Joy (Take 2)

I am in a second marriage.  I was widowed in 2005.  In 2015, I married my dearest friend who had been divorced for a few years.  He was also a good friend to my late husband.  We now have a blended family with five kids:  the oldest is 28 and the youngest is 18.  They’ve know each other through the years as they grew up in church together.

Marriage the 2nd time around is familiar and different all at the same time.

I married Terry in 1987.  We were in our late 20’s.  We thought we knew everything.  We did everything together, even grocery shopping.  Having lived on my own for 5 years, it took a bit of adjustment to have someone there all of the time.  But, we adjusted to life together in our little one bedroom apartment.  We learned to love together.  We learned to disagree with each other.  We learned to give up expectations and live for today.  We learned to parent together.  We grew together in our love of family and our love of God.  And then, he was gone.  I mourned the loss of my best friend, my husband, and my dreams for many years.

I’ve never understood when I hear negative comments about marriage.  I was told once after Terry died,  that I was lucky I didn’t have to put up with a man any longer.  (I definitely didn’t agree!)  I’ve listened to comments about the “poor saps” that were getting married soon and how foolish they were.  I couldn’t comprehend “out-growing” my husband and moving on to greener pastures.  How do you out-grow someone with whom you are growing daily?  Couples that lived very separate lives always mystified me.    Terry and I had our own careers.  And, we were sometimes separated due to traveling for work.  But, I talked to him every night regardless of our locations.  While I might enjoy a day or two of being able to “do my own thing”, I counted the days until we were both home together again.  And, I think he did too.   Anytime Terry and I were in the same room, people knew we were together.  He was my husband and I was his wife. I wanted every person around us to know that.  I was proud to be married to him.   Life wasn’t easy.  We struggled with finances and work options.  There were extended family issues that affected our little family.  In later years, there were health issues to consider.  But, we had committed to God and to each other to see it through until the end.  We were together!

I married Tim in 2015.  Being married in our 50’s is an experience.  We both brought our own baggage into our marriage.  We’ve endured the buying, remodeling and selling of a home,  the buying and remodeling of another home, unemployment and the resulting financial problems, legal issues, the start-up our own business, joining a new church and just learning to be married to each other.  We’ve both had to stop filtering every comment and action through our previous life experiences.  I’m still working on my own insecurities and finding my place in our life together and with our children in this new family model.

There are always challenges in blending families.  Regardless of the age of the children in a blended family there are issues.   Jealousy about who likes who better.  Protectiveness of “my mom” or “my dad”.  While we strive to build new family traditions, there is pain as the old traditions are changed or even replaced.  Each child has different expectations for family life.  There have been tears and complaints, hurt feelings and joy since our marriage.   I expect that to continue as we grow together.

I adore being married to Tim.  At the same time, there are times that I still mourn for Terry and the things I miss sharing with him: our son, Zac’s wedding, the birth of Zac’s son, Gracie’s graduation from college and the purchase of her first home,  etc.  I also walk into unknown territory as a step-mom:  Where do I fit?  How involved is too involved?

The joys far out-weigh the trials.  Maybe because I’ve endured the loss of a husband, I truly treasure my time with Tim.  My views haven’t really changed.  I still believe marriage is for a life-time.  I still believe that we are to “become one” in every way. There is no “out-growing” each other.    I still believe in unconditional love.  I believe I have been incredibly blessed to find such a deep and abiding love the 2nd time around.  I still get butterflies when I hear his voice.  I still count the days, the hours and the minutes when we are separated.  To walk into a room holding my husband’s hand, is still one of the greatest thrills for me.  I can find the happiness we all say we want, because of the joy and peace that I have in my marriage today.

I am so glad I was given a chance at joy the second time around.

Interruptions

Don’t you hate getting interrupted? Just when the plot thickens on your favorite show, the phone rings or one of the kids needs you NOW. Does it drive you crazy? It does me! I’m a confessed control freak, so interruptions are NOT something that I look upon with kindness.

My Ladies Bible Study group has just started “Jonah, A Life Interrupted” by Priscilla Shirer. From the onset of this study, we’ve been asked to look at our own interrupted lives. And we’ve all had interruptions. Maybe it was not being noticed by ‘THAT BOY’ that brought your dreams crashing down. Maybe you didn’t get into the college you had dreamed about for years. Or maybe, you did get into that college and it wasn’t what you expected. Maybe your marriage doesn’t look like you dreamed and you are frustrated and upset with the lack of communication. You just want to be “HAPPY”. Maybe your marriage is over and you never expected to live life as a single parent. Maybe death has ended dreams for yourself, your marriage or your family. Maybe you just realized that your close friend is embarrassed to be seen with you in public. All of these things are interruptions. Of course, there are the GOOD interruptions, too. Do you have any of those? The “surprise” baby that has increased your family, a new and budding friendship, a new and challenging job. Even happy events can interrupt our life, our plans. Usually, interruptions or changes to our lives are unwelcome.

Job was a man who had his life interrupted. And yet, these are the words recorded in Job 1:20-21 after he has lost everything:
At this, Job got up and tore his robe and shaved his head. Then he fell to the ground in worship and said: “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked I will depart. The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away; May the name of the Lord be praised.”

When my life is interrupted I need to stop asking God “Why?” Possibly, I would be better served to ask “Who?” Life’s interruptions may cause pain and sorrow and bring grief and tears. Things I would rather avoid. We’ve all heard it said “No pain, no gain.” So, why do I expect God to give me an easy path and increase my faith and strengthen my spiritual life. I will only grow and get stronger as I work thru the interruptions. I guess I need to change my view and instead of seeing interruptions to MY plans, I need to see opportunities for God to work in my life. I’m not there yet. I still have dreams that are dangling by a thread, plans that may never be fulfilled and lots of tears to shed. But, I’m learning to praise the name of the Lord thru the interruptions. And, I’m learning that I’m to really praise HIM, not just a perfunctory praise whispered under my breath. I need to praise Him with all my strength, to shout that praise from the top of my lungs regardless of what has brought me to my knees.

Jack

I met Jack at a Mayde Creek Booster club meeting. Joe pointed him my direction when he asked about high school wrestling. And that is where our friendship began. We would see each other at football practices and games, wrestling matches, outside the locker rooms waiting for our kids. Just about anytime I was at the school, I would get a chance to visit with Jack. You didn’t have to be around Jack very long to find out two very important things about him: 1) He is a believer and 2) He ADORES his wife and family.

Jack was very open about his beliefs. Jesus Christ was at the center of his life. Jack loved old hymns, and Bible based preachers. He talked of different teachers he’d know through the years and pastors that had made a difference. He had seen God work in his life and wanted others to have the same experience. Many times, I’ve wished that I was as bold as Jack when talking about his faith.

I loved to listen to Jack’s stories. In some ways, he reminded me of Terry with his corny jokes and loud laughter. Jacob and my daughter were in the same class, so I knew got to know Moose personally. But, I felt like I knew the “Chicago” daughter and the “Katy” Daughter and all of the grandchildren, too. Jack was always telling me about his family. And Penni was at the center of most of his stories. Their love story started at a young age and it was a joy to listen to him talk about her.

Jack is ready to meet his Lord face to face. Soon, he will be there. In my imagination, I see Jack and Terry talking about football and wrestling and telling really corny jokes and laughing together. And the joy that Jack will have at being with his Heavenly Father will help to temper the pain of missing him here on earth. Our world will be a little quieter and a little sadder without Jack Freeman. He will leave a huge gap in the lives around him.

We will miss you, dear friend! See you later!

I have fought the good fight, I have finished the course, I have kept the faith (1 Timothy 4:7)

Anniversary

An anniversary marks a significant event in life. Most times, we think of anniversaries as celebrations. But what about those anniversaries that aren’t so great? Death and divorce leave a huge imprint on the lives they touch. And these anniversaries are multiplied by every other special event was ever celebrated. We can not avoid the anniversaries, and we do not want to celebrate. We honor the memory while touching the pain they cause as little as possible.

Admittedly, it’s easier not to remember. I’ve been told that I live life as if it’s a circle. I always come back to an event. Some people live life as a straight line and just move away from unpleasant events. Yet, those sad anniversaries are just as important as the happy ones. These anniversaries give us a chance to review the past year, to see what growth we have achieved, to see that we are still living. We are given a chance to reflect on what we currently value, what is really important. While I don’t want to dwell on the rough times, I do think there is value in remembering. I guess I’m looking for whatever good there is to remember. I want to find value, and justify the pain that shoots thru me at odd times.

Too often society defines how we should react. We are told to be strong. Be brave. Don’t look weak. Don’t get mad, get even. And, the expectation is there: Get over it. Move on. The first year in a child’s life is measured first in days, weeks, months and eventually years. Anniversaries are often measured the same way. But, after the first anniversary of a death or divorce, we are supposed to stop noticing the passing of time. After all, its been a year. You should be “over it”, right? I expected that first year of widowhood to be hard. I was surprised how hard the second year was. I wasn’t “fixed”. I still had issues. I didn’t cry as much and the days weren’t as dark, but the scars were still fresh and tender. I was moving forward with life and any admissions of grief were frowned upon by most. I had little patience with my own progress. I often felt guilty about grieving because it showed weakness. I was blessed to have friends that understood, accepted and encouraged me to be honest. Never underestimate the value of a strong shoulder or a firm embrace. These can quite literally save a life.

My faith was all I had left when death destroyed my life. I had my hope. And while hope and faith are good, they don’t remove the pain or the regret. So often in the darkest days, I thought I was letting God down. I wasn’t recovering fast enough. I was too sad. I was angry. I was lost in a world I didn’t understand and I didn’t want to be there. People that had offered support, the people I thought I could depend upon drifted away and moved on with their lives. I had to inch forward into the world around me, careful not to make anyone uncomfortable with my neediness. I had to learn to trust myself and others, again.

As each anniversary comes and goes, I remember what used to be. I wonder what might have been. And, I mourn the losses. And, I remember that I am alive and I have a purpose. I believe that God has a plan for my life even if I don’t understand or (sometimes) agree with it. Each year gives me a chance to measure how very far I have come and what I have accomplished. I’ve learned to celebrate the inches instead of bemoaning the shortage of miles. The anniversaries still hurt. They always will. And, I will continue to celebrate what I can as each year passes.

Proof. . .

I’m a math nerd. I admit it. I like the way numbers are consistent and tell the same story every time. Two plus Two will ALWAYS equal Four. I liked Algebra formulas. When it came to Geometry, not so much. While some people loved the graphing and seeing the little boxes appear, I often couldn’t see them. I knew they were there, but you never knew where they would be or what shape and I struggled to find them. But, give me a proof to write and I was in heaven! I fell in love with the logical order of proofs. Because that’s what they were: LOGIC. It was just writing down how I solved a problem, step by step.

Unfortunately, there are few things in life that are as consistent or logical as a geometry proof. I know there have been many times when I took all the right steps, but the result didn’t add up. Two plus two seemed to equal Five in my life. Yet, I still plan. I still over-think. I still set my expectations. And, usually that’s the problem: MY expectations.  I recently read this passage from “Bittersweet” by Shauna Niequist:  “I believe that faith is less like following a GPS through a precise grid of city blocks, and more like being out at sea: a tricky journey, nonlinear and winding.”  I don’t know about you, but I truly prefer the GPS option. 

 Psalm 27:14  says “Wait for the Lord; Be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord.”  Jeremiah 29:11 states “I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, Plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”   Proverb 3:5-6  “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.”  Great verses.  So, why do I feel so undirected at times?  Why do I need a proof?  Is my faith too small?  Does it really matter?  Maybe, I’m just not ready to give up control.

The reality is that “stuff” happens all the time.  Not everything will go the way that I want it to go.  Even if I do everything to set it up the way I want it, things happen that are out of my control.  I have to be able to roll with the seemingly unfair circumstances that sometimes are a part of my life.  I don’t have a map to tell me what’s in my future.  But, I do believe that God is firmly in control. 

Two plus two will always equal four.  But for me, it may look more like this: 
2+2= (SQRT(9)+(0.5*2))*(2013-1959)-212