Thursday, May 23, 2013

In Transit

Grief is a sneaky little bugger. It can retreat suddenly, hiding in the recesses of your brain so that you wake up one morning and think, " looks as if the house has fallen down around me and there are giant rings on my toilet bowl. When did that happen? Somebody ought to do something about that." Surprisingly, the fog has vanished and you feel up to the job! You are very self-righteous and smug as you scrub and dust and vacuum. You even unpack the suitcase that has been sitting in the middle of the floor so long you forgot that you own that shirt and those socks (could also just be ADD).  You are working up a sweat with your ambitious vacuuming when you reach the guest room. Out of the clear blue sky, a bolt of lightning strikes. Sneaky. This unused room was supposed to be his room. He should have been moving in right about now.

It will remain unused.  There is also his motorcycle helmet in the closet; a reminder of the motorcycle, his most prized possession, which collects dust in the garage.

As you eat dinner with your husband, you notice that he seems remarkably composed. No indication of the tremendous stress he's experienced in the last month other than the pallor of his skin and the dark circles under his eyes. He is so strong, you think. He should have a perfect wife; one who is composed and compassionate, a soft place to land at the end of the day. Not one who smells faintly of a cigarette and asks him a million "what if" questions when he's so tired. 

You are lucky that he accepts you and your neurosis lovingly. It must be like loving one of those ugly, hairless cats sometimes. Only I do have remarkably good hair, even though it's dyed the color of the late, great Elvis' currently (don't ask please). The man should be canonized for sainthood! He does not point out your flaws the way you often do his. He's just happy to have his three girls, safe and sound, within arms' reach. If he would just take you to get that tattoo you want, he'd be a total package (sorry, that was for his benefit).

Let me wrap this up with some wisdom I have gained in the last week.
1.) I believe that I can survive anything. You think that if "the worst" happens (whatever that may be) everything will stop and you will spontaneously com-bust or get carted off in a paddy wagon. This is not true. You will carry on and sometimes laugh.

2.) People in general are great. The awful people in this world are, I hope, in the minority. And when someone is insensitive to your feelings, it is usually because they are misinformed, rather than intentionally being unkind.

3.) I don't know how prayer works. I'm not sure if it changes the course of events but I do know it changes hearts and minds. God is the healer of all hurts. He will be with you to the ends of the earth, even when he won't explain suffering or make your pathway easier.

4.) Perhaps the most important lesson of all: the answer to all life's problems may lie in  good pizza, Shock Top beer, and a marathon of completely brainless reality TV. My personal favorite is Monster Week on Animal Planet. Did you know that catfish in India have grown to be 6 ft. long and 200 lbs b/c they have been feeding off of partially cremated bodies laid to rest in the water?  Of course you didn't!! You're welcome. 

5.) It's okay to be a hot mess sometimes. You don't always have to get out of your pajamas before 10 am, provide adorable snacks for the school party, make every social gathering an extravaganza of fun, or organize the stuff that lives on your kitchen counter.  Sometimes you are just getting by.  I like to think of our family as "in transit" to something better than right now. 

Friday, May 17, 2013

My State of Affairs

I've been asked a lot in the last week how I'm doing by my good friends.  Thank you for caring so much about me and my family.  One thing I know for sure about this life is that I have wonderful friends, and I am not alone.  That is a comfort beyond measure.  

Here's how I'm doing: I feel as if my heart has been broken into a million pieces and all that is left are shards of glass.  Many of you know our family's circumstances, some of you don't.  But, I bet you know what is like to suffer a loss that is so tragic that it just knocks the air out of your lungs.  I found out about our loss alone, at an airport, after having a car accident (no injuries to me, minor to the car) with a bag of overpriced, fried, airport food in one hand and the phone in the other.  Fortunately for me, the other end of the phone was the voice of someone who loves me.  It could have been worse.

I don't know how long I sat on the carpet at my gate crying.  But, eventually, I got up.  I asked for my suitcase to be removed from the plane. Then, I systematically shoved onion rings in my mouth while weeping, still on the carpet. What can I say?  Food is my friend in the best of times so you can imagine...

As I drove home from the airport to my family, I may very well have powered the car with my fury.  I became so angry about the injustice of our situation that I felt my whole body clench and my vision sharpen as I flew down the expressway.  The clarity that came with my anger was a welcome distraction from the incredible sadness I had experienced at the airport.  At least with the extreme tension I could accomplish my one goal...get home.  

Today, I woke up utterly wrung out.  And numb.  I alternate between exhaustion and nothingness, anger, and being okay.  It seems like there is no happy medium with grief.  You're either doing just fine or you walk through your day in a heavy fog.  Consider me Seattle right now.  

It's almost like living in an alternate universe...a different reality; there's the one that existed before the events that changed your life and the one that now exists.  And you wish you didn't know the things that you now know.  I wish I didn't know that in the place I once called home and loved to work, the judicial system is nothing more than a mockery of the values we hold dear as American citizens.  I wish I didn't know that a bunch of good ole boys disguised in nice suits and a judge's robe are so untouchable and corrupt that they make up the rules as they go, and don't seem to care who knows about their incestuous relationship.  I wish I didn't know that the media is just as guilty of injustice, spitting out whatever gossip the prosecution spoon feeds them and calling it news.  

Most of all, I wish I didn't know that you can have the faith of a mountain and still be unable to move a damn mustard seed.  I wish I didn't know that you can pray until tears stream down your face for the righteous and watch the corrupt prosper at the end of the day.  I wish I didn't feel so frightened and confused about my faith for the first time in my life.

I can't deny God's presence in my life at this moment.  I feel him with me.  Calming me and quieting my mind.  Building me up and steeling me so that I can go on with my daily life and be of use to my family.  But I'm not ready to meet him here.  He is like the boyfriend that I still love but am not speaking to.  Not that I'm expecting him to explain himself to me any time soon.  

I would love to wrap this post up for you with a bow in a nice neat package.  You know that I am a sucker for a silver lining.  Right now, the best I can do is tell you that we are putting one foot in front of the other and living one moment at a time.  I love my brothers so much; the one I inherited through marriage and the one that I grew up with.  They were both late bloomers and were well worth the wait.  They spit out these little nuggets of wisdom; kind of like a fortune cookie.  Here was my brother's advice to me today: "Don't confuse the terrible stuff that's going on around you with your smart, beautiful daughters and your healthy husband.  You have a wonderful family."  

Where does he get this stuff?  I said, "That's some Mr. Miyagi sh%* right there!" He is right, as usual, and I will do my best to remember it. 

Saturday, May 4, 2013

State of Grace

State of Grace- (Christian theology) A state of sanctification by God; the state of one who is under such divine influence

"There but for the grace of God go I." I've had this quote stuck in my head, just bouncing around there for the last few weeks.  I'm not sure what that means because I've never given the quote much thought before now, but maybe it's there for a reason? I didn't hear a song, read a novel, or watch a movie that included this famous quote, so as woo-woo as this sounds, I believe it was placed on my heart to teach me something. 

So...I did a little research with my trusty search engine.  That has got to be the lowest form of "research," don't you think?  I came upon this website and here's a bit of what it had to say. 

The origin of the quote, “There but for the grace of God go I,” is attributed to John  Bradford, but it is recorded as Bradford saying, “But for the grace of God there goes John Bradford.”

Apparently, this Bradford fellow was an English protestant minister who lived during Queen Mary of England's (Bloody Mary) reign.  Delightful woman!  She  has to be a runner up for "Most Neurotic and Insecure, not to mention Stark Raving Mad, Queen of England".  Oh, and she had major daddy issues.  You would too if your Dad was a serial wife killer. Mary's notoriety came from her habit of publicly executing anyone who openly rejected her Catholic faith...kind of takes all the fun out of free will.  

As the story goes, John Bradford was walking by a group of criminals being led to their death when he spoke, (probably under his breath) "But for the grace of God, there goes John Bradford," meaning, it is only by God's mercy and grace that I am not walking in their shoes.  Most of us cannot imagine living in such a fragile state of grace...that at any moment the worst could happen and the bottom could fall out.  For John Bradford and others like him, a stroll through the town square or attending a worship service was a reminder of his own mortality.  Little did John know when he spoke those words that he would one day be condemned and executed for openly preaching the gospel in Queen Mary's England. 

So what does that mean?  How am I supposed to wrap my brain around them apples?  I mean couldn't he have gone on to spread the gospel and NOT die?  Like have a happy life with a chubby wife, lots of babies, and die warm in his bed?  

In my heart, I think I know the answer.  I think that God's grace is sufficient and made new each day.  I think when John Bradford walked by those "criminals", he did not take a single breath for granted.  He saw them and knew that at any chosen time, that could be his fate, and he was immeasurably grateful for the grace, the mercy that God showed him in that moment.  

And, when he was the one being led, unjustly, to his death, I have to believe that God gave him the grace to withstand the fear, humiliation, and pain that he would have to face.  I believe that because I have so often heard stories, read books, and talked to people who knew incredible peace through unimaginable ordeals.  The strength and courage they felt, could only be explained by God's grace.  Have you ever looked at someone's life and thought, "I could never do that! How could I go on after that happened?!"  

But, somehow, we do.  We endure.  And so does our faith.  

It sort of makes me think of childbirth.  When I was in labor with my first daughter, nothing was progressing except for the agonizing contractions.  My labor had gone off the rails and I was ready to kick some ass!  None of the books or classes told me that you could be in labor for 34 hours.  There were so many moments when I cried and declared, "I can't do this anymore!  I'm DONE."  I think I even said, "God, why have you forsaken me?"  


Here's the crazy thing.  Just when you think you will die if you have to withstand one more second, something happens.  You start to get the hang of the breathing thing.  A friendlier nurse comes along with an icy beverage and a smile (or drugs!) You get to push.  And the awful ordeal is over.  

I think that's how God's grace works in times of pain or trouble.  He does not promise to take away the pain, or make the awfulness end sooner.  He just holds you up.  And when you think that things will never get better, that you just can't go on, he gives you rest and help.

I will leave you with a beautiful Psalm about His vigilance and help!

I lift up my eyes to the mountains—
    where does my help come from?
My help comes from the Lord,
    the Maker of heaven and earth.

He will not let your foot slip—
    he who watches over you will not slumber;
indeed, he who watches over Israel
    will neither slumber nor sleep.

The Lord watches over you—
    the Lord is your shade at your right hand;
the sun will not harm you by day,
    nor the moon by night.
The Lord will keep you from all harm—
    he will watch over your life;
the Lord will watch over your coming and going
    both now and forevermore. 

Psalm 121, New International Version