Seventeen years after Alexis Grace

Alexis GraceIf you have tuned into any of these little essays or videos of mine you’ve likely observed that Jessica and I have a daughter that died seventeen years ago. Alexis was three-and-a-half when we lost her, and we’ve thought about her every single day since.

I don’t know why it’s been on my heart to write about her—perhaps some of you need to be encouraged in regards to bereavement and loss, or maybe it’s just part of my ongoing therapy. 🙂 Regardless, I wanted to share a few thoughts seventeen years later.

Jessica and I still miss her daily. There has not been a single day when we haven’t thought of her multiple times, and the emotions are still surprisingly fresh. We are very happy in life and we are probably as healed as people can be after losing a child, but it doesn’t take much digging to have all of the old emotions rush back to the surface. The right sight or smell or memory can very quickly open the floodgates and ruin us.

We don’t understand why Alexis’ life went the way it did. We haven’t been able to make sense of her–or our–pain. There aren’t any neat little platitudes that can put a pretty bow on this part of our life. We haven’t easily moved on. Rather, our recovery has been more like being pulled, barely breathing, off of a battlefield. We’re here and we’ve healed, but we’ll never be the same.

Great good has come from our life with Alexis. She lived up to her middle name in stunning ways and forever introduced us to the amazing grace of God. Our life with Alexis taught us to love people…it focused our priorities on things that truly matter…it filled us with a gratitude for life that has never left us…it bonded Jessica and me in precious and priceless ways…it injected our parenting with a joy and delight that we experience every day with Amber and Madelyn…it made us better human beings…and it brought us into the presence of God.

However, just because good can come from a bad situation it doesn’t necessarily make the bad good. The bad is still bad, and we should always remember that when we comfort or counsel people who have lived through loss. The bad is still bad, and we shouldn’t disrespect people’s pain by only focusing on the good. Having said that, we must also remember that sorrow and death do not have the final word. We are indeed following a God who can create breathtaking mosaics out of the shards of our lives. He’s done that with Jessica and me, and He can do that with you.

Loss will change you, and you might carry a limp forever, but it can also be a portal that opens new horizons and brings you face to face with the eternal, boundless grace of God.




Amber is driving…and other emotional things!

hide and seek“Ready or not…here I come!”

I used to shout those words after counting to 100 (or close enough) and then charging out to find my hiding compadres, but I never thought that a game of hide-and-seek would contain my parenting mantra.

“Ready or not…I’m now and forever a dad.”

“Ready or not…my baby is starting Kindergarten.”

“Ready or not…my little girl is at her first sleepover.”

“Ready or not…she’s heading away for camp.”

“Ready or not…the Barbies are gone…the makeup is out…and there’s suddenly another woman living in our house.”

As you can tell, I’m a bit sentimental this week, because Amber just got her driver’s license (and Maddie has recently turned 13). No matter what I do, they both keep taking these giant steps toward independence.

Ready or not…Jessica and I are now parenting young women. And it’s awesome. And even when it’s not so awesome, I love it! I’m so grateful that I get to parent and protect and frustrate and watch over these young ladies.

They’re delightful, a dazzling mixture of beauty, personality, intensity, and charm. They’ve taught me so much, and at every stage along the way, they’ve pulled the best out of me.

I’ve learned how strong a feminine soul can be. I’ve learned how fierce a father’s heart can beat. And I’ve learned that whether or not I’m ready, God is ready. And He is not stingy in dispensing His wisdom and grace.

Whether YOU feel ready or not for your parenting (or general life) assignments, you are. Because, if you let Him, God will walk beside you, upholding and empowering you.

In The Horse and His Boy, the young boy, Shasta, got lost and had to ride his horse slowly through a dense, impenetrable fog. Bewildered and alone, he suddenly became aware of a presence and a voice that was moving alongside him in the dark. Unknown to Shasta the voice belonged to Aslan, the Lion King of Narnia, and throughout the entire night, Aslan spoke to Shasta about his history while guiding him back onto the safe path.

Even in the times when we lack clarity and direction, the voice of our king, Jesus, will guide us too.

Ready or not…you’re ready…because of the One who walks beside you.

Loved When Unlovable

love the unlovable

Do you know that you were loved in your most unlovable moments? Do you know that God loved you even when you couldn’t love yourself? Has the weight of that truth ever worked its way into your soul?

You were loved in the exact time when you were the most difficult to love.

God loved you when you hated Him (or when you were coolly indifferent to Him).

He loved you when you pulled a Jonah and sailed in the opposite direction.

He loved you before you surrendered your life to Him and began morphing into who you are today.

He loved you in your confusion, your brokenness, and your shame.

He loved you when you cheered for the wrong sports team (sorry Clippers fans).

God loved you when you were far from Him. That’s what Romans 5:8 is all about. It says, “God demonstrates His own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”

If those words are true, how have they affected our closest relationships? Do we love our loved ones in their less-than-lovely moments? Or do we only love them until those moments?

Certainly, it’s easier to love our loved ones when they’re modeling all of the things that we love best about them, but what about when the other stuff peeks through? What about those times when their lesser nature flares up? Do we love them still?

We don’t have to love their lesser nature, and we certainly don’t have to endorse what they do with it, but I hope we have enough of God’s love in us to continue loving even when it’s difficult to love.

Indeed, those are probably the only moments when love can truly be called love.

A Family of Friends

Parenthood“God is building a family. A permanent family. Earthly families enjoy short shelf lives. Even those that sidestep divorce are eventually divided by death. God’s family, however, will outlive the universe.

You didn’t pick me. I didn’t pick you. You may not like me. I may not like you. But since God picked and liked us both, we are family.

And we treat each other as friends.

C.S. Lewis said, ‘Friendship is born at that moment when one person says to another, ‘What! You too? I thought I was the only one.’

If similar experiences create friendships, shouldn’t the church overflow with friendships? With whom do you have more in common than fellow believers? Amazed by the same manger, stirred by the same Bible, saved by the same cross, and destined for the same home. Can you not echo the words of the psalmist? ‘I am a friend to everyone who fears you, to anyone who obeys your orders’ (Ps.119:63 NCV).

The church. More than family, we are friends. More than friends, we are family. God’s family of friends.

Oddly, some people enjoy the shade of the church while refusing to set down any roots. God, yes. Church, no. They like the benefits, but resist commitment. The music, the message, and the clean conscience—they accept church perks. So they date her, visit her. Enjoy an occasional rendezvous. They use the church. But commit to the church? Can’t do that. Got to keep options open. Don’t want to miss out on any opportunities.

I propose they already are. Miss the church and miss God’s sanctioned tool for God promotion. For church is a key place to do what you do best to the glory of God.

God heals His family through His family. In the church we use our gifts to love each other, honor one another, keep an eye on troublemakers, and carry each other’s burdens. Do you need encouragement, prayers, or a hospitable home? God entrusts the church to purvey these treasures. Consider the church God’s treatment center for the common life.

Don’t miss it. No one is strong all the time. Don’t miss the place to find your place and heal your hurts.”[1]


Summer Reading Program: The Cure for the Common Life Chapter Nine “Join God’s Family of Friends.”

[1] This essay is taken in its entirety from Max Lucado’s The Cure for the Common Life (Thomas Nelson, Nashville, TN: 2005): 77-82.

A Workable Marriage-Counseling Template

newlywedsPer some requests, I’ve decided to post the marriage-counseling template that I shared in last Sunday’s message at Grace. As I stated in that message, when a couple asks for my help in strengthening their relationship, I urge them to gently but honestly ponder and discuss the following questions:

  1. Based on an understanding of Scripture and the desire of our heart, what would our marriage look like if it were a “10”?
  2. How does our marriage compare to that “10”? Be careful to answer this question gently, without inflicting any unnecessary wounds with your words.
  3. Where have we wounded each other?
  4. Where have we stopped “husband-ing” each other? The word “husband” used to be a verb that referenced the cultivation or tilling of land. Implied in the name husband, then, is the idea of cultivating and tending to the relationship.
  5. Where do we need to ask for and extend forgiveness?
  6. What action steps would most quickly move us toward that “10” standard? Each partner can usually list two or three simple things that, if done, would jump-start the healing and recovery process.
  7. What tools do we need to receive to begin those steps? It’s great to have an action plan, but if we don’t have the necessary tools to complete the steps, the problem will compound and we will struggle with additional feelings of failure or inadequacy.
  8. Are we full of the Holy Spirit? And if we’re not, do we now how to get full?
  9. How do we work this process while speaking nothing but “gentle”? Remember, harshness is a death sentence to a marriage relationship, but gentleness is its lifeblood. 

Fabulous at forty!

On vacation with Jessie (fabulous at forty) and Amber and Maddie…savoring every moment before we return home to new adventures with high school, soccer, volleyball, friendships, and our incredible community at Grace Church. We love and appreciate you all!