Thursday, June 30, 2011


When we lost Mallory, all I was capable of praying for about a week was, "Lord, I just need to know that you love me."  Something about grief, whether form loss or brokenness can only really be healed with with love.  I could cover up my brokenness by pretending I'm strong.  I suppose I could find lesser loves to distract me from the pain. But I want healing, deep soul changing satisfaction, and that I cannot have without the love of Christ.  And so right now my soul is echoing a very similar prayer to when we lost Mallory, but there is less panic and more peace this time around.  Though I do not enjoy the waves of emotion that cascade over me without warning, I embrace them, knowing I will not get lost in them.  

I've been somewhat drifting along in those prayers since losing Emmett, but I was reminded of some important truths last night at church where we're studying the impact of the gospel on our everyday lives.  If you're interested, you can listen to the series called "Everyday Gospel" here at  Our pastor reminded us in Romans 5:5 that "God has poured his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us."  It was good to be reminded that the primary ministry of the Holy Spirit is to remind us that God has loved us completely, enough to die for us while we were still his enemies (vs. 8).  I am once again encouraged to see the amazing love of God as a beautiful love story, and for now, that is what I need.

So I keep going, encouraged by the reminders of God's love.  Knowing that when I do not walk in grief, I so often forget my need to be reminded of his love.  I continue to find these small blessings and realize that I am being held by the love of God.  I will close the words to a favorite hymn:
  1. O Love that will not let me go,
    I rest my weary soul in thee;
    I give thee back the life I owe,
    That in thine ocean depths its flow
    May richer, fuller be.
  2. O light that foll’west all my way,
    I yield my flick’ring torch to thee;
    My heart restores its borrowed ray,
    That in thy sunshine’s blaze its day
    May brighter, fairer be.
  3. O Joy that seekest me through pain,
    I cannot close my heart to thee;
    I trace the rainbow through the rain,
    And feel the promise is not vain,
    That morn shall tearless be.
  4. O Cross that liftest up my head,
    I dare not ask to fly from thee;
    I lay in dust life’s glory dead,
    And from the ground there blossoms red
    Life that shall endless be.
(If you're interested, check out this version (one of my favorite arrangements) by a friend of ours at )

Wednesday, June 29, 2011


When you lose someone you live with inch by inch instead of all at once, the final goodbye is the last of a series of small goodbyes.  Often you don't even know it's the last time you're going to do something, but things fall away one by one, like trips to the zoo, family dinners at the table, or even movies together in bed.  And when the grief spans 16 months, there don't seem to be all that many tears left because whole oceans could have been filled by the tears you cried while begging for God's mercy.  It's not that you don't grieve or that you've moved past grief, but more that for the first time you can actually start to heal.  

I think of David in 2 Samuel 12 who, after a serious of sinful decisions, is punished by God in order to lead him to repentance.  While the child is sick, David fasts, prays, and weeps, so much so that the people are afraid to tell him when the child dies.  Yet when he hears the news, he rises, eats, and comforts Bathsheba.  His subjects question his behavior, and yet David says to them: “While the child was still alive, I fasted and wept. I thought, ‘Who knows? The Lord may be gracious to me and let the child live.’ But now that he is dead, why should I go on fasting? Can I bring him back again? I will go to him, but he will not return to me.”

My conjecture is that grief is experienced differently when you do not live with the person, when you don't see him gradually slipping away, and the end comes as more of a surprise.  When the shock of loss leaves a sudden, gaping hole rather than one that grows by gradual degrees.  I would think it leaves you more breathless, reeling from the sudden absence, and you have to deal with the absence before the healing can come.

I think this difference is why I have found other people's grief a bit foreign.  Not that one is better or more valid, but they're just so different.  I still encounter people who have just heard the news or are just seeing me for the first time, and it's a strange interaction.  Again, not good or bad, just strange. There is at least a perceived rush of intensity, and often I'm not at that moment in a place of deep sadness, so the reaction is incredibly awkward, although not always bad.  

Strangely though I find myself thankful for the awkwardness, thankful that broken people would love each other, no matter how awkwardly.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Missing Daddy

Several days ago on the way home from school Quinn asked me when he was going to get a new daddy. I wasn't quite prepared for that question, so I stalled, trying to figure out what he meant. Turns out he wanted a new "sick daddy" because he wanted more Batman toys, and he associated our trips to Houston with the little Batman toys we would give him before leaving. I guess our attempt at being sweet when we traveled backfired on us a little bit. I'm pretty sure I did a lousy job trying to tell him that having a sick daddy wasn't a pre-requisite for getting new toys because he immediately moved on to another topic while I was still floundering.

Tomorrow Quinn turns four.

That makes today a day of many emotions for me. The last trip Emmett and I made alone, we made to Toys R Us so that we could pick out a present for Quinn. Emmett wanted to get him legos because he had been so excited for Quinn to be old enough to love legos as much as he had growing up. So we came back with several lego items. I didn't want Emmett's present to get lost in the birthday craziness, so I let Quinn open the presents from his daddy today. And I spent most of the morning helping Quinn build his legos, as he is still a little too young to figure them out alone. The rest of the day I kept thinking of all the things Quinn would miss out on doing with his dad, and all the things I would have to get excited about doing, like going cross-eyed trying to figure out where every tiny lego piece went.

Then shortly after leaving Quinn alone in bed tonight, I heard him bawling from the other room. I went in to see what was wrong, and he threw himself into my arms sobbing that he missed his daddy. So we cried and talked for a while. I told him about the books on the shelf that his daddy loved, about how his daddy loved hiking and camping, and about all the fun things his daddy had wanted to do with him. I told him about the journals and letters and trinkets that I had set aside for him to have when he was older. He asked me again about daddy's wedding ring and how I was going to keep it safe for him to wear when he was bigger. He suggested that I use one of the empty lego boxes because he wouldn't need it after the police van was built. That particular box was the obvious choice for safety because it was part of the police set, of course. But when I asked him to trust me to keep it safe, even if I put it in a different box, he sweetly said without hesitation, "I trust you, mommy."

We spent that half hour alternately sobbing and laughing, moving between emotions with impressive speed. And when I finally left him again, he was peaceful. Quinn's grief is sweet and tender. His logic makes me laugh and reminds me of what my logic must look like to God. His trust is complete, without reservation, and yet fear causes him to have all sorts of questions. I see my heart reflected in him every day, even when he is pitching a fit. And though my words are more subtle and my actions more reserved, ultimately there is not much difference in our hearts. Quinn helps me put things in perspective, and for that I am deeply thankful tonight.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011


Each day brings a new memory of the man I loved, a picture or note or household object will send waves of emotion crashing over me, some sweet, some hard, like an old journal of Emmett's that I stumbled across the other day.  He had a habit of combining sermon notes, personal reflection, to-do lists, and drum charts in a way that still makes me smile.  I flipped through some of his thoughts about the loss of our daughter, about his desire for holiness or his longings for God.  Even as I set the journal aside in a small pile for Quinn, I was struck by the weight of desire.  Desire for Emmett, yes, but even more so a desire for things beyond my wildest imaginings.

I've been reading some from a very old book called The Ascent of Mt. Carmel by St. John of the Cross.  It speaks of desires apart from God, and how they strangle our love of God, preventing us from communion with our savior.  And somewhere along the line it occurred to me that one of the greatest blessings in grief is that it fully awakens our desires for all the right things.  And perhaps that is what God wants of us, after all, to hunger and thirst and pant and long for these right things.  

I know this, though, that while traveling, in faith, this path I never would have chosen for myself, I am becoming a new person.  And it is like climbing a mountain, to borrow the comparison used by St. John of the Cross.  Ages ago when I actually climbed rocks for fun, I would get to the point in the climb where my muscles would start spasming from the exertion.  I find myself now, spiritually at least, on one of those sheer rock faces with my muscles giving out and no hand holds to be found, and I am very thankful to be anchored by the promises of the one who cannot lie.  

I wonder though that I can be exhausted to the point of stupidity most days and yet find myself so restless.  I am restless for the arms of my savior, desperately homesick for a promise, and anxious for that joyful homecoming.  Every day I live, I understand more of what it means to be a stranger wandering in foreign lands, as it says in Hebrews 11:
All these people were still living by faith when they died. They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance, admitting that they were foreigners and strangers on earth. People who say such things show that they are looking for a country of their own. If they had been thinking of the country they had left, they would have had opportunity to return. Instead, they were longing for a better country—a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them.
Right now my prayer is that I would not look back, that I would not long for what is behind me, but press on, with my heart's desire set on a better country -  a heavenly one.  Lord willing, may my heart continue to be restless until I reach that better country.

Phil Wickham's Heaven Song. 

You wrote a letter and You signed your name 
I read every word of it page by page 
You said that You'd be coming, coming for me soon 
Oh my God I'll be ready for You 

I want to run on greener pastures 
I want to dance on higher hills 
I want to drink from sweeter waters 
In the misty morning chill 
And my soul is getting restless 
For the place where I belong 
I can't wait to join the angels and sing my heaven song 

I hear Your voice and I catch my breath 
'Well done my child, enter in and rest' 
Tears of joy roll down my cheek 
It's beautiful beyond my wildest dreams 

I want to run on greener pastures 
I want to dance on higher hills 
I want to drink from sweeter waters 
In the misty morning chill 
And my soul is getting restless 
For the place where I belong 
I can't wait to join the angels and sing... 

I want to run on greener pastures 
I want to dance on higher hills 
I want to drink from sweeter waters 
In the misty morning chill 
And my soul is getting restless 
For the place where I belong 
I can't wait to join the angels and sing 
No, I cant wait to join the angels and sing my heaven song

Check out this song with the video of Emmett from the celebration service at: 

Friday, June 17, 2011

How to Begin

If I were Julie Andrews, then I might have some neat little song to break into here with cute little witticisms that would have a flock of children (all clothed in re-purposed curtains, of course) hanging on my every word.  I suppose I have much to be thankful for, especially my taste in curtains, right now, but I don't seem to have words, much less a melody and a handful of rhyming couplets.

I have spent some time this past week reacquainting myself with my husband.  As I have looked through old photos, seen snippets of videos, or even found Emmett's old journals, I find myself remembering Emmett before cancer, and it is like falling in love with a stranger.  I had forgotten how his carefree laugh sounded or how much he could eat or how well he played percussion.  It was nice to remember life together before cancer, hard, but nice.

Grief is a strange companion.  Because of our schedules, Emmett and I were used to long periods apart.  So in some ways, I still feel like I am waiting for the full awareness of his absence to fall on me, like I'm walking in some crazy dream.  Other times, my heart physically hurts inside my chest as if it is being squeezed by giant hands.

So I come back to writing without any particular words or wisdom to share.  I've been swimming in the psalms recently, just to dwell with other writers overwhelmed and disoriented by waves of emotion.  When Emmett was helping me with this blog, psalm 51:15-17 came to mind:

 Open my lips, Lord,
   and my mouth will declare your praise. 

You do not delight in sacrifice, or I would bring it;
   you do not take pleasure in burnt offerings. 

My sacrifice, O God, is a broken spirit;
   a broken and contrite heart
   you, God, will not despise.

Although this psalm came from a heart overwhelmed with guilt, I find that loss leaves me with feelings very similar to guilt.  Not that I feel guilty, but that shame and unworthiness are remarkably similar feelings to emptiness and loneliness.  With shame we realize that all our acts are filthy before God, and with emptiness we realize that all our acts are meaningless without God.  The awareness of sin brings a profound sense that God does not have to love us (though he chooses to love us rather recklessly), and loss tempts us to believe that God does not love us.  So I have been crying out with David for the Lord to open my lips, to delight in my broken spirit, and to restore unto me the joy of my salvation.

I do not know what this blog will become.  I don't really much care at the moment.  I write to make sense of my life, and so I suppose I will be writing for a long time.  Feel free to join me.