Being Beloved

Rob and I talked often about our mutual instinct toward performance and our mutual struggle to lay our striving down and accept grace. We both longed to know the love of God and rest in Him.

For most of my life, I believed my worth was based on my performance, my intelligence and skills, my ability to measure up. My life was a constant attempt to be the best at something and an inevitable disappointment when I fell short. I assumed God’s love was contingent on my good behavior, on my performance. That I had to earn His love.

Even though my striving always ended in disappointment, I kept longing for His love anyway. And even though my conception of Him was so misguided, He kept drawing me toward Himself. When I thought I needed to earn His love, in His amazing generosity, He simply welcomed me as His Beloved.

Discovering and embracing my Belovedness changed my life. God was not aloof, critical or capricious. He was a Good Father, a Gentle Shepherd, and a Loving Guide. And all of His goodness and beauty and truth, His very nature, He offered in love to me. I could choose to build my identity on disappointment or I could embrace my true identity — a precious child of God, eternally beloved.

That kind of radical hospitality blew me away. God didn’t care that I couldn’t measure up. He didn’t make me work to gain His love. He offered all of Himself to me, a kindness that would sustain me in the hard days that were to come.

Even grief can feel like striving if you let it. Am I grieving right? Am I feeling what I’m supposed to be feeling? Am I making progress? Am I trusting God enough? All of these questions reflect an attitude of performance, as though grief were an obstacle course I needed to complete with a prize at the end for “Best Job Done.”

Instead, in my grief, I hope to embrace the posture of Belovedness. God doesn’t want me to power my way through and be as strong as I can be. That’s not my work to do. All God calls me to do is rest in His love. I grieve — and live — well when I remember that I am my Beloved’s, and He is mine.

Side by Side

When dinner was finished and dishes were done, we’d make school lunches side by side in the kitchen. I miss Rob always, but these moments of ordinary companionship carry a unique sorrow.

Now when I miss his voice, I turn on his last TV interview with 100 Huntley , and it brings him back to life. I hear his tenderness as he talks about the kids, his excitement as he discusses something he’s learned, his heart as he teases me about his writing projects. It’s different now: he talks and I make the sandwiches. But I’ll take what I can get. I’m just glad to feel him near.

Our Morning Commute

Two of my kids attend a small school housed in an old New England church building. Beside the church sprawls this cemetery. This fall, we discovered that we could cut a couple minutes off our morning commute if we drove through it. Every weekday morning, you’ll see our car cutting through the cemetery en route to school.

As we wind down the narrow road, we call out the names on the stones. Roberts. McCormack. Finley. Reed. Each one a father, mother, brother, sister, husband, wife, friend. Each one a person loved and missed. Because the cemetery is so old, family plots are littered with tiny stones, a now-faded tradition. Many lean, sunken with the shifting ground of years. I can’t read those names from my perch behind the steering wheel, but I know who they are. They are the babies, the toddlers, the children taken with fever or accident or some unexplainable reason long before their time. The cemetery reminds us daily: life is full of sorrow.

As if our family needs that reminder. My children now have an intimate familiarity with graveyards. They chose the design that decorates their father’s stone. They understand the rules on wreath placement and plastic flower decorations. From the back seat my 10-year-old remarks, “I want to put something funny by Dad’s grave when we go there.” And I feel my heart ache. You might say to skip the cemetery commute; my kids have had enough of death.

Yet, for millennia, humans have lived side by side with death. Since the garden of Eden, we have been acquainted with grief. Parents bury their children, women bury their husbands, children bury their fathers. We say, “It shouldn’t be that way,” and yet it is. The curse of sin runs so painfully deep. Our culture wants to ignore or forestall death, but it will come to us all. It doesn’t help anyone to avoid looking at death. Especially for those who grieve, a culture that shies away makes our sorrow feel even more isolating and harder to bear.

I like to think that our trips through the cemetery are a daily retelling of the story of our life with loss. We drive along, and the stones affirm our life of sorrow. We too love someone who rests in the ground awaiting resurrection. Life the expanse of the cemetery, our grief spreads out wide. And in the most appropriate of endings, our commute ends in the adjoining church parking lot. Backpacked children scurry across the pavement, laughing and chattering with each other. My kids jump out of the car, smiles on their faces. In this world, we indeed have trouble. But just as sure, we are promised life in all its fullness. Now and in the end.

Hop On and Ride

Rob loved going to the gym. Me, not so much. I’m all for exercise, mind you. But I’ve always needed to feel like I was getting somewhere. Canoe for an afternoon? Bike 20 miles on the rail trail? Sign me up! Climb on one of those Jacob’s ladder machines in a fluorescent-lit room? Who am I, Sisyphus?

I’ve only ever wanted exercise to feel organic, spontaneous, and outdoorsy. I pity the hamster on his wheel. But after @mollrob died, I decided that I needed to take better care of my body. I’d given up eating brownies for breakfast a few years ago after a sobering cardiologist visit, and exercise was the next area where I needed to wise up. Cold weather was closing in, so I bought a stationary bike. Talk about futile labor! A bike that literally just spins its wheels!

For the last five and half months, this little bike and I have become besties, and I feel sort of badly that I maligned manufactured exercise like this so long. I’ve read a bunch of books while riding; and when I dragged my kids out for our New Year’s Day hike, I didn’t huff and puff the whole way through the snow. What felt like repetitive, mundane labor actually produced something worthwhile — a mentally and physically healthier me.

Grief, like riding my bike, often feels like just spinning wheels. The same feelings day in and day out with what feels like so little progress. It is said that grief is just love without the object present. Wow. That sounds like futile labor.

And yet, it’s not. When I engage grief, even when it feels like spinning wheels, I am working toward a healthier “me.” A person who can learn to love in the face of loss. A person who develops resilience. A person whose heart is more attuned to the pain in others’ stories.

Some days, I just want to stay in bed, pull the covers over my head, and forget all of this ever happened. My trusty bike reminds me that hiding is the real futile labor. If I want to make progress, I need to hop on and ride.


Weekends are so long without Rob. Whether they are filled with activities or not. Sometimes it’s as though the five of us are counting down the minutes till the sun sinks away and we can head off to bed. We feel sluggish, restless, cranky. Nothing satisfies.

And then I remember and ask, “Are you missing Dad?” It takes a moment to register. Is that what this is? Grief, again? We name it, and it loses some of its power over us.

Today, we wandered in the woods. Somehow when grief joins us outside it’s an easier companion to bear. When the sun went down tonight, we were tired in a good way. One more weekend day to go.

The Song Creation Sings

I don’t have to sit still for long before concerns creep into my mind. How will my kids thrive growing up without their dad? Can l be adequate for the task of raising them alone? How will I answer all of their questions? What should I do with the years that now spread out empty before me? Where will I find purpose? Will the deep aloneness always feel so painful?

I’m grateful that the song creation sings is one of gentle and generous provision. A walk in the woods is all the reminder I need. “Don’t you worry cause you’re in the hands of the God who made everything.”

A Deep Well of Comfort

Within minutes of receiving the news of Rob’s death, my brain went into survival mode. I’ve heard it described as “numb” or “brain fog” or “overload.” All good descriptions for how I felt in those first hours, and the days and early weeks that followed. If you’ve ever come out of anesthesia after surgery, you know a little of what that mental discombobulation feels like. My brain would eventually recover, but for now it was working hard to process and cope.

Trauma affects the whole brain, but especially our centers for fear, emotional regulation, and critical thinking. I could feel my brain straining to complete normal life tasks as it attempted to begin processing my loss. Everyday activities were tiring. And tasks that required problem solving, like navigating interpersonal relationships, became overwhelming. My brain was trying to send me an important message — I’m working hard in here, don’t give me anything more! In those early days all that was necessary was eating and drinking, resting, and caring for my children. I literally had no head space for anything else.

Amazingly, in this brain overload, hymns began flowing through my thoughts. Buried in the deep recesses of my brain, far past the regions of conscious thinking, these words were like an aquifer of hope that had been filled long ago. Hymns from my childhood, worship songs from my college years, hymns we’d sung at church and as a family. They all came bubbling up unbidden, washing over my heart with their truth.

Sometimes when I couldn’t sleep at night, I’d sit up and write all of the words down in my journal just to release them from my mind. I have pages and pages of hymns written from those first weeks. Hymns became living water for me as my soul stared out at its new parched landscape of loss. My brain didn’t need to think about the words. They just came. And they brought with them peace, comfort and hope.

Rob talked in his book, What Your Body Knows About God, about the importance of memory in our spiritual life. We do good work for our souls when some of our spiritual practice is dedicated to memory, whether it is Scripture verses, hymns or words the Church has prayed together for centuries. As we bury the treasure of God’s truth in our hearts and minds, we are creating deep wells of spiritual resource that will water our souls when we need it most.

My brain hasn’t returned to its pre-loss state. Some researchers say it won’t; others say it will take years. While my capacity is much greater almost six months later, I still defer to my brain when it signals it’s reaching maximum capacity. I’ve learned my mind has limited energy and space, and I must choose carefully how to use and fill it. The trauma of Rob’s death is indelibly written on my mind. But, alongside my loss, the words of God’s truth are also written there. And the glory of His Gospel is a well that won’t run dry.

The Winter of Grief

The work of grieving is much like waiting out the winter. I can’t rush it. I can’t make it go away. Try as I might, I can’t reinvent it into something more palatable. Escape it? Grief, like winter, will be waiting at my doorstep when I return. In this season of darkness and sadness, when the world outside my window sleeps under a blanket of snow, the only solution is to wait.

When I look outside, I know that beneath the snow, important work is happening. The earth is resting. In winter, waiting is the vital work. As much as I want to hurry the dark days along, winter’s waiting is necessary for spring’s flourishing.

In my days that often seem long and lonely, grief is doing her work too. I am learning to rest, companioning my grief. I am learning to think less about the future and be more present in this day that has been given. Waiting has become my vital work too. As much as I wish I could hurry these dark days along, I am learning that grief’s waiting is necessary for our new life’s flourishing.

The Psalmist writes, “Weeping may endure for a night, but joy comes in the morning.” I trust the Psalmist’s words will be true for me too in God’s good time.

Jesus Will Take Care of Me

Sitting vigil with my first feverish child since Rob died, and I’m reminded of how much reassurance and peace he used to bring me when one of the kids was sick. There are so many ways you lose a person when he dies.

We always had a system. I’d manage the sick one, and he’d care for the other three. And, inevitably, when nightfall came and the fever rose and my tiredness set in, he’d tuck the others into bed and come sit vigil with me. We’d marvel together at how our hearts had been utterly undone with loving these four, and he’d tell me that everything would be alright.

Once, after a few nights of family illness, I opened his phone to find that he’d Googled WebMD to check symptoms and read up on what to do. He never seemed to worry about those sorts of things like I did. He had never mentioned doing it, and I hadn’t asked him to. Their wellbeing weighed on him, and he figured research would offer him some reassurance. All I saw was that his steadiness melted away my worry.

Sometimes I am overwhelmed by the reality that Rob’s death has left me to care for these four children on my own. Parenting alone is such a daunting task. I care for them, but who will care for me? Who will settle my worried heart and steady me on nights like tonight and all the other nights and days ahead?

In these moments, I understand Peter’s fear as he stepped out onto the water to meet Jesus. Jesus is calling me to step out and meet Him in a new way, and it is so scary for me. I look down, and the uncertainty and challenge of my new role feel like dark water rising around my ankles. Tonight, as I sit vigil for the first time alone, I am remembering that, like Peter, I only need raise my eyes to see the One who cares for me, for all of us. To find the peace I crave in deep waters and always. Jesus is with me. Jesus will take care of me.

Bent But Not Crushed

Along the edges of alpine meadows stand these sorts of trees. At elevations of 6000+ feet, they are weighed down with snow for many months of the year, and they grow very slowly. A tree this size might be close to 30 years old but barely shoulder high.

But God designed them for resilience. Despite the snow that threatens to snuff them out, these amazing little things continue to seek the sun. They bow under the weight of the snow, but they also bend toward the light. And they survive — and thrive. This one shows this year’s new green growth on its tips!

I am amazed at the strength and perseverance of these little trees, and I love them. They give me hope that I too can survive and thrive as I bend, under the weight of sorrow, toward the Light of Christ. .

It’s been almost six months, and I still wake up many mornings and cry when I realize afresh he’s not beside me. But I am praying fiercely that I will be like these little trees. Bent but not crushed. Indelibly marked with my sorrow, but firmly planted in God’s faithful love. Finding new life as I turn my face toward the warm and nourishing Light of Christ. “I have set the Lord always before me; because he is at my right hand, I shall not be shaken.” (Psalm 16:8)