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

Knitting Retreat

This past weekend was spectacular. I went to the same fabulous lodge (Pond View Lodge in Frederic, WI) for the fourth annual Knitch fall getaway. My knitting group places an extremely high value on this weekend... Away from kids, responsibilities, alarm clocks. Three days of ultimate relaxation—and lots of knitting.

Last year, I went away with a heavy heart. I left a pained husband (at his urging) home with our toddler. Steve, Chris' brother, came over with his girls to do our fall yard maintenance. Chris, I'm sure (although I never heard about it), struggled to try to care for a busy girl while struggling with intense pain.

The very night I got home from that cozy lodge, he quietly called his brother to take him to the ER so he could get help with pain control. And then he called my mom to come sit with me. And then he woke me. To tell me the plan. I was not to drive him—his brother would do that. And my mom would watch over me while I slept—or tried to.

I think he held out for me. He knew how much I needed the time away from all the heavy cares at home. So he denied his own needs. How selfish I felt that night when he was whisked away to the hospital by one who was not his wife. By one who had not spent the weekend away from family and responsibility. I was weak when he needed me. He was strong when he shouldn't have had to be.

These things are nearly too painful to write. But this is the man who married me. He loved me more than he loved himself. He gave until it hurt—literally. The best of men.

So this weekend, I did a lot of reflecting on the past year. I spent long and quiet mornings (those girls like to sleep in!) in a cozy chair with coffee and my Bible. I also knit (selfish knitting—just for me) for hours each day; practiced some Holy Yoga (two of the Knitch girls are certified instructors); ate and drank well; had a massage from a therapist who brought the bed to us; took some fun pictures (I promise to post some of my friend Emily's soon); and talked, laughed, and fellowshipped with some of the dearest friends on earth.

(these photos by Emily Steffen, our founder, at our 2010 knitch retreat… mine are the first pair of hands)

Friday, October 19, 2012

Boat or Ark?

I was straightening up the house. Erika was flipping through her picture Bible. Looking at Noah's ark, she said, "It's not a boat—it's an ark. It's kinda like a boat, but it doesn't have a rudder. It's a box." Do you think she learned that from her mom? Nope.

Her Daddy told her that. We have a video on my phone of him telling her that very thing—word-for-word. The picture Bible they were reading together tells little ones that Noah built a boat. Chris needed her to know otherwise. And she's got it. I’m pretty sure she's ready to teach this one in Sunday School.

How grateful I am for those little video clips that allow her to learn from her daddy—even now. At the risk of sounding deeply depressing, will you allow me to encourage parents of little ones to do this often? The future is uncertain. As Erika watches, she is combining her young memories with what she sees and hears; and she knows her Dad. She learns from him. She remembers him.

When she watches these little videos, she smiles. I imagine she feels a bit like she is with Daddy. She lets me know when she needs a fix, and we cuddle up together and watch the little screen. I with tears. She with a soft, sweet smile.

Picture 044

Friday, October 12, 2012

Truest Sympathy

I ask thee for a thoughtful love,
Through constant watching wise,
To meet the glad with joyful smiles,
And wipe the weeping eyes,
A heart at leisure from itself,
To soothe and sympathize.
-Anna L. Waring

How can I soothe and sympathize? There are many around me aching and reeling. Some with pain I cannot begin to imagine. Others with loss I have too have tasted. Can words do anything to speak into their hurt?

My words cannot. Some pain is beyond any human being's ability to console. A friend, in the midst of her own suffering, reminded me of this verse this week: "When the cares of my heart are many, your consolations cheer my soul." (Psalm 94:19) Only His consolations bring the relief we need.

And so, we are quiet. We wipe their tears and enter into their pain the best we know how—so that we also cry tears with them. We ache, and we know that it is not enough. So in our inadequacy, we cry out to Jesus to soothe their breaking hearts. To do what we cannot.

His humanity and His divinity—the hypostatic union—is the truest balm for wounds too deep for words. A suffering Savior. He is “acquainted with grief,” and He is mighty to save.

Christ…was hungry as man, and yet He is the Bread of Life; He was athirst as man, and yet He says, "Let him who is athirst come unto me and drink"; He was weary, and yet He is our rest; He pays tribute, and yet He is a King; He is called a devil, and yet He casts out devils. He prays, and yet hears prayer; He weeps, and dries our tears; He is sold for thirty pieces of silver, and redeems the world. He is "led as sheep to the slaughter," and is the Good Shepherd; He is mute like a sheep, and yet He is the Everlasting Word; He is the "man of sorrows," but He heals our pains; He is nailed to a Tree and dies upon it, and by the Tree restores us to life; He has vinegar to drink, and changes the water into wine; He lays down His life, and takes it again; He dies, and gives life, and by dying destroys death.

(Gregory of Nazianzus)




Praise God for our sympathizing Savior. May we be His hands and feet--"A heart at leisure from itself, to soothe and sympathize."

Friday, October 5, 2012


I look around. It seems like all I see is tragedy. My facebook newsfeed tells me things. A wife who, this week, became husbandless—like me. A tiny boy with a huge tumor. A woman sifting through her young, dead husband's things and finding the most precious, painful treasures. And more. I'm sure there's more.
What if this world was all there was? What if we got one chance at life, and we were dealt a bad hand? What if the men of our dreams die too soon and our cherished children become desperately ill? And there is nothing we can do to stop it. We can't hold on tight enough to control all this. We can't hold onto anything really.
So where can I run when the tears won't stop—for my tragedy and for others'? Is there any hope at all for these "bad hands"?
When Chris and I used to drive by those old, big, beautiful homes on Summit Avenue and dream about buying one of them "one day," I remember us saying, "it's a good thing this world is not all we have." (A teacher and part-time nurse salary would never buy us one of our dream homes, so we tried to make our little place our "dream home.")
Chris marveled aloud as we drove the drive that moved us into my parent's home (after starting hospice), "It seems strange that I will never drive this stretch again." I-94 east from our house, past the home where he grew up...and to the place where he would die. And he knew it.
Mansions are waiting (John 14:2). Chris knows this better than any of us ever could—right now, anyway. Paradise. What must that be like? What must eternal REST feel like?
Oh, there's so much more to say about the HOPE I have! About this life—these "bad hands." I will say more, but that is enough for now. I'm resting on this.

Photo: Share if this will be a great day!

Monday, October 1, 2012

Seven Months

October 1st. How did we get here already? I find myself a bit terrified of impending winter. Not my favorite season at all. Too cold. Too long. No warmth on my skin. And this winter, no husband warmth either.

But, I get ahead of myself! Autumn is my favorite season! The colors, the crisp air. Sweater and cute hat weather. Back-to-back birthdays in November (Erika's and mine). I want to soak it all in and not dread what lies ahead. In seasons. And in life.

Erika with fall colors... this is my new favorite pic. It's so HER!

I'm learning what kind of grieving is working for me. I find I need to plan ahead. Think carefully about anniversaries and days that could be hard. And then plan something amazing. Something exciting. Or relaxing.

So, guess what I'm doing today? I am having a SPA DAY! Erika is going to be with Grandma and Grandpa all day, and I have a hefty chunk of gift cards for a particular spa that were given to me before and after Chris died by some sweet friends and family.

These amazing people assumed, so kindly, that I needed pampering after the excruciating experience of watching my husband die. And I did! But until this point, I have not wanted to be touched at all. Something very deep inside seemed to say, "If I cannot be touched by Chris, I would rather not be touched at all." So a massage was the very last thing on my list of things to do.

But now, the healing part of me thinks that a massage and facial sound like bliss. Thank youmy sweet cousins, aunt, mother-in-law, co-worker... Today I am enjoying your gift (with some to spare)! Much love.