Monday, November 23, 2009

Grief

I started this nearly a month ago. However, due to the many activities and illnesses--not to mention a loss of words--it has not been finished. Tonight as I read over it again, precious people I love who are grieving a variety of losses due to death are on my mind. With a desire to help, I offer this:

In the pre-dawn hours of Wednesday morning, our family was called in to say goodbye as my uncle slipped from this world of broken bodies into the eternal one with perfected souls. Family and friends gathered to grieve and celebrate the life and love we experienced while we were blessed with his presence. Surrounded by people who loved him, he left us to be with Jesus.


Who could blame him?


Mortal bodies are broken things. They break down, and we patch them up. They are not meant to last forever, and eventually, they are beyond all of our abilities to mend. Sometimes the effort of living with the brokenness is tolerable, and sometimes...well, at some point, it is easier to simply let it go.


It was time to let it go. Time for him to let go of fighting to hold onto this temporary place, and for us to let go of him.


I'm not going to tell you the world is a darker place. It isn't. In fact, it is still a world filled with possibility. While the Lord led my uncle home, He introduced two new bundles of promise to our mortal reality. Two more answers to prayer. Two more answers to the world's problems. Two more lights to shine in the darkness. It's not a darker place, but for several of us, it is a sadder one.


I don't know when the sadness will pass. My dad has been gone over six years, and sometimes I'm still sad. Sometimes tears still find their way down my cheeks. It is because of this that I lift up my cousins to the Lord. Their grief is so deep today. Their hearts so raw. But then, why wouldn't they be? They each left a chunk of their hearts in a coffin at a cemetery today. Open heart surgery of the most unwelcome kind.


I try to think of what to tell them. Having walked this road before them, what road map can I offer? I look in all the nooks and crannies of my psyche...of my still falling tears...and I find so little. I pick up the parts I keep tripping over and hold them out hoping they offer some form of wisdom.


Grieve deeply. It's okay. It is not weakness to grieve. It is not faithless or hopeless or failure. It is what comes when our arms are forced to release what our hearts hold dear.


Laugh boisterously. Don't just laugh. Laugh with your whole body, your whole mind, your whole heart. It is okay to be joyful again, and to remember and be joyful gives great honor to the one you love.

Celebrate what they were...and what they weren't. When our friend David passed on, we were all thirty-three years old with small children. Instead of grieving his death, I chose to celebrate his life. He taught science, so my children and I either visited the science museum or did experiments at home. He loved music, so we sang loudly. His favorite thing was his family. We had a big family night with special food, a special movie, or a special game. We celebrated David.

When my dad passed on, my heart was shattered by the empty places left by the dad he wasn't. For a long time, I was angry, and I asked God, "How are you going to redeem this? How are you going to heal this? How are you going to restore this?" He redeemed it by putting in my heart the idea to be the parent I wanted my dad to be. I sat down and made a list of things I wished my dad had done, and I did them with my children. Sometimes I made check lists to be sure I covered everything. Did I read to them? Did I play with them? Did we snuggle? Did I pray over them? Did I speak something positive into them? This was my daily check list, and on my dad's birthday, I did special things that fell into the realm of things he never had time to do.

My questions about healing and restoration brings me to the next thing--be willing to let God fill the gaps. I never expected God to heal and restore me by giving me another dad, but He did. My dad had been gone a little over two years when my step-dad proposed to my mom. I liked my step-dad a lot, and it never bothered me that they were going to get married. I thought it was great for my mom. I had no idea what a powerful healing presence he would be for my mom, myself, and my brother. It leaves me in awe. The impact is that profound.

So don't be afraid to let God heal you. Wylie has never tried to take my dad's place. He's just himself, and I am proud to introduce him as my dad because he is. I've been blessed with two great dads, and I am thankful for them both. It's okay to let God do something new. It does not diminish the love for the person lost. It simply embraces the promise of something new.

Let God do a new thing. In Isaiah 43, the Lord says He is doing a new thing. He is making streams in the wastelands and water in the desert. Have the courage to do a new thing, to let God speak life and hope into your wasteland and desert. So often we prolong the grief or deepen it by looking back. For me, it was Mondays. My dad passed on a Monday, and every Monday sent me into a tizzy. One day I told our friend Chris that Dad had been gone nine weeks, and Chris asked, "And why are we counting this?" I had no idea. It brought no honor to my dad. It only swallowed my day in a sense of loss. Why do that? So I quit. I allowed God to make a new Monday routine, and I moved on.

I think for people who have been care givers it can be intensely hard to find a new normal. It is hard to go from being a necessity to not being needed. Except, you aren't "not needed." You are still here because you are still a solution and someone still needs you. Find a new way to be useful. I'll give you a little tip: Shopping may be a good escape, but it isn't feeding your need to be useful, so you won't feel any better $20,000 of debt later than you do right now. However, dropping off a meal, reading to children, just visiting someone that appreciates you is good therapy.

Of course, the reality is no matter how much you "bounce back" there are going to be hard days. Roll with them. There will be things that blindside you. Don't fight it but don't wallow in it. The first Christmas I was married, my dad wanted a red lumberjack shirt. I looked everywhere but didn't find one. The first Christmas he was gone, I was shopping in a store, had stuff in my cart, looked up, and in the middle of the aisle was a whole round rack of red lumberjack shirts. Suddenly, I couldn't breathe. A wave of emotion slammed me. I grabbed my purse and headed for the car--cart still sitting with stuff in it in the middle of the aisle. I jerked the door of my van closed just in time to fall apart. I held onto the steering wheel and sobbed until all the sobs were done. I went home and took a nap. Later, I went back to that store, bought what I needed, walked by the red lumberjack shirts, and didn't feel any reaction at all. It really was okay.

I don't think there is one way to grieve. In my journal, I wrote, "While loss is personal, it is universal. Grief is as generic as aspirin and as individual as the person taking it." While no one can tell us the specifics of the right way to grieve, I think there are general things we can do along the way to keep from hindering the process. For what it is worth, these are a few of the things I found worked for me. Maybe they'll bless someone else, too.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Gratitude 27--Everyday Extraordinary

Moments when I whisper, "Thank you, Lord," that bring a smile to my face and joy to my heart...moments when appreciate is real and deep...moments when I am intoxicated with joy or relief. Slipping past at the speed of life...appearing suddenly...disappearing subtly...in my own silence...

Lord, today, I choose to hold on to the extraordinary in the everyday...to You showing wondrously showing Yourself in the mundane...

And I grasp...

676. Veins and arteries with blood and ink coursing through the legs of my dad
677. A surprised doctor trying to explain the difference between a sonogram spotted with blockage and a scope that finds nothing
678. A little boy, wondrous, laughing, asking to be tickled...again
679. 30 purple scarves for 30 women whose lives are wrapped up in Whose they are to be, not what they are to do

680. Conversations I never want to forget
Me to Son: You are acting like a dorkoid.
Son laughing: Mom, that is what boys are supposed to do.
Me feigning dismay: Oh! Here I thought I had you so you could do dishes and the laundry, but really, your whole purpose is to be a dorkoid?
Son with eyes twinkling, laughter about to explode: Uh, yeah. Sorry for the confusion.

681. Quiet in the house
6582. A day for hubby to resettle and relax
683. Bare feet on a wooden floor, so much for quiet mice. :-)
684. Good books to get to know
685. Warm blankets
686. Chilly nights
687. Cups of warm coziness
688. Hoody jackets

689. A wonderful brother, celebrating the masterpiece he is
690. An amazing homeschool co-op
691. Encouraging emails that settle deep in my heart
692. A husband who can drive our family safely to appointments when I am too dizzy to drive
693. Negative flu tests
694. Four young ladies who make photography so much fun
695. Two drama students who do not let missing cast members stop the show
696. Sister who sleeps in Little Brother's room when he needs company
697. Crushed ice
698. Early bedtimes
699. Fans for white noise
700. People with compassionate hearts who pray for strangers in need
701. High school students that add a punctuation of joy to my Fridays
702. Gifts that remind me of friends far away.
703. Rechargable batteries
Thursday, November 19, 2009

Even on Days Like Today

God is good. And I know it. Even on days like today.

Today is a hard day. Actually, I've had a serious of tiring days, which is why I have been gone so long.

About five weeks ago I had to go into the doctor because I had symptoms of the flu. Thankfully, it was a sinus infection. The head got better just in time for me to have a reaction to the antibiotic. Got past that in time for my youngest to get sick, and when he doesn't sleep well, I don't sleep well. Got us mostly well, and my uncle passed on. I don't know if it was really unexpected, but despite what anyone says, there really is no way to prepare yourself for it. The next weekend was the fabulous Keeper of the Flame Proverbs 31 conference. I missed Friday because my husband was so ill. That was two weeks ago. My husband went to the doctor today. Whatever he had is now an infection. And of course in the midst of this are the everyday things of laundry, groceries, homeschool, and other commitments.

All of that flowed right into today.

Today started rough.

I woke up at 5:00 a.m. with a horrendous earache. Finally got the pressure relieved and lay down to doze about 7:00. Woke up to find out my mom had called. Her brother was in emergency surgery following a heart attack last night. The next 24 hours are critical.

My son has not had the best day. Barometric pressure changes knock him for a loop, and the rest of us are along for the ride.

Realized someone I love is not adjusting to some major life changes very well. That was hard to see.

And my family is packing for an impromptu, but very necessary, trip to my in-laws over the weekend. Due to previous commitments, I won't be going, but I might as well be. I am still getting everyone ready to go, and of course, there are all the last minute things like realizing our two suitcases are broken and the children's small suit cases are...small. Errands to run. Laundry to wash, dry, and fold. Last minute shopping to do. And then, I found out my dad's wonderfully affection and fun dachshund was run over and killed. My heart breaks for my dad, who is so very saddened by his loss.

And if I may be honest, I am so tired. My head hurts so much from the tension in my shoulders and neck that I feel like I could cry, but I won't because if I did, it would only hurt worse.

Yeah, a hard day. And now I'm crying.

Still, God is good. He still loves me. He is right with me. He hurts for the people for whom I hurt.

He holds my dad's hand and sits beside him whispering words of comfort, touching his chest gently.

He listens to my cousin grieve for her dad and sees her hurting heart instead of listening to her hurtful words.

He has his arm around my aunt sitting in the ICU waiting room asking Him to let her husband live.

He rides the mood waves with Robert and thinks he is still phenomenally amazing, and He still find great joy in His this fabulously creative creation of His. I wonder when Robert makes something new, if God says, "Yeah, he gets that from me." A pretty neat thought actually.

And when Anna makes clay beads and spends hours meticulously mixing clay and decorating them so they look exactly alike, does He see His own perfect hand working in hers and through hers? Does He stand behind her, His hand wrapped around, disappearing into hers? How much joy does He get from such pleasure of being part of her and her being part of Him?

And on days like today, when I pick up my computer and decide I will not let Satan steal this day--the day when my Lover chooses not to condemn my weakness but to show His strength--do His hands rest on mine as mine wander across the keyboard? Does He whisper these words I write? Is He reading over my shoulder? A smile on His beautiful face? And how excited is He that in all these things I see Him and am insanely, excitedly aware of Him?

How much joy does it give Him for me to find such great joy in Him...even on days like today?

Copyright Jerri Phillips 2009
Monday, November 2, 2009

Gratitude 26--Normal, Everyday Gratitude

Last week, my uncle, Lanny Ray Kelley, passed on to be with Jesus. I spent several days doing whatever my cousin needed. Today I am home, and it's just a normal, everyday day. I'm thankful.

Thank you, God for...
651. being home with my children today.
652. a great night's sleep.
653. the ability to turn the ringer off the phone.
654. amazing weather.
655. little boys still happy to snuggle.
656. an absolutely fabulous husband.
657. your Word that is new every morning and ready to face whatever we do.
658. loving me so mindboggling much that with each new adventure, I see a new side of it, feel it fresh all over again, and fall even more madly in love with You than I've ever been.
659. laundry in need of washing.
660. a counter piled high.
661. trash out on the curb just in time.
662. clean dishes in the washer.
663. lessons waiting to be learned.
664. a sunroom filled with the evidence of fun had by two loving siblings.
665. friends who understand that really what I need is NOT to talk.
666. morning coffee.
667. quiet time.
668. warm socks.
669. routine.
670. having nowhere to go today.
671. growing girl still snuggled warmly in her bed.
672. cereal and cold milk eaten at my table with my children.
673. a Fluff-a-poodle lying on my feet
674. quiet.
675. a smile on my face.

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"It's not the wind in our hair that makes us free. It's the movement of the Spirit, the growth of our invisible side." --Amber Haines

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My simple life plan: To live the kind of life that when asked, "If you could be anybody, who would you be?", I'd choose me.

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