Sunday, November 15, 2009

Our Week at Smile Again Ministries

Heather and I just returned from 5 days at Smile Again Ministries. Smile Again Ministries is a ministry created and run by Pat and Judy Misener for grieving parents and siblings.

In 1988, Pat and Judy suddenly and unexpectedly lost their teenage daughter Michelle (“Mickey”). For the past 12 years, Pat and Judy have been counseling parents through Smile Again Ministries, even while Pat served as a pastor for several different churches. This past October, they opened a lodge in the Brainerd Lakes area, which they have called “White Tail Lodge.” The Lodge is located on a beautiful 15-acre property on a small lake, and is ideal for hosting up to 2 families at a time. Grieving parents and siblings can come to White Tail Lodge for 3 to 7 days at a time to receive extended grief counseling. At Micah’s birthday celebration, many friends and family members donated toys in Micah’s memory to Smile Again Ministries. We were able to provide these toys to Smile Again, and the toys will become a permanent part of the children’s play area at White Tail Lodge.

Not only did Heather and I enjoy long walks together around the White Tail Lodge property, but we benefitted significantly from our counseling time with Pat and Judy Misener. Here are a few thoughts that came out of our time together:

1. First, we talked about taking the steps necessary to make our marriage a priority. According to various statistics we have seen, the divorce rate among couples who have lost a child is between 80-85%. The Miseners are among the 15-20% whose marriage has survived the loss of their daughter. While there are many ways in which we want our lives to be a living legacy to Micah, perhaps the best legacy to our son is to stay together. When we see Micah again, we would like him to say to us, “Well done, Mom and Dad. Even though you were grieving my loss, you guys stuck it out together. I am so proud of you.”

2. Second, we need to make the choice to live to God and die to bitterness. Pat and Judy said that Micah’s death will cause us either to become better or bitter. While we can (and should) work through this period of asking, “Why God?”, it is crucial that we choose to trust God even in the midst of our questioning and pain. Clearly, the Miseners have become “better” (i.e., more reliant on God and His grace) because of how they responded to the tragic death of their daughter Mickey. While we can struggle with God over the “why,” we must keep the “Who” (Jesus) always foremost in our minds.

3. Third, we feel called to provide practical assistance to grieving parents. Following Micah’s death, so many friends and family members surrounded us with love and practical support. Whether that support took the form of emails, telephone calls, home-cooked meals, restaurant gift cards, or cleaning and household supplies, we were so blessed. However, not everyone who loses a child will have the same support structure that we were blessed to lean on. Based upon the experiences we’ve gained we hope to provide practical experience to others. 2 Corinthians 1:3-4. In addition to maintaining a strong marriage, we hope that one of Micah’s legacies will be our love and practical support towards those who lose a child or sibling.


  1. i am so thankful you guys had the opportunity to spend time at smile again ministries. thank you for continuing to share what you are learning! we continue to hold you in our prayers. blessings on you both.

  2. I, too, am so thankful you have found this ministry, and had some time away. I'm sure you needed this. I am also very thankful for each day that you cling to God, and ask Him how you might be used in spite of this tragedy in your life. I know He is using you for the strengthening of His kingdom. I thank God for the new life within you, Heather, and hope that you are feeling well.

  3. WOW! What a great blessing to read of from you guys! Thank you for all that you share with all of us! May you continue to find the strength in Christ!

    The Carey's

  4. We are so glad that you both had the chance to get away and experience specific guidance. I agree whole-heartedly with the three main themes you took away from the week.
    Love from Sara and Bob