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No Reply from Heaven

  I received a response yesterday to my post “Tears in the Closet”.   My friend reminded me of the “extreme separation”, which are the words...

Night Time

Tuesday, November 29, 2011
I recently got up in the middle of the night to go to the bathroom and realized a change had taken place in the way I saw things, when I am in my most alone moments at night. For most of the last 8 months, I have had difficulty sleeping during parts of the night. More often than not, I would need to go to the bathroom at some point during those sleepless or restless nights. I always hated to get out of the bed during those times because fear would try to catch my thoughts while I was up in the dark of the night. It was a constant reminder that I was alone, Michael was gone, and he was not ever coming back. Every time I would walk back to my bed, I could imagine Michael sleeping in it on his side, then would feel a pain in my heart and a wave of depressed loneliness would come over me as I got back in bed. Even going back and forth past the sink in my vanity area seemed to be so empty; it was just for me now…..his usual remnants were no longer there. I would crawl back into bed and feel like the silence and loneliness were enveloping me. I would often stare at his pillow and imagine his sleeping face and try to hear his breathing. After listening to the silence, I would take a deep breath and miss him even more for awhile, then roll over and try to go back to sleep, while at the same time wishing that it was time to get up for the day. The day light hours were often times easier for me to handle because there were so many distractions, but at night, it was just me and my memories of Michael’s presence at all times.

When I was about to leave my bathroom and walk by my sink recently in the middle of the night, I suddenly realized that I had grown used to being alone at night. The sink and the vanity area had become mine. They did not appear like a dark shadow lurking to stab at me as I walked by. My heart did not ache like it used to when I would notice that it was just my toothbrush sitting in the stainless cup instead of two. I walked to my bed and looked at his side of the bed as I approached it and recognized a “new normal” had settled into my nighttime routine. The room was still painfully silent, but did not feel so empty…..it was full of me and God’s grace. I got into bed and stared some more at his side of the bed and felt the acceptance that had taken place. I recognized how quiet it always was in my room from the time I walk into my room to get ready for bed to the moment the children wake up in the morning. The silence is still hard sometimes. I often still long for those bed time conversations(I talk about them in my post called "Nightstand Reading"), or the conversations in the closet while we changed, that help me to decompress after a long day. Getting accustomed to the silence is just as hard as adjusting to the absence of his physical presence. I have watched the change of the night go from peaceful, restorative rest and loving silence next to my husband, to fear, terror, sleeplessness, worry, and loneliness, and now to a calm acceptance of being alone, God’s peace tangibly present, and His assurance that He is right there with me through every minute of the night......”He makes me lie down in green pastures, He leads me beside the quiet waters, He refreshes my soul.”

Happy Birthday, Michael

Monday, November 21, 2011
It is finished. We are through with all of our first birthdays without Michael. (Of course, we still have the holidays ahead of us, which will be, I believe, the hardest of all.) His was the only birthday remaining and it was last Monday, November 14. The day did not present itself the way I thought it would, which, in hindsight, I believe God orchestrated my day to keep my mind, and the children’s, busy on other things. I am not at liberty to give details, but I spent the entire day handling problems that had arisen with the foster boy that we had all of last year, his younger 4 year-old brother, their parents, and the Mississippi Department of Human Services. The ordeal lasted 48 hours ending with the judge giving me temporary custody of both of these little, precious gifts. (Michael used to refer to our children as “little, precious gifts”.) There was little time for reflection at any point in the day to think about what it is was like a year ago that day, but there were a few moments that arose allowing me to cry, miss him, and remember.

My body awoke at 5:00 a.m., which it has been doing more than not lately. I went downstairs, fixed myself some green tea, then sat quietly in the dark of my keeping room while I prayed, listened, and meditated on God. After awhile, I impulsively began to quietly sing “Happy Birthday” to Michael…..through tears. If Michael had been here, I would have set the table the night before and there would have been gifts sprawling down the middle of the table. His favorite breakfast of “Magic Marshmallow Puffs” and bacon would be in the oven welcoming everyone down for our family tradition of the birthday breakfast. I would get to go upstairs and wake him up with a birthday kiss…..one of the few days in the year that he slept a little later and I got to wake him up. The rest of the morning would have been full of love, laughter, good food, and all of Michael’s comments as he opened presents. With each present, he would shrug his shoulders and wrinkle up his nose with a smile and satisfaction over the gift. He would say to me, ”Oh Babe! I love it!” or to the children, “Thank you, Angel! It’s perfect!” or “Thanks bud! That’s just what I needed!” I sat in silence that morning thinking of these things, and before I knew it, two little boys were in the kitchen wanting to know what was for breakfast. Life was going on….

From that moment until about 2:00 p.m., there was not a minute to think about anything but the present moment. I am not even sure if I stopped to eat lunch that day. We also had a family birthday tradition of eating lunch together at Brent’s Drug Store. He always ordered a Brent’s burger with cheese and large, vanilla malt. It was fun and refreshing to get to see him and celebrate again in the middle of the day. He loved joining us for lunch any time that he could. This November 14th, there was no special lunch. The kids ate leftovers and I worked through the lunch with phone calls trying to handle the issue at hand, concerning these two little boys. Suddenly a meeting was called at the Department of Human Services, of which I had to attend, and bring the boys. We would meet their parents at the meeting. I took our Assistant Pastor, Steve, with me for support. We sat quietly in the waiting room after the boys and their parents were escorted to a back office for an “interview”. I was finally sitting still and in a quiet room after a morning full of a flurry of phone calls. The heaviness landed on me suddenly, the Super Woman fa├žade was able to recede back and my weak self emerged. I was really missing his support, his presence, his strength, his wisdom, and his protection. I began to cry and Steve quietly listened and asked a few questions as I reminisced about past birthdays with Michael. I had planned on making his favorite Italian cream cake that morning, but was not allowed the time. I thought that it might be something that would be good for the children and me. I had made an Italian cream cake every November 14th for about 20 years of the last 24. There was no cake this year.

By dinnertime, phase 1 of this whole ordeal with the little boys was over and phase 2 was to begin the next morning at 8:30. The strength was waning again. A friend of mine called me to ask me if I was okay (meaning, how was I handling Michael’s birthday….she did not know about anything else.) and I immediately started crying on the phone. She asked if I needed her to come over and I quickly answered with a barely discernable ”yes” through the tears. She was there in no time and we went outside to walk the dog together. She walked the dog while I talked and cried. I shared with her my day and my thoughts. At times, I felt like I was crying out to God with my questions as I expressed myself to her. I trusted Him but I really did not understand what was going on at that moment. I have not felt this way very often, but it was definitely a “Why me, Lord?” moment. What have I done to make you think that I am strong enough to handle this? What do you see in me that I can’t see in myself? Why both of these hard mountains on the same day? Why now? Why not a year ago while Michael was here to walk through it with me? Of course, there were no answers at that time, but I was full of questions.

We ended the day with takeout salads from a local restaurant (no favorite birthday meal of veal, smoked sausage, bacon and sage over angel hair) and went to bed early. The day was over. 2011 was Michael’s last year here on this earth. I told his siblings that morning in a text that 49 years ago on that day, God sent one of His chosen ones down from heaven….and we were fortunate enough to be in his earthly family.

I Love You, Michael

Saturday, November 12, 2011
This post is a continuation of the previous one entitled, “I Love You, Jene’”. I am sharing another small sampling of the love notes we shared. There were so many from which to choose, but I wanted to record a small portion of them in order for my children and me to always remember this private aspect of our marriage love affair. I believe that our notes to one another are what kept our romance alive, beautiful, and flourishing after 24 years. I copied these exactly as they were written. Notice that he, more often than not, put an exclamation point after writing, “I love you!”

Mother’s Day (Date unknown….between 2003-2007)
This note accompanied a dozen roses.

Let these roses remind you of these 12 things that you are:
1. You are Christ-like
2. You are anointed
3. You are sweet
4. You are creative
5. You are beautiful
6. You are the best cook I know
7. You are virtuous
8. You are strong
9. You are gentle
10. You are their mother, the best in the world
11. You are my wife, my best friend
I love you,

Valentine’s Day 2002
"Until now, until you….There were places in my heart I’d never been before, moments in the day I ‘d never appreciated before, promises in the night I’d never dreamed before…until now, until you."
You are the most incredible person, woman, lover, writer, dancer, mother, teacher, wife, and friend I will ever know. I’m thankful to God every day that you’re mine!
I love you!

Happy Birthday 2010
"Dream…On your birthday, remember that anything is possible when we listen with our hearts and lead with our dreams."
Babe, I love that you love to dream! Though sometimes I don’t seem supportive of you dream(s), please know that I am. My dream came true when you were born!
I love you!!

Happy Anniversary 2008 (21 years)
"On a very bright day, you came to me easily, arms open and your eyes seeing only me. I keep the memory of that day in a secret room. Whenever I feel the need, I open the door, enter the room, and visit for a long time with that memory. For the memories we have made and the ones we have yet to make."
Babe, this card truly expresses the occasions of memories had and experienced with you. Every day you give me many more memories to store, cherish and ones to “walk in and visit.” I love you and look forward to many more memories.
Happy 21st anniversary
I love you,

Valentine’s Day 2009
My Dear Sweetheart,
Words can’t describe the love I feel for you, nor should they. With every day that passes, your beauty becomes evident. Not just your physical beauty, of which none can compare, but also your radiance of purpose and your pursuit and passion for our good. I am truly a blessed man and a better man because of you. Forgive my “wanderings” at times, as my desire is to lead us on a journey of purpose and passion. Thank you for all you do and don’t do! I look forward to our amazing adventure with the Lord!
Happy Valentine’s Day!
I love you!

Mother’s Day 2008
The card has a faded black and white photo of a young woman with long dark hair wearing faded jeans and dark, casual long – sleeved sweater. Her arms are open and she appears to be dancing in a field with her head turned and hair flying out.
Inside it reads, “Every day, I’m more and more swept away. Thank you for being such a wonderful wife and mother.”
Babe, when I saw this card, I thought it said it all! I am truly swept away by your grace, your beauty, your diligence, your heart for God, and your passion for our children. Thank you for being the most amazing mother and wife!
I love you!

I love you, Jene’

Wednesday, November 9, 2011
I came across a note I had written for Michael recently while going through some other things. We loved to buy cards for each other for all occasions and we always took the opportunity to write something heart felt on the inside. We each saved most every card and kept many of them in our separate nightstand drawers. Sometimes we would skip doing a card and just write a note and leave it somewhere so that the other could easily find it. Sometimes I would write him a love note at night after he went to bed and tape it to the coffee pot for him to find in the morning while getting his first cup of the day. Other times I put them on his steering wheel in his car, in his side of the closet, or on the kitchen counter for him to see on nights when he would work late at the office. He saved one that was written on a sticky note that I had placed on the front door of our apartment when we were newlyweds in order for him to read it before he entered through the door. It said, “Stop! Prepare for a romantic interlude.” That note is still in his catchall drawer in the closet…. A 24-year-old sticky note. He always talked about it as if it happened yesterday. The one I found recently brought back so many memories that I decided to look at some others and read through a stack of them. I am writing down just a very small sampling of them…..beginning with the one I found from me. I will post again with a sampling of notes from him to me.

(In this card, I am referring to a coffee mug that had a little ceramic teddy bear hanging over the edge of the mug and it said, ‘I can bearly hang on without you’. I filled it with candy and had it delivered to his office in about the third year we were married. I pulled the mug down from a high cabinet a few years ago and did it again.)
20th Anniversary September 5, 2007
Remember when you received this mug the first time? When we were mere newlyweds?! It does not seem that long ago. I still feel like a newlywed, don’t you? A few things have changed… we know each other better (better than we know ourselves), have three children, your hair is shorter, mine is longer, a bigger home, more patience and respect for each other, we rise earlier and drink more coffee, less free time but stay home more, and last, but not least, can you believe how we have grown and changed in Christ? I would do it all again with you!
I love you,

Father’s Day 2010
“You deserve The Royal Treatment”
You are such an amazing father! Thank you for keeping your children so high on your priorities. You deserve the Royal Treatment every day! Thank you for all the time you spend with us.
I love you,

November 14, 2008 (his birthday)
“You’re not an afterthought, you’re not on earth ‘just because’, and you’re not a random act of His creativity. You were given His 100% stamp of approval from head to toe before you were born, and the moment you were, He beamed with joy. Just look at you now…God must be smiling still.” God loves you and chose you to be the carrier of such incredible gifts! Always remember to use them for His glory!
I love you!

Father’s Day 2010
“Seeing the great father and husband you are makes everyone green with envy.” This is actually very true! After watching other husbands over the years, I realize more and more what a catch you are and how much of a blessing you are to the children and me. You are tenderhearted, compassionate, considerate, and wise. A perfect combination for a great father! Happy Father’s Day!
I love you,

Valentine’s Day 2009
“If I know what love is, it is because of you.” Thanks for being patient with me and for being such a good teacher! Happy Valentine’s Day!
Your #1 love student,

No occasion 2000
“Loving you is like opening a present and finding just what I always wanted.” Babe, I wanted to remind you that even though I don’t always act like I should toward you, thanks for being forgiving and know that you are everything I could ever want. I will try to not take you for granted any more.
I love you so much,

November 14, 2008(Yes, I gave him two cards that year.)
“Happy Birthday to someone who’s amazing in so many ways.” You are so amazing, faithful, diligent, loving, kind, tenderhearted, compassionate, and thoughtful! May God bless you, strengthen you, and shine His light ever brighter on you today!
I love you,

Order My Steps

Thursday, November 3, 2011
As I was praying this morning, I gave all of my gifts back to the Lord. I want him to be glorified in everything that I do. Even though this is something I do continually, today I felt like it was sealed. As if everything up until now has been training and preparation, and now the contract has been signed for the missions that lay ahead. I can’t explain what I felt in my spirit but I felt like it was, “now time”…. whatever that means. I thanked him for the pleasure, joy, satisfaction, healing, and contentment that I have when I have created something by using the creative gifts He has given me. Not just writing, but anything creative from gardening to parenting. We were made in his image, He is a creative; therefore, we are creative in all that we set our hands to do. As I gave it all to him this morning, the prayer, “Order my steps,” rose up in me with a fire. I knew I had to write it. Now that I am beginning to walk a little more, and stop a little less, it is imperative that I look to him for the ordering of my steps. I am still weak, my vision is still blurred and the enemy is watching every move I make, looking for an opportunity to use my circumstances to get me out of God’s perfect plan. I need my Lord to order my steps now and always.

When life is shining on every step I take
And the road seems evident before my face
When joy, favor, and happiness are everywhere I turn,
Order my steps, Lord
Order my steps

When questions befall me with uncertainties ahead
And I want all control, not relying on You instead
When I get impatient for the direction that You have planned,
Order my steps, Lord
Order my steps

When your hand points to shadows in the midst of Death Valley
And terror chases my heels; fear whispers, screams, and taunts me
When the sun does not rise, days full of darkness of night,
Order my steps, Lord
Order my steps

When I am weak from my travels, consumed with hunger and thirst
And am stumbling towards the light, it’s your presence I search
When my strength wanes and the journey makes my feet pause to resist
Order my steps, Lord
Order my steps

Order my steps, for my life is not my own
Order my steps, I trust and have faith in You, Lord, alone
Order my steps, pursuing the purpose for my life
Use me, lead me, carry me on, Lord, with your might

Wrtten by Jene' Barranco
November 3, 2011

I’m Back Home

Wednesday, November 2, 2011
Earlier this year, some friends of mine offered me the use of their condominium on the beach as a retreat for the kids and me. I finally took them up on their offer and we are now at the beach this whole week. Because Mia is in college now, she was not able to join us and we are greatly missing her sweet presence. I had a feeling that it was going to be a beautiful time of continued healing because we are all at a different place than we were the last time we went to the beach. We are someplace that we never went to with Michael. There are no Michael/family memories wrapped up in this location. Everything is different for us than our normal trips to the beach. Michael and Mia aren’t here, it is a different town, different restaurants, and we are even doing schoolwork in the mornings before we head out to the beach each day. We usually go to the beach during spring break, in early May to celebrate the beginning of summer, or later in the summer. This is our first time to do it during a “school” week. Julia and I worked on some history essay questions yesterday, while sitting on the balcony in our swimsuits, perched on some chairs at a bar table overlooking the beach. The peace of God was heavy on us all day yesterday.

I knew it was going to be a continued time of healing because God and I are now talking again. Even though I learned much during our time of silence, I prefer open communication. After so many months of sitting in silence next to one another, it is good to be talking, I to Him, and Him to me. He has been with me and has followed me through this journey, which felt like I was far away from home. It is good to be back home again.

I describe what my relationship with the Lord felt like for the first 7 months in my post entitled, “No Reply from Heaven”…

I have always enjoyed a two- way conversation with God. I have heard His voice, a few special times audibly, most other times a quiet whisper to my spirit, and sometimes through someone else. I would talk to Him, and if I took time to listen to Him, He would talk to me. At this point in our relationship, I feel like we are sitting quietly next to each other without speaking a word. What can be said? What comfort can words bring? I feel Him with me all of time. I feel His comfort. I feel the silent understanding. I don’t hear answers or advice. I know He is hurting for me and loving me, but there is no reply from heaven, and, quite frankly, I am not speaking much either. I thank Him for carrying me through each day…. Actually, come to think of it, when I do talk to Him, all I can do is thank Him for the life He has given me up to this point. I do have much to be thankful for, but beyond that, I just don’t know what to say to Him. I sit in silence a lot in my bedroom and wonder, ‘Should I say something more to Him?’, but there is nothing….so we sit in silence together. I am listening every waking hour. The silence does not mean we are absent from one another. It is a loss for words….. not that God is ever at a loss for words, but I am.

My sister sent me this quote from Oswald Chambers after having read that post. It helped to confirm my belief of what the silence was all about…..
"When He had heard therefore that he was sick, He abode two days in the same place where he was." John 11:6

Has God trusted you with a silence - a silence that is big with meaning? God's silences are His answers. Think of those days of absolute silence in the home at Bethany! Is there anything analogous to those days in your life? Can God trust you like that, or are you still asking for a visible answer? God will give you the blessings you ask if you will not go any further without them; but His silence is the sign that He is bringing you into a marvelous understanding of Himself. Are you mourning before God because you have not had an audible response? You will find that God has trusted you in the most intimate way possible, with an absolute silence, not of despair, but of pleasure, because He saw that you could stand a bigger revelation. If God has given you a silence, praise Him, He is bringing you into the great run of His purposes. The manifestation of the answer in time is a matter of God's sovereignty. Time is nothing to God. For a while you said - "I asked God to give me bread, and He gave me a stone." He did not, and today you find He gave you the bread of life. 

A wonderful thing about God's silence is that the contagion of His stillness gets into you and you become perfectly confident - "I know God has heard me." His silence is the proof that He has. As long as you have the idea that God will bless you in answer to prayer, He will do it, but He will never give you the grace of silence. If Jesus Christ is bringing you into the understanding that prayer is for the glorifying of His Father, He will give you the first sign of His intimacy - silence.

A friend of mine brought me the book, The Red Sea Rules by Robert J. Morgan, a few weeks ago and had written in the front of the book that it had been comforting to her during some hard times and hoped it would do the same for me. I brought it along to read this week during my quiet times at the beach. I started it yesterday morning, and after just the first 6 pages, I had plenty to chew on for the week. On the first page, I was reminded of Asaph, whose world was “in ruins, and though exhausted, he couldn’t sleep”. Later, Asaph records his thoughts in Psalm 77. Because Asaph was feeling so much the way I have been feeling the past 7 months, I immediately stopped reading the book and turned to my Bible to read the Psalm.

The whole chapter of Psalm 77 is great, but I am going to focus on verses 1-14.
“I cried out to God for help; I cried out to God to hear me. When I was in distress, I sought the Lord; at night I stretched out untiring hands and my soul refused to be comforted. (The Message Bible says, “I found myself in trouble and went looking for my Lord; my life was an open wound that wouldn’t heal.”) I remembered you, O God, and I groaned; I mused, and my spirit grew faint. You kept my eyes from closing; I was too troubled to speak. I thought about the former days (my life with Michael), the years of long ago; I remembered my songs in the night. My heart mused and my spirit inquired:
‘Will the Lord reject us forever? Will He never show his favor again? Has his unfailing love vanished forever? Has his promise failed for all time? Has God forgotten to be merciful? Has He in anger withheld his compassion?'
(Many years ago, I wrote in the margin next to these coming verses, “Remember this”.) “Then I thought, ’To this I will appeal: the years of the right hand of the Most High.’ I will remember the deeds of the Lord; yes, I will remember your miracles of long ago. I will meditate on all your works and consider all you mighty deeds. Your ways, O God, are holy. What god is so great as our God? You are the God who performs miracles…”

I reminded myself of all of the times that God performed miracles on our behalf, in ways that nobody knew but Michael and me. They were always done in God’s timing and seemed to come when we least expected it. God is performing miracles in the healing process of the hearts of my children and me. I am beginning to see a few parts of the puzzle, (which had been put mostly together, then was dumped out all over again), begin to settle into place. Of course, they are not the edge pieces, which is the way that I like to put puzzles back together…. it establishes boundaries, lets you know where you are going with it. These pieces that have been put together are somewhere in the middle of the puzzle and I can’t picture where they will be placed yet, but the process of building, mending, and putting things back together has begun. It has begun because God and I are now talking, not that progress was not made during the silent stage, because that would be far from the truth. He held my hand and silently took me places and showed me things. Like when you put together a puzzle, you spread out all of the pieces, you begin to group things together, get a general idea of what it might look like when it is all put back together, then you slowly take one piece and search for the match. My silent time with God gave me a perspective that I would have never gained had we been talking all of the time. He gave me glimpses of the whole picture. Just enough snapshots that I could begin to feel that his unfailing love has not vanished forever, his promises have not failed, He has not forgotten to be merciful, and He has not withheld his compassion.

Because it is just me now, I am forced to talk to God more than I ever did before. I have to ask his advice on simple little decisions that I used to take to Michael. Simple decisions are not really simple any more when I consider the weight of staying in God’s perfect will and in constant communion and fellowship with him. He is my husband, and I desperately need his input, fellowship, communication, guidance, and wisdom every single day of my life. I have longed to be back in his presence,in fellowship with him, where I continually feel the comfort of being home.