Posts Tagged ‘christian’

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No question about it. I am changed. Loss does that to a person. So does any tragedy or suffering, regardless of the kind.

As followers of Christ, we know our goal is to continually grow into the likeness of Jesus Christ. At salvation, we were set apart, but not yet made perfect. So the “in between time” is the process of sanctification….where God brings events, circumstances and people into our lives with the purpose of conforming us more and more into the likeness of His son.

I have been a Christian a long time. Seriously, it’s been over 40 years since as a child I accepted Jesus Christ into my life. Looking back I can see areas that I use to struggle in that are no longer issues for me. On the other hand, I can also see some sins that have been lifelong struggles. Yes, growth and improvement are evident, but still the battle remains.

The process of maturing is lifelong. Change hurts and growth is painful. And let’s just face it…no one likes pain. It’s not fun. Our first reaction is to get rid of it at any cost. It’s human nature to avoid situations where we will get hurt; to surround ourselves with people who make us feel good and to insulate ourselves from danger.

However, it’s during the difficult trials of life that the opportunity for growth is the greatest. Some day I hope to be able to look back at my journey of grief and clearly articulate all the ways God changed me through it.

At this point, I don’t have it all figured out. I can attest to the fact that change is definitely happening in my life and there are positive outcomes, both spiritually and emotionally. Yet, I also see many areas lacking. Grief, like any trial, brings to the surface the heart issues that were already there. I can’t use my grief as an excuse to sin. No, in my vulnerable state, the ugliness of my heart is exposed for what it is.

Change does not always equal growth; It’s not automatic. As circumstances and life events are forced upon us, we can refuse to acknowledge, adjust or submit. If I blame a sin on my grief, then I’m saying it’s not my fault and I can’t help it. Both are excuses straight from Satan, the greatest deceiver that ever lived. But if I can see it for what it is and confess it, then Christ’s forgiveness is freely given. I must cultivate the soil of my heart to be tender and sensitive. Otherwise, a bitter root will grow and I will shrivel up. Essentially, it’s my choice. Though not natural, with God’s grace, transformation can occur.

Patrick and I had the kind of relationship where we talked about the issues of our hearts openly and quite often. We used phrases like “hidden agendas” and “short sin accounts” to help understand where the other one was coming from and get all motives out in the open. When we sinned against one another, we confessed and forgave, even though it wasn’t always easy. Spiritually, we kept each other on our toes, so to speak. I can’t say it was always done perfectly, but we were attempting to be as “iron sharpening iron.” He had a way to keep me grounded and gently remind me not to do or say something that I would regret later. We continually challenged each other to be Christ like and to faithfully apply God’s Word in every area of our lives.

I really miss that.

But even though Patrick was my partner, he wasn’t my Savior. The marriage relationship is a picture of Christ and His bride. That’s why it’s such a unique and blessed union. Even though my earthly marriage is now over, I am still the daughter of the King of Kings. My identity has always been based first and foremost on who I am in Christ. And nothing, not even death, can take that away.

Losing my husband has been the most traumatic experience of my life. It’s painful beyond words, but I don’t want this pain to be wasted. I don’t want to be changed without any growth. I don’t want to survive just to be able to say I made it.

I want so much more than that.

I want to be more compassionate and gentle; to laugh more and worry less; to love more fervently; to generously give my time and possessions; to ignore what’s temporary and focus on what will last for eternity; to enjoy each day as the gift it is; to bear the fruit of the spirit and daily share biblical truth with others. I want to honor the Lord in my words, thoughts and deeds.

But most of all, I want the world to know that I serve Jesus Christ, as Savior and Lord of my life. He saved me from my greatest problem (sin) through His death and resurrection. While He prepares for me a place in Heaven, He has given me the Holy Spirit and the Bible to guide and direct me here on earth. He has provided all I have ever needed and will take care of me until my death when I will enter eternity with Him.

Because of my loss, my world has been shaken. My life was turned upside down. I have had nothing but changes for the past three years. I’ve experienced excruciating pain and emotions I didn’t know existed. I am living with intense loneliness and a hole in my heart that will never again be filled in the same way.

But in spite of all that, I have become more and more convinced that there is only one reason to live and only one sure foundation: Jesus Christ. He is worthy of my praise, my trust, my service and my life.

Luke 9:23 “Take up your cross daily and follow Him.”

 I Corinthians 2:9 “No eye has seen, no ear has heard, and no mind has imagined what God has prepared for those who love him.”

 Psalm 86:12  “I will praise you, Lord my God, with all my heart; I will glorify your name forever.”

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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.

 

 

 

 

9 Months a Widow

Posted: September 26, 2013 in Uncategorized
Tags: , , , ,

ourhandsfinalBefore, during and after….mentally that’s how I divide my life.

Before the diagnosis of ALS…
During the sickness…
After he’s gone…

Two years ago my life was perfect…at least as far as I was concerned.  Married to my best friend, enjoying our two teenagers, serving in life and ministry.  We were looking forward to the next phase of life, anticipating a new position for Patrick and the kids heading off to Christian colleges.  My new photography business was blooming. Our home was full of love and laughter and we were all happiest when extra guests joined us.

Then came the strange symptoms, doctor visits and tests.  With the results that no one is ever prepared to hear…

A disease with no cure; A certain death sentence.
Immediately our world turned upside down;  our future dreams shattered

Within 24 hours of the diagnosis, two thoughts kept crossing my mind

  • my life as I know it is over
  • my husband will be dead, my children gone and I will be alone

I was right on both accounts.  I just didn’t know how quickly it would all go down.

During his sickness, we were in survival mode.  We dealt with each new decline, while trying to maintain any sense of normalcy and enjoy our marked time together.  Patrick led by example.  He refused to let us stop our lives; he didn’t complain; his smile never waned. He trusted God completely.

Looking back, I realize that I stayed strong because I had to.  We were still a team.  Patrick needed me.  I became his hands, feet and mouth.  I helped him go wherever he wanted to go.  I protected him when I knew it was too much.  I became his advocate for everything.

Near the end, I told him I would be ok.  I thanked him for being an amazing husband and wonderful father.  I told him he had run the race well.  Although he couldn’t respond verbally,  I knew by his eyes that he loved me. He didn’t want to die, but neither did he want to stay on earth in a paralyzed body. So in the final week I asked God to release him from his pain and take him to his heavenly home.

No words can describe watching your soul-mate die.  Heart wrenching is an understatement.

Nine months have already passed.  I don’t know how.  The minutes drag, but it still feels like yesterday.

I knew there were no guarantees of an easy life on earth and that I was not exempt from suffering, so I thought I could handle this. I was wrong.

I thought since I knew the scriptures and believed in God’s sovereignty, I would be ok.  It would be just mind over matter.   I was naive.

I thought God’s grace meant the pain would be minimal.  I had no idea.

Grief hit me like a freight train.  I was unprepared. The intensity of my emotions is visceral and beyond description.  The pain of separation is palpable.

I wish I could say something different to the “how are you” question.  I usually just give a weak smile and say “ok.”  I’ve never been a good liar.

The truth is I am still struggling.  Day by day, hour by hour, sometimes even minute by minute.  I cry every day…it’s just a matter of how hard and how long.  No one has been more surprised by any of this than me.  I’ve been shocked by my neediness and ashamed of my weakness.  Basically, I’ve never been more disappointed in myself.

But God…
He knew all along.  He’s not surprised by my responses.
He meets me right where I am & accepts me.
He assures me through His promises.
I can’t get enough of His word.
Each step I take is a step of faith.

Initially I looked for answers of how to get through this grief process.  I wanted steps that I could check off.  I wanted to pass with a high grade. But there is no magic formula or short cut.  No anesthesia to numb the pain.  The only answer is God himself.

There is no timetable…it has already taken longer than I would have chosen.  Although each person’s grief is unique, I’ve now learned that two to four years for the deepest part of the valley is considered normal.  I’m not in control of any of it.  It’s like a vicious roller coaster I can’t get off.

But I’m right where God has me.

The battle is fierce…to fight my flesh; to fight the enemy’s lies; to fight off despair.  God’s Word is the solution and God’s people the support.

Three young widows, previously just acquaintances, have befriended me and taken me under their wings.  One local and two out-of-state, each further along in their journeys, they have kindly opened up their hearts and shared their stories of pain. They assure me that I am not crazy and remind me of God’s goodness.

And I know God is good.  He is faithful.  I have much to be thankful for. Both Paige and Parker are doing amazingly well at their respective colleges.  They are both where they should be, doing what Patrick and I had always hoped for them.

So I continue to walk by faith and not by sight.  I function to the best of my ability for each day.  I smile and laugh when I can.  And I’m not ashamed when the tears come.

I will never be the same.  My life as I knew it is over.  But God has a plan.  He has a purpose for me and I will be healed.  For now the wound is fresh and the pain raw.  Someday the wounds will cover with scars, but I will be transformed.

To this end, I pray and I wait.

“I would have despaired unless I believed that  I would see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living.  Wait for the Lord.  Be strong and let your heart take courage.  Yes, wait for the Lord.” Psalm 27:13-14