I snapped a photo awhile back when I took my daughter shopping and she was trying on clothes in the dressing room. It was a photo of the dressing room door. Already, in that first sentence there are at least two miracles I’d like to highlight for you; one being that we were out shopping together. One of the last times we were out shopping together (at this exact store no less) things didn’t turn out so well. Like many moms and teenage daughters we had a difference of opinions as to what her “look” was going to be. The details aren’t super important, but I can tell you that things went sideways really fast once from that point and we ended up leaving the store shortly thereafter in quite a huff and we ultimately pulled over on the side of the road for an epic “chat”. I can count the number of our shopping excursions together since that day on one hand. But there were now: shopping together and having a really pleasant time for miracle number one, and then miracle number two was that she was in the dressing room, trying on clothes quite willingly and patiently, and I was fetching her new sizes as needed, and we were both totally calm and fine. So ya, a big WOW! and AMEN! to that! Don’t tell me miracles don’t happen.
So I’ve been thinking about that photo since then. At first I just thought about the photo with the door closed as a way to protect her privacy and not horrify her on social media that she was out shopping with her totally lame mom, but then I realized that a lot of miracles really do happen behind closed doors. And in this day and age of social media where if we don’t see an event or an announcement on Facebook we question whether it really happened or not, I think the closed door is symbolic in other ways.
The nitty-gritty details and drama of what’s gone on in our family behind the scenes can’t be shared publicly for a whole lot of good reasons, one of which is because it wouldn’t be fair to our kids, and really at this point the details aren’t super important. However, I can tell you it has been an INSANE 2018, to be sure. A couple of our friends know far too many of the gory details than they’d probably like to and they’re as stupified as we are. It’s just been nuts. Despite the insanity, there have been miracles. Boy have there been miracles.
The first miracle has been the connectedness we’ve experienced with trustworthy and caring people. I don’t know if it’s because of the fact that I’m an only child, or I’m an American where in our culture we encourage and applaud hyper-individuality, or maybe it’s stuff that’s happened recently where I was caught completely off-guard by some relationships that absolutely exploded in my face, or, maybe it’s a combination of all three. Regardless, being connected to others does not come naturally for me. My guard is up. My circle of trusted friends is small. But when our year started off with a huge unexpected “bang” I couldn’t and didn’t want to spend all the energy pretending everything was status quo. Fortunately for us, there were people in our lives who had some technical expertise in what we were going through and who had the character and grace to not only NOT judge us because of what we were going through, but who had genuine love for us and chose to walk through the insanity with us.
Another miracle that we’ve experienced is that the truth came out. It’s one thing to say “The truth always comes out”, and it’s definitely one of my favorite sayings, and indeed, prayers. But it’s a whole new ball of wax when hideous, horrible lies are told about you, lies that if they are believed by certain people, can have catastrophic and life-altering consequences for you and your family. It’s happened twice in the past six months that these lies have been told about us, and we’ve had to walk through the process of the truth being revealed. It didn’t happen overnight and we had to walk through some very uncertain days, which most of the time seemed to never end. We were transparent with the people we felt we could trust and they never flinched. We were flanked by some of the best people I could ever imagine and they stood with us and for us as we walked through a very dark corridor that most of the time seemed impossibly long and absolutely pitch-black. It’s extremely humbling to be surrounded by genuine love.
I’ve had a lot of time as a result of all the hub-bub going on to think about miracles. If you’ve ever spent any time at all with someone who knows and loves the game of baseball as I have, you’ve heard the phrase, “The game within the game”. Highly paraphrased it means that even if you think baseball is as boring as paint drying on a wall, there are a million riveting and totally engrossing subtle subtexts happening right in front of you, that you couldn’t possibly step away from the game for a refill of popcorn or soda (seriously, this is how baseball fanatics are, and I should know because I’m married to one).
So anyway……..the whole phrase, “The game within the game” has got me to thinking about “The miracle within the miracle”…….or more accurately put, “The miracles within the miracles”, because we’ve seen a lot of them. Or how about this, “The miracle within the NON-miracle”?
Let’s say you’ve been praying HARD for years and years and years about something in your life that you’d really like to see change. Could be a health condition you’ve been battling, or a loved one has been dealing with. Could be your son/daughter’s life has been permanently altered due to an accident or injury and you’ve been praying for the miracle that could change their lives for the positive. Could be you’re in a lousy marriage and you want your spouse to change so your lives together could get happier. Regardless, let’s just say that whatever it is you’ve been praying for, that one miracle that you really, really need, just isn’t happening.
Let’s look at the miracles within that time span that you’re patiently waiting through in the context of a couple of spiritual truths (regardless of your religious beliefs). The first is that God created us in HIS image. The second truth is that God created us FOR relationship, first of all to have relationship with Him first and foremost, but then with EACH OTHER. We are created to be IN relationship with one another. If God had waved His magic wand at the beginning of this post, or back in mid-January when our family began going through some serious stuff, I would have missed out on so many miracles. I had to let my guard and let some people in. That’s miracle number one. Miracle number two is that God strategically placed some pretty special people in my life who didn’t let me down. I don’t ever talk about this out loud to more than one or two people and I’ve never shared it here on my own blog, but I’ve been one raw exposed nerve for about three years and one month now. I can’t even articulate how everyday I feel like I am literally out there in the universe flying without a net, free falling in darkness since my dad left. There are just no words, only fresh hot tears that freely stream down my face in the middle of a busy coffee shop as I write this. But had not everything started going all wonky back in January and had I not confided in a few key people, I would not have experienced the tenderness and caring of those around me. People who really like me just for me, not for anything I can do for them or because I’m particularly special. I have come to realize that that’s been a miracle-within-the-miracle.
I’ve thought about all the tremendously difficult circumstances we’ve gone through with our children who have special needs. If God had just waved His magic wand when they were both born, removing the litany of challenges from both of their lives, I would have missed out on the innumerable miracles that they have partaken in and how I’ve seen people literally change their way of thinking as a result of getting to know my kids. God planted in both of them seeds of change. For us, their parents no doubt, but also for our world. If they were both middle-of-the-bell-curve “normal” others wouldn’t have had the opportunities to dig deeper within their own souls and value people at a soul level. People have literally thanked me for having these two special people because they feel they’re better humans for having known them. Wow.
I believe strongly that we can help people heal, even when the obvious healing isn’t happening. In the disability community I know many, many parents with children with traumatic brain injury, grievous conditions and progressive diseases. Often times the obvious miracle of their children being cured just doesn’t happen, for reasons I will never understand. But what I do see is people who reach out to each other in genuine friendship, going out of their way to make authentic connections. I see people praying for strength and grace for their fellow parents. I see kindness from strangers. I see organizations that exist in order to lighten the load of parents who carry so much. I have personally witnessed people welcoming us with open arms into places and they have revealed a generosity of heart I certainly didn’t possess before having a child who makes uninvited and often unexpected sounds at unexpected times (who am I kidding? It annoys me now at times!). Could that happen if God did the easy thing and just waved His magic wand way back when? I don’t think so.
I guess I’ve taken the incredibly circuitous route to encourage you, me, all of us, to look beyond the obvious, and through all the stuff we go through everyday. Life is not easy. People are suffering. People lose their jobs. Kids go off the deep end, despite having some pretty decent parents. Accidents happen. Marriages fail. But through it all, and mainly because I’ve been on the receiving end of so many of them, miracles do happen. As broken as we are as humans, our love for one another can bring healing. Our genuine care for one another can actually bridge the gap during tragedy. No man is an island, and though it may feel on most days like a free-fall, the miracles within the miracles can provide a soft landing if we can open our tear-stained eyes long enough to see them. Above it all and through it all, God is at work for us, and if we let Him, through us.
Why That Perfect Social Media Post Might Not Be Such A Lie Afterall, or How I Resigned My Job As Judgy McJudgerson
Haven’t we all seen those posts on social media where the mom and dad with the perfectly coiffed hair posing with their perfectly behaved children, all sporting million watt smiles standing on some perfect beach, or at the top of some mountain they’ve just climbed and have wanted to wretch? I mean “COME. ON. PEOPLE. Stop being so phony! Show me some real photos of your dirty dishes in the sink that you haven’t wanted to face for five days, or the sixteen loads of laundry that have completely overtaken the laundry room!” I’ve wanted to call people out in a big way.
So ya, I was getting super fed up with seeing everyone’s perfectly staged and perfectly lighted at just the right time of day with dew on the flowers, blah, blah, blah lives that were on display via social media until the unthinkable happened. My whole world came to a screeching halted, was turned upside down and inside out, and put in a blender at turbo speed all at once when my dad left this earth.
Since then though, and I’ve just recently realized this, if you were to look at my social media accounts (except here, where I haven’t been able to write a word) my life has probably looked pretty normal. My Instagram will NEVER looked staged, because ain’t nobody got time for that, but by and large you probably can’t tell by my photos how furious I’ve been paddling underneath.
But now my motivation is different, so I feel completely justified in the scores of photos I post where most of us are looking at the camera and our clothes are mostly on right side out. I’ve also completely let go of my judgy and stabby attitude toward many other social media accounts I see where everyone looks like everything is just hunky-spunky and they’re all very shiny and pretty (we’ll never be shiny and pretty, and that’s okay with me). I know better now. I know that after a devasting loss (as was my case) or a series of life events that turn you upside down on your ear (which pretty much describes our family’s first six months of 2018) those photos where you’re smiling aren’t so much photo opportunities as they are declarations that you’re not going under. Yet. Not today anyway.
I can tell you that every single thing we’ve done as a family since September 8, 2015 has been a declaration not to die, at least not that day.
Especially at the beginning, or at least the first two years, every smile I’ve sported, every event we’ve gone to, has been a battle cry that I’m fighting self pity and unspeakable grief with every ounce of energy I have. I want to create good memories. I want my kids to remember good family times, even though we’ve been hurting. And I think I’ve wanted to see if the impossible could be done; could creating happy and positive memories fill the Howitzer-size holes in each of our hearts? Could we possibly heal while learning how to enjoy life again?
Maybe you’re there now; going through a crisis with a child, going through a gut-wrenching divorce, experiencing the death of a best friend, a serious health issue for you or a loved one, or some other horrific and crushing loss. If smiling feels good, then keep on keepin’ on, continue the journey of healing. Smiling for the camera or going out with our friends doesn’t mean we’re in denial about the pain we’re in, it’s a statement that says, “despite the pain, I’m going to aim for some normalcy”, if only for a few minutes.
We can never choose our circumstances, we can only choose our responses. And maybe smiling for the camera while hugging our kids (who are mortified at our lameness) is a way to beat back the pain and declare ourselves as the fighters we are.
I’m glad I get to look at your fun photos doing really crazy and funny and spontaneous things with your friends and family (and your dogs. Always with the dogs). You give me hope and strength to fight on and to continue to believe in the healing process, no matter where it takes me.
Holding patterns. Aren’t they great? Nearly everyone us has been in one if we’ve traveled by air more than once in our lives. Have you ever seen people disembark from the plane after they’ve been in a holding pattern? Aren’t they all like, “Wow, that was such a great time up there-we were getting ready to land, but then the pilot came on the loudspeaker and told us that we were going to have to stay up in the air for about half an hour or maybe more, while they figured out something on the ground. I loved it….I mean it was so nice to think we were about to land only to find out we were going to have to stay up in the air for an undetermined amount of time.”, said NO ONE. EVURRRR.
Face it, holding patterns are just plain hard. Like when we’re about three miles back in a ten mile back up on the freeway: we don’t know why we’re stuck sucking in the fumes from the ten thousand other cars stopped with us, we don’t know when it’s going to let up, if ever, and all that makes us nervous. We fret over missed appointments, we silently (or not so silently) scold ourselves for having that last cup of coffee before we got in our vehicles, and we worry about our fates. Sometimes we even get……angry. Perish the thought!
But the Bible has something to say about holding patterns; specifically that you can be renewed and that you can actually GAIN strength while being in one, IF you’re waiting on the Lord. Whaaaaat? That’s just crazy talk. Ain’t nobody got time for that. Furthermore, you’ll end up soaring like an eagle, you’ll have crazy good stamina (staying power) and you won’t get tired. (Like 5 Hour Energy only better) Isaiah 40: 31 (ESV) but they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint. My knee-jerk reaction is often, if I’m being honest and not trying to wow you with my deep spirituality, is “Ya, right buddy. I’ll get right on that”. And yet David, in the book of Psalms says in 34:8 “Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good! Blessed is the man who takes refuge in him!” That means experience God. Dive in, TASTE the life, get into what God says. Test Him, surround yourself with what HE says. God wants us to see that He is true to His word, He will NOT let us down.
Not only do holding patterns feel uncomfortable to us, they can be deceiving to outsiders. Maybe nothing’s going on with your career right now, but you know that God has been telling you to just hang tight, He’s got something coming up for you, but to others who only know you casually, or to those who haven’t bothered to get to the know the real you it may look like you’re just “phoning it in” and not really living up to your potential. In our case right now, my husband and I have assumed leadership of my dad’s faith based non-profit ministry that he left for me to run after he died. I’ve been on the board of the directors since its inception thirty years ago, we’ve been involved in a variety of decisions and missions over the years, I’m intimately aware of my dad’s convictions regarding the direction of the ministry and he told me he wanted me to run it and grow it after he was gone. The timing of him leaving this earth still seems incredibly unreal on most levels and still leaves me breathless and dizzy on most days if I’m honest (grief is a giant gnarly monster that must be dealt with every single day and you don’t get to choose the time or the place, but that’s for a different post), but I am doing exactly what he wanted and what he spelled out for me. And yet on some very real levels there are some holding patterns going on as we take care of some necessary legal and administrative details. To people in my extended family (I’m an only child, so extended family is all I have, or had, as is now the case) it looks as if we’re doing absolutely nothing with it at all. Much to my shock, most of my family has taken a mind-boggling adversarial role in my life and are actively hating on me. The death of my father, who meant far more to me than any blog post can ever do justice to, is one thing. Losing the relationships I had with 99% of my cousins has been nearly as painful and incredibly confusing. I cherish the two or three people who are still on speaking terms with me.
But through all this God has been incredibly good. During this “holding pattern”, when it looks to the world like we’re not doing a darn good thing (or anything at all) with this ministry, we’re seeing deliverance. We’re seeing recovery from addictions. We’re getting work done on a building project (even if people can’t see it from the outside as they drive down the street). We are being faithful in the little things. We are seeking God in ALL things. The Lord has protected us from someone trying to steal the organization out from under us.
It’s actually been “good”. We are tasting God everyday and He’s coming up true and steadfast, just like He says. I truly believe when the circumstances of life are the most painful, that’s when God shows up with boat loads of mercy and grace. And miracles. Like the not-so-small miracle of being able to survive and thrive painful rejections. God’s got this and He’s bigger than all of life’s hurts combined.
They say that the number one rule in blogging is to not use it as a diary. A diary is a diary and a blog is a blog, never the two shall meet. I’ve been a horrible blogger and even worse at keeping any kind of a diary. Every time I think of writing (which in my defense is almost everyday because the running conversation in my head is always on full throttle), I just think that no one would want to read it, or what I would say would not be readable, entertaining, or intriguing on any level. All that to say, that’s why this space has been blank for so long.
Until today. Today is THE anniversary, and I feel the need to say something to mark the passage of time, although when I think about it, tomorrow is when I’ll probably feel the full impact of it. Late tonight when I may or may not be sleeping, will mark the day that my dad left one year ago. Throughout my entire life we had always been pretty good about checking in with each other regarding major decisions, but on this one, I was definitely out of the loop.
365 days. 52 weeks. 525,600 minutes.
I’ve been thinking a lot about the concept of time over the past few months. It’s a tool. It’s an instrument. Think about it: our universe could have been designed right down to our molecular level to be outside the construct of time, but nothing about our existence can escape the power of it. From the first second, no, from BEFORE the first second of fertilization and life beginning we need time and our very existence depends on, well, perfect timing. We need time in-utero to develop properly and in a coordinated fashion. Our cells need time to regenerate and heal when we sustain injuries or trauma. Every night we need time to be unconscious and horizontal so our bodies can rest at the cellular level and be healthy. Relationships take time to develop. We need time to learn new tasks and jobs. We need time to get into shape or back into shape. Everything about us, everything in our universe takes TIME.
Time of course does not possess any magical qualities. It does not heal all wounds. I actually don’t think it heals anything, but without time we would not have the space of perspective from which we could move forward or “on” with our lives. And on with our lives is exactly what we must do. Every single rotten day. Not every day is truly rotten of course, it’s just rotten that every day roughly 153,424 people die (according to the World Health Organization), and over one year’s time that equals 56 million people. If each of those 56 million people were loved and cherished by just two other people then that amounts to 112 million people who every year have to figure out how to get up, get dressed and function that day knowing they’ll never see their friend, husband, wife, father, mother, or significant person ever again. Time feels heavy.
The Miracle Of Time
Without time none of us would know that we could live through stuff. I’m in a really big club of people who have lived through their “unthinkable” scenario, and then of course there are the millions and millions of people who are experiencing tragedies (accidents, disease, unspeakable emotional and psychological trauma) who may not have a funeral but they’re fighting every bit as hard to get through. Millions of us have wanted to give up, but we haven’t. Yet. I’m still on the fence as to whether or not I’m happy about that.
I Give Up
I’m still not okay being alone, and just to clarify, I’m completely fine with that; the part about being fine with not being fine, I mean. I’m just more prone to long crying jags when I find myself alone in the house. Or in the car. Or writing at my laptop in a coffee shop. Or in the grocery store. Ya, “doing okay” is a long way off. Oh well. I had one of those moments a couple of weeks ago when I told God I was giving up, that I just couldn’t go on anymore. It’s not that I wanted to die and leave my kids and my husband, it’s just that I didn’t want to live this life without my dad anymore. And I’m okay with that too. And then I think if I were to ever utter that someone would say, “Uh, grow up!! You’re a grown flipping adult, it’s WEIRD that you’re missing your dad that much. Freak.” And then I immediately jump to the million reasons why my relationship with my dad was extraordinary, and really what the picture of what every parent/child relationship should be, the way God designed us.
The Truth In Time
I’ve seen some stuff during these past 364 days, some of its been pretty awesome and I probably wouldn’t have believed it had I not had to live through it. First and foremost is how my best friend and husband literally carried me through. Honestly though, you would know this about both of them the minute you met them, they’re both obviously incredible. On September 6 of last year I arrived back in the NW (where we had lived with my dad a few years ago) to see my dad through his upcoming scheduled heart surgery. What I walked into at the hospital can only be described as a full frontal emotional assault (I’ll spare you the details). Had my bff not been there to witness everything and stay there with me I would have lost my mind. She drove me to the hospital, or met me at the hospital when I drove, bought me food, brought me food, took me back to my dad’s house, helped me navigate what I was hearing from the doctors and then never left my side after I received the dreaded phone call. She was my oxygen and I am forever humbled by what she did for me. The hubs continues to serve me, and by extension my dad, in every possible way every single day. He’s grown out and stretched himself in a million different ways every day during this year, all the while hurting and aching like a man who lost a person he loved like a father because he did and he hurts deeply every single day. I’ve also seen people from what I thought was my closest sphere fall always from me, and that’s okay. I was fairly prepared for that inevitability as we had been through it before when we became a family with kids with special needs. And although I’ve always been a “collector” of people, not hearing one word from people I would have considered my friends since junior high was a good wake up call for me. They’ve told me a hundred times since that we’re not friends. Equally revealing and much more pleasant have been the few people in my periphery who have stepped up and have been in contact with me. I appreciate them using their time to reach out to me, no matter how brief or seemingly insignificant to the them the effort has been. We can all use time as a gift.
Time Is Cruel
I have nothing pithy or inspiring to close with (and I’m fine with that too). A couple of weeks ago I begged God to let me escape the pain. He didn’t. I’m not as overwhelmed as I was, so don’t worry. No need to call 911 or put me on suicide-watch (I’ve got too many knitting projects to get through first. Plus, who would groom Miss Fatty?). God has been with me every second of these over 525 thousand minutes. He hasn’t left me or abandoned me for one second. A popular bracelet asks, “What Wouldd Jesus Do?”. The Bible tells us that Jesus was deeply compassionate and He was moved to tears, and that He is seated at the right hand of the Father. I don’t doubt for one minute that He’s been weaping with me and for me. The book of Romans it says that the Holy Spirit intercedes for us when we don’t know how to pray. I’ve been clueless for 365 days and I don’t know when that will end, so I’m counting on the Him to continue to carry me and to continue to inspire all my friends to walk with me.
261 days but who’s counting? That’s 375,840 minutes for those of you who are into that sort of thing. Obviously my compulsive tendencies take me right down that road, but all roads lead to the fact that my dad is still gone. This is one of the longer trips he’s taken in my life. Growing up he was gone away a lot on business (fixing massive computers in the dawn on the computer era, covering six western states in the U.S., puts you on the road a lot), and then after he became a full time missionary he frequently went abroad for a few weeks at a time, but this trip is definitely longer than those.
So while the battle rages within between the voice that says, “He’s just on a mission trip–he’ll be back next week” and the counter voice that says, “Hey Smarty Pants! Wake up and smell the coffee! He’s really gone. Like, gone, gone and you’re not going to see him ever again this side of heaven”, there have been some things my deep inner self has been awakening to. (I think that voice is a bit harsh too, but there she is, blunt as always) Here’s that list in no particular order:
The things I “get” now:
*How people go round the bend. Lose their minds. Start blending fantasy with reality. I get it. I now get how people can end up in a rocking chair for hours and hours, maybe days and just check out of reality.
*Ya know on tv when they’ll sometimes show someone who’s gone, suddenly appear to a loved one? Ya, I get that too. Turns out there is some reality in tv.
*How people never give/throw things away from someone who’s passed. At the same time I completely understand how people do get rid of things. There’s no timeline. Sometimes there’s no rhyme or concrete reason. I now get that. I might have fished some seemingly meaningless things out of the trash the other day. They’re not taking up much space and I can’t bear the thought of throwing them away.
*I get that sometimes you actually don’t believe that the person is gone. Like your brain just isn’t comprehending it all. Even 261 days and 375,840 minutes later. Is that some dark endless crevasse of denial? If so, I get it now.
*How people can walk around in a fog
*I get how you feel like a complete and total traitor, like you’re the worst person who ever lived because you continue to live. Because you have to live, because you have to pay bills, because you have to buy groceries, and go to the bank, and buy cat food. But I now get that inner war. The battle rages on.
*I get how using something someone wanted you to have makes you feel horrible and wonderful at the same time.
*What it means to cry “at the drop of a hat.” I live there now.
*I get that you don’t want to make plans for the future, certainly not anything enjoyable, because you can’t imagine ever enjoying anything ever again. And then I get that you feel ever so slightly guilty when you do enjoy yourself, as if you’re not supposed to, but you know deep in your heart of hearts you’re absolutely supposed to enjoy living and continue to live and continue to thrive. But at the same time you don’t even know if you have the strength to do it.
*I get that you can truly thank God for His timing, because it’s the ONLY thing you prayed for and at the same time be shattered by the reality of it.
*I get how doing just one or two “hard things” (going through paperwork, going through clothes, making hard phone calls, talking to attorneys or accountants, etc…..) in one day wipes you out.
*I get how you can only hang out with one or two people now. This is a completely foreign feeling to me as I’ve always been an extrovert who loves to be with lots and lots of people having lots and fun all the time. But now the thought of hoards of people isn’t so enticing. But I do love people, and I do still love meeting new people, just maybe not everyone all at once.
*I get how you can completely hopeful about your future but at the same time feel blank.
*I get that when a parent dies you feel like you’re six years old and a 106 all at the same time, every minute of the day.
*I get how you now look at people in your life who have lost loved ones years ago and you see how they’ve somehow survived, they’re living, they’re laughing, they’re doing fine and you want to believe it for yourself but there’s a part of you that just can’t imagine it.
*I get how people talk to their person who is now “gone” like they’re in the room with them. Like you’re totally losing your marbles but you just. Don’t. Care.
*Mainly I get that I’m not alone. I’ve joined a worldwide club with millions of reluctant members. I get that the world does go on…..260 days now, and it’ll probably go on tomorrow. I get that the human spirit is stronger than we think it is in the middle of our agony. I get that God really DOES comfort us and that we might be certifiably insane, but He still loves us and He IS seeing us through the stuff we think we’ll never survive.
Bittersweet Flashback Friday to four years ago: We were just about to leave our precious Berg-By-The-Sea in L.A.’s SouthBay to fulfill a request from the hubs’ parents to live closer to them (turned out to be living with them for awhile).
These photos are from our girl-child’s last adaptive soccer game she played, not two miles inland from the ocean sand, and The Dude, who watched from the sidelines because, “doncha think kicking the same ball over and over again is a little repetitive?”
We humans always claim we want to know what lies ahead on our journey, but really we can’t know, because unless it turns out to be unicorns and fairy dust most of us would hide under our beds and never come out. I know I would have.
What lay ahead for us was the discovery of unmanaged and unchecked mental illness and dementia in the hubs’ father, for which my hubs was immediately blamed but over which he had no control, and unfathomable judgements and attacks on us by his family, almost from our first day there. But even as we embarking on a stormy “Three Hour Tour”, we found an amazing church family who became the first body of believers who completely embraced our little tribe and adored our children and loved them without judgement. When my in-laws couldn’t be bothered to visit their awesome grandson in the hospital after major surgery only six months after we moved there, that church rallied around us, waited with us during the surgery, and cooked meals for us for days afterwards.
Someone who was in charge of some kind of baseball league practically forced us to sign our kids up two weeks after we got to town, even though we told her our son couldn’t catch a ball or run to save his life. More importantly, our daughter had just flat out refused to play on a team in one of the beach communities just a couple of miles from our house. At The Dude’s first at-bat he turned around to see a huge audience, walked up to the backstop fence and cheered for all of us and then clapped heartily for himself as he rounded the bases with his beautiful university softball athletes flanked on each side. All of us made friends through Challenger Baseball; a rec league that has changed our family forever.
I had to say goodbye to an amazing neighborhood knit shop just a block from our house in The Berg, filled with a wealth of technical know how and generous knitters who taught me so much in so little time, but I made room for new friends, one of whom is making her mark as an awesome indie dyer and for whom I have the deep honor of test knitting.
We had to say goodbye to the ocean air and our daily pilgrimages to the beach and I forced myself to bloom where I was planted taking hikes and making fun memories with my Sweet Girl.
Maybe one of the sweetest presents we got to unfold in OurTown was that the hubs finally got to bloom as one of the best minds in baseball as a high school coach and a committee member of The JUCO World Series. His players adored him and continue to reach out to him today and we spent some glorious days and nights watching hours and hours of college ball. Life doesn’t get much better than that.
It’s hard to believe that everything we went through after leaving our beautiful life by the sea was to prepare us for the hardest leg of our journey that we’re now feeling our way through, and that is, life without my dad. And of course nothing could adequately prepare me for that.
I haven’t written in months. My dad died in September. If you’ve ever been on this journey you know it feels like five minutes ago, or at least I do. It feels like I just found out this second and instantaneously I began my free fall into the total blackness of outer space, known as Grief, and I’m still out there in the abyss. I have no idea when I’m coming back (whatever that means) and I really don’t have a desire to. Until then it looks Grief is my buddy, the gift that keeps giving. Pass the Kleenex.
The main reason I haven’t posted anything about this hideous journey is that I didn’t want to come off sounding like, “Woe is me, this is the worst thing that’s ever happened in the history of the universe”. While I wish I could say I’m the only one who’s ever experienced this pain and all the involuntary behaviors that come with it; the the without-warning crying jags, the feeling of hopelessness and abject blackness in my soul, I know I’m not. I know there are thousands of people around the world, and maybe even hundreds of daddy’s-girls who know EXACTLY what I’m going through. So I didn’t want to come off like a whimpering princess. I AM a whimpering princess to be sure, I just didn’t have the nerve to announce it to the universe. Until now apparently.
Rather than go on about how I’ve been doing (you can just know that in general I kind of don’t want to be around anyone, unless I DO want to be around people. And I don’t really want to be alone, except then whenever I do want to be alone, and then I have crying jags, I beg my dad to come back at the very same time I thank God he’s not suffering and I’m thankful that he’s truly super happy where he is, and then I go back to sobbing. It’s quite sophisticated and classy). So rather than go into all THAT detail (you’re welcome by the way) I thought I’d just relate some of my observations about losing a loved one and the grief process in general.
- The people closest to the person (namely the family that’s nearby) can act REALLY weird when someone dies or the situation is dire (depending on how wonky your family is. And at times like this sometimes people surprise you, let me tell ya). Like showing up at the hospital, refusing to say a WORD to the person who’s hanging onto life by a thread and smugly gloating over their bedside. Yes, I saw you. You know who you are. Good luck with that.
- People can have expectations of the surviving family member(s) regarding what their demeanor should be or what they should be doing that far surpass what anybody can do emotionally, physically, psychologically, you name it. For instance it’s been 111 days and 18 hours (but who’s counting) and I’m still not really even back to cooking meals for my family. Macaroni & Cheese is somehow okay with me. I have no idea who I am anymore.
- My brain isn’t working. I’ve lost a couple of things, moderately important things that are going to be a hassle for me to replace and I have no idea how I did it, or how to recover the lost things. I think they’ve vanished into thin air.
- I’m procrastinating the “hard stuff” like nobody’s business. I’m pretty much the Procrastinating Queen, so sorry if I’ve dethroned any of you, but I can look at a pile of important paperwork all day and not do a thing about it. This is kind of worrisome and will probably complicate my life in the not so near future.
- Some days I’m not outwardly sad at all. I’m actually optimistic and in a pretty good mood (I’m trying really hard to always be pleasant even if it doesn’t seem like it). I feel like I’m splitting apart at the seams into two different people (don’t worry, there’s plenty of me to go around and my nickname in high school was Sybil).
- Grief crops up at weird, weird times. Like, it’s not bothering me right now as we have to move some of dad’s belongings to make room for our stuff (we’ve moved into his house), but then I’ll look at a dish I gave him when I was eight and I can replay the whole birthday scene in my head and it always ends in tears.
- On most days I’ve got myself pretty convinced he’s coming back. He’s just on a mission trip. No biggie. This worries me because there’s paperwork stuff I’m probably supposed to be doing, but I’m in la la land.
- I think he’s appearing to me in dreams. I’m carrying on conversations with him and I don’t want them to stop. I wonder if I’m losing my mind. I wonder if I should care. Right now I don’t care and that concerns me a little. I can totally get why some people go around the bend and just never come back. I’m looking at that bend longingly.
- We had a really nice Christmas here. We decorated the house, put up a rather beautiful tree, baked cookies and have been playing Christmas music non-stop for weeks. I was singularly focused on making sure the kids had a nice holiday and for the most part I have been truly happy. Except for when I’m not. I honestly don’t want my dad to suffer with the grave health issues he had, so of course I’m happy he’s not in pain anymore. And then I cry some more and feel guilty for not being miserable over Christmas. But I know for a fact he wouldn’t any of us to walk around all mopey and down. In fact he’d tell me to snap out of it and to stop feeling sorry for myself. So I don’t for the most part. And then I feel guilty for being happy over Christmas.
- I had no idea until all this happened how life changing and life giving it would be for people to reach out and say they were praying for me or thinking of me during this time. All of the good wishes and prayers have literally kept me afloat. Just knowing someone takes the two minutes to drop me a note to say they’re thinking of me bolsters my resolve for a few more hours. It’s amazing. We all need each other more than words can adequately describe and I will from here on out always try to be there for a friend.
- I’m amazed at how social media is cheering me up. Everybody rails against it as being faceless, shallow and how everyone is completely two faced in their postings. But checking in on my friends who have similar interests is doing a lot to keep me focused on positive things. It’s just so true that everyone out there is battling something. Social media is helping me not wallow.
- Grief is tricky. One minute I’m reasonably happy and optimistic and then the next minute I feel a crushing pressure on my chest and I can’t breathe.
- Life truly does go on. The sun came up the very next morning and it has every day since then. I have a tremendous number of things to be thankful for. God IS good. He IS seeing us through this, and certainly me. My job right now is to take care of my family and make sure they weather this season okay. And I want to be positive in someone else’s life too. I don’t want to be “Debbie Downer”, but I do want to be real. It’s very, very tricky and and I’m exhausted from it by the end of the day, but sleep eludes me.
- Despite all this, life is good. It really is. I have a lot to live for and much to be thankful for. Last week our daughter said she had a dream about building a plasma cutter (duh—isn’t that what all 15 year old girls dream about?) and so she built one. I see what you did there, Dad (insert big, hot ugly tears here). You did good. She is amazing and wonderful (she is, as she always been a mini you) and she is missing you far more than I can fathom. Please keep talking to her and encouraging her brilliance. You have always been her rudder. Now she needs you to be her wind.
Life spoiler alert: We never get to choose our circumstances. It sounds like something you’d see on a Blue Mountain Arts greeting card painted in calming blue watercolors. There would be a brook or a stream cutting through a fresh Spring meadow with a jagged mountain range in the background, and if by magic by reading the card, you’d feel better about some aspects of your life. I’d like to shred that card into a thousand bits and then set it on fire.
Well that just screams “Please read the rest of this blog NOW!”, doesn’t it?
Sorry, just having one of those all too frequent “real moments” there. Our family is in the process of moving, again. Another big move out of state, which we have now done about every three and a half years since 2005 (spoiler alert: I have no idea why, so don’t look for the answer to that question in this installment, and I have a feeling I won’t know until I reach heaven, and by then I’ll be too exhausted to care or ask). The circumstances could not be more sucky (I know serious writers would never use that term in a blog…..just wanted to throw that out there in case you thought I had any writing skill whatsoever), but overall I know the move is going to be good.
The circumstance that brought us to this decision is that my dad died last month. 47 days ago to be exact. 47 grueling, horrifically painful with-no-end-in-sight days ago. It was not expected. What was expected is that I was to fly up to see him before he went to the hospital for a heart procedure and then I was to stay for a couple of weeks while he began his journey of recuperation. Instead, on the day I was to have flown back home to my family, my family was with me at my dad’s church as I hosted his memorial service. He died the night before the operation had originally been scheduled. I don’t care how many brain cells you have left, there’s nothing under the sun, around the sun, or beyond the sun to prepare you for that black hole. But it happened. My dad changed his residence to heaven, and while I couldn’t be happier for his location, there are no adequate words to describe the depths of my sadness as to his timing. His (the big “H”) timing and his timing.
So here we are, preparing to move. After my dad retired as a hardware engineer for a major American computer hardware company, he became a missionary. As I was launching my career in radio after college, he launched his career in the service of others. He helped install wells and water systems in Guatemala after a horrific earthquake, he did the same thing in Chile, he traveled to the dumps in Mexico to hand out much needed supplies to the thousands of families who live there, dug wells in Papua New Guinea, helped build the YWAM base in Kona, Hawaii, and helped build a children’s home, school and a Bible college in Chennai, India. There were, and are, other projects around the world, but you get the point, the man was busy. And he loved to help. And we loved that he loved to love to help. My husband and I have been board members of his faith based non profit (His Truth Ministries) since its inception and are very grateful for all the work my dad did around the world right up until he passed away.
Because of the nature of the work and how his organization has operated in the past (including its current very large project near HTM headquarters), we believe it’s best for us to relocate to the ministry’s headquarters in the Pacific Northwest. His Truth Ministries has a history of being “boots on the ground” and helping a variety of local organizations in practical ways, and we want to continue my dad’s work. We may not be able to match his energy level, but at least we’ll be on the same road as he was. So, off we go.
Aside from the obvious task of working through our grief, we are really looking forward to this new challenge of heading up the ministry and carrying on my dad’s amazing legacy. We are believing God for more good things, more opportunities to serve, more ways to have an impact on our community, and more relationships where we can show people how God wants us to be free. It wasn’t that long ago that both my husband and I were completely miserable and bound up in self-hatred, shame, guilt, toxic sin, and were just generally miserable, so nothing on the earth energizes us more than helping people in practical ways and serving people right where they’re at. Jesus didn’t come to earth to give the world a new religion, He came to give us life and set us free:
John 10:10(ESV) The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly”.
We definitely do not have all the answers, and we clearly don’t have a clue as to how all the details of our future are going to play out, but we do know the One who does. And for today that’s enough.
We hope you join us in this new journey. You can find His Truth Ministries on Facebook at http://His Truth Ministries and we hope to have an Instagram account up and running in the near future. Please continue to hold our family in your prayers. Losing my dad has been very difficult for all of us (just when I think I can’t cry anymore, I start crying again. Rinse and repeat). Our daughter (who is more like him everyday) has lost her buddy, her walking encyclopedia, her sounding board, her all-things-conversant-about-different-dimensions-in-the-universe guy, and she is not looking forward to leaving her friends here (despite the fact that we tell her that when her dad and I were her age we only had smoke signals with which to communicate with other tribes across the land, while she has vast (albeit some scary) choices via social media). We are praying for God’s direction in everything we are considering doing and we greatly appreciate you praying with us and over us. We need it.
Leaving is never easy, and I’ve yet to master the graceful exit, so we hope to stay in contact with as many of you as possible and hope you know that this is not goodbye, it’s just “see you later”.
P.S. As I was sitting here contemplating the title for this post (and I’m still not happy with it), I looked up today’s verse on my Bible app on my phone. It’s too good not to share:
Psalm 59:16 (AMP) But I will sing of Your mighty strength and power; yes, I will sing aloud of Your mercy and loving-kindness in the morning; for You have been to me a defense (a fortress and a high tower) and a refuge in the day of my distress.
(Originally written on our son Hayden’s 17th birthday, August 31, 2015, but not posted till September 20, 2015)
You are 17 today and I can’t help but think what a journey we’ve been on so far. We’ve taken roads I hadn’t expected, and some I would have never chosen for you, but you have been the most gracious, the bravest, and the best tour guide we could have ever asked for.
Because of you we have learned what friendship was; before you my relationships were pretty shallow. You have taught me that true friends can see me for who I am and encourage me to be better all the while never judging me on superficial things like how nice my house is, or what I do for a living. Our true friends have been in love with you and have been your biggest cheerleaders since they first laid eyes on you, whether it was when you were born, or when they’ve met you as you’ve grown older. You have an infectious way of winning people over.
Because of you Dad and I grew up a few decades and decided what kind of a marriage we really wanted. We’ve worked hard to unburden ourselves of the selfishness and the pettiness that plagued us both early on. You’ve taught us that we need to be the very best versions of ourselves in order to love you more deeply and to advocate for you and your sister more effectively.
Because of you I can spot broken and hurting people a mile away. You have a way of finding people in a crowd, whether it’s a grocery store, a concert, or the library and you touch them. You’ve taught me how to give people grace.
Because of you I love more deeply than I could have ever imagined. There is literally nothing I won’t do on your behalf. I have an inner resolve that won’t quit because you won’t quit.
Because of you I no longer judge people based on outward appearances or their accomplishments. I know the unending power of the human spirit because you show us repeatedly that you will never ever give up. You battle back from surgeries, you fight to regain lost skills from seizures, and you never quit.
Because of you I smile more. We sing everywhere we go and I am a better person for it. Doing life with you, while not always a trip through the tulips, adds to the storehouse of happy memories.
Because of you I have a much better definition of what it means to be a successful human being. Is it the person who has the Ph.D.? Not necessarily. Is it the person who runs a worldwide foundation and touches thousands of lives? Maybe, but that’s not a guarantee of true success. Because of you I’ve learned that life well lived isn’t about accomplishments, it’s about doing the very best you can with what you have, whether it’s how much physical strength you have that day, or whether the muscles in your mouth will cooperate to form a particular word that day. You just do your best.
Because of you I have met some the highest quality people I could ever imagine: people who didn’t take no for an answer when they tried to enroll their child in the local Kindergarten class and ended up taking the school district to their State Supreme Court and winning, a single mom who spearheaded a state wide campaign to force on the of the biggest health insurance companies in the country to start providing therapies to children with autism, and the list goes on. Because of you I now see all people as having equal rights to have the opportunity to be the best they can be, no matter what the obstacle.
In America Mother’s Day, which is a week from this Sunday, is kind of a big deal, no doubt driven by the greeting card companies, florists and major retailers. That’s not to say that I don’t think mothers (where ever you are in the world) shouldn’t be honored and celebrated that day. And from a purely mother’s perspective I am totally looking forward to Mother’s Day, although I really don’t need a “day” to celebrate or mark that I am a mom. I truly love being a mom and I thoroughly like and love my kids. But it gets tricky when I think of my relationship with my own mother.
This is not an easy blog entry for me to write because I have to admit that for reasons I absolutely do not comprehend my mother despises me. There, I said it. She sounds EXTREMELY irritated when I call, and basically refuses to even speak unless I ask her very specific questions, to the point that I just don’t call anymore. I got the message loud and clear. When I see her on FB and try to strike up a conversation I get one word answers in return. When I sent her the link to my latest project (a podcast series) and then followed up with asking her if she had seen it yet, she said she hadn’t and then when I tried to explain the ins and outs of following the link I sent her, she refused to follow it and got snippy with me. Okaaaay. And all of this sounds SO flippin’ pathetic. I’m the poor grown up little girl with “mommy issues”. Yuck. Turns my stomach to even write this stuff because of how it looks. But I’m not airing my dirty laundry to garner sympathy. What good would that do? None. I know I’m not the only out there has a “difficult” relationship with her mom. I hope that if you’re out there reading this and it’s not all sunshine and roses with your mom (no matter how old you are, you still need your mom) you can know after reading this that you’re not alone and that sometimes stuff just happens that you can’t fix or even explain in 25 words or less. Our relationship has been “complicated” for as long as I can remember: me, looking exactly like my father; a man whom she despised with every fiber of her being while I was growing up, and she let me know it in no uncertain terms on numerous occasions (a note to anyone reading this who is divorced: NEVER, EVER badmouth your ex anywhere near your children, it absolutely scars them). And yet I know now that it wasn’t me she hated. She hated herself (for reasons and situations that were far before my time) and was hurting in far deeper ways than my childish mind and heart could either understand or heal. God knows I would have waved my magic wand a thousand times if I could have made our lives together more pleasant (I lived with my mom and saw my dad on the weekends). When I became an adult I continued to try to connect with her and continued to strive to be the most perfect human being I could imagine in on-going futile efforts to gain her acceptance.
Fast forward a few years: grandchildren have been on the scene (they’re 16 & 15) and she’s shown no interest in having a relationship with them. Our kids do have special needs, so whatever relationship she would have had with them wouldn’t look like other grandma/grandchildren relationships, but it could be something, and something’s better than nothing, right? When my son was 7 she called to tell me that based on a television talk show she had seen she felt he was autistic. Up to this point she had seen our son twice in his life. I honestly thought she was joking, so I laughed. When I realized she was earnestly trying to diagnosis him from across the country I tried to explain the many facets of autism (as I understood them at the time) and that while our son definitely had some of the behaviors you might see in a non verbal child with autism, that didn’t necessarily mean he was autistic. She didn’t talk to me for two years after that. (Ironically it was our daughter who was diagnosed as being on the spectrum the following month after that phone call.)
A couple of years ago I saw on her FB page she was engaged. I called to congratulate her and she lit into me for 45 minutes about what a screw up I was (am). I only know her new husband’s name and I never got an invitation to the wedding. So she’s pissed. I get that. I still have no idea what I’ve done. So where do I go from here? I think I lay down my entitlements to know “why” she despises me. I think I just accept that she needs to hate someone and that target is still me. Well hey, as the only child I guess I should relish my perpetual starring roll, even if it is in a play I not only had no part in writing but also have no desire to continue to star in, right?
There’s less than no chance she’ll read this, and that’s fine. But if unicorns jump over rainbows and you do see this Mom, please know that I do love you. I don’t want anything from you. I’m not here to take anything from you, I’m just here. Happy Mother’s Day.