Kay's Blog


Today is Ash Wednesday

Today is Ash Wednesday - obvious to those who follow a liturgical church calendar, but to those of us raised without observances of Advent and Lent, Lent is a new dimension of faith to be explored with joy and wonder for me. The liturgy readings for today are somber and full of emotion-laden words like "repent, sin, contrition, purging, cleansing, fasting, forgiveness, and mercy." And while I have no ashes on my forehead to represent repentance, inwardly my thoughts are consumed with self-examination... figuratively lifting up the corners of the rugs that hide dirt... opening mental doors locked against the gentle Spirit who asks admittance... ready and willing to acknowledge the willful, stubborn, prideful self on the throne in the Kingdom of Kay... ready to admit how utterly lost I was until Jesus Christ - the Risen Lamb of God - took up residence in my being... requesting mercy AGAIN.

Yet, sinful though I am, I gratefully receive His love, knowing there is no cause for shame; confident that His blood thoroughly wipes out all the reasons for shame... even the ones that bring a bowed head and tears at their memory. With the Psalmist, I say "Have mercy on me, O God, in your goodness; in the greatness of your compassion wipe out my offense. Thoroughly wash me from my guilt and of sin cleanse me... A clean heart create for me, O God, and a steadfast spirit renew within me... Give me back the joy of your salvation, and a willing spirit sustain in me. O Lord, open my lips, and my mouth shall proclaim your praise." (Psalm 51)

I pray the prayer of Thomas A Kempis, "by loving myself badly I lost myself; by seeking only you and by truly loving you I have found both myself and you, and by that love I have reduced myself more profoundly to nothing. For you, O sweetest Lord, deal with me above all my merits and above all that I dare to hope or ask."

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in Grief

From the Front Row

Last night when I spoke to the women of NorthPointe Community Church in Fresno, I told them that grief has changed me, that I’m not the same person I was before Matthew took his life 21 months ago. I shared with them how I used to sit on the front row at church where I could encourage Rick with my presence, laugh at his jokes, give him the stink eye when he said something inappropriate, and give him the “cut” sign when he preached too long... the front row has been “my place” for nearly 35 years. But when Matthew died, church became a strange and unfamiliar place – not because of our congregation, but because of ME. The worship songs fell on my broken heart like sharp knives that cut me open even further – the words of healing and hope and victory contrasted with the bitter reality of Matthew’s violent death. The crowds were frightening and overwhelming – I could barely access comfort for myself, let alone come up with up one shred of energy to comfort anyone else. I felt like everyone was staring at me, watching my every move (whether they were or not), and on more than one occasion I climbed over friends and family in a frantic scramble to get outside before my sobs turned into wails.

I eventually came back to weekly services, but with my posse of my mother, my daughter and son and their spouses, Rick’s sister, small group friends, and other close friends surrounding me in the back of the worship center, near a door. In the loving, supportive, protective cocoon of these loved ones, I explored singing again, often tightly gripping the hand of someone who loves me. Frequently I stood silently with warm tears coursing down my cheeks when the lyrics of a worship song touched an aching place deep inside. I started taking notes on the sermon outline, although it took all my effort to focus on what was being said rather than let my thoughts wander sorrowfully to our loss. I could see my former front row seat – vacant – week after week. I knew that one day I would be ready to move back to the front row, but I had no idea when that momentous day would arrive. As I told the women just last night, I’m not ready – and I don’t know when I will be.

In these 21 months Rick has never said a complaining word about my absence from my cheering section on the front row; he understands and shares my grief, and knows that only something catastrophic would keep me from “my place.” But TODAY... he hesitantly asked if I would sit in the front again, unsure of my response. Today he needed me. Today he was tired and weary and needed my physical presence in his line of sight. Today he needed to be able to catch my eye from the stage and read the love and support in my face. I was surprised that he asked... surprised that I had to make a decision... surprised that I found myself inwardly protesting. I thought it was a husband/wife decision about leaving the safe, comforting, protective cocoon of my loved ones who sit with me in the back - but I quickly realized it was really a God-follower/God issue.

Today I had a choice: trust that the God who loves me would never ask me to do something that is not ultimately for my good, or decide that what God was asking was beyond my ability to say yes. God was asking me to trust Him and His timing – to believe that even though I didn’t think I was ready to transition from hiddenness to the more exposed, vulnerable spot on front row, He knew I was. He – more than anyone else ever can or will – knows the internal journey of mourning and grief, and He can see where and when the next leaps of faith must occur for me to continue healing. 

I gazed into Rick’s face, pondering the unexpected request... and then glanced down at the bracelet I was wearing. Engraved on five connected links were the words from Philippians 4:8: “I can do everything through Him who gives me strength.” I had my answer. No uncertainty. No more hesitation. I would leave the sweet place of safety and refuge, and joyfully step back into the spotlight  for my beloved husband, but also for my beloved Savior – totally trusting that the strength I needed to “leap” from the back of the Worship Center to the front would be given to me as I took the first step.

And so from the front row tonight, January 17, 2015 – 21 months and 12 days after Matthew died – I smiled at my husband preaching so bravely and powerfully on the stage, laughed at his jokes, and took copious notes. I raised my arms in highest praise to the God who conquered death and defeated the grave and sang hallelujah through my tears. All through Him who gives me strength.

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