Wednesday, September 7, 2016

That kind of friend...

"Walking with a friend in the dark is better then walking alone in the light" 
 - Helen Kellar 

I've been in one of those darker brooding times where I contemplate life and all that entails. 
As I sit looking I see a mix of joy and sadness.
But sometimes, it seems, the sadness and big world of pain seems to overshadow the good.
Why is that?  
We are surrounded by more people and conveniences then ever and yet studies show we are more lonely then ever.
In my smallish bubble view, I wonder if truly caring and genuine friendship could be part of the answer.
We are selfish.
Scratch that.
I am selfish. 
Utterly completely 100% selfish.  S-E-L-F-I-S-H. 
It sounds so ugly when you spell it out. But that's what it boils down to. 
I was busy having a full fledged, complete with the "I'm even mad at the cute little kitty" attitude,  all out pity party for my self today. 
Get it?  
I was all absorbed in what all was wrong with my little orb, my space in life.  As I sat there, grumpy as ever I remembered the gratitude sermon I've been preaching...."There is ALWAYS something to be grateful for..."  
Yeah. Uh huh. 
Maybe in some people's perfect little lives that can be possible. 
But in mine?!   
My daughter is in heaven.  (in case you haven't figured it out yet that seems to be my biggest gripe/question for God and my handle for the grumps). 
 As I sat staring, my eyes were drawn to the tiny little bouquet of zinnias on my counter. 
 Lexi picked them for me and as she handed them to me she said "I love you mom!"  That's big from a kid that has been pretty non vocal about feelings and emotions.
And twice today my son came with his hugs and the declaration "You know what my favorite time of the day is mom? This hug..." 
So I do have some pretty big things I can count as God's showers of blessing...Come on focus.

A while back I took a giant leap and joined a bible study with a bunch of women I did not know. Yes, this social bug does have a few relational qualms. These women were an answer to prayer that I started praying after reading some of Jen Hatmaker's concepts in "For the Love". 
These women have truly taught me about friendship.  
We are all different with very different struggles. 
We are different ages. Single. Married. Some jabber. Some stuff. We represent different denominational backgrounds.  **GASP**!  
But we have so very much more in common. 
We are safety for the tough stuff. 
We are comfort in the tears and oh yeah we spend time howling with laughter too. 
And eating of course.  
They have taught me how to face tough situations with strength and resolve that is rooted and grounded in biblical principals. 
In them I gain perspective.  
Walking with them, I have learned in deeper ways how to look for the purpose in the pain. 
My eyes have been made more aware and tuned in to pain in others tho I still have a longgg way to go in this. 
And you bet your buttons,  I totally get the difference their unconditional love and friendship have made in my life. 
Are we perfect? 
We aren't necessarily bosom buddies or the kind of girls that have to chat every day.
But friendship like this is rare and precious and has value, so much value and added depth for life.
So back to the pain and loneliness,..
What if, instead of spending time snarling about how we perceive someone and their actions, we spent that time obeying God's calls to our souls to be kind?  Simple kindness goes a long way...
We don't know the journey many are on.  So we are not qualified to judge their pain.
What if, instead of staying put in our "sides" and view points on the trivial stuff we made more of an effort to spend time getting to know those who may have opposite views then we do?
My current journey has been public.  You've heard me wine and complain, celebrate and bemoan.  
And with this being my daughter in heaven's birthday month, the emotions run high and exhaustion overtakes me in surprising ways.  Grief is such hard work.  But I remain challenged by others who have shown me the depth of the father's love in how they have walked with me in the most unpleasant of states.
I want to be that kind of friend.

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

2 years....Grieving Abby - Lessons I am learning in the process

Ahhh. Here I am once more.  
I have been contemplating this post for some time and what I would share during this grief week, our time of remembering.
Because of my private fb grief blog, some of my thoughts have already been stated. There are those however that were just waiting to be spelled out here and now.
I can hardly believe we are at the 2 year mark already.  2 years of life being completely and totally turned upside down....     

For you who are new here, here are a few links that I may refer to as I go.  You should be able to click on them and be directed to the correct spot. 
Abby's story which was viewed nearly 35,000 times and gave me a platform I never could have had other wise to share God's care of us, shares the details of our precious 3 year old's end of life which happened abruptly but in God's perfect timing on July 15, 2014.
My face book grief blog is located here.  Some days I just refer to it as my personal wining space.  LOL.  You may ask to join at any time. There I share our family's journey and some of the daily response to the effects of grief and how we continue trying to live...

Now on to the lessons grief has been teaching me.  (ha, I'm not some expert or anything) 

Lesson #1: Pain can produce positive.

Some days I have begged God to just write the lesson I need to learn in the big blue sky, so I can be done with the pain and crappy details that compose the current story of our life.  
But as I continue on the path, I am realizing that learning is not always peachy and how pain is indeed a precursor for positive change in my life. Duh.  You already knew that right?  I guess I'm just a slow learner.

"My grace is sufficient for you for my strength is made perfect in weakness"

Lesson #2: Theology can be twisted. 

I have ranted, huffed and puffed much about the things that well meaning souls have said that have been so painful in the midst of the deepest heart wrenching pain. 
 The statements that go something like this,  "There must not have been enough faith to heal her..."  and "this is God's chastisement"  and " there must be hidden sin in your life".
I wonder sometimes why we as people (Christians especially) tend to show up in other's times of pain with our pat answers,  judgement and critical spirits. While I do believe God does discipline us as his Kidos,  I also am beginning to grasp a deeper sense of the real truth that sometimes (well probably more like most of the time) pain and grief are not at all related to our misbehavior, mess-ups or failures.  Like, really. It ain't about us at all.  It's about HIM.
If we truly believe the scriptures, we see that sin entered the world right at the start and the consequences of that sin bring all the crappy stuff  (man! I use the word crappy a lot.) we know as pain, grief, sadness. 
Grief or any other crisis we may see is not the time to use the Bible as a tool for condemnation and judgement.
  Instead it is a time to watch for God's glory and beauty to be displayed in the midst of the ugly.
I love the story in John where Jesus answers questions about why the blind man was blind from birth.  Jesus's answer is simple, yet so profound. "It was NOT because of his sins or his parent's sins Jesus answered. This happened so the power of God might be displayed in him."

Lesson #3:  There is no grief time table or chart to mark off in the journey. There is no wrong way to grieve.....

Another duh. But here again, I'm amazed at all the places grief surprises me.  I had once heard said that the 2 year mark is a toughy.  I thought at the time that nothing could surpass the pain of the first weeks, months, year.  Who ever told me about this milestone was correct. At least that's how it's playing out for our family. 
 I'm amazed at the many different grief styles I have met. Some are so polished in their grief.  So put together.  Not the blubbering mess that I seem to be.  
I spent a great deal of last week on the couch.  Tears glistened at the surface at all times.  I cried openly at Costco. At church. While I was making supper.  In the process I felt a strange drawing to the corner of the attic where her tote sits.  Full to over flowing with all the pieces of her.  Her special clothes we all remember.  Her red Minnie Mouse dress, her fruit night gown, her 10 sizes to small purple swimsuit that I helped her into those few moments before she left for Heaven.  As I sat neatly folding and caressing each piece, the sobs shook my body in a way I hadn't done for so long.  Sometimes a real good cry is all it takes. Suddenly, I felt ok.  Odd though it seemed. But that's my grief.  Personal and real to me.  
And while I wish that I could follow a checklist and be done, I am learning to embrace the roar of grief instead and finding my peace in the process. 

"And the peace of God which surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus"

Lesson #4: My pain is not the only pain our there.

Sometimes when I'm tempted to wallow I'm instead reminded to look around.    My friend Sara has been instrumental in helping me adjust my focus.  She's never judgmental but shares positivity, joy and encouraging love. She challenged me to join #100daysofhappy where we document simple blessings via a photo each day.  I have so enjoyed the effect on my spirit that I didn't stop at 100.  I am on day 108 currently.  
While I still have really down times, I feel more equipped to pop out of them quicker.  

"The joy of the Lord is my strength...."

Lesson #5:  Find your passion.

I am still learning about this one.  Sometimes I wonder which of the current experiences I live are grief related or simply facts of life and related to the age I'm at. You get my drift?
I have never been big about fundraising for any cause.  It was not my cup of tea.  But then my daughter died.  Suddenly instead of celebrating her birthdays and other milestones, we could only celebrate our memories. 
Out of that the "Remembering Abby, Light up the Night" Memorial was born.  Each year on her birthday we remember the things that made her unique.  It gives us a format to honor her memory and the impact her short life made. And I am finding joy and passion in planning,  the excitement, and all the little details. It occupies our time for several months each year. Plus each year we can pick an organization that is making a difference in the world, our world! Our recipient this year will be the same as last, Amanda the Panda Family grief center. This organization is near and dear to hearts and has been an integral part of healthy grief for our family.  (You can read all about our grief camp weekend here.)
 We had hoped to raise $100 or maybe $1,000 but God saw fit to shine his blessings on last year and we were able to raise over $10,000!  That provides grief support to 10 families for a whole year. (The Des Moines Register did a beautiful write up  about the event and our family, complete with a video in the middle! )
The tremendous out pouring of love and support is huge in driving my passion for remembering her.
Each of us respond differently to pain.  For some passion may be played out in a much quieter way but can be equally helpful in the healing process. 
For more info on this years event which will be held September 17 visit our group fb page  2016 Remembering Abby - Light up the night

Lesson #6:   Prayer Rocks!

If there is one single thing that has been so very helpful for our family, it is this:  the prayers of the saints.  
Grief is uncharted and endless. The journey is hard. 
Many times I have felt the prayers as they rise, giving strength to my weary bones.  
It has changed my perspective on it's importance and effectiveness.
So don't ever say "well I can't do anything else, so I will just pray". That "just praying" is powerful stuff.

"And pray in the spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests with this in mind.  Be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord's people."


I don't know what the rest of our story looks like.  
I do know we are starting to dream again.

I don't know how the grief will continue to affect us.
I do know it will and that this life is our "new normal".

I don't know, some days,  how we will continue to survive and flourish.
I do know God will continue to hold us in the palm of his compassionate, loving hand in the process.


As the week continues, we will continue on the path grief has taken us on.  We will probably release her favorite red balloons and some chinese lanterns at some point as they will always represent her to us.  
You may see creepy "dead" photos of us holding her as she took her last breaths.  I never would've have ever thought those pics would be treasures.  They represent pain in the deepest sense but also represent her flying away where she is forever safe and resting with Jesus.  So thankful my sis had the mindset to take them...
I may continue down the sappy, weepy trail I've become so familiar with. Or joy may continue edging it's way in.
Either way, I know I have a network, faithful friends, family and support from people who share compassion with us as we trudge along.

Thank you all for walking this journey along side us.

In memory of our little sparkling piece of heaven. 
Abby Marie
September 14, 2010 ~ July 15, 2014

Monday, March 28, 2016


Great is the Faithfulness O God my Father...

My 3rd child is 7 today. Alexia Magdalene.  Named after my mother. 
 I can not browse through the photos of her birth and the time surrounding with out a teensy bit of sad seeping through the cracks and crevices.  

 2008-2009...That was a hard time. The hardest I had known then.
 Lowell & I had just experienced loss in huge ways....our business, home and our marriage were broken, falling apart at the seams.  
At 8 months pregnant I went to stay with my parents under the pretense of wanting to give birth in one of those fabulous free standing birthing centers (that was the truth...) But I was hurting, beaten down and with out hope.  I spent most of the time carrying her in tears.  I wonder if that is part of her personality and brooding nature now. Even though God was at work, it was hard to see at times in those long 11 months we were apart. I didn't know if God was going to do a miracle and save our marriage which lay in shambles. BUT, God was close.  Closer then I had experienced and I grew tremendously in Him that year. He has that habit...sneaking into the bad places where He seems the furthermost away and doing his redemptive work. 

We were in the minority of couples that are able to reconcile and continued on life's road. Our reconciliation produced instant proof of God's mercies when Abby was born 9 months after we got back together. Her name Father's Joy was proof of God's power and redemptive favor and joy in us and our growing little family.

As we have lived through the grief of losing Abby, we have seen time and time again how God's faithfulness shines through. 
Alexia has been traumatized immensely in the loss of her younger sister and built in playmate and near twin (not quite 18 months separated them)
 Despite the grief she is a spunky darling bundle and brings much joy to our home even through her spots of melancholy. 

She is growing into quite the young lady.  She loves to spend time following me about, baking and cooking. She loves fairy tales and all things princess.

 She is silly and giggles and love.

So as we celebrate another year of the beautiful gift of her, we marvel again at the story that is being woven with her life and how God's faithfulness is obvious.  
He truly is good and amazing in gifting us with the preciousness.
Happy Birthday Princess!

Saturday, March 5, 2016

For Better of For Worse - Reflections on Marriage

Disclaimer: I in no way an expert on marriage. 
 We as a couple, like many of you have walked thru some tough stuff  (financial calamity, separation, death of a child, illness in family) and have found God faithful.  I must write simply to get my racing thoughts out before my head explodes....Our history has brought hurting marriages to our door, seeking the hope we live.  These thoughts come from those interactions which come as a result of deep pondering and intimate searching in my own heart. 

When we married nearly 19 years ago we had no idea the roads we would walk. If you had told me then what I know now, I would not have believed that I could still live and live with joy with the man God has blessed me with. After all he was and remains my hunk, my knight in shining armor, the one I wanted to ask me out in the worst way, begging God to allow it to happen....  Are we perfect? Absolutely not.  We mess up.  We fight. (just ask our kids) But God has gifted us with truths that have come to us at the right times that have helped us make it through the crappy moments and I can truly say that despite all of the pain I am happier now then I have ever been.  I didn't get there over night. And I still stray away from there...that happiness. BUT,  Love is so much more then emotion.
If I could put down on paper a list of truths that have helped us most, these would be on it. No specific rhyme or reason just my random thoughts coming out as they do, maybe not profound but specific in our process.

#1. Love is not a fairy tale:  (Duh, right?) As young girls, society puts a selfish twist on expectations.  What will make me feel good?  Who will do everything right for me? I am a princess... This is dangerous as it sets the grounds for much disappointment in marriage and results in many never marrying as that perfection can't be found. Now before you turn me off completely let me say that romance is a gift to be treasured and happily ever after DOES exist.  My prince may not ride in on his sleek shiny stallion bearing roses and chocolate each week, but he does ride in bearing gifts, a new dish brush or broom or a block of my favorite Muenster 

#2. Laugh together, MUCH!  About a year ago my man came home from work all excited about a you tube clip his buddy had shown him.  I was nearly to busy to watch and could have completely squelched his excitement.  He had found the series, "Laugh Your Way To A Better Marriage".  This has been huge for us.  We have learned so much about each other and have re established laughter in our home on a daily basis. Laughter is healing. It may not be this series that helps you but please find something that you can do together that makes you laugh...

#3.Take the time to hold hands:  Case in point.  One of our counselors made us do that many a moon ago.  You can't really continue to fight if you hold hands.  And it's fun too.  The other night, we had 2 hours completely alone that of course had to be filled with glorious stops like Aldi and Walmart.  Not having any little hands to hold brings nice opportunity...and togetherness.

#4.Study the Bible: We all know this.  But it is easier suggested then done. Sometimes when one is raised in a society saturated with the Bible, one can be lazy.  That's me anyhow,  But the Bible has wisdom. Divine wisdom, about life, love, marriage.  And tho it would be nice to see handwriting in the sky, we have truth in our hands. That word has shown us much.  This is an area that has long disturbed me.  The women that sit with me, opening their hearts and their pain, revealing the less then Godly situations they live in, a great percentage of them are tormented by the scriptures that are picked apart and not taught as a whole. These are the ones who live with abuse whether it be physical, emotional or mental. The "wives submit" verse is hammered but the "submit yourselves one to another" and "husbands love your wives as Christ loved the church" are largely ignored. Lowell and I don't necessarily study together but we often discuss what God is showing us in HIS word.  In our personal situation Lowell's new found salvation has made all the difference in the world.... 

#5.  Be a cheeerleader: While Lowell & I are not necessarily on the same page on all issues or even our hobbies, we have found that stuff flows much more smoothly when we jump on each others bandwagons. He may not appreciate the energy my "causes" (events, pets etc) take but he supports me whole heartedly by taking care of the kids, offering muscle power and telling me "I can do it.."  In return, while I may not agree with his choices,  hunting, or the current political candidate he supports etc, I engage him in conversation about what he LOVES to talk about and try to join him in action as well. 

#6.  Establish your own family unit: This is a tough one.  Sometimes the apron strings are well secured. Extended family is a gift, but one that must be kept in balance. When we say "I do" we are now a unit, a family, me & you. Finding correct levels of interaction can be challenging and we must always use kindness and respect but for us setting boundaries that protect our "me & you" has been vital to growth and health in "us".

#7. Encourage Friendship: Friendship is vital for health in marriage. Not only do I need female friendship that helps me use up my quota of daily words and emotions but He needs time to just do guy stuff.  It make "us" work better as long as we surround ourselves with upbuilding and encouraging people who are passionate about our marriage flourishing.  Ultimately God is the only one who can fill the voids we feel, but friendships designed by him can aid in the process. 

#8. Cherish the Gift:  How does one treat an antique heirloom or piece of value? We care for it, making every effort to insure that it is kept safely, not  scratched or dented or broken.  Our marriages are like that gift.  They are meant to be treasured, to be kept safe, protected. If I view Lowell in the correct context, I easily remember. He is my gift.  My treasure.  I am blessed!