Joy in the Midst of Trials

They say that all of the “firsts” after a loved one dies are the most difficult. I agree with that to a point because, as we are still experiencing the “firsts” since Steve’s death on April 7th, I have nothing yet with which to compare the statement. Every day is a “first” for now.

Since that totally awful day, we have celebrated Mother’s Day and Father’s Day, our what-would-have-been our 35th anniversary, July 4th and today, July 11, our youngest’s 28th birthday without the man that made it all worthwhile. Some days have been harder than others but we are working through it, each in our own way.

Steve has been gone for three months. A quarter of the year!  It has been a tough road yet, day by day, I seem to be able to cope with and come through those crazy moments of sadness and despair more quickly. Honestly though, there was a two and a half week period in June from which I doubted I would be able to recover. Anything that could go wrong did. A lightening storm knocked out the electricity to my home and caused several thousands of dollars of damage to circuits and appliances. Steve’s will was probated during this time and I did not realize what an event that would turn out to be. Probating the will was just so…final. Repairmen traipsed through my home and I wrote endless checks for repairs completed.  I even wrecked my riding lawn tractor!! Some days I literally felt like I was being torn apart at the seams!

Where was the joy? Has there been anything joyful on this new road of life?

Surprisingly, yes! In those darkest of hours when my heart is shattered beyond all repair, when the anger at our loss struggles to escape at everyone I hold dear, when the mere whisper of his name causes unstoppable tears and feelings of intense aloneness and abandonment there has been joy.

There is joy to be found but I caution you…it doesn’t always jump right out at you.

You have to look for it.  Some days you have to dig deep and look HARD for it!

Sometimes joy is as small as our little dog, Darla, curling up next to me in bed, head on paws, staring at me with those deep chocolate eyes as if saying, “I’m still here and I love you.”

Our hummingbirds and the occasional cardinal seem to appear en masse when I am at my lowest. It’s as if God himself (with a suggestion from Steve, perhaps) says, “Go let Laura know that we are here with her. She is not alone.” Oh, when they show up during those moments I bawl even harder but I am grateful and consider it a joy!

An unexpected reimbursement check, a sweet bank employee’s smile, a heart showing up on my phone from a dear friend who is thinking of me, a video sent by my children of their children, an unexpected rain shower, a new flower, FaceTime, a Scripture verse tailor made for me…the list literally goes on and one.

Even in sorrow joy exists.

I challenge you to find joy in your life!!! Even if today has been disappointing or disheartening, I challenge you to look for just ONE thing/person/action that brings you joy.

Write it down.

Tomorrow, write down just ONE thing that brings you joy. The day after, write down ONE more thing and repeat the act on each day following!

Before you know it you will have a long list of things, people, events, or words that have brought you joy and with it you will have developed a new habit of viewing your world through the lens of joy and gratitude.

Life is not easy and the road is not always, if ever, straight and smooth, but our attitude can make the journey more joy-filled!

I’m still sad. I still cry…daily.  There are even days when I think, “Nope. I don’t want to play today!”  On those days, God never fails to show show me something that gives me a smidgen of joy to get through the day.

Ask Him for help to find the joy in your world.

He will!

“Rejoice in the Lord always. Again I will say, rejoice!” Philippians 4:4

Loss

t’s been a little more than two months since my last post.

Much has happened.

More has changed

Steve has passed away and all of our lives have been altered. Forever there will be a huge hole in our hearts, our lives and our spirits.

On March 20th, Steve began to run a fever. In cancer patients, a fever of more than 100.5 is the cue to get moving! I hustled him into the car and made the hour trip into San Antonio as quickly as humanly well, as legally, possible.

We ended up spending a little over two weeks in one hospital and three days in another. They thought it was pneumonia. Then they thought it was the cancer. Then it didn’t matter anymore what it was.

Thankfully, he was able to say goodbye to his precious children, to my mom, his sisters and his closest friends and then he went to sleep for a few hours and then he was gone. Just gone.

In my last post I talked about how life goes on.  It does.

I wrote that there is still joy in the world.  There is.

I espoused that I didn’t know what held the future but I know WHO holds it. Still true.

But this is the hardest thing I have ever experienced. It has been a month now since we laid him to rest and tomorrow will be five weeks since he died.  While I find many good parts in most days, I often find myself in the middle of a puddle of tears.

Like right now.

I still take my morning coffee on our back porch. This year, we have more hummingbirds than ever before; more than a dozen visit the feeders. Steve would love that fact! Usually I laugh at their antics but today is not one of those days. Today, I weep over our loss. I miss my best friend. Today, the loss…it cuts to the bone. The pain is real. It is sharp and it is deep.

It will pass.

Sunday is Mother’s Day and the precious man who made me a mom will not be here to celebrate that fact with us. I know the kids and I will miss him horribly on this day.  I suppose that it’s just another one of those firsts  that we will have to move through.

I want Steve back so badly.  Since that is not an option for we mere mortals, I have a box of tissues on the table next to me as I watch our hummingbirds, listen for the turkeys and enjoy the cool, southern breeze as the sun starts to peek out from behind the fluffy white clouds.

I know that joy still exists. I just have to look a little harder for it.

Some days it feels like God is no longer here with me. I know that He is.

In the end, Scripture says, “And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away.” Revelation 21:4

I look forward to that day!

When Joy is Hard to Find

Happy Wednesday!

After almost a full week of mostly sunshiny weather, today is cold, wet and drabby. Yuck! Steve left early this morning to meet his buds, Andrew and Brian, for breakfast and since I have some time before I need to head into town to spend the day with Mom I’m writing.

It doesn’t take a genius to notice that I’ve written very little this past year. My last post was in September and since then I have struggled. Yup…struggled to write. Why?

Many writers say that, when bad or unexplainable events occur in their lives, they write. I used to think that I, too, used writing to process life but I have found that, for me, it doesn’t work like that. Apparently I tend to process life, decisions, and fears in my own head. I don’t know why.  Perhaps I just don’t want to put down the darkest, ugliest parts of my thoughts on paper (or in cyberspace) for all to see. But, if that is the case, that’s really not very honest of me, is it? Isn’t the primary purpose of writing to “let your voice be heard”? Maybe I haven’t wanted to write down what is happening in our lives because I don’t want my children, friends and family to know how much I worry on a daily basis about Steve, how sad I am much of the time when I think about life without him…how my heart breaks with every cough and tired sigh he makes.

Maybe…maybe…I just need to write anyway.

Fifteen months have passed since Steve’s diagnosis of non-small cell lung cancer. The diagnosis hit us like a ton of bricks but we’ve managed to maintain a sense of normalcy in our daily lives. Our faith in God and our hope for complete healing helps us through each day. Truth is, the prognosis for this kind of cancer is bleak. Statistics indicate that 50% of people who are diagnosed with this kind of cancer will die within eight months. Of the remaining 50% only 18% will survive five years. So, you see, his future is uncertain at best. Steve has managed to beat the first set of stats…and for that we are more than grateful.

Life, however, has been harder for him the past couple of weeks and I’m so afraid that he is starting to give up. Yesterday, as he struggled to catch his breath after a coughing fit, he said, “I’m so tired of this!” Well, we just cannot have THAT so I find myself teasing him, cajoling him to eat, pushing him to get up and move, encouraging him to go out with his friends and saying, “It’s going to get better”. But is it?

I find myself getting pretty teary when I think of the dreams we had.  Dreams of taking trips and making memories together with the grandkids.  Now those dreams seem so far away. My heart shatters when I think of Steve not getting to know Leah, Landon or the new baby that is on it’s way as they grow older. The thought of my grown children not having their sweet daddy at the other end of the telephone to share their accomplishments, stories of their workday and family life, their hopes, dreams and worries just makes me so incredibly sad.  Tears just flow more easily some days and joy is a bit out of reach.

This morning, as I mindlessly flicked through Pinterest, I read a quote by Kay Warren. She said, “Joy is the settled assurance that God is in control of ALL the details of my life. The quiet confidence that ultimately EVERYTHING is going to be okay and the determined CHOICE to praise God in all things.”

I agree. So today, in between the bouts of sorrow, despair and worry, I choose to praise God for the life we have been given, for the life we have lived and for the future, whatever that future may look like.

God has provided us a lifetime of joys. This experience with cancer is just a bobble in the time continuum. A rough patch. Even within this tough period, God is here and I believe that Nehemiah had it right when he said, “The joy of the Lord is my strength”.

Dear Lord,

Thank you for the joys of life that you have laid at our feet. Thank you for always being there, when life is joyful and when that joy is hard to find. Thank you for holding my husband in the palms of your hands and, although I pray for his complete healing of this horrible disease, I know that You know best. I only ask that you help me to show Steve how much he is loved on a daily basis and that he feels Your love and presence always.

Amen

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Adversity

I went out to water the garden today and noticed a couple of weeds growing up through the crushed granite.  They were just behind the containers where I had planted some of our favorite tomato varieties.  Absentmindedly, I bent down to grasp the stem where it met the rock and then I stopped.  The plant was NOT a weed but a tomato plant.  In fact, as I stood up, I realized that there were two tomato plants growing up through the stone.  Paying attention now, I looked around and there was a third tomato plant growing up through the rock.  How in the world did that happen?  I laughed aloud as I wondered how those seeds had found a foothold in the soil beneath the crushed granite and how it was that they were growing bigger and stronger than the plants in the containers!!

In some ways, the lives of people mimic what is going on with the stone and those little tomato plants.  When do we grow the most?  When do we become the strongest? We become stronger only when we go through adversity.  When the world of hard knocks comes around, we learn new skills and/or strengthen those we already have.  We push through, pick ourselves up, straighten our backs, lift our chins and step out to continue on for another day.  When the world treats us less than well and we come out successfully on the other side, we have overcome!

God is waiting to hear from you so He can help!  He is there for YOU!

What do you need today?  We will pray for you!

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“…but we also glory in tribulations, knowing that  tribulation produces perseverance; and perseverance, character; and character, hope. ”  Romans 5: 3,4