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Day Twelve: Thanksgiving

November 28th, 2013

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Thanksgiving Day

I’ve really enjoyed my 12-day writing adventure this year, and as usual I feel richer for having done it. It’s been good to press myself to acknowledge and articulate some of the blessings we are experiencing, even while we are still in the process of accepting our grief and the changes it has brought. It’s been important for me to recognize some of the shifts in perspective God has provided for my heart that have enabled me to keep moving forward during this last year — one of the most difficult of my life.

As we’ve had the opportunity this week just to be, my time and thoughts have been free to wander through our blessings. It’s helped me notice a few things. And be thankful. Here’s what I’ve seen.

We are enjoying moments when our spirits are free. Free from the weight of some of the circumstances of the past years.

We are laughing. From deep within our hearts.

We are talking and laughing and remembering moments with Mike. And that process feels good.

We are creating and building and chasing and finding. All the things that help me know we are regenerating our lives.

We are fretting and fussing and arguing and tired and confused and selfish and angry and juggling and frustrated. At times. Because we are normal. Normal people. Normal siblings. Normal kids. A normal mom. This grieving and changing hasn’t kept us from just being regular people.

We are wandering. Through pastures and hay yards and elementary school and working single motherhood. And mostly enjoying the effort of finding our way. Because we are growing.

We are whole. In spite of our loss. Of a husband. A friend. A father. A companion. We are still complete.

We have traditions. They are changing and adjusting as our lives have changed. Like all traditions do. And should.

We are hopeful. Because we can’t not be. As we embrace every step of learning and every step of changing and every step of growing brought by three little ones and a mother trying to keep up, we can’t help but see the possibility of life. Undiminished by the loss of a life.

We make plans. About next week and next summer and next year. We continue to move and work and learn and play each day. And we look forward to what’s next. Because it reminds us life is rich. And deep. And wide. And beautiful. Something I wasn’t sure we could believe again.

We live. And so we are thankful. For the two can not be separated in our hearts.

I keep coming back to this every year, it seems. At the end of every 12-day journey. At the end of every day. That God is indeed good. So good. And His mercy in our days and in our hearts endures.

It endures. Forever.

Happy Thanksgiving.

© Haley Montgomery

Day Ten: Mud Puddles

November 26th, 2013

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Well, we’ve had nearly two days of rainy weather here at the farm. So far it’s rained out our annual Busy Bee Bonfire, celebrating Bug’s and my birthdays. It’s dampened (literally) our outdoor fun, but we’ve still managed to get in a few walks.

In the midst of drizzling rain this morning, my mom drove into town for some errands and returned with four new pairs of rubber boots — two pink and two red. Suddenly, the rainy day got a little bit brighter.

Something about the prospect of wearing bright colors on our feet in defiance of the cloudy day lifted our excitement level to a new high. I imagine it also had something to do with the ability to wade through mud and puddles unencumbered by the need to keep our feet dry.

So, this afternoon, we scrambled to don our new footwear, tuck in our britches, layer up the sweatshirts and splash some puddles. We walked the full length of our private road in both directions without dodging any muddy places. In fact, we steered our steps toward quite a few ruts just to test their depth.

I love how something so mundane can shift the wind of a discontented attitude. The prospect of a new and fun way of braving the weather together changed the wind and cloudiness from gloomy to celebration. All it took was one little thing to be excited about. One little thing to choose to enjoy. The boots didn’t magically make the sun come out. But, to hear the sounds of our own laughter and joy, it was clear the clouds were banished from our thoughts.

Today was a good reminder for me that the forecast of our lives isn’t dependent on stormy circumstances. It is dependent on our ability to allow ourselves to be open to joy and contentment in spite of the difficulties.

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© Haley Montgomery

Day Seven: Morning

November 23rd, 2013

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This morning we woke up at the farm. We arrived at Busy Bee last night and settled in for a week of Thanksgiving holiday. The children are always beyond excited when we arrive and eager to get reacquainted with the farm house. In the mayhem, it was nearly 11 o’clock when we climbed in bed.

I like the morning here. It’s quiet. Morning at the farm seems more quiet than when we wake up at home, but I’m not sure it actually is. It helps that we are almost always here to relax. So, perhaps it’s my thinking that’s quieter. We don’t have a central heating unit in our farm house, so wintertime means simple gas heaters in our rooms. It’s a quiet heat without the on-and-off hum of air blowing. I think we wake up more slowly here because it’s quiet. The light slowly filters in with the rising sun. It coaxes us back to consciousness without the buzz of alarms. We are urged awake by the promise of a day filled going just where our whims tell us to follow.

We all need those times, whether in a farm house or other parts unknown. Times apart from our routine and schedule and daily surroundings to regroup.

I feel like I’ve been in a year of regrouping. When I think about last Thanksgiving spent here at the farm, I remember so much numbness. It had been two months since Mike died and I was still dumbfounded by the changes. I was numb to most of the people around me except for this hyper sensitivity to my children and their well-being.

Joining my extended family for Thanksgiving lunch today, I noticed a change in myself — or maybe a return to myself. I was able to visit and talk and interact, to take an interest in people around me. A year ago, I couldn’t do it. It just seemed completely overwhelming, like I was watching everything from a distant corner of the room even though I was sitting right there. Today I was there.

This morning was quiet. Quieter than a year ago. And even in the twilight of my sleep, I was more awake.

© Haley Montgomery

Day Six: On Writing

November 22nd, 2013

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12 Days of Thanksgiving

This week I talked to a dear friend I hadn’t visited with in a while. It was just a random encounter using Facebook chat — not ideal, but one of those conversations I think must have been some kind of divine appointment. She told me she was glad I was writing again, saying the 12 days series was giving her a glimpse of how I’m doing. And she made one of those observations I love her for…

“Writing seems to be one of the best processing tools for you.”

Yep, I could probably write a whole essay on those friends who seem to know me through and through regardless of how long it’s been since we’ve talked, but that’s for another time. I’ve been struggling with writing this year, as evidenced by the lack of posting here. Fewer posts mean there are even fewer personal journal entries.

I love to write. It helps me know my own soul. I know this about myself. But, I’ve had trouble finding the motivation this year. I even considered letting go of EyeJunkie altogether. But I couldn’t. Somehow this writing space feels like it’s tethered to my heart. Right now, even after almost no essays this year, I still feel like discontinuing this blog would be like cutting part of myself out of my life.

Before I decided to write this Thanksgiving series again, I had not posted an essay since May. In my last one, I wrote about having taken a break — right before I took ANOTHER long break. At the time, I had been looking for a way to write beyond my experiences with my husband’s death, a way to write from life and joy rather than death. I thought I was ready, and then promptly lost the will to do it. It’s funny how a favored activity can be such a double-edged sword sometimes.

I remember measuring my documentation of the grieving process as if it had surely become tiresome to everyone and simultaneously feeling compelled to give an account of coming through this process to the other side. That double-edged sword. I loved being open about what had happened and how I was dealing with it. I also wanted to suck back all the words as soon as they were out there. I was torn between writing for Mike’s sake, for the world’s sake and for my own sanity. Sometimes I felt this odd need and obligation to simply let my world know we were moving forward. Moving in some way. So that the experiences of grief and confusion weren’t left just hanging there.

This week’s conversation with my friend made me trace back through all those reasonings and obligations. To think and remember and question. And learn from myself about why this act of written processing matters. To question why I’m NOT writing. My answer brought me back to one more encouragement…

“Give yourself some grace and write for the good of your heart.”

There it is. For the good of my heart. Not out of some strange sense of obligation. Or some arbitrary schedule. Or some need to finish what’s been started. For the good of my heart. I lost that somehow. I lost sight that this process is part of helping my heart move forward. Thinking through it and writing through it may be a slow, slow journey, but joy and healing and change come through each step.

Grieving and letting go and moving and changing. It all takes work. Hard work. And courage. The courage to look at difficult things. Confusing things. Unknowable things. It takes work to make sense of what can be understood and let go of what can’t. It takes courage to figure out the difference. It takes work to figure out myself in this new situation. It requires courage to take it all in as part of myself.

I want to be that hard-working and courageous person. I want to show my children that person. I want to see it all the way through — no matter how challenging the view — so that my children know it can be done. So that when they ask the next round of questions, I can say I don’t know. But, let’s look it squarely in the eye — together.

I’m so thankful for these reminders and for one more shift in perspective. I’m thankful for discerning friends and technology that can bring them into my living room. I’m thankful for the seed of courage waiting to be nurtured again. I’m thankful for the grace to accept Mike’s death as part of the fabric of my life — not the defining thread. I’m thankful for the step by step process that is bringing us forward.

© Haley Montgomery

Day Four: Oxen

November 20th, 2013

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12 Days of Thanksgiving

“Where there are no oxen, the manger is clean. But much gain comes from the strength of the ox.” Proverbs 14:4

Some days you can’t see the ox for the straw covering the barn. Today I missed Thanksgiving lunch with my kindergartener and first grader. I had it in my calendar for this morning. I had already purchased my ticket. I’d scheduled meetings around it. I was ready to go.

Only this morning I woke up very early before the sun was up. I couldn’t go back to sleep because I was listing in my mind the things I needed to do before our Thanksgiving holiday begins on Friday evening. Birthday presents for Bug, Book Fair purchases for Little Drummer Boy, several emails scheduled to send for a client, a website concept design, packing clothes, finding books for school, a Reading Fair project, meetings, that letter I wanted to write. So many things to do. In my early morning thinking, I made a plan for how to mark some things off the list this morning.

It was a great plan taking advantage of the dead zone that Walmart becomes at the beginning of the work day. It included an unexpected peek at Little Drummer Boy while picking up his book requests. I was able to get some emails schedules and web pages set up. But, around 1:30 I glanced carefully at my calendar and saw the two blocks marked for Thanksgiving lunch. At 9:50 and 10:40 this morning.

Fail. And there is no fail to the spirit like a mommy fail on Thanksgiving, no less.

So, the afternoon has included a few tears for me. And a much needed shift in perspective. So many times I think I get so caught up in being the best mommy, in doing the best work, that I stress myself out of experiencing the true joy of mothering or creating. I get so caught up in doing that I lose sight of being, of experiencing, of giving attention to the basics. And I forfeit the full value those core treasures bring. I forget that the errands and projects and creating ideas or special days all serve to SERVE my treasures. They aren’t the treasure. So, I can accept the untidiness of a schedule perpetually half-fulfilled. As long as I can focus on the strength those treasures bring to every single day. And, when the duties and activities cease to contribute to that strength, I can give myself permission to let them go.

Where there are no oxen, the manger is clean. Thank God he’s given me such a mess.

© Haley Montgomery

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    Thank you for seven years of encouragement and sharing this story. You can find Haley's current essays and design work at smallpondgraphics.com

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