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Monday, November 21, 2011

How To Face Death - Part 3

This section has proven a little more difficult; I suppose because it is a bit more emotionally charged than the others. Some of the things I'm suggesting may seem a bit out there, but if the worst was to happen (whether it is at the age of 25 or 65) I believe the benefits to those you leave behind just can't be measured.

7) In Isaac's closet right now I have 12, custom-designed, Tom James suits; each one embroidered with "MAO". I have no idea if they will ever fit Isaac; and if they do if he would ever have any interest in wearing them. What I do know is they were some of Matt's very favorite things in the world. The night I met Matt some friends and I were picking him up to take him to an after party; it was easily 2 in the morning. When we came to pick him up, he was up in his room trying on these suits, picking one out for the party. I'll never forget that night, beside other obvious reasons, it was the first glimpse I had into the love-affair he had with his suits. Given any chance to wear one of these suits, he always did. So, where am I going? Although, I'll always keep one for memories, and there is a chance Isaac could want these, they take up a lot of space (seriously, a lot). Not only do they take up a lot of space, but I wonder if there is someone out there that needs a suit to get a job, or keep a job? Could they go to someone who needs them more? They were also extremely expensive. Could I sell them, and instead of handing the suits down to Isaac, could I be building up his college fund? This is just an example, of course. It was only one of the many decisions on possessions I had to make (and continue to have to make). I don't expect anyone to go through everything they own and decide what would go and what would stay if they were to die. What I would suggest is if there is something that you know you want to stay with your spouse and children - let them know, this way they can feel freedom in making the other decisions with the best of their ability.

Matt in one of his shiny suits at a Governor's dinner we attended ...

8) What would you like your family to have? Each family member deserves [and will want] something to have that would be a piece of you. Your parents, siblings, nieces, nephews. This could be something small, or something that reminds you of your childhood together. I would suggest naming something for each family member. Not only does it take away a tough decision for the spouse in your passing, but it will be a comfort for your family to know it was the thing you wanted them to have.

9) If you were to both pass in an accident together who would you want to take your children? Beside identifying this person, it is important to ask the person you have in mind if that is something they would be willing to do for you.

10) This will be my last piece of advice in this series, and although I imagine readers will have mixed feelings in making the decision to do this, it is the one thing I wish more than anything I had for my kids. Have you ever went back to watch your home videos from the year prior? How often do you actually see yourself in these videos? So often, us parents are the ones taking the videos, or would rather not be seen in them at all. I wish I had something to show Evelyn and Isaac that was just their father - something that captured his voice ... his tone ... his mannerisms ... his humor. I challenge each of you to take your home video camera into your bedrooms and make a video for your children. Include your favorite memory, hopes you have for them, games you played together, and anything else that seems appropriate. No need to start the video with a, "If you are watching this ...". No need to re-watch it, or edit it, or share it with anyone. Just talk, just be you. Place the memory card in an envelope, and put it away. It would take 5 minutes, but the price of something like that could not be measured. Even if you were to live to be 90, a video like this could be a place of immense comfort and great treasure for those who love you. For some reason I think this song helps capture what I'm suggesting ... The Words I Would Say

To end this series I'm going to show you a video of Matt. It is the one video that I have been able to find of him, and just him. Although it is hilarious, and does capture his humor a bit, it leaves a little to be desired in regards to capturing his 'legacy'. I watch it over and over now, wishing it were longer. He took this video after getting a new web camera, he was so proud, and sent this clip off to show off his new toy.

Down By The Bay

Thursday, November 17, 2011

How to Face Death - Part 2

A few more thoughts on how to prepare for the unexpected. You can read my first blog post on this series here.

3) Do you want to be buried or cremated? It's sometimes hard to remember life before Matt died, but I *think* I assumed he wanted to be buried. At least, that assumption is what made me decide to bury him. However, I don't know that with any certainty. From what I have gathered, cremation is becoming a more popular choice in the past few years. Cremation is better for the environment, leaving less chemicals behind for decomposition (which are mostly found in the casket and vault), and taking up less space on our planet. Cremation can also be cheaper. The thought of being cremated versus decomposing is an issue for some people, and so that makes cremation or burial a subject worth thinking on and discussing.

4) If you choose to be buried, do you know where you would like to be buried? If you are a young couple, and home is a new city you've only lived in a few years maybe being buried there is not ideal for you. Maybe you really don't care, and if you don't - great, tell your spouse that. This idea must be discussed for cremation as well. If you are to be cremated, what you like your spouse to do with the remains? Keep them displayed in your home? For how long? Do you want them spread somewhere? Where?

5) This may seem like a silly one, but I have lived through the fear of walking into a casket room. Others I know have shared similar stories, so I feel the need to share with you. If you will be buried, your spouse must enter a room filled with caskets ... some small, some big, some comfy, some fancy, some oak, some metal ... they must pick the place you will rest forever in the ground. Although it sounds dramatic, the weight of this choice is nothing less than that when brought into that room. Your heart desires to give your spouse the best, but the difference between 'the best' and 'a box', when it comes to caskets, is literally thousands of dollars. Unfortunately, I imagine funeral homes are aware of this tension, and likely make money off of this very thing. Please, give your spouse the okay to bury you in a cheap casket, with a vault that has a sub par seal on it. You will not know what you are laid to rest in, no one at the funeral will notice the hardware of your casket, and your children will have extra money for college. For those of you who are would like to be cremated, and your remains kept, you will need to answer this question as well (because you can be placed in a tiny wooden box or fancy gem encrusted vase ... they put these in the same room as the caskets).


I didn't plan this list out prior to writing it, which means, I don't know how long this series will go on for. I can think of at least 3 more topics I would like to touch on before I'm done with this little series. I will put all of the topics in a listed format, easier for discussing, when I'm at the end. Grace and Peace.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

How To Face Death - Part 1

This is a post I've pondered writing for some time. I recall many times in Matt and I's journey swiftly thinking on the 'what ifs'. What if I were to die, what if he were to die, what if we were both to die? Were we prepared? Did we have a savings? Life Insurance? Plans for the children?

The subject was hard, and Matt proudly lived life one day at a time (with a hint of invincibility showing right under the surface). He didn't want to think about the 'what ifs'. "That would never happen to us," he would say. It was only last January I finally talked him in to signing up for life insurance through my company. The plan started on March 1; Matt died on February 5; I assume they would have figured out another reason to deny me, had it not been those 25 days.

So there I was the night of his death, without one moment to discuss anything with him. He lay with emergency workers surrounding him, and unbeknown to me I was about to make 100s of decisions for him over just the next 7 days alone, and I did not have one concrete answer. How stupid of us. With the help of his parents, my parents, my church, our friends, his siblings, and my own deep understanding of Matt we all made it through. I am fine. But oh, how I wish those decisions could have been easier. Oh, how I wish this grief journey could have been less stressful on me, and subsequently on his children.

So, I have decided to give a little martial advice; "Uh-oh" I can hear the people say :). I am going to go over some topics throughout my next few posts that I would encourage all married couples, especially those with young children, to discuss. I know it is not fun. It can be emotional. It is also responsible, respectful, and deserving of your time and energy to do so. My suggestion is to make a written list of these decisions, and to review and update them every year.

Today, I'll start with two easy ones . . .

1) Prepare yourself with life insurance. I know it is a pain. The physicals, the investigations, the questionnaires, etc. Imagine though, if your spouse could spend the first year of their life as a widow/er doing what they should be, grieving you. Instead of, let's say, buying and selling a home. Selling your property, to make ends meet. This one should be a given in most homes, and I hope that at least half of my readers already have this one accomplished.

2) In which situations would you like your children to see you before you die? If you end up on life support, breathing but not conscious, would you want your children to be able to see you. To say goodbye? This was something I struggled with. My heart wanted Evelyn to be there, but most thought it was probably not wise. I trusted them, and I still do, but I don't know what Matt would have wanted for Evelyn. There are lots of other scenarios besides this one, but it comes down to whether or not you would want your children to see you still alive, but not as your true self, in order for them to say goodbye.

I will continue to add to this post throughout the month. God bless each of you. Thank you for continuing down this path with me. Love to you all!

Tuesday, November 8, 2011


I'm sorry I couldn't have done more.

It became clear early on in therapy that there were far more haunting events in my past besides just the singular day of Matt's death. Tragic events that I held so close to my soul I was simple unable to identify truth from lies. Which is why when I started therapy after last February we didn't jump directly into the day he died. Maybe because it was still too soon, or maybe because my other wounds needed attention first. However, when the season of firsts hit earlier this fall it was obvious it was time to set aside the work I was doing, and focus on Matt's death in regards to how I had planted this date in my mind's eye. I would have never known the weight I was wearing had it not been for my therapy. And so I share this in hopes that someone else can identify with the weight I was unknowingly carrying upon my shoulders. That someone else can be assured that your loved one knows you did all you could.

I'm sorry I didn't save you.

I know that I did everything I could. Matt did not seem to have anything more than a common cold when he went to bed that Friday. He was not showing signs, or complaining about difficulty breathing. When he arose, and could not breath, I called 911. When the operator told me to give him breaths, I did. When instructed to stand aside, I did. I called on God to save him. I averted Evelyn's eyes so that she could not see. I contacted his family so they were able to all be there to say good-bye. I made the right decisions about organ donation, and when to pull the breathing machine. I made sure he was prayed over. I did the best I could on that terrible day.

I wish I could have stopped death from coming.

I know that it wasn't my fault. I know in a rational tangible way, but I found out this week my soul didn't agree. I found out this week that what I needed was Matt to reassure me that he knew. In other moments, while re-living past experiences, I have seen the face of Jesus. I have forgiven others. I have forgiven myself. It was Matt that I needed this time. I envisioned him standing in that bathroom, the place which he had collapsed. I saw him putting his arms around me tightly. I saw him reach his big hands to my face, look in my eyes, and say, "You did everything you could to save me. I know this. I love you."

But death won that day.

See, none of this would be so terrible if it didn't affect every other aspect of my healing. I am new this week. I am lighter. I can imagine what it was like to be in Matt's presence again. Not Matt who is lying almost dead on a hospital bed. Matt who flew around our home with lightening speed, spouting ridiculous jokes, and singing so terribly out of tune. My thoughts of him are no longer overshadowed with guilt, and before this week I hadn't even known they were.

Death will not win forever.

Monday, October 24, 2011

This Is Kingdom Living

I'm sitting here listening to Brian McLaren's book The Secret Message of Jesus, which I highly recommend. I'm sitting here trying to put the message of his book into a blog post, and was continuing to come up short. How can I possibly put into words the ache in my heart, the ache that longs for us to be living out the message of Jesus right now (versus waiting for His return to set it straight for us). Christ desires for us to leave aside consumerism, turn off the images on our computer and TVs that do not glorify him, and start tending to those in need. My heart is in pain at times longing to live it out myself; and even more, to share it with others. Kingdom living is not about "when will it happen", it is about making it happen now. Making it happen as a body, for each other, for His glory. It is possible, but it must be our focus. So how do I contain all this excitement? I was overwhelmed. I should have known.

I should have known to put my hope in Him. I finish up with Part 2 in the book, flick on my Facebook page, and there it is. Some children from Uganda, that I do not know, spelled out what Christ living is for me. I have no idea their situation, but I bet they know what pain is. I bet these children know what it means to go without. I bet they can relate in the some way to what my son will face as he grows to find out he didn't get to know his father. And so, anointed with the Holy Spirit, my sister in Christ - Roxanne, informed me that these children paused "Kung Fu Panda", prayed for us, made Isaac a 'Happy Birthday Isaac' banner, took a picture, and posted it on Facebook for us.

This Is Kingdom Living! So simple. So impactful. So amazing.

To my friends in Uganda, my love to you all. You have brought me tears of joy, and I am so thankful for that. May God bless you with grace and peace. I will look to you for hope in Christ, that someday I will be able to give back to the Kingdom the way you have done for me today!

You can find out more information about my friends here.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

You Are Not Here

Today we will be celebrating your son's first birthday
And you are not here
He will stick his chubby little fist into a giant cake and create a beautiful mess
And you are not here
He will fumble with wrapping paper as Evie sits close by doing the actual work
And you are not here

He has gotten so big, so unlike the last night you saw him. He is a chubby boy, just like you were when you were a baby. He loves to eat, and does so every chance you give him. He's barely crawling, just scooting around, and reaching out - full of curiousity. Curious and yet so content to watch life going on around with a huge smile on his face. He's just beginning to want to stand, to want to be helped walking. He laughs so much. Laughs when Evie tickles him. Laughs when you make faces at him. He is a sweet baby. He snuggles in when you hold him, and he rarley fusses. He loves the silky's you got for Evie and him, remember his was brown. Saying he loves it is putting it lightly. He gets anywhere near it and immediately curls into a type of ball, head first into the silky side of the blanket. He's whole body seems happier in those moments. Oh and he also does this thing when he gets excited, where he lifts his hands, makes fists, and revs them up (we call it the motorcyle).

I really can't describe how painful it is that you are missing this. How unfair I feel it is. How anger, long since forgotten, has reared it's ugly head once more. One of our friends reminded me this morning that, 'Matt always did love a good party.' And she was right. There will be a smile missing in the room today. A voice a little louder than the others that won't be heard. No one will probably show up in a suit, tie, and hat (and possibly sunglasses). We are having a party today that you would have loved, but you are not here.

I miss you.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

A Season of Painful Firsts

Emotions are running so high right now. I haven't felt this down since the first six weeks. It's the time of year. The leaves changing, the weather turning cooler. It's that feeling you get when you smell something you haven't smelled in ages, and the memories of something wonderful melt over you with such a realistic sensation; except now the wonderful is tainted with death.

Our anniversary, my birthday, Isaac's birthday, his birthday, Thanksgiving, Christmas, Evelyn's birthday - In that order. These days are flying at me at a frightening pace, and yet time is slowing down. My hearts aches so bad to see him raking leaves, or putting up Christmas lights (this would not be too early for him to have begun working on that display). I want to celebrate Isaac's first year of life, but I also want to hide from it. I want to look forward to what life is bringing, but it's just not that easy.

I heard Evelyn crying last night after saying goodnight. I went back in to check on her, and she was clutching a photo of dad and her riding on the log chute from Nickelodeon Park at the Mall Of America. I broke down next to her. It was the first time in months we had held each like that, and audibly cried out together to God for peace. It felt good, and it felt awful.

"I just want him to come back to play with me the way he used to."

What do I say to that? Her father was a 7 year old living in the body of a 33 year old, wrapped up with so much energy at times it could be exhausting to just watch him, and topped off with more time than any father I've ever known. He didn't care how much he spent on her, or how long it would take to rig up something fun for her. All that matter was that she was happy.

How do I tell her that he wasn't "normal"? That those are the reasons I loved him so dearly, and yet the reasons we often fought so passionately. Most men grow up. Matt fought that, and I suppose in some ways he won. Evelyn was lucky to have got to experience that person. I can't say the same for Isaac, and that breaks me to the core. Matt should be here for his son's first birthday, he just should be.

Monday, October 3, 2011

The First Kiss

As Evelyn and I were getting settled into my new vehicle the other day, we decided to pack the 6 disc CD changer with some tunes we could do some car dancing to. As she is flipping through the discs she spots one with Daddy’s handwriting on it, and hands it to me. I tell her that the disc is full of techno, and I’m not sure she would like it, but she insists.

As soon as I popped in the disc I was thrown back six years into Matt’s entertainment room at the old lake house. I remember one of the first dates Matt and I had. We were spending some of our first moments together as a couple playing a little ping-pong, drinking beers, and listening to techno. Ha, perfection.

I look back at Evie and tell her, “Honey, this is the song your daddy and I first kissed to.”

She was jamming out by this point. She had one finger poking the air along to the bass, as I have taught her to do in respect of her father’s favorite (and signature) dance move. She sort of slows down, cocks her head to the side, and lowers her hand. I thought for a moment I had upset her telling her something so intimate, but then wondered if she wasn't just letting the thought sink in.

“Mom?” Because no question can be asked without assurance that I know she is talking to me . . . even if it is only us.

“Yes, honey”

This is a really weird song to kiss to.

Smile ... Deep breath .... Silent thoughts. “Well honey . . . your dad wasn’t much of a romantic, but I liked it. I asked him to find this song for me, and he did. It was nice.”

“I guess that is nice. But maybe he thought it was a different CD he was putting in, and this one just got put on by accident.”

Confused, but with a smile on her face she slowly raised her pointer finger and kept on doing the “Mattyo”. How she knows what would be a good song to kiss to or not a good song to kiss to is beyond me, but the innocence of her thought brightened my day.

Who’s to say Rock U by Laurent Konrad wasn’t a good first kiss song – It must have been a half alright first kiss song, since he managed to get himself a second.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

What a Difference a Year Makes

I was standing behind my almost 5 year old daughter this morning, brushing her fine static-y hair, and looked up to glance in the mirror at us. There she was, this glowing shining picture of youthful beauty, and I looked . . . well, tired. Tired, and yet still beautiful. I didn’t condemn myself for looking my age; rather I saw it for what it was. The years have aged me. I am soon to be 32. 32 doesn’t seem so old to some I suppose, depending on where you are standing in this long line of numbers, but because of the last year of my life that 32 seems daunting.

When I was 31 I gave birth to my second child. When I was 31 my husband tragically died in my arms to pneumonia. When I was 31 I had to put a house on the market, in this economy, and sell it. When I was 31 I had to move to a new home. When I was 31I became a single mom.

Maybe I should be ready for 32. Maybe I should be excited. Instead of being ready or excited I’ve found my go to emotion lately is fear. This part of my internal struggle is my doubt in God, and I’m choosing to share it with you. Please . . . handle with care.

My twenties were traumatic; most of those even closest to me do not know the terrors that lay within those years. Most of those traumas were self-inflicted, at least to a point. And I had God through these years. Jesus was there, weeping with me, begging me to take a chance and step out towards Him. It took a while, but I finally did. I am now beginning to scratch the surface of healing those wounds internally through therapy, and I would not wish this on anyone. Reliving those traumas in order to understand the reality of what I did does not define my worth is the most petrifying and painful mental battle I have ever had to endure. I wouldn’t wish this on anyone. I pray it will be worth it.

So . . . my twenties sucked, and when I turned thirty I had built a stronger relationship with God, one in which I trusted in Him. A relationship that meant turning to him for answers, and following those answers. I was excited to turn thirty; I was excited to see what He had in store. And then 30 happened, which looked different that 31, but it was also filled with pain, anguish, trauma, change, and anger. Then there was 31.

And now? 32.

I find myself driving in my car promising God I will endure anything for Him. I cry over my steering wheel, voice shaking, as I plead with him for mercy on my life. I fear God now more than I ever have before. His provisions have proven nothing short than miracles. He provides for us, and He loves us – there is no question there. And refinement through suffering is the most sure way to becoming more Christ-like, which is my ultimate desire. But I am tired. I am scared of what is next - not hopeless that he doesn’t have plans for me - but scared of the suffering that will go along with that. There will always be hard times, I know this. And I am still young, I know that as well. But, God, I just would like a little breather; a couple years to enjoy my kids, learn about you, grow in Christ, to reflect, to gain confidence . . . . to heal.

The most I can do in this season of life is rest in Hebrews 12:7. It will be painful, and I must submit. I must remember this is love for me. I can rest assured this endurance will produce in me what His will desires. And I can pray for my peaceful harvest to come soon.

“As you endure this divine discipline, remember that God is treating you as his own children. Who ever heard of a child who is never disciplined by its father? If God doesn’t discipline you as he does all of his children, it means that you are illegitimate and are not really his children at all. Since we respected our earthly fathers who disciplined us, shouldn’t we submit even more to the discipline of the Father of our spirits, and live forever?

For our earthly fathers disciplined us for a few years, doing the best they knew how. But God’s discipline is always good for us, so that we might share in his holiness. No discipline is enjoyable while it is happening—it’s painful! But afterward there will be a peaceful harvest of right living for those who are trained in this way.”

Thursday, September 22, 2011

I Am Convinced

It’s been almost a month since I’ve written a word. Nothing seems to go the way I think it will go; so it seems the smart thing to do would be to stop worrying about the way it will go. To place myself directly into the faithful hands I claim to stand upon, relax, and enjoy the world around me. So easy to type; not so easy to live.

Mostly, I’m busy. Mostly, I’m tired.

I’m also surrounded, overwhelmed, excited, confused, happy, and frustrated.

Surrounded by those who love me . . . my children, my parents, my friends, my church, Brad, and so many more. Overwhelmed by the to-do list, that didn’t even exist in life prior to Matt’s death, now haunting my desk with an endless array of menial tasks. Excited that I have decided to start school again; this time to finish with a degree. Confused, even still, as to how I got where I am, why it was my life it happened to, and what this means for where I am going. Happy the children and I are healthy and getting settled in our new home. Frustrated by, well, aren’t we all frustrated some of the time?

I’ve been listening to Romans 8 lately. Intently. Patiently. Waiting on it to explode in my soul. There are a million treasures God has stored amidst these 948 words. There are words like flesh, Spirit, God, suffering, heaven, hell, angels, and demons. These words are moving. They are exciting. They remind me that God is hyper-present in our lives. Not just for a widowed mom of two, but for all of us. We are all suffering with Christ, but the reward of that suffering is great, and not the reward we catch ourselves waiting on promised after this life. I'm talking about the reward we are living right now.

Romans 8 tells a story about a God who loves us. Who loves us so much he not only let us have His Son, but allowed us to crucify that Son for our own sake.

And after all that . . . after love . . . and sacrifice . . . . and death . . . and resurrection -- there was Sprit. Spirit left behind to live in us, to be in our flesh.

His Spirit . . . In our flesh. In our bones. In our blood.

The flesh that succumbs to the world. The bones that rattle in frustration over things far too small for such anger. In the blood that boils when we have to wait for things we want now. He is there. He is the one that goes before us and reminds us that we no longer our bound by the laws of this world, and so he will see to it we no longer succumb. He is the one that moves us away from frustration and into action for those who can not act on their own. He is the blood that warms us to the social injustices of those who can not afford healthcare, those who need food, and those who need clothes.

It is that moving, that warming, we should follow. When we follow Him who was sent to go before us we are living the reward now. We will find peace and grace and joy. You have the capability to make a difference. Ask for it. Look for it. And act on it.

Monday, August 29, 2011

My First Guest Post

Kurt Willems is an Anabaptist writer, and I am honored to say today I am guest posting on The Pangea Blog, which is the place he calls home. Part of his life story is one of a church leader who found himself hiding behind doctrine and religion, and instead of staying put he followed the Spirit when it told him to "come out of the theological closet". He is real, uplifting, inspiring, and he always makes me laugh. He is someone I relate to, connect with, and respect greatly. He is currently working on promoting a video for Compassion that deals with the need to supply clean water for everyone on the planet - watch the video here and the vote for it here!

The first post I read of Kurt's was the one comfortably stationed on his home page at all times, "You Might Be An Evangelical Reject If ...". When I read it for the first time I laughed, nodded, and 'Amen'ed my way through the entire list. Kurt's ability to address {and question} in a light-hearted {and relevant} manner what I sometimes feel {and think} was beyond refreshing.

Through our social media connections I now call Kurt a friend. He asked me to write a post in regards to my grief journey, and I was happy to. I'm excited to share that guest post with you, my readers. It starts like this ...

"Imagine it’s a Friday night like any other. Your husband, sick from a cold, went to bed early. So you decide to spend some time alone. You pick out a good bottle of wine and some scrap-booking supplies, and spend a quiet evening enjoying some Riesling, being with your thoughts, and reminiscing on family times through the photos laid out before you. Around two in the morning your evening of solace comes to an end. Since the better half isn’t feeling well, it will no doubt be you getting up early the next morning with your two little ones.

As you hit the landing of the two-story home, you look up the stairwell, and sitting there still as a statue in the bay window is Jesus. He doesn’t have the long blond hair and blue eyes your faithful Lutheran grandmother always led you to believe He did, but nonetheless you would know Him anywhere. Your knees buckle, your stomach lurches, and you get so dizzy you almost fall over. The ‘Jesus Christ?’ uttered under your breath is far too ironic. Your mind races – it doesn’t feel like the rapture, and since you don’t qualify for the next virgin birth – you know this can’t be good.

He reaches out for your hand, and you go to Him. He then speaks, as kindly as one would imagine Jesus would. He tells you that when you finish the walk up to the bedroom, the room you share with your beloved, your spouse will wake up and be unable to breathe."

Please visit The Pangea Blog here to see the rest, and don't forget to leave a comment there and tell him what you think. Enjoy, and thank you!

Thursday, August 25, 2011


So I have now had this widow's blog for just about six months. For those of you who know me, or have spoken to me about it, I am really enjoying it. I enjoy being able to write, being able to be honest, being able to share things with others in hopes that they can find some comfort here. I enjoy following what I believe is God's calling for me. And I have had the feeling for some time that I should diversify a little. I have more going on in my heart then just what life is like being a widow. This blog is holding me back in some ways that I don't think are still healthy. It narrows my audience, and it narrows my topics. I want to share more. At the same time I want to give the readers of this space the chance to continue to follow it for the reasons they started; to hear about hope in the midst of loss, to learn about Matt, to watch over the kids in some capacity, and help me along my grief journey.

I feel I have a sense of a plan, but it will start with this . . . I'm going to over the next month introduce some new blogspot blogs. One will be poetry, one will be short daily inspirations, one will be humor, one will be dealing strictly with my Christian walk, and one will be for my creative outlet (artsy stuff) -- they will all be deeply connected to my walk with Jesus, because there is simply no separating Him from any facet of my life. (I've linked to the one I've got a good start on already above). Each has it's own use to me; mainly a use in stretching my writing abilities, and my blogging consistency. Teaching me to use other avenues of my gift to see how I can help, share, and be creative.

I invite you to check them out, and see if any of them interests you. If one does please use the email subscriber in the top right corner of any of these blogs you like to sign up to receive an email when I post something new (and if you haven't done so for this blog, I would encourage you too!). As far as my Widow's Rant goes I've been working on a book of Matt's life from the time I met him until his death. The book is really just a gift I'm giving to myself, but there are stories in there I would like to share and so I imagine for the next few months that will be the main content of this blog. For those of you who know Matt you know that it should be a fun ride (and I encourage any of my readers to throw out stories to me in the comments - in which both Matt and I were a part of - that you would like to see me put into story format and share:).

My goal is to someday have a site where I can converge all these topics in one place that would be my own singular space, but for now I'm still learning and growing in this place. I'm having fun, and trying to follow where the Spirit is leading me. It's time for me to stretch out into other areas, and see what happens.

Thank you to all of you who have supported me in this journey. Thank you to everyone who is reading! If you are connecting with what I write here I continue to encourage you to share my work, because that is my ultimate goal in this whole thing. To use my writing to connect, encourage, and fellowship with others, and to glorify God within that.

I have also been asked recently to guest post on another writer's Christian blog. He is someone I have great respect for, and enjoy reading immensely. It's something I am very excited about, so please look for that link which should be coming in the next couple weeks.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

The Struggles of Single Parenting

As I continue to heal from my loss of Matt I notice the more time that goes by the more the grief changes from sad thoughts to happy memories. There are so many areas I feel I'm growing, continuing forward, and moving through the hard part, but the one thing that continues unchanged is the struggles I face in a single parent home. I feel so inadequate. I cleaned my house for the first time since I moved this week (this confession disgusts me). And I'm still exhausted from this task three days later. I used to clean my house top to bottom each week, pick up everyday, prepare and clean up a meal, and do laundry as one fluid task. Now it's as if I have no time to get any of these things done the way I wish. The laundry gets started, and forgotten. Two days later my washed clothes now reek of mildew, and the stuff in the dryer is so wrinkled I have to start over. Dinner remains to be a point of frustration for me. Evelyn is such a picky eater, and I've never been a foodie - unless we're talking chocolate I'm sort of a take it or leave it kind of girl when it comes to food. Somehow my time and motivation was simultaneously cut in half when I lost Matt, and I suppose that makes sense. And yet, I refuse to just let this feeling of inadequacy in the way I now run a home be the new status quo.

All this to say, I don't have much inspiration for this part of my frustration at the moment. What I want is solid ideas on how to feel more in control. Meditations I how I can let go of the need to control, without living in a state of chaos. Advice on how to get a four year old to help, and not feel as though she is being left out, or that mom must always put work and house tasks before her. So I'm just throwing this out there to my readers. What works for you? What doesn't? What are your tricks?

I would love to hear any responses you'd be willing to give!

Monday, August 22, 2011

Seeing Matt Each Day

In the car yesterday Evelyn said something to me that she says quite often, "I wish I could just see daddy." It's heartbreaking, and up until that day I always fumbled with my answer. I told her I wanted to see him too. I told her that we will always have pictures and memories. I told her that he will always live on in her heart. And, at times, some of those things gave her some comfort, but it never felt as though I was helping her the way I desired.

The answer that I gave to her on this day came from a day I had last week. I was changing Isaac's diaper. There he was peaceful and serene, just laying in on his changing table. He was looking up at me, and me down at him. He wasn't smiling, he was just being. He blinked. And there was Matt. He blinked again; and again, I saw Matt! It was now me blinking, but they were blinks to hold back tears. Everything about Isaac's eyes were shining brightly, and I could see Matt alive again in that very moment. It was exhilarating.

So on this date when Evelyn told me that she wished she could see her dad I felt a little leap in my heart. I had an answer, and I was excited to share with her. I told her that she could see her daddy anytime that she wanted by simply looking at her brother. That both Isaac and her were each half of daddy. That in their own special ways we could see daddy in each of them.

I continued to tell her what it is about her that reminds me of her father. Her attributes are far more personality related. She repeats phrases over and over, a funny quirk her father definitely was known for (for those of you who know him the following might ring some bells 'M i k e J o n e s' 'Foove-a-lyn-duv-a-lyn' 'Everybody loves the Maggie-Mags' ... I could go on for hours, but I'll save some for another time).

Evelyn understood. She got it. She looked happy. She watched Isaac for the next ten minutes straight, wonderment on her face. It was nice to be able to give her some wisdom that actually brought her real peace. It was nice to see her smile, instead of frown, after a discussion about her father. It was a nice step forward.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

My Own Contribution: 'Dare to Share'

It is time for me to share something in this space. Something real. Something raw. Something that is on my heart, and has been for some time. Something that new widows face. Something that is hard. Apart from the words woven together on this screen, I have been quietly dealing with families; with mothers, fathers, sisters, and brothers. Apart from the faithful followers of my blog I have addressed this issue within my church walls; with my pastor, my elders, and my friends. I have bled this thing dry, and then stood up dusted myself off and continued on down the same path I was on. Why? Because I feel this is a provision God has blessed me with in the aftermath of Matt's death. More pointedly, it is one of the most cherished provisions God has provided.

In my last post when I was speaking of reprocessing events I came across something disturbing. I discovered that there were many things I kept 'secret' from Matt. Not because I didn't want to tell him, but because I think if I had it would have been a further place of hurt for me. Back then this seemed acceptable, it seemed right. It doesn't anymore. I can't place blame for this fact on either of us. I was anxious and had no self worth. Saying he was a poor communicator misses the mark by a long shot, but it will do. Overall, we weren't good in the arguing arena. If I shared these 'secrets', even the lies, they would have been brought back up in an unattractive way, at an inappropriate time. And the feelings they brought to the surface in both of us would have been shoved down inside.

It was in my therapist's office that I stumbled across this fact. She asked me what the top five worst things I had ever faced were, and as I began to tell her I became flushed. My whole body heated up. I felt like I had scarlet fever. My head became light. My stomach turned . . . I had never told anyone this before. See - there were others involved so I assumed in some fashion I guess I had shared it - because I had "shared" it with them. It was in that dizzying moment I became acutely aware that forgiveness from God is not to be mistaken as an alternative for human to human confession. Sitting there in that chair I opened a rusty, dark, and murky cage that sat in the deepest corner of my heart. I reached into that cage, took one of those ratty old stories, and I threw it across the room. As it spilled from me I could almost see it; the story that consumed me from within for years like a monster. It was now darting over the carpet, small as a mouse, looking for a hiding place. I had rid my heart of something dark. It had gone out, and although I knew that event happened, it's ability to control me was changing.

Let's be honest though, our therapist's offices are the easy way out, right? I fought going to therapy up until a couple weeks ago because, 'Therapy never does anything for me'. I now realize that I have yet to have a therapist that I've told everything too. I even have anxiety about them thinking I am 'less than' . . . sad, really.

I will not be sharing with you my dark and ugly story, because it doesn't define who I am. Because I am not healed from those wounds yet. Because that is not what God is calling me to do. If at some point He does calls me to share those dark moments in my past in order to help others then I will. But for now? I'm going to share who I shared this story with. His name is Brad. And he's my boyfriend (I feel a little '12 stepish' right now . . . Hi. My name is Stephanie. I am a widow. And I'm dating.). Our story will come later. Now is not the time. Now is simply the time for me to breath into the universe the one secret I was still holding from those kind enough to have continued traveling this grief journey with me by reading what God has written on my heart.

Since I made the decision to start dating there have been presumptions about my state of grief. Unsureness about my readiness. I've received questions about my motives. I've been tested on whether this can be a Biblical blessed relationship (I believe it can, and is). And not just me, but Brad as well. He has stood by me, and my two kids, through Hell on Earth. Loved me despite - for one of the first time in his life - his character and motives being questioned. None of these questions, tests, or presumptions were meant to hurt us -- for the most part it is for opposite reasons. We are loved by many, and those who love us are trying very hard to protect our hearts. We recognize this, respect this, and wouldn't ask for it to be any other way. It doesn't make it easier to decide, as a new widow, to let someone into your messy life. It doesn't make it easier, but as I said before despite the questions, comments, and concerns we are doing our best to travel this road with gentleness, thought, and care. We are being as careful as we can, while still trying to praise God in the face of this amazing relationship He has given us.

So there it is. Honestly, I have fear over this post. I fear your judgment. I fear inflicting pain on those who love Matt. I fear people thinking that this somehow takes away from my love of Matt (it doesn't). I fear the 'what if' statements. I fear the assumptions that I can not grieve while in a new relationship (but I can and I am). I fear all these things, but at the same time, I also want to honor a God who has blessed me beyond belief. I want to honor Him by sharing with the world just one more amazing gift He has given me during this long and very difficult year. So thank you . . . thank you for letting me share something with you.

A Dare To Share

I’m starting on a new journey, and to be honest I am not sure I will be taking you all along with me. But right now, in this moment, I’m excited. God continues to renew me in these dark days. He continues to take things long worn upon my soul like tight and uncomfortable clothing and gives me the strength to shed the layers one by one. I am beginning to make connections where there weren’t connections before. I am beginning to let go of anxiety. I am beginning to understand my anxiety. I am beginning to replace it with comfort only Christ can give.

This journey involves looking back on traumas I have experienced in my life. Including those things I chose to inflict on myself; those things that continue to be the core of the unbearable anxiety which surrounds my present and daily life. This anxiety, or at times post traumatic stress, pulls me from a fairly sane (but no doubt scorn) woman, and turns me into a pile of crap at the slightest hint of an unpleasant memory. So the idea is to reprocess these events, including the trauma of Matt’s death, and learn to identify them internally for what they really are – my past.

Armed with the vision of Jesus at my side, today was Day One of reprocessing. It was hard, draining, and truly . . . it sucked. Well, it sucked in the most freeing and healing way one could imagine. I never would have guessed this would be the way to healing. A re-treading of shark infested waters, in order to find the peace Jesus always wanted me to have.

I realized after the fact that one of the hardest parts for me along this rugged road will be admission to the fact that I have done what I have done. And that does not affect the kind of person I am, the love I deserve, or the way others should view me. This sounds immature. I suppose because it’s easy for me to pin point what I ‘need’ to do, but doing it has been an ongoing struggle for years. For now, that struggle is still very much present within me. I hold my past, at least the terrible stuff, so tightly to my present I cannot tell where one ends and the other begins.

The truth is over the last two years of my life I am slowly learning two very important things:

1) I am not alone. Some of my traumatic events are worse than yours, but some are not. Some of my choices were more devastating than yours; again, some were not. In this very moment we are all suffering in some way, in some capacity. We all feel inadequate, unworthy, and unattractive in a certain life area. We are not alone.

2) Secrets are lies. I talked awhile ago about my ‘lie’. About how my ‘lie’ is that I’m not worthy of love. Would my life have looked different if I had told my father in high school that I felt unlovable? I imagine it probably would have knowing how kind my father is, and how gently he holds my heart. If we don’t allow those who love us to invade our lies for the craziness that they are . . . they fester. Fester like an infected wound. The longer the secret is there the harder it is to evict it from your soul.

I realize that not everyone needs what I need. Some people are happy with their pasts. Some people are free from traumatic events. Some people are confident in their choices, their path, and their inner rantings. In which case I suppose this isn’t for you. For the rest of you – the ones that were brought to a thought, a moment, or an event – I dare you to share that. Pick a person you trust. Pick a person of faith. Pick a person who mirrors the image of Jesus. A person who understands what grace looks like. And then? Let it go. Let go of the thing that haunts you. Of the lie you tell yourself. Of that event that embarrasses you. A moment of humiliation. Go ahead and tell the story of the person who tore your soul to shreds.

When you are done take a deep breath. Thank God for freedom, for grace, and for the new creation within us. Remember that Jesus taught us about Kingdom living here and now . . . in this life . . . on this Earth. Reach for it, because He wants you to.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

A Slight Shift

Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world. 1 John 4:1

When I hear the verse above there is a deep rooted sense within me, one I was not even aware of until today. That sense says to me, 'Instruction'. My mind categorizes this verse as a 'go-to' of sorts on how to discern spirits of this world. I heard a magnificent sermon by Rob Bell today that put this verse in a whole new light, and I feel the Holy Spirit stirring inside me. Since Matt's death there has been a mustard seed effect taking place inside my heart. Long since seeded roots of my early faith continue to hold tightly, but branches of understanding are growing at immense rates. A desire to learn more, a need to engage in conversation, and a bending to allow Spirit movement within my life, mind, and heart.

His sermon is an awesome trip. He empowers us to feel the weight of 1 John 2:20 in relation to 1 John 4:1. I have come up against an internal uncertainty of my ability to discern for months now. Which seems obvious, right? I am in a fragile state of mind. I am in a physical state of exhaustion. I have been through trauma. I am beginning a process of healing which is bringing forth trauma I hadn't allowed in prior to Matt's death. I am, if you will, vulnerable.

. . . or am I?

John, a pastor in the early church and a friend of Christ, assures me I am not. I am anointed with the Holy Spirit, I am from God, and I have overcome the spirits that need to be overcome. He tells me I can do this discernment thing. So was John giving me a protocol for testing the spirits? Is this verse a condensed and inspired 'Discernment For Dummies' workbook? Or is he telling the early church - telling me - we have the ability to do this thing. Is it possible this wasn't an instruction, but meant to be an encouragement? (Or maybe it was both or neither?) What amazing freedom here . . . I feel transformation . . . I feel growth.

This internal battle that rages within me is between these two contenders; the confidence I have in my gift of discernment, and the fear of failing in testing the spirits. But doesn't love cast out all fear? If fear of failure is the result within the context of a verse it feels contradictory to me in some way. It feels like maybe I'm looking at things in the wrong light. This slight shift in thought fills me with joy and confidence in Christ once more. With the choices of joy and confidence, or the fear of failure . . . I think I know which of these Jesus would have me choose.

Rob starts his sermon with a quote along the lines of this, "Sometimes when we assign doctrinal meanings to scripture they can lose the power of what they affirm, of what they embrace, [of what they are trying to transform]. But it is this [power] that can bring them to life in new ways and in new dimensions."

Rob ends with some thoughts along these lines, "You may at times hear something that is disturbing, disrupting, frightening, disorientating. You may find yourself confused, perplexed, and frustrated. And it may be true. It may be the Spirit of God shaking you. Maybe because you are in a rut and God wants to break you in order to open you up to all sorts of new understandings and perspectives. But because you are clinging so tightly to the views you have always had a sort of shaking is needed. When you are discerning you may want to dismiss something because it is disturbing. Part of the process is knowing when that is because it is not from God, or when it is the Spirit of God moving in mysterious ways."

These things I speak of are personal issues I struggle with. These are things I cling to. This is part of my growth journey. There is excitement in that, hope there, and now a renewed sense of confidence in my testing of the spirits.

This post is doesn't contain much of what the message did, it is simply what it stirred in me . . . if you would like to see what it stirs in you it can be found here.

Monday, August 1, 2011

My Freedom Prayer

Jesus it's time, and I need you near.

It's time to sling stones at this freedom I fear.

Forgiven I've lived, forgiven I've been.

But the weight of my life still haunts where I am.

So I'm going forth, with your strength I will fight.

To know that my battle is won with Christ's light.

My past's ugly, it's painful, and I wish to forget.

But instead it pummels me with unending fists.

To your will I am bending, I am begging to break.

Please help me find healing in a whole world of fake.

Your gift I don't grasp - at least not yet in this place.

With faith I step forward in search of . . . true grace.

Monday, July 25, 2011

The Cemetery

So after the move I began a new route to work. The shortest way to get there is the back roads through the suburb connecting to the city I work in. It is a windy and beautiful road. It is a road that Matt and I used to live just blocks off of for a big chunk of our relationship. It is a road we biked on, took Evelyn to parks on, and it also happens to be the same road his cemetery now lies on.

The first few times I drove past it I would slow way down, stare into the field, and feel a tug to stop. Often, I was too busy. Late to work, late to pick up the kids, or late to whatever I was suppose to be doing (prior to Matt's death I can't remember a time I was ever late). It was a couple weeks ago that I had sort of planned it out to make time to stop. This wasn't the first time I had been to his grave, it wasn't even the first time I had been alone. It was just like any other visit really, but it wasn't somehow.

On this visit a couple weeks ago, which coincided with this sinking depression that has overtaken me recently, I decided to sit down and talk to Matt. I had an old quilt I'd made in the back of his SUV, the one that I now drive. I laid it out next to his unmarked grave. His plot is next to a baby girl, if I'm right a three year old; her marker engraved with a teddy bear is simply heartbreaking. He is laid next to a crooked old tree of some sort, if I had to guess I would say an apple tree, but I'd probably be wrong. And it sits only about 20 feet from a house of someone whose yard backs up to this particular cemetery.

On this day I laid out a blanket, took off my shoes, and plopped down. I started and ended my time with Matt in prayer - asking the Spirit to be ever present in my words, to cover me completely. And then . . . I let it all out. I told Matt about how I was troubled. About how my anxiety has resurfaced in full force. About how I struggle with finding the correct balance between discipline and love in the midst of tragedy. I told him how hard taking care of a home by myself is, and how much it hurts that I can't keep a house the way I could when he was around to help. I told him about all the things I break, and the things I don't take care of the way he would want me to. I told him about how much Isaac is growing, and about what a little story teller Evie has become. I told him about his mother's new home, and how his littlest brother is now 16. I told him about our new pastor and his family, how much he would have loved them, and the excitement surrounding their move. I told him how overwhelmed I felt at times. How I feel I can't keep up with daily tasks, let alone commitments I've made. I told him how there are things I'm longing to do, feeling called to do, and yet the lies that 'I'm not good enough' continue to sneak in. I told him everything.

And you know what? There was no response. No revelation in that moment, or reassurance from beyond the grave. And truly I see that as fitting, since before Matt died I would have never gotten him to listen to me that long. He wasn't capable [or more likely didn't give much effort] into listening to my heart very often. It was something he was becoming more aware of, and would have probably grown better at with time, but still something that pained me. There was no response on that day, but when I rose up and left, there was relief. Relief of being honest, of just breathing into existence all the things weighing on my heart.

Since that day I've made it to his resting place a lot. My quilt, and his dirt. With just my thoughts, tears, and bare feet. And although a cemetery seems an unfitting place for a 31 year old to find comfort, it also seems unfitting to be the home of a 33 year old husband and father.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Come Together . . . Right Now . . . Over Me

You know the part of a cheesy mystery movie, when the main character flashes back to different scenes suddenly able to see that the killer was giving them clues all along the way, and they are just now putting them together to make sense? My head is a little like that right now. And since I'm certain I will wake up tomorrow and it will have all fallen apart in my feeble mind I'm going to try to write it out to help give clarity at a further moment in which I might be in need of it.

To start; I have a beautiful and wonderfully colorful friend. I look up to this women for many reasons. One of which is we have similar pasts, similar loves in life, and similar struggles. Since I have met her she has spoke of freedom with such passion it could take the breath right out of your lungs. Freedom as a place she longs for, as a place she is going. Shortly after Matt's death I began to find an uncomfortable sense with this word freedom, although I couldn't tell you why. I guess my feeling was, 'Well there won't be freedom here' 'We can journey towards freedom but will not reach it until he wipes away our tears' Maybe even with a touch of 'Even if you were to get close something bad will happen to bring you back down'.

So fast forward to these last two weeks (aka my rough patch). I have been told by many who love me and are doing their best to wade in the waters of this thing called grief along side me that they are concerned. The exact why of their concerns is not as important as the root of it. I have been told I have anxiety, that my fears are not fact based, that my fears are abnormal, and that I can overcome when I'm willing to give them up. All these things came from a number of people, all close and dear to my heart.

In the most recent of these conversations I had a rare moment of solace in my vehicle on my way back home. I was in need of God's voice and he was ready to comfort me as only he can. The conversation started with this, "Please tell me what is wrong with me." The answer so crystal clear. It was beautifully and quietly sung. It was, "You are perfectly and wonderful made". My Abba Father knows just what to say when his little girl is down. The conversation continued, and although he revealed nothing further to me in that moment other than Psalms 139:14 (he spoke to me perfect, the verse says fearfully. I don't know what that means, other than that is what he said, and this is the verse that I was led to.)

So what is it my Father is trying to reveal to me? I have lived thinking that freedom on the earth was an unattainable thing for me, and yet people tell me it's about being ready, people tell me my fears are wrong. And there it is . . . a new lie. A deeper seeded lie I hadn't recognized prior to this moment. It sounds like this:

"You are forgiven from your past sins; however, you must still carry them with you as a definition of who you are, and a weight of what you've done."

Whoa. Heavy stuff. That is a lie, and it could have slipped past me for years if God wasn't such a giving father to let me in on my stumbling block. I often find myself holding on to things because I feel I must pay for them, I missing the true meaning of grace in my life.

My friend, that colorful beauty I spoke of, she is right! Freedom? It can be obtained. Jesus wants that for us . . . he DIED in order for us to receive it. I have shown repentance of my sins, I have allowed forgiveness, but I forgot something vital. I forgot surrender. I still carry those sins on my back. I still let them define who I am. And that is not what grace is about. So what does the bible say in regards to my slavery to sin (and it's consequences)?

"For the Lord is the Spirit, and wherever
the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom."
2 Corinthians 3:17 (NLT)

Defining this lie, figuring it out, calling it out is not the freedom I'm looking for. But it is a step in the right direction. It's time for someone smarter than me to hash this head of mine out with me.

". . . One thing I can tell you is you got to be free." The Beatles.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Say Cheese!

I've been wanting to share this picture for a while. It is the last photo Matt and I ever took together. Evelyn took the picture. And it makes me laugh every time I see it. Matt rarely passed up an opportunity to make people smile. He seemed to always be goofing around. He had a carefree attitude about life that I can feel already slipping away from me. I wish I had the courage to live a little more on the carefree side. There were times when he took it too far, but isn't there things we all do that we take too far? This trait made him fun to be around; in the beginning it made him exciting to be around. I wanted to be able to hold on to it more than I am, but the truth of the matter is I need to care. With two kids, and a sole mortgage, and a house to clean, and money to make, and a job to hold, and mouths to feed, and a dog to clean up after. . .well carelessness is a luxury I literally can't afford. I hope it will be in pictures like these I will be reminded what it is like to be around someone so easy going, and through that I will be able to hold on to his spirit.

Is There Tension in Your Life?

There was a sermon lesson I learned once about living in 'the tension' of life. This very thought has been brought back to the surface of my mind with a recent interview I listen to with David Fitch on Homebrewed Christianity regarding his new book ‘The End of Evangelicalism?’. I feel the tension in this question, I feel it in all sorts of areas where a clear cut answer can’t be found for me. Because I feel that stating there is an answer for everything, and that it is us that have that answer is really nothing more than the need to control? And so what would Jesus tells us about that if he could?

I mean, Jesus states all too clearly that it is he that is the truth, the life, and the way. So if Jesus is the truth, then it would be him you would need to define, or pin down with a clear cut set of answers. But how can we do this? The first shall be last, and the last first. He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood shall have eternal life. It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, then for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God. If your right eye causes you to sin pluck it out, for it is better to lose a limb then to be thrown into hell. If you don’t feel tension, questions, confusion in those words we are not reading the same Bible. He is the truth, and yet, for Him as I see that did not equal coming up with a clear concise answer to every question he was asked.

There was a moment with Evelyn this week that brought on this very tension within our little family, and for me was a realization that God wanted me to share my thoughts on tension. I read her a book called, “Clean Water for Elirose”. You can learn about the book, it’s mission, and hope here, but it is a teaching tool for children so they can learn about the social injustice involved with the lack of clean water for all. I want Evelyn to know about social injustices. I want her to feel compelled to help. I want her to grow knowing that Christ’s vision for a new Heaven and a new Earth do not involve these types of things. That we can fight now to help squelch the ugliness of it all. But you try sitting down with a four year old angel staring up at you asking why a girl who looks just like her is drinking water dirty from, among other things, human waste. Begging you for comfort from the question of why we don’t all have clean water. Tell me the teaching of social injustices aren’t hard. Tell me there isn't tension in that. I wanted so badly to tell her I was lying. To tell her that those kids would be okay. That God would heal, and take care, and ease their pain. And although, Christ is in those moments of pain with those children just as he is with Evie in hers, likely their suffering will not pass without pain and death.

Let’s face it, when someone asks us a question about Christianity having an answer to cover the doubt is the easiest. When someone feels moved by the Spirit, giving them a prayer that will somehow cover their future longings and forgive all previous sins is the simplest plan. But that isn't what Christ did. He told us it would be hard to live for Him. We are guaranteed suffering. He tells us this suffering brings refinement as only an Abba Father can give. He reminds us to teach and lead those in our own church (I praise God for my own elders who love and teach and lead me with great care), but we are not to judge those outside.

What you believe is not what everyone else in the Christian community believes, and yet, we somehow believe we are all the ones with the 'right' answers. My conclusion is not that we are all right, and the doors will be open to everyone. No, my conclusion is that we are all wrong, in one form or another. That His ways are not are ways, that His thoughts are not our thoughts. I have learned far more about God, and my relationship with Jesus, when I have allowed the Spirit to work beyond what I gave him growing up to work with. It's listening, learning, and discerning. Anyone can listen to someone teach them what they already know, in order to reaffirm how right they are. To me it's about growth, and there is no where I'd rather be then growing in God.

And so you will find there is a tension between whether you are leading someone astray or resisting the need to judge. That tension . . . it is okay. There is a tension in just how much is enough when giving to the church or to social injustice needs. That tension. . .it is okay. There is tension in wanting to provide things for our families and not being greedy or materialistic. That tension . . . it is okay. There is tension in doubting what we have been taught as infallible truth. That tension . . . it too, is okay.

The key is living in this tension doesn't change your views. It doesn't change your values. It doesn't change your beliefs. What it does is opens the door of your heart, mind, and soul to a world of other broken fallen humans out there. Humans that the Spirit longs for us to connect with, because like it or not they may hold some wisdom the Spirit desires for you to hold.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

A Rough Patch

The last two weeks have been hard. I'm at a place I can no longer explain it to people. The trauma of what happened with Matt seems to have magnified traumas of smaller scales earlier in my life and the terrors continue to sheer through my body at unexpected and unwanted times. I can't remember anything. Seriously, I am unable to recall the largest or smallest details. If my shopping list has more than one item, forget it (litterally). There are times I'm not sure if I am even living in a conscious state of mind at all. Concentration is difficult. Tasks are tremendous. I'm overwhelmed with the feeling of being judged, and the anger that surrounds that is frightening in itself. For if I know one thing it is anger leads to bitterness, and in my life bitterness is the one thing I will go to my grave kicking and screaming to avoid. I don't want to be bitter, and I don't want to be around the bitter. Love wins, because God is love (and I'm not talking a heaven/hell debate). I'm surviving. I'm doing what I feel is best. I'm doing what someone who has just lost their spouse does . . . still breathing. I have been blessed with financial and relational help from God that I have no right to question, and neither does anyone else. This questioning from others does not include concern for me, those who I feel most loved by show and share their concerns; with bitterness aside and grace abounding/surrounding their words. I feel alone. I'm so scared most nights at my town house that the number of lights remaining on is usually greater than those that are off. I don't sleep well. I jump up in the night panicked I may be unaware of the next trauma occurring outside my bedroom door. I have no patience. At the end of most days I'm so drained by my bickering with Evelyn I can't remember if we got along for more than a minute all day. My desired energy to mother the way I would like is far from where I would have it. I fear the victim role, and so I do my best to avoid it. I blog/speak/teach/talk about His love, His provisions, and His plan. And yet, even with my knowledge I'm still in pain. My tongue, for the first time in my life, appears tied at times. I'm unable to discern if it is tied by the Holy Spirit beckoning me to shut my trap, or Satan holding back my ability to communicate well within in the confines of my insecurities. I find myself sitting in a chair waiting. Waiting for the next trial, next suffering, next test. I can see the refinement He's given me so far in life and I wouldn't trade that for an easier path no matter what, but I feel like a 81 year old in a 31 year old's body. I've learned enough [for now]. Peace would be nice. Encouragement would be good. The ability to let those who love me understand that I have not been perfect, I will not be perfect, but I am a widow. To show me grace in the decisions made on this path, because - like you - I've never traveled it before. A widow who is simple doing her best in a pained, angry, and lonely world to get over my hill and see that maybe there is more in store.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Provisions, Legalism, and Disernment. . .aka Fun Stuff

It hasn't seemed to fail from happening yet; a trial amidst my trial appears, and then shortly after a provision is shown . . . a gift from God, another showering of His unfailing love for me in a time of pain and suffering. Or is it? At times it seems as though gifts of different shapes, sizes, and sorts have literally dropped into my lap. Things that make me happy, make life easier, and lift weight off my shoulders. Things that I would take without question right now in my life, but what if they aren't provisions? What if just because something seems like a good thing from the outside it doesn't necessarily mean it is a gift from God. So how can we tell as Christians what is from God, and what may actually be our selfish desires convincing us it is 'from God'?

It's important to note, as well, that I can see this type of thing happening in lives of those all around me. It can have the potential to sound like this, "It was a God thing" "This is all God's doing" "I just know it is God's desire for me". And I'll be the first to admit this happens to me as well, and especially lately, I find myself saying these very things all the time. And sometimes it's Truth. T.R.U.T.H. Moving and breathing. And to those things we glorify God with the story of how He he can transform our lives. Or sometimes it begins as Truth living in our lives, and as God's fallen peeps we mess it up. It doesn't need to be a gift either. Provision aren't the only category needing discernment. It could be a trial, a ministry, a teaching, a plan. Do you think it came from God? From what I've learned in my life to make a claim like that means you must first do a little investigation.

Write it down. Pick it apart. And ask a few straight forward questions. Is your ultimate desire in regards to this to glorify God? If you aren't doing it for the glory of Christ who saved you, then stop, and stop now. And what if at first your desire was to glorify God but we got it the way and now you are unsure? Ultimately you can tell it by it's fruit. What fruit are you bearing in regards to it now? Is the fruit - both the ongoing and the end ones - showing up with beautiful and wonderful stories of Him living through you? It doesn't mean you become healthy, wealthy, popular, or famous . . . it means He is now BEING glorified through you. In your actions, through His gifts, within your suffering - He comes out on top. Finally you need to lean on friends. Friends who pray, friends who can give you an outside view, friends you've had for years, friends who know Jesus. Ask those who love you, they will be able to tell.

So why legalism in my title? I state it because, to me, it's become an important notation to mull over when working through these types of things with the Holy Spirit. It is important to note that even though we can look to others for advice, leadership, and guidance we have already been anointed with the Holy Spirit by Christ himself, see 1 John 2:27, and we need not look any further than this very conviction to know what is right and wrong in our lives. My dad has taught me that this can run deeper within a generational and cultural context, but let's leave John's words as is for now. Things can get hairy and scary real fast when you bring in legalism. And within this Christ anointed life it's becoming harder and harder to read the Bible in the context of legalism. My Bible is being shown to me in a new light, and this should be praised. My Bible is not a rule book, a work book, or a how-to book. . .it is the Spirit breathing on, in, and through my life. And when I read it if I don't feel the power of my Holy Father upon and within me, personally I think I should probably start back a chapter and try again.

Truly this testing, if you will, has arisen within many topics that have come into my life over the last months. These stories are not all for today, as I want you to not fall asleep at your monitor with my droning on. But I felt it important to first share how I have come through each of these, and what I have learned first. I know these type of God stories are happening each moment, of each day, in each life on this planet. We each need to just slow down and give God time to plant them as His will would have it, so in the end our story is a beautiful garden . . . and not a bunch of weeds.

Meant to Love . . . My Eulogy

I want to document here the eulogy that I gave at Matt's funeral. The end is a poem I wrote for Matt in March of 2007, and it was titled 'Meant to Love'.

Ecclesiastes 3

A Time for Everything

1 There is a time for everything,
and a season for every activity under the heavens:

2 a time to be born and a time to die,
a time to plant and a time to uproot,
3 a time to kill and a time to heal,
a time to tear down and a time to build,
4 a time to weep and a time to laugh,
a time to mourn and a time to dance,
5 a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them,
a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing,
6 a time to search and a time to give up,
a time to keep and a time to throw away,
7 a time to tear and a time to mend,
a time to be silent and a time to speak,
8 a time to love and a time to hate,
a time for war and a time for peace.

9 What do workers gain from their toil? 10 I have seen the burden God has laid on the human race. 11 He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end. 12 I know that there is nothing better for people than to be happy and to do good while they live. 13 That each of them may eat and drink, and find satisfaction in all their toil—this is the gift of God. 14 I know that everything God does will endure forever; nothing can be added to it and nothing taken from it. God does it so that people will fear him.

15 Whatever is has already been,
and what will be has been before;
and God will call the past to account.

To everything there is a time? I have begged my Savior for an answer to the question. . .a time to lose the one you love? I imagine Solomon would have said yes, even that too. For those of you close to me, you know that I was born and raised in a Christian home; and the first time I really felt the Holy Spirit in my life and in my heart was probably around the age of 8. But something happened for me in the summer of 2008 when I started attending Bridgewood with Matt. I went from being a Christian to understanding what true Spirit Transformation is all about. So when I found a letter I had wrote to Matt prior to this time in my life, from the March after Evelyn was born, and I saw included Ecclesiastes 3 because I felt it described our lives so perfectly, I knew that it should be the focus of today’s message. I knew that it must have a special place within Matt and I. Without that Spirit transformation that I spoke of, without the support I have received over the last week, without Jesus – I would not be able to stand here today.

When I have flicked Matt’s cell phone on over these last couples days to answer a call the first thing I see is his speed dial numbers, staring back at me is “Love Of My Life”. That was what he referred to me as. . .the love of his life (this was among other not so adoring nicknames such as ‘The Warden’ and ‘The Fun-Sucker’). But ‘The love of my life’ What a title to embrace – a man like MattyO -- so full of life, of passion, of energy, who could look at me and say of all the things on God’s green Earth filled with His blessings -- she is the one I love – she is the one I chose -- she is what brings me joy. What an honor for me. And sure, I brought him love and joy – but also frustration and down right anger at times. I pushed Matt like the good codependent wife I was. Matt did everything big. “Big things!!” he would say to me, “I got big things going on!!” as he would race around the house working on his next project. And being a father was something that Matt did BIG. He was so proud of Evelyn and Isaac, so proud to be a father to them. I was so very lucky to have a father like that for my children; and I should have appreciated it more often. I have no doubt that it won’t be many years before I over hear a conversation between my children talking of how daddy had put a swing right in our heated garage for her so he could swing her even in the winter. How he even had a big screen TV hooked up in there so she could watch Sponge Bob before she would go to bed. And I can almost hear Isaac saying, “And he pushed you so high your feet would touch the ceiling?” And Evelyn’s reply will no doubt be, “Well, Isaac, only when momma wasn’t looking.”

Over the years Matt and I’s relationship had rocky points, and unfortunately for me, I found out later then I would have liked that this fact was not an abnormal one. My own insecurities may have held me back too much from just diving head first into life the way Matt did – literally without a care in the world. But I feel confident that living that care free life through him was worth every worry it brought me. Since Matt was the type of guy to buy himself whatever his little heart desired, he was a tough guy to buy gifts for. So it was our first anniversary that in lieu of a gift I put together a scrapbook for him. There are four, and this last year I put together our wedding album for him – I will cherish those books now. I displayed them last night at the visitation and there was one poem I had wrote to Matt that I wish to share with you now. It was from early in our relationship, before moving out of of our first home, but after Evie was born. It is a glimpse of him and I, hand in hand, together at the lake we lived on. And that image I had envisioned long before he left this Earth, is one that I had not wrote for this day, and yet it has somehow given me peace.

Meant to Love

I woke up in a crystal blue lake today.

Surrounded by beauty, love, clarity.

I felt alone but only for a second,

for I knew he was with me.

He took his hand in mine and we gazed down at our toes wiggling in the sand beneath the water

That crystal blue water, reminisced of his eyes

As now sets in, and then fades away I cannot forget to remember...

The mud we trudged through not long ago.

And whether we are right now, or lost from then I know I love him

Not for who he was, not for who he is, but because we were meant to love.

Our love is is one not of chance but of a greater belonging

That in which he is a part of my soul

This has always been

Monday, June 27, 2011

After The Storm

"Because death is just so full, and man so small.
Well, I'm scared of what's behind, and what's before"
After The Storm Mumford and Sons

When I take the time to reflect on my grief process. . .where I have been, where I am now, and how the journey has looked so far I like to think I am doing okay. Ups and downs are a daily struggle. On and off I have cried, screamed, doubted, and at times felt a sense of hopelessness. Those feelings now come in waves that are further and farther between, and when they do show up I have more strength to push them away much quicker than I did three months ago. But there is one piece of my story that scares me still, and that piece is the trauma of Matt's death. The whole night and day of the event, from him waking up, to me pleading with God in the hallway of my home, the ER, and then the hospital, the goodbyes, the letting go, telling Evelyn. The trauma of the event has me still shaking in my core.

For my readers who don't know me well there was a time in my life where I lived in a state that invited a sort of trouble that often resulted in trauma to myself. For the most part this was in the way of my psyche, but at times the trauma was physical as well. For those who intimately know me, at best you know half of it. After I surrendered my heart to Jesus, but before I surrendered my time, effort, and body to Him I had to learn a way to cope with trauma. It was a survival mode I lived in for far too many years. I taught myself a way to get through a traumatic event, and then how to wade through the emotional aftermath without completely falling apart to those around me. It was an amazing turning point in life when I finally allowed the Holy Spirit to start His work of transformation within me. Once that transformation began I knew I needed time (hours and hours of time) in prayer, in meditation, and in confession. I allowed Christ healing from those wounds, the only healing with the ability to truly heal.

It would reason then that after moving on from this time I liked to think I was some what better equipped to handle a situation that could cause others to panic. And I believe prior to Matt's death that had some truth to it. I can think of quite a few moments that Matt and I ventured over the last years, but one time I'm brought back to is the night of Isaac's birth. Isaac and I were only in the recovery ward of the hospital a few hours before he was rushed to Children's Hospital under the assumption a blood infection he appeared to have had the potential to be life threatening. Under attack I kept my cool, I did what I needed to do as his mother, and leaned on God. Holding his teeny tiny hand as they poked his spine with a needle which seemed half the size of his entire legnth. Only getting to hold my child for the first week with the restraints of tubes and IVs keeping us slightly separated. Being completely separated from Evelyn, who wasn't allowed to see her brother in the NICU. It was tramatic, and yet it really wasn't.

This is an area I've been told by many that I may need further help with. That the trauma will not disapate, it will not be healed without guidance. It has begun to manifest itself in my life in far too many ways for me to feel comfortable continuing down a path of ignorance in regards to its impact. I have to pull over on the road two or three times a week because the panic overtakes my ability to function. I wake up in the middle of the night at the slightest sound, terrified that the sound I'm hearing is one of my children now being taken from this Earth in the deep of the night. A seemingly innocent and harmless situation with our dog Maggie (that I should have been able to handle) turned into an afternoon of chaos which required a friend to drop everything to come help, and a plumber to lend the panicked widow a hand.

These panics appear to me in what I suppose might be a type of post traumatic stress. Flashes of that day. . .images of Matt with life fading from him, the slow and painful heartbreak felt from his hospital bedside, the moment he started bleeding out at our house, giving him CPR, Evelyn's tears at the end of the day, the doctor's faces throughout the day, the walk to his room to say goodbye, the moment they told me he would not make it, his eyes in those last seconds of consiousness. These flashes back, these moments that aren't healing in my heart. . .these are what it looks like to me after the storm.

"There will come a time, you'll see, with no more tears
And love will not break your heart, but dismiss your fears.
Get over your hill and see what you find there.
With grace in your heart and flowers in your hair."

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Unlovable Little Me

Insecurity has always been a stumbling point for me. Insecurity has caused me to do things I shouldn't have. Likewise, not do things I know I'm being called to. I wasn't able to really name this thing, insecurity, until the last year or so. I feel some freedom in just being able to call it what it is. I don't feel alone in this insecurity, I feel at times it can be an epidemic. And there is some freedom in that as well. I think one thing I have learned through my grief is that the tried and tired saying that life is too short is true.

Insecurities aren't new. If they caused Moses troubles then it doesn't surprise me I have issues in dealing with them too. I do find it interesting though, as I keep going forward in life I find that in a category that I used to feel direly alone in, I'm anything but alone. We all have insecurities about something. It's been long understood that kids who are abused as children grow up to have larger issues in life, and one of these is insecurity. But I heard recently that due to the high volume of sexually laced images young people are exposed to at such a high rate our young adults now display characteristics the same as adults who were abused as children. So basically our children's over exposure to magazines, reality tv, models, commercials could later in life manifest itself into our children's minds the same as molestation would? This should be chilling.

Insecurity latches on to my belly like a leech; it sucks me until I feel sick to my stomach. It can seize me up in sheer panic. It can cause anxiety that bounces me off the wall. It can make me sleepy. It can make me depressed. It can make me eat. It can prompt me to starve myself. It is ugly, dark, and I hate it. I discovered my lies for what they were prior to Matt dying, but now with this new view of life and death as I look forward I'm beginning to think I don't want those lies feeding off my soul any longer. It is true that when defenses are weak, it's easier to fade back, to let the lies take over and give in to it's darkness. But there is a problem with this fading back. . .and that is it is hard for God to be glorified in the shadows. As long as He is in the world, then He is the light of it. . .right? Or in other words, if I allow my insecurities, or my lies to stand in the way of His calling, His plan for me, or even the tasks He has laid out for me to do for others . . . there is no light in me. Another chilling thought.

So, for me, it was identifying the lie I was telling myself. It is determining what other things I tell myself that I related to that lie, and calling them out as well. Everyone's lies are different. Mine came to me one day about two years ago in a stark and startling manner. I was probably the age of 16 (this coincides with the time of my first real boyfriend) when I began a habit of telling myself that no one would ever love me. Seems trite, right? I can practically picture myself even - A heartbroken teen girl sobbing over her pom-poms repeating to herself that "No one will ever love you" **insert dramatics here** And, for the most part, that image could have been spot on. When it started it could have been harmless, but the fruit from such a lie is no fruit I want to bear anymore.

And truly I don't know what came first . . . Was I born with a propensity to feel unlovable? Or did I encourage the deep roots of the lie because I repeated it to myself thousands of times over just a few short years? And something like feeling unlovable reaches to all relationships in one's life. It reaches to all communication. It reaches to places you wouldn't imagine. Every conversation, every interaction, every glance. Each one wrapped up and put under the context of my lie.

Now, I don't need you tell me that I am lovable. That is not the point. Because some people love me, and some people don't. That is life. The point is does Jesus find me lovable? The point is can I surrender my lie in order to step out each day and live life in a way that shows confidence in His love for me?

My prayer in this is that others would be bold enough to see if there is a lie that is holding them back from doing what they are being called to do. That they would call it a lie out loud. That the truth of who Christ is in us would be louder than any lie we may have become comfortable telling ourselves. That together we can let go of the societal demands place upon us, and focus instead on the gift of life as it was meant to be.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Glitter Like Gold

Thanks to The Lockman Foundation you can listen to the audio version of the book of Job in it's entirety for free at any given time; all one needs is access to the internet and a computer. This takes about four long, and at times, painful hours. And I don't mean painful in a boring sense, oh no. This book is full of human ridiculousness in all it's glory. If you can open yourself up to the thought, there are times while studying this book I find myself cringing as I would if I were watching a second rate reality TV show like The Real Housewives of [fillintheblank]. Times in the book I want to close my ears to our blatant disregard, not because I'm any better, but rather because my assumptions and questions about life and God far too often mimic those of Job's friends. But the book is so much more than just a life lesson in how small our minds really are. . .it is a large picture window giving us a glimpse into the Holiness of God. And listen, I would take a keyhole glimpse at His Holiness if that was all I was offered.

The story is of a man who loves God, who is righteous, who follows the law. God gives Satan the go ahead of sorts to take everything from Job in order to prove Job's love is deeper than the blessings God has bestowed upon him. And so Satan has at it; takes Job's children, his wealth, his health, and leaves him with nothing. I can't help but wonder what moves God is making in order to make my life worthy of glorifying His name. What is going on within The Kingdom that is changing each and everyone of our lives/paths, all so we can find covenant living and make disciples as He wants us to. And acknowledge it or not, like it or not, but believe me when I tell you your life is already under the authority of Kingdom Living. So, do you think God and Satan had a lazy Sunday afternoon bet over your life? What a crazy and clarifying idea to imagine a hardship or suffering in this light. To watch as we respond to the path God places us on, taking each step carefully not to selfishly act entitled to something better, but rather to praise Him still.

So after Job grieves, and after his friends offer up some skewed observations and some not so hot advice God shows up. I mean it, He shows up with a few choice words for this small group of His chosen people. After you've read through it once, I think part of the cringe-worthy factor of the story of Job is knowing that while we sit on Earth contemplating, doubting, questioning there is this chance that God will show up and tell it to us just like it is. And apparently telling it like it is, is to 'gird up our loins like a man'. I just can't quite wrap my head around the almighty asking me to gird up my loins, but it does makes me giggle just a little if I was to be honest. And then God reminds us of something beautiful. Chapters 38-41 are a must read. He reminds us that we weren't here when He got this whole thing rolling. And likely, we won't be here when He wraps it up. We don't know how intricate, and beautiful His plans and movements are. We don't understand how every last thing going on around us is part of that plan. We can't get the plan, but we can adore the creator for the beauty of what comes forth from that.

My favorite verse in Job comes from Chapter 23:10 and 11. "But he knows the way that I take; when he has tested me, I will come forth as gold. My feet have closely followed his steps; I have kept to his way without turning aside." Mmmm Hmmm. . .I want to follow closely, Lord, I want to come forth as gold. . .seems appropriate when I consider my love of all things that shine;)

We can take what God has given us in this life (good or bad), we can feel what the Spirit is imprinting on our hearts in regards to our path, and we can look to Job [to the Bible] to see just what message He is trying to give to us. I tell myself daily to remember. . .bitterness, anger, resentment, revenge; those are all the easy way out, and that is not what I want. What I want is to come forth as gold, to follow closely and shine.

I like how the book of Job doesn't leave us hanging. No, it gives us a follow up just like a true reality series should do. A snippet at the end that flashes by so we know that God went on to provide for Job. We learn that Job lived a full and happy life. Regardless of the pain that overtook him at one point, Job persevered. And in the end? He came forth as gold.