Saturday, June 4, 2011

Our final week in the Lazarus Experiment

As we wound down the Lazarus Experiment this week we had a few final assignments... One was to give something - really really give, one was to dance, and one was to really connect... these, I thought would not be as easy as I had hoped but that is the purpose of our Experiment wasn't it? To stretch ourselves and grow in our love and relationship with the Lord and live more in the Lord and as He would have us live? With that, I offer my final entries into the Lazarus with a prayer of thanksgiving for all those involved and for the Lord for having led me here through His daughter, sweet Marci.

I have given my house. When my kids came home temporarily, I realized this is not going to be as temporary as they alluded. This is going to be at least a summer long venture. In some ways this relieves me as there are going to be two weeks where Dalton and I were to be away (not concurrent) but this saves me having to board my sweet dog.

This is however giving up my freedom. I enjoy very much watching what I want, cooking what I want, doing what I want. Dalton and I come and go as we please and we no longer having that luxury. We now have four more people and a dog living here and I find myself planning a wedding in 3 weeks, giving up my freedom, my living space, my private time. I no longer have a bed to myself as my 10 year old is now sleeping with me so his brother can have somewhere to sleep. I have a small corner of my den where my things are and where I can spend time on the computer.

What I take from this is how much love there is around me. While I have no alone time, I have laughter, conversation, love is electric in the air around me. There is little time for loneliness where there is so much life and living!!

Dancing came easily as my best friend and I danced through the aisles of the local Dollar General as they pumped canned 70's music through their pa system. We are so good together and I can be myself around her nio matter what. We cry, laugh, talk, dance, sing, cook, share television shows (while we are on the phone lol) and she has been my rock. While I lost my husband, she lost one of her best friends and it has brought great comfort to me to be on this new leg of my life's journey with her.

We celebrate everything together and she is like a second mom to my children. We are thick as little thieves and hope to grow old along side one another. We dance to celebrate life, joy, love, laughter and even sadness as even last night she held me while I cried. Funny how music can move us in so many directions, often in the blink of an eye, a simple sung syllable, a strum of just the right chord so as to raise up a memory that is both wonderful and painful all at once. And she is there through it all.... we stand together, clinging to each other, and slowly swaying to melancholy beat of our lost love. I do hope the Lord allows us to dance in our friendship for many years to come. She has become a sister to me, family as real as my blood family is.

The Lazarus Experiment has really helped to me grow through a time during which I would much rather had hibernated. You have all shown me new ways of seeing things, new ways of feeling things. I have reached (grown toward!) a place, I hope, of deeper giving, understanding, compassion, empathy, loving and of reliance. I have come to understand that we must not only rely on and believe in God and His infinite wisdom and ability to walk us through every moment of our lives but we must also awaken ourselves more deeply to the world around us from which we can also draw strength, inspiration, joy and love. It is a time to rejoice in all that which God has provided, all that to which we had cast a cloudy eye, not unseeing really but had passed over. We can no longer be unconcerned with little pieces of life but take them all in and savor them all. How delicious is a meal without one small spice? Even a grain of salt, a simple bay leaf, a granule of dried mustard can change a meal from something to which we have become accustomed to something more spectacular. Each and every second of the day contains something that makes that day memorable. Without each miniscule fragment of time, our day changes; morphs into something different.
I have learned to take time to smell it, feel it, ingest it, touch it, let it's scent invade my senses and make it's impact on my day.

I thank you - all of you - for helping me through this difficult time in my life and bringing to closer to a place where I can rejoice each and every moment. I have felt such growth and love here and my heart has found a deeper meaning in my faith, in my love for others I will likely never meet in real life, in my own ability to survive and learn and in my own ability to love myself. You are all amazing and wonderful people. I will keep you all in my prayers!

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Today's Laz assignment

Here is today's assignment.

OK. If you didn't get my cryptic post, the challenge for Sunday is to stretch. Could be physical, could be mental, could be spiritual, must be Lazzy. How can you stretch yourself? What could you do that is way beyond "normal" for you? Come on! Jump over the wall of that comfort zone! Do something outrageous!

At first I was quite overwhelmed by this. Before I went to church I thought about this long and hard (not an easy task as 6:30am when I've had 3.5 hours sleep... even with a strong cup of hot tea!). How wonderful that I was confronted with my "stretch" without initiating it myself at all...

Today I got to stretch me and my relationship with my little guy. He has been suffering so since his daddy passed away. After church today we decided to talk together about ways we could spend the day together doing something he wanted to do that I could help with. Soon after we began to chat, we began talking about God and how He has affected Dalton's life. Dalton finally admitted he is so very angry with God. Angry that He took his daddy. Angry that his daddy didn't take better care of himself. Angry that God didn't give him more chances to survive. Angry that God didn't give him his hero, his best friend and advocate, his daddy back. Angry that daddy isn't buried instead of cremated (which was Kevin's choice). So terribly angry that he doesn't know how to deal his own disappointment, sadness and heartbreak and feeling totally let down by God. I allowed him to cry and talk it through in his own mind until he was just in tears and cried it out on his own.

It was all I could do not to interject, point out where God had given daddy chances to change his eating habits, other habits that were equally hard on his body (drinking beer and smoking). It was all I could do to not try and use all my mommy words to stop him in his tracks and pursuade him to not be angry with God and listen to reason. I wanted to really get all that sad, little boy emotion to stop stop stop! Instead, I was careful to let him talk it out completely. (This was indeed a stretch for me as, typical of many women, I tend to want to lead this little boy rather than allow him his random direction in order to get it all out before adding my two cents.)

After he got all his emotions out completely, we talked some more and I was able to help him see why this wasn't God's fault and how good and merciful God was to not let daddy suffer heart trouble like his brother and mommy did and then I said it...

"Wanna go fishing?" (This was his and daddy's favorite activity.) "YES!" Came his loud reply! "YES Mommy! I DO wanna go fishing!"

So fishing we went. I have a friend who lives on a lake so we got out all of Daddy's fishing gear (fresh water) and three different poles, each baited with a different type of artificial bait and off we went. Now I'm not really physically capable of hiking around in the woods, hills, sandy shores, but this was a big day, and my little boy was in serious need of guy activity.

We had a blast. His friend was home, as was his momma, and while the little guys fished and played, she and I talked. I walked (hiked) through the woods, down an embankment, and stretched my legs and did it!

I feel so warmed by God's embrace that today I was able to take my son on a real excursion. I was able to listen and not interrupt him or try and lead him in a different direction, thereby stretching our ability to have deeper more meaningful conversation. I was able to help him stretch his heart a little and let his anger slip away a bit and meld into something a little more manageable (for both him and me). We were both able to stretch our vocal cords singing in church as my little guy sang loudly and proudly right along with me. I feel amazing today and I've got a really happy little fellow on my hands! Thank the Lord for his goodness, love, generosity and strength. For His comfort and the joy He allowed me to experience with Him, Dalton, His amazing world and with our friends. It's been a beautiful day.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

My beautiful gifts...

The other day, in our Lazarus Experiment, we were challenged to stop and listen to what was around us. Try and take notice of the sounds that we may not really hear on a daily basis. Because I usually spend my mornings reading on the front porch, I know that the birds are out singing their songs. A couple days ago, the day of the challenge, I stopped to do what we had been challenged. I just felt like I would like to share what I did.

I have just spent the better part of two hours on my porch, reading, thinking, listening and watching. I have a bird feeder on my porch that I just filled again this morning and waiting quietly for the birds to appear to feast.

And appear they did. Cardinals, finches, mockingbirds, robins, tiny wrens, and more all joining together in the large willow oak that stands just outside my front door with a canopy of lush green leaves that envelopes the little world that lives just inside it's branches. It's a little world most people wouldn't even stop to recognize. It's beautiful music, so unwritten, so random and yet so perfect plays from different branches, all separate pieces of the same orchestral piece. They are small, and large, these little instruments. They sing beautifully knowing that God does indeed enjoy their joyful noise.

I watched as the mockingbirds played among the tall weeds that seem to have grown in my yard over night. I see the squirrels hoping together, playing hide and seek, and cheerful games of "Tag!". Even the locust are not out in full force this time of day but their own melodies play off in the distance.

God has made a wonderful world. It's beautiful can be so overwhelming. As overwhelming as our own sadness can be. I am so grateful.

Despite my broken body, the pain I walk with daily; despite my recent heartache, I am grateful for this respite in my front yard. I am so thankful that this little world exists just outside my front door reminding me that even in my despair the beauty of His world is far greater than me or my troubles.

I took time to sit in the all the noise and reverie of the morning to relax. Thankful to God that I can still feel His love, His world, His beauty and His gifts. They somehow make my heart lighter. They make my joints feel like simple growing pains, much like the springing of a new limb from this massive tree. I am thankful that the world I live in, sometimes so overwhelmingly filled with it's pain, frustration, anger, angst, fear and rage we can still find the joy and happiness and peace that only He can give us.

Friday, May 27, 2011

The Lazarus Experiment

I am so glad to have met so many wonderful people on line. When Kevin used to ask me why I spent so much time on line I tried to explain the thread of love that connects me with so many people, many of whom I have never met and will likely never meet face to face. At least not in this lifetime.

I have been an internet junkie since 2003, when my sister introduced me to scrapbooking once again. Since then I have found many delightful, dear and wonderful people in all corners of the world. I have friends in nearly every state of the US. I have friends in Canada, New Zealand, Australia, China, Singapore, France, Holland, England, Germany and more. I'm blessed! What wonderful instrument, the internet!

One of the things I discovered while playing with my on line friends was Facebook. Oh how I love Facebook! I can play games, connect with my relatives (some of whom I have not seen in 20 or more years!), meet new friends, explore new things and even grow. I've met some amazing people with whom I share many things in common.

Through one of these groups and friends I met a beautiful lady named Marci Negranza. We have never met face to face. We have scrapbooked together over the internet, we have shared in each others lives. One thing I can say about scrapbookers for sure is that we are, for the most part, some of the most giving and delightful people! (Why thank you, yes, I do consider myself to be one of them. *grins and giggles*.)

Marci and I are also friends on Facebook thanks to an amazing lady we will call "Groovy Deb". Marci and I have, over the last few years, followed each other's blogs (though admittedly, I seldom comment because I'm a terrible commenter), followed each other's lives through the "news feed" on Facebook, and played a lot of games. Marci has introduced me to a beautiful group of people who have begun a very special project through Facebook called "The Lazarus Experiment".

So, let me tell you about The Lazarus Experiment. As some of you know, (and anyone who read my last entry), I lost my dear husband in March. The week before Easter, I got an invitation from Marci to join this group of folks. For those of you who are unsure, Lazarus, brother of Martha and Mary, was someone of whom Jesus was quite fond. He received word that Lazarus was very sick. Rather than rushing to Lazarus side, Jesus felt compelled to wait for a couple days. Upon returning to Lazarus' home, he learned that Lazarus has already passed away and had been in his tomb for four days.

Martha was quite stricken by Jesus' failure to return and help heal Lazarus. Jesus calmly explained to her, " "I am the Resurrection and the Life. He who believes in Me shall live, even if he dies. And everyone who lives and believes in Me shall never die in eternity". (John 11:25, KJV)

He then speaks with Mary, who is simply overcome by her sorrow. The Bible simply says, "Jesus wept." John 11:35, KJV

Surrounded by mourners, Jesus visits Lazarus' tomb. Over Martha's objections, Jesus has the mourners roll away the stone entrance to the tomb and prays. After his prayer, he calls out to Lazarus to come out and so, risen from the dead, Lazarus exits the tomb and is once again, very alive. While many then believed in Jesus and his claims to be the son of the Father, Almighty, others ran off to alert authorities. I'm not sure what the authorities were going to do at that point... kill Lazarus again because it was some sort of abomination? For goodness sake, people were (and are!) so quick to point out as "wrong" or somehow "illegal" that which they do not understand... (too bad our world doesn't have a healthier dose of faith).

So, now that you have the background, there begins The Lazarus Experiment. It was explained so well here. In case you don't want to click over, in a nutshell, here is what Rob says about our new journey...

Last year we began to think through how Lazarus would have felt about life after being brought back to life by Jesus. What would he have done differently? How would he see each new day? What kinds of changes would he have made?

Lazarus represents the new life that is found in Jesus Christ because of resurrection. If we've put our trust in Jesus, we have the same kind of new life Lazarus had. Sometimes we don't live like it.

So, The Lazarus Experiment is a challenge to live life with the joy, the boldness, the courage, the perspective, the reality of newness. If you are up to the challenge, choose one thing to do each day that reflects the kind of living Lazarus would have done after coming out of the tomb.

For some context and ideas, read this article about last year's experiment in Plain Truth Magazine.

So, there ya have it... in a nutshell. Who wouldn't want to be a part of that, right? Especially in the situation I'm in at the moment trying to learn daily to live without my love.

The Lazarus Experiment is more than 30 days into itself and coming down to the wire as to completing our experiment. I had to stop and ask myself some questions. Have I made any real conclusions? Have I managed to learn the things I needed to learn? Have I been receptive to learning what God wanted me to learn? Have I grown? Have I changed? Have I been able to become more of a vessel of the Lord's?

I asked the group some of my concerns. They assured me I was right on track and seemed to be truly in tune with how this experiment was to be played out. I was reassured that while my desire to find something magnanimous to end our time together, surely the point to it all was that Lazarus would have been much more apt to revel in the little things. I began to think.

What would Lazarus do? He would stop to listen to the birds singing their songs of love, joy and desire. He would have stopped to notice the little lady bug crawling idle-ly along the leaves. He would have taken a walk in the rain to feel it's soft touch on his skin. He would have laid on the floor to play with the cats and dogs. He would have noticed the distant giggles of the toddlers playing at the local day care. He would have tasted that bite of ice cream even though it wasn't on his diet. (Would he have even been ON a diet?) He would have had a bit of that delectable dessert no matter how decadent. He would have taken his children to the park and played long into the evening just to watch and play with the fireflies as they danced to their own silent musicals. He would have gone to every school play, every graduation. He would have attended every church service just to show his gratitude and love for the Lord. He would have attended every funeral just to show that there is love, and life, after death and to reassure those who were grieving. He would have talked to many and smiled to the masses. He would have reveled in every single minute of every single day.

I'm so grateful to have met these wonderful people, Marci and her pastor Ron and her amazing Lazarus friends who have shown me a better way to celebrate, to live, to love and to grow. I'm counting this experiment among my greatest joys, my greatest accomplishments, my greatest blessings.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Its been a long time........

So there is a lot to say and not so much after all.

First, let me apologize for my one and a half year absence. it's been a long time friends! I will attempt to be more attentive to you dear blog. I know I have been neglectful and will be more present and less absent.

Second, let me fill you in briefly in the last year's events as quickly and without too much pain (read: tears...)

Last February 17 (2010) Kevin and I came to a crossroads. We had grown apart and a series of events led us to a place where we either had to agree to work it through or cut our losses and move our separate ways. Fortunately, love won, we made a committment to work on it only this time together. We had a beautiful, glorious year together. We renewed our wedding vows on our 14th wedding anniversary, August 31, 2010, went on our first ever honeymoon. I got approved for disability, finally, in April after fighting for 10 years.

Kevin had back surgery in October and, for some reason, never seemed able to recover really. His back was better, but the pain persisted. Not quite where it had been but persisted none the less.

In December, we had a great holiday season. The boys, having moved out as a gift to us when we were gone on our honeymoon in Va. Beach, were each home. Taylor brought his sweetheart and Reaves had just begun dating a beautiful young lady.

We went to Great Wolf Lodge just after Christmas and shared a wonderful time - all 8 of us! January and February came and went and the stress of Kevin's job finally got the better of him. I knew his time there was limited... On March 3rd, we managed to get through the 14th anniversary of Momma's passing.

Kevin and I had spent a year now in bliss. Our relationship had never been stronger. We were completely totally head over heels in love and every day we managed to deepen our relationship. We were going to church and had been very blessed by their strength and prayer when Kevin was out with his back. I was so grateful for the love we had together. Perhaps we had grown into a place where we were taking our joy for granted but I don't think so. We spent time in prayer every single day, both silently and aloud, for our love, our God and our blessings.

On March 8th, Kevin had had enough at work. The stress was just too much and we had been trying to take it day by day. He called me that day and said, "Honey, just pray for me. I can't take this anymore."

He calmly walked into his boss's office and quietly said, "Mr. ----, I think you and I both have expectations of each other that are just never going to be met. I think it's best to leave. I think these belong to you." And he gently put his keys to the resort and the last 6+ years of his life on Mr. ---'s desk and walked away from his job.

He came home, we cried, we hugged, we spent time apart in silence. I prayed that this was the closing of the door that would open the window of opportunity that Kevin would find. I asked God to hold us, to hold Kevin, to guide us and to help us.

Kevin spent time in his "man cave" (aka the garage) and did the same I think. He came back in and said, "Honey, don't worry. I've got several ideas and I"ll have a job before the week end."

And he did...

Kevin, who had worked as a chef in a local restaurant, signed the papers for a new job on Sunday and started his new job on Monday. he was so happy and we knew this was the right place for him to be. He had gone back to his job as a chef and had promised the owner, a friend of ours, at least a year or more of his life as the new head chef. He was immediately being trained to take over the kitchen.

He worked Monday and Tuesday and was off on Wednesday. I had been on a diet since January, cutting out ALL carbs, which was working out well. I'd lost 28 pounds and was feeling pretty good! Kevin, was always so supportive, said to me every day, "Honey, I love you and I'm so proud of you. You're always beautiful to me but your smile is even more beautiful because you feel so much better about yourself. But i gotta tell ya, I'm Starving!!"

Kevin LOVED to eat. I don't know where it went. He could eat more than anyone I knew but never seemed to gain weight. The previous May, we had been told Kevin had high cholesterol (coming in at 246), and his blood pressure was on the verge of being too high (140+ / 90+ ). I tried to get him to cut out his high fat foods, but his red meat and his potatoes were too alluring. He didn't eat it as often as he used to, but he didn't go get his cholesterol checked again either. I told him that he needed to keep that appointment, but I can't make him go anymore than I can make the sun rise or set. Anyone who knew him, knew that Kevin was as stubborn as a mule and unless he wanted to do something, he just didn't...

I made healthy stuffed peppers that night. His day off and I was trying to impress my chef husband with healthy but awesome eats. He had been asking for them, so I was so happy to oblige! They were delicious!

I didn't get to eat with him. For some reason, a friend had stopped by that evening and had been here through dinner. Kevin had made plans to see an old friend that night and was due there about 7:30 so he went ahead and ate without me. He kissed me, kissed Dalton and he was out the door.

I remember Dalton coming into my room about 11. He was having a bad dream and wanted to sleep with me until Daddy got home. So, into my bed he climbed. I remember about 12:30 Kevin coming home. I heard him say, "Come on buddy, let's go to bed." Even in Dalton's sleepiness, he knew Daddy's back couldn't hold him anymore, he had grown up so much, so he reluctantly climbed out of our bed and Daddy tucked him in his own. I heard Kevin tucking him in and said, "G'night. I love you buddy."

I remember Kevin climbing into bed with me and snuggling up to me. I remember feeling like all was well now and sleep could come. And come it did.

I woke up at 6:40 and Kevin wasn't in bed. I figured that he had gotten up early since he was working that day so I went to the garage to find him. He wasn't there. I went into every room of the house looking for him. He wasn't anywhere. I went into the bedroom and sat down, picked up my cell phone from the charger hooked up to my vanity mirror, and texted him. "Hey! Where r u?" Just before I hit send, I quickly typed in, "I love you." Then sent my text on it's way. we had just gotten new cell phones and my darling "gadget guy" husband loved to play poker on his phone. I figured it might interrupt his game but the I love you, which was certainly genuine, would smooth any ruffled feathers.

His phone rang beside the bed, where it was still on the charger. That was red flag number one.

I again got up and went into the garage. I looked further in and noticed his chair was turned over. Red flag number two.

I noticed the dog was sitting very still. Head up. Normally, if it had been night and I went into the garage and daddy was sleeping, the dog growled. No growl, just a sweet shepard retriever mix sitting there looking at me ever so quietly as if to say, "Come in mom... somethings up." Red flag number three.

And in I went. And there I found my beloved. Curled up in a ball on the floor of the garage looking like I'd never seen anyone look in my life. I will not go into details. It's just too painful a memory. But my beloved was gone. I tried to find a pulse but he was already cold, already gone, already resting quietly with the Lord.

I panicked. I was incredulous. I was heartbroken. I was scared. I was lost.

I called my best friend who sent her husband over immediately. I called 911 and told them I needed someone right away that my husband.... and I said the words for the first time... was dead.

Oh God NO! No! No! NO!

But he was gone. The ambulance, paramedics, police, fire personnel, my darling friend and best friend's husband Paul and my neighbor and friend Alexis, were all huddled together on my porch when the paramedic confirmed my worst fear. My darling, my sweetheart, my mate, my true life best friend ever, my husband, the father of my youngest son, my love was gone. Taken his place in Heaven.

I called my older boys at their apartment. My neighbor came and got Dalton and had her stay there until everything had settled down and Kevin had been taken to the Medical Examiner's office in Richmond for a full autopsy since he passed away at home. When we brought him home to get an update on all the commotion, we were surrounded by loving friends who were there to support our family as we began to process this horrific news. Dalton took it as well as any 10 year old can take the news that his buddy, his daddy, his true hero was now an angel with God.

We will have to fast forward because I simply cannot go through the last two months here. It's painful and heart breaking and honestly too much to write right now. Perhaps one day I can write about our process. Perhaps one day I'll be able to put into words how I've been able to get to even this point in my life without completely losing my mind.

Suffice it to say, being strong for your little boy is my priority now. Being here and being alive for him is my number one priority. Being the best parent to the most amazing thing that ever happened to my sweetheart, Kevin, was now the most important thing I could do day after day. So that is what I do. I move through my days for him, for the memory of my wonderful husband. I move through it with the help of God and my faith knowing that He will guide me, comfort me, lift me up, carry me if I need it. I know that I am surrounded by this legacy of love Kevin left here with so many many people. I know that he would NOT want me to be here wasting a single minute of any day without doing something that would continue the love he left with us and the love I've always carried. I go through the motions sometimes and those are the times I know God has me on His "auto-pilot" and I'll get through to the next minute where I will stand up, shake it off and put on my best smile.

So here we are... May 26, 2011. Tonight Dalton will earn his Webelo badge. Last night Dalton broke 6 boards at Tae Kwon Do. Last night Dalton showed so much restraint, so much maturity, so much growth. Today is the day it all begins anew...

And so will tomorrow be a new day... just like each day is a new day... just like I have to start over every single day. But start over I will. I will do it for Dalton, for Reaves, for Taylor, for me, for my sister, my friends, my relatives, for Kevin's friends and relatives. I will do it because that is what God will want. I will do it because that is what I KNOW Kevin would want. I will do it because I kjnow that Kevin will be waiting for me, (a LONG time from now, when my time comes).

Until then, I love you my sweet man. With all my heart..........