Posts tagged grief

Dear girls, I’m back at my desk after a month of mourning. Not that I’m done with sadness, but I’m sensing the invitation from the Spirit to get back to my calling to write. And so I sit, this morning, at the desk my dad made in this cabin tucked under the scented boughs of an enormous redwood tree. This spot is my refuge, a safe place where I hear God clearer than any place else.

The glimmering candle on my desk reminds me of the beauty of the friend who gave it as a gift of love. My new daughter-in-law’s mother, Natalia, is one of those rare treasures who sparkles with joy in the midst of a story she didn’t want. I am reminded of her as I do the final edits on my own story. Of how the Redeemer we follow weaves texture and color and loveliness into our lives in spite of— or perhaps because of— difficulties.

He is the Beauty-Maker and as He draws us close, we become like Him.


This morning I thought I’d bring you into my cabin to peer over my shoulder as I smooth and polish and pray and ponder over the words that will soon be put to print.

This is a glimpse of the me-I-was just before I was diagnosed with a progressive hearing loss that would eventually lead to total deafness. I was 26, enveloped in the world of babies and toddlers, homeschooling a first grader who gulped up knowledge like a starving lion.

I loved my life. But something left me empty and longing for more…

I wasn’t happy, not really. And I knew it.

And so I began to do the only thing I knew to do, the only thing a good Christian girl could do—I prayed. Every day, I asked God to do something, anything to change my heart. I prayed when I woke up, while jogging, while shopping, while cooking yet another family meal on yet another day of doing right.

I didn’t pray once. Or even twice. I prayed every chance I got, as if by begging God, I’d get Him to hear me and He’d have to give me what I craved.

I needed more. I wanted more. I had to have more!

God knew I would need all of Him to face the days ahead. He also knew that in order for Him to answer my cries for more, I would first need to let go of the pervasively self-serving idea of my own goodness.

The journey that lay ahead of me was going to be more arduous than all my rule abiding good-girl-ness would be able to handle.

I would face dark days, days of discovering that I was not as good as I’d thought, that my façade wouldn’t hold up under the pressures of life gone wrong, that a desperately “bad” girl lurked in my soul. 

That I was a woman who didn’t know her true colors until she didn’t get her way.

I was about to embark on a journey of facing the worst about myself and finding God in the rubble. In that place of desperation, I would discover that what God wanted more than all of my exhausting efforts to be good was me, just as I am. 

The real me.

And though I would flounder and fail, though I would shake my fist in His face, He couldn’t wait to gather me in close to show me what I’d been wanting all along.

As I edit these words I am praying for all of you who know the hunger that haunted me then. That emptiness, the sense that having everything I ever wanted was not enough.

I am praying that you will hear and know and experience the love of God down deep in the marrow of your bones.

That you will crave Him, longing for the beauty He alone brings. And that you won’t stop seeking until you’ve found all He has for you.

From my heart,


(image by Abi Porter)

What Happens When A Mom Does Love


I sit beside my mom in a hospital far from home.

Her recovery from the removal of an acoustic neuroma[1] has been tortuously full of tension and worry— very step haunted by unexpected disappointments.

I’ve cried my contacts into shreds, grieving for her loss of dignity and control. To go from her vibrantly sassy self, into a shell of who she is over the course of just a few days has left those of us who love her dismayed, shocked, exhausted by a roller coaster ride of grief.

With every new shift of nurses and caretakers I start over with my litany of mom. I want them to know her as she is, not as she seems right now in this broken moment.

I describe her artistry as a quilter, her love of her family and loyalty to her friends. How her great grandkids named her, “Great”, because she is great. And because she brings them great presents and delights in who they are.

Great is an appropriate  name for my mom.

Then I tell them how she joked with the neurosurgeons just minutes before wheeling into the operating room. Their startled laughter at this fragile patient teasing them about their sober minded seriousness, my knowledge of her underlying terror at what they were about to do.

And as I help her back to herself, I remember…

Cookies coming out of the oven, timed to perfection right when we came home from school. Sweet rolls on Christmas morning, countless lunches all those years of school, and what amazes me the most: a home cooked dinner every single night. Fast food never once sat on our table, she would have been appalled at the idea.

I remember sitting beside her as she sewed ball gowns for my Barbies, then later my prom dress and eventually matching dresses for my daughters.

And all those hours of talking.

Late at night when I was a self-conscious, socially awkward teenager. The after dinner phone calls when I was lonely for her closeness, and lived far away.  And that early morning frantic call when Matthew was so sick and I was so afraid.

She listened to me for hours… and hours… and hours.

I remember her once saying:  For such a quiet girl, Diane can sure talk!


And then in those years when it was all I could do to keep my head above water with four kids and a husband traveling all over the world, she’d welcome me back into her home for my annual Mom’s Break. While Phil held down the fort at home, Mom treated me to a retreat aimed to fill me full and send me back refreshed.

I’d sit on the back deck of their beautiful home overlooking the Sierras and just soak in the peace and sunshine. She’d cook and bake and fill her clawfoot tub full for a hot bubble bath. Then she’d turn back the covers on my bed and turn on the electric heating blanket.

All that Love Does, as Bob Goff so adamantly reminds us.

Mom did.  And so now here I am doing a little love back.

Funny how that works.

And maybe we need to remember that when the kids are squabbling and the house is a mess and there’s too much work for one woman to keep up with.

Because I know we drove my mom nuts sometimes. Lots of times. I remember a meltdown or two, that frustration spilling over as we pushed those buttons every kid is born knowing how to push.

But what sticks in my mind in these moments is all the doing she did for us.  And I find myself wanting to do back.

To be tender for all the times she gently talked my fears away.

To rub her back like she rubbed mine.

To tell her she’s beautiful even though she knows it cannot be true. Just like she told me I was beautiful when my mirror told a different story.

 And isn’t there a glowing beauty in skin gently aged by all that doing?

Dear girls, to be a doing kind of mother is to be beautiful in a way that cannot be covered by age or trauma or brokenness.

My mother will always be beautiful. She earned those creases by doing love so much and so often its permanently etched on her face.

And so many of you need to know that now while you’re in those doing years. There is a day of payback. A time when your sons and your daughters will feel the honor of giving back to you a tiny bit of what you gave to them.

My mother would never have believed that when I was a sassy teenager. But it’s true!

There has been a God-given glow about these days of doing for my mom. A sense that He is here and He is pleased and He is guiding me and delighting in what is happening in this hospital room. And maybe laughing a little too as He remembers the grief I gave to mom way back when.

And so here I sit. I wait for her to come back to us. To laugh and tease and sass in that way of hers I love.  To finally know that all that doing she did is coming back to do a little back.

From my heart,


P.S. Thank you for praying for my mom. The notes and emails and texts of love have boosted me when my spirit wavered. We have a long road ahead of us but we've put our hope in the One who loves-- the One who does love.

[1] a benign tumor that was pushing against her brain


On the Sunday after Phil broke up with me, I slipped into church reluctantly. I knew he’d be there, on the platform leading worship. I knew I would cry, unable to hold back the grief at the loss of the life I’d dare to dream of. 

I wanted to be strong but I wasn’t. Wanted to be cool and remote, but my red nose and swollen eyes wouldn’t fool anybody.  And so I tried to avoid anyone I might know by finding a seat in the back corner, as near the exit doors as possible.

All my fears and feelings of inadequacy and fakery and not-good-enough-ness kept my shoulders slumped and my head down. I wanted to believe what I’d been taught, that God had a wonderful plan for my life. But how was this wonderful?

What I hadn’t factored in was a redeeming Savior and His relentless pursuit of a woman who needed to know Him in a way that would fill up all those achingly empty places in my soul.

All I remember about that morning was the words of the hymn we sang:

My hope is built on nothing less than Jesus’ blood and righteousness,

I dare not trust the sweetest frame, but wholly lean on Jesus’ name.

On Christ the solid Rock I stand, All other ground is sinking sand,

All other ground is sinking sand.

Every word sank deep. Soothing, true, hope-filled. This was what I was longing for, what I needed. A hope built on One who would love me always, no matter what. 

Could it possibly be true? With all my less-thans, all my pretending to be better than I was, could I learn to wholly lean on Jesus’ name?

It was a theme that would echo over and over again in my life. That when dreams die and wishes don’t come true, when things happen that I don’t want and when I can’t make the hurt go away, Jesus is there...

Really there.

I went home elated. Fully surrendered, ready for whatever God had for me. I wanted more of Him. I wanted to be able to sing the last verse and mean it…

When He shall come with trumpet sound, Oh, may I then in Him be found;

Dressed in His righteousness alone, Faultless to stand before the Throne.

Something significant happened deep inside me that day. In losing something I wanted, I gained more of what I needed. 

A deeper trust.

A greater intimacy. 

A new sense of adequacy.

I was just beginning on my journey to finding Grace.

And even though I said I would finish our story today, I just can’t. Not yet. It would seem not right to tack a happily ever after ending right here.

I knew our break-up was final. Phil didn’t need space, he needed peace. And I was powerless to put that peace in his heart. It was over.

The real story is that God met me here in this broken place.

And so I’ll just have to tell you the rest next week…

And then we can get started on why I wanted to start this series in the first place.

Until then, thanks for listening,

From my heart,





I sit this morning and see the Santas on the tree.

And snowmen and glittering soldiers and even a Star Wars guardian dangling all out of place.

Matthew’s childhood hanging on.

This last born son who has brought so much joy as we’ve watched him emerge into a man. He’s home from college, stepping back into his place in our family- right in the center of everything fun.

And I grieve with the parents in Newton. Their Matthews will never come home for Christmas. Ever.

How can this be?!

And the Father knew it all when He chose to give us freedom. He saw every atrocity, felt within His being every heartbreak.

Did He cry? And bend His back with the load of grief? And isn’t He weeping still?


And the snow that falls outside my window feels like maybe He just can’t stop.

I cannot explain it, dare not try.

All I can do is hold my children close.

When impatience threatens my kindness, remember how much those mamas miss the messes…

slow down the frenzy of doing to cherish the beauty of being…

play games, read books, build legos, rock babies…

teach, encourage, correct, caress, laugh, bless, discover, relish…

And today I’ll make cookies. For my boy grown up.

From a heart heavy with grief and yet filled with grateful joy,




I had one of those rare privileges this week of being in a group email conversation to a friend who is grieving deeply and honestly. “Listening” to my sistas pour love and wisdom on my friend gave me the strangest sense of safety.

When I’m hurting these women will be there for me.

Here’s a snippet of the conversation that has had me thinking all day:

“How much of it is can't vs. won't? I've found myself mulling it over about all my stubborn sin patterns. 

How much of it have I assigned to myself as I can't do that when it really is a won't?

I'd challenge you to ask yourself that same question.

He can take your emotions. Your anger. Your grief. He just wants you to come and let Him be EVERYTHING that He is - He will be to you Prince of Peace, Comforter, Healer.”

Have you every said, I just can’t handle this! when life tripped something awful into your path? As if somehow our weakness is a good reason for all that pain to go away?

My friend’s words resonate somewhere deep in that hidden place where my will battles it out with my won’ts. And I go back to Paul’s struggle with that thing he didn’t want:

Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, For Christ’s sake;

For when I am weak, then I am strong.

2 Corinthians 12:10

From a glimpse of my heart,


LETTERS TO MY SON: how to help your wife thrive

She considers a field and buys it;

From her earnings she plants a vineyard.

Proverbs 31:16

Dear son,

I’m a little nervous about writing this letter. Because we’ve allowed these bits and pieces from my mother-heart to be made public, I run the risk of being misunderstood, of having people cut and paste and take my words to you out of context.

But you know me. You know my heart to help you and to lay a foundation for a strong and beautiful partnership with your wife of someday. God’s Word is infallible, perfect, right, true—but my words aren’t. And so, I ask you, and everyone who reads this to give me a little room. These are my thoughts, my take on what I believe the Scripture teaches, not a rigid box that every husband or every wife or every family must fit into in order to follow after God.

That said, as my son, I want you to know some things about women that many men seem to be unaware of.

We are strong, resilient, adventuresome, loyal, willing to take risks, persistent, and unafraid of great sacrifice for our families.

Who do you think really settled the West? While men most often led the adventure, it is the women who brought their families, their ingenuity, their perceptive skills and adaptivity to the wilderness. Women created homes, carved beauty, cared for fragile lives, and brought control to the chaos of an unsettled land. They work alongside their husbands to make their dreams come true.

And we haven’t really changed. We’re still pioneers at heart, willing to do whatever it takes to see our families thrive.

That’s the kind of woman you will marry someday, Matthew.

And yet, at the same time, we are fragile creatures. We feel deeply. Grief, rejection, pressure, stress, fear, anxiety. We have this capacity for relationship that makes us take responsibility for how everyone in our lives is doing. And sometimes we get lost in the process. Sometimes our men fail to see the vulnerability behind all that strength.

We are impressively capable and yet we are fragile from all that feeling that is inherent to who we are.

So… what has that got to do with this description of a wife who evaluates and plans for the buying of property and then develops it and works it and prospers?

Simply this: In the overarching story of your lives together, your first responsibility is to be the primary provider for the wife you want. Given the right circumstances and the protection and provision of her husband, your wife will thrive, and in that soul strengthening freedom, she will surprise you with her success. But it’s up to you to watch over her lovely, loyal, hard working drive to succeed for the benefit of her family.

First of all, here’s what I don’t mean: that wives should never work outside the home. And here’s what I do mean: that you must guard your own desire for nicer things from pressuring your wife to set aside her family priorities and work more and harder and longer than she should.

Now, life is messy and stuff happens. Men get sick, they lose their jobs, they need further education, they start businesses and need support. I get that. Life, real life, is full of seasons that demand every resource we can bring to the table in order to survive.

What I want to impress on you is the vision of a man who is looking at both the big picture of values and goals and provision for a lifetime, and at the care and nurture of a wife who will, at times, work harder than is good for her in order to make those goals happen. Just watch over her.

Be in charge.

Know your budget.

Stick to it.

Be thankful for what you do have.

Don’t always need more.

Lead your family well.

Let your wife flourish and thrive and think of creative ways to use her gifts to enhance your lives— not to provide for your needs.

Make it your goal to see your wife in her sweet spot. That place where she wakes up with a smile on her face because she gets to be both productive and creative, at the same time knowing that her family is growing and thriving under her care. Make that your goal, Matt, and you will be copying what Jesus does with us, the Church, His bride.

Husbands, love your wives,

just as Christ also loved the church and

gave Himself up for her,

so that He might sanctify her,

having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word,

that He might present to Himself the church

in all her glory,

having no spot or wrinkle or any such thing;

but that she would be holy and blameless. 

So husbands ought also to love their own wives as their own bodies.

He who loves his own wife loves himself; for no one ever hated his own flesh,    but nourishes and cherishes it,

just as Christ also does the church,

Ephesians 5:25-29

I know this is a lot of weight to put on a man’s shoulders, my son. And yet I also know that God has given you what it takes to imitate Him in this kind of loving. Be strong and courageous. Be smart and responsible. Work hard and think ahead. Be willing to fight for your family’s well-being, to dream ahead of the way you want it to be, to plan a path to make it happen.

Above all, let God be your provider by laying your life before Him and asking Him to lead.

I love you!

From my heart,


P.S. Caution: Don’t read more into these words to my son than I mean.

Women have always worked- hard. Sometimes they even get paid. (!) The Proverbs 31 woman was a successful investor, she made money, lots of money. She was good at what she did. But there are years of a woman’s life when she needs the freedom to pour all that drive and intelligence and giftedness into her family. It is the wise man who does what he can to make that happen.~ Diane