Monday, January 23, 2012

My Traveling Companion

I am single and have no children. But, I have a cat that I brought with me down here to Virginia. He makes me laugh and loves to snuggle and lets me hold him like a teddy-bear in the morning when I'm still waking up. I don't want to do the whole "Look how funny my cat is" thing all the time, because some people don't like cats at all. Some people are afraid of cats. So, I will limit this to a once-in-a-while thing.... just when he does something funny enough to share.

So, setting the scene: Lula is quite needy. If he is tired, he will follow me around like a little duckling until I stop whatever I'm doing and go to bed. This night, I happened to be photographing shirts for my website of t-shirt scarves. After multiple attempts trying to get my attention while I was focused by crying/meowing/whining at me, he decided to just get right there in the middle of what I was doing. I kept taking pictures to see what he would do...

Um, excuse me? What is this thing taking up all your attention?

Oh! A seat for me? No?

I am now here to stay. You are done ignoring me, woman!

I'm tired. Hint, hint. You need to stop photographing silly clothes and come pay attention to me.

At this point, I gave up on the shirt and just took it off the desk and left Lula there.

Yawn! Aren't you tired? I am. Cough, cough....bedtime.....cough.

A few moments later, he was fast asleep.

And that, my friends and followers, is what it is like everyday with this cat. Wouldn't trade him for the world :)

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

My Shield

With all the changes going on, and all that I have been forced to process and wade through involving my father's death, I have found a constant comfort in the Lord. I think that most believers would say "God got me through this" or "God was my strength." But, without experiencing that situation yourself, it is hard to grasp how God literally comes to you in the middle of you feeling your life crumbling and your world shaking around you and giving you a peace "which transcends all understanding."

That chunk of scripture comes from Philippians 4:6-7.

"Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus."

This is an occurrence in the Bible of an "if-then" statement. "If you do ______, then ____ will happen.

Here is the passage with the obvious "if-then:"

"In every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, IF YOU present your requests to God... THEN the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus."

I'm not saying that death doesn't hurt. But, the truth that I can tell you is that from the very first "your dad is in the hospital" call, I had a group of people that I was updating so they could pray. They weren't just praying for my dad, but they were praying for me. When I told them that he had passed away (because, yes, that does happen sometimes even when we pray for healing), they immediately began praying for me. I was praying too, but most of what I was praying came out in one or two words fragments and sobs. These people were praying that I would find comfort in God. They were praying for my family- that we would see Jesus in this. They were praying that I and my brother would be a light in the situation- that people could see the qualities of Jesus in us. (I still pray that too!)

Here's how cool God is:

I always felt God's comfort and peace- from the first phone call. I was confused at one point and had a hard time digesting what was going on (my roommate and a good friend back in Ohio had to tell me, "Stop what you are doing and go pack. This is serious. You don't have time for ______ or ______." I just couldn't process everything), but in the middle of everything I felt God's presence. I felt him surrounding me and loving on me and pulling me close. I felt Him hurting with me, grieving alongside me.

I'm not sure where you stand with the Lord. This is a public blog and anyone can read it. But, what I believe and have experienced is something that I am sure of. Just as sure as I am that the sun exists, or that trees have leaves.

I felt God's shield. I specifically felt Him shielding me with his comfort and peace (those were two things that He made abundantly clear to me). I felt it all the time. I thought that I would crumble into pieces and have to be carried onto the plane that took me home. But, God gave me grace for the moment (and I used His grace to let go a frustrating interaction with one of the ladies at the ticketing counter). I was able to get through each moment knowing God was literally carrying the weight of my heart.

God shielding us from certain things can be backed up in 1 Corinthians 10:13:

"No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it."

K, so this is where people get the "God will not give us more than we can handle" phrase (which at times can be really cliche). But... it is SO very true!

God shielded me from grieving about 90% of the time. I was sad, but there was no weight. Those are the times when I felt His comfort and peace the most- and He spoke to my heart and told me He was shielding me as well.

The other 10% of the time? Well, those were hard. I would literally feel the shield lift as I felt the weight of sorrow and grief and sadness and longing... everything that comes with losing someone that close to you. It would happen while I was talking to a friend, when I sat down to eat breakfast before my flight, in the shower a few days later. It was just a realization: "Oh my gosh. My dad died. He's not alive anymore." Then, I feel the weight of what all that meant. Then I would cry. Then, I would feel the weight of all of that lifted as God stepped in to comfort me in the middle of it.

Seem nuts? I would have called it that too. Now, it is amazing-crazy-beautiful-wonderful-awful. God is doing what He said He would. I give this to Him in "prayer and petition, with thanksgiving" and He gives me peace that I understand. He doesn't let me carry the weight of something I cannot handle. He knows me well enough to know that I need to process all of this in little spurts. A good cry one day, happy memories the next, sorrow and grief the following day.

I'm not sure how long I will grieve my father. I think that I will just live life and miss him sometimes. Like, when my kids ask about their grandfather that they never met. The day I get married, when I walk myself down the isle. The day I look at my brother and see so much of my father in his face. When I look at old picture, the flowers from his funeral, the (manymanymany) flashlights he gave me for (every) Christmas... all of these will carry a reminder of his life. Then I will be a little sad.

But, I will probably also laugh. Because there were some hilarious times before he passed. Some good memories. Those, I will hold onto.

Cheap Eating...

Ravioli, Tuna, Mac and cheese....

But, I am still a little poor. So, I bought things that are all much less than a dollar. I need to eat.

Wish I could afford to eat better, but for now- this is it.

Better than Ramen, I guess. Less sodium, and at least there's meat in the tuna and ravioli. And I have black beans to add to the mac.

Hope finances get better soon.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

The "Normal" Life and a Surprise Blessing

...what is normal, anyways?

Well, I was starting to get used to it New Year's Eve. I went for a run, I
cooked, I unpacked a few more boxes.

Then, the next day, my father passed away. My heart broke, my world
crumbled, I dropped everything and left what was becoming home to deal with
everything in Ohio.

I had enough money to last a while, but suddenly I was faced with spending
quite a bit of money in a short amount of time. I knew what I needed to do, so I
said a quick prayer for God to provide for my every need. And then, I trusted
that He would provide.

And he did. A friend was moved to purchase a plane ticket for me. A leader
from my church in VA was moved to give me a little bit of money in case I
"needed a snack on the way home." There was secret money in my dad's safe that I
had no idea was there- for me- in my name.


So, I've been in Ohio since the 2nd. That would be 10 days. No job waiting
for me. Had to move a job interview I got in VA. Waiting. Wondering how God is
going to provide. (because He said He would and I try not to "doubt in the dark
what He has told me in the light.")

Even if I got the job I am going to be interviewed for, I may not start
right away. Rent is due in 3 weeks. Not stressed, but intensely curious. God is
amazing. He has provided every step of the way so far, and I know He will keep
doing so.

I woke up to an email this AM from someone I contacted a few weeks ago. I
heard they were looking for a nanny for their baby, so I reached out to them.
Nothing came of it until today. Apparently, the nanny the ended up hiring was
not going to work out, and so they wanted to know what my schedule was. Um......
open.... wide open....!!!

How did God provide for me today? A potential job nannying an
eighteen-month-old for a woman who used to mentor me.

I'm excited about this blessing, and also eager to get back to settling in to a "normal" life.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Marrying the "Right" Person

Recently, I have initiated several conversations describing my frustrations with the dating scene.

Why can't it be like long, long ago? Parents talked to other parents and then their kids were married. The kids learned to love each other, they had kids and arranged their marriages. Most of these marriages were based mainly on politics and/or financial gain, but it was acceptable and it worked.

Some cultures still do this. I was against it and very supportive of letting kids choose who they would date/marry.

But now?

I'm 29 and single. I've dated a few guys that could've been marriage material, with a little compromise and a lot of patience. I also dated a few guys that I had no business dating.

Trying to date nowadays is like trying to solve a multidemensional Rubik's Cube.... while colorblind.

So many games. So many rules and signals and sometimes even manipulation.

It was SO very refreshing to read an excerpt from a book by Tim and Kathy Keller entitled "You Never Marry The Right Person" from RELEVANT magazine. Amazing. It's like they knew exactly what I was thinking.

Our culture is so hell-bent on choices that we feel entitled to them. We are picky in relationships. I know I am. The first boyfriend I ever had was hurt by me when I told him I couldn't date him because he wasn't a leader. What?!? I mean, I was 18 and had no idea how to communicate. But still. I didn't give him a chance to change. I didn't give him time to evaluate if he thought he could work on that area. I just dropped him.
----- ----- ----- -----

Advice that was given to me a long time ago was that my "prince" would come for me someday. What does that even mean? My prince? That implies magic and fairy tales and happily ever after. That is NOT marriage. Marriage is two people living life together forever. Walking side-by-side through the good and bad. There is no potion that you take or song that you sing that makes it easier.

Imagine a close friend of the opposite gender. Now imagine marrying them. Some are cringing... I know I would at a few of my friends. But, why? What is so awful about the thought of marrying your good friend? Most people would say chemistry or attraction. I think those same people forget that you wont always be attracted to that person. They may get "ugly" or "wrinkly" or something tragic may happen to them and they're not the same mentally.

Marriage is not just about love. Marriage is about committment to the other person no matter what. Marriage is about standing before the world and saying, "We are going to live life beside each other and do our best to love and respect each other and then forgive each other when we make mistakes."

C'mon people. Get it together.

P.S. This link will take you to the article in RELEVANT magazine.

Emotional Eater With Tons of Emotions

My father passed away two days after my last post. You are free to read my blog that recounts that night here.

Like any other devestating or tragic thing that happens in life, this greatly affected habits I was trying to form with food.


I feel like I've gained 50 pounds since I've been home. It's not that I want to eat all this bad food.... it's just that I haven't cared enough to try to eat well. I feel entitled to eating whatever I want because I'm going through something.

I need perspective.

The Ones Left Behind

The weight of my father’s death is hitting me right now. I’m not sure exactly what triggered it. I have been editing family pictures from my childhood, and came to the folder for my father. I couldn’t do it. I couldn’t open the file and study the photos, looking for flaws, reliving the moments. I felt a knot in my stomach as reality set in again. I am without a father. I have a mother. I have a brother and sister. But, my father is no longer living. I saw a picture of his friends from a Halloween party in the 90s. I couldn’t remember their names, and my first thought was to ask my father. But, I cannot. The only memories I will have of my father are what have already happened. We cannot make any new ones.

Maybe this all seems obvious as you read it.

But there is a realization that goes along with accepting that my father has died. It’s hard to accept that reality, because for the entirety of my almost 30 years of life, my father has been alive. He has been a phone call away. Or a drive away. Or even a “Hey, can you tell daddy _____” away. But now, all of that has changed.

My dad was sick for weeks, without knowing how sick. He thought he had the flu. But, the reality was that he was very ill. I believe that if he had known how sick he was, he would have found some way to get medical help. But, he didn’t instead, he passed away of sepsis. What probably started as an ulcer ended his life.

Now, the rest of us are left to sort everything out. My brother is in charge of all the legal stuff as executor of the estate. My sister is the beneficiary to his life insurance, which puts a burden on her to decide what she is going to do with the money. Although nothing was legally left to me, as his middle child and baby girl, I feel responsible to support my sister and brother in all the decisions they are required to make now. My mom…. Well, she is trying to mediate and be there for all of us.

In addition to his immediate family, there is his sister. She just lost her only sibling in the middle of their mother getting older and sicker, she has to deal with the loss of her younger brother. Their mother, my Nana, also has to deal with this loss somehow. She was somewhat confused at first, not really digesting that he was gone. Now, she has to figure out someway to move forward without the son that she sacrificed for, raised without a father much of the time and took care of whenever he needed no matter his age.

In the middle of all of this, God is stirring tons in my heart. No worries, there will be a seperate post on that. Not everything about death is depressing :)

Friday, January 6, 2012

From Boy to Man

Christmas Eve, my family has a tradition of celebrating Christmas at my mom's
parents' house. I asked my mom this week how long they have been doing that.
Apparently, that tradition has been happening since my parents were married,
which I believe was in the late 70s. Regardless of when it started, it has been
happening all my life. It's just what we do.

This past Christmas Eve, my brother was quite jolly. He was cracking jokes,
providing us with a Christmas Soundtrack which included, but was not limited to
Hall and Oates and She and Him.

A short seven days later, my brother was forced to grow up in a matter of
hours. If you are just joining this blog, please catch up with the story here.

He became my father's ambassador. He knew my father well and began making
statements such as, "He would have wanted" or "He wouldn't have wanted." He
immediately began thinking of my father's wishes and how he could best help
people carry them out.

He became an executor. My brother is the only one of us siblings that lives
in town. It makes sense for him to be the one to deal with all the legal things
that go along with a death. He quickly assumed his role and began calling the
bank, the insurance office, and even called a piping company that he knew my
father had a bill for. (They graciously voided any debt my father had with them
based on the business my family gave them for 35+ years.)

He became mature. My brother is the one who called me to tell me that I
needed to come home right away. When he heard me start to freak out, he remained
calm. He told me to hand the phone to my roommate to explain to her what was
going on and what I would need from her or anyone else that could help. She and
I both were impressed by him.

He became a comforter. At lunch yesterday, my brother shared with me the
details of the day my father passed away. Since I was so far away, I was not
able to be there. When he got to the part where my sister told my father who was
at the hospital to support him and who loved him, she never mentioned my name.
In a panic, I looked up at my brother with tears in my eyes. He knew exactly
what I was thinking. He stopped the story and told me, "He knew you loved him.
He knew. He wouldn't have wanted you to drive all the way to OH, even if you
could have made it. He knew you couldn't be there. He knew you loved him and he
loved you." That right there gave peace to any guilt that may have surfaced

He became a man. The reason I mentioned the setting for Christmas Eve just
a week earlier is because the person who called me to tell me to come home is
years older than the person who was goofing around on his iPhone with Christmas
music... making us laugh... cracking jokes... That person still exists, but my
brother became a man on the 1st of January. He was forced to step into a role
that some don't have to assume until they are far into adulthood.

My brother is now among the list of my heroes

Sunday, January 1, 2012

But... I Wasn't Done With Him Yet

Today was a whirlwind. It still is. It is not over. The next few weeks.....months.....years.... they're all going to be difficult. I had one of those life-changing events about 4 hours ago. My dad died tonight.

It was kind of a 3 hour drama that unfolded.

In the past, my mom has texted me that it is "important" or "urgent," and my immediate thought was that someone passed away. But, it may have been that we were out of milk, the phone bill was due, or something that wasn't important or urgent to me.

What happened after I got "that phone call" was a tornado. Every hour, the news got worse and worse. It went from "Your father is in the hospital with stroke symptoms" to "You need to get home as soon as you can. It's not good." Then when I'm 10 minutes into my trip... praying and begging and asking God to please not take him until I get to see him (even if for one second)... I get a phone call from my mom. He's gone. My father is gone. My daddy- the one who used to come home everyday from work smelling like a mixture of sweat and hard work- he is not alive anymore.

Am I angry with God for allowing my father to pass away? The last time I saw my father was not a pleasant experience. I stopped speaking to him, wrote a song that has helped me heal, and just expected that God would help us resolve our issues in His time. I called him in October on his birthday, which was a big step for me.... then we spoke twice in the past month, which I now count a huge blessing.

My dad is dead. He will never get to see me make something of myself. I will never have another chance to make him proud of me. He will not get to meet my husband, or walk me down the isle or meet my grandkids. My father is gone.

I had a secret dream that my parents, who divorced in 2000, would come to their senses and decide to change for the better and get back together so that our family could be complete again. My parents will never get back together. I will never see that happen. I will never see my parents in the same room again.

I have struggled my whole life wonderng if my dad loved me. People say he did. He says he did. But, I have always struggled knowing that it is true. I expected that we would spend time together at some point and I would finally feel it... maybe the way he hugged me or spoke to me or looked at me. I wanted to finally feel it. I will never have that moment. I know he tried. I know he did his best. I know he had a lot of pain in his life that prevented him from being who I needed him to be sometimes. I know we had our quarrels and differences that made that love more and more strained.

Maybe I expected too much out of him. Maybe I was demanding perfection of a man who was like me: flawed, insecure, and unsure of how to show his love to family.

I was praying tonight and asking God, "What am I feeling? Am I sad? Is my heart truly broken? Am I devestated? Am I depressed? Do I feel guilt? Do I feel sorrow? Tell me what I'm feeling- Because I do not know. I have never felt this way before and I can not pinpoint one single word to describe what I am feeling."

Then a phrase came out of my mouth that summed it up: "But... I wasn't done with him...."

That is exactly how I am feeling. I have no regrets. My relationship with my father was what it was. It wasn't perfect. We hadn't spoken in almost a year and a half. But, the fact that we spoke three times in just two months was monumental for us. We were going somewhere.

I had plans for my relationship with my father. I knew things weren't going to be perfect. I knew I would probably still be hurt by him and he by me. But, we were making progress. Maybe next time when I came home, we could get dinner together. Maybe we could sit down and just practice looking at each other. Maybe I would let him hug me and not let it hurt my heart. Maybe next time I dated someone seriously, I would introduce them to my dad. Maybe he would be part of my wedding if and when I got married. Maybe....maybe...maybe...

I had plans.

And what I feel right now (among the sorrow, sadness, and pain) is that feeling when someone interrupts you when you are at a climactic point of a story or when you are down to the last bite of dessert and the waiter takes your plate without asking or when you are taking an exam the the professor tells everyone, "Pencils down, please!" I don't feel regret. I don't feel guilt. But I am just saying to God, "But.... I wasn't done with him yet."