Have you been opening your gifts this month? The gifts that God is waiting to give you, that He has all ready and wrapped for you?
I had a small gift opening last week. I have a friend, a former co-worker. She is out on disability, which is a long story I won’t get into. She was raised Catholic but rejected that once she became an adult. Now in her 60’s I’m not sure what she believes, but she has stated clearly that she thinks people who go to church are stupid.
And yet she does not object to my asking her if I can pray for her, or telling her I prayed for her. She admits she prays. At any rate, we recently had a bad wind and rain storm and during the course of about an hour and a half the power went out and came back on several times. The longest time was about 25 minutes.
I realized how grateful I was that Randy was not there. My dear husband, the past few years of his life, was on supplemental oxygen. When he was in the house we had an oxygen concentrator and a long tube (really, a series of tubes) that connected to his cannula and he could be on the oxygen anywhere in the house. When he had to leave the house, he used portable tanks. He could last about 45 minutes without oxygen, but that would be cutting it close. It was always very, very stressful and frightening when he ran out of oxygen when we were going somewhere and we had to switch tanks. And ditto for when the power went out, or the concentrator died for other reasons.
And now I don’t have that worry. Now my stress and anxiety don’t spike when the power goes out. I shared this with my friend, and I told her that it was a little funny to me that after almost 10 months of him being gone, I could find something to be grateful for that he was not there.
She wrote back and thanked me for sharing that, and told me it gave her a new outlook on her own situation with work and being on disability. I really felt that was a gift from God. Out of my pain and loss, I was able to help someone else. It blessed my heart.
It has been nine months since my dear wonderful husband Randy passed away. Just before New Years I felt a healing by God over my grief. I still miss my Randy just as much as I ever did. I still think about him and even talk to him. But the daily crying jags and the horrible pain of my loss has lessened quite a bit.
I had the last two weeks of December off, and spent it at home. I did some things outside my apartment of course but I didn’t make any trips or go out of town. One of the new things I tried this year (or, retried would be a better way of describing it) was to try paint-by-numbers kits again.
When I was around 10 – 13 years old I did a lot of paint-by-numbers. You used to be able to buy these kits for very little money in the Five and Dime stores. Those were the equivalent of Dollar Stores today, for those of you not old enough to get the reference. I did a lot of them. Mostly they were horses, since I was horse mad and I enjoyed the pictures. I don’t know for sure if it started then, but I have always had a love of painting. Using watercolors and acrylics. I truly do love to paint, and I am truly bad at it. I am not being modest – I really am. I have tried and tried over the years to get some idea, some vision, some memory down on paper or canvas in watercolor or acrylic. And I have always failed miserably. It has been pretty frustrating to me, but my love of painting has spurred me on to keep trying.
So when I stumbled across paint-by-number kits on a web site I thought, “Hmmmm….. I wonder if I will like doing this as much as I did when I was younger?” Turns out, the answer was YES. As you might guess, they have made a lot of improvements in the paint-by-number kit market in the 40 odd years since I last tried one. I bought one that was not on the cheapest end, but not in the middle price range either. And started working on it.
While I can’t paint, I can follow instructions to paint a specific color of paint in a specific area of a canvas. And when I was all done? It looked like something! It looked like what it should look like! You can actually, you know, recognize what it is! And the thing is, I found that I enter into a kind of zen state when I paint. In fact, I found that there were times I sat for four hours at a stretch, painting. So I have had to set the alarm, and purposefully get up more often. Painting does something to my crafty, artistic soul. And I believe it was God-led. I do believe God pointed me in that direction because He knew I needed it. He knew what good it would do me.
One of the things I did on my vacation was to go to the California Academy of Sciences in Golden Gate Park in San Francisco. It was something I had wanted to do for a long time, but Randy wouldn’t have been able to do all the walking and standing. I had been there before, about 6 months after it had reopened, and really enjoyed seeing everything again. I found myself talking to Randy as I made my way slowly through the exhibits, and it was very comforting. When I was there they had a special showing of minerals and gems, and Randy really loved that stuff. We had a long conversation about the stones as I looked through all the display cases. In the rain forest, they had several glass cages set up for newts. And I heard him clearly in my head reciting the lines from the Monty Python movie: “She turned me into a newt!” “You’re not a newt” “I got better”. He could do the accent, and his timing was perfect and every time he said those lines it cracked me up. It cracked me up again when I stood looking in at the newts.
My time at the CalAcademy was sad, yes, but it was also fun and loving and warm and … comforting. It did not make me cry, it made me smile. It made me happy. It made me grateful, yet again, that my Randy was in my life and enriched it in all the ways he did. And that was a blessing, and a healing from God.
Here is a picture of the second paint-by-numbers kit I completed.
I’ve had some time off at the end of the year, before and after Christmas. It is a perk and a blessing of my job that I can take this time off. I’ve so enjoyed it! One of the things God has done during this time is work more healing in me. I didn’t know I needed it, but He did. I feel more healed from my dear husband’s passing. I no longer have daily crying jags. My memories are more often happy and comforting rather than sad and depressing. Praise be to God, my healer and provider!
I am going to try to post weekly, at least in January. I usually wait until I have something to say to post on this blog, but I will try a weekly post and see how it goes. What do you think?
Something our Pastor’s wife shared on Sunday is what I want to share with you this week. It may be that you have heard this already, but it was new to me. She was paraphrasing from what she was told by someone she knows, so I am going to pass along that paraphrasing.
Imagine that you have died and gone to heaven. At last! St Peter is there to meet you, and offers to show you around a bit. You walk through the gate of pearl, on the street of gold. You see trees and a river. You see God on His throne. As you walk you see mansions, but you also see large doors with names above them. You stop — suddenly you see a door with your name.
“I want to go in there”, you tell St Peter. “Oh, you don’t want to go in there”, St Peter says. “Yes, I do. It has my name on it. I want to see what’s in there.” “Okay,” says St Peter with resignation. “But you may be sorry.”
He opens the door and you look in. It is a large, high ceilinged room, lined with shelves. And on the shelves there are packages. Gifts, really, because they are beautifully decorated and wrapped. The most wonderful paper and with ribbons, and all of them are gorgeous. You look around the whole room, at shelves and shelves of these beautiful gifts. There are some empty spots on the shelves, but there are just so many gifts!
“What are all these?” you ask St Peter. “Those are the gifts God had prepared for you and was ready to give you while you lived on the earth” he tells you.
“Oh! I want to open them!” you exclaim. Sadly, St Peter shakes his head. “No, it is too late. The boxes are all empty.”
See, it is not enough that you know God has good gifts to give his children. It is not enough to know God is waiting to give His gifts to his precious children. We have to receive them, and open them. Unless or until we do, they just remain on the shelves, unopened. Open your gifts this year.
I feel like an impostor. Or a fake.
Thanksgiving weekend has always been a big family weekend for us. As many as can travel from a tri-state area to spend three days together. Eating, playing, talking, eating, doing activities. Eating. This year I was not looking forward to it. I am not looking forward to my “first” holiday season without my husband. I didn’t want the sympathetic looks and the “How ARE you’s” from well-meaning family members. So many emotions all mashed and roiled around together.
It actually wasn’t too bad. The distractions of the three days helped a lot I found. And it was good to see family, to catch up on what everyone is doing (and, at our age, the latest health bulletins). My niece’s son and daughter are at an especially adorable age and they were clearly having a terrific time with the plethora of cousins and Aunts, Uncles, Great Aunts, and Great Uncles.
I talked and laughed with everyone else. And felt like an impostor. I could laugh, but I couldn’t sustain the happy feeling. I could enjoy activities for a short while, but then I would just watch. When we saw our cousins they asked after me and time and again I saw “the look”. This is the look that comes over their face when they have asked after my job and gotten updated and then …. they don’t know what to say. They can’t ask about Randy since he is gone. They don’t want to ask how I am since that can bring up strong emotions. So they falter, and the conversation peters out. I just waited, giving them a few second, and I would jump in and change the subject or start talking about something else.
And I felt like a fake. I was totally faking being okay and that I was getting along just fine. I was an impostor this past weekend. I wonder how many people I fooled?
I find I have to remake myself. Again. When I moved out of my parent’s house, I had to remake myself. Learn to live on my own, learn what kind of person I was. I didn’t do a very good job. But I just kept on. When I got divorced I had to remake myself. As a single parent, with a small child and no college education. It was really very hard. But at that time I thought I’d be a mom all my life, and hopefully someday have a daughter-in- and in time become a grandmother. I was young. I was gaining lots of skills at work and learning new things about myself and the person I was. I didn’t really know what to do or how to do it, so I just kept on.
Then my son was murdered, and I wasn’t a mom anymore. And I would never have a daughter-in-law, nor ever be a grandmother. I was lost for a long time. But I kept going on. I struggled with remaking myself as this … person who did not have any of the things she had always wanted all her life. The things she had always longed for. It was a very hard, long struggle.
And then I pursued finding a husband. After many long years I finally got a “Yes” from God where before I had always gotten a “No”, and I set out to see if I could find someone to marry in my 50’s. I had very little clue what I was doing. There were missteps and bad choices. But then I found Randy. Or rather, we found each other. And despite our differences we really did fit together well and complimented each other and were just right for each other. I knew I would not be married long to him. He wasn’t in good health long before he met me, and the health issues he had were such that would not get better with time. Even with good health care and a caring wife by his side. I just … I had really thought that we would have made it to at least the five year mark.
But, no. One year and 2 ½ months after our marriage Randy had a heart attack and died. And so, I now have to remake myself again. What am I now? Not a mom. Not a grandmother. Not a wife. I am living in a State I do not like, in a part of the State I really don’t like. But yet, I have no doubt this is where God wants me to be. So I stay. But what shall I do? Whom should I be? My inclination, especially while I am still grieving, is to stay home and just go to church and work. Surely I can pray for people at home, right? I can read my Bible and I can live a life that hopefully honors and reflects God by just staying home. Right?
But I don’t believe that is what God wants for me. It is my comfort zone, but it is not where I should stay. But, I don’t know what else I should do. I don’t know what else God wants me to do, or go, or say. I have to figure that out. I have to find how to remake myself in this widowed state, living where I don’t want to, struggling to find what I should be and do. I keep on.
In the meantime, while I am grieving and struggling to not stay in my comfort zone, God is there. He is right by my side and He will guide me and direct me. One step at a time. One day at a time. The potter is molding His clay.
These days I do a pretty good imitation of a happy, got-it-all-together kind of gal.
Trust me — it is all on the surface. I’m able to do my job and I do try to do the best job I can. I like my job and want to continue staying there, and it is interesting and busy so that helps. But so much of my life is a struggle to appear normal and to get the things done that need to be done. House cleaning. Laundry. Dish washing. Cooking.
Sometimes, like this weekend, I go through the struggles because I know I must and it will be better if I do, though no one knows how often I do my dishes or wash my clothes, my heavenly father seems. So I can spend hours painting or reading or embroidering, and that can pass the time in numbness and quiet and I can keep busy doing something creative at the same time.
I hope I will not always have to imitate. It is hard to see that right now, because my love, my sweet, my heart, is gone from my life. I miss my Randy every moment of every day. But I am ever reminded (and remind myself) that God is good, and God is faithful. Blessed be the name of the Lord. He is here, He knows, He understands, He hears, He sees.
I moved to my smaller apartment on the 23rd. It was just as stressful and exhausting as I thought it might be. All during that long, busy day when I would feel my feeling start to overwhelm me, a peace would come on me, and I would find a strength.
Have you ever felt what it was like to feel someone praying for you? Someone you asked to pray for you, and on the day and time you needed it, they prayed, and you felt it? I don’t know how to describe the feeling, but that is what I felt like all Friday.
The prayers of the people I know and who I asked to pray for me lifted me up and sustained me and strengthened me. God is good and God is faithful. Blessed be the name of the Lord.