The Process

So. Here I am. Again.

I really need to do better.

At everything, of course, but at updating a blog and staying current? I have slacked.

However, I am back and I intend to be intentional. I have dreams of sharing my journey but anxiety has squashed the voice that says “You can do this” into “Eh… no one cares anyway.”

Writing is my outlet and I have to keep myself plugged in.

Today has been a rough one. Of solo parenting, or loneliness, of not feeling like I am enough of anything for anyone or any place. This is where I am. I am at an odd place and a place of finding worth when I have felt not good enough for anything for going on two years now.

Summer always feels different for me but this summer truly IS different. For the first time, I am working during the summer instead of spending it home with my children. With everything that has happened in the world since March, not being with my kids almost feels like I am a traitor to them.

However, working this summer has given me a perspective on some things because it has given me a little more time to simply… think.

Today, I really started to wonder. I often wonder if I have truly taken the time to process my emotions since Sean died five and a half years ago. I have been so busy with raising my two children alone that when I do feel intense feelings, I have to shove them to the side. Then, when I can no longer shove them into the closet because there are so many feelings stuffed in that space that the door simply won’t close, what happens?

The spill out. Oftentimes in an explosive and horrible manner.

I don’t like yelling. I am not a screamer but I feel like this is all my children hear. I feel like a tuned-out parent. All I have been able to focus on this week is the fact that Sean is not here to help. I feel disengaged and depressed, making my way through the day to merely survive and not to truly live.

Do you know what it’s like? To wake up in the morning, after a night of being alone, to take care of chores? Picking up the house, doing laundry, trash, dishes, cleaning, and then taking care of kids? Then, at night, you go to bed and instead of arms wrapping around you and “your person” is there to help you talk through the day, you have no one and the silence is deafening. The person you made those precious kids with is not there to help you raise them so at times you just want to scream how unfair the world is because out of all the people in the world God could have taken…

… he took yours.

And you get angry. You see people continue to get happier and happier while it seems like God ignores all your shouts. Your cries reach the gates of Heaven only to have the doors slammed just before they make it to their intended destination.

Why is it that the more I ask, the less I receive? Why do things continue to get harder for some people while those who never seem to suffer constantly receive more?

I’m confused. I’m hurt. And I’m alone.

Except I’m not alone. There are so many men and women like me who unfortunately had the same fate I did. We are raising our babies without the person we thought we would grow old with because “death do us part” was NOT part of the plan. So now we are raising our kids alone.

I am determined to do more. I feel like my journey could do something and I just don’t know how to get started or how best to serve. I have experienced much because of and since the death of my husband and I know there has to be a purpose.

And I am determined to find my purpose through all this.

Maybe this is my new beginning – the realization that I can do more, if only I wouldn’t let the fear cripple me.

“Fear is a liar”, correct? Of course he is.

If I would only stop shoving things in the closet and put them up where they belong.

Here’s to finding that purpose and starting to make more sense out of life after the past several years of unrest.

What "Social Distancing" Has Taught Me… About Other People

Over the last few weeks, we as the world have been given an opportunity to see the positive in a devastating situation. We have been allowed time to slow down, think, process, reflect, and react. It’s been a hard few weeks for some and an even harder few weeks for others.

But this is hardly a competition. Our realities are all different and coming face-to-face with situations none of us have had to navigate has united us in a way that nothing else could have.

God literally has cleared our schedules. What made our worlds turn has now been stripped from us through no choice of our own. Many of us see a resemblance of this in our everyday lives. This Coronavirus outbreak, for me, has allowed me to use the skills I have learned through my widowhood to a degree which helps me process this differently than some others might. When my husband passed, I lost all control and I had no say in my new life.

This has become the new normal for many of us, in different ways. Control has been removed from a lot of us and for those who have a hard time trusting, we have been given no choice but to rely on forces outside of ourselves for answers.

Watching my social media feeds has been interesting these past few weeks. I have learned so much about those around me.

I’ll start with a few observations.

1.). I have learned what people truly value.

This should be obvious. When we are taken out of our sense of control, and we are no longer able to do what our normal lives would have us do, we feel anxious and even afraid. I have learned that many placed value on activities outside the home – weekly restaurant time was a cherished event for families after Sunday church services or on Friday night after a long work week. Sports have been canceled, which has broken the hearts of many who have spent all year waiting for opening day or a particular tournament. Beauty routines were interrupted – those who valued pampering and can no longer get their nails fixed or their hair done have expressed how they will need to adjust to not getting services they are used to having.

The panic buying has shown that people value being prepared and have a fear of going without. However, some have been unable to prepare. Some families do not have the funds to supply basics, nevertheless “panic buy” things. So these people don’t care about beauty routines, sports, or anything else. They care about meeting the basic needs of their families and are afraid they may not be able to due to stores having difficulties remaining stocked of the items that were once taken for granted.

This time of reflection on what we value as people gives us an opportunity to adjust our focus. What have we placed value on that could really take a backseat? I have a feeling we will learn very shortly what we can truly live without and what things actually are essential to living and not just essential to comfort.

2.). People like to be in control.

I reflected today on the actions of some I have witnessed over the years. When our sense of control is removed, we panic. For those who are used to being in control, and those who may even have personality disorders (narcissistic, self-absorbed) used to having all the answers, used to being “right”, for lack of a better term, the fact that they can no longer control many aspects of their lives has been detrimental to their mental health. Personally, I have been in situations where my life has been controlled from afar even before the virus; I’ve been told what to do, how to do it, when to do it, and what will happen if I don’t do it — by people who do not walk my widowed, solo parent reality and never have walked it. (And, God willing, won’t walk it.). Now that those people cannot control anything else, their grip on controlling other people has become tighter. They cannot control when they will go back to work, if they will go out to eat, if they get to go out on a date or a weekend with friends, if they will attend a sporting event, when they will go to the gym or the collected places where they used to socialize, etc. so they will look to have control in more unhealthy ways… which oftentimes involves the people around them.

You have the power to say no to these people. Unless they are willing to jump into your ocean and help you through the tide, then you do not have to let them try to tell you how to swim through it. If you’re drowning and a perfectly capable swimmer does not try to jump in to save you, you now know what they value over you.

Control becomes a tricky subject here. Is this God’s way of saying, “Now that I have your attention and it’s out of your hands… will you finally trust Me?”

3.) People will do what is necessary to maintain a connection.

“Social Distancing” has created a physical gap between us. Have you thought about how, such as during a time like this, that technology truly is a blessing when used appropriately? What would we do in our modern day age if we were told to go quarantine and not come out for weeks? Because of technology, schools can still provide educational services. Because of technology, we can reach across the world and visit our friends and family even if we aren’t allowed to physically touch them. Technology has allowed churches to reach their congregations with uplifting messages of hope and praise while we “wait in the hallway”.

Humans need connections and because we have technology, we can still meet the need for interaction with our world. It just looks a little different than what we are used to right now. Who knows how long this may be our new norm?

4.). I have learned how others choose to spend their time.

Similar to learning what we value, we can see how those around us choose to use the “new” time granted to them. What are they doing with their days? There are some who still have to physically go into work. There are others who are expected to meet new guidelines as they begin working from home. There are others who have to readjust schedules of their whole families to accommodate the need to work from home while still making sure their school-aged children participate in meaningful, educational activities. (In my opinion, now is the time to teach the older kids how to balance check books, do simple sewing, how to cook, how to fish, how to do laundry, clean, etc. and allow the younger kids time to explore opportunities while still teaching them essentials.).

For those who fall somewhere in between, this is an amazing time to find time to finish a project, start a new hobby, work on fitness goals, and dedicate some time to things that you never made time for before.

Just because you can sleep in doesn’t mean you should. You’ve been given time. Think about that – for some of us, all we wished for before was time. Now we have it. How are we going to invest in it?

5.). You find out who YOU are.

Whoa. What? Guess what? You’re the person you spend the most time with! But now that you have been stripped of the pleasures that you used to enjoy, who are you? Were you defined by those sporting events, beauty treatments, etc. that you cherished?

This may be a sensitive topic, but it is one I myself experienced after losing my husband. Who are you? What do you want out of life, or maybe even more importantly, what does the world need from YOU? You have time to make a difference. You have time to make some changes. You have time to process, reflect, and react (my new favorite mantra as an introverted woman). So how are you going to do it?

Maybe this wasn’t the most helpful post, but I found it therapeutic as I deal with some of the thoughts I’ve allowed to enter my mind. This is new for some – having time to stop and think is new. This can open windows to a beautiful new possibility or it can open up a door to a new darkness. I have been in both during these last five years.

Take some of the time you have been given and think about who you are, what you value, and what you can do to stay connected to those who need your presence. We truly are all in this together and as we all navigate our new norm, we will need each other more than ever.

Stay healthy, stay safe, and help one another. ❤

  • Sherri Lynn

Dear COVID-19… Love, An Introvert

My life certainly has taken some drastic yet amazing turns since I last wrote. My plan (as it always has been) is to begin updating at least once a week, hopefully on Sunday or Monday evenings. I pray I can stay with that plan and share my story faithfully, as to be an encouragement to others who face similar circumstances.

In short, my family and I moved back to Dothan. We moved back into our old house and I took a job in healthcare. And, as He always does, God decided to move in a big way and shift my role significantly. Exactly one month after I was hired into my job, I was transferred to the education department. I work at a residential treatment facility for children and adolescents. It truly is my calling. I have never felt more like I belong somewhere and like I am doing what I should be doing. I have even been accepted to begin a second masters degree in Collaborative Special Education so that I can fulfill the duties of my job to a much greater capacity.

The Lord lead us home. We moved into the city of Dothan and as one thing lead to another, we moved into a new home which feels even more like home than our old place did. So many things have fallen into place that I know God’s hands have been all in it. My son attends an amazing Pre-K program and has learned so much and my daughter is part of the school system I used to work for before taking my hiatus from reality and roaming the earth for a year before allowing the Lord to bring me back to where He intended my family to be all along.

Alright, so now that the “background” part of the post has been written, let’s bring it forward to present-day.

As everyone knows, the world is certainly not the same right now as it was just a few weeks ago. With COVID-19, or the Coronavirus, making its way rapidly through the world and now in my home state of Alabama, so many precautions have been put into place to prevent the spread of the virus. My children are out of school until at least April 6th. This is so challenging for me because I’m a widow and, even though I am a teacher, I teach in a hospital in which my students live. I do not get this time to “socially distance” myself. Unfortunately, the only social distancing I am doing is from my own children as they are staying with their nana a few towns over so I can get up and drive into work to provide services for my students.

Other developments in my life could not have come at a worse time. I finally feel like I am ready to – gasp – date. The five year anniversary of my husband’s death came in January and since then, I have allowed myself to open up some. This has been so hard for little ‘ole introverted me and it stinks that just when I make strides to meet people and finally find the courage to talk to anyone male, that the world is hanging a giant “Sorry, We’re Closed” sign on its doors.

So now that the whole world is basically closed, I feel like the steps I have taken forward will turn into a huge stumble backward. I was finally feeling courageous. But now? Realizing that my life hasn’t changed much even when the world did, is pretty painful. I feel less confident now. I feel isolated, and sometimes, scared. Angry. Confused. The fact that I am going through this alone with no other adult and with two small children makes me feel even more isolated. I know that I am not the only solo parent/widow(er) who is struggling a little more than usual because of the state of our world, so think about those who aren’t quarantined with their whole families. Some of us have the responsibility of the entire world on our shoulders even more so now and I know that I have needed some selfish reassurance that I’m not alone.

I think the whole Coronavirus really hit me hard for the first time today. I stopped to realize just how serious this is and how the world really has just stopped. I have seen posts about how people are thinking positively and about how this may be the Lord clearing all of our schedules so we can finally take the time we need to focus on Him and focus on the things that are important in life instead of all that has made us busy, unfocused, and unsettled.

As an introvert, there are also many “memes” or “jokes” about how we have trained our whole lives for this. I guess you could say I have been “avoiding” people since way before the Coronavirus, but that doesn’t mean I don’t like to feel like I have a place somewhere and in someone’s life.

So, with the world having to remain at least six feet apart, the fact that I am severely introverted with high-functioning anxiety has made me feel this a little harder than I thought I would. Now that I crave closeness, the world has made it impossible for me to have it.

Many people misunderstand the introvert. In fact, introversion falls into different categories and I fall into the “anxious introvert” category as someone who, even when not in social situations, rehashes social situations I’ve encountered in the past and have a hard time being “okay” with them. I think of other things I could have said, other ways I could have acted, and will even wonder if the blank stare you gave me means you hate me. (It could NOT possibly mean that you zoned out for a second. Nope. You hate me. Or at least that’s what I think.)

It’s not that we don’t want people around or to be around people, we just need extra time to recover from particularly intense interactions because we’re going to think about them and think HARD about them. We’re not necessarily even anti-social people; we just don’t thrive off constant human interaction. We turn inward to ourselves for energy and not outward to the world for it. We like time to think, process, respond, and reflect.

I want to talk to people and for people to talk to me so badly it hurts. But in my mind, if you don’t smile at me or you don’t talk to me first, I think you hate me. I think I’m not worth your time. I think you would rather talk to someone else because in my mind, I have convinced myself I’m boring and have nothing of value to offer, or at least for that particular moment – because I haven’t had a chance to think about it yet.

Even now, I’m thinking too hard about this post. Why am I even writing it? What is the preferred outcome for writing these thoughts and making them public? What is my goal? Is there a reason?

See.

The list goes on! It has literally taken me four days to write this. My goal is to update once a week and maybe since I do have to go back to work after this week of what was supposed to be “Spring Break”, I will have more coherent thoughts to share.

Stay safe, stay healthy, and help one another even if it’s from a distance. ❤

While We’re Being Honest

This morning, a drive down south turned my honest prayers into poetry while simultaneously turning my heart to the direction it truly needed to be turned.

The spoken word is one of my weaknesses. I do not find it easy to speak without a script. Even my prayers become disjointed and I lose focus. However, today, as I drove my car through my two and a half hour commute to my true home, I found myself a regular Shakespeare – this time, words flowing as I opened my heart.

“While we’re being honest… ” I kept saying to God as I passed landmark after landmark, driving to a place I desperately wanted to stay. All that was missing was my children, who were in school.

Oh, how I wanted to go grab them and take them with me and never come back to the place I was speeding away from. How I wanted to snap my fingers and wish it all into life.

Have you ever had one of those prayer sessions that left you completely empty? And by empty, I mean you really poured yourself out to God until you had unloaded every worry, fear, and doubt? And then, that emptiness was filled with His promises? Your emptiness turning to joy?

This happened to me today. I did not dare utter the word “Amen” until I knew I had given it all up to Him, knowing that it was long overdue.

“While we’re being honest… I messed up.”

“While we’re being honest… I miss this.”

“While we’re being honest… I did not trust You and now I can see what I should have done.”

“While we’re being honest… I need You.”

Because who can hide from God anyway? He already knows, so why do we sometimes talk to him like we’re trying to look “presentable”? God doesn’t need us to be ready, he needs us to be honest. You don’t have to stand in front of a mirror, put on your prettiest make-up and your best dress, and say, “Now, God. Now you can look. Now I’m ready. Here I am!”

He already knows, so why do we keep it from Him? He saw you when you messed up. He knows you miss your life and maybe made a hasty decision out of fear. He knows You didn’t trust Him to deliver you and you instead chose to trust in man or yourself to make things happen because your near-sighted vision does not allow you to see what God sees and your mind was closed to the possibility that maybe, just maybe, God had a plan and you had to trust it.

Today, God showed me that when He wants something, it will come relentlessly. If you are praying in His will, He will answer in ways you would never expect. God’s timing is always perfect, and I even told Him today that I now knew that from the lesson He taught me just over the weekend.

Without going into detail, I got bold. I asked God for what I wanted. I said, “God, fix this. We need a 24-hour turnaround. My family is desperate.” That was Sunday night, driving past that one stoplight in Ozark.

The next morning at 7:00am, Miracle #1 happened. Then, as I prayed aloud, “Please… please just let us go home,” at 8:15pm, less than ten minutes after I uttered those words, Miracle #2 happened. Then today at precisely 1:51pm, after praying for God’s intervention to make it all possible and not just a dream, Miracle #3 happened and set the past 48 hours into stone.

Before Miracle #3, God reminded me of a dream I had had.

It was a dream about my dear Sean. He was driving me from Point A (where I am now) to Point B (where I used to live). He told me, “We will rest here, at the halfway point. You’re almost there. You’re almost at your place of permanence. You are almost home.”

Ladies and gentleman… in a dream, my sweet husband drove me from the place I am currently living…. before I even moved there. I had often wondered, after having that dream, why I was driving with him from this destination.

It was like the dream was foreshadowing. God knew I would come up here, and He knew I would make the choice that appeared “correct” before praying on it. And God knew I would need as strong of a kick in the rear as my deceased husband showing me, “and what did I tell you? I said you were home when I brought you back here in May. Why didn’t you trust Me?”

That hurt. A lot. And I instantly knew He was right. When I begged for forgiveness and asked Him to help me make it right… my third miracle happened and it was the miracle that is going to set it all straight.

Today, I have never been more grateful for God’s mercy. I have messed up so much in these last nine months. However, He has not given up on me. He has allowed my to drive my own vehicle and take many a wrong turn. Then, out of pure love and mercy, He turns me back around after I realize I’m lost.

He leaves the 99 to find the 1. And so He has with me.

“While we’re being honest… I desperately wish the last nine months would fade as a memory into our lives while we piece back together I broke.”

And today, for the first time in a really long time – since maybe May – I knew that everything was truly going to be alright and I am truly in the road to fixing it all.

“While we’re being honest…. you’re almost home.”

Stoplight

On a few rare occasions, I have found beauty within my chaotic life. On even fewer occasions, I have found peace within the reasoning.

Just last night, I was sitting at the stop light in front of the Dairy Queen in Ozark. Without my conscious mind even tapping me to say, “Hey, do you remember that this is the very stop light that you cried?”, the tears started flowing. I silently thanked God my kids were in the backseat so they couldn’t see the pain in their mother’s eyes as she drove them home.

At that stoplight on January 2, 2015, I held my husband’s hand as he drove us home to Troy. I was sobbing and told him, “Something feels so wrong.” He, of course, assured me that everything was fine. After he had me convinced, we went to have Mexican at our favorite place in Troy with some of our favorite friends.

It was a beautiful night catching up with those friends.

And five days later, my husband would drive to work and never make it. He would die, passing that same stoplight in which I had tried to convince him something major would happen and life just felt wrong.

Grief is a monster. I never thought that a traffic signal would leave me an utterly destroyed mess. My conscious mind had chosen to forget the simple time I held his hand. My subconscious mind, however, felt I needed that painful reminder of the feeling I had just five days before his death.

The perfect storm of reminders caused my heart to break a little harder. I am convinced the crevices of my shattered heart are being filled with bitterness, hurt, and anger as I make more transitions in my broken life.

I experienced (and still am experiencing) very complicated grief with my husband’s death. I am still not okay and I feel like I may not ever get over it. I have sought professional help, been on medication after medication, made lifestyle changes, prayed, and did everything I could think of.

Nothing seems to provide relief. My entire life is a horrid reminder of my past – my happy past that I am living further away from.

It will be five years in January.

Five.

Five years is enough time for a newborn baby to start kindergarten. A high school senior to become a college graduate. A man and a woman to meet, fall in love, get married, and start a family, just as Sean and I did.

We met in 2010. He died in 2015. I have now spent the same amount of time without him as I did with him.

Tonight, the crevices in my heart are overflowing and I can’t carry my grief just in my heart. It has manifested to my body and my mind.

I have prayed for intervention in my life and there is only one thing that seems to make me feel truly put together, and that is being near him.

So today after church, I drove down south again. This time, I went to go see his grave. I knew I needed the peace I get from standing in front of him.

It was a beautiful Sunday afternoon. Sean’s mom was there to replace the flowers in his vase and to see her son. My kids were there with me to see their daddy.

And with my visit to my husband, I knew what I had to do.

For the first time in months, I had true peace — and a plan. It was like God was saying to me, “And what did I tell you back in May? What did I tell you?” I almost had to hang my head in shame as I realized God had sent me back to the place we loved so much only for me to uproot my family again to a place that was so unfamiliar.

Grief has a way of providing the most terrible pain but also the most amazing peace. I found that in my grief, I have started to discover Sherri. While my journey has been broken, beautiful, downright ugly, and complicated, I do feel that I finally know more of who I am and what I am meant to do with my life — my calling. I feel that I have felt out of place in the teaching profession. My extreme introversion and my inability to do simple things that are demanded of teachers has left me confused, conflicted, and wondering if I am where I need to be in my professional life. This mess of a professional life has left me too exhausted to live my personal life, which has truly robbed my family of what they deserve from me.

I will keep pressing on, until I feel put back together and my family seems to be in a place of permanence. Please pray for us as we continue to find who we are as a family without our champion.

I will be okay. My children will be okay. Life will be okay. My shattered heart will be okay. I will overcome this, and we will be all the better for it.

I once again passed that stoplight today, on my way back from Dothan. I was crying for a different reason this time. I was crying tears of relief because I finally had a plan and felt my purpose was starting to show through those little crevices of my beaten, but still beating, heart.

I’m here. I have so much to look forward to. I just have to put things into motion to live my true calling.

For now, I pray and wait.

As I seem to always do.

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