Friday, April 29, 2011


I need...

to hide yet also be seen
to be understood yet not have to speak
friends, but am unwilling to be friendly
a promotion, but am unable to work for it
attention, yet don't want to stick out

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Easter Weekend

We had a good Easter weekend.  I needed that, especially after a very difficult week.

All week long Theo missed his brother like crazy.  Then on Wednesday we had Vincent's 5 month "angel" date, which sort of blindsided me.  Dan and I have also been trying to figure out what will happen after he completes graduate school next month.

Transitions are not fun.  Theo wants another sibling.  I want some sort of career (and maybe another kid?) Dan wants a meaningful job.  I want it to include money.  It's been tough.

Theo was absolutely gleeful on Easter Sunday.  We finished going through his resurrection eggs during the week, each containing a little object having to do with holy week and with the upcoming celebration on Easter.  Sunday morning he hunted down dozens of eggs in our house (thanks for putting that together, Aunty Amy and Popo!) and got to wear a new outfit, complete with bow-tie and matching handkerchief.

In all, it was a good few days.  Vincent got some new flowers on his grave, we got to eat a nice lunch together and have a nap at home.  Theo got to play Angry Birds to his hearts content on the ipad.  I read a bunch of books.  Dan didn't do any homework.

Hooray for happy endings!  (or I should say, beginnings!)

Saturday, April 23, 2011

The place of your pain: An Easter Meditation

Throughout the Lenten season I've been viewing this upcoming Easter Sunday as a sort of magical day.   I've been hoping that when I wake up on Sunday morning, a sort of ephipany will come to me of God being triumphant over brokenness, sin, death, and throughout the whole day I'll be joyful in God's presence.  I've been anticipating that this Easter Sunday will be full of exultant and expectant hope for me.

But the closer it gets to Sunday, the more I realize that my expectations of the day may indeed fall quite short.  In fact, I may feel no different from today.  I may still feel cautious, hesitant, wary.  I may still be afraid to hope for better things, unsure of what even to hope.

I was thinking about this yesterday in the car when a thought came to me.  It has to do with the Easter story in Matthew 28, so I'm including it below.
"After the Sabbath, at dawn on the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to look at the tomb. There was a violent earthquake, for an angel of the Lord came down from heaven and, going to the tomb, rolled back the stone and sat on it. His appearance was like lightning, and his clothes were white as snow. The guards were so afraid of him that they shook and became like dead men. The angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. He is not here; he has risen, just as he said. Come and see the place where he lay. Then go quickly and tell his disciples: ‘He has risen from the dead and is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him.’ Now I have told you.”      
So the women hurried away from the tomb, afraid yet filled with joy, and ran to tell his disciples. Suddenly Jesus met them. “Greetings,” he said. They came to him, clasped his feet and worshiped him.”
I've been hoping that this Sunday I break free of my grief, joyfully celebrating the risen Savior, reveling in the implications of his resurrection.  I've been wanting to experience the glory of this day wholeheartedly. And yet I'm starting to realize that perhaps I can experience the wonders of the resurrection just as well in my current state of shock and sorrow.

In fact, celebrating Easter Sunday while filled with grief is rather fitting.  After all, Mary Magdelene and her friends were themselves weighed down with grief that first Easter morning.  They had put all their hope in Jesus being the Messiah.  Although they had been so sure that he was the one sent from God to save them all, they had just seen him brutally beaten and publicly crucified.  They had followed him for years, supporting him, watching him heal the sick, bring hope to the oppressed.  And now he's been killed.

I can imagine their grief, their devastation at his death, their disappointment.  I can see them walking to the tomb while carrying embalming ointments, readying themselves to see Jesus' body, riddled with wounds, one last time.  And yet they went anyway to the place of their pain.  They went to visit the place of their deepest disappointment, of their darkest tragedy.  

Perhaps all I have to do this coming Sunday is simply to visit the place of my pain.  The place inside where I feel abandoned, wronged, wounded.  Because that's what the women did this first Easter morning.

Now going to the place of our pain isn't easy.  Some of us haven't visited it in a long time.  Some of us have rolled such large stones in front of it that it cannot be readily visited or easily experienced.  Others of us have chosen to forget we have places of pain, or are guarding ourselves from uncovering our own wounds, from working through our past hurts.  You will find the place of your pain where you are the most guarded, the most barricaded.  It's a place of darkness, of decay.  It's a place where you have a lot of defenses built up.  And it, to varying degrees, is within each one of us.

But the story doesn't end there.

Because after the women went to the place of their pain, they found that the heavy tombstone had been rolled away, the guards disarmed by the presence of an angel.  They found that the place of their pain had been made accessible to them.

So this Easter Sunday, choose to visit the place of your pain.

Go there yourself or take a friend with you, but choose to go to the place of your wounds, of your disappointment!  Like the women on that first Resurrection morning, you may find that dark place opened for you, the large stone rolled away, the guards disarmed.  Perhaps if you are able to visit the place of your pain you will find the power of it broken over you, even supernaturally.

In the midst of your fear and sorrow, least expecting it, you will find the Risen Savior.  In the midst of your deepest disappointment and tragedy, you will find that you are not alone.  And when we go to the place of our deepest pain, we may find instead the Risen Christ, generously greeting us.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Difficult verse of the day

"Though the fig tree does not bud
and there are no grapes on the vines,
though the olive crop fails
and the fields produce no food,
though there are no sheep in the pen
and no cattle in the stalls,
yet I will rejoice in the Lord,
I will be joyful in God my Savior.

The Sovereign Lord is my strength;
he makes my feet like the feet of a deer,
he enables me to go on the heights."

-Habakkuk 3:17-19

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

On this Dreadful Anniversary

(a prayer written for children)

When his body couldn't work anymore
thank you for taking care of him,
for keeping him entertained with playful angels,
for giving him happy dreams.
When the morphine took over, thank you that his spirit was safe-
he was never lost or alone or confused.
Thank you for the drugs that helped his body cope,
for the peace that covered him like a blankie.
Thank you for the joy he got when he opened his eyes
for the first time in heaven.
On this dreadful anniversary, thank you he had a place to go
when his body couldn't work anymore.

5 Months

Today is Vincent's 5 month "angel" anniversary.  There are no words.

But my hubby Dan uses them pretty well.

You can check out his grief journal here.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Waiting for Easter

This has been a hard month of grieving.
There's been misunderstandings, conflict, anger, and lots and lots of tears.

I'm ready for it to be over.

I'm ready for Easter, for God's new life to burst onto the scene,
surprising us with its pervasiveness and power.
I'm ready to celebrate the hope and promise of the resurrection.
I'm ready to celebrate God's ultimate victory over sin and death.

I'm ready.... and waiting!

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Palm Sunday Prayer

Jesus, I can see your love and bravery,
riding into Jerusalem with palm branches covering the ground,
knowing that you would soon be betrayed and killed.

In the same way, 
help me to walk with you confidently and without fear.  
When palm branches line my path with the green promise of new life,
remind me that pain is never far away.  
And when the darkness comes, remind me that you are nearer still.  

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Oh Brother!

In this past week Theo's been crawling into our bed every night around 3:00am.  On Friday night I had a fever of over 101 with aches and pains everywhere.  Theo got into our bed, kicked, thrashed and wiggled, but we gladly put up with it as it was evident that he really needed to sleep with us.

I tend to forget that Theo's been greatly traumatized.  He's been such a resilient child, learning his letters, excitedly making new friends at preschool, happily playing and reading with me during the day.  I can easily forget how wounded he really is.  Theo's been especially needy these last few weeks, having a hard time going to sleep at night, being fearful during nap-times, talking about how he misses Vincent during the day (it used to just be part of his night-time routine).

Today we visited Vincent's grave, and Theo talked the entire way there about Vincent.  "I wish I could see Vincent."  "I really miss Vincent."  "I wish I could play with Vincent." "I wish we could be with Vincent."

It seems that the finality of Vincent's removal from our family has really sunk in.  Theo misses his brother.  I miss him too.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Mystery (The Problem of Pain)

Because I'm a person of faith, people often ask me if I'm mad at God. Couldn't he have done something to stop Vincent from dying? As Christians, we believe that among God's many attributes are both absolute power and absolute goodness.

The question of how God's love and power relate to each other is one that all theologians and sufferers have wrestled with over the millennia.  If God is good AND powerful, why doesn't he stop horrible events from happening?  Why are there child soldiers, rape, famine, cancer?  Why do kids die?  Why do bad things happen to good people?  Why do bad things happen at all?

Some people think that God, although powerful in nature, sort of ties his hands behind his back by giving us humans free will.  At the end of human history God's powerful enough to win the war against evil (using us, his followers) as we break powers of darkness and evil and incarnate God's power and love to our broken world.  He can be prevailed upon through prayer to change events, but only if the powers of darkness are broken first.  He's absolute goodness, only wanting us to thrive and be full of good things.  He weeps with us when we encounter evil, when we are wounded from the fault of others' free will choices.  From this perspective, it would never be his will to let Vincent die.

Critics of this view say it compromises God's omnipotence (power) in a manner inconsistent with the biblical description.  He can't be a truly all-powerful God if he's wringing his hands over situations he cannot at this moment change without our help.  God ceases to be God if his hands are in any way tied.

Proponents of this next view remind us of our utter sinfulness as humans.  As completely flawed beings who first introduced sin to the world, we deserve whatever the perfect God metes out to us.  We deserve nothing from him, although through his son Jesus we've recieved everything we really need, promise of redemption, the sure hope of eternal life.  God is completely powerful over all world events, he presides over everything that occurs, and though not evil himself, allows evil to exist for a time being for reasons we do not understand.  His goodness is always complete, even when we cannot see it.  From this perspective, it could have been his will to let Vincent die.  (This is usually the point where the discussion veers toward further theological splicing between God's prescriptive will and his decretive will... but I don't want to go there.)

Critics of this view say that God seems to be a cosmic meany.  He's able to change horrible events, able to eliminate all evil, but instead allows it to exist.  (Of course, these views can be nuanced much better than I've stated.  I'm sure I've left many important details out of each one, but then again, I'm much better at ranting then reporting.)

So, the argument goes, either God is completely powerful (and not fully good), or he's completely good (and not fully powerful.)  In the face of deep suffering, it's difficult to believe that God can be both simultaneously. 

Where do I stand? Part of me would like to think that what happened to Vincent was a terrible injustice caused by living in a messed up world.  God would like to have stopped it,  only wanting goodness and wholeness in our lives, but his hands were tied.  But I don't really believe that.  I do believe that Vincent's death was a terrible injustice.  But I believe that God didn't stop it for some reason(s) unknown to me at this time.  I believe he is powerful enough to do it, but for some reason he didn't.

I would like Vincent's death to have as much meaning as possible.  If it was just a random event that occurred, how meaningful is that?  It's like winning the crappiest lottery ever.  Even though I don't believe God specifically ordered in his perfect will for Vincent to get cancer and die, I believe that he did foresee it and let it happen anyway to us.  I believe he could have stopped it, and yet he didn't.

Over the years I've grown to accept this fact:   our world is pretty awful.  It's in the process of being fixed and redeemed, and one day all suffering will cease, and our earth will be renewed.  Until then all sorts of bad stuff happens, largely a result of what we do to each other.  Large corporations want more money, take shortcuts, pollute the water and people get cancer.  We want more power and oil so we go to war.  Kids get killed.  Women get raped, the environment gets exploited, stuff gets stolen, we die, awful, awful evil happens and gets thrown our way.  It's the way of this world.

Now where does God fit into this?  Well, I believe that whatever transpires in our life, whatever events in life we go through, they have to pass through God's hands first.  He doesn't cause them, but he makes sure that whatever they are, they are something that we are able to triumph over, if not in this life, than the next.  He makes sure we get justice, if not now, than later.  And in the meantime, all the awful things that happen that would try to destroy us, he can transform into scars of beauty, into something useful for helping someone else's pain.  God is very economical.  He doesn't waste our pain, our wounds.  If we let him, he as the ultimate alchemist transforms our tragedies into something beautiful, useful, something that brings him glory.

I've always known that God does not keep us "safe".  That's not his ultimate goal.  And from the viewpoint of eternity, what does being "safe" really mean?  Are you safe if you have a comfortable home now, happy relationships, a good bank account, and yet who you truly are deep inside is conflicted, without peace?  Are you "safe" if you've never been deeply hurt or in a debilitating accident, but your inner soul is isolated from the one Reality that can offer transcendent living, real hope?

The apostle Paul in Colossians 3 says this:
"...For you died to this life, and your real life is hidden with Christ in God."
My Real life, who I truly am and am becoming, my real beauty, my real strength is all hidden with Christ up there in heaven.  It's kept truly safe with God and with Vincent who is one of my greatest treasures.  It's out of reach for now, but it's part of a greater Reality that I cannot see, a Reality that goes far and beyond what think is "real".

I watched Toy Story III just a few weeks before Vincent died and it gave me a useful analogy to describe the way I feel about his death.  In the movie, Mrs. Potato Head loses one of her eyes somewhere in Andy's house.  She can't find it, and after different events transpire, she, along with all the other toys, wind up in this horrible daycare where they are mistreated and are trying to escape.  They need to know what is happening back at home, and Mrs. Potato Head is able to channel her vision through her hidden eye, the one back at home, to see what is happening and to be connected to what was going on there.  She didn't have that eye physically with her, so she was blocking out what she could see right in front of her face, and instead, "seeing" with her missing eye.

I have to use my "missing" eye, the one that is hidden in God, to see the greater Reality there in heaven as opposed to just what is in front of me at this moment.

My spiritual director lent me her copy of Susan Howatch's book "Glamorous Powers."  Here the main character, Jon, an Anglo-Catholic ex-monk, is comforting his wife after their baby son Gerald has just died.
"...Look at the world from yet another angle.  Look at it as an idea in the mind of God, a brilliant dynamic idea which we ourselves can't fully grasp except that its dynamism ties us to the change we can't escape.  But beyond the idea, beyond the mind of God, is God himself, the unchanging perfection of ultimate Reality.  In other worlds, this cage we live in, this prison of time and space isn't ultimately real. Gerald may have slipped out of the cage ahead of us, but that doesn't mean he's ceased to exist.  As part of the ultimate reality his existence is reflected back into the world of time and space in the form of absolute values, the values which can never die, and the value in which we can most clearly see him reflected is love..."
I will see Vincent again.  But right now I have to use my other eye to see the ultimate Reality beyond this prison of time and space.  And until I see Vincent again with both my eyes, I'm going to try and reflect his life, and the life of God who is the ultimate Reality, back into this world.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Faith: It's Complicated

My husband Dan composed another poem on his blog yesterday.
I never, ever write poems.
I'm afraid they would be so horrible everyone would secretly laugh at me.

But his are pretty great, and I look forward to Valentine's day every year when he writes me a very sweet poem.

You can read his latest poem on faith here.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

My Will be Done

Our Father in Heaven,
Hallowed be your name
Your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven
Give us this day our daily bread
Forgive us our debts, as we have also forgiven our debtors
And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil
For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever
A few weeks ago Dan and I went to the annual HIM conference held here in Hawaii.  We look forward to it every year as we get to see friends from other churches as well as hear from pastors, speakers, authors, and musicians who wouldn't otherwise come to our state.

During one of the main sessions, Pete Greig, founder of the 24/7 prayer movement and author of quite a few books, including God on Mute, was speaking about "Worshiping When It's Hard."  His wife was diagnosed with a debilitating brain tumor after their second child was born, and I found myself earnestly listening to him, impacted by both his story and faith.  Towards the end of his message he brought us through the Lord's prayer, and I was surprised to find myself unwilling to repeat it.

After he was speaking we were given a chance to pray or write, so I tried to "fix" my earlier reticence to speak the prayer, and to my horror, found myself repeatedly saying "My will be done" instead of "Your will be done."

Talk about a Freudian slip!

It makes sense because I always want my will to be done.  I wanted Vincent to be wholly healthy, to live a long life.  I want to feel safe in my home, not wondering if someone's going to break in and steal something priceless.  I want everyone to cater to how I'm feeling, to what I need, to share in my grief.  I want Dan to be happy in the social work field and not have to go to seminary, I want to own a little house somewhere with a basement that doesn't flood, I want to have another child, a blossoming career, a bank account stuffed with money, a craft room filled with cute fabric.

I want a lot of things.  Do you?

I'm praying that we may find the grace to embrace what we have as well as what we don't, and through our embracing of God's will, be pulled into His future.

Sunday, April 10, 2011


This weekend I went to a retreat.  It was the same one that I attended last year (as the speaker) with Vincent tagging along.  This year I didn't do anything, I just hung out, got many hugs and ate way too much chocolate. Yes, men, that is what us ladies do at retreats!!  (Plus prayer, journaling, listening, and worship, can't forget those!)

When I walked into the beautiful room where we were staying (I was with a friend who's lost 3 of her children!) I had a huge flashback of walking into my room last year with Vincent.

Except he's not here anymore.

I know some bereaved parents find ways of feeling close to their deceased children.  Lighting candles, going to places their child liked to frequent, keeping objects that remind them of their child near... I've done all of this, and really, nothing greatly lessens the pain of loss, nothing makes me really feel close to him.

Vincent loved the beach, loved being near the waves, loved having his bare feet sink into the sand.  But when I visit the beach now, when I was there this weekend for the retreat, all I can feel is the deep hole of loss, the black feeling of permanence and overwhelming devastation.  I don't feel closer to him.

But I still go to the beach, simply because Vincent loved it.

So I still try to do things Vincent loved to do, go to places he loved, snuggle in his quilt, and wear his fingerprint necklace (which I've lost again!  Oh grief, how I hate what you've done to my mind!!).  But doing all that merely helps me survive.  I don't feel much closer to him as a result of all those actions.  In fact, most days I feel far from him indeed.

Even if Vincent were to visit me here on earth for a quick hug, even if an angel were taking him for a field trip to our home, I wouldn't want him to see me in such a messy, angry, destitute state.  I'm his mother, for crying out loud. I should be taking care of him, not bursting at the seams as he watches from a distance.

So somehow I need to pull myself together.  (eventually!)

And on that glorious day when I do see him again I want him to be proud of me, of what I've done with his memory, of how I invested and cultivated the fruit of our grief... I watched him come into the world, grow, explore, develop, thrive, struggle for life, then slowly die.  And throughout all his pain, chemo treatments and medical emergencies Vincent radiated a great presence of spirit, a great generosity of heart.  He didn't give up easily.  In the end he kept on fighting for eleven days without a feeding tube or IV fluids. We thought he had 48 hours.  He surprised us all.

It's very humbling to live in the shadow of your child.  Perhaps, like Vincent, I won't easily give up while undertaking this journey of pain.  That's the best I can hope for.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

When I am Angry...

I am angry, God.
In these moments help my words and actions
not wound myself or others.
Grant me the grace of listening before speaking,
of pausing before yelling.
Give me the patience to wait these feelings out.

Then, let me praise you.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

A Small Grace

Today I was running late to a counseling appointment.  Since I was in such a rush to drop Theo off at preschool, both he and I ran from the parking lot of the school all the way into his classroom. Theo thought it was fun.  I was a bit breathless.  I signed him in, got back to the car and was almost at the counselors office when I realized the pendant had fallen off my necklace.

This pendant was a silver replica of Vincent's fingerprint.

You see, I had molds taken of Vincent's fingerprints a few weeks before he died.  Through etsy I found an artisan who worked with fingerprint jewelry and they made me a gorgeous fingerprint necklace that I received in the mail a few days before Vincent died. This necklace wasn't stolen during our break-in, as I had been wearing it at the time.  But now it was lost.

I called the preschool quickly and talked Mrs. Nancy, one of Theo's teacher, who started to look for it.

About halfway through the counseling appointment I got a phone call from the preschool director. They found the pendant!  Now all I have to do is fix the bale.

...I wish all our problems were solved this quickly!

Monday, April 4, 2011

The Griever's Prayer

As feelings of pain and anguish build
may I welcome them with an open heart,
knowing that they are but invitations to grieve with You,
our Suffering Servant.

May my wounds not embitter or isolate me.
Instead, may they enlarge the walls of my heart
to embrace those in the world around,
the angry, bitter, forgotten, isolated, and wounded.

May my pain lead me to participate in God's pain,
And through that, to share in His glory.


Saturday, April 2, 2011


Last night I spent a bunch of time reading a really sweet blog written by a mom of six kids.  She's also a great photographer.  As I was reading her blog filled with references to her home-schooling, bread-making, beautifying, and crafting, I realized I was feeling envious.

You see, I really love crafty homeschooling moms, who spend their stay-at-home days educating hordes of well-behaved children, baking whole wheat bread from grain they've personally ground, beautifying their spacious houses so they look like something from an Anthropologie store, sewing gorgeous dresses and crafting cloth books and woolen scarfs while watching period dramas to their hearts content with a glass of raw milk in hand.  I love these families, and I'd love my kids to grow up this way.

But there are significant factors that preclude me from following such a path.  My husband and I are Christian egalitarians (we believe giftings and callings are not given strictly according to gender) and consequently take issue with the gender restrictions espoused by some of those I admire. This doesn't keep us from being great friends with them, just from becoming exactly like them.  I often feel constrained and concerned by their view of the world, their treatment of women.

There's also this pesky little factor called cost-of-living. I live in a semi-urban, super expensive part of the country where one spouse's middle-class income is seldom enough to meet basic living expenses if the other spouse isn't also working. No wonder so many people in Hawaii live with their parents (or homes inherited from their relatives).  Plus, I have dreams for myself.  There are skills I hope to continue developing.  I aspire to write, speak, travel.  I want to make a difference in the world, not only in my home.

It's hard for me to reconcile these two parts of myself.  I guess you could say that I'm part Stepford wife, part Eleanor Roosevelt.

Perhaps I will become a different breed of momone who works and stays home, votes liberal (much of the time, sorry mom!) deeply values her responsibilities in the home and sews up a storm, yet has no problem with shopping online too.  Perhaps one day I will get my chance to resurface old furniture, decorate my own house, fill it with happily learning children, and still be able to travel, speak, and write on the subjects so dear to my heart.

I'll admit this sounds highly unrealistic.   Realistic for me right now is laying in bed for hours every day, letting my sole child spend eons of time on the iPad.  What sounds realistic is snapping at my husband as he gets home from a long day.  What sounds realistic is the sound of the microwave chirping at me, reminding me the burrito inside has been warmed and is ready to be consumed.

What I want is someone to take care of me.  I wish God would appear in my house like a kind grandmother, clean it up, do my laundry, make a fantastic meal from locally grown ingredients, and then do the dishes afterwards.  I'd bare my soul talking and crying with him as he makes chocolate chip cookies and blueberry muffins.  Then we'd sit on the bar stools in the kitchen, sipping tea or coffee together (or wine if that's what He wants.)  That all sounds great.  (hmm.. It also sounds like "The Shack.")

During his dark night of the soul, the Biblical character Job, having lost all his children and possessions, challenges God to come down and answer for Himself.  Job demands an account of why God has allowed him to experience such deep, comprehensive suffering.  And when God finally surfaces, he does so in dramatic fashion, giving long-winded accounts of his creative power and accomplishments.  Job stops asking his questions when he sees the glory and wonder of God and is content to simply be in His presence.  Like Job, I sometimes wish God would show up to answer for Himself.  I have some questions too, namely, why?  Where are you?  Show yourself!  And while you're at it, can you stop by my house and make me some chocolate chip cookies?

I guess what I really want right now is to be mothered and cared for with nothing expected of me other than just showing up.  I just wish it wasn't too much to ask for.