Saturday, March 20, 2010

A Wave Tossed in the Ocean

"I am a flower quickly fading, here today and gone tomorrow, a wave tossed in the ocean, a vapor in the wind...still YOU hear me when I'm calling, Lord you catch me when I'm falling, and you ask me who I am....I am Yours."

Compelled to leave my world behind, I went to visit the ocean last weekend. All by my lonesome. To most people being alone is not desireable, to me, I knew it is what I needed most. Yes, it was akward at first, but I quickly learned to appreciate the new experience. The weekend was very short. I really only got one whole day there...and although I left wishing I had one more day, I decided to trust that the things I learned from my trip was what God wanted me to go home with. I am satisfied with that, but plan to return alone next year.

I had every intention of reading books, writing, returning messages and such...the ocean had other things in mind for me. Friday was rainy and cold. I met up with some friends for dinner. It was nice to visit with them and catch up on things. Seeing that sleep was not on the itinerary for me, I chose to wake up before the sun and begin my only day alone. I walked the beach for over 3 hours that morning. I picked up shells, felt the sand and water on my feet, watched the sun rise, and watched the people come and go. Being alone gave me the opportunity to think, to pray, to lose track of time, to notice things that I wouldn't pay attention to if I was with someone else. I met another woman walking the beach. We talked about our shells..which ones we hoped to find...we shared where we came from and found that we were both there alone. I shared some of my story. We parted, and I didn't see her again. I went for a drive and explored the area. When I finally decided to eat I wondered what I would do, being alone. There were no fast food places, so I chose a little diner. The tables were full of people enjoying each other's I chose a seat at the counter..the place for single customers. An elderly woman sat beside me. She comes to Sanibel every year for a few months. I enjoyed her company. What a sweet woman she was...someone I would have never met had I not been alone. I spent the rest of the day sitting on the beach alone...watching the ocean, and the people around me. Before dinner, I watched the sun set over the ocean. I noticed the elderly couples who walked hand in hand into the sunset. I was reminded how much I desire to grow old with my husband.

Sunday brought some new treasures. I walked for miles down the shoreline. It was lovely to walk into the sunrise. I found more shells....and had more time to reflect. After my return to the hotel, it was time to check out. I was feeling like nothing really amazing happened, I found some beautiful sea shells, I learned things from watching others, I prayed, I cried, I didn't do what I thought I'd do, but I guessed whatever I did was what I needed to do. Upon checking out, there was an envelope for me. Inside the envelope was a broken piece of a shell and a short letter...this is what it read... "Hi, Just realized I don't know your name. I found this shell, and wanted you to have it. Like your heart, it is broken now, but if we had all the pieces, we could fix it. You do have the pieces of your heart, and as days go by and good memories sustain you, the pieces will fall into place again - forever cracked in honor of you daughter, but functional and able to love and go forward with courage and faith. May God bless you." The tears began to flow as I realized that God used the woman I met on the beach to give me this message of love. So, God did have a reason for bringing me here.

I also learned that being alone is a good thing to be sometimes. It's not always desireable, but it is a good place to be to hear things that God wants you to hear, and learn things about yourself and others. Sitting before the ocean felt like I was sitting before the Lord himself. The ocean has always meant more to me than just the sand and water. It is a symbol of God's unfailing love for deep and how wide and how vast is His love for never fails to give forth it's waves upon the is teeming with life, it is powerful, majestic, peaceful, fearful, calming....Prayer became a live conversation between me and my maker. Pain was real, sorrow was real, grief was brutal, and my arms were so empty! Yet, I was before a God who decided to remind me of who I am and who He is. He is the ocean, and I am a mere grain of sand on the beach....even so..He loves me as a father loves his little girl. I am His. I am not alone. He shares my pain and my sorrow.

I am thankful for the trip alone. I was blessed by the people that touched my heart. Although the pain is as real and heavy as ever, I am reminded of my Saviour's love. I had the chance to be alone before Him. Coming home, I was reminded of why I needed to leave, but I am also reminded of the many blessings in the midst of sorrow, and I feel like my soul has found some rest.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

In the midst of Ashes

Once again tonight I find myself standing in the pile of ashes in my life. I had other things I wanted to write about, but I realized that the pain is too great. Today is my birthday. "Birthday Wishes" so they say. I never "wished" to stand before the grave of my oldest child on my 33rd birthday. Today was hard. It was a day quite without Ashley. You see, Ashley loved to celebrate other people's birthday's even more than her own. She worked so hard to make each person have the BEST day the best way she could. She made big birthday signs, decorated birthday chairs, made presents, cards, dances, songs, planned "together" time, hugs, and kisses, and then some more hugs and kisses. She LOVED birthdays.

I picked myself up today...rolled up my sleeves and began my day. Mom and her sister, Mary came down to spend the day with me. We had lunch, then ice cream with the kids. It was a nice time together despite the fact that I have a bad cold and can't talk. When they left I turned around and reality hit like a ton of bricks. Is this really real? How can she be gone? She was just here, we were just together. Even though my home is filled with the noise of three children, it is painfully quiet. It is a lonely, broken, and strange place to be. Death makes you feel so uncomfortable you want want out like crazy. But when you step on the gas, the wheels just spin in the mud. There is no out. You realize you're stuck in this place that doesn't feel like home anymore.

When a house burns to the ground, it's not just the structure of the house that's gone. The insides are burnt. Sure, maybe some things are left. Some furniture may be only half burnt or you might find a few things that are only blackened by smoke. But it's all touched by the fire. I've never had my house burnt down. I do not know that loss. But I do know what it's like to stand in the ashes. Unfortunately, grief likes to put me in the ash pile often. The loss for words when you stand there and look around at everything that has been scorched by the fire. Some days I see my children who don't know how to play creatively anymore, who can't figure out how to love each other, who don't know what to do with these "feelings" that grief gives they act out in ways that make me frustrated and feel powerless. The man I love...who is by nature strong and confident, walks around crushed and confused. I am lost as well. I go places and don't know why I am there. I get frustrated running my home...only to realize that I am missing my biggest helper. She and I ran this house together. And then valentine's Day and Birthday's come around and I realize that our biggest motivation for these days is no longer here. We try to do our best. We do everything we can to re-make those days...but in the end, Ashley is not here, it's not the same.

People will tell me that I am not alone. They will tell me that Joy will be restored, that it will get better. I will be told to cling to Jesus, because He will help me. I know. And I do believe. These words are words of encouragement, words to urge me onward, to lift my broken spirit. I am thankful for them. But, I also know that the things that have been scorched by the fire will always bear proof of the flame. Hope for the future, helps to heal the past, but won't take the pain away. This also makes me think about what happens when you prune a tree. The new growth comes in the spring, but if you look closely, you can still see the callous where it had been pruned. I was reading about Lazarus tonight. (Jesus' friend who died.) Jesus knew that He would raise Lazareth from the dead, but still..."Jesus Wept."

I have to stand in the ashes and look around at the devastation. I have to stand in this moment and weep. My pain is real. Beauty will rise from the ashes, but the ashes will still be there. No matter how much healing, or new growth takes's Ok for me to visit the ash pile and be sad.