A Letter to my Valentine
It's been a great weekend, filled with a house purchase, college basketball and good God convos.
This morning as I reflected on it all, I realized how much I wanted to share ALL the details of Friday's house buying experience with Josh. While I can't tell him in person, I realized I could write him a letter. Maybe it's silly, maybe not, but I did it. And it was freeing and refreshing.
The letter simply began with our common greeting, "Friend!"
I shared the many details of February 14, 2020. About buying a house at 8 a.m., and having people visit all day from 1 to 7 p.m., as part of my empty-house, open-house party. I wrote about the silly stories, house surprises, kid adventures and more.
The first day in my little red house was one filled with new memories that will be treasured for years to come. At one point, the kids outnumbered the adults. It was great. I even told my friends that I loved hearing the laughter and craziness as their kids explored the new space and exuberantly played hide-n-seek and wrestled in the back bedroom.
It was an honor to once again stand with friends on a BIG day. (We mostly stood because I only had 2 lawn chairs and stool for seating - ha). I never take for granted the group of people who have surrounded me so much this past year. Many of them were at my new home on Valentine's Day.
For the first time in a while, I actually didn't feel sad. Instead, I dreamed and discussed how to fix up the place - in Jenn's style! (BTW, I'm gladly taking recommendations for people who enjoy remodeling kitchens and baths.)
Reflecting on Valentine's a couple days later, I wondered how life would be different if Josh were still here? Where would we be living? Would we be changing things up? No matter the answer, we probably wouldn't have bought this particular house. But because Josh isn't here, I am - or rather I did!
It's a real weird mix of emotions, being able to see and feel the joy in this new venture yet also acknowledging the heartache and sorrow that put me in this place of new decision making.
Writing out every little detail in my letter to Josh today gave me a place to embrace my reality a bit more. Along with highlights, I also wrote about some of my other favorite Valentine's memories over the years. Of course, tears landed on the pages as I wrote the simplest of words in closing.
I love you. I miss you.
It's true every day – even on joyous, beautiful, treasured days.
For me writing a letter to my loved one, at the close of Valentine's Day weekend was and is a step toward mending this broken heart just a tiny bit more.
A few photos from the open house fun and the house staged. Many more remodel photos to come. :)
Over the course of 24 years, there have been amazing Valentine’s days and some more subdued. But no matter the style, it was sweet because I shared it with that someone special. A person who told me everyday he loved me.
This Valentine’s Day is quite different. In fact, it has already been a restless night, as I am writing this at 3 a.m. In addition to the romantic holiday, there are a number of reasons for the restlessness, with one being something that is happening in just a few hours.
For you earlier-bird readers who happened to check my blog, without a social media link (and for the rest of you who see this later, when I share it out) – here’s the BIG news!
I’m buying red house!! In Missouri. On Valentine’s Day.
It’s the cutest, little house in Springfield.
The moment I walked in, I fell in love with the unique character. I could imagine myself there, writing, processing life, grieving on and making new memories. It’s an older home, that needs some updates, but I’m excited about a fresh space with much creative potential. In many ways, I am ready to move away from our Arkansas home filled with good but many hard memories. Of course, I haven’t figured out all the plans of moving my life from our home in Arkansas to my new home in Missouri, but that’s in the works and will take a bit more time to sort through.
The decision to buy this home was one I debated, discussed and prayed over greatly! It’s a big decision. Ultimately, it's an option that will allow me to stabilize - putting me in a space and place to quickly access some amazing friends and family who have walked this journey with me.
Of course, there’s a tension with it still. As a pretty independent, adventure-seeking person, coming back to my ol’ Missouri stomping grounds seems in some ways, dare I say, boring. It is not . . . However, for more than a decade Josh and I enjoyed venturing around the country, living in four other states and multiple homes. There was always a thought of, where will we move next? We imagined coming back “home” eventually but not sure when. We imagined living in bigger cities, other countries - London, Australia, Africa, wherever.
In this new chapter, I often have to remind myself that this is not boring or considered settling, but that it is also good. It’s an opportunity to trust and lean into the community of friends and family around me. It’s continuing to accept that my partner, spouse and friend who helped me make big decisions isn’t here for this one. Wow! That stings and stinks!
In the process of accepting, I am striving to not dwell on the negative - which is so easy to do!! I am sad and happy about this, and as with most big decisions, there's a level of anxiousness. I worry this might end up in disaster, like that old movie, The Money Pit. Hopefully not! :)
My prayer all along has been for God to close the door if this wasn’t right - stop the process! But it truly has been the smoothest home purchase process ever.
I believe God IS in the details and He loves me greatly. So, with all the pieces in place, on Feb. 14, 2020, I am taking the next right step and asking God to go before me with this new home.
Whew! Big day!
“It is the LORD who goes before you. He will be with you;
he will not leave you or forsake you.
Do not fear or be dismayed.” – Deuteronomy 31:8
That Makes Four
Another month has ended. This means, in the timeline of my grief, it’s been four months. September 30 to January 30.*
This means four months of trying to figure out what life looks like without Josh in my view. Four months of not hugging him, checking on him, caring for him and telling him in person how much I loved him. It’s four months of still not fully believing that this is my life now.
For my four-month report on how I’m doing, there are few solid answers but instead many descriptors of grief — challenging, sad, hard, hopeful at times, confusing, okay.
Each passing month, my emotions have fluctuated up and down. Returning from Christmas and a great vacation to start 2020, I fell into a pretty low period -- missing Josh lots, crying nearly every day. Today, a few weeks further down the road, I feel slightly more steady.
Evaluating these four months, I can easily say that not all feelings in the grief process can be trusted – especially since they change often. Some feelings and thoughts can train-wreck hope shining through the dark, they can create internal arguments of hope, doubt and confidence.
All I can say is, at this point in my journey, grief continues to be a day by day quest. It’s a slow process as I strive to soak in God’s presence, rest, breathe, stretch, write and trust that God is working in me and through me. My back has been sore lately so the rest is even more important to physical healing too.
Am I less sad at the four-month mark than I was in month one? Nah, not really but I am seeing some things more clearly. I miss Josh greatly, and often tear up as I continue to accept the truth of it all. Yet I remain forever thankful for our memories, moments, hugs, kisses and adventures.
It's still hard to believe that last year at this time, we were eating pizza and buying new lamps in Tulsa. In many ways, I would love a repeat of early 2019, but know that enjoying 2020 is important too.
I was reminded in a sermon today of the importance of enjoying the present moment with Jesus and others (whatever it is). There is good that can be found in embracing the grief process of today – seeing the moments of friendship and authenticity and being okay with the sorrow that comes too.
When I take time to really sit in God's presence, I am able to see more clearly the good in this journey. (And yes, there is still bad I see too but I'm trying). Already in 2020 some wonderful new memories have occurred, here are a few highlights.
• Celebrating the Chief's Super Bowl win with family and friends
• Embracing #nationalpizzaday by having pizza 4 different times with 4 different friend groups
• Being surrounded with amazing friends in #JBProjectGarageClean2020
• Peaceful moments with the pups on the porch
• Fueling my love of college basketball with the Razorbacks (taking new friends to each game)
• Continuing to find healing in my heart and embracing each new day
• Sitting with Jesus in my hope, hurt, grief and journey
*This post is a few days past the actual 4-month mark.
I feel it creeping in. The doubt, the fear, the worry.
Is this sin? Is this me not trusting God with THIS new chapter of my life? I am not even sure if this season is new or the same really, really long season of wavering thoughts and emotions. Either way, I am in it.
I feel beaten down, at times, and want to escape. I try to focus, pray and trust that God has a plan, but I find myself diving back into fear, panic, doubt and questioning.
Maybe I'm a bit like Jonah – questioning God's plan, unhappy about it. I am also on a journey I don't want to be on. I didn't want to travel to grief island. But here I am. I continue to share my story, God's story, with those around me even though, at times, I still want to complain about having to do so in this way. It wasn't until I began writing this post that I found the parallel to this Biblical character.
How do I navigate this fear, doubt and anxiety? What does faith look like when the waves of disappointment have crashed – a lot! Am I swimming in doubt still? James 1:6 comes to mind:
“But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind.”
This verse is a challenge as I think about the hope I had for healing in our family last year and I can’t help but wonder if some sliver of doubt caused the outcome to change. I know the answer — No, definitely not. That is not the truth of this verse. And although, I am confident of this, my feelings try to battle it. Ultimately, what I believe this verse is saying is, “Keep believing, keep moving forward, hold on to faith.”
For me, moving forward means being consistent with praying, writing and resting in God’s plan. Not moving forward looks a lot like ignoring God’s word, getting caught up in media (TV, social media, shopping) and being crazy consumed in the worries about my future. It often means starting to believe things that aren’t true, like, “You can’t do anything, your best years are over, you won’t recover from this, etc…”
It can be surprisingly easy to dwell here instead of focusing on who God says I am here and now, then and always: “Loved, Beautiful, Cherished and Very Capable, etc…”
Fear is an easy emotion to sink into during times of sorrow, pain and doubt. But it is also precisely the time when trusting in God's love is even more critical. This week, I've heard the same song, “Stand in Your Love,” by Josh Baldwin, in various places. It's familiar to me, but this week I found myself captivated by it in a new way.
Diving into the lyrics, I connect with the heartache, fear, sorrow and pain in the opening lyrics:
When darkness tries to roll over my bones
When sorrow comes to steal the joy I own
When brokenness and pain is all I know
Thankfully, the song doesn't end there. Instead, an anthem begins to rise:
Oh, I won't be shaken, no, I won't be shaken.
The song strengthens with a chorus that offers hope and strength for tackling deep waters of fear and doubt.
My fear doesn't stand a chance.
When I stand in Your love.”
“My fear doesn't stand a chance.
When I stand in Your love.
“My fear doesn't stand a chance.
When I stand in Your love.
Putting this song on repeat as I work and travel to and fro helps fill my heart and mind with God's truth – offering a bit of stability and support as I attempt to stand in this season. I still want to drift toward fear and doubt. The cool thing is, God continues to send out a signal. I couldn't help but smile today when a second confirmation appeared on my phone, a simple "verse of the day" alert:
“Cast all your anxiety on Him because He cares for you.”
- 1 Peter 5:7 (NASB)
Tag on this video: I am standing on the rock, my firm foundation. You're my firm foundation. :)
Grieving a Super Win
The Chiefs won the Super Bowl!!!!
And all I want to do is cry about it.
It was a thrilling game, filled with ups, downs, doubts and ultimately a victory for the team that my family and many friends were rooting for. I watched the game at my brother-in-law’s house - it was the perfect place to watch the epic event with those who mean so much to me. I loved watching my nephew and brother-in-law stress about the game and cheer in jubilation at the surprise ending. It was a joy to be there in that moment.
Yet in that same moment, thoughts filtered through my head and heart. “I wish Josh was here cheering with us.” I think we all felt it. Maybe me more than anyone, maybe not.
It took a friend saying, “How are you holding up? It’s gotta be weird,” to trigger the reminder of just how sad I was in the midst of smiles, hugs and cheers. More tears happened on the drive home and continued to flare up on victory Monday.
This particular sporting success is wonderful but I think that last one was better – the one where the Kansas City Royals won the World Series in 2015. It was not better simply because Josh was by my side, although that helped, but also because Josh’s love for baseball has long been greater than football. He was true to blue!! Celebrating that win with friends then was huge! And little was missing in that moment.
Do these feelings or comparisons change my joy over an amazing Chief's Super Bowl win? No! But I am still sad despite the exuberant celebration.
Although, I don’t really know what happens in Heaven, on day's like today, I like to imagine Josh, his dad, Danny; my mom, Carol and brother, Chris along with former Chiefs players and Christ-loving fans walking around doing the tomahawk chop. (oooooo-ow-ooow-ow-o)
It’s quite trivial I know. Of course, Heaven is about way more than sports victories but still imagining it lightens my heart slightly. I do believe there is abundant joy in Heaven and that is of great comfort.
The hope of Heaven is true.
“Praise the LORD. Praise God in his sanctuary; praise him in his mighty heavens.”
– Psalms 150:1
“The heavens praise your wonders, LORD, your faithfulness too, in the assembly of the holy ones.”
– Psalms 89:5 NIV
Grief Prayer Encounters
As I continue walking in my own grief, there are times when I encounter someone else's grief. Figuring out how this interacts with my own emotions is interesting and complicated. How do you process another person's sorrow when you're in the middle of processing your own? (Insert Shruggy-shoulder emoji).
¯\_(ツ)_/¯ I am not quite sure.
As an example, many people currently are grieving and processing the loss of an NBA basketball legend, Kobe Bryant, along with his daughter and seven other people who were killed in a helicopter crash. This news fills me with sorrow, but I'm not sure what to do with it. I don't know them personally, but I am sad for their families and friends and for so many who are mourning this very public loss. Yet, adding this grief on top of my already heavy heart isn't something I can easily do.
I can relate to the heaviness of the loss, sure, but what hits me most are the similarities. Bryant was also 41 - the same age as Josh when he passed away. The loss is devastating and many people are left here hurting. He leaves behind a wife and family that is shocked - filled sorrow and questions. His wife is figuring out how to grieve on.
Many times, when I encounter someone else's grief, I want to reach out to provide support and encouragement, remind others that they are doing okay and will be okay (somehow or in some way). Another part of me wants to run away and say, "I can't do this right now." I can't take on any extra grief. I find that I do a little bit of both.
As I strive to find footing in this rocky terrain, I acknowledge that it is an interesting and challenging place to be. My prayer in these times is that God gives me strength and wisdom to know how to navigate the various avenues of conversation. And that he gives me the courage to reach out when I can and the faithfulness to pray for others who are grieving when I am not able to engage fully.
Praying for one another is good. It's part of carrying each other's burdens that I believe Galatians 6:2 highlights: "Carry each other's burdens, and in this way, you will fulfill the law of Christ."
The faithful and simple act of prayer offers help to those who are grieving and hurting - even if you might not feel like you are "doing" anything.
As Christians, we trust the truth that prayer makes a difference. I know the prayers of many around me have been and still are a source of strength for weary days.
So back to the question of how to support someone else in their grief when we are still neck-deep in our own trial? It comes back to prayer, taking a moment to lift up someone else who is new to grief or still working on long-lasting grief and sorrow. It means praying even when we are wrestling out the fact that our prayers didn't result in the outcome or future we desired.
We're in this together through the good and incredibly hard.
Hi! It's 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.