November 28, 2016

Oh, How I Want to be an Amaryllis at Christmas

Have you heard Christy Nockels' new Christmas album Thrill of Hope?  If not, go out and get it. It is beautiful! It's got some lovely renditions of old Christmas classics and some deep, new songs that will soon become classics. I spent four hours listening to it in the car this last week. So.good.

Most of the time I had the song Amaryllis on repeat. It was as if she had been looking right in at my life when she wrote that second verse: So here I am, waiting, in a winter of my own. If it's gonna be this cold here, why couldn't it just snow. Well at least I could say through the pain that it's somehow beautiful. Everybody knows that the time to bloom is spring, yet You're asking me to break through the hardness of this freeze. And You say that You're with me and I can make it through anything...When everything is cold and dark Your love breaks through and I shine, oh I shine for you, with the brilliance of summer, right in the middle of winter. Somehow, surprising the night like a Christmas amaryllis.

Wow! This is how so much of the last nine months have felt. Like I am sitting in the middle of winter just waiting. Waiting for life to start again. Waiting for joy to resurface. Waiting for passion for anything to return. Waiting for grief to take a hike. Waiting for spring, when I feel like I am growing, doing something productive, and I can see good things coming out of this hard, cold, dark time.

At the same time, God has used this song for so much healing in my life, just in the last week. You know, even in the darkest times, there has been "snow" amidst the cold. Little sprinkles of grace in the midst of the waiting and dark and cold: #tablesitters, friends and family, bills that others are paying, a part-time job to help support my family, two beautiful kids who make me laugh and smile and give me more hugs than I can handle each time they see the tears starting to form in my eyes, a beautiful church family whose love to my family has restored faith and hope in others who had given up on the church. Somehow, God has used this dark, cold time in my life to shine brightly (like summer in the middle of winter) in the lives of more people than I will ever know. Oh, how I want to be that amaryllis! I want to fill my house with amaryllis plants now. Ok, not really. But, really. (Except that I am a plant killer.)

Oh, Father, keep shining! Keep sending the snowy flakes of grace into our winter. Teach me how to break through the freeze to bloom even in the darkest night. Oh, Father, use this darkness to make my son's heart tender toward You and to open his eyes to his need for Your salvation. Use this darkness to make Sophie overflow with the gifts of Your Spirit living in her. Use this darkness to make all three of us more sensitive to the needs of others. Use this darkness to increase our love for You and our love for others.

***Do yourself a favor and listen to this podcast that shares the story behind this beautiful song. I listened to it tonight while I was working out and I cried so hard! You have to get a little way into it before she gets to the story, but it's totally worth the listen: Glorious in the Mundane Podcast 15: Amaryllis

November 25, 2016

We Survived Another First

This past Thursday was Thanksgiving. Our first without Kevin. Honestly, it wasn't as hard as I thought it might be. I shed very few tears, though he was greatly missed. We shared lots of fun memories and had quite a few laughs and it was fun. I know that Christmas will be harder. Much harder. Our Christmas last year was so perfect. The best one we had in our 15 years together. It was just what we needed. We had no idea at the time what a sweet, precious, gift of grace it was for our family.

This last month or so has been hard. Really hard. I felt like I was back in those first week's after Kevin's death. The exhaustion has been overwhelming. No matter how much I sleep I can barely stay awake long enough to function. All day. The ability to focus has all but disappeared. I spend most of my time staring off into space not hearing or noticing a thing going on around me. (You can imagine how well that works for school time!) People will be talking to me and asking questions and I don't even notice that they are there. Though not as badly as in those first few weeks, eating makes my stomach hurt. Getting out of bed is more of a struggle each morning. It's annoying. Really annoying. I was just starting to settle into a rhythm of exercise and quiet time and then everything reverted back 9 months. This is grief. So unpredictable. So annoying. So consuming.

BUT GOD has still been present every moment. He's answered every time I have cried out to Him. He gives me energy when I need it, words when I need them, and the ability to get school done when I don't have that ability on my own. I know this is just temporary. It's light and momentary. So, I continue to cry out and read scripture and lean into Him in all the hard. And He never leaves or forsakes me!

Father, grant me restful sleep and divine energy. Give me a passion and energy for teaching and finishing this semester well. Give me a perceptive heart and the energy I need to reach out and serve those around me in need. Father, don't allow grief to turn my eyes only to myself. Teach me to turn my eyes, my time, and my gifts outward at every opportunity. Thank You for Your many good gifts. Open my eyes to see each one every day. Let Your praise ever be on my lips.

November 10, 2016

8 Months

I can hardly believe it's been eight months since my Kevin passed away. Some days it seems like it was just yesterday, other days it seems so very long ago. It seems so much of life has been lived in these last eight months. Yet, honestly, it feels like no life has been lived at all without him.

I still cry at the smallest, silliest things. The simplest tasks are overwhelming and take all the energy that I can muster. Large crowds of people make me tired. And self-conscious. I am tired all.the.time. Like, can't keep my eyes open tired. Like, I take a nap every afternoon tired.

Though they would never say it out loud, I know that just my presence makes people feel awkward. No one knows what to say or do. Most people feel like they can't be honest or share any struggles with me or near me because they feel like their struggle isn't as hard as mine. I hate that I make people feel that way. Hard is hard, no matter what your hard looks like.

I miss Kevin every day, in the big and little things. I wish I had more pictures of him. More videos. I struggle to remember the sound of his voice. The sound of his laughter. The feel of his hand in mine. I feel like a horrible wife for forgetting those things so quickly.

It's hard not to look ahead to the future and grieve for my children. Ethan will never know a graduation with his father present. Sophie won't be able to have the love and admiration of her daddy as she lives through these awkward tween and teen years. Ethan won't have a dad to teach him how to treat a lady or how to fix and build things. Those things are overwhelming to me and more than I can handle.

But, through it all; the up and down emotions, the hard days, the long nights, the sadness the kids and I feel, God has been present and shown Himself faithful over and over. His word has been refreshing and such a balm (even though there have been many days I've had to rely on His word sent to me by dear friends because reading it for myself was more than I can bear). Every time I have needed to pay a bill or needed more cash for the month, He has sent a check my way. Every time a parenting moment gets to be too much, He sends a text from a friend encouraging me to take a deep breath, cling to Him, and move forward in His strength. When all I can do is sit and cry, He sends just the right song to remind me that He is with me and for me and is all that I need. When I look back over the last year or two and I start question where God was in the midst of the darkness and the hard and the sad and the scary, He opens my eyes to show me that He was always with me and that some of the darkest times in my view were the times that He was closest and fighting hardest for me, my husband, and my children. He has shown me time and time again that His grace doesn't always look like my idea of grace. Sometimes, the most gracious thing He does for me looks like the hardest thing that could happen to me. But I don't see the whole picture. God does. He's been all the way to the end of my story and He equips me each day for what He already knows is coming my way.

There is not one single thing in my past or future that I could handle or survive on my own. If there is any amount of strength or courage or bravery in me, it's from Christ alone. He alone is my hope. My joy. My peace. My comfort. My strength. My future. My security. I hope that when you see my Facebook posts, my blog posts, my Instagram photos that's what you see. What you hear. Christ and Christ alone. Oh, Father, hold me up. Give me rest. Fill my mouth with Your praise in every circumstance. Use this pain for Your glory. Make this life the ugly beautiful with Your fingerprints all over it.