This House On Cheshire Court

This past Sunday was a day I let it all out.
My disappointment, that is.
I aired out all my disappointments…
Directly at my God.

Yes, my Heavenly Father. The One I owe my life to, the One I can’t wait to see face to face in heaven, the One I live on this earth for.

How could I do such a thing?
How could I not?

I needed to have an honest conversation directly with Him. He already knew how I was feeling anyway. And it was not some petty complaint about life, it was downright an ugly cry I’ve been fighting for weeks.

So I let myself go there…as I drove to the very place, the very epicenter of my disappointment.

This house on Cheshire Court.

I’ve owned it for over a decade. Before that, it was the house I called home in college. It became the place my brother and I lived together for 4 years til I married; it kept us close at the age when most siblings drift apart.

Tony carried me through its front door upon returning from our honeymoon. All but 2 months of our marriage are memories from this house.

It holds a lot. Though now it sits empty. It’s in the final stages of renovation before it goes on the market (after renters left quite a mess behind…sigh).

So I stood there in the front yard, tear-stained face to its facade. I stood there facing my disappointment.

I know it’s time to let this last financial burden go. For that I am grateful.

Yet, it’s one more thing representing a shattered dream.

I’ve let go of pretty much every familiar, tangible piece of my former life. I can’t help but feel so empty-handed.

I know that that my great God calls me to remain open-handed with my life, with my future. I know He works in the unseen, in the intangible. I know that open hands don’t necessarily mean empty hands, that open hands mean freedom for God to do what only He can do, however and in whatever timing He chooses.

I know.

But for today, I allow myself to feel the hurt of disappointment, to acknowledge its sting, to let the tears flow.

And even still, I put all my hope in the One who can handle all my disappointments, all my tears, and still lay out a future and a home for me in heaven that makes anything on this earth just not even worth crying over.

Dearly loved, with a house to sell,

I Climbed That Mountain…

…and a month later, I still haven’t been able to put adequate words around it. I commemorated the 5 year mark of my late husband’s passing by hiking to the top of Stone Mountain for the very first time in my life.

Perhaps more words will come later, but for today, I share this journey in pictures.

And for anyone walking through circumstances that seem insurmountable right now, I humbly offer this encouragement:

Walk this difficult road…

one step…

one moment…

one day…

one decision at a time.


Allow others to help you. You don’t have to walk the path alone.

{A huge thanks to my dear friends Sue and Susanne for climbing with me. They represent so many people who accompanied me along this long, hard 5 year journey.}

StoneMt not alone

Even if you feel like fear will overtake you, don’t give up. Stay the course.

{It was at this moment that I realized the mountain was not as scary as I had imagined it to be. As my wise pastor, Billy, reminded me, fear tends to shrink when you face it head on.}

StoneMt face it

And finally, trust God no matter what. Yes, I said no matter what.

I stood in the very place where my earthly love shared his final moments on this earth because I know that this earth is not our final resting place. Because of Jesus, death does not and will not have the final say.

StoneMt-19 final moment

So I walk on. I live to face another day. I live to give all the Glory to the One, Jesus, who is my very life.

I live to tell you to keep climbing.


Dearly loved, climbing on,

Photography by the amazing Jade King Horton.

Time to Bloom

I should live in a bubble. That’s what my allergist told me 6 years ago when I began allergy shots.

Yes, I’m that allergic…to pretty much every tree, grass, and weed in Georgia.

I recall walking in for a check up about a year ago and noticed an 80 year old man getting shots too. I thought it must stink to still get shots at his age. It was that same appointment I was told that I’d most likely be a “lifer” when it came to shots.

Wait a minute. I would one day be that 80 year old too. Sigh.

I have a love/hate relationship with this season every year. I love to look at the beauty of spring, as long as it’s not making me sick. It sure would be nice if things could bloom without pollen.

It’s not that easy. It’s not that easy when it comes time to bloom in life either. I’m learning that first hand.

It’s coming up on 5 years since the first time I spent a wedding anniversary without Tony. In addition to the marble we were to toss each year, he wanted us to plant a tree on every anniversary.

I only carried out his tree wishes once on my own. Since Tony loved apples, I decided to plant an apple tree that year. My sweet mom did all the research and determined we would actually need to plant two trees in order for them to eventually produce fruit. To be honest, she really did all the work (did I mention I hate gardening?). She planted them in the perfect location in my parents yard, right in the middle of where my beloved grandma’s lilies used to grow.

She named one the “Tony Tree” and the other the “Melissa Tree.”

Neither of them grew much for the first couple of years. Just two stick figures seemingly destined to never produce anything.


Honestly for me, it was too much work with nothing to show for it. Still mom watched and cared.

Finally a few leaves popped through.


She pruned a few branches, then she waited.

Three more years passed by. That makes a total of 5 brutal summers in Georgia heat, a few snow and ice storms, and even a lightening strike on a nearby tree.

The two survived as if they were holding on for dear life.

Holding on.

I wondered if they’d ever realize their full potential. Would they be destined to “scrawny stick tree” status forever?

Mom the gardener kept tending to them, mentioning them by name. I had pretty much given up on them. She never did.

Given up. I’ve felt that way lately. It seems everywhere I look things and people I care about are changing and blooming around me. Yet my circumstances, pretty much everything in my life remains the same.

I sense God is up to something, but I just can’t see it. I’m like that stick tree, dormant and waiting for everything that needs to take place in order for me to bloom. I wrestle with these questions:

Will I ever really bloom?
How much longer do I have to wait?
What am I supposed to do in the meantime?
Will it all be worth it?


Right in the midst of a really rough week, my mom sent me the picture above with this text:

“What a beautiful sign. Your apple tree is blooming this year.”

Out of seemingly nowhere, my tree begins to bloom.
Insert: tears.

I see this as my gentle reminder that my Great Gardener God is very much at work behind the scenes. It took all that time, all those weather extremes, all the pruning, that tender care from my mom, and the cross-pollination with the Tony Tree, to produce those unexpected blooms.

It’s taking time and painful waiting, even the influence of my late husband, and TLC from the Master Gardener for me to bloom too. All these essential ingredients are almost exclusively unseen.

So just because I can’t see what God is up to doesn’t mean He’s not up to something. He is very much alive and at work in me.

I need only to abide in Him, to remain very close to Him and to allow Him to produce the blooms, to produce the fruit in His timing.

It’s not up to me.

“I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.” ~ John 15:5 NIV

Dearly loved, and not giving up,

Five Year Finale: Marble Toss

“I just let go. And I feel exposed but it’s so beautiful ’cause this is who I am.” ~ Plumb “Lord I’m Ready Now”

I’ve written a few posts about the jar of marbles that Tony gave me as part of our engagement. We were to throw a marble away on every anniversary to symbolize a year of our lives together gone by that we could not get back. It was our reminder to make the most of our time together.

We tossed the first one the day we got engaged in the lake near the 18th hole at Chateau Elan where he proposed. For our 1 year wedding anniversary, we threw one in the pond near the first home we lived in as a married couple. We were one month shy of us getting to throw away marble number 3 when he passed away. For 4 anniversaries after, I made a point to toss a marble in places significant to us: the lake at Piedmont Park, the Pacific Ocean, the Atlantic Ocean and a canal in Sevilla, Spain.

At the 5 year mark of his passing, I felt that it was finally time to let the rest of them go.

To let them go.

Because I’ve learned over the past 5 years that time just isn’t always measured in years. Sometimes it’s measured in the sweetest moments. Sometimes in days. Sometimes it just can’t be measured at all.

As I held those treasured marbles in my hands for the final time, I recognized them as shattered dreams that would never be realized with the man who gave them to me.

Even still, I chose to celebrate.
I celebrated that I had lived each day, 365 times 5, since life as I knew it shattered to pieces.
I celebrated that I did not just survive, but I lived. I really lived.
I celebrated that I had savored so many moments in 5 years that could have certainly accounted for each one of those marbles.
I celebrated that these marbles had taught me to not wish my life away, to see my time as an invaluable yet limited resource, and to see each day as a gift.

And I celebrated heaven, a place that knows no end to days or years or life eternal.


I threw the remaining 71 marbles in the lake on the backside of Stone Mountain, never to be taken back again.

To be completely honest, the very next day, I felt as if I was entering into a freefall. I’ve never been one to enjoy this sensation in a literal sense, much less when describing my life.

(Insert nervous stomach.)

Still, I could not go back. Tossing those marbles represents letting go of everything I’ve clung to for my identity these last 5 years. It means letting go of expectations for what I “thought” life would look like at this point in my life. It means I am free to find my identity fully and completely in my Savior Jesus. Though that’s the way I want to live, it’s still scary to face the unseen and unknown venture ahead.

It’s requiring me to fall completely into the arms of my Savior, to trust Him for my future, to trust Him in my present, to fully surrender to Who He says I am and how He identifies me.

It’ll just take a little while to get used to.

Lord, I’m ready now. I’m like a kid jumping off the diving board for the very first time. Please catch me ever so gently and never let me go.

Dearly loved, with my arms wide open,

I Don’t Know Her Anymore

I’ve been a bit nostalgic these past few days leading up to the 5 year mark of Tony’s passing. I love describing it this way; I’ve waited a long time to be able to reflect fondly on our love story without it being over-shadowed by grief. I still get teary, but it’s more out of a deep sense of gratitude for having been loved so extravagantly.

All of our old pictures and videos are pristinely archived by date and event in an external hard drive; that was one of Tony’s many organization projects. I decided to go back to the beginning of our story, all 3.5 years of it. As I searched through date after date, I noted two things:

  1. Though our time was short, we certainly made the most of it. He opened me to a whole new world of adventure, exposed me to more new things than I could have ever imagined, and captured every moment he possibly could. What a tremendous gift of memories for me.
  2. Though I was never a big fan, he took a lot, and I mean a lot, of pictures and videos of just me.

The first observation is now a part of my DNA. I’ve always got a new travel or adventure up my sleeve because I learned it from him. The second observation is what I’m actually most thankful for at this five year mark.

At the time I HATED that he took so many pictures of me, and I HATED having my picture taken by myself. One video in particular struck me. Tony took it while we were waiting in line at Taqueria del Sol (still one of my faves) on one of our date nights as a married couple. In his inquisitive way, he was “interviewing” me on where we were and what we were doing. I responded with very short answers and kept turning my face away from the camera. I could not have been any less enthusiastic.

Seriously. I was a jerk…or whatever you call the female version of jerk.

Now I want to reach through that camera, grab her by the shoulders and look at her eye to eye. I want to tell her how much she was gonna miss this man doting on her, romancing her. I want to tell her to be excited for that date because her dates with this man were limited; that one day she’d long to be loved like this again. Yes, I offer grace because I know she did not act like this on every date, that she had no idea their marriage would end so soon, and that there were days that she was just plain tired (or hungry!) and did not want a camera in her face.

Even more, I want to tell her to quit believing the lies of never enough, to be okay with just being her. I wanted so desperately for her to see herself as beautiful, not because of any outward adornment, and not even because of what her husband repeatedly told her, but because of Who created her.

I know it was me on that video, but it’s as if I don’t know her anymore.

Sure, I can still act like a jerk; I can certainly get tired and cranky. But what I found on the other side of grief was a deep understanding of God’s great love for me, and with that love, the lens through which I see myself has forever changed. Out of my confidence in who I am in Him, I can be me, fully me. I need not hide my face anymore.

What a tremendous legacy Tony left me in picture after picture that he took of me. It gives me a glimpse of the way he saw me. And the way he saw me and loved me was the catalyst for me seeing me differently. He loved me despite my insecurities. He saw the best in me when I could not see it in myself. And this is what ultimately led me to the realization that if he could love me this much as mere man, imagine how the God of the Universe feels about me.

Tony’s years on earth may seem short by the world’s terms, but the impact he has made is immeasurable. I can never thank him enough. He has set me up well to love again one day.

Dearly loved,