He Listens…

Yesterday, the skies spit down on us all day finally turning to rain around 9:30 p.m. and then it actually rained fat drops of water for several more hours. This morning I woke up to a chilly wind but gorgeous blue skies with not a cloud in sight.

So, why, on a day when I should have awakened with a smile and a bounce in my step, did I arise with such a heavy heart?

Who knows? I honestly cannot say. My kids and their children are doing well. My mom is doing well. I’m doing well. Sigh…so what is the problem?

Feeling more than a little pathetic and self-absorbed, the poor, poor, pitiful me got up from a cozy bed, made breakfast for the pups and myself and even washed the dishes.

Although all I really wanted to do was sit in my chair and sulk, I made the decision to follow through on my goal to read the Bible every day. Sooo, I grumpily sat down to do my morning reading. Before even opening my Bible to the day’s readings (I’m using the YouVersion app and The Bible in One Year plan), I prayed that He help me turn my morning around, to send me words of encouragement.

I opened the Bible to Psalm116: 1,2 and read…

I love the Lord, because he has heard
My voice and my pleas for mercy.
Because he inclined his ear to me,
Therefore I will call on him as long as I live.

Wow!! I don’t always get an answer that clear but today…he heard my prayer! What did this psalm say to me that made such a difference? It reminded me that He hears me even when I feel alone. Even when my heart is heavy with loss. Even when I want to just quit. This psalm said that He listens. He listens “to ME”.

I guarantee, if you are feeling alone and unheard today, HE listens and hears YOU, too!  Call on Him!

Thank you, Lord, for always being close to us especially on those heavy-hearted mornings.  Thank you for reminding us that you are just a prayer away and that you wait to hear from us!

Now, heart lighter and infused with more energy, I am ready for the day, but I have to decide what to put on my agenda…sewing, painting, cleaning or yard work? Hmmmmm…

Tough choice!

What is God saying to you today?

A “Mindful” Life

This morning, to fulfill my goal of reading something outside of my “norm”, I read a letter written by a lady who, along with her family, traveled back to her 95 year old grandfather’s village in India.  She writes of her resentment of the missionaries that led her parents to Christ which led them to emigrate to America.  She supposes that the emigration was to “find Jesus” but she also acknowledges that they most likely emigrated to escape the caste system that had relegated her family to the lower tiers of their community for generations.  In spite of the reasons for her parents’ eventual move to the U.S., she sees the move as her parents turning their backs on their native country.  She is angry.

In her letter she talks of how the family follows their grandfather as he takes them through the village pointing out the streets where he was once forbidden to walk as a child as he was considered an “untouchable” and to the fields wherein he worked as a child.  I feel her surprise and hear a touch of awe in her voice as she writes, “Gramps said this without any trace of bitterness—like it wouldn’t even occur to him to be angry at the indignities he suffered as a child.”

After looking at the world through her grandfather’s eyes, her voice and attitude changes.  She writes, “Perhaps…perhaps I could live my own mindful life.  Perhaps, I could follow the melody where it leads, get lost in the shadows, occasionally surprised by the voice of God…”

I love her statement…perhaps…

What would our world look like if each of us lived “mindfully”?  How do we even do it? I don’t think that it requires us to fill up a calendar box with so many infinitesimal tasks that the ink dribbles onto the tabletop.  I think it simply requires us to sit and reflect upon our lives and decide what we want our lives to look like.  At the end of our days on this earth what do we want our lives to have meant?

After a bit of reflection, I have decided I want to:

  • Be sure to make time for those I love.  I want them to know that I am available when they need/want to talk or just want me to listen.
  • Create.  Whether that be from behind the sewing machine, sitting before the easel or turning soil in the garden I want to produce something useful to the body, pleasurable to the eyes and is good for the soul.
  • Learn something new each day.
  • Be fearless in the face of challenges or when trying something new.
  • Maintain an attitude of thankfulness.  
  • Have a peace-filled home and heart.
  • Look expectantly toward the future.
  • Be an encourager to others.

I DO have my calendar out and at the ready.  I HAVE set my goals for 2019.  However, I remember that Proverbs 16:9 says, “A man’s heart plans his way, but the Lord directs his steps.”

With that verse in mind and as I attempt to live a more mindful life,  I will also wait to be “surprised by the voice of God”.

 

A New Year Looms

Two major holidays, Thanksgiving and Christmas, have come and gone. They were our first without Steve.

Each of us dealt with the upcoming holidays in our own way and, although his chair was empty, the memories we treasured of all of the holidays that came before remained in the forefront of our minds during this season; the huge life that was his and the love he had for all of us remained firmly planted in our hearts as we sped toward and celebrated each holiday.

As the first day of the new year draws to a close I find myself thinking of my life with the man that was my best friend for over 35 years. His death was a huge loss that caused the deepest sorrow of my fifty-eight years and greatly impacted the lives of my children. It literally colored every other event that occurred during this year.

With that in mind, my daughter and her husband, both of whom lost their dads in the past two years, spent part of their New Year’s Eve making a list of everything good that happened to them and their families during 2018. They found that although their fathers’ deaths made for negative and overpoweringly sad memories, there were more events that sort of “balanced the scales” making for a more positive view of the past year. Even though Steve’s absence hovers ever near, I think it fitting that I follow their example and make my own 2018 List of Good Things.

My children are happy and successful.

Lauren won Teacher of the Year, as well as, Secondary Teacher of the Year for her school district.

Matthew was awarded a Life Saving bar for saving a child from drowning.

Kendall was hired on to a new company with great benefits and allows her to pursue a career in real estate.

Zach was hired at Lauren’s school. They get to see each other every day at work!

Lauren and Zach welcomed their second child, Jase, into the world in July.

Matthew and Kendall added Kennedy, a healthy, beautiful baby girl, to their family in December.

Landon and Leah are absolutely precious children who love their families, love to play outside and on technology. They learn something new each and every day…and…they make me laugh so hard. I love them so very much! While I don’t get to see my grandchildren as often as I would like, I do get to see them whenever possible. When I have been needed I have, thus far, been able to help out. What a blessing!

My mom celebrated her 78th birthday and is healthy, opinionated and fun!!

After 34 years of marriage and constant companionship, I’ve once again learned to live on my own. I could list a series of examples but will not bore you with the minutia. Suffice it to say, I miss my sweetheart but know that he would be proud that I have been able to handle whatever life has thrown at me; I haven’t just given up.

Most importantly, I have kept my faith. When things get tough and friends are in short supply I know that God is right there. He walks beside me on the good days and carries me on the hard ones. I am so grateful to have a Savior who is always present!

I pray that 2019 brings joy, contentment, health, success and financial independence for my children, extended family and friends. For myself, I will try to follow the sentiments below written by William Arthur Ward, an American Writer and Author:

“This bright new year is given me

To live each day with zest

To daily grow and try to be

My highest and my best!”

In 2019, I beseech you to live each day as if is going to be your last. Look upon each new day with optimism and joy. Make the day count for something. Make a difference. Build bridges. Repair relationships. Seek and accept Christ as your Savior. Only He can guarantee your future!

Happy New Year!

Back Porch Lovin’

This morning, as I sit outside on my back porch, it is silent. Well, it’s as silent as possible in the country. The air is heavy with fog. A few insects are buzzing and chirping. A buck snorts in the trees and one of our neighbor’s cows is lowing mournfully. I wonder if she is all alone in the pasture? For the past couple of days I have heard a cardinal chirp but I haven’t been able to see her.

Aside from all of that, it is silent.

I love mornings on my back porch.

In the past, I loved them because Steve and I would sit out here drinking our first cups of coffee, listening for the different creature sounds, talking about our thoughts on the world and dream of the future.

After he died, I sat out here because I felt closer to Steve.  I felt that he was still here.  I talked with him while sitting in his chair and bawled.

While the above remains true, seven months into this new life of mine, I think I’ve reached the point where I begin my mornings on my back porch because it’s just where I love to start my day.  A day begun on the back porch with my coffee, dogs and Bible is a day begun well. The setting is one of peaceful communion with nature, God and my thoughts.

Grieving sucks.

Surviving is still hard.

But life…life is still good!

 

“Nothing ever gets easier.  You just get stronger.”

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“How Do You Do It?”

Late last night an old work friend messaged me with this comment, “Laura, you seem to be surviving well without Steve.  I still don’t feel like I’m surviving without _____.  How do you do it?”

At first I was a little upset as I took her question to mean that it looks like I don’t care that he’s gone and that I don’t need him.  But as I thought how best to respond to her I realized that my friend lost her husband almost four years ago and she still hasn’t found her footing in the new life without her husband.   That realization made me incredibly sad.  

In truth, I am doing well. It’s been seven months today that Steve died and I’m busy! I’m taking care of the house, although at the moment it needs some serious cleaning!  I’ve been sewing!! What can I say?  I’ve been sewing for the family, moving my house around a bit and spending time with my mom and kids when I can.  My finances are stable, I find time to read the Bible (and “shoot ‘em up” type books, Harry Potter and Miss Julia, too).  And, while sitting on the back porch, I have begun to make plans for the future. My future!

All of that aside, I miss Steve, my husband and best friend.  Every single minute of every single day I feel his absence.  I shared with my friend that I cry at least once a day and sometimes a memory will hit and I will cry all day. BUT…I don’t show that side of my life on FB or Instagram.  To share with the world how lonely it feels to sit in his chair watching one of our old shows, to want to pick up a project and, seeking his approval, say, “Hey, Babe!  It’s finished!” or to open the door after being gone all day and look at his chair only to find it empty, is a meaningless act.  People really don’t really want to hear it and I most certainly don’t want their pity.  That is unhelpful and meaningless, too!

I want to remind her that there is no ONE way to grieve nor is there a time limit on how long a person should grieve.  Grieving is an intensely personal act and I am not an expert on how it is to be done!  Most days will find me wading through those murky waters just trying to find some solid ground on which to tread.  Having a plan, albeit a flexible one, for the day or week has helped me to find that solid ground. I find that it is better for me to be productive, to have a project to work on…something to do each day…than it is to NOT have one!  When I’m productive I am less likely to focus on myself/my loss, therefore, I’m happier!  I also choose to look for joy in each day!  I admit that there have been days when I reallllly have to reach to find that one tiny scrap of joy!  But when I do find it my day is made so much better.

To be truthful, I don’t believe that I have any other choice but to move forward.  It would not be fair to myself, to my children or to my grandchildren to just give up and be sad all of the time.  What lesson would that teach them?  No, I need to show them that life does go on in spite of setbacks, sadness and tragedy!!  I need to be/want to be an example for them!  Crappy things happen in life but God does have a plan for us.  It is our responsibility to get up each morning, pull up our boot straps and continue to work His plan. 

I also want to make Steve proud of me!  Steve would hate it if I were miserable all of the time, if I stopped being creative, if I let my life end with his death. While in the hospital, he continually told people how strong I was, how grateful he was that I was there with him.  He bragged about my painting, our house, my new sewing gig, etc.  He was always proud of me.  Frankly, when it is my time to join him I don’t want to see him shaking his head or rolling his eyes in disappointment.  I want him to gaze at me with those sparkling, hazel eyes, smile and proudly say, “You did good!”

So…if you want to know how I’m really doing, just ask.  I’ll tell ya.  If you see me in photos on FB or Instagram you can assume that I’m doing well because, in spite of everything, I AM.

Paying Attention to Other People’s “Stuff”

Another week has come and gone.

Last night I realized that when a person is in the middle of his/her own “stuff” it is hard to pay attention to and/or he/she has less patience for other people’s “stuff”. Unfortunately, sometimes our lives are filled with a lot of not-so-great “stuff”!

While last week was a combination of positive and negatives, I managed to find the positives pretty easily. I finished two projects and delivered them ahead of time. Woo hoo! Mailed out two belated birthday gifts. I got to see my daughter and baby boy several times and spoke to my son and texted with him more often than usual. The rain has continued (we really needed it) and the pups are over their kennel cough issues. I went to a couple of wineries to pick up shipments and had a glass of our favorite red while remembering Steve. A hummingbird keeps buzzing my head this morning! (Stinker!! I wonder what it wants?).

But, negatives and sadness has also been a constant presence and I just didn’t have the patience I should have had to deal with it all. But you don’t need to hear all of THAT!

Sadly, I guess what I am trying to say is that for the past several months, although things have improved somewhat, I have been so focused on my own “stuff” that I haven’t really paid close attention to the “stuff” that is going on in other peoples’ lives. I just kind of dug in, circled the wagons, closed myself off and with a very narrow lens, focused on my “stuff” never realizing how selfish I was being. In fact, over the past couple of weeks, I…

  • Worried a friend that she might have said something to hurt my feelings because she had not heard from me and I was really hard to get hold of by phone.
  • Hurt another friend’s feelings. I made her feel like I didn’t want to spend time with her. She thought that I wanted to take a “break” from our friendship. Then I made it worse by fussing at her and telling her that she needs to stop overthinking things and that sometimes things aren’t about her.  (Yes, rude!!)
  • Failed to realize just how hard a time my child is having with her second baby, the loss of her daddy, dealing with the terrible twos all and getting ready to return to work, allllll on little to no sleep.
  • Didn’t know that, because one of our family members continues to battle the demon of alcohol addiction, he lost his job and his sweet wife has been destroyed…again.
  • Found out that another family member has been called back to the doctor for more tests to be run. She’s scared to death as she is a single mama of two littles.
  • Worry that my son is not being forthcoming when we talk about how he is doing…is he really okay or does he just not want to tell me what is going on in his head because he doesn’t want to add to ‘my’ plate.
  • A Ft. Worth police officer died Friday evening after being shot in the head by a criminal.  I didn’t know that because I don’t watch the news anymore!!

So, last night was a wake up call of sorts. I acknowledge that I must take care of myself, grieve and get on with the business of living but I must also remember that the world does NOT revolve around me! I need to focus on others and try to make their lives a little easier. While I may not be able to change their circumstances, I CAN empathize, pray, show a little more patience, offer a shoulder and an ear and, when able to, take some kind of action to lighten their load.

The road to find joy isn’t to be a passive journey traveled alone. It is active, always changing and should include the people whom you care about and who care about you. It’s okay to cocoon, but it is just as important to include others in your safe place where you can work on being healed and where you can help others to heal and find their joy.

So, some suggestions for myself:

  1. I will plan my week out to ensure that I have time to do the things that must be done, as well as, things I like/want to do.
  2. I will call my people (or text if they like that better) to check on at least one person in my tribe every couple of days. Most importantly, I will really listen for their needs.
  3. I will be flexible. If one of my people needs me I will be ready to go!! All the other stuff at home will still be there for me when I get back home.
  4. I will be an encourager. I will sweep the judgmental, frustrated, annoyed feelings out of my head.
  5. I will learn something everyday even if it in how to better help/treat people.
  6. I will be kind to myself by changing my internal dialogue.
  7. I will document/write down at least three things for which I am grateful each day.

Even in our own sadness and grief we still need to do our part to help others. I pledge to do better in this upcoming week and beyond.

“Brothers and sisters, we urge you to warn those who are lazy. Encourage those who are timid. Take tender care of those who are weak. Be patient with everyone. See that no one pays back evil for evil, but always try to do good to each other and to all peoiple. Always be joyful. Never stop praying. Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus.1

Thessalonians 5:14-16

 

I’m Happy Happy…yes, I Am!

Okay, well, maybe not Haaappppy Happy, ecstatic happy, but I am happy today, nonetheless.

It has been raining all day and that nearly always puts a smile on my face (as long as I see a little sunshine within a week, I’m good!) but, I digress, that isn’t why I’m Happy, HAPPY today.

I have had sooooo many problems with my sewing machines lately that I honestly told my mom that I was seriously considering throwing them out and never, EVER sewing again.  For example, I wanted to embroider some cute kitchen towels for my friend, Deb, to give as a house-warming gift.  What should have taken about an hour and a half to make took, literally…are you ready for this…10 hours to make!!  TEN HOURS!  Yes, I did finish them.  Yes, I did tell her how long it took to make them.  I wanted her to really appreciate them.  Lol

Just one more example for you, I’ve been trying to quilt a baby blanket for two weeks.  It has given me fits.  The thread breaks and breaks and breaks so that I cannot get a good, steady stitch going.  Ugh!  I had to put the quilt away for awhile to keep from ripping it up and throwing it away!

Last night, I needed to get a wall hanging pieced and quilted.  It just HAD to get FINISHED as I promised the person who ordered it that I would have it ready for her prior to September 17th!  So, I sat down at my machine and prayed over that silly thing.

“Please work!”

Applause please!

I pieced the the project with no difficulty at all.  I made the quilt sandwich, looked over at the machine and, as I changed out the presser feet, I prayed over it again.

“Please, Lord. Let it work!”

Hallelujah!  Praise Jesus!!  I had no problems at all and quilted that baby so easily.

So…I’m happy.  I made progress on three projects and I think they will all turn out well.  Photos of the baby blanket and the wall hanging are forthcoming as I still need to bind them. But below are the two towels that took 10 HOURS!

Lol!

Find a little something to make YOU happy today!

Everything has a Season

There is a reason and a season for everything under the sun.

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Ecclesiastes 3 tells us:

To everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven:

A time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted; 

A time to kill, and a time to heal, a time to break down, and a time to build up;

A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance;

A time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing; 

A time to get, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to cast away;

A time to rend, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;

A time to love, and a time to hate; a time of war, and a time of peace.

In every person’s life we have moments where the negatives “death, breaking down, mourning, losing, rending, etc.” seem to overtake the positives.  It takes a strong heart and a stronger faith to understand that the positives “birth, planting, healing, laughter, embracing, creating, etc.” are just around the bend.

Keep your eyes focused upward and outward and soon the darkness will be replaced by the light…

“and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus”.  Phillippians 4:7.

Today I have joy that God got me home safely last night (after driving through a super hard thunderstorm through which I could barely see to drive, a “low tire pressure” that came on while I was driving in that mess and before a fantastically frightening rain and lightening storm arrived at my home).

I get joy from my two pups, my family and that it feels like Autumn is right around the corner.  The life-giving rain continues to be in the forecast for the next couple of days.

Look for your joy today!  Happy Saturday!!

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Saturdays

Steve used to LOVE his Saturdays. It was start of the weekend for both of us which meant that an adventure of some sort was on the horizon. We might go to a new winery, try out a microbrewery or distillery (yup…we liked our spirits), look for a new restaurant, go to a movie, take a short hike at Lost Maples or just saunter down the sidewalks of Fredericksburg.

Saturday was our day for fun.  They were carefree and filled with companionship and excitement.

Suddenly Saturdays were just dreadfully sad.

You see, he died on a Saturday at 6:16 a.m.

Most people, I have been told, mark an event in terms of months. Leave it to me to take it to an all new level of obsession. Since April 7th, Saturdays became the day for keeping track. A day for marking that one depressingly specific event.

Every Saturday was one more week that he was not here.

Each Saturday morning, I rolled over to look at the time on my iPhone and thought, “Good morning, Honey. You’ve been gone two weeks, two hours and thirteen minutes.” “Good morning, Sweetie. You’ve been gone ten weeks, one hour and four minutes.”

Yes, I even kept track of the hours and minutes. Like I said…I took it to an all new level of nuttiness.

Today I realized that, for the first time since April 7th, I did not automatically know how many weeks it has been since our lives were irrevocably altered.

Today, I caught myself referring to his death in terms of months…not Saturdays. Not hours or minutes.

Today is September 7th and we have survived five months without the gentle giant of a man we called husband, best friend, Dad and Pop-Pop. It has not been easy, in fact, many of our days have been heart-wrenchingly difficult but we are adapting.  We have had  good days. We are learning to live without his comforting presence because we have faith that one day we WILL see him again. Saturdays are, once again, just the beginning of another weekend.

I call that progress.

Be of good courage, and he shall strengthen your heart all ye that hope in the Lord. Psalms 31:24

The Mask

“I’m so proud of you.”

  (Thank you.)

“You are an inspiration.”

    (I can only hope.)

“You are so strong.”

(I try to be.)

“I couldn’t do what you do.”

  (You, too, will do what you have to if you ever find yourself in my position.)

“I admire you so much.”

  (I appreciate that.)

“He would be pleased you are doing so well.”

(Most likely but he would not be surprised.)

I am a master at appearances.

He knew that.

On the outside…

I appear strong and proud and independent.

I look like I can do all things alone.

I am inspirational and encouraging and have faith that knows no bounds.

I get things done and deal with the daily irritants of life with mostly quiet assurance and strength.

I handle well the grief that everyone expects to overrun me.

But, I am dishonest.  In truth, I am…

Despondent to live without my best friend. 

Heartbroken.  I miss his face, his smile, his huge presence, his hands….

Lonely for the man who knew the real me and loved me anyway.

Mad that God took away my heart, my blessing, my one earthly anchor.

Forlorn for the past.  I miss the days when we spent the evenings and weekends with our children laughing, playing games, going on trips, eating at the dinner table, telling about the “highlight” and “lowlight” of our days, bedtime rituals and enjoying just being together.

Broken.  I want my whole family back and within easy reach of a hug and a kiss.

Scared that I can’t get it all done and be all I should be for my kids and grandkids.

Today, the mask slipped.  Fissures appeared and tears silently flowed.  

Tomorrow, the mask will be firmly back in place.

I promise.

No cracks.

No tears.

All smiles.

Inspiration, courage, encouragement and faith will be free and abundant.

All else remains stashed behind the mask.