Friday, August 26, 2005

Social Security

I'm glad my social security appointment is over. The counselor they assigned to my case is wonderful. I am a 'case' alright...especially today. My second son was born today...a sweet 16 years ago. He had a full head of hair and needed a haircut right away...not much different than today (except that he's pretty 'stylin' these days). He's a good guy...working hard at being a rookie on the waterpolo team. I am so proud of him. I love to see him preparing for his Sunday School teaching. He wants the truths in God's Word to come alive to the children. They are so much more than stories...they are truths about real people...who God used to teach us real lessons about real life.

Real life. "Reel" life. Reeling today. The reality of life is slapping me upside the head. God and I had a long conversation this morning...trying to bring some of the out-of-control thoughts into some sense of order enough to get through the day. One of my best friends is here this weekend with her daughters. I'm so thankful it worked out that way....for them to come up here. I thought it would be a while, but God is good. This family jumped in their car 2 hours after I called them about Mike's journey...for an 8 hour drive. They stayed for a week. That is a kind of friendship security. God has allowed so many different people to be there for me and my family at JUST THE RIGHT TIME....for some it was the infamous week...for others it has been in the days or weeks or months since... I didn't want to be around anyone today. Socially I felt and still feel kind of AWOL.

I don't know why I chose the title 'Social Security.' It just kind of popped in my head a couple of days ago. Maybe the irony? My social security is kind of awkward right now. What in the world is security. It is so easy to take life for granted...especially the lives of those closest to us. I was in Michaels Craft Store today to pick up a birthday present and some stickers caught my eye. They were for putting with photos or in a shadowbox sort of thing. The title on them was "Life's Journey." My mind was racing 100 mph.
  • That's how I refer to Michael's passing (his journey)
  • Those are for putting on photos...I have to do photos...
  • "History" was one of the titles. Michael loved history.
  • He is a part of history
  • I don't want to think that I won't be able to take any more pictures of him
  • Let alone pictures of him with his kids...or ME

I started to cry right there. The rest of the gang was over in the clothing store. I felt like a fly that was flying in a random know, the kind that don't land anywhere so you can't kill them...they're just annoying. My mind didn't want to land and I couldn't move away from the aisle...I tried to remember what I needed to get for my son. Tracing paper. See through paper. What a mental picture. I can't see through to the other side.

I looked up "security" in the dictionary. "1. the state of being or feeling secure; freedom from fear, anxiety, danger, doubt, etc.; state or sense of safety or certainty 2. something that gives or assures safety, tranquility, certainty, etc.; protection; safeguard 3. a) protection or defense against attack, interference... 4 a) something given as a pledge of repayment, fulfillment of a promise, etc.; guarantee b) a person who agrees to make good the failure of another to pay, perform a duty, etc.; surety

Remember the Little Rascals? Michael used to immitate them, "You said a mouthful Stymie." I could journal for hours on the definition of security. While I feel secure in my relationship with Jesus Christ, I cannot say I feel a total freedom from kinds of fear, anxiety, and uncertainty. Losing Michael bluntly reminds me we have no guarantees here on earth. Any guarantee here is based on eternity. Here we make the choice of where we want to spend eternity. Michael lived his life to clearly present that he knew where he wanted to spend eternity and he wanted to make sure others knew heaven was a place to desire to go. When he was out biking the morning God ushered him into glory, he responded to a comment, "Wow, what a gorgeous day!"He said, "Can you imagine what heaven will be like?"

He loved us, his family, and his friends...but he just was not married to his material posessions. Check out 4 a) in that definition. The dictionary editior might as well have put in Romans 3:23 and 6:23 right there as examples. The Bible says in Romans 3:23, "For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God." and then in 6:23 it says, "For the wages of sin is death (eternal separation from God), but the GIFT of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus." We fall (woefully) short of perfection here on earth, so there is no way we could exist with a holy, perfect, pure God. But, God designed a sacrifical way on His part to pay the cost for our imperfection by sending His Son to die on the cross as a SECURITY, as a guarantee. That guarantee, should we choose to accept it, guarantees us eternal life with God. If this is true, then that eternal destiny, life with Him forever, starts when we make that choice...

If you want to read more about our inheritance, check out Ephesians chapter 1:3-14. If we choose to accept that Jesus bore the cost of our imperfection, we are "sealed in Christ with the Holy Spirit of promise, who is given as a pledge of our inheritance, with a view to the redemption of God's own possession, to the praise of His glory." (Ephesians 1:13b-14) I have not been so "hit" by a definition in a long time. Not only is Christ our surety, the Holy Spirit is given as a promise of our redemption. I spent a lot of time crying tonight...asking things like, "Why was Michael's work on earth done now?" "Why did he have to go now?" I told my friend I wanted to run out of the house and run up and down the street looking for mind was heart was/is broken. At times I glanced around at the things in my house. So much of the stuff...things Michael and I purchased together, or purchased for one another...seems pointless and useless. Yes, some of it tells a story...but when the earthly life is done it can't be over. It seems like there is a bigger story to tell...a bigger ending...or a beginning for Michael.

Sometimes answers are like trying to look through tracing paper. I can't "see" where Michael is, but I've seen God's hand enough in my life that it is easy to trace the truth that he is in the hands of a loving God who will care for me and guide me, ease my fears and soften the blows to my heart. Michael is in his secure place now. And, socially, I am not worried about him...hanging out with the likes of children like Jessie and Casey fill in the blanks....ah, and some of the adults there are certainly still wanting to know "how he did the magic trick." (Can you keep a secret? So can I.)

Besides, as far as seeing clearly, Michael doesn't need his glasses...he is face to face with Jesus. "For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face; now I know in part, but then I shall know fully just as I also have been fully known." I Corinthians 13:12 He has TOTAL social security. Oh how I want to know Him more. Can we seek Him together?

Secure in His care and appreciating yours...more than you know,

Annie B.

Sunday, August 21, 2005


I'm a horse-lover. "Whoa!" is a different term for one who loves to ride than for one who is afraid. For one who loves to ride it is more for calming the horse when it is too frenetic...or if you need it to stop right away when you sense danger. It is NOT something one says when you are getting ready to barrel race. I enjoyed barrel racing...the speed, the focus, the power...and then it comes quickly to a halt. I also enjoyed racing down the beach...almost without a care in the world.

A non-horse person says "whoa" a lot when they're riding. Perhaps they feel the horse is out to get them or they feel afraid or out of control.

Maybe that's the point for me. I know God is in control. The sun comes up the same every morning. In the book of Jeremiah it says, "Thus says the Lord, Who gives the sun for light by day, and the fixed order of the moon and the stars for light by night, Who stirs up the sea so that its waves roar; The Lord of hosts is His name..." Jeremiah 31:35 The placement of the stars doesn't change and the tennis shoe in the Mt. St. Helens volcanic layers says "millions of years" didn't have to take but an eruption and a cooling. If there is a God who created all this order, then He is certainly big enough to be aware of my situation.

"Whoa" comes out in different ways for me. I think I must tell myself to slow's easy to get busier and busier because the grieving goes deeper and hurts more. When I look at Michael's picture and I look in those bright blue eyes...that someone else has now...I feel like he's looking at me and we're talking, but my talking is to God and asking, "why can't he come back to me?" When you're married for a while there are times when you talk without saying anything.... When you're trying to tell one another to say something to one of the kids or "I see you across the crowded room." I know I need to start looking at photos and writing down stories. Men and women just tell stories differently. Now I've got double write down the way Michael would tell them and my way. (Even if I remembered the details "right," he always told the story better. :) )

I discovered Michael's list of stories he wanted to write. I'm disappointed by that...what a treat children will be missing...and adults as well. I don't think Michael ever really stopped being a kid at heart. I'll miss that story and many others that were in his head and heart, but today I discovered pieces of an old story he DID there's more to read and discover about my husband. We used to live by the challenge to learn something new about each other every day. We didn't always complete the challenge...but we kept the intrigue. Maybe I'll share some of the stories some day....part of 'the rest of his story.'

Speaking of stories, my oldest has been seeking out Michael's friends. I was intrigued by his reasoning, but totally agreed: "For one, I can hear stories that I probably wouldn't have heard and, two, there was a reason he chose them as friends..." "Whoa" (means 'cool' this time.)

I have a young friend who is also smitten with the horse bug. Most non-horse people don't think to tell you about a horse they've seen or show much interest if you talk about a ride you've been on...not so with my friend. We have a secret delight in sharing when we've gotten to see the new foals in town...or talk about a horse lesson. (The horse farm moved out of the residential area and we are a wee bit sad...mad...NOT glad. Sorry, that's the Dr. Seuss upbringing.) Most people have an area of interest...and regarding that, one usually finds people who have the same least for part of their "circles of friends."

Grieving is like that. A friend gave me a book, Tear Soup, that kind of identifies the phases of finding-who-you-can-talk-to-now-about-your-grief. When I see one of the other recent widows I sometimes dis my friends without realizing it. I gravitate quickly to the other widow. I know people understand. Right now a lot of people want to talk....or ask questions. But, maybe they won't tomorrow. Okay, but I can't worry about tomorrow because I only have today. And what about today? It's been long. Oh, and it's not today any more. "Whoa." (Time to stop and add more later.)

Here I am at "later." I didn't publish the stuff above because I wasn't ready. I want to be real...but in doing so I realize things may be pretty that okay?

Tomorrow I am saying WHOA. I need to simply stop. Tonight I found myself alone. Every child had somewhere to be and bless the friends who shuttled them there. One studied Chinese over in Concord, another went to marching band practice after his waterpolo practice, and the younger 2 went to youth group game night...but should I even mention that one of them drank a "happy meal smoothie?" I took the opportunity to watch our wedding video. Whoa. Surreal.

In the sea of faces from 19 years ago I see many who have gone before Michael...some who I know chose to follow Jesus and others who chose to believe this is all there is. I JUST CAN'T FATHOM THAT THIS IS ALL THERE IS. I stand outside many, WHOA. The billions of stars...the Big Dipper sits over our house. If you stand in the right place, it looks like it is emptying out into my neighbor's chimney. How do we put that together? The enormity of space and the whole of the created earth...and our finite humanity that is alive and well...biking 22 miles...talking and being sweet...getting ready to fix brunch together...and gone the next minute? Somehow our finiteness fits into the love of God. He's brought an order to the earth and space, He has a plan and purpose for our lives. I cling to His words:
"For I know the plans that I have for you, declares the Lord, 'plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope.'" Jeremiah 29:11

It's fine that He has plans, but I feel so clueless some days. While I don't feel like I have a calamity to Job's heart feels quite calamitized (can I use that in Scrabble?)....and future? The future is
a part of tomorrow. I don't have tomorrow yet...even though most of my days bleed into tomorrow. They say time heals...but I think the walk to the empty bed gets longer every night....and hope...what is the hope? I can hope in temporal things...pretty empty...been there...or eternal things. I choose something more. In the midst of the crazy days my faith makes my hope real. Smile...because it's about LOVE. "But now abide faith, hope and love, these three; but the greatest of these is love." I Corinthinas 13:13

Why does God keep bringing so much of my stuff back to love? If you remember, I shared at Michael's Celebration of Life service that my journey this past year has been about understanding how much God loves me....which came out of the question I had for God: What does it mean to love other people?

Today God showed His love to me....His care and tender mercies. My foot doctor appointment went very well and my friend drove almost an hour one way to go with me to the Social Security office. To top it off, the Social Security Counselor was kind and funny. (yes, there are quite a few things that we can laugh at in walking this road...laugh or cry...sometimes you just have to admit things can be so odd they are funny.) God helped me through a Costco trip (Michael and I did that together) and a sports store trip for swim suits and goggles. A lady and her girls helped us with the myriad of goggles. Would that be anti-fog or choosing a 180 degree angled vision with reflective lenses? And are these for girls or guys?? After we decided the lady commented that she new Michael...and "he was a good man. He was very kind to my girls when he spoke with them at AWANA." That was a special touch on the day. Another friend brought a ham dinner. Most of us ate we used to do. After dinner the house cleared out. The phone normally rings all through the evening. Not tonight. I watched our wedding...and I wanted to share that with you...those that were there and those that weren't. You each have had a part in the tapestry of our marriage...which is part of a larger tapestry that we will turn over to the front one day and say, "WHOA."

I'm thankful for you.

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Real Eyes

Hi again. I didn't have to dust for God's fingerprints today, I saw His hand big and bold. My 2nd son made huge strides in correcting a spine disease. Because of his hard work he has been approved for a brace....a 2+year committment. The doctors were amazed at his progress. Later in the day one of our Women's Ministry team coordinators got side-swiped but everyone was okay. It could have been a lot worse. Her passengers were her young daughters and 2 of the 3 trainers who had just been picked up at the airport in Oakland. They were coming to lead workshops at our church in the Inductive Bible study method...they have a passion for studying God's Word. I know someone who just maybe doesn't like that we are learning to study the "owner's manual" that God gave us for living. I also got a lot of small things done while waiting at the doctors...oh, and speaking of daughter is entering her next phase of braces...twisting teeth...more bands, bright blue this time. that's an entry all itself. What does "blue" feel like and how many kinds of blue are there?

I have so many 'thought trains' going. One is that I can sense (or see with 'eyes' inside myself) the huge amount of prayers and know that is what is holding me up. I need it, I appreciate it. At the same time I see myself...almost outside myself...ministering to others. I'm glad and in some ways it helps me heal. I wish it was that easy. Sometimes I just want people to go walk with me...let me talk as I go through another pile of papers that I "should" have put away the first time I dealt with them...or the first time I saw them. I really don't deal with the papers most of the time. Some are reminders. I stopped the bike magazine, but it keeps coming...until it really stops...I don't think I'll miss the magazine...but then why should I get my magazine? Why should I keep my yard nice or get rid of clutter? For my kids? They're the best. For me? Why would that be important for me? (I'm glad I don't need answers to my questions...I just need to be able to ask them.) I have learned I need to simplify my life. Even that takes time. Job had 3,000 camels. Roger and Anita had 101 Dalmations. We have books. I'm glad I don't have 3,000 camels.

I realized the other day that I end up ministering because that is what Michael would do. One of the things that first attracted me to Michael was his mercy for others...not a pittying mercy, but a real compassion. Because Michael was (ugg...hard word to use) a pastor, he had a lot of deeper relationships with people...from his "Greenhouse" Children's Ministry team all the way to people he met in met in different venues of endeavors in his life...storytelling at schools or in the mall...spin cycling at the gym...practicing sleight of hand with other magicians. He just naturally got entwined in people's lives. And there were always people he wanted to know our neighbors. Years ago people really knew their neighbors...and now it seems like everyone is so busy. I guess in a strange way you do get to know your neighbors over time...they are there for the past year Michael did seem to be slowing down some and "walking next door or across the street."
Michael would often tell me when he thought someone was having a tough time. I did not have those kind of eyes. I think I am learning to be "present" in a conversation, but I have a long way to go to be merciful.

Do you notice how I get side-tracked by intellectualizing my grief? Maybe if I rationalize it to understanding it won't hurt me as bad. I think God is beginning to give me "real eyes" to see where I need to let go and walk the road that might have a lot more tears and ache. I think God gives us real eyes, but in some way...for whatever reason...we choose not to slow down to see, to listen. Could real eyes be the eyes of our heart. I am learning about love. I'm learning we can be quick to learn with our mind, but slower with the heart.

My heart is starting to realize that I have a big hole in my heart. I struggle with the saddness of knowing that you, too, have a loss in your life. For some of you Mike was a dad, for others a brother, pastor, son, and friend...even a windbreak on bike rides. There is a lot in realationships that can take people "deep." There is so much I want to share....but I realize it's very late...and grieving is tiring. As you rest tonight, pray for eyes to see God's listen to the pain other people have or are in. There are so many who have relatives with cancer or are struggling with difficult life situations...even sending children off to military boot camp. Some friends just shared about a neat website that helps parents with prodigals. ... dealing with the pain of prodigals, drugs, and alcohol, called"You're Not Alone." The website is

If you think my mind has gone in a million directions...(in the words of a friend on my behalf)... "welcome to my world." Say, there is a neat song out there, "In the Blink of an Eye." Pretty telling questions to ponder. I guess eyes are the theme tonight. My son probably thought I was saying eyes track mind.

Friday, August 12, 2005

Daze end

I don't want most days to end...even the tough days. I don't think it is fear for the next day because I see God's new mercies each a new car battery from a beloved family. I wonder if it is the daze I feel...the kind of look a dog has when they want to show you they are listening but they just kind of tilt their head. Michael knew "dog speak." He would give these running monologues of what a dog was saying...complete with the character of the dog wherever it was; in the back of a truck or sitting on a driver's lap looking like it was trying to drive.

I watched a movie and pondered the emotions it stirred up. Thursday nights were always like our "Friday nights." Sometimes we would watch a movie and most always we would mull over the characters, the acting, and the applications we could make to life. We watched Luther the night before his journey to Jesus. What an amazing movie...not just the acting, but the history and it's impact on the church. Have we moved on from pondering those issues? Do we have a sort of cultural Christianity at times. Guess that would be a different discussion.

I had a striking feeling of aloneness on one of my trips across town today. It sort of reminded me of that Garfunkel song, "My Little Town." I like our little town...seeing friends at the store and buying produce at the produce stands. I miss sharing this ever-changing little town with my best friend. Sometimes I think I'll pass him--riding in the bike lane.

I procrastinate going to bed..(even though my oldest asks me if I am going to turn off the computer soon) I picked up one of our wedding albums. The pictures in my wedding album are falling know...."non-archival, acidic paper with environmentally unfriendly plastic"....some of the pictures are on posters we used at Michael's Celebration of Life service. Guess that's one more thing I need to take care of...but I do need to our Lord. I know "He gives to His beloved even in his sleep." Ps. 127:2

Thank you for trudging through the fog with me,
Annie B.

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Welcome to my "How ARE you?" blog and ponderings

Welcome to my ponderings blog. I started this because there is so much I want to say to so, friends, and the many who were touched by Michael's life and ministry. I love every call and email and card, but drown under a desire to respond to every one of them. My heart so wants to talk to each person, but there are things I must put as top priorities.

I couldn't stand up under the weight of this loss if it wasn't for your prayers and God's mercy. I am so excited for the opportunity to share with you what is going on in my head and heart. God's Words in the Bible leap off the page and into my soul. My goal is not to be profound, but real. Maybe we can learn together to not let grief be such a taboo subject. I will attempt to share often because I like to "interact" with people regularly (but lack the strength to physically respond every day to every contact). Hopefully you will catch a glimmer of my gratefulness and a heartful of my Jesus and how He is walking me and my family through these days.

I love you.

Annie B