Saturday, December 10, 2016

Remembering our good fight...

Today would've been mine and Jay's 32nd anniversary. One of the hardest things that I've dealt with in regards to my loss is the fading memory of every small precious moment I want to hang onto as time goes on, but I hold tightly to a few that time will never pull from my grip.

I'm remembering today his big comfy hand that covered mine, his flannel sleeves that felt so good to rest upon, his quirky smile when he thought I was just plain silly and his love for our dog Samson. But most of all I'm remembering our good fight that taught our kids that marriage is a design with a purpose to be revered and entrusted to the one who designed it. It's a good story that doesn't always make sense to me because God took him home-- took him away from us when life was so good-- (perspective is everything, and this is the pitiful one). But when I look at my kids and see who they've become I understand the journey a little bit more. I see God's grace through the fog of misunderstanding and I'm always humbled and grateful.

So here's to what would've been 32 years, and to our good fight... Happy Anniversary Jay, you're always with me, and always will be. <3

Monday, September 29, 2014

In His Grace

I thought that getting past the one year anniversary of Jay's passing would bring change, and it has. The first year of loss you're in such shock that you simply float through the process. When moments of relief come here and there you take that opportunity to breathe in as much as you can-much like someone coming up from deep waters knowing they're about to go down again. It's not easy, but then again shock is your best friend. It helps you survive, and I did.

But now here I am going into the second year and the atmosphere of my world has definitely changed. Acceptance has settled in, Jay's gone. And the new life I'm facing is starting to feel oddly normal. Needless to say, this can be confusing.

With the luxury of shock not being an option, the dust has settled and I can see clearly my circumstance and you know what? It's painful. With the loss of Jay, came the loss of our home. Not just the physical part of our home (and yes, that was hard) but also the loss of the center core that I held together for my family as a wife and mother. It's where I made meals for Jay and our kids, organized's where I nurtured them, and I took a great deal of joy in it.

I had two boys that were living at home when Jay passed away and two daughters that were living on their own. Both Jay and myself knew that the boys would be moving along over the next couple of years, and we were bracing ourselves for the approaching empty nest. In actuality, our nest became emptied. I sold my home after Jay passed away in July and we all moved out in February. The boys had decided they would live on their own. One moved to Seattle, and the other wanted to stay in our home town and was able to find a place that afforded him to do so.

All of this took place in a matter of seven months, and my life as a wife and a mother was dramatically changed. This was a lot of loss, and at the time, I was unaware of the magnitude of it; it would begin to reveal itself as my shock would wear off.

As I turned the corner and moved into my second year in this grief journey, I found myself having an unexpected reaction. I began to shut down my thoughts towards Jay. I've used words in the past like "sorrow", and "pain" to describe my circumstances, but as the dust settled before me, I could see that there was so much more that I had to grieve, and I started to feel less pain, and more frustration. I began to feel angry at God questioning the scripture that says He won't give me anything beyond what I can handle, but that anger would quickly diminish because I don't dare question my creator. Or do I?

As I began to shut down I could feel the memories of my marriage journey becoming distant. I started to forget how proud I was of our story and how proud I am of Jay. I stopped listening to the songs that reminded me of him, and I decided to stop wearing my wedding ring. I was frustrated at God, and not being honest with him about it. I took matters into my own hands. I decided that I had better answers to coping with my loss because frankly, I just had too much loss to deal with. However I didn't anticipate the consequences--I would begin to get lost myself and forget who I actually am in His grace.

I was okay with this for a little while because my way eased the hurt. It lifted me from the truth of my scene to a place that was just quite simply not so heavy. But the truth is you can't hide from your truth, and I found myself experiencing a silence from God that began to grieve me deeply. The irony though, is that I chose this road to avoid grief.

So, do I question my creator? He knows my heart, and he wants it completely. How can I give to him completely when I'm holding back the truth of which he already knows? So, after much silence, I brought to Him my honest heart, and I spoke these honest words; "You're asking too much. You want me to let him go, and I'm not ready!" And with that,the silence was broken and what I heard in return was, "when you're ready". Somehow I let myself get ahead of God. He wasn't rushing me, I was.

Since being honest with my Lord about my doubt and anger I've begun to feel Jay again both in my memories and my heart. I put my wedding ring back on, and I'm playing the songs that remind me of him once more. I'm able to reflect on our marriage journey together, the growth we attained by His grace, and my heart is beginning to feel grateful again.

I started to forget that I was in love with my own love story. That I valued the honor of watching such a valiant good fight from the man I fought beside, and that I got to partake in carrying a wounded soldier to the foot of the cross. I forgot that I became a women who could do that; a woman of strength and valor. By taking matters into my own hands, I started to forget who I was in His grace. But God is so faithful and patient. He's real, just like this relationship with him is real, and He's graciously working on this tired heart.

This second year without Jay sets me on a new journey. I will slowly learn how to turn "we" into "me". Jay's journey is complete, but mine isn't so this has to be done. I have to keep moving forwad trusting in God's plans for me and my future. But I will be wiser about my circumstances. I've been through a lot, and this is a fragile time. I plan to give myself more regard and grace in this matter, and I thank the Lord that I don't have to do it alone. I stand with an army: the body of Christ.

God is teaching me how to ask for help when I need it, and to value and seek out the direction of the wise. I don't ever want to forget who I was, or who I am, and in His grace I want to respect and appreciate who He wants me to become.

God is good...

Friday, August 1, 2014

Celebrating a Beautiful Life

Today we're celebrating a second birthday of Jay's without his beautiful presence in our lives. He would be turning 50 today, and this week would've been filled with plans for a big celebration to mark such a special occasion. But instead I find myself reflecting on memories that keep me smiling, and something so much larger than the milestone of turning 50. Today I choose to celebrate a good fight and a good life.

A scripture that reminds me of Jay is "Blessed are the poor in Spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven" (Matthew 5:3). As one pastor puts it, "to be poor in spirit is not to be poor of spirit". Jay loved God with all of his heart--he was not poor of spirit, but he was poor in his own spirit because he believed in his complete need for Jesus Christ. This did not come easy to Jay, as it usually doesn't for anyone on this earth, but he took to the war in his soul and in faith he fought well.

When we first got married he used to have dreams that he was a GI Joe in some kind of war, fighting for his life. In his dreams, he was  nothing short of awesome. Scaling walls, near landing on explosive bombs, he'd fight the good fight and not let up, until of course his alarm went off.  This was so descriptive of  Jay because it shows both his character and his journey with God. He was a fighter, and from the battlefield of his soul, like Jacob of the bible [Genesis 32:22-32], he took his crippled hip and didn't try to hide it. He knew his need for God by his own depletion of himself, and that humility and brokenness spoke to those around him. This is what makes a good fight.

He would often say that he didn't trust anybody who hadn't met their own train wreck, and he had every right to say this as he had very much met his. What Jay meant was that if we don't recognize our own wrecked state, how on earth can we truly understand our need for Jesus? How can we remain grateful for the price He paid on Calvary for our condition, and how can we possibly be solely reliant upon him when we still yet believe in our own capabilities?

No, not all of us will become crippled at the hip to understand these truths, but like Jacob we all have to face our failures and weaknesses and recognize that we can't go on without God. Jay's spiritual limp to this day reminds me that there's a little bit of Jacob in us all.

Jay had learned that it wasn't wise for man to walk alone and he had an incredible brotherhood that surrounded him which involved vulnerability, honesty, accountability, and trust. They called themselves [and still do] the Piratemonks. This is a fellowship of men that meet derived from the book Samson and the Pirate Monks of which my husband read 7 years ago. This book changed his life, and joining this group of men, helped him to lay down his false personas and strive for authenticity.

In Jay's last seven years of his life he would journey along side these men and they along side of him, and I would observe this circle of beautifully connected brothers who loved God, and each other. Watching Jay's journey over those last seven years and his involvement with the Piratemonks had a great impact on me and my understanding of the body of Christ. I will be forever grateful for this ministry, and forever grateful to these men.

Oswald Chambers says-who are the people who have influenced us most? Certainly not the ones who thought they did, but those who did not have even the slightest idea that they were influencing us. In the Christian life, godly influence is never conscious of itself. If we are conscious of our influence, it ceases to have the genuine loveliness which is characteristic of the touch of Jesus. We always know when Jesus is at work because He produces in the commonplace something that is inspiring.

Jay inspired me...

"Happy birthday soldier. I love you".

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Eternal Days

Teach me Lord in all thy ways, that I may know eternal days,
filled with joy and songs of praise. 
"Hallelujah, Hallelujah..."

Today marks the one year anniversary of Jay's journey home and I'm finding myself struggling with raw grief once again. My first reaction is to shut down and go numb but I know that feeling numb is just a layer that has to be peeled back so healing can take on it's perfect and complete work. I know I say it a lot but, "Oh God, why can't I just stay numb?"

In a grief class that I'm in right now, we're doing an exercise that we call purposeful grief. That is, setting aside time in your day or week to plan to grieve. Now to be honest, this isn't so fun. Why would I stop myself during a perfectly good day and take my thoughts to a place of purposeful grief? The answer- grief will happen. As to when and where it happens is up in the air. I'm finding that instead of approaching grief as something you want to avoid, accepting that it is a part of you, and your journey, is part of the healing. Knowing that, I'd rather go to it then have it come to me.

With that said, I'm taking my thoughts to one year ago today. I sat in a Nordstrom Cafe having dinner with my daughter Danielle and my phone rings. It was Jay. He had just gotten to his hotel room and he was calling to tell me that he got there safe and was going to bed. My first question was, "How do you feel?" His reply, "Tired, just so tired."

Earlier that morning Jay would be returning to his usual schedule of travel for work. He had been on a sick leave for a couple of weeks due to heart and blood complications, but after some time off, he got the okay from his doctor to not only travel for his job, but to start easing himself back into the gym again. This was a golden ticket to Jay because he loved body building and hated being tied down. This last doctor's report made him feel like he was on the road to getting his life back again. 

The night before he left we went out to dinner. The evening started out great, but by night's end we found ourselves in a huge argument. He had become edgy and this mood-shift had come on quite suddenly. I had no idea what was going on but he was impossible to reason with. When we got home I angrily stormed off to bed while he went into his office to prepare for his trip.

Waking up the next morning I came downstairs to our usual routine--me making him breakfast before taking him to the airport--a very clearly upset expression written all over my face.  He could see how angry I was and said, "Can't we just move past this?" 

"No!" I said. I went on to explain that I felt mistreated, and told him that I wasn't okay with his irrational behavior. His head then sank into his hands and he said, "I'm sorry, I just don't feel right."

As soon as he said that I asked the questions that were now becoming a big part of our lives: "How's your heart rate, how's your blood Pressure?" 

"Everything checks out fine," he said. My daughter and I had been battling the flu that week so with Jay's heart rate and blood pressure checking out okay and his "excellent" doctor's report a few days before, it appeared to both of us that he was catching a cold. But, in fact, my husband's body was shutting down, and this would explain his sudden edginess the night before. Of course we didn't have the luxury of knowing this at the time, and thinking that he was just getting sick, Jay assured me that he would get plenty of rest during his flight.  

As we were gathering his things to head out the door, Jay was feeling badly about how he had treated me the night before, and asked if we could have a moment to hug before leaving. I just wanted him to feel better, I didn't care about the night before, and I didn't want him feeling guilty about it. I wrapped my arms around him (not knowing that this would be our last moment in our home together) and there we stood, the three of us in a long embrace. That's right, the three of us. Jay, myself, and our dog Samson. 

Samson always got upset when we fought. In fact there were times that Jay and I would start to have a disagreement about something and Jay would suddenly say, "Stop, Samson's getting upset!" And then we'd both have to go pet Samson and assure him that everything was okay. We have Samson to thank for sparing us many unnecessary arguments, and what a precious memory I have to look back upon- us, in a group hug, with Samson. 

Jay then grabbed his luggage, and I grabbed his breakfast to go and we were on our way. Jay would often eat his breakfast on the road as he drove with one knee while rushing to make his flight. No, I don't recommend this, but Jay was quite well at multitasking and I loved that about him.  He'd eat an omelet, toast and oatmeal, drink his coffee, and handle a conference call, all before pulling up to the drop-off curb without getting a spec of food on his clothes. It was pretty impressive and thinking about this scene makes me smile because it reminds me so much of him and who he was. 

When we arrived, he got out of the car and we'd have one last embrace--It's an embrace I can still feel if I allow myself--and then with a firm tone I said, "rest on the plane". My husband wasn't big on resting, but he was tired and he assured me that he would do just that. Then he darted off to make his flight. I yelled out to him one more time, "sleep"! And then he was gone... 

The rest of my day would be filled with my usual activities and Jay would connect with me on his layover. He would then call me later that evening when he got to his hotel room and that brings us to the Nordstrom Cafe on July 16th, 2013. My daughter Danielle and I had met at South Coast Plaza because we'd be shopping for a dress; the one she'd be wearing for her engagement pictures. We were dining out on the patio because it was such a beautiful evening, when Jay called. We didn't talk long because he was so exhausted, but after assuring me that his heart rate and blood pressure numbers were still good, I told him to promise me that he was going straight to bed. My husband had a mind that was hard to shut off, but I could hear the fatigue in his voice. He wanted to sleep, and I knew that he would. 

Before hanging up he asked me to call him when I got home later that night so he would know that I got home safely. I argued that I didn't want to wake him because he needed rest, so we agreed that I would text message him so he could see it first thing in the morning when he woke up. With that we spoke our last words, "Good night," we said. "I love you." he said. "I love you too..."

Within hours of that last phone call,  I believe Jay entered into the precious presence of our loving savior.  I believe this because he never even got unpacked. He appeared to have been barely taking his shoes off when they discovered him the next morning. His journey on this earth was complete, and by the time we would get the news of this on the morning of July 17th 2013, our new journey would begin as well; a journey that we would have to continue on without our beloved Jay.

I'm not going to lie. I do have moments of anger, and I do have moments of looking up and asking "why?", but they only last just that, moments. My soul never allows me to secure myself to these thoughts. Yes, I'm allowed those feelings, they're very real and very human. But for the soul that searches for God's truths, His truths will be revealed. When I say I'm angry God says, "I've given you everything" John 3:16 , and "I have so much more in store for you when your journey's complete" 1 Corinthians 2:9. When I say "why?", God says, "the world is broken because of man, but my desires are to protect you Genesis 3:21-24, and I'll provide the way" 1 Peter 1:18-21 . 

As I reflect back on this past year, I see sorrow. It has been the hardest and most painful year I've ever known--and I'm tired.  I long for Jay's touch again. I think about his strong arm often, and how I was so comfortable resting on it. How he would reach over and hold my hand while driving the car, or flop his leg around to find mine when we'd crawl into bed at night. I miss hearing him sing in the shower, and seeing him sneak into the pantry for chocolate chips. I miss sushi with my sushi partner. I miss every single thing about him. 

But If I have to look back on 365 days of sorrow, then I also have to look back upon 365 days of hope. Three hundred and sixty five days of promises, both fulfilled and yet to come. Three hundred and sixty five days of perfect and sacrificial love; and 365 days of knowing that Jay now knows eternal days, filled with joy and songs of praise, and to this I say, "hallelujah, hallelujah..."

For my sake I'd like to say, "Jay it was such an honor to see your journey with God. To walk with you hand in hand as we learned His deeper mysteries. He, by his grace, allowed you to pioneer the way for those of us who love you so deeply. Because of this we're less afraid, and are that much more eager to understand His ways. This is so very typical of you, our precious hero. Happy anniversary Jay, I love you." 

God is good... 

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

In the fog...

The wedding day finally arrived and what a beautiful day it was. I'm amazed at how much planning goes into a moment, and when that moment comes, you can't hold onto it long enough before it seems to quickly slip through your hands. Danielle looked beautiful-of course-and Adam her groom looked just as striking. Yes I may be biased, but I was so happy for both of them. This day would be one of the most celebrated days our family has ever known and yet none of us could escape the challenge that we all still had to face; our beloved Jay was not there.

In the days approaching the wedding, I found myself searching for him. What I mean is that I was looking for "the connection". It's the ability I've had in the past to just close my eyes and see him when I need him.  But, to my surprise, this wasn't happening. As the big day drew even closer my search turned into more of an  emotional panic as I found myself unable to find him at all. Why couldn't I connect? What was this "fade" I felt and where did it come from? Our daughter was about to get married and it felt like my soul had lost Jay.

I had begun a thought in my mind's eye that I was hoping to build upon. I started this thought weeks before the wedding. I kept thinking of what Jay would be like the morning of. I could picture him waking up in our hotel room being very quiet and very deep in thought as I'd be in some sort of a chaotic rush. I'd be talking his head off with all of my excited energy, and then [in my mind's eye] I could see him doing something that he always did whenever we had a special family moment. I'll try to explain as this was very intimate and personal:

Whenever Jay was feeling grateful about our marriage, and our "whole" family, he would quietly come up from behind me-- usually while I'd be in the midst of putting on my makeup or something like that-- and he would place one hand on each of my hips. I would immediately know where his thoughts were. I would stop whatever I was doing,  turn to face him, and he would always say "Thank you" of which I would always reply with a "Thank you" right back, and then we'd hug a very long and quiet hug. This was always a humble place for us to be together. A ritual that began because Jay and I had a great respect and appreciation for each other's good fight. We knew what it had taken to have these very special family moments, and our hearts were grateful to a God who had given us so much.

But unfortunately even this precious memory that I was clinging to so tightly would fade out and I wasn't able to build upon it any further. The countdown to the big day was turning to hours, and hours to minutes, and as our little girl was about to take her walk down the aisle, I found myself having to accept that despite my strongest efforts I would not be able to find Jay the way I needed. It left me feeling severed and a little lost. I wanted to say to God, "Don't you care that I need him right now?" But I couldn't. I know that this is simply the hardship of losing someone so important in your life. Jesus understood that pain and he wept because of it. John11:33-36

There's a scene that keeps repeating in the depths of my soul. I'm in a forest and the fog has become so thick that I can hardly see my hand in front of me. For a moment I want to freeze because I'm scared,  but I tell myself that I have to move. I lower myself to the ground, and as I do, I stretch out my arms in front of me finding a thick heavy rope. Lifting this rope I begin to tug on it, but just as I begin to tug harder I hear a faint whisper cutting through the fog. Within moments this whisper finds me and I can clearly hear the words, "I'm the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow". And suddenly the weight of the rope is lifted, and I remember that I'm not alone.

In less than a month Jay will have been gone for one year and there is most definitely a tug of war in my soul about it. There is nothing in the fiber of my being that says it's okay to let go, nothing. The ticking clock brings about a fade that I can't control, all I can do is surrender to it's purpose and nothing about it feels right. But my Lord reminds me that He doesn't change in a world that's broken, and where there should have been no hope He is all hope. He is my absolute anchor, and He promises to guide me through this unfamiliar territory.

The scripture says in Hebrews 13:7-8 "Remember your leaders who spoke the word of God to you. Consider the outcome of their way of life and imitate their faith. Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow." As God navigated our teachers in His written word, His promise is that He too will navigate us as we face a world that holds unknowns. What is known is that He will never change. He is the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow.

Psalm 102 25-27 says, "In the beginning you laid the foundations of the earth, and the heavens are the work of your hands. They will perish, but you remain; they will all wear out like a garement. Like clothing you will change them and they will be discarded. But you remain the same, and your years will never end." John Piper says of this verse: "The visible universe with all its laws that scientists bank on so heavily to be unchanging is like a shirt compared to God: it was put on at creation, and it will be taken off when God is through with it. So what the world regards as the baseline of stability is not. God is. And Jesus Christ is God."

Through this painful journey I take comfort in these scriptures and in the truth that they hold for me. My fog may get thick, but if I continue to search for His purposes He will continue to navigate me through it. Where He may at times seem completely unclear, my Lord always knows where I am, and He will keep me on the right path. This is my heart's desire.

"Thank you Lord for being my anchor. Despite the pain of such great loss I see your grace that much more and I'm grateful. As the Psalmist King David prayed, so do I--"Teach me Lord, the way of your decrees, that I may follow it to the end". Amen

God is good...

Tuesday, April 29, 2014


My good friend, sister in Christ, and future mother-in-law to my daughter Danielle had asked me at lunch one day, "What's the hardest thing you're dealing with right now"? This was a question she could ask with much emotion attached because she herself is in the throws of dealing with a great loss. Back in April of 2013 she [Kathy] had found out her own mother had been diagnosed with ovarian cancer, and just 3 months after Jay went home to be with the Lord, her mother [affectionately known as Amee] would end her battle with sickness and take her glorious journey home to that mountain high above.

So as Kathy posed this very delicate question to me, I realized that she was opening the door to stop and think, 'Where are we right now, and what are our needs"? As mothers of the bride and groom we've been eagerly ready to unite our families, but we've also been through one of the roughest seasons of our lives, and now here we were just weeks before the big day.  How do our minds wrap around the joy of this great celebration, while trying to cope with such great loss?

I've said it before, and I can't help but say it again, grief is a process. One minute I think I'm doing good and the next, I'm literally devastated all over again. I ask God often, "How will I go the rest of my life with this much sorrow"? And that was my answer to Kathy's question--"How will I go the rest of my life with this much sorrow"?

I recently celebrated my 30th anniversary. This was a bit overdue since my anniversary was in December, but I've been sick, a lot! It turns out my immune system has pretty much shut down. This can be a pretty common side effect when suffering the loss of a loved one, but in March I was able to get well enough to head out to Laguna Beach and finally celebrate mine and Jay's life of 30 years together.

I was a little nervous knowing I'd be there without him,  staying at a hotel that held such great memories for both of us, seeing the spots on the beach we always called "ours", and passing all of our favorite food dives. But my daughter Danielle was with me the whole way to lend her love and support. After all, despite our grief, we had something we wanted to celebrate and we were determined to do so.

The weather was great, and I loved all of the opportunities I had to tell Danielle about the different stories of mine and her dad's time there. Some moments I shared with her were very special like when I surprised him with a stay at our favorite hotel. He turned the tables on me by surprising me with a beautiful heart shaped diamond necklace that he gave me in our room when we arrived. I was also able to share more casual moments like where our favorite walking paths were, and where we loved to eat Mexican food. It was such a great time of remembering him and feeling his presence throughout--but true to form--when I returned home his absence was that much more clear because of it, and when that happens the sorrow runs painfully deep.

So how does a person get through life with this much sorrow? The saying goes that time heals all wounds, but that gives little comfort when the clock seems to go slow when you need it to go fast, and fast when you need it to go slow. Time moving at all just seems wrong. And these were the thoughts on my mind when I went to bed that first night back from our weekend of celebrating.

As I laid in bed I reached out to the Lord for comfort and asked my pressing question, "how...",  but He was silent, so my next move was to mentally prepare myself for a difficult week ahead. What I feared was that the heartache I felt would have no relief, and relief is what I so desperately needed, but as morning came the Lord's silence would change, and I would be reminded once again of His great love and care for me.

Jay had a best friend named Ben. Before Jay passed away we found out that Ben and his wife Heather would be having their 3rd child. Not long after Jay passed, Ben and Heather got the news that they would be having a boy. Without a second thought they decided they would name their son after my husband whose real name is Joe, and that they would call their son baby Jay. The whole thing just tickles me inside when I talk about it! Anyway, on this morning I received a text to be ready--Heather was in labor and baby Jay was on his way.

Ben and Heather had decided that they wanted to give me the honor of being the first one to see him after he was born, so after receiving the text I found myself on call for the day. My excitement began to build. My thoughts were shifted from sorrow to joy, and with the anticipation of baby Jay coming into this world I found myself walking around in public with a silly smile on my face that I couldn't control.

At about 4:30 I got the text, 'she's pushing', and that was my cue to head over. When I arrived at the hospital baby Jay was born, and I couldn't get up to the room quick enough to see him. I got to hold him within the first two hours of his birth and I was elated! I remember thinking as I stared into his precious face, 'Welcome baby Jay. God loves you so much, and we're all going to make sure you know it". I found myself in awe as I thought about my weekend, and the start of this day. One minute I had been mourning death so heavily I felt like I couldn't breathe, and the next minute I was not only celebrating life, I was holding it in my arms.

Life is complicated, but I believe the answer to my question, "how will I go the rest of my life with this much sorrow', lies somewhere between accepting pain and embracing celebration, both with a grateful heart, because both make the face of Jesus that much clearer.

Please pray for me and my growing family as we prepare to embrace the celebration of  Danielle and Adam's wedding day. Jay and Amee will be there with us in spirit and forever in our hearts, and for that I am grateful.

God is good...

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

He stilled the storm to a whisper...

Well we did it. My family and I managed to pack up that huge house we had lived in for over 7 years and finally get on our way. It was an experience I hope I never have to go through again--there was just so much stuff to pack!!  It seemed as though we'd clear one area and box it up, and the mess would double in another. I remember thinking, "Seriously, is all this stuff mine?" Without Jay to share it with I was feeling very detached from it all, and for that reason, packing proved to be a difficult challenge.

The one thing I didn't feel detached from was my room. I had managed to keep it in tact while the walls around the house seem to come tumbling down so that no matter how chaotic it became, I could walk into my room, shut the door, and feel a sense of calm. Jay's closet remained untouched for as long as I could allow, and when it came time to start packing it up I decided through the wisdom of grief classes, to make it a time of reflection. My girls came over along with my niece, and although it felt awkward to begin the process of going through his items, once we did, we found ourselves enjoying all of the great memories that each of these precious treasures held for us.

We pulled out his infamous Grinch shirt and hat that he wore at one of our ugly sweater Christmas parties, and his reading glasses which reminded us all of him wrapped up in his soft robe, sipping coffee on a Sunday morning. His flip flops that he loved so much were all lined up, and we went through all of his walking shorts that were such a signature look of his. One of my favorite pieces was a long sleeve thermal that he wore often and it made his big muscular arms feel soft and warm. We smelled his colognes that carried his scents, and put on his jackets and scarves to feel a touch of his warmth. It really was a good and uplifting time of remembering how much Jay made us smile and how much he loved his family.

But as everyone left, the joy I was feeling began to quickly dissolve and I found myself standing alone in a room that didn't feel like mine anymore. This safe and comfortable place that I had kept in tact while the rest of the walls seemed to be tumbling down was now dented with a devastating blow. Jay's closet had been half emptied, and the reality of his presence slipping away from me began to hurt.  I tried to find some hope in my circumstances but my mind was tired and I began to shut down. Starring into Jay's closet I thought to myself, "these are the moments that can bruise a soul', and with that thought, I heard one word, "reach". I had no idea what I'd be reaching for, but I felt that this word came from the Lord and if  He was telling me to reach, I believed He had something for me to find. So I sat in my unpleasant silence committing my thoughts to Him, and began to dig as deeply as I could. What I found were more memories.

My first memory was when Jay got our dog Samson. I was furious! I didn't want a dog, but Jay had no fear of my firm "NO", and how thankful I am that he didn't. Samson became our baby. We both fell in love with him and Jay took a lot of pleasure in watching me become a doting parent. It truly was one of his biggest "I told you so's", and he loved reminding me of it.

I then thought about our couch dates. Every weekday that Jay wasn't traveling, around 6:00 pm, one of us would say to the other, "couch date?" and the other would say , "yep, what time?" Then we'd pick a time, [usually around 8:00 pm] to meet on the couch in our comfy clothes and catch up on all of  our favorite shows. Jay would usually sit on his side of the couch reclined back, and I'd usually lay across the couch with my head on his lap, and of course we'd both make sure one of us had a foot on Samson so he didn't feel left out. It was such a comfortable place for us to be and something we always looked forward to. In fact whenever we'd get into a fight you could tell we'd want to make up before our couch date time. Couch dates were considered sacred ground and not to be messed with.

Then I remembered a really special moment when Jay surprised me with my new wedding ring. We were in the dining room with our girls. He hadn't told them he was going to give it to me, but we were all having such
a good time that he said it just felt right. He quietly stepped out of the room, grabbed it,  and slipped back into his seat at the other end of the table waiting patiently for me to notice him holding the open box. I was in mid laughter when my eyes caught the sight of him. His smile was so sweet and sincere, and  he walked over to me and slipped my new ring onto my finger. We both were crying and even seemed to forget that the kids were in the room. I'll always remember how we both felt in that very moment.

As my mind became flooded with these precious thoughts I found myself in the midst of a soothing calm. I was still very aware of the boxes scattered everywhere, Jay's half emptied closet, and the now echoing halls of the house. But despite the storm that was raging around me, God used my thoughts to bring me to the center of it all where the waters were still and I could feel safe. I was in the eye of the storm. I thought about Psalm 107:29 which says, He made the storm be still, and the waves of the sea were hushed. I was reminded that God's eye is always on me, and that no matter what my circumstances are, He is my refuge--my calm in the midst of my storm. It was there [in the eye of the storm] that I was able to recover and my bruised soul found rest.

I know more storms lie ahead. There's not a moment that goes by that I don't think of Jay. That I don't desire him back, and moving forward without him means choppy waters for sure. But storms teach us faith as we learn to keep our eyes on our Lord and not the waters. We're able to witness His mighty hand still the storm to a whisper as He guides us to our safe haven, and why? Why does He do this?  Scripture says it's because of His unfailing love for us and that we're to praise Him for it, and I do. 

"Thank you Lord for your unfailing love. You teach me, strengthen me, and refine me as I journey home to you through the path of this broken world. But never alone, you are my refuge--you are my Lord." Amen

God is good...

Psalm 107:23-32
Some went out on the sea in ships;
they were merchants on the mighty waters.
They saw the works of the Lord,
his wonderful deeds in the deep.
For he spoke and stirred up a tempest
that lifted high the waves.
They mounted up to the heavens and went down to the depths;
in their peril their courage melted away.
They reeled and staggered like drunkards;
they were at their wits end.
Then they cried out to the Lord in their trouble,
and he brought them out of their distress.
He stilled the storm to a whisper;
the waves of the sea were hushed.
They were glad when it grew calm,
and he guided them to their desired haven.
Let them give thanks to the Lord for his unfailing love
and his wonderful deeds for mankind.
Let them exalt him in the assembly of the people
and praise him in the council of the elders.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Turning a New Corner

Jay passed away in July, and not even two weeks later we faced his 49th birthday without him. From there came Fall--the change of the season which lead into Thanksgiving, and that led into my thirty year wedding anniversary, and then came Christmas, and so on and so on and so on. 

Grief is just hard, and there is a lot of opportunity to get lost in it. I often want to succumb to those thoughts that can discourage and tear away the very hope of the cross, but God is so faithful to his children. I find that every time I'm there, God says to me "you do your part and I promise I'll do mine". He simply wants my trust, He's capable to do the rest. 

One of my greatest comforts when I'm feeling so much pain at the loss of my beloved Jay is Psalm 34:18-The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit. I take so much comfort in knowing that when I'm feeling broken hearted and crushed in spirit, that God's word tells me that He draws close to me. It's okay for me to melt, it's okay for me to stop--He understands. 

So, speaking of crushed spirits, we're in the process of moving and although I've had more than a few months to prepare for this, it's all happening too fast. I can feel my heart breaking as the time draws closer and closer to our final day here...and why? It's just a house right? But the truth is that it's so much more than that. It's what Jay and I we we're building together.

I remember our first day here. It's a cute story to me; really warms my heart to think of it. We got the keys to our new home from the model home office. Jay was so excited and suggested that we run back home [to our old house] and grab one thing that was most important to us to bring into our new home for the first time. I didn't even have to give it a second thought. He didn't want us to show each other what we were bringing so when we got back to our old house we ran in, grabbed our items, and threw them in the car without each other looking.

When we drove to our new home, he shot up stairs and I eagerly ran back to the car to grab the most important thing I could bring into my new house. Anyone who knows me might guess exactly what it was--my Kitchenaide stand mixer of course!! I placed it in it's new spot, shinned it up a bit and said, "Welcome home baby"! 

Jay came downstairs and got a big kick out of my selection but he wasn't surprised, he knew me too well. He then asked me to come upstairs to see what he brought. He took me up to our bedroom and on each side sitting on the floor where the nightstands would go, he had a framed picture of me as a little girl on his side, and a framed picture of him as a little boy on mine. This meant a lot to both of us because we always saw each other's vulnerable child inside. Jay so badly wanted me to protect him, and I so badly wanted protection as well. We relied on each other for this protection our whole young marriage, but what we didn't realize was that as we were turning a new corner, moving into our new home, this is where we'd grow up. This is where we'd stop seeing each other as children in need of help and instead become two adults who just wanted to rest together. When Jay passed away we were really enjoying life, enjoying our kids, and enjoying our home. 

I guess there's really no way to go through this without pain. It's time to turn yet another corner, and with that comes the need to trust God's plan for my life. I miss Jay so much but I'm so thankful that I have my Lord who will guide me through this. He's so good to me, never abandons me, and He cares that I hurt. 

Oswald Chambers says, "We are not made for the mountains, for sunrises, or the other beautiful attractions in life--those are simply intended to be moments of inspiration. We are made for the valley and the ordinary things of life, and that is where we have to prove our stamina and strength". 

As I turn this corner and step into a new valley I take with me my moments of inspiration that God has given me on the mountain tops--and I know that He has so much more for me that will come in His perfect timing. But as I walk in the valley, I can reach into my pockets where I store all of my gold nuggets that God has blessed me with, and I  can remember who I am. I'm His, and when I do my part, He doesn't let me forget it. 

The day before New Years Eve my daughter Danielle and I went to the movies. As we came out of the theater I saw the side of one of those big movie posters that line the corridors, and the movie's release date was written along side of it. I said to my daughter, "Hey look, that movie is coming out on my birthday". She said, "isn't that the Captain America movie poster?" I told her I didn't think it was, but sure enough as we rounded the corner, that was in fact the case. There we stood staring in awe at this big poster with the Captain America sheild purtruding out of the front of it, and my birthday written underneath. I thought of Jay--our hero, Captain America. I could literally feel the warmth of God smiling on me. A precious little gift from my Father above, and I had yet another nugget to put in my pocket.

Packing up this house and turning a new corner is going to be very hard, and I'm going to have to reach into my pockets a lot. But my gosh my pockets are full! And they're full because I. Am. His. 

"Thank you Lord for the full life I've had here, and for the full and complete marriage that you have blessed me, Jay, and my family with. You are so good, and my trust is in you. I'm so grateful that Jay's resting in the light of your glory". Amen

And this is the house that God built. "I love you Jay"