Wednesday, October 3, 2012

How Long Have I Been Lost?

Have you ever walked through your life and been utterly unaware of changes inside of you? Changes that you didn't notice because just dealing with your everyday life took every bit of your conscious effort? A couple of years ago, I would have adamantly declared that this description had nothing to do with me. I would even have argued the point.

Watching my much loved husband be consumed with Parkinson's Disease took all the emotional energy I could muster, especially during his last four years of life. If asked to describe myself, I would have said I was happy but sad, fun-loving but stressed, calm of spirit but frazzled. I would have said I was the same person I'd always been, even though knowing I was losing my husband to a disease distressed me on the deepest level of my being. I would have said my sense of humor remained intact.

But I would have been wrong.

I didn't realize that until last month. The Lord has a time and season to reveal what has unknowingly been going on inside us while we dealt with our everyday life. On the day in question, I was doing nothing more than planning my Christmas list and thinking about the quilts I'd make for my grandkids. In the midst of that, I was praising the Lord for returning my joy of life, even though I still missed Jim. Somehow, the scar had healed and though I remain much aware that I am alone, the pain of remembering seldom sneaks up on me anymore. Since it's been only 2 1/2 years, I know it is God's love and grace that has sustained me and brought me to this point.

In the deepest part of me, I realized that this would be the first Christmas that I would have fun. That I would honestly laugh. That I could again be part of the family party rather than an outsider looking in. That is what my mind was dwelling on when it suddenly hit me that I couldn't remember the last time I'd felt like this. It was such a startling revelation, I stopped and asked the Lord, "How long have I been lost and didn't know it?"

I felt like the "old" me. The person I'd grown up with. The adult I'd become. Genuine laughter had come back; joking around and teasing friends rose up inside me and I knew for a fact, the "real" me had been gone a long time. Years, in fact. Long before Jim died. Think as I might, I couldn't remember the time when the real "me" went away and the "determined to survive" me took up residence.

What I did realize is that the Lord had hidden the truth from me, lest I lose heart and falter along the way, giving in to debilitating grief at watching Jim deteriorate before my eyes. I understood that I'd been dealing with life a day at a time. Sometimes a minute at a time. I understood everything that faced me as a caregiver. But I wasn't cognizant one little bit that I had slowly changed into a different person.

The Lord loves me so much that He just kept carrying me through that dark valley, choosing not to reveal to my inner self what was happening inside of me. The Bible says "there is a time and a season for everything" and it dawned on me that day that I wouldn't have been able to handle the changes in my personality BEFORE the return of my peace and joy.  I've always known that God's timing is perfect. Knowing is a far different experience than personally experiencing the truth of that scripture.

What I have come to understand is that the "old" me didn't disappear overnight, but the "old me" returned in an instant. Only the Lord could have effected such a miracle. In the midst of planning for my first "fun" Christmas since losing Jim, came the revelation that I'd been lost a long time. And while I requested of the Lord to tell me when it began, all I ever heard from Him was that it didn't matter because I'd done what needed to be done to care for Jim, and in doing so, I'd cared for the Lord. The scripture that ran through my mind was, "When did I see you sick and take you in? When did I see you hungry and feed you? When did I see you naked and clothe you? And Jesus answered them saying, 'As you have done it unto the least of these, you have done it unto Me."

From that day on, the joy has remained. The fun and laughter are as though they never left. The joking and teasing are again part of my being. Everyday is full of adventure. Filled with fun. My new crafting friends drop by often and we still meet every Tuesday evening to work on our latest endeavors and help one another with things that need to be finished quickly. We named ourselves The Snail Trail Crafting Ladies simply because all of us are desperately slow in getting where we're going. Mostly because of all the artificial knees or hips or disagreeable spines or feet that sometimes do our bidding and sometimes not. We laugh at ourselves. It adds great joy to my life to be with those who are like me, widowed or left alone, who lean on one another for help and get done what needs to get done. We are becoming a family.

I realized the change had been complete when all of the widow blogs I always used to read no longer appealed to me. In fact, they saddened me to what I was and no longer wished to be. Yes, I'm still a widow. Yes, I'm still alone and intend to stay that way--unless the Lord has cloned Jim, which I think unlikely. Yes, I'm happy. You bet I'm busy quilting and knitting and sewing--what with 4 kids, 7 grandkids, and two sisters to make presents for.

 I can honestly say I feel no drudgery in my life anymore. I wake up happy. I've metamorphosed back into the smiling, fun-loving girl Jim married so very many years ago. The wilderness is behind me. Green grass, flowered hills. sunshine and the granite sturdiness of a mountain range are what I am currently seeing through my spiritual windows. And they all symbolize to me the scripture that says, "I will look to the hills, from whence comes my help."  For me, I can look nowhere else for the desire to carry on but "To the Rock, which is higher than I."

I know God is happy for me. That He sings over me with joy. And if Jim can look down from heaven and see the "refurbished" me, I know he is smiling from ear to ear. That sly grin that I always loved. I can see it now. All I have to do is close my eyes and turn on my imagination.