Day 31 - Part 2: Looking Up

My favorite act for Day 31, was to bless my sweet friend Chrissy (or Crispy as London says). In August, Chrissy unexpectedly lost her 28 year old husband, who drowned in the Genesee River.  Her husband, Jake, was such a full of life, compassionate, adventurous, fun loving, jump-off-the-roof kind of guy that it seemed nearly impossible to believe that he was no longer full of life, let alone gone. My friend, Mike West (recipient of Day 1) was with Jake when he went in the water. My father-in-law met with Jake on a weekly basis and was a sort of second dad/mentor to Jake. My mother-in-law continues to do that for Chrissy each week. My in-laws consider Jake and Chrissy their other kids. So, we have come to think of Jake and Chrissy as extended family, and losing Jake was a shocking blow to us and to everyone who knew and loved him.

Jake devoted his life to living and ministering to his urban community. He and Chrissy are missionaries in the city of Rochester, where they live in community with others who share a passion for reaching out and loving this city. Jake and Chrissy have three young children, two little girls and a newborn son, just a few weeks old when Jake passed away. For the funeral, Chrissy allowed me the honor of using Jake's favorite shirt and tie to make boutonnieres, headbands and corsages for Jake's family members. 

Jake - pictured here in his favorite shirt and tie - with wife Chrissy, and children Ruthie, Nadia and Chase. This was taken within days of Jake's passing. Below are the memorial keepsakes I made for Chrissy, their children and family members.

 Miniature necktie for Chase, just like his Daddy.

Although I made these keepsakes for the day of the funeral, I held onto the remaining pieces of the fabric, knowing that the things our loved ones leave behind can feel sacred... and I did not want any of it to go to waste. So... for Day 31 I used the remaining pieces of fabric and I created two mirrors for Ruthie and Nadia, on each one, I wrote "Daddy's princess." I wanted the girls to have a reminder every time they looked in the mirror, to view themselves through the lens of their Father's love. They will not have Jake telling them every morning before school how beautiful they are, so I wanted to give them something that reminded them that they now have two Fathers in heaven who adore them. I like using old fabric for that very reason, because it is a beautiful reminder to me of what God does with us... he takes what the world has rejected - the out of style, the useless, the old, the ugly, the discarded - and He makes it beautiful, useful, worthy. So, my prayer is that Ruthie and Nadia will look in these mirrors and know that it doesn't matter what this world tells them about their appearance, or their bodies, or their worth. The only thing that matters is how their Heavely Daddies see them: as perfect.

For baby Chase, I made him a bowtie that I can cut and resize so that he can wear it for as many years as he likes. And I added a couple of leaves to a pair of baby slippers, to remind him that he is not walking in this life alone, but that he too has a Father guiding his steps.

And finally for Chrissy... I gave her a spa gift card for a one hour massage, foot scrub, and something to do with magical hot stones or something. I don't exactly know what all is involved... but I know that in the past two months, Chrissy has lived a lifetime's worth of pain. From searching for her husband in a boat on the river the night he was swept away, to telling her girls that Daddy is never coming home, and all this after just giving birth. If somebody deserves to have something magical happen to her back for an hour, it's her.

Just two weeks after Jake passed away, my sister-in-law, Shannon, lost her father in a similar way. Shannon's dad, John Tull, was out in Californina visiting Shannon's sister, Kristin, and her family. They spent the day at the ocean, and were all together as John decided to do some bodysurfing... letting one wave carry him, he went under and he just never came up again. Kristin and her husband and their two little girls watched as this beloved man, living in the adventure of the moment, simply vanished before their eyes.

First responders tirelessly searching for Shannon's dad.

I cannot imagine the trauma of watching someone so dear to me literally be swept out of my life. Shannon (and Tom's brother Brandon) flew out immediately to join Kristin and their family as they walked the beach day in and day out, searching for some sign of their dad's life, or sadly, his death. They walked and waited and searched, then ultimately had to say goodbye and create that closure they had hoped to have by finding his physical body. But, with a beautiful rose ceremony and tribute to their dad, they had the unbelievable peace that comes with knowing that this life, and all its pain, is temporary. And while they will miss their dad so terribly, they have assurance of his faith and, with that, the knowledge that the eternity they get to spend with him will be anything but temporary. 

 Waiting, searching, then saying goodbye.
 "The ocean may have my dad, but heaven has his soul." - Kristin Rogers

So, for my last #AdamsActs of 2014, I wanted to honor these two beloved daddies, Jacob Bradley Baxter and John Tull (and their legacy of living a life of both faith, and adventure). I chose to honor them by making a donation to an organization that is near and dear to my heart. The Great Lakes Beach and Pier Safety Task Force is an organization associated with the Beach Survival Challenge, which is an event held every year in my hometown of Grand Haven, Michigan, created by the family of Andrew Burton Fox after his tragic death in 2003. Andy was the adored younger brother of our high school friends, Jaime and Ryan Fox, who drowned after being caught in a rip current when he, like my Adam, was just 17. He did not have the knowledge about these currents to enable him to escape, and his family has courageously devoted themselves to the mission of spreading beach and pier safety awareness to prevent senseless deaths.

I remember at Andy's funeral, his Young Life leader shared a story of Andy's response during an early morning Bible Study he attended, when he was asked who he related to in the story of Peter stepping out of the boat, and walking out to Jesus on the water. To most 17 year old kids, the options are either Peter, or the guys still in the boat. But, Andy wasn't like other 17 year old kids. He and my brother were similar in this way, I think they saw this world differently, and Andy showed that in his answer. He did not say he could identify with any of the obvious characters in that Bible story, instead, he said he would be most like a fish, down in the water, observing. 

As I wrote the check to an organization that was born out of death, I thought about that story. I thought about Andy and Adam, our boys, both forever seventeen. And I thought about how Andy, Jake and John, these three guys that never knew one another, shared a faith in the same God, possessed the same zest for life, and were all taken by the underestimated, yet extremely powerful force of water.  And I can't help but think that in their last heartbreakingly beautiful moments, as their eyes were closing under the water for the last time, that they - like Andy's fish - were looking up, at Jesus.


If you are interested in helping Chrissy during this unimaginable time, a relief/college fund has been set up. Please consider donating here:

If you are interested in supporting the mission of the Beach Survival Challenge, learn more and please consider donating here:

Special thanks to whoever anonymously mailed me money, your #AdamsActs donation helped treat Chrissy to some much needed relaxation, and made it possible to give to toward life-saving education of beach-goers. 


To Adam,

I write about you, but I have never written to you. Tonight, I don't care who else is reading this... I just want to say this to you. You are my hero. No, not were, are. You ARE my hero. I know that while you were still alive, I would say that Norm Green was my hero, but that was just because he was so good at basketball and was seriously the tallest person I had ever seen. But, I change my mind, is that okay?  Because it's you. It was always you, but you were just so much shorter than Norm Green, and plus I was so little, so I didn't know at the time that you were going to be the best person I ever met.

Thank you.  Thank you for everything you taught me. Thank you for letting me sit and talk to you in the bathroom and watch you do your hair, which took forever for how short your hair was. Thank you for telling me the truth. Thank you for letting me follow you around like a puppy, for teaching me to dance, how to be funny enough to get out of trouble, how to forgive.

I'm sorry. I'm sorry that I went skiing on your last birthday. I am sorry that I went trick-or-treating instead of watching the last soccer game you would ever play. I am sorry that I cannot remember your hands. Or your voice. I am sorry for hiding your sugar-free candies from you. I am sorry that you ate those disgtusting candies to begin with. I am sorry that you don't get to know my children, they are so amazing Adam, I know you would love them.

I wish. I wish we could make fun of mom together, you wouldn't even believe how much material you have missed out on. She can't remember anything, you would love it. I wish I could call you, and we could talk on the phone late at night, and we could be grownups together. I am so much cooler now, I swear, and I think you would like me as a full size person. I wish you were at my wedding, and at my graduations, and not in the room at my births, but at the hospital when I had my babies. I wish you could have gone through these adoptions with us, you would have loved every minute of it. I wish I still had you.

I could write all night all the thank you's and I'm sorry's and I wish's... but, you probably already know them. I cannot wait to see you again, and have it be forever.

Your Baby Sister

In Loving Memory of Adam H.Provencal, my real hero