grieving and grace

(I wrote this in the days following my 92 year old mom admission to a nursing home. It was my soul processing)

There is a saying from the Good Book: You reap what you sow. (Gal. 6:7) Some sow trouble… The Book says, Those who sow with trouble reap it. (Job 4:8) Some sow with generosity… The Book says, Those who sow with generousity will reap also generously. (2 Cor. 9:6) Some sow with tears… The Book says, Those who goes out weeping carry seed to sow, will return with songs of joy carrying sheaves with her. (Psalm 126:6)

My mom loved her garden and planted many seeds. She planted for beauty. She planted for love. She planted for joy. And that’s what grew in her garden- beauty, love and joy.

There were times when strangling weeds came up in the soil of the garden. Weeds that devourer the nutrients of all the soil. So other plants were in danger of destruction. The weeds looked deceptively attractive at times. So it can be confused with the flowers. But left to themselves they would go out of control and take over all the garden. Fortunately mom realized this and worked hard at getting rid of these weeds, painfully pulling them out one by one. Thus she saved her garden.

One day, mom was offered a very special seed as a gift. It came with a promise that it would increase the beauty, love and joy of the garden. It would be a magnificent tree, the centerpiece of her garden. It would endure when all other plants and flowers withered.

Mom grew to love this tree. It provided shade for her to rest under and fruit for her to enjoy. She shared her garden freely to many people, often making baskets of fruit and flowers for visitors to take home.

Gardening got more and more difficult as she grew older. It became much more painful for her to get on her knees and weed. Many of the flowers and plants withered. Mom was so sad.

But the tree remained strong. And under its shade she found beauty, love and joy. The Book says, He is the Vine and we are the branches. The branches bears fruit as it abides in the Vine. (John 15:5) The Book also says, The world and its desires pass away but those one who does the will of God lives forever. And, This is the will of my Father, to believe in Me. (John 6:29)

The tree sustained her life here. Her faith in that Tree gives her life beyond this one.

I imagine one day, when my mom is in heaven, she will have a garden where there is beauty, love and joy.




When I was first diagnosed with overlapping connective tissue disorder, I was at my worst physically, emotionally and spiritually. It was a deep time of lamenting with confusion and worry for both myself and my wife. We found an outlet to express ourselves by writing together a small storybook. It greatly helped us unpack a lot of baggage the illness brought to light.

This is taken from the book.
In writing of this children’s book, we sought to convey some profound elements of living in simple form. Loss, changes, doubts, faith and hope were parts of our own story as told through our dogs, Ume and Ototo. The dogs’ life journey, in particular Ume’s, reflects many of our family’s emotions in dealing with Jon’s illness during the first two years during and after diagnosis. In writing this story down on paper, it gave us the chance to solidify our experience and come to a greater understanding of life, of faith and of ourselves. Our hope is that the story touches some part of you – the part that knows about hard changes.
This is the second run of the book. When we first wrote this book, we were in the initial phase of living with Jon’s connective tissue disorder. We were told that life expectancy could be around five years. So much has happened. It has been over seventeen years of dealing with the struggle of chronic illness. The God of glory and grace has been with us through it all. Perhaps we will write some new stories to tell about it.
If you are interested you can get a copy on We are reprinting it for the Christmas season. Well, maybe I am reprinting it so to keep up with my daughter’s publishings. 🙂

I thought it was about losing a DVD but it was a much greater lost. It was Saturday evening and we were all going to watch a video Joelle had been keeping for a special occasion. She asked me where it was and I told her I didn’t know. She was annoyed at my response and I proceeded to tell her it was up to her to keep track of her stuff not me. She looked but couldn’t find it and got pretty cranky. I was getting annoyed at her at this point. All our feathers were ruffled, I repeated the scolding about not blaming me or her mom and she went into her room upset.

Several minutes later her mom went to talk to her and I could hear their conversation was getting pretty emotional. “All this for a missing dvd.” I thought. But apparently it was a lot bigger than that.

She was reading a book to settle down from the disappointment of not having the DVD showing and she came to a part in the book that upset her very much. It was of a boy whose both dog and grandma died. That triggered a floodgate of tears.

MJ talked it through with her and then they came into our bedroom and talked to me. She apologized for being grouchy and explained about the part in the book she was reading. Then she said she didn’t want me to die and leave her. She started bawling big time. I told her I didn’t want to leave her too. But I also told her I couldn’t promise her I wouldn’t. I am not powerful enough to promise that. I simply told her I am here now and we would make the most of this day and each day.

We talked of heaven as a great reunion. She asked many questions and we all hugged and cried. She went to brush her teeth and MJ and I just looked at each other knowing this was a holy but very unexpected moment.

I don’t know exactly how much Joelle understands about my health condition, We have talked to some degree and she sees the pills I take, gone with me to the doctor’s appointments and even came to my eye surgeries with MJ. She is intelligent and emotionally sensitive. I can’t help but wonder what a shaping of God’s grace in her it is having a dad with a chronic illness.

This touches at my deepest pain-leaving her when she still needs me. Once long ago I heard God whisper to me in my prayer time, “I will take care of the things important to you.” I hold onto those words dearly when I am in these moments when all the pain flows out. I will needs those words when I can’t hold on.

Unlike other diseases such as some cancers, there is no prediction of when my death will occur. I simply walk around with various compromise in my lungs, heart and other crucial organs. Sometimes I feel real good. Sometimes I don’t. Sometimes I am so out of touch with mortality (like most people in the U.S.). Sometimes I walk so aware.

It is my place of trust and surrender. I cannot control mortality nor can I even control my daughter’s pain.

In this place of disturbance:
Surrender centers.
Grace empowers.
Love comforts.
This morning the three of us sang an old simple worship song to start our day- He is God. Then we prayed together. It was enough. It was good.


This is the exhortation that came to my mind today:
“Do not let fixation on discouragement keep from remembering encouragement. Neither fixate on encouragement to avoid the grieving in discouragement. Grieving and rejoicing are bed fellows.”

I rejoice in the improvements regarding my lungs and being able to do much more than even two years ago. This exists in the midst of sadness over the loss of vision that is in part because of my struggle with glaucoma. It is sometimes confusing for me to be feeling better in one part of my body and struggle with another part. I feel both grieving and gladness mixing throughout my day. I catch myself in this bi-polar predicament and scratch my head.

I think I am a mutt of emotions: part sad, part anxious, part excited, part mad, part mad and part tender. I am learning to have them co-exist together instead of allowing only one   at a time while denying all others. It’s a much more complicated dance but a much more beautiful one.

Grace works within me to create such beauty and I recognize my resistance. Help me trust more.

The LORD gave and the LORD has taken away; may the name of the LORD be praised. Job 1:21
p.s. The book publishing process is nearly done. Createspace (the publisher) is making one more correction and then will send me one last hard copy for proofing. When I approve, they get it onto It is days away! A mutt of emotions I have been and now my tail wags more and more.