Saturday, December 11, 2010

Breaking Tradition

The past few months have been extra emotional for me, much to my dismay! I hate the out of control feeling, that comes along with the vulnerability; but, it's part of the journey and I move along as best I can, with the Lord's help every day.

Thanksgiving Day was quiet and uneventful, just as I needed it to be. Sporting a nasty cold, I decided to stay home, so as not to take a chance on contaminating my family members. I considered having a candlelight dinner with the Lord, as I did last year, but I couldn't find the matches and didn't have the will or energy to go on a search. 

Getting into the Christmas spirit has been more of a struggle this year; to the point that I'm pretty certain I will not be putting up a tree. Frankly, I think the only reason I did so last year was purely not to break tradition. Maybe it's laziness or sadness, or a little of both, but it just doesn't feel worth the effort this time around. I have decided to give myself permission to break tradition this year, as I really don't foresee that it will make me feel any better to go through the motions.  I believe it might even be easier, not to have to deal with all the emotions that are wrapped up in each special, memory-evoking ornament that we chose for each other over the years.

I'm willing to bet that I can survive a treeless Christmas, even though it will be the very first of my lifetime! I'm sure I will do some decorating, but it will be very minimal. (Lord willing) there will be other opportunities in the years ahead to create a festive environment. I'm really just not feeling it this year. None-the-less, I'm thankful to be able to say, that I really don't think it is depression, like I experienced the first year, but rather a normal, prevailing sadness as I miss sharing my life with my best friend!

I am keeping myself busy with my writing and some other creative opportunities. I am very thankful for the healing they are providing and for the inspiration I am enjoying through the writers and artists groups at my new church. My participation in the ladies Bible study group has also been a tremendous blessing to me as my nine new girlfriends and I study the book of Esther. The Lord knew just what I needed as He placed me with these precious ladies, who desire to grow spiritually and support each other as we share our lives each week. We also love to laugh! What a blessing they are to me!

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Not So Jolly Distraction

Distraction has played a very important role in helping me deal with my grief over the past year and a half. I'm all about a good diversion, to help take my mind off of the painful reality that my sweetheart no longer shares my life. They are usually pleasant and often include my grandchildren, who are my best distractors with their humorous antics! However, this week brought a new variety of distraction.
Nothing like a surprise stomach virus to make a person forget about their broken heart! The sneaky, surprise-attacker arrived quietly, and suddenly pounced on me, like an ugly, uninvited stinkbug in the 0-dark:00 hours of the morning. My stuffed bear that had provided so much comfort in my early grief-stricken days was once again my companion as we rocked back and forth during the cramping, and my hot-water bottle was my new best friend! I was also so thankful for my comfy sweat pants that permitted me to carry around the warm, red, rubber bladder like a Hollywood baby bump! My natural childbirth, breathing techniques came in handy, as they automatically kicked in, to help me get through the waves of cramps that came every three to five minutes. The classic symptoms seemed like they would never end and it truly felt like the longest day and night of my life! Good times!

Whew!!! So thankful that that episode is behind me, as I have to confess, I was concerned that maybe it was something more serious than a 24 hour bug! I am surprised that it has taken all week to bounce back, but now I am looking forward to a brighter season. Looking back on last week and appreciating how blessed I am to have good health; I guess you could say, I had an attitude adjustment! Hopefully, my Christmas will include time to spend with my family and friends in the weeks ahead. Unlike my earlier sarcasm, I know there are "Good Times" to be had with the people I love, as we go through the holidays. Although it will be celebrated differently for me this year, I see it as a time to share and enjoy, not just something to endure! Thankfully, my life is full of pleasant distractions, no matter the time of year, and we will be blessed as we make more memories to cherish in the future!

Sunday, November 28, 2010

What IS That Noise?

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My world is often very quiet at home. I am not a TV lover, so the radio or CD player are usually my only background noise. Several nights ago, I thought I was losing my mind! My brain was certain there was an unidentifiable noise, but I knew no music was playing. I checked both of my radios TWICE! I finally went on a search; I had to know! The noise was so faint and intermittent. I was at a loss! "Lord, What is that noise?!!!" Then I had an idea. I stood at the bottom of the stairs in my dining room that lead to my unfinished second floor and I waited. It finally became clear to me, although still very faint, what the mystery noise was. Perhaps you already guessed. As I opened the door at the top of the stairs, the loud, annoying chirp begged me to change the battery.
I've written about this little project before, but since it had been months since I changed the battery in my bedroom, I had to figure it out all over again. You might be thinking, what's the big deal: just put a new nine volt in there and be done with it! In my experience, nothing is ever that simple! My main concern was the electric line attached to the smoke detector. I always prefer to come away in a non-crispy condition, so after many trips up and down two flights of stairs to locate and assure that the right breaker was turned off, I proceeded.

My next move was to test my batteries with my handy battery tester. Buck never trusted the nifty gizmo. Nevertheless, I have great faith in it, and discovered that two out of the four batteries I had on hand were worthy of placement. I shakily switched out the battery (eight foot ceiling...two foot step ladder and me with balance issues). My little smirk of satisfaction and victory was very short-lived when the alarm continued to mock me! I could almost hear my sweetheart whisper, "I told you so!"

I located an identical alarm in the basement and verified that I had installed the battery correctly. More trips back and forth to cut the juice! Then, I tried the other "so called" good battery. More chirping mockery! I slumped in defeat and discouragement! Such a small chore... my honey would have had it taken care of in no time and after my marathon of trips up and down the stairs, I still had gotten nowhere!

Then I saw it! My little pity party ended as quickly as it started, when I spotted the inconspicuous CO2 detector amidst the miscellaneous collection on top of a dresser! I wanted to jump up and down with joy, but controlled myself and dug out the double A's and my trusty battery tester, one more time! I thanked God when peace was restored! Aaaahhhh; the sound of silence! I celebrated with a brownie!!!

Thursday, November 25, 2010

A Thankful Heart Is A Happier Heart

 As the Thanksgiving season approached this year, I took on the daily challenge of posting something I was thankful for. Facebook became my daily platform to share my thankful thought for the day. As I contemplated what I would include that day, I realized how much this exercise was turning my thoughts to all the blessings I enjoy. I love the idea of keeping an inventory of the many blessings that come my way. As I contemplated the celebration of Thanksgiving I am sure that many of us are indeed thankful for all we have, but I wonder if we are all mindful of where our abundant blessings really come from.

The dictionary defines thanksgiving as an expression of gratitude, especially to God. By participating in the simple act of being thankful, my spirits were often lifted as I deliberately changed my focus, in spite of the way I might be feeling. I wonder, if maybe that is one of the reasons we are often encouraged to give thanks in so many scriptures in the Bible. 1 Thessalonians 5: 16-18  admonishes  us to: "Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus".

I have learned that it is possible to be joyful in spite of heartache, but it sometimes requires a conscious effort to search for, or at least take notice of joy-filled moments, and there are many to be found when we are looking for them. As the verse goes on, I don't think for a moment, that God expects us to be thankful FOR all our circumstances and the difficulties we face, but rather we are commanded to give thanks IN all circumstances. That is very different.

For me, that means that even when I'm struggling emotionally; with the Lord's help, I can remember and recognize that He is on this journey with me. Through tears, I may pray, "Lord, I'm hurting right now and sometimes I don't understand, but I thank You for what You are doing in my life and I trust You and know You have my best interest at heart as well as the best interest of those I love. Thank You for the good You will bring from this situation and for drawing me closer to You as You empower me to take baby steps towards my future." 

Having a thankful heart comes easy for me because I have been so very blessed and have seen the hand of God in so many ways throughout my life, but never so obviously as during the past, almost, two years, since this chapter began. He continues to go before me, in this totally foreign territory of widowhood. So often, the Lord shows me the next step by bringing people into my life to help with the many decisions that need to be made. This is a tremendous comfort to me!

I have decided that I would like to continue my daily thankfulness inventory. Perhaps I will share my  Gratitude Journal from time to time. I encourage everyone to try keeping a record of thanksgiving and rereading it whenever we need an emotional lift or attitude adjustment.

As William Shakespeare said so eloquently: "Let never day nor night unhallowed pass / But still remember what the Lord hath done." May we all take a few moments to thank God for the multitude of ways He blesses each of us everyday! We are all richer than we know! God bless you and your loved ones as you celebrate this holiday season! You are a tremendous blessing in my life!


Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Dark Circles And A Heavy Heart

Although it is very different now, the struggle goes on. For some reason, I seem to be extra sensitive to the triggers that affect me emotionally. I suppose I thought that I would be doing so much better by now, but the truth is, now the pain appears in many daily snippets instead of the gigantic waves that used to flood over me. I'm so thankful that that season is behind me.

One of my dilemmas is wanting to journal about what is happening in my world and also wanting to encourage at the same time. I fear that anyone reading here will tire of hearing about how sad and broken I am. Really...who needs that! Sometimes I feel like I am not a good witness to the power of God's love, because I can't always report that my Joy has been restored, however momentary. But this is my life...this is where I am right now, and for who knows how long. I want to lift up, not depress, but that isn't easy when you are in the valleys of life. Even so, I feel the need to express myself and see where my thoughts will take me. Thank you for hanging in there with me in the ups and downs of my journey.

I've never been much of a make-up person; a sweep of blush on the cheeks and a little color on the lips (to make me look like I had some), was the extent of my daily routine. But as I get older and my hair becomes lighter and more silver, (that sounds more elegant than gray), I realize I need some tricks to look alive and look my best, especially now. You know you need help, when your seven year old granddaughter says, "Nana have you been sleeping okay? You have really dark circles under your eyes!" I knew they were there, but was not aware that they were quite so obvious. So, I was open when my daughter, Sarah, suggested we go to the mall and let the pros make some suggestions.

One of the products they recommended was something that would minimize the under eye darkness and brighten my eyes. They call it "Well Rested"! Now I have a way to hide this glaring flaw, without calling greater attention to it, as has been the case with other products I've tried.  Adding "Well Rested" and waterproof mascara has gone a long way to making me feel better about my appearance. We all know that if we look better, we feel better.

Over the past year and a half since Buck went home, I have experienced many different levels of grief. According to the dictionary, grieve is a stronger verb than mourn. Grieve implies  deep mental anguish or suffering, often endured alone and in silence; as contrasting with, to mourn, which implies deep emotion felt over a period of time. That may just sound like silly semantics, but strangely, it comforts me somehow, to think that I have reached a lesser level of intensity. Although I'm still in a very painful and vulnerable state, it is greatly encouraging to know I am getting better and stronger as time goes on. I am very thankful for God's grace to have reached this plateau. However, I must admit that I am often uncomfortable with knowing that my tears may spill at any given moment and I am powerless to control them. If only my "Well Rested" was waterproof like my mascara! What a blessing that would be!

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Praise You In This Storm

Yesterday was a really tough day emotionally! No particular reason, no significant day like a birthday or holiday; although last week we would have celebrated our 13th wedding anniversary. That day, I kept pretty busy and the time since has been more filled up than usual. Maybe I didn't take time enough to grieve the loss of what an anniversary represents. All I know is, I woke up feeling very blue and unable to shake it off.

I felt compelled to write some Haiku (traditional Japanese poetry) to work through my brokenness. Interesting that there would be such a contrast to my last post expounding on the power of healing in humor. I confess, smiles were in short supply yesterday.

I'm not sure what triggered this melancholy. Maybe it was the classic Corvette I saw last week with the driver who looked so much like my late husband, Buck. That made the rest of the commute to my home extra difficult!

When I finally talked myself into getting out of bed, the day was filled with powerful memories as I came upon Buck's walking stick, hiking boots, AT Handbook and what he often referred to as his compass: his small, camouflage-covered Sportsman's Bible.

As I washed the dishes in front of my kitchen window, a song came on the radio that stirred the tears again. Wanting to shake this mood, I lifted my hands to praise the Lord in spite of my heavy heart. It's hard to understand why it would make a difference. Nothing was different about my circumstances...but then again everything about my focus had changed. I had taken my emotional eyes off of myself and was looking to Him instead. That's when I finally started to feel better! There are many places in the Bible that admonish us to praise God and He always blesses obedience.

Of course, it is natural and necessary to grieve and it works toward healing, but after a time, I want to move beyond it and not get stuck there. It requires a decision and the Lord's strength to move beyond it. I look forward to the day when it is a more natural response to stop and praise my Lord, instead of getting stuck in the pain.

The journey of grief continues to be unpredictable, but I am so thankful for the closer relationship I have with the Lord now and for the spiritual growth that has taken place because of it. These are two, among many amazing gifts that have come out of the tragedy of losing my precious husband. I like to think that he would be pleased with the woman I am becoming.

I am so blessed to be able to include music videos on my blog now. This song: Praise You In This Storm by Casting Crowns has a powerful emotional impact every time I hear it. My first exposure to it was during Buck's hospitalization and it just seemed to summarize our circumstances so well; since, even in spite of all Buck went through, he never lost sight of his relationship with His Lord! It seemed fitting to consider it "our song" and then it became mine. As I searched for a copy on You Tube, I was amazed by the picture that accompanied the video. The mountain setting and the gentleman in the photo remind me so much of my Buck!

If you are going through challenging or painful circumstances, I pray this song will encourage you to PRAISE HIM!