Thursday, June 22, 2017

Little Boy Blue

I've been thinking a lot about the items he left behind.  The loved items that go un-played with.  They sit on a shelf, untouched.  Where they once brought only great joy, they now bring so much sorrow, mingled with sweet memories.
Yes, I have kept many of his things.  No, I do not have them set up as a shrine.  This wall is in my sewing room, hidden away from the bulk of the world.  Yes, I feel a twinge of guilt for keeping his things hidden away.  No, I know he is not in them.  But he once loved them.  Once touched them.  And somehow I just cannot bring myself to part with them.  Not yet.  I don't know if I ever will.

These shelves are another oxymoron in my life.  Sometimes these items bring me so much joy.  It's at these times, when I can hardly bear to leave this room, when I am longing to feel his touch just once more.

But at other times, these things bring so much sorrow.  Unbearable sorrow.  It's at these times, when I absolutely cannot bear to be in this room, when I am longing to feel his touch just once more.

I came across this poem by Eugene Field.  I thought it was a beautiful depiction of dashed hopes, shattered dreams, and all the firsts that are buried with a child, taken far too soon.

The little toy dog is covered with dust,
   But sturdy and stanch he stands;
And the little toy soldier is red with rust,
   And his musket molds in his hands.
Time was when the little toy dog was new,
   And the soldier was passing fair;
And that was the time when our Little Boy Blue
   Kissed them and put them there.

"Now, don't you go till I come," he said,
   "And don't you make any noise!"
So, toddling off to his trundle-bed,
   He dreamt of the pretty toys;
And, as he was dreaming, an angel song
   Awakened our Little Boy Blue---
Oh! the years are many, the years are long,
   But the little toy friends are true!

Ay, faithful to Little Boy Blue they stand,
   Each in the same old place---
Awaiting the touch of a little hand,
   The smile of a little face;
And they wonder, as waiting the long years through
   In the dust of that little chair,
What has become of our Little Boy Blue,
   Since he kissed them and put them there.

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Hope, Love, and Youth

I love young adults.  Seriously.  From my own young adult children to the friends in their lives and mine - I just love them.  Young people are refreshing, compassionate, zealous, and quite honestly, the young people in my life remind me of how we're supposed to treat one another.  Overlooking faults.  Choosing love.  Showing compassion.  Meeting needs.  Working hard.  Having fun.

I look at these young people in my life and I feel hope.  Maybe things aren't quite as bad as it seems.  God is clearly working, even if through a remnant.  I am amazed at the solidarity and strength of the group of young people I know.  Mature and wise beyond their years, yet with the playfulness and goofiness of youth.

I want all of my young adult friends to know how much their love means to me.  I haven't mentioned every deed, but it's all been meaningful.  From leaving things at William's grave to long talks in the office to dropping in to check on us to wearing your BE MIGHTY shirts and so, so much more...all of your deeds have played a huge part in our grieving (and healing) process.

I have been so wrapped up in my own grief that I almost forgot how much all of you loved William.  How he impacted your lives.  How he changed you forever.  A couple of weeks ago, while speaking with a friend, she made this comment...

"When we lost William..."

It hit me like a bucket of water.  A much needed bucket of water.  She wasn't minimizing my grief and wasn't even trying to make a point to me, it was just a natural course of conversation because I'm not the only one who lost him.  It wasn't just our family who loved him so dearly.  We aren't the only ones who sacrificed for him...who would have done ANYTHING for him.

It really made me think about all my young adult friends and how William's death affected them.  And I'm so sorry.  I'm sorry that I've been so focused on my own loss and navigating through my grief that I haven't given much thought to what you were going through.  I am sorry that you lost a dear, little friend and that at far too young an age you all faced such grief.  I am so very thankful that you all have strong family support systems.  I know you already know, but I just want to remind you that William loved you all very much.  And to thank you for always including him and making him feel so loved.  Horses, letters, balls, harmonicas, hospital visits, reading, wrestling, farm animals, legos, singing, parties, and so much more... You all know who you are.  Thank you.

Thank you for being there.  For being so present through his short life and for loving us through our grief.  We're here for you, too.  We love you!

Speaking of young adults, I received the most beautiful message earlier this week from a dear, young friend who gently reminded me that he is praying for me.  And he wrote this sweet poem and sent it to me...

Sorrow

With trembling lips and tear filled eyes
I started this new day,
It seems that all my earnest cries
Lie silent, bleak and gray.

This aching heart, oh who can know?
This grief and sorrow deep.
This pain, this burden still does grow
My eyes have lost their sleep.

Why does it seem so silent still,
Does no one ever hear?
Will pain alone my life now fill
'Till death and grave draw near?

Oh how I long to see his face,
If only but once more.
To hold him in a tight embrace;
My joy to heaven soar.

But death has taken hold of him
The grave his body took.
The enemy and reaper grim
Gave him their final look.

My thoughts now go to bygone years
When once a mother wept.
She too had many doubts and fears
Laid down, but never slept.

Her Son had suffered more than all
Forsaken He had hung.
He drunk the bitter cup of gall
And dried out was His tongue.

He too was placed within the grave
His body broken lay.
A stone was rolled to close the cave,
A guard watched night and day.

It was His God and Father Who
Did kill His only Son.
He did so that for me and you
Our curse would be undone.

Yet Grave His body could not keep
He rose to life again.
And now though we may mourn and weep
We know, He knows our pain.

My head I now can lift with joy
For I will yet him see.
Death has not triumphed, and my boy
Will rise to victory.

In all my suffering pain and grief
I now have steadfast hope.
My God does hear and grant relief
I once again can cope.

Though weeping may endure the night
And sorrow fill my heart.
Joy cometh with the morning bright.
To God I thanks impart.    ~ Roelf Kars Janssen

Friday, June 9, 2017

Providence

For whatever reason, my post did not publish yesterday (Thursday).  Hmmm.  Maybe my subject was harsher than I had intended or just simply not profitable.  Anyway, I'm going to spend some time rethinking it.

Today I've been thinking about this quote by Florence Nightingale, "Life is a hard fight, a struggle, a wresting with the principle of evil, hand to hand, foot to foot.  Every inch of the way is disputed.  But the night is given us to take breath and to pray, to drink deep at the fountain of power.  The day, to use the strength that has been given us, to go forth to work with it till the evening."

It is hard.  I know I'm not sleeping as I should, but I almost need the quiet of the night to rejuvenate.  And I must still spend time with my thoughts of him and those come, sweetly, but mostly at night.

I cannot think of anything that matches the joy that the blessing of children brings to a family.  And I am quite certain that there is nothing on earth that rivals the sorrow of a family forced to bury a child.

Thursday, June 1, 2017

Hospitality and Something Special

There's been MUCH activity since we moved 7 weeks ago!  It's been fun, but we've also learned a lot about our family.  Namely, we have a lot to learn about being good hosts!  ðŸ˜§  I am so grateful that we have a great hosting area, I pray that we can be good stewards of it...

Over the last month, we've enjoyed a lot of company.  Our sweet friends came to visit from California and even though a few of us were very ill and poor company, they braved it through.  I can't even remember if we fed them over the few days they were here, but they didn't perish of starvation so I guess they figured something out! 😯  Too much of the house to list hadn't been unpacked but they graciously stepped over things. 😜 Hopefully the whole family can come soon.  Or who knows? Maybe we'll actually take a trek their direction... 😁

A good game of Clue
The Chess masters
Catch Phrase is always a favorite!

What's an Ocker visit without horses?
Sean and Benjamin
Little girls at play
A lot of time was passed in this manner... :)
Sweet little girls
Part of the YPL team

When we heard Douglas Bond was going to be in town, of course we invited him out.  The children were so excited to meet one of their all-time favorite authors!  Doug started with a Young Writer's Workshop where he taught about 20 young people.


After the workshop, families came together at the barn where we enjoyed a time of fellowship and dinner.



We had about 70 people stay to hear Doug speak on "Reformation Romance."  He made Luther's life sound so funny and interesting!  I highly recommend his book, Luther in Love.
He stayed after, signing books.  Sarah brought out this stack of Bond books for him to autograph! Haha!  We are actually missing a few of his books.  We'll have to remedy that!



We also met a new family who came to stay for a bit.  It was nice to get to know them, even in the midst of still getting settled in.  Although in our house things never really settle down, so it's pretty much always crazy busy!  While they were here, we also finished the back fence, moved the chicken coop, got the dogs moved to the house (Finally! Yay!), moved part of the shed, and took care of a few Right Path things.  Whew!  We also had part of our church out to meet them, which was a lot of fun.  Oh, and I almost forgot...my new lights were installed in the living room!  Woo-hoo!  Super exciting!
The group...what a blessing!
Of course horses!
I love the piano...thanks again, Mr. Kirkland!

Some braved the cold water with the heater broken
I have no idea what was so interesting and funny...
A new game...Code Names


The living room is up and running and Wallace even got to help!  He was super excited!  Also, my pantry should be installed later today and the pool heater should be up and running next week.  AND, we have more company coming over the summer!  I am so excited!  BOTH of my sisters who live out of state will be visiting us this summer!  Yay!

We are so grateful to everyone who helped us move, build, remodel, fence...everything!  The meals were so incredibly helpful, too!  We have been so very blessed with the love of such good friends.  Seriously, I cannot express enough what all of you mean to us.  I don't know how we would have gotten through the past year and a half+ without you.  It's taught me to never underestimate the power of love, a kind word, a sweet gesture...what only takes a moment of your time could mean the world to someone.  And it's got me thinking a lot about forgiveness, repentance, restoration, and grace, so be prepared to get my thoughts on that in the future.😁

I got to introduce Benjamin's beautiful talents to our new friends.  Later as we were discussing how God has blessed him with amazing ability, I was able to show them this video.  I thought I would repost it because it's so beautiful and powerful.  And special.  Again, I'm so grateful for the love of friends...






Thursday, May 25, 2017

Still

There's been so much going on and we've been so very busy that you'd think I am just moving on.  But I'm not.  Forward, maybe.

But there's never an event we attend or hospitality we show where I don't think, "God, I sure wish he was here.  He would love this..."

I still cry almost every day.  I still long to hear his voice.  My arms still ache to feel his little body wrapped up in them.  My heart still feels shattered.

But even in the midst of all the grief that is so prominent, I am so very, very thankful that I got to be his Momma.  I'm grateful that I had 8 and 1/2 years to show love to that precious boy.  But now I have the rest of my lifetime to find a place for that love to go...

Monday, May 22, 2017

BTER Trainer's Challenge 2017

Whoa!  It's been a wild 4 months.  Honestly, I'm glad it's over.  I've really missed my girls!
But I'm also really grateful they get to participate in such a wonderful event.  I'm thankful for the lessons learned, both the easier ones AND the harder ones.

The Trainer's Challenge was held Saturday at the Shawnee Expo Center.  We are all so grateful to everyone who came out to support Abby and Sherrod on Saturday, who mentored them both along the way, who supported their dream, and who continue to love, support, and pray for them.  You all are amazing!

I've been trying to think about where to start.  There are so many aspects of this year's Challenge.  So many things were learned...about horses, about self, about others.  I guess I'll start with placing, although that certainly is not the most important aspect.  Abby placed 1st in the adult division.  A very sweet young lady named Kaidyn placed 1st in the youth division.  Sherrod placed 5th in the youth, which actually put her in last place and we all know that is a hard thing for anyone.
So, on to the rest.  I am unbelievably proud of both of my girls.  I'm going to start with Abby, since she's older.  :)  
Last year, Abby got the last pick, which really made her nervous as she watched all her top picks get taken.  She ended up with Prancer, who was actually on her list, but not a top pick.  Providentially, that was supposed to be her horse.  Prancer taught her so much!  And Abby didn't have to struggle her way through training.  Prancer was a great first run!  I'm so thankful that Abby had that experience to build her confidence and really help her step outside of herself.  She needed that so much in her life at that time.  However, there was this one horse that caught Abby's eye last year.  His name was Hooey. He was labeled for an adult trainer only, so she couldn't have picked him anyway, and, to be frank, he was too much horse for her last year.  But all year long, she's thought about him.  She felt drawn to him.  She knew going into this year that if she had the opportunity to pick him, she would...no matter what else there was to choose from.  The day of the pick, she was surprised to learn that because she was last year's youth winner, she got to pick 2nd.  So she got her horse.  When she got home, she cried.  She said she felt like she abandoned him last year and that wasn't going to happen to him again.  It nearly broke my heart that day, but also as the days went by and I watched her struggle to get through to him.  It seemed nothing she tried worked.  There were a lot of down days as she watched trainer after trainer begin to ride their horse, but she couldn't get on him yet.  But she was determined to learn to speak his language and connect with him.  She sought advice from mentors, she took more lessons, she studied, she experimented.  And little by little it worked.  At some point along the 4mo training, she began calling him Obi (for Obi Wan).  She said she felt he needed a name to live up to.  And the funny thing is, I think that's about when he started to make his turn around.  They formed a bond and he became willing to do anything for her.  
Of course she hit me with the, "Momma, I LOVE him and I want to adopt him."  Naturally, I gave her the lecture about not being able to adopt every horse she trains.  ðŸ˜ And she replied, "Only him.  It's only him."  Then came the conversation about needing to justify why in the world we would need another horse.  Which she did.  So after the competition came the bidding.  She had a limit and a lot of people knew she wanted him but there were others bidding on him, too.  He very quickly jumped outside of her original limit.  But before that happened, she had people coming up to her, offering to help her buy him!  I was absolutely floored.  Old friends, family, very new friends, and complete strangers...all trying to help her.  Before the auction was over, she had enough pledges that I don't think anyone would have topped her, but fortunately she did not have to call in all the pledges.  And she brought her guy home.  The whole day was such a humbling experience for her.
And Sherrod...what can I say?  I'm so incredibly proud of her!  This girl is a no-nonsense, no-excuses kind of girl and I love it!  She has done a great job with Sassafras over the past 4 months and even though she had a bit of a hiccup just before she entered the arena for her performance, she gathered her composure, altered her plan slightly, and pulled off a great routine.  I love how she handled 5th place, with grace and beauty because that's who she is.  I'm so pleased with her attitude.  She understands that she's really only competing against herself, always trying to be better than she was the ride before.  And she was genuinely happy for the other trainers.  I know quite a few adults in my life who could really take a lesson in character from this girl.  What a blessing she is!
Sassafras did not get adopted and that was the most disappointing part of the entire day for Sherrod.  It just broke my heart to see how personally she took that.  Sass is a great little horse and there were several people looking at her for a kid's (note: beginner) horse.  Sherrod said she wasn't quite ready for little children to be turned loose on her but with a little bit of work, one day she'll be a PERFECT kid's horse.  Unfortunately, that didn't help and she's still up for adoption at Blaze's.  That was probably the hardest part of the competition for Sherrod because she so wanted Sass to get adopted, with every fiber of her, but she also wants to be honest and not have someone get something they aren't expecting and someone end up hurt.  I'm really proud of her and I just know that Sass will get adopted soon and someone is going to love her forever!

Last, but certainly not least, that brings me to Blaze's Tribute Equine Rescue, itself.  The more I am involved with this rescue, the more impressed I am...from the owner's to Board Members to volunteers to trainers.  I am so thankful for the way they've taken my girls in and just made them part of the family.  I love how the trainers all cheer each other on and help each other out and give tips when needed.  Of course everyone wants to win, but the goal first and foremost is to help the horse and I think that's super cool!  There are a few trainers that we've just come to love.  It's funny, I think the trainers understand something that a lot of bystanders might not and that is...it's all subjective.  Awesome trainers have awesome days but they also have off days.  The same is true of horses.  And if you replace only one judge, you might have a totally different outcome.  So, yes, winning is fun, but it isn't the ultimate.  It's more about seeing how far you can bring the horse.  And here's where I'm going to add a little side note that might upset someone.  Please, please, please don't tell Sherrod she should have placed higher.  Tell her she did an awesome job and tell her you're proud of her, but when people squabble about how the judges scored a participant, they really negate the whole process and invalidate the other trainers who have also worked incredibly hard.  All of the trainers had to overcome some wacky and difficult obstacles.  They all did amazingly well with their horses and I think they all have something to be proud of.  Sherrod is a determined young lady and she's already talking about next year.  This experience will definitely make her stronger.

For those who missed the competition, Selah was able to get decent video:

Abby

Sherrod

I couldn't be more proud of both girls (and horses)!

Thursday, May 18, 2017

A Little Thanks Goes a Long Way

Everyone is probably aware by now that we don't really celebrate holidays.  I mean, there's a couple of historical holidays but nothing religious.  That's a whole conversation for another time.  ðŸ˜œ

I find myself dreading holidays, even if we don't celebrate them.  I don't know why I had such a dread for Mother's Day.  I am, after all, still a mother.  I think it's just because it's so hard to face any day, knowing that William will not be here to partake in it, but if it's any kind of a special day, well, that's just far too much.

As a side note, did you know that Mother's Day was originally instituted to remember and comfort mothers who were grieving the loss of their child? That's a far cry from where we are today. 

The couple of weeks leading up to Mother's Day were sheer torture.  Sleepless nights, waking up crying (I hadn't done that in awhile), crying daily, easy frustration, short temper, the desire to crawl into a hole... Finally, I could take it no more.  When one of those emotions would creep up and threaten to overtake me, I would simply stop and think of one thing I was thankful for.  Just one.  And I would turn my mind to that one thing and dwell on that for awhile.

Before long, I started feeling like I was making it back to the new normal, instead of falling into the deep pit of grief despair.  And the day turned out to be pretty wonderful.

Wallace was baptized.  Is there anything greater than that?



Our church fellowship met in our home, which was extremely helpful for me to not have to actually leave my door.  I know that sounds odd, but sometimes the thought of that is just more than I can take.

We had wonderful fellowship with dear friends into the evening.

And my children had a special surprise for me, which included a subtle memorial to William.  I love how they are so careful of my feelings and really take care of and protect me.  And how they make him a part of our celebrations.  Our big moments.  And our small ones.

Sometimes, it's the little things.

Thursday, May 11, 2017

The Lord Gives...


My questions have not been answered, but my faith has grown.  I do not know the "why's" of life, but I have no doubts about WHO.  I'm still totally in love with the book of Job and I've really come to view it as a love letter from God to His faithful, hurting people.

There's so much treasure on the book of Job.  I think about Job...A LOT.  I think it's interesting that God tells us, not just once but THREE times, in the opening that Job was blameless.  Job feared God and he turned away from evil.  Job's suffering was not connected to sin in any way.

And he loves God.  He knows God.  His first response, his instinct, is to immediately trust God.  He knows God is sovereign.  Job starts with faith, “Naked I came from my mother’s womb and naked I shall return.  The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.” Job 1:21

Isn't that the basic response of Christians?  It's part of us...innate.  Of course we trust the Lord.  It's so easy to spend our lives saying, "God's got this."  "God is in control."  "God has a purpose and a plan."  "God knows what He's doing."  And it's all true.

But sometimes in this life things happen that we can't even fathom.  God's plan for us includes things we NEVER imagined He would ask us to walk through.  The pain seems unbearable and it catches us off guard.  We begin to question... Maybe we question God's goodness.  Maybe we question His plan.  Maybe we question His authority.  This is why Job is such a wonderful book.  Job walks through the darkest of places when reality sinks in.  He asks hard questions.  Moral questions.  Theological questions.  Philosophical questions.  Real questions.  He is accusatory of his friends, who are not compassionate, understanding, or helpful.  He actually questions God's ways, God's will, God's justice.

And, of course, in the end, God answers him and Job is humbled.  He realizes God is more than he could possibly conceive.  He repents and is restored into fellowship with God.  What Job comes back to in the end is that there is nothing but trust in God.

I think one of the great things that Job provides us is to encourage us to ask the big questions.  To ask those questions and let Him strengthen our faith, our trust.  We may never have answers.  Our circumstances may not change.  We would not be able to understand it, even if God gave us answers.

Thursday, May 4, 2017

I Am Still Me...Yet Not

I wake up every morning and look into the mirror at a stranger.

I don't really know her.  I like her even less.

I miss the woman who used to fill her place.

The carefree woman who laughed easily.

The confident woman who believed her prayers would overcome.

The fighter who saw hope at every corner.

I miss her.

I really don't know this stranger who peers back at me.

She is weak, worn and tattered...broken.  She is a tired woman with worry lines and gray hair and sad eyes.  I hardly recognize her.

She is a stranger who struggles with fear, faith, hope, and complacency.  She is a woman who lives with one foot in two different worlds, whose life has become a constant battleground.

As much as I miss her, I miss him even more.  What I wouldn't give to hold him in my arms again.


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.  ðŸ˜

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.



Saturday, March 25, 2017

T-Shirts: BE MIGHTY and Trainer's Challenge

Here's the scoop on the Trainer's Challenge t-shirts for Abby and Sherrod:
Shirts are $25 each.  Proceeds will support both girls and help care for their horses while they are here.  Deadline to order is April 15.  Here's what they look like:

Please contact Abby via text, email, or FB if you'd like to order.  NOT ME.  There's enough swirling around in my head...😜

Also, it's time to order BE MIGHTY shirts again.  As always, these shirts are a free gift from our family.  If you'd like one, please let me know by April 8 (William's birthday).  If you need my email, it's joshalyn@rightpathridingacademy.org.  We will also have a few BE MIGHTY shirts on hand to give away at the trail ride.

Wow!  Lots of t-shirt ordering going on around here.  We just ordered the shirts for the very first WILLIAM'S WALK MEMORIAL TRAIL RIDE.  I look forward to seeing how they turn out.

We are also in the process of ordering shirts for WILLIAM'S WALK at The Right Path.  Deadline is also April 15.

So, if you think about it, say a little prayer for my sanity... 😘

Thursday, March 23, 2017

How Are You?

What a question.

I have 2 options when asked this question.

Option One:  I can put on the show.  Put the wall up.  Smile and give the obligatory, "I'm fine."  Then get out of Dodge.

Option Two:  I can break down, sobbing, and talk about how I feel like such a failure and a fraud.  How it's so hard to hear people tell me how strong I am or how great I'm doing or how much they admire how I've held fast while I just want to scream, "It's all an illusion.  I'm none of those things.  I'm just good at pretending."  I can lament the fact that I am controlled by fear in everything I do now.  There's no area of my life it doesn't touch.  I could tell about how grief has changed me.  How I feel it to my very core.  It's nearly impossible to live with it.  It's more impossible to live without it.

I usually opt for number one.

People expect me to be joyful.  They expect that the hope that lives within me is enough to extinguish the grief.

But it's not.

"Sorrow is knowledge; those that know the most must mourn the deepest." Lord Byron

The grief remains.  Don't get me wrong, I'm grateful for the hope.  I cling to it.  But I'm still living this life without my little boy.  I will miss him as long as God gives me breath.  Every moment of every day.  He is a part of me.  That's how God made me.  So I carry the sorrow, just as I carry the love.

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Roller Coaster

This week has been very emotional.  I've had extreme highs and extreme lows.

Sarah and I got a new wish child on Friday.  We took a road trip (almost to Missouri) to visit him on Saturday.  Oh, my!  He's a cutie!

On Sunday Vixey died.  Boy, that was tough.  So many memories there.  She was such a sweet little dog.




I turned around on Monday and had a great day!  We took Velvet to The Children's Hospital at OU Medical Center to visit children during their chemo treatments.  Wow!  Was that ever fun!  There were several children that we visited that made the whole trip worth the effort, even if they had been the only one we visited!  One girl, in particular, really struck my heart.  We had already visited a group out in what they call the pod.  They asked if we would mind coming around to individual children in their own rooms.  Of course we didn't!  As we're walking around the corner, a mom is hanging out in the doorway of her child's room, while daughter is sitting, watching TV.  Mom says, "Oh, hey, you have a visitor.  You will NEVER guess who's here."  Daughter, who looks really pale and tired, says, "Oh, Mom, I really don't want to see anyone.  I don't feel..."  Mid-sentence she sees Velvet.  I wish I could have gotten a picture of the look on her face.  She was so happy and excited.  She loved on Velvet for quite awhile and just thought she was wonderful!  Even after we left, as we were visiting other children, I would look over at her cubicle periodically and see her contentedly playing with her stuffed pony that we left for her.  Just made my day!

It was also fun to see all the doctors and nurses make all over Velvet!  We'll definitely have to do that again!

I've spent the rest of the week doing things around the house.  We picked up a bull for Sherrod's cow (borrowed).  Hopefully, he will do his job.  I've been busily preparing for William's Memorial Trail Ride, which is really just in a few weeks.  It is something I absolutely LOVE doing but it is so draining, emotionally, as well.  I have been trying to work out details on a fabulous gift that I want to give away at the ride.  It will be incredible, if I can pull it off.

I really messed up on William's monument.  Long story, short, I applied the wrong kind of wax.  It's been a nightmare.  We didn't know what it was going to do to the patina or if we could even get it off.  I thought it might have to be sandblasted.  Ugh.

Several of us spent several hours scrubbing on it yesterday.  I think it's going to be okay.  We got the face, ears, arms, hands, and front of the shirt completely clean.  The hair is going to take a good, long while, but we lost daylight yesterday.  Some of us are going to go at it again today.  That's incredibly emotional for me, as well.  I just wish he were here.  I wish there were still things I could do to take care of him.  I miss him every moment.

I had a friend tell me the 2nd year would be harder.  In the first year, people understand your tears.  They accept them.  They are still thinking of him.  He's still a part of their lives, too.  But in the 2nd year, the tears begin to make others uncomfortable.  His existence becomes reduced to a memory and his death becomes merely a date on a calendar.  They were able to rip that page off, but it's very much a part of who I am everyday.

I can't say that I am thriving but I am surviving.  Every day.  For now that will have to do.  Some days are harder than others, for no explainable reason.  I still have a hard time with sleep.

One thing has been very helpful to me this year.  In December, I did this thing on FB.  I'm not even sure how I worded it, but the basic idea was that I wanted people who would want prayer.  I ended up with 3 people each month of 2017 that I've committed to pray for everyday.  It's been so helpful.  It's given me a purpose to focus on other's needs when I begin to feel like I'm drowning in my own.  I'm so thankful for those who decided to participate.  It means so much to me.  Thank you!