Wednesday, July 31, 2013


I have been pondering rest.  Is it possible?? Everyone says, Rest, Natasha.  I need rest, but it's complicated...

Here is an exert from Lament for a Son, by Nicholas Wolterstorff:

     Someone said to Claire, "I hope you're learning to live at peace with Eric's death." Peace, shalom, salaam. Shalom is the fulness of life in all dimensions. Shalom is dwelling in justice and delight with God, with neighbour, with oneself, in nature. Death is shalom's mortal enemy. Death is demonic. We cannot live at peace with death. 
     When the writer of Revelation spoke of the coming day of shalom, he did not say that on that day we would live at peace with death. He said that on that day "There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away."
     I shall try to keep the wound from healing, in recognition of our living still in the old order of things.  I shall try to keep it from healing, in solidarity with those who sit beside me on humanity's mourning bench.  

The church says, Heal! Rest! Rejoice! Be at peace!  Really, though, it feels like, Move on! Be okay!  Get over it! Look happy! :)

I can no longer take for granted the things that once were.  The church I am familiar with in my culture (generally speaking) understands peace, joy, rest, and rejoicing in terms of all things being good, of all things being made right... But death is a force to be reckoned with in the church. It challenges the typical ideology of all things good. All things are not good. Death is not good. Sin is not good. And they happen.

My girls ask me repeated questions about death.  They are unsatisfied with the answers because the result is messy.  All things are not good.  They ask, Are bad people real? Like the scary movie characters they see on TV. Well, no, they are not real, I say, But there are people in the world who are bad, who make bad choices, who do not allow Jesus' love into their heart. How do children cope in a world not made right?? I could lie to them, I suppose, but it wouldn't work. How am I safe? they wonder. How do I cope in a world where my Daddy can die, where life can suddenly end, where there is loneliness, grief, and fear?  How do I cope in a world where bad men exist, and mean girls, where all things are not made good...?

Rest. Peace. Shalom? 

This is why Jesus said, Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you.  Do not let your heart be troubled, nor let it be fearful.  (John 14:27)

To be at peace in this life, to rest, is much more profound than the perspective that all things are made good...  I have been in inexplicable chronic pain for 12 years, served in ministry with my husband until he dropped dead at the prime of his life, am now a widow and single mom... And I am immeasurably blessed.  I have been well provided for, adore my amazing children, have friends and family who love me. Honestly, it is insane how blessed I am. I am thankful. And I am blessed to be a blessing... I hope to be a blessing to others... God has worked amazingly in my life and heart... But this is not the source of my peace. It will never again offer me rest. None of these things will ever give me peace because I have seen death come and steal it all away.

[God] put everything under their feet. In putting everything under them, God left nothing that is not subject to them. Yet at present we do not see everything subject to them. But we do see Jesus... (Hebrews 2:8-9a)

Therefore, let us fear if, while a promise remains of entering His rest, any one of you may seem to have come short of it. For indeed we have had good news preached to us... (Hebrews 4:1-2a)

Jesus, you are the only source of peace that remains after death. In the wake of catastrophic loss, the explosion of sudden death, when the dust settles, and the air begins to clear, You are the only thing standing. You are the only One Sovereign. You are the only One. The Great I Am. I will praise You, and adore You forevermore.  I will worship you in this land of death. I will join with all mourners and grievers, all people who labor and toil, with all of creation, crying out, How long, Oh Lord!! How long until all things are made right? How long before shalom?

Bless us, and keep us.  Make your face to shine on us. Be gracious to us! Turn your face toward us! And give us Your peace. Amen.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Faith like a child.

Today, I am quite humbled. Where is my faith?  Where is my joy?  Where is my ability to walk on water, to transcend the storm?

I was away for the weekend, picking up my girls, had one day back, and am just as dysfunctional as the day they left :). Getting out the door this morning was a great challenge. Getting up and going is always a great challenge. I am constantly trying to manage the tension in my parenting between nurture and discipline, structure and flexibility, foot-down consistency and loving grace. Do I push? or do I rest? Do I fight? or do I relax? I know I only have two kids, but they are... challenging. I think I'm still trying to be both Lynn and myself.  It's psychotic. I can't seem to stop. How do I adjust to just being me? How do I stop trying to meet all of my kids' needs...?

I gave Alea my permission last night to pray for a new Daddy.  She still randomly calls out in prayer for God to make a way for Lynn to come back to us.  It breaks my heart because she just needs a Daddy.  Of course she needs her Daddy, but some days, my mother-heart feels like, Anyone will do!!  Someone come and be a Daddy to my daughters!!  (a little more light hearted humor than seriousness in that tone...!)

I have so much anxiety about the present and the future. I'm always (somewhat subconsciously) trying to remind myself that Lynn is gone.  Always working my mind to accept my today and my tomorrow in a world without Lynn. This land is still so foreign to me, and I am filled with inexplicable anxiety trying to imagine a new September, wrap my head around another year, a new normal as a single mom, Roya in school, a young widow trying to make a way, live a new and different life.

I am still exhausted, (as I have written too many times before...), and have little hope of renewed energy. I feel sad about my physical state. I could write about my history with a fibromyalgia-like syndrome, the challenges of coping with an intangible pain and achiness that feels like a garment, a cloak of black cloudy pain draped around my shoulders, covering my body, and entering the bloodstream, infecting my whole mass of muscle tissue with its poison. (There, that's my definition of fibromyalgia...). No matter how many nights I have stayed up wrestling with the Lord, how much I've read and studied about healing, no matter how many prayer services I've attended and times I've been anointed with oil... (and no matter how well I hide my pain, which I am told I am quite brilliant at) ...unfortunately, this cloak remains.

Presently, my blood pressure is quite drastically low, thyroid levels are low, blood count levels, iron levels... all levels are low, and I am "diagnosed" to have adrenal fatigue... Apparently, I have exhausted my ability to produce adrenaline and cortisol...  In general, my body just isn't interested in the "get up and go".

I was prayed over last Thursday night and had the most beautiful time fellowshipping in the Lord.  It was special and lovely and the prayer warriors present believed I would be healed and experience no more pain. But, the very next day, I was terribly disheartened to find that my pain level had sky-rocketed.  I could do nothing but sit and endure for the rest of the day, crying out to the Lord.

I wrestled with Him, How long???? How long, Lord?  Have I not done enough? Do you still feel the need to test my faith?  Have I not prayed enough?  Believed enough?  Served you enough??

But oh boy... How dangerously close that comes to a works theology. It is works theology!! Trying to gain approval from God, appeal to his holiness by my own resume of righteous living... Job did that, too. Uh uh. It's not happening.

In many circles of faith, there is a strong passion for healing! This is so beautiful! I love when people are healed!!! However, 12 years of not being healed has left me with a hint of baggage... I seem to carry the shame of insufficient faith based on my inability to acquire healing from God. And I find that I am greatly humbled in His presence today. I am not smart enough, good enough, righteous enough, faithful enough, or strong enough to earn and receive healing. I've not found the right formula! I've not transcended above my brokenness with supernatural power...

The other thing about healing is that, after death, there's such an awareness of temporal living. Even if I am healed, I am still going to die.  It is all temporal until after death, until the fulfillment of glory, until the full redemption of humankind...

I find that in my life as a widow and single mother, I am trying to reach the standards of both faith and society.  I am striving to be a respectable, Christian grown-up!  Someone who can successfully manage a household, maintain composure at all times, be kind and loving and giving to others... But I'm really just a child.  A child whose world has been destroyed. A selfish and needy child!

I really just need God... Abba, Daddy God.

Daddy, I hurt.  Daddy, I'm tired.  Daddy, I feel sad.  Please help me.  Please heal me, Daddy. Please love away my pain and fear and anxiety... 

My daughter, be anxious for nothing. Stop worrying about your life, your children, your health, your ministry, your home, your finances, your future... Come to me as a little child. Crawl up on my lap and fulfill My standards over your life, standards of freedom and grace and receiving My gift of perfect love.  Allow these things to be fulfilled in your life and all the rest will follow... I have not abandoned you.  I have not left you today.  I have not forgotten about your pain. Come to me and learn about my yoke of peace.  You will find healing in my perfect love and freedom in my grace. 

In returning and rest will be your salvation.  In quietness and confidence will be your strength. (Is 30:15)

Truly I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child will not enter it at all. (Luke 18:17)

Saturday, July 27, 2013

To my church family, part 2

Disclaimer: Words cannot express the amount of grief and turmoil that have finally resulted in this post.  I would have given anything to have anyone tell me what to do when Lynn died, how to transition out of a loving body of believers when the pastor has shockingly dropped dead... How to cope with everyone's grief on top of my own, how to change my heart from being their pastors wife...

I remember so clearly when Pastor Cory and Sandra came to our church in Truro.  I remember him standing up and speaking about John 12:24, Truly, truly I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.  Then in 1 Corinthians 15:36, it says, That which you sow does not come to life unless it dies.  Pastor Cory and Sandra profoundly demonstrated this principle to me in their ministry.  They believed in letting their previous ministry go, letting it die, so to speak, and embracing the new season God had in store for them.  If they had not done this, I wonder whether or not they would have packed their bags and headed back home to Summerside :)  But, no.  They had beautifully transitioned into our community by faith, letting go of their old life, ministry, and relationships, and by faith, fully embracing the present season, the new community, the new relationships God had in store for them.

When a pastor leaves one congregation, there is a death, an end to something, and the start of something new.  But the church grieves.  This isn't always acknowledged maybe as it should be.  This transition can be hard.  I know it was for IBC when Peter left.  All Cory heard for ages was what Peter would have done or how Peter did things... :) When God asks a pastor to move on, he must put his old ministry to death in order to embrace something new. But the congregation is not always equipped in knowing how to make this transition.

To Immanuel Baptist Church... there has been a death. The end to mine and Lynn's ministry at your church came not with a letter of resignation, a formal ceremony of blessing and releasing, both happy and sad sentiments, a reception full of goodies... It came with a real death, a sudden and shocking death that left everyone grieving, in a tailspin, and not knowing what to do.  You cared for me, provided for me, supported me and the girls.  You wrote letters upon letters and cards upon cards, so many notes of remembrance, remembering Lynn, who he was and all he did...

My church, I am in a new place. I have joined a new church family who want to love me and support me.  I find I am holding back.  And I hear those words echoing... Unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies... Is it just me?  I need to let the old ministry die, just like Cory and Sandra had done when they started at IBC.  I need to entrust you to the Father, bless you in Jesus' name, but separate myself in a healthy way. So that I can embrace this new season of blessing and healing, a new family of believers with love and support.  And you may feel, Why? Aren't we friends? The answer is both yes and no. We are more than friends, we are family. We are family in Christ, brothers and sisters, united as many members of one body. There is no death in this regard. No end. The bond of union will remain, throughout the ages, throughout the seasons, through whatever is to come.

IBC, yesterday, I deposited the last check I will have received from you.  What you have done for me, how you have loved and cared and provided, leaves me speechless.  I have tried to write about it many times and have been simply unable.  But this I can write, You are anointed, Immanuel Baptist Church, with the gift of generosity.  You give and give and give.  You are blessed, and blessed to be a blessing. I have been the recipient of these blessings for a long time now.  Do you, too, need to let me go?  Are you grieving?  Are you letting the grain of wheat fall to the earth and die so that a new season will spring up for you?  Where is God leading you to give?  Is it the project in Rwanda?  In India?  Truro?

My dear church family, it has taken me almost a year to only somewhat understand what to do.  Can you see Lynn's death as a divinely orchestrated resignation?  Can you let the past go?  Can you entrust us to the Father?  And can you seek and pursue his plan, by faith, fully embracing the new season he has called you to???

Is it just me?  More than likely :)   But if not, this is my word for you.  Let me go.  We will always be joined in the bond of Christ.  But it is time.  It is time to embrace a new thing (Is 43).

Wednesday, July 24, 2013


Today, I sat.

My daughters are with family for the week. I have entered into a strange vortex of quietness... I have done other things, have doctors appointments, errands to run, my cat is finally spayed (phew!!!), my cousin is visiting home from Bangladesh... But mostly, I just sit.

I want to sit and drink coffee. All day. That's it. No talking. No socializing. No cooking. No cleaning. No thinking.  Not even much writing. (The other blog I posted today, was written earlier and edited briefly today before I posted it.)

I look at pictures. I sit. I cleaned the girls' bedrooms. Then, I sat. I walked down to the beach.  And sat. I visited with Grammie. Then, I sat. I went to my aunt's and we sat. We had great conversation with my cousin Holly, and now I'm home, sitting.  Soon to be sleeping...

My mind just wants to go numb.  My heart wants to breathe. My body wants to exercise a little... Then sit a lot.

Exhaustion is getting the better of me. I welcome the quiet...

Transcended through.

Oops, I need to a rectify a statement I made in the previous post, Being Transformed.  I wrote: all of us are given this choice...  to live a life trapped in death, or a life transcended above it. But that word above is not sitting well with me.  Since when was there an above!!!  We are not choosing to live life transcended above death, brokenness, problems, tragedies, sickness, etc...  Perhaps the statement would better read, live a life trapped in death, or a life transcended through it. 

You know the song Still, by Hillsong?  When the oceans rise and thunders roar, I will rise with you above the storm...  I've always loved that song! ...especially the first time I heard it when Adam and Heather Durkee performed it as a special at Moncton Wesleyan Church!  (Do you guys remember that??!?!?) But the words have never really sat right with me.  Maybe its just my overly critical thinker brain... Is God going to give me superpowers so I can spin around and stand there in spandex and a cape and fly over the waves like superman?? Ummmm. No. 

I'm pondering this abovebecause it is so very rare that God ever sends us over and above a storm, and yet he does call us to transcend it.  I think of the well-known verse, Those who hope in the Lord will... soar with wings as eagles (Is 40:31). This would tell me that there is a measure of rising above our storms, there is a transcendence. Still, our feet usually stay on the ground.  Whether its the priests entering into the Jordan River, calling upon the faith to believe God to separate the waters.  The Israelites entering the Red Sea, miles of ocean floor stretched out in front of them, waters held high above their heads with invisible hands. Or Peter being called out onto to the water, walking toward Jesus in the midst of the waves...

Note: I have read the Heavenly Man, and do believe the miraculous testimony of Brother Yun and the Christian revolution in China... and they did have some very interesting transporting experiences... :) A transcendence by faith that would seem to have lifted their feet off the earth and transported them through supernatural means... Make of that what you will. :)

But otherwise, our feet typically stay on the ground! We're stuck having to do earthly things that seem counter to a life in the spirit, ascending higher and higher into the heavenly places.  Jesus rose off the ground in the transfiguration, and the ascension... and He does say that we will do even greater things the He did... But I am mostly bound to my human shell.  My feet are bound to this ground that is cursed.  My skin dries out in the heat.  My body shivers in the cold.  I am tied down by my humanity...  This is why we use the phrase, down to earth :)

Is this bad??  Does it lack faith to be down to earth? Is there any merit to the saying, Don't be too spiritually minded that you are no earthly good??? 

God made us human on purpose, right? Of course it needs to be redeemed and sanctified and glorified... but isn't glorified humanity the masterpiece of God?  Isn't humanity, in its purest form, good? (Gen 1) Earth and dust and all??

There is an amazing image that God keeps putting before the eyes of my spirit...  Miles of stretched out desert are laid out before me.  I am parched.  The sun is hot and blinding.  But the Spirit is dancing all about me. The Father is watching. Jesus appears on my right, slightly behind me. Walk through, he says.  I have been climbing the mountain of grief for months and now I have to walk through a desert???  Oh, it gets better, He says.  This is the wilderness of temptation.  Walk through, and honor Me.  Walk through the desert, a wilderness of temptation, and honor You??  Oh, it gets even better, He says.  Walk through it, honor Me, and let go of the past. All of it? Yes. (You won't lose it all, but you do have to let it all go).  And that's it? No. Walk through the desert. Honor Me. Let go of the past.  And hone in on My voice... Step each foot onto this burning, dusty sand. Look to Me, with eyes and ears open to My Spirit. Honor Me and walk, one foot in front of the other, over and over again. Walk away from the past. Let it all go and don't look back. 

But why? Why this path? Because Natasha, as you walk, I will make waters to burst forth out of the sand and streams to flow from these rocks of stone!!  My fountains of living water will burst forth from within your soul and you will bear fruits in abundance!

There is this immense contrast to the abundant life in the Spirit and the broken barrenness of our humanity, and yet the one must meet the other.  When I look at the fast approaching Fall, I see bills and school and schedules and single parenting... exhaustion, loneliness, and grief!  But I also see a rich season of blessing in the spirit.  My feet must touch this cursed ground! And my spirit must soar into the holiest of places... How is it both and? We can't escape this life.  Nor can we escape death. But maybe faith allows us to transcend through... This is the victory of the cross. 

He who loves his life will lose it, and he who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life. (Jn 12:25)  Whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. (Matt 16:25)

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Being transformed.

Sister Florence told me that she prays for me every day.  And every day, when she prays for me, she sees my husband, whom she's never met, so happy.  He is soooooo happy! She says, giggling.

Earlier this morning, Roya started giggling while drawing at the kitchen table.  I just got pictures of Daddy in my head!  She said.  Pictures of Daddy in heaven, I asked? Yes, and he was sooo happy! She said with a brilliant smile!

Well, good for you.  That's what I have to say about that!  :) Are you reading tone?  Cause there's definitely tone.

My mom tells me she can hear him laugh.  Every time I get an image of him laughing, it makes me laugh. I remember what a nut he was.  I remember him running naked from the bathroom up to the bedroom! (Sorry! Haha!)  I remember him rocking in the chair doing the ugly laugh, reading something from "the Onion"?  Is that what it's called?

I look at pictures of us as a family, a mom, a dad, and two girls... I recognize everything about Lynn, I could trace his jawline in my sleep.  I know the perfect crevice of his neck where I loved to snuggle in... I can feel his warm skin against my face.  But, I now feel separate from that world.  I don't recognize the me in that picture.  I barely recognize my children.  Now we are different, a different family, formed and shaped by different experiences we've had in the last year.

I am shedding.  I am shedding the things of the past that are not mine to take hold of.  And I am holding on to the things that are...  This process is so deep and profound.  Who, at 29 years old, gets to look at her life, her values, her beliefs, her ministry, and re-evaluate?  Who at 28 years old, stands before her husband's dead body, explains to her 4 and 2 year old that they'll never see their Daddy again, calls her mother-in-law late at night to tell her her son has died at 31 years of age...?  Maybe lots of people.  Lots of people die all around the world.  Lots of young families lose loved ones.  And all of us are given this choice...  to live a life trapped in death, or a life transcended above it. 

This day I call the heavens and the earth as witnesses against you that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses.  Now choose life, so that you and your children may live. (Deut 30:19)

Today, I am calling on the courage to face my new reality with new perspective.  I am calling on the courage to be a person.  I am not one with a husband anymore, but I am me.  I can exist.  I can do the next thing, even on my own.  The word of God is alive and active in me. There is so much life to live.  So much to discover. I summon the courage to embrace this pain once again, to plunge east.  To allow the Holy Spirit to bring revelation into my past and renew my mind, to show me a new way, a better way...

I have written a lot about the remaining call on my family for ministry... The Holy Spirit is pushing pause and taking me back in time... Look, He says.  What do you see? He says.  Let's learn from the past and be transformed by the renewing of your mind.

The Holy Spirit is not satisfied with poor coping mechanisms, or our efforts to survive... He offers us more than that.  In the midst of suffering and despair, He smiles with that twinkle in his eye and says, Just wait!!  Wait till you see what I am making!!  Behold I am doing a new thing!  Do you not perceive it?  I am making waters to come forth out of this wilderness and streams of living water to flow through these deserts!  Then many will see and come to Me and drink of the fountain of life!!

Faith, Christianity, and love are about so much more than passion, services, fellowship and devotionals.  Salvation is the ongoing transformation of our souls from death in darkness to life in Christ.  It is a miracle. Zeal and bible studies do not accomplish this transformation. It is a work of the Spirit. What is impossible with man is possible with God (Lk 18:27). Patience, endurance, and perseverance are forgotten attributes of the faith.  Brokenness is the path toward life.  And humility is worship.

Oooookaaaay. *sigh.  Here we go again.  Yes, Father. I am listening. Yes, Jesus, I am yours.  Yes, Holy Spirit, you are with me.  Go ahead, keep leading.  Show me the Way.  Lead me in the Way everlasting, for Your name's sake.

Renewing the mind.

Breathe.  Just breathe.  The ocean waves are rolling, the sky dark and stormy, the wind loud, with just a hint of refreshing cold to it.  This is what connects with my inside right now, I thought. Crashing waves, heavy pressure, incessant rolling and crashing...

There's an excitement in your eyes, butt your shoulders are heavy, He commented.  You carry more than you let on, don't you?  

Yes, I do carry more than I seem to let on.

Why do I have these surges of anxiety, I asked my counsellor. Why do I always feel like my head is going to explode, like I have to hold it in my hands and put pressure on my temples to keep it from caving in or erupting like a volcano? What's wrong with me?

My counsellor gently admonished me, You don't know how to behave as a young widow.  You don't know what to expect of yourself.  Stop trying to take care of others.  Stop trying to be Lynn.  Just Be. Care for your girls as they need it and then just be.  Become an observer, not a participant, in social activity while you discover how to be, and what to do, and who you are as just you.  

I have had to realize many discouraging yet practical truths in the last few weeks.

1. I am nearing the end of the first year, and see that I've only just begun this journey.  The first year is like a warm up.  It's about surviving shock and trauma.  The real grief work comes after... the reality.

2. When I get a lot of visitors, I tend to default back into old patterns, habits, and expectations that were a apart of my "old normal", that bring huge upsurges of stress and anxiety...  I have to be okay with so much less... I have to change my thinking from saving the world, global justice, always ministering to others to take care of myself and my children, sit and be, heal and let God renew my mind.

3. When I get a break and want desperately to disengage and sit in front of a movie or something, I'm not doing anything inherently bad, but it often leaves me more desperate than before. Everything is permissible but everything is not beneficial (1 Cor 6:12. 10:23). I have to commit to hard grief work during my breaks and make hard but wise choices toward what is constructive and beneficial for my healing and growth.

4. The psychological effects of shock and trauma are monstrous.  It takes an incredible amount of mental energy to cope through one day.  Some days, it takes everything I can muster just to be aware of the present world around me...

The shock of grief seems to put in motion all these inner spinning wheels.  When a life is cut off so suddenly, there are so many things left unfinished and the brain keeps circling them, over and over and over and over again... Every detail of our marriage relationship, our family, our ministry, my worldview, understanding of life, ministry, family, relationships, money, etc... All of it is left spinning, circling around and around... The old patterns are not satisfied by this new environment.  Nothing in my new world brings comfort and relief, closure or peace of mind to these spinning wheels...  It's like I have to intentionally go back into each one of those thoughts, patterns, and behaviours, be able to acknowledge the truths, the dysfunctions in them, the lies... and let the Holy Spirit renew my mind, revolutionize my thinking in all of these topics with new perspective and new understanding, if I want to have any peace...

I am so tired.  I have no idea how I've survived these last ten and a half months.  How does any widow survive??  I had posed this question to my friend Eleanor, and she had said, No one knows.  We just do. A widow doesn't know what to do or how to be.  And I want to say to those around us, it's ok that you don't know, but please don't expect the bereaved to know either, or to be able to effectively communicate his/her needs.  I have wanted so many times to say to various people, I, as the bereaved, am not suddenly an expert on grief to be able to inform you exactly what you should do or say or expect. It's ok that you don't know, but how could I know? In shock and trauma, how am I supposed to be the one who knows???

I am discouraged looking at all the grief work that still lies ahead of me, that there is no rule book or practical guide, how much I'm still trying to cope with my reality, how hard it is to face myself when the girls are gone... Was I so unhealthily wrapped up in my husband's life that this is harder than it should be?  Should I have been more independent, more separate from him, so I'd be more capable of making this horrendous transition to widowhood?  And why must I persist in asking stupid questions like that???  :)

My counsellor recognizes unhealthy patterns in our life before Lynn died.  She asked, Do you think those patterns and false messages are spilling over into now? The obvious answer was yes.  It's hard to think critically about our dysfunctions and be willing to form new patterns on my own... Hard, but terribly necessary.

Grrrr.  I hate this.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Ambushed, Part 2

The house is quiet.  The girls are on an outing.  The cat is asleep, thank heavens (more on that another time!) And the roar of grief, that is typically being held at bay, begins to roll...

It's amazing how much we hold back for the sake of our children.  It scares my girls when I sob and weep in front of them.  It seldom happens.  Alea is scared that I will die, and feels insecure when I cry.  Roya feels scared too, but doesn't verbalize it as easily.  She said to me several weeks ago (I forget whether or not I've written this in a blog already...), Mama, I need you to live just long enough so that I'm old enough to take care of Alea after you're gone.  Yes, children are resilient and "bounce back" as people say.  But, no, they are not unaffected by their father's death and still grieve even though they're young.

Now that I am alone, I can become undone.  I can cling to Lynn's shirts and weep and wail.  It is torturously painful to embrace these emotions.  Everything in me would rather turn on the TV to drown out the sound of my own heart, or poor glass after glass of wine, trying to numb the hot burning sensation throbbing inside my chest...  But this is my moment.  My break.  My chance to grieve.

I grieve the life I left behind. I grieve the life that was. Not just my husband, but every relationship, all the friends and networks we used to share... All of it, I grieve.  And I'm ashamed that I could not say goodbye.  I wasn't strong enough to have the big event, another receiving line, 100's of goodbyes, all those tears...  But oh, how my heart wants to be there and touch each one of those beautiful people I fell in love with in Truro.  I have hundreds of thank you cards written on my heart, but not one of them has made it to paper.  I'm ashamed. It's too painful.  I can't seem to do it. In every generous act you gave, I see love, and I see death.  In every one of your loving faces, I see love and I see death.  In every visit, I feel what I cannot verbalize... That death has happened.  That all of these relationships are affected. That nothing is as it was. That all of it is too much for my mind and heart to process.

I missed my friend's wedding.  I missed my friend's baptism.  I cried through each.  I have to go back, maybe soon.

There are so many blessings in sharing my journey with others.  I rely on your prayers.  I'm comforted by your messages.  I love that others are benefiting. And I can keep connections with so many I would otherwise lose touch with.  But one of the challenges has been the constant presence of loss.  I am never sheltered from the awareness of Lynn's death, (not that I imagine any widow is). His death (and all the losses it entails) are always present right before my face, in one way or another. All the encouragement and love come with a double-edged sword. I would have to be cut off from technology and move to a foreign country to escape the ever present reminders and triggers of loss, sorrow, and death...  Sometimes, I just don't know how much I can take.  Other times I am so profoundly blessed by all the connectivity and loving people...

Well, all there is left is faith, hope, and love.  And the greatest of these is love.

Lord, lead me through this day, through this ambush, through all these memories, flashbacks, sorrows, and losses.  Strengthen me for my family.  Strengthen me for love.  Lead me in the way everlasting for your name's sake...

On a practical note, for the bereaved... When a person (I think any person) is in crisis, the expectation is on them to reach out and ask for help.  And yet, this can be so immensely difficult.  Sometimes, I am fully aware that I need help, fully willing to ask for help, but completely immobilized and unable to pick up the phone or search for a number.  Also, the kids could be screaming and the water boiling over on the stove and my crazy cat meowing incessantly because she's in heat and I have to wait forever to get her to the stinking vet to get her spayed... And I can't get my mind to process who to call, or what I need.  I can't sit down and make a plan and then call the appropriate people to put it into action.  Soooo, I am finally becoming smart enough to make a list for myself, categorizing my needs and the appropriate people to call.  On that list will be a list of names who I can call just to say, I am freaking out.  I need something, but don't know what.  I need help to know what it is I need so I know who to call and how to make it happen... On that list will also be: Man jobs, plummer, electrician, baby-sitters, etc...

Being alone is hard.  Asking for help or sometimes finding help available can be hard.  Maybe my list will come in handy :).


As I sit in my living room, enjoying the feel of my comfy sofa, the lingering smell of quinoa and coconut milk waffles... the girls playing peacefully for a few minutes in Roya's bedroom (which for the sake of my sanity, I will imagine as neat and tidy, with perfect little angels, giving dainty little dolls a dainty little tea party...), I am aware of my many blessings, of the beauty around me, of a watchful Savior keeping tabs over our lives...

But underneath, there's an inexplicable torment, a choking sense of fear, anxiety bubbling up like an erupting volcano... My resources call this an emotional ambush, when simple triggers take you from feeling fine and almost normal to feeling like a complete wreck, unable to cope, like you're losing your mind.*

Therese A. Rando, in How to Go On Living When Someone You Love Dies, writes:

Grief spasms, or grief attacks, as they are also known, have contributed to automobile accidents, occupational injuries, and countless other mishaps.  Small or surprising things can trigger these [grief spasms] off... This can cause a temporary, acute upsurge in grief with intense emotional reactions. 

She says, You must stop your activities and deal with your feelings until you are in control again, or else you risk possible injury to yourself and others.

I recognize this to be very true. Triggers happen quite frequently, even on PEI.  I often feel the danger of these emotional ambushes especially when I'm driving, like I'm in great danger of suddenly losing control and killing us all (a bit extreme, but the anxiety is there). But in the midst of these upsurges, I can't seem to avoid the need to go and get groceries...! The need to make a deposit at the bank!  The need to drive into Cornwall to pick up my mail because it could be up to a year before the national post office has processed the specific factors surrounding my property in light of their regulations to decide if I need to have a mailbox or a community box...!! How does a young widow with young children stop activity amidst these frequent ambushes/grief spasms???

I find it to be an impossible feat, this awkward rhythm of living life as the bereaved... On the one hand, I'm battling against the immobilizing facet of grief, having to force myself forward, one thing at a time, one day at a time, recant to myself the mantra - do the next thing*.  But then, I have to force myself to stop, find a way to halt activity, be still and listen to my emotions so I can lean into my grief...  The problem is, I often can't find a way to stop. But if I don't, the grief spasm continues and worsens... It won't calm down until I've given into it and dealt with it... no matter how painful.

Perhaps, practically speaking, this is the hardest thing I face being a young widow.  How do I cope amidst these frequent upsurges of emotion while also being the mother of young children, sole care-giver, provider and decision-maker, family manager, driver, errands-runner, house chef and cleaner, etc.      How do I find room to be a friend to others, a part of community, with healthy activities, and still take care of myself properly, finding time to grieve...?

It is not easy, and I cannot do it alone.  Perhaps the most practical skill a grieving person can develop is mastering the call for help.  This is something I find very challenging in and of itself.  Who doesn't have enough trouble of their own?  Who isn't stressed or tired or busy themselves?  I don't like being the needy one and I'm not good at asking!!! :) It is also one of the challenges being in a new place... It takes time to make new connections and build a new support system.  I don't have it all figured out yet... But yes, I am reminded.  I have to keep asking.  I have to find a way to take breaks when I need them.  I need the Lord to give me the humility in my weakness I need to ask for appropriate help.  I am still grieving.  I am still in the first year.  It is all too much, raw and painful.

By humility and the fear of the Lord are riches, and honour, and life. (Prov 22:4)  

*Grieving with Hope, by Samuel J. Hodges and Kathy Leonard

Monday, July 8, 2013

A new thing.

Last night, I spent some time reading through a thick journal I'd prepared for Lynn for his graduation from Kingswood... I had included letters of encouragement from lots of faculty and staff, from friends like Scott Rhyno, Art Maxwell, David Higle, Betty Weatherby, Dave and Bethanie Klob, Mark Brewer, Kirk Sabine, Morgan MacPherson, Ryan Sweeney, Heather Durkee, etc, etc, etc...

I opened the journal with this: (May 3rd, 2003)

There are so many ways you have touched my life over the past two years.  I am so proud of you!  I have gone from knowing your reputation and respecting it, to knowing your face and personality and enjoying them, to knowing your every movement and your very heart and falling deeply and madly in love with you.  Still, each day I get to know you more and more and my love grows just the same. You have and continue to impact and influence my life in radical ways.  You are the man of God I prayed for. 

Later, I wrote:

I will love you always, Lynn Robert Erskine.  And I will hold your hand through whatever challenges and storms the Lord puts in our path down the road. 

This morning, I am pensive about what God is up to.  I never imagined that the storm that would come our way would be one in which there was no hand to hold... Where is his hand to hold?!?!? I feel the Holy Spirit stirring things in me. He's done so much in my heart in the last few weeks... But I am deeply saddened by my empty hand, that I have to move forward without my partner... God, what are you doing???

After Lynn died, many people shared very passionate convictions that Lynn was with me.  No matter how badly I wanted to believe that, my thinker brain stopped my heart and said, But what does that mean?  People say all kinds of things in the wake of death.  Some of them have truth, but a lot of them maybe don't... I wasn't sure how to process He is with me.  How could I possibly process the shock of his death, the understanding that He lives again in Christ, the realization that he's a new man with perfect vision and understanding... and that in some otherworldly way, he is with me?  My ridiculous mind couldn't handle it all at once!

The past few weeks, though, have brought enough healing to my heart for me to revisit this issue... He is with me.  In a deep and profound way that is very real.  But my heart has to be at peace to embrace it.  I have to be at peace with the fact that he died, in order to embrace the fact that he lives...

There is excitement in my spirit about something coming.  I don't know what it is, but know God is preparing me for it.  Behold I am doing a new thing... (Is 43)  But I would be greatly deceiving myself if I didn't also confess my sadness, that no matter how true it is that Lynn is with me, I cannot hold his hand.  I cannot hear his laughter.  I cannot sit beside him and feel the whole world rock to his rhythm... I cannot sing with him, hear our voices blending together, watch him dance at the piano with more energy than should ever have been allotted to one human being...

Alea started saying to me, Mom do you remember when Daddy came back?  What do you mean honey?  After he died, do you remember when he came back?  No, honey.  I don't know what you mean... (Eventually, I asked...) Did you see Daddy in a dream?  Yes.  Daddy came back.  He came to our new house.  Don't you remember?

I teach my girls that they still have a Daddy who loves them very much, he's just in heaven, which is our Real Home, where one day we will all go to be with Jesus. We are not without a Daddy here on earth because God is ABBA, daddy God, and is with us always.  But Daddy (Lynn) can't come back to earth... (Alea aways talked about him coming back, so I felt I had to make this clear...) But, one day we will go home to be in heaven where he is.

Well, maybe in some ways, our deceased loved one can come back :)  At least he can in the dreams of my three year old.  And he can when I lay in bed at night squeezing his cards tightly to my chest as though it could give me some semblance of comfort in his presence...

Behold I am doing a new thing, now it shall spring forth; shall you not know it?  I will even make a road in the wilderness and rivers in the desert... To give drink to my people, my chosen.  This people I have formed for myself; they shall declare my praise.  (Is 43:19-21)

I am sensing the waters stirring, brimming to overflowing, ready to pour out and into the barren landscapes of our lives... But the pathways of these rivers are prepared in brokenness.  Their banks are lined with humility and loss.  This is the dichotomy of the faith: Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness for they shall be filled... Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted...

I am ready.  But I am sad.  Still, it is a blessing... a grace disguised*.  It is a blessing to be offered up as a barren wasteland, so that God might stir up his living waters and give drink to His people.

My people, they shall declare my praise!

*A Grace Disguised, How the Soul Grows through Loss, by Jerry Sittser 

Friday, July 5, 2013

Back to my roots

Coming to the Island has a very profound sense of coming home to me.  Perhaps the most intriguing part of this homecoming has been in regards to church...

I confess that I was quite nervous about finding a church on the island.  I know so many beautiful people who attend many different churches, and the last thing I wanted to do was to try them out! a round of church shopping, so to speak.  I prayed about it a lot and asked the Lord to send me the right connection and draw me to the place he'd like me to serve... I was desperately longing for that fellowship and sense of family I've been missing for some time now...  (I miss you, Truro family!!!)

My dear friend Laura Blinder became that connection!! :)  She mentioned to me that she has been attending First Baptist Church in Charlottetown.  As soon as I read the words in her message, I felt the quickening in my spirit and knew it was the place to start... I hadn't even considered it, but how perfect!  This was the place of my infant dedication, the church I attended as a young child, the church my parents were married in, the church in which I sang my first solo (in which I still remember forgetting the words for the first time...) The Lord seems to have very intentionally brought me right back to my roots, and I know it has contributed to the comfort and sense of healing I am now experiencing on the Island...

Laura invited me to join the Thursday night prayer group at the church, and I was excited to join right away!  I was so ready to fellowship with other believers and felt so comforted in the environment of my birth... It was as if the Lord was saying, I've got you.  I've had you all along, from day one and since the beginning of time.  All your days have been numbered before my eyes.  I see you and I know you and I know what I'm doing...

When I attended my first prayer meeting, I pictured a scattered group throughout the sanctuary, solemn prayer times, and possibly the freedom to slip in the back and leave early :)  This was not even close to an accurate description of the evening, however, with a small, intimate circle of chairs, communion shared every meeting, Sunny's eyes that peer deep into your soul drawing out whatever the Lord has invested into your heart..., worshipful fellowship with one another and in the Spirit..., vulnerability and brokenness, an incredibly pure openness and desire to see others healed and brought near.  There was no slipping in and out, that's for sure!!

I recognized the worship leader from Sunday morning and was quite certain my family would know her... I was only mildly surprised when she and her husband looked at me and said, Natasha, we've been waiting for you.  They knew my parents really well and apparently had a sweet conversation with Reg and Carol Austin (friends from our church in Truro!), in which the Spirit had stirred them to believe I would be coming...

I was welcomed by this group, by Pastor Dave and Wendy DuBois, in such a profound way that has ministered to my wounded soul.  I absolutely love being back in the place of my birth and feel the connections as strong as though I never left... I sit in the services and receive visions as the Holy Spirit stirs up within me.  My worship minister side gets stirred up and I think, Woah!  You are still in there...!? Stay down, I'm not ready for you yet!!! :)

There is such an intriguing sense of timing... Such a beautiful sense of hospitality and familiarity.  It feels like coming home...

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Good morning.

Father, I do not know how you have brought me to this place... 

I will be glad and rejoice in Your mercy,
For You have considered my trouble;
You have known my soul in adversities,
And have not shut me up into the hand of the enemy;
You have set my feet in a wide place (Psalm 31:7-8)

You have covered me with your wings and sheltered me within your mighty hands.  You led me through the Valley of the shadow of death, holding my hand, carrying me when I could not see the way...

I am yours.  I am my Beloveds and my Beloved is mine (Song of Sol 2:16).

I will pursue your Kingdom and chase after your Spirit, like a wild goose chase, the symbol of the Spirit in old-time traditions.  You are wild and untamed.  You call us out upon the water and send us out amongst the wolves.  Your promise is this: I will never leave you or forsake you.  I am with you always, even unto the end of the age.  

Your Spirit dwells within me crying, Abba!!  Restore this brokenness unto yourself!  Touch our humanity with Your magnificence.  Not that we would be without trouble, but that we would fellowship in your sufferings, that our soul would grow, that our spirits would embrace a grieving unto glory... That your Name would be made great among the nations, and your nature made known to the intelligence of fools, and your sweet goodness an ointment to soothe the ailings of our souls...

I commit this day to You. 

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

10 months.

The pediatrician told me 7:30 pm.  Have your children asleep by 7:30 pm.  Well, it's 10:21 pm as I write this sentence and Roya is laying on the couch beside me as I type... still concerned about all the wires that had been hooked up to her arms, legs, and chest as the nurse had tested her heart this morning.  Well, I failed day 1 of our new prescribed schedule...

I have this intense mingling of emotions coursing through my heart, mind, body, and spirit.  I am a Mom, and ever practical.  I have one child with food allergies and sensitivities and spend way too much money on groceries.  Another child with psychologist appointments, both children undergoing heart exams trying to discover any genetic threads they would have received from their father... and I am so sick myself, undergoing appointment after appointment trying to get healthy enough to take care of my family!

Some days, I am driving in the car and suddenly get this image of one of my daughters falling down and dying, and I feel like I'm going to hyperventilate and tears start streaming down my cheeks... Don't be irrational, I tell myself.

(Pause, while I put Roya in a "midnight" bath...)

But even when my practicality is at an all-time high, I am unable to separate myself from the love of God... (Rom 8:39).  Where can I go from your Spirit, Lord??? (Psalm 139) I am now, perhaps more than ever, unable to still the longings and groanings of my spirit, the bursting forth of revelation and anointing for healing and transformation... My passion to see women set free all around the world.  I am unable to quiet the roar of intercession and prophecy for an age such as this...

God told me in September that I had one year.  One year.  One year to be a widow, to "wear black" so to speak, to put on my sackcloth and ashes, to weep and to wail.  But 10 months... 10 months is dangerously close to one year, and my spirit is stirring.  Who am I at the end of this journey?  In many ways I am the same.  I am Natasha, woman called into ministry, worshiper, singer and writer, mother, friend, sister, daughter...  I am all these things and more.  Yet, I am also new.  Fast approaching a new life, a new way of being in the world, and with it a new confidence, a new understanding of sorrow, a new appreciation for beauty, a new depth in the Lord...

Who am I?  Where am I?  What am I doing with my life?  Of course, I have asked these questions before, but now the urgency has set in and I am both elated and terrified to discover the truth...

I am and always will be a daughter of the King.  No matter the circumstance!!  Both in death and in life!!  My vows are embedded in Book of Life.  I am a servant of the Most High God and my life is caught up in His.

For I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me, and the life I live in the body I live by faith in the Son of God who loved me and gave himself for me (Gal 2:20).

For 29 years, the Lord has been investing (Pause this deep and spiritual moment as I get my five year old out of the bath and put her in bed at 11:00 at night...) in my growth and maturity as a believer.  I am forever ruined for the ordinary! (I forget the name of the woman who wrote a book with this title...)  I am so tired I want to beat myself over the head with a wooden spoon!?  Or wait... Is that a spank stick? And Roya is still running out asking me to come put Rescue Ointment (Burt's Bees) on her leg because it hurts...

(I am determined to write this blog post tonight!!!!!!)

The point is... I surrender.  I surrender to the will of God, not the bottom line of my budget.  I surrender to the Word of the God and to the leading of the Holy Spirit, not the fleshly part of me that wants to make sure we're okay, take on the responsibility of provider that belongs only to my God.  I surrender to the God who orders my steps, no matter what plans have been made in the past.  I surrender to the God who whispers sweet nothings into my spirit and inspires me to believe...

I have always believed in God's kingdom coming and His will being done on earth as it is in heaven.  As I child, I read about the disciple Peter walking through the city streets, his shadow falling on the sick and the lame, and they were healed.  Since then, God has been stirring in me the faith to believe for the same thing.  To live and breathe the kingdom of heaven so that it intersects humanity everywhere I turn.  The cost of this life is so much greater than I had anticipated in my childhood innocence!

We're at 10 months.  My husband is with me in a new way.  He has forgiven me and I him.  However irrational it is or was, its done and was needed for my heart to heal.  I no longer feel a sense of betrayal, but I feel his sense of support.  Go for it, Babe! He seems to say, with glee and exuberance.  Go for what??  I don't know for sure, but The work of God is this: to believe in the one He has sent. (John 6:29)

So, here I am!  This is me believing!  Go for it, Lord!!  Do the thing that you do best!!  Lead a broken soul in the Way everlasting and bring glory and honor to Your Name!!!!