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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