Sunday, September 25, 2011


The intensity of this weekend has caught me off guard.

Some things are easy because we should have done them years ago, like cleaning out the piles of junk in Emmett's studio that he never used.  Where, incidentally, I found every single clipboard in the house that Emmett had at one point squirreled away someplace safe, and where we haven't been able to find them for years.

But other things, like cleaning out Emmett's closet, are not so easy because there is a note of finality, a reminder that he's not just on the road again.  As I sorted through Emmett's things (and I bet you'd have never guessed that he had more clothes and shoes than I did), I also sorted through memories and emotions.  I rearranged my clothes, but it felt like I was reorienting my life, a feeling I wasn't prepared for because I felt like I was turning towards emptiness (as in a completely unknown future, not as in a lack of Jesus).

I also spent some time listening to a song a friend wrote about Emmett (Check out his CD here: the last track is the one to which I'm referring, but the whole disk is great), and though it's a good song, well a very good song actually, it's also a hard song because, unintentionally, I think it captured Emmett's mood very well.  Unlike many sparkly songs about dying, it poignantly captures the tension caused by a long illness.

And finally, last night, as I was working in the kitchen on some Team Emmett things, I heard Quinn sobbing from his bed.  I don't think I've ever seen him cry so hard that for several long minutes he couldn't even tell me what he was crying about.  He finally choked out that he was sad about daddy.  He had gotten out some books written by another friend about love and eternity (check those out here), to look at in bed, and those books always remind him of his daddy.  He wanted me to read them to him over and over, which I could barely do.

This weekend has been full of Emmett, even down to the weather.  Fall will always make me think of Emmett and intensify his absence.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011


So a combination of losing my lawn service (he got another job) and an end to the drought made Quinn comment the other day that our grass was getting really long.  You know it's bad when your four-year-old points out exactly what you've chose to ignore.  I've had so many offers for help that I was waffling on what to do.  So I decided to tackle it myself because hey, I've never mowed a lawn, and it can't be that hard, right?  Besides, everyone should do it once.  So here are my observations after mowing the lawn for the first time (And yes, it's okay to laugh and the comments are open for mocking):

  1. Always start in the backyard so that your embarrassing attempts at starting the lawnmower and your obvious lack of expertise about exactly how to maneuver the lawnmower do not become dinner table conversation for the neighbors.
  2. If the self-propelled feature is no longer working on your lawn mower, then you do not need to go to the gym beforehand or for the next several days if there are hills in your yard.
  3. When your husband mentions that the self-propelled feature isn't working (years ago) and says he needs to get it fixed, don't just smile and nod.  Make sure he follows through just in case you need to mow the lawn someday.
  4. If you accidentally run your lawnmower into mulch, you might want to close your mouth and duck because it flies everywhere, or at least that's what I've heard.
  5. Moles really are as evil as Emmett said they were.
  6. Rather than mowing a hill full of mole tunnels (see #5) that is enclosed by fences on two sides and bushes on a third, just give up and buy a goat.
  7. Mowing grass is much more satisfying when your lawn is thick and lush (the backyard) rather than when it looks like a bald man's combover (the front yard).  Now I know why Emmett was obsessed with planting grass seed last fall.  It's all dead now thanks to the summer.
  8. Thin strips of tall grass between two nicely mowed isles are not chic.
  9. And how in the world does that one blade of grass that's two feet tall survive multiple mowings? No idea.  It's still out there in the back yard.
  10. Watch out for low hanging branches waiting to assault the innocent head passing by.
  11. Artificial turf was a genius idea.
I enjoyed mowing the lawn because it made me feel awesomely powerful, and I had such a good laugh at my own expense.  But now I'm completely ready to do my part in stimulating the economy and find a lawn service.


Read this from Hosea 11:1-4:

1 “When Israel was a child, I loved him,
and out of Egypt I called my son. 
2 But the more they were called, 
the more they went away from me.  
They sacrificed to the Baals 
and they burned incense to images. 
3 It was I who taught Ephraim to walk, 
taking them by the arms; 
but they did not realize 
it was I who healed them. 
4 I led them with cords of human kindness, 
with ties of love. 
To them I was like one who lifts 
a little child to the cheek, 
and I bent down to feed them.

Now read it again.  and again.  and again.

Last night I picked up a little book called Surrender to Love by David Benner on a recommendation from a friend, and wow it is like a well aimed arrow straight into my heart.  I've already read half of it, though I must admit, it's only about 110 pages long.  Just take this passage:
        It is surrender to love that I really resist.  I am willing to accept measured doses of love as long as it doesn't upset the basic framework of my world.  That framework is built on the assumption that people get what they deserve.  That's what I really want.  I want to earn what I get.  And for the most part I am content to get what I earn.  Nothing grates me more than a handout.  If you doubt this, just ask someone who lives off charity.  What humans want is to earn the love we seek.  
        The Christian God comes to us as wholly other - so different from the gods of my imagination, so far beyond my control.  Encountering such a God is terrifying because encountering perfect love is an invitation to abandon ego.  A god of our own making would be much less terrifying.  But such a God cannot offer me what I most deeply need - release from my fears and healing of my brokenness.
I was meditating on some recommended passages of scripture from this book when Hosea 11 caught my attention, and I was overwhelmed with the tenderness of the Lord.  Tenderness is not a word frequently used to describe our Lord, yet the images in scripture overflow with tenderness.  He teaches us to walk, takes us by the arm, bends down to feed us, leads us with cords of kindness, and all that in this passage alone.  The whole rest of the Bible overflows with the tenderness the Lord feels towards his children.

Tenderness is taboo because it makes us vulnerable.  In our culture, the concepts of surrender, love, and fear are avoided and despised because we mistake them for weakness and loss of self.  But what if in surrender, we find our real selves and the power of God?  What if we've been avoiding that which will bring us the greatest peace?  What if the pain is just a temporary trial that we pass through to find joy?

Dwelling richly in the word is revealing the incomprehensible extent of how sin and self have blinded me to the truth that would set me free.  How often can I speak the truth that I cannot see at work in my own life?  Yet I am encouraged to throw myself on the grace of God more every day, knowing that his tenderness, not my merit, will be there to catch me.

Saturday, September 17, 2011


For the first time in almost two decades, I've taken up swimming laps occasionally.  I would like to say that I'm super spiritual and pray and contemplate life while I swim, but mostly I shut my mind off and try not to lose count of the laps, which inevitably happens at some point (and, unfortunately not because I swim a lot of laps).  But this week my mind was flooded with childhood memories of swimming.  Since from the ages of 4-13 I spent practically every summer day at the pool for about 8 hours before the two hours of swim practice, I had a lot of memories to wade through.

Particularly strong are the memories of my parents, specifically my mother, who must have spent hours making me chase her around the pool when I was little.  At least, it felt like hours, and I was convinced I was going to drown (Love you mom, and by the way, I do the same thing to Quinn!).  That image has stayed near the front of my mind this week, and I finally realized why when I reread one of the most intriguing verses in Romans 8:
And if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit, who lives in you. (11)
I first took notice of this verse a couple years ago when we had to read Romans for summer reading at school.  Several things in life overlapped to make Romans 8 a powerful and particularly enduring force in my life at the time; the loss of our daughter, a mission trip to Poland where our pastor preached through Romans 8, and finally reading it for school.  I remember sharing this particular verse with a small group and noting that Paul feels it necessary to repeat himself.  The verse actually caught my attention because I had one of those weird brain moments where I thought I read the same line over and over.  It actually took several minutes for me to unravel my own confusion and figure out that my brain wasn't a skipping record, but that the author was intentionally repetitive.

Paul repeats here two things, that the Spirit of God lives in us and that this is the same Spirit that raised Christ from the dead.  Let me say that again, the Spirit of God lives in us and this is the same Spirit that raised Christ from the dead.   Did you catch that?  Because I've been a believer for fourteen years, and I'm still working out the logical consequences of those two truths, so one more time (read it slowly and out loud):  the Spirit of God lives in us and this is the same Spirit that raised Christ from the dead.

Um, wow.

No wonder Paul repeated himself.  I'm surprised he only did it once.  Because I just want to copy and paste that sentence over and over.  So many days, I am convinced that the very God who holds all of creation in existence and still cares for me tenderly and compassionately will let me drown.  And worse yet, I operate as if the Spirit that raised Christ from the dead and conquered death once for all will not be able to complete his work in me.

Don't get me wrong, the power of sin to deceive is a vicious foe, and the battle that rages for control of my mind is intense.  I mean, like smelting metal in a furnace intense.  So perhaps that is why I desperately need to be reminded of the greater power at work within me, a power that neither begins in me nor draws its strength from me, but a power that will give life to my body.  Real life, not that namby, pamby self-numbing, entertained-to-death, safe kind of life.  And I'm finding that real life to be soul-crushingly difficult, but desperately good.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011


Quinn confesses to me frequently his deep, passionate wish that superheroes and superpowers could be real, to which I usually respond with the somewhat heartless, "yeah, but I really don't want supervillains, and it seems if you have one, then you would have both." Not cool, mom.  Not cool.

Our summer reading for work this past summer was to memorize two psalms and the opening passage of John.  The assignment fortunately coincided with particularly broken spirit, and I was longing to dwell more richly in the word, so I filled up pages and pages of writing these passages over and over.  And though I had memorized verses before, I found that dwelling richly in whole passages was so good for me that I decided to continue on with a couple more passages, Romans 8 and Hebrews 12.  

I've also found that nothing puts me in my place like trying to memorize scripture.  You couldn't sit me in the corner with a dunce cap long enough to create the same amount of feelings of shame and inadequacy induced by trying to learn a few verses of scripture by heart.  My mind is so dull and slow that these two chapters alone might very well may take me the rest of my life, but I suppose that dwelling in those two chaptes for the rest of my life might do me a whole lot of good.

Not only am I not very far along, I often find on mornings like this one that I have regressed several verses.  This morning in particular, Romans 8: 5-8 just would not come out.  But as I went over and over them, wanting to beat my head against the wall in frustration, I realized that maybe, just maybe, the Lord was trying to get his word into my thick skull in another way.  I mean, read the verses for crying out loud!
Those who live according to the flesh have their minds set on what the flesh desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires. The mind governed by the flesh is death, but the mind governed by the Spirit is life and peace.  The mind governed by the flesh is hostile to God; it does not submit to God’s law, nor can it do so.  Those who are in the realm of the flesh cannot please God.
 I have been in such a battle with my own mind lately that you think it wouldn't have taken me WEEKS to figure out that these verses were extremely relevant to my life at the moment.  Did I mention how thick and dull my brian can be at times?  Just this morning, I woke up early (thanks to the lovely birds outside my open window on this glorious fall morning), and had to struggle not to let my mind wander into unhealthy places.  And no, I'm not detailing those unhealthy places for you, so stop wondering what they are.

I mean, this is a battle, people!  No wonder my mind doesn't want me to hold on to these verses because it would rather be picking daisies in la-la land than submitting to the father of my Spirit and living in peace.  I am nuts and I know Christ!  Imagine if I didn't!  Oy!

I've had some interesting conversations with sweet friends lately about putting on the armor of God, the power of Satan to deceive even those who have loved God for decades, and the need to humbly come before him every day in prayer.  I have never been so aware of my need to stubbornly and forcefully arm myself with grace and mercy and truth and the righteousness of Christ because those flaming arrows sent from Satan are aimed with stunning accuracy at my weakest points.  And frantically moving my little tiny shield is no longer doing me any good.  So I'm diving into big passages of scripture with big meaning, and rolling around in them until all the indecent parts of my soul are awkwardly exposed and then graciously covered with Christ's righteousness.

 And that is the best super power of all, to be exposed and then covered by the relentless grace and mercy of Christ, to submit, as it says in Hebrews 12, to the Father of our Spirits and live!  Because if I could shoot lasers out my hands or get big and green to squash whoever annoyed me or beat up anyone I wanted, then we'd all be in trouble.

Sunday, September 11, 2011


I've been slowly falling apart these past couple weeks, drawing away from my savior and closing off parts of my heart.  The attitude of my heart was slowly working its way out in chores not done, friends not called, time not spent in the word.

This past weekend I took Quinn out to Foster Falls with a group from school for an overnight camping trip (which he loved) and a taste of outdoor rock climbing (which he did not love).  It was the perfect weekend for a voyage into the woods.   I had spent the previous week checking out our tent, trying to find all the gear stashed over the house, and planning for every possible four-year-old curve ball.  Between working, preparing for the trip, and visits from family, I didn't have much time to think about the trip.

But I could feel the panic setting in on the drive down, and sure enough, as I strapped on Emmett's pack with his tent and sleeping bag inside, the full weight of how much I miss him came rushing over me all at once.  As we hiked the short trail to the campground, we were often alone and the tears would fall hot and fast as Quinn jabbered on behind me unaware.  I did marvel at his ability to maintain a constant stream of chatter while practically climbing to the campsite.  He certainly did not inherit that skill from me.

This morning we decided to spend playing on the edge of the plunge pool at the base of the falls.  The water was deep and frigid.  I couldn't help thinking how Emmett would have enjoyed the freezing cold water and would have found a way to drag me in against my will.  Since we didn't have Quinn's swimming vest, we played on the shore chasing villains, trying to skip stones, and finding rocks that looked like rock monster teeth.

Quinn enjoyed his weekend so much he went to bed about 6 pm tonight without a fuss.  I however, spent most of the weekend just trying to hold myself together because Emmett's absence was so powerfully felt.  There were times the my efforts at self-control cost so much that I could barely speak.  Consequently I didn't have much time for reflection until we got home and my hands were busy with unpacking and laundry.  And I couldn't seem to get these lyrics by David Crowder out of my head:
He is jealous for me, loves like a hurricane,
I am tree bending beneath the weight of his wind and mercy
all of a sudden I am unaware of these afflictions eclipsed by glory
and I realize just how beautiful you are and how great your affections are for me. 
oh, how he loves us so, oh how he loves us, how he loves us so.
(check out the whole song here)
It would seem that I have been dabbling on the edge of God's mercy, refusing to immerse myself in His love.  Because it is in his glorious presence that my afflictions are truly eclipsed.  Therein lies the beauty of affliction, for whatever form it takes, whatever state it finds me in, it will never fail to bring the love of God into sharp focus.  And somehow, even in my circumstances, I am learning thankfulness.  I find myself curious to plunge the depths of God's love, knowing that I will never be prepared for the shock of clarity and depth of grace I will find there.

So my prayer this week is to be able to immerse myself in the love of God as if I were jumping into that freezing cold plunge pool and feel my breath taken away as the full force of that love surrounds me.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011


Last Friday I was cleaning out some files on my phone, specifically several dozen pictures taken by Quinn, mostly of his fingers, when I came across some old videos I'd made of Emmett with Quinn.  It was weird to hear Emt's voice again, to see his smile and silly jokes.  It reminded me of how much laughter he brought to our home.  

Then Monday I was looking through something in my office when I came across Emt's last journal where he had prayed for me, for strength to keep fighting, for healing and so many other things.  The unexpected rush of emotions was a bit overwhelming.  Quinn came in the room shortly thereafter, and after asking me what was wrong, he said, "Mom, just imagine a bird playing drums, that would be so silly!"  And, in an attempt to make me laugh, he kept telling me to imagine different animals playing the drums.  I have no idea where he picked up on that skill, but it was both funny and heart-breakingly sweet at the same time.

So we laughed together, and I spent some time thanking God for the gift of my son, who, like his father, is one of the very few people on earth that can make me laugh that kind of deep, soul cleansing laughter.  Tonight I'm specifically praying for a house full of more sweet laughter.