Sunday, June 30, 2013

The Gentle Man.

Every where I look, Lynn catches my eye.

My parents' house is full of family pictures, and it seems like, from every corner of every room, I am taken off guard by those deep, smiling eyes.  The eyes I fell in love with... those eyes that reached my soul that day, almost twelve years ago, when I came to know this strange, kind, quirky guy who has forever changed my life...

I arrived on the campus of Bethany Bible College, now Kingswood University, in September 2001.  Lynn was impossible to miss being student council president, organizing freshman activities, running around meeting and greeting everyone, doing the thing that Lynn did best... loving and leading people! I was not a very good participator of freshman activities, shy and preferring to keep somewhat to myself :).  I remember walking with him during one of the games that took us into town and watching him take off running through a parking lot to greet someone in a truck.  What a strange guy! I thought.

Somehow, though, in those first few weeks, we interacted just enough to know that we had many things in common, could easily talk to one another, and felt natural and comfortable being in each other's company.

One of those early days, a group of us were talking outside the cafeteria. They were making plans to go somewhere that evening.  I withdrew a little, knowing I wasn't able to go. I was scheduled to make a phone call to a friend "back home".  (It was not going to be easy, and I dreaded the drama of the particularly difficult circumstance in involved...)  I excused myself, started off towards my dorm, only to discover that Lynn was chasing after me, calling my name.  I turned and he looked at me with those eyes, such a unique mixture of happy joy and intelligent depth.  I felt like he was looking right into my heart.  Are you okay? he asked.  Yes, I'm fine.  I answered.  No, you're not, he said...

It sounds so simple and basic, but the truth is, no one had ever seen into my heart so quickly and easily as Lynn had.  He had this gift with all people, but I am thankful it was me he fell in love with :).  There were no fireworks or words from God that day... those came later.  But it was that moment that Lynn came to mean more to me than any one else I had ever met.  It was the first time he had touched my soul with his kindness and tender love, his unique ability to see people and build them up.  He came to love me profoundly and unashamedly, never hesitating to proclaim his love from the rooftops, shout out across parking lots, and touch me incessantly (after we were married...).  He didn't care if his love made people uncomfortable.  He celebrated love.  And I grew in the light of it, like a young sapling, being nurtured and protected in the warmth of the sun.  Lynn's love, in those early years, became to me a tangible expression of God's love.  His arms, as though God himself were holding me and healing my heart.  What a rare gift he was.

In grief, the hurt and woundedness in a relationship is magnified.  The failure and brokenness of our lives is powerfully painful.  But as the Lord heals a grieving heart, we are given this immense privilege of seeing with new eyes, looking back in time through a new lens, like climbing a mountain with the ability to turn back and see where we've been, how far we've come, all that's been accomplished... from new heights and new depths.

These moments can be profoundly enlightening when our hearts are guarded and protected in Christ... when our brokenness is kept in the context of His perfect love. And we would not have them if we were not being led, if our Guide was not present, leading us in the Way Everlasting...

He knows the way out of your grief,  Sunny said.

In this instance, I am so aware of the gentleman God is.  Many people have said that over the years, but I did not appreciate it until now.  God has never pushed me, (though he gently nudges me on a regular basis).  He loves me. He accepts me. God does not come down on me and criticize me.  He encourages me, instilling His courage within my heart.  God does not ask me to be happy Lynn died, and thank him for this pain, as some Christians would seem to think... He has never asked me to be glad that Lynn died, for all the good He is to bring of it.  God's love and kindness, His gentleness and long-suffering, are what nurture my faith in the midst of my pain and seemingly endless sorrow... It is His non-pushy nature that draws me to Him.  It is His ability to take me as I am and love me there, truly and purely, in peacefulness and safety...

I have been moved and changed by the love of a uniquely gifted husband.  I will never recover from His love.  He has ruined me forever.  The trauma of his death effects me still... always.  But, I find I am healed in the quietness of God's strength.  In the gentleness of His power.  In the peacefulness of His Holy etiquette.  And in the tenderness of His love.

I know now why it is so important to know God as gentleman, to lean on His kindness, and to benefit from His perfect love, His mercy and His grace.

Monday, June 24, 2013

Time to start!

A few weeks ago, I took my girls to Victoria Park in Charlottetown.  It was a rainy day, but somehow that's where we ended up!  I watched contentedly as they ran and played around the playground.

A lady came chasing her dog, well on her way with child, and engaged me in conversation.  She is soon to have her second daughter and wondered about the closeness in age, the relationship my girls shared, etc.  She continued to ask questions in a friendly effort to get to know me, which always leads to the inevitable... Well, my husband died... and we continued to chat for quite a while, following the kids and dog around the park.

In conversation about what I am "doing", I mentioned that I am writing.  The truth is I have not been writing, not really.  I haven't been able to secure routine babysitting for the girls, and haven't mastered the work from home and be a single mom thing... I don't work well in chaos, and have been working to establish a bit of structure to our lives since our recent move here to PEI.  My creative energies are best dispersed in the context of some semblance of routine :).

This sweet friend I met at the park, in a quick instant, had texted a friend and connected me with Kier Lowther, the author of the award winning novel, Dirty Bird, among other things. In terms of writing, she said this is the best contact on the Island.  I thanked her very kindly and was slightly terrified to learn that he was expecting my call...

For several days, I wondered, Who is this Kier Lowther?  Am I really going to call him up and go to coffee with him, to tell him I want to write??? I googled him and visited his web-page, only to discover he was around my age... not the middle-aged gentleman I was picturing in my mind.  What does the title, Dirty Bird, represent, anyway??  I wondered.  I am embarrassed to confess that my inner nice-Christian-girl-pastor's-wife self was tempted to shy away at going to coffee with a strange man, married, around my age, author of Dirty Bird, etc, but my hesitancy truly lied in the insane feeling of being a single woman...  I finally concluded that I was being ridiculous, I am a grown-up, and was really excited about the opportunity. So, I gave him a call :).

Kier, an incredibly kind and generous person, decided to invite the girls and I over to his house during his lunch break, with his wife and kids.  It was awesome.  They were so gracious and kind.  He listened to my story and gave insightful advise about writing, connections with writers groups in the area, suggestions toward publishing, etc.

I don't think writing is the only thing I will do with my life, but it is where I want to start.  For some reason, soon after Lynn's death, I knew my healing would not be complete until I wrote it all down.  For some reason, I am writing this blog and sharing ridiculous amounts of vulnerable information with hundreds of people, and for some reason, God is still here, still working, always present.

Routine writing is my next step.  After church (I'll tell you about that soon...), doctors appointments, school and activities for the kids, food and health issues, I HAVE to start writing regularly and moving toward my goal...

God is present in the big events of life, but also in the daily practices that shape our lives.  Wisdom allows us to recognize the nature of God in all of His wonderous glory in something as simple as a writing schedule :)

Well, here goes nothing!  It's time to start!!!

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Touching humanity

Tonight, I am writing out of discipline.  The less a writer writes, the harder it is to write! :)  And yet, as my friend, Laura, mentioned, writing is like bleeding.  You want me to bleed more?!?!?! She said :)

There is nothing to writing.  All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed.  - Ernest Hemingway

I am not an accomplished writer.  My story is compelling to some, but minuscule to others.  There is no really good reason that hundreds of people check my blog every day...

On this journey of grief, I am discovering my humanity.  In the circles of faith I have been a part of, we focus on the spiritual man, glory in our Savior, an eternal hope... But sometimes the church has difficulty with... humanity.  When I write honestly about how I feel and the sorrow of my grief, my humanity is revealed, and people seem drawn to that.  I am not a super star or some miraculous, showy, minister of the gospel (God forbid).  I am a person.  I experience every day life in its ups and its downs and I'm learning to write about it.

As a worshipper, I think I have lived a lot of years in the clouds.  I gloried in my Savior and revelled on my spiritual cloud 9... But my head was in the clouds.  I used to feel offended by the phrase, he's so heavenly minded, he's no earthly good.  I completely disagree with the theology of that statement because we are heavenly minded, the expression of God's work in our lives should always result in earthly good... Our spirits are cloaked in humanity, and humanity must both reach for the clouds and come down to the ground, touch the earth with its fingertips, feel the bark on the trees and listen to the sounds of the surrounding, created world.  Yes, I believe in soaring with wings as eagles, but I also believe in sitting by the streams of living water and healing our souls.

I have spent a lot of years trying to soar in my spirit as a "spirit woman" :)  But now, I just want to be a person.  I want to discover my humanity.  Not let go of the clouds, but get down in the garden and dig, plant, weed... I want to discover the highs and the lows, the rhythms of life that both ebb and flow.

I want to be me, both touching God, and touching humanity.  Both.

It's time to start my garden.

Thursday, June 20, 2013


It is very late, and as usual, I want to be sleeping.  But I cannot sleep until I wrestle with these words I have been avoiding...

I feel like I'm betraying Lynn.  There, I said it.  It's out there.  It's done.

Today, my mind was overrun with questions and revelation as I read a book given to me by one of my many aunts on the Island, Grieving with Hope, by Samuel J. Hodges and Kathy Leonard, a Grief Share resource.  I haven't read any grief resources in quite a while; my mind couldn't take it in the midst of the move.  So this was the first time in months (I am ashamed to admit) that I entered into the world of help, where the symptoms and tendencies of grief are normal and understood... displayed in practical outlines.  I was greatly "convicted" as I read on p.13, [Unhealthy denial] happens when you continue to believe your life can go back to the way it was and when you think happiness can be found only in the way things used to be. 

Is that what I'm doing? I thought?  I have physically moved into a new life, but I am not yet living it.  I am struggling and surviving, coping and sustaining.  But engaging in a new life...? That's different. I've started, but I'm running from it...

At a prayer meeting last week they prayed for me... a new thing... God is doing a new thing... (Is 43:19)  I made a commitment of faith to receive that new thing, but thought, What if I don't want it?  What if I just want things to go back to the way they were?

Since the beginning of this journey, starting sometime after the funeral, I have struggled with how to move on, how to accept the sudden death of my husband, the end of our family values and co-parenting rhythm, the lack of closure to our ministry, the jolting halt of so many things.  Am I really sitting here waiting for Lynn to come back?  Thinking I'll wake up one day and it will all be back to normal?

I have come to terms with the fact that I feel like I am betraying Lynn by moving forward and emotionally do not cope with it well.  Psychologically, I struggle to accept the reality of my "new world".  I know this is "normal" for the bereaved and am getting the necessary help, booking appointments, etc... But it is jarring.  I have days where I feel crazy and irrational.  My brain is unable to recognize the world around me and juggles with the present while trying to keep the past alive.

Leaving my church felt like a betrayal (I love you all!!).  Leaving my home felt like a betrayal.  Making financial decisions without Lynn feels like a betrayal.  Doing something he wouldn't have done feels wrong and unjust.  Wearing a style he didn't prefer feels like a betrayal.  Choosing meat over vegan :).  Trying to live a different life feels like a betrayal.

I wonder... Am I trying to keep Lynn alive somehow?  If he were alive, it would be a betrayal, like I left him...  I laugh, often several times a day, at all the reasons Lynn would not have moved to PEI!  When random tractors drive by my front window and little kittens run playfully into my kitchen...  Lynn would never have lived here, would never have chosen this life.  But I chose it.  And I'm the one here.  He is not.

A sweet sister at the prayer meeting told me about her mother's death and her own struggle with grief.  She said that the Lord finally spoke to her heart that her mother was at peace with where she was, and it relieved her soul.  Soon she was also at peace.  I don't know if I doubt Lynn's peacefulness and joy at being with the Lord.  But I certainly doubt it in myself.  What does the Lord need to speak to my heart to let me know that it's okay?  What do I need to know in order to feel released?  released from my husband... the man I have loved for so long...? the calling to be his wife and go with him wherever he goes??? 

I don't know what it is.  But I know I need it.  God has set before me life, and I must choose life... so that my children and I may live... (Deut 30:19)  Sunny said to me, God knows the way out of your grief... He will lead you. 

Okay, Lord.  Lead me in the Way everlasting, for your name's sake!

Monday, June 10, 2013

...and still, the soul grows.

Take me to see my husband.  Yes, of course.  Right this way...

In the sterile environment of the emergency room, I was frozen in time.  My mind desperately searching for some frame of reference, some minute detail that would bring understanding... some way of making sense of the image that lay before me.  My husband's dead body, his empty shell, a carcass carrying little evidence of warmth, as though the dweller had moved out, but the ashes in the fireplace were still aglow, left to simmer and cool and die out on their own.

I stood there, staring, with Pastor Cory by my side, How can I make sense of this? I was afraid to touch him, this strange image that had been my husband, but was no longer... I touched his face, I laid my hand on his bare chest that seemed bruised from, I assume, the pounding efforts of rececitation.  Soon, I sat and held his hand, with friends close by, and waited while his warm fingers, that had danced on the piano keys only hours before, turned cold.

In those moments, sitting with my husband's body, I did not know how my universe had altered.  I could not, on any level, truly comprehend what was shifting in the universe.  I was in shock.  A happy place :)  I saw expressions of great freedom, as Lynn's spirit danced about the room and heaven rejoiced at his welcoming.  My husband had lived for that very moment, the moment he would enter a life everlasting, welcomed by his truest Friend.  I saw the sovereignty of God as clearly as I could see my own reflection.  I saw moments of the day, words of comfort God had already spoken, felt secure in His timing and His Sovereignty... In that moment, I knew Lynn's life was complete, perfect, lacking in nothing.

Pastor Cory was very wise and powerfully anointed in those moments of crisis.  He gently made sure I stayed with Lynn's body long enough to have some sense of horrific reality sink in, knowing I would need it to cope with the days ahead.  For now, I was in a dream, not thinking about the next moment, only breathing in this present one. We were nearing to leave, and I had one last chance to be with his body, alone.  I walked back into the room, now void of all life.  The images of glory had vanished and a chill ran up my spine.  Do I talk to it? I wondered, considering the body before me to be both familiar and altogether strange.  I slowly looked around the room, not seeing anything really, just breathing. I felt... death.  I felt it's presence.  I felt the hot burning coldness of hell's evil, lurking presence.  It towered over me with eerie fingerlike movements.  Death did not have victory over Lynn. Lynn was gone from its threatening grasp. But still, it threatened to reign over me, as though I was standing in its domain.  Knowing my husband's presence was gone, I left the room quickly, wanting to leave that eerie sense of death behind.

Though time felt complete in that moment of Lynn's death, looking back on it today, it feels unjust, so unfair.  Time stole my husband away before I could say goodbye, before I could kiss him and remind him I loved him, before our eyes could meet and share one last moment of togetherness.  Time was cruel.  While I drove through red lights, and passed cars in the wrong lane on the bare street, Lynn was taking his last breath, alone in an ambulance, in the dark of night, surrounded by frantic paramedics...

I had no chance to say goodbye.

There is so much I want to put into words, and so little time to do it :)  How and why does God reign in a world of death, where Satan can have his way with one of God's beloveds?  How and why do we brush pain aside with noble explanations and lofty expressions of purpose and logical rationals?  What is the logic behind Job?  Behind God's perfect love that said, Yes, Satan, have your way with my servant Job.  For I trust him.  He will remain faithful to me.  

So many people seem to assume that Job didn't truly know God before his experience with grief and sorrow and loss.  They quote Job 42:5, and say that's the story.  That's the point of Job's sufferings. But I think they are wrong.  Scripture is clear that God trusted Job, because Job trusted God.  It was that knowledge and awareness of his sovereign Lord that held him steadfast in the turmoil of his loss and grief.

The happy ending of Job is not that Job came to know God truly and then was blessed double-fold in the later part of his life.  That is a shallow interpretation, one I might have consented to before my own experience with the complexities of grief.  Job didn't learn his lesson and then trade in his old family for a new one.  How could we be so cruel to suggest such a thing???  Job loved the children he lost, the life he'd lost, and he had grieved it heavily.

But his soul grew...  Like Jerry Sittser*, he learned to experience God in brokenness and pain.  My own ponderings lead me to question, Did Job continue to make morning sacrifices for his children all those years after their death?  Surely he remembered them.  Surely, even after new children were born, he grieved those he'd lost?  We don't forget a soul that was once a part of our own.  But we learn to let our soul grow...

One day at a time, I will keep trying to choose life in the through.  And I will try to allow this pain to stretch and pull on my insides until my soul grows big enough to carry on, with both sorrow and joy, both deep sadness and rich beauty... with both the enemies fingerprints, markings of living in his domain, and the promise of a pure and perfect redemption, with life everlasting, and joy forevermore.

*1995, 2004. A Grace Disguised: How the Soul Grows Through Loss, by Jerry Sittser

Saturday, June 1, 2013

9 months.

9 months...

When I think of 9 months, I automatically think of crawling!  Typically, 9 months in the life of a baby marks the age when he/she begins to crawl... Of course, these age-markers are only slightly beneficial to the parent in regards to their infant's development.  But still, I'm wondering if the parallel fits...  Is that where I'm at in this first year of harsh realities?  Am I learning to crawl??

I so clearly remember that day... (You've heard much of it before.)

I remember sitting in the choir loft, beaming inwardly, so proud of my husband as he spoke from the piano about God's faithfulness and His ability to provide for others in need through the generosity of the church.  I remember getting home, having lunch, Lynn anxious to run, but my urging him to wait and check in with Andrew in case they could run together... Lynn was hesitant to change his plans after already mapping everything out on his IPod, but gladly adjusted as soon as Andrew gave the word that he could run later that evening.  Alea napped, and Lynn took Roya to Tim Hortons for a Daddy-daughter date.  (I don't remember what I did...) Then, later in the afternoon, we all snuggled on the couch together to watch the Muppets, something that was becoming a family favorite, carried over from Lynn's childhood.  I can still picture it, hear the sounds, feel the comfort of being together, sincerely enjoying each other's company. I had felt so nervous approaching another busy Fall, but was flying high from our truly rejuvenating vacation at Janice's cottage.  What fun we'd had together!!

I remember making supper and noticing that twice Lynn shivered, like a chill coursing through his body, saying Oohh! I have such nervous energy about my run tonight! Hmmm. Odd, I thought.  We both looked at each other knowing it was odd, but no real red flags showing any sign of danger... We ate supper.  I started settling the girls for a bath and bedtime while Lynn got ready for his run.  (I tend to remember him in his black running outfit, but he definitely had on his pale blue running shirt that day... I can still picture it laying shredded at his sides around his pale, lifeless body in the emergency room...)

Lynn said good night to the girls, kissed me goodbye as always, we said Love you! as always, and then we waved through the window as he took off down the street...

Normally, we'd have been having house church at that time, but we'd just returned from vacation and decided to wait until the next week to start up again.  So off he went!! Running half of his 32k by himself before meeting up with Andrew for the second half...

Later that night, I sat in bed reading.  The girls were sound asleep in the room across the hall.  Tears streamed down my face as I read about a widow, having flashbacks of her husband's death while she witnessed a beloved friendly father-figure having a severe heart attack, his wife clinging to him, weeping... I set the book aside, wiped my eyes.  Oh my!!  I smiled to myself as I looked at the time.  Oh Lynn, always talking and carrying on.  I pictured him laughing with Andrew and Sara, drinking water and eating snacks after their long run, gathered around the island in their family kitchen... I went to the bathroom and heard the phone ring.  Oh that's probably Lynn, telling me he's on his way home.  I checked the number on the phone and sure enough!  The Boone's :)  I guess I'll call back just to see... Sara answered.  That's strange, I thought.

Hi Natasha, Lynn's not doing very well...  Okay.  Is he taking any medications? No. Would you like me to come be with the girls to relieve you?  Why Sara, Why?  I don't understand what's happening? ...the paramedics are pounding on his chest.  The paramedics will meet you at the hospital...

My body physically trembles recalling the details of this day.  How can such basic, simple, everyday details, become so meaningful and powerful in the wake of death's devastation?  Waves of shock still course through my being.  I will never recover from the death of my husband.  Death is not to be recovered from.  I sometimes want to scream at the world for treating grief like a common cold.  Oh, just let it run its course and you'll recover soon enough... No. Death is final. It is an immoveable milestone in a person's life.

Grief is not an ailment to recover from.  It is a deep wound that requires a deep healing and leaves a deep scar... One that we can only hope and pray will become a beautiful marking of testimony and strength in days to come.  No doctor can heal this wound.  Only the Maker, the one who formed us in our mother's womb, the one who knows our sitting and our rising, and every thought before it reaches our tongue (for some quicker than others!)... Only can He can untangle the complexities of grief and bring peace, joy, and love to the soul once again.


Good morning, June.

Tomorrow marks the end of nine, long, painful months since the passing of my husband, from death into life.  This morning there's a deep ache, an uncomfortable stillness, as I gaze out my window and watch the clouds rolling in, the waves of the ocean restless, yet the sun breaking forth in shimmering beauty, casting its rays of glory and strength upon the troubled waters... No storm threatens me, the sun seems to say.  I will rise again and again and again...

Years have gone by in the undercurrents of my soul these last nine months.  I have aged many years... How does one ever say goodbye to their other half?  How do you ever feel normal again without him?  When do you roll over in the night and stop expecting him to be there? When does your half become a whole?

Why me? I seem to ponder, not really expecting an answer... As my friend Meribeth said, Why has God entrusted me with this?  I know everyone has grief and everyone has struggles, but surely nothing is as hard as this.  Nothing can possibly compare to this...

What a stupid thing to think.  Why our minds work that way, I'll never know.  Who cares how hard it is?  Who cares who struggles with what?  We all fall short of the glory of God.  In this world we ALL have trouble... (Rom 3:23; John 16:33)

And we all grow up.  We all grow out of childhood innocence, and into the harshness of fallen life, with responsibilities we didn't ask for, sometimes a life we didn't want... But my question is this, Do we grow up in the Word, being transformed by the renewing of our mind and maturing in the things of the Kingdom of Heaven?  Or do we grow up in our society of fallen culture, settling for a less than perfect love, conforming to the ways of our broken world???

My sorrow is deep. My anguish is insatiable.  There is little comfort anywhere. There is an extra grace, Priscilla said.  He is the God of ALL grace... (1 Pet 5:10)

The wind blows and on it dance those whispers of heaven that reach the ears of my soul crying out... Trust Me, they say.  Trust Me.

Like a child, I squirm under the Lord's strong gaze... My eyes, avoiding His stare. To eat the meat of a mature believer... (Heb 5:14) Is it tougher than I can bear?

 I can hear my own voice speaking to Roya, Look at my eyes, Roya.  Look at my eyes so I know you can hear me, so I know you can recognize the love in me heart... 

...the Lord disciplines those he loves, as a father the son/daughter he delights in. (Prov 3:12)

This meat is too tough, Father.

Trust Me, Daughter.