In June of 2013, our lives experienced the incomprehensible.
The death of our nearly 19-year old son, Derek. The description of having life
literally turned upside down would lack the language needed to communicate the intense
loss. C.S. Lewis has fittingly described the death of a loved one as “an
amputation”. An amputation of what? The heart. In our case, death of a vibrant
perfectly healthy young man came without any warning. A tragic accident
amputated a portion of our family’s heart. The part of our hearts that
functioned with relentless love for Derek.
As we (Rich, Kelly, and our youngest son, Evan) were forced to navigate an unspeakable grief, we were surrounded by our family, our church family, and many friends. Yet the nights were long, lonely, and the separation from Derek, was the reality of the seemingly impossible journey we were now on.
The “walk though the valley of the shadow of death” (Psalm 23:4) came with a
promise from God’s Word. “...Thou art with me; Thy rod and Thy staff they
comfort me.” We gut-wrenchingly began relying on His many promises made to us
As we now find ourselves 8 years along our grief journey, we
truly have experienced the comfort promised in Psalm 23:4. The ache of the
separation from Derek remains, yet God’s comfort remains.
It is our desire to live out 2 Corinthians 1:3-4.
Specifically, Rich and I desire to comfort other married couples through the
comfort that we have received from God. We also desire to equip and encourage pulling
content from our experiences thus far on the real-life grief journey we are
“For the Lord your God dried up the Jordan before you until
you had crossed over. The Lord your God did to the Jordan just what he had done
to the Red Sea when he dried it up before us until we had crossed over. He did
this so that all the peoples of the earth might know that the hand of the Lord
is powerful and so that you might always fear the Lord your God.”
This marriage respite retreat ministry is affirmation and the
culmination of God communicating in January 2017 to us from Isaiah 43:18-19. “Forget
the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now
it springs up, do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the desert and
streams in the wasteland.”
This will be the fulfillment of the Lord “doing a new
thing”. We understood the Isaiah Scripture given back in 2017 to specifically
mean that Rich and I would serve side-by-side in a ministry that would take our
story and give God glory through it. We can confidently move forward in this
ministry knowing that God is the Author of the idea, and His power will write
the story for His glory.Another marriage respite retreat ministry affirmation from 2017 is a memorial currently mounted in our home. The memorial is a photo and an altar with 12 stones placed in sand. This is from our 6-month stay in Florida that year.The sand on the altar is actually sand from our favorite beach spot in Florida. We experienced a touch of God’s healing there upon our own grief. To celebrate and acknowledge His faithfulness, the Lord gave us the passage of Scripture from Joshua Chapters 3-4.
This passage details God’s provision and display of His power when He cut
off the raging waters of the Jordan River during the flood stage, and provided
a path for the ark of the covenant and the entire nation of Israel to cross the
Jordan safely. After their safe crossing, the Lord instructed Joshua to have 12
men and have them go back and collect one stone each (12 stones) from the
middle of the Jordan. They were to place the 12 stones at their camp site as a
memorial to the people of Israel to help them remember God’s faithfulness of
The memorial in our home has 12 stones carefully placed in
the sand. It’s our reminder. His provision for us was not through the raging
flood waters of the Jordan River, but through the raging reality of grief.