Thursday, April 27, 2017

National Volunteer Week

Wow!  It's been busy around here!  In a good way, though.  It helps me to stay busy.

A few weeks ago, The Right Path had a rough volunteer week with HALF of our volunteers out with illness.  We even called in all of our back up volunteers and few of THOSE had emergencies! 😳  Whew!  That was some fancy footwork but, praise the Lord, we did not have to cancel even one class!

This week we actually had to cancel classes because all of US are sick!  Ugh.  I really don't like to do that.  I don't like being sick, either...

I've been thinking a lot about volunteer work lately.  There are so many wonderful organizations that exist for the sole purpose of helping others.  Great causes that depend on volunteers to keep ministering to those in need.  And, really, aren't we all in need at some point in our lives?

A friend asked me last week if they should force their teen to volunteer somewhere.  That's a tough question.  My answer might surprise you.  I said no.

You heard correctly.  NO.  Because I don't really think forced volunteer work helps anyone.  But also because I think giving of yourself, pouring your heart into someone else, focusing on someone's needs other than your own, serving someone with no expectation for any return...these are learned behaviors.  We've all heard the saying, "Values are caught, not taught."  Well, I think that's true on many levels.  Including volunteering.

So here are my suggestions for parents who have a child that is struggling with selfishness:

1)  Don't expect your teen to do what you're not doing.  

We're all busy.  I get it.  Really.  There are a million reasons that prevent us from volunteering our time for someone else.  But all those reasons can quickly become excuses if we aren't careful.  When we are constantly telling our children to do something that we can't find time for, we are really sending the message to our children that it really isn't that important.

2)  Don't project your ideas and goals into their volunteer work.

Just because you love an organization doesn't mean they will love the organization.  That's okay.  Abby has been volunteering her time, training horses for a rescue facility, for the past 2 years.  It's not my thing, or Michael's, but we all schedule our time around it.  This year Sherrod joined her in the task.  Although it isn't always easy, it's good for them to do what they love.

3)  Give yourself grace AND make a plan.

You work full-time.  Kids are in school.  Baseball practice always runs late.  You fall into bed exhausted each night.  I get it.  Maybe this isn't your season for full-time volunteering.  That's okay.  Almost every organization has something a one-time volunteer can do.  Just make a plan to fit something into your schedule.

4)  Get the whole family involved.

Sit down with your family, discuss your desires, and set a goal.  In the beginning, maybe it will be to volunteer as a group somewhere once a year.  Soup kitchen on Thanksgiving.  Benefit car wash.  Mow an elderly neighbor's yard.  When you all get together and start looking at the needs around you, you'll find something that jumps out at you.

5)  Be an advocate.

Help the organization you like by getting the word out.  It's super easy to do thinks like: share a post on FB, retweet a message, forward an email.  You might have a great idea for a fundraiser (something every nonprofit is in need of) that you can share.


The bottom line is, get involved any way you can.  And it will be much easier to raise children who are willing and ready to get involved.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Time to Breathe

Who am I kidding?  I'm not leaving any time to breathe...

I'm staying incredibly busy, not even allowing time for adequate sleep.  Not that I was getting that anyway.  But it seems a little more harried than usual.
ICE CREAM FOR BREAKFAST
Maybe that's because in the last 2 weeks we've celebrated William's 10th birthday, completed our first ever William's Walk Memorial Trail Ride, which was a blast...held our literacy days at the ranch...MOVED...continued daily therapeutic riding classes, daily family events, such as service dog training/lessons, rescue horse training/lessons, doctor appointments for T1D and pulled muscles, AND dealt with some weird family illness on top of it all.  In fact, I was up holding my baby all night last night, which prevented me from getting on the computer at the crack of dawn this week.  But I am thankful to be able to hold him through his misery.  😍

Michael and I have both failed to properly acknowledge parental birthdays this month, we have failed to be on our church prayer call 2 weeks in a row, I've double booked 2 appointments, been late for countless others, and forgot one altogether.  I've become the person who busily fills each and every moment of my day, often borrowing moments from another day.

But even with all of the busy craziness going on, I don't forget.  I can't get away from the fact that I miss my little boy.  No amount of busy, no amount of time-filling brings relief from the grief.  In fact, the more time that passes, the more "real" it becomes to me, the harder it seems to get.

In the midst of all the busy, I still have the work of grief.

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Oh My Soul

My dear friend and sister in loss, Melanie, who writes over at The Life I Didn't Choose, shared this song yesterday.  When I heard it, I simply thought, "Yes!"  This song rings so true.

This is why I continue to write on William's blog. It's why I pour out my deepest, darkest thoughts and feelings. 

So often, I hear Christians, well-meaning and loving, comparing how others grieve or proclaiming one grief to be "godly" while tsk-tsking another.  I wanted other grieving Christians to know they are not alone.

They are not wrong for grieving.

It doesn't make them "less" Christian.

It means they loved deeply.  They still love deeply.

Finishing the race well doesn't mean we never doubt or question or wonder or get angry or weary.  It simply means that through all of that, we continue to seek Him, praise Him, follow Him.  It means that when we have doubts, we cry out, "Lord, I believe...help Thou my unbelief."

Scripture is full of hurting, grieving people.  I love the examples given to us.  They weren't perfect people with perfect responses.  I think of Job, blameless and righteous, and the trials he faced and how much he grieved.  I think of David and the Psalms, which are full of his grief and crying out.

Grief is a heavy load to carry.

This is the valley.

Let Him show you how you can lay this down.

You are not alone.


Thursday, April 6, 2017

Moving Day

This week... Oh, this week.  There's...just...so...much.  Saturday marks 10 years ago that I walked the floor around my grandfather's pool table, waiting for my blessing to come.  And he did, ever so sweetly, in the bedroom I loved as a child.  So many happy memories.  My grandfather tried to stay awake for William's birth, but couldn't.  He certainly enjoyed him the next day, though.  And every day after.  I'm so very grateful that William was born in his home.  An incredible blessing for 3 generations.

And now this new home.  The day has arrived.  We have moved.  I spent my first night in a house that William never lived in.  I have such an odd mixture of emotions.

I have been torn about leaving our house...the place where William loved, laughed, crawled, ate, slept, worked, played, and lived.  But I have also looked forward to moving to the place that he loved so dearly (more because of the Kirklands than because of the house💖), the place he so looked forward to and planned out his bedroom...the place where his worn out body is laid to rest.

I do not remember how this letter came to me but it touches me to the core.  It was posted on a blog titled, Mommy is a Widow.  Even though it is written to her husband, the sentiment is so very, very similar that I could not write a better letter myself.  I thought it fitting to post her entire letter here today:

Dear Husband,
Today is moving day. Last night was the last night I will ever spend sleeping in the same house that I once shared with you. Now I must take this packed house and start a new life in a new place. A life without you in a place that isn’t yours. This isn’t a day of celebration, nor is it a day to grieve. This is a day for both simultaneously. I do not celebrate moving into a new life without you; but rather, I acknowledge that this is the first major step in accepting that you are not coming home. I know it seems that I should have accepted this by now, but how do you accept the unacceptable truth that the one you can’t live without is gone.
This house stopped feeling like home after you died, but in this place I still hold onto this hope that you will be coming home. That there has been an impossible mistake and you aren’t really gone, or maybe this is all a dream and I just need to wake up. Leaving feels like giving up hope and I don’t want to go. Every time I tried to pack up this house it broke me. I have spent more time sobbing on the floor than accomplishing anything useful. So I asked for help and found it in the most amazing place. Your coworkers packed this entire house. There were so many of them. They came with a plan and didn’t ask anything of me. I think if I had sat on the couch sobbing the whole time they would have just worked around me. They were wonderful and exactly what I needed. I am still speechless from everything they’ve done for us (I know… me… speechless!). But as soon as they finished, I broke down into tears because I realized that the time is here for me to take my first step away from you. You have already left, I know that, but it is so hard for me to have to be the one to take this next step into this new life without you.
They tell me you will always be with me, that you are still here in my heart. And I know that. But it’s not enough. And moving from this house does feel a little like leaving you, even though I know you will be no more gone than you already are. But on the nights that I really need you, I will no longer be able to close my eyes and imagine that you are there in that space the way you once were. I will not be able to close my eyes and go back to the moments that I don’t want to let go of, and just be in them with you. I won’t be able to stand in the places you once held me and imagine that you are right here, that you are holding me like you once did. I still have my days where I just hope and pray that I will hear you come up those stairs. The closer we get to this move the more I have been wishing for you to just undo this and come home. We can just fix this and go back to the way it always was, the way it is supposed to be. But I will never go back to the person I was before, and we will never be able to go back to how it was.
Today I am moving out of our house and into a house that you never called home. The strength that it takes to move today is a strength I am not sure I have, but I know that even if I’m not strong enough to move this mountain, it will be moved today. I have learned something that you learned years ago before I met you, and something you continued to face through the years that we walked together into battles with your health. You don’t know how strong you are until being strong is no longer a choice. You were strong. And I am admitting now that I never realized the strength it took for you to face what you have faced every single day when you were sick. Every day you ached, every day you hurt, every day you watched everyone else go through “normal” while you were stuck with sick. And every day you got up and kept going as if you didn’t feel the hell that I know you felt some days. So I am following your example. I am doing what you did, or at least trying to. You have given me so much strength, and you have given me my reason to stay strong and power through this. You have given me reason to heal, not just survive. I don’t want to survive this. I want to heal. I hope in time I can find the same grace that you had when you watched everyone else go through normal while you were living through the unfair, the broken, the harder than “normal”.
So today I am moving. Today I am taking this first step away from the life we lived together. Today I will survive this, tomorrow I will break from this, and the next day I will start to heal from this. I miss you every single day. I love you with every piece of me that is still here. You will always be in my life, you will always be my family. You will always be my love.
Love,
Me

Thursday, March 30, 2017

What to Say

I seriously did not think I would ever do this, but here it is:

What to say to someone who is grieving the loss of their child.

I could probably list a thousand things NOT to say.  Things like:

God needed another angel in heaven.
It hurts God more than it hurts you.
We're so selfish to wish our loved ones back here.
At least you have other children.
It's time to move on.

I know.  It's almost comical.

Except it's not.

What is it about human nature that makes us say things even we don't believe to try to make someone feel better?

I feel like I want to poke out my eardrums sometimes. Especially with the angel comment.  I know William seemed angelic on earth.  He was super sweet.  And kind.  And generous.  Yes.  I remember. But he's not an angel.  He's a saint.  But I also know we don't need to get into a big, drawn out, theological debate when you are just trying to take a moment to be kind.  And honestly, the only thing I have the energy for is a blank stare.

So here it is.  If you're in a situation where you need a one-liner, here is my big, long list of what to say to someone who is grieving the loss of their child.

1) I'm so sorry for your loss.
2) I'm so sorry for your loss.
3) I'm so sorry for your loss.
4)...

You get the idea.  If you feel the need to embellish, you can add, "I cannot imagine," in there.  Because you can't.  No loss you've experienced is the same.  Even my friends who have experienced child loss do not have my same journey.  Sure, there are similarities, but the experience is unique.  It's so unique and personal that, even though Michael and I lost the same child, our grief is different.  It's why it's so lonely.  No matter how much you love and support one another, there's a certain amount of this road that no one can travel with you.  You have to do it alone.  (Well, with Christ, but no other person here on earth.)

Now, if you're in a situation where you actually want to devote time to a griever and you know them well, by all means share a story of their loved one or tell them you are thinking of their loved one, too.

One of my happiest moments in the last few weeks was when a friend called up just to say hi.  After some small talk about the business of life and all that is coming up she said, "I heard a harmonica the other day and it made me think of William and how much he loved to play his.  And I remembered his great big smile after he would blow on it.  So I prayed right then that God would give you an extra measure of grace to face the coming month."

Wow.  Now THAT is a gift.  No pressure for me to say how I'm doing or respond in any way.  No cookie-cutter one-liner that I might have heard 5 other times that day.  It was heartfelt and sincere.  She not only told me exactly how she had been praying for me, but she also shared a memory she had of William, giving me permission to talk about him freely while letting me know he's not forgotten.

So, there you have it.  There is no one-liner that will help magically bring relief to someone who is grieving, so stay away from them, in general.  If you love a griever, it takes time, compassion, grace, and perhaps forgiveness to help bring healing.  And even then, they won't be the same.

Remember, a broken vase might be repaired with super glue.  It might still be beautiful or useful.  It might hold flowers as it did before.  It might even be able to hold water again.  But the crack will always be there.  It might be more visible to some than to others, but it will always be there.