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,

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,

My Identity

This past September marks 3 years of when I hit my absolute rock-bottom in my grief journey. It took 6 months for the “bubble wrap protecting my brain” to fully unravel after Tony’s death. The pain was so intense. To be quite candid, I felt as if I had nothing, absolutely nothing in life to look forward to. I was surrounded by darkness so intense I could not see any glimmer of hope.

I had reached the depths of the depths.
Nothing and no one on this earth could pull me out.
I was in so deep, only Jesus could reach me.

And He did.
He has slowly pulled me out; He has set my feet on firm ground again; He has gently restored my heart and my life.
He continues to heal me.
He is amazing. Nothing is impossible for Him.

It’s hard to describe but for the last 3 and a half years, I’ve carried an underlying sadness. Even as I’ve moved forward and settled in to my new normal, it was still there. It haunted me; it caused me to falsely believe that this is how I’d feel for the rest of my life.

It was a different feeling than the reality that I’ll always miss Tony; that he’ll forever have a place in my heart. This sadness was more like a thief, slowly stealing my joy, distorting my view of the Truth.

I got to a place where I was just tired of feeling sad, of letting it defeat and deflate me. I sought wise counsel, and through a series of steps that God set in place, I faced those feelings head on.

3 months later, I can honestly say, the underlying sadness is gone.
It’s gone.

Sure, I’ll still have days when I’m sad; that’s normal. But sadness is no longer the lens through which I view all of life. Being a widow is no longer the lens I look through either.

Widowhood is a part of my story; it’s not my entire story.
It’s not my identity either.

Funny, my trip to Uganda, where I served alongside the most beautiful widows, affirmed this. Yes, I feel the Lord calling to continue to serve widows in some capacity. But it’s because of verse after verse in the Bible commanding His followers to care for the widow. My story just gives me leverage and a common experience.

I don’t have to be a widow to care for widows. I just want to give life and love to these most precious women; I want to give them something to look forward to too.


I’m more hopeful than ever before. I am expectant again that I do have things to look forward to, that my future is bright.

My identity is rooted and secure in Christ. He is my identity.

Dearly loved,

A Page is Turned…

“There comes a time when you must quit talking to God about the mountain in your life and start talking to the mountain about God.” – Mark Batterson, author of The Circle Maker

“Melissa, how are you these days?” That’s the most common question I’m getting recently. So much so that I thought I’d just make it the subject of my latest post.

This quote above sums it up so well. So very well.

I came across it this summer as I furiously read the book I quoted above. It’s timing was perfect.

I can honestly say… it’s a new day, a new season. A page has been turned in my story.

And the theme surrounding it’s fresh, new chapter is … freedom.
I have never felt more free in my entire life.
Only Jesus.

He’s orchestrated pivotal circumstances over the last 6 months that have led to this freedom. I am so in awe. I am so incredibly grateful. It brings tears to my eyes to just think about how faithful my great God is. He is IT for me. He is IT.

As I’ve written before, I’ve had many a conversation with my God as I drive down I-85 South from my parents’ house. I know the exact point when Stone Mountain is in clear sight. My drives over the last few months have been at either sunset or sunrise. The sky around the mountain is stunning. Just stunning.

Since passing the 3 year mark of Tony’s death this past March, I’ve noticed a shift in my words, my very attitude. I used to assume the role of victim to the mountain that was so instrumental in shattering my very life; I was quite honest in telling the Lord how I felt about it. Some days I wished an earthquake would just swallow it up.


Now I find myself in a posture of gratitude. I look at that mountain and can’t help but tell it about my God. My very personal, gentle, healer God, who has never once abandoned me on this very hard journey. My great God who continues to restore me and my very life.

I am redeemed.
I’ve been set free.
I am dearly loved by the Creator of the Universe.

I am overwhelmed by what He has done and will do in my life. That’s how I’m doing these days.

Dearly loved, talkin’ to that mountain,

3 Years Later…A Prayer From the Journey

Three years today. I never dreamed I would have made it this far on a journey of so much heartache and pain. My prayer below depicts the honest cries of my heart along this hard road. This was shared last fall as part of a sermon by my incredible boss and pastor, Billy. You can watch the entire message here.

“I can do all THIS through Christ who gives me strength.” ~ Phil. 4:13
Here I kneel beside my bed again, a place so empty without my Tony. I miss him. I miss us.
Tonight, my heart aches so much it physically hurts. I’ve never felt such heaviness in my soul. I’m desperate for you to relieve it, even just a little. Can you just sit with me a while and lift the pain?
The ironic thing is that day after day well-meaning folks keep telling me I’m so strong. I feel like a big imposter because the reality is I am not. I’m weak, Lord. I’m so weak. I’ve got nothing left, I’m barely hanging on.
So I beg you, Lord, please be my strength.
These same folks keep asking me what I’m going to do now, in the aftermath of my tragedy. My honest answer is “I don’t know.” My life is in shambles; my dreams are shattered. I’m still reeling from the question, “How could the entire trajectory of my life change in a matter of seconds?”
I can’t even think past these next few minutes, Lord, much less the days ahead. I’m overwhelmed by my circumstances. I’m so scared. I don’t want to face this tough road alone. I need you.
I need you to meet me in my fear. I need you to meet me just where I am. Though I don’t see the end of this journey or what is on the “other side” of my pain, I know you do. Give me courage. Be my courage.
And in this moment, as I fear another sleepless night, give me courage to just crawl into bed. Should I awake sobbing, be there to hold my hand, be as close as my next breath.
And for tomorrow, give me the grace to rise out of bed, put one foot in front of the other and just walk. Help me trust you to handle the rest. Help me to trust you to handle even the tiniest details of my day.
Thank you for being big enough to know my every need before I even ask. But thank you even more that you speak to me in the quietest, smallest whispers of your voice…”I am with you. I am for you. You are dearly loved, Melissa.”
Amen. Amen. Amen.
Dearly loved,