Monday, August 18, 2014

Our Love Story As A Book Extras

Telling Our Love Story 

The Quick To Long Versions:
Quickest: I love Natasha Erskine who is an amazing woman of God (and her daughters Alea and Roya) and we plan on getting married and becoming a family on October 11, 2014.

Almost As Quick:
Natasha met her extroverted first love and husband Lynn Erskine at Kingswood University (previously Bethany), where I now teach. They pastored at Immanuel Baptist Church in Truro Nova Scotia until Lynn’s heart stopped unexpectedly while finishing a long evening run on Sept 2, 2012. Earlier that morning he preached at church and watched an afternoon movie with his family before Lynn parted from this earth and his beautiful wife and two beautiful blonde haired blue eyed daughters Roya (4) and Alea (2).
Later on we met...
January 18, 2014 around 5:30pm I met Natasha in person for the first time. She was currently a single mom and grieving widow for the past year and a half living on PEI (Prince Edward Island) and I was a pastor who had just moved countries into the smaller town of Sussex, Canada for my first year of teaching as a professor and guardedly single after just finishing a previous relationship 2-3 months earlier.

The Relationship Progression:
We started emailing soon after our first time meeting. We started talking over the phone after our first date. It was meant to be a relaxed coffee meet up to see if this instant mutual connection was real or fantasized. It was real. I drove a total of 6 hours one night to spend 6 hours with Natasha once more before she left the country for almost a month to go overseas on a missions trip with her Uncle to Bangladesh. We didn’t think we would talk while she was there, but after she found internet, emails and I-message continued unexpectedly to the point of us knowing we would pretty much be stepping into a relationship together if we weren’t already upon her return to Canada after only being in person together 3 times previously. I had already connected with her family and invited over for lunch through church while she was overseas unintentionally and the base was set. By the time we had known each other for a month and hung out 3 times, the ground we had covered through conversation felt like we’d been dating close to a year and pretty confirmed. Is that crazy? Can that really happen? It did for us, but it still took me 5 months of prayer and deepening our relationship and me requestioning or growing into the reality for me to “make sure” and be able to say it as public and openly as I’m now doing in this post.
We both have back stories which is what makes this story quite the undertaking.

Natasha’s Backstory:
Natasha and Lynn loved each other deeply and were obviously committed to the end. She grieved intentionally after as a strong single mom with the support of many around her and has consistently sought to honor Lynn well. As early as four months after Lynn’s death, Natasha blogged that she felt she still had more love to give to a husband and that she would actively let her girl’s pray for such. Although Natasha was open to a relationship, she was not actively searching nor was she open to just any guy from what I know. It just happened to be that the night I walked in the door that she felt like God gave her a supernatural ability to see into my spirit and felt an inner confirmation about me from God. I’m sure there is probably more there, but a huge necessary point was that I trust Natasha’s walk with God (I was taught to trust a woman’s intuition early on) and that she had a good feeling about me and what she felt was a confirmation from God. That’s lucky for me. So you’re saying there’s a chance…

Brent’s Backstory: 
I didn’t know this until after the fact because I didn’t remember names or see any pictures 
but I was made aware of Lynn’s death and Natasha’s story early on by a mutual friend on the 
church staff in Michigan. A month later on Oct 12-13, I attended a pastor’s retreat where I was given
 the words from a colleague, “Rest. She will come. There will be two blondes beside her.”

The person who gave me this word, by no means wanted to intrude so she told me after the group meeting setting and was very considerate of me in a place of also being contently single at the time. A year later the next fall she emails me again feeling prompted by God to at least revisit the phrase but at the time I was dating a fun brunette and completely disregarded the email. Soon after Becca and I broke up, I read the friend’s email thread and response telling me to disregard her comment if it didn’t fit so I did, until… I went to a fellow professor’s house who started to play matchmaker… I knew how this went, they come up with names, I go along with it, and almost every time they have simply tried to set me up with whatever single Christian woman they know and though we could work even if it’s a long shot, we have nothing in common, and have little attraction to each other. But the way my colleague talked about this girl this night was different. Her and her spouse both confirmed that this girl/woman was the real deal, something solid and special. You could see they believed it in the way they kept revisiting her throughout the night conversation, but after talking to her mother recently the colleague was determined that this girl wouldn’t be for any kind of relationship ready for another year or so. I decided I at least wanted to know this girl’s name to see… Natasha Erskine, (“Remember that,” I told myself in my head), I went home,.. she’s not on Facebook. Google search? I found a Blog and video. I watched a twelve minute video and could tell she was obviously passionate for God. Then I went to her blog. Scrolled down and there was a picture of Lynn and then there was a picture of Natasha, with two blonde girls right beside her.
Now I was beside myself!!!  A chill went down my back and I had one of those taken aback WoW moments, yet I didn’t want to get ahead of myself.  So I emailed my friend, slept on it, and received word to keep that more low key between me and God to sit on it before going too public or crazy with anything.  I asked the Counseling Professor Allen and got similar counsel, so I prayed but let it be until I went to go and see those friends back in Michigan over Christmas.  Besides, she wouldn’t be ready to be in a relationship in a year anyways and on top of that this whole thing could be one of those times where I get excited and nothing really comes of it, but you figure there was still probably a reason for all of that. I was asked by the mutual friend who had the original word for me over a year earlier if I wanted to take a symbolic painting back to Natasha.  I figured why not take the chance to possibly meet this woman, while once again knowing that the painting might be dropped off best with her friend or parents in New Brunswick and me never meet Natasha in person/ face to face.  It turned out she was open to me dropping off the painting!  So I was headed down her way in a month with the student leadership.  She knew nothing about me. I could’ve been a 50 year old professor with a family and kids for all she knew.  She didn’t catch wind that I was younger and that this might be one of those timely rendezvous until the day before we met.
I was supposed to carry on this painting on to the plane back home to keep it safe.  It wasn't going to fit… I ended up shipping it to Canada last minute which was the very thing we were trying to avoid… but it was too late and instead of shipping it straight to Natasha and finding her address, I figured I might as well ship it up to myself so I still had a chance to deliver it.  J  It sounds more creepy now when I type that than it did at the time.  I just was intrigued and really wanted to seize this moment if this was the one chance I would meet the Natasha that had seemed to be so evasive to many in this time.   Keep in mind, that despite all of this happening, I was completely open and still convinced that I might drop off this painting meet this woman and that be the end of us knowing each other.  We get the painting on the PEI trip with 30 college student leaders and I figured I would step away from the group for an hour at some point and drop it off with one or two others… nope.  Instead it happened at the end of the day with a bunch of  college students who had been walking around all day ready to get home and eat and rest also needing to get to a bathroom.  So here I am pulling up with a 15 passenger van (school logo and all) and about 5-8 students going in first needing to use her bathroom and my friends 8 year old daughter, Esther, who wondered if she had any kids and asked if we could pray for Natasha when we met her.

The First Meeting:  
So there we are being welcomed in and standing in her home by the dinner table between the kitchen and living room while different people traded off using the bathroom.  Roya and Alea were running around playing with there cat Thumbelina and I specifically remember one girl semi-tackling her sister as they ran around.  We talked as a group for a few minutes.  Then we opened up the painting and Natasha looked at it and you could tell she was moved.  The painting said, “Restore” and was painted expressively by our mutual friends’ for their personal marriage but was being transferred to Natasha as a message of hope.  I didn’t think of the significance of me delivering this painting.  Once we were all done using the bathroom, we asked if we could pray for her and I asked Esther if she wanted to pray but she got shy and said to me, “You can pray.”  (honestly I was nervous and kind of caught off guard by saying we should pray and then Esther not wanting to and me being put on the spot)  So I put my hand on Natasha’s shoulder and prayed for her.  There was a moment of connection here that I didn’t expect.  I’ve often put my hand on a man or woman’s shoulder to pray for them without any distraction, so noticing her defined smaller feminine structure under my hand surprised me.  So, Moment 1 this night was me seeing her girls tackle each other.  Moment 2 was praying for her as a group with my hand on her shoulder.  Moment 3 was our goodbye.  I lingered behind at the door as people were getting in the van just to tell her that from what I’d heard, she was highly respected and revered and I just wanted to thank her for her example.  She had a knowing vulnerable look of reception. I thought I had said or referenced something too sensitive and was about to make her cry as I walked away and assumed that any chance there was over!  “Whelp,” I nervously chuckled and thought as I drove away, “I totally made her cry… Stupid.  There went any possibility there.  But that was cool I got to help in that way and a fun 15 minutes… back to leadership retreat!”   But I was wrong!  She did respond with this email:
Brent, it was such an honor to have you all at our house last night. Thank you for going out of your way to make that happen. I hope you've all had a fun weekend. :) 
I am curious to know what led you to Kingswood? How did you find yourself in the majestic town of Sussex?? :)
Peace in Christ,
(Those two questions spurred an email thread of 54 messages w/in 2-3 weeks)
So within a few days we started a long emailing spree on an almost daily basis for that first week or month, and I don’t know how, but even though it was mainly written words over email, the conversation and connection was electric.  It moved me.

The First Date:  
We decided to meet up again to see whether we were both crazy or whether there was something different here.  Calactus (a vegan hipster nice spot) in Moncton on January 25th was the night’s start.  We had dinner and Natasha was nervous and barely ate.  We prayed together to calm our nerves and I asked a lot of questions.  We went for a drive since there was snow everywhere and ended up on an unintentional snow driving adventure and then ended up climbing a random small hill to get a view but the wind up draft was killer freezing and I soon found out she wasn’t the hugest fan of heights as we were climbing… whoops.  We drove further and found a place to park and talk until late.  I dropped her off and my drive home was only supposed to take an hour, but I ended up spinning out on the way home and having to get towed which ended up taking me 4 hours to get home and an extra $250… expensive first date!  But she was just as beautiful as I remembered and the conversations were great and there was one moment as she got back into the car that her eyes were saying a lot and one of the things they were saying was that the date had been going well so far!

The First Home Visit with Her Girls:  
I wanted to see Natasha and her girls one more time before she left for a month after our first date.  As I left work as soon as I was done and started the 2½ hour drive to arrive hopefully around dinner before the girls were asleep but, What was this going to be like?  Would it be awkward and quiet with the four of us sitting around a dinner table and the two girls crying or staring at me and wondering why I was in Daddy’s or Lynn’s seat?  Would they already be in bed and me have to say a quick “Hi” and also exit early?  I didn’t know what to expect.  I was planning at staying down the road at her grandma’s for the night and driving back for classes the next morning extra early. 
Alea opened the door for me with a bright 4 year old’s face and dainty voice said so matter of factly, “My daddy died.”  I smiled and responded with something like, “Well, I’m sorry about that and impressed that you’re willing so open.”  They welcomed me in and Natasha had lentil soup and salad made, but the girls had already eaten so they welcomed me into the living room where they were making a fort play area with pillows on the ground.  The proceeded to jump around on the couches and on me and it was a great time of playing around.  It was very natural.  When it was bed time, I got to read the bed time story on the living room couch and as I opened the book to read with us all sitting there, one of the girls looked up at me and said, “Daddy?” and the other caught wind and joined in and said, “Daddy?” Daddy? Daddy?... I responded, “No, I’m just a friend of your mom’s visiting right now.”  There’s no protocol book for this stuff! We are making it up as we go! (This moment didn’t really phase or scare me.  It was probably a natural question for two girls who haven’t had a lot of random men come to visit them and hangout at their house).  Also, Natasha did call me out early on after first meeting and graciously made it clear that she was not interested in playing games.  Pretty much this needed to be intentional about moving forward towards marriage and family because she wasn’t wanting to date just to date.  Totally understandable.  So early on I had to decide and make sure that I wasn’t just entering or stepping into this scenario unless I was open and intentional about not only getting to know Natasha as a potential future wife but also the girls as my future daughters and family.  The relationship was a go.  There was still this sense of it being so fresh and Bangladesh so soon that we were deciding to not try and add too many relational distractions for Natasha as she went to serve and also spend time grieving Lynn.  Despite the effort, our relationship continued to progress through conversation while she was away.  So upon her return I was planning to meet her and welcome her while she was at her parent’s house and I was planning on asking at least her dad for permission to date her.  Little did I know that weekend I would end up having conversations with pretty much all of her family members about us and also for setting a precedent that they could talk openly with me about Natasha and Lynn and her grieving along the way.  The relationship was officializing.  At the same time, I was full steam midway into the spring semester of my first year of teaching with a lot of weekend speaking engagements.  We still lived 2-3 hours a part.  She couldn’t drive my way mid week with a daughter in school nor could I while teaching so our only time to see each other were the off weekends.  Needless to say, email, phone, and facetime became our great friends. 

Dating Long Distance With Kids:  
The rest is a blur.  We pretty much knew from each following date that we wanted to be together, but I had been single for almost 30 years and she had lost her husband less than two years ago, it seemed necessary for us to get to know each other and have some time together under our belts.  I also had to make a major shift in my life from giving my all for the gospel and intentionally living fully as a single man and being willing to leave my family behind to shifting to becoming a husband and father who became a part of my missional calling on my wedding night.  Another interesting dynamic was trying to figure out when to get time alone and when to have kids time on dates.  After our first date or two we had a lot time with the Natasha’s family and/or her girls around and would end up not having a lot of time or space together alone to talk or really get to have one on one growth time as a couple.  But then again, when we were alone, it was also essential for the girls to feel like I was becoming more a part of their lives and worlds in a way that they were excited about us to.  How do you get to date and know someone with kids well without feeling guilty about going on adventures without kids for alone time or with kids and not as a family?  Even though everything felt very natural, it was tough to really see us as a family at times, especially for Natasha, because our actual time together was so limited and in 1-3 day weekend spurts and then we went separate ways until… July when we had a whole month together to travel and spend a week back around Natasha’s friend, family and church world in PEI and then all the way down to the states to meet all of my family for our beach vacation trip in North Carolina where we got engaged at the very end.  We both, know how to put ourselves aside for others and could’ve waited a longer time, and I think I had a more difficult time wrapping my mind around the idea of us feeling so right and natural together so quick. The possibility of us going from meeting to engaged and potentially married in less than a year caused me to feel responsible to have to test it, but there was no perfect time and the more time we spent together the more it became me trying to answer every single one of my questions before marriage (about any girl) in an intensified shorter amount of time and Natasha getting frustrated at times because although she may have had her own questions, she trustingly knew God’s words in her life and had faith in the confirmation earlier on and continually through our relationship.  We both knew earlier on, but she was much more of the Mary who pondered God’s words in her heart and acted in humble faith more easily than me as a Joseph who thought very practically through the matter to have it play out in the best possible manner.

Single To Married:  
There were two huge struggles for me here, I can’t speak for Natasha. 1) My sister put it best when she said I was basically going through, “dying to self.”  Although I would still be Brent, there was a dying to my goals, dreams, and future plans as a single man needed to be able to embrace a life of ministry through and with a family first.  I may be overanalyzing this, but I just can’t reconcile having the same identity as a single after I’m married.  There’s something about becoming one with someone else and especially in my scenario with two daughters simultaneously that says, a new life plan and identity is needed for you to step into different than your previous plans.  The morals, values, and person remain, but the priorities, mindset, and heart calling have taken a dimension shift as it joins another heart and makes something new.

Brent, Are you IN? (JOURNAL)
What do you’re next 30 years or TODAY hold?
What’s it look like to appreciate your last 30 years and to leave them there while knowing how they’ve deeply shaped you?

Am I ready to give up even considering any other girl as a possibility or alternative or “what if” or “wonder what she is like” option from seeing her in pictures or discussions?

The question is Natasha it?  Are her and the girls a God led not only moment or learning experience, but my family?  Is Natasha my counterpart, my wo-man, my new life?  Is marriage supposed to feel like being born again or a continuation of who you are or both in one? Maybe it’s supposed to feel like a totally new chapter or section of a book where the past is in the past?  Is this relationship with Natasha more than the typical brother and sister in Christ love where we are supposed to become a family?  I passed that point.  I mean, I could bail and restart since I’ve had to learn how to leave my family and create a new community with each move but is this different or this a chosen pursuit to stay and commit?  Is Natasha a woman of God.  Yes.  Is she beautiful? Yes.  Do we fit well? Yes.  Do we have masked shortcomings visible and invisible? Yes.  Probably a lifetime journey.  Am I up for it? Am I ready for this?  Am I ready to give up my past life… to some degree I’ve already moved out of it… What are the fears left?  Leaving single or younger friends behind and unaccomplished dreams and adventures due to stretching finances. The fear of burning bridges or hurting past ministry or letting go because of the quick transition to Natasha.  But that’s not a problem… Natasha is a beautiful blessing...  I need to live more confidently in what I need to be and do and figure it out together.
It's time to step into a fun new chapter of life.

Our Love Story

December 7    First Sight of Natasha & Two Blondes Beside Her (on her blog)
January 17/18 First Time Hearing Each Others Voices (4:30pm trying to find her house)
January 18      First Sight Face to Face (5:30pm)
January 19      First Get To Know You Email
January 25      First Date
February 9      First Family Lunch With Natasha's Family (without Natasha there)
February 9      First Family Blessings From Her Side
July 26            Engagement
October 11      Wedding (Coming Soon) 

   Natasha met her extroverted first love and husband Lynn Erskine at Kingswood University (previously Bethany), where I now teach.  They pastored at Emmanuel Baptist in Truro Nova Scotia until Lynn’s heart stopped unexpectedly while finishing a long evening run on Sept 2, 2012.  Earlier that morning he preached at church and watched an afternoon movie with his family before Lynn parted from this earth and his beautiful wife and two beautiful blonde haired blue eyes daughters Roya (4) and Alea (2).  (For those wanting a fuller picture, click here to link to blogs on "Honoring Lynn Erskine" and "Understanding Natasha's Grieving")
    Around October 2012, I had a pastor's wife come up to me in Michigan after a time of prayer and spiritual discernment and share that God had impressed on her these words to share, "Rest.  And she will come.  And there will be two blondes beside her."  I was very single at that time.  Then, after dating a brunette seriously for over half a year, I had disregarded this comment and wasn't looking for a relationship.  But around December 2013 a mutual friend mentioned a young woman of God in PEI(Prince Edward Island) that I should potentially meet and when I found her blog to see who this woman was, this picture below of Natasha is what I saw.
Needless to say, when I was given the chance to deliver a painting to her, I thought it necessary to make that opportunity happen even though I had no huge expectations as to whether I was simply a delivery boy or whether something might come of this random rendezvous.

So I’m driving to meet her completely different than I pictured.  Instead of coming in all suave and handsome in my suit and tie, I’m pulling up in a 15 passenger van with the campus logo plastered all over it and at least three students about to burst at the seems if they don’t get into a bathroom soon.  We’ve barely heard each other’s voices or met in person, simply emailed one liners to coordinate me delivering this oversized meaningful painting from Michigan via a mutual friend.  To top that off, our first vocal interaction is over the phone with me making sure I’m not lost in getting there and I am pretty sure on the detour to get there I received a complaint on my driving because of a combination of the bad weather, my city paced driving, and the student in my passenger seat giving very discombobulated directions.
So we pull up and two students run in to use the restroom before introductions even take place.  We shook hands and about five or six of us went in while the rest waited in the van.  We all had a cordial conversation between the island counter and living room while students went in and out of the bathroom.  I noticed an amazing crisp and healthy looking pizza on the table and a rather warm cozy feel to the house as we settled in.  Natasha’s two girls, Alea and Roya were loving the company and daintily running around and playfully jumping around and tackling each other.   I loved getting to connect with them for a few seconds on the princess theme although they were to razzled to really say anymore to.  We opened up the painting for Natasha to look at and you could tell that she was an appreciative woman and already pensive with many thoughts still to come as she started to take in the painting with her eyes canvasing the letters “RESTORE” and the added elements around the picture.  I was disappointed in myself not having more of the details surrounding the painting memorized to share with Natasha and if I am being completely honest to try and impress her with my analysis… but this wasn’t my night.
It was time to go and my friend Nathan’s daughter who is a beautiful spunky eight year old blonde was riding with us on the way down already curiously asking questions about this young widow and whether she had any daughters and she had already taken me aback on the way down by asking if we could pray her when we stopped in.  So I thought she would want to when we got into the house but she shyed away, so it was my time to step up after initiating.  I put my hand on the back Natasha’s shoulder and that is one of the two moments I remember most vividly the first time we met.  She was petite!  I felt like her feminine soft yet firm features showed through as I rested my hand over her shoulder bone and muscle to pray.  My hand felt strong on her shoulder.  At that moment I remember feeling honored to have a chance to be in that home to pray over Natasha and her family.  I had gotten the impression that the grieving process had caused Natasha to pull back from relationships and not let the “crowds” of her friends in too close as she processed and grieved and here we were, welcomed into her personal space and world for a few moments to leave her with prayer, a little fellowship, and a painting.
The other moment I remember that first night was saying goodbye.  The other students had gone ahead, so I took a moment before I stepped out to tell her how much I already respected her from a far and looked up to her because of how many hold her in such high regard and look to her as an inspiration.  I felt like it was my moment to leave life giving words with her, whether we talked again or not.  I couldn’t tell by heart huge eyes and meaningful stare, whether what I had said was truly a thank you with a smile behind the gaze even though it wasn’t on her lips or whether it was her saying thank you while I had ventured with my words to a place that was more painful and unhelpful than fitting.  But I think this is a Natasha sincere look that I have yet to master.  I feel like Natasha’s sincere gaze could instantly go one of two directions depending on the next words or emotions that transpire: 1.crying, sadness, hurt, and possible confusion OR 2.loving smile, genuine appreciation, and an invite to a deep connection instantly with her heart and inner life through her eyes.  So I said goodbye unsure of which I had caused, but prayerfully hoping I had experience the latter and just leaving that up to God.  I was wondering in my head if and how I would send at least on followup email as I drove away and leave it at that if there was no response.
Something horrible I realized which was a double whammy, was that I was so caught up in the moment that I left the cardboard box I delivered the painting in which I meant to throw away for Natasha.  That had a twofold purpose.  One, to be a gentlemen.  Two, to help avoid the fact that it has mailing addresses on it because I ended up not being able to take the painting on the plane and had my dad send the painting up to me in Canada.  Which means from the powers of deduction, that if he was delivering it to Canada, he could’ve just sent it straight to her house… I really didn’t have to deliver the painting.  Guilty as charged.  I really wanted to meet this girl in person and seized the opportunity, but had not given my hopes up at all because I knew very well that this could be the only time I ever met this mysteriously alluring girl and nothing else may ever transpire conversation wise, friendship wise, or relationally.
I got home from the student leader’s retreat and she had emailed me!  It only had two open ended questions at the end, but that was all I needed.  What followed was almost daily emails back and forth racking up multiple email threads to over 40 or 50 responses in our first month to two months of knowing each other…  There was a connection in communication with this girl that I have never experienced before.  They were just words over email, but they literally would move me… I was just being strongly drawn to the person beyond those words and questions in a way that I didn’t even know was possible.
So we decide to meet up a week later to see if this spiritual connection and the strong words and emotions could really be true.  They were.  I’m a personable person, so I don’t read much into a first date or meeting and the conversation, but we had a great time.  I was surprised at how strongly I wanted to kiss this girl that I barely knew when I have kept pretty strong boundaries on not kissing a girl early on before there is a defined strong commitment relationally already in place.

  • She was born on Prince Edward Island, Canada
  • Natasha and I are the same age (she's 6 months older)
  • She grew up in Moncton, went to a Christian school, and comes from a musical family.
  • Her parents are both solid Christians and raised their kids in a Christian environment.
  • She always has had a beautiful voice and led worship and sang through high school and college
  • She went to Bethany Bible College (Now Kingswood University) for a ministry degree
  • She definitely has an undeniable anointing and inseparable heart for ministry and others
  • She is intentional and thrives in smaller group or one-on-one conversations
  • She has always had more of a petite figure growing up
  • To live a healthier stronger life, Natasha and her daughters have chosen to eat more gluten dairy free as a family
  • Natasha has two girls named Roya(6) and Alea(4) and a cat named "Thumbelina" they bought after Lynn died as a snuggle buddy.
  • Natasha grieved Lynn's death the first year or two through her blog which is followed and appreciated by many for her coaching and gifted writing
  • I believe Natasha is a living example of this Mulan quote: "A Flower That Blooms In Adversity Is The Most Rare And Beautiful Of All"
Working around both our school schedules to date/court a mom with two girls who live 3 hours away was quite the challenge.  We definitely had to make the most of weekends, vacations, and Facetime.  You can read "Our Love Story As A Book" if you are wanting the full scoop from our first date to marriage or how in the world I progressed from contently single to happily getting married.
I’m not sure whether to be embarrassed about this or not, but while walking on the beach and talking I “unofficially” proposed a few days earlier on the beach simply just reaffirming to Natasha that I loved her and wanted to marry her, but was waiting for a ring before I felt like it was right.
July 26, 2014 around 10:30am we got engaged on a private beach in Holden beach, North Carolina.  I called Natasha’s parents back in Moncton a couple hours before and asked for their blessing over the phone.  I cherished the moment where her dad prayed a blessing over me before I hung up.  Even earlier we had already both gotten up before everyone that morning and had our morning devotions side by side in a peaceful place.  Fittingly my preset reading plan fell on the vine and branches passage on abiding in John 15 which is the only Bible passage I would’ve directly connected to Natasha as a confirmation from God considering her blog’s named “Abidinginmylove.” And that directly reflects her heart’s desire.  Natasha and I had been ring shopping a couple days earlier, but she also knew I didn’t have a ring yet so she didn’t completely expect anything to happen today when I asked her to go on one last walk with me on the beach before we left that Saturday morning.  Earlier I had walked down with my dad and had a father son talk and written “Will you marry me?” in the sand for Natasha and “Can I be your daddy?” for Alea and Roya.  My dad and I outlined it with shells in the shape of a heart.   
Since it was earlier in the day, the beach was empty except for the occasional runners or walkers.  I took Natasha out and walked a little ways away from the heart and told her that I loved her and what she meant to me and we prayed together and I think she knew it was coming by that point, but I got down on my knee and asked her to marry me with a fake diamond ring for her to put on until we went to go pick out her real ring later that night.  She said, "Yes!"
 As we were hugging in celebration, the middle aged man below in his hiked up white shorts walked right behind us and comically trugged right through the middle of our heart and walked over the words in the sand without even knowing or giving it a second thought.
            We walked back down the wooden walkway holding hands to bring the girls back out and to ask them the second question.   
We had to pull them away from a movie and they walked down the wooden rails to the beach with us holding their hands for entertainment.  When we got down there, they weren’t overly excited to be there but they were snuggly so we walked them down and showed them the heart and got them to try and read what was there.  
 I told them that I had asked there mommy to marry me and then brought them to the second question and told them I that I had a pink ring for each of them and wanted to ask if I could be there daddy.  Alea said something along the lines of, “Of course, I told you we wanted you to be our daddy!”  Roya who is more of the processor more snuggled and settled into my shoulder and I asked her quietly if she would be happy if I would be her daddy and she simply said, “Happy,” and was cuddly while I held her the whole walk back to the house. Mixed cds I make for Natasha and the girls have also been a special way we have connected so I also had a Disney cd for the girls and a “Beautiful Love Engagement” cd for Natasha when I asked.
            When we got back to the house my family was there with camera and I had a bouquet of flowers for Natasha and two small ones for both of the girls.  I couldn’t have made that all happen without my sister Jen and my parents and Kelly’s suggestions on when and how to make everything happen and stuff like making the flowers happen.

October 11 in Canada (Coming Soon)

If this still hasn't been enough info here are a few repeated details fleshed out of the our meeting to marriage process: "Our Love Story As A Book Extras"

Monday, August 11, 2014

Understanding Natasha's Grieving

These Two Analogy's From Natasha's Blog Have Really Helped Me Understanding Her Grieving Process. 

The Stump.
Friday, January 11, 2013 
Jerry Sittser writes of another profound image in his book, A Grace Disguised, about a tree stump.  He writes that grief is like a tree stump in your backyard... It used to be a tall, glorious tree, filling out the space with its lofty branches and greenery.  But now it is a stump.  At first, all a person can see is the stump in their backyard... a constant reminder of what used to be there.  But, slowly and surely, they begin to look around, plant some flowers, and other trees that blossom and bloom... The stump becomes an important masterpiece in the midst of a lush and thriving garden...

Right now, on my journey, I feel overcome with grief.  I feel overcome by death... I see the stump in my backyard, the death of all that was, that used to be, all that was lost in the death of my greatest blessing... the grand tree that stood tall and proud, and others came to marvel in its shade... :)  I feel like I am transitioning into some new stage... some unwanted "progression" that points me toward a new life... new seeds... a growing garden.

This may not make any sense, but I am committed to honesty for the sake of others, so here it goes... In this season of transition, I find my head spinning, grappling with past, present, and future, grasping for some certainty, some understanding, some comprehension...  My life is moving forward, but my world is radically different.  Lynn's life was complete, finished, no regrets or unfinished business... while my life is left undone, unresolved, in constant flux, unfinished.  My heart loves Lynn in the present.  The girls and I will hold him closely in our future.  Yet, we will only know him in our past (earthly speaking...). 

As a Christian, I grapple with God's sovereignty over my life, leading me, planning and preparing me,  mixed with the shock and trauma of catastrophic loss.  Circumstances like, for years I prayed for a miracle, that God would lead us into financial freedom, I got down on my knees and begged God to make a way for us to be in His will and still be debt free... Now I am in a more stable financial position than we ever were before...  My prayers were answered?  There was a dream, not yet shared, that Lynn had as a child... We fought off the beasts that came at us from the forest, side by side, until Lynn stood back and I went on alone, conquering the final beast by myself...  

When my head is spinning with all of these details, I find myself zeroing in on the stump in my backyard.  It doesn't make any sense.  I want to understand it.  Why is there a stump in my backyard in place of my tree?  What was the sense in cutting it down?  

God is a great Gardener... He is calling me to move, just a step, beyond the stump. To look around my backyard and (at least be willing) to plant some seeds.  I see the Holy Spirit, lightly dancing/working around my yard, (like the character depicted in The Shack, by William P. Young). No matter what, despite everything, in all circumstances, God gives life to everything.

The stump is an essential part of my story.  I wish I could understand it, but I can't.  Knowing that God can use it, can bring good out of it, doesn't help.  It offers purpose, but does not ease the pain of catastrophic loss.  The stump will always be there, but my garden will grow... Someday my yard will be lush and green and thriving.  The stump will sit, perfectly accentuated by the surrounding artistry, masterfully designed by my great Savior and King...

Friday, November 23, 2012

Amanda sits in her armchair, feeling the weight of her arms at rest on the coarse fabric.  In her mind, she recalls the familiarity of this chair, the greenish hue of its faded corduroy, the arc of the wooden frame, and the sun light coming in from the window across the room, caressing its visitor with glittering warmth...

Only days ago, Amanda was in a devastating accident that took away her sight.  Having been knocked unconscious during the crash, she awoke to an unfamiliar world of darkness.  She experienced the frightening sensation of all that she had known laying behind a sheet of blackness, beyond a vast expanse of mystery and uncertain emptiness.

Weeks ago, she would have run through this house at lightening speed, maneuvering every corner, leaping up and down the stairs, so familiar with this place she calls home.  But now... without sight, it is a foreign land.  Familiarity lies distant, almost unreachable, behind the thick veil of darkness.  So she sits...

Slowly but surely, the familiarity begins to return.  She learns to feel, hear, touch, and experience the armchair.  She shifts her weight in the seat and traces her fingers along the armrests.  She feels her long legs, comfortable with the height of the chair and the grounding of her feet planted firmly on the floor, offering a sense of balance and security.

So far, living within her new world is comfortable, doable... as long as she remains here, on the chair...  But soon, she will stand up, and face again the trembling fear and draining challenge of maneuvering the room, this room.  She will stand up, feel with her hands, listen with her ears, will herself to remember the frame of her surroundings.  She will go around and around and around again, until this room becomes newly familiar, seen again through the eyes of the blind.  

Amanda will conquer the unusual familiarity of every room in her house.  She will build a new normal... a new way of seeing and feeling and moving throughout her world.  But the outside world... what about that?  With the outside world comes unexpected noises, busy streets, the hustle and bustle of daily lives.  How does she learn to maneuver blindly in a world of sight?  How does she exist socially in a world of body language, sudden movements, too many people talking at once?

One day at a time, Amanda climbs her mountain.  She learns new ways of coping as a blind person in a seeing world.  She finds new ways to congregate and fellowship with others.  But it is painstakingly slow.

Imagine if Amanda went from the armchair to the center of a busy mall?  Imagine if she was suddenly thrown into a crowd and expected to find her way?  Imagine the bombardments of smells, sounds, bumps and movements from busy passersby?

Amanda's journey from terrifying darkness to a new way of seeing takes years of hard work, patience, and loving support.

I did not lose my sight.  I lost my husband.  I do not wish to minimize the incredible trauma of blindness!  But wonder if the dark void that was once sight can be used metaphorically (however inadequate it may be) to express the ongoing trauma after the loss of a spouse, learning to live under the shadow of a painful and overwhelming void...  It seems so incomprehensible to a world of social culture and couple oriented activities... 

A Flower That Blooms In Adversity Is The Most Rare And Beautiful Of All -Mulan

I've kind of got a thing for names...
Natasha has two significant names to me:
The first is Natasha as Mary.  The meaning of natasha has the connotation of birth and even more specifically to Christ's birthday - the Italian phrase for "merry Christmas" is "buon natale!", literally "good birthday!"
One site said, that the name of Natasha comes with the desire for creative, artistic or musical expression in an original way.  And that People with this name have a deep inner desire to create and express themselves, often in public speaking, acting, writing or singing. They also yearn to have beauty around them in their home and work environment. 
This seems to be true of Natasha, She reminds me of Jesus' mother and Joseph's wife Mary related to Christ's birth even in Mary's humility and writing of a song of praise to God.  She also has a natural ability and inner drive to express herself and to make things beautiful wherever she goes.

Second, I was doodling and this came out one day and I thought it might be related to Natasha and the girls...
I felt like God left the phrase “Princess warriors” regarding there home with me which led to the movie Mulan and the phrase, “A flower that blooms in adversity is the most rare and beautiful of all.  You don’t meet a girl like that every dynasty.”  -Mulan which I thought portrayed Natasha and her life scenario well.  That led me to finding the name "Mulan" which is of Mandarin Chinese origin derived from the words "mu" and "lan" that respectively mean "wood" and "orchid". By itself, "Mulan" means "lily magnolia".

So I decided to buy the girls a Mulan sword and to also see if the Lily Magnolia had any direct significance.  I think it does.

I Believe Natasha is rare and will continue to bloom large with a strength, beauty, dignity, healing touch, and purity about her that will be a blessing to many,  
(You'll see those themes referenced over and over again below talking of lilies & magnolias)

As for the meaning of Magnol, we could not find any definitive etymology on this rather rare surname. It most likely comes from the Latin “magna” meaning “great”. The magnolia tree is typically associated with “splendid beauty” and dignity. The tree stands tall and the flower blossoms are simply gorgeous and vibrant.  But the four-syllable Magnolia is nothing short of a “splendid beauty”. [v]
Meaning symbolism of Lily Magnolia
Magnolia flower is an ancient genus. Having evolved before bees appeared, the flowers developed to encourage pollination by beetles. As a result, the carpels of Magnolia flowers are tough, to avoid damage by eating and crawling beetles. The laurel-leaved garden magnolia expressed dignity to the Victorians. The wild, swamp-dwelling magnolia meant perseverance. The Lily flower symbolizes purity and innocence, and as the flower of the Resurrection and of the Virgin, it is widely used at Easter. [i]
Lily Meaning: Majesty, truth, honor  Lily of the Valley Meaning: Happiness In Season: Spring and summer

The magnolia flowers bloom boldly and are large in size. The flowers that grow in South are scented and therefore the magnolia flowers meanings include splendid beauty and magnificence.  The white magnolias flower meanings include purity and perfection. The pink magnolia flowers mean youth and innocence added with joy. The green magnolias also have the same meaning of joy and is also associated with health and luck. The purple magnolias help in achieving the wishes of luck and health.

In China, the Jade orchid or Magnolia denudata, has been cultivated for thousand of years. The magnolia flowers mean 'certainly' when they are used at the beginning of other sentiments along with other symbols. In China, magnolia flowers are symbols of purity and nobility. In Japan, the magnolia is used as a medicinal and ornamental plant. The flower is called Hanakotoba in Japanese system of flower meaning. This means that the flower is sublime, natural and shows love for nature. Magnolias are associated with the life force and therefore can be sent over on the occasion of birth.

This was all about the magnolia flower meanings and the symbols associated with it. Basically, magnolia flower is associated with beauty and perseverance. It is also associated with nobility and dignity. Sweetness and love for nature are some other attributes attached to magnolia flower.[iii]
China- Just as words have different meanings in different contexts, the meaning of painted magnolias was also fluid. "pure and noble" when depicted with thoroughwort.
Florists-. Floriography--the language of flowers--arises from experiences with the flowers themselves: when they bloom, how big they are, whether they hide primly within foliage or, like the magnolia, bloom boldly and large like a star taking center-stage. In the South, where Magnolia grandiflora blooms with scented, white flowers a foot across, the meanings of the flower include magnificence and splendid beauty.
Colors- Magnolias bloom in white, yellow, green, pink and purple. White means purity and perfection and, thus, things at their beginning. (Recall the magnolia as an appropriate herald of a birth in Hanakotoba.) Pink also can recall youth and innocence, along with joy. Yellow means joy, too, and evokes spring. Health and luck are attributes of green, so a green magnolia could wish a recipient magnificent health and luck. Adding a purple (power) magnolia would amplify those wishes.[iv]

Honoring Lynn Erskine

 I never will have the privilege of meeting Lynn Erskine in person on this side of heaven.  That doesn't mean I haven't gotten to know Lynn at least a little bit though.  I've found that people love to comment on Lynn's happy energy, quirky quick wit, excellent musical performance, and godly wisdom beyond his years.  His enthusiasm and quick drawing "Praise the Lord" seemed to cause people to question his authenticity, yet Lynn convinced people quickly enough of his exuberance and optimism by his consistent and authentic way of living.  That is the Lynn I have heard about as people tell me who he was.

I'm not claiming to have all the insider information on knowing Lynn, but I'm sure there are a decent amount of people in my same position that never met Lynn Erskine but would be curious to know what kind of man he was.  This is what I've found.

A lay member at Emmanuel Baptist was telling me she never forgot this conversation below that I'm paraphrasing.  I asked Lynn once, "Why does it feel like us Christians stray off the path on the way to the cross so much?"  Lynn responded, "You aren't veering or straying off the path but stumbling upon obstacles that are a part of the path instead.  Maybe there are parts to climb over or maneuver around at times and you actually aren't veering off the path at all."
 Lynn was a part of the music and missions where he served as a pastor.  Running was a growing passion towards the end of Lynn's life and Lynn was working towards coordinating or running a race involving raising money towards missions.  He was also praying with his wife Natasha about an overseas call to missions in their future before he passed.  A group of his running friends followed through in running the upcoming race that Lynn never got to participate in.

2 months ago today, as of this minute, Lynn was enjoying a Daddy-daughter date with Roya.  She loved going on special dates with Dad to Tim Hortons for a donut.  Later, early evening, we all snuggled up on the couch downstairs, the four of us, watching Lynn's favorite... the Muppet Show.  I can picture him... what he was wearing, his laughter, and how he mimicked the characters...

Several times throughout that afternoon, Lynn had shivered unusually, like a chill, saying, Ugh...  I have this nervous energy about my run tonight.

He had originally planned his run for the afternoon after church.  He had his route all mapped out and recorded into his online running apps... (He mapped out his runs well in advance, enjoying the challenge of planning a route according to whatever mileage was suggested on his training app.)  Later, though, he changed his route to accommodate Andrew's schedule, so they could enjoy their first run together since we'd returned after vacation.  He left the house around 7:00pm that evening (I think), waving goodbye in his running gear, running belt in place, some tracker in his shoe, and his IPod strapped to his arm, counting his mileage.

Later that evening, I was reading a book in bed.  I thought to myself.  Oh Lynn.  He's late as usual.  Probably hanging out with the Boone's and chatting up a storm. *endearing sigh

The phone rang.  I missed it.  I saw it was the Boones and assumed it was Lynn telling me he's on his way home (10-10:30pm?).  I called right back and heard Sara's voice.  O, I thought, it's not usually Sara...

Then she's asking me questions.  Lynn's not doing well. The paramedics are pounding on his chest.  I am to meet them at the hospital.  Sara is coming to stay with the kids so I can leave...

I walk around in a daze.  I think, O, Lynn only has his sweaty running clothes on.  I'll pack him a change of clothes for after this fiasco when we're ready to come home.  Sara arrives.  I take my purse and my bag of Lynn's clothes, socks, shoes, and all, and head off to the hospital.

The road is empty and the urgency is building inside.  I run red lights.  I pass a car on a main road across the yellow line.  Like a robot, I get out of the car and walk towards Pastor Cory who's waiting for me at the door.  He doesn't know what happened, either, but was told to come.

Soon I am ushered around the corner.  People are watching me.  Then I am intercepted and led in the other direction to the family waiting room.  The sights, the smells... Inside I know.  I talk to Andrew and ask what happened.  The Doctor comes in.  Three sentences: His heart stopped.  He stopped breathing.  He's dead.  

Andrew cries.  Cory sucks in his breath.  The air is thick and heavy.  The lights dim and hazy.  I stand up and ask (demand actually) to see my husband and they lead me back down the hall.  I walk in and gaze upon the impossible.  My husband... an empty shell.  Bruised and lifeless.  Completely gone.  Empty.

The presence of God was with me, filling me.  I looked at the most traumatic scene, I never could have imagined it, contrasted with visions of glory dancing around the room.  I said, God, I have the faith that you could raise this body from the dead if it is your will.  But this is Your time?  Somehow, I knew it was.

I sat.  I answered questions.  I called my Mom, who screamed and said they're on their way.  I held his hand.  I felt the last bit of warmth leave his body.

Then I went home (Shannon drove me and others followed), with my bag of Lynn's change of clothes, walking into a heavy darkness I had no idea possible, with the comfort of God's presence aglow within my heart...  Only vaguely aware of everything I would have to do and face in the coming days, weeks, months... years?

Excerpts from Natasha's blog remembering Lynn as a person:

I want to hear his laugh again, listen to his ridiculous rants on any particular subject, but especially politics.  I want to hear him shaking up trouble in the kitchen, dirtying every dish in the house to make up some new concoction he got into his head. I want to hear him break into a Pres Medders impression in a group of Baptists who have no idea what he's talking about and watch him not care the slightest bit.  I want to laugh/cringe when he embarrasses me in public by making all kinds of lewd remarks and dangerously approaches the VERY INAPPROPRIATE zone right in the middle of church (my line is pretty conservative, just so you know :)...) I want to walk the streets of Rehoboth and tease him for breaking out into his weird, cool kid, American strut while he starts carrying on in spanish, or with a latino or mexican female accent???  I want to hear him come bounding up the steps, jump on the bed while I'm reading, his smile taking over his whole face, his eyes gleaming with love and excitement, just to see me and tell me about his day...  I want to hear him at the piano, see him talking people's ears off, watch his gifts in action.  I want to see him break into laughter that sends his head down and to the side, a hand goes in front of the face, and his body contorts into this unique, delightful expression of hilarity and joyfulness... I want to know the world is going to be a better place, because Lynn is going to influence it.  To be an Erskine means "to do better than I have already done before"... Lynn Erskine would never have rested before his dying day, no matter how long or not long that would take to come, because every day was the best day of his life, and life was for living, and living was done with excellence.  It always meant being a better you today than you were yesterday.

I will never again see Lynn's face as he comes around the corner, home from work, with the girls running to greet him.  Never again will I feel his arms come around from behind me when I'm doing dishes at the sink.  Never again will I answer the phone and hear his voice, Hi Babe! Never again will I feel his presence, exuding passion, energy, and life, or his tenderness as he reaches over and touches my face in the car.  It's the way he leaned back just so when satisfied after a good meal.  The way he oddly hiked up his pant legs in the summer when he was hot instead of changing into shorts.  The way he played music at our piano with two eager daughters climbing all over him.  The way he sparkled when he talked about his favorite composers or what concert he was doing next...

Lynn, being Lynn, sang back-up once with Steve Green at the church where he did his internship, Central Wesleyan Church in Holland, Michigan.  We were dating at the time, but very quickly falling in love.  During that concert, Steve Green called his wife on her cell phone through the sound system for the whole auditorium to hear and sang to her "their" song - Holding Hands, by Steve Green.  Later, back stage, Lynn asked him, Hey Steve? (Okay, he likely didn't say it like that...) What was that song you sang to your wife?  Steve replied with a twinkle in his eye, When are you getting engaged? Lynn sort of flushed and stammered, Well I'm not, really, yet...  Still, it became our song :)  And lo and behold, (I should have seen it coming), he tried to sing it to me as part of his vows on our wedding day. (I say tried because he wept like a baby and barely got a single word out!!)
This became a song that we listened to throughout our marriage on very special occasions... We danced to it in the night, in a dark and quiet house after the girls had gone to bed... Holding hands always meant something special, a belonging, a loyalty, a commitment...

I remember a few particular instances since Lynn's death when I watched another husband tenderly take his wife's hand in his, holding it as if it was life's most precious gift... It was beautiful, but bittersweet, like tears of joy streaming down your cheeks, while a knife is stabbing at your heart...

On our anniversary, after going through our wedding pictures, I picked up some more of our old cards.  The first one I opened said, My hand misses yours.  And I thought, Yes, Babe!! My hand misses yours!

But as I felt the emptiness of my hands, that still small voice whispered inside my heart... Open hands.

Lynn led our family in radical generosity.  Selfishness was not permitted and would not be tolerated.  I began to say to our children (at least 100 times a day...), We expect you to have a generous heart, and a generous heart means open hands, open hands for sharing... We are blessed to be a blessing to others.

My hand is empty of its companion.  How my hand misses his!!  But Lynn left me with a gift to steward... the gift of generosity.  My hands may be empty, but they are open.  Before, one hand was open while the other one filled... Now they are both open, turned outward, We are blessed to be a blessing...

Lynn's example of generosity impacts me.  I feel a responsibility to steward this gift, though I will never be Lynn and cannot carry forward who he was and is...

All I hear is the echo of emptiness in the big dark cloud that follows me wherever I go, where my husband used to take up residence... The part of me that was him, one with him... just empty.  In that hollow space, my singular thoughts echo loudly... repeating over and over, My husband died.  He died.  Sometimes it says, Lynn would be doing this.  Lynn would be saying that.  Where is Lynn's contribution in this conversation?

Sunday morning, it snowed.  I picked myself up, got "decked out" in black apparel :), and adorned my neck with pearls (one of my favorite gifts from Lynn), and went to church.

For supper, I made a meal Lynn would have been proud of, sprouted rice with quinoa blend, peas (because Roya eats them), raw carrots (because Roya eats them), and whole almonds I toasted on the stove with a little oil, salt, and chilli powder.  

I called the girls to come to the table and low and behold, they came down for dinner dressed in their Indian outfits Daddy had brought back form his trip to India in February 2011.   Our meal wasn't necessarily Indian, but it seemed fitting nonetheless and brought back many memories with our global-justice minded and culturally savvy husband/Daddy.
My friend.
The rain is pouring down on my rooftop.  The sound is beautiful. rhythmic. mesmerizing.  Lynn loved the rain.  It soothed him.  He was still, tranquil, and romantic when listening to the rain.

It's about that time... This is the time I would be up in bed, waiting for Lynn to get home, knowing that if I wanted to sleep it had to be before he arrived, because otherwise he'd keep me up talking, but also knowing I was too anxious to see him and would undoubtedly stay awake until I heard those sounds...  First the car, then the gravel, the car door, then the front steps, the front door... And soon enough he'd be bounding up the steps to our bedroom to see me.  Sometimes, I'd pretend to be asleep thinking.. Oh no.  He's full of energy tonight.  I soooo want sleep!!  But he knew :)  And I couldn't keep away from him.  Soon we'd start talking.  His day would start flowing.  He'd carry on until I kicked him out.  Then, he'd go downstairs to our living room rocking chair and read running articles or food blogs online on his IPad...  After an hour or so, if he still couldn't calm his brain down, he'd be back for more.  He'd bound into bed, still full of energy, trying to let me sleep but unable to reign in his loving heart.  I was after all, his best friend.  So he'd share some more, then roll over and snore.  Yet, again, I would sigh into his back, roll over to my own sleeping position, and stay up half the night pondering the things he'd shared...  Unable to sleep by both the burdens Lynn had shared, the noise of his snoring (sometimes), and... sheer frustration that he'd done it to me again :).

Being married to my best friend was wonderful.  We shared everything.  We enjoyed every moment of each others company.  The adjustment to parenthood and active ministry was hard, but we were determined to raise the standard and make it work.  We loved each other.

This is the card I read from him tonight, written November 5, 2001, when we had known each other only two months and were not even dating yet :)
Thanks again for the walk and talk last evening.  I appreciated your openness and welcome you to continue that.  Thanks also for really relaxing me and calming me down.  It's a treasure to have such a close friend with whom I can be completely myself.  Thanks for listening to me ramble non-stop.  It's nice that you pay attention even when I get boring.  You really encouraged me last night, and I hope I can be just as kind to you sometime.  God bless you for your Christ-like heart and uncanny sensitivity.

Many years ago, God began revealing Himself to me, opening up my mind and heart to learn of Him, to know Him, beyond any particular denomination or theological context.  Dare to trust me and seek me in the Word and by the Holy Spirit, no boxes, and no limits...  Lynn was so good at this.  He encouraged me in it.  He had no fear when it came to branching out, exploration the true nature of God.  He always said, God is big enough to handle it if I make a mistake.  When we stay grounded in the Word and keep our eyes fixed on Christ, we can dare to trust Him to keep us and perfect us until the day of Christ Jesus...

I'm honored to take up the mantel of loving and caring for Lynn's wife and daughters in a way that would make God and hopefully Lynn proud.  He sounds like a man whom God was pleased with.