6/3/17

No Voyage

I wake earlier, now that the birds have come
And sing in the unfailing trees.
On a cot by an open window
I lie like land used up, while spring unfolds.

Now of all voyagers I remember, who among them
Did not board ship with grief among their maps?—
Till it seemed men never go somewhere, they only leave
Wherever they are, when the dying begins.

For myself, I find my wanting life
Implores no novelty and no disguise of distance;
Where, in what country, might I put down these thoughts,
Who still am citizen of this fallen city?

On a cot by an open window, I lie and remember
While the birds in the trees sing of the circle of time.
Let the dying go on, and let me, if I can,
Inherit from disaster before I move.

O, I go to see the great ships ride from harbor,
And my wounds leap with impatience; yet I turn back
To sort the weeping ruins of my house:
Here or nowhere I will make peace with the fact.

~ Mary Oliver

5/18/17

I miss you

Dear mom,

I can't believe it's been an entire year already. Each day without you gets a bit easier, but the part of my heart that you have permanent residence in? It's always going to be a bit jagged and painful. Just a bit. I know that pain will lessen the longer it goes, but I also know I will always, always miss you!

This morning I saw a car with a handicap thing hanging from its rearview mirror and it made me think of you. The days leading up to Mother's Day last weekend were filled with advertisements all about celebrating and it made me miss you fiercely. (I've learned holidays will do that. I have much more compassion for those who are grieving around any major holiday now.) I visited Biltmore Estate last weekend with friends and all the beautiful flowers reminded me of how much you loved them. How much you would work in your flowerbeds and how many hours and hours we spent at greenhouses (I also remember how much I dreaded going, I didn't understand your love of flowers back then, did I? :) looking for just the perfect ones to plant. I never knew there were so many reminders of you around, but there are. And I simultaneously love it, yet it makes me cry.

I used to read in fictional stories about how a character who had lost one or both of their parents years before the story begins would still get teary-eyed when they thought of them. I remember sort of rolling my eyes, thinking that surely the grief couldn't still be that fresh. Ah, how wrong I was! I don't cry at the drop of a hat, but when I spend a good deal of time (like today) thinking about you and all that I miss and how much I wish you were here, the tears come. And I think how could I be any different? I think it's just part of loving someone so much. Your heart will forever miss them once they're gone. So kudos to the authors! Because they were right.

Dad and I stopped by your gravesite the other evening. I told him how I don't often visit you there, but every once in a while I feel the need to go talk to you. There's something soothing about it, telling you all the things I'd tell you if you were here.

That's one thing I really miss, talking to you. All these memories from years past have surfaced in the last year. Things I'd forgotten all about. But now I remember all the times I sat with you and cried over the aches and pains I dealt with. All the teenage angst and the friendship issues and the fears and wonders. You listened. Every single time. You couldn't always fix it, but you always listened and always had a hug for me. I never once doubted that you'd be there when I needed it. And I'm so grateful, mom. I wish I had told you how much that meant to me over the years.

My heart is full though. I had you in my life for just over 30 years and while I wish I could've had you for 30 more, I'm so glad for the memories I have. Some people lose their mom far sooner than I! Instead, I have your quiet example always before me. You taught me so much more than even the words you spoke, and you made me feel loved and wanted every single day of my life. So I'll gather that love deep inside me for the days my grief hits a bit harder and trust the Ever Faithful to keep me going.

I love you whole bunches, mom. Forever and always!

love,
Kara

5/11/17

faith builders

When things aren't going smoothly in our lives, that's usually when God is allowing the Hard to build our faith. Isn't that just what He does? 

The thought occurred to me recently that ever since I moved back to VA over three years ago, my life has felt like a constant upheaval process. My emotions seem to fly all over the place and my reliance on Him seems to have to be rebuilt day after day after day. I doubt and fear far, far too often. Yet even through the doubts, He has remained faithful. When I look back at different moments, I can see His hand working so very clearly. In turn, this continues to remind me how wonderful He has been to me! :) Never once in my life has He ever turned His back on me. Ever. Yet it's the Hard that makes me call on Him. When life was flowing easy, like my life before my Big Move, I didn't have much forward movement. It was more stagnant treading of water, there was action on my part, but I wasn't really going forward.

But now. Even in the ups and downs and fears and wonderments, I feel like I'm actually moving ahead. Like my faith is being built up and even when I doubt, it's simply a way for God to use to prove to me once again how much I need Him. I might only be taking baby steps, yes, but even a small bit of progress is still progress! :)

I just love how I can look back at my life and pinpoint moments where my faith grew. Where He proved Himself faithful once again when I let Him have my everything. Sometimes it's too easy for me to look at my life in the current and see only the Hard of the moment. Yet when I take even one step back and look at the bigger picture, all I can see is amazement of how far He's led me! Because when it's the Hard that He uses and your life is seemingly one Hard after another? There's nowhere for your faith to go but up, right?

So here's to the faith builders in our lives. They aren't always fun, sometimes they hurt like you wouldn't believe, yet in the end we learn to trust the heart of the Ever Faithful. What more could we ask?

5/2/17

Behold HE Comes!

Behold He comes, riding on the clouds
Shining like the sun, at the trumpet's call
Lift your voice, it's the year of Jubilee
Out of Zion's hill, salvation comes

You've probably heard the song Days of Elijah. I went to a singing school program last week where the children sang this song and it was beautiful! I'd heard it before, knew it fairly well in fact, but there was just something about hearing children's voices singing those words of glory and excitement. :)

As I sat at a funeral service over the weekend for my great uncle, my mind kept returning to those words: Behold HE comes!

Life and death circle each other constantly, don't they?  There seems to always be new babies born and not a single one of us is exempt from a final goodbye with our loved ones. Goodbyes are hard and can be yucky sometimes. Or at least, they can cause us to feel yucky and sad. But when you look at a casket of someone who has truly lived for Jesus, while there may be sad, mostly there's rejoicing. I wore orange to the funeral because while I figured I'd probably stand out amidst all the darker clothing (and I did, indeed), I wanted to shout that it was a day of celebration! Because it was. I mean, if there is lots of rejoicing in Heaven when someone here chooses to follow Jesus, how much more rejoicing must there be when one returns Home again? :)

So even as grieving may bring sad, even as the hard things of life may bring heartache, this one thing we can absolutely count on. HE is coming again, and when He calls us, no matter what we've experienced here, it will be worth it all.

Out of Zion's hill, Salvation comes!

May bittersweetness

Today marks a year since our journey began. Exactly a year ago today, mom went into the hospital and when she came home five days later, we knew it was for the last time. Wow. A whole year has gone by! I don't know that I dwell so much on all the particulars about how much I miss her every day, but I do think about her just about every single one. Life gets busy and it's funny the times that I'll think about how hard it's been, yet other times all I really think about is how much I miss her smile.

I don't know that anyone else in my family even remembers the exact dates like I do. But I haven't forgotten them. (Oh I probably will some day, but not yet.)

May 2nd, the day she went to the ER.

May 3rd, the night she went on the ventilator and scared all of us silly.

May 4th, the night we decided we wouldn't put her on a feeding tube.

May 6th, the day she came home for the very last time. What a bittersweet moment that was. All my family had been together just that afternoon, surrounding her bedside at the hospital, before one of my brothers had to leave. And the sweetness of being together, singing, praying, ah my heart. And then we brought her home. So wonderful to have her there, where she was most comfortable and so were we! (Hospitals can be nice places and the staff that week had been fantastic in their care of us all, but there's just no way to truly relax there.)

May 7th, early morning and late night, twice she woke up and giggled and laughed and tried to talk a little bit. Such sweet, sweet moments that I'll treasure forever.

May 8th, my last Mother's Day I got to spend with her. She had lots of visitors that day and was in and out of awareness.

And then each moment got more and more precious as they got fewer and fewer. Until that final moment when she let go. Forever.

This year, the month of May is bittersweet. Not in a bad way! I don't plan to burst into tears the entire month (I hope), but I've a feeling my emotions will be closer to the surface. And I'll think of her just a little bit more often.

I miss you, mom. And I love you, forever and always.

4/8/17

it is well

So I occasionally (read: often) have bouts of anxiety. Silly as this may sound, it wasn't until very recently that I ever thought that's what I was dealing with. I mean, I've felt like this a lot throughout my life, but had just never called it that. Never even imagined that's what I was feeling. But it's true. I deal with anxiousness. Not to such an extent that I can't function normally, obviously, but enough that I feel it and I certainly don't always handle it well.

For example, the other afternoon I realized (way too belatedly) that I was feeling overly anxious about a situation. Which then caused me to rapidly search for a way to get around said situation with as little fallout as possible, in which case I overcompensated and inevitably made the situation worse. I wanted to prevent something from happening, but instead perhaps made it happen even faster. Not a great way to handle it, yes?! Still, I did do something right. After the situation was caused and I'd dealt with the immediate stuff, I had a few quiet moments when I realized what I had done and knew I needed to seek God's help in calming myself again. (Also I needed lots of prayer, yay for good friends who answer when you emergency text them!) So with a little time, a lot of prayer, listening to calming music, as well as finding a few scriptures which helped tremendously, my heart had settled again. Yay Jesus! :)
Fear thou not; for I am with thee: be not dismayed; for I am thy God: I will strengthen thee; yea, I will help thee; yea, I will uphold thee with the right hand of my righteousness. Isaiah 41.10 kjv
One of the songs I happened to hear was "It is Well With My Soul" by Audrey Assad. I've known this hymn for years, have sung it numerous times, but that day it truly struck me anew. It IS well with my soul! I've heard the story behind the song, though I forget the entire thing I know enough to understand the purpose behind the writing of the lyrics, but I don't know if I've ever truly understood what it meant until now.

Here's what I mean, a dear friend has been revived in spirit the last few months and has been sharing her discoveries with me. What she's learned, and I've been pondering myself, is how much ownership we wrongly take of our emotions. "I feel this way, and since it's a negative feeling, I must, therefore, be a negative person." The enemy sneaks into our heads and throws darts at our emotions, and we let him, so much so that we decide he's right. But that's not what Jesus wants for us! Jesus took on all our negative emotions, all our unreliable feelings about who we are, at the cross. He conquered the power behind those negatives! Therefore, we don't need to claim them as true anymore. We never did, actually! But now we have the Holy Spirit's help in reminding ourselves of Truth. Claiming ownership of negative emotions is NOT truth. Truth is knowing that I'm feeling this negative emotion and my flesh is drawn to believe that it's true, but knowing even more so in my heart that it's not me. That Jesus died so I would never have to own this feeling again. Jesus died to place me back in an honorable position before the Father, which means any thought or feeling that contradicts my honored placement is a lie.

So those feelings of anxiety the other day? I don't need to believe them. In those moments, I need to remind myself that, regardless of how I'm feeling, my honored placement is still true! When the Father looks down on me, He is not seeing that anxiety and fear, He is seeing Jesus' blood which has washed me clean and placed me back in True Fellowship and a True and Honorable place at His side.

Which brings me back to the song. It truly is well with my soul, regardless of what I feel, regardless of what lies the enemy is throwing my way, daring me to believe, regardless of anything.  My place of honor before the Father will never, ever change.

It is well with my soul. *excited dancing inside my heart* :D

Indeed, it truly is.

3/28/17

Even if

I've said before and I'll say again, change can be very hard. Not necessarily bad, just hard. And when that hard comes on top of the emotions already swirling inside? Yeah...

So! The newest bit in the ongoing (character-building...??) saga of my family? Dad's seeing someone. (Do you still call it "dating" when the couple in question are both in their 70s? Maybe...but it feels kinda weird to do so.)

Let me just get this out there immediately: Dad choosing to find a new friend to talk to and spend time with is not a bad thing! At all. It's just a weird thing. For me. A very weird thing for me.

I've known about it for several weeks now, only more people are finally beginning to find out. And I've been so very grateful that I've had time to adjust before they did. (For the record, I am way farther along the acceptance scale than I was five months ago or so, whenever it was he first let me know this might be his plan of action.) Because I've certainly needed that time. And I still need it, to be honest. I thought I'd jumped this emotional hurdle in this crazy race of adjustment and might finally be aiming for the next one. Instead? I've done an entire 180, circled out and around that particular one, and am currently running in place two hurdles back. *sigh*

Fluctuating emotions? Yep, that's me. Only I really wish it weren't!!

My cue that I might not be quite as Okay as I thought I was? My stupid brain wouldn't shut up the other night. I was wide awake (even while simultaneously feeling soooo sleepy. Yeah, not a good combo.) until at least 2am. Ugh. Every time I'd tell myself "Kara, you have to get up for work in just ___ hours! Go to sleep!" and lay my head down, my brain went, "Ahahahahahahaha." Humph.

Still, repeated hurdles or not, I am determined to get to Okay. And after that? To get to Happy and Thrilled and Yay. Got a bit of a ways to go yet, but I'LL GET THERE. Most importantly? I know God's going to get me there.

Have y'all heard Mercy Me's song, Even If? The lyrics are a beautiful reminder that God's got this and despite these annoying emotions of mine that refuse to listen to me (strangely enough, giving myself a stern talking to doesn't work...), if I actively choose to believe Him and trust that what He promises will come true...that's what He's waiting for. Me to choose it and to say so (out loud if need be).
I know You're able and I know You can
Save through the fire with Your mighty hand
But even if You don't
My hope is You alone
I know the sorrow, and I know the hurt
Would all go away if You'd just say the word
But even if You don't
My hope is You alone
My hope...your hope...our hope is Jesus. Nothing else matters. At the end of the day, fluctuating emotions and all, wherever dad's journey goes, wherever my own journey takes me, whatever may come in your life that may not look so rosy and definitely doesn't smell like one, Jesus has got this. He has EVERYTHING. Even the hard places are easier to bear with Jesus shouldering the burden. Because He will. Every single time you ask. And even when you don't. (I'm learning He actually carries so much more of our "stuff" than I ever realized. We never, ever, ever walk through anything or carry anything alone.) He. Will. Carry. You. (And me! :)

So I'm going to choose to trust Him.

Even if.

:: release ::

I
Give
Up
these tumbling thoughts
these anxious cares
these ideals of myself
(they keep me up unnecessarily)
I release them to You
& I rest
in Your peace
in Your calm
in Your love
in Your embrace
YOU are enough
& letting go is easy
I just have to choose it
choose YOU
(& not this stuff that wanders)
You've got this!
Why did I forget?

kara
3.26.17

simple

How does one put words to a feeling
All the vast differences
huge & known
loom fierce
& Believable
Yet...
one phone call
one simple convo
open willingness for communication
& Common Ground
(faint though it may be)
proves still in the battle
Chasms dwindle
(with new bridges built over)
Hearts grow three sizes
&
Love
Never
Gives
Up

kara
3.23.17

3/11/17

hard things

You'd think that my heart would be quite sore by now, the way it rises and sinks depending on the day and the moment. It gets lots of good exercise, I can tell you that! If it's not my own emotions causing the upheaval, it's someone around me. And it seems a pretty near constant. *big sigh*

One of the hardest things, I have come to find, is allowing others their own free will. I know I have mine and goodness do I appreciate it most days, yet when it comes to someone else? When you see the choices they make and your heart hurts for the pain you know will come to them? When you see the twisty ways they circle in and around trying to make illogical and unreasonable excuses? When you want to shake them and force them to see how difficult they're making it for themselves?

Ah, my heart!

Life isn't actually that complicated, it's just that we humans tend to make it that way, sadly. And when I look at someone I care about and see the devastating places they are headed, the turmoil that could be nonexistent but for their own refusal to see....it saddens me. Because I can't make them see it. I can tell them and I can show them over and over and over, but until they are willing to break out from behind the walls surrounding them, until they choose to really listen and allow Truth to sink deep in their souls, I can do nothing but love them.

And pray, of course! {Which is the very best I can do anyway, so why do I tend to use it as a last resort? Silly me.}

I have been learning precisely how difficult it is to sit back and watch someone actively choose the hard way, to make themselves miserable, when help is but a single question away. It's just hard! And figuring out where to plant His seed and where to water and where to leave them alone so His work can be done without me distracting...it's not an easy road, is it? My heart is a tender thing, it loves fairly easily, I can't help it. And when you love someone, it makes you vulnerable to them. Which is not a bad thing at all! It just makes it easy for that someone to hurt you.

Vulnerable is what Jesus made Himself in the garden. (Remember that incredible intercessory prayer from John 17?) He makes Himself vulnerable to us again and again, every single day, so why wouldn't He ask the same of us? Of course He does. He wants us to love others and put ourselves out there. Even when it's hard. Even when it hurts. Even if they do or don't appreciate it, or we feel like they do or don't deserve it.

Love hard and love well, I think that's what He's telling us. And when God reaches down and reminds me that He's got this, that I can trust Him absolutely, oh how my soul sings with comfort!

So I begin again.

Loving anyway.

Regardless.

~~~~~~

My heart is tender
It cares
& sitting there
listening to the
Miserableness
Despair
Worry
it hurts
it wrenches my soul
They choose this
day after day after day
they make Simple, Complicated instead
they are blinded
they are deaf
& I am tired
Fighting for someone is painful
So I pray
Long & Hard
then
Longer & Harder still
Only His Power & Strength are able
not mine
His Still, Small Voice
gently whispers
I want them to Hear
they believe lies, not Truth
Yet
Complicated can become Simple again
If I let go
Trust Him
The battle is His
not mine
He's got this
& it turns out
putting them in His care
is the easiest thing in the world

kara
3.11.17

the edge of Okay

There are days
when Okay feels like the edge of a cliff
I'm clinging hard
arms wrapped tight
yet hovering a vastness incomprehensible
Fog's wispy fingers surround
& Peace is but an arm length away
So close
So far
Determination tightens my fingers
yet my strength feels inadequate
Crying out
tears dripping
"Daddy!"
and He's there
just waiting for me to call
Scooping me up
He becomes my strength
cradles my tired body
wipes my tears
Burying my face in His warmth
I cling
Okay will happen
as long as He's there

kara
3.6.17

1/31/17

truths

My last post was slightly dismal, wasn't it? It had been a foggy and hard few weeks prior to that and my words reflect it. My thoughts couldn't seem to see beyond the fog, to the Light. But! I am well pleased to say that I'm in a much better place today. Yay! :)

God is just so, so good, isn't He? 

He knew my pain and my uncertainty, took them and carried them, and reminded me of a couple truths I needed to realize.

Firstly, I had a friend come to me with a hurting heart recently and I wanted to do all I could do ease that pain for her. Grieving makes me selfish, yet focusing on her heart put my own in perspective. It allowed me to stop looking at the fog surrounding me and instead look up. Look up at Jesus and focus on His Light, which then laser beamed through that fog and zeroed in on the person I was praying for. Once I stopped only looking at myself, it wasn't long before I felt energized again! The fog isn't completely gone away, I have to be honest about that. I think that grief-fog is going to be around for a good long while. But it's not so dense anymore. It's more wispy and floaty, not the heavy thickness of prior. And even more amazingly, it was only a matter of minutes for my feelings to turn around. I only had to have one, small (yet huge) conversation, wherein my focus immediately stopped looking at me. As I drove home a little bit later, I could tell a difference. It was small, but definitely there. 

And secondly, I was reading a new fiction book the other night and I reached almost to the end when I, literally, felt a blip in my heart and was forced to stop reading because the tears started. I was so unprepared for that! But in a good way. :) The particular passage I had been reading referenced the story of Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead. And these are the innocent words which struck me in that moment: 
"Before Jesus performed His big fancy miracle, He met those sisters in the middle of their pain, and He wept alongside 'em."
I had forgotten this one, gloriously beautiful thought. Jesus knows my pain. He has felt my pain. He knows it so much better than anyone else here could ever possibly understand! And He's weeping with me. 

Ah, the flutters of my heart when I read that again. Jesus doesn't expect us to carry any of this alone! In fact, He's right there beside us long before we ever even ask. He wipes our tears, cradling each one, and knows exactly what we're feeling. He's been there. (I mean, do any of us think He didn't feel pain when He went to the cross? Of course not. I think both the Father and the Son were heart-broken that day.) He has a fix for our pain, absolutely! (Himself.) But before He moves in any big way, He always, always first gathers us in, acknowledges our hurt, and guides us to remember that He is big enough to handle it. He is big enough to carry these holes in our hearts. He. Is. Big. Enough. For every bit of it! 

That hugely comforting thought slipped down into a crack in the wall of fog around my heart and split it wide open! And my tears...ah, my tears. 

God is good, friends. He never gives up on us. 

And I am grateful beyond words.

1/18/17

yuck

December was good! But December was hard. It felt so much like I was going through the motions of Christmas, but my heart wasn't feeling it. I got rather good at faking it though. (Some days I feel like that's all I'm doing, faking it.) And then you add in family dynamics to all that emotional mess and....well....my heart felt chaotic to say the least.

Grief is just the oddest, did you know? It complicates everything. It makes every emotional moment feel gigantic and more. As if I didn't already struggle to understand myself, now it feels twenty gazillion times worse!

It's like I've been under a fog, so to speak. I struggled with this sort of feeling back during my first year after moving back to my home state again. Which makes me realize that I must have been grieving my old life in CA and all my friends there. It's sort of funny how we can grieve so much more than just people, isn't it? Yet this time is still different than back then. It's just very strange and I don't rightly know how to work my way through it!

I feel off.

I feel like I'm not myself, but I don't know how to become myself again.

I want my old normal back! Which, I know, is never possible again. :( I want to stop tearing up when real conversations happen. I want to stop feeling grumpy and accidentally snapping at someone because of it. I feel like I might be fighting some anger? But I don't know who or what I'm angry at. I'm so tired of feeling happy one minute and then grumpy the next! I want my emotions to settle. At least a little bit!

I want, I want, I feel, I wish...

*big sigh*

Grief just stinks, you know that? Pray for me friends, if anyone's out there. I could really use it.

Thanks.