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.
Bittersweet.
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.

Toss.
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,
Melissa

My Somewhere Over the Rainbow

Today marks 5 years since my first date with Tony.  October 22, 2006, is a day I will never forget; it’s a day where my life began to change forever, for good, for very good.  It’s the day I met my “Somewhere Over the Rainbow.”

Now I’m not one for sappy titles and cliches.  But I must admit that this song truly did begin the love story later to be known as Tony and Melissa Edge.  The day before our date, I was volunteering at a fall festival with some of my closest friends…friends I had yet to tell about my plans with Tony the next day! I distinctly recall finally working up the courage to tell them, and this version of “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” was playing in the background.  No joke.

The very next day, Tony and I met for the early service at North Point before we headed to what was to be our “date.” As we drove out of the parking lot, Tony turned to me and said he wanted to play one of his favorite songs for me…yes, it was this same version of the exact same song.

Beautiful timing. Beautiful song.

It soon became one of “our” songs. Tony danced to it with his mom at our wedding; it was one of her favorites too. For our 6 month dating anniversary, I made him a CD of all our favorite songs together. This song was the head-liner and the title of the CD – “My Somewhere Over the Rainbow.”

As most girls do, I grew up dreaming of the man I would marry, a man set apart by God just for me. I waited for what seemed like eternity to me (not really as I look back) for this gift to walk into my life, sweep me off my feet, and make my dream of marriage come true.

And it did. Tony was my dream of a husband come true. He was more than I could have ever asked for or imagined. I remember telling him early on that his amazing blue eyes reminded me of those blue birds in the song…deep, dreamy blue. And, in his arms, I felt as if the troubles of this world, no matter how dark or hard, would melt away.

I honestly have not been able to listen to this song since Tony’s passing. It was just too hard to think about my “somewhere,” my “lullaby, ” my “dream come true” to be no more. It made the song seem so cruel, so unfair. My blue bird flew away, my troubles hardened like stale lemon drops, my rainbow couldn’t be seen for the clouds of grief and sadness. Why oh why, God, why oh why?

The song came to mind today as I was looking through some pictures of Tony and I while we were dating. I put on my big girl pants and played the song on my iPod on my drive home from my parents. I began to get teary as I turned past Chateau Elan, the very place Tony proposed to me on the 18th hole. But I quickly became intrigued by the stunning hues of the sky at dusk – ruby red, burnt orange, and a hint of deep ocean blue.

There before me was my rainbow, set horizontally along the tree-lined corridor of Interstate 85. No, it wasn’t a true rainbow, no one else would have pictured it the same way. It looked different, yet it was beautiful in its own way. It was a rainbow just for me, a rainbow to represent my new dreams to come after the clouds of grief and sadness pass.

It was in that hour’s drive home that I reflected on the fact that I am not in control of my “somewhere” on this earth. Though I dream, and dream big, it is God who makes my dreams come true, He is my Dream-Maker, my Dream-Giver. He is my perfect Creator. He is the one who makes the rainbows; He allows them to appear and fade away, in His timing, in His very perfect timing, after the storms, after the rain, after a long season of drought, after what seems like a long time to dream, and sometimes after it seems impossible for another rainbow to break through.

My somewhere with my Tony on this earth may have lasted but a few years; yet the vibrancy of it’s rainbow has impacted my life for eternity.

Dearly loved,
Melissa


A man named Sam…

I drive up and down Lenox Road in Buckhead several times a day.  I almost always get caught at that same Peachtree Street light; it’s relentless.  It is at that intersection that my mind often wonders to a distinct memory I shared with Tony there.

It was about a man named Sam.

Sam was one of the men Tony helped through a program at Buckhead Church, called MoneyWise.  It assists folks by providing a mentor who walks alongside them as they journey toward financial health.  With my husband being “Mr. Finance” himself, this was the ministry he absolutely loved.

He loved helping folks like Sam.

Now I won’t share the details of his story; I will say that God used Tony to very clearly change the trajectory of Sam’s life, a life of restored relationships, restored dignity, restored hope.  Yet, Tony was more than a mentor to this man who was twice Tony’s age; he was a friend.

Just after Tony and I were engaged, Sam wanted to meet his fiance.  We met him at Buckhead Church for the early service, though we normally attended North Point.  I’ll never forget him standing on the corner at Tower Place.  He embraced me with a hug and a beautiful bouquet of flowers. What a sweet moment realizing that this man was forever impacted by my Tony.

As we left Buckhead Church that day, we offered to give Sam a ride; he didn’t own a car.  He politely declined.  As we sat at the intersection of Lenox Road and Peachtree Street on our way home, Tony told me that Sam walked over a mile each way to church every Sunday, up and down Lenox Road.  I have never forgotten that.

That’s the last time I saw Sam; Tony continued the relationship.  Fast forward to the night we returned home from our honeymoon; Tony and I were happily opening the presents from the wedding.  We got to the final one, a book.  We opened the cover, and there was a note from Sam.  We scratched our heads, wondering how on earth this present got all the way to our wedding venue over an hour outside Atlanta.  We didn’t see Sam at the wedding.  Tony called Sam to thank him; it turns out that Sam had borrowed a friend’s car to drop off the gift the day before the wedding just to make sure it got to us in time.

Yet again, Tony and I were so deeply touched.

Time marched on; I really don’t know the last time Tony and Sam saw each other. 

As I sat at that same red light last week, I felt I needed to try to reach out to Sam; I had no idea whether he even knew what had happened to Tony.  I tracked down his email, sent him a brief message, and wondered if it would actually reach him.

It did.

The very next day Sam dropped by Buckhead Church to see me.  I gave him a big hug; we sat down to talk.  I looked into the tear-filled eyes of a now 70 year old man, now my friend too, and I listened as he relayed the impact Tony had on him, how he was eternally grateful for his friend and his brother.  He was overcome by grief, mixed with gratitude; he was so very concerned for me too.  I honestly don’t know how I was able to hold my emotions together, yet I was overwhelmed by a sense of inspiration.  I walked away so very proud of my husband;  I told myself that is exactly how I want to be remembered after I have left this earth. That’s the influence and legacy I want to leave behind.

I ugly-cried all the way home; you know, those deep sobs that ruin your eye makeup.  I miss my husband. Still, I’m so very glad to have found another connection to him at Buckhead Church.

Dearly loved, friend of Sam’s,
Melissa


A marble in the ocean

I’m a little behind on some of my blog posts. Some have been sitting as half-finished drafts for months now.   Blame it on lack of inspiration, blame it on busyness, blame it on grief that literally exhausts me often, if not constantly, oh and blame it on my super cute new puppy (more on her later).  I will just go ahead and forgive myself.

So journey back with me a few months to my wedding anniversary on April 26.  On what would have been a celebration of 3 years of marriage, I threw away another marble from my jar that Tony gave me when he proposed.  There’s now 73 left.  If I live to throw all of them out, I will be 104.  I told the good Lord I was okay with that as long as I could keep my teeth.  I’m well on my way – I finally had a cavity-free visit to the dentist!  That’s a major accomplishment.

Looking back at my post a few days before my anniversary, I wrote about getting lost in the sea of God’s love.  And that’s exactly where I journeyed, all the way to the ocean and back.

I met with my Jesus there.

I was joined by one of my best friends, Karen, such a fun friend to have alongside on road trips.  I heart her!  My biggest concern for the trip was to just escape life for a few days and relax.  I made it my goal to “unplug” from technology as best I could.  With Karen’s gentle encouragement, I succeeded, somewhat.

It was the day after Easter when we arrived at the beach.  We stayed in a high rise hotel with a view overlooking the beach and the ocean.  It was perfect.

But what was beyond perfect, a message just for me, was what was spelled out with dried up seaweed on the shore.  It said “He is risen.”

I took it as my own personal invitation to meet with my Jesus right on that sand, right on that shore, right where the roaring ocean meets mere man, right where the endless sea of God’s grace and love washes over my toes and into my very soul.

I stared for hours at the enormity of that sea, at how small I am compared to how large God is.  I wept, I laughed, I dreamed of memories spent by the ocean with my husband, I breathed that ocean air in, and I invited God to restore me.  I reflected on an entire year I survived, I lived through without Tony, a year I never imagined possible.  And I thanked my Jesus for never leaving my side.

He deserves all the credit, all the Glory, forever and ever.

It came time to toss that marble symbolizing what would have been year number 3 of our marriage into the ocean.  Karen accompanied me; I could not bear to do this task I was dreading alone.  I didn’t want to let go of that marble, that year, because it represented a year apart from the love of my life.  It’s a year I will never get back.  It represented the beginning of year after year of time passing between us.  Like the unceasing roll of the ocean tide, time moves on, and I’m forced to move with it.  I’m forced to move forward, time is relentless and unforgiving that way.

And it was that tide that took away that marble.  I took this picture, tossed the marble into the waves, and then it was gone…forever. 

Yet, I was not without hope, for that ocean also represents the unceasing, unfailing love of my Savior.  I can’t think of a better place for my marble to be.

Now I’m 3 months in to living out marble number 4, and I’m shooting for it to be another cavity free year!

Dearly loved, teeth flosser,
Melissa


My love story…

I’m putting on my big girl pants once again and stepping back into the world of serving at church.  In a weak moment, I said yes to co-leading a 7 week small group study that starts next week.

I met the other girl and guy I will be leading with tonight, and to get to know each other, we decided it was probably best to share our stories of coming to know Jesus and what He’s done in our lives.  That’s really one of the first times since Tony died that I have shared my testimony out loud with folks I don’t know.  What a different story I tell with this last year of tragedy and grief added in.  These leaders were so sweet to just let me ramble, certainly not my eloquent, well-rehearsed speeches from my college days as Student Government President.

Sigh.

Since we’ve got 12 people in our group, we have opted to condense our stories to a 2 to 3 minute “elevator speech” of who God was to us as a child and who He is to us now.  I’ve got some work to do, I’ve got to document it so it won’t escape my brain like everything else left to my memory.  So, I thought I’d just share it here.

I call it…My Love Story…

I was very fortunate to be raised in a loving, Christian home, where my parents prioritized my brother and I going to church and learning about Jesus.  However, being the over-achieving, straight A, “good little church girl,” I always felt that I had to earn God’s love by performing well, doing the right things and basically trying to be perfect.  That was until at 15, I went on a weekend retreat and learned about God’s unconditional love for me, that He desired a relationship with me not because of how good I was, but because of His Son Jesus dying on a cross for the sin of the world, for my sin.  It was then that I accepted Jesus as my Lord and Savior.

Since that time, the tension of my Type A personality has still been something I have to work through, but God continues to lead me in releasing that to Him in exchange for just resting in His love.  He gave me a tangible example of His unconditional love in 2008 when I married the earthly love of my life, Tony.  My husband doted on me, delighted in me, romanced me extravagantly, regardless of my imperfections, regardless of whether I always did or said the right things, regardless of my performance.  He just loved me.  He just wanted to be in relationship with me.

I lost this earthly love very suddenly and very tragically in March of 2010.  My world turned upside down, my dreams were shattered, this unconditional love was no longer something I could hold in my arms.  It was then that I heard God whisper in the depths of my heart, “now it’s My turn to romance you, to pour out My unconditional love over you, to display how much I desire you and your heart, to delight in you, to just be with you.”  And in the darkness of my grief and pain, I have fallen more in love with Jesus than ever before.  I feel God loving me extravagantly, day by day, moment by moment, breath by breath.  Though the chapter of my beautiful love story with Tony has come to an unforeseen close, my love story with my Savior continues to be written.

So there you have it, the story of “Little Miss Perfect Princess” swept into the arms of the God of the Universe.  And regardless of what happens in this life, my story will always have a “happily ever after” in eternity with my Savior.

Dearly loved, in my love story,
Melissa