Tag Archives: family

When Gratitude Opens Our Eyes

16 Nov

It’s been 18 years ago today.

That day that we were able to meet our daughter, Victoria Rose, even though her soul had already been carried to heaven.

The truth is I don’t think about her every day. Not even every week. On the other hand there are times when the grief feels almost fresh and I surprise myself by breaking down crying at unexpected moments. Like when my son got married and my daughter-in-law’s mom helped her into her wedding dress and I realized I’d never get to do that with my daughter. Or that November when I recognized that she would have been getting her driver’s license. Or years ago when I would wander through the little girl dress section at the local department store around Easter and pick out the dress I would have put her in.

The thing about stillbirth is you don’t have a lot of memories. The ones you have are precious- feeling the baby move inside you, seeing the baby on the ultrasound, picking out all the things, the anticipation. Instead of being left with lots of memories and missing those things attached to the memories, you are left with “what if.”

What if she had lived? What would our life have been like with three boys and then a girl? What would she have been like?

This is what I think: She would have had long blonde hair. I think she would have been a princess but not in the pink and frilly dress type. No, she had three older brothers who weren’t really into babying anyone. So I think she would have been the princess superhero. She would have fought evil along side of those superheroes growing up. She would have tried to keep those three in line and I’d like to think that she might have succeeded a bit. She would have been strong- you have to with three older brothers. I’d like to think that she would have been compassionate and loving and adventurous. It would have been fun watching her blossom into whatever God made her to be.

This year it seems harder. That date. Nov. 16. Perhaps it is because we would have been about done with the growing up years. She would have been thinking about prom and graduation and college and dreaming of her life out in the world. We would have been getting ready to launch her praying with everything we had that she was ready. Today there is a bit more sadness as I realize that the little girl I mourn would not be so little anymore but would have been a young woman.

In Sojourn, a community women’s Bible study I lead, we’ve been talking about gratitude. Today the topic is “Gratitude Opens Our Eyes.” I believe that with all my heart. It opens our eyes to see God. I’ve experienced it over and over again.

Today let me count the gifts. Let me name the gifts with a heart full of gratitude for all Victoria’s life brought me:

  1. I learned how to have compassion at a deeper level especially for those experiencing loss.
  2. I was able to hold my daughter.
  3. God’s peace was so evident in the room that day.
  4. God’s peace followed us in the days after- literally feeling Him hold me at night as I wept.
  5. I have a daughter.
  6. Her life inspired others to turn to God. There are many stories surrounding that.
  7. Unfolding her little ear that was folded over.
  8. Her tiny perfect fingernails. Her tiny perfect fingers.
  9. I am filled with love when I think of her. . . not bitterness.
  10. Kind nurses and doctors that day.
  11. Two ornaments that hang on my Christmas tree made by women who understood loss.
  12. Her tiny perfect mouth.
  13. Those who cried with us, held us, brought us food, sent us cards. Who were present with us.
  14. The picture of my boys at church praying for us with their heads on each others shoulders while we were at the hospital. So glad someone took it and gave it to me. Precious.
  15. The reminder that I’m a sojourner here on earth. This isn’t forever.

As it happens over and over- that as I’ve listed these grateful things, a miracle occurs.

My eyes are opened to see God. In the midst He was there, He is here.


Life is a gift. Even if it only lasts a moment.


29 Jun
Walk4Water_studentsPhoto credits: Janelle Gustafson

One of my favorite days of the year is our annual Walk4Water at the church where I serve, Prairie Oak Community Church. We fill our buckets full of water and “feel the burn” as we trudge two miles through suburban Andover, Minnesota.


The purpose of our event is to change two communities: our own by bringing awareness of the need for clean water and the community where a well will be built with the proceeds. This year’s proceeds will go to a community in Liberia that was hard hit by the Ebola virus.

Sierra Leone well(1)
Past project results in a well in Sierra Leone

What I love about this event is how it brings us together as one no matter the age. Parents will often pull younger children in wagons. Dogs are always invited to walk along with us. Every generation is represented in the long line of people in matching blue shirts taking an hour of their time to make a difference in the world.


Last year we added a 5K fun run to the event. I love the cheering and encouraging words that are shouted to the runners- especially by those who have finished the race and who wait at the finish line.


Sponsoring a Walk4Water event in your community is a great way to not only raise money for clean water initiatives, but also to raise awareness in your community of the need for clean water. Ultimately the goal is to change two communities: one in need of water and one in need of compassion.

A Walk4Water event can be any size whether a small group of family members and friends or a large organization of 500.

The event can include a pre-walk party or information session, the 2-mile walk, 5K run and an after-party. During the walk participants carry buckets of water to “feel the burn” that those without clean water near them feel as they walk to the nearest water source. For those who are physically unable to carry buckets, supply water bottles to carry. Families enjoy walking together pulling younger kids in wagons. Also, participants can recruit teams from work, the gym, neighborhoods or extended family. After the walk consider holding a picnic with grilled hotdogs and other simple food.


For detailed information on how to host your own Walk4Water click here. If you would like to donate this year’s Walk4Water project, visit our website.

River’s Edge has a Clean Water lesson for kids that helps them understand that a way we love others as Jesus told us to do is by supplying clean water to those in need. Consider teaching this lesson as a way to prepare for the walk.

Have you done something with your church, family or organization to raise money for clean water? We’d love to hear about it.



Father’s Day

15 Jun

Each year Father’s Day creeps up on us. With Mother’s Day and Memorial day in the books and thoughts turned towards Fourth of July, Father’s Day thoughts often do not dawn until the weekend of the holiday. Plan something special for the fathers in your church community to thank them for the important task they have to be leaders in their homes and examples to their children.

Photobooth areas are a great way to capture a special memory or send a special greeting to your father or a father figure in your life. These photobooth pictures are from Mother’s Day, but could easily be altered to feature a fishing pole, football goal, or an array of comic books.

What are ways that your family or church shows appreciation to the father figures in your life?