Monday, January 19, 2009

Embracing the "new" me

“... pay close attention to the times that God calls you away from the valley and invites you to tiptoe quietly back into the light. It is still there, waiting for you.”

I received an email months ago from a dear friend who was to undergo surgery for cancer later that day. She spoke these words with a peaceful wisdom that comes both from life’s experience and a God fearing heart. Her encouragement and sweet invitation to tiptoe back to the light were initially met with resistance from my fortressed heart. In the months since Cate’s death, I have learned to guard my heart even more and to protect it at all cost. So, to step out “into the light” was much more than I desired to do. But the email stuck with me, and a day or so later another sweet woman gave me permission to ... fight for the happiness I deserve. And then I got it ... If I want to somehow start getting my life back together than I have to start embracing small steps to wholeness.

I will be the first to admit that the stages of grief are all consuming in moments and sometimes days. The stage of anger was and is one of my biggest struggles. I have unleashed my furry on a few dear friends, who thankfully still love me. My anger comes from a place of honesty and although it is somewhat uncomfortable it helps to continue the softening of my heart. They are small steps in a powerful direction, allowing me to not hold so tightly to my fears. Anger is not one of those “pretty feminine” attributes that I “do” well, but I am learning fast that it does have a place in a mother’s heart. And if you channel it well, anger can be both liberating and productive. And although I will admit that “angry Ali” is not an enjoyable place to be, (or enjoyable to be with) she does have a valid place in this process.

Yet through the anger, the months have unfolded, life has continued on, but the reality of Cate’s death remains the same. What I am learning is that there is no finish line on this journey. There is; however, an embracing of the “new” me and my “new” family. The marathon race we began with Cate’s surgery has continued on without her, and the load we carry now is more than we anticipated. I changed the day Cate died, we all did. Our family is not who we were seven months ago, and I don’t anticipate being “those people” again. We will continue to develop and grow, hopefully for the better. However a part of each one of us died that day. Along with grieving Cate, we also grieve that part in ourselves, which we buried with her.

Trust is harder to come by, and faith in God is often a decision, rather than a way of life. The “new” me hurts more often, cries more easily, and often ungraciously lashes out in anger. But the “new” me also take pleasure in great conversations and delights in hardy laughs. The “new” me has learned that evenings with grade school friends are some of my best treasures, and that my own children can give the most honest advice. The “new” me is learning that I find more solace in chocolate milk rather than wine, and new shoes take a back seat to worn-in boots.

The “new” me is learning that (if you allow yourself to listen) God shows up to comfort us when we least expect Him. A good friend invited me to attend a support group a while back for grieving parents of infants/babies. I felt much resistance to go. My heart felt filled with anger, not from her invitation, but from the sheer fact that by way of Cate’s death, I even needed to know about this support group. I didn’t want be counted among “them,” I wanted my baby girl back and to pretend that I never knew this group existed. Yet, when the group was over, there was a great sense of unity to be joined with others, who feel just as lost, confused, and left-behind. I felt a great sense of relief when others shared wisdom or expressed concerns that were similar to mine. One of the greatest gifts I received from the group is that I do not feel that I need to rush to complete Cate’s headstone. Her precious grave is still the humble concrete with fresh dirt. It brings me great comfort to “play” there many afternoons with the kiddos. We draw all over her grave with chalk and we blow bubbles. We walk ALL OVER the cemetery and the kids find comfort in bringing flowers to other graves that are “flowerless.” It does hurt my heart to know that an aspect of their innocence has been robbed by Cate’s death, and yet their resilience is inspiring, and hopeful. They continue to remind me that love abounds in our life, even when, and if it hurts.

So for now, I am embracing the “new” me. I embrace all that I have learned and will continue to learn on this journey. I embrace all of the hurts, loves, and new joys that we are experiencing through all of this. They are all incredible teachers. And I also embrace all the …peace that today offers… as I place one toe out of the valley and feel the light that waits to shine on us again.

All my love, Ali

43 comments:

Megan Perkins said...

Beautiful, Ali, just breathtaking. You have a way with words, my friend, and your soul is absolutely precious. I think of you often and shoot prayers up to the heavens that your burdens may be light.

Crystal said...

Charlie

Again, let us know if there is anything Randy or I can do. We want to help in any way possible. Please feel free to call, and I will continue praying!!!


God BLess,
Crystal Judice

Anonymous said...

Oh, Ali,
It is so good to hear your "voice"....your words are so beautiful, so inspiring, and VERY powerfull!! Thank you for opening up your heart once again and sharing.....please know that I am praying hard for you (and your family)that you may continue to walk toward His light that awaits you!!!
Love always,
Breyan

andersons said...

Cantrells,
Our family continues to hold yours up in prayers every day. We pray that God holds you closely and that you feel him close by always.
The Andersons

Lila Lambert said...

What a beautiful tribute you are to His words...."Therefore, if anyone is in Chirst, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!"....Once His arms lift us we are forever changed by His love for us!

Anonymous said...

Ali, you are such an inspiration to all of us. You have such a sweet heart and it shows in your writing. Kids can be our greatest teachers most of the time...they really do "get it". My prayers are with you and Charlie always. Thank you for always being so open and honest...Much love, Stephanie Johnson

Anonymous said...

Ella spoke about Cate today at school....they colored a rainbow last week. We love you guys,Kim Hebert :-)

Anonymous said...

Ali
I am still following you guys here - your sweet words are beautiful. I feel honored to be included as a part of something that you treasure.
love you always
april

LauraS said...

Thanks for writing and sharing, Ali. Your family remains in my prayers and continues to remind me to appreciate everything we are given in life.
God Bless.
Laura

Tula Karras said...

your words speak directly to our hearts....what a gift you have. you are an awe-inspiring woman and mother. thank you for sharing and entrusting your thoughts with us who are continually praying for you and your family. much love, tula.

Anonymous said...

ali~this message is just breathtaking. what a gift you have with your words and thoughts. you all remain in our hearts and prayers always. love, katie

chris, mitch, travis, baby cana said...

i find such comfort in knowing that although we are traveling different roads, sometimes our view is so the same. Thank you for reaching out to...AND receiving our hearts. I still CLING to all the moments i had with her, and also try to gracefully let go of the anger..knowing it DOES have it's place, as long as I can learn from it. I'm so glad to be friends with you...you know, "our" anniversary is coming up, too...when WE met. :) i celebrate that among so many other dates i remember. Love u so so SO much.

lila fox ermel said...

lovely words from a lovely gal...truth be told, i love this lil' blog...your words and charlie's words are always so beautiful, inspirational and always remind me to take pleasure in the little things...thank you for that...it goes without saying that you're always in my prayers...

Crystal said...

Ali,

I wanted to say sorry for writing Charlies name at the top of my message. I noticed I did that when I got back on the blog. Just wanted you to know again your awesome and you continue to inspire me. Sorry again for the mess-up.

God Bless

Anonymous said...

Wow! Ali, thanks for sharing your heart with us! I can not know the pain you carry or what you are going through, but I do know how hard it is to come into the light sometimes when you just want to stay where you are and cry! thanks for being open! I know I've said thank you every time I've commented on this blog, but you both have no way of knowing how reading this affects me, so I am very thankful and grateful for your being so willing to share!

Teresa Clark

Anonymous said...

ali..i love your words...i just sent cana a text (yeah, i am bad these days with actual phone calls) stating that i miss the "old, happy healthy me that ben fell in love with" as i have changes for many better and many not so better ways the past 10 years that i have known ben. i pray that today begins a "new old" me if that makes sense..that i can embrace the joys and sorrows, ups and downs of every day life...and continue to move forward...knowing that sometimes a few steps back are how that forward movement needs to go..but allowing God to hold me instead of being such a baby and "hiding" as cana put it. my heart is hurting for many things these days, and i want you to know that i love you and think of you often...i am walking alongside you in many ways and just blessed to know you and to hear your words..miss you girl!

maria

Madelene Boudreaux said...

Ali, a few weeks ago someone sent me this scripture when I began to fret about "who" I was becoming because with all the cancer and chemo I felt stripped of my previous self, yet unfolding inside of me everyday is the "who" I am becoming. Sounds weird, but I know you can relate. So a simple scripture from Corinthians reads..."You are not the same anymore, for the old life is gone. A new life has begun!"
No elaboration, just the promise that a new life has begun. Can you and I trust to embrace it? I say a resounding, HELL YEA! What have we got to lose? Maybe just one toe in the light at a time, but we will get there! Isn't it so freeing to be blatantly honest with our feelings? That, Ali, is a gift! Not everyone allows truth in there expression of life.
And even when we fumble through it we must trust that our truthful expressions will set us free to be our best new selves!!
Love ya much,
Ms Madelene

Anonymous said...

Ali,
Your words are beautiful and your honesty is overwhelming. God has given you and Charlie a powerful tool in the way that you express yourselves. Your gift will inspire many and bring comfort to a multitude. You continue in my prayers. God Bless. YSIC,Melanie

erin dawson said...

Love you Ali! Still praying for your family! Kellen and I rode bikes (and learned how incredibly out of shape we are) to the grave yard Christmas afternoon to visit Cate's grave! Love you guys! See you soon!

kellysuch said...

love you big, Ali. The "new year" picture will be a "Mardi Gras" picture. I just never got away from the kids to go to Target! xoxo I'm so proud of you...
k

BreezieGirl said...

Prayers from San Diego...

Beautiful entry.

Anonymous said...

I'm still praying for you guys! Just keep going

Anonymous said...

Hi, Ali. Good to hear from you. I'll tell you, however, that while I was reading this blog, I sure thought I was reading Charlie's words (with fewer spelling mistakes ;) You two are transparently beautiful. And you're united as ONE in this with God and this community that surrounds you. It's so apparent in your writings. It's awesome to see/read your perspective, a mother's heart. I thank you for sharing yourself.

Thank you for reminding me...may we all be filled with His light.

we love you,
courtney & jeremy

Anonymous said...

Ali,
You and your family remain in my prayers and I think of you often. I look at sweet Baby Cate's prayer card daily and will always treasure her beautiful picture. I love you guys and my heart still aches for your pain. Thank you for sharing your words with us.
Shelley P

Anonymous said...

hope coco made you laugh about the typos..cheers to that ;)

Jamie said...

So great to hear from you. I am praying for you all as you begin to live your new life. IT is different and where God has you guys. Enjoy living in the moment. We will continue to embrace you in prayers because God knows and you know it is a struggle. God Bless

Anonymous said...

I continue to remain in prayer daily for all of you. Jane W

Claire said...

Ali,
I had the GREAT pleasure of hanging out with Ella and Dude on Saturday night. It was quite the night--we played music...me on trumpet, Ella on tambourine, and Dude on guitar...I think we will be ready to go on tour pretty soon. Our rendition of "Twinkle Twinkle Little Star" was unlike any other...
It was great to see them and Charlie again, but I missed you! Hope to be back over there again soon.
As always, your words are beautiful and a comfort to all of us who love to hear from Charlie, but anxiously await your updates too! Hope you are doing well!
Love you girl,
Claire

Anonymous said...

Life is Ugly… Sometimes.

So I write this because I see the ugliness in myself. In past years I used to sit through beautiful worship, everything was perfect, sound, lighting etc. Now, years later, after embracing motherhood several times, and being thankful for every glimpse of a sleeping child, counting my blessings and reveling in the beauty of their presence, and the Life of God within them, I often sit frazzled, and wonder, with so many wonderful, amazing and joyful moments, how I could ever feel so annoyed, angry or empty at times. I long for the perfect worship that I left behind when I left behind any moment of quiet. I wake early some mornings to pray, am blessed enough to be interrupted by someone wanting to move the Bible so they can lay by me. I am not happy to be interrupted from probable the only time in the day that I will slow down enough to hear my own thoughts, and encounter and embrace my need for God fully. But I am thankful that I have someone there to interrupt me. And that someone is there to be held. I know all too soon that she will be grown, and no longer need me to hold her. All too soon I will have more quiet than I can bear. But in all of this thankfulness, I long to adore God the way I did in days of old.

In searching for this perfect worship, I completely forgo the chance to worship in the moments that I have been given. Life is not picture perfect, or ever will be. At times we are given more that we can handle, so that he can handle it for us. And in all of my thankfulness, I can not find the gratitude to thank him, nor can I accept the grace he wants so desperately to give me. The grace He gives me the opportunity of receiving in the beauty of every melancholy or frazzled moment that I give to him. I require perfection of myself, my husband, and my children, and seek it within ourselves. And I lose sight of the perfection only found in Him. How can I seek Him. With every moment, and every breath, I long for Him. And I know that He uses me despite my brokenness. But how much more fruit could I bear, if I embraced each moment with the peace, and joy he wanted to give me. How do I receive this gift? How? How do I submit myself to His glory in the midst of my ugliness. How do I overcome my own unworthiness, and embrace His worthiness.

I am failing miserably. My Lord, take me over. Work a miracle in me Oh Lord. A miracle is what I need to overcome my ugliness. I know and love you Lord, but that is not enough. Captivate me with your beauty. Take my heart, and make it yours again. Take my selfish desires, and turn them in to charitable works done in you. I am broken, mend me. I am grieving, console me. Make my worship beautiful, and spontaneous. Give me mercy, give me peace. Give me You. I need you more than I need air. Make me beautiful, and pleasing in your sight. Make every word that leaves my tongue gentle, and may it give you praise and glory.

Life is not ugly Lord, I am. Though it may bring loss, and pain, surprise, and grief, it also brings joy, peace, laughter, and love. And all of this Lord, the purpose of all of it, is to find You, to walk with You, and to learn to love You, like you love us. So, life IS beautiful, but my eyes do not see it sometimes. Help me Lord, to look with my heart. Give me the grace that I am so undeserving of.
Amen.

Tara said...

Wow. You are so inspiring in my life.... I just love your words. I am still searching for that part of me that has fallen along the waste side....I know she is out there... I really admire that youa re willing to let God shine through you and even more so that you are willing to share it with the rest of us. I love you guys.
Tara

Lila Lambert said...

Whoever wrote the "Life is Ugly...Sometimes" passage you truly inspire me...beautiful WORDS for Ali and Charlie and all of us in this uncertain world!!! It may not be the WAY we would have chosen...When He leads us through a world that's not our home...He just promised we would never go alone..

Anonymous said...

Much luv to you guys! Powerful words!
Tricia

Jamie said...

Have you watched the move Fire Proof? I watched it last night and could not help but think of this blog when you wrote the "new" me. In the movie, the main character talks about his "new" normalcy. Anyway I was touched by your blog and the movie and I found a connection with the two and wanted to let you know I was thinking and praying for you guys. God Bless

Anonymous said...

It's okay to "feel" the way you do! Anger is an acceptable emotion, given the changes in your life! I find the hardest part about losing someone is what I call the "lonesomes". Those times when you just want to hug, kiss, talk to, laugh with, and "feel" in touch with the person who could fill the canyon-sized hole that has formed in your heart, since their departure from this planet.

Support from those who have experienced some of the same feelings you are experiencing can be most helpful because they have been there, so they "know" what you are feeling.

Know that I love you and can handle whatever emotion you need to "vent", so stop by when you need to and let it out.

May God continue to walk with you and lead the way to the "new" you,

Marie Duplechin

Anonymous said...

I just wanted to let you know that at 9:00 pm your time last night, so many of your friends from all over were praying for you simultaneously.

You are loved, girl,
One of your s.b.

Lila Lambert said...

Human nature looks at the exterior, but Grace reads the interior...Human nature is often mistaken, but Grace is of God and can never be deceived....He knows all and rushes to help and to heal!!

Anonymous said...

Ali continue to embrace the new you. Believe me, I know, there are days still when I am not at my best. That missing part of your heart is a constant reminder of what has been lost. This weekend is my little girl's 5th anniversary and yet it feels like yesterday. Valentine's Day brings such a mix of emotions. Thinking about her just brings tears to my eyes and yet I know she is in a wonderful place. I continue to pray for you and your family on your journey to the "new" normal.
The light will only get brighter.
Love,
Maddy McAnally

Lori, Willie, Anna said...

Cantrells, Please know I still remember you in my prayers.
Love, Lori T

sarah said...

What a wonderful post and a wonderful blog! Please keep writing!

Lindsay Day said...

Your readers miss you. Hope all is well. You are not forgotten. I think of you often and pray for you just as much.

Sharon-shutterbug said...

Still praying for your family, especially when I look at Cate's picture that's posted on the wall by my computer. Hope you are having a blessed Lent.

Anonymous said...

We miss you! Please right soon! Hope all is going well for your family.

Lila Lambert said...

"He alone probes our minds and tests our hearts...So in the midst of a spiritual drought, the fruit can still be on the tree, even if we can't see it"