Thursday, April 12, 2012

Change & Coping

I feel like a different me than when I set out a year ago.

The New me. The good with the bad and getting through big things.
What have I accomplished?
I've lived in another culture for a year.
I've learned a language.
I've helped my kids navigate public school relationships in another language and culture.
I've worshiped our Father in another language and shared about Him too.
I've traveled entirely too much.
I've dealt with chronic back pain and fatigue.
I've grieved lost time with my dad, knowing he might die of cancer.
I've dealt with stress.
I've had my ups and my downs.
I've become much more introverted - weird. (Those of you who knew me before might not believe this possible, but I've realized the benefit and the joy that comes from holding my tongue! It's so energizing to not be the center of attention now.)
I've become more appreciative. Really.
I've changed - too much to note each detail, but it's there, and I can feel it and maybe you can see it too - or maybe you can't.

Everyone asks how my trip was - unless they understand it was not a trip but my life for a year. (It's ok, really. I like sharing. I get it.)

I came home from France and waded through my thoughts and emotions of transitioning from my home culture of a year to my changed home culture in the States.

Life in the great USA is still great, but it is different.
I can't explain to you why, but I'll try.:
Maybe it's the busy that people hold as more important than time with family and friends.
Maybe it's that people are willing to check out from society by putting in their ear buds.

Maybe it's the technology. Everyone checking their $200 phones (or in my case a borrowed flip-phone - I have to adapt to culture even a bit, don't I? or my borrowed iTouch.)

Side Note:
I had to laugh at the fact that when I was visiting my family we were all playing a game against each other on our devices while we were in the same room! We were playing games just like we used to only this time it was without pencil and paper and it was called  "Draw Something" instead of Pictionary. (I thought this was fine since we had all thoroughly connected verbally for days as we visited Dad in Hospice and consoled each other - so we got our "Face Time" in *wink*).

Life here in the US is just faster, and I am amazed at how much we eat here in such little time.
In France, we ate well, but it was over many hours - not a marathon Thanksgiving stuff your face kind of meal, but a little of this and a lot of conversation. (Don't get me wrong - I love Thanksgiving!)
Here we also would grab a meal on the run and eat it in the car - why?? It's so much messier that way and a lot less enjoyable.
I miss walking and biking everywhere in France. Do people do that here? I find things are way too far away to make that work well. How dependent we are on fuel.

Anyway, life is different for me since my experiences have increased.  
Life is different for me now that my dad is gone. (I'm so thankful we were able to be with him before he passed away).

I've dealt with just a little bit of what my mom went through as my father's caregiver. I was able to help out for a few days as his sole caregiver while she was working, and I did not envy my mom's job of his full-time caregiver. For those of you out there who deal with that on a daily basis. I understand you. You are not alone. I felt so alone and lost trying to do what was best for dad in my human strength. When we're tired and worn, we sometimes forget to look to the One who cares for us.
1Peter 5:7 : Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you. 
I know I forgot to do that at times. If you are trying to cope with giving your all for your loved one, I encourage you to find someone to talk and cry with (Thanks Brent!). A friend, a caregivers' support group, a church cell group.  It helps. 
It's hard to see your loved one fail. To see their health decline and their mind go - to see time shift and slip from their reach while your life keeps blurring by. (I encourage you to look into respite care at a Hospice house if your loved one has a terminal disease and  care-giving gets to be too much.) It doesn't make you love them any less if you get help. 

I had to get creative with how I processed all that was going on
I needed to be alone a lot more.
I needed quiet. 
I needed to veg out in front of the TV so that I wouldn't dwell on it and hyperventilate. (I have had panic attacks over the past year - gee I wonder why!) My dad's life was slipping away - his skin could not keep his soul in his body any longer. 
I needed to cry. I still do.
I needed to draw again. 
Oddly enough I did not want to be with friends or talk on the phone about it. I was avoiding processing that part with anyone other than my family members (it was just to much to explain over and over.)
I needed to be with my kids sometimes and pour into them to fill the lack that I know the years ahead will hold. They are grieving too.

It's weird to think that I fit into a category now: 
I'm 32 and I no longer have a dad. My mom is a widow. 
When does this sort of thing happen? 
You never see it coming even when you have a year and a half to prepare after prognosis. 

Deut. 10:17-18 : 17For the Lord your God is God of gods and Lord of lords, the great God, mighty and awesome, who shows no partiality and accepts no bribes. 18He defends the cause of the fatherless and the widow, and loves the alien, giving him food and clothing.  

It's nice to know we will be taken care of.
I'm getting to the place where I understand the beauty of a life after this one.  Life everlasting is the HOPE that I can cling to when life on this earth gets me down. I'm so thankful that it is available to me and to you.
For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.  (From John 3:16-17)

This Easter, I received a little gift from our Father.
I had a vision while I was wide awake. In my mind's eye I could see my dad. 

In this vision, he looked like himself but had the disposition of a little child. He was standing next to Jesus and he asked, "Hey, do those holes in your hands and feet still hurt?" Jesus told him, "Not anymore. They are scars of joy now." Then he hugged my dad and my dad grinned the most contented grin I have never seen him have in his entire life (and my dad laughed a lot!). What a treasure that I will always cherish: to know that there is joy and release from pain and sorrow waiting for those of us who trust in Him when we walk from life into eternity. 

This is how I cope.

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