Love Letter

Dear Eric and Becca,

I am so tempted to say “I know how you feel.” But that’s not true. Having been in your situation, I have a good idea what you are going through. I know what my pain felt like. I remember hearing the ER doctor tell me I was miscarrying, that nothing could be done to stop it, and that I should go home and rest—and wanting to rip his heart out, the way it felt that he was ripping mine out. I remember the agony, the confusion, the anger, the emptiness. The hopeless longing that it was all a bad dream. And it’s not hard to imagine that the two of you are feeling some combination of those same emotions.

But I can’t say that I know just how you feel because each loss is different. Each parent is going to grieve in a different way. The two of you, as much as you love each other and as much as you both love that little baby, are going to grieve the loss differently. Some days, Eric will hold you, Becca, when you feel like you can’t go on. Some days, he will not be able to stop crying and you will need to hold him up. You will be strong for each other, even when you feel like you have no strength. That love you share, the love for each other and the love for God, is what will give you that strength.

People are going to give you a lot of advice. You have probably already noticed that.  You are going to hear things ranging from why this happened to how to grieve to when to try again. The advice will come from friends, family, and even from virtual strangers. Some will come from people who have gone through a loss like yours; some will come from people who never have. Please keep in mind that every piece of advice is meant to bring comfort. Some of the words won’t sound very comforting. In fact, some are bound to sound downright hurtful. It took me a long time—months, years in some cases—to move beyond the words and see the kindness at the heart of the one who spoke them to me. I don’t want that for you. My prayer is that you both can keep your eyes and your hearts focused on God through this difficult time, that you can do a better job than I ever did of handing your pain over to Him.

Eric, whenever I think of you, I think of you with a smile on your face. You were always a happy baby boys, smiling and laughing. As a child, you teased everyone. The only time I remember you not smiling was when I “forced” you to dance with me at my wedding. But I don’t think I ever saw a brighter, more radiant smile on your face than the one that was there the moment the church doors opened and you saw Becca in her wedding dress. Becca, the only time I met you was the weekend you married my nephew. It’s been a very long time since I’ve seen a couple as genuinely happy and in love as the two of you. It seems unfair that the strength of your love has to be tested in such a tragic way so early in your marriage. You made the conscious decision to invite God not only to the wedding but into your marriage. And I have no doubt that He will hold you up and give you the strength and peace to come through this challenge.

Will you come through it unchanged? Probably not. You will both carry that baby in your hearts for the rest of your lives. That baby, no matter how brief his existence, was—and forever will be—a part of you, an extension of your love for one another and your love for God. Just because you don’t have the physical reminder doesn’t mean he’s not there. Love him, remember him, cherish him—in whatever way is best for you.

This isn’t the way anyone would chose to grow. But so long as you hold on to each other and to God, you will grow and blossom through this in ways you can’t possibly imagine.

I love you. I pray that God continues to wrap you in His love, peace, and strength in the days to come.

Love always,

Aunt Lynn

Dear Olivia

Dear Olivia,

                When I was a little girl, my head was full of dreams. I dreamed of being a beautiful princess, on a quest to slay a dragon and save the prince from an evil curse.

                Of being a space explorer, discovering new worlds and new life forms.

                Of being a famous singer/actress/athlete, amazing the world with my ability to do everything better than anyone else.

                Of being elected President and making the world a better place for everyone.

                Of being a “boring old Mom” and just loving my children

                The tone of my dreams changed—sometimes daily, depending on my mood. But in almost every dream there was a man who shared my life. In some dreams, my “dream man” looked like my favorite singer, my favorite actor, or my favorite classmate. No matter his name or who he resembled, there were a few things that were always true about my “dream man”:

                He made me laugh.

                He made me feel safe.

                He made me smile.

                And above all, he made me feel loved.

                No matter what I did, how I did it, or what mistakes I made (because even in my dreams I couldn’t seem to not make mistakes) my dream man loved me. Unwaveringly. Unconditionally.

                The same way my Daddy loved me.

                Because, you see, my Daddy has always been my hero. He has always been my safe place, my protector. Daddy is my laughter when I want to cry, my cheering up when I feel down, my pushing on when I want to give up.

                If you are still reading this, and as we have never met face-to-face I can’t say I would blame you if you had stopped reading by now, you are probably wondering why I am telling you this. That answer is pretty simple. From what I know about you, you feel the same way about your Daddy that I have always felt about mine. You have a very special relationship with your Daddy, one that is so touching to witness. His job in the military makes him a hero to many Americans, but no one else will every look up to him quite the same way that his little girl does.

                I want to thank you, Olivia, for sharing your Daddy. I know it can’t be easy to be away from him for months at a time. My imagination might work overtime, but I won’t claim to be able to imagine what that would be like. As hard as it must be for you to be without your Dad, you show such deep strength in your ability to do it.

                We hear a lot about the sacrifices made by our troops and by their spouses in order to protect our country. I don’t think enough people think about the sacrifices that are made by military children. They seem to be overlooked, maybe because the kids are so young. But I want you to know that not everyone has overlooked your sacrifice. Thank you for sharing your Daddy, your hero, with the world.

                Sharing your hero makes you a hero.

                Love and Prayers,

                Lynn McMonigal


Well Done, Good and Faithful Servant

Elaine Taylor passed away Sunday evening.

You will be forever missed and loved, Elaine

You will be forever missed and loved, Elaine

You might not have heard the news.  She was not a celebrity.  Fame was not one of the goals of her 84-year-long life.  At least not earthly fame.  My guess would be that most of the people reading this post didn’t know her.  That is a shame.    

If you had ever met her, you would have loved her.  At least I think you would have.  I know for sure that Elaine would have loved you.  Elaine loved everyone.  I don’t think she ever met a stranger.  Each new person in her life was a friend.  Her smile, her laugh, her hug….  All three welcomed everyone she met, and no one who experienced them will ever forget them.

No one who ever experienced Elaine was ever forgotten by her.

I can’t tell you what her presence meant in my life.  It’s hard to even describe the relationship we had.   Elaine was a grandmother when I needed one.  She was full of love and advice—giving the love at all times and the advice when she felt I needed it, which was not necessarily when I felt I needed it.  She said she would pray for me.  And you know what?  She actually did it.  A lot of today’s Christians—myself included, I am so sorry to say—are good at saying, “You’ll be in my prayers,” and then promptly forgetting the details of who needed prayer.  Not Elaine.  She might not have known what prayer was needed, but she prayed. 

Much of my recent physical recovery I attribute to her prayers.  I gave up.  Not on God, exactly.  Never once did I stop believing that He could heal my back pain and bring back the feeling my leg.  I just gave up on the idea that He ever would.  For whatever reason, I just felt like God intended for me to live with these physical limitations, and I started to look for the good that could come from them.  If this was part of His plan, I wanted to be open to still making a difference for Him.  Elaine never gave up on my healing.  When I told her a few months ago that I knew God could heal me but I didn’t think that He would, she gave me that smile.  You know what smile I mean…the one a mother gives her child when the child seems to be trying but not trying hard enough.  Yeah, that’s the smile.  She patted my hand and said, “I don’ believe that.  It’s just not the right time.  He will bring the healing when He is ready for it, not when you are.”  And when she said she’d pray for me, I knew she was doing it.  I wish I could tell her that she was right.  I wish I’d had the chance to walk into her room, without my cane, and show her how God was working.

But I am sure she knows now.  I have a feeling God has spent a lot of time in the last few days showing Elaine how her prayers have helped bring miracles to more people than we could ever count.

There is a party going on in Heaven this week, a “welcome to your reward” party, with Elaine Taylor as the guest of honor.  From the reports I have been hearing all over Facebook this week, Elaine is just one of many guests of honor at this party.  And you know what?  I think that is how she would want it.  Once she got her face-to-face moment with Jesus, once she was able to hug Him and kiss Him, she turned around to face the others coming behind her.  

And with the same smile she used on Sunday mornings, she held out her hand and said, “Welcome to Heaven.  You’ll like it here.”

Letter to My Dad

Dear Daddy,

There are five words that I really want to say to you; five words that are so simple and so profound all at once.  While I could just say the words, they don’t seem to be quite enough.  I want to say “I love you” and “thank you.”

For what? You may ask.  Well, let me try to explain.

For letting you five-year-old daughter have the fantasy that her 25-year-old father really was ancient….  And for laughing with me as much as at me when your grandsons have used similar words to describe my age.

For teaching me that while it may be ok to “buy” a friend, it takes a whole lot more than money to keep one.

For comforting me after Hilarie and I were robbed while delivering newspapers…and not letting me know until years later, when my young mind was better able to understand, just how serious that situation really was.

For allowing my teenage friends to spend time at our house and not letting it go to your head when one of them, for reasons I still do not comprehend, decided you were good looking.

For always encouraging me to reach for my dreams, and promising to watch the film version of each of my novels.

For choosing to raise me with five sisters, not two sisters and three half-sisters.

For being the kind of man that causes my son to grin with pride whenever anyone tells him (whether it is meant as a compliment or not) “You are just like your grandfather.”

For loving me when I felt unlovable and seeing my beauty even when I didn’t.

For just being YOU, because really, there is no one I would rather call Daddy.

For all these things and so many more, thank you.

I love you.


Father's Daythank you

Real Love

Yesterday was one of those bittersweet kind of days.  Bitter because much of the day was spent at a funeral for my Aunt Marjory; sweet because we all knew she was in Heaven.

I didn’t know my aunt well.  She was married to my mom’s brother, a man who is more than 15 years older than my mom.  Their children–my cousins–are closer in age to Mom than to me.  One of those cousins has a daughter who is 2 weeks older than I am.  And because all of these cousins had moved away from Milan, Michigan, the small town where Mom and her siblings were raised, before I was born, I didn’t get to see them much as I was growing up (though I have heard plenty of stories of one cousin and his wife babysitting me when I was an infant.)  It wasn’t until connecting with them on Facebook that I really got to know my cousins.  But I did not have the chance to really know Aunt Marjory well.

That hasn’t stopped me from being deeply touched by her life.

Her life was a double love story.  Just to hear about the depth of her love for her husband and Her Savior left such an impression on me.  I don’t know if words can really explain or capture the emotions that are swirling inside of me.

When Nicholas Sparks wrote THE NOTEBOOK, he could well have used Aunt Marjory and Uncle Arthur as inspiration.  They were married on February 2, 1951.  He was nearly 20 and she was 21. The wedding took place on her 21st birthday.  They raised six children in a home lovingly built by my uncle right next door to my grandparents.  Aunt Marjory was my uncle’s sweetheart, his precious treasure from God.  He always treated her with love and respect.  That’s not to say they never fought.  Over the course of their 61 year and 20 days of marriage, I am sure there were plenty of disagreements.  But that love and respect, for each other and for God, kept them glued together.

In her later years, Aunt Marjory battled demensia.  Uncle Arthur kept her at home with her, providing her with the most tender care he could.  He scoffed at anyone who suggested he move his Sweetheart into a nursing home.  The vows said in sickness and in health and he was not about to turn his back on those vows just because she was ill.  He stayed at her side, loving her and nursing her at home.until his own health problems made that impossible.  But even living apart did not alter the love and devotion shared by my aunt and uncle.  He still woke up early every morning to drive to his wife’s side.  They shared prayer time every day.

That is how Aunt Marjory’s other love story played out.   There is no doubt in my mind that she loved God even more deeply than she loved my uncle.  Two of her children spoke of childhood memories of Aunt Marjory’s prayers.  They said they could hear her pray for them all by name every night after she had shared prayer and Bible reading with them.  She moddeled God’s love for her children in all she did, everyday.  Even on had days, ahem the demtia left her confused and scared, two things never changed–her love for her family and her love for her God.  It give s me goosebumps to think of all the damage done in hell by this small woman’s faithfullness.

The spray of roses on top of her casket held a banner that said “Sweetheart.”  She was more than just hia wife and the mother of his children; she was my uncle’s friend.  Aunt Marjory was always Uncle Arthur’s sweetheart.  Watching him say good-bye to her was hard.  Mom choked up and whispered to me that she had never seen her big brother cry before.  His heart is broken with the loss of his wife and companion–his precious Sweetheart.  Broken but still beating.  As I watched him grieve, I realized that the love story of Aunt Marjory and Uncle Arthur has not yet come to an end.  The kind of love they shared can never truly end.  It lives on in his heart and kn the lives of their children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren.

And because that love was rooted in Christ, they will be together again some day.  The only joy that could overshadow that of being reunited with his sweetheart is the joy Uncle Arthur will feel when he sees Jesus face-to-face.

Aunt Marjory will be missed.  But knowing she has received her reward for the race she ran kn life makes saying good-bye just a little easier.



If you would like to know a little more about Aunt Marjory, here is her on-line obituaty



Dear Lord,

In the book of Matthew, Jesus says, “This is the reason a man leaves his father and mother and is joined to his wife, and the two are united into one” (chapter 19, verse 5, New Living Translation). That first part, the part about leaving father and mother, is the easy part. Being united into one is not always so simple.

One area where I know John and I are not completely united is in the area of finances. We are both very selfish about money, but in different ways. I tend to be selfish in an “I want it NOW” way, while he tends to be selfish in more of a “we need to plan for tomorrow” way. Please help us to work together in this area of our marriage. Help us listen to one another, to really hear each others thoughts and desires on this subject so that we can find an agreement that works for US, as a couple. Help us to put what is best for us above what is best for Lynn or for John. Above all, Lord, help us to keep YOUR desires for our lives in the forefront of our thoughts. It is not going to do us any good to become one if we are not one with You.

Thank You for hearing me and for loving me. Help me throughout this day to show love to John. He is the most precious gift You have given me. Help me to show him that in all I do and say.

I ask this in the precious name of Jesus.


Praying Wife

After ten years of marriage, I can hardly call myself an expert on the subject. I am not even sure if I could be considered an expert on my own marriage! One thing I am pretty sure of, though, is that I am not always a good wife. My husband would disagree. Maybe that is because he is a wonderful husband. He is always telling me that I am perfect the way that I am, no matter what flaws I see in myself. I can tell you, I am far from perfect. The perfect woman for him? Maybe. Still, I can see that there is always room for improvement.

One area where I know I could use improvement is in the area of prayer.

Last week, I posted about how difficult prayer has been for me. Seems like ever since I posted that it has gotten even harder. Not that it’s hard to understand why—satan knows that I am trying to get closer to God, and he is fighting me on all fronts. Let me tell you, it would be so easy to just give up and let him win. It’s amazing how much physical energy it takes to fight a spiritual battle.

But giving up is just what satan wants, and I am not willing to give him the satisfaction!

A while back, I bought a copy of The Power of a Praying Wife. I started reading, and even started working through the workbook that goes along with it. Can’t really say that I finished it. Seems that I have a bad habit of starting on a self-help type of book and then not finishing it. I don’t know why. Fiction books, I seem to just breeze right through. Maybe it is because those books are for fun and the non-fiction books I choose to read normally have something to do with changes I need to make in my life.

And who wants to admit the need to change?

I am trying to look at this a little differently, though. By reading The Power of a Praying Wife, I am not trying to make changes to better myself, exactly. I am trying to give my husband the wife he deserves. In case you are wondering what kind of a wife he deserves, I am talking about the kind of wife described in Proverbs 31. He needs a wife who enhances his life, makes his life better and easier, not a wife who is constantly nagging him or draining him of energy. By learning how to pray for him—and I mean really truly pray for him, not just saying “oh God, bless my husband”—I will be one step closer to being that wife.

A part of me wonders if he will even notice it. Will he see the changes I am making and how I am trying to make our lives better? It may sound sad, but I seriously don’t think he will. At the same time, I know that God will see the attempt that I am making. In the long run, that will be more beneficial anyway.

Lukewarm? NOT ME!

Lord, you know what is on my heart right now and the questions that I have in my mind. Please help me to say what I need to say, what You want me to say about this. Let my words reach the ears and hearts of those who need to hear them. I pray that what I write this evening will be a blessing to You above all else. In the name of Jesus, Amen.

In May 2008, Clay and Renee Crosse came to my church. Clay did a Friday night concert, mostly in the dark because of a blackout in the area that started about the time he began warming up. The next day, he and his wife led a Holy Homes Marriage Conference. It’s been two years, and that experience is something that is still in my mind. It was so nice, so freeing to be able to share with other couples who were going through some of the same struggles my husband and I faced.

One thing that I remember Renee saying, though I am sure I will not get the words exactly right, had to do with the way she dressed. She said she is always careful to wear tops that were not too low-cut and bottoms that were not too tight. She avoids clothing that is too reveling because she doesn’t want the way she dresses to cause someone else to sin. I don’t think she was saying that she is responsible for what someone else does. Rather, she wanted to be sure that she was influencing others in positive ways in every aspect of her life.

That has been on my mind a lot lately. In recent weeks and months, I’ve seen a lot of conflicting messages from Christians. While I don’t want to make any judgment on the relationship others have with Christ, I’ve not been able to help wondering if they understand how they appear to others.

These conflicts especially come up in the area of sex before marriage. In this day and age, it’s not at all an uncommon thing. But does that make it right?

I grew up knowing that sex was a sacred event, something to be shared only between a husband and his wife. Not that I always lived that. I always felt guilty about it, though. I knew that what I was doing was wrong, so I avoided God. For a while, I didn’t go to church at all. I felt like a hypocrite, standing there, singing praises and worshiping God, when I knew that I was not living a life He approved of.

Not everyone is like that, though. The attitude seems to be, “Hey, at least we are in love. The wedding is just a formality.” Recently, I’ve even heard the excuse, “We are engaged, so it is OK.” That comment led me to the story of the Birth of Christ. Mary was pregnant before her marriage, and it was such a disgraceful thing that Joseph was willing to leave her. It doesn’t make sense, at least not in my mind, that engagement would be “close enough” to marriage that God would be OK with the sex.

I don’t know. It’s late, and maybe I am not making any sense at all. It seems to me, though, that if we claim to be Christians, we need to act like it. Picking and choosing which parts of the Bible to obey and which to ignore is not Christianity. It is hypocrisy. It is lukewarm at best. Why that would be “best”, I don’t know. Jesus says He will spit out those who are lukewarm. I can’t speak for you, but I don’t like the idea of being spit out into the lakes of Hell. I want to burn up—with the love of CHRIST! I want to be so consumed by Him that everyone around me sees it.

Oh Lord, stoke the fire within me! Help me keep that fire burning bright. Let me be a light in this world for YOU. Father, I want those who see me to see You. I am not ashamed of You. I am not ashamed to share my love for You. Help me never to give off conflicting messages. Help my actions only bring others to you. Help me to never cause another to stumble by my words or actions.