Monday, July 31, 2017

8 Months After My Mom Died, My Dad Got Engaged. But I'm Not Done Grieving.

It was 3 weeks after my mom had passed, and my dad and I sat in a burger joint after a date at the movies.  The pain of loss was severe and nauseating.  (My eyes fill with tears as I sit here writing, just remembering back.)  "Do you think you'll ever date or re-marry?" I asked my dad as we shared sweet potato fries.  Our family has always been an open book.  We ask honest questions and give honest answers.  He said he didn't know.  He didn't know if he wanted to live alone, but he also didn't know if he could love again and risk going through pain like that again. Time would tell.
The conversations about grieving, healing and the future continued many times over between my dad, and sisters and I in the weeks and months that followed.  My dad was well into his grief journey and he processed it as an open book.

You see, almost 5 years prior, my mom had been diagnosed with FTD -  a brain disease that robbed us of her, far before she actually passed.  She had become the equivalent of a 1 year old, and my dad spent those years selflessly caring for his High School sweetheart with tender grace.  The grieving process had been going on for almost 5 long years. 
"This next season will not be about trying to fill the holes that now remain with mom gone. Those holes can never be filled.   It is about writing a new chapter moving forward, whatever that may be."  My daddy is so wise.  

And then it happened.  It was 9:30pm on a Sunday night and my dad texted my sisters and I.  




Daddy got all 3 of us girls on the phone at the same time, and told us that after church, he was praying with someone who had come forward for prayer and there was this other woman, "Pam" who was also praying with someone.  When they both finished praying and were walking out to the parking lot, my dad mentioned he was going to grab a quick lunch and asked if Pam wanted to come.  He then told us all about their lunch and their conversation... and us girls giggled and teased and asked probing questions.  "Are you entering the dating scene??  Do you want us to start setting you up?"  "NO. WAY."  My dad laughed. "I haven't dated since I was 16 years old and I have no desire to jump into that scene.  But, I will say this: I do want to get to know Pam more.   I only want to get to know her.  That's it."  

And so it continued.  Lunches after church.  Texts and emails.  We coached him on asking her out on an official "first date" and grilled him on what he would wear and where they would go.  :)  We got to meet Pam casually all together.. then individually as families.  Each step of the way, my dad would check in and ask, "How do you guys feel?  Do you see any red flags?  I don't even see a yellow flag but your insight matters to me."  With each date, each conversation, each phone call and text, my dad grew a bigger and bigger spring in his step.  A lightness in his voice. A joy restored.  A heart healed.  And each interaction between us and Pam confirmed what my dad had already discovered.  Pam is a gem.  When you ask her about her relationship with my dad, she humbly gives credit to the Lord.  When you bring up my mom, she weeps as she gushes about how wonderful my mom was.  When you mention my dad's name, she lights up just as bright as he does when you mention hers.  

But here's the thing:  I'm not done grieving the loss of my mom.  My mom has only been gone 8 1/2 months.  She was my best friend. My first call.  My biggest cheerleader. My ministry partner.  And I'm not done grieving.  I actually don't think I'll ever not grieve the loss of her.  She was beyond amazing.  And I hate that I have to wife and parent and minister without her.  I hate that my kids won't have her direct influence on their lives... That my 2 Littles won't have any memories of her at all.  

But here's the other thing: Making my dad stay single won't bring my mom back.  

Sounds obvious, right? But don't think it didn't cross my mind.  Maybe if he stayed single, it would preserve my mom's memory more.  Maybe if he stayed single, it would show how dedicated he was to her.  So silly.  My dad cared for my mom and loved her with every ounce of his heart until her final breath.   I have never EVER seen a more selfless and sacrificial love in my life.  The reality is, studies show that men who really loved marriage and were truly happily married, end up re-marrying quickly after the loss of a spouse.  

And so I grieve her. 
And I celebrate with him.
At the same time.

I am 100% still grieving the loss of my mom AND 100% thrilled that my dad will not be alone and that the Lord has given him the gift of Pam.  

I used to think there was one box to live in, per situation.  Like, my workplace is "frustrating." My kids are "exhausting." My friends are "fun."  One emotion per item on the list.  And yet in this season, I have found that I can feel 2 very different emotions at the exact same time, about the same situation.  Grief and joy.  Co-exisitng together.  At the same time.  And not competing with each other, but rather complimenting each other.  This co-mingling of emotions help me to feel whole and true to my experience.  I don't have to stuff Grief down to embrace Joy. And I don't have to release Joy in order to enter Grief.  They are both at the surface.  Close to my heart.  And deep in my soul.  

So when my dad decided he wanted to propose to Pam last week, just 8 months after my mom passed, my sisters and I jumped to clear our schedules.  We wouldn't miss it for the world.  Because seeing my dad's broken heart become healed, is a beautiful gift.  And because healing on God's timeline and not our own, brings peace.  And because the truth is, my grief doesn't restrict my ability to Joy.  

So last Monday, my daddy took Pam to dinner on Coronado Island...


Image may contain: 2 people, people smiling, eyeglasses and indoor

And then he took her on a Gondola Ride... and asked her to marry him.  

Image may contain: 1 person, smiling, outdoor and water

And after the engagement, we had a surprise party for them, where they told their love story.  

And this picture says it all.  

Image may contain: 2 people, people smiling, people sitting and outdoor

Renewed joy.  Healed heart.  Story Redeemed.  

Not in the absence of grief, but in it's presence!
How beautifully complex the grace of God is.  
Multifaceted and diverse in its expression.

"Strength for today, and bright hope for tomorrow.
Great is Thy Faithfulness, Lord unto me."  

Welcome to the family, Pam. We truly love you.  

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Is Mother's Day for Me? Or is it for my Mom and Mother-in-Law? Who Gets Mother's Day??

"Is Mother's Day for me?  Or is it for my Mom and my Mother-in-Law?
This common question, often heard circling around neighborhood parks, Chick-fil-A play areas, and online forums is a definite hot button for most young moms.  Who actually gets Mother's Day?  Certainly my Mother-in-Law was celebrated in her day.  And I sure as heck know my mom got all the breakfast-in-bed she could handle when I was little.  So isn't Mother's Day finally mine??  Haven't I paid my dues?  I mean, I haven't washed my hair in 4 days or gotten a full nights sleep in 4 years.  For the love of all things holy, just give me a mere 24 hours!

Here's the deal.
You're right.  You should be celebrated.
And....
So should she.

We are now in this Sisterhood... together.  I'm 12 years in, she's 38 years in.  She looks back on the good 'ol days... and I'm in the midst of living them.  Same journey, different stage.  They say you never stop being a mom.  Clearly, it changes.  But the undying, sacrificial, I'd stand in front of a train for you kind of love?  Never ends.

Now I don't know whether it matters which day you celebrate.  Saturday?  Sunday?  Next week?  There's not a one size fits all.  Just don't get so lost in yourself that you forget those who went before you.

So why, as a young mom to 4 young kids, do I feel so passionate about it?

Because this.





This is one of my favorite pictures of my mom (and sisters) and me a few years ago.  My mom... My best friend.  Type A.  Energetic.  Hilarious.  Life of the party.  My "first call."  My biggest cheerleader.  The ultimate in #momgoals.


And this is my mom and me on Mother's Day last year....





Shortly after turning 60 years young, a brain disease began to attack my mom's brain and her body.  At the time of this picture, she was unable to speak, barely able to walk, and was functioning at the equivalence of a 1 year old.

Almost 6 months to the day after this picture was taken, I sat by my mom's bed and watched my best friend take her last breath.  I cannot describe the excruciating pain of that moment.

What I wouldn't give to spend one more Mother's Day with her, lavishing her with my time and giving her more eskimo kisses.





So do I want to sleep in?  Desperately.  Do I want a day of pampering?  You better believe it.  But not under the banner of neglecting the ones who went before me.  The ones who mentored me and showed me.  Who cheer me on and fill in the gaps.  I don't regret one Mother's Day spent with my Mom and my Mother-in-Law.  Do I change a diaper on that day?  Nope.  Do I cut the kids food and take them potty?  Nope.  My husband still gives me a day off from "mom-ing" the regular stuff.  And then he schedules a spa day for me every year -  on a day shortly after Mother's Day... so I can get that much needed day off I so desire.   A day that's all mine.

But Mother's Day?  That day I gladly share.  Because you never know.  You never know how many more you have with yours.  And with his.  Life is precious.  Moms are precious.

So have your day.  But make sure they have theirs too.
Because us moms - All of us - are worth celebrating.

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

What Every Mother Wants on Mother's Day...

"Give her the day off."
"Do something active as a family."
"Send her to the spa."
"Don't send her to the spa, it's too crowded on Mother's Day at the spa."

The messages are loud and clear.  No, I take that back. The messages are loud and seriously confusing.  Every article says something different.  Every blog has a different formula.  Just yesterday, I read a Facebook post that said, "Men, don't let your wife get off the couch on Mother's Day."  And directly underneath it was another Facebook post that said, "I find it seriously insulting that people think Mother's Day is about doing nothing.  I want to go on a rigorous hike with my kids on Mother's Day."  It's no wonder men approach this day with fear and trembling.  They don't know how to "win."  They want to win.  They do.  But every idea seems as good as the next and at the same time, as horrible as the next.  Helping the kids make a home cooked meal for your wife could be a huge win.  Or she could be irritated that there's now a mess in the kitchen.  Having the kids serve her breakfast in bed could really win her heart.  Or it could make her seriously frustrated that she didn't get to sleep in longer.

Men, do you want to know what every wife wants on Mother's Day?  I know I just said there is not a  one-size-fits-all formula for pleasing every mom.  But this?  I promise this is what we all want:

To be known.

That's it.  It's that simple.  Know her.  Like, really know her.  Be a student of your wife.  Know that your wife really wants to run a family 5K on Mother's Day.  Or that she wants to sleep until 11.  Know that she actually hates that big, fancy brunch and she'd rather eat a breakfast burrito from a yummy hole-in-the-wall joint.   Not every mom wants the same thing.  So know YOUR wife and love her how SHE desires to be loved.

And if you still don't know or can't figure it out?

Ask.

Seriously.  Just ask.  Not in a, "Hey, so it's almost Mother's Day and I was wondering what you had planned?" kind of way.  But in a, "Hey babe, Mother's Day is almost here and I want that day to be a celebration of who you are and all you do.  I want you to feel loved and cared for.  How can the kids and I honor you best on that day?"  Ask it with love and with genuine interest.  I know it's only a few days away.  The lie you may believe is that it's too late.  It's not.

Now moms, this is where our role comes in.  If your husband asks you what you desire to do on Mother's Day, be gracious.  Take it as a sign that he cares.  Closing the gap between expectations and reality is a daunting journey.  If your husband is willing to make the effort to close that gap, then receive it as an act of love.  Don't belittle him for not knowing.  Your relationship is a journey and whether he has you figured out already or he is intentionally continuing to seek you out, it's beautiful.   It's all beautiful.

And Moms, in just 5 short weeks, we get the opportunity to return the favor on Father's Day.  So as this weekend unfolds, be gracious.  And thankful.  Seek to know and be known.  And if it all falls flat?  Choose grace.  :)




OK, one more thing.  I think this is important to clarify:   I understand that Mother's Day is supposed to be a day where Moms are celebrated by their CHILDREN.  Many dads get to Mother's Day feeling frustrated that any expectation is on them at all.  Some feel that their only job is to wish their own mom "Happy Mother's Day."  But the reality is, Dads bare the responsibility of teaching the kids how to celebrate mom well.  Dads get to teach and train and guide and direct.  "Hey kids!  Shhh!!! Let's be super duper quiet this morning so mom can sleep in! She works so hard caring for us, let's give her a day to rest."  or "Hey kids!  You know how mom loves to be active?  Let's plan an adventure for mommy together!"  Teach them what it looks like to be a student of someone and to love them in their love language.  You are raising future husbands and wives and mommies and daddies.  You are raising future best friends and bosses.  Celebrating WELL has become a lost art.  You get to help shape their hearts toward seeing the good in another human being and honoring who that person is in your life.   It's a life skill they will take with them the rest of their lives.  Lean in and enjoy the privilege of impacting the next generation!

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

MRI's... Unemployment... And our "New Normal."

"New normal" is an interesting concept.  Is it really a thing?  There was a day I never thought our "new" would ever feel "normal" after Jon's surgery.  But a few years in, and life goes on.  Or so I thought.

I'm sitting here in Starbucks, with my stomach in knots.  Not because of one thing in particular, but because of a lot of things in general.  There are a lot of question marks in our life.  I've learned that question marks frustrate me.  I want the life with the beautiful, gigantic, shiny bow.  Heck, I'll even settle for a pretty little bow.  A tiny one.  But for the love of all things, just give me a blasted bow.  But nope.  Just when I feel like the bow might be getting tied, one of the ends get pulled and it unravels.  Square one.  Start another "new normal."

1 year ago, Jon left church ministry to sign on to work for a friend of ours at his non-profit.  It was a year commitment, with hopes from both sides, for it to be a much longer partnership.  However, as is often the case with privately funded non-profits, there just wasn't funding to sustain his position beyond this year.  So 2 weeks ago, after an awesome season with a dear friend, Jon ended his year there.  Insert big fat question mark.  Ok God, what now?  3 years ago, I was confident that if Jon needed a job, he could get one in an instant.  He had been a full time worship leader for 16 years and was constantly contacted by churches with job offers.  It wasn't uncommon for him to receive several calls or emails in a month, asking him to prayerfully consider coming on to "so and so church" staff.  But that was what seems like a lifetime ago.   A life where his degree in music, his experience in music, his passion for music all worked together for his employment.  Now that's off the table.  Ground zero is a scary place.  There are a ton of rabbit trails.  Which should we pursue?  How do you start over at age 40?  Where's my blasted bow?

Tonight,  Jon goes in for his big MRI.  The MRI that reveals the state of his brain tumor.  Has it grown?  Is it the same?  Did a miracle happen and it's gone?  MRI's are often The Trigger for some emotional unraveling for me.  We all have Triggers.  You see That Person that triggers That Feeling.  You read That Email that triggers That Emotion.  You see That Post that triggers That Hurt.  Triggers are all around us.  And one of mine is when Jon gets called in for tests.  What if?  So. Many. Question. Marks.  

So I sit here and surrender My Plans once again.  I sit here and watch God care for even the birds outside.  I feel a twinge of comfort.  Then I click on my blog and read from 2013.  And 2014. And 2015.  God is not going to stop being faithful now.  He is the same yesterday, today and forever.  My "new normal?"  Not so much.  My "new normal" has yet to be consistent.

"So I fix my eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal."   THAT is my "new normal."

Now where's my blasted bow....  ;)

Monday, May 9, 2016

Twas the Day After Mother's Day...

#keepingitreal

Twas the day after Mother’s Day
And all through the house
Every room was a disaster and I had a poo stain on my blouse.

The kids were all crying and fighting like crazy
While yesterday’s amazing memories
Became faded and hazy.   

The day before had been loving and sweet
Breakfast in bed, homemade cards
It was a mini retreat.  

I had relaxed and slept in a whole extra hour,
And even shaved my legs 
In a long, steamy shower.  

I was told “Mom, I love you!  
You’re really the best”
About 1 million times until I laid my head to rest.

Then sometime between “good night” and “good morning” 
All bets were off - 
Without any type of warning.

I woke to whining, crying
And spills on the floor
And in my 30 second shower, there were 17 knocks on my door. 

Kid 1 and Kid 2
Bickered and fought throughout the day
While Kid 3 and Kid 4 chose not to obey

Our trip to Target
Was one for the books
Spilled slushees, smashed fingers, and lots of strangers giving “looks.”

But nothing compared 
To our dinner at CPK
“I can smell your butt from here!” is what my 3 year old chose to loudly say.

Did I mention my husband 
Is out of town until late?
He *might* be coming home to a wife in an “unhealthy state.” 

But the kids now are in bed
So no need to freak out
I just needed to keep it real with a good vent and a pout. 

I treasure the memories
Of yesterday’s glory


And hold on to the promise of 364 days until another “perfect day” story.  

;)

Friday, May 6, 2016

The One Thing EVERY Mom Wants on Mother's Day.. And it's Not What You Think...

"Give her the day off."
"Do something active together."
"Send her to the spa."
"Don't send her to the spa, it's too crowded on Mother's Day at the spa."

The messages are loud and clear.  No, I take that back. The messages are loud and seriously confusing.  Every article says something different.  Every blog has a different formula.  Just yesterday, I read a Facebook post that said, "Men, don't let your wife get off of the couch on Mother's Day."  And directly underneath it was another Facebook post that said, "I find it seriously insulting that people think Mother's Day is about doing nothing.  I want to go on a rigorous hike with my kids on Mother's Day."  It's no wonder men approach this day with fear and trembling.  They don't know how to "win."  They want to win.  They do.  But every idea seems as good as the next and at the same time, as horrible as the next.  Cooking your wife a home cooked meal could be a huge win.  Or she could be ticked off that now there's a mess in the kitchen.  Having the kids serve her breakfast in bed could really win her heart.  Or it could make her seriously frustrated that she didn't get to sleep in longer.

Men, do you want to know what every wife wants on Mother's Day?  I'm serious.  I know I just disputed the idea that every wife wants the same thing, because clearly that's not true.  But this?  This is what we all want.

To be known.

That's it.  It's that simple.  Know her.  Like, really know her.  Be a student of your wife.  Know that your wife really wants to run a family 5K on Mother's Day.  Or that she wants to sleep until 11.  Know that she actually hates that big, fancy brunch and she'd rather eat a breakfast burrito from a yummy hole-in-the-wall joint.   Not every mom wants the same thing.  So know YOUR wife and love her how SHE desires to be loved.

And if you still don't know or can't figure it out?

Ask.

Seriously.  Just ask.  Not in a, "Hey, so it's almost Mother's Day and I was wondering what you had planned?" kind of way.  But in a, "Hey babe, Mother's Day is almost here and I want that day to be a celebration of who you are.  I want you to feel loved and cared for.  How can the kids and I honor you best on that day?"  Ask it with love and with genuine interest.  I know it's only 2 days away.  The lie you may believe is that it's too late.  It's not.

Now moms, this is where our role comes in.  If your husband asks you what you desire to do on Mother's Day, be gracious.  Take it as a sign that he cares.  Closing the gap between expectations and reality is a daunting journey.  If your husband is willing to make the effort to close that gap, then receive it as an act of love.  Don't belittle him for not knowing.  Your relationship is a journey and whether he has you figured out already or he is intentionally continuing to seek you out, it's beautiful.   It's all beautiful.

And in just 6 short weeks, us moms get the opportunity to return the favor on Father's Day.  So be gracious.  And thankful.  Seek to know and be known.  And if it all falls flat?  Choose grace.  :)




Thursday, March 17, 2016

Tons of Grace...

I was racing to meet my In-laws, who were returning my 2 'Littles' to me after having them for a sleepover.  I had left Jon at home with the rare opportunity to have a few hours of quiet in the house that he desperately needed.  His seminary classes are intense this semester, so any moment of silence and space for study time is golden.  My in-laws and I had found a great "halfway point" between our houses, and on this day, I was running late to our meeting place - the Bed, Bath and Beyond parking lot.  I pulled in and searched for their jeep.  I couldn't find it.  Whew!  I beat them here!  As I pulled into a spot to wait, I began to read through some emails and scroll Facebook to pass the time.  After a little while, I decided to text my mother-in-law to let her know I was here, but to take her time. (I know wrangling 2 Littles is a feat of its own.)  That's when I saw it.  The last text that was sent between us.  "We will drive the Littles to your house at 1:00." Oh. Crap.  I didn't read that text well the first time.  You can't skim over texts, Deanna!  I'm at the wrong place!  I just drove 25 minutes for nothing.  JON IS HOME FOR INTENTIONAL STUDY TIME AND 2 LITTLES ARE ON THEIR WAY!  I quickly called Jon's cell.

Jon: Hey babe.
Me: Um, hey.  Are you home alone?
Jon: Yup.  Why?
Me: Well, I'm sitting here at the "meeting place" to get the Littles... except I just re-read the text and your parents actually said they'd drive the Littles all the way to our house instead. I am so sorry, but they're going to be there any minute.  I obviously didn't read the text closely.  I've just been a mess lately.  I forgot to run that one errand yesterday, and I haven't sent that letter I said I would, and..
Jon: (interrupting my rant) Babe, I have tons of grace for you.  Tons of grace.

That's where this story ends.  Oh, of course the day continued on and there were 2 busy Littles and afternoon baseball practice and dinner on the run.  But nothing mattered after those 3 words.  Tons of grace.  I have tons of grace for you.  Has anyone ever said that to you?  It stops you in your tracks.  Quite honestly, it's been 2 weeks since that moment, and I still haven't gotten it out of my head.

We live in a day when grace is scarce.  You messed up?  I'm done.  You disagree with me? Let's battle it out on social media.  You let me down?  You're cut off.  These words, this phrase... tons of grace... it is counter cultural.  Oh sure, we extend grace at times.  But let's be honest.  Most of the time we dabble in grace.  A little here. A touch there.   Not too much though, lest they miss the point that I'm HIGHLY offended.  Not too much though, lest they think they're off the hook.

And if we're honest, the hardest people to extend grace to, are those closest to us.  (Read: often times, family.)   You know who I have tons of grace for?  Neighbors.  Friends.  Other people's kids.  But if my kids leave their backpack in the middle of the family room one more blasted time!??!  Or my husband forgets that thing he pledged and promised to do?!?  It's on like donkey kong!  That's probably why Jon's words struck me so much.  The one that's closest to me? The one I probably fail the most? THAT person has TONS of grace for me?  It's ridiculously overwhelming.

Who do you have grace for?  Who don't you have grace for?  Where might you find an opportunity to extend tons of grace?  I promise you, the opportunities are there.  A spouse running late.  A friend who flaked. Again.  A neighbor who is too loud.  A child who did that specific thing you said not to ever do.  A driver who cut you off.  A grocery checker who is slow.  A waiter who messed up your order.  Tons of grace. Tons of grace.

2 weeks ago, I felt like God used Jon to invite me into a "tons of grace" type of living.
I'm up for the challenge. Are you?

Let there be GRACE on Earth and let it begin with [God in] me.  :)