Archive for February, 2011

Rehab

February 23, 2011

It’s been a little while since I have posted.  Life seems to move along, whether we want it to or not.  Kids have school, homework, afterschool activities.  Basketball ended, soccer has started up, and all three are playing.  Church is moving along.  I’m working on some revisions for my book.  Life is busy.

And yet nothing is the same.

All of this feels kind of like trying to re-learn how to ride a bike after losing a leg.  What I imagine that would be, not only physically, but mentally and emotionally, is what living without Susan feels like.  Not that I have lost a limb.  Half of my heart, though.

Only God can restore that kind of brokenness.  Only He can be the thing that Bailey, Christopher and Luke need.  Only He can fill the void for Susan’s parents, for her sister and brother.  Only He can fill the hole that is left in me.  I just don’t know if He will.  He won’t, actually.  Not the way I want Him to right now, anyway.

Does God know best?  Is He always right?  Does He love me and you?  Yes.  I believe the answer to these questions is yes.  I’m going to trust that He does.  I know that He does, I have experienced it in countless ways.

So, in the middle of pain, we still walk.  We move forward, we take baby steps.  Like  a patient in a rehab center, moving one small slide at a time down the hallway.  Learning to live with the loss.  Learning to walk again.  Hoping that even without a limb, life is still ahead, not just behind.

I was with a good friend the other day and he got married when he was about 40.  He said back then, it felt like all his life was in front of him.  I confessed that I just turned 39, and it feels like all mine is behind.  Now, I know this is not really the case.  But it does feel like that, especially in the darker moments.

Rehab.  This is what we are doing in the Law household.  It is painful, but it is necessary if we’re going to move forward.  It is a good thing – a great thing – that God is in the business of rehab anyway.  That He specializes in the rehabilitation of our hearts and souls.  That He is not our physical, but our spiritual therapist, walking down the hallway with us one little step at a time.  Speaking the medicine of His love into our hearts, giving us His strength to rely on in our weakness.  The process is not linear.  There are setbacks – there are days where it feels like I am starting back at square one.  Those are the times when I need to trust that God – and God alone – is enough, and that He has my very best interests at heart.

See

February 16, 2011

A friend suggested I get Steven Curtis Chapman’s CD recently called “Beauty Will Rise”.  If you’re not familiar with him, he’s a Christian artist who has been around quite awhile.  Susan and I used to listen to a lot of his stuff, especially back in the 90s.  I hadn’t picked up anything of his recently, but once I got this, I haven’t really listened to anything else.  The Chapmans lost a daughter, Maria, in a tragic car accident a couple of years ago, when she was only 5.  The songs all relate to their process of dealing with the loss – their grief, questions, pain, hope, and faith.  It’s an honest picture of someone of faith struggling with loss.

They’ve really spoken to me and encouraged me over the past few days.  I thought I’d share one of my favorite ones here, called “See”.  On my tough days, I’m trying to remember that there will be a day when I see Susan again, where she’ll say “See – it’s everything we thought it would be, and much, much more.”  I can’t wait for that day.

At the risk of sounding like a cliche…

February 14, 2011

I haven’t written a lot of posts like this because I guess I feel on the one hand like what I’m going to say is obvious.  People should – and most of the time do – know this.  But the more I’ve thought about it, the more I’ve reflected on my marriage with Susan and the way things can get sometimes in a relationship, and the more I see other couples these days, the more inclined I am to put this into words.

I understand how it can be easy to let time get away from you in your marriage.  To let the day-to-day grind of job, kids, house, and other commitments get in the way.  I know how it is to be a guy who fell in love with a girl, got married, and then gets distracted by his career.  It can be easy to let your most important human relationship slide as other things seem more pressing.  The squeaky wheel gets the grease, as they say.  And more often than not, it’s easy to let the flames of your marriage flicker when there’s a job deadline, a screaming baby, or a ball game on.  It can be easy to let small differences (the things about the other that used to be cute) turn into bigger divisions.

And for some reason, we often let these things happen and don’t do one thing about it.

I am grateful that I don’t have regrets in my relationship with Susan.  Was it perfect?  No, of course not.  We had our share of problems and arguments just like anyone else.  But we talked, we communicated, we said the things that were important, we said everything we needed to say.  We knew the other one was there, for life.  We both had a great peace about this with one another.  We fell in love in college and never looked back.  No regrets.

So if you’ll allow me to get into your business for just a minute –  Don’t take your spouse for granted.  You really don’t have any guarantees about the future.

This is what I guess everyone who has lost a spouse says (which is why I probably haven’t said it very often).  But now I find myself wanting to grab couples I see together, shake them, and say, “Do you realize what you have right now?  What you have the potential for?  That it’s worth it – whatever problems you have, to lean into them together and figure it out?  Do you know how precious what you have is?  Don’t dare throw it away!”  Or when I see older couples sitting together at a restaurant and not talking, I want to sit down with them and plead with them not to waste their last years together.

It is true that you and I don’t know what tomorrow holds.  No one is guaranteed anything.  Every couple dreams of a long life lived out together, but no one knows how many days they have.  There are 50-year olds who are only halfway through with their lives.  There are 24-year olds who are in their final days and don’t know it.

So I’m pleading with you today.

Men – love your wives.  Serve them, care for them, tell them how much your heart beats for them.  Some of you have a tough time saying these things to her.  Figure out a way to say it anyway.

Women – build your husbands up.  Love them, show them, don’t let another day go by where you don’t.  Let them know how much you appreciate them.

Forgive each other.  Ask God to help you overlook the things that get in the way.

Yesterday is history.  Don’t assume just because you said it back then that you shouldn’t have to say it again.  Tomorrow is uncertain.  Only God knows how many more days you have together.

Which makes today so important.  Don’t waste it.

 

Pain and Praise

February 10, 2011

I’ve felt, often in the past, that these two things are opposites – pain and praise.  Why would you turn toward God in worship in the middle of pain?  How could you?  Why would you want to?  And on the other side of things, how could you praise God and also feel pain?  It doesn’t make sense.  At least, it hasn’t made a lot of sense until recently.

Life and the Scriptures are teaching me that praise and pain are not opposites (like Superman and Bizarro, who live in parallel worlds and never exist in the same space…except for that one episode of Superfriends…but I digress).  Grief and worship are not two separate things that cannot exist in the same space.  One does not suck the oxygen away from the other.

The Bible speaks to this often:

-Job grieved in the ashes and praised God at the same time (Job 1, 2)

-Paul and Silas worshiped God in a dark, damp prison cell (Acts 16)

-David praised God in the Psalms while on the run for his life and being attacked from all sides

-Jesus worshiped in the garden of Gethsemane, knowing the pain that was before him

I found myself turning my heart toward God shortly after Susan passed away.  At church, singing with my church family…it just felt natural in the middle of the pain to turn to Him.  It wasn’t a joy-filled, “everything-is-alright-forget-about-what’s-going-on” worship experience.  It was much more real than that.

It’s more like this: The pain is so great that I don’t know where else to turn.  There is no hope other than the hope found in Jesus Christ.  There is nothing here that can soothe, nothing that can diminish it, nothing that will satisfy.  He is the only One with the answers, the only One who has what I need.  He is the only One who can handle it.

What I am learning about pain too, though, is that God can do great things out of it.  He uses it to shape our lives.  We spend lots of life trying to avoid pain in different ways.  And I’m human – which means I’d avoid this pain if I could.  But I can’t.  There is no way around it, no way past it, or over.

That means I have to go through it.  And I’d rather have God along for the journey than go it alone.

Even when He’s quiet.  Even when I don’t understand Him.  Even when it seems like it’s too much to bear.  Worship connects my heart to Him in the middle of the pain, and yes, it somehow makes this more bearable.  Worship, after all, is about speaking the truth.  And turning to God reminds me that the truth is that pain, separation, loneliness, tears, cancer, and disease – all of these are temporary.  They won’t last.

“Weeping may last for a night, but joy comes in the morning.”  Psalm 30:5

On top of this, our wounds make us who we are.  Susan and I always said that cancer would mark us, it would change us – we would never be the same.  She knew that God was using this unwelcome situation to grow us.  I’m trying to trust (some days successfully, other days, not) that God is going to make sure that this pain is not wasted.

Our 6 year old son, Luke, will fight me sometimes when he doesn’t agree with something I’ve done.  He will kick at me, fuss, hang his head, and storm off.  But he always – ALWAYS – comes back to my lap and wants to sit close together.  Nothing reminds me of my relationship with God more than that right now.

 

“Our wounds are part of who we are, and there is nothing left to chance,

And pain’s the pen that writes the songs, and they call us forth to dance.”

-Michael Card



Kinston

February 8, 2011

Hey guys –

Been a few days since I have posted.  We spent the weekend in Kinston with our friends Jason and Susan McKnight and their cute boys, Andrew and Daniel.  We had a great time catching up with them and did something I haven’t done in about 25 years…roller skating.  Susan was also kind enough to let Jason and me sneak out to see “The King’s Speech”.  Great movie.  It was really good to sit and talk with Jason and Susan both nights we were there.  Just reflecting on things, remembering stuff about Susan together – it was really good for me.

Jason is the pastor of a great church in Kinston called Grace Fellowship Church.  He asked me to speak Sunday, sharing my reflections on Job, grief, and our journey.  If you’d like to hear the audio, it is on their website:

www.gracekinston.org

Several of you have asked about the kids.  They are doing okay…having their ups and downs I’d say.  Sometimes it’s hard to know what is related to missing mommy and what is just normal kid stuff.  I’m not mom…and there are times when I know they are missing what only she can give.  Those are the times when I know it will be God’s grace alone that gets us through this.  Bailey turns 11 Friday, and she and I have the father-daughter dance that night.  Two things I know she is really looking forward to, and at the same time will be difficult without Susan.

I’ll try to post again tomorrow.  Thanks for keeping up with us.

This Weekend

February 4, 2011

The kids and I are traveling to Kinston today to hang out with our good friends Jason and Susan and their boys.  Hopefully doing Kinston-like things like eating BBQ and riding four wheelers.  I’ll be speaking at the church Jason pastors, Grace Fellowship Church, on things I’m learning from the book of Job.

I’ll catch back up with you folks later this weekend.

Luke Update

February 2, 2011

Quick update on Luke – I took him to Duke hospital today to see a pediatric rheumatologist.  He’s had swelling in his right foot off and on for the last year.  We had a good visit.  He saw about 4 doctors in the whole process of things.  The main guy believes he has “post-strep arthritis” – which is related to a strep infection.  He’s going to go on an antibiotic and an anti-inflammatory to see if the swelling decreases, and then check back in in a month.  He’ll then likely have to be on the antibiotic for a year or so, as a preventative.

All in all, this is pretty good news.  There are some more serious things it could have been but it’s looking like those are getting ruled out.

Just thought I’d update, since several of you have asked.  Thanks for praying for Luke and me today.  We did wear our Carolina shirts.  And it turns out that apparently there are more Carolina fans than Duke fans working there, based on the comments we heard.  (It’s always good to see nice Carolina people taking Duke money)

One funny thing – the first doc was doing the intake and asked about allergies.  When I said he had none, he looked at me as seriously as he could and said “Yes I do, dad.  I’m allergic to pickles.”  She wrote that down on his chart.

 

Bailey

February 2, 2011

I love it these days when someone shares a story about Susan, something funny or unique, where we can say “that was just like her”.  You hear about people who experience a death and they can’t bear the pictures, the constant memories, or people bringing up their loved one’s name.  I’m not like that – in fact, I think I’ve been the opposite.  I crave the memories, the interactions with people who knew her well.  We’re going to spend the weekend with some friends in Kinston – one of Susan’s best friends in life was her friend Susan McKnight.  Her husband Jason is a pastor there, and I’m going to speak at their church Sunday.  I’m honored to be able to share at their church, yes.  But I’m also finding myself really looking forward to the time spent with someone who knew my wife so well.  I didn’t anticipate this beforehand – but when I hear from someone about Susan, or we remember something she said or did together, it makes me feel closer to her.

Several times in the past few days Bailey has done something that has given me a flashback of Susan.  More than once I have thought, “She’s just like Susan!”  It has been really cool.  Three things in particular I wanted to share:

I was in Bailey’s room a few minutes ago talking to her some and telling her goodnight.  We were discussing her upcoming 11th birthday party and the schedule of events for the evening.  She got this excited look on her face when we started talking about the schedule, jumped up, grabbed a dry-erase marker and started writing said schedule furiously on her whiteboard.  (Yes, she has a 6X4 whiteboard on her wall, probably her favorite thing in her room)  It made me laugh, and I immediately thought about Susan.  She was a scheduler, for as long as I can remember.  At Carolina, she was crazy about her weekly planner.  Throughout our marriage she kept a detailed calendar.  She loved to schedule things – even vacations (which was something we tended to argue about).  She would get excited writing down the schedule for the day.  I see that same thing in Bailey.

Bailey is playing basketball this year and having a great time.  For her (and I believe she would admit this), sports are more of a “social” thing.  The competition is fine, or whatever, but she likes to be on teams because she likes being with her friends.  She played two games over the weekend, and did great.  Sunday’s game she had 8 points and helped lead her team to their first win of the season.  I told Bailey later that she may not have known this but Susan played basketball in middle school.  Apparently, though, she only scored 2 points – in the entire season.  I wasn’t around then, of course, but knowing Susan, I know that for her, the main things was getting to have fun with her friends.  Who cares if they won or lost.  As I watched Bailey running up and down the court with a big smile on her face the whole time, I couldn’t help but think that I bet this is exactly what Susan looked like when she played.

The other thing Bailey has been doing a lot of lately is reading her Bible.  I have to tell you, when I see her doing this, it makes me so proud.  A few days ago, she got in the front seat of the car as we were heading somewhere, pulled out her Bible, and started reading it.  She keeps a little notebook with it, and she’s been writing down verses.  It almost caused me to drive off of the road.  Because I had this vivid image of Susan, countless times, on a trip, or on the way to the hospital, pulling out her Bible in that same seat and reading.  Susan kept a notebook when she read through the Bible last year, writing down every verse that struck her.

These things hit me this week in an almost eerie kind of way.  I’m so proud of Bailey, and what a great reminder to me that in some ways, Susan is still with us.