Thursday, May 30, 2013

Lift up your head...

Lynn used to have dreams.  Many years ago, he had a dream that took place in a wide field, with a vast night sky as the backdrop. As Lynn admired the scenery, the glistening stars, he saw Him. Jesus. He could see him coming, closer and closer... With each step he drew near, embracing all who came into His path. He brought them into his embrace, consuming them with His perfect love and divine grace.  Lynn ached for Him...his heart soared and burned.  He was locked on Christ, who moved forward, one step at a time. When will it be my turn? He thought. Then it came. Jesus approached, his eyes and his smile radiant with love, brighter than all the stars of the heavens combined. Lynn felt His nearness and trembled as his arms came around in an all consuming embrace.  Lynn was swept up in God's love and was received unto glory...

A canvas image of this vision was created by my friend, Shannon Skafte, painted during Lynn's funeral service, his celebration of life.  The painting now hangs over my bed in my new home. In the top right hand corner, she wrote the beginning of one of Lynn's favorite Bible verses, Psalm 121:1, I lift up my eyes...

This verse didn't mean much to me before, other than its obvious truth and poetic beauty.  Lately, I've been looking at it wondering, What does that verse say to me?  Why that verse, God?

In the service with Priscilla Reid I wrote about last week, she spoke out a prophetic word to a woman in the congregation. I thought it was taken out of (or adapted from) 1 Peter 5:8-9, but now I'm not sure... She said, Lift up your head!  God wants you to gain perspective!  We can get so caught up in the struggles we are facing and need the Holy Spirit to lift up our heads and see a bigger picture...

Writers say that grievers are constantly searching for meaning to attach to the death of their loved one...  They are psychologically scrolling through every event in past, present, and whatever we might project onto the future, desperately searching for meaning in the midst of death.  What can this mean?  What purpose can come from this?  How can this make sense in my life? The bills roll in. Children wake up every morning ready to play. The demands of life are endless.  Still, the psyche is relentless... How do I find meaning in this?  How do I make sense of this?

The rhythm of life is intense.  For the griever, it can feel like harsh blows and biting winds.  How will I survive?  How will I make it? How do I keep going? How does anything in my life make sense? These questions plague me every minute of every day.

Lift up your head... Lift up your eyes... From where comes my help?  My help comes form the Lord...

Lynn understood this better than me.  He had a way of faith about him.  He had a strong and secure trust that seemed almost unshakeable. But I waver under the pressures of everyday life... How will we make it?  How will I accomplish what I need to accomplish today? How will I raise my children on my own?  How will I succeed in the financial/business part of caring for my family?  I have visions and plans and sweet whispers from the Holy Spirit about my tomorrow, but on days when I cannot fathom getting up out of bed (every day), and Alea comes bounding into my room ready for a marathon (every day), and I still cannot seem to do all that needs done (every day), and I still lose it emotionally and scare my children when I'm buckling under the pressure (...frequently)...  I need the word, Lift up your head!  

I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end.  I am that I am!!!  I am for you.  I am with you.  I am around you.  I am IN you.  Greater is He that is in you than he that is in the world!!  

How glad I am that all the great heroes of the faith have faltered, have wavered in their faith at some time.  They all had to bow down and look up...

Bowing down and looking up is hard work.  Grieving is hard work.  Life is hard work.  Parenting is hard work.  Resting and healing are hard work.  Therefore, let us be diligent to enter that rest... (Heb 4:11)

But He gives greater grace.  Therefore it says 'God opposes the proud, but He gives grace to the humble.' (James 4:6)

I WILL LIFT UP MY HEAD!  FROM WHERE COMES MY HELP?  MY HELP COMES FROM THE LORD!  THE MAKER OF HEAVEN AND EARTH!  He holds my beginning and my end and all that is in between.  He stands with me.  I can do ALL things through Christ who strengthens me!  The same Spirit that raised Christ from the dead lives in me also, and His word is alive and active... 

Go ahead God!!  You send us out into the realm of impossibility so that you can work mighty works here in earth in the lives of men and women to the glory of God the Father!  I DON'T KNOW WHAT ON EARTH YOU ARE DOING!?!?!?!?! But Lead me in the Way everlasting!  Bring your kingdom to come and your will to be done here on earth as it is in heaven.  

What is God doing in your life?  Lift up your head... and perhaps you will get a glimpse of glory.

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Happy birthday?

How do we celebrate someone's life after they've died?  Do we rejoice?  Be happy that they lived? Or mourn? Be sad that they died?  It's a birthday, and yet they've died...  Lynn is not 32 today, though he does live.  He is no longer bound to this temporal age, he is an eternal being... So how do we celebrate?  What expressions of love are worthy and meaningful?

I have struggled with this one.  I don't know how to feel.  I rejoice and I mourn!  All mingled in one big complicated mess.

This is Lynn on his fourth birthday.  Cyndi, my mother-in-law, Grandma Bennett as she's known around here, went searching for this photo, found it, and sent me a copy.  For over a month she was haunted by this image, reliving Lynn's fourth birthday, remembering the events of that day... That too was a Sunday birthday, a picnic in their backyard, he wore red sunglasses matching his new outfit, as modelled in the photo :)  and his smile... (Is it just me?  Or is that my Roya in there smiling back at me??)

The girls remember last year's birthday with Daddy, his 31st, and his last.  We spent all day preparing, spent way too much money to buy him special gifts!!, (not something we always did! He hated a big fuss on his birthday! Not to mention, he tended to spend enough money on his own!!). He wore his crown so proudly that weekend :)  We often called him our king.  God is the King of Kings, but Daddy is our king.  My girls loved to honor him, climb up in his lap, adorn him with their childlike love and adoration...

What are birthdays like in heaven? There is no time, no aging... How could there be a birthday?  If there was a day to celebrate would it not be the day of his death?  The day he was glorified and welcomed home?  So what is this day today?  What does it mean now in light of all that's happened?

Today we remember Lynn, we thank God for his life, that he was born and lived among us, and we mourn the loss of him in our lives here on earth...  Some things just don't make sense.  We do our best to trust.  We do our best to keep living... We watched videos of Lynn and laughed our heads off.  Alea would ask Did Daddy die in this one?  She was trying to understand how everything could seem so normal in the video, but Daddy was alive then and is not now... Roya was desperate to see his ashes again... Then, they got upset...

You probably can't tell from the picture, but the girls and I did make it to the beach this morning to write Happy Birthday, Daddy with rocks in the sand... We didn't make it all the way to the end of the letters, though.  The tide was coming in fast, it was cold and windy, and Alea had to pee...  My cousin Janel did sneak up on us to get a few pictures. We may see those later...

We were going to make a cake and enjoy some treats, but it didn't happen.  After a while we popped over to visit some family and the girls had a great time playing with their cousins while I did not much of anything...

I think I'm pretty numb.  At the end of the day, I'm still wondering... How do I celebrate the life of my husband in the shadow of his death?  What meaning does today hold when there is no more aging to be had? What good is a celebration when I can't lean forward and give him a kiss? tell him how much I love him? snuggle into his warmth and give him a good head rub? 

Birthdays after death seem like a crude awareness to how life moves on, when death has a way of standing still.

Saturday, May 25, 2013

In grace, I sat.

Last night, I attended a service as part of an annual conference called Revival in Belfast.  Robin Mark, a well-known worship leader, and the pastoral team from his church, Paul and Priscilla Reid, travel from Belfast, Ireland to minister in rural Belfast, PEI.  They are fantastic, full of God, and humble shepherds of the Body of Christ.

We packed into this quaint, old-fashioned, country church complete with narrow pews, a wooden balcony (around three of the four walls in the sanctuary), and stain glass windows shimmering above the platform...  I sat with Chuck and Jan McGuire on my left, my aunt Susanne and Carla Shaw on my right, and glowing believers in Christ all around me, some familiar and known, some not.  Here we go... I thought, glad to be there but also knowing I was in a little deeper than I was comfortable with...

As soon as Robin Mark began to lead, I knew Lynn would have loved it.  For much of the service, I closed my eyes and lived the night out as though he were standing right beside me, hands raised high, hooting and hollering as usual, getting his groove on in the pew... He probably would have hip-checked me and done some not-so-subtle flirting, as per his style...  Though a point would come when all flirting would disappear, so lost would he be in the joy of worshipping His Savior... It wasn't hard to imagine.  

As the evening progressed and the Spirit of the Lord grew heavy and wondrously thick in the crowded room, I smiled to myself, remembering the shuffle.  Lynn had a particular stance when the Spirit became thick and he took on the role of discerning servant, willing to follow the Spirit in whatever direction, often receiving words of knowledge, aware of the specific workings of the Spirit in particular people's lives... He had his arms crossed, with one hand up on his chin, watching pensively and intuitively, as he rocked back in forth, usually shuffling his feet, his whole body in tune with both the rhythms of the music and the rhythms of Spirit.  Oh, I miss this shuffle!! I would watch him, my own Spirit on guard to the happenings around me, and wonder, What is Lynn discerning? I better keep my spiritual eyes open so I'm ready if he gives me the nod...  I'm ready, Lord, if you give the word.

Watching Paul and Priscilla Reid minister as a truly excellent husband and wife team, I imagined the many years they had had together, watching each other, learning each others' rhythms, learning to be in tune to the Spirit and to one another, learning to acknowledge and encourage each other in their particular strengths and spiritual giftings...  I always imagined my life with Lynn that way, that we would become that team.  We had some work to do, but we were well on our way.  We were a partnership.  We were in tune with the Lord and in tune with each other.  Our gifts were so complimentary, so perfectly joined together... How is it possible that he's gone?  It's done?  Over?  That's it?

I sat and watched. Ugh! There is nothing more difficult to endure than a worship service!  There is no place I am more aware of his absence!  As each Sunday rolls around... I am both hungry and starving for congregational worship, the fellowship of believers, and yet traumatized by it at the same time.  There is no place harder to be, no place I feel more alone, no place that causes quite as much pain...  What is it about church?!!?  It seems commonly to be the most difficult place for grievers to be, pastors or not!!  Is it the vulnerability?  the emotional highs and lows?  the sense of oneness in the body of Christ heightening the sense of loss to an overwhelming high, causing an inability to cope emotionally in an environment that is not usually conducive to emotional breakdowns???

The congregation worshipped with passion and vigour.  They surrounded me on every side.  We sang Revive Us, Revive us again with your fire!!! ...several times repeating the line, in full voice, To the widow walking through the veil of tears...  How could I have never noticed that line before?  Why did he have to keep going back to that second verse?

There came a point in the service when Priscilla, a fabulous speaker of whom I would have aspired to be like... (obviously, still do...) spoke about the grace to lead.  She exhorted those who are called in ministry and had everyone stand who is currently serving in church leadership to be blessed, empowered, and released in their leadership... Many around me stood... Chuck and Jan stood.  Carla stood.  Many in front and many behind stood.  And I sat.  In the small, crowded congregation of enthusiastic believers, I sat...  I did not stand.  I sat... so aware of my brokenness... so aware of Lynn's death... so aware of God's grace... so traumatized at the loss of my husband and our ministry together...

Right away, my aunt grabbed my hand, knowing my heart must be breaking. In fact, I felt my whole row bleeding with me...  Did I imagine it?  Then a hand reached from behind and rested on my shoulder.  They were praying for me, gently acknowledging my pain and somehow affirming me in the process.  I sat deep in brokenness, but whispers of glory and grace still danced around me... My heart so acutely longing for my husband, while promises of a future lingered in the Spirit.

The call of God is never about us.  Nor is it about the call...  The whole Christian life is lived in response to the grace of a loving and faithful God...  Do you love Me? Then feed my lambs...  (John 21:17)  I do love Him...

I was so emotionally drained at the end of this beautiful and powerful, yet terribly traumatic service... An old part of me longed to go up and meet Priscilla, bless her for her amazing ministry... But, I did not.  I could not... Then, she came to me :). The Lord (and/or my aunt!!) sent her over.  Compassion and grace filled her eyes as she prayed with me.  There is an extra grace, Natasha... There is a season... Your gifts will be used again someday... It will look different, but the call is still there...

It will look different, but the call is still there...  


After you have suffered for a little while, the God of all grace, who called you to His eternal glory in Christ, will Himself perfect, confirm, strengthen and establish you.  To Him be dominion forever and ever. Amen.  (1 Peter 5:10-11) 

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

The Move.

How could I possibly capture the ups and the downs, the ins and the outs, of what has taken place in the last month???  Obviously, I have to try!! :)

Leaving our home in Truro was excruciatingly difficult.  It worked out quite nicely that I wasn't actually present for the final goodbye... My belongings were being loaded up, all personal items accounted for, by my loving Truro family, while I had the greatest, bestest, awesomest privilege ever of standing in ceremony to receive an award in my husband's honour.  Instead of weeping and gnashing of teeth I was filled with joy and excitement as a whole body of people publicly acknowledged and honoured the exceptional man my husband was (is), I was honored as his wife to stand in his place.  I can't even believe it.  It was wonderful.

Interesting developments concerning the move started unfolding after I left Truro... First, the truck was full of manure... not ideal for moving a houseful of belongings... Then we rented a U-haul, and borrowed another truck, and filled the back of Dawn and Phil's van.  The van load and small U-Haul went straight to PEI to await the closing, but the other truck was left in Truro.  In Truro, the house closed very smoothly and the funds were transferred right to my lawyer's trust account on the island.  I left the girls with my sister and Mom and I drove over to close on the island house and start painting.  Late afternoon, Monday, May 6th, my lawyer tells me that the funds are there, my other house was officially sold, but my new house would not be able to close for a few weeks while they worked at solving a discrepancy with the deed over 6 ft of property that apparently the neighbors and I shared... You all prayed with me and 6 lawyers later, a simple solution was found and I had my keys at the end of the business day, Tuesday, May 7th.

The fun was only just beginning, however, because the slight delay in closing caused the power company to disconnect the power.  I called for after hours service, but they would not set up a new account until the following morning, and then it would be two days before a truck would be coming to my part of the island.  2 DAYS WITH NO POWER?!?!?!?!?!  How is that possible?  I couldn't stop thinking about how Lynn would have reacted to such a preposterous situation!  Welcome to life in the country :).  (P.S..... Lynn HATED the country.)  So, all my relatives gathered together, we brought buckets of water from my Grammie's, and painted in the dark.  We tried a generator, but it didn't work.  We kept meaning to get lanterns, but I don't think that happened... We mostly used daylight and managed to get at least the bedrooms done before the girls arrived on Thursday.  Then, we finally got power, my beloved friend Ian drove the truck over and helped us unload, we were moving in and painting at the same time (not that I was doing much painting!), the laundry didn't work well enough to use, the oven wasn't working, (Oh phew!!  It was just a breaker!), I need a plumber and the bathroom has to be gutted, my girls got lice again!! ...BUT, the craziest part of all!!!! was that my cat was ready to give birth!!! and who knew when? where? how many?!?!?!?!?!

The babies came, and all was well :) We're not done painting, but mostly.  I still need a plumber but have connections :) My girls love their cousins, love the farm, love supper with Susanne and doing make-up with Brooke and Breia.  Roya is so excited for her new school.  Alea is ready for Broadway.  (What in heavens' name am I ever going to do with that child.)  The girls miss Lynn and are talking about him a lot.  Alea asked if we could buy a new Daddy.  In general, we all feel it.  What is a home without a Daddy?  No matter how well this home comes together, it won't feel like home.  Lynn was our home.  Lynn was our King.  We are just waiting.  Waiting for what?  I'm not sure.  A day when we wake up and life feels worth living again?  A sense of belonging and meaning in the world?  The feeling of being a whole and complete family again?  I don't know.  But I sense it is both near and still a very long way off...

Sunday, May 5, 2013

"Daddy's dashes"

Mama?  Alea's voice came from the back seat of the car.

Yes, honey?

Tell me again about Daddy's dashes. [Meaning ashes]

Okay.  What part do you want to talk about?

Mom!  I mean all of it!  

Okay.  You want to go over the whole thing again?


Okay.  Do you remember the service and the day we saw Daddy's old body lying in the big box.  It looked like he was sleeping, but we could tell he really wasn't there.  Remember?

I remember!  Roya pipes up.  And I was scared, but just a little.

That's right.  But Alea, you were only two.  You were very little so it was harder for you to understand and hard to remember...  You thought he was sleeping and wouldn't wake up and it was very scary for you.  Do you remember?

(Little squabble breaks out between the two...)

Okay, when Daddy died, he got a new body. Right? A heavenly body!! in heaven with Jesus.  But what happens to the old body?  We had the services to say goodbye to his old body, but then we had to choose between two things: do we bury the old body in the ground, called a grave, or... and remember, Daddy's not in his old body anymore... the old body is put inside a box and put through a big fire and is burned until all that is left of it is these grey dusty ashes.  So that's what we're doing.  We didn't bury Daddy's old body in the ground, we had it cremated, and now we are going to pick up the box that has Daddy's ashes inside...

I want to see the ashes!! says Roya, ever curious.  I want to know what they look like!

They're like... grey sand, maybe? Ummm, like the soot in a fireplace after we roast marshmallows? (Ugh!  How do I adequately describe ashes to my inquisitive 5 year old!!??)

So, Daddy is in his new body in heaven, right now.  Right??  Right.  And we had to say goodbye to the old body because it died.  Right?  Right.  Okay, so now we're going to pick up the box of Daddy's ashes so we can take it with us when we go to our new house.  Okay?


A few minutes of silence linger...


Yes, Alea.

I want to talk more about Daddy's dashes.  

Okay, honey.  What part?  All of it. 

All of it again?  Yes.

Okay, honey.

(and repeat, repeat, repeat...)

Several minutes later, as we were exiting the funeral home with Lynn's "cremated remains", the girls were each excited about trying to carry the surprisingly heavy cardboard box.  Alea exclaims, Wow!  Daddy has BIG dashes!!

I love my children.  They are amazing.  :)

(I was incredibly anxious to have to say out loud, I am here to pick up my husband's cremated remains..., and rehearsed it over and over in my mind before we arrived...)