Saturday, January 4, 2014

My Non New Year's Resolutions

I didn't plan to make any New Year's resolutions this year, not beyond trying to stay physically and mentally afloat for what I anticipate will be the continuation of the most painful year of my life.

After all, how could I look ahead with any big plans to a year that will be so filled with heart-breaking firsts? Certainly I couldn't think about the items people tend to put on a New Year's resolution list, because most of those things are meaningless to me right now.

Yet, I've found in reading some friends' resolutions, that there are things I expect from the coming year beyond survival. Things that, following God's lead and with His help, I should resolve to do in 2014 and all the years to follow.

1. Exercise my faith and grow my relationship with God.

As hard as it is for me to accept, Ethan's life and death had a purpose that I don't understand. I do not believe that it was coincidence that I had been blogging just long enough to have made it a part of my routine before Ethan's death. Some mornings I do not want to write, but I feel that is part of our purpose and the earthly journey Ethan and I made together. There are a lot of people hurting and if knowing they are not alone brings them the same relief that it does me when someone sends a message back, then I have to keep doing this. Many days it is my faith that God has a plan and this has to have a purpose that keeps me going.

But I don't want anyone to think that just because I seem to work through my emotions in black and white it's easy. It's not. I cry a lot. Sometimes it is just the sadness and sometimes it is anger. Instead of just crying, I have to remind myself to talk to God at these times and ask Him for help and guidance. The answer may be scripture or song or a vision, or it may be the sudden ringing of the telephone when someone has felt that was just the time to call. God answered my prayers and finally gave my little boy peace and healing. It wasn't the way I wanted my prayers answered, but sometimes the answers are unexpected. The answer won't always be so black and white and if I don't take time to listen and wait on God, I may miss the messages and healing He wants me to have.

2. Keep moving and living my life.

It's easy to get stuck in grief. I want to say especially the grief over losing a child, but while it may be more difficult to accept for a parent, there are many kinds of loss that we grieve. Whether it is a pet, a spouse, a parent or a sibling, or even a really close friend, it is easy to allow ourselves to give in to selfish grief. Our lives can become all about our pain and our inability to cope with it. We can shut out the people who still need us, the people who would help us, the people who are grieving with us. We can allow our grief and pain to suck the joy out of our lives and simply stumble through the motions of living. I know there may days when I feel I need to stop and let it consume me for a while, but anyone who God has chose to leave living has a purpose and it is not to sit around and feel sorry for themselves because of someone else's death. Those who are gone are free from pain and suffering and it's our place to live on.

The other side of that coin is to deny our grief. I know there are people who don't allow themselves to grieve because someone has to be the strong one in a family torn apart. Or perhaps grief can be avoided by refusing to accept reality -- especially for people like me who had a sometimes stormy and strained relationship with the one who is gone. While either of these choices may seem outwardly strong and at the very least as far removed from self-pity as possible, they still cut us off from human emotions and a human process that we have to embrace as part of living. They keep us from being emotionally available to loved ones grieving with us and they stop us from helping one another by learning to grieve and live on together.

For me living my life means picking up the threads of old routines that were dropped three weeks ago. It means digging out my knitting needles and starting a new project, stepping on the scale again, going back to my exercise classes, taking the girls back to Awana and gymnastics, planning activities for the future. Some of these things aren't as important as they were, and some have taken on new meaning, but they're all steps in moving forward and living again.

3. Help others.

This used to be simple, like stuffing a few dollars in the Salvation Army kettle, taking groceries to the food pantry in town, or helping to stuff food boxes for the holidays. It's not simple for me any more.

I feel there are too many people grieving the little losses of addiction or the earthly loss of a child and that too often we all feel alone. I promise to be honest and keep reaching out, even when it hurts. I want to help build a network of support where we can bear one another's burdens, love one another, encourage one another to feel not only the pain but the joy of living, and count on God for the final answers and help we need to get through the hard times.

4. Make good memories.

There have been times when I've thought that I wouldn't mind dying, but I want to live long enough to be a memory for my granddaughters. As they say, dying is easy, living is hard.

But the kind of memories I leave, the kind of memories I make every day are important. Although it's tough some days, I want to go to bed each night without a regret in the way I've lived the day God gave me, in the way I've treated the people close to me, or in the way I've reached out to make sure that family and friends who I don't see every day know what they mean to me.


So there it is, a simple list. It doesn't involve numbers on a scale or in a bank account; it doesn't involve kicking a bad habit or taking up a good one; it doesn't involve getting organized or a better job, or many of the things we typically put on our list of resolutions.

Even more importantly, it's not a list that will ever be checked off as accomplished. These are resolutions not just for 2014, but for the rest of the life God has given me live. It's not the life I expected or wanted a few short weeks ago, but it's the one I've been given. While it may pass as a vapor, it's my reality now and I intend to make the most of it.

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