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2021.. so far

If you have been reading my blog for any length of time you know that I often write about grief and loss. And you probably know that my husband passed last August. He had early onset dementia. My season is tough right now. Steve is gone and I miss him every single day. He was the love of my life and my soul mate. No one can take his place in my heart.

At the end of March it will be 7 months since he went to be with the Lord.. March 30th would have been our 19th anniversary and April 14th would be 20 years since we met.. He will not be here to celebrate those dates with me.. that is incredibly hard.. I wanted to grow old with him.. I am definitely growing old but without him.

The grief is still very fresh but it is different than it was 3 months ago.. I think I have grown used to it. It is less intense but still knocks me to the ground regularly.. I get up a little more easily.. I’ve had a lot of practice now. This blog post was inspired by some reading I have been doing on grief and how best to help grievers. I feel as though most people have no idea what grieving people need and that is not really their fault. We live in a culture that denies loss and death and worships youth. In the midst of that culture people are facing loss and death every day.

What do you think when you hear about the mass murders that just happened in our country? I know.. it is scary and sad and awful. What about the families that lost loved ones? Once the headlines go away.. they are supposed to go back to their ” normal” lives. They will never do that. Life does not go back to normal when there is that type of loss. My life is never going to be normal again.. and neither will yours when you experience the loss of loved ones.

My passion is to educate people on this topic because grief and loss are real. Denial does not wipe them out. What do grievers need? Not advice .. not scripture band aids.. not platitudes.. They need compassion and understanding. They need someone to be with them in their grief.. to listen.. to cry with them.. to talk about the loved one who is missing. They need to know that those around them remember that person and are not afraid to bring up their names or to ask questions. They need others to realize that their reality is totally different now.. When you are grieving you are not the same as you were before the loss and you will continue to change as you grieve.

People do not get over grief.. they learn to live with it. They join a club they never knew existed.. the club is filled with those who have loved and lost. It is real and everyone eventually joins. As for me, my life has been filled with loss. I have been widowed twice and lost many friends and relatives. I have learned to grieve fully so I don’t end up self- medicating because I am stuffing my feelings. As a friend of someone who is grieving.. you can help them heal by being present with them in this process. I want to encourage you to do that. Don’t be afraid of it.. it is not contagious and you are not going to make a mistake. The biggest mistake you can make is to shy away from someone who is hurting.

I am fortunate to have friends and family who are not afraid of my pain. People who understand and listen. God has blessed me in this season. My hope is that I will continue to be there for those people who will face the impossible. I don’t have answers for them.. I can only reach out to say that God is with them and that He loves them and will take care of them.. because He is doing that for me.. each and every day.

The Lord knows our pain.

“Jesus wept”

Almost 11 years !

It was 11 years ago that I started this blog. In the beginning I really didn’t know what a blog was and I had no idea how to start one or how to keep it going. I was on Facebook and felt frustrated because I wanted to express more of myself than I could there. So.. I started this blog. Throughout the years I often wondered if I should quit.. just leave it up but never add to it. I decided to keep going and to write one more post.. and then another one and then another one.. and here we are today.

Maintaining this blog is like living life.. we take one step and then another and another and here we are. I write because I hope that what I share helps others and that my vulnerability helps people open up to their true feelings and struggles. I don’t get much feedback but that’s OK.. it is something that the Lord has called me to do and I really enjoy the process and the comments:)

My last post was a few weeks ago and I feel like I have been moving forward quite a bit since I posted on February 1st. I am still grieving , of course. It has been almost 6 months since Steve went to be with the Lord.. sometimes it seems like years and sometimes it seems like minutes. The grief comes and it goes. I know it will always be like that but I am learning to live in this season with hope. So many things happened at once for me that I was literally reeling for months.. trying to understand what happened and hoping to get insights into why. Well.. I know what happened.. I lost everything almost at once but I don’t know why. What I do know is that I can survive without any explanations. God is not going to reveal to me the reasons for taking Steve and that makes sense to me now. He is the Lord and He gives and takes away..

My challenge is to keep living and believing that there are purposes for me without him.. not easy. As I spend time alone these days.. the fear is less.. the loneliness is less.. that is a huge gift. I miss sharing my life with Steve.. I won’t get over that.. but I am learning to live with it.. believing that God is the redeemer. So each day I take steps like I did when I started this blog.. one blog post at a time and one step at a time. One day I will look back and realize I made it to 1 year.. then to 5 years and maybe 10 if I am still here. God will carry me into the future even though it looks like a blank slate. He wrote the story of my life and He will unfold it page by page as He has always done. My job is to trust Him and to know that He is good.

Trust in the Lord with all your heart
    and lean not on your own understanding;
in all your ways submit to him,
    and he will make your paths straight.

The Veil

I woke up thinking about this journey and how hard it is.. my usual morning thoughts. I knew Steve was going to die and I tried to prepare myself for the day when I would lose him. Of course that is impossible. We cannot be prepared for the death of someone we love no matter how hard we may try.. once they are gone the waves of grief sweep over us and we can only hang on and wait for the next one.

He is gone..yes I know where he is.. but that does not always help. I thought of the wall that divides us from our loved ones once they move out of this world. It is so hard.. we know they are there, but we cannot see over that wall or climb over it or see through it.. It feels like they are within our reach but that wall stands in the way..

I try to talk with him and tell him things.. wondering if he can hear me .. trying desperately to imagine that he is able to know what is happening to me. My heart aches to hear his voice and at times I hear it in my head.. telling me not to worry or be fearful.. reminding me that I can continue without him.. it helps and it doesn’t. I want to tear down that veil and run into his arms.. to tell him that I love him and that I miss him.. my heart breaks into a million pieces.. I gather them up and keep going.

This is grief my friends.. it is real and it is hard and we were never created to be able to endure it alone. I am so thankful for my friends and family .. for those who support me and help me keep his memory alive. I am most thankful for the Lord.. the God who carries me through each day.. even the days when I tell Him I hate Him and all He does is wait patiently so He can love me again.. He picks me up off the floor and tells me to rest.. to let him restore me.. to let Him bring healing to me in the midst of the darkness.. He is with me and for me and I know this.. I can run from Him but there is no where to go.. I try to blame Him but I know that this death is a result of our broken world and not punishment from Him.. He is good.

He has Steve now ..He loved him so much that He rescued him .. he is reunited with those who went before him.. released from the suffering and the pain.. safely home.

“He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”

Grief during the 2020 Pandemic

 

 

Loss and grief are everywhere. We are all living in a state of grief right now. Our world turned  upside down when the news of the pandemic took over our world. We have been living in very scary times with no end in sight. As I write this people are losing homes and lives to wildfires that are appearing all over the West Coast. I began to think about all the losses that are happening to everyone..  Many have lost their lives.. others suffer because of a loss of freedom, loss of choices, loss of relationships, loss of jobs, homes,.. I am sure you can name other losses .. it is unbelievable.

We lost the ability to connect with strangers.. to smile at children.. to visit loved ones that are sick and dying. .. to celebrate life changing events.. to gather together to comfort one another when there is a death in a family. So much is lost and in the middle of all this.. there are those of us who are losing family members to diseases other than Covid.. People are dying alone in skilled nursing.. what a tragedy.. there is no way to process that type of loss.. no second chances

I am grateful I was allowed in to see Steve in his last months.. other people are not so fortunate.. So here we are in the middle of a grief filled world trying to process our own losses.. it is a very complicated grief. A layered grief where you walk all alone wondering how you can survive when everyone is sheltering inside afraid.. to breathe the smoky air or afraid of getting sick. A fear based world that has us hiding out… waiting for the day when we can hug each other and rejoice that it is finally over.

Meanwhile we meet on Zoom or some other video format.. we talk on the phone.. trying to support one another without touching.. it really isn’t the same. We are made for relationship with living breathing human beings. Church on TV is not church to me.. it is superficial and lacking the things I would look forward to on Sunday..the human contact.. the hugs and the smiles..So everyday I wonder.. why did I lose my husband now? What possible good can come from this? How do I cope with the isolation and loneliness when everyone is struggling with their own sorrows and losses.

Does the Lord answer these questions for me? Not really. He does say :

TRUST ME

in the darkness

in the uncertainty

SEEK ME

with your whole heart

TRUST IN MY FAITHFULNESS

REMEMBER MY GOODNESS

So daily I return to him from the prison of isolation and grief and tell him I TRUST YOU.. in this pain. You are my Father.. My Redeemer.. My Rescuer.

Shelter in Place

 

 

I actually cannot remember using that phrase before about 4 months ago. There was never a time when I thought for even one minute we would be using it every day and doing it for months. So here we are and we have been sheltering for 4 months.. limiting our contact with other people by staying home and when we go out we wear masks and stay 6 feet apart as much as possible.

The world has turned upside down and may stay that way for a long time.. no one can say that we will ever return to what we called normal. It is going to take time to see what this virus does next and what the reaction to this virus has done to us. I don’t know about you but what I miss the most is hugs and smiles.. Two very important ways we connect with one another have been taken away.. it is a huge loss for me. Thankfully I have a few people in my family I can hug and we can be around one another without masks and smile at each other.. but I miss smiling at strangers and hugging people that I don’t see very often.. expressing the joy that the Lord gives us for one another .

So I long for the good old days when we were not afraid of each other.. when we did not see continual bad news about this virus every single day for months.. I continue to hope for a time when we can relax more and enjoy life in a way that is not possible now.

I wonder how God is at work in this mess. Did He create this virus? I don’t believe He did because it is evil and He is not the creator of evil.. but yes, He has allowed it to exist and chosen not to stop it from spreading.. something that happens in this fallen world on a regular basis.. One thing I know is that He will bring good out of this because His word promises this. Sometimes I get glimpses of good things that are happening right now.. families are spending more time together.. people seem to be more polite and aware of each other out in public.. parents are getting to know their children in deeper ways. We are all learning to entertain ourselves in new ways because things we used to do are gone. Many people are exercising and cooking more.. focusing on being healthy in new ways. Some people are able to work from home and will never have to commute again.. taking stress out of their lives and we end up with cleaner air. Some parents will continue to home school their children because they find that everyone benefits from being together instead of spending long hours in the classroom.

Probably the biggest gain I see is that we are all less busy. We have more time to be alone and more time to connect with the Lord.. I realize that not everyone is taking advantage of this .. they may decide to continue to have busy lives by being on Zoom  and the phone as much as possible..That is too bad.. because my deepest feeling is that the Lord wants time with each one of us.. it may be even more important than going to church or spending time with friends. He longs for us to come to Him with all our broken dreams.. disappointments.. losses and sadness so He can apply the balm of Gilead on these wounds. It is our choice .. He will never force us to seek Him out.. As for me, I can only continue to live by letting him carry me as I stumble and fall under the weight of my situation. He is my everything.. my sorrow and grief are too heavy to bear by myself and you are probably experiencing some of that yourself. He is with us and for us and wants us to come as His weary and broken people so He can shelter us from this storm.

God is our refuge and strength,
    an ever-present help in trouble.

 The Lord Almighty is with us;
    the God of Jacob is our fortress.

 He says, “Be still, and know that I am God..

(from Psalm 46)
   

 

 

 

Almost 18 Years

Next Monday is March 30th.. it is our 18th anniversary. I probably will not get in to the skilled nursing facility because of the ” shelter in place” rule.  It is sad but when I finally get to see Steve again I just know it will be a celebration. Since hospice became  involved in our lives.. things are better than they were. Steve is holding his own and in some ways improved because of the extra layer of help. I am doing better because I have other people who are monitoring his situation and will step in if he needs it. I actually did not realize that hospice can extend the life of people because they provide comfort care and extra attention which enables the patient to feel more love and less stress.

As I have been sheltering.. I feel like I am seeing new things in our situation. God’s timing has been miraculous. 7 months ago there was a big change that forced me into the situation where I had to put Steve in the hospital and then the skilled nursing. Just last month hospice became a part of our journey. The Lord knew what we would need at this stage. He knew this pandemic was coming and exactly when and where it would hit. He know that Steve was vulnerable and that I would not be able to visit him every day .. so last month he enabled hospice to come in and do the things I was doing.. He also knew that I would eventually need to find a place by myself.

I stayed with my daughter and family for 3 months and with old friends for 3 months..the second place is only 5 minutes from Steve’s . Now that he is being watched and cared for by hospice.. the Lord has provided a new place.. my own small place back in my hometown.. close to my daughter and only a few freeway exits away from Steve.. it seems to be just what I need.. and want. So here I am having plenty of time to sort through things and prepare for this move since I can’t really go anywhere.. sounds like God’s plan for sure.

So on our 18th anniversary I will be moving into my new place and hopefully, God willing, it will not be too long before I can visit my husband again.. God is directing our steps and taking care of both of us separately just as He did when we were together.. I am so very grateful.

I hope you are surviving this season without feeling too isolated or lonely and that you are having the time to see God at work in your circumstances.. God is still God.. He is still in control and you can still trust Him. He is Good .. so very Good!

I am reminded of this story in Matthew.. this is from the Message:

The Wind Ran Out of Breath

 Late that day he said to them, “Let’s go across to the other side.” They took him in the boat as he was. Other boats came along. A huge storm came up. Waves poured into the boat, threatening to sink it. And Jesus was in the stern, head on a pillow, sleeping! They roused him, saying, “Teacher, is it nothing to you that we’re going down?”

 Awake now, he told the wind to pipe down and said to the sea, “Quiet! Settle down!” The wind ran out of breath; the sea became smooth as glass. Jesus reprimanded the disciples: “Why are you such cowards? Don’t you have any faith at all?”

They were in absolute awe, staggered. “Who is this, anyway?” they asked. “Wind and sea at his beck and call!”

Let’s decide to be in absolute awe of Him as we sail through the storm that is upon us..Our great God!

Hospice

 

 

Yes.. they stepped into our lives last week.. at my request. Steve is declining rapidly. He can still walk around and eat and he tries to communicate. Most of it does not make sense. He is only partially here.. he is also very tired and weak and unfortunately a fall risk.

How do I feel? Very sad.. relieved that he will get extra help..ready but not ready.. accepting but not accepting all of this. It all happened too fast.. only 7 months ago we were taking our last walk on Drake’s beach.. now he can barely function. Today I talked with him and told him that I would be fine when he went to be with the Lord.. a lie that is necessary.. I hope he understood. I reminded him that he would see his parents and sister there.. He responded positively but it is difficult to know if he truly grasped what I was saying.. My selfish desires to hang on to him are finally gone.. he will be restored there and out of this life where his body and mind are both failing.

I am sharing this because I need to.. it becomes more real when I write about it and it is a very real part of our lives.. learning to let go and saying goodbye when their time is getting close. I sense the Lord being close to me but I am sad and lonely and afraid of the future. There are times when I just want to close my eyes and wake up to the life I have lost.. my husband, our home .. most of our belongings.. all gone..

So.. I continue to believe that God is good even though I don’t know if right now I can rely on Romans 8:28 to be true.. It always has been but nothing has challenged my faith like this trial.. I know I am not forsaken and not abandoned but the nights are long and the tears continue to flow ..

So.. I have opened my heart to those of you who read this.. I am not hiding and I am hoping it encourages you to be authentic and real and allow others into your pain. We were not created to suffer alone and I am so grateful for the family and friends that continue to support me and let me lean on them as this long trial unfolds.

He is faithful and He is good.. He will never forsake us and leave us to face all these things alone. His ways are not ours.. His thoughts are not ours.. We see through a glass darkly..trusting Him to reveal more in His time.

Help me to cling to you Lord..on this last leg of Steve’s journey .. to remember that you knew all this was going to happen before time began..

Christ be with me, Christ within me,
Christ behind me, Christ before me,
Christ beside me, Christ to win me,
Christ to comfort and restore me.
Christ beneath me, Christ above me,
Christ in quiet, Christ in danger,
Christ in hearts of all that love me,
Christ in mouth of friend and stranger.

Romans 8:28

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“We are confident that God is able to orchestrate everything to work toward something good and beautiful when we love Him and accept His invitation to live according to His plan.”

This is a quote from the Voice translation of the Bible.. I love the way this is expressed.. so clear and easy to understand. I learned this verse when I was a new believer and have held on to it ever since.. over 40 years now. Lately I have been doubting that it could possibly apply to my present circumstances. How could the Lord bring good out of this? My husband losing so many abilities and words and me losing him little by little.. impossible to see that turning into something good and beautiful.

This weekend the Lord showed me that He is still living up to His words in this verse. My two step sons and my grandson came to visit us. The back story is that there has been almost no communication with his oldest son for many years.. the last time we saw him was 9 years ago and there have been almost no conversations for the last 17 years.. since we got married. I don’t know what happened.. but now it does not matter at all. As they were driving here from Idaho I decided that I wanted to welcome them with a dinner and I drove to the store.. While I was there I questioned the whole thing.. what would it be like? Would we all feel very awkward, would there be anger? I distinctly heard the Lord say ” It is a celebration” and that we were welcoming home the prodigal son. Wow! Really God? Sounded good to me and I bought what I needed to make the dinner and went home wondering .. what next?

They arrived a couple hours later and when we opened the door.. it was exactly like the story of the Prodigal son.. “But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him.”  …The room was filled with joy and the weekend continued to unfold.. with many tender moments and many tears.. I was stunned.. never expecting to see this moment and never imagining it could happen right now!

For me it has lifted the depression and despair that has surrounded me for the last year…my faith was getting weaker and weaker and I was crying out to Him daily.. Save me. . I saw that the Lord is bring good out of the suffering of this season.. I know now that the Lord has been at work even though there was not a single sign of that.. He was doing things in everyone, preparing us for that moment when He would move and do what He does best.. bring Healing and Reconciliation!

I see how God is using my husband to bring us all together.. this man I married is an instrument of sacrificial love for the whole family.. He is still giving so much to us as he is losing everything.. For the first time since we got married I feel grafted into his family and they are becoming more and more precious to me every day.. what a wonderful gift.

I hope this encourages you.. I know what it feels like to lose hope and to wonder if God even knows or cares.. the trials of this world can devastate us.. He will show up and surprise you, just as He just did for me.. This season is never going to get easier, but my desire is to continue to Trust Him and to believe He has more gifts to shower down on us.

” He has sent me to tell those who mourn
    that the time of the Lord’s favor has come,
    and with it, the day of God’s anger against their enemies.
To all who mourn in Israel,
    he will give a crown of beauty for ashes,
a joyous blessing instead of mourning,
    festive praise instead of despair.”

Lent..again

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As I look back on my blog, I see that I seem to write a post every year during Lent.. I want to be true to that tradition and it has been a while since I posted. I always see Lent as an opportunity to reflect.. to look back and to see how God has been working and to be aware of what He is doing right now.

I don’t even remember the Lent season last year.. probably because I was getting ready to bring my very disabled elderly mother to my home. I brought her here almost exactly one year ago.. It was the day before Easter 2018.. so that was March 31st.. the day after my wedding anniversary.. I was pretty worried about how it would go and that was apparently a prophetic feeling…since it did not go well at all and three weeks later I was frantically looking for a skilled nursing facility that would take her.. I never found one but Kaiser did! What a trial that was.. then we were faced with another even more challenging situation. It was becoming very clear that something was wrong with my husband and I knew I had to face whatever it was.. we found out in May that he has a rare type of dementia..

I have been grieving since that neurology appointment and it is only now that I feel like I can say that I have begun to accept this outcome.. many nights of crying, yelling out to the Lord and feeling sorry for myself followed that diagnosis. We are now living in a “new normal.”

This year for Lent I was hoping to focus on giving up worry and anxiety.. but God seemed to have another plan for me. Instead of trying not to worry or be anxious He began to show me that it was impossible to truly get rid of those things and that I needed to give myself permission to have those feelings and others  and to welcome them as part of me.. I never imagined that as an option.. but it has helped tremendously. There is even a name for this.. Welcoming prayer..As I have tried this.. my process is to sit with my feelings, to acknowledge them and not fight them.. to just feel them and when they are less intense, I release them to the Lord.. The result has been more peace and much less fear.

It was a big shift for me to realize that all feelings are legitimate and that I don’t have to deny them or try to kill them.. even the ones I dislike.. that the Lord will enable me to live through the times of sadness, pain, grief, worry, anxiety, fear and anger. I realized at a deep level that I am not defined by these feelings or these times of struggle. We live in a broken world and when the brokenness overwhelms us it is incredibly difficult and impossible to pretend that we are not suffering and hurting.

The take away is that we are loved by God even as we battle the feelings we wish we never had. He is not going to leave us even when our circumstances overwhelm us. So I am living more fully day by day and thanking Him for the good days..or maybe just the good hours or minutes.. Knowing that this journey is full of uncertainty when it comes to our future but that we can be certain of God and His faithfulness.

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The Lord is in the whisper

“The Lord said, “Go out and stand on the mountain in the presence of the Lord, for the Lord is about to pass by.”

Then a great and powerful wind tore the mountains apart and shattered the rocks before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake.  After the earthquake came a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire came a gentle whisper. “

So this scripture was going through my mind today.. I truly cannot tell you the last time I was reading 1 Kings.. but it was not at all recently.. I heard the words and then had to look up the passage because I did not even know where it was in the Bible.. The reason I was hearing these words is because I finally understand, at least a little bit, about what it means that God is in the gentle whisper. For me it was the revelation that the big things that we hope will reveal His presence often do not happen.. we want the big miracle or sign that He is with us.. that proves to us  He is present in our circumstances so we do not fear or falter. If we read about the life of Jesus in the NT we find that all those signs and miracles still left the disciples and others wondering. Who is this man? So obviously they don’t always have the desired effect.

God has been revealing His presence through small things that are big to me.. I see Him at work in my circumstances through the way people are stepping up to help me over and over again. I see Him at work when He brings me back to scriptures that speak to my heart over and over again.. when He answers prayers that I barely remember praying.. when He shows me that He is at work behind the scenes and all He is asking is for me to trust Him with everything!!.. He is constantly whispering ” I am with you and I have your back.. I will deliver you and fight the enemy for you.. come to me with everything and trust that these whispers are saying … I love you with an everlasting love”   ( Jeremiah 31)

In John 4 Jesus said this to the Samaritan woman at the well.. and it is for us as well.

“Jesus answered, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again,but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” 

Lord.. give me ears to hear those whispers.. to recognize your voice and to drink the living water that you are offering me.