. I had made up my mind, I was gonna win the battle in my head, and have a great race!
Moments before the gun went off, the rain started. And it never stopped. Not for 3 hours. It changed from terrential down pour, to down pour, and an occasional rain, but never let up. Once again I decided that my will, my outlook would determine my success. So I ran, in the rain. And I enjoyed it, most of the time anyway. I remember the moment when I hit the half mile up hill at mile 9.5, and I was struggling. I wanted to run it all, without walking, but it just wasn't gonna happen. It was hard, so I pushed myself a lot, like I had committed, and took as few walk breaks as possible.
It was in that moment I realized that this race was so much like life. Even though we get self deluded and think life is supposed to be easy, and everything should magically fall in place, it doesn't work that way. That's how life is. Its a challenge. And so was this race. The hills were a challenge. The rain was a challenge, even the down hills were a challenge! Yes even in the decline there were obstacles to over come. The mud was a challenge. Despite all the challenges I stayed steady, true and strong and pushed through for the prize! I made a mental decision, long before I was in the middle of the challenging situation, that I would face it and conquer it! And in the moment when I wanted to cave I remembered that. I would state my goal to myself, and then do it! In the middle of this half mile hill I reminded myself that I have a medal waiting for me at the end, and it is worth the struggle to receive the prize!
The past 5 years of my life felt much like a half marathon, it was hard. I faced challenges, they were hard, they hurt, and I wanted to give up more than once. But I made the decision in my head, long before I ever was in the situation, that I am a winner, a conqueror, and that life will not move me! I kept my eyes on the prize, the promises of God for my life. And in the middle of the hard times I repeated them to myself over and over. "God you have great plans for me!" (My version of Jeremiah 29:11). I took walk breaks when needed, but never let the situation crush or stop me. I pressed on, until the finish line was in sight. And now I feel like I've just crossed that line, wearing my medal, happy and proud of myself for making it through. I'm experiencing the thrill of victory, and it wipes away all the pain of the struggle.
Tuesday, October 16, 2012
I knew when I decided to go to the business meeting today that she would be there. I wasn't sure I was ready to face her again. So much has happened in the last 3 years. I had no idea what would happen and how I would respond. I figured it would be hard, I figured I may encounter some unexpected emotions, afterall I would be seeing many people who had known Jonathan and his many issues. Walking into it this setting, after being so far removed from it all, was a bit scary.
When I first saw her, I again was disappointed that in fact she was there, and once again I had to face her. All through lunch my eyes continued to glance her way. I don't know why it is, but she was like a magnet. However unlike 3 years ago I didn't feel anger or pain when I glanced her way. Perhaps the draw was my way of getting used to the idea that yes she is here, and this is going to be part of life at these annual business meetings.
As lunch was drawing to a close, a very random thought crossed my mind. Perhaps I should break the ice... but what would I say? Do you tell the woman who was inimate with your husband, "I forgive you?" Does it need to be said? Is it the right thing to say? And most importantly had I really forgiven her? Perhaps its more an issue of being "over it". Instantly I ruled out the idea, why on earth would I want to talk to her. Such a bad idea. Then it started, my heart began to beat, it began to race. At that moment I knew God was telling me, yes! Yes, I need to talk to her.
She smiled at me, and to be honest I have no idea what she said. Probably something about being glad that I had come to the meeting. I continued in my nervous state and said a few really stupid things, all in the gesture of breaking the ice. It was awkward, it was weird. And we both felt it. I got ready to excuse myself, and then the conversation just took off. We sat and chatted for probably a good 15 minutes, mostly about business. She told me she had really hoped that I would come today. Oddly enough her presence was almost enough to keep me from going. But as I sat there I found myself thinking how nice she was, and how easy is was to talk to her. Even as I sit here writing it I find it completely bizzarre to have those thoughts flow from my brain.
As I ended the conversation, and we stood up, once again I awkwardly asked, "can I hug you?" And then I did. I felt I needed that as an act of completion, the completion of my season of anger and hurt. It marked the end of my season of feeling intimidated by her. I hugged my once enemy, and even meant it.
I'm sitting here writing, hoping that it helps me to process all that happened in that 15 minutes. It was so important, a defining moment in my journey, that much I know. Perhaps this conversation was a way of bringing closure. It was a long time ago, literally in another life, and I don't want to carry the hurts and wounds of that life into my new one. I am so blessed, I have all the promises God gave me unfolding before my very eyes, so why should I hold on to this previous hurt?
In my mind I keep replaying how nice she was and how easy it was talking to her. I have to stop and literally remind myself that this was the woman who had a relationship with MY husband while we were married. I have to on purpose make myself look at her through those eyes again, because today something changed. I don't want to carry the offense against her, I don't want to make myself mad at the situation.
There was a healing that took place in my heart towards her, in that short 15 minute conversation. I saw her as a person. Before she was not. She was the woman who hurt me. However that isn't true. I'm understanding tonight that while her actions were not right or justified, it was not about me. She didn't know me. She didn't hurt me. It was my husband who did. He made vows to be with me. He knew me, and committed to be with me, and HE was the one who sinned against me. HE was the one who hurt me. Yet I was able to forgive him, move past it and attempt to reconcile, because I loved him. If I was able to do that with someone who knowingly brought hurt and betrayal into my life, I should be able to do it to someone who didn't know me and intentionally hurt me. I find it very interesting that we do quite the opposite, we demonize the "other woman", and throw all our hurt, rejection and anger on her, while we give every effort to work it out and forgive our husbands, who are the ones who actually betrayed us. I guess today I realized that if I am willing to forgive and release one, I need to forgive and release the other.
I don't know that I can say I have forgiven, or that the forgiveness is complete. But I can say that today I made a large step in that direction. You never really know if you've forgiven a person, truly, until you come face to face. Perhaps the fact that I no longer feel I need to hide from her, is a sign of forgiveness at work in my heart, no matter what stage it may be. As much as I want her to say she's sorry for what she did, that did not happen. It would be nice to hear, but I don't need to hear it in order to forgive. Forgiveness is for me. Its my step which releases me from the bonds of the past.
I don't know what the future holds. Will we speak again at the next business meeting? Perhaps. I wouldn't be opposed to it. If I saw her I probably would approach her, and give a quick hello. I refuse to let that power her presence once held ever return. Regardless, I know that something happened in me today that was critical to my healing. Only with time will God be able to fully reveal to me what happened inside as I came face to face with my fear.
Thursday, October 11, 2012
Season bring change, some of the change we enjoy, while other parts we dread. We all have a favorite season, one we enjoy more than others, and its usually hard to let go of that season and welcome the new one.
About a year and a half ago I entered the doors of a new church for a Saturday evening Easter service. I was going to support some dear friends who were involved in the service. They had been a huge support to me in the previous 4 months since the passing of my first husband. I had hardly attended a church other than my own for the past 12 years, but this night I ventured out. Not long into the worship service I heard God say to my spirit, "come here and heal." That was it. I knew at that moment that the time had come to leave my home church of 12 years.
On that Saturday evening I entered a new season of life. For months I had been known at church only by my current pain, my late husbands struggles, and a single mom and widow. I felt alone. I felt that everyone was watching me. I felt that I had to keep up a facade so that God would get praise. But the moment I closed that door, and opened a new one, at the new church, I found freedom. No one knew me. No one knew my situation. No one had to know. All they knew was I was Jenn, and I loved God. During that season I found freedom to truly worship God with all my heart, in reckless abandon, caring not what others think, but what God thought. I found myself at the altar almost every Sunday. Sometimes it was to worship, other times to praise. Often it was to kneel before God's presence, almost in a lump at the altar, broken, hurting and helpless before God.
In that season I fell in love. I fell in love with worship. I fell in love with the new freedom I had found. I fell in love with God again. I would go to church solely to meet with God. It was just me and Him. And then I would leave. I grew in faith. I grew in knowledge. I broadened the scope of my understanding with God. It was wonderful.
Then, just as the cold continues to set in, and its time to change over your closet, a new season began in my life. I met a man, a wonderful man. This man captured my heart, and carried it 3 hours north. Now I live 3 hours away from the church that I had become so connected with. At first it was hard, and we would discuss often about how powerful my home church was, and I would cry about leaving. I had experienced such wonderful things while there I didn't want to leave it for a church that didn't experience what I had, or worship the way I had grown to worship. After several conversations we decided to find a church at which we as a couple fit better, and we did. Now that I have been up here for several months, and regularly attending a new church, I've had the grace to let go.
God told me "come here and heal." That's exactly what I did. Like a hospital stay, I came in broken. During my stay I received care. I was rejuvenated. And I was healed. Now that I am healed God has released me to move forward. He healed me, so that I would be ready for the life I am now building. He healed me so that I would be able to love, when the man He had chosen came into my life. He healed me so that I could walk away from everyone I knew, and everything I had, and trust Him to create a new life for me. He healed me.
Tuesday, October 9, 2012
Someone says something, you walk into a familiar place, or facing a new experience alone. Suddenly you are back, and it only took a moment. Your mind, heart, and soul fall back in that moment, and its real. The triggers are unexpected, and can't be tracked. Throughout my journey as a widow I found myself back in the moment, in the oddest situations: attending preschool parent night, walking into the restaurant where he took me the night he proposed, attending an industry training meeting. Last night it was hearing someone say "I want my wife to pass on first, so she doesn't face the pain of burying me." POOF! I was back in the moment.
Healing is a process, its not an event. I know that no matter how wonderful life is, how complete I feel, that moments like these will happen. I know that the longer I live, the less often they will be. Perhaps these moments are for my benefit. Maybe I need to remember, so that I can truly live. Remembering makes me realize how far I have come, how much I have grown and how amazingly God has turned my life around in 2 short years. Remembering helps me reach out to those who are on the path I once walked. Remembering is important. No matter how long I live, how strong and happy of a marriage I have, I want to remember what I have been through. I want to look back on the movie of my life, shed a few tears, then turn off the TV, wipe my eyes, and enjoy the reality of the life in which I now live.
Friday, October 5, 2012
I was blessed to stay home with my son for the first 18 months. I loved being home. I joined clubs with other stay at home moms, and Gabe and I had play dates. We also had the opportunity to care for my father as he suffered with cancer. It was a great season. Then life happened. Finances changed and the security I once had in my marriage vanished. I had to go back to work, no matter how hard it was. So I began the world of part time employment.
It seems ideal on the outside: I get to work and I get to spend time with my son. But it wasn't ideal. I was trapped between two worlds: working mom, and stay at home mom. I didn't fit in with either. I continued to give my all at work, even though it was only a half day. And by the time I came home I was exhausted, my son was having nap time, and I still had all the responsibilities of a stay at home mom. After all I "only" worked part time, I should be able to clean the house, plan meals, pay bills, grocery shop, cook dinner, and spend quality time with my son. All in the extra 3 hours each day. It was some what of a nightmare. I loved the fact that I had more time with my son, but the exhaustion and extra responsibilities that a full time working mom doesn't carry, seemed to out weigh the benefits.
That's where I've come from, thats been my life for the past 4 years. The challenges I faced reveal to me how wonderful and balanced my life is now. My working life and my stay at home mom life are very clearly divided. I travel 3 hours away, a few days every other week for work. So when I am gone, my soul focus, my only task is work. I can work late, I don't have to cook dinner, or worry about kid's homework. On the contrast when I am home, I'm home. I still work but its in a home office, on my own schedule, and no one is home during the day. I am able to organize my day to take care of my family: laundry, groceries, meals, etc. I end it at 2 each day, so that I am focused and ready to pick up my 3 kids. I find such a strange joy in picking them up from school each day. And when we get home, we have a snack, and start homework. I'm single minded, so I am able to provide structure for them and give them my full attention. I have flexibility to volunteer in my son's class, attend field trips and just be around. I still get to use my mind, and challenge myself through work, but also focus 100% on my family when they walk through the door. Its the life I've always dreamed of!
I may not be superwoman, but I AM supermom! But not in the way I once thought. I'm not a mom who does everything. I pick and choose. I prioritize. I am supermom, because I am a good mom. My family knows they are my priority and they feel my love. And that is what makes me supermom!