July 1, 2015

The Potter's Hands

Sometimes the news seems to come in waves.  The last few weeks there has been an onslaught of news regarding the tragic loss of children - the baby born lifeless, teenagers in a car accident, more than one child run over by a parent.  Even writing the words feels wrong and harsh and yet they are reality.  These families are struggling right now to cope with the path they've been put on but didn't ask for.  Each phone call, text, or news passed on to us was like a punch in the gut.  I know all too well a bit of the journey ahead of these families and one minute everything in me wants to spare them the path and in the next I am begging God to meet them on it and that they would see Him more clearly through it.

It is interesting the timing of this latest string of tragedies.  I am receiving the news of all of them knowing that just a few short days from now I will wake to the morning of the day that I faced my own similar tragedy 11 years ago.  As I have prayed for these hurting families, talked with some, and pondered each situation, I have had two thoughts swirling.  Today I will tackle one of them.

Many times I have written on the topic of our loss and what God has been teaching me over the years but I have never fully shared the story in writing. Today I will do so not to point to the events of the story but to point to the Author of it and the hope we have in Him.

The 4th of July was always one of my favorite holidays as a child.  For years my family celebrated it at the home my great grandparents lived in on Lake Movil in MN.  I can still smell the scent of the water, hear the tinkling of the wind chime, and see the many flowers they had planted and were growing on their property.  Those were innocent days in my young childhood. There has been many a 4th of July since where I wished I could journey back to those times and enjoy the simple pleasures and the carefree days they brought. We all grow up though, and the road of life begins to take unexpected turns.  Eleven years ago, the 4th of July and life as a whole changed forever when we met a huge, unexpected turn in the road.

I was a young, happy mom with two little boys only 17 months apart in age.  I wouldn't have wanted life any different.  Not only was the 4th of July coming up but also an all school reunion in the little town where we lived.  We were preparing to host my husband's family for the weekend's festivities, making our house home base as we ran to various events.

When the weekend arrived it was fast paced and busy.  I distinctly remember a lot of running around and busyness, especially on the 4th itself.  It was a Sunday and there was a community church service followed by lunch at our house.  I can remember running all over getting food ready for the whole crew and looking up to see someone was holding our 4 month old son, Micah, who had been napping.  He was all smiles but I had no time to stop.

The afternoon flew by and we set out for my in-laws' farm to grab a quick supper and then we would be off to a huge fireworks show in another town an hour away.  After we had eaten, everyone was getting ready to load the vehicles when someone noticed that my husband and one of the boys had on matching sweatshirts and me and our other son had on matching sweatshirts.  It was suggested we take a family picture so we did.  What we didn't know was that it would be the last one we would ever take with all 4 of us.

The family was a pretty big group so we drove to the show in several vehicles, one of them being our van.  Upon arriving, the vehicles went in different directions on either side of the road to find a place to park.  It was dusk and it was busy.  Thousands of people attend this show so there were cars and people everywhere!  We parked in the ditch just like we had the year before and then we all flew out of the vehicle, hurrying so we could go get a good spot to watch the show.   We never made it to that show.

  Sometimes in life you look back and wonder why you made the choices you did and there is no great explanation.  Unfortunately, on some occasions those choices are life and death.  In my haste to get us going to find good seats that night, I took Micah in his car seat, out of the van so others could get out of the back, and I set him on the grass.  Then I proceeded to grab the stroller from the back and begin to set it up.  While this was taking place, my husband had never gotten out of the van.  Someone had come up to him and asked him to move the van somewhere else. He asked if it was all clear.  All of us assumed he would backup and gave him the go ahead to move.  He backed up a few feet.  My father-in-law was in the front passenger seat and had his head turned toward my husband driving and back to see out the back.  Before he could turn around, and without any of us standing around realizing what he was doing, my husband switched from backing-up to pulling forward and to the right.  I had my back to the scene, my father-in-law never had a chance to get turned around,  and my husband had never left the van so he did not realize Micah was there.  He ended up placing the front right wheel right on top of Micah in his car seat.   Nothing quite prepares a person for a moment like that one.

We happened to be standing just a couple hundred feet from a door directly into a trauma room in the hospital.  I vaguely remember someone scooping up his seat and running it in to that room.  My husband and I followed and for the next couple hours we found ourselves watching a wonderful team of individuals fighting to save our baby. We were eventually told that he had to be airlifted to the next bigger town, they didn't have room for us, but they needed someone to get there (an hour drive at normal speeds) to sign papers.  At that point we decided that a friend would drive my husband to meet the helicopter at the next hospital and I would stay with Micah and my in-laws would drive me once he was on his way.

It ended up taking quite some time to stabilize him so he could be airlifted.  Once he was on his way, I began what felt like the longest drive of my life.  There was a long conversation in that car that night but none of it was audible.  The conversation consisted of me pleading with God to heal my son and God clearly impressing on my heart what was about to happen.  "Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death..." (Psalm 23:4a) kept running through my mind.  I would tell God over and over that I didn't want to go there and I would know without a doubt that He was telling me repeatedly that is where we were going.  There was also a song that kept coming to mind.  The song had a line in it that said, "Sometimes He calms the storm and other times He calms His child."  I asked God many times to calm the storm this time and heal my baby, and again, I knew He was speaking to my heart that this time He would be calming me and not the storm.  There would be no healing this side of heaven.  God used that drive to prepare my heart.  I knew with certainty that not only was I about to lose my son but that he would not be alive when I arrived at the hospital.  It wasn't that I doubted God's ability to heal Micah. God met me in those dark moments in that car, helped me to understand where we were headed, and gave me the opportunity to trust Him even on this hard journey.  God could have healed him but He had different, better plans for us.

While I was driving the doctors came to my husband and said they were sorry but there was nothing more they could do.  He went in and held our baby boy as he died.  At some point that night a chaplain came to him and fumbling for words for my grieving husband the man told him that now is the time we find our faith.  My husband looked at him and with confidence told him that now is the time he could crawl into his Father's lap because he had his faith.  We both knew what we believed at this point and still believe now.   We believe in a sovereign God who doesn't make mistakes.  We believe He loves us and has good plans for us (Jeremiah 29:11) and that He is working out good things even through this tragedy (Romans 8:28).  We believe we each have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ and that because of that we have hope that this life isn't all there is and that there is a heaven waiting for us where we will see our son again.  (1 Peter 1:3-9)  He didn't need to find his faith because he already had it.  He and I both needed to trust God to be who He says He is in His Word and to keep His promises.

By the time I arrived at the hospital, Micah had already passed away.  I found Todd holding him in a side room and had a chance to hold him myself.  I remember looking down at him and realizing that I had a choice to make about how I would move forward in life.  Would I get lost in grief, anger, bitterness, or guilt?  Or would I choose to trust God and walk with Him through this valley.  I know God used my husband to help me confidently make the choice to trust God even if I didn't fully know what that would look like.  He told me he knew God had prepared us for this and was so sure of God's care and sovereignty in that moment.  He instilled me with confidence as well.

That night was the start of a journey we have been on ever since.  We have been learning how to fight for joy.  We have worked to cling to hope.  We have learned to understand what God means in Romans 8:28 when He said, "And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose."  The key to that verse is the one after it.  "For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers." (Romans 8:29). This life is about God and His glory.  He uses situations like this to make us more like His son, Jesus.  The life of smooth roads does not teach us to depend on God and does not help us to become like Christ.  That is the "good."  It is not Good as we define it which would be everything just like we want it to be.  The good is making people like Christ for God's glory.  The rough roads that go through deep valleys show us how much we need God, show us who He is, and shape us to be like the Son.

The name of this blog came as a result of the story God is writing with our lives.  He took us down a hard road we would not have chosen and we learned what it says in Isaiah 64:8 to be true.   He is the Potter and we are the clay.  He is shaping us to be who He wants us to be and for His glory.  We have learned to trust the hands of the Potter.

The tragedy we faced was awful.  Eleven years later I still have times where I have to battle lies and guilt over the events of that night.  To me though, an even greater tragedy would be for anyone to read this story and walk away with the thought that we are strong people.  If you do, you missed the point entirely. We are not strong at all and that is what we learned through all of this.  We are desperately in need of God.  We were before this event and we are today.  Everyone on this planet is.  God proved HIMSELF strong and big in our lives. I want anyone reading this to walk away wanting to know that awesome and great God.  You can, and He can give you the same peace and hope He gives us everyday and certainly in the midst of our loss.  We are all sinners and that sin separates us from God (Romans 3:23, 6:23). However, God made a way for us to know Him and live with Him some day when He sent His son, Jesus, to the earth.  He lived a perfect life, was killed on a cross, and rose again 3 days later to pay for your sin and mine. We each to need to recognize we can never do enough good to pay for our own sin (Ephesians 2:8-9).  We need Jesus and are saved by God's grace when we trust in Him as God's Son and that He died for you and me to pay the penalty for our sin. (John 3:16).  That is how you can have a relationship with Christ and what will give you the hope that you have an eternity with Him ahead of you.

To the families who are grieving the loss of their children even as I write this, the ones we have recently heard about, my heart has been broken for them.  My prayer is that as they walk through this valley they would find God to be the big, faithful God we know Him to be.  I pray they would find rest in the hope of a relationship with Christ.  And I pray that they could trust the hands of the Potter as He shapes them for His glory and their good - not good as defined by this world, but the good of God's economy which means either working to bring them to a relationship with Him or working to make them like the Son.

December 24, 2014

When Grief is Too Great

It is possible she doesn’t even remember, but I will never forget.  It isn’t the exact words that linger in the recesses of my memory; it is the general idea of what was exchanged in that conversation that changed me forever.

To anyone else it may have seemed like a normal conversation, a run-of-the-mill chat between moms – sisters-in-law.  We both knew better, however.  One of us was broken. 

  Beyond broken. 

  Just plain shattered. 

  She shared it simply, a story any mom might share of her two children.  It felt like a punch to the gut.  I was supposed to have two children close together like hers.  I was supposed to have stories to tell just as she did. 

You can’t tell stories of two children when one is gone and one is left.

The words that came next have burrowed deep into my heart.  They came with a sting and yet there was a little piece of my heart that latched onto them as if they were an invitation to something greater.  I know to this day she has no idea the impact of the simplest of words that I can’t even repeat verbatim.  I don’t remember.  I remember only the general idea and how they changed me.
She gently, quietly told me she almost didn’t share the story.  She knew it would hurt, but she also knew that I didn’t want her to hold back. She knew I wanted her and others to go on living and loving life even if my world was turned upside down.   

Did I agree with those words in my brokenhearted state?  I honestly wasn’t sure.  Part of me wanted to fight against that idea!  I wanted to tell her the story did hurt, and please don’t tell me any more since that cannot be my life!  Those words though, they were resonating through my being, challenging me to live beyond the empire of ME and allow God to have control of every part of my being and my story.

It was a moment of decision. 

Was my pain about me or was it an opportunity to glorify God?  That is what I was made for, why we were all made (Isaiah 43:7). 

  Should everyone be thinking about me and my pain, or would I truly live out Romans 12:15 and rejoice with those who rejoice even if I was trying to pull together the pieces of my heart after living through the circumstances that should never be – the burying of a tiny casket?  Could I rejoice in the good gifts others were experiencing with them because my joy wasn’t found in my circumstances?

I was never the same again.  A slow transformation of my heart began.

Christmas came less than 5 months after holding my son for the last time and sometime after this conversation took place.  To say Christmas had a sting to it would be an understatement.  This “best time of the year” left me in a place far from jolly.  At every turn was a reminder of what a wonderful family time it was supposed to be, and how it could not be such a time for my family because we had a gaping hole. 

I traveled back down memory lane to those hard days a couple weeks ago when I read this facebook post by Kay Warren. These are the words of a broken and hurting mother.  My heart goes out to her and resonates with her on many levels.  I had tears when I read her post.  Tears because I knew some of her pain, tears because my heart hurt so terribly for her, but tears also because the nature of what was said grieved me.  Please understand, I in no way cast judgment on this mother for what she said here.  She is still in an extremely raw place of grief.  However, as a mother who has also faced tragic, and devastating loss, I could not agree completely with what was written especially the last line, 

“So, on behalf of grieving parents everywhere, if you aren’t willing to modify your way of sending cards for a while, please do us a favor and take us off your list.”

I do not feel that way and did not even in those painful months after our loss.  God used that conversation I had with my sister-in-law to change me.  It allowed me to learn valuable lessons about being a follower of Christ even in my darkest days of grief.  It was the start of another lesson later that my joy was not found in my circumstances but in knowing God intimately and the depths of sorrow could not rob that and leave me joyless.

What God taught me through my grief was not that others should think more about me and my grief.  He did not teach me that others should think more about the hurting of this world.  No, He taught me that I should think more about others. 

That very first Christmas, when I couldn’t figure out how to breathe some days and every Christmas card opened brought tears to my eyes, He began to teach me not to see those merry little Christmas cards with frustration.  For the first time I was beginning to read between the lines and see through the pictures into the hearts and lives of those precious souls who had sent them. 

I began to really see.

Ever so slowly I recognized there is a world out there full of heartache and souls desperate for hope represented by every card.  Everyone has a story and not a one is perfect and pain free. 

Not a one.

 Every card also represented rich blessings from the Father worth celebrating.

Were there people who sent cheery cards to us without a single consoling word or even recognition of the horrors we had faced?  Absolutely.  Did that mean those people didn’t care or didn’t remember our pain? No.  By God’s GREAT grace alone, I understood that important fact.  He alone could grant the understanding I needed that some of those dear people were not experiencing any deep personal pain at that time but joys to be celebrated.  Some were afraid to say anything lest they would direct our thoughts to our pain.  Others were at a total loss for what to say and fearful of saying the wrong thing.  Still others were simply trying to hold their own broken worlds together and sending a normal card was one way to feel like all was well, or perhaps even an attempt to mask the heartache they were experiencing.  There were stories behind each one – lives full of joys to be rejoiced over and sorrows to be wept over.

It wasn’t the job of everyone else to see me, it was my privilege and responsibility as a follower of Jesus to see them.  I cannot control the choices of others, but I can choose to “rejoice with those who rejoice; weep with those who weep” no matter what state of brokenness I am in.
Every person has to walk their own journey of grief and does so differently.  As I said, I don’t write this to in any way cast judgment on Mrs. Warren.  My heart breaks for her.  However, I believe that God can use our deepest pain to usher us into a place of not saying “here is what the world can do for me,” but rather becoming 2 Corinthians 1:4 kind of people.  “He comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any kind of affliction, through the comfort we ourselves receive from God.”  He can enable us even in our dark days to see what Ecclesiastes says, that there is a time to dance and a time to mourn and those times are not all aligned for all people.
It is a good thing to be honest about the depths of our broken hearts, but ultimately the answer to our hurt is not that others would think more about us – people will always disappoint.  

The answer to our pain is for us to think more about Christ.  

He is the one who came to heal the brokenhearted (Isaiah 61:1).

This Christmas, no matter the state you are in, look around you, read between the lines of those Christmas letters, and see through the pictures to the hearts of those you know and love.  Where there is joy, rejoice with those friends and family!  Wherever you see and know of hurt and pain, be the hands and feet of Jesus to those people.  Don’t be afraid to say something about their pain.  Meet a physical need of which you are aware.  Pray for them.  Call them.  Hold out hope to them in these ways.  That is what Christmas is all about.

 If you have recently stood over a casket, if you are staring a diagnosis in the face, if you have been wounded or abandoned, or if wrong seems to be winning, don’t look for encouragement or hope in the people around you.  Come and adore Him.  Emmanuel.  He is your healer and hope.  The babe that came to be with us, to die, but didn’t stay dead.  One day He is coming back and He will redeem all of it!

“Look!  God’s dwelling is with His humanity, and He will live with them.  They will be His people, and God Himself will be with them and be their God.  He will wipe away every tear from their eyes.  Death will exist no longer, because the previous things have passed away.” Revelation 21:3-4

Merry Christmas

November 27, 2014

Legacy Thankfulness

Dear Dad and Mom,

This one goes out to you.  It is Thanksgiving tomorrow and last night I spent a great deal of time thinking  about something for which I am grateful.


I am thankful for you and for all you taught me.  I could fill a book with the wisdom you imparted to me over the years, but last night I was thinking about one thing in particular. I was thinking how thankful I am for your teaching me to work.

Thank you for not buying video games.  Thank you for limiting my time in front of a TV.  Thank you for not filling my life with stuff.  But today especially, thank you for teaching me to work, to work hard, and to find joy and satisfaction in it.

Last night long after dark had settled in, I stepped outside for the daunting task of shoveling our driveway which was buried under several inches of snow.  I can't say I started with a good attitude but something changed along the way.  I was quickly transported back through time to my childhood and many days pushing snow.  Those memories led to a myriad of thoughts about my gratitude for all the life lessons about work that I was given. Here is what I would like to thank you for on this Thanksgiving Day.

Thanks, Dad and Mom, for not buying a snow blower when I was a kid.  I am thankful you put a shovel in my hands and sent me out the door.  Thank you for handing me a  hand clippers to trim around trees and walkways.  I now fully appreciate the rake put into hands every fall and the mountain of wood I was sent out to stack. I  am  grateful for the push mower that I spent countless hours with making the rounds of our large yard.  I am thankful for the days when the sweat dripped, my legs got tired, and my hands hurt

All of those chores have some things in common.  Each one was hard work, was tiring, and didn't sound fun when I was sent out to do them.  However, that is not all they had in common.   They also taught perseverance, a good work ethic , and how to find joy and satisfaction in work. Being a parent now, I know that a great many days you wonder if anything you are trying to teach your kids is sinking in.  If there are days you are still wondering, let me encourage you today that those days of work taught me countless lessons that carry me through daily life.

I can remember looking at the massive piles of would and feeling like the job was insurmountable.  The entire yard covered in a carpet of leaves felt impossible.  Yet, the jobs were always accomplished.  I learned to look at what was completed and not what was left to be done. I learned to push past the tired legs and blistered hands. I learned to think creatively about how to accomplish tasks and how to work smarter not harder.  Side by side with my siblings, I learned the value of teamwork long before I was on a team.  Each of these lessons has been invaluable in my adult life.  There is one more trait all that work taught me for which I have been endlessly grateful and that captured my thoughts as I shoveled last night.

I am sure over the years you noticed that it wasn't long into stacking wood or raking leaves that we would forget we were working.  We forgot because, as you knew would happen, it became fun.

Work isn't seen as work once you begin to find the fun in it.

You knew that lesson, and you gave me and my siblings the opportunity to discover it for ourselves.  You also knew that we would discover the deep satisfaction of a job well done.  When that mountain of wood was stacked, when that carpet of leaves had disappeared, and when I could look back over the circles on the lawn and know I had walked every bit of it (and it looked good!) that there would be such joy in accomplishment.  Thank you for that gift that continues to give.

No price tag could ever be placed on such a gift.

I shoveled last night until the stars had hung long in the sky.  I shoveled for more than two hours in below zero temps.  My muscles ached, my hands were sore, and my bed was sounding pretty good.  None of that was remarkable though.  What was remarkable to me last night as I slowly heaped the snow into its neat rows, was that I enjoyed every minute of it.

Thanks, Dad and Mom.  I will be forever grateful.

Happy Thanksgiving.

November 20, 2014

Thanksgiving through the eyes of Mother's Day

The clock said 1:00am when the car finally stopped and sleep was in sight.  I don't even know what it said when my head came to wearily land on my pillow.  I do know that everyone else in my family was already breathing heavily and lost in dream world.

I woke to the sound of consistent coughing and the throb in my head said not enough hours had gone by.  My poor little man was plagued by the persistence of the cough so I bring water, prop him, and check on him a couple times over the next couple hours until I finally get up saving my alarm the trouble.

I leave the room in its black stillness and realize the breakfast will end before any bodies are moving in our room.  I precede to do what moms do, I care for my family.  Thought is put into what each member of my crew would want to wake and eat and all is delivered to a room that still has not an ounce of movement to it.  Breakfast in bed served to all six of the people I love.

I chuckle at the irony as it is the day we celebrate mothers.  I see pictures through the morning of mothers receiving  trays piled with thoughtful breakfasts served to them in bed.  I rejoice with those moms, thankful their families are loving on them on this day of celebration just as my family does for me year after year.  They are all far too good to me.  Being the deliverer of breakfast on this day doesn't leave me discouraged as I leave the trays and slip out of the room again.

Why should I be discouraged?  Today, even more than all other days, I think of this high calling God has given me - to be a mother.

It is a gift to be the last one up making sure everyone is settled and has what they need.

It is a gift to be awakened long before my alarm was prepared to do its work, so I could love on a sleepy little person.

It is a gift to be the first one up caring for the needs of my family before they are even awake to realize it.

Why don't I always see it this way?

I am thankful today that God, by His grace, granted this perspective.  I thought of each face, both those here with me and the one I will see someday, and am overwhelmed with gratitude that God entrusted me with this task - being the mother of these beautiful people.

Tasks completed I head down and spend some time on the treadmill talking to God as the sweat drips.  Motherhood is like that, blood, sweat, and tears poured out.  I ask Him that none of that would be wasted.  Most days I fall far short of what I should be as a mom.  I am floundering along trying to figure this journey out. I ask Him to continue to extend His grace to me and to work in the hearts and lives of these kids He has entrusted to me. This is not a job for the faint at heart, I often say.

It is Mother's Day.

I ask God one more thing before embarking on the day's adventure.  I ask Him to help me to meet them with smiles, with open arms, with love, with grace - not because it is Mother's Day, but because it is a DAY to be a mother like every day.

July 4, 2014

The Road

I rounded the bend and caught my breath.  I heard it before I saw it - the sweet bubbling sound of the creek.  Many rains had brought the creek bed to life.  It thrills me!  A gift of grace that sweet, still morning.

My mind wandered to think about how I had no idea what lay ahead of me just around the bend in the road, like that happy creek.  Grace around every turn.  Where I live, sometimes you can see a long way, but you can't see it all.   There is always more beyond what you can see or around the bend. 

The creek bed had been a dry place. Coming down the hill and to that curve, I was fully aware of its existence, but not the transformation that had taken place.  It went through some fierce storms and torrential rains.  The result?  Life.  Beauty. Joy. Grace.

I had plenty to ponder that morning as I walked. The life filled creek and it's journey reflect  the dry times, the storms that waged, the heavy rains that have fallen in my life and I found myself overwhelmed to the point of tears of gratitude - thankful for the gift the dry days, the storms, and rains were.  I couldn't see them as such at the time. Looking back, it is all grace.

I am so thankful He saw fit to bring sorrow to my days and not leave my heart as ugly as it was.  I am so thankful that He took me through valleys so I could meet and engage in the lives of beautiful people who are traveling there as well.

What do the storms and rain bring to a dry life?

 Life. Beauty. Joy. Grace.

Sometimes I may think I can see a long way down the road of life, sometimes I may be at a bend and know I have no idea what is coming.  Either way, the reality is I don't know, and I am thankful.  I am thankful that around every bend is grace because of the One who is sovereign over all of it. 

April 19, 2014


There it is, scrawled on the inside of the cover. Even when the book is not open, I can see the words in my mind.  “Let the scars show, “ he said.  Those words have reverberated through my mind for the last eight years.  We had the privilege of meeting and getting to know Steve Saint just a little bit over the next couple of years.  We shared stories, the kind no one ever wants to share of children buried long before their parents.  We connected at the heart level over loss – over scars.

Though the words have run through my mind a thousand times as I have said “yes” to speak here or there, or “yes” to talk to so and so, or “yes” to send a message to yet another parent who has faced loss, or “yes” in my own head to write another blog post about what God is teaching me, there is always some fear and trembling.  The scars are scars for a reason, you see.  They represent pain inflicted and sometimes they are still oh so tender.  I also look at the scars and wonder at times, “What is the point?”  “What do I know?”  Yes, I have scars, but that does not make me an expert on their source. 

I recently battled those thoughts as I held my finger in the air over the buttons.  Delete or post?  What would I do with what I had poured out onto the screen?  How is this helpful to anyone at all?  Do I really want to display the scars yet again? 

Fear and trepidation ensue.  I very nearly delete.  Then I remember the words scrawled in the book and I post.

I wrestled through that morning, the morning of the day that we celebrate the birth of our son who is never there to celebrate with us.  I wrestle over whether or not I should have posted.  I know it’s silly.  I know I over think, but it is reality for me.  I grappled until I received a message that hit me upside the head.  Sometimes I am so very slow and God is graciously patient with me. The message was from a friend saying she had shared my morning’s blog post with a hurting friend.  The pain the friend was experiencing transformed into peace and hope upon reading it. 

Why?  I can guarantee it was not because of any profound thing that I had to say!  I was reminded that morning, as I read those sweet words, it isn’t about me.  The scars I bear aren’t about me.  Every time I sit back down to the computer and pour my heart out in the form of words on the screen, or each time I stand up again to speak, or I pick up a pen and write a note, or I step through the door into the world of a hurting friend or stranger and bear my scars I am pointing to something far greater, deeper, and more profound than my scars or the words I share about them. 

There is no hope in the scars I bear. There is no hope in my words.


I am pointing people to His scars and that is why this friend's pain turned to peace and hope.  The very reason I can wake up each morning and bear my scars with true joy and certain hope is because of the scars He bears – Jesus Christ.  He showed his scars too.  John tells us all about it.  The disciples were afraid, hiding, doors locked.  Then there He was in the midst of them!  Standing in the flesh He showed the scars of his hands, feet, and side. (John 20:20)  One was missing and doubted, so again He appeared and demonstrated the scars. (John 20:27)  He displayed them with confidence knowing they represented the hope of the world.  They represent our hope.

How can scars represent hope?  Because Isaiah 53:5 tells us that it is by the wounds that caused those scars that we are healed – healed from our sin, given hope, promised eternal life through belief in Him.  Hallelujah! 

Steve was right all those years ago.  I must let the scars show.  I let them show not so anyone will think I am anything great.  Not so anyone will think I have some incredible strength or profound wisdom to share.  None of those things are true.  To be honest, I NEVER want my scars to point to me at all.  I bear them daily, I show them with confidence because they point to the One who rose triumphantly from the grave and shows His scars to say to us there is HOPE

“But He was pierced because of our transgressions, crushed because of our iniquities; punishment for our peace was on Him, and we are healed by His wounds.” Isaiah 53:5

He was beaten and died.  He can show the scars and offer hope because He rose again!

Happy Easter 

March 1, 2014

Tell Them Again

"Tell us again!" they say.

"Tell us about when we were born," my twins plead.  Tell us the story of this brother and that brother.  With a giggle she says it sweetly and I always love to hear it,

"Tell us about when Micah was born.  I love the part where you say let's go to the store."

She's right.  When we got to town, I didn't want to arrive at the hospital too early and have to spend a lot of time there waiting.  Why not Walmart?  I paced the aisles and occasionally leaned on a rack to get through the pressing down of life coming.  I laugh thinking of the ridiculousness of it all and how close we cut it!

The girls beg for the stories of the beginning of their lives and those of their brothers.  They all love to hear of those joy filled, albeit goofy days.  Who doesn't want to hear the stories of blessing?  I retell the stories often.  They hang on every word, ask the same questions every time, and we all laugh at the same parts each time.

We tell another story in our home too.

A story that you may not think sounds as sweet.  A story of heartbreak and learning to surrender all to God and trust Him.  This story and the stories of the arrivals of each of our children have something in common.  They both describe God's blessing.

Sometimes they say it, but without the giggles and the big smiles.  They say it with the same pleading.  "Tell us again."  How did he die?  What happened?  Why did you and Dad do this or that?  Why didn't you do this or that?

The answers do not always flow from the tongue as easily as telling the silly details of the arrival of babies.

  This story is not as simple to tell.  It is important to tell though.  They must always hear over and over that, "both good and adversity come from the hand of the Most High." (Lamentations 3:38)  It needs to echo through our home that the poor in spirit are blessed (Matt 5:3).  What brings you to a place of brokenness and recognizing your total dependence on God is a blessing.  There is no better place to find yourself and I want my kids to know this lesson well.

 So I tell the story over and again.

I want them to know God's faithfulness is great and His mercies are new every morning even in the midst of the deepest valleys (Lamentations 3:22).  I want them to know that God promises to be with them in deep waters and raging fires (Isaiah 43:2).  He is near the brokenhearted (Psalm 34:18) needs to be written on their hearts.  They will know God in a way they never have before when they come broken before Him, needing Him like we really do every day but do not always recognize.  There is no other blessing that compares.

So I tell them of our loss.

Of their loss, because it is their story too.

In telling them, I am teaching them that God's blessings do not always look the way we would expect them to but they all have something in common.  They are all for the glory of God, and they are all working for the good of making us more like Christ (Romans 8:28-29).

They will say it this weekend in one way or another, "Tell us again."

Birthdays bring questions like that when the birthday boy is not there to hug and play with.  Ten years has gone by and they will ask the questions of what, and why, and what is to come.

We will do what we always do, we will tell them again and we will pray that it will be more than a story but it will be part of their story.  We will pray that as God writes the story of each of their lives He will imprint their hearts with the lessons of His faithfulness, and goodness, and what blessings look like.

Our children need to hear the fun and silly stories.  They also need to hear the stories that are hard to tell but illustrate the richness of deep relationship with God no matter the pain.

Tell them again.

January 15, 2014

Reflections On a Decade

I have anticipated 2014 for a long time. 
2014 marks a decade. 
 In just over a month, it will be my second sons 10th birthday, only he isnt here to hit that decade mark and celebrate double digits with us.  My husband and I lost our 4 month old son 10 years ago this year in a tragic accident.  We were thrust into a journey we never saw coming and found ourselves floundering through the world of grief. Losing a child is a long journey and forces parents to travel through dark, stormy waters. There are no short cuts or free passes to get out and get a new life.  I have talked to many grieving parents since that fateful day and they have all said something similar.  They wish this wasn't their life.  They wake up hoping it was all a dream...but it isn't and they have to figure out how to navigate the tumultuous waters of grief and loss.  Ten years later, I can remember all too well waking up with those exact feelings.

They all say something else similar, and I too felt the same way.  They say it is like they can't breathe. 
Deep grief literally takes your breath away. 
 Grief is ugly, long, and there are no rules.  The thing about grief is, it affects more than just the immediate family who lost, but also all those who love them.  Over the last ten years I have had countless people contact my husband and me asking how they can reach out to their loved ones who lost a child.  What can they say to the parents?  How can they help?  These requests deeply touch my heart because I know that deep down, many people want to help and encourage but do not know how.  If you have found yourself in those shoes, I hope this post will be an encouragement to you today.  Yes, grief leaves parents feeling unable to breathe some days, but I only know One who can give the breath of life (Genesis 2:7, Psalm 119:25).  There is one true God and the only real hope, joy, and peace these breathless parents will ever find is in a relationship with Jesus Christ the one and only Son of God(Romans 5:1-4, 1 Peter 1:3, Romans 15:13).  God, who also knows the deep pain of losing a child, is the only one who gives breath and heals broken hearts (Isaiah 61:1).  You don't have to; however, that does not mean there is no room for you to help or be an encouragement to the broken hearted. As I think back on the last ten years, I wanted to share a few thoughts from the perspective of a mom who has recently held her lifeless son.  So from that perspective, here are 10 things I would say to someone who wants to reach out to grieving parents:


1.    It's okay. 
     It is okay that you dont know what to do or say.  I understand because I was once you.  I hadn't lost a child and I didn't know what to say to someone who had.  I was afraid of saying the wrong thing or not having answers.  I get it.  I know how you feel because I have been there too. 


2.  I know sometimes it would be easier to avoid me, but please don't.  It means the world to me to have you step out of your comfort zone and just be there, showing you care, you remember.  I know it won't be easy (because remember, I was once in your shoes) but it will deeply touch my heart.  It will encourage in ways you can't imagine.  However, if you do avoid, it's okay.  I forgive you because I was once an avoider and it took time and unfortunately incredible grief for me to learn how to reach out in those circumstances (2 Corinthians 1:4).  I will extend you grace and ask God to help you overcome that fear without the rough experiences it took me to learn to reach out.


3.  There is nothing you can say that will fix it ...really.  You can stop fearing what to say and just plan to say little and listen instead.  Words will never fix it.  You know that and I know it too.  I am not looking for words that will take away the pain or bring back my child, nothing can.  To be honest, I dont even know what to say about it most days!  I am just looking for someone led by the Spirit to come alongside and say, "You are not alone in these dark waters.  I don't understand it all or know what to say, but I am in it with you.  I really just need someone to hold out hope in front of me as a reminder it is there and I can choose it.  You hold out hope in your presence, in the example of your faith, in a hug, in a listening ear, and down the road, occasionally, in a well-timed verse pointing me back to the One who truly understands it all and can heal the wounds.  But even if you don't come, and aren't sure how to hold out hope, it's okay because I will be even more forced to look to the only One who can offer hope, to the One who will not only be with me in the fire (Isaiah 43:2) but can bring me out of it without even the scent of smoke on me (Daniel 3:27) . 
Only One. 
Whether you come or not, speak or not, I need to choose to cling to Him, believe Him, grab hold of the hope, peace, and joy He offers even in the valley (1 Peter 1:3-9).  Does that take the pressure off you?  It should.  You don't have to do any of that.  I can guarantee though, should you choose to come and weep with those who weep (Romans 12:15), you get to be a part of what God is doing and there is great blessing in that which I would love for you to experience.  Come on over, we can be speechless together.


4.  Fear not.  You will not be the cause of me suddenly thinking about the child I lost in those first few tender years post loss.  I am always thinking of him.  You do not have to fret that your bringing up the subject will send me into a tailspin.  I live in a tailspin and only God can stop the spin and calm the storm (Luka 8:24b). 
So, just jump on the merry-go-round.  I will be thankful for the company.


5.  I will always have a hole in my heart.  Eventually, the edges will heal and it won't be so excruciating.  Eventually I will feel like I can breathe again and will be able to talk about it without breaking down.  There is no timetable for how long that will take me though.  Losing a child isn't something I will get over.  It becomes a part of who I am.  It is all part of the story that God is writing with my life and I have to learn to accept this new normal and that this is part of who I am now.  All of that will take me time, and nothing can rush it no matter how much I wish something could.  I know you will be tempted and maybe even try to "fix it" with what you say.  You won't be able to, so you can free yourself up from that pressure. No Bob the Builder needed here, just a friend.


6.  I am sorry.
 I am sorry for the careless words I will sometimes utter and the harsh things I will let fly from my lips from time to time.  Grief is an ugly thing.  There is no way to walk through it "right" or "pretty."  I will feel like I am failing at it, like I never say or do what is right.  I will feel like my emotions are raging out of control like a hurricane!  It is not an excuse for my behavior or words, but it is an explanation.  Would you grant grace during the first couple of years or longer? I hope and pray I too will extend grace to you as we all figure this thing called grief out together. 


7.  I know the road seems extremely long. 
I don't even understand why. 
Matters of the heart are deep and it takes a great deal of time to put broken pieces back together again in a new and better way.  I know many of you won't be able to walk the long road with me and that is okay too.  I understand not everyone can and not everyone knows how.  The truth is, maybe no one will.  Maybe God is asking me to walk it alone and it will give me all the more reason to cling to
 "My grace is sufficient for you." (2 Corinthians 12:9)


8.  Please pray for me and don't think prayer is "all you can do."  It is one of the most important ways to help.  People praying makes a profound difference on the lives of those hurting.  I know when you are praying because I see God answering and because it leads you to keep checking in. If prayer is the only way you know to help in the loss, that is wonderful! Thank you for believing God with me to work good and to bring healing.


9.  For quite some time, it will be gut wrenching hard for me to watch you move forward with life.  It will feel like everyone is moving on as if nothing happened and I can't.  I will struggle with "fun" situations and even feel guilt when I catch myself having fun or laughing. It is almost like I feel like I am not grieving my son correctly if I am ever caught enjoying myself.  It feels like I am turning my back on him.  Hopefully I will know those are lies and be able to slowly work through them. 


10.  The anniversaries are important to me forever.  I think part of the reason is because it is all I have.  I will always remember his birthday, and the day he went to be with Jesus will always have a sting to it.  I don't expect everyone to remember and think about those days.  He wasn't their son.  I will be honest with you though, it means the world to me when you do!  I will never be expecting it because I realize that is unfair of me, and I will count it as pure grace when someone remembers and does something to show they do. 
It is all grace, all a gift. 
On the years when no one says anything at all, I am thankful as well that I serve a God who knows my heart and hurts and always cares.

   I have had nearly ten years to gain some clarity and look back on what it was like to walk the hard road of losing my son.  Every grieving parent’s story is not the same.  Everyone walks through grief differently.  However, in my conversations with countless grieving parents over the years, I have found much of this to be universal.  Here is a summary.  You don't have to know the "right" answers because the truth is, there aren't any.  You don't have to worry about doing the right thing or coming with perfect Bible verses ready to share.  If you just come, hug, cry with the hurting, and listen then that is what your grieving loved one really needs.  They are in an extremely raw place that even they don’t understand.  Their emotions swing rapidly and all of life even down to doing the dishes is overwhelming for quite a long time.  They need you to help them hold on to hope in the way that you are willing to walk with them.  They need you to remind them when they are floundering to keep believing what they know to be true about God no matter what their feelings are telling them and you can do that by praying and being His hands and feet to them in the little things and needs.  You don't have to be perfect, or smart, or even have walked the road.  Some of the people that helped me the most were not those who had walked this road before me.  They were those who called me all the time, stopped in to see me and just be with me, sent notes of encouragement for months, and prayed and prayed.

 So will you throw the fears aside and step out of your comfort zone?

You know what?  

I am out of mine too and I will be forever grateful.

December 14, 2012

God with Us

Almost exactly two years ago, I posted this and today it seems fitting to revisit it:

Christmas. Even the word "Christmas" makes us think of cheer, of wonder, of festivities and fun. Yet, for so many it will carry such sorrow, and heavy hearts will sit under lit up trees. There are many reasons that hearts will be heavy each year, but this year I think of the two families I know that between Thanksgiving time and now have each lost a son. One was 12, one just a baby. I can feel the shattering of their hearts into so many little pieces. And, my heart is broken...again.

Sorrow, pain, death, imperfection: our world is so full of it. I sit at a funeral watching a mom look at her 12 year old son's casket, and I remember. I watch the scene that should never be, dad and mom following their lifeless child out of the sanctuary and I know what it is like to go home. It all seems so wrong. The email that the baby won't make it through the night, and he doesn't. And hopes, dreams, lives crumble. These pictures of death happen all over the world, every day. Because our world is fallen, imperfect, not as God intended it to be.

As I sat at that funeral, and watched mom and dad follow their son's casket out, reaching up high behind them were risers in the shape of a giant Christmas tree and it was all lit up. This scene is etched clearly in my mind because as I watched this family and their shattered world, I was reminded. That tree in all its shining wonder reminded me what this season represents. Even as so many will wade through dark waters this Christmas, they do not have to do it without HOPE. God did not turn His back on our imperfect world. He left perfection and entered into our hurt with us. He came to us and brought hope all wrapped up in the form of a tiny baby. "Behold, the virgin shall be with child and shall bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel," which translated means, "God with us." He came to us and offers a way to be with him forever, promising that one day he will dry all the tears and heal all the broken hearts. We are not alone, and this life is not all there is. God with us. Hope.

Please pray for these two families and that they could experience the hope of Christ during these difficult times.

Since that Christmas of 2010, we went through another Christmas surrounded by hurting people and now in 2012 this one is no different. Today another unthinkable tragedy has struck out East and everyone is left wondering "Who could do such a thing to children?" And, "How will these familes move forward?" And, "Why did it happen?" And the truth is, there are no easy answers to those difficult questions. And THIS is why we celebrate Christmas. We celebrate to remember - God with us.

If you have placed your trust in Jesus Christ, then all the terrible things taking place should not leave is in fear or disheartened. God tells us over and over and over in His Word not to fear. John 16:33 tells us to take heart because He has overcome the world (and that includes all the evil in it). The hard things should drive us deeper into His Word so we can know more of Him. They should also lead us to tell others of the hope that we have because God not only came to be with us, but make a way for us to be with Him. I Peter 3:15 says to always be ready to give an answer to others about the hope you have.

If you have never placed your trust in Jesus Christ there is no better time than now. He is the only one in whom you will ever find real hope and peace. Check out this link and it will walk you through what Jesus did for you and how you can respond. http://www.cefonline.com/index.php?option=com_content&view=section&id=19&Itemid=100033

December 12, 2012

And They Went With Haste...

"And they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby lying in the manger." Luke 2:16

"When they saw the star, they rejoiced exceedinly with great joy.  And going into the house they saw the child with Mary his mother, and they fell down and worshiped him." Matthew 2:10-11

The shepherds got it, the wise men got it, and my kids get it, so why don't I?

Christmas time comes and my kids can't wait to get the nativities out!  It is literally one of their absolute favorite things about decorating for Christmas.  The big man wants to help place each piece carefully on the mantel this year and can't quit talking about how much he loves getting this out every year.  He has all sorts of ideas about how it should be arranged.

Then come the Veggie Tale ones made for play and every kid, no matter the age is down on hands and knees in wonder of those little characters even though they could play with them at any time of the year.

Then there is the box filled with tiny boxes each containing a different part of the scene and I am saving it...for what?  I don't know.  For that one great night when we will sit down and read the story and pull out the pieces as the book tells us to.  Only the night doesn't come, and doesn't come and they beg and plead to break into that box...to see the baby.  And what do I do?  I tell them no again and again...wait...we'll do it later...  Wait for what?  Should we ever wait to get on our hands and knees and wonder at what God did?  Should we ever wait to see the baby again?

They find the box, and are thrilled with the contents, and have it all set up just so.  I discover this, and scold, and miss what the shepherds, and wise men, and my children all know. 

We should ALWAYS go with haste to see the baby again and rejoice with GREAT JOY when we find Him and the hope that He holds.

They do it so well, every year.  They hurry to find Him.  They rejoice at the discovery and they linger long at the scene.  I hurry...but not to find Him.  I rejoice at a great find...but it isn't Him.  I linger long...but on tasks that someday won't matter. 

Tomorrow is a new day and it will start with the opening of a very special box...and there will be great joy...and we will linger long.

November 22, 2012

4 x 2 = Happy Birthday!

I am sure it was yesterday that I was sitting in the rocker recliner in my living room holding two babies and thinking how fast the time would go and I just wanted to soak in every minute!  Suddenly, here I am, 4 years later and they've grown tall, and the blonde hair gets darker, and they talk much, and laugh often.

And I know that the next time I blink, they will be beautiful young women, grown and starting out in life on their own.  But, for today, they are 4 and I will try to soak in every minute of this time.

Their many giggles and big grins

Their goofiness and fun loving nature

Their love to sing, and dance, and read books, and learn new things

Their sweet natures expressed COMPLETELY differently one from the other

Their love of the outdoors and all things active from the trampoline, to roller blading, to wrestling with Dad and their brothers

Their friendship with each other

These two are one tight pair, yet so uniquely different.  One is so feminine, sweet and sappy, loves to hug everyone, loves all things girly, is a social butterfly, tender through and through, but full of strong will when she wants to be, loves to talk about God.  The other shows her love through teasing and giving you a punch on the arm, she sings constantly, laughs often about everything, loves to talk about God, is a little more reserved when it comes to others but once she warms up will be your best friend, surprises you with random hugs, is independent and can do anything she sets her mind to.  

They are each a gift to our family and how appropriate that today on the day of thanks, we get to remember and be thankful for when they were graciously given to us as a part of our family.

October 4, 2012


A decade has passed since I looked into this sweet little face for the first time.

 A decade since I saw this smile for the first time.
A decade since I was given one of the greatest gifts, the gift of being a mom.  I am so thankful that God chose to give me this boy. He has such a tender heart toward the Lord and the lost. He is helpful and considerate of his siblings and others.  We have always called him our 100% kid.  You never have to wonder how he is feeling or what he is thinking.  He is always 100% of whatever he is...and I love that about him!

 A dear friend wrote today that she hoped he would be brave like David, forgiving as Joseph, and ambitious as Paul.  I would add to that, I pray he will have the integrity of Daniel, the faith of Abraham, the loyalty of Caleb, and the heart of Jesus.
 I don't know how we went so quickly from that tiny, little guy to this active, responsible young man.
 I don't know what the next decade will bring for him or me as his mom.  I don't know where God is going to lead him in life.
 I do know that I want to cherish the gift of every day the Lord gives me with him.
 I do know that when I look into his face, it makes me want to be a better mom.
 I do know that he has extended me so much grace as I have figured this mom thing out.  I know he and I are learning and growing together. 
 I do know that whatever happens, and wherever life leads him, I pray he will always choose to look up and keep his focus on the one who holds the answers.
So another decade from now, I pray that his gaze will still be fixed above.

March 23, 2011

Lessons From Haiti, Part 2

Have you ever found your self going through an experience and thinking that what you are learning is not spiritual enough? 

Maybe I am missing it, God. 

Maybe I didn't pay enough attention.

Or maybe someimtes it is the simple lessons that we need the most.

Haiti is an extremely poor country.  It is sad to see how people live and the terrible things they have to face on a regular basis.  Despite being beautiful, it is also a very dirty country with garbage everywhere.  There is nothing easy about the lives of the people there.  It is also a dark country spiritually.  People are lost and many are mixed up in evil practices and bound by fear.

However, none of this is what struck me while I was there.  It isn't that i didn't see it, feel sad about it, or care about it...I did.  It is heart wrenching to take it all in.  It is just that I wasn't walking around with this heaviness as a result of it and with a new found desire to help.  The thing is, I think God broke much of that in me long before I got there.  I knew I was visiting a place with many different needs and I had seen some similar needs in other places.  I just thought that was why I was going and something God would have me take away from my time there. 

God impressed something so different on my heart.  He is there.  Big, I know.  You are probably thinking, "Are you kidding me?!"  No, I'm not.  I felt like He kept showing me that He is there...and everywhere.  I mean I knew that.  I have been told that my whole life.  God is everywhere, I get it.  But I didn't, not in the right way.  I went to Haiti focusing on what many told me I would experience and feel.  I focused on the bad, the dark, the sad.  Growing up, this was my default mode.  It was easy for me to focus on the scary, the bad, the sad and I have spent years changing that pattern.  Here I was slipping back into it though.  So, God needed to show me that yes, there is spiritual darkness in Haiti but His light is there as well and even more powerful.  Yes, there is evil there but God is visibly at work as well.  Yes, there are sad things but the joy of the Lord is visibly present in people as well.  He is there, and His presence can be felt not just by me but the people that live there, and His joy is eveident in them.  Though darkness exists there, God's presence does as well and He is much bigger.  So I felt darkness, and saw hurt, and saw terrible living conditions, and heard of living in fear, but I also saw Him.  I saw believers filled with His joy and saw Him working in their lives and doing amazing things!

Some of the ladies arriving at the conference
The ladeis holding up their new Bibles
Our cargo arriving, PTL!

One of the breakout sessions
Playing a game the ladies taught us
 My friend Johanne

Another game the ladies taught us.  The sweet thing about this picture is you can see the joy written on their faces and they never do things like this where they just have fun together as women.