A Letter to God

IMG_1383.jpegDear God.

I remember when the phone rang at 2:00 am on January 10th, 1999 like it was yesterday, for that was the time that my mom took her last breath. I also remember prior to that time, I had little to no relationship with you, and definitely no belief in your son, let alone any understanding of heaven, hell, salvation, or eternity.

But knowing all of the challenges that my mom had faced in this life, I just knew that there had to be something better for her. A better place than what was here, where she would be completely free. Free from limitations, free from pain, and free from MS.

But what was this place? Because in my mind, whatever it was, and wherever it was, I wanted to do whatever it took to make sure that one day, that would be the place where I would also be, so that I would see her again.

And so now, years later, even beyond my dad’s passing in 2011, much has happened, as you already know.  I committed my life to you back in May of 1999. I accepted your son Jesus, as my personal Lord and Savior, and was baptized. I even went to school over the years, and received not one but two degrees, and am now even a Pastor.

Beyond all of that though, the one thing that I didn’t plan on, was meeting Rudy, falling in love with Rudy, marrying Rudy, and then losing Rudy. And now that Rudy is gone, I find myself asking different questions about it all, but especially about heaven.

You see, with my mom, it was all about just living a life that assured my spot in heaven. And then as I grew in my understanding and relationship with you, the idea of heaven became even more real to me. As heaven is deeply woven within the fabric of eternity, and your kingdom.

But now, since Rudy passed, the idea of heaven has become so much more. So much so, that my heart is aching, and screaming, and yearning, to know about heaven itself. What is it like? What is Rudy seeing? What is Rudy experiencing? How amazing and how glorious is it?

And so I humbly come before you God, asking that as I journey down this path, to study, to learn, and to imagine all that I can about heaven itself, reveal yourself to me in a whole new way. Guide me down this path, and provide for me just a glimpse of heaven, and a small taste, of what it is that Rudy is experiencing now.

And I assure you, that all that it is that you allow me to learn, to see, and to take in, I will surely share about it, as I do You, for your glory. For I know that you are a good God, and your love is real. So thank you Lord for your grace, for you mercy, and most importantly, for your love. And may I each day, continue to seek to live the life that you have for me to live, and love in a manner that reflects the heart of who you are, within me.

To Be a Widow ~

The Story behind the Woman, and the Ink

11219000_10207032654589955_2430123722910068038_nOver the years, one of the many questions that I am asked, is what is the story behind all of my tattoos, the ink? But before I touch on that, it is important to know just a little bit more about the story behind the woman. And that woman of course, is me.

So to begin with, as I already shared in a previous post, between the ages of 8-12 I had experienced various forms of sexual abuse, both outside and within the church. But my story doesn’t just start and stop there. I was about 9 years old when my mother was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis. And although that diagnosis was devastating for her, how it affected her directly, and how it affected the family was even more devastating.

You see, my mother was extremely independent, and through much research, the effects of the MS and what she knew was to come, led to much confusion, frustration, fear, and ultimately anger. And all that combined manifested itself in a very unhealthy way, for her as a woman, a wife, and a mother.

And without going too far into detail, she became very isolated and unpredictable within the family dynamic, and ultimately physically and emotionally abusive, towards us kids. And by the time I was 15, she made the decision to leave the home, to go live with another man, who also had MS. She was gone from the home for a total of about 4 years until the man she was living with passed away. I was 19 when her and my dad ultimately reconciled, and she returned home. By this time, she was a complete quadriplegic.

But knowing this, it is no wonder, that i received my first tattoo (home made of course) at the age of 15. I was a confused young girl, who had already been sexually, physically, and emotionally abused, and truly believed that Jesus and the church was the enemy. So smoking, drinking, drugs, and tattoos seemed to be the only logical solution to how I was feeling on the inside. Or at least so I thought.

And smoking, drinking, drugs, and tattoos became just a part of my way of life. I was 17 when I received I believe my third and fourth tattoo (still home made of course). And by the time I was 18 I was dating a 38 year old and doing a whole lot of drugs.

By the time I was 19 though, living in a motel room with the 38 year old, and strung out on cocaine, I had reached the end. I was about 90lbs, and was either going to die doing cocaine or get clean all together. Thankfully the solution was the later.

And as I got clean, I still had a whole lot of baggage to contend with. And so through out my twenties, tattoos took center stage. You see dealing with physical pain seemed to be a whole lot easier than dealing the the inner pain that still plagued me on the inside.

It was during this time that I met my first husband. Which of course was complete insanity as well. As I met him shortly after he was released from prison, and after much chaos within our relationship, I married him in Santa Ana, at the justice of the piece, while he was out on work furlough (yes, that is a completely different story for another day).

But fast forwarding now to the time I met Rudy. The year was 1999, and yes, I had already moved to Corona, my mom had just recently passed away from cancer (on my first husbands birthday), I had just entered back into a relationship with Jesus, and I was in the middle of a divorce from my first husband. And so when it came to tattoos, they just continued to be a part of my life, and who I was.

You see, I had more tattoos than I could count, most with little to no story behind them. And most all them just represented a confused girl who some how just wanted to experience what it meant to be valued, and what it mean to love and be loved, unconditionally?

And I thank God, as He truly blessed me with that tangible experience through Rudy, as i also continued to grow in my relationship with Jesus. But with Rudy, tattoos just continued to be a part of me, and ultimately, a part of us. The only difference was, they began to take on a new meaning. That is, Rudy really helped to ground me in the idea of not just getting a tattoo for the sake of the pain, but rather for the sake of the meaning and the story behind the tattoo itself.

So now, looking back, over the almost 16 years Rudy and I were together, I received a total of 7 tattoos. The first two, a tasmanian devil and a heart shaped snake, were while we were in Nashville on two different occasions (with one of those being our honeymoon). The next three were here at home.  The first one being Scooby Doo (because I love dogs). The second one, being Felix the Cat (because I was now of course, a Felix). And then the third one, a Cross (Representing and Reminding me of Christ and all of who I am in Him).

But the last two tattoos that I got while Rudy was still here are truly special. That is because both of these I received during the course of cancer, while we were in Hawaii. The first one being a flower and turtle, while in Maui back in 2013, and the second one, being a gekko, while being on the Big Island of Hawaii in 2014. You see, this was just something Rudy and I shared together, and every time I look at those tattoos, they will take me to a special time that I shared with him.

And so now, with the reality of Rudy being gone, what does that mean for me and tattoos. Well, knowing my past, and knowing my tendencies, I am well aware of where it could lead. Because remember, physical pain to me is much more appealing that emotional pain. But the difference is, today I have a whole lot of Jesus. And with Jesus, he is helping me to navigate through the emotional pain, and do so in a healthier way, that includes getting a tattoo in honor and memory of Rudy.

So yes, I made the decision to sleeve my left arm. The reason for this location is truly a simple one, I just don’t have much space left that made sense. But to do a full sleeve that honored Rudy, and made sense with what I already had on my arm, it meant I needed to also do a complete half sleeve cover up. And so through much prayer, and contemplation, I arrived at the complete design that I wanted. And then through much research, I was able to find the artist who I believed could not just do it, but do it well.

And so back in November I made my first appointment that would be the end of January. And then just this last Friday, I went in for my second appointment. This appointment was definitely challenging as it represents the longest tattooing session I have ever sat through. That being about six hours that my arm was actually tattoo’d (and yes my arm was on fire). And now I have 3 more appointments already in place, which will hopefully conclude this project.

IMG_1259The picture to the left here, represents my first and second appointment. And I will share more photos as this project continues. But just to share with you something personal, the clock on my arm represents the time that Rudy’s life here on earth ended, and immediately began in eternity. You see, the time on the clock is 9:28, which is the time that is on Rudy’s death certificate. So please know, every part of this entire project, has been well thought out, and is still a work in progress.

But the one thing that I have had several people ask me, is “what’s next?” Am I going to sleeve my other arm? And to answer that question, I would have to say, I truly “don’t know”. But what I do know, is that in keeping in tune with my desire to engage in healthy behavior, I have made a commitment to myself, and to God, that once this project is complete, I will not seek to have any more tattoos done for a minimum of 1 year.

You see, today I know that God loves me, and I love Him. And the tattoo’s, although I enjoy them, are not to take the place of the healing process that I am to go through, because of Rudy’s passing. And so for today, it truly is about living a life that places God first, while making healthy decisions that help for me to process and remember Rudy, in a way that remains true to the marriage relationship we shared, while at the same time, reflects who I am. And yes, that includes my full tattoo sleeve on my left arm. And knowing the reason and the purpose behind the why, makes the pain all the more worth it. But anything else at this point, for me, would truly just be unhealthy.

But to anyone who knows me, and see’s me on any kind of regular basis, when you see my arm, and you see the new ink that I have, please just know, this one is for Rudy. Knowing that wherever I am, and where ever I go, I will always and forever, remember him, and the life we shared. And ultimately, my hope is that I will be able to use this ink, as an avenue by which to share with people not just about Rudy my husband, but also about where I know Rudy is now, and about who I know Rudy is with, Jesus.

To Be a Widow ~

I’d Rather be Single

12108293_10207198478495449_6163532401187681228_nA few weeks after Rudy’s passing, I remember having to fill out a form. And when it came to the section on marital statues, it only had two boxes to choose from, married or single. WOW!! I was a little stunned in that moment, and to be honest, I really didn’t like having to check that single box. In my mind, I was still married. I wasn’t single, I was widowed!

And it just seemed like life was already difficult enough, having to embrace the reality of being a “widow”, without having to then embrace the idea of being single. You see for me, being single and being a widow were two very different, and unique things.

Such as, I knew what it was like to be single before marriage (as does everyone). But I also already knew what it was like to be single after marriage, because of divorce. But considering my circumstance now, I would have to say, being a widow is something entirely different. For I am having to experience what it is like to be single, as a result of the passing of not just my husband, but the person I was head over heals in love with. And the specific name for that, is called being a widow.

And what I am discovering, is that being a widow is far more complex and more difficult to be, than just the notion of being single. And as I further contemplate this, the reality of it, is that although a widow may be deemed as being single, it is possible for a single person to not be a widow.

Therefore, given a choice, I’d rather be single. Because being a widow, cuts a little deeper and stings a little harder. For being a widow represents a much deeper and much more permanent loss. And it is much more than just the loss of a marriage union. It is the permanent loss of the person, at least on this side of heaven, and because of that, there is just no comparison.

And so for me, I am not just single. I am a Widow. And I would like to encourage anyone who has never experienced what it is like to be a widow, to proceed with caution, before just casually, or nonchalantly, identifying a widow as being single. For just the mere statement or implication of being single, to a widow, has the potential to really hurt them, even if it was unintended.

To Be a Widow ~

Not My Choice

gVVTcyQwhg0-y39OzteS55xwBeN7O2zajBSp8-p1aoI,YuY9ZOzQTNZ5P_qS56z7MuoxEIsrf4AL07EBNusZsFkBecoming a widow was definitely not my choice, as I am certain many would agree, that it wouldn’t be theirs also. It just definitely wouldn’t be something that any one of us, would say is a dream or a heart felt desire to experience one day. For it hurts, and is painful, for an unspecified amount of time.  And to add insult to injury, there is no how to manual available for where we could look to the end, in order to see how our new personal story of life was to play out.

And so for me, as I now consider the last several years of my life with Rudy, I know, without a shadow of a doubt, that it was my absolute heart felt desire that Rudy would be healed. And I would have gone to the moon and back for that to happen. Some of the things that we tried, included eating better/differently, juicing, cutting out dairy, using essential oils, along with praying and fasting. All of that we tried, along with the conventional chemotherapy and radiation treatment that was recommended by the doctors.

But at the end of the day, the healing I/we so longed for, just didn’t happen, and Rudy ultimately passed away. And what I am left with now, is a deep desire to know the answer to the why. Why wasn’t Rudy healed?

The doctors may say it was because of the cancer, while others may say it was the treatment. Others might even say that it just wasn’t a part of God’s plan, and therefore not His will. But does any of that really even matter, knowing that regardless of the answer, it will in no way, shape, or form, change the fact that Rudy is gone?

No! It won’t matter, and I must live in today’s reality. And today’s reality is what reminds me daily that Rudy is gone, and that I am a widow. So for now, as I awake each and every morning, with the reality of knowing that I am a widow, I do so knowing, that this was  “not my choice”.

To Be a Widow ~

Hearing his voice

IMG_1219One of the greatest gifts that I believe God has provided me with, is the ability to still hear Rudy’s voice, and the many things that he would say. He truly was my absolute biggest supporter, my greatest encourager, and my number one fan. And every time I hear his voice, I am reminded that he still is all those things to me

You see, no matter how crazy my idea was  or how big the dream, he was always right there next to me, cheering me on. And this morning the words I heard him saying and reminding me of was this, “nothing ventured, nothing gained”.

Thinking of those words just truly brought a smile to my face, and warmed my heart. As Rudy always believed in the importance of taking that step of faith, even if the results were unknown. He always reminded me, that although the risk may be great, the reward would be also. And even if our plans didn’t work out, the lessons learned in the process would be worth the risk.

Oh how I really do love hearing his voice in my head, reminding me of these little things. And I just couldn’t thank God enough, for giving me that gift, and therefore reminding me that he is still in my corner, and cheering me on.

To Be a Widow ~

Home is where my heart is . . .

FullSizeRenderIn my quest to somehow make since out of life, and what life was to look like now that Rudy had passed, I remember one thing that was important to me beyond all the memories. And that was having this great desire to some how feel close to Rudy even though his physical body was no longer here with me. I mean how was I going to feel or sense his presence. How was I going to somehow still remain close to him?

I even remember one day as I was doing work outside, asking God to help me fall in love with doing the things that Rudy loved. You see. Rudy and I, much like many marriages, had differences. Such as, Rudy loved classic cars, and Chevy was his brand (I was a Ford chick, although he did convert me). Rudy also absolutely loved working outside and caring for our front and back yard. Me however, not so much. Weeding was not my idea of fun, and I swore that if you gave me half a chance, I could kill even a fake plant.

But for Rudy, these activities were refreshing, and all he wanted was for me to be a part of them. And I wish I could say that I was, but I wasn’t. And now that he is gone, oh what I would give, to be able to go back in time, and be a part of those things with him.

But then, just about a month or so ago, things started to become a little bit more clearer for me.  I was outside planting some flowers, asking, or actually probably more like begging God, to let them live, I realized that just being home, was where I was feeling and sensing Rudy’s presence the most.

I just loved being home. You see, I had already put together a special place for Rudy’s urn in my dining room. His urn is in the form of a church. And so unless I share that that is what it is, guests wouldn’t even know it. But even beyond that, it sits on a nice little piece of furniture that I specifically bought for that purpose. I also had hung a route 66 photo, knowing that it would represent him well, along with a photo of him from our amazing 2014 London/Paris vacation.

But there are some very specific things that I consistently do as well. First, is every time I wake up, or walk into the house, I say good morning honey! or I’m home babes! (we use to always refer to each other as honey, babes, or sweets).  Second, is whenever I leave the house, I say “I love you honey”. We use to always tell each other “I love you”.  Whether it was on a phone conversation, going to bed, or just leaving the house for work, we never went a day, let alone a moment, without telling each other “I love you!”.  Third, is every moment that I am home, I light a tea light candle that sits in a holder with a “R” on it that lights up. This light reminds me that Rudy is still alive in Christ. And then the last thing that I just began doing just a few weeks ago, is having a vase with some fresh flowers in it next to him (I think he’d like the one’s I’ve been picking out). But this, like the light, reminds me that he is alive in Christ. But it also reminds me that like the flowers, Rudy was beautifully and wonderfully made, and the blessing was truly mine, to have him, for as long as I did, as my husband.

And when I consider all of this, I know each person who steps into the widow category as I have, will have a unique journey of their own to discover. But for me today, my home is truly where my heart is, because my heart still very much belongs to Rudy. And I feel and I sense his presence the strongest when I am home, because it truly is the place where we built and shared our life together.

To Be a Widow ~

To walk a mile . . .

IMG_1167.JPGOne of the most difficult tasks of being a widow, that goes beyond just the notion of having to figure out what my life was to look like now, was having to figure out the “right” way of doing it all.

Such as, do I go through his stuff? Is that even ok? How long should I wait? Should I sell it, or should I just give it all away? Or maybe I should keep it? Is it ok to rearrange or redecorate? Or maybe I ought to just not touch a thing, and leave everything the way it is, and then just some how convince myself that he is not really gone.

All of these things, were things that were running through my head. And some of them still do even today. And the only solution that initially made any sense to me at all, was to look to other widow’s that I believed would know what it meant to walk a mile in my shoes. It just seemed almost natural that these folks would have the “right” answers and then be able to share with me what I ought to do.

And so as I looked and looked, researched and researched, and analyzed everyone I could, what I have discovered so far is this, that there is no one that could ever fill that role, and have all the “right” answers,  because Rudy was my husband, and I was his wife, and this was going to have to be my journey. Which then ultimately meant that the only one who could walk a mile in my shoes, was me.

So the question now has evolved into this, who do I invite to come along side me in this journey that I am now on? And those that do, I believe will know that the journey is not about having to walk a mile in my shoes, but rather about walking that mile right along side me, knowing that if it takes 2 miles, 5 miles, or a 100 miles, to reach the destination,  it will be well worth the journey. Because although the journey will consist of some bumps and bruises,  or laughter and tears along the way, the destination itself, through it all will be amazing, when we stop, take a deep breath, and look back at the journey, and see just how far we have traveled this path together.

To Be a Widow ~