Thursday, July 16

July 16th, 2015


Ten years ago, I got married.  Yes I was a baby of 22, but no, I don't have regrets.  I became Mrs Ben Morrell and joined the Morrell clan.  It's been 10 years of puns, and amazing food, and family gatherings with dogs running everywhere.  Ten years as part of a resourceful, resilient, loyal, talented and kind family. Ten years since my mother-in-law hosted my bridal shower, and twelve years since my father-in-law and I had our first conversation (about Ernest Shackleton).

I put a lot of wedding photos on Facebook today, with some narrative about the wedding.  Looking at them, I can't help but think... why did I love peach so much?  And why were all of us ladies plucking our eyebrows down so small?  It looks weird to me now.

But seriously, I am thankful for the time I had with Ben and the people he brought into my life who are still with me.  Those of you will who have grieved will know that sometimes the pain is sudden, wordless, and almost physical.  Today is one of those days for me.  Today is difficult and sad.

There - brutal honestly in the moment.  I think of Wesley in 'The Princess Bride,' saying "Princess, life is pain."  Or perhaps a sunnier way of putting it would be what the widows of Modern Widows Club like to say, that great grief is a mark of great love.  I listen to one of Ben's favorite songs, "Grace" by Phil Wickham, and say to God "I need You, cuz I can't do this alone... I'm cracked and dry, on hands and knees.  Oh sweet Grace, rain down on me."


Life has such a different shape now, a shape that Ben Morrell would not fit inside.  It feels like in finding a new life I've changed the locks and he can't come home anymore (if that were even possible).  Occasionally, this seems even sadder than staying the same.  At the same time, I see it as a Great Confirmation of the diverging of our paths - his path to his eternity with God, and mine on earth for awhile longer.

And much of the time, I just wish we could have coffee and catch up.  Except instead of coffee, Ben would be nursing a chai or bolting down a raspberry lemonade or three.  He'd want to hear if Venice was as amazing as he always told me, and shake his head over my "old" phone and computer.  He'd be proud that I finally qualified to take my architecture exams.  He'd encourage me to keep moving on. I'd tell him about how I hope I'm becoming more like him - more resourceful, generous, helpful, an observant listener, not complaining, full of faith, using humor as a tool, quietly confident.

All of his anxiety and fears would be gone.  Maybe he'd have a pet dragon?  He'd definitely have peace about leaving earth when he did, and a million new ideas (which he's probably already discussed with some of the movers and shakers in Heaven). 

He hasn't been to a hospital in quite some time :)

Wednesday, May 27

Feelings V Lisa

Last month, some vignettes bounced around and came tumbling out in this (pictureless) cartoon form.  You budding psychologists out there may find the following instructive, and perhaps the rest of you will be entertained.  Let me take you instead my head...

Feelings: Weeeeee!!
Rational Lisa:  Woah, woah, guys.  Can you go play in my subconscious until I'm done with work?  Just lock up when you're done. 
Feelings: *retreating*
Rational Lisa: Wait, maybe one of you can help me.  You know, put all that energy to good use.  Just... come over here, but stop - wiggling.  Oh, that tickles!  Teehee!

Rational Lisa: Lalala, just filling up the water pitcher like a person who is trying to not sit at a desk for longer than two hours straight...
Feelings: Wazzzup?
Rational Lisa: *bursts into tears* Why would you say something like that to me when I'm wearing eye make-up?

Feelings: Can we talk?
Rational Lisa: Maybe this can wait?  It's midnight.
Feelings: It will be easy.  You just have to sit there and stare into space.
Rational Lisa: But... I really should be sleeping.
Feelings *smugly bouncing on bed*: Oh, you can't avoid me any longer.  I've been waiting all day, and now it's just the two of us.
Rational Lisa: Well, I suppose just for a few minutes...
Rational Lisa *shakes herself from stupor an hour later*: Not again!

Friend: So, how are all the feelings?
Rational Lisa:  Oh, totally feeling them. Yep.  Feeling the feels.  Just... not at the moment.
*Looks around* Huh.  They all seem to be hiding right now.  Sometimes, if you pretend like you aren't looking, they'll sneak out just at the edge of your peripheral vision... is it working?

Rational Lisa: OK, I finally have time for you all.  Just line up and state your position.  And if all related feelings could stand near each other in order of intensity?  Make sure you answer the question "and how does that make you feel?". 
Guys, this is great.  I really do prefer it when ya'll stick to my office hours.

Thursday, April 23

Crescent Tales

Disclaimer:  I smile and laugh a lot these days, loving the wonder in this world, the stories in the lives around me.  So the following is not a plea for pity, but for self-therapy and also for education.  Ben told you about illness and I can tell you about the hidden side of grief, years later.

Yesterday, an amazing friend of the Morrell family, who prayed for Ben and I, passed away.  Cancer.  Last month, a man from my church, who had just moved to Mexico with his wife to work with a missionary group finished this life a lot sooner than he'd planned.  Heart attack.  Another old friend's mother died, and Ben's dear grandmother is in the hospital.  I *know* this is not how it works (and it's silly to remotely suppose), but I feel like I should have grieving figured out by now.  But instead past grieving seems to have whetted a new awareness, and pain grips me. Cancer is not done.  Pain isn't finished.  Death waits for us all.

On Sunday, waiting in line for the ferry, I wrote an email to a friend who has been diagnosed with a serious illness.  It turns out that when iPads get wet the keyboards don't work well.  I gave him some words, but I know that he and his family are still suffering.  It feels like Ben's suffering should have purchased relief for others.  It hasn't.  Still, I can pray: that the people around my friend will be loving and gracious, that he will have some inkling of how his story glorifies God.  And yes, for healing.

I am preparing to journey again to Lake Crescent.

Lake Crescent.  Where the Morrells skipped stones one year ago, as my Dad and I poured Ben's ashes into ceramic cups with a deep-rooted tree on the side and when my dear tough sister Kate (who used to play video games with Ben after I had gone to bed) went to sprinkle hers beneath another tree, she actually cried.  Everyone was there (sharing memories or silent), even if it was difficult for them.  We sang in the lodge while Cheryl played the guitar; the hotel staff thanked us.  My mother took pictures of the forget-me-nots.  Later, some people said that the grief became easier after this day.  And after I had sent off all of the relatives and friends who came to remember and honor Ben with me, I hiked through the rain to a waterfall and then collapsed into bed for twelve hours.

Lake Crescent.  Where Ben and I drove with his oxygen tank two years ago.  It took about an hour to get him ready to go outside each time, his body was so slow.
Where he smiled at the ducks and savored delicious food, and said that this was his favorite place in the world.
Where I prayed over his slow body.  
Where Ben made one request: that I never lose my passion.
Where I finally asked Ben what he thought about dying and when he started talking about the technical details of the moments after death, I knew he wasn't afraid.  
Where Ben wondered out loud what his legacy would be.  And four days later, his legacy began.

Lake Crescent.  Where years ago, on a visit from Texas, Ben and I rounded up our sisters Beth and Cheryl, and friends Ryan, Chris and Chanda and took them to all the beaches around the lake.  Chris climbed a tree, which is a thing he always does.  This was around the time when our sisters became roommates.

Lake Crescent.  The location of half our honeymoon, almost ten years ago.  We discovered that every time I moved, it woke Ben up.  We made up half a dozen 'country songs' as we drove around, with such titles as "You can hold my shifting hand."  I think I was a little scared, but also happy.  It was the sunniest week of the year on Washington State peninsula.  

Lake Crescent, where our high school summer camp was stationed eighteen years ago, before it all began.  Before that mission trip when we were 16, and I teased Ben when he knocked on a watermelon to determine its ripeness ("Hello?") and later in the church van I tried to get him to tell me about the story dream where he was a knight on the battlefield, but the conversation faltered and stuttered to a halt.  And we sat silently through the Wyoming wilderness as all the other students around us slept, never remotely imagining that one day we would get married.  Last year, youth pastor Glen told me that he thinks there was always something between us, but I think with this statement Glen has outed himself as a hopeless romantic.  Nevertheless, years later both of us remembered this classically awkward hour.

Before our first successful conversation, when Ben was 19 and I was 18.  In the hall at church he was carrying Augustine's "Confessions;" I was intrigued.  We chatted amiably for half an hour.  He almost joined the fencing class that I was about to take, but was too busy.  We didn't talk again for a year.
Before Ben asked me to be the keyboardist in the college worship band,.  The previous keyboardist had married the previous worship leader, and Ben was warned by them that the keyboardist he chose might be his wife.  So it began.
Lake Crescent is waiting, and I think I'm ready.  It's time to remember.

Sunday, December 28

No Time Like The

December.  It was a super stressful month for me (and usually, it isn't).  Like not eating or sleeping enough stressful.  I will tell you one of the reasons why.

(Other reasons are withheld for the same reason I haven't been blogging much lately.  My joys and fears of late have been taken up with work and relationships.  Neither of which are appropriate subjects for the transparent style this blog is known for.  Though you can certainly ask me in person.)

Every couple has their strengths and weaknesses, and I - immodestly but accurately - can claim that when it came to planning and execution Ben and I killed it.  "Go Team Morrell!" we'd fist bump after a successful themed party, drive across Texas or expertly handled visit to the ER. Seriously, we got really good at working the hospital system.  Having joint planning skills really was a God-thing, because we moved about once a year and dealt with a lot of paperwork.  Ben would come in high and fearless, swinging in broad strokes, I'd follow low, filling in the gaps.  He was resourceful, I was persistent.  BAM!  POW!

This year, it was almost December, and I (a self-proclaimed control freak) was puzzled to realize that I didn't have any Christmas presents.  Purchased, created, or imagined.  Cue mild panic. 

The trouble is that I thought I had fully adjusted to singleness.  But it turns out that when it comes to Big Changes and Projects, I'm still part of team that's missing half its members. 

Over our years together, Christmas presents became a production that started in the Spring.  Like this: Ben would decide that we should create our own line of food products.  I started the process of talking him down to just dried fruit, beef jerky, and scone mix.  Ben researched and purchased a dehydrator; I went berry-picking and looked for sales on ripe mangoes.  There were spreadsheets and timelines and Ben made a dozen passes at a name which ended up "Morredibles".  I found powdered heavy cream on a molecular gastronomy website and experimented.  Our vacuum sealer got overheated easily, but in the end we had gift baskets of goodies for family and a few friends.

The thing is, that these kinds of projects aren't very attractive to me solo - and that's okay.  Another thing is that I need to find a trigger to start planning, since in the past Ben always nudged me along.  I need to find my own style.  This year turned out well enough.  I didn't give a lot of presents, but I did send my Grandparents homemade cards and actually found something meaningful for my Dad.  My parents-in-law's present is a project still in process (sorry, Paul and Jenifer!) but everything else was ready on schedule.

Thank you for your support and prayers.  Surprisingly, I still have no horror stories about people saying the wrong thing to comfort me.  So either I'm obtuse or you all have acted wisely (and I lean toward the second).  Cheers for this New Year!

Saturday, December 20

A Stage in God's Slow Reveal: Merry Christmas


Hiking in the beautiful Pacific NW
At Christmas, God truly shows himself master of the long game, the slow reveal.

He planted a seed, prophesied for 100s of years, which would take 30 years to bear the extraordinary fruit we hear of still.  And it's this inception that we celebrate.  No wonder we remember it in the winter - in the dark barrenness - and not in the spring.

But the mystery was revealed to a few in those early days, (God tipped his hand of cards) and they were the storytellers- the witnesses.  Prophets and shepherds. They, and now we, are called "to bring to light for everyone what is the plan of the mystery hidden for ages in God who created all things." (Eph 3:9).


And so I am a witness.  This year was a year in which I observed, participated in, and found further faith in God's work in this world.
Me 'n Frank say Merry Christmas

Some big events: I went on a mission trip to India with Engineering Ministries International, moved in with my good friend Hillary (who lets me cry and makes me laugh), and got a job as a Project Manager at a small architectural firm in Seattle.

There were a number of firsts, like my first time paddleboarding, using a type-writer, and cosplaying (dressing up like a character) at Comic Con.

I got to travel a bit: to Colorado Springs to see my family and friends, to Chicago for the buildings, and to Los Angeles for Thanksgiving with my family-in-law.

I spent time with old friends and new and continuously astonished by the amazing people I am privileged to know. And am thankful for my family more each year.  May I learn to show you all the love you should receive.

Construction Site in Colorado
In May, my family and Ben's good friends went to Lake Crescent on the Olympic Peninsula (Ben's favorite place) to spend the day remembering him and to sprinkle his ashes.  It was a beautiful day and I think offered companionship and release to us all.

This year, I plan to finally start taking the architectural exams, figure out where I'm going to live next, travel to Europe with my sister Cheryl
and maybe work on a new book or build a boat or at least pickle something.  Or maybe send real Christmas cards?

(Lord willing and the creek don't rise)

Cheers from within the Slow Reveal,