Sunday, January 29, 2017

Two More Minutes

I pushed past my sadness and forced myself to walk unsteadily into the shower

to get ready for another day,

another church service without Ryan.

I didn't want to see

the caring faces of those who,

only two days ago,

hugged and held me close

after Ryan's funeral service.

A friend checked in to make sure I was coming

but the clock was my foe.

I arrived late to barred doors and the standard

"no admittance" spiel on the unfamiliar side of the building.

I walked to the familiar side of the sanctuary

and was given a seat in the back,

alone.

My friend texted that the ushers by her knew I was coming and

I would not disturb anyone.

I asked once if the usher could escort me there.

He said no.

I returned to my seat and she texted to come.

I told her what happened and she said to just stay put,

alone.

I got up and asked the usher again,

if he could radio someone to make it happen.

He looked down at me and said he would be happy to escort me out

and that I should be happy to be hearing the word of God.

I instantly started sobbing at the cold reality of tardy protocol.

I ran to get my purse as my tears ran hot

and I went to the bathroom.

I came undone.

I thought I should go home,..

what was I doing there anyway???

I couldn't stop crying and I decided

instead

I would talk to someone familiar

in the church office.

I felt bad for the stranger who greeted me at the door.

He ushered me into a room

with a Kleenex box

and a warm, listening ear.

"I feel so stupid crying over a silly seat," I said to the Elder,

with many, many tears streaming down my face.

"It's not the chair," he stated, softly.

"It's your grief."

My face rested in my hands as I just allowed the tears to come

with their familiar sting and my aching, broken heart,

not holding them back any longer.

When I looked up, I pointed to the cart that held

the most treasured possessions

of our 13 years of marriage.

I told him that it was my cart of treasures,

my love lost

and the funeral had just concluded 48 hours ago.

He told me I was in the fire and reminded me Who was there with me.

Then he told me that he baked bread. And the person who trained him

to bake bread told him when the bread is done:

when you can't stand it anymore.

The Elder said he would check on the bread and it was so hot,

it just seemed to be ready.

"No," his instructor said, "give it another two minutes."

"Isn't there another way?" I asked the Elder.

I don't want to be in such intense pain and grief anymore and it's only been 8 weeks.

"Didn't Jesus ask that too at the Garden of Gethsemane?" he asked me.

"But there wasn't another way. That is how the Father chose it for Jesus," he told me.

"And this suffering is God's choice for your path, too."

Ryan never liked the idea of Jesus' suffering and would often read books

to try to get a good answer out of why Jesus had to suffer the way He did,

and why we need to suffer here on earth, too.

Nancy Gutherie was an author I would often see Ryan reading.

Now, when I want to reach over and touch Ryan on his side of the bed

I am met with a book he found comforting

and I hear Jesus speak into my sorrow, too.

"You have choices about where to go from here," the Elder said.

"Let's talk about those."

Immediately I addressed suicide.

"Well, I do have the choice to kill myself," I said matter-of-factly.

"Yes, that is a choice," said the Elder.

"But I have two small kids who just lost their Dad. And for them to lose their Mom too would just be wrong.

REALLY wrong.

So that's really not a choice.

Plus I promised Ryan I would take care of myself, and them."

He nodded in agreement, knowing that people in grief often want to join their loved ones in death to escape the pain of their present sorrow.

"You're being a good wife," he said.

"But I am not anymore," I said.

"Good wives take care of their kids," he reminded me.

I started crying again, then said...

"And then, there's the choice to just continue with whatever God has planned for me," I said, sad again.

"Let's pray for that plan, because God does have a plan for your life," he said.

The Elder asked God on my behalf to endure, have peace, feel God's presence and be comforted as I keep going on this difficult journey.

I may not have sat in the seat in church that I wanted to, but my divine appointment was to sit somewhere else to learn about my continued refining.

I may feel like the bread of my life is "well done" already, but God told me today,

"Two more minutes"

because I am not done yet.

Saturday, January 28, 2017

The Day After

I drove up to the old Irvine condo and saw a front light on, casting a similar glow to when we once lived there.

The small gate was still tucked away from the raised and crooked sidewalk, distorted from the deep roots of the engorged leafless maple trees.

The bark that Ryan and I spread in the tiny front "yard" was still trapped by stacked bricks at a 45 degree angle, tilted like tiny sinking ships.

The door was shut tightly against the dark night I fought to run away from.

I wrestled with myself and won to stay put in the car.

But I wanted to knock on that door.

Or better yet, turn the key to let myself in to a door that lead to my past.

That doorway, if opened would lead to the foundations of a time in our marriage where Ryan and I were still newly married,

becoming an established couple.

Loving each other,

Stubbornly.

Yet what would I say to the younger me with less weight and graying around the edges of my soul?

Would I warn young Anna of the perils of stubborn pride and anger that served no purpose except to "prove oneself right?"

Would I chide her for not loving and respecting her husband enough?

Would I be the Cancer harbinger?

And how would young Anna respond to such warnings anyhow?

I felt eternity knocking with each tragic love story I watched growing up, crying at the sinking Titanic with my high school on-screen crush drowning while holding his love's hand.

But as I think back to that fateful November day in my own life...

Ryan was holding my hand as he was drowning in the fluid that filled his lungs to the point

he could no longer breathe.

Or the other movie with my lifelong onscreen crush whose best line is "whoah" in most movies and who Ryan mocked mercilously.

His on-screen romance ended in sweet November, too.

The darkened theater told the foreshadowing of my very own fate,

as I put myself in the place of the characters

and sobbed thinking of love

lost.

And how did I walk away from those movies?

"Well, I hope that never happens to me, because I don't think I would make it," I would repeat to myself.

And then I'd sob some more, feeling very sorry for myself.

Yet two months to the day after my own real life romance died in a hospital bed at City of Hope Cancer hospital, most of our closest friends, family members and Ryan's co-workers gathered to celebrate Ryan's life.

I heard whispers of "I would be in bed, crying and a mess" and "I don't know how you do it."

I thought the service would be much different than what actually happened.

But God showed up

BIG TIME

and the funeral was more amazing than I ever dreamed it could be!

It brought me closure and more peace than I ever could have anticipated.

One person got saved.

And Ryan's prayer was answered from years ago when he told God late one night,"Lord, if only one person gets saved because of my Cancer and they get to go to Heaven because of it, then it was all worth it."

I loved it.

I just wish Ryan had been there to celebrate his life and bask in the glow of the fruit from his good works here on earth. (But if he was here, he wouldn't have wanted all the hoopla because he just isn't that guy.)

So what do you do after love dies, the funeral is over and life keeps moving forward?

I made a decision long, long ago after his diagnosis that I would work with God and move with the tides that he turned in my life and heart, to follow after His chosen path for me instead of fighting against it.

In the past when we were downcast, Ryan and I would venture out to see the beautiful and vast ocean sparkles, dotted with sail boats and smiles from our little people in the back seat.

The day after my old life was laid to rest,

I took our smaller family

to the sea.

We talked about the changing tides in our lives,

what was ripped from us

and like detritus dragged out by the tide,

to never return to those of us left standing on the shore,

We spoke about

the unfair and

unfamiliar

ache we feel in

the lost presence of Ryan Waters.

We visited beauty among the thorns in life

and tasted a visit to the familiar places

our soles once walked together in the not so distant past

as a family of four.

This summarized my day after ashes:

"Oh how I need you" sang through my heart,

both for my lover who is gone

and the Lover of my soul.

Sunday, January 22, 2017

Learning to Accept "No"

The rain fell heavily on my heart as I walked towards the second church service.

I couldn't believe the two month mark since my husband's death was quickly approaching and the downpour of rain mimicked the downpour of sadness in my soul these last few weeks.

I also couldn't believe there were hardly any people on the church campus outside, due to the weather.

Everyone was inside and arrived on time (except me)!

Lately, I have had a hard time getting ready in the morning. I miss the adult conversation and interaction I once had with my husband on a daily basis. But when I talk to other people I dread answering the question about how I am doing because I don't want to immediately burst into tears in front of others.

But it's right there.

My situation in life is just something I must grit my teeth and endure.

I want it to go away, but it won't.

I want change.

I want more peace than I already have.

I was talking to someone who didn't  have peace about Ryan's death. It broke my heart. I wanted to fix it. I wanted to change that. I wanted them to have the assurances that I've been given in watching him suffer over the last five years.

None of Ryan's life or Cancer was a mistake.

God ordained all of Ryan's life, from the very beginning, to the very, very end.

His death at 40 was intentional and planned.

Psalm 139: 16 says:

"You saw me before I was born. Every day of my life was recorded in your book. Every moment was laid out before a single day had passed."

God is in complete control and He was in control the day Ryan died.

God knew.

God has a purpose in all of this.

God is sovereign.

God has a plan for the rest of us that just doesn't include Ryan in it here on earth.

I was reading my devotional today...

 (As a side note, Ryan used to joke that my devotional is my daily crouton. Because if the word of God is bread, then anything that others write is just a crouton. But hey, I always told him - I like croutons AND bread! So I will keep reading both, thank you very much.)

Anyway, my crouton today was talking about how God sometimes withholds things from us, for our good.

The example the author used was about how God told Adam and Eve not to eat the fruit in the midst of the Garden of Eden.

He told them, "NO TOUCHIE!"

Yet they did it anyway. And God was trying to warn them against all the bad stuff that came out of that decision.

But God ALSO withholds good things from us sometimes, too. (I am preaching to myself here, too, by the way.)

God knew I was praying every single day for Ryan's Cancer to go away and for our lives to return to status quo.

God knew I didn't want to be a widow.

God knew that I need an amazing husband (RYAN) and our two precious girls need a Dad who loves and accepts them (RYAN).

But God said,

"No."

When Ryan was here and on the rare occasion he told me no, I had a hard time accepting that answer.

I didn't ever want to hear it.

I begged and pleaded with him to change.

I argued the heck out of him until I was blue in the face.

I even joked about the line in the book that said the husband might be head of the household but the wife is the neck and can turn the head whatever way she wants it to go, so clearly that issue should go in my direction.

(As a side note, I pity the people in my life now because they get to hear me do that to THEM now instead of Ryan when they tell me no.)

But God said,

"No."

On November 27, 2016 at 5:13 p.m. God said no to my prayer request.

God loves me enough to tell me no sometimes, even to good things like an amazing marriage to a very godly man.

I don't understand it.

I won't even pretend to.

But God doesn't ask me to understand His no.

He does ask me to trust Him, no matter what.

So the question I have for you is this:

If God has told you no, even if it's losing one of the people you care about the most on this planet to death --

Do you trust God, no matter what?

My answer, even when God says no, is yes, I trust You Lord. Though you slay me, yet I will trust You. Nothing on this planet and no decision You ever place in my path will EVER change that.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Widow. Check.

I remember the first time I got to sign a form for Talitha.

"Relationship to patient"

the line said.

"Mother," I wrote.

I looked over at Ryan with a total grin on my face.

I was ecstatic!

Talitha had made me a mother and I couldn't have been more pleased.

But the other day, I had to fill out a different form.

I looked at the box to check for marital status:

Widow.

Check.

But then, in that moment...

Ryan wasn't there.

Just like he wasn't there tonight when I was upset with Talitha

for acting out again

at night

during what used to be their time together.

Bedtime is the worst time of day for her.

I knew it wouldn't be easy and so did Ryan.

It hasn't been.

None of it has been.

But I have done some pretty positive things with my time to minimize the stress of everyone in our family.

Talitha is signed up for a new class that involves physical activities 4 times a week,

Friends have given me a break from the kids once a week for a few hours to myself.

And I have put a substantial amount of miles on the treadmill and my Bible, daily.

"All good things," you say, "but Anna, what about your heart?"

Well, there's that...

A friend came over yesterday and expressed her concern over me not being able to hang out in big groups lately.

"Well, I don't want you getting depressed," she said, "I worry about you."

I think she spoke for many people, others in my life have said or thought similar things.

Counseling has been the recommendation I've heard the most. And taking care of myself better by eating right and drinking water. And that will all come after the funeral, when the time is right.

And then she said this to me, "But you're so social. Why aren't you hanging out any more?"

My response was pretty simple, "Uh, now my husband is dead and for some reason I have anxiety around groups of people. I haven't had to deal with that before. It's different now."

Everyone at church asks me, "How are you?"

But how am I truthfully supposed to respond to that in 30 seconds?...

My heart is broken.

My life is completely different.

I hate what Cancer has done to our family with one less member in it.

I hate that my husband's death means people think they have to give me advice all the time.

I wish things were different. But wishing won't change my circumstances.

I am keeping myself in check and accountable to close friends, regularly.

I get the support I need from a team of people in my life who care about me deeply.

I pray constantly and fervently. I read my Bible more now than ever.

Things will never be the same.

I will never be the same.

Widow.

Check.