Good Grief

The tears came unbidden and unstoppable; Tim stopped relaying the news because he realized that what had given him some relief was breaking my heart. We had been expecting a specific outcome to a financial situation and while the outcome was not bad, it wasn’t good enough for me to continue my plans for our upcoming 30th Wedding Anniversary. He whispered into the phone “I should of waited to come home to tell you, I am sorry…I didn’t make the connection until now.” I said I was fine and that it was OK, but it wasn’t and I wasn’t.

Milestones are a big deal to me, I really believe in “Stacking Stones” of remembrance and gratitude to the Lord for the miraculous and the mundane. I love celebrations of achievement and accomplishment but my favorites are celebrations of relationship. I have had difficult and unfulfilling birthday milestones because usually right before one there was some kind of ministry trauma that translated into a move. My 30th, 40th, and 50th birthdays were all like that, and on our 25th Anniversary we were moving and starting over again as well. So I had my heart set on something really lovely for our 30th Anniversary and for me planning the event is a big part of the fun. So I had in January sent FB messages to friends and family that we were going to have a Vow Renewal at Pismo Beach.We are vagabonds, we have lived in many places so Pismo is our true home…we honeymooned there and when the boys were 3 and 7 started vacationing there for a week (M-F) regardless of where we were living, it always feels like home when reach that little ocean city as soon as we get our first glimpse of the water and as we take in our first breath of ocean air we breathe out…Home.

So I wanted to celebrate our 30th Anniversary there with our grown Sons and now their wives. I wanted a simple beach ceremony and party. And I thought it was doable because of this particular financial situation but now everything I had pinned to my Pinterest board was useless. I could not stop the tears so while I waited for Tim to get home I sent quick FB messages to the different groups that I had originally contacted to let them know the event wasn’t going to happen.I started with my kids first…I just sent them a simple text “We are not going to be able to do the celebration at the Beach as planned, wanted you to know, Mom”  I had an immediate text from Mychal that he was really sorry and sad…Taylor called later that night and tried to cheer me up…He could see I wasn’t good and of course tried to make me laugh.

The group on FB that melted my heart and made me smile again were the kids who are all now grown adults from Pittsburg Christian Center School and Church…all expressing sadness and wondering if there was a way to do something…the funniest comment coming from Vito Impastato “Hey, I know a guy…” I laughed out loud! I love all those kids with all my heart…always will. I finally told them Thanks but this was just a fun idea I had and now that the circumstances were different we would find a quiet way to celebrate.

It was Monday, my husband was leaving the next day to go to Washington DC as a chaperone for a school trip and I was on spring break. I knew that I was broken hearted and that I just needed sometime alone. I had some deep thoughts and questions that had to be wrestled into acceptance and I knew it was a journey that was private.I couldn’t be consoled with simple platitudes of hope. There were deeper more difficult questions to be explored. I didn’t really have plans just a couple of things that I bowed out of and began my retreat into privacy.

That night at Chili’s sitting with Tim, our last night together for 7 days I just poured out my heart about why this meant so much to me and why I needed time to process it.

  1. I wanted this celebration to celebrate with the many people who have walked through the last 3 years with us. Everyone who gave us a job, or bought us a meal, or just listened to our story and loved us. I wanted to give them a moment on the beach together.
  2. I wanted to pull people from their busy lives and have them share some time together. These are people of character, depth, kindness and love; I thought they should know each other or get to see one another again. People will make the effort for others to do things they would never just do for themselves.Come to the Beach and Breathe was my idea.
  3. .And I wanted a moment to celebrate the faithfulness of God and the foiled plan of the evil one to destroy us. I wanted my kids to see so many of the people who have stood with us and how what the enemy meant for harm God was redeeming.

In his quiet gentle way Tim just looked at me and said “I am sad too.I wish I wasn’t leaving you right now.” He left the next day and I drove home alone from San Francisco.

I wrote in my journal and I talked out loud to God about my feelings…it wasn’t pretty and it wasn’t nice. But it was honest. I realized that I just couldn’t help connecting this to all we have lost at the hands of someone else’s selfish ambition. Here I was again living the consequences of another person’s betrayal and total disregard for imploding our life financially. I had to wrestle again with those questions of not understanding or making sense of it all.

This was the reason I wanted to be alone, I didn’t want someone looking at me and saying “You just have to let it go and just move on.” If only it were that easy but because there are new losses tied to the original treachery the process is more like 1 step forward 2 steps back.You move forward but then a situation or circumstance happens that had you not experienced the betrayal you wouldn’t be dealing with this new circumstance.There are SINS that are done to you that have on going and far reaching consequences. It is not just the wrong you experience when that choice is made; it is the continual calamity of consequences that have that ripple in the water affect.

Each new loss has to be processed so that you can continue to move forward and if you are naïve enough to make the mistake of sharing with someone who is not mature enough to understand what you are experiencing…it can illicit all kinds of Job’s-comforters –type- responses that HURT not heal and only bring condemnation.

While I confess that I was baffled by my own emotions, after all this wasn’t a thwarted effort to feed starving children…or house the homeless… or raise funds to relieve the desperation of those fleeing ISIS. It was a party and really nothing more. But the Holy Spirit seemed to gently illuminate…that it was a big deal to me. And although the past cannot be altered and I cannot control the choices of another person, I do need to recognize that it takes a toll and that we must understand that toll and deal with it in the way we were designed too…we must grieve. I realized I couldn’t stop crying because I needed to cry.

I had seen a book mentioned in someone’s FB post and it came to mind so I downloaded into my Nook. Carol Kent’s When I Lay My Isaac Down. This is an incredible story of someone else’s choices affecting your life in ways that you cannot control or change and the key component she talked about over and over again was learning to grieve the ongoing losses she would continue to experience. Her situation is far more complicated, complex and personal but her open and honest need to grieve and how she did and still does that helped me tremendously. It let me just be sad about this loss and all the other losses that have been and will come as a result of another’s selfish and thoughtless actions.

By Sunday night I was all cried out and joined my sister to attend the Garth Brooks concert, she asked me about everything and I told her all the details and about just letting myself be sad. I started school, later that week picked up my husband from his trip and a week later in a conversation with a girlfriend over Dinner said I was Ok and that I knew I would be sad when the actual day came but I had grieved away the sadness. I noticed that the ache was gone, and as I was busily engaged in preparing students for the SBAC testing week among other things I had ceased to think about our anniversary and I had come to a place of peace.

Some weeks later I got a text on a Monday from Mychal, “Can you and Dad Skype tonight?” I said yes and then began to wonder what in the world this could be about. In our home good news comes to me and bad news to Tim. When the boys need you to be excited and cheerlead for them then of course they call Mom…but when they need someone to be calm and supportive because the news is bad… they call Dad. It works for us.

When Tim got home he said we would be skyping with Taylor and Niana too. What kind of good news could possibly merit all 6 of us on Skype at the same time? All I could think of was a baby, and while that would be wonderful regardless of the circumstances I knew that neither couple was planning for that so it would be happy terrifying news and I was preparing myself to be supportive and say all the faith filled things I could when the unexpected happens.

So once we were all on Skype and had said our Hello’s, Mychal as the first born began to tell us that they had been sad about the cancellation of our Anniversary Party and that other people had been sad too and so working together a group of people had raised some money and they had called to share that maybe it would be enough to still have the beach celebration.I was in shock and didn’t know how to respond…I kept thinking “What is happening right now?” And when the kids didn’t get the happy tears and my normal excitement they were thinking “What is happening right now.” So slowly they started filling in all the details…

How Kathy Hernandez had contacted them and said she would help and she did. How Pastor Lance Lowell contacted them and set up a secret portal on the church website where people could contribute to our event and how my sister kept our hotel rooms reserved.

Then they told us that Pastor Lance had gotten miles donated from church and school contributors and the flights were covered for Taylor and Niana and that 1800 dollars had been raised for our hotel rooms and that even the hotel got into the act and gave Tim and I one night free…The tears started coming…then the kids told us that the average donation was a $100.00. Tim and I just cried and laughed and kept asking questions…of course we said you didn’t coerce people did you? That is when they told us about a letter and the video…Then the kids asked why it took us a few minutes to respond and we told them what we thought they were going to say. We had a huge laugh about that!!

To date the flights are booked, the hotels room are completely covered…more money came in from Neighborhood Church and MC School enough to cover the catering on the beach we wanted by splash café. And 2 weeks ago when Tim preached at Neighborhood Church, Marisa (who has helped coordinate things on that end) gave me a gift card for $100.00 to Arco to help cover the cost of gas for our trip.

My heart has been healing as a result of the love and care of all those people working together to make my crazy dream come true. God’s people banding together to make a difference in our lives, to remind us that even though the evil one comes to kill, steal and destroy…God still moves on people’s hearts to be HIS hands extended.

Thank-you, Thank-you, Thank-you to all who contributed to our celebration!

Our life doesn’t look like we thought it would at this place in the road, and there are still on going consequences we live with every day…But there are ongoing MIRACLES too. God does care about the little things that are tied to the bigger questions. He knows what we struggle with in the deep places of our hearts and minds…those private questions that lead us sometimes to dark and difficult conclusions.

Does He care enough to answer in ways that are personal and unique to us as individuals?

Yes, I believe He does.

“Instead of your shame you will receive a double portion, and instead of disgrace you will rejoice in your inheritance. And so you will inherit a double portion in your land, and everlasting joy will be yours.” Isaiah 61:7


Weddding Pic