Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Eight Decembers ago, part 1

I'm not sure what triggered this thought this morning, but December is a pretty special month in the Dan & Jessica story. It's our love month. Meaning - this is the month that God did some pretty big miracles in our hearts to bring us together.

We met on April 29, 2008 at the AGR Graduation Party held at Outlaws (the "country" bar in Ames). So, depending on who you ask - we either met at a bar (Dan) or at a graduation party (me). Both are true. Dan asked me out that night - which was the first time I'd ever been asked out the first time someone met me - so I was immediately intrigued at this "decisive" person.

That summer we went on dates, but were...weird. Neither of us would have said that we were boyfriend/girlfriend, but this was the most consistently that I had gone on dates since 2004. (to be fair, I didn't date much) ...and on October 6, we had a very definite break-up talk. I cried while we talked, not because I really liked him - but because I really liked him. Meaning: I was going to miss him - not the idea of him (which is why I think a lot of us stick around with guys who are just "sort of" into us); I genuinely liked who he was as a person - and I would miss his presence in his life.

His response was, "Can't we still be friends?" (which is what he always did; go on a few dates and remain friends) And I said, "No, I don't think so. It doesn't work that way." (with my heart) But, God did a new work in my heart. I went to bed that night asking God to bring Dan back - if it was His will - when he was ready. Because the jist of our talk that night essentially was that Dan, recognizing that I was amazing (my words), but he didn't think his heart was in the same place mine was, and that I should be with someone who cherished that amazingness.

The new work that God did in my heart was - the next day, I was able to thank God for bringing Dan into my life - rather than being mad at God/Dan for not being "the one" - recognizing that God had finally brought someone into my life who recognized my worth, but who also respected my heart enough to not lead me on. And so, within 3 days, I realized that Dan and I could be friends. I let go of all fears and expectations - and just let him be...and decided to be more of me with him.

I had always wanted to be married, to be in a relationship. I often put that desire on a pedestal. When Dan and I first met, I wanted Dan to be "the one" because I wanted that relationship (not him, per se). When we want the relationship more than the person, we often will make little sacrifices of ourself - suppressing part of ourself because we might be too much or not enough - we might be rejected. For me, I didn't know how to be vulnerable with Dan. I didn't know how to trust him with my heart. I didn't know how to broach the subject of our different approaches to our faith life (Catholic vs. evangelical).

So, we broke up. God healed my heart. I started praying for "raspberry pie" (which happened to be Dan's favorite dessert - but I wasn't intentionally praying for Dan): i.e. the gift of God's grace which would be the perfect-for-me, yet surprise of a mate. [The weeekend before we broke up, I had been at a junior high retreat and the speaker gave the analogy that God's grace is like chocolate cake - which I found unappealing - so I replaced cake with raspberry pie. The raspberry pie analogy spoke to me as something I knew would love (because I love raspberries and I love pie), but had never had before.]
We had dinner the night of the election; he didn't come to my awesome 29th birthday celebration - and I didn't care because there were other guys I was also interested in there.

Then came Thanksgiving. I emailed him with an invitation to come with me to our church's Christmas play, Esmerelda (which I had previously been afraid to do when we were "dating"). He wrote me back the Sunday after Thanksgiving with a 3-paragraph response.

THREE PARAGRAPHS.

I knew that something had changed. [oh yes, I had also been praying since my birthday that God would do a miracle in Dan's life] I didn't know what, exactly...but something - because THREE PARAGRAPHS. [and yes, he agreed to come]

Two days later, I was musing to God wondering if this was all just me-sided (like I invite and he responds, but he wasn't really interested). Ten minutes after I asked God my question, Dan called inviting me to dinner that night. Ok...so, maybe not just me? 

That was December 2nd. We were going to go to Esmerelda on December 11 and agreed to have dinner beforehand. I learned that night that he was going to be in Ames on Christmas and thought, "I should invite him to our house; no one should be alone on Christmas." ...and then thought better of it because...awkward. I made the mistake of telling my mom this - who said, "You should invite him to our house; no one should be alone on Christmas." [I know Mom, but...awkward] 


Tuesday, November 1, 2016

What grief is like - the journey

[This quite accurately sums up all that I've been feeling in the last 6 weeks, I think. It's more of a poem, and while outside of my normal writing, I like it. I guess I needed to write this more than I thought I did. It was a journey for me, and fitting to end the way it does since it is All Saints' Day.]

What grief is like...

Currently, it feels like injustice.
...and injustice feels lonely.
That is not to say that I am alone. I am not.
I am surrounded by people I know love me and support me. I know that.

But, grief feels lonely.
To sob while your heart breaks,
deep, heaving sobs while sitting in your car
sitting at a stoplight trying to catch your breath

that is lonely.

To turn to the radio for cheer or comfort,
and hear a line like "your world's not falling apart,
it's falling into a place"
is like a fresh slap in the face
courtesy of your bright, shiny Christian station.

"stop holding on and just be held" is the new "let go."

Grief isn't simple. I wish it was.
I wish it was as simple as letting go and being held.
But, it's not. It's a knot.
A knot of love that is somehow a memory
A memory of love that once sweet tastes acrid in its wake

Where once, in the freshness of death, I could see clearly
The purpose of life, the purpose of love - it was all in its place
Now, the further we drift, the more fog overtakes me.
All I know is this life; how could I understand what it means to live in the wake of loss?
All I know is this earth; how can life exist when the love that was life is gone?

What I once knew, I do not know.
How to see God,
how to hear God,
how to find God in this darkness -
It is no longer clear.

The foolish sing of God's simplicity.
He is not so simple.
He is both / and. not either / or.
I understand the difference between cause and allow.
But, why does death lead to life -
but here, life feels so much like death?

What is grief? what is life?
and why do both feel like a grind?
wrung out
strung out
hung out to dry
tired of the try.

But still,
we rise.
we shine.
we press on.
we forge ahead.
we will it.

On Christ the solid rock I stand,
but sometimes, I crawl.
sometimes, I cannot stand, and I kneel.

The valley
of the shadow
of death:
it is dark.
But I fear not evil,
Your rod and your staff: power and might,
Your presence: Light.
You are with me.
So, the darkness trembles...

and I press on.
I forge ahead.
Thy will becomes my will.
Your saints surround me.
Your kingdom comes.

Monday, October 17, 2016

Announcement.....

If you follow me on Facebook, then you most likely saw the exciting news that I RAN TEN MILES (not a 10K, that's "only" 6.4 miles) on Saturday. TEN. MILES. The farthest I have ever run before - and, honestly, the fastest that I've run several miles. I never thought I'd say this, but it was awesome.
[and my time was, like 2:01 - I didn't get to the start line until 10+ minutes after the run started]



With the completion of 10 miles, I might as well tell you all: I AM TRAINING FOR A HALF MARATHON. That's right, I am purposely going to run 13.1 miles. My friend & running partner, Karen, and I are going to run the Disney half marathon the first Saturday of January (at Walt Disney World). We are running with Team in Training, the fundraising arm of the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society.

I first heard of the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society's Team in Training over ten years ago when a friend from college was training to walk a half marathon. Good for her, I thought - followed quickly with, I don't think I'll ever do that.  Over the years, I would receive postcards in the mail about training events starting and muse on the option. Ultimately, the postcard would find it's way to trash.

A couple of years ago, a student walked into my office at the University of Arizona extremely passionate about LLS. His daughter was diagnosed with a rare form of leukemia and the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society played an instrumental part in supporting his family through her treatment, which included a bone marrow transplant. Ben's energy was contagious. He was so committed that he planned to switch careers (hence his return to being a student) from investment banking to family studies/human development. It was at this time (May 2015) that I thought I could connect student development opportunities to the LLS mission.

In June 2015, Dan was offered his dream job at Michigan State. We made the decision to move and packed up in less than 2 months. The day we prepared to move from Arizona (July 28, 2015), we received news we never saw coming: Dan had T-cell lymphoma caused by the Epstein-Barr virus. We learned it was "Stage 3" - effecting lymph nodes in his neck and spleen. Later that fall, the abnormal T-cells were found in his spinal fluid.

Through it all, Dan had the best attitude. Continuing to work, plan, laugh - and LIVE even though treatments interrupted the schedule every few weeks. He viewed cancer as an inconvenience.

In January 2016, he was diagnosed with another disease, HLH (hemophagocytic lymphohistiocytosis) - even rarer than the cancer. He was declared in remission from the lymphoma in February. Long story short: the lymphoma came back with a vengeance in early July, and Dan passed away within 48 hours.

That week before he passed away, I had come home after a run - my longest so far this year (45 minutes). I was chatting, and wandering around the house, and he was lying on the couch (his back had been causing him severe pain for weeks). He reached out his hand to stop me. He pulled me to sit down next to him, and he said, "I love you."

I said, "Why do you love me?"

He said:
I love that you run. 
I love that you have dance parties in your office.
I love that you are doing things - and living life - because I can't.
I just love that you live.

So, I run ... not because I love running; but, because I can.

I am running a half-marathon because I am a good friend - and this is one of Karen's bucket list goals. We are running the Disney half marathon because if you're going to run a half marathon, why not run at Disney?

I am running with Team in Training because I want to support the research done for blood cancers. Cancer treatment options have come so far in the last 20 years; Dan was the recipient of good medicine and great care. I hope that together we can support even more advances so that those facing a diagnosis still experience the fullness of LIFE in the midst of treatment.

Karen and I have committed to raising $5600. Please join our team to cure blood cancers! If each of my 280 friends reads this and gives $20 - we are at our goal! 78% of each dollar raised goes directly into funding LLS research and providing financial assistance to families struggling with the cost of treatment. To support the cause for a cure: http://pages.teamintraining.org/mi/wdw17/JKiesling

 

Friday, September 16, 2016

What to Say

Haven't we all been there? Someone we love is hurting, and we want to take away the pain, and we feel a deep need to say something but we suddenly have a keen awareness that nothing we can ever say will come close. The result:

*Silence.*

That had been my default. I realize now that I have stayed silent in the midst of some of my friends' personal tragedies because I knew my words could do nothing. [and if my words can do nothing, what do I have to give?] [and for that, my friends, I am sorry; I am sorry that I was absent from your time of pain because I was so focused on myself and my inability - that I failed to just come near and be a friend to you]

Two months walking in the valley of the shadow of death has taught me one thing:

the grieving do not expect your words to do anything.  
So, stop worrying about your words so much. 

The best thing that you can give to the grieving is ... your story of their person. 

Really.

Tell them your favorite memory; tell them how you met; tell them the impact he had on you no matter the length of time. ...and, if you don't have a story, you should ask them to share theirs. The grieving have a lifetime of memories that we never want to lose...and yet, we may not want to become "those people" who just keep bringing up the dead. [Note: I am going to be one of those people. Dan-stories - us-stories are my favorite. So, just suck it up, friends, and listen.] (also, I know you will; I'm "just saying.")

What I want to hear from people, especially now, is their story of Dan. ...and what I REALLY want most from people, especially now, is their story of us....because, I haven't just lost Dan; I've lost us. And, if you know me at all, you know that my deepest heart desire is that my life positively influence others - and that extends, especially, to my marriage.



If you attended Dan's funeral, you might remember Father Mark saying that the hardest times for me will be coming. When I say "especially now" - I mean, "especially now." The shock is finally starting to wear away; the feeling is coming back from the numbing impact of Dan's death. Many people have been processing the absence of Dan for two months - but, it is just now starting to settle into my reality.

...and it sucks.

So, I'm going to need more hugs than I did earlier. If I'm crying, just let me talk about whatever my feeling is at that moment that is making me cry - and do not feel any need to try to talk me through the feeling or reason with me. Just let me share the feeling while I cry. ...and those stories - share those stories, my people.

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

What grief is like, part 2

The first time I fully felt the trauma of grief, I was in a yoga class in sunny, southern California. I was 2.5 weeks into this...[can't find an appropriate word so we'll leave it at "this"]. At the time, I was still very much feeling the tangible cupping of God's hands around my whole self - just like we might hold a tiny bird that has fallen out of its nest. I hadn't yet experienced the "sadness that just sits on your heart"...though I had moments each day that I cried. Honestly, God gave me a very blissful period where He literally flooded my world with light, life, love, and hope. I call it "buoyed by hope" (which is going to become the name of this blog, btw).

Anyway, I was lying on my mat as we started class, and the instructor began (like they all do), with: "Now, let go of the tension in your body...."

I felt a visceral panic at that phrase: let go. [I still do; word to the wise: don't ever tell people to 'let go' of their dying person. I didn't know how to then, and I don't now - and that just isn't the right phrase. Maybe it's me and I am just sensitive to words, but please, don't use that phrase with me.]

I realized that the tension I felt in my body was what was holding me together. The idea of "letting go" scared me. I felt like that if I lost that tension, I would be losing Dan all over again - and the idea of having to endure that again caused panic. [all while I'm just lying there and breathing; minds are powerful things]

As I moved through that session, I started to notice all the areas that I hurt, that were tense. My quadriceps, especially, seemed to ache with the poses. They'd never hurt before like that. My heart just kept wishing that this time could be over because I just couldn't do it - I couldn't confront this beast of tension...I couldn't slay the dragon of despair that had stolen my love.

I began to feel all of the trauma that my body had endured. ...and it took my breath away. During the final relaxation sequence where you relax your body into corpse pose (lying still, focusing on breath), I felt as if I was moving. Though lying completely still, I felt as if I was lying on a hammock blowing in the wind. [It was so weird]

As we left, I just couldn't shake that "woosy" feeling. I felt so disoriented - like I need to sit on the ground. When we returned home, I grabbed my journal and immediately went outside to sit on the ground, against a tree trunk...and.... I prayed. I cried a bit. PJ came outside and I asked her for a hug - and I feel like I just collapsed. I sobbed. Dan's death had just happened so fast, from out of nowhere...it just happened. So fast. From out of nowhere.

Blindsided.

That day I took a nap and woke up feeling like I had literally been driven over by a truck. The next day - same thing. In fact, for the past month, my entire body has hurt with pain. For a while, I woke up with headaches every morning. My shoulders ached. My quads could find no relief. I visited my chiropractor weekly, had two massages, went to gentle yoga when I could. I took Aleve; I slathered on BioFreeze; I used the heating pad.

The breaking point was last Wednesday. I just couldn't take the hurt any more. I felt exhausted physically, mentally, emotionally. The best way to describe it is like a rag that has been completely wrung out. Picture the rag still in your hands in that twisted motion: that is what grief feels like.



Now: praise be to God, the next morning I woke up and I didn't hurt! I have woken up the past few mornings and not hurt. So, so thankful!

Monday, August 29, 2016

What grief is like

A couple of weeks ago, during my morning quiet/prayer time, God gave me a great picture of what grief is like.

That week in particular, I had just felt that nagging sadness hanging around. Sometimes, the sadness creeps up in the morning - a lot of times, it's just after lunch. Right after I've had a round of conversation and laughs with my friends...and this giant *sigh* rolls into my life. I didn't understand how I could go from one moment of enjoying life to one that is just...heavy. 

It's not a particular thought that triggers this heaviness; it's like I am suddenly aware of its presence.
"Hi. I've been around all day. You should feel sad. You should feel empty. You should feel tired."

Sometimes, I fight it, but I try to just feel it. I might close my door and cry; or go for a walk and cry - or do something and cry. Crying helps.

I like to understand my feelings. (that's one of the reasons this blog is basically about feelings. I'm sorry I'm not a better documentarian. I do fun stuff, too. Really.) So, on a Thursday morning while I was praying the Rosary (which has been an amazing comfort), on what had been a clear morning - I opened up my eyes and saw this:


A fog, out of the blue, just started to roll in. By the time I was finished (which is about 25-30 minutes) - there was this:

By the time I left for work, there was a dense fog covering everything.

And I just thought, "Yep. That is what grief is like." I have moments of such clarity. Profound clarity - purpose and peace. Moments of joy. ...and then, just moments of grey. Where the joy of a moment ago has been clouded over with heaviness.

I did a search for "fog" in the Bible - and there are no references. There are, however, quite a few for clouds. I thought these verse from Psalm 18:9-19 are most appropriate. If anything...grieving is one the most profound opportunities for us to turn to God and truly discover how near He is to us - how closely He desires to be to us - nearer than a brother. Seek Him while He may yet be found. He wants to fight for you.

He parted the heavens and came down;
    dark clouds were under his feet.

10 He mounted the cherubim and flew;
    he soared on the wings of the wind.
11 He made darkness his covering, his canopy around him—
    the dark rain clouds of the sky.

12 Out of the brightness of his presence clouds advanced,
    with hailstones and bolts of lightning.
13 The Lord thundered from heaven;
    the voice of the Most High resounded.[d]
14 He shot his arrows and scattered the enemy,
    with great bolts of lightning he routed them.
15 The valleys of the sea were exposed
    and the foundations of the earth laid bare
at your rebuke, Lord,
    at the blast of breath from your nostrils.
16 He reached down from on high and took hold of me;
    he drew me out of deep waters.

17 He rescued me from my powerful enemy,
    from my foes, who were too strong for me.
18 They confronted me in the day of my disaster,
    but the Lord was my support.
19 He brought me out into a spacious place;
    he rescued me because he delighted in me.

Thursday, August 11, 2016

8/11

One month.

I can't even really begin to bring my mind to focus on the fact that I lost Dan a month ago. Today, the heartstrings are raw. The emotions are fresh. Today, sadness comes at me stronger than most days.

I was looking through Facebook to find a picture Dan and I took a year ago, and I just saw all of these images of our life from the past year - and the tears flowed fresh. God has protected my heart so much in the last month, sheltering me in his wings, holding me in his hands - allowing me to only feel an allotted amount of sadness each day, and a whole lot of joy and love.

I can't even begin to wrap my mind around the loss of Dan. There are moments where I don't even feel I've lost him, at all; the physical connection is lost, but the spiritual one more enhanced. My friend: I miss my friend so much. There are questions that come up in random conversations that I know Dan could answer, but I can't ask him. My Shining Steed: always reliable, ever loyal, so good to me.

Seeing pictures from the past year calls to mind how much life we made in the last year. A year ago today, I interviewed for my job. Today, I mourn for what we won't get to do together as the department power couple. (our joke) He was so excited to contribute to the Michigan State livestock judging program and establish it, once again, as a strong program; to give students something to aim for, to build their college experience around. I was excited to help him make it a reality. I was (and still am) excited to be able to contribute to the future of a program (department) that had played such a fundamental role in Dan's development as a person and professional - and in the lives of his closest friends.

Working with him was, honestly, a dream come true for me. He would joke a lot about having to work with your wife, but - I know he enjoyed it. He was proud of the work that I am doing here, and I love that I got to share that with him.

I look at this past year, and I think: we lived. We fully lived this year, and we made a life here - even in just a year.

My biggest fear a month ago was, "how will I live without Dan?" I don't mean the daily tasks of life - I know how to pay bills, cook meals, etc. I mean, LIVE - be present; enjoy the moment; love the day. THAT is what Dan taught me to do - to not worry about tomorrow, but to seek first this day: to live. When I expressed my fear to Deacon Wayne that day, he said, "Oh Jessica, you are a better student than you give yourself credit for. I think you've learned that lesson."

That, along with so much grace from God - and frequent surprises from Dan, have allowed me to LIVE this past month. There are moments that are sad, that are hard, that are good. There are moments where I cry and moments where I laugh; moments that I feel all the things, and moments when I just "am." Every day, I ask God to help me feel what I need to feel in order to heal. He does.

I've mentioned on Facebook that Dan gives me songs. Here's Month 1 Playlist:

1. You are so good to me - Third Day
2. Friends in Low Places - Garth Brooks
3. Barbed Wire Halo - Aaron Watson
4. Don't Fence Me In - Gene Autry
5. I'll Be Here For You - Randy Rogers Band
6. Crazy Love - Van Morrison
7. Rocket Man - Elton John
8. The Road Goes on Forever - Robert Earl Keen
9. Learning to Fly - Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers
10. I Turn to You - Selah


[Okay, I feel better. Thanks for listening, world.]

Sunday, July 31, 2016

Love and Marriage





One of the unexpected blessings of my trip west was the chance to celebrate with this couple their 50th wedding anniversary and renewal of their vows today. Who are they? My great uncle and aunt, Bob and Ruth Kremer. Bob is the youngest of the Kremer clan - my grandpa Joe's youngest sibling (mom's dad).

Their daughter Karen gave a beautiful tribute to them, describing them/their marriage as an example, as teachers, and inspirational. She cited their daily walks holding hands, their time spent preparing couples in their parish for the sacrament of marriage, and the way they look at each other while listening and speaking as examples.

There is so much that I love about this picture...but, I think what I love most is that it speaks to me of a legacy of love. I hear their story of faithful love, fidelity through trial, friendship, faith, hope, and prayer - and I instantly think of stories I heard about Chuck and Tillie (Temeyer), Jerry and Rita (Kies) [grandpa's sisters] at their husband's funerals - and of my own grandparents. I think of God's promise to Moses and the Israelites: to those who love me, a thousand generations will be blessed. 

I have been so blessed and touched by many of you reaching out to me after Dan's death. [I hope one day to actually write to each of you personally; today is not that day.] Many of you have mentioned how blessed/lucky he was to have me (and I feel the same)...to have cared for him - and I honestly can only say: I learned from the best.

I have had a faithful cloud of men and women witnessing to me the sacrament of marriage my entire life. They teach me everyday...and "I'm a better learner than I know; I learned the lesson."

Just a couple of months after we started at Michigan State, a graduate student (and friend) commented about how Dan and I seemed to be one of those couples who defied the odds; who could work together; who have that mystical "it." It surprised me at the time; I couldn't see it. We had problems; we fought; we didn't always see eye-to-eye - we're human. But, we trusted each other; we had that easy confidence that comes from knowing you are well loved - and we generally really liked each other's company. While I have many friends - and several, special close, heart-friendships; Dan was my first best friend. And, I think he would say the same about me.

When we were first working at the University of Arizona, we had a short walk down an alleyway from the parking garage to my building. I made him hold my hand. When we got to my building, I made him give me a kiss. He protested at first, saying, "Jessica! What if my students see me?" I said, "Good. I hope they do. They need to see a good marriage lived out."

He, too, is a good learner. He lived the lesson well.



There is no limit to love's forbearance - to its trust, its hope, its power to endure.
Love never fails. Prophecies will cease; tongues will be silent; knowledge will pass away. Our knowledge is imperfect and our prophesying is imperfect. When the perfect comes, the imperfect will pass away. When I was a child, I used to speak like a child, think like a child, reason like child. But when I became an adult, I put childish things aside. Now we see indistinctly, as in a mirror; then, we will see face to face. My knowledge is imperfect now; then, I will know even as I am known.
There are, in the end, three things that will last: faith, hope, and love. The greatest of these is love.
[1 Corinthians 13]

Friday, July 29, 2016

Grief Stages

I have received much encouragement about my writing from "my people" over the last few weeks. So, I have wanted to get back online and let you know how I am doing. I'm currently in California, staying with family: who cares about bloodline, we are connected by heart.

I've decided that I will document my process through this - like I've already been doing - and hopefully, God willing, that will not only help me, but you. I have to let my thoughts out somewhere, and God has given me a voice - so I will use it.

I just finished reading my first book on grieving: "Grieving - our path back to peace" by James White. It's a good, short read and I would highly recommend it. I'm a first-born, so I have a need to "check myself" according to norms. I have a need to know what to expect; and I have a strong desire to make sure that I am doing things "right".

Now: I know that several of you will now comment that "there's no wrong way to grieve" and "everybody's different." True. But, grief is a process that all humans are faced with, and over time, counselors have observed that though expressed differently, there are similar parts of the journey to healing/acceptance. And, if stunted or suppressed, a process that could lead to healing can instead lead to brokenness. (which is exactly what I don't want)



Everybody starts with numbness/shock - and I didn't know this. I had asked my cousin a few days after the funeral if it was normal that I didn't feel sad all the time, that I felt normal - even full of peace at times. Her response was: "Yes, God is protecting you. God is showing you that you can and will feel this way, again."

One thing I appreciated about the book was the author's emphasis on "spiral" - not steps. The concept of steps indicates that you move, linearally, methodically, sequentially through the emotions. So, your process through grief is a checklist. But, it's not. And if that's your expectation, when you circle back to an emotion again, you'll become upset with yourself and your progress (at least I would). So, in a spiral, you will come around to certain feelings again - as time progresses, but the aim is that you are leading to acceptance and hope - not bitterness and despair.

I am already feeling the spiral. There have been moments of emptiness, of irritability, of guilt/questioning, of sadness. Sometimes the sadness just feels like a weight on my chest. Sometimes I hear a song and I think of Dan and I am both happy and sad: bittersweet.

My prevailing feeling, though, has been completeness. I feel so full, so loved, so at peace - more of the day than not. I have my waves and my moments with the spiral - and I fully understand that is normal and that it can (and probably will) increase and be harder...but, I am so thankful for God and my people. I have much more to say - but, first: lunch!

(to keep you hanging on for more, dear readers) ;)

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Jessica's random heart

Well, I'm about to ruin my mascara - and probably yours, so you're welcome in advance. [Why do I even wear mascara? It's just giving me a forewarning that I'll cry later in the day.]

I started a CaringBridge site for updates about Dan's health because we've finally embraced the fact that we are going to be moving forward with a bone marrow transplant (either a research trial (3rd party) or allopathic - from a donor - his sister). There will be lots of specific prayer requests that I will throw out at you, our fantastic support system. And, I hope you know that I don't say that as lip service; truly, every time you pray for us, we can feel it.

As I worked on just writing out our journey the last two years, I am honestly overwhelmed - overcome with emotions ranging from gratitude to shock that we haven't simply survived. In the midst of some crazy chaos, we have thrived; and, I think - well, I don't think - I know, it's because we know the Calm of the storm: it's Jesus.

When I think about just the past year and all that we have endured... I have no words. Shock and awe.

It took meeting with our bone marrow doctor ten days ago for us to finally realize that we have been living in a cycle of sickness for A LONG TIME...and that the transplant, while very scary, is our best option for breaking that cycle. For a while, I think we both thought that we could do it - we have done it for years...but, at what cost?

Many of you have commented over the year about my strength - and I thank you for that. I find strength from lots of you, and from Dan, and I have a model of great strength. My grandma Ellen cared for my grandpa Joe for 3 years while he was in kidney failure, and I don't know how she did it. Now that I have lived this journey, I have such profound respect for her. These are not easy tasks, but we do them because we can't imagine any other way. We don't know how to not do it, to not give, to not love, to not wear ourselves out in the caring for the person we love most.

While we certainly don't do it perfectly, and each day is its own battle with a cross to bear... we continue to press on because that is the way forward to life. We may cry, but that is where we find release. I find such healing from my tears. I am not ashamed to cry or to feel so deeply.

But creating this site was a really big deal for me, you guys. I'm admitting that this...this...is so much bigger, so much more serious than I live my life thinking. I kind of have this thought that these sites are only for the serious, life-threatening things...and to admit that this is where we are - damn, you guys! "I can't even" put it into words.

Also, I'm really quite disappointed that I can't customize the site more. The "cover page" (in facebook language) options are so super lame. What I WANT that part of the page to say is this because it's my mantra right now:

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and God of all encouragement, who encourages us in our every affliction so that we may be able to encourage those who are in any affliction with the encouragement with which we ourselves are encouraged by God.
For as Christ's sufferings overflow to us, so through Christ does our encouragement overflow. If we are afflicted, it is for your encouragement and salvation; if we are encouraged, it is for your encouragement, which enables you to endure the same sufferings that we suffer. 
Our hope for you is firm, for we know that as you share in the sufferings, you also share in the encouragement.

This is what it's all about for me. In the last year, God has become so much closer, so much more tangible to me through this affliction and suffering. To think how far off from him I was then, and how much more there is of His heart for me to know...I am only on the far edge. I am closer than I was, but still so far from really grasping how wide, and high, and deep is the love of Christ Jesus for us.

I gather strength and encouragement from those who have walked the road of suffering and affliction before me; who have endured the pain of seeing their spouse suffer...they have given me strength to do this...and that will overflow into the hearts of those who walk with us. We are the body of Christ - and we must journey together if we are to find healing and wholeness.