Sunday, May 30, 2010

My hero, my Pop

Tonight I walked past a war memorial with a prisoner of war flag on top. Those black and white flags always stop me in my tracks and flood my memory with images of my earthly hero, my Pop.

Its only fitting this Memorial Day weekend to tell you about a man who is so dear to my heart. My grandfather was a paratrooper in WWII. He jumped during the early hours of D-Day and was captured by the Germans. He spent 11 months in a prisoner of war camp before being liberated. There are few details my family knows about his time there. I can only imagine that spending almost a year of his life wondering if he would ever see his loved ones again would not be something he would want dwell on.

This is only my second Memorial Day without him. He passed away in December of 2008 after 87 years of a very full life. His funeral was held in the same church he attended since his childhood. Its stained glass windows were the very ones he pictured during those grueling days as a prisoner. God used those images to give my Pop hope that he would make it home.

He did make it home to begin a love story with my grandmother, raise 3 wonderful children, one being my mom, and invest pure joy and love in his 6 grandkids. Oh, what treasured memories I have with my Pop. As much as I did not want to say good-bye, I have never felt so proud as the moment when the military presented a 21 gun salute and handed an American flag to my mom, saying "On behalf of the United States Army, we are very sorry for your loss."

As we drove away from the cemetary that day, Tony said to me that he was so inspired by Pop that it almost made him want to join the military. He too considered Pop a great American, and I picture them embracing in heaven like Tony always greeted him, "Hey, Pop."

Sometimes I feel so very alone as a widow, but sadly, I learn of others in this stage of life almost every week. My heart goes out this weekend to the widows of those servicemen who did not make it home. All I can tell you is thank you. Your hardship, your tears, your sacrifice allows me to be free.

Dearly loved American,


Monday, May 24, 2010

Shattered dreams... a priceless sculpture thrown from the tallest building in the world, all my future hopes and dreams with Tony are shattered into millions of tiny pieces, never to be the same again...

I think death is best described as a series of losses. Each one, I must grieve. This week, I grieve my dreams.

I remember collapsing into the arms of my best friend Mac the day after the accident, and the only words I could muster to her were "What am I going to do, Mac, what am I going to do?" All my dreams included Tony. I feel as if someone has pressed the "pause" button on my life.

The rest of the world moves on, just as it should. I stand still.

I know all too well the verse of Jeremiah 29:11. "For I know the plans I have for you,' declares the Lord, 'plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future." Yes, I know God's plans for me are good, they are divinely perfect because they are His plans. I've been told over and over by well-meaning people that God will still fulfill my dreams, and give me new dreams too, and that one day I'll move on. Quite honestly, were I to write a book about what NOT to say to someone who has just experienced a tragic death, that last sentence would be the basis of chapter one. I must first grieve my dreams lost, before I entertain new ones.

Instead, I cling to Jeremiah 29:12-13. "Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart." We hardly ever hear that second part recited with verse 11 above. That's all I've got to offer God right now, my heart. My dreams are shattered, my life is upside down, my resources are strained, my talents and skills are overshadowed by grief, my body is weary. So, I entrust my heart to the Lord, like I entrusted it to Tony as my husband just 2 years ago.

I have a silver heart charm engraved with my initials on it. Several years before I met Tony, I had put that charm in an alabaster jar to symbolize me giving my heart fully to God until he brought me a husband. I gave Tony that silver heart on our wedding day. Now I offer it again to the Lord. My heart, despite its all consuming ache and sorrow, belongs to Him, and Him alone.

I leave you with some verses my good friend Holly sent me this week from Lamentations 3: 17-25. This is how I've felt lately:
"I have been deprived of peace; I have forgotten what prosperity is. So I say, 'my splendor is gone and all I had hoped from the Lord. ' I remember my affliction and my wandering, the bitterness and the gail. I remember them, and my soul is downcast within me. Yet this I call to mind and therefore I have hope: Because of the Lord's great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. I say to myself, 'the Lord is my portion; therefore I will wait for Him. ' The Lord is good to those whose hope is in him, to the one who seeks him."

Dearly loved,

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Help for a Widow...

There are over 100 mentions of the word "widow" in the Bible. Up until 2 months ago, I mostly pictured widows as little old ladies, and I felt very sorry for them. I never thought I'd fit into this category - especially not this early in my life.

But here I am, a widow. I struggle calling myself that.

To specifically mention this word over and over again in His Word, God must know that a widow's pain requires much help from His followers. I have never been one to willingly receive help from others - I felt I could either take care of myself or I would at least repay any help I did accept. Now, in this stage of life, I realize that those offering their assistance to me are truly doing what is Biblical.

It says in James 1:27, "Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orhans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world."

All I can offer to the countless people who have given so freely of yourselves in my greatest hour of need is my sincere gratitude and a humble request that God richly bless your generosity. You have encouraged me with hundreds of cards, emails and Facebook messages, texts, and phone calls. You have sustained me with meals, gifts, donations and just your presence. You have given me your shoulder to sob on and have prayed for me often. You have even labored physically to help me with house chores. God has used you to make some sense out of what seems like unsurmountable circumstances, to bring light to my darkness, and to one day help me to rise from these ashes of tragedy.

I may never know all you have done for my family and I. I may never be able to return the kindness. But I know the One who knows everything you have done, and I am confident that He is well pleased.

Dearly loved widow,

Monday, May 17, 2010


My friend, Steph, and her husband Tim call me Maleeka. Maleeka? Yes, Maleeka. She is a dear, dear friend, who I met in South Florida, and now lives in Pittsburg. Yes, Maleeka is a crazy name for those of you who see me as some poised Southern gal. Let me just give you a glimpse of our friendship...

She and I mail a stuffed "Henry the Talking Garden Gnome" back and forth, being sure to add a new accessory onto him every time and record a message in his belly that comes out in chipmunk language. Garden gnomes are long standing jokes among us - take no offense if you have garden gnomes in your yard - just know that if Steph ever discovers them, she is bound to take a picture and send it to me.

She couldn't make it to my 30th birthday surprise that sweet Tony planned for me. Instead, she mailed me Henry, along with my birthday gift, and paperdoll cut-out with her face glued to it. She was affectionately called "Flat Steph" and appeared in all my birthday photos.

She's the friend who will make you "pee" your pants over laughing so hard.

She's also the friend who rearranged her whole world so that she and her husband could drive 10+ hours to be here in time for the weekend of Tony's funeral. They were part of my "entourage" standing behind me at the visitation at the funeral home, at one point feeding a banana to sustain me. God used them to keep me standing that day and I am so very grateful.

I hope everyone can have a friend like Steph. She gives so freely one of the greatest gifts we can experience on this earth - laughter. She is another Proverbs 31 woman who can "laugh at the days to come."

Laughter seems like something my grieving soul should not experience right now. Yet, I find myself laughing almost every day. Actually, the day after the funeral, the day I absolutely dreaded for I did not know what it would bring, was filled with laughter. Over the course of the day visiting with friends and family, we laughed til we cried about the funny things my husband did over the years. He was unique in every way, and now that I look back and continue to hear new stories, I must admit all his quirks were very funny. If he were here, he'd be laughing too. He had this big belly laugh that was so infectious.

So even through my tears and my pain, I will choose to laugh every opportunity I can. And I better get my stomach muscles ready for a lot of laughter because I'm heading up to see Steph in just a couple weeks...

Dearly loved,

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Waves of Mercy...

I must admit this title makes me chuckle a little as I recall that old worship song that goes... "waves of mercy, waves of grace, everywhere I look I see your face..." It brings back memories of a church camp I volunteered at in college "Impact" where I sang that song so much I thought my arms were gonna wave off!

I digress already. Actually, I just returned from some beautiful and amazing waves of the ocean at Destin Beach with a few of my girlfriends. It was a welcome retreat from the craziness of the last 8 weeks - yes, Tuesday will be 8 weeks from the accident. My how life can change so much so quickly. The weekend was filled with waves of emotion - a constant sadness and sense of someone missing, coupled with moments of girly laughter and sweet times reflecting on my Creator God.

I feel so close to God at the beach. Looking at the vast ocean puts me in complete wonder and awe at how big God is, and how small I am. Yet, He knows me by name.

The waves on this particular trip were probably some of the roughest I have witnessed on the Gulf. It reminded me of the waves off the northern shore of California that Tony and I saw last summer on our trip down the West Coast. The roar of the ocean was almost deafening on that cold, foggy shore. We were the only 2 on the entire beach - just us and God. Tony was so intrigued with the small rocks that kept washing up on shore - instead of seashells - they were the smoothest rocks, black, white and gray in color. We picked them up and brought them home like priceless treasures.

It was like those waters were too rough for delicate seashells - God had to produce rocks instead. I feel like I am one of those rocks - tossed and turned by waves pounding the sand, yet producing the smoothest surface, like choice granite, over time. One day those waves will be stilled just like Jesus stilled the storm for the disciples. I cling to the verses in Ps. 107: 29-31, "He stilled the storm to a whisper; the waves of the sea were hushed. They were glad when it grew calm, and he guided them to their desired haven. Let them give thanks to the Lord for his unfailing love and his wonderful deeds for men."

Driving home tonight, I had on repeat on my Ipod Shane & Shane's song "Mercy Reigns" as I thought about those ocean waves. They rise and fall, over and over again, just like God's mercy and love. And as it says in the song, they are "new every's good enough for me."

Dearly loved ocean pebble,

Monday, May 10, 2010

Dreaming of paint cans...

A few nights ago I had my first dream with Tony in it since his death. It was a bittersweet moment to wake up. How I longed to go back to sleep, yet my alarm clock was telling me otherwise. Recounting the dream in this blog would require too much to write and too much to explain, so I will simply say it was filled with sweet moments and sweet dreams of memories shared with my husband.

I did vividly recall at one point in my dream a clear vision of Tony carrying cans of paint. There were at least 3 cans of the brightest colors - red (UGA red, of course!), blue, and yellow. I found this quite random when I awoke, but that quickly changed to a great sense of awe.

I have said over and over again that my current view of life without Tony is a giant white canvas that God will paint again in time. Those paint cans represent some of the vivid colors God will use to create a beautiful picture with my life. What is even cooler is that these are the basic primary colors, from which all other colors are created. And, God used my sweet husband to deliver those to me to remind me that Tony will always be a part of my life - his values and his life mission are intertwined with mine for eternity.

Now I will wait until I receive a can opener, a paint brush, and a vision of what to paint. Time will tell...

Dearly loved painter,


Sunday, May 9, 2010

My Mom

There is no greater woman on this earth to me than my mom. She is a priceless treasure, no words can adequately describe how much she means to me. No words.

She is the constant in my life that keeps me going, giving me encouragement when I need it, wisdom and tough advice at just the right times, and hugs that make the bad days seem a little more bearable. She has walked with me through the best days of my life, and she has walked with me through the worst. I collapsed into her lap the moment I found out that Tony was gone. Her only words were that she wished she could take away my pain. And I know she meant every word.

Oh, how I just adore every moment I can spend with her - no matter if we're walking on the beach or just watching endless hours of HGTV. Tony doted on her too - and she was one of his biggest fans and supporters. I am so blessed to call her mom.

She is a Proverbs 31 woman, and since there really are no words more fitting, I will leave today's blog with these verses:

"She is clothed with strength and dignity; she can laugh at the days to come. She speaks with wisdom, and faithful instruction is on her tongue. She watches over the affairs of her household and does not eat the bread of idleness. Her children arise and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praises her: 'Many women do noble things, but you surpass them all.' Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting; but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised. " ~ Proverbs 31: 25-30

Dearly loved, and so grateful for my mom,

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

My companion through grief...

I've been slow to blog this week quite frankly because I've had some really hard days. If you live in Atlanta, you know what a lousy day Monday was with all the rain, then add on top of it frustration and sorrow, and that pretty much sums up my day.

I started back to work on Tuesday, and have yet to make it a full day. I sit at my desk in a daze wondering what to do, and just when I start on a task, half the time, I forget what I was doing. I rest my head in my hands, or sometimes start pulling at my hair. I had no idea it would be this hard to do something "normal" again. About that time, there's a knock at my door from one of my dear colleagues - a welcome interruption and a smile. I have never been so grateful for this team of folks who I know would do anything to help. We always talk about being a part of the Brenau family, but I now can attest to that in every sense of the word. Brenau University is taking very good care of its own, and I cannnot thank them enough.

So, I venture back into this everyday task of life, yet my world is turned upside down. Yes, I hold to the HOPE that life will get brighter and that God will never leave me or forsake me. Yet, what do I do in the meantime? What do I do with all the normal, everyday, and sometimes mundane moments of life that used to pass by so quickly, yet now seem like an eternity? How do I walk through everyday life and my grief at the same time?

The answer, best I know, comes from my daily companion, my Bible. Yes, I know that seems like a "good little church girl" answer, but it truly is my Source and my Life right now, and I hope forever. The week after Tony's funeral, I went searching on Amazon to find some books on grief to help me walk through this time. Then, my good friend Tammy told me that she had been challenged to read through the entire Bible in 40 days. It occurred to me that the best words to walk me through this hard journey are that of the living and breathing Word of God. It is the first thing I read in the morning and the last thing I read at night, sometimes drifting to sleep with my Bible on my chest.

This week, I have been pushing through the book of Numbers. Pushing myself, yes, pushing. As I read many times before about the Israelites and all of their complaining in the desert, I always thought they were just a bunch of whiners. Now as I read through all the repetitive commands and tasks they were asked to do day after day, I feel sorry for them. I mean, who wouldn't complain about what seems like a very mundane life of sacrificing animals and moving their tents from place to place, all in hopes of the "Promised Land" that only the generation after them would get to see. There was no talk of heaven and of an eternal life with God. What did they hope for in the midst of everyday life?

My constant praise through reading all of the early chapters in the Bible is one of thanksgiving to God for sending His Son as the Ultimate Sacrifice, giving us a Hope and a Future that far exceeds anything on this earth. Yet, I am also very grateful for those Israelites living through those every day experiences as a people "set apart" by God as His chosen ones. They lived for promises yet to be fulfilled, and I live for a promise of eternity that has already been fulfilled by Jesus. Tony is living in that promise now.

And if God can speak to me through Numbers, then I can't wait to get to the chapters ahead.

Dearly loved, and loving the Word,