Grief Is Like A Box Of Chocolates

Forrest Gump’s mother  was certainly wise with her iconic life lesson

“Life is like a box of chocolates you never know what you are going to get”  

I have found that the grief process has been exactly like a box of chocolates. Contrary to everything I’ve been told and read (about grief and its many stages) mine is so uncategorized and random.  I never know what attribute of grief is going to pop up  or when.

My 52 year old wiser widow self knows better than to expect grief to fall into a box of categories landing on specific goal months. However I do find it ironic that I am almost 15 months into this gig and I can’t make neither head nor tails of where the emotions are supposed to land. I guess, like  many things in life,  you have no idea what to expect when you aren’t expectant.

For those of you who have children do you remember the books ‘What To Expect When You’re Expecting’ and ‘What To Expect The First Year’? In 1991 my husband and I  read every single page. We anticipated each change my body would make. If a symptom did not coincide on the month the book said it was to occur?  We became worried and secretly frantic. Our 24 year old minds were captivated with the mind blowing prospect that this little person was going to be growing and as if on command “performing” milestones in utero. The reality was each pregnancy is different and some things occurred on said months and some didn’t.

Likewise when our oldest daughter was born we devoured the pages of  


‘What To Expect The First Year’   
because,  well, we had no idea what to expect!  If our daughter didn’t achieve the milestones the book said she should on the exact  time, day and month? We were full of worry and angst.  Our 25 year old young first time parental selves thought every single thing must occur according to schedule.

I have never gone through ”Grief In A Box’ per se or grief  in the appropriate order that Elisabeth Kubler Ross & David Kessler write about in ‘Five Stages of Grief’.  This is the gold standard of grief for our country. But it doesn’t fit my grief. And that is okay.

I’ve never felt anger. And that might be because my husband had a terminal illness.  ALS afforded  us time to fulfill bucket lists, cross t’s, dot i’s, throw parties, say ‘i love you’s’. I’ve felt betrayal and anger at my circumstance surrounding my family but never angry at my husband or God.  I have felt anguishing deep pain, heartbroken, empty, lonely, unmotivated, hazed, distracted and unfulfilled but never angry. And all of these feelings do not come at once. They come at random times. They may hang on for months or be fleeting after several hours. And it is not depression. Undoubtedly depression is a very real component to grief. These feelings are grief.

The hardest part of grief for me are the ever changing emotions. After 15 months the daily non stop crying has ceased but new feelings are now at the forefront. Things I haven’t felt before or dealt with before. I have a new found sense of independence. Yet the awareness that I am now absolutely unequivocally alone is luminous in every aspect of my life. I often feel a  sense of disbelief. It is as if a light has just been turned on and illuminated the fact that Robin is truly gone. I found great comfort, just as recently as six months ago,  being surrounded by couple friends and their families. I now find it an agonizing reminder of what is no longer.

And through it all I know that it will eventually all be well. But it is not well with me  yet. It is hard. I often think how much easier it would be  if grief came in absolute stages and steps. Then we would all be able to check off each emotion:  “done”…next.  Until then? All we can do is trudge forward. Know that we will never  know from one hour to the next what we are going to get in this journey called grief. And that is okay for today.

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Perfectly Orchestrated

I recently read a wonderful analogy of how to better understand Gods plan for our lives.

Have you ever watched a marching band perform at halftime during a football game? They create elaborate words or sentences in formation while belting out the school fight song. For the viewers at home watching on TV, the ones who have an aerial view, the acrobatics make perfect sense.  The aerial watchers have a clear picture of what the word formations say. To the fans in the bleachers the band just looks like they are gyrating around while playing instruments.  They often look lost while marching in circles trying not to bump into each other.

Our lives often look similar. Many times nothing makes sense to us here on earth. We are just trying to make the music of our lives. Sometimes it’s beautiful and sometimes not so much. We’re just trying not to step on toes. Just trying to get through the routine of life. Sometimes it all makes perfect sense. Many seasons we are just trying to make it all look and sound good. Hold it all together.

From Gods view? He sees it all. The big picture. He understands how the sound is to be played out. He sees and hears each and every note. Each stanza. He knows what the final symphony sounds like.

29 years ago today I said “I do”  having no idea that “In sickness” and “’til death due us part” would actually be part of my life song at such a (somewhat) young age. But God knew. And yet He is Sovereign. He is faithful. He is just. He sees my story. Robins story. Our daughters story. It all makes perfect sense to Him….even when it doesn’t make one bit of sense to me.

One day it will all be perfectly orchestrated. Until then? I am thankful that I was privileged enough to have been known, to have loved and been loved so well.

Happy 29th Anniversary, Robin Wooten. I can’t wait to see you again one day. I love you.

“For I am doing something in your own day, something you wouldn’t believe even if someone told you about it”~Habakkuk 1:5

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Happy Heavenly 1st Home-Going

“Look Up!” you told us. “Cling to what is good” you said. You assured us that “It is well with my soul”.  The past year I’ve clung to that truth with a broken heart and the promise that our Lord is the Great Healer.  The hardest battle I’ve ever fought. Most nights I have felt defeated. Yet the sun comes up and a new day dawns. With each alarm I arise with praise and thanksgiving that I was privileged to have loved you and been loved by you. With each day I ask the Lord to show me Joy.

A year later the landscape of our lives looks nothing as it did when you left. The change has not been well with my soul. Again, I ask the Lord to show me His Glory. Show me Joy. In the sorrow He has been my Comforter. In suffering He reminds me that every knee shall bow and every tongue shall confess.

A year later I have concluded that your death was not about you. It was about a family and a community getting right with God.  How do we conduct our lives? How do we treat those we say we love? What captivates our thoughts? Are we takers or givers? Do our lives show fruitfulness? Do we comfort or abandon? Self serve or serve others?

You knew you were meeting the Lord of Lords face to face. You spent your final months preparing for that meeting. It was magnificent to witness. Your death caused many to ask “Are we ready to meet Our Maker?”

I dreamt about you recently. You were healed. Standing tan and handsome in my garage. I was unpacking boxes. You walked up behind me and put your arms around me. You told me how proud you were of me. You told me that I had handled this year with grace and dignity.  You gave me intricate instructions and details on life going forward. As you turned to leave you said “I’m so proud of you, keep doing the right thing regardless of others behavior. I love you. Always do the right thing.”  There was a crash of thunder and I awake unsure if it was a real or a dream.

Have you put Jesus as your priority? Is He your ‘right thing’? He is real and our lives aren’t a dream. Life  can change in one diagnosis, one poor decision, one hardened heart.

Happy Heavenly 1st Home-Going, Robin Wooten! What a treasure you were! You are incredibly loved and missed. oxox

“This sickness will not end in death. No, it is for God’s glory so God’s Son may be glorified through it”~John 11:4

New Beginnings

 

Apparently today is National Widows Day. I’m not a fan. I’m not sure who decided this was something to celebrate. It’s not like we chose to be widows. It’s a title that, quite frankly, leaves a sour taste in my mouth. It’s a title that was thrust upon us widows without our permission.

I far more prefer to think of today as maybe “National New Beginnings Day”. I didn’t choose to be a widow. I am; however, choosing to go on with life. New  Beginnings as it were. That’s something worth celebrating! When my husband arrived in Glory at 12:32 AM on July 21, 2017, it was his New Beginning. “The old life is gone; a new life has begun!”~2 Corinthians 5:17.

I also don’t celebrate National ALS Awareness Month. ALS is the disease that took my husband. I applaud and am in awe of those who tirelessly advocate for research, science and a cure. For me, and this is just me, the cure for any illness is first and foremost our salvation in Jesus Christ. The rest? Incredibly important–do not misunderstand me–a cure to any illness is vital. But if we don’t prepare our hearts and souls for heaven? Secure our eternal salvation? This life and our legacy will have meant nothing.

So call me a stick in the mud. You won’t be the first or the last. I am not celebrating National Widows Day. Because I don’t want to be one. But I am one. So that leaves me in a precarious position today. I’ve decided instead of celebrating my widowhood I’m celebrating all the glorious things God has done for me because of my husbands death.  Now that’s a new one isn’t it?

I can’t bring Robin back. Lord knows I miss that man with all that I am. My entire being aches at the thought of him. I am still here though. I am alive. I survived. So I am choosing joy. It is, indeed, a choice. A hard one. But not impossible.

Happy National New Beginnings Day, Robin Wooten!

“Behold, the former things have come to pass, and the new things I declare;
before they spring forth I will tell you of them”-Isaiah 42:9

The Majesty Of It All

Last April our church asked to interview us for an Easter video. We were reluctant but ultimatley decided it was important to tell our story. I’d forgotten about the video until it popped up on my Facebook memories.  Both daughters shared it so I decided to take a quiet moment and view it.

As I watched I hardly recognized the woman in the video. It was me! I had no makeup on. I hadn’t colored my hair in months and I looked horrid. What was obvious; however, was my love of the Lord and my husband.  They both made it so easy! Mind boggling to think it was filmed just last April.

I have received several messages telling me how proud Robin would be of me. Honestly, I think the more important question is would Jesus be proud of me? I’d like to think so. Truthfully? I have really struggled to stay focused on Him. Yes, there has been oodles of grace along the way. Even still I have fallen short in many areas while navigating my new  life.

The enemy has done a marvelous job keeping me marled in the slop with the pigs. It’s been a tumultuous, heart breaking, lesson learning nine months since July 21, 2017. I’ve said it a million times: weddings and funerals bring out peoples true character. Character, I’ve found, really does count.

There has been joy.

Flower Friday continues to bring me smiles throughout my week. A lovely reminder that someone once loved me well even when I often don’t feel very loved.

My new home. The creative design aspect? Making it my own? Pure Joy!

Henry the Golden Retriever. He makes me laugh….and swear. Pure fury joy!

Friendship. Those who have spoken biblical truth and held me to the standard of the cross. Those who have reminded me the greater the testimony the greater the attack. The friends who have reminded me to stay the course even when the attacks come from within familial boundaries. Friends who have encouraged and corrected. Joy!

I often wonder who greeted Robin the night he went home. Was it just the Lord or was it all of heaven? Did the majesty of it all bring him to his knees? What crowns did he receive? Did he think “Oh, I wish Elizabeth could see this!” “Liv, oh man, streets of gold!” “These horses are awesome, C!” How amazing did it feel to finally be in a perfect body free from ALS?

Nine months. What a journey. You, Robin Wooten, are so loved and missed.

“In everything, do to others what you would have them do to you”-Matthew 7:12

 

The Cheap Seats

I’ve learned that I must keep my eyes focused on Jesus. If I don’t? I’m sucked right into all the buzz that is swirling around me.  Bo Sterns, ALS widow of Steve Sterns and author of ‘Beautiful Battlefields’, penned it perfectly “there will always be people yelling at you from the cheap seats”.

What I’ve found is the people making the loudest ruckus actually have absolutely nothing to say of any truth or any worth for that matter.  They want us to yell back or engage from our home plate. Take our eyes of the prize as it were.  Psalm 34:13 tell us to “keep your tongue from evil and your lips from telling lies”. Scripture makes it abundantly clear that we aren’t to tear people down but to use our words to build up.

I remember an acquaintance once asked me about my friends. Se wanted to know why were so close. I explained that we don’t gossip and we pray for one another. “There’s no way. Everyone gossips. What? Do you have prayer list?” I explained that, indeed, we pray for one another whenever and wherever we need too. Sometimes that is out loud or it may be a group text. And, no, we don’t gossip. And, yes, this is the beauty of Godly friendships.

That person who is willing to tell you all the scoop? That “friend” will be the first person to gossip about you when you leave the room. “Do not spread false reports. Do not help a guilty person by being a malicious witness”-Exodus 23:1.

Jesus tells us to look at peoples lives and see if they are fruitful.  The people screaming from the cheap seats? Are they angry? Bitter? Can they see beyond themselves? Do they lack compassion? Are they pursuing God or in pursuit of others? Are their branches empty or are they full of fruit?

Any tiny foothold the enemy can get into your life to squelch your testimony? You better believe he will! The bolder the testimony the louder the ruckus and the more ostentatious the the buzz. Ignore the cheap seats. You can pray for the people sitting way up there. Jesus is in the saving business so that we don’t have to be. Hand the spectators over to him.

“Jesus is God, even demons know this”-James 2:19IMG_0429

Our Portion

“My dear and precious friends, whom I deeply love, you have truly become my glorious joy and crown of reward. Now arise in the fullness of your union with our Lord I plead  with Euodia and Syntyche to settle their disagreement and be restored with one mind in our Lord. I would like my dear friend and burden-bearer to help resolve this issue, for both women have diligently labored with me for the prize and helped in spreading the revelation of the gospel, along with Clement and the rest of my coworkers. All of their names are written in the Book of Life. Be cheerful with joyous celebration in every season of life. Let joy overflow, for you are united with the Anointed One! Let gentleness be seen in every relationship, for our Lord is ever near. Don’t be pulled in different directions or worried about a single thing. Be saturated in prayer throughout each day,  offering your faith-filled requests before God with overflowing gratitude. Tell Him every detail of your life, then God’s wonderful peace that transcends human understanding, will make the answers known to you through Jesus Christ. So keep your thoughts continually fixed on all that is authentic and real, honorable and admirable, beautiful and respectful, pure and holy, merciful and kind. And fasten your thoughts on every glorious work of God, praising him always. Follow the example of all that we have imparted to you and the God of peace will be with you in all things”Philippians 4:1-9

As I read this letter from Paul to the Philippians I have a huge smile on my face. I’m smiling because though saved? Not much has changed amongst us fallible and squabbling people in 2,000 years has it? The perfectionist in me finds this somewhat of a relief.

There is so much to love about all nine of these verses! My favorite being:

         “Don’t be pulled in different directions or worried about a thing”

Paul goes on to say:

“Be saturated  in prayer throughout  each day, offering your
faith-filled requests before God with overflowing gratitude”

And my very part:

“Tell him every detail of your life, then God’s wonderful peace that
transcends human understanding, will make the answers known to you”

The enemy has convinced our society that all answers to life and all fulfillment of life can only be found in the material. Guess what? We have bought into the lie! Every aspect of our culture involves instant gratification. The irony is it seldom gratifies us longer than an instant.

For eleven months our family had the privilege of witnessing my husband live out Philippians 4. He was saturated in God’s word, precision focused on what is righteous and true, full of joy and laughter and not worried about anything except  the present. I can only describe it as a supernatural season. We knew we were a part of something bigger than we were and very special. I believe Robin’s illness (ALS) and testimony were used not only for God’s glory but as a wake up call for our family and many in our community.

When we focus on what is good, righteous and true? Immediately we are able to identify what and who or whom is unhealthy and or hurtful in our lives. It also helps us to be appreciative, thankful and filled with over flowing gratitude for all that we do have verses  all that we think we should have. Jesus should be our portion. Our everything because we are His everything.

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