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

Broken Chains

For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery. ~Galatians 5:1

I’m trying something new.  My goal is to do this everyday for one week (July 1st – 7th.)  If you aren’t interested in a short devotion each of these seven mornings, you don’t have to read further.

As we enter the month of July, independence immediately comes to mind.  I am thinking of how I have been set free from so much and (more importantly) that I never want to be chained to any of those things that bound me ever again.  Galatians 5:1 says, “For freedom Christ set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.”

The first verse of the 5th chapter of Galatians starts with a clear statement of Christ’s will for our lives.  We don’t need to wonder or worry about Christ’s will for our lives.  Jesus died to set us free from sin but also free of the list of laws and regulations passed down through Moses.  This doesn’t mean that we are free to do whatever we want, however, because that would only lead us back into slavery.  Thanks to Christ, we are able to do what we weren’t able to do before…to live free of the weight of the yoke of slavery to whatever it is that held us.   I have broken so many chains, chains that I hope will never hold me again.  Because I have a personal relationship with Christ, I know that he has redeemed me and wants a relationship with me so that I am able to live in the light of his love and not tied down to addictions, grief, feelings of being “less than”, etc.

Our feelings of freedom are much more important to God than many of the daily decisions that we all seem to fret over.  Are you just as concerned about the command to enjoy your freedom as you are about other decisions in your life?  We have to exercise as much diligence in prayer and study to hold on to this freedom as we do about decisions regarding our home, our job, or our hobbies.  It is a concise and unconditional command: “Stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.” This is the will of God for you: your freedom…unshakable, tireless, unconquerable freedom. For our freedom, Christ died. For our freedom Christ rose again.  For our freedom he sent us his Spirit.  Freedom from sin, shame, guilt, addiction, abuse…it goes on and on.  The chains can be undone.  How amazing the independence feels when we accept it!

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Splendor of a Saturday Morning

Last Saturday, my husband and I decided to head out to a local wooded area to look for morel mushrooms.  We started out at a little after 6:30 that morning and got to see the glorious sunrise together.  Although we didn’t find what we were looking for, we had a wonderful time.  In fact, about 10 minutes into our walk, I had forgotten the reason we were there.  Besides the beautiful sunrise, we experienced animals waking up, as we were.  We listened for different birds.  We let the beauty of the woods and nature all around us just soak in.  We climbed hills.  (I might call them “steep cliffs”, but Jeff would tell you that I am being a little dramatic.)  In fact, at one point, I mentioned how this early morning exercise made my heart beat strong and energized me.  Jeff’s response, in his boisterous way, was- “Welcome to Jeff’s Wilderness Walk, a great adventure for all!”   Have I mentioned how much this man makes me laugh?  20170422_070948Anyway…a few really special things happened that morning.  If we would have been looking down at the ground, searching for mushrooms, it’s likely we would have missed what we were really suppose to witness that day.  Jeff showed me a huge rock and told me the story I have heard many times (but never enough) of he and Trevor climbing to the top of the rock several years ago.  I looked all around that rock and couldn’t imagine how they climbed it.  When we got around to the side so that Jeff could show me exactly where they went up, the sunshine fell perfectly among the trees, providing a radiant beam of light that warmed our hearts and soothed our souls.  Oh, how we miss our son!  We are so blessed with little reminders and signs of his life all around us.  20170422_070605.jpgThe only part of Saturday’s early morning walk in the woods that I might’ve forgotten (had I not found the beauty in it) was the fight against what we believe to be multi-flora rose bushes.  Sharp thorns scratched my arms and legs.  Avoiding them was next to impossible in some areas of the woods.  Just when I felt like my little Dana-drama-whine might start taking over, I realized that without those little daggers, roses wouldn’t flourish.  20170422_072410-2Isn’t that what our lives are like?  Thorns may stun us for a certain amount of time, but we push through the sticks and scratches and keep moving through to find the beauty that lies ahead.  And oh, there is so much beauty to behold if you take the time to notice it.  Looks like rain this weekend, so we may not get an early morning walk, but I’m sure God will find another way to show us something magnificent.

A person’s heart plans his way, but the Lord determines his steps. ~ Proverbs 16:9

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2017, Here I Come!

As another year begins I am pondering the passing of time.  Year after year seems to pass quicker the older I get.  As a young child, time was not all that important to me.  My parents were there to be sure I got to school on time, to appointments on time, etc.  As I grew older into my teenage years, I still was not chained to a tight schedule.  Yes, I had to be at a job or in class at a certain time, but I seemed to have so much time available to do all the things I wanted to do.  After becoming an adult, getting married, working a full-time job, and having children it seemed we were always busy.  At one point in time, I was teaching Confirmation, co-leading a 4-H group, working full-time, heavily involved in a community theater group and my church, and running three kids to whatever activities they were participating in.  I still felt like I had a lot of time.

After Trevor’s death, I immediately began cutting things out of my life that took time that I felt I could be doing something more meaningful with.  This has been such an evolution in my life.  Yet, as I sit here this morning thinking of this new year, I see that of all the free time I had  in 2016, much of it was spent on my cell phone.  After work each night, I would cook dinner for our family, clean the kitchen, maybe throw in a load of laundry and then most often, I would sit in our living room with my phone in hand.  I might be playing Angry Birds, looking for hidden objects, doing a crossword, strengthening my brain, or viewing various social media sites.  Yes, I would have conversations with my husband and daughter, but I was attached to that phone.  I wasn’t the only one.  My husband sat attached to his tablet and my daughter was either on an iPad or her phone most of the time, as well.

I am not much on new year’s resolutions.  Perhaps that’s because, like many people, I start off gangbusters and about the second week of February old habits begin to start slipping back in.  I am not good at resolutions.  This year, though, I am focusing on another way to look at it.  What if I just decided that this year I just want to be a better version of myself than I was in 2016?  What if I just make improvements in my life that lead me to be happier and healthier because that is really what I want.  Isn’t it what we all want?  Don’t get me wrong, I am a happy person.  In fact, often I have people ask me how I can be cheery so much of the time.  The smile on my face, the joy in my heart, and my love of life comes from my relationship with Jesus.

So for 2017 I am going to be a better steward of my time.  I started today by removing all the games and most importantly, Facebook, from my phone.  I enjoy Facebook.  It helps me keep in contact with my so many out of state family members and friends.  I just get so worn by all of the negative sides of Facebook…people sharing mugshots, posting accidents or deaths before a family can be notified, and mostly people tearing other people down.  These things are not the things that I want to focus on in my life.  I want to help people, not hurt them.  I am keeping my Facebook for all the joy I receive from seeing pictures of my cousins’ kids and all of the fun things that my friends and family are doing.  I will be able to view Facebook on my laptop or iPad, but no longer will it be so easily accessible as my phone.  My cell phone will still be used for e-mail, texts, of course phone calls, and an occasional inspirational Instagram post.  I don’t want to have my phone attached to me like a lifeline to the world.

My family has big plans for 2017.  Jeff and I are going to join a Financial Peace University class in February to help get a better grip on our finances.  Our evenings will be spent with more games, puzzles, movies, talking with family and friends, and cleaning out the clutter in our lives.  We’ve already begun purging closets, cupboards, and drawers…lightening our load.  Eliminating clutter from our home is so freeing. We are going to do Bible studies as a family and I am so excited to see the growth that comes from that! All of these things are leading us, as a family, to become our best version of ourselves, to let go of stress, and to embrace this life we have been given.

Not so long ago, I thought my life was over.  Nothing made sense.  My heart was broken and there were many times I felt as if my heart would just stop beating.  Yet, here I am, five years later with a truer heart, a love for life, and a thankfulness for all of the blessings that I have.  I want everyone to have this!  I want all of my family to have the peace, love, and this mercy that I have found.  For 2017, I am going to try to be the best version of myself.  I know there will be tears, anger, hurt, and sadness because…well, those things are a part of life on earth.  I just know when those things happen where to put my trust and who can help me work through whatever life throws at me.  May 2017 be a year where we all can love more, smile more, and live more!  Happy New Year!


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It’s Getting Harder to Breathe

I am not sure how I got here, to where I am now, I mean. This Friday will mark 5 years since Trevor died.  Unbelievable.  At that time, numerous people said “the first year is the hardest” or “get through this first year and it will be easier”. I remember thinking, “Are you kidding me? Get through this first year? How am I supposed to do that?” Here is what I done for the past 5 years…I’ve prayed. I’ve cried. I’ve screamed. I’ve missed a lot of sleep. I’ve read books about grief and books about faith. I’ve written, spilling all of my emotions into this blog and other social media, hoping that just maybe my honesty might help someone else. I’ve talked and talked and talked to so many people that mean so much to me. Most importantly, I’ve reflected on Trevor…his life, every little thing about his mannerisms, his intelligence, and his personality. He was such an amazing kid. He had so much going for him. In the blink of an eye, it was all gone. If I didn’t have faith, I am sure I would not be here today. Three things have kept me going. One, knowing my son has a purpose, an important purpose and in life and death, he is fulfilling that purpose. Two, my daughters and husband need me here, as much as I need them. Finally, God is good. Faith has me sitting here, sharing my hurt and my heart with whoever is reading this. I have mentioned before how I do not understand why people constantly tell me how strong I am. I am not strong. I am just doing all I can to survive, to breathe, to live…without my son, physically here to hold. There are times I feel like I am totally crazy. There are times I cannot control the tears and the emotions that rage through me. I am not strong, but I am a survivor.  I have learned a lot the past 5 years and if I can share anything to help others who are grieving Trevor, or anyone else they love, it is this…reflect on Trevor’s life, not his death. He lived 15 years, 2 months, and 12 days and every single one of those days were blessings. He was happy. He was loved. He was funny. He was smart. He was caring. Please don’t think of his death. Think of his life. Try to smile and share stories about the amazing young man he was. I am blessed to be his momma and am thankful for making it through another year, but it isn’t because I am strong. It’s because I didn’t have a choice.


A Reminder

​I have posted this song before, but I needed to hear it this morning. Maybe someone else does too. This time of year is hard for so many people. Many of us lack money, time, and people in our lives that we believe would make this time of year easier to get through. Through the Advent season, I am going to focus on my intentions. For example, my intention on Thanksgiving Day is to enjoy the day, being thankful for all this year has been to our family. Yes, I am cooking a big dinner, but the worry of everything coming together perfectly is less important than the people I am spending the day with. If the dressing is dry, we’ll play an extra fun game or watch an especially funny Christmas movie and forget about my cooking mistake. My intention is good. I can do my best and that is all I can do.  
“I am tired. I’m worn. My heart is heavy.” This song admits my brokenness. This time of year is hard. I just want to get through it with what part of my heart is still intact. For me, I am thankful for God’s grace. I know that only He can “mend a heart that’s frail and torn.” 
Whatever your religious beliefs, focusing on the good in your life and being less worried about the fanciest meal, biggest gift, and best decorations helps take the pressure off. What if for this holiday season we all just tried to be a little kinder, more caring and less aggressive, angry, and stressed? Focus on the season and what it means to you. If you’re worn, too, take a breather.  Focus. Be intentional. “All that’s dead inside can be reborn.”https://youtu.be/J9UfRQUf64U


The Bandage is Removed

Today (well, technically yesterday now, as it is after midnight and I can’t sleep) didn’t go as planned.  I learned lessons…more lessons about life, dealing with it, and more about recognizing how the Holy Spirit can move in my life.  I have so many important things to share, but need to start at the beginning.  You know those days where you wake up and something is amiss?  That’s how my day started.  I woke up 45 minutes later than I wanted to, but get up early enough each day that those extra minutes of sleep didn’t throw too much off.  I still had time for 30 minutes of devotion (which at the time I had no idea how much I would need that later), time to make my husband’s lunch and coffee and get him out the door on time, and time with Amy before she headed out to start her day.

As I headed out the door myself I suddenly felt like I forgot something.  I unlocked the door of the house and reentered to be sure the coffee pot was off and my straightener was unplugged.  I wouldn’t call myself obsessive over these kinds of things, but today was just not a normal day.  The air was funny.  Something wasn’t right.  I rechecked my purse.  I had everything I needed.  I took a deep breath and headed to the car.  My phone rang, just before I put the key in the ignition.  Amy was having car trouble.  No big deal, we got her car back home and I would give her a ride to school and still be to work on time to open the church office.  I dropped Amy off and headed for work.  I was going to arrive at the office just in time to open right at 8:00, which was later than normal, but totally acceptable on this “off”day.  A red light caused me to make a split second decision to turn right and take what could’ve been a quicker route to work.  I didn’t think, while making that turn, about what it was leading me to.  I drove just a mile or two and realized I would be passing Lighthouse, my church, and also where Trevor is buried.  I cannot pass the cemetery without stopping.  As I approached the church, I considered that stopping at the cemetery would cause me to open the office a few minutes late, but I had an overwhelming reassurance that it was ok and that I needed to stop.  I actually pulled into the cemetery, drove down the lane, and rolled down my passenger window as if I was just going to holler, “Hey, Trevor, I miss you!  I was just passing by, running late.  I love you!” and speed off.  That air around me, much like that which wouldn’t let me leave my house this morning without double checking things, nudged me to get out of the car.  I walked over to the stone.  Stared at my son’s name and then the names of my husband and I.  I felt as if I was covered in a warm blanket. This comfort came over me that I honestly cannot explain and I was satisfied walking back to my car, after a prayer of thankfulness for the reassurance, which I knew had come from God.

The day didn’t start as planned but on my ride to work, I was reminded about my devotion just a few hours before.  Part of my study this morning were words from Beth Moore regarding the “anti-blessing” or “blessing of restriction”…blessings that come in ways we may not acknowledge at the time as being blessings.  My late arising was a blessing today because I hadn’t left home when Amy would need me.  The red light and last minute decision to take a different route was a blessing because I would soon need the reassurance that I experienced at the cemetery to get me through this day.  I made it to work feeling good about the day, opened the office and went right to work.  Suddenly things started to go very wrong.  As texts came, “Have you heard the news?”, my heart sank and I was suddenly feeling sick to my stomach.  As I was trying to figure out what was happening, my friend, Lisa, called.  There was a fire.  My friend (who was also my past co-worker and one of Amy’s 6th grade teachers) and her 3 year old son died as a result of that fire.  Immediately my heart went there…to that place that is so dark, so painful, so…indescribable, really.  My thought quickly went to her mother.  A mother who had just received news that not only had she lost a child, but a precious grandchild, as well.  My heart was bleeding.  Immediately the pain was so intense.  I was overwhelmed with questions…so many questions.  I started thinking of everything I could about my sweet friend, her sparkling personality, the smile that took up half of her face, her laugh, her love of life…and then to her son, that round face little guy who loved tractors and most certainly his momma.  Another mother on this planet did not love her child more than she treasured hers.  How can this be?  The next few minutes are a little bit of a blur.  I talked with people in my church office, texted my pastor there and knowing where I needed to be left to head to my other family, my OCEC family.  I worked for the co-op for 10 years.  Although I left to work for the church nearing two years ago, I still count my past co-workers as family.  We’ve been through too much together.  I can’t describe all of the conversations and feelings that filled this day, but I need to list some of the lessons I learned.

  1. The Holy Spirit is alive and guides me, knowing where I need to be to prepare me for what is coming next.  I have never been more sure of this than today.
  2. In the words of Pastor Chris (a past co-worker/friend’s husband, whom I just met today)…”Love is real.”  We will never know why, but we know that love is real.  It is felt.  We are able to keep moving through this life because of that love.  Love is real.
  3. God doesn’t make bad things happen.  God is there to bring us through the things that we cannot ever understand.  He works in us and in others to lead us to a greater understanding of this life and the life ahead.  God knows pain.  He knows it all.  We can yell at him and he can take it.  He will never stop loving us.  His love is so very REAL.
  4. Life is short.  No matter who we must let go of, it will never be easy.  When we don’t have an explanation, it becomes even more difficult, but love…love gets us through.  The love of the person that has died, the love of those around us, and the love of God.  (I know I stated that in#3, but I needed to reiterate.)  Love gets us somehow through the craziness that is this world.
  5. People are valuable.  I cannot possibly list the many, many people that encouraged me to keep going today, no matter how bad I wanted to just quit…to go home, close my bedroom door, flop myself on my bed, cover my head and just cry until the tears wouldn’t come anymore.  Instead I supported others and tried to exhibit the Light that I am so privileged to see after such a season of darkness.  People need people.  My OCEC family will forever be my family.  They knew me before my life became all that it is today and they were with me through the hardest days of my journey.
  6. The pain that I received when Trevor died allows me to feel things that others can’t.  I was immediately in the mind and heart of a mother…a mother with earth shattering news.  There is no description that would ever do that justice, so I will leave it at that.  That pain doesn’t leave me.  It can be masked and when covered in prayer and faithfulness, it can be lighter, but when faced with another situation, knowing another mother is hearing news that I have heard, it is like the bandage is ripped off abruptly and the blood of that pain comes oozing out just as it did on the day it became a part of me.

As we move through the next few days, my prayers will be for my own family (as we say good-bye to my Uncle Lynn), for the family of sweet Maggie and her precious son, Amos, for my OCEC family, for Maggie’s students and for all of her other friends. Most of all…my prayers are for this world.  I pray that in this election season that seems bogged down with more hatred than love people will start to realize that love is real (THANK YOU, PASTOR CHRIS!) and that love is what gets us through.  Love.  I will pray for more love.


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20 years ago today, I went into labor.  It was my Great-Grandma (Gruben) Kitner’s 90th birthday, a Friday.  Your dad and I agreed to name you Trevor Jeffery, although your dad’s first choice was Beau Hunter (I know, right???)  I think he may have been joking, but he looked awfully serious.  You were a beautiful baby boy, immediately loved by your big sister and your parents.  I have wonderful memories of so much of the 15 years, 2 months, and 12 days with you.  There are so many things that I know from that time.  I know you loved us.  I know you were the smartest young man that I ever personally knew.  I know that your brain went so fast sometimes that it was hard for you to think (because that’s what you told me.)  I know you were funny.  I know you loved music and spent so much of your last few years writing songs, playing instruments, and singing.  I can still hear your voice in the quiet sometimes.

For all of these things that I know, there is so much that I don’t.  I don’t know where you would be today.  I have no doubt that you would be in your second year of college, but it is hard to imagine where.  It used to be easier when I followed your friends and saw what they were doing because I could picture you there.  As we get further away from that horrible day though, I am losing a grip on the life that I was imagining, the life that could’ve been.  Maybe that’s why your birthday this year seems harder than the past.  I don’t want to be further away from you.  I miss you.  I want you here.  That will never ever change.  The pain changes though.  Like a rushing river, it may be still…just that dull ache.  On days like today, though…on this, your 20th birthday, the raging river is so violently moving that  I am not sure if I will remain afloat or be pulled completely under.  I’m not sure how to function today.  I am losing you…again.  I can’t imagine where you would be.  Who am I kidding?  I don’t want to imagine anything.  I want you here.

The pain that aches today is anything but dull.  It is a sharp, ripped open, raw heartache.  You should be here.  That business of “It will be easier after you get through the first year, Dana”…well, that’s crap…something people tell me because they don’t know.  They don’t know what it is like to watch day after day pass without you.  As more days pass, it gets harder.  I get older.  My memories aren’t as clear.  I am losing parts of you that I can’t stand to lose.  Trevor Jeffery Cox, don’t you leave me again.  Visit me in my dreams.  When songs come on the radio that we used to hear together, let me hear your voice.  I need you, my sweet, sweet boy.  I need your laugh, your hipster jokes, your music, your light.  Do you know how much you are loved?


He was more to me.

As we approach what would be Trevor’s 20th birthday next week, the walls are beginning to close in.  Although I can say, “On his birthday, we celebrate his life”, that’s my head talking.  My heart says, “Really?  He would be 20 this year?  I cannot believe I have survived 5 of his birthdays without him sitting at the table blowing out candles or cutting the first piece of Megan’s homemade cherry pie (his favorite.)”  I know that of the two dates in the year that I typically struggle the most, his birthday is easier than the date of his death (I can’t call that an anniversary.  It doesn’t seem like an anniversary to me.)  Anyway…another thought comes to mind today, too.  This week I will go to the cemetery and change the adornments on Trevor’s grave from summer to fall.  Last year, my grandma bought the cutest little cowboy boot bird house and I hung it on the shepherd’s hook there.  A week or so later, I had a person ask me why we hung a cowboy boot.  “That just doesn’t seem like Trevor to me” she said.  I can’t remember how I responded to that.  Maybe if that person reads this post, she will remember.  I know now, though, that this is my thought-out response…

I didn’t only bury that 15 year old young man (not a fan of country music or cowboy boots.)  I buried my only son, the beautiful baby boy who’s crooked smile melted my heart, the one who would twist my hair in his tiny fingers when I rocked him to sleep (sometimes so much that his daddy had to untangle them before I could lay him down.)  I buried that chubby cheeked two year old that recited the Lord’s Prayer and an obscene amount of nursery rhymes.  I buried that cowboy boot and cowboy hat wearing three year old that proudly strummed his toy guitar at the Thompson family Christmas as he sang Tim McGraw’s, “Don’t Take the Girl.” (Yes, that’s why the cowboy boot is appropriate to me.)  I buried the 5 year old that began reading chapter books.  I buried the little boy that discovered encyclopedias in our basement and had a whole new excitement about learning everything about anything.  I buried the fun-loving brother to two sisters (one older and one younger) that adored them and although he might tease them, he believed no one else should.  I buried the boy that shared all kinds of trivial knowledge and could literally carry on a discussion with adults on nearly any topic from the time he was about 8 (and he knew what he was talking about.)  I buried that young man that was never afraid to show his love for his parents or his sisters, even in front of his friends.  There is so much more to Trevor than all of these things, but I just want you to understand, he was more to me.  I buried all of his future.  I will forever wonder where he would’ve went to college, who he might’ve married, if he would’ve passed his dad’s height, if he would have become the “comedian-musician-anesthesiologist” like he discussed with Jodi (as I laughed and looked at him trying to picture him all grown up.)  I couldn’t picture it then and I will never see it now.new-baby

I can’t imagine Trevor as a 20 year-old, but I have so many images of that boy in my head, from newborn to 15.  My heart hurts today.  I am going to take a deep breath and get through the next 8 days.  If you see me on the verge of tears, I’m ok.  Although this is the fifth of Trevor’s birthdays without him, it isn’t any easier than the first.  So for this week, the Scripture I will focus on is Psalm 147:3, “He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.”   I will persist in leaning on God and allow Him to continue the process of healing my broken heart.  I am thankful for my faith and praying today for those who have lost someone close to them and do not have the faith to get them through these very difficult times.  I am not sure how I would do this without the mercy and grace and love offered through Jesus Christ.  Trevor Jeffery Cox, you are not missed any less today than you have been all of the 1,746 days we’ve passed without you.


Grief lesson #362

Ok…I am honestly not sure how many lessons I have learned while working in this sea of grief following Trevor’s death.  I know the list I was once keeping is in a pile of my writing somewhere and was near 100 lessons, but I misplaced it a couple years ago and oh, brothers and sisters, have I learned so many lessons since then!  I have talked with a few people about the change in me over what has now been 4 years, 7 months, and 28 days since Trevor’s physical body left this life.  I think about those changes often.  Yesterday I realized that maybe it isn’t so much that I have changed, but that I have grown.  I just see things differently now. When things happen, big things (well and sometimes even small things) I tend to think about them in two ways…as how I can deal with them now and as how I might have dealt with the same situation if I had never experienced the excruciating loss of my son.

My grandpa has begun chemotherapy.  My daughter, Amy, took him to the first two appointments and yesterday I took him to the third consecutive day of this new process.  While we were sitting in that tiny room, Grandpa and Grandma both fell asleep.  As I looked at them both, I was overwhelmed with emotions.  I thought of so many memories that they both have given to me throughout my life.  I thought of good times and bad.  I thought of how much they have both been through and what their parents had been through in their lives, too.  I thought about how much of an influence my grandparents have been not only in my life, but in the lives of my children.  They have always wanted to spend time with me, with us.  They invested time in our lives.  That time gave us (and is still giving us) all memories that are ours to treasure forever.

Family is so important and my grandparents show us that every day.  Looking at each of them, both fighting different forms of this horrible disease, what I saw was…beautiful.  I saw how beautiful and amazing their lives have been, their influences on our lives, and how special they each are.  I said a prayer and thanked God for them and suddenly felt as if someone asked me, “Dana, what would this moment be like without the grief that has covered your life?”  Whoa!  Really??  All of the sudden I realized that I was looking at my only surviving grandparents, both of them seriously ill, and thinking about the “beautiful picture.”  What is wrong with me?  I then considered how this would be without this grief I carry.  The picture certainly wouldn’t have looked “beautiful.”  I imagine that I would be a nervous wreck and not thinking of all the love and fun times that my grandparents have shown me.  I would have been filled with worry and “what ifs.”

Instantly, my mind is racing 100 miles per hour and I feel like I can’t keep up.  I think of how Trevor’s mind worked in this way, how he could never stop thinking.  I thought of how different my life is, not only because Trevor is physically missing from it, but because of the change in me.  I realized yesterday that maybe I haven’t changed as much as I have grown.  Trevor’s death changed my life.  It changed every single aspect of my life.  The world around me is different, but it is because I am looking at it through different glasses.

I have written about how I look at my life in two time frames…one before Trevor died and one after.  I have to, because when Trevor left my life, part of the old me left with him.  I was changed overnight, but I have grown since his death and I am learning to be comfortable with the growth.  I WILL ABSOLUTELY ALWAYS MISS MY SON.  I love him.  I wish every single day that he could be here.  I see, though, beauty that I didn’t see before.  The change occurred in me from Trevor’s death, but this growth has occurred because of the way I have responded to that change.  I work every day through painful thoughts and wishes that can never be fulfilled.  I pray every day for God to let me survive the heartbreak of burying my son so that I can live to see the lives of our daughters continue to blossom.  I have pain every single day.  I have thoughts that no momma should ever have…thoughts  that I wonder if they will ever go away.  BUT…I have peace, a peace that I have received as a follower of Jesus.  I know God’s promise.  I wouldn’t be anywhere close to where I am today without the Holy Spirit guiding me and God’s arms holding me when I get so low I feel there is no getting up.  I know that I will see Trevor again and I know that this life is really just a flash in the pan.

I don’t want to go back to the old me, before the growth.  I want my son here, but I want him here with my new outlook on life.  I know that I can’t have that, but I know that Trevor sees what is happening in all of our lives.  We all keep him close.  Megan, our oldest daughter, is on her honeymoon and she sent me a picture of “Buddy” sitting in the window of their Nashville hotel room with the city lights shining in the background.  (Buddy is a stuffed dog that was given to her by a child life specialist at the hospital where Trevor died.)  Megan takes Buddy with her everywhere.  She’s an adult now, but a part of her brother is always with her.  These things are what we have to hold onto…stuffed animals, clothes, toys, books, and memories of the most awesome son and brother a family could ever have.  His life changed mine.  Oh how my heart aches this morning at the pain of losing Trevor!  Then I think of my grandparents, both fighting for their lives to stay with us longer and I am so grateful, so thankful, so blessed to see their lives in this beautiful picture of our lives on earth.

I don’t know how I keep breathing every day, but I am thankful that I do.  I think of Buddy in Nashville and smile thinking of Trevor’s love for music and how he must’ve been with his big sister last night in Music City.  I think of the time that the five of us were in Nashville for my cousin’s wedding.  What great memories we have from that trip!  I think about the change in my life, but I am thankful to be able to acknowledge the growth that has come (and is still coming) from it.  More time with my grandparents is what I need now…more time to see the beauty of their lives, their love for us, and to share our love with them.

God, I know that Your Son has come and has given me understanding so that I may know Him who is true.  I am in Him who is true. ~1 John 5:20

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A Prayer for Each Stitch

I have been waiting to share this story for a week.  My oldest daughter, Megan, got married  Saturday, July 2nd.  We’ve been planning the wedding for over a year. One of the first things Megan talked about when the planning began was how to have her brother’s presence there with her on the most important day of her life thus far.  Trevor has been physically gone for more than four and a half years now.  We know that he will never fully leave us and that we will see him again.  Of course, that isn’t enough, especially when it comes to planning a day as big as his sister’s wedding.  Megan wanted everyone else to know that our family knows he is with us and to have just a few glimpses of her love for him. The very first idea that Megan wanted to incorporate into the ceremony was a heart cut from one of Trevor’s shirts to be added to her dress.  She had seen examples of this before and some were sewn on the inside of the dress.  The bride knew it was there, but no one else did.  That wasn’t Megan’s plan.  She wanted everyone to know that her brother was with her.  She chose to have the heart stitched on the outside of her beautiful Oleg Cassini gown.  She wanted me to stitch it.  I never told Megan this, but although I wanted to do whatever my little girl wanted for her wedding, I really struggled with this task.  I am still not really sure why.  It is a beautiful way to honor her brother.  My heart just ached with the thought of cutting up one of his shirts and the labor it would take for every single stitch to attach it to the gown.  I know that sewing (at least in this situation) is not exactly labor intensive, but I was concerned with the labor of my heart.

I kept telling Megan I would get it done.  Each week she would ask if I had started and each week I replied with “Not yet, but I will.”  I am not gifted in the craft of sewing.  As the wedding was drawing closer and Megan asked again if I had started Trevor’s heart patch, I responded with my usual, “Not yet” and asked her if she thought it would be better to have my cousin, Carolyn, or friend, Donna, help with the stitching.  I was certain they would make it look much more beautiful than I could.  I didn’t tell Megan that the real issue wasn’t my lack of skill, it was that I didn’t think my heart could handle the work. Megan replied, “No, Mom, I want you to do it.”  I said, “But it’s your wedding gown!  Don’t you want it to look just perfect?”  She responded, “Mom, it’s not perfect that Trevor isn’t here.  It isn’t nice and neat.  It doesn’t have to look perfect.”  Wow.  My amazingly smart daughter is absolutely right.  I never again thought about asking someone else for help with this special project.  I knew I had to do it myself, but I still kept putting it off.

I was reminded of a special circle of women that I have had the privilege of belonging, The Red Tent.  One of the first books the group read after I joined was Anne Lamott’s “Stitches: A Handbook on Meaning, Hope, and Repair.”  I grabbed the book off the shelf and read pieces again.  In the book, Anne says, “But what if the great secret insider-trading truth is that you don’t ever get over the biggest losses in your life?  Is that good news, bad news, or both? … The pain does grow less acute, but the insidious palace lie that we will get over crushing losses means that our emotional GPS can never find true north, as it is based on maps that no longer mention the most important places we have been to.  Pretending that things are nicely boxed up and put away robs us of great riches.”  I was going to stitch that patch myself.

Just six days before the wedding I still hadn’t made the first stitch, but the next night would be my Bible study night with another group of amazing women.  I couldn’t miss my time with them and knew that I had to have that dress done to be able to attend our meeting, so I began cutting hearts from Trevor’s shirt until I had what Megan and I both thought was a usable one (not perfect, not neat and tidy.)  Megan’s dress had been on a dress stand that we had placed in Trevor’s room since the day we picked it up from being altered.  I walked in his room with my needle and thread and the heart cut from Trevor’s shirt, closed the door, and fell to my knees.  The ache in my heart was extraordinary.  I prayed for God to guide my stitches, for me to sew this heart just the way my amazing daughter wanted me to and for Trevor to know just how much I love him.  I put the first stitch in…maybe two or three stitches.  I would become overwhelmed with emotions repeatedly as I stitched that heart on Megan’s beautiful gown.  Each time I felt I needed to stop, I prayed for the strength to keep going.  There are many, many prayers inside each stitch on that little patch.  Each time I fell to my knees, I would add another prayer…for Megan and Austin’s marriage, for Trevor’s friend, Ben, and his willingness to be a part of this special day, for my husband and I and both of our daughters for the pain that we would all have as we took family pictures at the wedding without our son/brother in the frame, for all of the marriages in our family and in Austin’s family… Prayer after prayer, stitch after stitch, the Holy Spirit, the love of my son, and the words of Anne Lamott got me through.

“You have to keep taking the next necessary stitch, and the next one, and the next.  Without stitches, you just have rags.  And we are not rags.”