Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Epilogue: I, Grace, Have Risen from the Dead

This past fall the Lord had me hit complete and utter rock bottom. But in the following months, He has done a miraculous work of healing and RESURRECTION.

Love, Look at the Two of Us

It was the summer of 2003, and Andrew and I were dating. I said I wanted to learn how to change my own oil. So, I parked in his apartment's vast garage, he pumped my 1994 black Honda Accord up with a jack, and we slid underneath the car. There was something cozy about the cold of the concrete floor, the gravel beneath our backs, and the tight, dark quarters. But as I scanned the grey underbelly of the car a few inches from my nose, the car's heaviness seemed only a breath away from collapsing on us with its tonnage. I whispered, "I'm scared."

Reaching for the oil pan above him to his left, he said, "I guess it is kind of scary." He unscrewed and removed the bolt of the oil pan. "Well, at least if we die, we die together." Black oil poured out. "What if in our lives one of us dies first?" he asked.

With a hollow sound, the oil hit Andrew's tupperware. Its thick, earthy stench invaded my nose.

Andrew broke the silence. "It would be much better to die together."

"Definitely." We shimmied out from underneath the dark shadow of the car back into the bright fluorescent lighting of his apartment's garage, and I shook the awful question out of my mind.

That winter, during our engagement, we were up late one night. We typed away on our computers in Andrew’s dad’s office. We were writing a booklet of our love story to give as our wedding favors. The printer’s deadline was the next morning, but I couldn’t concentrate anymore. I spotted some of Andrew’s dad’s old records and dropped one onto the black, rotating turntable of the record player, while Andrew sat on the couch across from me.  Karen Carpenter's rich alto sang out.

I snapped my fingers in the exaggerated 1970s way to the jingle and sang with Karen to Andrew:

“Love, look at the two of us,"

I danced as if I was wearing giant, over-sized bell-bottoms and a flowy shirt with flowers, pointing my feet side to side.

"Strangers in many ways."

I turned my head left to right then left to the beat like I was on A Chorus Line, as I walked towards Andrew.

"Let’s take a lifetime to say
I knew you well"

Andrew looked up from the laptop and looked at me with his giant, wide eyes and laughed. He expected new silly dances from me, like all my friends were accustomed to.

"For only time will
Tell us so
And love may grow
For all we know.”

I had reached Andrew. I threw my arms around his neck and said, “We’ve got a lifetime to get to know each other better! Isn’t that amazing? I get to explore the depths of you for the rest of our lives!”

He laughed while he clicked away on his mouse tweaking the graphics of our book. As for my job, my tired brain was done with editing, and the writing was as good as it was going to get. I was onto dancing. I kept playing the song over and over again until I got all the lyrics down and danced and danced and danced.

We were married that January. A few months later, in March, I couldn't sleep. Rick Holland, our old college pastor, always used to say, "Have you ever considered when you can't sleep, maybe it's because the Lord wants to meet with you?" So that night I said, "Lord, what is it that you want to tell me?" And it was as if the Lord shouted in my mind, "TIME IS SHORT." I hoped that was just my own mind thinking about a general Biblical truth about how quickly life passes by.

Nonetheless, I was terrified that I would shortly be taken away from Andrew. During our marriage, I constantly considered that if I died, I would have wanted Andrew and my kids to always know I loved them with all my heart. When AJ was still an infant, I recorded us on our camcorder, as I told AJ I loved him with all my heart. Many parents probably have recordings of them doing that, but my reason wasn’t inadvertent. It was so that AJ could look at it if anything ever happened to me. I wanted to spend every moment possible with my family looking them in the eye when they spoke, undistracted, and as affectionate and as expressive of my love as possible. And after reading in a book that 80% of what Americans own they didn't use once in a year (or something like that), I wanted to get rid of the majority of our stuff. I didn't want to waste the precious little time I had left shuffling around clutter. If AJ asked me a question and I was in the middle of dishes, I would turn off the water immediately and give AJ my full attention. I thought, “If I die soon, I’m not going to care if my house was always perfect or not." And so, compared to others, I was not a model house keeper. But my husband was happy with the job I did, my family was taken care of, and they knew they were very loved.

The reality is, I did die at the age of 28. I slowly faded away as my love's body broke down. I died the day he died. The car had fallen on us.

The One of Us

With Andrew’s death, the fear and foreboding instantly stopped and was replaced with constant distractedness by the various demands of my life. After Andrew’s death, I was present and feeding my children meal after meal. I kept my house clean, paid all the bills, and took care of all the paper work, medical bills, de-cluttering of Andrew's things, selling of cars, I had a new will written up, all the things that needed to be done as a result of Andrew's death. Most of all, I needed to provide stability for the kids. Demonstrate for them that though their dad was gone, mama wasn't going anywhere. And so, ever since Andrew died, I did not have the liberty to check out. But this past fall, it seemed the kids were through their grief for the most part and were stable. With that little inch of flexibility, I began to break apart.

Andrew's death was like the airplanes that flew into the Towers of the World Trade Center, while I was the Towers. But I knew my children were in the building, so I could not collapse until they got out of the building. So I collapsed one floor at a time, one day at a time. I was purposeful to cry each day, make sure to diligently drain that grief lest it overcome me all at once. And then, this fall, I saw that my kids had made it out of the building. They were doing well. AJ no longer got that very sad look on his face for a few moments every few days. They still talked about their dad and said they missed him, but they knew that I hadn't disappeared like he had, and everything else had generally stayed the same in their lives. We had kept the same general routine each day. Each day they went to bed in the same room they had always gone to bed in and each morning they went to the kitchen and I fed them all their meals at all the same times in the day that I always had. Each day we read the Bible and talked about each of the situations we encountered and filtered them through how the Lord saw them. We were still in the same house, went to the same church, saw all the same wonderful people that they loved and saw around as they saw before Andrew died. They were stable. And so this fall, the last several floors left of the Towers came crashing to the ground. The Lord had graciously delayed the devastation, but it had to come at some time.

One of my pastors in my church, Pastor Warren, is a full-time, professional counselor, a therapist. As I could feel the rumbles of the last few floors about to give, I asked him if we could start meeting. I could sense there were 3rd degree burns that were far deeper than I had ever had the guts to imagine. At first, Pastor Warren said, "I don't see your life as one mangled by grief. I think you've been handling your grief really well." Still, as the Lord revealed to me and shocked me with areas of undealt with grief, such as what I mentioned in my September blog, "The School Bus and Blood," I feared perhaps I had never dealt with my grief. Increasingly, I spiraled into a hole. What if I was only just beginning to deal with my grief? And Pastor Warren would encourage me, "No, Grace. I think you're doing well. I think you may be at the last obstacles of your grief." This encouraged me, but I also feared that maybe he was just an optimist.

At the same time as being confronted with the areas of undealt with grief, Andrew's birthday arrived on Sept. 11th. Memories of Andrew became more vivid than ever. I walked past the tailor store in the mall and an image burst before my eyes. We had brought Andrew's black leather jacket with its "ANDREW MARC, NEW YORK" label embroidered in yellow block letters on the inside tag to that store to get altered. I couldn't get the vivid image of his leather arm out of my mind's eye. Longing for the feeling of his leather arm behind my neck was like a knife stabbing me in my heart, and I couldn't pull it out of my chest. I had often tried to think of the bigger picture, but saying to myself that Christ, or even Andrew, awaited me in some indeterminate time in the future when I reached eternity was of no comfort. It would be like if you had your leg pinned under the tire of a car and you were in excruciating pain. Saying, "Don't worry, maybe someone will eventually come for you and get your leg out," would not make you stop screaming for the pain to stop.

I wrote in my journal:

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Met with Pastor Warren today. He said he can sense from me the profundity of my loss…but that he doesn’t think he, nor anyone, can say they can even begin to realize the true profundity of my loss. He says he’s not one of those Christians who thinks things can’t get “all that bad” and then it’s done with. He says he’s not prepared to be able to draw a line between legitimate grief and sinful grief. He says I feel the consequences of my loss everyday in my life. And that my suffering continues and there is no end in sight of that suffering.

Also, Pastor Warren mentioned to me my desire to move past my grief. I asked him what that meant. I knew I didn't want to be miserable and that I couldn’t continue as a way of life living at my breaking point for much longer, but I didn't understand exactly what "moving past my grief" meant. He said you know when you have moved through your grief when your life is not completely centered around and in reference to Andrew any longer.

I cried and cried and cried when he said that. I said, "I don't want to live with my life not in reference to Andrew. My tears were hot and poured out far more than I knew was in me. Pastor Warren's gentle validations caused all the stuff that I was stuffing down so that I could function and appear normal, and convince myself I was normal, to pour out of me.

The Depths that Lead to Heights

I had taken care of the kids for more than 1.5 years by myself, and on top of that, our house that Andrew wanted me to stay in, suddenly had urgent demands all at once - after a heavy windstorm a large tree branch fell onto the fence into our neighbor's yard, the freezer stopped working and all the food was melting, something cracked in the toilet so that water was leaking onto the floor, someone brought to my attention the windows were rotting and needed to be replaced before winter, AJ got scarlet fever - all within the same six weeks. This was all happening as I was dealing with the worst stage of my grief process. I was already worn out, but now I was fully saturated with physical as well as emotional exhaustion.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

For so long through his trial, the concept that God is good has gripped me, kept me sane. Somehow, I was convinced of it. Now, the misery has been so long, so relentless, so persistent, I have a hard time believing it. Yet there is a seed of this thought persisting: The only life worth living is one spent for Christ. For a moment, a picture of a piece of shredded meat flashed through my mind. That's my life. Perhaps little relief, little happiness; however, no matter my ideals, there is a limit to my strength, to my persistence. There will be a point where I may break, go crazy, die, etc. If God delivers before then, then it will prove His promises. Perhaps that is my life. A laboratory for all to see if God's claims hold up.

I waited patiently for the Lord
And He inclined to me and heard my cry...
He put a new song in my mouth,
a song of
praise to our God;
Many will see and fear
And will trust in the Lord
-- Psalm 40:1-3

Perhaps that shall happen. If the Lord delivers, perhaps many will see and fear, and will trust in the Lord.

There was no more willpower in me left to say, "No, for the sake of my kids, I will survive!" No. There was nothing left. I had been a full-time caregiver to a husband that wasted before my eyes for 2 years while raising two toddlers under 2 and then a single mom for nearly 2 years, while a grieving widow, and I was several years beyond fried. There was nowhere left to turn but to cry out to God in utter desperation and fear.

I remember one night at the end of October, I had a babysitter because I was supposed to go to ballet. But I was so worn out, I just stayed in my bedroom while she took care of the kids. The grief was so horrific, it began manifesting physically, my chest hurting and so heavy, it was hard to breathe. And I began to see myself floating above myself. And I thought, "Is this what it's like to become unhinged? Is this what it's like to go crazy?" The next day, I spent the few hours that my kids were in preschool and kindergarten crying out to God that Grace Lindeman, the Canadian teenager who had helped us twice when Andrew was sick, I prayed that her dad would get reinstated at Air Canada that day so that she could fly and help us, since the tickets were too expensive without his discount. The Lord answered, and for the first time in nearly 2 years, he was reinstated that very day! Grace Lindeman flew from Canada to Minnesota and helped me for a month.

While it was a massive relief to have Grace Lindeman helping with the kids, the misery continued to persist. I kept thinking about what Corrie Ten Boom said in The Hiding Place. When she had reached a particularly desperate time in the concentration camp and all her sister and she had was the Bible, her sister said the Lord has provided a solution: Give thanks in everything! (1Thess. 5:18). I felt backed against a wall and had no choice but to do it God's way. I had to "consider it all joy when I faced various trials" (James 1:2). I had to give thanks about all the things I was upset about. I had to give thanks in everything.

Friday, Dec. 12, 2010

Giving thanks whenever I'm about to complain and grumble and scream in my heart feels as if it is regenerating cut off heart in an instant. Last night, as I was decluttering, I looked at a list of things you can play with kids on summer break. My heart reaction was to remember all the wonderful things we used to do as a family when Andrew was here, but now I'm so bombarded and burnt out by the pressures of every aspect of our lives relentlessly depending on me that I hardly play with or enjoy the kids. I'm so frustrated and preoccupied, most of the time when I am with them.

Again, I was reminded to give thanks. "Ugh...Thank You, God, for all the wonderful time the kids did have with Andrew...Thank You, Lord, that they no longer have their father...Thank You, Lord, that they no longer have their father." And to my surprise, it was right as if in that instant I could see the third degree burns that had disintegrated most of my heart suddenly regenerate, resurrect, like my heart, though barely any of it was left, was instantly re-growing, as if my heart were a starfish, even though it wasn't merely an arm that needed to re-grow; it was as if only one or two edges were left of that starfish and the 85% of the starfish needed to be resurrected.”

At my December meeting with Pastor Warren, he said that everyone that knows him knows that he always says that the hardest job in the world is to be a single mom. And he said, but on top of that, my children have no dad that they can ever see, and further on top of that, I am dealing with my grief.

Grace Lindeman stayed until the day the kids and I left in December to spend a month in California with my brothers, who live there with their families, and my parents, who flew out from New Jersey for the holidays.

During the kids' and my month in California, I worked again on the book Andrew had said in his letters to publish. I printed out our entire blog, put it into a binder, and began to edit all 400 or so single-spaced pages with a pencil. The act of being forced to go through the blogs we had written during the worst time of our lives, when Andrew was going through radiation and chemotherapy for a second time, helped me to finally process areas of grief I had never been ready to deal with before. I wrote in the margins what it was making me feel. And to my surprise, I felt rage. And once I acknowledged I was angry, the Lord began to take it away. I awoke the next day and the depression and hopelessness I had fallen into that fall was suddenly lifted.

At the end of December, after the kids were in bed at my brother's house, I also spent an hour three nights in a row walking the streets in the rain or cold, crying out to God to show me what to do. I didn't feel I could handle it anymore. When I had first begun to collapse earlier in the fall, my close friend, Melissa, down the street from me had offered to take my kids for a few months, but I hadn't taken her up on her offer. Friends from church had offered to take my kids when I returned from California. But I felt so paralyzed. How could I have gone from visions of spending all day with my children, like my early Washington mentors, to the opposite end of the spectrum? Sure, I loved the schools in Eden Prairie. I was fine with not homeschooling them, but letting other people care for them for a few months? I'm sure plenty of people would have done the whole spectrum of anything for us, including if I came up with middle-of-the-road options, but I just felt paralyzed. There was an infinite amount of possible life changes I could make, but none of them seemed ideal.

The previous fall months, I had felt so paralyzed, I did not know what to change. Everything I had done since Andrew died, I had modeled after the past. All the paperwork, all the changes that needed to be made that related to Andrew's death, I just did what Andrew would have done. The routines with the kids, I did my best to base it on past routines. Even most of the travelling we had done, whether to California, New Jersey, or the Philippines, those were all things I had also done before Andrew's death. Even sending for Grace Lindeman. She was one of our helpers when Andrew was sick. I didn't want to find anyone local, because I was afraid training someone new would come with a whole new set of unpredictabilities. But I finally reached the point where I could not put off change any longer.

I loved my children so much. What would be best for our family? I kept crying out to God to show me what His will was.

And then it came to mind to my surprise, "Put the kids into school full time." Andrew had said to do this in his letters, but I wasn't sure if he meant to do that when Gracie was in first grade, which wasn't for another two years, as opposed to homeschooling them, or sooner. But as I prayed about it, the Lord seemed to be saying, "Now is the time." Also, a few days earlier a college student, Lydia, from my church emailed me that she heard I was looking for live-in help with my kids. During my night wanderings what came to mind was, have Lydia move in with you. Then you can have on-call help and babysitting any time. Don't live on the edge of your strength with no margins. Build lots of margins into your life.

Seeds of Resurrection

Sunday, Feb. 13, 2011

Last weekend I went to the Hyatt to be by myself for the two year anniversary of Andrew’s death, the way I had for the one year anniversary of his death. There, I discovered I am not in the same place I was a year ago. Last year, I wondered why I was drawn to the Hyatt when it should remind me of when Andrew and I went there weekly during radiation and chemotherapy, the worst time of our lives. I realized that I had gone there because I hadn’t processed that time of my life a year ago, but this year I had already processed that worst time of my life while I was in California editing our book. I realized I had gone to the Hyatt during cancer because it was the only escape from the pressures of the relentless cancer. Last year, again, I needed the escape. This year, I realized, I no longer need to escape! Lydia lives with us, the kids are in school, and I’m not overwhelmed anymore.

At church the next day, I cried through singing “Majesty,” feeling so
profoundly the depth of Christ’s love for me and His deliverance in my life, even recently. He allowed me to deal with my grief head on, cry, and scream, and write, and put my kids in school. And then providing Lydia. I felt as if I had finally come out on the other side of depression, and loneliness, and paralysis. And it was not through my circumstances God saved me. He saved me through Himself. And He provided the grace and strength for me to make the changes I needed to.

"So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand."
-- Isaiah 41:10

And so, now I am just focusing on keeping stress as low as possible in my life, and physically, mentally, emotionally resting and recovering from the past four years (two as a grieving widow/single mom and the 2 years prior of full-time caregiving and grieving as I lost Andrew little by little).

When I told Pastor Warren that I am focusing on resting, he agreed that this was a wise course of action. He said I should consider what I've been through emotionally, as being similar to a physical injury. He compared it to how he had injured his shoulder, and that even though he can do almost everything he used to be able to do, and he is at 95%, it will still take awhile for him until he is at 100%. When I said I had some opportunities to do some more things, but I turned them down, because I felt like I needed to continue keeping the pressure low in my life, he agreed that my instincts were right. He said that especially in our American culture, where we find our value in being productive and busy, the temptation would be to get really busy with something new, but then never to deal with what's actually going on.

New Life

The Lord has resurrected me. And I am alive! I am a new creation free and filled up and overflowing with the love of God. I died but the Lord resurrected me. I feel as if the Holy Spirit has given me new insights into certain Scriptures. For instance, Romans 5:3-5 says:

"...we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, 4and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, 5and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us."

I thought I understood verses 3-4, but frankly, verse 5 was perplexing to me. "God's love has been poured into our hearts through His Holy Spirit"? Sounds does that make me rejoice, or in other translations, exult, or glory in my sufferings? How does "God's love poured into my heart," if it's some abstract concept that I don't see with my eyes or feel with my hands, make a knife carving out my heart make me respond opposite to the natural response of screeching in agony, kicking the One holding the knife's Hands away? Well, literally, in the past months of resurrection I experience often on a daily basis what it feels like - unmistakably, nothing subtle or abstract about it - to have the LOVE OF GOD POURED out into my heart through His Holy Spirit.

I have never felt more convinced of God's love for me or His goodness ever in my life than I do now. I feel so incredibly FREE! I have never felt more free in my entire life.

The 2 year anniversary of Andrew's death was when I realized how incredibly free I was. A few days later I looked at, a blog of another young widow, and reviewed her most recent blog at the time. It was about how incredibly freed she felt. And then I remembered that when I had first read it, a week before the 2 year anniversary of Andrew's death, I had said, "Lord, I don't know what she's talking about. I don't have a clue how it's possible to feel freed like a bird escaping captivity after losing your husband. I want to know that freedom. Please show me." I had forgotten all about that prayer, but the Lord had answered it. We can have all these things we long for - peace, joy, freedom if we just ask Jesus, no matter what we're going through. He is the Source of all of that, and He longs to give that to us. He only requires that we ask. So I encourage you to please ask, and keep asking! Ask Jesus to know Him more. Or if you don't already know Jesus, I implore you to please ask Him to know Him in the first place.

I can't describe this love poured out into my heart that I feel without it sounding cheesy. I don't know. Maybe like the warmth of an embrace, but times INFINITY because it's given by the GOD OF THE UNIVERSE.

I can say, though, another verse that Christ has given me insight into is "For God so loved the world..." John 3:16. Let's be honest. Isn't there something child-like sounding about that verse? Like in first grade when all my classmates would raise their hand during prayer time to ask for prayer for "the world." If not child-like, then abstract.

Well, now, I feel I have a new insight into it. I feel as if God's love is so much for me that it is literally overflowing out of my little heart, pouring over, and I just feel like I love THE WHOLE WORLD.

When you are in excruciating pain over a prolonged, seemingly endless amount of years, you start to question how this could be loving. There is no question anymore. Not only does God have enough love for me to get me through the day; He has so much love for me, I can't contain it! I love everyone! And I will tell you so if I see you. I love you! I really do.

As I walk closer with the Lord, I am more convinced than ever that as wonderful as Andrew was, he couldn't even come close to the satisfaction that only Christ, Himself, can bring. Andrew was wonderful because of the ways he reflected some facets of Christ. No matter what a brat I was, how difficult, stubborn, or selfish on a day-to-day basis I was, Andrew relentlessly showered me with affection and love, and continued to daily pursue me with that love even after we were married. Through that, Andrew taught me about Christ's relentless, pursuit and love for me, in defiance of how unworthy I am of His love. Through Andrew's love, he gave me a reference, an insight into how not only has Christ taken away my condemnation from hell, but day-to-day, He has taken away my condemnation. I don't have to approach Christ cowering, guilty because I know there are endless sins I've committed just in the last minute that I didn’t even realize. Christ knows me better than Andrew did, and He still loves me! He still is excited about me the way a husband rejoices over his bride. Isn't that incredible? Crazy? THE GOD OF THE UNIVERSE loves me? Andrew was wonderful, because like the moon reflects the sun, Andrew reflected the Son. But the moon has no light without the sun, and all of the light that Andrew's love was cannot compare to that of the Ultimate Source, of the Son. I asked the Lord to show me that His love was better than that of a man and within days, I experienced what I've just described.

I am more convinced than ever, and experience the reality of the fact that Jesus is enough. HE IS THE ONLY ONE THAT CAN SATISFY.

How I Miss Andrew

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Today I miss Andrew completely in just the person he was. Not who we were together, not the relationship we had, or the time we spent together. Just who he was and all that made up the person of Andrew.

And so the way I miss Andrew is different. For so long, I missed my relationship with Andrew. I missed our life together. I missed what he was to the children. But if God works all things together for the good of those who love Him, and thus this life right now is His good for us, then I really don't know if life would be better if Andrew were with us right now, because I would be less sanctified. Life gets better the closer we are to Christ, regardless of circumstances. In fact, the Bible says it's suffering that makes us more like Christ. So it's not despite suffering life gets better, it is through the means of suffering life gets better, because suffering draws us closer to Christ and makes us more like Christ. And the closer we are to Christ, the sweeter everything is. For the believer, life everlasting has already begun!

And, I do have a Father for my children. I do have a Husband. Jesus in a very real way is that to us. And He has not forsaken us. He has taken very good care of us. When there are things I do not know how to do in the house and there isn’t time to call anyone, and the Lord wants me to learn how to do it for myself, I just keep praying as I'm fixing something in the house or on the computer, and it is as if the Lord instructs my mind and guides my hands what to do. When one of my children is completely out of hand and I'm terrified for what they will be like 10 years from now, I cry out to God that I do not have the strength to be on top of all their training in the same way as I used to, and I don't have Andrew to back me up and lead us like he used to, and I cry out for rescue. And the Lord rescues. He begins to do a work of change in that child's heart, though I haven't changed anything. He changes them to the point that people notice and comment on the change they recognize.

But I still miss Andrew. I miss the person of Andrew. I do miss a world with Andrew in it. But that is different than pining away after a life that I used to have with him.

I used to think that being past my grief was that the memories faded to the point that they could no longer hurt me. Now, I realize, it's not that. The first year after Andrew's death, I could not remember anything pre-cancer. Or rather, I could not allow myself to remember. I could not look at pictures of the sweet time of falling in love. I realize now that being able to move past my grief doesn't mean I won't miss Andrew anymore or cry. In fact, the memories are more vivid than ever. It means that I accept that he is gone. I accept that I am a single mom. For the past two years, I think I have been living like a stay-at-home mom, whose husband just hadn't returned home yet, and eventually, my strength ran out. But now, I accept I am a single mom and my life is no longer going to look how I had envisioned it. My house will not be overflowing with children with Andrew beside me to enjoy them. My life is not going to look the way it did four years ago before cancer struck our household, or like the lives of those who mentored me in mothering when AJ and Gracie were born in Washington. My life isn't going to look like friends' lives, which I identified with, and are stay-at-home moms, who homeschool their children. Before Andrew entered my life, my future appeared a fuzzy haze. When Andrew arrived, I thought, at least there is one thing I know about my life. It'll have Andrew beside me until the end. But there is no certainty in this world, except for Christ. I'm not sure what my life will look like. But for now, my kids are in school full-time, Lydia is living with us, and I am recovering, resting, writing, and revising our book.

When I told this to Pastor Warren, he said that in all the models of grief, "acceptance" was always the last stage. And he said he couldn't even count how many times he heard me use the words, "I accept."

I said, "I feel like God has risen me from the dead. And I am like a child learning to walk, and the Lord is clapping, cheering me on like an excited parent."

Pastor Warren said that the words I was using was really almost literal, rather than a metaphor. He said he was sitting in his chair and getting front row seats to witness God's miraculous work in a person before his very eyes. He said after all I had been through the past several years, it was literally like from the dead, I had risen.

Please pray for us:
- That the Lord would display His glory and mercy and forgiveness in the book that Andrew asked me to write and that if it is His will that He would make it publishable.
- And please pray for my children, that they would know and experience and feel the reality that God is a Father to the fatherless; and that they would love the Lord with all of their heart, mind, soul, and strength from an early age for all of their lives.
- And that the Lord would make me raise them in a godly way with strength to consistently shepherd them.

A few days before Andrew was told that the cancer had travelled into his spine and it was 100% terminal in October of '08, and though I still could not accept that he was going to die, I had a dream that I was driving on a busy rode, and suddenly turned into an unexpected, narrow pathway. It led up to a cemetery. There was a small cabin at the top of the gentle hill, and inside was a crowd of people, most of whom I had never met before. And they were all comforting me.

And that is what happened. I had never been to the Eden Prairie Cemetery until after Andrew died. I may not have ever driven past it before. But it is off a busy road, exactly like the one in my dream, and unless you're trying really hard to find it, you will not see the unexpected narrow pathway that leads up to a gentle, grassy hill, again, exactly as it appeared in my dream. It is a small cemetery set back with a small, wood sign, so unless you're looking, you might not even notice there's a cemetery there.

And while perhaps not in person, all of you came around us and comforted me, many of you we know personally, but many of you we did not. Thank you so much to all of you for laughing and crying and praying and supporting Andrew, the kids, and me, and carrying us to Jesus, and for the sake of Jesus. Thank you, thank you, thank you. I cannot express my gratitude to all of you for loving us and listening to us and bearing with us and being there for us. It has meant and been everything. The Lord has literally used you to have carried us through this trial. I truly mean that. While countless ones of you have contributed to helping us in person, or sent us things, even if you didn’t physically do anything, you prayed for us. And that is the greatest thing you could have done. Thank you for being Christ's body to us. I cannot express my gratitude, but for all that you have done for us, you have done to Jesus. And He will reward you. I love you!


  1. Beautiful Grace! I felt like I could picture the whole care scene and you dancing for Andrew =D Love you!

  2. <3, my dear, sister. <3 you. <3 your heart. <3 your writing. <3 reading about your freedom and transformation. :) <3 that it seems like my birthday never ends... life is the gift that God keeps on giving to me. Such encouragement today! *hugs* Can't wait to meet you one day... but flying with you from afar in the meantime. :)

  3. Oh Grace, this is just beautiful. I'm so glad you are writing, and even though it won't necessarily be here, you will be doing it! Brava!

  4. What an unbelievable testimony and witness! By sharing YOUR death and resurrection you reminded us of our Lord's death and resurrection!
    Thank you, abundantly


  5. our prayers are already being answered! God is glorified by your experiences and your proclaiming of His excellencies. praising God for your fresh insights and victories. *big hug*

  6. Wow Grace, tears in my eyes and Karen Carpenter running through my mind. What an amazing testimony of God's grace, it is so beautiful to read how He has made beauty from ashes yet again. Thankyou for sharing and thankyou for writing the book- can't wait to get it.

  7. We're praying for you and the kiddos, Grace. I'm so glad to hear of the resurrection God has worked in your life! Reminds me of Andrew Peterson's album, "Resurrection Letters Vol. 2", the song
    "All Things New":
    "Come broken and weary. Come battered and bruised. My Jesus makes all things new, all things new. Come lost and abandoned. Come blown by the wind. He'll bring you back home again, home again. Rise up, oh you sleeper, awake, the light of the dawn is upon you. Rise up, oh you sleeper, awake, he makes all things new."

    You are new! Hosanna!

  8. I don't really know you Grace but one thing is for sure.....when you write that book people are going to read it.

    God has blessed you with the ability to express yourself clearly in your writing. I was riveted reading through this post.

    I am a Christian and I was sanctified today. God revealed many things that are in my heart that I need to deal with and they were brought to my attention because of the clarity and honesty of this post. Thank you for sharing.

  9. Thanks for sharing the resurrecting work that the Lord has done in your life, Grace! And thank you so much for reminding us that Christ is the Ultimate Source of our satisfaction on top of the many truths you clearly and vividly portrayed in this post. I will definitely be praying for you and your family!

  10. Our God is faithful. It has been and will continue to be a pleasure to pray for and with your family. I came to the blog right after Andrew passed and hadn't stopped praying for you, your children, and your future since... So thankful to see that you "have risen", how God has brought freedom to you heart...and I won't stop praying! I am incredibly excited about the upcoming book. I can't wait to read it and share it with others!!!

    Thank you for being so vulnerable and teaching us of God's faithfulness and hope, especially in suffering. I have learned SOOOO MUCH from you...thank you!

    Although this blog is complete for now, please, please continue to write, you are very talented! Continue to dance, I believe it brings the Lord joy :-) And continue to dream and have hope! I'll miss the opportunity to "check in" on you to see how you are doing, but I completely trust that the Lord is hearing our prayers on your behalf so I know that you are taken well care of ;-)

    Much Love!