Sunday, December 28, 2014

Photobombing = Tears of Joy

I’m not sure how to put into words the thankfulness that I feel this Christmas.  I know, it is Christmas, not Thanksgiving, but I have many things to be thankful for, especially this year.  There were many moments this Christmas that I just wanted to sit down and cry.  The difference this year is that those moments were not primarily brought on by missing Scott.  No, this year those tearful moments were brought on by witnessing the immense healing that Jaelyn has gone through. 

Jaelyn was extremely excited for Christmas this year – playing Christmas music constantly – her ipod was never far from her.  It would have driven Scott crazy.  He was never a big fan of Christmas music, but tolerated it when I played it.  I love Christmas music, but tried to respect his feelings by not playing it constantly.  Jaelyn played it so constantly that I was actually getting a little bit tired of it.  I was amazed that one of her favorite Christmas songs this year is “Christmas in Heaven” by Sarah Schieber.  I also noticed that for the Candlelight service at church, Jaelyn chose to wear her Origami Owl necklace that she had created in memory of her daddy.  She talked about her daddy a lot this year.  It seems like she has become comfortable in remembering her daddy in her own way this year.    

I remember two years ago arguing and ultimately forcing her to take pictures with family.  She was in the picture, but by looking at her grumpy, non-smiling face, it was clear that she was not there willingly.   Last year I warned her ahead of time that she needed to be a part of family pictures with a good attitude.  She cooperated and even smiled.  But this year.  This year, oh my.  Anytime a camera was out, Jaelyn was in front of it or photo bombing someone else – with a huge smile on her face.  Everyone couldn’t help but notice the difference and commented on it privately either to me and/or among themselves.   Anytime I get my camera out or turn on the camera on my phone, she is jumping to get in front of the lens – although she does respect when I am taking scenery or nature shots.  I am loving the chance to do photo shoots with her, without having to “twist her arm” or bribe her to be in the shots!

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Someone is Missing at Christmas

So, this is our third Christmas since Scott’s death.  I thought that each year would get easier.  In so many ways it is the opposite.  I didn’t expect it to be harder.  I still see things and think, “oh, Scott would like that” or “oh, that would be a good gift idea for Scott.”  I still avoid the men’s departments in stores as I cannot walk through or past them without thinking about clothing he would like or would have needed.  Scott rarely felt the need to buy clothing for himself.  I bought most of his clothing just so I wasn’t embarrassed by the condition of his clothing.  (He lived in t-shirts and shorts anywhere he could get away with it, and even some places that it wasn’t quite socially appropriate.) The holidays bring a heightened sense of loss as everything is about family and thinking of or doing things with your loved ones.

I think of my aunt, who is facing her first Christmas since my uncle’s death right after Christmas last year.   Christmas for her will look and feel so different this year.  It will be hard.  Facing all the firsts seemed never ending, but Christmas was one of the biggest first “hurdles.”  Holidays, anniversaries, and birthdays are the obvious difficult days.  Then there are the random moments that catch you unexpectedly.  The holiday season is like walking through a minefield full of those random moments. It is expected that Christmas Day will be hard, but it is those unexpected moments of hearing certain songs, seeing friends and family you haven’t seen in a while who don’t quite know what to say or perhaps haven’t heard about your loss that hit just as hard and sometimes harder than the expected difficult moments.

Take a moment to think of those in your life that have lost someone – whether a miscarriage, loss of a child, spouse, parent, aunt/uncle, sibling, grandparent, or friend.  On the widow/widowers Facebook group that I belong to the common theme right now is ideas on how to remember the loved one who is no longer with us.  There have been many neat ideas from photo gifts, to Christmas trees decorated only in decorations that remind them of their loved ones – even having a party with guests bringing those special decorations for the tree, to buying one ornament each year in memory.  How can you honor the memory and help keep the memory alive for those who have lost someone?  I can tell you, talking about memories and knowing that that person is not forgotten is one of the best gifts that can be given at Christmas and any time of the year.  But at Christmas when so much is about family, instead of ignoring the hole in the family, take the time to remember them and talk about them.

Sunday, November 9, 2014

A Matter of Perspective

I belong to a private Facebook group for widows/widowers with young (pre-teen) children.  There are men and women who are only a few days into their journey to those who are ten + years into their journey.  There are times when things are shared that stop me in my tracks and make me assess my own journey and perspective on things.  There were some things shared this week (I cannot share details due to the confidentiality of the group) that caused me to think about my perspective on Jaelyn and the effect of her daddy's death on her life.

 I don't want her to grow up seeing herself as different and somehow damaged due to losing her dad.  I want her to see the strength and faith that she has gained due to working through and understanding her grief.  I don't want her to go through life with a "pity me" attitude because her daddy died.  I want her to focus on who/what she still has -- mom, grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, and friends who all love her very much -- and not on the one person she has lost.  This is not to say that I want her to forget her daddy and her loss -- I just don't want his loss to define her life or be the main focus of her life.

I realize that how she sees herself now and in the future falls to God, myself, and those who love her.  I pray that I never treat her as if she is somehow less than whole or fragile because of her daddy's death. I pray that pity and coddling never become part of my attitude toward her.  I pray to always recognize that her strength and faith can and will overcome anything and to always expect her strength and faith to rise up and prevail.

Why would I expect less of her because of her loss?  No, I expect more of her because of her loss.  God has given her strength and faith for a purpose.  I cannot wait to see how God uses in her life what she has learned on this journey.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Trajectories of Tried Faith

I recently picked up a devotional book that I hadn’t looked at for about six months while I was using other devotionals.  Sometimes I get frustrated with myself for jumping back and forth between devotions without finishing a book.  However, I am coming to realize that God uses those changes to speak to me.  I began reading one of the devotions and it really struck me, then glanced at the next one and realized that it was an almost seamless continuation of the first one I read.

These devotions were written by Kathy Ferguson Litton who became a widow at the age of 45.  A friend told her “that because of my husband’s death my life would take an entirely new trajectory.  She said I would ‘begin to go places I would have never gone before, meet people I would have never known before, and understand things I would have never known before.’”   WOW – that has certainly been true for me.  When I think of all the new and precious friendships that God has brought into my life since and because of Scott’s death I am in awe of God providing encouragement and friendship when I needed it most.  I think of the many opportunities to share my story and my faith, opportunities to connect with people who are suffering, and opportunities to be a blessing to others.

It is so easy to think that with a loss of our magnitude that life is over, that the best is behind me, and that my life will always be clouded because of Scott’s death.  I am coming to realize that although I will always miss Scott and grieve his loss, God’s plans for my life did not end with his death and do not diminish Scott’s life and our love.  Where my God-directed trajectory will take me, I don’t know, but I do know that God’s plans are to prosper me and not to harm me, plans to give me a hope and a future.  (Jeremiah 29:11)

“Knowing and receiving God’s comfort comes with a price.  The price is pouring that comfort out on others.  It is a calling, an obligation, a privilege, and a divine purpose in suffering. . .  The ‘why’ question was asked concerning the man born blind in John 9.  Jesus never seemed to give a satisfying answer to that inquiry but He did give his disciples the answer to the ‘to what end?’ question with this phrase: ‘that the works of God should be revealed in him.’ (John 9:3 NKJV)  One of the ‘works of God’ is a tried, undisputable faith in the midst of struggle.  What is a tried faith?  It is confidence in the goodness of God in the midst of circumstances that scream otherwise.”

Whatever my questions and grief over Scott’s death, I have never lost sight of or my confidence in the goodness of God.  My faith has been tried and is firm.  It is not something that can be easily explained given our circumstances nor is it my own strength.  Yet, I have seen His hand of provision and care.  He has taken care of EVERY need, including comfort and peace.  This is certainly not to say that I have not had moments of humanness, down moments, or sad moments, but when I keep my eyes on Him, He provides just what I need in that moment to keep moving forward. 

“God requires belief and trust in moments of human weakness, but faith is what makes us strong.  Faith is the state of being convinced about what we hope for.”  --

“Dear Father, on my trajectory of pain strengthen my faith so even a doubter can see Your reality in my life. Amen. “

Italics are excerpts from A Daily Women’s Devotional – pgs 96 & 97, daily devotionals written by Kathy Ferguson Litton

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

The Storm

Prayer.  So often it is easy to say to someone, “I am praying for you” -- Yet later forget to pray or even dismiss it as not helpful.  I can certainly attest to the strength of prayers.  I know that there are many times over the last two years that I cannot explain where the strength came from to get up and keep moving forward -- those times when it felt as if quicksand was pulling me down.  Inexplicably there would be strength to take the first step, and then the next.  The only explanation comes a day or two later when someone would share with me that they had been praying for us. 

Since hearing about little Sarah’s battle with cancer my heart has been crying for her, her parents, and her family.  I doubt if an hour goes by each day in the last couple of weeks that my thoughts don’t turn to her – and then prayers for her and her family.  It is so easy to be discouraged by medical reports and feel hopeless – forgetting that the God of the universe is in control.  It is so easy in our humanness to want to control and fix – when we can’t, we become angry with God, forgetting that we were never in control to begin with – God is, was, and always will be God.

I began reading a book, A Gentle Thunder, Hearing God Through the Storm by Max Lucado tonight and was caught at Chapter 4 – Miracle at Midnight – The God of Perfect Timing.  “Mark tells us that during the storm Jesus ‘saw his followers struggling’ (Mark 6:48).  Through the night he saw them.  Through the storm he saw them.  And like a loving father he waited. He waited until the right time, until the right moment.  He waited until he knew it was time to come, and then he came.”    I know that in the depths of my grief there was an intense loneliness and I questioned where God was.   “Though you hear nothing, he is speaking.  Though you see nothing, he is acting.  With God there are no accidents.  Every incident is intended to bring us closer to Him.”    It took the Israelites 40 years in the desert for God to prepare them for the Promised Land – a trip that by direct route would take only eleven days by foot.

“So what does God do while we are enduring the pain?  What does he do while we are in the storm?  You’ll love this.  He prays for us.  Jesus wasn't in the boat because he had gone to the hills to pray (Mark 6:46).  Jesus prayed.  That is remarkable.  It is even more remarkable that Jesus didn't stop praying when his disciples were struggling.  When he heard their cries, he remained in prayer. . . When you can’t see him trust him.  He is praying a prayer that he himself will answer.   My biggest hope and prayer is that Sarah and her family will feel the strength of all the prayers holding them up – especially when they are at their weakest points – just as Jaelyn and I have felt the strength of the prayers over the past two years.

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Unexpected Treasures

Two years ago after Scott’s death I went through all the photos and video clips that I had on our computer.  After talking with family, there was one video in particular that I was trying to find.  When I couldn’t find it on any of the computers and old photo discs I assumed that it had been deleted at some point.  I was so disappointed as it was a very funny video in which Scott is the operator of the video camera.  He isn’t pictured in the video but rather is narrating while he was videoing. 

A few months ago I gave my dad our little digital video camera to use for hunting and trapping since we hadn’t used it in years.  Just this week they looked at the videos they had taken and noticed that there were many more videos on it than they had done.   Today I finally had a chance to download those videos and see what was on the camera.  Like a treasure, hidden for years, the video clip that I had been craving for the past two years was on the camera.  It was so neat to hear Scott’s voice again. 


There are many other videos and pictures on that camera that are just as precious as there are videos in which Scott is actually pictured.  Usually he was the one operating the video camera so he was rarely in the video.  There have been many things recently that have pulled my spirits down, but God knew that I needed a lift to my spirits this weekend.  It is bittersweet to see them.  Among those videos are many videos of Scott doing things with Jaelyn around age 4/5.  Those will be treasures to both Jaelyn and me.  It helps her to keep fresh in her memory just how much her daddy loved her and how he spent time with her.


Tuesday, September 2, 2014

A Look Back

I really hate when it is time to sleep and that is when my thoughts turn to Scott.  Sometimes the only way to get the thoughts to stop is to get up and write them out – so that is what I am doing now.

I have been thinking a lot lately of when I had to tell Jaelyn that her daddy had died.  That was the hardest thing I have ever done in my life.  Those few words just tore apart life as she had known it.  I remember the inadequacy of words and not really knowing now to say it.  The difficulty of pushing those words through my lips is something I will never forget.  I still cry when I think of that moment.

When I think back to the hours after Scott’s death, I’m amazed at how together I was, getting through and doing what needed done.  Calling friends to break the news and hearing the disbelief and shock on the other end of the phone and I struggled to keep myself together.  Talking with the funeral home was concrete and something that I actually knew what to expect because of participating in that same meeting for my brother nine years before – although it still seemed surreal.  I found myself making sure everyone around me was okay.  It was only in the quiet and dark of night that my tattered emotions and scattered thoughts overflowed.

There was a handful of friends and family who just stepped in and did what needed done and were there supporting and encouraging us as we grieved.  I can remember thinking that I just wanted to be through the grief and come out the other side, even though I knew that there is no real end to grief.  Grief is so intangible with no clear right way to go or length of time it lasts.  For someone who has experienced the loss of control in a loved one’s death, the tendency is to control everything else that can be controlled.  Well, let me be the first to tell you, grief cannot be controlled.  It was overwhelming in the beginning as grief just loomed over us like this insurmountable mountain.  It was hard to face waking up day after day facing this mountain.  The closer you get to it, the larger you realize that it is.  There is no sense of perspective.  And not only did I have my own insurmountable mountain that I wasn’t sure how best to climb, but I also needed to figure out how best to help Jaelyn climb her own mountain. 

There were days when I couldn’t sense God’s presence.  Those were the days that I tried to look back for the evidence of God’s presence.  And it was there – without fail.  It was present in the ways God provided for us, encouragement at just the right time, and special people coming into our lives at just the right moments.  It was there in all the little cards and notes that we received.  It was there in friends just pushing a box of tissues across the table and the words, “I have plenty of tissues, go ahead and cry.”  It was there in new friendships developed and old friendships rekindled.  It was there in every moment of friendship, love, support, and understanding.  God’s presence was there overall, even when I couldn’t see it in the moment.