Sunday, March 22, 2009


I miss Andrew a lot, but truly feel God sustaining me each day beyond anything I thought possible. Gracie, who will be 3 on the 27th, is the same, always strong, happy, fearless. (My mom always calls her the "Survivor." She did afterall survive a potty birth). AJ, who turned 4 in January, has fussy days and it's usually because he's missing his papa a lot. He was really close to Andrew. He's so sensitive, aware, and has an amazing memory. Most of the time, though, he's pretty happy, loves playing with all our different neighbors, who we've been getting to know a lot since we've been back from California, and going to his new preschool 3 mornings a week that I enrolled him in 2 weeks ago.

I'm really thankful for the times we have together at night before bed. I have a lot of heart-to-hearts with AJ, and the kids really need a lot of affection and reassurance right now. At age four, I think AJ is old enough to possibly remember a lot of Andrew. I keep praying the Lord will preserve his memories. The other night he mentioned his last birthday in California and asked if I had eaten any of his birthday cake.

I said yes.

He asked if papa had too.

I said no.

He asked why?

I said, Remember? He had a feeding tube, and I pointed to my stomach.

He said, "Yeah, and he used to have one too in his nose."

And I asked when.

And he said, "'A long long long long time ago."

He was right. A year ago for several weeks right after Andrew's surgery, he had a tube in his nose to feed through before he ever had a bigger one put into his stomach. AJ remembers a year ago!

In general, all day long AJ has various questions related to death and heaven. They have been constant opportunities to talk about so many different aspects of the Lord. How He is always good, always is with us, is everwhere, anywhere we are, yet is in heaven with papa. How He hates sin, and yet is forgiving, and we are incapable of obeying Him on our own, but through His Holy Spirit He can change our hearts to grow us more like Him. How He promises to be a Papa to the fatherless and will take care of us and we can trust Him. How He is yes, even bigger than Spiderman, and can rescue even those Spiderman cannot.

I feel as if God is really growing me through this difficult time. I feel more sensitive to spiritual things than ever before. When I hear a song on the radio that mentions eternity, I listen to the words intently, looking for truthful images, wonder if it's giving me a clue into what Andrew is seeing right now. Even if my private worship (my time in God's Word and prayer) was cut short a couple of times or I even missed it, I realize at Sunday worship that my mind has still been meditating on spiritual things most of the week, because it is so easy to worship God in song with all my heart and listen to the message without being distracted, though it has always been a much greater struggle in the past.

It as if any and everything during the day makes me think about how it looks to God, how He would see it and interpret it, what it has to do with heaven, eternity.

I feel as if everything has become very clear-cut, at least for the time-being, and my vision feels clear right now too. God uses searing pain to cause everything to come into focus.

The letters of Andrew

Andrew's letters have really shepherded me so much through this time. Reading his letters almost nightly the first month, all of which I have posted so far (at least the ones I'm supposed to read. There are still the 2 month, 1 year, 1st wedding anniversary without him, and a few others as well as for watershed events in the kids lives), have guided me how to structure my day, such as using the kids two-hour afternoon nap to take care of the onslaught of paper work related to his countless medical bills, changing names on all kinds of accounts, logistical things having to do with death or not having him here (...still goin' at it). Him telling me to take a realistic time during the day to work on all those things, plus telling me not to feel overwhelmed but to take things one step at a time, have truly protected me from feeling overwhelmed the first month. God also answered his prayer that it would be easy and fun for me to take care of all of those things, which truly shocked me, because I have always despised paper work, particularly when it's related to messed up bills and insurance companies. The Holy Spirit really must have given him the words to write, because how could he know what I was going to go through and know exactly just what I needed to hear?

I'm learning so much from Andrew's leadership in his letters, despite how proud and stubborn I always was when he was actually here. I find that I always forget little things he wrote in the letters, and so certain phrases become new to me again when I read them or strengthen me anew or refocus me.

I never could imagine life without Andrew, but somehow there is. I can't explain it. How I can miss someone that I love so much and yet still be okay. My only explanation is that the Lord is really helping me.

"But you, O God, do see trouble and grief; you consider it to take it in hand. The victim commits himself to you; you are the helper of the fatherless." - Psalm 10:14

Prayer Requests

- that I would be consistent in my private worship. that the Lord would refresh me each day and continue to sustain me as a single mom. The kids were sick this weekend, so I had to say no to some invitations. Being sequestered all weekend drove me a little crazy.

- (for the same requests as in the previous post)

Verse of the day

"For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord" (Romans 6:23).

Thursday, March 12, 2009


After the whirlwind of Andrew's memorial service, I found that each day, I generally felt fine. During those times, I thought, this isn't so bad. If this is what it's like, then I don't see how we can't get through this. And then some time after dinner each night, I felt the complete opposite for an hour or two and wasn't sure if I would make it through the next minute. I was grateful, though, that at least there was relief each day for most of it. I had always expected my grief would be a suffocating dark cloud, relentless without any sunshine to pierce it. Yet, each day I could breathe. But when the misery took over after the kids were in bed, it was like trying to breathe through a contraction. Each day felt a little better, while the misery contractions at night felt a little worse.

One thing I was forced to learn from our battle with cancer, though, was that panic, or any strong emotion related to misery, was always passing and that one should never put any stock in it. Once the panic subsided, then one could evaluate the situation, see that it wasn't completely overwhelming, and that one could then take the next step, rather than collapse in frustration. So I would breathe and wait for the contraction to subside.

My mother stayed for an additional week after Andrew passed away and I would cry to her each night. She would reassure me that indeed God was in control and I could trust in Him and rub my back like I was a little girl again and I would feel better and fall asleep. It was strange, as if I had gone from being my mom's girl, while being Andrew's for a few years was a slight hiccup, and then went back to mom's girl.

Week 3 after Andrew's Homegoing

I had bought a bunkbed from Ikea with a full-size bed on the bottom. I thought I would sleep on the top bunk, while still have the option to cuddle with one of the kids on the bottom when I felt like it, while the other one slept on the toddler bed. In the end, the top bunk always seemed too lonely and the kids always insisted I stay on the bottom. Even though they took turns sleeping on the other toddler bed, by morning, all three of us usually ended up squished together in the bottom bunk.

I put the bunk bed in their room, so the room is not too big and real cozy. I retired to the room at the same time as the kids, so I didn't have to endure lonely nights by myself and no longer had the evening bouts of misery. Even though they were asleep, I still felt comforted by their presence at night. So I started to have my bouts of grief at unexpected times in the mid-morning or after lunch. I would burst out crying, missing Andrew. The kids would each run for the tissue box, insisting that I couldn't cry, bringing me wads of tissues, their offerings to me. I would have to suck it up and hold in my tears. Since I'm basically always with the kids, I really had no opportunity to cry.

I still had to have my daily cries, even if they were only allowed to last a minute or two a couple of times in the afternoon. The kids are used to it now and no longer demand an explanation. They don't even turn from their toys all the time to overload me with tissues.

After the kids were in bed, I read for awhile, and usually fell asleep by 10. Not wanting to wake them up, I set my alarm for the latest possible time the kids might still be sleeping, assuming that I went to bed so early that I would probably be waking up way before them on my own. Not so. Grief is quite exhausting, especially if you're not allowed to express it as much as you would like to. I always woke up at the same time as them.

When I am missing Andrew, it feels so unreal that he could actually be gone. Like I'll glance a picture of him, see his familiar face, and realize, I had looked at it thousands of times, the slope of his nose, the angles of his jaw, his wide, almond eyes, the width of his cheeks. I'll think, How could he not be here anymore? He was just here. Three weeks ago. He was just here and I could look at that face any time I wanted as much as I wanted, so much and for so long, over and over day in and day out, that face, and that I thought I would always look at it. It's like saying you will never see the blue sky again. Or ever see another tree for the rest of your life. Like the mountains have fallen into the sea.

Like when some people in the World Trade Center on Sept. 11th got stuck in the elevators, collapsed down to the bottom floor and survived, but when they climbed out of the elevators, they thought they had died because they recognized nothing. The lobby was gone, ash and rubble floated everywhere like a thick fog. On the street, nothing was the same, and how could they ever imagine Manhatten could ever be recovered, restored, or look like it did just earlier that morning ever again. At that moment, the world that they had always known, was just, gone.

God is our refuge and strength,
A very present help in trouble.
Therefore we will not fear, though the earth should change
And though the mountains slip into the heart of the sea.
- Psalm 46:1-2

When I am feeling okay, it's like standing behind the glass in an aquarium. It's really strange how it feels when I am doing okay. It is so opposite than when I'm sad. It feels very literally as if the Lord is shielding me from the onslaught of grief. When I remember the misery of the previous day, yet feel so perfectly calm and fine, it is like I am looking at that giant aquarium of water, watching the grey shark swim by, and wonder what was ever the danger of all that water to me when there is a glass wall between us.

The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases;
His mercies never come to an end;
they are new every morning;
great is Your faithfulness.
-Lamentations 3:22-23

I have been reading old journals of ours, trying to find some meaning, some bigger picture to the last six years. I find myself lost in Andrew's old journals that I had never read and in our old emails to each other. Reading his words make me feel like he's still human and just on the other side of a computer.

Through this trial, I have found that I don't always understand my feelings, but feel no obligation to have to be able to know what all of them are or have to explain or articulate them. But I have found that when I pray about my concerns, the Lord reveals to me what's on my heart. During small group one night when a few of us were praying together, I confessed to the Lord how I would rather read Andrew's journals than read the Bible. It suddenly came to mind then that the reason I hide myself in Andrew's journals are because I miss him so much. That may have seemed obvious but it wasn't to me until that moment. I had never known what it was to miss my husband for more than a week or to this degree. Tears gushed from my eyes.

Week 4

That rhythm of daily feeling fine with an afternoon interruption of weeping continued until last week when on a Monday I noticed from across the room some file folders in our bookshelves amidst all our books, rather than in our office. "Hm. I wonder what I'll discover there," I said. And then I found photos taken of us two days after our engagement when we had gone to Joshua Tree in California with a friend. I had seen these photos months ago, but they were the only ones I hadn't reviewed since Andrew passed away, because they weren't on our computer since someone else had taken them. Additionally, earlier that morning an old friend of Andrew's had posted a memory that he had with Andrew. I had heard the story a couple of times before, but this time he added a detail I had not heard. That memory along with our pictures, just brought those years of young, healthy Andrew so vividly to my mind. I missed Andrew's old goofiness that had faded in the months just before his cancer was discovered, when he first began to get increasingly tired and more pale.

I always wanted to know more of Andrew, hold his heart in my hand, be able to grasp his essence. I wanted to ask him questions. What was he thinking that hilarious day he carried that refrigerator up the stairs with his friend? Tell me more, tell me more, tell me more about you. I never could get enough of Andrew. I couldn't even get enough of his name or saying his name. I loved the feel of his name reverberating from my vocal chords. That's why we named A.J., Andrew Junior. I had always secretly hoped A.J. would want to use the name "Andrew" when he got a little older and his little friends could call him it. Now I'm so thankful we still have at least one Andrew here.

And so all last week, I kept playing music of Andrew's that he liked to listen to when we were first falling in love and then he began playing constantly again in the last weeks of his life. He used to listen to two Third Day CD's, Time and Come Together, over and over and over again during both those times in our lives. I never understood why he liked them so much. I liked how they sounded, but I never could follow all the lyrics, so I didn't always know what they were singing about, since either my mind would wonder or the words were slurred. I wanted to ask him what he liked so much about those songs. What resonated so much with him? Why didn't I ask him before? And yet, many times I did ask him questions like that. Often, he'd say he didn't know. And that's why I never could get enough of him. I read in one of his early journals when we were dating that he felt like I understood him often better than he understood himself. And still, it wasn't enough for me. I have always wanted to understand his heart and his mind more, even though he himself didn't know all the answers. I thought I would have the rest of our lives to discover him.

I would cry to the music as it played and I prepared breakfast for the kids or lunch or dinner. I wondered why I felt so compelled to stare at pictures of Andrew, play his music, and read beautiful journals about us falling in love if all it made me do was cry. And yet, as miserable as it was, I almost relished weeping for Andrew. I loved taking care of him when he was sick. It was hard, but the Lord gave me so much joy in it. I wanted to do anything for Andrew, and now if I can weep for him, then I am thankful to do that too.

When I was de-cluttering some piles of papers, I discovered a booklet from the funeral home about grief. It said that some people think that time heals a broken heart, but that it actually doesn't if you refuse to grieve. So it recommends looking at pictures of your loved one, playing music he liked, or writing your feelings about him. When I read that, I understood then what I had been doing all that week. It really helped to have that validation. My sister told me that in the Old Testament grieving was a form of worship to God. Along with weeping and tearing their clothes, at a funeral they would even hire professional wailers.

Week 5

This week, I still played music that reminded me of Andrew. Some healing must have taken place, though, because the past few days it hasn't made me cry anymore. I just like to hear it, think of him, and feel just fine.

I think about heaven all the time now, because that is where my love is, wondering what it is like there. Heaven is the intermediary state where we are spirit, awaiting Christ's return to earth when we shall all rise again with new bodies. I feel like I love Andrew even more now, because he is literally perfect now. He is literally without sin and that is how I think about him when I think about where he is now.

Having your marriage cut short so unexpectedly from what you had always assumed and witnessing your husband's life cut short forces you to see that there is only a veil between you and eternity. Life is so short, whether you die young or you have many more years. I will see Andrew soon. I know it. Maybe not Tuesday, but some Tuesday, some day after a breath of a life. And so it makes me return to my old feelings about life, before I had married and my devotion to the Lord was undivided ("But a married woman is concerned about the affairs of this world—how she can please her husband." - 1Cor. 7:34). That my hope cannot be in this world or this life or wasting it on a pursuit of comfort that always evades you anyway and never satisfies. Nothing is worth living for except for Christ. So if life is hard or painful, just submit to God, and let Him use those things to make you more like Him, because that is the only thing He is after - making you into His image for His own glory.

The significance of Andrew's life

Many of you have expressed how Andrew's life was inspirational. I imagine he would love for you to hear the 2nd message delivered eight days after his death and the dangers that come with finding Andrew's life inspirational:
Listen Online
Download (10.77MB)

Prayer Requests

- that I would live for Christ alone and allow Him to mold me into His image rather than resist even the everyday little trials
- that I would seek my satisfaction in Christ alone
- that I would be consistent with the children, firm, yet patient. God has called me to the impossible task of being a single mom to these children to teach them about Christ faithfully. But I think the fact that it is impossible is the point. Christ is always calling us to the impossible, which is why I cannot rely on myself but only on God with Whom nothing is impossible.

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Andrew's Letters 2-4

This week has probably been the hardest so far, as Monday I discovered some pictures from when Andrew and I and a friend went to Joshua Tree two days after Andrew and I were engaged. I would do anything to have Andrew back.

A.J. loves for me to read Andrew's letters to him and Gracie before bed. I haven't had a chance to post Andrew's letters from Days 2 through 4. They were short, so I'll post them all together:

Day 2

Dear Beloved,

I love you so much. Stay strong and be courageous. May Christ satisfy you today.

Ps 31:10-12
Hear, O LORD, and be gracious to me; O LORD, be my helper.
You have turned for me my mourning into dancing;
You have loosed my sackcloth and girded me with gladness,
That my soul may sing praise to You and not be silent
O LORD my God, I will give thanks to You forever.


P.S. XxooXoxXXoooXxxXox

Day 3

Dear Lover,

Just a quick note to tell you that I love you and that I'm not in pain anymore. Remember to rejoice in all things today. By the way, you're beautiful.

"Rejoice in the Lord, again I will say rejoice. "

The Lord will lead you just as He did the Israelites through the wilderness. Ex 13:21 "The LORD was going before them in a pillar of cloud by day to lead them on the way, and in a pillar of fire by night to give them light, that they might travel by day and by night."

Day 4

Dear Grace,

I love you so much. I wish I could be there with you to know how you are doing. I trust that God is upholding you and others through this time. Be strong and courageous. The Lord will lead you to victory. Remember my favorite song?

E’er since, by faith, I saw the stream
Thy flowing wounds supply,
Redeeming love has been my theme,
And shall be ’til I die.

When this poor lisping,
stammering tongue
Lies silent in the grave,
Then in a nobler, sweeter song,
I’ll sing Thy pow’r to save.

Your best friend,