According to the dictionary a surprise is an unexpected or astonishing event, fact or thing.  Life is full of surprises.
Like when your daughters come home for a special day with you and you spend the time having pedicures and lunch, with a little wedding planning squeezed in between.
Like when you find a special treat left on your front porch by Precious L.  And no, it wasn’t a puppy.  (Thank goodness!)
Like receiving over 120 birthday wishes on Facebook which makes your cell phone chime all day long as they come in.
Like friends indulging you so you can spend the whole week celebrating your birthday instead of just the one day.

Birthday 2014
And one last one.  Several years ago a sweet friend gave me a beautiful (and large) pad of paper as a hostess gift.  It’s been on my desk all that time and I have used it for all manner of things.  The pages are perforated so you just tear each page off as you need it.  But apparently quite some time ago someone tore off a page, wrote me a message and then slipped the page back into the bottom of the pad.  And this was a wonderful surprise to find.  Just a reminder.  Just a token.  Just a sweet message.

Surprise picture
May all your surprises be good ones.  Love you all and thank you for making today special.

Back to the Beach

It’s been almost a year since Michael and I last came to the beach house. Returning is filled with uncertainties. I always looked forward to coming here. Especially this time of the year – when most of the vacationers have gone home and we have our little beach town back. The days are cooler and it’s like music to hear the breeze rustle through the palm trees.

I remember in 2001 when we decided it was time to buy our own place here. We’d come here every summer for ten years, renting big houses with other families and creating wonderful memories for all our children. That particular trip we decided to spend some time looking at houses for sale in different neighborhoods and spent a long day with friends getting in and out of the car at every open house sign we saw. As we came through this area, only recently developed, we stopped at a particular house for sale. Michael was tired and didn’t even get out the car. When I walked in the house I remember the openness of it but was immediately struck by the view of the little lake in the back. I immediately told Michael he had to come see it.

We tried to negotiate the purchase and couldn’t come to terms with the owner. So in the next few months we decided on a lot around the corner. Michael was sure he could take what we saw in that house and make it better. And he certainly did – 5000 feet of beach house, enough to sleep 22, pool, decks and balconies, wide open den and kitchen with lots of room for laughter and conversation.

From the time we broke ground we loved all that was involved in making this our family place. Friends would drive down here with us every few weeks to meet with the contractor and see the progress. They lovingly nicknamed it the BABH (the Big Ass Beach House – haha) and helped us to think through and plan on colors and furnishings. And then they made the trip with us to move in and assemble all the furniture and accessories.

From the first week we moved in, the house was filled with voices and laughter, kids running in and out and large meals prepared in the kitchen. Nineteen of us were here that first week. And in the years since, I couldn’t count how many people have come through these doors. There have been vacations, spring breaks, bridal and baby showers, bachelorette parties, golf cart parades, honeymoons, family reunions and New Year’s Eve celebrations. During Katrina we moved here for a month, complete with friends and family from both sides, enrolled the kids in school here and saw our family members get jobs here. We set up our office in our master bedroom and I still remember falling asleep at night to the glow of the computer screen as my little sister would be typing in payroll and accounts payable.

Now I return to the house without Michael, and yet he is here in everything I see. There are not as many family pictures here as at home, but so many memories. The giant blue marlin on the wall that he caught off the coast of Puerto Rico and the bill from the marlin he caught in Hawaii. (The tacky blue marlin pillows on the sofa that he bought and I always wanted to get rid of.) The copper fish that line the walls we found at a road side artist shack on a trip to the Keys. The glass sailboat and rainbow fish, both special treasures brought back from trips to Murano glass factories.

And so many other little things. Several of his shirts hang in the closet. His swimsuit lays on the shelf. His shoes are on the floor and his golf clubs stand in the corner. He would have loved the colors of the water today and the wonderful breeze on the beach road. And the lunch at one of our favorite beach restaurants would have been his first stop. The golf cart is there ready for him to check out the neighborhood and shuttle people to the beach.

And already there are changes since we were here about a year ago. A few businesses have closed. A few new ones are opening. A new house is being built around the corner and he would love to go check it out. His prized blueprint of the Titanic is framed and hanging on the wall just where he wanted it, though he never got to see it there.

I’m so thankful for friends who walk beside me in these days to revisit this place with both laughter and tears. While it’s hard to return, I cannot imagine not coming back. This place is such a part of our family and our memories. And every time we came here we talked about how thankful we were that God had provided this place for us. The years to come will not be the same. But I pray that God will continue to make this a place of rest and refreshment for our family and our extended family. As Michael always said, “My dear looooooves her beach house!”


I can’t remember how many times I had this talk with God over the years.  Sometimes I would be driving around by myself or listening to music.  So many times I can remember telling God I was willing to be used by Him and to serve him.  But I just asked Him not to take Michael away from me.  I always felt like I could do anything He asked as long as Michael and I were doing it together.  And so many times during that conversation I’d think, “You know this is just what God will do. He’ll take Michael away because you depend too much on him, rather than on God.”  Nonetheless, I would ask God to show us whatever He wanted us to do, but leave us together.

Michael and I loved our life together.  We loved serving God.  We loved growing with people and using what God had given us to help other people in their lives.  We loved being able to share our faith, our struggles, our triumphs, our finances.  We looked forward to using the farm to feed people who couldn’t afford fresh food.  We wanted to build some small retreat cabins for church staff to have a quiet place to retreat and refresh.  We thought there would be so many other things for us to do to serve God together.

So these days I find myself feeling betrayed.  I feel betrayed that God wouldn’t allow us to continue together.  I feel betrayed that we tried to minister and serve together, yet God took Michael away.  I feel betrayed that the one thing I asked God not to do, He did – or at least He allowed it to happen.  God forgive me, I feel betrayed.

In church I hear and sing words about God’s love and His mercy.  And my head knows the words are true, but my heart just cries with this feeling of loss and betrayal.  Everyone around me seems to be able to sing the words and mean them, but to me the words just hurt.  God forgive me, I feel betrayed.

Not long ago I read where someone said, “Don’t trade what you don’t know for what you do know.”  So in the midst of these feelings, this is what I try to do.  While I feel betrayed, I know that God has not betrayed me because God cannot betray me.  I am still His child and He still loves me even though I do not understand why He has let this happen.  I know He has not betrayed me because I know that His word is true and His word says that He loves me with an unending, unconditional love.  I know He has not betrayed me because it is impossible for Him to break His promises to me to never leave me or forsake me.  I know He has not betrayed me because the grace He has poured into my life has allowed me to put one foot in front of the other these last months to do what needs to be done.  I know He has not betrayed me because of the love of my children, family and friends which warms me and comforts me in my loneliness and grief.

God forgive me when I feel betrayed and keep me from believing that it’s true.

Reinventing Myself

Michael is gone.  That is a fact.  I think all I’ve ever thought about through life or wanted from life is to be married to Michael.  To grow old (older I guess) together.  To have another 30 years of enjoying life, all our years of hard work, our grown children and one day grandchildren.  This is the picture I’ve had in my mind for I can’t tell you how many years.

But the fact is my life isn’t going to look like that picture.  Michael is gone.  So now I wonder, “What do I want my life to look like?”  “Who do I want to be?”

I’ve been thinking about what I want to be now that it’s just me.  I hesitate, because I don’t want my kids and friends to think I don’t like what life was like with Michael.  I do.  But I don’t have that anymore.  So, how do I want to go forward?

I want to be more fun.  Michael was always the fun part of us.  He was the one who laughed more, told stories more, teased and made up nicknames for people.  And I was always the more serious one.  I want to learn to be more fun.  I want to lighten up and not always be so serious all the time.  This is an area I really hate for my children, because they lost the fun parent.  I want to be more fun for them.

I want to be more spontaneous.  I’m a planner.  And that’s a wonderful trait to have.  But I want to be able to act in the moment more.  I want to “get my purse” whenever the opportunity arises.  I want to not overthink things and be more flexible.  Maybe this goes along with being more fun.

I want to be more emotional.  Not the crying all the time kind of emotional.  But the live in the moment, feel what life brings, rejoice every day, and don’t think too hard about what everybody else will say, kind of emotional.  I don’t want to hold back on tears and laughter and shouts of joy.

I want to be more devout.  I want my faith to explode in its passion.  I want to leap in faith first and re-think it all later.  I want faith to be my first response, not my alternative.  I want to feel Christ more deeply, pray with more fervor, confess without holding back, praise Him with knees bowed and hands up.

I want to love more.  I want to love in a way that I’ve never loved before.  And this is really huge for me because I love Michael like I’ve never loved anyone or anything and I don’t know how to love more than that.  But I want to love even more than that.  I want to love without reservation, without hesitation, without judgment, and expecting nothing in return.  I want to love like God loves me.

How do you want to reinvent yourself?

For the First Time

For the first time, today I went to church by myself, sat by myself and didn’t completely blubber through all the music.  OK, so there were a few tears during that last song, but no blubbering and it didn’t turn into the big ugly cry.  (There’s something about singing “All I have is in You” that brings me to tears.)

For the first time this week I went out to eat by myself – just me.  Table for one.  It was to one of Michael’s favorite places.  The manager came over and talked like he used to talk with Michael and me.  It’s not as much fun to dine alone.  (But he did pick up my check – thanks Paul!)

For the first time next week I will be travelling without Michael.  It’s a girlfriends’ trip – something I would have never done without Michael.  And for the first time I am planning an overseas trip without Michael – that will really take me out of my comfort zone!

For the first time I am making investment decisions and business decisions by myself.  It’s the kind of thing that we would always discuss together, no matter whose idea it was to begin with.  We were partners that way.

For the first time I attended a board meeting in Michael’s place and for the first time I went to a seminary event without him.  I spent the entire time that evening thinking that he should be there celebrating his good friend and when they showed a picture of Michael I lost it.  The tears started flowing and couldn’t be stopped and I had to make a hasty exit.  Sorry friends.

For the first time I went to the farm without Michael.  He wasn’t there physically, but he’s all over that place!  And soon I’ll go for the first time to the beach house.  Another hurdle to face.

For the first time I made bread.  Not banana bread or zucchini bread or cranberry-orange bread.  Not the kind out of the box or in a bread machine.  The old fashioned, from scratch, add the yeast, knead, wait, punch and knead some more kind.  And it was pretty good, if I may say so myself (especially with some homemade peach preserves – mmm).                           homemade bread

For the first time I had to sign a sworn affidavit that I am not married.  It’s like adding insult to injury and made me reach for the tissues.  Yeah, I didn’t see that one coming at all.

Some days I actually feel a little stronger and think there are things I will try that I’ve never done before.  I see a lot more firsts in my future.  Life looks very different.


I’ve been having a hard time lately.  I don’t pray like I used to.  I pray short prayers.  Thank you’s and grace over meals.  Quickly whispered requests for safety.  But not long intense conversations with God.

I used to wake up every morning and say “Good morning God. Thank You for another day.”  Now I wake up and say “Good morning God. Please tell Michael I love him and I miss him.”

My lips sing “Jesus I sing for all that you’ve done for me”.  But my heart cries “Why didn’t You heal Michael?”

My lips sing “I lift my hands to believe again.  You are my refuge, You are my strength.  As I pour out my heart these things, I remember. You are faithful, God, forever.” But my heart cries, “Why wouldn’t You heal Michael?”

Today I went to church and heard an awesome teaching on prayer. On the way Jesus prayed and the way prayer is a conversation where we talk and we listen.  On how prayer is wrestling with God to a resolution.  Well, I’m still wrestling.  I can’t seem to get to resolution.  There’s too much I don’t understand.  I don’t understand why God didn’t heal Michael.  I don’t understand why all the things he planned to do won’t get done now.  I can’t believe he’s really gone.  I can’t believe I’ll never hear his voice.  I don’t understand why there’ll be no more holidays with him.  Why he’ll never know grandchildren.  I don’t understand how I’m supposed to keep doing things that I was only able to do because of his encouragement.  I am wrestling.  I am wrestling with God.  And it’s a battle I know I cannot win because He is greater and more powerful and I know that in the end I will just have to accept that this is where He has brought me. But right now I’m not going down without a fight.  I am wrestling.  And so far I have no resolution.

I’m Learning

I’m learning that every day is a new day.  Not every day is a good day. But every day is new in its feelings and emotions.

I’m learning that not every day is a complete wash-out.  The tears come and go, sometimes when you least expect it, over the most incredible things.

I’m learning that I can drive by myself to the farm and to MC for move-in day for our youngest child.  I can get busy in packing and lifting and sorting and organizing.

I’m learning that I can sleep in the bed by myself.

I’m learning that I can accept invitations to social events by myself.

I’m learning that no matter how many questions go unanswered, my faith in God is still strong – not because of me, but because He inhabits me through His Spirit giving me the strength and confidence in His word.

I’m learning that I can do things that I haven’t done in a long time. Things that I was always able to do, but that Michael always did for me – just because he wanted to.  Things like putting gas in my car and getting it washed.  Things like taking out the garbage and changing light bulbs.

I’m learning that my stomach doesn’t ache all the time anymore and that the headaches are starting to be less intense.

I’m learning that I’m too young and my children are too old to benefit from the social security that Michael paid into for 40+ years.

I’m learning that, in the midst of my whining and complaining, I have so very much to be thankful for.

I’m learning that feeling sorry for myself is easy to slip in to, but not a fun place to be.  I’m learning that I have to fight my way out, pick up my head and find out what life has to offer.

I’m learning that there are projects and plans for things in the days to come – things that will take my time and energy; things that will occupy my time and challenge me to do things I’ve never done before.

I’m learning that I have a lot to learn.

Sacrificial Giving

According to the dictionary, “to give” means “to present voluntarily and without expecting compensation”, or “to place in someone’s care” or “to transfer possession to another”.

John 15:13 says “Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down (or in some translations “give up”) his life for his friends.”

I’ve heard many sermons preached on this verse.  And I’ve done Bible studies on it as well.  I’ve tried to think about how I can give sacrificially, what that would look like in my daily life.  What would it look like financially?  What would it look like physically?  What would it feel like spiritually?  How do we give up our life?  Is it only when we would physically die that we could give this way?  Or would giving up our time, our days, also be giving up our life for someone?

But until recently I don’t think I’ve ever thought about what it would be like to receive this kind of sacrificial love from another person.  What do you say when someone loves you with the kind of love that they give up their life, their time, for you?

What do you say to someone who gives up their two months off in the summer to come home and take care of you?  Someone who will give up their free time to relax with friends and vacation at the beach so that they can cook your meals, clean your house and wash your clothes.

What do you say to someone who gives up the chance of a lifetime to travel to the Amazon so they can organize blood drives and help you understand medical terms and conditions?  Someone who gives up sleeping in a soft bed to spend long nights at the hospital in isolation gowns and latex gloves caring for wounds and changing bed linens.

What do you say to someone who drives 700 miles each week to come home and sit with you, help you sort out correspondence and talk over how to handle so many issues?  Someone who gives up a semester of their education to continue coming home, just so you won’t have to spend so many nights alone in a huge empty house.

Of course you say “Thank You”, but that doesn’t begin to tell of how grateful you are for their sacrifice.  Because while a parent brings children into this world, knowing and ready to sacrifice anything for them, you never want your children to have to make sacrifices for you.  You only want their world to be full of good times and happy endings.  You don’t want them to know hurt and sacrifice.  And yet, I’m now thankful that they do know these things because to know these things is to better understand the sacrifice God has made for us.  And that sacrifice comes out of love.  His love for us.  And our love for Him and each other.

We love, because He first loved us.       1 John 4:19

I’m So Alone

God, where is Your perfect plan in this?  I don’t see it.

God I’m so alone.  Michael was my partner.  We did everything together and now I’m so alone.  I’m scared and afraid and I’ve never liked being alone.  But now I’m so alone.  I want him back and I know he’s not coming back and I’m so alone.

I have friends.  Good friends.  Great friends.  But I’m so alone.

Nothing fills this emptiness up God.  Please fill it up.  I know he’s in a better place but I want him back.

I have my children and they help me and try to be there for me but they have their lives and I’m so alone.

God I know You say You will never leave me or forsake me.  But I’m so alone.  Please put your arms around me.  Let me feel your arms around me.  I don’t want to feel so alone.  I don’t want to be alone. This will never get better.

God please don’t let the enemy win in any of this.  Don’t let him scare me or gain any ground.  Please.  Please.

I cannot even imagine what the next week will be like without Michael.  How will I get through the next year or 5 years?  Or 30 years?

Precious L

A few days ago I had lunch with a precious young friend, L.  Precious L has suffered a tragic loss almost two years ago.  She has so much to teach me about loss and grief, or I should say I have so much to learn from her.

Our lunch lasted about 2 ½ hours – that would be ½ hour of lunch and 2 hours of crying, laughing and remembering.  Precious L is still hurting and has been so kind to share with me what her deepest feelings are – how sometimes she just doesn’t want to be here, how she’ll never “get over” her loss, how other people view her.

Our circumstances are not the same.  I’m many years older than Precious L.  We are at different places in our lives.  The situations that have caused our grief are not the same.  But I’m learning for both of us our grief is great.  It is very painful.  It is life-changing.  It doesn’t matter if your loss is from a spouse, parent, child or friend, your loss is your loss.  And I’ve come to the conclusion that the greatest loss, the one that hurts the most, is whichever one you’re going through.  Because it is your own personal pain.

It makes me aware that there are people all around me dealing with their own pain and grief from loss.  I guess I’m just more keenly aware of it now.  I think that I’ve not really appreciated what my own mother-in-law’s life has been like.  She’s been a widow for 33 years now.

Maybe the sadder thing would be for someone to be gone and not have someone that loved them so much and mourned for them.  The saddest thing of all would be for someone to be gone and not to be in the arms of Jesus, not to know beforehand where they would be going, not to have the assurance in this life that they would spend eternity in heaven.  I’m thankful for that – I’m thankful that I know where Michael is, that I have no doubt he is in heaven.  I’m as confident of his salvation as I am of my own.

As lunch progressed Precious L and I found many things we agreed on and our corporate response quickly became “That sucks”, followed by the clinking of our glasses in a toast.  People that tell you you’ll get over it (and lots of other stupid things, which I think will be the subject for a future post).  Clink!  Seeing other people celebrating anniversaries and birthdays together that you know you’ll never get to celebrate.  Clink!  Going to places you used to go with the one you’ve lost or knowing that you can never go to those places again.  Clink!  Having to deal with the personal clothes of the one who’s gone.  Clink!  There was a lot of toasting going on at that table.  Which was fine because we were drinking water and tea.  But next time Precious L wants to do margaritas, so I think I’m gonna need to call a cab.

Also, Precious L is the consummate animal lover.  So she’s had this incredible idea that I need a dog to keep me company.  She’s even been looking at different dogs to gift me and is talking about just leaving one on my front door step.  For anybody that knows me, you know this is NOT a good solution for me.  For the sake of the dog, this is not a good idea!

Thank you Precious L for what you are teaching me.  That grief is universal, yet very individual.  That grief cannot be defined by a timeline.  That grief shows up in many ways.  And that most of us don’t understand until we’ve had to walk through it.  And Precious L — I look forward to the next meeting with margaritas and queso, BUT NO DOG!

Where I Go From Here

On July 21, 2014, life as I knew it changed when my husband of 36 years died.  Michael had lived for many years with liver disease.  In his last months his health deteriorated as the disease and the treatments both took their toll on his body.  On June 1, 2014, Michael received a liver transplant which we thought would restore him to good health and give him many more years, but it didn’t turn out like we’d hoped.

Now life looks different and I will be trying to find my way without his presence and his partnership.  If you decide to come along with me through this blog, I hope you will find some sort of encouragement and that I can let you in on how Michael lived his life, influenced others around him and how I’ll somehow find where I go from here.  This is my first attempt at a blog, so I’m setting only two goals: first, to post at least three times a week; second, to be transparent (though I warn you – transparent ain’t always pretty).


25 Days, 600 Hours


By the time today is over Michael will have been gone for 25 days, 600 hours.

During this time I have planned and attended the funeral and burial, looked over pictures, told and listened to thousands of stories, laughed and cried.  I have eaten too many home-cooked meals, gained 5 more pounds, resumed Pilates classes and my daily time on the treadmill.

I have read countless cards, emails, texts and letters.  I have had lunches and dinners with friends trying to keep me busy.

I have planned one trip out of town and have three others in the works.  I have gone to three movies and 1 concert (I tried to go to another but was just too teary to go).  I have watched more mindless TV than I have in the last 6 months.  I have tried to go back to reading, but can’t seem to concentrate on it enough.

I have written some posts and blog ideas and lots of thank-you notes and I’ve even been offered some opportunities to do some other writings.  I’ve been asked when I’ll go back to teaching Bible study classes many times, but still haven’t been able to come up with a good answer for the question.

I’ve avoided sitting in Michael’s chair because I can’t stand it and I’ve sat in Michael’s chair to find comfort; but I can’t bring myself to lay on his side of the bed.  I’ve emptied the medicine cabinet and vanity of all his medicines, but I can’t seem to touch his clothes, papers or the Hummer.

I’ve returned to the blood bank at the hospital, but don’t know when I’ll be able to return to the ICU.

I’ve gotten through a day or two with no tears and just when I think I’m making progress the flood returns.

I’ve prayed and been prayed for.

I’ve remembered.  And I’m already afraid of what all I’ve forgotten.