Over the past several weeks, I have really struggled. I mean really struggled. It has been a very different type of struggle. I have been filled with this hopelessness and bitterness as the reality of my “new normal” really began to sink in.
My day starts now with the sound of an alarm clock squawking at me instead of a 5 year old whispering in my ear that she is hungry. I get up and get ready to go to work and there is no battle with Lauren to get her to put her shoes on so we aren’t late. The bus drives through the neighborhood and I watch her friends bounce off of the bus always waiting for her to get off…then remembering she will never get off that bus. My house is organized and picked up all the time. Instead of it looking like Toys R Us on steroids, it looks like a model home that has been staged for a picture. There are never huge piles of dirty clothes that need to be washed; two loads every Sunday is easy to keep up with. The nights that used to stress me out with how to balance dinner, homework, and the extracurricular activities, now slowly pass by often feeling like bedtime is never going to come. Weekends that were once filled with festivals and fall activities as a family, are now filled with quietness or conversations about what life used to be like. The exhausting moments of life that used to be filled with me pleading for a moment to be alone by myself, are now replaced with hours of loneliness each day.
The reality is that I have a new normal…and I hate it! Everything in me wants to run back to my “old life” and hold on to it with everything I have. I fight this battle every day; the new verses the old. I want to take my old life and make it my new life, but guess what I’ve figured out lately? I can’t. No matter how hard I try. No matter how hard I bargain and negotiate with God. No matter how much I scream and cry, I can’t do it.
I have experienced more pain in my heart than I ever thought possible. I probably have many more gray hairs now than I used to. My eyes may never stop watering as I have probably cried enough tears to flood an ocean. I probably have a few more wrinkles on my face and chronic neck and upper back issues. The reality is that my life will never be the same…and I hate that!
To make it worse, I have never felt as attacked by Satan as I have in the past 6 months. He is trying as hard as he can to keep me down, keep me feeling isolated, and trying hard to destroy my faith and relationship with God. He has attacked me by trying to overload me with guilt about everything. He has attacked my marriage by trying to drive a wedge between Aaron and me. He has attacked my family by allowing hurtful thoughts or words to be expressed. He has attacked my job by bringing up painful memories. He has attacked my friendships by trying to convince me that no one cares anymore. He has attacked my faith by trying to convince me that God doesn’t love me or care about me. He has attacked my life by trying to convince me that I have no identity anymore since I am no longer a mother. He has attacked the community by trying to stop Lauren’s love that is spreading. There are moments where it has felt like he has won. There have definitely been moments where I have been knocked down and sometimes even beaten up some by him, but there have also been many victories against him!
By God’s grace and love, and by reading scripture, and by praying and listening, and by surrounding ourselves with good people, and by leaning on friends and family, we continue to defeat him. My marriage is different now, but I still love Aaron just as much today as I did before Lauren died. Family relationships are different but my family is stronger and closer and communicates even more. My job at the preschool is different but I still have amazing, little children, their families, and the staff that I get to love on and feel loved by every day. Every relationship with friends is different now, but we have gained some beautiful, new friendships that I cherish greatly. My faith is stronger now than it has ever been! I have learned to pray more and to let God take control of my life. I still struggle daily with the loss of my identity as a mom, but I have so many precious and beautiful memories of us together that I will forever be thankful for. And Lauren is definitely having an impact on the lives of so many including this community and around the city, state, and country. Her love is spreading like a wildfire!
Yes, the past six months have been hard, but I have learned so much! I’ve realized that I have a choice to make each day; do I get out of bed and fight the day or stay in bed and drown myself in self-pity? (I have gotten out of bed every single day since March 20th!) I’ve really thought about how every day is a blessing and how there is no guarantee for the next day. I’ve realized that I am beyond blessed to have an army of amazing people who have walked this journey with me every step of the way. I’ve realized what it means to feel truly loved and cared for. I’ve realized that living my life with despair, bitterness and hopelessness is not what Lauren would want for me! I’ve realized what it means to truly have to trust God and believe that He is here with me and taking every step with me. I’ve realized that God has blessed me with so much in life, and even in this greatest tragedy, He continues to bless me. I’ve realized that God has a beautiful plan for me that is bigger and better than I can ever design or plan. I’ve realized that even in the worst moments of life, there is the ability to see beauty and love.
I don’t know what you are facing in life right now that is hard but chances are there is something. Maybe it is a slight bruise or maybe it is a massive, gushing wound. Whatever it is, I want you to know that you are not alone. I am here for you. Aaron is here for you. You have friends and family that are here for you. And God is here with you, walking hand in hand with you every step of the way, even if you don’t feel it.
I encourage you to stop, and breathe, and take a moment to look for the beauty and the love in the situation. I’m sure if you try hard enough you can find something beautiful or filled with love. It is hard. It would be much easier to just see the negative and to have bitterness or anger, but I promise you, beauty and love will make you feel much better than bitterness and anger ever will. Please know that no matter how hard life is, with support from others, the love of God, and the desire to move forward, we are all resilient and have the ability to bounce back.