Hoping to share the love, joy, and grace I have received in my own life.

We Get Another Chance

Sunrise, July 10, 2021, Chana, IL

If yesterday wasn’t your day (or maybe the past few days, week, or month), today is brand new. I was reflecting this morning on Psalm 73:26, “My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.” We are in God’s grip each day of our lives and even more so because we have the hope of resurrection. Whatever we face each day, keeping our focus on God gives us assurance that we are loved. We are treasured. We are held. People are going to let us down, even those we love, but God does not fail. God’s mercy is new each day. This beautiful morning is a brand new chance to focus on God, to treat others the way Jesus taught us, and to sit a few minutes with the Holy Spirit and listen to what God might speak to our hearts today.

Thank you, God of this beautiful sunrise, for your love, new to us each morning. We know that day and night you are working for good in the world. Guide our steps today. Grow in us a desire to serve you, to truly love our neighbors, and to focus on Jesus, our Savior, as we go about this Saturday morning. We are thankful for your new mercies today. In the precious name of Jesus, we pray. Amen.

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I’m Back!

It’s been a while, friends! So much has happened over the course of the past few years. When I began blogging, it was in hope of helping others who were grieving. The writing ended up being very cathartic for myself, as well. I have not been faithful to writing in this space for quite some time, but it is time for me to return.

So much has happened. I have completed seminary, been appointed to two United Methodist Churches, become an “Aga” (the made up word given to me by my precious grandson), and grown in God’s mercy, grace, and love. I am not sure where this blog is headed, but I want to try to keep up with it for a while, at least writing once a week or so. So, what do you all want to talk about?

I still find my place in the world of grief. Trevor walks with me each day and I love to share about how God has moved me to where I am now in my journey. This morning I was on my way to have breakfast with great friends/sisters in Christ and the song I have attached came on the radio. I was moved to tears – thankful for what God has done in my life. God has certainly broken new ground inside of me, healed wounds in me, made me new. This is a joy that I want to share with everyone I know…and everyone I don’t. I am free! In the same way, I am also realistic, grounded. I know the tragedies we face in this life are, at times, excruciating. God is there in all of it. That is too much of a gift to not share.

So, if I still have any followers, this will be a place where I will praise God for the good, lament over the hard things, and talk about life. I hope you’ll join me. In the mean time, listen to Tasha Layton sing “Look What You’ve Done”. The link is at the bottom of this post. This song speaks perfectly to the work God does in the lives of those who call desperately in the night for help. Hallelujah! Everyone deserves to feel this love and grace and mercy. Life is hard, but we have a God who loves us and desires a relationship with us that helps us muddle through the muck and rejoice on the mountains. Peace be with you all!


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Good Friday

This week is hard for us. Of course on Good Friday, we are reminded of what it was like for Jesus. There is a lot of pain this week, near 2,000 years since Jesus was crucified. The pain Jesus suffered was not only physical pain, but social pain, emotional pain. Today we are suffering some of the same. The sting of death is affecting me more so this year than in many others. Tomorrow it will be one year that Grandma Dolores died. The grief of that loss is difficult. Grandma was a very big part of my life and the lives of my children. Of course with her death, the grief I carry is compounded by the death of my son, Trevor. Trevor died 8 years, 4 months and 1 day ago. That will never be easier. No parent should bury a child. Now three days ago, my Aunt Mary died. This grief is compounded by the fact that although my Uncle Larry (her husband) and her kids and grandchildren live less than an hour from me, I cannot be with them, hug them, try to comfort them. So I sit on this Good Friday morning contemplating all that has been lost. I think about how Jesus took my sins, the sins of whosoever believes in him, to the cross. I think of the pain in this life. I grieve for Grandma. I want one more conversation, one more cookie baking, one more shopping trip. I want to pick up my phone and call her. I miss Trevor. I want to hear him sing, play his guitar, play his drums so loud that our floor vibrates. I want to talk about the latest band he likes, hear about whatever new science he has learned about, books he has read. I want to hear Aunt Mary laugh (totally infectious, especially when she was with her sisters) and hear her yell, “Randall!” at my cousin one more time. Sitting in this grief hurts my heart. So I remember that Sunday is coming. I think of the crucifixion and imagine Jesus, arms spread out, saying “This is how much I love you, Dana.” I scarce can take it in. I need to be reminded on this Good Friday more than any other before that Sunday is coming. Theologian Frederick Buechner said, “The worst isn’t the last thing about the world. It’s the next to the last thing. The last thing is the best. It’s the power from on high that comes down into the world, that wells up from the rock-bottom worst of the world like a hidden spring.” In this time of pandemic, of having to be physically distant from those we love, most of us are grieving. Many have lost loved ones. Employees are grieving loss of work. Employers are grieving letting employees go, as businesses cannot run as usual. Essential workers are risking their own health and the health of their families either to try to save lives of those that are falling ill or trying to keep the economy running, food on tables, and needs met. This Lent has been more uncomfortable than any other for me. How about for you? Does “Sunday’s coming!” mean more to you this year? I am ok sitting in this grief a little longer, but I am really longing for Sunday. I just wish I could spend it with my kids and grandson. BUT…that hidden spring is coming for all of us. Jesus’ suffering redeems us all. Our Savior knows all about the grief and the pain each one of us carry. I pray we are able to lay more of that at the foot of the cross this year. I’ll close today with lyrics from Chris Rice’s song, “Come to Jesus” –

Sometimes the way is lonely
And steep and filled with pain
So if your sky is dark and pours the rain, then
Cry to Jesus
Cry to Jesus
Cry to Jesus and live!

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It’s Never Too Late for Jesus

I felt called to share a small section of one of the books I’m currently reading, “The Women of Easter” by Liz Curtis Higgs. Someone needs to hear that it is never too late for us, not when it comes to trusting in Jesus. Healing will come, whether before the grave or beyond. ‘Tis so sweet to trust in Jesus.🙏

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Lesson From a Bird

For the past few days we have found this on our deck in front of our back door. 20190425_092402Above our door there is a small light, but it is flat on the top and only four inches (or so) across. There is a little of this material on top of that light too. The little bird that is trying to build a nest keeps trying, day after day, but the small light is not the right foundation. As the bird returns with more materials, what was already placed on top of the light has blown down. Yet the faithful bird brings more materials, flight after flight and day after day. I am reminded of Psalm 127:1, “Unless the Lord builds a house, its builders labor over it in vain; unless the Lord watches over a city, the watchman stays alert in vain.”

I’m thankful that God always sends me these little lessons when I need them. God always wants to partner with us in the work we are doing. Unless God is at the foundation, we are laboring in vain. I should know by now that when I try to do something by myself, it will eventually fall apart. When God is at the foundation of the work, it flourishes. I have been working so hard on so many things that I was letting ME get in the way of God’s work. I learned from this little bird today that I need to focus on my foundation. All of this that I am doing is not on my own.

Heavenly Father, your immeasurable love for me is more than I deserve. I want You to be at the foundation of everything I do. Help me, God to follow your lead and to remember that I am never on my own.  Amen.

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A Mother’s Day Reflection

This is a blog post that I wrote on Mother’s Day 2014 on the Serenity Hospice and Home Facebook Page.  Although I may still get a little weepy this weekend, reading this post made me realize how far I have come.  Trevor Jeffery will forever be a light in my life.  I am thankful for his life.  I love the little glimpses of heaven God gives to me of Trevor. Though he isn’t physically with me, he is still so very close.  My heart is full.  My son, my daughters, and my son-in-law all help me celebrate this day for what it is.  I also grieve for those that cannot celebrate on this day and know how hard it can be.  May peace and comfort and glimpses of heaven surround you all this weekend and the love of God strengthen those who struggle on this day.

When I was a child, Mother’s Day was the day that I needed to really show my mom how much I loved her. It usually came with a gift that I had made at school…a Dixie cup with a planted marigold, a finger-painted hand-print, or a charming poem. I remember the Mother’s Day of 1981, as the greatest with my mom. I was in 5th grade. I had a paper route and had been saving up to buy a “boom box”, which was a necessity for a preteen in that time. On the day before Mother’s Day, my mom’s hand mixer broke. My mom is a great cook. I imagine I must have thought about how the broken mixer could limit the chocolate chip cookies my mom would make. Anyway…I realized that a new mixer would be a great Mother’s Day gift. I walked to “Hardware Hank” and bought my mom a mixer. I remember running home. It wasn’t wrapped, but I burst through the door and gave her the best gift I have ever given her. It seems a little silly now, but in that time in our lives, she needed that mixer and I needed to show her how much I loved and appreciated her. She cried and I beamed with pride. When I became a mom, Mother’s Day made me appreciate my mom even more because I realized the work and the love and the time that she had really given to me when I was a child. I also became aware of the influence of so many other “mothers” in my life. I was blessed with wonderful grandmas and great-grandmas, all of whom loved me unconditionally and helped to shape me into the person I have become. I have aunts that seem more like sisters to me that I am thankful for, too. I have had guidance and influence from the mothers of friends throughout my life and when I was 23, added a special mother-in-law to this terrific group of women. Now I have many friends that are old enough to be my mom and I value their friendship and guidance, too. I hope that every day all of these women (especially my own mom) know that I value and appreciate and love them. This is my 3rd Mother’s Day since Trevor died. This day isn’t what it used to be. As I was reflecting this morning on what this day has become to me, I realized that I am short-changing my daughters…and my son. I remember the extreme happiness in my heart on the day that I gave my mom that hand mixer 33 years ago. I asked my husband and daughters, as I have the past few years, to please let this day go by quietly, peacefully, unnoticed. Maybe this day isn’t really about me and my grief. Maybe this day is about my children being able to show me that they appreciate me, like I appreciate my mom. I had a really rough week this week. My wonderful husband texts me on his break each day to check in and just tell me that he loves me. On Thursday, the text he sent said he was worried about me. I hadn’t been myself all week. When I replied, “I just want to get this week over with”, his response was “That’s what I thought it was. I love you.” Instantly, it hit me. I was struggling because this was the week of Mother’s Day. I anticipate the grief that will hit me on so many days, Mother’s Day is one of the hardest. I don’t plan it. I didn’t set out last Monday with the idea that I was going to have a rough week and that Mother’s Day was approaching. I have mentioned before the extreme disconnect between my head and heart that has increased immensely since Trevor died. This is just another example of that. In my head, I really want to celebrate by mom today. I want to thank her, my mother-in-law, my grandma, my aunts, my friends. I want my girls to smile and be able to tell me “Happy Mother’s Day” without me falling apart. My heart, though…my heart has other plans. I want to know how to fix it, but maybe I just can’t. There are so many people that this day is difficult for…those that have lost their moms, mothers that have lost children, women that long to have children and can’t, and even those who had mothers that didn’t give them the love and care that they saw others experience. For those struggling today, for whatever reason, my prayer is that they can find peace and comfort in some part of this day to be thankful for. For me, I am thankful for my mom. I am thankful that God gave me three beautiful children to love and that although my son left me way too soon, his life, along with his sisters’, are shaping me into the woman I am. I am a better mother, wife, and person because I have the greatest children and wonderful women in my life. I am going to try to smile today, to laugh, and to love. Please understand that if I can’t, it isn’t because I don’t want to. It’s because my heart won’t let me. Today and every day, though, I am thankful God allowed me to be a mom and that he blessed me with so many influential women in my life. Peace, Dana

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On to My Next Goal

When I started seminary I knew that my life was going in a different direction than I ever would have imagined. What I didn’t anticipate was how this new path in my journey would transform every aspect of my life. God is helping me to get healthier in mind, body, and spirit. I cannot emphasize enough how joyful I feel. For over a month last fall I knew that God was telling me that I needed to take better care of my body so that I can better care for others.  I just felt that I would never be able to do it.  The week before Thanksgiving I knew that if I didn’t start right then I would have more work to do after the holidays.  I saw an inspirational video from a woman I didn’t know, Kim.  Kim had lost more than 80 pounds in a year.  Her weight story sounded a whole lot like mine.  I met Kim that week, started out in cardio drumming classes and started maintaining a healthy diet with the help of Herbalife.  I made a goal to lose 20 pounds by my birthday, which was only two months away.  Yes, it was a big goal, but I have a BIG God that is working through me every single day.  My birthday arrived.  I stepped on the scale.  I had lost just over 18 pounds.  I was feeling a little defeated.  Kim reminded me of where I started. In those two months I also celebrated Thanksgiving, Amy’s birthday, our wedding anniversary, Christmas, New Years, the end of my first semester at seminary, a week of seminary intensive, and my birthday.  In those two months I also had to pass the darkest day of my life, the day of Trevor’s death, 6 years ago.  I realized how amazing it was that I had lost 18 pounds in that two months.  Last night I hit my goal.  In fact, I passed it.  Exactly two weeks past my birthday I am down 21 pounds.  My next goal is to hit the 50 pound mark.  I hope to do that by June 1st.  I feel so wonderful already I cannot imagine what another 30 pounds will do.  I have noticed some interesting changes in this first 20 pounds.

  • I have shoes that are too big.  I think this is mostly due to the inflammation that has been eliminated from my feet, with the help of a large increase in water intake.
  • My glasses are falling off my face.  I have tightened them as much as possible, but my face is thinner and especially during my drumming workouts, I am constantly pushing my glasses up.  They even fall off.
  • My clothes are baggy.  I haven’t bought anything new.  I am sure I am down at least one size, but why buy now?  I still have a long way to go.  Since we are experiencing the cold of winter anyway, I add an extra shirt that I can tuck into my pants to help them stay up.
  • I don’t need to catch my breath after climbing stairs.  I don’t get out of bed dragging and feeling groggy like I used to.  I have energy that I don’t even remember ever feeling in my life.
  • The biggest change is in my emotional self.  I am a fairly positive person most of the time and try to keep a bubbly disposition, which comes from my relationship with Jesus.  The changes that have come from regular exercise, healthy eating, encouragement from my coach, and God’s work in my life have brought me such indescribable joy that it is hard to contain.

I am at the point where I feel like I am exactly where I am supposed to be in life and that feels like such a gift.  I still have a long way to go, but I have never felt stronger about the path I am on and how God turns pain into joy.  Believe me, I know that it is not all rainbows and unicorns.  I’ve been in the deepest pit of grief and despair.  I think that is why I am able to say with bold confidence that God has picked me up, dusted me off and put me on solid ground.  I love this life and cannot imagine where I will be a year from now and that is exciting!

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The Yearview Mirror- 2017

As I sit here on this cold winter morning with my warm cup of coffee, daylight has just started to illuminate the white stuff covering our Northern Illinois ground.  I am pondering just what it is I am hoping for with the possibility of the new year approaching.  I am not one to really make resolutions, but I do ponder the year ending and consider hopes for the year to come.

2017 was a good year with several changes for our family.  Amy graduated high school and began college.  Megan and Austin celebrated their first wedding anniversary.  Megan graduated from college.  Jeff lost a job, due to a plant shutdown, but began another job just 10 days later.  Jeff and I went to visit University of Dubuque Theological Seminary in July, as I was searching for the next step to take in answering a call that I believe has been on my life for years.  On our drive to Dubuque that morning, we talked about the possibility of me taking a couple classes to try to discern what to do next.  God worked that day the way that God does and I was accepted and enrolled as a full-time resident student of the seminary and have begun the Master of Divinity program.  I had a successful first semester and am preparing for an intensive class that begins in just 9 days with about 1800 pages of reading on United Methodist history.  I have more than 20 books to order for the approaching spring semester.  You can guess how the majority of my time is spent right now, but I absolutely love it!  I feel like I am in the perfect place, not only with my seminary experience, but in my life in general.  I have begun taking better care of myself.  I had been contemplating how it is I could care for a congregation when I wasn’t properly caring for myself.  In November I started a healthy living plan with regular exercise (cardio drumming is AMAZING) and better eating habits.  With just over a month in the program, I cannot believe how much better I feel…emotionally and physically.  I am leaving 2017 with much more than I started with.

It has been more than six years since Trevor died.  There are still times that completely take my breath away and I cannot believe he is gone, but I think this is the first year that I can actually look back on the past twelve months and see that everything really will be alright.  Life isn’t at all the way we planned it.  That’s the way God works.  God takes circumstances we cannot see any way out of and turns them into something we never would have imagined.  My favorite part of 2017 has been that Jeff and I have put a priority on our time together and are dating again.  That sounds a little silly, knowing we just celebrated our 24th wedding anniversary, but I feel like a newlywed.  I am sure it comes from all of the experiences this year has brought.  My seminary experience is, as expected, bringing me closer in my walk with God and the joy that comes from that is unexplainable and floods every aspect of my life.  Finding a healthy way to fuel and care for my body has been a major lift and I’m only a month in.  Megan and Austin are doing great.  Austin has one semester of school left and Megan begins her career as a Special Education Teacher in just a few days.  Amy is doing terrific in college and is enjoying her job as a paraprofessional in a Special Education classroom, as well.  Life is good.  My hope for 2018 is that I am able to just take whatever comes my way and allow it to help me learn, to grow in my faith, to spend quality time with my husband and our kids, family and friends, and that I am able to use all the lessons God has for me to help make the world a better place.  That is my hope for all of us next year.  Let’s end 2018 even better than we begin it.

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The Day of Dread

December 9th has rolled back around.  I want this day to just be removed from my calendar.  I want to go to bed on December 8th and wake up on December 10th.  I don’t know what to do with this day.   Although this year marks 6 years since Trevor died, getting through this day is definitely not something I have worked out.  As I reflect this morning, however, I am reminded that for the first few weeks, I didn’t like the hours of the day that took Trevor from us.  For several months following that, I couldn’t handle Fridays.  Then for many months after that, it was the 9th of every month.  I can be thankful that I only have to face this day once a year now.

I have learned so much in 6 years and so much has happened within our family in 6 years.  Those great things cannot be reconciled with the fact that for 6 years I haven’t heard my son sing, speak, pound on his drums, or strum his guitar.  For 6 years, he has not hugged me…or his dad…or his sisters.  For 6 years, he has not sat on our couch or at our table or in front of our Christmas tree. For 6 years we have missed him, wanted him here, and questioned why he is not.  The grief is painful.  Day-to-day it has become manageable somehow.  We all function quite well.  We remember Trevor’s life, his love for music, his sense of humor, his intelligence, and his love for all of us.  On December 9th though, I feel swallowed up by grief…still.

I know there isn’t a time limit for grief and I don’t want to ever quit grieving for my son.  I love him.  I love him so much.  The grief we all face is the love that remains when someone we love leaves us.  I’m never going to stop loving Trevor.  I’m never going to stop grieving for Trevor.  I just wish this one day could be removed.  That’s certainly not to say I don’t grieve all year, but the excruciating pain of December 9th is different.  I despise this day.  I cannot ever imagine a time when this day will not haunt me.  As soon as November arrives I begin watching the date.  The knot in my stomach grows larger and tighter and it gets harder to breathe.  When December 10th arrives, which happens to be Jeff’s and my wedding anniversary, it’s like a new year has begun and I wonder how we all got through another year without Trevor.  It honestly happens like that.  It is a horrible 24 hours and then it is gone.

This year Amy graduated from high school.  Jeff started a new job.  Megan and Austin celebrated their first wedding anniversary.  Amy started college and I started seminary.  Megan is graduating from college next weekend and begins her career as a special-education teacher in less than a month.  2017 has been a terrific year for our family.  I have celebrated all of those things.  Please allow me this one day to not celebrate, but to grieve deeply, to yearn for a big Trevor hug, to want…to dream of what he could have been.  Please allow me this one day to just do whatever it is I have to do to get the hours to pass.  This day is the day that I watched my sweet son take his last breath and no matter how many years pass, this day will never be anything but the day of dread.

Oswald Chambers said, “There is only one being who can satisfy the last aching abyss of the human heart, and that is the Lord Jesus Christ.”

You are blessed God, even the Father of my Lord Jesus Christ, Father of mercies and the God of all comfort, who comforts me in all my tribulation, that I may be able to comfort those who are in any trouble, by the comfort with which I myself am comforted by You.  ~2 Corinthians 1:3-4