Friday, October 07, 2011

One year later.... graces, big and small (170.6)

Today is the anniversary of my dad's death.  That day marked the end of the most difficult, challenging, gut-wrenching year of my life. 

The 12 months that have passed since his death have been full of significant changes for me.  I've written about those changes as they've happened, here on my blog.  I don't want to go through a list of them today.

Today I want to talk about all the grace I now see at work in my life.

Last Friday I had an extremely frustrating day.  Nothing was going right.  I had a long list of things I needed to get done at work, but I got sidelined with an unexpected client issue instead.  I also had email and computer problems that day.  I banged my head against the wall for hours, getting nowhere. It was very frustrating, and I broke down at one point because I felt so out of control and helpless.

At the end of the day when I was on my way home, it hit me--I haven't had a bad day like that in a very, very long time.  From January 2010 to October 7, 2010, I had bad days (and worse days) several times a week.  Sometimes entire weeks were bad like that. 

I can look back now and acknowledge how utterly horrible the year of Dad's illness was.  If God only gives you what you can handle...well, he pushed me to the very edge.

I can look at today and see clearly that I am happy.  I am blessed.  More often than not, I am filled with peace.

Even when I have a bad day like last week, it's nothing compared to the turmoil I suffered before. 

And that's where the Big Grace comes in.  Because of the year of Dad's illness, I have the ability to look at "bad days" and not let them wreck me.   It's not a "my dad is in a nursing home unable to move a muscle, bitter and angry and blaming me for putting him there" day.  It's just one bad day.

A few other Big Graces:

My husband and kids are healthy. I am healthy. We have a warm, safe home. We have decent clothes. We have food in the fridge and the cupboards. 

My relationship with my mom is healing and much stronger.  Not because she has changed, but because I have changed.

I'm on the right medication to keep my moods stable.  I am not suffering from SAD symptoms because I am treating it with light therapy.  I am sleeping well.

There are so many more--Mark passed the CFP exam, we are making a living and can pay the bills, I am cooking and buying fresh foods every week (& Mark is eating what I make) and we rarely eat out anymore.

The Small Graces are things like this:

This Sunday is the Half Marathon that I've run the past 3 years.  My coworker Sara is walking it--it's her first half.  She's so excited, and I'm excited for her.  I'm also pea green with envy.  I wish I'd trained.  I want the t-shirt, the medal, the 5 gallon bucket (that's the bling every year--a 5 gallon bucket... only in the Mid West :).  I want the thrill of the accomplishment of 13.1 miles. 

Yesterday morning I was so tempted to sign up & just do it, conditioning be darned.  I schemed about what I'd have to do to swing it.... I'd need a sub for my Sunday school class, which wouldn't be that hard.  But I'd also have to skip singing in the choir.  We only have 4 sopranos, so me skipping would leave a small hole in the choir that would make me feel bad without giving the director prior notice (we can miss, he just asks for advance notice so he knows what music to plan for).  I'd also have to walk a lot of the race, which wouldn't necessarily mean I'd finish injury free.

I had a very small PLUS column, and a long MINUS column.  The answer was obvious.  By the end of the day, I was pouting because I couldn't do the race. 

Then last night at choir practice, we rehearsed our anthem for this Sunday.  Great Is Thy Faithfulness.  One of my favorite hymns ever. The arrangement is beautiful and has wonderful soprano sections.  Vocally, it's simple but challenging. 
Our choir director is a professor of music at the private university in town, and he is also the conductor of our city's Philharmonic Chorus.  He conducted at Carnegie Hall this year; he's extraordinarily talented.  He brings out the best in us.  It's a privilege to sing in his choir. 
Normally we sing in a choir loft at the back of the sanctuary, so the congregation doesn't see us (we see the backs of their heads, except when someone occasionally turns around to look at us if we are singing really, really well).  This anthem is best sung with a piano instead of an organ, so we are singing at the front of the sanctuary with the grand piano. We only sing up front a few times a year.  I love singing in front of the congregation.  Not because they can see us, but because I can see everyone's faces when we sing.

I won't be disappointed that I'm not running on Sunday morning, because I will be overflowing with joy when I'm singing the words of this hymn.  This is a small grace, but it means so much to me.

"Great is Thy faithfulness," O God my Father,
There is no shadow of turning with Thee;
Thou changest not, Thy compassions, they fail not
As Thou hast been Thou forever wilt be.
"Great is Thy faithfulness!" "Great is Thy faithfulness!"
Morning by morning new mercies I see;
All I have needed Thy hand hath provided—
"Great is Thy faithfulness," Lord, unto me!
Summer and winter, and springtime and harvest,
Sun, moon and stars in their courses above,
Join with all nature in manifold witness
To Thy great faithfulness, mercy and love.

Pardon for sin and a peace that endureth,
Thy own dear presence to cheer and to guide;
Strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow,
Blessings all mine, with ten thousand beside!

A year ago, I don't think I could have sung this song without breaking down and sobbing, mostly because I was sobbing almost every day anyway.  Two weeks ago when we first practiced this anthem, my voice did break a few times.  It's still very emotional for me, even reading the words now. 

"Strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow."
I'm stronger because of all I've gone through.  I feel like it's my tomorrow--filled with bright hope--at last. 
Blessings, grace, and peace.  I can't ask for more.


debby said...

Oh wow, Laura. Just what I needed to cap off the day right! Thanks so much for sharing that, and especially taking the time to write out the words to that wonderful song.

I loved the process of thinking about the race and then realizing that the joy of singing that song outweighed a bucket at the end of a LONG walk LOL!

Vickie said...

My first reaction was I couldn't believe it was a year already.

And I didn't realize it was so close to the anniversary of my husband's mother's death (almost exactly a month a part, september 7, 2010.)

But honestly as I think of her death, it seems a very long time ago.

very good post. Perspective is the key point I think.

this feeling, that you describe so well, is all tied into dealing with my aging process gracefully.

I know you have wobbled a bit with facing birthdays in the past.

would be interesting topic to combine what you wrote today with idea of aging.

Jill said...

((((hugs))))to you my friend. I'm so glad you have come out on the other side of that difficult time with a new peace and understanding. You are in such a good place right now - appreciate every minute of it! xoxo