Category Archives: Grief and Loss

The God of Wonders Winks at Me

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God does things sometimes just to show Himself.  Just to show off. Just to let you know that His power is a subtle as it is mighty. Just to let you know that your love for inside jokes actually came from Him.  He likes to wink at you through what this world would have you believe is a “coincidence.” He loves that. And I love that about Him. 

Last year I was asked to speak at a Senior Graduation breakfast and God was so clear about what I should say to them.  Tell them how to run their race. . . A good race. . . A holy race. . . To run the road that leads to my peace. . . To let ME be their race director. . . To stay the course through hard things . He was insistent upon that being the topic.  

I was glad for it when the event rolled around. Because it would be my first talk since my daughter moved to heaven. I was weak, heartbroken, vulnerable, and afraid to speak for the first time in my life.  I was in a place that no one wants to speak from.  I’d rather speak from a place of strength. 

But I could talk about the marathon and the lessons God teaches us through that.  I had been there in a way that had become part of who I am.  The morning of the breakfast I felt unsure of what might happen. Would I break down and let my grief filled tears spill out over young and hopeful  graduates? Would I be filled with too much anxiety to get out of the car and be the only speaker that made it 10 feet from the church but never entered? 

As I was asking myself these questions , my Facebook memories popped up and there it was: that wink from God that said ” you got this kiddo.”  I had forgotten but on that same day 5 years earlier I had run the OKC marathon in horrible conditions. It actually hailed on us at Mile 24. And God delivered me to that finish line just like He would deliver me to the last line of the speech. How charming of Him.  And how encouraging to me. 


That was so awesome! It was almost as awesome as this morning when both of those memories popped up on the day I am driving home from escorting my sister in Christ, Michelle through her own holy marathon. I couldn’t have planned it. I didn’t realize it. I’m shocked by that and not surprised by it at all.  Because He is SO like that and I love Him so.  

I’m confident that I’m not the only child He reveals himself to in this way. When you come upon the unreal, the hard to believe, and the amazingly coincidental- – I beg you to look a little deeper because He’s probably winking at you. And you don’t want to miss that, Trust me. 

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Crying Over Spilled Milk: The Traumatic Wean 

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Sometimes I can see how people think  I’m strong and amazing. Like today when I read the post I’m about to share from a year ago.  It’s hard to believe I was in a place to worship so boldly.  Because I was at the very end of a very hard thing that I had first about back in nursing school: the traumatic wean. 

Now I was 24 and childless when I graduated from the College of Nursing. That means I still had nights when going “dancing” meant drinking a little too much with friends. Children were treasures to be enjoyed at family holidays and in my dreams of my own future family.  So I memorized phrases like risk for mastitis and comfort measures and cold compress and feelings of depression and anguish.  

And even though I was professionally trained and experiencing the loss of my fourth child, nothing would prepare me for what I was about to experience.  

I was still in the ER when the thought first occurred to me that something horrible was coming. Something Beyond and different from the horror of grasping life without her. Something physically horrible.  I was going to have a massive supply of milk with no destination. A deposit of love and life that would not be allowed to be given.  

My entire body responded in a rebellion and rejection of her absence.  Of its dependence on her.  Pain and heat seared through me. My body could not contain the swell of hope that would no longer flow freely. In fact I believe I’ ve never fully taken on the anger that is hallmark to grief because I bore it physically that week. Every cell I have was enraged and revolted against me . . . as if I had decided her number and called for her quick exit. 

It was punishing and unexpected. One morning my breasts were a cozy village filled with life and love. Marked with safe boundaries and comfortable familiar nooks. By the end of the day, my chest had become a wasteland of devastation.  A scorched and barren country with no citizens to call its own.  I had been pillaged completely and without warning.  But not all storehouses were ravaged.  There was a bounty that could be offered to another tribe. I would be avenged. Because my God is just. He is an avenger. If I have been pillaged, I can trust it will be for good.  There is no need to cry over spilled milk made of love and hope and the best gifts of myself. Because even that Will be delivered by Him.  

The following was posted a year ago right after I found out what Gods plans were for my milk supply.  I wish those plans had been different. I wish I could say mine! Like an angry toddler but I am a mature child of the King who knows the truth: not my will, but your will be done. 


The God of Life Keeps GivingApril 29, 2016

I made a commitment to pump for my daughter daily as soon as my supply was well established and she had good weight gains going . . . as a result I had 80 ounces of life giving breastmilk but no longer held a baby in need. . . 

It brings me great joy to know that God is providing vital immunity and nutrition for an adopted newborn through the milk I was trying to provide for Ellis Grace. It was senseless to keep but so painful to throw away. So God will have me do neither and will instead claim victory in blessing another baby with boosted health. So I say again- my God sees me and assures that I do not toil in vain. . . just as He uses each drop of milk to the benefit of a precious child, He will make sure that each of my tears is holy and blessed for His purpose. Praise God from whom all blessings Flow. . . 

#EG41 #useEllis2tellus

Matchy Matchy 

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So one of the delights of my life was buying, washing, packing, folding and being photographed in the matching birth gowns I wore  with my daughter Ellis Grace.  We were the perfect pair from the start.  And those bright swirly gowns of hot pink and white were joyful and comfy and girly. We were certainly all about girly that day. 

Her wardrobe had been carefully planned for months. This February baby already had her Easter dress, summer swimsuit, and the perfect dress for a much anticipated family wedding in October.  Lots of shoes and more baby headbands than one could count.  

But when the funeral director asked me what we would have her wear, I was stopped in my tracks.  That was an outfit we didn’t have. Not once had it crossed my mind to have something for her to be buried in.  But she would indeed need one last garment and it would need to be perfect. 

When I think of Ellis, I think of perfect, precious, timeless roses. And she did have a rose themed gown and hat from her birth. That seemed right at the time. But We couldn’t find the hat or any hat that would match. Her autopsy and organ harvest procedures had left a definite need for a hat and possibly a thicker dress of some sort.  


I was distraught. Fashion was important to Ellis and me and she didn’t have what she needed.  Everything that happened that week was all we would get and it was important that we get it right.  So it was clear to me that she had to have a gorgeous christening gown of royal proportions with matching cap.  We live far from such shops and I was too weak to shop. 

My mother , who had never let me down on any ocassion in my entire life , began working the phones and gracefully demanding the best for her only granddaughter.  Between her and my sister Ange, I found myself quickly and joyfully browsing gowns via video call with my niece Aidan who was a holy servant to us that Week. 


The dress was perfect with satin laser cut design and Pearl trimmed edges. Pearls going down the center, little Pearl trimmed collar. And a sweet bonnet for my sweet girl.   It was perfect.  It was also from Dillard’s. My JoJo always said “If it’s important, you just need to go to Dillard’s and get it all at Dillard’s. You can mess around running all over to different shops but in the end you’ll wish you had just gone to Dillard’s. ” I knew even JoJo would be pleased. 

And I was really glad shopping was over.  Trauma, shock, and the crashing waves and rip tides of sorrow unspeakable had taken away any retail skills I had.  I couldn’t find the dress department – or ask for help or dress myself even. And yet I would be publicly mourning my daughter on Friday and I would need to wear something.  And it was Wednesday and we live in the middle of nowhere. 

It was our last shindig that we would wear anything to .  Her formal gown was perfect but it meant I would need to step up my game too.  So at 5 1/2 weeks post- partum, I started ripping and tearing through a closet for a funeral garment. My maternity dresses were too saggy and they had been filled with too much hope when Ellis and I wore them together.   My “regular” clothes wouldn’t be within my reach for many weeks. 

If it was nice enough for the funeral, I couldn’t fit in it. And if I could fit in it, then it really wasn’t fancy enough to be the mother of the bride. After all this was a public reception celebrating my daughter meeting her bridegroom and that is a royal affair. 

So shopping. Shopping would have to happen. My beloved sister since childhood, Shay, lovingly placed me in the car in a real Steel Magnolias moment and declared with a restrained smile that we would find the perfect thing.  My friend Karen joined us as we started our mission at Kohl’s. Karen is my favorite shopping buddy because she is honest and hilarious.  We would only need the honesty for this trip though. 

But Kohl’s was a land mine for me. The ladies dresses were placed next to the baby department for convenience.  And it conveniently ripped my heart out and brought me to my knees in a public store.  After struggling for some time, Shay grinned and said “well I think JoJo’s right hon- I think we just need to go to Dillard’s.”  

Now if there’s one thing Dillard’s had in spades, it was black ocassion dresses. Did . They. Ever. My friend Enedina met me there. And those 3 ladies made sure that I never had to speak to a sales person or tell my story, that I was not publicly viewed more than necessary, and most importantly that I found the right dress. 

They brought a lot of lovely things that didn’t work. They brought some things that could work but I just wasn’t feeling. And then they brought a dress I thought was too fancy for a country funeral.  “Do you think it’s too fancy? ” I asked Shay.  She paused and said with a sweet and snarky tone, “we’ll have you seen what Ellis is wearing?” Followed by her signature Okie wink. 

It was designer. It was expensive. Two things that are not normally in my closet.  But  It was heavily edged in Pearls. It had a pearl trimmed collar. And I realized it was the “matching” version of my daughters gown. We had been matching as she came into this world. And we would matching during her final curtain call.  

It wasn’t additional cruelty to be forced to go shopping. It was my good good Father  blowing kisses right to my heart. He gave me everything I needed . He spoke to my heart in the ways that confirmed He knows me best and He cared about what I cared about . . . Down to fashion and pearl clad collars.  He even brought fresh the memories of JoJo which always bring me strength and comfort. Because let’s face it my Midwest sisters, sometimes you just need to go to Dillard’s. I’m now convinced that God shops there too when it really matters. 


“And why worry about your clothing? Look at the lilies of the field and how they grow. They don’t work or make their clothing, yet Solomon in all his glory was not dressed as beautifully as they are.” Matthew 6:28-29

From Her Heart to Yours: Organ Donation

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The worst sound I’ve ever heard is the absence of her heartbeat.  I happened to have a stethoscope on the couch in the room I tried to revive her in.  I rabidly and aggressively listened begging for the sound I had always heard when caring for other people’s children.  It was to be no more. For a time.  God answered my prayer but not in the way I hoped.  For part of Ellis’ s heart did beat again – – giving life to other families begging God for the same beautiful cadence of their child’s heartbeat to continue. 

We are the proud parents of an Organ donor. We know that Gods purpose for Ellis was so much greater than this single gift of her earthly life. But because we believe that God answers all prayers with the right answer – as He sees all and knows all, we can rejoice that His loving “no” to our deepest cries was perfectly weaved into a beautiful “Yes” to the cries of two other families. We rejoice with them and trust that their faith has been made stronger because she lived and because He Lives Still. . . we couldn’t share a more beautiful heart than that of our sweetly delightful Ellis Grace. Please consider organ donation as a blessing to your family. We know God can heal and restore any way He chooses but how wondrous that this is one of those ways.  

Therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are Gods. . . 

1corinthians 6:20

I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh.

Ezekiel 36:26

#EG41 #useEllis2tellus #ellisgrace

Double Vision: Trauma Recovery

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Trauma Recovery has truly been one of the greatest adventures I have ever gone on with God.  It’s dark and confusing and I’ve had to get really good at seeking, asking, and hearing that spirit voice above the noise that trauma continues to generate.  It’s like going through a dark narrow cave and finding yourself stuck – – scared and squished- – it seems there’s no way out and then you hear Him say “twist this way” or you see a light shine exposing an opening you can comfortably reach. 

You keeping hiking toward lofty views with soaring victories but you also find yourself sinking on quicksand.  It’s not enough to suffocate you. He would never allow that. But it’s enough that you don’t feel solid ground and He allows a lot of that.  And when you don’t feel solid ground long enough , you wonder if you will ever feel solid again. 

He’s been faithful to guide me through every hurdle that trauma throws in front of me. All of the hurdles are different widths and heights and I can’t distinguish either while I’m running. So I must listen as the Father directs me in the exact approach needed to overcome the hurdle.  

One of the first hurdles was the repeated flashback visions of my daughter as I found her. 

As a Christian, I knew it was actually a good thing. . . A glorious homecoming and a wonderful peaceful way to move to a place called paradise. But as a mother, who found her child not breathing– this was great trauma to me.  Flooding my body with panic at the thought of that memory. 

Asking God to replace this image was the therapy of choice. My tribe called out to God to provide the right image.  I tried to think of actual angels carrying her homeward. And I tried to think of radiant light streaming to the spot where she lay. Nothing would stick and my mind always drifted back to pale, lifeless Ellis and the panic that vision brought about in my heart. 

So it seemed I would be stuck in that pressed nook of the cave forever. Until I went to a bathroom at a thrift store/ lunch counter in Atchison. I sat down, looked up and there it was. A picture that was much closer to the truth of the moment. A picture that whispered of things yet unseen. The picture of sweet chubby rosy cheeks, perfectly curled hair in a perfectly peaceful place. I don’t believe my daughter is an angel but I did believe she soared with the Angels. So even those subtle wings were right. It was exactly the right image to replace the image that was wrong in so many ways. 

And so every time I think of her lying lifeless in my bed, I make a conscious choice to replace that image with the cherub of my choosing. Really of His choosing.  Because as the tribe called to Him, He made sure that picture would call to me. The world calls it image replacement therapy and I call it  Gods gift. It cost ten dollars. But to me, it’s priceless. A light in a dark cave. An opening giving away to more comfortable territory.  

We’ll go on like this, He and I . . . Exploring each layer of trauma together. Claiming the ground of recovery with maps, clues, and bits of light He tosses me. I need only wait for the next one. 

Sailing through a Baby Shower

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Yesterday I posted a picture of me gritting through the beautiful mess of attending my first baby shower after my own baby daughter’s unexpected death.  It was a story of victory no doubt and about what is really worth fighting for in this heart of mine.  

I’m glad I posted it because maybe somebody will get enough courage to do something equally hard in an effort to let God accomplish true healing in their life.  That’s what our stories do for eachother. They show us what’s true and possible. What’s hard and worthy.  But upon reflection , I worry that you might think I sailed through those rocky seas without taking on any water. I did not. Rookie sailors don’t have the skills it takes to keep a deck dry in that kind of wind force. 

Ironically it was the prayer that knocked me off the captains seat. . . Made it impossible to reach the wheel to steer. The time came to pray for this young mother. This young family. This soon to be released life. And my breath stopped as my heart raced and I couldn’t walk toward the circle that I needed to be a part of.  

I was a bit paralyzed because I was already there and the most important thing was for my grief not to become a focus of their JOY filled event.  I don’t know if she was watching me the whole time or if God told her to glance my way at just that time.  But however it happened, my big sister was suddenly there. Somehow. 

I can only tell you that she was there and she calmly said ” do you want to come take a break with me? Let’s take a break.” She made it sound like she was already going that way and needed a buddy. She made it sound like no big deal.  And she took my hand and walked me to the back hallway. I stopped there.

  ” I don’t know why I can’t do this,” I said. 

 “It’s OK, ” she replied. 

” I love them and I’m so happy for them,” I choked out. 

” I know you are” she said strongly. 

” I want to pray for them  but I can’t pray with all those people. ”

I can’t explain why that would break me. Why it was too much. Too intimate. Too tender.  But it was. So we held hands and we prayed over my dear friends and their precious baby in the hall because I wasn’t strong enough to pray in the presence of others.  And I took a deep breath and brushed the water off the deck of my ship, dried off my Captains chair and sat my hiney back on it.  It looked like hugging some people I love and taking some goofy pictures. 

And my big sister was right. It was OK. And it was Ok to not be Ok. It was OK to come to the shower and OK to not be able to navigate every part of it. Ok to take a break. Ok to break a little bit myself . . . Ok to grab a moustache and get back in the boat. 

Did You Hear the News? 

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You’ve just heard the most tragic news. It’s sad. Shocking. Terrifying.  And maybe you stop to say a sincere prayer. Maybe you cry right where you are because of  their loss . . . The way their world has suddenly changed forever has rocked you to your core. You can’t imagine what it would be like to suffer such a paralyzing fate.  You don’t know what to do but one thing is for sure: you need to connect and rally around other humans United by the shock and sadness of this event.  Maybe the strong feeling to reach out to the actual family is suddenly upon you. 

What do you do? Well that’s up to you. But I’m begging everyone with truly good intentions to hear me out.  I know it sounds crazy but is there any way that respect and privacy could rise to the highest sense of urgency for a few hours? 

Trauma and sudden loss of life are tender topics. They are serious weapons of mass destruction but there are known elements that can soften their blow.  And it matters how you hear about these events and from whom.  It takes time to get a hold of the right people. It takes time to assemble the right support. It takes time to allow for code blues and body identifications to run their course.  For people to hear the words ” I’m sorry there was nothing more we could do” and to understand them. To say goodbye. To call the people – so many people who deserve to hear from a family voice. And to make decisions. 

And there is no dress rehearsal for death. You get one chance at all of it.  There is only one time you will hear those words. You don’t get to push a reset button.  I am sorry we live in an age where some people hear their sacred news on a social media comment. I know how disorienting it is to get “I’m sorry. We’re praying for you “texts way before you know what your prayer needs are.  I’m sad that containment and insulation are nearly impossible in these moments. We had to hurriedly send a family member to retrieve our boys from school because somehow people had already heard the news even though we hadn’t left the hospital.  We could have easily been denied the Holy privilege of bearing that news as a family together. 

So let it stop you in your tracks.  Let it break your heart and lift your prayers and rock your world. But please let it do those things for a very long time before it causes you to hit the SEND button.   Because that police scanner isn’t broadcasting breaking news , it’s begging you to let that first responder call be the only call for a good, long while.