My apple trees have apples growing!
Tuesday, June 28, 2011
This post is going to be about friends and grief, and grief and God's presence in the midst of pain---I think they will tie together…at least they seemed to germinate from the same thread of thought inside me.
Friendship is hard…very rewarding, but hard. Married people know this. Marriage is supposed to be the ultimate friendship, I think—but few are. Todd and I were, in addition to many other things, very good friends. I am thankful for that, but I also know that you have to be one in order to receive one. I am blessed with more good friends than a girl deserves, but I will also say, that I think that I am a good friend to them as well…although, lately some of them may be feeling they are getting the short end of the stick. That is sort of what real friendship is about…you both give and receive all you are able. To be a good friend you must determine what is for the good of the other, not necessarily what makes you feel good. You must determine what boundaries will best help a healthy friendship grow. You must speak the truth in love. You must forgive the unavoidable hurt. When you care deeply for someone and live closely in community with that person, you WILL hurt one another…it is our human condition. I don't believe many "real" friendships exist without being tested and proved worthy of the effort of tending the wounds.
It is hard to witness a dear friend grieve. I don't mean a porch waving friend. I mean one of those "real" friends. It is probably up there with some of the hardest things. It is scary to be confronted with the raging anger and the all-consuming pain that seeps from every pore of that person. It is just plain difficult not to want to rush in with platitudes and fixes…because you care and, of course, you want to fix it…but some things just can't be fixed. I can remember several angry outbursts in the first month of my loss. What I remember most was the gift these friends and family gave me by allowing me a safe place/relationship to have these outbursts. I couldn't have pretended, but if I had feared they couldn't handle it, I would have cut myself off completely…and that wouldn't have helped me heal one iota. The first outburst I can remember occurred with two friends who received the angry, screaming barrage of "How can I ever be okay again? I will NEVER BE OKAY. I SAW MY HUSBAND GET SHOT IN FRONT OF ME—HOW CAN YOU EVER BE OKAY AFTER THAT?" I could tell by my friends faces they were totally at a loss, but it never occurred to me that they couldn't handle it…because I needed them to be able to handle it. Thank God, they did handle it. I have no idea what we said or talked about after this. I just have the memory of relief of not having to hold those thoughts in any longer. I did temporarily cut myself off from friends who lived in Dyersburg…I just couldn't deal with anything to do with my home (that wasn't recognizable as my home any more). These friends were grieving too…they all knew and loved Todd, and I had shut down in so many ways. But, by God's grace, they did not abandon me. Unbeknownst to me, they continued to regularly check on me through other friends and my family. They knew I couldn't talk on the phone, so they would text me daily…never expecting anything in return…they just waited…patiently…for the day I would return to them. I guess deep down, they probably knew I would return to life….they just had no idea how long it would take. I will say it again. It is hard to be the friend of a person suffering tremendous loss—to be able to stand in the face of their anger…to have the strength to listen to their pain without trying to fix. I am thankful that I have been blessed by a network of such friends and family.
This leads me to the second part of this post. I don't have answers to so many things, but I do know this. I could not "not believe" in my loving God (who loves Todd every bit as much as He loves me) any more than I could stop breathing. How else could I ever explain that I watched my husband, whom (with my children) I love more than any other on this earth, get shot just feet away from me, get shot myself, and hear the gunman shoot his own teenage daughter and not remain bitter, and angry and stuck? How else can I ever explain that I have been able to forgive? It is only His grace that allows this in my heart…there is NOTHING natural about being able to emerge from this tragedy with anything remotely resembling contentment. Now it has been very difficult and painful to get here, but I have no doubt Who has done this work in me…and it is NOT me. (My only part has been not to refuse to let Him do this work...which I certainly could have because He always gives that choice to us.) And it is not just me…there are countless adults and children who face the aftermath of loss and tragedy with grace and peace—crediting a loving and tender God as the reason…it totally defies logic.
The only guarantees that I can see in this life are that we will have trouble, that anyone who dares to love deeply will suffer hurt because of that love, and God promises He will not leave us nor forsake us. I believe He has honored that promise in my life and in Todd's life. Thank you for letting me share my heart with you through this blog. Thank you for your help in my healing. I will close with the blessing I pray over my beautiful children most nights. The LORD bless you and keep you. The LORD make his face to shine upon you…and give you peace. (Numbers 6:24-26)
Sunday, June 26, 2011
The sound and smell of cutting a fresh watermelon, freshly cut grass, kids' screaming laughter as they chase or are chased, locusts and mosquito trucks …all sounds and smells of summer from my youth. I can still remember playing outside in the warm Mississippi evenings as a young girl—spitting watermelon seeds and playing swinging statues and freeze tag with cousins and catching fire flies.
My children and I just got back from a visit with their cousins. We played at the beach during the day , played flashlight freeze tag after dark (okay, so Uncle Hal played while Aunt Christine and I watched ;-), and ate ice cream and pancakes more than once (but not at the same time;-). We climbed a 100 foot sand dune (that rises at what looks and feels like about a 45 degree angle), and purposefully watched a beautiful sun set.
I know my children are storing up their own "cousin memories," and it makes me happy. Because these are the kind of memories that help you grow up knowing you are loved, and you are stronger for knowing this. Just as my children have so many wonderful memories of summer evenings playing with Todd (whether they actually recall every particular moment is not an issue—these memories are indelibly written into their make-up, stored forever in them as part of who they are), they are building new memories that will help them continue the legacy of love their daddy began. And this can only make them stronger.
Saturday, June 18, 2011
Thursday, June 16, 2011
Wednesday, June 15, 2011
I have been following another blog for a few months…it is called Team Emmett:-Courage to Conquer, and follows the story of Emmett Stallings from his initial cancer diagnosis to his death last week. Here is an excerpt from his wife's last entry. I just wanted to share her beautiful words. The post was titled "It is Finished."
"In my grief, I am indeed tossed like a raft on open waters, but I am held by the mercy of the Lord who will keep his promise to redeem all things. And there is peace in greater abundance than grief. Even though the peace is often more quiet than the grief, it is far more patient and tender, so there is great hope that peace will win in the end.
I will need so many of you in the days and months to come. Thank you so much for your presence and faithful, quiet service when I could do nothing. Thank you for your love when I could not reach out. If you know me well, then you know that I need you to pursue me, to remind me of the promises of the gospel, and to help me heal even when it hurts. If you do not know me well, then I pray that you would pour the same energy into the lives of people you know that are hurting. People who grieve do not know how to ask for help, so do not wait for them to ask.
My prayer for all of us is that we will learn to meet suffering with mercy, despair with hope, and fear with truth. I pray that we would dwell in the mysteries and paradoxes of suffering with a realness that despises trite answers, embraces sorrow, and plants hope. In other words, may we be people who trust and love, even when it is difficult."
Wendy Stallings ("It is Finished," Team Emmett--Courage to Conquer)
Monday, June 13, 2011
The kids and I just got back from a really nice visit with my mom, sister and brother-in-law. I was able to visit with several old friends—two of whom I hadn't seen since before Todd died. I was able to talk and not lose it and to almost feel "normal."
The day before we left, I signed the papers to close the sale on our old home. The day I got back Todd's (last project) motorcycle sold. These book end events are so very bittersweet. On the one hand, it is time to pass these things to someone who can enjoy them in a way that we cannot any longer…but on the other hand it is so hard to lose these connections to our "old" life. It is very tempting today to just want to stand still…but if I stand still too long, I may find it difficult to get started forward again. The kids feel it too…I don't know if they could put it into words, but I can tell they feel it. Oh, we miss that man.
Tuesday, June 7, 2011
Monday, June 6, 2011
This is one of my favorite pictures. Todd did all the fun daddy things…here he is sliding down the rails backward with the kids piled on top.
The kids and I went to a pool party at the local water park the other night. I sat on the side, just watching, for a long time. The kids were content playing with friends, but the thought came over me that they would love it if their momma would actually get in the pool. Their daddy certainly would have been in there with them. Well, I took the plunge and swam over to the waterslide where I waited for them to reach the bottom. I expected them to get all excited that momma was in the pool and ready to play…ha ha on me…they barely acknowledged me as they hurried to go back up the many stairs to the top of the slide to await another turn. After watching them a couple of times, I decided I would go with them the next time. THAT is when they got excited! I was rewarded with big smiles, hugs, and lots of "I love you, momma"s and comments to friends "My mom is going to go down the slide with me!" May not seem like much to anyone else, but it was bliss to me.
Sunday, June 5, 2011
June 4, 2011
Today is the first day I have thought "I like my life"…I have experienced contentment, some joy and many triumphs during the past year, but I have never had a day since Todd died that I actually thought I "like" my life. Major, major…
The ironic part to me is that this thought occurred to me in such an ordinary moment. I walked out into the sunshiny morning (very warm already) to feed the cat (for which I am not particularly fond) as my son skipped down the steps toward the pool. My daughter (whose job it is to feed said cat) was still sleeping peacefully.
Do I wish Todd were here with me to enjoy this life? Absolutely. Are my circumstances any different than they were a week, a month or even a year ago? No. Can't explain it, but I am so glad something has shifted inside of me to bring about this change of outlook. Don't really want to talk about it directly, but I definitely wanted to share…because I know you all have been cheering me on toward this day.