Thursday, May 28, 2015

Wealth, fame, life has never been built on these virtues.  I've always thought each was as fickle as Texas weather; none stood a chance against Jesus.
But marriage was another thing. Each anniversary added another solid plank on which to live. My husband was my life, my happiness, my security. 
One Tuesday night nearly nine years ago, I sat in a sanctuary filled with hundreds of women, studying the Book of Esther.  Our teacher, Beth Moore, read the heroine's famous statement, If I perish, I perish and then posed a question that sucked the air out of my lungs. 
" So what is your 'If, then what?'"
In other words, What is your greatest fear and who are you going to trust with it?
I didn't hear anything else after that question.  I knew immediately my biggest, earth-shaking fear was the unthinkable loss of my husband; I'd struggled with it most of my married life to the point of great anxiety.    Could I live without him? How would I survive?...the very questions I asked almost a decade later when he was diagnosed with stage IV cancer. Holding on with all my mightI knew I was in clear danger of making Rob my lifeboat!  I did some fierce business with Jesus that night as I waited for the crowd to disperse. Naming my fear and giving it over to his care was one of the hardest things I've ever done. So if, then what...  If Rob dies, then Jesus will catch me! In fact, He has already held me all along and not once, has He ever let go of, not ever.  I choose to trust Him for He is the only foundation that is truly indestructible.
Looking back, I realize He was preparing me for the eventual end of a beautiful marriage, a relationship I came near to trusting as my sure footing.  As I shared in yesterday's post, I knew in the first quaking moments of hearing those profound words, terminal cancer, that Christ would not only catch me, but carry me through the darkest, loneliest season of my life.
Love has won, the solid, unchangeable love of my Savior.  Only Jesus...everything else is sinking sand.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

I sat alone in the waiting room while my husband underwent a minor abdominal repair. Suddenly, his surgeon appeared at the door and asked if I would step into the conference room.  And I knew... something was horribly wrong. Surgeons don't give the post-op talk in private quarters... unless they think the family members will fall apart.  He somberly told me my husband of 37 years was full of cancer and he was certain the primary site was the pancreas. We both knew we were looking at a death sentence.  He feebly suggested we plan one last trip, maybe Hawaii; I felt my life spinning out of control. My best friend most likely would leave me. How would I make it?  How would I have the strength to tell him and our kids? How could I ever say goodbye? Even though all seemed to be crashing down around me, I knew from the very first, horrible moments that I stood on solid ground: Jesus!  My life secure, I would cling to the truth that my Sovereign God holds all things together, even in our greatest storms. He held me tightly those early hours and continues to do so almost 18 months later.  Oh, of course the ground has shaken beneath me time after time, but never once has He let my foot slip.  He is my strong Cornerstone, my firm foundation, the reason for my constant hope; my life is built on nothing less than Jesus' blood and righteousness.
Tonight, our youth leadership met to prepare for this week's lesson: Matthew 7 where Jesus teaches about the wise and foolish builders.  Our teacher referenced these treasured lyrics, ones we had gathered to sing at Rob's memorial service.
 On Christ the solid rock I stand
 All other ground is sinking sand
It is one thing to prepare and teach a lesson, but another to have lived it with victory. God willing, I will have the opportunity to share one of my hardest and greatest life lessons this Sunday...still standing!

 “Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock.  The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock.  But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand.  The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash.”  Matthew 7:24-27 NIV

I'm overwhelmed that I have such a firm foundation on which to stand today and until I meet Jesus face to face. I don't deserve such secure footing; it's all grace for which I'm profoundly grateful.

Saturday, May 16, 2015

My last words before I close my eyes each night are "Lord, help me get out of bed in the morning." And He is faithful. Trust me, there are more days than not that I would like to pull the covers up high and remain in the place that demands nothing of me. 
Yesterday was a really tough day. Earlier in the week, (after watching an episode of Hoarders,) I gathered another load of Rob's clothes and shoes to donate to our area assistance ministry. 
Why are shoes so hard to bid farewell?
Maybe because they symbolize the many steps of Rob's life... perhaps, they remind me of a giant of a man and how hard it is for anyone to fill those shoes. I was 75% successful; all but his basketball shoes made it to the car. After all, hoops and Rob are hard to let go.  
I'd driven around with leather and business attire all week, but Friday was my emotional deadline.
I stared into the trunk, silently shouting at myself, "You can do this, you've got to do this," when a man interrupted my mental lecture. "What size are those?" pointing to the gently-used turf shoes.
As I placed them in his worn hands, I told him how my Rob's trunk always held an extra pair of athletic shoes and how he made it a good habit of giving them away to those in need. Smiling big, I explained that my husband's watchful eye from above might disapprove if I didn't offer them. Before I could react, this man of the streets kissed my temple and offered his sympathy.  A holy kiss mingled with dirt and out Jesus isn't always tidy.  
And he disappeared...
Two young volunteers watched from a nearby door; they, too, were smiling. I wonder if God touched them, as well.
Not only did I carry a man's pungent scent throughout the rest of the day, but the firm assurance that Jesus has a plan for each difficult day without Rob and my family. Each morning He will place my feet on worn carpet and direct my steps for his good. 

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

I digest a lot of words; phrases often catch my attention. Recently two have stopped me in my tracks: white space and her path has given her the right. Both force me to think a lot about this new season.

White space - you know, the area left unmarked, unfilled. In advertising, a large amount of white space draws attention to a message. Others speak to the need for white space thinking to stir creativity. 
Living alone, I notice a lot of unmarked time.  At first, I desperately tried to fill it, attempting to avoid the unthinkable pain, but these days, I embrace the white space, hoping it, too, will bring greater understanding of my grief and my God.  Listening when there seems to be no answers forces me to trust beyond my comfort level and waiting in the unknown while God works out the details of his great plan requires me to cling tightly to his sovereignty.

Her journey has given her the right - the right or the privilege?
How will God use this tsunami? I still feel a few bruises inflicted by well-meaning women who earned the right a long time ago.  LORD, color my advice, my encouragement with gentleness! 
How long will I wait in all this whiteness? When do I get to use all this pain?  I continue to ask that not only the storm that swept my world as I knew it, but this empty, lonely waiting time will bring attention to my great God. 

Be still and know that I am God. Psalm 46:10

Saturday, May 9, 2015

I don't recall ever writing a tribute to my mom, just an obituary full of facts and lineage. I deeply regret not thanking her for giving up so much of her life to make mine richer.
My mother was handed a full plate when I was born. A young mom, straddled with an infant born with multiple health issues, she devoted herself to my care. I can still remember waking from numerous surgeries, meeting her watchful gaze, clenching her hand while my surgeon removed hundreds of stitches, and feeling her gentle touch as she soothed my skin, irritated from one body cast after another. My soul still feels her encouraging words, her healing balm, always available after a string of bullying and ridicule. 
Life was hard for both of us, but she was determined to lighten difficult days with her creativity and humor. I learned to extend kindness from this beautiful woman.
Empty nesting brought deep sadness for my mom; she was never the same and neither was our relationship. Distance and difficult circumstances widened the chasm between us. I filled the void with my own nest; she poured herself into her closest grandchild.
Wisdom came too late for me to make anew our relationship. Oh, it wasn't bad, just incomplete.
I long today to hold her in my arms and care for her the same way she did for me.
Wisdom came too late.
I love you, Mom...

Friday, May 8, 2015

"Me too!"
A young father shares his firsts without his wife and through the lump in my throat, I whisper, "Me too!"
I selfishly hope he continues to pen his journey; maybe we all need a little company as we walk through rocky firsts and seconds and maybe, even thirds. 
A busy dad, navigating unfamiliar waters...can he afford the time and emotion to bleed on paper; can he afford not to?
I doubt that Jason sees the strength and encouragement he offers others through his early days of honesty. But God's definitely not done with the Tippetts' story; He still desires to show His abundant goodness to this corner of the world. 
Even as I encourage Jason's writing, I admit it is harder for me to write these days. Why bother; we all get it: grief is a constant, annoying companion.    But what if one fellow fumbler needs a safe place to reply, "Me too!" and questions if there is more than just hurt?
Words remind me of a buffet.  We can take a serving of some and pass over the ones we don't desire...and sometimes, we even return for seconds. Feel free to sample here and pull away when you are full.
Yet, like a lot of you, my favorite part of a buffet is the dessert, especially if it is topped high with meringue and nestled in flaky crust! I seem to always make it to the end for the culinary prize.
Makes me think...
What a loss if we only scratch the ugly and never reach the beauty. Obedience calls us to finish the story. 

Saturday, May 2, 2015

I'm ambushed less often these days, but when I am, it still takes a bit to pick up all of the pain and put it back in place. 
I ran into some old friends on a neighborhood stroll the other evening; it took only a few minutes for me to realize they had not heard of Rob's passing. Nausea overwhelmed me as I tried to ease the shock of this precious couple.
Today, Nickel Creek stops me in my tracks, takes my breath away.

When You Come Back Down
written by Timothy Page O'brien and Daniel O'keefe

You got to leave me now
You got to go alone
You got to chase a dream

One that's all your own
Before it slips away

When you’re flying high

Take my heart along

I’ll be the harmony

To every lonely song

But you’ll learn to play

When you’re soaring through the air

I’ll be your solid ground

Take every chance you dare

I’ll still be there
When you come back down
When you come back down

I keep looking up

Waiting your return

My greatest fear will be

That you will crash and burn
And I won’t feel your fire

I’ll be the other hand

That always holds a line

Connecting in between

Your sweet heart and mine
I’m strung out on that wire

And I’ll be on the other end

To hear you when you call

Angel you were born to fly

And if you get too high
I’ll catch you when you fall
Catch you when you fall

The memories, the sunshine

Every new day brings

I know the sky is calling

Angel let me help you with your wings

When you’re soaring through the air

I’ll be your solid ground

Take every chance you dare

I’ll still be there
When you come back down

Take every chance you dare

I’ll still be there

When you come back down

When you come back down

I try to steady myself as I listen with new understanding.
...a new reality.

Music was our love language: our daily texts were filled with lines from favorite Cupid's arrows, they pierced our hearts and made us smile wide.  Soft lyrics carried our intertwined hands and hearts into sleep most nights; those sweet memories still flood my soul and hold me together.

Rob, I wait on the other end, smiling as I imagine you soaring through the air.