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

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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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.

Peace is Available

“Jesus was all about peace. Peace is not just absence of conflict or cessation of the battles waging in and around us. It is a sense of inner calm that all is going to be alright.” (Tim Timmons)

Easter morning tends to get all the attention. It makes sense, it’s what we celebrate. The empty tomb and the resurrected Jesus. Mary Magdelene’s statement, “I have seen the Lord!” is perhaps my favorite proclamation in the Gospel story, but what happened on Easter evening has enormous impact on how we can live our day-to-day lives in light the resurrection.

19 In the evening of that first day of the week, the disciples had met together with the doors locked for fear of the Jews. Jesus came and stood right in the middle of them and said, “Peace be with you!”
20 Then he showed them his hands and his side, and when they saw the Lord the disciples were overjoyed.
21 Jesus said to them again, “Yes, peace be with you! Just as the Father sent me, so I am now going to send you.”
22-23 And then he breathed upon them and said, “Receive holy spirit. If you forgive any men’s sins, they are forgiven, and if you hold them unforgiven, they are unforgiven.” (John 20:19-23)

Jesus’ friends had heard about Him being raised from the dead and they were afraid. Witnesses had seen them with Jesus. What would the soldiers do to them? So they hid in a small room afraid and alone. That’s when Jesus shows up. “Jesus came and stood right in the middle of them and said, ‘Peace be with you.’” What a picture! Jesus gets right in the middle of them, he meets them in the middle of their fear, chaos, the unknown and gives them an assurance of peace.

This is exactly what these close followers of Jesus needed that day. They were afraid and alone, and Jesus offered them peace. I need the same thing. I need to hear and believe Jesus’ words, “Peace be with you!’” In a world where most us are experiencing anything but that inner calm that all is going to be alright, Jesus’ words are hopeful.

What I am coming to realize more and more is that doing today with Jesus is our only chance at peace. Jesus said, “Peace be with you” to his friends, and he says the same thing to you and me. He wants to take the fear out of our lives and replace it with a deep sense that everything is going to be alright.

Hearing the Voice of God

After a number of years of spending daily time alone with God, I have realized that perhaps the most significant thing we can do in our time with Him is listen to His voice. You may be thinking, What? Come on now, Shawn. How do you do that? What does that even mean? I hear you. Developing the discipline of listening for God’s voice did not come easily for me. In fact, in the early days I would get distracted by a thousand different things in one sitting. I was annoyed, impatient, and constantly looked at my watch to see when the pain was going to end. Yet slowly, over time, as I continued to return to this place of listening, I began to hear the voice of God.

Now, it wasn’t an audible, booming voice that shot down from Heaven. Sometimes it was simply through Scripture, a passage in a book I was reading, or journaling. Other times it was through the still calmness that overcame me in the moment. But surely and incrementally, over the past 17 years of consistently showing up to listen each morning, God has given me the ability to hear Him. He gives direction for my day, wisdom in decisions, discernment in the moment, and assurance that I am His son. And more than anything, His quiet whisper assures me that I am loved.

Give it a try. Do you best sometime in the next few days to sit with God. Maybe just repeat a verse in your head to get the time started like, “The Lord is my shepherd there is nothing I shall want.” (Ps 23) Pay attention to your breathing. Breathe in calmness and peace, breathe out worry and fear. Allow yourself to just be.

Embracing Solitude

Solitude is so counterintuitive to our culture. It takes a lot effort to learn to cultivate this spiritual discipline, but we can see in the Gospel accounts that time alone with God was very important to Jesus:

In the early morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house, and went away to a secluded place, and was praying there. (Mark 1:35, NASB)

 So Jesus, perceiving that they were intending to come and take Him by force to make Him king, withdrew again to the mountain by Himself alone. (John 6:1,5 NASB)

It was at this time that He went off to the mountain to pray, and He spent the whole night in prayer to God. (Luke 6:12, NASB)

We don’t know what happened between Jesus and the Father in these times of solitude, but we do know that quiet, reflective time with the Father was a priority to Jesus.

By the world’s standards, some might have said Jesus was “wasting” time. Not being “productive.” Not “accomplishing” anything. The truth is that Jesus was operating on a completely different value system, one that we are wise to consider if we, too, want to draw close to the Father.

The Psalmist David also experienced this, saying, “My heart has heard you say, ‘Come and talk with me.’ And my heart responds, ‘Lord, I am coming’” (Psalm 27:8, NLT). In that place, he could open himself up to the Lord and commune deeply with Him. David wrote of this practice: “Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. (Psalm 139:23, NLT). When we sit quietly in the presence of the Lord and invite Him to search us, we join David and a long line of spiritual giants who have experienced this before us.

(from Chapter 8 Am I Loved?)