Another First has Passed

Good Sunday morning, my friends!

Here in the Hill Country of Texas it is a gorgeous morning!  The sky is a lovely shade of blue with wispy white clouds just hanging in the sky.  I think it is setting up to be another hot one…not in triple digits but warm nonetheless.  It is relatively quiet this morning with sounds only of insects, the humming of a lone hummingbird and the breeze blowing through the oaks.  That’s entirely okay with me.  Quiet can be a great blessing!

When I wrote my post last week I had begun to really feel the pressure and sadness of Steve’s upcoming birthday.  I wish I could say that my mood improved over the course of the week but I would be lying and I don’t wish to lie!

The rest of the week just continued to spiral.  I cried every single day.  More than once.  I hate to admit it but I am not one of those women that look sweet and more beautiful when they cry. (Oh, is that only in the movies?!). I am one ugly crier let me tell you.  Red nose, puffy eyes that get smaller as I bawl.  I will leave the rest of the description to your imagination.

Steve’s birthday was on Thursday.  I went by his gravesite in the morning before going over to my daughter’s house. It was a lovely day and the cemetery was dotted with color from flowers brought by people whose loved ones currently reside under the ground at  Holy Cross.  I bawled and wrote yet another letter to him.  Leaving after about a half hour, I called my son, Matthew, picked up tacos for Lauren and Leah and spent the morning over there.  At 2:30, I hauled butt back to my house where I had just enough time to shower, change and get to SA to meet my mom and Lauren’s family at the restaurant.

I made it!

Steve had to be laughing his head off at what happened next.  Lauren and family arrived right as I was walking in so I turned around to help get the kids out of the car.
I had taken great care to wear something bright and with no collar as that was required dress for my evening adventure.  I took Leah out of the car and she cries, “My tummy hurts!” and proceeds to vomit all over me!  As I struggled to comprehend what was going on another volley of stomach contents spewed out and down the front of our shirts.  Finally, my brain kicked in and I put her down where she threw up a third time.  Poor Lauren is standing there, wringing her hands saying, “What do I do?”  “Do we leave?”   I asked for water and cleaned us up as well as I could and we went in to dinner.

A trip to the restroom made me, at the very least, presentable but, oh my gosh, I cannot imagine how badly we must have smelled.  Leah was fine, just car sick and hungry.  We decided to hold our noses and we just laughed and laughed!  Why did I say that Steve was probably laughing at what went on?  Because when the kids were little he was the one onto whom they ALWAYS threw up.  Never me…just Steve.  At the house, in the insurance office, at the doctor’s office, in the truck.  You name the place, he had most likely experienced being thrown up there!  I guess it was finally my turn.

After dinner, Lauren gave me her blouse (yup, she gave me the shirt off of her back) and Mom and I moved on to the next part of Steve’s birthday celebration.  Every time Steve and I drove past the iFly Indoor Skydiving sign he said, “One day we should look into that!”  So I did!  It was such a blast!  The instructor, Dave, was phenomenal.  I felt safe, did a great job of controlling my body and even did some 360s which they said most newbies don’t/can’t do!  I am going back.  I’ve even put “sky diving” on my bucket list.  Steve is probably cringing at that one!

Funny thing is…after Steve’s birthday everything started to fall back into place.  Spirit has improved a bit each day.  Productivity has increased as I have finished binding two baby blankets,  began two more and  designed a wall hanging for a Wounded Warriors event.   I attended a small theatre production of You’re a Good Man Charlie Brown last night which got the juices flowing for a new painting.

Remember…

“weeping may endure or a night, but joy cometh in the morning.” Psalms 30:5

Enjoy the photos and have a glorious week!

 

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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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A Love Note

This has been another difficult week for us. Steve’s final “hard” chemo treatment was last Friday and the subsequent days have been filled with nausea, chills, fatigue, no desire for food and very little communication. He’s always been a quiet guy at home but these days he sits in front of the television in unbearable (for me) silence.

I assume it is a lonely place to be in for him (he doesn’t want or can’t talk about much of anything) and I know it is for me. So how do I cope when the ocean waters threaten to breach the walls and overflow?

I walk and I talk (or cry) with God.

On Saturday, the day after Steve’s treatment, l went on one of those walks. As I finished a crying jag and a rather one-sided conversation with God wherein I fussed that He didn’t care about me (us) and that I felt completely alone (which I’m not) and whined about Him not listening to my prayers, I stopped walking to blow my drippy nose. I looked down. There, off to the side of the trail was a beautiful pink stone made of crystals. It rested all by itself surrounded by a sea of white and gray rock. The light rose-colored stone isn’t one usually found in our area and was, most likely, brought in months ago when contractors laid the makeshift road.

You may not think anything of that, but I believe that the stone was a love note from God. I picked it up, gently put it in my pocket and took it home with me. I don’t usually collect stones but this one was special!

The rest of the week was no easier but that love note helped to get me through the next several days. When Steve had a really tough time or when he took a nap during the day and I was left alone with my thoughts, I remembered finding that stone and, just like that, I wasn’t alone anymore. God was right there with me!

You would think that I would have been satisfied but, no. That’s not really human nature, is it?

Yesterday, as I walked a different road/trail with Ella, I was in the middle of another conversation with God. This time, I made certain that I spent some time in praise. I thanked Him for the blessings in my life. I thanked Him for Steve and that he appeared to be feeling a bit better. I thanked Him for the beautiful, cool day. However, in spite of all of HIs blessings, I again began to feel as if I were alone. So, I did what humans typically do, I asked God to show me (prove to me, I suppose), again in a tangible way, that He was there. It didn’t have to be much, I told Him. It didn’t have to be another pretty piece of earth with crystals in it. An object of any kind with an interesting shape or color would suffice! Nothing out of the ordinary…just something that would shout, “I’m here”.

As we walked the last quarter mile of trail, I noticed a flat, clear plat of land just to the left of the trail on which we were walking. I didn’t recall seeing that piece of land before and we stepped off of the trail and walked over to see what might be there. I scanned the ground and noticed a ‘rock’ with an interesting shape resting near the center. Bending down to retrieve it, I was amazed.

A fossil!

There was no mistaking His intention. There was no doubt in my mind. That fossil was God’s shout of, “I’m here”!!

Our God DOES answer prayers. All we have to do is ask. His answer won’t always be “Yes”. Many times His answer is “No” and sometimes it is “Wait”.

Twice this week, He answered my simplest request with a “Yes” and provided a tangible object for me to look at and remember that He listens and responds. Our difficult days as a family are not over. My prayers for Steve’s healing may not be answered in the affirmative but, when things get tough, I am going to look at those two stones, both created under heat and pressure, and remember that Steve and I are not alone! We will come through this time stronger than ever!

It certainly helps knowing that our God stands with us…Always.

The Joy of Creating

When I look about at the world I think, “God must love the artistic endeavor!”  I mean, at the very start of the Bible, God is busy creating something out of nothing.  He separated day from night, created animals of every size, shape and color, plants in various shades of green, rose, yellow and blues and, he created us!  I can’t help but envision our heavenly Father having a blast  when, with every flicker of his eyelash or crook of his finger, something different, new, interesting and fun appeared before His and the angels eyes!

Ever since I was itty bitty I loved art. Although I enjoyed looking at the art made by others, making my own creations was the most fun. Whenever I had the opportunity, I painted and drew.  I drew in class, at the dinner table and under the sheets when I was supposed to be in bed.  I even pretended to be sick one day so that I could stay home from school to complete a painting!  Suffice it to say that when I wasn’t reading I was creating!  That all came to a screeching halt when I moved out of my mom’s house at age 19.  Life became extremely busy…I went to work, got married, returned to school, had my own kiddos and then I went back to work! There just wasn’t enough time left over to devote to a hobby.

Steve knew how much I missed that part of my life and, once we retired, he encouraged me to pick up the paintbrush again!  He is such a smart man!!  While far from being a professional artist, I am learning more all of the time and I LOVE it. Creating art brings me great joy.

As I finish new pieces, I will share them with you. If you are interested in these or in having something painted just for you, I invite to email me at onjoyroad@gmail.com.

Back with a Few Thoughts on Joy

Joy is not always easy to find but is, most often, right beneath our noses.

Our lives and focus here On Joy Road have changed dramatically since September and especially since Steve’s diagnosis of lung cancer in early November.  Joy has been hard to pin down, much less write about, so I beg your forgiveness for my lack of attention to the page.

Over the past few months, I have come to understand that joy isn’t always so clearly seen, felt or even identified. Joy isn’t found in continuous happiness or sustained fun or activity. I now know that when we focus/really hone in on the concept, we only find true joy in a single experience, a sound, a picture, a touch, a person…a moment.

Here are a few of my “joys”:

JOY is watching dozens of butterflies gather around the tall blue flowers Steve and I planted last spring.

JOY is a good meal, a great cup of coffee, BBQ and craft beer.

JOY is the doe that gracefully stepped out from behind the tall, umber grass to greet me.

JOY is found in that doe’s eyes as she stared at me as if to say, “It’s going to be okay”.

JOY is the sound of Steve’s excited exclamation when he spots three pairs of Cardinals playing around in the garden flying from tree to tree.

JOY is Steve calling me over to share the moment!

JOY is in the giggle of our grand babies enthralled with all things new.

JOY is our son’s phone call in the middle of the day and our daughter’s laughter at the end.

JOY is waking to Steve’s soft breaths of sleep. No hiccups. No pain. Just rest.

JOY is a new book, time to paint, and laughter between old friends.

JOY is a smile, a hug, a hand resting on your shoulder.

JOY is Steve making fun of my thick Texas accent when it slips out!

JOY is finding a pretty, out-of-place, stone on my morning walk along an old trail.

JOY is in a hard day’s work, the act of creating something out of nothing and cooking.

JOY is in kindness, trustworthiness and love.

JOY is seeing my mom’s laughing face on my phone or receiving a “How are you?” text from her.

JOY is a vanilla ice cream cone on a hot summer’s day, hard peppermint candy and a powdered sugar doughnut.

JOY is in the smile from a stranger.

JOY is sitting with Steve on the back porch, sipping a bold red wine while watching the sun slip below the horizon, sharing memories.

JOY is getting to spend one more day together.

JOY is knowing that the Creator of all things knows the number of hairs on our
heads and that He has declared that He thinks thoughts about us,

“For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the LORD,
thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope.”
Jeremiah 29:11 NKJV
.

JOY is faith.

JOY is hope.

JOY is time.

JOY is love.

JOY is…life.