It is so hard to believe that this coming Monday will be 5 months since Annette entered into the presence of her Savior, Jesus Christ. Wow, what a season of life this has been! I want to give some updates on what’s going on with “The New Normal for the Lear Boys.” Now, in a home with special needs kids, we seldom use the word “normal,” because who determines what constitutes a “normal” child? But, I won’t get on that soapbox…for now.
Let me first just say thanks to all of you who continue to send messages, emails, texts, calls, cards and ESPECIALLY prayers. Even though I’m not able to respond to them all, I read them, and I continue to marvel at the support and love that God has brought into our lives…I am so blessed with friendship and family, and that alone seems to be the tool the Lord uses OFTEN to get me through many days.
The first three months without Annette seemed to find me doing what I tend to do so naturally, and that’s doing things. I am, by nature, a doer and a solver/fixer. So I did what any good man of strong faith would do who has this skill-set…I started trying to solve and fix all the things that were anxiously going through my mind! I received some excellent advice from folks who had gone through just what I had gone through, and I read much about how you shouldn’t make any major decisions for an extended period of time. Armed with this excellent advice and counsel, I basically crumpled it all up and filed it under: “I see your lips moving, but I’m not hearing what you’re saying.” This is a file that Annette was ALL too familiar with in my life’s file cabinet!
Then, somewhere around the end of the first three months, which is about the time that so many of those same great friends had told me I may hit a wall (though I didn’t believe that, either!)…I hit a wall. I was thinking to myself one Tuesday afternoon that it would be great to get away for a day or two and just spend some time praying and listening to God, but I knew it would be hard to do with the boys. Well, that Saturday morning, God let me know that He was going to give me two straight days alone with Him, and I didn’t even have to leave the house…or my room…or my bed. God used my time with the stomach bug to get my undivided attention. There was some incredible time of prayer over that two day stretch, prayer like I hadn’t been able to have since losing Annette. It seemed for the first three months, the only thing I could ask was that the Holy Spirit would intercede on my behalf, since I just couldn’t even think of what to pray for or about (other than my loneliness and the boys, of course). Those two days were needed so much more than I could’ve imagined!
In my last update, I shared about purchasing the Laundromat, which Annette and I had wanted to do a year earlier…well, the first thing that became so apparent to me during my weekend of stomach junk and clarity with the Lord, was that it was the absolute wrong decision. Psychologically, I think I was trying to take something that she and I had wanted together, and plug it into the here and now, thinking it would be like having a part of her here again. God made it clear to me that right now is the season for me to be Dad, Pastor and pretty much nothing else. I told God over that weekend that I didn’t care what it took, that I would get things simplified to those things I knew He wanted me using my time and energy to fulfill. I honestly do not have the emotional or physical ability right now to make any decisions outside of the required areas of my life. This was a very humbling experience for me to go through. Some of you may know that I come from a long line of hard-headedness…I mean I’ve got Lear, Polk, Miller, and Funkhouser, all mixed with a HUGE dose of straight-up Mt. Jackson, Shenandoah County, Virginia running through my veins!! BUT, this was a time to sit my boys down and explain that I had made an alright business decision at a completely wrong time, and that God was going to walk me/us through the process of fixing it. And He has, as today the sale of the Laundromat is being made official. I certainly won’t be winning the “Entrepreneur of the Year,” but I have a peace that is explainable only in and because of my obedience to Him!
One other area that God really gave me clarity about during our two-day session is my ministry. He clearly re-confirmed my calling, which I desperately needed. I was convinced that the time it took to raise my boys, all the appointments that I must attend, all the time required to just be present with them, were all too much for me to be able to continue in my position. I basically did not let the church be the Church. But after getting this re-confirmation of my calling to continue serving Him as a pastor, one of my best friends in this world, my Senior Pastor, Terry Felton, gave me some much needed advice: “chill out!” He may have thrown the word “idiot” in there, as well (yes, we have that awesome of a relationship!). He helped me see that even though it feels many weeks like I’m not able to be in the office as much as I would like, I’m getting done what the church’s expectations have always been of me. Now, Mason Dixon Baptist Church has had no expectations outside of me serving as God leads right now, these were expectations I put completely on myself. In case you missed it, you may need to refer to the above paragraph dealing with my hard-headedness. I’ve taken Terry’s advice, and I have chilled out, and MDBC has been the most loving, caring, church it could possibly be…they have been a model of what THE Church is supposed to be!
The boys and I are getting more and more settled into the new home, and we all love it. I am renting our old house out for a year, and then I’ll make a decision on what to do with it. The new home was a major decision, but one that I’m definitely okay with, and one that God has blessed us with tremendously. We look forward to many of you coming to see it and even stay with us, as there is plenty of space. The old place is hard to revisit, which surprised me, as I’ve never been one to tie emotional feelings to material things. Every time I step in that house, I see the colors that Annette and I picked out together, the flooring we chose together, and the rooms where we shared our thoughts, our dreams and our love together for 6-1/2 years. I will be moving many of the shrubs that we planted together to the new home, which I’m excited about!
There are many hard moments, many hard days, and some hard weeks. In this year of firsts without Annette, Easter Sunday was tough. I got through the morning okay, and had a great afternoon, as the world’s greatest Big Sis, Anissa Powers, brought her family up and fixed Easter lunch just like Annette would have done…she even made extras for leftovers AND my Nanny’s homemade Coconut Cake!! That afternoon, after Nesi, Matt and the boys had left, I was thumbing through Facebook. I was enjoying seeing all the family Easter pictures, and then the wave hit me, reminding me that I’d never have that again with Annette. The difference now is that when the waves hit me, I just deal with them. If I feel a cry coming on, I let it come. I am taking the advice of so much of the great material I’ve read on grieving, and I’m trying to do it well. The waves can hit at times like just last evening as I prepared Swiss steak, mashed potatoes, and green beans (that Annette canned last summer). This was one of our favorite meals to prepare together, and it turned out delicious, but I let the wave pass over me and thought of all the incredible memories we made cooking together, working in the yard together, watching mindless TV together, raising our boys together…it stinks, but it’s where life is now, and most importantly, it’s where God has me now!
I still do NOT like God’s plan right now, but I still ABSOLUTELY trust it. I know that He never makes mistakes. I know that His plans are always perfect. And I know He is still working His plan out in my life, which means as I follow Him, it will be perfect in Him. I still don’t understand the why, when and even what in the world…but I do understand that He loves me and desires nothing but the BEST for me and the boys. I still covet the prayers of you, my friends, acquaintances, and even strangers who know and love the Lord! You may not hear much from me throughout the month of May, as it was a big month with Annette…Mother’s Day, Annette’s birthday, our Anniversary (would have been 20 years), and Linden’s birthday. Yeah, it’ll be a tough month, but I know God will walk me through.
“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.” 2 Corinthians 1:3-4, ESV
Praying, Walking, Trusting…