Thursday, November 21, 2013

Love Story

Several weeks ago, I promised to tell you my story. Forgive the long delay! Life has been quite busy!

So, here I finally am. Where do I start?

When Chris was dying, he talked with me at length about getting married again. He said, "you do better married," and he wanted a father for his sweet girl. So, he told me things like, "Don't wear your wedding ring on your left hand very long." He prayed that the Lord would bring Erika and me a godly man who would love and care for us as he did. And he told all of our loved ones who visited that they should encourage me to get married again soon.

This all perhaps sounds odd to some of you. You may say, "I could never imagine getting married if I lost my spouse." Things look very different, though, when you are a parent with a young child and when you treasure the sweetness of marriage and companionship. I used to feel a bit sad about there being "no marriage in heaven." But what a beautiful truth that is to me now! I am free and blessed to marry again! And Chris wanted it for me. What a gift he gave me--to release me to another.

And so from the beginning of my widowhood, I began praying for a husband. I prayed these things: that he loved the Lord and was in ministry for Him; that he had suffered some loss, in order that he might be able to understand my daughter's and mine (I hoped for a widower, but I did not specifically pray for that); and that he had a daughter, so that he might have a heart for mine.

I admit--I kept my eyes open for this kind of man. I did not see him around. Several people suggested "going online." I hesitated but did think about it for a while. Eventually (last December), I decided to make a profile on Sovereign Grace Singles.

In January, I began corresponding with a widower. We started writing about our losses--something both of us needed and wanted to do. We talked about the nearness of our God and all of His comforts. It was sweet fellowship, and we found ourselves writing volumes to each other each day. There was so much to say, and we felt we never really got to say it all. So, we decided to talk on the phone a few weeks after we began writing.

I think my sister saw the writing on the wall. She warned me: don't fall for this guy. He was 15 years older than I, a missionary (to the Middle East, but currently living in Washington state), and a father of 5 children. "A lot." Alot of years, a lot of ministry, a lot of kids.

The phone call was four hours long. Immediately I loved the smoothness of his voice. I thought he was articulate and thoughtful, and I enjoyed talking with him--immensely. I saw the heart he had for the hurt his children were suffering. I saw his clinging to his Lord through the storm. We talked about our beloved lost spouses--Chris and Bev.

We continued writing and also started talking a lot. And then I made the first move. I told him (in an email!) that I would like to pray about being "more than just friends." It became clear to me that he possessed the qualities for which I had prayed. He agreed to pray about. He called me "Ruth"--who made the first move on her Boaz.

It was a quiet, rather secret relationship. My family and pastor and a few close friends knew about Scotty, but that was all. We felt we needed to discover--without a lot of scrutiny or judgment--what the Lord might have for us together. Remarriage evokes strong feelings in people at times--especially when those people knew and loved our late spouses. It also seems that when children are involved, well-meaning people want to be sure we are not neglecting their needs and feelings. Additionally, Scotty's children are older, and we wished to spare them questions and attention about this relationship. We wanted to allow them time and space to process all of this and to make known their thoughts and feelings.

In June, we met for the first time in person. I flew to the west coast, and we spent 3 days together. I briefly met his children and parents, as well. In July, Scotty came to Minnesota and spent 3 days here. He met my family, and we had some fun dates. Then in August, Erika and I spent a week with Scotty and his kids. These trips went quite well and served to progress our relationship.

On September 26th, Scotty flew to Minnesota again. He gave me a ring that time. It was one of the very best days of my life.

That was a sober, yet very joyful time we spent together. We made plans and promises for this "part 2" of our lives. We thanked God for giving us the gift of companionship again--and another parent for our kids.

And, now we are just one month from our wedding day. We will marry on the winter solstice--December 21st--and we look forward with hope and expectancy that it will mark the beginning of increasing light each day for us all.

Erika and I will be moving to Vancouver, Washington. We grieve deeply the loss of family, friends, church, school, job. It is truly a bittersweet thing. But more sweet than bitter! I am overjoyed to live and work beside a good man again. I am thrilled for my daughter to have the love of a father again. And I am privileged and deeply grateful to love and to serve the five young people that I will soon call my family.

Abby (19), Matt (16), Zacky (14), Yusef (9), and Luke (7) are lovely and tender and kind. And they showcase their Mama's loving and sacrificial input into their lives in a beautiful way. To follow after her is indeed a humbling thing.

Scotty and I do not know what the Lord has for ministry for us in the future. Our general direction and hope is to continue to pursue missions. We pray the Lord would make it very clear to us when we should go overseas--and what ministry will look like for us together. For now, we feel we need to spend time combining our new family and to minister to Arabs here in the United States.

We would love your prayers for us, as we undertake the enormous task of learning to love and serve each other and combine these 2 families into one. Two families who have suffered huge losses. We need much grace! We move forward but will never forget. Thank you! Much love!


Friday, October 18, 2013


I wonder how many people bite their lip when they read my happy news on here. Oh, I know many read it with great joy. But I began writing publicly to discuss pain and how much it hurts and how Jesus heals. So I wonder if I am alienating hurting people now? And how many of you come here to read about Chris—one whom you loved very much? And hearing about my new man hurts you a little. You realize that he really is gone. And Emily isn’t “Chris’ wife” anymore. Maybe I was a connection to Chris somehow, and now you wonder if that connection is gone.

It seems to me that quite often, people surrounding a widow—or widower—are a little surprised to see them “moving on.” (Though I really prefer the phrase “moving forward.”  I will never be over Chris—what do I need to get over, after all?) And I’m very aware of how hearing my news of an engagement this time is quite different than when you heard it the first time—when I was 20 and dreaming of growing old with Chris. You all dreamed it for me too. And I love you for it.
And then, you all rallied around me when my dream was dashed. You let me sit in the chair in my bedroom for countless hours—first from sheer caregiver exhaustion and then from intense grief. You cared for my sweet, confused daughter because I could not. You texted me and usually received no response. You delivered flowers and yarn and chili chocolate torte to me. You sent me books and cards and emails. You prayed. You made me food—and I didn’t even care if it was good or not. I cared about very little. And I remember very little.
But you cared about me. And because you cared about me, you put your grief for Chris aside to help me through my own. Because my loss trumped yours. It was my life that was in ruins. It was my daughter that had no father. A lot of life left but no partner with whom to live it. And I fully entered into grief. It washed over me and completely consumed me. I did nothing but was completely exhausted. And those of you who are well-versed in grief told me, “Grief is hard work. You are doing something.”
And then healing started! The Great Healer—through this hard work of grief—started to bind up my wounds.
And now, maybe you feel the weight of his loss. You see that I’m ok, so it’s finally safe for you to be sad about Chris. And seeing me smiling with a man who is not Chris feels jarring and maybe even shocking. It’s interrupting your postponed grief and feels abrupt. Sometimes I feel a little sad that there is not the same joyful freedom in talking about Scotty—and all the things I love about him—as there was when I fell in love with Chris. No one has made me to feel that I cannot have that freedom. It’s just that I am conscious that this all must feel so bittersweet to some of you. It appears to be “Plan B.”
But it’s God’s “Plan A”, and that knowledge brings me great peace.
And so, I just wanted to acknowledge your pain in all this. And I wanted to thank you for your support through your pain.
(Oh, and I know that I promised more details…I have not forgotten. They are coming soon!)

Friday, September 27, 2013

Big News!

Father of the fatherless and defender of widows is God in His holy habitation. He sets the solitary in families… (Psalm 68:5-6)
These verses have been my frequent meditation, prayer, and praise these last 18 months. And now I stand amazed at what God has done. He has turned mourning into rejoicing. Ashes into beauty.
An amazing man, Scotty—with whom I have been in contact these last several months—has asked me to be his wife. He has asked for Erika and me to become his family. And I said “yes”! An intimate, family wedding at Christmastime is planned.  

I love him deeply, and we both feel God has called us to each other and to continue our journeys together. We both lost the loves of our lives last year and stand amazed at the capacity to love again and love fully.
We have promised to love and sacrifice for each other—and for each others’ children—for as long as we have left on earth. And how full of gratitude and excitement and peace I am!

Rejoice with me! (More to come…) And I thank you, my friends, for being in my life, reading my words, praying and caring for my daughter and me. Much love. 

Friday, September 20, 2013

Fall is here-- and change with it!

Life has become significantly busier! Change seems to be coming all at once. I work more, socialize less, drive more, write less... (If you have called, texted, emailed me lately and received no response, it's not personal! Please forgive me. I need to get the hang of all of this.)

Although I miss slow mornings--sometimes in our pjs--all this change does feel right. And exciting. And it feels truly that my "Heavenly Father knows what you need before you ask him" (Matt. 6:8).

Erika could not be happier with this preschool gig. She wonders why she can't go every day. She tells me about the other kids and her teacher and all the songs they sing and games they play and projects they do. Bless you, preschool teachers. I could never captivate kids the way you do--not to mention practice patience AND actually impart knowledge!

Work--though challenging and exhausting in this steep learning curve--is the perfect fit for me. Days fly by, and I find myself looking forward to the next day. And at the same time, looking forward to the weekend.

In other news, These chillier temps awaken the knitting monster in me. I am obsessed. I have spent a fair amount of that earned money at my local yarn shop and actually have a list on a post-it note of the projects waiting to be knit. The yarn is in your possession, so don't buy more, Emily. Finish these. Then, by all means, buy more! Knitting retreat coming up in October...

That's the news from these parts!

Friday, August 30, 2013

Child Grief

I keep learning in all of this.

With time, the full weight of the loss seems to grow less heavy. It falls away a bit. Or maybe it just becomes easier to bear. For me.

But for my little one, it is quite different. With each new developmental stage, Erika seems to uncover more of what this loss means for her. More of her life and her future is touched as she grows. Age brings understanding. And with it, new grief.

My grief is old grief. A feeling and re-feeling of the many aspects and reaches of the Chris' death. Healing comes bit by bit--and sometimes even in bunches.

But for my baby girl, grief is a new and different thing. A growing brain discovering and feeling new aspects of the loss at every turn.

It seems to come about every 4 months or so. Conversation about Daddy heats up. Lots of questions. Lots of pretend play and phone calls to Daddy.

This week she is grappling with the finality of death.

"When Daddy comes back, we are going to play hide and seek."

And I don't know what to do. I probably say the wrong thing. I tell her Daddy is not coming back--he can't come back. We will see him when we go to heaven, but he will not live here with us again.

Maybe I should just let it go. Let her talk. Let her pretend. Because when I tell her the sad news, she runs to her room and won't come out. Won't let me touch her or hug her or even talk to her.

I--along with every other parent in the world--can't bear to see my child in pain. I want to rescue her. Stop the hurt. But there is nothing I can do.

Pray for my sweet girl?

Friday, August 23, 2013

Family Vacation

"Is that our lake, Mom?"

It's everybody's lake, Baby.

Here we are again--in Bayfield for the week for the annual Seifert family vacation. And the kids love it. Maybe because their parents love it so much.

What a perfect way to end the summer. State fair, work, and preschool await. But for now, we are soaking up "our lake." And wishing Daddy could be here too.

Friday, August 9, 2013


Two nights ago, I took Erika on a date to the little local restaurant after I got home from work. This new full-time schedule of mine seems to be a bit of an adjustment for her (and me too!). She needed some one-on-one time with me.
She, of course, charmed every last one of the servers and customers on that patio. And I felt so proud of her.  She has this magnetic personality that draws people to her. And last night she was joyful and sweet and polite. And she finished the last of her dinner snuggling on my lap. And I wished in that moment—more than I have in a long time—that her daddy could be there with us. That we could smile at each other across the table—so happy with our little family.
Sometimes it’s hard to feel like “family” with just Erika and me. I find that now when I say “my family”, I mean what I meant when I was a teenager. Erika is “my daughter”, but I rarely refer to the two of us as “family”. Chris seems to be the missing link to the “family” chain. I know it’s not true. But it feels true.
I’m not sure if it is because we are only TWO, or if it is because the loss of him makes such a void that it is hard to figure out what we are without him. And our car conversation on the way home deepened the ache.

“What’s my last name?”
Drager. Just like Mama’s. And Daddy’s.
“What’s Gus’ last name?”
Seifert. Just like Uncle Matt and Auntie Julie.
And so we went through the family names for most people in her life. And I explained to her that families share the same last name. We have Daddy’s last name. And then she reminded me.
“But Daddy’s not here anymore.”
No, but we are still a family, Baby. (I’m saying this to myself mostly.)
We miss him, don’t we?
So the two of us cuddled up in the chair in her room and watched “Daddy movies” for a while. To hear and to see and to remember. And Erika touched the iPod screen at one point when she saw her Daddy on it and whispered,
“Come back”
My silent tears fell into her beautiful blonde hair; and I held her soft, sweet body a little tighter. Family.
Pour your heart out before Him; God is a refuge for us.
(Psalm 62:8)

Friday, August 2, 2013

Time Away

My room's sunrise view
At a very wise woman's urging (my dear mother), I am away for a couple days in my beloved Bayfield (Wisconsin). Change is on the horizon (the very near horizon), and it seems I needed some quiet reflection and relaxation time.

On Monday, I accept a promotion and begin working full-time. It feels a culmination of my career pursuits and a perfect fit for me. Yet, this life does not look the way I imagined. The way I dreamed. All this mixture of sweet and bitter things have come together to make up this life I share with my best girl.

And I feel filled with emotion. Gratitude. Grief. Hope.

Friday, July 26, 2013


 July 26, 2002 (11 years ago today):

I wore white. It didn't seem real. I wondered if I was dreaming. Had this day really come? I held my dad's arm and was glad for it. There was a quivering inside me. He gave stability as we walked down the aisle—to my beloved waiting expectantly for me. Everyone watched me. With a tear and a smile.

I listened to sober words—words about love, fidelity, respect. My heart leapt within me as I held Chris' hand. We promised things to each other. We promised to love. As long as we both lived. Sickness. Health. Good times. Bad.
And we soaked in this moment. This very good, very happy moment. We kissed. We were granted the titles for which we longed—husband and wife. Side-by-side, we greeted the ones that love us. We thanked them for coming—to celebrate with us.

March 5, 2012 (nearly 17 months ago):

I wore black. It didn't seem real. I wondered if I was dreaming. Had this day really come? I held my dad's arm and was glad for it. There was a quivering inside me. He gave stability as we walked down the aisle—to a chair and Kleenex box waiting for me. Everyone watched me. With tears but no smiles.
I listened to sober words. About death, hope, love. My heart nearly failed me. There was no hand to hold, no arm around my shoulders. We had promised to love. As long as we both lived. Sickness. Health. Good times. Bad.
And I felt the full weight of the moment. This very hard, very sad moment. I hung my head and looked down at my empty hands. I had been granted the title I so dreaded—widow. Alone, I greeted the ones that love us. I thanked them for coming—to grieve with me.

July 26, 2013 (today):
I contrast these two days in mind. Over and over again. I remember our 9+ years of living out those vows—being stretched more than we ever thought we would. And falling deeper in love with each other. And finally being torn from each other. Companionship. Fellowship. And then sudden aloneness. No partner—the one to whom I told all my secrets. The one who held my heart. And I ache for him.
I look at his picture on my shelf. And at times, I feel I could reach out and touch him. I remember the feel of his hand holding mine. I remember his scent. I remember the soft place below his collar bone and the little gray patch in his goatee. The bump behind his ear. His broad, muscular chest.
And other times, I look hard at that picture and I can’t quite remember what it was like to be with him. I can’t quite hear his voice. I can’t quite remember the comfort of living with him and being held by him. He seems almost a figment of my imagination. A separate life. A lifetime ago.
Today there is a deep ache that seems may never really go away. So I do again what I have done countless times these past two years—through all the illness, the pain, the dying, the separation. I remind myself of the One who holds me up. The One who will never leave me truly alone. And in this I can rest—no matter my past and no matter my future.

Friday, July 19, 2013

Summer Fun!

Minnesota has very few warm months; but when it does finally get warm, it gets REALLY warm. And we have to get outside! So there is a lot of swimming, ice cream, and sprinkler running. Here are some photos from the last month.

Smiles on the 4th of July

Nana & Papa with their little people

waiting for ice cream!
she chose Zanzabar Chocolate--her Daddy's favorite

Hangingout at a friend's cabin (check out that skin! Can you say "peaches and cream"? And those eyes!)

Erika with her little buddy, Carter

ice cream with Carter & Dillon. Chocolate all around! (stains are being treated as I post this)
Life for us has some heavy burdens right now--but many sweet joys too. And I'm striving to focus on the sweetness. The gifts. It's pretty clear what mine are, isn't it?

Friday, July 12, 2013


Life is not at all how I imagined it. It’s not the way I planned it. And I am a planner. A pretty good one, I think. And for much of my younger life, things seemed to have fallen into place just how I planned them. Looking back, I suppose I felt sort of like the conductor of an orchestra. 

A successful and beautiful harmony of events produced in me a self-confident, independent, leader mentality. And it has often served me quite well. But it has also produced this ugly, proud streak. After all, who needs God when I am so competent? 

And it stings bitterly to consider that perhaps a predominant purpose of my sufferings of the last several years was to bring me to the very end of myself. Surely not the only reason for them—God is kind and gentle in His dealings. His ways are numerous and past finding out. And I know He speaks through His sufferers to manifest Himself to this dark world. Chris was one of His sufferers. And how he manifested his Savior! But perhaps the only way to make me wholly and completely His mouthpiece was to plunge me into the deepest depths.     

So in 2002, I marry my best friend. And three months into our adventure, the road gets really steep. Cancer. First Christmas together—our last too? I hear a whisper:

Emily, you can’t control this.

Surgery. Treatment. Two years of reprieve. Health? No. Devastation. Recurrence. Metastasis. He’s 33! I’m 24…

Emily, trust me.

Life plans become survival plans. More treatment. No jobs. No house. No future? And then! Four beautiful remission years! Hope restored.

We want a baby. For seven years, we pray for a baby. No. No baby.

Emily, you cannot accomplish this.

Loss after painful loss. And then… adoption! Ah yes, our baby girl. Our great gift. Hope restored—yet again.

Oh, Emily! Look!  I have done this!

Baby girl is seven months old. Daddy is 39. Mommy is 29. Daddy has cancer. Again.

Emily, run to Me!

Deep, dark fears surround treatment. The news gets worse. And even worse. And then a wife watches while her beloved—her girl’s Daddy—suffers more profoundly than she could ever imagine. His body is eaten alive in front of her very eyes. She cannot stand. She cannot move—or even talk.

Emily, lean into Me! I will be you’re your Strength and your Song. 

And then there were two. Family is severed. And where is hope? It’s dark, but hope burns still. 

Sanctification has no arrival point here. Yet, somewhere in the baby-less-ness, I was taught surrender. I learned how to throw myself onto a God who not only controlled all of my life’s events, but onto One who loved me with an everlasting love. This I know: sovereignty without love is a fearful thing. Ah, but sovereignty and love… that is supreme comfort!

And daily, I re-learn surrender. Humility. A re-discovering of this Almighty God who pulls me close to Him when I can do nothing but reach desperately for Him. 

I look at my two-person family, my life that is so very different than my friends’ lives (and I often think—in my darker moments—of the many people who must surely say, “I’m so glad I don’t have her life!”), my changed life course. I throw plans out the window. I take the next step.

And those next steps look so glaringly different than my old plans. So different than my friends’ plans and lives. But somehow, they hold hope. They hold promise of beauty from ashes. Joy in the morning. Sweetness. How can this possibly be? Can life go on? Can hope be restored? Again and again…yes.

Emily, I will hold you up. You are My very own.