Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Another Anniversary

We made it through another anniversary.  It wasn't terrible.  I think the anticipation was much worse than the actual day.  On Sunday morning I woke up, looked around and thought, "It's okay.  No one is dying here today."
A few weeks ago I was listening to one of the songs we sang at Anna's funeral.  For some reason I thought it would be a good idea to sing that song  on the anniversary of her death.  So I emailed the music director and explained our situation and asked if she could lead everyone in singing 'We Will Dance'.  I also mentioned that I would be willing to say a few words if she wanted me to.  Well, that sounded like a good idea at the time, but it caused quite a bit of additional stress this month as I thought about what to say.  It turned out to be a good way for me to honor Anna's memory--even if I ended choking up and crying in front of everyone.  Hopefully people could understand what I was saying!  It was important for me to tell our new church family what had happened to us and then point them to the hope that we have.  Here's part of what I said...

3 years ago today our family walked through the valley of the shadow of death when our 5 year old daughter died of cancer.  It didn’t make any sense to us.  Why would God  create a child to live 5 years. . .or another to live 5 minutes?  Why would he create me or you to live 60, 70, or 80 years?  The answer is, He didn’t.  He created us for eternity.

3 years ago today I asked God how I was supposed to go on living because the pain was so great, it felt like I couldn’t.  His answer came quickly.  He said, “Do not focus on what is seen, but on what is unseen.  For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.”  I couldn’t see my daughter, so I knew she was now eternal and that everything I could see was temporary—including my pain.

We are not made for this world.  We are told over and over again in scripture that we are to live as strangers and aliens here.  Maybe you had a lot to be thankful for this week.  Maybe you didn’t.  Whatever your situation is right now—good or bad, it is only temporary.  We were made for more than this life.

After church  there was a bag of gifts sitting on our car.  The card said, "Salamy Family-- Please accept these gifts from those who have been inspired by you."  We each had something to open  at lunch.  We could tell that they were from someone who knew us.  Mine included a butterfly ornament and a journal.  Will could not understand why someone would give us something anonymously.  I tried to explain how much fun it is to give in secret.  He said, "But how can you thank them if you don't know who it is?"  I told him I would tell other people what had happened and write about it on my blog and hopefully whoever did it would hear how much we loved our surprise gifts.

Richard and I ended the day by watching the video of Anna's Celebration Service.  It was the first time he had seen it and I had only seen it once.  There were a lot of tears, but it was good for us to do.  There are still certain things we avoid because we know they will cause pain, but when we do face them, it brings a little more healing.
We did another thing for the first time this weekend.  We had our family portrait made.  Three years ago as we were leaving the cemetery, my friend Shelley took the first picture of our "new" family. It made me sick to my stomach.  I didn't want any pictures of our broken family.  I didn't want any pictures without Anna.  If you look around my house, you will see that all of the pictures are old.  It has taken me three years to be able to accept the new look of our family.  When we went to the studio Friday there was a lot of laughter... and a little bit of healing.

Friday, November 26, 2010

A Perfect Day

This is a difficult time of year for me.  All month long I have struggled to find ONE thing to be thankful for each day.  Some days it was late at night before I thought of something.
My friends have been so kind to send cards and emails to tell me they were praying for me and that they were so sorry that the anniversary of Anna's death was on Thanksgiving Day.  On Wednesday night I was tempted to relive Anna's last night, but I told Richard, "I'm not going to do it.  I'm not going to ruin Thanksgiving.  Anna did not die on Thursday.  I don't care about the date.  She died the Sunday after Thanksgiving.  I'm tired of grieving the whole week.  I will grieve on Sunday."  Well, you can't really schedule your grief, and yesterday could have been a really bad day.  Instead it was a great day.  Here's my recipe.

Recipe for a perfect Thanksgiving Day...
Take one perfect fall day

A fourteen year-old potato peeler (they get better with age)

An early morning turkey prep-partner (it's impossible to get those turkey's legs out of the metal clamp without help)

One small rabbit (rare)

A large pile of leaves and two kids

A clean house and a Macy's parade

A little turkey drama (make sure that the thermometer is not on a bone or the temperature will never reach 170 degrees)

A perfect bird (even though the "thing" never popped out)

Three turkey carvers

Two... (your potato peeler can also double as a turkey carver)

Three (to make your guests feel at home, put them to work)

Add a few more kids

Too much food

More leaves

Lots of whipped cream


Fire outside in the chiminea

And friends--including a couple of new ones from Qatar who have never tasted turkey, stuffing, green bean casserole or pumpkin pie

It was a very good day.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

This poem was in my devotional book on November 24, 2007 (the day before Anna died.)

The love of God a perfect plan
Is planning now for thee,
It holds "a future and a hope,"
Which yet thou canst not see.

Though for a season, in the dark,
He asks they perfect trust,
E'en that thou in surrender "lay
Thy treasure in the dust,"

Yet He is planning all the while,
Unerringly He guides
The life of him, who holds His will
More dear than all besides.

Trust were not trust if thou couldest see
The ending of the way,
Nor couldst thou learn His songs by night,
Were life one radiant day.

Amid the shadows here He works
The plan designed above,
"A future and a hope" for thee
In His exceeding love.

"A future"--of abiding fruit,
With loving kindness crowned;
"A hope"--which shall thine own transcend,
As Heaven the earth around.

Though veiled as yet, one day thine eyes
Shall see His plan unfold,
And clouds that darkened once the path
Shall shine with Heaven's gold.

Enriched to all eternity
The steadfast soul shall stand,
That, "unoffended," trusted Him
Who all life's pathway planned.

(Freda Hanbury Allen)

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Tears in my ears

A woman who loses her husband is called a widow.  A man who loses his wife is called a widower.  A child who loses his parents is called an orphan.  But there are no words to describe a parent who loses a child.  I guess it is indescribable.
Many people have tried to define the process of grief.  I figure I am as much an expert as anyone else,  so I am making up my own stage of grief.  Right now I am in the   'Tears in my ears' stage.  That means that most of the time I am doing well.  I am resuming normal activities.  I am investing my emotional energy in other people.  And I am thankful for what I have.
So far this month my daily thanksgivings have included...

Days off from school
Rainy days
My Mom's In Touch group
Pee Wee Football
High School Cross Country teams
New Friends
Old Friends
Nice people who leave coupons on the grocery shelves
Lunch dates with my husband
Meeting Jan Karon
My nephews
My daughter
My husband
Fall colors
Having hair

Some days I struggle to be thankful (having hair?), but I can always find SOMETHING.  It's at night when my grief tends to bubble up to the surface.  In the dark, when no one is watching,  it's easy to stop focusing on what I have and start thinking about what I've lost. I miss my girl and I miss the part of me that she took with her.  And I cry--silent, private tears that roll across my cheeks and into my ears.

After three years, life and grief go on.  It used to scare me when people told me it would take years to grieve my loss.  I didn’t want to feel bad for years.  Now I am comforted by the thought that there is no time schedule.  If I am sad or angry or depressed, it’s okay.  And if I am having fun and laughing and looking towards the future with joyful anticipation, that’s okay too.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Happy Birthday Richard

I want to give a shout out to my wonderful husband on his special day.
Thank you for being a great husband and father.
Thank you for sacrificing yourself for your family.
Thank you for having the courage to bring us to a new place and start over.
Thank you for knowing that I like orange juice instead of apple juice.
Thank you for staying up late waiting for Jacob so that I can go to bed.
Thank you for showing Audra how a girl should be treated.
Thank you for answering Will's football questions.
Thank you for sharing your wisdom with me.
Thank you for encouraging me to be my best.
Thank you for never tearing me down.
Thank you for growing old with me.
The best is yet to be.
I love you.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

I will carry you and He will carry me...

I Will Carry You (Selah)

There were photographs I wanted to take
Things I wanted to show you
Sing sweet lullabies, wipe your teary eyes
Who could love you like this?  People say that I am brave but i'm not
Truth is i'm barely hanging on
But there's a greater story
Written long before me
Because He loves you like this

So I will carry you
While your heart beats here
Long beyond the empty cradle
Through the coming years
I will carry you
All my life
And I will praise the One who's chosen me
To carry you

Such a short time
Such a long road
All this madness
But I know
That the silence
Has brought me to His voice
And He says

i've shown her photographs of time beginning
Walked her through the parted seas
Angel lullabies, no more teary eyes
Who could love her like this?

I will carry you
While your heart beats here
Long beyond the empty cradle
Through the coming years
I will carry you
All your life
And I will praise the One who's chosen Me
To carry you

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

What do you see?

We have eyes, but do we really see?  On Saturday Richard and Will went to go buy a fireplace screen.  Audra and I were out Christmas shopping when my phone rang.  Richard's voice asked, "Do we have any fireplace tools?"  "Hmmm... I don't know," I replied.  "We used to have them, but I don't know if we brought them when we moved last year.  Maybe they are in the attic or the shed, but I haven't seen them."    Later that day, after Richard had purchased new tools, our eyes were suddenly opened.  "Look.  There's our old fireplace tools."  And there they were--sitting NEXT TO THE FIREPLACE!  They had been there since we moved in last January.  We looked past them everyday, but we never really saw them.  It made me wonder what else I am looking past everyday and not really seeing.
 I can be blind to things (and people) that have become too familiar.  But I can also be blind to what God is doing in and around me.  I can become so familiar with his presence in my life that I am blind to the difference he makes and the power and strength that he gives.  I have a new friend who is physically blind. Even though she can't see what I look like, she was able to see a part of me that sometimes  I fail to see.  She writes, "I think there is an inner peace about you... the calmness and serenity that radiates from you...fills me with a warmth of spirit and inspires me to be more peaceful in myself." 

'Calmness', 'peace', 'serenity'--I am definitely not seeing those things.  I see the laundry, the dust, the desk piled with papers, the extra pounds, and my 'to do' list.  It took 10 months for me to see the fire place tools that were sitting right in front of me so how can I expect to see God?  I can only see him if I stop focusing on what it seen and focus instead on what is unseen.  "For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal." (2Cor. 4:18)  It took someone who was physically blind to see  that I have the peace that passes all understanding inside me. 

How about you?  Are you blind to what God is doing?  Can you see the difference he makes in your life?  Or has he become so familiar that you fail to see Him.  "Honey, do we still have God in our lives?"  "Hmmmm... I don't know.  We used to have him, but I don't know if he is still here.  He may be around here somewhere, but I haven't seen him."  

Lord, open our eyes to your presence in our lives.  Help us to see you at work in and around us.  Don't let us focus only on those things we can see.  Help us to see the unseen.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Family Fun

Sittie and Pop came to visit us.  They were able to attend some of the kids' activities.  This is Jacob before his cross country race.  He has his last meet tomorrow.  We are very proud of him for trying a new sport this year.
Run Jacob run!  This picture looks like he is either way ahead or way behind.  Actually he was somewhere in the middle.
Richard and I took Sittie and Pop to pick apples while the kids were at school.  We took home 15lbs and made apple crisp, apple cake, and baked apples.
This is Audra showing off her new dress on her way to Cotillion.  Thank you Sittie for the early Christmas present!
Jacob enjoyed his first high school homecoming dance.

Will changed his mind at the last minute and decided he didn't want to be a Wheaties box for Halloween.  Can you see how excited he is?  He looked this way until he got to the first house and they gave him a PRIZE for having the best costume.  Unfortunately it wasn't made for running from house to house and it kept falling apart.  I went home while he was trick-or-treating and found something else for him to wear.
He ended up as a cave man with an afro.  He was getting so much candy, he didn't care what he wore.
Halloween is HUGE here.  The whole neighborhood was decorated and people were roasting marshmallows around fire pits on their driveways.  My neighbor said that last year 300 kids came to her door.
I can't end without telling you about the 90 yard touchdown Will got last weekend.  I didn't get a picture of it because I didn't even know it was him until it was over.  I was saying, "Who is that kid?"  I couldn't read his number until he got to the endzone.  Then I yelled, "That's my kid!"

Tuesday, November 2, 2010


I have been struggling recently with my "heavy" burdens.  I have wanted to crawl back in bed and avoid my responsibilities.  I have felt poured out, over committed, and weary.  I have wanted to be left alone.   I get up in the morning and plod through my to-do list, hoping that I can make everybody happy.  Why am I so drained by the simplest of things?

 Hebrews 3:19 they were not able to enter (into his rest) because of their unbelief...

The Israelites had been led out of Egypt, but were kept out of the promised land (God's rest) because of their lack of faith.  Their deliverance did not depend on their own strength, but it depended on their belief that God could do what he said he would do.  It's the same way for us today.

4:1  The promise of entering his rest still stands but the gospel message has no value if it is not combined with faith... we who have believed (heard the message and placed our faith in it) enter into that rest.

You can obviously know the truth and still not place your faith in it.   Or perhaps like me, you trusted God in the past, but now you are distracted by the things of this world and you have forgotten to trust.
So where does our rest come from?

Psalm 62:1  My soul finds rest in God alone.
Psalm 91:1  He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty.
Matt. 11:28  Come to me all who are weary and burdened and I will give you rest.  29 Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.

Come to me
Take my yoke
Live in my shadow
Rest in me

We enter into God's spiritual/eternal rest by faith.  I don't want to be like the Israelites who struggled in the desert because of their unbelief.  I don't want to trust God for the big things (salvation, eternity) and not trust him for the little things (food, clothes).

(Lord I have not entered into your rest because I have not believed your promises that you are with me; you will help me; you will guide me; you will give me strength... I have been trying to do everything on my own and I am too weak.  Lord, I want to rest in you.  I believe that you are with me.  You will help me.  You will guide me.  You will give me strength.  My soul finds rest in you alone.)