Archive | January, 2014

Missing Beckham – A Father’s Story of Loss and Healing

30 Jan

Losing a child is the single most difficult emotional, spiritual, and physical journey of my life.  In the immediate days and week following the stillbirth of Beckham, I felt the extreme emotions of anguish and peace, despair and hope, love and hate, doubt and trust.  The pendulum of emotions feels like being stuck in the ocean’s rough surf.  You’re struggling to catch your next breath and to clear your stinging eyes before the next wave forces you under. 

I found it difficult to be alone (at times feeling as if I would suffocate).  I could not focus on work (I had to take an extended break).  I tried to distract myself with entertainment, but that only brought short-lived relief.  I wanted to disengage from the rhythms of life (friends, church, work, etc.) but forced myself to reengage.  My entire being was consumed by my burden of grief.

My grief came from being unable to raise my son.  I will never get to change his diapers, see him take his first steps, hear him speak his first words, watch him graduate from school, get married, have kids, or tell him about Jesus and how much God loves him.

I will remember Beckham every day of my life for the rest of my life.  I will always think about what he would be doing if he were here with us.  I will get through my grief, but I will never get over my son.  Some have compared it to having a limb of your body amputated

…although you heal, you are never the same again.

Our community surrounded us with love during our time of loss.   Helping with the practical needs of the family like food, house-cleaning, and childcare allowed us time to grieve.  My sister gave us a beautiful evergreen scented candle.  This gift led us to plant an evergreen tree in our backyard to celebrate his due date.

During this time, I read Is God to Blame?  by Greg Boyd.  He writes that the death of a child is a “mystery about creation and not a mystery about God’s character.”  In other words, don’t blame God and let go of the WHY question.  You don’t have to confuse the hurt with the Healer.  He loves you, loves your child, and knows what you’re feeling.  Things won’t always go the way that we think they should, but it is true that God will be there with us every step of the way.

Trust in God’s goodness and remember that the Day is coming when all things will be made new.

cross and treeSensing God’s gracious touches at every point in my grief helped me in my journey.  I have felt God’s presence at every step.  He hears every note of my lament and graciously met my pain in ways that heal me.

On December 26, 2011 at 4 AM, as I stood sobbing in the ER, I realized the truth that God knows what it is like to lose a Son.  I spoke it out loud as I stood huddled in the arms of the hospital chaplain.  I say it again in the moments when I feel the darkness overwhelming me.  For the darkness cannot overcome the truth of the light (John 1:6).

I will get through the experience of grief, but I will never get over my son!  I will think of him EVERYDAY of my life till I get to meet him in heaven.  The theme of my second year since Beckham’s stillbirth has been to ARISE.  I sense God showing me that I can arise from my grief and dare to hope that life will be beautiful again.

In my journey, a year was just the beginning.  In order to fully embrace the grief process, you must be patient with yourself.  Only you know how long and in what ways you need to grieve to heal and find that new normal.

For those of you who are in the midst of your own journey.  Please know that you will heal.  And although you won’t be the same person, you will find a new normal.

Keep your head up as much as possible, for even in the midst of pain there are moments of hope, comfort, peace.

Written by Dr. G. David Boyd and Bret Deneson.

How to Help those who have lost a Child.

28 Jan

Young adult - head on armsEarly adulthood is a time when one gets married, and has children.  Right?  But what happens when the happy couple’s dreams come to a grinding halt.  In the middle of settling into their adult lives, some emerging adults come face to face with one of the hardest situations that they will ever face – the death of a child.  (If you have recently lost a child, I hope that you can find encouragement here.)

In the midst of this deep pain, EA’s will need a community to support and encourage them.  You are reading this because you want to be a part of that community.  God will guide and equip you.   Insights of this article come from the parents of Emma, Beckham, Savannah, Noah, and Oliver.  Their parents hope that their stories will offer hope and guidance to others.

How to help those who have lost a child.

1.  Focus on the practical.

Grieving parents really appreciated when friends stepped into help with the practical needs of the family including:  meals, childcare, house cleaning, and care packages.

If you want to give a gift –  cash is truly king, as the couple can use it in any what that they need.  The unexpected financial expenses from the death of a child is yet another burden that the couple is forced to bear.  A book on grief can be helpful, but is not usually immediately appreciated or used.

2.  Say less, not more.

We all have opened our mouths and said the wrong thing.  Couples report that their friends often tried to give reasons for what had happened even when they weren’t looking for them.  Expressions said in love can often yield further pain, including:  “you have other kids, you should be thankful for them”… “maybe you just can’t carry boys”… “she’s in heaven now, don’t worry”… “these things happen.”   Never offer an answer to the why question even when asked.  All answers will seem lacking and hurtful.

Another trigger is the expression, “I know how you feelEach situation of grief is completely different, and they often don’t want to hear about yours unless they ask.  .”  Unless you have lost a child at birth, then do not say it.  If you have gone through the same situation, one parent encourages you to be available around the clock.

There are words of healing.  One mother reflects, “Some would just come and sit with me and speak the names of our babies which helped. What a grieving mother wants to hear, sometimes, is nothing but the sound of her child’s name coming from a heart that is truly saddened with her.”   Allow the words of scripture to speak for you.

Other times, silence is the best advice.  One parent says, “Be there to LISTEN.  Grief makes us all uncomfortable.  If you feel uncomfortable or unsure say something like ‘I don’t know what to say, but I’m here for you’.  Or ‘I love you and this makes my heart really sad.’”

3.  Ask what they need.

If you are not sure how you can help, then ask the question.  If they do not know how to answer, ask again later.  During this time of grief, the couple will tend to isolate themselves, but that doesn’t mean that they don’t want people to be there and available.  They just have no energy to initiate.

When you ask, be prepared for any type of response.  Those in pain are struggling with a wide range of emotions.  One parent explains,  “Going back to work and being angry when my coworkers didn’t ask about my baby girl or being angry when they did.”  Give them grace, and understand their emotionally charged response is not always about you.

4.  Remember

cross and treeShowing that you remember is one of the most powerful gifts that you can give a grieving couple.  Couples often feel isolated, and as if they are forgotten.  One parents explains the response of others by saying, “’Oh that is so sad……Hey, how about that game the other night?’”  This made her realize her pain was at the forefront of every thought.  She goes on to say, “While I was touched deeply by this loss, others appear to move on, leaving me behind.”   Grieving couple often feel left behind by family and friends.

Another parent explains why being remembered helped her heal, “What helps me is knowing that other people remember our babies, and think about us and tell us! What hurts is when people forget about them. Our babies are as much a part of our family as our living daughters, but it feels like we are the only ones to acknowledge that sometimes.”

Each couple is different in their healing journey.  What helps one couple may not work for another.  Walk in the Spirit as you, watch, listen, and learn what your friends need.  The best thing you can do is be with them in all states of the journey.  Laugh when they laugh.  Mourn when they mourn.

(The reason that I write this article is because two close family members who lost babies this year at birth.  So I write this article in memory of precious Victoria and beautiful Sawyer, who Uncle David never got to hold, but look forward to seeing again.  I also write for their parents, that somehow in their journey, they might know they are not alone. )

Written by Dr. G. David Boyd.

Recommended Books (by those who have been through it):

Is God to Blame?  By Greg Boyd

I Will Carry You.  By Angie Smith

Tear Soup.  By Pat Schwiebert

Heaven is for Real. By Todd Burpo

Born to Fly:  An Infant’s Journey to God.  By Cindy Claussen

Lament for a Son.  By Nicholas Wolterstorff.

They were Still Born:  Personal Stories about Stillbirth.  By Janel Atlas.

What I learned from a vicious and challenging 2013.

23 Jan

You are my Density.Embrace adversity. This was the cool family motto my wife and I came up with, entering into 2013 from 2012. We thought, albeit a bit arrogantly, we could tackle anything on our own.

Then trials struck. I left a perfectly good situation at a marketing start-up for an E-Commerce Saas company. The Saas situation didn’t end well.  I then focused on my own boutique marketing firm, where I got first hand knowledge about being self-employed. It’s hard being self-employed and not fun at times.

Then the hardest part hit: a handful of my friends got divorced. These marriage’s were of friends of mine and my wife’s. Many of whom I attended their weddings and were a part of their lives, both past and present. It was devastating for me.

My wife and I worked through the constant relationship stress of the lack of professional stability and we moved our entire family into a new home in May.

What did I learn? I learned 4 things:

Everyone’s poop stinks. Meaning, people will let you down. We ALL let each other down. Learn to forgive and extend grace.

Everyone puts their pants on one leg at a time. Meaning, we’re all in this life together. We all have struggles and all have unmet needs. Learn to be empathetic.

Empathy, empathy, empathy. Meaning, put yourself in the other person shoes. Not everyone is out to get you or hurt you. Most times, they’re reacting to you and others based on their own emotional wounds, hurts and background.

Embrace adversity. Adversity will come. There’s nothing you can do to stop it. You don’t control what happens on Earth. You don’t control your own density (watch Back To The Future to get the density reference).

I know 2014 will be better.  Most importantly, I will continue to embrace adversity and use what I learned above.

Dave Scott

Dave Scott is a broken Christ-follower, blogger and entrepreneur. David spent 15 years in corporate America, with organizations like Circuit City, California Closets and Verizon Corp. David has also been involved in start-up’s, where he’s led sales and marketing. 
 
Scott was born and raised in rural, northern MN. He enjoys life as a coffee aficionado and downhill skis. He and his wife have been passionately married for 14 years and have two daughters. 

An Unlikely Hero

21 Jan

Mr. Berry was my junior high mathematics and Bible teacher. He was older man, with dark thinning hair which wasn’t quite a comb-over, but was definitely heading in that direction. His clothing was out of style, and was usually too small giving him an unkempt appearance. He was required to wear a tie which barely made it half-way down his dress shirt due to a round belly that stuck straight out. He was never accused of being cool, on the contrary, many students considered him a little strange.

algebraMr. Berry taught me Algebra, and how to discover the meaning for x. Mr. Berry was a  good teacher, and he loved mathematics. During class, he would often get excited about the topic (which is hard for many of us to understand). The more excited he got, the more his hair would shake, and the louder his voice got. Most of us in the class just thought it was strange, but he didn’t care.

There was only one thing that Mr. Berry loved more than math, and that was the Bible. During our Bible class, we were working through the Old Testament Kings. By the end of the year, I had the whole chain down – Saul, David, Solomon, Rehoboam, etc.

But while this is important to know, that is not why I thank him today.

I still remember the day when Mr. Berry stood before our class and challenged us to begin reading the Bible on our own. I was familiar with his displays of excitement, but nothing could have prepared me for that day. He got up in front of our class, and his hands started waving, and his voice started raising, and his hair started shaking. I think that there were even tears flowing. He carried his big fat KJV Bible around the classroom, slapping it occasionally with his hand for added conviction.

He actually believed that God used the Bible to speak to our lives. He was so old-fashion that he thought that the Bible was still relevant to our world. He was foolish enough to think that the Bible contained wisdom that the world couldn’t give me. He had the audacity to tell me that I should be reading it EVERY SINGLE day. 

The crazy thing is that when I left class that day, I believed ever word he said. Even crazier, is the fact that I believe him more today than I did back then. That night when I sat down to read my Bible marked a huge change in my spiritual journey.

It was the beginning of a passion and spiritual discipline that has lasted for over twenty years.

I don’t know where Mr. Berry is today. I am not sure if he still has his hair, or his round tummy. I am not sure if he would even remember my name, but I will never forget him. Many mornings he comes to mind as I sit down to hear from God through His Word.

He is my unlikely hero.

david in hatDr. G. David Boyd is very thankful for the teachers that God placed in his life.  May you all see your impact for God’s Kingdom.  He is the founder and managing director of EA Resources, a non-profit devoted to helping parents of emerging adults.

Mansfield’s Book of Manly Men

16 Jan

book - manly menOf all the books on manhood that I have read in 2013, “Mansfield’s Book of Manly Men” is by far the best… and one that I would highly recommend if you are still looking for a present for a friend (or have a son who is coming into his teenage/young adult years). This book presents a solid, Christian defense of manhood and offers an honest criticism of the failings of many men—particularly those who revel in permanent adolescence or aggressive machismo.

At the outset, Mansfield introduces what he considers the four essential manly maxims:

  • Manly men do manly things
  • Manly men tend their fields
  • Manly men build manly men
  • Manly men live to the glory of God

Here we see the focus of this book: Mansfield wants to outline the importance of action, responsibility, brotherhood, and godliness. Each of these elements is an aspect of to what it means to be a man, far more so than the presence of barrel-sized biceps or epic Duck Dynasty beards.

In the second (and largest) section of the book, Mansfield points to the lives of figures such as Abraham Lincoln, Winston Churchill, Rudyard Kipling, G.K. Chesteron, Booker T. Washington, and Witold Pilecki to demonstrate different aspects of manly character. I found these portraits really intriguing and their life stories excellently illustrated the character traits of integrity, quest, honor, legacy, restoration, forgiveness, humility, and many more. The wide array of these qualities pieced together a really complex and compelling vision of manhood. Mansfield shows time and time again how struggles and suffering turned men into godly examples.

The last section of the book—which is short, but really interesting—is an appendices looking at fifty quotes, ten books, and ten movies that the author finds particularly important in encouraging godly manhood. This section wasn’t mind-blowing, but many quotes are worth putting up on the wall of your home office or sharing with your men’s group.

Simply put: This book offers a treasury of wisdom to reflect upon and life stories that will inspire you to new heights. This book is a great addition to any man’s library! I highly recommend it.

(This book was received free of charge from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. I was not required to give a positive review)

215635_3474090052643_48750391_1Dave Wonders is the Founder of More Than A Beard, and contributing writer.  He is a man of faith who currently serves as the Midday Host at 104.3 The Pulse.

Me Man. Me No Read.

14 Jan

I recently attended a men’s retreat.  It was the first that I have actually ever attended.  My lack of attendance is not due to a lack of faith in their effectiveness for spiritual growth.  Men’s retreats usually scare me off with their image of hyper-masculine advertising (which is a topic for another day.)

I was invited by a close friend who said he would go with me, and promised to not force me to do anything “manly” that I didn’t want to (which he lied about).  Overall, I was glad that I went.

Gender focused groups are notorious for establishing and making light of male and female stereotypes.  Some of these stereotypes are funny.  Some of these stereotypes are helpful.  Some of these stereotypes can be destructive.  During the retreat, stereotypes were constantly used – some of them bothered me more than others, while others I probably didn’t even notice.

One stereotype expressed several times during the weekend was that men don’t read.  It was stated as fact.  It was stated as undisputed fact.  It was stated as the norm with no need to change.

The image portrayed to me (whether intentional or unintentional) is that men are Neanderthalls.  The male human species is not interested in the world of the mind, but only in the world of hunting, fishing, and sports.  Me Man, Therefore, Me No Read.

The Associated Press and Ipsos, a market-research firm, found that the typical American read only four books last year, and one in four adults read no books at all.  This article also claims that women read more than men, and which could be based on the ability of women to empathize with characters.  I could write about how reading is good for the soul and mind, but most of us already know that…I assume.

One reason this image of men bothered me is probably because I have always been a reader.  My love for reading started with the Hardy Boys and Encyclopedia Brown (pre-Harry Potter era!).  By Junior High, I was lost in the worlds of Tolkien and Lewis.  By high school, I would lose myself in various types of literature.

Apparently, I am not a stereotypical male, but there really shouldn’t be such a thing.  I think this is an example of a harmful stereotype.

So, I want to make a statement.

Men can read.

Men should read.

Many men like to read.

Obviously, if you are taking the time to read this article, then you are one of the “stereotypical” minority of men who do read (or one of my friends who I guilt and shame into following my posts).  I write to encourage men that it is okay to be a reader.  Your manhood is not threatened if you are a reader.

It is okay to say that you are a reader.

It is okay to talk about the books you read (which isn’t bragging or boasting).

It is okay to stand up for an image of masculinity that includes a desire to feed our humanity through various outlets rather than what cultural stereotypes dictate for us.

(*If you are not a reader, but want to be.  Thanks for making it to the end of this article.  If you want to know where to start, Morethanabeard is a great start!  Then ask yourself what you are most interested in.)

David Boyd is an avid reader of anything from Comic books (Marvel – of course) to theology.  In his spare time, he plays video games with his three little ones.

I’ll never get caught. Part 2 (Mistakes that I have made in Marriage)

9 Jan

Note:  Having recently celebrated 10 years of marriage, I began a series of stories, or rather mistakes I’ve made in those 10 years. I hope that through these deep, personal stories, you’ll come to see, as I have, the gloriously beautiful experience of the Gospel that is marriage.

I'll Never Get Caught, Part 2We don’t like pain. We do everything we possibly can to avoid it. We’ll ignore the elephant in the room and live in complete denial sometimes to avoid dealing with the dark pain in our lives.

We’re quite good at this self medicating, I certainly know it to be true in marriage as well.

As you’ve previously read in Part 1 and throughout the rest of this series, I’ve faced many demons in my life, least of which was the noose of pornography. Though these mistakes in this series are limited to 10, trust me when I say I could go on and on for months on end.

I don’t know why I’ve always had to learn the hard way. Perhaps it’s because I’ve grown up with trust issues, and have always found it difficult to trust where others have been and what others say. Or perhaps it’s been because I was abandoned by my father, and even after looking him up, meeting him one afternoon, he still refused to have anything to do with me. Whatever it is, I’ve always had to figure things out for myself.

Oh I can see the beautiful redemption in that now, but it hasn’t made the grief any easier to handle.

But then there’s that, knowing that God promises to never give us more than we can handle, or more appropriately communicated as He’ll always give us what causes us to rely solely on Him.

And for me that’s written some very painful chapters in my story.

So it’s hard to continue this story and tell you that getting caught wasn’t just about pornography. That what didn’t stop there ultimately led to affairs, and separations, and the near divorce of my marriage.

When Mary left that first time, as I said I was shocked. Naturally I reacted defensively and immediately tried to recover, attempting to make things sound not near as bad as they truly were. Of course then, I couldn’t see through the log in my eye, to see just how bad things were.

No unfortunately it took several more dark nights of the soul, several more separations, several more come to Jesus meetings for the veil to be lifted.

Because of all the hard work in counseling and therapy I’ve done, I now know, that for this issue, the enemy’s greatest weapon is in convincing men that there is this sliding scale with porn. That there are categories of wrongness. Divisions which require different responses.

That’s a lie. There is no justification for this sick sin.

Let me be perfectly clear for a moment. Pornography is a dangerous sin, and scriptures tell us one very clear thing about sin. It leads to death. Period. The End. So if you’re reading this and somehow sitting on the fence or struggling in any way, shape, or form, stop. Get help. Nothing, no nothing, will change in your marriage or in any relationship, while you’re secretly indulging in this depravity.

There is good news though! Luckily for all us, Romans chapter 3 doesn’t stop at verse 23. There is a verse 24. And that verse 24 gives us hope.

“Yet God, with undeserved kindness, declares that we are righteous. He did this through Christ Jesus when he freed us from the penalty for our sins.”

So how have Mary and I survived? How have I learned to walk in freedom?

Well I’ll let Mary speak for herself, but I can tell you firsthand, I boast in only two things with regards to my marriage — The Gospel and Grace.

Were it not for The Gospel, we would not be here. Our marriage would not have survived and our kids would have become just another statistic, just another product of a broken home.

Even still what has that looked like?

It’s looked like hours upon hours of counseling. Countless numbers of tears shed in rooms filled with those that love us dearly and those that have said hard things, spoken truth in love to us (me).

Specifically for me, it’s looked like being known by a small group of men, and allowing myself to be spoken to man to man. But most of all, it’s been the divine work of The Father in my heart and life.

For years I tried everything. I performed my way, and worked my way using every trick and tool available, unable to see that I was my own worst enemy. I was my own problem. Because at the core of all those attempts, all that trying, was me trying to accomplish something in me, of me, by me, and for me.

And you know what that was?

Me trying to be my own god. And the scriptures are pretty clear about that as well. That’s called idol worship.

Only Christ has the power to lift the veil that covers our eyes, that keeps us from seeing ourselves clearly. Oh we try real hard to do that ourselves, but it’s always in vain. It’s always a foolish attempt. Our lives would be better served to just simply get out-of-the-way and let The Spirit do his work.

I have learned that only when the adoration of Christ is at the center our life, do we experience freedom.

Experiencing the gospel means that whatever was our treasure, has been replaced by The Treasure of Christ. 

Now does all this mean that Mary and I’s marriage resembles the iconic facade that was the made famous in Leave it to Beaver? No, of course not. But I would say, now more than ever, it more closely resembles the metaphor that Christ intended it to be.

Marriage is His creation, and His ultimate vehicle for you and I to be made into more of who He created us to be — in His image.

I cry tears of joy when I speak about how what I know of God’s grace, I’ve been taught by my beautiful wife. There is no one on this planet who I’ve harmed more than her, and yet through it all, no one has shown me more grace, love and acceptance.

There is no one I’d rather be living this story with, than her.

My heart aches for those that currently struggle in hiding, and the marriages that are secretly hurting. 

We have an enemy who tries to tell us that no one will understand, that we’ll be cast out and unloved because of our dark secrets, but the truth is you are not alone. And the only way you’re going to experience that for yourself is by taking the first steps towards authentic community.  

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Josh’s series 10 Mistakes in Marriage will be continued here on http://www.morethanabeard.com.  If you can’t wait, you can check out his website at www.thejoshcollins.com.

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