Of MRIs and Blessings

Yesterday I had the opportunity–and blessing–to help a fellow widow.  I sat with her pretty little daughter while she had an MRI on her knee (poor thing).

When the nurse brought her back out, she asked my dear friend Friday if she needed help getting back out to the car.

Friday said, “No, my friend is here with my daughter.”

It warmed my heart.

First of all, I was that widow with young ones who needed this sort of help not that long ago.  I needed people to stay with the boys for the doctors’ appointments, the social events, and the Christmas shopping.  I had so many people bless me, and it was a privilege to serve another as I had been served.

I also couldn’t help but be blessed that we are friends in the first place.

We probably would not have met this side of Heaven, had we not both been on this journey in life.

We call our widows/widowers ministry Travelers on a Different Journey.  It is not a journey we would have volunteered for, by any means.

But God, in His infinite wisdom and supreme grace, has allowed us to journey this path together.

It means more than I can tell you to have so many friends who “get it.”

Don’t get me wrong…all of my friends have been wonderfully supportive over the past nearly-five years.  And they have walked this strange, long, twisting journey with me, involving themselves in my pain.

But I am not always sure they get my joy.

Sometimes I see in their eyes an accounting of the cost of my new joys…things that would not have happened but for the loss of Keith…and they don’t really see how that adds up to joy.

But my Travelers friends do.  Life takes on a new intensity after tragedy, and maybe especially after this tragedy.  Half of me has been ripped away, but yet I continue…not just to survive, but to…thrive.

When I watched Oscar Pistorius run in the Olympics a few weeks ago, I saw joy.  I saw a man taking what life had given him and using that very thing to catapult him forward…quite literally.

I cried, not only because he did well, and that was amazing, but also because of the look on his face.  I could identify with the intensity I saw there…intensity for his running, not as a man with no legs…but as a man with a dream.  He found joy in his journey.

And in this life, I am finding mine.  Moment by moment.  Through trials.  Because of trials.

Praise God!

Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. – James 1:2-4

Grieving the (W)Right Way

One of my sweet friends had the following comment to my blog, Seasons of Soccer:  “Beautiful blog Liz! God works in such mysterious ways. Just when you think He is providing for you, He may actually be doing it for someone else!”

Now, I have not put this on to give myself praise.  (Though I do appreciate it, Diana.  More than you know.)

This really contains the message for how I have chosen to do all this grief work.

Within two hours of Keith’s death, quite literally 20 of our friends had come to the hospital to be with me.  More were there in spirit.

We had a prayer circle just before we left.  (BTW we included the patient advocate who had been assigned, a sweet German lady who reminded us to pray for the hospital staff because it is hard to lose a patient.  I have.)

As I was holding hands with so many close friends, God spoke to me in my spirit.

Let them in.  They need to grieve, too.

Well, for this Martha who was convinced she could handle the whole wide world, this was a revolutionary thought.  But, the word was strong enough that I gave it a try.  Couched in terms of doing it for someone else, I figured it was worth a shot.

The next day, I accepted everything that was brought to me.  Several of my friends even cleaned my house, something I never would have let be done before.  I must admit, it was not hard that day.  I was in shock.

But as the days progressed, I continued to let people do whatever they felt led to do.  Some gave us things–amazing things like a swing set, financial assistance, and secret sister presents.  Some did things for us–fixed computers, mowed the yard, took the boys places.  Some shared the pain with us–the first Memorial Day at Quantico, the first holidays, the first birthdays.  

God has been very evident in our grief through the outpouring from others.  Different people are called to assist at different times and in different degrees, some of them are things I have known I needed and some I had not even realized I needed.  

And in the midst of all this, we have grown closer to many, many people.  The common need, the lack of artifice and pretense in the sometimes raw nature of grief on my part and on theirs has broken down walls of pride–and not just in me.  People whom I have allowed to join us in the journey have been touched. 

And isn’t that what it’s all about?  Community built for the common good?  Sharing the tender places in our soul, without embarrassment?  Sharing all that we have and all that we are?

I have become just a vehicle, a means of blessing.  And that is blessing in and of itself!

Perhaps the way we have done this grief would not work for everyone, but boy, am I glad that I have done it this way!  

Thanks, Lord, for speaking to my soul in ways that I would understand.  Thanks for the tangible, visible ways you have helped me, and for the intangible way you have grown my community for Your glory.

Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God’s grace in its various forms.  If anyone speaks, he should do it as one speaking the very words of God.   If anyone serves, he should do it with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ. To him be the glory and the power for ever and ever.  Amen. — 1 Peter 4:10-12