Honestly, Really

I recently was challenged to be honest with myself.  “Are you being honest with yourself   .  .  .   really?”  The question makes you think, really think.  Not just a passing minute or two, but over the hours and days that follow.

In light of my last post and this challenging question, I think I’ve had to look hard at being honest with myself.  Here’s what I’ve discovered, or concluded.  My life doesn’t look like what it once did.  It doesn’t look like what I planned for.  I was once married, but now I’m not.  And there are so many parts of being married that I miss.

I miss the romance.  I miss having someone pursue me.  I miss someone wanting me.  I miss being desired.  I miss someone bringing me flowers and telling me he loves me.  I miss his company and holding his hand.  I miss hearing he loves me.

I think much of this is what has led me to those obsessing, all-consuming thoughts.  But in looking hard at this, I feel like God is beginning to show me something I haven’t seen before.  I haven’t quite grasped it.  I get little glimpses of it.   I reach out to fully embrace all of it but can’t yet.  I get just a little taste at a time, but it keeps me pursuing.  And this time it’s not the obsessive thoughts I’m pursuing.  I’ve asked God to take all these things I miss about being married and to show me fulfillment in Him in these areas.  That I might be so satisfied in my relationship with Him, that even the beauty of my married life would be eclipsed.

God let me find all these things in you. Let me feel loved and pursued and desired. Let me find the satisfaction of all these things in You.  Let me find them in such a way and in such fulfillment that I don’t seek for their gratification anywhere else. Let me be so fulfilled that it is beyond what I had in him. Let it be even greater than I knew was possible.

Help me to be patient and persevere so that you will grow me and mature my faith. Strengthen me to pursue You, even as I desired to be pursued.  Perfect me. Complete me.

My Mind — My Enemy

I don’t now if it ‘s because I have much more time alone now than I did when Michael was alive.  Or is it just a factor of my age, my circumstance or my desires.  But I find myself easily drawn into daydreams of different things.  Ideas of what the future could be.  And perhaps because Michael isn’t here to hear the things on my mind, I just roll them over and over again.

The trouble is that, in my mind, I can become obsessed with these things.  Obsessed to the point that I know it’s not healthy and it’s not in keeping with what God would have me concentrate on.  Whether it’s an idea, a place or a person, my mind can become obsessed.

I know the cure.   The cure is found in God and His word.  I’ve asked him, earnestly pleaded and begged Him, to take these obsessive thoughts out of my mind.  He will fight the battle for me.  He knows I’m incapable of successfully fighting it myself.  Scripture tells me to put on the armor of God.  I know this.  I’ve studied this.  I pray this.  But most of all I fall down before God, confessing that I am unable and begging Him to fight for me.

And He does.  He has.  Some time ago when I felt like I was drowning in obsessive thoughts I cried out to God — actually I begged and pleaded with God to take the thoughts away and replace them with thoughts of Him and His goodness.  And He did.  It was such a relief to be free; free from what I knew was not God’s will for my life; free to concentrate on pursuing what God wanted for me.  And I’m so thankful.

But I have to tell you that I’ve recently slipped back into those thought patterns.  Just a little at first, but the slippery slope has pulled me further and further into these daydreams and fantasies.  Why does my mind default to these things?  Do I not have enough to keep me busy and occupied?

God, give me Your strength to walk away from these thoughts.  I lay them at Your feet.  Take them and don’t let me ever pick them up again.

Update:  Recently I was listening to my TV preacher again.  He was addressing the question asked of Jesus as to which was the greatest commandment.  He said Jesus couldn’t list just one; His answer was to love God and to love others as yourself.  What does this command look like?  He boiled it down to three points:  First, do nothing to hurt yourself.  Second, do nothing to hurt anyone else.  Third, let nothing master you.

I can’t seem to get away from these three instructions.  I cannot keep thinking the way I have and still have my own best interest and the best interests of others in mind.  And these thoughts do become master over me.  Clearly to follow these three means I must let go of my obsessive thoughts.

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The Biggest Lesson

A few weeks ago I was having dinner with a friend when he asked me a question: “What’s the biggest thing you’ve learned since Michael has died?”  Gee, and I thought it was just a casual dinner!  Here we are delving into deep waters.

At first I couldn’t really come up with an answer.  (I know — imagine me speechless!)  Several things floated through my mind.  The fact that I’ve learned to give blood without passing out.  The many, many legal and business dealings that I’ve taken over.  The negotiating with contractors that I never planned to do.   But none of these seemed qualified as “the biggest thing”.

In a few moments I knew what the answer was:  “I’ve learned to trust God.”

Now, I started trusting God when I was 12 years old and first prayed the sinners’ prayer in my bedroom at home.  I trusted God when when I told Michael I would marry him.  I trusted God when the doctors told me my first baby wouldn’t live.  I’ve trusted God when I’ve traveled and when I’ve had surgery.  I trusted God through raising three kids, letting them leave my sight and hearing Michael’s diagnosis.  But I don’t think I’ve ever trusted God like I have in the last 15 months.

You see, for much of my life I’ve been trusting in Michael.  I knew for years that I depended on him way too much.  In all our years together, no matter what we faced we faced it together.  Sometimes there were difficult situations that we struggled with.  But there was never anything that came between us.  It was always Michael and me against whatever came up.  But as those years passed, I also know that the scariest, worst thing I could ever imagine was to have to face life without Michael.  Just the thought of it as I would go through my day would bring me to tears.  I thought we could face anything as long as we were together.

So now, for me to look ahead and have to face each day without Michael is a nightmare come true.  And I realize like never before that I have to trust God.  Now I have to trust Him to talk me through decisions.  I have to trust Him to defend me.  I have to trust Him to ride along with me as I travel, to keep me alert as I drive long distances, to keep me company when I spend the night alone in a strange hotel room.  I have to trust Him to help me plan for my future and my finances.  I have to trust Him to help me know when to speak and what to say.  I don’t have Michael any more as a sounding board for these things.

So, yes, my biggest lesson is to learn to trust God.  To trust Him more and more each day.  I should have learned to trust Him this much earlier.  But I’m learning now.

Jesus, Jesus, how I trust Him!
How I’ve proved Him o’er and o’er;
Jesus, Jesus, precious Jesus!
Oh, for grace to trust Him more!                                                                           Hymn – Tis So Sweet To Trust In Jesus

Heart Troubles

Why is it that some mornings I wake up feeling like I can conquer the world?  I can take on any task and give myself credit for at least trying even if I can’t complete it.  I can feel good about where I am in life.  And then a simple word from someone or an interaction can change everything and make me feel defeated.

Why is it that some mornings I feel like I’m defeated before I even get out of bed?

Why do I react to some people the way I do:  judging them and being critical?

Why do I let the need of some people to feel superior make me feel inferior?  Why can’t I accept that they need to be first, be right, be “in the know” and allow them that, without feeling like I have to compete?  Or that I don’t measure up?

Why do I so easily feel left out when I clearly have so much and so many who support and encourage me?

Why do I feel pangs of jealousy and envy over others’ triumphs?  I love these folks – why can’t my love be pure and rejoice in their victories?  I am ashamed when I consider all God has done for me and blessed me with.

Why do I let some people get under my skin and aggravate me?  Why am I not quick to recall that God loves them just as much as HE loves me.

Will I ever master these thoughts and feelings?  Will I always struggle this way?

I have been a believer for over forty years and I know the spirit of God resides in me.  Yet I still struggle with this heart trouble.

Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit in within me.  Psalm 51:10

Give me your heart, my son, and let your eyes delight in my ways.   Proverbs 23:26

Fourteen Feet

What would you do with fourteen feet?  Would you make a room of your house that dimension?  Would you build a wall that high?  Would you plant flowers there?  If the fourteen feet were homeless, would you give them a place to stay?  Let me back up a little.

A few months ago a member of our church staff decided to plant a new church in a different part of our city.   The church planting process would include him moving to that part of the city as well.  Before he, B, and his wife, K, could get their house listed in the real estate market, someone knocked on their door and offered to purchase their home for exactly what they were going to ask for it.  (Isn’t that just like God – showing off and all!)  Well B&K accepted the offer but had not had the chance to purchase another home yet.

One day while sitting in church it occurred to me that my entire second floor – four bedrooms and two bathrooms –  was now empty.  I thought about the idea of my surplus meeting their need.  Not long after, Andrew came home and in the midst of our conversation I told him my idea.  “I’ve been thinking the same thing,” he said.  We prayed about it overnight and talked more the next day.  In my analytical brain I made a mental list of all the pros and cons.  The only negative thing I could come up with was “occasional inconvenience”.  But I’ve never thought inconvenience was a reason to tell God “no”.  So we talked to our friends and the rest is, as they say, “history”.

B&K moved in about a month ago, and the days began to look much different than before.  Oh, did I mention they have five children?  Yep, 5 kids + 2 parents = 14 feet.  OK, so technically they’re not homeless, just temporarily houseless.  But my house sure is full again.  And lively!

Somebody asked me what it was like.  I said “nothing like the pitter-patter of little feet”.  Actually I said, “NOTHING LIKE THE PITTER-PATTER OF LITTLE FEET!”  Each day brings new experiences, memories of when my kids were small, and lots of surprises.  (Never underestimate the element of surprise when you wake up to find a naked three-year-old ready to go skinny-dipping in your pool.)  And the tooth fairy has even visited our house again – it’s been so long I didn’t know if she still knew where we lived.  I’m thinking The Great Pumpkin, Santa and the Easter Bunny will make surprise appearances this year too.

Over the years Michael and I had the privilege of sharing our house with lots of folks.  Some came for a few days, some for a season, some for a year or more.  There were couples, singles, college students and teenagers.  And now a whole family.  Of course this would have never worked if Michael were here.  He’d be trying to get these four boys to play hooky from school every day to go up to the farm with him.  And he’d be constantly buying candy bars to refill the snack-basket (even though we’d tell him not to give them too much sugar).  But I think he’d be pleased to have them here and he’d love all the shenanigans they get into.   And this might just be the last time we get to share our home with someone who needs a place to stay.

As for me, I’ve found the cure for boredom, loneliness and a too-quiet house – all in 14 feet.

Looking forward to more adventures with B&K.

 

First Date

He called me on Monday.  I was really quite surprised, since I didn’t even know him.  Well, I knew who he was, but we’d never had a conversation before.  Somehow one of my girl friends let it slip that I thought he was good-looking.  You know, nobody does that anymore – calls for a date.  We’re so busy with social media and texting, but this was an old fashioned phone call from a boy to a girl.

We talked for quite a while and he asked me out for Saturday night.  First to dinner at a place I’d never been before and then to a show I’d never seen.  I admit I was nervous.  He’s different from anyone else I’d dated.  But it was an old fashioned date — the kind where he opened the door to the car and the restaurant.  The kind where he let me choose first from the menu.  The kind where he ushered me to my seat and made me feel special.

And at the end of the night I knew I had thoroughly enjoyed the evening.  I learned a lot about him and learned that he likes to laugh.  I ended the evening hoping there would be another date very soon.

It seems like yesterday and I can still remember what his car looked like and what it was like to sit next to him.  I can remember that he went to the house next-door by mistake and I watched through my bedroom curtains as he knocked and then had to walk back over to my house.  I can remember thinking that he seemed a little nervous too, but that just made him more endearing than those guys that are a little too self-confident.

I can remember how he looked proud to walk into the restaurant and sit with me.  We went to a place called The Bounty, a local seafood place out by the lake that I’d never been to.  My usual dates were more along the lines of pizza parlors or burger joints.  And the show afterward was the Ringling Bros. Circus in the new Superdome, opened just two months and my first time there.

And I can remember after the circus when we walked back to his car, parked on the top level of the parking garage.  You could see all the lights of New Orleans from there.  And he turned the key in the ignition of his family’s station wagon only to have it not start.  “Oh gee, how convenient” I first thought.  Until I looked over to see his face flushed from embarrassment.  But it did start.  And he got me home before curfew.  He would never keep me out passed curfew.

And even though it’s been forty years ago, I still remember that the night before I had another date with another guy (though I can’t seem to recall any of the details from that date).  But after that night I never went on a date with anyone else.  And by our third date, I knew that he would be the one I’d marry and spend my life with.  On second thought, maybe the circus was a metaphor for the exciting life we would share together – high wire acts, taming wild animals and lots of clowning around.

Happy 40th “First Date” Anniversary Michael!! LOVE YOU!!

Widowhood

In the last week, I know of two women in our community who have become widows.  (I ‘m sure there have been many more.)  I don’t know these women well – one I’ve met and the other I’ve only heard mentioned.  But through many mutual friends and social media I’ve been able to follow their stories.  And so this entry begins –

To my new fellow widows:  Welcome to widowhood.  It’s not a coveted title or one you would ever seek out.  It may feel like a cold slap in the face or something reserved for ancient women wearing long black dresses.  Today and the days ahead will be filled with many lows, and even some highs.  Tears will sneak up on you and sometimes overtake you.  Sometimes you will be amazed at how well you handle the details of your life and sometimes nothing at all will bring a watershed.

There will be forms to sign and paperwork you never expected.  Get ready to be told you’re too old for some things and too young for others.  Take your time in dealing with your husbands’ personal clothes, papers and mementos.  But as soon as you feel able, do get up to speed on the bills, mortgage and other legalities because the rest of the world is marching ahead and they still expect to get paid.  (Get ready to have to sign an affidavit for some legal processes stating that you are single – I say this because it took me totally off guard and was like a punch in the gut.)  Get good legal and financial counsel, but be careful to keep your private life private.

Rally your children around you.  They may live out of town, or have obligations elsewhere.  Try to find the balance between times together and time apart for each member of your family.  They need you as much as you need them.  And if somebody has to take a semester off or an extended leave of absence, do it – twenty years from now it won’t have mattered, except to those of you that had that time together.  Retell all the stories, good and bad.  When you see or hear something that reminds you of your husband, don’t be afraid to say, “That’s sounds just like Michael” or “Michael would have loved this”.  And laugh.  I know this sounds impossible, but the day after Michael died as we were planning his service, I remember thinking “there is way too much laughter around here for a funeral”.  But we laughed a lot in life together and he wouldn’t have wanted us to stop after he was gone.

And lastly I would say, continue to do the things that you did when your husband was alive.  I know you won’t be able to do all of them, but the things that you enjoyed as a couple and as a family.  Go to your favorite restaurants.  Eventually travel back to your favorite vacation destinations.  Yes, it will be hard to be there without him.  But I think it is harder to never go back and remember all those wonderful times you had together.  And your children need to have those times of remembrance too.  They need to see their mom both strong and weak, both happy and sad, both active and idle.  Remember, one day they will probably be here without you, and you are showing them how to live in and through the loss of someone you love.

To the friends of these new widows:  Love these precious women.  In the first few weeks there will such a flourish of activity, and your help with so many things will be appreciated and remembered.  But a month from now and three months from now, be sure to continue to call them.  And pray for them and their children.  Whether you’re close by or far away, pray for them.  God hears no matter where the prayer comes from.

Continue your relationships with these precious women.  Go to lunch, if that’s what you did together.  Play tennis or exercise together, if that’s your thing.  They need to feel like there are some things that continue normally even thought their world has been turned upside down.

Include these ladies in whatever your relationship with them looked like.  If you normally did things as a couple with her and her husband, continue to invite her.  She wants to keep up her relationships with everyone, not just other women.  Yes, your dinner reservation will be for 3 or 5 now, instead of the preferred even number.  And there may be an occasional empty seat or unused ticket at the theatre.  So what.  She still wants to feel like she’s a part of all those same associations.

And by the way – she’s going to cry.  And don’t think you caused it and don’t worry about apologizing for it.  She cries.  She cries when she’s with somebody and when she’s alone, when she’s busy and when she’s still.  You don’t have the power to make her cry nor do you have the power to make her stop.  So just go with the flow and pass the Kleenex.

As for me, I have so much to be thankful for.  Michael and I had wonderful times together and wonderful children to share our lives.  I have managed to survive 13 months without him.  It’s been hard and I’ve learned a lot.  My children have soothed my heartache and made me laugh, while I hope I’ve helped them to grow and learn how to live through the surprises life throws at us.  I have the most incredible friends that still include me, travel with me, help me, pray with and for me, and laugh with me.  And I thank God for each one of them.

To my new widow friends, if I can do anything at all, please contact me.  I won’t leave my phone number here, but you can friend me on social media and we can go from there.  I’m not an expert at this, I’m just a few steps further along this journey of life than you are.  And I welcome a fellow traveler.

Ashley Madison

Ashley Madison.  I’ve seen and heard this name in the news a hundred times in the last week.  No she’s not one of my girlfriends or someone I met again at my recent reunion.  I can tell you the best of my understanding about what (not who) Ashley Madison is.  Ashley Madison is a web site where people can go to sign up to meet someone for an extramarital affair.  Money can be paid on different levels depending on what your circumstances and desires are.  I guess I knew these types of web sites existed though I never gave them much thought until recently.

You see a few weeks ago a group of computer hackers hacked into Ashley Madison’s data base of customers accessing their names, addresses and even credit card information.  The hackers then tried to blackmail the site by threatening to publicly release the names and information of all their clients.  When the site refused the blackmail threats, the hackers did just what they said they would do – they released the names of millions of customers along with their addresses and the amounts of money they spent on the web site.

Now the mainstream media, of course, picked up on the salaciousness of all this and peaked our interests.  For several days the news reports announced the names of people on the list who were involved in public offices, major corporations and others with some public notoriety.  I’m sure they’ve been met with humiliation and embarrassment, not to mention what it’s done to their families.  What the media hasn’t talked about are the millions of folks that have no public persona who now have to try to pick up the pieces after their names have been damaged all over the web.

Here’s my take on this whole situation:  I’ve seen the lists for two states.  I confess to you that I didn’t have sense enough to look away, but instead perused the list of names.  As a result I’ve seen no less than six names of people I know in two different states.  Some of these folks I know well, others only by association.   Each time I saw a name I recognized my heart dropped a little more.  My heart aches not only for the one who chose this association, but also for their husband/wives, children, parents and close friends.  I can only imagine if I had come across Michael’s name on one of those lists.  Or one of my children’s names.   And don’t be fooled into thinking it can’t happen to someone you know and love.  Don’t think there aren’t believers’ names on those lists too.  Because there are.  Because believers are people who make mistakes too – who make poor choices, even when they know what the right thing to do is.

And now I’m seeing the great fallout of more hurt and more tragedy as a result.  Families are shattering apart.  Innocents are paying a great price.  And I want to find fault.  And twenty years ago I would have – at the top of my lungs, upon my tallest soapbox.  It makes me so mad that the web site organizers would ever set up this site to ensnare people.  How dare the hackers illegally obtain the information and then choose to spew it to all the world.

But today, more than anything, I feel sorrow and compassion.  Mostly my heart aches over those individuals who made the mistake of seeking this kind of relationship, and those close to them.   I don’t know what drove them to it.  I don’t know what they were thinking at the time.  I don’t think it was right.  BUT I DON’T CONDEMN THEM.  Because mostly what I see is someone who’s had their secret sin announced publicly to the world.  And I can relate.  You see I have secret sins too.  Those things of which I am ashamed of thinking and doing.  Those things that I hope no one ever finds out about.  Those things I have carried most heavily before God for forgiveness, knowing that He is faithful to cover me with His grace and put my sins away for eternity.  Who among us could stand to have our lives spilled out for all to see?  No. There will be no judgement from me.  And along with that commitment, I tell you there will be no gossip, no snickering and no finger-pointing.  I’m sorry I even looked at those lists, because I don’t want that information to be in my head and my heart when I deal with those involved.

God, forgive me when I fail you.  Thank you for your unending grace and mercy.  Thank you for loving me, in spite of me.

Confession

I hardly know where to start in revealing this, but here goes …

For many years now I’ve not been much of a television watcher.  Michael was always in charge of the remote control and that was usually OK with me.  The occasional shows I was interested in watching were recorded and watched while I was on the treadmill.  But in the last year there’s lots more time to fill and no one to relinquish the remote to.  So I’ve been watching more TV than usual.

I’ve kept up with the few series that I’ve been watching for a while now.  And a new cable package has allowed me to see several movies that I missed in the theatres.  The kids have recommended several good series.  And services like Netflix and Hulu have allowed me to “binge watch” so I could catch up with past seasons.  Most of the things I’ve found have been pretty good, with a few exceptions.  And even the regular network shows today stretch the boundaries pretty far when it comes to acceptable family entertainment.

There’s one series I’ve heard about for a while now.  I’d never seen it and didn’t know much about it other than it was getting a lot of press and awards.  I asked one of my kids about it, who told me they had watched a few episodes but found it so objectionable that they quit.

Well, being the adult/grown-up/parent that I am I thought I’d check it out for myself.  So I started to watch.  I watched several episodes each night for about a week to get through the first season.  Before long I was several weeks into Season 2.  This particular series tells the story of its characters in all sorts of immoral situations and alternate lifestyle relationships.  So you can imagine not only the story line but the vocabulary that was being used.

After about a week of watching the show nightly, one morning I woke up to something strange.  Even before I got out of bed that morning, I was hearing certain words in my head.  Words from the dialogue of this show.  Words that aren’t a part of my normal vocabulary.  Words that I know none of you have ever heard me say.  I was puzzled.  Even as I went through my day, when different situations would arise, the first thing I would hear in my head were these words.  But would I be deterred?  NO!  The next night I continued to watch a few more episodes.

Again, the next morning, the same thing happened.  In my head, a barrage of words I would never speak out loud.  Well, finally, I began to get the message.  This show had to go.  I was being directly affected by what my ears were hearing and my eyes were seeing.  Throughout the day I heard the words.  That night – no more episodes of this series.  The next morning, I was still hearing the words, but not with as much strength or frequency.  Within a few days, they were gone.

Now here’s the kicker: I know better.  I know what God says in His word about keeping ourselves pure and holy; about being set apart from this world and its effects.  I know that what I put in through my eyes and ears affects my heart and mind.  I know that I’m created to reflect the image of God, not to be a part of the crowd followers in our society.  And yet still I watched hours of this “entertainment” somehow thinking I would be unaffected.  What a fool!

So, since I don’t have anyone here to keep me accountable, I’m confessing to you.  To keep me accountable.  To keep me reminded that my flesh is weak and I’m easily coaxed into believing I know better than God when it comes to what I should allow in my life.

“Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.”   Psalm 51:10

The Way We Are

RHS Reunion bag

Last week I had the privilege of attending my 40th year high school reunion.  (Yes, do the math and now you know how old I am.)  An event like this makes you look back on a lot of memories, some you cherish and some you wish you could forget.  As the day grew closer my Facebook feed was overrun with comments from classmates on all sorts of vital issues – what to wear, who would be there, and that always aggravating last minute zit that was appearing just in time.  Well, somethings really haven’t changed in forty years.

We began as 547 graduates in 1975.  There were some twenty-five of us who have passed away over the years, each one mourned and missed.  Of the remaining 500+ about 200 gathered that night.  We came from an all-girl public high school, a unique situation created when our parish government all those years ago decided to segregate the sexes after being required to desegregate the races. So many people think this odd and undesirable, but it was normal to us and afforded us opportunities to lead that we might not have otherwise had.

As I look back on our lives together I am reminded that we came of age at a exceptional time in history.  When we were in the first grade we heard announced in our classrooms that our President Kennedy had been assassinated.  In junior high we watched grainy black and white television sets to see the first man walk on the moon.  In high school we saw the Supreme Court rule on Roe v. Wade which changed the decisions women were allowed to legally make regarding child bearing.  And always in the background of our lives was the Vietnam War.  I remember well, the day in my sophomore year, when our leaders announced that our troops would be brought home. The relief we felt, expressed in both cheers and tears, was very real as my brother was just months away from his eighteenth birthday.

As we stepped out into the world in 1975, the women’s liberation movement was in full swing.  I expect more graduates from our class than any previous one, went on to college and advanced education. But I think, more important than going on to college and careers, was the fact that we had choices available to us.  No longer were we encouraged only in the direction of marriage and motherhood. We were actually told that we could become doctors and lawyers, nurses and accountants, artists and inventors, business owners and elected officials. And we did!

Who knew that typing skills, not considered a college prep course in 1975, are today the indispensable keyboarding skills?  Who could have imagined iPads and wireless internet in a world of  televisions with knobs to change the channel?  Could a cell phone be possible when our house phones were connected to the wall and used rotary dials?  The changes in technology and communication have been unprecedented in our lifetimes.  And socially we have seen such great changes in the rights of women, minorities and the disabled – I know we have a long way to go, but these things weren’t even discussed forty years ago.  (If some of my former employers made the comments today that they made to me years ago, I’m sure it would be a case for a discrimination or sexual harassment suit.)

To gather together again meant contacting people throughout the United States and in foreign countries. Some of us still live close by while others came from as far away as California. Some of us look the same and some of us look remarkably different. We laughed and hugged and tried to remember names and places. I learned that there are some folks I’ve met in the last forty years that I didn’t know I graduated with until we saw each other on reunion night.

By now this group of girls (or do I call us women or ladies?), has seen enough of life to know both the joy of love and the sorrow of loss. To look around the room, clearly life has been more difficult for some than for others. But we gathered for pictures and recounted silly stories as we promised to get together again soon. And I must say, though I’ve spent much time remembering what it was like forty years ago, I am less impressed with The Way We Were than I am with The Way We Are.

And at the end of the night, we joined arm in arm to sing the same song we sang forty years ago:
Can it be that it was all so simple then?                                                                    Or has time rewritten every line?                                                                                   If we had the chance to do it all again tell me, would we? Could we?  Memories may be beautiful and yet                                                                  What’s too painful to remember we simply choose to forget.                         So it’s the laughter we will remember                                                                Whenever we remember, the way we were.

RHS Reunion

Falling in Love Again

Have you ever experienced love at first sight?  Is it just something you see in Life Time movies and read about in fairy tales?  When I first met Michael it was not love at first sight.  I don’t think there was anything wrong with that.  It was like at first sight.  And getting to know him didn’t take long, because within a few weeks I knew that this was a love for a lifetime.  I remember after our third date telling my mom that “this is the man I’m going to marry”.

When my children were born it wasn’t love at first sight either (sorry to disappoint, kids).  It was wonderful and exciting and scary all at once.  But I never had that lightning bolt experience that you read about some new mom’s having.  I was both in awe and terrified at the thought that I was now responsible for another human being.  But, again, it didn’t take long.  Within a few days they had my full and unconditional love, and they still do.  The kind of love that doesn’t end, regardless of time or miles or circumstances or disappointments.

So imagine my surprise, shock even, to now, (at my age, ugh!) finally have experienced love at first sight.  That lightning bolt experience.  For someone new to come into my life and change my heart in such a profound manner.  From the first time I saw him I knew this was the beginning of an incredible new relationship, unlike any I had ever experienced before.  Someone that met me with no requirements. No expectations.  No judgements.  And I’m able to say that I see him the same way.   With only love between us.

So how do you respond to such a weighty experience?  Well, I responded the way I so often respond to things these days.  With tears.  Right there at our first meeting.  And I wish I could say it was a gentle cry where the tears softly rolled down my cheek.  But no.  For me it was a big ugly cry.  The one where you have to put your hand over your mouth to keep big audible sobs from alarming everyone around you.  The one where your shoulders shake and you’re not sure your legs will hold you.  I thank God for this new relationship in my life – for the hope of future days and new experiences, for the anticipation of many years ahead to get to know each other and learn from each other.

Welcome to my life Drew.

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The First Anniversary

I know you’ve heard people say, and I’ve certainly said it myself, that the first year is the hardest.  All the firsts – birthdays, anniversaries, holidays.  Well, following that stream of thinking I should have been looking forward to this week.  Cause if the first year is the hardest then the hardest part would be over.

What nobody talks much about is the seconds.  What is the second year gonna be like?  And what nobody tells you about is what to do on that first anniversary.  I’ve spent most of this last week with a knot in my stomach anticipating this day.  Wondering what it would be like and what I would do.  I had a few thoughts.  My first inclination was to stay in bed all day.  But then I remembered that this day coincided with the day my housekeeper would come to clean my house.  And I never pass up the chance to have someone come clean my house.  (It’s like one of my life philosophies: #1 – Never wake a sleeping baby. #2 – Never pass up the chance to have someone else do your housework for you.)  So I couldn’t stay in bed.

My second thought was to run away from home.  But then I remembered there was nothing here to run away from.  (This was something I used to threaten my children with, but it seems to have lost its value now.)  My next idea was to buy flowers and go to the cemetery, probably camping out there all day until they threw me out.  I just wasn’t sure what I should do.

So my plan was to leave it up to God to show me what to do.  I told God I was going to get on my knees and pray and I wasn’t going to get up until He told me what to do.  Now, in times past when I’ve gone to God asking for a specific message from Him, it usually takes some time for all the voices in my head to quiet down so I can just be quiet and listen.  (Don’t judge the voices in my head – they have a lot to say.)  But this time was different.  Before I could even get to my knees, as soon as I told God I was going to kneel down and stay there til He told me what to do, I heard him say this:  “Live”.  It was short; it was sweet; it was right to the point – “Live”.

So no staying in bed all day or running away from home.  “Live”.  No camping out or picnicking at the cemetery.  “Live”.

So what did my day look like?  I did buy some flowers and visit the cemetery.  But I bought the flowers for me, because that’s what Michael always did.  I bought sunflowers because that was our last trip together – to Tuscany where we saw acres and acres of sunflowers.  And I bought some colorful flowers, because he always “liked lots of color”.  I went to lunch and dinner with some precious friends (exactly what Michael would have done).  I’ve had phone calls and messages and deliveries.  I’ve had cards and gifts and people who shared memories with me.

When Andrew called he said “Dad would probably be saying ‘Look! Y’all made it through the year! I knew you could do it!’”  I told him I woke up that morning thinking “I hope you enjoyed your first year in heaven. Ours hasn’t been nearly as much fun as yours.”

While this last year hasn’t been what I would call fun, it has had many fun moments in it – travel, weddings, babies and celebrations.  I’m sure I’ve gone way over my limit of laughter for a grieving widow.  I’m so thankful for the friends and family who have come along side me to keep me busy and to include me even though I’m no longer part of a couple.  My kids have been incredible in supporting me while dealing with their own heartache.

Most of all I’m impressed by the faithfulness of God.  Not that He hasn’t always been faithful, but maybe more the way I’ve seen His faithfulness manifested.  He has taken away fears.  He has disposed of properties that were overwhelming me.  He has given me strength when I was slipping into some bad habits and thought processes (more on that in future posts).  He has replaced my anxiety with His peace.

I do hope the first year is the hardest.  I do hope the second is easier. Either way, I’m trusting God.

Divine Moments

One year ago I sat beside Michael’s bed as he died.  Before that day I had only been present two times as people had died.  Both times were quiet and peaceful.  I think back to the night Michael died.  It was a long day.  We knew it was coming.  It was a decision that he had made – at least as much as we are allowed to decide on these things.  The kids were all gathered with me in his room.  It was quiet.  It was tender.  We listened for his last breaths.  Finally the machines and monitors told us it was time.

Two weeks ago I stood next to my daughter’s bed.  Besides my own deliveries I had never been present at the birth of a baby.  It was a long night.  We knew it was coming.  Having a child was a decision my daughter and son-in-law had made – at least as much as we are allowed to decide these things.  All our family was gathered in the room.  But it wasn’t quiet.  Finally the monitors and machines told us it was time.

As I look on both of these events I am amazed.  These are divine moments that God allows us to be a part of — when a life enters or leaves this earth.  It seems we are somehow especially close to the presence of God in these moments.  But I also look at how we struggle to get here, with pushing and great effort, with cries and great shouts of triumph.  And I see how we leave, with quietness and surrender, yielding to God’s plan for an end to our time here.

And then there was another divine moment.  At the very same time that this new baby was being born, there was another birth taking place, a rebirth.  A precious friend has been battling cancer for over two years.  The doctors recommended he have a stem cell transplant and a donor was found.  And on the very day, at the very time that my grandson came into this world, our precious friend received his stem cells and got a new birthday.  They knew it was coming.  It was their decision to have this transplant – at least as much as we are allowed to decide on these things.  I’m told there wasn’t much fanfare.  But I know the presence of God was there with them and I’m sure it was another divine moment.

How great is the Father’s love for us that He would allow us to be a part of His great work and plan.

One life on earth ends.  One life on earth begins.  One life on earth is re-born.  All three are named Michael.

Two By Two

I had the chance to go to the movies this week with a girlfriend.  We saw a movie called I’ll See You In My Dreams, about a widow and her girlfriends.  (Sound familiar? Spoiler alert!)  As a result of the movie we had quite a discussion, the conclusion being this:  I need to buy some mouse traps, learn to drink more, never speed date and get a younger pool guy.  Oh, and I don’t want to get married.

Now I want to preface what I’m about to say with this.  I love/loved Michael and loved being his wife.  I made promises to love and honor for as long as we both were alive.  And if I had my choice I’d still be doing that.  I’d keep on doing it til I took my last breath.  But I don’t have that luxury anymore.  With that being said, I don’t want to be married now.

I don’t want to rearrange my time and schedule.  I don’t want to do somebody else’s dirty laundry or cook their meals.  I don’t want to keep track of somebody else’s appointments, medications or possessions.  I don’t want to learn about somebody else’s bad habits or have them learn about mine.  I don’t want to have to explain my life style to anybody or have it judged.  I don’t need somebody to support me, pay my bills, or raise a family with.  (I’m beginning to hear Helen Reddy sing “I am Woman, hear me roar.”)

This isn’t a feminist rant.  But as Blythe Danner said “I’ve been married.”  I guess 6 weeks of living on my own have made me selfishly independent or independently selfish.  I like being able to decide when and where I go and with whom.  I like being able to make decisions about my finances and investments (though I still hate making decisions about insurance).   And it’s not as though I didn’t do most of those things when Michael was alive, but it’s just different now.

So what do I want?  So glad you asked.

I want FRIENDS.  I want people who will go to lunch and go to dinner, who will go to the movies or the theatre, who will explore museums, classical music and opera.  People who will have discussions with me about news and opposing views, about faith and God and family.  I want new friends to go along with my life-long friends, guy friends and girl friends.  And I want young friends as well as older friends.  I want friends to take a walk with or ride my bike with and friends to travel around the world with.

So to my girlfriends, you don’t need to set me up, fix me up or hook me up.  And to my guy friends, you don’t need to think that I want an involvement.  It’s just nice to have people in your life to share ideas with and to spend time with in any variety of experiences.  Because most of this world expects you to carry on two by two.

Oh, and if Sam Elliot happens to come by and ask me for lunch … I’ll take that too!

 

TV Preacher

I don’t usually find myself watching TV preachers.  (In fact I don’t watch much TV at all.  Michael was the TV watcher in our family.)  I usually attend my own church’s service during the weekend.  But since I was traveling last weekend I found myself flipping through the channels on Sunday morning.

I settled on a preacher I hadn’t heard in many years.  He’s grown up a lot.  I always appreciated what he had to say in years past.  Last Sunday he made two particular points that have stayed with me and caused me to think a great deal.  (I think this is probably what most preachers would hope for — taking away just one or two points and spending some real time dwelling on how they apply to your life.)

The first thing that impressed me was this: “In your lifetime you’ll only have one or two roles that are unique to you. So why trade what’s unique to you for something that somebody else will do.”  He said this in the context of how we spend our time and what we focus our energy on.  I think he’s right.  There are just a few things that are my roles and mine alone.  I am/was Michael’s one and only wife/widow.  I, and only I, am the mother to my children.  No one else can have these roles.  For some reason God has chosen them for me alone.  So why would I trade something that is unique to me for something somebody else will do?

It set me to thinking about these roles.  I guess my role with respect to Michael is mostly done, except perhaps for how I represent him from now on.  But I am still the one and only mother to my children.  And even though they are grown, I’m still their mom.  They don’t need me to bandage knees or check homework anymore; or to read bedtime stories or help them get dressed.  But, thankfully, I think they still need me.  And I need them.  The role looks different now – it’s more of conversation and advice that goes both ways.  It’s hugs and kisses and prayers and encouragement.  It’s laughter and tears and being there for one another.  And just as I have a unique role to each of them they too have a unique role to me.  Another thing the TV preacher said was “you’ll never be happier than your relationships.  You will never be happier than the relationships of those most precious to you.”  How thankful I am for my unique role and for the relationships I have with my kids.

The second point I took away from my TV preacher was this: You don’t ever want to look back on a season of your life and wonder, “What would God have done if I had just trusted him with that? I wonder what God would have done if I had not let fear be in control.”  I confess that I can look back and wonder what God would have done if I had just gotten out of the way and taken the chance to follow His lead.  But I don’t want to add to that list of looking back and wondering any more.  I don’t want to wonder what it would look like to not worry about tomorrow (like Jesus said) and to do what I know God wants me to do, while I trust Him to do what He’s promised to do.

So at this junction in my life — where I’m not sure what the future looks like and I’m trying to figure out what God wants me to do, but I’m always worried about failing — I am more impressed than ever to trust Him.  I don’t want to look back and think “if I had trusted Him with ________, I wonder what God might have done through me.”

Why look back on this season and wonder.  Instead, trust God.  Fear not.
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