And here comes 2015

Christmas 2014 is history. Its time to take down the lights and start the move into 2015. The new year with all its unknown. This is the time to look back and see what has been and then plan for what we want the new, fresh and clean year to become. And I just want it to be over and done. I’m tired of looking into the future and seeing a long, lonely road. I don’t want to think or contemplate the future. It’s just more of the same.

2014 was a big year of changes for me. I started a new job with a new company that I really enjoy. (Totally a God thing.) I’ve taken a break from some of my ministry commitments in order to refuel and decide my next steps. My daughter moved into her own place and is establishing her life away from me. I found out that my son is going to be a father in the spring of 2015. Good changes, really. But, it doesn’t mean they were easy changes. And, there are more to come.

I have realized that I cannot look at 2015 in one big view. It’s too overwhelming for me. I have failed before the new year has even begun. I’m not sure how to approach 2015. As hard as I try, I can’t dream about the future. I’ve learned the hard lesson that when dreams die, it hurts. I’m afraid of disappointment (my own and of others) and any more loss. I know that living in fear of loss/pain robs me of many wonderful experiences. I barely held it together during the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays this year. I have forgotten how to be content on my own. I have lost the art of being one and only one. I have become too dependent on others and on busyness to keep me distracted from what my life really is. I have to figure it all out, again.

So, for me, 2015 means ONE. I have to relearn being ONE. I have to separate “me” from my children, my friends and my work. I must stop depending on others and learn to stand alone. I have to face 2015 day by day, for this is my life. There is no one else to live it with me or for me.

Psalm 121:1 -2 “I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills, from whence cometh my help. My help cometh from the Lord, which made heaven and earth.” (KJV)

It’s Time

It’s done. It’s really happened. I’m on my own again. This weekend, my daughter moved into her own apartment. I can officially say I am an empty nester. Now, I just have to figure out what that means.

Many people questioned why I encouraged my daughter to move into her own place. Simply put, it was time. She’s a college graduate with a full-time career. It’s time to establish her own home and her own life. She needs to make her own decisions and take care of her own needs. Her social life needs to be her own and not one that includes her mom. She needs to come and go without having to ask permission. She needs to be responsible for her own schedule and her own dog. She needs the excitement of being on her own.

Will I miss her? Of course I will. I detest coming home to an empty house. But it was time. I will talk to or see her with great regularity. She’s only 15 minutes away. But it’s time to put some distance between us. We have been extremely close since her dad died. I have been as dependent upon her as she has been on me. I’ll miss the silly faces and laughs at odd times of the day. But it’s time.

It’s time to stop taking every moment for granted. It’s time to consciously think about meeting for dinner or coffee or shopping. It’s time to think about carving out the time and not just squeezing in a moment or two because it’s convenient. It’s time to move forward into adulthood. It’s time to stand back and watch her look to the future. It’s time to stop holding everything in the past. It’s just time.

Boundaries

I don’t like being told “No”. A sign that says “Do Not Touch – Wet Paint” is an open invitation to reach out and test the true wetness. Too many times, “Do Not” becomes “I Dare YOU” in my mind. In many cases, I don’t like boundaries.

When I was six years old, my aunt pointed out some pretty pink flowers during our family Easter egg hunt and said “Don’t touch these flowers.” I probably wouldn’t have paid any attention to them if she had not been kind enough to point them out to me. I kept wondering why I couldn’t touch those flowers. They were really pretty. I decided my aunt was just being stingy and she should really share. So, I went directly to the hot pink flowers and grabbed one. Unfortunately, these particular flowers were attached to a prickly pear cactus. Instead of the pretty flowers, I ended up with two handfuls of cactus spines. I cried as the spines were pulled from my fingers and as I heard my aunt say “I told you not to pick those flowers!”

Sometimes boundaries are necessary. They keep my dogs in my yard and hopefully other dogs out. I know to stay on my side of the road and I try to park my car between the yellow lines. Cell phones are not welcome in movie theatres (I have been know to sneak a quick peek!) I’m expected to be at work during specific hours. A married person is off-limits, no matter how unhappy or “free thinking” they claim to be. As a single-again, I’ve learned to appreciate the art and even the importance of “No.”

Personal boundaries are the most difficult for me. I have no problem erecting a high wall around my personal space. It keeps me safe and secure. I find that I want to push out of those boundaries and test the life I see living around me. But, you see, I have some issues with knowing the difference between the prickly pear flowers and the plain gardenia. Too often, I’m drawn to the drama and the excitement and totally miss the quieter opportunities that God has presented to me. And then, when the drama and excitement leave me in tearful pain, I run from even the most joyful and delicate choices. How does one love completely and unconditionally and avoid the pain? You don’t.

I believe the key is to love unconditionally. There are flowers I can appreciate and enjoy within limitations. While they may be beautiful, I’ll never get too close for fear of the spines or odor or other irritants they harbor. But the flowers that I love completely, are the ones I can hold and sniff and enjoy up-close. I am aware of how delicate some of the flowers can be and I handle them carefully. There will be times that I’ll come across a thorn or a bug hidden among the petals, but it doesn’t change the complete adoration I have for their grace and beauty.

Relationships are similar. There are some people/relationships that are toxic or even dangerous for me. I can appreciate the people involved and love them for who they are. But, I cannot lose sight of all that God has for me and get caught up in the excitement of the life they represent. I may to be in their world, but I cannot be a part of it. Thankfully, there are glorious opportunities for friendship that God has placed in my life. They remind me that it’s worth getting up every morning. These are the friends that I trust and invite behind my own personal walls. The few that I love completely, without reservation. Our only boundaries are trust and love. These are relationships that take time and effort to cultivate. They don’t always look exciting or even interesting, but the end result is indescribable.

I would like to think I’ve learned how to push my boundaries as I’ve gotten older. I try to see the beauty in everyone I meet. I still look for thorns before I rush to pick a flower.

And, I still leave finger prints in the wet paint!

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Fear, Failure & Other Silliness

I have NOT done lots of things in my life because I didn’t want to:
a) look silly
b) fail
c) get hurt
d) lose
e) admit I was afraid
f) ask for help
g) all of the above

In school, I didn’t try out for anything unless I was fairly certain I would succeed. I avoided any activities that might be above my current capabilities. I didn’t want to fall and maybe be hurt. If I did take a risk and then I fell, I NEVER tried again. (It’s amazing I learned to ride a bicycle!) I stuck with the things I could do best and pretended I didn’t care about the rest of it.

As I matured, I learned that there were times when taking the risk was worth it. It was okay to try and to fail. I actually found that I could excel at looking silly and survive! I’ll never be a champion skater (or even very good for that matter!), but I can say that I tried. And fell. Many, many times. On a few occasions, I’ve been forced to face my fear of heights and bugs and snakes and telephones and have lived to tell about it even if I still get a bit nauseated at the memories.

One area in which I continue to struggle and grow in is developing true relationships. I’ve never had a problem meeting people. I can be friendly and even helpful. But, when it comes to really allowing another person past my personal fire-wall, that’s a different story. Because behind this facade is a person that fears the risk of transparency. You may discover that I’m actually silly or shallow. I may not be able to live up to your expectations. What if you don’t like me or find me annoying? Will you stick around if I admit that I’m afraid or that I desperately need your help? What will I do if you let me down? And those fears have tried to rob me of the joy of truly knowing and loving others.

There are no guarantees. Some people have come into my life for a specific time and now our lives follow different paths. There are people who I have loved and mourned when they were unwilling or unable to return that love. And then there are the people who are so deeply and richly ingrained in my life and memories that even time and distance cannot break the bond. I’ve had my heart broken and bruised through the years. There have been times that I promised God and myself that I would NEVER allow anyone the opportunity to hurt me that deeply ever again. But, as the pain subsides and the new normal becomes more familiar, I know that I need to step out of my safe zone. And, I’m so glad I haven’t given up on loving and caring about others. For all the tears and pain, I’ve also experienced so much love and joy.

If I had waited until love was safe and hassle-free, I would never have married. If we had waited until everything was perfect in our lives and in our world to have children, I wouldn’t have Zachary & Gracie. If I wait until there is no risk of being hurt before I love and care about others, I’ll live a very lonely, empty life. If I only live the parts of my life that come with guarantees, I’ll never know what it is to live life fully. Every day, I ask God for guidance and wisdom and protection. And every day, He reminds me that I am loved.

Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground outside your Father’s care. And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. So don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows. Matthew 10:29-31 NIV

Your Story

Recently, a friend commented while watching a man riding his bike through the traffic “I wonder what his story is?” We all have a story. And, there is someone in the world that can benefit from your story. You just have to be willing to share it.

I used to believe that I had a very boring story. I grew up in a happy and content family. My parents were living examples of “til death do you part.” My siblings and I got along. My parents were known as the “cool parents.” I grew up in church and became a Christian when I was 10 years old. I graduated from high school at the top of my class and had the pick of which university I wanted to attend. I chose a small east Texsas college and graduated in 4 years. Never a big partier, I was involved with the Baptist Student Ministry and travelled on weekends to sing at churches in the area. I had a job offer that I accepted before I finished my senior year. As I moved on into adulthood, I lived a kind of charmed life. So, when I was asked to share my story, I did it with little excitement and maybe a bit apologetically.

As I matured, I realized that there were people that found value in my story. Even my boring story was important to someone. As a heart-broken single adult, a new bride, an expectant mom or a tired parent, I could share my experiences. This caused others to share their own stories and we built community together on those experiences.

But the true value of sharing my story has become most evident recently. For my story of a charmed life has taken a new twist. Grief has painted a different patina on my view of life. Things that were once boring are now priceless. I’ve learned not to take the ordinary for granted, because it is often the ordinary that becomes extraordinary in every day life. My story is one of brokenness and survival. It’s a story of God’s continuing blessings in a dark and horrible time. And as I tell my story and listen to the stories around me, my heart heals a little more.

Every story is important. Every story needs to be heard. What’s your story?

I Confess

I’m a widow. This is my confession.

I don’t want to go to restaurants alone. It’s almost like I have a sign on my forehead that says “She’s all by herself.” I have done it, but I feel like I’m wasting valuable space.

Sometimes, I get take out and eat it in my car. In my driveway. I just don’t want to go into an empty house and eat alone.

Cheese and crackers are just fine for lunch and dinner and even breakfast. Chips and dip or Raisin Bran are also acceptable.

I sleep in my recliner most nights. I hate crawling into my bed all by myself. Too many memories.

I keep the TV on 24 hours a day. It keeps me company, and it muffles the outside noises. It helps make the house feel less empty, a little less lonely.

I talk to the TV. And the dogs. And myself. A LOT!

When I’m all by myself and I don’t have to get up and get dressed, I don’t. I’ve spent entire weekends sleeping just because I don’t want to get out.

I buy Peeps marshmallow chicks and bunnies every spring. Sometimes I get a box in every color.

I don’t like Peeps. Terry did.

Seeing couples around my age holding hands and just enjoying time together still makes me cry and a little jealous.

I still get mad at my husband and yell at him on occasion. I don’t think I forgiven him for dying, yet.

I still miss the other half of my couple.

I always will.

Eights Years Later

A close friend asked me this weekend if Valentine’s Day was any easier eight years after losing my husband. Without much thought, I answered “No.” After some thought, I think I will amend or at least explain my answer.

Valentine’s Day (although very commercial) is the day we celebrate love. In my ideal world, it’s the day of hand-written notes and super gooey expressions of love. It’s an excuse to go all out to tell someone that they’re special and loved. Now, Terry was not a super romantic. He tried, and he had his moments, but it was work for him. He was under the (mistaken) impression that one box of cheap candy from Wal-greens was enough for the whole family on Valentine’s Day. He did find ways to make it a day of special remembrances. I still have the last Valentine’s card he gave me. It’s silly and I cherish it.

The first few years after Terry died, I HATED February 14. It was a reminder of everything I had lost, the life that was stolen from me. Terry made me laugh and cry. He made me angry and helped me to calm down. He loved me deeply and completely. He was my confidante and my co-conspirator. He was always there, always ready. We shared our biggest dreams, our deepest fears, our greatest hopes. How do I “get over” losing that one person that was such a huge part of my world? I never will.

This year, eight years later, I don’t say that “I Hate” February 14. The day is not as crippling to me as it has been in the past. But, I still mourn what I’ve lost. I confess that I look around at the roses being delivered to the office and I am envious. I miss being special and having a special someone to shower with love and silly gifts and cards. I would like to have one of those special Valentine’s Day dinners with someone other than one of my kids. I wonder as I look at couples if they really understand how wonderful it is to be a couple. Do they just take it all for granted?

So, my answer is remains “No.” I close my eyes and try to return to those days when I was cherished. I try to remember feeling safe and loved and special. I give thanks for the love I did know. And, on those dark days that still overtake me on occasion, I ask “Why?” No, it’s not any easier after eight years.