Of Frozen Pipes & The Ultimate Thaw

We’ve had snow this week and school has been out.  I am always torn when snow days come: be productive or indulgent?  Like a sled crazily veering off and on a path, I am conflicted about how to use the unexpected freedom.  Hammer away at a neglected project- there are so many? Play a game? Read until I nap? Work on my taxes? Watch a movie with the kids? Bake something yummy?

I struggle with the freedom.  If my kids are here, I want to be with them, and I want it to be fun, not the “it’d-be-better-to-be-in-school-than-be-with-mom” kind of snow day.

The extreme cold created a to-do list I couldn’t ignore: no heat on the main floor for almost 4 days, frozen pipes in our sunporch, and then a few days later, frozen pipes hidden in the walls of upper floor bathrooms.  Those are still frozen.  All of these are firsts without John.

Not fun for a mom going solo.

But it sounds worse spelled out here, then it was in reality. I will drive all of us crazy if I have a breakdown every time something around here goes wrong. It simply isn’t worth the expenditure of emotional energy.  Instead, I try to learn new skills as things happen. As my dad always says, “just take it in stride.”  Praying and being solution-focused is a way I am learning to live.

John was absolutely, always able to figure things out, and he naturally filled that role.  He would have been proud and amazed to see me in action this week. After this week’s new chapter in home maintenance, I know how to “bleed pipes” (didn’t even know that was a thing to do), and my snow readiness plan is becoming second nature. Did you know there is a real science to applying ice melt?

I got close to hitting my wall when I was trying to figure out which pipes were frozen in an attic crawlspace. I angrily announced to the rafters, “Who am I kidding? I am not cut out for this. I don’t know what I am doing.” It was true.  All of it. Truthfully, maybe my heart was speaking to Someone much higher than the rafters.

But, the Lord has me on this adventure and He has provided again and again. This has been another week of him proving Himself to me in the midst of challenges. I saw it when…

  • Ice melt was sold out at the usual stores. I felt a little desperate. It isn’t optional at our house. The Lord prompted me to go in a CVS drugstore: there it was- a whole cart of bags of ice melt, on sale too. You would have thought I struck gold! People thought I was a little crazy. : )
  • Our kids weren’t home last weekend so only I had to endure the annoyance of no heat. They wouldn’t have been happy campers. Believe me, a kitchen in the mid-40’s isn’t fun.
  • A visit with a dear friend eased my loneliness when the kids were gone. We pulled up close to gas logs with take-out and blankets and caught up on our lives. A treasured gift.
  • A repairman could come when I needed him to diagnose what was wrong with our furnace. That meant the next repairman could show up with the part ready to be installed.
  • Lent services at our church landed in the midst of the week. A holy hush for communion and the truest perspective on life.
  • Suggestions came from knowledgeable sources about the problem of my frozen pipes. I was so proud of myself for figuring out how to bleed off the water and coax the pipes back to life. The Lord helped me persevere patiently as water spewed. I worked in faith. I definitely didn’t know for sure what I was doing.

And, the Lord blessed us with some fun together in the midst of it all. The best things that snow vacation days are made of: sledding, cocoa, games, movies (& Netflix), cousins, books and extra sleep. And all of it deeply treasured by us as we miss John on these snow days that he loved. And all of it in a house that got progressively warmer.

In fact, just within the past five minutes as I typed, there was an unusual sound in the pipes above my head- scraping and slushy stuff giving way to the sound of water flowing from the faucet. : )  Pipes aren’t frozen anymore!! (Hopefully they aren’t leaking either.)

It makes me think about my soul. Sometimes it feels like parts of it are frozen. There is ice blocking the way; preventing love and trust and joy from flowing freely. Like my pipes, sometimes I don’t even know where the blockage is hidden.  I have felt like that this week as my rhythm and routine were disrupted.  It is easy to lose my focus on my Heavenly Father when earthly stuff looms so large.

But, He thaws me- he thawed all of me years ago when He drew me to Himself. Now when ice threatens to lodge again and stunt my soul, He beckons me not to waste time trying to find the hidden frozen pipe. Instead, I keep learning to turn to Him and to His word to slowly, gently melt the ice of my heart.

“He spreads the snow like wool and scatters the frost like ashes. He hurls down his hail like pebbles. Who can withstand his icy blast? He sends his word and melts them; he stirs up his breezes and the waters flow.” Psalm 147:16-18

May your soul flow,


A New Love List

It’s Valentines week and our minds gravitate to the one we love. I think about the reasons I fell in love with John and continued to fall more in love with him over time. Love lists grows longer as you do life together: the beautiful (new babies), the stressful (moving & job changes), and the ordinary (brushing teeth elbow-to-elbow). Life lived as one.

This past year I started  a new love list. It all began when I started thinking about a conversation I had with John’s mom. She told me how their pastor frequently prays over the infants he baptizes: “May the name of Jesus always be sweet to this child.”  The phrase stuck with me.

I began to wonder if we had explained to our children WHY Jesus is sweet to us.  Why do we love him?

I wondered if we had settled for a shallow answer.

Any husband or wife can simply answer, “I love my spouse because I am supposed to. They’re married to me.” Similarly, Christians can rattle off, “Jesus died for me.  That is why I love Him.”

But, there is so much more to discover.

I decided to start re-reading the New Testament with this question framing every passage:

What do I love about Jesus in this passage?

It has been a treasure hunt. I am not done yet because the list just keeps getting longer. Along the way I am falling deeper in love with Jesus and who He was during His ministry on this earth. It is a way of thinking about Him that I had never discovered.

Read slowly and savor this sampling. It is a list for all of us.

I love Jesus Christ because…

  • He came and lived among us. (John 1:14)
  • He has made God known to me. (John 1:18)
  • He came to us full of grace and truth (undeserved kindness and accurate information). (John 1:14)
  • He gave us the right to become a child of God! (John 1:12)
  • He didn’t come to give us what we deserve- condemnation. Instead He came to save. (John 3:17)
  • He interacted with women and treated them with value. (John 4)
  • He cared that the crowds of people who followed him were hungry and He did something about it. (Matthew 15)
  • He didn’t distance himself from desperation and smelly people and broken bodies and grasping hands and tears and insistent voices or lack of respect for His personal space.  He allowed it all to come near Him. He was approachable. (Matthew 14)
  • He reassures us that the Kingdom of Heaven is an actual place where we should crave to be. (Matthew 13)
  • He invites us to come to Him when we are tired and overwhelmed so that He can give us sweet rest. (Matthew 11:28-29)
  • He became a curse for me so I’d be redeemed from my curse. (Galatians 3:13)
  • He became obedient to death for our sake, even to death on a cross. (Philippians 2:8)
  • He lived a life of love and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering & sacrifice to God. (Eph 5:2)
  • He made himself a servant for my good, even though He is God’s Son. (Philippians 2:7)
  • He gives us eternal life. (John 3:15-16)
  • He is repeatedly generous with His time, His power, His “rights”, His provision, His protection, His attention, His love, His words of hope, His teaching, His purpose.

The reasons go on and on and on. And, with every new reason I find that I am falling more deeply in love with Him. The real Jesus. I know Him better than I did before.

There is nothing special about me.  You can read the Bible and ask the same questions. Your hearts will beat faster as you realize there are endless reasons that His name is sweet to you. He is your forever valentine.

“We love because He first loved us.” 1 John 4:19

“Jesus did many other things as well. If every one of them were written down, I suppose that even the whole world would not have room for the books that would be written.” John 21:25

May your love lists grow and the name of Jesus always be sweet to your soul…


Love Even Goes Here

As I told you in my last post, it took me two years to decide what to put on John’s marker. It wasn’t a task to rush through for the sake of “getting it done.” I wanted to be completely sure about its appearance and wording.  Grave markers aren’t something you return.

Knowing that I was creating it without John’s input was intimidating. I really wanted to be confident that he would approve. That he would like it.  (And I truly think he would.) But it was something we had never talked about.

As I considered my options, questions arose. Obviously, a grave marker identifies a grave, but was there another purpose? Who would come to see it? What did I want the marker to convey- in its appearance? In the wording?

Most of all, how could I express our hope in Christ, even in this hardest of all places?

I talked to the Lord about it a lot, and the answers to those questions became abundantly clear to me over time: our marker is a declaration primarily to our children, their spouses, & especially our grandchildren, of our love for each other and for God. They will only be at our graveside a few times over the years, but I want them to remember us by what they see engraved there.

The truth is that John will never be known by our children’s spouses or our grandchildren. Yes, there will be stories about him and even some videos, but there will be no firsthand experience. They won’t have seen how we loved each other so deeply. They will know of our faith but won’t have seen John’s in real time. Nor will they have ever known us as grandparents. They won’t have actual memories of him.

For me, the marker is our final statement to them after we’re gone.  It is my attempt to say to those people, particularly our grandchildren, “You didn’t know us as “us” but we were given a beautiful love and we’ve been loved by an amazing God. He is the Author of our story. Our hope is forever in Him. He also loves you, and it is a bigger love than death itself. You can trust Him.” That is what I want them to truly know.

God gave me strength and courage and peace as I grappled with all of this. As I prayed and imagined, the Lord helped me put it all together. It needed to be simple, so it is. Just our story & a verse.


  • Our love story is best told by our wedding bands’ inscriptions. On my ring, John had engraved Eros Phileo Agape because he said it described how he fell in love with me, and God deepened it over time.  First, attraction (eros), then friendship (phileo), then selfless, unconditional love (agape).
  • John’s ring is engraved with Song of Solomon 2:3-4. “Like an apple tree among the trees of the forest is my beloved among the young men. I delight to sit in his shade and his fruit is sweet to my taste. He has taken me to the banquet hall, and  his banner over me is love.”  In a forest of young men, there was John!  An apple tree in their midst.  I delighted in him at 21. I still do.
  • The verse that I settled on is one that I am living. “Nothing can separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord” Romans 8:39. Since John’s death, I return to Romans 8 frequently because it explains my faith journey so well.
  • The overall look of our marker is formal because it seemed to suit John and his profession as a lawyer.  The design on the edge is similar to our wedding invitations, and the dogwoods around the vase represent Virginia, where our love story mostly took place.

It took several months for them to make it.  It was put in place the week of our 25th anniversary and my 46th birthday. When I received the email that it had been placed in the ground, I wept.

I wept for John. I wept for me. It is a reality check to be 46 and have your grave marker ready and waiting with your husband there. There is no illusion about death. Or about life.

Yes, sadly and ultimately, love will take each of us to a grave.  And we. will. be. powerless.

But, God doesn’t take us where He didn’t go first. 

Jesus’s love for His Father and for us took him to a grave too. But, death could not hold him. He promises that He won’t let it hold us either. “He who believes in me shall not die but have life everlasting.”  And, that is the most important truth anyone ever needs to know.


This post was probably tough to read. It is tough to live. But, honestly, I hope that my candor moves you beyond fearing death into deeper faith.

I have been places I never thought I would have to go at this season of my life. Places I have always feared. But, I want to be a reassuring voice saying to all of you that the Bible’s promises of God’s presence in death are true. “The Lord is my Shepherd…Even though I walk through the valley of death, you are with me. Your rod and your staff they comfort me.” (Psalm 23:4).

I have now walked in that valley. My Heavenly Father, my Good Shepherd, has gone with me. Comforted me as no one else can. I have never felt alone or forsaken by Him.  Instead, He has sustained me.

May you also truly know the Good Shepherd in this life. And beyond.

Unworthy of all this love but savoring it,


“I am the Good Shepherd. The Good Shepherd lays down His life for the sheep.”

John 10:11  – Jesus