Tuesday, February 26, 2008
Your Normal, My Dream
Jim is leaving Phoenix today and I am sitting here on the bed watching him fold his clothes and repack his suitcase. I am enjoying watching it in the same way I enjoyed gazing at the snow-covered Alps that Thanksgiving in Switzerland; simply captured by the splendor of the scenic moment. No, actually, I think hanging out listening to praise music and just "being" on this cloudy Sunday afternoon is more majestic than those mountains ever were.
I believe only those who have brokenness due to loss, suffering, life being suddenly interrupted, sickness or tragedy can truly appreciate what it feels like to not be "normal" anymore. When you are in the throws of raising small children together in your thirties, working hard to make ends meet and advance your career and celebrating wedding anniversaries in the double digits without the time, energy or money to do them justice, it sometimes feels like you are drowning in the mundane. And I remember thinking, in those days, that someday there will be a time when we will really have some excitement again. I remembered reading in a mothering book once that as you changed the umpteenth dirty diaper you should be encouraged to remind yourself of the scripture:
Colossians 3:17" And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him."
Even changing diapers for the last 10 years?! Come on Lord!
It's easy to get so wrapped up in the living that you don't even notice how nice it is to just "be". Be focused, be carefree, be engaged (in life), be in tune (with other's needs), be attentive, be driven, be responsible, be happy, be a part, be a team, be kind, be empathetic, be alert and just be alive. After Troy died, I couldn't "be" anymore. I lost all ability to fit in with the outside world. Heck, I didn't even fit in in my own skin. I felt as if the Lord was speaking of me when He comments about the only way we ever truly "fit in" is "in Him".
"So you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints, and are of God's household, having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus Himself being the cornerstone..."
I remember walking around places, looking at other people and envying their normalcy. There was no part of my "new normal" that I felt comfortable in or wanted AT ALL. I didn't see my place in Christ's love as being enough.
I always sat on the front row of church so I wouldn't have to watch all the husband's with their arms around the back of their wife's chair. I cringed when I would hear a child call "Daddy!" on the playground. I heard a jet and no longer felt pride and comfort knowing that was the sound of my husband living out his dream. I felt like all I heard was the roar of the plane that took his life. I remember dropping off my girlfriend, Christy, at billeting (temporary housing on base) that night, telling her good-bye, staring at their U-Haul and knowing they were PCS'ing (moving) to the new base and new adventure that Troy and I were supposed to have had. Left Behind. That is what staying on this earth feels like after your spouse goes on to be with the Lord. All your hopes and dreams are raptured. That is what it FEELS like but our feelings are not always the TRUTH. I often "argued" with God, telling Him He let the kids and I feel like we went down in the plane crash that day Troy died. But why was He being so unmerciful to have not let that really happen. Wasn't all of us going together to be with the Lord so much better than staying here broken, bitter and wounded?
I have never shared any of my journals over the last year with a soul. Unlike Jim, who wrote often and spoke of his great faith and trust in the Lord. I wrote seldom but wrote when the pain became so unbearable the only thing I knew to do was to try to purge myself of the poisonous despair by putting pen to paper. I want to quote to you a little from one of my journal entries. My hope is that it will be evident that God "drew me out of the pit" as He promised.
"I waited patiently for the Lord; He turned to me and heard my cry.
He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire;
He set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand.
He put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God.
Many will see and fear and put their trust in the Lord."
April 17, 2007-
"I honestly don't know what else to do. I am at my rope's end. I am hanging on for dear life. Though life doesn't seem so dear. So I wonder what the use is hanging on. My life feels pointless, dried up, over for the most part. My energies are spent. I haven't slept hardly at all in the last 4 months. Everything is futile. Everything is pointless. Not even the necessities of life come easy for me now. I can't sleep. I am rarely hungry. I long for Christ to show up and do something big to help me out or for Him just to show up and take me Home. I really pray for the latter. Home, Heaven- the place Troy now lives without me. We are living separately. How did that happen? We were always sharing one roof, one heart, one soul, one life... No wonder I feel so lost. I can't find the other half of myself. My other half lives at his new Home and I don't have the address. I actually have the address, I just don't have a way to get there."
Those were the words of a hurting woman written at 2 a.m. and wanting to die. Others know I have always been this optimistic, look on the bright side, make lemonade out of lemons, kind of girl. In the midst of the reality of my situation I didn't even recognize myself. How come I couldn't get by on my sunny disposition or even my spiritual bank account of being a Believer for the previous 28 years? I ran out of steam about January of last year. I used up all my resources and had no choice but to surrender and seek out the One Resource that I knew never became depleted, Christ. His strength comes from the One True Source, God our Father. The spring never dries up. So I fell at His feet and said, "Lord, you have to do this. This thing in me that will give me the desire to live again. I cannot. You can. Please help me." I remember being so far at the bottom of the pit that I literally could not pray anything but, Help Me Lord. And He did. Bit by bit. Pebble upon tiny pebble He built me back up.
I began this blog the other day to try to convey my message to encourage everyone to appreciate the normal things of marriage and life because when tragedy strikes, you will crave that normalcy like nothing you have ever craved before.
But I end this blog with the desire to tell you about the beauty of the "no-longer-normal life". What could possibly be beautiful about the ugliness of watching one's life fall apart? Well, watching what God does when the pieces are crumbled around one's feet. That is a beautiful sight. There is barely a person close to me that did not see the many ways God reached down to me and held me close to Himself. It is not normal to have total strangers praying for you day and night. Not normal to watch 50 fighter pilots and teams of girlfriends join together and pack, paint, load, unload, clean and organize a huge move from one house to another with a few days notice and no help from the dibilitated person they are moving (me). Thank you Amy (who had strep and just came for a visit) and Robb (who had an entire life he put on hold and beforehand had a clean truck and a good back)! Meals being delivered to my house not one, not two, but FIVE months-worth! Family that flew to Phoenix more than they ever cared to. Husbands taking off work to take care of their children so their wives could come out and help me. Friends calling to keep the kids, take them fishing, bike riding, to concerts, to sporting events; anything to simply let them be kids and give me a break. A full-time college student/nanny that NEVER ONCE complained that she was raising 2 babies at once (love you Becky). Guys that showed up with hammers, nails and smiles on their faces no matter how many times I called with a request. Strangers from around the globe that gave money, often anonymously, to make sure we weren't wanting for anything. "Team Ginger"- scads of friends selflessly serving and giving their most coveted possession, their time. While I hated my new normal, I couldn't help but see the "un-normalness" of God's outpouring of provision and blessing. I remain constantly humbled that I was lonely yet never once walked alone.
Now, as I see my new normal (this time a breathtakingly appealing one) I still remain humble that God would care about my needs and my wants equally. I embrace His plan for me. It's not normal. It's better.
Posted by Jim Ravella