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,


Friday, October 24


"I came to Camp for two things: Ro. Mance." My youth pastor, playing a high school girl in a camp skit.

When I was a girl, I believed in love as all-powerful, magical destiny.  Sure, Disney was involved, but the belief was bigger than that.  For example, if only, if only Christine had chosen to stay with Erik at the end of Phantom of the Opera she totally could have saved him.  All that psychopath needed was love, right?  Christine seemed like a bit of a pansy to me, especially when she bailed.

Now?  I've seen too many real life people get dragged into abusive relationships, and witnessed that love alone is no cure for mental illness.  As soon as Christine starts hearing a strange man's voice in her dressing room, I'm like "Christine!!  Leave!  Paris!  Run!!  Also, Raul is kinda boring - no need to take him along."

I yell at the couple in The Notebook "You provide false evidence that romantic love is the only satisfaction and fulfillment needed in life!  Also, you are both extremely boring and so perhaps you do deserve each other.  Why did I even read this book?"

I yell at the Little Mermaid "Don't give up your world, change your body, and make a deal with the devil for a man you don't know!!  Actually, don't even do most of those things for a man you do know."  (side note: I'd love to see Ariel on Hoarders).

I'm a crazy lady who yells at fictional people apparently.  But that's not the point.  I'd gotten to a place where I'd see a RomCom and be fuming about all the lies that the current media does, and let's be real, humanity has always told about love.

Naturally, I married a Myers-Briggs Feeler to my Thinker - Ben: who made (quite good) decisions based on 'intuition' and was partial to the Romantic Grand Gesture.  We compromised: he could buy me flowers, but not on Valentine's Day when they are exorbitantly priced and cliche.

Fairy tale?  No, just a beautiful moment in real life.
Despite coming home to find surprise flowers (or once, a piano) waiting for me, marriage provided firsthand evidence that even my favorite person wouldn't always be there for me.  Well-intentioned as we both might be, we wouldn't always be on the same page, and certainly didn't understand everything about each other.  We absolutely weren't all the other needed, and we weren't capable of taking responsibility for making the other into the person they wanted to be.  Those expectations, my friends, are the root of disappointment and dysfunction.

Here's the plot twist: over the last few years, I've come to believe in romance again.  But not in quite the same way.  You see, all those those failures of human love come true with the God who created us, and fought and sacrificed to win us back.

I'm not Christine.  I'm the Phantom of the Opera - pleading for the Love that will rescue me "from the dominion of darkness" and into the light. (Col. 1:13)

I am Cinderella, waiting to be whisked away from bondage and drudgery to marry the King's son (Rev. 21)(Hosea 2:16-20).

Is this grandiose thinking?  Indeed!  But such is God's plan!

I am Jack Nickolson in "As Good as it Gets", having found the Love that "Make(s) me want to be a better (wo)man". (Psalm 119:10)

I am what-their-faces from The Notebook (though hopefully more interesting), because this Love will complete me, fulfill me and satisfy me. (Isaiah 55:1-3... and so many other places).
My Lover knows everything about me, and cherishes me still (Psalm 139).  I want to know Him better too (He's definitely the mysterious type).

He even has my name tattooed onto his hands (Isaiah 49:16)  I can't wait to see what font He picked!  And to look up and see His face!

Sunday, October 5

To Be a Faithful Witness

Hello Friends,

It's been a year since "Greatly, Deeply" was released.  This is the book mostly by Ben with some of my writing, an intro from our friend Greg, and much work from a team of editor friends.  The book named after a rephrasing of an A.W. Tozer quote:

"Whom God will use greatly, he will also wound deeply,"

(which, for the record, I consider to be a rule of thumb and not a law)

It's been one  year since we had the Book Release party where we served foods from the book and I threw a stack of dollar bills into the air.

One year since I released meticulously crafted promotional posters, such as:

"If you don't read 'Greatly, Deeply,' -
Someone else will."

Or the gem below:

Some awesome readers have left reviews on Amazon, but I've been a little radio silent..  Erika, my chief editor, did a stellar job with her promo post last year.  But I'm a mediocre sales person and tell myself that it's a little vain to seriously push this book, toward which I'm more than a little biased.  Seriously, last year when we were putting it together I told the editors: "I'll review and write new copy, but don't ask me to participate in content selection. I won't be able to narrow it down." 

But no more. 

Because Ben's voice has been alongside me this year in ways I did not expect.  On occasion, it's sad - like when I got sick last month.  Being so presently aware of the limitations of the body in those conditions and how Ben lived in that state for years brought me to tears.

But mostly, he's a guide for the difficult times.  As I feel like I don't fit in anywhere, constantly homesick for something I don't think exists in this life, I read Ben's blog entries about how there really isn't a "home" for us in this world and remember that we are groaning for the redemption of the world and our bodies.  And that frees me to go wherever God is at work.

When I feel alone in my path in life, I remember Ben's favorite thing about God:
 "God doesn't change, but God doesn't always work the same way. That is my favorite thing about God. He wants the best for me, but He's not going to send me down the same path that someone else took to get there."

As Ben waited - for healing, for purpose in his suffering, and really, for Heaven - there's been much waiting and ever more waiting for me.  And I remember how Ben learned to live in the waiting, and that despite the lack of resolution, his life, and God's work in him, was Now.  It was real life.  And mine is Now.  Even though I'm not sure where I'll be living in four months. 

I read about how Ben found hope in God.  How he always professed that hope and intended that hope, but was brought to a place where he actually had to rely on that hope.  How the cancer was never good, but how God used it as a tool, to shape Ben into a tool.  And I try to bravely say with Ben:
"I hope at the end of my life I can look back and see where God has chosen to use me, and where I let myself be used. It seems safer to be a tool that never gets used. You'll never get chipped, or worn, or break. But to be used is exciting, dangerous, and you are serving your purpose."

What he said below sums up some of the quandary and complexity of my petitions to God these days:

"I don't know how to respond any longer to people who ask me to pray for things that will go smoothly, safely, or that some event that looks like it could be a huge thing would be nothing. I am pretty sure God uses each and every bump, ding, scratch, fender-bender, or totality to teach us more about Him. When we ask God to "please keep so and so safe..." or "Quickly heal whatshisname..." aren't we essentially asking God to make our lives easier at the price of getting to know Him better?"

So I truly throw my recommendation into the internet ring.  Ben's writing is clear and accessible, and his journey was genuine.  I testify to that.  This book offers companionship and enlightenment into how God shapes a person through suffering.

To close, Psalm 40:9-10.  Which I too often fail to follow, but not tonight.

I have told the glad news of deliverance
in the great congregation;
behold, I have not restrained my lips,
as you know, O Lord.
I have not hidden your deliverance within my heart;
I have spoken of your faithfulness and your salvation;
I have not concealed your steadfast love and your faithfulness
from the great congregation.