Monday, January 20, 2014

The empty place...

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.

Saturday, January 11, 2014


I bought some cherry cough drops today, and they always make me think about you.

You hated cherry flavored anything.  And any time you were offered something cherry flavored, you would remind me of why.  You got so sick one year and ate so many cherry cough drops that you developed an aversion to the artificial flavor.  

Funny thing is that I think I remember when you got sick that time.  I have this memory of me having a softball game and you being so sick that you couldn't come.  This was incredibly unusual because you never missed anything.  When I got home, I went back to room to tell you about the game, and you were in the bed.  That was unusual, too.  You weren't a lay around in the bed kind of woman, so when you did, it meant you really didn't feel well.

Cherry cough drops.  It's always the little things that leave me standing or sitting somewhere complete speechless, breathless, missing you so much it feels like I could break in two.  Sometime right around Thanksgiving, I felt this same way as I saw the little round ornament shaped Coke bottles that are only sold during the holidays.  You always bought those at Christmas time.  

It's the blue bird that flew across the back yard a week ago.  Cherry cough drops.  Little Cokes.  Christmas ornaments.  It's the movie Marley and Me that's on TV right now.  It's you.  Every where.  You are every where but no where at all.  And that's the hard part, you know?  That where you really are is so intangible.  Real but untouchable.  And so I get these little glimpses here and there, and they are never enough.

Oh, Mama.  Everything was better with you here.  And I am still trying to accept the fact that you aren't here anymore.  Almost two years later, and it's still sinking in.

But we are making it.  We are moving forward and living life.  Maybe I get a little down from time to time.  It's hard not to.  But I'm doing the best I can.  And so is everyone else.  I don't think we will ever get used to you not being here, though.

I love you, Mama.

Your little girl.

Thursday, January 2, 2014

It's a new day...

It's a new day.  Well,  it's actually the second new day of the new year.

I could make a list of all the things I'd like to do this year.  Eat healthier.  Lose fifteen pounds.  Make exercise a part of my routine.  Give and help more.  Read the entire Bible.  All of those things are so completely tangible, things that can be measured with amounts or percentages or tally marks.  But when I read over the list, something feels so shallow about them all.  Even about reading the entire Bible... that's one that's been on my list for a few years now, and I wonder if it's more about the fact that I would be able to say I've read every word than about drawing nearer to God.

And so, I want to think about things that, perhaps, can't be measured that will increase the value and enjoyment of my day to day life.  Like, say, accepting myself as I am instead of comparing myself to others all the time, especially to the personalities I see on social media.  I'm not the only one who finds herself in the bottom of the comparison pit after I've perused my news feed.... we all have friends who run 38 miles a day, cook an organic meal for dinner after they've worked 12 hours, and organized a craft with their five children before tucking them in at bedtime while reciting their family's weekly Bible memory scripture.  Oh and she took lovely photos of all of it and posted each one to Instagram (and, of course, cross-posted Facebook, too, so you can look at each pic twice).  And then I realize that my kids ate canned ravioli for dinner, that I haven't exercised in three years, and all my Instrgram photos in the past month have been of the dog, the only breathing soul that I feel really likes me.

Of course, I exaggerate.  But that is what my mind does as I look over snapshots of life on Facebook and Instagram until I've created a single perfect woman in my brain from all the best-ofs I see posted.  This perfect woman is unobtainable, unrealistic, yet still I beat myself up trying to achieve what cannot be done.

What would my life look like if I set out every single morning of this year striving to simply be me, the best me I can be, the closest to who God purposed me to be on earth?  Even if my kids are eating Chef Boyardee for dinner and I haven't put makeup on in two days.  Even if I feel I'm not making a hill of beans difference in any one's life.  Even if.

You made all the delicate, inner parts of my body and knit me together in my mother's womb.  Thank you for making me so wonderfully complex!  Your workmanship is marvelous - how well I know it.  You watched me as I was being formed in utter seclusion, as I was woven together in the dark of the womb.  You saw me before I was born.  Every day of my life was recorded in your book.  Every moment was laid out before a single day had passed.  How precious are your thoughts about me, O God.  They cannot be numbered!  I cannot even count them; they outnumber the grains of sand!  And when I wake up, you are still with me!    {Psalm 139:13-18, NLT}

King David, the simple shepherd boy with mighty faith, grew up to make a lot of big mistakes.  But in his lovely poem about how God made him, I think David nails something that we could use in modern times.  David believes God saw him form in the womb, long before anyone else knew he was there.  That God, sovereign and holy, purposefully knit David's very being together.  King David believed that God saw his days and knew what his actions would be before he filled his lungs with oxygen the very first time... that He saw David pick up the stones that would slay Goliath AND He saw David lust after another man's wife and plot murder against an innocent man.  God saw the good and the bad, and yet He kept on knitting, piecing together a man that would be talked about until the end of time, a man that would pen a beautiful poem I cling to when I feel insecure or unvalued in this confusing cruel society.

And that is beautiful.

What would my day look like if I focused on being who God knit me together to be?  It's hard.  My brain is constantly bombarded by messages telling me I'm not measuring up.  But, I find myself asking this question lately: What am I using as my measure?

Dear Lord... help me and whoever else reads these words keep focus on who we really are in You... Your creation, perfectly knit together with purpose here on earth, knowing that You are pleased with what You have created... Amen.