Thursday, February 25, 2010

Missing Todd

Things I miss about Todd:

I miss him walking through the door in the late afternoon. I would ask how his day went and as he hugged me or the kids, he would smile and reply "It's much better now."

I miss his laughter. When he found something really funny, his whole body was involved in the laugh. He would bend over at the waist and put his hands on his knees or sometimes one hand on the counter and the other fist in front of his mouth and just let loose...tears running down his face. He had a great laugh.

I miss watching him teach the kids about how to work on cars and motorcycles and all manner of other things...asking them to get tools and showing them how to use them.

I miss watching him make biscuits with the kids.

I miss watching him read to the kids.

I miss watching him play with the kids.

I miss sitting on his lap, putting my head against his shoulder and him wrapping his arms around me.

I miss watching the kids fly to him as soon as they realized he was home from work.

I miss seeing his face light up when we came to visit him at work.

I miss him telling me "You're my rock."

I miss him telling me how much he loved me.

I miss him telling me I was beautiful.

I miss holding his hand.

I miss his kiss.

I miss his balance to me and my personality. He always said we made a good team, and I always agreed.

I miss how the kids would holler "It's Daddy!" and run down the stairs when they would hear the garage door open. (One of their friends who witnessed this on many occassions told her mother that she bet Caley and Luke missed hearing the garage door when Mr. Todd got home and that she guessed it was hard for them (C and L) to hear that sound now.)

I miss his encouragement, and his belief in me.

I miss him telling me "feed them fish heads" which was his way of telling me not to worry what anyone else thought.

I miss him telling me that I was a great mom and wife.

I just miss...him.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Rough Places Smooth

I will lead the blind by ways they have not known,
along unfamiliar paths I will guide them;
I will turn the darkness into light before them
and make the rough places smooth.
These are the things I will do;
I will not forsake them. (Isaiah 42:16)

I almost named this blog "Rough Places Smooth" in reference to this verse from Isaiah, which has been one of my anchors for the last few years--and particularly these past months. I love the imagery. I turn to it at least once a week, if not more. I love reading the words on the page, but I am also thankful that it is written on my heart so that it can be whispered back to me when I am in need--which is often. After it comes to mind, I usually find myself speaking it out loud. There is something about hearing the words with my ears and not just reciting them in my mind that brings me comfort, strength and encouragement. I am reminded that even though the path looks unfamiliar to me, I have a trusted Guide that knows the way and He is able to "turn the darkness into light...and make the rough places smooth."

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Tracks of a Fellow Struggler

I just finished reading a book a dear friend sent me called "Tracks of a Fellow Struggler" by John Claypool. Although Claypool's circumstances differ from mine (he lost his young daughter to leukemia) this book accurately reflects my own experience with grief and faith. He so parallels and mirrors my own thoughts, that several times I said to myself, "This is my book." If you care to get inside my head (that may be a bit too scary for some of you), this is the book to read.

Until about 9 years ago I really struggled with trusting and believing God...and, of course, I am not "done" yet, but I have traveled a good piece down that road (of trusting and believing)--and thankfully had prior to the events of 6 1/2 months ago. As I have already mentioned, one reason I questioned His goodness and ability and desire to care for me (and others) was because of all the brokenness in the world that we cannot begin to explain away. This was a very big burden to me as I know it is also for many of you. I keep coming back to this because it has been so pivotal in my relationship with Him. I have been able to see how He has worked in my life (although I certainly questioned that following the tragic events of August 2), but I need help seeing it in other's lives when all I can see is the sadness or violence of the situation. I am not sure when it happened, but I know that He began to make it clear that when I see something from the outside trying to look in, that I cannot know how He is working in that situation...I am looking at a small snapshot not the panoramic view. At the same time He began to allow me to hear from others how He worked to bring about healing in their lives even when they suffered greatly in horrible circumstances. It is their sharing that encourages me as it fills in the details (for the panoramic view). I don't mean to imply that all my questions have been answered, but I am able to trust in spite of the questions because I have begun to understand that their is so much beyond what I think I know. I also don't want to imply that I can "defend God" or that He even needs me too, but I hope to encourage those of you who face a similar dilemma to ask Him to reveal Himself in whatever ways you need so that you can draw closer to Him as the source of all goodness and be comforted and strengthened on this life journey.

I don't know if the book Precious is based on is a "true" story, but we all know its truth if we open our eyes just a little bit...and some of you reading this even know it first-hand. I listened to an interview with the beautiful woman who plays the lead character, and I recall she said something about it being a dark story that is ultimately filled with light and hope. It sounds like a movie I would like to see just for those reasons. This is NOT a movie I will see for its entertainment value--as I know the dark parts will be very hard to stomach--but I am hoping it fits with the theme "joy cometh." I will let you know how it goes after I see it.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010


Part I
February 23 would have been the 27th anniversary of our "first date." (I put this in quotes because I'm not sure you could call it a real date--he crashed a swap and asked me to dance. ;-) We were pretty much together forever after...except for a few roller coaster months early in our marriage. Although we haven't really celebrated it in quite a few years, we always remembered the date and counted it as the official beginning of our relationship. We were of the things I loved was that we had such a long, shared history together...we could quip a line or situation from a movie we saw 20 years ago and the other one would know exactly what we were talking about. We had so many common old friends and shared experiences--and so much of it was filled with laughter. (Of course, over the course of 27 years, we had our share of tears too.) I hardly know where to begin again without him. I know that I must begin to figure this out, but maybe later...

Part II
On a lighter note...
Sometime last year, Todd and I had started playing this game where we would play songs on the computer and the other person would have to try and remember the title and who sang it...we mostly did 70s and 80s music and we laughed and laughed at the fun memories these songs brought back and at how it can drive you crazy to KNOW something but not know it (if you know what I mean? ;-) Some nights we went easy on each other--just wanting to stir up the funny or fond memories, but some nights it was cut-throat.

I love the way music reminds you of certain places and times in your life. MTV had just launched when we started college in 1981. I can remember how we sat and watched for hours -- of course, it was much tamer and gentler then and the videos by today's slick standards were so "low-budget." (I sound just like a grown-up, don't I?--rhetorical question that does not require a response ;-) I still enjoy occasionally flipping through my album collection--there is something sentimental about an album vs. a CD (or 8-track tape ;-) I know many people "of my age" feel this way. Todd and I had only one in common when we merged our collections--The Best of Earth, Wind and Fire Vol. 1. I find it interesting that although we had common taste in music, we only had one duplicate. If I were to flip through I would find Bruce Springsteen, Motels, Boston, Fleetwood Mac, ELO. Chicago, Murrah Singers ;-), Rolling Stones, Dan Fogelberg, Todd Rundgren, Madonna, Michael Jackson, Journey, The Police, Prince, ZZ Top, Crosby Stills Nash and Young, Huey Lewis and the News, 38 Special and a bunch more I won't take time to list. It makes me smile to look back over this list because each name evokes a memory (or memories) of the more carefree days of highschool and college. What do you have in your album collection that makes you smile?

Sunday, February 14, 2010

One step forward, two steps back

Yesterday afternoon I made a poor, no a bad, decision. It seemed so innocent, but even as I was making it I knew it was a bad one. No lasting harm came from this decision (at least not that I am aware of), but that is not the point. What is the point, IMHO, is that I consciously chose not to make what I was fully aware was the right decision.

Okay, I guess I should fill you in on what happened, huh? I was in Memphis for the day (no kids), and I decided to take my book and go into a "sit down" restaurant to eat before heading back home. Although before Todd died I often did this and enjoyed it very much, this was the first time since August that I had tried to do this was kind of a big deal. That is where the one step forward comes in. I initially ordered water to drink, but then decided to have a glass of wine with my meal...this was my first step back. Not that I consider ordering a glass of wine "wrong" by any means. In fact, I frequently enjoy a glass of red in the evening. But yesterday I knew it was the wrong decision for the circumstances...and I knew this from the get-go. It was bad enough that I silenced the small, still Voice inside the first time...but I did it twice! After I drained the first glass, I decided to have another. Well, I am sure you will not be surprised when I tell you that I was crying at my booth all through the second glass of wine...basically having a pity party because I was inebriated...okay, so maybe that's a bit strong, but I was buzzin (did I mention that I had only eaten a yogurt so far that day? ) It makes me laugh this morning at how stupid I was, but I was not laughing last night. Now some of you might be thinking, "give yourself a break--you just lost your husband, and it was almost Valentine's Day, and...and...and..." But that is not the point at all. I knew better, and I decided to do that which would clearly be destructive to me in the long run. Why is it we do that? (Don't pretend you haven't done it too!) How many things that could potentially be celebrations and small victories do we ruin by silencing that Voice inside that tells us "don't do that" ? I think I often do it to reassure myself (ha ha) I am still the boss of me, but this is about as effective as a two-year old stomping her foot to show she's the boss--and, ultimately, much more destructive. The joke of it is, I know I don't need to be the boss of me. I know my tendency toward self-destruction when left to my own it's not a very funny joke. Most days I am fully grateful that I am not the Boss, but I have my moments, and they are definitely not my finest.

Lest you think I am beating myself with a wet noodle, let me assure you I am not! ;-) I am thankful that as soon as I ask Him to, God forgives me for acting like a two-year-old...even though He knows it won't be too long before I do it again.

By the way, I didn't get home until late (although I entered the restaurant around 3:30) because I was stuck until I could drive myself home. Time and three cups of coffee took care of it, but I was fully aware of all the people coveting my table at what had, by that time, become a very busy restaurant. And thanks to my two friends who texted me through my pity wasn't the first time, and I am sure it won't be the last, that you helped me in my time of need...and neither of you said "and WHAT were you thinking?!"

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Love Covers

Above all, love one another deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins. 1Peter 4:8

I have always loved this verse for its encouragement but also for its hope. I can't exactly explain it, but it moves me greatly inside...almost makes my heart skip a beat. It speaks to what I can do and what others do for me. What does loving someone deeply "look like"? For me I think this means to let go of my critical nature, to not feel like I have to be in charge of that person (because, of course, I am not), to help someone who needs help--in healthy and life-giving ways, not in a co-dependent kind of way.

How awesome that we are allowed the privelege (through our love of others) to assist in anything that has to do with covering "over a multitude of sins." Does this mean mine or someone elses or both? Does it mean that when we truly love others we are able to meet some of their needs that perhaps the sin of someone else has brought into their lives? No matter the answer, we are called to do this (love one another deeply), and it leaves me in wonder to know that I am empowered by the Holy Spirit to do this...because He certainly can't expect me to do it on my own.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Humpty Dumpty

"I hear your desire for healing and wholeness. Your King and His people are so much better than Humpty Dumpty’s…He promised we will be put back together again. As our friend Beth likes to say, 'joy cometh!!!' ”

This was a response I got to my recent Family update. As you have probably already figured, I am all about "joy cometh!" I loved this analogy because I feel like Humpty Dumpty quite a lot these days. I picture myself frantically trying to gather up the pieces of my cracked exterior but unable to piece them back the way I think they need to go. This picture of myself actually makes me laugh, and I am so thankful that I AM does not leave me to my own devices. He is tenderly holding my frantic hands telling me that He will get it for me. One of the ways He does this is through my sweet friends. My friend Jan is here helping me with some things this week...some of which I had no idea I even needed help with--but it is so satisfying to see Him use my friend to meet needs I didn't even know that I had. And this is an everyday kind of occurrence-- for each one of reading this, I could probably tell you a recent specific instance when He used you to bless me, and as I hope you already know, I am thankful. If I were to try and list all the people whom He has used to meet my needs (and let me tell you, I am a needy girl right now), the list would be so long that you would probably fall asleep before you finished reading it...and I am quite sure you would see your own name listed several times before you were through. Now that is Godly provision, and I hope you will open your eyes to it in your own life...I promise it is there.

For those of you who like Stephen Curtis Chapman, you can log on to his website and songs from the beautywillrise CD (I almost said "album") play while you are very favorite is Beauty Will Rise that I quoted in my first post (it is the second song that plays)...the kids and I have played it everyday and danced around the house listening to it...Beauty Will Rise has a great chorus for dancing! The first song you will hear is Heaven is the Face--the words are very moving, I think...but then I feel that way about the entire CD.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Cotton Candy

I have a confession to make...well actually two confessions. I tend toward pride and nothing I say is original.

We'll take the pride first. I love hearing the replies after I send out an update because they often feed my ego. Now I am not saying that we don't all need to hear nice things about ourselves. It is just as the Nicole Nordeman song "Legacy" says: "I don't mind if you got something nice to say about me. We all need an "atta boy/atta girl" (I hope I got those right...most of you know I tend to butcher lyrics if I am not reading them straight from the jacket cover.) But when I find myself checking my email every couple of hours to see if I have received any new replies that tell me how wonderful and brave and inspiring I am then that is pride. And guess, what? I have done that on more than one occassion. The legacy I need to be concerned with is not that I said the right things, but that I loved well. And so I return to that Nicole Nordeman song: "How will they remember me? Did I choose to love?"

Okay onto the second one. I have told my friend MC on the occassions when she tells me I have said something that makes sense to her "you know that nothing I say is original." I read and listen a lot. I take what I hear, try to digest it, put it together with everything else, and out it comes. It makes me think of a cotton candy machine...pouring in the sugar and spinning it around until it turns to that delicious fluff. It's still sugar, but its just been spun differently. You know how their is always a piece of clumpy sugar in even the smoothest cotton candy that messes up the texture a bit for that bite...I am sure that would fit in with this analogy as well, but I haven't quite worked it out.

One of the greatest lessons I have learned is that I don't have to agree with someone to learn from them. Reading or listening to others who have an opposing view or who just make us think about something in a new way challenges us to will either give you food for thought and maybe give the Holy Spirit the opportunity to work in you in some area or it will help you solidify why you believe something they don't. The goal is not for us to become cookie cutter images of one is to be made more into the likeness of Him who formed us in His image...and it is obvious that although some may get closer to the truth than others, nobody gets it all right. There are many authors I enjoy reading with whom I don't agree on all points--and maybe neither one of us has it "right." I like to pay particular attention when something I read or hear wrankles my chains and makes me defensive. I have learned that often there is something that needs to be explored more deeply there...why am I so upset by what this person has said? What am I afraid of? I am not talking about rhetoric that is clearly designed to push your buttons or attack...that is something different entirely--I am talking about when I read (or listen to) an opinion or position that is different from mine, and I get all upset about how "wrong" this person is. Those are some of the times the Holy Spirit has done His best work in me, but it only happens when I let down my defenses and let Him uncover, dispense with, or move things around in new ways.

Here is a list of authors/teachers I have enjoyed over the last few years...certainly there are more, but these are the ones who come to mind. Some of these provided comfort food and some provided the spice, and some have provided things that initially tasted bitter but I have come to love...and, of course, sometimes there are things you just have to spit out because no matter how you try to swallow it, you can't make it go down.
C.S. Lewis
Joyce Meyer
Donald Miller
Anne Lamott
Beth Moore
Paula D'Arcy
Charles Stanley
William P. Young
Immaculee Ilibagiza
Naomi Levy
Martha Sterne
Henry Nouwen
Parker Palmer
Jane Watson

Although you may not be published, most of you reading this have impacted me in profound ways. And if I have said anything that resonated with you, then it probably came from somewhere else ;-)

By the way, I do subscribe to the belief that God embodies both the femine and masculine. I use Him and He because I refuse to use "it" and I am just old school enough that the use of the masculine in grammar does not bother me one iota.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Big Smile

I invited myself (and my two children) over to a friend's house to watch the Super Bowl. That's the way we do things around here ;-) I just casually mentioned to Melissa that we might drop by "for a while." My kids had a blast, and so did I. It was a school night so I did think I needed to get them on home at half-time, but they were so disappointed to have to leave (and so was I). But, what absolutely MADE my night were a pair of Mississippi State cups that Ed (Melissa's husband) had gotten me. I LOVE THEM. When I saw them they made my insides smile. Now, that may seem strange to you, and I am thinking it probably sounds a little strange to Ed, but I love my Bulldogs (and these are really cool cups with some hologram thingy on them where sometimes you look and see Bully and sometimes you see the MState logo--awesome, I'm telling you) --and, most importantly, thinking about MSU always fills me with sweet memories of Todd and lots of dear friends. (I had written "old" but replaced it with "dear" because some of you are getting a little sensitive about your age since we've passed the 45 mark.) I am sure Ed had no idea that his kind and thoughtful act would bring me so much happiness, but there you have it cause it did. I guess we never know what small thing can bring a big smile.

P.S. Ed, I hope all your friends won't be demanding their own really cool cups...but I would like to put in a request for 5 more--Sharon, Mimi, Bec and Jan will be wanting to steal mine if you don't...and since Caley has taken over the second one you gave me, you know Luke will have to have one of his own.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Our Own Story

Other people's stories can only take us so far. We must recognize the Divine in our own story. I don't have faith because of other people, but because I have seen God's handiwork in me. (Of course, as I mentioned in the previous post, I am encouraged by other people's stories.) Any of you that have known me for any length of time know that on my own I am a total mess. But when I get quiet and rest in Him an amazing transformation takes place. That is why I love and crave my quiet time with, don't get me wrong...there are many days I start out peaceful but do not do what it takes to maintain that Communion and Peace inside...but I always tell my kids "if you think Mommy is grumpy when she's had her quiet time, you certainly don't want to see her when she hasn't" ;-)
As a young adult I was chaos! I believed in God, but I didn't believe Him or trust Him as was evident in how I tried to control things from the outside...bouncing from one extreme to the other and never with any peace inside. As I realized I didn't believe Him for what He is--good, omnipotent, gracious, loving and so much more--I realized I didn't trust Him to care for me. I did start to ask and recieve changes of heart--changes I knew I could not have accomplished no matter how hard I "tried." That is when I got serious about my relationship with Him...and wanting all He had to offer.

Now, some of you who know my story may be thinking "But where was He when Todd and Stevie were murdered and you were shot?" My response is "He was right there with each of us." I cannot explain how I know this, but I do. I know that He escorted Todd and Stevie beyond these "shadowlands" just as He sat with me while I waited for help to arrive. What I don't know is why--why did all this happen...and I know just as surely that while I have breath in this body I will never know the answer to that. I can make myself crazy thinking about it and trying to figure it out, but there is no way to make sense out of this just as there is no way with what little I do know of the big picture to ever make sense of the daily awefulness I hear about on the nightly news. I do know that in God's Word He tells us He will keep us safe from harm...surely that can't mean physical harm as His Word also reports the sufferings of many who put their trust in Him...but it does mean we are safe with Him always...that we are not destined for this world (I believe C.S. Lewis said this life is just a shadow of our real lives), and that as long as we are in His presence we are safe. So I choose to put my trust in the only One who can keep me safe...not "me" as in my body, but "me" as in my spirit. To many this often sounds like foolishness, but because I have experienced the "peace of God, which transcends all understanding" (Phillipians 4:7), I know it to be true. Clearly I do not have it all together, but thankfully, I don't have to because I put my trust in the One who does.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Joy is Coming in the Morning

I am listening to the title track from Stephen Curtis Chapman's new CD beautywillrise. Here is the first verse and chorus...
It was the day the world went wrong/ I screamed 'til my voice was gone/ And watched through the tears as everything came crashing down/ Slowly panic turns to pain/ As we awake to what remains / And sift through the ashes that are left behind/But buried deep beneath/ All our broken dreams we have hope/ Out of these ashes/Beauty will rise/ And we will dance among the ruins/ We will SEE it with our own eyes/ Out of these ashes/ Beauty will rise/ For we know joy is coming in the morning/ In the morning/ Beauty will rise

He wrote this collection of songs in the months following the tragic death of his young daughter, Maria. His words so accurately capture my experience with the death of my husband--I love them because they acknowledge the awfulness of it all but don't stop there...they go on to give hope for the Joy that comes in the morning.

I have always loved hearing life stories...especially stories that don't deny the pain of life, but go beyond the pain to hope, strength, faith, courage, and joy as the story plays out. Stories like Paula D'Arcy's who's husband and daughter were killed by a drunk driver, and Immaculee Ilibagiza's who survived the Rwandan Genocide when none of her other family members living in Rwanda did. Most of us have either been touched by tragedy directly or have dear friends or family who have. Sometimes all we can do is sit in the pain with that person. I am thankful for my family and the many friends who have allowed me to grieve in the ways I have needed to...which often don't make sense to those who love you or even to yourself.

I hope this blog will offer encouragement to those of you sitting in darkness or those who just need to remember to take off your sunglasses. "...weeping may endure for the night, but joy cometh in the morning." Psalm 30:5