An unexpected and inexpressible gift


I received the most amazing gift from my wife this Christmas. I was caught a bit off guard when I received it because we decided not to exchange gifts with each other. The gift came unwrapped, without a bow but was to me the most beautiful and thoughtful thing I have ever received. I say it was thoughtful, actually I am certain it was deeper than that. Though the gift was spontaneous, impulsive and emotional when presented to me I have come to realize it came from the deepest part of her heart and soul.

From Thanksgiving to New years day we endured the holiday season for the third time without our son Jacob and Stacey’s mother. Linda died suddenly six weeks after our son and I can see in my wife’s eyes the grief she carries for both of them. I struggled again to get through this holiday season but in my heart I believe Stacey’s struggle with heartache may be double what mine is. There is no way to measure this and most people haven’t a clue-but I do.

Not many words are shared between us about the pain we feel during the Christmas season. Yet volumes could be written from the unsaid words that our souls communicate to each other. Sometimes by just the meeting of our eyes and other times the holding of our hands we say it all.

Grief always finds a way to be released. It builds, it creates pressure and eventually that pressure finds it way out. It could be expressed by tears, in anger, in frustration, by sullenness, isolation or a myriad of other ways. It was New Years eve and Stacey’s grief came to a head and when released (strange as it may seem) it became the most amazing gift she has ever given to me.

I will spare you the details of how and why we came to this point on the last day of 2016. Suffice it to say that it was a difficult grief day and there was a moment of painful release. Moments later she gave me the gift. She said, “I know you love me and I know that you will do anything for me.”  I can die a happy man knowing that this came from the deepest place of her heart.

For better or for worse, for richer or poorer, in sickness and in health, in happy times and times of grief her words have become very precious to me. They are the greatest gift a Christian man could ever receive because this is how Jesus loves me and this is how he instructs me to love my wife. He loves me perfectly, infinitely and sacrificially. I am just a mortal man, imperfect on my best days yet Jesus loved me and gave his life for me. Somewhere deep in the heart of my wife she knows I love her and will sacrifice all for her just as the Lord did for his church. I am called to love like this and it warms my heart to know it is sealed in the heart of my wife.

“Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself for her.” (Ephesians 5:25a)

What Stacey gave me was affirmation that in all my short comings and failures I am loving her the way God has called me to love her. This was her great gift to me but it pales in comparison to the greatest gift given to mankind. The free gift of eternal life through the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth. I know he loved me and he demonstrated the love of God towards me by sacrificing all for me.

“Thanks be to God for his inexpressible gift!” (2 Corinthians 9:15)

Grace to you and peace in 2017



Life with lemons; enduring the holidays

When life gives you lemons, make lemonade. Somehow I think the person who coined that phrase never lost a child. In concept I get it but in reality the lemonade is just as bitter as the lemons. Oh sure, it can be watered down and sweetened with artificial sweeteners but it is still sour. It has been 18 months since Jacob died and my life is good, life is certainly better, but bitter at the same time. Lemon’s will always be on the grocery list of our life, lemonade is lemonade no matter how you squeeze the fruit and try to doctor up the taste.images-3

The holidays are on the horizon now and more lemons are on the menu for me. I admire those who are able to drink the bitter drink, making the best of a very difficult time of year. But it’s just not me, I will do my best to endure this second holiday season without my son. Enduring is the best I can do.

I feel the weight and the dread starting to build already. Grief will compound itself, find its release and then repeat itself all over again. Grief is like Old Faithful, you feel the pressure building and know that the geyser is going to blow regularly. This will be the pattern for me the next couple of months and it will continue after New Years day. Jacobs birthday is March 3rd and the day of his death is the 26th. Maybe I will enjoy a menu with less lemonade next April.

The holidays are a bitter time for me now, I expect this to change, but for now I wish it all away. It is so strange to dread the days that you once enjoyed so much in life. There are many good memories from those times, they are memories that I have not opened because of the hurt they will pull out of me. I’m not ready yet, in time I will be.

Grief will not allow me to be happy yet. The holidays cannot change this, they actually add to the pain I feel. I will probably cry and feel my guts turn when I hear the first Christmas song of the season. Music still causes deep pain for me. I can’t run fast enough from it- it’s everywhere I go and I want to pull the plug on it all. It’s not as bad as it was in the beginning, I could say that I hated it at the first but now I’m not as bothered by it. Music actually has become the way I measure my sorrow.

This is how I discover how my heart is doing. Proverbs 25:20 says, “Whoever sings songs to the heavy heart is like one who takes of a garment on a cold day, and like vinegar on soda.” (ESV) I can measure my sorrow by my reaction to the music I hear. If it makes me shudder and to bristle like a coat removed on a cold, damp day I know my heart is heavy. If I can walk through a store and hear music without being overwhelmed emotionally I know my heart is healing. I never listen to it deliberately, but when it confronts me where I cannot escape I can monitor my healing by how I react to it.

I am doing the best I can with the lemons in my life. Lemonade is lemonade no matter how you squeeze the fruit. Water it down, sweeten it up it’s all has the same bitter aftertaste. The holidays will never be the same for me and I expect that someday that the lemons will stay in the grocery bag and not come out for Christmas, but not now. Not yet.

A dear lady in our church lost a son 23 years ago this month. Jacob was just a newborn when he died. She said to my wife soon after the funeral that someday the memories would become sweet for us. We are not there yet, we prevent ourselves from remembering- probably for our protection and possibly to our harm. Perhaps the greatest gift for us both would be to remember the sweet times of Christmas past. A little more sweetener in the lemonade would do us some good I guess. What would I like, one lump or two? Two please! Maybe it will help me endure until January 2nd ,2016.IMG_0267