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.

Friday, July 5, 2013

July 4th

I was looking back at some (very) old pictures. I found these of our first two July Fourth holidays (2000 and 2001). Both were before we were married. We look like such kids—and very unaware of all that our future held. (But I'm very glad we did not know.)

2000--Stillwater fireworks

St. Mary's Point earlier that day

2001--Stillwater fireworks again
And I found this little card...

Chris loved events and celebrations. And he loved to talk about them after the fact. And I loved the way he always made me feel like I was the person he wanted to be with most—for all of life's events. Had I known all the events our life together would hold, I would have done it all over again.

Remembering him and all the fun we had.