Thursday, June 27, 2013

Moving on with our "New Normal"

It's been a couple of weeks since my last update, and for that I apologize. It's not because there has been nothing to share, but because I've been particularly busy trying to move on with our new normal. It's amazing to look back and think about how much our lives have changed, and in such a short amount of time. Sometimes I still find it difficult to grasp the concept of what has truly happened to us. Has it really only been 6 weeks? It seems like so much longer; almost a lifetime ago. Yet, at the same time, it feels like the blink of an eye. I feel as if I continuously bounce back and forth between two lives: our life with Sharon, and our life without her. Just when I start to get in to a type of groove, and feel some-what used to my new normal, something happens that throws me back to the ground and assails me with all the reminders of what I've lost. That happens more times than I'd like to admit, and at the most unexpected of times. Such as searching through Sharon's kitchen to borrow cooking supplies, or shopping for office supplies at Staples. Such small, meaningless acts that remind me of the woman that I've lost, and that I'm now forced to do these things without her.

There have also been a few major events in our lives over these past couple of weeks where her absence was prominently felt. The first event was Sharon's birthday. It's unbelievable to think about how the date June 12th will never be the same. We will never be able to celebrate it with the same sense of joy and heartfelt abandon as we have in the past. Now, and forever, it will be a bittersweet day. A day that holds many cheerful memories, but also sorrow. For Sharon's birthday, we decided that we wanted to have dinner at one of her favorite restaurants. I was very happy that most of our family made it to that dinner. I even found a coupon that we were able to use on the dinner, which made me smile because I felt as if it was an honor to Sharon, the discount queen. We felt happy moments, yet sad moments at that dinner. It was also difficult because memories of past events celebrated at that restaurant kept running through our minds. While we strive to celebrate these holidays and events with a measure of joy, there is still sorrow that clings to the day, keeping the moment from being truly happy. I feel as if it will be a while before we can celebrate life with true joy in our hearts again.

The other event we celebrated recently was Father's Day. We made a point of spending the day with Dutch, and he was very pleased to have all of his children there to celebrate the day with him. It was a day filled with happiness, and that ever-present sorrow.

Overall, we are still doing as well as can be expected. I am still utterly impressed by Dutch and Wes, and the remarkable way they have both been dealing with this tragedy. It truly is inspiring. I've been so blessed to be a part of this family, and feel as if I've grown as a person, a Christian, and a family member over these past several weeks. I've been very awed by God amidst this storm we've been facing. Even with this horrendous tragedy, we've seen amazing blessings and comforts in our lives that can only be offered by Him. Our faith has been tested in ways that we never could have imagined, and we've discovered a lot about ourselves, and our relationships with God.

The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing. He makes me lie down in green pastures, He leads me beside quiet waters, He refreshes my soul. He guides me along the right paths for His name's sake. Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me. (Psalm 23:1-4)

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose. (Romans 8:28)

We still have a long way to go with our healing process, but God's presence in our lives makes it so much easier to bear. Without the Lord, we could never manage to get through this. I'm so grateful for His presence, His comfort and His guidance. When I feel overwhelmed with my new tasks and emotions, I know that I can give my burdens to Him, and that everything will be okay because He is here for me. He provides me with such a deep sense of comfort, that I could not survive without it. I am utterly blessed.

Surely Your goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever. (Psalm 23:6)

Now devote your heart and soul to seeking the Lord your God. (1 Chronicles 22:19a)

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Closer to God

We had a memorial for Sharon this past Saturday, to celebrate her life and her job well done. It's taken a lot out of us to prepare for the memorial; we had to dwell on a lot of unpleasant details, emotions and planning. It took a lot to set up and take down, yet we were so fortunate for the many helping hands that were offered. Though it involved much work and tears, the service turned out beautiful. For me personally, the entire service just seemed like us. Everything that went into it, from location to decor, potluck to music, sunflowers to messages of faith; it all came from the heart. When it was all said and done, it was very "us".

While I had expected a large turn-out, I was still amazed by the colossal amount of people that attended. We had well around four-hundred people. It was an amazing tribute to Sharon's ability to easily befriend anyone, to the love and generosity she so freely offered, and to the kind and thoughtful person that she is. It was an amazing tribute to how many lives she touched.

Before I move on, I thought I would address my use of the present-tense "is" when I sometimes refer to Sharon. It has been a bit confusing for us over these past few weeks when we speak of her because we often use past-tense, but there are some instances when we are describing her personal characteristics and use present-tense. Our reasoning for this is that even though Sharon is no longer here with us physically on earth, her spirit is still alive in heaven. Since we fully believe with our whole hearts that she has moved on to our eternal life with the Lord, those characteristics are still a part of her because she still is, in a sense, alive. She may not be alive here with us, but her soul is alive in heaven. She was a kind, amazing, thoughtful, loving woman here on earth, and she still is now that she is in heaven.

And the God of all grace, who called you to His eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will Himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast. (1 Peter 5:10)

Jesus said to her, "I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die..." (John 11:25)

So is it with the resurrection of the dead. What is sown is perishable; what is raised is imperishable. It is sown in dishonor; it is raised in glory. It is sown in weakness; it is raised in power. It is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body. If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual body. (1 Corinthians 15:42-44)

After the memorial service was over, I felt a sense of relief, a weight lifted off of my shoulders. Ever since our days in the hospital three weeks ago I haven't truly felt able to breathe. But after the memorial, I finally felt as if I could take a breath, albeit a small one. Planning the memorial service was a monumental task, and I am glad that it is behind us. It was wonderful to see so many family and friends, to share in the love that we all have for Sharon. Yet it is nice to have that day behind us. Pastor Steve made a comment on Saturday that while everyone else would leave the service and head back to their normal lives, we would leave and try to move on with our "new normal". I thought that was a perfect description. Even though I feel relieved that the memorial is over, there is no relief from this pain. It is not magically gone, over and done with. It is still there, a burning, aching hole in our hearts that we fight to keep from consuming us. Now that the memorial is over, we are struggling to move on with our "new normal", to live our lives with this giant hole in our hearts. That is a daunting task.

It is a great challenge, indeed, to try to move forward with our lives when such a huge part of us is missing. Yet we always fall back on the same source of strength and comfort that we can only find in our Lord. The peace He fills us with is unbelievable. I shudder to think about how we would have managed this without Him, and the truth is that we wouldn't. While we may still fall apart, and have our fair share of despair, we never truly lose ourselves in this pain. It is not an all-consuming, endless pain because we have God on our side. He is our rock during this storm, and we are clinging to Him with abandon.

The Lord is good, a refuge in times of trouble. He cares for those who trust in Him. (Nahum 1:7)

And our hope for you is firm, because we know that just as you share in our sufferings, so also you share in our comfort. (2 Corinthians 1:7)

"For I am the Lord, your God, who takes hold of your right hand and says to you, Do not fear; I will help you." Isaiah 41:13

I've always thought my faith was strong, particularly after losing my uncle, and this tragedy has been a true test of my faith and enduring trust in the Lord. Through this tragedy I feel as if I've been steadfast in my faith, and have only grown closer to Him. I will admit, I have not read the bible enough, or prayed enough, or truly devoted myself to Him enough over the years. Yet this has been one giant wake-up call. I've had multiple people tell me how strong I've been for my family, that I am their rock, and that they admire me and strive to be more like me in my walk with the Lord. When I heard that, I felt honored, and shocked. Why would anyone want to be more like me? I'd like to think that I've been strong for my family, but I am weak. My strength comes from Him. I don't feel like an awe-inspiring person whose walk with the Lord is something great to be admired. But I am humbled by their words, and that they would see that in me. It gives me an even greater desire to draw closer to the Lord, to pray to Him constantly, and to study His Word so that I may strengthen my relationship with Him.

It is God who arms me with strength and keeps my way secure. (2 Samuel 22:33)

While my knowledge of the bible may not be extensive, my hope and trust in Him is unwavering. He was my handhold during my depression and grief over losing my uncle eight years ago, and I only managed to survive that because I had hope for the future He had planned for me, and faith that He would always be with me, during the good times and the bad. We were not promised a perfect life here on earth. We all will suffer and face tribulations in this life. But I am among the lucky ones, and utterly blessed beyond belief, to have an open-heart that willingly welcomes the Lord. He provides me with the strength, peace and comfort that I so desperately need. My walk with Him is not as great as it could be, I have not followed in His footsteps as well as I could have, nor studied His Word like I should. But I feel a fire in my heart to do better. I feel on fire for the Lord. We are struggling with one of the worst tragedies we will ever have to face, and I feel God's constant presence in my life. He rejoices for Sharon's presence with Him in heaven, yet suffers for our sorrows. I want to be more like Him. I want to walk more closely with Him. I want to be the person that others see in me, the person that Sharon saw in me. I want to honor all of the people that I love.

Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice. Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:4-7)

This is a terrible time in our lives, but I know that God is using this opportunity to reach out to me, and to us. He is using this opportunity to draw us closer to Him. He is using this opportunity to reach out to others, through us, and our pain and suffering. We are the hands and feet of the Lord. As my husband said to me, we can do nothing about what has happened. It is how we react to it that will define us, and how we need to react in a way that will honor his mother, and glorify the Lord. One thing I know, is that even though the Lord has allowed this pain into our lives, we are not angry with Him. We do not cry bitterly about the unfairness of it. We will not allow this to separate us from Him. Instead, we seek our comfort and our solace from Him, and put our continued hope in Him. He is our Lord God, our Savior; in Him we trust.

Don't let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith and in purity. (1 Timothy 4:12)

Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? As it is written, "For your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered." No, in all these things we are more than conquerers through Him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:35-39)