12) ANNABELLE'S BIRTHDAY
"Tomorrow is Annabelle's 8th birthday. I took the day off work today and Anna asked me to come have lunch with her. She was careful to remind me that Daddy had lunch with her on her birthday last year..."
Day 103 - March 16th at 11:11pm
Tonight, my parents came up and we did some more work inside the house. We worked on Mike's office and our upstairs office too. As with any big task, comes the chore of going through each item, piece by piece, determining if the item is of value or not. I expected it to be mindless decisions until I got to a section of the kids school work, from preschool and early elementary school. I pulled out a colorful red and green piece of artwork and discovered it was our family tree. I looked at that beautiful masterpiece and knew that this tree looked different now. I never thought that tree would look any different than it did at that moment 6 years ago when it was crafted, and now the tree has been shaken, and we are missing an apple. I took a moment, shed a few tears and continued to press through until I came upon a card. The red envelope had Mike's writing on the outside and said "Happy Mothers Day" on it. I couldn't stop myself from opening it and I remembered the day he gave me this particular card. I will admit, I was a little jealous because this same year, he had gotten his mother a card that had a badge in it and you could actually take the badge off and wear it. There was a cute saying on it, something like "#1 Mom." (I know because I actually still have it in my jewelry box.) I didn't realize it at the time, but he had gotten me the same card, which I loved, and I was so happy to be able to wear the badge to church that day on my new Mothers Day dress. At the bottom of the card were these hand-written words..... "Happy Mother's Day! I love you. You should have known there was no way I could have not gotten you this card. Wear it proudly, Beautiful. Love, Mike". Something about seeing him call me Beautiful in this card made my heart break. I miss him so bad. I don't want to be in this phase of life. I don't want to be doing any of this. I don't want to be single. I don't want to be sad. I don't want my children to not have a daddy. I don't want any of this. So I pulled myself together again and began digging further. I felt like I was walking through the last 8 years of ministry. I found the notes on "Celebration of Discipline," a book study we did at church. I found a prayer journal where I thanked God for the spiritual growth of those in our congregation. I found a folder of Early Childhood Development work that a friend gave me. I found the picture and letter that my sister in love wrote to me at her bridal luncheon. I found notes that Mike kept, specifically the ones that I had hidden in his suitcase, to be opened once daily when he went on his mission trip. I found a scorecard for mini golf that was played on the Disney cruise, where the score was kept in his handwriting. I found picture after picture of a perfect, happy family. As I type this, I hear my kids laughing in the living room while I hide in the bathroom, crying, typing my thoughts and struggling with the unanswered question of why. I just have a hard time believing this is real.... that he's really gone. And that he will never come back. That all of our memories are just that.... memories. I long for the day that I can look at his picture and feel happiness for the time we had together instead of sadness for the time that we don't. Everyone's life goes on, except for those of us left behind. We are the ones who will try with all our might to find strong enough superglue to piece back together the shards of a shattered heart.... but the truth is that we will never be the same. Is it any use to try? Yes, I know with each day, things will move a tiny step towards healing, but things will never be the same. Here lately, I find myself needing to focus only on the day at hand and quoting to myself the scripture promise that I should "not worry, for tomorrow will worry about itself." It's easier said than done though. The Lord has been faithful to me thus far and I know that He won't leave me hanging now..... He's all we have! So I will lay my head down tonight being thankful for His provision, thankful for the chance to love a wonderful man, and thankful for my children. Don't miss the opportunity to tell your spouse how much you love them..... you'll never regret it.
Day 105 - March 18th at 10:20am
Widowhood 101: I'm so tired of making decisions. Like, So. Tired. Of. Making. Decisions. Some people have the ability to go through life day by day, not worrying about how the decisions they make today will affect the rest of their lives, but I'm just not one of those people. Sometimes I think it would be easier if I just didn't care. Or if I were able to focus exclusively on the daily tasks at hand, but instead I constantly weigh the implications. Examples include: If child A really wants something that is a little higher than your average "just because" treat, and I indulge, I find myself needing to be aware of my desire to make them happy, even if it's fleeting, because of all they have been through over the last 3 1/2 months. Then I think about how I don't want to raise kids who think material items have greater significance than they actually do. I apply this same concept to discipline within our home and how the kids interact with their schoolwork and teachers at school. I understand that people have applied heaps of grace to us, but I don't want to take advantage of that. And being a newly singled woman, where 98% of your adult friends are married, I always find that I have to check my actions more sternly now, because even if I would have innocently joked or kidded in a certain way before, if I do that now, then someone might think I'm flirting their spouse, since I am now single. Even with my interactions at the preschool and church, it's like I feel like I have to tone down my friendly personality because I don't want to seem flirtatious. At the same time, there's a desire inside of me to look attractive and to be affirmed since I don't have a husband to fill that need inside of me now. I've said it many times that every decision I've ever made I have had to remake since Mike died. It's true. It's no wonder I'm exhausted day after day. All I do is make decisions! Keep this. Toss that. Live here. Work there. Eat this. Don't do THAT. Feel this way. Make time for this person. Avoid conflict. Sigh. This widowhood world is very tricky. I hate it. I just want to wake up on a Saturday morning and know the biggest decision I have to make is where we get breakfast from. Instead I'm thinking about Eli needing a play date (which I have arranged), since he hasn't had anyone over since Mike died. Annabelle had a friend over yesterday and Abi had a friend at the movies last night. I long for simpler days. They are far out of reach I'm afraid. Last night, I came home to a tree that fell in my yard and is laying across my driveway. I have never cranked a chainsaw in my life. My dad is working today. My brother is working out of town. All my buddies from church are working on the parsonage today to get ready for their new pastor. And I don't want people to feel sorry for me! I want to be able to do everything myself. Ugh! More decisions. Last night, I saw the preview of the new movie, Wonder Woman. I really just want to be her. She's pretty. Thin. Has super powers. She fights bad guys so she could totally cut this tree up and probably haul it away all by herself. I think there should be a widow super hero. Because if there has ever been someone who is worthy to be admired, it's a widow. It is tough. It is by far the hardest thing I have ever done. I look at my fellow widows/widowers with profound respect. But somewhere deep inside of me, I want to conquer this world. I want to show grief who's boss. I am! Because "greater is He that is in me than He that is in the world." Now that's some real SUPER power....... ⚡️💥💨🌪
Day 106 - March 19th at 10:19am
Here's a Sunday morning update for all of you guys waiting on the edges of your seats..... * the hermit crab is still MIA * I had 3 wonderful, strong men come yesterday and help me with cutting up and loading the tree onto a trailer. There's still a little to be done but I can handle that on my own. (Thanks to all of you who offered!) * the strapping young men did instruct me on how to crank the chainsaw correctly in the unlikely event that I need to know, before help can arrive, just because I wanted to know. 😉 * I was surrounded by amazing friends all weekend long. From play dates with school friends..... and mommy dates for me.... and holding babies and dinner today with friends and lots of wonderful hugs..... I have felt so much love this weekend! Thanks for not forgetting us!!!!
Day 108 - March 21st at 1:00am
I had to submit an assignment tonight in my Communications Class on "How I Became Me." Typically an assignment like this wouldn't take me too long as I would go back to my childhood, carefully tracing the roots of my existence and I would begin to determine the reasons behind who I am and how I became "Me." The assignment proved to be much more difficult than that. Here is my response.... I have given this question a lot of thought and the truth is, I don’t even know who “Me” is anymore. I thought I did. I thought I knew her well. I thought she was a little red-headed girl with freckles who loved to sing and play the piano. She was independent, strong, and brave. She made good grades and enjoyed impressing people with her talent. She was a pastor’s wife, a music minister, a mother. She loved going places, writing funny Mother’s Day songs, making people laugh and playing jokes on people, like hiding in the trunks of their cars after church. She loved inside jokes that only she and the other person could interpret. She loved her family. She loved her husband. She had so much going for her in her perfect world. Now, since Mike's death, the idea of “Me” has shifted. I don’t know who I am anymore. When he died, a part of me died too. I never knew how much of my identity was wrapped up into who he was. When he died, so did my titles of wife, pastor’s wife and music minister. When he died, my heart did too. I am not the same person I was then… the person who I thought I was, was a lie, because she’s not there anymore. I thought I would be that person for the rest of my life and now she’s gone too, just like her husband. I feel so lost and rejected. I miss the person I was. Sure, the core is the same. The belief system is the same. I’m still a mother, a daughter, a friend, but I miss the other titles so bad. Those titles helped me be who I was, they helped “Me” be “Me.”
There is a song that I have listened to a hundred times since Mike died. It’s a song by Laura Story called “So I Can Just Be Me.” The song talks about the various emotions we feel and express, and how they can change at the drop of a hat, but if we allow God to be our God, then it frees us up to just be ourselves. My favorite line in the song says “I can be broken, frail and shattered, Lord I need You now to be, be my God so I can just be me.” I could have written this song. My interpretation of “Me” has changed so much and continues to change each day. I have to trust that God will point me in the right direction as I follow Him blindly, asking Him to help me find “Me” again. I often wonder if I do justice to the thoughts that pass through my head. I wonder if they are realized on paper as the true intents of my heart. I didn't know that losing Mike also meant losing "Me" as well and yet, as I struggle with life, I realize I could easily become someone different. In my class, someone made a statement that was very profound. He quoted his dad who said, "Life is always changing, Son. Just don't let it change you into someone you don't want to be." I don't know if grief has affected me differently than other people who are suffering, but I do know that when those waves come crashing, I must make a conscientious effort to get back up each every time. Although satan would love nothing more than to see God's plans for me altered as I struggle through these grief-infested waters, I will remain true to who God has ordained me to be, because that, my friend, did not die when Mike did.
Day 110 - March 23rd at 2:15pm
Tomorrow is Annabelle's 8th birthday. I took the day off work today and Anna asked me to come have lunch with her. She was careful to remind me that Daddy had lunch with her on her birthday last year, but since tomorrow is an early release day at her school, they would be singing Happy Birthday to her today. I was very happy to comply.... I love having lunch with my children at school. She gave me her lunch order (Burger King - she gets her love of burgers from me) & I got there 30 minutes early so I could eat with Abi too. I brought Krispy Kreme donuts for all the kids 7th grade and under. (Yes, I was very popular today) Upon leaving the school, I went to Wal-Mart to pick up Anna's birthday gift.... a bicycle. I grabbed a few accessories to go with it, like a bell (per her request) and a light for the front, some elbow pads and knee pads, and then I made my way to the card aisle. I found a super cute one with cupcakes on it and a teal envelope that I know she will love. And as I stood there, the realization hit me that this will be the first time I've ever signed a birthday card for one of the kids that doesn't say, "Love, Mommy and Daddy." It hit me like a ton of bricks. What should I put? Just "Love, Mommy?" It seems so empty. I mean, she has a daddy, he's just not here anymore. If I put his name will it just make her sad? To be reminded that he's not here? I missed him not being with me to pick out the perfect bike. I missed not having the conversation of "What should we get Annie for her birthday?" I am heartbroken that Anna's 8th birthday will be a sad one, even though I will try with all my might to make it happy for her. We will avoid the elephant in the room and pretend that it's a wonderful day for a birthday. She wanted to go to Great Wolf, but I know we will be reminded of the last weekend we were there together, a wonderful and happy time, unbeknownst to us that Mike would be gone 3 days later. I was driving home the other day and I saw a daddy pulling his little girl in a red wagon. I looked in my rear view mirror and saw that as they were about to go down a hill, he jumped in and rode down the hill, in that red wagon, with his little girl. It warmed my heart and made me sad all at the same time. As hard as is it being a widow, it is so hard to feel heartbreak over your children not having a father. When that tree fell last weekend, I watched Eli eyeing the men with those chainsaws, almost with a longing to know how to do it himself. When one of the chains came off, he ventured over to figure out how the chain might be put back on. Watching the curiosity in his eyes will break your heart in two. The bad days are fewer and father apart than they were a few months ago, but we have another first knocking on our door and we will answer it..... praying that we can be genuinely happy to celebrate another birthday. I am so grateful that I won't be visiting Annabelle in the cemetery beside her dad because we all know that could have been a reality if it wasn't for the hand of God who kept her safe. So, aside from the tears that I am shedding in the Wal-Mart parking lot, I will go home, hide this beautiful pink and purple bike and I will be prepared for a wonderful day of celebrating Annabelle's life tomorrow. She is a beautiful girl. She's so caring and loving. She's my only child who will still kiss me on the lips and I plan to enjoy it for the limited days I have left until she figures out she's too big for that anymore. So, pray for us all tomorrow and this weekend as we will choose to celebrate the life of my sweet and precious Annabelle.
Day 111 - March 24th at 6:52am
Do you know how long it's been since the smell of bacon cooking wafted through our home? It's been a long time. Mike was the one who always did breakfast. Many mornings, I would wake up to the smell of bacon and he would be in the kitchen with the kids fixing us something to eat. Abi would be making pancakes. Eli would be stealing bacon. Annabelle would be cracking eggs. I could probably count on one hand the number of times I have actually cooked bacon in our home. Mike had the bacon down to a science. It was his job. Me, on the other hand, always questioned if it was done enough or not enough and I'm always concerned about getting popped with grease. It was harder than I thought it would be looking for a pan to fry up this bacon in. I haven't cooked in almost 4 months. I guess bacon is another task I will have to master. It's funny how smells can make you relive a memory. This bacon smell reminds me of snow days, way too few lazy Saturday mornings and standardized testing week at the kids school. I almost thought I wouldn't be able to cook this crazy stuff. Even pulling the package from the fridge made my stomach hurt. But I powered through. When the cooking was over and it came time to pull the bacon from the pan, I remembered that Mike would always put a paper towel in the plate to soak up the grease, a tradition I followed closely this morning. I had to remember that Abi likes her bacon almost burnt so I needed to cook a few pieces extra long for her. Annabelle woke up and hugged me from behind and said "As soon as I woke up I knew what that smell was!" She's already had her first piece. So although I'm feeling very sad this morning, I will conscientiously choose to enjoy this bacon with my newly turned 8 year old and I will enjoy each new memory that comes with it.🥓
Day 113 - March 26th at 10:45pm
I am in awe of how God continues to show me just how much He cares. As you guys know, Annabelle's birthday was Friday. He blessed us by being able to celebrate at Great Wolf Lodge (with a free upgrade - yeah!) and although I cried a lot at work on Friday morning, by the time I picked the kids up from school I was back on track. I didn't cry the rest of the time we were celebrating Anna and we genuinely had a great time. We got home late last night and this morning I woke up with a song on my heart "Your cries have awoken the Master." I actually sat down at the piano and played it in my living room. I got to church and Brother Jerry preached an amazing word about growing amongst the tares and how if we focus on the tares around us, it will stifle our growth but if we focus on the SON, (get it? Sun? Son?) then we will grow and bear fruit! I left feeling very encouraged and renewed in my focus. We had lunch at mom and dad's and everyone was there, except for Matt, who was working. My friend texted me and said "Hey! We are in revival at Poovey's and you should come!" She has invited me a bunch, but for some reason it just felt like I should go tonight. We got there and I was very nervous. This is only the 2nd church I have visited since Mike died and I just felt weird, until a former preschool mom said "Can we sit with you guys?" and put me at ease. The music was wonderful and then a group got up to sing the special and what song do you think they sang?!?!? The exact same song I had sang in my living room this morning! I'm thinking, "Ok. I hear you Lord. I'm where you want me to be." The message begins and the evangelist tells us to open our Bibles to the book of Job and in his message he tells us of 3 areas in which people are put on trial for their faith: finances, family and health. During his message, he literally puts people on trial to "testify" on behalf of Job. He had a couple who faced financial ruin because of a divorce, a family who lost an infant child, a lady who had cancer, a mother who's son was tragically killed..... and all I could think about was that I could be up there just like those guys. I could be on trial for my faith! I have struggled with why Mike's ministry and life is over when, in my opinion, he was more valuable than me and it would have benefitted the kingdom of God more if He had taken me instead of Mike. I've struggled with why this has happened to me, when Mike and I were both so devoted to growing the Kingdom of God. I've struggled with how what lies ahead of me could be greater than what is now behind me. But with every word this evangelist spoke, I knew he was talking to me. He said that I should count it all joy to be chosen to suffer for Christ, like Jesus did. He said that restoration lies ahead, just like with Job. And although I don't see how, I was renewed in my faith that God will "turn it around" and that God has a plan. It's so much easier when we can see it.... when we can envision it. But then I guess it wouldn't be called "faith" would it? When he closed the service and did the altar call, I knew I should go. I really cannot even remember if I've been in the altar since Mike died. But as I was obedient, I was so thankful to have friends who would gather around and pray for me and join me in the altar. In the 7 years that I have been a preschool director, many times the Lord has prompted me to close my door and pray with/for someone in my office, but within the last few weeks, someone, for the first time, did that for me. Tonight, this same friend hugged me tight (you guys know I love hugs) and prayed over me and renewed my spirit. The truth is, I answer "I don't know" to a lot of questions these days because I truly don't know. But this one thing I do know... God has not forgotten me. He loves me and He calls me His own. He has chosen me for a purpose and whatever that purpose is, I will walk through it with my head held high, trusting that He knows best. His ways are not mine, but I will trust Him with my life. He will never leave me nor forsake me. I keep singing this song over and over in my head.... "You are faithful, You never give up, never give up on me. You are able to finish all that You've started in me. You are stable, through every change that this life can bring, you remain the same."
Day 114 - March 27th at 10:13am
Gosh I love hugs...... never underestimate the power of a good hug! ❤️
Day 115 - March 28th at 7:02am
Last night I had so much to do for my school work, but I desired to also attend the revival service at Poovey's. My Mother in Law came up to help with the kids so I worked super hard and finished one class's work around 6:45pm. With minutes to spare, I threw on a dress, combed through my hair and I ran out the door to church, trusting the Lord that I could finish the remaining work for my 2nd class when I got home. Last night's message was centered around the olive press. The minister set his message in the Garden of Gethsemane and he went through and explained the process of pressing the olives to obtain the olive oil. I've never really thought much about that process, but as he explained it, he said that the more pressure you placed on the olives, the more oil that would be obtained. He also tied that pressure to the anointing that God places in our lives. I found that link interesting since we also anoint with oil and pray the prayer of faith. I have definitely felt pressed down on every side in these last 16 weeks. Mike was always so good under pressure. If he knew that God was leading in a certain direction, he followed God's leading regardless of what I thought or anyone else. Mike's anointing and legacy lives on even though he does not. I got a message from a friend 2 weeks ago who shared how she "did something that Pastor Mike would be proud of." She went on to tell me a story about how the Lord put a certain man in her path and she knew this man was about to meet the Lord and he was not saved. She explained the process of knowing she was in that exact place, at that exact time, to lead this man to the Lord. She asked if the man would allow her to pray with him. He said no. She went back to her desk and felt the increased pressure that time was short for this man. He knew he was dying. He did not know the Lord. She couldn't get away from it. She went back again. The timing wasn't right. But once again, under the pressure and leading of the Holy Ghost, she tried one more time. This time, it was right. She told him "I want to pray with you so you can go to heaven and be with Jesus." He could not speak at this time because he was about to die. She told him "If you want that, squeeze my hand and I'll do the rest." She said that he squeezed her hand as hard as he could and she lead that man to the Lord. Thirty minutes later, he took his last breath while she held his hand. I can't help but think Mike met him there when he crossed over. That a seed he planted in this woman's heart as her pastor is still growing and producing fruit. You see? That's what pressure can do! It can push us forward to do things we think are humanly impossible! Things that will have an everlasting, eternal effect. As the pastor preached last night, it's the times in which we are under pressure that we will see what we are really made of. May the Lord find each of us faithful when we are put to the test. ❤️ "In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ." I Peter 1:6-7