Anna Update: One Year and Upcoming Book…

In the last years of Anna’s life she was writing a book titled Belief Becomes You. It is a book about how what we believe about ourselves, good or bad, often becomes who we are. I have spent the last year working on Anna’s book with hopes to complete it by fall 2021. For the next few months I will be releasing excerpts from the book. It seems appropriate to release this first writing on May 12th, one year since Anna took her last breath on earth. 

(In this excerpt Anna is writing about the woman who touched Jesus’ cloak and received healing. Anna identified so much with the woman.)

My guess is that if this woman was anything like me, she wanted her healing to occur in secret. Sneak in, touch the cloak, and sneak away, praising God and going about her life, hoping that no one noticed. That didn’t happen for this woman, and it sure isn’t happening for me. My healing began  when I risked it all and decided to fully open my wounds to Jesus.  

I wrote this in my journal in 2011 : 

“When I think about my ‘sickness,’ my wounds, and my scars, I believe it boils down to not believing I am truly loved unconditionally, but instead, believing at my core that I am bad, unlovable, and damaged, and that I need to be beautiful, competent, capable, and fun in order to be loved and accepted. I fear exposing myself through transparency and vulnerability and I even fear loving others fully for fear of rejection. Deep down I feel that I AM NOT ENOUGH!”  

When Jesus asked me “the question” like He did to the woman in the Gospel story, I knew it was time to engage with Him. I couldn’t try to figure out my life by myself any longer. I was sick of living with my shame. I remember how it went for the sick woman in Mark chapter 5: 

“But he looked all round at their faces to see who had done so. Then the woman, scared and shaking all over because she knew that she was the one to whom this thing had happened, came and flung herself before him and told him the whole story. But he said to her, ‘Daughter, it is your faith that has healed you. Go home in peace, and be free from your trouble.’”(Mark 5: 32-34) 

So like the woman in the story, I came forward, scared and shaking all over, and told Him everything. This gesture was the beginning of my journey toward true healing.

Anna update from Moriah (Mother’s Day)

On Mothers Day last year, I said goodbye to my mom. It is the hardest thing I have ever done. Two days earlier, Dad had been told by hospice that Mom would be passing in the next few days. By Mother’s Day, mom was primarily not “with us” and it was just too hard for me to see her like that. I had to say goodbye. 

Earlier in the day, we asked our pastor, Jack, to lead a worship service in our backyard. This was during the pandemic so we had families come into the backyard one by one, take communion, then exit. For about an hour, friends came through while my brother, sister, and I sat in our backyard. Dad and Mom sat just inside the house in full view of the yard. It was a special time, my Mom’s last communion with her family. 

Later that evening, my brother, sister, and I went into the room where Mom was laying in her hospital bed at our home. We each gave Mom a card and a gift and read her cards aloud. After that, I sang a familiar song to Mom, one that I sang in front of a large group a few months after Mom had been diagnosed years earlier. After I sang, I asked Elijah and Hadassah if I could be with Mom and Dad alone. I remember saying, “Momma, I have to do something I never wanted to do. I have to tell you goodbye. It’s too hard to see you like this and I have to say goodbye today. I love you so much. You are the best mom anyone could ever ask for. You have taught me so much and have modeled how to live life. I will miss you so much, momma. I love you.” After I said those words to Mom through tears, I left the room. The next time I saw her was shortly after she took her last breath two days later. I still miss Mom so much, but I am thankful that she is no longer in pain. 
You may have seen it on my Dad’s blog. We wrote Ode to A Fierce Momma and read it to Mom before our communion service that day. Our Mom was simply the best. We miss her so much.

Anna Update: On Love and Loss

Shawn took me on our first official date Valentine’s Day 1999. In the previous year we had been building a friendship across the country (before cell phones were a thing!). We met August 1997 at a three-week training conference in Florida. After the conference we flew back to our homes. Shawn to Texas and me to Portland, Oregon. When we decided did to give dating a whirl it meant a trip on a plane. I flew to Texas February 1999 to meet Shawn’s family and experience a little of his life there. We went to Dallas for the weekend with some friends of his and that is where we went on our first date. The date began with a 4:30 showing at the theater of Message in A Bottle, followed by dinner at a nice restaurant, complete with true Texas hospitality!

Throughout the years of our marriage Shawn and I would reminisce about that first date together. I specifically remember re-watching the movie together on our 5th wedding anniversary, our 10th and our 20th.  Watching it on our 20th was a bit surreal. I was in chemotherapy and very sick. I had never really fully paid attention to the movie beyond it being a love story. As I watched with new eyes, I realized it was a movie about a man who lost his wife to cancer.  The movie is the story of the man’s grieving process, along with the internal struggle of letting himself be loved by anyone (family, friends, a possible woman) again. A few months after we watched the movie on our 20th anniversary, I had a conversation with Shawn that went something like this. “Shawn, if this doesn’t turn out the way we hope it does, you have to promise me you will one day love again. We’ve worked too hard at learning how to give and receive love for you to close yourself off to love for the rest of your life.” This was one of the hardest things for me to put to words, through tears, while grabbing my husband’s face in my hands. But I had to. I had to make sure Shawn knew that no matter what, I wanted him to remain open to giving and receiving love.  

The movie ends with a profound final scene.  It’s a voice over that includes these words: “If some lives form a perfect circle, other take shape in ways we cannot predict or always understand. Loss has been part of my journey. But it has also shown me what is precious. So has love for which I can only be grateful.”

(Shawn here) Loss has indeed been part of my journey, our journey…so has love. I was loved by Anna in so many ways. Perhaps one of her most sacrificial acts of love was when she asked me to promise I would not close myself off to love. I can’t imagine, given the ongoing love affair that Anna and I had, how she was able to say those words to me. As I sit here reflecting on love and our first date 22 years ago, I can say that I remain open to receiving and giving love. Receiving and giving love from/ to God, family and others. I am able to honestly echo those final words from the movie scene….”Loss…has shown me what it precious. So has love for which I can only be grateful.”

Anna Update: Somewhere Between Beautiful and Brutal

The two words that keep coming up this Advent season for our family are beautiful and brutal. That seems to best describe our first Advent/ Christmas season without Anna. She was so good at making a house into a home, specifically during this season. All of the touches, big and small, made this one of the favorite times of year for our family.

It was beautiful watching Moriah meticulously string the lights on the tree just so, a job that was reserved for Anna until this year. Moriah took on the task without being asked and invited Hadassah to be her helper, the way Anna invited Moriah to be her helper for so many years. It was fairly brutal placing all of the ornaments on the tree. Our first year of marriage Anna and I stated collecting ornaments each time we went on a trip or shared a memorable experience. Anna included the kids in this tradition once they came along, so the girls each have their glass “Clara” from the first time they went to the Nutcracker with Mom. Many family trips have their own ornament, memories that now hang on the tree. Reminiscing and retelling those stories with just the four of us this year was both brutal and beautiful. 

What was also beautiful and brutal was creating our Christmas card. That was always Anna, 100% Anna to a T! She couldn’t imagine doing a stock template so she would spend hours and hours designing our annual card, writing the words on the back, picking every color and font. Moriah and I knew we wanted to get a card out, but also knew we didn’t have a clue how to do that. Thankfully, we figured out how to log into Anna’s card creating account, used an “Anna created template” from a previous card, and did our best to complete the project. At the end of the night we finalized the card and hit send to print. Moriah and I shared a long hug and said, “It’s not the card we never wanted to design, but we did it together.” It’s beautiful and brutal.

I guess that’s the story of Jesus…beautiful and brutal. So beautiful the way he lived, cared for people, valued friendship and responded to the love of his Father. So brutal the way he died, was abandoned by even his closest companions, that his love was rejected by so many.

As we round the corner and look toward Dec 25, the celebration of the birth and life of Jesus, may we embrace both the beautiful and brutal in our own lives and in the lives of those around us. The reality for us all is brutal is inevitable. Thankfully beauty seems to have a way of always having the last word. 

Teleios Turns 50!!!

50 years ago 6 men gathered around Jesus, scripture and a growing friendship with one another. Connie Jacobsen, founder of Teleios, used the template laid out in Acts 2:42 as a framework of what would become a weekly gathering for these men. Slowly, other men heard of this group and wanted to start something similar with a few others. Connie facilitated each new group. 50 years later we have 55 of these groups meeting in the greater Seattle area and beyond. Art Kopicky and I get to continue the legacy as staff members of Teleios.

We’ve prepared a legacy video to celebrate 50 years of Teleios.

Tune in and see one of the ways God is moving in men’s lives in Seattle.

Anna: Ode to A Fierce Momma

Saturday morning, the day before Mother’s Day I sat with Anna and wrote this tribute to her. It was one of our last times together on this side of Heaven. Her daughter Moriah sang this song (video of Moriah singing) to her Momma at the graveside service.

Momma clearly is the term 
To begin this little ode
Mom or Mommy doesn’t quite describe
When a lady chooses this road

And oh your momma chose it
She and I tried and tried for years
To get to be the momma of you three kids
Often brought her to tears

I’ll never forget her bravery
Natural births, painful feedings, training you kids to sleep
The days were long but she cherished them
Because her love was so deep

Moriah, for a while you had Mom to yourself
She carried you in a little pouch
The two of you would laugh, play and tickle
And cuddle on the couch

She couldn’t believe your love for Disney
You are truly a princess at heart
As days turned into years Mom was so pleased
To see you embrace creativity and art

Elijah, when you came on the scene 
You instantly became a treasure
You couldn’t get enough cud cuds with Mom
Her love for you cannot be measured

You quickly became her little “bud buds”
And her smile when she is with you has not wavered
That has never changed Elijah
Every moment with you, Mom has savored

Hadassah, to your mom you are such a treasure 
I see so much of her in you
You thrive on adventure, challenge, fun
And love fiercely just as you have seen her do

Mom delights in your Das and often wonders
What you will one day be
But then she already knows in her heart of hearts
That you will always be someone who lives free

Now we shift from you kids 
To a few things about your Mom
I know the word is a bit out of style
But lets face it, she is “the bomb” 

Honestly, you don’t understand
What a cool mom she really is
It’s normal to you, they are not all so “hip” 
But your mom is at the top of the list

What’s also not normal is how easy it seems 
For your mom to make a house a home
Know that she is the best of the best at this
Helping us each feel safe, secure and not alone

The most notable thing about your mom 
Is her love for Jesus, Holy Spirit and Father
She is always seeking to learn more, to worship
As she leans into the peace God has brought her

In fact, the thing your mom wants most 
Is for each of you to keep allowing God to love you
To feel His embrace through the hardest of days
And know He’s with you in whatever you do

It would take books and volumes to capture a glimpse
Of who mom is, all that she means to us four
As we look at each other and go through this together
She is in each one of us as we walk through this door 

Ok, I know I used mom a lot in this ode
Even though it began about Momma the word
Momma still describes her best because 
Of all the things you’ve heard

A momma takes care of her kids
She cares for them and teaches them how to live
Love is a momma’s most obvious trait
And someone who always gives

That’s your momma. A giver of life and hope
And most of all a lover, someone who sees
A lover of God and each of you
That’s your momma, that’s who she will always be

***A reminder that a memorial fund has been set up in honor of Anna. Click here to contribute.

Anna: Memorial Fund and Eulogy (in her own words)

*A Memorial Fund has been set up in honor of Anna’s life. See below for details.

Anna, in one sense, wrote her own Eulogy years ago with the help of the Lord. She called it her “Personal Declaration.”

After a decade of feeling alone, distant from God, and negatively impacted by the lies of unworthiness, Anna had been actively pursuing wholeness and healing in her life since 2010. She did this through learning to hear the voice of Jesus, receiving counseling/emotional healing, deep friendships, and spiritual direction.

Here is her declaration…

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God you are my comforter, my living hope, and I claim victory and freedom today in the name of Jesus. You are powerful and loving, my daily hope and salvation, the author of my story.

I, Anna Petree, claim my identity as your beloved daughter. Thank you for your constant care of me and our family. You are a good and faithful Father. I know that I am unconditionally loved and completely forgiven for all the times I’ve chosen my own way instead of Your best for me. 

Satan, you have no power over me! I renounce all fear and shame, claiming God’s love, mercy and healing power over my body, mind, and spirit in the name of Jesus!

Today I choose to believe that my face and body are beautiful and perfectly designed by You, God. That I am “fearfully and wonderfully made.” You know me intricately, and have a wonderful plan for my life. You are my refuge and strength, my hope, a very present help in times of trouble.

Father, I know that as I surrender everything into Your hands, You are trustworthy. You direct my steps and have my best interest in mind. I believe in Your awesome power to restore and heal any part of me that You desire.

May my life today be a reflection of your love, grace, mercy, and hope as I seek to love myself, my husband, our children, friends, and neighbors today. You, Father, are the primary focus of my affection. I believe today that I am enough, that I am worthy of love and belonging.

I am a courageous warrior. I will not succumb to fear or despair! Thank you, Father, that your mercies are new every morning. You are by my side every step of this day. I am Yours.                                                                               (excerpt taken from Am I Loved?) 

Anna read and proclaimed these words out loud many days the past decade. As we reflect on Anna might we each consider what is true about ourselves and God.

If you would like to give a gift in honor of Anna’s life, please consider donating to Soul Formation. Anna went through four years of spiritual training through Soul Formation and received her certificate of Spiritual Direction through this wonderful ministry in 2019. Click here to give a gift in honor of Anna’s life.

With gratitude,

The Petrees