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What I Know Of Grief

What I know of grief.  

This is not the extent of what I know.  There are others.  A tiny one - that I still can't write about.  An older one, who was my True North.  And one whose guidance and counsel I still miss.  Unfortunately grief is not unfamiliar to me, or to my house.  But today, on the second anniversary of her death, I remember my mother.  Noreen Madge Peeler.  Who loved me.

I woke up this morning in the exact same spot I was two years ago.  In Scottsdale, Arizona, in our bed, in our vacation home.  And just like that morning.  I was alone.  

Normally when I wake up my husband is still in bed, but that day, he'd gone out for a sunny, early morning walk.  It was Easter weekend, and we had flown down with our family for a vacation, booked months earlier, before we knew…  Our eldest daughter, Megan, had come and crawled in bed with me.  Which is a rare treat for the mother of married daughters.  Her own little one and her husband were both still sleeping, so when she heard her Dad leave for his walk, she snuck out of the guest room to came into mine, to snuggle.

I knew when we left on that trip that there was a chance my mother might not be there when I got back.  That she might die while I was away.  She had ovarian cancer.  A relentless, insidious disease, that creeps in and takes hold before anyone knows it's there.  She had been ill with it four times in three years, or three times in four years.  It feels like a blur now.  She deteriorated and rallied so many times, it is hard to remember.  It was hard to know, as we left home for our flight, if this was it, or just another valley she would rise from.  And it was the babies' first Easter…  And the flights were booked…  And it was only one week, surely she'd hang on.

Mom was diagnosed the Fall Megan got engaged.  It took months.  One test, nothing.  Three weeks later another.  Nothing.  Three weeks later another test.  There are currently no early detection tests for Ovarian Cancer.  It is incredibly hard to diagnose.   So while the doctors searched, my mother writhed and withered.  She dropped 50 pounds in 3 months.  In too much pain to eat.  My father would call me, daily, frantic for help, frantic for relief, a reason, a diagnosis.  He was looking for somewhere to cling, someone to carry his burden.  And I was the nearest, and easiest vessel.  

That first Christmas, when she was finally diagnosed, but too weak and despondent from pain, she now refused to eat.  She could barely drink.  And so, with her vital organs threatening to shut down, she was hospitalized.  For weeks.  We thought she might come home on Christmas day, but no.  It was the first Christmas my parents hadn't woken up together in 51 years.   We went to the hospital, we opened gifts beside her bed.  She tried to feign interest and gratitude.  I couldn't hug her because I had a cold, so I sat far away from her, in a chair on the other side of the room, cheerfully oohing and ahhing over each of her gifts as she opened them.  Ever my mother's daughter, feigning interest and excitement.

To say this robbed me of my joy in the planning and celebrating of our daughter's wedding would be inaccurate.  It was joyful, and bittersweet, as it always is when a child marries out of her parent's home.  There were lots of cuddles, late night chats that we knew were soon coming to an end.  There were tense conversations and frustrations with each other over the thousand details that make up the big wedding of a young bride.  And there was cancer.  At every bridal shower, at every dress fitting, on her big day, cancer came too.  It escorted my mother in her wig and her dress, proudly announced to be three sizes smaller than she used to wear.  

Mom "fought" her cancer from the Fall of 2009 until April 19th, 2014.  But we all knew from the beginning it was a pointless fight.  One we had watched my aunt loose some years before.  In that time, during those four years, Mom had countless doses of chemo, lost her hair twice, vomited until her teeth were spoiled, lost control of her bowels, always warning us not to use her toilet as both her vomit and stool were toxic from her treatments.  She agreed to let the healthcare nurse bathe her when my Dad finally admitted it was too much for him, both physically and emotionally.  During that time too, she watched both her grand daughters, dressed in white, on the arm of their father, walk down the aisle, to teary eyed young men, delighted and anxious the claim them as their own.  And in time, was thrilled as each of those brides presented her with her first and second great grand children, both girls.  Making her, Nana-The-Great.  Her last coherent conversation was one cooing to one of those baby girls, while she held her in her hospital bed.  She adored those little girls. 

And so tonight, when I strangely find myself, alone, in the same bed I first mourned her passing, ironically watching Claire Underwood go through the same thing.  I'm sentimental.  Many friends messaged me today with notes of love and sympathy in response to the picture I posted of Mom and I.  But until tonight, watching Claire loose her own mother, I had forgotten the tremendous weight of the anxiety and conflicting emotions of that time, so much joy in watching our girls celebrate their weddings and the births of their first little ones.  So much sorrow watching Mom deteriorate and my Dad fail to cope well, finding reasons to stay away for hours, leaving her alone, when she shouldn't have been.  Unable to face it.  Unable to fathom his pending loss. 

Death is a gift some times.  My Mom's was.  She was done.  She was ready.  It was remarkable, watching her.  She was just waiting, calmly, for relief.  For transformation from this world to the next.  This broken body to a perfected one.  We always think we'll fear death.  When we're young and healthy and it's just an abstract thought.  But that day, April 19, 2014, death was a blessing.  For both Mom and for our family.  And so when the call came from Dad, back home, alone, as Megan and I cuddled, in a bed, in the desert, we knew.  It was time.  She had suffered enough.  It was time for relief.  It was time for Mom to go home.








Link: We Lost A Child And Gained Something Greater

Normally, when I'm moved by blog posts, or find them helpful, I post a link to them to our Apron Strings Facebook page.  I normally only post original essays I write myself here on the blog.  But this one is special, it's for a lady who contacted me in a private message through the Your Apron Strings "contact" button.  She told me she was expected her second child.  She told me that she had delivered a still born little girl last year.  I told her we'd lost a grand daughter last Summer, and that I would be praying for her.  Which I have been.  For joy in place of fear, for a healthy baby to take home and to hold.  Praying in a way I couldn't have before last Summer.  She comes to my mind often.  So when I read this article, I found randomly on Facebook, and sobbed my way through the whole thing, I knew I had to post it on the blog itself, to be sure she sees it.  

I'm praying for you C.  And for your little babe on the way.  xoxo Shonna

"We Lost A Child And Gained Something Greater" by Kyle Porter


Are You Treating God Like Kim Kardashian?

Are you treating God like Kim Kardashian?

Do you read about Him.  Listen to people talk about Him.  Base your opinions on what you know of Him?

If you're only reading your bible or listening to sermons and not taking the time - or don't have an interest in - praying to God, in really getting to know Him, then you're treating Him like Kim Kardashian.  

You think you know Him, you feel like you know Him, because you know so much about Him, but you don't.  You can read about Him all you want.  That doesn't mean you know Him.  And it doesn't mean you have a relationship with Him.  

God didn't come to be admired from afar.  He came to know you, and to be known by you.  And outside of prayer, that's not going happen.


"If you're only reading your bible or listening to sermons and not taking the time - or don't have an interest in - praying to God, in really getting to know Him, then you're treating Him like Kim Kardashian." 

It actually make me sad when I hear Christians talk about how "hard" it is to pray.  How they should "discipline" themselves to pray more.  It makes me feel like they don't like God.  They believe in Him - they just don't want to hang out with Him.  

I get that it's a time thing.  It is hard to find time to pray.  Our mornings are rushed and by evening we're exhausted.  And during the middle of the day we're all busy with work and kids.  But I don't believe that we can't find time to do the things we really want to.  Men, do you find it hard to "find time" to have sex with your wife?  Do we women find it hard to "find time" to look at Pinterest?  Sorry for the generalizations, but in my experience they ring true.

Praying is a cultivated skill.  And it does require will and choice.  Outside of airplane turbulence or sick children, many people don't feel the need to pray.  Including Christian people.  But only reading or hearing about God, is not the same as having a relationship with Him.  He didn't intend to be a celebrity to you.  He intended to be a father.  A comfort, a guide, the voice inside your head.


"Praying is a cultivated skill.  And it does require will and choice.  Outside of airplane turbulence or sick children, many people don't feel the need to pray."

Here are some suggestions regarding prayer:

Do it the same time everyday.  Habits - whether good or bad, are comforting to us, and they're hard to break.  Make prayer a habit.

Don't kid yourself that you'll pray when you won't.  If you're not a morning person, don't kid yourself that you're going to get up 30 minutes earlier each day to pray.  You won't.

Plan to pray when you won't get interrupted.  When our girls were in school I used to drive to pick them up 20 minutes before school let out.  I'd park on the curb where I could read my bible and then pray through what I'd just read.  I didn't look at my phone (because it was the 90's and all it did was call and text), or listen to the radio.  I basically set it up so that I had no choice but to pray.

Make sure you understand what you're reading, and then pray through it.  Earlier this year a friend told me about Matthew Henry's Bible Commentary.  Changed my bible reading and prayer life!  Now I actually read shorter passages in the bible - usually just one or two chapters, because I want to leave time to read the commentary on them afterwards.

"Pray" in a way that works for you.  I have a short attention span.  My mind tends to wander.  But I love to type!  So I type my prayers.  Since I started doing this I find I can stay focused for long periods.  It also keeps me on topic because I'm mid-paragraph - I can see what I'm praying about.  This has been a big one for me.  I know it seems kind of weird, or like someone might read what you've prayed, but you can always just delete it afterwards.  I don't.  I like to go back and re-read my prayers during different times.  Particularly hard times.

If you feel like you're praying the same thing over and over - for the health and safety of your children, etc., etc.  I'd really encourage you to pray over the bible passages you've just read.  Pray about what resonated with you, what you feel God is teaching you through it.  And really pay attention to the things God promises those who love and obey Him, and pray for those things (instead of nice weather during your vacation - not promised in the bible).  Things like a deep peace even during really hard times, a feeling of rest at your deepest level, and joy.  Pray for the things God tells you to pray for - you're much more likely to get a favourable answer!  

If you're a Christian, it's kind of your job to pray.  It's also, and more importantly, your privilege.  If you're unsure where to start, follow the format, the template, that Jesus Himself laid out.  The Lord's Prayer.  And then just put it in your own words and expand on the parts that resonate with you that day.  I've included it below, in the Modern English Version - so it's more approachable.  This is Jesus speaking;


Matthew 6:9-13

“Therefore pray in this manner:

Our Father who is in heaven,
hallowed be Your name.

Your kingdom come;
Your will be done, on earth, as it is in heaven.

Give us this day our daily bread.

And forgive us our debts,
as we forgive our debtors.

And lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from evil.

For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen.






Do You Love Your Children Too Much?

Do you love your children too much?

What's too much???

Does fear of alienation from them keep you from correcting or punishing them?  Do you laugh out of embarrassed powerlessness, when they sass or defy you, in front of others?  When you know they've done something wrong, do you make excuses for them in your mind or to others - they were tired, or hungry, or the other kids took the one that was their favourite colour - of course he's going to get upset and act out.  

Then you love them too much.

There's an account in 1 Samuel 2 of a very wise and godly priest named Eli, but his sons were corrupt.  Eli knew it and did nothing.  He loved his sons too much.  God called him out on it, telling him that he honoured his sons more than he honoured God and God removed His blessing from the house of Eli.  The line of the priesthood was taken away from his sons, and given to someone else.

There's another account in 1 Kings of a rebellious son of King David's, who tried to steal the kingdom out from under his father on his death bed.  The only reason given for his treason?  "His father had never rebuked him by asking, 'Why do you behave as you do?'"  His father hadn't disciplined him when he had the chance.


"It's strange really, that by allowing our children to behave just as they choose, we actually drive them away from us." 


It's strange really, that by allowing our children to behave just as they choose, by refraining from calling them out on their bad or disrespectful behaviour, that we actually drive them away from us.  

Children, like dogs and even adults with other adults, respond to fair and measured authority, with respect and obedience.  Too much discipline or unfair punishment and you'll drive them away, but the same is true for the opposite, too little and they'll learn, from a very early age, that they can walk all over you.  They'll disrespect you at will, and eventually loose any interest in your opinions at all.  And why shouldn't they?  You're their parent, and if you fail to act like someone placed in authority over them, lovingly correcting them and teaching them how to behave, how are you any different from any other old person they have very little in common with?  What will bind them to you as they move into adulthood, what will give credence to your advice, opinions and even gentle reproach to an adult child, is love born of respect.  Pure and simple.  As adults, most of us love our aging parents, but the only adults I know that still listen to their elderly parents, are those who really respect them.


"Weak authority over your children, brings about weak character within your children."

Now I've already written much on the importance of discipline and even given detailed examples of how and how not to do it, and I'd encourage you, if you weren't raised with a healthy example of parenting, to go back and read through these earlier articles.  (Rudeness and Teenagers, Disciplining In Public, are just a couple).  But honestly I think we all know when we're being disrespected by our children, and we know it's wrong.  The trick is to calmly and evenly demand the respect and obedience a child owes a good parent, (here I'm allowing for the exception of tyrannical, or verbally or physically abusive parents).  To teach our children that unkind or disrespectful behaviour towards us, their parents, or towards their peers is not acceptable, the reasons why, and the consequences if they continue with it.  And to then follow through.  The trick is in the follow through.  Not rolling our eyes in exasperation, not winking and smirking at other parents, hands raised in that universal expression of "Whatcha' gonna do???"  Whatcha gonna do?!!!  Take you to task that's what!  

Weak authority over your children, brings about weak character within your children.  It's your job and your responsibility to love them biblically; with authority, boundaries and correction along with all the love, cuddles and giggles.  This is how to really love your children.  It's how to raise them to be adults with strong moral character, the self discipline to do what's right even if it hurts and to consider other's feelings and opinions.  It is also how to have a relationship, built not just upon love but also upon respect, that continues into their adulthood, when it's their choice whether they will spend time with you or not.









To Love As A Bride Loves

"I remember the devotion of your youth, how as a bride you loved Me and followed Me through the wilderness through a land not sown."  Jeremiah chapter 2

Through a land not sown.

Such devotion, such trust.  

Through a land not sown.

This was how I married.  There were no stakes defining our territory.  Nothing yet planted.  We were young.  Very young.  Very broke.  But thankfully, and I became more and more aware as I aged, what an advantage it was ~ very free of debt.

We were two kids.  Head over heels in love.  And that was it.

"I don't know much.  But I know I love you.  And that may be all I need to know."  I think Aaron Nevil might just have nailed it on the head with that one.

You see we've been married for twenty six years now, and you know what I've learned through all those years and all those miles?  The most valuable thing I've learned?

That, that really is all I need to know.

That I love him.

Deep down, in the depths of who I am.  I love him.

And that is the answer.  

I love how he loves me.  I love the man he is.  Full of character and work ethic, and a generosity of spirit I've seen in few others.  I love how he loves our daughters.  And the grandpa he's become.  Gently tossing these new little girls around, comforting them, as they howl at being left with Grammy and Boompa for the night, lonely for their mothers.

I love the wrinkles that are now around his still sparkly brown eyes.

I love his elegant fingers, left clean from his passion for computer work, his piano, and his distain for yard work or sports.

I love that he's learned not to talk to me early in the morning, but instead to leaves me in peace as I slowly wake up through out my first hour of the day. 

This is the man I fell in love with.  The man with whom I walked into a land not sown.

I trust him.  Fully. 

I have loved him as a bride loves.  Jumping in with both feet.  Having no career.  Anxious to begin our family and remain home to raise them.  I was often told I should have a "back up plan."  What if he leaves you?  What if he doesn't earn enough?  Don't you think you should be able to provide for yourself - just in case?!

"Like a bride loves."  "The devotion of your youth."  "Through a land not sown." 

There was no back up plan.  No, just in case.  Only joyfully ignorant bliss.

Things could have gone wrong.  Illness.  Finances.  Things out of one's control for the most part. 

But in terms of character I was all in.  I had no doubts.  I was betting it all on black.  Spin the wheel because I'm not pulling out.  "All I need to know."

And he's never let me down.  Not once.

Have there been times he's hurt me?  Yes.  Have there been times I've come second to his work?  Yes.  Has he ever gone back on what he pledged to me on that hot June day back in 1989?  Never.   

He has loved me with a faithful devotion that has steadied and sustained me for the past quarter century. 

We're not kids anymore.  We've planted, and are now reaping the harvest of that unsown land, together. 

A marriage.  A family.  A home and a life.  A security and a stake in something we both hold so dear we almost hesitate to breath as to not upset it. 

And yet now, there's a new land.  Not yet sown.

A place where we learn what it is to be two again.  Jumping in and out of the eight our family has grown into.  Knowing it's there.  The beautiful weight of it, the security and grounding it gives to all of us.

But there's more territory to plant.  There's old age yet to come.  And between then and now, adventures to be had, decisions to be made and new lands yet to come.

"To love as a bride loves." 

Will I follow you?  Of course.  Only a fool wouldn't.  You have led me, lovingly, kindly, tenderly, through the past 26 years.  Making every decision with me in mind.  Every choice, every act of self discipline and sacrifice.  Always choosing me. 

And so I choose you.  Again.  I choose us.  I choose the wilderness.  I hate the dark, I'm afraid of the woods.  But I'm not afraid of what we, together create.  I've seen it.  I feel it.  I carry it inside me, everyday.  And it gives me my strength.

I won't have you forever.  There will come a day when the planting will be done, and I'll be left, or you will be my love, with only the harvest of our choices.  But for now, I want to go where you lead.  There's an entire phase, an entire stage yet to come.  Where it's just us again.  "How as a bride you loved Me and followed Me."  Let's go there together. 

I choose us.