Monday, December 12, 2011

Good Morning, Moon

"...And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age." ~Matthew 28:20

I left my parents house early Sunday morning to head down to a very busy day at Buckhead Church. Few things get me excited about waking up before day break, but the amazing things I get to do at church are definitely worth loosing sleep over!

I left my puppy in the care of my parents, but as I drove out, I realized I was not alone. I was met by the beautiful full moon. It was God saying hello, for sure.

Now, I won't wish upon myself what is an ongoing reality for so many folks who go to work at o' dark thirty every day. No thank you. But of all the early mornings, I needed that extra dose of light that extra dose of light into my heart, into my soul.

I've written before about how the moon just entrances me...I see a beauty in it like nothing else on earth. It puts me in such awe of my God. And this particular day (the day before Tony's birthday), the moon reminded me of a word I have been dwelling on this Christmas season...Emmanuel, God with us.

God is with us. 
Just like Jesus promised at the end of His Great Commissioning in the verse above.
Surely, He is with us...til the very end of the age.
Even in the darkness, He is with us.
Like the moon glowing in the night sky, He is with us.
God with us.

So often I hear folks praying and asking the Lord to be with us. I want to interrupt and remind them that He already is. We just need to be open to Him, to be still enough to rest on His promise, to feel Him, to see Him, to hear Him. Oh, yes, He is always with us. It's just that sometimes we cloud Him with lesser things. He's still there, even when it's cloudy.

I drove that hour dwelling on that simple, yet profound Truth. 
The moon continued to peer at me, through the trees, over the horizon, glowing. 
I reached that part of my drive that makes me cringe; it's the part where I can't help but see Stone Mountain towering over the horizon, even at a distance. Just before it came into sight, the first hint of the sunrise beamed light into my driver's side window. Blinded, I looked over to my passenger side to see the faint white of the moon. It was sunshine meeting the moon. Day meeting the night. On either side, I was surrounded by that sees me in the darkness and one that greets me in the bright.

As it says in Isaiah 30:21, "Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, 'This is the way; walk in it.'" 

Walk on.
Drive on.
I faced that giant granite rock; I faced it with light on either side; I faced it with a Truth whispering gently, "I am with you." I faced it despite my sadness, missing my Tony, wishing he was with me to celebrate his birthday.

I miss him.

Still, I am so incredibly grateful for the Light of my Savior to keep me going, to encourage, to inspire, to guide me on the path that continues to be night at a time, one day at a time, one step, one mile, one birthday, one year.

Bright. My future, even without my Tony, is woven in light. Because God is with me.

Dearly loved, celebrating Tony, celebrating Light,

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Immeasurably More...

"Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever!" ~ Ephesians 3:20-21

We are in a series at Buckhead Church based on this very verse. My boss Billy spoke this past Sunday about the vast, often contradictory differences between what our society considers "more" and what God sees as "more." So often, I feel like we can easily take these verses out of context, thinking that when the apostle Paul prayed about "more," he was dreaming of a good-paying job, and a good-looking spouse, and 2.5 well-behaved kids, and a well-to-do, comfortable life...that American Dream that's more than we could ever imagine, right?

Right? Billy went on to speak about how folks keep searching for that "more to life" in every season as they get older, eventually making it to retirement and realizing their "more" is still not enough. He even spoke about a quarter-life crisis among folks in their mid-20s who graduate from college with big shot dreams of finally "making it" only to uncover that nagging question..."isn't there more to life than this." This last statement hit the nail on the head for me...for that was exactly my sentiments when I graduated from college.

Allow me to indulge for a moment, but I will spare you the monotonous details. I will say that "little Miss Perfect" graduated from college having achieved everything I set my mind out to...a 4.0, all the top academic awards, student body president, the mascot (I know, random!) and the list goes on and on. And as I wrapped up my last exam of my college career, days away from crossing that stage decked out in all my "earned" regalia, my 22-year-old self had a complete melt-down. I will never forget driving down a back country road, balling my eyes out, and finally verbalizing the burning ache that I just could not deny any more. I cried out to God and honestly admitted that for 22 years I had been living for things that were not of eternal value. I was living for things that I thought satisfied my heart, my "more," when in reality they left me so very empty.

There, I had said it.
Those were words I could not take back.
Those were words that, though I didn't know it at the time, would set the very trajectory of my life.

And rolling in my heart during this very "crisis of life and faith" were the very verses listed above. I did not know what God was going to do with my life, but I know what He was able to do...and it was "immeasurably more" than I could ever ask or imagine. His more, not mine.

Don't get me wrong. I certainly spent my 20s wrestling with this very tension - my version of "more" for my life versus God's "immeasurably more." I could see and envision and often control my "more" while God's vision required complete trust and surrender. I look back over my journal entries from that decade and over and over again I read the prayers of surrender, honest cries of my heart, of lifting my desires, my wants to the Lord, only to take them back, and then to re-surrender them all over again. It was a literal tug of war of the "more's."

Tony wasn't even my perfect version of "more" for my husband. If I can be candid, he was a little too quirky for me to begin with, he asked too many questions, he was a little too intense. One of my dear friends laughs now as she recounts how she kept thinking I was gonna "blow it" with Tony just because he didn't fit to a "T" my imaginary version of the perfect spouse.

Turns out that Tony was my "immeasurably more" husband, hand-selected by God, to lavish me with unconditional, extravagant love - love that has seeped into the depths of my heart and unleashed an absolute confidence in my soul that my Jesus loves me so immeasurably deep and wide and long and's truly and utterly more than I could have asked or imagined.

My life, my faith, my relationship with My Savior, will be forever "more" because of my Tony.

And my Jesus continues to whisper to me..."oh my dear Melissa, that was just the beginning of immeasurable...I have so much more in store for you...just Trust Me."

So, though it's not always easy, I choose to Trust Him. Though my "immeasurable" has led me through tragedy and unimaginable pain, it is at the same time beautifully "more than I could have ever asked or imagined." That might not make sense to anyone else, but in some God-sized way, it makes perfect sense to me.

Dearly Loved, living for immeasurable,

Saturday, October 22, 2011

My Somewhere Over the Rainbow

Today marks 5 years since my first date with Tony.  October 22, 2006, is a day I will never forget; it's a day where my life began to change forever, for good, for very good.  It's the day I met my "Somewhere Over the Rainbow."

Now I'm not one for sappy titles and cliches.  But I must admit that this song truly did begin the love story later to be known as Tony and Melissa Edge.  The day before our date, I was volunteering at a fall festival with some of my closest friends...friends I had yet to tell about my plans with Tony the next day! I distinctly recall finally working up the courage to tell them, and this version of "Somewhere Over the Rainbow" was playing in the background.  No joke.

The very next day, Tony and I met for the early service at North Point before we headed to what was to be our "date." As we drove out of the parking lot, Tony turned to me and said he wanted to play one of his favorite songs for me...yes, it was this same version of the exact same song.

Beautiful timing. Beautiful song.

It soon became one of "our" songs. Tony danced to it with his mom at our wedding; it was one of her favorites too. For our 6 month dating anniversary, I made him a CD of all our favorite songs together. This song was the head-liner and the title of the CD - "My Somewhere Over the Rainbow."

As most girls do, I grew up dreaming of the man I would marry, a man set apart by God just for me. I waited for what seemed like eternity to me (not really as I look back) for this gift to walk into my life, sweep me off my feet, and make my dream of marriage come true.

And it did. Tony was my dream of a husband come true. He was more than I could have ever asked for or imagined. I remember telling him early on that his amazing blue eyes reminded me of those blue birds in the song...deep, dreamy blue. And, in his arms, I felt as if the troubles of this world, no matter how dark or hard, would melt away.

I honestly have not been able to listen to this song since Tony's passing. It was just too hard to think about my "somewhere," my "lullaby, " my "dream come true" to be no more. It made the song seem so cruel, so unfair. My blue bird flew away, my troubles hardened like stale lemon drops, my rainbow couldn't be seen for the clouds of grief and sadness. Why oh why, God, why oh why?

The song came to mind today as I was looking through some pictures of Tony and I while we were dating. I put on my big girl pants and played the song on my iPod on my drive home from my parents. I began to get teary as I turned past Chateau Elan, the very place Tony proposed to me on the 18th hole. But I quickly became intrigued by the stunning hues of the sky at dusk - ruby red, burnt orange, and a hint of deep ocean blue.

There before me was my rainbow, set horizontally along the tree-lined corridor of Interstate 85. No, it wasn't a true rainbow, no one else would have pictured it the same way. It looked different, yet it was beautiful in its own way. It was a rainbow just for me, a rainbow to represent my new dreams to come after the clouds of grief and sadness pass.

It was in that hour's drive home that I reflected on the fact that I am not in control of my "somewhere" on this earth. Though I dream, and dream big, it is God who makes my dreams come true, He is my Dream-Maker, my Dream-Giver. He is my perfect Creator. He is the one who makes the rainbows; He allows them to appear and fade away, in His timing, in His very perfect timing, after the storms, after the rain, after a long season of drought, after what seems like a long time to dream, and sometimes after it seems impossible for another rainbow to break through.

My somewhere with my Tony on this earth may have lasted but a few years; yet the vibrancy of it's rainbow has impacted my life for eternity.

Dearly loved,

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Prizes...and a bag of marbles...

I just put up my vacuum cleaner after stepping over it for several days, right smack in the middle of my bedroom. You're probably thinking, "well, whoopee do, Melissa, glad you can clean up after yourself" (which actually would have been a major feat this time a year ago).

I was slow to put it up because it now holds the shattered pieces of the most prized possession Tony ever gave me.

Last Friday was a heavier than anticipated day as it marked the 1.5 year mark. Other milestones had come and gone with little effect, so this one took me by surprise. I finally pulled myself together, even decided I'd "look cute" for the day to perk myself up. I reached into my beautiful jewelry case (another prized gift from my Tony) to get out a necklace, shut the door, and crash.

My jar of marbles fell from the top. My jar of marbles Tony gave me as an engagement gift. My jar of marbles spoken of at Tony's memorial service. Shattered. Marbles everywhere.

I just stared at the glassy mess. I pressed my back against the wall and slowly slid to the floor. I didn't know how or what to feel.

What was I supposed to do now? Tony had clearly given me instructions that we were to throw one marble away every year on our anniversary.  I had faithfully done that for the past two years without him.  Was I just supposed to put the marbles in another jar? But it's not THE jar. Who knows if I'll even live long enough to completely empty the jar anyway. What do I do with the marbles?  Tears began to flow.

I finally got up, walked to the kitchen, and pulled out a ziploc bag. I got on my hands and knees and put the marbles in the bag, being sure every one was accounted for, all 74. I looked down at my hands at one point and noticed they were cut in a couple places and bleeding from the glass. How fitting.  Then, I put on my big girl pants and I swept and vacuumed up the pieces of that jar, keeping just two larger jagged pieces.

My jar was gone; my marbles now intact in a ziploc bag.  And after walking past them, stepping over my vacuum for several days now, several days filled with heartache for another dear friend in the midst of tragedy, I'm finally getting some clarity on what I am to do.

I am to let them go.
I am to let my marbles go.

As I wrote in my last post, I'm memorizing Phillipians 3. These are actually the very verses I awoke to on the one year anniversary of Tony's passing...Phil. 3:12-14 ~
"12 Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. 13 Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, 14 I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus."

At first reading several months back, I wondered why on earth would God bring me verses about "forgetting."  But as I studied those often-quoted verses, I learned that Paul wasn't saying that he was not remembering the past or permanently deleting the past from his memory, but instead he was encouraging believers to leave what was in the past behind them, to not let it hinder what God has placed ahead of them.

So "forgetting" what is behind me in this season means beginning to let go.  For as I let go, I am able to "strain" toward my goal, to press on to take hold of my ultimate prize, my Jesus.

And it's quotes like these from Tony (this one written to his best friend over a decade ago) that give me peace that I'm continuing to honor his legacy as I press on.  He writes:

"I am understanding more and more about what Paul meant when he said he was seeking the prize in the race of life.  I get so tired in this race, and the only thing that keeps me going is the hope of the future “prize” and my friends."

So I press on. I hope. I get tired. I keep going. I lean on my family. I'm there for my friends, in good times and in bad.  I allow God to use my story, allow God to use me, all of me.

I'm not sure what I'm gonna do with that bag of marbles just yet, but I am confident that one by one, I will honor my precious time with my husband, as I let each marble go.

Dearly loved, letting go, straining forward,

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Table for One

I've been avoiding sitting at my dining room table alone. The sofa was my eating place of choice.  That was until a few weeks ago when my 3 pound puppy learned to jump up on the couch on her own...and meal time was prime time for her to pull out all her tricks.  I've never given her "people" food, but that certainly doesn't stop her from trying to nab something from my plate.

So, eating at the table was my last resort, eating at my table alone.

Why is that such a big deal?  I mean, I'm not the only one who has to sit at a table of one.  I guess it's just one more reality that what was two is now just one.  It's taken me almost a year and a half to put on my big girl pants to sit there alone.

A friend asked me recently where I was in my grief journey.  I think I'm finally coming into acceptance.  That's not to say I won't have times of anger, or sadness, or bargaining, or all those other "grief" stages.  It seems I've come to embrace my "new normal," as much as I still long for my "normal" before Tony's accident, my table for two.

It's hard to believe that a year and a half is creeping up on me - this Friday.  It was this time a year ago, 6 months after Tony's death, when the numbness wore off and the excruciating pain of grief set in. I honestly didn't know if I would survive it.  Yet, I had told the hundreds at Tony's memorial service via my letter that "Please know I'm going to be okay." It's as if I knew then only in vision what I now know in reality now...I was going to be okay. 

I am okay.

Folks who don't see me in my everyday life find that hard to believe.  I still get those sympathy calls, those sympathy emails and messages, those sympathy stares.  It's the folks who continue to try to put themselves in my shoes, to imagine what life would be like if they lost their spouse tragically.  And the truth is, they just can't; they don't know how hard the journey has been for me because they haven't faced it themselves. They don't know what it's like to walk through tragedy and come out okay...all because of God's strength.  They just see it as overwhelming odds, insurmountable circumstances.

And it is all that and more.

But that's where my Jesus comes in. So often misused is the imaginary verse in the Bible that "God won't give you more than you can handle." Oh, yes, yes, He will. But, that's where His power comes in, His strength supernaturally takes over. That's where we learn that we are not in control.  That's where we learn that apart from Him, we can do NOTHING. 

Don't get me wrong, I appreciate the concern and continued care shown to me.  I truly believe God  blesses those who care for widows, for His Word continually encourages His people to do so. I guess I'm just ready to not be the one folks feel sorry for, the one who constantly reminds folks of sadness.  I'm embracing the fact that losing Tony is just a part of my story, it's not my entire story. 

So I press on as one, and as I do so, I'm meditating and memorizing Philippians 3.  In verse 12 it says, "Not that I have obtained all of this or have been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me."

I'm pressing on in the story of Melissa...Melissa Edge, who I pray God continues to use to create beauty out of ashes.

Dearly loved, at a table for one,

Sunday, August 21, 2011

A man named Sam...

I drive up and down Lenox Road in Buckhead several times a day.  I almost always get caught at that same Peachtree Street light; it's relentless.  It is at that intersection that my mind often wonders to a distinct memory I shared with Tony there.

It was about a man named Sam.

Sam was one of the men Tony helped through a program at Buckhead Church, called MoneyWise.  It assists folks by providing a mentor who walks alongside them as they journey toward financial health.  With my husband being "Mr. Finance" himself, this was the ministry he absolutely loved.

He loved helping folks like Sam.

Now I won't share the details of his story; I will say that God used Tony to very clearly change the trajectory of Sam's life, a life of restored relationships, restored dignity, restored hope.  Yet, Tony was more than a mentor to this man who was twice Tony's age; he was a friend.

Just after Tony and I were engaged, Sam wanted to meet his fiance.  We met him at Buckhead Church for the early service, though we normally attended North Point.  I'll never forget him standing on the corner at Tower Place.  He embraced me with a hug and a beautiful bouquet of flowers. What a sweet moment realizing that this man was forever impacted by my Tony.

As we left Buckhead Church that day, we offered to give Sam a ride; he didn't own a car.  He politely declined.  As we sat at the intersection of Lenox Road and Peachtree Street on our way home, Tony told me that Sam walked over a mile each way to church every Sunday, up and down Lenox Road.  I have never forgotten that.

That's the last time I saw Sam; Tony continued the relationship.  Fast forward to the night we returned home from our honeymoon; Tony and I were happily opening the presents from the wedding.  We got to the final one, a book.  We opened the cover, and there was a note from Sam.  We scratched our heads, wondering how on earth this present got all the way to our wedding venue over an hour outside Atlanta.  We didn't see Sam at the wedding.  Tony called Sam to thank him; it turns out that Sam had borrowed a friend's car to drop off the gift the day before the wedding just to make sure it got to us in time.

Yet again, Tony and I were so deeply touched.

Time marched on; I really don't know the last time Tony and Sam saw each other. 

As I sat at that same red light last week, I felt I needed to try to reach out to Sam; I had no idea whether he even knew what had happened to Tony.  I tracked down his email, sent him a brief message, and wondered if it would actually reach him.

It did.

The very next day Sam dropped by Buckhead Church to see me.  I gave him a big hug; we sat down to talk.  I looked into the tear-filled eyes of a now 70 year old man, now my friend too, and I listened as he relayed the impact Tony had on him, how he was eternally grateful for his friend and his brother.  He was overcome by grief, mixed with gratitude; he was so very concerned for me too.  I honestly don't know how I was able to hold my emotions together, yet I was overwhelmed by a sense of inspiration.  I walked away so very proud of my husband;  I told myself that is exactly how I want to be remembered after I have left this earth. That's the influence and legacy I want to leave behind.

I ugly-cried all the way home; you know, those deep sobs that ruin your eye makeup.  I miss my husband. Still, I'm so very glad to have found another connection to him at Buckhead Church.

Dearly loved, friend of Sam's,

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Ralphy and Me

I grew up with a dog named Tiger.  Yes, I gave her that name!  Turns out I'm allergic to dogs.  I really never thought I'd have another one.

I recall one of my early grief counseling sessions just months after Tony's passing where my counselor suggested I get a pet just so I've have something to hold, to snuggle with, something living and breathing to bring me comfort.  I bluntly cut her off by telling her I was allergic to pet dander.  She instead suggested I start holding babies at church.  Well, those of you who read my post a few months back know that I caught a cold that turned into pneumonia from the one time I did that.

No pets, no babies for me.

Months passed by; I slowly adjusted to living by myself in my condo.  Sure I loved where I lived, but most days I hated coming home to an empty place every day at 5.  It was as if I lived for the 9 to 5 where I could be at work (a place I just love!); it was the 5 p.m. to 9 a.m. that was so hard to face.

So I began to entertain the idea of getting a hypo-allergenic dog.  I had a couple of friends who have yorkies, and after looking at every type of dog I could have, a yorkie was the only breed I wanted.

I was hooked.  But I wasn't convinced.

I pondered and I researched and I asked lots of questions to my dog owner friends.  I even decided on a name...Ralphy.  It comes from my all-time favorite movie, A Christmas Story.

And finally, I jumped right in.  I met my puppy at 4 weeks old; she hales from deep South Georgia.  As I held her in my arms, she peed on me.  I was smitten.

Anticipation grew over the next 3 weeks as I literally had a countdown going at work.  I got everything she could possibly need, all decked out in pink, from a monogrammed bag to loads of toys.  On July 15, mom and I made the drive down South to get her.  She was terrified; in some ways, so was I.  She weighed a whopping 1 pound, 9 ounces.

And I instantly fell in love.  How could something so tiny, so fragile, provide so much joy, so much love?

With a sweet face like this, how could she not?

No amount of peeing the floor, biting my toes, whining and chewing could cause me to love her any less.

She's my puppy, my Ralphy.  And I've asked the Lord to use her in my life to teach me more about Him.

Dearly loved, puppy owner,

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

A marble in the ocean

I'm a little behind on some of my blog posts. Some have been sitting as half-finished drafts for months now.   Blame it on lack of inspiration, blame it on busyness, blame it on grief that literally exhausts me often, if not constantly, oh and blame it on my super cute new puppy (more on her later).  I will just go ahead and forgive myself.

So journey back with me a few months to my wedding anniversary on April 26.  On what would have been a celebration of 3 years of marriage, I threw away another marble from my jar that Tony gave me when he proposed.  There's now 73 left.  If I live to throw all of them out, I will be 104.  I told the good Lord I was okay with that as long as I could keep my teeth.  I'm well on my way - I finally had a cavity-free visit to the dentist!  That's a major accomplishment.

Looking back at my post a few days before my anniversary, I wrote about getting lost in the sea of God's love.  And that's exactly where I journeyed, all the way to the ocean and back.

I met with my Jesus there.

I was joined by one of my best friends, Karen, such a fun friend to have alongside on road trips.  I heart her!  My biggest concern for the trip was to just escape life for a few days and relax.  I made it my goal to "unplug" from technology as best I could.  With Karen's gentle encouragement, I succeeded, somewhat.

It was the day after Easter when we arrived at the beach.  We stayed in a high rise hotel with a view overlooking the beach and the ocean.  It was perfect.

But what was beyond perfect, a message just for me, was what was spelled out with dried up seaweed on the shore.  It said "He is risen."

I took it as my own personal invitation to meet with my Jesus right on that sand, right on that shore, right where the roaring ocean meets mere man, right where the endless sea of God's grace and love washes over my toes and into my very soul.

I stared for hours at the enormity of that sea, at how small I am compared to how large God is.  I wept, I laughed, I dreamed of memories spent by the ocean with my husband, I breathed that ocean air in, and I invited God to restore me.  I reflected on an entire year I survived, I lived through without Tony, a year I never imagined possible.  And I thanked my Jesus for never leaving my side.

He deserves all the credit, all the Glory, forever and ever.

It came time to toss that marble symbolizing what would have been year number 3 of our marriage into the ocean.  Karen accompanied me; I could not bear to do this task I was dreading alone.  I didn't want to let go of that marble, that year, because it represented a year apart from the love of my life.  It's a year I will never get back.  It represented the beginning of year after year of time passing between us.  Like the unceasing roll of the ocean tide, time moves on, and I'm forced to move with it.  I'm forced to move forward, time is relentless and unforgiving that way.

And it was that tide that took away that marble.  I took this picture, tossed the marble into the waves, and then it was gone...forever. 

Yet, I was not without hope, for that ocean also represents the unceasing, unfailing love of my Savior.  I can't think of a better place for my marble to be.

Now I'm 3 months in to living out marble number 4, and I'm shooting for it to be another cavity free year!

Dearly loved, teeth flosser,

Thursday, July 14, 2011


What a hard week I've had, a hard week indeed.  For those of you who understand the Twitter world, I simply tweeted #hardday yesterday, and I was so amazed to have so many of my colleagues stop by my desk to check on me today.  I'm so very grateful to work in such a supportive, caring environment.

Why so hard?  Well, if you're reading this and you really want to know, it all stems from my memory.  It seems that this week, my brain has decided to have flashbacks to the night and day after Tony's accident.  Sure, it also doesn't help that every major network in Atlanta plays commercial after commercial advertising Stone Mountain right now.  I do my best to put my fingers in my ears, shut my eyes, and yell "la la la la" until it's over.  Hey, my counselor told me whatever works to get me past it is just fine.  Funny that it's not much different from my days as a child when we would visit the laser show at Stone Mountain on the 4th of July.  I would react the same way to the fireworks.  Gosh, that place just doesn't hold good memories for me.  Hard.

These flashbacks cause a continual question running a marathon through my head, "Did I really live through that?  Is that really a part of my story? Really?"  I am so very grateful that I don't wake up to that question every day.  Quite honestly, I sometimes go weeks without dwelling on how Tony died.  Sure, I don't go a day without missing him and our life together, but  I'm finding those memories make me smile, more than cry these days.  Comfort.

I did put on my big girl pants and revisit those horrific 12 hours of March 23-24, 2010, with my counselor yesterday.   Part of grief is just "getting it out" and I had not had the courage to do it before now.  It was painful, a little sickening to my stomach, but one thing surprised me in a comforting way:  Some details of my nightmare have faded.  I don't recall it all like I did in those early weeks.  It's a bit fuzzy, and fuzzy is more than okay with me.  Grateful.

I drove home last night with a view of the moon, one of my most favorite reminders of our amazing God.  Atlanta being a "sauna" this week, the sky was hazy, and the moonlight appeared fuzzy.  Chris Tomlin's "Indescribable" came on my Ipod, and I could not hold back my tears.  That fuzzy moon was just for me; it was God reminding me that He knows my pain, He walked through my nightmare with me, and He, my Creator God, can turn what is so clear, yet so indescribably painful to recall, into faded and fuzzy. He reminded me in that moment that He is not only the God of my heart and my life, He is the God of my memory too.

You, Lord, are amazing.

Dearly loved, fuzzy thinking,

Monday, July 11, 2011

Solitary Courage

"The following night the Lord stood near Paul and said, “Take courage! As you have testified about me in Jerusalem, so you must also testify in Rome." ~Acts 27:11

These past few weeks, I've been camping out on the verse above, two words in particular:
Take courage.

I just love how the Lord came so close to Paul and uttered this simple, yet powerful phrase.  Paul was in chains amidst a plot to take his very life.  He was completely by himself.

And, I can only imagine, he was utterly terrified.

Jesus came near him and told him to take courage.

Take courage.

That's what I long for these days.  That is my earnest request of the Lord.

You see, I've reached the part of my grief, my pathway through pain, that I must face on my own.  No amount of family, friends, distractions, work, or play, can walk this journey for me, or even with me.  I must face my pain, I must face this reality of life not being as it should, I must face this "new normal" that's anything but normal, by myself.

It is a solitary road.

And I feel as if I am struggling to keep one foot in front of the other; I'm in survival mode.  I'm learning to face life on my own again.  Sure, I did this one time before when I graduated college, but that was after I had 22 years of preparation.  This time I was given no warning; I'm scared to death at times when I really dwell on that fact.  Sometimes I melt down, wishing I could somehow twitch my nose and be right back in my old life again.

I miss it, and I miss my Tony.

I feel as if I take a step forward on this road and then two in reverse.  I'm back to facing life one day at a time.  I'm back to praying every morning and telling God that if He gives me the strength, if He just gives me the courage to get out of bed, I'm gonna trust Him to lead me through the rest of the day.  That's all I've got to offer.  It's certainly nothing to boast about.

Yet, my Jesus draws near. 

He meets me in my fear, he meets me stumbling along this road, he meets me just where I am.  And, He brings me courage for the taking.  Because though I don't see the end of the road, I don't see what's on the "other side" of my pain, He does.  He knows how scared I am, and yet He knows I'm gonna be okay.  He gives me courage.  He is my courage.

Dearly loved,

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

My love story...

I'm putting on my big girl pants once again and stepping back into the world of serving at church.  In a weak moment, I said yes to co-leading a 7 week small group study that starts next week.

I met the other girl and guy I will be leading with tonight, and to get to know each other, we decided it was probably best to share our stories of coming to know Jesus and what He's done in our lives.  That's really one of the first times since Tony died that I have shared my testimony out loud with folks I don't know.  What a different story I tell with this last year of tragedy and grief added in.  These leaders were so sweet to just let me ramble, certainly not my eloquent, well-rehearsed speeches from my college days as Student Government President.


Since we've got 12 people in our group, we have opted to condense our stories to a 2 to 3 minute "elevator speech" of who God was to us as a child and who He is to us now.  I've got some work to do, I've got to document it so it won't escape my brain like everything else left to my memory.  So, I thought I'd just share it here.

I call it...My Love Story...

I was very fortunate to be raised in a loving, Christian home, where my parents prioritized my brother and I going to church and learning about Jesus.  However, being the over-achieving, straight A, "good little church girl," I always felt that I had to earn God's love by performing well, doing the right things and basically trying to be perfect.  That was until at 15, I went on a weekend retreat and learned about God's unconditional love for me, that He desired a relationship with me not because of how good I was, but because of His Son Jesus dying on a cross for the sin of the world, for my sin.  It was then that I accepted Jesus as my Lord and Savior.

Since that time, the tension of my Type A personality has still been something I have to work through, but God continues to lead me in releasing that to Him in exchange for just resting in His love.  He gave me a tangible example of His unconditional love in 2008 when I married the earthly love of my life, Tony.  My husband doted on me, delighted in me, romanced me extravagantly, regardless of my imperfections, regardless of whether I always did or said the right things, regardless of my performance.  He just loved me.  He just wanted to be in relationship with me.

I lost this earthly love very suddenly and very tragically in March of 2010.  My world turned upside down, my dreams were shattered, this unconditional love was no longer something I could hold in my arms.  It was then that I heard God whisper in the depths of my heart, "now it's My turn to romance you, to pour out My unconditional love over you, to display how much I desire you and your heart, to delight in you, to just be with you."  And in the darkness of my grief and pain, I have fallen more in love with Jesus than ever before.  I feel God loving me extravagantly, day by day, moment by moment, breath by breath.  Though the chapter of my beautiful love story with Tony has come to an unforeseen close, my love story with my Savior continues to be written.

So there you have it, the story of "Little Miss Perfect Princess" swept into the arms of the God of the Universe.  And regardless of what happens in this life, my story will always have a "happily ever after" in eternity with my Savior.

Dearly loved, in my love story,

Sunday, June 19, 2011


I came home from work last week and did something I have not had the courage to do for a while.  I didn't immediately turn the TV on.

I know, that sounds pretty lame.

But it took me intentionally choosing silence over my companions for these last few months, my trusty television and DVR.  It's become more than just a love for my new HDTV.  It's become an escape from the reality of my life, an escape from my pain, an easier way out.

I just could not take the silence.  (Well, silence, except for the dancing elephants on my ceiling, a.k.a. my upstairs neighbors.)  I was afraid of that silence...because the silence gives way to the overwhelming emotion I seem to be face to face with.


Yes, I admit it.  I'm hurting.

And I've been too prideful to just come out and say it.  It took a while for me to admit it to myself, and even longer to actually be okay with it.  I mean, it's been an entire year now, shouldn't it hurt less, shouldn't I cry less, shouldn't I have more good days than sad?

I'd much rather be seen as strong, as having all the answers, of possessing rock star faith against the odds, as overcoming grief or just darn defeating it all together.  As my counselor so eloquently put it, I've been trying to earn an "A" in Widowhood 101.

And now that the first year of my grief is over, there's nothing else to "check off" my to-do list and no more "firsts" to make it through.  All that is left is for me to feel the deep pain from loving deeply and loosing deeply.

Turns out, there's no grade to earn for pain endurance.

And there's no set time frame. And there's no set way to feel it. And there's no easy way to just "get over it."

And swallowing that reality makes me want to very well give up.  

But I press on. (Though quite honestly, I tell Jesus often that I'm okay with Him coming back to earth any day now.  Those of you reading this who don't yet know Jesus, I suggest you get to know Him.)

Pressing on for these last few weeks has meant shifting from "doing" to "being."  That explains my silence on my blog.  I've been focusing on "being" with God, and not "doing" anything for Him.  That's hard work for a Type A, overachiever like myself.

And yet, my God meets me in my being.  He comforts me in my silence. He keeps me company while  I do absolutely nothing at all, He is in my breathing in and breathing out.  He reigns in me being so desperate for Him to meet me in my pain and in my hurting, that my very life, my very next heartbeat depends completely on Him and Him alone.

Silence and being...God's open door into my heart, into my hurting.

Dearly loved, back to blogging but shooting for a B minus,

Sunday, May 22, 2011


I've really struggled to blog these last few weeks.  I realize that so much has happened that I planned to write about.  When I sat down to actually put words around those events, I simply could not.

And instead of pushing through, forcing myself to come up with something, I released myself from that pressure.  And contrary to my nature, I chose not feel guilty.

I just have not had the capacity to add guilt on top of anger and bitterness.  And it is those two latter emotions that have consumed my heart, my very livelihood for almost 2 months now.

I'm sure some of you who know me well, or at least see me on a regular basis, are now wondering what "angry Melissa" looks like.  I wondered that too.  I don't consider myself an angry person; though I do have my moments in traffic.  My anger and bitterness have been an internal struggle, one always brewing in the back of my mind, one that has left me utterly exhausted mentally by the end of each day as I put on my "somewhat happy face" to push through my daily responsibilities.

I had really hoped I could skip this "stage" of grief; it was a recurring dream and some deciphering from my counselor that led me face to face with it.

I decided I had better confront it head on.  And for me, that meant simmering in it for a while.

It is an emotion too deep, too painful, to try to brush off,  or to try to make all rosy-colored, or to avoid all-together.  It is an emotion that would come back with a vengeance if not dealt with the first time around.

So, I put on my big girl pants, stepped into the ring, and I wrestled with it.

And I wrestled with God.  And I wrestled with thoughts and emotions regarding Tony.  And I wrestled with all that I have lost due to circumstances beyond my control.

And there were plenty of tears, plenty of bitter words cried out to my God.  I was just completely honest with Him.  I mean, He knows my thoughts anyway.

Still at every turn, at every round of the fight, there was something to spur me on, to keep me fighting, to not allow me to give up.

It came in sweet moments on the beach, reflecting on actually making it to another wedding anniversary to throw another marble away.  It came in accepting the "Tony Edge Scholarship" at Emory, an endowment of over $115,000 raised by Tony's EMBA classmates, as a legacy for Tony.  It came in my brother getting notice of getting into graduate school.  It came when friends reached out at just the right time to remind me that I am not forgotten about, that I am not alone.  I have had an audience of fans surrounding me, even though most did not know why or how they we cheering me on.

And yet, all those great things, great things were just not enough.  They are not enough to lead me to victory over my anger.

I was beginning to think my bitterness was setting in stone, hardening my very heart, my worst fear.  I feared my anger would never let up, that nothing could quench it, that I was succumbing to overwhelming odds.

That was until I was led to Psalm 73 last night.  These thoughts from King David in verses 21-26 depict this fighter in me so well...
21 When my heart was grieved
   and my spirit embittered,
22 I was senseless and ignorant;
   I was a brute beast before you.
 23 Yet I am always with you;
   you hold me by my right hand.
24 You guide me with your counsel,
   and afterward you will take me into glory.
25 Whom have I in heaven but you?
   And earth has nothing I desire besides you.
26 My flesh and my heart may fail,
   but God is the strength of my heart
   and my portion forever.

It is those verses in bold that are my victory. 

I was overcome with cries of bittersweet joy as I read aloud God's promise, "and afterward, you will take me into glory."  Oh, what a glorious promise.  Just glorious.

Those verses are enough for me to win over my anger, enough for my triumph over my tragedy, enough to spur me on for this life and the one to come.


Because, as it reminds me in the very next verses, nothing, NOTHING, on this earth compares to my Jesus, nothing else is enough.

He alone is ENOUGH.

And He is gently leading me to finish this fight.  And He will provide more than enough to allow me to move forward on this earth...until he takes me into glory.

Dearly loved, fighter,

Friday, May 13, 2011

My message in a bottle...

Tony sent me a message in a bottle the morning of our wedding day. He was the ultimate romantic husband, fiance and boyfriend.  Seriously, I could write a book just about his romance skills!

I've had that bottle sitting on my dresser for 3 years now, but have not read the message inside since our special day.  Honestly, I forgot what it said.

Before bedtime a few weeks ago, I had a good ol' cry on my knees as I prayed to my God.  Crawling into bed, that bottle caught my attention.  I was too afraid to open the message inside.  Instead, I recalled the verses in Psalm 56:8 (NASB):

 "You have...put my tears in Your bottle; are they not in Your book?"

It was the Lord reminding me that He sees my tears; He deems each one so valuable as to hold them in His bottle.  Not one is lost.

The next night, I worked up the courage to open Tony's note.  Tears began to flow as I read the one word boldly printed in all caps at the top:


What? Joy? Really, God?  Of all the notes Tony has written me over our relationship (most that I can't even bear to read just yet), the first one I do is about Joy?

Yes, joy.  Oh, the irony of joy in a bottle that represents my tears.

I look forward to the day when I can turn this irony around as in the verses of Psalm 126:5:

"Those who sow in tears will reap with songs of joy."

Dearly loved, sowing tears,

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

The Road Less Traveled...

I've felt like I've gotten a big ol' kick in the pants over the last couple of weeks.  I've been wrestling heavy thoughts in my head and battling nasty sickness in my body (also known as walking pneumonia).

I don't recommend either.

Now, I will say my few days away at the beach with my BFF last week were just wonderful.  Quite honestly, I think I'd be going crazy right now without that short bit of sanity, an "unplugging" from my life.  More on that in another post, I've got a lot to catch up on.

Back to this kick in the pants.  Now I'm quite deserving of said kicks in the pants when I mess up, make mistakes, say things I shouldn't, spend too much on myself, hurt someone else with words or actions, and on and on.  Though those kicks hurt, they are often the good kind of reprimand, a wake up call that I'm human, a reminder I need a good dose of humble pie on a regular basis, and an opportunity to learn and grow and change.  I'll take those kicks.

The kind I'm dealing with are of a different kind.  These kicks come when I've done something I consider "good," or in Christian-ese language, what we'd call "God's way," what the Bible calls us as believers to do.  And instead of receiving something "good" in return, I feel that all I get is a kick in the pants, a kick that bruises deep, inflicts pain.  These kicks are no fun, unexpected, and if left untreated, can leave deep open wounds that never heal.

One such kick is this pneumonia.  Now don't be feeling all sorry for's not the first time I've had it, yep I was that "sickly" kid growing up.  It does limit my lung capacity, leaving me easily fatigued.  It's more annoying than anything.  And it was brought on by doing something I thought was a "good deed." I volunteered to help with our 900+ preschoolers who came through our church on Easter Sunday; I was placed in a room with 34 toddlers, a least a third with snotty noses.  Not so good.  I came down with a cold a couple days after, and after a week of not getting better, a trip to the doctor confirmed my cold had traveled to my lungs.  How's that for a kick in the pants?

Surely, I'll recover, yet left untreated, I could easily be like one of those old people who are hospitalized by pneumonia.  My Pop had that once; it was awful.

Now, my heavy thoughts, these hard kicks not just to my pants, but to my heart.  Well, now those I need to battle, I need to wrestle with, I need fight for victory over, no matter how hard that kick penetrates.  If not, they could very well lead to bitterness, and bitterness left to itself can destroy the soul.

They have left me weak, but I'm not backing down.  Jesus overcame the world; surely, with His Spirit living in me, I will overcome these thoughts.

I will simply say that these thoughts stem from feeling as if I entered into marriage with Tony following God's way, God's holy design for one of the greatest gifts He created.  My healthy fear of the Lord, and surrounding myself with friends committed to the same values, would not allow me otherwise.  Marrying Tony and the 23 months that followed were absolutely beautiful, blissful; it was a God-orchestrated love story.  And I would not trade it in for anything.  Anything.

And then, poof; it was gone.  In a second.  Without any warning.  Gone.

How's that for a kick in the pants?  A kick that could have very well destroyed me, left me for dead, well at least dead in my heart.

I've cried myself to sleep many nights, clamoring through my tears, "But, God, I did this right."

But God, in His all-knowing ways, has not left me to battle alone.  He is with me as my Commander in Chief.  He is pointing me to Scripture to help make sense of this all.  He's putting folks in my path who don't try to explain it away, they just let me vent, without judgment.

I feel as if I know in my head the right answers to bring me to victory; my heart has not yet caught up.  And tonight as I prepared for bed, feeling as if I'm coughing up my lungs, fearing this heaviness in my head will visit me in my dreams, a poem I memorized as a teenager popped into my mind.

It was "The Road Not Taken" by Robert Frost.  My two roads "diverged" are one of the world's ways and one of God's ways.  I took the "narrow road," the one "less traveled by" when it came to marriage.

And though I'm reeling from what feels like a constant kick in the pants, a blow to my soul, I will unwaveringly hold to my belief, as it says at the end of the poem, "And that has made all the difference."

And the difference is good.  And the difference is found in Jesus.

Dearly loved, with shoe marks from kicks to my pants,

Saturday, April 23, 2011


It's the day between Good Friday and Easter.  It's the day between the remembrance of a horrible death on a cross and the resurrection to new life.  It's the day in between earthly sorrow and eternal hope.

In between.

I often wonder what it was like for the disciples during those days in between their Savior, their Friend breathing his final breathe on this earth and Jesus fulfilling what He promised them through His resurrection 3 days later.  What was it like to not know that His death was not the final verdict? What was it like to not fully have the hope of knowing that Jesus would rise from the grave, that it was impossible for death to keep its hold on Him?

I would imagine they felt very, very sad...and lost.  Who would they follow now?


I've felt lost in a sea of emotions this week we call Passion week.  I am utterly exhausted as I tread to barely keep my head above water.  Tears have flowed quite frequently, and I haven't tried to fight them back.

One of my colleagues who just lost both of his parents led our Leadership Team through communion on Thursday; I was deeply touched as he presented the elements to us amidst his own sorrow and pain.  I stared at that bread representing the body of my Jesus and that cup representing His blood; all I could muster was, "Jesus, You are IT for me, and Jesus, You are Enough."

Then, it was on to Good Friday and my realization that this very day a year ago was the day I picked up my Tony's ashes from the funeral home.  Later that evening last year, I recall sitting at the Passion City Church service and boldly telling my God that He had better use my tragic story for His glory, or else just let me die.  Well, I'm still here, and He is certainly at work using my story (I take no credit).  He continues to answer my honest prayer.

I had the great privilege to serve alongside my dear colleagues at Buckhead Church's Good Friday services last night.  I could only take in parts of the images of my Savior's death; my head and my heart were spinning.  I was at such a loss to make sense of it all.  I mean, sure I believe all that took place on that very dark day, and I know Jesus had to pay that price to atone for my sin.  I was just overwhelmed in those moments, and my spirit remained overwhelmed until I feel asleep that night.

So here I sit on Saturday, this day in between.  I cranked up Passion's latest album as I worked around my place to get ready for Easter lunch that my parents are bringing here tomorrow.  David Crowder's "Sometimes" began to play; I closed my eyes to take in these words...

"It’s Your love that we adore
It’s like a sea without a shore
We’re lost in You
We’re lost in You"

That's it. That explains my emotions so perfectly. I am lost in Jesus, overwhelmed at His love for me, for you.  I am lost in the Truth that He would die an unbearably painful death to display to the world the endless depth of His love.  He will go to any length so that anyone, anywhere, may have the gift of salvation and eternal life in Him.  I am lost in the promise of heaven, a promise fulfilled for my Tony and one day for all of us who have a relationship with Jesus. I am lost in my Savior.

So now I turn my attention, my earnest prayers to those in my life, those yet to be in my life, those I'll never meet, who are lost without the Hope of Jesus, lost without a Savior.  I pray boldly this Easter weekend that Jesus would capture their hearts with His love, His grace, for truly there is NOTHING on this earth that trumps it.  There's no other promise like His.

The song continues...

"It’s Your love that we adore
It’s like a sea without a shore
Don’t be afraid
Don’t be afraid
Just set your sail
And risk the ocean there’s only grace
Let’s risk the ocean there’s only grace"

Dearly loved, lost in Jesus and risking the ocean,

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Reason for hope...

So I went back to my college reunion this past weekend, Brenau's annual May Day.  I planned this event for the last 4 years; I had planned part of this year's event before I left my position as alumni director a few months ago.

Still, it was hard to go back.

Sure, I was glad to see my former colleagues, and the students and alumni I had built relationships with over the years, and it was the 100th anniversary of my sorority's founding.  I was happy to able to celebrate such a milestone for an organization that gave me some of my greatest friends for life.

Casey, who was my roommate at Brenau for 3 years, came up to go with me; and she brought her adorable girls.  Her oldest Chloe is now 4 and is starting to spell words.

I'm a big "words" person, so I have pictures of words all over my condo.  Chloe went around asking what each one spelled.  She locked in on my many versions of "hope" spread throughout my place.

"Why do you have hope everywhere, Melissa?" she asked as she slowly spelled out the word.

"So that I can remember that I always need hope, Chloe.  And hope comes from Jesus," I explained.

And hope is what I carried with me throughout that day at Brenau.  Oh, and I carried that sweet little Chloe and her 2 little sisters quite often too.

As a college student ten years ago, I never pictured my life would have taken the turn it did.  I never imagined facing all of my sorority sisters with families of their own when I was literally picking up the pieces of my shattered life to start completely over.

Hope.  That's what I've got instead.

I was asked a few weeks ago by a new friend at Buckhead just why I was able to be so joyful and happy as often as I am. 

And the honest answer is just Jesus.  There really is no other way to explain it.

In that moment, I was reminded of these verses in 1 Peter 3:15...
"But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have..."

Dearly loved, with a reason to hope,

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

I will see goodness...

I've just come to accept the reality that my emotions run like a roller coaster.  Some days I'm all down and out, other days I'm upbeat and happy.  Such is the mystery of my grief.

And so goes my blog - sometimes sad, sometimes happy.  Today, I choose for my blog to be happy.

It was a week ago today when I actually scripted this blog post.  It was the day that I intentionally chose to see goodness throughout my day.

I awoke to read the end of Psalm 27.

"I remain confident of this: I will see the goodness of the LORD in the land of the living." ~ Ps. 27:13

I have magnetic letters in my cube at work, which I use to make fun messages on one of my metal cabinets.  That day when I got to work, I changed the message to "I will see goodness."

That evening, I made a "laundry list" of goodness I saw throughout the rest of that day:

I discovered lime flavored popcorn. Yummy!
I went to my first ballet class in 13 years (and I LOVED it!).
I laughed a lot with my colleagues and literally left work stating, "I can't believe I get paid to work at a place that I love so much."
I got an amazing phone call regarding a very cool legacy being set up in Tony's memory - details to come, but it is nothing short of amazing.
I made some encouraging connections within my new community. 
I received news that I'm getting a big fat tax refund (though I can hear Tony reminding me that ideally I would have never given the government that much of my money to begin with!  Circumstances beyond my control caused it, but it was perfect timing to get my money back!)
And those are just the highlights that my forgetful self can actually remember!

Now, it's not as if God just looked down from his heavenly throne and wiggled some puppet strings to cause goodness just to fall out of the sky.  I mean, I'm sure he's capable of that.

It was more of my own actually look for goodness, to choose to see it, to ask God to show it to me.

It is the perfect reminder that my God is good.  He's the creator of goodness.

I've kept that mindset for a week now; I highly recommend it.  Sure, the days to follow weren't jam packed full of tax refunds and amazing phone calls, but I did see goodness in the little things instead. 

Perhaps I'll look for good even on the worst of days.

I find it quite fitting that the 23rd Psalm, probably the "most read" passage of scripture at funerals, ends with verse 6: "Surely your goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever."

Dearly loved, seeing goodness,

Monday, April 4, 2011


I've been reading through the book of Acts off and on since January.  I finally finished it last night.

I had never really paid much attention to the final 2 chapters, where Paul, as a prisoner en route to Rome, becomes part of a raging storm and ends up being shipwrecked on the island of Malta.

What struck me is that Paul's fate as part of the wreckage was of no fault of his own.  Actually, it says in Acts 27:10, "So Paul warned them, 'Men, I can see that our voyage is going to be disastrous and bring great loss to ship and cargo, and to our own lives also.'" But those in charge of the ship did not listen.

I'm dealing with bits of anger since the one year mark.  Apparently its just a normal part of grieving.  However, it's a new emotion for me in my grief journey.

I'm angry that I had absolutely no control over my entire life being turned upside down over the last year.  I had no choice in my marriage being ripped apart.  I could not have stopped what happened to my Tony.  I was not there to intervene.

Instead, I'm just left to deal with the consequences.  I'm left to start completely over.

I feel as if my heart, my life, my dreams, have been entirely shipwrecked.


Aside from relationships with family and friends, every other part of my life has drifted away like debris floating on the ocean, tossed and turned by the crashing waves. I will never be the same.  And I will never recover the wreckage.

And, barely staying afloat with a plank of faith under one arm and a plank of my family and friends under the other, I wade into an unfamiliar shore.  What other choice do I have, except to drown in the sea of my sorrow?

Yet, I'm so grateful that like Paul, God's grace has met me in my shipwreck.

Acts 27:39 to 28:2 explain:

"When daylight came, they did not recognize the land, but they saw a bay with a sandy beach, where they decided to run the ship aground if they could. Cutting loose the anchors, they left them in the sea and at the same time untied the ropes that held the rudders. Then they hoisted the foresail to the wind and made for the beach. But the ship struck a sandbar and ran aground. The bow stuck fast and would not move, and the stern was broken to pieces by the pounding of the surf.

"The soldiers planned to kill the prisoners to prevent any of them from swimming away and escaping. But the centurion wanted to spare Paul’s life and kept them from carrying out their plan. He ordered those who could swim to jump overboard first and get to land. The rest were to get there on planks or on other pieces of the ship. In this way everyone reached land safely.

"Once safely on shore, we found out that the island was called Malta. The islanders showed us unusual kindness. They built a fire and welcomed us all because it was raining and cold."

My Malta is Buckhead.  And fortunately, like Paul, I find my new community to be so friendly, so welcoming, so kind.

It's been a beautiful collision, running aground in a place I could have never asked for or imagined.  And I trust that my new island is all part of God's perfect plan to gently rebuild and restore my heart and my life.

Dearly loved,

Monday, March 28, 2011


I downloaded the latest album by my favorite band, Hillsong United, yesterday.  It's entitled "Aftermath."

Aftermath.  That word strikes me right at the core.  It causes me to reflect on my own "aftermath" experience, my aftermath after tragedy, and the aftermath of such an amazing man going on to glory.

What has happened in a year full of so much heartache, so many tears, so much pain?  What good has come out of it? And my most pressing question, what glory has been given to Jesus?

For He is the only reason I'm here in the aftermath.

Now hear me when I say that the "good" is not the answer to the "why."  Just because good has come out of tragedy, it doesn't mean it was the reason for the tragedy.  It just means that our God is big enough to use the most horrible circumstances to bring good and to bring hope to a broken world, all while bringing Glory to Himself.

He creates beauty out of ashes.  And He creates beauty out of my aftermath.

I passed our friend Scott in the hallway at church today.  A year ago this very day, Scott brought that message of Hope, that message of the Truth of who Jesus is to over 700 people at Tony's memorial service, a standing room only crowd of the very people Tony had made it his life mission to invest in.  God equipped Scott so perfectly; I sat there in complete awe amidst so much shock and pain. Even more amazing was the fact that no one who had a part in the service, from speakers to the musicians, had consulted prior to the service.  God scripted the order of worship and all that was said that day.  I recall that all I could utter was, "God, what are you doing?  What are you up to?" 

And that was just the beginning of the aftermath.

A few weeks later, through circumstances only God could orchestrate, my story of trusting Jesus in the midst of tragedy was shared with a crowd of thousands at the Easter Service for Passion City Church.

A month after that, I was attending a Beth Moore conference where I felt the prompting of the Lord to begin a blog about my journey as a widow.  That's is where "Loving on the Edge" was birthed.  Just yesterday, it hit 25,000 page views.  I take no credit.  God scripts.  I write.  Almost all of my blogs come during the very hours when I'm at my wits end, when I feel I have nothing left to give, much less to write, when I can't even articulate complete sentences.

Over the last 12 months, my aftermath has included hundreds of messages from family, friends and even strangers of how Tony's life, his passing, and my response has impacted them for eternity.  For some, it has led them to accept Jesus as their Savior; for others, it has brought them to examine their faith with a fresh lens and has given them hope that God is big enough to handle their overwhelming odds. 

I don't tell you all of this to brag on on anything of myself, or even anything of my husband.  Honestly, I'd trade all of this in just to have my Tony back, even for just 5 minutes.  But since that is impossible, I choose to boast in my Jesus, my Lord, for creating beauty in my aftermath.  To Him alone belongs all the glory.

He's in my aftermath.  He IS my aftermath.

Dearly loved,

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Caitlyn and Cotton Candy...

March 23, 2011, turned out to be a surprisingly good day.  Despite my anxious anticipation and my wish above all else to turn into a bear and hibernate until it was over, I walked through the day full of life and even bits of joy.

Ironic, I know.

Casey spent the day with me, and she brought along her almost 5 month old, Caitlyn. She's the youngest of 3 girls, all cute as a button.  Caitlyn was just what I needed; her smile lights up even the saddest of faces.  Casey was actually at the doctor's office this time last year getting her first pictures of this daughter in her womb when I called to share with her the news that Tony died.

Even more ironic.  Yet, so very hopeful for my heart.

Funny thing, Caitlyn is one of 7 babies born this year out of our wedding party.  Three of my bridesmaids and 4 of Tony's groomsmen have brought new life into the world since Tony left it. 

The irony of life and death all wrapped into a single year.  Hope.

Casey and I spent the day shopping.  Yes, shopping.  I admit that retail therapy can be my weakness.  But this day was more about just doing whatever it took to make it through "still standing," and it was quite enjoyable for myself and my dear friend who knows me better than anyone.

We returned to my place where she cooked dinner for a few of my sweet girlfriends who came over to hang with me that evening.  At the very hour that Tony actually fell from Stone Mountain last year, I was hosting a dinner party with my friends.

Ironic, yes.  Unexpected, yes. 

Yet, I chose not to feel guilty about it.  It in no way diminishes the love I have for Tony and the magnitude of loss I feel without him in my life.  I just know that he would rather me celebrate life, not focusing on his death, and certainly not reliving the way that he died.  As my counselor reminded me, I lived that nightmare once, I don't have to relive it.

We ended our evening with the debut of my very favorite invention...a cotton candy machine.  Yes, I did say, a cotton candy machine.  I asked for one this Christmas and half jokingly, my parents bought it for me.  I mean, what else do you give this grieving daughter who didn't even want any presents at all?

My face lit up as particles of cotton candy swirled around my dining room.  My friends just went along with the fun, trying the many concoctions of flavors I created.  It was fun.  It was perfect.

It was a celebration that I have survived this tragic year.  It is hope that I'm going to be okay.

And if Tony could smile down on me, I know that he would.  And his health-nut self would even try my cotton candy just to humor me.

Dearly loved, cotton candy fan,

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Still standing...

I'm sitting here next to my best friend Casey who has been such a rock for me this past year.  I am so very grateful.  It's about an hour before the clock strikes midnight and that day I've dreaded for an entire year is upon me.  It seems so surreal.

I had hoped to have something profound to blog.  Honestly, as I have written before, I've got nothin'.  I'm spent.  My mind is in a million places and none of them make sense.  My heart is so heavy. 

But one thing I have learned first hand this past year is that when I come to the end of myself, God shows up in ways I could never ask or imagine.

He brought me to these verses, which I've been camping out in this week, Psalm 18:1-6:

I love you, LORD, my strength.
 The LORD is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer;
   my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge,
   my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.
 I called to the LORD, who is worthy of praise,
   and I have been saved from my enemies;
 The cords of death entangled me;
  the torrents of destruction overwhelmed me.
The cords of the grave coiled around me;
   the snares of death confronted me.
 In my distress I called to the LORD;
   I cried to my God for help.
From his temple he heard my voice;
   my cry came before him, into his ears.

Folks keep asking what I'm going to do on this one year anniversary.  Here's my best answer...

I will recognize the day as a horribe nightmare I lived through, a day I will never forget. I will remember the almost unbearable pain over the immeasurable, irreplaceable loss of the love of my life, my Tony.

And yet, I will raise my arms to heaven and proclaim loudly to my God...

I'm still standing.

I'm still standing.  And it is all because of You, Jesus.

You, Jesus.

I've gotten so many comments, so many questions this year about how and why I could turn to God given my tragic circumstances.

My question back is how could I not?

Psalm 18:30-33 continues:

As for God, his way is perfect:
   The LORD’s word is flawless;
   he shields all who take refuge in him.
For who is God besides the LORD?
   And who is the Rock except our God?
It is God who arms me with strength
   and keeps my way secure.
He makes my feet like the feet of a deer;
   he causes me to stand on the heights. 

Dearly loved, still standing,

Monday, March 14, 2011

New normal...

"How long must I wrestle with my thoughts and day after day have sorrow in my heart" ~ Psalm 13:2

I read these verses this morning.  It was perfect timing because it so describes my current state.

I so desperately want to feel "normal" again.  I so desperately don't want to be sad anymore. 

I realized last week that I was acting as if I was racing toward the 1 year mark, so badly wanting it to come and go.   It was as if I mistakenly thought that March 24th would come and somehow I would miraculously go back to my old old happy self.

I wish I could say that old self was happy and carefree.  Happy, yes, but carefree, not so much.  And really, I didn't have any excuse not to be.  Before tragedy struck, my life was just plain amazing husband, loving family, plenty of resources with a good job, and lots of friends.  Who could ask for anything more?

Yet, I can recount plenty of nights around the dinner table with Tony where I would find something to complain about.  Tony would lovingly remind me, "Melissa, if that is our biggest worry in the world, then life is pretty good."

Now, I can't imagine complaining about petty things like work tension, or a hurtful word from so and so, or not having enough margin in our budget to buy a new outfit or go out to eat.  Typically, the only time I would change my tune was when some horrible disaster struck like it did in Japan.  Then, I'd feel guilty, shed a few tears, give money.  And, as soon as the tragedy began to disappear from the news headlines, I'd be back to my old ways.

I could almost hate myself for acting that way now.

So as much as I am ready to be done with grieving, I don't want to wish it away before it changes me...for good.  As much as I want to despise the term "new normal," I pray I embrace it for the new lenses on life it brings.

Dearly loved,

Friday, March 11, 2011

A gift I never asked for...

I started this entry a few weeks back.  It was the first time I sat in my new place in complete silence, and I didn't quite know what to do with myself except to blog.  I'm grateful to have not been left alone for very long so far - I have an amazing BFF, Karen who has been my temporary roommate for these first few weeks, along with a few other sweet friends.

This particular evening, I came in from dinner with my new friend Sarah at Buckhead; I am so excited about digging into new community here.  As I walked away from her car and up the stairs to my condo alone, that gift I never asked for met me at the door.

It's becoming quite the "regular" in my life since moving out on my own, whether I want it around or not.  It joins me at the most unexpected times, the most unexpected places. 

It's been there all along these last 11 months; I just haven't acknowledged it.  I haven't really had to with so much to do, so many folks surrounding me.  I was really hoping I could leave it tucked away in storage, never to been seen again.

But it's as if I unpacked the last remaining box in my condo, and out it came. And, like an unwanted present that is too hideous to re-gift or give away, it looks like I'm stuck with it.

It is the gift of loneliness.

Why on earth would I ever refer to this as a gift?  I'm certainly not thrilled to have it darken my doorstep.  But having experienced it a few years back when I was on my own in South Florida, I can testify that it is a gift from the Lord wrapped up as a blessing in disguise.

It is a megaphone for my God.

When all is quiet around me, He speaks that much louder.

When I have no one else to talk to, I cry out to Him even more.

He shows up in my loneliness, my silence, with His calming, gentle Spirit.

He meets me just where I am and reminds me that though I may be physically alone, He is always with me.

Dearly loved,

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Running out of thyme...

I was wondering aimlessly around my kitchen last Monday, waiting on my instant grits to heat in the microwave.  That's about the only meal I have on a consistent basis in my new place.

Aimless is a good description because I just haven't dared to fix anything remotely similar to what I used to cook for Tony.  I just don't have it in me; even if I did, I'd probably set something on fire or cut another one of my fingers (just ask my brother who witnessed both of those incidents during my pre-marriage days!).

I began to spin the spice rack, one of our many wedding gifts; I noticed all the jars were almost full, all but one.  The spice that was low was thyme.

How ironic. I am running low on thyme. And the last meal I actually used that spice rack was roughly a year ago, when I really was unknowingly running low on time, time with my Tony.

And time ran out.

I was reading a journal entry from another widow this week.  She writes that she has learned that "heaven is closer than we think."

I think this phrase is a whole lot more meaningful than the all too cliche saying, "Life is short."

Who are we to determine what is short when it comes to life?  Who are we to determine how much time we have allotted in our jar?  I often wonder if God just shakes His head at us on earth trying to measure time that He never intended us to, trying to measure the fullness of life by the number of years we live, trying as desperately as we can to create more time, to stretch the time we've got, to do anything and everything to make our lives last longer on this earth. 

And when life is cut shorter than we think it should be, we try to make sense of the "why."  Well, I am fully convinced that we're just not supposed to fully know "why."  God never intended for us to.  He doesn't measure time or life the way we do.

I stood in church this morning heavy-hearted.  Of course, I carry a heavy heart because of my own loss.  Today added more heaviness for a friend who just lost her 20-year-old son to a brain tumor.  If that wasn't enough, on top of that was more grief for Tony's family riffled again by tragedy, this time his 24-year-old cousin who passed away Friday.

I stood in church and sang the most perfect song to cover my heaviness, to cover my "why," - "How Great is Our God."  These verses say it best:

"Time is in His hands, beginning and the end, beginning and the end."

And if God's got time in His Hands, then it's just enough for me.

How Great is our God.

Dearly loved, with just enough thyme and time,

Friday, February 25, 2011

My thorn...

I am a perfectionist.  There, I said it.  I'm coming clean.  I try so hard to live life as "Little Miss Perfect."

Sure, it's come in handy over the years.  My straight A's landed me a full college scholarship.  I've won my fair share of honors and awards over the years.  I've held previous jobs and responsibilities that are hard to obtain by someone at my age.  It is in my DNA to attempt to do everything with excellence, and I do believe that can be a trait that brings glory to the Lord.

But it has also come with its fair share of issues and set-backs, mainly in the physical realm.  I've brought onto myself several random and annoying illnesses over the years (thankfully nothing life threatening)...I can hear the chuckle of my best friend Casey as she has witnessed most of these first hand in the 23+ years of our friendship.

I stress myself out.  I do.  But at least I can be honest and own up to it, right?

And so, it seems, that even in this darkest season, when I could really get away with slacking off, with letting things slide, with shrinking from responsibilies under the guise of a grieving widow, "Little Miss Perfect" just ramps up even more.  I am attempting to become cape, yellow boots, and all.  I even have a t-shirt saved from a Halloween costume a few years back.

But Superwoman meets grief, and exhaustion, and a constant emotional roller-coaster, also know as my life, and I am slapped in the face with reality.  I have come to realize I can't be who I was before Tony's accident, when I tried my best to balance every arena of life as a perfectly spinning plate on the tiniest point.  I can't always bring my "A-game" to my family, to work, to my friends, though I desperately want to.  There are times I can't even remember what I had for dinner, if or when I paid my bills; I've learned I must write everything down or it is as good as gone from my brain.

It seems I've got my very own thorn in my side.

Paul writes of his thorn in 2 Corinthians 12: 8-10:
"Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, 'My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.' Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong."

I am so grateful Paul gave us these verses.  They give me great relief; they inspire me to embrace my thorn, to embrace my weaknesses.  Lately, I've found myself exclaiming boldly in my most Southern grammer, "God, I've got nothin'...You've got to show up, cause I've got nothin'...nothin' to give, nothin' to say, nothin' to inspire, nothin' to even make it through the day."

And the miracle is...He shows up every time.  He shows up in my nothin'.  He trumps my thorn; He trumps my weaknesses.

And "Little Miss Perfect" can boast about it.  And she can rest in the knowledge that God is strong, she is not.

Dearly loved, not Superwoman,

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

On the heels of dawn...

Well, I did it.  I did.  I put on my "big girl pants" and I moved out of my parents home and into my own place.

As always with me, the anticipation of the event was way more traumatic than the actual day.  I must say, I held up quite well, thanks to my rock-star "mover" mom and lots of family and friends praying and cheering me on.

Quite honestly, the most dreaded step was spending that first night surrounded once again with things that belonged to both Tony and me.  I fell down on my knees by our bed, which I had not even slept in since Tony died.  I cried out to God to give me the strength to even crawl in.  Tears began to flow as I realized that there was just one pillow instead of two.  How would this bed ever feel anything but empty from now on?  Still, I pressed on and into the Lord; I laid my Bible down in place of Tony's pillow. 

Finally, I fell asleep.

I awoke way too early the next morning.  All was dark and quiet in my new place, except for the faint chirping of birds outside my window.  It was the first sign of dawn.

Laying there and attempting to go back to sleep, I had a flashback to March 25 of last year, the morning after the day I learned of Tony's death.  I didn't sleep much that night either; I was awakened by that same chirping before the first rays of daylight.  That day I never thought the sun would rise again; it seemed so unfair for birds to be singing when the love of my life was not there to hear them. That was the first day of my journey into the sunset, my journey into months of darkness and sorrow, my journey into the battle of my life.

And now, almost 11 months later, I'm finding my way to the other side; my time in the darkest of night is giving way to faint rays of light.  Those sounds of birds in the darkness are my reminder that though I'm still grieving, I'm gettting closer to the sunrise.

I'm on the heels of dawn. 

These verses  from Psalm 57: 7-11 express the desire of my heart for this season...
"My heart, O God, is steadfast,
my heart is steadfast;
I will sing and make music.
Awake, my soul!
Awake, harp and lyre!
I will awaken the dawn.
I will praise you, Lord, among the nations;
I will sing of you among the peoples.
For great is your love, reaching to the heavens;
your faithfulness reaches to the skies."

Dearly loved, awakening dawn,

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

The unseen...

The words in my favorite worship song "Tear Down the Walls" by Hillsong United cut me right to the core..."I don't need to see it to believe it."

They inspire me.  They remind me that I don't need to see Christ to believe in Christ.  I don't need to see God to know that He's at work in and around me.  I don't need to see Tony in heaven to know that he is in whole, unbroken, and complete in heaven.  I don't need to see my what is in my future to believe that the One who holds my future has it all in His capable hands.

I just don't need to see it to believe it.

I live that out by clinging to verses of 2 Corinthians 4:16-18:
"Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal."

I just want to live for the unseen.

Dearly loved,

Friday, February 11, 2011

It's just part of my story...

I hate to admit it, but I've grown quite tired of hearing "I'm sorry."  I'm just all maxed out on sympathy.  I don't mean to sound ungrateful for the support I've received over and above anything I could ever imagine.

It's just that I'm beginning to grow accustomed to having this tragedy as part of my life.  I've found myself responding to "I'm sorry" these last few months with, "thank you, but it's all just part of my story."

I mean, what else do I say?  Sure, I could be all dramatic and burst into tears...or better yet, start into an endless monologue about how hard my life is.  But, crying and making people feel sorry for me are just two things I prefer not to do on a regular basis.

My last blog was almost one I didn't post because I didn't want folks to start getting all worried about me.  I posted it anyway because I also don't want folks to think that my journey is all rose-colored either.  I'm still in the throws of the battle of my life; sympathy is just not what fuels me.  Jesus, His Word, and encouragement from friends and family rank top on my list for spurring me on.

And my story, with all its joy, sorrow, and one day, triumph, is scripted perfectly, Divinely, all for God's glory.  It's main character is Jesus; He is IT for me.

I leave you with a few verses from a favorite hymn, "Blessed Assurance"...

"Perfect submission, all is at rest;
I in my Savior am happy and blest,
watching and waiting, looking above,
filled with his goodness, lost in his love.

"This is my story, this is my song,
praising my Savior all the day long;
this is my story, this is my song,
praising my Savior all the day long."

Dearly loved,

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Left behind...

Some days I feel so left behind.

I feel left behind on this earth, while the one I loved most has reached that ultimate destination, heaven.

I know Tony did not intentionally leave me; he would have never chosen to have me endure such pain and hardship.  Still, there are times I am jealous of where he is, jealous that he no longer has to deal with earthly troubles.

Today was one of those days.  I realized it as I was sitting in a sea of red brake lights on my 1 hour plus drive home.  There's certain things I know for sure I won't miss in heaven, and traffic is one of them.  While I'm at it, I'll add rainy, gloomy days too.  And today, I'll add the old house we own in Atlanta.

I had to put on that dreaded "landlord" hat and deal with yet another plumbing issue.  I tell God regularly that I never asked to be a landlord.

I never asked to be a widow either.

I'm grateful to have so much great support to help me navigate this world without Tony, yet I still find myself getting stressed and fatigued by all that must be done.  It's that "business" side of death that tends to upset me the most.  It is that side that no one ever talks about, the side that is never taught in school, the side you hope you never have to deal with until you'd refer to yourself as elderly.

I must brag on my husband and say that he was very much a man of order.  He took care of everything he could "just in case" so that I would not have to worry.  I never wanted to talk about final wishes or wills or life insurance, but he prepared it all anyway when we were first married.  I didn't know it at the time but it would be one of his most significant acts of love to me.  It has certainly eased my burden from near impossible to at least bearable.

I never asked to be the executor of my husband's estate at 30 years old.  Still, I take this responsiblity very seriously because my Tony entrusted me to take care of it.  I'd do anything for this man, anything.

And so, I carry on, asking God for the strength to not be bitter toward the government, the countless customer service reps, the random strangers that I must deal with to settle Tony's affairs.  Some days I am better at this than others; some days I just have to ask the good Lord for forgiveness.

And on "left behind" days like today, I put on repeat on my ipod the song "Come for Me" by Charlie Hall.  And I press into the Lord, boldly asking him to fulfull my heart's desire...

That on the greatest, happiest days I could ever experience on earth, I would still long to be with Him even more.  And that on the absolute worst days where I just long for heaven, I would wait patiently for Him, holding out hope for those who have yet to know Jesus.

Dearly loved, on this earth,

Monday, January 31, 2011


I've been thinking a lot about the word "home" lately.  With a new job and an incredibly long commute, it seems I am coming face to face with another reality of my grieving need to move out on my own again.

Part of me is excited about getting established in a new place; most of me is scared, just plain fearful.  My home will never look and feel like it once did; an important part of that home is no longer on this earth.

I cannot begin to express my gratitude for having my parents home to turn to in my great hour of need.  The night after Tony died, I arrived there with only the clothes on my back.  And by the next day, my dad made sure I had a bed and a room set up.  My parents did whatever it took to prepare a place for me. Just as they had for 22 years before I "flew the nest," they once again gave me a home.

To me, home means that I have a place to call my own, that there is a level of acceptance and comfort, that it is a refuge from the trials and strains of life.  Home ensures that there is room for me.

I was overcome with tears recently while reading these words of Jesus from John 14:1-4:

“'Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in me. My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. You know the way to the place where I am going.'”
I've read these verses so many times; and honestly, I always pictured some cheesy Barbie dream house mansion nestled on a large puffy cloud with long-bearded, long-haired Jesus waving from the front door. 
It wasn't until I intimately knew one of those rooms' inhabitants, my Tony, that my view changed.  Jesus reminds me in these verses that there is a home for me in heaven; and it's home because there is a room with my name on it. 

And in that assurance, I find comfort; I rest.  I don't really need to know what my room will look like; I know it is more than I could ever fathom or comprehend on this earth.

It is my greatest desire that everyone chooses, by faith in Jesus, to have a room with his or her name on it too. There's certainly plenty of room.

Dearly loved, and longing for home,