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dear laura

a letter to myself, a year later…


dear laura
a letter to myself, a year later...

I've really been giving a lot of thought as to what I wanted to write about for this month.  Each month for the last year I have shared about where I am - emotionally and with healing from the loss of Joe. 
Today, I want to look back at that girl just one year ago - deep into her soul - and tell her all the things I wish she had known then. 
Your husband died today.  You now know things you wish you didn't.  You know what it looks like to find someone who is already gone, and what it feels like to call 911 and beg and plead for them to hurry to your aid.  You now know how to do CPR on a real person, not just a mannequin.  It's hard.  Your body is going to hurt for days after this, and not just from the physical act of this, but for so many other reasons.  You know what the words sound like when the paramedics tell you there's nothing they can do.  How it feels to have so many people in your home: paramedics, police and then a coroner.  You know what it looks like to watch them wheel a lifeless body out of your home. 
You will so bravely look into each of your children's eyes to give them the horrific news.  Can I tell you just how proud I am of you for this?  The unthinkable happened, and you mustered up the courage to tell each of them and support them as they crumbled.  You'll be shaking like a leaf on the inside, but they'll never know.  You are so strong.  You will discover a resilience inside of you that will serve you in the months to come. 
You now know how to make all the phone calls to tell people that someone has passed.
With God's strength, you are going to plan his funeral.  It will be beautiful and perfect, and exactly how Joe should be honored.  Stop worrying over all the details, it will work out just as its supposed to.  You will stand tall and confident as you greet everyone who comes (and there will be A LOT of people) - even find times to laugh - in the midst of all of this chaos.  You will not even realize how strong you are, but other's will.  They will see how strong you are in this, and it will become a bigger part of the story God is writing in this season of your life. 
You and the kids will adopt a revised family motto: We can do hard things, and we will figure it out.  You don't realize it now, but this will come up often as a sign of encouragement that you share with each other in the weeks and months to come.
But friend, I need you to know ... you are about to walk into the biggest battle of your life - emotionally, physically and spiritually.  I want to give you some encouragement from the other side, but first I need you to be prepared for what is about to come.  From this moment, the world as you know it will never be the same. 
Life as you know it is about to get really hard.  You are going to wonder if you remember how to breathe.  You are going to spend many nights crying out to God - asking Him all the questions and the enemy is going to fight you hard.  He's going to see you crying out to God and he won't like it.  So not only are you going to be waging a war against earthly battles, you will also be waging a war against spiritual battles. 
These are harder to fight, I must warn you.  These battles of the unseen are dark, and the enemy wants to win.  But deep inside, you have to believe he won't.  You have to believe that God has the final say, and although you're not sure how, you will also win this battle. 
You will turn away from alcohol during this time.  Even in the moments of so much confusion and chaos, this will be a strong moment of clarity that will serve you well in the months to come.  It will make you feel each moment harder, but numbing these emotions will not serve you well.  So choose to feel.  Choose to address them head on, and not numb.  Not only will this serve you in this season, but for all the seasons to come.  In doing this, you will break the chain of turning to alcohol.  This will be a battle you'll fight hard for, but you'll win it. 
Life is going to keep pulling your feet out from under you for a few months.  Grief is going to try hard and keep you down, but you have a resilience deep down in you that keeps your head above water.  This grief will sit heavy in your mind.  It will make you struggle to carry out normal day to day activities.  You will cry at any moment.  You will lose your appetite for food, and for laughter. 
You will struggle in social situations.  There will be a deep anxiety that lives beneath the surface of your skin that grips your heart and begs you to retreat - and for a while, you will.  You will pull back.  You will close in your circle and apologize often for not finding a way to get out of the house more.  You will barely get by in normal activities.  You will not put yourself in a lot of situations where there will be people - and the times you do will cause you to fight hard against this anxiety and leave you exhausted.  Tired to your bones.
But sleep, as tired as you are, sleep won't come.  This exhaustion will weigh heavy on you.  It will make you feel as if you're wearing a weighted suit all the time, slowly moving through life.  Life will feel like quicksand.  One wrong step and you'll be back in the middle of it.
You will lose not only Joe this year, but nine other people in your life, including Wayne, your father-in-law.  It will be a tough year of grieving over people you love, but remind yourself of the promise in Psalm 56:8 - that God records our misery and holds our tears.  Remember that He knows every ounce of our pain and more, and He will see us through it. 
You will find some light in these heavy days and start to feel like you're turning a corner, and then the waves of life will come crashing all around you. 
You will wonder if this is what life will be like for the rest of your life. 
You will reach for your phone more times than you can count to call Joe, and you won't be able to.  It's in these moments, you'll start to call out to God more.  

... and that's when it will all start to change.

You will find the courage to take a step forward.  You will find the courage to reach out and join a small group.  You will start rebuilding your circle with some warrior women of faith, who pray fervently for you - as you do for them.  These women will love you big, and will allow you to be just as you are in these moments.  No judgment, just love.  You all will find some level of healing together.
You will take God's hand and start to learn what healing looks like.  Two verses will become anchors for you during this time.
Romans 8:28 - And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose.
Romans 12:2 - Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.
Know now that you will not be permanently in this, because you set your eyes on Jesus.  You will learn that there is complete restoration in the end, but the only way out of the valley is thru it. 
You will have to ask yourself daily: Do you want to be healed?  When you answer yes, this will open the door a little more each time for your healing.
You will learn that Jesus has authority over your healing and rather than making excuses for your brokenness, you will learn to embrace your circumstance.  This will require you to prune some things out of your life.  It will require you to become really uncomfortable with emotions that you've settled into comfort with.  Keep working on it, it will be worth it.
You will begin walking through the valley and taking on each emotion, one at a time.  This will be so very hard.  But as you have adopted a new life motto, you know you can do hard things, and you will figure it out.  You can and you will.  You can, and you do. Learning to heal your heart is so very hard, but it's also so worth it.  God will show you how, and how to do this for you.  This healing is different and personal for each person that goes through it - but partnering with Him will give you the blueprint for your own healing
From there, you will learn to identify emotions and use them as a gauge to everything in your life.  You will learn how to use each of those emotions as an invitation for healing in different areas of your life - not just from loss.  There's a lot more healing you need to work on friend, and you will. 
You'll travel, alone. 
In this travel, you will start to face all of this head on.  It's in this trip that you will break the chain of fear of being alone.  You will eat out by yourself.  You will cry in public.  You will watch other families enjoy being together, and you will face the reality that the family you once knew, will never get the opportunity to do that again. You will wrestle hard with God over this one - but over time He will show you that your family is not destroyed, it's just different now.  You are not a broken family, but one that has been redeemed by His great love, in spite of loss.
You will love big this year, but not in the way you expect.  You will grow a deeper love for your children.  You will start to see them with a clearer vision and realize just how special each of them are.  You have always known this, but God is about to reveal some incredibly special attributes in each of them in the form of their spiritual gifts.  This will be really amazing times for you.  More importantly though than this, with God's help, you will learn to love yourself again.  You have been in an ugly spiral of self loathing for years, and this year that chain will break and fall off.  You will start to see yourself the way God sees you, and you will love yourself again.  As His beloved.  As His beautiful daughter.  As an undeniable force to be reckoned with.  A mighty warrior who is resilient and fights to get her life back. 
You will rediscover your identity in Christ.  This will be one of the most transformational things you will ever experience.  Through this heart work, you will solidify your identity as His.  Looking onto Him for security and love.   This identity shift will center you.  It will make your heart whole and it will bring you incredible peace.  The peace you have been searching for your entire life.   That peace you find will be a new way of existence for you.  It will run through your veins and captivate any negative thought, and the grace of God will cover it - as that is your old way, and His way is your new.
You will discover His protection over your life, but not in the way you think.  You will immediately see his fingerprints in your life.  Through all of the crazy circumstances and happenstances, to the very obvious and 'no way other than God' moments.  God will show you His field of protection over your family.  There will be no denying this as He reveals it to you this year.  You will have this prophesied over you.  It will be revealed to your kids in their prayer time.  You will see it in your own prayer time, and you will receive visions of this in many dreams.  There will be no doubt that God has you. 
God will start to download new thoughts and revelations to you as you learn to hear His voice.  You will wonder at times if you are crazy, but realize that it's God speaking His new life into you.  These will be life sustaining revelations during hard times.  Write them down.  You will want to remember them.
Oh and in regards to writing, you remember that quote you've had on your wall for the last 10+ years?  You know the one: A day will come when the story inside of you will want to breathe on its own.  That's when you'll start writing.  Can I tell you?  You actually call yourself a writer now.  You don't have anything published yet, but writing has become your therapy and the story is pouring out of your mind and onto pages like you always dreamed. 
You are going to rekindle old friendships from your past and meet new people this year as well.  These relationships will have a depth that you've only dreamt about before and they will become invaluable to you.  These will be people that help deepen your understanding of the character of God and encourage you to draw closer to Him.  This is further proof of God's provision over your life.  Don't miss it. 
Just before the close of the year, you will travel to Israel.  I know this seems so out of character for you, but when the opportunity comes up, you say yes and make it happen.  Israel will bring color back to your world.  I can't explain it other than, God is going to light a fire under your faith so big this year, and Israel will be the fuel to keep it going.  You will find so much clarity on this trip.  You will start to see Jesus through a much different lens - but this lens is clearer.  It is the ultimate lens of His love.  You will bring this lens home with you, and your world will never be the same.  You will meet some amazing people on this trip, and you will carry them as part of your home into life when you return.  They will become an instant part of your family - one you can lean on, pray with and for.   This experience will alter your reality and turn your world upside down.  You are going to love it and immediately start planning a trip to return. 
Your sleep will be restored, and rest will become a priority.  You will learn that working from a place of rest brings clarity and energy to your work.  This shift will also be huge for you, but dropping the hustle culture from your life will become a high importance for you as you move forward.  Your priorities will shift greatly with this, and you will find that you prioritize things you want in your life vs the things you feel like you have to do.  In this priority shift, you are much more fulfilled every day because you are doing things that bring joy to your life. 
On joy.  You will rediscover joy.  Actually, you will discover joy.  You have never felt joy like this before in your life.  God is going to bring you such joy that it radiates abundantly.  You will laugh uncontrollably this year.  You will not know how to contain all of it, and it will become infectious to those around you.  Embrace this, it's so good.
You will truly learn how to be empathetic to others, and this will develop as an emerging spiritual gift for you.  You will develop a voice for helping other women solidify their own identity in Christ and start to teach them just how to walk through hard seasons.  This part of the story has just begun, so I encourage you to be patient as God reveals His perfect plan here.
Once all of this is done, you will find restoration.  You will find your heart and mind restored and transformed just as Christ promised in His word. You will have straightened that crown that God gave you, walk a little taller, with His confidence and authority between your shoulders holding you high.   Your life will become whole again.  This will be the best way to honor Joe's memory now.  To walk forward, complete and whole in Christ.  To allow your kids to have a front row seat to your healing.  To show them it's ok to cry and grieve, but because God tells us we are transformed, we have the obligation to walk forward believing it and owning that transformation. 
...and for every moment of this past year, you will be thankful.  Thankful that you have a God who loves you and uses every moment of our lives for His purpose and glory. 
Hold on my friend, this year is going to be a wild ride, but it's going to be so worth it.