My husband doesn't travel much. He's gone on a handful of trips for work in the past two years, being gone anywhere from five to seven days. I've done pretty well for someone who isn't used to her husband traveling, I think. The schedule is a little different, sure, but the kids are old enough now that it doesn't mess up the flow of things too dramatically.
He left last Tuesday morning flying out to Tampa to work a big RV show. He worked the same one last year, and I thought it would just be no big deal. Of course, I would miss him, and the kids would miss him, too, but we would mow right along and get through it all with grace.
Maybe it's this long, cold, brutal winter we've had. Maybe it's that I had been sick and still wasn't 100% back to health. Maybe it's this hollow I've felt in the pit of my soul since Thanksgiving. I'm sure it was the combination of all these things, but I found myself in an emotional state I've never quite experienced before. And I don't even know what to call it. But it was humbling.
For two days, I just wandered around feeling completely lost. I finally sat down and made a list of things I wanted to do during the time he was gone. Stupid things, most of them just the normal household cleaning stuff I do from week to week, but I felt like if I had a list in front of me, it would keep me focused on something. I cried a lot. I didn't even know what I was crying about exactly, but the tears would just hit me with no warning and flow down my face. I was a mess.
I have never felt so alone in my life. And no one even knew I felt that way.
I like to consider myself a strong person. I've lived through and dealt with some situations in my life that took a tremendous amount of strength to get through with sanity. But for those two days, I felt paralyzed by weakness, grief, sadness. It wasn't one thing in particular, but rather the combination of so many things that left me feeling incapable of doing anything.
Ironically, on the very day my husband flew out for his trip, I read these words in Jesus Calling, a little book my sweet mama gave me several months before she died:
Let me bless you with My Grace and Peace. Open your heart and mind to receive all that I have for you. Do not be ashamed of your emptiness. Instead, view it as the optimal condition for being filled with My Peace.
That's just the first paragraph of the day's entry, but it spoke so clearly to me. Do not be ashamed of your emptiness.
Empty. That's exactly how I had been feeling. Completely empty. How on earth could I feel so empty living a life full of so many blessings? It's like being lonely in a room full of people you know. And having feelings that seem invalid definitely lead to shame.
Truth is, I have felt ashamed for grieving so deeply. How could I? I had the most amazing mother, and now she's in heaven. How could I still validate being so sad? But I am. So sad. Still grieving. Still missing her even through my awareness of how blessed I was to have her as a mom. Still grieving her even though I completely believe she is in heaven and made perfect.
It's hard to reconcile my own emotions. They make no sense to me, so I definitely don't want to try to talk it out with someone else. And that leads to more emptiness and adds in isolation. And it all came down on my head when my most constant companion, my husband, left for six days.
I read that entry every day reminding myself that where there is emptiness, something waits to fill it up. And I ran my fingers over the little note my mother wrote to me on one of those cards attached to a gift bag. I tore it off and taped it in the front of the little book to have it forever. Because I love you it says. Because I love you.
I miss her love so much. And no one will ever love me the same. That's the hard part. It's gone. No getting it back. And so I mourn it, and I wonder if I always will in a way that no one will ever see or comprehend, in a way that will only be resolved when I am joined with her in heaven.
I've been clinging to that thought the past six days. That my emptiness can be filled with Him. It's something that I needed to be reminded of, I think. How quickly we set ourselves on autopilot thinking we've got things under control and forget that God really is the Controller. How easily we take over for Him and think we can do it all on our own only to be humbled by something so surprising. Like my husband's six day trip.
So, to whoever may be reading these words, if you find an empty place inside you, don't be ashamed or afraid of it. Take it to Him.