Monday, October 26, 2015

For my good

“And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.“—Romans 8:28
As pastor read the scripture to open his sermon, I furiously wrote on the side of my handout:

Q: How was it for my good that Mac died?

After all, I prayed, and prayed, and prayed that God would heal Mac. So how was it for my good that Mac died?

I was angry in my heart. Angrier then I have been in many, many months. I didn’t want to sit there and listen to this message. My brain and heart cried out to God … What good did Mac’s death do???!!!??? I could easily have sat there in the pew with my arms folded over my chest, and a scowl on my face. I stopped actively listening to the sermon. I vaguely heard phrases like, “God doesn’t always do what WE want Him to do”, and I thought, “No kidding!” Pastor said that God doesn’t always answer our prayers as we ask either—well, tell me something new. As this battle furiously raged inside of me, pastor continued to preach. I wondered how he could so calmly continue preaching while I was fighting such a battle. Doesn’t anyone else care?!?

“ …and we have His promise that in all things He is actively working for our good.” BAH! 

“God, again I ask you … how was it for my good that Mac died? TELL ME!”

“Whatever situation we are in, and this includes our sufferings, as mentioned in verse 17, and even our groaning (v. 23). Suffering is part of the package.”

I heard pastor say something about a desert, and cactus, and suddenly in my heart I knew the answer. It was as though God spoke to me, and with that understanding a sense of total peace and calm came over me. I wrote on my handout:

A: Because you, Kimberly, used to rely on Mac for everything, and now you rely on ME!

Where did that answer come from? I cried out to God and He answered me. I may not have been conscientiously listening to the sermon, but in the quiet of my heart I was, and the Holy Spirit was able to teach me. I realized that God took me to that desert pastor mentioned. A desert where there wasn’t any water, and there wasn’t any day – only night without stars or the moon, and all I found was stones to stumble on, and cactus burrs that scratched and hurt. There wasn’t anyone to physically lift me up and guide me—but once I put my eyes on God, He brought me through it and now my sovereign assurance is in GOD

I realized that I now rely on God in a way I never would have while Mac was alive. I now turn to God first for help and guidance. For the first time since Mac passed away, I have a joy unspeakable, unmeasurable, and unfailing. A deeper joy then I have known in many months. Recently I had wondered if I’d ever be happy—really happy—again, and yet there I sat: filled with complete and total joy and peace, knowing that in Mac’s death God brought good into my life.

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

Thursday, October 22, 2015

No particular order at 11 months

I’m now at 11 months, 6 days, 10 1/2 hours, plus a few minutes into widowhood—but who’s counting? HA! I’ve noticed several things lately, and here they are in no particular order.

The emotional highs and lows are different: the lows are not as deep and the highs don’t climb as high, so I’m not experiencing the crazy crashes back down to reality.

I’m frowning more, but I don’t know why.

My dreams are not as upsetting (I don’t search for Mac every night), but Mac is no longer so prominent in them.

I’m having trouble hearing Mac's voice in my head these days. I know the words, but I don’t actually hear him speaking. I almost wish I had a recording on the phone to listen to, but maybe it’s better I don’t.

I’m actually ready to not be a grieving widow, and not be “needy”, and not be able to handle things because I fall apart emotionally; but, I’m not ready to NOT be a grieving widow either.

I enjoy the tenderness of friendship more than ever: a hug, a kiss on the cheek, a call or email just to check on me.

My wedding ring hurts. It hurt me emotionally to see it on my left hand, so I moved it to my right hand thinking that might help. The emotional pain isn’t as deep, but it doesn’t fit the ring finger on my right hand and so it’s actually physically painful. Today I removed it and placed it in a memory box. I’m not sure that’s the right thing to do either, as now I can’t quit crying.

I feel incapable of dealing with things that were Mac’s responsibilities. The broken fireplace and the propane tank, the garage door opener and remote, which eye insurance option to choose. Oh wait, time took that decision out of my hands. I dithered over this decision so long, the deadline to change came and went, and for the next year my eye insurance remains as it has always been.

On the other hand, I actually made a decision about replacing the blinds in my great room area. At first, I looked at colors and style and said to myself, “Mac wouldn’t like that”, “Oh, Mac would like this”,  and then I realized how ridiculous it was to worry over what Mac might or might not like. After all, Mac isn’t here and he really doesn’t care what I put on the windows. (Just image the breathtaking views he has in heaven!) I finally found the courage inside of me to chose what pleased me—and that seemed strange.

I’m more comfortable being alone, and I’m thankful I’m no longer having to explain why Mac isn’t with me when I bump into someone.

I feel guilty that I’m not mourning so deeply—and that’s the most ridiculous emotional roller-coaster ride I’ve ever ridden.

The best thing in all of this is that I every morning I wake up knowing:
"The joy of the Lord is your strength."—Nehemiah 8:10
... and for that, I’m extremely thankful and grateful.

Monday, October 12, 2015

Reaching forward

There is something very special about the prayers of God’s people—they work! I had been dreading today, but when I got up this morning I could tell that God’s people were praying for me, because instead of feeling discouraged and empty, I felt happy and content. 

“Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before”Philippians 3:13 (KJV)

During my morning devotions, I told the Lord this day was His, that I would trust Him to order my steps as they should go, and that I would rejoice in all that He had for me—whatever it was. I had some ideas in mind, but God had a different and masterful plan for me. He brought unexpected company to my door, and that gave me an opportunity to be a witness. 

Then I took a drive up the road and did some grocery shopping. While in the grocery store I kept bumping into this one lady, and soon she struck up a conversation. Another chance to be a witness.

Dinner was a bit of a challenge as I didn’t want anything that had been “special to us”, so I ventured to google and found a tuna casserole recipe to try. This is a dish I’d not fixed in all the years my husband was alive because he hated tuna and peas and refused to eat this casserole. It wasn’t the best casserole I’ve ever eaten, but it satisfied my need for nourishment and had no attached memories. Again, I was content.

There were only a couple of times today when I actually thought about how how this day was no longer my anniversary, but simply another day on the calendar. There was a moment when I felt guilty that I wasn’t mourning, and then I realized that it was okay to be content, happy, and living per Philippians 3:13 (slightly paraphrased) “putting away those things that are past, and reaching forth to what’s ahead.” 

After all, Mac isn’t looking back at our life; instead he’s in Glory having a grand time—and he’s healthy, happy and more content than any of us can imagine. I can’t wait to see him again and spend all eternity being happy and content together, while we praise our Savior!

Saturday, October 10, 2015

Healing in my grief

Friday I shared how I am grieving for a friend; but within my grief there has been healing for myself. 

My dear friend’s loss happens as I’m quickly reaching my first wedding anniversary without my beloved husband, and a few days after that “non-versary” will be the 11th month mark of his passing. I have been struggling with these approaching dates for a few weeks now. Last Wednesday I finally realized that I was, once again, neglecting a precious gift from God: prayer partners; so I asked my church to pray with me during this time.

I immediately felt stronger emotionally and spiritually. I felt surrounded by God’s love and comfort. Funny how that works? Nah, it’s Biblical:

“For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them.”—Matthew 18:20 (NIV)

Then as I read the news about the death of my friend’s husband, I fell apart—again. I found myself sobbing out loud, my body convulsing with the tears that came from my torn heart as I read the words “most difficult message”, for I knew what words were coming next: “He died this afternoon.”

As I shed tears, I cried out to God, “WHY!? OH WHY!?” “Why did you not heal his body!? Why did you do this to my dear friend!? Why must she walk this path!?” I had prayed for several months that God would spare my dear friend this pain. Yet God chose not to heal her husband’s body, and so I was angry with God. It seemed so unfair. All of this sorrow and loss. 

I had eleven months to prepare in a small way for my own husband’s death. After all, we were told to expect maybe six months, and God gave us eleven; but it was still devastating when it all happened. I could only imagine what my dear friend must be dealing with, as it seemed that her husband was healing and going to make a recovery. I cried and prayed, and when I was calm enough I called on my prayer partners at church to pray with me. All Thursday evening I prayed and cried out to God and spent time in His word. Still I went to bed unsettled and had a restless night.

I awoke Friday morning still hurting spiritually and emotionally. Part of my morning devotions include Our Daily Bread, and it seemed that Friday’s was written for me. It ended with these words:

God’s masterpiece of redemption is the symphony we are playing, and ultimately everything will work together for His good purposes. God is the composer of our lives. His song is perfect, and we can trust Him.

I found myself rejoicing in my Savior’s love in new ways. I was reminded anew that God alone would sustain me, that He would comfort me, that He would give me peace, and that He would put joy in my heart. 

As I went about the day on Friday, I found myself praying for my friend as I drove, and the Holy Spirit reminded me:

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
    neither are your ways my ways,”
    declares the Lord.
“As the heavens are higher than the earth,
    so are my ways higher than your ways
    and my thoughts than your thoughts.
Isaiah 55:8-9 (NIV)

Struck anew that God was in control, even as I grieved for my friend and for myself, I was able to smile. I enjoyed the drive. I enjoyed the beauty of God’s creation. I was able to smile at strangers and say “hello”. I stopped for a meal, and even though I was alone, I was content, for I could truly say …

“The Lord is my strength and song,
And He has become my salvation.”
—Psalm 118:14 (NASB)

I slept in His comfort last night, trusting that He would give to my friend the same comfort and love that He’s shed upon me; and trusting that eventually she would find the joy that only Christ can give. 

I realize the days ahead may be a bit difficult, but I know the Savior who loves me so much that He died on a cross, that I might have forgiveness of my sins. I also can rejoice knowing that one day I will join my dear husband in glory, and we will spend eternity together praising our Savior, for …

“Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power and riches and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing.”—Revelation 5:12

Friday, October 9, 2015

Grieving For A Friend

Yesterday I received the heart breaking news that the husband of a very dear friend has passed away. She and I have known each other for 63 years, and I'm totally heartbroken for her. I can't quit crying I hurt so badly for her. 

“My soul is weary with sorrow; strengthen me according to your word.”—Psalm 119:28 (NIV)

I want to reach out to my dear friend and hold her in my arms, but an entire country separates us. I want to make it “all right”; but I know deep inside that it will never again be “all right”—not the same way it was. Life will never be the same, BUT I know that life can be filled with joy again. Life can have a new meaning. Life can once again be fulfilling. I want to tell her that time won’t heal this wound, but faith in Jesus is the way to find healing. 

“Be strong and of good courage; do not be afraid, nor be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”—Joshua 1:9 (NKJV)

Right now, all I can do for my dear friend is “PRAY without ceasing”—1 Thessalonians 5:17 (KJV), for I know that prayer changes things, prayer is where we find comfort, grace and strength to face trials and tribulations.

Please join me in praying for Kathy as she faces this difficult time. 

Friday, October 2, 2015

Being a wife and caregiver

On October 1, 2014 I posted this to friends and family:
“… God has blessed me with the bigger challenge of being a caretaker to my beloved.”

Reading this again brought back such a flood of memories. It also had me laughing as I realized I’d turned my late husband into property by saying “caretaker to my beloved”, instead of careGIVER to my beloved. Fortunately for me, my beloved had a wonderful sense of humor and would have laughed over my mistype. In fact, he likely would have made a joke about it and teased me for weeks.

Still, this also had me wondering if maybe I’d been wrong in becoming my husbands caregiver as well as wife, rather than just his wife. Did I short change him emotionally? Did he need better physical care than I was able to give him? I seem to worry over these things lately, and I’m not sure exactly why. I just know I do. To help me work through this, I started retracing what took place.

In the summer of 2013, my late-husband began having some health issues, but we shrugged them off as they seemed minor and didn’t really impact his daily living. There were many days where he simply felt tired and so I did the shopping by myself while Mac waited in the car. Still, he was doing all the driving and enjoying all his normal activities. The holidays of 2013 were odd as Mac just wasn’t himself and didn’t seem to enjoy our normal activities and visits with friends. By the end of 2013, we were “just us” more and more often. I suggested he see our doctor, but he said he felt okay and it was just a bit of getting older. 

Then in January 2014 the unthinkable happened—Mac woke up one day and made an appointment to see our doctor. Never in the 40 years that I had known Mac had he willingly made an appointment with a doctor—not even when he had his hernia and was in horrid pain. So off to the doctor we went. We stopped for lunch on the way home and by the time we walked in the door the phone was ringing with the news: Mac was seriously ill and we needed to get to the big hospital in the valley ASAP. We packed our bags and went—with Mac driving because he insisted he wasn’t that sick.

It was after 8pm before they got Mac checked into his room—in the ICU wing. The news wasn’t good and I wanted to stay, but Mac insisted it was late and I should go have dinner and get checked into my motel room, and then call him so that he would know I was okay. He told me that he would sleep better knowing I was safely tucked in for the night and that he would see me the next day. I left with a heavy heart wondering if my husband would live to see the next day. Well, he did; but that began an adventure the likes of which neither of us ever expected in our lives.

Once home, our health plan sent a home nurse, and she would have come daily, but Mac didn’t want a stranger taking care of him. Out of necessity, I set my own life aside and became the chauffeur, shopper, cook, laundry lady, garbage-taker-outer, fixer of simple things (Mac gave me lessons!), nurse, caregiver, pill dispenser, appointment juggler, encourager, and more, but first and foremost I was always Mac’s WIFE. Always. Being a WIFE isn’t always glamorous, or romantic, or pleasant—sometimes it’s just plain work, hard work. 

It wasn’t easy to help Mac shower, help him handle daily personal hygiene, help him put on his clothes, trim his toe nails, help him stand and sit and walk, help him cut his food and, sometimes even help him get the food to his mouth. It wasn’t easy to watch my beloved slowly slide downhill as he rapidly lost weight, muscle tone, and the desire to live. The whole process of being a caregiver took its toll on me emotionally and physically. So why did I do this? Why didn’t I insist that we get someone in to help?

Our wedding vows on October 12, 1974: “ … to have and to hold from this day forward, for better for worse, for richer for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love, and to cherish, till death us do part, according to God's holy ordinance; and thereto I give thee my troth.”

When Mac and I got married, we both repeated those vows and we meant every one of those words, including the “in sickness and in health”. Mac and I were always a team. We supported each other, encouraged each other, defended each other before other people (even when privately we didn’t agree), we loved each other, and took care of each other. It was always a joke between us that Mac would fall to pieces when I was sick. He never made me chicken soup, he made me fried chicken (“You need solid food in your stomach”). He didn’t fix me a cup of tea because he didn’t know how strong to make it and didn’t want to disappoint me, so instead he hid in the other room until I fell asleep. BUT, when I needed medications, ice packs, back rubs, lotion slathered all over to stop the itching, support while walking, rides to the doctor, visits while in the hospital, etc, Mac was there—and I always knew that Mac would be there to take care of me. So how could I do any less? I couldn’t. That’s part of what being a wife is all about: taking care of your beloved husband.

Thus I became my husband’s caregiver as well as his WIFE. Neither diminished me in Mac’s eyes, instead he told me daily how very much he loved me, how much he appreciated all that I was doing for him, how he cherished me as his WIFE, and how thankful he was that I was willing to also be his caregiver.

Through all of this God blessed us. In 1978 Mac and I both came to know Jesus Christ as our personal Savior, and from that point on God was always the Leader to our team. Mac always called us the ‘team kiMac’. Together we placed our lives in God’s hands and faced this adventure. I also firmly believe that God allowed all of this so that I would be better prepared to face life as a widow. 

God gave me the strength I needed to keep going, the ability to smile when I was hurting, kept me alert as I drove, and God filled my heart with a peace that can only come from knowing that Mac’s life and mine were in His hands. God blessed Mac with 11 months when the doctor said probably only six months.

“And the Lord God said, It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him an help meet for him.”—Genesis 2:18

Is this path for everyone? No. Each team has to search their own hearts. I only know that while ‘team kiMac’ is no more (except in my heart) I’m now at peace knowing that I gave comfort, strength and encouragement to my beloved husband during his last adventure.