♪Empty my hands, fill up my heart..♪

Wow.  I just thought I was doing pretty good.  All it took was one minute, rummaging through Mark’s closet, looking for suitcases.  And I was transported once again to the raw, emotional, stifling grief that swallowed me up on July 30th.  Clothes hanging, shoes scattered on the closet floor—tennis shoes, work boots, hunting boots, umpire cleats—all unnecessary now.  A multitude of TPWD shirts, sweatshirts, work shirts.  More Kansas State apparel than we can ever hope to wear, even if the boys grow into them.  Jeans…”dress” ones, work ones, ones designated for hunting only (those are well-worn, with various holes).  Dress clothes and shoes, suits, ties, belts….he looked so handsome in everything!  Meticulously labelled boxes of baseball and football cards.  A microcosm of my man’s existence, right down to the warm robe hanging on the inside hook.

But I had to go in there.  We store suitcases in his closet, because there is no room for such bulk in mine.  Mine is full of clothes, shoes, boots, accessories.  All that I enjoyed wearing.  Now, not so much.  They, like the house full of material items in my home, are just “stuff” to me now.  Losing Mark, seeing all the “stuff” he left behind, has given me a new sense of what’s important, and it’s not the latest sale at JC Penney’s or the mall.  In an instant, you can be gone.  That’s what happened to him.  This wonderful, warm force of nature was taken up to be with God in heaven, and our boys & I are now walking without him leading our family.

The Thanksgiving trip looms ahead, and I am filled with a strange combination of dread, hopefulness, love, anticipation, and fear of the unknown.  Dear Lord, it’s a good thing you love me as I am, because today, I am one heck of a mess.  Dragging out the suitcases, printing off our packing list from the computer (yes, he made a list, so we wouldn’t forget anything important), and trying to figure out what clothes we need to take are overwhelming me. 

And just as I think I can’t do one more thing, I cry out and fall to my knees in my den.  God, please help me.  I know that you are carrying us, but today I think I need an extra squeeze! Immediately, I remember my devotional book, the one given to me by Mark’s angel in the hospital.  I turn back to November 16th, and read it aloud once again:

From Jesus Calling by Sarah Young…
“As you look at the day before you, you see a twisted, complicated path, with branches going off in all directions.  You wonder how you can possibly find your way through that maze.  Then you remember the One who is with you always, holding you by your right hand.  You recall My promise to guide you with My counsel, and you begin to relax.  As you look again at the path ahead, you notice that a peaceful fog has settled over it, obscuring your view.  You can see only a few steps in front of you, so you turn your attention more fully to Me and begin to enjoy My presence.
The fog is a protection for you, calling you back into the present moment.  Although I inhabit all of space and time, you can communicate with Me only here and now.  Someday the fog will no longer be necessary, for you will have learned to keep your focus on Me and on the path just ahead of you.”
Guess I didn’t get the full impact of that the first time I read it.  I needed it again, today.  With my feeble human failings, I may need to read that over and over and over again. 

I don’t know what tomorrow will bring.  There’s at least a dozen different emotions that the boys and I will go through, at varying and various times while we’re in Kansas.  As we step onto the pasture land that is now solely ours, and admire our beautiful native grasses, newly-dug pond, and sign designating the land being farmed by this family for over 100 years, I’m sure I’ll be overwhelmed.  The last time I was on our property, I took a photo of the most glorious sunset, it’s the background of this very blog. 

Our dreams, his dreams, of what was to be?  We have to let them go, at least in the form that they were previously.  One of my new favorite Christian songs, “Empty My Hands,” by Tenth Avenue North, says it much better than I could ever hope:
♪I’ve got voices in my head
And they are so strong
And I’m getting sick of this
Oh Lord, how long will I be haunted by the fear that I believe?
My hands like locks on cages of these dreams I can’t set free
But if I let these dreams die
If I lay down all my wounded pride
If I let these dreams die
Will I find, that letting go lets me come alive?♪

♪(Chorus)So empty my hands
Fill up my heart
Capture my mind with You
Oh, empty my hands
Fill up my heart
Capture my mind with You
With You
With You, Lord♪

♪‘Cause these voices speak instead
What’s right is wrong
And I’m giving into them
Oh please Lord, how long will I be held captive by the lies that I believe?
My heart’s in constant chaos
And it keeps me so deceived
But if I let these dreams die
If I could lay down my dark desire
‘Cause if I let these dreams die
Will I find, You brought me back to life?♪


♪‘Cause my mind is like a building burning down
I need Your grace to keep me
Well keep me from the ground
My heart is just a prisoner of war
A slave to what it wants and to what I’m fighting for
So won’t You..♪


♪With You
I need You now
I need You now Lord
With You
With You
I need You now Lord♪
There will be new dreams.  And I’m quite sure, in some form or fashion, they will involve a home in Kansas.  A second home where my boys and I can find refuge, rest, and enjoy the beauty of the land.  A place where we can gather as a family, enjoying hunting, fishing, and watching spectacular sunrises and sunsets.  Because, you see, in central Kansas, there are no man-made obstructions in your view.  You get to experience God and all His glory in a quiet rural place, and I swear I always feel closer to Him when I’m there. 
Maybe I’m not dreading our trip quite as much as I was earlier.  I see that soft peaceful fog resting over the details.  The only thing that’s unobscured is my empty suitcase.  I can do this.  Thank you, God, for knowing me more intimately than I can ever know myself.  And for loving me in spite of it.

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