Monday, August 29, 2016

A Grief Revisited {A Post by Tony}


We are all sitting around the table at our home in Hailey, Idaho playing Trivial Pursuit; teams boys vs. girls.  The girls are at a serious disadvantage for three reasons:

v                              ~ they are just playing to be nice
v                              ~ my father is fiercely competitive
v                              ~ he has an amazing memory.

My mother pulls the next card and reads to my dad and I, “What is the name of the theme song of MASH?”

Since I’m only in 9th grade the question is way before my time, but after a long pause my dad says, “Suicide is Painless”. There is a weighted look between my mother and father, a look only they understand that will take me years to grasp, and only in a memory.

We roll the dice and move forward, or is it around in circles?


On a bridge overlooking the Willamette River outside Portland, Oregon the police pull a young man from the edge. He looked ready to jump and friends and family had been searching for him for hours. He was the president of his high school student body and was supposed to make a speech at graduation but skipped the festivities for a bottle of pills - the police also take these.  I don’t know of this story until it’s too late to do anything about it.  Days like that day are when I hate H. G. Wells, nothing but false hope. At least I can channel my rage onto someone dead, inanimate, without hurting anyone.

December 31st 2009. 

We’ve driven miles up into the mountains, almost at 10,000 feet now and still no trace of my father.  My two younger brothers are in the truck ahead of me and we’ve already been nearly stuck or gone off the road half a dozen times.  My father taught us to love the wilderness and outdoors when we were very young.  He used to say, “A day above 10,000 feet is better than 365 days at on the flatland.”  Made me laugh.  Nothing makes me laugh today.   We finally spot his white truck covered in new snow and leap from our vehicles but his is empty.   Up the hill there’s a ladder next to a tree and our minds break, after this everything will be broken, forever, and now I know it always has been and always will be, until the end of the world.  That’s all I need to share about that day except to say that the last time a son hugs his father it should never be around his legs.


I have three beautiful daughters and one amazing son.  Like all 7-year-old boys, my son loves cars and playing guns and yelling excitedly at explosions on TV.  I have tried hard to train him up in God’s Word like my father did for me.  He’s tucked into bed and is smiling up at me and as I lean down to give him a hug goodnight I say, “Grandpa would have loved you.”  He frowns slightly and then says, “Dad, how did Grandpa die?” 

I have been avoiding this for too long,

it is time. 

I start to tell him but find out our middle daughter beat me to punch, “Olivia says it was ‘sewer side’ what is sewer side?” 

He is so eager to know, and I am grating to acquiesce.  I plunge.

“It’s called suicide, we hurt ourselves so badly that our consequence is death.”  He understands consequences, he gets them whenever he is disrespectful to his parents or mean to his sisters. 

“It’s death. Why is it death?” 

“Well, when you hurt your sister, dad and mom take away your toys or you don’t get to play on the family tablet for a few days right?”

He nods.  

I continue.

“To God, all sin is sin but some sin carries a heavier penalty than just toys being absconded - the penalty is death.  The worse the sin you commit, the greater the payment.  That’s why Jesus died, to cover the sins of the whole world so we would have eternal life with Him.”  I am internally collapsing now and just want to run from the room and vomit but I know the conversation is not over and I need to be strong for my son.  Quitting on him in this conversation would be everything I promised myself I wouldn’t do.

He’s just staring at me now and I take his little hands in mine and looking him right in the eye I say, 

“Don’t be afraid, I am never going to do anything to hurt myself, I will always be here for you as long as God allows and whenever you feel like you are going to do the wrong thing you can pray and ask Jesus to help.   He nods affirmatively, I stand up and mess his hair one last time.  “I love you son.”

“I love you too, dad.”

So many parts of me died that day in the mountains.  But something else was also born. 

I told my wife that evening, “This is it, Satan is coming, he is going to use this to destroy us and destroy our family and with Dad gone there will be no one left to stand in the gap.  I’m not going to let that happen.  Jesus will guide us through this but we have to trust Him no matter how dark it gets.”

It was dark, fast, faster than I could have thought possible; in less than a year nearly everything was taken from me except my wife and children and I had to start all over in a different country, state, city. 

I can never remember a time where I have been more at peace than this last year.  Six years of separation from falling down in the snow and nearly going insane have proved to be an incredible adventure.  Beth Moore, in a teaching she did once said, “Daniel is not in heaven regretting having been in the lions’ den, he is in heaven reaping the reward of having trusted God through the lions’ den. “

I will not be taken down by generational sin, and there are many to choose from, but as Paul said,

“I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.  Henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award to me on that Day, and not only to me but also to all who have loved his appearing.” 

Found in chapter 4 verse 7 of the book my father was named after.

All photos from here

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

For When it All Falls Apart

The fridge goes first, warming instead of cooling the food inside.

Then the car, with smoke pouring out from under the hood.

And it all happens suddenly - no one is prepared. One day the milk is ice cold - the next day, I reach in and grab hold of a jug that pours out lukewarm and soured liquid.

I'm reminded that there's no preparation for when everything begins to go sideways. Just when one begins to think that everything is moving along smoothly, that all four kids have been playing peacefully, the neighbourhood is quiet and calm, the car will get us from point A to point B with no problems...that's when everything begins to fall apart.

Can I write here, how much I loved my fridge?

Because I did.

It was the fridge that I had always wanted with almost all the bells and whistles that could be had.

Tony had purchased it as a surprise and grinned from ear to ear the day it was delivered.

And when it started to go - when I discovered how much the repairs *could* be on this bells-and-whistles-fridge, I began to wrestle.

Because no matter how much one has let go of - there's always more.

Even a fridge can become an idol.

And so on the evening that our car broke down, the evening before the repair man was coming to assess the cried-over fridge, I sat in my green chair in the dark and the quiet and I prayed.

I knew we couldn't afford this repair on top of the car - and I knew that holding on to the illusion of control was only going to make things worse and so I opened my hands and let it go.

Kneeling before Jesus, acknowledging Him as Sovereign over all things, coming before Him as a child before her Father, I lifted up our needs before Him. The fridge could go - it really could. Just a plain simple white fridge would do. I was done with fancy.

I have a print hanging in our dining room that boldly proclaim the words of Matthew 6:25-26

Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?

As I went to bed, leaving our needs and my dependence on possessions at the feet of Jesus, I fell asleep thinking of those verses.

Morning came and Tony woke up to a text on his phone, letting him know that a rental had sold and the buyers didn't want the fridge - would we like to have it?

Tony's mom texted, asking if she could drive over the mountains and stay at our home for a couple of days - and there was relief knowing that by the time she arrived we would have a working fridge and food of the right temperature to feed her.

Only, she had a surprise of her own...

Even before our car had broken down, even before she knew about the uncertain future of our vehicle, she had wandered through a car lot after seeing a flyer with the words, "Matthew 6:33" printed on it. She had written down our story and handed it in with the hopes that maybe a donation could be given.

And it was - Because God knew.

So she drove that car over the mountains and in the middle of the girls soccer game, she smiled wide and told us that car parked in the back was ours and then waited for that realization to sink into our weary heads.

There's the temptation to feel foolish writing this down in light of loss of tragedy and pain all around me...all around the world.

And yet.

I go back to the early years of our marriage, when I would begin to panic over all the "what-if's" that could happen, the hypothetical scary things that would keep me awake at night. In those moments, Tony would go back over all the ways that God had shown Himself faithful in my life, in his life and in our life together, and my heart would slow and I would nod and those moments of His faithfulness became strongholds for me to cling to.

Because the moments of shock and pain and devastation were sure to come, and they *did* come in huge and unrelenting waves, but because of Christ's faithfulness, His steadfast love that He made evident over and over, I knew that He was trustworthy and sure.

So, yes, it's just a fridge, just a car, in some ways. But in the other ways, in the ways that matter most, it's a demonstration of His care for His own, His provision for His children who are learning what it is to be dependent on Him. It's another marker to look to when more moments come that threaten to undo my faith.

They are two more tangible gifts that lift my eyes off of the fleeting and uncertain moments of now and lock them firmly onto the beauty and greatness of the Most Holy God Who calls me daughter.

And grace becomes just a little bit more understood.

11. ice cream on the porch before bed
12. arms aching from the painting
13. hearing our four laugh with their daddy
14. the way Tony determinedly gives thanks when everything begins to fall apart
15. the friend who steps in to take care of animals when the car has broken down
16. the way Jesus tenderly lets me wrestle
17. a fridge!
18. a car!
19. moments with Nana
20. teasing Liv
21. afternoons at the farm
22. those crazy tall sunflowers
23. picking peaches
24. even when everyone is overheating
25. even when everyone is crying
26. even when we have to drive another hour
27. front porch meetings
28. golf cart afternoons with him
29. Olivia's last night being 8
30. breakfast birthday cake tradition and how everyone looks forward to it, year after year.

Monday, August 1, 2016

Going Back to What I Know

I sat down this evening to finalize lesson plans and curriculum choices and organize them all neatly and send them in.

That was the plan, but there are so many choices.

Last year we stepped back from practically everything and just focused on rebuilding small hearts, and it was a good thing and a needed thing and in the praying over this coming year, I'm sensing that we are to begin to open up again. Slowly, yes, but with intention and grace.

Ah, grace. The word I have wrestled with so much this year.

August comes and the heat lessens and I look ahead to a school year with a knowing of all the hard work that comes with it. The temptation to rush, when small ones need to slow and absorb. The temptation to be lax, when self-discipline needs to be exercised.

This life we have been called to is one that I love, one that I'm still learning to navigate all the tensions of, one that I'm still learning to turn over to Jesus completely.

In the quiet of my Bible reading each day, there has been one phrase that has been jumping out at me over and over again to the point that I finally took note of it and realized it's what I've let go of in the rush of living.

It seemed almost cliche, you know? It all began for me in the late fall of 2010 in the middle of upheaval and deep sadness. I came across this blog and I grabbed hold onto her idea of writing down 1000 gifts. And I did it. And then I slowly stopped after the popularity started to fizzle and it seemed silly to continue when even the posts on her page slowly ended and disappeared.

I just stopped giving thanks.

And as I look back over the last 2 or 3 years, I can see a hardening in my heart - a sort of callous that I've allowed to form to protect myself from a life in ministry. 

But the truth is, giving thanks isn't a movement or a novel idea or something reserved for certain holidays and seasons.

Paul exhorts us, in the middle of his darkest moments while chained in the darkness of a prison to,

Put on then, as God's chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, 
kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another, forgiving
each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. And above
all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. And 
let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one
body. And be thankful.  Colossians 3:12-15

Giving thanks is to happen in all things. Why? I'm sure there are many reasons, but the one that seems to be resonating with my heart most deeply is it's a way to remind my heart that God is faithful and good and sovereign when everything else around me feels shaky and uncertain.

Protecting my heart only hardens me and makes the situations around me more difficult. But pausing and choosing to see the goodness of God, even in the darkest moment, it keeps my heart open and it makes my faith in Jesus stronger.

So, I start again. Every Monday I'll sneak back here and add to the growing list with no goal, no end number in sight. I'll just keep building a foundation to remind my heart in the trustworthiness of the One Who created me and placed us here.

1. That sunflower *almost* ready to bloom
2. The lavender beginning to blossom
3. Those tomatoes on the vine
4. The smell of bacon frying on the stove
5. The way Lyla chooses to watch Anne of Green Gables over and over
6. Visits on the porch with the dearest of friends
7. Summer sun and finally, almost, beginning to love it
8. Hint of Fall in the air
9. Those 2 books wrapped in ribbon handed to me at church
10. The sister who holds me accountable