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

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.


Friday, May 10, 2013

Curly Hair

If you see me on a regular basis, you may have noticed that occasionally I have gone back to my roots (no pun intended) when it comes to my hair.  The natural state of affairs for my hair is curly, believe it or not.  For about 17 years, the large majority of the time I have straightened my hair.  Even though I kind of like having curly hair, a curly hair day, was a bad hair day in the dry climate of Colorado.  That is, until Dave died.  I don't know if it is because my cortisol stress levels have gone nuts, but my curls have taken it upon themselves to coil up a little tighter for the time being.  It feels fitting, because I am the same, but different.

I don't want to go back to the same exact way that things were before, because if everything were exactly the same, but Dave is not here, how could life ever be as good as it was before?  It proves to be a tricky balance, though.  It is difficult to provide the familiar routines that my kids need, in order to feel safe, while trying to find things that make our lives different AND NEW.

"NEW" is a theme that has been pulsing through me lately.  N-E-W.  Such a simple word.  Such a big theme.   Make no mistake - I treasure the old.  I am not embarrassed to say that I continue to weep for the old.   I'd grab it back if given even the tiniest chance. But for now, some of what stirs me, is the new.  A new hairstyle.  Trying to learn how to play the guitar.  A new more manageable pop-up.  New workout routines.  New songs on my playlist.  New bedtime routines, involving the new skill of playing the guitar. (My kids are a pretty easy crowd, which I appreciate).  And new conversations . . .  which brings me to this little comedic anecdote.

Nobody freak out here.  I'm not trying to date anybody here. There is my disclaimer.  Anywho . . . Six weeks ago I stopped in to Panera and there was this relatively, very cute guy behind the counter.  We chatted it up for a few minutes and then my girlfriends and I sat down to eat, and made mention of the cute guy.  Tonight, I was at the same Panera and there was Matthew, behind the counter.  He said, "Holly, where have you been?"  I, of course, turned red, in true Bonnell fashion and proceeded to have a flashback of me in high school, when I called a guy for the very first time.  Even with a prepared notecard in hand that night, I was able to say some pretty awkward things.  Like when he said, "Well, thanks for calling," and I replied, "NO - thank you!"  What??????  I'm still embarrassed about that.

Back to tonight, I made my way to the front of the line where I reconnected with a 24 year old former 7th grade student of mine, which is always fun.  I got my Fuji Apple Salad and sat down.  Soon, Matthew and I had a little conversation.  Out of that conversation, I learned that he played the snare drum for 2 weeks, he has a sister named Paula who is not a whiz in the kitchen like he is, he recently hiked Section 16 and loves to interact with people.  He learned about me, that I teach piano, I'm old enough to have taught his friend 7th grade geography 12 years ago, I can't cook and my big night on the town was Ladies Bible Study.  Not exactly a resume you want to hand out to cute 32 year old guys.  I was trying to stay relatively cool, but I was laughing so hard inside at how I am evidently NOT cool when talking to guys, now.  For the 10 years that Dave and I were together, I never had any trouble talking to guys.  Now, it is brand new territory and it shows.  It is ridiculous and dare I say, fun. Well, maybe not fun, but fun-ny.

My point in all of this is that there is something exciting about the new, even in middle of grief.  I certainly don't want everything to be new, but I definitely don't want everything to be the same as before, either.

What will God make new, out of all of this devastation?  I know He will.  I've already seen God bring to life newness from Spencer's heart, as I have written earlier.  I am waiting expectantly to see what sort of "new" God brings to Leah, Maci, Spencer and me.  I just have to really try hard to save some space for the new.  It's been hard to keep all the old stuff from settling back in to every free moment.  One of my all time favorite verses is Lamentations 3:22-23 and it speaks to new.  "Because of the Lord's great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is thy faithfulness."

I know we will clench our fists tightly around the old.  We will try and remember every little detail about Dave that we possibly can, for the rest of our lives.  In fact, Spencer and I talked for an hour last night about every memory he could think of specific to Dave and camping.  And then, of course, I went in my room and cried.  But tonight, I feel like God is promising something new.  For now, I'll wait with my eyes and my heart open to what new things God has for me and my family.  

Saturday, May 4, 2013

The Big Race

The kids giving the "Ready, Set, Go," for the big race.

Two weeks ago, I was waking up, not wanting to peek outside to see what the weather was doing.  The previous week was filled with snow, cold temperatures and your basic gloom.  I knew race day may not be as great, if the weather didn't cooperate.  But it was sunny-Phew!

What wasn't sunny, was my attitude about the flooding that had occurred in the basement the day before, so before I was off to the races, I was meeting with a plumper and making future plans for a visit from good old Roto-Rooter.  At times like those, I really really miss Dave's handy dandy do-it-yourself skills.  Everything ended up being a basic clog, and the Rooter guy didn't even pull out any My Little Ponies or Power Ranger action figures, which I thought could be the culprit.

Anyway, that whole business put me a little behind schedule that morning.  So, we all hurried (at least I tried to get everyone to hurry, but four year old have no idea what that means) out the door and headed for the park.  I parked at the first open spot and told everyone to grab hands and "HURRY" once again.    We hustled to the edge of a steep hill that leads to the park and there I had to take a moment.  In my mind is a snapshot of the hundreds of people that were already there.  To say I was overwhelmed a would be an understatement.

A couple weeks earlier, I knew that there were only 25 people signed up.  That could have been a little awkward on race day, if our family made up 20 percent of racers.

By the time we were running in, all the kids were being warmed up by none other than Justin Armour, and the Manitou mascot, Manny the Mustang.  That brings me to a side note.

When Dave and I moved to Manitou, I was a little uncertain.  Dave was in love with Manitou before we even moved in but I, personally, wasn't sure that we could live up to the cool factor that seems to reside inside most Manitoids.  He convinced me that it would be a good fit for our family, despite our lack of coolness.  I have said so many times, since Dave died, that I'm so relieved and grateful that I live in this area, because it is unique in the sense that there is a real feeling of community.  All that to say, they had bussed high school kids over to the race to help out.  Again, overwhelmed doesn't even seem to express how I felt and feel even as I write this two weeks later.

Without the high schoolers there, my kids wouldn't have run the kid race.  When I tried to get the girls to get lined up to run, they would have none of it, but as soon as Holly, our high school babysitter, suggested it, they were lined up and ready go.  The kid run was so cute.  At the end, all the adults, made a tunnel for them to run under.  I wish I had a picture of Maci and Leah at the end.  In true form, Maci came running through the tunnel with high fives and huge smiles.  Right behind her was Leah with rolled eyes and a look that said, "Who on earth would call this a fun run?"  They are so funny.

After the kids' fun run, the adults were up.  As I headed to the microphone to say a few words, I was examining how I was feeling.  I had anticipated a feeling of bittersweet.  I figured that I would feel happy to be so supported, but sad for the reason that we were there.  My assumption was wrong, though.  This part is going to sound cheesy, at best,  and maybe even like I am making it up, but it felt physically impossible to feel sadness or sorrow at the race.  I only felt excitement and joy.  It literally seemed like Dave were present.  I don't know how that sounds to other people.  It sounds fabricated and like something someone would say on a Hallmark movie, but it really did seem like he was there.  I can't fully explain it.  It seemed like I would be dishonoring him, if I were sad.  I, for reals, (to use a term from 7th grade) kept feeling that he just thought it was so cool that there was a race in honor of him.  I just knew that he was so proud of his Manitou community, his work community, his church community and even all the people there, who he didn't even know.  There was no way that he wasn't smiling huge, and for that, I couldn't stop smiling  (except from maybe mile 2 to 3).  Unfortunately, my excitement didn't propel my running to a new level, but I did run the whole race, if that counts for anything.  Thanks Misty and Brittany for running with me.

Speaking of thanks, I can't thank all of you that volunteered and helped out with the race, enough.  I am still amazed with how every detail was so professionally done.  I can't imagine all the work that went into it.  Thank you so much, Laura Morgan, for birthing this idea and for carrying it out.  I can't express to you, how important it was to feel that sort of joy again. Not to mention the almost $15,000 that it raised for our family.  How unbelievable is that?  Seriously!?! Unbelievable!!!!  Thank you all so so so so much for being a part of this amazing day.  I'm not exaggerating when I say, I would definitely point to this day and say that it was a kind of turning point in my new life without Dave.  I sure miss that guy!