Wednesday, January 27, 2016

It's hard to contain my excitement (I jumped up and down)

Lord willing, I'll be in Germany in a year and a few months. First of all, that's super exciting. Studying in Germany has honestly been a dream of mine since probably eighth grade, which is when I first realized that it was an option.

I'm applying for supplemental funding, because plane tickets aren't cheap, etc., etc. One of the scholarships asked me to cook up a research project to do while in Germany. It's a lot to explain, but mine has to do with German environmental preservation efforts and their roots in German history, simply put. As such I'm doing some research about German preservation efforts and change over time to write my proposal...

...and I am so excited. So, so, so excited. Molly made a fun of me a little for how much I jumped up and down when I found an article that helped me move forward. This is so exciting. What started out as a requirement is turning into a project that I want to research whether or not I get the scholarship.

And this is how I've reached the conclusion that for right now, I am exactly where I need to be. Not that I didn't think that before, but it's yet another awesome reinforcement of how Daddy loves to bless in surprising ways (research isn't something we all get excited about, I guess) and how right he was about bringing me to Iowa of all places on the planet...and sending me (hopefully) to Germany. Finding pieces of what I am passionate about is encouraging and such a blessing.

Ahhhh. I love this. Thank you, Daddy.

Friday, January 22, 2016

In-between space

I'm really grateful for the people who support me. For the professors who understand that I cannot find the motivation to do my work today, for the friends who take me book shopping and give me hugs, for the friends who text me to check in from hundreds of miles away, for my brothers for sharing sad space with me and laughing at videos of monkeys in the snow.

It's a strange in-between space today. Some of it has to do with being so tired from staying up last night to get work done, I'm sure. Some of it is just residual sad from Max dying. I'm starting to understand why so many people write about grief-- it changes in ways I don't expect it to and is different every time. What a beast of a thing. 

In my essay class last year, which focused primarily on creative nonfiction, one of the guys wrote a brilliant and moving piece about grief. It was a braided essay (you can look that up if you want to know more. It's a cool form), and one of the strands was a story about how he had a summer job in a department store. Every day that he went to work, he passed a perfume booth lady who always offered him samples. One day, he decided, spurred by a video of a similar situation online, to yell "NO" loudly at the lady when she offered. He was sure that he had finally solved the problem. But the next day, she still offered. 

He closed his essay with a beautiful paragraph about how grief is like the people at the mall kiosks offering you samples. No matter how many times you walk past, no matter how many times you say, "no," no matter how loudly you say, "no," they are always there and will always offer. Grief is the same, he says. No matter what you tell it, how you try to avoid it, what you think about it, it will still linger. 

Analogies aren't perfect, but this one helps me understand where I am.

In this in-between space, I am caught between immediate sadness and inevitable healing and numbing with time. I am caught between being "allowed" to spin my wheels for a while and being asked to move on with my life. I am also caught between feeling loss and knowing that Daddy has bigger hands than I do, for which I am grateful.

My dog, grandma, cat, friends...they all might slip through my hands, but Daddy still holds them dearly. He happens to have this whole running-the-universe thing down pretty well. I love that even now, even as I struggle to convince myself to do my work, even as I keep encountering random sad patches, He is sovereign, good, and worth praising always. What a wonderful God. 

Thursday, January 21, 2016

This isn't a very upbeat post

So, long story short, my family put my dog down today. My mom called me right before I went to conditioning practice (all of the big phone calls seem to come right before ultimate practices/games).

I was okay, at first. It kinda felt sad. But an expected sad. He was, after all, 15 years and 9 months and 5 days old, which is quite old for a Golden Retriever. Goldens, according to Google, have a life expectancy of 10-12 years. Well, ya blew that one out of the water, Max. You always blew everything out of the water though-- you were a great dog like that.

My younger brother took that picture of Max this summer. You can't even tell that really, Max's just a giant, lumpy conglomeration of tumors. He couldn't stand then and wore a diaper at night (a thing he'd be shocked to read on the internet, if he could read; he was a proud dog).

I have a strange relationship with grief and my emotions in general. If you know me, there's a good chance you know that already. The past year feels like it's been full of lessons about grief and being okay with how I feel.

Before my grandma died, we joked about if she would outlive Max, or if Max would outlive her. After she died in March, I struggled to feel like I was allowed to feel sad but also struggled to feel like I was "sad enough." It felt like my sad wasn't enough to express how grateful I was for everything she did for me, but it also felt like my little piece of sad took up an awful lot of space in any room and that people just wanted me to send it away. I grieved very quietly as a result-- only a few people watched that process. (Thank you for supporting me.)

In July, we watched as my aunt and uncle's dear dog, Benji, battled the pains of getting older, and finally he too moved along from this life. That one didn't hurt so immediately, but as I look back through the pictures right now, I'm choking up.

In December, just a week before I went home, my family endured a painful week during which our beloved Spare Cat had all but five teeth pulled, was de-wormed, and then stopped eating. It was sudden, it was the first close-to-home pet death in my cognizant lifetime. I cried a lot more than I expected for a full day (which means I cried at all). It was sad, and it was hard to shake. A professor sent me a beautiful obituary he had written for his cat. I sobbed the whole way through.

Spare Cat's life and death taught me a little more about being okay with being sad. People, for maybe the first time in my life that I noticed, told me it was okay to be sad. They offered to listen to me tell stories about her and let me cry. It was beautiful and heartbreaking. (Thank you for supporting me.)

With Max, death was inevitable. When I was home for Christmas break, I helped stand him up every time he barked to go outside and every time he barked to come inside. My best friend helped him stand up when he fell over in a snowbank when we were sledding. My parents diligently and lovingly moved the food and water to him when he just couldn't stand any longer. We joked about him being all cancer and no longer dog, but really, we didn't want him to go. The daily questions were, "how will we know it's time?" "What do you think, are you going to live another day, buddy?"

It wasn't out of the blue. When I saw the voicemail from my house phone, I figured it was probably because Max was gone. My mom left the voicemail. It was all crackly because she held back tears for most of it. He had fallen over and couldn't get up, or something like that. She took him in to the vet, and the vet tech said, "Hon, it's time." I think that sounds like one of the hardest sentences to hear.

I got quiet when I first heard the message. I got a little quieter, put down my phone, and warmed up with my team. I don't think they even knew that anything was up. My mom asked me to call her back, so I did as I walked from conditioning to where I needed to be next. I didn't know what to say to her, so I let her talk as much as I could. It still didn't really hurt, and that fact almost bothered me. I wanted it to hurt. I wanted to feel like I had lost him. It didn't feel like a loss...more like a drifting away.

At Salt Company tonight (it's a sweet college ministry--check it out sometime), something hit me during one of the songs in the final set.

Your love is enduring through the winter rain and beyond the horizon with mercy for today. -Bethel Music
Daddy and I walked through all sorts of memories of Max and me. It was beautiful. It was heart-wrenching. I cried just a little, and I started to feel the hurt hiding in my heart. In the end, I felt so much gratitude for how many good memories I had with Max and for how sweet it was for Daddy to place him in my life.

I was also struggling with wanting to just let my sad be sad for a while though. One of the songs talked about rejoicing in everything. And that's awesome. God is always good, and he is always worthy of praise. But there's also something to be said for being okay with being sad. That's what I'm learning. I can feel sad and sit with my sad and cry and be okay with that and acknowledge that God is good, sovereign, and in the business of giving excellent gifts.

I got back to my dorm room and cried a lot more than I anticipated (read: I sobbed a few times, didn't for half an hour. Teared up a lot, didn't for another fifteen minutes. Repeat process several times). Reading my brother's tribute post on Facebook made me cry. Reading my aunt's text letting me know that they'll miss Max too made me cry. Texting my brother made me cry. My best friend saying he's supporting me through this made me cry. Finding old pictures of my dog made me cry. I use "cry" here to mean a big range of things, but the bottom line is that I don't ever cry really, so this was a new world for me. And I'm okay with it. I've gotten better about just letting myself cry, rather than trying to stop it, especially when I'm by myself.

When my residents stopped by, I still told them I was "pretty good, thanks." Which, in many ways, is true. To quote the song, it is well with my soul. But loss is still tough. I don't know what it looks like to be real with people without unloading everything onto everyone. But I know it's okay to be sad, and I know it's okay to also praise Daddy for how good he is while I'm grieving. And I am slowly learning that grief looks different every time and needs to be played out in the time it takes to work through it. There's no rush. I'm learning. Thank you Daddy, for teaching me.

For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven:

a time to be born, and a time to die;
a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted;
a time to kill, and a time to heal;
a time to break down, and a time to build up;
a time to weep, and a time to laugh;
a time to mourn, and a time to dance;
a time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together;
a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;
a time to seek, and a time to lose;
a time to keep, and a time to cast away;
a time to tear, and a time to sew;
a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;
a time to love, and a time to hate;
a time for war, and a time for peace. -Ecclesiastes 3 

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Adventure is out there

I had a moment just now. A moment when, as I was reading an email from a professor here in Iowa setting me up with potential advisor in Germany, I realized It's happening- I actually can go to Germany (Lord willing).  That's mind-blowing and terrifying and wonderful and so, so many things.

Ahhhh. That's an exhilarating thought, and please, please, please, sweet Father, let that happen.

I'm excited. You'll certainly hear from me more if/when I do venture to Deutschland. Oh to be able to study and learn and research in Germany!

Back to study abroad scholarship applications and writing an email to this potential advisor (eeeek).

Happy Thursday, friends!