Monday, January 25, 2010

A Good Cry

Good Monday Morning!

I'm taking the "good" on faith. Sometimes Mondays are tough but I'm up and out and sitting at my "table for One" with my pink mini laptop and ready to talk with you.
Something strange happened yesterday. I was in church and had just settled into the pew as the offering plates were being passed. A lady started to sing a song titled "You Alone" which is really lovely and speaks of how in times of trouble God is there to help. He alone is our source of strength. Seems like a very positive and helpful message and I should have rejoiced and maybe even thanked God for His care for me. Instead what I did was totally unexplainable. I started to cry. I don't mean the "tear in the corner of the eye" kind of cry. That would have been OK. I had one of those "cant wipe the tears away fast enough, blow your nose before you make a total fool of yourself" kind of cry. I think it was the word "alone" that slapped me upside the head and caused the sudden flood of sadness. That word was sung at the beginning of each phrase and I found myself feeling quite alone while surrounded by people.
What makes this even stranger is that I have spent most of my adult life sitting alone in church. David (my husband of 27 years) was the door man at the church and rarely sat with me during services. I sat alone and it never caused me to boo-hoo.

The song ended and I managed to pull it together, annoyed with myself and a little startled that the tears flowed so quickly and easily. I looked around the room and started to count the heads of those who, like me, worship alone every week. Over 40% of the worshipers were single adults. Apparently I am not alone in my aloneness.
The sadness left as quick as it came and I went on with my day in relative contentment. Sadness came and then left all in the space of a song. What's all that about???
Well, that's the nature of grief. Just when you think you got the whole thing under control and are "back to normal" a wave of grief will wash over you with the force of a tsunami. I am thankful for the tell-tale signs of progress. The wave swept in and out without leaving an undertow of sadness that lingered for days. I would still like to not cry in public without notice but surely God gave us tears for our own benefit and I did strangly feel better when my little cry was done. Go figure! I said it was strange! This is the nature of grief. Unpredictable and messy. Relentless and unexplainable. I'm doing my best to just deal with it. How about you?
I am thankful for a God who alone is our source of comfort and I ask Him to help me to remember that I am not alone in my aloneness. I am among the 40% of regular church-going adults who are single. I know it seems like the whole world is ordered by married couples and families but the truth is most of us will spend some portion of our days living single. I am just one of them and even in my singleness I am not alone; surrounded by lots of loving friends and family and a God who will never leave me. Now if I could just figure out how to turn off the tears at will...

It's a strange thing. Well, let's get on with the week and do our best and if you feel the need, go ahead and cry. A good cry never hurt anybody and sometimes it even helps.
God bless you.


Monday, January 18, 2010


Good morning Monday Mourners!

This week I took my father-in-law, Clarence to the doctor. That's not all that interesting (usually), but this time it was quite different. It was an eye doctor about 30 minutes from home and Clarence, who's 85 and not seeing so well (thus the eye doctor)asked me to drive him. We'd been to this doctor many times and it always took about an hour. Okay, "always" is obviously too strong a word since this time it took us 5 hours. Yes! I said five. F-I-V-E.
What was amazing to me (besides the number 5) was my reaction to this. Instead of being anxious about the lost hours of productivity and the fact that I had missed at least one appointment and several deadlines; instead of becoming impatient and irritated at the pace; instead of complaining or worrying, I simply sat beside Clarence and enjoyed his company. My husband was an only child which, after his death three years ago, makes me Clarence's only child. So at the conclusion of the lengthy doctor's visit I dropped Clarence back safe and sound at his home and spent the rest of the afternoon wondering about my response. It seemed so atypical for me. I am not known for my patience. And yet I was amazingly calm and truly unconcerned about the unexpected delay and lost hours just sitting with Clarence.
It made me wonder why. The best I can figure it out death and grief have a way of changing us. At least it's changed me. I just don't seem able to get all that exercised about those things that used to irritate the stuffing out of me. Death and loss have a way of putting things into perspective. I often hear myself responding to the difficulty of the day with "hey, nobodies dying!". Death has changed me. I suppose that's not a bad thing. My new calmer, resigned attitude certainly helped Clarence and me get through a long day. Instead of becoming sour over the "lemons" we were handed, we chose to make "lemonade". It was actually sweet.
Some of the sweetness might have been the company. When David became sick he asked me to take care of his dad and spending the day with Clarence made me feel like I was still David's wife. I was doing "wifely" stuff that day and it felt good. Lemonade. This week I thanked God for lemonade and for the joy (yes, joy is the right word) of sitting in a doctor's office with Clarence. It was good for me and for Clarence. I know David would have been pleased and that too is worth thanking God for. Lemonade. It's all quite bitter-sweet.
That's a good description for this thing we call grief. All of life; every holiday and special event; even the daily routines become sweet and bitter at the same time. Bitter. Sweet. Lemonade.
This week I celebrated the sweet of being given an opportunity to do the "wifely" thing rather than complain about the bitter of 5 wasted hours. I chose to savor the sweet and overlook the bitter. It is a choice. This past week, I chose sweet and I've been thanking God for that. How are you doing with your "bitter"? Can you see the "sweet"? I know, sometimes it's harder to find the sweet but it's there. Ask God to help you see it. Maybe Clarence isn't the only one having trouble seeing. I pray you sip on lemonade this week every chance you get. I pray that for me too!

See you next Monday,


Monday, January 11, 2010

Snow Days

Good morning Monday Mourners!

It's a lovely Monday morning in Michigan in January which means it's really cold and pretty much everything in sight is covered in snow. As with most of the nation this past week, I found myself holding a shovel - several times. Now shoveling snow is really not a complicated task. You push and you scoop. I am not too frail or impaired physically so as to make the job too difficult. I also have only a short sidewalk and porch that require snow-removal. Nevertheless, I hate the job! But I don't hate it for all the obvious reasons. It's not because it's too cold outside or the snow is too heavy or wet. (though snow is always cold and wet) I grew up in Michigan. Shoveling snow is part of the "gig". Here's why I hate shoveling snow:
It's a "David job". My husband of 27 years shoveled the snow. He would often gather the children to help (now there's someone who truly hates shoveling snow - any teenager). I did not shovel. Mom got a pass! My job was to have a cup of hot chocolate waiting for him when he was finished. Then David died about the same time as the kids hit college. Now shoveling is my job. And that's why I hate it. It's a "David job". Every time I pick up that shovel I am reminded of my loss. It's as though the shovel screams, "WIDOW!" with every scoop.
Three years later and the shovel still screams at me. So do light bulbs that need changing, spiders that need killing and changing the clocks twice a year when the time-zone changes (another Michigan oddity). All are "David jobs". I have been known to leave a burned-out light bulb in place for weeks before dealing with it. Light bulbs are not complicated. I just hate doing the "David jobs". They remind me of loss and force me to make adjustments I never wanted to make. And this is grief. It's constant - unyielding - and totally irritating. (and those are just the polite words)
So how do we deal with it? Well, on the first winter of grief I cried with every scoop of the shovel. I don't recommend you do that! Tears freeze. The second winter I got angry and yelled at the snow and at David for not being there to handle this mess. That was at least productive- the anger helped me shovel harder and faster.
This week the shovel screamed "WIDOW" and I pretended not to hear it and got the job done with little trouble or sadness. I guess you could call that "progress".
I have learned to do a little mind-exercise whenever one of these grief waves slaps me from behind. I quickly remind myself of the blessing of having a David to do those jobs for 27 years and I think about my sister and several close friends who have never married and spent all of those 27 years shoveling their own snow. God surely blessed me with a good husband and more than adequate snow remover for most of my adult life. I got no reason to complain. Complaining is a choice and, more than often, a simple issue of perspective. I make the choice to celebrate my blessings instead of stewing over my losses -even when the shovel screams at me.
"whatsoever things are true and noble and good and honorable and praiseworthy, think on those things." GOD
So how are you doing with all that? Where ever you find yourself today in the grief process there are still blessings worth celebrating. And it is truly helpful when we do. So if you can find the energy and the courage go ahead - celebrate what you have while you grieve what you've lost. It doesn't make the loss go away but it does make the "screaming shovel" a little easier to take.
My second cup of coffee has just been poured and so I'm done for now. I pray you have a good week. Yes, good weeks are possible even with grief.

See you on Monday. Let me know how you're doing with your grief. I cant fix it but I do know how to pray.

Coffee's getting cold! Karen

PS: At 9:00am - It's snowing....again!
PSS: At 11:00am - It's snowing...again!

Monday, January 4, 2010

What's New?

Good morning and a very happy new year to all. Yes, it is the first Monday of a new year which I suppose implies that this Monday is filled with a newness - a fresh start and new beginning that the last month of Mondays did not possess. I suppose. I'm not convinced that an arbitrary turning of the clock or calendar brings about anything particularly new or fresh. Of course I live in Michigan and January is usually one of the coldest, sunless, miserable months of the year so its just a little difficult for me to get on the "Yeah! It's a new year!" bandwagon. I'm cold. I'm starting the new year like I have started every new year of most of my life; dieting and budgeting. Both activities make me just a bit cranky. This year I am also grieving. Now there's something to get excited about? The scripture comes to mind, "there is nothing new under the sun".
I wish we could start the new year by throwing away the things in our lives we would like to be rid of like we toss away the empty boxes and wrapping paper from Christmas. Wouldn't that be a great way to start the new year? Just scoop up my careless spending and my 20 extra pounds and throw them out with the trash. Now that's something I could get excited about. Clearly, that's not going to happen. The only way I'm going to be rid of such things is with a whole lot of effort on my part. Oh well, enough of this whining and wishing. Mondays in January do this to me. So does grief.
I actually thought last year that I would be able to just make up my mind to be done with this grieving thing and start the new year with no more tears and loneliness; no more longing and sadness. It was, after all, well into my second year of grief and so I figured I had grieved long enough. A good year past the normal, one year of grief that society seems to expect and well past my tolerance level for carrying around such negative emotions with me. Those things get heavy. They really do drag you down. But just like the weight and the budget, grief is not something you can just put out with the trash and be done with. If making up my mind to be done with it was all it took to put this season of grief behind me I would have done that about a month into the process. It just flat out doesnt work that way! Bummer!
So, arent you glad you checked in with me today?! Sorry. I'm not bringing a whole lot of joy and hope to the table. (OK - I've not finished my first cup of coffee yet. Maybe that's the problem. Let me put us on pause and see if a few more gulps of hot caffeine will warm up my mood.)

Jesus said, "I am making all things new". He said, "I have come to heal the brokenhearted and turn their mourning into joy." OK. I believe that is true - even if I dont feel joyful or new this morning. I am in His hands and I am His. For my lonliness, He has promised to never leave me or forsake me. For my sadness and longing, He has promised to meet my every need - even those intangable, emotional ones that nobody sees but me and God. I can't choose to be rid of my grief. I can choose to not let my grief run my life and ruin my day. I can think on the good stuff of my life and the goodness of God. It doesn't make the grief go away but it does seem to make it managable.
So on this first Monday of the new year I will eat my bowl of fruit and put away my ATM card - just like I did on the first Monday of last year. I will do my part. AND I will hold tight to God's hand and hope for sunny days real soon. Ones where the temperature is at least 20 degrees warmer and my body is 20 pounds lighter and my bank account is 20% richer and.... grief is no longer that heavy weight I drag along with me everywhere I go. wait -maybe that's where those 20 pounds came from!
Well... that's all I got. Some days are just like that for me. I'm pretty sure you have days like that too. It's OK. Even when we dont feel all shiny and new God is still here with us and if we let Him He will work in us making us new from the inside out. I'm just going to do my part to cooperate with His work in me and try not to get cranky at His speed- or lack of speed. It will take effort, no doubt about it. Did I mention that it's a Michigan Monday in January?