Stirrings : Sunshine After A Flood

 In late July of 2010, I received a phone call that my dad had dropped off the radar while flying his single engine airplane in the North West Territories of Canada.  The amazing Canadian Search and Rescue team worked tirelessly for 5 of the longest days of my life.  Finally, after discovering his whereabouts they declared he had died on impact.  From that first phone call to now I can’t help but get a huge lump in my throat and fight back a stream of tears, a flood of emotion, because in the past 7 months I have been learning to grieve.  

I have had the privilege of watching my mom gracefully grieve the loss of her best friend and husband.  She fell in love with him at the sweet young age of 19 and they built 48 years of memories together.  She has been setting a beautiful example for me on grieving.  There are times when she is weepy and misses her life partner, but she always remembers the good.  She doesn’t wallow in her sadness but she rejoices in the love that they had.  She allows herself to grieve, but she has trained her heart and mind to be thankful and remember all the good times that we had with him.  She tells me that we can be thankful that he did not suffer.  She reflects on how he loved his life!  He was at good place with all of his relationships with his children.  We all knew he loved us and he knew we loved him.  He was healthy and he died doing what he loved.  She does not let me forget that he lived a long, full, and wonderful life and we have so much for which to be thankful.  She graciously grieves and gently leads me down the path of embracing our love for him, while holding on to the good.  There is no place for bitterness. No “why me”, no “it’s not fair”, no, “I can’t survive” or “I won’t make it.”  There is hope in the life we still have and there is thankfulness for his life.  She knows that he would want us to go on and enjoy LIVING our lives.   She gently tilts my head towards the sky in search of the sunshine in the midst of the rain.

I have learned to be thankful and remember the good in grief while still allowing myself to be real.  I have cried and leaned on the strength of family, friends, and mentors.  I have allowed myself the space I needed to grieve.  I also have taken my thoughts captive.  I think about where my mind rests and what I choose for my focus.  My mom has always taught me to see the good in life.  The older I am the more thankful I am for this valuable training on life perspective that she has given me.  I have always been a big fan of scripture memory.  For me it gives me strength and hope.  It helps me to redirect my thoughts with truth.  A bit of wisdom God offers us on the state of our hearts and minds, even when we are flooded with emotions, is in Philippians 4:8.  I have made you two scripture memory cards.  You can print them off.  I suggest you print them on card stock.  You can print one on each side and make a double-sided scripture card.  There is great truth and wisdom in this verse.  Let it soak in.  Write it down.  Meditate on it.    

We would love to hear from you!  I thought of a bunch of questions that I would love for you to answer in our comment section below this post.
Have you ever been in a flood of emotions? 
What has helped you cope? 
From Philippians 4:8 below:
Which of these bolded words stands out to you? Why?  
What do these words mean to you? 
Does the dictionary say anything about these words that strike a chord in you? 
What do you think is noble? 
What do you find compelling or gracious? 
When you think of lovely or excellent things what comes to mind?  

Please take time to practice thinking about the things in these verses.   Mom, thanks for training me to look for the sunshine in life! You have given me a wonderful gift, especially when it rains. I love you!
Happy Friday!  These cards are my gift to you today!

Stirrings : Kindness for a Grieving Friend

I am ashamed to say that I didn’t know what I should or shouldn’t do when someone close to me lost a loved one.  Since I didn’t know what to say, I did not say a thing.  I just avoided it all together.  I felt awkward and imposing.  I was afraid that I might say the wrong thing or somehow make it worse.  Once, I really hurt a friend with that response.  I am learning as I grow.  I wanted to share with you some things that people did for me that I really appreciated.  I am sure that different people appreciate different things when they are grieving, but I think that sharing some things that encouraged me would be helpful.  I am hoping that you might be able to use this information to help a friend in need to get through the hard times–I know that these things sure meant a lot to me.

These are in no particular order, just a list of amazing acts of kindness we received that we really appreciated.

1.  “If there is an elephant in the room, introduce it.”  When I saw someone who knew about my loss and they simply said, “Jen, I am so sorry for your loss.”  That meant a LOT.  You don’t even need to say anything else.  If it’s appropriate, a hug added in there can be nice.  It says, “I am sorry and I care about you”.

2.  I got a slew of cards.  Some were simple and some had loving notes.  I even got a card from a friend of a friend, someone I had never met.  I read each card and I cried, in a good way, feeling thankful for all the sentiments.

3.  Phone calls are nice.  Sometimes I would answer it and sometimes I wouldn’t.  Just a simple call to say, “Hey, I am thinking about you.  How are you doing?”  A simple message, “Jen, you don’t have to call back, but I just wanted to say, ‘I love you’ and see how you are doing.”

4.  An email or text message.  It can say something simple like “I love you and I am praying for you.”

5.  Food for the family.  The last thing I wanted to do in the early days was to cook for my family.  They had to eat and I just couldn’t do it.  I remember at one point just wandering around the grocery store, knowing we needed milk and just a few basic things, but I left empty handed.  A few friends brought us meals and it was really nice.  A few other friends brought dinner and stayed with us to eat.  We laughed and cried and they listened.  It’s nice to have friends.

6.  We received an edible arrangement around the time of the memorial service, it was especially nice because we had a bunch of people in from out of town and it was nice to have something to offer them.  Of course, I ate it too, yummy!

7.  I always thought it was really sweet when someone shared a fond memory of my dad or something they always admired about him.

8.  We received flowers, which were like a bit of sunshine on a cloudy day.

9.  I wasn’t eating much and a girl friend of mine who had recently lost her husband brought me a nectarine and some almonds.  It was a perfect lunch.

10.  Another friend made me a basket of things that comfort her on hard days.  It was full of tea, coffee, cozy socks, chocolate, bubble bath, and some great verses she had written out.  It was a big basket of love.  The funny thing is she may have needed one too because I know my dad meant a lot to her.

11.  My Bible Study friends made all the desserts for the memorial service.  They did it with love and excellence!  We were all thankful.

12.  My Bible Study also knew my dad loved apples, so they planted an apple tree in my back yard in memory of him. 

13.  Any act of kindness towards my mom, who is now a widow, is an act of kindness for which I am thankful. 

14.  As time goes on, it’s nice when people remember.  I just met Amy’s dad for the first time.  He gave me a big dad hug and said, “Jen, I am sorry for the loss of your dad.  I am a pilot too and we never like to lose one of our own.”  I got teary and was thankful that he cared enough to mention it. 
I thank all of you for all your acts of kindness towards me as I have been grieving.  What is something that brings you comfort when you are sad?  Ask yourself that question and then just give it away.  Do an act of kindness.  A friend is never disappointed when another friend says that they care about them.  From writing a card to planting a tree and everything between, it is good to care for our friends. 

Is there anything anyone has done for you in a time of loss for which you were especially thankful?

Stirrings : “You DID WHAT?”; The things I can’t believe I did in the wake of losing my Dad.

For our new readers here is the background:  My dad died in a plane crash about 6 months ago in the NW Territories of Canada.  He went off radar shortly after taking off.  He was flying himself in a single engine airplane.  It took 5 or 6 LONG days to find him.  His plane crashed and there was no chance of survival.  I have been sharing my thoughts on grieving along the way.  Loss is something all of us will go through in our own way, it’s common to man, yet personal.  I have been trying to go through it gracefully.  It has been fascinating to me because I have never lost someone that I love. 

The things I NEVER thought I would do!  I have heard my friends say “You did What?”  “What did you do that for?”  I must admit some of these things I am surprised I did. 

I share this with you for a few reasons.  I think grief takes a MAJOR toll on us.  I think many people can relate.  Like a country ravished by a Tsunami.  The Tsunami hits in an instant however for months there are signs of the destruction, yet the foundation remains.  I am growing and rebuilding.  I am still who I am.  I am standing on God as my rock.  I have done things I would have NEVER seen coming.  Some things good, some crazy, all of them took me by complete surprise.  It is only now after 6 months that I can reflect and continue to learn and grow from this situation.

The 10 things I can’t believe I did after my dad passed away.

10. I bought my husband a truck for his birthday.  He did need a new car.  His was falling apart after 10 years of hard use.  But, a truck, not great on gas, I just did it.  I was trying to convince my husband we should move and get a new house.  My bible study leader talked me out of that.  She said one major life change at a time.  I honestly think I was craving change.  I just wanted everything, clear, clean and new.  In lieu of a house, I bought a car.

9. I did get a new kitchen table.  Every time I sat at my old one I saw my Dad’s face.  We had dinner together at least every Tuesday night.  The table was getting old but I am not sure what drove the change, the “need” or the loss.

8. Switched to a Mac.  My dad was a PC guy and my husband a Mac guy.  My dad and I would share photoshop so I remained a PC girl so we could share.  Now that he has passed away I got my husband a MAC for Christmas.  He graciously waited and honored my dad for 9 years staying on a PC and for Christmas this year I got him a Mac.  We both cried.

7.  I got fake nails.  My dad hated fake nails, so  I never got them.  It was a little way I honored him.  I have always had HORRIBLY UGLY nails!  It seems like it’s a little thing that adds a major improvement.  For whatever reason, it’s a little thing that I enjoy.  My friend have all noticed and said, “What’s that about?”

6. I quit my job as a photographer.  I would have NEVER done that if he were alive.  I couldn’t, he put too much into it.  I am not sure I am done forever, but for now.  I must say though my dad would have agreed with me if I stopped for my family.  I think we would have come to an agreement on this one over time.  Many things changed with me doing photography upon our loss of him.  I lost my children’s babysitter.  I never felt guilty for leaving my kids with my parents when I was working.  Once we lost him, my kids were with sitters all fall.  The cost wasn’t worth the gain to me.

5.  I have been doing a little retail therapy (as you can tell).  Now it’s a New Year and I have told myself that I have to reign it in.  This did not put us in debt (YET), however, it’s good to know about myself and I need to be aware.  This could cause problems if left out of control or if I don’t reign it in.  I need to be wise and aware of what I am doing and the cost!

4. I took a semester off from my Bible Study that I have been in for 8 years.  I will be going back again this spring.  This may not seem like a big deal but it was.  I had to look at some friends that I have been sharing my life with for 8 years and say I can’t do this with you, like this, right now.  I didn’t want to be the girl crying in the corner.  I also didn’t want to check out (which is what I was doing when I was there).  They would be sharing things from their heart and I just couldn’t take it in.  My “I care about you and that” button was broken.  I was saturated and had NO capacity to be a friend.  Is that horrible or what?  I just needed a little space so I could enter in with maturity.  I still spent time with them, just more one on one.

3.  I have generally been marked by a person who is in fairly good control of my emotions. The event of my dad dying has been like a title wave and me and my emotions have been thrown around at sea.  I’m rebuilding and slowly becoming more steady.  I was easily angry with my kids for the first few months.  That is better, but I will still say that I am more swayed by my emotions than before.  I am still pretty tender.

2.   I have leaned on my long time friends.  The ones who knew my dad well.  All my friends have been an amazing support!  I am thankful to all my friend.  I have 8 friends that we formed our friendships when we were between 6 years old and 14 years old.  Amazingly, we are still friends.  We have seen each other through a lot of ups and downs.  We have moved through serious issues from eating disorders, fighting with our parents, making up with our parents, alcohol, drugs, divorce, marriage, birth, pregnancies, raising children, having jobs, losing jobs, anxiety, having friends, having none, loneliness, depression, death, loss, grief, being dumped, being loved, addiction, plenty and need.  We have all loved and hated each other like sisters over the years.  The ones that could flew in from around the country to be together for my dads memorial service.  We all had breakfast before and cried together.  I read them my “speech” about 4 times and we cried through it.  Some of them called me everyday my dad was “lost” just to talk and we would cry and laugh.  One of them when we knew the fate of my dad came over and we did garden therapy and hacked away at the out of control rose bush in my yard.  I sweet hug and just knowledge of understanding continues to be amazing from them.  I realized how much I love them and am thankful for them.  I leaned on them.  It was my turn and they were there.  Thanks girls!  I knew I loved you, but I know now even more how much I love you.

1. Thankfulness has been my guide.  My mom has drilled into me ever since I was very young to look at the bright side.  There is always something to be thankful for.  I have realized this is one of the greatest gifts I have been given.  She has given me a perspective of hope.  A way to be positive as see good even in the most painful of life’s circumstances.  She learned this at a young age dealing with raw and rough childhood and grew into a strong graceful and grateful woman of God. 

The Biggest Change: I have slowed WAY down.  I am spending more time reading my Bible and leaning on God.  I am taking more time for my family.  My priorities have been shaken back into place.  It is good.

Heart Check : Thoughts on Grieving December 2010

I have never lost someone I loved.  This is a first for me.  I have seen good friends grieve the loss of a child, these were my first experiences in loss.  I want to give you a window into my heart because sometimes it seems like a forbidden topic.  I have never done this before yet grief is common to man.  I have no idea what is “normal” but this is my experience.
We are now 5 months out.  A good friend commented on me as we were hanging out making pretzel rods, “Jen this is the first time I have seen your spirit in a long time.”  I agreed, “I know I feel happy today.”  It has been a long time.  I am not sure if it’s the relieved stress of not working or I am getting glimpses of my mourning turning to gladness.
That being said it is December.  The thought of going “Christmas Tree Hunting” with out my dad was heartbreaking.  We have done that together for the better of the last 33 years.  Yet, we went, like we always do, and we had fun.  Christmas Eve is approaching and I am sure I spent every one of those in my life with him and a lot of our friends too.  I continue with tears welling up and a lump in my throat.  Christmas day is even more intimate, every Christmas morning sense I have had kids we wait for my parents to come over then enjoy breakfast, and awe as the kids discover what Santa left for them that night.
I don’t walk around with my chin to my chest and my eyes to the floor.  There is life around me, good, amazing life.  My family, my mom, my friends, but, it seems at least in December, maybe in the shower or when everything is finally quiet, or maybe a moment to hug and reminisce with my mom, or a good old friend who knew my dad well and misses him too…I take a few minutes to mourn.  I grieve, this month, daily.
I find grief fascinating because it’s an emotion I have never experienced before.  It is powerful, like the weather.  Sometimes it is a tornado, sometimes a peaceful snowfall.  In my grief I can feel God is close to the brokenhearted.  He is binding up my wounds.  I miss him a lot.  We miss him.
Psalm 147:3″He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.” New International Version, 2010
Here are a few pictures of us over the years.
Cliff, Chris and Dad cutting down the perfect tree.
This year we had breakfast and went to our favorite Christmas tree lot in Boulder.

 Christmas morning, just a few stockings left hanging!
 London and Dad checking out his new toys!
 Of course, dad always documented everything!  Dad and Mai Christmas morning.
 Family Christmas at Mom and Dad’s.
There is the grin!

Stirrings : Levites

As some of you know my dad is and his single engine plane is missing in the NW Territories of Canada.  Detailed information is at:
We have been very busy trying to find creative solutions to help aide the search.  Of course I am going through a wide range of emotions.  I find my self at times anxious and pacing when there is nothing I can do.  Last night God reminded me of this.  I was reading in the book of Numbers Chapter 1.  Moses was to take a census of the all the tribes of Israel.  However, the tribe of Levi was an exception.  They had a special duty.  They were to set up camp around the tabernacle for the protection of the whole community.  Last night I felt God was saying to me Jen you have a role, there is something you can do and it’s important.  I believe in God and his power.  My job is to PRAY.  There is something I can do and there is something you can do to help in this search.  It is serious, it real and there is power in prayer.  I will be posting regularly to encourage you to pray and me to pray and how and what to pray as the Lord leads.

One of the most encouraging scriptures to me right now is Zephaniah 3:17
“The LORD your God is with you, he is mighty to save.”

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