Tuesday, May 31, 2016

When grief doesn't end

I listened to a pastor this past Memorial weekend who spoke on the topic of marriage and family. He was a wonderful speaker and had several relevant points regarding relationships. He spoke of the difficulties and storms that are guaranteed to come along at some point in everyone's lives. He spoke with confidence how we can take assurance and comfort in knowing that every storm in our life will pass. Yes, to some extent, that is true.

But I'm guessing, however, that he likely wasn't referring to the grief that remains after child loss or death.

Definitely, the initial "storm" after loss subsides. The winds die down, the waters recede, and the black clouds eventually roll away. But while the storm may be "over," its reverberating aftermath continues for weeks, months, and, indeed, years. Nearly five years later, my son's death continues to impact his brothers' and sisters' lives, as well as my husband's and mine.

Grief is not a passing storm.

Grief is a thread that is woven throughout the tapestry of our lives. It will, with God's help, not be the unraveling of us, but rather be the binding stitched onto the storybook of our lives. Max Lucado explains the idea of reweaving in the story of Joseph:

“You meant evil against me,” Joseph told his brothers, using a Hebrew verb that traces its meaning to “weave” or “plait.”
“You wove evil,” he was saying, “but God rewove it together for good.”
God, the Master Weaver. He stretches the yarn and intertwines the colors, the ragged twine with the velvet strings, the pains with the pleasures. Nothing escapes His reach. Every king, despot, weather pattern, and molecule are at His command. He passes the shuttle back and forth across the generations, and as He does, a design emerges. Satan weaves; God reweaves.
Death is our enemy. (1 Cor.15:26) Death destroys. The loss of a child destroys a parents life. And if there are siblings, it destroys their lives, as well. The world we once knew exploded when Matt died. One of Matt's sisters continues to struggle with the loss of her brother. She stuffed her grief for two years after he died, but eventually the volcano of grief poured out in a molten lava mess of social anxiety and depression.

I have often felt as if I didn't just lose one child July 29, 2011, but two.

While our daughter has come a long way in three years with professional counseling, her grief, like ours, has not ended. But the broken pieces, like our tears, are being collected. (Psalm 56:8) The enemy Death means to destroy and work evil out of the circumstances in our lives, but God our Father, who loves us and intends good for us, reweaves the thread of grief. Death wove a black thread into the fabric of our heart, but the Master Weaver (per Max Lucado) picks up the black thread and reweaves it with scarlet thread; the thread of hope, Jesus Christ.

We may feel as if the storm never ends, but, as the pastor from the weekend pointed out, God doesn't move. When the storms come, and we wonder where He went, we must remember that God does not leave us. He is in the midst of our circumstances. Trust Him with your pain. He reminded us of Psalm 55:22a: "Cast your cares on the Lord and he will sustain you..." and that the word cast here is not in the context of casting out and reeling back in as in fishing, but rather a complete dropping. Drop your cares on God and do not pick them back up again.

Grief is not a passing storm, but that doesn't mean we have to hold on to the pain. Instead, we hold on to the One who holds us. We hold on to the anchor, to truth. We allow God to thread the needle of grief with His promise of eternal life through His son Jesus Christ. And the thread of grace will keep us until the end of the story. What God is creating we cannot fathom, but we can trust that it is good.

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

VEX Robotics scholarship presentation video

The Matt Cherney VEX Robotics scholarship was presented today by our close family friend and "second" dad of sorts to Matt. We are incredibly grateful to Max for presenting, and to Sam, for recording it. The video is below, but can also be viewed on Youtube HERE.

Friday, May 13, 2016

The Matt Cherney VEX Robotics Scholarship

This past week my husband and I selected a scholarship recipient. On Wednesday, May 18th, the Matt Cherney VEX Robotics Scholarship will be presented. It is given with great grief and great joy. May is a hard month for us. Matt's birthday, his sister's high school graduation and party, our anniversary (this year on Mother's Day), Mother's Day, and the scholarship selection all fell in the first eight days of the month. Yeah. Whew is right.

We are incredibly thankful, however, for God's provision. Without the amazing generosity of family and friends this $1000 scholarship wouldn't be possible. Matt had a gift with computers and programming. Anyone that knew him discovered that quickly. He had a passion for computer technology that would have been a perfect fit with VEX Robotics. I am forever grateful that Matt's memory, talents, and skills live on through this scholarship.

Our grief is great, but our joy is as well. Knowing that Matt, through this scholarship, is touching the lives of students who share his passion is a great, great comfort. Thank you, dear family and friends, for helping to redeem our pain, comfort us in our grief, and exemplify the body of Christ.
VEX Robotics
Matt Cherney attended Mankato East High School in the 2010-11 school year as a sophomore student. At age 16, Matt’s passion was computers, specifically programming and trouble-shooting. He was self-taught and loved learning everything he could about programming. In his own words from his Facebook page, he said, “I LOVE Java, C/C++, JavaFX, XHTML, HTML, CSS, JavaScript, and XML. OH! And Perl, and C#, and...” Matt surpassed even his dad in his knowledge of computers (which is impressive since his dad is a senior programmer/analyst of over 20 years).
Matt joined the BPA club (Business Professionals of America) at the beginning of the school year and quickly proved his skills were on par when he placed 1st in PC Servicing & Troubleshooting and 5th in Java Programming at the BPA Regional Competition. Since East High School no longer offers a BPA club, the Matt Cherney scholarship is now being offered through East High’s Vex Robotics program. Vex Robotics is a program Matt would definitely have participated in with great joy.

If you are interested in contributing to the scholarship fund, please email me. Our hope and desire, of course, is to offer this scholarship for many, many years to come. 

Monday, May 2, 2016


Today is my son's 21st birthday. It should be a day of great joy and celebration. But it isn't. Not really.

Because when you have a child who died, these days are difficult. We try to eke out as much redemption as we can by remembering Matt and all the things we love best about him. We remember the ways he made us smile and how he brought us joy. We move forward, choosing joy over bitterness.

We gather ideas and give away Mocha Frappes to stem the flow of grief from my busted heart that threatens to bleed out.

I slept fitfully last night, thinking of this day twenty-one years ago when I was in labor with this baby who had already stolen our hearts, before we knew that parenting was a "No-Holds-Barred" contract signed with undying love.

We were blessed to celebrate sixteen years of birthdays with this "Gift of God," my Peanut, my Mateo, Matthew, Matt.

We are blessed to have family and friends who grieve with us, who weep with us, and who remember Matt with us. These friends and family are the tourniquet applied to my heart today. They are the ones who allow me to cry and remind me that hope and joy are still here...though just buried right now.

We are off to get a DQ cake shortly. I think Matt would like it. Here's to hope and joy.