Sunday, March 31, 2013

I Imagined Richard Completely Healed.

What a beautiful weekend I had, filled with friends, family, encouragement and support (and coffee...always coffee!).  I have never been more grateful to live close to home.  I was able to spend most of Saturday with my parents at their house, dying eggs, relaxing and preparing for a fun Easter with them, my brother, sister-in-law and 2 year old nephew.  That R&R alone was enough to be thankful for.

We woke up this morning and went to an early church service, and how comforting it was to sit in between my parents and hear the word of God.  The pastor helped us remember what the resurrection of Jesus has done for us.  He told stories of sick loved ones being healed by the Lord in their last moments of life, as none of us are 100% healed until He calls us home.  I sat and listened with my head on my father's shoulder and tried hard to fight off tears, but I failed.  (Who is surprised?).  I sat crying, with my dad on my right side, also crying, and my mom on my left side holding my hand.  How grateful am I to have had the opportunity to share that sweet, precious moment with them.

Tears streamed down my cheeks for several minutes as I imagined Richard completely healed of the disease that had taken over him.  I remember seeing him, the last time I would ever get to see him on this Earth, completely tube and IV free.  Just Richard.  How at peace he looked.  He was healed!  No longer suffering, no longer in pain.  He was hauntingly beautiful.  And how comforted am I to know that He has gone home to our God.  That has brought me more peace than I can describe.  I have the resurrection of Christ to thank for that.  Hallelujah, indeed. 

Another thing that struck me this morning was when the pastor said that the resurrection is a reminder that our past does not dictate our future, for if that was true, Jesus would have remained in the grave.  But he didn't - he rose!  And because of that, we do not have to feel that what we have done in our pasts will always affect our futures.  He makes all things new.  What a blessing.  What a beautiful weekend I had.

Friday, March 29, 2013

I Wish I Would Have Hugged Him More.

Lately I have been able to let go of a lot of the "what ifs" that have bogged me down over the last few months.  What if I had done this instead of that.  What if I had gone here instead of there.  A lot of these "what ifs" immediately surround the days leading up to Richard going into the hospital.  To be 100% honest with you, things were not great right before he went in.  We had been arguing and there was much tension involved.  In fact, frankly, I was angry with Richard when he was admitted to the hospital, for things that are unimportant to disclose in this post - growing pains in our relationship, as well as stress surrounding holidays, as well as Richard being in a lot of pain (his back had been hurting the entire month of December).  Holidays always bring tension don't they?  I'll never understand.

So, I will be honest in saying that there are some things I wish I would have done differently in those last few days right before his hospital stay.  I wish I would have hugged him more.  I wish I would have let my guard down.  I wish I would have looked at him and told him everything would be okay.  But I did not.  I was angry with him and he was angry with me.  These were natural reactions.  Natural emotions.

I know, and have known from the very beginning, that the Lord had already walked before us and had orchestrated the end of our time together perfectly.  In knowing this, I remind myself (and am often reminded by wonderful friends), that God knew how we would react to the situation at hand.  The Lord laid out this perfect plan for the end of our relationship.  He knew that we would argue, that we would fight, and that we would both stubbornly stay put on our sides of town, and in turn, not see one another the day before he went into the hospital.  And because of that, we had the opportunity to cool off, think things through, not say hurtful things to one another, to allow our emotions to level.  Had we seen one another, I honestly do not know what would have happened.  Perhaps we would have broken up or said horrible things.  I am so glad we did not.  It reminds me that, while those few days were not fun, they happened just as they should. 

I am so grateful that, even after all of that, God crept into my heart and told me to let go of my anger while Richard was in the hospital.  Nothing would be solved there so why waste the energy.  You need to be supportive.  And while it was not always an easy time, watching the man you love in pain, we got the opportunity to have two more weeks together.  Two weeks where we laughed and cried and supported one another.  I am so grateful to my God for allowing me to have that time.  For keeping me with him until the very, very end.

It is so important for us to realize, remember and respect the fact that the Lord knows exactly what is going to happen and how we will react.  How vital to our souls is it to try our best to not beat ourselves up or dwell on regrets, for things happened just as they were meant to.  We will always have moments of "wish I would of done this differently," or "wish I had never said that," but let us not forget that we are simply human.  Human beings with flaws and sins too many to mention.  We must forgive ourselves for these things, just as the One that came to save us all has forgiven us.

Have a wonderful Easter, friends.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

In Short, You Can't Get to Know God on the Fly.

"Any relationship, if it is going to grow, needs private space, time together without an agenda, where you can get to know each other.  This creates an environment where closeness can happen, where we can begin to understand each other's hearts.  

You don't create intimacy; you make room for it.  This is true whether you are talking about your spouse, your friend, or God.  You need space to be together.  Efficiency, multitasking, and busyness all kill intimacy.

In short, you can't get to know God on the fly."

-Paul Miller, The Praying Life

One of the biggest goals in my life, lately, has been to be the type of person that says, "I'll be praying for you," and actually be praying for you.  It is so easy to spread that sentiment and then forget about it when we finally get around to praying.

I am working on finding a way to continually pray to my God, to tell Him what's on my mind in an intentional way and not just before I fall asleep at night (usually falling asleep in the middle of talking to Him...oops).  While I do think the sporadic moments of prayer, that I am sure everyone has, are still sufficient for the Lord as He wants to hear from us all the time, I also believe that we need to take time to be intentional, to be still and to be focused on Him. 

I am still amazed by how blessed I have felt throughout the death of my sweet boyfriend.  I am still amazed at the things I am learning about him, his love and his character.  I am continually amazed by the people that reach out and the people I have met through this - people that he impacted in some way.  I am amazed by how loved I have felt by the Lord, never feeling His arms unfold from me.  I am still amazed that God allowed me to have an intimate opportunity to get to know one of His sons and that I was lucky enough to be a part of his life.  I am still amazed at the things that Richard is still teaching me, even after his passing. 

I continue to pray for Richard's family and his friends as we grieve him day in and day out.  I pray for us all to see the beautiful impact he had on our lives and the lessons he taught us.  And I pray that we will continue to move forward, never forgetting, but certainly embracing what is before us.  And I pray that we, all of us, focus on God and His plan - trusting in Him will set us free.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

And When God Calls for You I'm Left Alone.

Today I heard the most beautiful song.  One that I do not recall hearing before.  It is the perfect description of grief and praise rolled into a musical ball.  The lyrics alone are sincere and sad and vulnerable, describing the pain of losing a loved one, but also acknowledging that meeting will take place again in heaven.  But the tune is charming and catchy and joyful, which is how rejoicing in the Lord feels.  It's a perfect example of how we can rejoice that God has taken one of our beloved ones home to rest while still feeling sad. 

It is the most fitting song I've ever heard.


Your Long Journey - Alison Krauss and Robert Plant

God's given us years of happiness here
Now we must part
And as the angels come and call for you
The pains of grief tug at my heart

Oh my darling
My darling
My heart breaks as you take your long journey

Oh the days will be empty
The nights so long without you my love
And when God calls for you I'm left alone
But we will meet in heaven above

Oh my darling
My darling
My heart breaks as you take your long journey

Fond memories I'll keep of happy ways
That on earth we trod
And when I come we will walk hand in hand
As one in heaven in the family of God

Oh my darling
My darling
My heart breaks as you take your long journey

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Richard's Purpose.

One of my favorite things to talk about is Richard's purpose in my life.  I've said before that the Lord made it apparent that He brought us together for a reason; He also made it apparent (though I didn't always see it) that He wanted us together until the end of Richard's life.

Richard taught me more about humility than any other person I've ever met.  Richard was constantly being humbled through various events and situations throughout our relationship.  Although he did get frustrated throughout some of these situations, you know - because he was human, he handled it with such grace.  It was beautiful.  He was beautiful!

He taught me to be more tactful.  He taught me to tell shorter stories (this did not always go over well with me...).  He taught me random facts about health, Star Wars and the Huntsville Public Library.  He was kind of a nerd.  :)  I always go for the nerdy ones...just ask my mom.

That boy showed me what God's love could like in a relationship, showing me kind, genuine, sincere love even when I was a brat.  And I see now, more than ever, that his main purpose in my life was to bring me closer to the Lord.  I believe that God was working through both of us so that we would lean on him every step of the way.  The Lord brought Richard and I through several trials and tribulations while we were together and the results were he and I growing together and leaning hard on our God.  And talking about it all the time.  And trying to figure out what He wanted us to learn through it.

And then the Lord took Richard away from us.  And as a result of that I have grown even more dependent on Him.  How could I not?  How could I not see my need for God, for his comfort, peace and love throughout this tragic time?  God wants us, so badly, to fix our eyes on Him; to seek His help; to acknowledge our utter and extreme need for Him and to cry out to Him.  It doesn't always make sense but I continue to believe and to know that God will bless me through this trial.  He promises He will, so He will.

And what a freedom I find in that truth.  Freedom to sincerely grieve when I want to grieve and praise when I want to praise.  And I get to rejoice in the fact that Richard would be so, absolutely, pleased with me seeing this as his purpose in my life.

With the help of friends, family, counseling and prayer, clarity continues to seep through and set in, friends.  I hope you are seeking clarity in your own lives as well.  Sit still and listen.

Though He brings grief, He will show compassion, so great is His unfailing love.
-Lamentations 3:32

Tribulation in Testing my Faith.

Letter from Rich, September 22nd, 2012

This is not the first time, nor an unusual feeling, I've wanted to just open up and expose my insides out.  You are the first person that has been able, or caused, me to feel in such a way.  I know now what genuinely pulled me in to you was a God-conscious thing of perfection in timing, the tribulation in testing my faith and capability of living God's will.  The only other pull at heart that was as monumental, or a bit more I should say, was meeting God some years back. 

I don't express gratitude I have for God to gain attention nor to appease anyone's wishful thinking.  There just seems to be a bettering reason of giving and ultimately receiving without reservation.  This applies to the reason behind me, silenced by my infatuation, not necessarily with you, but your well-being.  I've accepted that I may not always be blessed with your love, or from many others, and I've accepted the fact that I can't avoid the stream of life.  I can't force peace or love for me upon anyone else.  That is where my responsibility for another's well-being ends.  I can only pray and take action by becoming a more rigorous man by moralistic displays of affection.

I wish you nothing other than a mind at ease, a heart at peace, and the same infatuation with God's delicate stream waving and washing us clean.

'There is nothing more beautiful than how the crested wave kisses the shore and continues to come back for more.'

I love you,

Rich Gaiser III

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Psalm 46

Not much to state tonight other than that I am extremely grateful for the group of girls that just left my house, after we gathered together to discuss a book we've started a study on (A Praying Life by Paul Miller).  

The Lord knows exactly what we need, when we need it and He sends in his army and troops after us.  He certainly did that for me tonight and I did not even know that I would be needing it beforehand!   

I pray that I will always have the undeserving honor of being a part of his army, to rush in and help those in need; only by His help and grace can I do that.  

The Psalm {46} listed below has been an extreme comfort to me lately.  I find so much peace in it; a reminder that there is no need to worry.  God's got this.  I hope you'll find peace in it, too.

God is our refuge and strength,
    an ever-present help in trouble.
Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way
    and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea,
though its waters roar and foam
    and the mountains quake with their surging.
There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God,
    the holy place where the Most High dwells.
God is within her, she will not fall;
    God will help her at break of day.
Nations are in uproar, kingdoms fall;
    he lifts his voice, the earth melts.
The Lord Almighty is with us;
    the God of Jacob is our fortress.
Come and see what the Lord has done,
    the desolations he has brought on the earth.
He makes wars cease
    to the ends of the earth.
He breaks the bow and shatters the spear;
    he burns the shields with fire.
10 He says, “Be still, and know that I am God;
    I will be exalted among the nations,
    I will be exalted in the earth.”
11 The Lord Almighty is with us;
    the God of Jacob is our fortress.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

God Makes No Mistakes, Friends.

(photo taken from Richard's instagram.  When his back had been hurting, George the comforter to the rescue!).

I am not sure that we are all aware of how intricate the works of God are, specifically his works in our lives.  I think, often, about how the Lord has had a hand in my life throughout many of my experiences.  I remember a little over a year ago, when my current job position came open, thinking how I had been feeling a pull to move back home.  At the time it was for reasons that are completely different now, but nonetheless I believe the Lord planted that need in my heart.  He did not allow me to have that job that I really wanted in Nashville a few months before; he was saving my current job for me.  And to think if I had moved to Nashville, I would not have moved home to Athens/Huntsville at the time I did, I would not have met Richard, I would not have obtained relationships with some of my closest friends now, etc.  I love to acknowledge these instances and remember that God always has a perfect plan in mind for us, and often it is nothing like what we pictured for ourselves.  It always works though, doesn't it?

But today, as I sit in awe of how grateful I am for my dog - grateful for his constant excitement to see me, his love of comforting me and his absolute awesome skills at snuggling - I can't help but believe that {of course} the Lord had a hand in my getting him.  I know I've talked about this before (here ), but I've begun looking at it even more intricately.  Sometimes it's hard to explain and I feel like I just ramble and make little sense, but I feel that one of the reasons I met Richard is so that I would get George.  I do not think I would have ever even known that George existed if I had not been at Richard's apartment that day.  And I love Richard for encouraging me to get him, too (probably because he really wanted a puppy without having to actually own it!), and for going with me every weekend to look at him.  I literally had no terms for getting that dog except that I just felt drawn to him.  To me it is as though the Lord knew that this man He blessed me with, would soon be gone from my world - this man that showed me such unconditional love would have to go, so He prepared me with another one that would show me unconditional love as well.  No, a puppy is not quite the same as a boyfriend, but oh how much do they love us!

AND WHAT'S EVEN COOLER - is that, according to the shelter that George came from {and according to the vet}, George was born the same month that Richard and I first met.  George was 6 months old when I got him; Richard and I had been dating for 6 months when he died.  I have no idea what those connections mean, if they mean anything at all, but I surely love to think about stuff like that.

I propose we all take a moment to review our lives and see the way God has intervened.  Big and small.  Everything and everyone happens along for a reason.  I truly believe that people come in and out of our lives for seasons and reasons.  A lot of times we don't even know what the reasons really are until much later.  They come in to teach us things and to touch our lives, if even just in the smallest ways.  We must try and see each person as a blessing, even if our time together has not always been good. 

God makes no mistakes, friends. 

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. 
Romans 8:28

Monday, March 11, 2013

An In-Between Stage.

This picture caught you off-guard, I know.  Right?  Not quite what you were expecting, but it's the perfect imagery for my mood tonight.  Just kind of confused and irritable and exhausted and dumbfounded.  Just a little bit of everything.

I just came back from a beautiful, relaxing weekend in the mountains with 4 of my greatest friends.  I felt nothing but God's arms wrapped around me while in their presence.  It was pretty perfect.  But today I've been hit with a little case of the Mondays.  Probably does not help that it's also 2 months, exactly, since Richard died.  Sometimes I can push it in the back of my mind for awhile, but it generally resurfaces pretty quickly.

I am finding myself kind of in an in-between stage.  And let's be honest, one likes an in-between stage.  It's like when you've cut your hair really short and now all you want is for it to be longer, but in order for it to get there it has to go through the awkward in-between length that's virtually impossible to fix.  All the girls reading this are like, YES, I UNDERSTAND and all of the boys are like, WHAT ARE YOU SAYING?

Anyway - that's where I am.  I am in this in-between stage - a limbo - of moving forward and hanging on.  I know that it's a healthy stage, at least I think it is, feeling as if I am getting closer to wanting to move forward (I refuse to say "move on," because that would insinuate a break-up and this wasn't quite that), but not quite ready to let go.  Finding that balance will be interesting and I'm sure a big piece of the grieving puzzle. 

So, here we are and there we go.  Not much else to say today.  It's been two months and it does not seem real, but it is there and we have to continue to try and face it.  Simply ready for this Monday to move along now and be over with.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Sometimes I am Such a Hot Mess.

There is really not a lot to say these days.  Grief comes and goes like an ocean wave; sometimes it is smooth sailing, other times it's short and choppy, and worst of all is when it comes in and knocks you down.  But my God is good and my God is strong and He will never leave me.  I remind myself of that as I ride out these waves.

All I can say tonight is that I just miss him.  There is no other way to put it.  I just miss him.  I miss his voice, his laugh, his eyes, his hands, his lips, his scars.  I miss him so much.  And I have missed him since day one, but all of the sudden, almost two months later, it has become so much more powerful.  I suppose it is because we move along further and further without him.

I laughed a little with his mom this weekend when I told her that I felt like it was my first big step out into the world without him, as up until then I have been in pretty isolated situations; not like the wedding I went to where I was caught up on so many people's recent lives.  I told her that and she said, "and yet the world keeps on like nothing happened.  Shame on the world."  And that is exactly how we feel sometimes isn't it?  It is just all a part of it. 

Last night I wrote a long entry in my prayer journal.  I prayed for all kinds of situations, several of my friends and family members and for people that I did not even know.  At the end of the entry I found myself writing, Lord, please tell Richard that I love and miss him.  And that thought made me cry.  And it's making me cry right now. 

Geez - sometimes I am such a hot mess.

Sunday, March 3, 2013

It Is Well with My Soul.

I am not sure if you have ever heard the hymn, "It Is Well with My Soul," but it has been playing in my head, on repeat, today.  A gentle reminder that no matter what life throws at us, God is on our side.  He is for us, so who can be against us.  He has a plan.  He will never let us go.

The backstory of the hymn is fascinating and tragic.  The hymnist had been through, frankly, a whole hell of a lot.  Read a short snippet of his life:

This hymn was written after several traumatic events in Spafford’s life. The first was the death of his only son in 1871 at the age of four, shortly followed by the great Chicago Fire which ruined him financially (he had been a successful lawyer and had invested significantly in property in the area of Chicago which was decimated by the great fire). His business interests were further hit by the economic downturn of 1873 at which time he had planned to travel to Europe with his family on the SS Ville du Havre. In a late change of plan, he sent the family ahead while he was delayed on business concerning zoning problems following the Great Chicago Fire. While crossing the Atlantic, the ship sank rapidly after a collision with a sea vessel, the Loch Earn, and all four of Spafford's daughters died. His wife Anna survived and sent him the now famous telegram, "Saved alone . . .". Shortly afterwards, as Spafford traveled to meet his grieving wife, he was inspired to write these words as his ship passed near where his daughters had died.

I can't even imagine what it would be like to go through all of that.  I've had to remind myself of this song a lot this weekend, as I have had many sad moments.  I had a great weekend with many, many wonderful friends.  A great spa night and a beautiful wedding/reunion with several of my sorority sisters and best friends.  But I just freaking miss my boyfriend so much.  Some days the hole in my heart aches more than other days.  I suppose all of this fun I've been having has just made me wish, even more, that he was here so that I could share it with him. 

Grateful for the fantastic people in my life and the opportunities I've been given.

I miss my boyfriend quite a bit, but this was the Lord's plan, so though I will continue to grieve, I will also continue to say that it is well with my soul.

It Is Well With My Soul
When peace like a river, attendeth my way,
When sorrows like sea billows roll;
Whatever my lot, Thou hast taught me to say,
It is well, it is well, with my soul.

It is well, (it is well),
With my soul, (with my soul)
It is well, it is well, with my soul.

Though Satan should buffet, though trials should come,
Let this blest assurance control,
That Christ has regarded my helpless estate,
And hath shed His own blood for my soul.

My sin, oh, the bliss of this glorious thought!
My sin, not in part but the whole,
Is nailed to the cross, and I bear it no more,
Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, O my soul!

For me, be it Christ, be it Christ hence to live:
If Jordan above me shall roll,
No pang shall be mine, for in death as in life,
Thou wilt whisper Thy peace to my soul.

But Lord, 'tis for Thee, for Thy coming we wait,
The sky, not the grave, is our goal;
Oh, trump of the angel! Oh, voice of the Lord!
Blessed hope, blessed rest of my soul.

And Lord, haste the day when my faith shall be sight,
The clouds be rolled back as a scroll;
The trump shall resound, and the Lord shall descend,
Even so, it is well with my soul.

Horatio Spafford

Friday, March 1, 2013

"If Only I Could Text Him...I Would Tell Him I Was Shaving My Legs For Him."

Because Fridays have turned into my least favorite day, I decided it was time to put something positive in it. 

One of my greatest friends on this Earth (hey Ashley!), is a middle school counselor at a Title 1 school nearby.  She has encouraged me to get more involved with the students and activities there, as an outlet, to pour myself into other kids, and in turn, have them pour into me.  She asked me what day I wanted to mentor and I decided Fridays.  I'd like to try and turn this negative day into a positive one.

So, today I went and met with my new gal on my lunch break.  She's awesome and sweet and smart and broken.  We talked for an hour about things she's been going through and about things I've been going through.  And although her problems are so different than anything that I have ever had to deal with, we were able to bond over the fact that we've both had a hard hand dealt to us lately.  It was so great.  We joked around, we cried (well, she cried, my eyes watered, tomato tomahto) and bonded instantly.  Of course it helps that she is very close to Ashley, and because she trusts Ashley, I think she trusted me pretty quickly as well.  I told her I thought it would be good for us to start meeting on Fridays.  To have something to look forward to.  I told her at least, I knew, it would be good for me.

And speaking of Ashley - tonight we are going to the spa, y'all! 

For Christmas, Richard had gotten me two gift certificates to a spa here.  He said, "you can either use both or you can take someone with you."  I thought that was so sweet and considerate.  I knew immediately that I would take Ashley with me, and he had told me he figured I would have taken her.  Ashley and Richard were friends, too.  I am so glad we are using these gift certificates on a Friday.  I did not even think about that when I set up the appointment, but I am glad it's on a Friday.  Turning another negative into a positive.

Last night, Ash texted and said "Sweet Rich.  If only I could text him, I would tell him in some weird way I am shaving my legs for him."  I can hear his hearty laugh now. :)

Happy Friday, friends.