Monday, March 31, 2008

I will direct you again to the Grateful for Grace blog...such a wonder to behold. One sweet, precious note...God sent the baby to the same hospital where we said goodbye to Chuck. The first time I went, I cried a bit...so emotional. I think it is so loving and kind...so much like God to give all of us close to Chuck a reason to visit that place with hope and joy...to see a new life...a life that Chuck would have held dear.

That God just out-does himself sometimes.

http://gratefulforgrace.blogspot.com

Sunday, March 30, 2008

It has been a busy few days...lots of miracles...lots of tears. Why do these two things seem to go hand-in-hand?

I have a hard time with the "code thing," but since I'm writing about a friend who codes all names, I will try to emulate that.

I spent the night in the hospital with a dear friend...God did some crazy healing on my part through the experience. My friend gave birth a tad bit early and her baby had to be air-lifted to a big-city hospital. Her husband left to be with the baby...thus, my friend was left sans husband and sans baby. Can you imagine? God was kind and gentle with her...sent friends to stay with her, love her, and make sure she had all she needed. She has been released and is now with her baby and her husband. Hopefully the baby will be ready to go home later this week. To see the bundle o' joy click here: http://gratefulforgrace.blogspot.com/

This was the first time I was able to use the knowledge gained through my time with Chuck in the hospital. There are a bunch of tiny things you don't realize unless you've been through it. It was such a blessing to be able to provide...or find someone who could.

Like being in Hawaii, this experience made me forget Chuck is gone. My first instinct upon leaving the hospital was to call him. I can't really describe the feeling...sorta like he wasn't really gone and he was waiting to get an update...kind of a lapse in reality. It was...neat? Does that make sense?

I praise God for the amazing way he has orchestrated my life...the lives of my friends...into an amazing tapestry...all our experiences feeding into one.

Friday, March 28, 2008

Click here to see God's latest masterpiece!

http://gratefulforgrace.blogspot.com/

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

This, blessedly, has been a good grief week. I have two "grief" sessions on Mondays...the first with the "young widows" at lunch, and the second with my grief group in the evening. This week, both groups brought a GREAT deal of healing.

In the young widows group, we discussed becoming whole on our own...after having been a pair...after having our "other half" ripped away. Since God used Chuck extensively to grow me and heal me, I feel like I have a head start...I remember Chuck's lessons...I hear his advice...he's still very much a part of me as I become my own person. I love that. Chuck has left an indelible mark on me.

We did some role-playing in my evening group. I've come to love that activity...odd as I cannot stand to "pretend in public." I always feel so self-conscious. We were to "speak" for our loved-one...the question was, "What would your loved one say to you about the way you are grieving him or her?" I know EXACTLY what Chuck would say...his hand gestures...how he would pull me into his chest and rub my back..."Oh, Janny, you are doing so great. I am so proud of you, baby. Just look at what you've done. But please, be a little more gentle with yourself...don't push so hard. You are not in a race. Everything will be alright..."

I love that I hear his calming voice when I get overwhelmed...that he is still encouraging me to be a better person...to be more patient with myself...to have faith that God's got everything under control...that I can relax.

Monday, March 24, 2008

I had to share some helpful input from a dear friend. Concerning my time of struggle:

The comfort I have received that I want to remind you of is that our faith is most precious to God when we trust him in the darkness, out of obedience rather than desire. When we agree to hold his hand in our shadow lands, I think he feels a deep sigh of satisfaction that we are CHOOSING to stick with him without any immediate feedback or tangible reward and I sense this stirs his heart to want to show us his love in a renewing, restoring way. I feel a sense of hope for what that will look like and how he will choose to show us his love as we keep plodding along.

In addition, I LOVE Christy's input about questioning our faith...heaven knows I question mine incessantly. Chuck would often say, "Just rest in it a while, Jan. Stop with the squirming already." Alas, it is my nature to poke and prod...to research and study. (I miss Chuck's balancing influence!!) One of the things I appreciate about my faith in Jesus is that he welcomes the poking...but there comes a point when he says...just believe Jan...just trust me...with no proof...jump, I'll catch you.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Sometimes...most times, I am overwhelmed with God's gentle reply to my stubborn heart...my stubborn will. For better or worse, I am a being who sees life through a black and white lens. I am one who does well with a religion (judgements that can be based on behavior...concrete). I struggle with an abstract, living, breathing God who defies the boundaries of what is seen, heard, and felt.

Today church was a gift...a reminder of my part in this crazy thing with this God o' mine...this thing that I cannot grasp with my mind...only with my heart. I must see with my soul...I must JUMP into the unknown in order to reach God.

My part is "simply" to believe in the resurrection of Jesus. I do not have to change my behavior...my thoughts...my actions toward others...all the things I dearly love because I can track my progress. None of this is required of me. I do not have to stop drinking, smoking, cursing, gambling (not that I do those things...just saying). I do not have to "do unto others" in order to be in a relationship with God. I've been so frustrated lately...feeling like I'm on a treadmill of "must do's"...I must die to myself...I must be strong...I must fight the good fight. I must work on my relationships. NOPE.

Paul writes (in I Cor. 15:13), "If there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith." (to which I would have LOVED to have leaned over to Chuck to whisper, "So's your face.")

It's a BIG pill to swallow. Jesus died...easy to believe. Jesus willingly died...still buying it. Jesus died for others...again acceptable. Jesus came back to life. He conquered death, which is the cost of sin. It ALL hinges on this. All of it...if I cannot accept this, my faith is useless. None of the New Testament can be true if Jesus did not really come back to life...Paul was a big fat liar...as was Jesus and ALL the writers of the New Testament. In utter defiance of all that I can see and understand, I jump into the realm of mystery...a world built on promise...hope...faith...and love.


Saturday, March 22, 2008

I keep whispering to God that Easter would be a GREAT time for him to bring me through this barrier of doubt and apathy...me always with a plan...a calendar...my infernal "to-do" list. (Studies show that marking things off a to-do list releases endorphins.) I must confess, I'm at a loss right now. My thinker and my feeler (the feeler being the on I rely on waaaay too much) are in CONFLICT. I know the story of my salvation. I know that my sin separates me from God...and the only way for me to commune with him is through a death, a blood-sacrifice. I know that I have exchanged my life for Christ's...that I am a new creation. Yet my heart feels like a hunk of rock in my chest...no life...no feeling...completely apathetic...and in utter doubt of my need for Jesus and his sacrifice. Yep. I've said it. (I am sooo getting a D- in Christianity 101). And just like in a marriage when the heart turns cold, I have a decision to make. Do I continue to act on my emotion or do I act lovingly...because I'm in a covenant relationship? Do I continue to be kind and gentle toward the one my heart no longer desires? YEP. I've learned enough about my nature to know this...my heart is fickle. "This too shall pass." Until it does, I will love my God...I will speak tenderly to my God...and I know that my heart will turn back to him in time. I will feel the truth again and the truth will set me free. Until then, I presevere in faith....

Friday, March 21, 2008

I've often been disturbed by Jesus' total abandonment on the cross...and his cry, "My God, my God! Why have you forsaken me?" OUCH. Not that I am an expert or anything close to that when it comes to ancient text, but I once heard a sermon on how folks in the olden days referred to passages of scripture. The books of the Bible are neatly ordered for us today...turn to Psalm blankety blank. Back in the day, folks (who basically carried tons of scripture in their heads) would refer to scripture by the first line. Perhaps Jesus was shouting out more than despair? Read Psalm 22, or as Jesus referred to it, "My God, my God! Why have you forsaken me?" pslam and see for yourself. I believe in his despair Jesus was shouting out in hope and faith...leaving us in awe and wonder.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

God is doing some kind of work in me...has been on this one point for several weeks. It all began with the song Marvelous Light. There's a verse that I long to KNOW in my soul..."sin has lost its power, death has lost its sting." Of course, presently every time I sing that verse, I mutter, "Yeah, whatever...stinging pretty painfully if you ask me." And so, I googled the verse "Where oh death is thy sting?" and funny enough I thought it was from Shakespeare! Alas, no, it is in I Corinthians 15:55. And so...I'm reading I Corinthians 15. Nope...still not "feeling" the death has lost its sting business. But God has put it on my heart...to bring me through this barrier of understanding.

Here's the song that inspired it all...Greg's version is my favorite...alas, he does not have it on youtube!

Monday, March 17, 2008

A crazy cool thing happened yesterday at church. Chuck ran the bookstore...and you could often see him parked there in his chair with coffee resting between his knees. That was his place...he was a part of the bookstore. So as we (the kids, Shea, and I) walked by the bookstore, Kilian (who has VERY LITTLE recollection of the real Uncle Chuck) says, "That's where Uncle Chuck used to be." Shea looked at me and I looked at Shea and we both looked at Kilian, "How did you know that?"

I racked my brain...have I ever mentioned that to Kilian? Who knows...but it was pretty nifty.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Shea brought me a bit of sweet reality today. She has the uncanny ability to gently and humbly present truth to me without judging me. The topic at church today was surviving the death of a loved one...I made some kind of "poor me" comment and she kindly replied, "I lost him, too."

WOW. Instantly I thought of that Far Side cartoon portraying what a dog hears when her master is talking to her, "Blah, blah, blah, Ginger. Blah, blah, blah, blah, Ginger." Only it was my blog...my mind...in which all I've been saying is "Blah, blah, blah, ME. Blah, blah, blah, ME."

WOW. Aside from Mom, Dad, Christy, and Tony...it is rare that I think about anyone else's loss...I don't often pray for healing for others...I hardly ever wonder how others are dealing with their grief. WOW.

I thank God for gentle reminders...others miss Chuck, too...others feel his absence keenly...others weep over him. WOW.

Please know this, I am sorry for your loss. I am sorry for not noticing your pain.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Better late than never?? I have been organizing...as spring fast approaches. Here is a marathon pic (from back in December)...not the most flattering. Someone told me that finishing a marathon (or half) is much like giving birth...thus this is how I would look upon delivering a child!

Thursday, March 13, 2008

All is well and I am recognizing how blessed I am...the blessings have been there all along...just needed the eyes to see them.

I'm in Michigan and LOVE the brisk weather. Nature...no matter the form...sings to me. Upon landing in Michigan, the view of the stark trees against the white snow took my breath away.

I will be traveling back home tomorrow...and it feels wonderful...to be looking forward to my home. (This very well may be first time I've felt joy at the prospect of returning...to our home...as it slowly becomes my home.)

Monday, March 10, 2008

I am thanking God for a NEW perspective this morning. A sweet friend left a book on my chair (at work). In purusing the first chapter I read the following:

The only way to know God is "to be open like a child."

So simple! Makes me feel weepy with relief. I spend so much engery trying to figure stuff out...to make sense of all the complexities of faith...only to find that these musings push me further from my beloved...my God.

Open like a child...trusting like a child...KNOWING like only a child can...believing as only a child can.

Sunday, March 09, 2008

It was another gut-wrenching Sunday...Sundays often shake me to my core. Why? Not sure...probably has to do with worship...with coming before God broken...and singing to him...knowing what a small offering that is. The music stirs my soul...Greg often laughs at me...and shakes his head. He knows when I cry through his worship sessions (3 out of 4 Sundays)...and rightly makes fun of me.

So I'm already a blubbering mess before Paul brings up the topic of "contentment" and having it no matter the circumstance. My mind races ahead of this to trusting God..."forever God is faithful, forever God is strong, forever God is with us...forever." Yes...I believe that. I believe he will heal my broken heart. I believe I am going through the journey he lovingly laid before me...for me. I trust all of this...but I DO NOT LIKE IT. I'm thinking to myself, "I just want things to be easy...I don't like all this pain and suffering and struggling in life. I want a break!" So I ask myself the all-important question, "Why? Why do I think having no pain will make things better?" and it hits me...because then I will feel secure. I will feel safe if everything is "right"...if everything is calm and happy, then I will feel safe.

Sooooo again I ask the question, "Why?" I want to feel safe so desperately...why do things have to go my way for me to feel safe? After all, that's what safe is to me...everything calm, everything happy, no worries, no threats, no heartaches...total peace. BUT WHY? Why can I not have the safety and the peace when things are in disarray? WHY MUST IT BE MY WAY? Can I truly feel peace in the midst of the storm? Can I?

I know the answer to that is yes. I know from scripture and I know from experience. I remember the calmness of my spirit as Chuck lay dying. I remember the peace in my heart as he struggled to let go. I've memorized..."Trust in the Lord with all your heart and do not lean on your own understanding" as well as "Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. AND THE PEACE OF GOD, WHICH TRANSCENDS ALL UNDERSTANDING, WILL GUARD YOUR HEARTS AND YOUR MINDS IN CHRIST JESUS."

So? This is where the rubber meets the road...and I'm NOT feeling secure. I reckon I don't trust Christ so very much. I don't get who I am apart from him. I don't get how I should feel...all peaceful and stuff. It's beyond me...beyond my grasp. "I believe. Lord, help me with my unbelief!!!!"

There was a time of prayer offered after services today...a time to pray with someone...and I went forward. A voice in my head whispered, "Make sure it is a woman." Odd...nonetheless I obeyed. And since there was only one woman at the front...I waited for her. She heard my confession..."I do not feel secure with Christ. I do not feel safe...I do not, do not, do not. I want to...oh, I want to! BUT I DON'T." As she put her arm around me, I understood why her...it was my mother's arm...my mother's rubs on the back...my mother's pats of reassurance. (I inherited my mother's ability to crush you with love...poor Chuck. When the woman hugged you, you didn't know where to cry out for mercy or relax into it so that your bones didn't break. I'll tell you this much...I miss those mighty hugs...and I've yet to meet another woman who can give them...until this morning.) So as I'm pouring out my shame and frustrations, my "mother" is encouraging me...and touching me...and assuring me...all through the loving, STRONG, hands of this sweet woman. And I was touched by this sweet gift from God...I am incapable of explaining the power of this gift to a broken child needing her mother.

So, do I magically feel secure now? NOPE...but I know it is the work of God to ease me into this security. I know it is there...waiting for me as I'm waiting for it. I do trust it will happen. God wants this waaaay more than I want this...and I REALLY want this. So, I'm waiting...hopefully, prayerfully, expectantly...waiting.

Saturday, March 08, 2008

Thank you for the prayers and support. Does this mean I can just let go? Kidding, sorta. It is a reassurance to know that if I do let go, the world will not fall apart. Apparently, my efforts do not determine the fate of everything, much to my surprise. Not only does God provide support for my weak days, he expects them...he's prepared the way for them...and the way is YOU. So thank you.

I am on the mend...with hopes of feeling GREAT by Monday...doctor's prognosis, not mine. Let's hope this comes to fruition, as I have a business trip to Michigan next week. (Yes, I'm excited b/c I've never been...know nothing about it...I love traveling to new places.)

Since I've been in bed (for days and days) I've had a lot of time for reflection and reading...yes, even some from the Bible. (Whew...just gotta jump back in sometimes...like jumping in to a cold swimming pool.) My church is doing a Join the Journey...daily Bible readings through the year with on-line Bible studies (written by people in my church). In any case, we are in Luke, so I thought, "Hey, what do you need? A written invitation? Read Luke, Jan." Of all the gospels, it is the one I am LEAST familiar with...weird? Must be its location...location, location, location.

One last thing...I think I am moving right along in my grief. I have hit the point where I realize...this is for good. I will need to KEEP doing the finances, and KEEP taking care of the business of owning a home and KEEP being responsible for...well, everything in my life. At first it's scary to handle all the stuff...then exhilirating to know that I really can do it...I'm at the "Crap, you mean I have to keep doing all this??? Indefinitely??? Really? With NO help from Chuck??? Really???? Really????"

Thursday, March 06, 2008

Several things...first of all, it's been a rough "grief" week. I almost put a sign outside my cubicle one day that read, "It is a grieving day"...that would have been the day I cried a lot AND watched Chuck's celebration video...a time or two. So there's that.

I've been sickly. Turns out I have "a touch" of bronchitis. I don't feel too bad...but being sick day after day wears on the body, the nerves, the spirit...how did Chuck do it for so long??

Then there was the breathing treatment I received...I never know what event will undo me...clearly getting a breathing treatment is one of them... I cried and cried and cried...reminded me so much of Chuck's daily doses.

Then, and most importantly, I'm on the outs with God...feeling apathetic and frustrated. I'm out of the word and completely uninspired to pray. I'm lost. I keep trying to reach out...as I would if Chuck and I were at odds. I know I can't run from this...nor can I run from God..."where could I go"...?

Blah.

Sunday, March 02, 2008

So now what? Being in Hawaii was such a delicious break from reality. Since it was all girls...husbands at home...it was almost like Chuck was waiting for me. I did not realize that until it was time to go home...it just broke my heart.

Okay-so I wanted to share the simple yet PROFOUND exercise that brings me so much healing. Don't know why it works...I'm sure there's tons o' psycho-blah-blah and spiritual stuff behind it. All I know is that it has brought my Chuck back to me. My dreams of him, my thoughts of him now are MOSTLY of the Chuck I built my life with.

Now, I must confess, I've only done this three times...as it's a bit intense for me...pulls up PAIN and exposes it. It has always been my nature to analyze emotions and actions...so it is surprising to me that I avoid doing this. I only do it when I feel I'm stuck..when sorrow builds and I find myself pushing it down...I often push it down with positive self-talk...which prohibits any "real" heartache to surface. Know what I mean?...like, "Jan, there's nothing you can do about it so don't waste your time with those thoughts...." Sometimes, you MUST have those thoughts....you must play them out, expose them so that they have no power to control you.

Here we go...I find a safe, comfy place. (I have chosen the corner of my laundry room). It is important for the place to be safe...and designated ONLY for this exercise. I set a timer for 15 minutes...no longer. I light a candle, and hold Chuck's wedding ring. Then I let the thoughts and emotions come. The first time I did it, I had an agenda. I had specific places I needed to revisit...the first time Chuck's heart stopped...the last time I saw him before the surgery...the first time I had to sign paperwork for a surgery...the first time I was told Chuck would die...the first time his hardware was exposed. Now, I let the thoughts come of their own accord...and boy do they come! I have conversations with Chuck like, "You idiot! How did I ever let you talk me into this?" I have conversations with myself, "You idiot! Why didn't you push harder to stop him? Why didn't you stand up to him? You know you could have stopped him!" I am amazed at the thoughts that have been lurking in my heart...I am also amazed at the weeping...the sounds that pour out of me are barely human.

I cry myself out...completely. I've never made it to 15 minutes...which is kinda cool cause when your heart breaks like that you think it will last forever...you think you'll never stop crying. Once I'm calm, I blow out the candle, get a drink of water, and look at a picture of my Chuck...of him living life. Each step is important...the stopping to shift gears...blowing out the candle , getting water, refocusing on the real Chuck...it's all important. Don't know why it works...but it does.

Bailey is something else...she is a loyal, devoted dog...but she is NOT overly affectionate. However, when I'm done with this exercise, she always comes to comfort me. I sit on the ground and she comes to lick my face and hands...then she sits right beside me for a minute or two. Once she's sure I'm alright...she goes about her usual business.

So, what's left? What does this do for me? It helps me go back to get my Chuck...to bring him forward into my present and future life. It lets me see the truth behind my questions...my doubts...it shines light on the thoughts that could destroy me if I didn't ask them. It brings me comfort. It heals my wounds. It heals my life. It heals me.

Saturday, March 01, 2008

video