Perspective – 11.17.17

There were the cutest twin boys playing in the family area at Wegmans today. My heart immediately jumped to see them in the cart as I compared sizes, ages and likenesses in order to make an assumption about their genetics. Definitely twins. And identical too.

I wanted to leave. I mean, honestly Lord, why couldn’t You have held off their arrival for just a few minutes so we would have been gone?! But since my girls and I had just settled in to eat our lunch, I was forced to stay.

I tried to hide any displeasure my body language might have communicated. So weird, how anxious their presence made me. I thought of identifying myself as a mom to identical twin boys. But without just letting them assume they were both thriving at eight years old, nothing I could derive sounded encouraging. “I have identical twin boys, too! Except I lost one to brain cancer three years ago. Good luck with yours, though!” Thankfully, I just smiled and said nothing.

Nothing about my physical presence identifies the scars I carry. Nothing about my face shows the hours of sleep I’ve lost, the hours I’ve prayed, the joy I’ve experienced, or the books I scoured through about parenting multiples. It is such a huge part of who I am. And yet it’s not.

And then my thoughts shifted. I wondered how many other mothers I’ve unknowingly put in this position in the past. How many hurting women who saw my identical twin boys, my three girls, my wedding band, my four earthly kids, my previous pregnant bellies… and silently hurt and wished it were them. How many hurt to see us happily playing in the family area and their hearts ached with their own pain. I was never able to see any of their in invisible wounds either.

It was difficult to be angry after that.

Wherever we are, whoever we’ve been chosen to parent, whatever walk we’ve been called to…we have so little control. And that is both wonderful and scary. We feel a sense of security in being in control, knowing what to expect. But there is an even bigger sense of peace that comes in acknowledging our loving God that has already bore the weight of that responsibility. And He always works things for our good. Even the awful things that we couldn’t have foreseen. Even if it takes a long time. Because my God is the Creator of joy. And grace. And peace. I’m living proof.

I’ll always carry this wound. But I’d be foolish to assume other people haven’t hurt too. Even if they choose to silently carry their pain rather than share with random strangers at Wegmans.

I know how good I have it. God has continually brought so much good out of our heartache. So much more than I deserve.

I just had to zoom out a bit to be able to see it.

Speaking to the Light – 11.1.17

Just after we learned that Ben had a brain tumor, everything we had known about life changed. Well, not everything. But we knew – even then – that our perspective would be forever different.

It was difficult to even process all of the emotions we were feeling. But because we were also trying to raise two four-year-olds and their 20-month-old sister, we knew we couldn’t be 100% upfront about the diagnosis, treatment and prognosis. We needed them to remain hopeful. Because none of us knew exactly how Ben’s story would unfold. So Andy and I would take turns, excusing ourselves from our son’s bedside, to grieve the information as it became available. Most times, we would take showers. The ninth floor of Children’s Hospital was equipped with a basic shower room and the nurses accommodated us nicely. New people we had met suggested we cry in the showers. Something about letting the water wash our tears was refreshing. Getting it all out and then emerging with a clearer mind.

I never told Andy that I could hear him sob from the hallway.

I remember that anguish. Pain. The word “cancer” felt like a punch in the gut. We felt sick to our stomachs at the thought of moving on. What a future with cancer would look like for our son, for our family. It felt like such a death sentence. And yet, God told us to go to Him. To trust. And so we did. Or, we tried. We kept pushing our hearts to do what our minds told us, even when the two weren’t on the same page. “Cry, curse God and die… have faith, trust in your Heavenly Father…” These ideas were on loop inside my brain, constantly fighting each other.

More than three years later and it doesn’t take much to pull me back to that spot. That shower room on the ninth floor of Children’s Hospital. One word, smell, mention… it brings it all back. And although that time served a purpose, it was a season we had to go through, it is my choice as to whether or not I stay there.

These crying sessions were essential for our healing. Our processing. Our mourning. Our grief. Even trips to the doctor, the grocery store – all of these times alone served a double purpose of being able to cry without little eyes watching us. There was a season for all of this.

There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens:

A time to be born and a time to die,
a time to plant and a time to uproot,
a time to kill and a time to heal,
a time to tear down and a time to build,
a time to weep and a time to laugh,
a time to mourn and a time to dance,
a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them,
a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing,
a time to search and a time to give up,
a time to keep and a time to throw away,
a time to tear and a time to mend,
a time to be silent and a time to speak,
a time to love and a time to hate,
a time for war and a time for peace.
Ecclesiastes 3

It was okay to weep. To mourn. To cry out to God. To shake our fists at our own humanness, disgusted that cancer even existed much less found a home in our sweet boy. There are times when this is the very best thing we could do. Because that was the season we had found ourselves in. And yet, we also know that one season doesn’t last forever: winter eventually gives way to spring and the summer eventually transitions to fall. We found that the longer we spent in these times of mourning, the more often we wanted to stay in that season of pain. We felt a strange sort of comfort in our agony. Gratification in licking our wounds. A sort of commissary in acknowledging our victimhood. And so my husband and I purposed to visit these places of hurt. But not to stay. We could go but not set up residence.

We found that the longer we stayed pursuing the darkness, the larger it became. The more we fed the beast, per se, the bigger it grew. That’s one reason why our crying sessions in the shower were so beneficial: they had a clear ending point. After more than fifteen minutes in the shower, we knew someone would be knocking on the door, asking if we were okay. It had to end. Because humans were never meant to be able to carry that kind of load all on their own, all of the time. It’s absolutely exhausting.

Fast-forward more than three years. We’ve had many crying sessions since those first showers after his diagnosis, many of which were in our home just after Ben died. And almost every single night since then, I’m scared to turn off the lights. I put off bedtime as long as I could, just to put off the inevitable moments where I’d be alone with my thoughts. What if Jack gets cancer, too, I’d worry. What if I lose one of my kids? How could I even go on? I opened my eyes and my memory pictured my otherwise completely healthy four-year-old rounding the corner of my bedroom door in the middle of the night, with his hand to his forehead whispering, “Mom, I have a headache.” One moment and I’m there. Those flashbacks are some of the most painful in my repertoire. I tried numbing my mind with social media as I drifted off to sleep. Going through pictures, frivolous articles, party-planning on Pinterest… anything in order to distract my brain from where it wanted to go. And it’s only recently that I realized that I had everything I needed in order to battle it. I had to address it – call it out – and then speak to the Light.

Many nights, I would just pray for the morning. Because with the morning sun came new promise, new beginnings. And hope. It was amazing how much different of a person I was at 1 o’clock in the morning versus just a few hours later as the sun emerged on the horizon.

I shouldn’t be surprised to recognize that the Bible is full of references to God as the LIGHT.

When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, ‘I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.’ John 8:12

Your word is a lamp for my feet, a light on my path. Psalm 119:105

The Lord is my light and my salvation – whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life – of whom shall I be afraid? Psalm 27:1

The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. John 1:5

I want to be in the Light! Light means warmth, comfort, safety. Just as a lighthouse is a symbol of safety and a beacon of hope, so is my God. His word is my guidepost. And everything I know from my years on this earth has pointed to that truth: that He is a good God and He can be trusted.

Seek the Lord while He may be found. Isaiah 55:6

If I wanted to find the Lord, I had to look. But only because He was not the one who moved.

For me, that meant speaking to the Light. Even if I just saw a small glimmer of a candle as I turned off the lights and entered my own mental darkness, I knew that that flicker of hope existed. I spoke every verse I could remember, every praise song I could repeat, every promise that came to my mind. I would even play hymns on my YouTube app, pressing the phone as close to my ear as I could so as not to wake up my husband lying next to me.

When peace, like a river, attendeth my way,
When sorrows like sea billows roll;
Whatever my lot, Thou hast taught me to say,
It is well, it is well with my soul.
(“It Is Well with My Soul” by Horatio G. Spafford, 1873)

Hearing those words being sung a Capella from the comfort of my bed, with several voices in perfect unison, nourished my aching heart. They helped bridge the gap between what I felt in my heart and what I knew in my head to be true. Rehearsing all of those verses I had committed to memory reminded me of that Truth. And going over them again and again reaffirmed the hope God offers. The more I moved toward the Light, the more I gave those words of truth to be home inside my head, the less the darkness permeated my mind.

Here’s what I’ve learned: the more I speak to the Light, the more the darkness disappears.

I attack those specs of light with as much fervor as a sailor who is lost at sea, hoping for just a flicker of light from a lighthouse. Even the slightest flame to show him that he was not far from safety. That he just needed to keep his eyes affixed on the Light and he could guide himself toward land.

I still get the tiniest bit anxious about turning out the lights each night, hours after everyone else has gone to bed. I never look forward to those moments where I’m left to my thoughts before my mind finally allows me to give into sleep. But I’m grateful that I know now what to do in order to help bridge that gap. Now I know how important it is to “fix our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before Him He endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” (Hebrews 12:2.) It is comforting to know that when I speak, I am summoning the Creator of the Universe. The God that defied death and went before me to create a permanent residence for Ben and me and everyone else who accepted Him in heaven. And that for some reason unbeknownst to me, He cares and loves me… so much more than one person could ever deserve.

And all I had to do was welcome Him in.

Knowing My Worth – 10.25.17

I was jolted awake by Allison’s cries just after 4 o’clock on Wednesday morning. She usually wakes up around 5:30am, but these cries were more pained than normal. She seemed uncomfortable. I went in her room and saw her standing in her crib, pulling at her right ear. I was frustrated. We were just at the pediatrician on Monday because Kate had an ear infection. And now, just two days later, I knew I’d be heading back there for the same reason.

I mean, seriously, who doesn’t love giving their kids antibiotics?

After Andy tried comforting her, I reluctantly brought Allie downstairs so as not to wake up the other kids. I honestly wasn’t very happy starting my morning at that time. To make things worse, once I saw the baby in the light of the kitchen, I could see that her one eye was swollen shut as well. Great. Add ‘pink eye’ to the list.

This was really turning out to be a stellar day.

I gave her some Tylenol and fed her back to sleep, grateful for a few more minutes of shut-eye on the living room couch before the other kids woke up. My eyes were still closed with a sleeping baby on my lap as all three big kids bounded down the stairs two hours later. I was just vaguely aware of the drama happening in the other room. Jack was teasing the girls for something so small that I couldn’t even believe they were letting him get away with it. Kate was insisting that Daddy help her get clothes for the day despite the fact that there were more pressing things he needed to help with to get the two big kids off to school, the biggest being that Megan couldn’t find her book to share with the class today. This Star of the Week was so excited about sharing Mo Willems’ “I Love My New Toy” with the class that she put it in her backback on Saturday afternoon. She wanted it to be ready for when she read it to her class this morning, her very first book where she could read much of it on her own. And now she was insisting that one of us moved it. “Meg,” I whispered, trying to keep the baby asleep while also lessening the drama in the house at too-early-o’clock in the morning, “You put it in your backpack. I haven’t touched it. It should still be there.”

“No!” she told me, hand on her hip, like I had just accused her of being a liar. “It’s not. I took it out to read it to Nana yesterday and now it’s gone.”

I (regretfully) responded with some sort of sarcastic, “Well, then, you know best,” and closed my eyes again. I prayed that God would help reveal the location of the book, but mostly because I just wanted the drama to be gone. I normally would have pushed myself to overturn everything in the house to find it, but I was pinned to the couch by an uncomfortable sixteen-month-old who would begin crying again if I woke her up, even by shifting my weight to allow my left arm to receive blood again. I weighed my options and figured I’d better stay put. I didn’t really feel like moving anyway. Plus, it’s not like anyone cared that I had sacrificed so many hours of comfortable and continuous sleep to make the baby happy and be sure they enjoyed a seamless stretch of shuteye. Aye. Fifteen minutes later, the favorite book was still not found and Meg was forced to go upstairs and find a new book to share before the bus arrived.

At this point, Kate, the ever-adoring big sister, was coming up to the sleeping baby to try and say hello. “Hi, Aw-ee!” she said, in her adorable three-year-old voice, caressing Allie’s head. “Are you awake? Huh? Are you going to play? Oh, you’re such a good girl.”

All of this strangely played into my subconscious until all at once I realized that this was real life and she was going to wake her up and I would be stripped of any chance to steal away a few extra minutes of rest. I startled her with a jump and loudly whispered, just barely making a sound, “Leave… the baby… alone. You can play when she’s awake!” And as luck would have it, it was my jump that awoke her, not her big sister’s hugs.


A few minutes later, Andy said, “Sorry Min, but I gotta leave for work.” I knew he knew I had a hard night. I knew he knew that I would have preferred he take off the entire day so I could nap, watch the girls so I could slowly walk the isles of Hobby Lobby and enjoy a quiet lunch all by myself. But I also knew that that scenario was a page out of another dream and that I would be the one to stay. I tried not to, but I felt like my eyes were shooting silent daggers into his. My body language said, “You lucky duck. I wish I could get a good night’s sleep and then just pounce off to work to pee by myself and eat my own lunch without any little fingers stealing food off my plate.” Of course, I didn’t say any of that out loud. But judging from the fact that I didn’t offer a very warm goodbye, he had a pretty good idea of what I was thinking. I would have run outta dodge, too.

After a call in to the pediatrician, my day was looking pretty gloomy. I had already taken away my chances of getting in a shower because of those few extra moments of sleep I tried to steal and I felt crummy. They needed to see the baby in order to diagnose any infection, so that would inevitably mean a long trip to the pharmacy afterward, too. Awesome. I debated making a trip to the DMV or to get the car vacuumed or some other chore that no one would notice, just to top things off.

I poured cereal for Kate and figured I should try and clear off the table so any spilled milk wouldn’t get on Megan’s papers thrown all over the table. Her papers that are ALWAYS all over the table and I had stayed up late to work on my own projects rather than clean the kitchen last night. That’s when I noticed a white business envelope with my name on it. It read, “I LOVE YOU MOM, LOVE Megan.”

My heart. She made me something. And she just left it for me to find.

Megan is always crafting. Always writing. Always decorating, always giving. It’s actually amazing how another human could have been created to have so much in common with myself. This girl is my twin. And no, I literally could not be more proud. But usually, these masterpieces are created for her beloved teacher. I was so touched.

I carefully cut open the envelope from the side, feeling like whatever was inside this envelope was something I was going to keep forever.

I was right.

Inside, my kindergartener had written me a letter using several of her sight words on repeat, especially one of the first verbs she had learned: “SEE.”

Hi MOM ANd DAD I LOVe YOu AND I LOVe YOU And I See YOu AnD I LOVe You I See See See YOu MOM. LOVe Megan.

Any regular person would have recognized my early reader’s attempt at communicating with as few known words as possible. But I saw so much more. I felt that I had received a word directly from the Lord. “Mindy. I see you. And I love you.”

Wow. Deep.

Megan sees me. She’s watching. She notices. And even if it doesn’t register as acts of love – the waking up early, the desire to help them find lost items, the clearing off the table to make room for breakfast foods – it’s all seen. And it means something. If not to my kids, then to the Lord.

I sat down in the chair, my toddler reaching her hands up toward me, and I took a deep breath. Once again, I was humbled by the simple acts of my own children.

My worth is not found in the things that make up a day. My value does not rest in a level of success or hours of sleep. I am something not because of WHAT I do, but because of WHOSE I am. My identity rests in God alone.

Oh, how often I forget!

I remembered memorizing a verse as a child:

“Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.” Matthew 25:40

When I change a diaper, take my kids to the doctor, administer medication, prepare food, pour them a bowl of cereal… I’m doing it for my God. My Creator. And those tasks don’t quite sound like too much. I owe Him so much more.

While buckling my little girls into the car for the pediatrician, I noticed Megan’s book sitting in the back seat. I normally try and let my kids learn from their mistakes and not run it to school for her. But the sweetness of her simple act in leaving me a note prompted me to be a few minutes late to our appointment and drop it off at the front office of the school.

And so with her simple act, nothing changed and yet everything changed. The situation remained the same, but my perspective had shifted. I was no longer participating in the mundane, but the eternal. With every simple act of selflessness, I was telling my kids, “I love you. I think you’re worth it.” With every small act of obedience, I was telling my God, “I love you. I worship you with my very being.” Because this stay-at-home mom is so much more than a mom, a wife, a daughter. I am a child of the Most High. What parent doesn’t delight in their children’s acts of obedience?

I still didn’t enjoy an hour-and-a-half wait at the pharmacy with two small children, nor did I appreciate the fact that Allison didn’t want to continue her nap at home and was actually pretty miserable until a few hours after the first dose of medicine. I’m even still annoyed that Megan didn’t even need that book today and that my excitement with her arrival home to see how the book sharing went was met with, ‘Oh, that. Yeah, that’s tomorrow.” Those things still annoy me. But I’m ‘trying’ to get over it. Because these small annoyances aren’t even going to matter next week, next month, or next year. So I’m gonna save my energy. It’s just not worth it.

I want to be better about reminding myself of my worth. To remember to Whom I belong. Even on days when the very best thing I could be doing is waiting on long lines for my kids and taking small naps at red lights. Because those things are just things I do. It does not define who I am.

I may need to apologize for the invisible daggers I threw at my husband, though. He definitely didn’t deserve those. 😉

Things I’m Learning – 3.3.16

Life is good these days. It really is. Good days, bad days, and every day in between. Time is a gift. And we are truly treasuring each moment.


I’ve actually been surprised by how much Jack is blossoming. He is turning into such an amazing young man. The way he thinks, how he communicates, his perspective on life… it’s enough to make a mommy incredibly proud. A few weeks ago in the car, he said, “Mom, do you know that the day you die is actually the best day of your life? Because that means we get to go to heaven and that’s the best place in the whole universe! Normally, you’d think that the day you died would be the worst day of your life, but because we love Jesus, it’s all different. Isn’t that so cool?”

I mean, he’s always been special. Always. Both him and Benjamin. Just really uniquely special kids. But there’s just something about him that’s changing. Perhaps it’s his desire to be more independent. To do things for himself. To prove to us – and to himself – that he can do things all on his own. This is new for us. Jack has always been independent, but he never minded leaving several loose ends. It didn’t go noticed as much, though, since Ben always tied them up for him. He’d clean up his messes, do the one thing that was standing between them and the next activity, that kinda thing. And when Ben died, Megan seemed to take over. This kid has been living a very charmed life! I know his saint-of-a-teacher has been working diligently to encourage more follow-through in our devastatingly charming and intelligent firstborn. We’ve been working at it, too. But I don’t know. All of a sudden, it’s just clicking. His thing is, “I just love doing things that are helpful for my family.” Do you see what I’m talking about?


He gets melancholy sometimes, though. About the absence of his best friend. The other day, he was looking through several Shutterfly photobooks with his sisters and he said, “You know, I wish I had a fairy godmother. I’d only have one wish: to bring my brother back. I just wish it wasn’t his turn.” Oh, buddy. Me too. More than anything. We talk about Ben often. And it’s not always sad. He’ll often end our little stories with, “Such good memories. You know, Mom?” Sometimes he includes Ben in our family count, other times, he doesn’t. I never correct him. There are no right answers.

You should see the beautiful relationship he has with Kate, though. Geez. It’s as if she’s uncovered a side of him that hadn’t been previously visible. At seventeen-months old, she mimics everything he does and he just eats it all up. “I just love that kid,” he tells us, like a proud father. So protective, so loving. It’s the same way that Ben was with Megan. It’s as if each brother chose a sister from the start. Now, if we can just transfer some of that love to his three-year-old sister, too, we’d be all set! HA!


This past month, we began the transition of giving Jack his own bedroom. It was time. Megan naturally transitioned to Ben’s bed after he died and no one really minded. We needed the crib for Kate eventually anyway, so we just let it happen. Both kids needed each other. We were desperate for some bit of normalcy and comfort anyway. But with Jack nearing his seventh birthday, we knew it was time for him to cut out his own space. As the oldest, the only boy. He was hesitant. Actually, he told us no; he only wanted to change rooms if he could room with Kate. Um, nope, that wouldn’t work for us. So we took our time to figure out a theme for his new space (sports) and then let him have as much control in the process as possible.

It has been emotional, as you can imagine. We’re talking about the boy who didn’t even want to change the direction of his bed after his brother died. We’re not necessarily big fans of change. None of us. Especially when our circumstances are so extremely different than how we had always imagined things to be. And so we’ve kept all the same pictures and drawings on the wall, with only a few additions.

Changing rooms – new flooring, new paint, new wall decorations – provided us the opportunity for a fresh start. It felt like a natural transition to be able to take down the murals that we haven’t touched. It felt healthy, even. And giving Jack the authority to tell us what he’d like in his room (a basketball net and a teepee were his two requests,) made all the difference. It’s not possible that he could ever forget Ben. But it feels healthy to be able to move to a place of purpose again. We have a vision. And we need our family to move forward. Plus, we needed a space for this new baby arriving in June! We’re not entirely done with their new spaces yet, but they’ve been in their separate rooms for a couple weeks now and they are all doing amazingly well. Even Megan takes a lot of pride in sneaking in moments after her little sister falls asleep and doesn’t even flinch when/if she fusses through the night!


Waiting for their big brother to get home from school.

We’re good. Really good. But that doesn’t mean life hasn’t been the least bit challenging.

I look at Ben’s sweet pictures hanging around my house. The photobooks that my kids look through almost weekly. The “See My Memories” tab on Facebook. Most times, the pictures make me smile. Just to see those eyes sparkle back at me, those dimples, that wholesome personality. To remember and feel just how blessed we were with the addition of that sweet goofy boy in our family. And yet, other times, those same triggers cut me like a sharp knife to my gut. The tears fall before I can even attempt to stop them. Bitter, aching tears.


Me at 18 weeks. Yes, this was taken last month. But in my defense, I look pretty much the same more than six weeks later. Except my belly is a little bigger. This baby is so loved, though not very well documented! 🙂

I can feel the baby growing in my belly. Twenty-four weeks in utero. She’s an active little thing and the kids have enjoyed talking to her and feeling her move. Such a wonderful precious gift that we feel incredibly grateful for. But then I picture my sweet Ben after finding out that Kate was a girl in utero, holding up two fingers on each hand, saying, “Mom! We’re going to have two boys and two girls!” And then it hits me that half of our kids will never know that boy on this side of heaven. And I’m a puddle of tears.

I still have moments where I can’t catch my breath. Where it feels like my heart is being crushed by the weight of the world. When I struggle to find meaning. When I cry out to God in anger. When I am so overwhelmed with grief that I can’t justify a reason significant enough to get up off the couch. When my mind fills with worry about all of the things that could go wrong. About all of the things that could happen to me, Andy, or the kids. I miss that blissful ignorance that we used to have. It’s just gone. It’s awful.

As painful as it is to be in that deep emotional pit, though, there are parts of me that feels satisfied being there. That deep dark place, filled with sorrow, horrible memories and flashbacks that would make anyone cringe. Because it’s a place where I come face-to-face with the depth of love for my son. Where I can truly feel the enormity of my grief. My fear. My pain. It’s a place where I allow myself to really feel our loss. Where I cry until my eyes are swollen and my cheeks hurt to wipe them dry. And sometimes, that’s not bad. Perhaps it’s even healthy.

But it’s only a place I visit. Temporarily. I have to come back.

On my cellphone, I keep an ongoing list in my notepad. And I refer to it when I need to remember how to pick myself up out of the pit. It’s entitled, “Things I’m Learning.”

I’m no grief counselor. I don’t know that other people would agree that these are things that could talk someone off the edge of a cliff. Especially those with more serious ongoing illnesses; some people may need a counselor’s help in addition to the Lord’s in order to bring them back to a place of healing. But recording and reciting these truths have been a great encouragement to me. I thought that by sharing them, they might be an encouragement to someone else as well.

  • Sometimes, the people with the most joy have fought the hardest battles. Have you ever known this to be true? You are attracted to someone for their smile, their joy, their optimism and zest for life. And then you learn their story, the horror they’ve had to walk. You wonder how they could have ever mustered the strength to continue, much less thrive. (Proverbs 17:22) I know several people like this, including my husband. They refuse to see themselves as the victim. They seemed to have learned just what Andy Defresne did in Shawshank Redemption: “You either get busy livin’, or get busy dying.” People congratulate me on my desire to find joy. To seek peace. To move on. “I could never be that strong,” they tell me. You’re right. You couldn’t ever be that strong. But neither could I. If I have shown strength, it is only because I have admitted my weakness and claimed God’s strength as my own. (Isaiah 40:29,31 and 2 Corinthians 12:9-10)
  • Just do one more thing. When I can feel myself spiraling down, I take a deep breath and tell myself to get off of the couch. Drink a glass of water. Write down some of the things that I’m grateful for. (Philippians 4:8) And then perhaps I will go brush my teeth. And then maybe I can sit and color with my girls. Just one more thing, and then another. Before I know it, I’m functional again. And I can look back and feel accomplished for having done a list of things when I didn’t think I could do anything at all.
  • You can’t compare pain. It all hurts and it all sucks. Some of my friends have lost babies in the womb. Some have lost them at birth, or several hours later. Some of my friends have lost their kids as teenagers, as adults, or perhaps they lost their own parents. Sometimes, the loss was instantaneous. Other times, the pain was dragged out. How could anyone say who has suffered more? How could anyone brag that their pain is deeper? It’s just not possible. Losing my son was definitely the worst and most tragic circumstance Andy and I have ever gone through. But that doesn’t mean that we’ve got the corner of the market on tragedy. We’ve all experienced loss. And it just sucks.
  • Widen your perspective. How are other people hurting today? They could probably use some encouragement, too. Perspective really is a valuable thing. When we’re able to consider the pain that others are enduring – that we’re not the only ones in the world to suffer a big loss or challenge – then it takes our minds off of our own pain. I’m always humbled to hear of how the Lord used a simple card in the mail or a text to bless a friend. Those small notes of encouragement that come at ‘just the right moment.’ If we are Christ-followers, we all belong to the same body of Christ. When one is hurting, we are all hurting. (1 Corinthians 12:12-31) Being able to extend love and empathy at just the right moments bring people together and remind us that we are not alone in our struggles. We are aligned with many other imperfect people who all have the same goal: to honor the Lord with the circumstances life has thrown at us.
  • Give yourself permission to grieve. To hurt. To remember. Cry, yell at God, admit your anger. But then take a moment to acknowledge the hope we have in Christ. Take heart: Heaven is real. And it is forever! It seems weird to have to tell yourself that it’s okay to feel the myriad of emotions your heart wants to experience. It’s natural. Especially when you’re pregnant! HA! Emotions are not bad. They were created by God. But we need to practice reigning them in, to learn to control them. It’s okay for me to be angry. As long as I don’t stay there. It’s okay to feel alone and isolated. As long as I am willing to acknowledge the hope I have in Christ. Heaven changes everything. This life is only temporary. We will be reunited with our loved ones again. And just as Jack and I marvel about, since there is no concept of time in heaven, it will be as if no time had passed at all when we arrive! I get chills just thinking about the reunion we will have someday!
  • Anniversaries are just dates on a calendar. Grieve when you need to, regardless of what may have happened in the past. There are several dates that are significant through our journey with Ben’s diagnosis, treatment, and decline. Forever etched in my memory. And each of those come with their own set of horrific flashbacks. Just the mention of a single date has the potential of making me lose my focus and spiral downward. But do you know what I’ve found? The night before is the worst. It’s the anticipation. Worrying how I will feel to remember exactly where I was two years ago on that exact date. And the memories just come flooding. My stomach would churn and I would make myself sick with worry as I went to bed that night before. Once the day arrived, however, it was just like any other day. It’s just a date on a calendar. I have enough opportunities to grieve for my son when I need to rather than worrying about my grief journey following the events on a calendar.
  • Extend yourself some grace. There are days when I feel like I’ve only barely existed. If I was a babysitter, I would have been fired for neglect. I parented my kids from the couch, yelled at them for meaningless things or because I was so emotional, and only got up to do the bare minimum. Grace admits that not all days are like this. Foregoing laundry, the dishes, or even cleaning the bathrooms is not going to affect us for eternity. It’s okay to just live in the moment sometimes. We need to give ourselves a break every now and then. I’m thankful for a husband that extends that grace to me on a daily basis; I don’t deserve it, but I sure appreciate it.
  • Joy is not the absence of sadness. Instead, it is actually finding a way to live with the grief you now carry. And not letting it overtake you. Grief will be forever connected to us because of the great loss we endured. That’s a fact. Learning to live with that truth so we could move beyond it is the important part. It will never go away. Ask anyone who’s lost a child, no matter how long ago, and they will answer the same way: yes, it still hurts. Joy comes in acknowledging that truth so we can live. And not just ‘get through,’ but as the Bible says, “to life live to the fullest!” (John 10:10) Grief is not something to be shunned. It’s a natural – and even healthy – reaction to a great loss. It’s definitely part of our lives, and so we must accept it. I’ve likened it to losing a limb. We still have the function of our other apparatuses, but we must learn how to do things differently. You can’t simply avoid its absence.
  • Even amidst the worst of tragedies, we have been given far more than we deserve. To live in the United States, to have the freedoms we enjoy, to have the flexibility to learn, work and worship wherever we desire. We are a blessed people. If you’re bored, look up the hashtag “FirstWorldProblems” on Instagram or Twitter. The complaints about our daily struggles look especially ridiculous when we take a moment to realize what other people go through just to make the best life they can for their family. We are a very blessed people. And humility comes in the realization that the majority of what we enjoy was not achieved by our own merit.
  • Peace comes in the realization that even in the midst of suffering, God’s presence has never left you. So much comfort in knowing that even as I walked through the Valley of the Shadow of Death, I never walked alone. In the midst of tragedy, the pit of darkness, in the moments where I’ve felt no hope, no comfort… God was there. All I had to do was open my eyes. My God had never left my side. Not even once. (Isaiah 41:10)

I’d imagine that this is just the beginning of my list as I continue to learn new things. The labyrinth of grief is so very intricate. But rather than overanalyze it, I’m trying to record what I’m learning so I can go on, but also remind myself how far I’ve come.

That’s where we are.

I know of so many other families right now who are walking difficult roads. Some of them look similar to the road we had to walk, others are very different. But pain is pain and it all sucks. I pray that God may use some of what He’s teaching us to encourage someone else. All of us are hurting. But something else I’ve realized is that we were never made to feel complete on this side of heaven. We’re human. Fallible. Imperfect. Incomplete. It is only after we arrive in Heaven with our God that we will be completely whole again.

Until then, we’re just another day closer.

And God Has Continued to Carry Us – 11.7.15

They say no news is good news. I guess that’s true. I haven’t posted on this site for quite some time because I haven’t really had much to say.

I also lost my password.

But mostly, my absence is due to the fact that I just didn’t have much to say.

I’ve tried to write when I have both inspiration and opportunity. I guess I haven’t really had either! We had another wonderful vacation in Myrtle Beach. Kate turned a year old. Jack started first grade. Megan started three-year-old nursery school. I’m a parent photographer at Jack’s school and a room mom in his class. My littlest sister got married!

If pictures are worth a thousand words, then these should be able to fill a chapter book.


Looking for sand crabs on the beach

IMG_0903bEnjoying the warm water in the evening

 IMG_1034bKate getting her first taste of the sand – literally!

IMG_6487bCelebrating our littlest cowgirl’s first birthday in September

IMG_6518bYou’ve gotta capture these lovable moments on camera because, Lord knows, they don’t always last long!

IMG_5531bI’m so grateful to see the boys’ old games resurface again. I’m so grateful that Megan is an eager participant.


There is absolutely no doubt that Kate is 100% ours – she fits right in! And there is no doubting the special relationship she shares with Jack.


My sister married the man of her dreams! I was a matron of honor (along with our other sister,) Jack was a ring bearer and Megan was the flower girl. Such a beautifully special day.

IMG_2498bMy handsome date and one of our chaperones!

We’re doing well. We have more good days than bad days. We’re searching for the good and thank God everyday for what He has given us. We still get angry, depressed, surprised to see Ben’s face in his brother’s when he walks through the door. We still cry. We miss Ben like crazy. But we are simultaneously filled with hope, anxiousness for the day we will be reunited.

Because even after coming through such a vicious storm, we can still say with confidence, “God has been so very good to us. Much better than we deserve.”

Rising Above the Waves

A few weeks ago, I had heard reports of shark attacks off the east coast. My heart just sank to think of the unsuspecting victims. Their families. And the pain they must be enduring. Knowing that we have been counting down until we go to the ocean this summer, I felt a new heightened level of caution. I knew better than to ask my husband in front of the kids if he had heard about it. But honestly, I thought Jack and Megan were well-occupied in the other room and wouldn’t hear.

“Babe, did you hear about those shark attacks?” I asked in hushed tones. “Off of Florida and North Carolina? They were in swarms, right off of the beach.”

I gave him a few more details since he hadn’t heard, moments before Jack came skipping into the room with a concerned look on his face. “Wait. What sharks? They attacked someone?”

You have no idea how many things I’ve had to explain to my six-year-old simply because he was within ear-shot. I swear, I’ll learn my lesson one of these days.

But the opportunity turned out to be a wonderfully teachable moment. We talked about how sharks come close to the beach to find food, when food in the ocean is scarce. And how they’re not looking to attack people, but for fish to eat. Jack asked if I knew anyone that had been attacked. My mind wandered to a news story I had seen the day before, the one that highlighted the birth of Bethany Hamilton’s newborn son, Tobias, who had been born just two weeks before. Remember Bethany? The professional surfer who lost her left arm in 2003 to a shark attack… but lived and continued to compete. She was only thirteen years old at the time. Her story was an amazing one of courage, strength and faith. Bethany wasn’t just an amazing surfer. She was a Christian, and relied on her faith – established long before tragedy struck – to get her through some of her darkest moments and biggest successes.

Bethany with the surfboard that sustains the bite of a tiger shark that tore off her left arm.

Bethany in 2003 with the surfboard that sustains the bite of a tiger shark that tore off her left arm.

Jack soaked it all in. He asked to see her picture on my phone. Megan, too. We browsed through dozens of pictures of her newborn son, her husband, her missing left arm, and photos of her surfing before and after the accident. It was amazing.

“You know,” I told Jack, “they made a movie about her story. I think it’s called Soul Surfer. Maybe we can watch it this weekend!”

It never takes much to motivate my oldest into a movie night, so I was glad to see it was only rated PG, making it a safe choice for my little ones. Perhaps he was a little disappointed to see they didn’t show more of the actual attack (even though both of us shielded our eyes and Daddy fast-forwarded the part we knew would otherwise give us nightmares,) but it was just beautiful. Absolutely beautiful.

Not to be a complete buzz kill, but Bethany was slotted to be one of the best professional surfers in Hawaii just before the tiger shark ripped her left arm off in the middle of the day. Out of nowhere. She struggled to see God in all of it. To understand why He would have allowed something so horrible to happen when she was destined for such greatness.

Andy and I were both in tears that night. When Bethany cried out to God, begging for a reason why He allowed this to happen. Her pure desire to know. To understand. She was a good person. A Jesus follower. Why her? The bitter tears and heated discussions the parents had together as they talked about how life would be so different for their family, especially for their talented daughter who had had such a bright future ahead of her. Sponsors. How they struggled to know what to do. How to handle it all. We’ve been there.

Those dip pits when you can’t see God’s hand. When you struggle to see your purpose, your reason for going on. And we cried with her. She tried to compete again, but was discouraged. Then she decided to go on a missions trip to minister to the people of Thailand after the tsunami tore apart their lives. There, she helped a boy get over his fear of the water, the monster that took his whole family. In the midst of her own pain. And there, she found healing. She got back up. Worked harder. Trained intensely. And allowed God to use her, just as she was. Even with her ‘handicap,’ she went on to win numerous competitions, with no special treatment.

Inspiring, to say the least.

Andy said it best. “I guess it felt good to see someone else who loves God in pain. And then watching them choose to move beyond it. To see how God sustained them too.”

We know some of the anguish and questioning that Bethany went through. And her parents. It’s not the same by any means. But the hurt feels similar. Something that comes up – without warning – and changes your life forever. To be able to share with Jack – my son who lost his twin – of another person in pain, choosing God. Even when they had every earthly excuse to just write Him off. They chose Him. And God was able to bring them to a place where they could be a blessing… and in turn, be blessed. Far more than they could have ever imagined.

I am so grateful that God invites us to come as we are, wherever we are, just as we are. And He welcomes us with open arms. Hurting, in pain, and imperfect. And if we are willing, He uses us to be an encouragement to other people. Even though our wounds are still raw. And somehow, it helps us heal, too. Gives us purpose. Perspective. Hope. As Bethany said later, “I could never have embraced this many people with two arms.”

I was just amazed at how God seemed to bring all of these ‘coincidences’ together for me and my family. The mention of sharks, the announcement of Bethany’s newborn son, the memory of a story twelve years old and a movie made more than four years ago, and at the perfect time in our journey of grief. These are not coincidences, there’s no such thing. They are Divine Appointments. Just another reminder of how my God thoughtfully brings situations together – at just the right time – to encourage us in our faith.

At the bottom of Bethany Hamilton’s website is this verse:

“Let all that I am praise the Lord, may I never forget the good things He does for me.” Psalm 103:2

Yes. That’s it.

Because even after sustaining a huge blow, like losing a child or a limb, we can look back and agree: God has been far better to us than we deserve.

Finding Our Purpose – 6.15.15

When I was little, I wanted to be a gymnast. After all, I knew how to do a one-handed cartwheel and I liked wearing colorful leotards. But when I realized I probably wouldn’t be able to make much money doing somersaults, I decided to be an accountant. I might not have been amazing with math, but I’d get absolutely giddy working with graph paper… all those boxes, organization, the neatness of numbers in different columns matching… it still excites me more than I should admit. As a teenager, I also loved the idea of doing the chalk drawings at Wegmans grocery store, and scooping ice cream at our favorite custard shop, Anderson’s. Sadly, however, neither of those places wanted to hire a girl whose family wouldn’t let her work on Sundays.

Still, the question remained: what am I going to do for the rest of my life? What on earth was I created for? Is what I’m doing making a difference? How is that even measured? Who in the world cares if I’m scooping ice cream? Cleaning houses? Teaching piano lessons? Babysitting? Does this even matter? What on earth was I even created for?

Each of us ask these questions from time to time. And for those graduating this time of year, they’re getting bombarded with them. We are born with a desire to know. To learn and fulfill. We want to chase after our dreams and fulfill the reason we were born.

As a Christian, I know that each of us were created with a purpose. A mission. Sometimes, our purpose changes with time. It might be related to the set of skills that God gave us. Or perhaps it has to do with the situation God brought us out of, or a place we found ourselves. Sometimes, it’s something that had been pulled out over a period of time. Other times, it was something that was born out of nowhere. It can come out of success and from tragedy. Some people strive their whole life to work toward their goals while others die without ever knowing why they were born. Our stories are as unique as our fingerprints.

But we all need to know.

Since I lost my son, I find myself determined to stay focused. To not let myself get sucked into the vortex of pity, self-destruction, and depression. Because it happens all too easily. I have to plan times to grieve, to cry, remember, and hurt. To let my tears sting my face and feel the pit of loss in my gut. And then I wipe my tears and keep going.

Do you know why?

Because I have a purpose.

I may never get into a cute colorful leotard again. You’re welcome. I may never get paid to use my teaching degree. And that’s okay. Because my purpose is being worked out every single day.

I am a mom.



Even with my emotional scars, I have a reason to move on: to care for the three kids I have been charged with here on earth. To teach them. Guide them. Show them love. Discipline. Encouragement. And spur them onto Christ. That. That is why I keep going. I believe that is the reason I was born. The reason I still have air in my lungs.

Linda is a friend of mine has a six-year-old daughter that was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes when she was very young. It is a condition that outlines every bit of their day. Both girls have seen more than their fair share of blood, needles, pumps, and heartache.

When her daughter was first diagnosed, Linda was sent into a tailspin of “Why me? Why me?” She knew a bit of the challenges she’d have to deal with and she wasn’t sure how she would manage it. Shortly after that diagnosis, she learned that her daughter also had Celiac Disease. Oh, how much can one person take? She understood the seriousness of this diagnosis, both of them. She knew her life would be forever altered.

But she didn’t give up, admit defeat, and throw her hands up in surrender. She turned her questions from “Why me?” to “Why NOT me? I can help her. I can care for her. She’s my child and I love her more than anything.” She acknowledged her fears, channeled her anger and became an advocate for T1D. She raises money for research with the hopes that they will find a cure. She rallies a big group of supporters to walk in the JDRF Walk every year. She organized a group of other T1D moms around Western New York to band together for support. She works hard to teach and educate her daughter in how to best manage things in case a cure is not found in her lifetime.

Linda discovered what her purpose was: to be a mom. And together with her husband, they were going to care to this beautiful little girl and her wonderful older brother.

People tell Linda that she’s an inspiration. But she refuses to see it that way. Her response: This is my daughter. I want her to live. So I will do absolutely anything I can to fight for her. “I’m not angered by it anymore. It is just part of our family,” she told me.

For so many reasons that seem so obvious now, Linda was chosen to be this amazingly spirited girl’s mom. And because of that, God has already given her everything she needs to parent her. This is not the way that she originally imagined. But she is determined to find joy.

Because she found her purpose.

Linda said, “I feel it’s so important for people to know it doesn’t have to be some big ‘thing.’ It can be something so small… and when you realize what IT is… Ahhh, it feels so good.”

I don’t know what God has for each one of us. Your life’s mission may be drastically different than mine and Linda’s. And that’s okay. In fact, that’s good! Everyone brings something different to the table. But what a joy it is when you get glimpses of God’s plan. To understand pieces of why He put you here, and that level of satisfaction in knowing you’re doing your best to fulfill your mission. Like Linda said, it feels so good.

When you come to a life-altering event, you have two choices: to give up or keep going. And if you choose the latter, you’d need to know why you’re getting out of bed each morning. What you’re willing to fight for. Trust God to light the way. He promises to make things clear in His time. You just need to be willing to take that next step.

I doubt that I’ll ever be able to do a one-handed cartwheel again. But I can change a mean diaper… administer the most effective BandAids… and my oldest thinks that my singing voice is absolutely beautiful. “Just like in the movies, I get sleepy when you sing to me at bedtime.”

Purpose. Makes all the difference.

Burying Seeds of Hope – 6.2.15

I don’t know that I’ve ever had a panic attack before. But I think I came pretty close tonight.

It’s been an emotional week. For everyone in Western New York. News of a six-year-old little boy with Down Syndrome dying just days after his mom unexpectedly passed away, my friend’s baby girl having a cerebral hemorrhage and the worry that it was something more, car accidents, my friends’ loved ones getting diagnosed with cancer, and the staunch reminder that we are completely out of control. It’s scary. Really scary. The thought of Mary Sugorovskiy, the local mom burying her three-year-old son Maksym because a car swerved off the expressway and into Delaware Park… while caring for her own injuries as well as that of her five-year-old daughter, Stephanie, in critical condition… I just don’t know. So so tragic. So horrible. I have no words. How in the world are you supposed to deal with that kind of loss? So sudden? And right before your eyes? I’ve just been sick. I know a little of that pain. But not like that.

My heart’s been hurting all week.

Tonight’s catalyst, though, was a letter from school, inviting me to write a letter for Jack’s time capsule. A treasure he will open as a graduating senior. Other moms can identify with the myriad of emotions going through my mind. My firstborn. In twelve years. Knowing how much he’s already gone through, and anxiousness over not knowing what will happen in the years to come. Knowing his twin won’t be reading a letter at his graduation. Knowing Mary won’t be writing a letter to her son Maksym. And wondering what her letter to her future graduating senior daughter will sound like.

My heart just aches.

The letter is due on Thursday. I’ve been putting it off for a week but I decided that I just needed to finish it tonight. To get it out of the way. But before I could tackle that, I needed to do another project for an end-of-the-year gift. I went to the basement in order to try and uncover my pastel chalks. Perhaps this creative outlet would help give me clarity as to what I would include in Jack’s time capsule.

I had been thinking that my chalks were in a blue box with a bunch of stationery. An old Anne Geddes box I had had since college. After a bit of digging, I found the box… but no pastels. Next to it, though, was a Ziploc bag with some instruction manuals. I know, I’m the nerd who has a hard time throwing away the instruction manuals for in my home. But amongst the camera booklets was a small camera. My old camera. My old Sony point-and-shoot camera.

My heart sank. My chest tightened. I couldn’t breathe. I just stared at it in my hands, shaking.

I haven’t been able to find this camera for almost two years.

I used this camera when the boys were babies. Mostly for trips to the zoo or videos around the house. Ben especially was a magnet to technology and I could barely take it out without him insisting on using it himself. This camera was the “bait” I used to entice them to crawl and then take their first steps across the room.


Ben with my point-and-shoot. Always.

I just stood there. Staring at it.

And then I stopped breathing completely. What was on it? I started crying. What was on it?

Thankfully, the battery charger was placed inside the bag as well so I went upstairs to plug it in. Meanwhile, I told Andy what I had found. I didn’t have to say much. He remembered.

How in the world am I going to be able to write this letter now?

After a few minutes of charging, I was able to turn it on. It had about 50 pictures, taken mostly by Ben, of our world as seen through his eyes. Andy and I cried as we scrolled through each photo of our house, Megan, their toys, the walls, the backyard, and Jack… all in motion and blurry or with a bright flash. But the last memory was a video I had taken on August 5, 2013. When both boys were healthy. They were sitting at the kitchen table. Working. Coloring. And talking.

As soon as I saw it, I remembered what it was from. I have pictures of that evening on my computer.

Ben and Jack decorating the cake for our “We Love Daddy Day” celebration, 8.5.13

We were planning a We Love Daddy Day. A surprise dinner to celebrate our daddy and how hard he works for our family. A day (inspired by another mom friend) where we would make his favorite meal and post pictures all over the kitchen with words of gratitude, balloons, streamers, and more family portraits than you could imagine.

Tears. And more tears.

I take a lot of pictures, but I honestly don’t take enough videos. This one was of both boys working on decorations for our dinner, and me interviewing them as to why we were celebrating.

Both boys. Our boys. Each of them explaining – finishing each other’s sentences, adding to what their brother was saying, giggling – about how much we love our daddy.

I could feel Andy’s tears quietly falling onto my shoulders. Although I could hear him, too.

And my stomach pulled tighter in knots.

I can’t even tell you how much I wish we could go back to that Age of Innocence. The time in our lives that we didn’t worry about cancer, about our kids growing up without their brother, when we didn’t worry about… well, when we didn’t worry about very much at all. Ignorance really is bliss. We miss the time we were ignorant. Carefree. And you don’t even know what we would give to have had all of this be a dream.

But this is our reality. Like it or not. And as much as I wish it could be different for the Sugorovskiy family, they have a new reality too. And

How am I supposed to write this letter? What am I going to say that might encourage or inspire Jack as an eighteen-year-old? I have no idea whether I will be there to see him open it. I have absolutely no idea how life will unfold in the next twelve years.

What do I say?

I want him to know that life is hard. But God is good.

That no one has been guaranteed good things. Perfect things. No one can go through life without being touched. Or hurt. Or hurt deeply.

I want him to know that even with great pain, we have been so blessed.

That God has given us so much more than we deserve. And all he needs to do is cling to Him. And he will be taken care of.

I got it. I know what I want to do.

In addition to a letter and some pictures, I’m going to include that little 4GB memory card I found tonight in that tiny time capsule. Except I’m going to add more pictures and a new video: a video of me and Andy, talking to him as a graduating senior. Perhaps I’ll take some video of him and the girls, too, talking to Jack’s future self. Encouragement. Wisdom. And the assurance that we are so very grateful for his life and how he will continue to use it for God’s glory.

That’s perfect.

Life is hard, friends. And sometimes, it’s really really hard. But know that none of these bad things come from God. And people who follow Christ are not exempt from it either. We’ve only been guaranteed hardships. But be encouraged. I’ve read the end of The Book: WE WIN! Because we have Christ, we have hope.

Even in the midst of tears, we have hope. Undying, unwavering, unadulterated HOPE.

And even though today is hard, every day is just another day closer to heaven.

Living Like Him – 5.28.15

Lately, I’ve been thinking about how walking with God helps your mental state. How doing what the Lord taught, following His principles, helps keep things in balance.

I’m not saying that if you’re doing it right, you may never need counseling, have a rough few days (or weeks or months or years,) or just be crazy. I may fit into all of those categories even in this moment. For starters, I’m definitely crazy. Just ask my kids. You’re not allowed to ask my husband. I’m actually nervous how hard he’d laugh if you did. Seriously. You’re not allowed. But I do think there could be a correlation.

Think about it.

Jesus taught us to treat others the way we want to be treated. Our culture has even named that one The Golden Rule. It seems obvious that we can only expect respect from others if we’re willing to give it ourselves. We cannot hold others to a higher standard. It just doesn’t make sense, it’s not fair. But if we do treat others well, it is more likely that we will treated similarly in return.

Jesus taught us to love our enemies. Not only because it’s the only way to break the cycle of hatred, but because it clears your spirit. Allows you a moment of clarity to see things from their perspective. To allow the possibility of wrongdoing on your part. To have a guilt-free conscience. I’m often amazed that God didn’t tell us to simply pity them. Or even tolerate them. But to love them. It’s easy for me to love food. Photography. My husband, my kids. And no, not in that order. But to love my enemies, I’ve got to do some serious soul-searching first. That is not an easy task. But it’s the healthier option.

Jesus went a step farther and encouraged us to love people more than ourselves. He knew that we are a proud people and there isn’t anyone we love more than our own bodies. We don’t go out of our way to deny ourselves food, attention and the basic necessities. Why on earth would we? If we have the opportunity to give ourselves what we need to survive, then we should by all means do so. It’s in our nature. When Jesus told us to love others more than ourselves, it forces us to think of others in the same way. To look for opportunities to give someone else something that would also make us happy. And in doing so, we also find ourselves to be abundantly blessed. Even moreso than if we were to have kept that blessing to ourselves.

Jesus also taught us to be generous. That if someone asks for your coat, to give them your shirt too. To not be confined by what we are obligated to give, but to go the extra mile. This is counter-cultural. It goes against our grain. We don’t want to be taken advantage of. But when we open ourselves up to this thinking, we are reminded of the fact that nothing on earth really belongs to us. We came naked into this world and we will leave the same way. And even if we spent our own hard-earned money, our time, or whatever resources to secure it, it’s a fleeting thing and could be gone tomorrow. It keeps our priorities in check. It forces us to ask, will this matter next week? In a year? In ten years? It forces us to plan ahead, and spend our time doing things that matter.

Jesus taught us to turn the other cheek. I used to struggle with this concept, thinking that He was encouraging me to be a whipping boy of sorts. But that’s just not true. As one author suggests, He was “calling for a full surrender of personal rights.” It’s foregoing the natural response, one of anger and hatred, and replacing it with love. This, again, goes against what feels natural. Most people would agree if that if someone hits me, I have the right to hit them back. Just ask my kids! No one had to teach them that! An eye for an eye, as it was practiced in Jesus’ day. But that’s not how we win others for Jesus. That’s not how we break the cycle. That’s not how we achieve healing.

Biblical principles are at work here, friends.

So when I’m teaching my son how to properly greet someone – to shake their hand, look them in the eye, and give a clear greeting – I am teaching him a valuable life skill. One that will serve him well throughout school, but also into adulthood. But there’s another motive, too. Giving someone a proper greeting shows that you respect them. It forces you to look them in the eye, to see them as your equal.

When I’m teaching Jack and Megan to share with each other, take turns, talk nicely and not lash out in anger, I’m teaching strategies that will allow them to work with other people, including their spouse. And also make our home more peaceful! It’s hard. I’m literally fighting an uphill battle. But the pay-offs are great!

These principles are both spiritual and practical. They help to bridge the gap between our sinful nature and God’s Perfect Way. Perfection is not something I will ever attain. Ever. Just being able to admit that truth is freeing. We’re not expected to get it all right. We’ll have bad days and we’ll mess up. Often. And that’s okay. Perfection is something we strive for – a goal to keep in our sights – though no one expects us to attain it until we join our Savior in heaven.

So don’t worry. We’re just as crazy as the person next to us! But I truly feel, the more time we spend with Our Father, reading His words, following His principles, the more our hearts will settle. There’ll be times when we need something more to help bridge the gap. But very often, we just need to “unplug” in order to connect with Him. And in turn, we are better people.

This Next Chapter – 5.19.15


Even after Ben died, I continued writing on the blog in order to share how God was continuing to carry us after his homegoing. It’s been one year. And now I feel like I’m ready to begin a new chapter. A new section in our story. How I use this site will be similar to what I used to write before Ben got sick: encouragement for moms and other families who love the Lord. Stories, anecdotes, musings, observations, pictures, verses… things I’m learning, things that make me smile, things that may be an encouragement to someone else.

I decided to name it “Another Day Closer.” After we lost Ben, we found ourselves longing for heaven. For the day when we will be reunited with our Creator and all of our loved ones that have gone before us. We marched through each day with purpose, with hope. And always thinking, this is another day closer to heaven. As we continue in our grief and in our parenting, we are always mindful that we are another day closer to heaven… another day closer to being better parents… another day closer to being the person God has created us to be.

This mindset will be the foundation of my thinking. An ode to our son Ben, but also purposeful parenting for our three earthly children as well.

I don’t pretend to have it all together. I don’t pretend to have the answers. But as God provides the inspiration and the opportunity, I will look forward to sharing what He is teaching me in my mothering journey. It’s just Another Day Closer.