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,