Family Photos

I remember the stress I created the day of our family portrait shoot. I wanted the perfect family picture, in order to proudly display my perfect  family!

Hence the stress.

Of course perfection and family are not synonymous. But I loved them and wanted something to commemorate that. I bought new clothes, haircuts all round, french tipped my nails (as if anyone could see them), and brushed the dog because she was part of the family too. It was a lot of work and I can never quite understand why kids just didn’t want to do things my way…

We got our great photos and my family is recorded smiling and happy. It was worth the effort because very quickly the photos on my hard drive changed. The photos that came after were of a man losing his hair to chemo. He didn’t want photos taken then. He died in 2013.

I go down the stairs at home and I see a photo of a woman I never knew. I often wonder if our paths crossed somewhere living in the same town, I will never know. She is the mum in the photos of another family in their happy times. She died in 2014.

2 families all lost their smiles for a while.

I, the mum from one family met the dad from the other and we found our smiles together. We joined those two families. Life for everyone did not become perfect all of a sudden but we are working on the smiles. I see them seeping back and it brightens my heart and a brighter heart has less room for darkness. That’s how happiness can grow.

Family photos are bigger now, we’ve got a few good ones so far and I pray like crazy we get a million more.

We will forever keep the photos we have of the dad and the mum that are gone, treasure them and love them. Sometimes they will make us cry, but sometimes they also brighten our hearts, and that’s how happiness can grow.

sassylanephotography-641

“This, in essence, is the message we heard from Christ and are passing on to you: God is light, pure light; there’s not a trace of darkness in him.” 1 John 1:15

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A Wonderful Life

After cancer, after death, after a bottomless pit of grief, it really can be a wonderful life.

I have been silent for a while because my life has shifted again. This time for better. I laugh, I love, I work, I play and really truly live.

At 43 I thought my life was done, I knew I would continue to breathe in and out and keep moving through my existence, but I really thought that was it. My partner had died, my kids dad was gone, I was alone, scared, and sad.

So what caused the change?

For the first 8 months I was a train wreck. Pure and simple. It was just hard, I survived hour to hour, day to day. Then I had to face the reality, he wasn’t coming back, I really was in this alone. Kids grow up and move on, as they should, and in a few short years it would be me and the cat. So I had to ask myself the big questions, face the reality head on and get help.

The big questions were answerless. No answer to why my husband died of cancer and the rat bag down the road gets to live forever. No answer to what my life would look like now. No answer to why I felt picked on by God and why He decided to destroy my family. But I had to move forward regardless. Answers or not. I decided to let the questions go. To stop demanding “why” because it was draining me of life. That’s not what Paul would have wanted. I chose to step into a new world and trust that God knew my footsteps before I took them. And you know what? He did.

Beyond that I stopped shutting the world out and began once again to accept love and friendship around me. From my kids, family, friends, and a church family that demanded nothing of me but encouraged me endlessly to bask in grace and believe solidly that God who truly loved me offered new mercies daily. I believe my faith grew up a lot. Now I just know that I know He loves and cares for me. Despite circumstances. My reciprocation of that love is not always without doubt or fear, but it’s there.

I desperately needed comrades for the journey, and I usually needed them in the middle of the night. So I looked online for women, brave women, who had lost and had begun to live again. Their stories, their inspiration, and even their sadness helped me. I was done with pity, I needed real grit and real guts, these women had it.  I wasn’t alone in this; others survived this wreck, so maybe I could too. Some practical sites that helped in some very, very, very dark moments were as follows.

http://www.onefitwidow.com/

http://www.widowschristianplace.com/

http://www.secondfirsts.com/

https://anewseason.net/

Sometimes just reading helped, but through these sites I found new friends from all over the world and we pushed each other along. I am forever grateful.

There is one more reason for happiness, one more joy in my life that is new. I felt a whisper deep inside to keep my heart open and to believe that I could once more experience the greatest gift one person can give another… love. The odds weren’t good. Then 44, 3 kids, and a whole lot of complication to offer, I didn’t like my chances. But God doesn’t gamble, it was all there in His plan, a man that loves me and I love him. Not a secondary kind of love, not someone else’s leftovers, but a man I daydream about, can’t wait to be with and have to pinch myself sometimes to remember it’s all true. I feel adored, honoured, and embraced. I really thought those days were over, it is the greatest gift I could ever receive. He is wonderful and I love him deeply.

Of course I still have moments and ache because my kids lost a good dad, but I also know that goodness and life are true things and not just theoretical concepts. Life can turn around, hearts can heal and love can be felt again.

It really, truly is a wonderful life.


May You Dance

May You Dance.

A great New Years message from Christina Rasmussen

Dear Janene,

May your coming year be the year you get to believe that life is owned by you and nobody should tell you how to live it.

I hope you spend countless hours walking next to beautiful crushing waves with sand all over your feet.

May you find ways to express all your feelings so you are open wide for new loves.

I hope this year you will feel understood, seen and loved like never before.

You will find a way every day to laugh regardless of the sorrow you hold in your heart.

I hope this year will be about letting go of your guilt and any regrets you have lingering.

May this year be full of dinners with friends over candle light.

May you dance.

May you laugh so hard your stomach will hurt.

May you see many sunsets.

And start to see the beauty around you once again.

I hope you choose to have less material things and more life experiences.

I wish for you to travel more, even if it is to go to the town next door.

May your coming year give you the courage to look in the mirror without walking out on yourself. (Click to Tweet!)

And I hope you get more flowers. Flowers everywhere.

And more music, more art.

More you.

More play.

More of everything you want.

But most of all more hope, hope that things can get better. Not because time is passing by but because you are strong enough to choose life once again.

Happy New Year.

Christina Rasmussen


A New Pair of Shoes

new shoes

Girls like shoes. Girls like new shoes…and clothes and well you know everything!

I am a girl and I like them too, but I don’t like shopping. That’s a dilemma. You can’t get new if you don’t go out to get new. (Yes I know you can shop online but that doesn’t fit the analogy…just go with it).

Recently I have lost weight, no not from grief, that’s how I gained most of it, I ate my feelings. Over and over, there were a lot of feelings! I was frumpy, unfit and unhappy. I made a very conscious decision to change all that and am glad to say its’ working. So I have a pile of fat clothes and a dwindling amount of things that actually fit properly. But I hate shopping.

So I can stay in my fat clothes, or make the effort to get new ones.   I face a few of these dilemmas nowadays.   Buying new clothes is not a big dilemma but what I sell and what I keep, do I move house, what church I attend now, how do I parent alone…all have been big questions for me, but they are all figured out the same way. By asking myself “what is the best thing in order to keep moving forward. “

The fact is I need a whole new wardrobe. My clothes had to change to a new size, a no-more-husband-size, its different now. But my shoes still fit, my feet didn’t get fat! So do I need new shoes too?

New clothes need new shoes to match. A new life needs a new attitude. The old things just don’t match anymore. It’s not the same. I cannot move forward holding onto the past. Is my husband only in my past, no! He will forever occupy a room in my heart; he will forever be my kids’ dad and if there is ever anyone new to love in my life they will need to accept that. But my life is different now. If I keep looking backwards I can’t see where I am going, I trip and I fall.

I need to look to happiness, to love, to life, to a future. I need new things that fit my new life.

I need new shoes to match the outfit.

“No one cuts up a fine silk scarf to patch old work clothes; you want fabrics that match. And you don’t put your wine in cracked bottles.” Mat 9:17 (The Message)


Prickle Underfoot

I’ve had a setback.

But that’s just life I have decided. Rocky roads and prickly ground does not signal the end of happiness.

It was a hard week. I was really down, I felt let down by a friend, it accentuated my aloneness and it hurt. So I decided to take my mind of it with a girly pampering afternoon…but it didn’t work. While being girlied up one of my kids had an accident (reserving details because it’s not just my story), this couldn’t be happening.

On my way to the accident scene I switched into crazy-mumma-fix-it-get-everything-done mode and powered through the rest of the day which included hours at hospital and police reporting. By the time we got home I was exhausted. I tossed all night long and woke early for work and to juggle the next round of accident related needs.

I chose to ignore the fact that I didn’t yet have enough emotional resilience for all of this. That was a big mistake. 24 hours later my world became unstable. I felt flung back into the depths of grief, and it felt permanent. Like an old enemy had sprung up ready to shoot me down.

When asked I was “fine thanks” when help was offered I honestly didn’t know what to ask for. Except… I really just wanted a hug, but found it hard to ask for one!! Do you do that? Or is that just me?

Whilst going for a walk a couple of days later I trod on some prickles, and then some more prickles. They weren’t life threatening, but for that moment they took my breath away and for the next few steps I could still feel the pain. Of course I am fine now, no prickles can be felt. But it highlighted my previous couple of days. They had been the same. They took my breath away and I have had a little limp ever since, but I know I will recover.

Prickles are just part of life. A well-tended lawn may not seem to have any, but an unexpected prickle can still spike you when you least expect it. Grief is like that. Life is like that. All is well then a couple of prickles move your attention again to pain. But it’s not a permanent injury.

It’s just a prickle.

A few deep breaths the pain is gone, life can resume. I will keep reminding myself of that. Life will resume. My child is OK, I am OK.

It was just a prickle.


The Upside of Death

light in the dark

What is it about death that causes you to stand up and pay attention to life?

I used to be a very content home body. Happy being wife and mum, in fact, I felt it was my highest calling. I know I’m supposed to go on about how women can have it all these days, but for me, it was having it all. Oftentimes that calling was exhausting and time alone at home was a rare prize. But I loved it. Now I can hardly contain the need to get out and live.

I guess living becomes more deliberate, more on purpose; after all it is precious and finite. I know that now. I think the living helps the loss to shrink. It pushes grief out of the way, like light chasing away the shadows and illuminating a path to hope I was convinced I’d never see again. Not denial, I certainly know it happened, that empty space beside me screams it, I am fully aware of what I have lost.

I also feel a responsibility to show the kids life goes on, even after our darkest days. I’m it, the only parent left so I better be fit, healthy and living a full and happy life. I can do this, and so can they. Of course, realistically, I still have grief moments that interrupt the living, but they are part of the remembering and that’s OK, as long as the living is resumed.

Loving kids, family and friends have been crucial, I would not have made it on my own.  But I can see now that my faith has been a huge influence. Even when I blamed God and couldn’t understand how He was loving and just in letting Paul die, even then, I felt His hand in the small of my back nudging me on, willing me to live. A patient Gentlemen who never swore back at me, even in the coldness of my accusations. I am eternally grateful.

So I guess this is an upside of grief…that seems so wrong to write, but surely I deserve an upside, a silver lining, a rainbow after the storm?? Life is the upside.  A determined spotlight on living.

The contrast between life and death is massive, like the difference between light and dark. Once the light hits the darkness it just isn’t dark anymore.


Bull by the Horns!

I am doing well.

16 months into this journey I know I am a different person to what I was. I now feel a determination to get on with life. To take the preverbal bull by the horns, dig my heels in and live. Oops mixed metaphors! But one was not enough!

I don‘t want to think about death all the time, I get it already!! I know grief and I just don’t want to look at it anymore. I know I will still have moments; I’m not naive to that. But the doom and gloom has to end. I’m giving it immediate notice, it needs to move out, its role has ceased.

Instead, I can look to living well and begin to make decisions that bring hope for the future. I will always, always love my Paul, no question there. Indisputable.  But I think even he will be glad to gaze down from Heaven and think “Thank God woman, just get the heck on with it!” I knew him, I know how he thought. Just not sure if you can say “heck” from actual Heaven??

If something scares me I just need to do it afraid from now on. I believe strongly that God has my back, I will be OK. He is my backstop, nothing gets by Him. I also know myself and know I’ll stuff something up. I am over emotional at times, read situations more sensitively than I ought and discouragement can chase me. Maybe I should just let those things through to the Keeper.

I will take the bull by the horns, stare that sucker in the eye and bullrefuse to let him run me down. I have absolutely no idea whatsoever what the actual future holds, really none, but I am going to live it anyway.

I am going to live it well, no bull.


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