Choosing My Posture

My happy place is ballet class. It’s my gym, my creative outlet, and an hour to loose myself in a beautiful art form, all wrapped into one.

I love it. I’m a big ballet fan. I’m a big fan of my ballet instructor, Lauren, too.

She’s taught me a lot over the last 3 years since returning to ballet after 13 years away. One of the most important things I’ve learned is something I’m chewing on recently in my own life too…

Posture.

In ballet, everything stems for correct posture and alignment. We often begin our classes laying on the floor so that we can feel exactly how our bones should be aligned on top of one another as we stand. I like to stand in class where I can see myself from the side mirror. It’s a good way to “gut-check” to see if I’m holding my stomach in, but most importantly, it allows me to see if my posture is correctly aligned. Are my shoulders right over my hips? Am I leaning too far forward or backward? Is my chest open and my chin up?

Balance, my turn-out, how I lift my legs…it all stems from posture.

Posture.

How does this principle from ballet relate to my own life? Here’s a couple questions I’m asking myself about choosing my posture, not in the literal sense but in how I’m choosing my attitude, my world view, and the way I see others.

How often am I checking in my side mirror to see how my posture is aligned? Better yet, who is my posture aligned with?

It’s the posture of Jesus that I’m called to imitate. And His posture is so well described in Philippians 2:4-7:

Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others. In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus:

Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness.

I’ve found myself in need of a re-alignment. And as I was reminded recently by a wise friend, this alignment, this posture, is not gonna look anything like the posture of the world.

The world says stand up tall, Jesus calls me to my knees.

The world says be the best and be the first, Jesus calls me to go last.

The world says look out for your interests above all, Jesus is calling me to put the interests of others above myself.

This posture, this calling of Christ, is not easy. But as I’ve seen countless times in my life and the lives of others, it’s worth it. This posture makes all the difference in how I view life, how I treat others, and ultimately how I gain influence to point folks to Jesus.

And as I depart for Uganda next week, my prayer is that I’ll take this posture, and only this posture, with me.

Pray for me!

Dearly loved, realigning,
Melissa


My Hardest Act of Forgiveness

Disclaimer: From time to time, I feel led to go back into my grief journey and share parts of it I just wasn’t ready to make public while I was in the middle of them. This is one such experience. Please know you are always welcome to pass my posts along to those who you feel would be encouraged by them. Here’s my experience with forgiveness:

“What’s the most significant act of forgiveness you’ve ever experienced?”

I’ll never forget the day when I could answer this tough question out loud. I took a deep breath to hold back the tears….and I answered honestly:

The day I forgave my husband.

It took me years to verbalize a moment that was a pivotal point in my grief journey.

For so long I felt ashamed for my anger toward Tony. I felt as if it diminished our love, our relationship; it diminished how much I cared for him.

To be honest, I can’t think of a time in our marriage where I ever got angry at Tony. Sure, we had disagreements, we hurt each others feelings, but there was never an intense anger.

I never imagined being angry at him.

My anger came during my 2nd year of grief. I had checked off all the “firsts” of that first year, just like my counselor and all the grief books had told me.

But I had not checked off anger.

I didn’t anticipate it coming either.

It actually manifested in a series of re-occuring dreams. It took a counseling session to decipher what was going on. When I recognized my anger and who it was directed toward, I let it simmer for several weeks. It was all an internal battle waging war in my heart and mind; from the outside I just seemed exhausted. It was all too raw to talk about except through counseling and a few trusted friends.

Here’s my blog post from that very time period.

What I can admit now is that my anger was toward Tony for making a reckless choice that day on top of Stone Mountain. Of course, he did not know his choice would end his life and forever alter mine. He was just being his adventurous self and crossed over the same fence he crossed over multiple times growing up.

Still, I was angry at him for his choice.

But what I realized in that anger is that it did not take away one ounce of my love for him, one moment of incredible marriage to him. It did not cause me to think any less of him as my husband.

I learned that anger was a normal emotion of grief; it was okay for me to feel it.

My Great God even met me in it.

And eventually, He led me to the other side of it…once again in my sleep.

It was the very last dream I had of Tony where I could see his face. I remember that he looked at me intently as he said with tears in his eyes, “I’m sorry. I’m so sorry.” Then, he grabbed me up into the biggest hug.

It is a hug that will last a lifetime.

I awoke weeping. His apology was exactly the gift of grace I needed so that I could fully forgive him. I wouldn’t recognize until later that it was a critical step toward my healing and beginning to let go.

Accepting his apology through a dream was a bittersweet moment of freedom. I moved from no longer being angry and entered into a season of incredible sadness.

That season eventually gave way to acceptance.

I never imagined I’d get to the stage of accepting my husband’s death.

I never imagined myself doing a lot of things.

Good thing, I don’t get to see into the future.

God knows best. And my great God is the Ultimate Forgiver. He’s also in the business of restoration.

Dearly loved, grateful for forgiveness,
Melissa


My Best Question For Every Season

I’m just a tad bit excited about fall. I even kicked it off a couple weeks ago with a trip to the North Georgia Fair with some really fun friends.

It’s not every day you can stuff yourself with chicken on a stick, french fries, cotton candy and call it dinner, all the while filling up on the scent of funnel cake and everything fried under the sun.

Gosh I love a good fall fair. I love fall. I love the things you can uniquely do in this season: college football watchin’, apple pickin’, boot wearin’, pumpkin everything eatin’.

You just can’t do those things any other time of the year. Well, all except the boots. I wore boots in 90 degree weather this July. Judge me all you want.

That does bring me to one of my favorite questions, what I like to call my best question for every season:

What can I uniquely do in this season?

Of course it easily applies to the four seasons of the year. But it goes beyond that. It applies to seasons of life too.

So I ask myself: What can I do in my unique season of life? Right now, what can I uniquely do while it’s just me, single again?

I love this question because it keeps me looking to the positive aspects of the season I’m in. It keeps me grateful for the unique things I’m able to do now. It also reminds me that seasons are temporary. I can often go down that defeated path of “this is how my life will always be.” Everything has a season. I may think I am in a very loooong season, I might not get to pick or predict the beginning and end points. But seasons eventually do change.

Another great question to follow is:

What is God uniquely calling me to in this season?

This question causes me to open up my hands (sometimes so tightly gripped on my life) and to relinquish control to my Heavenly Father. It sharpens my confident trust that He has something for me now, not if or when my season changes. He wants to work in me and through me in this season.

It helps me to not wish this season away. It frees me to be present right where I am, constantly leaning into Him for guidance and direction. It also keeps me hopeful for the next season because I know this season…

…is not forever, it’s just for now.

“There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens.” ~ Ecclesiastes 3:1 NIV

Dearly loved, in every season,
Melissa


In The Meantime: When It’s Hard To Say Thank You

It is a slow process for a long, tear-stained road ahead.

I wept last night as I read this quote from a blog entry I wrote a month after losing my husband. This time I wept not for myself, but for the widow a decade younger than me who had just reached out after her husband passed away.

I know what she’s facing.

Tonight I had dinner with another friend walking through grief. I’m also preparing to go back to Uganda to pour into widows not only dealing with the aftermath of loss, but in many cases left without a means to support their families.

I don’t mention all of this to make much of myself. No one “signs up” for this. This is certainly not the story I would have written. Had I known, I’d surely have planned for an “eject button” long before now.

Yet, as my pastor Andy Stanley finished up a very powerful series titled “In the Meantime” on Sunday, he pointed out:

There is a “Fellowship of Suffering.” People who’ve suffered are uniquely equipped and qualified to comfort people who are suffering.

In my notes I wrote, “I am uniquely equipped to comfort young widows.”

I also feel I’ve earned a degree in Grief 101 (the stuff no one talks about til they’re gray-headed). I awoke yesterday dreaming of a book I’d one day write for young 20 and 30-somethings walking through grief.

Come on, who really dreams about that?

It was a humbling experience the first time I fell to my knees and thanked God for my brokenness, for my pain. I was two years in to my own grief journey. I sat with a college-aged girl in my small group whose brother had just been senselessly murdered. I listened and shared with her what I had learned from my own experience.

It certainly didn’t make up for the loss of my husband; it didn’t make her pain disappear either. But in that moment I couldn’t help but be grateful that I could empathize with her and her suffering.

Still it was hard to say thank you. I never imagined I’d ever thank God for a journey filled with so much sorrow.

I recall wrestling with God over and over during that first year after Tony died about what He was to do with my life “in the meantime” as I grieved. I only gave Him 2 options:

  1. Either use my story and loss to draw others to Himself.
  2. Or end my misery and take me home to heaven.

He kept giving me option 1.

He still does.

He’s brought story after story of the most unexpected people placed along my path. It’s never a “nice to meet you” because I certainly recognize that if it wasn’t for a loss, we probably would have never met. I always walk away with a pit in my stomach, because I realize their road ahead is hard. Yet, I continue to lean in because I know it is comforting to know someone else understands.

Someone else understands our pain. Someone else could use our comfort.

“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.” ~ 2 Corinthians 1:3-4

Dearly loved, in the meantime,
Melissa


My Life’s Goal

“All fear removed. I breathe You in, I lean into Your Love.”

(from Sinking Deep by Hillsong Young & Free)

Nothing compares to the sweet moments I’ve savored with my Savior over the last 4 and a half years.

Nothing.
He literally takes my breath away.

I can get lost in thinking upon His goodness and grace…in the realization that He is with me.

The God of the Universe is WITH me. His Spirit is with me…all day…every day.

Tears well as I think about that day when I finally will meet Him face to face.

To be in His physical presence.
Oh His precious presence.
To see His face.
It overwhelms me.

No earthly love will ever trump that. As much as I desire to experience earthly love again, I don’t want to miss out on experiencing Jesus every day this side of eternity. I don’t want earthly things to distract me from Him. As my wise friend Susanne, a widow too, said recently, “A man is not the goal.”

Yes, all my widowed friends would agree, a man and marriage again would certainly be an incredible, incredible gift.

But I don’t want that to become my life’s goal, or even my sole focus.

I want my eyes to stay fixed on the Ultimate Prize…

Jesus.

My life’s goal is to breathe in our Great God’s love and His grace all my remaining days on this earth. And as an overflow, to spend my days as an instrument used to dispense His grace and love over all of humanity – whoever He places in my path, however, wherever, whenever.

My prize is Jesus…not just in heaven, but in the midst of the most mundane, everyday, ordinary days on this earth.

He is the only prize that will last forever.

Dearly loved, breathing in, sinking deep,
Melissa