Melancholy

Grief knows no calendar.

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I guess I will always feel a little melancholy in January.

I lost my mom two years ago this month, and I continue to be surprised at just how much harder it is to move on from her death than what I’ve experienced after losing our other parents.  I don’t know if it was the fact that she was our last living parent, if it is because I was closer to her than any of our other parents, or if it’s something else.  Without a doubt, though, grief is taking it’s sweet time with me, it seems.

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I think most people tend to give a lot of leeway to family members and friends in the first year after the loss of a close loved one.  Tackling all those “firsts” can be so, so hard, and I certainly found that to be true after losing my mother, just as it was after we lost our other parents.  I had quite a bit of support, especially from my closest friends, and I’m grateful for the love shown that truly helped me through that first year.

Grief didn’t care about that calendar, though.  Not one bit.

Last year was my second full year without Mom, and I swear it was just as hard on many occasions as it was in year one.  Understandably, most people assume that after that first year, all is fine… or at least better, so I started to just keep my feelings to myself and not burden others with my continuing feelings.  Friends have other interests in their lives and suffer their own heartaches.

Life moves on for all of us.

But, as Shelby’s mom said in Steel Magnolias after the graveside service for her sweet Shelby…

“I’ll tell you what I wish. … That’s what my mind says, I just wish somebody would explain it to my heart.”  (Steel Magnolias… 1989)

Oh, how very true that statement is.  So, so true.  (I’m not sure a movie ever truly captured such a true manifestation of grief as this particular scene at the cemetery.)

I have no sage wisdom to share today, except to simply acknowledge that grief doesn’t stick to a one-year calendar, despite that conventional viewpoint these days.  Acknowledging the ongoing grief helps a bit, and that’s why I’m writing today.  Simple acknowledgement.

I hope this lesson sticks with me and reminds me to have a tender heart toward others in the future, perhaps by simply marking my calendar and letting them know that I’m thinking of them and offering a heart-felt, sympathetic prayer for them on their own hard anniversaries.

I want to make it count, this often hard path I continue to find myself on without my Mom in my life.  (The article linked is absolutely fabulous.)

During this anniversary month of Mom’s passing, I’m reading The Broken Way by Ann Voskamp, and so far, it is quietly speaking to my broken heart.  Ann’s writings are best savored slowly and deliberately, and every day, I’m slowly “getting it.”  Perhaps if you find yourself with a broken heart right now, this book might offer some insight to you, too.  If not right now, perhaps make a note of this great book for a time you might need it in the future?

Ann is “explaining it to my heart,” and I am grateful.

 

Beauty, Reality… and Beauty

I will never forget visiting this place.

On our recent vacation to the Enchanted Circle area of northern New Mexico, we revisited the amazing Rio Grande Gorge again after more than twenty years.  This area is actually a state park now, but it is still mostly just a natural scenic area, spanned by an amazing bridge.

Just prior to our visit to the Rio Grande Gorge, our first stop that Tuesday afternoon was a brief hour-long visit to Old Town in Taos, where we walked with the dogs and met so many nice people there who spoke to us and petted them.

Dogs are the perfect ice breaker when meeting new people, and even though we only went in a few stores while alternating outside with the dogs, we had a great time.  We would never have met so many nice people and chatted with them without having the dogs along, and the dogs relished every moment of the attention while getting some good exercise in this unique and historic place.  Big Red is such a people person, offering his paw to shake hands with pretty much everyone that spoke to him, and Girly Girl sat reasonably still when kids came up to pet her, wagging her long, fluffy tail as fast as she could.

Fun times, nice memories and lovely people, and I’m thinking a girls trip here sometime in the future would be so much fun!  It would be fun to spend a long weekend here sometime, for sure.

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The square in historic Old Town in Taos

 

After our quick visit to Old Town, we then headed out of town toward the Rio Grande Gorge.

In the remainder of this post, I want to share two aspects of this place that seem to stand in stark contradiction to each other.  Sometimes life sends an unexpected dose of reality my way when I least suspect it, and such was the case on the day we visited this park.

First… the beauty.

The Rio Grande Gorge is a beautiful, magnificent sight to see.  I vaguely remembered it from our quick visit many years ago, but seeing it again made me realize that it was truly more beautiful than I remembered it to be.

2016-09-06-16-13-54smfsAs we drove out from Taos to Rio Grande Gorge State Park, we would never guess such an amazing sight existed in the flat land just ten miles from town if we didn’t already know it was there.  The delightful thing about canyons is how they sneak up on you and thrust their beauty right in your face all at once, unlike mountains that you see coming at you for hours ahead of time.  We couldn’t see anything about this famous place in advance, and I happily savored the “shock” factor when I saw it.

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As you approach the Rio Grande Gorge Bridge, you would never suspect such a magnificent sight existed below the bridge, but the many visitors are a quick hint to the existence of that sight.
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Rio Grande Gorge State Park
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Rio Grande Gorge Bridge

This was our first real sightseeing excursion on our trip to the Enchanted Circle area.  The lighting that afternoon was a bit challenging to capture both the canyon and the sky in a decent manner, but I’m pleased with the photos, given that no photo can actually do justice to a place like this anyway.  There is no way to capture such massive three-dimensional beauty in a small, two-dimensional photo, but I gave it my best “shot.”

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A small herd of elk was grazing near the bridge, but they never would turn around to capture a better photo.  This was the best I could do… elk behinds!

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Now… onto the reality of this place.

In my previous Wordless Wednesday post, I shared a photo that I took at a lookout spot on the Rio Grande Gorge Bridge.  It is a photo of a suicide crisis call unit, and these units are now pretty much everywhere on the bridge.  I certainly did not remember seeing those units on our previous visit.

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I am going to freely admit that seeing these units everywhere on the bridge really affected me deeply, and seeing them also left a huge impression on my take-away feeling from seeing this beautiful natural sight.  I initially left this area with a heavy and conflicted heart, seeing such magnificent beauty while witnessing the evidence of a hard reality of the struggles that apparently have brought far too many people here in recent years for a vastly different reason.

It is unsettling times like these that cause me to dig deeper until I find something I’m looking for.  While we were enjoying a lovely getaway in the mountains for a week of vacation together, someone else was going through their own personal hell.  I confess that I personally cannot relate to something like this, even though I have a close family member who has attempted suicide twice via drug overdose.  Thankfully, there are others that relate to these situations and are gifted to do something to make a real difference.

As I continued to ponder this dichotomy of life, a quote literally came my way in a Facebook post by a friend…

“Beauty is simply reality seen with the eyes of love.”

And it hit me like a ton of bricks… the beauty of what was happening in the placement of those call units.  The sight that initially unsettled me terribly and caused me to dig deeper for a few days, is now a thing of beauty itself.

I have a long-time friend that lives near this area, and subsequent to our visit, she told me that the units are making a difference in the lives of the courageous people that push those buttons and make those calls.  For this outcome, I find myself with such admiration and gratitude for the people that have devoted themselves and their time to try to save others and help them at the most dire time in their life.

Seeing people through the eyes of love changes everything, and those call units and the people that staff the phones 24/7 on the other end are truly beautiful… far more beautiful than even this magnificent canyon.  These people have already seen in advance the beauty of the lives of the hurting people on the other end, and they are determined to make a difference.  God bless them for their significant efforts and life-saving impact in these beautiful lives.

This is truly, truly a beautiful place.

 

Inspiration in Tough Times

It’s tough right now.

Tough seems to be the operative word right now, but I’m still finding some great inspiration during these tough times.

I.  I’ve been fortunate to be able to watch many of the Olympic competitions in Rio over the past week, many of them live as they happened which is always a special thrill.  Watching these highly disciplined athletes from all over the world strive for excellence is always an honor, and once again, I’ve been moved to tears at times and have also cheered a few of them on from our living room, including athletes from other countries, too.

I also saw “Phelps Face” live on the evening it aired.  I was cracking up watching it and was not at all surprised when it went viral and produced some absolutely hysterical memes afterward.

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Olympic athletes are definitely tough people, including and especially the Paralympic and Special Olympics athletes, and their personal stories are incredibly inspiring.  So many of them have overcome very tough circumstances to be where they are and do what they do.

If only our politicians were as inspirational as our Olympic athletes are.  Sigh.  I guess we can dream…

No doubt the Olympics tend to bring out the best in people during the games, even we spectators that are simply watching on our televisions thousands of miles away.

“Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize.”  1 Corinthians 9:24

II.  The weather here at home has been tough over the past five weeks, with no rain and typically hot weather for this time of year.  Despite the hot weather, the yard work has not gone away, and I’ve had to be more diligent in working in the yard to get those chores done and still try to avoid the worst of the heat each day.

I would much rather enjoy the cool(er) mornings with a good cup of coffee, but I also don’t want to work in the heat later.  The plants, grass and trees still need water to keep them from dying in this heat, and I’m their water source right now until the weather cooperates once again.

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Without a doubt, caring for the yard in recent weeks has been pretty tough.

My little reward for all this hard work is enjoying our little outdoor paradise and the wonderful beauty of nature just outside our doors each day, something we haven’t always had here at home in years gone by when we didn’t have the time to tend the yard as we do now.  Right now, though, we just enjoy it in the cooler part of the day, but hopefully soon, the weather will moderate, and we can enjoy it much more.

All ten of our Red Rocket crape myrtles are in full bloom, and they are absolutely gorgeous, despite the very tough hot and dry weather.  This is something I’ve come to look forward to each summer in early July, and once again, they did not disappoint, having grown even more since last year.

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Birds have to be tough survivalists in the weather we’ve been having lately, but sometimes it doesn’t work out for them.  For the second year, a little nest in the tree in our backyard failed.  A dove built the nest and seemed to be thriving before we went on our trip over the 4th of July weekend, but when we returned, it had failed.  Once again I am very sad, too.  Nature isn’t always kind, by any stretch.

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Doves are visiting in abundance, as well as robins, cardinals, house finches and blue jays, thanks to our beautiful trees and bird feeders, and I love to hear the doves cooing in the early mornings to greet a new day.

 “Flowers are appearing on the earth. The season for singing has come. The cooing of doves is heard in our land.”  Song of Solomon 2:12

III.  One of our local sportscasters is once again doing something fun as the high school football season will be underway soon.  He interviews a different coach each day about their players and their upcoming opponents, and he actually tracks the number of times each coach says the word tough in the interview.

This sportscaster has found a creative way to keep viewers interested in all the interviews, not just the ones that concern their home team, and it’s fun to watch each evening.  One coach recently uttered the word tough 28 times during the interview, too.

Hats off once again this year to a very creative sportscaster!  Who knew tough could actually be quite funny!

“A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones. ” Proverbs 17:22

IV.  A dear friend and her elderly mother are both going through a very tough time right now.  Her mother became seriously ill about three weeks ago and is not expected to live.  She moved her mother to a private nursing home with Hospice care a few days ago, and I’ve been on call for her each day to help as needed.

It seems that I’m now the “go-to” person when friends need advice to care for their parents toward the end of life, since I’ve already “been there and done that” several times.  I’m so happy when I can help others with the knowledge I gained and resources we used and/or learned about as our own parents all fought their own terminal illnesses.

Without a doubt, this is how God uses so many of us… by simply sharing our personal experiences and testimonies with others in this way to help them in their own struggles, and I always give thanks when I’m able to help someone else during a tough time… because I *have* been there and done that and know how I desperately needed help myself.

If there is any good that can come from enduring tough times ourselves, it’s being able to grow in our own faith and also help someone else lessen the effect of their own tough times by loving and helping them through it.

“A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for a time of adversity.” Proverbs 17:17

V.  Our country is in a tough spot these days, for sure.  It’s sad when there just seems to be nothing good on the horizon for our nation on a macro level, but the good I’ve seen manifest on a micro level lately has truly been uplifting.  This is where we can actually make a difference anyway.  Spewing hate and division on a macro level accomplishes nothing good but does afford a few loud voices some attention, unfortunately, as well as a lot of misinformation… and I do mean a *lot* of it.  In times when it’s just so tough to find out what is true and what is not, we have to dig deep to look for it.

Perhaps we should just show what we’re made of each day on a micro level, and maybe, just maybe, some day things will improve on a macro level, hopefully sooner rather than later.

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I need to remind myself every single day that God is still in charge, too,… “our refuge and our strength” in times of trouble. — Ps. 46:1

And to my sweet friend in Louisiana who sometimes reads my posts here, I continue to pray for you daily as you and your family an pets endure the horrific flooding and possible loss of your home/cars/etc. Our tough times pretty much pale in comparison to your tough times right now.  I am once again reminded to never take anything in this life for granted and to ever be thankful for even the smallest of blessings each and every day.

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Have a blessed week, friends, and look for blessings, joy and inspiration all around you, no matter where you are!  😀

“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.” John 14:27

A Time to Remember

It’s personal for me.

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It’s Memorial Day and a time to remember those who have sacrificed and those who died for us.

On this day each year, I always think of the uncle I never knew that died in WWII.  We actually know much about him, but I will always be sad that I never knew my father’s handsome little brother who endured such great hardship and suffering in war.  My father never talked too much about him because I think it was just too painful to do so.  But, he made sure we knew about him and how he died.

Perhaps that is the reason I’ve always taken Memorial Day to heart.  It’s personal.  Because it is personal for me, I appreciate how it is personal and painful for many, many other family members and dear friends today, too.

Today, we remember and mourn together for our loved ones gone much too soon, and we also show our appreciation as we are moved to do so, including taking time to be with family.  These days, that is certainly something to celebrate, and I think many loved ones gone before us are smiling when we gather.

Today, I hope you will remember those gone and celebrate those present.  We are truly blessed indeed.  May we never take that blessing for granted.

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Welcome to Seattle, Ya’ll!

Enjoying the unseasonal cloudy and cool weather and an update on the wonderful rains!

We enjoyed a glorious, relaxing and fun week in Maui.  But more on that later when I get the pictures done.

 You may recall that it started raining in Texas well before we left on our trip and a series of thunderstorms *quickly* filled up the reservoir that supplies some of our water.  It hasn’t stopped raining since then except for a few periods lasting no more than about three days at a time.  While we were in Maui, I kept getting severe weather alerts on my phone for our home area, and several friends shared about the downpours we were receiving.

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As I’m typing this post this morning after my first cup of coffee, it is 47 degrees with 90% humidity, and the high today will struggle to reach 60.  Normally, the average high for late May should be around 85 degrees, but it’s not uncommon for the temperature to go well above that, too.  So, I decided to check the average weather in the Pacific Northwest this time of year, and it seems we are right on track with Seattle’s weather in May!

So, if I never visit Seattle, at least I now what it feels like to be there in May.  And it is “loverly!” 

With more severe storms in our forecast for the upcoming Memorial Day weekend, we have decided to scrap some tentative plans to go out in the RV for a little getaway, hopefully with our son coming along.  I’m not into camping during super-cell storms at all, and we are having an epic load of them these days.  Some friends of ours went to Copper Breaks State Park two weekends ago with their trailer in tow, and not long after they arrived that evening and set up, they found themselves running to the bathroom/shower building nearby to dodge an oncoming tornado.  Apparently, it absolutely rained buckets of water during that storm, along with some small hail.  We were flying out to Hawaii that day and receiving regular text updates about what “dogs” we were while they were trying to not die at Copper Breaks!  It is funny now…  😉  Glad they, along with their trailer and truck, are fine most of all.

You have to be tough to camp in Texas in May and June at times, and there are lots of tough people out there.  I’m just not sure I’m one of them, but kudos to them for being brave souls!

More lakes are rising dramatically, and it’s an amazing thing to witness.  “All droughts end with a flood” seems completely spot-on at this time.  Just check out a few of the lakes that have seen a dramatic increase over the past few days and weeks, especially the first one.

Lake Alan Henry

Lake Arrowhead

Lake Brownwood

It’s amazing what the rain has done for the spirits of the people in our area.  It’s like hope has finally returned and the doom and gloom of the drought may actually be behind us, at least for a while.  And right along with the lifting of spirits with the return of rain, it seems my own spirit is finally on the rise after several long, depressing months following my mother’s death.  I swear she is up there levying God to make some good things happen for me and for this area that was her home for 93 years because everything just seems to be making a 180 degree turn right now in so many ways.  It would be so like her to do that.  Always thinking of others.

I enjoyed several hours alone at a lovely spa in Hawaii while Hubby played golf, and it was a great time of reflection and peace for me.  God felt so very close as I had the unique opportunity to spend time with him in this gorgeous place.  The various health treatments must have helped the blood start flowing to my brain again, literally, and I have felt so much better physically since that day, and walking quite a bit while we were gone certainly helped, too.  The quiet time with God helped me to realize that it’s time to start moving on while remembering Mom and our good times together.  I had one teary time as I sat alone amid the beauty, but I have not cried a single tear since then.

There is too much of life left to live, and it’s time to quit wasting it on being sad.  I’m not sure what all that will mean for me going forward, but I’m ready to see what life has to bring my way.

One thing that became clear was that it is time to pursue my photography hobby once again.  I’ve put it away for too long, and the passion that God has given me for photography is going to waste in some way.  This happened *before* I even mentioned this small revelation to my Hubby.  When he told me on my birthday, the day we flew home from Hawaii, that he wanted to upgrade my camera equipment when we got home, it confirmed my earlier revelation.  God works in mysterious and glorious ways, and the blessings are flowing all around right now, for sure.  The new camera and lenses are already in hand, and I’m looking forward to new photographic experiences with them and hopefully improving my skills significantly.

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The drought is finally over.  Spring has returned in so many ways, and my heart is grateful for the sustaining power that saw me through it all once again. ❤

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What Answered Prayer Looks Like

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The drought is over as of 1:30 am this morning!

I was witness to this miracle yesterday evening while dining out with two dear friends to celebrate my birthday a little early.  Looking to the east where our water supply lake is, this storm was the one that ended our drought.  The lake received over seven billion gallons of water in 36 hours, *in just the right spot,* and it is now full and flowing over the spillway to send even more water downstream.  We have witnessed the tremendous power of water flowing in the Brazos River once again, which immediately came up thirteen feet as the rains hit.

The last two days have been quite an epic sight to witness, and my heart is so full of gratitude, especially as I can finally mark this prayer request as “answered” after four long years.   The lake was officially documented as “full” at 1:30 am while we were asleep, but this was the very first news story I heard when I turned on our local news earlier today.  I even got the picture last evening to document this wonderful event!

Thank you, God, for the rain!  West Texas is so grateful today.  What an understatement!  I never cease to be amazed at how God answers prayer when we least suspect it or are even looking for it.  I’ve had a big lesson in the power of prayer through all this after an excruciating four years of drought, and my prayer life is better for it.  😀

Update: WordPress just informed me that this is also my 200th post! What a great way to hit that small milestone today!

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Happy New Year

Happy new year to one and all!  I hope you all had a wonderful Christmas with those you love.

I wanted to just pop in for a bit to give a little update on what has happened since my last post here.  My mother is back in the hospital once again after experiencing some seizures for the first time on December 23.  Two weeks prior to that, she had fallen and hit her head hard, but the tests done in the ER at that time showed no injury other than the cut above her left eye and the bruises on her left arm.  She was released a couple of hours after she was seen in the ER on that visit.  An MRI was done in the ER this time, and there is evidence of one or more small strokes sometime in the past, possibly in the two-week period between these episodes.  The seizures were controlled after a couple of days with medication, but she is still not responding very well mentally and has a feeding tube at this time to receive some meds and her nutrition.  The plan is for her to be transferred back to rehab as soon as the move can be arranged, likely early next week at the soonest.  Therapists will try to work with her to see if they can get her to take nutrition and meds by mouth again and see if they can make any progress with her mentally.  I will be honest and say that two different doctors have shared with me that they are not very hopeful of making progress with her, but the second doctor told me that he is “not ready to give up on her just yet.”  Those were his exact words.

Needless to say, we are now in uncharted territory with her.  If you are a praying person, I hope you will lift her and her doctors and therapists up in prayer over the coming days.  I’m praying for God’s healing for her, in whatever form that needs to happen, as well as peace for her soul right now which is sorely needed.  I would also appreciate your prayers.  This is hard.  Very hard.

We were able to still spend a couple of days on our planned “Camping Christmas” trip with our daughter and son-in-law from California, as well as our son that lives here.  It was the first time in three years that we were all together, and some family members here at home covered for me for those first few days until we returned home early from our trip to see about Mom.  We were already out-of-town, and God works everything for a reason.  I believe it was a good thing for these relatives, including my sister, to be with Mom at this time, as almost all of them do not spend much, if any, time with Mom regularly.  Some had not seen her in many weeks, even months, and it bothered Mom terribly that they did not come around very often.  Now that I am home again, I am truly sad to see that they have all dropped out of the picture once again, too.

Even though our holiday together was clouded by this unexpected event with Mom, my little family made the best of our brief time, and I feel so blessed that we at least had those days to be together.  It was a trip that had been in the works for months, and I know now that this is something I would love to continue to do in the future, if possible, even if my whole family cannot be there each year.  We even had a dusting of snow on our drive to the area, making the landscape uniquely beautiful in a way we had not seen on previous trips.

I’m sorry that I have not been able to catch up with my blog reading here, but hopefully things will settle down a bit here soon so that I can start catching up on many things, including Reader.  Life is most definitely throwing curve balls my way right now, including ice and snow on the roads all this week, which is making trips to the hospital extremely challenging.  I’m taking great comfort in familiar routines right now, such as Bible reading and my gratitude journal.  If you have never kept a daily gratitude journal, perhaps this is the year you might give it a try?  I’m not sure where I would be these days without mine and my daily time in my Bible.  It is so easy to become ungrounded during times like this, and I just do not want to go down that road at all.  I cannot even begin to say what my dear friends mean to me right now, too.  God bless them one and all.

As I take a quick glance back on 2014, I am probably most grateful for the change in my overall physical health for the better.  It took some time and patience to make those basic changes last year, but it was so worth it.  I cannot begin to tell how grateful I am for better health and hope to continue and improve in 2015 even more.  The gift of health is forefront in my mind today as I care for my elderly mother, and I realize that the gift of health is something we should never take for granted.

Once again, Happy New Year, and may this new year bring a fresh spirit of joy, peace and love to each of us and those we love.

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