Saturday, August 31, 2013

Nature's Perfect Worship Service

Last memories at a favorite camping spot.
Last Labor Day weekend was glorious weather for camping. Ted and I usually invited others along, but somehow this outing was a gift just for us. God blessed us with so many simple pleasures that weekend and I'm so happy I captured them in my journal...

We heard the hoot-hoot-hoot of an owl as we stretched out on our sleeping bag late that first night. A full moon greeted us through the canopy of our tent.

In the wee early morning, we heard the mystical croon of the loon -- for hours and hours. One of the absolute best perks of camping was hearing this beautiful sound of the north as we drifted in and out of dreamland.

As the morning sun ushered in the day, we made coffee on our camp stove and brought it out in the canoe.

On the placid river, we watched a great blue heron fish for her breakfast and then shake her head to help swallow down her big catch. A small bird perched in the bushes thrust its head back and let out a long melodious warble. A mud hen floated in the bog, then went under cover as we glided near. A loon and her baby swam together, separately disappearing under the water and popping up in new spots, the baby peeping for his mother.

We talked of how it was nature's perfect "worship service." Tranquility. Peace. Harmony. The heron was a sterling example of patience and perseverance. The songbird exuded joy. The loon added its melodic voice to the worship. Ted and I thanked God that we were able to be there at all. What a great picture it was of how well God provides for all His creation.

We cooked a savory brunch of bacon, potatoes and veggies in foil as Ted poked and tended the fire. Later, he grinned like a kid as he played with a pine bough in the fire, watching it crackle. Our little dog Nikki chased the chipmunks that teased her.

As we nestled around a dancing bonfire that evening, our conversation turned to the birth of Jesus and what we learned from each of the gospels about it. We observed how Herod was evil, like Hitler was evil (Germany 1938), like Assad was evil (Syria 2012)... and there is always evil. But God is good. He is in control. He is our hope, our refuge, our strength and our guide through anything we meet in this world.

Why does evil exist? Who are "the least of these" around us? How do we know if we're in the center of God's will? These are some of the great topics we dove into. Ted said as long as we are seeking, listening and obeying, we are on the right track. It's up to God to reveal, and it's up to us to listen and act.

As we often did, we alternated in a free-flowing, conversational prayer as we gazed upon the captivating fire. We lifted family members, friends and situations around the world, placing them in God's capable hands, one by one. We expressed our gratefulness for the simplicity of our surroundings, the beauty of all creation giving Him glory. How we loved our lives together, with God in His place of priority.

Oh dear God, little did I know that would be our last camping trip. But what a beautiful weekend it was in so many ways. You gave us the best! You gave me the best when you gave him to me. My heart is forever grateful for Your goodness.

(Click the colored links in the story to see related stories.)

Thursday, August 15, 2013

God's Lovingkindness

Beautiful deck to enjoy.
I am amazed at God's lovingkindness in sending beautiful people to walk with me through my grief.

I was all set to seal my deck a couple weeks ago and a friend phoned to invite me on a bike ride. This turned into two friends voluntarily giving up their bike ride to instead help me with this large project. "More hands make fast work," they said, and they were so right. With God's great attention to detail, He not only sent two angels, but two who were experienced at sealing decks already this year!

(Just another example of God's great provision -- I could go on -- but I'd rather "2 John 12" with you!)

Those who have lost loved ones know the way of grief is a wild roller coaster. I'm slogging through some extreme emotional lows at times, processing all that I am missing. My husband was the sweetest person ever to me. He blessed me with his selfless love. He knew my thoughts and emotions so well, he could finish my sentences. I trusted him with all my heart and was completely safe with him. He was my favorite person in the whole wide world and I was his. It's so hard not to have this kind of intimacy any more...

After a particularly low string of days, I was soaking in the Psalms for comfort. I was reminded how King David certainly knew every raw emotion I was feeling. Words like anguish, agony, sorrow, aching and groaning peppered the Psalms he penned. Yet throughout the pain, his faith was steadfast as he trusted in the Lord's lovingkindness.

With his world falling down around him and even fearing for his life, David said:
But I have trusted in your lovingkindness,
My heart shall rejoice in your salvation.
I will sing to the Lord
For he has dealt bountifully with me. (Ps. 13:5-6, NASB)
I savored those verses. Yes, God has been amazingly loving and kind... He loves each one of us as if we were His favorite in the whole wide world. (He was the one who taught Ted to love that way.) No matter how rough this road is, this is not our home and these troubles are only temporary. We have a beautiful eternity to look forward to with our Lord -- what a gracious gift that is! That is something to rejoice in and sing about. I thought about how good God has been to me all my life. We have a history, it's solid and His love never changes.

Oh, Loving Lord, you have so graciously loved me and so abundantly blessed me. I will dwell in your lovingkindness every day through whatever comes my way. Whom shall I fear when you are the one in control? In this world we will have trouble, but you have overcome the world. (John 16:33 NIV)

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Still Hearing from My Honey

Ted's memorial magnolia bush decided to bloom again!
One of the greatest treasures I have found is rereading the emails Ted and I wrote each other when we were dating. We'd decided on doing a particular Bible reading each day, then emailing each other our thoughts. If we'd get together that evening, we might talk more about what impressed us within that particular passage. Now it is such a blessing to not only have the details of watching our relationship bloom, but also our faith journey together!

Here are a few excerpts of our correspondence in 2003:

Ted 2/11: "I feel so much satisfaction, knowing you cherish our time in all the same ways. I love the beat of your heart with mine. Now I'm looking forward to the study tomorrow night, both for the content and because I'm in love with the leader and I love to watch her in action. I could go on but I'd rather '2 John 12' with you!"

Ted 2/14: "My heart is singing from your email and I have to just respond. I can't be silent. It gives just an inkling of how God's creation responds to Him: Let the heavens rejoice, let the earth be glad, let the sea resound..."

Marilyn 2/17: "Did you enjoy God's artwork this a.m.? The trees have at least an inch of frost on them. Every intricate little twig is glazed and dipped in sugar that sparkles in the sun... "

Ted 2/18: "Earth is not our final home; we were created for something much better. I do love life and if there's a much better -- oh what will it be like? We may not have our 'house,' but He has sure provided a spectacular tent for the interim."

Marilyn 2/28: "You are such a good example of putting relationships first. You are so attentive to me, always available, and it feels wonderful! What a great expression of love. It speakers louder than words, but I also love the many ways you put it in words. Thank you for loving me all the ways you do. I hope you know how much I appreciate and love you."

Ted 3/21: "I admire the commitment of your heart. You are a good example to me of a person who is devoted to God. We both have settled the Lord-issue. That makes everything else easier. Yes, I agree that our relationship doesn't feel like work...I love you for all that you are and everything about you."

Oh, how I long for those conversations to continue! And, in a way, they do. I have these beautiful emails until we got married (and did our Bible readings in person). Then, I have a host of loving cards with thoughtful handwritten notes inside.

God, you truly blessed me with this man! You are the giver of the most magnificent gifts. I trust you for all that I need every day. Step by step, abiding in Christ, I am connected to the life-giving Vine.

Take time to write a love note today!

Friday, August 2, 2013

In My Potter's Hands

Today is Ted's three-month anniversary in Heaven. I still can't fully grasp that he is gone. He was the best friend I ever had and I miss him terribly.

I am frequently engulfed in grief and overwhelmed every single day. O-v-e-r-w-h-e-l-m-e-d. Every. Single. Day. It's not like anything I've ever felt before. In my stunned and racing mind, even the normal tasks and decisions are tedious. From day-to-day and moment-to-moment, in a year of firsts, it's difficult to keep the delicate balance between exhilarating and exhausting. I have a vast new appreciation for all those who have been grieving lost loved ones. How in the world do they do it and make it seem somewhat manageable?

I continue to deliberately put one foot in front of the other...walking by faith, carefully and prayerfully abiding in Christ. I am in the presence of my Savior, walking this rough road in His omnipotent company...the One who makes all things new. He is where my help comes from (Psalm 121). Every single overwhelming day, my eyes are fully seeking Him. There is no other way. It is the overwhelming that keeps me looking to Him, desperately needing more of Him. 

And then, there is an undeniable sweetness in the walk. A privilege to be so saturated and captivated by Him in moments of great need. He comforts me. He fills me. He blesses me with what I need to get through another challenge. I'm slowly healing as I talk about Ted (thanks for listening) and lean on Jesus. I soak in the precious memories of my soulmate and I am delighted when someone brings up his name.

I have a sense that I am being retooled for a new purpose. We so loved our lives together. My purpose was to love God, to love Ted -- and to love God and others with Ted. Now I am clay in the hands of my Potter, being reshaped for a new beginning of His choosing.

When Ted's cancer was diagnosed 12 years ago, someone gave him this clay mug. Ted loved telling the story of how it reminded him that the Potter has the right to rework the clay at any time and make what He wants with it.

You, Lord, are my sustenance and my life-giving cup. In that cup, you hold my future and my eternal riches. (Psalm 16:5, The Voice)