Friday, December 28, 2012

Christmas 2012

Well, we seem to have made it. Our first Christmas without Chris. There were some hard moments--more than I expected, actually. And there were many sweet moments--spent with family and friends. I hope your Christmas was blessed this year, as well.

Erika and I had our family (of 2) Christmas on Christmas Eve. We read the Christmas story (from the shepherds' perspective) from her Jesus Storybook Bible. The angel ornament ("Hope") was a gift from a sweet friend, who is also walking through her first Christmas without her husband...
Dad kept a fire burning downstairs for us throughout the days of Christmas.

We ate lots of yummy food (this is Erika enjoying Nana's Christmas morning brunch)

and were loved completely (with cousin Audrey).

Erika lets her uncles know when she needs some male attention...and they happily give it every time.  Thanks, guys. I love you for this.
(Uncle Steve above, Uncle Jake below)

Thank you to our friends and family, who treated us so tenderly this Christmas season. You prayed for us, sent us cards, and gave us sweet gifts. We love you more than we can express with words.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Christmas..With Joy and Pain

Bells Across the Snow

O Christmas, merry Christmas!
Is it really come again,
With its memories and greetings,
With its joy and with its pain?
There's a minor in the carol,
And a shadow in the light,
And a spray of cypress twining
With the holly wreath to-night.
And the hush is never broken
By laughter light and low,
As we listen in the starlight
To the "bells across the snow."

O Christmas, merry Christmas!
'Tis not so very long
Since other voices blended
With the carol and the song!
If we could but hear them singing
As they are singing now,
If we could but see the radiance
Of the crown on each dear brow;
There would be no sigh to smother,
No hidden tear to flow,
As we listen in the starlight
To the "bells across the snow."

O Christmas, merry Christmas!
This never more can be;
We cannot bring again the days
Of our unshadowed glee.
But Christmas, happy Christmas,
Sweet herald of good-will,
With holy songs of glory
Brings holy gladness still.
For peace and hope may brighten,
And patient love may glow,
As we listen in the starlight
To the "bells across the snow."
Frances Ridley Havrgal

We miss you, Chris.

Friday, December 21, 2012

The Merry Christmas Infant

I remember that first Christmas season as a mom... three years ago. Erika came to us just before Thanksgiving, which means she was so very tiny on baby's first Christmas.

 I was struck by her complete dependence upon others. She was so fragile. So needy. So completely helpless.
And I read, "He was made in the likeness of men" (Phil. 2:7). Jesus was like this? Dependent, fragile, needy, helpless? God became a baby? Emmanuel. God with us. The infant God!
Humility in its purest form.
And not only did God become a newborn, but this newborn was born to die—a newborn sacrifice.
I heard a sermon (by Alastair Begg) last week called "Comfort and Joy." He told a story of an ornament he received as a gift. It was a nail with a ribbon tied to the top. He said simply about this powerful reminder, "without the nails, there would be no ribbons to deck our halls."
MacArthur shares this meditation which I've carried with me this Christmas season (forgive me if you've already heard this from my lips):
Here's a side to the Christmas story that isn't often told: those soft little hands, fashioned by the Holy Spirit in Mary's womb, were made so that nails might be driven through them. Those baby feet, pink and unable to walk, would one day walk up a dusty hill to be nailed to a cross. That sweet infant's head with sparkling eyes and eager mouth was formed so that someday men might force a crown of thorns onto it. That tender body, warm and soft, wrapped in swaddling clothes, would one day be ripped open by a spear.
Jesus was born to die.
Don't think I'm trying to put a damper on your Christmas spirit. Far from itfor Jesus' death, though devised and carried out by men with evil intentions, was in no sense a tragedy. In fact, it represents the greatest victory over evil anyone has ever accomplished. (Truth for Today, December25)
As a mom, Mary seems to have been shielded from the details of what was to come for her Son. At least at first. But Simeon told her (when Jesus was an infant) that a sword would pierce her own soul when the Messiah did what He came to do (Luke 2:34-35). I wonder what she thought when she heard that?
And now because He came to die, I do not fear death. There is no punishment waiting for me. He was the ransom, the payment, the sacrifice. Once and for all.
And THAT is why we can truly say, "Merry Christmas."

(Photography by who else? Emily Steffen)

Friday, December 14, 2012

Chili, Robbery & Hope

Tonight is my parents' annual Christmas chili party (the guest list is different every year, so don't be offended if you're not on it this year!). Last year on this weekend, I was in a very dark spot. Chris taught his very last day (December 16th) at school. He was declining quickly. We barely made it out the door for the party amidst all his pain. And not two steps in the door at Mom and Dad's, our neighbors called.

Someone had broken into our house. Came in through the kitchen. Rifled through the desk, the medicine cabinet, and every drawer in my dresser. Did not seem to set foot in Erika's room. We turned around and went back to the house to survey the damage and talk to police.

Chris' wedding ring (which he was not wearing since it no longer fit him due to his significant weight loss), a flash drive, an ipod, my decoy jewelry box (yes, it was my own idea and it worked--sort of proud of that), and all of Chris' narcotics for pain. Gone. It felt like insult added to injury. Lord, we need this too? How much more can we take?

We took this at the chili party last year...I don't much like it. Chris looks so very ill
 And then, he started hospice care on December 21st.

People are worried about me this Christmas. My first without Chris. But, my spot is not nearly so dark as it was last year. Sure, I'm a bit worried about how all the festivities will go without that third member of our family. But, last year we had a very dark cloud hanging over us. We knew it would be his last Christmas, and he was absolutely miserable and in pain through all of the events. It was no celebration at all. It was deep, deep grief.

This year, there are twinges and aches and missing. But there is healing and hope.

Friday, December 7, 2012

Mueller for Christmastime

For sixty-two years and five months I had a beloved wife, and now, in my ninety-second year I am left alone. But I turn to the ever-present Jesus, as I walk up and down in my room, and say "Lord Jesus, I am alone, yet not aloneThou art with me, Thou art my friend. Now, Lord, comfort me, strengthen me, give to Thy poor servant everything Thou seest He needs." And we should be not satisfied till we are brought to this, that we know the Lord Jesus Christ experimentally, habitually to be our Friend: at all times, and under all circumstances, ready to prove Himself to be our friend.  George Mueller 

I love this. Unlike Mr. Mueller, I did not spend two-thirds of my life with my spouse, but his words ring true and real.

For the grieving person, time is so significant. He says he was married not sixty-two years but sixty-two years and five months.

And I appreciate and know so well the feeling of feeling so very aloneso without the one I thought would always be thereyet feeling so upheld by Jesus. In a way I have never felt before.

I've paced and wondered and fearedwalked "up and down in my room." I've asked "why me?", "how can I do this alone?", "will I always be alone?", "I'm too young to be alone!", "Doesn't my girl need a dad?"

And I love his prayer. Lord Jesus, you are my friend! My friend! Comfort me, strengthen me, give me everything YOU see that I need. Many times, I feel I have so many unmet needs. But He supplies all my needs, so they must not truly be needs. Not yet anyway.

This Christmas season has me a bit fearfulnot a lot, but a bit. It's the unexpected things that make me so aware of Chris' absence. This past weekend, I watched The Nativity Story. I did not remember until I watched it alone that Chris used to translate all the Hebrew for me... He was not there for me to ask, "what are they saying?" He enriched my life in so many big waysbut lots of small ways too. 

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Nine months

Three-quarters of one whole year. And Erika and I are doing really well. We are enjoying life, our many blessings, the Christmas season, and fun! We laugh a lot. And we talk about Daddy a lot. And when Vince Guaraldi music comes on the Christmas station, Erika shouts, "It's Charlie Brown, Mom!" Chris would be so proud. Here's his favorite part of A Charlie Brown Christmaswhat Christmas is all about.

I hope you all are enjoying your gifts and blessings this Christmas season. Much love to you all.

Friday, November 30, 2012


No Christmas until after Thanksgiving. But after Thanksgiving, I have no restraint. Throughout our married life, we always put up our tree the weekend after Thanksgiving. I was half-tempted this year to just go with my parent's flow... to dissolve into their Christmas traditions and decor. Leave my cute tree in the basement of my house—in storage.

The Moravian star Chris and I found in Bethlehem, PA.. our very favorite Christmas item
 But then I remembered my girl. She needs to know that she and I are a family. We have our own traditions, and we have our own Christmas tree. So, I drove over to the house and dragged the tree and the Christmas boxes out of the lonely basement. (That's the first time I have ever done that. And I am stronger than I realized—in more ways than physically. Roles form in marriage that makes you almost believe you can't do some things.)

Erika “helped” to decorate the tree; and as I do every year, I reminisced about each ornament. (Chris, like many men, never really got involved in trimming the tree, so I’m used to it being a rather solitary event.)

I pulled out a couple of ornaments that were given to me by a friend several years ago. Each bares a very significant word (this year, more than any other year)—“Peace” and “Joy”. My nightly prayer with Erika is that Jesus would give us peace and joy when we are feeling sad about Daddy. This was a very visual reminder of the granting of that request. A gift.

Poor Erika never received a handknit stocking from Mommy; but this year inherited Daddy's (it is strangly comforting to not have an extra stocking... I guess procrastination DOES pay!)

Friday, November 23, 2012

Kipper Party

Erika wanted a Kipper party for her third birthday... Kipper is an adorable British dog who has all kinds of sweet and innocent adventures. Rather obscure though; and when you go to the party supply place, there are no Kipper-themed party supplies. But, I gave it my best shot. And I think she approved. We were surrounded by all of our people, and it was a great night.

my sweet friend Amy made this for my girl


Thursday, November 22, 2012


How is it that this heart of mine, which has hurt more in this past year than I thought I was capable of is it that this same heart has never felt so full of thanksgiving than ever before? How can great loss bring even greater gratitude?

What are these gifts for which I am so thankful?

My Jesus. He has tenderly walked with me, carried me, wiped my tears, sat quietly with me in my pain. And more than that--He knows it. He knows my pain and feels it with the very same intensity I do. And still more! He intercedes for me. He groans on my behalf--the kind of groaning for which there are no words.

My girl. Her fantastic personality, which differs so much from mine, has been my inspiration, excitement, hope. She loves a party, and I'm more comfortable in the corner. She talks incessantly and cheerfully (especially in the mornings!), and I like to not talk that much (especially in the mornings!). Meeting new people is a thrill for her--a terror for me. I admire and love her for who she is--for all the ways she has been my joy, my marvel, my hope, my reason for caring about life.

My marriage to Chris. For all the things I learned, all the ways I grew and changed, all the ways I felt so fully and completely loved to my very core--despite my many flaws. He showed me the truest and best love, and he is the reason I am the person I am this day. And he is the reason I will not settle for less than that kind of love in my future.

My family. The way they shoulder my load with me. Hold me, prop me, shelter me, feed me. And they laugh with me. And I'm so very grateful for more laughter these days. They are so safe for me--anything I feel I can show them, and they love me for it.

My dear, close friends. You know who you are. I could count you on one hand. I need you. I lean on you. Thank you for choosing to get into this boat with me. For steering when I could not.

My in-laws. Chris's family.  They have grieved for my pain, while trying to figure out how to deal with their own. They have swooped up my girl at a moment's notice without a moment's thought.

My church. You carried me when I was too wounded to walk.

My pastor. You feed my soul.

Yarn and my Knitch girls. Knitting is my therapy. And you girls are my counselors, comedians, confidantes. Love you.

My job. It fits me perfectly and allows me to provide for my girl. A boss that I also call a friend. Co-workers who care deeply for me, listen to me, laugh and cry with me, and loan me Halloween costumes for Erika.

My cozy room. The chair that has held me through countless hours of countless emotions. The bed that is amazingly comfortable, despite being too big for one person.

Great gifts, indeed. So on this first Thanksgiving Day of this odd widowed life, I choose to dwell on these gifts and not on the absence of others. Happy Thanksgiving and much love.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Erika is 3!

Three years ago tonight, Chris and got the phone call that changed our lives forever. Our Erika Grace was born that very night—two weeks early and just one day after my 29th birthday. She was the best birthday gift I have ever received.

We threw some things in a bag and headed to Cambridge Medical Center to meet our baby girl. She was the purplest, loveliest thing we had ever seen in our lives.

And now I celebrate her birthday for the first time without her daddy. She had a mere two birthdays with him. She told me she wished that Daddy could come to her birthday party... Oh Baby, I'm so sorry.

But today, like yesterday, I celebrate. I do not grievenot today anyway. Today I celebrate the vibrant, extraverted, funny, brilliant, excitable, chattering, beautiful daughter I'm blessed to call mine. The girl who wanted a Kipper birthday this year. And wanted Daddy to be there.

Erika, you have changed me and challenged me in ways no other person ever could have. Your presence in my life means hope, joy, laughter. I love you so muchmy heart feels that it just might burst. I'm so glad I'm your mom. And I'm so proud of you. This video is for you.  


Friday, November 16, 2012


Today I'm 32. That's not so old, right?
I LOVE my birthday. I love that Chris knew that I loved it and saw to it that I had "birth week", rather than simply "birth day." Celebrations were his specialty.

Last year he bought me the North Face parka I'd been in love with for a couple years. It's ivory and has fur around the hood and is long and warm and wonderful. I'm so glad for it. I also found a gift intended for me (not yet given) when I was sorting his thingsa beautiful pewter bracelet I had my eye on... I'm wearing that today.

This year I'm celebrating without him. Yet I'm still celebrating. I hope I always love my birthday (no matter my age), because birthdays are so fun (especially when they're mine!). And it's not so hardthe celebrating without him. At least not as hard as I expected.

I shockingly find myself not as lonely for him as I once was. It seems I have discovered that I can still liveeven live well. And have fun too! Some (significant) part of me has come alive again. I find myself anticipating and enjoying thingslaughing. It's amazing how the heart heals, bit by bit.

So, what kinds of birthday plans did I make? Some alone time and some social time. A winning combination, I think.

Erika will spend the day with Grandma Judy and the evening with Nana and Papa. Her mama will have a massage and avail herself of various Twin Cities birthday freebies (thanks for the tip, Danielle!). I will probably read and be quiet at Caribou with my free coffee. Free car wash. Free eyebrow wax. And then I'm going out with two very special people tonight.  My sister and my friend Maria.

Abby, my sister and dearest friend...I love you and KNOW I could not be walking this road without you. You are my rock, my cheerleader, my confidante. Thank you for all the ways you love and care for mewhile you simultaneously love and care for your young and busy family. You are the most compassionate and competent person I know. Thank you for getting me.

And Maria, my sweet and tender friend... Your fierce support and empathyyour feeling of my painhas been a solace and comfort. You, my friend, use your great loss to speak comfort and peace to the hurting hearts around you, and I dearly love you for that. Thank you for the way you bear my burdens with me. And make me laugh too!

These two amazing girls are going to be with me on the night I would have been with Chris. And I can't wait.

(These photos all by Emily Steffen) :)

Friday, November 9, 2012

Tears for Women

This is not a political blog. I am not political.

I am a pro-life Christian. I vote not on economy or social issues or foreign affairs. Those things are surely very important, but there is another that I believe is more important. I vote for candidates who regard the rights of the unborn. I use my voice (however small it may be) to attempt to give voice to smallest voices of all—those that may never be heard. 

And I am a mom of a gorgeous daughter. She is the reason for this post. And so, for her sake, I do not apologize for my words here. 

You see, my daughter was among the "abortion vulnerable." She was an unplanned pregnancy to an unmarried woman. How grateful I am that her birth mother had the grace, fortitude, and loving support to live out what she believed. She trusted God to care for her—while she cared for the tiny being growing inside of her. She walked into the doors of First Care Pregnancy Center (New Life Family Services). Not Planned Parenthood. 

She saw the baby being knit together deep inside her as God's masterpiece. And what a masterpiece she is! And she took on the heavy consequences and pain in order to give life to this little one. Her daughter. My daughter.

This woman and her unplanned pregnancy made me a mom. 

Erika's mom and birth mom
This is an emotional argument. But aren't you emotional about your children? What if the baby you so desperately longed for (biological or not) was seen as having fewer rights than the one whose body carried her? What if you were told your baby's tiny-ness meant tiny importance? This is personal.

first steps
And so I grieve. I grieve because we have a president whose policies line the pockets of Planned Parenthood while snatching away the adoption tax credit. Because he would have called my daughter disposable—and my gift of motherhood not worthy of recognition. I grieve because our society has no regard for the sacred gestational stage of our citizens. Our daughters.

I ache for my daughter, who will grow up hearing a message so anti-Biblical, so godless. She will be surrounded by a world who tells her that truth is relative and that her rights and preferences matter more than anyone else's (which, of course, is ironic since that same world assigned her no rights pre-birth).

And my heart breaks for the women, who unlike Erika's birth mother, feel they have no other choice. They are told that their life, their plans, their future will be ruined by this lump of tissue. Their bodies made a mistake. This growth is a souless problem to be dealt with. They will never experience the pride and joy of seeing the beautiful face that will perhaps haunt them for life..

Erika and her birth mother
And for other women too... the women who long to be the vessels that shelter and protect and grow your sweet babies—I weep for you. I pray for you as you desperately pray that the dark and secret place that holds the baby you would very much like to call your own does not reject and snuff out the delicate masterpiece it holds. I pray you would hold your sweet one in your arms--this one for whom you have prayed. 

And lastly, my heart breaks for the grandmothers who will never hold and perhaps will never even know about their grandbabies. Their right to love, spoil, marvel at, read to, and enjoy these precious gifts is stolen from them.

Erika's birth mother, grandmother, and great grandmother
For all of these women, I weep. 

"For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother's womb. I praise you because I [and my daughter!] am fearfully and wonderfully made. Your works are wonderful, I know that full well." Psalm 139:13-14

Some comfort from my favorite author, C.H. Spurgeon (in his book, Come Ye Children):

...I am not certain that John Newton was not right when he said the majority of persons who are now in the kingdom of God are children. When I think of all the multitudes of babes that have died, who are now swarming in the streets of heaven, it does seem to me a blessed thought that albeit generation after generation of adults have passed away in unbelief and rebellion, yet enormous multitudes of children have gone streaming up to heaven, saved by the grace of God, through the death of Christ, to sing the high praises of the Lord for ever before the eternal throne. "Of such is the kingdom of heaven." They give tone and character to the kingdom; it is a kingdom of children rather than of men.

These sweet ones who were torn limb from limb and out of the place where they should have been the safest... these sweet ones have been made whole and healed. Their pure voices never heard here on earth are heard loudly in heaven, praising the One who knit them together.

Friday, November 2, 2012

My Little Cowgirl

Erika was a cowgirl for Halloween. A really cute one. Chris would have loved it. In keeping with tradition, Erika and I watched Charlie Brown's "The Great Pumpkin." As was also our tradition, I watched "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow" (the Johnny Depp version)without Chris.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

The Eight Month Run

Eight months today... This is the first time I had to double-check my month count. The passage of time does not seem quite so significant these days. I would guess that indicates progress in healing.

November. We are coming into the period of time I have feared since Chris died. November holds many monumental dates. My birthday, Erika's birthday, Thanksgiving. And you know what December holds. How will I "celebrate" my birthday? How will I make Erika's birthday special and fun? And how on earth will I manage holiday festivities?

It's hard doing all this alone. I know–I'm not truly alone. I have Jesus, and I have you all. But I want my husband. I feel like the most single married person–or perhaps the most married single person–in the world. I feel married. My friends are all married. I promised to be married for life. But now here I am–not married. This is the widow's story.

It's not really the every day things. I'm used to doing that by myself. It's the times when I wish I could co-decision-make with someone about holiday plans or budget choices or restaurant reservations. Or when my feelings are hurt, and I need someone to put a different spin on it all. Or when I want get dressed up for a hot date, like I did every Friday night. Or when my birthday comes, and I want my man to make a big deal of it.

But there is nothing to do except to keep going. Keep running. I pray for the "patience to run" (Hebrews 12:1) about which George Matheson wrote:
To run with patience is a very difficult thing. Running is apt to suggest the absence of patience, the eagerness to reach the goal. We commonly associate patience with lying down. We think of it as the angel that guards the couch of the invalid. Yet, I do not think the invalid’s patience the hardest to achieve.

There is a patience which I believe to be harder–the patience that can run. To lie down in the time of grief, to be quiet under the stroke of adverse fortune, implies a great strength; but I know of something that implies a strength greater still: It is the power to work under a stroke; to have a great weight at your heart and still to run; to have a deep anguish in your spirit and still perform the daily task. It is a Christlike thing!

Friday, October 26, 2012

Promised Pictures

Just today I received these from the one and only Emily Steffen, my sweet friend and founder of the Knitch. I just had to show them to you, as they capture the essence of our weekend.


Do you feel a bit like you were there with us? Laughter, fantastic food/drink, beautiful surroundings, yarn, and incredible friends. Thank you Emily, for capturing our time together so perfectly and beautifully. To my knitch girls... I could not have walked this grief journey without you. Much love!

our talented photographer, Emily Steffen