Monday, October 31, 2011

Thank You

It’s hard to believe that, including today, there are exactly 10 blogging days left of this 40-day adventure. No worries – I don’t intend to fall of the blog-wagon after I complete this. I’ve actually been praying about that – how much does God actually want me to blog anyway? He’s making that clear, and I’ll share more about that the end of this journey.

But, in all honesty…it hasn’t been all that difficult this time around. Maybe I just have more to share. Maybe I enjoy writing again. Maybe…well, who knows? I just know that most days, I look forward to coming to this little cozy cyber space and pouring out my heart. Even more, I always look forward to you joining me here. So, I just wanted to say THANK YOU!

Thank you for staying connected and walking with me on this Grief Road.

Thank you for being my cheerleaders with your words of encouragement, your heartfelt prayers, your comments, your private messages on Facebook and email.

Thank you to so many of you for taking part in my Chris Tree project – something very near and dear to my heart this year.

Thank you for your willingness to read and respond to my “ugly” posts as well as my not-so-ugly writings.
Thank you for being supportive of Anna during her guest posting about her last weekend with Chris.

Thank you to so many of you that have found sneaky little ways to bless me either at home or where I work with surprise flowers, cards, care packages, or singing telegrams (ok – well maybe not the last one – Ha! Ha!)

Thank you for giving me a chance to share my story…the good, the bad, and the ugly parts.

Thank you for participating in my Christmas card project. It’s not too late if you still would to be added to my Christmas card list. Just click here for more information.

Thank you for honoring Chris by taking care of his grieving wife.

Thank you for loving me and comforting me in a way that pleases Christ Jesus!

Simply, THANK YOU!!!!

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Tennessee Trek

Late Friday afternoon, I took off on another mini adventure. This time, my travel plans took me to middle Tennessee...first to Bon Aqua, a small rural town about an hour west of Nashville.

It was in Bon Aqua that I met (for the first time) my year-long friend, Deborah - or Quilter Extraordinaire, as I like to call her. I first came in contact with Deborah when working for another company. She and I were email buddies, as I regularly placed purchase orders from the company where she works.

Somehow, throughout this time, she discovered my blog and touched base with me through here and introduced me to her quilting blog and her devotional blog as well. (WOW...I was so impressed...she could keep up with TWO blogs!!!)

I remained in contact with Deborah, even after God opened the door for me to go to work for 106.9 the Light radio station. We've both experienced grief this year (she lost her mother and grandmother early in the year within a month of each other), so we could relate on the grief journey, as well.

I'm not exactly sure when it happened, but I knew what I had to do! I had seen pictures of Deborah's quilt work on her blogs and knew she was very talented. And I wondered...would she consider making a scrap quilt for me out of some of Chris' clothes - the ones he wore most frequently? I asked her about it, and she was thrilled to take on this project.

So, that's what took me to Bon Aqua. I took a tote full of Chris' clothes to her for the purpose of starting this project. We looked through patterns, discussed fabrics, quilting terms (that I can't repeat, because I'm clueless), and I finally found THE PATTERN for Chris' quilt! I am so excited I can hardly stand it. I can't wait for it to be finished so that I can wrap up in it and feel, in theory, him surrounding me. What a gift! I'm so thankful God connected us over a year ago - not knowing how meaningful that connection would come to mean down the road.

Here are some pics of Deborah and her amazing cabin, built by her husband. Chris would have LOVED this place!

A view of the elk with quilts hanging on both sides of the loft railings

Quilts everywhere!

The loft - Deborah's quilting space

Eye candy for a quilter!

My hunter man would have drooled over this one!

Deborah - Quilter Extraordinaire!
 After leaving Deborah's house late morning yesterday, I ventured back to Nashville on my way back home. I planned a quick stop-over visit to see my new She Speaks friend, Leigh Kramer. I would highly encourage you to check out her HopefulLeigh blog sometime. She is an amazing writer and is currently finishing up her first novel!

Leigh and I, along with 6 other amazing women, sat at the infamous Table 73 during She Speaks this past summer. Table 73 shared some pretty amazing things of which I posted about soon after returning home. If you haven't read about my She Speaks Miracle before, I would encourage you to do so. God blew my mind...yet again that evening!

Leigh and I had a nice, but short, visit catching up while she nannied for little 3-month old Caroline. Here are a few pics from my time with Leigh:

After a couple of hours, it was time to hit the road for home. I love my time in the car. I usually spend lots of time chatting with God. Friday night and yesterday were no different. He spoke right to my heart over some things that I've been crying out to Him about! I love that God of mine!

Friday, October 28, 2011


It wasn't exactly the answer to the prayer I prayed, but it's the answer God gave us, which means it's the BEST thing for us! I've been praying for months that my daughter and I would be able to go on a mission trip together within the next year. After going to Africa in June, 2010...I caught "the fever"...of short-term mission trips, that is. My heart was captured by the "least of these". I wanted to go back or serve Him anywhere, for that matter. And...I wanted to take Anna with me. This amazing child of mine (yes, I am biased) is so compassionate for the less fortunate. Much more so that I ever was at her age. I didn't want that compassion to be for naught. I wanted to see it in action. And, so I prayed for this opportunity to serve with her somewhere...anywhere.

Well, after the week I've had...I'm so thrilled to report that Anna and I have something really special to look forward to this summer! We'll both be going to Haiti on mission trips. Just not together. As only God would ordain, Anna will be going for two weeks with the Student Ministry from our church at the end of July, and I'll be going for one week with a group of ladies from "all over" the first week of July. Both groups will be working with missionaries Cody & Maria Whittaker in the town of Jacmel and some surrounding areas as well. They have an amazing ministry that you can read more about on their website

If you've been following my blog for awhile, you might also remember their name from my blog posts updating you on their little girl Susana that ended up going home to be with the Lord last February, as a result of cancer. Their family was with our family on the day Chris was found after taking his own life, so you can imagine the grief journey we've traveled together...similar...yet different.

The women's group that I will be traveling with will be doing orphan care and anything else the Whittakers ask us to do, but we'll also be conducting mini women's conferences (similar to what I did in Liberia in 2010). We're going to teach, disciple, serve, and love on the Haitian women that God brings to these conferences. I'm ecstatic!!! I can't wait!!!

We'll have lots more to share on both of these trips as things develop, but I ask for your prayers in these specific areas:

1) Protection - that no plan of the enemy's to stand in the way of us going would come to pass
2) Financial - that God would raise up the financial provision for us to go ($2200-Anna; $1500-Leah). He raised exactly what I needed for Africa and not a penny more ($3500), so I'm trusting that He'll do it again.

Thanks friends! It's never too early to start praying! It's the best tool (and weapon) we have at our disposal!

We're Haiti bound! Praise God!

Thursday, October 27, 2011

The Funny Faces of Chris

Thank you friends...for your prayers, encouraging comments and love this week. I'll be glad when this "wave" passes! I don't have much to write about today...heart aches a little too much for this gal. So, I thought I would share with you something that makes me laugh. I needed to laugh today, so I looked through some old pics of my sweet husband. Allow me to introduce you to "The Funny Faces of Chris" - my silly man! :-)

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Practicing Thankfulness

It's not too difficult to see if you've been following my blog posts this week that it's been a doozy. Monday was just plain yucky. And...yesterday? Well, I think I just spent the day getting over Monday.

There's nothing monumental that's taken place. I mean, even my splatter on the floor of the local grocery store is minor compared to the events of May 3-4. So, putting all of this into's not been that bad, if I really think about it.

So, why the sullen mood?

I'm just hurting. I'm missing Chris terribly right now. It just happens. I think about him every single day, but somedays...I'm absorbed with thoughts of him. I just want him back so badly. I know that's impossible...but, I can still want...can't I? Even typing this blog...the tears are pouring, my shoulders are quivering, because I miss him sooooo badly! I. Really. Miss. Him. I don't know how to say it any plainer than that.

But, I have to move forward. I have to keep serving the God that I adore. I have to keep walking the journey. I have to keep trusting. And, I must keep thanking. It's in the thankfulness, I find healing.

And so I begin...

I gave thanks for...

1. My Jesus
2. Anna's laughter
3. Healing tears
4. Authentic friends
5. Clean drinking water
6. Scenic mountain landscapes
7. Eyesight to see God's gifts
8. The ability to feel useful even while deeply grieving
9. Encouraging comments on my blog
10. "Just because" cards received in the mail at just the right time
11. Still being able to see my 5-yr-old daughter's face now in her almost grown 14-yr-old face as she wakes in the morning.
12. The precious flowers I found on my doorstep yesterday with the message: "Leah, you are so loved. God"

And the list continues...that's just a sampling.

Thank you God for holding me so closely right now!

My surprise flowers that arrived yesterday!

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

25 Weeks

Today marks the official “two months ‘til Christmas” warning.

Today also marks 25 weeks since my husband first disappeared into the woods to take his own life. Sadly, he succeeded.

In 25 weeks, I’ve…

-seen the beauty of God’s Comfort

-felt pain like never before

-experienced an outpouring of love from my Christian and non-Christian friends alike

-tasted the bitterness of death

-been led beside still waters

-hidden myself in the shadow of Chris’ death

-laughed so hard I’ve almost wet my pants (how’s that for a visual?)

-cried what must be the equivalent of a lifetime of tears

-praised the One that made me…over and over and over

-questioned the One that made me…over and over and over

-prayed for so many other widows, knowing well the depth of their pain

-barely eaten, as food nauseated me in the “early days”

-eaten too much, as food is falsely “comforting me” now

-been on the mountaintop

-been in the deepest pit

-endeavored to live life to the fullest

-prayed that God would call me Home

-witnessed true friendship, even among strangers

-felt the sting of false friendship

-experienced God’s fingerprints on me

-questioned God’s nearness

-seen beauty come from ashes

-felt abandoned and forgotten (a lie from the enemy)

-shared with others how God never leaves us or forsakes us

-experienced how deep and how wide is God’s amazing love for me

Monday, October 24, 2011

This One Ain't Pretty!

Disclaimer: This isn't a pretty post. You know the kind? The one as my friend, Carol, would say that I try to write - regardless of how painful - and end up tying a pretty bow of inspiration on top at the end. Nope. Not today. So, if you're in the mood to be inspired...come back another day. This is just raw, authentic, hurting me today. I understand if you stop right here. Just...consider yourself warned.

Oh...I see you didn't stop. You're still reading. Well, as my husband would say, "Bless your heart!"

Today has been one of those days that I wish I could just erase. I wanted to go back to bed hours ago and just wake up to a new day...a do-over day.

It hasn't been any one thing. It's been a BUNCH of things. It actually started yesterday. Someone hurt my feelings...I guess I let them, and I still wasn't over it this morning. So, I woke up rather gloomy. It was a bright, sunny day, and I had the heart of Eeyore.

And, then it began. The waves of grief returned with a vengeance. One right after the other - knocking me off my feet. On top of that, the emotional drowning caused me to make bad eating choices today, which then led to feelings of failure. This was the day I was "starting over" on my healthy eating plan. I had lost a bunch of weight rather quickly in the first 8 weeks following Chris' death. It's gradually been inching it's way back (pardon the pun), and I'm miserable. M.I.S.E.R.A.B.L.E. So, today was the day. No more playing games. I had to get a grip. But, then came the waves. And, food became my comfort. Noooooooooo!!!!!!

This afternoon brought a trip to the dentist for my 6-month cleaning. That, in and of itself, was hard. The day Chris died, I had an appointment for a filling that had to be rescheduled. And so, today, as I was driving out there...THAT day...May 4...was heavily on mind. Then the waves came harder. I passed landmark after landmark that reminded me of my sweet man. I drove by the exit to the cemetery where he's buried. Then, I passed the SCUBA store (my Chris was a diver). Soon after, I drove past the shooting range where he let me practice shooting his rifles. I'll never forget how fun that day was...seriously.

Finally, I get to the dentist's office. While waiting to be called back, another woman was making an appointment for her husband. The receptionist asked for her cell phone number, and "the wife" began to call it out 276-xxx-xxxx. That's all I needed to hear: 276. The area code for my husband's hometown in Virginia. The tears were back. Over a silly area code? I was spent!

The dental visit was less than desirable. Two more cavities! What is going on? You'd think I was sleeping with a sugar cube in my mouth or something! Oh well...I shouldn't expect less on a day like today.

And top it off. I was in the grocery store with my daughter tonight. We just had to run in and get a few things. On the way out of the store, my ankle rolled (the one I sprained Saturday on my hike), and in what seemed like a slow-motion nightmare...I fell...HARD on the grocery store floor on my knee. So, now my ankle is knee is on fire...and I'm humiliated.

I'm just sad today. I'm hurting today. top it all off...I'm physically hurt now too. I'm ready for Home! Come quickly Lord Jesus! In the meantime, I guess I'll just go to bed and start over tomorrow.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Molly's Knob Adventure

October 6, 2007 - My first adventure to Molly's Knob with my sweet Chris. He had been wanting to take me up there, and me - the girl ALWAYS up for just about any adventure - was happy to oblige.
Chris at Hungry Mother Lake - right before our ascent up Molly's Knob Trail!

The leaves were absolutely gorgeous that day. The sky was a perfect blue, and the lake was divinely sparkling.


Chris and I were both in excellent physical shape at the time, and we ascended to the top of Molly's Knob relatively quickly (considering we took the wrong trail to begin with and added about an hour to our journey). But, we didn't care. We were newly in love - eager to share every moment we could possibly have together.

Once at the top of the knob, the views were breathtakingly beautiful. We settled in for a picnic lunch and about an hour of rest before heading back down the mountain to close out our day's adventure. We never forgot that day and had intended to do it again...this year!

October 22, 2011 - today - I DID go back to Hungry Mother State Park in Marion, VA to trek up to Molly's Knob again. This time - no Chris. Rather, I believe he watched from heaven as his sweet sister, Lisa, joined me on this journey that I still longed to do, in memory of my husband.

It was another perfect day. The day started out with fall crispy cool temperatures, necessitating layers of dress. However, before we were halfway through the hike - the jackets and sweatshirts were GONE! We both giggled with pain. Lisa had never hiked this before and couldn't believe it was as tough as it was. Me? I obviously wasn't in the same top-knotch physical shape I was in four years ago.

This particular hike isn't that long (just about 2 miles including the final Vista Trail), but it's an uphill climb all the way. My calves, my feet, my toes are screaming at me tonight! They'll get over it...they need to toughen up anyway. :-)

We finally - after a few stops to take pictures and talk to people - made it to the top!

We had a quick protein-laden snack - took more pictures and then headed back down the mountain. We both believed the descent was just as tough (in some respects) as the climb up, because it was so steep, and we were trying to keep from falling. I also took time on the hike back down to look for more heart-shaped rocks - similar to the ones that I found at the campsite where Chris took his life. Anything heart-shaped I find in nature when I'm focusing on doing something that relates to Chris - I consider a kiss from heaven. I looked and looked but only found this stone. It sort of has a heart-shaped look to it, but it wasn't as defined as the one I found a few months back. But, I picked it up anyway...just in case...

Just as we were nearing the finish line...the last 10 feet of the trail...I did the unexpected. Yes. I. Did. I rolled and sprained my ankle! I was so frustrated with myself but grateful that it didn't happen until the end. I could still walk, so it wasn't that bad of a sprain. But, it hurt so badly that I simply had to stop for a moment to "re-group". As I was bent over looking at my ankle...I saw it. And, I was for me...another kiss from heaven. This time inside of a hickory nut. And to think...without the sprain to get my attention...I never would have even noticed.

It was a great day! Thank you Lisa! Thank you Jesus!

Friday, October 21, 2011

Why Not Me?

I told her my last name and simply stated I was there to pick up a prescription.

"Leah Gillen?" she asked.

I was a bit surprised when she called out my first name too without even looking it up in the computer or anything.

Further she explained, "I filled your prescription much earlier today, and your name just stuck with me for some reason." I simply smiled.

Normally, I just go through our local pharmacy's drive thru to pick up any prescriptions, but interestingly they called me yesterday and said they needed me to bring in my insurance card, because there was a slight problem, and they needed to load it again in the system.

So, this time...I went inside to pick up my order. I'm not sure how the conversation even turned in this direction, but suddenly I found myself sharing with her that my husband passed away a little over 5 months ago.

She stopped everything, and with complete sincerity offered, "I'm sorry. I really am sorry. I'm not just saying that."

I thanked her, and we simply continued to chat a little. She never asked me how he died (one of the first actually), and I never offered. But, she then began telling me that this had been a difficult year for her too.

"My mom and both grandparents passed away this year. And, my dad passed away when I was 16." (She couldn't be more than 27-28 at this point.)

"Wow!" I was floored. "You have had a hard year, haven't you?"

She shrugged a little and then said, "Yes. But, I believe everything happens for a reason." Looking down at my insurance card, she then proceeded to say, "I see that you work for the Billy Graham organization. I guess you probably believe everything happens for a reason too?"

I simply smiled. The sweet assumptions. But...she was right. "Yes, I do." But, she wasn't finished.

"But, do you ever ask why? I mean...why did this happen to me?" She stared at me...cautiously inquisitive. Maybe she was afraid of my answer. Maybe she's surfing for an answer to her own "why". And so I began...

"Honestly? Yes, I've asked that question a time or two in my life. But, question as of late has been 'why not me?'. Why should the yucky stuff happen to somebody else instead of me? Why should I be exempt? We live in a fallen, broken world. So, who's to say I shouldn't experience any of this? Do I like it? Absolutely not. Do I wish my husband were still with me? YES! YES! YES! But, I wouldn't wish this pain on my worse enemy. So, why not me?"

I was afraid of her response to my little moment of dialogue. Was she ready for that? Or did I just give her more than she could chew at the moment? I just wanted to be honest.

Her response? "You're right. Absolutely right. I guess that's why your name stuck with me today. God wanted to connect us tonight."

And. He. Did. Just. That.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Excerpts from My Journal...

Chris - my Superman!

I've had so many people stress to me the importance of journaling since the death of my sweet Chris. As a lover of words, you would think that would be easy for me. But, it hasn't been. I've journaled some, but I've blogged a lot more. I think the blog posts have taken the place of traditional journaling for me.

However, there are some things that I simply can't post here. Nuggets that are too hard to bare and are just between God and me. Elements of pain that would not edify anyone reading the words. But, for some reason, today I felt led to share a few excerpts from some of my most early journal entries. Maybe...just maybe...God is speaking to one of you through some of these words.

May 13
9 days after Chris' death...I'm still struggling to find answers. I'm still struggling to get back into God's Word in more than a "surface reading" sort of way. I desire to devour it , but my heart won't let me just yet. And so...I skim. I am reading devotions and shockingly, but thankfully, the two I read today had to be love notes straight from God Himself: 5/13 Jesus Calling (Sarah Young) and 5/13 Morning By Morning (Spurgeon). I seek you Lord - now more than ever. I pray, God, that you'll speak to me in my dreams and that I'll remember it when I awake. Please give me a glimpse of Chris in heaven.

May 21
Now 17 days after my sweet husband suddenly left me for our eternal home...God's mercies continue to abound. Even so, I still hurt. I think the thing I struggle with most today is not having him to talk to. I ache for him...really ache for him. Maranatha!

May 28
I find that my blog has become a place of journaling much of what God has been teaching me along "Grief Road". However, there are still nuggets that are too personal or confusing or private to display on a public blog. ... I had an emotionally difficult time of prayer yesterday morning, but it resulted in God carrying me out of my "grief prison". Hallelujah!

July 4
I am really having to work hard to choose joy today, because Satan is working overtime to get me to be miserable. But, it's becoming my new mantra, of sorts...I CHOOSE JOY! Regardless of my circumstances...I CHOOSE JOY! Regardless of the depths of my sorrow...I CHOOSE JOY! Regardless of what life difficulties seem to bombard me...I CHOOSE JOY! This life is so short & so fleeting! I get to live with Chris in heaven forever. Better yet - I get to live with Jesus in heaven forever! This life is but a "blip" on the pages of eternity. Therefore...I CHOOSE JOY!

Without Christ, I am nothing. Simple, but true. Without Christ, I couldn't do this. I couldn't walk Grief Road. Without Christ, I would be lost...and perhaps dead. But, being dead without Christ is the greatest tragedy of all. Thankfully, Chris is waiting for me in heaven! How about you?

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Eyes of Faith

Thank you so much for your encouraging and sweet comments regarding Anna's blog post yesterday. God has really blessed me with her, and I can't believe He chose me to be her mother! I know that I know that I know that God has a most beautiful plan for her. Beautiful...because, it's His plan!

However, I know that often we can't see those beautiful plans unfold so easily in our lives. Just heart was aching heavily for a couple of friends going through some really difficult times right now. The trials they are being asked to endure don't make sense when viewed through the earthly lens that we often use when gazing at life. A word I can easily associate with their difficulties...unfair! And YET...

God never promised life would be fair. He never promised it would be delivered to us on a silver platter or that we'd walk the glory road until we reach glory itself. He never promised that our days will be filled with material blessing or that the trials that we do endure will be swift. He never promised that we wouldn't experience a broken heart or be disappointed by broken people.

Right now...I personally know someone...

--Fighting breast cancer
--Praying for a spouse after a lifetime of singleness
--Waiting on God for the sale of a home on the market for 4 years
--Seeking custody of a child that has endured much hardship
--Waiting on a call for their forever child through adoption
--Praying for conception even though doctors are speaking infertility
--Ready to walk out on a position they've been called to do, because the enemy tells them they can't do it
--Fighting to keep the job they have
--Aching for a spouse that went to heaven late last year
--Waiting with great expectation for a YES answer to a position they applied for months ago and are still in the running for
--That lost everything in a house fire 4 months ago
--Questioning whether or not Christ could ever love them enough to accept them into His family
--Grieving the loss of a parent a few short weeks ago
--Grieving the loss of a child to cancer earlier this year
--Watching their special needs adopted child endure many medical procedures this week
--Waiting on God to provide funding resources for a new non-profit organization started in faith
--Praying for a prodigal child

These are tough, tough things, friends. And...these are tough things for my praying heart to endure. So many times I've prayed that God would allow me to see hurting and broken people through His eyes so that my prayers might be more personal and often more gutteral. He's done that many times, and I ache all the more.

But, even though these aren't the things in life we've asked for, prayed for, expected, or even wanted..."in all things, God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose"! (Romans 8:28) This is not just some biblical cliche...this is TRUTH spoken by a God (THE God) that cannot lie (Hebrews 6:18).

I choose to believe that even through my husband's suicide, God is working for my good, because...I love Him, and I have been called according to His purpose. And while I may not be able to see with my physical eyes all the plans God has for me to work this for my good...I see with my eyes of faith. And, one faith WILL be my sight!

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Chris' Last Weekend - Guest Blog Post from His Stepdaughter

Happy Tuesday blog friends!

I have a treat for you today. I asked my daughter, Anna, if she would consider writing a guest post during this 40-day blogging journey. She was hesitant, at first, because she didn't really know what to write about.

I said, "Write about whatever you want. Maybe something about Chris and your time together."

"I've got it!" she shared excitedly. "I'll write about his last weekend. The one he spent with me."

And, without further's Anna...

Many of you might be wondering what went down on the last weekend Chris was alive. Well I can tell you, because I spent it with him. Just him and me. Not my mom. Just him and me.  

I had a lot of fun with him that weekend. I never would have expected what would come 3 days from that Sunday. I always enjoyed the times with him when my mom went on a trip (whether it be to Africa, a work trip, or a conference). I always missed my mom, but he always made it more fun even though she was not there.  

On this particular weekend, my mom and aunt were going to a conference together. So I stayed home with Chris. Now this weekend was very different. First of all, it was Friday, April 29th…..the day of the Royal Wedding!!!!!! My aunt and I decided that we would get up at 4am to watch it (and I would at least watch as much as I could before I went to school). Chris came out to eat breakfast before work and didn’t think we were serious about getting up. Now, Aunt Kandi and I have turned into huge Royal Wedding fanatics. We even have the DVD and collectors’ magazines. Since I wasn’t able to see their first kiss, my aunt even took a picture of it from the TV with her phone and sent me a text picture of it while I was at school.  

She and my mom left to go to the conference while I was at school. So I rode the bus home, and Chris got there shortly after. We decided we wanted to go to Ruby Tuesday's for dinner. Now everyone knows Chris was the baking master, so I asked if we could make cookies with icing.  

His response was simply, “Call your mom and ask.”  

So I did and she said, “Why not!”  

We went to the store and got all the ingredients. I love cooking or baking (especially with Chris), so this was lots of fun!  

Now Chris always liked to go to bed early, but I didn’t want to be the only one up so I would too. The following day we ate our cookies, and I watched the royal wedding over and over, which he did not appreciate too much. J
Chris and I would always play games, and so that’s exactly what we did. Battleship, Rummy, Yahtzee, everything…we played everything. He took an hour nap that day, and then we played more games and ate more cookies! That was the best weekend I had ever had with him!  

I now know God sent my mom and aunt to that conference to give me this special weekend with Chris that I will never forget. Nobody else shared that last weekend with him. Only me! We won’t know until we get to heaven why Chris committed suicide.  

My favorite Bible verse reminds me that God is still in control and has great plans for us.  

“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 a hope and a future.” Jeremiah 29:11

Monday, October 17, 2011

All I Want for Christmas

Just pondering my “Christmas list”. It looks quite different this year…

1. Peaceful evenings during the month of December, allowing time for reading or playing games with my wee one

2. A clean house

3. All my papers filed and organized

4. Chris’ tools sorted and organized in some fashion that makes sense to me

5. Extended time with friends

6. NOT a lot of snow

7. The ability to celebrate Christ’s birth from the perspective of joy rather than through the heart of a grieving widow

8. Kisses from heaven

9. Surprises from God

10. A pleasant dream about Chris in heaven

11. Invitations to speak and share “my story – God’s story” (not necessarily at Christmas) – just the invitations to start coming in during this season. It gives me hope and focus.

12. A blanket of love enveloping Anna and me

13. Wisdom. Lots of wisdom concerning several potentially big undertakings in 2012.

14. Restoration

15. Deliverance

16. Healing

17. Authentic prayers being lifted up for Anna and me

18. A Chris Tree full of ornaments

19. Lots of laughter

20. To see or hear about someone coming to Christ as a direct result of my husband’s death

Sunday, October 16, 2011

VLOG #3 - Still Answering Your Questions!

I apologize for the issues with today's VLOG post. Oh patience has been tried today! Anyway, I think it's "public" now and not giving the "private" message anymore (I hope). However, the picture is off to the right a little bit. The video is cleaner to watch if you view it through YouTube, but I was originally more centered on the screen. Anyway...sorry for the issues. Hopefully, I'll do better next time.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

It's All Just Stuff!

Betcha thought I'd forgotten to blog 15th day on this 40 day consecutive blog writing journey.'s just been a full day that began VERY early this morning...4:00 am to be exact. (And...I've been a bit on the tired side ever since.)

The area where I live in Western NC boasts a rather large flea market just about 15 minutes from where we live. I've been there several times to look for steals and deals, but I've also vended there quite a bit too over the years. Today was one of those days.

Our sweet, giving, compassionate, and selfless friends - Troy and Rebecca - got up at 4:00 am also to help my daughter and me tote our stuff down to this flea market. There was nothing in it for them - they did no selling, in other words. They simply went to serve, and we were blessed indeed by their love and friendship!

After one yard sale and two flea market experiences since Chris died (not to mention all the Craigslist sales) - I can definitely say my quest for simpler living is starting to take shape. I've been dwindling each room down - a little at a time - getting rid of those "things" that I can simply live without. Now, let me say that I really wasn't a packrat to begin with, so I'm talking about getting down to the basics of simple comfort.

Do I really need all of those trinkets, books, kitchen wares, decorative items, clothes, games, candleholders, tools, etc? Could the money be used to create memories with my daughter, to go on mission trips, or to support orphans? Is God pleased - I mean REALLY pleased with how I steward the resources He's given me? it possible...even just a little bit that I could do better? He's not asking me to live in a tent and ride a bicycle and wear the same outfit each day. But, I do believe He's showing me areas in my life that can be simplified to have more resources freed up for His service. all honesty. It's all just stuff anyway! I would rather make beautiful memories than collect stuff.

How about you? Have you taken an inventory lately of the "stuff" God might be asking you to give up for a little bit simpler living? Oooh...that's a tough one isn't it? Speaking from someone that has really never been much of a "material girl" anyway...even for me, it's tough to say "goodbye" to the stuff.

What if I need it for a rainy day?

I'll use it someday...right?

I got it for a great deal...I'd be crazy to get rid of it.

It was a gift from Aunt Sally. Even though it's collecting dust, I still can't part with a gift.

Any of these sound familiar? How about just one thing? What one thing can you release today? Is there something that you've been clinging just a little too hard to? Is it time to say goodbye? Is God asking you to?'s all just stuff! And, it can't go with us when we leave this earth.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Living Single in a Couples World

If you’re popping over today from my guest spot on Encouragement Cafe Radio – welcome! So glad you’re here!

The topic I was privileged to discuss with the beautiful ladies of Encouragement Cafe and with Carol Davis…”Living Single in a Couples World”. Hmmm… Let that title simply resonate for a few minutes. If you’re married and have been married in the “traditional” young twenties sort of way, this may be a bit of a foreign concept. However, my fellow single friends…whether never having been married like my friend, Sam at Fields of Gold (and also a guest on today’s EC program) or divorced like my friend, Carol, or widowed like I find myself…I think you might have a smidgen of an idea of what this living single in a couples world might be about.

I don’t know if I’ve simply been blind before, but this simply stares me in the face a lot these days. Culturally speaking, especially in a Christian culture, I’ve found myself recently in several situations that cater to the “couple”. It happens so subtly sometimes, but it’s there, and maybe I’m the only one that recognizes it.

It might be a women’s event where the “language” is all about couples and “our husbands” with the rare (if at all) word addressed to the single lady that might be in the crowd.

It might be in a social gathering with friends when the games that are played are husband vs. wife, and you suddenly find yourself in that awkward position of not being able to play according to the rules.

And…then I’m taken back to those recent days of being married…just slightly over 23 weeks ago. I’m sure I fed into this same dilemma where singles probably felt very alone in the couples world in which I also lived then. And now…God has allowed me to feel a dimension of that pain.

So where do we go from here?

As a single…I would encourage you to extend grace to your couples friends. They’re not walking in your shoes and can’t read your mind. I find that we expect couples to know how we feel, to know what we need, but that’s simply an unfair assumption unless we simply make our needs known. I would also encourage you to not isolate from couples. I especially feel strongly about this if you have children, because your children need to have godly Christian couples and families modeled to them.

As a couple…I beg you to step outside your safety box and “do life” with a single or single parent family. Invite them to your holiday gatherings, or just for dinner occasionally. Offer to babysit if they have young children so that they can get a little time away to “re-group”. Maybe even invite them to vacation with you, as vacations can be especially lonely times for singles.

Simply put, let’s be the hands and feet of Jesus to each other.

You are loved!

Thursday, October 13, 2011


She was crying. I could hardly understand her through the heart-breaking sobs, but I could make out the words, "I just need someone to pray for me."

Sitting at my desk, I had just been transferred a call from a listener in desperate need of a listening ear and a willing heart to pray. This happens quite frequently while working at a Christian radio station, but I'm not often the one that gets the calls. Typically, they go to the studio - to talk with the announcers. These are the voices they know. The ones they are most comfortable with, but today...Terrie was given to me. Truth be known...I might have simply been the first one available. Regardless, God wanted Terrie and I to connect.

I asked her to share more with me. What was troubling her? What was causing the tears?

She spoke oh-so-softly, "I just want to understand God's plan for me. I know and hear that He has a plan for all of His children. But, everytime I think I know what He wants me to do, the plan fails."

Oh boy. How I can soooo relate! She had just received some discouraging news and began questioning God's plans all over again.

And so I shared, "Terrie (I had already asked for her first name)...yes, God does have a plan and purpose for you. His Word says so. But, His Word also says that 'many are the plans in a man's heart, but it's the Lord's purpose that prevails'. We also know from His Word that God's plans don't always equal our plans, hence the frustration."

But, then came the sticking point...the one thing that I wanted her to hear if she heard nothing else..."Regardless of what we may feel, Terrie, regardless of what we may see, this one thing I KNOW...God's plans are always better than anything we can even dream up."

As soon as the words left my mouth, I simply sat there. Stunned. Did I just say that? Am I willing to believe that for myself? Was my husband's suicide and the subsequent agonizing grief that I've endured a better plan for me than anything I can dream up? Really? And, in my heart...I have to answer my own question...


Yes. God's plans are best. Even if that looks completely insane right now...I know my God is bigger than suicide. I know that my God is bigger than grief. I know that my God is bigger than loneliness. I know that my God is much bigger than my lack of understanding. And, I know that "God works for the GOOD of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose" (Romans 8:28).

I may have to wait to see those "better" plans, and it may result in something I don't see with my physical eyes until heaven, but YES...His plans are always better. I prayed with Terrie. We went before the throne room asking God to give Terrie a glimpse (even if it was ever so tiny) of His plans for her. We asked Him to close doors she's not to walk through and swing wide open the ones that she is. And, we thanked Him for allowing us to see with eyes of faith right now but trusting that one day our faith will be our sight!

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

23 Weeks

I only wish the title of this post reflected a certain point of pregnancy for me, but sadly that's not the case. Rather, it's been 23 weeks since my husband went home to be with the Lord. In difficult reflection...

I've lived 23 weeks without...

-My good morning wake-up kisses
-Evening snuggles on the sofa
-My husband's delicious home-cooked meals
-Daily love notes by email
-Daily lunchtime phone calls
-My worship partner by my side on Sunday mornings
-My personal comedian
-The home "garbage-gatherer" and "taker-outer"
-Deep tissue massages in my tense shoulders
-Our prayer time together
-Family games of Apples to Apples (Chris almost always won)
-Surprise sweet treats from "Baker" Chris
-My man's large hands enclosing mine
-Chris' crystal blue eyes melting me
-The warmth of my husband's large arms
-My best friend
-Celebrating our anniversary each 9th
-Fishing side-by-side
-Hearing him tell me, "I love you."

I've lived 23 weeks with...

-A broken and aching heart
-Lots of unfinished tasks
-Additional chores
-Questions and more questions
-Feelings of inadequacy of being a good wife and mother
-Pain - lots of pain

But, I've also lived 23 weeks with...

-A daughter that loves me
-Family and friends that love me
-A Heavenly Father that loves and will never leave me or forsake me!

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Fond Memories, Fainting, Fishing, and a Frond

Yesterday, my friend and co-worker, Carol, and I went shopping for a basket of goodies for a little boy that just had emergency surgery for a broken arm. Our staff team wanted to cheer him up and give him some fun things to do but enable him to be as still as possible while his arm heals up.

Fond Memories
As we walked through the parking lot of our local Walmart, Carol shared that this particular store always brought back fond memories for her. Early in her single momma days, she received a special gift right here at this very Walmart. It was a day she'll never forget and one that brought a smile to her face even on this day as we paced to the front door.

"Isn't that interesting," I shared, "because this store also has a couple of significant memories for me."

The first wasn't really all that funny, but looking back...I have to chuckle, because it was so bizarre. My daughter and I were standing in the checkout line, when suddenly a young girl (late teens, early twenties, I would guess) tapped me on the shoulder and asked me to catch her. Before I knew what was happening, the girl started to slither in my arms. She was fainting. Now, this was a first for me, I can honestly say. Catching fainting girls at the Walmart isn't a typical item on my to-do list, but for whatever it was on the list. I slithered with her right to the floor and then motioned for my daughter to go to the cashier for help. The next thing we know, we had crackers and Cokes being thrown in our direction, and this young lady was back to herself in no time. But, needless to say, everytime I go into this particular store...I remember my fainting friend.

Perhaps the fondest of my two memories from this store was created with my sweet husband a few years back. There is a river that runs behind the Walmart parking lot. My husband was an avid fisherman...his favorite hobby, by far. He loved to take me fishing with him, but I was more of a boat fisherwoman or bank-side angler. I typically didn't wade the nearby trout streams. But, on this particular day, Chris challenged me to a new adventure. So, we climbed down the bank behind the Walmart parking lot, through briars and all, into the cold waters of the Swannanoa River. This day was the only day in all of our dating and married years that I out-fished my husband. :-)

a Frond
As I shared this last story with Carol, I chuckled and said that Chris never forgot that day - and neither did I. I delighted greatly in sharing with a couple of friends my "successes" of that day way back when. Carol quickly chimed in, "And...I bet he wouldn't be happy with you sharing about how you skunked him that day with me right now." I laughed again. She was right, but I just couldn't help myself. Suddenly I noticed a random leaf flying through this parking lot devoid of most trees. This "random" frond landed right behind me, but it caught my attention as it floated, so my gaze followed it to the ground. I almost gasped when I saw it. I picked it up and showed it to Carol.

"Do you see this?" I asked.

Carol was grinning, "Yes, I see it."

"Oh good. I want to make sure I'm not going crazy. Another kiss from heaven," I cheerfully announced!

The leaf that landed right behind me in the Walmart parking lot yesterday!

Monday, October 10, 2011

Another 9th Came and Went

I think I struggle the most on the 9th...of each month. As many of you already know, the 9th was the day Chris and I were married (in August a few years back), but we celebrated our anniversary in little ways on the 9th of EVERY month.

While our August 9th anniversary was always the "big one", allowing for a little more celebrating, we wanted to take time every month to remember the beautiful marriage God had given us. We would watch our wedding video on the 9th, Chris would bring me flowers on the 9th, I would give him a card or two, he would bake my favorite cookies (snickerdoodles), and occasionally...we might even go out for dinner and/or a movie if the 9th fell on the weekend.

And so...I'm finding the 9th of every month is a harder day for me than even the 4th (the day of his death). As I've thought about that, I think it boils down to one thing...I'm the only one that really cherishes and remembers the depth of meaning that day contains. I'm finding family and several friends still remember the 4th, so that day doesn't seem to get swept under the rug as easily. But, the's all mine to grieve. Simply put, it's difficult.

As I traveled home yesterday from a weekend in New Jersey...I remembered that it was, yet again, another 9th...for me to remember all alone. My heart quickly wanted to revert to a place of aching, as it so often does on this day. But, something different happened this time. I had another one of those quiet, heart-piercing "conversations" with the Lord that went a little like this...

God: Daughter, you spend a lot time remembering your special day each month.

Me: Yes, Lord. It's very special to me.

God: Leah, you are very special to Me too. How often do you remember what I gave you over 2000 years ago?

Me: Lord, how could I forget?

God: I'm not saying you ever forget, but I'm often do you allow your heart to really go there? Really REMEMBER the anniversary of my time spent on the cross for you?

Me: Not enough Lord. Not enough.

God: I'm not asking you to forget the 9th, precious daughter. On the contrary, maybe on the 9th - reflect on the marriage I gave you and Chris that you intentionally centered on Me and the gift I gave both of you on the cross. As a result, you'll both spend a lifetime with Me...the One that will never stop loving you.

Me: I'm sorry Lord. Please forgive me.

God: I already have.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

The Man on the Bench

Sitting on one bench. Him on the other.

I didn't notice him at first. I was too busy having my own pity party.

Here I was...seaside...on the Jersey Shore. Alone. It's too long of a story to go into what brought me here to begin with (nor does it really matter), but the point...I was at my favorite place...the beach (any beach)...but without my husband by my side.

The ocean, the sand, the sound of waves crashing, the seagulls soaring, the sun...pieces of a puzzle...creating our "sacred place". We loved the beach, but mostly - we loved being at the beach together. I often dreamed of walking hand-in-hand along the seashore with my true love...that day came true. I often dreamed of sitting on the sand with only the moon lighting our space snuggled in the arms of a man that loved me so tenderly. I did that too. Now...those are just bygone dreams. Granted, they came true for me, but I didn't get to enjoy them for long. And now...Chris is admiring the beaches of heaven in the Presence of his True Love...the only One to ever love him completely. To ever love any of us completely. Does the man on the bench know that?

It was then that I noticed him. The other one...alone on a bench. He crashed my party by sequestering my attention with what looked to be a pity party of his own. But, then I took a closer look...

He was talking to himself. Or was he praying? I got up from my bench and went to discreetly stand behind him to possibly hear a little better. He intrigued me. He was sweating profusely, and it wasn't that hot outside. He was uttering words...prayers...or maybe just words under his breath. He looked nervous. He looked sick. He looked...

And, then I noticed it. The back of his shirt displayed the words, "mental illness...misunderstood...". That's all I could read, because some of the words were blocked by the back of the bench. But, then I began to wonder...was he mentally ill? Could this explain the odd behavior?

The thoughts instantly flooded my mind. Did Chris ever do something like this? In the days leading up to his suicide...he spent a lot of time alone. His behavior was unusual, to say the least, but I just thought he needed some "Chris time". He was always happy. Never a problem. Everybody's entitled to some off days...right? But maybe had someone seen him during those times I was now looking at this man...would they have noticed any eccentricities?

I now knew why I was on the boardwalk sitting alone on a bench moments before. To notice him...

And, so I prayed. I have no idea what was going on in his head. I have no idea if he was the one mentally ill. But, all I know is what I saw with my eyes, and something wasn't right. I walked...paced about 20 feet behind him...and prayed. I didn't know what to pray for really, but I knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that this man needed a bold prayer covering. And who knows? Maybe my prayer was the only that would be offered up for him that day.

I've thought of him several times since I first saw him yesterday morning. Is he okay? Did God deliver him from whatever ailed him at that moment? I don't know. I just knew that I had to pray...for the man on the bench.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

VLOG Post Answering YOUR Questions!

Sorry it's up so late today. I've had video uploading problems!

Friday, October 7, 2011


Good morning friends!

WOW! What a week this has been! With this being Sharathon week at work, it has flown by. think we're here at Friday already!

Speaking of flying by...that's exactly what I'll be doing late this afternoon. Anna (my daughter) and I will be traveling to New Jersey (via Philadelphia) just for the weekend. Without going into details, I covet your prayers! I'm simply going to support Anna in something difficult that she needs to do and is dreading, but I'm very proud of her maturity in this.

She'll be with a lot of extended family this weekend, and I'll be sitting in a hotel room for much of the weekend writing, reading, catching up on emails, and praying (and hopefully resting too)! That said, I do plan to blog from New Jersey, and I'm actually planning to answer your questions from last Saturday's post in another VLOG format. So stay tuned... However, should technology falter for any reason...please note that I'll post whatever doesn't get posted when I get home on Sunday. But...I don't anticipate any problems. :-)

Keep those addresses coming if you want to be on my Christmas card list! I've enjoyed hearing from so many of you already. Don't know what I'm talking about? Check it out by clicking here!

Have a wonderful Friday sweet bloggy friends! You are a blessing to me!

Thursday, October 6, 2011

And So It Begins...

I promised God that I would give Him glory for everything He's done in me and through me since my husband's death. Friends, apart from Him...I'd be a mess. And, if I'm being completely transparent (why stop now...right?)'s possible I may not even still be here without God's abundant mercy and grace. Now, don't get me wrong...I've never had suicidal thoughts or anything of the sort since my own husband's suicide 5 months ago. But, honestly...I can't say that apart from Christ I would have the same assurance. I shutter to think...

This journey has been excruciatingly painful. There have been days I didn't want to crawl out of bed. There were many nights in those early days that I slept on the couch...I just couldn't go back to "our bed" without my Chris beside me. I cried and cried and cried until there was nothing left in me. And then...the gutteral cries would begin again.

But, all throughout the pain and the torment of grief...I kept praying...

This is YOUR story to tell, Lord. This isn't about me at all. This is about You, precious Lord. It's all about what You've done through me, what You're doing through me, and what You will do through me.'s all for Your glory!

I agreed to walk through any door that God would open where He wants His story told...whether it be just tiny snippets or the full-blown ordeal. I'll do whatever He asks me to do and go wherever He wants me to go.

And so it begins...

Within one week, I've shared snippets of His Story on two different radio programs. One will be broadcast later this month via Encouragement Cafe Radio, so I'll let you know more at a later date. The other? Yesterday morning during the first day of our annual Sharathon at the radio station where I work 106.9 the Light (WMIT). Here's the audio if you'd like to take a listen. My voice is shaky (I was fighting back the tears big time), but I think you'll get the jist. It's short...I promise!

To Him be all the glory!

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Another Christmas Idea... already know about the Chris Tree project I'm undertaking this year. If you don't...please, read about it HERE. Now, I have another idea. I know...I're probably thinking, "What now?" Bear with me just for a moment...

As I noted when I announced my Chris Tree project, the Christmas season was always Chris' favorite of the year. This is no understatement, friends. He loved celebrating Christ's birth and would search for ways throughout the year to bring more and more emphasis to the season in our home. It's a good thing God put the two of us together to begin with, because I'm a bit of a Christmas nut myself. However, one of my favorite things to do at Christmas is to send out Christmas cards (and, if I'm totally being honest...I love finding my mailbox full of them too!). I spend a lot of time preparing my Christmas cards each year, and I want to always include as many people as I can. I know that postage isn't cheap anymore, but it's still one thing I love to do non-electronically. There's just something to be said about getting an old-fashioned card in the mail (anytime of the year, for that matter).

So, what does this have to do with you? I would love to be able to include as many of you on my Christmas card list as possible this year. Would you let me send you a card? It would bless my socks off! If so, please just email me your mailing address:, or if we're Facebook or Twitter buddies, you can send it to me via Direct Message in either of those two places.

I know this might be a strange request, but I'm just doing anything and everything I can to be excited about this first Christmas without my sweet love by my side. Having little things like this to work on and be excited about really helps! Be blessed bloggy friends! You bring me joy!

UPDATE: I wanted to let you know that I think my next VLOG will be posted again on Sunday, and it will have the answers to the questions I received in my giveaway post from last Saturday. So stay tuned...I can't wait to answer your VERY GOOD and thought-provoking questions.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Sharathon Begins Today!

Before going any further...I want to announce the winner of my Saturday blog giveaway post!

Drum roll please...

CINDY - Timestamp: 1:18 AM, Date: 10/2 - YOU ARE THE WINNER!!!

CONGRATULATIONS!!! Please email me your mailing address, and I'll send your winnings to you right away! :-) My email addy:


Good morning bloggy friends!

Some of you know that I work in administration for a Christian radio station. More specifically, I am most blessed to serve at 106.9 the Light (WMIT-FM), founded by Billy Graham nearly 50 years ago. Check us out at whenever you get a chance. Our coverage area is quite large...portions of 7 states. However, with the internet and cell phone can listen to us all over the world!

I say all of this to say that today marks our first day (out of two) of Sharathon!!! These are two days that we set aside each year to invite our listeners to join us in the work God is doing in changing lives. That's what it's all about friends...changed lives. It's not about money. takes money to do ministry, but our focus is not on how many dollars can be raised - that's in God's hands. Our focus is on how many lives can be impacted through the work God is doing through us, His vessels, at the station. And...I should know...I am a life that has been changed (twice over) by the work of this station: first, as a listener back in 1997 and most recently back in June of this year (as an employee). I may have the opportunity to share that recent story on the air over the next two days, so I don't want to do so now. But, I'll be sure to share it here at a later date...regardless.

So, I ask those of you that are praying people to join me in praying for us to see a mighty God movement over these next two days! Please pray that we'll hear testimony after testimony of lives changed through the work God is doing at 106.9 the Light. Please pray for stamina for the entire staff and volunteer team. Please pray that "no weapon formed against" by the enemy will prosper! This is solid, good, the attacks always ramp up about this time. Thank you, friends, for your faithfulness to pray!

Here are just a few pics from some of our "out and about" events: