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,