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Thursday, March 31, 2011

Worry Ends Where Faith Begins. . . .?

I saw a church sign that read, "Worry ends where faith begins." I guess I missed this gem squashed somewhere in the middle of the Proverbs. I can't help but feel the desire to clarify the possibilities that arise with this short and powerful statement. So are they saying I don't have faith because I still worry? Or rather are they directing it at non-Christians in hopes that they can get them in the door based on this very false statement? Or worse, a Christian who left the church in anger, sees a sign like this and instinctively thinks we're all hypocrites (because that is the label we need).

As one who has dealt with anxiety my whole life, I know Matthew 6. I know what it says. And I absolutely love when Jesus tells us that if the birds are taken care of, isn't it obvious that we will be and even more so. When He reminds me that today has enough worry, and I can leave tomorrow alone. I find rest and comfort in those words, but as much as I repeat those words it does not mean my worry is just washed away. As Christians no one (walking with Jesus or not) finds rest in pretending that we don't worry.

Finding Christ in the midst of this life (during chaos, trials, joy, pain, anger, and suffering) is something I think we should try and open ourselves up to. To the possibility or understanding that saved isn't a line we cross.

This thought in Christianity that a person is either over the line or not being the only two options. In my own life I have danced around the line of 'saved' or 'not' as long as I can remember, and I would like to think I am not alone here. I have doubted being in or out. Honestly, a person can hover over this line. Or straddle it. You can cross the line, and then dart back. You can race over it running a marathon past it, only to wake up years later with the line still at your feet somehow. Or how about those who avoid the line, pretend it isn't there, and yet Jesus steps right over to walk with that person on the other side?

Which makes me wonder maybe for Jesus the line doesn't exist. Which means maybe this line is something we made up to put things nicely in a box. Maybe this line is meaningless. And maybe I find unexplainable joy in serving a God who can't be put nicely in a box. Maybe there is hope in that simple thought alone.

I worry. . . .and I have faith. I even have worries about my faith. I don't think Jesus minds. I actually thinks He understands.

Here is what I find exhilarating about what I am seeing on this journey. The idea of "being". I am being saved, I am being transformed, I am b e i n g forgiven. So do I take it out of the realm of possibility that sometime in my life I will be without a care in the world? Of course not, because I cannot define what God can do. But what I do know is this:

I have faith. I have worries. And I still have a Savior.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Oh oh oh, Love Wins Alright!

"My name is Rob and I live in Grand Rapids MI. And I'm a Christian. And I believe in Jesus. And I believe Jesus is the way. And I BELIEVE in HEAVEN. And I BELIEVE in HELL. And I believe the Bible is God's word. I am not a universalist, because I believe God's love is SO great God lets you decide. I believe in the communion of the Saints. I believe the CHURCH is the fullness. I believe in a new heaven and a new earth. I believe in healing. I believe in miracles. I believe in salvation. I believe in the power of prayer. I believe God is ALIVE and WORKING. I believe there has been a r e s u r r e c t i o n and there is a whole new creation bursting forth in the midst of this one right here . . . . . .and I also believe it's best to only discuss books you've actually read." I was brought to tears this morning by the first seven minutes of Rob's sermon from Sunday. I'm have the utmost respect for his congregation and elders, as I can only imagine the turmoil they have faced over the last weeks has been heart wrenching. I'm glad I didn't say much about this subject until Rob had a chance to, because I couldn't have stated it any better. A Response From Rob Himself So just for the record. . .I love Rob Bell. I love Rob because he loves Jesus. I love Rob because he teaches the Bible as the word of God, and teaches from it in a way that in order to learn I need to open it up myself. I love Rob because he preaches love, forgiveness, and grace like no one I have ever heard. I love him because he leads me to ask hard questions, and search to find the answers. I love him because he never speaks ill of those who speak ill of him, and that must take AMAZING Spirit given restraint given the things spoke of him. If THIS man is the definition of a heretic, tell me where to sign up because I'm pretty sure Jesus wishes we were all so heretical.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Within A Woman's Heart

There is a place I know

It lies within the woman's heart

A place that's filled with aches. . .with anxiety. . .with fear

A place where pain is present and the darkness overwhelms

This place is not my home and yet somehow familiar

See it has said my name before

It has beckoned and I cowered, it hollered and I hid

For the arms that held me tight from there. . .have gone

The lips that whispered 'Stay'. . .have ceased

And so my hands are free once more

My feet allowed to roam

And yet my heart is tied to you

My lips are bound to yours

As for the place I spoke of. . .the one that calls my name

I'll recall the words you spoke so gently

I'll remember, and I'll stay

I will hold true

I will hold fast

I'll be patient

And I'll wait

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

I am not who I think I am

"We have this view that we are what we think we are. . .I construct a false identity that I present to people, but I fool myself into thinking that I am the false self I have created. We think the truth of who we are is in our mind, but what if the truth of who you are is in your material reality. What if the truth of who you are is hidden in what you buy, in how you regulate your resources, how you regulate your time, in how you regulate your activities? What if the truth of who you are is not in what you believe, but in the totality of your existence. The argument is that if Christianity does not transform your material reality it is not true."
Peter Rollins

I think life's confrontation of death is known to bring about a re-evaluation into a person's existence. I doubt I am alone when I confess my self identity is something that has been a life long struggle for me. Those closest to me, that have been near to me for the longest, could attest to many identities I have created in order to find a place in this world. In and through each of these "created" identities no matter how high I built the walls around me the inside of those walls remained empty. Some of these identities were more ridiculous than others, and some were extremely damaging to my body and soul. The last one I built, and false seems the incorrect term, but none the less it was as Matt's wife. So who am I now? Half of me is gone. The person I identified as - the person I created - a loving, supporting, and sometimes relentless wife has gone with that other half.

This is part of my sadness, no doubt. Part of my loneliness. My fridge is overflowing. Literally, I can't find a place to put a thing. Why? Because my late husband had the metabolism I could only dream of. He wouldn't allowed a piece (not one piece) of food to go wasted. I saved everything that he didn't gobble down at the dinner table. I could have cooked him anything and he would have gotten this look of utter amazement on his face, as if he couldn't believe food could ever taste so good (Ooooo. . .that I miss). I'm sure lots of people keep left overs, but Matt? Matt would eat them, and eat them all. Mostly at two in the morning. . .in our bed (Ooooo. . .this I don't miss). Every night of the week. I would hear him tip-toe into our room, doing his best to not disturb me, even though I couldn't sleep through a thing. He would usually take two or three trips. A plate full of leftovers, a bowl of ice cream, and a huge glass of milk. Now a days it's more like this. . .I cook, Evelyn informs me she doesn't like it (doesn't matter what it is, lol), I don't eat either because I can't think of anything less desirable, and we save the leftovers. We save the leftovers because Matt would be appalled if we didn't. I save the leftovers because as Matt's wife that's what he would want me to do.

I feel like I'm treading in deep waters these days when I state something I know to be fact about what God might be doing, because as my life here lengthens I feel the word 'know' seems almost prideful in the face of God's Holiness. I can say that my Spirit given identity was affirmed in Christ. This affirmation was truly brought to light in my life within the last few years. Jesus, of course, knew this for me all along. He called me home to His loving arms far too many times to name. But is my life reflecting this truth? I feel aware of my path once more, aware that Jesus and I are walking side by side. If I follow the Spirit's lead I might continue life in a more meaningful manner this time. One foot in front of the other, as I have been, and will continue to do hopefully for years to come. And with each of those steps I hope to die a little more to myself, and live a little more in Christ. It should not have to take the death of our spouse to come to this realization.

I'm going to state the quote again, in hopes you let it marinate for a moment "What if the truth of who you are is hidden in what you buy, in how you regulate your resources, how you regulate your time, in how you regulate your activities? What if the truth of who you are is not in what you believe, but in the totality of your existence. The argument is that if Christianity does not transform your material reality it is not true."

So who am I? Not. . .who am I trying to be. Not. . .who have I led people to think I am. Not. . .who do I want to be. Who am I, who is it the Spirit is trying to transform me into? The answer, of course, is Christ. I am an image bearer of Christ, and that is no task to take lightly. God is calling me, has called me, to start taking this seriously. I know I won't always get this right. I will still stumble. I'm pretty sure my nails will always be done, my hair highlighted, and undoubtedly there will always be a pretty size 6 pump calling my name - but then again. . .that is me. It's who I've always been, not a created identity. My desire now is to stop building those false identities. To die to myself, and live to Christ. I will be an image bearer of Jesus, and nothing more. If Christ allows for me to be a wife again, or a nurturing mother, or gives me the right words to lift someone else up that gift will be identified through my image bearing, and through that alone.

I feel this post needs to be left a little open ended, because this dying to Christ will take time. It will be a journey, and a hard one I'm sure. A journey I hope others will understand, others will join me on. This is a video I came across this week while meditating on these thoughts, I found it to be beautiful. Enjoy.

The totality of our existence

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Is It All Going To Be Okay?

As time presses on, and life continues to go on around me, and my to do list becomes longer and longer with no tick marks next to any of the items I feel defeated. There is far too much for me to do, and the list of items seems impossible to hand out. I am not used to keeping up the house, I'm much better at being taken care of then having to change lightbulbs, make sure the trash gets out, turning off the lights at night, or just about anything in the area of the dog. Parenting is a challenge. Evelyn desires my attention in a deep way. I want to be there for her, and at the same time I feel like the things that need to be done can not be ignored. I want her to understand that these things I am doing are for her, but that knowledge is understandably lost on a four year old. There are days when I go to feed Isaac his bottle at bed, and looking into his eyes I have a tug at my heart telling me it's been days since I connected with him. And then there is me. I have sadness, and longing, and worries, and emotions I am overwhelmed with. I need grace, and I need it mostly from myself.

There are moments when I feel all is put together, and I just need to step one foot in front of the other and push on. And then that crashes, and I feel like I am lagging ten steps behind with no end in sight. I'm tired, Isaac rarely sleeps more than 3 hours at a time, I usually need to have the kids both in bed before I can make progress for the day ahead. And then there is the fear. Oh, am I scared. Scared about how we will make it financially. Scared about how I will find the patience to be the mother of two on my own. Scared I won't have time to even grieve, or worse. . .heal.

I was in prayer today, opened my eyes, and glanced over at the chair to my left. I felt whole heartily for two seconds that when my eyes reached that chair I would see Jesus sitting there. Today, I want to be the doubting Thomas. I want to see him with my own eyes, feel the scar, and touch the wounds. I want him to hold me. I want him to look me in the eyes and tell me,

Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.
Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.
Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.
Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.
Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

I want Him to tell me Evelyn will not remember the mistakes I make on this path we take.

I want Him to tell me the house will sell, and He has the perfect one waiting for us.

I want Him to tell me I can take a vacation somewhere warm and He will watch the kids for me.

I want Him to tell me His plan for me includes peace, joy, and rest.

I want Him to tell me His provisions for me are complete, and I needn't worry one more minute.

I want Him to tell me it's okay.

Matt and me had a little ritual when I got overwhelmed like I have been so often in this last month and a half. He knew exactly what to do, and he had it down to an art. He would reach out for me, pull me in, hold me tight, and say, "Steph, it's okay. It's all going to be okay."

"It's okay, it's all going to be okay."

How simple. It would bring tears to my eyes every time, and inevitably his tshirt would have a puddle by the end of each of those hugs. I miss his casual reassurance, and trust in me. He trusted me as a mother, as a wife, as a friend, as a worker, as a Christian. He knew without a doubt I was good enough for what ever lay ahead. He found it so silly how I worried. I fear the loss of that reassurance now. Who will hold me tight and tell me it's going to okay? The words told to myself are drowned out by lies from the enemy. I'm surrounded by those who love me, but they aren't privy to my inner ugliness that only Matt was lucky enough to be subjected to. Amazingly, nine times out of ten that hug and few words was all it took. Matt was like magic to me. A hug, a simple sentence, and I felt new again.

So I guess what I really want is for Matt to tell me. . .

"Steph, it's okay. It's all going to be okay."

Sunday, March 20, 2011

The Nameless One

There is a sacred place where three collide as one.

And in this space my life begins. . .a life broken in despair.

Broken life, like broken glass, shattered pieces everywhere.

These men I know, those I have spoke of.

The Ghost, the Lamb, and the Nameless One.

I long to hold them all the same.

And yet my hand is shaky, it's selfish, and I'm scared.

A palm relaxed and open, I beckon for the Spirit.

I long for him, and when away I beg for his return.

I hold both hands outright to the Lamb, my comfort and my groom.

He's at my side when no one else comes near.

He holds me tight, lays hands on me so as to feel him there.

But so to the Whisper we can not name I hold a fist so tight.

A fist of anger, of doubt, of rage, and at times it feels untrust.

Why is it you shake me at the core, as if I haven't done enough.

I see you in the old oak tree, I hear you in the wind.

You call me and I come to you, but at times I feel I'm not let in.

Why is it that I invite this, encourage this. . .this uncertainty and anguish?

Or is it not, could it be, I know not what you do?

My heart . . . it's yours, and with it comes the pieces.

I am too weary to pick them up, too weary to mend this wound.

Hurry to me, put me together.

For the waiting. . .feels like far too much to bear.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

God in the Midst of Loss, A Request

I am writing tonight with a request to those who love me. My request is that I would like you to share my words with those around you. I have felt a nudge from God that has increased daily since Matt's death that my journey and the things I am feeling may be able to touch those around me who have suffered a loss of their own.

Since my journey has began I have also encountered the realization that loss comes in so very many forms. That when we suffer an emptiness inside we are left with a place that needs to be filled (this sentence comes from a wise friend who opened up an idea to me just a few days ago). My hope is that I might be able to reach someone who is looking to fill that emptiness, as I am, and we can travel this journey together.

I have no answers for those suffering a loss from death, divorce, sickness, or any number of other sadness that we will face in this life. I don't have the answers, but I am here in all my raw pain; ready and willing to open myself up to those who would find this kind of ugly and true honesty helpful. I am wrestling with God. I am questioning, doubting, and wondering constantly what His possible purpose or plan for me might be. And I have resigned to the idea that I may never know.

I also have reservations about opening up my life, and that of my children to people I may not know, but if our own stories can't bind us together in our lives here I'm not sure what else can. Beyond those reservations there is also my own insecurities that I have endured throughout my life. The ideas that most of us face at times; that we are unable to help, unable to reach out, unable to affect those of the lives around us. But with help from God I am tossing those insecurities aside, and taking a leap of faith.

There is no comfort in my loss at the possibility of being able to help others. I would not trade any hundreds of lives changed for one more second with my beloved; however, that finite thought will not change what happened. And so I hope that through this I may be able to find comfort with others who understand what it means to face, and live with loss.

So my request is this: share my words with those you know. Selfishly I am in need of comfort from others who have already been down this road, or are just beginning as I am. And my hope is that in some small form I might be able to be a leaning post for those who will encounter the life assured reality of loss.

For those of you who have encouraged my writing within this blog I would like to also extend my heartfelt gratitude. I have found joy in writing my entire life. It wasn't until Matt's death that I was able to share any of my written words. While trying to find the right way to define our love at the visitation and funeral I came upon the scrapbooks I had made Matt. The words in those books were sacred to me. I remember after I had given one to Matt he shared it with our neighbor friends, simply proud of the gift he had received, and I was mortified. The thought of opening myself up to others in such an intimate way gave me great anxiety. It was only after his death that reading those words made me realize that there was no other way to define our love in the terms that I saw it except through that writing. It was the kind words I received in regards to those scrapbooks that allowed me to start the blog. And the encouraging words about the blog that have brought me to this request.

God has called me to this. I don't know in what form, or how it will all work out, but this is where it begins for me. To ask those I love to share my pain, in hopes that my pain will resonate in the hearts of others, and a journey will begin.

Thank you, and I love you.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?

I have recently been studying the work of Peter Rollins, and in one of his books he describes a [church] service in which the focus is the Holy Saturday. Toying with the idea that the typical Western Christian community shy's away from meditating on the crucifixion apart from the resurrection. The idea is that you imagine life without the resurrection; what if Jesus suffered and died, and in those days you fled the scene never knowing He rose? In essence, would you follow Jesus if his life, teachings, and suffering on Earth came without the promise of the resurrection? In order to do this you must muster the strength in your faith to set aside the anger which may surface from subjecting our Savior to the simply human, because that is not my focus here. I want to focus on the thought that as Christians there is a question on whether or not we give adequate time to the cross, and only the cross. Do we embrace the love of Christ for simply what it is, or is the gift of salvation a necessity to us in order to follow Jesus. What exactly is Jesus teaching us when He cries out to God that He feels forsaken by the Almighty?

I think focusing on the suffering of Christ is an important part of our life on Earth, and even more I think His profound cry to God is one that needs attention. “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?” To sit in those words, entranced, and silent in the ache of Jesus’ heart. Yet, to try and define the cry of God between God is not our place to tread. I don’t think it is for us to wonder about, not because we couldn’t speculate, but because we may miss the true loneliness Jesus’ heart was feeling at that very second.

In that very moment Jesus and I were more alike than any other time He spent on this Earth. For I am not a great teacher, I am not a healer, a great miracle worker, and although at times I pretend I’m great enough to walk on water, the truth is I cannot. But feel abandoned by God? You betcha.

In the midst of his cries to the Father while hanging on the cross Jesus was suffering abuse at the hand of someone who said they loved Him, He was going through a divorce, He was dying from cancer watching His wife and children beg for a miracle, He was miscarrying a child, He was losing His job and any means to support His family, He was contemplating abortion and hating Himself for it, He was fighting addictions. . .

Jesus was sitting in a cold chair next to a hospital bed in a bright and unloving room, holding the hand of His one true love knowing he was about to say goodbye to that person forever. And why? Simply because death here . . . happens.

Jesus was forsaken by God, but that feeling is something I live with far too often, that I think we all live with far too often. It is our own sin that brings death to our lives here, but regardless of the why, Jesus still understands. Our lives here are not easy, they are not easier because we are Christians, and they don’t have a promise of good to come in this life. I have felt a fear of punishment over this last month, fear of consequences for past actions, or just a resigned feeling of, ‘Well God just has more fun testing me then others.” And my internal answer to this is not the good promised in Heaven. In my life, I worship God in the midst of my daily Holy Saturdays for two reasons. One: because I love Him, and He loves me. Two: I am here to glorify Him. So do I worship God because of his gift of salvation? The answer is no. I worship, serve, and love God because He first loved me; I love and serve others because He first loved me. And because of this love for me, my hope is that He shines through me, and I live a life that glorifies His holy name. I do not need to rest in the cross without the resurrection, because I do not believe that is what Jesus wants for me. What Jesus says to us through His cry is that He knows our pain. He assures us that, good or bad, our lives will be transformed here, and the joy of the Spirit in our lives will result.

With all this being said. . .I would like to thank Peter Rollins, as I have great respect for him as a teacher and as a Christian. I cannot say with any certainty what he intends for his readers by posing these questions or scenerios in the first place, but I have a thought (and he is welcome to add to these thoughts if he happens to read my little blog:), I think it might be in part, to ask the hard questions, as Jesus did, is to weed out those [Christians] willingly to dig within themselves for an answer. It will stretch our minds and hopefully strengthen our faith – both if done in thoughtful prayer and meditation is bound to produce good fruit. This good fruit is not in the words we use in regards to the god we serve, but more importantly our actions to love and serve one another. The answer you come up with may not be the same answer as the person to your left or right, but do not forget that other person continues to be an image bearer of Christ. To love them as God first loved you should come far before [and continue long after] lining up your views on any subject of doctrine.

Agree or disagree amongst each other, but above all. . .

Love One Another.

Our Wedding

I'm still stumbling on how everything on my blog works, and although I know I should be able to post a video I'm having some problems. So instead of posting it, I'll link it here Our Wedding. This is a video of some of our wedding pictures my dad put together, it is so precious I just felt the need to share. Right now it mostly brings tears, but I'm confident some day it will bring joy!

Sunday, March 13, 2011

The Old Oak Tree

There is a huge old Oak Tree at the bottom of the hill on our lot. That tree shades the playset dad put in for Evelyn. It is the same playset where he built her the sandbox. The tree uses two of it's branches to hold her swings (which dad would rotate out since he had bought her so many. . .there is a green swing, and a red swing, and a tire swing, a horse swing, and a car swing). And that tree standing some 100 ft high and is covered top to bottom in Christmas lights. Friends, and strangers, were kind enough to come out to my house to remove the rest of the lights, but there was just no attempting taking the lights from the Oak Tree. No one is quite sure, since Matt worked on the old Oak alone, whether or not he used harnesses or ladders or just climbed around up there like a monkey, but whatever the case he didn't leave an easy project for us to clean up behind. A Christmas light contractor came out to the property to assess, and after some expletives, explained he thought it would take 3 or 4 of his men 3 or 4 hours to take those lights down. He explained he owns a truck similar to that of a firetruck with a 55ft ladder that he thought still would not reach the parts of the tree that it was apparent Matt was climbing (since he had so delicately placed each candy cane upon the branches). When Matt had told me once in November the fire department had been called out because someone thought he was stuck in that tree I had laughed, not quite understanding the person calling was probably making a wise decision.

I think of that tree as our Oak Tree. It's branches are wide, and long. They curve and twist. It's leaves are beautiful, and stay on longer then any other leaves in the yard. And when those leaves fall, they provide a mountain of fun for the kids. I will miss that tree when we move. Matt had always hoped to build Evelyn a tree fort in that tree, and I know he would have. Over the last week that tree and I have begun to identify with one another. God continues to draw my eyes to it. Nudging me to take time to slow down, take time to reflect.

I sort of feel like that tree. Like there are these branches inside me stretching out, reaching to the end of my appendages. Each one different, each one representing a different emotion, or memory. I am filling up with these branches and it isn't easy on me. Those branches growing within me are changing who I am.

One of those branches I've become aware of is joy. It's as time passes I am slowly beginning to find joy again; mostly in my children. Not that there was a time when they didn't bring me joy, but there may have been moments the anxiety of motherhood outweighed that of joy. Moments where looking at them and knowing they will remember little, or nothing of their father was too heart breaking to bear. Moments I don't think I will be able to do this alone. But lately I have seconds where that anxiety gets pushed aside, and I can look into my children's eyes and find joy in knowing that our family is still together.

Another branch that has been poking and prodding the deepest parts of me is sadness. The newness of what has happened is over. The mind game of whether or not Matt is on vacation has been played out, and in it's place is a deep deep sadness. I miss him everywhere I turn. It isn't the sadness I had right after it happened, in those moments I would stumble upon where he laid the night the ambulance showed up and topple over in agony, this sadness is sneakier. It is the kind that happens at the dinner table. Evelyn and I sitting there eating, completely aware and saddened by the person missing from the table. It's in our bed, laying reading a book, and longingly watching the door to our room, hoping I will see him pop in to give me a good night kiss. In the evenings, when I'm desperate to put everything aside and spend time with the kids, and simply cannot because of all the things that need to be done or just the inability to clear my head. In those moments it's the sadness of remembering evenings we spent together before he left us, all playing and laughing.

Oh, how the pain is increasing lately.

There is another branch that I can't yet name. I fear it though. I felt such an overwhelming peace and calm in the first moments after Matt's death. Comfort in my Savior's arms. And although I know He still holds me, although I know He is weeping with me, I'm beginning to feel lost. After you stop trying to ask why, stop trying to understand, something gets filled into that spot. Not quite anger, not quite hopelessness, not quite bitterness. . .and although I can not name it, I know it is ugly, I know it is not a friend, and I know I must fight against it. My fear is I don't have the will to try.

So when that twisted twig nudges my heart again I will find shelter here:

Exodus 14:14 "The Lord will fight for you, you need only to be still."

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

The Stages of Grief

They are not lying when the tell you the roller coaster of emotions is one that you ride very high and very low when dealing with a loss. Let's see if I know all the stages yet without having to rely on Google. . .Denial, Bargaining, Anger, Depression, and Acceptance. (I checked Google and I was pretty close).

This isn't however stages in which you proceed through in some mannerly fashion to neatly end at acceptance at some near date in the future. No, you go through days of depression, minutes of denial, hours of anger, and so on. Back and forth, through and again. Repeat, repeat, repeat.

Bargianing was not something I did too much of. I learned, probably in my college days, that sending up "Flare Prayers" ala; "Please God let me past this test, and I won't ever drink again" not only don't work, but you usually end up a liar, and I can't imagine the man upstairs appreciates them all that much. But as I was thinking about this stage it brought to mind John 11. Jesus, knowing fully that he would see his beloved Lazarus again, speaks both with Mary and Martha and they both have the exact some thing to say to him.

"Lord, if you would have been here my brother would not have died"

Smart ladies, Mary and Martha. I have thought the same thing in the last month or so. If you were there Jesus, why did Matt have to die? But here is where it gets good, and it has nothing to do with Lazarus being resurrected. Upon seeing them weep, seeing others mourn, Jesus becomes deeply moved in spirit and troubled.

"Jesus Wept"

This verse means more to me now. Yes, Jesus was there when Matt died, and he could have stopped it. That anger will arise and arise in me over and over for quite some time to come. But more important then my anger is my savior's reaction to my tears. He is weeping with me.

Jesus is weeping with my heart in mind. Wow, is there comfort in that. In times like these you wonder if God is less compassionate than we say He is, we read He is, or hope he is. You battle with the "How could He?" or "Why would He do this?" But I think the more important truth to hold in times like these is not why. . .although you want to. . .but rather Jesus feels for us, feels with us. His spirit is deeply troubled at the same moments mine are. Did I already say wow, because I feel the need to say it again. Finally a comfort I can hold and keep as mine no matter the stage I am in. My Savior loves me, saved me, transformed me. and in my darkest hour he is crying along side me, holding me in His ever loving arms.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011


Exodus 3:14 God says to Moses, "I AM WHO I AM"

That is hardly a verse to mess around with. I know I am in no place to define who God is, where He lies, or what His plan is for me. If I were ever to take Pete Rollin's advice on "How [not] to speak of God", now would be the time. For I fear if I talk about it too much, I will miss God in this completely. However, since I am a stubborn and broken woman in want of answers I am going to take a stab at how the autopsy results have been haunting me. Matt died of Pneumonia. Most likely, an aggressive strain of bacterial pneumonia that attacked him after a virus weakened his immune system. This pneumonia probably took hold, attacked, and killed him with 24-48 hours.

So wrestle with me on this one, God. Here is what has been running through my head since receiving this news. There was a point in the end of January where you allowed, planned, or possibly willed a living organism that was part of your great creation into my husband body to destroy our lives, as we know them, in matter of hours. And I am not even going to begin on the 'What could we have done different', 'Did I miss something', and the 'Do healthy 33 year olds really still die of pneumonia'?

I know this idea is from Rob Bell, however I can't tell you which talk or sermon it was from, but I remember a description he once gives of God in relation to time. He speaks of the above verse and how rabbi's for centuries have been debating over what God meant here when he spoke to Moses. That God is not past, present, and future on some timeline we humans draw, but rather God is the paper in which we draw that timeline upon. So God 'was' with me before Matt died, He 'is' now while I try to pick up the pieces, and he 'will' be with me when I'm ready to put hope in a new future. And He is all those things right now [and before, and to come]. As crazy as this sounds, it's almost as if I'm angry at God for not warning me sooner.

I remember telling my friends shortly after Matt's death that the day in the hospital I could feel my heart changing. I could tell already that I would never be the same woman again. And so now as I try to work through what just happened; part of me, the part that knows God knew this is what He had in store for me, wishes He would have broke my heart like He did that day years ago. I'm 31, I have two children, and I'm a widow. It's lonely here, and yet it feels strangely familiar. I can't believe this is where He was taking me, I simply cannot believe it.

And Jesus is providing me the strength enough to know that this is not where God is bringing me, that where he is bringing me is somewhere other than today. And yet, that knowledge is falling on deaf ears right now.

Whatever the exact reason, since receiving this news, things have been hard[er].

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Through the Eyes of Evelyn

A common concern I get is how Evelyn is doing, and to be honest it's hard for me to tell most of the time. I worry, of course. She is so precious, and I know this has to be almost too much for her little heart to handle. Since I can't describe what she is thinking instead I'll give some insight into those things I can see and hear.

The night I told Evelyn her dad had died was hands down the most excruciating thing I have ever had to do. I told her the same Saturday in which her dad passed, it was after I had gotten home from the hospital. Walking into my door that night was one of the hardest, and yet strangely peaceful moments I can remember. Being able to hold Isaac and her, and know that our family was still a family after such a horrific day was relieving. My neighbor who had spent the entire day with her told me that she hadn't asked once where we were or when we were coming home. She was simply waiting for the comfort of her mother's arms before asking a question she didn't want the answer to.

At first I battled with whether or not this was the day to tell her, but I was a mess, and soon the house would be filled with talk of funerals, and there would still be no daddy in sight. I asked her as soon as the hustle and bustle had settled if she wanted to talk about daddy. "No" was her only answer. Shortly after I went into our bathroom, and for the first time stumbled across the place Matt had first fell to the floor just hours before. I wasn't able to stifle the sob.

"Mom, you need to tell me why you are crying now."

As I came over to make room on the bed I knew she would never be the same woman, just as I was now a changed woman myself. "Evie, Daddy was very sick today, the doctors could not fix him, and he went to see Jesus."

"Daddy's dead, mommy?" D a d d y ' s d e a d. . .these straight forward and intelligent words. . .these were the heart wrenching few.

Those words from that beautiful mouth will never erase from my memory. It was in that moment that my heart broke for the second time that day. She screamed, cried, and kicked. She demanded her daddy back, and asked why Jesus would take him. . .her reaction had been the exact same as mine, and I had no good answers. My parents were waiting downstairs, and when I knew help was appropriate I scooped that little lady into my arms and placed her directly between my own parents, the parents longing for answers for their baby, just as I was doing for mine. We all held her tight, told her what she was feeling was right, and it was okay to be mad. She cried herself to sleep on that couch in all of our arms.

Fast forward to the next morning. I'm laying in bed, I had Matt's t-shirt on, and I was clenching it to my face for dear life. How was I suppose to get out of bed, how was I suppose to do anything ever again, why would I even want to? Anger fleeting through my body, sadness I could not contain, and then I hear it. I hear the pitter patter of little feet downstairs, "My daddy is in Heaven with Jesus". She sounded assured in her faith. She sounded almost happy at the thought. It was at that moment I touched my feet to the floor to begin 'Day 1' without my love. It was because of her I was able.

I told Evelyn right away that she could talk to her daddy whenever she wanted. That he could hear her, and she could let her prayers be known to Jesus if that was her wish. In the very beginning one of her biggest worries was whether or not daddy was happy in Heaven. It simply did not make sense that any place without her could be a good place. . .another question I couldn't answer because it was mine as well. It was one morning at breakfast that I came down the stairs and saw Evelyn sitting at the dinner table eating her cereal and gazing at the picture boards from the funeral.

"Daddy, I just want to know that you are happy. That you are okay, and you like Heaven."

Whether it was her dad that reassured her, or the Holy Spirit I don't know, but after that moment she never questioned whether daddy was happy or not again.

I have been letting her sleep with me, and the lines are blurred on who's benefit it is more for. We both have nightmares. I'm not sure what her's are about, but she wakes up more often in the night frantically searching for me then she ever has before. There are nights she wakes up crying for him, begging for him back. There are no right answers in those moments, and I thank God for the ability to wrap her up in my arms until the worst of it is over.

It's hard to tell if she can understand any of the emotions that I have in regards to missing Matt. In the car one day, not long after I had started going through his things I began to cry. She says, "I know why you are crying, mommy." I told her that she was right, I missed daddy. I told her that I was thinking about all the twisty ties that I had found while cleaning and it made me miss him. "Oh you are crying about twisty ties, mom? I thought you missed daddy, never mind." I didn't say a word, and in that moment just let her bring the smile to my face that I so sorely needed.

Then there are things that are more difficult to stomach. At the doctor's last week we are checking in with the nurse. Blood pressure, pulse, allergies. . .social history or changes in the home? I informed the nurse that Evelyn's dad, my husband, had very recently died unexpectedly. In only the way a child could, pure as snow, Evelyn looked this nurse dead in the eyes and said, "Why didn't you save my daddy?"

Why didn't you save my daddy. . .ugh. Of course I explained to Evelyn this nurse, and no nurses anywhere, were the reason for daddy's death. And the nurse was very gracious, but if there was ever a time in my life you could have heard a pin drop it was just then.

From time to time I can tell she uses 'missing daddy' to her advantage. She would like a cookie, because she misses daddy. She would like to watch one more cartoon, because she misses daddy. She would like to skip school, stay up late, and eat a sucker for breakfast. . .because she misses daddy. And most of the time, at least for now, I give in when I can.

I do worry for her; worry that she won't have a father figure. And I covet all prayers that are sent to Isaac and her in this very regard. For now, I rely on my understanding of our Abba Father. Try to find comfort that He will shelter them, cover them, and love them the way they need to be.

One of my own favorite verses is Proverbs 31:25, and although usually it is myself that it resonates with, tonight I hand that life verse over to her in hopes that she hold dearly to the words of the Almighty Father who's love knows no end.

She is clothed in strength and dignity, she can laugh at the days to come.