Monthly Archives: October 2011

A Pastor’s Wife’s Response to Loss

Let me invite you into a discussions my husband and I have had over the years in response to the loss of our baby boy. First I encourage you to read the post he made on his blog http://looktothenorth.wordpress.com/ about Emotion Focused Therapy here and then you can see the response I added to his comments, or return here as it follows. It is a little glimpse into how we can see things a bit differently and still have a solid relationship, solid faith, and ultimately survive such a horrible loss.

My response:

As said marriage and family therapist wife, I must say that I love this piece! I love that my pastor husband would attend this Emotion Focused Therapy (EFT) conference with me – something he’s been hearing me preach about for over a decade since I was first exposed to the theory at Fuller Theological Seminary. That made me feel loved!

One thing I see a bit differently though, the part that says “… that gave us the courage and strength to not have to question God either.” We’d both say our faith was strengthened in that time in different ways. He because he didn’t need to question, me because I had to.

I was in a bible study in the year that followed our loss where the question was asked “Do you think you have grown in your faith and understanding of God over time?” My answer was yes and no. After facing significant loss, my faith in God was more solid than ever. He cared for us in minute and miraculous ways that could never have been humanly construed. Jesus was more real to me than ever. At the same time, I felt I understood Him much less. With most of an M.Div degree earned, I had spent a majority of my adult years in ministry as Young Life staff person and Chaplain at Fuller and SPU and thought I had a lot of pretty solid answers. I suddenly felt like I had no answers. The nuances of my belief system were turned upside down in that time, though my faith was solidified beyond measure.

I did, and still do question God. I feel safe bringing those questions to Him and even disagreeing with my understanding of Him at times, knowing our love is secure. Just as in a solid attachment relationship, as EFT supports and prescribes, I have so much faith in my relationship with God and His love for me, that I know He can “see” and “know” all of me and still call me his beloved. One things that stood out clearly was that I did not have to “be” anything in particular for God when I had nothing to give, or “do” anything to earn His love when it was all I could to to wake up and breath each day. I could be an imperfect shattered human being of infinite worth. That was the most profound lesson of loss that came for me. I was left with so many more questions, but far more faith.

I am thankful God allowed Emotion Focused Therapy to light up my heart to help others years ago, knowing I would need it so clearly in my own marriage. Thanks be to God.


Prayers for the Camellia House

Remember the house with the camellia tree that felt like a dream come true? The seemingly obvious gift from God that fell through? You can read about it here. Well, it came back to us. The people who’d won it out from under us pulled out and in a blink we were given the choice to resubmit our offer before anyone else might. We took a few moments to pray and to talk about it over long distance phone calls, tried to remember what consoled us when we lost it before and considered saying no based on our good coping then. But we’d spent a few furious months living in a rental house with little room to host and no yard (which has been a huge blessing in itself) searching for houses and land, looking at properties, studying house plans, asking big questions of ourselves and of friends, always choosing the “new in the last 1 day” search choice each night on the real estate site. We’d made a few decisions, we’d narrowed in on our area and we’d arrived at our hoped for criteria which was space: space to host, and space to play, inside and out.

With a large family in the making and being a pastor’s family where we already love to host, we envisioned groups of people lingering over meals at our dining room table, kids running in the backyard with space for a worthwhile game of tag, tables and blankets on the lawn for the annual salmon feed we used to have at the end of the summer (the last one brought nearly 100 to our home, and that was pre-pastor days). In the house plans I conjured up for each new property that had potential, I always included a daylight basement that served no other purpose than to be a place where our local Young Life ministry could hold club. I worked for years as a Young Life team leader and in every area finding a good place to hold club was always a challenge. It would be such a gift to have this space to offer, where water balloons and whip cream and whatever other amazingly fun things they can think up to communicate God’s love for kids in fun and loving ways could happen freely. With bedrooms upstairs and our living space a main floor, why not let the foundation of the house be completely for ministry?

So, despite the work this house requires, we still see incredible value and said yes. Seeing potential in something and bringing that out is something I love to do! We are excited but trying to stay realistic. The short sale process is so complicated it is hard to even understand. It might not be ours no matter what we do because of the messy situation and multiple liens of the current owners that have to be resolved. We have yet to do an inspection and the cost to make it livable might be beyond our means. There are so many more reasons to rationally think it might not come together. But still we hope, and we pray every day. And for what it is worth (which is everything) we’d love you to pray too. We know there are far more important things in life to pray for, and that God’s plan will unfold and the purposes He has for us will happen regardless, but we also know God cares to hear our hopes and dreams and so we will share them as I am sharing this with you. Who knows, maybe you’ll be able to join us for a salmon bbq next fall…that would come after the work party this spring:)

Will keep you posted…


National Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Month

A recent e-mail to a friend was timed well with this month of national awareness for remembrance. Here are some brief thoughts two years and 10 months after the loss of my full-term son.

“It is so thoughtful of you to ask of Fisher. I think of him often, I’d say he is always under the surface of everything else in life these days. It is no longer a constant grief, but I miss him so much and the hope I had for his life with us, in a way that still really hurts. Reminders are still everywhere but I have gotten more used to moving through with whatever is before me and not giving full thought to them. Grieving is hard work and I am just not always up for it. The other night the song we played at his memorial service, Held, came on, as it does at times. Sometimes I will listen half heartedly with one ear even with all the background noise of my kids and feel a tolerable ache. Sometimes I change the station because it is too hard to really let myself feel the full measure of sadness in the everyday moments of my current life. There are mixed emotions there because I’ve been enjoying feeling less sadness, but how do I literally tune out the big reminders of the baby I’d give anything to have back? That feels kind of odd, but also self preserving. It is nice to feel generally more often happy than sad and sometimes I just want to hold onto that.

It was late at night when the song came on and just Scott and me in the car. I could hear it playing quietly under the sound of Scott talking and my heart opened up and my ear strained to hear every word. When he was quiet I turned it up and just looked out the window at the dark, bright starred night. I had the chance to really listen and think about my baby and it hurt to remember his face, and what his body felt like in my arms, but it felt really good to really remember. To think of how amazing my baby is, all my children are, and to not have this life with him, and the chance to love him in person is really the hardest part still. I know now that will never go away. I am so lucky to have my kids. Their precious lives make me so aware of what I am missing without him here. It was nice to have that moment of full quiet thinking. I was more contemplative than tearful, but as I write this tonight, by myself in the pure silence of a sleeping house, I can cry in a way I haven’t in a long time and that feels good. I was a raging river for a while, then the aquifer – an easily tapped flood flowing just under the surface, and now I am a steady stream through a life filled valley building up into pools that spill out on occasion.

I read an article recently about programs developed to support parents who have lost a stillborn or newborn in their grief. One woman in the article named Sara Weaver-Lundberg signs her e-mails with “The mention of my child’s name might make me cry, not mentioning my child’s name will surely break my heart.” I love that. Thank you for continuing to mention his name.”


Born to Bless – Part I


We have celebrated a handful of birthdays recently of family and friends. My husband and I were born a year and a day apart. The year “birth-aversary” of our church (which in many ways was not so different than having a child) happened to fall on my husband’s birthday and my children just celebrated their half-birthdays.

Birthdays are a big deal in our house. We like to throw parties, make things festive, prepare good foods to share, and have a reason to celebrate the people we love so much. Everyone gets into it as we all buzz around preparing for family and friends and what always proves to be a joyful few hours out of our ordinary lives. I consider our celebrations a spiritual discipline (after reading Richard Foster’s Celebration of Discipline a favorite book of all time, that in the end encourages us to find reasons to celebrate as the bible does), an exercise joy when so much of life and spiritual pursuits can be so serious. The kids love to hang streamers, make the nearly famous fruit skewers that go in the flower urn to look like fireworks, and are usually busy preparing hand made presents for all the guests of their own design.

My husband and I especially love to host and as each one is scurrying to put finishing touches on things we laugh and say “I am glad I married you because I am sure all this craziness would drive many people nuts.” And afterwards, as we do the work all over again to clean up, sweeping the floors, gathering garbage, passing dishes along to be dried in the dimly lit kitchen of the now-silent house, we relish all the highlights,

“wasn’t that fun?”
“who did you get a chance to talk to?”
“wasn’t it great to see so and so?”
“how are they doing?”
“oh and weren’t all the kids having such a great time?”
“did you see this child do this, and that child do that?”

and we go to bed happy, full, blessed.

One way we show our love at birthday time is gifts. I love to give gifts, I love to get gifts. There are just a handfull of people in my life with whom I still exchange gifts and it is just a fun little love language that I speak and understand. My kids of course love gifts too (what child doesn’t) and I have to say I don’t mind a reason to indulge them on these special days of the year.

This is all well and good, and yet, there is a piece of me that struggles with the idea of gifts, doesn’t want to be materialistic or wasteful, and wonders if we really are ever doing enough to help the world with what we have been given? As faithful as we have always been in giving more than our 10% to our church and a variety of other ministry organizations, give of our time to ministries ourselves and for missions, that scene in Schindler’s List when Oskar Schindler (Liam Neeson) is realizing he could have given his watch, his coat, his every possession to save one more life always pierces me.

Will I get to the end of my life, my cause, God’s cause for my life and regret what I held back from those in need in order to gift my already blessed family and friends? I wonder. Jesus also blessed the woman who poured expensive oil on his feet. Though others saw it as a waste he told them her gift was good and timely. I hope the gifts I give to the blessed with discernment and love in my heart is seen as good in His eyes.

To counterbalance the me-focused gift wish list of birthdays (that I recognize I fully encourage by enjoying the giving), I had an epiphany for half-birthdays. We also want our kids to be generous and giving and thoughtful of the needs of others (so far they really are – I think God hardwires us that way, and it is our job as parents to encourage it). Last year we started this new tradition with my then 4 and 6 year olds on their half birthdays. On this day we would celebrate them with affirmation and favorite foods, but no gifts (so don’t ask). Instead this would be their day to gift the world. The kids’ earn allowance money and give some to the church, we participate as a family in saving up for special campaigns, regularly donate our time and money to causes we feel will honor God in a way our kids know about, but I wanted to instill in them the value that they can be mindful of what God places on their hearts and respond in a way that makes the world a better place. They get to decide what they think God would want them to, what matters to them and then we as a family help them carry it out.

Last year my 4 year old son wanted to make a treat for the hardworking staff at our seasonal business. My 6 year old daughter wanted to donate her gently used things to people in need. This year it was cupcakes for the summer staff (made from scratch with strawberries we’d picked) and granola bars in our car to give to homeless or hungry people we see on the streets. The kids come up with the vision and make all the decisions about how to carry it out. They always ask what the signs say that people hold on the streets and they want to do something to help, so we went to Costco and they picked out the biggest package of granola bars they could find so our family has something to give. We end the day with a favorite dinner and one by one we go around the table and tell the half-birthday person what we love about them. Much as I love giving gifts and having parties, half-birthdays rival the real deal for making some pretty meaningful memories.

Every year we will do this and my hope as they continue to grow in wisdom and maturity that their sense of vision for what God places on their hearts to help a hurting and broken world will be carried out with passion and purpose throughout the year – that they will know not only that they are loved and treasured by God and in their family, but that they are able to make the world a better place. That is better than any gift I can ever give them that would bring any meaning to their lives.

I have to mention a children’s book that speaks to this idea. Books are just a great way to encourage values as well. A narrative often goes a lot further than any explanation. Miss Rumphias by Barbara Cooney is a great book for young kids that tells about this idea of being intentional about discovering your gift for making the world a better place.

If you have creative ways of instilling values in your children I’d love to hear them!