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Monday, February 28, 2011

When "Thank You" Feels Weird

1 Chronicles 16:34 Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; his love endures forever.

I said goodbye to two very good friends today as they start a new journey in a new city, with new people and a marvelous mystery waiting to unfold, but before they left I was given an important message. A message that contained a reminder that God commands our appreciation.

So what happens at those times in your life when thanking God seems down right awkward? When you are fairly certain a "Thank you God, for taking my 33 year old husband and leaving me down here with two tiny kids" seems and feels a little more than insincere. I'm glad this was the message today, because it reminded me that even in the darkest valley praise and thanks should not only be freely given, but are much deserved. So today, I will give thanks to God for all the blessings he has so generously given to me, and just for this moment I will set aside that which he has taken.

I am deeply grateful for two healthy and beautiful children to love and adore. I am grateful that Isaac is an easy going baby, who doesn't hold a candle to his sister in the crying department. I am thankful for Evelyn's smile. Her daily reminders that she "can never stop loving daddy" with nothing short of a full toothed grin is enough to make anyone praise God for his gift of a child's heart.

I am thankful for my family. My mother and father who have continuously and repeatedly had to pour over me patience and kindness for years - sometimes I wonder if they'll ever get a break from my ever present needs (and I pray that someday they will). I'm thankful for a mother who is gentle with me, yet truthful. Thankful that my children will have a father figure in their lives because of my dad, who is so available and wonderful to them. My sister who has shown my parents up a time or two in regards to patience with me, and who in recent days has been a rock for me to rest on. My brothers, who though are far away, I know are loving me and worrying about my well being.

I am thankful for LifePrint Church, and every person that steps into it. I do not know where I would be without my church family. They have pulled together in a Spirit driven way over this last month for me in such a way it convinces me that when Jesus spoke of the church this is what he meant. Coming together, loving each other, sharing gifts, sacrificing, pouring out all we have, and praising Him each step of the way -- now that is a church I want to belong to! To every single last LifePrinter. . . thanks:)

I praise God for friendships. Friendships often get neglected as we age. We marry, have children, and get busy living life. Those dear people that we lived with, partied with, went to school with, some how get put last on the list. It is these friends, both who have been there all along or who stepped up just at the right time, that have covered me with love and support over this last month that I am grateful for. They are a reminder that those moments were as dear to them as they were to me, and that friendships last a lifetime.

I am thankful for a work environment that is allowing me to grieve on my own time. A work family who has continuously shown nothing but grace towards me, when having to add to their own work loads in order to cover for me. They all mean more to me then they could ever know.

I am so grateful for all of the provisions God had in store for me in this dark time. He is continuing to provide me with the financial support the kids and I are in need of. He is teaching me humility, because well dearly needed, it can be hard to accept at times. I am grateful for the lesson in humility as well. So for any of you out there who have given to us in any way; with money, time, service, food, gifts, and even comforting words, I have seen the glory of God shining through each one of those acts -- so thank you to each one of you!

I am thankful for loving and wonderful inlaws, as they are some of the only people that can give me a window into Matt. With their loud chatter, sassy humor, and lifelong memories of Matt they give me comfort some simply aren't capable of.

I am thankful God is allowing me to write without fear. It has given me a sense of purpose at a time when my purpose here can seem fuzzy. And I'm hopeful that He will use it for good. I am thankful for strength and energy when there is none. And if God reveals himself to us through our conscience (which is telling me to hang on for dear life), Christ (who is holding my hand well I do just that), and creation. . .It is creation I am abundently thankful for. I find peace during this time when I am able to gaze at the stars, see the sunset, or watch the snow fall with no end in sight. These few quiet moments is when I see that it is a good God we serve. I'm so very thankful that sort of beauty is one of the ways in which he chooses to reveal Himself to us, and even more grateful to be called one of His.

So Glenn and Amy. . .I hope you are reading this. I hope you made it to KS safe. I am grateful for who you are, your message today, for all you have done for LifePrint,and all you have done for me. I know that you will shine the glory of God in your next journey, because it is truly a gift He has given you. You are missed already!!

Friday, February 25, 2011

It's Starting to Get Gross

There was an initial thought for me when Matt died that you still have them around in some way. Sure, he's dead, I know that, but he's not gone, right? That huge mind game you play with yourself that death doesn't mean gone. After all, there are pictures, memories, videos, you have their stuff, you are in the places they spent most of their days. Here's the catch; not one of those things I listed, the things that were 'suppose' to keep him alive, hold any piece of his soul, of his spirit.

Back then I could look in a drawer filled with paper clips, used screws, and an electronic contraption or two and get annoyed, then laugh, and know that he was close by. It reminds me of how I felt the day of the visitation, it was of very little comfort for me to say goodbye to his body. His body, these objects, the places he was they are all empty without his spirit driving them. I want the things he did leave behind to bring me more comfort, and rather it just seems death is taunting me. They are instead a constant reminder that Matt, my Matt, won't ever fill up a room for me again.

It's similar when I watch our home videos, the ones I have been able to so far. I'm noticing that I can watch a video of Matt, and see him make Evelyn laugh. But the laugh in the video is a previous laugh from a previous joke. The laugh there never changes, the joke begins to grows old. The joy of this memory starts to fade to sadness as you notice the laughter you shared as a family because of his spontaneous humor in that moment isn't one you will ever share again. What you desire is for him to walk into a room and poke fun at Evelyn and I for something silly we are doing during this moment. For him to make us laugh today. For him to make me smile right now.

It's no different with a picture. I look at a picture of Matt and see how his skin is wrinkled in certain spots around his eyes, his goofy grin when he was avoiding the camera, or the curve of his upper lip when he smiles. But I can't lift my hand and place it under his chin. I can't feel the warmth of his face, or the stubble of his facial hair. I can't lay my head in the crook of his arm with my head on his chest. The place every wife knows, the place you can hear their heart beat and rest for hours in safety and comfort. Right now, for today, my hand still knows how his skin feels, but I can't help but wonder for how long?

I was able to wear his t-shirt, the only one that happened to be dirty when he passed, for a week before it just no longer smelled of him. I clutch that shirt now while I go to sleep, the one I've tried in vain to spray with his cologne knowing that it won't do any good. The truth of it is Matt's cologne without Matt is nothing but an unfamiliar fragrance that holds no place in my heart.

Yes, there is a small piece of comfort in all these things still. These things are better then nothing , but there is something massive missing. His spirit. . .his soul. . .his energy. I miss his energy at times so very terribly it can make me ill. I want so badly for Isaac to know just what his father's spirit was capable of on this Earth. My prayer is that Isaac grows up to possess that same energy his father had, that it would be a God driven comfort for all of us to know that beautiful energy like Matt's is capable to exist once more, and I would be so grateful.

And so today I'm going to wash the sheets on our bed. They are gross, and it is time. I am literally broken over this, it seems so crazy. They are dirty sheets, and they need to be washed. But what is it that I'm doing? I will put them into my washer and the water will wash some of my last traces of him right down the drain. Laying in our bed since that evening is the one thing that has continued to bring a constant feeling of home to my heart, as if a little of him is still in those sheets somewhere. That last chocolate sauce stain next to his pillow will be removed, the stains that I had bugged him about every time he came to bed with a bowl of ice cream. His sweat stains on the pillowcases won't be there anymore. The softness of where he had laid will be pulled back taut by the water, and I'll be left with nothing but clean sheets.

Today is a sad day. I don't want pictures, videos, his clothes, or gross sheets. All I want is Matt.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Genesis 2:24 In Reverse

"For this reason a man shall leave his father and his mother, and be joined to his wife; and they shall become one flesh."

Become. One. Flesh.

I doubt I am the only Christian widow that has pondered this thought. That the God of Jacob, Abraham, and Isaac. . .the God who watched Matthew Arnold Olson leave his parents on September 16, 2009 and cleave to me was the very same God who stood over me in the hospital on February 5, 2011 and slowly tore him from me. For God to widow a woman is to take away half of who she is here on this Earth, to rip her flesh in two, to tear apart what He has joined. If it sounds violent, that's because it is.

I spent 25 years searching for Matt; choosing our spouses is so unlike other relationships we are given. It is God who oversees what parents we have, who become our children, and the siblings that our often our best of friends in this life. And although we choose our friends, even the most intimate of those friendships do not compare to that of a marriage. And God no doubt has a will for us when it comes to our spouses, but as a rebellious child of God I am the first to recognize God's will for us can be ignored. There is something special and unique about the gift of marriage. It is a divine choice we make to another person.

A choice that takes guts, that takes work, that takes time.

I longed for Matt my whole life. And once I found him? When I say wild horses couldn't have dragged me away I mean it quite seriously. It took a very long time for Matt to even open up to the idea of being in a relationship, and then a good amount of time after that to commit to marriage. And all the while well he was making up his mind about me, I had already made the decision for him. I wasn't going anywhere.

We laughed together, danced together, and partied together. We fought hard, loved hard, and worked hard. He was my choice. It took me a long time to find him, a long time to snag him, and a long time for us to understand the meaning of family. Unfair does not begin to encompass how I feel about my husband being ripped from me in the middle of the night. Cruel feels like the more appropriate word.

But in the midst of this. . .this losing my best friend, this being torn in two, this being left behind as a single mother. . .in here somewhere is hope, in here somewhere is grace. I know this only by His promises, which I will continue to cling to dearly. I know with certainty that my God is not cruel, and so I can rest in the knowledge that His plan for me is not what I see today.

This I can claim as truth, even when I do not understand it, even when I do not really like it, even when it is no longer my choice.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

One More Moment

On the night Matt died there was a few seconds the two of us collectively knew it was serious. The phone was lying by his head, speaker phone on, operator asking me questions. My hands were grasping Matt's face, just inches from him with our eyes connected. All I could manage to say was, "He is my husband, I love him." I repeated it over and over to her.

"He is my HUSBAND, I love him"

"He is my husband, I love him"

As if getting her to understand that this was not some stranger I had happened upon in need of help, but my one and only, my soul mate, my husband she would press a different button that would call on someone who was sure to save him, because this operator knew the woman on the other side of the phone was nothing without this man. . .My plea to her did not work.

I do have peace that those words were the last Matt consciously heard. He saw in my eyes that I was taking care of him, that he was loved, and that he had a wife who was desperate for him.

But what if I had one moment more, a common question people in my spot I'm sure often ask. What if I could slow that minute down and think about what I was going to say to him, those last seconds with him on Earth. Here are a few that have been floating through my mind the last month.

I would tell him I did not regret leaving this summer (to some this may be news, and the details are meaningless). It was in those months that Matt took a step within himself that I can not define, but we figure out that this road we were journeying together was a hard one, but one we would do together no matter the cost.

I would tell him the best choice I had made in my life was coming home, and I wish I would have done it sooner.

I would tell him that one of the sweetest things he had ever done was read, "The Five Love Languages". A suggestion our counselor had made. And I would have told him my only love language was him, and that he has spoke it fluently since the day I met him.

I would tell him that he did tell me I was beautiful often enough. He would say to me almost everyday, "You are so beautiful, I don't tell you enough." I'm sure he really thought he didn't, but at the time I didn't want to correct him in fear he might quit saying it so much.

I would tell him sorry for any hurtful thing I had ever said, but that I wasn't sorry for pushing him to be all he could be.

I would tell him that he was all I could ever ask for in a husband and more.

I would tell him thank you for making a home for his family, for being a great dad, and for never giving up on anything or anyone.

I would tell him he had made a difference on this Earth, for many people including the kids and me, and he should be proud of that.

I would tell him I was proud of him.

I would tell him I knew he loved me, and I was sorry for anytime I had ever questioned that fact.

And what would he have said to me if he had a chance? I'm sure I knew Matt well enough to nail it down pretty closely. He would have given me a Mattyo smirk and said, "Stephanie, you will be fine without me. You are a beautiful woman, a hard worker, and a great mother. I don't know what you are worrying about." The statement would have been breezy, it would have been casual, and it would have been stated as if it was the truest thing he had ever spoken.

Matt had a way of erasing life's worries for me, it was the first thing that drew me to him. He was such a carefree soul - a fact that had got him into trouble a time or two. And although I know it will now be Jesus, and not Matt, to remind me that there is nothing to worry about in this place the last thing I would have told Matt is this; that I promise to hold his carefree spirit near to my heart. To do my very best to let it shine through me; praying I can give some other worrisome soul out there the comfort that he had continuously and freely given to me.

Matthew 6:34 "Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own."

Monday, February 21, 2011

Awake, again.

Sleeping has never been an issue for me. I enjoy my pillow, down comforter, and soft sheets just about as much as anything else I can imagine, but I just can't seem to lay my head down. For the first time in my life the idea of "something keeping me up at night" hits way too close to home. Matthew 6:19 has been playing on repeat in my head over these last two or three days. . ."Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. 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 practically written a melody for these very words, and sing it as I work around the house.

I am beginning the long and daunting task of sorting through Matt's things in preparing us for the inevitable upcoming (and mostly unwanted) move. I wonder if he is watching over me. At times I think he must be cringing to watch me throw away his earthly "treasures", the ones I pleaded with him to discard time and time again without luck. The things I am finding are outstanding, outrageous, hilarious, and yet sad as well. He spent such time with these things, moving them, learning about them, fixing them. It was who he was, it was what he did, and I love him for that.

And then there are times I get the feeling I am wrong about his possible annoyance with me, and rather he is watching over me, encouraging me to do what I need to do. Less stuff, means less work, means more time with the kids, and more money to support us. Does he now have a greater and deeper understanding of what this passage is truly all about?

Or what if there isn't disgust or encouragement, maybe there is something in regards to this whole thing I can't understand still being of this Earth. I've shed a lot of tears in these last hours over just this issue. Which may seem weird to some, but Matt loved this stuff, he spent a lifetime gathering it - and with some exceptions it is mostly just useless junk. For those of you who didn't know him well Matt was not a hoarder, TLC style, but he had "hoarding tendencies" (as I would so lovingly call them). He also loved to shop, he loved toys, and he had a need to have two (or more) of everything he owned. This was one of the things that made him the most fun dad on the planet.

I think this "stuff" was his form of release in this world, it helped him to have control, make sense of things. He liked to be surrounded by stuff that he could tangibly hold, organize, move, and mess around with. It made him feel grounded and safe in some strange way. And now I am left behind to clean it up. To pick up those 10,000 twist ties so neatly straighten and organized into labeled containers and say, 'These don't matter, and I'm throwing them out'. It is gut wrenching, it is painful, it feels wrong. I don't have a choice though, it needs to be done, and I'm doing the right thing. And even with all that Truth filled knowledge the lies are still eating me up inside. This terrible feeling that I am actually hurting him, that somewhere he is angry with me.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Two weeks since you left

t's been two weeks since you left me. It took me some time to figure that out, as it seems time doesn't exist for me anymore. I drift in and out of days. And although the world appears to have kept moving, I am stuck. You left me. . .and I needed you. And I am scared. Scared I can't be who they need me to me. Scared this pain will never cease or even ease. Scared I will forget you. I miss the way you smell, the way you made me laugh, the way you played with Evelyn. Matt, no one is fun enough for her when compared to you. The emotions are crashing into me day and night, each coming after me with different weapon to destroy my spirit. The bittersweet memories that bring happiness, the loneliness when your arms aren't there to wrap around me, the frustration of the stuff you left behind for me to clean, the guilt for having to let some of you go, the anger for having to lose you too soon, the pain -- sheer pain -- of watching our daughter miss you so very much, and the sadness I feel for Isaac who will never have a chance to know you. You had a way of lighting up each room in our home, and each room now seems a little dimmer. I pray for strength, and at times it is granted to me. But even then the continued tearing of my heart seems too much to bear. All I have now is my trust in God. Trust that He would not take you without purpose, trust that suffering brings refinement, trust that He will lead me through, trust that He will provide. I plead with the Spirit to fill me up, to remind me of the cross, to remind me this is only my temporary home, and there will be a day when all my tears are wipes away. The problem is. . .my temporary home is a vast and unknown foreign land without you.

You are missed.