So, please ignore the post-pregnancy super chubby face and focus on the dress I am wearing in the picture below.
It used to be a fun, cute black dress that sort of hid my "problem area." Now, it's my funeral dress. Do you have one of those? Your go-to wedding outfit, your go-to church outfit........and now, there have been enough deaths this year that I finally have a go-to funeral outfit. The thought of this alone makes me want to lay down, cry and give up. Nobody should have a funeral dress.
This Sunday (actually, for like the last month and a half), I was ready to pull my hair out. I never really understood why people used to say they were going to do that, but now I get it. Sometimes your life just gets to such a crazy point that all you can think of that would make any sense is to pull your hair out! But I digress. Tommy is teething (which explains his recent craziness) and on Sunday, there was no way I was taking that kid to church. I left him at home with his dad and went with my mom. It was nice to actually be able to LISTEN to the sermon instead of letting him bounce on my lap, trying to find his paci or passing him back and forth to Nana the whole time. The pastor started talking about how better days are yet to come. It was like a soothing balm to my nerves to think about the fact that you shouldn't look back because better things are coming. Hallelujah! He asked a question and at first I was like, "Duh." He asked if we had hope. Well, I thought about it and of course, as a Christian, we have hope--hope that things will get better, hope in a Savior that loves us, that eventually, we will be in a better place, that the hardships of this life are not for nothing. But then he asked another question. He asked if we were EXALTING in our hope. For me, that would be a gigantic no. I was NOT exalting in my hope. I was not seeking God the way I should. Instead, I was wallowing in my big, fat hole of frustration and exhaustion. I had begun to enjoy and find comfort in being angry with my job, my car, my friends, my house. It was easy to complain, rather than try to find the good in a situation. I was throwing a great big pity party and inviting everyone within listening distance.
So then and there, I decided to exalt in my hope. We had a great youth group session, I got to spend the afternoon with my baby and my wonderful husband and then I got to lay in bed and read a book. This exalting in my hope business was easy as pie! And then my mom texted me that my grandpa went to be with Jesus. What?!? Um, excuse me God, I just made a decision to exalt in my hope, so what's this junk about my grandpa dying?? It felt like Satan grabbed ahold of my hope and beat the ever-loving crap out of it. Have you ever heard the saying that God will not give you anything more than you can handle? Well, I'm here to tell you I don't think that's the truth. Who is strong enough to handle this? That's doesn't mean He won't get you through it, but sometimes, I think God lets us carry burdens so big that we have no choice but to crumble to our knees and hand it over to Him. Losing one person in our family was enough---enough sorrow, suffering, disappointment and pain to last a lifetime or longer. But to lose two people in our family in a matter of 4 months? That's enough to make you want to be like Job in the Bible who rips his clothes in despair and sits at the city gates in a pile of ashes, weeping for days on end. We had actually just dicussed in youth group how mourning like they did in the old days is no longer acceptable. We had a good laugh thinking about what it would be like if someone did that now--sat in ashes, ripping their clothes and crying out to God. But I completely understand why he did it. What other way can you express how hurt your heart is?
I cried for a long time and kept thinking about the past (instead of looking forward to better things). A few weeks ago, my Grampy was holding Tommy and talking about how him and all of his cousins are going to be "quite the gang." I could see the pride in his eyes, but I could hear the sadness in his voice. He got teary eyed and said he wished he would be around long enough to see them grow up, but that he knew that wasn't going to happen. I kept thinking about how last Christmas was the last one we had as an entire family. The last one where everyone was alive and present and in the moment. At one point, my grandpa was sitting in a rocking chair and my aunt Becky sat on his lap and they just sat there together, her head on his chest. They were resting, taking in the laughter, the fellowship, the kids running back and forth. I just keep seeing that picture in my head, over and over. It's like God knew they were coming home soon and so did they, so they were soaking it up. Now, I picture her still sitting in Grampy's lap and both of them being held in the arms of God. THAT is the only thing that makes it all bearable--knowing that neither of them is hurting or suffering or sad or shedding tears.
So knowing that they're in Heaven, waiting to greet me with open arms whenever I get there makes me think that just maybe I'll continue exalting in my hope. Just maybe I'll BURN that ugly funeral dress and after I burn it, I might just sit at my city gates (or gas station, in my case) right in the middle of a pile of ashes from that dress and rip my clothes (look out Benton residents--if you see a weirdo covered in soot, it's just me, doin my thing!). But probably not. Probably I'll just soothe my pain by spending more time with those whose hearts are hurting with me--with nights like last night, where me and my cousins, mom, aunt and grandma sat around laughing and remembering and enjoying eachother.......by trying not to let things like annoying patients or expensive electric bills ruin my day....by appreciating the things my husband does for me instead of pointing out what he doesn't.......by trying to exalt in my hope.