Saturday, September 27, 2014

The best is yet to come.

It is hard to believe that this season is coming to a close. I have made vulnerable the journey of tremendous grief, my ups and my downs... You have watched me make mistakes, and then in Christ experience beautiful victories and glorious riches.

There is a lot I didn't get to write, didn't get to share, but time has brought me to this point, where I am changing position from widow to wife, from bereaved to beloved, from broken to being restored...

I am richly blessed, though a sea of grief and pain still washes over the base of my soul, and life everlasting continues to flow, overtaking me slowly but surely, making all things new...

How does one walk into a completely different life than they had once known and loved?

I count all things as loss, and I lay hold of Christ, who is my rock and my fortress, a sure foundation, my stronghold and everlasting God.

I know I am entering a new beginning... I know I am being restored... I know I am blessed and cared for by Almighty God.

My dearest Brent, I cannot wait to marry you in two weeks from today. It will be the beginning of another grand adventure. The best is yet to come...

Please note: This is the end of my journey as recorded on this blog. After the wedding, I will start something new, for a new season and a new life...

Monday, September 8, 2014

Ten Thousand Reasons

The music began as the congregation stood to their feet. The familiar tune rang in my ears and in my spirit. I thought, of course. Of course, this song. Today. 

I pulled myself up somewhat awkwardly, holding the wooden pew in front of me, seated in the second row on the left, with no one to separate or hide or hinder me from seeing and experiencing the full proclamation of this song...

The girls moved and shifted to my left, and I turned mechanically to tend to them, but Brent had already seen to it and they gladly climbed up into his arms. Brent is here. My heart tightened in my chest. It was our one Sunday in July when Brent was able to be with us on PEI, see our church, and meet our family and friends on the island. My heart churned within me as we explored what would maybe become... our new family.

The sounds swelled in the large room with high ceilings. I closed my eyes. Bless the Lord, Oh my soul! Oh my soul! Worship His holy name... 

The memories danced in my spirit, of Lynn leading the worship team in Truro, teaching them this song, seeing how it became a part of our congregational voice of praise, declaring Bless the Lord... Sing like never before, Oh my soul! I'll worship his holy name!

Then images of darkness beckoned me to the place of Lynn's funeral, where I had stood broken and bereaved, having created a funeral service of worship that would bless God and honor Lynn's heart of praise, and yet there having to stand and sing before the coffin of his dead body... Even there, we sang, with tears streaming down our faces, Whatever may pass, and whatever lies before me, Let me be singing when the evening comes...

As grief overtook my life, day after day became weighted down with fears, concerns, unbearable emptiness, loneliness, and exhaustion. Still, everywhere I went, I would hear this song and in bitter agony wonder, Why on earth did I choose a popular worship chorus to be sung at my husband's funeral!?!?! But of course, I knew the answer. It was very intentional. A constant reminder of my good and great God, who was and is and always will be worthy of my praise and utmost devotion...  I knew He was with me. I listened as His word spoke to my heart. And in grace, by faith, I trusted in Him fully, that He would move heaven and earth to accomplish his purposes, for his glory, and come to my rescue.

For all Your goodness I will keep on singing, Ten thousand reasons for my heart to find!

There, in that service, and others since that day, I have stood mesmerized by the grace and goodness of the Almighty God, Holy Spirit, and Jesus my Saviour. My God who is three and one.  That he had been present in the praises of His people when Lynn and I worshipped and led... That he had been present with extravagant grace in the praises of a broken widow, a single mom, not knowing how to make everything work out right... That He had been present in the making of a new way, a new life, a new family, bringing about a new thing, making streams of water to flow in the desert, and waters to run in the wilderness (Is 43).

Sweet children of God, to exalt the King of Kings, no matter the circumstance, beckons his glory. For a child to put his/her trust in the goodness of Father God, despite death, or evil, or pain, or wickedness... this summons the supernatural provision of a fiercely loving God who longs for opportunities to reveal His heart! He cannot help Himself, but show up in an atmosphere of extravagant praise, with extravagant grace and divine glory.

Did I not say that if you believe me, you will see the glory of God? John 11:40   

Oh God, your grace envelops me. Your Presence has never left me. Your goodness has captivated my heart, and I will never bow down to any other God but You.

And on that day when my strength is failing
The end draws near and my time has come
Still my soul will sing Your praise unending
Ten thousand years and then forevermore , *Matt Redman

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Two years.

My thoughts are too numerous to list these days. SOOOO much change overlapping SOOOO much memory... 
Leaving my island, embarking on a grand new adventure...
In a one-week-turn-around, we listed our home on PEI, packed up the essentials, and "moved" to Sussex, NB to be there for the beginning of the school year.
We had our super fun annual family camping trip at Mactaquac Provincial Park

Alea conquering the KU annual slip and slide
We arrived Sunday night, the 31st, to officially start moving in (meaning officially kicking Brent out...) and joining the KU family, made up of many old and new friends.

Roya was quite excited to join Esther Maskery (and others) on the annual slip and slide, but Alea would not budge without Mama! So, despite the terrible traction of wearing jeans, we did it!!

The KU annual slip and slide holds another memory when Lynn (as he later shared) had first made note of his interest in me. He was acting student council president at the time, a junior, and I was a new freshman. I often heard him tell the story of when he watched me and Sasha (Blaikie) Labonte go down with such grace and poise :) 

There wasn't quite as much poise this time... But maybe a little grace?? And this time, we were followed by "Daddy Brent" and Nathan Maskery running and sliding, competing to get the most epic air time over the bump...

Roya's first day of Grade 1 at Sussex Christian School!!
Alea's first day of Kindergarten at Sussex Christian School!!
Roya and Alea started school today at SCS! They have expertly maneuvered these last few weeks of change, moving, camping, taking in university life!! They are so beautiful and ready to thrive :) I am so proud of them!

Brent came to pick us up for the official first day of school drop off :) He was an expert Daddy, and the girls are completely comfortable and secure in his presence. We went upstairs afterward to pay and sign paperwork. Brent signed as father in all the appropriate places...

1st KU chapel service kicking off Fall 2014
After dropping off the girls, it was time for the Fall kick off KU chapel service! I tried to stay in the back and take it all in, but I couldn't quite contain the emotions of the day...

Lynn died on September 2, 2012, two years ago today. And here I am. Back in this place, where we met, dated, where he proposed, where we first lived and served as a married couple... Here is where we were nurtured together in the word and in fellowship, preparing for a lifetime of surrender and service to God, and to the body of Christ...

Lynn and I sat in on early planning meetings for the design of this chapel building, and in less than 40 days, I will be getting married here in this very room.

There are so many of the staff and faculty here who love and care for us, who have known me since I had first arrived on campus in 2001. But there are new friends as well. My neighbour, Angie, came to walk to chapel with me, keeping me company on an emotional day... Her husband Dave approached as I was seated, and without even saying hello, put his arm around me and spoke a powerful prayer of grace and glory over this day.

Oliver Locke is here :) Mairi MacPherson is here :) and others who knew and loved Lynn as we served together in Truro.

And here I am... all worlds crashing together into one... With a man of God who loves and cares for us well. A new family being born.

So many incredible blessings, and yet each echoed by a cry of loss.

My brain is mush today, while my mind stubbornly exhausts its effort to untangle the great mysteries of life which are impossible to grasp...

Time moves forward. Seasons change. Life changes forever... All things are counted loss (Phil 3:7) and yet some things are never lost... 

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

A tribute to my daughters.

I sat outside on my front porch, hot ginger tea in hand, with a thick blanket around my legs... Watching the water, the sun going down. Waiting for the car to arrive... I LOVE this season when the air gets a little cooler, the sun is still warm on our faces, but we need to wrap up a little tighter in a cozy sweater and a warm blanket for the evening. :)

Finally, Mom and Dad come around the corner and turn the car into the driveway, with two tired fussy girls crying out from the backseat... Mommy! Mommy!

Oh, my daughters!!! After a week apart, (while they were in Moncton at VBS and staying with Aunt Melissa), nothing could keep me from celebrating these little hands wrapped around my neck and shoulders, both little bums sitting up on either hip and in my arms, their sweet high-pitched voices pouring out all their earthly woes (as life is so terribly difficult for a spoiled 4-year old...) :)

It was only last week that I worried I might throw them out a window and lock all the doors, so incredibly weary I was of all the fighting, and the wining, the messes, the disobedience, etc, etc :) But all I need is a couple days to unwind and be ready to go again... This was longer than I had intended... I am so accustomed to having them with me!

My mothers heart is overflowing with emotion as we pack up to leave this island home. This is a place of great nostalgia for me, the place of my own childhood paradise, where as cousins we played on the farm from morning till night, enjoying the beaches, the hay bails, the animals, each other... 

But even more than that... This is a place where I bonded with these little munchkins in a deep and profound way. Where we learned how to live and function as a family unit of three... Three grieving women. Emotional. Dramatic. Intelligent. Princess warriors... Each unique, and yet secure in our bond as one. 

These girls of mine have seen me fall completely apart, dissolve into uncontrollable sobs. They have seen me weep and grieve, unable to get out of bed. They have witnessed the torrents of stress and pressure come pounding on my head so that I fall to my knees and break out into screams of pain and agony. AND, we've had "fights" where all three of us end up losing it, stomping off to our bedrooms, and all three of us slamming the bedroom door. :) Yup, it's true. If you can't beat 'em. Join 'em :) (That's not actual wisdom, by the way... Just a sorry excuse for my very bad, childish behaviour!)

They have cried and been scared. They have taken advantage of my grief at times, and played into it to get their own way. And they have also comforted me. Even taken care of me at times. Alea loved to play the caring doctor while I was resting in bed. She would come in about every 30 seconds with a new concoction of play dough medicine, take my temperature, check my heart beat... And just last week, Roya being the grown-up that she is, said in a calm and kind voice, "Momma? I think Alea understands how hard this has been for you. Do you think that maybe you need to take a time out? Maybe, when we get to Aunt Melissa's, she'll let you take one?"

We have had countless snuggle times. No matter how good or bad the day had been, we leaned on each other, shared a Bible story before bed, tried to pray together but it didn't always go well... We sometimes built (we as in Roya...) nests in the living room where we would crawl into mounds of pillows and cushions, gathered from all over the house, to snuggle and read stories, or watch a movie... And our personal favourite is the rare occasion when we get in our jammies, crawl into the car, and drive to the beach for Bible Story and hot chocolate by the water. 

Sunday evening, I brought the girls to Camp Seggie, the Baptist Campground right around the corner from us, and registered them for Day Camp. They've only been home a day, I thought, I'm sure they'll want to sleep in their own beds for a few days before the move, and have some mommy-time. Oh no. No day camp for my girls. One look at those cabins and they were staying put. Mommy, it's a REAL camp!! It's my FIRST time!!!! Of course I didn't want to admit it, but right now I'm so emotional about this move, that everything in me wanted to get down on my knees and beg them to come home with me! :) I didn't want to be alone for another night. And I wanted time with THEM! These were our last few days to be together on the island... To be three... And I felt such a sadness to say goodbye to those bittersweet days of bonding together, such a longing to be near them... 

But, of course, I was also thrilled for them, am SO glad they're growing and secure enough to enjoy times without me, and went back in to pay more at the registration desk. I drove the 30 seconds home to get their sleeping bags, pillows, blankies, clothes and such, and yes, even the oversized pink stuffed unicorn that goes with Roya wherever she goes... :) Went back to get their beds all set up while they were out playing a game. 

My girls are growing up. They are both starting school. And they are soon going to have a new daddy. This of course is amazingly and miraculously wonderful. And yet, just in this moment, in these few days actually, I am so sad. I am so sad to say goodbye to this season of being three. As Brent put it, we've basically lived a life of girly sleepovers every night...! I feel privileged and honored to have had this time with them, in all its darkness and woe. Not all (North American) mothers get to witness their babies blossom and grow in the context of grief and adversity... 

I cherish these girls. I have never felt the urge to cling to them as I do now. Knowing that life will never be the same and in some ways, I am losing them forever... But I will not grab hold. They are the Lord's. They must learn and grow and blossom. They must embrace a new life with a new daddy. They must discover all that they are and can be in the Lord. 

I will let go, and I will cherish my memories with them here :)

As I have prayed over them each night... (in various paraphrases) God may you bless and keep these treasures of mine! Make your face to shine upon them, aglow with the light and warmth of your perfect love! Be gracious to them, Father, and kind. Turn your face toward them, looking on them with favor and mercy... And speak peace to their hearts. Lead them in your salvation, help them find the way of peace...

In Jesus name, Amen. 

Saying goodbye and hello.

Everything in me wants to go numb. Too much too fast!! say my heart and mind. And yet there's peace... Peace that passes understanding. 

He set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand. Psalm 40:2

The plans have changed so many times, as we've pondered how to do this transition with the girls, school, and the busy schedule... We had finally settled on everything staying the same until the wedding, me and the girls on PEI, starting school here, not listing the house yet, and then moving over to Brent's house after the wedding. But then just last weekend, feeling led by the Holy Spirit, we re-evaluated the plan again, wanting what's best for the girls, (also aware of my almost instant depression as soon as I am back on the island by myself), and felt the Lord reveal another option we hadn't yet considered..

Now, within a few days, I have listed the house, had a showing the next afternoon, and am packing up the necessities to move over to Sussex for the girls to start school right away on the 2nd.

Which, by the way, is the 2nd anniversary of Lynn's death.

I am overwhelmed by this quick change of seasons... ON the very (2nd) anniversary of Lynn's death, we say goodbye to our season of quiet and isolation, we say goodbye to our season of grieving by the ocean, we say goodbye to our island, to our precious friends and family here, we say goodbye to our season of being three, being "the girls", bonding as we live and love in grief and without an earthly husband/father... a bitter time, but with sweet melodies of grace and provision and intense moments of love and bonding as we leaned on each other through tremendous struggle...

And ON that very anniversary, we say hello to everything NEW. We say hello to a new location, a new home, a new school, a new church family, new (and old!) Kingswood family, new (and old!) friends... We say hello to a new ministry, a new life, a new way of living and being in the world, a new partner... We say hello to a new husband and a new father... We learn how to function as a unit while being in actual close proximity to one another... (Something that may be very humorous to watch, indeed!) We learn how to once again function as four, no longer three, but four... a different four.

I have come to view my time on PEI as my chrysalis. It was like crawling into a cocoon, entering a season of dark isolation and painful metamorphosis. I went in one way, and lo and behold... I am coming out the same being, and yet somehow, entirely different.

I have been afraid. Afraid and anxious. Both afraid of stepping out and embracing a new life, while also anxious to get going... To explore it for all its possibilities!

He set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand. Psalm 40:2

If it were not for the rock of Jesus Christ in my life, my house would never have stayed standing through the stormy weathers of grief and pain since Lynn's death. I would never be still standing and ready to start walking forward again...

In my own strength, I do not feel the capacity to trust. I do not feel the capacity to endure more pain, to move and adjust throughout change. I do not feel the capacity to pour out and serve others sacrificially. I do not feel the capacity to heal, to be restored, to walk into something new... I do not feel the capacity to love and live beyond myself...

BUT, I am in Christ :) Which means, that I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. He is my Rock. The very same Spirit that raised Christ from the dead is alive in me also! I am in Christ, which means, that all things are possible! It means that I will trust. It means that I will endure more pain and move through change. It means that I will and do have the capacity to pour out, to serve others, to love others well, to heal and be restored, and to be a minister of God's healing and restoration for others... Because he has set my feet on a rock, and given me a firm place to stand, I am able to stand firm, to live and love well, and to see God glorified.

2 Corinthians 4:7-12
But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair;persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. 10 We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body. 11 For we who are alive are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that his life may also be revealed in our mortal body. 12 So then, death is at work in us, but life is at work in you.

Friday, August 15, 2014

Shifting seasons.

Good morning, Lord. There is nothing more important to me than being able to hear your voice. I sit in the quiet of the early morning, with rain drops falling and making melody on the earth...

In this season of sweet engagement, there is a great "shift" happening within me. It is the closing of an old chapter and the birth of something new. 

And yet, this something new, has been brewing inside of me since my teenage years. Not so new at all. God has been sovereignly preparing me for all these life events that I could not have known or planned. But with it, still comes a loss that is most significant. Embracing something new requires a letting go of something old...

With every gain, there is loss. With every loss, somewhere, there will be great gain!!

Subtle nuances of loss are experienced in the underneath of all of the beautiful gains... Receiving new wedding rings requires a putting away and storing of the old ones. To tell a new story and embrace a new relationship requires a filing away of the past stories and relationship, to be brought out at times, but mostly stored. To embrace a new man with a new call and new (extraordinary) giftings requires a letting go of an old united mission under a different covering of call and ministry.   

For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it. (Matthew 16:25)

In all honestly, I have found it so difficult, (though less and less so...), to openly celebrate the incredible gains I receive in the gift of Brent. Though, I am increasingly aware of how divinely hand-picked this man was for me and I for him and what an unsurpassable gift we are to one another. (And I will continue t write about it, more and more in the days to come!) It still feels inwardly wrong for me to rejoice in something new... As though it means that I no longer cherish the something old...  I still long to uphold the memory of what was lost, of who was lost... While also letting go and moving forward and receiving this great unfathomable gift...

I see this same struggle in Roya. She truly loves Brent and is so happy to have him as a new daddy, but doesn't quite know what that makes of her old daddy in this situation... She wrestles through the letting go and embracing just as I have, wanting to hold to on to the daddy that she loves so much and never intended to live without... but also desiring and loving the new...

A few days after we returned from our trip to North Carolina, I found this letter in Roya's bedroom: 

(In case you can't translate 6 year old spelling, Dear Daddy, I miss you and I hope you come back.)

Someone wisely mentioned that it's like a parent is getting ready to birth her second child... She often wonders, How could I possibly love this child as much as I love my first child? I love my first child wholly and completely. How will I have enough love to love the second in the same way?? Quickly, every parent learns that their love knows no bounds when it comes to their children. It multiplies and grows to a capacity far greater than what they knew they were capable of! 

In a similar way, we find this struggle... How can we fully and completely love a new husband/daddy without taking away from the love we shared with the first one? Do we have enough love to embrace our beloved Daddy Brent, while still fully and completely loving our beloved Daddy Lynn?  And is it okay to love them both? Are we somehow dishonoring one by loving the other?

These are all subtle questions, asked in the underneath... Not truly dampening our obvious joy, but quietly present as we shift...

Only a very strong and secure man of God could allow me and the girls the freedom to love and grieve Lynn fully and openly, while still offering himself fully and trusting in God's plan...

Brent is a already an amazing covering over us of blessing and spiritual leadership, hope and encouragement, freedom and releasing... I saw in him that first moment of meeting an unparalleled heart after God's own heart. It was like seeing a place of refuge and healing and freedom for my family. I have yearned to be with him, and rest under that covering, since that day. I can hardly wait to enjoy that gift and spend my life giving and serving and pouring out for the purposes of God's kingdom alongside this man I deeply love and trust. 

The good news is, that in Christ, in his great sovereign mystery, what we gain will always outweigh the cost of what has been lost. 

Through this season of "shift", in the very busy days ahead, I am leaning into God's voice. As oceans move beneath my feet and seasons change and the world turns a different color and it speaks to me a new language of living and being... While Alea bounces up and down asking again and again why we're engaged but not married yet, and while Roya slowly processes and grieves and learns to navigate her own shifting season... While I scramble through the busyness of these August weeks, house stuff, school stuff, family stuff, my brother Joel's wedding tomorrow!!! :) AND, throw an amazing wedding celebration together in now less than two months!!!!!!! :) I hold steady and secure in the secret place of His love, in the stillness of his voice and the fullness of redemption he offers to those who would see him and know that He is God...

All authority is found in the still small voice of the Most High God, who happens to be our dearest and closest friend. No matter what may come, no matter the loss, we rest assured in the security of His goodness and majestic sovereignty. 

He also brought me up out of a horrible pit, Out of the miry clay, And set my feet upon a rockAnd established my steps. (Psalm 40:2)

Abide in my love, daughter. Hear my voice. I am your Good Shepherd. You will never be left wanting. Come into my Presence and find pasture here. I am with you. 

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Such a mystery!

I find that I am speechless.

Presently, I am home after a long and radical July... I am miserably sick with a useless head cold. There are fleas in my house that my cousins keep trying to help me get rid of. I am terribly annoyed at myself for allowing these creatures into my home! We are all tired and somewhat out of sorts...

Still, there is no mistaking the ring on my finger... I am engaged. I am engaged?? I am engaged!!! :) Not just engaged to anyone, but to Brent. A man with a heart after God's own heart, that I trust impeccably to lead and love our family well, and will be delighted to serve in ministry alongside...

God is a mysterious being. Through one lens, I look back on the last two years and see a horrific nightmare. Through another lens, I look back and see an unfolding of miracle after miracle and the evidence of all things good.

When Lynn died, in those early moments at the hospital, in which time stood still... my human mind and heart were in shock. But my spirit was so alive and active! I saw Lynn dancing in the heavenlies. I had such a profound peace and inspired knowledge that all was well. God spoke so clearly to me that His timing was perfect. HE was not in shock. HE has been fully prepared and aware of what was coming. And HE had prepared me and was equipping me with everything I needed for the journey... He has led me each and every step of the way. He spoke and I obeyed.

Keep up with me, He said, Keep in step with my Spirit. Grieve now, but it will not be for long. You are needed for the harvest. I am bringing someone to you. You are still called and belong to Me. Heed my voice. Keep in step. And I will take care of the rest. 

I wrestled with financial pressures. I knew I had not been released from a call into ministry, but also saw the practical truth in needing a workable career for a single parent home. Many times I spoke very firmly to the Lord, I AM PUTTING ALL MY EGGS IN ONE BASKET, SO YOU BETTER COME THROUGH!

And did He? Did my God forsake me? or lead me astray? Did He abandon me to my own efforts or let me wallow in my own sorrow?

My God has been completely faithful, in every imaginable way. And I exalt Him as the One true God, who reigns in heaven, on the earth, and under the earth. He has absolute sovereign authority. He is not asleep, or without power. He is not unloving or uncaring towards those who suffer. He did not kill my husband or cause sin and suffering...

There is great mystery in the details of my life. My human mind cannot contain it.

I know only this: that I am blessed beyond measure. That I rejoice with some strange awareness of Lynn's freedom and happiness. That God knew all along about Lynn's lifespan on this earth. That God knew all along about Brent. And mysteriously, for many years, God has been preparing me for a life of ministry, much of which will be realized not with Lynn, but with Brent...

It is an awesome mystery.

And I am awesomely privileged to take part in that great mystery. To have loved and been faithful to a great man of God, whom I continue to love and appreciate more and more... And still to have the opportunity to embrace all things new. To embrace a new life with another great man of God, whom God stood before me as a pillar of strength and a model of redemption...

I am honoured.  I am privileged. Such a mystery.