Grief

Progress on Tiggy’s House!

It’s been a long, slow journey. Kind of like grief itself. But what was once a barren field in rural Nepal became a metaphor for the lifelessness I felt after losing a son. I can name off the events, but I still don’t know quite what insanity led a grieving family to attempt a task on this scale. None of us knew anything about fundraising. And throughout the entire process, I would have preferred to grieve quietly, alone in my room, than work and work at something only to fall short of our goals each and every month. This house wasn’t going to be built. I didn’t need another failure on top of the sense of failure that was tearing my soul apart. But I kept going, because of stories like Meena’s. Even as I feared what it would mean to invest so much of myself into something that was bound to fail.

It brought us across the midwest, speaking to small groups and churches. It helped us make new friends.

Making new friends

It brought us together with old friends.

meeting up with friends

It kept boxes of jewelry packed in my SUV, whether we were on our way to Texas or just to a little craft show in the next town.

jewelry

And it brought me to talk to neighbors I had never spoken to in order to ask for unwanted items. They helped us fill the church with donated things for a name-your-price garage sale.

Name your price garage sale

One of the carnival workers nervously gave me $2 for a bike and a stack of children’s clothing. I thanked her, glad we could help someone closer to home. Another woman gave us a check for $40 for a basket. The one that made me cry, however, was the lady from the nursing home who heard what we were doing and walked over with a handful of change she had on her dresser. It was all she had.

Grief has a way of leaving you disconnected from the world. Watching people give of themselves has a way of reconnecting you.

And somehow, a handful of change at a time, we made the goal. Work began.

But this is Nepal. Homes don’t pop up overnight. There is a communist government to work with that in one moment approves your paperwork and in the next is talking about throwing out all the Christian organizations. There’s the weather and the landscape, equally as temperamental and equally as harsh. And then there’s the materials. Holding up the second floor with bamboo poles?

bamboo supports

It all seems so shaky. Nothing is firm. Like after Mattias died. I don’t know quite how to explain it. If you’ve lost a child, you may understand. But it’s kind of like that song, “…all other ground is sinking sand.” We sing it. We understand it. We believe it on some level. But after losing a child, for a time, you see the sand. You see it shifting and blowing in the wind. You realize how little this world really has to offer because none of it lasts.

But the souls of these children do. So we wait. There’s nothing else we can do.

And the bamboo poles are replaced with brick and mortar and mudded in.

mudding the walls

Rocks are laid on the exterior.

And it’s beginning to look like a house. I don’t know how long the construction season lasts in this land of unpredictability. But a dream is taking shape. A home is being built.

I homeschool to give them just enough

Parenting is a tough job and homeschooling is like parenting on steroids. You have these llittle beings in your care that you love more than life itself. You strive to guide them, to teach them, to encourage them, to inspire them. You want to help them build strong foundations that will carry them through the storms of life. And sometimes you just need them to stop fighting over who is touching whom fifteen minutes into a four hour drive.

why I homeschool

 

I don’t have this parenting thing figured out. Not by a long shot. It seems like it should be about time. After all, my eldest ist 18, left for farrier school and is transitioning to adulthood. All I know is that it takes a lot of prayer and a whole lot of faith. Mostly, I feel like I’m parenting in the dark. When there is conflict, I still don’t always know exactly what constitutes “normal” and what is cause for concern. It’s complicated by having lost a child. Some things I see in my children I trace back to that night. And the accuser entering my thoughts is always ready to blame my own grief and years of struggling to be present at all.

But I know what I want my parenting to look like. I want it to be “just enough.” Not in a lazy, get out of the hard parts of parenting way. To me, “just enough” is harder.

I want to give them just enough freedom to fail, but enough support that getting back up is easy.

I want to push them just hard enough that they surprise themselves at what they can do, but not so much that their victories are no longer theirs.

I want to work them hard enough that they learn discipline, but provide enough unstructured free time for them to get bored and begin to daydream.

I want to answer enough of their questions for them to learn how the world works, but leave enough unanswered questions to allow them to ponder and to wonder.

I want to give them just enough direction that they don’t feel lost, but not so much that they never learn to find their own way.

I want to give them just enough responsibility to develop their character, but enough grace that they can just be kids.

I want to give them enough instruction in our faith for them to build a firm foundation and just enough liberty to meet Christ on their own so that their faith is theirs and not just an expression of how they were raised.

And as I strive each day to be enough so that I can give them enough, I fail. Daily. So I cling to a simple prayer . . . that love really does cover a multitude of sins. Both mine and theirs. Then each day can start new with just enough strength to get through.

This is part of the Blogging Through the Alphabet Challenge, where I am sharing some homeschool encouragement, from A to Z! Check out what I’ve written so far!

A is for Adventure
B is for Boredom
C is for Christ
D is for Daydreaming
E is for Every day
F is for Failure
G is for Grow
H is for Homework
I is for Impromptu field trips
J is for Just enough

On setting goals and not getting overwhelmed

It’s that time of year again.

setting goals-min

My very favorite time of year to garden. The world outside my window is covered in ice and I’m snuggled up by the fire, looking through seed catalogs and planning the perfect garden.

There are no weeds, no drought, no flooding. No squash bugs, no aphids, no grasshoppers. No cows devouring all the corn just before it ripens. No sheep eating the tops off all the onions. The garden is perfect, laid out in neat rows, producing on schedule.

It’s all so perfect on paper.

But this year is going to be different.

OK, so it was supposed to be different last year. The garden even made it onto my New Year’s Resolution type thing. It was supposed to be different, and I suppose it was. I mean, I got as far as making the cool graphic, didn’t I?

It’s funny, the plans we make. So much like daydreams, with an added touch of hope that this year . . . this year will be the year. This year will be the year that I somehow won’t stumble over all the same obstacles.

I have a lot of plans this year. It’s the first year in a long time that I’ve attempted to tackle much of anything. And I’m plagued by doubts. Can I really do this? Is it too much? What if I fail? Is it too soon? Will failure send me back to that place that used to swallow me every time we met?

The obstacles in my mind are the ones that are the hardest for me to overcome. They are the ones that hold me back from stepping outside my comfort zone, that keep me from challenging what I think I know, that tie me to this comfortable place that plays around with dreams but does very little to realize them.

But I’m taking small steps.

One thing at a time. When I lift my head up enough to see my end goal, I feel overwhelmed. It’s too much . . . I can’t do this . . . the same thoughts that took hold after my son died.

But I don’t have to do all of that. Not yet.  Because this year I applied a little wisdom to my increasing energy. I took my biggest goals and broke them down into very small steps. Very small steps that all should lead forward.

Right now, all I have to do is what’s next.

Do what’s next and have faith that I’ll be ready for the next step when the time comes.

Because love doesn’t die

Grief is such a strange companion. At first, it seems all consuming. Everything is colored by grief. In time, it mellows. As it weaves itself into the fabric of your days, it seems to fade into the background. Always there. Always ready. And sometimes, it is the little things that catch you off guard. Little, often unimportant always unexpected.

child loss

I recently moved my blog. Some files got lost in the move; a lot of links to files were broken. I’ve slowly been going through them, a post at a time, to clean house. Most of them were not particularly important. For the most part, I’ve just been deleting the evidence. Delete the link, delete the broken image link icon, delete the reference to what used to be there.

Then I come across an old recipe to watermelon rind jelly. This isn’t a recipe blog so I don’t count recipes among my most important posts. But some of them are unique and I get a steady stream of traffic to all of them.

Steady being one or two a day. Because let’s be real. I’m not the Pioneer Woman.

It’s a broken image link. I actually remember this picture. It’s a little boy eating watermelon. The picture is still in my media files. I saw it while I was looking for something else. But is it important, stuck here at the end? Does it add anything to the post? Not really. I delete it. Then I read the rambling paragraph after it. It doesn’t make sense at first.

It takes a moment, but I realize it is referencing the image that used to be there. It also adds nothing. I start to delete it.

It’s funny how much more ruthless I am editing posts that are several years old. Maybe if I left all my posts in draft for five or six years, I could get them down to the 500 words or so all the Big Blogs say you need to be successful.

Image gone. Pointless rambling gone . . . except . . . 18 month old. 18 month old? How old is this post? I scroll back to the top to look at the date and realize the 18 month old I just deleted from an old post about watermelon rind jelly had to be Mattias.

I couldn’t breathe.

A small, unimportant bit of rambling at the end of a post. But it was my little Mattias covered in watermelon seeds. A small little memory I had forgotten. Until I deleted it.

I opened the post up in a new tab. The original text and broken link were still there. It wasn’t gone forever, but I was seized by some inexplicable panic that I was somehow going to now delete it forever anyway. Because I almost did. So I copied the text, saved it to my computer, saved it to the post, closed the post and reopened the post in the editor and on the blog to make sure it was still there.

I held it together just long enough to make sure it wasn’t really gone.

And then I fell apart. Because it is the little, unexpected things that can take me back to that day. To holding him. To pacing outside the emergency room. To watching the doctors walk down the hall and knowing before they said anything at all. To losing him all over again.

Because in time, grief loosens its grip and allows itself to fade into the background. But it never completely goes away. I’m not even sure it loses its strength . . . because love never leaves nor weakens. It just waits. For heaven, if necessary.

When life gives you lemons . . .

We all know the end of the saying. When life gives you lemons . . .

Make lemonade.

But is that really the message Christians should be delivering?

When life gives you lemons

It has such a nice “pull yourself up by your boot straps” kind of ring to it. We are, after all, masters of our own destiny. And life is what we make of it.

But it also has an air of your problems aren’t my problems and your grief is worn best silently. Hidden away somewhere where I don’t have to deal with it.

Having lost a child, I have a somewhat different perspective on grief and suffering and what denotes strength and dignity. Having lost a child, I know that sometimes you cannot just put on a smile for the world and I don’t think you should try.

The Bible, after all, calls us to “bear one another’s burdens,” but the verse doesn’t end there. Galatians 6:2 goes on to say this is how we fulfill the law of Christ. We act out our faith by bearing burdens. Not by asking people to keep them to themselves, to silence them, to stick them somewhere deep where we do not have to be confronted by their heaviness.

We walk along side them and lift as much as we can.

It is only natural to want to make someone feel better when they are hurting. But it isn’t always in our power. And it isn’t always in theirs. It isn’t even always in their best interest. All we can really do is sit awhile and remember the One who turns mourning into dancing (Psalm 30:11), praying for that day and sharing tears along the way.

Because the world may not be able to offer enough sugar to do anything with these lemons, but they are not all that I have. I have Christ and therefore I have hope.

Shared with Grace and Truth Christian link up at Arabah Joy.