Thursday, June 28, 2012

Holes or Holy?

My dad used to tell this old joke:  You know why I am saving these socks for Sunday?  They are hole-y!

(Bad puns run in our family.)

That seems to be the way my life goes, though.

I have been blessed with the task of raising four boys to become young men after God's own heart (I pray).  That is a daunting task under the best of circumstances.  Add widowhood into the mix, and the task could seem insurmountable.

I could focus on this great big hole in my life.  I miss Keith terribly.  Some days it is incredibly hard.  But...

We have a God who takes holes and makes them holy.

Today alone, I have had four men -- yes, four -- offer to take my guys places, do things with them, speak into their lives on how to be men for God.  God be praised!

These men are working to patch the holes left by Keith's early graduation to glory, making them holy instead--God's work, helping my boys become God's young men.

And that is glorious.

 His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and goodness. -- 1 Peter 1:3

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Applying Lessons Learned, or God Uses Tape

One of Keith's favorite stories about me goes as follows:

I was home visiting my family.  On the day I was leaving, Mom and I decided to go shopping.  We got to the mall and as we got out of the car, I heard a telltale hissing sound from my right rear tire.  After examination, we determined that the hissing was coming right from the tire stem.

My first reaction:  I prayed.  Surely God could handle this tire.  Then, rather than go to a service station, I searched around in the stuff in my car and pulled out a roll of cellophane tape.  I wrapped that cellophane tape around the tire stem and headed into the mall with Mom.  Problem solved.

 We then went on with our shopping trip, coming out every hour or so to check on the tire.  It was holding fast; no hiss.

After we finished shopping, I took Mom back home, kissed her goodbye and hopped in my car.  After another quick prayer, I was off on the 6-hour drive back to my apartment.

The first time I shared this story with Keith, he stared at me, open-mouthed, with that look that only a man can give a woman--that whatever-possessed-you-to-think-that-was-a-good-idea look.  (By the way, I now sometimes see that look from our oldest man cub...outstanding.)

My response?  What?  I prayed.

For those of you in suspense, I did make it home without a hitch and never had a problem with that tire again.

And for me, that is the point.

God had it.  I prayed and trusted, and He came through.

Now, do I recommend tape (of any sort) as a replacement for good car care?  Not at all.  Do I recommend putting the Lord on the spot to take care of our silly moves when we should have made a better choice?  No way.

But, to me, this event was a precursor to how I need to live my life.  Sometimes I gotta just pray and go.

I have had a lot of pray-and-go moments in this grief journey. 

I do not always make the wisest choice.  I do not always think things through as I should. But often my choice is this:  be paralyzed by fear, to the detriment of everybody, or make a choice, pray, and go.

Because He has always, always, always been there, even in something small like tape on a tire, I have the courage to pray and go.

And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.-- Romans 8:28

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Watermelons and Old Sayings

I was just cutting a watermelon in my kitchen.  As I cut the first slice, I snitched a piece.  It was...okay.

Hmm...maybe the next watermelon will be sweeter.  It's early in the season yet. I learned as a child...waste not, want not.  So, I kept cutting.

Inevitably (for me, at least...perhaps you have more willpower), I snitched another piece farther into the watermelon.

It was...incredibly sweet!

Remember another old saying...don't judge a book by its cover?

I was introduced to a friend's husband recently in this way:  This is Liz.  Remember, she is the one I told you about, the widow who homeschools her four sons?

Now, I'm not poking at this dear friend -- love her to pieces!  And all she said is true...that is my reality, and consumes a large part of my waking hours.

But it does not define all of me...

Another old saying...peel an onion, there are a lot of layers.

Who am I down in my core, the part that only God sees?

I guess maybe I see a difference between my reality and what defines me...maybe I am only seeing that difference as I write this post. 

I am a child of the King.  I struggle, I fail, I fall, I get up.  But I love God and He loves me, and that is enough. 

It does not give me permission to quit, but it does give me grace when I fail.

And that grace is...incredibly sweet!

So I will continue to operate in my reality of widowhood -- a reality that is not always sweet but can be just okay; a reality that people see and will define me by whether I am only that or not.

And I will pray for the opportunity to show them the inner me...the me forever touched by grace.

Therefore we do not lose heart, but though our outer man is decaying, yet our inner man is being renewed day by day.  For momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison, while we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen; for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal. -- 2 Corinthians 4:16-18

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Just "Do" It

When my best friend Susan calls, I often tell her I can't talk because we are "doing" school.  She gets it.  She "does" school at her house, too.

In the vernacular of my homeschooling friends, that means we are "having" school...learning something.  This can mean a variety of things to homeschoolers (we all "do" school a little differently), but bottom line, it means it's learning time, and we need to focus on the learning.

At our house, we also "do" grief.  I don't mean that we sit formally and talk about our loss.  Well, sometimes we do.  But more often than not, there's nothing "formal" about the way we "do" grief.

In fact, it's similar to the way we "do" school.

It's different day-to-day, person-to-person (even within our own house).  But if we are "doing" it right, I believe learning occurs.

Sometimes that learning is a new or renewed skill.  I hadn't "done" the bills here for many years.  I have had to relearn how to "do" them. 

I never mowed grass before 4 years ago, either.  But now I have learned to "do" that, and even to teach my oldest.  Now Alex "does" the grass.

Sometimes the work I "do" is what I call "noodle work."  I have learned to know me better:  my strengths and weaknesses; what I want from life; who I am apart from Keith.

Sometimes the work I "do" is heart work:  learning to accept God as Father, Husband, Confidant, Trusted Companion.  Learning to let go and let God, and to see and accept that He's got it, and me, all the time.  Learning to trust His word as true and relevant to every part of my life:  grief, love, parenting, friendships, relationships, everything.

I have heard people talk about what they don't "do":   
I don't "do" windows.
I don't "do" drama.
Even...I don't do grief.

I haven't had a choice.  What was my alternative? 

So, I "do" my grief work.  I sit often with a cup of coffee and a Bible and learn my Lord and His ways.  I slog through the new things I learn to do physically.  I find ways to complete me apart from Keith.

And whenever I have finished the next lesson of grief work, I am glad I "did."

And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. -- Hebrews 12:1B-2

Sunday, June 17, 2012

How We Spend Father's Day

Often I have been asked if this holiday in particular is difficult. 

Blessedly, it is not.

On this day that honors fathers, we instead choose to focus on what we do have, not what we have lost.  And that is truly a lot!

This year, as every year since Keith died, my boys have figured out cards for the men at church whom God has convicted to be part of our lives.  This year's card said, "As a father figure, you've nailed it." and we included a nail in the cards.  We passed out upwards of 18 cards, and probably could have used a few more. 

They get really excited, dashing around church looking for each of the men.  They welcome them with a big hug and present the cards.  They even fight over who gets to give cards to which man.

The men were touched.  One of our friends even got a bit teary (yep, I said it, though I won't confess which friend).  I myself got choked up a few times.

This year we had the added blessing of taking a dear friend whom the boys call "Uncle" out to lunch.

All in all, a happy day here.

It's HUGE that so many men from our congregation have followed the Biblical model and taken care of this widow and these fatherless boys.  I have said it before, and will say it again:  I cannot be a guy.  If I even tried, it would be dishonoring to myself as a woman, and dishonoring to my Creator.  Therefore, I rely heavily on the men in our lives to come alongside my boys to "father" them, modelling for them Biblical fatherhood.

And these men have never let me down!  There is always one ready to jump in and catch a ball, wrestle a boy, pat a shoulder, give a high five, teach a manly skill, or fix a door.

No question about it, my boys will remember the love showered upon them by so many, and, Lord willing, will model it in their own homes and in their own churches when they are grown.

And they will also remember the source:  the Lord God Almighty. Everything that has been done for us and to us has been in the name of the Lord. 

Even though their earthly father took the early train for glory (going ahead to prepare our mansion, as I told baby Tanner so often right after Keith died), they have a heavenly Father who's got it covered here on earth.

And so do I. 

Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail.  They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.  I say to myself, “The Lord is my portion; therefore I will wait for him.” -- Lamentations 3:22-24

Intruder Alert!

This past Wednesday, I let the dogs out for their morning constitutional as usual.  Shortly thereafter I heard Dakota, our Great Pyrenees, barking the "intruder alert" bark.  I hightailed it out to yard for two reasons:  I was concerned about what had alerted her, and it was early in the morning and I did not want her disturbing the neighbors.  She was furiously barking into the window well of one of the basement windows.

I got that prickly feeling, thinking, could somebody possibly be in our basement?  As I walked a bit closer, I realized that instead of looking into the house, she was actually looking at something in the window well.  Fearing that it might be slithery, I slowly walked closer...

It was...a turtle.  How it got there, I'll never know.

I have to say I was proud of Dakota.  When you have 100 pounds of marshmallow-looking mutt, you wonder if she will come through and do her "real" job of protecting the family.  Granted, it was only a turtle (tortoise, my kids are correcting me), but it was still an intruder, and she was letting me know it was there and that she was ready to take care of it.  She had proved her care for us in the little things.  I have no doubt she would care for us equally well in the big things.

Isn't God like that?

More times that I can count, God has stepped in, made His presence known, in the little things in my life.  That made it so much easier to trust Him with the big things, and especially with the biggest thing I have had to date...Keith's death.

It's a matter of looking, though, to see that He was there.

I pray that I, and you, can always see Him at work in our lives! 

Taste and see that the Lord is good; blessed is the man who takes refuge in Him. -- Psalm 34:8

Friday, June 15, 2012

Grieving the (W)Right Way

One of my sweet friends had the following comment to my blog, Seasons of Soccer:  "Beautiful blog Liz! God works in such mysterious ways. Just when you think He is providing for you, He may actually be doing it for someone else!"

Now, I have not put this on to give myself praise.  (Though I do appreciate it, Diana.  More than you know.)

This really contains the message for how I have chosen to do all this grief work.

Within two hours of Keith's death, quite literally 20 of our friends had come to the hospital to be with me.  More were there in spirit.

We had a prayer circle just before we left.  (BTW we included the patient advocate who had been assigned, a sweet German lady who reminded us to pray for the hospital staff because it is hard to lose a patient.  I have.)

As I was holding hands with so many close friends, God spoke to me in my Spirit.

Let them in.  They need to grieve, too.

Well, for this Martha who was convinced she could handle the whole wide world, this was a revolutionary thought.  But, the word was strong enough that I gave it a try.  Couched in terms of doing it for someone else, I figured it was worth a shot.

The next day, I accepted everything that was brought to me.  Several of my friends even cleaned my house, something I never would have let be done before.  I must admit, it was not hard that day.  I was in shock.

But as the days progressed, I continued to let people do whatever they felt led to do.  Some gave us things--amazing things like a swing set, financial assistance, and secret sister presents.  Some did things for us--fixed computers, mowed the yard, took the boys places.  Some shared the pain with us--the first Memorial Day at Quantico, the first holidays, the first birthdays.  

God has been very evident in our grief through the outpouring from others.  Different people are called to assist at different times and in different degrees, some of them are things I have known I needed and some I had not even realized I needed.  

And in the midst of all this, we have grown closer to many, many people.  The common need, the lack of artifice and pretense in the sometimes raw nature of grief on my part and on theirs has broken down walls of pride--and not just in me.  People whom I have allowed to join us in the journey have been touched. 

And isn't that what it's all about?  Community built for the common good?  Sharing the tender places in our soul, without embarrassment?  Sharing all that we have and all that we are?

I have become just a vehicle, a means of blessing.  And that is blessing in and of itself!

Perhaps the way we have done this grief would not work for everyone, but boy, am I glad that I have done it this way!  

Thanks, Lord, for speaking to my soul in ways that I would understand.  Thanks for the tangible, visible ways you have helped me, and for the intangible way you have grown my community for Your glory.

Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God’s grace in its various forms.  If anyone speaks, he should do it as one speaking the very words of God.   If anyone serves, he should do it with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ. To him be the glory and the power for ever and ever.  Amen. -- 1 Peter 4:10-12