Some days I wake up and try to decide what kind of flower I feel like that day. Some days I wake up and decide what color I feel like... and then I choose my colored scrubs accordingly. I was daydreaming a little yesterday... wondering what kind of flower I felt like... and I think I might have felt like a Plumeria. Mild, but pleasing, tropical fragrance... plain... simple... color a little bit washed out but still there... delicate... and most of all... easily bruised.
I've been a little bit emotional lately. It's finals week right now for me and I haven't been able to focus on my finals. Mostly kind of riding the waves day to day. I'm hoping that by blogging out some thoughts I'll be able to purge and then focus will return.
I can't remember when it was... but I can recall one time that I felt so irrationally hurt by something that shouldn't have impacted me so much... was the day when I was chit chatting with someone I had just met... and I'm not sure why it was said... but this person said, "oh, you were only married six months? so it's like you weren't married at all!" I don't think I got angry at the moment. But I did get angry. How dare anyone belittle my six months of marriage. How dare you judge me by the length of time I was married. I highly doubt this person even remembers my name. I don't remember their name either but I remember their face. I'm not angry about it anymore but I do remember what was said and how it made me feel. My heart sinks a little bit when I am reminded of that day.
So I had a recent bout of perplexing emotions surrounding what should have been a fairly inert recounting of events. I won't really go into the details but I was taken aback... almost floored even... by the realization that... my widowdom... is not seen by everyone as a good thing... it's actually kind of a negative characteristic usually. And I'm speaking in the context of my singleness and "viability" on the market, to be crude about it.
I know it kinda sounds elementary. And I'm not going to group it with other "red flags" like... hm... drug abuse... a criminal record... a history of gold digging? Or I was talking to someone else recently who asked me if I considered someone's education or the degrees they've earned as part of their datability or "criteria". I don't know why I never really thought about it. Maybe it's time I did.
The more I think about Anderson, the more I am amazed by him. This man loved me. Like seriously loved me. I really don't think I was that lovable when he met me... like 8 years ago. I still may not be that lovable but I think I might have mellowed out a bit since then. I tolerate myself a lot better nowadays. Dunno about you. But... I seriously lucked out with Anderson. OK it wasn't luck. It was God's sovereignty. I was his first and last girlfriend. Everything we did together, every adventure we had... I knew it was special to him because it was the first time he'd ever done any of it. I was his first everything... and I was the wife he chose to stick with him to the end. Oh how I wish that he could have been my first everything too. But sadly... by the time I met him, there had already been a few before. He never made me feel bad about them, but I know he struggled with it. He mentioned once or twice about anger and jealousy... but he never took it out on me. I don't know what he did with it because I was an insanely jealous girlfriend. He didn't have any exes but I somehow invented people to be jealous of because I was that crazy. It took us years before we got past my jealousy. And he was patient with me. So very patient. And I'm not exaggerating or idolizing him. If you knew him at all, you'd know that he was remarkably patient, level-headed, and usually very calm. I was always the crazy one.
Did I tell you guys that I started going to grief group? About a month ago, I started going. It's been nice. Cathartic. A lovely time. It's a beautiful ministry. And I think this Tuesday night will be the last one I'll be able to attend for a while. Because it will be my last one, I asked if it would be OK if I brought some pictures to show them. I thought about what I would say. I haven't come up with the specifics but the gist of it is... that Anderson Chen, his life intersecting with mine... and also his death... is overall, the best thing that ever happened to me.
His impact on my life has been profound. There is very little of me that has been left untouched by him. My life now has been deeply impacted by him... my nursing, my schooling... even my dissertation topic. There is a nursing theory called, "the nurse as the wounded healer". There are many stages described by this theory, but the highest level you can reach... is transcendence. After having confronted your loss... to be able to transcend it and use it to help others... that's what a wounded healer should aim to do/be. I can't get through one single class in my doctoral program without somehow integrating those experiences I've had with Anderson while we were in Houston... living in hospitals... battling cancer together. And I don't know if my classmates are sick of hearing it by now... but I wouldn't be surprised if they referred to me as Tiff, the widow nurse. You know... I wonder... if all of this has been my training... if Anderson was God's most powerful training instrument. It's prepared me for school... it's helped me at work... it's given me a lot of life experience and stories to tell... and not even the best part... I have now experienced God in ways I have never experienced before. I understand more than I ever have. I have experienced passion and love and joy that I can't say I have experienced before all of this happened. Being chosen by God to be His daughter is definitely the best thing that's ever happened to me... and Him using Anderson to help me see Him... definitely the best thing ever. I would go through it all again if it meant that I would gain a deeper understanding of God, His love, His grace... if being widowed once has colored my world so vibrant... I think I would be OK with doing it all over again if that's what it takes for me to gain a better understanding of God.
I did tell someone recently that... sometimes people tend to spiral into their own thoughts and if they don't stay grounded in the Word or through other people... they kind of tend to lose their grip on reality... and then their own thoughts, no matter how ridiculous... become reality to them. So maybe this is what happened to me. I'm not saying that widowdom is all fun and games. It is the most intense suffering I've experienced in my life. Having my heart joined in unity with the love of my life and then to have it ripped out of my body, torn in half, and left for dead... that was not altogether the happiest moment of my life either. But what came afterwards... as a result of God's love for me... picking me up, cradling me in His hands... and putting me back together again... was the most miraculous act of love and healing that I have ever experienced... and all of that is precious and valuable... to me. Maybe not to anyone else.
I don't know if you remember that blog post... from August... when I was driving around crying and being tormented by the question, "who would want you?"... I feel like this past weekend was a follow-up to that encounter. Not only did Jesus tell me that HE wants me... but He also very gently reminded me... that I am very special. And I kinda mean that like... special ed and not "you're a pretty pretty princess" special. It was humbling. I am not the catch of the century. Yeah. Shocking, isn't it? (try to read some sarcasm if you can).
After my shocking realization... and after a handful of amazing friends came to my emotional rescue... Jesus said to me... that I am a delicate flower... a Plumeria maybe... and that if there is a man that would be willing to carry that flower in his hand... that man would require special training... and a very special, unselfish heart.
I was walking around with my cousin while we were shopping... and she was inspecting this purse that she possibly wanted to buy. It had a scratch on it but it was the only one left. We decided that she should just get it and then go to another store and see if she could find a better one. It's different when you make the scratch after you've bought it. No one really wants to choose a purse with a scratch already on it. You choose to buy the perfect one.
My friend and I were having lunch and her water bottle label had a rip in it. Mine didn't. I looked at the ripped one and I saw... myself. Two bottles on a shelf... one label ripped... one label intact. Someone would probably choose the intact one even though the ripped label has no impact on the water inside the bottle. I think God was reemphasizing the point for me... that it takes someone a little extraordinary who will choose the ripped bottle... who will buy the purse with the scratch... knowing that even though he didn't make the scratch... he could still buy and love the purse anyway... [omg OK so I know that (most) men wouldn't buy and use a purse but just go with my analogy...] so... since He's taking so much time and care to prepare that heart for me... wait for it.
I am darn sure that God would not withhold good things from me. What I've got right now is singleness and since God's way is better than Tiff's way 100% of the time... this is what is best right now. Maybe I've still got some more growing to do... maybe God's not done preparing me yet. Maybe God's not done preparing someone for me yet either. Or maybe there is no one in my future and I'm supposed to finish my life journey hand in hand with Jesus alone. He was expert at seeing past the rips and tears... past the dirty clothes, the scuffs and bruises... He saw the Samaritan woman at the well when no one else would stop to realize her value. Now for a man to have a heart like Jesus's and to see beyond my exterior, beyond my widowdom... and value my heart...and my potential more than the scars of my past... I think that is worth waiting for, right? Yes. Must keep reminding myself of that.
Part of Dan's sermon yesterday was on living in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ. He made a good analogy of putting a beautiful, juicy steak... on a dirty plate with old food stuck to it... maybe streaks of mold around it. We need to be clean plates. We were dirty plates but we were washed clean and a big steak was put on us... and as part of presenting the gospel rightly... we need to keep on striving in our sanctification. We need to obey. Another thing I remember was that obedience to God's commandments was not meant to stifle us... it was meant to free us. It was meant to be a good thing.
I don't think I walked in a manner worthy of the gospel... before Anderson. Shoot, I still might not be. But I know that my mistakes... my careless disregard for the preciousness of my purity... it really hurt Anderson. Back then... I don't think I cared about my faceless husband. I think I thought that my boyfriends were the face of my husband... but they weren't. The heart is such a precious thing. I remember my dad telling me that my heart was like gum. When you stick two pieces of gum together... you can't ever cleanly separate them. There's always going to be pieces of you stuck to the other gum, and pieces of the other gum stuck to you. The more you keep sticking your gum to things, the more of "you" you leave behind. And it's true. Nothing ever feels quite like your first kiss. I can't ever get that back and regift it to anyone else. I remember going through breakups and feeling so used and worthless. Restoration and healing only came from God. I kinda wanted to write to my husband. I guess future... but if there is no future husband, then it's just addressed to Jesus.
From the deepest depths of my heart, with every fiber of my being, I want to tell you that I love you.
I... have nothing to say to defend myself. I've made mistakes in my past and I cannot change them. I wish I would have been wise and respectful to you and I wish I had waited for God to bring you to me rather than to compromise for a temporary, fleeting, fleshly gain. I implore your forgiveness for my foolishness and blatant disregard for you and your feelings. God had already told me that He has amazing plans for me. I'm so, so sorry I didn't believe them with full faith throughout my entire life. I... hope that you will forgive me and accept me as I am.
I know I may not be who you imagined or who you would have wanted to marry if you ever dreamt about it when you were younger. I know you probably would not have chosen to be the second husband to a widow... you probably would have wanted to be someone's first and last. And I know it takes someone very special not only to love me, but to love who I love... even if it means also loving my love for my first husband, which I am not sure will ever go away. It is a lot to ask and I do not take it lightly that you have knowingly taken this burden as part of loving and carrying me... and entrusting me to be your helper and also maybe the mother of your children and queen of your household. And yes, honey, that makes you king.
I cannot change the past... I can only do what I can from now on to live in a manner worthy of the Gospel of Christ... and worthy of your love. I hope that I will not forget... I hope that from this moment on... the commitment I am making to you today... before I see your face smiling at me from the end of the aisle... will warm your heart and reassure you that I am wholly yours. I will not split my heart again. I am dedicating myself to loving and pursuing our God with all my heart, soul, mind and strength... preserving what I have, allowing God to grow me, mold me, and restore me... and guarding the best of me for Him... and also for you.
Thank you for loving me and thank you for wanting to embark on the epic adventure of life with me at your side. I love you and I'm excited... for us. It's gonna be awesome!
p.s. you look hot in that tux. or suit. or whatever you're wearing when you're reading this. Jeans? Pajamas? K. I'm ending this now. Love you!