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!