Is God still good when things don’t go the way you want? Yes. I want to say, “Unfortunately, yes” but the unfortunate is a bit short-sighted and selfish. Yes, Josh passing away was an unfortunate turn of events but it doesn't change God's goodness. I know to my core Josh would agree but it doesn't take away the heartache and the tears.
Earlier today, I watched church online, because I’m not quite ready to brave going in person. As I joined in, they began singing one of my favorite worship songs*, “King of my Heart," which has a big chorus proclaiming "You are good," (referencing God) - Interestingly, the first time I heard this song was in Nashville at a conference. Josh tagged along and hung out in coffee shops most of the day but also attend an evening session where they sang this same song. This meaningful song is a hard one to sing right now. One reason is because it reminds me of Josh and the other is because even though I know God is good, life doesn't feel so good.
The bridge of the song, goes on to say, “You’re never going to let me down.” This part is even harder to sing out because in this moment, it indeed feels like God let me down. Josh's healing via heaven wasn't what I wanted. I didn't even want him to have cancer a 4th time, we were way over that topic. We had other plans . . .
So the day becomes a wrestling match. Do I still believe God is good? Do I trust that he really didn't let me down or won't? Hmmm? I might still be working out this part of my faith.
Romans 8:27-29 in The Message reads:
Meanwhile, the moment we get tired in the waiting, God’s Spirit is right alongside helping us along. If we don’t know how or what to pray, it doesn’t matter. He does our praying in and for us, making prayer out of our wordless sighs, our aching groans. He knows us far better than we know ourselves, knows our pregnant condition, and keeps us present before God. That’s why we can be so sure that every detail in our lives of love for God is worked into something good.
Sometimes believing God doesn’t let us down and that he is still good takes a step of faith. A step bigger than we think we can give. For today, all I can do is attempt to move forward - even if it is only an inch of movement - and trust that God knows I’m doing all I can.
Overview of the day note: Today was a mix of feelings. I spent time relaxing at home, then went to dinner with friends and watched a favorite show at another friend's house. I packed for my trip, had a couple cry parties reading sympathy cards and thinking about Josh not being here but overall it was an okay, weird day.
Yesterday, I set out on what I would consider my first adventure without Josh. This was a short trip two hours south of me to camp with my dad and step-mom at a bluegrass music festival. This mini-adventure was a good way to mix up my view on this grief highway.
The big challenge was the number of songs about heaven and dying that happened in just a few hours after arriving at the event. Turns out, there are many emotions mixed into those musical riffs. I told dad last night that if we reached five heaven songs, I would be heading back to the camper. Thankfully, I didn't have to exit too early during the evening set. It was a nice evening together and the first time I had been camping without Josh, and with my dad, in over 20 years. It felt a bit strange, of course, but it was nice to have company, to laugh, drink hot chocolate, eat popcorn and listen to music.
Today, we goofed around the small town of Waldron, Ar., shopped flea markets and took silly photos - just like I would with Josh. Of course, I miss him! We all do but we can still find joy in our story - even if it seems fuzzy.
Back to the music . . . the last song I heard today ended up being one call the "Farewell Song" which I couldn't handle as it was all about dying and being surrounded with family and friends at the time. A little too close to home. One line into the song and I knew I wouldn't make it to the end, so I headed to the car for less musical air.
With a few extra hugs, I hit the road to head home. It didn't take long for the blues of the bluegrass to settled in and all I can say is, I needed windshield wipers for my own eyes for part of the drive. Bleh!
But I continued on . . . talked with some friends on the drive and breathed.
Returning home is still strange. The pups were happy to see me, which helps but reality still hits hard, Josh isn't here and he's not coming back home soon. He's not just at work or at an event. So weird. So sad. Did I mention, weird?
I often get tired of the tears and the tears make me tired, yet I know it's part of the process, part of the healing, part of all of it. A big loss means big tears.
Though it all, glimpses of God's loving care surface again and again. In the mix of songs last night, the words of one by Doyle Lawson echoed encouragement to my hurting heart again today.
"Glory be to Jesus, cause I know that he sees us
And he takes care to take care
Of all he calls his own.
Though the enemy assails us
Our God will never fail us.
He knows when we're in trouble
And we'll never walk alone."
I am thankful for a God who is always with me and who sits with me in my sorrow at a bluegrass music festival and so much more.
Here's the link to the official song: "We'll Never Walk Alone"
It was nice to wake up this morning a little more rested in my own bed. I even thought, "Hey, this is going pretty well," for about the first two hours. Then I bravely decided I should go get coffee from our favorite, local coffee shop. I was sure I could handle this simple task.
But upon seeing the friendly faces of the baristas who knew Josh, my eyes to teared up. Another hello from an acquaintance and I was ready to leave. And didn't want to answer, "How are you doing?" anymore. I walked out quickly, threw on my sunglasses and kind of melted down in my car with at least a fresh mocha in my hand for comfort.
It may sound like I handled that exchange okay, but I'd say ... "That didn't go so well." I of course, thought it could be tough but it turns out it was more than I expected. I know eventually I'll be able to enter the coffee shop without tears but for this wasn't the day for it.
After that uncomfortable adventure, I decided to completely rearrange the living room furniture, a fresh perspective for a new season. Rearranging doesn't solve the big problem but it is nice still.
God's peace continues to be with me and I know the prayers of so many are making a difference.
Thanks for following along.
We both felt the anxiety building as we drove closer and closer. It had been one week exactly since I was home and a little more for my mother-in-law, Kim, and the growing realization that we soon would enter back into our home where Josh would not be waiting or resting carried much anticipation.
Even pressing the garage door button felt ominous - but what else bad could really happen.
After a few moments of shuffling in, we quickly felt the silence and the gap, where we looked around and saw everything that reminded us of Josh. For me, it all just felt like a fuzzy dream, for Kim it was hard to even be in the space where every single photos or sign had meaning and represented our stories of travel, adventure, friendship and love. She even said, "Now I know how you feel when you come to my house."
We quickly left for dinner, came back and watched a movie which I completely slept through. The weight of this grief still brings a new level of exhaustion and I am glad to be sleeping in my own bed tonight – even if it is weird.
I know the silence will feel longer on some days than others. In many ways, though there has been a lot of quiet nights since July, the big difference still, of course, is that Josh isn't sleeping soundly and I won't wake to check on him a few times.
I can't say that it feels "sweet" to be home this time but still this is our home where treasured memories and moments have happened; and there is comfort in resting here tonight.
It's probably the rush of the past week and a half that has me at this point of exhaustion but it is definitely how I feel. In this state, it seems I just kind of zombie walk through life. Thankfully, I'm not really working but even doing basic things like filling the car with gas, shopping here and there or going with friends to a theme park (Silver Dollar City), I feel like I am in a haze. Hearing some parts of conversations, feeling like I am participating but wondering if I really am.
Today, I watched the memorial service video again while editing it to share (tomorrow's project). It's strange to watch the service, "Did we really do that?" and it also regenerated a lot of feelings from that day of celebration and sorrow.
There probably is much more to say about today in particular, but it will have to wait as this fairly simple day has worn me out. I write and post tonight because, I have this funny goal of wanting to share a little bit about each day of this new season. Each day offers up layers upon layers of thoughts and feelings. I imagine it like a rock with layers of history and sedimentary rocks within it. Grief layers of joy, sorrow, doubt, etc.
As I mentioned before, today, was a bit foggy. Most our family agrees, we are glad Josh isn't hurting any more but we still really wanted the answer to our prayers to be different than our current reality. This is not a new wish but one that we now are processing on the other side of the events of September 30.
Tomorrow I am heading back to my own home. I know I need to do this at some point, of course, but there is a nice safety net I have built up here in Missouri. I'm back to that saying, "Don't Panic" to myself.
Perhaps Psalm 55:22 is an even better reminder for this season.
Cast your cares on the Lord and he will sustain you;
he will never let the righteous be shaken.
– Psalm 55:22
Today began again with a few tears as I woke up thinking about Saturday's services. Soon a few text messages from friends tricked in bringing more tears as I read encouraging messages from people who attended other services held in Arkansas and Virginia in honor of Josh.
I love hearing new stories about the impact Josh had on people's lives. How he encouraged them with a friendly smile or conversation and more. It's beautiful and hard to know that he left such a legacy. I can only hope to make a similar impact. I can't fill his shoes, even though I am part of him in so many ways, but hope to be a little bit of a bridge or reflection of this same character.
The day continued with a little bit of hibernating, watching light-hearted movies and eating way too many pumpkin cookies. A friend asked me to go with her for a pedicure which I was a bit reluctant to do because of the silliest reason - my current nail color was the last one Josh saw. Now truly, that is a weird reason to not get a pedicure but the debate echoed in my mind for several hours. I opted to move forward and do it - even if it felt weird. Ultimately, it was a wonderful time of fellowship and now I have extra cute toes with a moon and stars design which is so perfect for this new chapter.
Generally today, I felt almost like I was in a weird state of shock - like really none of this is really happening. I'm just on vacation and Josh is back in Arkansas. I know this isn't true but my mind and heart are trying to bargain/deny my way out of this current reality. This is part of the process too.
Each day is new. Each day is different.
It's been one full week since Josh passed away. It's weird to say those words. As we grieve on, it's quite disappointing in many ways that life, work, events and activities all keep going even in the midst of great grief.
Can we have a big red pause button, please?
While I have a bit of a reprieve from work personally, my friends and family do not. It’s really, back to business as usual. I don't like this for them or me who is stuck in between.
Our family and friends have had some treasured days together, sharing our grief with one another, celebrating Josh's life and stumbling through all the bits and pieces. But Monday morning meant returning to work for nearly everyone. How do we do this? Head back to our separate locations where we aren’t able to physically be present with each other, where people don't even know the depth of our story, how heavy our hearts remain.
Part of me wants to just kidnap everyone and take them to an exclusive tropical island so they have to stay with me in my grief. But that sounds crazy and maybe like a weird murder mystery. I need space to process as do they and returning to work and life is good. We’re all stumbling through, tired of crying, but not knowing how to stop. I know for sure, this water fountain that has begun in my eyes is not going to turn off for a long time – if ever. I just wish it had a better on/off switch that I could manage.
The switch flips often, at breakfast, lunch and even when heading in to see my nephew play football. I had to walk several laps before entering the stadium. However, when I finally entered, the most spectacular sunset was on display; yet another reminder that the ultimate creator is still creating beauty in times of sorrow.
Continued thoughts of, “Last time I was here, Josh was with me,” so easily slip in. I miss my husband fiercely and wonder how I going to do this. It’s not simply day by day at times but minute by minute, moment by moment.
Yes God is with me, he is healing up the crater that is now in my heart because I can no longer see, hear, touch and do life with my husband and friend. I continue to place my hope and trust in Jesus’ healing of my own heart and of those around me. Lifting up praise is hard too, but taking that step is also important.
From the rising of the sun to the place where it sets, the name of the Lord is to be praised.
– Psalm 113:3
The exhaustion hit last night and carried into today. For the first time in days, we didn’t have to plan or do anything. Friends and family, still around, gathered as we continued to share stories, laugh and cry - with these three things on a repeating loop.
The celebration of life service, evening potluck and lantern release were beautiful and so perfect.
Read more about this.
As I woke the day after services, a few tears still trickled down, but my heart swelled with gratitude as I thought about our friends who stepped up to support us in such big ways through all of this. It was beautiful to see friends honoring my husband in creative and thoughtful ways all across the country. I love that we have friends everywhere.
Much of the day was spent with resting with family and laughing with friends who met each other for the first time this weekend. Old and newer friends blending together - how cool. It rained all day long, which seemed so fitting for how I felt. A big raincloud, representing great sorrow lingered over us; we trudged on through it with soaked feet, laughter and tears intertwined.
We ended the night by painting and carving pumpkins. I teared up a few times at my mother-in-laws, which is a hard place to be, even though I love it. My brother-in-law thanked God for the food and Josh and as we said, "Amen," my face was streaked with tears – again. We read through cards and memories shared with us and agreed this is going to tough. And we're going to miss Josh A LOT.
Whew - deep breaths.
A new season sits here on the horizon. A new season with unexpected tears at any moment, layers of grief, friendship that will continue to grow and many unknowns. It's a season to lean in and trust God all the more, but in many ways, I find myself asking, "How do I do this?"
I will consider all your works
and meditate on all your mighty deeds.”
Your ways, God, are holy.
What god is as great as our God?
– Psalm 77:12-13
Yesterday, was crazy and busy trying to get the last few pieces ready for the big service.
We had a beautiful but hard walk-through of the events planned. We watched the photo slide shows and cried together. Surrounded with my close friends and family I couldn’t help but say many times, “Are we really doing this?" We all wanted the answer to be an emphatic "no, but instead our eyes teared up and we moved forward.
Today IS my husband’s memorial, celebration of life, funeral service. Weird.
It’s gonna be hard but I hope that people see God glorified in the middle of it all and Josh's light and love reflected.
Let’s do this.
Yesterday was a challenge. We wrapped up our to-do list in Arkansas and my sister-in-law, Erin and her husband and I headed to Missouri to reconnect with the family and continue preparing for Saturday.
I expected it to be hard but hit the wall of tears faster than expected when I entered my brother-in-law, Gabe’s house. I couldn’t stop them. Gabe tried to distract, but 10 steps into the dining room and it was like my mind was yelling at me, "the last time you were here, Josh was too!" He sat at that table and laughed not long ago, sat on that couch by our niece and nephews, etc, etc.
The cry party continued as I drove to Josh’s mom’s house, where really more than a decade of memories have happened. The last time were were there, the 4th of July, before that we had a hair cutting party and before that . . . etc., etc., etc.
I sat in my car for a solid 15 minutes or more trying to compose enough strength to even walk back in the house.
It weighs heavy on all of us. There is a empty spot. Josh was here. We shared many great moments together here, and here and here, etc.
Mixed in with the sorrow and grief, we still find ways to laugh and love one another. Much like the words to a song we plan to use in Saturday's service, "joy and sorrow are His ocean, and in their every ebb and flow." I am thankful that is still possible.
I still want to cry at the drop of a hat but and my late nights and early mornings lead to piles of Kleenex and tear-streaked pillows. And it's okay.
I’m sticking with the “It’s okay that your not okay” concept.
Grief is messy.
It's still Jenn Brown, writing my story that is now slightly different as we enter a season of new grief. On September 30, 2019, my dear husband Josh passed away after battling brain cancer.