Friday, January 27, 2012

This perseverence and endurance thing

Frankly, I'm sick of it. I don't like it. But what choice do I have? A life of bitterness and regret? I cry every day. I battle constantly with the flesh, trying not to think of what I have lost, of all the moments and memories that will never be. I see pictures of Matt's best friends getting all dressed up, going on dates, and proud parents posting the momentous occasion on Facebook. I honestly wish them well, but it. is. painful. It is then that I have to remind myself once again that Matt is alive and I will see him again. But this business of persevering and enduring. OH! How it is difficult. On days like this, I again am amazed we survive such loss.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Joy and Grief

We spent last weekend in Wisconsin Dells with Tim's sister and family. It was great fun for the kids. Part of the incentive for going was because of a generous, anonymous gift of money with instructions to spoil the kids. We would never have considered something like this before. We don't usually do vacations because we tend to be very practical. So this last weekend was extravagant by our definition.

It was a long, exhausting weekend, both emotionally and physically. The Dells is not a restful vacation, btw!!! :) Dh and I had deep joy watching the kids have fun, knowing that these are wonderful memories for them. But every moment of joy for us was, and is, fused with grief. Grief that Matt wasn't there with us. Bittersweet in seeing Matt's cousin, only a year younger, playing with our two youngest boys, and wishing it was Matt playing with them.

We had to drive through Rochester on the way to the Dells, too, and that was excruciating. We hadn't been there since July 29, the day Matt died. There were many tears and the wrenching pain in our hearts was intense.

I am still so perplexed as to how joy and grief can coexist. I am reminded of a saying a friend from our GriefShare group shared about experiences after grief. She said, "The highs aren't as high and the lows aren't as low." I'm finding that to be true.

But for all the sorrow we have experienced, God has been good. We were delighted to see a cardinal at a rest stop on the way. It was rather funny, however, because it took us a few seconds to realize it wasn't real. It was a wood painted one propped in a tree. But we felt it was God's little way of reassuring us of His love and telling us that Matt was near. The cardinal has become our comfort "sign" since the beginning. It was such a blessing to be able to spend the weekend with family, too. Our time in the Dells wouldn't have been nearly as fun without them!

We got home Monday evening and took Tuesday off to catch up on cleaning and laundry. While going through the mail, I came across a brochure for Trout Lake camp. Matt loved going to Trout Lake. When we received his paychecks from Pioneer in August, we decided to put them in a fund for Trout Lake camp for the rest of the kids to eventually attend.

One of the "tips" from GriefShare was to plan for significant dates so that you're not ambushed by grief. In doing so, you'll certainly still have sorrow, but at least not be ambushed by it. I have been struggling for several weeks with what to do in May for Matt's birthday. I had already checked with one retreat center up north about staying there the first week of May, but was disappointed to learn that they wouldn't extend stays outside of their scheduled dates. When I saw the brochure for Trout Lake, I checked the dates, but was disheartened to see there were none scheduled for the first week of May. However, I figured it couldn't hurt to ask, so I emailed them to inquire of the possibility of staying there. I wasn't too hopeful, so when I opened the reply email, I was overcome with emotion when I read that yes, they would accommodate us. I spent the next several hours crying. Crying with gratitude to God. It is so perfect. It is God. He is so good. Again, I am awestruck at how grief can be melded with joy. The LORD is near and continues to bring healing. (Psalm 34:18, 147:3)

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Treasures in Heaven

Matthew 6:20 "But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal."

I have been ruminating for days on a blog post. And then I ran across this woman's blog. She pretty much wrote my post. I couldn't believe it. In fact, I almost checked the signature at the bottom of her post to make sure my name wasn't there. I had read the exact same New Year's post this gal refers to, and I, too, had the same exact thoughts. Only she beat me to the keyboard.
 ***The following is an excerpt from the blog link above. This is not the post in it's entirety.***

A few days ago I read a New Year’s post written by one of my favorite writers, Kelle Hampton. If you’re like me, and you dabble in self pity and ennui daily, I’d bookmark Kelle this year. After I read her posts, I’m re-inspired and invigorated and awake for at least twenty minutes. She’s better than three Red Bulls and a kale smoothie.
Kelle wrote a wonderful list of what she’d learned in 2011 and I found myself nodding, yes, yes, yes along with her inspired words- as I always do. But then I got to one which read:  “Family is everything, everything, everything.”

And something forced me to pause and stop reading. Inside that pause I realized that after living through 2011, I don’t think that’s true.

2011 Lesson #1 – Family is not everything.

It can’t be. Because sometimes beloved sons die. And husbands leave. And daughters lose their minds for decades. And beloved babies are broken by broken men behind the wheel.  And fathers abuse and mothers neglect and sisters and brothers betray. And friends walk away.
Family cannot be everything, everything, everything. Because if it is, then everything can be taken away in the blink of an eye. Or maybe never offered at all.
If family is everything, everything, everything, then it follows that if my family was taken from me, I would have and be nothing. And because if family is everything, then I would need to parent my kids and love my parents and Sister and husband in a state of constant fear. And fear taints love. Fear makes the lover hyperventilate and the beloved suffocate. Fear makes love a cage.
Down past the terrified, ridiculous part of me that believes something terrible will happen if I acknowledge this- I know that family is not everything. It’s a lot. It’s a whole damn lot. If my family were taken from me, or never given to me in the first place, I would feel shattered. But I would still be something. I would still have something. I would still have the most important part of me, as a matter of fact.
And this is something I’ve learned only this year. At the start of 2011, I definitely would have told you that family is everything.
But a few weeks ago I sat with my friend Anna, who lost her Jack this year. She is suffering  through excruciating pain that I’m afraid might just morph and never ease. But listen- when I looked at Anna- I was not looking at a woman with nothing. And it wasn’t just because she has Tim and Margaret left on this side. What I mean is that I was in the presence of a woman who has the entire world in her hands.
Anna is a woman who has power to heal -herself and others. Because Anna has choices. She could curse God and die, and we would all understand. But she doesn’t. She’s alive. Anna’s decision to write, to stay open, to invite us in when she’s most vulnerable, to get out of bed each morning, to keep choosing hope and love and life and to face the horrifically painful truth instead of hiding – her determination that THERE WILL STILL BE JOY, DAMNIT – these choices are healing and awakening her family, friends and readers. A teeny, teeny bit at a time. And since the worst has already happened, Anna is a woman who, at the moment, is loving and living without fear. And that is something.
I know she’d trade all this in a hot second to get her Jack back. But the fact remains that she is still Anna. She is a new Anna. A very, very different Anna. 
 Matt's death has changed me forever. And I struggle daily with the choice to cling to my pain and sorrow or give it to God, to let Him bind up my wound, and to trust Him with my future. Tim and I went to a church service tonight at a friend's church and heard a very powerful, healing message. It was titled, "Deadly Wounds." In a nutshell, Satan would like nothing more than to deliver a deadly blow. That's his goal. The good news is that Christ comes to deliver life. God can and does heal. But let's not be naive. A wound leaves a scar. Jesus Christ had scars. And he wasn't ashamed to show them, either. I could go on, but honestly, you'd need to just listen to the sermon for yourself. :) 

Thinking of what Christ did for me, the scars he bears, are because of what He did for me, taking my sins upon the cross. Is it any wonder that I should bear some scars as well, since I belong to Him? Anyway - all this to say that it got me thinking of Scripture. I've seen some verses in a whole new light. Especially the one above, at the top of my post. "Store up for yourselves treasures in heaven..." I think I can honestly say now that I have a treasure in heaven. My son. Waiting for me. Something to think about.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

A new year

Starting off a new year was much more difficult than I had anticipated. I really struggled with leaving 2011 behind. I felt like I was leaving Matt behind. It hurt so terribly thinking about a new year. And, of course, the whole world (or so it seemed) was only too happy, almost giddy, in fact, to bring in a new one. I wasn't happy, and I wasn't looking forward to a new one.

Dh and I kept going back and forth about our plans for New Year's Eve, too. Our family has traditionally hosted a New Year's Eve party at our house. This year, obviously, we weren't up to it. However, we didn't want to disappoint the rest of the kids, so we switched it up and ended up having a New Year's Eve Game Night at church. It was fun, though, to be sure, there were moments of grief. My heart hurt terribly when I saw Matt's best friends together, going off without him to play his favorite game, Halo. I certainly don't begrudge them their friendship or fun. It just hurts. It is what it is. *sigh* I am trying to remind myself in moments like those that Matt IS alive. He is alive in heaven. The hope of eternity for myself and trusting in God's character are what hold me firm.

It was a fun evening of games with a good turnout. The weather got a tad crazy even, and we ended up with a bit of everything; rain, thunder, lightening, and snow! The kids had a blast, however, throwing snowballs and then vowing to go back outside at exactly midnight, which they did.

We also took a difficult step and had our pictures taken. Dh and I couldn't bear to do a whole family photo, but we did individual pictures of the children as well as individual poses with each parent. We made it through and we got the proofs today. They turned out excellent, and I now know why we paid through the nose for them! :)

It's been a very emotional few days, but God has reminded me of many things. He continues to comfort us and speak His truths in our hearts. I am surviving...and trusting God to give me strength for the days (and year) to come.