Thursday, February 28, 2013

6 months - weakness

I am humbling myself to try and write today.  I am broken, in constant physical, emotional, and mental pain, feeling barely conscious, so the waves of grief have once again washed over me with profound and powerful force...

I am two days shy of the 6 month mark.  The energy it takes for me to be even slightly aware of that fact has sapped me of strength once again.  It's amazing how I can think I've moved mountains in the last few months, but still seem back in the very same pit, the very same place, with the very same mountain of grief staring me in the face.  Every day, I conquer it, climb it, push myself up and over it or fight to believe in God's ability to carry me over, only to wake up the next morning and find it staring me in the face once again.  I want to scream at this mountain, GET OUT OF MY WAY!!!! Stop staring me in the face every morning of my life! But the truth is, I grieve because I love.  If there was no mountain of grief, there would be no love.  I grieve because I love Lynn, because he is worth grieving.  I am happier to grieve him than to pretend he didn't exist or that I don't still love him, or brush his death under a carpet, and move on to something else...

6 months... I can't handle it.  I can't cope with it.  I can't comprehend that reality... the one that logically tells me it has been 6 months since my husband was alive (on earth)... 6 months since I last saw his face, felt his touch, heard his voice...  How can it be?

I want to hear his laugh again, listen to his ridiculous rants on any particular subject, but especially politics.  I want to hear him shaking up trouble in the kitchen, dirtying every dish in the house to make up some new concoction he got into his head. I want to hear him break into a Pres Medders impression in a group of Baptists who have no idea what he's talking about and watch him not care the slightest bit.  I want to laugh/cringe when he embarrasses me in public by making all kinds of lewd remarks and dangerously approaches the VERY INAPPROPRIATE zone right in the middle of church (my line is pretty conservative, just so you know :)...) I want to walk the streets of Rehoboth and tease him for breaking out into his weird, cool kid, American strut while he starts carrying on in spanish, or with a latino or mexican female accent???  I want to hear him come bounding up the steps, jump on the bed while I'm reading, his smile taking over his whole face, his eyes gleaming with love and excitement, just to see me and tell me about his day...  I want to hear him at the piano, see him talking people's ears off, watch his gifts in action.  I want to see him break into laughter that sends his head down and to the side, a hand goes in front of the face, and his body contorts into this unique, delightful expression of hilarity and joyfulness... I want to know the world is going to be a better place, because Lynn is going to influence it.  To be an Erskine means "to do better than I have already done before"... Lynn Erskine would never have rested before his dying day, no matter how long or not long that would take to come, because every day was the best day of his life, and life was for living, and living was done with excellence.  It always meant being a better you today than you were yesterday.

6 months... It has been 6 months since I've had Lynn to come home to, or moved through my day anxiously waiting for him to come home to me... It has been 6 months since my girls had a father to love on them, to pick them up and throw them around, to read stories and discipline them with that firm but tender fatherly touch...

How do I live with this reality?  wrap my head around 6 months...?  And how can I face what logically follows? ...that another 6 months lies ahead, of being suffocatingly lonely without Lynn, listening to my children play-out Daddy's death, needing his smile, his encouragement, his life-giving energy, but coming up lacking, the black void of emptiness existing in his place? Where he once lived and breathed and loved, is where blackness now threatens to swallow me whole.  Every night I end the day alone, swallowing the monstrous weight in my throat that reminds me Lynn's not here.  He's not coming back.  I had to climb the mountain again today.  

My friend Tanya (a very beloved sister in Christ!) wrote to me about a time when Lynn climbed Mt. Katahdin with a group of friends, maybe Fall of 2005?, (Tanya being one of them).  She described him hiking up the mountain, yelling at it the whole way, You don't know me!! (Definitely said with his Mexican, female-ish attitude accent...)  I absolutely adore this memory of Lynn, though I wasn't there to see it with my own eyes... I want to do the same thing, yell at my mountain, You don't know me!! You think you're big and strong and intimidating, but you don't know me!  

But I also recognize how weak I am. I guess like anyone, I'd like to hide my weakness and only reveal my "inspiring" strength.  I would like to think I am strong.  But it is much more honest to be weak.  I want to be weak in the context of God's perfected strength.  His strength is made perfect in my weakness. (2 Cor 12:9) I want to rest in His ability to make change and power to bear on my life... (Graham Cook)

In the honesty of my weakness is where I find the strength to keep climbing. I am honored to bear my husband's name, to be an Erskine, and "do better than we have already done before."  I am even more honored to be a child of God, a co-inheriter with Christ, who left me a similar legacy, to do greater things than these... (Jn 14:12)

But It is Christ in me the hope of glory. (Col 1:27)  It is not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit says the Lord (Zech 4:6).

6 months... I cannot wrap my head around 6 months without Lynn, neither the 6 months past nor the 6 months coming.  I can't even wrap my head around waking up to face another day tomorrow.  But I can wrap my head the love of God, that whoever believes in Him will not perish, but have everlasting life. (John 3:16)  I can wrap my head around His faithfulness and blessed assurances...

So I will rest in this storm of catastrophic loss, once again.  I will bury my head against the onslaught of pounding wind and crushing waves.  I will rest in the sovereignty of God.  I will say to my mountain, You may know me, but you don't know my God.  With my God, all things are possible.  With my God, we always win.

And one day, I'll lift up my head, look up to the sky, and see the sun...

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Am I still breathing?

Lately, I have been unable to write.  Partly due to a deep depression.  Partly due to an overwhelming exhaustion.  Partly due to an inability to grasp anything going on inside my heart and mind...

I want to make life decisions, plan to list my house on the market, but wake up and realize that I don't see enough of the finished puzzle yet... Where am going?  What am I doing?  I had completely devastated myself by deciding that I would just get some anything part time job, pay bills, cook and clean, face the realities of single parenthood and life as a widow... Exhaustion was taking over and my spirit was very dull, my heart numb, the heaviness suffocating.

My friends, Dawn and Philip, came to my rescue and took the girls for some sleepovers. I started to warm up a little and thaw out... My heart began to bleed again and I was soft enough to hear God speaking to me... In my devotionals (I have three different ones I read/listen to on a regular basis) and in the encouragement of mentors, God's Word revived me, His hope began to fill me, and His strength prevailed in my weakness.

In my previous post, I wrote about a new life, what to lay hold of in the future...  But I didn't know who I was, what was left of me, what was left of life after my husband's death...  God had to confront me in my sorrow and show me that it is all still the same.  Everything is 100% different and 100% the same all at the same time.  I am still here, I don't know for how long, but I am still me, still called into full-time ministry, still a vessel for God's kingdom to come and His will to be done here on earth as it is in heaven.  I am still gifted and anointed in all the same ways, called to die to my flesh and live for Christ in all the same ministries as I was before.  Every word that God has ever spoken to me is still true...

For the first time, I feel I can stand firm, exist, breathe, in the context of a life that was filled with Lynn, was then filled with grief and Lynn's death, and know who I am.  I don't know everything.  I still don't know what I'm doing or where I am going, but I remember who I am and that God's call stands firm.

I picture myself standing in the midst of catastrophic loss, in the field of devastation I have written of before, the dusty and barren land leftover after the bomb struck and the shock wave traveled as far as the eye could see...  But instead of being the victim of loss, instead of the trauma of grief, being unable to see anything but my husband's death... I see my feet. I can feel them in my shoes, against the rough terrain of the path underneath... I can feel the muscles in my body coming to life again, recovering from the shock wave and sensing the awareness of their new surroundings... I can lift my head and look around, can see others in the distance, am aware of their need... I see the Church rising, worshippers being called, the saints being equipped... and I hear His voice calling...  I see the twinkle in His eye... Get ready, my daughter.  Your adventures have just begun.

I, Natasha Erskine, am coming to.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

A new life.

This morning I rose early, 6:00 am, my usual time (though I'm never REALLY awake before 9am), but this time, unaccompanied.  My early-riser, Alea, rested well this morning, sleeping soundly... I had some water with half a lemon, listened to my "pray-as-you-go" devotional (, did some light stretches, and brewed a cup of coffee.  Then I sat in my glider, a coffee in one hand, my Bible reading on Lynn's IPad in another, and rocked.

It is all so familiar still.  I can close my eyes and see him, every morning, usually in his running gear, sitting and rocking while it is still dark, a coffee in one hand, faithful to his Bible reading in another. I miss his morning ritual.  I miss his presence in our home.  I miss the man I lived for.

My walk toward healing does not lead me upward, as I'd foolishly expected.  I thought the Way everlasting, path of glory to glory, would rise steadily over the troubles of this world, like a brilliant staircase leading upwards toward heaven... Instead, it leads me lower, to new and deeper levels of brokenness and despair, not just to my knees, but flat on my face, virtually hopeless, abandoned, hurting, alone, and confused.

But this thing I know about the Lord, He has always been a God of paradoxes. The upward Way has always been a downward path.  Lose your life to find it. (Matt 10:39; 16:25) Blessed are the poor in spirit. (Matt 5:3) The humble will be lifted up. (James 4:6) In the lowliness of death is the promise of new life.  In the wretchedness of weakness is the promise of great strength.  In the suffering of loss is the wakening of thankfulness. And In the sorrow of brokenness lies the essence of true joy...

Last night, I read in my devotional, Come to Me and rest... I am teaching you a difficult lesson... regain my Presence...*

As I mourn the loss of my husband, I am mourning the loss of my life.  Every part of it is changing and/or gone. The chapter has closed. I know now I will likely move, leaving a blessed life and ministry behind.. Catastrophic loss has left my world unrecognizable, as though death not only stole my husband, but also looted my castle. When I look at my girls, I know we need not only a new normal... but a new life.  Before, we lived for Lynn (in the context of living for Christ).  What do we live for now?   

As I move forward and pursue whatever new life lies ahead...  I hear Jesus' words calling, Come to me... regain My Presence...  

What sort of things will I seek to lay hold of in this new life ahead?  Will I lay hold of a new house? new community? family? friends?  Will I lay hold of a new job? a new career? new schools? new rhythm?  Or in my loss, will I bow low and be lifted up?  Grieve to be comforted? Let go of my life forever to be found only in Him? Will I lay hold of my All in All, my Savior and friend, and come to know the power of His Presence, in all His glorious riches as I have never imagined possible?

Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in you, my Lord, I will be joyful in God my Saviour. (Hab 3:17-19, adapted by Beth Moore in Praying God's Word)

*Jesus Calling: Enjoying Peace In His Presence, by Sarah Young

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Grieving to glory.

I was recently asked the question, What part does grief play in God's plan?

That's a big question and one I couldn't claim to understand, but here are some thoughts around this issue...

Grief is a natural response to something evil, wrong, not of God and not ever good.  If we did not sin, if our world was not fallen, we would not die and we would not grieve.  In grief, we acknowledge the fallenness of humanity, the role evil plays in our everyday lives. It awakens within us the cry that says, This is wrong!  This wasn't supposed to happen!  Things are not as they are supposed to be!

It reminds me of Hebrews 2:5f - ...You crowned [humanity] with glory and honour and put everything under his/her feet.  In putting everything under him/her, God left nothing that is not subject to him/her.  But now we do not see all things in subjection to him/her... But we see Jesus.

The Christian is given all authority in Christ to loose what is loosed in heaven and to bind what is bound in heaven.  We are given the promise of eternal life, an indwelling Spirit of the living God, the same Spirit that raised Christ from the dead...

But... now we do not see all things in subjection to him.  The fulfilment of all we are promised in Christ is not fully matured... not yet complete.

Greif happens when we face an evil that isn't what it ought to be... We are not supposed to be sexually abused.  We are not supposed to watch loved ones get sick and die, or starve of hunger and disease.  We are not supposed to conceive children that will never grace this world with their smile or touch us with their gift of life... We stand in the light of God's promises and say...Everything is not made right!  I do not see all things in subjection under my feet!  I do not have the power to save my child's life, to end civil war, to stop a miscarriage, to bring my husband back to life.

So, we grieve.  Grieving is right and good.  It does not accept the evil in this world as okay, acceptable, just the way things are.  The hope of eternal life burning inside me cries out in anger and bitter tears that evil still roams and reigns in this world of death.  That separation from God and loved ones exists.  This is the fellowship of Jesus' sufferings.  This is why Jesus looked over Jerusalem and wept, longing to embrace the city as a mother hen would wrap her wings around her young...

There is room in my faith for grief.  There is a righteous place for sackloth and ashes.  If we have the mind of Christ and his indwelling Spirit within us, than how dare we look around the world and not grieve!  How dare we not fall to our knees and weep!  Because things are not as He would have them to be!  

Too often we blame God for our broken world, instead of recognizing His grief due to our sin that caused such brokenness and shame in the first place.

God grieves. Jesus wept. And so do I.  But it is not in vain, because the promise burns within me... That one day, every knee will bow and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father!!!

Grieve, dear one.  Whatever wrong has been done to you, wherever evil has reigned in your life... grieve.  But do it "unto the Lord", in righteousness and faith, positioned towards glory, feet planted on the Way everlasting, rooted and grounded in the word of God.  Only God can lead us through our griefs to a place of healing and joy.  Only God can restore our souls.  Only God can mature our faith and lead us from glory to glory, to the fulfilment of His great plan... eternal life, the fullness of our salvation in Him.  All things will one day be made right, and the goodness of God will be the light and warmth that dances across our face, as we hold hands with our loved ones, rejoicing as one, our cups running over, bubbling over in joyfulness, as we lay our crowns at His feet in wondrous worship...

Grieve, my sisters and brothers in the faith.  Grieve unto glory.

Saturday, February 2, 2013

5 months.

5 months today...  Why does it effect me like it does?  Does another month gone by make any real difference?  Does it change anything that's happened?  Make things better or worse?  Is it any easier to lay in bed and look over on my side, trying my hardest to envision him, to will him back to life, but see the emptiness there? To know, even still, and for the rest of my life, he's gone?

What is time that it should take me further and further from the man I love, who loved me, from the family we were, from the memories we made?

Do all wounds heal with time, as people often say?  Can time erase what was and what can never be?  Can it change the mind and heart so that it will one day be okay?  Okay that my husband died so young? was taken by death like a stealth in the night? swept out of our lives, out of our home? taken to a place beyond our grasp? outside the realm of what we can reach?

It's just another month gone by... Another month with the sting of neverness and void, the cruelty of a life that continues to move, torturing me with the mystery of time....  

Is death made easier by the promise of time? That, yes, we shall see him again someday!?  Does the promise of time bring peace to my heart, gladness to my life, joy to my soul?  Perhaps, but no.  It's a cruel trick.  He's alive, yes, my other half.  There's a oneness, still, yes it lingers still.  But it is beyond my grasp, further than my reach, outside my world, yet closer still... Alive, but behind the veil.

And the empty gap seems to generate unwanted energy, a cold, burning pressure called neverness...

Lynn, can I see you now?  Do you see me?  People tell me that you do.  People say, "He's still here."  In some ways I think it's true.  In some ways I know you're there, praying for me and for the girls...  But you're gone.  You've left this realm of time, time that enslaves me still.  You are unreachable to me, just beyond where I can grasp.

I look down at my wedding rings.  How long will I wear them?  How long, when I know it's over and he's gone?  How long when they torture me with all they represent?  ...neverness, all that was and is not, all that can never be.

Time - It won't stop; it keeps on going, unforgiving, unrelenting.  The gears and brakes are gone...  Farther back and farther yet, back into the dimming past.  The gap begins to gape... Must we all be swept forever on, away, beyond, beauty lost, and love, sorrow hard on sorrow, until the measure of our losses has been filled?*

Just another month.  Another month of neverness.

*Lament for a Son, by Nicholas Woltertorff