Today Is A Gift

“Today is a gift, that’s why they call it the present.” ~unknown

Do we treat each day as a gift from a loving God, a present wrapped up in His grace and goodness, to be opened with joy, used with care and set lovingly on the shelf of life when done?

Or do we bear it as a burden?

I’ll admit not all days are equal.

Some ARE burdens.

No one (I don’t think!) loves going to the dentist. Few of us are keen on doing taxes or taking tests or slogging through the rain to work or school.

Some of us have much heavier burdens as we wake to an empty bed, an empty heart or an empty bank account.

But even these awful days are a gift.

Why?

Because God’s mercies are new every morning. The rising sun brings fresh opportunity to rest in, rely on and relish God’s grace, goodness and promised strength.

And every new day means we have more time.

More time to love the people we love, more time to find new people to love, more time to do the good works which God in Christ has planned for us to do.

We wake each morning to the same 24 hours given every other soul on this planet.  It’s ours to choose. 

How will we spend it?  Will we fill it with foolish things? With important things?

Here’s how I do it:

  • Put the significant and essential things in first. Time with the Lord, time with family, time with my own thoughts. (Orienting my heart and mind to what truly matters first thing makes the rest of the day so much better.)
  • Then the necessary. Work, school, chores, appointments, cooking and meals. (No way around having to do these things, but I can still choose to fit them in AFTER the most important and valuable ones.)
  • Finally, the incidental things. Facebook, television, window (internet) shopping, binge watching Netflix. (So hard to discipline my heart to focus on what will truly make a difference instead of distracting myself with the trivial.)

And surprisingly I manage most days to get it done (even checking social media).

Life is not an emergency, although I often live as if it is.

I careen around the corner of hour after hour like I’m driving a car out of control, begging someone to make it stop.

I can make it stop.

I can take my foot off the accelerator, park it and decide where and how fast I’m going to drive tomorrow.

Every single day is an opportunity to choose.

I can start fresh and make time for the things that are truly important.

If I want to.

Grieving Differently: Growing Apart or Growing Stronger?

It’s no secret that men and women are different.

It’s the subject of everything from romantic comedies to hundreds of books.

“Men are from Mars, women are from Venus” and all that.

So it shouldn’t surprise those of us walking this Valley that our spouse may be grieving very differently than we do. But it often does. Because everything is amplified when it echoes off the high mountains on either side.

And just when we need it most-for ourselves and for extending to others-grace is often in short supply.

So differences become offenses and offenses stack like bricks to build a wall between us and the one person as intimately connected to our missing child as we are.

Image result for image brick wall

Instead of holding each other up, we sometimes tear each other down. Instead of leaning in, we pull away. Instead of talking, we tune out.

Instead of crying together, we cry alone.

Even when we open up and try to address these differences it often ends in disagreement or is met with silence.

That’s discouraging.

I firmly believe that grief doesn’t really change the fundamentals in a relationship but it magnifies them. We all have cracks in our marriages. Two imperfect people do not make a perfect couple regardless of how lovely the photos might be.

Child loss makes the cracks more evident. What might be ignored otherwise, becomes unavoidable. Add gender differences to the load of grief and it’s no wonder many of us struggle.

So how can a marriage survive?

Here are a few pointers:

  • Admit that you and your spouse are different people. Your life experiences, gender and personality affect how each of you grieve. Different isn’t better or worse, it’s just different.
  • Purpose to assume the best and not the worst of your spouse. When he or she makes a comment or shoots you a “look” don’t immediately ascribe dark motives. It may be she’s having an especially bad day or he is tired or distracted.
  • Look for common ground. When you are both in a neutral environment and rested, ask your spouse what they need from you. Then listen without being defensive. It could be that seeing you cry upsets him so that’s why he tries to shut you down. She might long to hear him say their child’s name aloud. Even if nothing changes, sometimes being heard makes a difference.
  • Consider couples’ counseling. Having someone outside your immediate grief circle listen to and guide you through feelings, concerns and problems is almost always helpful. It might only take a few sessions to give you both the tools necessary to walk yourselves through the rough patches.
  • Talk TO your spouse instead of ABOUT him or her. This can be a hard one! I think we all need a safe friend or two who will let us vent. That’s healthy. But it’s not healthy to talk about our spouse to others in what amounts to a bid for support of our own opinions and prejudices. Gathering wood for the fire of offense is easy. Putting out the blaze (even if you want to) is hard.
  • Remember that when feelings fluctuate, commitment carries you through. Grief isn’t just one emotion, it’s a tangled ball of emotions. On a given day you might feel sad, disoriented, angry, anxious and despondent. All that emotional weight is added to whatever else you may be feeling about your spouse. Sometimes it’s just too much to bear and running away seems like the most logical answer. But it’s not. We can never run far enough or fast enough to get away.

There’s no magic to marriage before or after child loss.

It’s mostly work.

We can choose to do that work together in spite of our differences.

We can choose to grow stronger instead of growing apart.

****FULL DISCLOSURE****

My husband and I do not do this perfectly or even close to perfectly. But we are still trying. At different points in this long (almost) six years, we’ve been better or worse at all of it. So don’t think if you are struggling it means you can’t get hang on. Sometimes it’s by the tips of your fingernails, but if you refuse to let go, you can make it.

❤ Melanie

You Choose: What’s Your Legacy?


I can’t tell you how many people try to tell me what Dominic’s “legacy” is.  They extol his positive virtues and comment on how many lives he touched in his short 23 years.

They want me to be consoled with the intangible, relational, immeasurable impact of his life on the lives of others.

Yet they continue to live as if their OWN legacy will be determined by the amount of stuff they acquire or the size of their retirement accounts or the money they leave behind for others to spend.

It can’t be both.

Read the rest here: https://thelifeididntchoose.com/2017/12/22/whats-your-legacy/

Flickers Of Light, Guiding My Heart Home

A fellow bereaved mom commented on my recent holiday post with this question: How do you make joy, when your heart has no joy?

It was a good and honest query. One that stopped me in my tracks.

When your heart is so broken that all is dark inside AND outside, where does the word “joy” even fit into your vocabulary?

I’m not sure I would have described anything as joyful for months after Dominic ran ahead to Heaven even though those days included two graduations and a wedding.

I felt positive about those events and I longed to feel joyful, but I just could not muster the energy to do much more than smile for the camera.

So I think, for me, it was a matter (over time and with much effort) to choose to allow joy back into my broken heart.

There are moments of beauty even in the darkest and most difficult days.

At first I refused to recognize and acknowledge them because to embrace joy seemed like treason. It felt disrespectful to Dominic-making light of the horror of his untimely death.

But eventually I realized that embracing whatever good I might stumble upon in a day wasn’t denying the awful, it was admitting and affirming that death didn’t have the last word.

I am walking the Valley now, but this journey will not last forever.

One day it will end with more joy and love and laughter and glory than my finite mind can imagine.

So the bits of joy along the way are simply flickers of light guiding my heart Home.

Things I CAN Control

When I opened the door to that deputy and received the news, my world suddenly spiraled out of control.

Over the next days, weeks months I would have to do things I never imagined I might do and certainly things I did not WANT to do.  So, so much I couldn’t change.  So many ways I lost the right to choose.  

And I hated it!  

Wasn’t long and that sense of helplessness permeated every corner.  Even when it didn’t belong there.  I began to feel as if I couldn’t control anything.

So in many ways I stopped trying.  

But then one day I woke from the fog of despair.  I remembered that there WERE some areas of life where I could still make choices.

And it was empowering!  

So here’s a list that I pray gives hope to other hurting hearts.

THINGS I CAN CONTROL

  • My attitude (how I react to what others say or do)
  • My thoughts (with great difficulty sometimes)
  • My perspective (when I’m careful to fill my mind, heart and eyes with truth)
  • If I’m honest (about ALL things-including my feelings)
  • Who my friends are (from my end-can’t stop people from walking away)
  • What books I read (I am choosy and only read things that feed my soul)
  • What media I consume (stay away from toxic people, topics and television)
  • What type of food I eat (healthy, appropriate amounts)
  • How often I exercise (a walk, gentle yoga, online video routines)
  • How many risks I take (not just physical ones, but also emotional and relational risks)
  • How kind I am to others (being wounded does not give me the right to wound)
  • How I interpret situations (do I assume the best or the worst?)
  • How kind I am to myself (extending the same grace to ME that I extend to others)
  • How often and to whom I say, “I love you”
  • How often and to whom I say, “Thank you”
  • How I express my feelings (I can learn healthy ways to speak my truth)
  • Whether or not I ask for help (no one gets “points” for playing the martyr)
  • How many times I smile in a day (smiling, by itself, lifts mood-even a “fake” smile)
  • The amount of effort I choose to put forth
  • How I spend my money
  • How much time I spend worrying (or praying or complaining)
  • How often I spend moments blaming myself or others for past actions
  • Whether or not I judge other people
  • Whether or not I try again when I suffer a setback or disappointment (success is getting up one more time than I fall down)
  • How much I appreciate the people and things in my life

Exercising control over the parts of my life where I CAN exercise control helps me deal more effectively with the many parts over which I have no control

It does not undo the sorrow and pain of child loss, but it does work to balance the emotional scales. 

It makes it easier to face a new day.  

It helps me hold onto hope.  

And that is a good thing.  ❤

whenyoucan27tcontrolthewindadjustyoursails

 

 

Falling Down and Getting Up Again

I hate that question that every doctor’s office asks now, “Have you had any falls in the past twelve months?”

I always say, “no” even though that’s rarely true.  

Because I know what they are looking for is evidence of disease that might be impacting balance and I’m perfectly free of that so I don’t want to place a red flag in my medical chart.

But I fall down pretty regularly.  Mostly because I trip over something as I’m walking from one animal enclosure to another, hands full of buckets and mind somewhere else.

The other day was one of those moments.  

I was done feeding our beagles, headed back to the house when my feet found a random piece of looped wire on the ground.  (I still have no idea where it came from!)

There’s that split second when you know a fall is coming and your mind tries to figure out how to stop it even as your body is giving in to gravity.

Down I went!  Hard!  On my left knee and right wrist but sparing my head.  

It really, really hurt.  In fact, it hurt so badly that I simply rolled over and rocked back and forth for a second or two.

helpless turtle

Then I realized there was no help for it but to put weight on those knees and wrists and get up.  So I took a deep breath, counted to ten and pushed myself up.  I hobbled back into the house to survey the damage and put ice on my knee.

And I reminded myself once again that I can do things that are hard, that are painful and that seem impossible.  

strengh grows when you go on anyway

Life is full of falls-real ones that bang up body parts and figurative ones that wreak havoc with hearts.

They all hurt.  

When I find myself down and out I have a choice. 

I can sit in the pain and lie helpless and hopeless. 

Or I can take a deep breath, gather my courage and get up.  

Every time I choose courage, I build up my reserve and strengthen my resolve and make it more likely I’ll get up every time.  

fear is a reaction courage is a decision

 

Emotional Overload and T.M.I.

There are so many ways child loss impacts relationships!

Some of the people you think will stand beside you for the long haul either never show up or disappear right after the funeral.

Some people you never expected to hang around not only come running but choose to stay.

And every. single. relationship. gets more complicated.  

When your heart is shattered, there are lots of sharp edges that end up cutting you and everyone around you.  It’s pretty much inevitable that one or more relationships will need mending at some point.

I know I said (still say!) things that wound others.  Most of the time it’s because I’m distracted or hurting myself and my mouth begins speaking before my brain is fully engaged.  Sometimes, though, it’s because I’m in pain and (frankly!) I want to transfer some of that pain to someone else.

Misery DOES love company!

Often other people in my life will say or do things that wound me.  Some of the folks are part of my inner grief circle and I know that it’s unintentional or they are having a pain-filled day like I am.

A few are extended family members who are either blissfully unaware of the ongoing pain and drama of child loss or are too caught up in their own lives to give it a thought.

Some of them are friends who think by now I should have toughened up and are no longer willing to extend extra grace and try harder to be tender.

Sometimes it’s acquaintances or strangers who don’t have a clue.

Whenever someone pierces my armor and inflicts pain, I have a choice:  Do I suck it up and take it or do I say something and try to reconcile?

There are days when I feel strong enough to just overlook it.  But I know if it represents a pattern, sooner or later the pressure will build and I’m going to blow.  And that’s not good for either one of us.

couple fighting

There are days when I absolutely, positively have to address it.  That’s when I need to be careful of overloading another heart with too much information (TMI).  See, it’s easy to make one person the target for all my strong feelings.  It’s easy to do an emotional and informational “dump” on whoever happens to be handy or whoever is the least intimidating.

That’s unfair and unhelpful-for them and for me.  

So when I decide to open my mouth and address a specific situation with a specific person, I need to keep my margins clean and only say the things that pertain to THAT instance.  I can’t bring up every single thing the person has done in the past or things that they haven’t said or done but which have made me more sensitive to certain words or actions.  I don’t need to burden them with all the details of MY bad day or week or month.

Instead I should talk about my own feelings in relationship to them and their actions or words. 

“I feel like _________when you say________” gives vent to my emotion without accusing another heart.  I need to leave room for them to share what they were/are thinking and feeling too.  It can’t be one-way conversation if I hope to have a two-way relationship.  

i statments graphic

Any stressful life circumstance makes us all more vulnerable to offense.  And child loss is certainly stressful.  It’s stressful in ways others can’t see or comprehend.  It alters the way a parent sees and experiences the world.

It makes everything harder.  

Relationships included.  

I want to be full of love, grace and mercy, not overrun with bitterness, anger and offense. 

So I have to be mindful of what I say, how much I say and when I choose to say it.

young man thought bubble