What is this?

What is this? I don't really know, other then a continuation of my updates and writings that I was sharing previously on Caringbridge of this journey through cancer and now widowhood and single parenting.

Maybe it won't end up being anything at all, or maybe it will be a glimpse into my heart, my life, my current situation, my testimony.

Whatever it becomes, I am touched that you are interested.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

The Messy Truth

This is the messy truth. This post will be unedited. I won't save it, pray over it and reread it 50 times before posting. I'm not going to try to find the optimistic view or white knuckle the thread of hope I have been clinging to. The only thing I'm going to do, is what God has put on my heart to do today, and that is to be transparent.

I'm actually following suit after reading a similar, what's the word....confession... from someone who has found herself at the end of herself, trying to remain who she was in circumstances out of her control.  

Those close to me have seen some of this mess, but even that is usually sandwiched between the 'coping by distraction' me and the 'pick yourself up by the bootstraps' me.  These alter egos are real and authentic. They have been the only way I've made it this far. But as I'm finding, they only go so far because grief is constantly evolving. 

I felt God tell me that I have to let myself accept the other me. The 'falling apart and it's ok' me. And that I may need to expose it.

I have been clinging to something that God put in my heart a few months ago.  That He made me for this. This. Young, grieving, single mother, widowhood with chronic illness. And not only did He make me to survive this, but to thrive in it.

My independent, go-getter, problem solving, systematic, community seeking, love of leadership and authentic nature all will be used for God's glory through this tribulation. But really, how well can it be used if I don't also share the depth of the darkness and the extent of the mess I sit in?

Want to see?

This is my life. A complete and utter mess.  Half the bed piled with clothes, Christmas ornaments, a fan and God knows what else. My luggage from Christmas hasn't moved since I finally unpacked two weeks ago. Yup - took me until the beginning of February to unpack.  Part of my closet collapsed a couple months ago.  Oh well. I am living like a bachelor pulling wrinkled but clean clothes out of the laundry basket on the floor.  My attempt to set up my work at home office has hit a standstill and I tiptoe around the organized chaos of piles to file, to shred, to recycle, to put away, etc. then close the door on it. Those who know me know that my environment drastically effects my well being, and I have never in the last 9 years lived like this.  (Don't worry, the baby and the spaces she inhabits are safe. She is my priority.)

My body is falling apart. Constant headaches, lupus flare, a month long steroid treatment, nightmares, night sweats, painful bruises all over, nausea. The recent stress has drastically effected my milk supply and I think I'm coming to the end of my abilities to nurse.

I'm at the far extents of survival mode. If something is not bringing 100% positivity to my life, it's out for now because I can not carry one more ounce on my shoulders. I haven't watched the news in over 6 months, it's just too negative. In the rare times I can watch a little TV, it's either Ugly Betty or cooking shows, because even HGTV brings too much stress with couples buying their first home, or renovating before the new baby arrives.

These are the parts of my life I have been keeping the doors closed on when people are around. 

When you look at what I will allow you to see it looks how I so desperately want it to look like myself. A bit disorganized and not like it used to be, but overall ok-ish:

But I'm not ok. I can't keep my head above the water lately. Wave after wave of crap keeps hitting me. The life I had is completely gone. Gone. Everything in my world is different. Everything in my day to day life is different. I had no choice in any of this. I feel like I'm navigating this alone because there is no one who can take the place of your soul mate. 

I just want a break. I wish I could just get away from it all. A chance to collect myself and regain strength. Just press pause. Better yet, how about fast forward? To the other side of this

I have so many people who want to help. New friends and old. But I don't even know what to ask for at this point. It doesn't feel like anything can help this. 

Who can help me coparent? Who can grab the baby in the middle of the night to give me a break? Who can 'keep an eye on her' while I wait for the headache to go away, or grab me some ibuprophen when I can barely move in the morning? Who can take away this feeling like half of me is gone? 

I have found tangible ways to receive help, and seriously I have the best community of people who have gone above and beyond. Meals, cleaning, companionship, last minute child care, funding for child care, cards, care packages, messages, anticipating difficult days...I seriously could go on and on. Without you all, I really can not even imagine how utterly disastrous my life would be right now. And as you read this you probably feel helpless. You are doing everything you can, but there really is nothing anyone can do to mend a broken heart. That's God's job. 

I am going to therapy and multiple grief groups weekly. I am praying and seeking God's word. I beg for His peace that surpasses understanding that has gotten me through the past 7 months. And at times I feel it.  But not today. Not for the past couple of weeks.  But still, I trust that God is allowing this. There is something I need to see or experience or learn or grow from through this part. It all has passed through His all knowing and loving hands.  But it doesn't mean I have to like it.  

I know I'll get through this. I don't give up. I want to, that's for sure. But I can't. I have a beautiful daughter that needs me. Most days she is the only thing that makes me plow forward. That she needs me to put my big girl pants on, buck up and be strong for her.  So I do the best I can...

Sunday, February 8, 2015

The light in the darkness

Well, I have my first reason to like winter finally.  Ok, I lie - I love wearing boots (NOT snow boots), so that has been the only benefit I have found in it.  Until now.

Now, in the winter, while the leaves are absent from the trees, I can see the cross at Mount Lindo from my dining room window.  The cross that Brandon and I loved being able to see from our neighborhood.  The cross, which signifies the death of Jesus and the forgiveness of my sin.  And this particular cross, that my husband is buried next to.  It's bright light shines through the darkness, and into our home.  Just past the neighbor's satellite dish...

We had lived here since 2011, and never once did we notice that we could see it through the window.  But I noticed today.

It warms my heart indescribably to have discovered this.  It's as if Brandon is looking in on us.  I have taken such comfort in the cross shining over our neighborhood, but into our home in the grey of winter is even better.

I have already thought of asking the neighbors if I can cut down their trees so that I can see it in the summer, but quickly let go of that ridiculous idea.

Today I had the chance to pull into the park behind our house at dusk, as Aria was sleeping in her carseat and I did not want to wake her.  I have been wanting to try to catch the cross lighting up and took this as an opportunity to give it a try.

I sat there for about 5 minutes, just thinking and praying before I squinted trying to see if they indeed did just turn on.  The sky was still light, making it hard to see.  But as it gradually grew darker it became easier to confirm because the darkness illuminated the light.

Cross difficult to see in the light
I took a few pictures, but photos rarely do landscapes justice.  Seeing it first hand is the only way to truly experience it.

Today was also the Angelversary of a beautiful woman Brandon and I had the privilege to know, who one year ago, won her battle with cancer.  I remember we followed her and her family's journey through cancer and hospice in awe.  Their faith carried them through, praising God and trusting in His plan even in the darkest of days.  With children, the youngest a preschool aged daughter, I wondered how they could bare to find any peace in this terrible situation. I thought to myself that I could never have that kind of faith.  To continue to believe when everything is falling apart and life just isn't fair.

But like the cross lit in the daylight, sometimes our faith is also found in the darkness.

I'll be honest and say that prior to the recurrence of cancer, I was the farthest I had been from God since being saved almost 10 years ago.  I was allowing myself to be distracted with preparing for the baby, preparing for our dreams to come true.  I had mentioned this to a few friends, who lovingly reassured me that of course I was distracted, there was so much to do to get ready, it was totally normal.  I countered back a couple times with, "Yes, but what is more important then preparing my heart and my walk with God for a child?"  Yet, I did nothing but busy myself with painting, cleaning and nesting.  Our dreams were coming true...it was light out.

But like the cross on the hill, the love of God was easier to find in the darkness then any daylight of my life before.  I now could understand how that precious family clung to their faith and God's promises to them to get through.  For me there was no other way to find my way through the dark, but to seek the light.
Beautiful view of the cross at sunset 

Many people have told me that I have been an inspiration to them for the way I have walked through this with such grace and continue to trust God and love God in the valley of the shadow of death.  I don't know how to respond to this.  It is not my strength that has gotten me through, it is the strength of God.  All I can claim is allowing the Spirit of God to work in me.  That is it.

But until we experience suffering like this first hand, we often doubt the strength of our own faith.  I surely did.  And now, others are telling me that I have impacted them the same as that family impacted me.  It's quite a surreal experience.

I guess it's like being able to see the cross lit myself, yet a photo does not allow others to see that gentle illumination.   It takes our own eyes to see the strength of our own faith when tested in our own ultimate darkness.

Aria & I at the park
earlier in the day
But I found that in that darkness, God's light is easiest to see.

Right now, my faith is stronger then it has ever been before.  Maybe because I am in the greatest trial I have ever experienced before?  Like the saying, "Sometimes God lets you hit rock bottom, so you can discover that He is the rock at the bottom."

But I also know that I am human.  Just as the Jews doubted after Jesus parted the sea before their eyes, I know the strength of my faith will also ebb and flow.  But God knows that.  And I am forever thankful for His amazing grace, and always being that light in the darkness.

Thursday, February 5, 2015

How to "be" around me - 4 months out

I have received such a positive response to my original post about what to do and what not to do around me in this stage of grief, that I thought enough has changed that another version would probably be helpful.  Grief changes, and those grieving change, as do their needs.

So here it goes:

What NOT to say or do around me:

-As for the harsh terms like: dead, dying, grave and such, I still don't use them much myself.  I don't feel like I got punched in the gut automatically when I hear them now as I did before, and can usually shake it off without much thought.  But it will probably be quite some time before I use such words as flippantly as I have before.

-Hugging me while I'm crying.  This will probably never change.  I know it is strange, Brandon thought so too.  However, I think this statement needed a little further explanation.  I still love to hug hello and goodbye.  A grasp of my hand is appreciated by me at tender moments, but locking me up in a hug is just not a comforting thing for me. But if you need to do something, simply grab me a tissue.  :)

What TO do or say around me:

-Don't be afraid to talk about Brandon.  Sharing memories, how you miss him or mentioning something he would have said or done keeps his memory alive for me.  Yes, I may get a little salty, but it's ok.  Don't feel bad.  Truthfully, the best gift one can give me is a story of him I haven't heard before, or a picture of him I haven't seen before.  It's like a new memory for me, and sadly those will be few and far between now.

-If something in your day reminds you of him, don't be afraid to share it with me.  Text, Facebook, email - whatever.  Knowing he is being thought of and remembered touches my heart more then you know.  One afternoon I received a text from a friend that on his way home from a ski trip he stopped by and visited Brandon at Mount Lindo, and it made my day.

-Tell me what is going on in your life.  Good, bad and ugly.  I still ask for others to be mindful of the severity of what is going on in mine, and use good judgement and perspective - but really, isn't that what we all would hope for from others?  But leave the drama at the door.  I just have no room for it right now.

-Know that I will usually put on a brave face for you.  If you want to know how I am really feeling, go ahead and ask me how I am really feeling.  Most know that I am an open book, but I have a hard time sharing my burdens without invitation, especially ones this heavy.  But I know that not every relationship is cut out to carry that weight, and I understand that, so don't feel like you have to.

-Continue to have patience with me.   This is a loooong process, and in actuality, will never be complete.  But it will be a while before I am capable of much other then surviving.  I can no longer multitask at all, my thoughts are gone before they were even fully formed and I walk around in a fog.

-If it's on your heart to do something, get ahold of me or someone close to me to help coordinate it.  Tell me what, and ask me when.  If left up to me to ask for help, even if previously offered (vaguely or specifically) - I likely will not be able to do it.  I have accepted so much help that I feel burdensome asking for more.  I have learned to say "yes" to help, but it is still very difficult to ask for.  (Written communication, text/email, is best)

-Help me capture some memories by taking a few photos or short videos of Aria and I, and whatever we all are doing together.  Now that it's just me, I rarely have any photos of us together, other then the dreaded selfie.  Just snap a few if the moment is right and send them to me.  It will be so appreciated.

-Share inspiring things with me.  A sermon, quote, image, scripture, song - whatever.  I literally have a list of mantras in my phone because reciting phrases like "One day at a time", and "The only way to do it is go through it" have been pivotal in getting through this.  I also have a list of scripture verses and songs.  (I should make a list of all my lists! lol)  A fellow widow sent me a CD of praise & worship songs that helped get her through this, and it has spoken to my heart in glorious ways.

I think that is about it.  I hope this is helpful?  Thank you, as always, for taking the time to walk this road with me.

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

7month / 4.5 month Update

Well, my little Aria is now 7 months old.  Yes, it has gone fast.

She is an active little one!  Very interactive and expressive.  Many people comment on how many faces she has.  She definitely gets that from me!  She is clapping, scooting around backwards on her belly and even scooted herself forward sitting up.  In no time she will be crawling....uh oh.....

She is eating some solid foods now, and has not yet become a picky eater.  We have enjoyed some playdates and lots of mall walking on evenings and weekends.  Oh how I can't wait for spring and summer and outdoor walks!  However, Colorado has been good to us this year so far with quite a few sunny days in the 50's or 60's.

Aria brings so much joy to everyone.  I wonder if someday she will look back on these posts and marvel at how just being a baby helped hurting hearts.

Brandon had asked me when on hospice if we had known this was going to happen this way, would I have still wanted to start a family?  I was taken aback by the question.  I thought for a moment before answering.  I told him I didn't know, and what was the point of examining the thought further, when it is what it is?  This was very difficult to say to him, because I wasn't able to give him the reassurance he was probably seeking, but he would have known if I tried to pacify him with what he wanted to hear.

I thought on that a lot that night.  I'm going to be very candid here, so bare with me.

Initially I thought, hell no.  Why would I choose to put myself into this predicament?  We knew we wanted to start a family back in 2011 when we made it into remission.  But we chose to wait until 1 year cancer free.  Then we still felt too unsure, and waited till 2 years cancer free just to feel more confident in Brandon's response to the treatment, so we could hopefully not be in this situation.

My greatest fear was exactly this.  Not many people choose to be a single parent.  Let alone someone who is widowed with active Lupus and in my financial situation.  I thought of how hard it was to find Brandon.  How hard we worked on our marriage, and how beautiful our relationship was.  If I come to a point in my life where I am looking for a relationship, not only will my standards be high because of Brandon, but add a child and the chances of finding someone good enough for me and my child?!  Psssh...good luck!  Then just add in thinking of all the details of life with a child and no partner to give you a hand.  Every choice, illness, bedtime, errand, all housework, yard work, homework, sports and school activities and such - on your own.  No live-in help.  No time for yourself.  Then add life altering grief as the cherry on top.  I would have been crazy to have thought this through, and signed on the dotted line.

Keep in mind, I'm being asked this as I'm sleep deprived from care taking for my 2 month old newborn and my dying 33 year old husband.  My world has been turned upside down.  No, just adding a baby turns one's world upside down, but the pieces settle. This...this was spinning out of control with no end in sight and I was utterly overwhelmed with fear.

Then I thought of how I would always have a piece of Brandon in Aria.  How she and I are now a team.  Loving her brings me joy and is indescribable by words.  I couldn't imagine not having her now that I have held her in my arms and call her mine.

The next afternoon, I sat down and told Brandon with honesty that I absolutely would not change the decisions we made.  The hope and relief that I heard in his voice when he said, "Really?" was worth every challenge I have and will face as a single mother.

But God.  He's a wise one.  He knows.  Would I change the decision we made?  Emphatically NO!  But, our choice to wait to start a family till we were further away from cancer says it all.  If we had known, we would not have started a family.

Again, but God.  He has a plan.  And it was for Aria to be here.  If left up to me, and what I would have thought best for me, what I thought was "logical", I would have missed out on one of the biggest blessings in my life.  We don't see the big picture, so we are left to simply trust that each stroke is exactly as it should be by the Master Artist.  But it's hardly simple to trust.  Especially when up close the canvas looks like a total disaster, and nothing you thought it would be.

Every time I get angry with the way things turned out, I look at Aria and am reminded that I am not my own, I am not the author of my life - but the One who is, knows best.  Always.  Even in suffering.

"Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done." Luke 22:42

Well, that didn't quite turn into the update I sat down to write!  Oh well, hopefully soon I can actually share with you some of the other things that have been going on, including the ways I have been putting to use some of the generous gifts and donations you have blessed me with.

Til then...don't forget to sign up for notifications on this blog for new posts if you were getting them from CaringBride.  (From a mobile device scroll to the bottom and click on "View web version", and "Follow by Email" in the right column, or become a "Follower" below the "Blog Archive".

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