I like things neat and tidy, but I married a very creative person for whom tidiness was low on the list of priorities. Sometimes my desire for tidy interfered with her desire to be creative. I remember more than once I would be in the kitchen with her while she was baking. I would assume that she was done using a particular ingredient and would return it to its place in our cupboard; however, she wasn't quite done and would get very frustrated with me. "Mr. Tidy meet Miss Creative". As time passed I relaxed, and she tried to control the chaotic aftermath of her creative surges. But now as I have been working to clean out our house, I realize that our house is a reflection of her life. She wanted to finish well as everyone who attended her memorial service heard, but honestly she left much unfinished. I remember hearing her say more than once that she could never live long enough to do all the things that interested her. Those words seem strangely prophetic now.
So I began the process of cleaning out our house beginning with the plethora of baskets that contained various craft supplies. (I didn't know there were that many baskets in our house or the world for that matter. I now know that my wife was a basket-holic.) Stephanie kept large quantities of material swatches in those baskets. I was able to give those swatches to some friends who are quilters. The exploration of that section of our house revealed a lot of unfinished projects: quilting projects, needle point work and other various initiatives requiring fabric.
Having completed that task, I moved into another passion of her life - children's ministry. This endeavor consumed a lot of time and energy as I tried to sort through and determine which items had value for everyone. Eventually I offered these resources to our church's Children's Ministry Coordinator who appeared to be as happy as a the proverbial kid in a candy store when she saw the bounty.
Recently I sorted through some of the supplies Steph used for her piano teaching business. I found clever devices she had created and used to motivate her students to practice. There were also little games she used to make the learning process fun. It made me wish she had been teaching when I was a kid trying to learn piano.
One night I sorted through a tub of supplies she had used for Camp CMA - a children's camp she ran in New Hampshire for the New England District. In that tub were detailed lists of supplies, staff and camper profiles, lesson plans and activity ideas. She also had detailed budgets and financial records. There were also many pictures that I sorted through and gleaned a few keepers.
My next challenge is a daunting one - I have to do an archaeological dig on the corner of our house where her business "The Cracked Bead" was located. I stuck my toe into that current but quickly retreated. I don't think I can go there unaccompanied. I might get lost in there. I might have to tie a tether to my waste before I get in too deep. I'm definitely keeping my cell phone nearby although I'm not sure how I would describe my predicament if I had to call "911".
In all of this cleaning out I have been reminded of how creative, talented and clever Stephanie was and how privileged I was to be married to her. I also have realized that tidiness can seem boring, but I'm willing to risk it. But I have also reflected on the fact that she did finish well even though she left some things unfinished.
Throughout the years many friends encouraged her to publish her children's Bible curriculum entitled "God Wants You Back" This curriculum is still used and treasured at The Community Chapel. Stephanie was never able to go the next step of submitting it to a publisher. Perhaps she lacked the confidence needed.
Steph also had a book title in mind, "Take Nothing for the Journey". The title was based on Jesus' words in Luke 9:3 when he was sending some of His followers out for ministry. It was to be the story of her journey to emotional healing. The last few months of her life, I encouraged her to write it, even offering to be her secretary, but it remained unfinished.
Finally, Stephanie had been working on a journey to emotional healing. Raised in a dysfunctional family with all of its secrets and manipulation, she realized that she had been the victim of physical and emotional abuse and neglect, and also sexual molestation. Steph fought hard to overcome the damage caused by this system, but the wounds were very deep and hard to overcome.
So Stephanie did finish well, but she left some things unfinished. I imagine that is true for many people; in fact, when my life is over I hope the same will be said about me. Being unfinished is a part of living, but what's important is to keep trying, to keep dreaming, to keeping hoping and trusting.
As I was working on this blog I read an entry in a book entitled "From My Grieving Heart To Yours". Written by Charles Shepson, a retired C&MA pastor, it is a journal of his grief after losing his wife. It has been a very helpful companion for me. In the entry I read today (November 23), he wrote about a little girl named Heather who said to her mother one day, "Jesus is painting a picture of me, and He isn't finished yet." Shepson responded to those words by saying:
"I remember so well the evening when Jesus finished painting my sweetheart's portrait, and she was given permission to step down from the pose she had struck. Perhaps I should say "up" for at that precious moment she stepped up into His glorious Presence."
Stephanie did finish well, and on July 25, 2015 at 2:15 a.m. she stepped "up" from her pose and into Christ's presence. The painting of her was complete.