Friday, October 29, 2010


Reactions-we all have them. Reactions to people, circumstances, or something that just really sets us off. We are all different so we all react in our own unique way. We even get demanding about needing space while we react. We spend time thinking of excuses for ourselves, or try to explain our way out of our own human-ness.

A few weeks ago in this house we all had our own reactions. The tombstone made its arrival by way of Merlin's truck. Marlea and Anna thought it was great to go with Daddy to pick up Kira's tombstone. I grimaced and my stomach turned at the thought of it being great to go pick up your sister's tombstone. I reacted by living out my sullen angry feelings. They were excited and proud of it-I was not. They tried to persuade me to go out and look at it in the truck-I did not want to see it in Merlin's truck. To me, the taste of death stinks and that is what the tombstone felt to me that day. Later Merlin took it to the graveyard and laid it on the grave because he didn't have the correct material to put it in place. Finally on Sunday after church I could no longer deny that it belongs to me. I went and looked at it-sullenly of course. I found Marlea lying on the stone with a smile on her face-I took only one glance and muttered that it's nice. Merlin was very gracious to me, giving me the space I needed to react to my feelings. He designed the tombstone himself so it would have been nice to be receiving compliments instead of grimaces from his wife. He too was having his own reactions only being a man it was the thing to do to put up the tombstone. Marlea kept asking me if I like it. "Yes", I replied, just not there! More like I wanted to yell "I hate it!" It could have been the most unique tombstone available on the face of the earth and I would still be grimacing and mad.

So I left and my family followed me to the van. I managed to tell Merlin that it is very nice. Anna had her own two year old reaction by screaming life-threatening screams as we drove down the road. To her the tombstone was part of our family, something we should take along - not leave in the graveyard. Why would we leave it in the graveyard after picking it up in Daddy's truck? She wanted to bring it home to our house. When we arrived home I was thinking on these things when Marlea came into the kitchen carrying her beloved "Bowl Hat". I was sure she was going to say that she is going to use it again. Like I had written two months ago, it was under the bed. She handed it to me. "I don't need this anymore" she said. Words were trying to come out of my gaping mouth as I stared at her. Alas I had no words for such a change. I had not expected to ever receive that bowl back. And here she was giving it to me after lying in the graveyard with her head on her deceased sister's tombstone. I took it, but was totally confused by the series of events. So that was the last thing for her - putting the tombstone over Kira's grave? To me the action brought reactions - nasty, ugly, sullen, angry ones. To my daughter it brought closure, peace, and acceptance. I felt slapped in the face.

So I thought about it, tried to talk about it with my friends, let myself be angry again. My mind played the "what if" games again as I struggled with God about giving back my daughter before I thought it was time. In the end I decided to accept the tombstone. After all, if I didn't I would have to face my daughters questions and probes for the next fifty years. Maybe acceptance was the easy way out but it surely does brings more peace. The next Sunday I went to the graveyard again. Two of my friends went with me along with a bunch of Marlea's and Anna's friends. This time it was set upright in place and Marlea was riding it full of grins. It was easier this time and we all shed some tears. It makes it easier to accept when I realize that it is not only painful for me to look at it, but also for others. As I gazed at it I realized that it is a really nice tombstone. It has her picture engraved, the Jesus "Rock of Ages" symbol from the picture on her blog, and her name. As I stared at it I also realized that we had forgotten to put daughter of on. But I don't really care. At least my name isn't there with hers. Somehow it eased the pain and I breathed a sigh of relief. The next Sunday I went again. Now it's less bitter. I feel okay about it. I still can't say that I like it, but I do say it's a nice tombstone if there ever was such a thing.

I seem to have had numerous other reactions. Anna is growing and is now two and a half. She and Marlea are starting to actually play things that make sense together. Once again I hear little feet trotting after each other, someone hollering "Mia", and a little voice singing God is Great at the table before meals. It's nice but I find myself being afraid of it. It reminds me too much of "how it used to be." I attempt to face the fear and remind myself that it's not a valid fear. The actual fear is simply the fear of Anna also being taken to heaven. I need not fear it because God is in control. If I really trust Him like I say I do then it should not be a fear. But alas, I am human. My fear does not keep me from enjoying her antics and play. I smile and thank God for the healing that we have experienced. Even if it means not thinking about the "hole" so much. I thank God also for Anna's vast vocabulary and how that makes it so much easier for her and Marlea to play and communicate.

I am also reacting to upcoming changes in our family. Baby four is due in several days. Changes - good ones but it makes me miss the "Sunshine" girl who played such a vital part in our family. I realize that she would be helping me a lot with the baby especially when Marlea is at school. She would also be playing with Anna. Instead Anna is making baby noises and screams in preparation for baby four's arrival. A few days ago I decided that there is no other way to make room for baby four without putting some of Kira's clothes away. It was terribly hard to do, and still feels like betrayal almost two years later. Memories are still fresh in my mind. Anna reacted by standing in a corner and screaming. She made big bold statements like "Kira doesn't need this anymore because she is up in heaven". Or-"Kira won't mind if I wear this because she is in heaven". It added to my pain but the bluntness and truth she spoke also helped me keep in focus that it is simply the truth. Some of her clothes fit Anna so I didn't need to put them all away. I freely admit that there are some clothes in Anna's drawer that are quite oversized for her little self. Until Anna grows into them, they still belong to Kira.

Pray for us in the changes that are coming. Pray that we will enjoy and embrace now and it's joy fully. It seems possible for this baby to bring more healing for all of us. Our God is mysterious!

Marylu and Merlin, Marlea, and Anna

Friday, September 3, 2010


I have become different. I cannot detour around that truth. Grief and pain have changed me and my perspectives on life. A few weeks ago, my cousin was killed in Afghanistan. He and nine others were part of a mobile eye clinic in a remote part of the country. They were ambushed, robbed and killed. A week and a half later we attended his memorial service. During that time I found myself unable to properly grieve and mourn his death. In fact, I was thoroughly confused. Sunday at his memorial service I was finally able to cry. Then the tears came in torrents and I was out of control. Days later I decided I still haven't really mourned his death. My longing to enter heaven has stolen and replaced what would have been my feelings of grief for the loss of his life. Yes, that envy has stolen my ability to grieve. Why would I grieve my own loss when he is experiencing heaven? I want to go there...not that I want to leave my loved ones, but my desire for heaven is burning. The small taste God gave me the night Kira died will stay with me forever. The peace heaven gives and the feeling of everything being perfect: no more worries, cares, strife, war, arguments, or different opinions about life. My perspective on death has changed. I always grieved for my loss of connection with that person. I still do to some extent. Now-my grief is more associated with the living and the pain they will endure until heaven can be real for them. My tears at the memorial service were for my aunt, uncle and their family. I still have some balancing to do; I am still partially confused.

God also showed me in a funny way that other people's perspectives are different than mine. It broadened my horizon and allowed me to be more okay with however they would like to perceive me. Last week we were walking out of a restaurant. Marlea and Anna were ahead of me. I must have looked tired. A kind looking middle-aged couple was outside eating ice cream. The man was watching the girls. He looked at me and said "I bet they are a handful". The words were already coming out of my mouth to inform him that no they really are not but when there were three of them I was busy. I bit my tongue, smiled and replied "Yes they are." For the first time since Kira's death, I felt myself allow a person's perspective on our family to remain as it appears. In turn I felt God showing me that my perspective on death has changed and that is okay. But that is for me to feel and not everyone else. Each person grieves differently and for different reasons. My respect of those different reasons along with my respect for the Christian body of believers is growing.

Anna is learning to ride a bike with training wheels. She can barely reach the petals now. Her eyes glisten with pride as I try to help her. They remind me so much of the same pride I saw in her sister as she learned to ride the bike. In Kira's eyes she became Marlea's equal because she could ride bike also. For Anna, she is simply being proud of turning the petals. I miss that fierce competition between Marlea and Kira. It made for crazy times....

Praise God for the ability to feel, choose, and express our emotions. Also for good health!

Marylu and Merlin, Marlea, Anna

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Bowl Hat

In the winter of 2009 we had the flu bug. Instead of buckets we use bowls to catch the "you know what." Marlea and Kira had matching bowls, one bigger than the other. Over the time of Kira's death, Marlea became fiercely attached to her bowl. She named it "Bowl Hat". The days visiting in the hospital she always brought it along-often on her head. In the days, weeks, and months that followed, she and "bowl hat" were inseparable. It slept beside her at night, was carried around during the day, went to Grandma's house, and even went everywhere in the van. She would have even taken it into church if we would have allowed her to do so. Convincing her to go to kindergarten without it was a chore. I relented several days and allowed the hat to ride along in the backpack. It went with us to El Salvador, to Ohio at Christmas, and to Ohio again in May. I would try to make her leave it at home but it was wasted energy. She was determined, so eventually I accepted it as part of our family for however long it wanted to stay. I also soon learned that "bowl hat" was wanted for a reason and her stomach did seriously hurt. I have learned that stress does that to little ones. Often the bowl was used for its intended purpose and saved me from making a wild dash for something else handy to grab. About eight months ago we found reasons for the stomach issues for Marlea. Daily enzymes decreased the need for repeated use of the "bowl hat". However, it was still a very important object. I became really tired of looking at that thing all over our apartment so I started sticking it under the bed at opportune moments. Always it would come back out again and as a reward I would receive glares for my actions. A few months ago it started staying under the bed but it still went along on vacation. Last weekend we went on a trip; we left on Saturday and came home on Tuesday. We took a camper to distract us from the fact of our first family vacation that didn't include extended family. It proved to be a good distraction. On Monday I was thinking that something was missing. I couldn't pinpoint it. As I was cleaning up the camper it suddenly struck me. "Bowl hat" was missing. It was still under the bed at home! Tears filled my eyes as I grasp what is happening in my daughter's heart. To heal means freedom from nerves -which in turn heals the stomach - which eliminates the need for "bowl hat". I kept quiet and sure enough we returned home and "bowl hat" is still under the bed. It might need to come out again sometimes and I am okay with that. I might even like to see it sometimes. But mostly I choose to embrace the fact of a little heart that is healing, nerves that calm down, and a stomach that doesn't heave.

Our last family vacation we spent in Louisville, Kentucky visiting the Horse Park. The girls loved it and so did their parents. This shot of Kira reminds me of the white horses she is freely riding in heaven.

Marylu and Merlin, Marlea, Anna

Friday, July 30, 2010



Something mysterious is happening to me. I feel myself coming out of the clouds and emerging into light. It has been a gradual process since passing the year mark of Kira's death. The past couple weeks the feeling has grown stronger, partly due to an experience one of my close friends is having. It's a friend I love dearly who as a child befriended me with cute loving notes that encouraged me despite the ten-year age difference between us. As the years went by our friendship became stronger and we spent some time together each month. After she graduated from high school she worked for me for several years. Last year when Kira lost consciousness here at home, she was working here and was the first one to come into the house. She gathered up Marlea and Anna and took them out of the apartment. Her presence that day was a great relief to me and yet I felt so badly that she had to see that amount of pain. On the other hand, she felt as if she were giving to me a gift that was unmeasurable. Now, she is having a difficult experience. I feel a fervor rising up inside of me to's the kind of giving that it close to my heart. It's a gift that simply requires time and words of empathy, encouragement. Strangely it's the very one that I wanted to shield from my pain now listens to my words of encouragement. It takes no explaining that I know how it is to be desperate and out of control; she knows, she saw me. I was thinking all these things after visiting her. It was raining and I was sad. Partly sad too because my next stop was at Hershey hospital to visit another friend whose child had meningitis. The raindrops fell faster along with my tears as I turned my van toward Hershey on 322. I was nervous and angry at the same time. I didn't want to go back there. I was by myself; I had no cushion on which to lean and I was going to have to walk in there all alone. The sun briefly came out and I wished for a rainbow. "God maybe then I could see and know again that you love me" I thought to myself. I arrived at Hershey with my heart still pounding and my anger still simmering. Why does God let some children die and others live anyhow? I pondered as I dove into a parking spot far away from the main entrance. I decided to walk off my feelings. Alas, I reached the door and I was still in shambles. The lady at the registration told me the child was on the seventh floor. Yes, unfortunately I would have to walk down that forbidden hallway. I wanted to scream "God I can't do this. I have to have someone to walk with me. My memories of this hallway are" mind reverted back months ago. I see us,the heartbroken parents stumbling down that hallway for the last time. It was almost midnight when we left the hospital that night of the 24th of February. We were more tired than words could ever say. But our broken hearts dreaded the next days and what we knew lay ahead of us. We also knew our little girl would be wheeled out this hallway with the undertaker. We in turn would go out to our van to her empty car seat. The grief that hallway holds in our memories - and now God was asking me to walk down it alone and visit a child who was going to live? I stepped off the elevator and signed in at the desk. Tears blurred my eyes as I wrote down my name. Step by step I force myself to walk down the hall. This must be called facing one's fears, my mind tells me. I reach the patient's door way and yes, she is sitting up in bed smiling. My heart flip flops. In a way it's nice to know children can recover from meningitis, viral - I learn as we talk. By the time our visit was over, my happiness for them outweighed my anger and nervousness. I left the room feeling like I had done the right thing by visiting. I turned and walked down the hall again. Thoughts went through my head like "God please just don't let any of my children ever need to be here again." But it does look like not everyone dies that comes here. I felt as if I had accomplished something as I opened my car door. It was raining again but this time I was thinking "Somewhere in all this pain and grief there are answers. Maybe even beauty. Maybe I am and will become a more true example of God. Maybe God is using my own pain to enable me to understand other's pain more. Yes, I do care more. Admitting that simple fact finally made sense to me. I do care more, I do understand more. Suffering has deepened my understanding of the cross like never before. Grasping the possibility that I can be more like Jesus through all this? As I reached the highway rain was falling again. My mind said it could be no other way driving away from Hershey. I passed a sign that seems to me to read mockingly "Hershey-the sweetest place on earth." I grimace, humpf - maybe to some. Really I felt like stopping and tearing down the sign. Fortunately my mother taught me to not always do what I feel. As I drive on through the rain my mind reverts again to the power of Christ in me and living redemptively. Suddenly the clouds break and the sun shines through the rain. I look around anxiously for my rainbow and there is none to find. Just raindrops, sun, and clouds. Selfishly I ask God why He can't give me a rainbow when I think I need one. About five minutes later I think I see some color. No, I must be imagining things. But no, it really is! There in front of me emerged a most beautiful rainbow. I sat humbly swallowing all my selfish thoughts and in turn became amazed at God. Okay God, I get it. I am actually as small and ugly as a raindrop. It's through Your Light in my life that I can become beautiful. You can even use the back part of my raindrop; the ugly painful experiences I have had; the grief filled days; the heartbreaking, agonizing minutes to bend a second time and create more color. Maybe sometime I will even see another double rainbow in my life. That will have to wait because for now I only see a single one in front of me. The rain might continue to fall but God's light in my life will still make beautiful color. I savored the rainbow; soon I noticed people braking. The traffic came to a halt and for the next ten minutes God left the rainbow for me see. I had lots of time to soak in the love of God.

I enjoyed these explanations:

Rainbows appear when raindrops (similar to a prism) reflect sunlight, thus breaking white sunlight into colors.

How is light reflected to create rainbows?
As light enters a water droplet, the different wavelength colors bend at slightly separate angles. Some of this light reflects off the back of the droplet and is bent a second time as the droplet emerges from the light beam. Drops at different angles send distinctively different colors to the eye.

If light is hitting raindrops at a proper angle, a secondary, larger rainbow will appear outside of the main rainbow. This secondary rainbow is fainter in color than the main one because the light has been reflected twice by each raindrop. This double reflection also reverses the colors in the secondary rainbow.

To see a rainbow, an observer must have one's back to the sun and rain must be falling in some part of the sky. Since each raindrop is lit by the white light of the sun, a spectrum of colors is produced.

No two observers will ever witness exactly the same rainbow because each will view a different set of drops at a slightly different angle. Also, each color seen is from different raindrops.

When Kira was five months old she wiggled around on the floor like a fish. One day I was doing beans outside and left the door open a bit. Before I knew it she had wiggled out onto the porch and down over the threshold. I was a bit astounded. That was one of her first moves that proved to us that she loved the outside.

Going back to Hershey always brings difficult feelings for me. Pray that with time and patience God can also beautify this part of my pain.

Marylu and Merlin, Marlea, Anna

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Too Many Items

Too many items, such as dresses, berets, bands, shoes, socks, tights, sweaters, sippie cups, flip-flops, toys, pj's, and dolls. I am trying to clean up the apartment. I have this problem that started a year an a half ago; I have all these items that no one wears and yet I don't want to put them away. The tempting thought of giving them away is soon shut down when I realize I am attached to these items. I can't give these items away nor can I pack them. But the fact remains that they are in the way. Not because I can't find room for them, but because no one that I can see uses them. Their owner is gone from this earth. She will never use them again... and so I look at them. I move them around while convincing myself not to put them away and that our house has enough room for them. Today I cleaned up the hair drawer. It was full of clips and bands that haven't been used since February 19. I was relieved to not find any dark hairs this time. No one uses those clips. Anna doesn't like them nor does she have much hair. Marlea has lots of hair. The bands are too big for Anna and too small for Marlea. So I look at them again and organize them back into their space. Oh well, maybe sometime Anna will use them. I shrug as I feel the tears in my heart. Last week I cleaned up the drawers in their room. One drawer was full of dearly loved clothes. Too big for Anna, yet too small for Marlea. No one needs them but I carefully retrieved the ones that will soon fit Anna and stuffed the rest back in. Anna picked out the pair of ugliest pj's and claimed them proudly as her "balloons" since they have balloons printed on the fabric. The shoe drawer was tough because Kira loved shoes. I left the boots and some flip-flops, and put the rest away. It will be a long time yet until size ten fits Anna even though she is just nine months away from being as old as Kira was. I skimmed over the sock-and-tights drawer; too many memories to face, and too many tights without an owner. Did she really wear all of these? I organized the sweaters and put several away. She also had a lot of them. Kira was a particular dresser at her age, and her sweaters carried some weight in her mind. But again, it will be a long time until little Anna can wear 4T. What was Kira doing wearing 4T at age 2 anyhow I wonder? I go in the laundry where I keep the girls dresses and just sigh. It's hopeless. I can't bear to touch them. Anna should have her dresses there instead of the little closet but - oh well, it will do for now. The pain of moving the ones in the laundry is too great, so I proceed to make the little closet more usable. Will these dresses ever fit Anna? Seems light-years away. 5T and 6T? It will be years if they ever will correctly fit Anna. Too little for Marlea, too big for Anna, yet they stay there. They remind me of the life that used to be...of the person I miss. I will let myself hang onto them - to the memories I treasure in my heart. Forget it, I am also leaving the toys out that aren't used. I will just move around them and smile, wishing someone would play with them and I would have to pick them up. Some of the dolls were banished to the basement, but the ones she played with the most still float uselessly around the house. Some days they are played with and some days they are not. No one is really dedicated to their care, but I like to pick them up and put them away. Forget the stuffed animals too and the extra pillow in the bed. They can just stay there!

Kira loved to be combed but she hated having her hair in pony tails - if that makes any sense. She had this disobedient circle of hair to the side of her hairline. On the other side was a swath of hair that was equally disobedient. It was too short for the pony tails, too short for braids, and too fine for clips. It was just long enough to hang in her eyes, and of course, in her food. So I would sometimes clip it back with two clips. She was great at losing them. We still found one this year in the yard. That disobedient swath of hair now resides in Merlin's suit coat pocket. Maybe it will always stay there. I am not in a hurry to get it out.

Time can bring healing - hard as that is for me to admit. Pray that we will learn it graciously - both the pain and the healing, and accept it as part of our lives.

Marylu and Merlin, Marlea, Anna

Friday, July 2, 2010

Traveling with Stuff

We packed up our stuff - literally "stuff" stuffed into a truck and tied onto the back. It's that time again..time for family vacations. It's the time when happy families go spend time with each other. Time to discover nieces' and nephews' latest antics; time to catch up on the last six months of family living out of state; time to welcome the latest additions to the family. As we drive with our "stuff" and two children my mind drifts. Where would Kira be sitting amidst this "stuff?" What would she be saying? I feel myself sinking as I realize that my brothers' and sisters' families will be complete this weekend and ours will not. I will again be faced with choices. I can choose to ignore any child close to Kira's age or choose to be okay with them and embrace the pain caused by the "hole" in our family. I feel thankful that it is not last year and that we are driving to a different cabin. After two hours of driving we arrive at our destination. Up a winding hilly lane to a beautiful clearing and a cabin that would better be termed a new age type of "cabin." Of course the first little people I spot are the bouncing four-year-olds waiting for their next adventure. There are two boys six months older than Kira and one girl six months younger then Kira in our extended family. My eyes linger over them wishing for a four-year-old of my own. All weekend I watched them and all weekend I wondered what Kira would be doing. I concluded sometimes she would have been with them and other times with the "older" girls and Marlea. Wanderings that will never be satisfied; thoughts that will remain unknown to me; longings that will never be filled. This life of incompleteness is an art to live. I must realize that this earth is imperfect, that wanderings will continue to be only wanderings, and that longings will only be filled to perfection in heaven.

Two years ago when we were at the mountains I got this great shot of Kira. Every mother tries to train their child not to do this and I was trying hard. You can see about how far I was getting.....

Thank you God for heaven where life will be perfect! May You continue to intensify my longing for heaven until I get there.

Marylu and Merlin, Marlea, Anna

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Around the Corner

I never visited a funeral home before last Saturday. I really had no idea what everything looks like. Those of you that were at the viewing and funeral for Kira will remember the funeral directors, Jeff and Debbie Naugle. They are longtime friends of ours, dating back to eleven years ago. They also frequently stay here with us at Olde Homestead Suites. About four months before Kira died we visited them. Our purpose was to check out the "creepy house" they had on some property on which they were planning to build a new funeral home. The house was going to be demolished and Merlin wanted some lumber out of it. So we toured the "creepy house" with them. The girls loved it and both found some treasures to bring home. A few weeks later Merlin and Barry went and ripped out a bit of lumber which is being turned into flooring. Last Saturday they invited us to come tour the new funeral home. I fought with God on the way there. I wanted to go back to how life was before. I didn't want to know the pain of a funeral home, I didn't want to drive on those roads without Kira, I didn't want to even go past the restaurant where we had eaten supper that night. I struggled with the lonely feeling...the kind where I drive down the road looking at people's faces wondering if they know what pain is like or if it's just me. I felt angry at the fact that what should be three little girls riding our van was only two visible ones. So we drive into the lane. The remnants of the "creepy house" are now buried under the parking lot. Jeff and Debbie meet us as we enter. I am still feeling overwhelmed and angry. As we go down the hallway and around the corner I stopped short. There on the wall is a beautiful, large picture of the little girl I am missing so badly today. My anger melts to tears as I realize the care and love of the people walking beside me. I am not alone; others feel this pain too. They too want to remember her, to honor her, to make her live on in people's hearts. On the bottom of the picture are words to this extent: Kira Mary Yutzy; our children's room is dedicated in her honor. The next doorway past this picture is a playroom for children. My mind continues to race as I realize again the gift they gave us in caring for Kira after she died. I will remain grateful the rest of my life. God again showed me his everlasting love for me through them. Things like this don't just happen because others make them happen. Things like this come out of a pure love for God. To feel God's love through other people is a powerful effect of a Christian's life.

That first night when we went out for supper with Jeff and Debbie holds one of those memories I won't forget. I was busy with Anna and Merlin was busy with Marlea so Jeff was holding Kira. I don't remember that she had much to say to him or he to her but the picture remains imbedded in my mind. I often think of it when I think of them caring for Kira after she died. It causes me to realize that someday everything will be perfect again.

May the love of God grow more and more in our hearts.

Marylu and Merlin, Marlea, Anna

Thursday, June 3, 2010

The Third Dress

I have been sewing. These dresses I made took way too much time and were too much work. As usual - I got carried away and made too many mistakes; ripped open too many seams, and pulled the thread out of the needle too many times. I found myself quite frustrated at times. Many interruptions and lots of help that I didn't request (once I caught Anna headed toward her dress with scissors.) My dream of finishing with them in one day proved too lofty a goal for me and instead turned into weeks. Amid all these feelings I am stifling the urge to make a third one. I wish so badly there would be someone to wear it. She would look so cute in mind wanders trying to imagine what she would look like by now - how tall she would be - how she would act. Would her hair still be brown or would they be more reddish by now? How much smaller would her dress be than Marlea's? Marlea always dances and prances around-would Kira dance and prance with her? My mind is cut off by the pain introduced by these thoughts. It feels the pain of reality - the pain of never knowing these things - the pain of it only being imaginations. I turn back to reality and my sewing problems don't seem so big any longer. It really didn't even take that long to make two dresses. I didn't mind picking out those seams; in fact it would have been nice to pick out seams on a third dress. I would have enjoyed entertaining a third little girl while I tried to "sew." I would have liked to solve the fights that would have been my "interruptions" in the other life. The joy of sewing the third dress will remain untouchable - only a dream. The joy that comes from a happy little girl in a new dress will never be mine to experience. But, I will treasure the two that I have to pain will not steal my joy.

By our door on the wall is the last dress I sewed for Kira. It was the first dress I sewed with my new serger. She was extremely happy with it and Marlea was very jealous. After all Kira was the only one that had a black dress like mommy. She only wore it two or three will remain a treasure to me.

Please pray that we could stay healthy physically - we haven't been. Also intercede that emotionally we can be positive and joyful.

Marylu and Merlin, Marlea, Anna

Wednesday, May 19, 2010


When waves crash puddles form between the rocks. What happens to the water? When the waves come again at high tide the next day do they take all the water back out again? Is it mirky and miry? Is it stagnant? Do mosquitoes live in it? Maybe tarantulas? What happens to my puddles? While I am in the puddle is the water getting yucky? My water feels a bit mirky still. I would like to keep it clean, pest-free, and fresh. I would like it to not become salty there. I want the sand underneath me to stay pliable. The tide actually keeps my water clean. These waves, this tide, this grief journey is cleansing my life, and keeping my sand soft. As I let the waves wash out my muddled puddle I can face life again. In the daily hum of life it's easy for me to just live. To try to forget the grief that is around me every day. But letting the grief come it constantly refocuses my life and I accept the hole left behind Kira. I repeatedly tell God "I am confused, I am hurt, I am full of grief, but I will still trust you." When I do not allow the waves to come I grow salty; grouchy and very temperamental. For now I am in the puddle. Maybe sometime I will jump up and stay on the rocks. I jump out every once in a while just to remember what it's like on the rock. Psalm 40:2 reads "He brought me up also out of a horrible pit, out of the miry clay; And He set my feet upon a rock, and established my goings."

I recently remembered fter New Year's Day 2009 we spent the night at Merlin's brother's house in OH. Kira was still really proud of her suitcase she had received for Christmas. That morning when we were packing, she packed neatly and promptly. I can still see her wheeling her suitcase out to the doorway for her daddy to load in the truck. The pride was written all over her face. After all she was the first one to have her suitcase there from a family of five. I am human...I wish......

Please pray that we would stay focused on Jesus while the waves continue to cleanse us.

Marylu and Merlin, Marlea, Anna

Wednesday, May 12, 2010


I have heard someone say that grief comes in waves. My mind pictures the ocean. Last fall we were in El Salvador and spent two nights on the beach by the Pacific Ocean. There the waves crash onto rocky shore. In between the rocks are soft puddles of sand. At night the tide comes way up and the waves crash mighty crashes all night long that spray water into the air and up over the concrete walls, often giving water to plants on the other side. I have never been there in a storm but I think the power of the waves would frighten me. Likewise, in my life these waves of grief crash onto rocky shore. They make puddles between the rocks. Puddles that with God's help I am trying to keep impressionable. Sometimes the waves crash, the pain is great and the water splashes on those around me. People see my pain with their eyes because it's obvious that Kira is not here. They can hear my pain with their ears when I speak. I pray that the splashes of water they receive from me will help them grow. My heart is not stormy anymore. I can feel the storm ending. But the waves don't leave. Maybe as time goes on they will be more like low tide waves leaving only soft puddles in the sand. Right now I think they are pretty much still like high tide waves at least in portions of the day. Currents in my life trigger big waves...Yesterday one gripped me as I looked at Kira's clothes. Today one gripped me as Marlea told me how much she misses Kira especially when she looks at pictures of how it used to be. On Mother's Day it gripped me as I looked out the window at my nieces and nephews playing. Anna told me she saw Kira out there and I felt the wave go through me. Kira's friend sat with me in church and I couldn't help but wonder what it would be like with three little girls. The wave washed over me as I realized that I will never experience a six year old, four year old, and two year old at the same time. Not with the names Marlea, Kira, and Anna. The ocean seems to be okay with the tides. Someday will I be? My longing for heaven grows stronger...a place with no waves. Only peace.

All little girls like to dress up. There is no story about it. It just is natural. This picture is worth a lots of words. I will spare the words and just share the picture.

Thanks so much for still remembering us and caring for us. Continue to pray that we would be able to balance our lives in the waves, puddles, and sprays.

Marylu and Merlin, Marlea, Anna

Wednesday, May 5, 2010


This past year I have made lots of choices. One of the first ones I made was to care more about Kira's happiness than about her recovery. That was a hard one; I wanted her to live very badly but God called us strongly to that choice. Another one I made was to embrace grief and not run away. Choosing grief brought buckets of tears, valleys of disappointment, and heartache as I had never know to be possible for a body to endure. I can understand slightly how dying of a broken heart can be possible. A lot of the time I felt as if I were swimming with only my nose above water. Later on I made the choice to remove anger from the circle of emotions. That was a partial success; one I am still addressing. It pushed me closer to reconciling my trust in God. When Christmas came I made the choice to try to enjoy it... a choice that proved very difficult to do given the circumstances. On Kira's birthday I ate the bitter cake for days; I partially had to choose to enjoy it. As the year came around we chose to celebrate - especially children - by having a party, some activities, and lots of good conversations with people who freely embraced our grief with us. Many more of you have done so also that weren't here, and we feel that deeply as well. Again it was a choice to not run away from the pain of it being a year. The choice to be alright with healing seems to follow me these days. Just like I found pain around the corners, in the closet, running after me - I now feel healing along with it. And it feels confusing. I want it - I want to make that choice but I have discovered that along with the choice comes more pain. I still don't like pain. I struggle to be okay with what happened. I struggle to accept the last memories of Kira here in our home... Little things still set off my memory. Yet strongly and urgently healing calls me to accept it as part of what is shaping my life to be the person God must think I can be.

I have been digging in the dirt. It reminds me so much of Kira. She loved the dirt so much I even caught her eating it sometimes. Today we were mulching. I remembered Kira two years ago bringing her little bucket to fill with mulch to help her mommy. Anna was born at the end of April two years ago and it's always more fun to help mommy when she is helpless. Or maybe then they feel really needed? She was so sweet about it and such a diligent worker!

Please pray that we can discern following God's plan of healing in our lives.

Marylu and Merlin, Marlea, Anna

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

New Dimension

I feel something new coming; my desire is growing stronger. When I am wounded, I feel pain. It's good to feel pain because it means my heart can feel. If I feel-I can heal. A certain saying reads "No pain, no gain". When Jesus healed the lame man he rose up and walked, praising Jesus. Is that what healing is? Will I actually be able to praise God for this pain-for this healing? After Kira died and the grief came I had no idea what to expect. I felt so out of my comfort zone because life was unpredictable and my feelings were on a hypothetical rollercoaster. God ministered to me every day. I had no idea what the next day would be like. I soon learned that God does and He sent me people every day that ministered to me and were tangible pieces of God. He gave me thoughts through the Bible that helped me understand Him. He provided the correct circumstances for me to learn to rely on Him. He gave me the courage to allow myself to grieve and feel the pain. My trust in God has been gradually strengthened and has slowly become a vital part of my life again. Likewise I have no idea how healing will happen. I feel totally out of my comfort zone just as much as I did with the grief. Jesus calls me to live out of the new life in Him. A part of me would like to be stagnant and needy forever. It's not a God-inspired feeling. It's the feeling of Satan wanting to keep me in one place and in that way paralyze me. It's a battle, one that I refuse again to believe his lies and choose to continue to embrace the cross and it's healing power in my life. As for how the healing will happen...I decided I to stay along for the ride!

Kira and Marlea went through a stage where they were very bandaid-happy. We would go through boxes of bandaids; bandaids healed everything. Kira always has a scrape or a banged-up toe. When she was finished with hers she would stick them anywhere she found cenvenient. I found them on chairs, I scraped them off the floors, on her toys, dolls, or whatever she thought needed one. Bandaids made them so happy that I decided the fun was worth the several dollars' expense. Eventually bandaid use got to be ridiculous so we just didn't buy any more. Then the someone indeed started to bleed, alas - there was none to be had.

We greatly appreciate your continuing prayers!

Marylu and Merlin, Marlea, Anna

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

God's Pleasure

God continues to remain a mystery to me. I like mysteries, so it works well for me. When Kira was in the hospital and also over the time of her funeral, my brother and his wife basically moved into our "house" and took over Anna's care. It was a gift to us that we appreciated immensely. Anna was doted on, and lavished with love and attention those days. She strongly attached herself to them and as the days went by would even choose my sister in law, Martha rather than me. I didn't mind because I was stressed and busy and it was so nice to watch Anna enjoying them and they her. John and Martha love children but never had any of their own. When the time came for me to reclaim Anna it was heart-wrenching for me to watch them encourage her to rebond to me. They did it so well and were willing to step back and be aunt and uncle again. Anna had mother confusion for a little while. Probably over the next three months every time we would see them she would look somewhat confused and react a bit although it soon became less and less. I knew I could never repay them but I pleaded with God to give them one of their own. Tuesday their wish was granted. They are now a family of three after having given birth to a little girl. Martha and Kira almost shared a birthday-one day apart. My due date was on Martha's birthday but Kira decided to be a day ahead of time. Tuesday was Merlin's birthday. To us it feels like a gift from God to them; one that God planned to be on Merlin's birthday just to give us an extra encouragement to celebrate new life and good things that happen to people we love. It feels like a mystery-one for which I have no explanation besides the boundless joy in my heart. My joy comes from their embracing Anna so selflessly and then giving her back again. I had always wanted them to experience parenting but my fervor and desire for them intensified so much after watching them with Anna. My joy also comes from the shared birthday! One that will always be a reminder to us of the mystery of God!

Kira was crazy and had great tactics of pestering. One of her favorite things to do while I "tried" to sew was to stand behind me on the chair. Any one that sews knows that doesn't work too well. I am constantly reminded of it when I wear some of my dresses. The topstitching seams on some of them are just simply crooked. She would always manage to give me a good bump right in the middle of the waist or somewhere very noticeable. I got tired of taking them out so they are just crooked. I kinda like them like that now.

Please pray that we will know how to embrace healing and God's ways.

Marylu and Merlin, Marlea, Anna

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

A Day of Remembrance

Last Saturday we attended a ceremony at Hershey for children that have passed away in the last year or more. Everything about me rebelled against the pain of going. To begin with - it was just extremely difficult to drive there. Marlea even put on the cd that we had in the van that week, which added to my misery. I could feel my muscles stiffening, my heart bleeding, and my eyes starting to tear. Then it was seeing people again that I haven't seen for six months to a year; important people who were part of my journey to God. Merlin and I took the workshops offered on grief while the children were entertained or played with - whatever happened. My fist one was on "self-Care strategies." It overwhelmed me; I was so tense just from coming there that to try to relax and enjoy the music and wisdom on journaling etc. just brought the tears. Strangely enough though, I look around and everyone else is struggling too. Oh, that's right I remember, they are in the same situation as me. I divided the feeling of common ground into three categories: a third felt good to be with people that understood without words, a third of me felt angry that we have to know how this feels, and a third of me felt totally overwhelmed by all the pain. My heart felt so ripped open again. My eyes refused to stop shedding tears. The one eye cried the whole time, the other eye only some of the time. That made me feel even more confused - that just my one eye wouldn't listen when I told it to stop. I felt so out of control. Maybe that is how God will tell me to heal by letting my one eye cry and not the other? The second session I took was "grief spiral" and the speaker talked about different age groups and how each one deals with grief. In the afternoon we had a ceremony and a slide show of children that have died. Kira was almost the last one because it was in alphabetical order. It was just tough to see her picture with others that have died. It was like admitting again that it happened to see her picture up there. I am getting used to it but it was so real that she is not here; she is in heaven and we can't enjoy her here anymore. That was the end and we came home again to a house with only pictures and memories of her. I am still unwinding.

Before Kira had enough hair to comb, every morning she would get so mad at Marlea because Marlea had hair. She would try to push Marlea off the hair-combing stool and would scream and holler. The day finally came when I could comb her hair without it hurting her and she was so happy. Now Anna does it to Marlea and I smile knowing Anna's day will come too.

Thanks for praying!

Marylu and Merlin, Marlea, Anna

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Take Me by the Hand

The Bible says "A little child shall lead them." As adults, we tend to make life quite complicated. I love to remember that following Jesus is simple; and that all we need to have is the faith of a little child to comprehend what He has done for us. Marlea took me by the hand today again. Well, maybe I should say - took my heart by the hand. She is in kindergarten at school and has struggled immensely adjusting to the school idea. Ever since last August, she has had a health problem of some kind. First she had poison oak, then hives, and then poison again. In the midst of it she mysteriously started throwing up at unpredictable times. We struggled to figure it out. Finally late last fall after another round of systemic poison, we did numerous tests. As a result, she is on digestive enzymes for her stomach. We had a beautiful reward of a happy little girl again but still there seemed to be shadows. We could make her stomach behave, but we couldn't take away the grief she was experiencing. All along she refused to play at recess with her classmates. She would not be convinced, bribed, or forced. She didn't want to play. Once last summer she told me "I don't want to play with children that are happy". End of discussion. There was no other explanation. A few weeks ago she had a nagging cough and ended up with walking pneumonia. I became quite anxious. What next was going to plague her? It had been one thing after the other for eight months. It was hard enough for me to relax and not try to predict what she would get next. Still, she wouldn't play at recess. A few more weeks have gone by; the sun is out again and it has been a year since her playmate left her. The last few times she was at school seemed much easier for her. We gave her a challenge. Get up ten school mornings in a row without being dragged out of bed and you will get a pink alarm clock (it's always better with "pink" in front of it.) Now she is jumping out of bed. The last few times her dresses were a bit more dirty and I was suspicious she is playing games with the other children. Today was the ultimate. She was so excited. They played kickball and she was playing! She was right out with it. I looked at her in astonishment and said "You mean you were playing a game?" She freely admitted to it. I shed a tear and thanked God for the gift of healing. And so I feel led by the hand. If it's okay for Marlea to play games feels like God is calling me too to be okay with healing. I've tried to stuff it because it makes it seem so long ago that I held Kira, touched her, cared for her. To heal means to move on. It means time has taken place and life is beginning to feel okay again. It means emerging from feeling needy and being able to give again. Healing means embracing the Cross and the joy that takes place in our lives when we surrender our will to God's.

Anna is hitting the two year old realm. Somehow our girls have all had a terrible habit of talking out loud in church. Anna is a pro at it her speech is very well refined for a two year old. On Sunday at church I was busy. It felt good again. I will never forget the embarrassment and humbling Kira put me through in church. We sit segregated and I could hear exactly what she was saying from wherever she sat with Merlin. If she couldn't say it she just settled it with a loud scream that made lots of heads turn. The feeling of "wow, who's child it that?" type of thing. I can't say I care to repeat those scenarios but I am thankful for the humility it brought to my life!

Pray that we would have the courage to embrace the healing God is bringing us.

Marylu and Merlin, Marlea, Anna

Wednesday, March 31, 2010


I am tempted to bargain with God. This temptation has been with me for a year now. I would like to say "Okay God, see me here. I am trying to be okay with this. I still love and honor you. I continue to call you my God. Don't I deserve extra blessings? You took away -my- Kira and I am learning to be okay with that. It would help a lot if you would give me more somethings. Don't I deserve them? I worked for them. Oh, and yes Kira is gone but You can't dare take anything else from me. I wouldn't be able to handle that. Do something God, make it more obvious that you love me if you actually do." And so my thoughts go on. A few things I am learning in relation to this temptation are as follows:
1. When the sun goes down every night, God is still God. When I close my eyes at night, God is still God. When the sun comes up, my eyes open, and I determinedly plant my feet on the floor-God is still God.
2. God might have a different idea concerning blessings than I do.
3. My interpretation of God is so unreal about how God actually is; I am blinded because I am human and God is not.
4. Eternal blessings far outweigh earthly blessings.
5. I can't suggest to God what he should do - He is sovereign and knows what is best for me because He can see the whole picture of my life and I can't. I can only surmise what I think the picture might be.
6. Being a begging dog reaching for a bone is not a nice way to live.
7. What I consider "our children" or "my husband" or "my things" are God's and so I don't have the authority to demand He not touch them.
8. I don't have an opinion in what I think I can or cannot handle - God's grace is always bigger than my need.
9. God's love for me doesn't depend on circumstances, actions, or whether or not I honor and love Him.
10. At the end of this life when I meet God and finally see His face, this is what I want to hear "Well done thou good and faithful child, enter thou into the joy of thy Lord.
11. I am blessed!

Kira liked to be in the kitchen with me. Sometimes out of desperation to keep her out of my stuff I gave her and Marlea bowls of flour, a cup, and a spoon. Great entertainment and great cleanup afterwards. Meanwhile I tried to find a spot for myself in my small kitchen and could hardly find any space left. I usually ended up in despair with a cake or five baked and little girls covered in flour. Of course they ended up happy and ready to go play something else again, leaving me with the flour to clean.

Merlin is fighting to stay healthy. Please continue to pray for his healing and pray that the rest of us would know how to encourage him.

Marylu and Merlin, Marlea, Anna

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

The Shirts

When Marlea was born, she had a hard time going to sleep in her crib. I became desperate and thought maybe if she could smell me in her crib she would go to sleep. So I gave her my shirt. I would put it under my pillow during the day and at night I would give it to her. It worked a little at first, but what really happened was that Marlea became deeply attached to the shirt. When Kira was born, one of Marlea's main concerns was that Kira needed a shirt too. So I gave Kira another one of my shirts. Both shirts were from Jockey and had the same design and feel. Kira likewise grew deeply attached to her shirt. There was no sleeping until the shirts were in bed. Many a night we had to hunt around the house, empty bags, go through the toys until we found the precious shirts. They were lovingly stroked at night, cuddled close, even gently wrapped around dolls. When the soft padding of little footsteps were heard in the middle of the night beside our bed - we could count on it that the shirt would be along. If it wasn't, of course we had to retrieve it. The shirts went along on trips, Friday nights at Grandpa's house, and comforted the heart anytime. When Kira grew old enough for a pillow, each night she would carefully drape her shirt over the pillow. Without fail when she came out in the morning, she would be holding her shirt. If I would remember, I would hide them under the pillows during the day to avoid the evening search. That shirt is now in my bed. Like it comforted Kira - it comforts me. It's a piece that was hers that I can touch. Every night I carefully arrange it under my head. Sometimes I put it over my heart. Many a night I have used it to dry my tears and muffle my sobs. It goes with me on trips, often stuffed in my pillow. It looks out of place in my bed - like a stranger that shouldn't be there. To anyone else it would look like something I forgot to hang up. To me it is Kira's shirt and I wouldn't be surprised if it would stay there for years. Like Kira I even fear losing it. I cherish it and am obviously attached to it.

Every once in awhile in the morning I would hear loud screams erupting from the girls' bedroom. Upon investigation it was almost always the same problem. One blamed the other for stealing their shirt. They felt the same and in the dark you couldn't tell the one was blue and the other red. It created motivated fights complete with hysterical screams, thrashing arms and legs, and passionate words spewing out of the mouth. A thing as simple as a light usually solved the gigantic problem. You would have thought it was a life or death situation. Just like the girls needed something they could touch to feel secure when Mommy or Daddy wasn't holding them, so I cling to this red shirt - fervently awaiting when my eyes will see my heavenly Father.

Please pray that we would be open to God's leading and desire, and continually claim His grace in our lives.

Marylu and Merlin, Marlea, Anna

Wednesday, March 17, 2010


I can't get away from feeling incomplete. It isn't something that I can fix. We go on vacation - the feeling is still there. Who likes to go away without a member of the family? We go shopping and buy things but it doesn't take away the incomplete feeling. I would like to scream; but it still wouldn't go away. Our family is incomplete. I watch other families and wonder how it would be to again feel complete. But then I remember and the pain comes in waves. Sometimes I feel the feeling when I look at someone who is missing someone. I feel it for them - a feeling I couldn't feel before. I see the pain on their faces - pain I didn't comprehend before. Ironically they see it on my face too. The act of living fully without being complete is something I am learning slowly. It doesn't come naturally for anyone. It is so opposite from the yearning and longing we have inside of us for a perfect world. I stop frequently to prevent myself from believing things will make me feel complete. More children won't make me feel complete. Running away won't kill it. I know someone who can fill it and I go there again to the foot of the cross. It's Jesus who can make me complete in this incomplete world I live in. It's Jesus who can make horrible things beautiful and fill me with peace.

When I think of being complete, I often think of Sundays. That is a day that families often feel complete. We go to church and usually spend the day together. Kira was such a bright spot on Sunday mornings. Marlea frequently seems to arise on the wrong side of the bed. Kira would often be at the front door first-coat on, yelling "Come on, Mia". I had a habit of turning around in the car just to make sure all the faces were wiped, etc. I miss her face... it was usually beaming from ear to ear.

Please pray that we could live fully in our incompleteness.

Marylu and Merlin, Marlea, Anna

Monday, March 8, 2010

Worn Sandals

I am a bit sentimental; I don't like to throw away old clothes, shoes, or things from my childhood - I want to hang on to them. To throw away things means moving on, getting older and embracing changes. Last week I threw away a beloved pair of sandals; I was attached to them. For months they sat in my room waiting for me to decide their destiny. I couldn't wear them anymore - they made my feet hurt. I didn't have room for them anymore - we don't have a large apartment. I couldn't pretend that they still looked nice, since they didn't. I couldn't say that I needed to wear them longer; they had served their purpose well. So, I closed my eyes and threw them into the trash. I thought about them in the trash for a few days. When I took out the trash I saw them again and had to squash the impulse to dig them out. Throwing them away felt like being okay with changes and I don't like changes. It means embracing a new pair of sandals with which I have no memories. Memories - that is what ties me to my sandals. For starters, I bought them with my friend Lenora. That's a good memory because we don't often go shopping together. A few months later Merlin, Marlea, Kira and I went to Thailand for three weeks. It was a wonderful vacation and one that we treasure deeply. Then the countless times I slipped them on and chased after Kira. Kira tried walking in them like little girls do. They were a bit large which she discovered only after driving some of us nuts by clopping around. When Anna was born I wore them to the hospital and home again. I wore them to many a party, weddings, and many more events. Last fall I wore them in El Salvador - though they weren't very comfortable then any longer. I even wore them in the winter sometimes. To throw them out to me means moving on. It's the first thing that I actually threw away that had attachments to Kira. My next pair of sandals won't know the joy of running after Kira. They won't remind me of her; she will never clop around the house in them. I am still missing my sandals. I forced myself to part with them. I need room for new ones. Likewise in my life I will move on to some degree. Right now it seems like it will always be a struggle. Going backward seems more comfortable to me than moving forward. Just like it was painful for me to throw away the sandals - being okay with new memories that don't include Kira will remain painful for me also.

Their are some days in this house when I seem to be the least-liked member of the household. On one of these days a while back Marlea and Kira thought they would like to sell me on Ebay. How nice to get rid of the person who keeps order, arranges to pick up toys, take baths, eat vegetables, and wipe dirty mouths. The thought of selling me seemed appealing to their minds. Oh well, at least it wasn't freecycle or Craigslist.

Continue to pray with us that Merlin will be able to remain healthy, and that my persistent cough and aches would be healed. It's a hard time of the year for him especially and I feel myself being fearful. Pray too that our bodies will continue to strengthen. Grief has definitely taken a toll on us all.

Marylu and Merlin, Marlea, Anna

Monday, March 1, 2010

The Bottom

The Bottom - it feels as if I am there. This past week has been difficult in some ways, but strangely in other ways it wasn't much worse than any other week. It took me a while to be okay with that feeling. Actually saying that to my friends who asked me how I am felt so humbling. It feels so revealing of the horror the pain - how unstoppable it is, and how much that pain is a part of my life. I don't have anything more left to grieve with, no more energy to exert, no more emotions to feel. The knife feels nearly as strong as it did a year ago except that now it comes and goes instead of being constant. Is there more left under the bottom for me? That I don't know. This I do know - it's here at the bottom in this valley where I can offer my altars of praise to God for simple pleasures of life. My altars consist of being needy and empty before God, thankful for His care for me, praising Him for His grace and goodness in my life, and the rest He has to offer me continually. This valley is increasing my faith, building up my trust in God, and continuing to set me on a rock - a firm place. The mountaintop seems very far away and I have no strength to think of climbing to it. Here at the bottom in this valley I will stay until I am healed as much as I can be here in this world. Or who knows - maybe the healing takes place on the mountaintop? I continue to marvel about the mystery of God; He has become even more mysterious to me here at the bottom. Psalm 40:2 "He lifted me out of the pit of despair, out of the mud and the mire. He set my feet on solid ground and steadied me as I walked along."

One day in the spring of 2008 it was raining; the cats and dogs kind of rain. There were lots of puddles outside and Marlea and Kira got the idea that it would be nice to put on their swimming suits and go puddle splashing. Nice idea, but it was cold. Not just a little cold, the real kind where mothers who are sane would never let munchkins outside in swimsuits. It was one of those days that I had enough of everything. Anna was a few weeks old and I was still adjusting to three children. I let them do it, swimsuits and all. In a short period of time they discovered what I meant by "being too cold." Meanwhile I watched from the window, laughing as they shivered in the puddles.

Please pray that we will be open to God and joyfully accept His will for us. That sounds strange; we should be accepting this after a year. The struggle is still here. Also please pray that we will remain physically healthy.

Marylu and Merlin, Marlea, Anna

Monday, February 22, 2010


Pain is awkward, and no way exists to get around it. It can tongue-tie a person, make words come out wrong, and create brain freeze. It's the feeling often pushed aside, pushed around, and tried to drown out somewhere. We don't like things that are awkward - they make us feel uncomfortable. We are afraid, out of our element. God didn't make humans to experience pain. It doesn't come naturally for us to experience neither does it come naturally for us to relate to pain. Pain is uncharted territory in the human and we prefer to leave it like that. Busting it is like jumping off a cliff. To stare at it headlong feels strange. Then yet each person processes pain differently; so what works for some might not work for others. Some of us are afraid of their tears; others are afraid of their actions, still others are afraid of their words. I have often avoided deep pain in my own life and avoided people who I knew were experiencing deep pain. Nothing ever takes the awkwardness of pain away completely. However, there are ways of being okay with pain and being okay with being awkward. I have experienced a lot of situations where people confronted pain and diminished it's awkwardness by talking, in actions, and through tears. To know that the body of Christ (church and friends) experiences pain with you can take away the awkwardness of it. There is so much power there that pain becomes tangible and soft. This life as a Christian, this body of Christ is one that will always fascinate me. The people that dare to be okay with awkwardness because they love us is a touch of Jesus to me. There is no explanation for it besides Jesus. It's Jesus himself who took pain and turned it into something beautiful - not awkward. It's Jesus that replaced death with life!
We experienced this Sunday. For those of you who didn't witness the occasion, we had a celebration for Kira here at our house. I felt awkward about it, kind of scared; I mean what really was I going to say to everyone? Merlin and I decided that it was useless to try to stuff the awkwardness of it, and so we were going to just be okay with it. I did not feel awkward one time. I felt loved, encouraged, and lifted up. It was a drop in from 2-5 p.m. Our house was filled to the brim. We had a children's hour with face-painting and balloon twisting. Generous individuals donated themselves and their talents to fill little hearts with cheer. We also released balloons outside in memory of Kira.

Our memories of last year this time are very real to us. Looking back I am so thankful that Merlin and I chose to stay present and close to God those days in the hospital. I have some good memories too and I am thankful for them - also thankful for the friends, family, and staff at Hershey. You all looked pain in the face with us then also and supported us so well. We remain forever grateful.

One of the last days Marlea and Kira played outside last winter they played in the mud. I was over here in the office and Kira wanted me. She went inside and saw I wasn't in there so went back out(leaving heavy mud tracks) and came around the front onto the inn patio (leaving more heavy mud tracks) and into the lobby. Bless her heart she was trying not to make more tracks. What are you supposed to do when you can't get your boots off and can't find your mommy? I thanked her for her consideration. She was so sweet about it.

Thanks so much to all of you for your extra prayers, etcetera for us at this one year mark.
Marylu and Merlin, Marlea, Anna

Tuesday, February 16, 2010


Sometimes reality hits me hard and gets right in my face. It chills my heart, freezes my brain, and sends darts to my soul. Pain that is just so hard to realize and there are no words that fully describe it. One night I was giving Marlea and Anna a bath. We accidentally put three washcloths in the bathtub. Marlea stared at it and said: "I wish Kira would be here to use that washcloth. If she would be here then everything would be okay again. It's so hard this way." Feelings raced up inside me screaming in pain. I was tempted to feel tortured - ruined forever. A few days later on Valentine's Day, I was dressing Anna. I pulled out some tights with hearts on them. My memory said there is another pair in there and that might still fit Marlea. I should have known better...I dug a little and pulled them out. The tag said 4T-5T. I fingered them lovingly and shoved them back in the drawer. How I would have loved to put them on Kira. Again those torturous feelings screamed inside me causing me to feel inexplicable, unbearable pain. My soul takes me to the foot of the cross and I hang on knowing that Jesus felt my pain. The gratitude I feel in my heart for his sacrifice so that I can see Kira again is also beyond words.

Last Valentine's Kira, Marlea, and I had a lot of fun making sandwich cookies for our inn guests. Marlea helped for a while, then she was ready to move on to something else. Kira helped me to the end, including helping me put the cookies into little boxes. I was surprised - she was so grown up about it and really was helping. I still have the recipe stuck on my kitchen cabinet. It was the last thing she helped me to bake. If you ate one of those cookies, consider yourself fortunate (Kira and her Papa especially enjoyed eating any available ones) and know that a little girl delighted in helping make them.

We cross the year mark on Friday that Kira went to the hospital. Please pray that our feelings could continue to be redeemed. Thinking of those memories has gotten somewhat easier and yet they still are like I wrote: deep pain beyond description. We want to rest in God and His plan for us and our family.

Marylu and Merlin, Marlea, Anna

Monday, February 8, 2010

Bitter Cake

Saturday was Kira's birthday. In attempt to do something nice, I made a cake. The recipe called it a flour-less chocolate cake. I wanted to try it; somehow the thought of making a really different cake appealed to my aching heart. I also thought I could enlist some help from the girls. In my perception, these little girls were behaving strangely. They were lined up in a row with a third little girl joining them (in one year old snatches). They were just sitting in the family room; I couldn't get them interested in anything. Claiming to be playing airplane they sat solemnly, silently, and straight in their chairs. Marlea on the right, Anna in the middle, and their friend Maria on the left. Maria is our neighbor and Marlea's friend. She has spent countless hours playing and entertaining Kira. Kira loved and admired her greatly. Maria is nine - just about a grown up little girl. I walked into the living room and asked "Hey does anybody want to help me bake a cake?" I asked in my most cheerful voice. I felt fake inside but it was worth a try. After all - it looked to me as if all they were doing was sitting stoically looking at the wall. "No" the answers came very flatly, with absolutely no emotion. "Whatever are you thinking about?" I queried. Marlea replied "Kira." It was too intense for Anna - she ran away. Maria said matter-of-factly in a monotone voice "nothing." I soon discovered that no pushing, tempting, or persuasion would convince them to help me make a cake. I reasoned to make my own cake. I poured and stirred. It seemed really different - but I was liking it. No sugar except for a half cup of Rapadura, salt, eggs, and cocoa. Later, I made a sugarless chocolate sauce for with it. That night I proudly served the cake. I tried to be happy about it. Nobody sang "Happy Birthday" because we didn't think it fit. We all solemnly bit into our pieces. They looked nice with a beautiful chocolate sauce drizzled over the top, completed with Merlin's homemade yogurt. First bite - it tasted really different. Second bite - it's kinda good. By the third bite I had my prognosis: bitter. My cake on which I had labored all this time was bitter. Suddenly the last moments of Kira's life came pouring over me. The last year's memories came in torrents. The pain seemed to raise my fork automatically and a fourth bite was in my mouth. I chomped it victoriously. Yes, this cake is bitter but I can eat it. Yes, this last year was bitter - but I survived it. Yes - the pain of losing Kira was so bitter - but so is this cake; I swallowed a fifth bite. Until I was finished the cake was actually good. I wonder if this is this how my pain will be...will it be sweet in the end? I don't think the other individuals in my family appreciate my bitter cake. I still faithfully eat a piece every day; and it does seem to get better every day. Is it the cake or is it me? I don't think I will ever know. Will this bitter cake of pain ever be sweet? That I don't know either but I know a God who has a lot more foresight than I have. Until I am blessed with more foresight...I will eat more slices of bitter cake drizzled with bitter sauce. As for little girls that stare at walls together in silence - the level of sympathy that I felt being passed to Marlea was indescribable. It was a sacred experience!

After Kira's third birthday she soon discovered that Anna fit nicely in her birthday stroller. They went on walks through the house in a procession of the three of them; Marlea wishing to be pushing, Kira proudly pushing, and Anna happily riding. They did it with the old stroller too and I wish to have a picture with the new stroller.

Thanks so much for your prayers and support through this month.

Marylu and Merlin, Marlea, Anna

Monday, February 1, 2010

Birthday with an Invisible Person

Kira's birthday is on Saturday. She was born on a Monday and true to the rhyme, she was fair of face. I struggle this week to remain in the present. The past seems so much nicer. Yes, one year ago we were pleasantly celebrating with a happy little girl and her equally happy sisters. This year in my mind could just seem horrid and ugly. But, I don't believe that is the way God looks at it or would have me to look at it. But really, how does one celebrate the birthday of a person you can't see? I guess we will sing Happy Birthday, blow out the candles, maybe even buy a present to give to someone else? Birthdays are supposed to be the celebration of one's birth and Kira was born, but just isn't here therefore we will still celebrate. I find it extremely painful to say "Yes, this child was born to me four years ago and God gave her a rich full life. She left us last year and went back to God. I am left with a longing heart, eyes darkened by my sinful nature, and a soul that longs for God like never before." So her birthday comes and we celebrate without her, or do we?

Memories flood me from last year. This is my favorite one. Merlin and I attended a funeral on her birthday. We had a babysitter so we didn't have to take the girls along; so after the funeral we took advantage of it and went to Toys'R'Us. We were a total mess. I had never agonized so badly over what to get a three year old child. Merlin acted similarly and we were laughing hysterically at each other. When we finally left we had two big boxes. We decided to pretend that the one was from Marlea and Anna. I remember going out to the car and saying to Merlin "By the time this child turns 21, she will be expecting a house on her birthday." Kira loved her gifts with all her heart. She played a lot with her stroller and highchair those next two weeks and was sweetly proud of them.

Please pray for endurance and courage this week. To actually be able to say "Blessed be Your Name" this week does not come easy for us. Pray also that we would continue to be physically healthy; these past two weeks have seen us all feeling measurably better than before.

Marylu and Merlin, Marlea, Anna

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

My Car

I live in a manner comparative to driving a car. I have become aware of some passengers that I don't like that are riding along with me. Sometimes I find one or the other to be in control. Stubbornness and determination are two of my passengers. Stubbornness rides in the front. Occasionally I forget to strap in stubbornness and he bounces around the inside the car, nearly colliding with determination. At other times I strap him in and he stays staunchly in place with his face set, looking straight ahead, living out just what I expect of him. His definition is - bull-headed. And to think he is my passenger. Determination - riding in the back seat - feels softer. Most of the time I don't buckle him. He bounces around however he wishes. Sometimes he gives me an encouraging comment. Just simple things like "That was good". Other times I just feel his encouraging presence. The wrinkle between his eyebrows is not furrowed, his jaw is not set, and he is not bullheaded like his counterpart. He patiently awaits his turn in the front seat, knowing that someday I will strap him in up there when he is esteemed highly enough in my eyes. Being determined actually means a struggle against an enemy. Oh... is an enemy present in this picture? The definition for determination adds to my resolve to make him my front seat companion - being determined. I continue on my drive down life, squeal around a corner and stubbornness nearly lands on me; I must have forgotten to strap him. I collide with a car and determination comes flying forward, lands on top of stubbornness and I sigh in relief, glad that stubbornness got squashed. I could go on describing this drive. Several things you may note; firstly, it is no secret that I have been a mechanic's wife for nearly ten years, and some things are starting to wear off on me. Secondly, this is a battle. Thirdly, I am determined to make stubbornness take the backseat; maybe eventually determination will just nudge stubbornness out the door. My car might even drive over him. For now - this is a journey on which I would like to include determination and not stubbornness.

When Kira was about two months old, I noticed she was watching something. It was Marlea, and mostly Marlea's dollhouse. The watching intensified as she grew older. As soon as she could move, she would writhe in the direction of the dollhouse. Marlea was very particular about her dollhouse; since she is the oldest and the only child before Kira, she was used to playing as she wanted. By the time Kira was able to roll, she would roll toward the dollhouse. Soon after that, at five months old she started wiggling. And of course, to Marlea's sheer terror - started wiggling toward her dollhouse. Of course shrieks followed along with Kira's first discovery about how to irritate her sister. The wiggling continued and she was soon wiggling all over our apartment. She cleaned my floors - her clothes were dirty from the chin to the toe. After she would tire of wiggling she would pick up her toes and roll. Unfortunately a hard drive failure caused the loss of all the pictures of those several months. She was just lots of fun!

My mind wants to relive last year and wish this were then and not now. I sometimes feel myself trying to argue and bargain with God again. Pray for peace for us as the year mark and Kira's birthday come next month.

Marylu and Merlin, Marlea, Anna

Monday, January 18, 2010


The last few days I have been mulling over these verses "Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus."

Being anxious is not fun. I somehow have really missed this verse and practicing it in my life. In fact when I focus on this verse and it sinks in I despair. I feel like saying "Ahhhhh!" How in the world can I manage to really do this? Anxiety has gotten the best of me, starting with last summer. In short words I will attempt to describe the effects of being anxious on my body. I write these because I desire freedom and peace in my life. For one, my stomach is constantly in a knot, and my feet and toes are tense and often curled. The shoulders that are normally even are now in raised, making me feel as if I'm wearing them on my ears. My leg muscles are taut waiting for the next catastrophe to strike. My lungs take shallow gulps of air instead of long deep breaths. Sometimes I feel like asking them "How about working properly?" I also have this strange feeling that comes into my nostrils once in a while, making my whole face tense up. You know - that furrow that appears with age? Well, mine is like a cultivated field. And lastly - my heart races with adrenaline rushes. Even my head can be tricked into thinking everyday life is a race to win against myself. This in short is all a result of anxiety. Some of it is beyond my control simply because my adrenal gland is exhausted. The other majority of the problem is because my trust is God is shaken and I am learning to trust Him all over again in another way. The simplicity of God and His plan for humanity strikes me all over again. So simple - just tell Him about it, believe and thank Him, and then His peace will fill you. No room is left for me to hide in myself. No exemption clause is given for losing a child, having a sick husband, a grieving child, adrenal fatigue, or anything else. Just "be anxious for nothing." He even tells us how to fill our minds when we are finished with this whole process "Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy — meditate on these things." I really don't understand God or get the whole picture of this earthly life. When I get to heaven I wish to laugh at my anxious self. Probably in big, side-splitting laughs. Maybe I will even roll around on the ground. Until then, I want the peace of God; I want His guard on my mind and then maybe I can work on uncurling these toes.

Kira's daddy is a mechanic by nature. He has a strong passion for big engines that roar and race down the highway at significant speeds. He of course delights in trying to teach his girls about motors and cars. Kira must have understood it to some degree because when she drove her playhouse car around the family room this is what is sounded like. It would start up and then go "vroommm, errrrrrrn, errrrrrrrrn, errrrrrrrrrrrrrn." With each shift, there would be a higher pitch and more errn's on the end. Wonder what she would have done with a fast car?

The year mark is coming whether we like it or not. Please pray that we would be able to embrace it and rejoice with Kira that she now has a life of complete safety and security. The pain is great and unbearable, but God is good.

Marylu and Merlin, Marlea, Anna

Monday, January 11, 2010


A new year brings new goals, new ambitions, and new priorities. New things I wish to accomplish, new things I wish to learn, new habits I wish to acquire. I reminisce on the past year and I meet a stubborn spirit. The stubborn spirit is my own. I wanted different goals, ambitions, and priorities than what God had for me. I wanted to learn different things, and acquire different habits. I am still entrenched in myself. I find myself lacking desire to be who Jesus wants me to be. I want to erase and start 2009 over and do just a few things differently that could possibly have changed the loss of Kira. I battle and bargain with God...if only you wouldn't have done all these horrid things to me, to Merlin, to the girls. I cry out - why all this pain? My heart cries and screams inside me for relief from the grief. My head says "Okay God, last January I trusted you for the year and look what happened! How can I do that again?" My very muscles ache from the anxiety with which I am dealing. Some days the simple act of relaxing my toes is a job. My arms are left with teasing imaginations of someone they will never hold again here on this earth. My eyes are left with only mental pictures as simple as my child at the breakfast has become a floats in front of me every morning and disappears on the horizon - untouchable again. I scream again "God I can't do this, I don't want to learn anything more. I don't want to trust you for 2010. I don't, I don't, I don't-I don't know what! Something doesn't feel right-the longing for heaven intensifies in my screams. The core of my soul reminds me that I am not created for all this pain and grief, hence my tense toes. I was created for a perfect world where there is no pain, no grief, and no empty aching arms. Sin entered the world by choice. In turn, I also have a choice to make; the choice to learn what God wants me to learn. The choice to be open to what He thinks I can handle. Most of all, the choice to accept His free gift of grace beyond measure. I have discovered it erases my bitterness and invites me again to find rest at the foot of Jesus' cross.

Last year Merlin and I took the girls to the Farm Show. We had so much fun and of course the girls loved it. As we were going around to the different stands we came past a vendor that sold cowgirl hats, nice ones with strings and pink edging. I had always wanted a cowgirl hat and I thought they were very cute. Merlin didn't think they were cute enough to be worth the expense. The girls' longing words and the look on my face changed his mind and we bought two hats. Marlea and Kira played and played with those hats that last month and a half. Precious memories and precious hats! Ironically, we don't think of the money we spent on the hats (:

I know this sounds funny but please pray that we will be able to breathe. I almost have to remind myself sometimes. Marlea also is nervous and sometimes I think her body just hurts too. Pray that spirit, soul, and body could heal and function well together.

Marylu and Merlin, Marlea, Anna

Monday, January 4, 2010

In Retrospect on Christmas

My mind reflects back on the past two weeks; we had our little family Christmas two weeks ago. It was intensely painful for all of us. We tried to pretend that gifts could erase the pain...but they couldn't. It was still there and someone was still missing. We were in Ohio with Merlin's family Wednesday until Sunday. On Thursday night Marlea started with the flu bug. I was up most of the night taking care of her and Anna (who couldn't sleep). Christmas day I spent taking care of Marlea who was still suffering from the effects the flu brings. I have to admit - I was angry. Angry at God. Doesn't He realize that I have had enough? Doesn't He get it that I would like to enjoy Christmas to some extent? I had numerous apprehensions about Christmas and what it will be like. They were all dashed and I was alone with Marlea holding the bucket. I tried to sleep but alas, every time I shut my eyes my brain rewarded me with flashbacks and more haunted memories. Fear threatened to overwhelm me again as I tried to make myself believe that this is only the flu and she will be okay. Those thoughts were not helped by Marlea - she was sure she had never felt so bad and thought I should take her to the hospital. She too was having flashbacks and haunted memories in her own way. She was better in the evening and I spent some time with Merlin's extended family.

My mind wanders more - what was the purpose in these events? Why did it have to be on Christmas day Marlea was sick? Does my Father in heaven really know me so well that he thought I wouldn't be able to handle celebrating Christmas, so He made it impossible for me to even remotely feel like I am? I realized on hind sight that it was oddly nice. I spent the day feeling like a zombie walking around on a strange planet. If it was really Christmas...I was fooled. It was the strangest one I have ever experienced. In the end it was an easy way out of trying to act joyful on Christmas day. Instead I felt disconnected from any sort of celebration and even gift giving. So in retrospect maybe it wasn't as bad as I thought it was at the time. I am reminded again that God is mysterious and I will never understand Him well at all until heaven. I am also reminded that my trust in God can be very shallow; life is not predictable; and the flu is mostly not particular about whom it chooses to infect.

Last year for New Year's Day, Merlin's family was together at a cabin. It was a wonderful cabin with lots of space for little people to get rid of energy. The little girls were greatly entertained by running across the pine floors and sliding. Kira thought it was really fun, especially because she had put lots of miles on her footed pajamas and the feet were fairly smooth. She was so good that weekend. She was in the process of coming out of the twos and becoming more of a little girl.

Thanks for all the cards etcetera we received over Christmas, and most of all the many prayers for us. We appreciate it so much! Soon it will be a year ago that we had Kira for our own.

Marylu and Merlin, Marlea, Anna