Thursday, November 27, 2014

Gratitude: through a child's eyes

On this first holiday without my mother, God continues to be so good to our family. No doubt her absence was very much felt, but the traditions that we continue to embrace make these difficult days a little sweeter: making her favorite dishes, spending time with my grandfather (her father), etc...I realize now why traditions are so important.

I won't lie. Suddenly, the holiday season does seem less merry. However, I am thankful for all that God has taught me through the ache. In many ways, I feel like I am walking with my eyes a little more open: grasping for beauty when the days are hard.

Today, I am writing over at my favorite online boutique store called Sweet Praises and sharing a small bit of beauty that God has opened my eyes to recently. I hope you enjoy this season of thanksgiving and continue to focus on what is most important as we enter into the season of advent.

Click here to read the full article. I hope it will bless you on this day of Thanksgiving!

Monday, November 3, 2014

Friends are like Puzzle Pieces

I've sat here tapping on my computer for more hours than I care to admit. I was awake until 2am last night (for the third night in a row) recapping this past weeks events as well as marveling at the amount of Godly people God has put in my path the past 16 or so years.

I am in yet another season of change. Although no one can replace true friends who have supported you through the good, bad, and ugly, moving to the other side of town has sort of forced me to find new friends who live day to day life with me. I am overwhelmed by the friendships the Lord immediately put in my life immediately after was something Andrew and I both prayed for daily for ourselves and especially for me. I once read that friends are like puzzle pieces. I think that quote originally was meant to be interpreted as each friend in your life plays an important part of who you are and each part plays a part in making you whole. After reflecting on friends from childhood, to college and now through adulthood, I would agree that each person is a piece of a puzzle in my life. 

Friendships that have value transcend time. This past week was proof of that as many of us gathered stricken with heartache and anguish as we sang and prayed at a vigil...what would be a sweet and dear young lady's last worship service here on Earth. Our hearts were full of sorrow as we watched her sweet young boys watch from the windows of their bedrooms and our lips trembled with sadness while thinking of her beloved husband whose pain we cannot even fathom.

Both the vigil and the funeral were a glimpse of Heaven (minus the tears). The gathering of dear friends, many of whom we have not seen in 14 years, made me forget for a moment that I was grieving and instead made me feel as if I had arrived home. Still recovering from the recent death of my mother, this gathering of believers was such a gift for me. Our college campus minister spoke of our sweet friend and how she must be loving meeting all the great warriors for Christ: Moses, Noah, David. I had never really thought about that before. Sometimes we are so caught up in our own hurt, we forget that Heaven is so amazing. I felt so much comfort thinking of how both my mother and now sweet Ashley must be standing in awe worshiping alongside those we have read about in the Bible. Both Ashley and my mother loved the lake, so I like to imagine the Lord made them neighbors in Heaven. Both super chatty, I'm sure they won't run out of things to talk about until we see them again.

But now what? What do you do when a piece of your puzzle is gone? This is something I'm still working through. I don't know the answer, but I do know one keep living.

After our friends funeral, many of us gathered for drinks and food and reminisced about the good ole days...those days of college where your responsibilities are few, but laughter is in abundance. Sharing old stories and laughing was the hugest release of grief that has been weighing me down these past few months. I sat next to the loveliest of young ladies who also lost a parent recently and we laughed. And it felt good. It felt good because I realized that although pieces of my puzzle are missing and my life here on Earth will never be the same, it is OK to keep on living.

The closer Thanksgiving and Christmas approach, I admit my heart has been full of dread. What was once my favorite time of the year (and by love..I mean we start watching Christmas movies and decorating right after Halloween) has become a season I just wanted to pretend isn't happening. I think C. S. Lewis said it best when he said:

"Part of every misery is, so to speak, the misery's shadow or reflection: the fact that you don't merely suffer but have to keep on thinking about the fact that you suffer. I not only live each endless day in grief, but live each day thinking about living each day in grief."

It is true. I feel overwhelmed thinking that grief never ends, but I know it changes and becomes more bearable. And admittedly, I have shaken my fist at God saying "it is one thing for you to take my mother. By why would you take a mother (Ashley) away from her children who are not even grown?" 

Yesterday, Andrew and I went to my parents dad's house to return his truck. Walking in that house full of old memories is always bittersweet. I found myself once again sitting on her side of the bed and thinking about how my father said the hardest part of his day is waking up each morning and not seeing her laying right there. I open her nightstand. I don't even know why...I just needed to see her not forget her and her five thousand tubes of chapstick she kept in that drawer. I pull out a notebook and find this scribbled note in her cursive writing. It read:

Then one day she slipped away. As he stood by her grave with much sorrow in his heart and tears in his eyes, the Lord reminded him she was by His side right now. He reminded him that one day, he would slip away and be with his beloved.

I have searched the Internet backwards and forwards trying to find where my mom heard this. Was it something she wrote? When, where, why did she write it? (I'd love to know if anyone has heard this quote and where it is from). My mother was many things, but a writer she was not. But seeing her written words were still so beautiful nevertheless.

That afternoon after searching my dad's basement high and low, I came home with an old and broken nativity scene from my childhood. I put it on my kitchen windowsill to remind myself that, although a piece of my puzzle is missing much like that nativity scene, it is OK to keep on living. The next morning Andrew and I listened to Christmas music as we folded laundry together and we watched "The Holiday" later that night. 

I think our friend Lori said it best the day of the funeral when she said "There is strength in numbers- today a group of old friends held each other up in a time of sorrow. And then we smiled and shared precious memories... Until we meet again..."

More than ever I have realized the importance of relationships. The strength that comes from friends who both grieve, laugh, and live life with you all form the puzzle of your life. They are perhaps the most important parts of your puzzle. And not just this life here on Earth, but they are part of your life in eternity. I can only imagine what that reunion will look like. But the glimpse I saw and felt this past week makes me yearn for Heaven even more.

But until then...We keep living. We keep lifting each other up, laughing and crying through this crazy world...until we all meet again...