My message in a bottle…

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

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

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

 “You have…put my tears in Your bottle; are they not in Your book?”

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

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The Road Less Traveled…

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

I don’t recommend either.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I’ve cried myself to sleep many nights, clamoring through my tears, “But, God, I did this right.”

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

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

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

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

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

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


Shipwrecked…

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.

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,
Melissa


Aftermath…

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,
Melissa


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.

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