Making it through the Fog

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You wake up with a start, rocket up from the pillow, and gasp for air.

“Where am I?” “What room is this?” “What day is it?” “Why is this wall here?”  “Am I late for something?”

Your mind is racing. Breathing heavily, you lay back and try to sift through the fog to find the reality. Minutes pass and still you struggle to determine what is going on, where you are, and who you are. Panic: the worst way to wake up.

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I think we have all had that experience a time or two where our day starts with a ….start! Sometimes it is a little difficult to shake that fog or that confusion.

This is the only way I can think to explain what life has been like the past six months. Desperately trying to navigate the fog.

There are days that pass, even weeks, where I am not sure what has happened, what I have done, what I have felt or if I’ve had any conversations. Then, all of a sudden, a jolt. This week it happened while on a walk. About 4 miles down the road, I felt a wave crash in that left me confused and wondering how it came to be that this is my life – that I am living in North Dakota, that I am married, that this is my life, that I am walking on this dirt road. It does not seem real. I walk on for miles hoping for clarity; for it to be true. I struggle for the mental connections to kick in that will explain and make everything clear again….but I’m left in the fog of trying to determine reality and what feels like a dream.

It’s like I’ve been a sleep for a long time. Like I’m in between dreaming and waking.

I will read an email or a message on Facebook, and then weeks later look back and not remember that I had seen it or not responded. I feel so terrible, realizing I have let connections with loved ones fade into that fog. I plan things to do and projects to work on, and find the list laying on the desk (which I would have seen everyday) but again a week has passed and it’s as if I see it for the first time. So many things feel like they are falling through the cracks.

The loss of my mum almost six months ago, and the extreme transition of my life with getting married, moving to a new country, immigration process, building a new house, and being away from everything familiar has turned everything I knew on its head, and I’m still trying to figure out which way is up…what is real…what day it is….

This is the first time I have tried to write in months. I did not have words. I had no way of understanding how I was feeling or doing let alone try to articulate the journey. It was not a desire to secretly isolate myself or remain silent. The last few weeks though, I felt led by Jesus to just let the honesty speak. To open up to brokenness. This is it. This is not a longing for attention or sympathy or even any response. Just an attempt to step into truth and perhaps clarity. To trust the Lord to be the Lighthouse in the fog.

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There have been moments of light. Of clarity. Of great joy. And I’ve tried to capture them. The pictures I post on instagram are those brief times of perspective where I can see the great goodness and leadership of God, and feel the overwhelming blessing and gratitude for the life I have been given. I’ve never attempted to portray a perfect little life or marriage; those pictures have been the glimpses of clarity that have made my heart full. I have needed to take that moment to snap a pic, share it and turn my heart to prayer to say, “You are good. Thank you God.”

We shared an amazing week of clarity and “restoring of our souls” in The Great Smoky Mountains for our honeymoon. These are my snapshots of thankfulness, beauty and joy.

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Joy and Grief

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(Picture by Kara Spittal)

I love being married. I love being a wife! Something in my heart and spirit is just so different – like I just transitioned into a whole different part of my calling and identity that feels so natural and peaceful. I’m so grateful. There is a love that comes with the commitment that brings a level of joy and confidence I had not experienced or imagined possible.

*Kind* of excited…and a little unsure whether I would get back out of that chair! (Picture by Christina Gusztak)

At once it has been the best times of my life as we journey into marriage, and the most difficult weeks on my life. With the wedding details over, the waves of grief have crashed in with force.

With Aaron beginning midnight shifts two days after the wedding, I have found myself crying myself to sleep alone all week, crying in the apartment trying to unpack boxes, crying driving back up to the lake to get another truck load of stuff, sitting by the lake for a minute and just crying. There is so much I wish I could talk to mom about. There is so much I wish I could debrief and discuss. So many new details I want to fill her in on and tell her about. The longing to have shared the wedding moments with her is painful, and even more so the thought that I will not get to share any of the details of marriage or of life in North Dakota.

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It will be a long journey of grieving in the midst of learning about marriage and life together. Christ is here, and walking among us I can see, but how I wish Mom was here too!! I want to acknowledge the grief and not rush the process, and at the same time I want to enjoy to the fullest the experience of being a newlywed. It is all I can do but to survive the violent ups and downs of emotions while keeping my eyes on Jesus.

(Photo by Caitlin Giesbrecht)

(Photo by Caitlin Giesbrecht)

Still Waters?

One Month.

Yesterday was a month since Mum died. One month….wow. A month I never could have imagined possible, or survivable, but both are true.

Most days, I desire to run away – to escape as far as possible, that for when I would return, perhaps everything would be better and the nightmare not be true. I wish to trade in these circumstances and emotions.

Frustration and anger were the norm this week. Unable to decipher even the causes or the triggers of these emotions, restlessness has settled in. Honestly, I would prefer sadness, weeping, and even physical pain to that of the general irritation and annoyance that leaves me short on patience and grace, and battling to suppress getting upset at every little detail. This is unfamiliar territory. These are unwelcome feelings – ones that have already overstayed their welcome. Apparently anger is a stage of grief, and frustration and restlessness are common and normal, but that is neither soothing or affirming. I have been asking: “Where can I find peace? Where are these ‘still waters’ Psalm 23 mentions?”

“…He makes me to lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside the still waters. He restores my soul….” (Psalm 23:2-3)

So I have sought out comfort and relief; a reprieve from the torment of the heart. Scripture helps, prayer works, music and worship lift my soul, writing is cathartic but I am finding most solace in the simplicity of creation.Image

God has given me the gift of living by the water, and in the midst trees and trails for a couple weeks. He knows how to speak in a way I will listen. Jesus knows how to show me love and make me feel His Presence, and it’s most often when I am in the wilderness, near the water, in a forest or on a trail. So that is where I have gone. I’ve walked, biked, kayaked for hours and miles. That is where the Father has found me, or rather, where I have simply found Him waiting…to take me by the hand and “lead me beside the still waters” and “restore my soul.”Image

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..Then Marry them…

djmase Gospel:

Here is the thing. The Gospel is actually about most of the things that you hear the soap box preacher ranting about, but in reality it is about infinitely more than that. The essence of every life-giving relationship lives and breathes within the context of the Gospel; that is the beauty of this concept. God is relational and in creating His perfect masterpiece, He made relational little sub-creators, gave them an abundant globe, and tasked them with relating to each other and to Him for their short terrestrial tenure.

The context for the Gospel is relationships, write that down.

Seek a fellow Gospel seeker. Seek to travel alongside of them in their journey. Seek to be their support. Seek to be scraped and scratched, dinged and dented by them. Seek to forgive and grace them. Seek to teach and learn from them. Seek to be taught the Gospel within the context for which it was designed. Seek to feel the thick heavy Gospel hope poured out by a loving Dad wash over you as your companion becomes your best friend, advocate, and love.

Then marry them.

Then make babies that go and do likewise.

Amen.

(http://djmase.tumblr.com/post/44520808877/gospel)

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Flowers Fade

Our home has always been a garden; colorful, richly fragrant and where beauty is enjoyed and celebrated. Our parents, particularly Mum, was a masterful gardener, loving the process as much as the results. She devoted every waking moment (and also many sleeping moments) to working in the garden – tending and turning the soil of our lives, planting little seeds of truth and of who God is, watering the dry areas with prayer and encouragement, weeding out sin and harmful mindsets with boundaries and careful consequences, and guarding and protecting from things that could harm us or distract us from what was right and good. There was rejoicing every step of the way.

We sometimes did not like (and definitely did not appreciate!) the process of being the plant, or of having mum do what was necessary to participate in the harvest. It’s quite evident now though, with hindsight and grief, that Mum was not only diligent as a gardener, but also very gifted and skilled; she was made for this role. I believe her greatest calling in life was to be a mother, and the Lord had worked out that purpose beautifully because all along the way, she was allowing God to be the master Gardener of her own life.

ImageFor almost two weeks now, this house has been a very different kind of garden. Every room and surface is covered with vases, baskets, even water pitchers filled of every color, size and type of flower. It is colorful, fragrant, and beautiful, yes, but so empty in comparison. The gorgeous arrangements are comforting and delightful to be surrounded by, but sadly, just a shadow of what this house was before.

Flowers are here. We are here. But mum is not.

I often feel the ache welling up in my chest and throat of, “SHE SHOULD BE HERE! I want her to be here.” Tears seem to have fled the scene for now, and I’m left with just a dry longing and a numb walking forward.

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And I see the flowers.

“And he said, ‘What shall I cry?’ All flesh is grass, and all its loveliness is like the flower of the field. The grass withers, the flower fades, because the breath of the Lord blows upon it; surely the people are grass. The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God stands forever” (Isaiah 40:6-8).

What we see here is so temporary. The things we surround ourselves with will one day fade. Money, possessions, even relationships and loved ones. It can be depressing and hopeless to realize the emptiness of so much of what we put our time, effort and value into. However, our lives are meant to be filled with joy, hope and peace in knowing that there is something so much larger going on than ourselves or that we can see!

God really does have a plan and a purpose for our lives. In every season of it. He longs and desires for us to know Him and be in a personal relationship with Him. There are things that are worth investing in that will truly last and will not fade away.

My mum knew and understood that. So, she invested her time in the things that truly mattered and would endure – like loving her family and those around her to the fullest and best she could. Like knowing and loving God; making her relationship with Jesus her number one priority, even before her husband or her children. Like finding joy, no matter the circumstances, because she knew she was loved by God and that He would never leave or forsake her. Like having true peace and confidence, that when her last day on earth would come, she would be in heaven with her Savior. Her greatest delight was to impart those same things to her children, to tend the gardens of their heart, so that no matter the circumstance, their roots would be deep in the soil, and unmovable in the truths of what really matters and who God is…even in pain…even in loss.

Those things would never fade.

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