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

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.

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Anna Update: “I shall not want”

“I shall not want” is the second line of Psalm 23. Sunday morning Anna and I read the lectionary and Psalm 23 was the psalm for the day, along with John 10:1-10 as the Gospel reading. As we read those two passages together one word stood out, pasture.

Psalm 23:1-2

The Lord is my shepherd,
I shall not want.
He makes me lie down in green pastures;

John 10:9

I am the door; if anyone enters through Me, he(she) will be saved, and will go in and out and find pasture.

That word pasture seemed to be saying something to us Sunday morning so we looked further. The Greek word is νομὴν and it means pasturage, fodder, food…one shall not have want for the needful supplies for the true life.

John 10:9 is the only time we know of that Jesus uses this word νομὴν, pasture. I wonder if He specifically said pasture to harken back to Psalm 23. Those good young Jewish men that Jesus was training surely would’ve picked up on it. As Anna and I, along with our kids go this this tragic experience one thing is clear, we are in the pasture. We are covered. There’s enough food, there’s enough space, the Shepherd has our back.

Psalm 23 talks about the green pasture in verse two. The Greek word for pasture that Jesus uses means to not want, and verse one of Psalm 23 talks about not wanting. It’s almost like David is saying pasture twice in two different ways in verse one and verse two of Psalm 23.

The reality is we are all living in the green pasture. We may not know it, feel it or believe it, but it’s true. Verse three of the psalm goes on to talk about how amazing life is in the pasture if we will dare believe we are already living there. The shepherd is leading, restoring, guiding. And apparently this is all going on while David is walking “through the shadow of death.” (v 4)

From the beginning of this famous psalm, David proclaims that the Lord is his Shepherd. He has no other shepherd. He has no other master. His allegiance is to God alone. He believes God is holding him. Shepherd is an intimate metaphor. A shepherd lives with his flock and totally cares for each one of the sheep. I’ve heard that a shepherd literally lays down on the ground with his sheep.

As we continue to walk through the valley of the shadow of death Anna and I are choosing to fear no evil, knowing beyond a knowing that we knew was possible, that God is with us. There is no want, we are covered. The Shepherd has us. And part of his “having” us is having you walk though this valley with us. We have each other, and in having one another somehow we mysteriously have God.

 

Anna Update: “We do not know what to do…”

A few days ago Anna and I listened to a teaching on Jehoshaphat from 2 Chronicles 20. Neither Anna nor I were very familiar with this story, but since Jehoshaphat was someone in the Bible who was up against a battle he could not fight on his own, we thought we would see what we could learn from his approach. We were surprised by the “strategies” of Jehoshaphat.

In the scene of the story Jehoshaphat, King of Judah, is up against three armies at once. There is no way he and his army can defeat even one of the armies, much less three. When Jehoshaphat realizes there is no hope he turns to God and begins to remind God of who God is and what He has done. That’s an interesting strategy, reminding God of who He is and what He has done in the past:

Lord, the God of our ancestors, are you not the God who is in heaven? You rule over all the kingdoms of the nations. Power and might are in your hand, and no one can withstand you. 7 Our God, did you not drive out the inhabitants of this land before your people Israel and give it forever to the descendants of Abraham your friend? 8 They have lived in it and have built in it a sanctuary for your Name, saying, 9 ‘If calamity comes upon us, whether the sword of judgment, or plague or famine, we will stand in your presence before this temple that bears your Name and will cry out to you in our distress, and you will hear us and save us.’

Then Jehoshaphat makes this incredible statement of trust:

For we have no power to face this vast army that is attacking us. We do not know what to do, but our eyes are on you.” (v 12) What a posture of humility and trust, “we don’t know what to do, but our eyes are on you.” 

After Jehoshaphat‘s prayer, a prophet speaks up and says this to Jehoshaphat and all of the people of Judah in earshot:

This is what the Lord says to you: ‘Do not be afraid nor dismayed because of this great multitude, for the battle is not yours, but God’s. 16 Tomorrow go down against them. 17 You will not need to fight in this battle. Position yourselves, stand still and see the salvation of the Lord, who is with you, O Judah and Jerusalem!’ Do not fear or be dismayed; tomorrow go out against them, for the Lord is with you.”

What stands out in the story to Anna and me is that it’s not about power, it’s about position. “Position yourselves, stand still and see the salvation of the Lord, who is with you.”  

So Jehoshaphat and his people took the advise of the prophet and got into position, the position was worship:

And Jehoshaphat bowed his head with his face to the ground, and all Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem bowed before the Lord, worshiping the Lord.

Their next strategy seemed like madness:

And when he had consulted with the people, he appointed those who should sing to the Lord, and who should praise the beauty of holiness, as they went out before the army and were saying:

“Praise the Lord, For His mercy endures forever.”

As we read further in the story we realized that God wasn’t asking Jehoshaphat and his army to get into position to fight, He was getting them into position to worship and watch God fight the battle for them. The three armies that were coming against Jehoshaphat ended up fighting each other and Jehoshaphat and his people were rescued.

As you think about Anna and are family during these hard days, consider worshiping with us. Our understanding of worship is that it is way beyond singing. Worship is anything that shifts our focus from a problem or situation to God. Gratitude seems to be the most practical “action” of worship these days. Worship with us. Echo these words of Jehoshaphat alongside us, “we don’t know what to do, but our eyes are on you.” 

We remain grateful for you.

Ultimate Rest: “Into Your Hands…”

“In repentance and rest is your salvation, in quietness and trust is your strength, but you would have none of it.” (Isaiah 31:15)

Resting into what God is doing in our lives is not easy. Most of us know, or think we know, how this moment, the next hour, today, this month, this year, and the entirety of our lives should play out. As followers of Jesus we tend to prefer the prophet Jeremiah over Isaiah when he says, “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” (Jeremiah 29:11)

That is a wonderful promise that Jeremiah proclaims, however, we do not know what to do with a leader and a King who would suffer and die. As we find ourselves staring at the cross of Christ on “Good Friday”, it so often still doesn’t make sense to us. We want to follow this Jesus, but we don’t want to suffer. Yet, it is suffering that causes us to trace our lives after the example of the suffering King.

Suffering is not so much about physical pain as it is about giving up and losing control. The more I look at the cross, really look at it, I see Jesus our leader giving up and losing control. Just days before, Jesus was experiencing the opposite of rest in the Garden of Gethsemane begging his Father to chose another way. However, in his next breath we see Jesus surrender yet again, “not my will but yours be done.” 

Maybe that is the rest Isaiah and Jesus have been inviting us into all along. A way of living our life in a posture of saying, “not my will but yours be done”, a posture of surrender. With this posture we can still be  very clear about our dreams and desires, but ultimately we can open our hands and echo the words of our fearless leader King, “not my will but yours be done.” Jesus modeled this level of rest to us when he breathed his last and said “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit!” Oh that we might be able to join Jesus in this posture of rest and trust on this side of Heaven, for we know that rest awaits us in Eternity.

Do We Actually Want Rest?

Many followers of Jesus know Matthew 11:28-30 by heart. At least the first part,

“Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest.”

It sounds amazing! Most of us identify with the words weary and heavy-laden. We live in a culture that almost prides itself on being weary and heavy-laden. We tell one another stories about how busy we are, how tired and overworked and important we are. Weariness happens to us just by association, and we also allow it to happen.

I like the sound of Jesus’ voice here. His words echo like cool water on a fresh burn after touching something hot. Many of us hear his words and we want what he is offering, or we think we do. Some of us even cry out to Jesus begging him for this rest He promises,  yet way we structure our day, our week, our month, our year in such a way that it doesn’t fit our plea. Eugene Peterson’s version of verse 28 is quiet the invitation from Jesus, “Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life.”

How often do we really come to him and get away with him really? If we want what He is offering, this almost unimaginable rest that our bodies, minds and souls crave, then we have to accept the invitation. We have to actually carve out time and space in our day to get away with him and him alone.  Jesus goes on to say,

“I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace.” (v 29) If I am reading this correctly, Jesus is actually going to be the one who teaches us how to rest. We certainly need that! We need to be taught how to rest.

The unforced rhythms of grace. What a great translation! Eugene, or should I say Jesus is offering something incredible here. It is a rhythm that we can lean into or reject. Jesus is offering us rest, offering to teach us how to rest. Will we take him up on his offer?

How Do We Learn to Rest?

Several times over the past few years I have heard a comment like this from someone who knows me well. , “Shawn, I’ve noticed that you rest well when you are off work. How did you learn to do that?” That was quite a statement to me, a guy who comes from generations of work-a-holics. I can only say that because I am a recovering work-a-holic myself, and my dad has confirmed that as far back as he knows our family has seen work as primary.

Clayton Christensen, a Harvard professor, business owner in his book How Will You Measure Your Life , says this with regards to making work our primary focus: “The danger for high-achieving people is that they’ll unconsciously allocate their resources to activities that yield the most immediate, tangible accomplishments. This is often in their careers, as this domain of their life provides the most concrete evidence that they are moving forward.” No wonder we do this! Who doesn’t want proof that we are moving forward?

Back to the question from my friend, how did I learn to rest? It was a great question. How does a man whose tendency is to work all the time (not just at a job but around the house, on projects, etc) make time to rest? Well, it started slow for me. I began by taking an hour here and an hour there to schedule something that I wanted to do. Yes, I scheduled it and still do. I eventually moved to 4-hour increments of a day once a week. Four hours of no work at all. At this point a couple of little kids came on the scene for Anna and me. You would think that rest went out the door at that point, but I (we) stayed with it. In fact, as our kids got older I began scheduling a day off for our family, an actual Sabbath day. It wasn’t always Sunday, it was the day of the weekend when we could most likely take a full 24 hours to rest. Practically, it stated in the evening of one day and ended the evening of the next.

I was enjoying each of these experiences of rest so much that I decided to take it a step further and plan a weekend once a year when Anna and I could get away and rest. That turned into two then three, and most years we now do a quarterly two nights away. Along with that my wife and I began to look six months in advance to when we could get our kids away for a week to rest and play together. Then after that, again as our kids have gotten older, we have looked for a week when Anna and I could get away for at least seven days together to rest without our kids.

So how did I learn to rest? I just did it. It is one of the best decisions I even made (and am still making). Rest is a gift from the Lord. One that we can all receive.

“In repentance and rest is your salvation,
In quietness and trust is your strength.” (Isaiah 30:15)