Still Here and Still His

Of Life, Love and Loss. Of Knowing and Being Known. On Being His.

“Let in the Light, Shut Out the Dark” Part 1

I’ve often seen the morning light as an invitation for us to join in on a day that God has already begun, so I remind my boys that in the morning they are to ‘open the blinds and let in the light’. And in the evening, when the day is done and the night sky and its darkness has fallen upon us, they know they are to ‘close the blinds so as to shut out the dark’. These spoken words began as a simple preference of my own, but as I remind them, I remind myself as well.

My three boys share one bedroom in our home. They’re all packed in–tight and cozy. One of their morning responsibilities includes opening the blinds to their windows. Oftentimes, one of them forgets (though it’s never the same kid from day to day). It drives me a wee bit crazy to walk into their room after they’ve gone to school and find that the blinds are still closed and the sun’s rays are barely leaking in, forbidden from casting light into the already cramped, and often cluttered, space. Some days I climb up the bunk ladder and open the blinds. Other days I close the door to their bedroom and pretend the darkness and clutter doesn’t exist. The pretending, of course, is kids’ play; the reality is that I don’t want to deal with it. I don’t want to deal with the darkness, the clutter, or the ensuing chaos. The same is true for my heart. When life feels cramped, cluttered, or chaotic–whether internally or externally–it takes effort to let in the light. I am prone to shut the door, keep the blinds closed and pretend those places and that darkness doesn’t exist.

As mid-November rolls around there creeps up within me this awful feeling that I just want to curl up, take a quick nap, and wake up in February. For packed into those eight weeks are three birthdays, two holidays, and one anniversary. I’ve always felt somewhat lacking in the celebration department anyway, and carrying on those celebrations and preparations without Jeremy’s aide has proven difficult these past few years. Nevertheless, these boys of mine need to be celebrated whether I feel up for the task or not. Advent is to be remembered and Christ’s birth rejoiced in, because it’s a reality that has given us–and continues to give us– life. The moments of remembering and celebrating make and remake our hearts. I need that work done in me. I need to let in that light.

This season, then, is not what it once was for our family; nor is it what I imagined it would be. Yet rather than attempting to re-create what once was I’ve learned that it’s more fruitful to enjoy these present moments, however they may unfold. Christmas shopping is yet to be completed and the Christmas tree was only picked out this past weekend. But we’ve listened to Christmas music, read stories, lit fires in the fireplace. I’ve held and cuddled a sick boy on a gray day. We’ve spent time with friends and family and rejected the to-do list for just one more day. And I find that my heart is glad. I find myself grateful that God has provided enough for this moment. I find myself happy to be awake, to be given one more day to serve and love God the best I know how.

Traditions are wonderful, but the hope and peace of Advent and Christmas dwells much deeper than our ability to manage the chaos and create beautiful moments. We can — even in darkness and chaos and clutter — twist the wand and let in a little light. Jesus knows exactly how to enter in to such spaces. We find there is room and space during Advent for the dark — the weak, the tired, the wandering, the waiting, the wondering — as well as room and space for hope, joy and celebration. There is a place here for all of us.

Blessings to you and yours as you wait for the coming King.

The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” John 1:5

J Erickson

Some of our favorite porch steps in the world (they belong to the grandparents).

Where I’ve Been & Where I’m Going (III of III)

Jeremy once wrote a song about his indecisiveness. While I’ve never considered myself as having the strongest of opinions, neither have I considered myself indecisive. Give me two options, I’ll pick one (…just don’t ask me to come up with the options). That is, until these past few years. Now I feel that I am, most often, indecisive. Last spring I painted my kitchen five times until I got it the right color (for the most part). Ask me to make holiday plans with three viable options and I spend weeks trying to decide how to navigate our travels. I likely despise my indecisiveness now just as much as Jeremy despised his then. It seems I am constantly questioning my decisions, often frustrated that I must either carve my own path in this life or discern the mysterious path God has me on, with three growing lads in tow.

I often wonder, what has changed in me? When Jeremy was sick I was strong and stable, able and assured, sufficient and decisive. These months I have been hardly any of those things, which may not be obvious to you if you see the life I live. The boys and I are happy and active. We’re in community with others. We long to love and serve God and be a part of His kingdom work (and when we don’t long to, we get on our knees and pray that we would). We see and experience beauty, kinship, the grace of God.  And … we are also frustrated and sad and alone. There was a weekend recently when nothing felt right: our home, our space, our commitments, not to mention our future, our past, or our here and now. Perhaps my indecisiveness is a symptom of lingering grief. It’s difficult to make decisions–large or small–when so many past decisions were out of my control. It’s difficult now to know what it is I even want, when for years Jeremy’s health dictated much of our lives.

I also once had exactly what I wanted: my role as Jeremy’s wife felt perfect for me. I admired and stood in awe of almost all he did. I wanted in on what God was doing with his life from day one. I trusted him to make wise decisions for our family. While he never took advantage of my willingness and desire to follow and support him, it wasn’t until our final few years together that both of us began to realize that my lack of opinion and my willingness to follow–though right and good in most all circumstances–probably curtailed my own ability to grow independently, or at least kept me from being more aware of what God was doing in me and with my life. And, since I married at the ripe young age of 19, I skipped out on single life pretty much all together.

falling rainIn the wake of his death and the sudden way in which all of life became my own, I don’t often feel like a healthy, confident person, though I wish I did. I generally still feel like I’m free-falling and, on my worst days, flailing due to fear, frustration, sorrow, or any combination of tantrum-like emotions. Some days I mistake a cliff for actual solid ground, sometimes thinking we’ve landed somewhere only to find we haven’t quite reached the foothills. In this experience, I can not even begin to explain how much my heart yearns for a sense of ‘rightness’, for direction, for a ‘knowing’ of God’s call and His nearness, nor can I explain how much that longing alone on some days seems to cripple my heart. I struggle to pray persistently, yet I refuse to settle for anything less than God’s presence and anointing in our lives. Still, I don’t know where I want to be.


I began this three-part post quite some time ago; now the entire summer has gone by and a good portion of autumn. Two months ago, the “where I’m going” was an open field. There were days where my mind wandered to moving; would we and could we move from a home that has been mine almost my whole life, the only home the boys have known? Would it actually make our future easier to be out of the space that holds our entire past? I had days where I envisioned working–with a feeling like I ought to –even if I prefer to be home. I thought of all the ministries I could engage in, all the things I could volunteer for. So I pondered and prayed through these things, hoping that something would fall into my lap. And if nothing ‘fell into my lap’ I dreamed of all the time I would have to tackle the many projects at home that I’ve never had time for: Jeremy’s studio, which has awaited my attention for three years, his journals, his sermons, the bins of pictures from years of traveling. I envisioned being in a quiet home, at a desk, writing.

As it turned out, all of that dreaming was put to an end the final weeks of August. I was offered a position at the boys’ school working in the student health office, where I nurse middle schoolers back to health or send them home. It’s practical and fitting: I’ll be better able to provide for the boys while having their same school schedule–holidays and summers off.

Sounds good to me.

Seems like God’s provision.

Feels like a good next step.

It wasn’t until I walked through that door that I realized it closed several others, at least temporarily. It put an abrupt ending to a rather pleasant summer. Instead of enjoying the freedom of those final weeks of summer, I spent time setting up a new health office, getting to know staff, renewing my CPR certification, things of that sort. And although I acted decisively, doubt left me at moments trying to catch my breath, wondering all over again if I had made the right choice, if this will be a life-giving season for our family, or if I chose something good in the place of something else that would have been the best, had I just waited a bit longer.


But I think the fear that lingers even deeper in me is the fear that the best has already passed. At 33 years old, this ought to still be the prime of our family life. But the ship has sunk in the vast ocean, I’m sitting in a lifeboat awaiting the Rescuer to come to our aid, while doing my best to paddle and keep our hearts above water. Some days we sing and smile. Some days we fuss and cry. But every day we are just hoping for a glimpse of land or for a peace of mind that remains rock solid.

What is somewhat absurd about this rambling is that I am tangibly surrounded by numerous blessings and provisions….how is it that I could feel aimless or dissatisfied? Am I really so blind? Why can’t all the goodness sink in more deeply, informing my heart in the places where I seem to need it most? The reality that the best is yet to come sustains me fully and wholly in regards to the eternal but seems to leave me wondering and wanting in the here and now. Add to that how stubborn I’ve become–stubborn in my grief–and I’m finding that I require more chiseling and comfort than one may hope or expect.

FullSizeRenderNevertheless, at 2:30 every day I close the door to my office and I’m done. No papers to write, no deadlines. Just a normal job and an everyday life that is filled to the brim. I trust that as I aim to provide for the boys, God will provide for me–and for us–all that we need and more than we could imagine. It may be that I battle indecisiveness and fragility for a while, cynicism even. God may have to pursue and awaken my heart to even the smallest of invitations; many things may have to drop into my lap (and my kitchen may need to be painted several times over…), but I hope and pray there is a day when decisions come more easily and my heart rests more confidently. Aedan reminded me just a few weeks ago that if we are God’s and He is with us, then we are exactly where we are supposed to be. (I’m sure glad he listens in from time to time.)

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways my ways, says the LORD. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts. For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return there until they have watered the earth, making it bring forth and sprout, giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater, so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and succeed in the thing for which I sent it. For you shall go out in joy, and be led back in peace; the mountains and the hills before you shall burst into song, and all the trees of the field shall clap their hands. Instead of the thorn shall come up the cypress; instead of the brier shall come up the myrtle; and it shall be to the LORD for a memorial, for an everlasting sign that shall not be cut off.” (Isaiah 55:8-13)

Where I’ve Been & Where I’m Going (II of III)

Where I’ve Been…

In his early days of music ministry Jeremy used to send out a WIB & WIG newsletter: “Where I’ve Been & Where I’m Going”. It’s mostly for lack of time that I’ve been silent on the blog these past months, but since many have been asking for an update on the details of our lives, I’ll attempt to fill in some gaps.

In terms of daily life, from 7am-9am and 3:30pm-9pm every day (and really, 24/7), I’m a full-time mom of three elementary-age boys. For some of you, I don’t need to explain. For others, let me try. There’s a lot of directing, reminding, instilling, guiding, teaching, providing, bringing, making, cleaning, shopping, talking…and things of that sort going on. The hours after school consist of trying to balance homework, playtime, shifting moods, dinner, baseball, piano, cello, church, and now that it’s springtime, mowing the lawn. Sometimes all of this feels very good and goes really well. Other times, I find myself kneeling on my bedroom floor with the door closed telling God that I can’t do this and that I’m not cut out for being a single parent.IMG_6043

The “single-parenting card” is a really easy one to play–it’s not fair; this isn’t right; it’s too hard. Some tell me that I have every right to complain or to struggle. Others would say, as do I, parenting isn’t easy for anyone. As I think through the list of what makes it hard for me now, the same things were difficult even when Jeremy was around. What is different now is how much I hold on my own — the joys and the struggles. The moments of celebration over their lives and accomplishments are lonely at times because Jeremy should be sharing those proud moments with me. He made the boys too, and he should still be here enjoying them and continuing to make them who they are. The moments of sorrow, of difficulty and of decision-making are hard, because the weight of those decisions, are mine alone. If I make a wrong choice for them it’s not our fault, it’s my fault.  At the end of the day or its beginning, it’s just me. It’s just me deciding if they’re in the best school, if I’m helping them to manage their time well, if I’m modeling faith in God in a wholesome way, if they’re eating well enough, or playing hard enough, or sleeping long enough. It’s me that breaks up the battles and cleans up the messes. Sometimes I catch myself thinking that if the boys are doing amazing things, it’s because Jeremy was their dad, and if they’re struggling in any way, it’s because I’m not mothering them well. Neither of which are true alone. Nevertheless, thoughts like that try my heart.

IMG_5956Other days, I look at those boys and wonder how in the world I got so lucky? The boys are beautiful, easy kids. I am proud of who they are becoming. They each still struggle with their own grief –it shows up at school, in tears, at bedtime–and even more generally, they struggle with growing up, as every kid does. But they are also thriving in many ways, by the grace of God.

So after my moments of often desperate prayer to our always capable God, I seem to find myself standing back up, walking back out, and being mom again, because I know that my strength and my capability has very little to do with what God has called me to. Scripture says that when I’m at the end of my rope, I’m actually quite closer to Him (2 Corinthians 12:9). God assures me that He’s got my back and that I am enough, even on my own, only because I’m His. Neither do I take for granted –ever– the family and friends that I call my own. There are many others enjoying the boys alongside me. We are loved and supported beyond what we deserve and more than I could have ever hoped for.

Most weekdays while the boys are at school, I am, too–lost in a book on theology, world religions, ministry, literature, counseling, intercultural studies– or in front of a computer writing papers and answering discussion posts, as I’m wrapping up my B.S. in General Studies through Crown College. Most evenings, post-bedtime, I’m back at it. I’m currently in the final weeks of my Senior Portfolio course, working on a writing project with a nonprofit organization called Safe Families For Children, loving the coming together of life stories, God’s redemptive work and my growing passion for writing.  Commencement (which I’ll be walking in) is tomorrow, but my status as a full-time student will be ending the beginning of June. The boys’ question of “when will you be done with school???” will finally be answered. It’s been a sacrifice for them, for my family and for my friends over the past few years. I have poured myself into it fully and there has been a cost to that. I’m confident it will pay off eventually (it already has for me and I hope it does for them, too). Many people, understandably so, have assumed that I had gone back to complete my nursing degree, which is what I was pursuing when Jeremy got sick. I’d probably be a good nurse someday but, after all the years in and out of hospitals with Jeremy, I know that for this season of life it’s not where or what I want to be.

Speaking of hospitals … on the family front, shortly after Christmas Jeremy’s dad, Buddy, was diagnosed with Multiple Myeloma. He and Debbie spent several weeks at our home in January and February as he was being diagnosed. We cherished our time with them here despite disliking the reason for it. Buddy is currently receiving chemo back in their hometown and will be spending a portion of his summer weeks at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, MN, having a bone marrow transplant sometime in June or July. For those of you who know Jeremy’s health history, this diagnosis felt a bit surreal for our family. It’s one thing to have a fresh cancer diagnosis. It’s another thing to have it be so similar to Jeremy’s. It’s disheartening and frustrating, and difficult for my heart to re-engage with it all, at times. Still, we are hopeful that this will end well, though none of us are looking forward to walking this road. We know –as we have always known–that we are in the hands of God, that He loves us and that He is for us and with us. We are in good hands. The other thing that I am sure of is that the Erickson family is my family. I love them like my own. And while I’ve never called Buddy and Debbie, “mom” and “dad”, they are that to me in the very fullest sense.

IMG_5333In February, Aedan and I (and my mom!) traveled to Mexico with a short-term mission group to offer support to full-time orphanage and mission staff. It was a wonderful and blessed trip, a trip that was easy to transition into and back out of. But it came at a rather dark season for me. I remember the night before leaving feeling like I had nothing to offer at a time when I wanted to offer so much. I was worn out and tired. The trip wasn’t a “mountaintop” experience for me. It wasn’t even a reprieve. It was just something different. It was warm rather than cold. It was one kid rather than three. It was other people making decisions rather than me. It was a chance to offer all I had (which was very little) and know that it was enough. It was an opportunity to enter into some magnificent work that God is doing.IMG_5468 I was reminded how deeply God loves and how He is always at work building His kingdom, even in some of the darkest tragedies. At one point on the trip, I found myself laughing so hard with others in the midst of a most random conversation. I don’t know how long it had been since I had laughed like that, but realized how much those brief moments of laughing uncontrollably were such a gift from God. To watch my eldest son encounter the ocean for the first time was a quiet delight. Surprisingly, the trip wasn’t a profound bonding experience for Aedan and me. It was more of a “letting go” of him, which is exactly what it ought to have been in this season of life and, in its own right, a blessing.

Something I’ve seemed to inherit from Jeremy was the invitation to speak places. There are moments when I feel like I’m living his life (where did these friends come from? And who is this person who is now writing? And speaking? WHAT?). I’m not sure what to do with those invitations yet, except I generally say yes and then spend hours upon hours preparing (a few of those hours wondering why I said “yes”). But I say yes because we are called to testify about the goodness of God, about His truth, about Christ and His salvation. So sprinkled in with a lot of schoolwork and parenting, I’ve spent time preparing for a few speaking opportunities.

IMG_6137Post July, besides planning to spend a lot of time with family and the boys, the calendar is open. Where I’m Going is very much unknown at this point. There is much room for God’s direction and provision, which I’ll share more about in the next post. What I do know is that in this fight for life, which I talked about in the previous post, the where I’ve been and where I’m going is less important than where I am right now. I continue to strive to trust God in the present moment, to be patient with Him and His timing and to trust that His Spirit in me intercedes on my behalf when I don’t know what to pray. God’s got my heart and because of that, I’m in a good place.

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