Wednesday, November 13, 2013

To Grief and New Beginnings

I lost my dad on August 24th, 2013.
Losing my dad has caused chaos and clarity. We have been brought the chaos of learning to live without him and putting aside the plans we had with him with the clarity of knowing that our entire life has shifted completely.  It’s almost as if we were unknowingly at a crossroads and the choice was made for us. On one road was a life with him and now the road we are on is without him. We can still see the life we could have had with him, but we needed to get used to living without him.

Losing my dad came with a harsh reality and truths I really didn’t want to know, but you can’t keep your head stuck in the sand forever. The people you expect to be there for you suddenly aren’t. At first they understand and want to be there for you but after a week, you really need to be back to life, otherwise you are forgotten. They say that they are just giving you your space, when all you really want is to be surrounded by love. Even attempts to rekindle friendships on your end are just put off with the words: hopefully we can hang out soon. It’s as if a barrier is suddenly between the life you knew and the life you now have. You are suddenly at a different part of your life than everyone else. Others are focused on weddings, babies and jobs, while you are focused on figuring out your new future. Not only did you lose your loved one, you lost the life you once had, friendships that were once strong are now awkward acquaintances. All you feel is lost.

Some say to you that you shouldn’t make any life changes during grief, but if life were to go on as before…it would be worse. You can see all the holes that the person left behind. Instead change brings healing, a new beginning to find who you are without that person, because you have to know that now. They are gone. You can’t be who you were before. You yourself change on the inside, so why can’t you want to change what is around you? Location, people, job? We have lost enough. We should be able to gain it back any way we need to, even if that means changing everything about our life.

I plan on changing everything. I don’t want everything to be as it once was, it's too painful. I am not going to let the opinions of others stop me from what I really want in my life. For example, all I have wanted for this life is to be a mom. I have been told so many times that we should wait until we are older, until we do this or that or the other. If Brian and I agree that the near future is a good time, then those opinions no longer have the power to stop us, no matter who they are coming from. What's right for others may not fit into what God's plan is for our lives. If I feel called to be a mother, then why should I wait until it is acceptable for other people? More importantly, why in the world have I been waiting on the approval of other people? I have the most important approval from my God.
Losing my father caused me to lose my inhibitions for life. Life is short, shorter than we even think. Life is fragile and beautiful and gift from God. It's about time we started treating it as such. We have been blessed to love each other and to experience this life. I am so tired of the fighting, the politics, and the questions. The only thing I'm waiting for is the right timing. Not too soon that we can't afford it or easily accomplish our plans, but soon enough that it is almost within reach.
My dad will always be a part of us and our future. Our kids will know who Grandpa was and how much he looked forward to being their Grandpa. Just because we are changing things doesn't mean he will be forgotten. He will just be in our lives in a different way than before. He will be in beautiful memories, traditions, and our hearts. But our lives will not be a shrine. He would have hated that. He was so full of life, of laughter and of love. He would have wanted us to move forward and grow. To heal.
I am anxiously awaiting what path lays before me and the plans that God has for our lives. The song Oceans (Where Feet May Fail) by Hillsong United is a perfect portrayal of our prayers right now. My favorite part is:
Spirit, lead me where my trust is without borders
Let me walk upon the waters
Wherever You would call me
Take me deeper than my feet could ever wander
And my faith will be made stronger
In the presence of my Savior
I will call upon Your name
Keep my eyes above the waves
My soul will rest in Your embrace
I am Yours and You are mine.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

The Insanity of God

This morning at church in our Nearly and Newly Married small group, we had the privilege of having Nik Ripken, the author of The Insanity of God: A True Story of Faith Resurrection talk to us. He and his wife, Ruth, spoke about their experiences and allowed us to ask any questions we wanted. What an amazing opportunity to speak with a couple who have faithfully given their lives to God.

Their life story is haunting and will touch you to your soul. Regardless of your faith, this book is worth a read. Every chapter is full of the questions that most people ask about God, such as how can God allow the oppression and devastation in these third world countries. Their story will also give another point of view for mission work and life outside of our own.

This morning they gave an overview of the book up to the point where the book really goes into detail of their journey in Somalia. Nik was born a country boy in Kentucky and planned on becoming a veterinarian until he felt the call from God to go to seminary school. He met his wife Ruth while they both attended seminary. Ruth was raised in a very Christian household since her father was a pastor and Nik likes to joke that they are both PKs, she's a pastor's kid and he is a pagan's kid. Their backgrounds couldn't have been more different. Ruth had felt the call to mission work since she was a young girl, which was again, very different from how Nik had come to seminary. It's amazing to see how both someone who is raised as a Christian and one who was not, like me, can devote their lives to Christ and see amazing things develop.

The book goes into detail about their beginning mission in Malawi and their move to South Africa, but the biggest focus in on their time in Somalia. The devastation that Nik saw on his initial scouting trips to Somalia and on until they were forced to leave is heart-wrenching. At one poignant time in the book, Nik says, "Some days it wasn’t the humanity of the Somalis that I worried about, but my own humanity and that of my staff. It was nearly impossible for us to find the strength to get out of bed in the morning knowing that before the day was over, we would help bury twenty more children, and that there were many more starving people in this country than the fifty thousand who we would feed that day. If each soul is, indeed, a soul for whom Christ died, how would it be possible to endure the pain, the death, the inhumanity?" This was one point in the book that I just had to stop at because tears had blurred my eyes. The emotional baggage that comes with mission work is overwhelming to me. Nik refers to trying to steel their emotions without hardening their hearts.

While the book was heart-wrenching with devastation, it also showed how a heart filled with love could make a difference in a war torn country. With a smile on his face, in the book Bubba diffuses a tense situation with an Elvis song. This is a book that will make you smile, laugh, cry, and humble your soul.

The couple let us know that a second book is being released in the beginning of 2014. It will be focusing on what lessons they learned and meant to be a slow read and reflected on, whereas this book was more of an easy read (even though I definitely took a longer time to read this than most...I just couldn't help but take time to just sit and absorb it.)

Please take the time to read this heartfelt book, it will change at least one thing in your heart and mind.

Ripken, Nik; Lewis, Gregg (2012-12-17). The Insanity of God: A True Story of Faith Resurrected (Kindle Locations 1319-1322). B&H Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

Friday, May 10, 2013

Our Puppy

My sweet husband and I got a puppy about 3 months ago. He is our sweet, goofy, clumsy, daredevil, and just all around lovable puppy. He has wiggled his little butt into our lives and now we can't imagine life without him. It's amazing how we were worried about handling him before getting him (Brian's the worrier) and now he is a HUGE presence in our lives. He is a boxer and named him Tucker, which we agreed on after many, many vetoes on each side. That is one challenge I don't think many people expect. I know I think all the names I like are awesome, but it always is a surprise when your hubby thinks otherwise. All you can think is, How is that not awesome? I thought of it! Yet, it gets vetoed.

Tucker is a boxer with lapdog syndrome. He is my 45 lb and growing lapdog. He's my cuddle bug though and I love it, even when my legs fall asleep.

I am so glad we got a puppy before we had a baby. He is a great way to see how each person parents. We found out who the patient one is (Brian), the one who remembers his monthly flea and tick medicine (Me). Its nice to figure a little bit out before going whole turkey on the kid thing. As much as I am excited to be a mom, Tucker takes enough of my energy right now.

Tucker has been great for helping me be patient. He's shown me how great my husband is at being the saver, the wise planner in our family. He has a plan for us and seeing how much goes into taking care of Tucker, I can appreciate that plan so much more. Whether its our 5-year plan for a baby or our 2-year plan for a house, I am so amazed at his steadfastness. He sees our goal and is focused on it, bringing me back to it when I get sidetracked (which is way more often than I would like). And yet, while he is so focused on our future, when there is something in the present that we need to incorporate into our plans, he is willing to listen to me and compromise on our plans. We changed our house plan from a 3-year plan to a 2-year plan due to the housing market being in our favor right now.

It's amazing how a couple can complement each other in so many different facets of life, like parenting and planning. In each new way we find, I can't help but know even deeper that Brian is very best man that could be my husband. All the superficial things you may notice while dating, like their looks, while they may stay when you're married, they become second rate when paired next to those things that fit with you like a puzzle piece. It's a blessing to know that we will continue to find those little nuances throughout our marriage.

It's amazing how a 10 lb puppy can change your life. I would never change it back.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

So Many Changes

It's been a couple of months since I've posted and it has not been a quiet couple of months. Our first holiday season as husband and wife was full of new memories, little surprises, and tons of family.  We started our season with Thanksgiving dinner with Brian's family. It was a sweet holiday with family and good food, if a little different than I'm used to. It was my first holiday without my parents (they were out of town visiting my brothers) and I missed them. Missed them as I haven't had to before. It was a moment of clarity for me. I was married. Part of my own family now. I cried a little, thinking about the transition I had gone through without it completely registering. I don't think many nearly married or newly married couples think about everything that changes. At least not down to the little details, like celebrating holidays differently, maybe without certain people who are always present. It was an eye opener for me, a little bittersweet.

Right after Christmas my sweet husband gave into my love of a real Christmas tree. My family did not do the plastic tree. Every year we would go pick out our tree together, bring it home and decorate it, usually with a Christmas movie playing in the background. It's always been one of my favorite traditions. Brian's parents like the no-hassle plastic trees, which I may one day give into, but part of me just couldn't handle that change. So, we went to pick out our Christmas tree, piney fresh scent and sticky sap included, brought it home and decorated it. It was a safety blanket in a month of changes.

The week before Christmas we took our first real road trip together. We drove from our home in Florida, up to North Carolina (day stop here for a quick break in a cozy cabin), then to Michigan (to visit my brothers, their families and my grandpa), then an adventurous stay in Chicago, Illinois. Before we left I was told by others that it would be the real test to see if we could get along. I guess it's because you spend a good 40 hours in the car together traveling that far. We've traveled with together before on trips with our parents, one even when Brian and I were flying home from Michigan while my parents stayed there and we missed our plane. Through times like that I can see where couples could fall apart and start fighting, but during those moments, without fail, one of us is able to stay calm while the other falls apart. Moments where you could so easily fall apart too but you are given the grace to hold it together and pull your spouse through the rough moment with you. So, I guess we pass the test that others gave us. Not because we have anything extra in our back pockets that magically heal the rough patches. We have all of the same issues other couples have. The only thing thing different is that our foundation is set in God.

On our vacation, we enjoyed our mini romantic getaway in the North Carolina mountains. We immersed ourselves in family in Michigan, which included time spent just hanging on the couch, which is my favorite. There is nothing like getting that time together now that we live 1,500 miles away from each other. We gave gifts, ate a lot of good food and just loved being together. Brian and I took a special trip to see one of my old childhood homes, treat my brother Sean to dinner and give him his presents, and to visit my brother Matt, who left this world too soon. When you only get a few days to be with family a year, you just want to make every moment count. On our way back down to Florida, we stopped in Chicago for a day to experience somewhere new together. A little thing like finding our way through a foreign place together was a great memory to have. We had so much fun together.

We got back home in time to celebrate Christmas with our parents and together in our own home. Brian made it a very special Christmas morning and wrote riddles for me to solve to find my next present. He spoils me! I'm a very lucky wife.

So, these last couple of months have been filled with so many new memories, travels together, family, friends, my graduation for my Bachelor's degree, birthdays, dinners, and so much more. What's even better is being able to look forward and see so many great things ahead of us. God has blessed us so very much. Much more than we deserve.