Sunday, December 29, 2013

The Calendar

I have a problem. It’s December 29th and I have not bought a new calendar yet. I’m a visual person and I function best as organizer of our family life with a visible reminder of who needs to be where, when, etched out in nice little boxes. I use my digital calendar as well. It beeps at me from my smart phone. But in planning our week, I need to see it, old-school, written out in those squares. I’m picky about calendars, too. They have to have enough room to include stuff and must be in a square calendar format—none of these family line calendars. Neat little columns for days all laid out.

Each year as December approaches, I wrestle with waiting until I cannot wait any longer. After all, my kids have school calendars already planned out. There are stacks of papers I can discard as soon as I have the new little boxes to fill for the second half of the year. There are family birthdays to transfer so that I remember to call and write. Sometimes I have waited until after the first of the year so that I get the calendar half price. But those years have not been my favorites. The organizational peace seemed so much better than saving $6.

But this year a battle is raging in my head. I need the calendar more than ever. I need to be organized and see all my reminders written down. My memory has not been trustworthy these last four months. But I don’t want to buy the calendar. It is more than a calendar. This time it will be the first year without my husband, my partner, my Kraig. This turning of the dates will not just be another year arriving. It will be a whole new year without him in our lives.

He died in September with almost exactly 2/3 of the year done. I sobbed when October first rolled around because now I had to say, “My husband died last month.” The distance seemed more painful somehow. Now I will have to say, “He died last year.”

These pages of neat little squares, once so exciting for me to fill, now are reminders he isn’t in the planning. He isn’t in the schedule nor in helping me accomplish all that I need to handle now on my own. He used to forget to write on my calendar. I scolded him often. “But I told you,” he’d say. I would remind him if it wasn’t in my little squares, I wouldn’t remember. After 20 years, we still hadn’t worked that one out. Now the little squares have no activities for him. And they will have no conflicts that arise because he forgot to write it down. Never thought I’d miss that.

This week I need to get myself a calendar. I’ve decided not to go with the artist I usually get. This year needs to look different on my wall because this year our lives are radically altered. I take no joy in shopping for this one but I need to find just the right one. It needs to make me smile, not fret. It needs to help me keep track of four children’s lives plus my own. And it needs to have space for hope and promise of better days ahead. Pretty sure that’s not in the descriptions of most calendars.

I have wrestled with immensely difficult things since he died. To quote a Hawk Nelson song, “I never knew that anything could be this hard.” God is faithful and He has helped me each step of the way. But I must say, of all the consequences of grief and loss, buying a calendar did not come up on my radar of things I would struggle with.

Maybe it’s because a calendar is so much more than just dates on a page. A calendar is the chronicle of a family’s life. A calendar records our activities, our appointments, our fun in carefully constructed order. I promised him at the funeral we would go on new adventures. This calendar must have space for those.

That’s a lot of pressure for a calendar. It may take me a few days to find just the right one.

Friday, December 13, 2013


Yesterday in my MOPS small group (Mothers of Preschoolers), our conversation turned to loss. Tears were shed as several of us shared the pain of a lost child or, in my case, a lost husband. Death was not the only common thread however. We each shared through falling tears the glorious hope that God has a plan. Each of the moms who had experienced loss were holding fast to the promise that God works all things for the good of those who love Him.

There was such hope, such peace, anchoring us behind the pain. Some of us possessed fresh wounds while others had scars healed over their pain. We were moms of differing ages and differing church affiliations. But we each held tightly to the hand of a loving Father that we trusted.

I shared a thought about heaven. It’s just my imaginings, just my visual way of thinking. I suggested that perhaps, when we get to heaven and meet Jesus face to face, perhaps He will show us the tapestry of time. Perhaps He will allow us to see the threads of our lives, our pain, our joys, our sacrifice, woven into the big picture and the beauty of His plan. Will there be a moment of peace as we see why? Perhaps there will be a moment when we smile and say, “Oooh…. Now I see.”
Will we be able to trace with our finger the line of our lives as it wove into others and see why God allowed certain things to happen? Perhaps those moments of loss, of tragedy, of pain will appear as imperfections in a tapestry that an artist transforms to beauty. Perhaps we will see the Master of Time’s creative skill at using our wounds to make something breathtakingly beautiful.

Right now, living through the pain of loss and the chaos of figuring out how I’m going to raise four kids on my own, I cling to the anchor of truth: God is faithful. He loves me with a passionate love that precludes Him letting this tragedy go to waste. He creates beautiful things out of dust. He brings beauty from ashes and grows joy where there was none.

This week I have struggled with so much exhaustion as I tried to get children to appointments and activities and youth group and grasped for my sanity like a drowning woman seeks air. I need the assurance that He is a God who pursues me relentlessly. He is not a passive God who watches time unfold. He interacts with us. He loves us with a passion we cannot fully grasp.

He is the Master Artist who is weaving our lives in a tapestry of beauty we cannot comprehend. I look forward someday to seeing the finished masterpiece. I pray my small addition will contribute to the beauty of His plan in a way that makes Him proud. “Take my life and let it be, all for You.” – from the song Lift my Life Up by Unspoken.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Now what?

That’s the thought that crept into my head today--now what? It’s been 13 weeks since Kraig died. Life has, as I knew it would, gone on. We’re having bad days and good days. Dishes are getting washed. Laundry is being done. Food is being prepared—something I’m particularly mad at him for leaving me to care for. My kids are getting hugs and love and support. School work is getting done and groceries are getting purchased. My radio shows are getting done and Jarod has a part in a play. We’ve even got the Christmas tree up, though this year’s decorations are scaled back considerably.

On this cold Tuesday, I’m wondering, “now what?” If life is indeed going on, what does it hold for me? I would love to become a professional writer and speaker. I know that would take the Hand of God to open doors and figure out how to make that work as a widowed mom of four. I trust Him to direct my paths.

But in the day-to-day, here at home with children at school, I tend to hesitate, falter, second-guess. There have been days when this down time has been my time to heal, to rest, to not have to care for them while someone else does. I praise God that He’s provided financially so I can do this. I am still here if they are sick or have a day off school. I'm still able to volunteer with my MOPS group. That is a miracle I give thanks for often.

I’m someone who feels guilty if I’m not productive. On those days when there was no motivation to do anything more than toss in a few loads of laundry, the guilt has crept onto my shoulder. You should be doing something. What makes you think you can just sit here? Look at this mess. Lazy. These are the taunts I shrink from. They do not come from friends or family. They are supportive of me taking time to just, well, be. These taunts come from the father of lies.

Maybe I’m living out a verse I’ve long loved. Psalms 46:10, “Be still and know that I am God.” The stillness can be time to heal. We understand that when a bone is broken or sickness assaults us. But when it’s your heart, your soul, somehow we don’t appreciate the stillness. At least I don’t. Maybe that’s my “what next.” Until God opens a door or shines a lamp onto my path for a new direction, maybe being still as I take care of the necessary is what’s next.

So today I’ll be thankful that I got groceries and ran two errands. Dinner is in the crockpot and I’m getting writing done. And this afternoon will again be a crazy Tuesday with school pick-ups and radio station and bath times and homework and so on. Maybe the stillness in a house that’s not perfect, but isn’t ready to be condemned either, is a gift. Maybe I will listen to the words of a song from Sidewalk Prophets, “If there’s a road I should walk, help me find it. If I need to be still, give me peace for the moment. Whatever Your will, help me find it.”

Today I’ll pray for God’s peace as I wait for my “what next” to arrive. And I’ll toss a load of dishes in the dishwasher, for good measure.