Procrastination:  to put off intentionally the doing of something that should be done.

I used to be a world-class procrastinator.  “I’ll put that off until tomorrow…I can put that load of laundry in the dryer in the morning….let’s wait to pay that bill till the 10th of the month…..”  You get the idea. 

But since becoming a widow almost one year ago to the date, I’ve reinvented myself.  There are new habits, a new attitude, a moving from introvert to extrovert, from loving wife/2nd in command to bread winner/1st in command.  My procrastinating days, I thought, were behind me.

So, if that’s true, why can’t I bring myself to pack my suitcase for my Kansas trip tomorrow?  The boys have their things together.  My stuff is piled all over the bedroom, suitcases partially filled with leftovers from my KY/NC trip last week.  Folded clean clothes cover the bed.  I know what I need to do….I just cannot bring myself to do it.  WHY?

I know why.  Somewhere, deep within my soul, I would rather not go.  I’ve been dreading the one year observation of Mark’s death for months now.  No place would be easy for me to be on July 30th.  But being on the land that he loved, that was supposed to be our home in a mere year?  It is cruel, ironic, and sad, all wrapped up in a neat tidy package of “I don’t want to face the facts.” 

He had a deep, intense love affair with Kansas.  Good thing I wasn ‘t the jealous type 🙂  The land that has been in his family’s name for well over 100 years is breathtakingly beautiful.  It’s planted with native grasses.  It has a pond on it.  He had so many meticulous plans for us there.  And it’s hard to let those dreams go. 

Oh, I’ve tried.  I have emptied my hands and my heart of those plans, and I have surrendered my life and the lives of my boys to God.  Where God wants us to go, we’ll go.  What God wants me to do, I’ll do.  What God wants me to say, I’ll try to say.  But God, do You really need me to be in the place he loved most on this earth on the day that hurts me the most?

If I just don’t pack, I can stay here, right?  If I stick my head in the sand, just like the ostrich I used to be, can I pretend that I haven’t lost the love of my life, the father of my two boys?  If I close my eyes and listen really really closely, I can still hear the sound of his voice, the lilt in his laugh.  I can see his eyes look at me with more love than I ever deserved.  I can picture him on the floor of our den, wrestling with his sons, with squeals of laughter radiating from our home.

Lord, I really don’t think I can do this.  The last time we were at the farm was Thanksgiving.  It was a tough trip.  I want to crawl into bed and pull the covers over my head until July 31st.  Then, the first year will be history, and maybe, just maybe, I can turn the page and close the chapter. 

I’m surprised at the hot, bitter tears that trail down my face today.  I’ve been doing pretty good these past few months.  But all of the memories of a year ago come stampeding through my mind, knocking me off balance.  I had a sure footing just a day or so ago.  Is this normal?  Ha, now that’s a laughable question….if there’s anything I’ve figured out in the past year, there is no normal way to grieve.

In my heart, God has been working to heal me,  as a battle scar forms over the part of my heart that loves Mark.  In some respects, I feel like that part of my heart has closed up, that the doors have been locked.  What I have inside for him will never not be a part of who I am.  Just like my safety deposit box, which holds important papers, vintage baseball cards, and our wedding rings, my heart holds all of the memories and love that we shared. 

I’ve decided that life is just a big test.  It’s not about us.  It’s about how we react to our circumstances, pure and simple.  Life going pretty well?  Then we just glide along, tending to take things for granted.  God may or may not be a part of the puzzle.  But when life isn’t perfect, when things like death and sickness and depression and vindictiveness enter in–that’s when the rubber meets the road.  If you dig in your heels, and grab hold of God’s hand, you’ll weather the storm.  I don’t want to think of the alternative.

I know I have to go to Kansas.  This is not an optional trip.  Mark’s siblings are at the old farmhouse, doing a major sort/reorganization of what Mark’s mom doesn’t need at her new home.  The boys and I need to be with family.  We’ll meet with a realtor, who will manage the house for his mom for renters in the near future.

That means it might be the last time we get to sleep in the drafty old place.  I’ve been travelling there for 25 years, sleeping upstairs whenever it was so cold my antiperspirant froze on the dresser.  It’s been so hot upstairs that a constant fan and open windows didn’t slow down the sweating.  But Mark loved it, every square inch of it.  And because he loved it, I do, as well.

I’ve put off packing long enough.  The tears have dried, at least for the moment.  We’ll take that Toyota truck he was so proud of, and we’ll point it towards north in the morning.  We’ll say a prayer before we leave the driveway, and we will truly use God as our co-pilot.

And whenever July 30th dawns, it will be alright.  It has to be.  I’ll wake up in the home Mark loved so much, and be surrounded by his sons, his siblings, and his mother.  Together we will get through whatever the day has in store. 

This year has been the most difficult of my life.  Yet, in the midst of the difficulties, I have found myself closer to my God than I ever dreamed possible.  I think I will just see how much closer I can get in the next three days. 

If a loved one is nearby, within hugging distance, go right now and tell them how much you love them…what a difference they’ve made in your life….how your life has been better because they are in it.  Don’t waste time disagreeing and procrastinating.

We covet your prayers as we make this journey, both spiritual and physical, to Kansas.  I pray we are ready to turn the page and close the chapter.  I know that God has a new story for us to write.

Wearing God’s armor

I’ve returned from a short blog sabbatical.  Part of it was necessary, given my travels over the past two weeks; part was self-imposed, since it seems like computer time was taking time away from my most important priority–my two boys. 

As the one-year designation approaches since Mark departed this earth for heaven, I’m a bit melancholy and introspective.  Guess I can be allowed that, given the year my boys and I have had.  I look back at the last week of his life, spent in a hospital, where routine surgery went oh-so-wrong, and signs of sepsis didn’t seem to register with either his surgeon (who died of a massive stroke a few weeks after Mark’s death) or the med-surg floor nurses. 

Oh, to be given a time machine, to be able to go back and “fix” what happened.  I would have kept acquaintances from wandering in and out of the ICU whenever he was so sick.  He didn’t want folks to see him looking like that.  Family and pastors only.  That’s all that should have been there.  I failed him by not stopping the influx.  It was the beginning of my not setting boundaries and enforcing them. 

I look back at myself then, a carefree 48 year old married woman, so clueless as to how good she really had it.  She had a loving husband, two remarkable boys, and a pretty perfect existence.  I envy her now.  I envy the tightly-knit, loving family of four, where laughter was served up on a regular basis–where boys and daddy wrestled in the floor practically every night—where I was loved from the top of my head to the soles of my feet by a man who thought me the most beautiful woman in the world. 

All of that changed on the night of July 30, 2011.  That “perfect life” went up in smoke,  and I was left with AJ and Ben, trying to make a plethora of decisions all on my own.  Thank God, I didn’t have to make them alone.

I’m a different person now than I was then.  I’ve grown spiritually, emotionally, and intellectually.  I’ve learned to stand up for myself and my sons, whenever circumstances made me choose between what I knew was best for us and what was enabling someone else.  It’s happened more times than I would’ve ever imagined.  It hasn’t been easy. I haven’t handled some of the situations in question perfectly, and I take full responsibility for the times I’ve been human. 

But isn’t that where God steps in?  In the midst of my bungling and fumbling, when folks make a mountain out of a molehill, when I make decisions that I must make for the safety and continued prosperity of my family, God tells me it is okay.  Even though my methods may be lacking in grace and proper decorum, He knows that my heart is in the right place.  He tells me that it doesn’t matter what is said about me.  It doesn’t matter what people think about me.  What matters is what HE thinks of me. 

I am doing the best that I know how to do.  My family is thriving, even in the midst of the big void in our lives without Mark.  I know Mark is proud of us.  He left a great legacy and big shoes to fill.  No one can ever replace him.  I can only hope to walk the path that he left for us, which is crystal clear.

And as I sit by his graveside on July 30th, telling him all of the accomplishments we’ve made since his death, I know he will be listening.  For he’s been there beside us throughout this whole ordeal.  The boys and I have been listing those accomplishments together.  Whenever you put it to pen and paper, it is really sort of overwhelming. 

We’re making it.  Not perfectly, not 100% gracefully, not without bumps and bruises.  But with Jesus, God, and the Holy Spirit at our sides.  Thank you, God, for your blessed Son, and the Holy Spirit who stays so close beside us–even during the bad times. 

I’m an imperfect person covered by supremely perfect grace. 
 I strive to wear the full armor of God.

“Put on the full armor of God so that you can fight against the devil’s evil tricks.
Our fight is not against people on earth but against the rulers and authorities and the powers of this world’s darkness, against the spiritual powers of evil in the heavenly world. 
That is why you need to put on God’s full armor. 
Then on the day of evil you will be able to stand strong.  And when you have finished the whole fight, you will still be standing. 
 So, stand strong, with the belt of truth tied around your waist and the protection of right living on your chest.
On your feet wear the Good News of peace to help you stand strong. 
And also use the shield of faith with which you can stop all the burning arrows of the Evil One.
Accept God’s salvation as your helmet, and take the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.
Pray in the Spirit at all times with all kinds of prayers, asking for everything you need.
To do this you must always be ready and never give up.”
Ephesians 6:11-17 (NCV)
By the grace and favor of God, my family is laughing again.  We are adapting to being a threesome.  I look at our boys and I love them from the tops of their heads to the soles of their feet.  They are amazing.  I will fight for them.  I will do everything in my power to ensure they are safe, happy, and healthy.  I will continue to depend on God 100%.
God is so very very good!  I can’t wait to see what He has in store for us.  For His plan, it is perfect. 
p.s.  To my pastor, David, and his beautiful wife, Joy….I could not have made it these past weeks without your wonderful counsel, prayers, and wisdom.  I love you both!