Joy And Pain

Joy and pain can co-exist.” –Lois Raby 

Her words jumped off the video, right into my heart.

She had lost her husband in a hot air balloon accident when their girls were still young.

Now years later, her daughter was getting married….and her Daddy wasn’t there to witness the great event.

Joy for the wonderful union of her daughter with the man she loved. Pain because of the one that was missing.

The thoughts, the memories, swirl through my mind and touch my heart.

My son has convocation at his school tonight.

He will be honored for all his achievements.

This mama’s heart will be overflowing. So much joy for him, mixed with some sadness for his father who isn’t here to see it.

My son was five when his father died. He was just beginning kindergarten, the autumn we buried his dad.

He was just starting. A sweet and innocent five year old, turning the first pages at school.

Years have come and gone, and he is now a graduating senior, closing this chapter of his life, excited to open the next.

Preparing for this……thrilled for him.

Realizing that joy and pain can and do co-exist.


This is the day which the LORD hath made; we will rejoice and be glad in it. Psalm 118:24  KJV 




I Remember…

Writing prompt: Remember



Tonight, my husband and I start our eighth season of GriefShare. We are facilitators of this group that reaches out to those that are grieving the loss of someone that they loved. Both my husband and I lost our first spouses to death, when we were only in our 30’s. No one really thinks about “until death do us part” on their wedding day. Those are just words that one repeats after the pastor…death is the farthest thing from one’s mind. Most of us live in ignorant bliss, and that is okay…until it happens to you.

My husband and I feel called to this particular ministry. Helping the hurting, holding a hand, touching a heart. Sometimes it isn’t easy, and even though it has been a decade + since the deaths of either of our spouses, we find ourselves remembering. For me, my former life seems almost surreal. My first husband has been gone for 13 1/2 years. Our son was 5 when his Daddy passed. This May he will graduate from high school. The river of time doesn’t stop for anyone.

Both Nancy and Kennis knew Jesus. We know where they are. To be honest, they are more alive right now than any of us that were left behind. We see dimly, and they now see face to face.

Christ understood facing death. He was born into this broken world, knowing that one day He would die…so that we could live. As the days lead up to Easter, we remember what Christ went through, how He sacrificed. It is because of this that we are able to know where our loved ones are at this very moment.

There is a shiny granite gravestone in a memorial garden off of Alcoa Highway in east Tennessee. On that stone is my husband’s name. Underneath his name is the scripture reference to John 11: 25, Jesus said, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies…”

On the journey to Easter I remember that death did not win. Jesus did not stay in the tomb. He was victorious, and because of this, those that trust in Him will live also. Amen.


The Gift

This morning, quiet and gray, with snow crunching under my feet…Ohio winter is already here. On the way to the barn I was mulling over my past and thinking about my future. When I’m outside doing chores, I always have time to think.  So much has changed, but the most important things have stayed the same. This time of year I am reminded. Reminded of difficult times, true friends, and the One who loves me.

I would like to share some of my past with you, as well as my future. This blog post is one I wrote three years ago around this time. I have it at the top of my blog page, but I wanted to share it here, today. I don’t want it to be overlooked. This passage speaks to who I am as a person, and how my life and memories are etched with the greatest gift of all.

The Greatest Gift Of Allphoto(2)

Even though I love Christmas….I am aware it is a difficult time of the year for many. So many who have suffered a loss, struggle through Christmas. Trying to smile. Wanting to celebrate, but are in too much pain to enjoy it. I want to help them….just like I was helped so many years ago.

FLASHBACK to Christmas 2000….my husband had died the month before. My 5 year old son and I would be spending Christmas in a different way that year. I tried to keep things as normal as possible. Unknown to me at the time, when I got up on that  Christmas morning, I would have a surprise.

A mysterious phone call. Caller unknown was on my phone’s ID. “Check your front porch”, the voice said.  I peered out my front door at 7 am in the morning. My front porch was filled with presents addressed to my son and me. He and I had so much fun opening the gifts that were so lovingly left on our front porch, early that Christmas morning. I later found out that my church’s Sunday Schoolclass had collected gifts and wrapped all of them…just for us. Then one of my dear friends and her husband secretly, and quietly delivered the gifts to my house at daybreak. I should have known. These were the same people that prayed for my husband throughout his illness. Held my hand at the hospital. Girlfriends that slept on the couch at my house, my first night alone…they stayed so I wouldn’t wake up to an empty house. Brought me meals. Bought me a dress for the funeral. Stood by me at the services.  Men that changed the oil in my vehicle. Ordered pizza to my house and visited with me while we all ate. I had people willing to babysit if I needed it, and fix food when I didn’t feel like it. I had a dear friend mow my yard during my husband’s illness and afterward. They showed HIS love through their numerous actions.They were real. Their love was practical. They were Jesus hands and feet to me.

What might have been one of the worst days for me, turned out to be a wonderful memory. A memory that still warms me all these years later. That special Christmas morning was a gift to me. I loved all the thoughtful presents, but even more was my love for my friends who had not forgotten me as they all celebrated on that Christmas morning. That is what warms my heart, even  more than a decade later.

Flashback over 2000 years ago… A dark night. A man and a woman who needed a place to stay. No one could help them out. The city was busy and there was not one room available. They were bone tired. The young woman was not feeling so well, she knew that this child that she had been carrying for the past 9 months, was ready to be born. But where?  The man managed to talk an inn keeper into allowing them to sleep in his stable, which was really not much more than a cave.  A literal hole in the wall.

In the stench of barnyard animals, the greatest gift to mankind was born that night. A night where people were running to and fro, busy with their lives. A night where no one was really paying much attention. A night not so unlike what we have now. God came into the world. Jesus left Heaven to come to this earth in human flesh. AND THE WORLD HAS NEVER BEEN THE SAME SINCE. A divine gift. A gift of love to humankind. A light to the world. Light that split the enveloping darkness of that night, as well as all the days and nights to come.

For all those people that I mentioned earlier…those in pain, those that are hurting for whatever reason…my desire is that they would know the greatest gift of all. Because He lives you CAN face tomorrow. This life we all live, is never easy. Most days it is hard. Some days life downright hurts. This is nothing new. Knowing Jesus doesn’t mean that life will be perfect, or problem free. Anyone that says that is a liar. We live in a fallen world, and that alone brings sadness. But the good news is this:  Jesus didn’t stay a baby in manger. He grew up. He touched lives.

Lives were changed. He explained the scripture. He attended weddings, and family get togethers. He hung out with his friends…and he hung out with the outcasts of society. He gave sight to the blind both literally and figuratively. He was every bit human, as he was every bit God.  Decades after his humble birth in that cave, on a bed of straw He walked a road to the cross. Where His gift to you (YesYOU!) was given. Your name was on his mind. He knew that one day you would be born and live a life on this earth. He knew. He laid down his own life–in your place. He took the punishment for your sin (the bad things we all do). He did it because He loves you. Really loves you. And He knew that we weren’t capable of ever paying that price on our own. Impossible. The gap was too wide. We’d never make it. So, He did it for us. The gift of salvation just needs to be acknowledged and  accepted. (John 3:16)


I realize I have a lot of people that read my blog…people from all over the world, actually.  Some people  know me personally and some only know me through my words. I will be the first one to tell you that I am not perfect. I have good days and bad days just like everyone else. I tend towards selfishness. I like my own way. I’m too stubborn for my own good. Yep. That’s me. Sure, I like to think I have my good points too. But, some days are better than others. On a beautiful spring day in May of 1979 I accepted the gift. Life didn’t suddenly change for me. I didn’t start skipping through meadows of daisies with a perpetual smile on my face. Life can still be gritty at times. I’ve gone through great joys and intense tragedies. Even in the midst of all these things, Jesus has never left me. He promised me he’d never leave me, nor forsake me. Not ever. And He hasn’t. I want to share that gift with you. I want you to know, what I know.

I want you to have the Greatest Gift of all.

Fighting The Battle

I have several friends that are fighting battles. IMG_0253

Each morning they get up, put on their armor, and start their day.

Oh, you’ll not see the armor, it is invisible, but they are fighters nonetheless.

They do hard battle and they are left tired and weary from the struggles.

Early onset Alzheimer’s. How does this happen to a man in his 40’s?  Each day my friend loses a little more of her husband.

She loves in the midst of the battle. She deserves a medal of honor for faith in action.

Another friend, pours over information….searching for the answers.

Mitochondrial disease is a thief that steals a normal life from her teenage son.

Although he has come far, the journey is long. She deserves a badge of courage for never giving up on him.

My brother in law, saddened by the news that his dear friend from college died. At 43, it was way too young.

He went to sleep and didn’t wake up. A wife and a child, and friends and family are left to mourn this life cut short.

Tears flow for the fallen.

Another family constantly on edge as their seven year old, fights for his life. Cancer is an uninvited guest in this family’s life.

Infection rages through his young body and prayers go before the throne for healing and health.

This young boy is a fighter, in the thick of  battle.

Shoulders heavy with the burden, knees buckle under the weight.

Hearts ache, lives are changed.

Life is hard. So hard. And aren’t we all acquainted with grief in some form?

Even those of us that are Christ followers, struggle with the “why me?”. And in the back of our minds, maybe never uttered aloud is  the, “I don’t deserve this. This was not part of my plan. How, God, could You allow this?”

And the brokenness of our world cracks wide open…along with our hearts.

When sin entered this world, it brought with it the pain we all feel.

The tightening in our chest from life tilting us until we are sick.

It is at these times when it is difficult to see God’s hand, when His plans don’t make sense, that we are called to rely on what we do know about God, instead of demanding answers to what we don’t and cannot know.

I remind myself, of this too……

Seek God daily, build intimacy and relationship with Him, so that when the darkest of times come, and they come for us all, we will have the assurance of God’s love and presence…even in the dark….when we can’t see. He will lead us through the darkest of valleys–to the other side.


The Lord is close to the brokenhearted
    and saves those who are crushed in spirit. Psalm 34:18 NIV


God, Are You There?

sunrise on a beautiful morning

Image via Wikipedia

A decade has come and gone, and yet I still remember those early days…

God, are you there?

A whisper in the darkness… my voice deep with emotion.

Do you hear me?

Heart heavy with the grieving

My emotions bleeding out all over the floor.

Too exhausted to even raise my head,

I lay prostrate-

the scratch of the carpet against my face.

Whispers to The One who promises me He will never leave me

I am humbled and broken.

The living room becomes a most holy place

as I quietly worship, through tears, the One who I know is a defender of widows

and a father to the fatherless.

“A father to the fatherless, a defender of widows, is God in his holy dwelling.”  Psalm 68:5 NIV

The loss of my first husband and my journey through the valley of the shadow of death is just part of my story.

All glory be to God, that it was not the end of my story!

He takes the broken. The bruised. The hurt. The sad. The angry. The bitter.

The Great Physician performs surgery on the heart,

and breathes new life into a grieving soul.

After stumbling in the darkness of grief, I know that joy comes in the morning.

I also know that joy comes after the mourning.

Joy does come again.

“The Lord is close to the brokenhearted

and saves those who are crushed in spirit.”  Psalm 34:18 NIV

She-Speaks Button

The She Speaks conference is about women connecting to the hearts of  other women, and more importantly connecting to the heart of God. If you might be interested in going to this conference, please visit Ann Voskamp’s blog at A Holy Experience, where she is offering a scholarship opportunity for the conference.

My name is Dawn. The name means “sunrise” and is often used to signify new beginnings.  That is what God did for me. I am a new beginning through Him.

I am living, breathing proof of God’s tender love and mercy.

When the pain is so great that words are not enough…

God will meet you there.

It is because of this, that my heart’s desire is to help others who are suffering through the loss of a loved one.

“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God. For just as the sufferings of Christ flow over into our lives, so also through Christ our comfort overflows.”  2 Corinthians 1:3-5  NIV

Gentlemen, Start Your Engines!

Dale Earnhardt's (#3 car) fatal crash in Turn ...

Image via Wikipedia

Isn’t it interesting how certain events in life stand out as a pivotal moment? I see the scene played out in my mind’s eye, as if it just happened yesterday.

I was sitting on the floor in front of the television on that Sunday afternoon, 10 years ago. I was a new widow, still in the beginning stages of grief, as I watched the Daytona 500 that year. Alone. My husband who had been a huge Dale Earnhardt fan, got me hooked on NASCAR from the time we had first started dating. Everyone knew his devotion to #3. Now, I was the one watching the race….cheering for Dale Sr. in the confines of my living room, even as I mourned the death of my husband who had been his biggest fan. It was almost therapy for me….as in my mind, the two men were intertwined. The man and the fan.

In the last lap of the Daytona 500, Earnhardt was in second place behind Michael Waltrip. Things were looking good. Then it happened. The black car smashed into the wall. In the blink of an eye…it was over. Dale didn’t emerge from his car.

I had to leave to go to evening church, not knowing if the Intimidator was even alive. I remember after the service the pastor quietly said, “I was just informed that Mr. Earnhardt did not survive the crash this afternoon. He is gone. Let’s say a prayer for his family.”

Gone. Not coming back. Even though I did not know this racing legend personally, to me he was a symbol of something  shared with my late husband. His death was another loss. Painful and all consuming.

The 2011 NASCAR season starts this Sunday, in the race at Daytona. A lot has happened in the ten years since the tragic accident where “the man in black” lost his life. Much has changed. In NASCAR….and with me.

The paths we walk in this life, don’t come with maps. We don’t have tour guides and we have no idea what the future holds. We like to think we do, but the future could change in a split second….we are not the ones in control.

I don’t presume to know the state of Mr. Earnhardt’s eternal soul, but when he got into his car that afternoon, I’m pretty sure he had no idea that he was going to be stepping into eternity by the time the race was over. I pray he was ready.

“I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.”  2 Timothy 4:7



Do I Want To Change The Story?

Photo of TomTom Go 500

Image via Wikipedia

I have mentioned that I am reading One Thousand Gifts by Ann Voskamp. After going through the first chapter, and discussing it with the book club, here are some of my insights.

Even if you haven’t read the book, I’m sure you can relate.

(pg. 14) “Does God really love me? If He truly, deeply loves me, why does He withhold that which I believe will fully nourish me? Why do I live in this sense of rejection, of less than, of pain? Does He not want me to be happy?

I admit I have that thought sometimes. On days that I presume that I know so much more than God, I’m sure that my plan will work. If He would only allow me to have my way, everything would work out for me. I would live happily ever after. Doesn’t He love me enough to let me do this on my own? Why can’t He just let me? Doesn’t He want me to be happy?

In my mind I have it figured out, but….in my heart I don’t really feel it. My heart knows that I am not capable of writing my own story. I am the same one who is scared of mice, burns toast, and is directionally challenged. I can’t handle the most basic things of life and I know I am helpless to even try with the harder things. I fail. Without Him, I fail. Every. Single. Time.

And yet, I still want the control. The ability to run my story, my way. I want to stamp my life with, I CAN. I WILL. I KNOW. I DID. I want to be in the driver’s seat of my own destiny. My life map spread out before me. MY voice, the one giving directions through the GPS of my story.

My hubris knows no bounds.

(pg. 15) “Our fall was, has always been, and always will be, that we aren’t satisfied in God and what He gives. We hunger for something more, something other.

If I’m completely honest with myself. Really honest…isn’t that how I feel? How about you?

The life we live, is hardly the life we planned. We wonder if there isn’t something more in the 24 hours a day? When years turn into decades, do we look back with gratitude? Or grief?Peace or regret?

(pg. 21) As Mrs. Voskamp tells the story of her brother-in-law, a man and his wife that lost two of their young sons to a genetic disease. She struggled with her nephew’s deaths. She told this grieving father, if it were up to her….she would write the story differently. He replied, “Just that maybe…maybe you don’t want to change the story, because you don’t know what a different ending holds.”

It’s true. I don’t know what the ending holds.

God does. He knows.

I could attempt my own story. I could fight. I could scratch and claw my way through life. Constantly grabbing back, what I feel is mine to have. Wishing…screaming….for things to be different.

If I do that, I will miss the things. The small things. The every day things. The things that bring joy. If my eyes are riveted, by pride, to all I do not have, I will completely miss all that I do have. I will miss all the ways that God has said yes to me. There is peace and joy in the every day…if I deliberately take the time to see it. And thank God for it.