Wednesday, February 25, 2009

The Value of One Life

This evening I was listening to comments on "For Faith and Family" by Dr. Richard Land as I drove home. Dr. Land was our Sunday School teacher here in Dallas a long time ago. I was impressed with his lessons and his wisdom then; even more so now. Among other things he was discussing the health plan provisions that were slipped into the economic stimulus bill unbeknownst to almost everyone. As he talked, I began to ponder the value of a life.

How do we place value on a life? How are we to say that one person's life is more valuable than that of another? Apparently one of the objectives of the new health plan provisions calls for evaluating medical procedures based on the age of the patient. If those procedures are not economically advantageous depending on the age and perceived potential contribution of the patient to society, they would be denied. The next step could be euthanasia. Why not? We have as a society already approved taking the lives of the unborn.

But that's not the point. The point is that any life is valuable. The Bible says in Genesis 1:27,
"So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them."

The reason it is valuable is that each and every individual is stamped with God's image. Granted, that image has been perverted and distorted by sin. In fact in Genesis 5:1-3, we read this:
"When God created man, he made him in the likeness of God. He created them male and female and blessed them. And when they were created, he called them 'man.' When Adam had lived 130 years, he had a son in his own likeness, in his own image, and he named him Seth."

By the time Seth came on the scene, he had lost the perfect image of God and was born in Adam's likeness - complete with a sin nature. Without going into a long and involved treatise on the fall of man, and his subsequent redemption, I hasten to say that even man full of sin nature inherited from Adam is valuable in God's eyes. So valuable in fact, that God chose to give his only son to pay the penalty for each and every man's sin through his death on the cross.

When our son John Reece disappeared in Hawaii in 1999 we spared no expense to try to find him. Even though we had no funds to get to Hawaii, God opened the doors and through the generosity of acquaintances, we were able to fly to Hawaii and spend almost all of December there helping with the searches. Our total expenses were nothing short of astronomical (close to $20,000) but by the time we left Hawaii every single bill had been paid in full.

Many people have noted that never before had so many resources been mobilized and such an intense search made for someone who was lost in Hawaii. (People getting lost is not an uncommon occurrence there.) We would have given much more to find our son - he was our son and infinitely valuable to us.

In much the same way, God values each and every one of us. He is our Father and He seeks for us diligently, spares no expense, gives His all. Each one of us is infinitely valuable for we are his beloved sons and daughters.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Blessed with Identity

My little grandson looked up into my eyes yesterday and asked, "Grandma, do you know who I am?" I, of course, wondered what was coming next! Maybe a lion or a dog or a kitty or a horse...? What came out of his mouth next absolutely floored me. He said, "I'm your grandson."

Wow! Talk about knowing who you are!

That gave me the idea for where to go next in writing about blessing. Remember from my recent post that I defined blessing as "empowering to prosper." Prosperity in this sense of the word doesn't mean financial prosperity in the way we often think although it could include that. When someone is prospering, it is tied to an understanding of who they are - their identity. They are at peace with who they are, not wishing they were prettier, shorter, taller, thinner, a girl instead of a boy or a boy instead of a girl. They are at peace with their parents, themselves and their neighbor.

They are not continually striving to measure up to some perceived standard they hope someday to achieve.

So how do we as parents and grandparents accomplish this seeming miraculous state of being in our children or grandchildren? I certainly don't have all the answers, but I would like to suggest that it is crucial that we separate identity from behavior as we teach and discipline our children. Somehow through our words and actions we must affirm who they are (identity) while we place consequences on behavior that we wish to discourage. This is sometimes difficult to do. Well, maybe it's always difficult to do. Nevertheless it must be done in order to teach our children and grandchildren that they are valued, important, OK, etc.

This whole process begins with an understanding of how God views us and how He views our children. A classic passage in Psalm 139 verses 13 & 14 says,
"For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother's womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well."

This theme is reiterated by the apostle Paul in Ephesians 2:10,
"For we are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do."

When we can look at both ourselves and our children through God's eyes, we have come a long way toward being able to bless our children and empower them to prosper in the knowledge of their identity as precious beings formed by God in just the way He wanted them to be.

Do you know who you are?

Friday, February 13, 2009

Blessing Generations

We're doing a Blessing Generations seminar this weekend and that got my wheels turning for a post about blessing.

The Bible talks about blessing from cover to cover. Most of us would be hard pressed to define it; I know I was. That is, until I heard this definition: blessing = empower to prosper.

"Empower to prosper" really gets you thinking. What are some practical ways to do this? Who are the people in our lives we would like to empower to prosper?

I have some ideas, but I'd like to hear yours first. My next blog post will be about blessing and I'll share my ideas then.

Who have you blessed (empowered to prosper) today?

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Role of faith in losing a loved one

This is such a big topic I'm sure whole books could be written about it. My discussion of it will be very personal. When you read our book, Aloha is Forever, you'll understand much better the role faith had in our lives when our son disappeared in Hawaii.

We've received a lot of feedback from people stating they were amazed at our faith and that they would never have enough faith to be able to face a similar circumstance. So let me start out by saying that we take no credit at all. There really is nothing special about us! The Bible says in Romans 10:17, "So then faith comes by hearing and hearing by the word of God." And in Hebrews 11:1, "Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen."

There is no doubt in my mind that faith was the most important ingredient in facing the loss of our son. Losing a loved one whether that be a child, a grandchild, a spouse, a parent or even a pet is one of the most difficult and potentially devastating situations we face in life. And we all face it numerous times.

It can strengthen our faith or destroy it. It's a little bit like the parable Jesus told about the man who built his house on the rock and the one who built his house on the sand in Matthew 7:24-27. The preparation for facing life's difficulties has to be made ahead of time.

I recall struggling with this issue once quite a number of years ago. A woman who had visited our church challenged me one day by saying, "I've done everything I needed to do. I've tithed, I've gone to church regularly, I love my neighbor, etc .... so why isn't God blessing me and giving me all that I need?" Just as an aside, if you listen to many of today's televangelists, this is exactly the message you will hear - "You do this and God will do that for you." Whoops! Although blessing is a biblical principle, trials and tribulations are also. Faith doesn't manipulate; it just is. Thinking that we can get something from God by doing something for Him is flawed. God cares for us because of His great love for us in the same way we care for our children because they are our children and we love them.

If I can say one thing about faith it would be this; your faith must be in a loving God, whether your day is sunny and filled with roses or strewn with the destruction left by a tornado. The fact is that we live in a fallen world filled with anger, hurt, pain and destruction. But God is able to take us beyond all of those things and give us joy, peace and hope in the midst of the trials and tribulations. That is what faith is! Faith believes that in spite of death, there is resurrection; in spite of pain, there is comfort; in spite of loss, there is restoration; in spite of hurt, there is healing; in spite of loss, there is gain; in spite of ashes, there is beauty; in spite of bad, there is good. The list could go on and on.

I can honestly say that because of our son's faith and our faith in a loving, giving, wise and powerful God, we experienced all of these things when John disappeared. And our faith was strengthened, not weakened. We were able to trust God in the midst of the storm and our house stood strong on the rock that is Jesus. But it's because our faith had been tried and tested through many other lesser trials first.

Hebrews 12:2 "Looking to Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith..."

Friday, February 6, 2009

Missing Child - John Reece

Missing child...that news would strike terror in the heart of any parent or grandparent. Like this morning. I left my grandson in the fenced backyard to play and when I went to check on him he wasn't there. My first reaction was panic. Where could he have gone? When I checked in the front yard I didn't see him either. But when I called, he appeared from beneath the porch where he was busily gathering up broken bricks and piling them in his wheelbarrow. My sigh of relief was audible!

When our son John Reece was reported missing in Hawaii, we did not panic, nor did terror strike our hearts. We had great peace even though he had gone hiking in one of the most treacherous and dangerous areas one could imagine. In fact, when we looked at photos of the area on the internet, our hearts stopped for a second. The 3000 foot cliffs were almost vertical. How could one even hike in an area like that?

But we didn't panic. After all, he was from a long line of adventurers. His father had taken a trip down the Trinity River all alone when he was 17. After a week, he made the headlines instead of JFK on the anniversary of the JFK assasination. They were dredging the river for him and he was completely oblivious to the fact that anyone might even be missing him.

At least John had told us where he was going and what his plans were. And we had no reason to think that things would not turn out just fine and dandy for him just as they had for his father.

For the whole story, see Aloha is Forever (as an e-book).

I welcome your comments - what would your reaction be if you got the news that your child or grandchild was missing.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

It's All About the Title

How does one decide upon a book title? No doubt great insights have been written about this subject but as proven by one post-a-day challenger, it really is all about the title. I know that as I go down the blog roll each day to choose where to visit and where to comment, the appealing subject titles pull me in first.

Ideally that's what we want to have happen with a book title. But how does one come up with a book title that is perfect for the book as well as appealing to the reader? I welcome ideas from you on this subject.

In our case, our book was primarily about hope in the midst of the most devastating experience a parent can ever face. So naturally we thought about using the word "hope" in our title. Our original title was, "Where There is Hope." It was ok, but not particularly great.

But another aspect of our story was its setting in Hawaii. And the more we learned about Hawaii and its spiritual heritage, the more it seemed logical to include part of that cultural aspect in our book title.

As we researched Hawaii's spiritual heritage, we discovered that the first Hawaiians were believers in a benevolent creator God whose name was Io. I'll share more about that in another post, but we also discovered that the word "aloha" had a much more profound meaning than just "hello" and "good-bye." It encompassed a blessing similar to the Old Testament blessing from the Bible that goes something like this, "The Lord bless you and keep you, the Lord make his face to shine upon you, the Lord lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace" (paraphrased). So as we thought about it, using the word "aloha" in our book title seemed logical and fitting. Thus the book became, "Aloha is Forever."

A friend just the other day asked if it wouldn't be more appropriate to use the title, "Aloha Was Forever." But we our response was that our son was welcomed into the Lord's presence forever and that is a present reality, not a past one.

We still have time to change our title if we think of a better one. So be sure and vote in our poll about our book title. And feel free to add your 2 cents worth by adding your comment.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Sites Related to Grief, Loss, Bereavement

Virtual Blog Tour of Sites Related to Grief, Loss, Bereavement

This list is a wonderful compilation of books, blogs, websites, services, magazine….all related in some manner to loss, grief and bereavement. This is by no means a complete list, but it is a start.

(No endorsement is made and all sites listed are for information purposes only.)

A Journey Well Taken: Life After Loss by Elaine Williams, a widow’s journey through loss, grief and renewal. Blog:
Dave Pipitone - "The Hope Patch", is a way to remember those who have passed on. Articles and resources for living with hope for new life.
Wendy L. Christensen: An inspirational letter written by Wendy at 15, to her older brother Travis who died at 17. “This letter was therapeutic for me and I have received so many emails and phone calls over it. My brother, Travis, had a huge impact on my life.” "It's the Little Moments that Matter" contains 26 simple steps to enrich every moment of life!
Jane Galbraith’s "Baby Boomers Face Grief - Survival and Recovery". Jane’s background is a degree in nursing and 20 years working in the community health care system. If you would like more info on the book you can find the introductory chapter and her bio etc at
Carol Ann Loehr - Website for Understanding Suicide & Depression –
On March 29, 1999 , our son Keith died by suicide. At the time of his death I had no knowledge of suicide, and I was inundated with inaccurate and outdated description of suicide and its causes. In 2002, I created a website of information to help comfort and educate survivors of suicide, as well as clergy, health care professionals and counselors. In 2006 I wrote a children's book, “My Uncle Keith Died”. This book helps explain a death by suicide and the illness of depression. Available at Trafford Publishing or call Toll Free (888)232-4444; and
Sandy Fox - "I Have No Intention of Saying Goodbye." Sandy interviewed 25 sets of parents about the death of a child and how they have moved on with their lives. Sandy’s story is in the book also.
Annette Gonzalez:
Website: Annette writes and speaks about feeling like an "orphan" at sixty years of age. Her father died five months after her mother. Shares her experiences as a daughter, caregiver, wife and mother.
The Light Beyond, Lucie Storrs – Grief forum, inspirational movie and helpful bereavement site. “Do Not Stand At My Grave And Weep” ebook of over 250 sympathy poems, quotations and readings for funerals, memorial services and inner peace. “If There's Anything I Can Do” guide for friends and families of the bereaved.
Research Study on Social Relationships and Loss
A new study on social relationships and loss is being conducted by a doctoral student at The Wright Institute in Berkeley, California. You are invited to participate in this important new study investigating interpersonal relationships and how they might have affected your feelings about your loss.
Questions or would like the questionnaires sent to you, contact Naomi Edelson by phone at (415) 290-0164 or by email at
A Masters degree and 24 years of Adoption Social Work did not prepare Chris Mulligan for the devastation after the death of her son, Zac. Her grief journey, revealed through “Afterlife Agreements: A Gift From Beyond” describes in detail the mother/son relationship that continues beyond death through documented signs and communication. Healing and a new life emerged as the result of learning about life lessons, death and the afterlife.
Harry Line Helping Parents Deal with The Loss of Their Baby -
Fran Dorf’s acclaimed, internationally published psychological novels include A Reasonable Madness (Birch Lane, Signet, 1990/91), Flight (Dutton/Signet, 1992/93), and Saving Elijah (Putnam, 2000), which was inspired by the tragic death of Fran’s son, Michael, and which a starred Publisher’s Weekly review called, “a stunning tale that crackles with suspense, dark humor, and provocative questions.” A bereavement and creativity expert and psychotherapist, Fran holds advanced degrees in journalism, psychology, and social work. She is currently working on a book of personal essays called, “How I Lost My Bellybutton and Other Survival Stories"; and writes poetry, essays and articles on a variety of topics including bereavement. Using her unique background and experience, Fran has developed the WRITE TO HEAL WORKSHOP, which employs exercises, and fictional/interrogative techniques, some arising out of themes developed in Saving Elijah, to deepen and clarify self knowledge, stimulate the imagination, and generate meaningful story, memoir, metaphor, and/or image around loss. Fran has conducted the Workshop with a variety of groups including the bereaved, addicted, traumatized, homeless, women’s groups, those dealing with chronic or serious illness, and the mentally ill. Her essay, “My Son’s Name Was Michael – Not Elijah,” will be published in an anthology on therapeutic writing this spring. Fran is also an active philanthropist, and has a blog called THE BRUISED MUSE, an e-zine on “grief, life and everything in between” at For a workshop with your group, or for individual psychotherapy or counseling, contact Fran directly at
Soaring Spirits Loss Foundation National Conference on Widowhood, San Diego, California -- July 17-19, 2009
This event will provide a variety of inspiring role models, a hope-filled, supportive environment, and programs focused on giving women the tools they need to rebuild their lives after the devastating loss of a spouse.
Sharon - Grandma is a writer - Shares thoughts about writing, about life and to promote the book, “Aloha is Forever” about the loss of her son in Hawaii who went on a hike and disappeared.
Tiffany - Life after his Death -- Perspectives encountered from loss.
Christa Scalies lost her close friend Jim to suicide in 2005. Christa was on a self-destructive suicidal path but the shock of her friend’s death actually helped save her life. Experiencing the devastation of his sudden passing caused her to examine every detail of her life. Christa embarked on a path of self-healing, learning and laughing. In 2008 she created Giggle On!, a motivational and inspirational web site, to share her story and help empower people to enjoy the lighter and happier sides of life. Christa works to raise money and awareness for the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention.
Crumbling Walls - a mother grieves the loss of her 18 year old son to suicide -
Janine - Widow and mother of 6 Blog, One Breath at a Time -
Carol O’Dell – Author “Mothering Mother: A Daughter’s Humorous and Heartbreaking Memoir” ISBN – 13:978-1-60164-003-1. - Family Advisor at Blog -
A bitingly humorous and unflinchingly honest memoir. Carol's mother has Parkinson's Disease, Alzheimer’s, and a heart condition and Carol's decision not to put her mother "in one of those homes" has far-reaching consequences for her family. She must learn to Mother her own mother. This refreshing and entertaining memoir will help baby boomers struggling with their own decisions on elder care in the home.
Widowsbreathe Coaching: Mie Elmhirst, CPCC, PCC provides Coaching, Support and Information for Widows
Keepsakes, Etc. features Sympathy Throws as a bereavement gift for family and friends. They will embroider personalized messages on most throws and ship nationwide.
“Room for Two” by Widower Abel Keogh -
Beautiful Earthen Urns -
Resolving Grief with Hypnosis and EFT -Carol Henderson Certified Hypnotherapist
EFT Practitioner
New Day Hypnotherapy, LLC
Kansas City Area
Marsha at “Breathings of the Heart” - Marsha began the blog as an outlet of musings, writings and journaling following the loss of her husband in 2005. Today, it continues to be an extension of her journey... may you enjoy the travels with her.
Cathy - Lessons From Lou - - Cathy’s journey through the brain tumor world with her husband, Lou.
Ian - Single Parent Dad -
Bill- Dying Man’s Daily Journal -
The Price of Love - - a father's journey through breast cancer, bereavement and recovery.
Maureen’s Mission - .- Breast Cancer Advocacy – One couple’s journey through misdiagnosis.
Lisa - Grace Between the Lines - - Blog continues in memory of Annette, with a new name, Grace Between the Lines by her sister, Lisa.
Dr. Doris Jeanette, a holistic psychologist with 33 years of experience showing people how to find their own inner strengths, and author of" Opening the Heart", an emotional guide into healing your grieving heart from the bottom outward.
Speaker, columnist, radio host and author of Opening the Heart, Overcoming Anxiety Naturally and 14 other self help products.
Eric Tomei - Help me raise 1 Million dollars for Habitat for Humanity. It was my Dad's favorite charity. Please help me honor his memory and support this great organization. Author “I Miss My Dad.” Eric is an ordinary guy who wrote about her dad to deal with his grief.

Cindy Bullens – Recording artists and songwriter. - “Somewhere Between Heaven and Earth: Grieving Out Loud”.
"When my daughter Jessie died on March 23, 1996, just weeks after her eleventh birthday, I felt my own life end. I couldn't imagine that I could ever again be a productive human being. Cindy has touched thousands of people around the world with Somewhere Between Heaven and Earth's inspired songs of despair and loss, love and hope.”
Betsy – author ISABELLE'S DREAM - Based on the true story of two sisters, / Isabelle’s Dream/ takes the reader on a heartwarming journey from grief to hope. The book's black-and-white illustrations invite children to bring their own creativity to each page, using crayons, markers, colored pencils, or even glitter glue. After coloring the sisters’ shimmering wings, butterflies, gardens, the earth, and the sea, boys and girls will find several blank activity pages. These pages encourage children to create original drawings or words.
Available through Quality of Life Publishing (; to order call *1-877-513-0099* during regular business hours Eastern time) or via or
In memory of Sophia Zartarian Nagle, author Betsy Bottino Arenella is donating 100 percent of royalties from /Isabelle's Dream/ to the national charitable SUDC (Sudden Unexplained Death in Childhood) Program (www:// ). To learn more about Sophia's life and the birth of Isabelle's Dream, visit
# Widow's Voice - A place to find your own voice, to hear other widow's voices...and to find comfort in the fact that you are not alone.
Grief Sites – Provides a forum for young widows and widowers to connect online, find understanding and validation of their feelings so that they are able to recover their joy for life, reclaim their identities and rebuild their futures.
# - Indianapolis Grief & Loss Consulting Services
# - Finding Meaning in Grief & Loss
Ligia M. Houben, is an author, consultant and educator. She consults with individuals and corporations on life transitions with the purpose of providing meaningful tools to transform losses and challenges. She obtained her B.A. from the University of Miami in psychology and Religious Studies and a Masters Degree in religious studies and gerontology from Florida International University. Ligia also has a Graduate Certificate in Loss and Healing from St. Thomas University and is a Certified Grief Counselor, a Certified Addiction Counselor and a Certified Thanatologist: death, dying and bereavement.
# - AARP – Helpful Links for Those After Loss of a loved one.
# - Hope and Healing for the Body, Mind and Spirit. Living with Loss Magazine
# - Center for Loss and Life Transition
# - More than 400 books, videos, and audios to help children and adults through serious illness, death and dying, grief, bereavement, and losses of all kinds, including divorce, suicide, trauma, and violence. Reviewed and selected by knowledgeable professionals.
# - Grief Counseling, Bereavement Counseling
Individuals, Families, Small Grief Counseling Groups
# - Elisabeth Kubler-Ross - Grief & Bereavement
# - GoodBooksNW is an independent online bookseller specializing in books on divorce, blended families and grief.
# - Bereavement, Loss and Grief Resources
# - Grief's Journey, where the primary focus is on the bereavement for the loss of a spouse and life partner.
# - GROWW For Widowed allows us to be or do whatever it takes to move forward, to know that letting go of the pain is not letting go of the memory of the love.
# - Coping with Grief and Loss, Support for Grieving and Bereavement
# - M.I.S.S. Foundation, support when a child dies
# Truewonder lost her eldest son in 2003, little did I know that starting a blog in 2008 was the healing balm I most needed. It is a cleverly disguised blog about a sustainable I have become just that. It started it out as farmer related stories, but my writing revealed to me that my grief, joy experiences were stories that caused many ripples in the lives of others.
# - Do you struggle to find resources and advice while you juggle your life with the needs of a newly widowed parent? Author Jamieson Haverkampf, gleaned intimate knowledge of balancing her own life with a newly widowed parent, having aided her fifty-six-year-old widowed mother in Virginia, while running her real estate business in California, after the early unpredicted loss of her father to cancer. “Mom Minus Dad”.
# - Coping With Bereavement - Mental Health America
# - Publications to help you help others – One Caring Place
# - Our House, Helping Grieving Hearts Heal, Child and Adolescent Grief
# - Pamela D. Blair, Ph.D., therapist and co-author of “I Wasn't Ready to Say Goodbye: Surviving, Coping and Healing After the Sudden Death of a Loved One” (Sourcebooks, Inc.) as well as the companion workbook.
# - Hospice - For patients and families facing life-threatening illness
# - Solace House - A Center for Grieving Children and their Families.
Open to Hope Foundation and The Grief Blog at and - Articles, radio show and information to help those who have suffered a loss.
Widowslist - A blog and community where widows share problems and triumphs with lists of helpful people, companies and services.
Jenslove –"> – cofounders Mark Manning and Jessica Caron. A place to celebrate those loved and lost
Loss, Grief and Bereavement – National Cancer Institute”>
American Widow Project - - The American Widow Project is a non-profit organization dedicated to the new generation of those who have lost the heroes of yesterday, today and tomorrow, with an emphasis on healing through sharing stories, tears and laughter………Military Widow to Military Widow
Garden of Innocence National – Dignified burial for abandoned children
Neil Chethik - - Author “Father Loss, How Sons of All Ages Come to Terms with the Death of their Dads.”

List compiled by Elaine Williams
Author of "A Journey Well Taken: Life After Loss"
A Widow's journey through loss, grief and renewal