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. 

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: Eulogy from the Father

We are working on a formal eulogy for Anna. In doing so, the Lord brings to mind something He shared with me almost six years ago. It was a season when I was struggling to see Anna for who she really was, and instead would often focused on her supposed shortcoming. Thankfully I got away for a few days on a private retreat during this season, and while away I ask God the Father two questions:

“What is your point of view of Anna? What do you say or think about your daughter?” 

Sitting in silence that morning after I asked these questions, I heard the words below clearly from our Father. As I returned home, I decided to read these words about His daughter Anna each morning in order to keep His perspective of my beloved wife. I maintained this daily practice for almost six years until Anna’s passing.

Anna is lovely. I created her perfectly. Anna is wonderful. She is worth fighting for. Anna is tender. Her heart is good. She is vulnerable. Anna is strong. She is afraid of rejection so be gentle with her. Anna is beautiful; she is a treasure. Warm your heart toward her. 

Shawn, allow me to bring Anna along into me. Keep faith, gratitude and generosity active in your home. Let me minister to Anna. I’ve got her. You are not her savior; you are not responsible. 

And Shawn, don’t magnify the lesser and minimize the greater. As you look at her or as you walk into your home, remind yourself of the truth about her. Don’t focus on her weakness; focus on me in her. And don’t lose heart! Return again and again to the place of love and faith which see Jesus in Anna.

Finally, see Anna as I see her. Honor her as one in whom I dwell. Count on me to work my will in her. Your part is to love her. 

At the end of the “download” from God the Father six years ago, He then showed me this verse.

“Mostly what God does is love you. Keep company with him and learn a life of love. Observe how Christ loved us. His love was not cautious but extravagant. He didn’t love in order to get something from us but to give everything of himself to us. Love like that.” (Eph 5:2)

I soon memorized this verse and it became the lens through which I viewed Anna each day. I am so, so grateful to have been able to “co-love” Anna alongside Jesus for 23 years. What a privilege and an honor to get to be the husband of one of His favorites for so long.

Screen Shot 2020-05-19 at 9.00.44 AM