Monday, December 07, 2009

Riding the Waves

Joe and Joey riding those gorgeous Maui waves.


When I still lived in Maui, I could sit in my living room and look out my picture window to the beautiful ocean beyond. It was a veritable parade of sights--with whales spouting, and swimmers, snorkelers, and canoe teams paddling by. In the past couple years, we began to see a new sight. People standing on surfboards--paddleboarders--would glide by, rhythmically stroking their way through the water with a long oar. It looked easy enough, so I finally tried it with a couple of my sportier girlfriends. I fell on my first attempt to stand up on the board and a couple of other times thereafter, with one particularly nasty spill over the front of my board that left me with a 4" wide black bruise on my hip. But eventually, after several attempts, I was able to balance myself on the board in the water and relax just enough to enjoy the new experience. My more knowledgeable friends told me the waters were actually a bit too rough that day with little white caps all around us, and that people usually only paddle board on glassy waters.

I finally managed to keep my balance by keeping my knees bent and rolling with the waves. If a wave came in off the left, then I bent my left knee and then my right as the wave tipped my board and rolled on underneath me. If the wave came from the front of my board, I bent both knees to absorb the impact, and kept a wide sideways stance, steadying myself by going with the rise and fall of the board. I quickly learned that I couldn't lean on the paddle at all. It was only good for propelling me forward, and sometimes it was a distraction or the actual cause of my downfall, if it got hooked in the water at the wrong angle.

My life now, after terrible loss, feels very much like trying to keep my balance on a board in the midst of a rough sea. I am constantly attempting to roll with the waves that strike from various sides of the board, and to prevent myself from taking a fall in the deep seas of despair, doubt and lethargy. The board I ride now is my hope of Heaven, reunion with our beloved son, and that Shining Day when God wipes away every tear. I am in a constant balancing act, trying to stay on the board, absorb the waves that come my way, and using the promises of God to propel me forward.

I admit I get knocked off my board regularly, and do a lot of swimming and work to get back up on it. Last week was such a week. We had another water leak in our house, damaging walls, carpets, ceilings and floors. We had to endure another slew of gigantic high-decibel fans upstairs and down and prepare ourselves for yet another wave of dusty, noisy repairs throughout the house. At the same time, I am spending many hours at our new church facility, priming and painting, designing and problem-solving, motivating volunteers, trying to help create an inviting environment there for our opening in January. On top of that, I have been asked to join the board of the Epilepsy Foundation of Virginia, which at any other time would have been an honor, but in grief I wonder if I have any strength to give to this worthy cause when I drain out so easily and frequently. And crowning it all, the once glad, but now sad, Christmas holiday season is upon us, and I am wanting to be present for my grandchildren and my daughters and yet I am missing my son and my previous life, when he was still here, so terribly.

Really, just one of those things all by itself would be a full load right now. All together, they have knocked me off my board, and left me treading water in the rough seas, trying not to panic, but hyper-ventilating, nonetheless. I am trying to wriggle myself back up on to my board, trying to regain my balance, trying to roll with the waves, trying not to lean on anything that won't support me, trying to get back to a place where I can gingerly paddle my way around again.

Today I am not sure how to do that. Every option, in every direction, lacks promise for relief. I can't seem to find the solution that will fix my life for this moment. So I'm bobbing in an overwhelming sea of confusion, crying out to God for help.

Today I have nothing more than a prayer for wisdom, strength, and hope. We shall see.

"And behold, there arose a great storm on the sea, so that the boat was being swamped by the waves; but He was asleep. And they went and woke Him, saying, "Save, Lord; we are perishing." And He said to them, "Why are you afraid, O men of little faith?" Then He rose and rebuked the winds and the sea; and there was a great calm. And the men marveled, saying, "What sort of man is this, that even winds and sea obey Him?"
Matthew 8:24-27 RSV

6 comments:

sharon said...

I hear your pain. It helps to be honest and let people know just how this loss has impacted you. It seems I long for someone, besides God, to listen to me, to cry out to, to understand! This time of year, very hard. Know you both are in my prayers so very much. Love You Dear Friends

karen gerstenberger said...

Dear Karen,

Thank you for your honesty; my heart is with yours.

"...trying not to lean on anything that won't support me" - boy, do I understand THAT phrase. What an awakening, when we see that there is so little in this world that will support our broken hearts. It sure simplifies life!

"I can't seem to find the solution that will fix my life for this moment. So I'm bobbing in an overwhelming sea of confusion, crying out to God for help." This seems, to me, to be both prayer and answer.

Here is what I believe, today: we cannot "fix" our lives. Were we intended to be perfect and unbroken? Not if the Paschal Mystery is to be taken seriously.

Though I believe that God mourns with us and KNOWS our pain (Mary, Jesus' mother shows that to me), we are not exempted from suffering. Jesus wasn't, nor was his mother, his siblings nor his friends. It sucks, but it seems to be true.

Your love, honesty, humility and prayer seem to me to be the only sane and reliable way to survive in the world. The world's ways have not worked to alleviate the pain of grief, for me: not perfectionism, not avoidance, not distraction, not "repair." I believe that you are on a healing path, though you may feel as if you are floundering, at times. You are calling out in the wilderness, and you are not alone. The One who blazed the path before us is with you, loving you. And friends (like me) are with you.

It's not what I thought "help" and "salvation" was going to be, but it's better than nothing. Sending you many huge cyber hugs.

A Maui Blog said...

This morning I had been singing this verse in my head. Let's sing it together:

"... and when my heart is overwhelmed, lead me to the Rock, that is higher than I ..... that is higher than I...."

Keep gliding along ...

love you,
Liza

michael, ciara, mikaela and zachary said...

Praying for you always. Love you.

flowergardengirl said...

Oh boy, I wanted to just scream---Stop! Have some HOT COCOA--from Williams and Sonoma! Get the expensive stuff. I couldn't do all that you are doing on the best of my days when I was 20.

Giving to people is exhausting work. Stuff I do designing on the computer and taking pictures is a piece of cake...interacting with people is what drains a person. Not necessarily bad--but you know it's a different kind of giving.

If I don't have it to give--I'm not a very good giver and the people receiving suffer which makes me feel guilty. So avoid all that and just do what you can right now which is a healthy thing to do.

God can use you better when you are strong. He didn't give us bodies that would run forever. He gave us bodies that healed when we were still, quiet, rested, nourished, and faithful. He doesn't want you to be Superwoman. He wants you to be Joe's wife. And that is all you have to be right now. You don't have to worry about nut'n else.

karen gerstenberger said...

Thank you for your sweet comment; I answered you in my comments. XO