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Monday, June 27, 2011

After The Storm

"Because death is just so full, and man so small.
Well, I'm scared of what's behind, and what's before"
After The Storm Mumford and Sons

When I take the time to reflect on my grief process. . .where I have been, where I am now, and how the journey has looked so far I like to think I am doing okay. Ups and downs are a daily struggle. On and off I have cried, screamed, doubted, and at times felt a sense of hopelessness. Those feelings now come in waves that are further and farther between, and when they do show up I have more strength to push them away much quicker than I did three months ago. But there is one piece of my story that scares me still, and that piece is the trauma of Matt's death. The whole night and day of the event, from him waking up, to me pleading with God in the hallway of my home, the ER, and then the hospital, the goodbyes, the letting go, telling Evelyn. The trauma of the event has me still shaking in my core.

For my readers who don't know me well there was a time in my life where I lived in a state that invited a sort of trouble that often resulted in trauma to myself. For the most part this was in the way of my psyche, but at times the trauma was physical as well. For those who intimately know me, at best you know half of it. After I surrendered my heart to Jesus, but before I surrendered my time, effort, and body to Him I had to learn a way to cope with trauma. It was a survival mode I lived in for far too many years. I taught myself a way to get through a traumatic event, and then how to wade through the emotional aftermath without completely falling apart to those around me. It was an amazing turning point in life when I finally allowed the Holy Spirit to start His work of transformation within me. Once that transformation began I knew I needed time (hours and hours of time) in prayer, in meditation, and in confession. I allowed Christ healing from those wounds, the only healing with the ability to truly heal.

It would reason then that after moving on from this time I liked to think I was some what better equipped to handle a situation that could cause others to panic. And I believe prior to Matt's death that had some truth to it. I can think of quite a few moments that Matt and I ventured over the last years, but one time I'm brought back to is the night of Isaac's birth. Isaac and I were only in the recovery ward of the hospital a few hours before he was rushed to Children's Hospital under the assumption a blood infection he appeared to have had the potential to be life threatening. Under attack I kept my cool, I did what I needed to do as his mother, and leaned on God. Holding his teeny tiny hand as they poked his spine with a needle which seemed half the size of his entire legnth. Only getting to hold my child for the first week with the restraints of tubes and IVs keeping us slightly separated. Being completely separated from Evelyn, who wasn't allowed to see her brother in the NICU. It was tramatic, and yet it really wasn't.

This is an area I've been told by many that I may need further help with. That the trauma will not disapate, it will not be healed without guidance. It has begun to manifest itself in my life in far too many ways for me to feel comfortable continuing down a path of ignorance in regards to its impact. I have to pull over on the road two or three times a week because the panic overtakes my ability to function. I wake up in the middle of the night at the slightest sound, terrified that the sound I'm hearing is one of my children now being taken from this Earth in the deep of the night. A seemingly innocent and harmless situation with our dog Maggie (that I should have been able to handle) turned into an afternoon of chaos which required a friend to drop everything to come help, and a plumber to lend the panicked widow a hand.

These panics appear to me in what I suppose might be a type of post traumatic stress. Flashes of that day. . .images of Matt with life fading from him, the slow and painful heartbreak felt from his hospital bedside, the moment he started bleeding out at our house, giving him CPR, Evelyn's tears at the end of the day, the doctor's faces throughout the day, the walk to his room to say goodbye, the moment they told me he would not make it, his eyes in those last seconds of consiousness. These flashes back, these moments that aren't healing in my heart. . .these are what it looks like to me after the storm.

"There will come a time, you'll see, with no more tears
And love will not break your heart, but dismiss your fears.
Get over your hill and see what you find there.
With grace in your heart and flowers in your hair."

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Unlovable Little Me

Insecurity has always been a stumbling point for me. Insecurity has caused me to do things I shouldn't have. Likewise, not do things I know I'm being called to. I wasn't able to really name this thing, insecurity, until the last year or so. I feel some freedom in just being able to call it what it is. I don't feel alone in this insecurity, I feel at times it can be an epidemic. And there is some freedom in that as well. I think one thing I have learned through my grief is that the tried and tired saying that life is too short is true.

Insecurities aren't new. If they caused Moses troubles then it doesn't surprise me I have issues in dealing with them too. I do find it interesting though, as I keep going forward in life I find that in a category that I used to feel direly alone in, I'm anything but alone. We all have insecurities about something. It's been long understood that kids who are abused as children grow up to have larger issues in life, and one of these is insecurity. But I heard recently that due to the high volume of sexually laced images young people are exposed to at such a high rate our young adults now display characteristics the same as adults who were abused as children. So basically our children's over exposure to magazines, reality tv, models, commercials could later in life manifest itself into our children's minds the same as molestation would? This should be chilling.

Insecurity latches on to my belly like a leech; it sucks me until I feel sick to my stomach. It can seize me up in sheer panic. It can cause anxiety that bounces me off the wall. It can make me sleepy. It can make me depressed. It can make me eat. It can prompt me to starve myself. It is ugly, dark, and I hate it. I discovered my lies for what they were prior to Matt dying, but now with this new view of life and death as I look forward I'm beginning to think I don't want those lies feeding off my soul any longer. It is true that when defenses are weak, it's easier to fade back, to let the lies take over and give in to it's darkness. But there is a problem with this fading back. . .and that is it is hard for God to be glorified in the shadows. As long as He is in the world, then He is the light of it. . .right? Or in other words, if I allow my insecurities, or my lies to stand in the way of His calling, His plan for me, or even the tasks He has laid out for me to do for others . . . there is no light in me. Another chilling thought.

So, for me, it was identifying the lie I was telling myself. It is determining what other things I tell myself that I related to that lie, and calling them out as well. Everyone's lies are different. Mine came to me one day about two years ago in a stark and startling manner. I was probably the age of 16 (this coincides with the time of my first real boyfriend) when I began a habit of telling myself that no one would ever love me. Seems trite, right? I can practically picture myself even - A heartbroken teen girl sobbing over her pom-poms repeating to herself that "No one will ever love you" **insert dramatics here** And, for the most part, that image could have been spot on. When it started it could have been harmless, but the fruit from such a lie is no fruit I want to bear anymore.

And truly I don't know what came first . . . Was I born with a propensity to feel unlovable? Or did I encourage the deep roots of the lie because I repeated it to myself thousands of times over just a few short years? And something like feeling unlovable reaches to all relationships in one's life. It reaches to all communication. It reaches to places you wouldn't imagine. Every conversation, every interaction, every glance. Each one wrapped up and put under the context of my lie.

Now, I don't need you tell me that I am lovable. That is not the point. Because some people love me, and some people don't. That is life. The point is does Jesus find me lovable? The point is can I surrender my lie in order to step out each day and live life in a way that shows confidence in His love for me?

My prayer in this is that others would be bold enough to see if there is a lie that is holding them back from doing what they are being called to do. That they would call it a lie out loud. That the truth of who Christ is in us would be louder than any lie we may have become comfortable telling ourselves. That together we can let go of the societal demands place upon us, and focus instead on the gift of life as it was meant to be.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Glitter Like Gold

Thanks to The Lockman Foundation you can listen to the audio version of the book of Job in it's entirety for free at any given time; all one needs is access to the internet and a computer. This takes about four long, and at times, painful hours. And I don't mean painful in a boring sense, oh no. This book is full of human ridiculousness in all it's glory. If you can open yourself up to the thought, there are times while studying this book I find myself cringing as I would if I were watching a second rate reality TV show like The Real Housewives of [fillintheblank]. Times in the book I want to close my ears to our blatant disregard, not because I'm any better, but rather because my assumptions and questions about life and God far too often mimic those of Job's friends. But the book is so much more than just a life lesson in how small our minds really are. . .it is a large picture window giving us a glimpse into the Holiness of God. And listen, I would take a keyhole glimpse at His Holiness if that was all I was offered.

The story is of a man who loves God, who is righteous, who follows the law. God gives Satan the go ahead of sorts to take everything from Job in order to prove Job's love is deeper than the blessings God has bestowed upon him. And so Satan has at it; takes Job's children, his wealth, his health, and leaves him with nothing. I can't help but wonder what moves God is making in order to make my life worthy of glorifying His name. What is going on within The Kingdom that is changing each and everyone of our lives/paths, all so we can find covenant living and make disciples as He wants us to. And acknowledge it or not, like it or not, but believe me when I tell you your life is already under the authority of Kingdom Living. So, do you think God and Satan had a lazy Sunday afternoon bet over your life? What a crazy and clarifying idea to imagine a hardship or suffering in this light. To watch as we respond to the path God places us on, taking each step carefully not to selfishly act entitled to something better, but rather to praise Him still.

So after Job grieves, and after his friends offer up some skewed observations and some not so hot advice God shows up. I mean it, He shows up with a few choice words for this small group of His chosen people. After you've read through it once, I think part of the cringe-worthy factor of the story of Job is knowing that while we sit on Earth contemplating, doubting, questioning there is this chance that God will show up and tell it to us just like it is. And apparently telling it like it is, is to 'gird up our loins like a man'. I just can't quite wrap my head around the almighty asking me to gird up my loins, but it does makes me giggle just a little if I was to be honest. And then God reminds us of something beautiful. Chapters 38-41 are a must read. He reminds us that we weren't here when He got this whole thing rolling. And likely, we won't be here when He wraps it up. We don't know how intricate, and beautiful His plans and movements are. We don't understand how every last thing going on around us is part of that plan. We can't get the plan, but we can adore the creator for the beauty of what comes forth from that.

My favorite verse in Job comes from Chapter 23:10 and 11. "But he knows the way that I take; when he has tested me, I will come forth as gold. My feet have closely followed his steps; I have kept to his way without turning aside." Mmmm Hmmm. . .I want to follow closely, Lord, I want to come forth as gold. . .seems appropriate when I consider my love of all things that shine;)

We can take what God has given us in this life (good or bad), we can feel what the Spirit is imprinting on our hearts in regards to our path, and we can look to Job [to the Bible] to see just what message He is trying to give to us. I tell myself daily to remember. . .bitterness, anger, resentment, revenge; those are all the easy way out, and that is not what I want. What I want is to come forth as gold, to follow closely and shine.

I like how the book of Job doesn't leave us hanging. No, it gives us a follow up just like a true reality series should do. A snippet at the end that flashes by so we know that God went on to provide for Job. We learn that Job lived a full and happy life. Regardless of the pain that overtook him at one point, Job persevered. And in the end? He came forth as gold.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Saying Goodbye To Our Home

The move became official over this past week. It was this chaotic, emotional, and overwhelming week which marked the move from Matt and I’s home, we had built together, to a new home, I chose without him. A home the kids and I will build together. As things often do the weight of what this entailed was a heavy load to carry. It started with last Saturday’s big move. I stayed at my new home to direct where furniture and boxes should be going, and dozens of friends and family gathered at my old home to load up what was left. It was about the time that the two largest trailers of furniture made it to my new house, and someone informed me that the old house was almost empty, that it hit me. Hit me hard. The minute I imagined our home emptied the only logical thing for my brain to comprehend was when we had moved in.

Matt and I had bought our old home at auction. It was an exciting way to buy a home, not to mention an excellent deal. We didn’t have to deal with banks, and our title company was somewhere in Florida so although we weren’t closing until mid December it was no surprise when Matt asked the selling agent for the key code. Within hours we had our first boxes to the house a week before Thanksgiving. Nothing was going to stand in the way of his new home and the thrill of moving in. We worked late into the night, Evelyn fast asleep in her pack and play tucked into the (then empty) corner of our toy room, bustling around the new house moving in boxes, unloading, cleaning, and just enjoying each other. That move was fun, it was filled with new beginnings, and it was the last move we would ever make together.

And now here I was in my new town home, twenty some people piling boxes on boxes into the corners of what seemed a place half my old home’s size, and I seized up thinking of that last move Matt and I made together. I stepped out onto my new deck, squeezed our dog Maggie tight, and reminded myself, “God is good.” I reminded myself that breaking down in the midst of all these people making your load less then light was rude. I told myself to pull it together. And I did. I made it through that Saturday, and at the end of the day my old home was empty, and my new home filled.

It wasn’t until a couple days later when my parents were busy cleaning out the old place that a new wave of nostalgia washed over me. I knew it was time to walk around and say goodbye. Some places were much harder than others. The toy room was a tough one; we had spent hours and hours in there together as a family, building memories and having fun. The place Matt collapsed in our bedroom, also a tough one. As I stood over that spot glancing back into our bedroom it felt surreal that only four and a half short months prior that my bed stood tall under the two adorable corner windows of our room, that Matt’s enormous TV was mounted just above my head. . .and now, Matt was gone, and I was about to say goodbye forever. Outside the home was emotional too. Just glancing over our yard I’m sure anyone who knew Matt at all would probably be able to practically still see him out there. Racing from one place to another, one project to the next, and all the while pushing Evelyn in one of the four swings he had rigged up for her.

My own goodbyes were hard, but I had promised Evelyn the same, so the next day I took her to the house to walk it once more as well. It was pouring outside, which seemed all too appropriate. We did the same thing together, Isaac in tow, which I had done alone the day prior. Each room, one by one. We would walk in, sit down, call out to Matt, tell stories, and cry. Oh, did she cry. Since the night I told Evelyn of her father’s passing I’ve only seen a few times when the cries coming from her were truly from her gut. Cries of utter pain that no four year old should ever even know of. These cries during her goodbye of our home . . . these were those kind of cries. Her room was the hardest for her. She sat on that floor, and begged me to stay. She told me she didn’t want to go, that she never wanted to leave. I told her I understood. Since leaving that day she has said little about wanting to go back; here and there, but doesn’t seem too upset. She is at a new childcare, and I think is happy for the most part. She spends her days with her brother, and I doubt she could ask for much more.

We have moved. The unpacking is far from done. The cleaning isn’t over yet. The boxes still to be opened are many. But our goodbyes are done. It is a step forward, a step towards new beginnings. It is a step I took with Christ. . .out in faith, and faith alone. Knowing this new beginning He is leading me towards is the plan He has for me.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Here I Am. Here I Sit.

Here I sit in my new kitchen.

Here I have been for the last 36 hours, unloading belongings from our home into uncharted territory. I love my new place. God is so good, and I could not ask for anything more. He has blessed me with a new place to call home, the sale of my house in a horrendous market, miraculous and continuous help to get everything done along the way, and far more than I am quite ready to share just yet.

But still. Here I am.

Personal pictures had been boxed and stored months ago in anticipation for the house showings. Taking these things out one by one, unwrapping each item, it's utterly painful. After a long couple of days, and refusing to give in to the need to sleep, I began the task of setting up my scrapbooking room. I figured it would be a place of rest and ease. However, one of the
first envelopes I came across said 'Evelyn 2011'. I knew opening it that it would contain pictures up until February 5. . .I was right. If my brain has the capacity to remember anything, I think I actually put this envelope together the night Matt died. He didn't feel good, and went to sleep early, leaving me to scrap in solitude. Disgustingly, and ironically, I clearly remember thinking a number of times that evening how much I was deeply enjoying the solitude I never received as a working mother and wife. I could kick myself.

'Evelyn 2011' contained only a couple of pictures. Her birthday party, pictures littered with presents from her dad. Our trip to Nickelodeon Universe on her exact birth date. Which turned out to be the last family outing we ever had. Pictures from the night Evelyn and I were glued to the WII, playing Disney Princesses, with Matt hovering over us poking fun every step of the way. And then there was the last picture we ever took together; Evelyn was the photographer. Matt was hooded in a maroon sweatshirt (one that I wear often now), making a ridiculous face, as I sat beside him trying my best to resemble cute in my postpartum state. What amazing pictures these now are. What value they have. To me, to Evelyn. Just some goofy faced picture on an idle weekday night. These pictures stunned me.

He just up and died. Matt died. My Mattyo. Dead and gone forever.

And so now here I sit in my new kitchen just days before saying a final goodbye to the home we built together, and I'm torn. I had a conversation with a friend this week explaining how I have been feeling a lot of angst recently. Angst at the line I'm treading between grief, and wanting to rejoice in God's provisions. He has been so faithful. He has been so kind. He has met every last need I've had, and continues to give to me tenfold that.

But my gracious Father. Abba Father. I am still here.

The pain morphs everyday, as I assume it will for quite some time to come. I'm becoming all too acquainted with the need to allow myself to morph within those changes as well. These are steps forward, steps in the right direction, just not steps we were prepared for.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Leaving The "Why" Behind

John 9:1-3 tells a story of a blind man who is healed by Jesus. In this day it was often thought if someone was born with an ailment or sickness it was due to a sin either by the person who bore it, or by sins of the generation before. It is in this passage Jesus rebukes his disciples telling them that it was neither.

As he went along, he saw a man blind from birth. 2 His disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” 3 “Neither this man nor his parents sinned,” said Jesus, “but this happened so that the works of God might be displayed in him.

When we are suffering it is so easy to ask God why. Why me, why now, why Pneumonia, why Matt? As you struggle in those first weeks, months, or years of your grief this very question can easily drive a person to insanity. You come up with speculations, ideas, or simply just more questions that not only take away from your healing, but get you no where in the process. This week God opened up this story to me so that I might be able to see that why is not the question I should be asking.

Eugene Peterson (The Message Bible) interpreted Jesus' word here in this chapter of John this way
, "You're asking the wrong question. You're looking for someone to blame. There is no such cause-effect here. Look instead for what God can do."

Who hasn't asked God why? It is so easy to do, and yet, it's important to remember this may be nothing more than a revolving door. A revolving door that, although tempting to spin around in, could cause us to lose sight of what He would ask of us. We will not know why we suffer here. We will not know all the plans He has laid out, but what we can do is look forward. We can ask Him to be glorified; even in the moments we can't imagine reflecting in ourselves anything that appears close to light of Christ. Even in our suffering He will be glorified. Better yet, through our suffering He shines brightest through those willing to heed His call. If I was blinded to one thing prior to Matt's death it is that glorifying God is not a call to take lightly. If we listen to His word He reminds us not to doubt. He reminds us that the 'why' isn't the question to ask; instead ask God, 'What would you have for me now?'. It's far too easy in suffering and grief to become bitter. Think of this though, the people that we admire, look up to, are the people that instead of bitterness choose to become better in the face of life's hardships.

And so what does Christ do when presented with a question of why? He heals in order to glorify God. Specifically Jesus spits in the dirt below His feet, makes a paste, and rubs it in the blinds man's eyes. He tells him to go wash it off in the Pool of Siloam, and the blind man can see! Now there is a way to drive home the point of a lesson if I've ever heard one. Jesus' spit and dust to the glory of God.

Where there was suffering, now there is healing. Where there was hardship, now there is the glory of God. That is what I want. The pain remains, the grief continues, but the questions I will ask God will change. What would He have for me now?