Friday, September 30, 2011

Scaling Walls

This week has been a challenging one! I faced an impossible situation with absolutely no way to fix it.  There was absolutely nothing I could do.  So I got on my knees and I prayed.  I wrote about it in depth yesterday, in the post "Standing at the Crossroads."  To quote my post, and my prayers:  "God I can't do a thing to make this situation come together- but YOU can.  I trust you and tonight I need to hear your voice.  I know that you directed me down this path- which means you will either bring provision or wisdom."  

 I hit a wall.  A tall, unsurmountable, unsurpassable wall.  I needed a miracle to get me to the other side or some immediate direction from God guiding me in how to get over, under or around.  I prayed, I kneeled, I worshipped, I cried.  When I finished, I had no more answers than when I started.   No answers... but I heard a still small voice... God reminded me in prayer last night that He is faithful.  Then today, He showed me!

 Today started the same as every other, and while sitting in a business training meeting, I got the text!  The provision came, God showed up!  Yes, once again, My God is faithful!!! I almost feel like a fool for worrying or letting it get me to a place of concern.  But in all honesty, I believe that was part of the lesson.  I prayed for provision or wisdom- but God answered and brought both.  He brought me the answer I needed, and direction to keep me from being in this same position again.  And I should never be ashamed for allowing a situation to bring me to my knees.  There is something powerful about coming to the end of ourselves.

By facing the unscalable wall I not only got to see God's hand move, but I realized my shortfalls, and have made adjustments to overcome them. I realized that the equipment I carry, and my level of skill is sufficient for fences- not walls!  Scaling a fence takes a small amount of knowledge and experience.  It is a small obstacle, with a small prize.  What lies on the other side of the fence is rewarding but limited: a backyard, a pool, a park, etc.  But a wall is much more difficult, with much more reward!  In ancient days walls were built around an entire city!  Everything you needed for a sustained and enjoyable life lay within the city walls.  And once within those city walls you had complete provision and security.  Scale a fence- experience a backyard.  Scale a wall- experience a city!  Why should I settle for a limited victory, a limited experience?  God has more in store for me than what lies behind a fence, he wants me to scale walls!

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Stand at the Crossroads

Tonight I sit here, in the midst of yet another impossible situation.  And I want to scream out saying, "Haven't I had enough? Where is my break?"  But one thing I know.... God is faithful.  And as I lay face down on the floor tonight praying, I was stirred to recall all the things God has brought me through.  I was diagnosed with Crohns, God healed me! I had experienced personal betrayal, God helped me to trust again.  I faced difficulties of many kinds in the past three years, and instead of running, God equipped me to stand strong and let Him move in the midst of the chaos.  And through it all He was my strength, and he brought me out on top.

And yet here I am, following the direction He has led me and it seems like everything is shaky and unsure. Yet I am confident that I heard His voice.  So as I lay there declaring His faithfulness in my life, I am reminded that if He brought me through all of those trials, struggles and situations, He is faithful to do it again!

When we reach that point where there is nothing more that we can do to solve our problems, heal our hurt, or make sense of a life fallen apart, He is there.  We need to fall on our knees, and recognize that where our ability stops- His begins!  And that is where I am tonight.  "God I can't do a thing to make this situation come together- but YOU can.  I trust you and tonight I need to hear your voice.  I know that you directed me down this path- which means you will either bring provision or wisdom."

Jeremiah 6:16  New International Version (NIV)

 16 This is what the LORD says  “Stand at the crossroads and look;  ask for the ancient paths, ask where the good way is, and walk in it, and you will find rest for your souls.  But you said, ‘We will not walk in it.’

Tonight I am at a crossroad.  I am standing.  I am looking.  I am asking God which way to go.  And I know He will be that still small voice behind me saying, "this is the way, walk in it" (Isaiah 30:21).  I commit to follow His leading and find the rest awaiting my weary soul.  I challenge you tonight: whatever you are facing, whatever has brought you to this crossroad, trust Him enough to ask which way to go.  Get quiet enough to hear His guidance.  Then walk in it and experience a rest and peace that only God can bring. 

Monday, September 26, 2011

In the Midst of It...

A few days ago I heard that one of my closest friends from 8th grade died unexpectedly.  I hadn't really talked to her since 8th grade, almost 20 years ago.  But I felt compelled to go to the funeral visitation.  I distinctly remember someone coming to my late husband's visitation who was a friend from middle school. And the fact that someone cared enough to come, especially from such a distant relationship in the past touched me deeply.  So tonight was my opportunity.

As I pulled up to the funeral home I thought very presumptuously, "Oh I've been here so much I am immune to this place."  And in some ways that was true.  I had spent the summer planning, ordering and making changes to my late husband's grave marker.  Which involved numerous appointments at the funeral home.  A few of those appointments where emotionally difficult at moments, but overall it was a peaceful experience.

Sitting in the parking lot tonight I was reflecting on those experiences, thinking how great it was this place didn't carry the "sting" it once did.  As I walked in I greeted one of the staff, Tom, who I recall from not only my late husband's funeral, but my sisters as well.  He remembered me and I gave him a brief hug.  It was at that moment that I realized what I was about to face: the room.  The same room in which I had said goodbye to my husband.  The same room where I gave the eulogy for my sister.  Of course it was that room,  I shouldn't have been surprised.  Life has a way of being like that.

So I take a deep breath and enter.  As I stepped into the room, I slowly begin to shake, and tears fill my eyes.  I can't even put words on what was happening.  There were no thoughts going through my head. Just tears, and shaking.  I tried to stay strong, but I was overwhelmed.  Not at the loss of the friend.  It wasn't her funeral I was reacting to.

I was almost embarrassed.  A room full of people I don't know, and a visitation for a friend I hadn't seen in 20 years, and here I am fighting back tears and shaking.  All of a sudden I was caught up in the moments of what I have lost.  When you lose someone so close there is an odd strength that comes upon you during the funeral process. The grace of God shows up.  Add to that the fact that you are still walking in a state of shock.  To an extent your emotions are numb.  But tonight, here I was, absolutely in no way expecting a response like this.  My emotions were raw, no longer numb like the last two times I had entered that room.  My guard was down.  And up it flooded- more healing.

After signing the guest book, I had to get out.  Catch my breath, cry, pray, whatever I needed to do.  So I called for reinforcements- Julie, my widowed bff.  She'd understand.  Over the phone she lovingly encouraged me.  "Don't suppress Jenn.  Live in the moment.  Do what you have to do.  Let God heal you." She even called this moment beautiful.  She prayed for me, so that I could go back in and greet the family, and to say whatever it is God wants them to hear.

In the midst of this healing moment, that is exactly what I did.  I walked up to the parents and introduced myself.  I was still a little emotional, and felt the need to briefly explain. I feel that my honesty, and maybe even the "rawness" of my emotions at this moment touched them.  I know that the words I spoke won't take away the pain, only God can.  I know that my compassion won't heal them, only God can.  But I took that moment to show them love.  Not to encourage them with false words, but to be real.  "Yes life sucks sometimes.  And sometimes it just doesn't make sense.  But know that there are people who understand.  I have been there.  I get it, and I'm praying for you!"  I will continue to pray for this family.  That God will heal their hearts, and help them to find peace in the midst of this horrible situation.

I feel a kinship with them, with any family actually, that has experienced a tragic loss such as this.  And I am amazed that even while I was going there with them in mind- God took a moment to once again take a piece of brokenness in my heart and replace it with another layer of healing.

Sunday, September 25, 2011


I've been really bored lately.  Just the past few days I have been noticing it more and more.  And while Im very content with my life, there is this boredom I'm feeling.  Its not a miserable feeling.  But it seems like I hit a certain point in the day and I start endlessly checking Facebook, texting some friends, and staring at the phone.  So tonight I'm analyzing it.  What is going on?

I'm basically a stay at home mom, although I add in a few morning classes and a some work outside the home, but in reality I am home, with a three year old, ALL the time.  He is my companion, my social outlet, and in the evening no one else is coming home. Its just me and my boy.  And I love that! This is a very special time I have with him.  I don't have to share him with anyone.  Its just the two of us.   I love that I have the ability to be a stay at home mom! When I first had my son that was our plan. And for 18 months I was home.  But then because circumstances changed, I had to go back to work.  And for the past two years I taught kindergarten part time.  Now God has given me the ability, in such an impossible situation, to stay at home once again.  He is the best redeemer!  Just another way He has turned this tragedy around for good for me.  This is a crucial time, my son needs me.  I'm all he has. So I willingly and joyfully give myself to him.

But every positive has a negative side to it.  And the downside here is that I am not 3, I am a very social 34 year old woman.  I live in a tower, like Rapunzel.  Just me and my son in the tower, no doors, no entrance, no ladder.  No one is coming and going.  Its just me and him.  Occasionally I "let down my hair" and reach out to people outside the tower.  Virtual interaction mostly.  Texting.  Facebook.  And now blogging. As wonderful as life is in the tower,  I long to be outside these social stone walls which hide me away from the world. I long to spend a day in the meadow, enjoying the freeness of life.

The tower gets boring. I have a strong social need to go out, get away and spend some time with people my age.  I get very little time to myself, mostly when I'm running, or at night once he is in bed.  But its a very brief and short time.  And again. its virtual social interaction.  I realized the other day while using the bathroom, and my son barged in... that I can't even do that in private.  He's always there. And the moment I'm out of his sight and he realizes it... I hear footsteps, and anticipate the door opening.  I am sure thats normal for a boy who has experienced loss.  Daddy disappeared and so he stays close to me.  He follows me upstairs in the morning when I put on my make-up, he crawls into my bed in the early hours of the morning, and comes downstairs when I'm on the treadmill.  And there is no break.  No one comes home every evening and spends time with our son so I can make dinner, or take a bath, or run to the store.  Nope.  Not happening.  No one comes home each evening to greet me, ask about my day and converse over dinner.  No one is hear to sit on the couch and discuss what is going on in the world.  And I'm starting to feel the effects of that void.

For a very long time I had a sitter coming once a week, so that I could go out.  And it got to the point where I was primarily going out alone, but at least it was a break.  Through the changing of her schedule and the budget I'm trying to stick to, its hasn't been anything close to weekly.  Maybe thats another piece of the puzzle.  I think its time I make a few adjustments, so that I get out of the tower once and a while.  If I can go out, have some repreave, and fill my social tank, upon my return I will scale the wall of the tower with anticipation! Ready for the next adventure awaiting me, whether it be Thomas the Train delivering a load, Bob the builder fixing something, or firefighters putting out fires.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Just Another Day

Here it is again.  Its the 24th of the month.  I anticipate its coming, and am relieved when its over.  Its a reminder, a marker, a measuring stick.  It reminds me of when I lost my husband.  It marks how long ago it was, and all the things that have happened in that time.  It measures where I am in the healing process.  And each time it comes I hope it will bother me less, I hope that I will be further along in my healing, and closer to my future.  All other days of the month pass by as normal, only moments where I reflect on my life that was and the loss I faced.  But on the 24th it changes.  On the 24th I'm focused. Its a continual reminder.  And it keeps coming... every month.  I hope that one day, the 24th will come and go without me even noticing.  That the 24th will be just another day.

Today is a reminder. 10 months ago my husband took his last breath here, and his first one in heaven.  He is whole. He is healed.  He's hanging with Jesus, with my dad, my sister and his best friend.  I don't know if there are pranks in heaven.  But if there are, my late husband and his best friend are doing them;  Sliding down the streets of gold in their socks, and asking Jesus to pull their finger.

Today is a marker.  We've made it through so much since then. I've assumed leadership in the business, and completed almost every task that needs to be done.  I've developed relationships with our employees, and vendors. And I've fallen in love with the business, something I never thought would happen.  On the home front: I've potty trained my son, and he's growing and changing so much.  He's started preschool now, and I faced parent night alone- with very few tears.  I chartered every holiday, and started creating new traditions.  Two more months to go until I have made it through the first year.  It will be a relief to have made it through every event, season and holiday alone; a bittersweet accomplishment.

Today is a measuring stick.  Where am I in my healing process? I still hurt sometimes at the loss and the waste.  I still have those breath taking moments where reality sets in that he is really gone.  I face regret that I gave things away too quick.  That I didn't keep that purple shirt of his, or that I gave his Bible away to his daughter, because now I want it. I was so confused when he left, that I thought I had to erase him and his memory from my life.  But that isn't how it should be, and I am understanding that.  I'm starting to release the hurt of the hard times, and to remember the good ones.  I've forgiven him.  And I'm not angry at him any more.  I'm healing. I cry less, and have much fewer moments of grief, such as the one I experienced last week.

I've started to move away from dealing with and feeling my personal loss, to grieving the loss of my son's father.  I noticed it for the first time two weeks ago.  I was having a moment of grief and healing, and it was so clearly about the void my son has in his life.  I prayed for my son very earnestly.  And I cried.  I cried for my son.  He needs a daddy. He wants a daddy.  And he had a good one.  There is a vacancy.  He feels it and so do I.

I'm in a place where I can honor my late husband again.  Next month our business is joining a local race, and running in his memory.  We call it "Run for the Boss".  We are honoring who he was, and donating money in his name to Teen Challenge USA.  I want his memory and legacy to be a positive one, to his children and to those in his company.

I'm comfortable talking about who he was in an honest way, and not let his weakness cancel his strengths. I'm much more aware of speaking of him in a way that is honoring, for we don't stop honoring someone just because they are dead.  I'm more and more ready to share my story, and increasingly sensitive to whom I share it with and when.  I'm ready to move on in life. I'm ready for the next chapter.  And the best part is even though I'm still on this road of healing, I can still begin a new life.  Healing is a process.  I don't have to be completely through it to start moving forward.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Trusting Enough to Let Go!

You may have guessed from the title of my blog that Ruth is a character in the Bible whom I greatly admire.  It wasn't until recently though that she really caught my attention, and I find myself going back to the book of Ruth over and over. Why? Because Ruth was a widow.  I'm in uncharted territory and I need to follow someone who has gone before me, and got their happily ever after.

Ruth was young, married just under 10 years, and hadn't yet had children when her husband died. I'm a lot like her.  I read her story, and I "get it", I understand, and I am inspired.  I want to be like Ruth.  She was a woman of noble character, although she found herself in unfortunate circumstances. She decided to follow God and in the end she not only marries a man of amazing character, but finds her self in the lineage of David, and Jesus!  Yeah, I want to be like Ruth.

Today's excursions to the land of Moab, where I find Ruth and Naomi, led me to a startling truth.  Ruth was determined.  Ruth was determined to follow her mother in law Naomi, and to follow Naomi's God.  Naomi wanted her daughters in law blessed, and had released both of them to return to their land, their God, and get married. But Ruth was determined.  She was not afraid of being single.  She was not hesitant to follow Naomi even though Naomi made it clear there was no plan for her to be remarried (redeemed according to the custom) if she stayed.

Like every woman, I have hopes and dreams for my life.  And none of them ever included being a single mom, being a widow, and being on my own.  But yet here I am.  Life has happened. I've come through some very hard situations, and now that I'm out I'm ready for my happy ending.  I desire to spend my life with someone. And I want to continue to grow a family.  I feel very much like God has brought me out of the bondage of Egypt, but I have not yet stepped into the promise land.  I'm in limbo.  I'm in the wilderness: thankful I'm not where I was, but desiring to move on to something fuller.

And faintly in the distance somewhere I hear this ticking... its my biological clock reminding me how quickly I need to move on to the next phase of my life.  While making dinner I'm doing the math in my head at what the earliest possible age is I could have my next kid.  While folding laundry my mind wanders to the age span that could potentially be between my son and his siblings.  Watching movies I wish to be snuggling the man God has chosen to be my husband, instead of a pillow.  And driving in the car, my son's voice asks, "Why isn't my new daddy coming?"

I'm desiring to go forward with life and so is my son, but yet nothing is happening.  And surprisingly I am extremely content.  How can that be? Yes I have dreams and desires, but God has brought me to this place of total contentment in my life, at this moment, right now.  God showed me three months ago that I needed to be content.  Until I am content on my own, I won't be picky enough to let the right man in. I definitely wasn't content then.  But now I honestly can say, I'm enjoying my life.  I still have the hope and dreams, and desire for my happily ever after, but I'm content right where I am today.

I believe what got me to this point was trusting God enough to let go of my dreams.  I've cried.  I've laid them at the altar.  I've even said to God, "I'm okay God if I don't have another child," and meant it.  I love God enough to know He knows me better than I know myself.  He sees where I am, and knows where I'm headed.  He's working everything out for my best interest.  So while it looks like nothing is happening, God IS! I haven't given up on my dreams, but I have let God have them. Because He holds my world.  Now its his responsibility to bring them to reality, not mine.

I am sure that Ruth longed to be held again; to feel the embrace of a man who loves her.  I am confident that as she went to bed each night, she suddenly felt the emptiness in her bed.  And I am certain when she saw a baby in a new mother's arms, she sighed, wondering if that would ever be her.  Ruth had dreams, visions and plans for her life.  They didn't include being widowed, childless and leaving Moab.  And they didn't include following a mother in law with no certainty of that those dreams would be fulfilled.  But Ruth was determined.  She wasn't afraid to be single.  She laid her desires at the altar, as if to say, "I don't care if I have to go it alone, I will serve you God." Even though she laid it all aside, God didn't require it of her.  She met her Boaz, she had a child, and her heirs were royalty and the Savior.

Its no wonder I want to be like Ruth.  "Where you go, I will go.  Where you stay, I will stay.  Your people will be my people.  You are my God."

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Paying Your Respects

"You don't pay respect to a person at their funeral.  They aren't there.  Its how you treat them when they are alive that shows your respect."  My late husband said this to me as we were discussing my grandmother's quickly approaching death.  I will never forget this quote.  Although he was not the most sentimental of people, as is reflected in what he said, there is a lot of truth here.  And it is something that stuck with me as I faced the death of my "real" father in May 2009, two uncles a few months following, my husband in November 2010, and my sister in March 2011.  While he underplayed the importance of the funeral in the healing process and closure, he had a very valid point.  Its really is how we interact with a person while they are alive that shows our love and respect for them.  I call it honor.

Honoring a person begins in during their life, and doesn't stop when they die.  Yes we honor them at the funeral: by sharing their life with those who come, by telling of their accomplishments, by focusing on their strengths, and putting aside their weaknesses. We celebrate their life in stories, pictures, videos, and awards.  But I've come to understand that we continue to honor or dishonor them even after they die.  And its in the way we treat their survivors.  

"The Lord bless him!" Naomi said to her daughter-in-law.  "He has not stopped showing his kindness to the living and the dead." Ruth 2:20

Naomi was referring to a man named Boaz who was showing kindness to her daughter-in-law Ruth, a widow.  Even though Boaz didn't interact with Ruth's late husband, he receives credit as if he did because he showed continued kindness to Ruth.  And it says here God will bless him for it!

 I read that verse months ago and immediately sent it to my bff- who was widowed a year before me.  I said something along the line of: "God rewards people who honor us! And when they honor us they are honoring our husbands.  Amazing!"  God sees it one in the same.  Kindness expressed towards me is kindness expressed to my late husband, and it leads to God's blessing in their life!

I have seen this exemplified by the guys at work.  I am now running the small business my late husband started and owned.  His employees loved him dearly.  They gave him their blood, sweat and tears.  In fact "the guys", as we referred to them, were his pall bearers, and were treated as family the entire funeral process.  There are 3 of them in particular who have made a point to honor me since his death.  I get to work closely with them, as they are the managers of the company.  These guys have my back!!!  They look out for me, and are willing to go the extra mile for me.  More and more I am realizing though that its not about me.  Its about honoring the deceased- their "boss".  They are honoring and protecting me because of their love for him.  I'm simply reaping the benefits.  And I have no doubt that God is going to honor them for taking good care of me.  He promised it!

"The guys" aren't the only ones who have really stepped up and been there for me. There is a family that has come through for me every time I get in a pinch with child care. This family has been a rock for me and made so many things possible: giving me the opportunity to spend every day with my sister the week before she died,  having my son waiting for me at the finish line of my first 5K race and even babysitting weekly so I can takes classes for ministry school.  They don't do it to be the super hero family, although to me they are.  They do it because of the love they have for Jesus.  And again as they honor me in this way, they are honoring the deceased.

I could continue about the Australian neighbors who make a point to invite me over for barbecues and even came over to change my flood lights that I can't reach; or the family who is taking my son under their wing so he has a male influence in his life; or the well-known business leaders who have made themselves available to me for whatever support I may need.  Whether they knew my late husband or not, every time they show this honor to me, they are honoring him.  They are honoring his memory.  They are honoring his legacy.  

I am grateful for all the people who are sensitive to the unique needs I have as a widow.  So many people walk through life, too busy to notice.  But Jesus made a point of telling the church to take care of widows and orphans.  That's me.  That's my son. And every time someone does something for us, God sees it.  And He will bless them for showing kindness to the living and the dead. 

Monday, September 19, 2011

Liquid Prayers

You never know when its gonna hit you.  Sometimes its the most appropriate of moments: taking a final ride in the '51 Ford Pick-up Truck he rebuilt before it goes to its new home; walking into the restaurant you went to the night you were engaged; or seeing the grave marker newly installed on his grave.  Sometimes its the most random and odd things which spark it: his sit board he used as he cleaned windows on the outside of 30 story buildings; walking through the parking lot and emergency room where you went that morning when you got the call; or walking to your seat at the Christmas Eve church service.  Tears streaming down your face uncontrollably, a flood of emotions, a pinch of sadness, all in an instant...

Today it was in the middle of my Pentecostal Doctrine class.  Random.  Odd.  Almost embarrassing.  But I couldn't help it.  There I was, tears flowing uncontrollably, hoping no one would notice, but I have learned enough at this point to not fight it.  Something in the content of the lecture sparked it, and in my heart I understood and knew why it was I found myself in this moment of healing, but yet words can't express it.  I  recognized that something had pricked my heart, found another broken piece, and it needed healing.

I didn't always respond that way.  When my husband first passed away last fall I grieved hard at the funeral.  It was hard and intense.  I knelt beside his dirt covered grave before I left and said "I'm leaving it all here."  I thought that was the Christian thing to do.  I thought I needed to be strong and move on.  I thought that crying or exposing hurt was a sign of weakness, a result of lack of trust in God.  I felt this very real, yet unspoken, pressure to show everyone how great God was.  And I would do that by being strong. "I was fine."  I suppressed so many natural emotions for the first 5 months because I had believed that to acknowledge those moments when they came was doubting God's work.  And it lead me to an emotional crisis.

I found myself being led by God to change churches at just the right time.  It was a divine intervention of God for my healing.  For at this new church I found freedom.  As I entered each Sunday I was anonymous.  No one knew me.  No one knew what I had walked through.  I didn't have to answer to anyone, or put on a smile.  It was just me and God.  And thats what I needed.  I let my guard down and let God in.  I would answer every altar call at the end of service, walk up that altar to a prayer minister and just cry.  I couldn't express why I was crying.  I couldn't express what I needed prayer for.  Sometimes I would kneel at the altar, during worship especially, and the tears would just keep flowing; my liquid prayers.  They continued intensely for 6 weeks, and slowly began to taper... they still happen although they are more spuratic.

In that time at the altar God corrected me.  On May 1, 2011 God spoke to my heart.  This is what I wrote in my journal that morning:

"Let go of self image and 'I'm so strong, I'm healed, Its all okay'."  Its okay to hurt.  Its okay to let it show.  Its okay to not be able to do everything.  The 'I'm healed' is about ME; pride that I can walk through it, I'm so strong.  Let go of 'me' and 'self'.  Let GOD heal me and He WILL get the glory!!! Its okay to still need to be healed.  It doesn't lessen my testimony or God's healing.  I really did love him selflessly.  Hurt is normal! Let God bring it out and heal it!"

So in those moments, whether at the altar during service, or sitting in a class, I have learned to acknowledge the mourning or grief as a need for healing. And my prayer in these times has become "Bring it up. Bring it out. Heal my heart God."  I know that in these moments God is working, taking the brokenness and making something beautiful with my life!

It doesn't mean you don't trust him.  It doesn't mean you don't believe.  
It doesn't mean you don't know he's not redeeming everything. 

You don't need to run.  You don't need to speak.
Baby take some time, let those prayers roll down your cheek.
It may be tomorrow, you'll be past the sorrow.  
But tonight, it's alright...
Just cry.
-Mandisa, "Just Cry"

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Facing the 5k

I did it!  I ran a 5k this morning! One of my first, completely my idea, did it 100% for me, accomplishments as a widow. And I have to say that I feel like I could take on the world.  Amazing what working hard towards a simple 3 mile goal can do. And in case you are wondering on my time, I ran 36:19.  My very first personal record, cutting 3 minutes off my treadmill training time.

While my accomplishment today is monumental for me.  There is so much more to it than just running my butt off!  There are a few very valuable lessons I learned today that I want to share.

The gun went off and after running two short streets, and making a couple turns, I quickly realized the path we were going on.  Hills, lots of hills, steep hills.  Oh no! I have been running on my treadmill for 2 months (at zero incline nonetheless) and this race was meant to be the victory for that feat.  It was not supposed to be a challenge.  I was nervous enough about running on the actual pavement, without my fan blowing in my face.  It was a step of faith to be running in public- with people around who are likely so much faster than me.  But HILLS? Really?!?

I looked ahead of me, and kept a steady pace.  I determined I would stay strong up each hill, not wavering in my pace: steady and strong.  My new goal had shifted from ending the race to making it up this hill without walking!  People ran past me, but still I went, steady and strong.  And all the while hoping that at the top of the hill I would find our course adjusting away from this hilly road. So I made it to the top of the first hill, only to find another hill just a little further along the path.  In fact this course took me up and down several hills, perhaps 5 of them.  I am proud to say I didn't walk any of them. I stayed steady and strong, conquering each hill as it came.  I didn't think about any of the hills ahead, just the hill I was on, and navigating over it to the other side.  The first 2 miles continued like this, hill after hill, separated by a few down hill breaks.  It was such a relief when I discovered the last leg of the race was flat!

 So I conquered the hills, and I did it faster than the flat 3 miles I had run several times before.  Could it be that the presence of the hills, the challenge I faced actually caused me to perform better?  Could it be that seeing others around me navigating the hills with ease, or even walking them, encouraged me that I too could do this?  I believe this is how it is with life.

 I've had a hard few years, and I kept calling the events that happened "Bumps in the road".  But today I realize they were more than bumps- they were hills.  Hills that I didn't anticipate having to climb, but I turned the corner in life and there they were.  I really didn't have much of a choice, I had committed to this race, determined I was going to do it, and my goals had to shift. No longer were my goals about material things, or great accomplishments in life.  My goal was to make it over the hill, not even knowing if the other side held more hills, or a flat steady trail.

The 2 1/2 years leading up to and including my husband's death were the like the start of this race, hill after hill after hill.  He was struggling in his personal life, which led to struggles in every area of our life, marriage included.  And yet I made it through.  I conquered each hill, strong and steady.  I did it with determination, with faith; knowing my God was enough to carry me through it all, and I did it with support- God sending the right people at the right time.  Sometimes all I needed was the right verse in the Bible to get me through.

I've run through the hills, and here I am finishing this part of my journey on a flat path.  The absence of hills makes it seem easier, but I'm worn and tired from the difficulties I faced up to this point.  I am still trudging along, strong and steady, using the same resources which helped me make it this far.  And now I can see the finish line!  I push a little harder, because I know I've made it. I push a little harder because those hills have actually raised my endurance and made me stronger.  I push a little harder because there is something wonderful waiting for me at the finish line.  It's my three year old son.  He's standing up, waiting for me to take him by the hand, so we can race together.

Friday, September 16, 2011

A Girl on Her Own

I'm not really a blogger. In fact I don't even follow any blogs, and I'm not quite sure how this whole blogging thing works. But here I am, just another odd piece of my new adventure. Part of the reason I'm starting to blog is for healing for me, processing the events of my life, the frustrations of being a single mom/widow, and to get the revelations God is showing me written out. The other reason is for you- who ever you may be that comes across this blog. I have walked through some very painful things, some very unique things. Perhaps you are walking through some of them too. I believe that God will use my story to help you. That through my openness you will find the strength, the hope, the courage and the faith to make it through and come out on top! That you will discover even though life happens, God is still God and He is still good!

Here's my story in a nutshell: I am a 34 year old widow, single mother of a 3 1/2 year old boy. Almost 10 months ago my husband unexpectedly died. And here I am, life changed in an instant, walking out each day in faith, learning valuable lessons I wish someone could have shared with me! To catch you up on details of the last 10 months of my journey, or even the past 3 1/2 years of my journey would be overwhelming. I am just going to start with today, here, where I am right at this moment and fill you in on my story as we go along...

Two months ago I started running. I have some weight I'd like to lose and walking wasn't doing it. So at the advice of a friend I began to run. I had no idea what it would do for me, not only do I physically feel better and look better, but there is this great psychological component which is so needed when life has a way of dumping all it's worst on you. I discovered I could push myself, set a goal and force my body to do something it doesn't want to. I could be in control and decide when we stop! When I hit a new speed, or increase my distance I feel like a conqueror. I feel like I can take on anything that comes my way. A nice feeling after having your life completely altered in an instant- beyond your control.

So now I'm up to 3 miles and tomorrow morning is my first race! I'm so excited about accomplishing this once impossible goal. But here's the catch: despite my openness and invitations to come out and support me- NO ONE IS! Now hear my heart, I am in no way complaining here. The point is I have this great life accomplishment happening, and no one to share it with. Typical widow moment. There is this song I return to often by Taylor Swift called A Place in this World. It's my widow theme song! The chorus says: "I'm alone, on my own. And it's all I know. I'll be strong, I'll be wrong, oh but life goes on. I'm just a girl... Trying to find my place in this world". And that is exactly how I feel tonight. Alone. On my own. Sadly though after 10 months this feeling is becoming the norm. I've faced so many things alone now: preschool parent night, a court hearing, dinner and a movie... you get the point.

It's hard to go through life without someone cheering for you at the finish line of your first 5k! But in this I've realized two things. The first is that this is a special time in my life where I can be on my own. It's not often in life that I can just go out for a evening by myself, enjoy dinner and a movie alone and be completely comfortable and confident. It's okay to have things we do alone and to find the personal satisfaction that comes from it. The second thing is that I'm not really alone. Jesus said He would never leave us or forsake us.
He promised to be my husband (Isaiah 54:5). And in this season He is sharing these successes with me. He is my strength, the one I lean on in the difficult moments. I am so good at relying on people, and pleasing people. Yet being alone, on my own, it forces me to look within, be my own motivation and rely on God!