Monday, April 30, 2012

Name it and claim it.

I hate the so-called "prosperity gospel".  I do not serve a God who blesses you because you do something.  I serve a God who blesses you because He is good... and He loves you.  So when I hear the whole "name it and claim it" mumbo-jumbo... my hackles are in a tizzy from that first moment.

But, as in most things, there is an ounce of truth amidst the crazy.

And recently I have been part of that goodness.

Last year, my word was "peace".  I prayed "peace" all over my days.  I prayed peace into the lives of others.  I worked hard to make my life something that would leak peace into those around me.  And I still do.

Those who know me well have joined me in my quest to cover my life and home with "peace"... I have received gifts and words over the last 16 months very focused on the word "peace."

So it was a logical jump that a friend use that word to explain my Daddy's death to her almost-3 year old. 

When Daddy died, I texted my friend- something that 6 weeks ago I never imagined I would do, sending life-altering news in a text.  Who would do that?  I'll tell you who... this girl.  In those first hours of confusion and anguish, I reached out to those around me with a quick line or two about what had happened so that they could rush on my behalf to the Throne of Peace... as I was unable to find my way.  My sweet girlfriend received that text in the presence of her son... and realized she had to put words around her shock and grief.  Words that he would understand- especially as they had not yet had to talk about the abstract and concreteness of "death".

In a moment of Momma-wisdom, she gently explained to young W that Miss Becky really needed peace, and it was their job to pray peace for her (me).


That family, like so many others around me, prayed that prayer... and I have been the recipient of peace.

Now, I will fully admit that I don't understand how prayer works.  But I know it does.  And I know that God hears the prayers of those who love Him... and loves the prayers of children.  So, win-win for me- they pray it, I get it.

But the biggest blessing- to me- in all of this is the lesson that my friend has taught sweet W.  Because every time he sees me, talks to me, hears about me, he asks his sweet Momma if I have gotten more peace.  He is now part of the bigger picture of the inter-weaving of this world and the eternal.  As he is on the earthly look-out at my life and my quest for peace, he is at the same time reaching his precious little hands toward heaven on my behalf.

He has named it, and both of us have claimed it.


And that makes it well with my soul. 

Peace to you, and to sweet W.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

It Is Well With My Soul.

In September of 2009, I asked Mary what verse/thought/words were giving her something to cling to as she was undergoing chemo and radiation.  By this point, I knew she was weary... but for those of you who were lucky enough to know her, you knew her spirit and resolve to carry on.  She responded to me in an email (on 9/9/9 I just discovered!) with these words:

Favorite Hymn:  It Is Well With My Soul  (especially love the last verse:  "And Lord haste the day when my faith will be sight, the clouds be rolled back as a scroll...the trump will resound and the Lord shall descend, even so, it is well with my soul."

She'd also listed a couple of lines of scripture she liked, too, so I let it roll around in my mind to think about what words I wanted to put on a bracelet to give her.  I'd recently seen my Aunt's bracelets (the rubbery "Livestrong" kind) that her friends had made for her during her own fight, and just knew Mary needed some.

That Sunday at church, my sweet friend Debbi stood up to announce to the church she would not be going back to China as a missionary as previously planned.  She, too, was now entering the fight with breast cancer.  Actually, her husband announced it.  When he finished with the nitty-gritty of their story, Debbi came forward to the microphone and said "It is well with my soul."

Um... wow.

I came straight home and ordered 200 of these bracelets for Mary... and now, for Debbi too.

I will never forget giving them to Mary- sitting on the couch together, Daddy was sitting in "his" chair.  It was rare with the two of them that we were that serious- our family was constantly making jokes.  But as I told her why I printed those words (and now the connection to another fighter) and the tears flowed, she and Daddy were speechless... but I remember both of them taking their bracelets and immediately putting them on as we hugged and cried.

The bracelets were spread worldwide.  Our families and friends wore them.  I gave one of mine to someone working at Downtown Disney after it sparked a conversation.  One of mine was given to this sweet girl in Rwanda.  With every bracelet I passed out, there was a blessing of grace given.  Seeing those bands of pink not only made me smile for the message that was being passed, but it was a way to calm my heart and center it back on those words... and try to make it well with my soul.

 beauty in Rwanda

In late January, our sweet friend Leah was diagnosed with leukemia. The morning her mom was taking her for first appointment in Oncology, she stopped by our house on her way to the hospital and I popped one of those pink bracelets on her wrist.  A week later it hit me- it's time to order more bracelets.  Over the 2+ years I had the others, people loved sharing them with friends... and we'd run out!  So we knew it was time to add more "it is well"-ness to our lives. 

I asked Leah's mom for her blessing... and also asked what Leah's favorite color was (purple!) to give new life to our favorite bracelet.  I also checked with Daddy- I didn't want a color change to appear that I was somehow "moving on" from Mary... immediately he gave his blessing to the rebirth of the bracelets.  I vividly remember at our last lunch on March 22 him asking when we'd get them in and telling me he was going to start wearing a purple one with pride.  (He called constantly for updates about Leah... in fact, the last time I heard my Daddy cry was when he talked me to about Leah- and Mary- losing their hair.)

 Sweet Leah enjoying a strawberry fresh from her garden yesterday morning

Then March 25th happened.  My world changed.  I won't lie to you... it was not really well with my soul.  At all.

But that's the beauty of those bracelets.  Wearing those words has become a reminder to me... an anchor, even... on the days when I don't feel it.  Or when it's not really well.  Or when it's hard.... it's a reminder that I have to choose to make it well with my soul.  Even so it well with my soul. Even so.

Even So when Mary loses her fight with cancer.... because she gets to be with the Lord and be healed.

Even So when my Daddy dies unexectedly... because I had 36 beautiful years of him pouring into me.

Even So when a wee one is sick... and we don't know what's next... but we know God is good.

Even So in the miscarriages, the rejections, the fights, the wounds, the broken friendships, the painful words, the lost jobs, the life changes... 

And Even So in the blessings!  The marriages, the new babies, the adoptions, the attachments, the new friends, the beautiful spring days, the promotions, the hope of tomorrow...

One last thing... I found this when digging through my email archive... words taken from Mary's Facebook page.  This was her status update on October 15, 2009- I copied the words to send in an email to Dan.

Mary Waldrup 
One can never have too many prayers when those 'sea billows roll' and I must thank my step-daughter, Becky, for the bracelets which invite others to pray for me. The bracelets are inscribed with the title of my favorite hymn, "It Is Well With My Soul." Follow this link to one of the best versions of this hymn available on You Tube.

I'm wearing my new purple bracelet with joy to remind me of all of this.  To remind me of Mary, and Debbi, and Daddy, and Leah... and hope.

It is well with my soul.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

we interrupt this grief...

Today has been good for my soul.  Not in a "everything is fine" way, because it's not.  But in a "thank you, God, for blessings along the way."

I started my day with one of my favorite people... we shared coffee and grief... and even a couple of laughs.  Her precious daughter is the one I've mentioned on here before... the sweet 3 year old with cancer... and you'll get to hear more of her story on here next week.

On my way to visit another friend in the midst of her own storm, I got a call from my cousin who was just down the road trying on a Mother of the Bride dress.  I ran by the shop, saw her looking lovely, and even got to hug the bride and groom who are in town doing wedding stuff.

I came back to pick up E early from preschool and we headed to the elementary school she will attend next year- today was Kindergarten Assessment.  E was assessed by one of my precious friends (who happens to be an amazing teacher there) who took time to love on both of us in the middle of our yucky stuff, but who focused on E being Kindergarten-bound and not just the yucky stuff.

E joined one of her favorite gal pals for a playdate at the gracious offer of a friend and I ate lunch by myself ... even with my shoulders a little relaxed.  I had a quick visit from a friend bringing us dinner for tomorrow night, then tackled cleaning our kitchen.  Gosh, it feels good to see results... and my kitchen smells yummily clean, too.

Dan will be home soon and is taking E to the library to pick out their next chapter book- they read together each night and then they see the movie/watch the play/enjoy however the book has been adapted.  I love our local library like I love our local post office... two of the things I truly enjoy about our precious town.

I hate, hate, hate this new space I'm in, but I love how God continues to show His favor and blessings in the midst of it all.  I've seen more aspects of His love for us as my heart has been changed to "feel" more for the pain around me.  If I have "felt more" because of this... how much more does God "feel" for us because of His giving up His own son for us? 

I love how I feel His love for us through people around us- both our "inner circle" and those from afar.

I love how I grin every time I get a call from a friend (who calls almost daily) when I hear her voice say "I'm just checking on your white a$$."  I love that, partially because that's the kind of thing Daddy would have said... and partially because she's been consistent to call.  I'm seeing more of the need to love people consistently (that is not a passive aggressive cry for more calls, btw)... and how to be God's hope to those who need it.

And I love the interruptions of grief.  The playdates, the shopping, the coffee dates, the clean kitchen, the moments to just be.  I love them.  And I know that soon, it won't be an interruption... it will be what we call "normal".  God promises to heal my hurt- not to make me forget... but to help me with the new normal of my days.  I am thankful for His promises... and I'm learning to make it well with my soul. 

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

an update... the odd space.

Just a quick post to update you all on how we're doing.  So many of you have been kind to check in...  I would update you on all the details of our days, but as I said to someone the other day- if my current life were being made into a Lifetime movie and I stopped the channel changing to watch it... I would immediately change the channel.  I would assume that the writer/director/producer had tried to incorporate too many story lines and that it was a bunch of overacting and it would feel like "too much".

Because it kind of is.

Too much.

But we're getting by.

Last week was Spring Break and I'd committed to having "Camp of Kids" with some of E's friends.  Every gracious parent gave me an "out", but the one to whom I'd committed (Miss E) had not given me an out and I needed to honor our relationship by continuing with our plans.  The kids were great and super funny and when they left I was exhausted, but that's my new normal.  One of the best moments happened as we were doing an Easter craft and I asked the kids what they liked best about Easter.  One little girl started- mid thought, bringing the rest of us along with her- by saying, "So I was like, wait a minute.. the adults buy candy and put it in baskets and leave it for us?" (gulp.)  Before I had to respond at all, another precious girl said, "NO! The chocolate is from God!"  (Not even one year in our country and she has important things figured out.  Score one for adoption!)

That night- totally unrelated to Camp- I had my biggest meltdown yet.  Dan had miscommunicated to someone our plans for the weekend and it triggered all of my emotions... I yelled at him, screamed for my loss, and sobbed at the reality that is not yet real... my Daddy... MY DADDY... is gone.  After running to the bathroom to throw up (I'm so over crying heaves) and coming back to be enveloped in Dan's arms, E came in from outside.  "Uh, Mommy?  You told me to go outside to climb trees... can I come back yet?"  (Whoops.  Shielding her from Mommy's wrath= good.  Forgetting to tell her to come back= less than good.)

Each day has proven to have it's own set of hard moments.  Some of them come when I allow myself to get cynical and hear the unfortunate things people say as they don't know what to say.  I am trying daily to step "out" of myself and to filter those moments through Grace.  Some of those moments come when I'm lonely... that's what a lot of last week was.  Some of those occur when I share grief with a friend who has lost her Grandfather, or when I hug a dear woman who just lost her Daddy, too, or when I get angry on behalf of my friend whose child has cancer.  Sometimes the injustice of it all is just too much to bear.

The reality is that it is not yet reality for me.  While these last 2 weeks have tried to define my new "normal", it all feels like I'm just getting the chance to share fun stories of my Daddy with the world... and in that I take some time to cry.

The only hope that comes from this odd space is the Hope I have that there is more.  There is more because there is the promise of Jesus.  I am thankful that even when I don't feel that Hope, I know that He is who He is even in moments like this.  Without that Hope, I would be lost.  Without that Hope, I would live in the land of cynical and become "that girl"... you know, the one you kind of want to block on Facebook because she always has drama?  Or the one that you tense up when you see her coming because her junk oozes out of her?  Yeah... I refuse to be her.  I want to be the kind of girl that my Daddy taught me to be... as well as the one who has Hope from her Spiritual Father, too.

And look at all this goodness I get to see each day to remind me of the job I have to do here... Her Dadaw needs her to learn those same lessons... and now I get to teach her.

Thanks for checking in.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

The worst week of my life.

Last Sunday, I woke up with a full heart and a restored spirit.  I had spent the weekend with a dear friend at a lovely resort allowing women from all over to pour into me their stories of successful fostering and adoption.  I attended a conference called Created for Care and it was just what I needed.  The Lord reminded me that He has the plan for our Foster Children in His care- but even bigger than that- He has me in His care, too. 

Angela and I got on the road and chatted for 2 hours as we drove toward Winston.  We stopped for lunch in Spartanbug, and as we got out of the car I saw I'd missed numerous calls and had urgent texts from my brother.  Obviously something was wrong- Angela offered me some privacy as she went in the restaurant and I stayed in the car to call Chris back.

Those next moments are a blur - but in them I learned the news that my Daddy had died.

I found Angela inside, threw keys at her, and somehow she got me up the mountain to Asheville as I heaved and wept and cursed and screamed.

Even as I type these words- it makes no sense.

The story is this: at some point between Saturday at 9:45pm (the last time my brother spoke to him) and early Sunday morning, my Daddy fell down his stairs.  Simple as that.  The impact of his fall ("head trauma caused by accidental fall") killed him- and we are choosing to believe it was a quick death.  Knowing my Daddy- even if he survived the impact, he was such a wuss about injury, he probably passed out and was unable to suffer. :)

My precious brother was the one who found him- Chris was headed by there on his way out of town.  I am beyond grateful for my brother's wisdom as he handled the situation (and as he tried, unsuccessfully, to reach me for two hours)... but I ask everyone reading these words to pray for Chris in the days to come: seeing your father in such a way is something that is not easy to put aside.  He has been an amazing support to me in this last week... I ache for his heart and mind.

The next few days are a jumble. I texted my best friends as I drove with Angela letting them know even as I knew very little.  I talked briefly to a few people over the next day or so- still unable to give them many details (we didn't piece together it all until Wednesday or so)- and still unable to put words around this ache and confusion in my heart.  Friends arrived from Winston to take care of Elizabeth while we met at the Funeral Home... they came from Atlanta to buy us lunch...  people put together meal schedules for us when we came back home... they cooked and cried and drove and prayed and laughed because as my Daddy taught us all, it's just what you do.

Still, typing all this- it makes no sense.

My Daddy and Mary both asked for no visitation and no funeral.  While we respected their wishes, it sucks.  Funerals are not for the deceased, they are for those left behind.  Neither of them cared for the outpouring of grief, "the looks", the standard pat responses, the people coming out of the woodwork who were not present in daily life of the deceased- but somehow showed up first to mourn.  I get that.  But as the one remaining- who wants to be with all of the people who knew him and hear the stories and get the hugs... it's hard.

I've been surrounded by friends this week.  I've had the chance to do just that- we've told the stories, laughed, hugged and wept... and it has been what's allowed me to survive this madness.  We've remembered moments from childhood as well as recent days.  And I need more... I crave it.  Not in a "please interview me about my father" way, but just in the way he lived- by story telling.  If you have Stan Stories- please share them with me.  I need to hear them now... but, remembering this same road from 17 months ago with Mary's death... I'll need to hear them in the days and weeks to come.  The stories are what are getting me through.  They are what are helping me make this all "well with my soul."

I typically like to end my posts with some final thought or wrap-up sentence.  But I don't have one today.  I can't find words to tie all this up before I hit "publish".  And that's kind of what my days feel like- I can't wrap them up and piece them all together.  My heart is broken because the person who loved me best and taught me how to love is gone.  He was larger than life... and now, somehow, my life feels smaller knowing he's not around.  I can't stay in this ache forever- and I am thankful that I won't.

I hated this week.  But I loved my Daddy.  And thank God I knew daily that he loved me.