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

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!

1 Comment »

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.🙏

1 Comment »




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.

Leave a comment »

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

Leave a comment »

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!

Leave a comment »

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.

Leave a comment »

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







Running Stop Signs

Have you ever run a stop sign?  I did.  Yesterday morning on my way to work, I ran a stop sign that I have stopped at hundreds of times.  I didn’t crash.  No one was hurt.  I narrowly missed a van that had the right of way on the highway that I crossed as I passed by that glaring red octagon.  Oddly enough, the van kept going and I pulled over to collect myself.  That was a wake up call to me.  Although I have known for the past two weeks that something in my life had to change, it took me running a stop sign (which could have been deadly to both myself or someone else) to make me realize this was serious and I really needed to make a change.

Our lives get so filled with things to do that we start missing the really important things (like a stop sign.)  As a full-time seminary student, a full-time church employee, a full-time mother/wife, other family obligations, a volunteer/nominated servant of the church where I am a member, and all the things we all do to get through this life…my life is jam packed.  I have known for a few weeks that something had to change.  I am getting sleepier, more stressed, not feeling my joyful self, and really out-of-sorts.  I cling to all the things on my to-do list, because I don’t feel like there is anything I can let go of.  I don’t want to let anyone down. As I was driving to work yesterday, thinking of the multiple worship teams I am on for seminary, all of the reading and writing that I need to get done, projects at my job, struggles that many people I love are facing, the annual church conference for my home church coming in just a few days, and all the other normal life duties that we all have, I ran right through a stop sign.

It woke me up.  I think that’s why it happened.  I think that I needed something to shake me and wake me from the downward spiral I was on.  Yes, it’s only been a few weeks.  Yes, people have way worse lives than mine.  I am not complaining.  I love my life, but yesterday was my warning that I was missing more than a stop sign.  As I have written about before, for several years now I have been spending the first 30 (or more) minutes of my day with God.  Most often I read a devotion of some sort.  then I look to Scripture to discern what I have read and then pray and listen for God.  It is a practice that I had no idea would become life-giving to me, but meeting with God every day saved my life.  Do you know what I wasn’t doing the two weeks prior to running the stop sign?  I wasn’t spending my first 30 minutes with God.  I needed 30 more minutes of sleep.  I needed to stay up 30 minutes later to complete an assignment.  I needed 30 more minutes to catch up on laundry, sweeping…the list goes on and on.

I am blessed with so many wonderful people in my life.  On Monday between classes, a couple of my peers (thank you, Mark & Kellen!) at seminary helped me discern a few things that I could let go of to get back on track.  One of them recognized I wasn’t myself.  Then yesterday, Pastor Rob, my boss/mentor/friend listened to my lamenting and talked me through all of it without making me feel like a total train wreck.  His last wise words to me were, “First, get that 30 minutes back.”  So I did.  This morning I got up at that early hour and continued a study that I abandoned in July when I started studying for seminary.  I am confident it was not ironic that the lesson that I returned to was a lesson about my neglect of my time with God.

I read and reflected on Exodus 34:28-35.  Moses comes down from Mt. Sinai after receiving the Ten Commandments from God and from being in God’s presence, Moses’ face is so radiant that the Israelites were afraid to look at him.  This was the perfect lesson for me today for a couple reasons.  For one, I was able to share a part of it with my husband, to help him with something that he has been discerning.  For two, I was reminded that the mark of radiance on Moses faded.  The greater the gap of time since he had climbed the mountain, the more his radiance dissipated.  The two weeks that I did not begin my mornings with God, my radiance dissipated, too.  I wasn’t reflecting the radiance of my God, who assures me that although I may not make time for God, God is always making time for me.  I can’t do it all, but to be the best me and to keep working towards being the best Christian/mother/wife/friend/pastor I can be, I need to keep my eyes on the One who has brought me this far.  Also a nugget of wisdom from Rob, I need “to say “no” to a few things now, so that I can say “yes” to more important things later.” I am hoping that as I get through the next few days the radiance in my heart (and hopefully on my face) from my time with God will return and I will be back on track.  On my drive to work this morning, I didn’t run a stop sign.


1 Comment »

Happy Birthday, My Sweet Son!

I wish I could hear his voice, hear him sing, hear him play his ukulele, guitar, or even pound on his drums.  I wish I could hear him say, “Love you, Momma” once more.  I wish I could witness another prank he would play on his sisters or see him be the big brother to both Megan and Amy, even though he was the middle child.  I wish I could see him duck hunt with his daddy.  I wish I could watch another documentary with him, only to hear him add his own commentary on whatever the topic, because chances are he knew something related to whatever the documentary might be about.  I wish I could see him sitting at the end of our pew at Lighthouse UMC (although some Sunday mornings, if I close my eyes just right and turn my head to the north, I swear I can see him there.)  I wish that he was asking Megan to make him a cherry pie for his birthday and that he was here tonight to help Amy with her math.  I want to hear him laugh.  I want to see him on stage again.  He was my actor, my musician, my comedian, my Einstein, my poet, my son.  He brought joy to our lives.  This isn’t any easier.  This is Trevor’s sixth birthday in heaven.  I want to celebrate his life.  I just can’t do it without this terrible sick feeling in the pit of my stomach.  I want him here.  I need him here.  His sisters and his dad need him here.  His death has left a gaping hole in our family, but his life…his life is what has made me who I am today or who I am trying to become.  How do I reconcile that?  Because of Trevor’s life and death, I found hope in a world full of pain.  I learned that Jesus wants to have this beautiful relationship with me (and with all of us.)  I want to share the grace, mercy, and love that God has brought to me through this horrible circumstance.  I don’t know if I ever would have gotten to this place in my life without Trevor’s life.  On what would be his 21st birthday, I want to say, it isn’t easier.  The pain can come on as forceful and raw and as merciless as that horrible night.  It’s excruciating at times…still.  Tonight the ocean of grief is surrounding me, but I know that once his birthday passes, we will all keep trudging through until December when it hits again.  Trevor Jeffery will always be missed, always be loved, and will never be forgotten.  If you would like to remember Trevor on this, his 21st birthday, please see the short video I put together tonight.  Remember my boy and his smile and his heart and his talent. TrevorJCox video