Category Archives: Sorrow and loss

Standing still as shattered pieces fall …

and cut me over and over is something that I know intimately, but I realized today that though I know it, I only know a little piece of it.  I have tried to imagine, even while I know I cannot fathom such an atrocity;  losing a child.  Then to realize that not only have I lost my child, but that nineteen other children were lost at the same time is immeasurable.  I find that each time I think of such a horror, I burst out in tears for those who are facing that situation even now.  Knowing that the world is mourning my loss would be of little or no consolation when faced with an empty bed in an empty room in an empty house in a now empty life.  Knowing that there were nineteen different families who found themselves in the situation I was in would bring no comfort, only more bafflement, anger and grief.  I think I would find it hard not to be bitter even as I was grateful, that there are parents everywhere holding their children safe this night.  There are no words, no gestures, no deeds of goodwill that can even begin to bring comfort after such a senseless and brutal death of a child.  No human words or gestures, anyway.    Losing a child is losing a child, be it from sickness after months of hope and prayers or because that child is taken by the hands of a madman, a stranger, who decided to gun them down in cold blood for sins that the children had not committed. The little children are innocents and because of it, the battle becomes not one against nature or sickness, but of one against evil.  It doesn’t make the loss any less painful, but it does make it different.

I have spent the better part of the evening trying to wrap my mind around what a relatively small, close-knit community must be feeling at this moment.  I have not succeeded.  Each time I picture in my mind’s eye the tiny bodies lying shot to death, I have to remind myself that I live in a country where young children are not gunned down as they attend kindergarten class.  I tell myself that surely, there has been some mistake and that twenty children were not killed for a reason known only to a madman.  I tell myself that it couldn’t possibly happen where I live and then immediately seek out my nieces and hug them so hard that they complain about it.  I find that I cannot let them go.  They squirm and complain, but letting them out my arms before I have breathed in the scent of them, touched their sweet little lips to mine and stroked their downy hair is not an option, not for a while, not until I am convinced that they are real and safe and accounted for.  Something that twenty families in a small town in Connecticut will never have the opportunity to do again.  The sorrow and pain that I feel is no more than a drop of rain in a writhing ocean compared to theirs and that in itself makes me cry even harder.  I want to help.  I want to console.  I want to encourage.  I want to bring comfort.  But it is not in my power.

I cannot comfort them with words or gestures.  Their lives have been irrevocably changed for the worse.  What likely started as a normal day for these families ended in bone-crushing sorrow and depths of despair that cannot be described within the confines of this blog.  The cries and screams of mothers and fathers will echo down every valley and soar above the highest mountains for days and weeks and years to come.  Such sorrow cannot be contained and even though I did not hear them with my ears, my heart breaks at the sound I know is there and I find myself sobbing, yet again, for what cannot be changed.

I will do the only thing I know to do for them and that is to pray for comfort in a time of sorrow so black and so deep, an abyss that seems to have no way out.  Time, it is said, is a great healer, and from personal experience, I know that to be true … but time has never had to heal me from the loss of a child and I find that while I have compassion and a deep, deep sorrow for the loss, I cannot even begin to comprehend it.

Lifting up, in the name of Jesus, those who will be unable to stand for a long time is the only recourse I have.  But stand they will and fight they will and remember they will.  The road will be difficult and strewn with landmines and  obstacles that will take them backwards more than forwards; at least for  a time.  They will never get over it, may not get past it, but hopefully, can one day, come to terms with it enough to get out of bed in the morning.

This night, as the nation and the world mourns the needless loss of little children, may we join together and pray collectively so that a veil of protection can be woven around the grieving families.  Let us tear our clothing and throw ourselves to the ground to wail for that which threatens to suffocate us.  They have suffered enough for a lifetime.  Let us pray that that they can face it tomorrow, and the day after that and the day after that.

The little children are in the hands of God, but the hands of their parents are empty and their hearts are shattered.  Join me as I pray that they will be able to find some measure of comfort in some aspect of this tragedy and that in time, the memories that hurt them so deeply now will somehow bring them the comfort they seek.  I don’t know what else to do.

soaringhawk

Romans 12:21 Be not overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

Being a greeting card designer …

was never  in my plans; it wasn’t even in the back of my mind.  A thought not yet thought, a dream not yet dreampt.  It never really occurred to me that I could design greeting cards until one day, four years ago, when I was looking for a place to make a birthday card for my friend Len.  I wanted to use a photograph of our Great Pyrenees dogs to upload to a card in order to wish a happy birthday to my dog-loving friend.  I had looked up such sites before, but could find none that would allow me to upload my own photographs onto the card.  And then, out of the blue (always a sure sign that a blessing is in the midst), I found Greeting Card Universe.  It was exactly what I had been looking for and the site said that I could upload my photographs and make cards out of them and actually make money off of them.   I had an overwhelming urge to do just that, caring about the photography and not really expecting to make any money from what came out my heart and head.  The site said that it could take several months to sell a card and it could be years before any revenue was made.

My husband, who was still living at the time, encouraged me to make more.  To put the words in my heart with the photographs that I had been given.  I had to come up with a name for the store and because I give God all the glory for what I see through the lens of my camera, Through the Eyes of the Spirit just popped into my mind.  Jim was one of my biggest fans and a sounding board for new ideas and thoughts.  He was brutally honest and I appreciated that, as honesty is very important to me.  I began to put words to the photographs I had taken and created cards that I could scarcely imagine that anyone would want. I was at a crossroads.  A place where I had two choices; share what I had been given or cowardly hide it away because I couldn’t fathom that anyone would want anything that I had created.

So I did it. I took the leap of faith and uploaded a card with my own photograph and my own verse and prepared to wait for months or even years for anyone to take an interest.  Eleven days later, I sold my first greeting card.  The feeling was one of jubilation, honor,  humbleness and, quite honestly, disbelief.  I simply could not believe that there were people who had an interest in the words I had to say, words that were given to me, those not my own, but placed in my heart by a faithful God.

I immediately considered the first sale a fluke and then more came.  And more after that.  It seemed that I had a knack for coming up with the words that people wanted to say, but didn’t quite know how.  I made card after card, the verses rolling off my tongue as though they were native to me.  What inspiration and joy I had from each one and every time I had a sale, I was thankful and gave thanks to the Lord who had given such a wonderful thing to me.  It became a ministry.  One of encouragement to the downtrodden and suffering.  It wasn’t as easy as I thought it would be.  Many times I cried over the verses for they were born of life experiences and hardships that I would never have dreamed could ever be anything more than a burden.

It has been four years since I joined the world of greeting card design and more than 20,000 cards have sold.  Yes, you read that correctly.  Twenty thousand.  I am stunned.  I continue to be stunned.  And with each sale, whether it be for one card or 500 cards, I feel the same as I did when the very first one sold.  The thrill and exhilaration has not faded.  Each time I get a notification, I first thank God, for it is all for His glory.  My name will fade from the mind only moments after hearing it, but His name will still be on the lips of His people until the end of time.  I am  honored that He has chosen me to be a part of His ministry through something that I love as much as my life itself.

In my heart of hearts, I am a photographer.  I see things differently and that, in itself, is a blessing.  I would love to be able to thank every single person, from all fifty states and thirty different countries for their support.  It isn’t possible.  I  don’t know who buys my cards.  All I am privy to is the location from which the card was purchased, but that doesn’t impede my desire to pray when I sell a card for “loss of mother” or “college graduate” or “thank you from bride to father”.  I am grateful for each one and feel a sense of gratitude and humbleness that out of  hundreds of thousand of cards, someone picked mine.

I don’t take this blessing lightly as it has had a profound influence on my life.  And I am, as I said, very grateful.  I am blessed beyond what I have the words to say and at times when I am feeling low, He lifts me by using the talents and gifts He gave to me to bring joy that would otherwise be absent.  I am in love with Jesus and take great pleasure in knowing that He loves me more than I can ever love Him.  Although life has a way of kicking me down from time to time, it cannot compete with what lives inside of me.  Life will go on whether I am a part of it or not, but how wonderful to know, that through the gifts given to me, that I am able to bring joy and encouragement to others.  That, without doubt or reservation, makes my life worth living and for that, I am grateful beyond words that I can say.

So again I say, to everyone who has ever purchased a card from Through the Eyes of the Spirit, I hope you got even a tenth of the joy from receiving the card as I got from creating it.

blackandwhite_rainbow

Isiah 41:10 ~ So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.

Birthdays …

the good, the bad and the indifferent.  Birthdays have always been a very cool thing to me, whether it is mine or someone else’s, I just feel happy.  Most of the time.  This year, my birthday came and went. There was cake and ice-cream, family, friends, co-workers; all the usual birthday suspects.  It was different, though.  This month started out with a fairly serious facial injury and mid-way through, adding insult (and injury) to injury, I fairly seriously injured my shoulder and cracked a couple of ribs.   Now it is no secret to the people who know me well that my mind, in the best of times, is a scary place to be.  During the worst of times, I walk around with a bio-hazard sign flashing above my head.

But, as I so often do, digress.  I can chalk part of it up to the end of October, that which I both long for and dread.  I have a love/hate relationship with that month and it nearly always makes me high.  November, however, is a month of coming to terms with the oncoming winter, saying goodbye to the leaves, hello to the bare sentries of winter and getting ready to be cold more often than not.  And my birthday is this month and that always makes me feel extremely special.  That was not to be this year.  With each new event, there were melancholic thoughts of days past, days that I didn’t care that much for when they were the present.  I thought much of my late husband and felt guilty, at times, that I was ready to let him be at peace and begin the process of getting on with my solitary (as that is how I like it) life.

I don’t discount the many blessings of the last year.  That would be wrong on so many levels.  The blessings have been numerous and I am thankful for each one.  Blessings sometimes get lost in the fray of life, though. I have family suffering from the loss of a loved one, dear friends that I am unable to account for and dealing with turning 45.  Any of these would be like turning a page during normal times, but when they all happen at once, well, it weighs on the mind.

Did it make my birthday less happy?  Yes.  Life has a way of doing what it wants.  That doesn’t mean that I can’t be happy today, or tomorrow or the next day.  It doesn’t mean that I am beyond hope.  Unhappiness is a part of living and if there is anyone who has lived their entire life saying they have never experienced it, then you have seen, up close and personal, a liar.

November is nearly over and the round of Christmas parties, Band concerts, Christmas plays and a thousand other things that I will be trying hard to find a place to fit will present themselves, (at the last minute, always at the last minute), and at the same time, working diligently to keep my sanity (a fine line at best).  While it is true that I’m closer to fifty than I was only a couple of days ago, that is the furthest thing on my mind.  I am happier now than I have ever been.  Free, so to speak, with a daughter in college and myself on my own.  But there are times, as everyone knows, when it would be nice just to have someone put their arms around me, saying nothing as I cry until the tears were gone.  There is nothing wrong with that.  It is not a sign of weakness, but proof of humanness; it is life.  It can be, at times discouraging, but in that moment that we find ourselves, unless we make it our mission, will not last forever.  I am already looking forward to doing it better and with more enthusiasm in the next year; whatever “it” may be.  I am a survivor and no matter what comes at me, I can depend on the Jesus to which I cling to lift me when my wings are too broken to fly on my own.  I am truly, humbly, honorable and indescribably blessed and that, I don’t want to forget.

Looking at the here and now can sometimes be overwhelming … but the here and now will be the there and then tomorrow, so don’t let it break you.  Let it get you down, cry when you need to, throw things if it suits you (my favorite thing to do in a crisis), but at the end of the day, realize that our life, our thoughts, our fears are part of what makes us who we are and without them, we wouldn’t really be anyone in particular, but like everyone else.  I like being different, even when it’s painful.  Though I have many regrets, there isn’t anything I would change because if I were to change them, my ability to relate and empathize would become obsolete.  An easy life is no challenge, but rising above the odds and making the best of the worst situations takes us to a whole new level.  It is my goal to serve my Lord and be the best that I can be for Him.   Be encouraged, my friends, for nothing lasts forever.  Nothing.

Lightning over Big Moccasin

Psalms 28:7 ~ The LORD is my strength and my shield; my heart is trusted in Him, and I am helped: therefore my heart greatly rejoiceth; and with my song will praise him.

What is it really like …

to lose, very suddenly and without warning, someone you love or are very close to?  To put it bluntly, it is like no other feeling in the world.  It supersedes all the other OMG moments as it settles into our bones like the chill of December.  It takes shock and disbelief to a new level.  I found out first hand a few years ago when I came home and found my husband, who was very much alive when I left to go to work, dead.  The shock was profound.  What in the world had happened in the hours I had been gone and totally oblivious to what was happening at home?  The instant feeling of emptiness will always be somewhere in the back of my mind and likely continue to show its ugly face at the most inopportune time.  It has been three years, or will be in a few weeks, since that fateful day, but there are times when I feel like I’m walking in for the first time.  How odd, that sensation, when I feel so vulnerable and so alone and so focused on my own loss and loneliness; how thankful I am that those times are now few and far between.

It’s difficult, in the best of times, to come to terms with the sudden and unexpected loss of someone you care about, be it a family member or dear friend or even someone that you remember fondly from your past.  It doesn’t matter who they are if they meant something to you.  Artists who paint will either paint as if tomorrow is a myth, or stop; photographers will take chances they would have never have taken or they will simply stop photographing for a time, musicians will either write as though their life depended on it or turn from their music completely.    We artists don’t deal with things the way other people do; that is often hard for the “others” to understand.

In my own experience, photography became nothing more than a reminder of what I had lost and it was months before I could come to terms with it and be able to pick up my Pentax and look through it without a blinding fog over my eyes.  There was, I now know, nothing wrong with that.  At the time, I thought I was past weird and well on my way to the funny farm, but looking back, I realize that it was all part of the process.  There is no right way or wrong way to grieve.  There is only the way that feels right at the time.  If you go against what you feel in your heart, then the only recourse is regret.  I try very hard to not do things that I will regret; sometimes I do them anyway, but then, I think I speak for most of us.

Losing someone we care about doesn’t change who we are but it does make us wonder if we could have been more.  That thought, though, should not consume us.  There will always be more that we could have done, could or should have said, could have made happen; dwelling on these things will not change anything.  I choose to dwell on the things that I did and not on the ones that I will never be able to do.  I am happier, and saner, for it.

time, change and dreams … and the encouragement therein

Time.  That elusive element that can drag out for what seems like an eternity or pass in a split moment.  The one thing that is both a constant and ephemeral, often at the same time. It seems to go hand in hand with change, a thing that I have never quite been able to grasp nor to become adept at handling.  While change isn’t necessarily a bad thing, often a good thing even, it is still unyielding in it’s power to overtake my life.  Change, like the passing of time, is inevitable.  There is no miracle that can erase those things that make my life better or worse and there is no magic that can bring back a moment that has passed.  Having a memory of something that has happened or that has been at one point is not the same thing as having that moment to live all over again.  Each time a memory is revisited, it changes slightly, taking on the gleam of what I would have it to be, whether it is better or worse than I remembered the last time I visited it.   There are even those memories that seem to be inherited, those that don’t really belong to me and yet they are in my mind and my heart as though they were mine all along.  My brain, heart, spirit and soul have been strained to the breaking point at times and when that happens, it feels as though any chance of a normal life cannot be possible.  Life then takes on a dream-like quality that is somewhere between reality and fantasy.  There are times when I hope to stay awake forever so that dreams cannot blur the reality that I strive to hold onto.  I dream in color and am often in the midst of violence and blood, neither of which I am fond of on any level.  Of late, my dreams have veered down an entirely different vein and it remains to be seen what will come of them.  I don’t put any stock in dreams, not in the way that some folks do in thinking that they mean anything in particular.  They are outlets that allow my body and mind to be free and clear of everything while taking a journey into fascinating, though often frightening, places.  I know that I am not alone in this statement.  I have friends that have dreams that make mine seem innocent and juvenile in comparison and I can only nod and appreciate that I have not yet crossed into that particular realm.  Time seems to have no bearing on dreams and rarely factors into them.  Over the past couple of years, I have spoken with many people about their dreams.  Their dreams are often perpetuated by time and change and revolve around loss and death of people or others, whether it was natural or tragic, that they loved.  Each person has said that they have had many, many dreams of those they are missing and I can’t help but feel blessed in some way that my dreams have never crossed that threshold.  I have not dreamed of my husband, not once, since he passed over two years ago.  I have not dreamed of my grandparents though my grandmothers, both of them, were a defining force in my life.  I have not dreamt of friends that have died nor of pets that I cherished.  While on one hand, I feel that I have been cheated out of revisiting those that I loved, on the other, I am glad that I have not had those moments between sleep and wakefulness, that place that holds me captive until I can awaken and have only the foggy memory of something happening.  I am glad that my nights are not plagued with actual loss and torment, though my days often are.  There are days and days that have no significance whatsoever, and then suddenly, out of the shadows, time passes and a moment that meant so much is upon me and I feel as though I am dying myself.  I have wished to die.  Maybe it is a fallacy to believe that everyone has a moment here and there when the burdens of life become so heavy that death seems like the obvious solution.  It is not the solution, not to anything, at least not by my own hand, but there have been times when it weighed into the equation.  As I’ve gotten older, more experienced and possibly even wiser, those thoughts don’t enter into my mind.  It is irresponsible to believe such dwellings and above all things, I do not want to be irresponsible.  Ok, that’s a lie, I do want to be irresponsible and completely carefree and irrational, but reality keeps me tethered whether I like it that way or not.  I have found myself, at times of great despair, praying for faith, but praying for faith is like spitting in the wind.  In order for prayer to do any good, faith must come first, for if I have no faith in whom to which I pray, then I have wasted my time.  I do have faith.  I have faith in an awesome God that has taken me through valleys that I would never have believed I could have lived through.  I came out bruised and battle-scarred, but not broken.  I have been close to being broken, but never to the point of no return.  That is one of the mysteries of time.  It can heal or it can destroy, depending on what I decide to do with the circumstances that are given me.  So whether it be time or change or dreams that I cannot control, when the day dawns and I awake, I am thankful for all I have learned.  I’m a bit apprehensive about the lessons  yet to learn, but those valleys are not my concern at the moment, and when I travel through them, I will not be alone.  And neither will those who will read these words and hopefully, find some kind of comfort in knowing that the thoughts of time and change and dreams are shared by many, that they are not alone in their journey through the darkest times they will ever face.  I am not so gullible as to think that there will not be more darkness in my life, but with each trial, I find that I am stronger and more able to face that which will come.  That is the beauty of the mystery of time … it really does, if allowed to pass, heal and restore our minds and hearts to a place that is bearable, a place in which we become not those who are discouraged by life, but are able to encourage because of it.  I like to think that because I have been there, I can encourage others who are there now, wherever that place may be.  So be encouraged my friends, and know that irregardless of what is in the here and now, tomorrow is another day and there will eventually be joy in the morning.

Romans 8:38-39 For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come,                        Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Cooking for one isn’t for everybody

Cooking for one.  There are tons of books and videos on how to cook for one.  How to make a dish so that it is sized for one person with leftovers for the following day.  Well, I have news.  When you cook for one, but have leftovers for another meal, you are cooking for two, but if calling it cooking for one with leftovers is enough for you, then go with it.  When my husband was living, we cooked together.  Sometimes he would amaze me with dishes that even the finest restaurant couldn’t touch.  I told him many times that I would put him head to head against the best chefs in the country any day of the week.  Cooking was a joy and a pleasure, but then it became a chore.  I can find no pleasure in cooking anymore.  I want to.  I want to be able to concoct things from a little of this and a little of that, but I just can’t seem to find the desire.  I still have the skills and the know-how, I just don’t want to.  I don’t want to cook something that nobody but myself can smell or taste.  It is one of the odd changes that took place in my life after the death of Jim.  Cooking used to be a balm for a bad day … huge, complicated Italian or Indian dishes, Thai chicken and curry beef … but somewhere along the way, it became a burden instead of a pleasure.  At first, I felt a bit guilty, as though I were letting someone down, but then I realized that there is nothing wrong with me or the way I feel.  Can I still cook?  Sure I can, and with the best of them, but do I want to?  Very rarely.  Instead, I call my mom to see what she’s having for dinner.  Many things have changed, cooking being the least of them.  For the first time in my life, I am honestly, truly on my own.  I have no one to answer to, no one to please, no one to cook for and no one to make conversation with.  At first, it was frightening, but as time passes, it becomes liberating and I find myself embracing the thought of being alone.  I realize that while I was trying to get used to it, I got used to it.  One can’t expect to adapt overnight.  It’s been two and a half years since I lost the love of my life and I am just now starting to  live without him.  If you’re still struggling, don’t beat yourself up.  The time will come when you will realize that life goes on and you can either live it or let it pass you by.  Choose wisely.

John 16:22And ye now therefore have sorrow: but I will see you again, and your heart shall rejoice, and your joy no man taketh from you.

for greeting cards that say what you want to say, visit http://www.gcuniverse.com/throughtheeyesofthespirit

Finding peace in the midst of sorrow

Time heals all wounds.  How many times I have said that.  Then, after my husband Jim’s death, how many times I heard it.  The first time I heard it, I was immediately sorry for every time that phrase had passed through my lips.  I vowed to never say it again and I haven’t.  Instead, I tell the truth as I have found it to be.  I tell people who have recently  lost a very significant person in their lives to death that the first year is the hardest 365 days they will ever face and the second year, especially in the beginning, won’t be much better.  It is a path strewn with obstacles, fear, grief, anger, betrayal, loss and a brokenness that feels like it will never end.  As soon as one “first anniversary without” passes, another one is on it’s heels.  And if no anniversary is imminent, there are the songs, movies, peopleclicking will open new window for link to Through the Eyes of the Spirit greeting cards and places that bring the loss so close it threatens to suffocate me.  Alone, I am no challenge to such deep pain.  I, on my own, would have folded the first week, tucked my tail between my legs and given up.  But I wasn’t alone.  He who knows all about me, including the horrifying loneliness and gut-wrenching emptiness, was with me.  When I was unable to hold my head up, He held it for me.  When I went days without sleeping or eating, He knew.  When I broke down and sobbed because I had no place for the hurt to go, He stroked my hair. When I found no joy in photography, He showed me something incredible. He made me realize that I was not, nor had I ever been, alone.  He showed me that I, though lost without Jim, had to heal before I could carry on for His glory.  Healing is still a work in progress.  It has been nearly two years, and while my thoughts are no longer consumed by Jim, I think of him several times a day.  There is nothing wrong with that.  At first, I felt guilt that my mind wasn’t filled with thoughts of him and cried about that nearly every day.  I had no peace. That stunted my healing significantly.  But, always faithful, God led me past that guilt into a place that let me find pieces of myself that I had hidden away during the months when I refused to feel joy.  How, I asked myself many times, could I laugh and be joyful when the man I had given my heart to was dead.  The real truth was revealed.  Without my Heavenly Father, there would have been no joy to start with.  With Him, I could feel joy and sorrow, loss and laughter, grief and happiness, all at the same time and it was ok. He showed me where peace was and, low and behold, it was right where I had left it… in His love. Healing really did begin after that realization but it wasn’t time that healed me, it was Jesus.  So the truth is this:  Time doesn’t heal anything … It only gives faith and grace the time to work as healing comes with reliance on the Lord.  Whether the healing time is a few weeks or a few years, if God is given control, healing will, without doubt or reservations, come, and time will continue to pass because that’s what it does.