Anticipation

Posted: February 26, 2015 in Uncategorized
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anticipation

There are two kinds of people on this planet: those who live by a clock and those who are late.

An over simplification perhaps, but generally speaking, people fall into one of two categories: the “on time is early” crew and the “chronically tardy” crew.

It’s probably no surprise in which category I land. I was born with an internal clock that is almost audible. I despise being late. On time means five minutes early, and if you arrive just on time, you’re actually late. In fact, few things can cause me more anxiety than thinking I’m going to be late. So to compensate, I over communicate the fact to whomever I’m meeting. Thirty minutes prior, I’m texting them telling them I may be five minutes late….and then I still end up beating them to the destination!

Thankfully, Patrick and I were on the same side of the clock world, so it made for a happy marriage.

Digging down deeper into the clock awareness world, in order to be on time, you are always thinking about the next thing. It’s like living with a constant level of anticipation.

Whether the next thing is something fun like a vacation or not so fun like a work deadline, I am always thinking about what’s next and how I must prepare for it. In order to avoid last minute pressure, I have my list of what to do, organizing my weekly schedule so I can squeeze in each thing…to be ready…for whatever the next thing is.

For most of my life, there have been exciting events to look forward to, most of which were related to sharing life with my husband and watching my family grow. It’s just human nature that regardless of our stage in life, we all look forward to the next thing, whether it’s the weekend, a special trip or a child’s next milestone.

Now that my kids are away at college (where I want them to be) and my husband is with the Lord (where I am thankful he is well) I find myself in uncharted territory. I am walking a twisted path, humanly alone. 26 months into it, the intense darkness has lifted somewhat, leaving a fog where I can see a just a few steps in front of me. I have no fear for the future, but I have no hopes or dreams either.

Perhaps this is the way most people live their lives. I’m not sure. Maybe my life with Patrick was just extra special. That’s why his loss is so hard because I miss the companionship and joy to of sharing life with my partner.

As I continue to be silent, still and wait for the Lord, I wonder, can I live like this…with nothing exciting to look forward to? I know there will be special life moments down the road, especially if/when my kids get married and have children. But those events are seemingly in the distance.

Right now it just feels like I’m the energizer bunny…I keep going and going and going; All the while carrying a weight of sadness in everything I do.

Then I speak truth into my thoughts. I can live like this, I will and I must. All with God’s grace, comfort, and strength. This broken path is the one He has designed for me. He is with me and He will carry me until I have completed all He has called me to do. He’s not asking anything of me that He hasn’t already done.

Focusing only on the here and now is shortsighted and selfish. I can choose where to put my focus. I must be proactive in changing my thoughts back to Scripture when they naturally stray.

So instead focusing on any joy or satisfaction this world can bring, my concentration needs to be on God’s Kingdom and eternity. There is a wealth of Scripture that I need to repeat to myself often:

  • Psalm 73:25 & 26 Earth has nothing I desire besides the Lord. My heart will fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.
  • Psalm 84:11 God is a sun and shield; No good thing will he withhold from those whose walk is blameless.
  • Isaiah 26:3 God will keep me in perfect peace if I trust and keep my eyes on Him.
  • Isaiah 40:29-31 God is everlasting. If I hope in Him, my strength will be renewed and I will not grow weary.
  • Jeremiah 29:11 God’s plans for me are for my good and His glory.
  • Lamentations 3:22-24 The Lord’s mercies are new every day. He is faithful and He is my portion to help me with whatever I need to accomplish that day.
  • II Corinthians 4:17 Our earthly troubles pale in comparison with what awaits us in Heaven.
  • Philippians 1:6 God began a good work in me and will be faithful to complete it. He’s not done with me yet.
  • Philippians 4:8 Think only on things that are true and in line with Scripture.
  • Hebrews 10:35 & 36 I need to endure with confidence and that will bring great reward. His coming is sooner than I think.
  • Hebrews 11:1 Faith is firmly believing what I can’t see. I know that this world is not all there is.
  • Hebrews 12:1 I need to fix my eyes on Jesus, who already walked this path. He started, finished and endured the cross for my sake.
  • I Peter 1:7 Trials test the genuineness of our faith and it will result in the praise, glory and honor to Jesus Christ.
  • I Peter 4:19 Let those who suffer according to God’s will entrust their souls to our faithful creator and continue to do good.
  • 2 Peter 1:3 His divine power has given me all that I need to live a godly life on this earth.
  • Revelation 21:4 God will wipe away all our tears in Heaven.

Even if this earth never brings me anything as great as my life with Patrick was, there is something far greater in my eternal future; Something that will make all the tears, suffering and loneliness worth it. And that something is based on Someone…Jesus Christ.

Talk about anticipation!

(I’ve always been a Jeremy Camp fan and his newest album did not disappoint. This is one of my favorites.)

Jehovah Jireh

Posted: December 26, 2014 in Uncategorized
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Throughout the past two years since Patrick left this earth for his Heavenly home, I have seen God provide in amazing ways. Actually, LOOONNG before Patrick was sick, we lived our lives being aware and thankful for God’s faithfulness. Numerous times and in various ways through the years, God has directed, protected and provided for the McGoldrick family. From the small to the large, God’s people have been graciously giving to us over the years.

Now magnify it times a thousand and that’s how I’ve watched God’s goodness unfold over the past three years.

2012 – The year of ALS. Patrick was diagnosed, declined rapidly and died within a 12-month period. That year is a whirlwind in my mind. It felt like an out-of-body experience. I never had time to recover from the shock of the diagnosis before I was planning his funeral. I kept thinking this isn’t my life. But it was. Through it all, God knew our needs before we did. From getting into the right doctors to installing a chair lift; from the church renovating our bathroom to a van and scooter being delivered without even asking for them; from the friends near helping in tangible ways to friends throughout the world praying; from the hospice care to the funeral service; to the fund for the kids education….God flooded us with His care.

2013 – Grief Year One. After the shock wore off, the depression and despair settled in. As I’ve mentioned in other posts, I was ill equipped to handle the onslaught of the emotions that separation by death causes. I naively thought my faith would shield me from the agony and pain. Coming to grips with the fact that grief was going to be a part of my life for a long time actually helped me face it head on. I am forever changed and that is ok. God can handle my tears and questions. Throughout this year, God gave me the precious gift of time. I continued to work part-time; I flew to a few states and shared special times with quality friends and family. I read and studied; I attended classes and went to counseling. And just when I needed it, at the end of the year, God provided a new full-time job for me.

2014 – Grief Year Two. Most people who are close to me and know me well would say I’m in a better place than last year. But they would also tell you I still have deep struggles. I am not through the valley yet. The biggest difference between year one and year two (that I can articulate at this point, knowing full well other things may become clearer when I am further out) is that the first year was more of a fog and this year has been more clear. That is a good thing and a bad thing. The good part about clarity is that I am able to concentrate longer. I see what needs to be done and I can accomplish those tasks. I understand so many more things that I didn’t have to pay attention to before, such as car insurance, gas prices, the cable & phone options (don’t get me started on that – I don’t know which company is worse to deal with: WOW or Sprint), a 401k, PTO and on and on the list goes.

The bad side of clarity is that I am fully aware of what “alone” means. I know the depths of my pain and I still experience it regularly. I completely get it that Patrick is gone forever and that my life with him is in the history books. I can’t get back what I had. I know what it’s like to trudge through each day without a best friend to share the details and struggles. I don’t want to repeat what I’ve said before, but believe me, it’s rough; and it’s lonely.

The best part of my clarity of this past year has been that I am overwhelmed with the goodness of God and His continual provision. I see it all the time, in little ways and in big ways. Sometimes a need is met before I’m even aware of the deficit. Sometimes it’s financial; other times it’s just the timing of an event or an opportunity that just “happens” to appear.

gen-22-14-and-Abraham-called-the-name-of-that-place-Jehovah-Jireh-as-it-is-said-to-this-dayEarlier this year I started my Jehovah Jireh list. Jehovah Jireh is an Old Testament name for God and it means, “The Lord will provide.” Abraham used this to name the place where he was called to sacrifice his son Isaac. As he chose to obey, he knew that God would either provide an alternative sacrifice or raise Isaac from the dead (Genesis 22).

God provides for me in the same way He has provided for His people for generations. Here are a few examples from my 2014 list:

  • Encouraging cards and texts that I still receive regularly
  • $450 in the mail right before all 4 van tires needed replacing
  • Toilet leaking and plumber fixing it at no cost
  • Both kids’ cars repaired (more than once) and never receiving a bill
  • Driveway and sidewalks plowed all winter (by various people, whom I lovingly dubbed “my snow angels.”)
  • Window Cleaning by professionals with no bill
  • Meds for my kids when they were out of the state or country
  • Amazing summer jobs for Paige and Parker that provided both financially and with ministry opportunities
  • Gas money given to make an extra trip to my brother’s
  • A hotel stay being covered when I visited my son at college
  • Training and facilitating Grief Share for our church’s first time
  • College tuition currently paid in full with no debt
  • A job where I have learned a marketable skill and have had success
  • Friends who have given me an open door policy
  • Adjusting to working full-time and having a long commute
  • Both kids doing well in college and on target to graduate on time
  • Ability to remain in house as the value continues to go up
  • People who share with me stories of Patrick, which I never tire of hearing

As of today, I’ve been a widow for two years. Although I don’t care for that title and it’s not the first word I use to describe myself, it is the box I have to check. It’s my reality. My life has been marked by loss. It’s a part of my story and I am being transformed through it.

I have been called to suffer, just as all Christ followers are. Jesus was the suffering servant and His road lead to agony and death, such as none of us will ever experience. The road of ViaDolorosa was the one He walked. I am called to follow Him. But just as He redeemed us through the agony of the cross (Hebrews 9:22), so likewise He will use our suffering for redemptive purposes. It is not in vain. “Because of Christ, our suffering is not useless. It is part of the total plan of God, who has chosen to redeem the world through the pathway of suffering” (R.C. Sproul, Surprised by Suffering, p.23)

Patrick was an amazing man, although not perfect. He lived his adult life serving this Savior and He died continuing to believe. Now he is part of the cloud of witnesses who is cheering us on to continue to be steadfast, unmovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that our labor is not in vain (I Corinthians 15:58).MCGOLDRICK-PATRICK-474

I miss him every minute but I continue to move forward, believing and serving God and watching Him continue to care for me and my family.

Peace and Pain

Posted: November 26, 2014 in Uncategorized
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Peace is an abstract feeling and hard to describe, but you dephilippians_4_7_by_kc_lynne-d517uhtfinitely know if you have it or not. If you Google the word peace, you find it defined as “freedom from disturbance” or the “cessation of war or violence.” Some of the synonyms are tranquility, calm and restfulness.

If you ask random people to define the same word, most would say that it’s when everything is going well and there are no current issues that are clouding their minds. The younger a person’s age, the more like they are to associate peace with things going their way. A more mature person understands that peace can be shattered at anytime; therefore, they take moments of peace as they come, often in the simple things of life.

It’s human nature to desire peace. Lack of peace is what drives many to participate in unhealthy behaviors. There are myriads of ways people attempt to drown out their lack of peace. Most spend their lives trying to fill the emptiness and escape the uncomfortable feeling inside. Others never slow down long enough to determine if they even know what true peace is.

My definition of peace had always been related to not worrying. No matter what was happening, if I didn’t have something hanging over my head on my to-do list or I didn’t have that pit in my stomach regarding something that was happening, I felt peace.

Sometimes lack of peace is related to something I can control because of a sin issue. Through my Christian growth, I’ve learned to be sensitive to the Holy Spirit pricking my conscience. I can’t stand that feeling of conviction, but have grown to be thankful for it. It’s God’s protection and I have discovered it’s best to repent and submit quickly. His way is always better for me anyway.

Even when it’s not sin related, we know what it’s like when we have something heavy on our minds. It can keep us up at night or cause us to be distracted all day long. I’ve never met a mom who doesn’t have the tendency to worry about her kids, starting with teething and diaper rash all the way to who they will marry and whether it’s the right person at the right time. My understanding is that the worries about kids don’t end even when they are married. In fact, I know my parents still worry about me.

Worry itself boils down to a lack of trust. Every relationship is only as strong as its trust factor. It is the desire to be my own god and control (or think I can control) my life’s circumstances. It takes my eyes off of the Creator. The only one who really is in control.

When I struggle with worry, I know how to apply God’s Word, control my thoughts and apply His promises. Early in my adult life, I did a comprehensive Bible study on the subject and pretty much considered myself an expert. I’ve taught dozens of girls through the years all the worry verses and how to put them into practice. It’s a spiritual muscle I’ve been developing for a long time.

Three years ago when I was kept awake at night trying to wrap my brain around the fact that Patrick had a terminal disease, deep in my heart I knew this would be the ultimate test. Could I really apply those principles? Would I?

While it has been the most difficult and darkest season of my life, my weak spiritual muscles have strengthened immensely. The things/issues that I would have been anxious about in the past seem minuscule now. I’m not fearful of the future nor the unknown. While I still care about my children, I completely trust they are in God’s hands. He will allow what He knows is best for their lives.

The principles I learned to put into practice with the smaller problems of life really did translate over to the dramatic life and death struggle that came my way. This has not been an easy process and God knows the ugliness of my heart. I still have a long way to go. In fact, I embrace that this is an area I can never get lazy in. Progressive sanctification is just that….progressive. Never stagnant.

This has been the fiercest battle of my life. I’ve wrestled with God. It hasn’t been pretty. I’ve sprawled prostrate before God begging Him to change His plan; I’ve curled in the fetal position on the floor of my closet sobbing that I can’t make it; I’ve crawled into the back of my van in an empty parking lot and screamed at God. I’ve wanted to give in and say it doesn’t work; It’s not worth it and I quit.

But His Word does work. Christ is worth it. And He won’t let me quit.

My new definition of peace entails more than just the absence of worry; Yes that’s still a vital part. My trust with my God has deepened to a whole new level. I can’t be simultaneously filled with anxious thoughts and have my focus on God. I continually make a choice on where to direct my thoughts.

But there is another part of the equation that is new and different for me. Before in my peace, I didn’t have any pain. I would associate pain with that bad feeling that you are not supposed to have. Surely peace also meant “no pain,” because in my experience, pain meant something was wrong. Just get to the root, fix the problem and the pain will subside.

I now know differently. Some pain can’t be fixed. Some pain will never go away. It’s not because of sin—it’s not lack of trust. It enters your life and changes you.

Twenty-three months post the death of my husband and the path of grief is still the one I’m traveling.

But I can honestly say I am at peace. In my innermost being, I am not consumed with fear or worry. My God is carrying me through this valley. He has never left me. He never will.

He’s the same God who guided Joseph, Esther, David, Ruth, Daniel and Paul, to name just a few of the real people we read about in the Bible. Each of them had circumstances that didn’t make sense. They had pain, sorrow and unfair treatment. Yet they cried out to God. They walked with Him, even when they didn’t understand. They didn’t know their future, but they trusted in their God who did.

Peace and pain can co-exist. One does not negate the other. Pain does not mean lack of trust. Peace is not just lack of pain. They are not mutually exclusive.

Jesus is the ultimate example. Even on the cross, in his deepest turmoil and incomprehensible suffering, He was at peace knowing He was obeying His father’s will. He was doing that for me and for you. By His stripes we are healed.

My memories over the next several weeks will be painful ones as I remember the weeks leading up to Patrick’s death. His life and death are constantly on my mind.

But even in my pain, I do have peace that surpasses all understanding. The peace that only comes from God.

“And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:7

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Daddy's girl blog

 This month on the 26th, we are choosing celebration because it is Paige Marie’s 21st birthday. While I am Paige’s only living parent, she is still the fruit of the womb that God gave to my husband and me. Nothing will ever change that. Patrick will always be a vital part of the equation. He invested into Paige’s life whole-heartedly from the day she was born until the day he died. Now through his legacy, Paige continues on becoming the woman God wants her to be.

Paige came into the world three weeks early and was a tiny little thing at 5 lbs. 10 oz. In fact, all the nurses wanted to come in and see her since they were so accustomed to delivering larger babies. But don’t let her small size fool you, she was healthy as an ox and 24 hours later, we were shoved out the hospital doors and on our way home.

From the get go, there wasn’t a job that Patrick refused to do. He was a hands-on dad in every area. In fact, he hated it when other men said they had to “babysit” their kids. His thinking was that it’s not babysitting, it’s parenting!

Patrick didn’t believe in separate rules or expectations for girls and boys. He pretty much expected the same thing from both kids. Therefore, there was nothing he didn’t teach Paige to do simply because she was a girl. From fishing, soccer and golf to mowing the lawn and shoveling snow; to earning a dollar and finding a deal; from how to speak up, look others in the eye and shake a hand; to Notre Dame and the Tigers; to cooking and eating…Patrick taught it and Paige learned it.

Looking back, I would say Paige was a “daddy’s girl.” But definitely not in the typical way…She was no coddled princess who could get her daddy to let her do anything. No way, José! Patrick certainly didn’t want a spoiled prima donna. He wanted a hard working, common sense, fun loving, Jesus-following girl. He was firm with Paige and she hated to disappoint him; just that “look” from Daddy and she responded accordingly.

In our first home in Kentucky, Patrick would wake 3-year old Paige up at midnight and carry her onto the back deck to watch the raccoons emerge out of the woods. Fifteen years later, after he was diagnosed with ALS, Patrick planned a trip to California to visit family and he insisted on taking Paige with him. From toddler to teenager, he wanted his daughter with him every chance he had.

Patrick was diagnosed with his fatal disease when Paige was 18, in the middle of her senior year. He insisted life continue as normal. Paige went on college visits and participated in all the end-of-the-year events. At her graduation, Patrick was still standing tall, but had slowed down in many ways. In her cap and gown, we snapped a family photo that to this day is the background image on my phone.

All summer, we kept hoping for the effects of ALS to slow down; we were desperate for more time. As it drew closer for Paige to leave for college, we had a difficult discussion. Should she start college or postpone it? She knew the facts…Patrick was dying; we didn’t know if he even had a year left, but we doubted it.

Her college was a couple hours away; Many people offered to help get her back quickly if needed. I promised honest communication. Patrick wanted her to go and told her so, but we didn’t want her to feel pushed away.

The decision was hers and she bravely began her college journey under the worst possible circumstances.

But God in His goodness saw that she was right where she needed to be. In a small Christian environment where many new friends, leaders and professors ministered to her. When she returned the following semester after her daddy died, her support group had been established. They were ready and understanding. It would have been more difficult had she waited to start.

Late in the fall, after a short weekend visit, Paige left us a note on our bathroom counter. After he read it, Patrick sobbed. I’d never seen anything like it. Watching someone with ALS cry isn’t easy; I wanted to stop it. He finally was able to communicate to me how despondent he felt because he wasn’t going to be here on earth to watch Paige grow into an adult. He told me he was far more heart broken for us than for himself. His fatherly heart was torn in two; It was heart wrenching.

After her first semester ended, Paige was able to spend Patrick’s last few weeks on earth by his side, helping to take care of him. Nothing fazed her and she was a trooper treating him with respect, even while watching her once strong daddy now lay paralyzed and helpless. She acted normal and made him laugh. Just sitting next to him in silence, the love between them was palpable.

Often as Patrick was declining, I begged God that He would allow both of the kids and me to be present whenever God decided to take him to Heaven. I wanted it to be our final time as a family of four. We needed to be together.

And in God’s sovereign plan, he designed Patrick’s home going to be over the holidays. I know many people felt that the timing was awful, but truthfully, it was going to be awful no matter when it happened.

I firmly believe the timing was an answer to my prayer. Even though Patrick went into a coma on Christmas Eve, God in his graciousness allowed the three of us to be by his side when he breathed his last breath the day after Christmas.

 I will never forget Paige’s wailing sobs as she left his side for the last time. There was no consoling this girl. Nothing could diminish this level of pain.

At his service, she insisted on sharing a testimony about her dad. She wrote it, gave it to me to read, and it was perfect. No changes were made and she stood bravely in front of over 1,000 people and talked about her hero. Her voice didn’t crack and she didn’t break down. I was in awe.

Father and daughter share numerous similarities. Both love to eat and laugh. They like the “shortened” versions of a story and things that aren’t overly complicated. They’ve never met a stranger and have a lot of common sense. They don’t need the newest gadget or name brand clothes. They don’t try particularly hard to impress others but are friendly to all and “what you see is what you get.”

A few months after Patrick died, I made some comment to Paige about how I wished I had stayed by his side more while he was sick. My thinking was that if I would have known how short his time was, I wouldn’t have ever left his side. Paige looked at me and told me clearly and calmly, “Mom, Dad isn’t in Heaven wishing that you would have done something differently while he was sick. You did your best and he’s now healthy and with Jesus.” It was just like something Patrick would have said to me and it was exactly what I needed to hear. I never said it again.

Losing her dad forever changed Paige’s life. But she knows what a special daddy she had and how blessed she is.  Since his death, Paige has bravely continued on with her college education. She has made wise, practical decisions and continues to seek to honor the Lord with her life. Patrick would be thrilled.

Paige – Today on your 21st birthday, be assured of the following…

  • You are loved deeply by both your parents.
  • Your daddy was so proud of you. He loved every second with you and the two of you definitely had a special bond.
  • He was a man of God and many girls in this world don’t have dads like yours.
  • Dad held your hand and guided you as faithfully as he could until God released him from that job.
  • He is now in Heaven worshiping the Heavenly Father whom he pointed you toward.
  • If God allows him to have snapshots into your life now, I know he is proud of the woman you are becoming.
  • You know many of the things Dad would keep telling you if he were here, but foremost among them would be to “Keep running hard after Christ.” And the next would probably be “Happy Birthday, Pump.”

 Psalms 103:13 “As a father shows compassion to his children, so the LORD shows compassion to those who fear him.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

first dating photo 1987

My mother tells me I was a shy toddler. In fact, they couldn’t force me to go to preschool because I was so terrified. I have vague memories of a giant room with a tiny group of kids in the middle and I was supposed to walk all alone to join them. I wasn’t having it! Then I was held back from Kindergarten because I was still not ready to go.  The next year I had no choice and since my younger brother was also going, it seemed better.  All that ended up making me the oldest one in my grade the rest of the way through, which gave me some sense of confidence.

Somewhere along the line, the timidity disappeared…Because the rest of my school experience was all about talking with my friends, social events, and did I mention talking. In fact, I’m sure my middle school teachers and the librarian, in particular, would have never believed that I had ever been shy. I was banned from the library and sent into the hall more times than I care to admit. At one point, a close girlfriend of mine was told by her parents she couldn’t hang out with me because I was getting into too much trouble for…you guessed it – talking!

When faced with the  decision of what to do after graduation,  I remember my dad telling me that since I had so much fun in high school, I should go to college and continue all those types of activities. That sold me and off I went. He was right. My high school and college memories are so amazing; Thinking back to that time in my life brings a smile to my face.

And of course at college, I met the man of my dreams. At the end of my sophomore year, I made a prophetic statement that I probably had already met the man I would marry, but that neither of us knew it yet. That fall, before classes even began, Patrick asked me on our first date and then continued to ask me out every day after, always calling me (on the floor pay phone) immediately after he had just dropped me off! Three weeks into our dating, he told me he loved me (which I proudly did not say back) and he started telling people he was going to marry me. I took a little longer to decide. After all, I had my list (yes, a real list) of what were “absolutes” and what were “preferences.” I distinctly remember sitting in Pizza Hut and asking him the questions I thought were the toughest. If he could put up with my over-analyzing personality and not make me feel like an idiot, well then he was the guy for me. That was just the beginning of our friendship and his understanding of me. 7 months later we were engaged and the following year, 5 weeks after I graduated, we were married.  The photo above was taken early in our dating.  Long before the days of digital and iPhone cameras, you can imagine how precious this picture is.

Over the 25 years of knowing Patrick, he continued to be the best friend I could ever imagine. As with all marriages, our understanding of each other grew over time; He could predict what I was thinking. I knew how he would react. We could finish each other’s sentences. Many of our thoughts and opinions meshed and were as one. In fact, on all the major topics, we did agree. The more minor areas weren’t important and we just let each other be how we were and it was ok. I loved the fact that he completely understood me. He allowed me to thoroughly explain how I felt about something, truly listening and then would help me clarify what, if anything needed to be done.

Now that he’s gone, I am still always thinking of what he would say or feel or how he would react. I’m working hard to keep certain standards the way he did. Like the grass – he was meticulous about it, probably a little over the top. When both kids were home, the 3 of us could keep up with it pretty well. Now that they’re gone, it’s a lot of work.  It’s a big lawn and to use all the machinery and do it right takes almost 3 hours.  In fact, I just recently had a meltdown over the lawn because I just can’t keep it up as perfectly as he did.  And I desperately want to.

Some of the things that were important to Patrick, I have not followed…like the golf channel. It’s never on now. As for Notre Dame and the Tigers, I might look up the score the next day, but it’s not nearly with the same level of interest as when he was here. I used to try to find out some tidbit of news about one of his teams and tell him before he heard it himself. Boy, did he love it when I did that! I would be so proud of myself and he was excited that I was showing enthusiasm for something he loved.

That’s what I miss the most…his friendship and our companionship. The bond, the love, the sharing of life together. With the major things and the simple things. He is gone and a million times a week I want to share something with him. But I can’t.

It’s lonely. It’s quiet. Too quiet. It’s been 21 months. I am used to the silence, but I am not used to the loneliness. I had such a full life, such a vibrant marriage. A best friend and lover all in one. Words can’t come close to describing what we had and I will never find the right words to convey how I feel now. It’s like the neon light “vacancy” flashing in my mind over and over and over and I can’t get rid of it.

I want to say that I’m ready to close the cover on the volume of my life with Patrick; that I’m ok with it being in the past and now I’m ready for volume 2. But I’m not there yet. I’m in the transition and I still grieve deeply. I am functioning… I work full-time; I help facilitate GriefShare; I log my miles running; My church attendance is regular; I hang out with friends. But I do all that with a sadness in my heart that just can’t be set aside, a heaviness that weighs my soul down.

In my continual laments to the Lord, I have wrestled with the fact that in my head I know the Lord should be enough. That I shouldn’t need anything else. While that is true, God did make us relational creatures. He created marriage a unique relationship. Jesus himself grieved and there is much scripture about sorrow, suffering and loneliness.

When I am tempted to despair and think no one really understands, I have to force myself to focus on the truth of God’s Word; on His promises for me now and for my future; On what I already have in Christ and what I have to look forward to in eternity. This week a passage that I’ve had memorized for years came back to me in a new way.

Isaiah 40:28-31 “Do you not know?
Have you not heard?
The Lord is the everlasting God,
the Creator of the ends of the earth.
He will not grow tired or weary,
and his understanding no one can fathom.
29 He gives strength to the weary
and increases the power of the weak.
30 Even youths grow tired and weary,
and young men stumble and fall;
31 but those who hope in the Lord
will renew their strength.
They will soar on wings like eagles;
they will run and not grow weary,
they will walk and not be faint.

Other translations say “there is no limit to his understanding.” I cling to that. God created me and He understands me. More than Patrick ever did and more than anyone ever will. In fact, he knows me better than I know myself. I find comfort in that truth.

I’m to a place where about 60% of the time, I can replace my tendency to think negatively with God’s truths in a fairly quick manner and keep on going. The next 30% of the time, it’s more of a struggle. I have to really force myself to apply the Word that I know in my head to my heart. The final 10% of the time is when I’m knocked to my knees both emotionally and physically, feeling completely unable to resist the battle. It’s like quicksand to despair and I’m so tired of fighting, I want to give in and just sink below the surface.

It’s those times that I know I need help. My pride tells me that no one wants to hear from me. That it’s the same ole’ story and if I am sick of it myself, it must be so much worse for my friends. But I have a core group who prays for me and really want to know when the grief fog is thick. So I reach out through a text sharing my desperation and then just let the waves of sobbing come, begging God to help me. Sometimes it’s a few hours and sometimes a few days, but graciously the darkness is lifted and I can start taking a few wobbly steps again.

It’s in these times, that I’m glad God made me a relational person. I couldn’t walk this journey alone. God is the foundation and the reason for my faith. But he also blessed me with many friends who are walking next to me.  Some live nearby and many are miles away.  But it doesn’t matter.  I need them all. They listen, they speak truth to me, they sing, they text, they pray, they email and message me. We eat together, we run together, we worship together, we cry and laugh together. Sometimes we talk about Patrick and sometimes we don’t.

My life with Patrick was a treasure;  My heavenly treasure will be to be with Christ forever.  As long as God still leaves me on this planet, I will seek to follow Him and serve Him with my life.  He can be trusted and I will choose to trust Him regardless of how my feelings vacillate.  He understands and He is worthy of my praise.

Isaiah 43:2 “When you go through deep waters, I will be with you. When you go through rivers of difficulty, you will not drown. When you walk through the fire of oppression, you will not be burned up; the flames will not consume you. For I am the Lord God.

 

 

 

 

IMG_0095Today marks the 20th month since Patrick’s death. Most people begin rounding up at this point, but I find myself still looking at that 26th day every month and knowing full well which number is coming next. While I have stopped counting every Wednesday as weeks, my heart cannot yet start to speak in terms of annual or biannually. I can’t “round-up” when I am still trudging through this valley of the shadow of death, one painful step at a time. Life without Patrick continues to be an effort, daily moving forward by God’s grace and sheer will, but certainly not “moving on.” There is barely an hour that goes by that I have not either spoken about Patrick or thought about him. He is still a vital part of my life.

This month as the calendar approached the 26th, I found myself taken completely by surprise by the onset of the viral phenomenon, known as the “Ice Bucket Challenge.” A couple of weeks ago, someone brought it to my attention and my first reaction was not real positive. After briefly looking online for the history of it (which even that has been questioned), I then determined to just ignore it. I have been pretty good about ignoring most news and politics for the last 2 years, which may surprise many of you since I used to be a “news junkie.” However, I soon realized that this could not be ignored as more and more friends, family and co-workers took part and many were doing so in honor of Patrick. Even Paige and Parker made the decision to participate.

Although I knew there were many messages being sent to me via Facebook, I will admit that I stayed off social media for over a week because I just couldn’t “go there” every night and watch and hear stories about ALS and Patrick. It takes a lot of emotional energy and I need to take things like this in small segments of time. Being in the right frame of mind is essential.

So this past weekend, I did catch up and watch the videos and messages that I had been tagged in. I also took some time to read a few more articles about it. There is a lot of information out there. Many articles promoting it and many against it and I found some truth in every article I read. As with any subject, every author comes from a different angle and has some point (or agenda) they want to highlight. In addition, I had a few messages asking me if I know anything about which organization uses stem cells for research and which ones do not.  The truth is that I have not made the disease of ALS my focus, so I don’t have a lot of those answers.

Rather than debate any one of the pros and cons of whether this video challenge is trivializing something that’s very painful for those with a family member suffering with ALS or whether it’s a great marketing tactic, I’d prefer to just share some random thoughts that are important to me after losing my husband to this awful disease.

About ALS:

  1. Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis – Learn how to pronounce it and be able to describe it.
  2. It is a neurological disease. The brain’s messages stop getting to the muscles so they stop working.  Most other countries call it Motor Neuron Disease (MND).
  3. It’s like becoming paralyzed in your own body. Thus the ice in the challenge was meant to feel like the numbness an ALS patient feels.
  4. Anyone can get ALS, regardless of gender or age.
  5. It is fatal – a death sentence. No cure. Only meds to treat the symptoms.
  6. Most die in less than 5 years. Patrick died 12 months after diagnosis and he was only aware of his symptoms a few months prior to that.
  7. Of all the muscles to lose, I believe the worst is losing the ability to talk and chew. Eight out of 10 ALS patients lose the ability to speak.
  8. This is not a painless disease. It is cruel and causes not only physical pain, but also extreme emotional pain.
  9. ALS does not affect the mental capacity. ALS patients know exactly what is happening to them and around them.

About the Ice Bucket Challenge:

  1. Regardless of how it started, it has indeed raised an unprecedented amount of money for ALS research.
  2. In spite of taking thousands of lives each year for over 70 years, ALS has been relatively unknown and grossly underfunded.
  3. Research is needed for this disease and research does cost money. Lots of money.
  4. As with any organization to which you would consider donating money, you should thoroughly research how the money is spent.
  5. I do not endorse nor promote any certain ALS organization because honestly I have not had the time, energy or desire to thoroughly search them out yet myself. (Here is what a friend of mine has recently discovered).
  6. I am not keeping track of who does this challenge and/or who promises to donate. I know all of you who have stood by Patrick before he died and continue to stand by the kids and me since his death. No one has anything to prove to our family. We love you and are grateful whether you dump ice on your heads or not.
  7. However, if you have felt led to participate, I am touched by your comments about Patrick and your memories of him. It does encourage me and mean a lot to hear you talk about him.

Ways to help someone with ALS:

  1. Pray for them, specifically asking for grace and endurance.
  2. Support the family in any way possible. If you are not close to the family, ask someone else who is what you can do. Don’t ask the family themselves – just find something to do and do it. Sometimes there really is nothing to do but pray.
  3. When you see the person with ALS, look them in the eye and talk to them normally. Do not talk about them to their caregiver. They are still the same person they were before. They may not be able to answer in the same way, but they need to know you realize they are who they used to be.
  4. Be patient and don’t ask the family for updates all the time. This disease can’t be predicted to follow any certain path. If something major changes, you will find out. Otherwise, it’s just a daily decline and the family is trying to enjoy the good moments, not guess what is going to happen next.

What Patrick would have thought about all this:

  1. He would want people to understand the disease.
  2. He would be ok with money given to research; after all he chose to donate his body for ALS research. It was his final wish and one that I spent hours and days on the phone getting set up, all the while sitting next to him in his chair as he nodded and told me to not give up. (Yes, he was still delegating even without his speech!)
  3. He would have had fun with this challenge and done it himself, if possible.
  4. He would have laughed at the good times and creative ways many of you have come up with.

However….here’s what Patrick would have said about all this:

  1. As important as research for ALS is, there is something more important. He mentioned back in his blog on January 8, 2012 that his biggest problem was not his fatal disease. It was his need for a Savior.
  2. Regardless of whether it’s a disease or a car accident, all of us WILL die eventually. Therefore, considering eternity is of the utmost importance.
  3. Jesus Christ is God’s gift to us and according to the Bible is our only way to Heaven (John 14:6).
  4. We can have a personal relationship with Jesus which will answer our biggest problem (of sin) for eternity and that same relationship gives us a hope and a reason to live here on earth now.
  5. Patrick preached his last sermon (after his speech was already greatly diminished) explaining the two choices each person must make: to live either God’s way or man’s way. He shared his personal story of how God came into His life and turned it around when he was a teen. From that point on, Patrick dedicated his life to telling others about Jesus. At his Celebration of Life service (aka funeral) that he planned in advance, he wanted the Gospel preached and for all of us to worship together, knowing that we have an eternal hope.
  6. Finally, I know that Patrick would share with others that giving finances to any church, mission or organization that promotes the Gospel is ultimately the best and safest investment because it’s the only one that answers our greatest need.

I have no idea why God has brought ALS to the world’s attention, 20 months after He took my husband to his eternal home by way of this awful disease.   However, I don’t believe in coincidences. This isn’t about Patrick and it’s not about this particular disease either. There are many awful forms of cancer, incurable infections and even “freak accidents” that take peoples’ lives every hour. I am reminded that death and disease are a result of the broken, shattered world we live in because of the effects of sin. We are always shocked at death. We hate it because it’s not natural. But Jesus did not come to give us “our best life now.” He told us that “in this world we would have trouble, but to not despair because He has overcome the world” (John 16:33).

We are to expect trials anPageflex Persona [document: PRS0000038_00061]d tribulations. This truth, however, is contrary to our culture’s way of thinking that we are to have maximum pleasure and minimum pain. Truthfully nothing in this world will ever bring ultimate satisfaction, no matter how hard we try to fill the void.   Nothing, that is, outside of God and my personal relationship with His Son, Jesus.

Do I hope that a cure is discovered for ALS?  Absolutely.  Do I think awareness and fundraisers are helping?  For sure.  Is there something I care about more?  Definitely.  It’s actually someone:  Jesus Christ.  One day in Heaven, all those who are His followers will live without pain, disease, sin and death (Revelation 21).

Patrick’s story….. my story…. and your story…. They are just tiny parts of the whole picture of God’s kingdom.   That is the Kingdom in which I place my hope… for it is the only Kingdom that cannot be shaken. Therefore I will offer God acceptable worship with reverence and awe (Hebrews 12:28).

“Come to me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” Matthew 11:28-30

A collection of Patrick’s sermons was published in a book and can be purchased from Amazon in paperback or Kindle versions.

25 Years of Weddings

Posted: June 17, 2014 in Uncategorized

25th anniversary blog photos

When you are married to a pastor, you attend a lot of weddings. And as a Pastor of Student Ministries for his entire career, Patrick took part in numerous weddings, either officiating or leading in some way. Weddings were monumental events for both of us as we watched former students making life choices. They grew up before our very eyes and we were excited to watch as they began this new phase of life. Staying at one church a long time means as the years went on, we were more and more connected with the families celebrating the special occasion.

Before Patrick became sick, my memories of weddings all blend together. The date put on the calendar, the gift purchased and the outfit (including Patrick’s tie color of the bride’s choice) chosen. When the day arrived, Patrick left early to prepare. Later, I would find a friend to join in the auditorium. Afterwards, we connected to go to the reception where we enjoyed the night together.

After his diagnosis, I remember weddings much more clearly. There was one already on the schedule a few months out. He tried to tell the bride he should withdraw because his speech was starting to slur. She insisted she still wanted him to speak, which he did. I stood in the very back of the church, not able to breath, listening to his slow speech; wondering if he would make it through; still in shock that this was happening.

That was his last wedding to officiate; all the others he did have to back out of. The next wedding was odd because he sat next to me during the service; like regular attendees. He wasn’t a part of it and we all knew he should have been. At the reception I carried his plate through the line as he pointed to what he wanted. I vividly remember carrying his plate back to the table and cutting up his food.

The last wedding Patrick attended was in October 2012, only eight weeks before he died. It took so much effort to get him there. The wheelchair barely fit between the tables. He could only smile and nod. Not able to eat, he sat there watching the rest of us dine on amazing food. He tired quickly, but insisted I stay longer, and had Parker drive him home. Later, he told me how hard it was to watch everyone eat…I still feel terrible about that.

Since Patrick’s death, I have been attending weddings alone. Obviously, it’s quite a bit different from just sitting alone during a ceremony. Just eight weeks into my life without Patrick, I forced myself to go to one out of respect and love for the two getting married. I knew Patrick would have wanted me to go. I was in a daze the whole time, still feeling like I had a huge neon sign over my head shouting, “Her husband is dead – she’s a widow.” I barely remember who I sat with at the reception; it’s really all a fog. I know I zoned out a lot that night. The bride’s mom and I talked; she knew how hard it was for me to be there and she thanked me.

The rest of the weddings of 2013 are a blur. I think I missed a few. I know I walked out of one during a song. Sometimes as I sat listening to the message, I would think of our own wedding. Death was the last thing on my mind when I made my vows to Patrick, and it’s most likely not on the mind of current brides and grooms. But in this cycle of life, it is a fact that most likely one of the two making promises will have to watch the other one die.

Now the wedding season of 2014 is here; Many weddings I can’t miss, nor do I want to. Last month brought the first barn wedding. Apprehensive at first, I was thankful Parker was going with me. As the wedding began, I smiled thinking of Patrick’s part in the bride and groom’s life as well as in the lives of both sets of parents. I thought of how Patrick saw the beginning of the couple’s love relationship and how he’d be smiling that the wedding had come to fruition.

But as is typical with grief, waves of emotion often hit unexpectedly. And this time, it happened as the pastor got up to begin the challenge. You see, it wasn’t our senior pastor, as it usually is, but instead it was the older brother of the bride…a former intern of Patrick’s. He’d grown up in our church and Patrick reached out to him as a young teen. Patrick believed in him when many others doubted. Through the years, their friendship had grown; countless hours spent together. Even when Patrick was very sick, this young pastor came over to our home and sought his advice.

So I was overwhelmed thinking of how this young man had grown; how much Patrick loved him and how proud he would be. I almost burst out loud into tears, but since I was on the 3rd row, I took quick short breaths and kept it together. Later during the reception I was able to share my thoughts with both the young man and his mom. And I did lose it (quietly) when the bride’s mother told me how Patrick’s life had influenced everything that happened that day. As the evening progressed, I ended up having a great time. A couple girlfriends even convinced me to get on the dance floor for a few fun songs. Parker and I were among the last ones to leave. On the way home I was filled with peace and gratefulness.

Today is June 17th and I have been dreading this day unlike any other so far….because today is our 25th wedding anniversary. I say “is” because it will always be my anniversary. I just don’t get to celebrate it with my husband. He is in Heaven celebrating Jesus’ presence. I don’t know if he is aware of the date and I doubt he is thinking of our wedding. But since I’m still stuck here on earth, it’s all I’m thinking about.  Just five short years ago on our 20th, we were in Mexico with our best college friends and we all agreed we would do it again on our 25th. No one dreamed that one of us would be dead.

I decided in advance to take today off work. I just want to be alone to remember; to journal; to pray; to cry. Grief takes time and has to be faced. Earthly marriage is a representation of what Christ has with his Bride, the church—with us. It’s what He came to earth to live and die for…so we could be His bride. I know my love for Patrick is nothing compared to God’s love for me. That thought is staggering. My finite mind cannot comprehend. What a gift from God the message of the gospel is.   What a treasure my marriage was.

You see, I know what Patrick and I had was special, if not rare. Not everyone marries and experiences falling in love more and more with each passing year. Most wives don’t get to participate with their husbands in their jobs, working in a ministry that both are passionate about. What I enjoyed in my marriage to Patrick was something many people never experience. To be completely loved by a faithful, Godly, fun man was a blessing I will never get over.

I am learning to live alone. I am ok with it as I choose to be content with the memories. I have no desire to remarry; my wedding ring is put away simply because it causes too much pain to look at and feel every second.  The hole is gaping, but I know the pain represents how good I had it. My relationship with Patrick is not over…it has simply changed. He will always be a part of my life. And for that I am grateful.

In honor and memory of my husband, I’ve jotted down 25 reasons I loved being his wife:

  1. He let me be myself & he understood me
  2. He challenged me to grow
  3. He made me laugh and even thought I was funny
  4. He loved people and no one stayed a stranger for long
  5. He made life an adventure and fun
  6. He was a leader, but didn’t have to force anyone to follow
  7. He was man’s man
  8. He wasn’t afraid to tell me no or let me know when I was wrong
  9. He forgave quickly; never yelled or flew off the handle
  10. God’s Word led him and he led our family
  11. He treated others with respect
  12. He was always willing to listen to me about any subject
  13. He was humble & teachable
  14. He encouraged my independence & kept me grounded.
  15. He had friends, I had friends and we both had friends together
  16. He loved the church & being a pastor
  17. He loved being a dad and included the kids in everything he could
  18. We enjoyed each other’s company
  19. We loved serving the Lord & worshiping Him together
  20. We loved each other’s families. It was never “your side” and “my side”. We embraced both as our own
  21. Communication was key to our marriage & we communicated a lot
  22. He was wise with our finances
  23. We were independent, yet dependent on each other
  24. We cared about what the other one cared about
  25. We were still madly in love