Thursday, December 12, 2013

Gratefully Finding God in our Hard Times (Henri Nouwen)

Perhaps nothing helps us make the movement from our little selves to a larger world than remembering God in gratitude. Such a perspective puts God in view in all of life, not just in the moments we set aside for worship or spiritual disciplines. Not just in the moments when life seems easy.

If God is found in our hard times, then all of life, no matter how apparently insignificant or difficult, can open us to God's work among us. To be grateful does not mean repressing our remembered hurts. But as we come to God with our hurts - honestly, not superficially - something life changing can begin slowly to happen. We discover how God is the One who invites us to healing. We realize that any dance of celebration must weave both the sorrows and the blessings into a joyful step ...

We tend, however, to divide our past into good things to remember with gratitude and painful things to accept or forget.  This way of thinking, which at first glance seems quite natural, prevents us from allowing our whole past to be the source from which we live our future ...

Gratitude in its deepest sense means to life live as a gift to be received thankfully. And true gratitude embraces all of life: the good and the bad, the joyful and the painful, the holy and the not-so-holy.

~ Henri Nouwen, Turn My Mourning into Dancing

- Andrew

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

When You Lose Someone (Dietrich Bonhoeffer)


There is nothing that can replace the absence of someone dear to us, and one should not even attempt to do so. One must simply hold out and endure it. At first that sounds very hard, but at the same time it is also a great comfort. For to the extent the emptiness truly remains unfilled one remains connected to the other person through it. It is wrong to say that God fills the emptiness. God in no way fills it but much more leaves it precisely unfilled and thus helps us preserve -- even in pain -- the authentic relationship.

Furthermore, the more beautiful and full the remembrances, the more difficult the separation. But gratitude transforms the torment of memory into silent joy. One bears what was lovely in the past not as a thorn but as a precious gift deep within, a hidden treasure of which one can always be certain.

~ Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Letters and Papers From Prison

- Andrew

Monday, December 9, 2013

The Realities of Special Needs

Marie and I would echo all that Nish Weiseth says about her experiences as a mom of special needs child.

Here are some golden words formed in the trenches of parenthood:

Being a special-needs parent is hard. It's work. I'm usually exhausted by noon. But it's also beautiful, inspiring and affirming. When the difficult days come, remind us that there is much to love, much to celebrate and much to be joyful for.

Always remind us of the joy.

And always bring wine.
The whole post is worthy of a reading. Warm comfort and sound wisdom.

- Andrew

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Three Years Later

It was a very different experience returning to Josiah's graveside with children.

Last year we were in Enderby grieving my father's death, so it's been two years since we've been on site for August 2nd.

We cleaned his gravestone (and cleaned my grandmother's as well). Joelle was extremely helpful - she loves to clean :)

We were numb yet upbeat for most of our visit, but tears came for me as we were planning to leave. So we stayed there a while longer. It was surreal holding Conrad while remembering Josiah.

Joelle wanted to sing a song for "Siah" so her and Marie say Twinkle, Twinkle five times over. It reminded me of times I sang that to Josiah as he fell asleep.

I bawled.

"How long, O Lord?"

- Andrew

Friday, March 30, 2012

Lent, Easter, and Grieving

Sometimes you don't find what you want, but what you need.

First week back in the office after our sabbatical, I'm preparing a sermon for this Sunday. As I flip through books, listen to sermons, and reflect on God's Word, I have discovered two phrases of truth and comfort that speak into my soul's season of grief. They don't fit with the direction my sermon is taking, but meet me where I'm at.


Grieving is like exercise for the soul.
~ Shane Hipps (sermon, April 16, 2006)

I am conviced that when we bring our griefs and sorrows within the story of God's own grief and sorrow, and allow them to be held there, God is able to bring healing to us and new possibilties to our lives. That is, of course, what Good Friday and Easter are all about.
~ NT Wright Christians at the Cross (pg xv)

- Andrew

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Happy Birthday Josiah

2nd Birthday, February 16th 2009

Another year further, another year closer.

I don't often write to Josiah, but this is just how my words were coming tonight.

Josiah ...

... we miss you.

Through crying eyes I remember our happiness and the joy you were in our lives. Glimpses of you live on in your sister; we have begun to see you in her face. We tell her about you often. You would have been so proud of her, you would have been a great older brother. Though I know the waiting is good and right, I can't wait for you to meet her one day.

Your birthday has come quietly this year, though we can feel the sorrow and angst deep in our souls. It's hard to be grateful when milestones such as these hurt more than they heal. I wish that I could honor you with happiness today, but I can only give you tears.

I can't believe this is your third birthday without you with us. Three birthdays in heaven, two on earth.

Stopping to remember feels like saying good-bye all over again.  I wish remembering didn't hurt so bad.

I wish that thinking about your smile wouldn't make me cry. I wish I could remember your gentleness without weeping out of control. I wish that I could recall your strength, courage, and temperment with just pride, and not with all this sadness that overcomes me. Your laughter, your touch, your love. I miss the all these things about you. You are worth remembering, Josiah. Always. But son, you gotta know it breaks my heart so badly. Lament somedays is the only way I can show how much I love you.

Josiah, you are our treasure that God shared with us, with many. You were such an incredible gift, a gift that continues to move and shape me. A gift that has remained at the very center of my heart. And I long to have you in my arms again.

Josiah, we love you, we're proud of you, we're so glad that you are our son.

Love, your Daddy

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

899 Days

Today marks a sobering milestone.

The number of days since Josiah died is the same number of days he lived.

You may have to read that sentence twice to catch it.

It kinda kicks the breath out of you, doesn't it?

February 16th, 2007 to August 2nd, 2009 equals August 2nd 2009 to January 17th 2011.

899 days.

Strange, huh?

I don't know what to make of it. It's something to be aware of, to pause for, but then what?  What I am supposed to do with this knowledge, here at the intersection of this very strange anniversary?

From now on we are going to mourn him longer than we were with him. From now on he's going to be dead longer than he was alive.

Each day we have been moving farther and farther from Josiah. Each day the gap between now and then widens.

Yet. The opposite is also true.

Each day we move closer and closer to Josiah. Each day the gap between heaven and earth shrinks.

What was to what is, what is to what will be.

We can count the days apart, but we can't count the days until we're reunited.

Living life with enternity in mind is ... well ... mind-boggling.

A day under 900.

Josiah changed my life with one day. And then God gave us 898 more.

A lot can happen in 899 days, especially when you break it down year by year, season by season. Honestly, it hasn't felt that long. I had to re-do the math to make sure I was right.

Josiah's time with us seemed to last much longer than these days that have followed. Not to take anything away from our daughter, of course. She is the JOY and LIGHT of our family!

Our time with Josiah was so unreal, so full: new experiences, new rythms, new people, new sights and scenes. Life was very different, extremely abnormal. The highs were insanely high and the lows were excrutiatingly low. Our senses and souls were being heightened and stretched in every imaginable way. No wonder that those 899 days felt like a lifetime.

899 days also means 899 days grieving, waiting, wrestling, and bearing. And to think that I haven't reached the end of my tears ...

 I miss talking about Josiah.

When he was alive, you couldn't help but talk about him. Our entire lives revolved around him, we had to analyze his every breath, his every moment. We blogged maddeningly in the hospital as tried to keep people updated. Daily there were handover reports, assessments and instructions with the nurses, respite workers, and hospital staff. We would problem solve perceived symptoms and review procedures, looking for ways to improve his care.

If Josiah was present in the room, he was the conversation piece. That's just how it went. When we went out we were asked relentlessly about Josiah and we LOVED IT. We loved explaining for the one-thousandth time who our son was and how he was overcoming his medical challengings. We gushed as we talked about his character and his achievements. You couldn't shut us up!

We talk about Josiah in a much different way now.

Hushed tones. Less enthusiasm. We say more with our body langauge than we do with our mouths.

Just this week I got to talk about Josiah again. I was able to run through his medical history like it was 'old times'.

It brought me SUCH JOY - I had no idea how much I had been longing for a moment like this!

It was a strange and wonderful thing how it all came back to me, the rhythm we would get into as we described our son from head to toe. On good days, it flowed like poetry. Yet on this day there were the lags and gaps, and then the sad realization that I was forgetting things that I thought were unforgettable.

The very common medical jargon that we used nearly every day for 899 days was disappearing. I couldn't come up with the right words, I couldn't pronounce things correctly. I was vague on things that used to be so detailed and clear.

And I realize again that I am talking about Josiah in a much different way now.


899 days and then another 899 more. Another day, another day, another day ... until tomorrow wakes up to eternity.

What a merciful day that will be.


However many years a man may live, let him enjoy them all.
But let him remember the days of darkness, for they will be many.
~ Ecclesiastes 11:9

Behold, I make all things new.
~ Revelation 21:5
- Andrew