Saturday, May 28, 2011

Perfect Timing

Waiting is one of the most difficult things for me to do.  I tend to fret, fume, or fall apart. It seems like the more I want something, the harder it is to wait - and, I must confess, I even get impatient with God!

God has perfect timing. He is never late. He is never early. He is never in a hurry. He is always on time. On His time. This has never been true for me than what has transpired over the last seven days.   A year of fervent prayer has blossomed into a beautiful display of God's grace and mercy.  

God's timing is different than my own.  He sees things from a different perspective and sees the whole picture, not just what I want, but what is best for me in the grand plan for my life.  All is part of a divine order and will be done in its own right and proper time.  Of course, when I am hoping, praying and waiting for something, it's easy to forget this.

There are many stories of “waiting” in the Bible.  In some stories, the waiting seemed to last forever, while others only waited a few intense moments.  But what I have learned from these stories is that the key to waiting is not the length of time but how to handle the wait.  

I think my waiting days for an answer from God are over.  While they didn't turn out as I had expected, they turned out better than I could have imagined.  I am so glad that God knows best. 

One of my favorite verses from the Bible is Romans 8:28: “We know that all things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to His purpose.”  I praise You, Lord, for working this out and thank You for keeping me from making rash decisions when I became impatient for your solutions.

God is good, all the time.  All the time, God is good.


Tuesday, May 24, 2011


I have not been angry at God about the death of Steve.  I've been surprised by this fact.  When my father was killed by a drunk driver, I was so angry at God that I started a cold war with Him that lasted for well over a year.  My anger left me empty and bitter.

My loss this time is every bit as grueling but multiplied a hundred times. Yet, in place of anger is a shaft of light in the empty blackness of my broken life.  Trials and hardships have not made me hard, but more softened because of my faith.  My closeness with Christ has knocked off the sharp edges and made me "usable" in His kingdom.

Faith means so many different things to people.  My circumstances have taught me much about faith and it's importance.  Before I was scorched by misfortune, pain, and suffering, I had a Cinderella belief that my faith secured me a "happily-ever-after."  This blind optimism served me well for 36 years.

But we live in a fallen world and all of us, sooner or later, will drink deeply from its sorrows.  I have learned that my struggles are important and that, even when there's nothing left but rubble, God is mysteriously at work in the mess.  My faith is now grounded in the God who created me and who reveals Himself in creation.  My faith has taught me the most important lesson in life:  that I must know the God who made me and to walk through this life as His child, no matter what it costs me.  Even when I am standing at "ground zero" -- when I am hurting, when God is silent, when my suffering makes no sense, when every option seems a dead end.  Faith believes in advance what can only be seen in reverse.

I won't faith is not as consistent as it needs to be.  There are days I feel hopeless.  Yet, when I open God's word and drink deeply of His promises, I am revived. 

God did not promise me an easy life, just that I wouldn't have to do life alone. 


Sunday, May 22, 2011

How You Can Help Me

*The "bones" of this post came from another widow's blog, but the words were so true and real that I had to adapt it for me and post it on my blog. This post is NOT for the grieving, but for those who want to help the grieving.

Please talk about Steve even though he is gone. It is more comforting to cry than to pretend that he never existed. I need to talk about him, and I need you to talk about him, too.

Be patient with my forgetfulness, my mood swings, and my anxiety. My sharpness is dulled from grief.  I won't remember anything that's not in writing.  Get comfortable with my emotional ups and downs. Sadness hits me in waves, and I never know when my tears may flow. Nothing feels secure in my world, so overlook my agitation over things that don't bother you.

Don't abandon me. You can't catch my grief. My world is painful, and when you are too afraid to call me or visit or say anything, you isolate me at a time when I most need to be cared about. If you don't know what to say, just come over, give me a hug or touch my arm, and gently say, "I'm sorry." You can even say, "I just don't know what to say, but I care, and want you to know that."

Just because I look good does not mean that I feel good. Ask me how I feel only if you really have time to find out.

I am not strong. I'm just numb. While I will continue to live, I will not recover from this loss. This is not a cold or the flu. I'm not sick. I'm grieving and that's different. For I am not only grieving Steve's death, but also the person I was when I was with him, the life that we shared, the plans we had for our family, the places we will never get to go together, and the hopes and dreams that will never come true. My whole world has crumbled and I will never be the same.

Don't assume that I will be over my grief in a year. In fact, everything I've read says that the second year is the HARDEST. I will not always be grieving as intensely, but I will never forget Steve and rather than recover, I want to incorporate his life and love into the rest of my life. Steve is a part of me and always will be, and sometimes I will remember him with joy and other times with tears. Both are okay.

Please don't give me unsolicited advice.  When you tell me what I should be doing, then I feel even more lost and alone.

Please don't tell me I can find someone else or that I need to start dating. I may not be ready... And maybe I don't ever want to be. Steve is not replaceable.

Please don't talk with me about "getting on with my life." My life is going on. I've been forced to take on many new responsibilities and roles. It may not look the way you think it should. This will take time and I will never be my old self again. So please, just love me as I am today, and know that with your love and support, the joy will slowly return to my life. But I will never forget and there will always be times that I cry.

I need to know that you care about me. I need to feel your touch, your hugs. I need you just to be with me, and I need to be with you. I need to know you believe in me and in my ability to get through my grief in my own way, and in my own time.

Please don't say, "Call me if you need anything." I'll never call you because I have no idea what I need. Trying to figure out what you could do for me takes more energy than I have. So, in advance, let me give you some ideas:

(a) Don’t let me go to lunch alone on Sunday after church.

(b) Send me a card on special holidays, our wedding anniversary, his birthday, and the anniversary of his death, and be sure to mention his name. You can't make me cry. The tears are here and I will love you for giving me the opportunity to shed them because someone cared enough about me to reach out on these difficult days.

(c) Ask me to join you for a movie or dinner or other social gatherings. I mostly sit at home alone on nights and weekends and would greatly appreciate being included.

(d) Understand how difficult it is for me to be surrounded by couples, to walk into events alone, to feel out of place in the same situations where I used to feel so comfortable.

Please don't be alarmed when I am frighteningly out of sorts. I am not going to drive my car off a cliff or take a handful of sleeping pills.  On top of my grief, I have huge responsibilities and decisions thrust upon me that literally knock me off my feet.  Some days I am just shell shocked. I am afraid. I am overwhelmed. But above all, I hurt. I'm experiencing a pain unlike any I've ever felt before and one that can't be imagined by anyone who has not walked in my shoes.

Don't worry if you think I'm getting better and then suddenly I seem to slip backward. Grief ebbs and flows. Don’t try to understand it (I certainly don’t), just accept it and love me through it.

Most of all thank you for being my friend. Thank you for your patience. Thank you for caring. Thank you for helping, for understanding. And remember in the days or years ahead, after your loss - when you need me as I have needed you - I will understand. And then I will come and be with you.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Rx for the Blues

I do not claim to be an expert on grief; but I am an expert on my own grief…if one exists.  We all find our own path on this sad journey.  We cope in different ways, for different lengths of time, with different avenues for help. 

You can’t avoid grief.  It stalks you, like a wolf, ready to pounce at the most unexpected moments.  Even when days are going well, I will have moments that make my throat tighten, my stomach knot, and my eyes fill with tears.   I’m always blindsided by them, but they, fortunately, pass quickly.

Then there are days or even weeks of days that the weight of grief makes every move painful.  There are triggers I have come to recognize.  I can’t avoid them, but I have found some things that make me smile even on these bleak days…

  • three Gerber daisies in a tall vase
  • a Route 44 diet Cherry Limeade from Sonic
  • sleeping on sun-dried sheets
  • a good gab fest with loyal friends
  • an unexpected card of encouragement in the mail
  • one of my students doing or saying something kind or appreciative
  • singing praises, either in the solitude of my car or with the church choir
  • frozen yogurt with fresh berries
  • getting a steal of a bargain at Ross
  • holding an infant and kissing their head
  • a call or email from a far-away friend
  • a made-up bed
  • a clean kitchen
  • a lazy day in bed reading a good book
  • a nap
  • painting a picture of my feelings through words
  • watching a chic flick with my “besties”
  • a trip…to pretty much anywhere
  • a massage
  • a bike ride on a beautiful day
  • taking photos of unique things


Wednesday, May 18, 2011


What do you do when life throws you curve balls and you know that you need to hit, but miss every time?  What do you do when you need to make a decision and there are no good choices?  What do you do when fighting for what's right, may make everything wrong?

I am spent.  
I can not continue without resolution.
Oh, Lord, my God, I need You.  
I am overwhelmed.

David often used the word "overwhelmed" in the Psalms.  One verse comes to mind, Psalms 61:1,2, "Hear my cry, O God; attend unto my prayer.  From the end of the earth will I cry unto thee, when my heart is overwhelmed:  lead me to the rock that is higher than I."

God, pull me up on the rock. I am drowning.


Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Happy Birthday, Steve

Saying that I miss you would be an understatement.  There is too much to say…and so few words that I can put on paper without allowing this day…YOUR day…to overwhelm me. 

So, I leave you with these words from one of my favorite poems…

What though the radiance which was once so bright
Be now for ever taken from my sight,
Though nothing can bring back the hour
Of splendour in the grass, of glory in the flower;
We will grieve not, rather find
Strength in what remains behind...

                                    William Wordsworth


Monday, May 16, 2011

Happy Anniversary, Steve

Today would have been my 30th wedding anniversary.  Steve and I were planning a special trip for this milestone.  He was always the one for grand adventures.  He broadened and expanded my life in so many ways.  Travel was just one of them. 

We were just kids when we married… broke…with minimum wage jobs…living on love.  But we knew it wouldn’t always be like this.  We had dreams.  Steve had the vision and I took care of details.  He was a risk taker and I was cautious.  He was so smart and I was organized.  Like Rocky and Adrian…we filled gaps. 

Today, I feel that gaping hole that his death left behind.  Despite knowing how our life together ended, I would live it all over again…the good, the bad, the breathtaking.  The person I am today was shaped and molded by a man that loved me more than life.  I like who I am because of him.

Dr. Seuss got it right "Don't cry because it's over, smile because it happened."

I’m smiling, Steve.  Happy anniversary.


Saturday, May 14, 2011

Lost and Small

I'm feeling a bit lost as I head towards my first wedding anniversary without Steve. This grief thing is so much bigger than I am and makes me feel small and vulnerable. I hate the sadness that pounces on me without warning.  I am waylaid by the lack of energy and nagging headaches. 

I wish I could tell you that I've embraced my grief and I'm "moving on," but that would be a lie.  The crushing reality of life without the great love of my life is just beginning to settle into my head.  Steve is never coming home.  Never.  But my heart listens for him still...reaches for my cell phone to tell him something...waits for him to come home each night.

I hate this grief and how it's diminishing me as a person. I know ... in my head ... that it's brought me some blessings and I’m going to survive this, but today.... I just hate it. I just want my "before" life back. I try not to go there.... to that place of wanting and longing for what I cannot have.... because I know that it is a waste of time. But in these days that is exactly how I feel.

This feeling is so difficult to describe and explain to people who haven't loved well and lost traumatically. The feeling of heaviness, of loneliness, of feeling lost. Feeling utter exhaustion and yet not being able to sleep. The feeling of feeling very, very small in this grief.

My head knows that these days will pass and thank God they are not as paralyzing as the first months after Steve's death. But my heart doesn't seem to be paying attention to my head lately.

And so I will feel what I feel.... until I don't.
Which, I hope, is soon.


Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Fear of May

We cannot banish dangers, but we can banish fears. We must not demean life by standing in awe of death. ~David Sarnoff

May is going to be a difficult month for me. My wedding anniversary and Steve’s birth date is this month. In fact, they come back to back. As those dates creep up, I feel a rising dread. What do I do on those dates? Do I ignore them? Do I find a way to celebrate them? Do I curl up in bed and cry all day?

The uncertainty of not knowing what I should do makes me afraid. I don't like fear. It colors my life with a grim patina, which seeps into the lives of those closest to me. Frankly, I am not fun to be around when I am afraid. Just ask my sons.

Steve was not a man of fear, but of action. When I would fret and obsess over something he would ask, “What is the worst thing that could happen?” Once that fear was addressed, I could better move on to a place of strength. So, I ask myself, what is the worst thing that could happen as these momentous first dates arise? I could fall apart emotionally…. miss a day of work…. lie in bed and cry all day. Now that I say that out loud, it doesn’t sound all that bad. I went to work 3 weeks after Steve died. I’ve not missed a day all year; I do believe that people would say, “Finally…she’s taking a day for herself. It’s long overdue.”

So, what is there to fear…really? If grief hasn’t killed me by now, I’m probably going to make it. And my quote is right. I would demean Steve’s life to stand in awe of death. Steve would want me to live. LIVE. OUTLOUD!


Sunday, May 8, 2011

Mother's Day

The greatest gifts that Steve gave me are my sons, Paul, Adam, and Lee.  They are his living legacy.  I see so much of Steve in each of them.  Paul has his gift to see needs and meet them without fanfare or credit.  Adam has his drive and work ethic and his beautiful blue eyes.  Lee has his empathy and kindness.  My sons are growing into men that would make their father very proud.

It is difficult to parent alone.  Steve had such wisdom with the boys.  He knew how to listen and not to push.  I am a typical mother.... I am full of unwanted advice and admonitions.  I guess my worse vice is my need to ask questions.  Sons are just not forthcoming with much I try to squeeze it out of them with a machine gun volley of queries.  It drives them crazy.... and I don't know how to stop.  I just want to feel like I'm a part of their life...and frankly, I feel left out.  It's always been this way.  However, they really did confide in Steve, and I felt that if I really needed to know something, he would tell me.  Now that Steve is gone, they have lost their confidant, and they have not allowed me to take his place.  Yeah, it bothers me, but it's probably merited.  I tend to overreact and fret.  

My sons are essentially men, but they are not completely self-sufficient.  They still depend on me for financial assistance, but they have long ago not needed my emotional support...or at least that is how it seems to me.  That's just something I'm going to have to deal with.

My boys do love me.  Of this, I have no doubt.  One son wrote in my Mother's Day card that, "Every day I thank God that you are my mother."  Another son wrote, "You keep me balanced and love unyieldingly; you are kind and thoughtful, and one of the most dependable souls that I know."  And the jokester son wrote on his Facebook that, "You are the best mom that I have ever had :) and I love her very very very very berry berry much!!!"

So, on this Mother's Day, I am blessed.... blessed beyond measure.


Thursday, May 5, 2011

I Refuse

I can be changed by what happens to me, but I refuse to be reduced by it. 
~Maya Angelou

Widowhood has made me lonely, but it has not reduced the love I receive from those who care about me.

Widowhood has burdened me with responsibilities that are difficult, but I have not been reduced to a puddle of inability over it.

Widowhood has exposed my weaknesses, but it hasn't reduced my strengths.

Widowhood has changed the course of my life, but it hasn't reduced my ability to set new goals for the future.

Widowhood has changed the way I view the world, but it has not reduced my appreciation for simple beauty around me.

Widowhood has rocked my foundation, but it has not reduced my faith in God or my belief He is in complete control of my life.

Widowhood has leveled my vigor, but it has not reduced my resolve to overcome.

Widowhood has made me depend on others for help, but I have found that accepting their assistance has not reduced my pride.

Widowhood has changed every facet of my life, but I refuse to be less of a person because of my grief.


Tuesday, May 3, 2011

The Fatigue of Grief

I am tired...all the time.  I am tired when I wake up.  I am tired throughout the day.  I am tired when I finally fall into my bed at night. I didn't realize the fatigue of grief would come now. I expected it early on, but now...10 months later...I am paralyzed by it. I can't seem to catch up.  I am slow, confused, and indecisive.... I feel like a zombie. I can no longer carry the crushing weight of my grief alone.

I've worked so persistently at being strong, and I really am strong.  But I've discovered that grief is democratic – taking the strong and the weak equally, putting us all through the same hell.  I don’t know why this fatigue has closed in on me now.  Perhaps it is my body’s way of expressing the hard work of my heart and mind.

So, I'm going to push when I can, rest when I need to, and be patient with myself when I'm not firing on all my pistons. It is my prayer that as the daily crush of mourning eases, my energy will return and I will find myself clearer than before.


Sunday, May 1, 2011

Praise You in this Storm

My sweet home Alabama is reeling from the devastation from the tornadoes that struck our state on Wednesday.  There has been much loss of life.  The news reported today that the destruction was worse than Katrina.  So many are homeless and displaced.  The images are's even worse in person.
I have a home in Tuscaloosa that has definitely sustained damaged, but I am uncertain how much.  From aerial photos (top is before, bottom is after) I can see the structure is there, but parts of the roof is missing.  I am lucky...the buildings behind it are leveled and the homes on either side have major structural damage.  Oddly enough, my sons loaded up their belongings on Monday in a U-Haul truck and came home on Tuesday with it.  Not only were their possessions spared, but their lives as well.  I am counting my blessings.  The house is just "stuff."  My sons can't be replaced.  My boys have been inalterably affected by this disaster.  They still have missing friends...their hearts are broken. One son will leave tomorrow to be a shelter nurse in Tuscaloosa; the other will leave on Tuesday to help with the clean-up effort.  I am proud of their commitment to service. 

Here in my city, we were spared the brunt of the storm, but unfortunately the northern part of my county was not.  It is very rural and search and rescue teams are still pulling bodies out of homes and dragging the lakes and rivers for missing people.  I will be helping with efforts here by gathering clothing, non-perishable food, toiletries, etc. for those in shelters.  Our church disaster team is hard at work with chain saws and heavy equipment helping clear roads and get to houses. 

Please, please pray for the state of Alabama. It looks like a war zone. About half the state still does not have power.  What water is available may not be safe to drink.  Rural areas on well water have no water at all because of lack of power.  People affected by the power outages can not leave because gasoline is unavailable and even if it were, there would be no power to pump it.

My heart is heavy because of the death, destruction, and displacement here in Alabama.  However, I am so proud of how our citizens have stepped up and made helping a priority. Affected people haven't screamed for attention and haven't demanded government help.  They are counting their blessings for being alive and depending on friends, family, and faith based groups to help get them through this disaster. We take care of our own here in Alabama.

Despite everything, God is still in control and there is beauty in ashes.  The song "Praise You in this Storm" by Casting Crowns really says it best for me.
As the thunder rolls
I barely hear Your whisper through the rain
"I'm with you"
And as Your mercy falls
I raise my hands and praise the God who gives
And takes away
And I'll praise You in this storm
And I will lift my hands
For You are who You are
No matter where I am
And every tear I've cried
You hold in Your hand
You never left my side
And though my heart is torn
I will praise You in this storm