Saturday, May 25, 2013

I Couldn't Make it Happen; But God Could. And He Did.

I can very distinctly remember the first time that I was able to recognize and acknowledge prayer working in my life.  I was a junior in college and had just started getting pretty involved with one of our campus ministries, RUF.  The week before my answered prayer, our campus minister had announced that he would be taking a group of people to pair up with a missions organization in Peru during our spring break.  I knew literally nothing about Peru, I had never been overseas, I did not know what type of work we'd be doing; what I did know is that I desperately wanted to go.  He said that all folks that were interested would have to raise $1,600 and would need to turn in at least $200 by the following week to reserve a spot.  Bummer, I remember thinking.

I did not have $200 to give.  I am pretty sure I immediately surrendered in my mind and decided I would not be able to go.  But the desire to go to Peru was laid upon my heart and sometime in the next week I remember praying, God, I would really like to go on this trip, can you let me know if you would like for me to go?  The next day I was talking about it with some of my sorority sisters, explaining the situation and how I would love to go but just didn't think I could make it happen. 

"I can loan you the money."

Just like that, my good friend Stephanie (hey Cov!) offered to loan me $200 from the tips she earned as a restaurant server to help make my trip to Peru happen.  If that wasn't a smacked-answered-prayer to my face I don't know what else could have been.

That was the beginning of my praying life.  Not to say that I became this diligent, prayer warrior immediately following (I'm still not that...but working on it) because God had a lot of growing planned out for me.  But that was the beginning.  That's when I knew something really cool was happening within me and above me and all around me. 

Stephanie's loan started the ball rolling on the support I would begin to raise to make it to Peru for the spring break of my junior year; an experience that forever changed me and one that led to a fellowship there for 5 months after I graduated from college.  I ended up raising exactly the amount of money that I needed.  No more, no less.

Earlier I said that I just did not think I was going to be able to make the trip to Peru happen.  And that was accurate.  I couldn't make it happen; but God could.  And He did.  And I was forever changed.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Lots of Food. Lots of Coffee. Lots of Dancing. And Lots of Praying.

I've been eating a lot. 

In fact...I just ate a few pieces of chocolate...while sitting in my bed.


I also went on a huge chip binge in the middle of the night a few days ago.  I fell asleep at like 10:30 and woke up at 1:30 STARVING.  I had not been to the grocery store in a while and all I had in my pantry?  Potato chips.  So I ate a couple (four) snack size bags and then BOOM - fell right back asleep.  Healthy, I know. 

I went to the grocery store the next day.

But no worries though - I have been teaching a ton of Zumba to balance out my junk food consumption.

I'm not really sure why any of this is relevant to anything in life, but these are the thoughts that came out of my fingertips tonight.  Just a day in the life of your average Zumba instructor/regional recruiter/tornado of a woman.

Lots of food.  Lots of coffee.  Lots of dancing.  And lots of praying.

On my walk with George tonight, I had a wonderful talk with the Lord.  I be sure to let Him know how grateful I was for so many things.  I was also sure to let Him know of all the desires in my heart at the moment (which, of course, He already knows them...but He loves for us to talk with Him).  It is such a beautiful thing that we can come to God and completely honest with Him.  We can tell Him exactly how we are feeling about a situation and He listens as our Heavenly Father.  And just as our real parents do, He listens to our desires, but does not always grant them to us if they are not what is best for us.

I'm so grateful that I, solely, am not in charge of my own life.  I'd screw it up left and right; because as we have already established in the past...I'm such a hot mess.

Praising the Lord for so much tonight.  I hope you are too!

PS - Relay for Life was AMAZING.  I am so glad we did it.  It was the perfect way to honor Richard, as well as so many others.



Thursday, May 9, 2013

Remembering Richard.

Less than a month after Rich died, my sweet friend Stephanie sent me a text asking if I would want to participate in our community's Relay for Life event to remember Richard.  (For those of you that may not know what a Relay for Life event is: it is an all-night walk put on by the American Cancer Society.  Participants put together teams and raise as much money as possible to help fund cancer research.  The actual event takes place from 6pm-6am and it's just kind of a big community party with teams and volunteers to celebrate, honor and remember those that battle/have battled cancer.)

When she asked me, I took a little while to answer.  I knew it was a good idea, but at the time I could not imagine participating.  Fortunately, I remembered that it's not like the event was right then, it would be a few months down the road.  I checked with Richard's mom and sister to see if they'd be on board, and once they gave me their blessing, I gave my blessing to Steph.  "I just don't want to be in charge," I had told her.  Stephanie selflessly took the lead and has not looked back since.  How thankful I am for her.

Now, here we are, the night before the Relay for Life event and I am honestly and sincerely excited.  I would be a liar if I said I've been excited about this thing the entire time.  For awhile I was actually dreading it.  Not because I did not believe it would be fun, or because I did not believe it's such a worthy event; because I knew it was going to be a total shit-show of emotions.  My emotions.  His family's emotions.  His friends' emotions.  My friends' emotions.  His family's friends' emotions.  Strangers' emotions (people on other teams, remembering their loved ones).  And, hi.  I don't know if you've met me...but I am not scared of emotions.  So really, I don't know if it was the emotion of it all that I was scared of, or just the mere fact of rehashing it all again, but I was just not excited about it.

But now, I am so ready.  I think it's going to be fantastic.  And I know the only way I got to this state of mind has been through prayer.  My own prayers, as well as prayers from friends and family.  Answered prayers at their finest!  What a wonderful celebration this should be.  As I talked with my friend, Kelsey, yesterday about the event, she said something along the lines of , "you know, this may be another step of closure for everyone.  This may bring more closure than a funeral ever could bring."  And how true is that?  Richard did not want a funeral or service of any type, so in a really broad sense, this will be like a funeral for him.  After all, a funeral is supposed to be a celebration of the deceased's life.  It is certainly hard to celebrate a loved one's life five days after they've left us.  It just excites me to think that this is the type of thing Richard would want us to do.  He'd want us to spend time honoring and remembering others that have battled cancer, in addition to remembering him.  The Richard I knew never enjoyed having all of the attention on him.  He'd much rather us serve others and do good deeds as the result of his death.  The Lord planted those desires in his heart.

I, also, can't help but see this event as a sort chapter closing; not the ending of a book, just the ending of a chapter.  Mind you, I know that my grieving process will continue to happen and that I will continue to mourn Richard's death even after tomorrow and I know that I will always miss him; but I do feel that it will help me (and hopefully others) to quietly flip the page and begin to focus more on the new normal ahead.  Richard would certainly want us to move forward; he'd hate the fact that we were constantly crying over him, focusing on him.

Tonight it's so funny to me that I was dreading all of this even a few short weeks ago, because I now see it as the most appropriate thing we could do.  I am so thankful for sweet Stephanie and my God that goes before me and that He always will go before me.  He knew what He was doing when He planted the seed in Steph's heart to form a team for this event.  Sneaky, sneaky God.

If you are reading this and you are nearby and you feel compelled to come join us at our Relay for Life event tomorrow, I sincerely hope you do just that.  I can't express to you how much I would love to have you come be a part of our night.  It could be for 3 hours or 3 minutes; there is no time too short or too long.  If you are a friend of Richard's and feel like you have not gained the closure you need, please come join us; I think it is going to be therapeutic for everyone.  And if you are reading this and you are not nearby, please know how much we wish you could be here. 

I am so excited to walk tomorrow with Stephanie; with the sweet friends from my small group, one of which lost her mother to leukemia not that long ago; with Richard's mom and her friends; with Richard's sister and her friends; with my parents; with our friends from the gym we met at; with my friends that never even met Richard; with everyone that has felt led to join us.  I am excited to spend the evening with others that are fortunate enough to celebrate survivors or mourn losses of loved ones.

It's going to be beautiful.
(Relay for Life Madison starts at 6pm but you may come-and-go at any time.  It is being held at Bob Jones High School where Rich and his sister graduated from high school.  It has been moved inside due to severe weather.  Our team name is Remembering Richard.  Come see us!
Scaaaary faces.

Sunday, May 5, 2013

I've Been a Hot Mess, continued.

Since the children have flesh and blood, he too shared in their humanity so that by his death he might break the power of him who holds the power of death—that is, the devil and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death.
- Hebrews 2:14-15
I sat down with my counselor last week, eager for my session because I've been on an emotional rollercoaster the past few weeks.  I've been happy and distracted one moment and literally crying the next.  It has been confusing and frustrating, to be honest.  But as I sat down she started with, so you're about in your fourth month since Richard died, right?  Yes, I said, we are coming up on the four month mark.  She told me that, according to research, the fourth month can be one of the most difficult after a traumatic event.  WELL, I believe you.  I've been a hot mess lately.
I was pretty glad to hear those words come out of her mouth, simply because I've been kind of confused by my emotions as of late.  I feel like right after Richard died, while I was, of course, heartbroken, I was still very grateful for all that I had.  For my time with him, for the lessons I learned from him, for the opportunity to be with him until the end, plus many more.  I was frantically searching for the positives of this situation because that is the person that I am.  A silver linings kind of gal.  That was also the kind of person that Richard had turned in to.  I was grasping at every single thing I could grip.
Now, as more and more time passes, I've found myself crying at the most random of moments.  I've felt the sadness press down on me to the point where it is hard to take a breath.  Like I's been confusing and frustrating.  But, now, thinking about what my counselor said, it makes so much sense that the fourth month can be one of the hardest.  It is the time when reality sets in.  The shock, any denial that is there, they have all worn away.  I keep describing it as the time that all the dust has finally settled.  The dust has finally settled from the traumatic explosion of suddenly losing my boyfriend and best friend.  I can see clearly now how things have utterly changed around me.  It's a pretty harsh reality.
But I am still grateful.
Today, as I sat in church, a new church that I've been attending, and one that I've fallen in love with because I immediately felt comfortable the moment I walked in, I wept as I prayed.  I started to thank the Lord for all that He has given me, and for the countless blessings I have.  I thanked Him for my sweet, amazing friend, Ashley, that was sitting next to me.  I thanked Him for the support system He has bestowed upon me.  I thanked Him for opening my eyes so that I could have the relationship I have with Him now, one that I have never had before.  And then I thanked Him for my time with Richard and for introducing him into my life.  Richard has a lot to do with my current relationship with God.  I wish I could tell him all about it.  I still feel so grateful.
So as we enter into our fourth month, I pray for nothing but healthy grief.  I pray that we will all continue to grieve this loss properly.  I pray that I will cut myself a little bit of slack for my breakdowns because of the severity of this traumatic event.  But I pray to always, always be grateful for all of the things God has blessed me with that I do not deserve.  His grace and mercy I hope to never take for granted.  One day, as more time passes, I will be interested to sit down and read this blog from start to finish.  I think it will be intriguing to see the rhythm of this process, the ups and downs, the goods and bads. 
But no matter how sad I am in one moment and how happy I am in the other, I hope that I always seem grateful.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Even If It Means Accidentally Flaunting Our Panties All Over the Place.

It's time to share a funny story with you guys.  Hopefully it will make you giggle and snicker.  And see that I'm not a total mope all the time, these days. ;)

A few weeks ago I spent the weekend in Nashville with one of my bffl's (best friends for life for those of you that weren't raised in the 90's and early 2000's), Kelsey.  I also spent the weekend eating lots of delicious food, seeing a lot of other bffl's, trying to keep George from running after complete strangers (because he came, duh) and spending time with friends I had not seen in years.  It was pretty beautiful. 

Kelsey lives in a cute little apartment above someone's house.  She does not have fenced-in yard so George and I spent a lot of time on the leash, walking around the block a time or two.  The first night I was there, Kelsey and I spent a large portion of the night out in Nashville.  When we got home George was a terror because he had been cooped up entirely too long.  He never really settled down and the middle of the night...I took him out to see if that would calm him down.

So before I trudge outside, I put on my sweatpants that were in my overnight bag.  (Yea, I know.  Overnight bag makes me sound super nerdy.  Whatever.)  George and I walk back and forth in front of the same few houses, mainly because I'm too exhausted to go much further/I'm kind of scared I might witness a house robbery or something if I go too far.  As we are walking I look down and see something pink on the ground.  Was that there before? I couldn't remember, nor did I care that much so we continue to walk back and forth, back and forth.  Then a few seconds later I look a little closer at this pink thing on the ground and realize it's someone's underwear.  Woo-wee, someone had a good time tonight! is my immediate thought.  Then, a few seconds later, I take a closer look and realize that IT'S MY UNDERWEAR!  Bah.  Crap.  I sighed, giggled, realized that they had gotten stuck to my sweatpants while they were in my bag and were stuck to my sweatpants the whole time that I was walking around, bent down and picked them up and took George inside.

There is no point to this story other than to make people (hopefully) laugh a little.  Life is crazy and fun sometimes, friends.  We have to take it as it comes. 

Even if it means accidentally flaunting our panties all over the place.