Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Christmas 2014...



THE LULU CHRONICLES
Friends, this will be my last post of the year. I hope you meet up with me again come the New Year. I’ll try my best to post on Tuesdays and Thursdays, but if you’ve been with me for a while you know those deadlines get a little slippery at times. I look forward to the lessons the new year will bring us all. Thank you for traveling with me.
Today, I speak to my fellow mourners, and to those who love someone who is mourning. This is my second Christmas without my husband. He died last October, so last Christmas, I barely remember. In fact there are whole chunks of last year that my memory banks have let go of. What I do remember about Christmas 2013 are all the sharp edges. Gone was the excitement of Christmas morning. Gone was the enjoyment of carols sung. Gone were the Christmas tree and the twinkling lights. And, surprisingly, the most excruciating part of Christmas last year was getting anywhere near the ‘men’s section’ in a store. My palms got clammy and my breathing swallow. I remember once at TJ Maxx scrambling for a chair before I lost my legs. In my mind, my house was wrapped in a shroud, as was my heart. But, I got through it, or I should say, the Father of that newborn babe we celebrate at this time of the year, He got me through it. He nudged a few of my friends for help to send me cards, give me a call, or just be that someone for me to talk to. The one bright spot of Christmas morning last year was my six-month-old grandniece. I distinctly remember looking through this long swirling tunnel at her as she squealed with glee at everything from wrapping paper to squeaky toys. I was afraid to take my eyes off of her in fear I’d completely disappear and be lost forever. When you are in mourning, Christmas has a cruel side.
A year later, it’s a little bit better. I’ve tried to narrow my focus and scale down the flashy parts. It’s not the MERRY or the CHRISTMAS that rings true for me. Those words do not belong back in my world yet. However, the C-H-R-I-S-T part of Christmas has my attention. He stands in front of me and gently beckons me to concentrate on His face. This is hard to do with twinkle lights, wrapping paper, and Black Friday standing behind Him making faces. I still can’t stomach most of the above. But, if I filter them through the Christ, the Son of God, my Savior, the Great Healer, and finally the Cross and the Empty Tomb, I’m able to endure the loud jingle bells. Jesus puts it all in perspective. He points me to people, people I love, people who love me, people who are good, and people who need Him and don’t know it. The minute I take my eyes off of Him, the noise of the holiday cuts through with razor sharp claws and I begin to crumble. It’s all so exhausting.
So, I’m taking your face in my hands and moving in close. Hear me! If you’ve recently lost a loved one, give yourself a break. Your Christmas traditions will not be lost or rendered null and void if you simply skip them. As my husband used to say, “Things are only good for what they are good for.” If those traditions have sharp teeth at the moment, leave them lie. Or, if they are the just the thing that gets you through this time, then go ahead and mimic your way through them. Only you get to decide this. Find what keeps you from falling into the pit and hang on.
If you are a loved one of someone who has lost the love of his or her life, or a child, or a father or a mother, I’m pointing my finger at you and moving in close. Hear me! Take your cues from them. They are hurting and this hurt lasts a long time. Don’t push. Don’t judge. The only thing required of you is your presence. Be there! Is it hard to be around someone who might burst out in tears at the sight of cranberry sauce? Awkward, yes. But be there! Is it uncomfortable for you to hear them talk about the one they lost? Could be. But it’s not about you. Be there!
Like I said, this Christmas is a bit better for me. I’m staying home. All the kids and grandkids will be here. It’s time to reclaim some of our traditions. We are going to laugh a little, cry a little and eat a lot. We’re going to exchange gifts, which will undoubtedly remind us that one of us is missing. In fact, everything we do will remind us of that fact. So, we’ll just have to remember Gary. Tell stories about him. Laugh at his antics. Weep together. And, hang on tightly to each other during the rough spots.
Again, thank you for your company as I’ve walked this jagged road. Your love, support and encouragement have seen me through many blurry days. May our God bless you. May He continue holding us close. May we continue to find ways to make Him proud.
For Jesus,
deb

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Twin Tuesdays...



THE LULU CHRONICLES
You’ve heard of “Taco Tuesdays” right? Well, I’ve got something better. I have “Twin Tuesdays”.  Every Tuesday I get to babysit my five-year-old twin granddaughters. I’ve been doing this since they were born. We have tea parties, lunch at Old Mac Donald’s (that’s what they call that Big Mac place), and we play various versions of hide-n-seek. It’s a great day.
What my twirling twins have made me realize is that many good things come in twos. Take this time of the year for instance. We’ve got Mary and Joseph, Baby Jesus and the manger. We have Peace and Good Will. Don’t forget the Star and the Angels. Oh, and then there’s the Shepherds and Wise Men. Of course the Wise Men showed up later, but better late than never, right?
What a miracle the manger scene became. At first glance, anyone peeking into the stable that night would have seen just another young family camping out in Bethlehem. They came by the hundreds back to their hometown to be counted and taxed by order of Caesar Augustus. But if one were truly observant, they would have noticed that the baby was a newborn, fresh from the hands of God. The mother was young, but confident beyond her years. And the father, more awe-struck than most new dads, for he had just assisted his young wife in the birth of the Son of God.
No, this was no ordinary little family. Mary was a virgin with child and Joseph had to be convinced by an angel to marry her. As the child drew his first breath, somewhere in the east a star appeared. I’m told it was like no other as it hovered big and bright and seemed to be pointing its’ twinkling fingers toward Bethlehem. A few miles way away from the manger, bedded down with their flock of sheep were shepherds. More than likely they were only teenagers really, the youngest in their families, sent out into the fields to babysit sheep. Their older brothers had more important things to attend to. Poor dears. Had they known what was going to happen that night, they would have shoved their little brothers aside and taken their place. At the baby’s first cry the heavens opened up right above the shepherd boys. Angels and Songs, another twosome I’d love to experience someday, drew near. Wings and fluttering. Lyrics and Proclamation.
“Glory to God in the highest...”sang the Heavenly Hosts.
I never tire of this true but incredible story. At age five, my twins know the Baby Jesus well. On Twin Tuesdays His name comes up quite often. They are curious and full of belief that all is as they’ve been told, right down to the swaddling clothes and the bright star. From this Christ-child other twosomes were later established such as: Repentance and Salvation. Miracles and Wonders. The Cross and Forgiveness. Resurrection and Promise. One day, these too, will become foundation of my twins’ life.
Twin Tuesday is my favorite day of the week.  It brings me laughter, relationship and it’s own miracle. And, the Christmas season never disappoints with its tinsel and icicles, carols and Christmas trees, and a silent night and prayer usually at the foot of my bed.
May you enjoy your own Christmas twosomes. String them together, connect their dots, and rejoice in the God who gave us the Babe.
Merry Christmas, friends.
deb

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Messiah in the manger...




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What’s not to love about a baby, especially a newborn? Tiny cheeks as soft as rose pedals, those little squeaks and smacking noises they make, and then there’s that lovely moment when you lay them on your chest and they nuzzle in close as wisps of hair lightly brush your chin. Where your skin touches theirs a magical place opens up where love dwells and peace reigns.
And just think, Mary, held her newborn in such a way.
She was truly the most blessed among women. Actually, she was the most blessed among anyone. She was chosen by God to give birth to, nurture, and teach the Son of God. And, the good man, Joseph? God entrusted him to raise and protect the Messiah in the manger.
The night of His birth angels sang as they filled the night sky with brilliance and praise. And as the shepherds kneeled in the hay and gazed upon this newborn, did they know they were looking into the wrinkled face of God?
It’s Christmas. It is the time that the world has chosen to celebrate the birth of the Christ-child. Of course, we don’t really know the exact date of his birth. Does it matter? Where I attend church, Jesus, the babe, the rabbi, the preacher, the Savior, the Risen Christ is celebrated all year long. It’s why we gather. It’s why we remember Him in weekly communion. But it is comforting to know that there is a special season where the Son of God can be remembered openly by so many and with such joy.
The baby. The Son of God. He came. He walked among us. He taught. He challenged hearts. He ruffled feathers. He loved. He wept. He raised the dead. He held the children. He walked on water. He reprimanded the sea. He gave sight to the blind. He cleansed the leper. He loved the sinner. He loved fishermen, tent makers, doctors, and tax collectors. He loved Mary. He loved Susanna. He loved Martha. He loved Joanna. He enjoyed a good fish dinner. He washed feet. He prayed. He bowed. He replaced an ear. He was beaten. He carried a cross. He was spit on. He took care of His mother. He forgave. He cried out. He died, but not for long. He resurrected. He walked through walls. He cooked lunch for His friends. He commissioned. And finally, He went home.
But, on that starry night, all his mama knew for sure was that He was the most beautiful baby in the world. Everything else could wait.
In this Christmas season, I wish for you, dear friends, a moment of quiet, a starry night, and the distant singing of angels echoing off the breeze.
 “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.”

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Remember the Jetsons? ,,,

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THE LULU CHRONICLES
Nellie Rose. She's two.
Today, I received a FaceTime call on my iPhone from my two-year-old granddaughter. Yeah, I’ve gone all-Jetson on myself. Remember the Jetsons? They were this quirky cartoon family from the future with flying cars, vacuum cleaners that ran themselves, and watches that talked and projected images on the wall. Doesn’t seem all that strange now though with Smartphones, Skype, Instagrams and what-not. We are all the Jetsons these days. Well, my little Nellie Rose thinks nothing of it when she actually sees her MeMe on the phone. She will never, ever know how to ‘dial’ a phone or know what a busy signal sounds like, yet her little pudgy finger already knows how to tap a phone to get her MeMe’s face to pop up on command.
Technology. I’m hanging on by a hair. I can feel the wave of it coming towards me and I’m going to either have to ride the wave or dive under it before it drowns me. It’s not that I can’t understand it, it’s that I simply no longer want to. I know what I need to know to get along and see no sense in knowing the difference between a broadband and a headband.
Gary was our resident techie. When he died, the music truly died around here. I can’t for the life of me figure out the password to get a CD to play from my computer through the wireless surround sound the Hubs has wired throughout the house. And, of course, it’s not really a CD at all, but rather some kind of airwave thingy that magically plays on iTunes through my computer. I’d give anything right now to take an album out of its cover and put it on the hi-fi turntable and gently place the needle on the vinyl. (I know, for those under 45, you have no clue what I just said.)
I miss my husband on many levels and in many, many ways. He was my shelter in a storm, my warmth against the cold, my strength when I was lacking. He was also my resident electrician, handyman, computer expert, picture hanger, and lawn guy. I discover new losses with each passing day.
The Hubs would have been tickled to see Nellie’s curly head pop up on his iPhone. That would’ve been right up his alley. I was pretty pleased myself. So, what did my granddaughter want when she called? She wanted to show me her new potty. It’s a big, red, ladybug thingy. She’s thrilled with it. So thrilled, she wanted me to see her potty on it. I did. The Jetsons would have been speechless.   
Later,
deb

Monday, November 24, 2014

I will act ...



THE LULU CHRONICLES

Remember, LuLu, my pink bike? About three years ago my husband gave her to me for my sixtieth birthday. He wanted to get me an iPad. I asked for a bike instead. Since Gary’s death I haven’t had the heart to ride her much. This summer was a hard one. I barely rode LuLu. I didn’t water my flowerbeds not even once (thank goodness we had a lot of rain). My potting shed became a catch-all of random tools and extension cords and what-not. Sadly I didn’t plant one new flower. These were things I loved to do. Mourning takes so much energy and causes a thousand little deaths.
But, here’s the deal: This morning I decided I’m going to act myself into a better way of feeling. Gary and I subscribed to that philosophy throughout our life together. Just because you don’t feel like doing something, doesn’t mean you shouldn’t do it. Okay, I’m sad. I may be sad forever. But I’ve decided it’s time not to act sad. If I act like I’m not sad, by playing with my grandchildren, taking my pup, Atticus, for a walk, or riding my pink bike, then one day, just maybe, possibly, I’ll wake one morning and actually not be sad. See, act yourself into a bettering way of feeling.
 My Bible reading this morning was Psalms 3:3 I should quit being surprised when I randomly turn to a passage and it seems like it was written that morning just for me.
“But You, O, Lord, are a shield about me, my glory, and the lifter of my head. I cried aloud to the Lord, and He answered me from His Holy Place. I laid down and slept; I woke again, for the Lord sustained me. I will not be afraid...”
Mourning has a component of fear to it. When you lose someone you love, you fear you will never feel normal again. You fear you will never smile again. You fear that you will become invisible and eventually become just a smudge on a window. You fear you’ll forget what joy feels like. Yes, there is so much to fear about being left alone without a hand to hold. But you know what? Every night for the last year I’ve gone to sleep and every morning I have awakened unharmed. Mourning has not killed me. It has not run off my children and grandchildren. My friends still surround me. My mom still loves me. A sunrise still takes my breath away.
Oh, God, You are my shield! You have held me up!
Okay, it snowed four inches last night, so I guess LuLu will have to snuggle up in the garage for a little while yet. And, I don’t feel like turkey, dressing and pumpkin pie, or remembering what all I should be thankful for. But, I’m going to do it anyway. I’m going to bake a  pie, smash some potatoes, make cranberry sauce and as we watch the Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade, I am going to teach my granddaughters how to make napkin rings for our Thanksgiving table. And one day, hopefully, sooner than later, I’ll enjoy those things again.
“I cried aloud... and He answered me... He sustained me. I will not be afraid...”
I will act grateful.
Happy Thanksgiving, dear ones.
dc

Monday, November 17, 2014

I want to be there...



THE LULU CHRONICLES

What to write about? Are you bored with me yet? Sometimes, I am. I can’t seem to burst through this clouded bubble I find myself in. I’m tired of including myself in my own prayers. I’m tired of making a decision one day and doubting it the next. I’m tired of the lack of clarity. I’m tired of God.
I didn’t mean to write that last sentence. I had no intention of writing that sentence. I haven’t even thought that sentence until right this minute. But, if I am to be honest I guess it’s true. I am tired of God. I’m tired of Him making me guess. I’m tired of this code language He seems to speak. I’m tired of weeping and begging for clarity and not receiving it.
I think I finally get the rebellious attitudes of the Israelites of long, long ago. You know, the whiny ones? God led them and fed them with such awesome flair, yet they still whined. I mean God placed this huge bonfire in the sky every night to remind them that He was standing by. During the day this incredible cloud probably the size and bulk of the Grand Canyon led them through the hot desert. Can you imagine the shade that thing offered? And, to top it off, He made their supper every night. If I were a woman back in the day who herded the goats, took care of the fourteen sons every man seemed required to sire, and was expected to make all of their clothes right down to their sandals, I don’t think you would have heard one ungrateful chirp from me when supper came floating down from the sky. Even with all the hands-on guidance and nurturing, God still made them wander in circles in the desert for 40 years! Forty years! Manna or not, they had to be tired, right? No wonder they built that silly cow idol thingy. That stupid hunk of gold made about as much sense as God did to them. “Feed us.  Give us a road map.  Then lead us around in circles until most of us die off. What’s the point?” Yep, they were tired.
Don’t get me wrong. God has taken care of me.  Since the day Gary died, He has crowded the room with His Presence. Yet ... I’m still tired that every step has been so ... so ... so like a guessing game.
Yep, I’m tired. I’m saying stupid things. Things that don’t make sense. Things I don’t even believe. Things I don’t mean. I’m not tired of God, not really. But, I do wish He’d fire up that pillar just for one night. Write something on a wall. Give me a dream or a vision.
I’m tired. I want ... to be there already. This one step in front of the other; This breathe in and breathe out; This one day at a time business is breaking me down.
I’m so very tired.
“Father, forgive me.”

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

New. Different. Change.

My footprints. My new direction.


THE LULU CHRONICLES

Once again I have been remiss in my blogging duties. At this stage of my life, things keep getting away from me, little things like hours, days and even months. Is it just me or does time speed up as we age? Like before age 50 you’re struggling to climb up a mountain, after 50 you loose your footing and start sliding quickly down the other side over boulders and thorns and all things sharp.
My mourning journey is now one year and one month down the road. I can already tell the second year is going to be just as hard, but in a different way. The first year was all about survival. Breathe in and out. One foot in front of the other. Change out of your PJs. Life was accomplished in very small chunks. Year two, it seems is about decisions, questions that will not relent until they are answered.
What now? These words follow me around like a shadow. They are prickly, haunting at times and seem about twelve feet tall. Gary and I lived our lives on the move. We were doers. We were out there amongst the masses, hopefully making a difference, hopefully pleasing God. These days I find myself longing for the sidelines and being at ‘one’ with the wallpaper. Quiet rooms are havens. My world is full with just the dog, and me and sometimes the dog isn’t all that welcomed. I want to shake this cocooning phase, but I find myself just wanting to burrow myself in deeper. Surely this will pass, won’t it?
In the last few days I have been able to make some big decisions. I am selling my house and now I know that I am moving to another city to be close to one set of grandbabies. Their parents either feel like they’ve won the lottery or gotten the short end of the straw. Only time will tell. But thankfully, I was welcomed by all sons and their families ( right, Nathan?) and had a hard decision to make. I have chosen and the thought of receiving daily hugs from a grandchild or two (or four) is more longed for than air or water. I am at peace with this decision.
A new house, a new town, a new church, and some new friends. However, dear old friends, please don’t erase me from your address book. I still need you. I will always need you. We raised our children together and built a church together. We are bonded at the heart and nothing will ever change that.
New. Different. Change. Those words have elected presidents. Yeah, I know, it’s not always worked out. But, I guess it’s up to me to see that it does in my life, my new life. Keep praying for me, please. My legs are shaky and the yearning to sit crossed-leg in the back of a dark closet is strong. Your help will always be welcomed.
“Beloved Father, hold me close and don’t let go. Strengthen my grip so I won’t either. Heal our broken hearts. Make us stronger, kinder, more loving, more vulnerable, humble and resolved. Teach us how to do all of the above without too much sorrow. We thank You for Your faithfulness. We thank You for new beginnings. We thank You for the thumps we receive from the Spirit. Without them we would be completely clueless. We love You. We love Your Son.”
Amen

Thursday, October 23, 2014

44 . . .

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October 23, 2014
Today, Gary and I would have been married forty-four years. If my life had gone as planned today we would have been together in Door County, Wisconsin hiking the chilly shores of Lake Michigan. We have gone there almost every anniversary from number ten on. Our traditional celebration would have included a chocolate/caramel/pecan Granny Smith apple, a steak dinner at the Glidden Lodge, a hike through Peninsula State Park, a walk along the shore looking for a heart shaped rock (which we always found), and an anniversary purchase at one of the antique stores in the area; Lots of holding hands and lots of talk about our future and our dreams for the coming year.
It was very different today, but not unpleasant. If you’ve tuned in to my blog the last few days you would know that I am in Florida with my friend, Judy. The main reason we’re here at this particular time is so I wouldn’t have to spend this day alone with just my memories. We are here so I can reclaim this day from the clutches of sorrow and loss and restore it to its proper place. This is the day that I want to always remember as one of my very best days.
 Forty-four years ago today, Gary and I were in Florida standing before a preacher (who happened to be my brother) in a little pink church building. We made promises and then sealed our vows with a ring and a kiss. I’m here to tell you that we kept those vows. And, that’s something I want to always celebrate and remember without hesitation.
Thanks to my friend, Judy, this day came and went with only a tiny bit of sadness. While Gary was never far from my mind, this day was not lost to weeping and longing. It was a day spent relaxing on the beach and jumping waves in the Atlantic. It was a day of collecting shells and even rescuing a jellyfish that had gotten stuck on the shore. It was a day of quiet talk, laughter and a great meal.  
It was a good day.
As for our Thelma & Louise Vacation experience, I have pulled ahead in the bad driving contest, but no speeding tickets today. Judy has now actually gotten into the ocean twice, albeit not without some whining. We have one more full day to pretend that we have no cares in the world and that we are independently wealthy and hiding out from the paparazzi. What’s on the agenda for tomorrow you ask? Salt water, sand and beach chairs.
Later,
deb

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

DAY TWO...



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MY FRIEND, JUDY
Hey, Folks. I’d like to introduce my friend, Judy. She is my guest blogger today. Enjoy!


I’m on vacation with my friend, Debbie. We have been friends for nearly forty years, and that’s a long, long time. We first met when her oldest son was 18 months old and we bonded immediately. We had so much in common—our husbands were both ministers. Debbie’s brother was a good college friend of my husband, Don’s, we all wanted to do mission work, and we all loved to laugh. That seemed like a lot in common.
Over the past forty years, Deb and I have learned that we actually have more differences than likenesses. So, yesterday as she was enjoying the great outdoors like a raving maniac and I wasn’t, she asked, “Why are we friends?” I couldn’t answer. We have such a bond but it makes no sense. Let me give a perfect example of why I have come to that conclusion.  We came to Florida because Debbie loves it here. She loves the ocean and the sand; it “fills her soul.” I find that this fine sand gets everywhere, sticks to my legs and feet, messes up a newly vacuumed car, and so on. Deb feels the healing power of the salt water, loves the way the waves explode up to the shore, and feels God’s power in every wave. I feel like my skin is shriveling from the salt in the water even more than it is from aging. It feels weird to me when the tide rolls in and moves the sand under my feet. I’m not on solid ground and I don’t like it. The ocean is teeming with all manner of strange creatures that might suck on my toes, or worse. I’d much rather enjoy the chlorine-filled pool that is closer to the house surrounded by concrete, which doesn’t dirty up my feet.
My friend is an encourager to me. She makes this realist stretch. She makes this non-adventurous soul step out of her comfort zone. Yesterday without her encouragement I would not have gone on a two-mile bike ride, especially after falling over in the driveway before we even got started. I would not have parked ‘said bike’ and hiked back to this point to watch the sunset, all the while being eaten by mosquitoes. Also, my singing would not have been drowned out by a locust, or cicada or katydid (we can’t decide which it was and don’t want to know). And, I certainly would not have gone into that freezing water at the pool while even more mosquitoes were chewing on me. I loved our trip to the beach today, but I wasn’t planning to go into the salty ocean. Once again, my sister encouraged me until I got out there with her.
Only two people in my life have made me want to stretch so much, my husband and my best girlfriend. “Thank you God, for both of them. And thank you for this week on the beach.”
Yesterday when Debbie wrote her flowery descriptive words in this blog describing the sunset, I asked her if she really thought that way. When she asked how I thought about it, I replied, “I thought it was real purdy!” She’s working on stretching my vocabulary as well.
Judy

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Day One...


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The Frugal Sisters do Florida-

      My friend, Judy, and I are on a Florida vacation together. It is a minor miracle that we survived the 15 hr drive, but here we are. We’ve been keeping score how many times each of us has nearly killed us both, and so far, Judy is winning. Her car has a really, really bad blind spot. So, she’s almost hit a passing car four times. As for myself, I’ve only done it twice. However, I did get pulled over for speeding right before we crossed the Florida line. That did bump me up a notch, and the fact that it cost me the same as a really good massage is a bug in my craw. The fact that Judy keeps bringing it up does show me what kind of a person she truly is.
     Our first day here was great. We ate our breakfast on the screened porch overlooking the channel with a lovely crane entertaining us with its fishing prowess. For lunch we met two of Judy’s sisters, and then back ‘home’ for a bike ride and a dip in the pool. The highlight of the day was riding our bikes to this point that juts out into the water to watch the sunset. We were a little early but there was a lone bench out on the point so no matter... until the mosquitoes found us. Someone forgot to tell them that it’s October and they should all be dead by now. Well, there was no way we could sit still on that bench without getting eaten alive, so I clipped off some dried palmetto branches and gave one to Judy and kept the other for myself and instructed my friend to dance. So, we did, for ten minutes or so we paraded around the bench dancing and swatting our hearts out. We resembled some really old fan dancers at the nursing home. The sun took its own sweet time sinking into the horizon. At one point I could have sworn the thing had decided to climb back up into the sky. But finally, after much sweeping, swatting and dancing, we were rewarded with the glorious sight that only God, himself could orchestrate. Oranges, golds, and pinks burst across the sky and did their own dance. All the swatting was worth it. I just hope no one was sitting on their porch with binoculars.
     All in all, it was a good day. What I love about my life today? A good friend who isn’t afraid to dance, and a God who gave her to me.
Blessings, friends.
deb

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Year Two . . .



The Frugal Sisters

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And so the second year of my new life begins. I wished I felt as happy and confident as that statement sounds. My new life. There’s a whole lot I do not like about my new life. But, I’m not going there. Today, I’m going to take a brief look back and then turn and keep moving. 
Since I’ve been on my own I’ve taken on some new endeavors. In this last year, I’ve traveled to Guatemala on a mission trip, taken up archery and started painting. I kind of feel like the mom/wife character in the movie, Elizabethtown, who after her husband died, enrolled in a cooking class, a tap dancing class, and took up interior design all at the same time. But, please don’t worry about me; I’m just trying to figure it out as I go along. Nothing I’ve tried is completely out of the blue. I’ve always wanted to do foreign missions. When an opportunity presented itself this summer, I took it. For several years now, I’ve wanted my own bow. I was pretty good at archery in school and, I don’t know, I was hankering to shoot something. And, for years now I’ve wanted to learn to paint, to doodle around in acrylics and watercolor, so I bought myself some art supplies and started playing with colors. Am I any good at any of this stuff? Archery? Yes. Painting? Not really, but it’s fun. Missions? It’s a calling.
It’s been a long year and now it’s time to shed the old skin.
Of course that’s easier said than done. After a great loss, rebuilding is excruciating, but necessary. The only other alternative is to lie down and wait to die. That’s not my style. I figure, as long as our great God has given me life, I need to do something honorable with it . . .  and a wee bit fun.
So here’s what’s next for me. I’m selling my house and moving somewhere. Don’t know where yet, but I will. And as of last week, I am the proud owner of a 1987 Ford Encore Eldorado RV. With only 19,000 miles on the old gal, I figure she has some life still left in her. It had always been my husband and I’s dream to purchase an RV and hit the road. Our plans were to do that this summer, however, that didn’t happen. But, I guess it’s never too late to follow a dream, right? Now is not the time, but trust me, you’re going to hear more about the RV in future posts.
My bliss...
I’m going to do some traveling. Sometimes in the RV, other times the normal way by planes, trains, and automobiles. In fact, as I write this, I am in Florida. It’s an October evening, tomorrow it’s going to be in the 80’s and I’m right across the road from the ocean. God is good indeed. I traveled here with a dear friend. She and I have known each other for over thirty years and when we put our heads together, the fun just shows up. And, thanks to another dear friend, we have a lovely place to lay our heads at night.
Is my life the way I planned it? No. But, Someone planned it. Someone else is in charge of it, and my job is to surrender my will and recalculate my direction. But most importantly, I must continue to live it like a believer. So, Year Two begins. Check in and join me on the journey from time to time. I can’t promise you that everyday will be good news, but I can guarantee that the journey will teach us all how baby steps can get us to the finish line.
Later,
deb


Wednesday, October 8, 2014

One Year...

 
“We must be ready to allow ourselves 
to be interrupted by God.”
   ~Dietrich Bonhoeffer

THE LULU CHRONICLES


OCTOBER 9, 2014- It has been one year since I last heard my husband’s voice. A year of desert and wilderness. A year of a cloud by day and a fire by night. A year of living one day at a time. A year of living dangerously close to sorrow and loneliness. A year of unceasing prayer. A year of relentless tears. A year of doubts and questions. A year of mowing grass and blowing snow on my own. A year of sleeplessness. A year of flu-like symptoms. And a year of wishing that each day before hadn’t happened. A year, a full year.
Twelve months. Three hundred and sixty-five days of mourning, missing and longing. I’m tired. I want it to end. Will it? Can it? Should it? Do you ever forget? Do you ever stop loving the one you lost? Is it ever all right? Is it ever over? Can I really circle a date on a calendar and begin again? Do I want to?
A year. Gary has been gone a year. His last words to me were, “I love you.” My last words to him were the same. God was merciful. God was there. Before his body left the house, I held Gary’s cooling hand in mine and prayed. First, I thanked God for the privilege of being his wife, and I asked God to help me live the rest of my days in a manner that would honor my husband and our life together. Then I asked God to show me how to love Him more. You see Gary loved God. He put his whole self into it. He lived it. He taught it. And I followed along. By his side, I was a better person. When my faith got shaky, Gary walked me through it until I was on firmer ground. His faith splashed over onto mine, making mine richer. I didn’t have to understand things, because Gary understood them and would explain it to me later. Gary did. So, I did. Partners truly, except he was the better. I knew this. God knew this. And, the minute Gary left me I felt the void. I felt my lacking. I was going to have to do better now, and I was going to have to it on my own.
Thankfully, my husband taught me how. He prepared me. Living by his side in his last weeks of life here, was amazing. I watched him prepare to leave as he made a video for the grandkids. He sat me down and went over budgets and insurances, and how to change the filter on the furnace. He began to withdraw a bit, but not in a sad way. In his last week, he would get very quiet and a far away look in his eyes. He was almost there. THERE. They were waiting for him and he heard Their song in the distance. Maybe he even saw Them, as They gathered around him. I was jealous as I felt Their tug on him. I knew that our bedroom had become the Holy of Holies. Where Gary lay, God stood.
During one of our last discussions Gary told me, “I think my last lesson to Oakhaven (our church family) will be to show them how a Godly man dies.” Well, mission accomplished, my love. But, make no mistake, you also taught us how a Godly man lives.
So, on this one-year anniversary, I have become the miracle. God has answered my prayer. I am living as one who was shown great love. And for the last three hundred and sixty-five days, my God has shown me how to live an interrupted life. With each teardrop, each sad moment, with each lonely night, with each tender memory, with each pass of the lawn mower, the Holy Father has made Himself known. My heart has been escorted to a place I never knew existed... and I love as never before.  
Thank you, my Darling, for the way you loved me and love me still. You are missed, but your voice is not quiet. Your song is still being heard. And, I can’t wait to sing it with you again. 

“This is the day that the Lord has made. I will rejoice and be glad in it.”

Monday, September 29, 2014

Hooky...

 

THE LULU CHRONICLES



I have started this blog entry three times. I’m not having trouble trying to think of something to say, my problem is that I have too much I want to say. So many feelings, impressions, emotions and words are tumbling through me that I’m having a hard time corralling one thought long enough to put it to paper, err, computer, airwaves, or whatever the internet is.

I’ve committed to chronicling my grief journey for a year. Pretty soon that year will be up. Unfortunately, I don’t think grief adheres to a timeline. I don’t think when October 9, 2014 rolls around that I’ll magically ‘be over it.’ From where I’m sitting, I can pretty much guarantee that I won’t. But as that date hovers I find myself entering the strange land of restlessness. I’m like someone walking around in clothes that don’t fit, or eating food that has lost its flavor, or an itch that can’t be scratched. There is a hole that can’t be filled by anything within my grasp. I am undone. And at this point, I greatly fear this may be my permanent condition.
As I write this, I’m kind of hiding out. I’ve decided to play hooky from my life, just for a few days. When my kids read this, I have a feeling I’m going to get phone calls and maybe lectures. This son thinking I’m with that one, and that son thinking I’m with... well you get the picture. It’s okay, boys, your mother is fine. I’m on one bed and Atticus, the pup, is stretched out on the other looking quite pleased with this set up. The door is locked. I’m well fed and it is quiet. Very quiet. Not like the quiet at home, because it isn’t quiet at home. The quiet at home is too loud. The quiet at home has teeth and I just couldn’t make myself go there, not yet. Maybe tomorrow. Maybe not.
Here’s what I know right now: While I am terribly sad, I know that I am also very strong. To be honest, when I started this journey I really didn’t know if I was tough enough. I didn’t know if the walls would come down. I am gratefully surprised that they have not. With that said, I must tell you that I didn’t build the walls myself. The foundation of my strength was laid long, long ago, in a Sunday school class far, far away. The first brick was settled into place the day I learned the words to Jesus loves Me. I’m not kidding. I’m dead serious. The next brick was placed when I memorized my first memory verse. “For God so loved that world, that He gave His only Son...” The third brick was put into place... well, you get the picture here too, right? I am not strong because of what happened to my husband. I am strong because of what happened to my Savior. And thankfully, I was one of those blessed children whose parents thought it was never too early to begin teaching the joy of the Lord.
Yes, I am still sad. Sorrow still taunts my days. But I am strong. I will endure. I will rise up. I will find my way... just not today. Today, I play hooky. 
Later, dear Ones,
deb

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Warning... it's not pretty


My latest painting. Can you find me?

 THE LULU CHRONICLES 

I won’t lie to you; today was a day of shadows. Menacing ones that followed me, taunted me and took great glee in reminding me of the total, all-encompassing cloud of loss in which I am now living. Loss is the domino effect times 1,409. So much of what I loved about my life has been hammered, thrashed and crushed into dust.
While watching granddaughters weave and wobble on skates in the driveway on a delightful autumn afternoon, suddenly a shadow darkened over me and reminded this widow that Papa wasn’t there to share the giggles. Nothing is sacred.
A decision was made today. I will sell our house. And, with that one decision the finality of loss jabbed its icy fingers through my soul and hissed a curse that all has changed forevermore. It’s not the selling of a house that devastates, it’s the deconstruction of a life, a home, a family gathering place, a love nest, a partnership, a shared dream, a future that will be no more. A wife loses her home, a son loses his familial classroom on Fatherhood 101, and a grandchild loses their innocence. Loss takes no prisoners.
Yeah, I’m being dramatic; at least it feels that way. I smile. I do okay. I make it work. I move forward. I’ve even laughed out loud in the last year, but the truth is I’m still sad. And every once in a while I have a day like today that rubs it in my face just in case I might have forgotten.
Arrrggg! I want to shout bad words! I want to kick a cat! I want to slap an annoying person, any annoying person will do! I want to run until I can’t breath and don’t know where I am! I want to chew on glass and spit it in Satan’s face! I want to pull and rip my clothing and shake my fist! I want to collapse onto the cold, wet ground and weep until my bones grow brittle! I want so much I can’t have and won’t ever have again. At least it feels that way eleven months, twenty-two days, and sixteen hours since I lost my husband. Shadows. Dark shadows.
“Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things...  for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength.”  Philippians 4: 8-13

God, forgive me. Have mercy on my soul. Pull me from the shadows. Take my hand and show me how to do this...

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Body, Heart, Soul...



THE LULU CHRONICLES

This morning I rode my pink bike, LuLu, in the rain. It seemed like the right thing to do. I’m on a quest to take better care of myself now and exercise is part of the deal. I decided a little bit of rain shouldn’t spook me, after all, its just water. So off we went. It turned out to be quite a lovely ride.
This quest I’m on has many facets. For almost a year now, my body, heart and soul has taken it on the chin, so to speak. Food and grief have become like naughty children egging each other on until something gets broken. I’ve eaten anything and everything. My sorrow craved sugar or bread or chocolate. When my husband died, I stopped cooking. Cereal and popcorn became staples in my house. I’ve eaten both for breakfast and supper... on the same day. Recently, my insides sent up a white flag and pleaded for broccoli and a dozen or so vitamins.
Exercise and better meal planning will take care of my wounded body. As for my heart, that’s a little tougher. My heart is a stranger to me now. Once it throbbed with anticipation, contentment and great love. No more. Now, I barely get a ping. But fortunately, just lately the ping has gotten a little stronger. Saturday was a milestone day for me. I cleaned out Gary’s sock and underwear drawer. His closet still looms, but I’ll have to slay that dragon another day. What do you do with someone’s underwear? I don’t even know if thrift stores will take them. I had to talk myself out of rolling each one up to put in the mailboxes at church for our friends. They may want a keepsake of some sort, but I’m pretty sure his undies aren’t it. As I carried them out to the trash, this feeling I didn’t recognize sprouted somewhere near my heart and penetrated up through my shoulders. Something happened; a lightness, a hand turning a page, a flame flickered. It was foreign, yet familiar. Suddenly, it dawned on me. That’s what letting go feels like.
As for my soul, I can do nothing for it. At least I can’t do anything for it by myself. It’s not like an avocado, kale and almond smoothie and a ten-mile ride on LuLu will fix it right up. The soul belongs to God. It’s the part of Him that is on loan to us. He has to gently coax it to feel again. He has to direct its paths. Its healing is unquestionably tied to my willingness to be healed, to allow the God of the Universe to massage it, bandage it, hold it, and finally kiss the hurt with holy lips and shoo it away. I must be willing and He must be God. 
I sit up in bed as I write this. The pup, Atticus, is asleep on my feet. It’s midnight and the wind is whipping up outside. The morning sun will greet me in a few hours. Sleep heals as well. So, I best get to it.
“Now I lay me down to sleep,
I pray the Lord my soul to keep,
If I shall die before I wake,
I pray the Lord my soul to take. Amen.”

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

A prayer...



THE LULU CHRONICLES

Dearest Father God,
       My heart is full of thanksgiving and sorrow. How can that be? How can the two co-exist? How can anyone find peace with such carryings on? I’m going to be perfectly honest, I do not get You. I have no clue how You work. You are a mystery. Yet, amidst all this mixture of emotions I have never felt closer to You. How can that be?
      I want to be mad at You. I want to blame You for my pain. Blaming You would be so easy, so simple. Blaming You excuses everything and everyone else... even myself. You allowed cancer. You could have stopped the cancer. You could have healed my husband and a thousand others like him. You could have; I have no doubt of Your limitless power. “Let there be light,” You said and immediately the sun, moon and stars burst from the void and darkness was no more. From mere dust You created life. You groaned and the earth split. Yet, You chose to bridle that power when I begged You for Your mercy. Your capacity to sit by and watch those You love in agony staggers me. How do You do it? How can You hear the cries and not be moved or swayed?
     The day the flesh was ripped from Your own Son, how did You remain so still? When He cried out to You, how were You able to bridle Your silence? With each penetrating nail, how were You able to do nothing? 
     I do not understand You. I cannot fathom a love that is so disciplined, so steadfast, and committed to one purpose. As fire, stones, and arrows fly, as disease and death ravish, You stand unwavering. Your stoic binding of power, while it has frustrated me, it has also knocked me to my knees. You have made a believer out of me. Heaven must be worth all of it. Death, pain, disease, war, and sorrow will not deter You from beckoning us all to a home prepared by Your own hands. Am I right? Is it worth it? The sorrow I mean?
     I have no choice. I have to believe that it is. Help me hold on. 
     Father, I leave my grief in Your hands. And, with thanksgiving I bow before You and lay my weary heart at Your feet. I do not understand the power and yearning of Divine Love, but I thank You for it all the same. Beloved God, forgive my disrespect. Forgive the boldness that mourning sparks. I know Your power. I trust Your Grand Plan. Salvation calls for obedience and patience. But, Father, why does it have to hurt so much?
      As Jesus cried in the garden, so do I. You hear my words as they pour from me. I feel Your Presence in the quiet. I am not alone.
Amen     

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

The antidote...

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THE LULU CHRONICLES
My earthly home.
Want to know what I’ve done this week? I’ve toured five lake homes and one condo. When I walked into the condo, the walls felt like a slow-moving trash compactor.  Each lake house I toured had small yards (which pleased me) but they also had their oddities. Like, who builds a house and puts two bathrooms right next door to each other but none on the second floor? Of course the one thing they each had in common was the million-dollar view out the front window. Ain’t nothing like the calm lapping of water on a shore, unless it’s the calm lapping water on a shore that you own. 
The Hubs has been gone almost eleven months now and I thought it was time to start researching what’s out there. I have questions that will someday soon need answers. The biggest is do I stay in this house that Gary and I shared, or do I sell and move on? I’m not ready to answer that yet, but in order to answer it with any discernment at all, I needed to know what the housing market was like these days. I live in a log house on three acres and a pond. I have a two-car garage, and a barn. Oh, and did I mention I live on three acres? Three acres that begs to be mowed every four days?
Gary and I loved this place. We made our home here. We were a family here. A couple here. Our grown kids love coming here with their kids. It’s the family gathering spot, the old homestead. But truth is, I don’t want to be here. I don’t want to move from here either. Actually, I don’t want to be anywhere. Not here. Not there. Nowhere. I don’t want to be here, on this planet, in this universe, this galaxy. The sun gives me no warmth and the moon’s light is wasted on me. For the first time, I can sing the old hymn with my soul bare and my fingers uncrossed. “This world is not my home, I’m just a passing thru, My Treasures are laid up somewhere beyond the blue; The angels beckon me from Heaven’s open door, And I can’t feel at home in this world anymore.”
Nothing fits. Everything is either too large, too small, too nothing. I’m an alien, a two-headed zombie, a giant trying to sit at the kids’ table; I’m wearing stripes with plaids and white shoes after Labor Day. I do not belong here anymore. I don’t speak the language. The air only bruises my lungs now.
This world is not my home. My home died.
Wait!  Yes, I truly feel this way. But I can’t trust my feelings. My emotions have wrecked my compass. I will not get through this grief journey obeying my emotions. They can’t be trusted. Had I listened to them for the last eleven months, I would have shaved my head and disappeared. Sorrow is like a snakebite and unless you have the antidote... you die.
The antidote? Well... it’s a splintered cross.  It’s an empty tomb. It’s a risen Savior. It’s the whisper in my heart that comes from somewhere not of this world. And, it’s the indescribable flood of the Holy Spirit who wears me like a coat. It’s not feeling like I’m not alone, it’s knowing I’m not alone.
“O, Lord you know I have no friend like you; If heaven weren’t my home, O, Lord what would I do?”
later,
deb

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Almost...



THE LULU CHRONICLES

Papa & Nellie Rose
Today, I ran across an old pair of Gary’s hiking boots hanging on a nail in the garage. Before I knew it, I was clutching a mop for stability and weeping. As I stood there, all I had to do was turn in a circle and see parts of Gary’s story. On a top shelf was a miniature, remote controlled speedboat I’d bought him for one of his birthdays. A saw blade hung on another nail, no telling what he used that for, but it must of meant something for him to give it it’s own nail. A soccer trophy sat on a shelf beside his fishing pole. He learned to play soccer in his late twenties and taught and coached our boys through their school years. His blue canoe seat sat on a ledge over the dog kennel, a kennel he had built for our sweet lab, Dooley, at one point. The sighting of the canoe seat hit the projector button as I saw the two of us on our last trip down the Wisconsin River a couple of years ago now. That was the summer we had gotten some promising news from our Mayo doctors that the cancer had not shown up in the latest PET scan. We decided to celebrate with a summer of fun. We canoed, went to Door County, enjoyed counseling at our summer church camp and simply enjoyed our family. Today’s float down memory lane was almost unbearable.
Almost.
I gave in to the emotion of it all as I allowed the memories to wash over me.  I’ve found that when these moments sneak up on me, I simply go with them. No holding back. I let the yearning be. I don’t try and talk myself out of it, or lecture myself into a better state of mind. I just let it run its course. So, from the top of my head and straight out my toes, I oozed with sorrow, and I almost cursed God.
Almost.
My mourning and longing takes me to the brink. I don’t know yet what’s exactly ‘over the brink’. I’ve never gone over it. Close though. I imagine it could be a place of no return if no one is there to reach out and save you. Fortunately, a family member, a friend, even a grandchild has been there for me when I’ve come close to losing my grip and sliding toward the abyss. Today, it was three grandchildren: Two short-legged boys with sticks wanting to hunt for turtles in the pond and Nellie Rose, pacifier in place, toddling towards me, curly top bopping and dimpled hands reaching for me. God knows when I need someone and who that someone should be for that particular moment. I almost lose it, suddenly, there they are! Sometimes He just comes Himself. Other times, He sends angels, the winged kind or the human kind. Both are Spirit led.
I can handle almost. Almost is do-able. I can live through almost. I’m able to walk away after almost. God continues to amaze. He continues to stay the course with me. He continues to stand between the edge and me.
Almost reveals God’s mercy and His impeccable timing.
I can live with this. I can.
deb

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Point and shoot...


THE LULU CHRONICLES
Purchasing my bow.
At age 63 I bought a bow and a quiver full of arrows. Why? I’m not sure I can answer that. Maybe it’s something in the grief process that causes one to go temporarily insane.  Or, it’s me trying to connect with my inner-Robin Hood. I don’t know. Do I hunt? No. Never have. Never will. It’s just that all of a sudden I felt this urge to point and shoot. I can almost hear Gary laughing. And, I can’t wait for my grandchildren to see MeMe strap on her arm-guard and quiver. Call me Grandma Katniss.
Actually, I’ve named my bright red bow, Katniss, after the main character in the book/movie, The Hunger Games. I have this silly obsession of naming objects of affection. Hence, LuLu, my pink bike.
Grief and mourning are twins of sorts. They may look and feel alike at times, but they have different personalities. Grief was born first, with Mourning following shortly after. Both are intense and relentless. Grief comes sudden and is akin to a lightening strike. Its nickname is Lament. Mourning is a hatchet to the heart that slowly pries it open a little more each day. Both can sometimes make you do weird things... like set up a big yellow target in your backyard, count off the paces and turn and shoot.
I love the sound of the arrow penetrating the target. It’s swift and almost smacks in a whisper. I love the pull of the string and that quiet moment right before I let go. I take a deep breath; draw the bow, focus, and release.
It’s almost like a prayer.
Does that sound silly? If it does, well, humor me. I’m in mourning. With each release I can feel myself relax a bit more. For that brief nano-second as I’m peering down the shaft of the arrow a calm comes over me. I am totally alone, nothing else matters. My task is simple. Point and shoot.
Simple is my quest these days. After three years of doctors and hospitals and losing, fretting, and being scared, one bow, a few arrows and a target is heavenly. Simple, to the point and no one dies.
As it turns out, I’m not half bad. No wild arrows have punctured Atticus’ rump... yet. I haven’t broken any windows or lost any arrows. My neighbors don’t seem afraid of me... yet.
Grief and Mourning take you down many paths and left turns. And, sometimes they can even show a little compassion and lead you to a small oasis of respite. God knows. He gives. His timing. His way. For me, it is a bow and arrow.
Later,
deb

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

How am I doing?


THE LULU CHRONICLES


How am I doing? I get asked that a lot and it’s okay. I know that those around me mean it sincerely, that they truly want to know, to help if they can. But the truth is, I don’t know. I don’t know how I’m doing from one day to the next. It changes with the wind, or a full moon, or a rainy day, or if I’ve opened his sock drawer (still full of socks by the way). It’s been ten months since Gary’s death and some days are rougher than others... still.
Grief is a nasty friend. As I’ve mentioned before I want to ring it out as tightly as if it were a soggy towel and only when it’s totally dry will I know I’m there, that I’ve gotten all I can out of it. Done. Healed. Over it.
But, how does one ‘get over it’? Can you really? I don’t know. It’s frightening how much I simply do not know.
But here’s what I do know. Let’s take inventory. After ten months of lamenting the loss of my husband of forty-three years, the love of my life, my best friend, my partner, my boyfriend, here’s how I’m doing:
~ I still feel like he’s going to walk through the back door any minute with his backpack and briefcase and kiss me ‘hello’.
~ Every time I pull into the driveway I still get sucker-punched in the stomach with the realization that he’s not here.
~ Going to church is excruciating. He was my preacher. My preacher is gone.
~ At times, this house we lived in is the most comforting place I want to be. At other times, it feels like a ghost town.
With all that said, I think I’m better. A smidgeon better. Why do I say that? Because:
            ~ I’ve laughed a lot this summer. I thought I might have forgotten how by now.
~ I’ve traveled. Texas, Arkansas, Tennessee, Minnesota, Guatemala and our Christian camp. And while all those trips and experiences were hard, they also did their part to help heal the hole that has been punctured in my life.
~ I can now sit through an entire church service without crying... sometimes.
~ My children are mourning too, yet when we are all together, Gary is here, and it is good.
~ I walk upright.
~ I’ve bought a bow and some arrows, and a big yellow target for the backyard. It’s something I’ve wanted to do for a long time. I’ve now done it.
~ I can mow without crying.
~ When I pray, I don’t always talk about myself.
Those are a just a few of the indicators that I’m not where I was ten months ago. I’m inching forward, to where I’m not sure, but it is forward motion all the same. It’s getting closer to the time when I going to have to start making some big decisions. But I’ll think about that another day. How am I, you ask?
Better. Not standing still. Only occasionally falling backwards. Still have dark days. Still cry. But, I’m laughing more. And not once, ever, not one time, have I felt God leave the room. For now, this is enough.
Thanks for asking.
deb