Keeping Busy Beside Still Waters

It’s been six years. We kissed our youngest child for the last time on this earth six years ago.

Tears burn my eyes as I type those words. My throat tightens. I dry my eyes and I swallow.

What is there to say that I haven’t already said since December 15, 2009?

I think I’ve said it all. Felt it all. Re-lived it all. Cried. Hurt. Grieved.

Often my last thought before sleep and my first thought upon waking are about Andrew. I miss him so terribly. How can it even be possible that I’ve survived this? Of course, I know how it’s possible. With God all things are possible.

This time of year is especially hard because his entry date to Heaven was December 15.

But I’m keeping busy. I paint a lot. I work on my home business a lot. I keep my mind on a creative project most hours of the day (and night). In fact, I think I’ve crossed the line into “work-aholism.”

And mostly these days I keep my grief to myself. Every once in a while it seeps out and others see it. They offer comfort and kind words. I’m thankful for that.

Yesterday the words from an old song sprang spontaneously from my mouth. I was painting a simple watercolor – a request from someone who wanted aqua and turquoise.

As I painted I thought of the still waters our Shepherd leads us to and I sang this song.

When I’m low in spirit I cry Lord lift me up I want to go higher with Thee
But nothing grows high on a mountain so He picked out a valley for me
And He leads me beside still waters somewhere in the valley below
And He draws me aside to be tested and tried in the valley He restoreth my soul     – Dottie Rambo

blue wc scan S6 beside still waters pillowThank you, Shepherd, for leading me through this valley and beside still waters where only You can restore my soul.

My Super Power

Child loss and the ensuing grief has changed every relationship I have. Since losing my son five years ago, I’ve gained some friends. I’ve lost some friends. My marriage is stronger and the bond with my children is greater. Even when my faith has faltered, my trust in God’s plan and His love for me has grown deeper.

God’s grace is my strength. 

I guess when you go through the loss that a parent “can’t even imagine,” there is bound to be some fallout.

There has been.

Recently I’ve had some confusing and hurtful responses from family members and I don’t even know why.

When I think of them and feel the hurt, I breathe a prayer of grace over them.

In addition to the trauma of child loss and finding a new way of doing life, I am the primary caregiver for my dad whom we had to relocate from another state to our home on November 1st. This is a challenge you cannot understand unless you’ve been in this position – kind of like grieving over the loss of a child. Unless you’ve walked the path, you can sympathize but not empathize.

I am in an online support group for bereaved parents – a caring and understanding community. I am also in a support group for caregivers which helps me breathe on days when my stress is through the roof.  Support groups are invaluable because I have found it best to be very guarded about who you open up to regarding child loss and grief AND about care giving for a parent.

No one wants to be misunderstood or harshly judged when they are doing the best they know to do under their unique set of circumstances. Yet it happens. So what do you do when it does?

There is a time to reach out in reconciliation. At times that has been where my heart has led me. I reached out. There is also a time to do nothing. At this time, that is where my heart feels peace. I feel the Lord leading me to do nothing. 

Do nothing but pray and release the hurt, confusion and sadness to Him.

I can only conclude that friends and family who cut another off must be overwhelmed and stressed themselves and it is a protective move on their part. So be it.

I choose grace. Grace for others. Grace for myself. 

I am not strong enough on my own to do life in this broken world. But I don’t have to be. When I am weak, God’s divine strength is greater than my human weakness.

My grace is enough; it’s all you need.
My strength comes into its own in your weakness.

Once I heard that, I was glad to let it happen. I quit focusing on the handicap and began appreciating the gift. It was a case of Christ’s strength moving in on my weakness. Now I take limitations in stride, and with good cheer, these limitations that cut me down to size—abuse, accidents, opposition, bad breaks. I just let Christ take over! And so the weaker I get, the stronger I become.

2 Corinthians 12:9 MSG


god's grace is my superpower

In fact, God’s grace has become my super power!

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Work It Out – Sunlight

I was almost finished with my run. For the last half mile I was thinking of my son, Andrew. Painful memories surfaced from the devastation of cancer and what it stole from him. From us.  A familiar lump rose in my throat and tears gathered in the corners of my eyes – the companions of the grieving.

Most every time I run, I hear God speak. Sometimes we have a bit of a conversation. Other times, He reminds me of His faithfulness in the past and assures me of the same for the future. I’ve marveled at the ways He reveals Himself and His truths. His holiness intersecting my lowliness – running, sweating, panting.

Yesterday as I neared the end of a three mile run in the park in blazing heat and humidity, I stopped short when I saw this pattern on the pavement.

sunlight on pavement

The tree branches overhead formed patterns of light and dark on my path – like God’s grace in our shadowed seasons. I raised my arm to swipe at my dripping forehead, preparing to continue my run. I felt a slight movement in the air and a breeze stirred the leaves. I stayed. Clearly, He wasn’t finished here. Truth rushed in among the light play at my feet and the branches above.

The light is God’s glory – His glory in Heaven, on Earth and over all. “God is light and in Him is no darkness at all.” The shadows of our lives provide for the contrast, for if there were no shadows, the glory would be blinding. For now our ability to fully see is hindered…“for now we see in a mirror dimly…”

We see God’s glory on earth as His grace – the patterns of light among the shadows. But one day, “then face to face…” we will stand in the full light of His magnificent glory.

Until that time, we “…know in part…” as He chooses to unveil and reveal His glory–His grace–on the paths we run. We see Him and we stop. We hear Him and we linger. For we long to know…as we also are known. 

“For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part, but then I shall know even as I also am known” (1 Corinthians 13:12).

In scripture we see God’s grace and His glory intimately linked. In the Old Testament, “glory” is portrayed as a heaviness, weightiness and manifest presence of God among His people. However, in the New Testament, “glory” is a reference to brightness, brilliance and splendor.

In the book of  Ephesians Paul writes that God has “blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ…to the praise of the glory of His grace by which He made us accepted in the beloved” (Ephesians 1:3-6, NKJV.

And in Romans, Paul writes, “Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom also we have access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God. And not only that, but we also glory in tribulations, knowing that tribulation produces perseverance; and perseverance, character; and character, hope” (Romans 5:1-4, NKJV).

Peter writes, “And, after you have suffered for a little while, the God of all grace who called you to his eternal glory in Christ will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you” (1 Peter 5:10, NET).

I lingered under the branches of the tree and breathed deeply of grace – not just grace in grief but grace for life, grace for the glorious love of a holy God who overwhelms and overshadows my lowliness. My sweating, my panting, my running and running and running…

His grace calls me onward, upward, heavenward, home. Home, to stand in the full light of His glory, where shadows have no place.

“Grace is but glory begun and glory is but grace perfected.” – Jonathan Edwards



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Hope For Days You Want to Quit

a love note on my coffee mug from my husband

a love note on my coffee mug from my husband

Living with loss and enduring grief makes me feel like quitting nearly every day. I often push myself to do things – to be with people when my heart wants to shut down, to attend activities, to live un-anesthetized (by the abuse of meds, food, alcohol or shopping) and to continue pursuing my dreams.

Living with loss has sanded my heart to a finer sensitivity for beauty in the moment – the  ivory petals of a gardenia against green leaves, the fragrance of magnolia blossoms on the breeze when I’m out for a run, a morning’s perfect cup of coffee, and a thousand thoughtful ways my husband proves his love.

While daily I live with loss I do not live without hope. As hard as it is to live with loss, it would be tragic to live without hope.

Hope is Holy.

My hope is found in Christ. It exists because of his life, death, and resurrection. It is a holy matter for it is the outcome of our faith.

“Now faith is the substance of things hoped for…” 

The Greek word translated “substance” literally means a “standing under” and was used by Paul (Hebrews 11:1) in the technical sense of a “title deed.”  Therefore my hope is because my faith is. I live each day in faith looking forward to those things I hope for.

Hope is a present reality.

My hope is based on the reality of Christ because my faith is  founded on and in Him. I live in faith today because of the hope I have for tomorrow. Yet I must, as A.W. Tozer writes, “avoid the common fault of pushing the other world into the future. It is not future, but present. It parallels our familiar physical world, and the doors between the two worlds are open.” 

This means that even on the days that my emotions tug at me to retreat, to disengage…to quit, my faith is the spark that ignites hope.  And in a way I don’t fully understand, when I surrender to the presence of God in me (the Holy Spirit), He, the God of hope, fills me with all joy and peace in believing that I may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.

“Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit” (Romans 15:13 NKJV).

Though we may be tempted in our loss, grief, disappointment, depression, doubt or confusion to relinquish in this very real battle of the spirit pressing against the confines of the temporal, it is the Holy Spirit that supplies us with hope. 

There are three things I know firsthand about hope.

  1. Hope can keep you going when you have nothing much left. Hope is the Divine Breath of God alive in you! As long as He lives in you, hope is alive.
  2. Hope is not in short supply. You never have to run out of hope though you may hope for something new. For to abound speaks of a copious amount of a thing! 
  3. Hope is holy. Hope is a spiritual possession. You cannot see it, yet it’s obvious when you have it.

“Faith is the present possession of grace while hope is confidence in grace’s future accomplishment.” *

On days I feel like quitting, I remember what God has already done for me and I press on.

On days I feel like quitting, I remind myself my hope is in the Lord and as long as He lives in me, hope is alive.

On days I feel like quitting I realize it may not be easy to keep going, but it’s possible with God.

It would be easy to give in…to quit. To say, “I’m done.” But faith won’t let me give up on hope, for at the intersection of faith and hope, there is grace. And grace is a sufficient strength to bear up, to keep going, to not quit even when I feel like quitting.

“My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness” (2 Corinthians 12:9 NKJV). 


So friend, let’s stay in it. Let’s live by faith with hope in grace. We can do it. I expect the Lord will help us all the way!

“Wait and hope for and expect the Lord; be brave and of good courage and let your heart be stout and enduring. Yes, wait for and hope for and expect the Lord” (Psalm 27:14 Amplified Bible). 



* (source unknown)

How Can Suffering Possibly “Work” for You?

As a runner I often pray and meditate on scripture while running. One day a phrase from 2 Corinthians seemed to keep pace with each footfall:

“For our light affliction which is but for a moment …”

The passage intrigued me. To consider the loss of my twelve year old son, Andrew, to brain cancer, as light or momentary was inscrutable. There were mornings when I just wanted to escape from reality rather than face another day without the youngest member of our family.

As I ran I prayed. “God, how is it possible to look at suffering as light and momentary?” Continue reading

In The Midst of the Waves


I can breathe again. Thank you for your kind words and prayers.

I ran last night. I ran fast and it felt good. After the first mile I pulled the elastic that held my hair and slipped it over my wrist. Immediately I felt the tension ease from my scalp. The breeze blew my hair over my shoulders. I thought about people who are hurting and want so badly for the tension and pain they face to be gone. To ease. To let up.

Andrew faces the wave.

I thought of someone I know who has faced many losses in her life and I have more compassion for her than ever before. She has made unwise decisions in her desperation for the emotional pain to ease. I understand her better now.

Yesterday I read Psalm 27 ~ Andrew’s psalm.
I thought how often I read those fourteen verses to Andrew, over Andrew and as a prayer for Andrew.

The 13th and 14th verses read:

“I would have lost heart, unless I had believed

That I would see the goodness of the LORD
In the land of the living.

Wait on the LORD;
Be of good courage,
And He shall strengthen your heart;
Wait, I say, on the LORD!”

Yesterday the ocean’s waves settled a bit. I was able to stand again and take a deep breath.

Today I will fix my hair. I will remove the weeks old polish from a gift certificate pedicure my good friend gave me. I will put some tea bags on my swollen eyes. I will bake some banana bread and some pumpkin spice muffins, too.

I will read 5 Psalms and a Proverb. I will be grateful for the gift of mothering Andrew for nearly 13 years. I will smile at the thought of seeing him again and kissing those “freckers.”

Andrew ~ summer ’09

People who have walked this same path tell me I am experiencing the normal process of grieving. An employee of Hospice, who also lost a son, told me it was two years before she felt like herself again.

I will do my best to live in my present and invest in my future. I will lay up my treasure in Heaven where neither moth nor rust destroys nor thieves break in and steal.

My husband and our boys, Avery & Andrew ~ summer ’09

I do not know how many more times the wave of intense emotional pain will knock me underwater. But I am determined to build myself up in the “meantimes” so that I know without fear of doubt that my life is preserved by the One who will never leave me. Just as I know He was in the middle of the storm with me last year, I know He is in the midst of the waves as well.

My niece, Hayley…I wrote the verse to accompany her joyous jump!
“She leaps in the sunset,
Water at her feet.
Arms in joyful pose,
Blessings are replete.”

Faith Under Water

This morning when I woke up and looked in the mirror, I didn’t look like me. I was me but it was definitely the rough, ragged, barely hanging on version of me. My hair was dirty. My eyes were terribly swollen and I was on day two of a migraine. I had not slept well in a few nights and I had not felt happiness in several days.

In this season of grief, it seems I get 2 – 3 weeks of feeling “just ok” and having some happy moments and even some laughs. Then a crashing wave of overwhelming emotion, sadness and depression knocks me to my knees and under the salty water I am turned and tossed, not able to identify which way is above the water.

I try very hard to get back up and gasp fresh air. But the force of the rolling ocean’s wave is brutal.
While underwater, I cry and pray and plead with the One who created the tides to bring me some relief. I sort by memory the scriptures which promise the ever present fellowship of the Lord and the peace He left us. I consider many times making a call for help here and a cry for help there for something that I cannot seem to give to myself. But I am afraid to divulge too much because I can’t control the response nor the outcome. And I know, too, that as ferocious as the wave is, the water will calm again. Finally the rolling wave will subside and I will stand upright again.

Yesterday I began to consider that the overwhelming wave that comes is sent as an attack by that old enemy and liar, the accuser.
I know that there is a process to grieving and yet I also know that I have been in the Refiner’s fire and God is engraving a message on my heart.
In the *message that I gave at the Ladies Tea in MD last month I spoke of three questions that I had asked of God in the nine months since Andrew’s Heavenly Homegoing.

1. If You are not who I thought You were, then who are You?

2. What do you want from me?

3. What can I expect from You?

So whether I face sunshine, rain or crashing waves, still my faith endures and by God’s grace, I will deliver His message of hope, healing and Heaven’s reward.

However, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on the earth?” Luke 18:8

*If you are interested in a DVD of that message, let me know in a comment.

Recognize & Acknowledge

Sitting in  the choir loft Sunday morning, I was startled by a video. It highlighted our church’s mid-week boys’ class. It was the group that Andrew was a part of for a few years. He always liked the fishing, the shooting and campfire making the best. The book work, he endured. (That’s our boy!)
Over the next few minutes, I felt the cruelty of not having our boy.
Cancer stinks.
We don’t know why brain cancer attacked our boy. I don’t want any other child to go through it. I don’t want any other family to be in agony over a cancer diagnosis and death.
Sometimes when I see boys Andrew’s age, the pain is overwhelming. I wonder why our boy. We tried to do all the right things to protect him ~ spirit, soul and body.

Still, cancer came.

Sometimes when I am out running in my neighborhood I see a boy riding a bike whose hair is the color of honey, like Andrew’s.
Sometimes I close my eyes just a little and imagine it is Andrew for just a moment.
Sometimes I hear the familiar sound of skateboarding down our street and I miss hearing that right outside my door. I miss hearing Andrew skateboarding up our driveway, into the garage and coming in the side door with his hair plastered with sweat to his head.

Sometimes I see the friends he played with out playing now. It hurts. I often avoid the top of our street for that reason.

As the video played, I felt the heat rising in my body, tears welled up in my eyes and spilled down my cheeks. My hands began to shake. I wanted to escape. But I knew it would cause distraction and I would just feel worse making a scene.
The lady to my left reached for her purse and withdrew a tissue. She pressed it into my hand and then she placed her hand on my knee.
Grief and overwhelming sadness was recognized.
I grabbed her hand as the video seemed interminable and held on for dear life.
Grief and overwhelming sadness acknowledged.

I often feel that people don’t know what to do with me anymore. And I wonder if it is more a reflection of my own discomfort. Should I try to explain how difficult it is being in church?
There are several reasons. Our family has discussed them. I think it would be very hard for someone to understand unless they have been in a very similiar situation.

It starts with driving to church. Instead of five of us in our van, there are four. Andrew always sat right behind me. Then there is the pew. Not five any longer, but four. We sat there believing and praying for a miracle as Andrew sat beside us. The elders of the church prayed for him and he was anointed with oil.

Our choir has begun rehearsing for Christmas and I remember that last December the five of us sat together and as the choir sang, Andrew leaned into me and whispered in my ear, “It’s not the same without you up there, Mom.”  That was only two weeks before he passed to Heaven.

Although doing life is sometimes difficult, we keep pressing forward. We do the hard things. I admit I do not always smile through it. But I do it. Can that be good enough sometimes?

I guess I’m sharing this to let you know that if you are in the presence of someone who is walking through a storm, in whatever phase that may be, you really don’t have to say much. Please don’t preach or tell them you know how they feel. Please don’t offer platitudes and be very careful about “sharing” Scripture.

Just recognize and acknowledge.
Eye contact. A hug. A pat on the back. A squeeze of the hand.
That is comfort.

As in our case of our loss of Andrew, I want people who know him to talk about him when it feels right. That makes us feel good!
Please don’t pretend he never existed. If you have a story to share, tell me. Maybe he came to your mind recently, tell me. Though we don’t have his physical presence at this time, he is still with us. He is always in our family of five.

Forever A Family of “5”

“It’s not the same without you down here, Andrew.”

October 2009 ~ at church

A couple of nights ago as we lay in bed, I told my husband, “I want Andrew back.”
He replied, “And he wants us home.”

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