In his heart a man plans his course, but the Lord determines his steps. Proverbs 16:9

Saturday, December 7, 2013

My Faith O Meter

Over the course of this blog, I have encountered more than one crisis of faith.  I have made no secret of those spaces in time when my faith o meter is dipping into the red alert zone.  To be fair to myself, I feel justified in my doubts and questions, as we lost a child through a failed adoption and then lost Dave to a sudden heart attack.  It seems like every time I would feel the presence of God in such a sure way, it would only be a matter of weeks or days before the doubts and questions would ensue.

This past school year, I have attended Bible Study each Tuesday morning.  It is a win win in every way.  It was a great social hour as a lot of my friends attend, the older ladies bring some seriously delicious breakfast treats, there is free child care, (which will get any overwhelmed mom to show up each week) and I, also, look forward to picking up a few more tips about God each week.  The rotation of speakers includes quite a few of my close, dynamic and engaging friends, who never disappoint.  However, one particular Tuesday, none of my friends were speaking.  A lady who is the same (young) age as my mom, took her place on stage.   She wears a smile like a fixed broach.  Her hair is quaff and her make-up is tidy, always.  Her emotions and body seem to be in check 100% of the time.   While I think she is the sweetest lady ever, I actually had the word, "SNOOZER," running through my head, as she stepped behind the podium.  And then the unexpected happened.  She started speaking.  Her words, while evenly and softly spoken, were thundering my head.  I was voraciously writing notes as conviction was laid upon my frame. Here was this slight, mature lady, speaking about spiritual warfare in such a ginger tone, yet with such force and strength behind it.  I basically walked away, feeling that I was being held back by a serious stronghold of doubt in my life.  In life, I just kept coming back to, "I'm not so sure this is all real."  "I'm not so sure that God is really THAT powerful or THAT loving."  I realized that I was in a place where I could have faith that the Bible is true or have faith that the Bible wasn't true, but that as long as I kept wandering between the two, I was not ever going to live in His freedom or live in His perfect love.  I chose the Bible that day.  I chose HOPE.

Needless to say, I think I would be tumbling in another crisis of faith, had that one Tuesday morning not occurred.  Difficult circumstances have a way of pulling you back down to flesh, to disappointment, to frustration, to hopelessness.

At the end of the summer, I went on an amazing church retreat.  The Holy Spirit was fresh and palpable on that weekend.  Throughout the weekend, I felt like God was asking me to trust Him to be my provider.  That, as well as feeling like I wasn't ready to date, is what prompted me to end the semi-dating relationship that was just starting.  I didn't feel like I could really see if I trusted that God would provide for me, while there was a sweet boy who could provide for much of what I needed.  To me, this felt like a big act of obedience and what I thought that it would equate to, was big blessings in my life.  I wouldn't have said that out loud, but I'm sure, underneath it all, I thought that God was going to bless me big time with this big act of faithfulness.  (I know it's not that big, but it felt like it at the time).  Unfortunately, my big blessing has come in the form of a bulging disc in my back.  If you have ever had one of those, you know that they don't tickle!

I can't tell you the frustration with God that I have had over this.  This is one of those times that if Dave were still here I would think, how would any single parent take care of three kids, with a back injury like this.  I felt so unfairly treated.  I felt like I am being so faithful and God is not! (Insert lightning strike). In fact, I was slated to speak at Bible Study, in front of a hundred ladies, last Tuesday on this very question; "How has God been faithful to you?"  Two days before my "God is so faithful" speech, I was hiding under my covers crying and questioning that very thing and thinking, "I have to cancel.  I don't believe he is faithful to me right now.  I don't see it, I don't feel it, I am just so mad, mad, mad.  This is not how it is supposed to go!"

Sunday night, I continued to wrestle with the unfairness of this all and I couldn't sleep as I tried to figure out how I am going to do this life.  As the 1:00 am hour struck, I decided to listen to a sermon, because if they make me sleepy on Sunday mornings, maybe it will do the same on Sunday nights?  I typed in Tim Keller and clicked on a sermon. The podcast started with this quote:

That soul that on Jesus hath leaned for repose,
I will not, I will not, desert to his foes;
that soul, though all hell should endeavor to shake,
I'll never, no, never, no never, forsake.

My attention was caught.  Then, instead of a sermon, a few people just read Psalm 4, then Psalm 27, then Isaiah 61.  The living, breathing, Word of God,  calmed everything crazy inside of me.  I proceeded to fall asleep before the sermon even started.  I desperately wish that my calm had come from a supernatural healing of my back, but he gave me my manna.  He gave me enough so that I didn't have to disintegrate into pieces.  He gave me enough to wake up with a different attitude.  I can walk, I can sit, I can sleep, so for that I am thankful.  Just don't ask me to put my shoes on, or pick up anything off the floor and please don't ask to see the vegetation growing on my legs, because these legs haven't seen a razor in quite some time.  This year has come with such day to day dependence on God.  I want to save it up, but I seem to only have enough for each day and then I have to decide again, to trust Him and to have hope for something better.

So, here I am . . .  waiting for the Lord, as it says in Psalm 27:13-14.  "I am still confident of this: I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living.  Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord."

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Take the Bitter, With the Sweet - Update Part II

"Take the bitter, with the sweet, and cry a river over me."  I literally woke up singing those lyrics this morning and for good reason.  Late last night, Spencer melted in sadness before my very eyes last night.  Maci was already in bed, Leah was in the tub, and Spencer was composing a little piece on the piano.  He hollered for me to come and listen, so I took my spot on the couch and prepared for his mini masterpiece.  As soon as he finished he hurried off the bench into my lap and with tears in his eyes, he said, "That song reminds me of Daddy."  We just sat there and cried for about 10 minutes - not even saying anything.  Finally, he said, "I don't like that Daddy died."  I hear ya, buddy - with all my heart.  Half of me was tasting the bitterness of  hurt Spencer was feeling and half of me was washed with the sweetness that he was letting it all out.

Ever since Halloween, I could tell Spencer was really having a hard time with missing Dave. First, we happened to drive by a cemetery on Halloween on our way to a friend's house and Spencer was emphatic about stopping and looking around.  He was almost panicked about not stopping and said, "I think it will help me to remember Daddy, better."  So, we stopped and walked around, as we noted the names and different shapes of the head stones.  Shortly after, we went through his friend's homemade haunted house, which stirred a desire in Spencer to build his own.  I said there is no way we are doing that.  He started to try and convince me that Chuck or Jim could come over and help and I told him that they don't have the necessary skills. (Just kidding, guys). I told him it is just not going to happen.  We all knew why . . . because Dave was gone.  We got home and he frantically started collecting cardboard to try and go it alone in his haunted house efforts.  In that moment, even the lure of pounds of candy wasn't effective in derailing his focus.

Earlier this week was another example of some underlying sadness, I've been seeing. This past Monday night, he brought home a classroom assignment that had a slot for past, present and future.  On the past section he drew a picture of Dave and wrote, "I lost mi dad."  Last year, every one of his journal entries was a picture about Mario Brothers or Star Wars and nothing about Dave, so this kinda seemed big to me.  I asked him more about it and he sharply told me that he didn't want to talk about it.  Talk about your heart just sinking. Ugh!

Even though I am writing these difficult and bitter stories, there is so much sweet depth to who my kids are becoming.  Even last night in the midst of our little cry fest, Leah came in with her bunny towel wrapped around her saying, "I have a surprise for you."  She handed each of us some wadded up toilet paper and said, "Here are some wipes for your tears, and I miss Daddy, too."  Pure sweetness.  There are so many stories I can share that speaks to this sweet depth.

This very morning, Spencer brought his Bible to Show and Tell.  I felt a little like Jay Pritchett on Modern Family last night, when Manny brought a fancy cake to the carnival instead of playing with all the boys.  I mean, most kids are probably bringing Star Wars legos to Show and Tell, but Spencer is bringing the Bible.  I thought about encouraging him to bring the usual, but the Bible is where it is at for him.  Which reminds me of another story about him from about a month ago.

There was a family night type deal at the church coffee shop, where it was just some singing, some crafts and some sharing.  At one point, the microphone was passed to the kids and they were sharing what they were thankful for - dinner tonight, my mom, my fish, my dad, Jesus, the trees, etc . . . .  They were all great things to be thankful for, for sure.  Then Spencer got the microphone and he said these very words, "I'm thankful for my family, for Jesus, and for NEW LIFE in heaven, and that when we get there, we get to stay forever."  I mean, who is teaching him these things?  The way he said, "NEW LIFE," was like he already knew this life can be a little rocky, but life in heaven is going to be fantastic.  The crazy thing is, a couple days later, I super randomly opened up the Bible and read I Peter 1:3-5:

"What a God we have! And how fortunate we are to have him, this Father of our Master Jesus! Because Jesus was raised from the dead, we've been given a brand-new life and have everything to live for, including a future in heaven-and the future starts now! God is keeping careful watch over us and the future.  The day is coming when you'll have it all - life healed and whole."

Spencer pretty much summed all of that up in his delivery of what he was thankful for that night. It really testifies to the verse in Psalms 8 that says, "O Lord, our Lord, your majestic name fills the earth!  Your glory is higher than the heavens.  You have taught children and infants to tell of your strength, silencing your enemies and all who oppose you."

Speaking of heaven, one more little story of how my kids are just so much more in tune with things not of this world.  While Leah and Maci are still so young to understand as much as Spencer does, Leah did surprise me the other day. We were in the car, listening to some of Dave's playlist and the song, "After the Storm," by Mumford and Sons came on.  Some of the lyrics are:

And after the storm,
I run and run as the rains come
And I look up, I look up,
on my knees and out of luck,
I look up.

Night has always pushed up day
You must know life to see decay
But I won't rot, I won't rot
Not this mind and not this heart,
I won't rot.

And I took you by the hand
And we stood tall,
And remembered our own land,
What we lived for.

And there will come a time, you'll see, with no more tears.
And love will not break your heart, but dismiss your fears.
Get over your hill and see what you find there,
With grace in your heart and flowers in your hair.

Heavy lyrics for a four year old (and a 39 year old), I suppose.  I didn't even really know she was listening, but at the end, she casually says from her back row seat, "I know what this song is about . . . . heaven."  I don't know if heaven is really what the artists were singing about, but just the fact that Leah would say that, indicates that part of her thoughts, her heart and reality is all about heaven.  

I'm assuming the next few months will be like the last couple weeks, with a thick vein of tension between the excitement of the holidays and the anniversary of our devastating loss.  However, in anticipating the hard,  I am so thankful for the joy my kids have, even amidst their sad moments.  I am in awe at their vision that makes the veil between heaven and earth so thin and I'm so grateful for the glasses they give me, with their heavenly insight, to make that veil thin for me, too.

Friday, November 8, 2013

A Little Holiday Beginnings Update - Part I

A few minutes in a quiet house!  Halleluhah!  I couldn't be more grateful for this hour that I get to sit down with my kids' Halloween candy and write for two seconds.  I have so much to write about, that seriously, this is going to be a jumble.  Everything is a jumble. I mean if I can just get one homework assignment or one permission slip turned in on time each week, we'd be making real progress around here.  

I am definitely still in quite a season right now.  When I look back over the summer, I almost laugh condescendingly at myself.  Oh, dear sweet Holly, you knew nothing then.  How did I think I was doing pretty well back then, when I am so delicate now?  I wonder what I'll say about November, when I get to next March?  So, this little summary is just how I THINK I am doing.    

These months are interesting, because starting around right now, I have very clear memories of what we were doing last year at this time.  I can recite pretty much all of our weekend plans, starting in October 2012 through when he died.  Like on October 5th, when Charles the dog, threw up all night long and Dave took care of all of it and in my grogginess I thought to myself, "I'm so glad Dave loves that dog so much."  Or on December 1st, when we were at a friend's house and Dave said with a strange look in his eye, "We should play our duet on the piano, Holly." And I said with an equally strange look, "Do we know a duet, Dave, . . . since you don't play the piano?"  (It was this little improvisational deal that makes it seem like you know how to play and then he made everyone in the room try it).  Or like on December 15th, when we went to Anthony's birthday party and Dave left early with the kids, so that I could just finish getting ready by myself.  And that night, we marveled over how amazing it was that we were standing in a room full of friends with which we had such a deep, rich and long history.  I can remember countless insignificant and significant conversations throughout these months last year.  It's like the day he died, I looked back and took a picture and the flash extended to Spencer's Birthday party at the beginning of October.  Having all these vivid memories makes it seriously feel like he was here just last week.  It is fun to have such vivid memories and also so piercingly painful, because it just makes it feel all over again, like, "Surely, this didn't really happen? Rats! It really did."

I do feel like I am mostly doing well, despite the hardness of this season. Although, I don't think the piano tuner would share the same sentiment.  I am back to crying in front of the most random people when Dave's story comes up.  Or the other night, I was relishing some great girl time, with friends that I have known since my first round of being single.  They are so hysterically funny and we were just this ridiculous group of gaggling gals in the back of Panera.  Then, someone asked how I was doing with this journey and I immediately started tearing up.  Three minutes before that, crying was the last thing I would have thought I would do that night, but the tears are just so close to the surface.  So, if I'm dropping Spencer off at school, I don't cry anymore.  If I'm ordering a burger, I don't cry anymore.  If I'm working out, I don't cry anymore, but if I talk about Dave, it's pretty likely that I'll cry, right now, even though I wasn't like that a couple a months ago.  I honestly don't feel like I'm doing worse than I was a couple months ago, I just feel like it's this new season.  A season where my soul is healing, but my missing Dave-ness is off the charts.

Well, this post hasn't been as disordered as I thought it might be, so at the risk of trying to squeeze in too much, I'll stop for now and resume Part II - an update on my three little Aldridges - next week.


Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Facing the Fire and a First Date

When I look back over some of my old posts, I see how much I use pictures to describe how I am feeling.  Usually, I am the one that creates this picture to express how I am feeling, but in this case, it is a picture that was given to me, that has helped me understand my state of being right now.

"Summond," by Colleen Briggs, was given to me for my birthday.  There is a fire in front of this woman and she looks like she is pulling her head up to look at it.  In my last post, I wrote how surprised I was to find that the nine month mark surprisingly held little solace and instead it has thrust me back into trying to figure this whole Dave died thing out.  

One of my first posts after Dave died was about how I felt like I was resting in a bed of hot coals.  I would sometimes find a cool spot and other times just take in the fire.  At that time, I was clearly feeling the heat, but I wasn’t necessarily looking at it.  Then summer came and I think I was still feeling the heat, but in a different way.  The fire was still surrounding me, but I had hunkered down in my hot shot firefighter tent, in order to survive.  

Sidebar ***While in my foil tent, I even found some space to go out on my first date.  This material is too good to pass up, so consider it comic relief to an otherwise serious post.  

First of all, I spent a couple days considering what to wear on my first date as a middle ager, only to have it soaked by a leaky shower minutes before his arrival.  I tried to steam out the heat, which makes no sense and clearly putting hot water on something, doesn't make the cold water turn dry.  So, I grabbed a new wrinkly outfit that was heaped in a pile on the floor for a number of days and put that on Then I proceeded to change my clothes back and forth until the doorbell rang mid clothes change.  It turned out to be the neighbor kid.  I then texted my date to "Not arrive early under any circumstances!!!!!"  I eventually sorted out the clothing debacle and went out on my date. At dinner, one of the waitresses turned out to be one of my former volleyball players from back in my coaching days.  Becca Nelson.  What an absolute doll.  She was updating me about her college life and how she even walked on as a volleyball player.  Then she turned the tables, looked at my date and said, "I'm assuming this is Mr. Aldridge."  I should have prepared myself for a moment like this.  I turned eighteen shades of red and started to panic.  For a brief moment, I couldn't remember my date's name (to protect the innocent, we'll call him John Brown), so to buy myself some time to remember, I said, "No, this actually is not Mr. Aldridge.  He died.  This is . . . . John."  Phew!  It came to me just in the nick of time.  Then I felt like I was so red and sweaty that she probably thought I was lying or cheating or something terrible.  Who just says, "he died," about their husband, in the middle of introducing someone else???  All I was thinking as I was wiping the sweat from my brow with my dinner napkin, was "well, that went smoothly."  Good gracious!  All in all, though, it was an amazing first date and quite a few after that, too, but as it turns out, I'm not quite ready to for reals date at this point.  

Anywho . . .  

Now, nine months later, I am still feeling the heat, but I’m also ready to look at it.  I know I can survive, but now I need to continue walking through the grief.  As strange as it sounds, I am anxious to touch the heat, only because I know that if I don’t touch it now, it’ll burn me later.  

For the past nine months, there are certain things that I have held at arms length.  I have been very selective about hearing others' stories about their grief walk.  I have not wanted to read books on grief.  I have looked at very few pictures of Dave.  I have not dared to open up his playlist and listen to songs that remind me of him . . .  until now.  

Now, I sit ready to face yet another chapter.  The chapter of looking.  I want to hear stories of the days surrounding his death.  What really happened that day? What did I do or say?  What were others thinking and feeling?  I also want to do my homework from the grief workshop that I attended.  I want to read a couple books that might help me explore or expose some feelings that I tucked away in my foil tent for awhile.  I have started listening to Dave's playlist.  That might add some comic relief too, if I posted that.  I cry a lot when I listen to his songs, but I also smile while I cry.  Like when this Miley Cyrus song comes on that he downloaded and I made fun of him for it.  His playlist is so unpredictable and I never even knew it until now.  Which reminds me. . .  last night before dinner, I asked the girls what they thought Daddy would be doing right now, if he were here in the kitchen and they both yelled, "Dancing!"  That's what they did, while I taught piano and Dave cooked.  I'm so happy they remember that! 

While this season of facing and even touching the fire is deeply painful, somehow it is also comforting at the same time. I will hopefully be able to look at everything Dave - his death - his life - his faith - his loves - his pictures - his music - his family -  and know that God will continue to walk me through to the other side.    

Isaiah 43:2-3
When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; 
and when you pass through the rivers they will not sweep over you.  
When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned;
the flames will not set you ablaze.
For I am the Lord, your God,the holy One of Israel, your Savior.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

What is Happening???

Over and over the past week, I have repeated the line that Annie says in the middle of this clip.  "WHAT IS HAPPENING?????"

Last week was going to be the first week that all of my kids were going to be in school for three whole, entire mornings.  Then the heavens opened up, the rains came down, the floods came up and school was cancelled for two, long, restless days.  While it looks like we might actually make it an entire week with a steady schedule, my schedule of tears has taken a bit of an unpredictable turn.

It has been awhile since I have lingered on the cusp of tears for multiple days in a row, but that is where I have found myself lately.  For a good couple of months I have not given myself over to a big, fat, loud, giant, week two cry, but last Wednesday night, I cried so hard that I sounded a little like a teenage boy with a crackling voice for the next couple of days.  I'll get back to that story in a bit, though.

I really have no idea why I am so delicate lately???  Maybe it's normal for emotions to run high around the 9th month?  I know they did when I was pregnant.  Maybe this just keeps happening for a few years where you swing back into some serious grief for a little bit.  Maybe it's adjusting to the rhythms of a new season without him, yet again.  Maybe it is going to Spencer's school and seeing all the dads there and feeling so sad for my kids.  I don't totally know, but it has been interesting to find myself back here, with tears that swell so so easily.

Even just an hour ago, I was looking through some mail and a catalog for Christmas piano music was in the mix.  Tears.  Everything, including this Alfred Music Christmas pamplet, circles back to Dave, lately.  Dave died less than a week after my Christmas piano recital and I can remember two things about it.  First, how he was so proud of me (not for being a good piano teacher, but for being a good foosball player) and second, I remember vividly thinking that I couldn't even pull off a piano recital without his help.  I had rented a digital piano, so I could hold the recital upstairs in my house.  He went across town to get the piano and single handedly loaded it in and out of the 4Runner.  Then for the few days between the recital and his death he seriously spent countless hours trying to learn, "Nothing Else Matters," by Metallica, off of a YouTube video, even though he could barely play Hot Cross Buns.  How cute is that?

Back to last Wednesday night.  Well, let's go back even further.  My birthday was on September 8th.  It was really quite a great birthday for a girl who has had some not so great birthdays.  Like the time when I got a bad rug burn in P.E. on my birthday. Or when I first started teaching and my birthday fell on this awful back to school night, where this special parent was claiming that I would accept bribes for good grades, for crying out loud.  This birthday was totally opposite of that.   It was really a great birthday.  I was on an amazing women's retreat, that was filled with some of my funniest friends, stretches of quiet, and some serious power of the Holy Spirit and I'm not even exaggerating.  The entire weekend I didn't even feel that underlying Dave sadness that often accompanies even the best of times.  It was a tremendously special weekend that I'll never forget.

Anywho, one of my gifts for my birthday was receiving 39 more meals.  One for each year of my life.  There could be no greater earthly gift.  Last Wednesday, I received my first birthday meal.  I actually set the table, got their plates completely ready before they sat down, and drinks were even on the table before dinner was over.  We were having a real, sit down meal, which is really the gift of these dinners.  Over the course of noodle slurping and giggling, everyone shared their favorite part of school that day.  In the middle of that conversation, the stark reality that Dave is STILL never coming back and will still never sit around our table EVER EVER again, hit me in a way that I haven't felt in many months.  It's like I am relearning it all over again.  What in the world?

We finished dinner and I got the kids in bed and I watched some Modern Family.  Typically, once the TV is on, I'm done for the evening, but I decided to actually go all the way downstairs to move the clothes from the washer to the dryer, so that I wouldn't have to rewash them for a third time.  While I was down there, I saw a stack of Dave's shirts in the corner.  I decided to put them in a box that was about 4 feet away that also had some of Dave's clothes in it.  I was in pure housekeeping form and wasn't feeling emotional at all, but as soon as I picked up my favorite T-shirt that he got in Cambodia, I was a goner.  That is when my week two crying began.  I slouched into the guest bedroom and sunk into the bed and cried as hard as I possibly could.  The rain was so loud that I knew the kids wouldn't be able to hear my scary cry.  In between sobs, I heard a trickle of water.  I thought to myself that I couldn't believe that you could hear the water in the pipes so well in the guest bedroom.  Then I cried some more and then heard some more trickling water.  I'm NEVER in the guest bedroom, so I just thought maybe I didn't know the sounds in there.  I finally ended my crying spell and I headed out the door.  However, I wanted to get to the bottom of the trickling noise.  I turned around and saw the window well full of water and tons of water just spilling in.  Next thing you know, I'm outside with Dave's headlamp, his rain jacket, his wet vac, and crazy monsoon rains.  Again, what in the world?  Where was Dave?

These are the times that he would leap into action.  I simply vacuumed out the water from the window well only to find a pool of water in the basement when I got up at 5:00 to check it.  He would have rerouted the faulty gutter using leftover parts of a broken sewing machine.  He was amazing like that and those of you who knew him probably have seen him in MacGyver action at some point.

Even though Dave wasn't there to fix the problem, something sweet happened in the midst of all of this. (If you are prone to think that people are crazy, then skip this section, because some of you will think I am crazy).  I think that the Holy Spirit (and Dave if that is not blasphemous to say) brought me down to the guest room.  God knew that I needed to know that my basement was flooding.  He could have stopped it, but He didn't.  However, He did let me know that, AGAIN, he sees me and he sees my every situation.  Not just the big ones, but all the little ones, too.  God is close to the widow and for that I could not be more thankful.

Interestingly enough, I wrote almost this entire post last night and then had coffee with a dear friend who was widowed three years ago and has been a vital part of helping to steer me on a healthy grief path.  When I told her this morning that I don't know what is happening and that I feel like the hurt is fresh all over again, she said that month nine was her hardest month and same with another friend of hers.  Crazy, huh?  I feel so much better knowing that I'm not regressing, but that for some reason, it seems to be a new step into reality and out of shock and survival.  Just don't be surprised if I cry super easily over the next few months as we head into the holidays and the anniversary of Dave's death.  Fortunately, she said that I'm not going backwards and that it will get better.  So, y'all, bear with me for the next few months, OK?
The first day of school.  (Spencer's picture is MIA)  

Friday, August 23, 2013

Spencer - aka C.S. Lewis

It was August 6th and all the kids were finally in bed.  Relief was settling into my tired body.  I watched a little TLC and then started talking on the phone for a little bit, when I heard a strange noise from Spencer’s room.  I thought at first that he was playing with his Star Wars toys and just making flying noises, but it didn’t quite match up to his usual array of Star Wars sound effects.  Then it sounded like he was crying, but I had never heard this cry before.  So, I got off the phone and went in his room and said, “What’s going on, buddy?”  It wasn’t until he tried to talk that I realized that he was sobbing.  He said, “I just miss Daddy so much.”  

I have always said that there is just a different cry that accompanies real, I lost my spouse, my father, my son forever, sort of grief.  This particular cry was that kind of wailing cry.  

I immediately lost it and shimmied up the awkward ladder into his loft bed to cry with him and rub his back.  As he was trying to gain his breath, he walked me through how he got to missing Dave so much.  Across his messy room, he saw a piece of artwork that he did at school last year.  He said that it reminded him of school and then that reminded him of when Dave surprised Spencer by showing up at one of his field trips to the fire station.  

I remember that day so well.  Dave drove Spencer to school that morning and Mrs. Farrell told him that they were going to the fire station later if he wanted to join.  So, Dave did.  I remember Dave telling me that he felt so good when Spencer’s face was in total excited shock that he was there.  This was just more evidence of a new Dave that had grown to feel the little joys of life so much deeper, like his son’s excitement for him.  Dave texted me pictures that day, of the field trip and of Spencer holding the heavy fire hose.  Such a small event in the scheme of life, that has somehow become a landmark day.  Maybe because I’m pretty sure this is a day that is going to stick with Spencer as a memory of his own.  Maybe it’s because I felt so proud of Dave for being so deeply touched by Spencer’s excitement. 

Back to the night of August 6th.  You can only imagine how my heart breaks for this pain that I want him to express, but that I also want desperately to take away from him.  I asked Spence if he just wanted to talk about Daddy for a little bit, so we did.  Then I sang him the ol’ Eagle Lake Camp Song, from the summer camp that Dave and I both attended when we were in junior high, and then I started praying.  I was praying about our hearts and our pain and I said, “and God, we just don’t think this is fair!” and Spencer piped in with, “I think it’s fair?”  I was like, “Como?  What’s that you say, son?”  He repeated, “I think it’s fair?”  I said, “Tell me about that?  How do you figure?”  He said and I’m not kidding or changing his words, “I think it’s fair, because we are going to be able to see him again in heaven.”  I’m telling you people, God speaks to the hearts of these little ones in ways that we just can’t understand.  I started to talk about how he was right, and that because of Jesus we get to see daddy again. Then I just shut up, because Spencer already knows that, and God is speaking to his heart.  I hardly think that my afterthought words are what he needs.  I just sat up and looked at him and he had transformed from a weeping mess to a content son who had hope of seeing his daddy again someday.  It’s not like I was trying to convince him that night that everything was OK.  I was the one telling God and Spencer that this isn’t fair.  Although Spencer was torn up initially, he was the one that ended the scene by basically saying  “I have hope, Mommy.” I mean, what would Spencer do with this pain and sadness if he didn’t have hope of seeing Dave again or if God wasn’t there to calm his heart on nights like this.  How far would he tuck this pain away? And yet Spencer and I brought our sadness and our pleas before God and He brought about a tiny miracle in just minutes.  I wish you all could have seen Spencer that night go to sleep.  He was so calm and so sweet and so content.  Only God can do that.  I’ve mentioned this before, but these nights with Spencer, I am always trying to teach him a little something about Jesus, but it often times ends up being Spencer showing me the extravagant power and peace of God that truly transcends understanding. He is like my little personal C.S. Lewis.  I need these vivid lessons of God’s power for weeks like the one I’ve had.     

This last week has been a tough one for me.  I don’t know if you have ever seen people crawling across the finish line of Ironman triathlons?  If you have, that is what I feel like.  I think we have done pretty well this summer, but for the love of all that is pure and holy, when it is going to be over!?! Spencer’s first full day isn’t until August 29th and the girls don’t go to preschool until after Labor Day.  You know, it is still shocking that Dave didn’t even live long enough to see the girls go to Kindergarten.  Not even close.  What in the world?  

Anyway, I have been sitting in between this upcoming transition. I am, on one hand, ready for some routine and ready for some time, as brief as it will be, that I can count on to have a second to myself, to go to the grocery store without three kids hanging on the cart, to go to a doctor’s appointment, to get my teeth cleaned, to watch I Didn't Even Know I Was Pregnant, to write a blog, to talk on the phone without interruption, etc . . .  On the other hand, I find myself a little terrified.  I have gone through about three big transitions since Dave died.  I went from those first few months where everything was just crazy and everyone was helping me do everything.  Then the next few months, I was attempting to get back into life, but there was still a lot of help and few expectations of my performance.  Then summer came and that was all about getting through it and trying to build fun and precious memories with our newly defined family.  NOW, it seems like this is real life starting and I’m feeling very overwhelmed.  It’s not that people aren’t willing to help, because I know they are beyond willing, and I am super thankful for that, but this is just the next step in life, I’m afraid.  I am heading into life as a single mom.  I am starting back to a full piano teaching schedule.  I am heading back to getting everybody ready in the morning before the strike of 7:45am.  I’m heading back to having to cook dinner every night, which is something that I wasn’t good at doing in the first place.  I’m going back to attending school events by myself.  I’m going back to making decisions by myself.  I’m going back to doing real life, without Dave.  So, while I am ready for summer to be over, I don’t think I like the alternative any more.  

However, I was running (with a little walking mixed in . . . the high altitude, ya know) this morning around the YMCA Camp of the Rockies this morning, thinking on all of this and about this place in which I’ve been stuck for the past week and then I began to wonder why I feel this way. I know that God has brought me this far. I mean, I already know that God will give me what I need, because his track record has been awfully strong over the last eight most difficult months of my life.  So, I sat down to write my little blog here, but before I did, I opened up this little devotional called, “Jesus Today,” and here is what it said to confirm my thoughts just moments ago:

When you are going through very tough times and there is no relief in sight, you usually start looking for a way out.  These escapist longings stem from self-pity and a sense of entitlement:  You think you deserve better conditions than your current situation.  But when you think this way you are ignoring My sovereignty over your life.  Though your circumstances may indeed be painful and difficult, they are not worthless.  So muster the courage to say yes to your life, trusting that I am in control and I am with you in your struggles. Come to me with a courageous heart, hoping in Me, and I will bless you in many ways.  Moreover, I will multiply your small act of bravery: I will strengthen your heart.      

Isaiah 40:10-11 - See, the Sovereign Lord comes with power, and his arm rules for him.  See, his reward is with him, and his recompense accompanies him.  He tends his flock like a shepherd: he gathers the lambs in his arms and carries them close to his heart; he gently leads those that have young.  

Shortly after Dave died, I heard a lot of people saying, "I guess you just have to take it one day at a time."  The same applies to me eight months later.  If I start thinking, "OK - the REST of my life without Dave starts NOW, " I start getting heart palpitations and a sense of dread and some mild depression worms its way into my delicate state of being.  But if I can believe that God will walk with me through this day, then it feels very doable and I can say yes to my life.  If you think of it, you can pray that I can stay in the present, not get overwhelmed thinking about the rest of my life, and face each day hoping in God with a courageous heart.           

Thursday, July 25, 2013

The Truth About Our Marriage

Our Krispy Creme donut cake.  
The truth is . . . our marriage was amazing!!!!!  It was in full stride, we were in a sweet spot and I was LOVING, feeling like I was IN LOVE.  However, that was not always the case.  Read on to find out the whole truth and nothing, but the truth.

Just a couple of months before December 21, 2012, Dave had taken the day off of work to watch the kids, so that I could go to Denver and meet a friend and do some shopping.  After shopping, I went to my parents house for dinner and when I was there, Dave called to check in to see if I had bought him some new digs and how the day went.  We chatted a little about the adorable new clothes I bought and I said, I would leave after rush hour traffic had died down.  When I got off the phone, I told my parents, "I just feel so lucky that I love my husband so much."  Maybe that sounds weird to some of you.  Maybe that just seems like it should be a given.  But for all that Dave and I have been through, FEELING that I loved him, was not always a given.

I think that there were maybe two nights in our entire marriage that we didn't tell each other, "I love you," before we went to sleep, but there were many nights where I questioned whether I really did or not.

Our marriage started off pretty good.  We made a pretty big rookie mistake, though, by buying a house that needed to be gutted and then put back together.  We did ALL the work by ourselves, which left us with very little free time to do the things we did, back when we were dating.  A day that we would go to the mountains to play, would be one more day without a toilet.  At the time, I could tell you all the cleanest bathrooms in town, and as luck would have it, most of them just happened to be at Target.

What I didn't know at the time, was that Dave was a task man.  If you know me, I am NOT a task woman.  I love to play and chit chat and throw the frisbee and laugh.  I don't like to paint trim, take 16 trips to Home Depot in one day (and that is not an exaggeration), or refinish hardwood floors.  Overall, that first year was spent on tasks, but not really growing into a flourishing marriage.  It was fine, though, and things continued to be pretty good for a few years, with the occasional upswings and the occasional downswings.  One last thing, about that cute little Custer house, while I have mixed feelings about it, I will say that I am beyond thankful for all of Dave's hard work on it, because it allowed us to live where we live now. So, thank you, Dave, if you can read this.

The years went on and we had Spencer and Leah, and our marriage went from fine to not so fine.  For quite some time, I could point to other reasons why it was shaky.  From working on the Custer house, to having a newborn, to having two kids, to a health scare with Leah, to sleepless nights, to a stressful move, to a special $20,000 home repair as soon as we bought our new house, etc . . . But then we had a stretch of stress free living and our marriage didn't seem to be bouncing back.  So, in February of 2010 we darkened the door of a marriage counselor that, paired with the sweet grace of Jesus, would change the course of our marriage.

The first two months of counseling were AWFUL!  It was like the band-aids that we were so comfortable with, were being torn off, exposing wounds to bitter air and aggressively being washed in antiseptic. The temptation was to just cover those bad boys back up and figure out an easier way.  For months, what we wanted was some salve and a quick set of orders to make things work more smoothly.  We did our homework and we read our books and some hope started to peek through.  Progress was notable, but old habits die hard and our MO was still looking pretty similar.

Then one average Saturday, dressed in black and purple, we were getting ready to leave for the Rockies game when the most unexpected conversation in the whole world began to ensue.  Over the course of the next hour, we waved the white flag, laid our band-aids down and revealed it all.  We wept, we talked, God's grace poured over each others reactions, we fell in love with the whole of each other, and then we left to cheer on the Rockies with raw hearts and a bit of wonder over what just happened.  Our lives and our marriage changed in that one Saturday afternoon, never to go back to the way it was.  Our marriage began to grow fruit, laughter, fun, life, and love.

We continued with marriage counseling for the next year, learning how to rebuild our marriage in a healthy way.  We had started counseling sitting so far away from each other on that little maroon couch, but by the end, we looked forward to having that time to be together and to talk about our relationship.  This is where I get a little teary.  I just can't explain to you all how proud I am of Dave for the work he put into our marriage.  He could have waved the waved the white flag, picked back up his band-aids and headed for the door, but he never missed a counseling session, when he had every excuse in the world to put work ahead of it.  He worked diligently to do what our counselor suggested,  and most importantly, he dared to trust me with every single little piece of him, for which I am so grateful and so proud.

For years, I would read others' facebook posts about their undying love for their husband.  How they were married for 15 years and how every single day had been cupcakes and rainbows.  I would either think one of two things: they are so lucky OR they have to lying.  But the time came when I felt like I could write something like that on facebook and not feel like I was pretending.  Then I thought, Dave never checks facebook and I don't want others to think I am lying, so I'll skip that just tell him.  So, a few months before he died, at our kitchen table, I confessed my facebook post to him and said,  "I have  so much fun with you.  There was a time . . .  "  He interrupted and said, "Thanks a lot," in a light hearted sarcastic way, and I said, "No really, there was a time that it was hard to be around you, but I love being around you now.  You are so funny and fun and so much more alive."  It was a quick conversation, but I'm so grateful for those 60 seconds and for his reaction which was so cute and boyish.

I can say with great confidence that there was never a day that I didn't think that Dave loved me.  He was much better at loving me, than I was at loving him, but in the end we figured it all out.  What seems so unfair, is that we put A LOT of work in getting to where we were, and then our life together was cut so short.  It just makes me so sad that we didn't really get to live out our sweet spot even for a little longer.

Yesterday, would have marked one more year of marriage for us.  I wonder how we would have celebrated?  Where would we have gone to dinner?  In what park would we have played?  What trip would we have started planning for next year's 10th anniversary?  (That answer would have been Hawaii).  All of these things crossed my mind multiple times yesterday.  It was an exhausting day, but I made it through.  There were even unexpected surprises, that I think were little gifts from Dave.  So, again, Dave, if you are reading, thank you for building friendships with great people that take care of me and thank you for loving me every single day ever.  I miss you.    

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Arkansas or Bust!

Some people hit the beach in the summer.  Some may take to the high seas on a cruise.  Some may go big and go to an entirely new continent.  I, however, decided to go to an entirely new world . . . Arkansas.  Arkansas, you ask?  I would not have chosen that spot for pure vacation delight, but my sister lived there, until about last week.

In about the middle of May, I started dreading the summer.  I didn't want every day to feel like we were just making it.  As much as I love our pool, I cringed at the thought of waking up every morning, going to the pool, coming home, missing Dave, going to bed and then starting it all over the next day.  Planning our Arkansas/Oklahoma trip, really gave the Aldridge Four, something to look forward to, which I have come to realize, is a very important part of living right now.

Before I left, I seriously visualized myself pulling over next to the "Six Legged Steer - Next Exit" billboard and falling apart in tears, wondering what made me think taking a trip with two four year olds and six year old, was a good idea. I full on expected to have at least two near mental break downs and I prayed fervently to escape any mechanical break downs far from civilization.  I'm still not sure how we all pulled it off, but the drive wasn't bad.  Of course, my mom ended up driving out there with me, at the last minute and then she flew home, which was a huge help.  I'm still not sure how a 20 minute trip to Target can unravel the entire family, but a two day trip across country is no big thing.  We did have a DVD player, but we also had music, legos, coloring books, fashion scarves and make-up, which kept them relatively busy, not to mention, looking like gypsies.

At our first overnight stop, we stayed with a friend, Heidi, who I haven't even talked to since college, but thanks to facebook we connected and I ended up staying there.  Her stepdad lived next door and I had an interesting talk with him.  He lost his wife and two teenage kids in a plane crash many years ago, right outside the town that Dave is from, in fact.  It feels good when someone who has walked in similar shoes can tell me that things are going to be OK.  I can kind of believe them.

When we arrived at my sister's house, it was like arriving at a resort, complete with two young cousins that are just about babysitting age.  Everything was so clean, comfy, tasty and the kids were off being kids for most of the time.  Of course, when it came time to do a dance party, they had to show their moves to an audience.  Suffice it to say, I was a little surprised when Maci and Leah knew all the words and motions to every tween song out there.  Thanks Monet!

The second day in Arkansas was Father's Day.  For some reason, I kind of thought that my kids might not notice.  I just didn't feel like making a big deal out of the day, like I normally would have.  Everyone was having fun . . .  we were on vacation . . .  we were far from reality, and I just didn't feel like going there.  About half way through the day, it was apparent that Spencer was a bit blue.  He kept withdrawing from the activity at hand and he just seemed sad.  I almost tried to get him to believe that he was upset about something else, so I started guessing.  "Are you upset that it started raining and you had to come in?"  "Are you upset that the girls aren't playing with you right now?"  And so on.  He finally said, "It's Father's Day, and I miss Daddy."  There we have it.  Really big feelings in seven direct words.  I explained that sometimes I feel better when I write about him and that we should try to do that together.  Ten minutes later, I went downstairs and he had already started a masterpiece drawing with the words, "I mi Dade b kus I mi reslen."  Which is interpreted as follows: "I miss Daddy, because I miss wrestling."  UGHHH!  As heartbreaking as that was, it was also good to see that his demeanor changed after we all sat down and talked about some memories of Daddy and drew some pictures.  We all just have to get it out somehow and sometimes.  I'm just so thankful that Spencer knows how to express his feelings and they don't just get stuck.  I can see where he would be if he couldn't let those thoughts out.

The rest of the time in Arkansas was really great, until we had to leave.  I have, literally, never seen Leah so sad.  Usually, her sadness turns to madness, but in this case she was just so so so sad to leave.  She cried big fat Ethiopian tears, that she must have borrowed from Maci, all the way to Tulsa.

The next few days, we spent in Edmond, Oklahoma - another hot spot on the tourist trail in the USA and when I say hot spot, I mean temperature wise.  Holy hotness!  I ingested more Sonic drinks in those three days than the last three years put together.  On this portion of our trip, we did the more standard touristy type of things.  We went to the zoo, the Science Museum, the "Sound of Music" musical, and of course laughed and cried with dear friends from college.  While every night was special, one night was set aside to see friends of Dave's.  I knew all of them in college, but I wasn't quite in the cool crowd like Dave.  I tried to be, but it just never happened. Just kidding, but it's true. It was exactly what I wanted on the 6 months anniversary (one day before actually) of his death.  I just wanted to be near people who knew Dave.  I just can't tell you how much I loved being with people who Dave had talked so much about when he talked about his college days or his Oklahoma post college days.  It was perfect and it was healing and all these pretty people are still so amazingly beautiful.  Dave had some remarkable friends that I just love, love, love.

It was sad to leave my friends and I wasn't anxious to get back at all.  Fortunately, the drive went well again.  I ended up stopping in Kansas for the night.  Partially, because I didn't feel like driving 4 more hours that day, but also because I had such a great trip, that I was starting to dread getting back to being home.  I was glad that I stopped, because after being around so many people, it gave the Aldridge Four a good chance to be with just each other.  The whole trip was not only just a great trip, but a great exercise in continuing to redefine our family.  Oh my, I love my little family.  

Cutie picture of Maci

Our first official family photo with the Aldridge Four.  Wishing there was a Dave in that picture.

Movie time with the cousins and Beary.

Spencer's picture from Father's Day.

Friends of Dave's Night

A couple of future astronauts.

Sunday, June 30, 2013

Trying to Pick Back Up the Proverbial Pen

Where to start?  I have many a blog post that are brewing inside.  I could write a blog that corresponds with each of these titles:

Ashes . . . Around a Campfire and in the Wind

Arkansas or Bust and Believe It or Not, We Didn't Bust Once

Father's Day = Heartache Day

Six Month Check In

The Truth About Our Marriage

Spencer, the Young Psalmist

Yet, even with all these blog posts building in my mind, I just feel like talking.

Dave, Dave, Dave.  His name (or Daddy) is spoken of more and more around here.  Not less and less.  It is good and hard all at the same time.  I am so proud of my little kiddies who speak of him so freely and unapologetically, as his death continues to pretty much be our life right now.  I mean, I wonder what my longest stretch is, that Dave has not entered my thoughts?  One minute?  Three minutes?  Maybe more if I am watching a real cliffhanger like, TLC's "I Didn't Even Know I Was Pregnant?" (I literally can't explain why I like that show.  There has to be a psychological answer).

Anyway, back to my kids and their candid manner in which they talk about Dave.  This idea of them talking about Dave so freely became very clear to me as we were standing in line at the 63rd McDonald's at which we patronized on our trip. In between collecting orders (as if I didn't know by this time what they would get) Spencer swung his stuffed animal through the air and said, "Was Daddy still alive the last time we stayed at a hotel?"  According to their expressions, the mother and daughter behind us heard what he had said.  Spencer was not trying to let everyone hear, nor was he trying to make sure nobody heard.  He was just asking a question about Daddy.  I love how they feel the freedom to just simply talk about him or ask questions about him, anywhere or anytime. I, on the other hand, usually am measuring what I should say, what is appropriate, what would make somebody else feel uncomfortable, will I regret saying too much, etc. . . . They just talk.  

Speaking of talking, I just got this little booklet in the mail this week from my church.  It said, and I quote, "Talking helps you locate your pain, bring it to the surface, and let it go.  And because your wound doesn't suddenly go away, the pain recurs, and you need to talk about it again and again and again.  That's why grieving people need to talk about the same feeling or memory over and over."  And that is why I write some of the same themes over and over.  I feel like by writing, I am trying to locate my pain and figure it out.  Often times, when I am feeling the most crummy, I just start writing.  Sometimes I post it, and sometimes I don't.  Here is another quote of a quote from the little pamphlet,  by C.S. Lewis, "In grief, nothing 'stays put.' One keeps emerging from a phase, but it always recurs.  Round and round.  Everything repeats, Am I going in circles, or dare I hope I'm on a spiral?  But if a spiral, am I going up or down it?"  So true. So true. It really is tiring and I'm only at a half a year.  Of course, maybe I'm just tired like any other mom with three young kids on summer break.

I think the theme I could write about over and over is from my post, "My Double Life."  That has not changed a bit.  I feel like our family is doing incredibly well and painfully awful all in the same moment.  We've continued to live and live well.  We've continued to laugh, make new memories, take vacations, take steps into hard situations, live closer to Jesus, grow stronger and the list goes on.  Yet, today at church, I was 100% of the time, one blink away from a flood of tears.  I still don't know how to answer, the basic question, "How are you?"  I surely don't expect people refrain from asking that question.  It's impossible not to.  I've asked the same question to others in difficult situations.  I try to say, "It is good to see you."  Or, "How are you feeling today?"  It's just so engrained to say the other.  And, I'm sure this goes without saying, but I would much rather someone ask how I am doing, than not say anything at all.  One day, I'll be able to answer a casual, "Fine," and for that to be true, but not today.  Maybe tomorrow.  One friend and I have joked about, "Maybe tomorrow."  I say that about a lot of things, knowing that it won't actually happen tomorrow.  ie: I haven't taken a shower for two days now.  Maybe tomorrow.  

Well, I know this post doesn't really have a theme , but I just kinda needed to get started writing again after being gone for a few weeks.  I clearly have a slew of topics that I'd like to write about and am anxious to get to them, but I just needed to sit and write first.  So, which topic should I start with next?  


Thursday, June 6, 2013

Missing "Summer Dave"

A few weeks ago, I was almost a little concerned that I was doing too well.  There was even a tinge of guilt involved that I was carrying on with life without all that many tears and I was even looking forward to the future with some real excitement.  But, never fear, grief still lives here.  I am definitely missing "Summer Dave."

I knew that summer was going to be hard and I thought I had prepared for it, but a first is a first and it feels just as fresh as the first day of skiing without Dave, or the first Mother's Day without Dave, or the first birthday without Dave.  However, this isn't the first DAY of something, it is the first WHOLE SUMMER that Dave is not here.  I keep picturing the tidal wave from the tsunami that wiped out parts of Indonesia and Thailand a few Christmases ago.  The wave didn't look tall, but it just kept pushing and pushing past its intended boundaries.  That is how my wave feels right now.  It just keeps pushing and pushing, but it won't release back into the sea.

Spencer is feeling it, too.  And why wouldn't he?  This is the season where Dave shined.  Dave could sometimes be a little dullsville when the winter months would get long, but come summer . . . that is when he would really come to life.  Last summer, at about 3:45 each day, I would start saying to myself, "He will be home in 90 minutes, and then the better part of our day will begin."  He would get home, the bikes would be pulled out, the flowers in the front would get watered, the dogs and brats would get packed for dinner at the pool and we'd finish up the day as a family of 5.  I remember last summer when one night he met us at the pool after work.  Instead of bringing pizza for the family, he brought 10 oversized cans of Coors Light.  I was so mad.  Now I am just so mad that I was so mad at something so ridiculous like that.  A friend had just given him the beer on his way out of work and he was just trying to get to the pool in a hurry, but I didn't even give him any benefit of any doubt.

Our maiden camping voyage sans Dave is approaching.  I think I might go, but Spencer and I are having a time of it.  I wouldn't want to miss it, and I know I can survive it, but I'm just cringing about going without him.

The first time we went camping with a bundle of joy named Spence, was one of those wretched sleepless camping nights that all first time parents probably know all too well.  We were snuggled in a tent with our faces smashed against the Pak N Play netting and we may as well have been sitting in the middle of the highway. Every time a car would drive by, sweet little baby Spencer would stand up in his camping crib and say, "Car? Truck? Vroooooom."  This went on until 4am in the morning.  We were dangerously sleep deprived and a touch grumpy in the morning and so were all of our camping neighbors, I'm sure.  I remember Dave walking by our friend Christina the next morning and saying, "Spencer said his first sentence this morning!  He said, 'I want to sleep in the Harrel's tent tonight.'"  That was the ONLY funny thing about that camping trip.  After a few more camping trips similar to that one, we finally bought a pop-up and it revolutionized our camping experiences.  I don't know the exact science behind it, but Aldridge children don't sleep in tents, but they do in pop-ups.  Sadly, I sold "Paula" the pop-up, because it was too heavy for "Svetlana" the Sienna to pull and probably a little much for Holly the "homemaker" (take that word very lightly) to handle.

I can't quite figure out how I'm going to pull off camping this summer.  I was a camper before I got married. I nearly became a non-camper after roughing it with kids. Then we became professional campers last summer and now I'm not sure what it'll look like.  At this point we are back to the tent, but that sounds like a nightmare.  Maybe a more reasonable, lighter pop-up?  Maybe one of those conversion vans that I would once run from when I was in my fear of getting kidnapped years?  I can't quite find a good option.  This past weekend, I looked at a 1988 20ft. RV for a bargain basement price.  I absolutely loved it, but the mechanic gave it two thumbs down, so I passed on it.  I think I made the right decision, but the process of making it was difficult.  You see, I come from a long line of Swedes and Finns, which means that by nature, I am practical.  Dave wasn't Swedish or Finnish, so he wasn't nearly as practical.  Needless to say, on most things risky, he was the gas and I was the brakes.  I don't have the other half that is supposed to even me out.  My Finnish roots keep me a little too planted for what Dave would want for his family, I'm afraid.  It's hard to be both the brakes and the gas and to make a decision, all at the same time.

Anyway, overall, I feel like we are making it through the first part of summer, OK.  Not emotionally maybe, but I feel like my kids are enjoying summer and we are doing it.  I never thought in a million years that I could be pulling all this off, but somehow I am.  Still with some help.  And speaking of help, thanks to the guys who came over last weekend and helped in the yard.  I can now pull into my driveway, without being super embarrassed about how how my yard looks.  I was definitely starting to feel paralyzed about what to do with the yard.  Also, thanks to all of you who have tapped into your spidey senses this week and must somehow know that it is a tough go right now.  I have had a lot of little extra notes, texts and facebook messages that have really encouraged me, so thank you so much for that.

One last thing, on a lighter note, Leah, my 4 1/2 year old dove off the diving board this week.  It is just the kind of thing that Dave would think is so cool.  She is a little daredevil and quite the little swimmer, too. Spencer gave her a little instruction, she dove off the side of the pool twice and then said, "I think I'm ready for the board," and without hesitation, she just dove in.  She's crazy - Dave loved that!  So, you guys can now be proud with me, of Leah and her athletic antics.  Speaking of swimming, I guess I better go starting rounding up the suits and pulling out the towels, which are probably starting a mold garden in a swim bag somewhere in this house.

Friday, May 24, 2013

Real Life Miracles

Not many people loose their spouse at such a young age.  It is nothing short of a big, fat tragedy.  Even the most optimistic optimist would have to squint pretty hard to find the silver lining in scenario like ours.  While I don't think that I'll find silver linings having to do with Dave being gone, I can say that I have been set in a position of experiencing and watching miracle after miracle.

It would be remiss of me to keep these miracles unannounced.  So hold on to your hats, because you're going for a ride.  Disclaimer - some of these stories may be in previous posts, but I want to collect them all into one.

Miracle numero uno and it is a biggie.  This miracle has really been a sort of anchor, through months of questioning:  
The day before my life changed, I was standing by the stove in my kitchen.  The girls were coloring at the table and Leah looked up and boldly yelled, “Look!”  
“At what?” I said.  
“Look!”  she repeated as if it was obvious to all.  
I said, “What  I don’t see anything?”  I was seriously trying to figure out what she was pointing to.  There was nothing on the wall and her eyes were seriously focused on something that I couldn't see.  
Maci just kept saying, “Yeah” after each time Leah spoke.  
Finally, after urging her to tell me what she was seeing, she said, “It’s Jesus!”  
I said, “Where?” 
She said, “Behind you!”  
Realizing that they may actually be seeing something, I said, “What does he look like?”  Maci replied, “He’s standing behind you, with his hands on your shoulders.”  
I froze and actually tried to feel his hands, but unfortunately, I felt nothing.  Then I thought, that is so weird, because they seemed so sure that they were seeing Jesus, but I thought to myself that this was not one of those times in life where I was needing to feel Jesus’ hands on my shoulders.  I have had many days in the past year and half where a shoulder rub from Jesus was in order, but life was finally smooth sailing. 

The second little miracle: 
I was in the middle of all the awful tasks you have to do when your spouse dies.  I had already spent hours at the Social Security office once, but I had to go back to follow up with something.  I walked in and it was a 2 1/2 hour wait.  I was by myself and having that feeling that if everyone knew what had just happened to me, maybe they would give up their ticket and let me cut.  I was already on the verge of tears and feeling like I just couldn't sit there by myself for that long, so I left.  I found myself at McDonald's on Academy by the Citadel Mall right in the middle of lunch hour.  Some special high school was out on lunch, because the restaurant was jammed with hungry, loud, gang like (I'm sure they are all very sweet) teenage boys.  I was so out of my element and so lonely and so on the cusp of tears.  Right before I prepared to order my Southwest Chicken salad, I had this feeling that the McCashier was going to ask me a question that went a little deeper than, "May I take your order?"  Sure enough, he didn't ask me about my order, but looked right in my eyes and said, "What are you doing right now?"  I said, "I've been at the Social Security office."  He said, "Why are you having to go there?"  I said, "It's going to sound like I am making this us, but my husband just died and one of my three kids just came home from Ethiopia 10 months ago and I am having to sort out a lot of information between the two events."  He said with such an empathetic and concerned face, "I believe you."  We talked a little more and at the end, he reassured me that God was with me and he said, "I wish I could do more, but can I at least give you a free drink?"  That interaction was so big for me in that moment.  In a time where I felt swallowed up in the middle of the Social Security office and crazyville McDonald's I felt like God used that man to show me that He sees me and He gave me a free Sprite to prove it!  I then went back to the SS office, someone gave me their ticket to jump ahead and I waited just a short time to finish my task.  

Miracle number three:
Ever since we brought Maci home from Ethiopia, she has had Giardia and has been so kind as to share it with, at least, Leah, and maybe others.  This special gift from Ethiopia had me spending many a hour in the bathroom each day, not to mention spending many a dollar getting lab work and medicines.  On December 13, I was back at the doctor talking about the next step.  There was a chance that the Giardia had made it into her gall bladder, which the only treatment for that was to remove her gall bladder.  I came home and told Dave that this Giardia business was on him now.  He was going to have to take them to the specialists and do the stool samples, etc. . .  I was done with it.  Obviously, Dave wasn't able to follow through on his commitment to dealing with this pesky parasite plaguing our family, so in Dave's absence, I began talking to God about this situation and asking him to please help. I felt so overwhelmed by more tests, doctor visits in Denver, a strong possibility of one or two of our kids having their gall bladder removed, etc. . .  It just felt like too much.  So, I collected more lovely stool samples and results were positive as I suspected.  She had already been through three treatments and now she, Leah, Spencer, me, and Charles the dog, had to all take medicine AGAIN!  We had already tried this medicine twice and an even more powerful one once without any change.  The point all being, that the day before our infectious disease appointment in Denver, all of our lab work came back negative.  I am proud to say that I spend way less time in the bathroom and most Aldridge stools are well formed.  Is that TMI?  I believe it to be God taking care of me in a way that even Dave couldn't.  

Miracle number four:
Money.  I'm not sure if many of you know, but from about January through the first of April, I was looking at some serious financial scariness.  It is still a little scary, but God has shown me that He will provide.  Much of the provision has come from people.  One little cool story was right before I went up to Breckenridge to go skiing over Spring Break a neighbor of mine gave me a check from a friend of her parents who heard about my story.  I graciously accepted the folded check and stuck it in my purse wondering who these people were that don't even know me, but are giving me money???  As I prepared for my trip, I debated about putting my kids in lessons, because it was going to be a small fortune.  However, it would be the only way for me to get a chance to ski, because Dave was no longer around to trade off days.  I was still in some serious financial limbo, so I wasn't sure about spending that kind of money.  Right before I left, I finally opened up the check that Surya had given me, and it was for $500.  I had my answer.  I was going to use particular check to put my kids in ski school.  All day long, while I gracefully and swiftly (just kidding) skied down the mountain, I just kept feeling such gratefulness for this family and all the other hundreds of families that have given money, whether it was $5 or $500 dollars. It is all a sacrifice for them, so that I can provide for my family experiences that Dave would want them to still have.  

Miracle number 5:
One night I was at the Martin's house and, as usual, they had a delightful dessert spread of Cookies N Cream ice cream AND sprinkles.  Spencer was too engrossed in Mario Brothers to break for ice cream, but upon corralling the kiddies to get out the door, he began to show his dislike for leaving before dessert.  I said, "We can get some at home, but your sisters are melting, so we've got to go."  My private mantra in my head was repeating, "Please let us have some ice cream at home - please let us have ice cream at home."  I knew I still had some au natural green tea ice cream, but Spencer was not a fan of it. Sorry Linette.  He was teetering on a break down, the girls were in semi breakdown mode and I just wanted there to be ice cream at home to dispel a huge tantrum.  When I walked into the kitchen, on the table was some sprinkles and some chocolate sauce.  I saw it, but was so focused on getting everyone in jammies that it didn't really register.  Everyone got in their PJ's and Spencer started asking for ice cream.  I just about was holding my breath when I opened the freezer door and right front and center was a brand new tub of Cookies N Cream ice cream. WHAT?  I went back over to the table and a note on the sprinkles and Magic Shell said, "Sorry we didn't get donuts over to you this morning.  Hopefully, you can enjoy this ice cream tonight." God had provided again!  And this is just one story of so many where I have received something in the mail or on my porch that arrived at the most critical or perfect time.  Like food for lunches for Spence when I hadn't gone to the store in a while.  Like beach towels, when I used my old ratty ones to clean up our flooded basement.  And the list goes on.  

I want to write these stories down, because I really, truly, from the core of my heart, believe that these and other moments were true miracles.  I am residing in a zone where the verse from Psalms 46:1 has been proved time and time again.  "God is our refuge and strength, an EVER-PRESENT HELP IN TROUBLE."  It doesn't say that we won't have trouble, but God has been ever present.  I know I haven't always felt it, especially in February and March, but that is why I want to write these things down.  It is easy to forget how intimate and powerful God is when things are not going our way, but he has consistently shown me, that HE SEES, HE IS POWERFUL, AND HE IS EVER PRESENT.