Not As Good As I Once Was

When Dominic first ran ahead to Heaven I resisted having any kind of calendar visible. I didn’t want to mark time passing without him to pass it with me.

I’ve since resumed my yearly ritual of hanging the big blank picture calendar in my kitchen-the only way I really know how to keep up with doctor appointments, family visits, birthdays and other important dates in spite of technology.

I don’t know about you, but days turn into weeks turn into months almost faster than I can count them. Even during this pandemic pause or craziness or whatever you want to call it, life goes on.

I’ve been busy but not overwhelmed (most of the time!). I’ve tried to tackle some home projects that had been neglected, organize things, take a few trips here and there to visit family and (did I mention?) get our ducks in a row for my husband’s retirement.

I’ve often written that grief doesn’t only change the way I think about the past but it also changes the way I experience the present.

And while I’ve gotten oh, so much better, at pacing myself, granting myself grace for milestone days and simply saying “no” to extra demands, I still find that having a hole in my heart shapes how I approach even the most mundane tasks.

I’ve had to make a lot of phone calls lately-tying up loose ends, getting new healthcare lined up, making yearly doctor appointments, getting dental work done (which I hate!). Long minutes on hold still-STILL!-make me feel trapped and out of control, even when I put the phone on speaker. Repeating myself over and over to the “next available representative” echoes the many times I had to tell of Dom’s demise when I made all the necessary calls to people with whom he did business.

It’s funny where your mind goes when forced to sit and wait.

Some days I’m just done by lunchtime. Even though there is a lot of day left in the day I am out of steam for taking advantage of it.

I’m learning to prioritize and knock out pressing tasks earlier rather than later and leave the rest until tomorrow.

Trouble is, the tomorrows are adding up and piling on.

I’m not sure there are enough days left in this year to get them all done.

I used to be a dynamo-regularly squeezing two days’ work into one. Now I don’t think I ever get a full days’ worth out of my waking hours. My writing has suffered since it’s something I only do well when I feel rested and caught up on other chores.

I’m not the person I was before Dominic ran ahead to Heaven. I’m slower, less organized and definitely undermotivated.

The calendar accuses me of how little progress I’ve made.

Maybe I’ll take it down again.

Bereaved Parents Month 2021: Seriously. Why Can’t I Keep My House Clean?

I freely admit I was never a housecleaning fanatic.

With a busy family, a small farm and mountains of paper, pencils and books scattered around I was content if the most obvious dirt was swept up and the sink free of dishes.

But, I DID have a routine.  I DID clean my bathrooms and wash clothes and make beds and vacuum the rugs on a regular basis.

Not anymore.

Even all this time after Dominic ran ahead to heaven, I have not reestablished any kind of rhythm.

Read the rest here: Why Can’t I Keep My House Clean? Grief and Everyday Responsiblities

Wordless Prayers

I find myself in another season of wordless prayers.

In part, it’s a function of all the reminders leading up to and surrounding the anniversary of Dominic’s death and funeral.

I think I’m also just tired.

That’s something that surprises me again and again-that life after loss keeps coming at me and keeps demanding energy I really don’t have.

This earthly tent is absolutely fading. I feel it every single day.

So often we think of prayer as words.

But prayer can be a heart cry too deep for words.

It can be a groaning soul, longing for release.

Read the rest here: Persistent Longing, Persistent Prayer

Grief and Post-Holiday Exhaustion

I don’t know about you, but I find I can often white-knuckle through a holiday itself only to be spent and exhausted on the other side.

Staying busy in the kitchen, trying hard to be present and participate, enjoying extra folks in the house and around the table are great distractions.

I love being with my people!

Thanksgiving Pandemic Style 2020

Of course I’m constantly aware of the quiet tune that plays in the background, “Dom’s not here” but I genuinely appreciate every moment I have with the ones I love.

But…then comes the quiet.

A silent reminder of the hollow carved in my heart.

And I can’t ignore it.

So I have to take a day (or two or three) and rest.

It’s what I call a “holiday hangover” and it has nothing to do with over-indulging in spirits or food.

It’s OK if I don’t rush to tidy the house or start planning for the next get-together. I don’t have to prove anything to anyone.

I can pause, take a breather, sit and read or do nothing at all.

You can too.

If You’re Tired, Rest. You Can Try Tomorrow

I admit I’m an over achiever. I tend to think that if it needs to be done, I have to be the one to do it.

But you know what? I’m learning that the world won’t fall apart if I take a break.

And I’m tired right now.

Really, really tired.

So I’m going to rest today (and maybe tomorrow!) and the world will keep turning, the sun will rise again.

You can rest too.

I promise. ❤

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Well, It Finally Happened

Yesterday was not an especially busy one in the sense of places to go or timely appointments to make.

But it was full of activity and people and chores and the need to use creative juices and exercise lots and lots of self-control.

It was also the day I take my weekly (very potent) medication for rheumatoid arthritis which normally doesn’t bother me much. I get a little tired, sleep it off that night and wake refreshed and ready for the rest of the week.

Last night, though, it hit me hard.

I got home from church and realized I hadn’t set up a post for early this morning (it usually goes out automatically to subscribers and is posted on my Facebook page just after midnight). And for the first time ever-EVER-in four years, I just let it go.

I didn’t try to quickly cue up a repost of an old post. I didn’t grab a meme or image off the internet and write around it. I just crawled into bed and went to sleep.

Pride is a terrible thing.

It often goads me into pushing my body, mind and spirit beyond physical, mental or psychological endurance. Sometimes it tricks me into thinking I’m leaning on God when I’m leaning on my own willful stubbornness instead.

I’m all about not giving up, giving in or giving out when faced with something a little harder than I like or even something miserably more difficult than I can stand. But I need to practice discernment and learn to let go of things that are more about my proving a point than walking worthy of the calling of Christ in me.

I love writing.

I love every single heart that chooses to read what I write and sometimes comment or just pass it along so others can read it too.

I hope I don’t skip another day any time soon.

But if I do, I’m going to practice what I preach and just let. it. go.

Even though it hurts my pride to admit my limitations.

I’m Just Tired Y’all

I realize yesterday’s post was somewhat out of character.

I was angry and hurt and utterly dumbfounded that another parent might take my words exactly as I wrote them (emphasis and all) and simply lift them out of context and plaster them across the Internet.

My heart is especially vulnerable right now.

My mother just died. It’s only been three weeks. And her death has reopened wounds I’d grown skilled at ignoring.

While I’ve been encouraged by many of you who understand the way I feel, I’ve also been hurt by many who seem to think that if I protect my intellectual property I’m petty and unkind.

So I’m just gonna put this out there-I’m tired, y’all. Worn out.

I’m more exhausted than I’ve been since the first year after Dominic ran ahead to Heaven.

The past two years have drained every ounce of reserve I had (and that wasn’t much).

This week has finished me off.

I’m not going to fight to try to get anyone who can’t understand to see my point of view. My debating days are over.

I might just lay the blog aside for awhile. I don’t really know right now.

So, “thank you” to everyone who has come along for the ride. Thank you to every heart that has reached across the miles or across cultures to comment and join in on the conversation. You have encouraged me more than you will ever know.

But I’m tapped out.

Scripture Journal Challenge: Worn Out and Weary? Jesus Understands.

I don’t know about you but I’m tired.

Not just physically tired-although there are plenty of days when chores done in the Alabama sun beat my body down.

I’m soul weary.

My heart cries out, “No more! I can’t carry a single other burden! I’m buckling under the load!”

Jesus understands.

He knows that this world is a harsh place for tender hearts. He recognizes that other people heap heavy weights on already laboring souls. He understands that work and worry and even well-doing wear us to a nub.

And He offers a way of escape.

Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy-laden andoverburdened, and I will cause you to rest. [I will [a]ease and relieve and [b]refresh [c]your souls.]


29 Take My yoke upon you and learn of Me, for I am gentle (meek) and humble (lowly) in heart, and you will find rest ([d]relief and ease and refreshment and [e]recreation and blessed quiet) for your souls.


30 For My yoke is wholesome (useful, [f]good—not harsh, hard, sharp, or pressing, but comfortable, gracious, and pleasant), and My burden is light and easy to be borne. ~Jesus

Matthew 11: 28-30 AMPC

The Pharisees and Sadducees (religious leaders at the time Jesus walked the earth) had overloaded people with rules, rules, rules and obscured the truth of Who God is and what He really wanted from them. They focused solely on outward compliance with man-made additions to God’s law and blinded themselves to the inward attitudes that should be a hallmark of God’s people.

Like us, they wanted boxes to check off.

They wanted lists to maintain.

Above all, they wanted to measure themselves against a standard that made them look good, often at the expense of others.

More importantly, their holier-than-thou lifestyle made regular folks feel like they fell so far short and were so far from the heart of God they didn’t dare ask Him for help.

Jesus said, “Enough!”

He said, “I don’t despise your weakness. I don’t dismiss your pain. Let Me help you take that off and give you a perfectly fitted burden. Yoke your life to Mine and we’ll carry it together.”

The most caring teamster carved the wooden yoke that joined his two oxen precisely to fit their unique shape. He checked it often to see if it was causing pain and he made adjustments when necessary. He yoked well-suited animals one to the other so that the burden was distributed evenly.

Any ill-fitting addition to a creature being asked to do a job makes that job oh, so much more difficult. It wears sore spots and tender places. It guarantees that you won’t get full cooperation nor highest performance.

We have many burdens to bear in this life. Some are of our own making, some are thrust upon us by others. Some are just a function of the fact we live in a world tainted by sin.

Jesus promises that the burden He asks us to bear He will make bearable when we bring it to Him.

Are you weak and heavy laden?

Are you struggling under a load that threatens to undo you?

Have you yoked your life to Christ and asked Him to help you?

Come.

He’s waiting for you.

QUESTIONS:

  • There are all kinds of burdens in this life. What feels heavy to you right now?
  • Have you offered it to Jesus? Have you asked Him to help you bear it?
  • Is it hard for you to lean on Jesus? Why or why not?
  • Do you ever try to hide your weakness or weariness from others?
  • The religious leaders of Jesus’ day were focused more on rules and less on relationship. What’s your faith heritage? Have you been in churches where there was a strong focus on rules? How did that impact your understanding of God?

PRAYER:

Father God, I can be like the Pharisees and make up lists of rules I think I need to follow to gain Your approval or at least to make myself look good in the eyes of others.

That’s not helpful for me or anyone else. Give me courage to tear those up.

Teach me Your gentle ways, Jesus. Help me lean into Your love and to yoke my heart to yours.

Amen

Scripture Journal Challenge: When My Heart Needs a Reminder

This time last year I was on the front end of a very lonely, very frightening three and a half weeks.

Each morning began with a sixty minute drive in Los Angeles rush hour traffic toward the downtown courthouse. My husband and I parked and then walked through metal detectors and past guards down a long, long hall to the courtroom.

Every day was one more eight hour shift listening to lawyers, witnesses and a judge as the events of several years were laid out first by one side and then the other. Questions aimed to elicit unflattering responses hit my husband hard.

The opposing counsel even printed out a couple of my blog posts trying to frame both my husband and his family as intolerant fundamentalist evangelicals who certainly didn’t understand how things were done in the progressive West.

Our fate was in the hands of total strangers and the whole time I couldn’t utter a single word.

I was not allowed to nod my head, smile or frown or even cry when I watched my husband recount our son’s death and the toll it took on him as he returned to the workplace and tried to do routine tasks while being challenged repeatedly by a surly , vindictive and manipulative employee.

Trust me, no television courtroom drama can prepare a heart for the kind of stress, uncertainty, mental anguish and overwhelming fear that a real encounter with the justice system evokes.

Sitting alone (my husband was sitting with his attorneys) I could only spend time writing out scripture, taking notes and trying to guess how all this was impacting the twelve jurors sitting mere feet away. Only nine were required by California law to agree in order to reach a verdict which just added to the uncertainty.

I felt oh, so weary, scared and forgotten.

One of the scripture passages I wrote over and over was today’s verses.

27 Why, then, do you, Jacob, inheritors of God’s promise,

    you, Israel, chosen of God—

Why do you say, “My troubled path is hidden from the Eternal;

    God has lost all interest in My cause”?

28 Don’t you know? Haven’t you heard?

    The Eternal, the Everlasting God,

The Creator of the whole world, never gets tired or weary.

    His wisdom is beyond understanding.

29 God strengthens the weary

    and gives vitality to those worn down by age and care.

30 Young people will get tired;

    strapping young men will stumble and fall.

31 But those who trust in the Eternal One will regain their strength.

    They will soar on wings as eagles.

They will run—never winded, never weary.

    They will walk—never tired, never faint.

Isaiah 40: 27-31 VOICE

The nation of Israel was feeling lonely and all alone.

Had God forgotten? Had He abandoned them? Didn’t He care they were at their wit’s end and the limit of endurance?

So Jehovah sends Israel an encouraging Word through Isaiah.

He begins with questions: “Why are you questioning Jehovah’s interest in your cause? Do you think after all we’ve been through He’s forgotten you now? Can anything be hidden from His sight?”

As I sat day after day after day, I had to remind my heart that no matter how it FELT, God was very near. We were not abandoned. Whatever went on in that room with no windows was not hidden from our Shepherd King.

The very next set of questions Isaiah poses is one of my all time favorite verses: “Hey Israel! Do you really not know that God is eternal, everlasting, all-knowing and all-powerful? Haven’t you heard He made the earth and everything in it? Do you imagine He ever gets tired, worn out, too stretched to intervene in the affairs of men? “

This trial wasn’t the first time in my life I needed to be reminded that nothing is hidden from the Lord’s sight. It wasn’t the first time I needed reassurance that God is never too tired or too distracted or somehow limited by my understanding of who He is to reach down and give me a boost.

In the five years since Dominic ran ahead to Heaven I’ve had days, weeks and even months when, in my despair and grief, I forgot the truth.

The whole passage comes to a dramatic conclusion that leaves Israel (and me!) with no room for doubt.

Hey-God breathed into Adam and made a living man from dust. Sure, you may be tired and worn out from circumstances or age, but He can breathe life and vigor back into you too. Young folks seem nearly invincible but even they have limits. You just wait (expectantly, in faith, certain that He will show up and keep His promises) on Him. The kind of energy Jehovah will give you won’t run out. You’ll be like an eagle soaring effortlessly on wind currents higher and higher and higher.”

I’m here to tell you that God keeps His promises. His Word is sure.

I look back on those three weeks and stand amazed that I didn’t fall over from exhaustion and stress about five or six days in because except for surviving my son’s death, it was the hardest thing I ever did.

It was absolutely, positively God’s strength and not my own.

QUESTIONS:

  • I know most of my readers are bereaved parents and probably share my testimony of days, weeks, months of utter exhaustion under the load of grief that child loss dumps on a heart. Can you identify a specific moment when you felt God’s strength poured into your spirit? Can you think of an event, holiday or date you just knew you couldn’t face but somehow managed to survive?
  • How can meditating on these verses help your heart hold onto hope?
  • What new insight does including verses 27-28 to this familiar passage give you?
  • Consider looking these verses up in at least three different translations/paraphrases and compare them. Does that help you understand them better? Why or why not?

PRAYER:

Father God, I want to always remember that You are so much more than I can ever imagine or comprehend. Too often I try to circumscribe You by my limited understanding of how you work in the world. But You are too big for any box I try to stuff You into.

When I forget, remind me. When I doubt, strengthen my faith. When I feel alone, make Your Presence undeniably real to me. When I am weary, breathe new life into my spirit.

Thank You for patiently, graciously, mercifully dealing with me. Thank You for your everlasting, faithful love. You are a good, good Father.

Amen

*If you want more details about what happened last year, you can find it here: https://thelifeididntchoose.com/2018/08/24/heres-the-post-ive-wanted-to-write-but-couldnt/

Throwing In The Towel

I don’t like boxing.  

While there are those who defend the sport as the ultimate test of one man’s strength, fortitude and endurance against another, all I see is a couple of guys beating each other to a pulp.  

But I understand the heart of a fighter.  

I know what it feels like to be down but refuse to stay down.  I’ve lifted myself up and stumbled back into the center of the ring waiting for the next punch to land.

I’ve waved off the good advice of those in my own corner who say, “Take a breather.  Rest a little.  Sit awhile.”

But I’m throwing in the towel.  

Not for good.  

Just for today.  

liberal-blog-down-for-the-count

There’s been so much going on lately that I think I’m finally down for the count.  

I don’t care that summer days mean sunshine until eight.  I don’t care that I haven’t managed to complete half my list.  

I’m going to bed, curling up with a good book and reading until I fall asleep.  

I hope I don’t wake until sunrise.  

sunrise trees