When Normal Feels Foreign

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Grief is a lot like a New England winter. Some days the skies are clear and bright, while others are dark and gloomy. In New England, you never know what to put on because even when morning hits you with a cold, frigid, slap across the face, there is still a chance that the afternoon just might provide some sunshine so warm that it will either feel like a comforting hug or cause you to break out in a sweat so severe that you can’t get your coat off fast enough. I guess that’s why they say to dress in layers.

Grief is even more unpredictable. It’s layers are so vast and mysterious. It comes in waves, some of them severe and very inconsistent and some so still and calm… and, these are the ones I can manage… the ones I can coast on. Either way, there’s always a new storm brewing. While sometimes I feel the very SON shining down on me, other times there is an intense cold front that closes in; it is so dramatic and so overwhelming, that finding refuge seems impossible.

The holidays are hard. There are these noncompliant waves of emotion. Joy, then sorrow, pleasure then pain, happiness then gloom. I can’t really describe it as a moment to moment thing, because, sometimes, the moments multiply, coincide and intertwine so intricately. One moment I’m thanking God that I ‘get’ to clean up after my family, and the next I’m silently confronting my husband in my own head as to why the heck he has to shave SO MUCH and, more importantly, why does he has to leave his hair in and around the sink?! (Sorry this is the most recent thing I have to vent about).

Then, instantly, this happens… I begin to feel like a terrible person. I’ve lost a son. How can I ever resent anything about my responsibility to love and serve my family? I wrestle with this thought, but,  soon after, God’s grace enters in which allows me to get real with myself and say ‘Shannon, it’s ok. You’re human.’ But, believe it or not, it is THIS follow up conversation with myself that stings the most. It stings because I realize that life is so normal… when I never thought it would, life has continued to move on. I continue to live, I continue to be human, and I continue to fall short in so many areas.

I guess when you first lose someone, you sort of think that you’ll never take anyone or anything for granted ever again… but, you do. More often then I’d like to admit, I still do. I still snap at my husband, I still dream about getting a weekend away from my kids, and I still whine about the laundry while desperately wishing I had one more persons to do…

Christmas was overall really nice today, and, to be honest, that feels weird. It was different, but I loved it. I missed my son, but I didn’t cry. However, I did cry A LOT on Friday. But, today, I laughed. I laughed a lot. And, I took a nap and sang silly songs. Yet, I still thought about Christmas past… a lot. I smiled and I hurt. I felt warm and fuzzy, but I also felt void and reminiscent. The Normal still feels foreign, sometimes.

I’m not even sure this blog will make a whole lot of sense, but neither does grief. It’s a smorgasbord of emotions, and, sometimes, I feel seventeen things in the same second. Be patient with yourself, and be patient with others. Trust in the Lord and His plan even when you don’t understand. Be ready for a dramatic shift in emotions just like the temperatures in New England. Clothe yourself in layers of His peace, His love, His mercy and His grace and be willing to fall on Him in every type of weather, in the calm and in the raging seas. And, always remember, that the waves and the wind still know His name. Even when you’re too weak to call out for help, know that He is with you through it all.

‘Though, I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; for Thou art with me.’

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There’s A Hole In My Boot, Dear Lord, Dear Lord.

img_4006Last night, we held a special grief session at a local church in our area. It was a big step for our ministry, as we were venturing out into new territory.  We wrote all the curriculum, we planned the activity, and we led the session from start to finish.  There were 37 people in attendance! It far exceeded our expectations in every way. We walked away just so humbled, once again, that God has chosen us to bring hope to the broken.

When God uses your deepest pain to bring forth His unfathomable Joy,  it is incredibly powerful and unexplainably fulfilling. 

It can be hard to go from a high like that back to a regular life.  Each time I walk away from speaking at a conference, praying for someone who is hurting, sharing my testimony, or writing a powerful passage in my book –  it takes some adjusting to enter back into my regular routine.  I always think, ‘if only I could do this every day! If only this could be my profession.’

God has spoken some things to my heart in regards to all of it. One day, and it may come soon, this will be what I do as profession – as a constant lifestyle.  But, for now, I am continuing to praise Him in the preparation phase.

This morning, as I was getting ready for my first day at my new job, I realized that I didn’t have black boots to go with my outfit. You see… I was wearing all black and gray,  so, black boots would’ve gone perfectly with what I was wearing. But, I remembered that my black booties had a hole in one of the heels. I ended up having to wear my brown ones, which clashed a bit, but it was better than clucking through the hollow hallways of the school on my very first day.

I thought to myself, ‘if only I had some black boots. I really need to get myself some new black boots.’  I quickly dismissed the thought,  chalking it up as selfish. It’s Christmas time, why would I choose now to buy anything for myself?!?!  ‘Maybe in January, I could get some boots. Or maybe in March when they go on clearance…’ I thought.

When I got home from work today, I checked my mailbox. There were the usual Christmas cards and utility bills, and college letters for Gabriella.  One of the Christmas cards was from my great aunt. I was really excited to open it because I haven’t seen her in a really long time – actually, since I was a child.  It was a beautiful Christmas card alright, but also in it was a handwritten letter of encouragement to me and many congratulatory words about my new job. And then there were these words:

I would like you to buy something you need. I remember when your cousin made her first communion. All the parents had to kneel at the altar. I did not want to because I had a large hole in the pole of my shoe and I was embarrassed. I am not a wealthy woman, but I appreciate so much more now. You are doing a spectacular job with your family. God bless you all.

Also enclosed was a check.

God doesn’t see it as selfish when we ask Him for things. He’s our Father and wants to bless us, just as we do our kids. While we moms are busy trying to find that perfect gift for that perfect loved one, God is trying to get the perfect gift to us.  I continue to be blown away by a God who cares even for the tiniest desires hidden away in my heart.  I’ll never quite understand how anyone can doubt him.  A mighty and holy God cares about my non- essential hole-y shoe.

 Just as He cares about the little things, He wants us to as well. Sometimes, the tasks that we deem as menial actually mean the most. That smile that we give somebody, that ear that we lend, that shoulder we offer… keep going! The Lord sees you, and He cares for you!