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  I received a response yesterday to my post “Tears in the Closet”.   My friend reminded me of the “extreme separation”, which are the words...

Member of the Fellowship of the Unashamed - Part 2

Wednesday, July 27, 2011
….I am (still) part of the “Fellowship of the Unashamed” And when He comes to get His own, He’ll have no problems recognizing me.  My colors will be clear….

Yesterday, I felt like I was reading the “Fellowship of the Unashamed”, as a whole, for the first time.  I understood the gist of it when I heard it that day it was read at the memorial service, but I did not take in a lot of the details.  Much of it overwhelmed me yesterday, in my thoughts, as I read each little statement of faith, confidence, and surety.  I was reminded that Michael and I were co-laborers in Christ.  We stood firmly together in our beliefs; we had  “ stepped over the line” together and joined the Fellowship of the Unashamed as a powerful twosome for the kingdom of God.  “Small planning, smooth knees, colorless dreams, tame visions, mundane talking, chintzy giving, and dwarfed goals” were not in our path set before us.  We made many decisions for our lives that were unpopular with friends, family, and strangers.  We never cared because we knew and trusted God’s ways, His gentle leading in our lives, His voice, and always tried to stay Kingdom minded in all of our decisions.  Listening to His voice was all that mattered.  It is easier to have a clear mission when your parameters are clearly set.  Being a member of the Fellowship of the Unashamed establishes your parameters for you.  It makes it easier to stay the course.  We leaned, or pressed in, through our lives with faith, loved by patience, lived by prayer, and labored by power.  Our faces were set towards the road God had chosen for us.  Our gait was fast, our goal was heaven, our road was narrow, the way was rough, our companions were few, but our Guide was reliable.  Yesterday, when I read the part that says, “my gait is fast,” it jumped out at me. 

When I come across emotions or memories about that which I want to write and further develop my thoughts, or give myself a time and a place to cry about something, I write the thoughts down on a running list to go back to later when I am in the right place to face them.  About two months ago, I wrote down, “My Gait”.  I noticed how markedly different it was and still is.  I have always had a fast gait. I walked with a purpose, a mission, everywhere I went.  It was a confident gait.  It was athletic at times.  My head was always up and my gaze was always looking ahead in the direction that I was going.  If walking in a building, I would walk right past people sometimes, without acknowledging them because my mind would be completely engrossed in the thoughts necessary for the place I was heading and the people with whom I would be meeting…my gait is different now.  It is much slower.  My head is bent down most of the time.  My gaze is usually at my feet or on the ground before me.

 I know I will get my gait back one day, but having the wind knocked out of me has caused me to take things at a different pace and each step requires contemplation of why I believe what I believe, what kind of a story am I living in here in this life, am I strong enough to play the role I have been chosen to play, where do I need to change my thinking, (if anywhere), and all of the other questions that seem to come across my mind as I walk with my slower gait.   I have to rethink things.  I am still confident and sure in Christ.  I still believe that my Guide is reliable.  I am having the biggest paradigm shift in my entire life.  I can be confident and sure in Christ, but it changes beyond that.  My purpose and mission remain the same and I have told this to my children. Our purpose for the choices we have made for our lives has not changed just because Michael is no longer with us.   I am still a member of the Fellowship of the Unashamed.  I shall not be moved.  It is with much more depth, wisdom, and discernment that I take each step.

Member of the Fellowship of the Unashamed – Part 1

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

My dad shared this story at Michael's memorial service.  I had not heard it before that day.

One day, while Michael and I were engaged, he walked into my Dad’s office in downtown Jackson, when he noticed something framed and hanging on the wall.  It was something titled, “Fellowship of the Unashamed.”  After Michael read it to himself, he looked at my Dad, and said, “I’m a member of that too!” About 20 years later, Michael walked into my Dad’s pastoral office at the church in Otsego, Michigan, and noticed again the same thing hanging on the wall.  He put his hand flat onto the framed piece on the wall, and said, “Pop,” which is what he began calling him early on in our marriage, “I’m still a member!

Fellowship of the Unashamed

I am part of the “Fellowship of the Unashamed.”  I have Holy Spirit power.  The die has been cast.  I’ve stepped over the line.  The decision has been made.  I am a disciple of His.  I won’t look back, let up, slow down, back away, or be still.  My past is redeemed, my present makes sense, and my future is secure.  I am finished with low living, sight walking, small planning, smooth knees, colorless dreams, tame visions, mundane talking, chintzy giving, and dwarfed goals!  I no longer need preeminence, prosperity, position, promotions, plaudits, or popularity.  I don’t have to be right, first, tops, recognized, praised, regarded, or rewarded.  I now lean by faith, love by patience, live by prayer, and labor by power.  My face is set, my gait is fast, my goal is Heaven, my road is narrow, my way is rough, my companions few, my guide reliable, my mission clear.  I cannot be bought, compromised, detoured, lured away, turned back, diluted, or delayed.  I will not flinch in the face of sacrifice, hesitate in the presence of adversity, negotiate at the table of the enemy, ponder at the pool of popularity, or meander in the maze of mediocrity.  I won’t give up, shut up, let up, or slow up ‘til I’ve preached up, prayed up, paid up, stored up, and stayed up for the cause of Christ.  I am a disciple of Jesus.  I must go ‘til He comes, give ‘til I drop, preach ‘til all know, and work ‘til He stops.  And when He comes to get His own, He’ll have no problems recognizing me.  My colors will be clear.

Michael was a disciple of Jesus.  He never looked back, let up, slowed down, backed away, or stood still.  He leaned by faith, loved by patience, lived by prayer, and labored by the power of the Holy Spirit.  He was never bought.  He never compromised, detoured, or was lured away from the road set before him.  He did not negotiate with the enemy, care about popularity, or do anything with mediocrity.  He belonged to Jesus, and I know He had no problem recognizing Michael at the gates of heaven.  His colors were clear.  I am sure He looked at him and said, “This one I know.” 

Would He recognize you?

With This Ring….

Friday, July 22, 2011
… I thee wed, to have and to hold, from this day forward….  ‘til death do us part.

 I am now beginning to look at my wedding ring, which is still on my left hand, after exactly five months today of being a widow, and am in a quandary over what to do. So what now?  Just take it off and put it in my jewelry drawer? This ring, which I have never taken off except when mixing raw, ground meat with my hands?  This ring, which made me, feel protected? This ring that made me feel loved and honored?  This ring that stood for my steadfast commitment and fidelity “ ‘til death do us part”? This ring, which I spin around with my thumb on cold days?   This ring, which symbolized to me all that it was meant to symbolize?  This step is a tough one for me……. a first that I am dragging my feet towards.  Removing this symbol of my covenant with Michael is much harder than simply slipping a ring off of my finger.  I loved our set of rings.  They were so “us”.  He chose Italian gold, of course, 18 karat gold instead of 14, with texture and design…not just smooth bands with a diamond solitaire sitting on top.  (Not that there is anything wrong with those kinds of wedding rings, it was just not us.)

When I was told about Michael’s accident, I did not want to believe it was him in that car who had died until they brought me back his wedding ring and his Italian gold crucifix necklace, both of which he never took off…then I would know.  I am wearing both now around my neck.   I know there are all kinds of options that I can do with the rings, like wear them on my right hand and put a different ring on my wedding finger, or make them into a necklace of some creative kind, but then it becomes a new symbol all together.  A symbol of the past, something that used to be, something to be remembered – not something to live by daily.  It could also be a symbol of hope in all things good.  It was a good marriage, a solid marriage, a marriage based on godly principles, a marriage that defied mainstream and did not become a divorce statistic, a marriage that stood for something, a marriage that withstood the storms. I don't know if there will ever be the perfect time to remove it from my finger.  One day soon, I will probably just need to do it without putting any more thought into it, just dive in and get it over with.  (I tried this method this past week when it was time to pick figs from our fig trees.  Michael ordered and planted the trees because he loved them. It was a nod to his Italian heritage and his childhood memories of his Papaw.  Michael picked the figs during harvest season and would pop a few in his mouth on his way back to the kitchen, then would enter commenting on their beauty and perfection. I decided to just grab a bowl after dinner and march outside to get all of the bright, purply red fruit from the tree. No pomp and circumstance, just go do it.  With every fig I removed from the tree, I was thinking,"I can do this. I can do this." It did not really work.  Tears were still in the rim of my eyes and there was no joy or beauty in the moment that should be present in the harvesting of something you grew yourself. Making the fig tarts would not be the same without Michael drooling over their beauty and flavor.  My sister Julie is going to make the tarts for me this year.  So much for the idea of just sucking it up and doing it.) 

No, I think I will need to do it in a calm moment of solitude in my bedroom.  I will probably remove it, admire it, remember his proposal, kiss it, and put it safely in the original ring box until I can decide how I want to wear it again, in a new, creative and thoughtful way. 

With this ring, we became one… for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness, and in health.  Our wedding vows were more than mere words to recite.  They were promises we meant to keep, and we did.  

The Lump in My Throat

Thursday, July 21, 2011
In my blog entry, “Heart Broken”, I talked about having an ever-present lump in my throat and mistaking it for a sore throat.

Several times over the past month I have thought that I was getting a sore throat.  I realized one day that I was experiencing something new.  There was an ever-present lump in my throat ready to cry at any second. It is large and sometimes stuck down in the bottom of my throat, as if I have just swallowed a big, hard air bubble.  Where does that lump come from anyway?  Why can you sometimes cry with a lump in your throat or without? I have had a lump in my throat for a little over 5 weeks now.  I keep swallowing and crying but it does not seem to go anywhere.  It’s a broken heart.  It swells before it can heal.

The lump came back about 10 days ago.  It hurts to hold a lump in your throat and push the cry back down there somewhere…. where ever it goes.  I have cried it out many times, but it is just not enough.  The lump is still there. It will just rise up out of the deep and get lodged in my throat.  My broken heart is taking a long time to heal. 

My sister, Julie, just moved back to Mississippi to be near me and to help in any way she can.  On one of our first days of doing some real chatting, face to face, she was trying to open up a dialogue to discuss my future needs and determine some ways that she could be of help to me.  I was listening clearly, and then she said something about my needs, “down the road” or “future needs”.  Suddenly, the lump appeared and I was in a zone… completely zoned out and facing a harsh reality of Michael not being in my future.  I was all right talking about my present needs, but discussing where my needs would be in the future?  This meant that I would still be alone in the future.  Michael is not in my future, at least not on this earth.  The tears began to flow as I tried to picture life as a single parent.  I wanted to ask her, “He’s really not coming back, is he?”  Not that I thought he was going to walk in the door at any moment, I think it is just something psychological that causes us to have a hard time making that realistic break from the past to, “this is the way it is going to be from now on.”  I have pushed that lump down several times while typing this blog post. I have to push it down and keep it at bay much of today since I will be traveling to take Julia to her swimming state championships, which lasts four days.  Today, I must operate in full parent mode…. Outside of the box.  I have been inside the box for most of these last two weeks.  I will come out and hold that lump at bay, except when she swims her best times, of course.  When the children compete or perform, it is hard to be a single, proud parent and not remember what it was like to share that pride and joy with their loving father.  The lump needs to come outside of the box sometimes too.

Word of God Speak

Wednesday, July 20, 2011
After a short night of sleep, I was lying in my bed in the quiet of the day and thinking.  Out of my “not so spiritual” thoughts, I heard the Holy Spirit speak to me and tell me to read in the book of Psalm.  I sat up, grabbed my reading glasses, which I need most during the first part of the morning, took my Bible off of my night stand, and opened it up to the book of Psalm.  I had no idea where to begin.  I have read the book several times but I was not in the mood to read something like, “Come, let us sing joy for the Lord; let us shout aloud to the Rock of salvation.  Let us come before Him with thanksgiving and extol Him with music and song.”  ……or “Sing to the Lord a new song, sing to the Lord all the earth.  Sing to the Lord; praise His name; proclaim His salvation day after day.  Declare His glory among the nations, His marvelous deeds among all peoples.”  These are words I have heard my whole life in church during the “Call to Worship” portion of the service.  I bowed my head, closed my eyes, and the words, “Word of God speak” came out of my mouth.  While my eyes were still closed, I heard, and felt, a page turn, literally.  I opened my eyes and before me was Psalm 71.  Not knowing exactly where the Holy Spirit was taking me, I decided to read the whole chapter. After reading the first 11 verses, He supplied a prayer, again.  Verse 12 says, “Be not far from me, O God; come quickly, O my God to help me.”  Then, finally, in verse 29, He also supplied me with a promise and a word of encouragement. “Though You have made me see troubles, many and bitter, you will restore my life again; from the depths of the earth You will again bring me up.  You will increase my honor and comfort me again.”  I felt the reminder "And Yet", pull at my heart.  In spite of everything, He is the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow.  His word endures forever.  These words I had just read were just as much for me as they were for David.

I wasn’t sure why I said, “Word of God speak” because I had never done that before, but it rose up out of me from somewhere deep in my spirit.   After reading the scriptures, a song came to my remembrance by Mercy Me called, “Word of God Speak”.  Michael had sung it in church before while leading worship.  God is into the details of my life…(He is into yours too.)

Word of God Speak
 By Mercy Me

I'm finding myself at a loss for words
And the funny thing is it's okay
The last thing I need is to be heard
But to hear what You would say

Word of God speak
Would You pour down like rain
Washing my eyes to see
Your majesty
To be still and know
That You're in this place
Please let me stay and rest
In Your holiness
Word of God speak

I'm finding myself in the midst of You
Beyond the music, beyond the noise
All that I need is to be with You
And in the quiet hear Your voice


I'm finding myself at a loss for words
And the funny thing is it's okay

Pain Increased… Again

Tuesday, July 19, 2011
I just read through two of my previous posts that seem to say similar things to what I am feeling again.  I mentioned that some emotions circle around and around and it is hard to “conquer” them.  Other times, I feel like I am finished with a particular emotion and I send it away only for it to come back with greater force, like a boomerang.  I read my post called, “Pain Increased”, and so much of it explains how I am feeling again right now.  I took time yesterday to pull away for most of the day to write in my bedroom.  In and out of writing, there were occasional conversations with my parents, who have been here since Friday for a visit, my four year old niece was here from 12:00 -5:00 but she took a nap for most of that time, I did a few things around the house, and I put together a dinner for six of us plus my niece.  It was nice to not glance at my to do list and stay home in my room for so long and write.  It was a very melancholy day and actually got even heavier as the afternoon turned into evening.

I did not have to cook much.  In my opinion, I was just putting things together.  I put a ham in the oven, which I had gotten with a gift certificate from Honey Baked Ham this week, steamed some corn on the cob that someone had brought over a few days ago, pulled out leftover potato salad that my aunt had made the day before, and another salad my sister had made, and I was going to make several tomato pies to go along with it.  The tomatoes had been sitting on my kitchen window sill and were just right for eating.  I also decided to make some sweet, lemon mint tea to go along with it all.   What I have done in the kitchen thus far, I would not qualify as cooking…. at least not for me.  Nothing creative or fun going on, just making do with what I have.  It was hard to begin the process of preparation yesterday, as small as it was.

I felt sad while I was beginning to work in the kitchen, but as with other things, I stayed in motion to get it done.  I put the ham in the oven, got the corn ready to steam in a pan, made the tea, and then began to get everything out for the tomato pies.  My dad came in and wanted to put some music on the iPod speakers and was in the mood for some American standards.  He chose Rod Stewart’s American Songbook and got the music started.  I have always loved listening to American standards, but I have had to choose my music very carefully since Michael’s accident.  We listened to music all of the time while I was cooking in the kitchen.  There were certain artists that were reserved for dinner preparation time, and Rod Stewart and his standards songbook was one of them.  Michael loved to come home to music, candles, and aromas from the kitchen.  He would quickly change his clothes, and then come down to join me over a glass of wine.  After chatting for a bit, he would slip outside to the back patio, and on his way out the door he would say,  “I am going to take my walk”, with a smile on his face.  This meant he was going for a stroll in the garden to check on things and enjoy the scenery.  It was a great way for him to decompress when he got home at the end of the day.  I would continue cooking and then, about ten minutes later, he would emerge back into the kitchen to visit with me again until it was ready.

Last night, my mom was sitting at the kitchen counter hanging out while I was slowly putting things together. It was slowly because my thoughts were far away from the kitchen.  Since I was wearing a white blouse, and was going to be working with cut tomatoes, I decided to put on an apron.  I leaned over to get one out of the drawer and suddenly I felt as if I was the only one in the room, with the sound of the music playing somewhere off in the distance.  I picked out an apron and thoughtfully put it over my head as I realized this was the first time for me to put on an apron since February 21st.  He had bought me the apron I chose about 20 years ago from one of our favorite restaurants at the time.  I remembered one day in early March, my sister Julie, my friend Nanette, and I were cleaning and organizing my pantry, when I said through my tears, “I can’t imagine ever enjoying cooking again.  I cooked and loved it because he enjoyed it.  He brought it out of me.”  I cried in the kitchen a lot that day.  Last night, it seemed everything was present for a good evening, but it did not feel good at all.  There was ambiance but it did not feel like it to me.  It felt lonely and each movement I was making in the kitchen was getting harder and harder.  The joy that had been there when Michael was in and out of the kitchen was not there.  It was fairly quiet in the kitchen, with the exception of the music.  I was not in the mood to talk and Julie was doing a little bit of small talk with Dad while she was opening a bottle of wine for us to have a glass together.  All of the songs that I was hearing seemed sadder to me than they had before Michael died.  The song playing at that moment was “I’ll Be Seeing You”.  It took on a whole new meaning for me.

I’ll be seeing you; in all the old, familiar places;
That this heart of mine embraces, all day through.

In that small café; the park across the way;
The children’s carousel; the chestnut tree; the wishing well.

I’ll be seeing you, in every lovely, summers day,
And everything that’s bright and gay;
I’ll always think of you that way.
I’ll find you in the morning sun,
And when the night is new,
I’ll be looking at the moon,
But I’ll be seeing you.

No one present was aware where my thoughts had journeyed, as I appeared to be busy with the task of cooking, but I felt like a robot doing what my body knew to do in the kitchen while my mind was free to be somewhere else.  As I was listening to the lyrics and was fighting the tears, I turned around to see Julie holding up her glass to offer a toast me and Dad, “A toast to another first.”  I broke down and shook my head.  I couldn’t do it.  I had held it in my own world of thoughts long enough and could not pretend a moment longer.  It was all quiet at that point and everyone joined in on my grief in that moment.  No one tried to say anything, (What can you say?), but hugged me and let me cry, which is what I needed.  I still was not up for talking.  I went into my office to put something away a few minutes later and took the time to cry a little bit more as I was looking at many pictures on the wall of the children and me and Michael.  I am not sure why so many more tears and sadness have hit me this week.  I know it comes in waves of severity, I just did not expect such a strong lash back.  The reality of life without my Michael continues to set in…

Taking a Moment Part II

Monday, July 18, 2011
The rest of my day, on that Tuesday, had me held in the depths of despair on the inside.  Oh, I was operating just fine on the outside, doing all of the necessary things and responding all of the right ways, but on the inside I was feeling heartbroken all over again.  Nothing seemed important that day, but I did things anyway.  I was still, “working through it”, as I mentioned in my previous post.  I held it together the rest of the day, and then it was finally time to retire to my bedroom.  As I went up the stairs that night, I was feeling relieved that I was about to be able to let down again.  I was tired of being strong.  I was tired of doing the necessary.  I was tired of being the decision maker.  I was tired of getting things done.  I have yet to spend a whole day doing nothing and the need for it finally caught up with me.  (I have been getting dressed, fixing my hair and wearing make up, on some days other than Sundays, which is rare for me. It has helped me to carry on with the life that is here to live and manage, but, more importantly, it has helped the children feel like everything is going to be fine.)  I did not necessarily want to be weak; I was just tired of being strong.

I entered my bedroom and immediately broke down into tears.  As I was sobbing, I continued with the process of getting ready for bed.  I went to my dresser to take off my jewelry and had to stop half way through and lean on my dresser.  I was crying so hard that my stomach was heaving like childbirth contractions… just like it did at the graveside burial when I leaned on the casket at the end of the service.  I was shocked at my own tears.  I could not believe that these kinds of tears could emerge a second time.  I continued to take off the rest of my jewelry then went to the sink to brush my teeth.  I brushed my teeth through the sobs and the catching of my breath.  I cried my way through taking off my clothes and putting on my pajamas. I decided that I needed to talk to or hear Nanette and Peter’s voices.  It was after 9:30, but I knew they would be up because they only had two nights left in the states before flying back to Sydney. Peter answered the phone and I could not talk.  Even when I did talk, he could not understand anything.  He had to change phones because of minutes left on their temporary stateside cell phone, so he told me not to move and he would call me right back.  The phone rang and it was Nanette.  She was compassionate and let me cry and listened when I was ready to speak.  I told her that I was not calling for any answers; I just needed them on the other end of the line.  She helped me work through it all, asked the right questions and by the end of the conversation I was cried out and we were able to talk about a few other things.  I was exhausted from the tears.

I was reminded of the scripture again that I put in a previous post.  I was feeling the exact same way again.
Psalm 22:14 & 15, 19, "I am poured out like water and all my bones are out of joint; My heart is like wax; It has melted within me.  My strength is dried up like a potsherd.  And my tongue clings to my jaws; You have brought me to the dust of death.... But you, O lord, do not be far from me; O my strength, hasten to help me!"

I felt like I had been poured out like water.  My heart had melted like wax.  My strength was dried up.  I was thirsty from the tears. The Lord gives us a prayer when we don’t know what to pray.

Taking a Moment

Paper work piles as a result of Michael’s death seem never ending.  If I don’t stay on top of it daily, it becomes overwhelming.  When I go out of town, I try to forget about it but it is there, waiting for me when I return.  I am handling such a wide variety of business that it becomes very heavy.  I am thankful that I have people in place to help me handle all of the questions and they are also helping me by reminding me what to do and when to do it.  On Tuesday of last week, I woke up with a mission to go through the entire pile of paperwork, which was now taking up one half of my breakfast table, even though I work on it daily.  There were papers to file, piles of business with questions for certain people like attorneys, accountants, bankers, financial planners, power of attorneys, and my friend Amy T. who has been helping me learn how to do all of my book keeping.  There where piles of Michael’s business mail to open, more thank you notes to be written for donations, papers to read, personal notes to read that had arrived in the mail, papers to sign, bills to pay, and paperwork that was just awaiting a decision.  I made my three page to do list, delegated some of it that could be done by someone else to my sister, Julie, for that day, and started to work on the pile by 7:30 in the morning.

I was so focused and determined that I felt some imaginary blinders on to help me focus on each item without any thoughts or emotions.  This was “business” and God was covering me with grace to treat it that way.  I was facing the facts with a levelheaded mind in order to stay in motion.  After making much progress, I was sorting through a pile of papers that had some Michael memorabilia.  My Aunt Jerri had put together a scrapbook for me from a folder that I had kept over the years, which had all of the articles or magazine covers with stories of Michael in the news.  The articles were either about his music, his architecture, or just featuring him as the Renaissance man that he was.  I gave her the folder on February 24th, and she had it completed by the visitation the next night on the 25th.  I have kept it out in my sitting room for us to peruse through any time we feel like it.  Guests enjoy sitting down and taking a moment to look through it while they are visiting here, too.  I got up from the table and went to the sitting room to slip this piece of memorabilia into the back of the scrapbook, to be entered at a later date into a page sleeve.  I reached down and lifted up all of the pages to the back, when I caught a glimpse of one of my favorite pictures of Michael smiling back at me.  It is a cute picture…. the look he would give me when he was up to something like a surprise or when he would get tickled at himself.  It felt like he was saying, “Well, hey there!”, which is what he would say when he would come upon me in surprise in my bedroom or closet, if he thought I was looking especially good, or if I happened to pop my head into his office unexpectantly.  I simply stood there and slowed down enough to peer at his face over the edge of the pages that my hand was holding.  The tears immediately filled up my eyes and I instinctively spoke to him and said,  “I miss you” and smiled back at him through the tears.  After that moment, the tears where there, everywhere I turned but I kept pressing on through the paperwork, in spite of them.  (I received a letter from Michael Anthony this weekend from camp and he said he was, “working through this homesickness.”  I understood what he meant.  I was working through this homesickness too… homesick for our home with Michael in it.)

As I continued to work on the paper piles, I began to lose my direction and ability to see it all at face value.  I had to step away from it all and be silent.  I went up to my bedroom, closed the door, and sat on the corner of my bed staring at the wall.  I realized there was no place to get away from it.  I began to sob as everything that stared back at me were memories of him.  The black and white family photo taken in front of the Sistine Chapel in Rome was hanging on the wall.  Next to it, was a beautiful mirror that he had chosen which was made from old architectural materials.  On top of the lingerie chest, sitting underneath the mirror, was one of my favorite pictures of us with Nanette and Peter all squeezing each other in a big bear hug taken the weekend of Peter’s surprise 40th birthday weekend in Texas.  Next to the picture was a square glass vase with all of the shells that Michael and I gathered every time we walked the beach together at Rosemary, along with two huge conch shells which we also found were sitting next to the vase.  Then there was the huge glass vase that held all of the rose petals from the dozen roses he gave me with the birth of each child…. Red for Mia’s birth, pink for Julia’s, and yellow for Michael Anthony’s.  From my seat on the corner of my bed, I cried as my eyes slowly moved from one object to the next, remembering each special moment that was represented in all of these things.

I kept taking deep breaths and let the tears fall.  I turned my glance slightly and there was his cool, soft leather, satchel style briefcase sitting next to my ottoman, where it has been since February 23 after it was brought back from his car from the scene of the accident.  Sitting on the ottoman was his leather day timer case, which was not a day timer, but he used just for note taking in meetings.  He bought it while in Italy during our last visit.  He loved the smell of good leather.  On top of the leather notebook sat his glasses… his trendy, signature glasses that now were bent and missing the glass on the left side from the accident.  I thought about putting them on, but did not.  I decided to open up his leather notebook and read through any notes.  I gingerly opened it and the smell of the leather rose to my nose and made me cry even more because it smelled just like he liked it to smell.  I had to touch everything carefully because everything was still covered in glass dust from the accident.  It would have been sitting on the front seat at the time of the wreck.  I slowly read through all of his business notes that had been taken since January.  Notes from every meeting he attended.  I found notes taken on Valentine’s Day and notes taken from a meeting with his partners on February 21st and 22nd.  Folded in a side pocket was a sheet of paper with something hand written all over it.  I opened it and began to cry even harder as I realized that it was a prayer he had written for the recent grand opening of a fire station that he had designed for the city of Flowood, Mississippi.  He had been asked to say the prayer…

“Father, we stand before you today humbled by what you have done.  We’re so thankful for this day that we celebrate your handiwork once again in the city of Flowood.  In a world with so much uncertainty, we’re grateful for the vision and commitment of the city leaders and firefighters who constantly lean on Your certainty for guidance.  Let this facility remind us of their persistent dedication to the citizens of Flowood, who above all, they recognize as being Your people.  We ask you protect the lives of those that will use this facility and as they go out, that they would return safely.  We thank you that this facility was not built in vain, but to Your glory by a city that honors You. 
Now we ask You to bless this fellowship, as we honor what You have done.
In Jesus name I pray, Amen.”

That was all I could put myself through in that moment.  I folded up the prayer and slowly tucked it back into the pocket of the leather notebook.  I sat still on the corner of my bed for a while and took a moment to gather myself back together.  I let the tears and the breathing slow down, wiped my face with a tissue, and took many deep breaths.  I let my eyes scan one last time over everything that had just taken over me, then stood up, and went downstairs to return to the work that awaited me.

In the Middle of the Night

Sunday, July 17, 2011
I have had a rough couple of weeks.  I am not sure why the wave hit.  It slowly crept up on me. The anguish and sadness were there, washing over me, before I knew what was happening.  I have so many thoughts to pour out of my heart and over this laptop that I struggle to know where to begin.  My heart and emotions have travelled many miles in the last two weeks and it makes it difficult to create order out of all of it as it swirls around in my insides by finding a place to begin.   I have decided to write as many blog posts as I can in the next two days to give birth to all that is moving inside of me.  In the past, this has created a great amount of relief and has helped put my overall health in a better place. I, most likely, will not post them all as I write them…but I may change my mind.  I will say ahead of time, that I may repeat something I have already said in a previous post, or bring up a similar experience.  This means that I am not through working that particular area out of my head and heart.  Some of these emotions circle around and around, while others emerge and slowly fall back to the sea of emotions from which they came.

I have not been sleeping well for about a week now.  Since mid-April, I have been able to sleep fairly well.  I will sleep for about a week just fine, then will have about a four night run of no deep rest.  Anxiety seems to set in more at night and the pounding heart and racing thoughts will keep me awake.  This past week, I have had a hard time falling asleep and then, once I do, I awake shortly after then it repeats itself all night long.  A few nights ago, I woke up after about two hours of sleep and was lying there motionless, listening to the silence.  I had my back turned toward the middle of the bed and suddenly caught myself listening for the life of Michael sleeping next to me.  It was just a natural response to me.  It is what I always did in the past if I woke up in the middle of the night…. be still, and hear his breathing, his deep rest.  I was shocked that my instinctual habit had kicked in during that moment…in the middle of the night.  I had temporarily forgotten everything and was listening for life in the still of the night.  It all happened in a matter of seconds, and when I realized that he was not there, the room felt like a vacuum of silence.  I have never heard such stillness.  It was deafening, almost suffocating.  The tears began to roll down from my eyes and onto my pillow.  I did not move and just let the tears well up and spill out of my eyes.  I loved to hear him sleep.  He worked so hard during the day and lived each day of his life to its’ fullest, that when he allowed himself to stop, he slept and he slept well. 

I have had some bad dreams these past two weeks, as well.  I don’t remember them all, but I do vaguely remember one I had last night. I was in a spiritual battle with a demon, although, in their usual way, it did not appear to me as its true self.  It was just me, in front of a painting, when suddenly some force that I could not see was pulling my ponytail.  I tried to speak to the force and my mouth was frozen.  My mouth was my mode of defense and it had been captured.  After grappling with the force and throwing it off of me, I mustered up all of my being and shouted out at the painting, “Be gone, in Jesus name!”  Getting the words out felt like slow motion. It became still but it did not feel like it was completely gone and then I woke up with my heart racing and pounding in my chest.  I knew it as the spirit of fear.  When I had bad dreams in the past, after waking up from them I would touch Michael’s arm and gently wake him to ask him to pray with me.  He always immediately stirred, grabbed my hand, and went straight to praying out loud. He would speak the word over me, rebuke anything that was not of God, and welcome peace to my rest.  I always said thank you and then he would kiss my hand, cheek, or forehead and wrap his arm around my waist and we would fall back asleep.  Sometimes, I would fight the battle alone by praying aloud by myself.  Even though I would whisper, he would wake up; reach over to hold my hand and say, “Thank you, Jesus,” as an affirmation to my prayer. After waking from the dream last night, I felt very alone fighting this battle without him.  We fought for each other, even in the still of the night.  

Memorial Service for Michael Barranco

Wednesday, July 13, 2011
Unbeknownst to me, a great videographer from Mobile, Alabama, Lafe Blobaum, came to Jackson and video taped the memorial service for Michael with first class skill.  I was not even aware of the cameras that were staged throughout the auditorium.  I have not been able to sit down and watch it yet because I have not been sure if I could emotionally handle it.  Since so many people were turned away because of the lack of space, and those that could not travel but wanted to be there, I have decided to post the service for all to see, experience, and worship during this time of celebration of Michael's life.  This service ministered to so many people and changed so many lives, that I know it will continue to do this through the means of having this video available to others.  I am overwhelmed today with the magnitude of what God is doing in my life along side the continued enormous void that I have to experience life daily without my Michael.  Today I missed him fiercely and shed lots of tears.  I will talk about that later.  May this video bless you, encourage you, and change your heart more toward the things that God has in store for you in this life.  May God's face shine brightly upon you.  Please share this with anyone you know who was not able to attend or had tried to get into the building but were turned away.  I would love to hear some responses from those who have never seen it.  It was beautiful, uplifting, and pointed toward heaven.  Thank you for all of your prayers and support.  They are still felt and needed.

The video is separated into two parts and are listed as such.

Part 1   http://vimeo.com/26378324
Part 2   http://vimeo.com/26385412

A Letter to Dear Friends

Saturday, July 9, 2011
I spent this past week at the beach with my children and my dear friends that live in Sidney, Australia.  They bought a beach house in Alabama and came over for a three week holiday to stay in their new vacation home during their kids school break.  We planned several months ago to spend one of those weeks with them while they were in the states.  We have had countless vacations together as couples and as families over our 23 year friendship.  I have lost count how many times they have moved, but, in spite of the moves, our friendship has remained and only gotten stronger through the years.  When the four of us were together, there was always constant great conversations and dreaming about our future together.  We would laugh until we cried and cry when there was pain, like when Nanette's daddy died 12 years ago.  This was our first trip together without Michael.  I knew it was going to be hard.  I knew there were going to be lots of tears, as they would have the freedom to grieve with me after having been separated from me since the week after the funeral.  We mourned the loss together this week.  We cried countless tears together... hard cries.  We talked about how we all had a paradigm shift on the way we viewed our lives and God's plan for our lives... and how we really don't know about tomorrow, we only have today.  Our first nice dinner that we sat down to eat together turned out to be almost unbearable.  Nice music playing, good food that we had just prepared, wine, and dinner with.... just the 3 of us.  Michael's absence was piercing our hearts with every strained word, when finally we could not bear it anymore and we all just broke down and cried, held hands, and hugged until there were no tears left.  No words needed to be spoken.  I wrote this letter to them from their back balcony one day while watching them play tennis with Michael Anthony and their daughter, Micah.  It served as my thoughts, my blog for the day and my feelings that I was experiencing the whole time I was with them this week without Michael.  With their permission, I am posting the letter so that I can keep my feelings and questions about life and death all in one place.  I am blessed to have them in my life and to call them my friends.  Peter & Nanette,  I will miss you greatly until we see each other again.

Dear Peter and Nanette,

This is very surreal being on a Barranco -Slover family vacation without Michael here to join in on the laughs, the fellowship, the food, and the great times that come with good friends.  It is hard not to feel the weight of his absence at every moment of the day.  As I sit here watching the two of you and Michael Anthony and Micah play tennis, I am taken back to one of the many memories of the four of us spending great times together.  Remember playing doubles one afternoon while we were in the Bahamas together?  Michael was the rookie but kept up with all of us just fine… no matter how he hit the ball, he put all of his hulk-like strength behind it.  He took notes of the flowers he saw along the way back to the resort….literally wrote them down and checked into them when we got back to the states.

I remember vividly a conversation we had one night on our first trip to Rosemary Beach together.  Peter, you were dreaming out loud and saying something like, “Wouldn’t it be great to do this regularly, like every two years and the kids will be able to have these great memories of our summer vacations together?   Just think, in a few years, Micah will be driving and she can take all of the kids places, or we will be able to leave all of the kids here while we go out on a date and have dinner together while they watch movies and play games at the house?”  Time flies.  Now we have three drivers and one on the way.  Everyone is a teenager or older and so independent. We are living on opposite sides of the world from each other and we have experienced our first death together.  Never in my wildest dreams would I have suspected this unlikely change in our journey together.  I just knew it was in God’s plans for us to grow old together, walk our girls down the isle in the presence of one another, live in our second homes near one another, be there for every success and pain of our children and each other, and always have each other with whom we could share our dreams.  It all still exists for us, but because it is without Michael, we must all learn what that looks like without him in the circle of friends.  Is that a heavy weight for you, Peter? I hope it is not.  We are still a bond greater than two, a bond that is not easily broken.

Peter, I loved watching the two of you talk and dream big about the future for your families.  It brought excitement to the both of you, which, in turn, brought expectancy to the rest of us.  You both worked so hard for your families and kept your priorities straight, unlike so many other men of this day.  God is blessing you through your discipline, and God is blessing me, as a result of Michael’s discipline during his life here on this earth  It is not fair, in the flesh.  I just am down right missing him.  I miss watching him laugh with you and relax with you.

Nanette, I could write a book on our friendship…. come to think of it, maybe I will. J  You are the most devoted and passionate friend I have ever had.  You have been there for the long haul, at all times, no matter the miles between us.  I am so thankful that NCA brought us together.  It is the best thing that came out of all of those years of cheerleading.

This is all just so strange….. Not right, in our eyes.  What in the world could be in the future that God has planned?  How could it possibly be better than what we thought our future looked like?  I don’t’ know the answers but I know God does have an answer.  I still believe in Jeremiah 29:11, “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”  I am looking for that hope and that future…. Not harm me? … looking for that too.

I treasure our friendship, our past, and our future.  I respect your input, advice, and wisdom that you bring to my life.  I need the stability that comes from our friendship and, even more so, the children do too. 

I love all of you and am thankful that God put this friendship in place in 1988, for such a time as this.  He knew I would need all of you.

All my love,


Sometimes When We Touch

Friday, July 8, 2011

Recently, I had a flashback to a pivotal moment in our relationship while Michael and I were dating. I believe I have stated it before, but if I have not, Michael and I met on September 5, 1986, were engaged Christmas Eve just four months later, then married on September 5, 1987.  We met on a weekend night on his break from singing, went out the next night on our first date, then two weeks later, after having been out every night, we knew that we wanted to spend the rest of our lives together. At the end of those two weeks, I remember vividly sitting on his couch in his house on St. Mary’s Street in the Belhaven neighborhood.  He had a little cold and so I had made him some split pea soup.  We had just eaten dinner together and now were talking on the couch with the radio playing in the background.  The song, “Sometimes When We Touch”, came on the radio, and I thought I was going to break in two.  I knew, at that moment, that I had to live the rest of my life with this man who God had just dropped into my life out of, what appeared to be, nowhere, two weeks prior.  I was so overwhelmed with the “knowing” of this fact and the pain of what my life would be like without him in it, that it hurt…. Almost as much as it hurts to live without him now.   I had never known that loving so deeply could also hurt as equally deep. I think the hurt comes from the fear of being hurt, the intensity of the emotions, and knowing what you would do for this person whom you love with all of your heart. 

 Although the whole song was not appropriate to our feelings, much of it was.  I felt like crying that night when I heard the lyrics playing in the background of our conversation.  Did I know of the pain that would come?  Was it already breaking my heart?  I don’t know, but I do know that the song and that moment ripped my heart that night and it was never the same.  He had my heart forever from that point forward.  As I have said before, if I had to do it all over again,(even knowing the ending), I would do it all over again, exactly the same…

…. And sometimes when we touch,
the honesty’s too much and I have to close my eyes and hide
I wanna hold you till I die
Till we both break down and cry
I want to you hold you till the fear in me subsides.