Wednesday, March 26, 2014

The Storms We Weather...


I watch others excitedly jabbering away regarding vacations and trips of leisure.  My mind scans the days of the last two weeks.  Four weeks really as I seem to have been gone from "home" for so long now.  And as the pieces of this puzzle begin to slip into their perfect places, I am ever so thankful for an almost empty plane.  A row to myself, to cry, pray, read and write. 

Writing is my therapy; sorting and sifting through the events of late.  I'm sure the lady eyeing me across the aisle has no clue what we've been through...the hell we've visited.  The incredibly highest of highs, followed quickly by the lowest of lows on this newest emotional roller coaster we have boarded.  All at once panicking, praying, chewing our fingernails down to their nubs until the surgeon emerged with good news.  The joy we experienced knowing he removed ALL of the tumor, the tearful "thank you Jesus" we uttered as we embraced.  Choosing joy and peace for at least one day until we again faced  the nagging wait for the pathology results still looming before us.  So very and overwhelmingly grateful for the countless prayers, texts, meals, calls, visits and emails that brought Daddy to tears each time we reminded him of all the people who truly care.  How, with wet eyes he said "People are good.  People are so good" which gave us renewed hope in humankind. 

We were eternally grateful for affectionately named "Red Devil," our surgeon that traveled to the point of no return-where no surgeon would go but him.  The Anesthesiologist who himself updated us during surgery, since dad was doing so well, he could leave his post by his bedside.  He who exclaimed "Your dad is 84 going on 60!  He sailed through the surgery."  To countless nurses who gushed and ooohed and awwwed over our precious little man and chatted with us over the long hours we lived at that hospital.  Indeed, these medical professionals were planted in our path by God Himself to get us through this leg of the journey.

To our pastors who visited Dad daily and whose prayers went forth, unrelenting, unceasing, unending.

Truly the fingerprints of faith and love were evident and covered everything they touched.  Yet creeping into my personal journey of faith testing was an ever dark cloud.  A doubt-filled questioning of God's plan?  Why my Daddy Lord? A faithful Christ-follower, a generous and giving man, who through his life ate a plate of vegetables for lunch, exercised religiously and never touched a cigarette.  So why does he have to endure first open heart surgery and now this grim diagnosis of Pancreatic Cancer?  Was this Satan's final attempt to lure my Daddy into renouncing his King?  What would the long road ahead of us bring?  More cancer? Chemo therapy? Hasn't he suffered enough?  Oh Lord, when I get to heaven, oh the questions I shall ask of you!

The encouragement in the form of scriptures and words never ceases to amaze me.  I, too have been flooded with friends checking in and promising prayer.  Many friends I had lost touch with, were suddenly placed back into my life with constant love for which I will be eternally grateful.

Why then, do I feel washed over by God's love through people one moment and the next riddled by doubt and fear?  Why do I question those verses and feel so reluctant to read from your Word Lord?  As if I am pushing you away, yet anxiously yearning for you all at once...Why do I question my belief in YOUR plan?  Especially when I truly know that your plans are ALWAYS GOOD.  Why do I openly proclaim to others that indeed "All is well with my soul" when that is a lie?  Do I assume if I repeat it to myself often enough it will become self-fulfilling?  If I say it enough times it will somehow seep down into the depths of my heart?  Why do I question the good you bring from times of distress?  Why do I find it so difficult to praise you in this storm?  I feel it horribly impossible to translate your words into faith at this time in my life.  I read them and know them but how does that calculate into actually believing?

And yet at times I have felt your words permeate my soul as if you wrote them only for me.  As I read James 5:15 I cling to your promise.  "And the prayers of the faithful will heal the sick.  And He will raise him up..."  And you kept your promise.  A week after a horrible diagnosis and intense surgery you gave us back our husband, Daddy, grandfather.  For how long we do not know, but we are grateful and praise you with thanksgiving!  We pray unceasingly for clear results as our warriors join us in solidarity.  And then the question surfaces of why I deserve MY Daddy longer when so many others have lost their parents younger than I.  After all, he is 84 and has already led a story-worthy life.  And yet I have but one sincere request for you my Lord...PLEASE let him meet our Ethiopian son.  Please keep him here longer. 

In naive anger I shouted out loud to you "But it's not fair God!  You could have made our adoption move so much faster! You could have made him come home sooner!  Why have you made this process take so long, knowing this fate for my Daddy?" As if GOD is the selfish one.  And then I hear the still soft whisper saying "But daughter, it is you that has the selfish heart.  My will is far greater than your best-laid plans.  My will is good! You cannot yet see the tapestry I you the backside is ugly and unfinished but just wait until you see my great masterpiece.  You can only see what you desire..."

So I will choose to continue praying that my son will meet his Grampy on this earth.  For my daughter to bond more with her beloved grandfather, whom she adores.  I MUST believe that the desires of my heart will become God's will. 

Miracles have happened and I pray that more will follow.  I believe that God will use my Daddy's story to bless and strengthen others. 

On my journey out to be with him I heard a sermon on brokenness and realized that God moves us from the current pasture where we graze to one with fresh grass, not barren but plentiful and He intends to feed us there.  Our current pasture is dying and brown, but in order to enter this new pasture we must enter through the one and only gate.   In the words of my friend Phil Stacy, in a song he sings "There's no way around a river baby...gotta wade on in..."  The entrance gate may be ugly and it may be heart wrenching and painful to pass through.  But it is by passing through that we grow and become more like Christ. 

As I felt strongly as I was leaving my last visit home, God was beginning to prepare me for my Daddy's coming change.  I felt a nagging angst in viewing his marked decline since my last visit.  Urgency to be near him quickened my heart and mind.  As I boarded the pane two weeks ago today, I prayed God would hold my hand through the gate.  I felt a sense of dread preparing my mind and heart to take the first step.  Wouldn't it be much easier to live in denial? To lay in bed with tear-soaked pillowcases and tear-stained cheeks?  No, He was urging me forward and reaching for my hand.

And even now, as my faith wanes and I feel a void of any motivation to pray or trust, I believe in miracles.  Some days, like today, I am so weary with few tears left to cry and no prayers left to utter. It is then when my friends and the holy spirit step in and I let their prayers wash over me like the waves of the ocean, to bring new revival of my soul.   Even when I feel like letting go of all that has upheld me, I must remember the One who died for me and gave both me and my Daddy (and anyone else who asks) eternal life with Him.  Why would the One who parted the sea not comfort me now?  Why would the One who could melt mountains like wax not heal and cure my Daddys frail body?  Why would the One who promised to never leave no forsake me choose to let go of my hand?  My hairs are counted, the sparrow is not forgotten, the lillies of the field are clothed...So HE MUST care for me.
And so we choose to run the race of endurance he has brought forth.  Just as working out in the gym breaks  down and tears our muscle, only to rebuild it stronger, so does this race. Our greatest emotional and spiritual workout we are enduring just now, will only prove, through longsuffering and endurance, to make us stronger and more like Christ in character.  That is why you allow it Lord.  These times of stress and pain only turn out beautifully.  The fall from grace allows the bad, but just as since the beginning of time, you have worked only for redemption, restoration and grace and we KNOW that from the bad you craft the beauty of all that is GOOD.

Thank you Lord for the cleansing you bring.  For loving me even when I am angry and for using others to speak your truth to my heart to REFRESH AND REVIVE.

I CHOOSE to live in your PLAN, YOUR COMFORT and YOUR MIRACLES.  I will continue to pray for

Monday, March 24, 2014

Sometimes I close my eyes...

Sometimes I close my eyes to block out all distractions so I can memorize his face.  His voice.  His laugh.  The kind of memorization that comes only from the mind.  A picture can't do it justice.  The exercise is meant to etch the image and sound into my memory forever...
One of my greatest fears at the end was thinking of forgetting his memory, his voice, his laugh.  It literally kept me up those nights when I curled into a ball in my bed and sobbed thinking "I can't do this. There is NO WAY I can do this."  And then I became obsessed with recording his stories and voice.  And there are videos abounding.  So grateful for them now, they almost serve to keep him here longer and send me further into the abyss of denial. 
I replay conversations, hugs, stories, and wish I would have written more down, the way things happened.  Yet, then, it was all too overwhelming.  I want to remember it ALL.  I still hear his voice.  I remember him saying "I love ya' sis."  I remember the way his chin quivered when he saw Macie at the end and said "There was so much I wanted to do with her..."  The way he told me he couldn't die in a nursing home and how I secretly promised him we'd get him home.  The way he said he hadn't done enough for Jesus, that he wish he'd known him sooner.  The way he said "Play more sis" when I played praise music for him in Hospice.  The way he clenched my hand when he opened his eyes to see me sitting there and raised his eyebrows as if to ask me if I needed something and I'd just respond to him by saying "I'm just sitting with you Dad.  I'm just here."  The way he smiled when I read him scripture.  The way he sobbed when I read him my 6 pages of notes and I asked if he wanted me to stop and he said "No.  Read it sis."  The way I begged Jesus to take him, the pain of his suffering was just too great... The way he smiled when I said "Don't worry Daddy.  You'll be with Jesus and we'll be right behind you."  The way I smiled and was strong and didn't cry until I walked out of the room and fell on my moms bed and said "I JUST CAN'T DO THIS.  IT'S JUST TOO HARD." 
And the way I cursed and cried out to God and said I needed Him most of all, because without Him, I, too would die along with my dad.  And the way I feel like a part of me did...and still is dead.
Tears flow as I type.  I miss him completely.  I miss him desperately.  I miss him painfully.  I miss him joyfully. 
I feel so alone as I grieve, yet I know that so many have walked this road before me...Grief is the most unifying yet individualizing thing I've ever experienced.  I want to remember IT ALL in the off chance that God will use me in someone else's hour of need.  Most all of us will bury our parents.  And I want to be there...
For now, the pain is nearly unbearable.  I know it will lessen in time.  And until then, I will close my eyes and grasp the memories.  The smile, the wrinkles, the grey hair, the chuckle, the brilliance, the love.

He's really gone...

Today while organizing and cleaning through some piles, I came across two grief books my mom had sent.  For a second I honestly thought "Why did she send these to me?  What do I need these for?"  When I read the book's titles and saw "working through the loss of a loved one" it hit me like a ton of bricks.


Some days take reminding.  It just seems like normal that he's home, with mom, in Kansas.  Business as usual.  That thought is easier to entertain since I live in Utah and haven't lived with my parents in many many years.  How hard is it for mom?  To be faced with that realization EVERY DAY as she wakes and goes about her day, only to come home again to an empty house.  I have it much easier...

It's a constant journey.  And today I got really sad thinking he's really gone.  Well, I'm sad everyday.  But today it felt especially heavy.  I miss him like nothing else and my heart has a physical ache I've rarely experienced....

I suppose someday it will sink in that he's truly gone.  But most days, I have to remind myself...

Sunday, March 23, 2014

And so I begin again...

It is with great trepidation I begin this journey.  Three months have passed as I ever so slowly continue my ascent up my steepest mountain.  A dear friend recently reminded me that it is on these steep and uphill climbs we can anticipate the coming view...That though the journey is most difficult, we receive glimpses along the way that remind us of what is to come...that the best is waiting...

And as these three months have transpired, my heart is its heaviest.  We learned that it is then when the support lessens, that life continues as do its people...and the rest of us are left to continue grieving...

My counselor suggested I take some much needed down time to write.  And so, with the blessing of my husband I begin this newest blog... It didn't seem quite right to mesh it into our journey into parenthood, and the writer in me craves a place to only write.  So this will become my journey through grief.  And, of course, my daddy deserves his own place of honor.

I hesitate to begin.  I know not where this road shall lead.  Already it has been filled with the ups and downs expected in such a journey.  But this will become a place to process, share and heal for me and perhaps those who choose to read.  

Grief is hard, messy, deep and somehow, beautiful.  I hope and pray my journey through this darkest corner of my life and spirit will somehow help another, and soon the light shall once again remove the cloud and illuminate my heart and soul to allow joy to return...

Will you join me?