Hello everyone :
What’s been going on in the Rea household ?
Sorry if it seems we’ve dropped off the face of the earth. It’s a strange and awkward chapter of life we’ve begun. I have a hard time explaining it — even to myself — but let me try at least to give you a picture of what we’ve been up to and what we think God has been doing.
Single Parenting :
It dawned on me recently that that’s what I have become – a single parent. And, I quickly realized how little I ever really understood about single parents and single parenting. It is a formidable task. Everything Diana used to do (well, much of it, anyway), I now do … along with trying to keep up with my own responsibilities. I have learned I can multi-task ! I think I had two telephones and the email all going at the same time recently ! I ran into someone at the grocery store the other day who asked me how I was doing. I answered : “All I know is that I have to get through today. All I know right now is that we need butter.” That’s the crazy world mine has become !
I’ve found what I should have already known, which is that meal times roll around really quickly. As you clean up from one meal, it’s time (probably past time) to be planning for the next one ! I used to think I was pretty good at grocery shopping, but I’ve come to realize that I never really shopped for the little things a woman keeps in her kitchen – vanilla, vinegar, garlic, bouillon cubes, rice, potatoes. All those things are needed too – not just hamburger, frozen pizza, popcorn, and apples. She did so much – I was spoiled !
One of the things I miss most in this new schedule of mine is the extended time of reading, study, reflection, and prayer I was often able to have just because Diana had things under control. While she made breakfast, I could read my Bible. While she got the kids started on their school day or on Bible devotions, I could have some time to think through and organize my day. Now, I find myself really hitting the ground running hard ! Pray for me and pray for the patience the kids need here at home. They are so good, but I know it’s not all that fun to wake up every day to old, grumpy dad.
Remembering & Grieving :
Every Monday is a reminder of that crazy, unexpected Monday that February 25 was for us … when we got up thinking we were starting our day as usual. The snowstorm we received here in Missouri on Palm Sunday reminded me of the dark, stormy winter skies of that entire week following Diana’s passing. It’s funny what triggers the memories or the loneliness. The tears swell up and flow without control at the strangest moments. The only way I can describe it is that it’s like being sick with the stomach flu — when you just can’t control that wave of nausea that suddenly overtakes your entire body.
I took the kids shopping at Sam’s Club last weekend and remembered that that particular store was one of the last places Diana and I went to together. I have a funny picture on my phone of her dressed up in her winter coat and hat with a flower on it, driving the little scooter through Sam’s Club while she shopped. We laughed so hard about that scooter, especially when I had to drive it back to the store from the car ! I couldn’t control the thing ! She took it all in stride and was determined to be a part of that shopping expedition. It was a little bit sad to go back there.
Last Monday evening, I was part of the Grief Support Group that is being held in Hermann during the month of April. It’s the first time I’ve been part of such a group. It was mostly beneficial to me just to listen to other people’s stories last Monday. It’s amazing how much hurt and loss there is in our world, and in our community of Hermann. I encourage any of you in the area to join the group for the remaining three sessions – Monday evenings at 6:00 at the Community Center. You will be encouraged and helped.
Road Trips :
As you may know, I made two trips to South Carolina during the month of March to be with our older children there – once by myself during their Spring Break, and once with the entire family to be together for Easter. What a joyful, yet bittersweet, Easter we had. We were able to be in all three of the kids’ churches – for Good Friday service at Annie’s church where she accompanied the college choir on both the piano and the organ (not at the same time) ; at Jason’s and Emma’s church for the early service Easter morning (where Krispy Kreme donuts were served, thankfully, because the younger kids and I missed breakfast !) ; and at Andrew’s church for the late service on Easter morning. This is the church where Emma and Jason were married last December, and the church Diana and I attended 25+ years ago when we were in seminary in Columbia. So many good memories there, … yet how was it we were there without her this time ?
We did some sightseeing during our Easter trip. We visited the South Carolina Statehouse (their capitol building). It’s a beautiful, yet small, capitol building – one that was under construction during the Civil War and was bombed when Sherman went through Columbia on his way to Charleston. Interestingly, Governor Nikki Haley’s office is in what appeared to be the basement of the building (as was the Lieutenant Governor’s office). How different from our Missouri state capitol. We also hiked through a portion of the Congaree National Forest which is a beautiful swamp area outside Columbia. Ponce de Leon journeyed through there ; American militia enticed the British into the swamp during the Revolutionary War and literally got them bogged down in South Carolina. Finally, on our way home we enjoyed a special visit to the Billy Graham Library in Charlotte, North Carolina — a special gift of encouragement from God and a reminder of the Gospel that has impacted our lives and which we carry to the world.
We laughed and cried during this trip. We’ve made the journey from Missouri to South Carolina so many times that every gas station, every rest area, every bend in the road has a memory associated with it. Yet, we were able to make new memories too … and laugh –especially when I burned three bags of popcorn in the hotel room in Charlotte, smelling up the entire first floor of the hotel ! Oh, well. We snuck out early the next morning.
Reading, Thinking, Pondering, Remembering, Wondering
It has taken a while to go through Diana’s things – her desk, the files from her Arbonne business, her dresser, her hospital records, her closet. Every attempt to sort through things has led us to a treasure trove of remembrances. Like all of us, she had her own special system of organizing her things. I haven’t fully discovered what it was … but it made me think how hard it would be for anyone to make sense of my things if something happened to me. We still aren’t done “going through” – most of the time it can only be done a little bit at a time.
Before Diana died, the kids and I were reading through the books of 1 & 2 Kings in the Old Testament of the Bible. One day not too long ago, I just happened to hear some old guy preaching through 1 & 2 Chronicles on Christian radio. So, I ordered the set of CDs on 1 & 2 Chronicles, Ezra, Nehemiah, and Esther that J. Vernon McGee produced some 30 (?), 40 (?) years ago. We are listening and learning … and (as always) laughing, … and being challenged around the breakfast and dinner table. We are making sense out of 1 & 2 Chronicles ; there is satisfaction in that !
I wonder what the future holds. I worry about what I am personally capable of – as a dad, as a pastor, as a friend to many of you – in this new state of existence. I need much patience with the circumstances, and I hope you will be patient with me as well. Losing a spouse has been described to me in the following ways by people who have been there themselves :
like losing half of yourself
like having your arms cut off and being asked to do all the things you used to do
like having open-heart surgery performed on you with a butter knife.
Again, for myself, I have to remember that this has been a 6-year battle, not just a 6-week one. Time is needed. Thanks for understanding.
A little book that has been helping me is called The Red Sea Rules, by Robert J. Morgan. Morgan gives several short lessons from the Israelites’ crossing of the Red Sea in the book of Exodus. The theme of the book is that “the same God who led you in will lead you out.”
Just a few short random quotes :
“God never gives guidance for two steps at a time. I must take one step, and then I get light for the next.”
“The pillar of cloud led them forward day by day” (Neh 9:19 ; TLB).
“Day by day the Lord pours out His steadfast love upon me” (Ps 42:8 ; TLB).
“Your strength shall be renewed day by day like morning dew” (Ps 110:3 ; TLB).
“The Levites and the priests praised the Lord day by day, singing with loud instruments unto the Lord” (2 Chron 30:21 ; KJV).
“Therefore we do not lose heart. Even though our outward man is perishing, yet the inward man is being renewed day by day” (2 Cor 4:16).
“Our main business is not to see what lies dimly at a distance, but to do what lies clearly at hand” (quote of Sir William Osler).
“The only fear a Christian should entertain is the fear of sin. All other fears are from Satan and sent to confuse and weaken us. How often the Lord reiterated to His disciples, ‘Be not afraid !’”
“Confession is like a shortcut from the wayward path back to the straight and narrow road of Christ” (when I’m in trouble, not because of circumstances alone, but because of my own disobedience or wrong decisions).
I am receiving God’s mercies for each new day. He is not short on mercy. We can go to Him and ask for more. Then, hopefully you and I will both look back at the end of the day and thank Him for what He did give.
I look forward to preaching this coming Sunday and seeing many of you in church. Thanks again for your prayers and friendship.
Tom (and kids)