I’m jealous…

Subconsciously I’m in turmoil.

Oh I may look calm, put-together, and self-assured on the surface.  I’ve actually become a master (mistress??) of the look.

You know, the look of “normal.”

The look of a person who has moved forward, despite some crappy circumstances.

The look of a person seemingly content to sit at sporting events, cheering on her kid…alone.

The look of “happy-happy-joy-joy” everyone feels more comfortable being around.

I assume the look to avoid what many have said to me:

“Aren’t you over that yet?” 

“Why don’t you move on?”

“It’s time to let it go.”

You don’t “get over” the loss of a spouse to death.

You don’t “move on” in life.  You can, however, “move forward,” and my family is living proof that can be done.

Let it go?

You’re kidding me, right?

For over two thousand days (2,061 to be exact), I have awakened as a widow.

No matter how wonderful those days may have been (and there have been many more good days than bad), that simple fact remains.

I. Am. A. Widow.

My sons awaken to the realization they are still orphans (Biblical definition: fatherless).

And while we’ve made a new life, one that incorporates the best of their dad’s legacy while still moving forward, they are missing out. Big time.

Today, it hits me like a ton of bricks–my subconscious turmoil is jealousy.

I am jealous.

I am jealous of two-parent households.

I am jealous of kids who have their dads cheering them on from the stands, offering batting stance tips and advice on fielding.

I am jealous of women who awaken as wives, their husbands snuggled in close beside them in their beds.

I am jealous of extended families who make themselves available to help one another with what to me are logistical nightmares at times.

My sons have me.  Period.

Uncles, aunts, and two cousins live states away, as do both grandmothers.

Questions about sex, dating, shaving, and peer pressure?  Fall to me.

Teaching them to drive?  Me.

And while I look all calm and pulled together on the surface, I’m like those ducks you see on ponds, gliding along beautifully—underneath that calm, under water? They’re paddling like crazy.

I’m paddling like crazy to maintain the beautiful glide.

I’m also working on this green-eyed monster, ’cause it doesn’t jive with the whole being a Christian thing.

Naming it and claiming it are good first steps.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Savoring the sweet….

In this roller coaster ride called life, you’ve got to savor the sweet.

There will be sour, dour, unhappy times–of this you can be sure.  Some folks seem to get more than their fair share of the unhappy, which makes the happy & sweet even more precious to behold.

Every once in awhile, God gives me a glimpse of the bigger picture, one that I have cursed, cried about, begged to have taken from me numerous times in the past almost-six years.

I didn’t want to be a solo parent.

I didn’t want two little boys to be without their daddy.

I didn’t want to learn how to mow the lawn, weed-eat, take the vehicles for oil changes, inspections, and registrations.

I didn’t want to be responsible for making every adult decision in my household.

I didn’t want to even tend the garden out in front of my house.

And that’s just the few things I came up with, right now, off the top of my head.  Heaven knows there are hundreds more.

I still remember the first time I was given a respite, where God, in all His glory, gave me a few moments of peace in the first few months of this gig I have now embraced (if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em).  I was waiting for my boys to come out from their elementary school.  It was a lovely, bright spring day.

I sat at an old picnic table, way past its prime at the time.  There was no one else around.  The wind was blowing slightly, rustling the new leaves in the huge trees above me.  The sun lazily peeked through them; birds were going about their business of courtship, with lovely tunes filling the air.

In that moment, all my worries and sadness slipped away.  I felt content. I felt peace.  I knew my boys and I were going to make it.

That moment lasted maybe 30 seconds.  But it was exactly what I needed to keep plodding along.

There have been other similar moments throughout the past few years, but the first one will always be memorable.

Yesterday, God gave me another.

The eighth grader gets picked up from school first, so we have about 10 minutes of alone time, just the two of us, while heading to the high school to retrieve the freshman & two of his friends.

Some days, we just have small talk.  Some days, we don’t say much at all.  Still on others, we jam to music, singing along if the tune’s worthy of our pipes.

Yesterday, though, Ben clearly had something he wanted to share.

“Mom, I’m really glad you don’t have to work out of town, or crazy shifts, where we wouldn’t get to see you.”

Ben, so am I.  Your daddy and I worked long and hard–we are so very fortunate that I am able to be here for you and your brother.  Many parents don’t get that opportunity.

When I probe a bit further, I find he’s worried about a fellow student.  A student with both parents living.  One works nights, the other, days.  This kid rarely ever sees the one parent, who is either sleeping most of the time the kid isn’t, or when not sleeping seems to have priorities other than family time.

My kid, the one who lost his dad at age 8, is putting himself in another person’s shoes.

“Mom, I feel sorry for him.  I know that he has both his parents.  And I really miss Dad.  But I want to tell you, you’re like having two parents.  You do it all.”

I’m like having two parents. 

That is, most likely, the sweetest sentence I have heard in years, outside of “I love you.”

He’s being all matter-of-fact.  And I just lose it, right there on Kemp Boulevard, next to Applebee’s, in the midst of after-school traffic.

Tears.  Nose running. Laughing and smiling.

“Ben, you’ll never know how much that means to me.  You’ve made my week.  You very well made my month!”

God, once again, knew what I needed whenever I didn’t have a clue.  A spring-time glimpse into the bigger picture.

A picture that evidently includes two empathetic, loving young men, developing beautifully in spite of the fact their dad is in heaven.

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#thanksGod

 

 

Finding a lost love

My fifteen year old is the sports guy of the family.  His dad bought a t-ball set up when our boy was barely 16 months old.  My father, who only lived to see his grandsons at ages 2 and 8 months (a sad thing, too, I know), lived long enough to be amazed at the strength and accuracy his oldest grandson could throw a baseball.

The boy’s daddy grew up loving sports, especially baseball, so theirs was a match made in heaven.

From the time the little boy could play organized baseball, he did just that–with his daddy alongside him as a team coach.  They went everywhere together, the two practically joined at the hip.  Practices, games, pitching, catching, and batting in our expansive 1/2 acre backyard—it was all so very good for many years.

Until his daddy died.  AJ was 9, his little brother barely 8, in 2011.  Baseball was suddenly very painful for us all.  I’ll never forget that first drive to the Little League fields, where my nine year old was trying out for fall league–without his biggest fan beside him.  With two different coaches wanting him on their respective teams, my kid prayed about it.  He came to the conclusion that the coach most like his dad, belief-wise, was the right choice.

He continued to play ball.  We even went to a World Series game in the fall of that year, because our beloved Texas Rangers were playing mine and Mark’s favorite childhood team, the St. Louis Cardinals.  Stepping into that stadium without his dad was hard, too.

We adjust our sails to weather the “hards” we encounter.  They simply became too numerous to keep track of.

And somewhere along the way, the boy begin to lose his love for America’s game.  He began to love basketball and found out he’s pretty darn good at that, too.

Basketball became his primary focus.  Baseball, a game he played in summer on a YMCA league team with friends just for fun.

Then high school happened.

The stakes are much different at this level.

He earned his rightful place in the starting five of the freshman basketball team.  It was a fun season to witness.

Basketball season ended and he decided to try freshman baseball.

The first day after practice, I could tell he was frustrated.  The team, shall we say, needed a lot of work.  And for better or for worse, the kid got my gene for impatience.

He was ready to quit.  “Mom, I just don’t have the love for the game anymore.  Ever since Dad died, it’s been a struggle.  I go out to play without him.  I don’t watch it on television anymore, that’s something he and I did together.  I don’t think it’s my game anymore.”

I take part of the blame for his falling away from the game.  We don’t make the pilgrimage to Arlington to watch the Rangers play anymore.  If there’s something else on TV, we don’t watch MLB.

But Howells aren’t quitters, I gently remind him.  “I know it’s hard right now.  Please give it a chance.  You’ve committed to play, people are depending on you. Get through the season…who knows? Maybe you’ll find that love again.”

He begrudgingly agreed.

I won’t lie, the first game he played, the first at-bat he had, as a freshman? My heart was in my throat.

It wasn’t pretty.  In fact, it was darn ugly–the score? 18-0.

The one bright spot was his triple.  When that dinger went long, my heart slipped down out of my throat and damn near beat out of my chest 🙂

He’s most always played first base, but was in center field. He complained of boredom, standing around in the outfield while our pitching struggled.  I didn’t have any answers, just letting him vocalize his frustrations.

The next game was a bit better, they “only” lost by 7.  A couple of base hits, including another triple, switching from playing center to short stop later in the game.  His mood?  A tad lighter.

Yesterday’s game was in a neighboring small town.  I made the drive over, praying that he would use his abilities for the glory of God and have a little fun in the process.

At bat? A triple, base hit, a walk, a run scored and a RBI.  Starting out in left field, he moved back to first base quickly.  It looked like the boy was back at home.  We lost 4-3, errors lost the game.

I hugged him after the game, then drove back to the high school, waiting for the bus to bring the team home.

He piled into the car, tired but with a twinkle in his eye.

“Mom, I’m beginning to remember how much I loved the game.  I’m starting to enjoy myself.  And Dad? He’s there with me, I can feel him.”

“Basketball’s still number one with me, but I think this is going to be okay.”

Says the boy who was asked by the head coach to move up to junior varsity just yesterday. He’ll play for both teams, which means Mama will be driving to the Metroplex quite a lot the next month and a half.

But it’s all good.

He’s rekindled his love for America’s game, and I am so very grateful.

They say “time heals”….that’s a crock.  Time will never heal the void of two young men missing their extraordinary daddy.

Time softens.  Time gives perspective.  Time allows you to get used to a normal you never asked for.

And God alone heals.

ajburk

A random act of kindness…on Valentine’s Day

This was destined to be another low-key holiday, similar to most any other day in my household. At least for the past few years, since we’ve left elementary school behind, Valentine’s Day is just another day.

No more school parties overrun with cupcakes, candy, hand-decorated shoe boxes, and valentine cards. I miss watching boys painstakingly choose and address cards to each classmate, using an official homeroom roster as guide.

I even miss the inevitable sugar rush that followed school dismissal, along with excitement shared over the loot received.
Thus far our family has been a “girlfriend-free” zone. We’ve stood fifteen years without any relationship drama—I’m betting this is the last Valentine’s Day I can claim such a distinction.

With a freshman and an eighth grader, it’s not a matter of “if,” but “when” they begin the pursuit of romantic relationships. I haven’t discouraged them, instead encouraging them to wait as long as possible.

Once you dip your toes in the water, there’s no going back. The absence of girls hanging around has just given me a longer run as my sons’ favorite female.
I’m not going to sugarcoat the fact special days such as today are difficult. Guessing they always will be.

I dread this holiday more than most. I would much rather avoid it all together.

Opposed to love and relationships? Nope. Nothing could be further from the truth.
When you’ve had a great love and lost it, whether to death or divorce or some other sort of separation, these days are tough. To armchair therapists, sitting on the sidelines with no personal experience of a love lost, who say time heals, I emphatically call “hogwash.”

Healing occurs, but it leaves behind a scar.

It’s a constant reminder of what you had.

Add in non-stop Valentine’s ads for jewelry, candy, flowers, alongside seemingly-perfect couples and you can see where I’m coming from.

Last Friday, I drove to Denison, Texas, to watch my freshman’s basketball game. He has my promise I will never miss being courtside nor in the stands when he is playing.

So far I’ve kept my end of the bargain; I plan on continuing throughout his high school career. The extended drive time gives me ample opportunity to think. And listen to music non-stop.

That can be a problem whenever you’re missing a special someone, the person who used to do all the driving. And made all big family decisions seem like child’s play.

All that, coupled with the approaching holiday, got me feeling pretty low.

I won’t lie, tears flow most of the way home.

The younger son comforts me the best he can. We make it home safely, even with the crying, nose blowing, and snorting.

Anticipating a delivery of a much-needed laptop briefcase that day, I walk around to our front door from the garage.

In the fuzzy glow of the street light, I can see my package, but also glimpse something else.

The distinct outline of flowers.
A beautiful nosegay of roses and gerbera daisies waits, along with a note and envelope.

flowers

I can hardly believe my eyes.

A closer inspection under indoor lighting gives me pause—there’s no name.

The sweet note explains this is a Valentine’s Day random act of kindness; I am the first person who came to this person’s mind. Their words touch me deeply. A spa pedicure certificate is also attached.
On a day when I feel alone and somewhat unlovable, I get an unexpected gift—from a person I can’t even properly thank due to their anonymity.

They may never know how their gesture threw a life preserver to me in the midst of a sea of Valentine sensory overload.

If you’re responsible for my surprise, thank you from the bottom of my heart.

You have singlehandedly restored my faith in the intrinsic kindness of people.

My wish is for everyone—single, unattached, or otherwise—to experience the same. I will most definitely be paying it forward.

Happy Valentine’s Day.

 

The devil’s NOT in my details…

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I spent this past weekend in bed.

Crippled by a stomach virus that had me running the Texas two-step, unable to keep any liquids down, I was a mess.

I hate being sick for many reasons, not the least of which is I’m a terrible patient.  As solo parent, there’s no one to pass the baton to for daily responsibilities of home and family.  The blessing (if there can be a blessing in this situation) was that it was the weekend.  We had no where we had to be.  No school, no athletic events, just an absence from church.

The hardest part for my family is the fear I see in my sons’ eyes whenever I’m under the weather like this.

I’m supposed to be Superwoman, “I am woman hear me roar,” a badass that can leap tall buildings in a single bound (at least in the eyes of two teenagers).

But when I’m a pale incoherent puddle, barely able to get out of bed to go to the bathroom, unable to speak in complete sentences, much less roar, it is terribly difficult for AJ and Ben.

I reassure them it is “just” a virus.

I tell them I will be fine.

Although they try to believe me, they’ve seen similar circumstances before.  A daddy tells them he’s going in for “routine” surgery but never comes home.  I write this not for sympathy nor empathy–it’s been 5 1/2 years and will always be an integral part of our lives.  Many of our decisions and beliefs and ideas about living and dying have been shaped by this loss.

As I lay, unable to sleep, unable to eat or drink, dreading the night because I know it will be excruciatingly long, my mind wanders.

Call it fever, or weakened immune system, or a mind unable to process any coherent thought, but I was tortured.  By doubts.

Doubts that bubbled to the surface.

I heard, “You’re not good enough to be in charge of this family.  Who do you think you are?”

“What a joke–you think you have your life together?  You’re just going through the motions, everyone sees through the smoke and mirrors.”

“How are you going to afford to send two boys to college as a single parent?”

“What the heck were you thinking, building a cabin in Kansas, two states away.  You must be nuts!”

—and those are just a few of the doubts and thoughts racing through my mind on continuous play for what seemed like an eternity.

I cried out for help and my boys came running.  I assured them I was calling out for God, not them (and that probably really freaked them out.)

Satan took this most perfect opportunity to hit “Superwoman” when she was down.

It was the hardest singular night I’ve had since the day Mark died.

I prayed, the best I could in my dehydrated semi-crazy state, over and over for relief and shelter.

The next morning I was better and could see things more clearly.  Those statements the devil threw in my face are all decisions I made after careful deliberation and prayer.  I remain steadfast and confident in them.  With God, I am enough.

When I was able, I grabbed a Bible and went to my favorite book, James.  These words comforted me:

If you need wisdom, ask our generous God, and he will give it to you. He will not rebuke you for asking.

But when you ask him, be sure that your faith is in God alone. Do not waver, for a person with divided loyalty is as unsettled as a wave of the sea that is blown and tossed by the wind.

Such people should not expect to receive anything from the Lord.

Their loyalty is divided between God and the world, and they are unstable in everything they do.

 James 1:5-8 (NLT)

Do I still have doubts?

Sure, because I’m human.  I have a lot of irons in the fire.  I’m pulled in a dozen different directions on any given day.

I miss my help mate taking care of me when I am too sick to take care of myself.

I try not to worry about tomorrow because I know God is already there.  I have assurance that He will make our paths straight so we can use our lives for His glory. I trust that He will provide for my family as our needs come down the pike.

I will continue to ask for wisdom.

Without wavering or doubting.

According to James, if I waver I should not expect to receive ANYTHING from the Lord.

I don’t know about you, but I need me lots of good stuff from the Lord.  For my sons.  My larger family.  My sometimes-lonely heart.  My community and my nation.

So the devil is no longer welcome in my details.

I’m leaving my details where they should’ve been all along—at the feet of Jesus.

p.s.  Two teenagers can make it all weekend on pizza delivery, peanut butter sandwiches, Pepsi, and assorted snacks.  On-line pizza ordering, evidently, is a breeze with Mom’s credit card.  How’s that for thriving, Satan?

 

*thanks to hersword.com for the beautiful image above*

Breaking up is hard to do….

It’s not you, it’s me.

I have watched as this Presidential election has pitted friend against friend and divided families.

For the most part, my family has tried to stay above the fray, not using social media for anything except positive posts, family photos for the grandmas, and dog/cat logs.

But this morning, things are different.

I thought things would be better on November 9th.

My social media newsfeeds tell me otherwise.

Never one to stick my head in the sand (found out a bit over five years ago that doesn’t work–believe me, I tried!), I have decided I have outgrown social media.

It’s lost the intended purpose for which it was created–a way to stay in touch, a way to share joys and concerns, a way for my sons’ family members living far away to see how much they’ve grown and matured.

So I’m breaking up with you, Facebook.

It’s been real, Twitter.

Except for the occasional grandson picture for Mary Ellen & Sandra, and cross-posting of my blog (which I have greatly neglected BECAUSE of social media), I am done.

Finished.  Stick a fork in me.

For those of you who have not subscribed to my blog, please do so, because here and only here you are going to get me, the real me.  100% of who I am.

Some of you, after reading future posts may decide to unsubscribe 🙂

I’m just a widow, raising two sons, instilling in them a sense of justice, to be colorblind when it comes to skin tone (all souls are the same color, don’t you know?).

They’ll treat women with the respect they deserve, as equals, capable of achieving anything–they see a strong woman leading their family, after all, which is a humbling realization for this left handed girl from Western Kentucky.

They don’t see nationality, gender, religion or lack thereof.  They will treat each and every person as if they have worth–because they DO.

I’m going back to my first love, blogging and writing.  Facebook has been a sorry substitute for what God has called me to do. I’ve spent way too much time staring at a screen, getting my panties in a bunch over crap that doesn’t amount to a hill of beans.  The view on social media is much like a racehorse’s wearing blinders; you don’t get the real picture of what’s going on around you.  You see one path, oblivious to anything and everything else.  In the process, you can become jaded.

Don’t get me wrong, that’s not a bad thing when you’re a racehorse.

But it can be dangerous when you’re a human being. Seeing the whole picture is what sets us apart from the racehorse.

The greatest thing He has called me to do is to love.  A close second is be a positive role model for two teenage young men, who are looking to me today for guidance more than they have in years.  I assure them we’re going to be okay.

So if you’ll excuse me, I have a world to change and boys to raise.

In other words, I have bigger fish to fry than “liking” posts or “retweeting” profound prose.  I am weary of social media.  It’s become a cancer instead of a cure.

In the end, when all is said and done, all we take from this earth is love.

As for me and my house, we will continue to love extravagantly without any stipulations, to feel others’ pains and empathize, and most importantly live large (a favorite saying of my late husband).  The three of us want to take so darn much love with us when we head to heaven that we’ll need extra bags to put it all in 🙂

“It’s not you, it’s me….”  And this breakup is amazingly freeing.

I highly recommend you do the same 🙂

“So these three things remain: faith, hope, and love. But the best one of these is love.” 1 Corinthians 13:13 (GW)

Life is difficult…

Have you ever felt like you’re watching yourself from another vantage point, almost in an “out of  body” experience?

I see myself walking around, going through the motions of life, but remaining detached and unaffected.

This month has paralyzed me.

Certain memories (that I was pretty sure I had processed and moved forward from) have come back with a vengeance.

Unfortunately I’m replaying them all this week, surprised and dismayed at details I thought had long since been forgotten.  Hospital, surgery waiting room, ICU, confused and helpless doctors, ventilators and tubes, codes and crash carts….a daddy looking at two little boys, giving the “I love you” sign to them as they leave his hospital room.  It is their last memory of a strong, handsome, loving, pretty-close-to-perfect father who loved them more than anything on earth besides God (and on most days, me)…

I’m treading water.  Barely.

With God’s help, the boys and I are doing well.  There’s been rebuilding.  And restoration.  We’ve put in the work, but God’s done the healing. The three of us have our feet firmly planted again on solid ground.

Then why do I feel like I’m in quicksand?

I’ve never hidden my emotions from my sons, and they, too, are processing their grief a bit differently this week.

We’ll survive, God promises it.

 

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Through it all, we cling to the realization we aren’t doing this alone.

Next week, we’ll turn the calendars to August and collectively breathe a sigh of relief.

We’ll settle back into a more normal routine.  The bad memories will again get filed away, and we will focus on all the wonderful blessings God has given our family.

I’ll re-inhabit my body and do more than “go through the motions.”

Life is difficult.

Life is beautiful.

Surprisingly, it can be both at the very same time.

We’re living proof.

 

Three little words

Hate.  Bigotry.  Racism.  Refugees.  Bombings.  Hunger.  Homelessness.  Death.  Grief….

The list goes on and on and on.

How does one go about explaining to their children the dire and desperate events going on in our world today?

My sons are intuitive, intelligent, and empathetic.  Nothing much gets past them.

One of the first conversations I had with them after their dad’s death includes this promise:
“No question or circumstance is ever taboo or off the table.  If you have a question or concern, come to me.  I may not know the answer, and if I don’t, I will be perfectly honest and tell you so.  We will search for the answer together.”

I’ve held up my end of the bargain.  In the past four plus years, we’ve broached most every subject imaginable–some easier dealt with than others.  You name it, we talk about it.  With God’s help, I’ve created a safe place for them to fall, somewhere where they feel valued and loved.  Somewhere they can ask the hard questions and get real answers.

But the world events of the past month?  I have no answers for.

The three of us feel suspended in a parallel universe.  One where we’re striving to follow not only God’s words, but also the teachings of His Son.

We’re being bombarded with leaders in both political and religious arenas, spewing hate, fear, and racism, all in the name of Jesus.

The scarier part is the legions of people professing to be Christians hopping on board, right alongside them.

Evidently history is doomed to repeat itself.

Remember the Japanese internment camps inside the United States during World War II?

How about the countless Christians who stood by quietly as they watched their Jewish neighbors be systematically ridiculed, beaten, made homeless, and shipped off to concentration camps during that same period of time?

I don’t have answers for the events now shaping our world.

But God does.

When my 12 year old tells me, “Mom, my generation is pretty much screwed,” how should I reply?

The former pessimist inside would have nodded in agreement.  Praise God she doesn’t live here anymore.

Instead, I tell both he and his older brother that while yes, the circumstances of the world seem dire, they and young people like them have a unique opportunity.  They can be the light, a formidable change in this broken world.

I see the worry etched across his brow ease as my words soothe his soul.

In times such as these, all we can do is keep on keeping on.

Teach your children well.  Spend time with them in God’s word every day.  Pray with them and for them.

On our daily drive to school, I pray over each of them out loud, asking God to envelope them in his arms throughout the day.  I give them to Him as they exit my vehicle.

They leave me with a smile, a light in their eyes that hate and racism and bigotry cannot extinguish.

And the three little words I say, without fail, as they leave?

“Go with God.”

As I receive text messages while at work last week, advising parents of school lock downs as a precaution due to a shooting at a gun shop, I have no worries.  My God is bigger.

While I witness another parent worry, call, and panic over the status of her child, I remain calm.  My God is in control.

In the midst of world chaos, uncertainty, and so many wolves in sheeps’ clothing parading across social media and the political arena, I am resolute.  My God sees through the facade and is taking copious notes.

“Go with God” no matter the circumstances.

“Go with God” no matter what leaders may say.

“Go with God” for peace in the midst of the hurricane of life.

“Go with God” and never settle.

“Go with God” without any stipulations  such as “unless” or “but.”

Take Him with you every second of every day.

Go with God.

 

 

 

 

Waiting for the Lord—or is He waiting for me?

 

markfishingblog

I’m waiting.

Waiting to see how my health insurance coverage will turn out.

Waiting to see if I have to re-enter the workforce full-time after the first of the year, just to acquire insurance for my family.

Waiting to hear back from a book publisher.

Waiting, waiting, waiting.

I feel stuck.  I’m worn.

I’m tired of being chief cook and bottle washer, breadwinner, chauffeur, only parent, landscaping guru, keeper of the vehicles, financial advisor, vacation planner, decision maker—as my father would have said, “jack of all trades, master of none.”

I may look like I’ve got it all together, but this Jesus girl is filled with insecurities about the future.  Heck, I have insecurities about the present.

We made it through the absence of Mark yet again yesterday, on what would have been his 60th birthday.  Five October 25ths without his laugh, his love, his strong hugs, his wisdom, and his physical presence.

It was tough.

For any person reading this still blessed with your significant other, I don’t expect you to get “it.”

“It” will not go away.  (Heaven knows I wish it would at times.)

“It” will not completely heal.

If you think I’m beating a dead horse, so to speak, just do me a favor and quit reading this.  Right now.

Grief is a life-long process for those left behind.

“It” gets better, you heal through the grace of God.

But it’s always there.

If you don’t get it, trust me—someday you will.  For your sake, I hope your “someday” is many, many, many years down the line.

Death is a part of life.

An integral part.

The more I pray about my waiting game, the more I see that waiting for problems such as health insurance coverage, book deals, job possibilities, and the future of my family to be reconciled are trivial.

I should be waiting for the Lord.

He is my problem solver.

He is my portion.

He is enough.

He knows I still cry everyday, at some point, without fail.

He sees how difficult it is to walk into a Sunday School class full of couples, and feel like a fish out of water.

Unfortunately, he hears as I utter a not-so-nice word while trying to crank a self-propelled push mower that will not cooperate.

In one simple verse, the Psalmist David gives me the solution to all my self-imposed problems.

Wait for the LORD.

Be strong.

Take heart.

And wait  

FOR THE LORD.

Psalm 27:14 (NIV)

People will fail to meet my expectations each and every time.

But God?  He fails not.

He doesn’t grow weary.

He doesn’t mind my anger.  He forgives me for saying that curse word over the mower.

He checks in on widows and orphans.  We have a special place in His heart.

He wipes away the hot tears dripping down my face.

He is enough.

If He can bring a dead man back to life, he can most certainly help my family with health insurance.

The photo above is from a series sent to me after Mark’s death.  They document a work trip down the Brazos River several years ago.  I’ve looked at the photos dozens of times, but never noticed this one until now.

All others show a beaming fisheries biologist, doing what he loves and getting paid to do it (how many of us can identify with that?).  His smile lights up every picture.  I needed those.

This photo, however, is a metaphor for my family’s life now.  His back is turned.  He’s got his fishing rod in hand, waders on.  His glorious plan has come to fruition.

At almost 4 1/2 years since his heaven-versary, Mark’s got important things to do.  He knows God has us in the palm of His hand.

In other words, he’s got bigger fish to fry.   And while he is in heaven cheering us on, he knows that God’s got this.

So he can enjoy his happily-ever-after without worries.

His back may be turned, but we’ll never forget his smiling face.

I see it in the increasingly-chiseled features of our 8th grader.  I hear him in the soft wisdom  voiced by our 7th grader.

I feel his hugs while in their strong arms.

I give every trivial, hard, silly, crazy problem to the Lord.

He’s been waiting for me to do it.

I will not be stuck.  I will not be defeated.

I will be strong, take heart, and wait.

For the Lord.

 

 

 

 

Focusing on what you have…

“He is a wise man who does not grieve for the things which he has not, but rejoices for those which he has.” Epictetus

My 13 year old, who lives-breathes-dreams-sleeps basketball (baseball is a close second), is out front, practicing his shots and moves.

After a 3 month ordeal in getting a replacement backboard for our basketball goal (that saga is best saved for another posting), AJ is back in business.  He’s making up for lost time before basketball tryouts at his middle school.

On this occasion, one of the cooler days of late summer, I put aside my “to do” list.  Instead, I pull up a lawn chair in the shade and watch.

Tall I am, but not blessed with the natural athletic abilities he has–I’ve found it much better to sit on the sidelines and cheer him on.

His lanky, increasingly-muscular frame moves gracefully as he dribbles and shoots.  “Nothing but net” from practically every spot he shoots.  Lay ups, hook shots, free throws, 3-pointers—the boy’s got game.  And that’s just not the opinion of a loving mother; I grew up in a family where two uncles played Division 1 college ball (both on full scholarships).  I know game when I see it.

A smile sneaks across my face as I watch him do his thing.

And then I glance at my watch.

It’s 5:17 p.m.

The smile remains, but the tears come.

My son is playing basketball in our front driveway alone.

If his dad were still alive, this would be the exact time his Toyota truck would be turning onto our cul-de-sac.  The boys and I joke we recognized his motor sound.  And instead of slowing down as he turned onto the street, he would punch the accelerator, getting that little silver truck into the garage as soon as possible so he could spend time with his two treasures, Andrew and Ben.

I’m sure I was a close second on his list, but they were more fun to play with.

He should be here.

He should be exiting his vehicle, grabbing the ball from his older son, and taking it to the hoop.

He should be giving him advice on blocking, shot technique, and zone defense.

It’s not fair.

This boy–who picked up a ball before he could crawl, whose first word after “dada” was “ball,”  who got his first t-ball set up at age 1 1/2, his first basketball goal at age 2–needs his father.  So does his younger brother, blessed with a set of talents very different but still amazing.

They don’t get him.

And as AJ continues the dribble, bob and weave, shoot routine, my tears continue to flow.  He glances my direction and immediately comes to my side, asking what’s wrong.

Over the past 4 years our tears have come easily.  We all 3 cry.  Tears, for us, are healing.  For awhile in public I tried to hide them, or explain them away when folks would notice.

No more.

We cry.  We laugh.  We sometimes do it simultaneously.

aj collage for blog

After he finishes up, I search for the photos seen on the left side of this collage.  Mark helping AJ make his first basket on a regulation-sized goal.  He was 20 months old.  On the right, AJ as a 13 year old player.

He may look like he’s alone in these, but both he and I know better.

His dad, although not here in the physical sense, is right alongside him.  He’s whispering advice, giving encouragement, and busting with pride as his mini-me conquers the court and his opponents.

We are called to rejoice for what we have instead of grieving the things we have not.

Life’s not fair.  It’s a gigantic bitter pill our sons had to swallow at ages 8 & 9.

Grief has made them stronger, more resilient, more empathetic, and better people, in spite of their loss—one they will never recover from.  It’s an integral part of their souls.  It’s a big part of who they are, who they will be as adults.

I tell AJ I’d give a million dollars to have his daddy drive up in his truck and join in on the fun.  I don’t have that kind of money, and even if I did, it wouldn’t bring him back.

Instead we have to rejoice for the time we had him.

Moving forward doesn’t mean moving on.  It means living life to the fullest each day, despite great loss.

We’re getting pretty damn good at it.