Monday, October 20, 2014

Twelve Weeks Later, I am a different Nicole

Usually I find myself writing to you from a sad place or moment that triggered something deeper, something that leads me to need healing.  I can find that here, this is where I lay it all out and hold myself accountable to those feelings.  It's easy, most days, to want to dig a big hole in my heart - one that's bigger than the hole already there - and bury these feelings deep down.  I know, as well as you do, that burying them doesn't do any good.  Eventually they'll make their way back to the surface, and at that time, it might be too late.

I've noticed that about myself through these past 12 weeks.  I've never been someone to hide my feelings but when it comes to loss like this, there were times I felt that hiding them would be easier.  Easier than facing my fears, easier than having to explain myself, easier than crying every single day. If I could just shove those feelings down, choke back all of those tears and put on my happy face maybe I would believe it myself.  For some people that may work - for a while, at least.  Not me.

I'm returning to work tomorrow.  Months ago I would have told you that the thought of returning to work made me want to throw up.  Today I find myself looking forward to it.  Don't get me wrong, I'm still very anxious and uncertain of the unknown, but isn't that how we are with any new situation?  I may be returning to the same workplace with the same co-workers, but I'm not the same Nicole.  And it took these 12 weeks for me to see that.  It took these 12 weeks for me to really be honest with myself and allow myself to grieve properly, to come to peace with all of this. 

I've had some really low days.  I had days that I needed to lay in bed until 11am, force myself into the shower where I would just sit and let the water wash over me.  Who needed soap?  I wasn't going anywhere.  I just needed the shower water - to wake me, to wash me, to refresh me.  The shower became my hiding place - where I could cry, wail and collapse.  A place where I could feel sorry for myself. The first few weeks after Olive's death I would sometimes take multiple showers, just so I could escape.  Those were the weeks I couldn't bring myself to talk to God - we were beyond talking - all I could do was yell at Him.

Man, did I yell.

Twelve weeks.  Twelve weeks ago my life turned upside down.  And I'm still standing.  I'm still here, still broken, but still here. But HERE looks a lot different than it did twelve weeks ago.

Today showers serve their normal purpose.  Today I don't lay in bed as long or cry as often.  Today I can find joy in the every day.  Today I'm on speaking terms with God. Lucky for me, He's a forgiving guy.

He pierced my heart with arrows from his quiver. I remember my affliction and my wandering, the bitterness and the gall. I well remember them, and my soul is downcast within me. Yet this I call to mind and therefore I have hope: Because of the Lord's great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning, great is your faithfulness. Lamentations 3:13-19-22

It's so very easy to get caught up in the sadness and grief.  I still find that there are days where I feel awful, but those days are also different than they were 12 weeks ago.  Back in early August those awful days were driven by heartache, now they seem to be driven by self-pity - the "woe-is-me" attitude.  It's so easy to deceive yourself into thinking the world is against you - that every Facebook picture is meant as a dagger to your heart, that every "unfair" circumstance is a punishment from God.  I have allowed the devil to tell me so many lies, you wouldn't believe the things I have contemplated believing!  Yes, every day is still a battlefield.  A battle of wills - but I'm stronger now than I was 12 weeks ago.

I am a different Nicole.

My soul is weary with sorrow; strengthen me according to your word. Keep me from deceitful ways; be gracious to me and teach me your law. I have chosen the way of faithfulness; I have set my heart on your laws. Psalm 119:28-30

God and I have a new relationship.  We've always had a relationship, but it's different now - which is why I'm different.  It's a relationship that is a work in progress, a relationship I've learned isn't secure if I only pay attention on Sunday mornings.  A relationship that can't survive if I only spend a couple minutes each night talking to God as I fall in and out of sleep. 

Could you imagine what your marriage would be like if you only talked to your spouse one hour a week?

What if you only had a 5 minute conversation with your client or customer each day?  And during that 5 minute duration you were only half paying attention?

It's hard to have a relationship with someone if you don't feel like they are paying attention, or you don't feel like the love is reciprocated.  I have chosen, the last 6 weeks or so, to see "the hand of God in everything" - and what a difference that makes!  He's in the changing color of the leaves, the vastness of the skies, the rain that falls and the wind that chills.  Even though my human brain can't fully comprehend everything He controls, I know it's still controlled.  This world, this life, my life - He's in control when everything feels out of control.

I've learned that my relationship with God is one that I have to work at like I do any other relationship in my life.  In the past it's been a relationship of give and take - He gives, I take.  And after I took, I gave him none of the credit.  I have a wonderful marriage, supportive family and friends, good health, a beautiful home, money in my bank account - all things I thought I controlled.  Sure, I would praise God every once and awhile for those blessings - but I took them for granted, foolishly assuming that the marriage was there because I worked at it, the money was there because my husband and I hadn't foolishly spent it, I was healthy because I worked out and ate right.  Don't get me wrong, those things are important - and I certainly have a role to play in all of them, but I don't have ultimate control.

You learn that when your marriage is rocked to the core and you have to depend on your spouse more than ever.  You recognize that when what should have been a simple birth that you budgeted accordingly for now triples in cost, draining much more out of your bank account than you had planned for. You learn that when the very creation you lovingly created is taken from you in a moment's notice. 

Dependence on God isn't a sign of weakness, but rather the strength I need to get through another day. So, while I'm uncertain of what tomorrow, next month and next year will bring - I know that God's hand is in all of it. In church on Wednesday this song was sung - the message came at just the right time, as it often does. 

The perfect wisdom of our God
Revealed in all the universe.
All things created by his hand
And held together at his command.
He knows the mysteries of the seas;
The secrets of the stars are his.
He guides the planets on their way
And turns the earth through another day.

The perfect timing of his ways
Along the path of righteousness.
His Word a lamp unto my feet;
His Spirit teaching and guiding me.
And, Oh, the wisdom of the cross
To save the helpless and the lost-
He chose the fool to shame the wise
That all the glory might go to Christ.

Twelve weeks ago this would have just been another hymn - today it's my prayer. I hope it becomes yours too.

O grant me wisdom from above
To pray for peace and cling to love,
And teach me humbly to receive
The sun and rain of your sovereignty.
Each strand of sorrow has its place
Within this tapestry of grace.
So through the trials I'll choose to say:
"Your perfect will in your perfect way."

*"The Perfect Wisdom of our God" 2010 Gettymusic

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