Wednesday, February 12, 2014

On Life and Love

Life in Washington is new and different and wonderful and challenging. I laugh and cry. I cook (a lot) and drink coffee (a lot). I pray more.

Changes! Marital status, house, climate, family size and members, grocery bill, free time, church, friends and family, occupation, sleeping schedule... I remember learning about the stress scale in nursing school. I'm pretty convinced my score would pretty high if I calculated it. But I won't.

Because I know the ONE who has planned all this. The One who holds my hand and fills my heart. I know He loves me. And I know that what He has called me to do, I can do well. And those He has called me to love, I can love fully.

All this transition is not without pain. All eight of us, I think, could tell our own story of the pain of this change. But I think each of us could also speak about some joy or some gift that has come as well.

I will tell only my story here (and maybe a bit of Erika's since I've told hers all along, and she is too young to care, I think, if her mother tells it)—and leave the others to tell theirs.

Remarriage after the death of a spouse is a beautiful thing. It is redemption out of pain and devastation. Here's the part you don't always hear, though: it is also one of the most difficult things I have ever done. It has brought more pain and grief than I have known in many months. It has reminded me of Chris and all that he was to me. And it has closed completely the "Chris and Emily" chapter of my life. The life I thought I'd have is most clearly now never-to-be.

Given my cross-country move, I find also that there is no one around me that knew and loved Chris. No one says (or even can say), "Remember the way Chris used to juggle WHILE playing the harmonica?" Or "I was thinking of the heart Chris had for people. I sure miss him." I tell stories about him to his little girl, but she recalls so little that we can never swap stories. There is a comfort in co-remembering, co-missing. So this is a lonely sort of grief.

That grief nearly breaks me in two at some moments. And then I look at my best friend beside me. My husband! He is my gift. My comfort. He too knows the pain and loss that at times grips me and tears me apart. So I lean into him, and he leans into me.

I've learned too, that being married before means not that I know how to live with a man—it means I know how to live with ONE man. This guy with whom I've agreed to share a life is awkwardly foreign to me at times—as I am to him. And when we relax and slip into "the way we did things before," disaster erupts! Sometimes we laugh about it, and sometimes we cry.

We speak more of grace and love than we ever have before: God's great grace and love shown to us—and our deep need to be loved graciously by the other. And then to let that love and grace spill out all over these six kids. 

If you pray anything for us, will you pray this: that we would learn more fully what true love is? That we would be known by our love!

So we find that life is far from easy, but it is sweetly blessed. And it holds joy and gifts that would never have been possible without all this pain and loss.

How is it that I, one who has never birthed a child, now find myself surrounded by 6 of them? Infertility was a bitter pill to swallow—but it was medicine all the same. God used it to cure my heart of pride and self-sufficiency and then brought to me my precious gift, my Erika Grace. Then widowhood! The very picture of loneliness and neediness! Yet through it, I have been given another husband and his five beautiful children. I find myself humbled to stand in for their dear mother.  

 Only God could have done this.

And my extremely extroverted and social daughter now has a big family—one for which she was most obviously born! She has playmates nearly every moment (and her introverted mother gets a bit of a break from the intense socialization)!

Erika was born with some pretty remarkable qualities for the life she was to have. She is flexible and loves change. She thrives on the new and the unknown and the unexpected. She's always up for an adventure and for meeting new people and going new places. I wish I had a fraction of her adventurous nature! How easy she makes all of this. If she had a sensitive or inflexible temperament, the turmoil that change would bring for her would be rather hard for her mom to watch.

She does miss her Nana and Papa and Grandpa and cousins and aunts and uncles at home, though. And she talks often of her beloved Gramma Judy (Chris' mom), who died suddenly on January 4th. Her loss felt acute to us as we were moving and leaving our life in Minnesota. It seemed somehow to widen the chasm. We miss her greatly.

So we have sadness and joy, loss and gain, goodbyes and hellos. We step forward, with resolve to see the gifts in life—not to dismiss or ignore the pain—to feel it all. But sometimes when things get hard, these human minds forget to soak in the joys and give attention to what's good and whole and beautiful.

My heart overflows with gratitude for the life, the love, the people I've been given—past and present.

Happy Valentine's Day! May we all find ways to love our big people and our little people better.

(All photos were taken at our wedding by Emily Steffen)


  1. Oh Em. Such heartache and joy, all wrapped messily together. Your writing is so descriptive. You have a gift for telling life as it is. You don't sugarcoat your story into something it's not, but you also don't complain, even when you have every right too! Just a hard line to walk as a writer ( and as a human being!), but you do it with ease and honesty. I love hearing your story, at any point, and for any reason. Keep telling it.

  2. Hi Emily, my dad (Steve Stout--your husband knows him) sent me a link to your blog, and what a story you have. A beautiful, filled-to-the-brim-with-God kind of story. I just live right down the road from you (literally! I live at the sign that says Family Farm) and hopefully I can stop by and introduce myself this weekend. Until then, welcome to the neighborhood and may God richly bless your new life here in Washington.

  3. Hi Emily, I'm a remarried widow and a blogger... congratulations on your new marriage and may the Lord continue to fill you with deep joy as you follow Him on this unexpected journey. I'll be praying for you as I know what it's like to blend families, be in ministry, move far far away from dear ones, and be an introvert! And I'd also like to share a link to your blog on Feb 27 if you don't mind. my blog is Widows Christian Place, or email me at if you'd like. <3