Many things have been happening in my family's lives. The long lazy days of summer, with the three of us being free to sleep in, stay up late, and indulge in just "being" are over. School's entering its third week. Both boys are adjusting well to their teachers, schedules, and the general 5th and 4th grade elementary scenes.
A.J. has asked to take the fall season off for sports (he usually plays both basketball and baseball). I personally did a happy dance inside my head, since it really pushes us to do all the practices and games, but I truly do feel that it will be good for him to focus on school without the extra commitment sports take.
Ben has started back at piano lessons, and decided to participate in school orchestra. A viola rental is in our (his) near future.
We adopted another cat, Milo, from the local humane society. Millie, "Queen of Denial," is having a bit of a time adjusting to this new family member. Milo is sweet, loving, and docile, so I hope that eventually she will come to love him as the rest of us do. Maggie, the wonder dog, accepted him almost instantaneously, as evidenced by her staccato bobbed tail wag.
Labor Day weekend was spent in Kansas, at Mark's mother's new place in town. She's living in a lovely duplex, and the boys and I were quite comfy sleeping there. But I knew, a scant 5 hours after our arrival, that I didn't want to be there. I wanted to be 9 miles outside the city of McPherson, on a little piece of pasture that is almost like heaven to me and the boys. I wrote of our experience in my outdoors column last week. If you are interested, here's the link:
Basically, the boys and I decided that we need some sort of housing on the land in the country. A close high school friend of Mark's has graciously agreed to help me look into the particulars.
We did not visit Mark's grave at the church cemetery during this latest visit. It was just too hard in July. We know that's not where he is, anyway, and chose to honor him and his wonderful memory by walking his native grass prairie, checking out his pond, and laughing as we shared Daddy stories among the three of us. In my humble opinion, that's better than sitting and crying at a grave any day. And while in that pasture, the tears come, but they are accompanied by smiles and an occasional giggle, just as he would wish.
Also while in Kansas, the boys and I made the choice not to attend Mark's home church for Sunday services. That's yet another "first" I just don't think I am ready for. We saw several church members at a Saturday night neighborhood picnic, and told them as much. Instead, we travelled to a beautiful Lutheran church on the outskirts of McPherson, just at the edge of the country. Mark's younger sister, Amy, was playing organ that day.
I've never stepped foot inside a Lutheran church. It was gorgeous. We were made to feel so welcome. There is just something about a small town. There's even something more special about a small church, filled with folks from a small town, all gathered together for the purpose of worshipping God.
Jay, Amy's husband, gave us the Reader's Digest version of the order of worship. There's alot of recitations and singing. We also were there for Communion. Like the United Methodist faith, Lutheran communion is open to any and all believers, regardless of religious affiliation. That impressed me, and made me feel even more at home. The one thing Jay didn't get the chance to tell us was that we would need to ask for juice, since wine is the norm at Lutheran services. The boys and I (and grandma) were handed a small cup with something red. We drank it. It was not juice....
The boys thankfully didn't choke, and I would've asked for seconds if I could have (sorry, that's a bad joke, one that Mark would've made!). Amy's music for prelude, offertory, and postlude was so lovely. She truly made the pipe organ sing. As I closed my eyes and listened, I imagined that music in heaven must be something like this. I also felt Mark there in spirit. He loved piano and organ music. Know he was proud of his little sister.
Since returning to Texas late on Labor Day (on what would've been our 24th wedding anniversary), I hit the ground running and haven't slowed down for much. Thankfully my ankle seems to be healing, and rehab is going well. I am hopeful I can be jogging again in a month or so, but that's up to the doctor.
I awoke last Friday morning, September 7, differently than I have since July of 2011. For over a year, I have grieved and cried. I have wished for things to have turned out differently.
But little by little, step by step, with the help of my God and my Saviour, a wonderful counselor, and yes, antidepressants, I have begun to heal. I mention the antidepressants for only one reason: if they are necessary, you should never feel guilty for utilizing them. A former acquaintance mocked and ridiculed me publicly on more than one occasion for taking them and going to counseling. There is no shame in either, friends.
The only shame is in a person professing to be a Christian and making fun of someone in that circumstance. My advice (which with a dollar will buy you a cup of coffee)? Life is too short to have people like that in your life, sucking the good out. Set them free. ---off my soapbox---
While I've been in the thick of the grief, in the heat of so many painful moments this loss has brought us, our progress has been difficult for me to see. Thank God for hindsight, for it is there I can see how far the boys and I have come.
I have joy. An unexplained joy. On that very morning, with both boys in separate showers, I sink back into bed with my coffee, enjoying the last two minutes of quiet before I'm called to be mom, fashion expert, hairdresser, cook, and chauffeur. And I hear it. Sounds I have not heard in well over a year. BOTH boys are singing. In the shower. In separate bathrooms. Now, I cannot identify the songs, and I don't particularly care what they are. The big thing is they are singing. They, too, are feeling joy. I cry tears of joy.
Thank you, God, for showing us that there is joy on the other side of grief. That there is healing in the midst of intense pain. That good things can come from bad circumstances. That we can wake up with a joy that just cannot be explained. That two little boys can come through losing the most important male in their lives and still be happy enough to sing in the shower.
We have so much to be joyful about. We know love of close friends, of family. Of a church that has stood by us and has not let us down.
As I opened my Bible last night, wanting to read more of 1 Peter, the book being preached by Dr. Ron Smith at our church here for our 3-day series of messages, I find scripture that expresses practically verbatim what I am feeling:
"God's power protects you through your faith until salvation is shown to you at the end of time. This makes you very happy, even though now for a short time different kinds of troubles may make you sad. These troubles come to prove that your faith is pure. You have not seen Christ, but still you love Him. You cannot see him now, but you believe in him. So you are FILLED WITH A JOY THAT CANNOT BE EXPLAINED, A JOY FULL OF GLORY. "
1 Peter 1: 5-7a, 8 (NCV)
The subtitle above this chapter simply says, "We Have a Living Hope"
My unexplained joy has been explained, by the beautiful, articulate words of Simon Peter.
I am hopeful for my family's future. I will never forget where we were whenever God reached down and carried us. But now I feel ready to try to walk it on my own again, as long as God's right by my side. There are exciting possibilities on our horizon. All made possible by no one else but God.
It is my prayer that you, too, find that unexplained joy. God is greater than any pain you find yourself in. Amen.