Happy Birthday

Today is a deeply sad day. The kind of day where I want to hide out in my classroom, cry and eat muffins. So, that’s what I am doing…right now.

I don’t have very many days like this anymore, thankfully, but when I do, it can be paralyzing. Time and life stop in an instant and I am back to throwing adult fits again. I’m almost 30. My birthday is a week and a half away, and this will be my third birthday since Zack’s brain injury. That fact stirs up a lot of sadness about hopes and wishes lost or contingent.

Sometimes grief is sneaky, you’re just doing life and all the sudden it attacks you without warning. For six months, I have been wanting to go to a fancy-ish French restaurant for my birthday. The particular place I wanted to go to only does reservations for two week periods, you can’t book out ahead. I got online before the reservations opened to ensure we’d get a spot, but within three minutes of perusing my options, ALL of the available times for the dates I wanted were gone. With each click and red notification of unavailability, the wind was sucked right out of my sails. Soon I was a tearful, confused heap in front of my computer.

I was sad and frustrated and then angry at myself for being sad and frustrated. “Why am I so sad? Why am I crying? There are people all over the world who dream of a life like mine. You have more than you need. Stop being selfish.” Through tears, I questioned and scolded myself until I realized that it wasn’t the dinner reservations I was sad about. I was sad because what I really want, more than anything in the world, is for my guy to be whole. I would never need another gift again, if that one hope would be fulfilled.

But that’s not going to happen and this was just the last straw that broke the proverbial camel’s back. One more disappointment. One more hope deferred.

In Chapter 13, verse 12 of the book of Proverbs it says, “Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a desire fulfilled is a tree of life.” Solomon sure knew what he was talking about here. I testify.

I would have been stoked to go to this restaurant with my friend, but what my heart really wants is for my husband to be whole. The restaurant was just a placeholder, a placebo. The grief that came wasn’t for lost hope of French food-no, no. The French food just created an avenue for my soul to express its true longing.

The hope for healing for Zack has been deferred for almost three years. Charley has known him longer with a brain injury than without. Soon, more of our marriage will have been spent contending with this than not. These are the really hard truths of our life that I need to ponder and try to come to terms with. Day after day, prayer after prayer…hope deferred. I often wonder, how long I can keep hoping? How long can I keep praying before it just feels silly and futile? Truth is, sometimes it already does seem silly and futile.

The absence of Hope means giving up. I made a promise long ago that I would never give up. My daughter deserves Hope, my husband deserves Hope. My friends contending with the unknown, too many to name, deserve Hope, the hurting and exploited women in Africa, the orphans in Haiti, the displaced families in the Middle East, and all our friends in the brain injury community… deserve Hope.

I’m not sure if my Hope matters one iota to the condition of this world. But I’m going to believe it does and I’m going to make sure it’s felt and heard. Donald Miller describes hope as the “light shining back from the future”. I don’t know what anyone’s future holds, but I do know that I can make a difference right now. I can make people’s “right now” a little sweeter, the wait a little less painful and a little more bearable. I won’t give up, because of you and me, because we’re in this together.

Forward march!

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Get Over It

A few girlfriends and I spent time chatting, worshipping, crying and praying together the other day.  It struck me that we kept saying the words, “I’m so sorry” as we paused to blow our noses or sniffle, as if it weren’t okay that we were sad about the sucky things going on in our lives.  Every concern was worthy of tears, grief, questioning, and sadness.  Why are we sorry that we’re upset over things that we should be upset over? Saying goodbye to foster babies, being diagnosed with a terrible illness, friends and family members who have cancer, a husband disabled by a brain injury…these things are worth crying over.  Yet, even I, one who is well acquainted with grief, apologized for being sad.  My inner dialogue was telling me that I should “get over it” already. It’s been two years, surely everyone expects me to be over it by now.  Why are we so uncomfortable with grief? Even our very own, very real grief.

Still. That simple little word has haunted me for years.  When Zack got sick I thought, “Will I still be sad in six months…in a year…in two years?”  The answer is a resounding yes. Yes, I am still sad.  Still, dammit.  I have never stopped being sad.  No I am not paralyzed by my sadness any longer, and for that I am thankful.  But I have come to understand, and even embrace the fact that I will be sad for the rest of my life.  I am never going to stop being sad. My husband lost his ability to walk, speak, show emotion, feed himself, stand up, sing, laugh, yell, play music, jump, run, play with our baby, support our family.  He has gained some of those abilities back over time and we celebrate each milestone with joy and pride…and grief.  Because he shouldn’t have to learn again.

I will be sad forever. Even if restoration comes in this life.  The horror we have lived through will cause sadness for always. A sweet friend recently shared how distraught she was to hear me say that I would be sad forever.  I can understand, we don’t want our loved ones to be sad or to experience pain. But life is painful and messy and ugly.  And bad stuff happens to unsuspecting people everyday.  Those we love are well worth the grief and sadness.  It’s okay to be sad.  If no one else gives you permission, if no one else feels comfortable with it, hear me now…it’s okay to express your grief.  Express it until it’s all gone, until your soul is weary and your knees are weak.  It’ll hurt like hell, do it anyway.  Loved ones, your job is only to hug, cry, cover, carry, love, and fight for and because of our sadness.  And occasionally sweep our floors when we can’t get off the couch…You don’t need to have special words.

I will be sad forever because my husband is my best good friend in the whole world.  All his lost abilities and dreams-they’re worth it, he’s worth it.

I will be sad forever because my daughter will never know her dado before brain injury.  She is worth it.

I will be sad forever because my relationship with my husband, as I knew it, was taken in a day.  The missed slow dances at weddings.  The inability to walk hand in hand around the block.  The loss of easy and effortless conversation.  Having to shoulder a larger load of parenting and finances. The loss of emotional connectivity.  The loneliness that has gripped my spirit night after night.  I am worth it.

The good news is that time does mend.  There will always be pain, until Jesus comes back and the aches of this life are rectified in our souls.  I don’t have to live there anymore, those days have passed and done their job.  I get to live in and through hope, the sweet grace and mercy of my Jesus.  And sometimes I still feel sad.  They can coexist, grace and sadness.

Psalm 22
My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?
Why are you so far from saving me, from the words of my groaning?
Oh my God, I cry by day, but you do not answer, and by night, but I find no rest.
Yet you are holy.

Yet He is holy.  Still. 

Forward march.

Candid

So, how ’bout this-I submitted to one of my favorite blog’s reader submissions page back in SEPTEMBER and today she posted my entry.

Here’s the thing. I am a little nervous for you to read it because I was pretty candid. I try not to be too terribly honest in sharing the details of my life because I realize that they are scary. People don’t like scary. Especially grown ups. So, I have been pretty stayed, while keeping true to my value for authenticity. This post is probably the most candid I have been. Ever. And it’s not even the whole enchilada, friends. I am telling you this because I don’t want to offend you and the people-pleaser in me doesn’t want you to be angry at me.

Just like there have been tons of changes since my last post in February, there have certainly been tons of changes in our journey since September. When I wrote this post, I was really, really, DEEPLY, did I mention, extremely… LONELY.  I can still find myself feeling that way. Alone emotionally, physically, practically, in every way- alone.  So, this was written, in large part, to express my loneliness. Here’s the change- I’m not so lonely anymore. My husband is a little bit better…in every way. He’s doing it, we’re doing it. This post is a neat reminder of the pain that was then and the relief that is now. Don’t get me wrong, there is still a lot of pain, and there will be until Zack is fully restored. But things sting just a little less now.

If you find yourself getting angry, try and redirect your anger and frustration toward our circumstances. Because, what I have shared is our reality, our truth. And, hells yeah, there is a lot to be angry about when you consider what has happened to Zack. Get angry and pray. Pray for full restoration and redemption.

Thank you for journeying with us. For standing with us. We need you.

Here is the link to the posting-
http://www.rageagainsttheminivan.com/2015/05/what-i-want-you-to-know-about-being_25.html

Moving On

The anniversary of Zack’s injury is on the horizon. This conjures up many, many feelings- anger, sadness, hope, grief, joy, and many more shades and combinations of those emotions that are nearly impossible to explain with written language. Thankfully, this year is better than last year and if we keep this trend going, next year will be better than this year. Certainly, a bad year, week, month will rear its ugly head here and there, ce’est la vie! Even so, the goal is to keep trudging on.

For a long time I thought moving forward or moving on was forgetting about the past. I was strictly and  adamantly opposed to forgetting about what was. Because, friends, what we had was so special and beautiful and wonderful and, and, and. It was everything. We had everything and we lost it all.  I was unwaveringly focused on getting it back. It was such a weird place to live: in the middle, not sure where we were going or even if we were going anywhere. Nothing was certain, everything was scary. But I sure as hades wasn’t going to admit to myself or anyone else that things weren’t going to be just the same as they were before Zack was sick. When I let myself think about that, it hurt so badly I thought I would never stop hurting, never stop crying, if I let myself meditate on that. It was a deep, dark place that I wasn’t willing to go. That was so good and healthy for me during that season. I just had grace for today, moment-to-moment grace. I was angry during that season, ooooooo child, I was angry. The anger didn’t scare me, it felt right and natural, and I knew that I loved Jesus and that he would work it out in me. I trusted Him to do that for me, and He did, He has. I had to let it run a natural, good, and healthy course for it to get better. (This is another blog post entirely…don’t get me started on Christians not wanting to validate any emotions other than joy.) Anyway.

When I decided to let myself start to move forward, I didn’t know how to navigate our new life. What was gonna happen? Would Zack ever get any better? What if he didn’t? What if he did? How much better would he get? Would this injury hold us captive forever? It was like being trapped in a glass bubble, everything and everyone around us were doing life and all we could do was watch it all happen while Zack learned to talk, walk, clothe, bathe, emote, love, eat, and…be…while he learned to be again. It’s a lonely, scary place. It felt like there was nothing sure this side of heaven. One day I was chatting with my therapist and she told me that I needed to find something stable to grasp onto. “Do you have anything you can hold on to and direct your focus toward?” she asked. Suddenly, it hit me, I knew what it was. Tears gathered in the corners of my eyes as I made the confession, “Zack will be my husband and I will be his wife. No matter what, we will be together.” And it has saved my life. That has been my constant, my battle flag, my comfort when I am scared, tired, and lonely. It helps me to keep fighting. It’s my mantra. Zack will be my husband and I will be his wife… Suck it brain injury.

I now have no illusions that our lives will be the same as they were before. We are forever changed and impacted in the kind of way that you can’t reverse. But, this is my love story. It’s not exactly Disney material, but it’s mine and I am going to own it and love it and embrace it. I want, more than anything, for our lives to be marked by love. They are, oh they are. The deep grief we have experienced has been matched by deep love for each other and for humanity. There is an entire community of amazing humans we wouldn’t know anything about if this didn’t happen. People I would have previously walked by and assumed they were “born that way” or even (shamefully) that they were a little scary. These people have stories, lives before injury, talents, dreams, hopes, families-they are mothers, brothers, sisters, fathers, aunts, uncles, friends, someone’s child. I love that I know these people and that I get to share life with them. What a special, important, and mysterious group of people we now belong to. They have changed my life. They have made me a more compassionate, accepting, loving and inclusive human-being. I won’t let them go unknown any longer.

Moving on means: hoping for Jesus’s return like never before, it means being brave enough to discover the truth of your personal situation and daring to do the hard work of seeing it through, honesty, it means shining light to the darkness, vulnerability, saying things no one else will say, it means stepping out and being known even when you feel like the most unlovely person on the planet, it means giving yourself grace.

Own your story, it’s beautiful if you let it be.

The Pit

I am a lover of all things cozy so, naturally, Christmas is my JAM. However, things are different now. I still love the Holidays, but they are a glaring reminder of all the things that have been stripped from us, and all of the promises and dreams that may never be fulfilled because of what has happened to Zack, to us. A reminder of all we have and will miss out on. The Holidays can feel very dark and very lonely. Last year was hard, and this year was no different.

We were so busy that I hardly had a moment to slow down, to really ponder where I was at. This is usually a sign that things will implode, and turns out, it was. It generally hits me when things slow down, when I’m alone and can process everything, this is always late at night. I spent a few nights during the latter part of my last week off staying up until ungodly hours, trading off crying into my pillow, yell-praying silently (it’s a thing, trust me), and trying to distract my emotions by watching stupid shows about some guys in Miami who make gigantic fish tanks.  Yes, I live a glamorous life. After two nights of this and being exhausted, and subsequently a sucky mom, during the day, things really were not getting better for me. On top of everything else, enter shame spiral. Because, when it rains…

I usually just try and ride out the storm since there isn’t much else that helps. Then on Sunday, I was forced out of my grief bubble and into the world in order to host church. These people know me, they know me well in fact, and I am terrible at pretending.  Pretty much right away they had my number, and it scared the daylights out of me. Being vulnerable, messy, truthful, and raw is not an easy task, but I knew I had to do it.  They wouldn’t let me have it any other way. Friends, I cried hard, I used more tissues than I can count, my nose felt like a faucet that had been turned on full blast,  and my voice cracked and shook as I explained how sad, lonely, desperate, and hurt I was..still, after nearly two years.

Do you know what these people did and how they responded? They cried, their voices shook, their noses ran like faucets, they held me, laid their hands on Zack, cried out to Jesus on our behalf, expressed their frustration, and sang over us. I choke back tears even now thinking about it. I needed them to come be with me and that’s just what they did. They didn’t try to encourage me out of my grief, pump me up, dust me off…they didn’t even try to pick me up.  They didn’t pretend to know all the answers, or any at all. They stepped down into the pit with me and they held me so I didn’t have to be alone down there.

Their sacrifice made me feel seriously loved and cared for. After that, there was no place for feelings of loneliness, despair, and hopelessness to settle into my heart. Of course I still hurt, of course I am still sad. Because I love Zack so much, I will feel a measure of sadness for the rest of my life. But to feel known, fully and completely, and still loved, there was no room for anything but Love in my heart. This is the church, this is Jesus.

Forward march…together.

Tantrums

If you would have told me two years ago that one day in my not so distant future I would feel an incredible propensity to throw myself to the ground crying, kicking and screaming, I would have thought you were nuts.

Some days I feel that urge no less than 20 times. It’s surprisingly easy to imagine, and physically hurts a lot less this way…says a friend. Anyway. I can see myself in my mind’s eye having a full on, snot dripping from the nose, feet flailing to and fro, head thrashing, fists beating the floor melt down. One that would rival Ozzy Osbourne in his serious head-banging days. There is something in that physical response that causes an emotional release–I really think the metal heads might be on to something.

I have learned one major thing from this reality of mine:

We are all just one really bad day or moment away from becoming the craziest, worst,  most immature version of ourself. A person whom you never thought you could possibly become.

ZING! There you are: raw, tender, and flailing. Without warning, signs, or symbols, I can suddenly became a grown toddler-lady.

As it would be on any journey, a hard turn, a “one-eighty”, is gonna shake things loose, dust is gonna kick up, it’s gonna be a bit bumpy, uncertain, and scary–certainly not clean. I used to have a lot of shame associated with this kind of frustration and anger.  But, dammit, Zack’s life is worth throwing at least one good fit over.  So is mine- and Charley’s to boot.

I may have already reached my quota.

Nevertheless, onward ho.