Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Legacy & Love

I faced that towering granite mountain today. I went to see my dad play Santa at my niece's school which sits in plain view of Stone Mountain. I was grateful my sweet friend Sarah joined me so I would not be alone.

As we drove away after what was a fun time of laughing over my dad and the kids' reactions, I gave that mountain another glance in my rear view. I thought to myself, "he's not here."

It's Tony's 38th birthday, but he's not here at the mountain where he spent his final moments of this life. He's not. Just like he wasn't at the park in Alpharetta where we took our engagement photos; I passed near it this morning on my way to a meeting. He's not at the Starbucks where we spent so much time chatting about life. He's not in Buckhead where we shared so many date nights in the early days of our relationship. He's not. He's not here.

It got me to thinking about the time we as humans spend here on this earth, spinning our wheels, scurrying from one place to the next, going about our days like we'll be here again tomorrow and the next, planning for the future, wishing away the present, regretting the past. We give little to no thought about not being here, no longer being on this earth; we are too busy trying to control our lives to worry about what we leave behind when we are no longer here to control it. What will people say about us? What will people do with what we stood for and the things we leave behind? And for those of us who believe in Jesus, what will God say about how we spent our days on this earth?

I mean, who wants to dwell on questions like that? I realize I'm being quite a downer here. But when I really think about it, and as I reflect on what Tony left behind, the only thing that's left is a fancy little word: legacy.


I love this quote by Maya Angelou, "I've learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel."

I've spent the last few hours of Tony's birthday digging through a box of letters that he gave me over our 3 and a half years together. To be honest, I had forgotten about some of the sweetest notes he gave me; gosh, as I've said before, he was quite the romantic. And in reading over his journal entries about our early dates, I had forgotten about some of the amazing things we did together. Still, it doesn't take a box of letters or even a picture for me to recall with vivid emotion just how he made me feel:

He left me with a legacy of knowing what it was like to be extravagantly loved.

And as much as I miss him, as much as I wish he were here, I can't help but be deeply grateful for such an amazing gift. For I know that if my Tony, as a mere man, was that "crazy" about me and loved me that much, I know my Great God loves me thousands upon thousands and infinitely more. He's crazy about me; He's crazy about us all.

And that, that, will continue to be the greatest gift my Tony could ever leave behind for me as his wife. And that's what now spurs me on to intentionally invest in my own legacy.

Dearly loved, carrying Tony's legacy,

Sunday, November 11, 2012

The Proposal

He proposed to me on a Monday, Veteran's Day of 2007. It was nothing short of spectacular, elaborate, an outpouring of love that I could have never asked for or imagined.

The entire week leading up to that amazing day, I received a unique flower, a note with a scripture and quote, and a gift each day, all set around a specific word. These 8 words made up the 8 things he wanted our marriage to be centered around...admiration, peace, contentment, passion, faith, joy, servanthood, and love.

The intentionality around it all completely overwhelmed me. How could anyone love me this much?

He did.

He arranged for my best friend Karen to unexpectedly pick me up from work (my boss Jim was "in" on it all!), drive me in her car covered in rose petels to Chateau Elan where he was waiting in a restaurant reserved completely for just the 2 of us. After dinner, he drove me down to the 18th hole in a golf cart. He had spelled out "Marry Me" with seashells we had collected on our first beach trip together. Unknown to me, my ring was in a Godiva chocolate box he had given me during dinner but would not let me open. He got down on one knee and proposed. I think his knee had barely touched the sand before I said yes! Then, for the first time, he said to me, "I love you."

That's the first time since Tony departed this earth that I've put words around that unforgettable day. It's as if I've kept stories like this one packed up in a box, placed so delicately on a shelf, til I was ready to unwrap them again. It's hard. It's so very hard. Sure, I'm so grateful to have been so deeply loved by my Tony. I'm forever changed. I'm forever better. Still, I'm reminded of how amazingly good life was with him, I'm reminded of how deeply I've lost.


I found this excerpt below that Tony wrote for the "contentment" themed day of our proposal week. It is exactly what I needed tonight on this 5 year anniversary of our engagement.

Theme:  Contentment
Quote for theme:  “Love is the greatest refreshment in life.” ~ Pablo Picasso
Bible Verse:  2 Corinthians 4:7-18

"But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellence of the power may be of God and not of us. We are hard-pressed on every side, yet not crushed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed— always carrying about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our body. For we who live are always delivered to death for Jesus’ sake, that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh… Therefore we do not lose heart. Even though our outward man is perishing, yet the inwardman is being renewed day by day. For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory, while we do not look at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen. For the things which are seen are temporary, but the things which are not seen are eternal."
Melissa, my prayer for us is that we focus our hearts, minds, and bodies on glorifying the Lord. Everything else can fall away. That we be content with what God has seen fit to give us, and be hopeful of the great plans HE has for us. Through the tough spots in life, we can remain confident that God is STILL for us. 
To live this life with purpose, with the eternal on our minds always.
We have air to breathe, love to share, and a great God to serve…what more could we want?
That we praise Him together in the morning, and that we thank Him together in the evening. 
That we celebrate Him all the days of our lives.
May we remember that this life and all that is in it are but for a moment, simply vapors that will vanish away.
Dearly loved, forever grateful,

Monday, October 22, 2012

You Can't Make This Stuff Up...

"Many, Lord my God, are the wonders you have done, the things you planned for us. None can compare with you; were I to speak and tell of your deeds, they would be too many to declare." ~ Ps. 40:5

I made what's become a weekly trip lately up 400 to our main church campus, North Point, today. I typically don't think much of this 20 or so minute drive, not too much rolling around in my usually sleepy brain. Today was a bit different.

Today I remembered my trip up and down 400 to North Point 6 years ago...October 22, 2006. It was my first date with Tony; it began with us attending church together. I'd say that was one of the best ways you could start any relationship, especially what would become a beautiful marriage.

6 years.
And what's happened in those 6 years, well, you just can't make this stuff up.

I laugh at that very phrase. It stemmed from a former colleague of mine who did and said some of the most random things I've ever heard of. Her life, her words, you just could not make that stuff up if you tried.

As I reflect on the last 6 years, I can't make my life up either. It's full of absolute bliss and bitter hardship. It's random. In so many ways, it's what I could have never planned for or even imagined. It's a one of a kind chapter in my story.

It could only be scripted by One.
And that One is my great God, the author of my life.

And so, I find myself shaking my head and laughing. I laugh a lot these days. I mean, it sure beats crying. But even more, it allows me to release the pressure, to unclench my hands from what are merely imaginary reigns controlling my life.


I am not in control. I remind myself of that often. I can't plan or script my life, as hard as I try at times. I'm finding freedom in just letting God lead, allowing God to bring experiences my way. Sure, some of those really hard experiences are one's I would have never chosen, yet some of the very best are things I would have never seen coming. They take me by surprise; they leave me in awe and wonder of what my God is up to next.


And yet, they keep me in the present too because I don't want to miss out on what my God is up to in my life today.


And my today, well it was certainly full of random, but really fun and cool stuff...stuff I could not make up. It's been a common theme these last few months, much like the last 6 years. When I add up all the random, all the crazy, all the stuff I did not plan for, the difficult and the good, I can only thank my Jesus for carrying me through, for being the Blessed Controller of my life.

He is and always will be the Blessed Controller of my life. Only He can make this stuff up!

Dearly loved, and not in control,

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Save the last dance for me...

This past Saturday, I attended my first wedding since Tony's passing. It could not have been a more picture-perfect setting. A 6:30 p.m. ceremony outside, 70-ish degree weather as the sun set. Stunning.

I know the day was all about my sweet friend Sarah getting married. But as I listened to the breeze whistling softly in the trees, I could not help but feel God's presence with me, for me. It was most certainly God saying hi. Though there were brief moments of sadness, bittersweet flashbacks to my own wedding day, I was so grateful to be there with my big girl pants (well, dress!) on.

My good friends Susanne and Lindsay stayed close by my side; what great company. As the bride and groom began their first dance, I turned to them and Tony, he was an amazing dancer.

Amazing...simply the best.

He was so good that I often had to share him with my friends! I graciously agreed, only asking that he always save the last dance for me.

The last dance.

I came home from Sarah's wedding with the tune of Michael Buble's version of "Save the Last Dance for Me" in my head. It was one of Tony's favorites. How true those words are to our very own love story.

A few months ago as I was going through some old files and receipts of his, I found the very receipts from his first ballroom dancing classes that he took in May of 1998. I just had to keep them; they hold so much meaning now.

They signify one of the earliest investments Tony made in our marriage, long before I was even in the picture.

One of Tony's goals in his early 20s was to become a great ballroom dancer (as noted in his life goals I found from back then). He set out to accomplish this with countless hours of classes, practice sessions in his living room with his friends, and who knows how many dance partners. He often encouraged me to dance with other people in order to become a better dancer too.  I reasoned that I already had the best partner, I did not want to dance with anyone else.

Our dancing days started fairly early in our dating. Though I grew up dancing, I had never learned how to dance with a partner. It took me a while to learn to let him lead. But, I found the more in love I fell with him, the more I loosened up...and finally I got to the point of letting go and completely following his lead, even trusting him to dip me as far back as I could go.

We loved to dance together. It was as if all the cares of the world no longer held any weight as he effortlessly twirled me around the dance floor...often in our living room. It was magical. It was breathe-taking. It was one of the last moments we shared together just days before he left this earth.

Dance lessons: $670
Saving the last dance for me: Priceless

Dearly loved, dancer,

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Eyes Wide Open

About a year ago, I made the decision that I was going to go back to wearing contacts. It's been over a decade since I've started wearing glasses consistently. I remember that fateful day in the ophthamologist's office when he looked me square in the eye and said, "I'm sorry, but contacts are no longer for you." Turns out that my eyes didn't produce enough tears to keep my lenses clean in my eyes. I could say the last 2 years' circumstances have fixed that lil' problem, eh?

Actually medical advancements have helped my cause; there's finally contacts moist enough to not make me wanna rip my eyeballs out after 30 minutes of wear. So, I purchased a year's supply determined that glasses were my "so last decade" look.

I popped those contacts in and it's as if my eyes grew two inches. I could see on all sides; it was a clear view. I've worn glasses for so long that I don't know what it's like to have a peripheral view. My eyes were wide open.

Wide open.

I was nervous to sport my "new look" around a lot of folks. I finally worked up the courage to wear them to the office; it was a test to see if my face without glasses would make a good impression. The first comment I received was "hmm, you look different."

Different? Okay, at least it wasn't "ugly" but it might as well have been. That's the last day I wore my contacts to work!

Perhaps I'm being a little dramatic. (Though I'm pretty sure I speak for most women in saying we don't like to be told we look different.) But this very story relates so much to what I've been wrestling with over the time since my last blog post.

About once a week lately, I've had what I call an "ugly" day. These are days when I wake up with what feels like the weight of the world on my shoulders. I'm tired of my current life circumstances, I'm sad, I can't see my future so I might as well picture it as bleak.  I'm not my typical fun-loving self. It's my very own pity party. It's a day when I wake up, put on dirty glasses and view the world through them. All I can see is the grit, all I can see is ugly.


I was asked by a friend on one of these aforementioned days just what exactly gets me through the day. What changes my view? I thought for a minute, then spouted things out like chocolate, retail therapy, a text to a friend, a nap, cuddle time with Ralphy. Certainly those things perk me up, even for just a bit. Then, I realized what was coming out of my mouth was nothing that was sustaining, nothing that could transform that ugly view and wipe those lenses clean.

What I need instead is the One who can remove those glasses all together. I need my Healer who can allow my eyes to be wide open, with nothing in the way. I need my God to break the chains of my distorted, limited view.

My favorite song over the last couple months has been NeedtoBreathe's "Keep Your Eyes Open." I love these lyrics:

Just past the circumstance, the first light a second chance
No child could ever dance the way you do oh
Tear down the prison walls, don't stop the curtain calls
Your chains will never fall until you do

'Cus if you never leave home, never let go
You'll never make it to the great unknown
Till you keep your eyes... open my love

I've become quite accustomed to my glasses; I feel quite "at home" in them. Some days they are dirtier, uglier than others. Some days I can use my shirt and get them fairly clean. But it only takes a few tear drops to make them smudged and dirty again.

Ugly days.

God continues to call me to renew my mind, to surrender my "chains," to open wide my eyes to the "great unknown" He has for me. Sure, I don't know what that unknown will look like, but I can rest in knowing it is certainly not "ugly."

And in the meantime, perhaps I will just bust out those contacts again. Just please don't tell me I look "different!"

Dearly loved,

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Dreams and Sketches...

I'm beginning to sketch; my inspiration is returning. I'm dreaming again.

I'm dreaming big.

It was a little over 2 years ago when a blogged about my first dream of Tony since his passing. And in that dream Tony brought me paint cans - cans of 3 primary colors - to be used on the big blank canvas representing my life without him.

It's taken me this long to reset my eyes from that big white canvas; it's as if I was blinded to any color. And it even took a while for me to even see beyond it's "blankness" to remember the beautiful paintings, my very own art collection of my life, leading up to and during my time with my husband. Those are still coming back into clarity as I reflect on my blessed beginnings and my blessed time with Tony.


I feel as if it's time to start on the next piece in my collection. It's time to start thinking about what's it's gonna look like, what dreams it will unfold.

So, what am I dreaming about? As my pastor Andy Stanley says, "What are you working on big?" What keeps me up at night? What do I think about when I am inspired to make an impact on this world, when I think about the legacy I want to leave?

Well, lots of things, really.

I want to continue emptying my cup into the lives of college students and young 20-something women. I am convinced that if these girls go hard after God at their age, there is no telling how much further and farther they can go for the Kingdom in their lifetime. There's no stopping this generation. I'm a firm believer, and I just wanna be a part of it.

I want to keep learning and growing and being challenged at my dream job. I shake my head often as I thank my God for such an amazing place to work; it's really hard to refer to it as "work" for I enjoy it so much. I know my future is in the Lord's hands, but I certainly hope my future includes a long career in ministry at Buckhead Church.

This one's a stretch and a little hard to talk about...but, I want to be a wife and a mom. Yes, that means a wife, again. Now, I know this is gonna require some extra large "big girl" pants to even have the courage for the Ha! But I have given myself permission to desire for God to bring me a "kinsman redeemer" like He graciously gave to widowed Ruth in the Bible. So, pray for a Boaz for me, if you'd like, but even more, pray for my complete TRUST and contentment to be in Jesus.

But even more, my big dream, my really big dream that only God can make come true...well, that involves women I've never met, women I may never meet, women in totally different circumstances, women who live so completely opposite of me, women who may or may not know my Jesus, women I have little in common with...except for sharing the deep pain of loosing a husband. These women are widows like me.

Yet, they live in absolute poverty.
They live in countries where women are not valued.
They live in cultures where when they lose their husbands, they are pushed to the absolute margins of society.
They not only live with the pain of loss, but they live devoid of hope of anything ever changing in their lives.
They feel as if they have nothing, no one to care, no one to come alongside and lift them up...out of the pit they know as hopelessness.

And, there are over a million of them. Out of the 2.45 million widows in the world, almost half live in absolute poverty, poverty like we've never seen or experienced here in the States.

And that, that's what breaks my heart. That's what bothers me. That's who I think about when I daydream about my life's purpose.

And my dream, my heart's desire, is for God to open a door for me to help them, to come alongside someway, somehow. I want to share their lives, to tell their stories. I want to love those widows considered the last and the least, those widows on the margins, I want to love those widows...on the edge.

And I don't know how. I don't even know when. I'm in the very infant stages of a plan, a sketch. I do know that the Bible calls us to care for widows in distress. And there are over a million of them. This Saturday, June 23, is International Widow's Day, birthed out of what has become in the last few years as the "United Nations Plight of the Widow."

So, I'm writing this to ask for prayers for my dream and for God to lead me in His timing to what I am to do. I don't write this to make anything of myself; I'd most certainly never have put this on my "wish list" of things I want to do when I "grow up."

But these women have been impressed on my heart. These women, they need Hope and they need livelihoods restored and they need Jesus. And someone's gotta do something. Perhaps I'm one of those someone's.


All I know for sure is that my life is not my own. I want more than anything for my dreams, my life canvases, my life's impact, to reflect the One I live for.

Dearly loved, sketching,

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Little Miss Independent

I'm fairing fairly well these last couple of months. It was a marathon of anniversary dates and holidays from November to April. I dug out about mid-May and finally started feeling as if the weight of the world was no longer on my shoulders.

It feels good.
I feel happy most days.
It feels a little like normal. that's not a word I ever thought I'd use to describe my life ever again.

A few weeks ago, I sat across from a new friend who has been stuck in her own cycle of grief and loss. It was a surreal experience for these words to come out of my mouth to encourage her:
"If you would have told me two years ago that I'd be sitting across from you, sharing my story of tragedy and how I've made it through, I would have never believed you."

Sure, two years ago, I trusted my God to carry me through. He was and is the only One who could. But, I was in such a dark space that I could not see it, and I most definitely could not envision feeling anything but tragedy and sadness ever again.


There are days when I look around and feel as if God picked me right up out of that day before Tony died, put me in a time capsule, and shipped me right into my current life. It really is best case scenario for having to start over, for having had tragedy rattle every part of me. I am so very grateful; I certainly did nothing to deserve this great favor.

Yet, I have to remind myself that the common denominator through all of these circumstances is me. Me.
Me with all my insecurities and weaknesses. Me with all my demands. Me who more often than I care to admit likes to control my life.

I took a stroll down memory lane this week, I thought back to my hopes and dreams as a child and early teen. I remembered vividly what I wanted to be:

An independent woman.

Ha! It seems laughable now. I don't think I had any clue what that meant at the time, but it sounded intriguing. I wanted to be able to do things on my own, to depend on no one but myself, to accomplish and achieve anything I set my heart to...all because of me.

I mean, thanks, Kelly Clarkson, for a cool song, but honestly, what young girl aspires to become that?

Still, there was insight in that phrase. It was a foreshadowing to a very thorn in my side...little miss independent.

That's exactly how I operate when I try to do things apart from Christ, when I blaze through my day, my week, event or circumstance, depending on my strength and not that of my Savior's. It's my very flesh, my weakness. And when things seem manageable, attainable, achievable on my own, that's when little miss independent takes over my life.

Sure, it's great to be able to use the talents, wisdom, strength God has given me to go about my daily tasks, decisions, relationships. But the danger lies in thinking I am captain of my own ship, driver of my own car, my very own puppeteer in the puppet show of my life.

Contrast that with the first year, really even most of the second year, after loosing Tony. I can recount many days when the sun came up, my alarm clocked blared, and I had nothing, NOTHING, to muster  to even sit up in bed, much less get up. All I could do was earnestly ask the Lord to give me the ability to get up, to put one foot in front of the other and to trust Him for the rest of my day.  I was desperate. I was dependent. I could do nothing apart from Christ.

I am thankful to have moved past this stage of grief and to be able to get up on my own again. Still, I find myself wanting, longing, to never forget what is was like to be completely dependent on Jesus to meet my every need, down to the very basics. I don't want that experience, as hard and painful as it was, to go in vain.

I suppose why these two word pictures I stare at each morning as I get ready are so fitting.

I wanna stay desperate for my God, desperate for His Presence. Desperate.
Dependent on Him.

Dearly loved,

Monday, April 30, 2012

From this day FORWARD...

For-ward (adverb): Toward or tending to the front; frontward: step forwardInto consideration: put forward...In or toward the future: looking forward to...


What would have been our 4 year wedding anniversary was last Thursday.

No plans were made. No special recognition. No hoopla. No Facebook post. No blog. Really, only a few folks knew or remembered.

And it was completely okay with me. I woke up. I got dressed. I went to work. I was supported and loved on by a few close friends and family. And then the day was over. Time moved on. It moved forward.

It's not that a big deal being made or not made was right or wrong. It was simply my choice. And I chose to spend the day in quiet reflection. I chose to let the day come and go, and to let my emotions come and go too.

It was the same a week prior when I chose to trade in Tony's car that I had been driving since his death. That's by far the biggest item of his I have had to part with. Sure, I could have held on longer, I just chose otherwise. I chose to walk away, to drive away, to drive forward.


This is a word that God has continued to impress upon me for the last several weeks. I must admit each time I hear it, I just want to balk at it. I want to push back, to step back, to protest, to make excuses, to start to feel sorry for myself, to look for attention and affirmation for my backward-moving emotions.

I don't always want to move forward.
Moving forward is hard.
Moving forward requires letting go.
Moving forward is uncomfortable and scary and unknown.

Moving forward puts me face to face with a future that's uncertain, a future I can't see.

But that's where 2 Corinthians 5 comes in. It says in verse 7:
"For we live by faith, not by sight."


The day after our anniversary, I pulled out our guest book from our wedding. My sweet friend Steph created a beautiful scrapbook amongst pages that our guests signed. I still can't bear to read all the well wishes from our loved ones, loved ones who never thought the beginning and end of our marriage would come so soon. 

Yet, I was struck by one particular page and picture.

This was one of our engagement photos. The phrase below it said "From This Day Forward."

I went digging for that very photo from group of photos our sweet friend Pon took for us after we were engaged. That's where I came across this candid shot.

It now seems like a more fitting picture for that phrase above. It's as if Tony is gently nudging me forward.

From this day forward.
By faith.

Dearly loved,

Saturday, April 7, 2012


Then he said, "Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom." Jesus answered him, "Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise." ~ Luke 23:42-43
I love this exchange between Jesus and one of the criminals on the cross. I love that Luke included it in his account of Jesus' death. I picture so much going on in this scene. Insults being hurled, women crying, soldiers giving orders, 3 men struggling for every breathe. Death was on the doorstep. Pain was unimaginable.

For those 2 criminals on either side of Jesus, this was it; life was on it's final countdown; justice had been served. They were getting what they deserved in the eyes of those who enforce the law.

Yet, there was hope. Though one criminal "hurled insults," the other asked Jesus to remember him.

And just like that, by placing his faith in Jesus, this criminal entered paradise when he breathed his last.

Paradise. Heaven.

Absent in his earthly body; present with the Lord.

Present with the Lord.

Glory. Glory.

Jesus died for this criminal...and Jesus died for you, and for me, and for the whole world. When our life on earth is over, we can spend forever with Him in paradise...

If only, we accept Him as our Savior.

Tony made this very decision in his early 20's. I'll forever be grateful to his best friend, John Wheat, for modeling the way, for investing so much time and energy into Tony, for telling him how to have a personal relationship with Jesus. Thank you, John, thank you.

On March 23, 2010, around 6 p.m. EST, Tony Edge breathed his last breathe; he left his earthly body; he joined Jesus in heaven.

He entered into paradise.

Because of the cross, because of the resurrection of Christ, I grieve the loss of Tony with an undeniable Hope. I know where my Tony is. He's with Jesus.

Glory. Glory.

Jesus. He is risen.

In all my years of celebrating Easter, none have been so meaningful as these 3 since Tony's death. It's as if for the first time, I truly know the full weight of the sacrifice and love Jesus poured out for us...because the one I loved most on this earth has experienced paradise first-hand.

Paradise. It's not just a trendy word on the latest Coldplay album. It's heaven. It's a real place. It's my final destination.

And I pray, I believe God, that it's the final destination for countless others too.

Dearly loved, celebrating Easter,

Friday, March 23, 2012

What I've learned 2 years later...

It's so hard to believe it's been 2 years since Tony departed this earth for heaven. Some days it feels like it was just 2 days ago that I was in his arms for the final time; other days it feels like it's been an eternity. Most days I shake my head in wonder at just how I've made it this long. Only God.

I started this post earlier this week. Tears were streaming down my face as I reflected on this hard milestone. Good thing, I've got one of the best things that's come out of these 2 years by my side - my very own tear-licker, Ralphy Edge. She just tilts her head to one side and loves me through those innocent puppy eyes. Melt my heart.

I've spent today mostly to myself, in quiet; I've thought a lot about Tony, even more about his legacy. His life continues to impact mine, for good, for very good. I would certainly not be the woman I am today without his influence; I am better for knowing him, even if that knowing was much shorter than what I had hoped and dreamed.

It's amazing the things tragedy has taught me. Sure, I'd give it all back for Tony, if I could. I find myself wishing I had learned these things long before Tony's passing, even before we were married.

Best I can do now is carry them forward into my future. Here's a few at the top...

  • I've learned not to take myself so seriously. I had to learn this quickly when grief clouded my short-term memory. There were many days when I could not remember one moment to the next; I often mis-placed things. I found it much better to laugh than to cry. 
  • I've learned to enjoy the little moments, the little things. I stopped by Godiva today (Tony's favorite), paid way to much for a single piece of chocolate, yet I savored every bite, all 2 of them. And I've taken plenty of "jumping" pictures - just for the sheer fun of it.
  • I've learned that the best way to face unbearable pain is to put on my big girl pants and confront it head on. Avoiding it just prolongs the inevitable. And for me, the anticipation is almost always worse than the actual.
  • I've learned that presence is often the best gift to offer in times of sorrow. The most comforting times over these 2 years have been spent sitting next to the people who love and care for me the most, and we said nothing at all. 
  • I've learned that influence is gained through authenticity. People aren't looking for perfect Melissa, they are looking for someone who is broken and real, who doesn't have all the answers. Though, I'm still learning to quit making excuses for my shortfalls.
  • I've learned to stop myself and ask "is this how I want to remember these days?" This is particularly helpful in the midst of a self-pity party. Tony asked me this very question about a month before he died. I was drowning him in a sea of complaints - sleeping on an air mattress, living out of one room in our newly purchased, fixer-upper, under-construction house, while we were without heat in 30 degree weather, and all our things were either in boxes scattered everywhere or covered in drywall dust. I'm not making that up. His question stuck with me.
  • I have learned that wise counsel is not optional, it's essential. I'm so grateful that Tony had a wealth of wise folks surrounding him, something he worked hard to establish long before we met. I now call them my "board of directors," and I honestly don't know how I would make  complicated decisions without them.
  • I've learned that in my distress, to let others help. I've learned to just be grateful, not to worry how or if I could repay them. Instead, I just look for opportunities pay it forward when I'm able.
  • I've learned that Jesus really is enough. His love never fails, it never dies, it never leaves. Never. Sure, the unconditional love between a husband and a wife is like none other, it's amazing. Yet it still falls short, it's limited to this earth. Jesus, only Jesus, is forever. 
  • I've learned my God is the Defender of widows. It is not a coincidence that there are so many mentions of widows in the Bible. He cares for my every need; I've just got to continue to Trust Him to control my circumstances, my future, my outcome.
And...I've still got a lot more to learn.

Dearly loved,

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Mi Amor en Sevilla

I took a marble with me to Spain. Yes, these were the precious marbles in the jar Tony gave me when we were engaged so that we could throw one away every year on our anniversary. That jar accidentally broke about 6 months back, and instead of scrambling to glue it back together or buy another jar, I simply accounted for all of the marbles and placed them in a temporary location…a Ziploc bag.

A few weeks before we left for our mission trip in Spain, our co-leader Carolyn asked each of us to bring a small item from home to share with our team as a way to get to know each other. I thought, and I thought. Of course I wanted to take Ralphy. But, then the most perfect thing hit me…I was to take one of my marbles on the retreat and then was to take that same marble to Spain.

And, I was to leave it there.

No, it’s not yet Tony’s and my anniversary. But the day I witnessed my jar shatter, I made a choice to let those marbles go…and do so by releasing one at a time in places or with people important to our life together.

Spain was one of those places. To be honest, I was so nervous about how I would feel as I walked into a country Tony and I dreamed of experiencing together.


I quickly fell in love with the culture, the history, the people. Tony would have done the same. I could see us living here while he pursued a degree; I could see us falling more in love with each other as we shared amazing times together in such a breath-taking place; I could see God using us for His Glory in a country so beautiful yet so empty without Jesus.

I missed him. I longed for him. I could feel the weight of grief again on my shoulders. I felt heart-broken all over again.

Yet I did not feel alone; I was so glad to be alongside my amazing teammates and new amigos who already feel like family. It’s as if Tony was smiling down on me, as I tried to relay to him, “Do you see me, aren’t you proud of me; I’m finally in OUR Spain.”

I had determined to find just the perfect spot to leave the marble; I asked the Lord to show me at just the right time. It’s been such a battle to have an undivided heart between wanting to dwell on Tony and wanting to be fully present for my team.

I had hoped I could release it sooner than later, so that I could focus on our mission as much as possible. And on day two of our trip, that hope was fulfilled as we visited the Plaza de Espana in the center of Sevilla.

As we walked up on it, I was enraptured by it’s beauty, like none I’ve seen. It was so old, yet so well preserved. It was the essence of Spain, people everywhere. We walked around, taking photos galore. But what caught my eye were the couples rowing in small boats in the canal in the center of the plaza. I couldn’t help but picture Tony and I in one of those boats. Romance.

So, I stepped aside from the rest of the group. I reached into my purse and took out that precious marble. I held it up in my hand for one final picture, well two. 

I love the contrast in these. It’s as if God shown down in that moment to remind me He is with me, He is for me, that He sees me, that He recognizes my pain, that He will restore me, that He will continue to use my story for His glory.


The marble was gone, never to be seen again. Tony and my dream of Spain together gone with it.

It’s just another part of letting go.

As I walked away to rejoin our group, I looked back to see this couple rowing by.

Love stories continue. Yes, mine with Tony on this earth has ended. Yet, others go on; perhaps even one for me will blossom again. Perhaps.

Whether or not that happens, I rest in God’s love story, the great Love of my life, and I pray someday, somehow the great Love of many in Spain. And so my prayer for Spain is captured so well in the words to “How He Loves” in Spanish, sung by Seth Condrey who will be here on Friday for our concert.

Dearly loved, with 72 marbles left,

Friday, February 24, 2012

Voy a Espana!

Tomorrow I'll set foot in a country Tony and I dreamed of going, even living...beautiful Spain.

I'm heading there as a co-leader of a mission trip with 8 college students from Georgia State University who are giving up their spring break to invest in the lives of students in Sevilla, Spain. 

This trip is all for God's glory, for the people of Spain to know Jesus, and for these college students to grow further and faster than they ever dreamed possible in their faith. I go just to be a part of it all, to be an empty vessel poured into by God in order to pour out onto others. My prayer is that it's nothing of me, that's it's completely God's Presence going before me, before us.

Yet, I can't help but smile when I think about how this trip also has "Tony" written all over it.

In addition to Georgia State being Tony's alma mater, Spain is the one place Tony always dreamed of going to pursue an international degree. Spanish was his second language, and boy, am I wishing I had that skill right now as I cram Spanish terms in my forgetful brain! Though it's certainly bittersweet to go without him, I know he would be thrilled for me, I know he's cheering me on.

And so, I carry his legacy with me.

His legacy of appreciating other cultures and of making friends with folks so different from himself...all with the heart to exemplify Jesus to them...

The people of Spain need Jesus. Most have grown up in a religion that is merely a forced, cultural experience, void of the love, hope, and peace found in a growing relationship with Jesus Christ.

Our team will be partnering with a local church there, Parque Este, which is modeled closely after our church. We plan to conduct a series of presentations in high schools and a service project throughout the week, all leading up to a concert and outreach event for the community with worship leader Spanish Seth Condrey. Our hope is that many new faces will come to learn more about the church and ultimately come to know Jesus, not just as a religious figure, but as their one and only Savior.

I also carry with me Tony's legacy of challenging others to pursue their passions, to not settle for the ordinary life...

Tony always encouraged my passion for college students. My heart is FOR this generation; I just love them, I do! Honestly, not a week goes by that I’m not hanging out with at least a few 18 to 24 year olds. It was my college years that really set the foundation for my faith in Jesus, so my heart’s desire is to “pay it forward” for generations to come. When the opportunity arose for me to co-lead a college mission trip, I was in. I can see Tony smiling now. I knew I was gonna love being a part of these students' lives, but we have not even left yet, and my time with them has been beyond any blessing I could have wished for.

My heart melts to think about worshiping in Sevilla...worship music was how Tony best connected with our Savior and some of my sweetest flashbacks of Tony are of him swaying, with hands raised, singing his heart out to God. And, in Sevilla, we'll be worshipping in beautiful!

So, pray for us, pray for Spain, pray for God to do immeasurably more in and through us than we ever dreamed possible. Keep up with us on our blog -

Dearly loved, in Spain...

Monday, February 20, 2012


I'm chewing on a new word for 2012. I suppose you could call it a New Year's resolution of sorts. For the past 3 years, I've been finding a word to focus on each year...2010, in retrospect, was HOPE, for that's what the Lord gave me to keep me going that unbearable year. 2011 was RESTORE as I trusted the Lord to begin to gently restore my life and my heart.

And 2012...this year's word is RELEASE. let go. One definition in Webster says it means to "give up in favor of another."

And one of my verses to go along with this word is Phil. 3:13b-14:
"But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus."

In the first verse above, Paul includes the word forgetting. In doing some study, I learned that in this context, he did not intend for that word to mean that we are to have no recollection of something in our past. Instead, he was encouraging that we leave what is in the past behind keep things in perspective as far as what must be left behind for the benefit of moving ahead in the journey toward heaven.

Leave what is behind.

For me that means, that though I will always carry Tony in my heart, that his life and his love for me has made an eternal impact on my life, my husband in the physical sense is in the past. He must be left there; at some point, in some way, I must let him go.


It's hard. It's so very hard. From the moment I said "yes" to Tony's marriage proposal, and even more so, from the moment I said "I do," I couldn't help but feel a sense that my spouse would always be a part of my future. Always. Sure, every married couple says that part in the vows about "until death do us part," but I would imagine the majority of us envision ourselves as very old before that ever happens, while in our hearts, hoping the good Lord takes us both at the same time.

I mean, that's what happened in "The Notebook." Am I right? 

Today marks just 3 days short of it being 23 months since Tony departed this earth. 

3 days short of 23 months.

That's the exact amount of time we were married.

Yep, that's it. That's all we were given. That was our allotment of days. Of course, we never knew it; we didn't see our marriage ending. I dreamed of growing old with Tony... old, and still as stuck on each other as we were those first few months we dated. We were inseparable.


Yet, God, in His infinite wisdom, was not surprised when our time came to a close, when the final hour darkened on our beautiful love story.

I often reflect on my entire life, all 3 decades of it, and wonder how God felt as He watched it unfold until now, as He knew the road carved out for me, uniquely just for me. He has seen my triumphs, my success, my joy; he has seen my missteps, my trials, my sin, my pain. He has orchestrated moments that impact my faith, my relationship with Him for eternity...moments of pure bliss, moments of utter desperation.

Yet, all those moments join to create a breathe-taking painting, a one-of-a-kind story, the story of Melissa Gardner, now Edge. He sees the scenes, the chapters yet to be lived. He sees what's ahead.

And because I am His, He knows that in the end lies my Ultimate Prize—my Jesus.

So, He calls me to press on ... to let go ... to release

... that which must remain in my past so that I can strain with all that is in me toward my future, whatever my future may hold.

I'm slowly, ever so slowly, in the process of letting go of my sweet husband. Letting go, always remembering. And I know that Tony loved me so very much, he would not want me to hold on for too long.

Dearly loved, 

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Comparing Tennis Shoes

Off and on this past year, I start to feel anxious over the amount of stuff I have in storage (in about 3 different places, and that's down from 5!); stuff of Tony's, stuff of mine, stuff of our lives together.  Stuff.  Suffocating stuff.  No one ever teaches you in school what a daunting task it is to figure out what to do with all that stuff left behind.

I honestly don't know all the stuff I even own.  A few months back, I finally cleaned out an extra large storage unit I moved most of our belongings into a few months after Tony died. As I sorted through box after box, bag after bag, memories flooded my mind. I fought most back; I was in "clean out" mode, not reminisce mode. But there was one item that I just couldn't let go.

It stuck out like a sore thumb.

It was Tony's all-white K-Swiss tennis shoes.

Yep, I said K-Swiss, like straight out of the 90s. And these shoes, they were so uncool, so out of style. I recall wrinkling my nose at them when he would wear them when we were dating; I didn't want to hurt his feelings, so I kept my thoughts to myself. I was honestly thinking that one day, when we were married, those tennis shoes would be on their way to Goodwill. I would make it my mission to update his tennis shoes.

And, as his wife, I tried. He stood his ground that they were perfectly fine, they were expensive shoes, and they did not need to be replaced. I bargained, I begged, I attempted many a deal, and I failed. The truth is, Tony just didn't care what people or culture or popularity dictated when it came to those shoes, and really when it came to most things. He was his own unique, sometimes quirky self; he didn't need anyone else influencing him otherwise.

He wasn't much for comparing his life with others; he didn't succumb to the comparison trap.

Those shoes describe so well how I feel walking around in my new "normal" life without Tony. This week I was chatting with another 30-something widow and I just had to proclaim that there was nothing "normal" about our "new normal." Widows who are in their 30s make up less than 1% of all widows. What's "normal" about that?

Still, I long to feel "normal" again. I'm getting there in some ways. Folks who know my story don't so much feel sorry for me, anymore. Yet, when I'm around folks who don't know Tony or our story, I feel as if I just don't quite fit in. And when the unavoidable opportunity arrises to share what has happened in the last 2 years, I mostly get puzzled looks like I must be some sorta crazy for telling of such tragedy without tears. I almost always leave out the way Tony left this earth; that's like giving an unexpected sucker punch to the gut.

Best I can explain it...I'm feeling uncomfortable in my own skin. I'm uncomfortable with this in between stage of life I find myself in. I'm over the intensity of grief, but I'm not done grieving. I'm technically single but don't want much to do with being single. I'm a widow but I don't want my identity wrapped up in it.

I want God to continue to use my story, but I'm struggling with wanting to control my circumstances, my outcomes. I'm wrestling with the "what if's," with the "how's it gonna turn outs."

It's like I've got these K Swiss tennis shoes on, while everyone else has on the latest Chucks.  I'm trying to find my place, my next part of my story, but I've got these things on my feet that make me feel so uncomfortable, awkward. When do I get to upgrade my shoes?

And as my counselor so gently led me onto the other day, I'm finding myself comparing my K Swiss circumstances to all those who are living up life in Chucks, to others whose lives seem so "normal" and desirable and less painful, to others who get to wake up to their husbands every morning, to others who get to walk through life with their spouse regardless of what's on their feet.

Comparison. I know better. I know it's dangers.

And I KNOW the plans, the unique plans God has for me are more than I could have ever asked for or dreamed, if not in this life, then most definitely in the life to come. So a song that is played almost on repeat on the radio right now is so perfectly on repeat in my mind. It's "Whatever You're Doing" by Sanctus Real (lyrics and song can be found here).

Oh, and I should confess that I did give Tony's shoes away to Goodwill a few months back. They sure would come in handy right now as I seek to step out of the comparison trap. I pray whoever is wearing them is not worried about what others think of him. I certainly won't be the judge again!

Dearly loved,

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

On Turning 32...

So I wrote the first half of this blog post the week before my birthday, but I'm just getting around to publishing. I can't help but laugh as I reflect on what actually happened in the days that followed...

Jan. 16, 2012:

It's 6 days before my birthday. I'll be turning 32.

I know, I know, 32 is so young. It's not that I have anything against this age or any age I turn...I mean, I might as well embrace each year...there's no turning back.

Yet, 32, it's bothering me. I'm weepy. I feel unsettled. I'm dreading it a bit.

Life is not as it should be at 32. It's just not.

And I know there are countless others who can relate to that very statement, whatever age they are.

Life is just not as it should be. It's just not.

I often wonder if God looks over His earth, His people, His creation with that very same thought. Life is not as it should be. I mean, He created this beyond amazing earth for Him to commune with us, to walk intimately among us.

And it's all been tainted by generations and generations of sin. This was not His original plan.

He knew before He created the world that His Master Plan, His Plan A, would be thwarted.

So He created a redemptive, yet beautiful Plan B in sending His Son Jesus to make atonement for our sin at the cross.

At the cross.
Redemption. Restoration. Hope.

I am so incredibly grateful that God gave us all a second chance, a chance to start over, to be born again, clean, forgiven, a new creation.

My prayer as I enter into another year of life is that I will keep the cross ever present in my heart, in my mind. I pray that as I look at it as God's Perfect Plan B, I will see beauty in my own life, my own Plan B.

January 25, 2012:
On January 21, the night before my birthday, came a test of those very words. Just when I thought I had overcome my "32 pity party" by enjoying a fun birthday celebration with my closest friends, life was interrupted by a Plan B once again.

On our way to my annual Korean Karaoke tradition, I was in the front seat of my friend's car as we crashed into a dead-stopped car in the center lane of I-85. As we braced ourselves for the unavoidable, I thought in that instance, "well, here goes Plan B."

God protected us and the folks in the other car that night with the help of seat belts and air bags. Of course, I was sad that my birthday plans didn't turned out how I had hoped. But as scary as it was and as unfortunate for my friend totaling her car, I saw glimpses of beauty.

I saw all of my sweet friends, friends who were the first to arrive at the mountain the night Tony was missing, friends who have stuck close by my side in the aftermath of Tony's death and friends who God has so perfectly brought into my "new normal" life in the past year, now standing with me on the side of the interstate. I saw them huddled in a circle praying for everyone involved. I saw relief and hope in their eyes, as we acknowledged that this Plan B could have been so much worse, as we thanked our God for the ability to walk away from the crash and thanked Him for His precious gift of life.

And after a couple hours at the hospital, the 4 of us involved in the accident were even able to muster up a smile as we rang in my actual birthday waiting on our pain medicine prescriptions at the pharmacy. The rest of my birthday was most certainly a blur!

32. I never imaged it would begin with such an unexpected bang. Still, as I had originally written at the end of my post above: "I will choose to trust God; I will choose to not give up. I will choose to keep walking."

Dearly loved, at 32,

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Feeding on Faithfulness

There are a couple of Psalms that I have kept on repeat in my Bible reading over last few months...Psalm 37 and 73.  I find those to be two of those all-encompassing, showing me Who God is, chapters especially on the hardest of days.

It says in Ps. 37:3, "Trust in the LORD and do good; dwell in the land and enjoy safe pasture." I have written next to this very verse "feed on faithfulness." It came from Louie Giglio sharing that phrase during a series back several years ago at 7:22.

The Psalm goes on to talk about how the wicked, those who do not follow Christ, will perish, but for those who put their trust, their faith, those who stake their very life on the precious blood of Christ, the Psalmist writes, "Commit your way to the LORD; trust in him and he will do this: He will make your righteous reward shine like the dawn, your vindication like the noonday sun." (Psalm 37:5-6).

Feed on faithfulness.

Even when it does not make sense. Even when I don't feel like it. Even when my vision, my hope is so blurred by tears. Even when life doesn't turn out the way it's "supposed to," how I'd hoped it would. Even when I watch what seems like everyone around me getting to enjoy those things that now, without my husband, are my shattered dreams.

Feed on faithfulness. Feed on His Word. Find refuge and rest in Jesus. Let Him hold my hand. Do good. Trust God. Keep His commands. Find my delight, all my satisfaction in Him.

That's easier said than done. Because it's hard. Because there's days when I'd just rather Jesus come back than have to face another day on my own, alone...added on top of continuing to hear and witness heart-wrenching stories of others suffering too. It just overwhelms me.

Yet, if life was easy, and predictable, and always blissful and pain-free, then I really wonder if my faith in Christ would be EVERYTHING to me? Would I yearn to follow Him, to lean on Him, to desperately delight in Him and Him alone?

He's the only One who satisfies my soul.
There is no one, not one thing, other than Him.

As I was going to sleep a few months back, I couldn't help but notice and snap this very picture:

Here's my sweet puppy Ralphy chewing on the ribbon place-holder in my Bible. In her own puppy way, she was reminding me to feast on the Word of God.

To feed on faithfulness.

"Whom have I in heaven but you? And earth has nothing I desire besides you. My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever" ~ Psalm 73: 25-26.

Dearly loved,