Monday, October 31, 2011

Time to Stop Reacting

Last week during one of my ministry training classes I had this understanding: I have been in a state of reacting to life.  Ever since my husband passed away last November, I have hardly planned a thing.  Every second of my life has been dedicated to one of two situations: what just happened that I need to deal with, or what has to be done by tomorrow.  Its been a reactionary,  last minute life for 11 months.  No wonder I'm stressed! No wonder I am overwhelmed all the time!

In class we were talking about time management and planning.  There was one comment which impacted me more than anything else: If you don't put the important things in first they won't fit!  Basically, if you don't plan, and set time apart for what's important, you'll spend your time doing everything else.

That's exactly what I needed to hear.  I have been so busy reacting, and thinking one task at a time, that I haven't planned in the most important thing: quality time with my son.  I spend my whole day rushing around, accomplishing next to nothing, and feeling overwhelmed because there is so much still to do.  Meanwhile, my son sits there playing on the floor wanting me to play with him.  I'm so busy, it just doesn't happen.  At least not the way I want it to.

I was very good at managing my time when I taught kindergarten.  I was extremely effect and efficient working from a set schedule.  I followed my schedule tightly, and always covered all the material I needed to.  I kept those 5 year olds on a solid routine, and what we were able to accomplish in half a day was amazing! Then when I had my prep time, I had a list of routines I followed: every monday I did the newsletter, every friday I entered test scores, etc.  I got a lot done in a little amount of time and nothing was ever missed.

So I made a decision.  We need a schedule at home!  I know it sounds odd.  For some reason just because I'm home all day, I think we can just ebb and flow, and to be honest its not working.  Instead of time controlling me, I need to start controlling my time. So, on Friday we started a scheduled day! I put the important things in: time with Gabriel and I to play together.  We had book time, table time, and play time.  Then I scheduled a variety of activities for Gabriel, and things which I need to be doing as well.  I followed the clock, and changed activities often.  It was amazing how many things I got done: cleaned the house, did a load of laundry AND put it away, reviewed my finances, blogged, and did my homework 4 days ahead of time!  I wasn't stressed, or overwhelmed and had the most productive day I've had in months! But the best part of the day was the amount of quality time I spent with my son.  After all, I'm all he's got now, and he needs me.  Yes its time... time to stop reacting; time to stop letting life happen, and start making life happen!

Saturday, October 29, 2011

The Power of a Room

There is this room in my house...  For the past 11 months it has had tremendous power over me. When I walk past its open door, it always pulls a glance its way.  When I enter it, the reality of past hurts await me.  It is the room in which my husband died.

I wasn't home the night he died, and I didn't want to return home either, because he had died there.  But the fact is, I have my dream home.  Its my home, God gave it to me,  and I love it! Filled with the encouragement and support of my friends, I returned home after burying my husband.  And in a short amount of time I "got over" the fact that he died here... all except for that room.  The first time I entered it after he died, I literally spoke out loud to it.  "Room, you will not have any power over me!"  But despite my words, it did.  And it has for months.  I  got rid of all the furniture that was in there, because I thought it would help.  However, it only served to make it worse.  It became cold and sterile, like a crime scene: white walls, white carpet, no furniture, no drapes.

Last winter my best friend encouraged me, "you should do something wonderful with that room.  Make it your prayer room.  Give the devil a black eye."  I loved the idea, but resisted.  "I don't think I can be in that room, with my eyes closed...."  I told her.  It was due to the trauma I suffered at a young age which caused a fear of death. I dealt with that fear most of my life.  Although in recent years God set me free from it, I knew I couldn't possibly be comfortable in that room, not at night, not with my eyes closed.

But something amazing happened over the next few days.  As I was praying in my bedroom I had this desire to go in the room, and pray there.  So I decided to make it my prayer room.  I began praying in there last winter, and I would consistently spend my quiet time with God in there.  I loved the idea of taking what had been a symbol  of pain and a scar of my loss, and using it for something beautiful and purposeful.  All the while, there was still this uncomfortableness about it.

A few weeks ago I was starting to really struggle with grief, which I am sure is normal as I approach the one year anniversary.  As I would pray in there, my eyes would be drawn to the spot of the room where I envisioned him dying, and I'd be distracted by grief.

 I decided it was time to take this "crime scene" of a room, and physically turn it into my prayer room.  I bought some paint, a rug, and curtains.  I pulled some shelves from the basement, and went to work.  In the process of finishing this project something changed; there was a shift.  The room lost its power!  The very first morning I entered my prayer room, the joy of the Lord was waiting for me.  I had the most joyful, happy, peaceful time in prayer, that I've had in months.  I now glance down the hall, and instead of an eeriness, I'm hungry to pray.  The rooms calls to me, to come and be with my Jesus, to spend time with Him, morning, noon or night.

I absolutely love praying, worshipping, or reading my Bible in there.  It is no longer "the room", it's now truly my prayer room.  What has happened in that room no longer bothers me.  On the contrary, its very healing. There is something so beautiful about having intimate moments with my Maker, in the exact place where my husband experienced his most intimate of moments with Him- going home!  The room is a picture of my life.  God is taking something empty, barren and cold- a reflection of all my hurts and pains, and turning it into something utterly beautiful!

Friday, October 28, 2011

By Myself, but not Alone

I feel this pulling, this draw to just be alone.  I first recognized about a week ago, when I wasn't able to get a friend to accommodate me on my road trip for the half marathon.  And oddly enough I am completely okay with it.  I feel that God, for whatever reason is pulling me away from others, and to himself.  I feel this need to be alone. 

I am such a social person.  I love being in a room full of strangers, because I can openly talk to any of them.  So this call to be on my own is a big challenge.  I understand that God has a great purpose for it.  A few months ago, I felt him telling me, "the only voice I need in my head is God's."  And sometimes because of my social nature, I involve too many people, each with their own voice and opinion of what I need to do in my life.  And it causes me to be confused.  I mix a person's voice with direction I feel from God.  And sometimes I can't tell if its what God himself wants me to do, or what others think I should do.  But when its just me and God, I hear his voice so clearly.  I know what His directions are for me, and what He is telling me to do.  

I've been asking God, "why do you want me alone?  What is the purpose of pulling me away?"  Its amazing how when you take the time to ask such simple questions, He will answer. Last night as I'm sitting in a class at church, my pastor shared about the word "alone."  In the Hebrew, the Word for "alone,  can have two different meanings.  It can mean alone, as in lonely; or alone, as in one with God.  It was at that moment I realized, "God you are calling me to be one with you!"  

This is not the first time I have felt this overwhelming pull to Him in my widowhood.  I felt it about 6 months after the passing of my late husband.  Isaiah 54:4-5 spoke so strongly to me:  “ Do not fear, for you will not be ashamed; Neither be disgraced, for you will not be put to shame; For you will forget the shame of your youth,  And will not remember the reproach of your widowhood anymore. For your Maker is your husband, The LORD of hosts is His name; And your Redeemer is the Holy One of Israel; He is called the God of the whole earth".  From reflecting on these verses I came to understand that God was my husband.  It was just me and God.  Thats my life, thats my source.  Me and God, united.

I decided to get a tattoo to symbolize this season of my life: just me and God.  He's my husband.  He's all I need.    The tattoo for me was a marker, like the altar's God would have our forefathers make, to mark an event that happened so they wouldn't forget.  I didn't ever want to forget that God is my husband!  The best part was the next available appointment to get the tattoo done just so happened to be on my wedding anniversary!  How amazing is our God?  The exact day that I would have been upset, and discouraged, God gave me something beautiful to replace it.  Now my anniversary is with God!

Somewhere along the way, I've lost track of that focus: me and God.  Life gets busy.  Distractions arise.  We get focused on making our desires come to pass, instead of waiting for God to.  I believe this is why He's calling me back to Him again right now.   He has so much He wants to do in me.  And when I turn away from all distraction, and focus on Him, He is able to do that work, completely!  Today I chose to be
alone: One with God.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

The Beauty of Forgiveness

One of my "virtual" friends recently told me how amazed she was that I put together the memorial run for my late husband.  Knowing some of the poor choices he had made, and how they hurt me, she didn't think she would have been able to honor him in that way.  As I read it, I knew immediately why I was able to honor him, and show respect to a man who, because of his issues, dishonored me.  Its simple: forgiveness.

Forgiveness is a beautiful thing! It erases the hurt, and the pain.  It gives someone an emotional blank slate in your heart.  Forgiveness does not condone or agree with a person's decisions.  Forgiveness does not forget. I wish I could forget!  It would be easy to express forgiveness towards a person if you had no recollection of every wrong they had ever done.  But to remember, to know each and every hurt, and betrayal, and forgive anyway... now that's powerful!

Shortly after my late husband died, I was drawn to his grave site.  I had no idea why I was there.  I know his spirit is in heaven, and therefore all that remains is an empty shell of what was my husband.  So I stood at his grave, asking out loud "why am I here?"  And then it came, flooded with tears... "I forgive you Jonathan."  What... what did I just say?  I thought I had forgiven him.  Apparently there were more layers to forgive.  Forgiveness is continual.  You can forgive a person one time for one action, but repeated offenses require repeated forgiveness.  So I cried for a while, next to the barren pile of dirt which embraced my husband's body.  "I forgive you.  I forgive you."

I've been stirring on this topic for a few days now, and wouldn't you know it, today an old wound reopened.  I was reminded in a very real way of how my husband had dishonored me to his employees at work.  And even though he's been gone almost a year, and I have developed my own relationship with these employees, it still hurt.  I felt fresh blood, out of an old scab, one I thought had been healed.  I felt the new disappointment of just wanting him to adore me, to make me his world.  I questioned his love for me,  even though I have two letters he wrote me during the month before he died which reveal to me that love.  I felt embarrassed.  Most of all, I hurt.  And when that emotional sting arrises, so does the need to forgive.

Yes as I sit here writing about how wonderful it is to have forgiven this man who inadvertently brought so much pain, hurt, and struggle into my life, I find myself in need of forgiving him... again!  And who am I to presume this would be the last time?  During the course of my healing, perhaps even my life, I may find myself standing, kneeling, or sitting graveside, tears streaming down my face as I say, "I forgive you Jonathan.  I forgive you."

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Not Until You Have Run that Path

It's amazing how flat a path looks, until you run it!  I look for new running paths all the time while I'm driving and recently decided to try a new one.  It looked flat, which was very appealing for the last leg of my route.  So I tried it, and what appeared to be easy and flat from the comfort of my car, was actually a very long and subtle incline.  I thought I had picked the easy route but ended up with a giant, never ending hill.  Its all about perspective. Let me just add that I was also pushing my 30 pound son in a stroller with the wind blowing against me the whole time.  What a great work out it turned out to be, but it wasn't at all what I expected.

How often have we in life made judgements on someone or something, from our comfortable and slightly removed positions?  We assume someone is making the wrong choice.  Or we don't understand why they are struggling because what they are doing appears to be so easy.  But it isn't until we park our car, strap on our running shoes, and run their path that we can truly understand.  We judge the woman as weak who reconciles with her cheating husband; or if she leaves we criticize her for not giving God the opportunity to heal.  We call a single mother a bad parent when she gives in to her child in the grocery store.  To those with substance abuse issues we question why they just don't stop; after all can't they see they are destroying their life?  And God forbid someone file for a divorce... we question how they could do such a horrible thing to their children.

Perhaps you haven't run any of those paths.  Thank God!  Literally, thank God that you haven't felt the pain, the hurt, and the wind blowing against you.  But I have!  And I encountered some serious judgement from other Christians: leadership, friends, and family.  While many of them didn't ever say their disapproval of my choices, they didn't need to.  Here I was running up this long and steady incline, wind blowing against me, pushing a stroller after running 4 miles already, and from the SUV, driving on cruise control, on the road I hear: "Run faster!  Can't you see how easy and flat it is?"  It doesn't make sense does it?

So I challenge you today.  Before you assume to know what you would do in a situation, before you judge a fellow Christian's decisions, stop! Pray for them.  Likely there is something you don't see.  I couldn't see that incline from the road- but it was there! And it wasn't until I ran that path that I understood.

With the path's I've run in life,  I've experienced more than one woman should ever have to.  But I find hope in this: I can strap on my shoes, and run along side a sister in Christ.  I can be her listening ear.  I can give her encouragement, because I know how hard the hill is she is climbing. I'm excited to see God open doors for me to share my story in an even greater and more personal way.  Why?  Because if life has happened to you, and you find yourself pushing up that hill, I want to be there and run it with you!

Monday, October 24, 2011

Memorial Run

Jonathan doing what he loved!
The business.  That was my late husband's passion, his purpose, his life.  He started the business in 1995 and it has continued to grow each year since.  He was the heart and soul of that company.  Now he's gone, but the business goes on.  And I want to keep his memory alive in that place.  Those who knew him and worked with him probably see him in every corner of the office, hear his voice when they work, and miss him like crazy.  But with the amount of turnover we have in entry level positions, many of the staff never knew him.  So yesterday we started a new annual company event- "Run for the Boss".  It is our memorial run in Jonathan's honor.

We joined a local 5K race, and as a team honored the "boss".  We had teach shirts made that said "run for the boss" on the front and on the back said "In memory of Jon 11-24-10".  We had prizes and awards.  I set a "bounty" on myself as the boss- and gave special prizes for anyone who beats me.  I am thrilled to say that we had almost 100% participation with staff, plus wives and children joining.  We had 14 runners total! 

Staff and family ready to run the 5k!
Not only was this event a great team building experience, but we were able to make an impact in our community at several different levels.On top of supporting the good cause set forth by the race (feeding the hungry in our local community), we donated money to Teen Challenge in Jonathan's memory. Teen Challenge is an outstanding Christian residential 12 month rehab, for people of all ages who are struggling with addictions.  It is now our company charity.   It is a way that we can help others overcome the sickness that took away someone whom we all loved and admired!

I created the memorial run to honor Jonathan, but I wasn't anticipating all the benefits that came from it.  Several employees have been challenging each other for weeks over who would win.  Another employee started working out. As a company there has been general enthusiasm.  And when we got together at the park to start the race, everyone was excited.  We had wives, and daughters joining us.  We enjoyed reliving the race, sharing the funny parts, and recapping who we each beat. 

After the run, we celebrated with a pizza dinner at a local restaurant.  Prizes were given out, and stories were shared about Jonathan. I was honored to see my team members gathered together of their own free will for a good cause. I know that today we made a difference.  We touched lives we will never meet, effected destinies we will never encounter, and shared a moment of victory together!

Sunday, October 23, 2011

I have to do this!

In two weeks I will run my first half marathon!  I know, I'm half crazy...  before July I had never run! Well, that is if you don't count the one season of track in the 9th grade, which I hated. But now I am a runner. I started running last July and I love it! I love beating down the path, with nothing but me, the wind, the view, my iPod and God. So when I was invited to run a half marathon in November, out of state with some famous business associates, I was really tempted.  Then I thought about it... November... the month my husband died.  Wow! What an amazing accomplishment it would be for me, after such a difficult and tragic time in my life.  I have to do this!

Why am I running a half marathon?  Because I can control it.  Its about me.  I push my body. I set my goals. I achieve them. The last few years of my life were totally dependent on someone else.  My husband's weaknesses and strengths set the tone and pace of our life.  I never knew what would happen, or when the bottom would fall out.  I could do everything to prepare, but in reality I wasn't in control.  I was left responding to situations, and cleaning up messes.  Running isn't reliant on anyone else.  And training for and completing a half marathon depends on one person: me.  I can depend on my self! I determine what I want to do, and work hard to make it happen.

Why am I running a half marathon? Because not everyone does it!  13.1 miles of running is not easy. Only .17% of the United States population ran a half marathon last year.  It is difficult. It is hard. And you have to be strong to do it!  Looking back at the last few years of my life, it was difficult, it was hard. And I when I crossed the finish line I didn't get a medal, or a t-shirt. I had hurt, pain, and disappointment. Like running a half marathon, not many have lived through all the things I have.  So running this half marathon is symbolic of what I have gone through, but its the positive counterpart.  It will be difficult.  It will be hard.  It will be my choice, and it's making me stronger!

Why am I running a half marathon?  Because its something positive for me to focus on as I approach the one year anniversary of my late husband's death.  Its amazing how our bodies and memories automatically remember.  This time of year, October and November, were very difficult last year.  They were hurtful, they were painful.  I witnessed the man I loved self-destructing.  And without a  focus, I would be reliving every day, every thought, every event. Instead of focusing on the negative, I'm running.  I'm running about 20 miles a week.  I'm meeting new benchmarks, and feeling  accomplished.  By training, I'm keeping myself emotionally and physically well.  I'm going into this challenging season focused on something positive, that makes me feel good, instead of hurt; healthy instead of heart sick; confident instead of insecure; and a victor instead of a victim.

Why am I running a half marathon?  Because as I say, "I buried a husband, I can do this!" Its a challenge.  Its a sign of my strength.  Its a sign of my survival.  Its a sign of my independence.  Its a sign that I'm okay; I can't be kept down.  I'm a young woman who can put her mind to something and accomplish it!

Why am I running a half marathon?  Because life has dumped on me.  Life has thrown at me the worst that it has to offer.  And now by running 13.1 miles I tell life "take that! You've tried to take me out, but I came back stronger! I'm not moved by what bring my way! I make my own destiny!"

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Free from the Power of Death

"Higher than the mountains that I face. Stronger than the power of the grave."  
One Thing Remains, Jesus Culture

This is just one of the many worship songs we sing at church that mention how Jesus freed us from the power of death.  The writers are referring to his removing eternal death from us, and giving us eternal life.  I have a completely different understanding of it when I sing these songs at church.  After having walked through losing someone so close to you- and I have lost 3 within 2 years: dad, husband, sister. There is a power that death holds on you.  Its not my personal death awaiting me that I refer to.  Its the grief, the sadness, the way death devastated life as I knew it.  Life was one way, the death happened, and now it is completely different. Life will never be able to return to its previous state, because death is permanent.  It has a life altering power over you.  It causes you to cry at random times. Brings a sadness over you that no one can penetrate.  It brings guilt, regrets, and "if I'd only...".

But Jesus broke the power of death!  "Since the children have flesh and blood, he too shared in their humanity so that by his death he might break the power of him who holds the power of death—that is, the devil."  (Hebrews 2:14) He has authority over death and gave it to me!  I no longer am subject to the effects that death has on those left behind.  "The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full" (John 10:10).  Death comes with a purpose- to destroy.  And in a lot of ways death of a spouse destroys our lives.  But Jesus said He came to give us a full life! No, I will not be destroyed. I will not give death power over me. I am subject to the abundant life Jesus promised! I can walk in joy.  I can have peace.  Yes life is different, it will never be the same. But God promises to take us from glory to glory.  So the next chapter of my life, when it arrives is going to be amazing- he says so.   "But as it is written: 'Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, Nor have entered into the heart of man the things which God has prepared for those who love Him.' But God has revealed them to us through His Spirit. For the Spirit searches all things, yes, the deep things of God" (1 Cor 2:9-10).

"In death, in life, I'm confident and covered by the power of your great love!"

When I sing these words I praise God for the progress I've made, the good that he has brought out of a horrible situation, the peace I feel, the strength I've gained, the way I have learned to live on my own, the new blessings I enjoy that I wouldn't have ever experienced had I not walked this path.  Death has no power over me! Through Jesus I have the upper hand over it. I chose to let God make a miracle out of me!

Monday, October 17, 2011

God's Got My Back!

But you will not leave in haste or go in flight; 

for the LORD will go before you, the God of Israel will be your rear guard.    
- Isaiah 52:12

I've just encountered another one of those situations... one where God once again He came to my rescue.  One of the characteristics of God is that He is omniscient- He is all knowing.  I am so grateful for that.  Because when I am short sighted, he sees 20/20. Imagine trying to navigate through the woods from ground level- what we see, hear and know to be truth are so limited.  But God sees it all.  Its as if he's flying up above in a helicopter seeing everything- what we see and what we don't.  And because He loves us so much, He will radio down from his helicopter from time to time giving us direction to avoid pits and obstacles up ahead that we can't see.   Today I am grateful that the Heavenly dispatcher saved me from another disaster.  God had my back!

In the past year He has done this several times.  I wrote yesterday, in the post "Closure", about the stand I needed to take with my husband last fall.  It was totally led by God.  God knew information I didn't, and by being sensitive to His voice, I heard and obeyed.  Now God didn't tell me exactly what was going on.  He only gave me direction: "Its time to take a stand."  And I obeyed.  I knew that God had my back and even though it didn't make perfect sense to my limited mind to make a stand at that time, if God was leading me, He must know something I didn't.  Its an act of faith to obey His leading, without having all the information, just trusting. It wasn't until after my husband passed away that God revealed to me the whole picture.  By being obedient He protected my health, my security, and my emotional well being.

Then there was the time God saved me through dreams.  I had a dream that someone came into my home and was seriously hurting me. I questioned if it was a warning because I knew that God had my back. I asked God to make it very clear to me if it was a warning, because I couldn't fathom this being a reality.  Within a week He gave the dream to two other people: a very close friend, and a casual acquaintance at work.  He opened the doors for these people to share the dreams with me.  One friend said in her dream I wasn't getting out of the house alive.  While I didn't have all the information, I knew enough to recognize the exact situation in which this dream could become a reality.  Again I responded to God's leading, better safe than sorry, especially when it comes to my life.  I avoided my home on the nights where the situation matched the one in the dreams.  Within two days this threat was illuminated and I was able to return home. I didn't realize in the moment the reality of this threat, but afterwords it was clear. It was very probable to have happened.  I know that God spared my life by warning me.  And once again I am in awe that I not only recognized his leading but I also was obedient! I could have died, but God had my back! 

And then the situation I just faced this week.  I have learned that if something isn't as it seems that God is going to reveal it to me.  I've learned to listen to those warnings, and the still small voice.  Through a series of "coincidences" (God-incidences) I became aware of a pit I was about to walk into.  This pit would have caused me and some others much harm.  And even though I am frustrated, discouraged and even a bit angry, I have walked in so much joy today.  Why?  Because God had my back!  It pays to know Him.  It pays to know His voice.  It pays to obey Him!

Sunday, October 16, 2011


Imagine you and your husband have this huge fight.  In this fight you pull away from them, and don't say the things you want to.  You give them a cold shoulder, instead of a hug.  This fight is different from all others, instead of reconciling quickly, you hold your ground, and the fight lasts for a few days.  Can you relate?  Now imagine in the midst of that fight your husband suddenly dies.  Its so hard to imagine, it seems incomprehensible.  Its something we never ever would want to happen.  But it happened to me.

Last October I had some difficult decisions to make.  I'm going to be fairly vague, because I want to honor my late husband, his memory, and our children.  My husband had some very serious personal struggles which had consumed him for a few years.  I stood by him.  I supported him.  I prayed.  We went through all types of counseling.  And it all helped, but it didn't help enough.  Nothing short of the power of God coming into his life could set him free from the bondages he faced.  And unfortunately it was those bondages that made it difficult for my late husband to receive that healing and freedom from God.

I believed in him, more than he did himself.  And the point came when I realized he needed to believe in himself.  No matter how hard I tried I couldn't save Him.  No one could.  So under God's leading I took a stand.  I took a stand for my children.  I took a stand for my life.  And I took a stand for God.  It was a difficult season, one of the hardest things I've ever done.  And to my disappointment, he chose to fall farther into his issues, ultimately leading to his death on November 24, 2010.  In the most unsettled time of our relationship, he died.

I learned a very valuable lesson in that time of taking a stand: I'm responsible for my own actions and decisions, I am not responsible for how someone else responds to them.  I know that I did what was best for my family, and I had the blessing of God.  I never wanted my husband to respond the way he did.  And I wish things had played out different.  But the fact is it did happen. The good news is that he had a personal relationship with Jesus. He is in heaven!  And he is finally free from the bondages which held him back so greatly here on earth.  And we are free too!

But in the midst of this new life of freedom, there is a constant longing in my heart... closure.  I loved Jonathan.  I loved him deeply.  I loved him in a way many couldn't understand.  I loved him with the love of God.  And he died, right in the middle of a "fight".  How do you deal with that? How do you grieve the loss of someone who you still love as a husband, even when you weren't united?

Some people think because of the situation we were in, and all the struggles we faced, that this loss would be easier.  Death of a spouse is never easy, regardless of the circumstance!  There are so many things I want to say to him.  So much I want him to know.  And I can only hope that God reveals it to him in Heaven.  Someone once asked me what I would say to my husband if I could see him again.  Here is my answer: "I love you!"  More than anything I want him to know that I really did love him!  The stand I was taking was not one I wanted to take, but I had to.  And somehow in that I think he questioned my love.  But the stand was a stand of love.  Because I loved him, I did it.

I wish I could have one more day with him, so that I could tie up these lose ends.  But I can't.  So I trust God to bring closure that only He can.  And I see Him doing it in subtle ways.  I see closure in the tears I cry at the altar.  I see closure when I enjoy the freedom we now walk in, compared to the struggles we had.  I see closure every time I accomplish something for the business.  I see closure as I become increasingly more confident and independent.  I see closure each time God removes pain from a negative stimulus in my life.  I see closure as I discover myself again. And I see closure as I write this blog.

I believe that God will continue to bring closure, more and more as the anniversary approaches.  I have a wonderful future ahead of me, and perhaps that future is another level of closure as well.

Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil; For You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.  Psalm 23:4-5

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Learning to Walk Again

The most difficult point in my distance runs is when I've hit my targeted distance, and I stop running.  It is uncomfortable, awkward and slightly painful.  My legs become so accustomed to running, the repetitive motion of it, that they want to continue.  They could go on and on for miles.  Yet I've reached the end of my run, and I force them to slow down, and change their movement.   My legs don't  like it at all.  You'd think after all the exertion they've put out they would be content and give in to the easier exercise.  But that is not the case.  They fight it; they resist it.  In this moment walking feels very foreign, and it takes a tremendous amount of energy to just maintain a normal step.  After a short while though, my legs have adjusted and walking becomes the new norm.  My legs are comfortable because my muscles have adjusted.  I could walk on forever.

This is life.  You are running along, pursuing life, enjoying the view, and achieving goals.   You're trudging along just fine; everything feels normal and comfortable.  All your muscles and bones are working in harmony, towards a common purpose. Then all of a sudden life stops.  When tragedy occurs you stop running.  In that moment everything changes.  Perhaps its the loss of a spouse, or even a loved one.  Maybe its a job loss, marital struggles, or another significant strain on your life.  Its that moment when you transition from running to walking.  And its awkward.  It hurts.  It doesn't feel right or natural in any way.  The everyday task of walking now is a strain. It requires effort: more energy and thought than it ever did before.

When my husband died it changed my life in more ways than I could ever imagine.  I distinctly remember in the days following his death not being able to find my car in the parking lot, twice in one day.  This was not normal for me. I have a great sense of direction.  But as I walked out of the store I was frozen.  I couldn't even remember which side of the lot I had parked on.  I was in a fog.  A normal everyday activity was suddenly strange and awkward.  Another odd thing I noticed was I would lose my train of thought, right in the middle of a story or a point.  The thought would vanish and I would have absolutely no idea what I was talking about or where I was headed.  Again another seemingly simple task became difficult to complete.

I had to force myself to walk in many areas of my life.  The things which were simple, easy and part of every day life now became a task which required effort.  It took thought and discipline to make my legs move in such a way as to walk, not run as before.  And as the time passed it became much more comfortable.  I adjusted to the new movements of my life: being home alone, running a business, putting my son to bed by myself, and being on my own.  I am now realizing that I am walking again, and it is no longer awkward.  In fact its starting to feel normal.  As if I'd always walked like this, and could continue walking on like this for miles.

I know that some day I will again run! But until that day comes, I am taking each step as it comes.  Enjoying the sights and sounds on the path along the way.  My head is held high, and I'm looking expectantly towards my future!

Tuesday, October 11, 2011


January 26, 2009 was the day that my world came crashing down.  Everything in my life changed in one instant.  And that day began an uncontrollable roller coaster ride which was my life.  That roller coaster continued up to last fall and included losing my husband.  Life was so much more than I could ever bear on my own, and to be honest, I'm amazed that I made it through as well as I did.  People have told me time and time again that I'm such a strong woman.  And every time I hear it, it sounds so awkward.  I'm not strong.  But the God I serve, the one I trust in, He IS!

"You're there in my brokenness and my distress.  My rock when I'm strong or when I'm powerless.  You hold me in rushing tides, when waters rise. And I'll always find you are my lifeline!"

This is a quote from Lifeline, a song by Mandisa.  I hear it often on my iPod when I'm running.  I've found myself so able to relate to it lately.  God truly has been my lifeline.  He alone is the reason why I am still even standing after the numerous tragedies I have walked through.  He is the reason I can say I have joy and peace in one of the most challenging times of my life.  When my world came crashing down on me- He was my lifeline!

Because of the industry in which I work, I have a very real understanding of what a lifeline is.  Our business requires access to the outside of buildings to complete building maintenance.  Some buildings are reachable by ladders, but anything over 3 stories, we have to access using a rope descent system.  In simple terms a rope descent system is a chair (or a glorified piece of wood with a slight cushion), a descent controls device and ropes.  The men climb off the roof of the building, and repel down the side using their ropes. They are able to do descend buildings up to 300 feet (30 stories) tall.   To do this safely, they descend down the building with 2 ropes: their main line and their safety line.  Their main line is used to manipulate the speed at which they descend.  It is their active line in which they are in full control.  Their safety line however is only there for emergencies.  It is a lifeline.  If anything happens to the mainline, the lifeline is there to save them from falling down and crashing into the street below.  It is their rescue, the way in which they are able to survive a very dangerous and difficult situation. 

Last spring I was able to participate in our company rope descent training.   It is a very intimidating experience to step off the roof of a 4 story building, with nothing but ropes holding you up.  You place a lot of trust on those ropes, and especially the lifeline.  You are literally placing your life in the integrity of the ropes.  To help the men feel more confident in trusting the ropes- specifically the lifeline, we performed a rescue exercise.  About one story from the ground, we cut the main line.  When we did, the lifeline stepped in, stopped their fall and saved their life.  After doing this exercise the men felt completely safe in descending any height of building because they knew no matter what situation they may face, the lifeline will activate when its needed, keeping their life safe and protected.

God is our lifeline.  When we are descending down the building of life, and something unexpected happens to our main line, He is there.  He jumps in at the right time, and catches us.  He stops us from descending uncontrollably, and crashing into the sidewalk below.  He saves us!  Even though we don't always see or feel the lifeline, just knowing He's there gives us confidence to live life, and take risks. The times in the past, when our lifeline kicked in, only serves to increase our confidence in Him.  He's faithful.  He's never failed us.  He is our lifeline!

"You are my lifeline.  You are my rescue.
Strength in my weakness.  Light in my darkness.
You are my safety.  Lifter of my head.
The air that I need when
I can't seem to breathe in.
You are my lifeline.  You are my lifeline."
-Mandisa, Lifeline

Listen to the full song on the link below:

Friday, October 7, 2011

Circle of Friends

One of the things I have noticed during the past 10 months as a widow is how dramatically my circle of friends has changed.  It amazing that people I have been close with for years, have drifted out of my life and God has introduced new ones.  It seems like the worst possible time to have such a drastic change occur in my support group, but it also makes perfect sense.  As a widow I am walking through one of the most dreaded and difficult obstacles of life.  Its intense, its difficult, its emotional.  It changes who you are, and how you live life.  The truth is not everyone can handle what I have walked through and who I am right now.  And that's okay.  

God is a God of seasons.  Not everything he brings in our life is permanent.  We would like to think that the friends that come in our life are like a stable building, a permanent fixture in our neighborhood: the high school, the post office, the historical site.  It has always been there and always will be.  The reality, however, is that our life is more like the shopping plaza on the corner.  While a few of the big stores are constant: the Jet's Pizza, and the Kroger, the majority of the stores are continually changing: the restaurant changes every few years, and the salon every 6 months or so.  By bringing changes to our circle of friends, God has the ability to bring people in our life who best fit where we are at that specific moment.  The demands I unintentionally place on my friends as a widow is quite different than what was needed from my friends when I was married.  

In talking to other widow's, it seems common that the majority of your married friends are the first to drift away.  They pack up their boxes, and relocate their store, leaving a vacancy in the shopping mall.  But its very temporary.  Before you even hang up the "For Lease" sign, God has sent a new tenant.  And should it be any surprise that this new friend is single-again too? Yes she also has been through the odd transition of being married and all of a sudden being single with children.  When you share your desires for marriage again, she understands.  She gives you guidance on how to live this single life with contentment.  And when you are frustrated beyond belief at the challenges of single mother hood, she takes your hand without judgement, and says "I know its hard.  I'm praying for you."  

A few of the stores in my shopping center haven't changed.  My "grocery store" is a friend who when we were married, our families were very close.  Our husbands were best friends, and so were we.  She was widowed a year before I was, and since we are both walking this walk at the same time our relationship has become even tighter- if that is imaginable.  Its as if the death of our husbands caused her to sign a 10 year lease in my shopping center.  She understands me more than anyone else, even sometimes better than I do myself.  During the funeral weekend she flew into town and was my advocate.  She had my back, and taught me that the funeral was about me and my family.  Do whatever I need to do to say Goodbye.  I needed that then.  And I still need her now.

I have also had several amazing friends leave my personal shopping center; its healthy and natural. I still love these friends, and while we have not ended our friendship, we are much more distant than before. I trust God in that.  And their departure has left several openings in my life for new friends.  Of course it is no surprise that these new friends are my age and also single.  They both were married to their high school sweethearts, and just recently became single.  They understand the frustrations of single-parenting.  They also feel out of touch when it comes to dating: How do you meet a nice guy at our age? Oh and what's the deal with texting a guy?!?  We often connect late at night after our kids are asleep- and share odd stories that no one else seems to relate to.  These women, and a few other friends have been a strength to me, a support, and part of my healing process.  I'm grateful that God loves me enough to make my life a revolving door.  Letting friends come and go in the right season; the timing in which we are most beneficial to each other's lives.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Sprinting a Marathon

Have you ever set out to do something and then realize that the intensity and pace at which you are moving there is no way you will ever keep going?  That's been my life, at least the last 10 months since being a widow, single mom, and every other hat I have been thrown into wearing.  I didn't choose this life, this path, or this road, but I here I am.  And its not a 5K, its a marathon! Its long, its intense, its hard.  I find myself asking, "is this ever gonna end?"  I have moments of endurance, and moments of overwhelming desire to quit and walk away.  I already have the t-shirt from when I check in, do I really need the medal from the finish line?

As I was running today I learned a valuable life lesson; one that I hope will help me to avoid future earthquakes, and gave me a much greater understanding of myself and the process my soul is in as it heals from tragedy.  I've been running now for over 3 months, and I'm making amazing progress.  Starting at just 1 mile, I am now up to 5 miles for long runs, and 4 miles (pushing the stroller) for short runs.  Today was a scheduled easy day: 2 miles.  Piece of cake! 2 miles with the stroller is nothing compared to the distance runs I've grown accustomed to.  So I made a very well intentioned, seemingly wise decision: push myself hard on this 2 mile run!  I was not going to run the 14-15 mile pace I have been on stroller and long runs.  I am stronger than before, I've done much harder things, and I am ready! So I ran at under just under a 12 minute pace- with the stroller.  [Note: for you non-runners that means I'm running 1 mile in just under 12 minutes.]

I started off with gusto! And by .5 miles, I knew I was in trouble.  The pace was hard, strenuous, and I was already winded.  It became obvious I was not going to make it to the 2 mile mark at this pace.  Immediately I adjusted my goal- push hard to the 1 mile mark.  I'm pleased to say I did this, but I was beat. I was winded.  My legs felt like lead.  I walked for almost .2 of a mile just to recover.  When it became time to run again, my energy was spent.  I wasn't looking forward to running, and it felt physically difficult to run.  Even though I lowered my pace to around 13 minutes, I didn't have the stamina to finish the second mile.  Even with another walk break, it took everything in me to finish.

Now 2 days ago I ran 4 miles, pushing the stroller. I felt great, I could speak comfortably and could have run further.  I enjoyed that run, and felt accomplished when I was done.  But today- not so.  I did not enjoy this run.  I found it very difficult and I regretted how I approached it.  When I was done I felt beat up, sore, and a little defeated.  What happened?  I became over confident.  I felt I was ready to handle something I was not.  I pushed myself beyond my limits.  I was unrealistic in my expectations and goals.

This is a picture of my life.  I have made so much progress in my emotional healing, in adjusting to my new life, and conquering the new demands placed on me- that I go ahead and push myself just a little bit further.  And I find myself sprinting the marathon!  I have to stop running, and walk to regain my strength.  I feel defeated and weak.  My soul hurts from the extra push it has been exposed to.  And when I do gather my strength to get back up and run- its just a little further down the path that I find myself walking again.  Why? I've exerted all my emotional strength in the first mile, and have little to nothing left to finish the race.

Another life lesson learned on the trail.  As I was pushing myself to finish that last half mile run, I knew this was what I had been doing in my personal life.  Sometimes it happens intentionally, I truly think that I am ready to take on more, and then when I do I find myself out of breath and struggling just to catch it.  At other times its accidental.  I don't even realize that I've pushed myself beyond my capacity... until I can't run any further.  I stop and walk and realize what I have done.  Maybe the pace was adjusted by adding meaningful activities to my schedule, attending extra church meetings, or adding social opportunities.  It may even be necessities: working extra days, or parenting.  Other people, often well meaning, can set expectations on me that bump up the speed at which I am running.  But whatever the cause, it has pushed me to run at a pace I can't possibly maintain.  Not now. Not at this point in my training.

Being on this marathon, I've learned to watch, to be diligent, and learn to say "no."  Several months into it I felt God closing a lot of doors.  He took me out of every activity I was involved in.  He knew I had 26 miles to run, and if I kept running at the pace I was, I was going to keel over on the sidelines along the way.  I've found I have to stand up and defend my pace from time to time.  People put expectations on me that I can't possibly fulfill.  They are well intentioned but they don't understand the balance of running the "widow's marathon".   Its easy to talk and sing while walking down the street.  But while running a marathon those simple everyday tasks are much more difficult.   And they effect if I cross the finish line or not.  I try to use my life like a runner uses a running watch.  The watch tells me how far I've run, the pace I'm running at, and my heart rate.  As long as I take time to look at the watch, I will know all the information and can make the right decision.  By knowing my pace, and how far I have left to run, I can adjust myself accordingly.  I am determined to finish this race. And to finish it steady and strong!

Sunday, October 2, 2011


There is something so unique that happens to us when we walk through a tragedy, whether it be losing a spouse, a child or a parent at a young age.  Unless you have walked through it, you will not understand.  And if you haven't, although you can't personally relate, my hope is that by reading this you will be able to understand what has happened and extend a tremendous amount of compassion and grace to those that have survived a tragedy.  I call it the earthquake.

You are walking through life.  Your feeling good.  You may even been feeling the healing that has been happening.  You recognize that you are solid, you are stable, everything is going smooth.  You are starting to recover and live again.  Then it happens.  The earthquake. One small little nudge in the foundations of you life, and everything reacts.  You feel the earth shaking underneath you, the china is clattering, and books are falling off the shelves!  Sometimes you aren't even able to pinpoint the epicenter of the quake, what caused it, and which fault line was activated.

Just like an earthquake comes suddenly and without warning, so does this emotional earthquake.  Sometimes its a little thing, such as the house being out of order, or a bill you overlooked.  Othertimes its something much larger than that, the loss of a friendship, or stress from work.  But just the same this one  event seems to shake the foundation of your life.  And in the midst of it nothing is working right.  It effects every part of your life, especially your emotional capacity.

In the midst of my earthquakes, regardless of the source, I have this extreme overwhelming feeling.  I'm overwhelmed by the trigger, and everything else.  Walking past a small mess in my house feels like a mountain, one more thing I can't deal with.  And its at these moments that I get extremely impatient with my son.  I cry at the drop of a hat, and generally feel like I can't handle my life.  But in reality I am handling life, I'm handling it very well on a day to day basis- I've just experienced a small earthquake.  The tremor only lasted for 30 seconds or so.  Yet it takes much more time to pick up the broken china, and put the books back on the shelf.

I'm learning to sense its coming.  And in these moments I have learned to seek safety! Run to a door jam, and get safe.  Get away from the source of the quake, and remove myself from any of those objects which come flying off the shelves and agitate me.  If it means leaving a room, or leaving work.  If I have to arrange a babysitter for my son, or let him watch another movie, I will.  I may not be able to stop the quake from happening but I can limit the casualties.

I wish I could say how long we widows are subject to these earthquakes, but I 'm still walking it out and developing an understanding.  What I can say is that it has been 10 months, and they still happen.  They are fewer and far between, they don't last as long and I am beginning to learn to recognize the signals as they approach.

Whether its you or a survivor you know who experiences these earthquakes let me encourage you with this: it is normal! Recognize it for what it is- an overload response of your soul.  And give yourself (or them) the time, space and resources to deal with it.  Grief is not an excuse.  Its a reality.  Its my reality.  And the more I recognize and allow myself to go through the process, the more healed I become!