Good Grief

Good Grief

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Angels Among Us

Pardon any errors- this is being typed on my phone

Don't you just love how God will confirm something? I sure do! Example---I've often thought a person in my life may just be an angel. I've known her for a bigger part of my life. I met her when I was dating my high school boyfriend~sigh.  She worked with and was good friends with his mom. We spent time together at the lake, going to watch him play football etc. She probably thought I was just a love struck silly teenager---I was. Anyhoo-he ended up breaking my young heart into a million and one pieces-cause that's what first loves do. She and I lost touch until a few years later. While I was attending tech school I started working for her sister as her shampooer, is that a word?? My sister also worked here. That was probably my most favorite job ever-I was working for the real live Truvie from Steele Magnolias.  It was hard work but you got to know and love most of the clients cause of processing times etc. This particular angel in question would come on our late nights and we would talk, catch up on life. We all always had a great time and even though it was for a short time I learned lots from these ladies and their experiences and our times together. Seriously-there were times when I felt I was living out a scene in Steel Magnolias--best summer job EVER.  My hands didn't like the job so much, so it was a short run. Luckily, since my sister worked there I would still run into this angel in disguise. Years later I became neighbors with her niece which has been a longtime friend of mine. Small world, same circles. Needless to say she's known my story, watched it play out and has been one of the ones that has kept me covered in prayer. She is one of those that during the darkest times a note of encouragement would arrive, a book was sent that I still pick up for encouragement. As years pass we communicate through Facebook, through our small circle of friends, sisters, nieces. She's just one of those, for lack of a better word, neat people. Always smiling, the perfect sense of humor and the right words always. She's continued to be one of my biggest encouragers, reads my blogs and nonsense on Facebook. It was not a surprise to see her pop up on my Facebook messages. But what I read was a surprise. She had sent me a link for an opportunity of a lifetime. Something I would have never dreamed of being able to do. She told me she thought I needed to look into it and she would help me anyway she could. She even offered to keep my 3 crazy kids for me to be able too. This opportunity would allow me to spend a weekend with one of my favorite authors, speaker, God-loving funny ladies, she is a favorite Women of Faith speaker. My first experience with Women of Faith mesmerized me and this lady was part of that. I laughed, I cried, and fell in love with Jesus all over again that weekend. This opportunity is for those that need to be encouraged to use what they have-for either writing, speaking, teaching, ministering. All things I am extremely interested in. Its a weekend at her home, doing what ladies do- chatting, eating, chatting, shopping, eating and the best part-talking about Jesus and what we can do for Him. I clicked on the link while the house was quiet, imagine that-a quiet house-one of the perks of school. She had a video explaining the title of the session. There it was---about the third clip--BAM--God spoke to me through her. She said something like, "God wants to use you right where you are, not later, not when you have time, not when things are better but right now." Tears filled my eyes-that's what I needed to push myself to go. As some of my bible study sisters know one of the things I struggle with is being stagnant. I say stagnant because I feel like I'm stuck. Stuck between wanting to use what I've learned, lived and been given and stuck knowing time is precious with growing children, do people care what I have to say, and would I fail? I've been told I would know when the time is to use what I've learned and His time would be perfect. So as I wait on Him for opportunities, for Him to equip me for whatever it is He wants of me I will be proactive and visit this wise funny lady for encouragement for when the time is right. Plus I get to do my favorite things with one of my favorite people. Excited!!
Back to my angel in question. I messaged her back and told her I had paid my deposit but the next session and the next session were all booked so I would have to wait until the second session of 2014.  Which is fine with me-gives me something long range to look forward too. She told me that she was glad I registered and that she would leave some money to help out when she went to see her niece the next day. Of course I said thanks but no thanks I could take care of it. Fast forward to this afternoon when her niece/my friend brought over an envelope. After I came in I sat down to open it. Yep, you guessed it-she sent me money anyway. More than enough to cover the weekend expenses. I read the card. She describes being nudged by God and how she needed to act on it and that she was upset that she ignored the nudge the first time or I would be going to the session that will be held in November She wrote that I too needed to pay attention to this nudge. As I held the money and the card the tears started and the kids didn't know what to think. I was able to tell them how sometimes blessings show up in the oddest of ways. I told them what the money was for and they could not believe someone would be so generous. I couldn't believe it either. See? I knew she was an angel long ago. She just has that way about her, I knew it even as a silly teenager. Lesson for everyone-you never know how god will use those we meet, years from now, tomorrow, today. I can't wait to see where this all ends up. But for now I'm able to fall asleep tonight that there are sweet angels that walk among us and sometimes it's someone you've known for a really long time. You just never know. I'm thankful for her heart, her acting on nudges from her Father. I have a feeling this is gonna be a life changer. I can't wait to sit on this ladies porch, soak up her wisdom and then come home and share it all with my confirmed angel. Thank you again-means the word

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Some Things I've Learned...

If there is one blog post that I hope you take the time to read of mine, or time to share with a friend -this may be just the one. I was asked not too long ago if I had given any consideration on speaking on the business side of things I have learned in the midst of losing a spouse. I’ve thought about it and if I am any kind of friend at all to those who read this blog I should share some of the things I have learned during the battle of cancer, the death of Shane and the aftermath. Some will be touchy, some will be personal, but all things I share are very important. So here is my list in random order, pretty much listed as they come to mind.

1. This one may just be the MOST important. I learned this at an early age, but didn’t truly live it… Have a TRUE relationship with Jesus Christ. By relationship, I mean, not just a church-going, sometimes praying, sometimes reading the bible relationship. I’m talking about total dependence on God. I still struggle with this daily, the total dependence thing, I continue to want to take my life by the reins and do it my way. At the time of all this- there was no inner strength but only the strength given to me by my God. Thankful I had a relationship with Him and knew He was the only way. I’ve shared before how I was convicted just a month before Shane’s diagnosis, by a Francis Chan book. He asked the reader to think of why you had never asked the Holy Spirit to dwell inside of you, why you had not if you haven’t. I found my notes after Shane’s diagnosis and the one that stood out that I had written was that I was scared of where the Holy Spirit may test me. Even though I was scared at that moment of conviction I did ask the Holy Spirit to truly dwell inside of me. I thank my Father for that day of conviction because I would have never had strength on my own to endure the next few months or the past 3.5 years. So friends---get that relationship straight and right with God, not tomorrow, but now. I love this… When you are a Christian it’s not IF bad things will happen but WHEN. If you’re not a Christian- God help you, I can’t imagine going through what we endured without the love, promises, peace, strength and comfort of my Heavenly Father.

2. Never take one single day for granted with the ones you love. Make every single day count even in the small things. Make sure you tell those you love you love them and make sure you show them in endless ways. The way you speak to them, the way you treat them, the way you look at them. Time passes fast. Make everyday count. You are never promised tomorrow so make every day as if it were your last. Thankfully, Shane and I had a short period of time when we knew what was inevitable so we were able to tell each other things that we knew each needed to hear. Thankful for that time, but so wished there had been more time to share…to this day I would love to tell him some things I didn’t get too. I know so many that have lost a loved one tragically, when they left that morning thinking their loved one would return home as usual, and they didn’t. MAKE EVERY DAY COUNT.

3. LIFE INSURANCE. Thankfully Shane was a smart man and had purchased life insurance. There is never enough life insurance. If your spouse is just covered by their employers---buy more. The premiums stink but the advantages are countless. I’ve had my financial advisor tell me that I would not believe the amount of people that don’t purchase life insurance; they think they will never need it. Some very smart business people in our town think they will not need it and it’s a waste of money. WHAT?? Ummmm, last I checked we all are going to die sometime. Be prepared. If you love your family, then take measures to make sure they will be taken care of when/if you have to leave. Hard to put a dollar amount on a person’s life but thankfully Shane loved us to pay those premiums and insure that we are somewhat taken care of.

4. Never think you will not wind up in the ‘system.’ By that I mean, Social Security, food stamps, government insurance for kids. I will never forget sitting in the Social Security office looking around thinking “what am I doing here?” just a few short weeks after Shane passed. Realizing how many times I had looked down on those in the “system.” There I was. Thankfully, there is such a thing (SSI) that helps me with monthly expenses with the kids. I’m also in the process of applying for government funded insurance for the kids. Insurance premiums for our health insurance are through the roof. If it’s there, and we are eligible why not?? As much as I hate waiting on that monthly check from the government…I am one of those waiting on that check.

5. Know your spouse’s business. When I say that I mean more ways than one. If you just know how much their income is, you don’t know enough. You need to be aware of EVERYTHING. Income, benefits, insurance, legal matters. Ask questions, have things in writing.

6. Chose an attorney you trust and get a Will…TODAY is not soon enough. Thank goodness Shane and I implemented a Will when Jake was a baby. I talk to so many that don’t have one. WHAT???? Again, if you love your family what better way to show them by taking care of them when you are not here and able to tell them what they expect. In this Will make sure you name someone that you love, trust and that they feel the same about you and your children. Chose someone that will raise your children as you would if God forbid something were to happen. Make sure they know they are being named and agree to do just that…love your children and raise them as you would. Tell those you choose important information- attorneys name, safe deposit box information, bank accounts, etc. Make sure you have a l living will as well. Don’t make your spouse make a decision like that. Sit down and talk about what is expected if the unthinkable should happen. Don’t let the lack of preparedness make you live in question of making a decision on your own when your spouse can’t communicate what they want.

7. Surround yourself with people you can trust. Thankfully Shane was thoughtful and smart enough to ask a dear brilliant friend to watch over matters with me. When he knew what may happen he set up several meetings with her. She is business savvy and he knew she would explain things to me in layman’s terms would guide me lovingly and help me with matters that I was not familiar with. I still depend on her 3 years later and I would not have made it without her. Those first few months when the world seemed to be spinning out of control she kept me grounded, made sure she reminded me of what needed to be taken care of. What banks to call, what accounts to close etc. Shane had shared with her what he expected. He knew if he told me that I would be way overwhelmed so he told her and she guided me. What a tremendous help!!!! Just another way he showed me how much he loved me even after he was gone. He knew Gina McD would take care of me and so he entrusted her with business matters. Have someone in your life that can do that for you.

8. Make sure you are co-owner of accounts. 3 years later I just went round and round with the credit card company about this. I had a question on a charge on the credit card that Shane and I had both used since 2003. They proceeded to tell me that I was just an authorized user. Even though I had continued to use this card for 3 years, charging and paying off balances and always in good standing – they couldn’t tell me about a charge?? No, they needed to speak to the primary owner, Mr. Richardson. What What?? Yep, when we opened the account, Shane not thinking in a few short years he would no longer be here just had me on the account as an authorized user. Good in some ways-I could not be held responsible for any unpaid balances etc. However, even though I was the only user for 3 years post his death I lost all credit for paying off balances and being in good standing. Stinks. Anyway, if you and your husband have a credit card together, be a co-owner, not an authorized user.

9. Have a support system. Can’t say enough about this one. Thankfully, most of my family leaves here. Don’t know what I’d do without them. Even though I have become more independent I still need them. Especially on those nights when mama’s puking, passing out in the middle of the night and my 3 are clueless on what to do. I continually call on them to help transport children when I can’t be 2 places at once. I can call them when I’m just having a terrible, horrible, really bad day. Always have someone you can call on…even in the middle of the night. This also includes KNOW your neighbors. They are always willing to help, if you don’t know them how are you going to call them when you may need them. Hence…when there’s a huge wasp nest that needs to be sprayed at 10pm. When you think there is a possum in your garage, etc. The list is endless. Know your neighbors and have a good relationship with them.

10. Install an alarm system if you don’t have one. We had one installed years before Shane passed, but didn’t use it too much when he was here. Now, it makes me and my 3 feel safe at night, just that little extra security makes for a better night’s sleep for all of us.

11. Trust NO ONE---- when it comes to money. All I’m going to say about that.

12. Learn how to do things on your own. I have to admit I was spoiled. I would call on Shane for everything. I remember calling him home from work just to kill 2 wasps when we first moved into the house we are in. He came when I called but now it’s up to me. I have learned to check oil, change air filters, fix garbage disposals, fix slow toilets, change garage door lights, put up Christmas tree, kill spiders, unclog drains. The list goes on. I still call on my dad for many things but proud to say I’m learning. Learn them now before you have to.

13. Go to the doctor. Get your boobies, ovaries, blood, head, eyes, teeth- everything checked. Keep everything checked out and running. What good are you if you are not in tip top shape?

14. Give it up!!! Yep, I said it. When they want it, give it to them because one day they may not be around. The less I say the better off I’ll be. Just do it!!!!!

15. Put your husband first. Oh my, how I wished Id listened when people would tell me that. Instead, I was like-Oh, he’ll be around when the kids are not. Well, he’s not. How I wished I could do some things over. Thankfully, he was like me and loved being with the kids as much as me, so we both were guilty- we put them before each other. We did do occasional date nights, but not near enough. Again, why put off till tomorrow what you can do today. Refer to #14!!!!! Guys-thank me later.

16. Take photos, videos like you never have. These things are priceless when memories grow dim. How we love to pull out those videos just to hear his voice and see his smile. Technology is awesome, so use it.

17. If you are in financial debt…GET OUT now. Thankfully my accountant husband always lived way below his means. When others our age were buying houses 10 X the size they needed we kept our modest one, when people were trading cars like baseball cards we drove ours for a while. Thankfully, we were both pretty frugal and I’m so thankful for that. No debt, no worries.

18. Have everything in writing….everything. Again, Shane and I had time to make plans for things others never dream about talking about. Luckily, he was able to tell me what he wanted for burial etc. He told me what he expected for his service, we picked out his casket, he asked to be buried in a certain place, etc. He told me who he wanted as pallbearers, who he wanted to speak at his service and what he wanted to be said. Do it together now, so you don’t have to do that alone. Can’t imagine having to do that without him. Never thought we would have had to have that conversation but we did. Last I checked one day you will too. Do it together and write it all down.

19. Make sure where your spouse is spiritually. If your spouse is not a Christian….work hard on that-never stop praying about it and seeking wisdom from God on how to open up those conversations. One of the ways I get through each day is the fact that I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that I will see Shane again. If you love your spouse make sure they know Christ-if not their last breath will be the last you see of them. Same for kids. Start praying for their salvation today. What a tragedy if you don’t get to see your children again in eternity. Same for other loved ones, friends. You can’t save them but you can show them how Jesus can.

20. Do what you love, love what you do. I’ve already starting telling my 3 this motto. IF you love what you do, like Shane did, then it’s never a job, it’s always a joy. Luckily, I get to do what I love, and I now love what I do. Children, love em.

21. I’ve been known to say these horrible words, “Sounds like someone needs some cancer in their lives so they know what real worry is.” I know it’s horrible but when I hear people worrying about petty things- it literally crawls up under my skin and sucks me dry. Seriously, the things I hear people worry about and things that take up space in their minds and mouth really irks me. Sadly, it’s mostly moms with way too much time on their hands. I say that comment because, seriously, once you are faced with dealing with cancer on a daily basis those petty things are well, just petty. GIVE me a break. Try worrying about how many times your husband is going to puke in 1 hour. Try worrying about what the next scan is going to show, try worrying about how many days you may have left with him. There is a poem about what cancer cannot do, well I am here to tell you…Cancer can---put things in to perspective and cancer can make the things of this world petty. So while I hate the disease and what it has done to me and my kids—I am thankful that it has given me a new perspective on things in life. Are the things you are griping and complaining about REALLY that important?? Place yourself in the shoes of people dealing with deadly diseases---cause it can happen to you too.

22. Make sure your couple friends are just that…friends. I just texted a thank you to a dear friend just the other day telling her how I have never told her how I appreciated her and her husband’s continued friendship. I told her that death, like divorce, causes friendships to fade away. Once one part of the couple is gone friendships just disappear. Maybe it’s the awkwardness, the void, who knows. Even though the other half of the couple is not here doesn’t mean the one left is any different. If you are a friend to one dealing with death or divorce, be a friend even if the other half of the couple is not around. Don’t make the person grieve lost friendships too. This couple, true friends, have continued to include me and my 3. Even though it’s lopsided, they still invite us over, and seem to enjoy our company even though part of us is gone. IF they are truly friends, it won’t matter that part of the couple is missing. Choose your friends wisely.

23. NEVER think it won’t happen to you. Death, divorce, sickness, financial ruin---it’s an equal opportunity employer. These things don’t care how much money you make, what house you live in, what country club you belong too, where your kids go to school, where you go to church, who you are. Satan is out to kill, steal and destroy---- he is just waiting to destroy you too. I never dreamed my husband of 15 years would die in 5 short months of an unknown cancer, I never dreamed I would be a 44 year old widow and my children would grow up fatherless, not even in my worst nightmares did I dream this. Here I am!!! So I share these 23 things I’ve learned, there is sooooo much more I could share, and I may, but for now hope this helps and hope some of these are added to your to-do list. Don’t wait-thankful that God allowed me and Shane time to do some of these together but I have fellow widows and widowers, divorced friends that I think would tell you they didn’t have the time to prepare. So do it today, there is no time like the present.

Please share this with any and all. I hope my experience will help someone, anyone. Hoping God allowed me to go through this so that I may help someone find Him be prepared. Hope what I have learned is not in vain, but can be used.

Saturday, August 3, 2013

Filling the Gaps

Filling the Gaps
Ever feel like your heart is in 1 million pieces?? I can't really describe it-just a feeling of discontent, confusion, aggravation, longing. There's just lots of things around me that are making me feel this way. Can't put my finger on just what it is. There's just "stuff." Stuff like---seems every day someone else I know and care for is being told they are about to start the battle of their life with cancer. For the last few months seems as if someone I know, not just distantly, has been diagnosed with this disease. Living through some of that battle-my heart breaks into some of those million pieces. One of these that has been given the diagnosis is one of my mom's oldest friends, not in age but in years. This lady was the one my mom depended on as a young mother to keep me when needed. She was probably the only one I would stay with--I was a little attached to my mom. I haven't seen her in years but when my mom told me about her recent diagnosis-my heart sank. Needless to say-on a recent trip to wal-mart who did I run in too-but her. Molly, as usual, had to check out the bathroom and when we were walking out we literally ran right into her. We started talking and of course the talk included her diagnosis and her surgery she would be having the next day. She seemed strong and ready to face it head on. Ironically, even with our age differences we have something in common...we are both widows. I asked her if she had someone to go with her to her surgery and she told me ALL of her kids were going. Love it. We both agreed, however, that going through something like this without the one you love--sure stinks. She reminded me that her beloved had been gone 23 years---23 years??? And she still had the sparkle in her eye for him.
Later, when I had time to think about our conversation I couldn't get the fact that 23 years had gone by. She, too, has 3 children, and those children, 23 years later were filling in the gap for their daddy. I pray that my 3 will continue to fill in the gap for Shane-even 23 years from now. Even in knowing her children surrounded her- a few days later, when the bandages are gone, her stamina is back-she will again, crawl in bed alone-with only her memories of him. She doesn't have him to tell her thoughts to, if she's scared, if shes in pain, those intimate conversations you have late at night, and she doesn't have him to wake up to in the morning. As much as family fills in the gaps there are some gaps that just can't be filled. I was talking to my mom about her dear forever friend-mom told me that in talking about the diagnosis, and her upcoming surgery she shared with my mom that she had the "Good Lord" on her side. He fills the gaps, even the ones our family can not fill and even the ones that our beloved can not fill.
I'm still in the place of trying, desiring and praying for God to be all I need. To know that even 23 years from now-should I still go to bed and awake alone that He is all I will ever need. I read a woman's post on a "widow" support group just yesterday of how it was the 2 year mark that her husband had been gone and how she wasn't ready for a relationship, when and if she would be-but how she desired one thing---human touch. That may be the hardest thing of all-just having your love to hold you and remind you that things would be ok. Even during Shane's weakest moments when he struggled to even speak-his reassuring touch could propel me through for just a few more hours-reminding me that we/I could do this. But that was when he was still here. Its truly amazing how just a touch from someone you love can be such reassurance. That may just be the hardest-the lack of human contact. When I know that God is and will be enough for me-I still miss the reassuring touch or hug. Don't get me wrong-I get plenty from 2 of my 3 children, one is just way too cool to even think about touching me-he cringes at the thought:)---but there's just something about the touch of the one you love.
For those of us that wake up alone, go to bed alone--whether its divorce, death, or just a loveless marriage--I pray that God fills the emptiness. That even though the intimacy of contact is missing-that He provides the love, peace and comfort to propel you through your day, another hour, another trial. That you feel His presence in the celebrations of life, the devastation's. I pray for you, and myself, that we know beyond anything --that Jesus is enough and even though we can't "touch" our Savior we can feel His love for us. I pray that knowing that once we finally make it to see Him face to face-His embrace will make up for all of the times without our beloveds touch. That holding His scarred hands will erase the loneliness that any of us have ever endured here. Allow us to feel You Father -touch our souls and to fill any and all gaps in our lives-reminding us that You are enough, all that we need. In Jesus Name, Amen.