Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Kickin' birds

Last week marked 3 months since the accident. All the books on grief that I have read warned me that month 3 would be just as intense as the first day of loss. I had begun to mentally prepare myself for total emotional melt-down.

I made it through that day, and the week before and after, without that melt-down. I wasn't prepared for that.

Just yesterday, I finally finished "A Grief Observed" by C.S. Lewis - his reflections on losing his wife. It was a tough read for me, but was filled with helpful nuggets for my own grief. Toward the end of the book, Lewis talks about the way his grief lessoned at a time when it should have intensified. He went on to say that because he was not blinded by his tears and uncontrollable emotions, he was actually able to reflect positively on his spouse, their fond memories, and the beauty of who she was.

I can totally relate. So often I think I should constantly be a slobbery mess. But I continue to be reminded that my grief is unique and cannot be defined by a book or other people's expectations. Actually these last few weeks have been a welcome relief. My mind, as always, is filled with thoughts of Tony, but these thoughts lately have brought laughs and smiles, more often than tears. I find myself wishing for him just to tell him something funny that has happened or show him a beautiful place he would have loved.

I wished for him at the beach with his family this week. I wished for him to see my neice Haley kicking birds. Yes, kicking birds. This is a long-standing joke between Tony and me, starting on the top of the Empire State Building when we were just dating. Since I was a kid, I have always been intrigued by getting as close to a bird as possible until it flew away. Call it mean, I call it fun. We were surrounded by pigeons on the observation deck. I simply lifted my leg toward one bird to see what would happen. As the pigeon flew off, its beak hit the safety rail, making it sound like I had actually kicked it. A lady behind us loudly stated, "she just kicked that bird." The look on Tony's face was one of utter shock, but quickly that turned to unending laughter. He never believed I did not actually kick the bird and brought it up on multiple occasions.

So just to make him smile, I attempted to kick birds on our honeymoon in Barbados, and on our West Coast vacation, and in Denver with my girlfriends. Really, I just chased them away, with pictures to prove it. When pigeons landed near our stuff at the beach this week, I seized the opportunity to share our joke with my neice. She loved it so much that on my last day at the beach with her, she told me "I sure hope we can kick some birds at the beach today, Aunt Melissa."

I can hear Tony's belly laugh now.

The mystery of grief continues. I think mystery is a fitting word.

Dearly loved,

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Moonlight dancing....

Out of all the amazing scenes God paints across His earth, to me, none compare to that of the moon over the ocean. How I love to watch those small beams of light dance on the dark ocean waves. It is romance. It is pure beauty. It is God giving me just a glimpse of His glory. And, I love it, I breathe it in and am filled with the wonder of God.

The Psalmist said it best: "When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is man that you are mindful of him, the son of man that you care for him?" Ps. 8: 3-4

This scene greeted me as I arrived at Hilton Head last night. I had a long car ride all to myself, mostly filled with thoughts of Tony. I was thrilled to discover radio station after radio station paying tribute to Michael Jackson all weekend, and I'm pretty sure I listened to all of his best hits along the way. "The Way You Make Me Feel" was one of our favorites, and I can still picture Tony singing along to the lyrics as he twirled me around on the dance floor. We loved to dance, we just loved it. I could get lost in those moments - such pure bliss and joy - moments that are now bittersweet.

I miss my dance partner.

As I drove over the final stretch of water to the island, there was the moon in all its splendor, dancing on the marsh waters. Staring at that bright light surrounded by the black sky, I felt God telling me that He loves me, that He sees me, that He wants to romance me with moonlight.
I will never dance close in the arms of my Tony again, never. Never. But I know the One who sways in the moonlight, and His Spirit comforts me.

Dearly loved, dancer,

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Letting Go...

"I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world." ~ John 16:33

These verses keep running through my head these past few weeks. Each hard thing I face, I have to remind myself that Jesus endured even more, and He won. He won, so that I don't have to. He won, so that I can surrender my life and my sorrows all into His capable hands. I answer to Him, and Him alone. He is my Judge, He has the last say, His Words trump the words of any other on this earth. I let my troubles go, and let God handle them.

No matter how hard the world comes at me, my God is greater. He won't leave my side.

He didn't leave my side last week when I had my friends pack up and move all of the belongings Tony and I had together. He never left my side as I celebrated Father's Day with my dad and my father-in-law, with a nagging ache over how wonderful a dad my Tony would have been. He never left my side as I faced things I never imagined having to at 30 years old or ever.

And He will never leave my side as I get up each day and ask "just what am I supposed to do now?"

I have said repeatedly, I just don't know how people get through life, and the inevitable trouble it brings, without Jesus.

I don't ever want to know.

Dearly loved, and letting go,

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Meant to live for so much more...

I can't help but be inspired every time I hear this favorite Switchfoot song. And it's more than just the rockin' guitar prelude. The words in this song are pretty loaded if you really take them in.

This song is even included on the Barbie Music Player. How in the world do I know this? Funny story...

My first venture outside of Atlanta in the weeks following Tony's accident was to good old South Georgia, home to my friends Casey and Kevin and 2 of the cutest little girls in the world, Chloe and Claire. We were at an outdoor mall and I took the girls over to see the fountain. Chloe asked why there was money in the fountain, so I explained that folks throw money in to make a wish. Out went her cute little hand, "Do you have any money, Melissa?" Of course, I'd give this sweet child any spare change I had. I gave some to Claire too and they both threw in their coins. As we walked away, I asked Chloe what she wished for, and without skipping a beat, she told her mother and I "a Barbie Music Player."

Casey and I had no clue what she was talking about, but thanks to Amazon and one day shipping, I ordered one without her parents knowing, and it arrived the very next day. Chloe was just beside herself to have a package with her name on it, and she was thrilled when she realized it was just what she wished for. Now, at this point, I confessed that I had sent it, for I feared she'd be throwing every coin her parents had into fountains to get her wishes granted.

So we opened it up to discover that it came complete with songs on it - probably not the songs Casey and Kevin would normally let her listen to. But hey, Chloe and I sure did have fun at our "dance party" in her room. The "Meant to Live" was the one redeeming song about the gift.

The chorus says, "We were meant to live for so much more. Have we lost ourselves?" My daily reading included these verses today, Ps. 39: 4-7:
"Show me, O Lord, my life's end and the number of my days; let me know how fleeting is my life. You have made my days a mere handbreadth; the span of my years is as nothing before you. Each man's life is but a breath. Man is a mere phantom as he goes to and fro: He bustles about, but only in vain; he heaps up wealth, not knowing who will get it. But now, Lord, what do I look for? My hope is in you."

So if our life is a mere vapor, and we really lived like it was, then we would really get the words of this song - that God meant for us to live for so much more than the worldly things that so much consume us. I need to hear that right now, as my day to day worries seem like unsurmountable mountains right now.

And, I have a great example to follow - that of my husband. Though his life was only 35 years, he packed so many meaningful events and relationships in it that most folks would not acheive in 100 years. Yes, I want him here; I would give anything for that. Yes, I am devastated that his life was cut short. Still, I cannot deny the fact that he lived a very full life, and I celebrate that. I celebrate that.

I seek to carry on that legacy:
to be intentional with my time, my relationships, and my resources;
to not get so worked up about the things in this world that are just merely things;
to commit to the Lord my wants and desires and allow them to be transformed into His.

And, so the song continues, "We want more than this world's got to offer..."

I want more than this world's got to offer...

Dearly loved, and living for more,

Monday, June 14, 2010

How are you?

The 3 words "how are you" that come out of my mouth (as they do most southerner's) with little thought seem almost laughable right now. Still I find myself continuing to roll them off without missing a beat as I greet someone. When the question is directed back at me, I seem to hesitate...

Sometimes I just rattle off "fine" either without thinking or without wanting to really talk about how I really am. Sometimes I'll say "okay" so that the person knows I'm not fine, but I'm not all down and out either. Other times, I avoid the question all together and stop myself from asking back, "Seriously, do you really want to know how I am?"

Why, oh why, do we ask that well-meaning question? I'm pretty sure that most of the time most folks really would not want to hear my honest answer. It is just too much, too much. Yet, sometimes I just blurt out without thinking. I almost need to wear a sign "Caution: I never know what is going to come out of my mouth and in about 5 minutes I'm gonna forget everything I just said to you (not because I don't care, it's just that a major symptom of extreme grief is forgetfulness)."

I really think I would lose my head were it not attached to my body. That also explains the countless phone calls, emails and texts that have gone unreturned or are way delayed. I listen to or read every one, and I am so very grateful to have so many people who genuinely care about how I am doing. Please don't give up on me.

These verses came to me in one of my daily Griefshare emails the other day (for anyone going through grief, I highly recommend signing up for these), so here is my best answer to how I am:

"...hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed..." ~ 2 Cor. 4: 8-9

Dearly loved,

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Gonna Be Alright...

Songs seem to be inspirations for my last couple of blogs. I introduced my niece Haley to these words in the song "Salvation is Here." I even got her to do an arm punch as we sang, "It's gonna be alright." My North Point pals would understand that significance. I think we must have listened to the song on repeat for over an hour.

I need those words especially today. I've read in several grief books that I will experience waves of emotions. Today, it was wave after wave, each one different. A wave of sadness, a wave of joyful reflection, a wave of anger (cell phone companies, urr!), and back to sadness again. I tell myself, it's gonna be alright, and I picture my sweet niece giggling and smiling.

Oh to be six years old and so excited about the simplicities of life...dressing up fancy and eating steak for dinner, making her aunt dress up in a red sparkle dress, complete with a hot pink bow and red polish on fingers and nails (yes, fingers too!), and going to see the Cabbage Patch land and coming home with a stuffed animal cat instead. On the way home after our little excursion, Haley told me she was gonna lose her voice from telling her mom all about our time together.

She sees the best in life and in her own way she reminds me that it is gonna be alright. Most days it is hard to believe that. Right now, it's even hard to type those words, tears streaming down my face.

God, on days I struggle to see it, please remind me that it's gonna be alright.

Dearly loved,

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

How He Loves

"He is jealous for me, loves like a hurricane, I am a tree, bending beneath the weight of his wind and mercy..." so goes the lyrics to a song that continues to comfort my heart.

It's the song "How He Loves" from Crowder's latest album. I recall downloading the song on Itunes a few nights after I received news that a friend, Debbie, had lost her battle with cancer. I remember singing that song in church the next Sunday, Tony by my side. It was as if Debbie was singing that song down from heaven, telling me that God loves us so much more than we could ever fathom on this earth. I was comforted through my tears that day.
Less than 2 months later, that song came to me again.

The very night after receiving the tragic news about my husband, I awoke in painful sobbing that I had never known before. I didn't even know what to cry out to God. I groaned. And in that groaning, God brought this song to my heart. This time it was both Tony and Debbie singing it over me. How I celebrate that they know in full what we can only know in part on this earth - how very much He loves us. I celebrate their gain, I mourn my loss.

So I'm like this tree, bending beneath God's love and mercy. And funny thing, it seems in times where I just want to give up and topple over, this song comes out of nowhere to remind me again that I am in the very palm of God's hand. He is jealous for me.
Dearly loved,

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Pivotal Circumstances at Thirty...

God continues to tell me "hi." He's done so during church the last 2 Sundays. I have been trying to read through the Bible in 90 days as a journey into my grief. The last 2 sermons have included the very verses I had read that day before - and I've only made it to 1 Kings, so it's not like I am reading those well-known, always quoted verses of the New Testament.

Two weeks ago, the sermon was about Saul, and how after he was appointed king in 1 Samuel, he made choices that caused God to grieve giving him the throne. The pastor talked about how we cannot follow God half way. We follow Him wholeheartedly or we don't follow Him at all. When I read about Saul, what stuck out to me was that Saul was 30 years old when he was given this opportunity of a lifetime. How very sad to waste it on chasing other gods and worldly things.

Later that same week, I started reading about another 30-year-old king, David. He is known so well for being a man after God's heart. No, his life was not perfect, he had his share of mistakes. He was not immune to pain and heartache - just read the Psalms. Yet, he chose to follow God all the days of his life.

Just as these kings had life-changing events occur at 30, so did I, though theirs triumphant, and mine tragic. Still, I am faced with a similar choice - to follow the God of the Universe or to turn away. To be like Saul or to be like David. I choose David. Despite the hard road I have ahead of me, I choose to chase after God.

After loosing the man I loved more than anyone on this earth, the only One who could fill the void left behind is God. Nothing on this earth can fill this hole, nothing, nothing. God is It. He is It. He's the One I hope for, His word is what I cling to in the midst of my sorrow. My prayer for anyone who is attempting to follow God "half-way" is that he or she would wake up and realize that there is nothing on this earth worth chasing like God. Nothing.

I am like the disciples of Jesus in John 6: 67-68, at a point in His ministry where many of His followers were beginning to turn away from Him. "'You do not want to leave too, do you?' Jesus asked the Twelve. Simon Peter answered him, 'Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.'"

I have written in my Bible next to these very verses a quote from my old college pastor, "God assumes complete responsibility for a life totally surrendered to Him."

My life is in His hands.

Dearly loved, and all in for God,