Sorrow and joy—two words that seem contradictory, but describe the breadth of emotion in my heart as I adjust to life without my beloved husband. There is so much in my life that gives me great joy. At the same time, there is much that can bring me into the dark valley of sorrow in a split second. Keeping my equilibrium steady requires me to make daily, deliberate decisions. One of the most important is making decisions about what i think about.
This i know. . . Not one of us is able to keep sorrow under control and joy flowing freely without guarding (and guiding) ones thoughts. It would be easier to control the direction of a massive tornado than to control sorrow without bringing every thought into subjection. Even a wild horse can be subdued in a corral. Therefore, I know it is important that I carefully and deliberately choose what I think about, especially when my mind is flooded with all kinds of thoughts and memories in this time of adjusting to a different life.
I’ve found that some thoughts need to be immediately tossed and rejected as unprofitable. Other thoughts are sweet, yet need to be controlled and pondered when I am alone (and free to cry). But other thoughts pass the “whatsoever things are lovely” test and are a crucial part of living each day in the spirit of Psalms 118:24. “This is the day which the Lord hath made; we (I) will rejoice and be glad in it. Thoughts, whether good or bad, are building blocks of emotion. So if we desire joy and peace, we need to fill our minds with those wonderful Philippians 4:8, true, honest, just, pure, lovely, good, virtuous, and praise worthy thoughts. I suppose if one prefers to be miserable, it can easily be accomplished by focusing thoughts around worrying, complaining, criticizing, surmising and picturing worst case scenarios. But I definitely like the other alternative better, so that’s my plan!
It’s taken me awhile, but I am able to occasionally look at family pictures, listen to videos of Tom singing, or just reflect on memories that are precious to me. I’ve found it helpful to deliberately set aside time in which to do this. At the same time, I limit grieving, and always conclude times of reflection with prayer and thanksgiving. Tears can be a good release of tension, but indulged in too long, they can steal the joy that is the core of my strength. (…for the joy of the Lord is your strength. Nehemiah 8:10). Besides, too many tears can also leave me with a huge headache and cause poor Hugo (the dog) distress! No, I can’t control the things that trigger tears or an instantaneous longing for the familiarity of my life as it once was. Teary times just happen and are a part of adjusting to a new life. The way I’m able to regain composure is by redirecting my thoughts, comforting myself with (preselected) scripture or occupying my mind with thoughts of ongoing projects. However, I can not predict or prevent moments in which I simply miss Tom. Like when I hear myself singing in church and miss hearing his strong tenor voice next to me that used to make mine sound good! Or when the thought, “Tom would have loved this…” pops into my head. Or when I hear myself saying goodnight to the dog and Alexa.
Sad thoughts are a normal part of grief, but if sad thoughts are allowed to linger, I know self pity is knocking at the front door. While I can’t control who knocks on my door, I can control who I invite inside my home! Likewise, I have a choice to indulge unhappy thoughts, or refuse to let them in. I have a choice whether I stand by the door and listen to them, or walk away and direct my attention elsewhere. Yes, my human heart wants to accept self-pities’ invitation to party, but the still small voice of God ‘s Spirit nudges me and I tell myself, “Don’t do it. Self pity is a’ weapon of mass destruction that takes down even the strongest Christian.” Bottom line—if I let my guard down and do not rule my own spirit and bring EVERY thought into captivity (2 Corinthians 10:4-5), l leave my heart open to a very sneaky enemy that is all too eager to crush joy and make a quick end of comfort. Sometimes I need to tell myself, “No! We are not going there! End of discussion.”
Many have asked how I’m doing, what I’m doing and how they can help. The Lord has been merciful beyond my imagination and has more than supplied all my needs. I’m slowly getting the house repairs finished, and am able to take on some light counseling and speaking. My emotions are still fragile at times, so I’m avoiding the emotional strain of more difficult counseling, but little by little, I’m able to do more. Staying focused can be a challenge, but as I continue to move forward and stay engaged with others, I’m finding joy in daily life, even in the midst of missing Tom’s fellowship, love and laughter.
I do have a very full fall schedule that is going to be quite demanding (prayer appreciated), but I am also looking forward to it. I’m excited about an upcoming trip to Israel. This past month I enjoyed having one of our grandchildren with me for a couple weeks and then traveling to Michigan to help my cousin post knee replacement surgery. Needless to say, I have no lack of things to do and projects waiting on the back burner. I do miss Tom as much or more than ever, but I am daily comforted by the shepherding care and love of our awesome God. Spending time with the Lord, studying His Word, and reflecting on His goodness keeps me anchored and filled with hope as I ponder His amazing promises that are as sure as the sun coming up tomorrow. One of the sweetest of these promises . . .
And He shall hear my voice. (Psalm 55:17)