Saturday, July 25, 2009

The Darker Side of Alone

Well Friends! I don’t know who flipped what switch . . . but today ALL of the planning . . . .the house, the wedding . . . everything got put into high gear! Holy moly! Fasten your seat belts and hold on tight!

Yesterday I took all six kids shopping and we got the boys their black dress pants and white shirts. I am having their ties made – they will match the girls dresses which are also being made by a friend of mine who has a degree in fashion and is AMAZING at this stuff! The dresses she designed are absolutely perfect! I also got the boys clothes for the reception and we got the girls all shoes to go with their amazing dresses.

After about two hours of phone calls this morning – confirming everything with the rental company, going over details for the wedding and ceremony with both my soon-to-be mother-in-law (who I absolutely adore, by the way!) and my dear friend and wedding planner (and booking agent for my ministry), Collette . . . after ALL of that –Marn and I set out to Starbuck’s and then to begin plotting the registry. I am having a bridal shower - we have asked that no one bring gifts to the wedding – so Marni and I spent the day today looking at all the stores in Midland for towels, bedding, etc . . . trying to figure out what to register for for the shower. Problem is . . . I don’t have all the colors nailed down for the house – which is completely torn up and in the process of being dry-walled right now. It has been amazing to watch the house go from the original, to stripped down to the studs, the space re-allocated and framed in, insulated, and now dry-walled! Anyhow – I am meeting with the interior designer on Tuesday to figure out all the color schemes, and will then go register! Ah, the pressure.

Then, Marni and I took five of our kids and shopped (after a good workout so that I look great on my wedding day) for Practice’s clothes for the reception and honeymoon. By the way – someone asked if his name is really Practice . . . and no, it is not. His real name is Jim – but we call him practice for the blog. Read back to the Valentine’s Day post and you will learn a bit more. (I actually call him Farmer . . . but that one is just for me!)

Tomorrow Practice and I will go get his suit for the ceremony, rent refrigerators for the reception food, go to pre-marital counseling, AND we hope to go pick out carpet and flooring for the house . . . then he needs to sleep a couple hours and heads into work to work a 12 hour night shift.

Next week I need to get his house ready for us to move into (remember me saying it is all torn up right now?????) Lots of cleaning and dusting to do - PLUS beginning the work to make room for an entire ‘other’ household to be brought over. The week after that . . . I will work to pack my house up. Then, the Tuesday before the wedding we will move (the kids and I will sleep in the guest bedroom of OUR house until the wedding day.) OH MY!

In the midst of ALL of that . . . I continue to wrestle with emotions! Yesterday was a tough day. Practice and I actually had two hours alone together. We went out to eat . . . and the emotion of all that is taking place came over me as we drove back to the farm for me to get in my van and drive the half-hour home to my house. I cried and cried and cried all the way home and went straight to the cemetery and wrote the following ~

Tonight I am acutely aware of the fact that there is a BIG difference between being o.k. with ‘being’ alone . . . and the ‘feeling’ of alone! Tonight, I feel completely alone. I am not! There are people who love me ALL around me . . . but NONE of them . . . not one of them. . . have been where I am at today. Three weeks from Saturday I will say ‘I do’ to the man of my prayers. I will become his wife. With two little words I will close an enormous chapter of my life. In one beautiful, intimate, worshipful ceremony before our closest family and friends – I will leave my life as I know it. I will leave my life with Chad. With that, I take my three children with me. I am so aware of the fact that they really have no say in this matter. For the past twenty two months their lives have had no stability. And now, I have made a choice that will remove them from ALL that they have left that is stable . . . but with that . . . I have made a choice that I believe will provide them with long term, lasting, ‘daddy’ stability! Something that I, as the mama, know that they all three need . . . and so . . . I have made a decision that I believe is best for not only myself . . . but for my babies, as well.

I am SO thankful for the new! So thankful that the new has a name and a face and arms to hold me and a life to build with me.

Yet, I find myself feeling alone and exposed as I leave everything I built with Chad. We built a wonderful life! I will do the same with Practice. I can’t wait to be Mrs. Practice . . .

But here I am . . . feeling so alone! How in the world can you want two different things SO badly all at the same time? How can you long for old and new all in one breath? How can you weep . . . yet rejoice at the very same time?

And so, I am aware . . . that the ‘feeling’ of alone . . .is tough. It is scary, and painful, and difficult. I . . . am . . . alone!

Today broke with an overwhelming feeling that in three short weeks all of this craziness WILL be done. In three short weeks I WILL be Mrs. Practice. In three short weeks I won’t have to drive home anymore . . . home will be in his arms at the end of every day!

I know there will still be times that I feel alone. When the feelings of missing Chad hit . . . I feel alone now matter who I am with or what I am doing. I don’t know if that will ever change. But at the end of all of that, I, will be Mrs. Practice . . . and that, my friends, is a wonderful thing! Thank you, Lord! Thank you!

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

The Wonderful World of Widowhood!

Good Day Faithful Readers!

I am so excited to tell you about the weekend I just had! I tried to write this blog while the weekend was actually happening . . . but I couldn’t figure out how to get onto the internet at my hotel (go figure!) Then, Marni suggested that I write it on the plane as we were flying home, which was a great idea, in theory. The only problem was that Marni talked me into letting her have one of my Zanex (anti-anxiety pill) and I spent the ENTIRE flight from California to Ohio trying to keep the woman from climbing the walls of the airplane! She completely LOST her mind. Suffice to say, there were moments I was laughing so hard I thought I would pee my pants . . . thank goodness I only took one Zanex and not my usual two – which puts me completely out! Had I done that I’m not sure who would have kept an eye on her!

Well, anyway! I spent this past weekend in San Diego, California at the 1st Annual National Conference on Widowhood. A mouthful, huh? Well! Let me tell you – what an incredible experience!

The idea for this conference was birthed out of a woman named Michele Neff Hernandez. Michele was widowed four years ago, very unexpectedly and at a pretty young age. She set out to interview other widows all over the United States to figure out what a widow was supposed to look like and be. How do you get through it? What does widowhood look like in our modern age? Who are we supposed to be?

What she found was that there is not one specific answer to these questions . . . and . . . that widows are a breed unto their own. They are strong, intelligent, amazing women. She began teaming up with other widows to support and uplift one another and along the way formed the WidowsBond website, the Widow Match program, and the Soaring Spirits Loss Foundation.

Through all of that came the idea for this conference. There were 110 attendees and 25 speakers. I was blessed to be able to both speak and sing. This is a conference with no religious affiliation – so I was very excited to teach a seminar on how my faith has sustained me through my grief. When I began my presentation I explained that I am a born again Christian and that that was the premise of my talk. Two women got up and left! That was o.k.! The wonderful news is that two women came up to me afterward and told me that they have been so angry at God. . . .unable to pray or go to church. They were encouraged by my talk and were going to work on their relationships with Christ! THAT, my friends, is what it is all about!

There were women there from all walks of life! Many, MANY of them were young! What a gift to each of us . . . to find each other!

Friday evening there was a welcome reception. A very sweet young woman had just registered and turned around from the registration desk to find an empty hallway. Just then, I walked by. I could tell by the look in her eyes . . . she was so very, very lost. I introduced myself and asked her her name. Come to find out – she was widowed just three months ago. She had heard about the conference and came all by herself! My goodness! God bless her. At three months you have no idea which way is up . . . and here she stood! Wow! What an amazing woman. I met another woman that evening – with the sweetness of the Lord ALL over her. Her husband of many many years died unexpectedly just four months ago. She was a beautiful woman – both inside and out. Her daughters had brought her. How sweet to see a family clinging to one another as they grapple with the realities of this Earth.

So – what do YOU think, my friends? What does a widow look like to you? Have you ever thought about it? I sure have! I would love to hear your thoughts . . . so please let me know in the comments! When I say the word ‘widow,’ what image comes to your mind?

You know what’s funny? I still see a woman with white hair. Isn’t that weird? Here I am . . . a picture, myself, of a widow . . . but ‘me’ is not what I see.

What I see happening, today, is both a beautiful and a horrible thing . . . us younger widows are redefining widowhood! We are forming alliances and groups and support ALL over this world!

Oh yes, did I mention that there were women there from all across the globe? Friday afternoon began with a speaker’s luncheon. I sat a table with a doctor from Bagdad, Iraq! She was there to raise the plight of widows around the globe. There was another speaker there from Kenya. Hold on and fasten your seatbelts because what I am about to tell you is going to sicken you . . .

In many countries of this world, when you are widowed you are thought of as bad luck and you are then treated like the plague! In India, for example, when you are widowed they strip you of all rights and take your children away from you and place you in an area where all the widows go. Can you imagine? CAN you imagine? Oh my! I can’t! I got through my widowhood by clinging to Christ and my babies! How in the world would you make it through in a situation like that? My goodness!

A short conclusion to all of this . . . then I am off to take two cats to the vet (FUN!), clean my house, begin packing up my house to move in less than three weeks, AND . . . to keep working on wedding plans! Please check back almost daily right now! I think I will use the blog as a journal for the next few weeks as we countdown to the wedding! I am SO excited!!!!!

Well – you know that I have asked the question . . . what is a widow? I would like to tell you a discovery I had along the way this weekend . . . it is one I have had before . . . but was reconfirmed this weekend.

One of the greatest gifts that I will take away from my widowhood is gift of knowing the beauty of ‘alone.’ Last Friday I had to drive from L.A. to San Diego . . . alone. I had to deal with traffic, unfamiliar cities, and get checked into the hotel . . . alone. I had to figure out where to park my rental car, unload my luggage, and find the nearest Starbuck’s . . . alone. Thankfully . . . the Starbuck’s was right in the lobby of the hotel! What a relief!!!!! I had to get unpacked (yeah, right!), figure out what to wear to the speaker’s luncheon, and walk into a completely unfamiliar setting where I knew no one . . . alone! After the luncheon I went to the pool . . . alone. Later that day, I went shopping . . . alone.

You know what I have found? It is that while I love my friends and family . . . while I am so thankful for the gift of Practice and ALL that he has brought to my life . . . while I can’t believe the friend that I have been given in Marni (and a fabulous travel companion, by the way!) . . . I have found that I am o.k. . . . alone! I am alright . . . even great . . . as just ‘me!’ I can conquer the world . . . and drive through Los Angeles . . . .ALONE! I have found that there is not much I cannot do . . . alone! What a gift I have found in my widowhood!

Saturday, July 11, 2009

A New 'Fit'

Well All ~

This morning I awoke to the sound of a beautiful rain right outside my window. I love to listen to rain, and even better – there was soon a soft rumble of thunder! Oh! Do I love that!

I came out to my living room to let Miah outside and the view across the back lawns of the neighborhood was breathtaking. A soft sun beginning to shine down on the wet, green grass; a subtle bit of hays lifting to the sky. The birds are singing and the entire neighborhood is alive with the sounds of nature.

We have lived here for over seven years and as I looked out over this lovely scene, it struck me. Five weeks from today I will marry the man of my prayers! In just 35 days I will have a new view to take in each morning. In just 35 days I will awake in the arms of a man each morning . . . a gift that far outweighs the beauty of ANY view (although, I must say that the view at the farm is breathtaking, as well! )

In five short weeks the entire course of our life will change, yet again. I am amazed as I watch all four of us . . . and yes, venture to say, even all eight of us . . . adapt to these changes. I will not speak for Practice and his sweet babies . . . only for me and mine.

Our life truly HAS been one big adjustment since the day Chad died. I can see the excitement in my baby’s eyes – the love that is growing in them for their new step daddy and his entire family. Yet, there is so much to adjust to. It is funny how they all adjust at different times. One struggled very early on but now seems very excited and fine. One has no qualms about it at all. And one is really struggling with it all today – excited for the new – but worried about starting at a new school and losing friends back here in Midland.

I am watching the adjustment my boys are making as they work to fit back into being ‘sons’ to a father. I never would have expected this. Chad and I have always been BIG disciplinarians! I tried to keep that up after he died – but the reality is that we just survived for SO many months. I can see now where my kids probably ‘self disciplined’ and took care of each other while I was busy grieving and oblivious to the world. On top of that – throw in the fact that there have been MANY men in and out of their lives for the past two years. Men who have spoken into them and been here for them – but not one of them would have disciplined them. (Not that I would have expected them to or wanted them to.) We all were just trying to keep them going . . . trying to fill in a void.

Now enter Practice. He is honestly one of the wisest men I have ever met. He is one of the best fathers I have ever watched. I am amazed as I watch how he handles his children – SO, SO differently than Chad and I would have handled ours . . . it is fascinating, as a woman, to be so intimately in-tune to two different men. I was once nuzzled under Chad’s covering and I will soon be nuzzled under Practice’s. I see, even now, that I am beginning to think more like Practice . . . and a little less like Chad. It is fascinating to be the wife of two men (not that I am his wife yet . . . but I can see the transition happening as the days tick down.) Well, that is a blog for a different day.

Back to the boys . . . where all these different men worked so hard to fill the void of one man . . . now God has sent one man to fill that void. Practice will be a covering over them, as well. One strong man to be the ‘head’ over us all. What a gift! What a sweet blessing from above. But now, we must all (even me, you know . . . I have become a VERY strong woman over the past 21 months!) ‘fit’ back under the covering of a daddy. I can see my boys testing that. I can see them wresting with it a bit. They are truly, truly sweet and wonderful little boys . . . but there is definitely some adjusting to do.

Please pray for Practice as he learns to be a daddy to three more babies! What a tall order! God must really think he is something else to entrust him with us! We need a ton of wisdom right now . . . but I can tell you. . . Practice really is something else! He is truly the man of my prayers!

Thank you, Jesus!